Archive for December, 2017

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews December 2017 week three

Wednesday, December 20th, 2017

Featuring Malachi Ward, Matt Sheean, Terry Moore, Rachael Smith, Kirsten ‘Kiwi’ Smith, Kurt Lustfarten, Naomi Franquiz, Fabien Vehlmann, Kerascoet and more!

Expansion (£13-99, Adhouse Books) by Malachi Ward, Matt Sheean…

Back in the mists of time, in an altogether unremarkable part of the Universe, two epic forces collided with such spectacular results that nothing would ever be the same again…

Yes, as the two-page introduction details, back in 2010 Matt and Malachi decided to make comics together…

“Matt drew a whole page that Malachi inked. We liked it enough to try a whole story.
“The first page of Expansion was only the second page we ever drew together.”

As Malachi then hugely understates in the next panel, “Not too bad.”

So, nearly eight billion years ago, in an extremely unusual bit of the Universe, two, well in fact, three elements of temporally very distinct cultures clash, in a pocket-sized science fiction epic that devotees of Arthur C. Clarke in particular will love.



Agents Turner and Briggs, sole survivors of an overwhelming attack on their tiny spacecraft by a huge battlecruiser in the wilds of deep space, only manage to escape by desperately plunging their doomed ship into a strange, black, spherical anomaly. To their surprise they find an ancient, huge arc-like vessel lurking monolithically within. Its peace-loving inhabitants, having sequestered themselves there until such time as the Universe is ripe for repopulating with their non-violent credo, welcome the new arrivals with open arms. Even if that means waiting until everyone else is extinct…



What’s aiding the cult in their peculiar mission is that the black sphere is a temporal distortion, where time is moving at a velocity at many orders of magnitude greater than real space outside. As it gradually begins to dawn on Turner and Briggs that allowing a bunch of religious nutjobs – as banal and well-meaning as they seem to be – a blank canvas to repopulate the entire Universe might not be the best idea for the future of mankind, the agents hatch a plot to foil the fundamentalists. Which takes us up to about the first third of this work, plot-wise. It only gets wonderfully weirder as matters spiral out of anyone’s control on an epic scale.



Fervent fans of Matt and Malachi’s similarly universe-level apocalyptic ANCESTOR, their spectacular alternative history of the space-race collaboration in NOW #1 and Malachi’s equally time-bending FROM NOW ON will find this punches all the right buttons like a bequiffed star-ship Captain frantically trying to fire off a salvo of photon torpedoes to stave off total destruction… or something… As will acolytes of Brandon Graham’s exceptional PROPHET series, to which they both contributed their prodigious artistic talents and story-mashing chops. The art here is amazing too, with some incredibly delicate linework and substantially black and grey inking, quite different from their other works to my mind. In fact, if I wasn’t aware of who had drawn it, I might have been tempted to guess Chester Brown, oddly enough! It would have been a wild guess, I’ll grant you, but there are some similarities in style here.



For a ‘first work’ this is mind-warpingly brilliant. Also, spoiling nothing, but ending a speculative fiction work satisfactorily is a notoriously tricky task, and one not even the greats get it right every time. Here, however, just as they did with so skilfully in ANCESTOR, the boys let the dystopian dream burn itself out to an extremely satisfying conclusion…


Buy Expansion and read the Page 45 review here

Misfit City vol 1 (£13-99, Boom) by Kirsten ‘Kiwi’ Smith, Kurt Lustgarten & Naomi Franquiz.

“Thank you so little for coming. Buh-bye now!”

Once a year someone pops into Page 45 for the first time in a decade, expressing the most enormous relief that we’re still open after 23 years as if we were the dearest thing in their lives, engages in chatter as if we were their best friends in the world, then leaves without even looking at a comic, let alone buying one.

So now I have my new fond farewell!

“Thank you so little for coming. Buh-bye now!”

That’s Macy of the turquoise dreadlocks, the electropunk band with her brother Todd, and the job at the coastal Cannon Cove Film Museum. This houses traditional tribe ceremonial garb of the earliest settlers, the Tillamook, some pretty grim evidence of the fur traders who then came along and stole whatever they could lay their hands on including land, and a costumed mannequin of Black Mary, the late 18th Century pirate whose crew consisted entirely of Tillamook and who therefore took great delight in sinking any ships allied to those pelt-pilferers. I tell you this now because it will prove pivotal to the mystery that follows, so I hope you’re paying more attention than the sort of college-age, rich-kid idiots who turn up in droves interested only in the museum’s scant movie memorabilia from  ‘The Gloomies’ which was filmed locally:.

“These are the sweatpants worn by Dodge in the infamous “I want my balls back” scene…”
“”That scene changed my life!”



Macy is not what you’d call a careful curator, so when what looks like a treasure chest is bequeathed to the museum by the recently departed Captain Denby, she’s a lot less interested in this additional “box of junk” than his great nephew Luther and great niece Millicent who’d double quite decently for Cruella de Vil. It’s only when Macy’s friends call round that night for a game of cards that she is cajoled into opening the chest not with a key but a cutlass. Note: not a careful curator!

Out rolls a scroll complete with landmarks, tracks, compass points and indecipherable writing that could possibly be in Tillamook but could equally be a cipher of sorts. Also, a picture of a black, rearing horse which Dot duly indentifies as a rebus. Dot also declares the parchment and ink deterioration to be consistent with documents from the late 18th Century – at a single glance!!! Dot, daughter of the local librarian, is the smart one, you see. And I hate to do this, but Macy and her friends do so invite categorisation. Dot’s the learned, astute one; Macy the cynic with biting line in rejoinders; Karma’s the New Age naïf; Ed or Edwina’s the gay gal with a Tillamook ex she’s not entirely over; while local Sheriff’s daughter Wilder is the one with ambition (primarily to leave what she considers the back end of nowhere) and the anti-authoritarian stance on the local ecology (“Frick Off To Fracking!”). They even have a dog called Pip who’s a dab hand at cards and farts on cue every twenty minutes exactly. It’s basically a feminist Famous Five with flatulence.



The map is the mystery catalyst and off they set to solve quite clever clues in search of what they hope will prove pirate treasure.  Time is not on their side, however, because the annual festival is imminent, Macy’s band is performing, the two goth siblings are hot on their heels in a mean set of wheels (“I almost got run over by the lead singer of Bauhaus”!), and this brings with it the additional encumbrance of the ever-present long arm of the law.

All the tensions required are present and correct, so this clops along at such a cracking pace that I hadn’t realised that the end was in sight and this is only part one! Noooooooo!



Franquiz’s expressive, gymnastic cartooning is all you could want for a Young Adults adventure of this frantic ilk. This femme five leap about like nobody’s business, in one nocturnal instance from the construction-yard frying pan of death-by-dangerous-driving, right into to the proverbial fire of death-by-internet-indignity when they crash helter-skelter all over each other onto the lanes of the local bowling alley populated by their less pleasant peers. Once again, Franquiz’s expressions are exquisite: Dot is dazed and wide-eyed; Macy is mortified; Ed is nervous and cowed, defensively; Karma anxiously clutches Wilder who has one eye shut, hastily summing up the situation before a ball is bowled at them and “STEEEE-RIIIKE!”

The cool crowd’s cell phones snap-snap into camera-evidence action.

“At least we’re still alive.”
“Not socially.”




Buy Misfit City vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Wired Up Wrong (£10-00, self-published) by Rachael Smith.

“What are you depressed for? You have so much going for you!”
“Why do you have a cold? You have a really nice house.”
“… Huh.”

Succinctly done! If you’re wired up right, there is a cause-and-effect logic to what can drag you down; if wired up wrong, logic and reason doesn’t even enter the equation.

In HYPERBOLE AND A HALF Allie Brosh explains and elucidates on this disconnect and so much more in far greater depth from her personal experience of crippling mental health disorders, and she does so while entertaining. Rachael Smith has evidently taken the efficacy of Brosh’s balanced judgement into account for these four-panel snapshots and one-page cartoons which also capitalise not just on the healing power of comedy, but on its communicative strengths as well.

She joins so many others like Sarah Burgess in BOYS CLUB in being brave enough to bear her soul and disorientating disorders in order to promote understanding of those suffering from depression and anxiety beyond what is normal. And Smith succeeds: not only are so many of these pages rendered with lateral-thinking wit and so the element of surprise, but they provide insights into daily dysfunctions which those of us lucky enough to be merely maladjusted rather than chemically imbalanced don’t necessarily comprehend at a distance.



Smith is the first to admit – and goes to great lengths to emphasise in her introduction – that she is no trained psychotherapist, so if you have the choice between seeing a doctor to seek counselling and/or remedial medication and reading this as some sort of therapy… please go and see your doctor! Moreover, she is at pains to point out that this is no sign of weakness, but of strength. So many of my friends and relatives have suffered from paralysing mental health problems, but fortunately almost all of them have benefited enormously from counselling and anti-depressants (some of them – everyone reacts differently to different pills) on their road to recovery.

The even better news for us emotional idiots (as opposed to those who are diagnosed as clinically depressed) is that – just like Sarah Andersen’s BIG MUSHY HAPPY LUMP – there is still so much here to relate to, and if you don’t nod at least once or thrice in recognition then, hey, you are just perfect and we are evidently unworthy of your acquaintance.

These nigh-universal experiences include self-consciousness, self-doubt, a wonky internal sleep clock, the worries that whir around you during those early hours all at once, overwhelming anxiety about a task that lies ahead (but which, once started, proves far from problematic), fixations on what you said wrong rather than all you’ve done right, fear of flying (not me – I still thrill to pretending that I’m piloting Thunderbird 1 during take-off!), and postponing the household chores until someone actually threatens to come round see what a state we live in.

My favourite single page follows an earlier one in which Rachael compares the illogicality of her reactions to having a “roulette wheel in my head that two little men spin to see how I’m going to react.”



It’s actually one of those great big glittering Spinning Wheels of Fortune or, as Smith calls it, ‘The Wheel of Feels’! The little man standing at the equivalent of the old-school telephone operator’s switchboard with its spaghetti of criss-crossed wires reports in:

“She’s just watched an advert on TV that has kittens in it.”
The man at The Wheel of Feels gives it a spin. “Um… I’ve got “full of rage”?”
“Huh,” says the first, plugging the connection in. “Ok… this should be interesting.”




