Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews May 2018 week five

Featuring Hartley Lin, Chris Reynolds, Sara Varon, Matt Fitch, Chris Baker, Mike Collins, Zach Worton, Daniel Lieske, Tom Sniegoski, Jeff Smith, Alan Moore and many more.

Young Frances – A Pope Hats Collection h/c (£17-99, AdHouse Books) by Hartley Lin.

“It all feels unreal. I feel like I’m an imposter.”

Strangely, that’s diligent Frances whose burdens are all too real, rather than her flighty friend Vickie who suddenly finds herself acting the lead character in a silly smash TV series in LA. Or is that really so strange? Career success has struck Frances too, far earlier than tends to happen in her lowly position, and it’s threatening to prove unmanageable. Not only that, but the lawyers whom she works for are not without their bizarre and quite extreme quirks.

The signs were there early on, before Vickie moved out.

“When did you get home? What’s all this?”
“Work. I’m finishing a memo for a shipping magnate that could mark the end of my career.”

The end of her career, before it’s even begun: I see what Frances means by “unreal”. Vickie is dazed, having slept through the day.

“I say. I have one fantastic hangover!”
“Gee. No kidding. Mr Kowalksi stopped me on my way in. You threw a bunch of crap into his yard last night?”
“God, so that did happen.”

 

 

 

Funny, bright yet deeply thoughtful, this eminently quotable and exceptionally authoritative fiction about friendship and those dauntingly big choices that determine your future also doubles as a satire about excessive workloads, executive stress and ultra-competitive back-biting office politics; specifically those in a big-time company of corporate lawyers.

It’s softer and more whimsical than Adrian Tomine (though his readers will sure love this too), its content and cartooning a wonderful fusion of Nabiel Kanan, Kevin Huizenga and adult-orientated Andi Watson, right down to the trees.

 

 

Vickie and Frances live together in rented accommodation. Frances is so buried at work she has to take a tonne of it home. Vickie is an up-and-coming actress who gets drunk, loses her keys then climbs through Frances’s bedroom window to get in. Oh, and she’s seeing Peter whom Frances has a more than a passing crush on. Here’s more of that conversation.

“Are you angry at me?”
“We can’t afford to get evicted.”
“You don’t even like this apartment.”
“I wish you weren’t so cavalier about everything.”

Or is it that Frances wishes that she could be more cavalier herself?

 

 

There’s no room for this in Frances’s life as a Law Clerk at Shultz and Homberg LLP. She’s proven herself popular but even that comes with a price, especially now that her protestant work ethic and reliability has caught the attention of Marcel Castonguay, Head of Bankruptcies. This means even more tasks: almost impossibly last-minute and complex instructions which will make all the difference in winning or losing the most massive multi-million-dollar court cases. Castonguay conducts himself unworriedly with an almost surreal detachment and self-assurance. Others aren’t as lucky as Frances. At lunch:

“Hi, I don’t think we’ve met. You’re Sonja, right?”
“You don’t need to know me.”
“Um… What do you do in Bankruptcies?”
“It’s my last day. You’re replacing me.”
“Oh.”

 

 

Her seniors fare no better. Chris is constantly frazzled on way too much caffeine, sweating away in his suit, shirt and tie, and swearing by a book called ‘Zen Workspace’.

“It really works…”

Quite evidently, it doesn’t. Nina meanwhile feels constantly threatened by attempts to sabotage her career’s trajectory by a right manipulative bastard called Brian. After returning from running a personal errand for Castonguay late at night (bringing the ingredients for a fruit salad to his hotel suite – yes, he permanently resides in a hotel suite) Frances returns to the office to find Nina stretched out on its desk.

“God. This ceiling is unbelievable.”
“Nina? What are you doing here?”
“Trying to suppress a panic attack. I normally do the floor but I don’t trust the new cleaning crew.”

Frances is reasonably sure that she went to university with one of them, and she knows she went to high school with the lad who sold her the bananas. Isn’t it funny how our job prospects pan out! And you know what I said about this rat race being competitive? Here’s Nina again, still staring upwards.

