Archive for June, 2018

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews June 2018 week three

Wednesday, June 20th, 2018

Featuring Gareth Brookes, Carole Maurel, Mariko Tamaki, Clement Baloup, Farel Dalrymple, Mathieu Bablet, Mairghread Scott, Robin Robinson, Joe Todd-Stanton, Mike Mignola, Duncan Fegredo, Mark Millar, Olivier Coipel.

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

In which Brookes reprises both THE BLACK PROJECT and A THOUSAND COLOURED CASTLES, neither of which you need read before these deeply satisfying self-contained stories, each delirious in its own different way.

On the other hand, if you have already relished either of those graphic novels then you are in for two wildly witty departures / re-treatments, building on what’s gone before, so let’s call them “sequels of sorts”.

I’m far from surprised because Brookes does love to experiment, not just with style and presentation, but with the very media he employs to produce them. Eschewing both digital art and pen on paper, Gareth has a penchant for selecting the least obvious and seemingly most difficult but fascinatingly physical means of construction, each apposite to what’s going down.

“There are things I leave out of course, because I don’t want the trouble to start again.”

Very wise, Richard, very wise. First dates can be a tentative minefield, can’t they?

 

 

THE BLACK PROJECT (which we made Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month) featured scratchboard panels within often elaborate cloth-embroidered frames. Why cloth-embroidered? Well, teenage Richard was stitching his girlfriends. Not stitched them up, but stitching them together. He was creating them from bits and bobs which he found lying around. And then he, ummm, you know… courted them? Wooed them…? Made love to them…?

It was a black comedy, yes.

Now Richard has grown up, found gainful employment, and he thinks he has a better handle on life. Actually, I think he does. He’s kind and considerate, and has certainly a lot lovelier outlook than his boss’s and his boss’s best mate’s. These are two leering, lager-lout lads of a certain hair-receding age whom he works with, along with his dearest Denise whom Richard has been in love with for four years. She’s presented on the page as a radiant if scowling and quite haggard Madonna; or, on another page, as Medusa. Still, eye of the beholder and each to their own, right? I admire everyone who sees beneath the surface.

 

 

Anyway, they all invite a very reluctant Richard out for birthday drinks. He was right to be reluctant on so many levels, but I’m going to leave that for you to discover yourselves. Let us just say that there are developments. There are multiple developments.

Compared to the original, we’re given a little more colour in the green, blue and tangerine stitching on dowdy beige hessian fabric, while the quite hideous, nightmare-co-worker cast, rendered in block black-and-white, glow with a seam of unsettling, vampiric red, slightly off-set as if you’re looking at 3-D pages without the glasses… or as if you’ve been drugged.

 

 

The self-contained “sequel of sorts” to A THOUSAND COLOURED CASTLES is in some ways even cleverer, for in the original, rubbed out on the page in wax crayon, elderly couple Fred and Myriam were living out their quiet, retirement in tranquil suburbia. Fred was and remains profoundly stick-in-the-mud, constantly complaining conservative whereas Myriam’s life seemed far more colourful if alarming, beset as it was with the most vivid and elaborate hallucinations brought on not by a thankfully rare but very real vision impairment called Charles Bonnet Syndrome.

Now Myriam is seeing things for what they really are – tanks in the tree-lined street, bludgeoning the neighbourhood to bits – whereas Fred’s in a world of his own, deliberately filtering reality through a virtual, rose-tinted one: a headset which you can tweak to your heart’s desire. Fred’s heart’s desire is to be reassured / placated / sedated by the increasingly reactionary, culpably oblivious BBC News embodied here by Fiona Bruce. They both see bombshells, but very different ones.

 

 

When Fred is finally persuaded to take a break from virtual reality he still “sees” what he’s been taught to by our manipulative media:

“Ah, oh dear. What a mess.
“But I’m sure the authorities have it all in hand.
“Must stop terrorism, Myriam.”

There’s nothing like a patriotic Royal Jubilee or Wedding street-party celebration for lifting the embattled spirits, is there? It’s all about the art of distraction.

 

 

Meanwhile, whoops, there goes the neighbourhood – quite literally! – along with this politically apathetic and morally bankrupt, blinkered, blinded, heads-in-the-sand, self-centred and so sad excuse for a country.

SLH

Buy Afterwords and read the Page 45 review here

Luisa: Now And Then (£22-99, Humanoids) by Carole Maurel, adapted by Mariko Tamaki.

Here’s an intriguing hypothetical for you:

“What would you do if your fifteen-year-old self showed up at your door?”

Would you, for a start, recognise them immediately and instinctively realise that, however improbable, there must have been some time / space seepage? Would you wince at their lame sense of fashion, chronic acne and well wonky hair? Would you balk at the very possibility that it could even be you, or welcome their arrival as an opportunity to educate, give them great solace or even a kick up the arse?

Let’s flip that a little:

“What would that teenager think of what you’d become?”

Unless you are a teenager reading this review, of course, in which case: can you imagine meeting your 33-year-old self? Who do you imagine you’d be by that age, and what do you think you’d be doing? I mean: for friendship, self-fulfilment and for a living?

 

 

It’s worth having a good old cogitation upon all that before reading this book or even this review, because creator Carole Maurel is going to propel this in a completely different direction from anything that I’d anticipated other than this: modern technology, socio-political progress on the sexuality front will indeed prove satisfyingly pivotal to the proceedings.

Meanwhile, both perspectives are explored here as 15-year-old Luisa Arambol from Chartres wakes one morning on a bus which she’d boarded the night before back in 1995, and is told in no uncertain terms to dismount. She has absolutely no idea where she is, but quickly discovers she’s in Paris.

 

 

 

She attempts to phone home using a credit card at a public call box, but the card is rejected. She tries to buy a phone card in the nearest tabac / café only to be ridiculed for not being in possession of a smart phone. She earnestly tries to pay for the phone card in Francs.

“Is this a joke?”

This is no joke. Poor young Luisa may now know that she is in Paris, but she still has no clue that it’s 2013, a good ten years after Francs in France were discarded for Euros. She’s at her wit’s end.

Naughtily enough, that’s where I’m going to leave you on that thread.

 

 

33-year-old Luisa Arambol, meanwhile, is living in that self-same city in that self-same time, which is 2013. She has inherited the flat which she lives in from her Aunt Aurelia. Although Luisa once had more fulfilling dreams of being an inventive, arty photographer like 23 Envelope’s Vaughan Oliver, she’s perfectly happy with her paid work, photographing foodstuffs to look fancy with dear friend Farid for glossy magazine advertisements. What she’s disgruntled about is her love life: a succession of men she dates enthusiastically at first, but who prove way too mundane once they’re shacked up with together. To be honest, it’s not just them: it really is her. They’re good for a fling, but the reality is really not pressing her buttons at all.

Now, as my early questions suggest, the two are going to come into contact and everything up to that point is perfect, especially young Luisa’s protracted confusion (no one is going come straight out like Doctor Who and ask “Wait – what year is this?”), what she makes of modern technology (“Crazy, Paris is so high tech.”), and the means by which she discovers the date. Also impressive is how credibly Good Samaritan Sasha, who temporarily adopts Luisa in order to help her track down local relatives, reacts to Luisa’s predicament and the personal possessions she finds in her duffel bag. And finally there’s that search for local relatives which of course would be Aunt Aurelia who was still alive back in 1995, and you already know who’s living in that flat now!

Perfect!

 

 

The colours don’t half glow on the page, and the portraiture throughout is delicious, reminding me of SAGA’s Fiona Staples, particularly the double-page spread when each Luisa finally realises the truth about the other’s identity. The clothes all hang just-so off the bodies, the lines are soft, the skin smooth, and the hair fulsome and silky. Everyone’s conditioning regimen is admirable.

But it quickly becomes clear that the questions should have been “What would you do if your fifteen-year-old self showed up at your door and what would that teenager think of what you’d become if you’d long denied your sexuality partly because of an incident during which your fifteen-year-old self failed to support another girl she had a pash on when that other girl was subjected to some seriously vilifying homophobic abuse and ostracism which was then compounded by your mother?”

That’s a very specific question.

 

 

What’s on the page is pretty powerful stuff – and is cleverly tied in to further family history – but it’s what’s not on the page which left me disappointed, which is everything else. None of the other ever so many questions and answers I’d seek of the other are explored, and I found that so frustrating.

There’s also one hell of a lot of incomprehensible crotchetiness throughout on adult Luisa’s part, and she chastises her younger self unforgivingly for being unsure of her leanings when we all know that a fifteen-year-old’s life is both confusing and restrictive. Okay, we can perhaps put that down to adult guilt, but does everyone in Paris treat waiters like dirt? That really rankled.

However, the good news is that a) you’ll like chic Sasha, and b) there are more surprises to come, for although neither of them realises it at first things are still alarmingly in flux, and there is a stunning scene involving a reflection on a restaurant’s floor.

 

 

By the way, that is indeed Mariko Tamaki, the co-creator with cousin Jillian Tamaki of THIS ONE SUMMER and SKIM, whom you see credited for the book’s “English Language Adaptation”.

For more non-genre time travel (i.e. gentle fiction in which the only science-fiction is that you have returned in time to your childhood, please see also Jiro Taniguchi’s flawlessly contemplative A DISTANT NEIGHBOURHOOD.

Lastly, since I posed those two hypotheticals, I think it’s only fair that I append answers of my own.

“What would you do if your teenage self showed up at your door?”

I’d start by reassuring the poor boy – bewildered by what on earth life might be like beyond school – that it’ll all be all right in the end. I don’t know about you, but aged 15 I could not imagine being capable enough of anything to independently earn a living.

“What would that teenager think of what you’d become?”

I believe he’d say, “That makes perfect sense”.

On all counts.

SLH

Buy Luisa: Now And Then and read the Page 45 review here

Vietnamese Memories Book 1: Leaving Saigon (£14-99, Humanoids) by Clement Baloup…

“There were G.I.s everywhere. We used to collect the cartridges they were always dropping…
“…Then we’d whack them to make them explode. They’d go off like firecrackers.
“When you’re a kid, you never think about the dangers. One of us could have gotten killed!”

When us Anglophones hear the word Vietnam, we are so inculcated to think of the ill-fated US war, that often we forget that the roots of that particular conflict actually began several generations before with the French colonial occupation. Well, occupations plural technically, as having been kicked out of what was then named French Indochina by the Japanese towards the end of WW2, the French had the temerity to then try and reoccupy it. The Viet Minh led by Hồ Chí Minh eventually put paid to that after nearly ten bloody years in 1954, before the Americans decided they could do better, and well, we all know how that turned out…

 

 

Anyway, as a child born in France in 1978, Clément Baloup only heard the story of his father’s life as a youngster back in Vietnam, and his subsequent emigration to France, some twenty years later whilst being taught to cook a traditional prawn curry in his dad’s kitchen. That’s the opening ‘memory’ very touchingly portrayed here and which subsequently set Clément on the path of collecting other such stories of the Vietnamese Diaspora to France.  A process that actually began long before, you might suspect, ahead of the main waves of the pejoratively named ‘boat people’ in the seventies, with several thousand immigrants being torn from their families and forcibly shipped to France to work in munitions factories very shortly after the start of WW2. Whilst some were eventually repatriated back to Vietnam several years after the war ended, after repeated requests to the French government who seemed oblivious or perhaps simply not remotely bothered about their plight, others chose to stay behind and forge new lives for themselves.

 

 

All the stories are illustrated in extremely impressive fashion, some in black and white, and some in watercolour and cover a wide variety of experiences, both good and bad. Frequently they touch on both life in Vietnam and then France for the Vietnamese who made the arduous and often dangerous journey to Europe. For most, there was little choice to their sudden exodus, be it forced, or to avoid the impending change in political regime. But it certainly always caused unimaginable upheaval and suffering which often took years to overcome in the face of poverty and prejudice in the new homeland.

 

 

For more Vietnam history, please see Thi Bui’s profoundly moving story of her parents in THE BEST WE COULD DO.

JR

Buy Vietnamese Memories Book 1: Leaving Saigon and read the Page 45 review here

It Will All Hurt (£16-99, Image) by Farel Dalrymple.

“And Almendra feels an ill in the air.”

From the creator of THE WRENCHIES, POP GUN WAR VOL 1, both extensively reviewed, plus POP GUN WAR VOL 2 and – just in – PROXIMA CENTAURI.

The publisher writes:

“A weird, sad, silly, sketchy, and dreamy watercolour fantasy-action quest in which Alemendra Clementine and her crew of anti-social adventurers all come together on a psych-apocalyptic world to take down an evil wizard.

“This Eisner Award-nominated webcomic began as a loose stream-of-consciousness exercise and exploration of the comicbook medium and takes place in the same world as Farel Dalrymple’s THE WRENCHIES. Collects IT WILL ALL HURT #1-3, plus all six chapters of the webcomic.”

 

 

That’s a very fair assessment. There is indeed a loose, sketchbook-like quality to the narrative as likely to drift towards old stones standing round a raised burial mound, the site itself surrounded by the ruins of ancient battlements, as it is to encompass a spherical space capsule whose vulnerable glass viewing screen comes under attack from a long-taloned vampire in a top hat.

