Archive for February, 2018

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews February 2018 week three

Wednesday, February 21st, 2018

Featuring Tove Jansson, Nicola Davies, Cathy Fisher, Vera Greentea, Laura Muller, Kirsten Wild, Zara Slattery. Sebastian Girner, Galaad, and Jason

Nenetl Of The Forgotten Spirits Parts 1-4 (£4-99 each, Greentea Publishing) by Vera Greentea & Laura Muller.

“This is where the forgotten spirits wait, hoping that someone finds an old photo and lights a candle for them.
“They smell like the rain. No, like a flood.”

No one has truly died until they’re forgotten.

Their spirits survive in our recollections of how they affected our lives.

Throughout Mexico, families gather to celebrate and remember their immediate loved ones and older ancestors during the Day of the Innocents and the Day of the Dead, so keeping their legacies alive in their hearts and minds.

But some stories slip through the cracks – along with unfinished business – for not everyone leaves a living relative behind to keep that flame alive. Those spirits are restless, those spirits are pained.

Some of us cannot bear to be forgotten.

Emotional investment: do you know what ‘Nenetl’ means?

 

 

My second review of our Greentea Publishing comics imported direct from Vera herself is of this complete four-part fantasy which is immaculately structured and ever so satisfying once the true nature of Nena becomes clear, and her remaining ties to this world are disentangled, revealed, both to us and to the tight tale’s young cast. I wasn’t expecting anything quite so clever, but one should never underestimate Vera Greentea.

We first meet Nena in a bustling market square bathed in late-afternoon shadows – already decked out with street-straddling flags and sugar skulls galore – bumped into by tiny Jonah who’s sporting some short-legged, bright orange dungarees. I don’t think I’ve ever typed the word “dungarees” before. There are a lot more collisions to come, and I don’t mean that merely metaphorically. Laura Muller loves drawing multiple “strobe shots” of figures in flight across a single environment, thrusting them forward with a much greater sense of momentum than had they been split between panels. Almost always they are then brought to an abrupt halt, either by themselves on coming to the edge of a rooftop, or by being thumped into by someone else in a hurry. During the first issue alone that happens three times, and it’s very effectively done.

 

 

 

 

So what’s Jonah carrying? You’ll have to wait for part three. Why’s he in such a rush? Again, see part three! Why is Nena waiting there and where did she come from? I’d suggest patience until the middle of part two – that which takes place several hours earlier. I did promise you clever structure, didn’t I?

So exactly who is our Nena? Ah-hah! The secrets will all eventually out, for now you’ll only learn where she’s heading: an assignation with older Bastian, friend of Jonah, thence an ancestral vault which leads to a catacomb of skulls.

However, have you studied the cover to part one properly? There Nena dances, arms perfectly poised mid-air for balance, her lower leg striding daintily out from under her dress, revealing… Oh.

It’s another of those classic rhombus compositions like Caravaggio’s ‘David With The Head Of Goliath’ (Villa Borghese version), this time using the line of the leg rather than a sword to complete the circuit between hands, arms, head and foot.

And don’t you just love the luminous quality of Nena’s red dress?

 

 

Material like that shifts in colour depending on the quality of light falling across it; material like that shifts in colour depending on what lights shines through it, as Nena drops down from the rooftop, her dress fanning out, all seen from below with the sun up above, not transparent but translucent. Then there’s the forward / sideways roll upon landing and, yup, carmine joins the crimson.

 

 

Muller will later show you what she can do with blue hues too, both in the candle-lit catacombs and in the graveyard where confident, ambitious Violetta  (sister of Eli, all part of the same set of friends as Jonah and Bastian, as tutored by Father Eduardo) makes a terrible mistake in a ceremony whose consequences she doesn’t fully understand.

“The spirits are waiting…”

Oh yes! That, they are!

As with WRAITH, Greentea generously allows her visual storyteller, Muller, to do so much of the immediately obvious fancy work. A less judicious or self-confident author might be tempted to clog up the shape- and colour-driven pages with extraneous dialogue and hideous exposition simply to show that they’re working. Some people get paid by the paragraph, you see. However, when you’re self-publishing and you’ve had the good fortune to secure an artist like Muller on your comic, then it would a crime to clutter it up.

I can assure you that, instead, Vera has set all the tale’s hidden vertebrae into interlocking perfection.

SLH

Buy Nenetl Of The Forgotten Spirits Part 1 and read the Page 45 review here
Buy Nenetl Of The Forgotten Spirits Part 2 and read the Page 45 review here
Buy Nenetl Of The Forgotten Spirits Part 3 and read the Page 45 review here
Buy Nenetl Of The Forgotten Spirits Part 4  and read the Page 45 review here

Don’t Call Me A Tomboy (£6-99, WildSlattern) by Kirsten Wild & Zara Slattery.

“Don’t call me a tomboy,
“I’m made of girly stuff
“like grazes, mud
“and tatty curls
“and toxic belly fluff.”

Artfully done!

I adore the entire attitude here, deftly delivered with a degree of defiance but also grace, as the young girls’ energy blasts unapologetically from the pages.

At 4” x 12” tall, I also adore the format which, on its first two of sixteen story pages, emphasises the other Winsor McCay elements: the lines, forms, the colours, the traditional rocking horse and the fierce, fantastical imagination of childhood, as well as the rhyme itself.

 

 

“Don’t call me a tomboy,
“my name is Lily-Lou,
“I love jumping through the treetops
“and hunting like a Sioux.”

Plus I adore the production values: thick card cover and silky-smooth pages.

What’s not to love?

Hurrah for individuals!

SLH

Buy Don’t Call Me A Tomboy and read the Page 45 review here

Scales & Scoundrels vol 1: Into The Dragon’s Maw s/c (£8-99, Image) by Sebastian Girner &  Galaad.

The fire has been lit, the stew has been eaten. It’s time for a friendly battle of wits.

“I am greater than a dragon and stronger than a Titan.
“The rich need me. The poor have me.
“And if you eat me, you die.
“What am I?”

Oh no, no, no, you’re going to have to buy the book to find out, but I can honestly say that I have seldom strayed across a more satisfying riddle.

I imagine we’ll be selling this fast-paced fantasy predominantly to adults, but you can also rack this safely next to LUMBERJANES, HILDA and BAD MACHINERY for the most excellent All-Ages adventure. The colours on the cover could not be fresher, while within you fill find rustic town roofs and windows lit like jewels in the night, forests given the most enormous depth with mixed sandy hues in the foreground spotlighted between greens which dominate the furthest stretches before glimpses, between tree trunks, of a blue sky beyond.

 

 

And then our small, gradually gathered crew discover The Dragon’s Maw, an ancient and vast labyrinthine citadel whose precarious stone steps spiral deep underground, taking them past warnings carved on the walls in a strange dwarven dialect, then across rickety old rope bridges spanning seemingly bottomless chasms.

I think, if it’s okay, I’ll turn back now; I’m not one for heights.

The initial, full-page reveal of the citadel which concludes chapter two (after two pages of groping blindly through darkness) is pure Tombraider. Glorious! I don’t mind sending Lara Croft into danger on my behalf.

 

 

We open late one evening in a tavern with war-painted, white-tufted Luvander delivering her finishing move with a flourish, winning hands-down at Dragon’s Horde: lots of lovely coinage to scoop up and spend! Ummm… not so much.

“You lousy cheat!”

Ooooh, such a sore loser!

He’s going to be very sore soon – they all are – for when they duff up then corner Luvander she responds with… is that’s dragonfire?! They’re going to need another tavern.

 

 

 

So that’s a mystery for another time. Normally she wouldn’t need it. She’s a nimble as anything, eluding the angry, armed townsfolk at her own leisurely pace with effortless acrobatics, but it does mean she’s back to sleeping in a barrel of smelly onions and down to one copper coin. Oh wait, there’s an urchin who hasn’t eaten for days. Back down to nothing, then.

It matters not, for Luvander is as tireless an optimist as she is an adventurer, forever smitten with a wanderlust which takes her out into the countryside and straight into the middle of a robbery. Instinctively she sides with the victims: Prince Aki, royal bodyguard Koro and Dorma Ironweed, a stocky young dwarf whom they’ve hired as a guide to The Dragon’s Maw. Her grandmother’s recipe for stew is quite spicy.

 

 

Prince Aki is only sixteen and embarking on his first quest, as is tradition. He may not match Luvander’s strength or cerebral dexterity, but he too is inextinguishably up-tempo, while Koro is ever suspicious. I suppose it’s her job.

Down they all go into darkness, seeking the Maw’s secrets and perhaps ancient gold. The stone stairs and passageways are littered with skeletons, so they’re not the first by any means. Unfortunately there’s someone hot on Luvander’s heels, and he brings with him two very big dogs. Also: none of them have noticed that there are braziers lit, and presumably kept fuelled…

 

 

Terrific stuff, with huge energy and humour, frantic, abyss-edge battles and, how I love a good dream sequence! Lots to try to interpret there: a stained-glass window, chains, padlock, temple ruins, treasure, a young Luvander… and what’s up with her eyes on occasion, anyway?