“Did you know my office only has 28 ceiling tiles?”
“You counted your ceiling tiles?”

“All the Associate Partners do. That ass Brian has 32 tiles. And it’s not because he’s more competent – Castonguay just likes him better. 32 tiles means more window. It signals you’re progressing toward Partnership and profit-sharing. If you’re not displaying your hunger, you’re dead in the water.”

 

 

Nina has an air of knowing what she’s doing, but she’s constantly found stress-puking into baskets. The upshot of all this is that you’re never sure whether Frances will survive, either; and, if she doesn’t, whether she will jump or be pushed. The pressures are relentless and she can no longer sleep at night. She scours a shop’s shelves for audio sleeping aids with Vickie. Tropical rainforest and cascading waterfalls sounds good on the surface, but they’ll only make you want to get up and pee. What else is on offer?

“Vermont bonfire… airport waiting area. Country highway with midnight cattle…”
“Gentle psychiatrist,,, crazy lagoon.”

Have you ever considered your relationship with work? It constantly crops up here. Castonguay’s take is typically pompous.

Tempus fugit, mors venit.
“It is a powerful transformation when one realises “work / life balance” is fiction. Our work is our very essence. At least that is what my new life coach asserts.”

 

 

Certainly there seems to be no balance at all for young Frances. Peter and Vickie find time to party so early on she asks Peter…

“Do you like what you do?”
“It’s alright… I don’t analyze any of it too deeply. I mean… I spend all day building other people’s dream homes. It’s just a job. It’s not who I am.”

Everyone seems to have a solid take both on life and work, and they find plenty to say on the subject, but Frances feels she has no such claim or clarity. It’s all too fast for any thoughts of her own, and her self-esteem suffers under the shadow of Vickie’s extrovert socialising and career success, however ludicrous the role she’s landed as a fantastical version of Frances’ more serious endeavours. ‘Bad Prosecutor’ is the most massive hit, becoming the legal firm’s water-cooler conversation point – which must be a bit weird when you’re privately best friends with the actor involved. This before Vickie began filming:

“Vickie, this character… she’s a vigilante District Attorney. Does that even make sense?”
“Sure, why not?”
“It really took five people to write this? “When the scales of justice have no teeth…””
“It’s TV, not Hemingway.”
“Here… she basically has sex with the criminal she’s prosecuting… in the courtroom!”
“You need a lot of hooks in a pilot…”

Frances asks if she’s nervous.

“Nah. It’s all a game anyway.”

 

 

Is Vickie as equanimous to it all as she seems? Will Peter (whom Vickie’s split from) finally notice Frances instead? More saliently, will repressed and self-doubting Frances finally notice that Peter took note of her yonks ago and actually accept his overtures rather than turn them all down because of the demands of her work? You can only invite someone to share things with you so many times and be rebuffed before it looks like you’re pestering, or begging.

“How many things will Peter invite me to before he realises I’m not worth the effort?”

The book is beautifully balanced between gentle, lilting, playful comedy, outright farce, profound matters of kindness, conscience and soul; solitary paths trodden alone even when cramped in a crowd, and that most difficult thing to avoid – comparing your own life to others’:

“I’ll never measure up to you.”

 

 

My last of many scrawled note reads, “The importance of friendship, listening – actually hearing – reciprocation, then finally talking things through”.

It’s possible that you may relate.

SLH

Buy Young Frances – A Pope Hats Collection h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The New World – Comics From Mauretania h/c (£24-99, New York Review Comics) by Chris Reynolds…

“I really liked the comics of Chris Reynolds back then and I am happy to report that I still do.”

  • Seth

Classic understated compliment from the most dapper man in comics there! He is actually a huge fan of Chris Reynolds, our Seth. So much so, that he agreed to curate Chris’s material for this collection and design the book, which is a sideline of his. I frequently spot Seth illustrated covers on prose books in Waterstones and then promptly feel cheated that it isn’t also his comics within…

The front and rear covers here are a masterpiece of design, with a subdued mauve background paired with highly reflective cyan and coral shading and lettering, the front cover featuring the head of the helmeted character Monitor – one of the nominal stars of many of the short stories that form this chunky collection of over 250 pages set in the fictional Mauretania – outlined in Reynolds’ trademark thick black line.

