Archive for July, 2018

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews July 2018 week three

Wednesday, July 18th, 2018

Right, I’m flying solo this week, and we’ve received such a bounty of books that I’m going to attempt to evoke as many as I can in the hours allotted to me without going into attention-dissipating detail. Hang on to your hats, because there are some belters!

– Stephen

Delilah Dirk And The Pillars Of Hercules (£13-99, FirstSecond) by Tony Cliff.

Time to raid some tombs!

“The inscription seemed to have been composed in an early Arabic script. That is a simplified explanation, of course; an expert in such matters would be able to draw more fine-grained distinctions. But the characters looked vaguely familiar, and the linguistic construction wasn’t completely mysterious.”

Ah, dear Selim! It is our former Turkish lieutenant who will be doing the deciphering here, along with the narration; it is he who will discern the most vital buried treasure in the form of an astrolabe of sorts, determine its use on unearthing further components, and sniff out the real rat long before Delilah’s woken up to its considerable, charm-masked dangers.

But before all that, there’s a ship off Anatolia’s south Turkish coast, at stormy sea and seeking sanctuary in Adalia’s harbour. Unfortunately, that harbour is defended by a fortress owned by a local, self-regarding tyrant called Küçuk, and it’s about to get very Assassin’s Creed indeed!

 

 

 

“If the Isobel came too close, the fire from the fortress would turn her into a cloud of wooden splinters – such was the nature of Küçuk’s trade management policies and the strength of his cannons.”

Welcome to the third Young Adult DELILAH DIRK adventure, whose linguistic strengths are every bit as impressive as the art, whose nocturnal and sunlit landscapes are nothing short of spectacular and whose athletics and balletics are exhausting to behold!

 

 

It’s historical action adventure set in the early 1800s, and if you recall my previous reviews I was deeply impressed with the American author’s research, for he understood that there was no single British stately home style during the period concerned, and reflected this in his variety: he drew a cosy country pile built from locally sourced stone at night, a more grandiose, garden-centric, Restoration-era mansion during the day and, for the ball, one very aptly with a Palladian facade. Perhaps he watches a lot of BBC Jane Austen adaptations. Either way, top marks.

Here we’re on Mediterranean ground, sweeping all the way from coastal Turkey to the east, thence to Algiers in North Africa further west, before trekking inroad to do that Lara Croft thing once again, and finally resurfacing, knee-scraped and ever so dusty, slightly north.

 

 

The Pillars of Hercules, you see, do geographically exist (sort of). They’re reputed to have been the on either side of the Strait of Gibraltar, that gateway or “naval lynchpin” of enormous strategic military and commercial value. It is after following the trail there that our crew of Delilah, Selim and a Dutch journalist called Laurens Van Hassel will discover the most spectacular architectural enterprise ever attempted on their third and final descent underground, but if you believe that there is no such thing as bad publicity, this may well give you much pause for thought.

 

 

I don’t want to give too much away – and this certainly isn’t necessary for enjoying the heck out of this best adventure yet – but if you’ve enjoyed DELILAH DIRK’s previous escapades…

Nah, I think I’ll leave it there. Do keep a careful eye out, though!

The past may be a foreign place, but it does hold one heck of a passport.

 

 

 

Cliff surprises on so many levels, not least in that Küçuk isn’t the only one here displaying a degree of unseemly self-regard, and I like that our Delilah proves far from perfect, so needs her travelling companion more than ever, not only to pick out the physical astrolabe, but be her moral compass too.

SLH

Buy Delilah Dirk And The Pillars Of Hercules and read the Page 45 review here

The Times I Knew I Was Gay (£9-99, Good Comics) by Eleanor Crewes.

Deliriously good-humoured, bright, breezy and fun, this has far broader in appeal than its titular remit suggests.

It’s emphatically not about being gay and it’s about far, far more than discovering you’re gay: it’s about discovering your individuality, whoever you are, and it’s a testament to Eleanor’s individuality that I recognised so little of it in my own hilariously dim-witted journey. I’ve never done self-aware!

The key image to this chirpiness is dear, dear Crewes cheerily waving from an open-door, airy and comfortably spacious closet!

It’s not something she’s ever been trapped in – she didn’t even realise there was one, let alone that she’d been residing within it for so long that her rent was overdue – so there’s no darkness here, only light.

 

 

She’ll be merrily popping back and forth from that closet so many times it isn’t true, coming spontaneously out as gay to friends with a grand announcement at 01:30am on 1st January 2014 (good timing!), before diving immediately back into boys and waiting two whole years before jumping joyfully out four more times.

“It wasn’t such an epiphany as last time.
“It was more like… small moments of clarity.”

That, I definitely recognise!

 

 

I particularly enjoyed Eleanor coming out separately to her dad, her mother, her brother and her bedroom. Yes, her bedroom. She had to tell her bedroom first.

“I threw the words around my room, a place where I had slept since I was a baby. The wallpaper, decorations and bedding had changed over the years but this room was mine. It had housed me over all this time, so it felt right that it was the first to know.”

There’s some delicious verbal imagery coming up!

“I lay in bed and imagined the words squeezing out from under my door, finding themselves in the hallway and splitting off – some ran into the bathroom and laid against the cool of the tiles, others slipped downstairs, spilling over the banister and splashing up the walls of my kitchen – they sped into the living room and pulled open the books, tore out the words and replaced them with me. Me and my house were roaring into new life whilst also staying exactly the same – “I’m gay!””

The medium, as I say, is a free-form fusion, bursts of pencil illustrations pouring out onto the paper before and after bouts of more in-depth illustrated prose. The forms grow grander as Crewes’ self-confidence blossoms, putting me firmly in mind of Eleanor Davis (WHY ART? YOU & A BIKE & A ROAD and HOW TO BE HAPPY), while her young schoolgirl mouth gapes innocently away like Simone Lia’s do (see FLUFFY, PLEASE GOD FIND ME A HUBAND etc).

 

 

On to secondary school and Miss Oblivious’s flirting techniques with boys – all three steps of them – are determined: research each boy meticulously (clothes, television shows), execute extensive prep (buy matching clothes, devour entire TV seasons over the weekend), then…

“As soon as I know that they fancy me back, decide it’s too stressful and what you’ve now built as friendship is too valuable to potentially lose.”

Young Eleanor mops her brow. “Phew.”

 

 

There will be plenty about Buffy and Willow…

“The Buffy craze turned into something much bigger.
“The Buffy craze turned into the Willow craze and that was a different kind of craze altogether.”

… and wait until you meet Eleanor’s fab family!

Telling her Dad: awwww!

What a family of lovelies!

SLH

Buy The Times I Knew I Was Gay and read the Page 45 review here

The Academic Hour (£17-99, Secret Acres) by Keren Katz.

“The lesson will begin in five minutes.
“We must all get rid of a horse.”

It’s an unusual school, as you shall see.

I’m not sure if getting rid of the horse was a prerequisite for the lesson to begin, or whether it’s the lesson itself. Neither would surprise me, nor does the equine presence within the confines of classroom itself, for this is as mad as a bag full of spiders.

And if you think the instruction is surreal enough, the students’ strategies to achieve their objective will prove stranger still, their ministrations as unorthodox as the task they’ve been set, and that horse, well, it don’t wanna go, no matter their attempts to corral then coax it out of the door. You’ll see it desperately clinging to the back of a classroom chair with its front quarters, its hind hooves standing on tippy toes.

Some students take a direct approach, while others perform gymnastics on nearby tables, perhaps in some sort of luring, arcane ritual. I think the horse will win that one.

 

 

As to the subsequent ‘Anatomy Lesson’, it’s all a bit like the Beatles’ animated ‘Yellow Submarine’ only with much more white space on crisp, white, open-plan pages and prettier clothes patterns: lots of fish scales or snake scales or even chain mail. I’m seeing Aubrey Beardsley as well. There are a fair few dandies here too, and the fresh, bright colours are predominantly blue and slate-grey, with flames of yellow and slices of red.

Evidently the school takes a hands-on approach to anatomy. Well, hands-off, really. And legs. It’s more of a practical than a theoretical class, with syringes, pliers and meat cleavers

“Patella continued arching her back. She knew better than to take the stairs.”

Good call.

“Class begins.
“Only three students have made it.”

I am far from surprised. The architecture makes Escher look safe.

 

 

It begins thus:

“This is the story of Prof. Pothel and Liana set in a school founded and designed by a team of renowned architectural professors accepting only students who have been involved in car accidents but who have never broken any bones. The school was designed so that during the course of their studies, and by way of the conduct within campus, they would break everything they were supposed to break before.”

Okay, then.

It’s told in a sequence of illuminated love letters from Liana to disgraced Professor Pothel, who has a past involving automobile accidents himself – if only at a distance, obsessed over from his bedroom window as a child – and a future as a crashed car himself. It really is pretty pummelled. Please see “spiders” and the bag thereof. It’s when the cemetery starts moving in pursuit of the physical bus that the metaphorical train comes off the tracks completely.

Both the words and images tumble onto the page. Everything tumbles. It’s ever so sensual.

 

 

I’m not entirely sure whether or not this is an amphigory in its truest sense, but the absurdist narrative positively delights in contradictions, contortions and non-sequiturs.

“If two or more people are able to find their way up there without using the stairs, then that means they are the same person. There are no stairs leading up there.”

Try this attempt at a tryst:

“I keep your last note in my pocket: “Please try to meet me after class. I want to see how far we can both venture outside campus before we run into each other.””

Then, when you least expect it, things do make some sense:

“Once someone tricked me into a dream guessing game; he said: “Start asking me about my latest dream.  I will answer only yes or no”. Then after asking him thirty questions, I got nowhere close to knowing what his dream was about. But he knew exactly what mine was about.”

SLH

Buy The Academic Hour and read the Page 45 review here

Die! Die! Die! #1 (£3-25, Image) by Robert Kirkman, Scott M. Gimple & Chris Burnham with Nathan Fairbairn.

“She was nineteen.”
“That’s funny. I said that with a different tone as a defence.”

Oh, how I wish I could quote you the three preceding sentences in that exchange, but we don’t use those words around here!

As the cover may suggest (“I’m Paul.” “I’m Nate.” “I’m drunk.”) this is all very Warren Ellis (think INJECTION), and a tremendously funny first issue from the writer of THE WALKING DEAD comic, the showrunner of ‘The Walking Dead’ TV series Seasons 4 to 8 who left to co-write this, and the artist on Grant Morrison’s NAMELESS.

It was also a massive surprise because it arrived on our shelves last Wednesday, unannounced, without us having even ordered it because it was never solicited in PREVIEWS!

 

 

The idea behind that – which I wholeheartedly applaud, along with its successfully clandestine execution – was to make visiting comic shops exciting again. As Kirkman has written, there is so much information on the internet now that a comic series can be announced up to a year before its publication and that’s a long time to sustain any interest. Instead, here you go – BOOM!

We begin in Shrewsbury at the greyhound races, with an elderly man dropping his betting ticket. A younger, pretty bloke picks it up off the floor, handing it back to grateful gentlemen. Only, it isn’t the one which the pensioner dropped. It’s just as well, because he’d have lost his bet, having backed the wrong horse.