One of Smith’s other conceits is of a black dog as an embodiment of depression. Yes, yes, it is such a long-standing tradition that it’s even a synonym (see Dave McKean’s BLACK DOG: THE DREAMS OF PAUL NASH), but where she departs is in having two black dogs with differing demeanours and diverse methods of attack. The bigger black dog stops her point-blank in its tracks from even going out by barricading the door with its substantial body mass. But the smaller, sleeker hound with narrowed, Ancient Egyptian eyes… well, let’s hear Rachel discuss them.

“You know you’ve got these two versions so Barky mixed up on the “cast” page, right? The little black one looks much worse than the big fluffy one!”
“No, that’s the right way round. The big fluffy one is worse.”
“What? Why?”
“Because he’s nice and soft and big. Even though he still represents my depression, it can be comforting to cuddle up with him. Like wallowing I guess. When he tells me things I believe him. I hardly ever stand up to or argue with him. Whereas the smaller black one – I know he’s evil. I know what he tells me is rubbish. I don’t like him at all, so he’s easier to stand up to.”
“Sounds complicated. But at least you’re aware of this stuff. So maybe you’re getting better!”
“Although… you are having an imaginary conversation with your cat about two imaginary dogs sooo.. maybe you’re more mental than ever.”



In case it helps anyone make the first move towards therapy (first moves can often prove the most difficult – see STARTING), Rachel takes you through her own experiences both of securing said help and of the sessions themselves. Under the fourth example she even gives you a website address from which to download a v. helpful sheet of unhelpful thinking practices which are ever so common (“textbook even!”) to show that you’re far from alone and perhaps address some of them (though perhaps not on your own but with a trained therapist).

Which brings me to my sole qualm with this publication: the above aside, I’d have preferred pagination to the post-script annotations underneath which cannot help but rob the punchlines of their often considerable power.

The strips themselves, however, are all gaily drawn in a Graley / Ellerby fashion, sometimes in spite of their contents. Quite right too: in order to help one must first attract, and you don’t attract the already vulnerable by frightening them away in the first place. Similarly the colours are bright and there is optimism in abundance, the final flourish referencing and defiantly putting to bed one prior problem at least – one which may seem comparatively trivial but the liberation from which is actually is among the most empowering things you can do.


Buy Wired Up Wrong and read the Page 45 review here

Motor Girl vol 2: No Man Left Behind (£14-50, Abstract Studios) by Terry Moore.

“She just wants to help.”
“I don’t need any help! Okay?
“I carry my own load! No one has to help me!
“I help them!
“I’m the strongest person in the room! That’s how it works!”
“Damn straight!”
“Then why am I here?”

You’ll find out precisely why Mike’s in Sam’s mind, and why he is specifically a mountain gorilla.

It involves a young boy in Iraq who was chained with steel braid to a big bundle of explosives, then left in an upstairs window to lure in someone just like Sergeant Samantha Locklear.

It worked.

Terry Moore has made a career out of juxtaposing comedy and tragedy: not combing, but setting them off against each other so that the comedy comes as a blessed relief, yet the tragedy hits you hardest, when least expected.

Over and again he has succeeded to spectacular effect, better than anyone else in comics and especially during STRANGERS IN PARADISE and RACHEL RISING. Here, however, in MOTOR GIRL, the contrast is so extreme that you might fear for his failure.

The comedy is burlesque with an imaginary, sassy gorilla, comedy green aliens, a gum-flapping, four-foot powerhouse of an octogenarian called Libby, ridiculously inept henchmen Larry and Vic, a monstrously ruthless big-business weapons manufacturer and his comically trigger-happy mercenaries, all assembled in the American desert to do battle.




But it’s not the first desert Samantha’s survived, and the sequences in Iraq are halting and horrific, rendered without any of the cartoon galumphing exhibited by Walden’s paid goons.

The stark contrast is bridged by the quiet solemnity of Sam’s current, consequent medical condition when Libby goes silent and Sam and Mike finally begin to address each other seriously. And I found the sincere respect due to veterans so deftly done, for example paid here by a barman after yet another drunken altercation between Sam and Mike – or, to any observer, thin air.

“What’s her problem?”
“Sam? She did three tours in Iraq. Captured, tortured, survived two bomb attacks.”
“If she wants to come in here and yell at the back wall, I say yes ma’am, thank you for your service and would you like a beer for your ‘friend’.”



I don’t have of the Iraqi pages to show you, but perhaps that’s for the best: they should come out of the blue and blow you to bits. But even during its comedic confrontations MOTOR GIRL is more than just mouth and mania: it’s about the little guys getting trampled on by the big boys with money and clout; about those under threat looking out for each other. Eh, it’s also about slapstick, soap-sudded aliens in your bath.

“I know how the military works, Libby.”
“I know you do. I’m just saying…”
“There’s more to it than duty.”
“Like what?”
“Like caring what happens to people who can’t defend themselves.”





Buy Motor Girl vol 2: No Man Left Behind and read the Page 45 review here

Satania h/c (£22-99, NBM) by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoet…

Following on from their deliriously disturbing delight that was BEAUTIFUL DARKNESS, Vehlmann & Kerascoet return with a descent into a surreal netherworld that will scorch your eyeballs out whilst simultaneously chilling you to the bone. And that’s just the art!

Budding young scientist Charlotte fervently believes her brother Christopher is alive and well. He recently disappeared without a trace whilst exploring a notorious local cave system. Christopher was trying to prove his crackpot theory that, according to Darwin’s theories of evolution, Hell must actually exist.

Charlotte has assembled a peculiar group of individuals for her rescue team including an ace spelunker, a devout Catholic priest and errr…  a publisher! Before too long they’re hopelessly lost and facing near certain death themselves. Every possible route out only leads our hapless posse deeper and deeper into the bowels of the earth. Charlotte, convinced she’s following in her brother’s footsteps, doesn’t mind that ever-downwards detour whatsoever. It’s not too long before they discover that the possibility of a parallel evolutionary system lying beneath our own civilisation isn’t so farfetched at all…




Prepare yourself to be astounded by the journey Vehlmann and Kerascoet will take Charlotte on as she searches for her sibling. I shall reveal no more of the plot for fear of spoilers. Though suffice to say, several extraneous members of the rescue squad prove as disposable as the eponymous red shirts on a Star Trek away mission… Those that manage to stay the treacherous course find their sanity being bent, and indeed in one case, well and truly broken by their apparent descent into the bottomless Pit…




Kerascoet outdoes himself on the artistic front presenting us with endless perturbing creatures and myriad expansive locales that are both dazzling and terrifying in equal measure. He also manages to use every single colour in the visible spectrum to bring these subterranean denizens and satanic domains to vivid, squirming life. And death. And many states of tortured existence in-between.




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

Jazz Maynard vol 1: The Barcelona Trilogy h/c (£17-99, Lion Forge) by Raule &  Roger.

“I’m always next in line.
“My aunts liked to poke fun at me at weddings, giving me a little nudge and saying: “You’re next…”
“They stopped when I started doing it to them at funerals!”

Crime in Catalonia, from political corruption and police collusion with a very unpleasant mob boss and sex trafficker, Cebes, to protectionist rackets, stealthy theft and a steady stream of bullets. Throw in the Sons of Kain and their cut-throat katana and you have plenty of slickly drawn slice-and-dice action.

The central chapter is where it comes into its own: three simultaneous stories involving squeaky-clean Captain White set up for slaughter during a hostage situation, the settling in of sleazy Mr Chen at Cebes’ luxury tower block, and Jazz’s infiltration of a remote country mansion in order to steal a very rare golden coin. The wider ramifications of his early use of an EMP are only later revealed in a perfectly positioned flashback which made me grin my head off: it giveth by taking away.



Alas, the third instalment undoes all this carefully controlled intrigue when every individual who survived the previous carnage (Jazz Maynard, fellow former street-thief Teo, fellow former street-thief-turned-criminal / philanthropist Judas, Judas’ girlfriend and crusading journalist Lucia Lopena, Jazz’s sister Laura, Captain White et al) are flung together on an assault on said tower block and they trip over each other not in a thrilling fight-fest but in a jumble of unconvincingly plotted paths.

A bit too free-form, that Jazz, who of course plays jazz, and you just know it’s going to sing itself out in a virtuoso display trumpeting, don’t you?

Lovely pencilled endpapers, though, and sleek figure work throughout.


Buy Jazz Maynard vol 1: The Barcelona Trilogy h/c and read the Page 45 review here

We Found More Stock!

Adventures Of A Japanese Businessman h/c (£19-00, Nobrow Press) by Jose Domingo.

Okay, let’s start with a bold statement, then slap a couple of caveats on, to thus produce an odd semantic sandwich to chew over whilst we get proceedings started.

This is now my favourite wordless comic ever. Given that puts it in the company of works like Erik Drooker’s BLOOD SONG and Shaun Tan’s THE ARRIVAL, I realise that could raise a few arched eyebrows, but this is quite simply stunning, inventive, ingenious and also absolutely utterly and ridiculously hilarious. So whilst it might not end up being your favourite wordless comic ever (THE ARRIVAL does take some beating, let us be honest about it, in fact I might have to amend that to joint-favourite heh heh) I am pretty confident it could end up being your favourite comedic wordless comic.

Semantics is a good word to invoke around wordless comics, I feel, given one of its usages is in the meaning or interpretation of words, sentences, or other linguistic forms. Comics are one of those other linguistic forms obviously, and wordless comics a very particular subset again which, to truly succeed, need above all for the story to be clear to the reader. Not that events shouldn’t require some interpretation on behalf of the reader, for is that not the sheer beauty of THE ARRIVAL, putting yourself in the place of the émigré, who suddenly finds himself in a literally incomprehensible place, trying to make sense of the unfolding strange, new world around him?



ADVENTURES OF A JAPANESE BUSINESSMAN is not that dissimilar, as the poor unfortunate and unsuspecting salaryman, who we first meet quietly waiting to cross the road, is about to embark upon an unwilling expedition to weird and wonderful (plus several not-so-wonderful) realms, and various states of being, not to mention existence, which together will all make for the ultimate bad day at the office!