 

 

 

And yes, it is indeed the stuff of disorientating nightmares.

“I’m getting that weird feeling again.
“Like watching myself in a bad dream.
“The house is on fire and I am screaming at myself to get out before it’s too late.”

 

 

The crew of anti-social adventurers embark on the sort of fantastical quest you might imagine acting out as seven-year-olds, making it up as you go along. They’re dressed both strange and mundane, brandishing weapons like flaming sticks and heavy iron axes while looking lanky, disconsolate, maybe stoned. Some seem younger and sullen, however belted, booted, suited and caped-up for action. Others practise falconry, magic or martial arts.

 

 

There’s a talking cat (I’ve just doubled the sales), and a rat too.

SLH

Buy It Will All Hurt and read the Page 45 review here

Proxima Centauri #1 of 6 (£3-25, Image) by Farel Dalrymple.

“Get behind the blast glass!”
*
“Don’t freaking lecture me.”
*
“Everything’s so stinking annoying today.”
*
“That thing ate my ride! What a jerk.”

New series from the creator of THE WRENCHIES, POP GUN WAR VOL 1, both extensively reviewed, plus POP GUN WAR VOL 2 and – just in – IT WILL ALL HURT which I also dipped into.

If you enjoyed THE WRENCHIES, then it’s time to rejoin The Scientist and indeed fractious Sherwood, still fretting about his lost brother Orson while frowning and drowning in post-pubescent hormones.

“Don’t forget to drink water, Sherwood.”
“I know.”

 

 

Here’s the publisher:

“4.243 light-years from Earth, the teenage wizard adventurer Sherwood Breadcoat is stuck in the confounding spectral zone on the manufactured dimensional sphere, Proxima Centauri, looking for escape and a way back to his brother while dealing with his confusing emotions, alien creatures, and all sorts of unknown, fantastic dangers. In this issue The Scientist H. Duke sends Sherwood on a salvage mission and gives counsel to the troubled boy in his charge.

“PROXIMA CENTAURI will be six issues of psychedelic science fantasy action comicbook drama starring Sherwood Breadcoat, ‘The Scientist’ Duke Herzog, Dr. EXT the Time Traveler, the ghost M. Parasol, Shakey the Space Wizard, and Dhog Dahog.”

 

 

Dalrymple nails Sherwood’s teenage obstreperousness with giant, proclamatory speech balloons and defiant, sword-brandishing impatience to which The Scientist issues sage and scholarly advice without any thought to the certainty that it’ll mean nothing whatsoever to a self-obsessed teenager:

“Why so impatient to grow up? Learn to be present and your anxiety will subside.”

 

 

It’s hard to be present while under assault from sewer-swarms of monstrous, sharp-toothed insectoids while racing through gravity-shifting concrete jungles and spectacular, architectural retro-futuristic collisions.

There’s some Basil Wolverton about the bloating of the beasts’ heads, and a big love of Moebius in some of the floating landscapes.

 

 

File under “all kinds of crazy” and drink in the varied colour treatments.

SLH

Buy Proxima Centauri #1 and read the Page 45 review here

The Beautiful Death h/c (£21-99, Titan) by Mathieu Bablet.

Oh, this is ever so French!

It’s not so much the poor lone man with the haunted eyes staring out over the lifeless concrete city, weeping inconsolably… for himself, I suspect!

I can’t say that I blame him. It’s been four years or so of unbroken solitary… what’s the opposite of confinement? Sometimes four small walls must seem a mercy.

It’s all there before him, stretching endlessly, emptily, dirtily and a bit broken.

What else is there to do other than rock on a chair, mind-numb, or roam the echoing avenues, passing abandoned communal play areas, unattended gardens, crashed cars and lank electricity lines?

It’s as desolate and derelict as an empty outdoor municipal swimming pool – with some of the same, lame, tiny mosaic tiles.

 

 

There are small trails of encroaching vegetation in the cracked concrete. I bet the buddleias got there first – they’re the worst.

Eventually he finds himself back at his equally unpopulated apartment with its lo-tech radio & car battery attached, calling out to anyone else who isn’t there. No reply, obviously.

It wasn’t zombies, by the way. It was the insects.

 

 

“I just can’t get rid of it. That taste of ash in my mouth.
“It reminds me… Reminds me of those Wednesday afternoons.
“My mother would take me over to Mrs. Jones for her madeleines. She was terrifying. So were the madeleines.”

Okay, so that’s pretty French.

“Burnt to ash. Just like any love for my dad still left in my mother’s heart.”

Bit of a downer!

“Sadly, for the culinary world, the gentle Mrs. Jones perished in a tragic mishap at the zoo, determined to save a poor adventurous child from the hands of a rutting orang-utan.”

No, what’s so French about this are the three bickering idiots who “supersede” him.

I don’t want to spoil the moment for you, but even his exit is French. Too funny!

There’s Jeremiah, the shouty one with spiky blonde hair like some escapee from NARUTO; stern leader Wayne who has set rules and demands discipline except from Soham who doesn’t seem to give a shit about anyone or anything anymore. Soham seems to have lost all sense of humanity or connection to it. Although he still looks both ways before crossing a road, even though there hasn’t been any traffic for years.

 

They scour the shops and loot every can that they can. Cans are all that’s left. And even they have their sell-by dates.

“Four years… according to this can that’s all we have left.”
“Say what?”
“We never talk about it, but no matter how you cut it, the days on these cans are our expiration date too.”

There appear to be no viable crops and no edible animals. Although insects are edible, aren’t they? There are an awful lot of those.

It’s very much two against one: they almost abandon Jeremiah at one point.

It’s a very quiet comic to begin with. Even the “incident” is more of a situation, simply presented to us without any preceding narrative or the most obvious dramatic action that would have got us all going.

The rescue goes unacknowledged. Instead they stand there in silence, in the needle-sharp rain under coloured umbrellas – very French.

 

 

Other roof-top, table-top umbrellas blow poetically away in the squall.

That’s some seriously lovely rain, that is.

SLH

Buy The Beautiful Death h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The City On The Other Side (£12-99, FirstSecond) by Mairghread Scott & Robin Robinson…

“War and pain raged in the world of Fairy. On both sides.
“But the fairy world is not the only world. The human world continued… unaware of the war that was destroying them as well.”

The publisher blurb burbles…

“The first decade of the twentieth century is coming to a close, and San Francisco is still recovering from the great earthquake of 1906. Isabel watched the destruction safely from her window, sheltered within her high-society world. Isabel isn’t the kind of girl who goes on adventures.

“But that all changes when she stumbles through the invisible barrier that separates the human world from the fairy world. She quickly finds herself caught up in an age-old war and fighting on the side of the Seelie – the good fairies.”

 

 

You see, Isabel might not be the kind of girl who goes on adventures, but she desperately wants to be. However, between her over-protective snob of a high society mother and her absent workaholic sculptor father, she’s completely ignored and stuck oh-so-safely in her room. So when adventure accidentally beckons, she seizes it with both hands and leaps through the Veil, which separates our world from the Fairy realm. With a Fairy civil war raging and the only hope of stopping it being to return an enchanted necklace to its rightful owner, Isabel will soon be getting all the action-packed antics she could ever wish for.

 

 

Definitely one for fans of the likes of AMULET, with its cast of weird and wonderful characters including a feisty talking mushroom called Button, and NAMELESS CITY, for its relentless breakneck pace and desire to make a few pertinent social comments suitable for any time too, this is a very well-written self-contained slice of all-ages fun.

JR

Buy The City On The Other Side and read the Page 45 review here

Arthur And The Golden Rope s/c (£7-99, Flying Eye Books) by Joe Todd-Stanton.

A huge endeavour for a tiny person, this is now out in softcover!

I love a good quest, and this is a most excellent quest involving Thor, Odin and Fenrir, the enormous, sable-coated wolf sired by the trickster god, Loki. It is ever so black and bad tempered!

Rich in the warmest of colours and with a superb sense of scale, HILDA fans are going to lap this up; ZELDA fans too because young Arthur is essentially an Icelandic Link, addicted to exploration and a certain degree of pilfering, forever adding artefacts to his arsenal of treasured possessions.

This includes the Hand of Time, an actual hand (a bit creepy!) which Arthur once discovered high up in an ancient tower, sat on an ancient stone column at the top of some ancient stone steps and bathed from behind in moonlight cascading though a window in the shape of a stopped clock. I imagine Arthur must have successfully interpreted this clue before whipping it away, for the Hand of Time has the power to freeze anyone who touches it – which is a neat piece of self-defence, when you think about it.

It’s probably best to use gloves.

 

 

Arthur’s also adept at making friends in high places, like the mighty red rooster Wind Weaver, nested towards the top of even more ancient, tall, craggy cliffs. Such was Arthur’s fortitude and determination that he managed to climb that nigh-vertical escarpment and return to Wind Weaver her missing egg, against all odds unbroken.

He also once rescued a cat from a tree.

Arthur is going to need to summon all his courage and command his quickest of wits, however, in this daring quest to restore fire to his otherwise frozen town after its gigantic brazier is knocked down and extinguished by Fenrir. I told you it had a bad temper.

To be honest, the townsfolk aren’t that much better, especially the adults. They scowled at Arthur and his adventures, his trophies and trinkets and the little goblin folk who followed him in rootin’, tootin’ celebration after he mediated an end to their war with the fairies. But, battered by Fenrir’s assault, the citizens are sure going to need our young Arthur now, for the only way to restore fire to the town’s brazier is to curry the favour of Thor, and the only way to curry Thor’s favour is to help him defeat the five-hundred-foot Fenrir.

For this meticulous Arthur will need three things: to capture a cat’s footfall, to snip off the roots of a mountain, and remember old lessons learned.

The Asgardians have tried to vanquish the beast by themselves, but Fenrir nearly squished Frejja, barely missed breaking Baldr between its teeth and successfully bit poor Tyr’s arm off. Can frail Arthur triumph where the mighty gods have failed?

 

 

In every all-ages / young-readers’ great graphic novel there must be certain things present including wit, rules and exploration for eyes.

Oh, you tut at the term “rules” but I didn’t write that they couldn’t be broken! What I mean is that a child will see through any gaps in narrative logic just as easily as an adult would, and might even be far less forgiving. They are ever so astute! This is a beauty, so casually foreshadowing whatever will follow so that its pay-off is perfect and caught me completely by surprise. But it’s all there! All of it!

The wit lies both in the background details, the denouement above, and in the keep-them-guessing intrigue which is scattered throughout. How can Arthur possibly capture a cat’s footfall? It’s insane! And a mountain doesn’t have any roots: that had me stumped.

 

 

As to the eye-candy, there are maps – yes, maps! – and so many pages which reward real inspection, from old-duffer Brownstone’s armchair introduction contrasted with his hours-later adieu (look at what’s happened to those bookshelves behind him in the intervening time!) to the mapped-out meandering’s of Arthur’s double-page sea-voyage. There tiny fingers will love to trace the serpentine path of our diminutive hero’s trials and tribulations past pirate ships and old beardy Neptune, through the coils of undulating sea monsters and battling a giant squid which is ever so intent on wrestling Arthur’s oars from him.

Then there’s beardy Brownstone’s initial, proud appearance inside his family vault of exotic heirlooms bathed in a spotlight. Young eyes are immediately invited to scan every shadow-strewn corner for curiosities: there are chests and chalices, a deep-sea diving suit, skulls and statues, a one-eyed owl, things floating in jars, swords, stones, and swords in stones. Oh wait – I think the second one is stuck in a giant eyeball!

 

 

There are swords stuck everywhere in Valhalla’s hall. Can you find them all?

I mentioned Todd-Stanton’s sense of scale – vital for making a quest like this seem as daunting as possible – and it’s everywhere from the fearsome Fenrir who towers over the brazier, and the brazier itself, so vast that it looms large in comparison to the rest of the town when seen from afar. On that very same shot, so high in the sky, you’ll spy that ancient tower which housed The Hand of Time and, on the mountainside opposite, Wind Weaver perched on her nest. Furthermore, Arthur may be small when standing beside adults and smaller still in Thor’s imposing presence, but compared to the goblin folk he’s a giant.

 

 

Finally we come to the gods’ hall library and it is as vast as vast can be. Poor Arthur most read every dusty tome in his research for find the roots of a mountain. You can see him scampering up ladders, balancing books on his head, receiving a nasty surprise, but if you look really, really carefully…

I love it. I love this to bits.

SLH

Buy Arthur And The Golden Rope s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Hellboy: The Complete Short Stories vol 1 s/c (£22-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola & Richard Corben, Duncan Fegredo, Mick McMahon, Fabio Moon, Gabriel Ba, Dave Stewart, Matt Hollingsworth, James Sinclair, Clem Robins, Pat Brosseau.

A whopping 368-page volume which covers Hellboy’s adventures from 1947 to 1961 in chronological order (as do all the HELLBOY omnibus editions) kicking almost immediately off with ‘Midnight Circus’ drawn and painted with enormous panache by Duncan Fegredo.

“But he wanted to be a real boy.”