Instead he’s won, big-time.

 

 

Believe it or not, that’s merely one nudge in a ridiculously elaborate ruse formulated by the woman at the bottom of the cover, a US Senator, to completely ruin then murder a British Member of Parliament and Cabinet Minister without drawing too much attention to it. The murder, I mean. She wants him well ruined first, and in public, for he’s a paedophile. She’s snorting cocaine at midnight after what must have been a most excellent night of sex if the pert pair of bare buttocks on her sofa is anything to go by, and, as she does so, she reveals in the intricacies of her plan in minute, carefully calculated detail, including the permutations which wouldn’t quite work and so were shelved. A key element was that the old codger at the race track, no relation to the MP whatsoever, needed to become exceedingly wealthy.

The Senator, you see, is running an organisation within the United States government which is as covert as the operation required to get DIE! DIE! DIE! so secretly onto our shelves.

Unfortunately her plan begins to unravel in the Shropshire countryside on the very second page as the pretty young man speeds through the rural idyll on a motorbike, only to be pursued by a Landrover whose driver displays all the Highway Code courtesy of a BMW tail-gater. (Which is a tautology, I know.)

 

 

The breezy self-confidence and acrobatic, pugilistic prowess of our secret agent is such that you know full well how that’s going to pan out, but the writers are no more slacking throughout than the line and colour artists. They deliver a dry-stone English B-road to die for / beside, and some crotch-ripping high kicks to make you thank goodness for stretchable fabrics.

 

 

Cracking final-page cliffhanger, craftily set up well in advance as to provide an immaculate three-beat punchline.

I’m sorry…? Very much recommended, to adults only, yes.

SLH

Buy Die! Die! Die! #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Come Again h/c (£22-99, Top Shelf) by Nate Powell.

“Desire disguised as a joke, betrayal as trust.”

Begins creepily enough, becomes increasingly worrying, hits a high screech of horror and then veers into completely unexpected territory.

There’s nothing like a hidden door underground, seen through a wound of a hole in the bank of a hill, to make your stomach start churning early on.

Let’s hit the publisher up for a hint, eh?

“As the sun sets on the 1970s, the spirit of the Love Generation still lingers among the aging hippies of one ‘intentional community’ high in the Ozarks. But what’s missing? Under impossibly close scrutiny, two families wrestle with long-repressed secrets… while deep within those Arkansas hills, something monstrous stirs, ready to feast on village whispers. National Book Award-winner Nate Powell returns with a haunting tale of intimacy, guilt, and collective amnesia.”

 

 

If the name Nate Powell rings a bell it’s most likely to be as the artist on the MARCH trilogy as told by Congressman John Lewis himself, or the similarly civil-rights-orientated struggle THE SILENCE OF OUR FRIENDS or perhaps even the Young Adult THE YEAR OF THE BEASTS which was partly about self-image. I found all those thoroughly affecting.

A woman lives with her son in said small “intentional community” uphill and well away from the town down below. You infer early on from the way her eyes wander over the other occupants in their communal dining room that she’s not exactly comfortable.

“One of the hardest concepts to teach my Jake now is to mind his own business… In a community like this we are each other’s business.”

Probably not the best environment in which to carry on an illicit affair, then, even behind a hidden door underground. The cost of burying secrets can be higher than you think. Kids do like to explore, don’t they?

 

 

The darkness is terrifying, and there’s plenty of that, I promise you.

SLH

Buy Come Again h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Entropy (£17-99, Secret Acres) by Aaron Costain.

“Let me fix that spelling mistake for you.”

 – The angel to one of the golems, casually readjusting the Hebrew inscription on its forehead.

There’s so much dry and casual comedy here.

Beloved by both Kate Beaton (STEP ASIDE POPS! and HARK, A VAGRANT!) and Jesse Jacobs (CRAWL SPACE and SAFARI HONEYMOON), this took ten years to materialise in full. Extraordinary, then, that it should be so coherent in its conclusion, after a succession of revelations towards the end which are so startling that you’ll want to begin at the beginning all over again and re-read it with the fresh eyes of hindsight.

I say, sir publisher, what do you have for us this time?

 

 

“Aaron Costain’s ENTROPY follows a golem with a surprisingly modern sensibility, and an even more modern sense of style, as he backtracks through millennia to understand his own creation. ENTROPY takes place at the intersection of the world’s cultures. Mythologies and religions cross-pollinate, bleed into one another, and form a new soul from synthesis – or they will if our epic hero can outrun man-eating giants, a vicious army of crows, a mute doppelgänger, an angel and one very manipulative, slave-driving cat.”

Now, that’s a bit misleading. It sounds as if the chap time-travels, but he doesn’t go anywhere much, not fast. Instead, clad in gear to protect him from an irate Raven forever on the look-out to pick the poor guy’s eyes out, he’s talking to himself and sounding off to an angel, agonising over his immediate origins (who spawned him) and a mixed bag of creation mythologies from millennia ago which he feels to be in conflict. Ah, all these unnecessarily fretful questions about shared fictions really are their own problems, aren’t they?

Meanwhile the angel’s priority is far more mundane – he just wants to get out of the rain.

 

 

Kate Beaton likes that it asks the Big Questions. It doesn’t; it asks utterly unnecessary ones which might even be its point given later developments, but I’d compare it to Anders Nilsen’s BIG QUESTIONS in its eerie, limbo-like state, the only evidence of humanity being what it has left behind: abandoned buildings, equipment, clothing – and there’s precious little of that.

It’s very quiet, apart from all the talking animals. But he’d be much better off if they left him alone. He certainly would be wise to avoid listening, trust me.

 

 

I adore the clean lines of the well weighted figures. Even the textures are clean-lined, be they mountain ranges, wood grains of tree-trunk barks which look like a maze.

There are some superb deployments of silhouettes, and the angel is dazzling. There’s a terrific use of negative space against radiating lines, until the angel adjusts in order to not blind our wandering, quite lost protagonist, then even then the way he radiates instead from within is mesmerising.

 

 

Oh, I so want to run with the last clause of that sentence, but you’ll have to hang on for the final reveals.

SLH

Buy Entropy and read the Page 45 review here

Poochytown h/c (£17-99, Fantagraphics) by Jim Woodring.

In which there is a truly startling development in the longstanding relationship between Manhog and the ever-curious (“Don’t touch that!”) Frank. Pupshaw and Pushpaw will prove true to form, though. There’s a not-so-fine line between loyal protectiveness and rampant jealousy, isn’t there?

Prepare yourself for another book of strange transformations.

Do excuse me, I’ve an in-coming call from the publisher…

“Beginning with CONGRESS OF THE ANIMALS and again in FRAN, Jim Woodring’s beloved anthropomorph Frank has been subjected to hundreds of unbelievable adventures and yet nothing could prepare him for the transdimensional depredations of Poochytown, the latest and greatest installment in the ongoing saga. Utterly devoid of topicality, irony, or deliberate cynicism, the Frank stories are instead timeless cartoon sustenance, and Poochytown is the most opulent offering yet.”

 

 

I’ve now written so many words on Jim Woodring that I have nothing to add, I can only reemphasise my admiration for works which are so powerful that I am known to dream in Jim Woodring.

CONGRESS OF THE ANIMALS is sadly out of print, so I can’t send you in the direction of that review, but please see instead my extensive investigations of WEATHERCRAFT, FRAN  and THE FRANK BOOK for detail on similar journeys (these are all journeys), and the very different JIM H/C for another side to this visionary.

I tell you what, though, there has never been a more exotic colouring book, if that’s what you crave.

SLH

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

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

More joke-orientated than Jeffrey Brown’s purely observational, behavioural cat comics (CAT GETTING OUT OF A BAG and CATS ARE WEIRD), there are still plenty of feline foibles to recognise here, albeit given an anthropomorphised twist as Madame Cat attempts to justify her manic bursts of often inexplicable activity and her vocation to destroy any and all fabrics, especially if they’re your favourites.

Some of the jokes, often spread over two pages, are surprisingly complex. Yes, cats do love lolling about on the piece of paper you’re trying to write or draw on, and they’re forever getting in the way of your computer screen to attract your attention, as well as treading on your keyboard, thereby inventing new words with far fewer vowels than seems likely, so that you appear to be typing in tongues. You know what I mean:

“sdafhh dasxxhtrp jkklhjiggybipbopbap”

 

 

However, the real sabotage has all been pre-planned. Here’s Madame Cat lapping up a Photoshop manual for kitties while creator Nancy Peña screams at her screen in horror:

Delete without confirmation: press Alt + Delete (left hind paw and right front paw)
Hide all panels: Tab
Clear all history permanently: Alt + Delete History (left hind paw, and one front claw on the History panel).”

 

 

It’s definitely the cat’s behaviour being analysed here, rather than humans’ reactions to their presence as touched on occasionally Sarah Andersen’s HERDING CATS, whereas I seem to recall that Seo Kim’s CAT PERSON covers both.

 

 

In some ways this is closer to Paul Tobin & Ben Dewey’s extended narrative I WAS THE CAT, but it in no way resembles Sherwin Tija’s double whammy YOU ARE A CAT PICK-A-PLOT BOOK and YOU ARE A KITTEN too, both of which are prose and likely to leave any young ones with long-lasting childhood traumas and their guardians with much explaining to do.

I’ve photographed my favourite two-pager here for you, twice. It’s beautifully set up, and the final expression on the cat’s face is priceless.

 

 

 

SLH

Buy Madame Cat and read the Page 45 review here

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

Sequel to the same creative team’s grin-inducing THE DAY THE CRAYONS QUIT in which a spectrum of hard-worked wax crayons wrote a series of letters alerting young artist Duncan to their put-upon plight.

I found it very moving.

Here, they have switched to postcards, which we send from afar, because some of our wax wonders have gone walkies.

Well, they do that, don’t they?

Some fall down the back of the sofa or roll under the heavy settee. Others get forced by tiny fingers down the small holes in the sink causing a Mysterious Blockage (THAT WASN’T ME, MUM!), while more get dropped on the garden path, misplaced on holiday or carried away by the dog which perhaps mistakes yellow for a lump of tasty cheddar cheese.

 

 

These, then, are essentially a series of S.O.S. messages addressed to:

“Duncan,
“Duncan’s Bedroom,
“Upstairs
“This House”

Not even the Italian mail could fail to deliver those successfully.

The Crayons have gone a little bit upmarket since we last saw them. They’re no longer merely Blue or Purple but Maroon (perfect for colouring scabs) Neon Red, Burnt Sienna, Glow-In-The-Dark (it really does glow in the dark for maximum bedtime squeals!!!) and Pea Green.

Although Green isn’t sure that anyone likes peas, so he’s changed his name to Esteban.

 

 

Yellow and Orange have stopped squabbling since THE DAY THE CRAYONS QUIT. They’ve come together, united, made up. They have bonded! Quite literally, as it happens, for they’ve been melted together by the very source of their former feud, the sun.

Two do display a genuine wanderlust, though Neon Red’s geography seems a bit off, but if the first book cannot help but ignite renewed creativity, hopefully this sequel will instil an increased sense of tidiness.