Things start off not relatively implausibly to begin with, partly to lull us into a false sense of security, I’m sure, as he gets caught in the crossfire of two Yakuza trading lead at each other from limousines on opposing sides of the road, and barely makes it past them intact. Unfortunately he walks straight into some sort of incident involving a raging customer at a sushi stand who promptly gets flattened by the giant sushi roll which falls off the roof when he starts shaking it, cue much panic and hysteria as passers-by frantically leap out of the way. As the businessman ducks to one side he inhales some escaping fumes from a nearby Biotech company and promptly starts hulking out into some weird blue monster and then goes on the rampage. And so on, and so forth… And if you think that sounds surreal, believe me, it’s the absolute powder-coated tip of the iceberg!



So, what makes this truly nonsensical adventure shine then? Well quite simply, it’s the construction of the work itself and Jose Domingo’s art. It’s done in a strict 2 x 2 grid, aside from the occasional whole-page splash. The book being a lovely outsize edition, by the way, so each individual panel is pretty huge in and of itself. Which is fantastic because they are all positively crammed with detail, and each page forms a little, well, gag strip in itself, I suppose, with the businessman frequently extricating himself from his current predicament only to be immediately dragged into the next situation in the final panel of each and almost every page. (I did wonder if the format was a little nod to the Japanese pre-modern-manga tradition, when comics in Japan were pretty much just that, just one-page gag strips, before people such as Tatsumi started producing ‘gegika’ like BLACK BLIZZARD, proper stories composed of literally ‘dramatic pictures’. )

The art itself put me in mind of a neat and tidy Marc Bell, but rendered in beautiful full colour. (I have included a few interior pages for you to have a look at.) You may also see hints of others like Jim (CONGRESS OF THE ANIMALS) Woodring and Jason (ISLE OF 100,000 GRAVES) in there, though, not least because of the surreal nature of the tale puts them in mind. Each panel typically has the same viewpoint, perspective-wise, so the story really just seamlessly flow on from absurd scenario to even more absurd scenario, and just when you think you’ve reached the zenith, or nauseous nadir from the point of the businessman, something even more truly bizarre occurs. And yet, it always does make creditability-stretching sense in the context of what has immediately gone before, which is another genius element of this work.



The businessman does get a few brief moments of respite and false hope along the way to catch his breath, but they always turn out to be false dawns before the next nightmare swiftly commences! As absurdist fiction goes, I can’t think of anything comparable in terms of such a smooth, flowing read as this. The artwork is truly gorgeous as you would expect from a Nobrow book, of course, they really do seem to be managing to maintain a very high standard of output.

There’s even a hilarious little epilogue just to round things off nicely. Initially the businessman is firmly clenching his briefcase for dear life like a protective shield or talisman, but eventually he is parted from it. Just as I was finishing the story I was found myself wondering what had happened to it, and so was greatly amused to find its ultimate fate is revealed in said epilogue! Near perfection, this for me, which when it’s your wider comics debut, is clearly going to take some following up.


Buy Adventures Of A Japanese Businessman h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Hulk: World War Hulk h/c (£19-99, Marvel) by Greg Pak, Peter David & John Romita Jr., various.

The first thing you’ll notice is the size of the panels (or maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll just sit, jaw agape at Romita’s massive and magnificent art, but trust me, the size of the panels is important). Unlike the wretched gimmick employed during THE DEATH OF SUPERMAN whereby one panel per page was removed in the countdown until the final issue was composed entirely of full-page spreads thereby turning it into a static slide show with absolutely no flexibility, fluidity or power, John knows how to tell a story with nuance and power.

That story is the return of The Hulk to Earth, hell-bent on revenge against the Illuminati (Iron Man, Professor Xavier, Black Bolt, Reed Richards, Namor, Doctor Strange) who flung him into space and – he believes – did so using a duff spaceship which ultimately exploded, destroying everything he had struggled to build in exile, and slaughtering all those he’d come to love there.

There’s something he doesn’t know. Before he finds out, though, it’s one long rampage of monumental destruction as he takes on The Inhumans, The Avengers both Mighty and New, the Fantastic Four and anyone else who gets in the way, like Rick Jones.

Whether this will rock your boat depends on how much more you require than that. Because, to be honest, there ain’t that much more on offer. Best-selling HULK collection we’ve ever experienced, that’s for sure.


Buy Hulk: World War Hulk h/c 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’.

Love And Rockets (Locas vol 6): Angels And Magpies (£17-99, Fantagraphics) by Jaime Hernandez

Alone Forever: The Singles Collection (£8-99, Top Shelf) by Liz Prince

Black Hammer vol 2: The Event s/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Jeff Lemire & Dean Ormston

Deadly Class vol 6: This Is Not The End s/c (£14-99, Image) by Rick Remender & Wesley Craig

Fifty Freakin’ Years With The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers (£8-99, Knockabout) by Gilbert Shelton

Rick And Morty (UK Edition) vol 6: Some Morty To Love (£14-99, Titan) by Kyle Starks, Sean Vanaman, Olly Moss & CJ Cannon, Marc Ellerby, Benjamin various, CJ Cannon, Katy Farina

Batman Arkham: Joker’s Daughter s/c (£17-99, DC) by Bob Rozakis, Geoff Johns, J. Torres, Ann Nocenti, Marguerite Bennett & Irv Novick, Juan Ortiz, Paco Medina, George Jeanty, various

Batman vol 4: The War Of Jokes And Riddles s/c (Rebirth) (£17-99, DC) by Tom King & Mikel Janin, Clay Mann, others

Batman: Detective Comics vol 4: Deus Ex Machina s/c (£14-99, DC) by James Tynion IV, Christopher Sebela & Alvaro Martinez, Carmen Carnero

Justice League Vs. Suicide Squad s/c (£22-99, DC) by Joshua Williamson, Tim Seeley, Rob Williams, Si Spurrier & various

Wonder Woman: The True Amazon s/c (£14-99, DC) by Jill Thompson

Generations (UK Edition) s/c (£22-50, Marvel) by various

Hawkeye: Kate Bishop vol 2: Masks s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Kelly Thompson & Leonardo Romero, Michael Walsh

Unbelievable Gwenpool vol 4: Beyond The Fourth Wall s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Christopher Hastings &  Gurihiru

The Ancient Magus Bride vol 5 (£11-99, Seven Seas) by Kore Yamazaki

The Ancient Magus Bride vol 6 (£11-99, Seven Seas) by Kore Yamazaki

The Ancient Magus Bride vol 7 (£11-99, Seven Seas) by Kore Yamazaki

Assassination Classroom vol 19 (£6-99, Viz) by Yusei Matsui

Attack On Titan vol 23 (£9-99, Kodansha) by Hajime Isayama

Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card vol 1 (£9-99, Kodansha) by Clamp

Happiness vol 2 (£10-99, Kodansha) by Shuzo Oshimi

Happiness vol 3 (£10-99, Kodansha) by Shuzo Oshimi

Happiness vol 4 (£10-99, Kodansha) by Shuzo Oshimi

Happiness vol 5 (£10-99, Kodansha) by Shuzo Oshimi

Happiness vol 6 (£10-99, Kodansha) by Shuzo Oshimi

Platinum End vol 4 (£6-99, Viz) by Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata

The Promised Neverland vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Kaiu Shirai & Posuka Demizu

Shiver h/c (£15-99, Viz) by Junji Ito

Tokyo Ghoul re: vol 2 (£8-99, Viz) by Sui Ishida

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews December 2017 week two

Wednesday, December 13th, 2017

Featuring Julie Maroh, Benji Nate, Alex Potts, Sophie Campbell, Elaine M. Will, Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Gaydos, more!

Body Music (£22-99, Arsenal Pulp Press) by Julie Maroh.

Love and relationships in all their diversity:

“If there’s no construction, you’re not on the right road.”

What is delicious about the offering of that eye-opening truth is that it’s uttered offhandedly by a woman who is simply giving directions to a friend or family member over her mobile phone.

“No, no, you must have taken a wrong turn… If there’s no construction, you’re not on the right road.”

It’s certainly borne out here, along with so many other open and honest insights into how we treat each other when in love or in lust, explored over twenty-one vignettes with great subtly and empathy by the creator of BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOUR who has quite evidently spent a great many years not simply considering but also listening.



It should all be so straightforward, really, this thing called love: thrilling, empowering, enlightening, giving, supportive, and celebrated for its pure beauty whenever and wherever encountered. But it comes with complications and a myriad of attendant thoughts and feelings – some of them conflicted and therefore confusing – otherwise everyone who has found a soul mate or fuck buddy would be radiant with pleasure, no one would argue and no one would ever break up.

Over and again I recognised so much within this considered and contemplative graphic novel which speaks of the universal, but BODY MUSIC also reflects a far fuller spectrum of desire and circumstances than any other fiction or non-fiction that springs immediately to mind, so it’s refreshingly inclusive in that aspect too. This can only be healthy, even if some of the relationships are far from it.




For by “diversity” I do mean “between women, between men, between women and men and gender non-conformists alike, all varying in age and race” but I also mean relationships at different stages in their development and success or failure: from first confident flirtations conducted with wit and imagination to first-date post-mortems wrestled over wretchedly and separately by both individuals unsure of themselves, their attractiveness, what they said and why they said it, while one of them waits desperately in hope that the other will text as promised in order to set up a second date… just as the other frets that to do so would just be opening himself up to almost certain rejection. That one’s called ‘”Are you sure you want to delete this contact?”’ and it is agonising in its dramatic irony, whereas the courtship in ‘Playing with Fire’ is funny, feisty, and seductive to boot.

“What are you doing?”
“Looking at you.”

The author has her eyes closed, meditating on much more than the single sense of sight could ever ascertain. Slowly one eyebrow draws dreamily upwards as her little finger nail catches between her corner teeth. Pity the poor barman, then, who is given a most excellent, explicit message to deliver a minute or two later!