Do you like dragons? I do!

SLH

Buy Scales & Scoundrels vol 1: Into The Dragon’s Maw s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Perfect h/c (£8-99, Graffeg) by Nicola Davies & Cathy Fisher.

“I loved the little bedroom on the top floor of our pointy house. In summer, swifts nested in the roof above it and I watched their fledglings’ first flights from its window. They were perfect from the very start, soaring high to slice the sky with crescent wings.”

What superbly weighted cadence that final clause carries, darting up twice on “high” and “sky”, suggesting the power, speed and reach of the swifts’ sweeping trajectory, as well as their agile ability to “slice” with energy and precision.

That the fledglings were “perfect from the very start” is equally well worded. First sentences, I’m sure, are far from easy; but as more challenging third sentences go, that is a belter. Everything that follows is informed by it.

 

 

You’d be forgiven for thinking – given the manner in which I’ve chosen to introduce this eloquently expressed, profoundly moving and finally uplifting picture book – that you were about to launch into an idyllic memory of childhood delight, inspired by (and a tribute to) the almost inexpressible wonders of nature. You’d be forgiven because you’re not entirely wrong, but this is far more than that.

Cathy Fisher’s illuminations will make your souls soar as high as these birds’ constant, life-long flight; and your heart dip and twist, then beat again, in time to Nicola Davies’ almost impossibly successful evocation of what it can mean for a young child to anticipate the birth of a sibling with whom they long keenly and excitedly to share all things ebullient…

“That’s how it will be, I thought, me and my sister, racing and chasing, screaming with laughter and delight.”

 

 

… Only to discover, abruptly, that their newborn brother or sister doesn’t seem so immediately perfect after all.

“I could see that she would never race or chase. She didn’t even scream. Her dark eyes looked at me and she lay quite still.”

Here the air-borne freedom of the swifts lies in stark visual contrast to a baby who is beautiful, cocooned in soft cloth, but seen from behind the bars of her cradle, with wire-like coils of black and white scrawled above, then dragging the whole down into potential darkness.

 

 

As she gazes up into sky from the grass which bursts with dappled flecks of gentle summer colour, the older sibling’s initial, outright rejection is expressed with heartfelt regret but a candour which is vital, for this tale is told to “open up the subject of disability for young readers” so that communication can begin.

Where it takes you several pages later, however, after the swifts continue to screech, sweep and circle while the baby sister lies still, is… well, it’s perfect.

 

 

The reunification through understanding is inspired by the discovery of fledgling beached, as it were, on the lawn. It lies there, stranded, for swifts are incapable of taking flight except from above.

Clearly, the bird is going to need a helping hand… But that’s all it will take.

 

 

I wish I had even more interior art for you here. There’s a close-up against black of the fledgling’s head and winged shoulder, its glistening black eye reflecting the white-clouds and blue sky it yearns for once again, and the face of its new friend. The image is echoed a few pages later, and that one I do have for you, life and love radiating from the soft skin, lips and eyes.

Such immaculate structure!

 

 

I’m sorry it took me a couple of years to find this book for you. You may well have already discovered it for yourself. Our primary focus – for which we have more vocation than a monastery full of monks – is on comics and graphic novels, and so is the focus of the solicitations sent to us by our suppliers. But we are equally passionate about all forms of art, especially when created by those who have something important to say and the skills with which to say it. So occasionally I stray upon something new, outside our immediate arena, to add to our burgeoning selection of illustrated prose within our Young Readers already established graphic novel section. For this one, I’m indebted to our dear friend Helena Pielichaty, Page 45 customer, author and passionate patron of reading.

For another all-ages picture book which has something vital to say (albeit in a completely different tone!), please Sarah McIntyre’s THE NEW NEIGHBOURS, reviewed.

SLH

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

The Dangerous Journey (£9-99, Sort Of Books) by Tove Jansson.

“Susanna woke one morning
“Bored and confused and cross.
“She gave her cat a warning.
“She told it who was boss.”

Oh, that will work out well – as anyone who’s ever been owned by a cat will know well.

“You’re old, Cat, and you’re lazy –
“Too peaceful, too serene.
“Not me! I’m wild and crazy
“And I’m sick of all this green.”

Okay, but be careful what you wish for, Susannah…! Uh-oh.

“I’d love it if some vandal
“Turned green to sparkling gold –
“Danger, disaster, scandal!
“What might our future hold?”

Danger and disaster as it happens, for when Susannah discovers a second pair of glasses in her green and pleasant land, it stops being either green or pleasant, but becomes a nightmare terrain of slimy swamps, eerie landscapes full of “hot red clouds”, erupting volcanoes and birds flying backwards, upside down. There follows a frightful  but also funny flight through a world turned topsy-turvy, but fortunately she encounters some familiar friends from Moomin Valley in the form of Hemulen, Snufkin, Sniff, Thingummy and Bob, and together, through foul weather, they plough their way back to the sanctuary of home.

 

 

I’m informed that this was the last picture book completed by MOOMIN’s Tove Jansson (see also WHO WILL COMFORT TOFFLE etc) and, as before, British poet Sophie Hannah has worked her magic on a literal translation by Silvester Mazzarella to render the most extraordinary thing: a beat-perfect English-language version which manages to replicate the specific, mischievous wit and linguistic prowess of Jansson’s original, and still it rhymes!

 

 

In fact it rhymes beautifully. Astonishing, really, especially given Thingummy and Bob’s predilection for swapping bits of words round (clue – they’ve just encountered the volcano):

“Thingummy muttered, ‘Flazing blame’.
“Bob said, ‘It’s hed hed rot!
“Smorld up in woke – a sheadful drame,
“When smorld is all we’ve got!’”

Shades of Lewis Carroll there, and that last line is particularly clever in retaining “smorld”, for it makes no sense without its earlier accompanying swapsie, yet every sense, encapsulating their entire predicament: a world that’s gone up in smoke.

 

 

If this is Jansson’s very last picture book then in some ways she’s come full circle, for MOOMINS AND THE GREAT FLOOD, her first, also featured a fearful journey outside of the safety zone of Moomin Valley as Moominmamma leads Moomintroll through equally unnerving, spooky and potentially dangerous landscapes in search of a lost Moominpappa.

THE DANGEROUS JOURNEY comes with a quite traditional structure: tranquillity enjoyed, tranquillity lost (well, actively rejected) then tranquillity ultimately restored after much penitence and strife, with the unspecified verdant meadows replaced by and upgraded to the tulip blooms of magical Moomin Valley. You’ll note that the visual treatment of the two idylls is markedly different too: the first is serene, sedate, quaint, picturesque – what I might call country cottage – whereas Moomin Valley is a riot of cartoon effervescence.

 

 

 

There’s no further mention of the strange second pair of glasses – they’re not taken off – but the cat’s back, still sleeping soundly, and is treated and greeted with a great deal more appreciation.

Sorry? Yes, belated spoiler warning, possibly, but as with many things it’s very much the journey, not the destination.

SLH

Buy The Dangerous Journey and read the Page 45 review here

Almost Silent h/c (£22-99, Fantagraphics) by Jason.

Classy collection of four silent books, previously available separately, from the creator of I KILLED ADOLF HITLER, LOW MOON, IF YOU STEAL, ON THE CAMINO all reviewed with interior art so that you can get an idea of what Mark’s talking about.

Of Tell Me Something, Mark wrote:

Two conventions, one from comics, one from film, both from the same ear. All the faces here have blank eyes, no pupils (think Harold Gray). This tempers the expressions and makes each face (whether bird-like or dog-like) a mask. This is added to the use of (silent) film titles and the characters’ actions (hard) boiled down to archetypes. You’ve got the femme fatale with the two rival suitors, one from the wrong side of the tracks, a disappearing father and hired goons. Very refreshing to see Jason keep the ‘beauty’ drawn in the same style as the rest of the cast. Too many times I see an artist abandon a (for instance) gritty style to up the cheesecake on the dame. Just a pet peeve.

 

 

Of You Can’t There From Here [one of my favourite titles to any book — think about it!], Mark wrote:

Two evil henchmen take time off from fetching fresh brains for the evil scientist masters to have lunch in town. While they complain about the hours and the pay there is bedlam and love happening around them. The mad scientist has fallen for the bride of the monster but the monster doesn’t want to give her up. Jason adds a mundane layer to the horror story.

 

 

Of The Living And The Dead, Tom wrote:

Second instalment in the Norwegian cartoonist’s horror/comedy trilogy which started with ‘You Can’t Get There From Here’. This time he offers flesh-eating funnies with a George A. Romeo by way of Buster Keaton Zom-Rom-Com. Truly original twist at the end too, but I won’t give that away. This is carried once again by Jason’s intrepid use of timing, each panel perfectly captures the motion and the meaning of each second. Being almost silent – the little dialogue there is interrupts the visuals by stealing its own panel much like a silent film would give a few frames for the same effect – this almost invites you to steam through the action until you’re flying through the pages like a flip-book. More please, sir!