1948 at the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defence, it’s late at night and quiet.

Scampering secretly through the sleepy, well appointed HQ, a very young Hellboy, his horns still intact, overhears himself being talked of as a terrible threat. It’s all there in the Visions & Revelations of one Arnot De Falvy:

“I saw a city, silent as a tomb, barren as dry bones, and the angel said, “This is Desolation”. And I went down into it and the only living thing there was the creature… In most ways it had the shape and character of a man and was not terrible to look upon… But then I saw in its right hand it held the key to the bottomless pit.”

 

 

So young Hellboy does what you would do at this covert equivalent of a boarding school: he runs away. And something is there to greet him, to entreat him, to seduce and reduce the poor boy to tears.

When the Midnight Circus first appears, the impact is halting. Young Hellboy crouches overlooking through a dry-stone wall the valley the circus’ gigantic tent has been erected in. He’s inked in Fegredo’s Mingola-inspired trademark stark shadows, whereas the circus itself is swathed in misty, miasmatic watercolours as will be everything that transpires within. It’s mesmerising.

 

 

And, oh, what the young boy discovers inside. Whom the young Hellboy discovers inside!

Have you read Pinnochio?

There is so much to commend this, not least of all Duncan Fegredo’s swoonaway art. Long have I compared his gesticulations, dramatically angled wrists and hefty, heavy, laden hands to the mighty French sculptor Rodin. That’s not something I do lightly. But here it suddenly struck me how similar his women are to that of FATALE’s Sean Phillips.

You wait until you see the sunken Galleon.

 

 

If you’ve never read HELLBOY before in your life, this is the perfect introduction. It will leave you with questions, yes, but then you have a whole library to explore, all in print and in stock right here, right now.

Mignola has built up a legend which is why this works so well. There has been foreshadowing aplenty and this is another key part of the puzzle.

You’re just a young lad. All you want to do is what’s best, especially as you grow up. Okay, you shouldn’t have had that smoke, you shouldn’t have made that joke and maybe you shouldn’t have run away. But they are your decisions, surely? They can’t affect anyone else.

“Oh, my boy… what have you done?”

Brrrr….

 

 

Also included: ‘The Crooked Man’, ‘Double Feature of Evil,’ the complete ‘Hellboy in Mexico’ saga, as well as ‘The Corpse.’ ‘The Iron Shoes’ and more.

SLH

Buy Hellboy: The Complete Short Stories vol 1 s/c  and read the Page 45 review here

The Magic Order #1 (£3-25, Image) by Mark Millar & Olivier Coipel…

“They’ve just finished copulating. He’s dreaming about a train journey from his teenage years. She’s just closed her eyes.”
“Is their home secured with any defences?”
“Yes, but I can work around them. There’s a child sleeping at the end of the corridor, and I think I’ll be able to go through him.”

Mark Millar returns with a story in which a magician with a way with words manages to sell his fêted comics company to a large entertainment giant for megabucks and lives happily ever after. Wait a minute… his autobiography isn’t out yet!

Millar is back, though, with his first ‘Netflix’ comic, featuring a story about five clans of undercover magicians who have protected our world from unseen magical threats for generations who are now about to fall out big style. So, sort of like a mash-up between Doctor Strange and East Enders then?

 

 

Fortunately not, but this is certainly no tale of happy families as one of the prestidigitators boldly begins a power grab and starts bumping off the others in a not-so covert fashion with the aid of a shadowy, sinister figure wearing a highwayman’s hat. Perhaps a cheeky nod to 2000AD’s Brigand Doom?

 

 

Plus, even within the various households, it seems that whilst there are those who embrace the thrill of waving their wands about, both publically and in private, there are some adepts who want to ditch the glamours and live a life more ordinary. Unfortunately, a declaration of being out of the game doesn’t mean there isn’t still going to be a target on your head.

 

 

After this opener, I have to say I’m totally entranced by Millar’s new top hat of tricks. Ah, that hoodoo that you do, Mark, when you’re on top form. There’s sufficient depth to the story and the characters right from the off which convinces me this six issue series will be on the level of the likes of JUPITER’S LEGACY and SUPERIOR. I trust this won’t prove to be an illusion.

 

 

Phenomenally fabulous art from Marvel stalwart Oliver HOUSE OF M Coipel only adds to the spectacle, and either Coipel or colourist Dave Stewart have given it a softer, smudged feel which renders it all suitably ethereal. Bravo gentlemen!

JR

Buy The Magic Order #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Voices Of A Distant Star (£10-99, Vertical) by Makoto Shinkai & Mizu Sahara…

“Award-winning director and author Makoto Shinkai offers a romantic sci-fi tale about young love and space adventure, based on his 2003 animated film. Sixteen-year-old Mikako Nagamine enlists as a pilot to fight in the interstellar war against a force of alien invaders, leaving behind her one true love. Mikako’s only connection to Noboru Terao, who’s living the life of an ordinary high school student, is through cell-phone text messages. As Mikoko travels farther away, it starts to take longer and longer for Noboru to receive her messages, until finally one arrives eight years and seven months after she sent it. When at last the fighting ends, she is left stranded on the spacecraft carrier.”

I’ve actually excised the final couple of sentences of the publisher’s blurb as I felt we were drifting dangerously into spoiler territory faster than Mikoko was last seen drifting into deep space. If you like your romance to smoulder at a low injection burn rather than going straight to escape velocity this could possibly be for you. I haven’t seen the film, which came first, so I can’t comment on the similarities / differences though the artist comments in his “sort of an afterword” that he imagines fans of the film will feel there are some aspects lacking or disappointing.

 

 

I have to say there is very, very little actually going on in terms of plot here. It is, in essence, two people clinging on to the single thread of the teenage romance that they never actually had. Now, separated increasingly by space and time, it seems like they never, ever will. But still they keep in touch, in classically ultra-restrained Japanese fashion, because neither is willing to let go.

 

 

The final chapter or two hint at more to come (again, maybe there is in the film by the sounds of it) and there’s a decision which perhaps really could have been made a lot sooner, if only one of the star-blocked lovers had spent a bit more time thinking about things rationally instead of mooching around aimlessly waiting for angst-ridden interstellar text messages.

JR

Buy Voices Of A Distant Star 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’.

 

 

Bad Machinery vol 5: The Case Of The Fire Inside s/c (£11-99, Oni) by John Allison

Giant Days: Extra Credit s/c (£13-99, Boom!) by John Allison & Caanan Grall, Lissa Treiman, Jenn St-Onge

Cerebus vol 10: Minds (Remastered Edition) (£26-99, Aardvark Vanaheim Inc.) by Dave Sim & Gerhard

Courtney Crumrin vol 3 s/c (£11-99, Oni) by Ted Naifeh

Cucumber Quest vol 3: The Melody Kingdom s/c (£11-99, FirstSecond) by Gigi D.G.

Escaping Wars And Waves: Encounters With Syrian Refugees (£19-99, Myriad) by Olivier Kugler

Escapo h/c (£22-99, Z2 Comics) by Paul Pope

Hellboy Omnibus vol 2 s/c (£22-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, Gary Gianni

Hit-Girl vol 1: In Colombia s/c (£13-99, Image) by Mark Millar & Ricardo Lopez Ortiz

Julian Is A Mermaid h/c (£11-99, Walker Books) by Jessica Love

Legend Of Zelda Encyclopedia h/c (£35-50, Dark Horse) by various

Multiple Warheads vol 2: Ghost Town s/c (£15-99, Image) by Brandon Graham

Space Boy vol 1 s/c (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Stephen McCranie

The Extraordinary Adventures Of Adele Blanc-Sec vol 1 h/c (£22-99, Fantagraphics) by Jacques Tardi

The Extraordinary Adventures Of Adele Blanc-Sec vol 2 h/c (£22-99, Fantagraphics) by Jacques Tardi

They Say Blue h/c (£12-99, Abrams) by Jillian Tamaki

Batman: Detective Comics vol 6: Fall Of The Batmen s/c (Rebirth) (£16-99, DC) by James Tynion IV & Joe Bennett, various

Dark Nights: Metal – Dark Knights Rising h/c (£24-99, DC) by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Grant Morrison, Dan Abnett, various & Carmine DiGiandomenico, Philip Tan, Tony S. Daniel, Doug Mahnke

Justice League vol 6: People Vs The Justice League s/c (Rebirth) (£12-99, DC) by Christopher Priest & Pete Woods, Philippe Briones, Marco Santucci

Trinity vol 2: Dead Space s/c (£12-99, DC) by Francis Manapul, Cullen Bunn & various

Amazing Spider-Man vol 8: Worldwide s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Dan Slott, Christos Gage, David Hein & Stuart Immonen, Cory Smith, Mike Hawthorne, Todd Nauck, Marcus To

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl vol 8: My Best Friend’s Squirrel s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Ryan North & Erica Henderson

Weapon X vol 3: Modern Warfare s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente & Yildiray Cinar, Roland Boschi, Andrea Sorrentino

 

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews June 2018 week two

Wednesday, June 13th, 2018

Featuring Peter Hoey, Maria Hoey, Nick Drnaso, Erin Nations, Vero Cazot, Julie Rocheleau, Bryan Lee O’Malley, Leslie Hung, Sophie Campbell, Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Greg Capullo, Mikel Janin, Alvaro Martinez

Coin-Op Comics Anthology h/c 1997-2017 (£26-99, Top Shelf) by Peter Hoey, Maria Hoey.

 

 

“They say that the best things in life are free, but being stuck on a videotape isn’t one of them.”

We will return to that anon, but I hope it’s introduced the requisite element of intrigue.

The finest collection of comics that I have seen since BUILDING STORIES, I rate this right up there with Chris Ware for craft, composition and complexity, but the variety of treatments is staggering, and it messes with the medium – with the very possibilities of sequential-art narrative – like nothing at all that I can recall.

 

 

And there are dozens of other contenders, I know, but the Hoeys do it in such depth, over and over again. I recall seeing their ‘Anatomy of a Pratfall’ in BEST AMERICAN COMICS, curated by Alison Bechdel in 2011 when I wrote, not very clearly so I’ve rearranged it a little:

“Six silent pages of a single street seen from the same vantage point, each page is divided into 12 separate grey and peach panels within which something significant is happening. After successive disasters strike in a domino effect you’ll want to go back and laugh yourself senseless at the window cleaner’s seemingly unfinished artistry.”

X marks the spot. And isn’t a piano always involved?

 

 

Time isn’t passing between panels in the traditional way, only between pages: the grid is used instead to focus your attention on the individual elements coming catastrophically into play.

‘Jingle In July’ and ‘The Slippery Lobster’ work in much the same way, the latter being a maritime cross-lane collision-fest which only the dolphins and storks survive, so after a few of these the opening scenarios become akin to a puzzle, a quiz or a question: an opening tableau inviting you to wonder what on earth will happen next.

 

 

Far more mischievous, however, is their most recent iteration and evolution of this game, ‘The Windy Parade’, in which there is a hell of a lot more going on. It bundles together several separate stories, many of which converge, and some of whose protagonists seem to contravene quite defiantly what we in the west consider to be the rules of reading comics (left-to-right, then down a row with a type-writer “ting!” before proceeding left-to-right once more) but it is just an illusion predicated upon the strength of long-ingrained predisposition… (pause)… apart from the very final tier in which time does indeed pass between panels, as the pigeons tell the last of their cumulatively funny jokes and, ridiculously, one of the parade’s human onlookers, oblivious to everything else, gets a good guffaw out of it.

Shall we take an inventory of that six-page story? Two different love affairs, two wallets in diverse jeopardy, two defenestrations, police pursuit, dinner and drinks, a graphic novel first pitched then being pitched out of the window, and a giant, inflatable rabbit being ravished from behind by a blown-up superhero.

 

 

If you’re a cinephile or into jazz, you’ll find this even more up your alley, for the Hoeys too are fixated on both, and are fiercely well informed. They present individual histories and portraits of jazz musicians, but when it comes to the movies they truly triumph. ‘The Trials Of Orson Welles’ features not Orson Welles himself but half a dozen fictional characters, portrayed by Orson Welles in different films, interacting.

Even more impressive, however, ‘The People vs Nicholas Ray’ is a meticulously researched snap-shot documentary of the director of ‘Rebel Without A Cause’. By cross-referencing Ray’s own proclamations with quotes from his peers and protégés like Elia Kazan, François Truggaut and Jim Jarmush, then the films’ various stars like estranged wife Gloria Grahame (why were they estranged? oh good grief!) plus Natalie Wood who went up against a vindictive Joan Crawford in ‘Johnny Guitar’, Peter and Maria form a singularly affecting insight into the director’s personal and professional direction.

“’I’m A Stranger Here Myself’ was the working title for nearly all my films.”

 

 

They also have a rich love of rhymes, and this pairing of clichés is artfully arranged on the page with their ever-present and often concentric circles, here spooling film:

“Double talk, forward leaning,
“Writers block, hidden meaning.

“Split screen, close up smile,
“The way you walk the longest mile.

“Eye line, hand in glove,
“Running time, sea of love.

“Two shot cutaway,
“Look here comes that raining day.”