Other relationships are far older. One is on the cusp of a new crossroads, a fresh movement forwards, towards even greater intimacy but someone has to speak first and trust that they’re on the same mental tracks, heading in the same direction (“on the right road”, as it were) whereas another relationship – or rather a series of same-time, same-place assignations – has reached such a state of intransigence and immobility that nothing new will ever be constructed, while yet another still, which might seem to have sickened on the surface, proves not merely salvageable but in no danger of destruction because one partner loves the other unconditionally.

I am trying to be discreet in my details, for the joy lies in your own discoveries and there is plenty of the unexpected to surprise both the participants and this book’s audience. Such startling injections include a single, strong dash of the fantastical which is beautiful to behold, although I would emphasise that this pretty much applies throughout: winter park wonderlands frolicked in with abandon; a Montreal fully realised both in its monumental buildings and starry-night skies, streetlights calling across still waters; the zip-zip of cell-phone text messages (the vast majority mundane and inconsequential, others of the most urgent importance); beautiful body forms in bed; muscular, hot and sweaty, shirtless gyrations to a pounding club’s heart beat; small, swollen buds patiently waiting out freezing snowfalls on bare, spindly twigs; oh, and that exquisitely embarrassed waiter!



There is so much to warm your hearts here, including this which I will give away from chapter one:

“You don’t know each other, you haven’t met.
“Yet you’re about to fall in love.
“Soon both of you will be ready, at the same time.
“That will be in a year or two.”

You think you’re listening to an omniscient narrator proclaiming an inevitable, predestined future as a woman on her mobile strolls obliviously past a bearded, back-packed dad busily attending to his young child, the two failing – this time, only this time – to notice each other in a hot, July, municipal park.

You’re not.

You’re being privy to the deeply romantic, entirely speculative thoughts of a woman old enough to have a working-age son who’s been calling her repeatedly to dinner, while said mum has been lost in her own private reverie upon overlooking that park.

If that doesn’t move you as it did me, what will do much later on is her determinedly un-embittered love for what was, a long time ago.


Buy Body Music and read the Page 45 review here

It’s Cold In The River At Night (£9-99, Avery Hill Publishing) by Alex Potts.

Alex A QUIET DISASTER Potts returns with his first full-length slice of his trademark downbeat droll!

Our central protagonist Carl is teetering on the edge of a full-blown existential crisis, probably of the early-onset mid-life variety, in his own mind at least… And it’s only being exacerbated by being cooped up in a small riverside house on stilts in the middle of nowhere in Europe, accessible only by boat, with his girlfriend Rita, who is assiduously trying to get her thesis polished off. Methodical, applied, diligent. She’s everything that Carl is seemingly not. If only he could find something to do with his life?! Or at least occupy him for the next few weeks!

He strikes me as being prone to the odd flight of fancy, and indeed fantasy, does our Carl. So after a failed attempt to catch some sardines for lunch, purely because he’s getting fed up with the helpful (and perhaps a tad nosey) landlord Mr. Beuf popping by on his boat with ham and bread for them, he hits upon his next crackpot scheme. He will track down the last remaining artisan responsible for producing the boat-shaped coffins preferred by the locals for their customary interment rites.



Having located said skilled coffin-maker by means of asking a few questions of the gossipy old men knocking back the vino in the local bar, Carl’s promptly riding the bus even further out into the back of beyond, to offer his services as an unpaid apprentice. How could the artisan possibly refuse such an offer…? One terse, instant refusal later and he’s swiftly heading home, tail between his legs, feeling more sorry for himself than ever. He’s not one to be easily put off, though, our Carl, I will give him that. And the next day sees him gird his loins and head straight back to the coffin-maker’s compound, determined to make him accept his sworn offer of fealty in exchange for teaching him the ancient skills of woodworking.



The artisan refuses, of course. Carl, believing his life can’t possibly get any worse starts dejectedly heading back to the bus stop, before realising he has somehow lost his wallet… So he’s left with no other choice but to attempt to throw himself at the mercy of the coffin-maker’s hitherto unforeseen, apparently unbeating, mahogany heart and beg for some change to get home. In fact, when in desperation Carl offers to sell him his watch, the artisan finally, reluctantly acquiesces, invites Carl in and puts him to work.

Carl, ecstatic at being in his eyes apprenticed, is consequently somewhat baffled when he finds he has merely been press-ganged into pulling the nails out of some scrap wood, then planing it smooth by hand. Convincing himself it has to be purely a Mister Miyagi-style master-discipline test, he sets to work with gusto. For hours. And hours. And hours. Then, when after several days work, the artisan casually tosses him a box of matches and tells him to burn all the wood he’s just so carefully prepared, he’s is utterly distraught, but still somehow believes it is all part of his initiation. His grand ceremony, however, is still to come…




Illustrated with a vibrant Mediterranean watercolour-esque platter, alongside some very dour and sour long-faced expressions – mainly on Carl and the coffin-maker’s parts in fairness, everyone else including long-suffering girlfriend Rita and the oily Mr. Beuf seem pretty chipper – this work neatly captures the feel of a man on the edge. A very rough, unplaned, jagged-nail, protruding edge… that’s set to snag and tear at the emotional cloth of Carl’s very soul… He strikes me as exactly the sort of person who is in need of a bit of tough love, mind you! Break out the sandpaper!


Buy It’s Cold In The River At Night and read the Page 45 review here

Catboy (£17-99, Silver Sprocket) by Benji Nate.

Short bursts of infectious, wide-eyed wonder at the way we behave, with sparkles of get-up-and-go.

Olive is an aspiring, out-of-college artist who makes do with a distinct lack of furniture.

“I’ve never needed it. It’s not like I have people over. Plus,” she explains, eyes sanctimoniously closed at her sacred calling, “I’m a minimalist.”
“No you’re not!” pipes back Henry. “I’ve seen your closet!”

Olive has plenty of clothes to spare, which is handy for Henry, because Henry has none. He’s never needed any before: he’s a cat.

But late one night Olive wished on a shooting star that Henry could hang out with her like a real person and so – Alakazam! – he’s now tall, bipedal and ever so communicative, but innocent of the ways of the world. This is the book’s hook: Henry looking at the world and what we do it anew or askew, oblivious to sleights, jealousies or competitive friendships and indifferent to good or bad form.




But he’s still a cat and conforms to type, so a trip to the local furniture store does not come without cost, his dating advice is questionable (have you seen cats courting…?) and he’s still rather partial to the odd kill.

“Oh! I saved you some bird.
“I think your diet is lacking in bird.”

Olive not so much, but Henry’s expressions of both glee and worry put me very much in mind of BOYS CLUB’s Sarah Burghess, I love the way his head pops up unattended by the rest of his body with odd observations / assertions (“You can put anything in a soup!” – you really can’t)…



… and, as to oblivion and indifference, it matters not one jot to Henry that he’s wearing Olive’s togs. In fact, he rather rocks them, and between each five-page episode there are portraits of the two dressed up together in different get-ups on which cut-out-and-dress-up paper-doll tabs wouldn’t look at all out of place.

One curious conflation, if you like, is that the cast are of an employable age yet act like ten-year-olds. It works so well, and one of my favourite sequences comes during Henry’s unorthodox organisation of a slumber party to which he’s invited a cat called Scrappy, Dixie whom Olive dislikes (it’s fairly mutual) and Fran, a very odd girl who interjects every five seconds at one hundred miles an hour and takes any opportunity – no matter how inappropriate or unsolicited – to gush about her dachshund puppy.




Anyway, Henry has heard that at slumber parties girls talk about boys they have a crush on, so he throws it open to the floor. Fran fixates on her puppy, Henry offers his appreciation for Old Man Billy “because he feeds the birds every day so I always get a midday snack” and then it’s the turn of the cat:

“What about you. Scrappy?”
“How scandalous!”

Olive: “I don’t like boys.”
Dixie: “I don’t think we’re doing this right.”


Buy Catboy and read the Page 45 review here

Look Straight Ahead new edition (£17-99, Renegade Arts Entertainment) by Elaine M. Will.

When this first appeared four years ago, it was one of the best and most sensitive explorations of teenage psychosis and mental illness I had read in some considerable time. It still is, and this new edition comes fully endorsed by the Canadian Mental Health Association.

Jeremy is an introverted 17-year-old high school kid with very few friends whose primary passion is illustration. He’s possibly genetically predisposed to seeing the world a little differently than everyone else to start with, and after an extended period of emotional bullying at school from the jocks and the mean girls, this develops into a full-blown psychotic breakdown episode, complete with auditory and visual hallucinations. Cue a period in a hospital for observation and the future of a lifetime on medication. Obviously, this isn’t something that seems particularly appealing to Jeremy, and so begins a period of internal and external struggle, as he begins to come to terms with his condition.



Elaine writes and illustrates in a manner which perfectly captures many elements of the conundrum faced by those in Jeremy’s position. Often, they feel at their best during the pre-break periods of mania where the delusions are almost intoxicating, rapturous even, before the paranoia well and truly kicks in. Afterwards, they can long to experience those states again, believing that the chemical suppression of their medication, which in reality is helping to balance their brain chemistry, is limiting their state of consciousness and preventing them experiencing reality as it truly is. Jeremy is in just such a position, but fortunately for him he has a supportive, understanding parent who is able to prevent him going too far off the rails and possibly hurting himself or someone else in the meanwhile.



All of which sounds rather intense, and it is in a way, I suppose, but it’s presented with such sensitivity and understanding, illustrating the inner turmoil people in Jeremy’s position face, that first and foremost it just comes across as an excellent piece of contemporary fiction, irrespective of the subject matter.

Elaine’s art style certainly helps in that regard too, and I can see elements of Terry Moore in her work, which should give you a good idea of what to expect should you decide to give this a try.



For more on this and similar issues, dealt with in different ways, please see Page 45’s Online Mental Health Section.


Buy Look Straight Ahead and read the Page 45 review here

Wet Moon vol 5: Where All Stars Fail To Burn (New Edition) (£17-99, Oni) by Sophie Campbell.

Generation Doubt: late-teen girls of so many shapes, sizes and temperaments navigating sex and uncertain friendships, as one within their midst seethes with psychosis. She’s about to boil over.

Set on and around the Wet Moon College campus perilously close to the swamp, it’s been building steadily for some time now, but this one is nerve-shredding. You’re in constant fear for alone out alone late at night.