 


Of Meow Baby, Tom wrote:

Fun, short, mostly silent tales about Jason’s non-specific anthropomorphic versions of Hammer Horror staples Elvis, Godzilla, Godzilla’s mum, The Terminator, a caveman, a ’50s-esque Alien, a lynch-mob and an ice-cream vendor. Difficult to convey just how visually funny these are, but if you’ve read his more sombre tomes such as HEY WAIT, imagine the same heart-rending, understated timing applied to comedy. It’s pitch-perfect. 

And of Almost Silent, Stephen wrote:

Classy collection of four silent books previously available separately.

Never let it be said that I don’t do my research.

SLH

Buy Almost Silent 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’.

American Gods vol 1 h/c (£20-00, Headline) by Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell

Is This Guy For Real? The Unbelievable Andy Kaufman (£14-99, FirstSecond) by Box Brown

Bible Of Filth h/c (£30-00, David Zwirner Books) by Robert Crumb

Capture Creatures (£13-99, Kaboom!) by Frank Gibson & Becky Dreistadt

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds: An Art Book h/c (£24-99, SelfMadeHero) by Reinhard Kleist

Uber vol 6 s/c (£17-99, Avatar) by Kieron Gillen & Daniel Gete

White Sand vol 2 h/c (£22-99, Dynamite) by Brandon Sanderson, Rik Hoskin & Julius Gopez

Yellow Kayak h/c (£12-99, Simon & Schuster) by Nina Laden & Melissa Castrillon

The DC Universe By Neil Gaiman s/c (£17-99, DC) by Neil Gaiman, Alan Grant, Mark Verheiden & Arthur Adams, Michael Alred, Simon Bisley, Sam Keith, Mark Buckingham, Matt Wagner, John Totleben, Eddie Campbell, others

Astonishing X-Men vol 1: Life Of X s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Charles Soule & Jim Cheung

Invincible Iron Man: Ironheart vol: 1 Riri Williams s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Stefano Caselli

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews February 2018 week two

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018

Eternal: A Shieldmaiden Ghost Story (£6-99, Black Mask) by Ryan K Lindsay & Eric Zawadzki with Dee Cunniffee.

“Battle is a constant, inside and out.
“Reflection is something only found in still waters.”

I do love a double meaning and a deft turn of phrase. I found this to be eminently quotable.

ETERNAL is a juicily drawn, artfully coloured, album-sized graphic novella whose prologue – revisited intermittently – comes framed with great style and class, letting a whole lot of light in. Once we’ve moved passed the cover in Page 45’s Weekly Reviews Blog you are going to want me to stop writing and leave you to drool. I’ll just mention this before I forget: although each page I’ve provided is exquisite in its own right, there are even more gasp-inducing spectacles within from a green-misted morning to a radiant sunset followed three pitch-black pages later by a full-page, crackling, boat-bound pyre that glows in the night.

Sean Phillips and Marc Laming have both ordered copies, and there’s no greater compliment to (and endorsement of) an artist than being purchased by one’s peers.

Some of Zawadzki’s expressions put me in mind of 100 BULLETS’s Eduardo Risso, some of the line textures of Simon Gane (see ABOVE THE DREAMLESS DEAD), while subject and setting are going to appeal enormously to fans of NORTHLANDERS, BLACK ROAD and VIKING: THE LONG COLD FIRE.

 

 

 

As to the colouring by Cunniffee, there’s a substantial essay in the back (though sadly no process pieces – you have the line artist on hand for that) about his approach to this and several other projects which should prove very useful to those beginning their studies or commencing their careers. Cunniffee’s use of an overlaid watercolour effect for the skies and the pyre fire alone provide a subtle but strikingly effective contrast to the otherwise untextured colours, as when thick clouds of smoke belch and billow from a fortress destroyed by the shieldmaidens, along with its occupants.

Or so they think.

“When you play with magic, you come across problems.
“When you murder magic, you create problems.”

Some of my sale pitches are more narrative than others (STRANGERS IN PARADISE XXV #1 was almost entirely narrative two weeks ago, but I enjoy telling stories, and here stories sell), others are more analytical. This time I’m going to let the interior art do all of the talking and leave you to unlock the majority of the tale’s trajectory for yourself.

However, we begin with a brief lesson on the pragmatic necessity of violence in a world where, if you do not visit upon others, it will be visited upon you:

“I want to travel, I want to explore. Why must those things come with violence?” asks the young boy.
“They mustn’t, yet, alas, they do. This is merely the reality of things. But if you are the one cutting then you get to decide what’s cut.”

 

 

There’s an inarguable wisdom to those words under such circumstances, and our chief protagonist and shieldmaiden Vif will be doing a great deal of slicing and dicing accompanied by inset panels of zoomed-in effect which emphasise the speed of the slashes and thrusts. She is adept.

“It’s not about violence, Grimr…
“It’s about control.”

The problems will arise when she loses it – her self-control – twice.

 

 

When she does so the first time, there is a subtle visual clue right at the bottom of the page which merely hints at what she has done. The full, horrific reveal is carefully delayed until you’ve turned over the page, then you see what her rage has wrought.

Anyway, I suspect you may be craving more art. I have it. Go for your life!

 

 

 

Lastly:

“You poison the water of the world and then decry its taste?”

Sick burn!

SLH

I promise this will be back in stock next Wednesday.

Buy Eternal and read the Page 45 review here

Briggs Land vol 2: Lone Wolves s/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Brian Wood & Mack Chater, Vanesa R. Del Rey, Werther Dell’Edera.

Please treat this as if I’m reviewing volume one.

I am. I’m reviewing both.

“Did you just say you’re a Briggs?
“As in Briggs Land?
“As in those Nazis?”

One of the most terrifying series currently on our shelves, BRIGGS LAND is a riveting read containing no horror other than that which is real to our world: control through intimidation in the form of threats of violence which are always followed through with occasional deliberation but no hesitation whatsoever.

On the flipside it is, at its heart, the struggle of one woman to right decades of male wrong on the vast tracts of land that she so precariously owns. Does she even own it? That, along with her authority, is up for vicious, vitriolic contention.

 

 

Most of the women on Briggs Land rarely leave its hundred square miles of privately owned property.

In BRIGGS LAND VOL 1 we learned of one husband who forbade his wife to wear shoes. He took them away so that she wouldn’t stray, even from their household. To call it a patriarchal environment would be the most massive understatement, and if you imagine that its women resent this, then you would be wrong. It is so ingrained, so inculcated, that they believe in it too.

The sole exception is our main protagonist, Jim Briggs’s wife Grace. Not only has she seen the atrocious effects of his lack of empathy for women over these many years, she knows what is coming for her people, fast and furious, if she doesn’t wrench control from her husband right now.

 

 

For although Jim Briggs lies in jail, his influence remains at large, potent, infectious and commanding loyalty as fiercely as it always has done, from those who don’t know what he’s up to. What he’s doing is a deal with the Albany D.A. to secure early release by selling off Briggs Land from under everyone’s feet… to the very country from which they originally seceded. Their prison-bound patriarch is their ultimate traitor and – other than Grace – none of them know it.

So here she so resolutely stands, carving out as much command as she can, while under assault from all sides: the media, the FBI, the local police authorities who want the most money and can control access to their very amenities, and her own family. Her husband in particular has Grace aggressively in his sites, and she can’t even trust her eldest son not to misuse their neo-Nazi affiliations to extort what he wants from their former collaborators.

The threats to her life could come from anyone, at any time, and they do.

Breathe out.

 

 

Where Woods will surprise you this volume is in presenting a completely different angle.

I don’t know how you view American secessionists, but I imagine the opening quotation comes quite close: open, modern, reasonable and liberal are not going to play high on your hit lists. Nor should they: BRIGGS LAND VOL 1 made that very clear.

Oh, Grace will continue to come under increasing not decreasing threat (and from more quarters still), but Woods presents people as individuals and bigotry from both sides, not only at ground level, but on a socio-political scale too. I wouldn’t expect the writer of LOCAL, NEW YORK FOUR, DEMO. DMZ, STARVE, NORTHLANDERS, BLACK ROAD and more not to be nuanced.

 

 

This, from Grace, for a start:

“We didn’t start Briggs Land and invite you in just to see you all turn into addicts and white trash stereotypes.
“We’re supposed to be better.”

Some things can and should be cauterised, but the rot which remains has a way of making its way back home to haunt you. Expect complications.

These include an innocent backpacking couple straying on their land and getting the wrong end of a hidden-boy stick, so necessitating (according to one of Grace’s sons) their confinement. Even if it’s only temporary, their release would prove problematic, especially since they are military helicopters circling overhead, along with the sensation-hungry mass media.

 

 

 

 

Now, how do you think the male-dominated Briggs Land residents would respond to abortion, eh? Remember, there is an overwhelming sheep and indeed pack mentality in a closed community like this, but there still exists individuals and that’s how Brian Woods renders them.

Rendering them also is the series’ established artist Mack Chater, along with Vanesa R. Del Rey and Werther Dell’Edera plus colourist Lee Loughridge, all at the top of their games, each in their various ways bringing an extra element of palpable, infectious fear to that which unfolds. In both books I’ve found myself constantly watching over shoulders – Grace’s most of all, but here another female family member brave enough to help out a teenager out in her hour of need.  Del Rey brings extra textures to the nocturnal excursion, along with worried looks, hunched shoulders and desperate, out-of-breath terror.