When reading it, I cannot get out of my head Billy McKenzie’s dead-tone intonation during the Associates’ ‘Fever In The Shadows’ b-side, along with his female co-conspirator. No? Try Grace Jones’s dead-pan instead.

“Conspiracies” is a word I underlined three times in my notes, and although I could not begin to match Josh O’Neill’s exceptionally eloquent introduction to this album, if I were to characterise this collection further I’d choose words like circles and circuits, connections, reflections, control, contradictions and confrontations; that which lurks so substantially beneath the surface, that which lurks unseen without and beyond, collapse into chaos and that dear old chestnut, mortality.

There are two particularly poignant stories involving the extinction of obsolete automata.

 

 

‘I Built You First’, written by C.P. Freund (a journalist with decidedly recondite interests) is infused with a giddy, M.C. Escher sensibility. In it, one robot, above, repeatedly challenges its suicidal predecessor below and is each time rebutted with an insistent reminder of its precedence. Here on the first page, the challenge is issued upside down from a boat being rowed on the watery ceiling:

“You are wrecked, my dear robot (his old friend said),
“And your sensory data’s dispersed!
“What’s the shape of the world that you’ve built in your head?”
Shot the other: “I built you first”.”

As to “shot”, he’s just put a gun to his own head.

Similarly, the last line on the third page, “Snapped the other: “I suspended you first””, is issued as the android breaks its neck by hanging. It’s all pretty tight in COIN-OP.

 

 

‘Valse Mechanique’ is a less formal affair except in its dress code which is strictly black tie. A steampunk waltz as if seen on sepia film footage a century ago, it’s set in a ballroom full of robots so run down that their time has almost run out. Maria sings her final song to the assembled throng, then sacrifices her head and its constituent cogs so that the others can go on a little longer.

You’ve heard of cannibalizing a machine for spare parts…?

 

 

A couple of strips – when this landscape hardcover is folded out, it is hard to think of them in terms other than strips – the Hoeys present parallel narratives (the inner and outer life) layered in tandem along with the accompanying illustrations.

‘The Inter-Office Memo’ is where you will first come in, and it is entirely up to you how you read it: one page at a time in full, or each individual thread at a time from start to finish. The first page is surrounded by old-fashioned city skyscrapers (think Seth), while our protagonist strides through the open-office call centre, each of whose operatives being very specific about the numbers involved. Without, you will find another numbered narrative which starts off all concrete (about the workers, the interconnected office space and the building which houses it), but becomes increasingly and insidiously abstract as we move into the shadowy hidden corporate world or shell companies etc:

“25. Their unseen hands guided and shaped a seemingly disparate group of companies to the completion of their singular intention, one that still remains beyond the prying eyes of the outside world, its limits known only to its creators.”

The final numbers in the circled narrative are 27, then 3¹, 3² and 3³ – which is 27.

 

 

Meanwhile, the city begins to give way to a jungle while the endless corridors become flooded with rising water until a small boat steams by, our protagonist desperately hitches a life-saving lift, only to discover a waterfall ahead…

Please see “if I were to characterise this collection…”

 

 

Before you begin this book, you should probably be aware that the original COIN-OP comics are collected in reverse chronological order, culminating in Peter and Maria’s collaborations within the pages of the old BLAB! anthology. I mention this now, because I don’t want it to be the review’s final sentence, which I’ve already settled upon with a very self-indulgent chortle.

Finally for now, let’s return to where we came in with the recurrent, forever hapless, down-and-out dogs, Saltz & Pepz, who have found themselves trapped in a loop on a videotape. More specifically, they’ve become trapped on one of those two-person handcars you used to see so often in silent black and white films, often involving a chase in which time’s running out.

 

 

It’s called ‘Now Available On VHS’ and time is indeed running out, for although each time the tape is played they become more self-aware, they’re only becoming self-aware because the tape is degrading, and soon it will degrade so far that it snaps.

For the first three pages the top tier of narrative only alternates between two images, Saltz then Pepz pushing down to propel the handcar against a monotonously identical landscape. The endless track is identical in third tier too, obscured only when Saltz’s or Pepz’s heads pop up on the other’s push.

However, the remote appears to be losing control too, and eventually – finally after all this time of being at the mercy of outside forces they have no agency over (they’re homeless throughout the stories) – there is a tiny aperture, an opportunity for action.

 

 

SLH

Buy Coin Op Comics Anthology h/c 1997-2017 and read the Page 45 review here

About Betty’s Boob h/c (£26-99, Archaia) by Vero Cazot & Julie Rocheleau.

An exhilarating, fast-moving, heart-palpitating gala performance, I hereby fill the auditorium with thunderous applause!

Songs sung aside, it’s a largely wordless graphic novel full of exotic sights, dextrous dances and so many sounds in which Elisabeth is adopted by a creative community of burlesque cabaret artists who are as supportive and nurturing off stage as they are flamboyant, inventive and cheeky. Got to love a lyric like this:

“My love button’s poking
“Its head out for a stroking!”

That would be your gently suggested adults-only advisement, for this features a glorious amount of equal-opportunities full-frontal nudity which is absolutely essential to its celebratory message about being proud of your body.

Alas, it’ll take Elisabeth a long and emotionally tumultuous journey to get there, but get there she shall!

 

 

“If you cannot look at me anymore,
“I do not want to see you anymore!”

The beginning is blunt and quite brutal for our protagonist, who wakes up in a hospital bed, clothed in a clinical gown, her head shaved, her energy depleted, and one breast missing post-mastectomy.

 

 

Frantically searching the ward in a flurry of motion, Betty demands her old boob back.  The nipple-ringed breast is retrieved, presented to her in a gift-wrapped, ribboned box and lovingly admired by both patient and nurse. But in the box it stays, and you won’t discover its final fate until late into the graphic novel. Instead, Elisabeth is immediately determined to move on and adjust as best she can, dressing herself up smartly, applying make-up and a wig and marching her frazzled man back home. Yes, her lover has passed out in shock twice already.

 

 

Oh so positively, she dolls herself up further, while he uncorks wine, and dances twirling back into the living room, a rosy red apple popped into the cup of her bra. A tender kiss later and there’s a love-heart and laughter and everything seems to be going so much better…

 

 

But then – although there are ever so many more ups and downs yet to come – the most poignant moment for me is almost immediately afterwards, when the man, after inviting her into the bed with a reassuring pat on the sheets, kisses Elisabeth not on the lovingly presented and puckered lips, but on the forehead. Alarmed, she reaches out, but he lunges for the lamp, switches it off and rolls over, leaving her alone on the very far side of the bed.

 

 

Already the individuals’ moods have been colourfully controlled with lots of rich reds and fresh, healthy creams, but also back in the ward with queasy greens and more sickly yellows for when our male visitor becomes instead the passed-out patient, and needs to have his own blood pressure taken!

 

 

Now the graphic novel grows even more satirical, for where do you suppose she works? Elisabeth is a cashier at a parfumier which is so upmarket that its central chandelier cascades with crystals, spotlit from above. Security cameras are trained on the department floor to search out shoplifters, for sure, but so many are trained on the staff too, with close-ups on their chests, and these screens are overseen by a Cruella Deville-like lady with enormous, dangling, dollar-sign earrings. The shop assistants, meanwhile, are all decked out in t-shirts adorned by the retailer’s logo, which is a symmetrical, stylised heart as if mounted on a pedestal. This, of course, sits over their supposedly symmetrical breasts – wouldn’t you just know it? – that company’s contract stipulates that all employees must have “two boobs” (each of a certain weight!) otherwise it is “termination” time.

I wouldn’t call it too much of stretch to call this corporation somewhat superficial.

 

 

Our obsession with symmetry (I only ever had one dagger earring on the left; now one eyebrow ring instead) is part of the heart of this story. Wait until Liz’s lover returns home, the maid immediately spotting his one-sided parting and correcting it with a comb in a corridor which is improbably symmetrical in its ornaments, before presenting him to his parents! They are not amused (nor are their two dogs) for kerfuffle that causes their mirrored seating arrangements is extreme!

We’ve only just begun – Elisabeth has a lot of chaotic leaping and running round to do, initially after her wig which takes to the wing – but I’m still going to leave it there.

 

 

Golly, but there’s a lot of energy on offer, so much sweeping movement and gay abandon, from arms outstretched and tassled tits a-twisting to robes flying high and flung off, and the gesticulations during the dazzling routines are thrilling (Elisabeth’s contrastingly tentative to begin with, but once her confidence is boosted, she’ll get there). Red wine will be drunk and high heels will be kicked off, for there are far happier times ahead.

“No body is perfect, Elisabeth” is a chapter I loved dearly – if you love female forms in particular in all their diversity, you are in for a spellbinding treat – along with this sentiment towards the end:

“What are you doing now?”
“Whatever I want.”

 

 

Before we conclude, however, I highly recommend Jennifer Hayden’s autobiographical THE STORY OF MY TITS, which in spite of its most excellent title is a lot less glib than it looks. Much considered thought with some considerable scope, Hayden comes to terms with a double-mastectomy, and covers to much that led up to it and what follows.

SLH

Buy About Betty’s Boob h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Sabrina (£16-99, Granta) by Nick Drnaso..

“What did you think?”
“There were some interesting ideas, but I felt empty when it was over.”
“Yeah, it was a good kind of empty feeling though, did Teddy read it?”
“Oh no, he’s not much of a reader.”

From the creator of BEVERLY which I loved and seemingly everyone else ignored – okay, it did win an L.A.  Times Book Prize, but despite that prize and my review it didn’t seem to translate into huge sales – comes a work you’re all now falling over yourselves to pick up in store and online. Amazing what a glowing review in Guardian by Chris Ware can do. Just for the record, for what it’s worth, I loved this too. Allow me to elaborate…

 

 

Firstly, that pull quote above sums up exactly how I felt when I finished. Though I don’t know anyone called Teddy, bibliophobe or otherwise. This work is an extraordinary overlapping and blending of so many fascinating ideas, issues and concepts including dealing with loss, being utterly unable to help someone deal with loss, mental illness, conspiracy theories, the seemingly uncontrollable spread of indistinguishable information and misinformation with which the internet is now saturated on mainstream news sites, on social media and in chatrooms, plus so much more besides. It’s a psychologically degrading, powerful mix that may well leave you feeling quite fatigued and perhaps a little more defenceless in face of the seemingly relentless and unpredictable insanity of the modern world. Well, that was my vibe.

 

 

But, despite feeling empty and also slightly emotionally blended myself when it was over, it was indeed a good kind of empty feeling. Though, I will categorically and emphatically restate for the record I don’t know anyone called Teddy. Actually, I do, thinking about it. He plays jazz trumpet professionally, but he doesn’t read comics. As least as far as I am aware. Which is a shame, because I think he might quite like them. Now, only I know at this point whether I am talking complete bullshit or dealing in facts*. Much like the deluge of both one receives when encountering any topic whatsoever on the internet these days. Though anything involving a degree of criminality, politics and medical advice seem particularly prone to, shall we say, wide-ranging opinions.

The empty feeling arose because I was left bemused by the ending. On the bare face of it, it is one of the most anti-climatic and perhaps unresolved endings I think I’ve ever read. The ‘perhaps’ is partly because of an ever-more sneaking suspicion I had building through the entire work was not addressed or resolved in any way. It is entirely possible, though, I had been led right up the proverbial garden path, quite deliberately so by Mr. Drnaso. Possibly paths plural. In fact, maybe even something akin to Hampton Court Maze for all I know. However, the more I reflected on it, the two-page epilogue that concludes this work was highly appropriate and probably note perfect.

 

 

The pull quote, by the way, comes from the last conversation between the titular Sabrina, domiciled in Chicago and shortly about to vanish off the face of the earth, and her younger sister Sandra. The Teddy in question is Sabrina’s boyfriend, who, rendered utterly dysfunctional, well, non-functional pretty much, in the face of her disappearance has decided to take off for Colorado to go stay with marginal childhood school friend Calvin, now in the US Air Force working at Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado in some nebulous security position.

 

 

All Teddy does pretty much all day is sit around Calvin’s house whilst he’s at work, listening to talk radio, one particular conspiracy theory slinger in particular being his rabid host of choice. Calvin, meanwhile, puzzled by the placid behaviour of his almost forgotten friend, whom, frankly, he was astonished called him at all, has started surfing the internet to try and get a handle on Sabrina’s disappearance and Teddy’s sudden arrival.

When a disturbing video hits the news and the media finally learn of Teddy’s whereabouts, Calvin finds not only his apartment and online presence being targeted by the legitimate broadcast media, but also those who have already got their minds firmly made up and equally firmly closed about Sabrina’s whereabouts. And those loony tunes aren’t above a few not-so-thinly veiled threats to try and ensure the, sorry their, truth comes to light…

 

 

One of the many clever little tricks to this work, was that alongside the clearly photoshopped / edited / blatantly made-up fake news evidence that finds its way into the wider public, and our own consciousness, is that I’m sure I spotted some odd inconsistencies amongst the supposed verified facts. It set me thinking, and kept me thinking, that I knew what was really happening. Right up until that ending…

In some ways, Calvin, grappling with being apart from his estranged wife and child in Florida and whether to take some covert black ops job he’s apparently a shoe-in for if he wants it, is the main character. He is our appointed representative in this world, with direct insight into Teddy’s very small one. Which is a very strange, and at times, very strained place to be. But once Calvin starts coming under direct electronic attack from the trolls, he finds his own peace of mind rapidly frazzling too. By the time the pre-ending ending rolled around, I was actually far more engaged in hoping Calvin got a happy ending than Teddy. Well, he gets an ending… And this is yours.