It wouldn’t matter so much if Campbell hadn’t mesmerised us into caring so deeply for Mara, Cleo, Audrey, Natalie, and even Trilby whom I singled out in the first volume as the least lovable of the lot. Hey, she’s grown. They’re moon-eyed and vulnerable, wearing their hearts on their sleeves and opening themselves up with wince-worthy candour on their internet blogs. I still don’t know how anyone can live out their lives in so much detail online – even I have an internal editor – but Campbell nails the gaping chasm here between self-knowledge and self-guidance:

“And another thing I can’t brush aside (maybe a private post would be better for this because it involves private stuff and people I know…).”

Yes, maybe it would! I mean, you’re about to out your ex for having sex with a minor you were supposed to be babysitting! As ever, however, Campbell shows her protagonists thinking progressively and there’s some serious contemplation about the issue’s implications.



Sophie has also created a convincingly familiar (oh too familiar!) malcontent in Myrtle, head and shoulders sagging into her bloated body, lying, scheming, sulking and stewing in the poisonous juices of her own imagination; the single eye that glares so ferociously with self-righteous anger from under her lazy parting, as her poor girlfriend Cleo – always so concerned for everyone else’s feelings – suffers the brunt of Myrtle’s self-destructive rage.
On the other hand, Campbell’s art is a magnificent tribute to the beauty of less conventional body forms when they house a heart of gold, and WET MOON was always streets ahead in her inclusivity of diverse characters of colour.

Also this volume: baseball, being walked in on whilst in / on the toilet, and a series of one-page sequential-art portraits as each member of the cast spends an evening alone. What do they get up to, individually, at night? A couple of eye-openers, there.



Lastly, against all odds, Trilby and her boyfriend Martin really do seem to have been making a healthy and loving nest for themselves in the most stable relationship here.


Buy Wet Moon vol 5: Where All Stars Fail To Burn (New Edition) and read the Page 45 review here

Jessica Jones Series 2 vol 2: The Secrets Of Maria Hill s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Gaydos.

“Sorry about the neurological damage.”
“It could only be an improvement.”

She’s not wrong.

Private Investigator Jessica Jones has been formidably unlucky in almost every aspect of her life, but then she is far from her own best friend. She’s 99% sass, impetuous, anti-authoritarian and inclined towards heavy drinking. I like her a lot.

Jessica does, however, have a loyal husband in Luke Cage, so doting that he’s even given up his prodigious line in swearing so that their baby girl, Dani, learns only Jessica’s fruity cuss words. Luke has been the making of Jessica whom we first met in JESSICA JONES Series 1 wandering around from bar for bar, drinking whatever she could, shagging anyone who would have her then waking up hating herself. It was a bit a cycle, that thing there. Then she met Luke Cage, and I’m not saying it was the easiest or even most obvious of courtships but it made for the finest four books that Marvel have ever published.

Unfortunately even that relationship is now on the rocks on account of… stuff… but Jessica’s working on that. She’s working on that pretty hard.





When everything was once good between the two of them, things went bad when Maria Hill – then director of S.H.I.E.L.D. – sent soldiers to their front door and tried to arrest Luke right in front of their baby daughter.

Now Maria Hill – no longer even an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. (fired, disgraced) – turns up in Jessica Jones’s bathroom with a bullet in her belly and blood pouring out of her gut. Someone is trying to kill her, but she’s been unable to find out who that is, in spite of her decades of international espionage training. Or maybe because of them:

“I may not have all of my memories. I may have, voluntarily or not, given up memories for national security reasons. Probably so I can sleep at night.”

Against all her better instincts – her complete distrust of this professional liar – Jessica accepts the contract and, about an hour later, finds herself targeted from a rooftop… by Maria Hill.



Trust is very much at the forefront of all things Jessica Jones. I could write five or six essays on the issue of trust in JESSICA JONES plus her time in Bendis’s SECRET WAR (singular) and NEW AVENGERS books. Oh wait, I already have. Here Bendis builds it brilliantly in one and a half pages of intense, internal monologue as Jessica grits her teeth in full knowledge of Hill’s history of lies, before Maria Hill even starts to speak. Then when she does, she’s immediately disarmed by the truth.

When he’s on top form, Bendis’ dialogue is among the very best in comics, and Bendis is at his best when Alex Maleev or Michael Gaydos comes round to play. I’ve found that some writers flourish when properly partnered, then seem to flounder as soon as some other artist steps in (see PULSE).

Gaydos’s timing, with incremental adjustments to facial expressions between panels, is subtle and flawless and – like Alex Maleev or Michael Lark – it is a shadowy world that he conjures. It’s street-level and dirty and dangerous. Even the Jones’s office is in venetian-blind twilight… until the window gets smashed in, anyway. I hope she has a glazier on retainer.

Even Chinatown fast-food joints become cold, unsafe places to meet under Gaydos – glamour is almost an anathema to him, and not everyone has the looks of a model. Jessica is unsurprisingly permanently tired and weary while Sharon Carter, now sub-director of S.H.I.E.L.D., is looking her not inconsiderable age.

“Where’s Maria Hill? She hire you?”
“I don’t confirm or deny ongoing investigations… But if you want to hire me yourself, you can visit our website and get a look at our rates.”
“I can put you in jail.”
“I am very good at finding people. Is there someone else I can help you find?”


“Maybe the person that did that to your hair?”

I did mention that Jessica wasn’t exactly her own best friend, didn’t I? That she was sassy, impulsive and anti-authoritarian.

Famously, Luke Cage spent time in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. So that’s something they’ll be able to share in the shower if Jessica Jones ever gets out.

“Where are you going?”
“Um… home.”
“Yeah, to quote the great General Solo: that is not how any of this works.”
“But – “
“We’re S.H.I.E.L.D. This is a major public incident. You’re being uncooperative and hostile.”
“But… so is your hair.”


Buy Jessica Jones vol 2: The Secrets Of Maria Hill s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Invisibles Book 2 (£22-99, Vertigo) by Grant Morrison & Phil Jimenez, Jill Thompson, Paul Johnson, Tommy Lee Edwards, Mark Buckingham, Philip Bond.

The Invisibles is a secret cell of anarchists talented in various aspects of what could loosely be described as the occult, determined to see our lives freed from the threat of a trans-temporal, inter-dimensional, pan-sexual straightjacket.

Reality, sexuality, gender, order, chaos, language and control, it’s all here for the decryption. Join Lord Fanny, King Mob, Ragged Robin, Jack Frost, Edith Manning, Jolly Roger and the rest of these mentalists in their fight for your future’s freedom!

I leave you with a guide as to what to expect using the original volumes’ seven-volume titles (this thicker edition reprints #13-15):

Say You Want A Revolution: Did it really all begin here, with a young boy named Dane and a secret world which he suddenly saw lurking behind what passed for reality?



Apocalipstick: Things go from bad to worse – you can always count on that. You can also count on things not being what they seem.

Entropy In The UK: They say that everyone has their breaking point. But it’s what’s being broken that really matters – and who’s breaking it.

Bloody Hell In America: Secrets are hard to keep, unless they’re too big to be believed. The bigger the government, the bigger the secrets become.

Counting To None: Time is of the essence, it transpires. But the essence of what might surprise you.



Kissing Mr. Quimper: Learning from history is one thing, but writing the history yourself is another, particularly when it hasn’t happened yet.

The Invisible Kingdom: Who even knows?

For more, please see INVISIBLES BOOK 1.


Buy Invisibles Book 2 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’.

Motor Girl vol 2: No Man Left Behind (£14-50, Abstract Studios) by Terry Moore

25th Anniversary Sketchbook – 8800 Days Of Blondes, Brunettes And Bozos (£14-99, Abstract Studios) by Terry Moore

Satania h/c (£22-99, NBM) by Fabien Vehlmann &  Kerascoet

Bitch Planet – Triple Feature vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Image) by various

Blood Bowl vol 1: More Guts, More Glory s/c (£13-99, Titan) by Nick Kyme & Jack Jadson

Cyanide & Happiness: Punching Zoo (£13-99, Boom) by Kris, Rob, Matt & Dave

Expansion (£13-99, Adhouse Books) by Malachi Ward, Matt Sheean

Jazz Maynard vol 1: The Barcelona Trilogy h/c (£17-99, Lion Forge) by Raule &  Roge

Lady Killer vol 2 (£15-99, Dark Horse) by Joëlle Jones

Misfit City vol 1  (£13-99, Boom) by Kirsten ‘Kiwi’ Smith, Kurt Lustgarten & Naomi Franquiz

The Forever War s/c (£17-99, Titan) by Joe Haldeman & Marvano

Wired Up Wrong (£10-00, self-published) by Rachael Smith

Batman / Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles s/c (£14-99, DC) by James Tynion IV & Freddie E Williams II

Injustice Year Five vol 1 h/c (£22-99, DC) by Brian Buccellato & Mike S. Miller, various

Suicide Squad vol 4: Earthlings On Fire s/c (Rebirth) (£13-99, DC) by Rob Williams & Tony S. Daniel, various

Trinity vol 1: Better Together s/c (£14-99, DC) by Francis Manapul & various

Champions vol 2: Freelancer Lifestyle s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Humberto Ramos

Dark Avengers By Bendis Complete Collection s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Mike Deodato, various

Defenders vol 1: Diamonds Are Forever s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & David Marquez

Hulk: World War Hulk h/c (£19-99, Marvel) by Greg Pak, Peter David & John Romita Jr., various

Ms. Marvel vol 8: Mecca s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by G. Willow Wilson & Marco Failla, Diego Olortegui

Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man vol 1: Into The Twilight s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Chip Zdarsky & Adam Kubert, Michael Walsh

Rocket vol 1: Blue River Score s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Al Ewing & Adam Gorham

Star Wars: Captain Phasma s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Kelly Thompson & Marco Checchetto

Venom vol 2: The Land Before Crime s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Mike Costa & Tradd Moore

Castle In The Sky Picture Book h/c (£12-99, Viz) by Hayao Miyazaki & various

Pokemon Adventures vol 10 (£6-99, Viz) by Hidenori Kusaka & Mato

Pokemon Adventures vol 8 (£6-99, Viz) by Hidenori Kusaka & Mato

Pokemon Adventures vol 9 (£6-99, Viz) by Hidenori Kusaka & Mato

Pokemon XY vol 1 (£3-99, Viz) by Hidenori Kusaka & Satoshi Yanamoto

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews December 2017 week one

Wednesday, December 6th, 2017

Featuring Joe Latham, Luke Hyde, Cyril Pedrosa, Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey, Jordie Bellaire, Ian Edington,  D’Israeli, Gigi Dee, Simon Spurrier, Kelly Matthews, Nichole Matthews, Kim Newman, Paul McCaffrey.