 

 

Mack Chater is a woefully underrated artist in the vein of Marc Laming, grounding Briggs Land’s inhabitants in the here and now, stinting not once on their environment, be it the private compound with its defiantly displayed, fluttering stars-and-stripes flag or the chain link fences which surround its otherwise most accessible entrances and exits, preventing unwanted intrusion or unauthorised egress. Then there are the old smuggling routes through remote, dense woodland to (and over) the Canadian border, so rich in lush colour thanks to Loughridge and such brittle detail that you can almost hear a twig snap.

That you can fear a twig snap.

SLH

Buy Briggs Land vol 2: Lone Wolves s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Get Naked (£22-99, Image) by Steven T. Seagle & various.

There’s more than one way of feeling exposed.

It can be getting your kit off in public, to be sure, but there’s also finding yourself outside of your comfort zone and at the mercy of events you can’t seem to control.

Imagine, for example, finding yourself on the way to catch an international flight which you cannot miss, and pungently smelling of faeces. For no discernible reason. Such is the stuff of nightmares. There, but for the grace of God, go we!

Seagle has had plenty of experience of both vulnerabilities and generously opens himself up for you to have a right laugh at his expense – and a good think. You will learn loads because, surprisingly, this is as much a travelogue as anything else, and it’s all the richer for it.

The co-creator of IT’S A BIRD… and THE RE[A]D DIARY with Teddy Kristiansen has had professional cause to visit countless cities all over the globe where he has observed much to bring you great mirth, including different attitudes to communal nudity when it comes to swimming pools, saunas and showers.

 

 

Then there are his first-hand experiences of being naked in public. Not on the street – though there was one notable exception in Helsinki where out of necessity he found himself spread-eagled, starkers, like a starfish in the snow – but in places where most of us would naturally expect to strip… except, he informs us, in the US of A:

“[This] may seem obvious to non-Americans, but I can assure you that in the U.S.A., most pool-goers shower in their swimming suits, so as not to have to get naked.”

Good grief! And I thought the British were self-conscious prudes.

 

 

Put into the eye-opening context of America’s full-throttle recent retreat from nudity (as late as the ‘70s, during gender-segregated swimming sessions at some high schools, swimming naked for boys was mandatory), this is a personal journey through personal journeys of one man emerging into a healthy equanimity with removing his clothes from after a lifetime of crippling embarrassment when it came to his body on account of considering himself physically inferior, almost translucently pale and skinny.

For Steven it began with a girl – of course it did! – a girl whom he fancied at school. She called him “cute”, constantly, and he took it as a huge compliment… until the day on which he discovered that she was referring to his lack of muscular, manly development, and she made a big show of it in front of her friends.

 

 

It’s then that t-shirts and shorts were abandoned for decades, even in the sweatiest of weather, in favour of maximum length and multiple layers.

There’s an all too similarly sad moment in Liz Prince’s TOMBOY.

Recovering from this was a gradual progress that began, improbably enough, during one memorable experience at a tiny comicbook convention in Alicante. It doesn’t seem the most likely venue to be forced out of your clothes in front of others, does it? Nevertheless, that is what happens, but not on stage. The trauma begins with a friendly football match, the prospect of which was trauma enough for Steven who had no faith in his athletic prowess, nor the slightest comprehension of soccer rules. And I know what you may be thinking: “Oh come on, it’s only a game!” But I still have regular nightmares of being forced on stage without having even read the play in the first place, let alone memorised its lines. It’s exactly the same thing, and Seagle is ever so adept at placing you squarely in his emotional, short-coming shoes.

 

 

The break-through began when he bit the bullet of this post-match, communal shower and in full fear of being judged physically by those much buffer than himself. He found that he was not. Not one jot. No one was remotely interested.

Flipping backwards and forwards in time, the writer than expands on his liberation from self-stifling anxiety, not to a whey-hey get-it-all-out exhortation towards exhibitionism but to a realisation that this and his other fears surrounding nudity proved to be completely ill-founded. He’s equally eloquent and candid about all that. There’s even a personal, circumstantial-evidence poll about what his straight friends and his gay friends say they fear most about showering with other men. It does make perfect sense.

Now, I began this casual assessment by proclaiming that this collection of essays harboured far more than a catalogue of bath-house experiences, yet that is what I’ve appeared to fixate upon. I promise you that I wasn’t kidding.

Sometimes the naked bits feel like more of an excuse for other even more interesting anecdotes with which he’ll regale you in full – like Seagle’s complete inability to recognise the film-famous out of their celluloid context – but instances of skin-bearing actually act as an editor of sorts, confining what is, I suspect, a five-fold treasure-trove of additional stories to a later collection. “If it doesn’t involve stripping, then I can’t even go there.”

Yet.

 

 

 

Each essay is illustrated by an artist whom you’ll grow so comfortable with that their successor will prove quite the surprise and delight. Some bring you something close to comics, others will deliver a more prose-and-illustration effect. One will cram your cranium full of yearning to visit the old / new majesty of Tallinn, newly freed from Soviet occupation. Now therein lies a sense of historical perspective!

Another will make you shudder as you embark on an ill-advised excursion into Karlovy Vary which you’ll wish Seagle had shied well away from. Seagle too! It’s so dank and darkly illustrated that you might fear you were straying into the latest hostel movie. Brrrrr…

As to why, after his flight out of Barcelona, he – and he alone – was bundled out of the plane in Munich by shouting, armed guards…

 

 

 

 

So many of my favourite pages, however, are the chapter introductions / interludes by Emel Olivia Burell. They are majestic, and I’ve a fair few for you here!

SLH

Buy Get Naked and read the Page 45 review here

 

Godshaper s/c (£17-99, Boom!) by Si Spurrier & Jonas Goonface.

One of the things I love most about Simon Spurrier’s creator-owned work is that on top of all the lateral thinking that he pours into its premise, he doesn’t let it lie there: there’s also the language which is far from flippant but instead – like Rob Davis’ THE MOTHERLESS OVEN and THE CAN OPENER’S DAUGHTER – comes with carefully thought-out connotations.

Here Jonas Goonface too goes that extra mile with lithe illustrations reflecting physical prowess and creative endeavour, leaving you much to infer from what they silently depict down the bar (none of which is clumsily and unnecessarily sign-posted by Spurrier) while adding, here and there, subtly highlighted details like this visual rebuttal to an idiot all too fond of the sound of his own ignorant voice:

“Man’s gotta be a martyr to fashion these days, wants to get anywhere.
“Sometimes I wonder if you poor schmoos got it easier, huh? No god, no money, no style….
“You know the first thing about fashion, Shaper?”

The staid, self-regarding, disregarding, pot-bellied, barrage-balloon of a man has failed to do more than glance at the man – from behind – who is currently restyling his god with some considerable artistic skill and who is the very epitome of understated dapper in gloves, rolled sleeves, braces over a well-starched shirt, a quiff fashioned topiary-like from dense hair above chic, shaved sides and – to the fore so that the reader’s eye cannot miss it on the bottom of the left-hand panel – a single and small diamond ear stud.

Now that is attention to detail.

God is in the detail and the detail has most certainly been injected into this title’s gods.

 

 

This is a world in which everyone has a god of their own, and every god has a person.

It just so happens that they treat their gods like employees or slaves, and their gods are the equivalent of personal bank accounts and/or RPG video-game characters, both of which we long to upgrade as much and as often as we can.

All transactions are conducted via these gods: the series’ sole currency lies in these powerful upgrades. What do we worship more than money and power? They’re basically the same thing, right?

There are, however, some singular individuals born without gods.

They are regarded as “nogodies”.

 

 

In this society – as in ours – they are treated as outcasts: the poor. For without a god they can neither acquire nor accrue money. They can never own a home for they have no money (and certainly no access to a mortgage without that bank account), so they are itinerants forever shunned but desperately needed for labour – for their unique ability to refashion everyone else’s gods. They are called Shapers.

The first but by no means last Shaper we meet is called Ennay, he of the braces and diamond ear stud, and the way he’s treated by our first customer – told to exit via the back door lest he be seen, for example – says it all.

He is, however, a bit of a hit on the cantik scene, which is akin to rockabilly and played unplugged, without a god.

“No holy harmonies here. No superpower pop. No gods as guitars. We don’t get aaawwwwf on that godly groove.
“We got a new manifesto. We’re here to repair the square.
“What we play, we play with our mouths and our hands and our hearts.
“This is cantik.
“It cannot be stopped.”

 

 

Ennay throws himself into the music, and the colours and the crowd go wild.

“Underground, unrefined, unlegal.
“A movement, a manner, a counter-culture crime.
“One seriously unholy racket.”

After which the spotlights go down, leaving a fluid double-page spread bathed in blue and purple neon as Ennay works the floor between tables, taking his credit and receiving his dues. He’s definitely an equal opportunities kind of a guy.