JR

Buy Sabrina and read the Page 45 review here

Gumballs s/c (£17-99, Top Shelf) by Erin Nations.

“My face has exploded in zits. I haven’t been this zitty since I was thirteen.”
“Let’s play connect the dots! At least let me drawn some constellations. I think I see Orion on your cheek.”

Helpfully, that playful observation came from the creator’s cat.

Erin Nations is a very funny guy!

He also has that knack for recalling absurd interactions which can only leave you scratching your head.  Sometimes he’s stopped in the middle of the street by complete randos who appear compelled to draw him into the sort of conversations you never asked for, debates you don’t want, and a barrage of personal questions you most certainly didn’t invite. Against all odds, Erin answers with a degree of bemused courtesy and restraint that they don’t deserve.

“The devil…”
“What?”
“The devil knows where you are going.”
“What are you implying?”
“The devil… he knows… prayer helps…”
“Good to know.”

 

 

Often they’re with customers at the grocery store where he’s worked in for 16 years.

“Can I get 24 balloons?”
“Yeah, what colours would you like?”
“Primary colours. Don’t forget orange and green.”

As Erin slightly more wryly observes, the customer always know best. 16 years of 40-hours-a-week experience does not make you an expert – or even 25+. I remember a media student kindly informing me that Marjane Satrapi’s PERSEPOLIS wasn’t a comic.

“Umm, it honestly is.”
“No, it’s autobiography.”
“I think you’re confused the medium with the genre.”
“Well, I’m studying it, so I should know.”

 

 

Peppered with fictional, speculative portraits of people posting personal ads, and the equally fictional poor, gay Tobias attempting to strike up conversations with dreamboats (badly – his proposed pick-up methods / messages are hilarious!), these are mostly autobiographical musings with clean, sharp lines, invitingly cool, bright, breezy colours and remarkably square jaws. Some of the memories are about being born a triplet (invited to a birthday party, they’re expected to each give a gift; when inviting a friend themselves, they only receive one present between the three of them), others are daily cycling journeys round Portland or trips further afield.

Mostly, however, they’re about anxieties in general like the crippling paralysis before picking up a phone and social awkwardness in a crowd (so into Page 45’s ever-expanding Mental Health Section this so usefully goes; no one need think they’re alone), and about so many of the all-too-real additional difficulties involved in being trans and the process of transitioning itself.

 

 

As such, it’s an invaluable eye-opener about so much that so many of us take for granted including restrooms, obviously, but far less obviously when the best time is to come out to your colleagues when you’ve worked with the same company for so many years. Before you begin? Before they notice? After they’ve noticed? It’s equally invaluable reference for those who’ve yet to begin this process, for in additional Erin is commendably candid about what to expect physically and mentally during Hormone Replacement Therapy, taking you through the first seven weeks, then later the first seven months. Without removing his clothes (“It’s just not gonna happen”).

“How do you feel?”
“I feel like I’m going through menopause and puberty at the same time.”

Ooooh, you get to do spots twice in your life – lovely! Hey, no pain, no gain, and there is everything to gain here, especially decreasing dysphoria. Responsibly, Erin considers the potential long-term effects testosterone could have on his health, but there are enormous benefits too including an almost immediate energy boost and an increased sex drive as well as a gradual surge in self-confidence. I’ll leave all the details to Erin: he’d probably like you to buy his book.

Some people are going to be dicks about it – haters gonna hate – but there’s a glorious short story called ‘Dive Bar’ in a dinner where an old lady with hunched shoulders, serving Erin and his mate, asks for ID. Erin’s is a driving licence still categorically classifying him “sex: F”.

“You cut your hair,” the old lady observes.
“Yeah.”
“So, what can I get you gentlemen?”

 

 

 

She totally got it, but in other instances, not so much: a woman on a bus is just plain weird and spoiling for a fight, while someone wizened, on a walking stick, begins thus:

“You’re not a guy, are you?”
“Why do you ask?”
“That guy was calling you sir.”
“Yeah.”
“I guess it’s none of my business.”

Hmmm…. Maybe you should have had that last thought first.

Other tales include failing to fit in at a comicbook convention simply because you’ve never having seen Star Wars (a fellow comics creator: “You should leave.” “I made sure to not tell them that I’ve never read Harry Potter, I’m clueless about anime, and I’m not a fan of superhero comics.”), plus childhood recollections about the triplets fighting (I had entirely forgotten about carpet burns!) and a seemingly haunted board game called Mall Madness (you’d be pretty spooked too).

There is, understandably, an awful lot of terrible, pained handwringing about using gender-specific public restrooms and indeed workplace restrooms when you’ve yet to come out, and if you’ve not considered how profoundly that would impact on your life, think about how often you urinate every day! Imagine, then, all the worry you’d experience, daily, in anticipation, during and after.

 

 

I want to emphasise, however, that this is no heavy read full of targeted anger but an honest-to-god entertainment along with astute behavioural observations which are seriously worth contemplating. Plus I adore any work which opens windows onto other people’s lives for the greater empathy through understanding they afford me. Lord knows, we need more of that in this world. But also, I’m instinctively curious which is why conversation is right up there for me with the best things on earth.

I won’t lie to you, though: ‘Breakroom’ hit home. As Erin later notes, “I try to call people out when they treat women (or anyone marginalised) as inferior. It’s not easy because it’s uncomfortable, but being silent is just as bad as being compliant”. No, it’s not always easy, especially when you risk compromising yourself in a battle you’re not yet quite fit to fight, so ‘Breakroom’ – when Erin fails to stand up and be counted after a co-worker proves deeply insensitive, not knowing that Erin’s transitioning – will give you much pause for hopefully compassionate thought.

SLH

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

Snotgirl vol 2: California Screaming (£14-50, Image) by Bryan Lee O’Malley & Leslie Hung.

“They don’t trust me to be on my own.”

If you got a slight shiver there, and a lick of whiplash at the arresting end to book one, this pursues this increasingly dark path further; and if you thought that the manipulative Caroline, above, was the real problem, then I’m no longer so sure.

I believe, in that scene, that she’s been sedated. It’s all in Leslie Hung’s art: in normally effusive Caroline’s more languid body language. Plus those particular pages seem to swim in the sort of colour quality you’d find refracted and reflected throughout an aquarium.

Are you wondering who “they” may be?

What I’m attempting to convey is that this series isn’t necessarily all that it appears on the surface.

 

 

Its surface is shiny enough – let’s call it magazine gloss – and vastly entertaining it is too with its up-to-date take on superficial social trends and ridiculous slang which SECONDS, SCOTT PILGRIM and LOST AT SEA’s Bryan Lee O’Malley delights in contributing to. When introducing the various strands of your extracurricular life to each other, for example, you’re practising “friendtegration”, and this is the sort of set who never phone, only text each other (even from the other side of plate glass windows), and proclaim “We have a mutual” rather than “We have a mutual acquaintance”.

They’ll be going to a self-serving convention called Thankstravaganza soon, built on the same site where a fashion blogger was recently murdered. Well, she’s not going to take that lying down.

 

 

I’ll be back on that track in a second. In the meantime, here’s how I introduced SNOTGIRL VOL 1: GREEN HAIR DON’T CARE

This is the sort of comic in which the line “Ok, back to reality” will have you snorting at its delusion. It’s fresh, full of fun, and has more jokes per page than anything other than a John Allison comic.

Meet Lottie Person, who seems so serene on the surface.

“I’m fresh. I’m fun. It’s just who I am.”

A fashion blogger with glossy green hair and a high hit rate, her life is pretty much perfect.

Her fans are devoted (she knows).
Her blogs are the best (she believes).
And that goes without saying (she blasés).
New verb!

“Except my friends are all horrible people.
“And my boyfriend decided we’re on a break.
“And oh yeah -”

OH NO!

“I have allergies.”

Also: huge hang-ups, such a thick catalogue of insecurities that it would need indexing, and a public veneer to sustain which is very high maintenance during any substantial pollen count.

 

 

 

It was (and continues to be) roaringly good fun, but then Caroline crept spellbindingly into her life and Lottie became fixated. There was an accident – which might have had something to do with Lottie’s trial run of a new anti-allergenic medication – and then there was another – which most certainly didn’t. It wasn’t even an accident. Caroline pushed Lottie’s ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend, Charlene, off the top of a roof terrace.

TBH she was being ever so annoying, LOLZ.

But someone else was there too on both occasions.

It’s Caroline’s brother or cousin, depending on whom you believe, and in volume two Virgil is positively ubiquitous.

 

 

 

There’s a very funny recurring joke about Virgil scurrying around on the floor to mop up any spilled coffee as if he’s Caroline’s butler…

“I am not!”

She spills coffee once again; Virgil flashes forward to clean.

Caroline, hand cupped around mouth conspiratorially: “His word against mine”.

… but predominantly Virgil’s ministrations are far more sinister, like dipping into a wallet left in a sports hall’s changing locker to acquire Lottie’s ex-boyfriend’s I.D.

 

 

Lottie’s ex-boyfriend is called Sunny. He’s pretty buff. Lottie’s fashion-friend Meg has a new fiancé called Ashley. He’s pretty brash, boastful, loud and lewd. Fidelity score: 1 of out 10 (if you’re being generous). He’s already brandished his zord in front of Lottie at his and Meg’s engagement party; now he’s quite keen, all sweaty post-squash-match, to show off his zord to Sunny. He snaps a cell-phone photo of the two of them together and posts it so swiftly online that a bewildered Sunny doesn’t even have time to draw breath. He does, however, spot Virgil lurking in the photograph’s background.

Sunny: “Was there a delivery guy in here?”
Ashley: “Why? You expecting a package? …Cuz I got one right here! Haha! It’s huge! C’mon, let’s hit the showers.”

 

 

They get into a rough-and-tumble altercation in the sauna during which both their towels fall off, only interrupted at the last minute by another of Lottie’s obsessive stalkers, a cop.( Let’s not get into any of that, but you could file him under “fashion police”.) Catching his breath, Ashley apologises ever so breezily:

“I’m sorry, dude! No hard feelings, man!”
Hard feelings? What’s up with your zord?!?”

Have you worked out what his zord is yet? It’s standing to attention. I couldn’t possibly publish Ashley’s excuse. Virgil might wish he’d lingered longer, however.

 

 

It’s all so deliciously and comically homoerotic, Leslie Hung proving herself to be a master of both priapic pixilation and but also tight buttocks fully on show. I’d have typed “tight, rosy buttocks” but would have looked far too fixated myself. (I was.)

 

 

The question is this, however: who wants what? Not just in the shower or sauna, but throughout:  who is manipulating whom, why, and to what end? Who is in on it? Who is out of it?

Well, almost all of them if you’re talking about their skulls, drugged up in the desert during the cover’s sapphic photo-shoot.

Again, what I am attempting to convey in this review which only dips its tentative toes into the series’ much more substantial and murky waters is that this is no mere comedy of manners. And hey, I love me a comedy of manners! In such a dexterously performed piece such as this, that would be quite enough to satisfy my soul.

But this is a much more open-air theatre with additional, decidedly closed confines which I suspect will only open up its other stalls when [You’re fired – ed.]

SLH

Buy Snotgirl vol 2: California Screaming and read the Page 45 review here

Wet Moon vol 6: Yesterday’s Gone (New Edition) (£17-99, Oni) by Sophie Campbell.

The darkest hours aren’t necessarily at midnight.

GHOST WORLD for goths with pvc, piercings and hair dye – that’s how WET MOON started out: an empathic exploration of the uneasy friendships between a group of hesitant, second-guessing, slightly paranoid girls at college, and a celebration of their far-from-standard body forms with the silkiest, most tender of art. Over five previous volumes those friendships have expanded and blossomed or withered and died. Some have shared secrets, as do more here.

But all along there were intimations of heart-ache and horror lurking beneath the surface, as if something was simmering in the swamp all around them, and then someone they never noticed stewing within. In WET MOON VOL 5 she finally erupted, her seething psychosis taken out on one of those friends in act of extreme violence which made everyone I know truly wince.

This is the emotional fall-out, and it’s handled with all the depth it deserves.

 

 

So many other creators would have cut all too quickly to the chase – the pursuit of the culprit concerned – but that’s not what happens in real life. Instead they are left dazed, bewildered by a butchery they could never see coming and still, throughout, oblivious to its source. All they care about is their friend. She’s the only person who knows who did it, and I’m afraid she’s deep in a coma.

 

 

Six volumes in, I have to be ever so careful what I say, but I hope I’ve intrigued potential new readers. I love this series so much that I’ve reviewed every volume and this isn’t my best shot, I know.