 

 

I’ll leave you to read Seth’s designer afterword for yourselves, but it very neatly summed up my own thoughts and feelings regarding this material, which I will have to feely confess, I was previously utterly unaware of. I must give therefore also give plaudits to New York Comics Review in that respect, whose mission statement…  “In the tradition of NYRB Classics, NYR Comics presents new editions of out-of-print masterpieces and new translations of books that have never been published in English—from intimate memoirs to absurdist gags, graphic novels to dizzying experiments.” … has seen them publish the likes of Mark Beyer’s AGONY, PEPLUM by Blutch, SOFT CITY by Hariton Pushwagner, PRETENDING IS LYING by Dominique Goblet and YELLOW NEGROES AND OTHER IMAGINARY CREATURES by Yvan Alagbé, which have all graced the Page 45 shelves.

My experience of this work, like Seth, was one of mystery, first and foremost, flavoured with desolation, isolation and ratiocination. That particular train of thought is never quite going to arrive at the station, but I’m entirely sure that is Reynolds’ intent. It is the journey, most definitely not getting there, perhaps not ever actually arriving, which is what this material is about. There are pieces which can be put together across the stories, clues dropped quite deliberately too I suspect, but you’re not going to be able to assemble a whole jigsaw of the obtuse workings of Mauretania and its equally peculiar inhabitants, and so you will be left pondering…

 

 

Which is not to say it is downbeat, not at all, though it did also remind me of Jeff Nicholson’s THROUGH THE HABITRAILS in its seemingly, at times, abstract tone. It certainly has a dreamlike quality, some of the most subtly surreal material I have ever read, I think. I can certainly see why it would appeal to Seth, whose IT’S A GOOD LIFE IF YOU DON’T WEAKEN and pretty much all of his early life autobiographical material published over the years in PALOOKAVILLE has a similar graceful, almost delicate and meandering feel to it.

 

 

The quiet, rural landscapes and partially deserted cities of the never actually named country of Mauretania feel and look much like Britain. Perhaps not surprising given Chris Reynolds hails from Wales. The characters are a bemusingly polar bunch, I must say. In addition to various utterly banal workers and families, we have the behelmeted recurring Monitor (who is the closest we get to a lead character), a hardboiled police inspector named Rockwell, alien overlords who seem to have peacefully conquered the Earth through some strange, mystical hypnotic process called the Dial, plus several other one-off oddballs like the random bearded chap with more than a passing resemblance to Peter Suitcliffe. Thus the ostensibly sparse population of Mauretania manages to feel as collectively incongruous and mildly mysterious as the plots of the stories themselves.

 

 

The art contributes greatly in that respect. With its substantial, bold black linework it very strongly reminded me of a Jesse Reklaw work, THE NIGHT OF YOUR LIFE, which was a collection of peoples’ dream stories synchronously enough. There is also a dash of Eric COMPULSIVE COMICS Haven, Charles LAST LOOK Burns, Joe HIGHBONE THEATER Daly, Tim ABANDONED CARS Lane in there too. I can see some people initially finding the inking a bit heavy for their tastes but soon you’ll be drawn into the strange goings-on and left suitably perplexed.

JR

Buy The New World – Comics From Mauretania h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Curse Of Charley Butters s/c (£17-99, Conundrum Press) by Zach Worton…

“I have no idea what I’m doing.”

This work which collects the entirety of the Charley Butters trilogy really ought to have been at least sub-titled “How Travis Just Keeps Making The Same Mistakes Again And Again And Again…”

Yes, ‘sensitive soul’ Travis, a self-confessed slacker who works in a record shop and has somehow found himself singing in a death metal band with his friends, despite actually liking ‘60s music, garage rock and girl bands is not in a good place and it is only going to get worse. Much worse. The sad thing is… he will only have himself to blame. Though he’ll try and blame Charley Butters, which seems a bit harsh, since Charley Butters was a little-known painter who mysteriously vanished from public sight in the 1950s before making any significant impact on the radar of public consciousness.