The punchline comes in the form of how Duncan will now safely store his collection of chopped, chomped, regurgitated and otherwise misshapen crayons, in a sort of access-friendly, all-inclusive cardboard community centre which includes a “wee door” (not necessarily for weeing in, I hope) and a “look-out point” which couldn’t be much more misaligned.

 

 

Oh, Duncan!

SLH

Buy The Day The Crayons Came Home s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Long Red Hair (£14-99, Conundrum Press) by Meags Fitzgerald.

“But mom, your character has an 18 Charisma. I want to be beautiful too.”
“It’s always better to be smart than pretty. And 13 isn’t bad. You should be happy with average.”

Ouch.

Thankfully, mom’s not talking about school grades or life in general: the family’s playing Dungeons & Dragons.

However, however, on the page immediately following:

“In my family I was sandwiched between siblings and at school, bookended by the loud and the quiet, the rich and the poor, the cool and uncool. I felt unnoticed and daydreamed, even prayed, for an Ugly Duckling type outcome. I simultaneously strived to stand out and nestled myself in averageness, a comfortable place for an introvert.
“The middle was, if nothing else, safe.”

 

 

That’s Fitzgerald’s starting point, after which she darts back and forth in time, charting her development from a childhood full of make-believe and fantasy (D&D, spooky television, dressing up) to an adult life of learning, self-discovery and – in conversation with a friend – exploring their relationships with regards to societal norms (books, books, books, being single, bisexuality etc).

Even in adulthood Fitzgerald remained fascinated by the likes of witchcraft, but on a more historical, socio-political level, citing ‘The Malleus Maleficium’ published in 1487 as the beginning of women’s woes there.

“It spread the idea that people with abnormalities like birthmarks, moles, red hair, or left-handedness, were likely witches…
“An estimated 40,000 to 60,000 people were executed for witchcraft, most of them women.
“It was enforced by the Church and governments because the pagan movement was empowering women and growing rapidly, “disturbing” the order.
“I heard the trials were an excuse to sentence homosexuals to death, who had nothing to do with witchcraft.”

Nor did 99.9% of the others!

 

 

However, Fitzgerald gets a taster for these suspicious minds even in childhood during one of many sleepovers involving innocent dress-up and acting that goes unexpectedly, religiously, catastrophically wrong.

This is the first time I’ve heard of any family wishing each other Happy Friday 13th, but this has nothing to do with the dark arts and everything to do with her parents’ first meeting as teens on that date at a church dance!

If you enjoy your Greek mythology, this is explored on another book that capture’s Fitzgerald’s interest, ‘A History Of Celibacy’. She and Elise enjoy discussing these histories before applying them to their present. See “being single”.

Between the present and the distance past lie those difficult teenage years, rebellion almost a given. Fitzgerald was no exception, so out up goes the punk hair dyed with a strong streak of red, and out comes the dinner-table attitude and outbursts. Especially the one big out-burst: the proclamation of bisexuality, followed by a hasty, sobbing retreat upstairs.

She could have just passed the gravy, as requested.

 

 

Finally and thankfully I am reading far many more happy instances of coming out, after hearing years and years of rejection horror stories, and I’m delighted to report that this is another, with several extra, thoughtfully supportive and empowering surprises from mom and dad to make you smile. I wish everyone had it so easy.

The forms inside are very soft in a Sally-Jane Thompson way, with extra pencil shading – very different from the cover – and of course red is going to feature prominently!

SLH

Buy Long Red Hair and read the Page 45 review here

Monsters (£17-99, Secret Acres) by Ken Dahl.

“Dahl’s excellent cartooning and humour make this book required reading for anyone who has had sex, is going to have sex, or wants to have sex.”

 – Jeffrey Brown (FUNNY, MISSHAPEN BODY etc.)

If you’re prepared for the nightmares, anyway: if you begin this book for god’s sake please read it right until the end, then the epilogue. If you don’t, you’ll be left with so many misconceptions or, at the very least, puzzled.

And if you don’t already adore the NHS, you will once you’ve read this. The things we take for granted…

Top-shelf trauma, this is Ken Dahl’s autobiographical account of his ordeal with a strain of herpes which doesn’t just occasionally give you the odd cold sore: it gives you a mouth full of agonising monstrous pustules, and the same downstairs, both front and back. These are depicted. Explicitly.

He passes it on to his girlfriend then, when she experiences a very painful outbreak herself, he scrambles to suggest that it was she who gave herpes to him instead. Nice.

Communication breaks down into a precarious silence. Terrific sense of alienation: there are things much more lonely than being alone.

Single, he gets drunk with work colleagues, and then is so plastered at another party that when he’s approached by a girl who’s depicted as positively radiant with health… he kisses her too.

 

 

So I guess the titular Monsters aren’t just the sores, though they too come alive in some spectacularly grotesque, morphing art.

There are plenty of similar “Noooooooo!” moments here, but some of them are funny, like the panel when Dahl’s dog licks the milk out of his cereal bowl and his formerly dozing cat’s eyes open wide. It’s so subtle you might miss it.

Then, without medical insurance, there’s his constant search for alternative treatments to at least alleviate the symptoms.

“None of them really seemed to do anything… But that doesn’t stop them from charging top dollar. Because ever snake-oil merchant knows that, when you’re in pain and without access to proper healthcare, you’ll swallow pretty much anything that promises a cure.”

Which is witty. There’s a sign below one tonic which reads:

“So Fucking Expensive It MUST Work!”

Finally scraping together some degree of self-control he tries dating by disease – i.e. other people with herpes. Turns out that defining yourself by your disease don’t give you even a clue as to character. Who’d have thunk it?

 

 

Stats on offer include that 75% of Americans are thought to have herpes and if that then starts making your eyes narrow slightly at what you’ve been reading, mine did too… so do please wait for the epilogue.

SLH

Buy Monsters and read the Page 45 review here

The Collected Works Of Filler Bunny (£10-99, SLG Publishing) by Jhonen Vasquez.

“THANKS FOR COMING
“(Call the police.)”

In which a pink bunny is jabbed repeatedly in the head by a hypodermic needle and injected with whatever it takes to keep the comic going.

Yes, it’s mother of invention time.

When creators attend conventions they find it useful to have something to sign and to sell – a print or a comic – to help pay for their way and give their readers an incentive to visit their tables. Jhonen Vasquez, creator of JOHNNY THE HOMICIDAL MANIAC and SQUEE and INVADER ZIM, found himself in need ahead of a San Diego Comic Convention so turned the first of these four fillers around in 24 hours.

That’s what these are: fillers. Far from deceitful, Vasquez sets out his stall immediately: he had to fill fifteen pages without a clue how to do so except subject poor Fillerbunny to as much pain as possible. He ran out of ideas on page six. Didn’t matter: that was the joke.

 

 

Of FILLERBUNNY #3: MY WORST BOOK YET, Mark wrote:

“This book is a bestseller at Page 45. Hordes of dark munchkins sweep through the shop on a Saturday, examine the same shelf as always, point at a few things and then leave. It’s a thing.”

He wasn’t joking.

SLH

Buy The Collected Works Of Filler Bunny 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’.

The Shaolin Cowboy: Start Trek h/c (£22-99, Dark Horse) by Geof Darrow

The Days Of Hate vol 1 s/c (£15-99, Image) by Ales Kot & Danijel Zezelj

Dork h/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Evan Dorkin

The Beef: “Tainted Love” – A Biochemical Romance s/c (£14-99, Image) by Richard Starkings, Tyler Shainline & Shaky Kane, John Roshell

Carnet De Voyage h/c (£14-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Craig Thompson

Exits (£13-99, Koyama Press) by Daryl Seitchik

Hellboy Omnibus vol 3 s/c (£22-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola & Duncan Fegredo

Herakles Book 1 h/c (£15-99, Lion Forge) by Edouard Cour

How To Be Alive (£6-99, Retrofit) by Tara Booth

Invisibles Book 3 (£22-99, Vertigo) by Grant Morrison & Phil Jimenez, John Stokes, Michael Lark, Chris Weston, Keith Allen, Marc Hempel, Ray Kryssing

Iron Bound (£18-99, Secret Acres) by Brendan Leach

Jughead: The Hunger vol 1 s/c (£15-99, Archie) by Frank Tieri & Joe Eisma, Pat Kennedy, Tim Kennedy, Michael Walsh

League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen vol 3: Century (Complete Edition) s/c (£15-99, Top Shelf / Knockabout) by Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill

Lumberjanes vol 9: On A Roll (£13-99, Boom!) by Shannon Watters, Kat Leyh & Carolyn Nowak

Mighty Star And The Castle Of The Cancatervater (£13-99, Koyama Press) by A. Degen

The Pterodactyl Hunters In The Gilded City h/c (£17-99, Secret Acres) by Brendan Leach

Rome West s/c (£14-50, Dark Horse) by Brian Wood, Justin Giampaoli & Andrea Mutti

Shipwreck s/c vol 1 (£15-99, Aftershock) by Warren Ellis & Phil Hester

The Song Of Aglaia h/c (£17-99, Fantagraphics) by Anne Simon

The Ballad Of Halo Jones (Colour Edition) vol 2 s/c (£9-99, Rebellion) by Alan Moore & Ian Gibson

Batman & Robin Adventures vol 3 s/c (£22-99, DC) by Ty Templeton, Hilary J. Bader, Kelley Puckett & Bo Hampton, Brandon Kruse, Joe Staton

Suicide Squad vol 6: Secret History Of Task Force X s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Rob Williams & Barnaby Bagenda, various

Invincible Iron Man: The Search For Tony Stark s/c (£22-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Stefano Caselli, Alex Maleev, various

Marvel Two-in-one s/c vol 1 Fate Of The Four (£15-99, Marvel) by Chip Zdarsky & Jim Cheung, Valerio Schiti

Ms. Marvel vol 9: Teenage Wasteland s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by G. Willow Wilson & Nico Leon

Spider-Man Deadpool vol 6: WLMD s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Robbie Thompson & various

Golosseum vol 2 (£12-99, Kodansha) by Yashushi Baba

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews July 2018 week two

Wednesday, July 11th, 2018

Featuring David B., Luke Pearson. Olivier Kugler, Dan Abnett, I.N.J. Culbard, Ron Regé Jr., Igor Hofbauer, Anna Haifisch, Richard Marazano & Luo Yin, Hannah Berry, Denise Mina, Kathryn Briggs, Sabeena Ahktar, more!

Hasib & The Queen Of Serpents (£21-99, NBM) by David B.

Luxurious hardcover with gold-foil finishes from the creator of EPILEPTIIC.

If you love your epic mythological journeys like THE KING OF THE BIRDS, this will fill your cup right to its brim, and it comes with the same, intricate story baton-passing, for this is all about unexpected encounters in which one revelation leads to another, one complication leads to several more, and there are prices to be paid for love, treachery, deceit, ingratitude, servitude and – what else would you expect? – the dismissal of warnings and the breaking of promises, taboos.

Not only that but, blissfully, I can promise you that however far the meandering narrative, full of digressions, takes us from its initial thread, its path is circular, you will return whence you came, and every single element will be resolved.