Portugal h/c (£30-00, Fanfare / Portent Mon) by Cyril Pedrosa.

“What you are doing is pointless.”

What Simon is doing is nothing.

Well, he is teaching and that’s not nothing: it’s the most important job in the world. He’s empowering his young students in multiple ways by showing them that they can draw!

Simon used to draw.

He drew graphic novels which drew critical acclaim but which he didn’t like, and which brought him neither the solace of money nor fame. Critical acclaim can be small comfort if it’s material reward that you’re after.

He has a beautiful, brightly spirited, understanding and encouraging girlfriend called Claire with whom he shares a fairly idyllic townhouse. It’s reasonably rustic even if it’s rented. He probably should mow the lawn occasionally, if only he could be bothered. But swinging idly in a hammock’s much easier. He should probably converse with Claire… if he only could be bothered. But that would mean making some effort. He should probably create once again, as his therapist encourages. But he really cannot be bothered.

“It’s not writer’s block. I just don’t feel like it, that’s all.”

Simon doesn’t feel like it.



He won’t even pick up the phone to ask for a loan from his Dad in Paris. His Dad called Jean is really quite wealthy, you know. Then Claire and Simon could buy a house, save on the escalating rent and not need to borrow at exorbitant interest from the bank.

“I don’t get it.”
“There’s nothing to get. I just don’t feel like it.”

Understandably, Claire feels frustrated. Inertia, inaction, it’s driving her to distraction, because Simon is simultaneously treading water and drowning.



That’s beautifully evoked in the art, and not just during the swimming-pool sequence in which Simon only just comes up in time for air. The first several dozen pages are suffocating under drab, murky, energy-sapping olives and tans. When waiting for his father in Paris, Simon is overwhelmed – like the panels themselves – by the cacophonous crowd-chatter in French.

Fast-forward to Lisbon in Portugal to which Simon is invited, as part of a Comics Festival, on the basis of those very graphic novels which he so dismisses. The streets are still densely populated by pedestrians, but because he doesn’t understand Portuguese, the irritating chatter becomes mellifluous music instead, its speech balloons floating soothingly into one ear then out the other.



It’s something that’s picked up later on.

“A few words in broken English… hand gestures occasionally emphasised with a smile or a raised eyebrow. This basic language, stripped to the essentials, as frustrating as it is, helps us reveal nothing but the best in us.
“The tiny signs that, in a mother tongue, betray stupidity or jealousy no longer exist here.
“I see only their smiles.”

I’ve never read that posited before: that the nuances of one own native tongue can carry loaded connotations – subtle, deliberate or accidental implications; or inferences perceived either rightly or wrongly – whereas a foreign language, struggled with, conveys only the direct, unsullied bare-bones.



And look what happens to the art!

Like Fumio Obata’s JUST SO HAPPENS, in Portugal the human forms too glide like softened, ethereal ghosts, the buildings, steps and walkways warp as if underwater, and the colours immediately warm then ignite, especially on the sea-front itself! He’s surrounded by enthusiasm, energy and laughter.



This is Simon Muchat’s first time in Portugal for 20 years. It’s where his family originated from. He’s never been back as an adult. Indeed, he’s felt so distant from his family there that he almost refused a Wedding Invitation from his Portuguese cousin who’s marrying a bloke from a vineyard family in Burgundy. Both you and he will be so bloody glad that he didn’t, as will his Dad.

Because here’s the big thing: you may think that you have a problem with some parts of your family (weddings and funerals can be the worst), but do you ever consider that the generation above you might have even more issues dividing them?



Expansive, autobiographical excellence from the creator of EQUINOXES (whose multiple perspectives help render it one of the most successfully complex, thought-provoking graphic novels alongside Scott McCloud’s THE SCULPTOR, Glyn Dillon’s THE NAO OF BROWN plus Moon and Ba’s DAYTRIPPER), the second section here will mean so much to those who have found family reunions to be either terrifying, enlightening or both.

This turns out to be an absolute blessing, though not in the most obvious or immediate of ways. There’s an early car journey in which the traditional family silence is perpetuated by Simon (already reticent), his dad and his dad’s brother. Simon doesn’t realise that it’s a silence stilled for a great deal longer than he has been on the scene. Nearly 20 years separates his father, Jean, and his older uncle, Jacques, and it’s only when their more impetuous middle sister Yvette gets rolling that they start to rock. She may be sixty now but Yvette has lost none of her mildly iconoclastic but never divisive drive. She’s a catalyst for conversation, a moderator in reasoned perspective and a reminder of what is important. Good manners only get in the way: good will is what’s important.



Like Pedrosa’s EQUINOXES this is sumptuous with a central Burgundy vineyard which will make you swoon with bucolic jealousy. It’s not without its problems like cattle coming in across the water when they shouldn’t, or freezers spluttering then dying, leaving meat to rot when it’s supposed to be feeding the proverbial five thousand. But each of these instances will coerce those who may have lost the capacity to cooperate to do so again, then share their past.

It’s an enormous wedding party spread over a very long weekend, but much more informal than most as guests split themselves up into groups and do their own thing. You’ll hear snatches of background conversation and so feel that you’re there, rather than simply seeing what’s staged.

This is a book of the past According to Simon, According to Jean, then According to their ultimate patriarch, Abel: three male generations of the Muchat family which initially held little interest for Simon, but whose migratory past he soon finds so fascinating that he is later compelled to… well, you’ll see.



Anyone who can speak Portuguese is going to enjoy a fifth more than most because so much of this is deliberately left untranslated, as much a mystery to me as it was to Simon. I like that!


Buy Portugal and read the Page 45 review here

Injection vol 3 (£14-99, Image) by Warren Ellis & Declan Shalvey with Jordie Bellaire.

“Assisted fist?”
“Builder’s term for hitting something with a hammer until it goes in.”

Paranormal investigative fiction in which we return to where we began: the British Isles.

Specifically, we return to the rugged land of barrows and tors, stone circles and moors; of ley lines, megaliths and pre-Christian pits; of spriggans, diviners and cunning-folk. It’s the supernatural as science, the very ancient decoded by the most modern.

Information is everything, and everything is information.

Previously in INJECTION: five experts in diverse disciplines led by Professor Maria Kilbride were given funding by the FPI to cross-pollinate, think outside the box and do stuff.

They did stuff: they poisoned the 21st Century.

They did it with an Injection, and now they discover that both they and this planet are far from immune from what the Injection’s become.




“Everything from this point on is sketchy, okay? Every second is like you’re in the middle of making a deal that’s going very bad very fast. You know how that feels. Watch everything.”

Technologist Brigid Roth is tasked by Moira Kilbride of the FPI to investigate signal interference in Cornwall resonating from a stone ring on Mellion Moor uncovered following an earthquake and landslide. Chained to one of the standing stones is the remains of a dead body, skinned and boned. Beneath its central stone they discover what appears to be a massive, slab lid. Would it be wise to lift it?

When Brigid seeks information from local lore expert Professor Derwa Kernick, she appears to oblige with legends that suppose the circle to be a gateway to the Other World. Underneath, in a pit, criminals were chained and in the morning they would be gone. Any mechanism for this, she suggests, must have been lost in our oral tradition. So what happened to the man on the moor chained to the stone circle?



The tension’s kept caught by the constant reiteration of the deal-about-to-go-wrong warning exchanged between Brigid and rich kid Emma Louise Beaufort whom Brigid selects spontaneously as her driver and back-up based on her past (instantly uploaded from the FPI’s extensive, privacy-flouting files) for drug-dealing, robbery and assault. Emma’s role in many ways is as a Doctor Who companion: someone who observes, questions and panics easily – someone whose safety one worries about – while Brigid inventively (and dangerously) improvises with the most modern technology available today. As you’d imagine from the writer of PLANETARY, the dialogue is ever so satisfyingly slick.



In keeping with the old and the new, Brigid also comes equipped with an female-empowering Sheela na gig around her neck that is far from cosmetic and which, combined with her contact lenses, allows her instant access to all the message traffic of a computer connected to social media and more. It’s something Ellis floated in DOKTOR SLEEPLESS and which Sheean and Ward used excellently in ANCESTOR. Once more, however, Ellis doesn’t eschew the ancient, like the legendary notion that iron acts as a magic repellent. Pedal to the metal, as they say around race circuits.



As to the line and colour art – for which Bellaire won the Eisner last year, right here – the fog which shrouds Mellion Moor and its environs is phenomenally effective, there are moments of pure, sinew-shredding horror during which Shalvey reminded me of Kevin O’Neill, while during several key climaxes you will be treated to an ancient, tree-stone cathedral of light erupting in the night.

It’s but a herald of what is to come.



Incursions are increasing. The Other World of Old England’s coming back.

And it’ll only give the Injection more room to manoeuvre.


Buy Injection vol 3 and read the Page 45 review here

Digby Is A Wizard (£9-99) by Joe Latham…

“We all feel small sometimes.
“It’s quite normal to have hopes and dreams fill our heads with bubbly excitement from time to time. It’s also quite normal for those moments to inexplicably lead us down dark paths and exploded bathrooms.
“There are always lessons to be learned.
“I just hope I remember that when I am next scared and lost down a dark path surrounded by scary gnomes with sticks.”

Digby is about have a bad day. A very bad day.

Not quite on the level of Jose Domingo’s ADVENTURES OF A JAPANESE BUSINESSMAN, I’ll grant you, but it’s up there. Job interviews can ruin your chilled-out vibe like that, don’t you find?



It all started out so well too, with a hearty al fresco breakfast followed by a little accidental dungeoneering, broken up by backgammon with friendly goblins and convivial chats with other chums like the giant spider and the demogorgon. Digby even arrived in the nick of time for his interview after a brief misunderstanding with a bridge troll!