 

 

Whilst out in the middle of the woods filming a video for their band, the boys and their reluctant director Stuart stumble across an old cabin filled with journals and hundreds of versions of the same painting. They quickly learn it was the hideout of one Charley Butters, and putting the pieces together, they discover that he simply decided to disappear into the woods leaving his old life behind. His reasons for doing so aren’t entirely clear, certainly not to Butters’ then wife, who Travis and Stuart interview for a documentary film about the reclusive artist they decide to make after becoming hooked on his intriguing story through avidly reading his diaries.

So far, so good. Travis even finds the willpower to break up the band much to his friend Mike’s – who really is death metal for life if you’ll pardon the oxymoron – chagrin and finally gets the courage to ask out the girl of his dreams. He even manages to fit in a much overdue haircut! Yes, it starting to seem like Travis has it all. Unfortunately, he also has a burgeoning drink problem. Which he is rapidly beginning to lose control of…

 

 

As his addiction continues to spiral out of control, it’s not long before his professional and personal lives are disintegrating faster than a shredded beer mat at the hands of a plastered pint-sinker. Soon it seems to Travis… through the always truthful lens of the bottom of a glass… that his only sensible option is to follow the route of Charley Butters, quite literally, heading to Charley’s cabin to seek solace in solitude. And thus, perhaps, in also trying to track down the absent artist, somehow begin to find himself and thus get his life back in order. Which, on the face of it, if executed properly, with the appropriate degree of restraint on the consumption of alcohol, sounds like a pretty good plan. Unfortunately, self-control is not one of Travis’s strong points…

I won’t regale you with any further plot points, for Travis’s own journey, how it does and also does not mirror that of Charley Butters, is the true story here. Yes, I can promise you will learn the whereabouts of the titular artist, but by that point you’ll be too busy shaking your head at Travis’s continuing further descent into the ethanol-fuelled rabbit hole of his own making…

 

 

Strong, clean art black and white art from Zach Worton, like a finer-lined version of Dylan HICKSVILLE Horrocks, with his round faces and pinhole eyes, and also Michel THE SONG OF ROLAND Michel Rabagliati with his pointed noses. If you like a graphic novel that takes its protagonist for a walk on the wild side, then leaves them slumped in a sorry heap, this could be for you!

JR

Buy The Curse Of Charley Butters s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Apollo h/c (£15-99, Self Made Hero) by Matt Fitch, Chris Baker & Mike Collins…

“Dick? Shall I put the TV on? See what’s happening?”
“Nixon knows everything worth knowing.”
“Brooding won’t the time pass any quicker, Dick. Can’t you enjoy this with everyone else?
“This war, dead kid on the news. They blame Nixon for all those things, Pat. All of it. Nixon won’t be remembered for the moon.”

Nor even indeed going to China… But how remarkably prescient of old Tricky Dicky! Surely even on the scale of dodgy politicians (i.e. 99% of them), one that constantly referred to himself in the third person ought to have been suspect right from the off?!

Anyway, I’m sure most of you know the story of Apollo 11, with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin boldly stepping where no one had stepped before and Mike Collins getting the consolation prize of a trip to the dark side. The story of the moon landing has been covered many times, in many formats, so Matt Fitch and Chris Baker wisely take a different trajectory, focusing on not just our three astronauts and their mission, but also heavily on their families, loved ones and various other characters of the age like Nixon. Even the Spirit of America makes an appearance.