 

 

It’s a spectacular piece of fluid figure work and colouring, tracing Ennay’s movements and his admirers in a serpentine path of purple and pink between the rest of the onlookers in indigo, while their cartoon-animal, ghostly gods are lit in bright blue, their outlines an ethereal white.

Which brings us to Ennay’s second secret: he does have a god called Buddy. It’s just not his.

“Weird. Can’t see its believer.”

Gods aren’t supposed to exist without believers. Without believers they’re supposed to fade away (see SANDMAN / AMERICAN GODS). So what on earth is up with Buddy?

Once the subplot involving war and “riff-raff rations” kicks in, the relationship between gods and their owners is explored a little further and grows far darker than you’ll be anticipating.

Let’s just say that we all know the pain when our bank account’s drained but what if our bank account was a sentient god / ghost / animal?

 

 

So what else lies in store? Peggy Slim, queen of Synthpop Soul: her gigs fill stadiums, while her god has grown big enough to act as her entire stage set, such are the rewards she reaps. She’s married – very happily married – but this union harbours a secret. And what of good ol’ fashioned organised religion in this world of personal deities? Oh, same old, same old, hate-mongering as usual.

“Consider now the true serpents in our midst…”

He means the godless, obviously.

SLH

Buy Godshaper s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Incognegro: A Graphic Mystery h/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Mat Johnson & Warren Pleece.

Southern trees bear strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant south,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.

 – Abel Meeropol, ‘Strange Fruit’

“That’s one thing that most of us know that most white folks don’t. That race doesn’t really exist. Culture? Ethnicity? Sure. Class too. But race is just a bunch of rules meant to keep us on the bottom. Race is a strategy. The rest is just people acting.”

 

 

Zane Pitchback is an actor, and a consummate actor at that. He has to be. His job as a black journalist is to pass himself off as white, to travel south then infiltrate and report on the hanging of black men by white supremacists. This is a fiction, but it is a fact that “between 1889 and 1918 2,522 negroes were murdered by lynch mobs in America. That we know of.” And for the local people, it would be a gay family outing, including women and their children having their photographs taken as keep-sakes for the day in front of their dangling, humiliated and mutilated human trophies. By the 1930s it was no longer even considered news, but some extraordinarily brave individuals fought to make it news and expose the culprits by “going Incognegro”.

 

 

As the book kicks off Zane is posing as a photographer’s assistant at one such publicly perpetrated and community-supported murder, taking down names and addresses for free photographs, but his cover for once is blown and he barely escapes with his life. Unfortunately he’s been clocked. Returning to New York City, he’s determined now to exchange his anonymity for a little local recognition and a job as managing editor of the paper he writes for. He’s surely deserved it. But there’s one fresh file he cannot ignore: a report from Tupelo Mississippi of another young black man arrested and jailed for the murder of a white woman he was seeing and shared a moonshine operation with. The man is Zane’s brother.

 

 

This time it’s not enough to witness the almost certain lynching; this time Zane has to thwart it, and clear his brother’s name in the eyes of local population blind to such trivialities as truth or culpability, and policed by those who’d rather not start causing ripples by resisting the baying for blood. Unfortunately Zane’s city friend Carl, smarting from the jibes of his girlfriend, is determined to prove himself Zane’s equal by accompanying him on his mission, and with his brash behaviour and ham British accent he breaks one of the cardinal rules of undercover operations: keeping a low profile.

All of this would be gripping enough, but there’s a much wider mystery here: it’s a “who really dunnit?” for the murder itself is far from what it seems, there are several instances of mistaken identity, and there’s much to come out about the missing deputy, Francis Jefferson-White – it won’t be what you expect.

 

 

The work is substantial in length and substantial in depth with plenty to say about race and society both present and past (if it truly is). It’s also Pleece’s finest moment so far, particularly in his eloquently expressive faces, but also his use of light and shadow, either under sunlight or beside firelight. In spite of the new grey tones (all bar three pieces of interior art here are from the original edition), there’s a starkness and intensity which befits the exceptionally dire circumstances.

The language is pretty stark too.

SLH

Buy Incognegro: A Graphic Mystery h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Anti-Gone (£12-99, Koyama Press) by Connor Willumsen…

“Order a weird art-house comic, get a weird art-house comic.”

 – Page 45 customer.

It is hard to disagree with that sentiment. Particularly meant in the positive sense, as it was. But then buy something from Koyama Press, and, well, there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to get something that will test your artistic sensibilities, and possibly even your sanity, like recent work CRAWL SPACE by Jesse Jacobs did. It’s a graphic novel that we seriously considered making a Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month but we just couldn’t get hold of enough copies.

This is actually weirder than that – which is saying something, trust me. But then this material was actually drawn on tracing paper for starters, something which Koyama Press have done their darndest to recreate in terms of paper stock, at probably not inconsiderable cost to themselves. Apparently the creator Connor Willumsen wanted to see what his creation looked like from both sides, which is very artistically diplomatic of him.

 

 

You can see where he has used what I assume is tippex for colouring or speech bubbles on the panels that are of a darker hued background. There’s a sequence that particularly stuck with me of a skunk and a man in a puffer jacket covered in capital Rs ascending some sort of stepped Mayan pyramid to arrive at what looks like a drawing table with a mysterious box just waiting there. Which is in fact a dream sequence that occurs during a trance induced in a cinema foyer… Which…

 

 

So what’s it really all about? Well, I’m actually going to cheat and quote the first paragraph from Koyama Press’ own blurb because I’m not sure I can describe something so resolutely abstruse and recondite as well as they do. And because there’s only actually about another three of you who will be remotely interested in buying this, as brilliant as it is, and Page 45’s impending refit is fast approaching. Time, as they say in the Twilight Zone, is a one-way street.

 

 

“Reality’s grip is loosened as Spyda and Lynxa explore a potentially constructed environment that shifts between dystopic future and constructed virtual present. Like a form of multistable perceptual phenomena, Anti-Gone exists in ambiguity.”

Okay, I probably should at least try. It’s a wee bit like some of Dash Shaw’s more out there material such as THE UNCLOTHED MAN IN THE 35TH CENTURY A.D. but not as finely polished, though that’s entirely because Connor Willumsen is doing his own thing exactly as he’s intended. However, it’s assuredly artistically worthy in its own right and absolutely deserving of attention. It’s big, bold ambitious comics, which I love, and if I think you like a bit of weird yourself don’t be surprised if I make you try to buy it the next time you’re passing the till…

 

 

I’ll leave you with a random line from one of his characters that sums Connor’s approach up perfectly…

“God damn, where did you get your style?”

JR

Buy Anti-Gone and read the Page 45 review here

 

Parker: Slayground s/c (£15-99, IDW) by Richard Stark & Darwyn Cooke…

“Good. It’s real simple. Do what I tell you and you’ll live through this. You understand me?”

No, not new recruit Jodie being inducted into the dark arts of Page 45 mail order, but Parker dispensing a pearl of choice wisdom to the bent cop he’s trying his very hardest to be civil to. Given the cop and his partner are doing their level best to help a crew of mob guys rub him out and steal his score, I’d say he’s being pretty darn considerate. For a master criminal, Parker certainly manages to get himself into a fair few tight spots, but I guess if everything went to plan, that’d be pretty boring.

Here, hot footing it from the scene of an armoured car heist after a nervous getaway driver  has managed to roll their car in the snowy conditions, he’s spotted leaping the fence into a locked up fairground by a couple of on the take cops picking up their pay-off from some local wise guys. Hearing reports coming in of the heist over the police radio and putting two and two together, the bad guys decide there’s some easy money to be had and posse up with the intention of relieving Parker of his cash. Unfortunately for them, well, he’s Parker. So, after surveying his surroundings, planning as many moves ahead as a chess grandmaster, including laying some ingenious booby traps, surely only an easy mark would bet against him walking out through the fairground gates with his swag.

 

 

Another excellent adaptation of a classic Richard Stark novel, Darwyn Cooke again brings our favourite tough guy to life in his own inimitable pulpy, period style. This time around the locale is the rather less glamorous Buffalo, New York, though we do once again open up with the now requisite, scene-setting two-page landscape splash. As ever, amidst the gala of glorious art on display, there’s a unique little conceit and this time around it’s a fold-out map, in a few different art styles of course, of the fairground itself.

Darwyn Cooke truly is a master of his craft, there’s so much stylistically to admire here, so much background detail, so many clever devices. It’s not often I really enjoy breaking down someone’s work, understanding how every panel and page are put together, every bit of space used for maximum effect, but if you take the time to read this work a second or third time and do so, you’ll realise it’s an absolute masterclass in how to graphically portray a dramatic, action-packed story, it truly, truly is. Marvellous work, and only succeeds in taking my appreciation of his abilities to even higher levels.