But then his composure began to unravel with the onset of a gippy tummy, a bubbling belly that caused him to mishear a question and begin to experience mid-interview anxieties promptly leading to full-on panic. Even after some extreme emergency wizardly… emissions… which resulted in him levelling half the building, he somehow still thinks he’s in with a great chance of landing the job! He’s clearly one of life’s great optimists, our Digby…



Back home, however, following the inevitable bad news after the usual protracted delay in hearing anything, that’s when the metaphorical shit storm promptly whooshes into town to really blow him away. A case of life imitating fart, perhaps… But as poor old Digby begins to rapidly learn that not gaining errr… gainful employment is about to be the least of his burgeoning problems, I was just chuckling with increasing mirth at his travails and lack of travail, and thinking how glad I am not to have to endure job interviews any more.




Told mainly in a two by three grid panel per page pattern, with the odd spectacular full-page spread or elongated landscape thrown in for good measure, this is a silent affair, though jovially narrated through the conceit of a single, simple surreal / sarcastic / sympathetic sentence hand-scribed below each illustration. There are no panel borders as such, just white gutters. Thus it gives this work the visual feel of a collection of carefully assembled Polaroid pictures, which I loved.

Joe’s art style is wonderfully loose, deceptively simple, yet upon examination reveals a tremendous amount of work, particularly in the countryside and forest backgrounds. Whilst Joe employs a heavier line, this did – perhaps for its delightfully whimsical approach – stylistically remind me of Jordan Crane’s sadly out of print THE CLOUDS ABOVE. In terms of colour palette he’s gone for a Feldgrau grey-green that varies in shade decorated with splashes of scarlet as Digby begins to really lose the plot!



Originally a Kickstarter project from Joe Latham, whose magnificent, synergistic triptych THE FOX / THE WOLF / THE WOODSMAN we could scarcely keep on our shelves when it first came out, I happen to know there are only a handful of these hardcover beauties left to purchase, and that there will be no reprints…


Buy Digby Is A Wizard and read the Page 45 review here

Pollquest (£9-99, self-published) by Luke Hyde.

Ever such a clever conceit and cool social-media experiment engaging fully with an interactive audience, this has been executed with much to-and-fro mischief and visual panache.

The experiment was, if you like, a democratic version of the pick-a-plot books like Sherwin Tija’s YOU ARE A KITTEN and, in comics, Jason Shiga’s highly inventive MEANWHILE wherein you get to dictate what happens next.

But democracy has its dangers as the comic’s protagonist – Bacon the Adventure Dog – would have been worriedly aware of had he been able to peer behind the creative curtain and see what was happening behind the scenes. We will get to that in a second.

Ostensibly, Bacon wakes up one morning, fully refreshed with 3 red-heart lives glowing as they would in a video game, and decides to go on a Poll Quest. He “poot-poot”s himself out of bed, digs his battle-scarred sword out of a treasure chest, taps an app on his mobile which has charged overnight, selects the Haunted Arcade option and defenestrates himself from the top of his tower. I like that fact that it has come under attack on some previous occasion from arrows. I love the fact that he goes splat on his face, immediately losing a life which recovers. He won’t necessarily be so lucky in the future.



What Bacon doesn’t know is that he has no self-determination.

He’s been saved that particular existentialist crisis.

What we know that Bacon doesn’t is that his entire course of action has been driven by said democracy thus:

Luke Hyde tweets his Twitter followers with a poll which they can then vote on. You know the sort of thing:

“Do you believe #Brexit will be:

“A. Apocalyptic For Our Economy
“B. Bad For Britain
“C. Catastrophic For All Concerned”

Anyone on Twitter can press one of those options and the poll provider will then know what percentage of idiots believe that Brexit will be brilliant for anyone other than the far right like Farage.

In this instance Luke first asked his followers whether Bacon should “Leap out of bed screaming (8%)”, “Roll out of bed farting (46%)”, “Check phone for quests (15%)” or “Sleep another hour (31%)”. Even the poor dog’s flatulence is dictated from on high – which is no viable excuse if you let one off in our shop.



There were four further polls on that very first page and, vitally, these insights are printed on the left, opposite the ensuing, directly consequent action. Oh, how differently our own lives could have all gone, if we only had responsible adults dictating our decisions behind the scenes. And, oh, how differently our danger-dog’s adventure could have gone if only he too had responsible adults dictating his decisions.

He doesn’t: he has Luke Hyde’s followers instead.

After much Lara-Croft leapin’ about betwixt pillars under peer, dodging the choppy cold waves down below, Bacon back-flips onto a ladder which will take him in into the Haunted Arcade.

“Climbing up, you meet a large door. Do you…

“Open it slooooooooowly
“Blast through with a fist
“Open it butt first
“Jump in shoutin’ ghost pun”

Now, I ask you, which would you have selected? The arcade is haunted. We don’t yet know by what (although we will most assuredly find out), but I was already willing to bet my entire wine cellar that it wasn’t by Randall’s mate Hopkirk (deceased). Slowly seems prudent, a fist might prove pre-emptive and a ghost pun at least empowering / cathartic. But no, Hyde’s good and wise may or may not lead quiet lives, but they whatever they do, they do it butt-first.



“Butt!!!! Every time the butt!” live-comments Joe Latham, creator of DIGBY and THE FOX and THE WOLF and THE WOODSMAN. And I will remember that, Joe.

Hyde is such an expressive cartoonist that anyone resurrecting Ren & Stimpy, for example, should knock on his door right away. The frantic action has a pull all of its own and so worth the price of arcade-admission.

But there are so many laugh-out-loud instances of such wrong-headed ratiocination on the left-hand page – with poor Luke doing his best to protect the interests of his protagonist against the wilful whimsies of his followers’ wanton irresponsibility – that, as I say, the format of this publication’s reproduction is its forte.



Plus, Luke himself is a very funny guy. Battered and bruised and (in short) worse for wear, Bacon is given no option by the social-media sadists but to enter a new arena: the sea.

“You dive in… as you fall you contemplate the words ‘salt water’; and ‘deep lacerations.”


Buy Pollquest and read the Page 45 review here

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

“Cucumber, dear, I just think you ought to run over and see what’s wrong! I’m sure the school will let you reenrol once you’re done saving the kingdom.”

Magician-in-training Cucumber is all set to head off to Puffington’s Academy “for the Magically Gifted (and/or incredibly wealthy!)” when he receives a missive from his apparently imprisoned father that he, and only he – definitely not his infinitely more savvy and tough nut of a little sister Almond who wants to be a knight – can save the Doughnut Kingdom from disaster! For the evil Queen Cordelia has taken control of Caketown Castle and is intent on assembling all the Disaster Stones to resurrect the Nightmare Knight. BOO!!! HISS!!!

The only possible way to stop this dastardly plot is for Cucumber to go see the world protector Dream Oracle and head off on a dangerous quest to acquire the legendary Dream Sword and perform some swash-buckling, sword-wielding antics and save the day. But all poor old Cuco wants to do is learn how to cast spells… Now if only we, and he, knew someone who desperately wanted to be a questing knight…



Haha, it’s certainly a high fun factor in this all-ages fantasy comedy that also has a surprisingly sharp satirical edge in places. This edition collects a first volume’s worth of material from the hugely popular webcomic that has been running since 2011. After a ridiculously successful Kickstarter that resulted in the self-publication of several books, publishers FirstSecond have bought the rights and put out this first glossy collection.



With an art style squarely aimed at gamer-friendly minds and a vibrant colour palette to boot, it’s actually a visual feast, not least because all the characters are named and subtly dressed as fruit n’ veg! With bunny ears… I don’t really know what the bunny ears are all about, in truth, other than to further heighten the cute factor, presumably.



They massively puzzled Whackers, the bunny ears, when I tried this work out on her 6-year-old noggin to her great acclaim. “So they’re all wearing bunny ears, then?” she must have asked about ten times as I attempted to carry on, forging valiantly ever onwards to that delirious moment when bedtime reading is concluded and I can finally go downstairs and relax.  “No, they have bunny ears,” I kept replying, through increasingly gritted teeth. “But they’re not bunnies,” she kept retorting. Statement not question, you will note. Finally, I gave in… “Actually, you know what, I think you’re right: they are wearing bunny ears.”

“… I knew it.”



Anyway, this is a whole fruitbowl full of fun, a veritable cavalcade of family-friendly crudités. Gigi D.G. has definitely created a work that will delight kids just with its sheer, natural, sugar-laden energy and also make adults cast a wry smile at the more ‘serious’ social commentary jokes thrown in. Thus neatly blending an all-ages smoothie to satisfy both the sweetest of tooth and also provide a bit of crunch.


Buy Cucumber Quest vol 1: The Doughnut Kingdom s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Complete Scarlet Traces vol 2 s/c (£17-99, Rebellion) by Ian Edington &  D’Israeli.

Well, it says vol 2 and we certainly have SCARLET TRACES VOL 1 but I started here, and when you turn over the first four pages you’ll want to too. This is exceptional: scathing socio-political satire made sweet by being British speculative fiction through and through.

With more than a nod to Frank Hampson’s DAN DARE, D’Israeli has excelled himself. There’s an enormous weight to the gravity-defying aircraft, detail galore in the smallest of panels, and the semi-futurist cityscapes come with a vast sense of space and a commanding control of light. You wait until you fly up to Mars!

Coloured to rich, warm perfection, I have rarely seen four more stunning pages kicking off a sci-fi comic, as the tranquillity of a bloody big British loch is shattered by something resembling Thunderbird 3 which catches the lake’s surface with one of its three jutting jet-engines, then nose-dives into what cannot be warm waters.



Fortunately there’s a rescue party immediately to hand at the shore’s edge. *checks definition of rescue mission*

Oh. Unfortunately what looks like it might be a rescue party turns out to be an assassination squad and the craft crew’s buoyancy blues are compounded by laser beams shot straight through their space helmets. We’re not really talking “injury-to-eye” motif; we’re talking brain-matter skull-‘splode.