Everyone handles grief differently, unpredictably, depending on where they are right then in their lives. Sophie Campbell has entirely understood that. Her humanity and sympathy leaps from every page. No one is judged, and as they struggle to console each other whilst needing consolation themselves, we wait for our woman to wake up. Will she?

 

 

“I hate this waiting, Mara. Waiting an’ waiting for somethin’ to happen. Takes so much energy.”

Lots of lingering silence and exceptional use of clothing…

 

 

Once again, this is far from predictable. Not everyone wears their true hearts on their sleeves.

SLH

Buy Wet Moon vol 6: Yesterday’s Gone (New Edition) and read the Page 45 review here

Dark Nights: Metal h/c (£24-99, DC) by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV & Greg Capullo, Mikel Janin, Alvaro Martinez…

“Whoa. Big door. Vic, I’m sending you over the image…”
“Got it, Barry. I’ve run it over a thousand times already. But it keeps coming up unknown…”

Said big door being on the entrance to the hidden bunker in the centre of the huge mountain that has just materialised in the middle of Gotham City… destroying most of the city centre, sky scrapers and all…

Long-time DC fans will immediately recognise it as the base of the Challengers Of The Unknown, who these days work for… ah, well that would be telling. I enjoyed how Snyder weaved in all sorts of DC history into this tale right from the off, be it references to individual bat-books such as BATMAN: THE RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE written by Grant Morrison, or lesser-used third-string characters like the C.O.T.U.

 

 

It is a bit weird having to remember in this current version of the DC Universe that the Justice League has no idea who the Challengers are yet (Batman aside, obviously, being his usual know-it-all self). I think there was also a very odd, brief-lived, New 52 incarnation involving reality TV ‘stars’ as the Challengers if the memory serves.

Anyway, DC never particularly worried about re-writing their history with the various Crises and other events over the years. There are also a couple of much more familiar characters who crop up in this issue too, who will be very well known to even casual DC readers. If not the Justice League, yet…

 

 

So… following on from events in the Dark Days: The Forge and Dark Days: The Casting one-shots, now collected with a host of relevant reprinted New 52 issues in DARK DAYS: THE ROAD TO METAL, something not so fun and cuddy from… elsewhere… is on the way, apparently being drawn to this reality in some strange way by Bruce Wayne, who could actually do with a good cuddle, so that’s a shame.

There’s a nifty and amusing explanation involving a certain poster of the New 52 Multiverse (also thrown in DARK DAYS: THE ROAD TO METAL as back matter) that probably graced more than a few comic shop walls a few years back which sheds an absence of light on the situation, and that’s probably all I should really say by way of plot explanation at the moment.

I was, and still am, perplexed by the prologue battle that will titillate fans of enormous, transforming Japanese robots… I’m still oblivious as to precisely what wider purpose that served. I commented in my review of the first issue that this event had the potential to get completely preposterous, but hopefully Snyder could keep it on track. He did, just about, but only just.

 

 

There are a few conceits in there that test the old suspense of disbelief, it must be said. It’s certainly big, convoluted, bombastic fun, though, and truly an infinite number of times better than the crisis of writing that was CONVERGENCE. I think I can safely rank this up there with CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS and FINAL CRISIS in pure madcap superhero event enjoyment terms.

Capullo, meanwhile, continues to dish out his impressive linework. He and Snyder, the team primarily responsible for the BATMAN DC NEW 52 run, are excellent foils for each other. If as a writer you are going to try and cram in that much action, you do need someone that can deliver clean, precise mayhem.

JR

Buy Dark Nights: Metal h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Cloud Hotel (£17-99, Top Shelf) by Julian Hanshaw

The Adventures Of John Blake: Mystery Of The Ghost Ship s/c (£9-99, David Fickling Books) by Philip Pullman & Fred Fordham

Arthur And The Golden Rope s/c (£7-99, Flying Eye Books) by Joe Todd-Stanton

The Heart And The Bottle (£6-99, HarperCollins) by Oliver Jeffers

This Moose Belongs To Me (£6-99, HarperCollins) by Oliver Jeffers

It Will All Hurt (£16-99, Image) by Farel Dalrymple

Rumble vol 4: Soul Without Pity s/c (£14-99, Image) by John Arcudi & David Rubin

The Beauty vol 4 s/c (£14-99, Image) by Jeremy Haun, Jason A. Hurley & Matthew Dow Smith, Thomas Nachlik

Luisa: Now And Then (£22-99, Humanoids) by Carole Maurel, adapated by Mariko Tamaki

Madame Cat (£9-99, Humanoids) by Nancy Pena

Vietnamese Memories Book 1: Leaving Saigon (£14-99, Humanoids) by Clement Baloup

Hellboy: The Complete Short Stories vol 1 s/c (£22-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola & Richard Corben, Duncan Fegredo, Mick McMahon, Fabio Moon, Gabriel Ba, Dave Stewart, Matt Hollingsworth, James Sinclair, Clem Robins, Pat Brosseau

A Quick & Easy Guide To They / Them Pronouns (£6-99, Limerence Press) by Archie Bongiovanni, Tristan Jimerson

Flash vol 6: Cold Day In Hell s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Joshua Williamson, Michael Moreci & Howard Porter, Scott Kolins, Mick Gray, Pop Mahn, Christian Duce, Scott McDaniel

DC / Young Animal: Milk Wars s/c (£16-99, DC / Young Animals) by Steve Orlando, Gerard Way, Jody Houser, Cecil Castellucci, Jon Rivera, Magdalene Visaggio &  Aco, Ty Templeton, Mirka Andolfo, Langdon Foss, Dale Eaglesham, Nick Derigton, Sonny Liew

Defenders vol 2: Kingpins Of New York s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & David Marquez, Micheal Avon Oeming

Invincible Iron Man: Ironheart vol 2: Choices s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Stefano Caselli, various

Dark Souls Covers Collection (£26-99, Titan) by various

The Beautiful Death h/c (£21-99, Titan) by Mathieu Bablet

Voices Of A Distant Star (£10-99, Vertical) by Makoto Shinkai & Mizu Sahara

 

 

 

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews June 2018 week one

Wednesday, June 6th, 2018

Featuring Ellen Forney, Karl Marx (!), Friedrich Engels (!!), Martin Rowson (!!!), JH Williams III, Gary Spencer Millidge, Julian Voloj, Thomas Campi, Grant Morrison, Darick Robertson, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Kevin Crossley-Holland, Jeffrey Alan Love and so very many more in such a good cause!

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

“Guns are bad. The world is madness. Being a victim sucks. Conspiracy is strangling the truth.
“How am I supposed to poetically dramatize that in a couple of f%@*! comicbook pages?
“And to people who already know this.
“Everyone buying this book is doing it because they feel the same silent rage.
“It’s not like I’m going to shock and surprise them with my unique take!
“Vegas happened because we’ve tilted off our axis. And we all know it. We know!”

That’s Brian Michael Bendis, there. Please don’t worry, Brian, we are just so very, very grateful that there are people as eloquent and caring as you and the other 100+ writers and artists that gave their time and energy to espouse not just what we all know, but what we all feel.

 

Art by Gabriel Rodriguez

 

Before we go any further, let me give thanks by listing them in full, not least because to put them at the top where we normally do would break both our initial blog and the product page itself:

Rafael Albuquerque, Laura Allred, Michael Allred, Paul Azaceta, Henry Barajas, Jennifer Battisti, Brian Michael Bendis, Deron Bennett, Aditya Bidikar, W. Haden Blackman, Jeff Boison, Tyler Boss, Simon Bowland, Ivan Brandon, Bernardo Brice, John Broglia, Giulia Brusco, Ryan Burton, Kurt Busiek, Aaron Campbell, Mike Cavallaro, Craig Cermak, Cliff Chiang, Janice Chiang, Amy Chu, Sal Cipriano, Jeromy Cox, Christopher Crank, Rachel Crosby, Dee Cunniffe, Andrew Dalhouse, Nelson Daniel, Geof Darrow, Al Davison, Kelly Sue DeConnick, J. M. DeMatteis, Will Dennis, Michael J. DiMotta, Gustavo Duarte, Aaron Duran, Joshua Dysart, Pierce Elliott, Joshua Ellis, Mark Englert, Taylor Esposito, Triano Farrell, Lucia Fasano, Ray Fawkes, Joshua Hale Fialkov, Marco Finnegan, Tim Fish, Kelly Fitzpatrick, Tess Fowler, Tom Fowler, Rachael Fulton, Neil Gaiman, Monica Gallagher, Eric Gapstur, Michael Gaydos, Kieron Gillen, Isaac Goodhart, Sina Grace, Brandon Graham, Justin Gray, Stefano Gaudiano, Lela Gwenn, Brian Haberlin, Jason Harris, Matt Hawkins, Ray-Anthony Height, Daniel Hernandez, Talia Hershewe, Phil Hester, David Hine, Joe Illidge, Van Jensen, Jocks, Scott David Johnson, Joëlle Jones, Justin Jordan, Liana Kangas, Jarret Keene, Ryan Kelly, Eric Kim, Neil Kleid, Todd Klein, Dean Kotz, Ariel Kristiana, R. Eric Lieb, Jeff Lemire, Matt Lesniewski, Greg Lockard, Lee Loughridge, Marissa Louise, Andrew MacLean, Ollie Masters, Mariah McCourt, Jamie McKelvie, Mike Mignola, Mark Millar, Gary Spencer Millidge, Fábio Moon, B. Clay Moore, Moritat, Joe Mulvey, Patricia Mulvihill, Andrea Mutti, Chris O’Halloran, Michael Avon Oeming, Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou, Richard Pace, Greg Pak, Alex Paknadel, Chas! Pangburn, Tony Parker, Michael Perlman, Pere Perez, Alex Petretich, Sean Phillips, Curt Pires, Nick Pitarra, Vladimir Popov, Javier Pulido, Cardinal Rae, Christina Rice, Jules Rivera, Darick Robertson, James Robinson, Gabriel Rodriguez, Robert Rose, John Roshell, Chris Ryall, Rafael Scavone, Erica Sthultz, Alex Segura, Kelsey Shannon, Alex Sheikman, Bill Sienkiewicz, Casey Silver, Gail Simone, Damon Smith, Matthew Dow Smith, Taki Soma, Matt Sorvillo, Jason Starr, Cameron Stewart, Dave Stewart, Matt Strackbein, Shaun Steven Struble, Ken Syd, Larime Taylor, Sylv Taylor, Paul Tobin, Noel Tuazon, Bryan Valenza, Geirrod Van Dyke, David Walker, Gabriel Hernández Walta, Malachi Ward, Dustin Weaver, Chris Wildgoose, J. H. Williams III, Kelly Williams, Scott Bryan Wilson, Chris Wisnia, Wendy Wright-Williams, Warren Wucinich

 

Art by Chris Wildgoose

 

In addition, J.H. Williams III (PROMETHEA, SANDMAN OVERTURE), resident of Las Vegas, has acted as the curating editor, which must have been quite the task given that the 75 contributions contained within the covers – the front one featuring a logo which is an inspired reworking of the iconic Welcome To Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada sign combined with a thought-provoking vista – are an extremely varied mixture of eye-witness accounts brought to harrowing life, plus fictional stories and factual works which hauntingly illustrate this tragic shooting, currently the most deadly in modern US history with 58 fatalities and over 500 injured, and also the wider issues, be that the political football of gun control, comparative global statistics on spree-killers, mental and physical health issues for traumatised survivors, and so much more.

For example, Brian Michael Bendis’s contribution from which the pull quote above is taken (illustrated by Michael Avon Oeming, Taki Soma and lettered by Bernardo Brice), covers his own frustration at wishing he had done more personally to overtly oppose the lack of gun control in the US and his admiration for the teenage survivors of the Parkland shooting who are bravely standing up to be counted, and consequently viciously attacked for it by the right-media media, plus clueless vile trolls both online and in the real world.

 

Art by Phil Hester

 

I note for example that the family home of Parkland survivor, and subsequent vocal activist, David Hogg – who has even been accused of being a paid-for actor not even present at the shooting by conspiracy theorists – was recently ‘swatted’. A troubling and highly dangerous new phenomenon whereby someone falsely (and anonymously) reports a serious crime in progress at a particular address hoping that the householders will be hugely inconvenienced, if not indeed fatally shot (as has happened) by the rapid and heavily armed law enforcement response, typically involving SWAT teams, hence the slang term. Fortunately for David and his family, and perhaps not a little ironically, they were in Washington D.C. where David was receiving the Robert F. Kennedy Humanitarian Award. Only in America…

You can do your bit, though, however small that seems, by buying this work as 100% of the net proceeds for the WHERE WE LIVE anthology will be donated to Route 91 Strong, a non-profit organization set up to help survivors of gun violence.

 

Art by Gary Spencer Millidge

 

It is such a diverse selection that it is tricky to put forward a favourite, if that’s the right word to use concerning such material, but Gary STRANGEHAVEN Spencer Millidge’s ‘The Watershed’, really stuck with me. It features a gun-toting action film hero plucked from the big screen to be educated by the ghost of a young girl about the recent history of mass shootings, both in the US and worldwide, including Dunblaine in Scotland, and the widely varying governmental responses and consequent statistical results.