Even more satisfyingly, answers which could not and should not have been provided during the diversions are provided later on, and antagonists who appear within them will reappear most unexpectedly but quite, quite, brilliantly during the final furlong to fuck up things further, but not forever.

Why is it so circuitous? This is taken from ‘The Thousand And One Nights’ in which the narrator is essentially telling stories to postpone her execution. It’s one long delaying tactic. For a very cool riff on that, please see Isabel Greenberg’s wit-ridden, glorious graphic novel THE ONE HUNDRED NIGHTS OF HERO.

It begins simply enough with Hâsib, who isn’t half as wise or well versed in the ways of the world as his departed dad, an ancient sage called Daniel. Hâsib’s mother is persuaded to buy him an axe and a donkey so he can join three woodcutters in a forest and learn this new craft. But when they discover a well of honey in a cave, Daniel is abandoned at the bottom on it while his greedy companions make more money from the honey than they’d ever dreamed. They tell his mother that Hâsib was eaten, but they do continue to provide for her from their ill-gained goods.

Well, seemingly trapped at the bottom of the now-empty well beneath the cave, Daniel encounters a talking scorpion – the very constellation of Scorpius in the sky, made flesh, blood and stingy bit! – and so realises that there must be another way out. He claws back rubble to find himself in a chamber with an underground lake at the centre of which is a bed on an island. Lying down, he soon finds himself in the company of the Queen of the Serpents. It’s then that the succession of stories truly begins, from Kabul to Cairo, before they return full circle, then onwards!

You are in for an orgy of opulent spectacle, for David B makes the visual most of every literary opportunity afforded him, and oh the opportunities! There’s an aviary of every bird imaginable in King Solomon’s castle, a mountain-top tree full of faces, and a constellation of stars is illuminated at its most magnificent.

Talking plants communicate in ever such clever picture-clues, a coffin-maker’s enterprise is given a right medieval and morbid rendition, while a battle between apes and djinns is Mesoamerican in nature, coiling round then into the page like a snake.

Demons await in the woods as if to corrupt the woodcutters, a river doesn’t just rage and roar but actually exclaims, anything can happen then actually does and essentially this: it’s like an acid trip without fear of flashbacks or prosecution.

As I’ve written of Jim Woodring’s work: “It’s mind-altering, yet legal!”

Here’s an important component, however, which is easy to overlook: although grave personal betrayals occur, genuine contrition can be rewarded by forgiveness if it’s backed up with restitution and remedial action, especially if unsolicited. By which I mean: you realise you’ve done wrong, you concede you’ve done wrong, you actively apologise and then set things right without being asked to in advance.

The reason this is vital in any morality tale is that it provides hope in its option for action: we all make mistakes, but believing that we are damned forever because of them doesn’t exactly encourage a change of heart.

Or, as ‘The Cock, The Mouse And The Little Red Hen’ would contend: “It’s never too late to mend”.

Although sometimes it is.

SLH

Buy Hasib & The Queen Of Serpents and read the Page 45 review here

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

“Imagine you’ve got a family: a wife, three children… you come home and there is nobody there.”

Two bombs were dropped on their house.

“They all died in the same room. The oldest one was five years old, the next one four… and the little one was three years old.”

This is an album full of spectacularly beautiful, delicate line art: portraits of brave, stoical and astonishingly resourceful individuals who are facing nebulous futures after enduring unimaginable atrocities, so forcing them to flee for their very lives only to enjoy temporary living conditions which are challenging, to say the least.

It won the European Design Awards Jury Prize, 2018.

 

 

It’s coloured with exceptional finesse, an unusual treatment which instinctively selects certain areas of skin and clothing (while leaving others unfilled) so that one’s eyes are drawn to the humanity, warmth and individuality of those telling their stories in very brief bursts, while their current context – their surrounding environment, inside or out, and their few possessions – is largely left white or in lighter tones, with small but important details picked out for emphasis, like all the plastic flowers and vine leaves used to brighten a tent, shack or barber’s shop.

Oh yes, I told you they were resourceful: so many of those who found themselves marooned in the Domiz refugee camp in Iraqi Kurdistan, 2013, had begun to earn themselves a new if meagre living as barbers, carpenters, electrical appliance repairmen, sound system rental suppliers for weddings, births and birthdays or even, in Djwan’s case, a breakdancing teacher. That’s quite the career change from Syrian Army sniper.

It wasn’t a career choice. In Syria, military service is mandatory, and Djwan was randomly selected to be a sniper, from which vantage point he was able to see his friends blown to smithereens or burn to death in a tank. One of Djwan’s close friends and fellow soldiers who had suffered considerable family loss (outside of the army but very much within the warzone – Syria, basically) committed suicide by shooting himself with a rifle. The authorities decided Djwan had killed him, so he was tortured.

 

 

His saga of suffering is far longer than that, but like every individual whom Kugler met, he was fleeing the war. Plenty were fleeing conscription, many had their homes and livelihoods destroyed, others weren’t sticking around long enough to see that happen within personal blast range. I’m pretty sure you’d flee too. I know I certainly would. It’s worth reiterating:

“Imagine you’ve got a family: a wife, three children… you come home and there is nobody there.”

So many of these stories are the same, whether told in Domiz, Kos (a Greek island where there’s no refugee camp or governmental provision at all) or the “Jungle” in Calais where you really wouldn’t want the sort of provision the local police like to provide.

“Because of the war there is not work in the area. Food, electricity and fuel are scarce and expensive.”
“The economy broke down.”
“This is what is left of the school where I used to give painting lessons. It got hit by an American warplane.”

Some of them have climbed over corpses.

 

 

When Kugler.visited, refugee Ahin was lending her fully qualified services as a postgraduate psychologist to the Mental Health team in the Domiz camp. (You can imagine there’s quite the demand if men in particular feel able to suffer the stigma of needing mental health counselling – and then think of the kids there!) She had to give up her masters is Damascus when the Free Syrian Army began bombing the neighbourhood indiscriminately.

“During my studies I worked in a centre for autistic children. I wanted to do practical treatment and help the children. It wasn’t easy but I enjoyed it.”

The centre’s now being used as a military base.

Meanwhile, of course, dear old Islamic State is destroying all art it can find and even chopped down an orchard because obviously.

 

 

On fleeing, the parties had to negotiate numerous checkpoints in their own country before getting anywhere near another’s borders. Those checkpoints could be manned by the Syrian Army, the Free Syrian Army or even Jihadist groups, which is quite the combination to please or appease. It’s especially tricky if you’re someone who could be shot for desertion or being an ex-enemy combatant.

This is all so thoroughly digestible because Kugler provides snippets of conversations, distilling them to the really important sentences, but never once separating them from the individual in question. There are no anonymous statements.

And, of course, you are surrounded by the physical beauty of the lines and colour on each page, however higgledy-piggledy, wet or freezing cold the actual environs were. Details you wouldn’t necessarily think of are picked out, like the cinder blocks one bloke is standing on to keep his feet out of the mud. The island of Kos stands in marked contrast to Domiz, being comparatively warm, lush and green.

 

 

Originally, to save time, I was simply going to refer you to Kate Evans’s equally excellent first-hand account of her time helping out in Calais which is THREADS, but I found myself so moved by what I learned here, and so impressed with its communicative skills, that I couldn’t. Joe Sacco is a huge fan of this work, of course, because he’s made a career out of giving a voice to those who have none, just like Kugler does here. They’re like megaphones for the otherwise muted.

And while I’m making reference to other works, albeit with a completely different structure and style, may I commend Thi Bui’s THE BEST WE COULD DO? Belle Yang’s FORGET SORROW? Shaun Tan’s THE ARRIVAL, obviously, but also his SKETCHES FROM A NAMELESS LAND which too contains snippets of conversation taken from those seeking refuge, as well as reflecting on THE ARRIVAL, itself.

I’m well past being sick of the demonization of those so desperately seeking sanctuary by the likes of Farage and the Daily Fail, and the betrayal by our own government under Theresa May of the Windrush Generation who were invited here because we do desperately needed them, and they came and they gave of themselves for decades in spite of such loathsome societal racism. Over and over, we are bludgeoned with lies about scrounging when immigrants contribute their skills then boost our economy by paying tax.

 

 

But not only are so many fleeing for their very lives – from wars often of the West’s making in the case of Iraq, or exacerbating in the case of Syria – but in doing so they are sacrificing so much.

Almost always they are leaving family behind, but also their daily joys – the colour and culture in their lives – which we take for granted, obliterated by the outbreak of war: music, singing, art and books. Casual conversation in comfort! One elderly gentleman called Saadwin says “I miss village life… Hanging out with the other old men… We used to sit outside and talk all the time.”

He’s standing, shivering, in mud-strewn Iraqi Kurdistan, in spite of wearing seven jackets.

“I wouldn’t trade living in my village for all the money in the world.”

And yet, he has had to leave.

SLH

Buy Escaping Wars And Waves: Encounters With Syrian Refugees and read the Page 45 review here

Wild’s End vol 3: Journey’s End (£17-99, Boom!) by Dan Abnett & I.N.J. Culbard…

““Fire doesn’t burn that way.” Your words.
“You said in the incident report several times. And I’ve heard you say it since.”

You may yourselves recall Clive Slipaway telling us more than once about the wartime incident in which his ship was dramatically set aflame and promptly sunk with substantial loss of life, though he himself manage to survive only to be captured by the enemy. Well, it seems there may have been more to the incident than meets the eye… at least according to intelligence officer Major Upton, who you would think might be in the know about that sort of stuff.

Now… where else have we seen strange flaming weapons that instantly incinerate things recently…? Ah yes…

 

 

Our anthropomorphic chums return, well, except for poor old Fawkes, who was last seen getting roasted alive to a degree that a Gruffalo would heartily approve of after finally going against a lifetime of conniving and chicanery and generally surviving just fine and dandy thank you to play the hero! Thanks to a lovely little amusing conceit though, you’ll almost be convinced he managed to survive. It’s like Messrs. Abnett & Culbard weren’t quite ready to let go of the foxy blighter! But local journalist Peter Minks, feline Susan Peardew and Alphie the piglet are all back safe and sound. Well, they’re back.

 

 

So, is there any hope at all of turning the proverbial tide against the global alien invasion of fire-breathing, flexible-limbed, giant streetlights? Indeed is there even anyone else left with the gumption to fight aside from our ragtag bunch of survivors? And even if there were, what on Earth could they possibly do? Or does the answer perhaps… [CENSORED]. Well… again, any chance they do have might be down to information that Major Upton is in possession of… Just how is it that she seems to know so much about this mysterious alien menace and what possibly represents the Earth’s last, incredibly slim hope for survival…?

 

 

Yes, the concluding third of this amusing take on the classic retro-alien invasion theme is finally here! Straight out in graphic novel form this time, no messing about with the penny dreadful periodicals! As before, much interesting between-papers such as diary entries, government announcements, maps etc. flesh out the fun. At least until it’s seared off… For much, much more on this fabulous series see our Stephen’s reviews of WILD’S END VOL 1 and WILD’S END VOL 2.

 

 

JR

Buy Wild’s End vol 3: Journey’s End and read the Page 45 review here

The Weaver Festival Phenomenon h/c (£17-99, Fantagraphics) by Ron Regé Jr.