Set against the grounding backdrop of Nixon’s Presidency and the Vietnam War, we thus  gain a little more insight into precisely what Buzz Aldrin’s ultra-overbearing aviator father, who was a friend of Howard Hughes, might have contributed to his personality, how the tragic, untimely death of Neil Armstrong’s infant daughter from a malignant tumour in the base of her brain stem perhaps induced him to focus even more ferociously on his NASA career and err… how Mike Collins apparently had a spacey one hallucinating that the man-in-the-moon was talking to him and also chatting with the denim-wearing, bandana-clad, shade-toting Spirit Of America about how great America could be. I think that Mike’s experiences might well be an example of artistic licence, but I rather liked what they brought to the party!

I also very much enjoyed the dream sequence of a spacesuited Armstrong striding through a sun-kissed field of wheat. The deliberately choppy plotting as we switch back and forth from the mission itself, to various earth-based scenes, both set in the past and the then present, and these surreal vignettes all add to the impression of a time of rapid progress, of huge human potential, but also great global instability. Nothing ever really changes, then, including dodgy politicians. But as the opening quote from no less a luminary than Carl Sagan states, “Once upon a time, we soared into the solar system. For a few years. Then we hurried back. Why? What happened? What was Apollo really all about?”

Well, the short answer is that there was a space race, one that America was desperate to win after the shock to the system that was Sputnik I and then Sputnik II and LAIKA. I do find it sad though, that once the race was won, that the end of serious exploration of the solar system was consequently curtailed for several generations. If there is one thing I’d like to see occur in my lifetime, and hopefully it seems possible, it would be humans landing on Mars. Actually I’d probably prefer us to find evidence of microbial extra-terrestrial life somewhere in our solar system as well, be that Mars or one of Saturn’s moons, but it’s just good to see the pushing of the boundaries of human endeavour with humankind truly looking towards the stars once again.

Art-wise, British comics artist, Mike Collins (no relation to astronaut, I think) breaks out the Letratone effect, which seems to be all the rage recently, to help create a period feel. He really captures an excellent likeness of all the various public figures and his style neatly complements the at times serious, at times utterly whimsical approach of the writers. Unusually for a SelfMadeHero release, this work is presented in hardback format with a very striking dust jacketed cover of a falling astronaut against a Stars and Stripes composed of what seems to be coloured stars in jet-black night sky.

JR

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

Wormworld Saga vol 1: The Journey Begins (£8-99, Cubhouse) by Daniel Lieske.

Full-colour pre-teen fantasy in which a young boy called Jonas, staying at his beloved Grandma’s during the long summer holidays, finds that his father isn’t going to allow him the freedom to roam the idyllic countryside all day long, without some serious commitment to home work. Fortunately an older friend has leant him his old maths notes under the impression they’ll be used for “revision”. They won’t. Instead, Jonas presents them to his dad as maths questions answered each afternoon and, to begin with, this hoodwink pays off.

“Well, I can’t find any mistakes. Very good!”
“Our Jonas is a bright little boy!”

Jonas is pretty pleased with himself. “Man, did I feel smart!”

So it is that the lad enjoys each thrilling morning racing round the ancient woodland with grandma’s dog, Lotti, protected by his trusty wooden sword and enchanted, chain-mail armoured vest (it’s a red woollen pullover knitted by his gran) and imagining the most extreme adventures, as you do!

“Flying monkeys! Quick, we must hide!”

 

 

You can see Lotti, excited by Jonas’s infectious energy, thinking, “What?! Where?! Whatever, this is fun!” while of course crossing a brook by footbridge is the most dangerous task imaginable. “Careful! Don’t fall into the abyss!”

 

 

If you don’t recognise this as your own imaginative child’s play, I feel awful for you. But if you think that the glorious countryside colours so far are spectacular, with bright summer light streaming through the canopies up above, then, boy, are you in for an eye-popping upgrade!

So what’s Jonas up to in the afternoons instead of all that homework in preparation for whatever new school his dad has arranged for him?