 

 

My only criticism, and it’s a very reluctant one, is SLAYGROUND feels a touch lightweight in plot compared to the previous three PARKER capers. It all seemed over too soon, and whilst the end pages promise Parker will return in 2015, even despite the additional short story thrown in for good measure after the main event, that seems far too far away right now. I’d been looking forward to this for ages and now the wait begins anew. Ah well, maybe I’ll just read this one more time…

JR

Buy Parker: Slayground s/c and read the Page 45 review here

John Lord (£11-99, Humanoids) by Denis-Pierre Filippi & Patrick Laumond…

Grisly, pulp tale set in 1920s New York and various other locales including a desert island. The head of the special investigative unit the UPI has been murdered in a particularly gruesome manner, and it falls upon John Lord to track down his mentor’s killer. There’s a pretty sophisticated plot which commences with the simultaneously telling of two separate tales, that of John Lord’s return to the Big Apple from the front after a spell in the forces, an appearance that seems to provoke an ambivalent response in pretty much everyone, and that of a group of castaways, marooned on an island after a rather brutal act of piracy.

This second tale, entirely wordless, would appear to reveal all about the identity of the murderer almost immediately, or is it in fact just a very clever red herring? I shall say no more!

 

The art is also most definitely up to the usual high standards of a Humanoids imprint release. Yet another highly recommended crime release! If you read and enjoyed THE BOMBYCE NETWORK, this will also appeal.

 

 

JR

Buy John Lord 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’.

Bingo Love (£8-99, Image) by Tee Franklin & Jenn St-Onge

Corpse Talk Ground-Breaking Women (£9-99, David Fickling Books) by Adam Murphy, Lisa Murphy

The Dangerous Journey (£9-99, Sort Of Books) by Tove Jansson

Demon vol 4 (£15-99, FirstSecond) by Jason Shiga

Don’t Call Me A Tomboy (£6-99, WildSlattern) by Kirsten Wild & Zara Slattery

Jimmy’s Bastards s/c vol 1 (£13-99, Aftershock Comics) by Garth Ennis & Russell Braun

Kim Reaper vol 1: Grim Beginnings (£13-99, Oni) by Sarah Graley

Lovecraft: The Myth Of Cthulhu h/c (£17-99, IDW) by Esteban Maroto

Lumberjanes vol 8: Stone Cold (£13-99, Boom! Box) by Shannon Watters, Kat Leyh & Carey Pietsch

The Pond (£11-99, Graffeg) by Nicola Davies & Cathy Fisher

The Secret Loves Of Geeks (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Margaret Atwood, Hope Larson, Cecil Castellucci, Gerard Way, Jamie McKelvie and many, many other

Titans vol 3: A Judas Among Us s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Dan Abnett & Brett Booth, Kenneth Rocafort, V Ken Marion, Minkyu Jung

X-Men: X-Tinction Agenda s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by Chris Claremont, Louise Simonson & Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld, Marc Silvestri, others

Baccano vol 1 (£9-99, Yen Press) by Ryohgo Narita & Shinta Fujimoto

I Hear The Sunspot vol 2: Theory Of Happiness (£12-99, One Peace Books) by Yuki Fumino

RWBY (£9-99, Viz) by Shirow

Saga Of Tanya Evil vol 1 (£9-99, Yen Press) by Carlo Zen & Chika Tono

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews February 2018 week one

Wednesday, February 7th, 2018

Before we begin: Page 45 Has Announced Its Evolution: A Complete Refit without closing for a single day, commencing in under a fortnight’s time! Please spread the word as widely as you can! It’s costing £50,000 and we don’t want anyone to think we are closing! Thank you!

The New Neighbours PAGE 45 EXCLUSIVE SIGNED BOOKPLATE EDITION (s/c £6-99; h/c £11-99, David Fickling Books) by Sarah McIntyre.

 

Yes, our first 100 copies of either hardcover or softcover come with a free, signed bookplate designed by Sarah McIntyre exclusively for Page 45!

We could not be more grateful or proud.

Not only has Page 45 long been in love with Sarah McIntyre’s exuberant and kind-hearted craft, but here she delivers a big fluffy bundle of witty, exuberant joy for Young Readers which also wraps its warm heart around the welcoming of strangers, whoever they are and from wherever they’ve roamed.

Look, there’s a welcoming mat on the cover for just such a purpose as Sarah invites you in for tea, cake, and quite the cacophony! It’s going to grow ever so riotous inside, and the stairs are going to take quite the thumping. I love that the carrier pigeon which breaks the big news is dressed like the landed gentry who shoot grouse!

 

 

“Guess what!” shouted Piper.
“We have RATS in our flats!”

They really do! And Piper is beyond all containment.

Oh how the young bunnies bounce around any and all flats which open their doors to their din!

“RATS!
“We’ve got RATS!”
“WAHEY!
“YIPPEE!”

Brick towers tumble, a game of draughts is disabled and someone’s stuffed their head right into an upturned saucepan full of spaghetti. You can’t really blame them.

 

 

Their elder sister Lettuce is the first they encounter. She considers this development and responds with that which is right:

“Hmm… RATS! I’ve never lived with RATS before…
”We should go and say hi.”

Of course they should! So off they all hop down the stairs!

But their next neighbour Vern casts one note of slight caution:

“I don’t think rats are very tidy neighbours. We need to make sure they keep the place clean. Let’s gather everyone in the building and figure out what to do.”

And that seems okaaaaaay… But without giving too much awaaaaaay…

This is the crossroads. This is where excitement, enthusiasm and inquisitiveness begin to descend from “I don’t think” and “I am not sure” into accumulated, ill-informed gossip.

 

 

Each successive floor reveals itself to be inhabited by animals from all over the globe – like polar bears and great big buffalo bison – and they are all adored by each other now that they are established neighbours. But what of the brand-new, whose put-about reputation precedes them?! First rats are untidy, then they are dirty, then they are stinky and finally they supposedly steal!

The stairs become more crowded, dingier then darker as what began as a welcoming rush turns into a veritable lynch mob, and each time McIntyre adds a new verb until…

“Everyone HOPPED and TROTTED and TOTTERED and PADDED and CLATTERED downstairs…”

… And lastly they tumble, tripped up by their own unnecessary panic, into one chaotic heap on the floor.

But who’s going to knock on the door? No one dares!

 

 

Now, I’ve given far more away than I would ordinarily within any review, but my guess is that there are very few Young Readers who’ll be reading our blog themselves, so all the secrets will stay surprises for those with wide eyes who will read or be read to. Oh, how this demands to be read aloud like all Reeve & McIntyre books! I adore doing exactly that on Page 45’s shop floor, when I present families with any of our Young Readers illustrated books and graphic novels.

I will leave the final reveal to Sarah, but you can rest assured that there will be much contrite and sticky egg on many embarrassed faces.

Sarah is an immigrant herself, you see, from America, so understands how important it is that we all embrace each other’s individuality with open arms.

 

 

The legendary Will Eisner promoted the same message to adults throughout his career, specifically documenting various communities’ comings and goings in ‘Dropsie Avenue’ contained in A CONTRACT WITH GOD TRILOGY, while YOU BELONG HERE, THE JOURNEY and THE ARRIVAL all spread the same love for all ages.

Before we wind up, there is so much more to recommend this on a visual level. McIntyre has eschewed her usual strident pen lines and primary colours for softer watercolour pencils which are fabulous for bunny fur – but also for a more comforting feel throughout – along with pastel shades (and indeed pastel textures here and there) for a more carefully controlled atmosphere which, as I’ve said, subtly shifts as events take their course. Wait – no, they don’t! I mean, as the characters’ trajectory is dictated by their own over-anxious hand-wringing then mutually amplified, increasingly thought-free sensationalism.

There is enormous energy on every page which propels readers through the story while those who would linger will relish exquisite background details like the pigs proclaiming rats to be messy while their own pots and pans pile up in the sink, unwashed.

 

 

I loved all the wallpaper and ‘70s decor. It speaks of the safe, comforting and homely. It also says everything about renting accommodation, and not having enough dosh to redecorate – clever!

There is also a wonderful sense of shared community here and a rich harmony which will be restored. You can sense the rejuvenation of spirits on the penultimate double-page spread where (once again, like the opening rooftop) you can see the light from outside flooding in.

The funny thing is that creators – writers, artists and illustrators – like Sarah McIntyre will have taken months thinking all these things through, weeks structuring the whole, and days deploying their skills on these ideas and each individual page… and we, the readers, simply tear straight through them in nano-seconds because we cannot help but desperately crave reading what happens next! It’s their own fault, of course. If these authors weren’t so good at what they do, then we wouldn’t give a tinker’s cuss.

 

 

For more Sarah McIntyre and indeed Philip Reeve please see their dedicated section within our Young Readers enclave.

To guarantee your free signed bookplate, drawn exclusively for Page 45 by Sarah McIntyre, please pre-order ASAP for collection in-store or delivery to your home or workplace. Released March 1st 2018.

We Ship Worldwide!

SLH

Pre-order The New Neighbours s/c and read the Page 45 review here
Pre-order The New Neighbours h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Read Sarah McIntyre’s blog on Creating The Artwork for The New Neighbours
Read Sarah McInture’s blog on Stories Behind The New Neighbours

For more on migration, please see SKETCHES FROM A NAMELESS LAND – THE ARRIVAL COMPANION reviewed for the first time below.