“There was an electric shock between our hearts and the conduit was the sound of the bell.”

Ding dong! What a wonderfully witty and warm-hearted work this is. As the publisher blurb yodels…

“A funny and romantic teenage ghost story that marks a departure from the author’s more abstract and esoteric work, The Weaver Festival Phenomenon is a touching story of love & loss that retains a sense of magic that readers have come to expect from Regé.”

The primary reason for that departure is not mentioned above, oddly enough, which is that this is based on the short story ‘Moonlight Shadow’ by the celebrated Japanese prose author Banana Yoshimoto. Whose sister, is I think, a manga artist, so she’s clearly familiar with comics. But apparently, according to an interview I read, Ron had been wanting to draw this story for over a decade. He had contacted Banana to request permission but hadn’t heard anything back, at least at the time of the interview. Presumably he subsequently did at some point. Now, I am totally unfamiliar with the original source material so I can’t comment how close an adaptation it is. She isn’t formally credited, though, instead there is a note right at the end explaining this is based on said novella.

Anyway, long time Rege Jr. devotees will indeed note that this is radically different to his other works in a number of ways. Visually, whilst it still has his trademark ecstatically psychedelic wavy art style punctuated with the occasional burst of intense geometric activity, instead of the profusion of surrounding white space that normally accompanies his work, here we have stark, if glossy black.

Now, Stephen pointed out this inky backdrop may well be because this story involves a death, well two actually, okay, three thinking about it, though we never find out the identity of the third deceased individual. And the more I think about it, I think he’s absolutely right. Which all sounds rather gloomy. This is, however, precisely as the blurb states, funny and romantic, which aren’t really things I associate with Ron. Though hopefully his significant other, if he has one, would disagree!

But this, whimsical and waggish in tone, this had me chuckling in places at some of the mildly absurd behaviour of the central protagonists. Although the blurb states this is a ghost story, it really isn’t, it’s actually about two people left behind, picking  up the pieces, after a tragic accident that took the lives of their loved ones. Though with that said, there are indeed apparitions…

Right, I’ve danced around the bush like I’ve just had an electric shock quite enough, so I’m off to jangle my bell. If you’re a fan of Japanese prose or an unusual art style I implore you to give Ron a go. You will be delighted by this. Existing Rege Jr. fans will, I believe, see this as another tingling example that he is an underappreciated maestro.

I have absolutely no idea what the cover is a reference to. Anyone know? It seems like it must be a nod to something, because it doesn’t really pertain to the contents at all! Colour me intrigued. Which I’d be quite happy to let Ron do upon my torso with a set of sharpies…

JR

Buy The Weaver Festival Phenomenon h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Hilda And The Stone Forest (vol 5) s/c (£7-99, Flying Eye) by Luke Pearson.

Animated series debuting on Netflix on September 21st 2018!

Gorgeous composition of a cover for the fifth HILDA outing, and you may have already spotted a clue to one of this all-ages book’s many marked departures!

We’ve no time to talk of that yet, for Hilda’s hurried home to a less than impressed mother.

“Hey, I’m sorry I’m late!
“I totally lost track of time. I think my watch is broken.
“And I forgot to take it out with me, so that didn’t help, either.
“And then Twig wouldn’t stop chasing this dog…”

That’s a cracking last panel with poor Twig looking round in the background, alarmed at her barefaced lie. With the raised brows and exclamation mark, he looks like George Herriman’s KRAZY KAT after being hit by a brick thrown by Ignatz.

 

 

But if you think Hilda’s excuses are exhausting (they did go on…!), then the pages preceding them will leave you completely out of breath. For our adventure opens immediately with Hilda and Twig giving chase to a long-legged clump of semi-sentient turf which a family of tiny Hidden People from HILDA AND THE MIDNIGHT GIANT has unknowingly built their house on.

Off it gallops across a double-page spread of long, landscape panels accentuating the speed and distance travelled, as Hilda hurtles through a hole in the fence, over the top of a steep, sandy bank and tumbles downhill into a steam train terminus. Instantly then they’re off again, leaping across country in pursuit of the agile and unexpectedly mobile home.

 

 

Ooof! Only when they’ve finally caught up with the critter do they realise how far from the city they’ve strayed, deep into Stone Troll territory. Now, Stone Trolls are sedentary during daylight so that’s reassuring, but overnight the local farmer’s fields have been plundered, his fields ransacked of their juicy crops and his goat stolen too. So that’s new. As are all the fires on the mountain late at night – they haven’t been seen for many years. It seems the Stone Trolls are growing increasingly active…

 

 

Now to the nub of the matter: this isn’t the first time Hilda’s been late or gone AWOL. There’s a glorious, extended montage of past adventures – some of which we haven’t been privy to yet – climaxing in some seriously sorry excuses for the states she comes back in, hilariously contradicted by the action-packed snapshots above them.

“It’s these dusty streets. It just seems to stick to me.”

You’re going to get covered in mud if you’re chased by wild onions underground.

“The puddles around here are outrageous.”

So was that porkie-pie, Miss Bedraggled and Be-drenched!

“Whatever you’re thinking it’s not that.”

Actually true: I doubt her Mum would have imagined a giant white rose splurting her daughter with bright-yellow gloop.

“Yeah, the library was fine.”

It wasn’t.

 

 

Now, Hilda’s Mum is no control freak (she gives her a lot of leeway) but she worries about her daughter’s safety because that’s what Mums do, and she just wants to spend a little quality time with her on a picnic or playing games. And they do have a lovely picnic (after a certain degree of misjudged spot-picking) but I’m afraid things come to a head when Mum denies her one night away and Hilda goes mental. Complete temper-tantrum meltdown, and she says some terrible, terrible things that made me vicariously ashamed.

 

 

But even through Hilda’s mother finally puts her foot down, Hilda’s never been good with temptation and the lure of a good old curiosity quest, and it’s a tug of war which has radical ramifications for both Hilda and her Mum, who will be far from reassured by what follows…

On that, I shall attempt to say as little as possible, but you saw that cover, didn’t you?

There’s so much to relish here, not least the perils of a countryside picnic. Our Jonathan remarked, with great amusement, on how well Luke had observed all the stroppiness and backchat of a right young madam or little man in full flow.

 

 

There are brand-new creatures with fascinating and potentially useful diets to discover, and wait until you get a load of the eerie Stone Forest itself, coloured ever so exotically! There will be “Oooh!”s And there will be “Aaaah!”s when the central cavern is revealed, as vast as the vastest cathedral you’ve never seen.

I will say one thing: the stakes will be raised when it comes to the level of danger, but it will serve to prove that Hilda and her Mum are very much cut from the same cloth in their resilience, resourcefulness and their indefatigability.

Anyone who spoils the ending for you, in any way shape or form, should be sent to bed early and grounded for a fortnight or more.

SLH

Buy Hilda And The Stone Forest (vol 5) s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Mister Morgen (£21-99, Conundrum) by Igor Hofbauer…

“Igor Hofbauer is the Charles Burns of the Balkans.”

– Nina Bunjevac (creator of ‘Fatherland’)

A little unusual to start a review with someone else’s quote about a work, taken from the front French flap, which in addition to the creepy cover ought to be fair warning of precisely what to expect inside, but I genuinely couldn’t think of a better way to sum this work up. When I read said pull quote before commencing reading I thought to myself, “That’s a very bold statement, we’ll see…”

But do you like Charles BLACK HOLE / LAST LOOK Burns? If, in particular, you are a fan of BLACK HOLE I feel you do need this. The bold, strident artwork is solid blacks paired with stark white backgrounds and dose highlights of red – frequently blood – and has that ever so slightly uneven looseness around the edges stylistically that simultaneously softens it up to the eye, then works on similarly softening up your sanity. It all helps to engender the feel of an early twentieth century period horror film involving characters that manage to come across as both terrifying and pitiful in equal measure.

 

 

This is a collection of shorts, I must add, rather than a single, longer form story, all with disturbing elements of surreal… whether that’s a train full of zombies…

“The situation is beyond our control.”
“Quarantine the train. You know where to direct it.”

… or a man wielding a broom with his eyes, ears and mouth stitched up…

“I am well aware that my appearance scares people but still. It didn’t seem to have an effect on him.”

Or indeed the secret police ferrets who you really don’t want a visit from…

“And we are from social services.”
“Do you have any ID?”
“Of course we do.”

… their ID being straight-edge razors to slash your face open with.

 

 

Like I said, that perturbing cover ought to have given sufficient cause for concern if you are of nervous disposition. The level of phantasmagorical within, combined with the art style, certainly should also appeal heavily to fans of Tim ABANDONED CARS Lane, by the way.

 

 

What the front and also rear cover neatly portrays is a strong element of old school East European design, with the cover title for example channelling a Soviet-era propaganda poster. That specific tone, which gives this work its own distinct flavour is something that continues throughout, particularly with some imposing concrete, Brutalist, monolithic architecture topped with similar angular blocky signage.

 

 

Though as I type I am also conscious that there are strong design elements of what I can only describe ‘60s Floridian Americana with palm trees and beaches, skyscrapers and sunsets, pop art wallpaper and TVs. It’s a frankly hypnopompic blend, the austere East and the wacky West, like the ultimate bad dream in which you know are asleep and fighting frantically to wake from but just can’t manage it…

And then the hooded fizzy pop bottle deliverymen arrive…

JR

Buy Mister Morgen and read the Page 45 review here

The Artist h/c (£12-99, Breakdown Press) by Anna Haifisch…

“When the stone martens in deep Bavaria gather to too their picturesque horns,
“The falcons of Arabia resist the orders of their masters,
“And the foxes of Leipzig congregate for a sexual cult dance,
“The world is about to receive a new artist.
“In the moment of an artist’s birth British scientists succeeded to detect an…
“Atypical phenomenon which came to be known as ‘the sigh of the Universe.”
“For a fraction of a second, a wave of extremely high frequency was measured.
“Which also seems to be the cause of human hiccoughs.
“This insignificant discovery is certainly leading the way for an artist’s life.
“As soon as the embryo hatches,
“The young artist is ready to absorb the sadness of the world.”

 

 

I decided to go with that pull quote rather than my first choice, though, I really did agonise about it. Oh what the hell, here’s this one as well. See what you would have chosen…

“Oh, heyyy Lucy. Hrmm… Sorry I missed you last night at Pat’s show.
“Yeah… no… I left when Carlos shoved acid up his butt and hell broke loose.
“…Alrighty, talk to you soon.”

Anna Haifisch, creator of the utterly bizarre and truly insane VON SPATZ, a fake biography about Walt Disney having a nervous breakdown and going to a very peculiar sanatorium for artistic types to recover, produced this collection of shorts back in 2016. Given you’ve all been studiously ignoring picking VON SPATZ up, despite my best attempts to sell it to you, I thought I’d double down and get this in as well. I think I prefer this, actually.