 

 

Why, he’s playing more made-up games with his toys or concentrating on drawing the blue butterflies he’s encountered or creatures he conjures up in his head. Not only that, but he’s doing it in his own secret den, a fully furnished room even his grandma’s unaware of, accessed through a hidden panel in his bedroom wall. He’s known about this for years, he’s just never figured out – or even thought to figure out – why it’s there, who built it or what it’s really for. But when one of his insect crayon creations bursts unexpectedly into neon-pink life and buzzes through further passageways entirely new to Jonas, he’s shocked to discover –

 

 

His father calls him down to dinner. His dad’s coming up the stairs.

Racing back as fast as he can lest his bolthole be discovered, and grabbing a few sheaths of maths notes from his satchel in a hurry, Jonas fails to notice that these have already been marked by his friend’s teacher, and the poor lad’s holiday is about to come crashing down around him.

The confrontation is brutal. From the start you can tell that Jonas’s dad, with his stuffy moustache, doesn’t really get him and that they’re not close, which is why those annual holidays at his grandma’s are so cherished. But whoa, wait for this!

“I’m very disappointed in you, Jonas.” No, wait. “And your mother would have been too!”

Now, this hyper-real, computer-generated art isn’t my personal thing, but younger readers will adore it, there is no question of the exceptionally communicative craft, and even I found myself so empathising with young Jonas here, as he looks straight at the reader, that I choked at his tears. (And no, this isn’t Jonathan, for once; this is Stephen!) There is little more cruelly hurtful that you can say to someone than “The person you loved most in the world who is now dead would be disappointed in you”.

 

 

Oh, and there’s another bombshell detonated alongside: his father’s booked him in to boarding school. Please pass your own moral judgements at that one.

Grounded to his room for the rest of the holidays, and doomed to far worse in the Fall, once Jonas recovers his composure he realises that he still has an escape route, for through the secret passageway then further up ladders he found hours earlier lies that beacon of light which so startled him: a painting. It’s a painting that leads to another world entirely and, as I implied earlier, if you think the colours so far have been radiant, are you in for an eye-dazzling treat!

 

 

I wouldn’t normally take you half this far (see PERSEPHONE) but I’m pretty sure that it won’t be pre-teens who’ll be reading this, but those looking to buy for them instead.

Beyond the veil lie landscapes of fluorescent flora, twisted, mossy tree trunks, purple, puffy canopies you can fall through, giant, carnivorous insects… and someone who’s been waiting for Jonas for quite some time. Make that two people, one of whom has been dispatched to find the boy, then keep him safe.

Oh wait – make that three, I’m afraid.

Did I mention that the door shut behind him? Oh dear.

 

 

Please note: the interior art I have for you here was screen-grabbed from the original online series. It was a great deal easier than scavenging what little I found of the published graphic novel online, and allowed me to illustrate more precisely what I had written. The lettering has since been changed to lower case, and captions slightly rearranged on the page, but I could discern no discrepancies in the actual script. I’ve done my best to preserve the pages’ actual content, although in one instance, with Jonah in tears, that proved impossible.

 

 

There’s certainly nothing here which you won’t find within. It’s all a bit beautiful, isn’t it?

SLH

Buy Wormwood Saga vol 1: The Journey Begins and read the Page 45 review here

New Shoes h/c (£13-99, FirstSecond) by Sara Varon.

“Good afternoon, Brother Donkey. I’m here to place an order for my friend, Miss Manatee.”

What?! Miss Manatee, Queen of Calypso…? Brother Donkey’s all-time favourite recording artist…?

“She will be performing in the city and will need shoes for her trip onto land.”

Why, of course she will need shoes! Wait—what?!

“Here are her measurements. Let me know when her shoes are ready.”

Hmmm…. How long do you imagine it will take Brother Donkey, highly respected cobbler, to realise that there’s something slightly impractical about a manatee – that huge, beautiful seacow, so gloriously graceful in the water – clomping about in shoes on dry land? Oooh, I wouldn’t expect that light to start flashing for a full 170 of these 200 pages!

 

 

You see, Francis has never travelled outside his village before, so although he may croon enthusiastically alongside her albums, he’s not really sure what a manatee is or does.