 

Art by Gary Spencer Millidge

 

It also finishes with a couple of very salient observations concerning the Second Amendment, including that the arms which citizens should have the right to bare were of entirely lesser orders of magnitude in terms of killing power when it was originally written. The readily available precision-made modern assault rifle, replete with targeting scopes and bumpstocks for firing up to 120 rounds per minute, bares absolutely no comparison with a muzzle-loaded single-shot ‘long arm’ rifle. Thus, surely, the Second Amendment should be errr… amended?

One day, maybe…

 

Art by Michael Gaydos

 

Actually, just putting my future hat on again, and stepping into 2000AD-esque territory for a minute, what might hopefully ultimately make lethal weaponry irrelevant – aside from better mental health services, improved background checks on people wanting to buy guns, and if we can get carried away for a moment, the demise of the military-industrial complex – is improved non-lethal weaponry.

If cops could actually take down criminals in any and every given situation without needing to employ lethal force, be that through disorientating sonic weapons, ultra-fast acting sedative darts or indeed instantly hardening riot foam or some other crazy futuristic devices, then there is no  excuse whatsoever for private individuals to legally have lethal weapons. Tasers are a start, clearly, but it seems like police, some poorly trained American ones certainly, just think they are there to be used on unarmed people to execute a quick arrest, rather than actually trying to talk to people and understand what the problem is. So true, effective, 100% safe, non-lethal weaponry, meaning guns can be dispensed with by everyone, including the majority of law enforcement – given a certain other burning issue of the day in the US currently – would be a good and helpful thing.

 

Art by Aaron Campbell

 

As I say, one day maybe… Not so fussed about having Judges passing instant sentences and dispensing <ahem> righteous justice, though. But surely at some point, common sense in the US will begin to prevail amongst the majority of the population, even if it takes another generation or two, and then gun crime statistics and spree killings may finally begin to decrease.

JR

Buy Where We Live: A Benefit For The Survivors In Las Vegas s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Artist Behind Superman – The Joe Schuster Story s/c (£17-99, Super Genius) by Julian Voloj & Thomas Campi…

“You look like you haven’t eaten in days.”
“Ah…”
“No worries. My treat.”
“Maybe some soup?”
“Soup it is. What didya do for a living?”
“I did comics.”
“Oh nice. Anything I would know?”
“Well…”

Our opening prologue commences on a beautiful sunny day in a tree-lined park in Queens, New York, in 1975. An elderly man sleeping rough on a bench is taken by a kindly young cop to have some much needed breakfast, only to find to his surprise that he’s eating with one of the creators of Superman. The cop is obviously puzzled as to how Joe Schuster could have possibly ended up like this and when he asks him the question our story proper begins, narrated in the first person, with a subtle shift to a more period art style, right back to when Joe was a lad.

 

 

 

In fact, this starts slightly beforehand as we get the story of how Joe’s mother moved to North America from Russia with her sister. Along the way in Rotterdam they fell in love with the Russian Jewish owners’ sons of the hotel they were staying in and got married, before all heading off to Toronto together. Eventually, Joe and his mother and father would end up in Cleveland, which is where Joe would meet Jerry Siegel at Alexander Hamilton Junior High School where both were contributors to the school paper, The Federalist.

The two chums hit it off instantly and were soon collaborating on stories for the paper, before beginning to dream of finding a wider syndicated circulation for their creations. After some initial trial and error, both in terms of content and carrier, their fledging Superman character was snapped up by Nicholson Publications for inclusion in their Action Comics publication.

 

 

This was when Joe and Jerry made their fatal mistake by signing a contract which waived all future rights to the Superman character in exchange for a cheque for $130. A cheque which had the ignominy of both their names being spelt incorrectly, ensuring much embarrassment at the bank when they went to cash it. That contract proved to be an extremely costly error which haunted Siegel and Schuster for the rest of their lives.

The subsequent chapters of this fascinating work shows their toiling endeavours to eke out a living in the industry, firstly working on ACTION COMICS and SUPERMAN, all the whilst mentally calculating and crucifying themselves over how much the publishers were creaming in, and their unsuccessful efforts to create another winner. Plus, every time another piece of merchandise appeared, or the 1950s TV adaptation and finally the smash 1978 film starring Christopher Reeves, it was like another hammer blow to their hearts and indeed, mental well being.

 

 

Eventually a compromise deal was reached, which provided them with a very belated stipend and credit for their creation, but it took a lot of pressure from within the industry, led by Neal Adams, to make it happen and even then, it was little more than a token nod from Warner Brothers, nervous that the bad press whipped up might affect box-office takings.

If you’re a true fan of comics and are aware of some of the various injustices perpetuated on creators by publishers over the years (and I note with some interest that the name DC Comics never actually appears anywhere in this work, presumably to avoid any litigious issues), you’ll find this a heartbreaking if informative and entertaining read.

 

 

Art-wise, the watercolour style palette and illustrative style reminded me rather of some Kyle Baker, but generally it provides the perfect historical feel for the work. The lack of pencils neatly and dreamily captures the sense of bygone days and a mythical American golden era. When the art shifts back to the pencilled, slightly more focussed style, in the mid-seventies for the wrap-up pages, it only serves as a further jarring reminder that for Siegel and Schuster, their creation, so universally beloved by the public, had been little more than a waking nightmare for them their entire careers, a ubiquitous omnipresent reminder of their youthful moment of naivety.

JR

Buy The Artist Behind Superman – The Joe Schuster Story s/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

“In this sense, the theory of the communists may be summed up in the single sentence…

… abolition of private property!”

Thereafter follows an intense Q&A discussion with the crowd at the Boojie Nights Kapitalist Komedy Club Open Mic Nite as Karl Marx performs his routine for the assembled Proletariat and Bourgeoisie. This particular line, as you perhaps might expect, provokes a disgruntled reaction from both sides of the crowd as rich and poor alike attempt to justify the continued existence of private property whilst Karl counters their arguments.

The thorny issue of private property, particularly land or dwellings, is something I have pondered myself before, but whilst envisaging a Star Trek-esque future where humankind has hopefully evolved past money completely. Presumably because automation of work has forced us all onto the dole to start with, but then assuming we manage to achieve some sort of utopia where there is a plentiful surplus supply of food and energy for all (through nuclear fission, I would imagine), hopefully currencies will subsequently experience the ultimate devaluation.

 

 

3D printers (basically replicators!) should mean people can produce pretty much anything they need, or indeed want, on the spot. All that would remain for debate in this new world… is who gets to live where… In this glorious new age of equality, if no one has to work, surely everyone is going to want the best weather and views? Unless the private ownership of all land and dwellings is removed and the right to live somewhere decided entirely at random, and perhaps not in perpetuity, people who owned said land are going to want to live on it. Or indeed charge someone else for the privilege. Hmm…

Of course, where the utopian Star-Trek model I referred to earlier will go totally tits up is when the ultra-rich start to hoard life-extending technology at the expense of everyone else, if they haven’t already… Currently they spend their money on maintaining their outward appearances, but once the process of avoiding errors creeping into RNA replication is cracked, near-immortality beckons, and do you seriously believe that will be shared with everyone? Apologies if you have heard me rant on about this before.

 

 

No, of course not, and the excuse will be that the limited resources of our planet couldn’t possibly sustain everybody suddenly not dying. Which is a fair point actually. So, probably the best for all concerned, which is what they will tell us, is if the great and good, the leaders of men, keep said technology for themselves (see LAZARUS), to help humankind steer the tricky course out to colonising the stars. And presumably exporting rapacious capitalism to the rest of the solar system and beyond…

You can make the case, despite Martin Rowson’s assertions in his foreword that at one point in time since Marx’s death in 1883 nearly “half of humanity would be governed nominally according to the ideas and aspirations originally expounded in The Communist Manifesto…” and that “…in the 21st century over a fifth of us, for good or ill, would be still.” that true Communism, in its purest sense as envisaged in this manifesto, has never been practiced. I would personally concur with that, because to my mind, until we have limitless energy, and by extension, thus an abundance of resources of all kinds, and thus need and want are completely eliminated, we can’t evolve past Capitalism. Of course, we should still try to be kind to everyone and practice compassion in the meanwhile. Which could very easily lead me on to a discussion regarding the Venn diagram of Buddhism and Communism, but that’s for another time…

 

 

Wonder what Karl Marx and Engels would have had to say about all that down the pub…? Which is actually where they spent most of their time fomenting and indeed fermenting this document that upon its completion, sat virtually ignored for thirty years, before being rediscovered and championed as a blueprint for egality.

Also, what would Martin Rowson say? I’d be very interested in hearing that actually. He’s done an excellent job adapting what is, in essence, a very dry polemic, for entertainment as well as our education. Marx is our ever-ebullient narrator figuratively and quite literally walking us through numerous full-page spreads with his exuberant overlaid exhortations, along with a handful of more discursive pages of panelled comics, such as in the Komedy Club, when Marx needs an audience to further his lecture. Overall, partly due to Rowson’s choice of spidery handwritten lettering, seemingly done with a quill, it has the feel of an extended political cartoon. Which isn’t remotely surprising, given he’s an editorial cartoonist by trade.

 

 

I think this is a very worthy adaptation, purely because anything which further disseminates important ideas to a hopefully new, as well as knowing and already appreciative audience, in such a satirically amusing manner, is a good thing. As would be pure Communism, if we ever get there.

JR

Buy The Communist Manifesto and read the Page 45 review here

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

“How are you?”
“I’m okay.”
“What’s going on?”
“I don’t know. Things are just… overwhelming.”

Following on from her MARBLES: MANIA, DEPRESSION, MICHAELANGELO & ME in which she talked about her experiences with mental illness with remarkable candour, Ellen Forney returns, this time with the aim of providing fellow suffers with an insight into her own personal blueprint for surviving, indeed thriving, in the face of such adversity.

We still get some revealing personal anecdotes in comics form to help illustrate a pertinent painful point or two, often surprisingly humorous in nature, but the accompanying primary body of material here is squarely aimed at directly helping people through analysing Ellen’s own experiences and what has, and hasn’t, worked for her.

Thus, with chapters on therapy, coping tools and strategies, dealing with insomnia, medication, warning signs, where to engage with like-minded people and book-ending chapters covering the basics and some general encouragement, this is effectively Ellen’s own survival guide to Bipolar Disorder, though as she comments in the first chapter, it is also relevant for any mood disturbance.

The physiological wheres and whyfores surrounding the causes of such issues are dealt with just as clearly here as in Steve Haines’ and Sophie Standing’s excellent ANXIETY IS REALLY STRANGE. But where ROCK STEADY really comes into its own is in the practical, often hard-won, insight and advice Ellen is then able to offer on the various topics mentioned above. It’s extensive in scope, and should provide a useful toolkit for anyone needing to tinker under their own proverbial hoods, either independently or under the guidance of an appropriate medical professional – something which Ellen also touches on.

I would heartily concur that, as the sub-title proclaims, this advice is indeed brilliant.

I think that knowing one isn’t alone is an important part of having the confidence to try and deal with one’s mental suffering. Yes, it can be incredibly difficult to even conceive of trying to open up and look forward, go deeper into one’s problems, instead of turning away and hiding from them, but knowing that other people have been where you have been before, and managed to progress towards a degree of stability, is an immensely important fillip. There is indeed an entire chapter devoted to that subject. The whole book will form another very valuable part of the ever burgeoning canon of comics and graphic novels dedicated to helping educate about and support our mental health.

Into Page 45’s Mental Health Section this, therefore, goes.

JR

Buy Rock Steady – Brilliant Advice From My Bipolar Life and read the Page 45 review here

Happy s/c (£9-99, Image) by Grant Morrison & Darick Robertson.

“AS SEEN ON TV!” as hastily repackaged collections are so quick to squeal.

But hey, the middle-aged bloke who served me at Sainsbury’s had seen the series, taken note that it was based on a comic, and he knew who’d written it. Never read a comic before in his adult life. That’s pretty cool, so however shall I sell it to you…?

Profanity, hot bullets and blue Brony action!

Many sarcastic thanks to whichever of my sympathisers on Twitter explained the term ‘Brony’ to me before the launch of MY LITTLE PONY comics, following a flock of five adult fellows in a single swoop pre-ordering the MY LITTLE PONY #1 COMPLETE BOXED SET at £18-99 each. I cannot unlearn what I now know to be true, so I may never fully recover. What I learned was this:

There has been a surge of what could loosely be called man-love for that saccharine pink pony, and those enjoying such a wayward cultural misalignment are called Bronies. Now, I’m hardly the butchest boy in the box and obviously Page 45 is an all-inclusive, non-judgemental love-in for all manner of diverse penchants and pleasures… but there are fucking limits.

 

 

By which I mean: “That’ll be £18-99, please. Thank you very much! You are so loved!”

And honestly, you are.

I’m just being cheap and I deserve any / all flack that I get.

But how could this possibly be of any relevance to a Grant Morrison and Darick Robertson comic?