Marcy And The Riddle Of The Sphinx h/c (£12-99, Flying Eye) by Joe Todd-Stanton…

“Every evening, Marcy loved to listen to the tales of her father’s adventures. She never quite believed him… After all, he was very old and far too portly.
“But at night, everything changed. The creatures from her father’s amazing tales turned into terrifying monsters in the shadows. Marcy felt utterly lost and alone in the dark. All she could do was close her eyes tight and wait for sunrise.”

Yes! After reading all about the adventures of Marcy’s dad, when he was just a slim whippersnapper himself in the fabulous ARTHUR AND THE GOLDEN ROPE I can state two things with certainty. Firstly, I can vouch that he was indeed a formidable hero and secondly, that I was desperately hoping for more of the family Brownstone from Joe Todd-Stanton!

 

 

Once again, this time narrating from the splendour of the Brownstone family’s observatory, complete with a kaleidoscopically coloured telescope and a gigantic clockwork mobile of a galaxy spinning away merrily, the elder bearded Brownstone of the modern era has returned to reprise his introductory preamble to another member of his adventurous ancestors.

Before too long Marcy is plunged into a death-defying adventure of her own that will see her gamely battle ancient Gods in dusty Egypt for high stakes indeed. But first we see the replete, grey-bearded Arthur, complete with eye patch, attempting to take Marcy on her first gentle adventurous excursion into a cave, to surprise her by meeting the benevolent King of the Water Spirits, who looks like a sort of free-floating giant waterfall complete with beatific smile and a tiny crown.

 

 

However, upon reaching the entrance, surrounded by spooky shadows that look very much like the ones that plague her bedroom ceiling at night, little Marcy is frozen with fear and unable to proceed any further… But when Arthur disappears off on an errand to find a mysterious book and doesn’t return, Marcy decides she’s brave enough to head off after him to save the day. After all, in her eyes, her dad has trouble just bending over when he’s dropped his glasses!

 

 

Donning the cap Arthur always told her would summon the mighty bird Wind Weaver, more in hope than belief, Marcy is delighted to see the giant red-feathered friend waiting to whisk her away to lands far, far away in search of her father. And so, her first adventure truly begins! She’s going to encounter dangerous deities bent on world domination, stowaway on a flying boat floating through stunning night skies, brave terrible traps in subterranean, stygian depths, and of course, get to play a round of riddle-me-ree with the mysterious Sphinx itself!! But can Marcy manage to conquer her fear of the dark to rescue her dad…?

 

 

Of course she can!!

What a triumphant follow-up to the brilliant ARTHUR AND THE GOLDEN ROPE this is! This has all the attention to detail in the exquisite art and madcap mayhem in its plotting that made its predecessor so swoon-worthy and gallantly gripping in my eyes. Once again, reading with Whackers, little fingers continually stopped me from turning the pages so she could take in each page in all its glorious detail, spotting hidden delights and tracing trails of potential doom narrowly avoided!

 

 

I can only add I’m already avidly awaiting the next instalment of the epic endeavours of the brave Brownstone brood!

JR

Buy Marcy And The Riddle Of The Sphinx h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Wraith: House Of Wicked Creatures (£4-99, Greentea Publishing) by Vera Greentea & ELK.

“Yes, Bean, it’s true.
“We spent some time investigating.
“Humans are moving in.”

Ladies and gentlemen, Page 45 presents its Greentea Publishing collection: eight beautiful comics imported direct from Vera Greentea herself in America.

I was always going to review this one first because, what a cover! An immaculate composition using the late autumn silver birch trees with their very last leaves to frame a remote country mansion which is in need of considerable renovation, so proving the perfect home for foxes, racoons, magpies and mice and the most exotic squirrels the world will ever see.

I think they’re squirrels. One of their families has cross-bred with a Siamese cat, the other is anyone’s guess – but, oh my, they’re gorgeous! The former is Pan, the latter is Wraith who’s not been a part of their cosy community for a while now.

“Humans came to her previous home and killed her entire family… using food.”

Using food!

 

 

The fox is called Frida and she too boasts the bushiest of tails and ever such glossy, well-washed fur.

Within the abandoned home, still fully furnished, some of the plaster has cracked and come down, and the odd weed have taken root, but nests have been built and there’s still the odd thing to forage. Just as a gentle mist hangs low outside, so the inside is suffused in soft, floating light and shadow.

 

 

ELK’s forms are lithe and the animals acrobatic, but are they up to defending their home from human beings when determined? A little lateral thinking may be required.

Greentea generously gives ELK all the room required to both charm and alarm the reader: a self-contained story like this could so easily be overwritten when what we want most is to bathe in its beauty. Instead we are shown all that we need to know, like the alarming arrival of very large lorries, wending their way through the scrubland.

Coming back to the cover, it sang to me of my childhood: of William Backhouse’s endpapers to Jane Shaw’s retelling of Joel Chandler Harris’s ‘Uncle Remus Stories’.

 

 

These were read to me by an Aunt who wasn’t an Aunt, but a nurse from Northern Ireland and I’m so sorry she never read to you, because her accent was everything.

“And Br’er Fox, he lay low!”

SLH

Buy Wraith: House Of Wicked Creatures and read the Page 45 review here

Courtney Crumrin vol 2 s/c: The Coven Of Mystics (£11-99, Oni) by Ted Naifeh.

Second of seven COURTNEY CRUMRIN volumes to receive the softcover treatment, it’s one of my favourites which will rob you once and for all of the illusion that every Young Adult book necessarily comes with a cosy conclusion. I should also emphasise that this series is equally treasured by Old Adults alike: hello!

Courtney Crumrin desperately needs help to save the innocent faun-like Skarrow from summary execution at the hands of The Coven Of Mystics. That information may rest in the shadows of Radley Hall and the mind of dead demon Tommy Rawhead. But how to get in? Leave it to mystic moggie and actual cat burglar Tobermory – he’s getting intruder window.

“As ray of moonlight passes glass, so shall Tobermory pass.
“Take a note, Miss Crumrin. It’s much simpler to trick a spell than to break it.”

 

 

Young Courtney Crumrin will be taking a lot of notes here about how the world works around her: it’s full of self-interest and hate in the human heart. For those in love, the worst sin is silence, inaction the absolute killer. The good news is that Courtney and silence are far from synonymous, but will she be listened to in time?

Love, love, love this series, now in full colour. Ted Naifeh’s moonlit Council of Cats is like Kelley Jones’ equivalent work in SANDMAN: DREAM COUNTRY after an infusion of Mike Mignola and a wide- and shiny-eyed dose of his own design flair for a Crumrin transformed into cat.

 

 

That which she finds sheltering in fear from two arcane archers is quite magical and long been the stuff of my dreams. Naifeh does soft, sleek and otherworldly to perfection; his monsters are hideously twisted. He is exceptional at making you believe in impossibly large things lurking in improbably small cabinets, like the next one you’ll foolishly open.

Following COURTNEY CRUMRIN VOL 1,  this finds our belligerent young lady in her second year at school and under close supervision from Ms Crisp, a teacher with close ties to Uncle Aloysius but who understands that isolating yourself from the real world comes at a cost. That is a lesson which will be most painfully learned by all.

 

 

A demon has been summoned which dispatches whole families. A curse has been placed on witch Madam Harker, rendering spoken words into a cascade of frogs. When she tries to write, her hands become wriggling serpents. Someone is silencing all and sundry, while a mute woodland creature called Skarrow seeks sanctuary in Uncle Aloysius’s once well respected domain. Instead the villagers move in, their metaphorical pitchforks in danger of becoming cold steel. What under earth is going on?!

It’s time to convene the Coven Of Mystics, the council by whom all will abide. Wrap up warm, my lovelies; because I’m afraid it’s about to grow chilly.

SLH

Buy Courtney Crumrin vol 2 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Sketches From A Nameless Land – The Arrival Companion (£14-99, Lothian) by Shaun Tan.

“Who was I, in this place?
“Everything and nothing.”

From a spread of notes taken by Tan from interviews and biographies in which migrants spoke about their lives, embellished with the sketches they inspired.

“Often, the most difficult experiences were described by migrants in a very concise, understated way, partly because of poor English skills, but also due to the more general inadequacy of language to convey complex feelings and impressions.”

It’s one of the many reasons why the final graphic novel is silent, using instead the universal language of pictures whose tones are transformed according to the emotional highs and lows of its protagonists.

 

 

Shaun Tan’s THE ARRIVAL has to be one of the most beloved books at Page 45, bought then bought again as its readers are inspired, galvanised into spreading its empathy towards those most in need of understanding and help, but who are often the most ostracised and even vilified by the right-wing press, opportunist politicians, and the thoughtless, with hate in their hearts.

This is the story of the graphic novel’s evolution then construction, full of preliminary art and process pieces, photographs of friends posing for pictures etc which Shaun reproduces with extensive explanations or brief annotations, like the Registry Room or ‘Great Hall’ at Ellis Island in America circa 1907-1912, through which each new arrival had to pass in order to enter the country.

 

 

 

“Here, I tried to amplify the subtle ‘poetry’ of the original image: the huddled darkness of massed people, the bench-lines receding towards a flag in the centre (a strange symbol of authority and freedom) and the protective embrace of the cathedral-like vaulting. The over-exposure of the upper-storey window suggests a land of luminous opportunity just beyond the gates.”