He’s going to have to go on a right old expedition now, however, because although his very best shoes are made from wild tiger grass, purchased each week from a squirrel monkey called Nigel who forages it from deep in the jungle, Francis has just run out of grass and his neighbour Nigel’s gone missing! Worst timing ever!

 

 

He’s ever so trepidatious about venturing into the South American jungle all alone, but he must somehow locate Nigel’s source of tiger grass and hopefully find Nigel into the bargain. Fortunately Rhoda the macaw offers to escort Nigel – in exchange for some shoes – and together they set off with their wild animal guide books. Those should be useful; or worrying. Some pages will give Nigel much food for thought, the specific thought being that he might prove to be food!

 

 

From Sara Varon (creator of the deeply poignant ROBOT DREAMS much loved by all, plus Young Readers ODD DUCK and BAKE SALE) comes a substantially lengthier graphic novel bursting with colour and novelty. Don’t worry, families, you will trot along through it quite quickly if (and it’s a really big “if”!) you can bear to leave each page of vibrant eye-candy behind.

 

 

Its commendable emphasis lies in kindness, generosity, cooperation, foraging from locally sourced, sustainable resources, fair trade and exchange (a big slapped wrist for Nigel awaits!), the thrill of exploration, adventure and acquiring new skills, keeping an open mind at all times, gratitude and learning. And if your young ones enjoy the pages of Nigel’s guide book, may I shoehorn in here recommendations for WILD ANIMALS OF THE NORTH and WILD ANIMALS OF THE SOUTH, each reviewed separately? Thanks very much, I have done so!

 

 

Perhaps the first clue for Francis that Miss Manatee might require something other than shoes comes when he and Rhoda need to cross a river. It’s no problem for the feathered one, but Francis the donkey has never learned how to swim. Herons, whom they treat to some bread, send the pair upstream to a family of capybara who encourage Francis to get his feet wet. It’s then that he notes that shoes aren’t particularly good for swimming in.

 

 

 

 

Their journey has only begun, though, and they’re no nearer to finding Nigel until a toucan obliges.

But what they will discover and those whom they encounter at the end of their trek will prove both unexpected and a wee bit frightening, but only because they’ve been wronged. Nigel has been a very bad boy, and it is up to Francis and Rhoda and Nigel to put things right. At which point I’d remind you about the book’s emphases.

 

 

But it’s never too late to mend (not strictly true, as our planet may pertinently attest very shortly) and all will be well in the end!

The book has been brilliantly thought through from start to finish, and Varon does finish with a photographic flourish: several pages of research she conducted in Venezuela’s Guayana.

 

 

So how do you imagine will Brother Donkey best equip his idol, Miss Manatee, for her gala performance on stage in the city? That, I will not say, but he will succeed in his commission, for a little lateral thinking does go a very long way.

SLH

Buy New Shoes h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Bone: Tall Tales (£8-50 s/c; £16-99 h/c, Cartoon Books) by Tom Sniegoski with Jeff Smith, Jeff Smith.

Not just a reprint of ‘Stupid, Stupid Rat-Tails’, this was a complete overhaul with brand-new material from Jeff linking the stories together in camping scenes reminiscent of Donald Duck replaced as scout leader by Smiley Bone, and nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie replaced by Ringo, Bingo and the stubbornly sceptical Todd.

Stories are told round the camp fire about Phone Bone’s and Phoney Bone’s treasure hunt, and about Big Johnson Bone, founder of Boneville – his eventful birth in a log cabin right on the frontier in the middle of a winter storm, and a teenage, gorge-a-thon eating contest and early crush – before a full-colour reprint of the three-part ‘Stupid, Stupid Rat-Tails’ which is dreamt up by one of the younger Bones.

 

 

Of that Mark wrote:

“Long ago, before the Bone cousins were run out of Boneville, the Rat Creatures had tails and this is how they lost them. This harks back to the earlier BONE stories with cute, big-eyed critters acting all defenceless and lost, and the rat creatures acting vain and stupid.”