 

 

The humour on display here, at times hilariously, outrageously crude, in the depiction of the life of the titular aspiring but perennially failing artist, is so satirically on point that I found myself giggling out loud on the bus on several occasions. Always comforting for fellow passengers, that, observing one of their number on the verge of mild hysteria…

I said it about VON SPATZ, and I’ll say it again, fans of Michael STICKS ANGELICA, FOLK HERO DeForge and George GHOSTS, ETC. Wysol need Anna Haifisch’s material. As I commented in my review of that work about all their art styles…

“In fact, if you are a fan of their gloriously incongruent, clashing colour palettes and determinedly unreconstructed illustration styles, you will love this work. It’s a real talent to make such unusual artwork seem perfectly normal and flow pleasingly across the eye, before then smashing your synapses to smithereens once lodged in the grey matter.”

Look, it’s completely weird and stupidly funny. What more do you want?

JR

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

Dressing (£14-99, Koyama Press) by Michael DeForge…

“Can I join you?”
“Sure.”
“What are you doing?”
“Waiting for a flirting fish.”
“What’s that?”
“Just a type of fish. They’re a thing here.”

Ha, do you know, I think Michael DeForge might be the uncrowned king of surreal comics, I really do. Yes, Hans COCHLEA & EUSTACHIA Rickheit is right out there ploughing his own dark furrow of oddness, and Jim FRAN Woodring is always able to upset your mental equilibrium, but Michael can seemingly do every genre of fiction, from contemporary, romantic, speculative, fantasy, you name it. All the whilst maintaining the surrealistic flavour with a nonchalance and breezy ease that makes flirting fish, miniature opticians living inside your eyes, transforming into a Martian lifeform, jumping over one billion miles, and a mermaid dating site seem like mere everyday occurrences.

 

 

Much like Box Brown’s brilliant recent AN ENTITY OBSERVES ALL THINGS, Michael presents us with a eclectic selection of shorts pulled together from various mini-comics, zines, anthology contributions, each taking a single rum and uncanny conceit as its central premise and just running zig-zag, eyes closed, with it to see where the hell it goes and what walls he bounces off along the way. I’m pretty sure he has absolutely no idea where a story will end up when he starts each one, but boy does it work.

 

 

Often the characters are just trying their darndest to live normal lives amidst the maelstrom of mad that Michael is testing their (and our) mental mettle with, but what always amazes me about his work is how much poignancy he manages to weave in. Now, you would think with a story involving flirting fish, it’s not got much potential to tug on your heartstrings, but you would be completely wrong. It doesn’t end well, not for the piscine playa, and certainly not for the unlucky lady.

 

 

A quick mention also for Koyama Press who are based in Toronto. In the eight or so years since they started, they have done a fantastic job championing and publishing the works of both emerging and more established creators. Unfortunately we can only manage to get hold of a relatively small selection of their wider output, usually via John Porcellino’s excellent Spit And A Half distribution channel, as only the more well known creators’ works like Michael’s are distributed by Diamond.

JR

Buy Dressing and read the Page 45 review here

The Dream Of The Butterfly vol 2: Dreaming A Revolution (£11-99, Cub House) by Richard Marazano & Luo Yin.

It’s still snowing!

“Tutu is trapped in a valley of eternal winter, populated by talking animals and ruled by an oil-sputtering robot Emperor. She’s sick of toiling in the Emperor’s factory, which only hurts the valley with its pollution. If she can band together with a grouchy cat, rabbit spies, and a masked daredevil known as the Flying Bandit, her dreams could have the power to shape the world!”

Please see DREAM OF THE BUTTERLY VOL 1 for a fulsome review with loads of lush interior art which will scream Hayao Miyazaki at you, then mop your brow.

I don’t have a second review in me – and we’d only run into spoiler territory – but that first one is extensive and TBH I’m only trying to type as many words as I can now so that we’ve room in the Page 45 Reviews blog for some more interior art.

 

 

Have I written enough yet?

Please say I have!

SLH

Buy The Dream Of The Butterfly vol 2: Dreaming A Revolution and read the Page 45 review here

We Shall Fight Until We Win: A Century Of Pioneering Political Women (£9-99, 404 Ink / BHP Comics) by various including Hannah Berry, Denise Mina, Kathryn Briggs, Sabeena Ahktar, Maria Stoian, Grace Wilson, Wei Ming Kam, Shazleen Khan, and many more.

“100 years of pioneering political women. 404 Ink and BHP Comics have teamed up to bring you WE SHALL FIGHT UNTIL WE WIN, a graphic novel anthology celebrating a century since women gained the right to vote in the UK, and the many pioneering women who are part of the ongoing fight since 1918. We’ll be taking a few women from each decade in the last 100 years and telling their stories in colourful, illustrated snapshots. Some stories are well known, some less so, all worthy of note.”

Agreed!

Jayaben Desai’s entry by Hannah Berry – whose ingenious, wit-riddled and ever so scathing socio-political satire LIVESTOCK comes with our highest recommendation – is succinct without stinting on any detail at all, comes with all the social context you could crave and is astute in its truth that what could be seen as a failure – as a social injustice – at the time, has had a profound impact since.

You might think that a firm whose workforce was 10% Afro-Caribbean and 80% South Asian in the 1970s was the height of positive, progressive, non-discriminatory behaviour, especially during that hideously racist, Enoch Powell era, but “exploitable workforce”, everyone. Big bunch of bullies, backed up in the end by a bunch of Tory politicians undermining the strike led by Desai.

Five perfect pages of storytelling, there.

 

 

Also, I was delighted that the appalling, unimaginable torrent of misogynistic* and racist* abuse Diane Abbott suffered (and almost certainly still suffers) on social media is turned around into ‘The Vindication of Diane Abbott’ when on 9th June 2017 she went on to win 75% of the vote in her constituency, increasing her majority by over 11,000 to 35,000, thereby winning the war and hopefully infuriating the white, thumb-sucking men-children online.

That care package delivered to her, too: so kind!

But I wanted to learn more about Diane!

 

 

And this, I’m afraid, is where some of the stories fail: they’re so painfully short or specific that I was left unsatisfied. You can’t adequately vilify or undermine Margaret Thatcher in four pages. Nice try, though!

Let’s call this a primer, then, a catalyst to send you scurrying to learn more about those you may hear of for the first time in this 60-page booklet!

And you can learn more, for example, in Talbot, Talbot and Charlesworth’s SALLY HEATHCOTE, SUFFRAGETTE and Murphy & Murphy’s CORPSE TALK: GROUND-BREAKING WOMEN, CORPSE TALK: GROUND-BREAKING SCIENTISTS.

Wrong cover design, BTW: for comics, there’s too little art, way too much typography, and even then you have to concentrate to decipher the title.

*Statistics bear that out in full.

SLH

Buy We Shall Fight Until We Win: A Century Of Pioneering Political Women and read the Page 45 review here

Page 45 Speech Balloon Enamel Pin Badge (£4-50) by Stephen L. Holland & Jodie Paterson…

Would you like an inch of pico-sized perfection sat on your shoulder? Sorry, but our Jodie’s not for sale…

But… she has extracted the very essence of Stephen’s original and timeless classic Page 45 logo for this sublime specimen of bespoke costume jewellery which quite literally says it all by itself. Well, it actually says “Page 45”, obviously, but you get my point.

Now it’s time for you to get yours…

With any random birthday / holiday festival / just-because-you-really-should-buy-something-special-for-someone-you-love day fast approaching, don’t miss out on this summer’s MUST HAVE accessory.

Otherwise just imagine how distraught your special one will feel when they see the cognoscenti of comics-associated fashion-wear pass them by, sporting this dazzling number, forcing them to squint in distress at the sheer splendour burning through their optic nerves if they don’t one…

Like Beyoncé never sang (but she would have if she’d seen this pin):

“Cause if you liked it, then you should have put a pin on it.”

 

 

Instead you’ll be able to picture their joy as they give a cheeky wink of recognition to the passing bepinned stranger that, they too, are indeed in the club. But hopefully not that club, unless, you know, that’s what you’re after… Please be aware, though, a Page 45 pin is not a proper alternative to planned parenthood, though the gifting thereof may lead to unintended amorous affection out of a sheer over-vogue of delight, so please, take precautions. Always make sure you place that pin carefully…

But wait! What’s that?!! Then you’d feel left out watching the proverbial apple of your eye swank down the street parading their credentials…? Simple solution, my comics-loving chums. Buy two! Then drive all your graphic novel knowing friends jealous with accesso-rage before pointing them in the direction of this page…

Don’t just wear the trend, be the trend… Just like Bruce Banner single-handedly brought ripped jeans to the forefront of the public consciousness, we can do this!

Even the leaf motif paper backing card is swoonworthy! Our Mark added that, almost immediately after we opened. In fact if you have any miniature picture frames kicking around, I recommend framing yours for posterity. Alternatively, go all-out comics crazy and pin the backing to your lapel as well!

JR

Buy Page 45 Speech Balloon Enamel Pin Badge 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’.

Poochytown h/c (£17-99, Fantagraphics) by Jim Woodring

The Academic Hour (£17-99, Secret Acres) by Keren Ketz

Agency s/c (£22-99, Fantagraphics) by Katie Skelly

A Bubble (£9-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Genevieve Castree

Come Again h/c (£22-99, Top Shelf) by Nate Powell

Delilah Dirk And The Pillars Of Hercules (£13-99, FirstSecond) by Tony Cliff

Dull Margaret h/c (£25-99, Fantagraphics) by Jim Broadbent & Dix

Francine (£15-99, Secret Acres) by Michiel Budel

Gear (£13-99, Image) by Doug TenNapel

I, Parrot (£16-99, Black Balloon / Catapult) by Deb Olin Unferth & Elizabeth Haidle

Long Red Hair (£14-99, Conundrum Press) by Meags Fitzgerald

Memoirs Of A Very Stable Genius (£17-99, Image) by Shannon Wheeler

Monsters (£17-99, Secret Acres) by Ken Dahl

The Collected Works Of Filler Bunny (£10-99, SLG Publishing) by Jhonen Vasquez

Rick & Morty vol 7: National Rickpoon’s Family Vacation (Titan) (£14-99, Titan) by Kyle Starks, Magdalene Vissagio & CJ Cannon, Marc Ellerby

Scales & Scoundrels vol 2: Treasurehearts s/c (£14-99, Image) by Sebastian Girner &  Galaad

A Study In Emerald h/c (£15-99, Dark Horse) by Neil Gaiman & Rafael Albuquerque

Sleepless vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Image) by Sarah Vaughn & Leila del Duca

Wasteland Compendium vol 2 (£35-99, Oni) by Antony Johnston & Christopher Mitten, Justin Greenwood, others

Avengers: No Surrender (UK Edition) s/c (£23-99, Marvel) by Al Ewing, Mark Waid, Jim Zub & Pepe Larraz, Kim Jacinto, Mike Perkins, Sean Izaakse, Paco Medina, Joe Bennett, Stefano Caselli

Nova By Abnett & Lanning Complete Collection vol 1 s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning & various

Wolverine: Old Man Logan vol 7: Scarlet Samurai s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Ed Brisson & Mike Deodato Jr., Ibraim Roberson

Attack On Titan vol 25 (£9-99, Viz) by Hajime Isayama

My Solo Exchange Diary vol 1 (£13-99, Manga) by Kabi Nagata

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews July 2018 week one

Wednesday, July 4th, 2018

Featuring Tim Bird, Eva Müller, Georgia Webber, Jim Pascoe, Heidi Arnhold, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Francois Boucq, Matz, Luc Jacamon, Neil Gaiman, J.H. Williams III, Larry Marder, Hiroya Oku, Keita Iizuka, Joe List, more!