D’Israeli ain’t finished, either. The very next page boasts an orgasmic aerial shot of Crystal Palace Aerodrome rising high into the sky above a lean, clean city with space for verdant parkland and the full majesty of the original giant glasshouse still standing. The lines are crisp, the light is lambent and the design of the leviathan coming in to land – vertically like a Harrier – is so exquisite in red and white that the six-year-old still very much alive in me would dearly adore a heavy model metal version to hold aloft and sweep around my playroom while going “Neeeeeeeeyyyyyyaaaaoww!”

Fans of LUTHER ARKWRIGHT or MINISTRY OF SPACE are also going to get a kick out of this alternate history in which Britain has retained the power it lost with its empire and made leaps in technology before its time – in this instance by reverse-engineering the spoils from a thwarted Martian Invasion.



In retaliation Britain has taken the fight to Mars with Field Marshall Montgomery in charge, but after 40 years of futile fighting – with national and international opinion set dead against them – things are growing dirtier. Abyssinian Emperor Haile Selassie, Secretary General of The League Of Nations, comes out with a speech astonishingly similar to Kofi Annan’s condemning Israel mid-2007; Canada, New Zealand and Australia are all set to secede from The Commonwealth; and you just know we’re in trouble if Sir Oswald bloody Mosley is Home Secretary. So you can kiss freedom of the press good-bye, and you can be equally sure there’ll be the thuggish boot boys to beat out insubordination, subversion or subterfuge should anyone get too close to the truth of what’s happening on the red planet.

Photojournalist Charlotte Hemming is determined to have a go, in spite of the odds, and after a treacherous journey finds evidence of a civilisation far older than their enemies, the reason that no one is coming home, and Earth’s Final Solution to its problem.



It’s all very slick, with winks here and there (an ancient mural depicts Doctor Who’s Silurians and Sea Devils as the contemporary, dominant species on Earth!), and Edginton fills his news reports with all manner of sly contemporary references before things turn very, very brutal indeed…

“In the East End of London, Scotland Yard’s Special Branch and the Metropolitan police raided a house in Sydney Street where Scottish seditionists ‘The People’s Caledonian Militia’ had established a hideout. After a heated gun battle, many of the insurgents took their own lives rather than face capture.

“However, it is suspected that several escaped in the confusion.
“Detective Inspector Craven of Special Branch anticipates their immediate arrest but warns that if you should see any individuals with a Scots or Northern appearance, do not approach them, but dial 999 immediately.”

Do it, please, for all our sakes.


Buy Complete Scarlet Traces vol 2 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Jim Henson’s The Power Of The Dark Crystal vol 1 h/c (£22-99, Archaia) by Simon Spurrier & Kelly Matthews, Nichole Matthews.

“A hundred years ago the Crystal was healed and in its light a lost race was reborn.”

We’ll return to that anon, but what you’d most like to know as soon as possible, I suspect, is how this fits in with Jim Henson’s puppet-theatre film?

It’s the sequel. It’s the direct, fully authorised sequel which was developed over many years and original intended to be released as a feature film. As such it’s scripted by Simon Spurrier (CRY HAVOC: MYTHING IN ACTION etc) based on screenplays by Craig Pearce and Annette Duffy and David Odell, and its art doesn’t half glow, which is a good job given that it features a brand-new race called the Firelings. They live near the planet’s molten core. Anyway, here’s Lisa Henson, CEO of The Jim Henson Company and the Muppet maestro’s daughter:

“Jen and Kira have been peacefully ruling Thra from the Crystal Castle for many years… They have grown very old and are living in a haze of memories and ritual, and the peaceful complacency of their court belies a neglect and lack of engagement with the Crystal and Thra itself. Into that setting, a young Fireling girl from the centre of the planet comes to ask a difficult favour of them, a shard from the Crystal to save her civilisation.”



I’ve only skimmed the first of these chapters reprinting the first four of twelve comics, but it did strike me as odd that “A hundred years ago the Crystal was healed” was impressed upon us three times during the three-page pre-credit sequence, bursts first from the title page yet again, then is repeated two pages later, then two pages after that. It struck me as odd right up until the first chapter’s cliffhanger when I realised why this favour to the Firelings would be so very difficult.

The Gelflings are an animist culture, worshipping the Crystal as a god.

And for a shard to be given, they must first shatter the Crystal itself.



For more graphic novels, please see Page 45’s Jim Henson Section plus the LABYRINTH 2017 SPECIAL one-shot, released last week and still in stock at the time of typing and the forthcoming 12-part LABYRINTH series whose first issue you’ll find there on our site, although you are very much encouraged to set up a Page 45 Standing Order for the series for collection in store or shipping worldwide as each issue comes out. You don’t pay in advance, only as each issue is collected or dispatched.


Buy Jim Henson’s The Power Of The Dark Crystal vol 1 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

Let’s lobs some labels at this, shall we, and see if they stick with you?

Steampunk, neo-gothic vampire comic with elements of Fu Manchu and Giant Monster Movies complete with Kraken. It’s all here, I promise you.

A brand-new story written by the author of the Anno Dracula novel along with its successors set during subsequent eras, this – like its original – takes place during a Victorian England whose crown, through connivance, now belongs to Vlad the Impaler along with Britain’s glorious far-reaching Empire. Not everyone is happy with this (though I’d have thought that one blood-sucking aristo was just as bad as another) so there’s a multinational European naval force assembled just off the Frisian Islands’ North Sea archipelago which is all set to invade / liberate our Sacred Isle depending on your perspective.

Think of them as The Allies. It’s kind of like WWI and WWII except in reverse.



On top of that there are various clans with secret plans bent on revolution from within, so if skulduggery is your thing you’ll be well-in here. They all seem pretty privileged too, and wear ever such flouncy clothing, plus a great many of them are vampires. This is a certain sub-section of society for whom this is the best wet dream ever.

The series is populated by historical figures, literary characters and those from film and television, so in that regard a bit like THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN (except that everything there was fictional including the environments) and you might have a great deal of fun spotting them.



Now, before we go any further, I should emphasise that HELLBOY’s Mike Mignola is the most enormously enthusiastic fan and provides the introduction in which he is at pains to point out that he’s a purist about Bram Stoker’s Dracula and therefore one of the least likely to succumb to the undoubted charms within, but succumb he has. Plus Neil Gaiman wrote “Compulsory reading… glorious!” and I have the most unequivocal respect for Neil to the extent that I know full well that I have never typed – and never will type – a single paragraph that could match his hastily scribbled weekly Sainsbury’s shopping list.

What I am trying to impress upon you is that they are almost certainly right and I am almost certainly wrong. Seriously.

But I cannot read a book in which someone cries “Egads!” or mumbles “’Ow do, lass?” then an anthropomorphic walrus declares, “The jig’s up, socialist rabble.” The first dozen pages made me squirm with embarrassment, so I set it aside and moved on.



For steampunk fans I recommend instead graphic novels like LUTHER ARKWRIGHT, CASTLE IN THE STARS, GRANDVILLE, CLOCKWORK WATCH or SCARLET TRACES.

P.S. Words like “skulduggery” and “turpitude” should only be deployed with an arched eyebrow as well.


Buy Anno Dracula – 1895: Seven Days In Mayhem s/c 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’.

Cannibal vol 2 s/c (£14-99, Image) by Brian Buccellato, Jennifer Young & Matias Bergara

Injection vol 3 (£14-99, Image) by Warren Ellis & Declan Shalvey

It’s Cold In The River At Night (£9-99, Avery Hill Publishing) by Alex Potts

Portugal h/c (£30-00, Fanfare / Portent Mon) by Cyril Pedrosa

Wet Moon vol 5: Where All Stars Fail To Burn (New Edition) (£17-99, Oni) by Sophie Campbell

Babyteeth vol 1 (£13-99, Aftershock) by Donny Cates & Garry Brown

Be Your Own Backing Band (£8-99, Silver Sprocket) by Liz Prince

Body Music (£22-99, Arsenal Pulp Press) by Julie Maroh

Catboy (£17-99, Silver Sprocket) by Benji Nate

Cici’s Journal h/c (£12-99, FirstSecond) by Joris Chamberlain & Aurelie Neyret

Helvetica Standard Italic vol 1 (£14-99, Manga) by Keiichi Arawi

Invisibles Book 2 (£22-99, Vertigo) by Grant Morrison & Phil Jimenez, Jill Thompson, Paul Johnson, Tommy Lee Edwards, Mark Buckingham, Philip Bond

Look Straight Ahead (£17-99, Cuckoo’s Nest Press) by Elaine M. Will

Lumberjanes vol 7: A Bird’s-Eye View (£13-99, Boom! Box) by Shannon Watters, Kat Leyh & Ayme Sotuyo, Carey Pietsch

Over The Garden Wall vol 2 (£14-99, kaboom!) by various

Steven Universe: Anti-Gravity (£12-99, Titan) by Talya Perper & Queenie Chan, Jenna Ayoub

Batman: The Dark Prince Charming vol 1 h/c (£11-99, DC) by Enrico Marini

Daredevil: Back In Black vol 5: Supreme s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Charles Soule & Goran Sudzuka, Alec Morgan, Ron Garney

Jessica Jones vol 2: The Secrets Of Maria Hill s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Gaydos

The Girl From The Other Side vol 3 (£9-99, Seven Seas) by Nagabe

Rivers Of London: Detective Stories (£13-99, Titan) by Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel & Lee Sullivan

Star Wars vol 6: Out Among The Stars (£17-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron, Jason Latour & Salvador Larroca, Andrea Sorrentino, Michael Walsh

Batman & Robin Adventures vol 2 s/c (£17-99, DC) by Paul Dini, Ty Templeton & Brandon Kruse, Dev Madan, Mik Parobeck, Joe Staton

Green Arrow vol 4: The Rise Of Star City s/c (Rebirth) (£17-99, DC) by Ben Percy & Eleonora Carlini, Juan Ferreyra, others

Blame! Vol 6 (Master Edition) (£29-99, Vertical) by Tsutomu Nihei

Dragonball Super vol 2 (£6-99, Viz) by Akira Toriyama & Toyotarou

Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt vol 5 (£9-99, Viz) by Yasuo Ohtagaki

The Mortal Instruments – The Graphic Novel vol 1 (£9-99, Yen) by Cassandra Clare & Cassandra Jean