 

 

In fact, if BONE quickly became a great deal darker and more complex than its jocular cuddliness first suggested, this is definitely an all-ages affair perfectly suitable for readers as young as you like. It’s the story of how an adult Big Johnson Bone, run out of town for cheating at cards and winning a monkey called Pip (addressed variously as Mr. Pop, Poop and Plop – I can already see my ex-house-monkey, Ossian, laughing himself to death) is caught with his ass in a twister and dumped without dignity down in the valley which the Bone cousins later discovered themselves.

 

 

So yes, the Stupid, Stupid Rat creatures are back and you’ll then meet their queen plus the queen’s enormous and even hungrier son who swallows Big Johnson and some of his new friends whole, and ends up like the whale in Pinocchio. So much for quiche, eh? After the Rat Creatures, the mice are the funniest, and although I have to concede that Sniegoski doesn’t possess the sustained wit of Smith that had adults enthralled, Jeff’s ebullient cartooning here will have you laughing out loud all the same, and the kids will just lap up the antics.

SLH

Buy Bone: Tall Tales and read the Page 45 review here

Nobrow 10: Studio Dreams (£18-00, Nobrow) by various.

Nobrow’s annual anthology this year is – with but one exception I glimpsed – an art book rather than comics, but you’ll be starved of neither beauty nor colour nor diversity.

“To celebrate 10 years of Nobrow we are curating an extra special edition of the Nobrow magazine, featuring 70 artists responding to our theme of ‘Studio Dreams.’ In 2010 we commissioned Jan Van der Veken to illustrate our dream studio and his illustration provided the perfect starting point for this 10th edition. World-renowned creators turn their hand to creating their dream studio spaces (whatever that might mean for each one) in this unique, international showcase containing over 100 pages of illustration.”

Every artist has thrown themselves full-throttle into this challenge, the production values are as exquisite as you’d expect from the publishers of GEIS, HILDA, MARCY AND THE RIDDLE OF THE SPHINX, GAMAYUN TALES: THE KING OF THE BIRDS etc and I’ve a few photos for you below.

 

 

 

 

SLH

Buy Nobrow 10: Studio Dreams and read the Page 45 review here

Voice Of The Fire new printing (£10-99, Top Shelf) by Alan Moore.

Structurally and linguistically, Moore’s first prose novel preceding JERUSALEM was exceptional.

Alan takes the geographical location which will become Northampton and charts six millennia of its legend and lore – its memory, if you like – through the eyes of its inhabitants, beginning with a narrator for whom concepts of the imagination, from dreaming to lying, are entirely alien. The language is therefore initially pared down to the purely physical so that, for example, instead of “smelling” something, the narrator “sniffs” it. As we move through the centuries each new narrator sees the evolving strata of event and repercussion through the eyes of their time, as events in previous chapters come back – or indeed forwards – to haunt them.

Alan’s wit is as sharp as ever, and black humour abounds. Once instance I’m tempted to refer to as gallows humour, were it not after the fact – you’ll see!

The finest testament I can think of is that every time Moore concludes a chapter and bids farewell to its protagonist, I truly wish he hadn’t, for I fell in love with each and every one of them, including the last.

SLH

Buy Voice Of The Fire 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’.

Afterwords (£5-99, self-published) by Gareth Brookes

The Communist Manifesto (£12-99, SelfMadeHero) by Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels & Martin Rowson

Motor Crush vol 2 s/c (£14-99, Image) by Brenden Fletcher, Babs Tarr, Cameron Stewart

I Really Didn’t Think This Through – Tales From My So-Called Adult Life (£12-99, Sphere) by Beth Evans

Rock Steady – Brilliant Advice From My Bipolar Life (£16-99, Fantagraphics) by Ellen Forney

Where We Live: A Benefit For The Survivors In Las Vegas s/c (£17-99, Image) by various

Injustice Ground Zero vol 2 s/c (£14-99, DC) by Christopher Sebela & Pop Mhan, various, Mike S. Miller

The Punisher vol 1: War Machine s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Matthew Rosenberg & Guiu Vilanova

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