 

 

Well, Happy here is a feathered blue pony with big, bulbous, bright shiny eyes, a purple unicorn horn and accentuated, goofy front teeth. Knowing Grant Morrison you may seriously doubt this, but potentially he’s the product of a delirious imagination as ex-Detective Nick Sax is sped across town in an ambulance after receiving several gunshot wounds in part-exchange for having murdered the four Fratelli brothers. They thought they were on a mission to axe our Sax, but it was no-nonsense Nick who hired them in the first place. The police are swift to the scene but that’s good news for no one except the Fratellis’ Uncle Stefano who’s determined to keep it all in the family – “it” being the Fratelli fortune. Unfortunately no one bothered to tell him the password and the only person still alive who knows that now is Nick. 

Corruption is the order of the day on the snowy streets of God Only Knows and torture/interrogation will follow, all kindly overseen and endorsed by New Jersey’s Finest in the form of Maireadh McCarthy who’s firmly in Uncle Stefano’s pockets. Time to send in arch-information extractor Mr. Smoothie:

“I feel like the ghost of a hard-on that will not die.”

 

 

Along the way we meet a drunken paedophile dressed up as Santa (you’ll meet him again – and, after Nick knows where, you’ll know when), while Sax quite casually and coincidentally dispatches a serial murderer in a prawn costume smoking a spliff from a back end of a hammer which was five seconds away from coming down on the head of a prostitute blowing him to blissful oblivion. Did I mention it’s Christmas?

From the writer of WE3, NAMELESS, JOE THE BARBARIAN, THE INVISIBLES and DOOM PATROL etc. comes something akin to THE FILTH only without the giant, flying spermatozoa. Profanity abounds and he’s set out to sully the holiday season whilst lobbing in the incongruity of bright-eyed chirpy-pants Happy The Horse who claims to be Hailey’s imaginary friend sent to Sax to rescue her from the plastered paedo. 

 

 

TRANSMETROPOLITAN’s Darick Robertson is on his best form ever with masterfully slick choreography, the sturdiest of figure work and eye-popping street scenes all beautifully lit and then coloured to perfection by Richard P. Clark.

SLH

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

Fantastic Four: Epic Collection vol 2 – The Master Plan Of Doctor Doom s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby.

Welcome back to sixteen more issues of very weird science!

See the Fantastic Four fly the Fantasti-car without first deciding on a designated driver… straight into a giant milk bottle!

Gasp as Mr. Fantastic stretches high in the sky to pluck a couple of missiles off the bottom of a fighter plane going at, oh I don’t know, a thousand miles an hour!! He doesn’t even have to unlock them!

Laugh as poor Johnny – the Human Torch whose flame can melt through rock and metal – is put out by a single vase of water!

“Put out of action by a plant pot!” he gasps.

It’s a vase, you dimwit.

“I’ll never live it down!” he wails. And he won’t.

 

It really *is* a vase.

 

It’s key material, with all the regulars from The Mole Man, Doctor Doom and Diablo to Namor the Submariner making another of his oh so many seductive moves on Susan Storm. You may want to read about his first foray in FANTASTIC FOUR EPIC COLLECTION VOL 1 during which I had a field day because, honestly, distil their origin:

Saying “No, sir!” to NASA, four thieves steal a space rocket, and strangely we applaud.

 

And I really *wasn’t* making that up.

 

The X-Men guest-star as does Dr. Strange, and even Nick Fury in what might be his first appearance as Colonel as opposed to Sergeant. He’s working for the C.I.A. rather than S.H.I.E.L.D. which hadn’t yet formed, and is mightily concerned about America’s investment in San Gusto, a “showplace of democracy” surrounded by commies into which the US has sunk billions. Apparently the citizens are revolting, so Fury enlists the Fantastic Four’s aid to interfere with yet another nation’s affairs because, as he so righteously pronounces, “We couldn’t interfere in another nation’s affairs!”

Not until the C.I.A. or George Bush Jr. told him to, anyway.

What I haven’t mentioned yet is that this is all the result of the Hate Monger who has set up shop in San Gusto before travelling to New York to spread his racial hatred in mass rallies that incite the crowd to violence. This was Stan Lee’s first full issue tackling that most “un-American” of American sentiments upon which the country was virtually founded and which it has systematically practised or endorsed ever since (in an overt nod to the KKK, the Hate Monger is wearing a purple version of their cowardly cowl).

 

 

[Oh dear god, I wrote all of the above, verbatim, over a decade ago, and now we have Donald Trump as American President, praising white supremacists as “fine people”, while Nazi swastikas were ignited, just the other night, in Georgia without any arrests that I’m aware of.]

Lee is, of course, to be unequivocally commended for this first and his future attempts to liberate his readers from the predominant social attitudes around them by having his heroes vocally reject racism for the poison that it is, as he went on to do in AVENGERS EPIC VOL 2. It’s just a shame that it had to involve a fictional hypnotic Hate Ray, for the human race is perfectly capable of being swept away by the likes of Moseley, Trump and Hitler, the BNP, UKIP and the British Tory Party as it stands, without anything more conducive to racism than its own ignorance, ill-founded fear and desperate desire for conformity.

Where Stan Lee hasn’t yet seen the light, however, is with Women’s Lib. For although for the first time here Sue Storm begins to discover and experiment with turning objects other than herself invisible and utilising an extended invisible force field, she is overwhelmingly still in thrall to wigs and dresses and, well…

“You know, Reed, this measuring device to test my invisibility would make the kookiest hat!”
“Just as I thought! You have greater powers of vapidity than you suspect, Sue!”

Sorry, what he actually says is “invisibility” not “vapidity”, although you can see what he’s thinking. In fact you can read what he’s thinking half a dozen pages later when he snaps at his go-to girlfriend:

“Just like a woman!! Everything I do is for your own good, but you’re too scatterbrained to realise it!”

 

Hmmm…

But wait, perhaps Stan is having a go at the dismissive male by condemning him, Jane Austen-stylee, through words from his own mouth?! Ummm… no.

“That man!!” she seethes. “I know he’s right… and that’s why I’m angry!”

The undoubted highlight, however, is when the Hulk hits New York in a rage of rejected jealousy when he discovers a newspaper clipping Dr. Bob Banner has left crumpled in his giant purple pants: news that The Avengers have replaced him with Captain America for whom he’s been forsaken by BFF Rick Jones. If memory serves, the Hulk had actually told The Avengers to fuck off in no uncertain terms, but that Rick thing’s sure gotta sting.

Unfortunately The Avengers are hunting the Hulk down in New Mexico, and as the Hulk hits town (and the town’s subway system, its subway trains, its skyscrapers, its news vendors, water hydrants and anything else that gets in his way) Reed Richards succumbs to a bout of man-flu. Neither the Human Torch nor the Invisible Girl survive long under the viridian vandal’s relentless assault, so the way is paved for the biggest one-on-one slug-athon so far to determine the answer to that immortalised question:

“Who is stronger, the Thing or The Hulk?”

 

 

 

 

And it is truly epic. There’s a speedboat chase, a battle on top of the Washington Bridge, plus buses, buildings and electric cables all play their part as improvised hand-weapons while Ben Grimm (The Thing) valiantly soldiers on well into the second issue without a hope in hell of winning. It is, however, when The Avengers finally show up… that they get in each others’ way. Of course they do!

Except Captain America who’s smart on tactics, quick on his wits and, unlike the pill-popping Ant-Man / Giant Man / Amazing Identity Crisis Man, totally drug-free. Here’s the Hulk:

“Try to lecture me will ya?? I’ll — Hey!! How can you move so fast??”
“Clean livin’ does it, Sonny!”

Yes, the Captain is Straight Edge!

I was so impressed with that pronouncement aged 6 that I used it everywhere: in the playground, right round The Rough with my mates… even when my Mum wondered how I could possibly eat so much ice-cream: “Clean livin’ does it, Sonny!”

 

 

Better still is the cover to that second issue (#26) set high on a nascent skyscraper’s skeletal girders, the Hulk at its apex and Rick holding on precariously to a corner, while all nine of our colourful combatants fly or climb towards them both. Structurally, it is magnificent, Giant Man no more than twice the size of the others for fear of tipping the balance of the composition too far in his favour and destroying the framing rhomboid which moves your eye around the piece in exactly the same way as the most famous of Caravaggio’s three ‘David With The Head Of Goliath’ paintings.

I’m not making this shit up.

Nor for once am I making this up when the raging hormone that is Johnny Storm, zapped by the Hate Ray mentioned earlier, gets his emotions confused after his sister Sue Storm douses his flame:

“Try that again, and I’ll forget you’re my sister — which would be a pleasure!

Johnny!

Bonus Jack Kirby cover / Caravaggio comparison point:

 

 

Follow the Torch’s fiery trail from left to right, then right to left as he turns towards the Hulk; your eye then moves a little further along the girder the Hulk’s holding up before dropping down towards Rick Jones then further left along the girder falling diagonally towards the street; finally Thor completes the loop as your eye moves back towards the Torch’s trail and the artfully placed yellow-on-green caption at the bottom. Repeat: you won’t be able to help yourself.

With Caravaggio, it’s not quite a rhombus but certainly a right-angled quadrilateral similarly pitched. Follow the slant of the left-hand side of David’s head down to his shoulder and thence through the shadow to the shine of the sword at its hilt; then down the length of the sword, tellingly, to the crotch; up and to the right is the object of his victory and desire, Goliath’s head, then the shape is completed back up to the head via the length of the boy’s visible, outstretched arm.

 

Yes, it’s that old chestnut.

 

You’re welcome.

Contains FANTASTIC FOUR #19-32 and Annual 1-2

SLH

Buy Fantastic Four: Epic Collection vol 2 – The Master Plan Of Doctor Doom s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Norse Myths – Tales Of Odin, Thor And Loki h/c (£18-99, Walker Studio) by Kevin Crossley-Holland & Jeffrey Alan Love.

“Kevin Crossley-Holland is the master.”

 – Neil Gaiman

I don’t have any evaluation for you here, so sorry, because it’s illustrated prose, and I’m currently addicted to Yuval Noah Harari’s ‘Homo Deus’, his sequel to ‘Sapiens’ which was so stunning that I read it twice, back-to-back in order to assimilate its revelations. Eloquent and entertaining, the books thoroughly and thoughtfully contextualise the history (then potential trajectory) of human life over the last 70,000 years ever since our Cognitive Revolution. Expect to be mind-blown every other page.

We can order prose in for you too, if you like. It’s as easy as pie, and all available within the week as one-off requests or to pop in your Page 45 Standing Orders.

Anyway, every spread here is strikingly illustrated by Jeffrey Alan Love and if today’s Young Adults are anything like me, they’ll still be lapping up epic mythologies. The photos I have for you are Love’s own from home, taken from Twitter.

 

 

 

 

 

While reminding you of what Neil ‘Norse Mythology’ Himself wrote, above, here’s the publisher instead:

“An extraordinary and enthralling illustrated anthology of Norse Myths from a Carnegie-Medal winning author. The gods of the Vikings come to life as never before in this extraordinary illustrated anthology by Carnegie Medal-winning author Kevin Crossley-Holland and artist Jeffrey Alan Love. These dramatic, enthralling and atmospheric tales are based on the Scandinavian myth cycle – one of the greatest and most culturally significant stories in the world – and tell of Odin with his one eye, Thor with his mighty hammer and Loki, the red-haired, shape-shifting trickster.

“In this stunning collection of myths, the strange world of ancient magic, giants, dwarfs and monsters is unforgettably imagined.”

SLH

Buy Norse Myths – Tales Of Odin, Thor And Loki h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

About Betty’s Boob h/c (£26-99, Archaia) by Vero Cazot & Julie Rocheleau

The City On The Other Side (£12-99, FirstSecond) by Mairghread Scott & Robin Robinson

The Day The Crayons Quit s/c (£7-99, Harper Collins) by Drew Daywalt & Oliver Jeffers

The Day The Crayons Came Home s/c (£7-99, Harper Collins) by Drew Daywalt & Oliver Jeffers

Gumballs s/c (£17-99, Top Shelf) by Erin Nations

Hellboy And The BPRD – 1955 (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, Chris Roberson & Shawn Martinbrough, Brian Churilla, Paolo Rivera

John Carpenter’s Tales Of Science Fiction – Vault (£8-99, Storm King Productions) by James Ninness & Andres Esparza

Tomorrow (£7-99, BHP Comics) by Jack Lothian & Garry Mac

Wet Moon vol 6: Yesterday’s Gone (New Edition) (£17-99, Oni) by Sophie Campbell

Dark Nights: Metal h/c (£24-99, DC) by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV & Greg Capullo, Mikel Janin, Alvaro Martinez

Hal Jordan And The Green Lantern Corps vol 5: Twilight Of The Guardians s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Robert Venditti & Patrick Zircher, various

Tales Of Suspense: Hawkeye And The Winter Soldier s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Matthew Rosenberg & Travel Foreman

Mouse Guard: Autumn 1152 h/c (US Edition) (£18-99, Archaia) by David Petersen

Battle Angel Alita – Mars Chronicle vol 3 (£9-99, Kodansha) by Yukito Kishiro