In his final piece Shaun replaces the blinding light with vast, distant towers from which those who have been accepted – after intrusive inspections by military surgeons – are dispersed in balloons. In place of the flag hangs a gigantic sign in a fictional language indecipherable both to the book’s readers and those queuing for admission. So it is that throughout we walk these miles in their shoes. Later on Tan will demonstrate the construction of this script from a rearrangement of Roman letters and numbers using scissors and transparent tape.

Of his choice to use a shadowy serpent coiling round bleak, dilapidated housing in the asylum-seeker’s homeland, Shaun suggests it was “an ideal metaphor for many unspoken fears: political oppression, religious persecution and even ecological collapse. At the same time, they escape such specific interpretation, and I think that is the most important thing in illustration: that an image feels truthful beyond any explanation.”

 

 

 

For someone who’s fashioned a career largely from silent, pictorial narratives, Shaun Tan is ever so eloquent, as anyone who’s read his TALES FROM OUTER SUBURBIABIRD KING art book and THE SINGING BONES, inspired by the Brothers Grimm. He writes about his own complex international heritage, and this made me sit up and think because, when one casts one’s mind over the creator’s catalogue, it rings perfectly true:

“Consciously or otherwise, I’ve always been attracted to stories about characters who find themselves lost, displaced, in an unfamiliar world, or experiencing some other troubled sense of belonging.”

 

 

Please pop Shaun Tan into our search engine to discover his range for yourself.

SLH

Buy Sketches From A Nameless Land – The Arrival Companion 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’.

Almost Silent h/c (£22-99, Fantagraphics) by Jason

Only The End Of The World Again h/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell, Tory Nixey

Get Naked (£22-99, Image) by Steven T. Seagle, various

Incognegro: A Graphic Mystery h/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Mat Johnson & Warren Pleece

Perfect h/c (£8-99, Graffeg) by Nicola Davies & Cathy Fisher

Red Winter (£16-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Anneli Furmark

Scales & Scoundrels vol 1: Into The Dragon’s Maw s/c (£8-99, Image) by Sebastian Girner &  Galaad

The Legend Of Korra: Turf Wars Part Two (£9-50, Dark Horse) by Michael Dante DiMartino & Irene Koh

Crisis On Infinite Earth s/c (£26-99, DC) by Marv Wolfmann & George Perez

Avengers & Champions: Worlds Collide s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Jesus Saiz, Humberto Ramos

Inhumans: Once & Future Kings s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Christopher Priest, Ryan North & Phil Noto, Gustavo Duarte

 

 

 

Page 45 Evolution Announced: Brand-New Shop Floor AND Front!

Monday, February 5th, 2018

Are you excited? We are beside ourselves!

And it is going to be glorious!

THERE HAS BEEN A DELAY!

OUR PRIMARY BUILDER IS HOSPITAL-ILL!

ALL THAT FOLLOWS WILL STILL HAPPEN, BUT THE DATES WILL INEVITABLY BE DIFFERENT!

 

Meanwhile we trade as normal from our ever-gorgeous shop floor and website at www.page45.com while we wait for our new dates to surface! Hooray!

 

 

 

October 2015: on our 21st Anniversary, Page 45 bought its entire building.

Ever since when we’ve been planning this physical restructure – a complete regeneration which will be sharper, sleeker and even more chic – so that more graphic novels can be displayed face-front on our ground floor, and lit like radiant stars.

Because TBH our lighting has always been shocking.

Page 45 Will Remain Open Throughout Refit In Two New Locations

There will be no pause in service: not one single day.

That is vital, for you cannot forego your regular, hallowed comics fix!

New Comics Day will remain Wednesdays.
Restocks will arrive 5 times a week as always.
There will be no break in your Page 45 Standing Orders, their immediate dispatch worldwide via www.page45.com or their availability to you for collection.

How will we do this? Because, best beloveds, we have prepared!

Here are your omelettes and eggs, whisked up already and about to hit our frying pan…

 

 

Dates Of Disruption: Commencing Monday 19th February

Page 45 will trade as normal until 4pm Sunday 18th February at which point the original shop floor will vanish forever in its entirely.

Please flock along before then to buy lots of books and take commemorative photos! I certainly have!

Page 45 will reopen the very next morning at 9am, on Monday 19th February in the ground-floor unit immediately to our right of where we are now.

Page 45 will then also reopen upstairs through new a door to our left on Thursday 22nd February once those new stairs and door have been built. Hey, it’s takes three days!

So as well as being open worldwide at www.page45.com, that’s two temporary trading locations for three and a half weeks. Wheelchair users, please see FAQ below: upstairs is temporary!

 

Date Of Discovery: Friday 16th March

Page 45 will finally reopen in full, blazing glory on Friday 16th March 2018 at our current ground-floor location of 9 Market Street with every single fitting brand-new.

Or a little earlier if we can.

Hooray!

 

We Need Your Help!

I won’t lie to you: there are risks involved.

During the transition period we will be vulnerable to: a) people suspecting we’ve closed for good, in spite of all our signage, b) I don’t know – going bankrupt…? We must keep making money, please!

Please spread news of this blog as widely as possibly. That is me publically begging for retweets, tweets of your own and Bookface postings, linking to this blog, the most important that I’ve ever written. Why not pop along to Instagram our extemporised action, and join in our wartime spirit!

Please keep visiting our temporary shop floors for our full range of comics and graphic novels, and ask where we’ve housed what! Please don’t wait for the new shop floor. You’ve got to wonder what our temporary accommodations look like, right?

Also, if we may, an immediate small call to alms (arf!): if there’s a graphic novel or two that you’ve been meaning to buy, either for yourself or someone else, why not pop along to www.page45.com and purchase it right now, either for shipping or collection in store. That would be incredibly helpful and extremely generous of you. Thanks!

 

 

Please visit now, before our move on February 18th and buy all the comics! That way Jonathan and I will have to carry fewer crates upstairs and next door on Sunday night. We’ll be evacuating everything that’s on our shop floor! *cries*

If you’ve nothing in mind but you’d like some ideas, please read our Christmas Best Of 2017 blog or perhaps peruse past Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month selections (click on any cover in grid for reviews). Thank you!

 

Watch This Space!

There may be updates – even to this blog – because Acts of God.

As soon as we begin this renovation, then we will start posting photos of extreme farce on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @pagefortyfive.

It’s a big story, right…? And your future’s involved!

Will we reopen in time…? I do not know!

Twitter hashtag already in use: #Page45Evolution

 

FAQs

How much are you spending? £50,000

Why? To make comics look even more attractive than they already are to brand-new, potentially life-long readers, as well as loyal veterans like you!

Are all these dates guaranteed? No, but we’ve planned extensively for two whole years and given ourselves a little wiggle room on top.

Don’t you feel awful that only half of your comics will be easily accessible to those in wheelchairs for 3 whole weeks? No. Folks, it’ll be 3 short weeks versus my personal, career-long commitment to access for all, ever since I first drew up the Page 45 Business Plan 24 years ago. Other shops would have opened upstairs or downstairs years ago. We never will. Our upstairs floor is only temporary and will close as soon as our ground floor reopens.

Wheelchair users: For three weeks, please sweep into our temporary ground-floor location and we will arrange to have whatever you need from upstairs brought down, even if you just want to browse through it: no pressure to buy anything at all.

This section may well expand depending on what I’m asked, post-publication, on Twitter!

 

 

Credit Where It Is Due:

When we crawl from this wreckage, gasping for air then gawping at the sheer majesty of the new, evolved Page 45, please remember that it was meticulously researched, planned and designed in its entirely by our very own Jonathan Rigby, co-owner and co-manager of Page 45, with Colombian architect Julie Waldron who created the 3-D model from which I’ve taken screenshots for you.

All I had to was watch, listen and learn, before signing off almost instantly, because each individual element of this new design is an exceptional improvement completely in keeping with the long-term goals and aesthetics of Page 45.

If in any doubt, I would remind you that it was our Jonathan – alongside Random River’s Chris Dicken – who gave us Page 45’s international website www.page45.com which Kieron Gillen of THE WICKED + THE DIVINE memorably described on its launch as “crushworthy”.

This too will be the most monumental upgrade. I’ve only shown you bare bones of the beauty so far.

Trust me! Trust Jonathan!

But in the meantime, if you’re excited and believe in Page 45’s goals for comics and graphic novels, please spread this message as widely as you can.

Thanks!

 – Stephen

Co-creator, co-owner, co-manager (and complete liability) of Page 45

Page 45 Credentials, Bringing Comics To All

Page 45 won the first ever award for Best Independent Retailer in Nottingham 2012
Page 45 won the Best Independent Business in Nottingham 2013
Page 45 was shortlisted for the Bookseller’s Independent Bookshop Of The Year 2014
Page 45 won the only ever Diamond Comics Award for Best Retailer in the UK in 2004 before links began
Page 45 was selected as UNESCO Nottingham City of Literature’s Bookseller 2017

And, with your help, we’ve only just begun!