The Great North Wood (£9-99, Avery Hill) by Tim Bird.

“Long ago, this was all rock and ice.
“Then the trees began to grow.
“Oak.
“And Ash.
“And Thorn.
“And the trees became a forest.
“And the forest filled with magic.”

It floats in the air like semi-sentient pollen, a collective consciousness, a hive mind of history.

If you stay still, you can hear it calling. For history echoes: it ripples through time.

“Norwood.
“Forest Hill.
“Honor Oak.
“A forest remembered in place names.
“A ghost of the Great North Wood.
“Eldritch mysteries covered by tarmac.”

And barely a tree in sight.

 

 

A stealthy fox forages through South London city suburbs for food found in the discarded boxes of finger-lickin’ chicken, at night.

“The sylvan wildwood stretched from sea to sea.
“England slumbered beneath a canopy of leaves.”

And then it woke up.

 

 

It parcelled out the commons into private ownership, did England. The forest became fields. Settlements were built. These turned into towns and then, oh!

From Tim Bird, creator of GREY AREA – FROM THE CITY TO THE SEA, GREY AREA – OUR TOWN, comes his most eloquent offering yet, a quiet and contemplative lament for a long-lost wood which once covered South-East London, barely blemished from Croydon to Deptford, close to the Thames. The early roads which later ran through were unsafe to travel, for brigands lurked in the cover of darkness.

 

 

Clambering over a plastic wheelie bin then wall, our nocturnal fox strays into the arboreal past then slips back into the far starker present. Back and forth, back and forth, it will be our witness to stories still being told of what once happened in the Great North Wood.

It’s an elegy whose rhythms are masterfully controlled, along with the ebb and flow of time, refrains resonating throughout; its economy focuses us on every carefully constructed sentence, every astutely chosen image, so that you’re likely to linger longer over each.

 

 

Like the last oak left standing, defiantly, at the centre of a suburban roundabout.

Or the one which isn’t, its ancient, deep-ridged bark and natural spread of shelter replaced by a sheer metal traffic light.

As to the architecture of time – those echoes I mentioned earlier – we’re not a million miles from Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s FROM HELL, as you’ll see in who boards the night bus back home. Bird’s geographical and historical interests parallel those of Oliver East’s, while his buildings mind one of Darryl Cunningham.

 

 

Salmon pinks pick out the billowing, cloud-like canopies over cool slate grey and early morning blue, while orange makes the fox and firefly magic glow. It also proves handy for a cameo by Queen Elizabeth I, who gets a little squiffy then knights an oak.

“These days estate agents talk about Honor Oak as a leafy suburb.”

So it’s not without its comedy, either.

“Now only small patches of ancient woodland remain amidst the suburban sprawl of south-east London.
“Oaks lining pathways behind tower blocks.
“Or roundabouts marking forgotten parish boundaries.
“Standing proudly in back gardens.
“Intruding on landed marked for development.
“The subjects of town planning meetings.”

 

 

There’s an ‘X’ cut into its bark, marking the solitary tree for felling.

SLH

Buy The Great North Wood and read the Page 45 review here

In The Future, We Are Dead (£14-99, Birdcage Bottom Books) by Eva Müller.

“Clearly, Catholicism was not a good means of dealing with my fear of dying.”

At which point, like water from a whale’s blow hole, a mouth full of tea gushed through my nose.

Should you be in any doubt at all about Catholicism’s fixation upon all things infernal, Müller will make it perfectly clear – with her multiple, magnificent, open-wounded, blood-streaming, fire-and-brimstone pastiche tableaux – precisely why The Organised Religion of Ultimate Suffering is the least likely of all to allay her fears of death and indeed what is claimed to lie thereafter.

They’re no more gruesome than the originals.

 

 

However, what made me howl with laughter – and this a screamingly funny book in places – was how Buddhism and yoga managed to fit that moribund bill as well.

The Buddhist practice of Sokushinbutsu, or self-mummification, makes Christian monks’ masochistic self-flagellation look like a mild form of exfoliation. It involves three phases of a thousand days each, and an increasingly austere diet plan which begins with nuts and seeds only, then descends into Urushi tea from a tree whose juice is usually used for varnish. This induces vomiting, perspiration and excessive urination (with no extra-glossy coat to show for it) and – oh dear – it all grows so much morbidly worse. You’ll never look at the lotus position in quite the same way. Indeed, should you decide to practise Sokushinbutsu, you’ll never look at anything at all, ever again.

 

 

“Reportedly, Yoga has many benefits,” the chapter begins benignly enough, although that Buddha’s a bit boss-eyed! “It helps me to relax,” she continues, crammed into a train carriage you can almost smell. “Yoga gives me the feeling of being taller…” she reports, straddled over an autobahn like a deutsch dominatrix version of ‘The Attack Of The 50ft Woman’ “… and I don’t know how I was able to lead a life without abdominal muscles before.”

Shame they don’t come covered with a layer of skin. Apparently yoga sessions culminate in the corpse pose, which certainly leaves you with something to meditate upon.

 

 

If the graphic novel’s general gist hasn’t struck you yet, let me elucidate: nine semi-satirical, autobiographical essays in which Eva dwells on death. Unexpectedly, one is narrated by herself as a pensioner (she isn’t), another from her younger brother’s point of view. Their parents are violent, squabbling nightmares.

“Stop eating,” nags her mother (quite quietly for her). “You’re getting fatter and fatter.”

Müller declines to sign-post this, but she’s actually slicing a cucumber.

It’s easy to see why Eva grew up with an obsessive fear of death. Even though Catholicism got its insidiously grim grip on her (through her grandparents; her grandmother collected obituaries, her granddad attended every funeral on offer, regardless of whether he was acquainted with the deceased), this was the era of appalling African famine, broadcast internationally, and Eva began musing on a worldwide food shortage which might extend to Germany. Oh, and her Aunt contracted polio at Eva’s early age and do you remember that grimmest of grim things which we called the Iron Lung AKA Steel Coffin? It instilled in her the certain knowledge that children can die.

 

 

She stopped sleeping, so they took her to a doctor.

“Well, young lady, tell me, what’s going on? Why don’t you want to fall asleep at night? Are you afraid of monsters?”
“No! I’m afraid I won’t wake up again.”

Which is inarguably more rational.

 

 

Eva soon found an expanded wealth of things to fret about, then there’s this:

“As a child, I was very sure I was going to Hell.”

The pre-teen holds her hand out to the horn-ed one:

“Hello, Satan,
“Last week I took a dead mouse out of a mouse-trap and put it into grandpa’s hat…
“I smashed a cellar window with a football…
“I secretly took sweets from Mama’s hiding place without asking her. I gave the cat Papa’s beer. I rode my bike much further than I’m allowed. I bought four cigarettes with my lunch money and smoked them behind the church.”

Satan genially reaches out to shake Eva’s hand. He’s very smart in his Sunday best!

“Hello, nice to meet you. As you know, these are all sins. Please follow me.”

Little details, like his tie matching the red of his hands, hair, face and tail, made me smile.

Same goes for the Terminator eyes of the German Chancellor boring bright red out of his campaign poster preaching “Liberty, Prosperity, Security”.

 

 

I learned words like ‘Angslust’ for when fear becomes exciting. This explains Alton Towers.

But I’m not even going to talk about the teeth episode.

 

 

SLH

Buy In The Future, We Are Dead and read the Page 45 review here

Dumb – Living Without A Voice (£19-99, Fantagraphics) by Georgia Webber…

“So the doctor said you have to stop talking altogether?
“Whoa, really?
“So how long will it be?
“Oh yeah! Are you still hosting New Year’s if you can’t talk?
“Ha ha, of course you are.
“You’re not going to stop doing anything, are you?
“Of course not! Why would you?”

The other half of this conversation, Georgia Webber’s responses, were scribbled down on paper…

I left those out to give you the full effect of how Georgia has to interact with the world at large. For after seemingly straining her voice through over-use, she’s been advised that six months without talking at all is the best remedy to resolve her particular painful issue.

 

 

Here’s the publisher’s own scribblings to oh so quietly tell you a little more…

“Part memoir, part medical cautionary tale, Dumb tells the story of how the author copes with the everyday challenges that come with voicelessness. Webber adroitly uses the comics medium to convey the hurdles she faced as well as the fear and dread that accompanied her journey to regain her life. She learns to lean on the support of her close friends, finds self-expression in creating comics, and comes to understand and appreciate how deeply her voice and identity are intertwined.”

 

 

That she does. Aside from the obvious day-to-day problems not being able to speak would create, which Georgia experienced, not least it necessitating her giving up her job and seeking welfare assistance to be able to survive financially, Georgia also conveys extremely well the deeply unsettling emotional effects of such a malady. From the general anxiety and depression it caused her, to even being plagued by doubts and uncertainties that her voice would ever return to its full functionality, it made her question whether she could be the same person without it.

 

 

Told in bold strokes of black and grey against a white background with additional lashings of bright red, including for all the speech and thought balloons, which was particularly striking, this is an art style which is impressively detailed yet seemingly remarkably casual in nature. You can vividly see Georgia’s tension displayed in the style itself at times, not just in her facial expressions.

A wonderfully candid and affecting first-hand account of a particularly peculiar illness that I suspect no one could possibly begin to imagine how it would feel unless they experienced it themselves.

JR

Buy Dumb – Living Without A Voice and read the Page 45 review here

Cottons Book 1: The Secret Of The Wind h/c (£16-99, FirstSecond) by Jim Pascoe & Heidi Arnhold.

“You’ve weaponized art?”
“Oh, Wampu, all art is a weapon… in the right hands.”

This is entirely true. Here, quite literally so.

A glance under this book’s dustjacket hints at how, and it is breathtakingly beautiful, like a modern stained glass window, as a fox and a rabbit do desperate, whirlwind battle.

A further glance inside the cover itself is rewarded by endpaper maps of the countryside surrounding the rabbits’ warren beside The Blue Heart Lake, in a valley between craggy ridges: Goldenseed Meadow and the Wavering Wood overlooked by Stillbreeze Peak.

You’d be forgiven if by now you’re expecting something akin to ‘Watership Down’ but, prologue aside, it’s actually much closer to MOUSE GUARD, the animals and their habitat more anthropomorphised, their burrows quite habitable to humans.

 

 

While we’re on the subject of MOUSE GUARD, however, if you thought the world-building was impressive there, this is on another level entirely, and you’ll find a rabbit scholar’s notes on Lavender’s known history, industry, religion and magic.

Ah yes, magic.

Magic, art and the potential to weaponize it.

 

 

The rabbits’ industry involves refining their natural source of energy, carrots, into another source of energy entirely, called cha. This heats and lights their warren, but in skilled paws like Bridgebelle’s and her former tutor Thom Crocket’s, can turn sticks and stones into beautiful and intricate glass artefacts called thokchas. To those more pragmatic and less inspired, this is regarded as a frittering waste of raw material. To others, the crystalline thockchas are merely a halfway house, for ‘detonating’ them with a twist causes a dazzling and potentially hallucinogenic display. It’s possible to become addicted. At a pivotal moment, however, Bridgebelle will discover another use for them entirely.

 

 

There’s supposed to be a truce between the rabbits and the foxes, but the bluntest and seemingly most brutal of the foxes breaks that truce almost immediately, by snapping poor Soozie’s neck. However, as Soozie and Bridgebell dash as fast as they can from the threat, Soozie reveals a key secret:

“Help me, Bridgebelle!
“I hid something. Find it before they do. Go where the flow is slow.”

I really do think that’s all you need.

 

 

The rabbits in flight are fluid as you like, and lithe when turning at breakneck speed. The detonated thockcha visions are truly blinding, and you’ll love the skeletal Scapegraces whose feathers are formed from a purple, miasmatic mist.

This is a trilogy and so far it holds together very well indeed, with one full-length, satisfyingly resolved campaign leaving us still in a spine-tinglingly ominous place.

 

 

“Everyone is afraid of something.”

SLH

Buy Cottons Book 1: The Secret Of The Wind h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Moon Face h/c (£29-99, Humanoids) by Alejandro Jodorowsky & Francois Boucq…

“We must reach the Palace Of Pleasures before the doors close!”
“You two go in! I’ll try and stop the Carnival Of Fools before they’re all massacred.”

Cut off from the world and ruled without any dissent whatsoever by the mad dictator Oscar Lazo, absolute head of a quasi-religious order known as the Kondukators and their madcap Ovarian system (whatever that is), complete with his troublesome, aggravating comedy haemorrhoids, the island Damanuestra is about to undergo a tumultuous time under the surging surf courtesy of the mysterious ‘wave tamer’ Moon Face. The established, and ferociously guarded socio-political order is about to be well and truly dunked and disrupted by the arrival of this catalyst of change who will silently foment revolution with some serious white caps that make the Great Wave off Kanagawa look like end of the pier ripples…

 

 

This work is classic Jodorowsky, setting up a world under the influence of an all-controlling, all-perverse, all-most-definitely-unpleasant-and-odious-power and promptly setting about bringing it all crashing down. Originally released in 3 or 5 volumes in French, depending on how you look at it (trust me, it had a bit of an odd publication history…) we are fortunate to get the whole lunar body in this one translated collection.

Another major plus is the incredible artwork. Reunited with his sidekick from his BOUNCER saga, Francois Boucq, you can feel the immense power of Moon Face’s waves and their equally impactful influence on the regime, and by extension, Lazo’s bumhole raisins! Surreal, satirical, utterly preposterous and equally ridiculous, this is an extremely amusing examination of the desperate lengths people will go to hold onto power even when the proverbial tide is turning against them faster than King Canute. So surely it’s no surprise to see what looks like a young Margaret Thatcher depicted as one of the authoritarian figures! I suspect there may well be a few European politicians of that era and religious figures getting lampooned in there too.

 

 

If I had one criticism to make, it would be the same one I level at what is probably my favourite work of Jodorowsky’s (after THE INCAL which stands alone in its near perfection), which is MADWOMAN OF THE SACRED HEART, in that the concluding part is the weakest in terms of the story-telling. Not by much, but it does feel slightly like Jodorowsky’s managed to get his characters and by extension himself so magnificently metaphysically tangled up that he’s concentrating on writing a clever way out rather than being as seemingly spontaneously entertaining as the opening two-thirds is. Which is clearly written with relish and gradually just lets the chaos build and build in a gloriously discordant manner. I guess it’s always harder to rein it all back in than just let it go. It is a most satisfying conclusion however.

JR

Buy Moon Face h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Complete Killer s/c (£35-99, Archaia) by  Matz & Luc Jacamon.

A book so big that you could brain someone with it.

750 pages!

Slick and intense European thriller in which we get inside the head of a hitman who seems so disengaged from humanity that it’s all facts and figures, an endless stream of self-justification for being a cool-hearted killer without a care in the world.

“Don’t talk to me about justice or morals. Even God himself I wouldn’t listen to. Not with His track record. I take orders from no one. I report to no one. I have a single motive for what I’m doing: money… I help rich people kill one another. Poor people, they can’t afford me. They handle it themselves. And they end up in jail for life.”

Normally he researches then executes his assignments calmly, methodically, all around the world. Patience is the one virtue he would own to possessing, but this time his target hasn’t even shown, and it’s starting to unsettle him…

 

 

Like CRIMINAL, this gets right under the skin of the individual in question who makes more than a few valid points about our own culpabilities, whilst the art is lush with jagged jungle leaves, classily coloured and it splinters expressionistically as the pressure builds to force this most dispassionate of men to make a critical blunder. At which point everything unravels, and he’s forced from his natural comfort zone into an environment he does not control.

 

 

Of book two, I wrote:

Welcome to the return of the ruminative assassin. Here he’s particularly preoccupied with the disadvantages of dying in your sleep. And whom it is wise to hang out with.

“The hard part is not the loneliness. The hard part is choosing the right people to have around you, when you finally decide to have people around you. Loneliness offers guarantees that vanish as soon as you try and trust someone. Stepping away from it is running a risk. Especially for me.”

You never do know whom he should trust. It’s a source of suspense which builds and builds.

Previously even the man he’d always placed the greatest trust in, long-time accountant Edward, turned out to be capable of treachery – and pretty stupid into the bargain. Edward had been the conduit in a contract on a man called Martini, and then gone one further and tried to take out The Killer himself. It didn’t really work out for Edward, no.

 

 

Now lying low in luxurious seclusion, our anti-hero is visited by a man called Mariano, god-son to a Columbian drug baron called Padrino. Seems Martini was one of three men Padrino had set up in high society Paris in order to distribute his wares. The way Padrino sees it, taking out Martini has caused him some serious inconvenience even though The Killer saw the man under police surveillance and may have done Padrino a favour in silencing him. Unconvinced, Padrino insists The Killer accepts contracts of his own in exchange for forgiveness. It remains a lucrative deal so although the worryingly talkative and inexperienced Mariano is foisted upon him, The Killer accepts.

From Buenos Aires to New York City things go (sort of) well until, while cruising down the Amazon, there’s a vicious attack back home on his lover. Instinct leads him to question whether it was Padrino, but that simply doesn’t add up and The Killer hates it when things don’t add up. He doesn’t like coincidences, either, like the assassination of a second of those three drug dealers in Paris, or being befriended by a cop who’s being investigated for police brutality. Who’s after him now, and what connection does it have to Martini and Edward?

 

 

There, I think I’ve accurately set the scene whilst leading you all astray! Your turn now to grow as paranoid on The Killer’s behalf as I was this sunny Sunday afternoon.

That you will all fear for this hitman’s safety is a telling testament to Matz’s skills as a writer. The Killer’s cogitations on his career and craft and its implication for life in general play a substantial part in this. They’re well reasoned and betray a heart he denies having, as do his new sentiments towards the woman he’s chosen to trust. I think you’ll like the cop too.

As to Luc Jacamon, his colouring has always impressed me no end, particularly when it comes to the dappled shadows under a boulevard of trees, and I love the way that there’s this constant presence throughout, even outlined in negative on the side of a building, of an Orinoco Crocodile – the very essence of patient, predatory guile. He excels at details others would never think to incorporate like scaffolding, netted in green, supporting the side of already impressive edifices. There’s a gorgeous sense of space no matter what he’s asked to draw, in whichever country, and there’s plenty of globe-trotting to be done here. I’m an enormous fan of the wit-ridden 100 BULLETS, but it can become bogged down by words whereas Matz never allows any self-indulgence to crowd out Luc Jacamon, maintaining a perfect equilibrium for a pleasurable read as smooth as the operator himself.

 

 

Of books three and four, I typed:

“Poor Mexico – so far from God and so close to the USA.”

 – Diaz Ordiz, Mexican President, 1960

And so we start afresh with the titular assassin three years into retirement, lazing on the beaches of Venezuela. Lazing – that really doesn’t sound like him, does it? On the other hand he might well have stayed there had Mariano not sent fresh clients his way. Maybe they were the itch he couldn’t help scratching as they fed him a succession of contracts, one after the other.

The first seemed relatively straightforward: a Spanish oil broker living in Venezuela but thankfully staying in Mexico. Then an assistant manager of the Venezuelan National Bank: a little close to home but another easy target because riding a scooter in Caracas is tantamount to suicide anyway. But it’s the third target which begins to rattle our unflappable killer who hasn’t been as calculating as he should have been. Her name is Madre Luisa, much loved in Latin America as a nun working the shunned slums of Columbia. He’s basically been asked to off Mother Teresa. Why?

 

 

With the help of Mariano and his Padrino, the connections become as clear as they prove crude. This is Venezuela, after all, the third-largest supplier of the USA’s oil. Its President Hugo Chavez is determined to nationalise the industry. Unfortunately that doesn’t change anything except the likely identity of his clients and their potential reach: if he doesn’t kill Madre Luisa someone else will, and then they’ll come looking for him.

As topical right now as I’m afraid it’s likely to prove for quite some time, events spiral out of control on a national level and when Cuba’s interest is revealed the cold cogitations inevitably take a turn for the political. Here’s our man in Havana:

“There were fewer people sleeping outside and dying of hunger in the streets of Havana than in New York or Bombay. Not bad for a country strangled by American embargos for more than forty years. They weren’t rolling in dough and might not eat their fill every day, but they weren’t America’s whore or flunky, or anyone else’s and they knew it.
“Why is Fidel criticised? ‘Cause Cuba isn’t a democracy? What country is? The USA and Europe are in name only. And they impose their so-called superiority on the rest of the world. Easy enough when you rape and pillage, when you grow rich off other men’s work, when you don’t respect the rules you force on them. Bolivar said in 1823: “Providence seems to have destined the United States to rain all sorts of calamities on South America in the name of liberty.” Seeing that far ahead is really something…
“Castro’s funny too. He once said Christ’s sermons would make for good radical socialism, whether or not you were a believer. At the UN, 184 out of 192 countries voted to lift the embargo on Cuba. Only Israel, the US, the Marshall Islands, and Palau voted no… and won. Democracy in action.”

There’s plenty more where that came from in a thriller whose killer has much more to say about foreign intervention and genocide throughout the ages and across the globe. You might say it’s his specialist subject and once more it’s that part of his nature he denies having that lands him in trouble: he can’t help but question everything he’s told, everything he sees around him, and in spite of his protestations he does actually care. In his line of work, nobody likes a troublemaker.

 

 

It’s the light that readers comment on most. Whether it’s the dappled shade at a corner café or looking up from the forest floor to the canopy above, the foliage growing fainter as more sunlight shines through, the colouring’s a joy. Plenty of Cuban sunsets this time, and Miami’s glorious aquamarine coastline is yet another of Jacamon’s flourishes which will have you gasping. His mirrored sunglasses are out of this world – you’d think the paper had been chemically treated. Also, I love the way a puff of dusty sand, kicked up by the Cuban heels of our Killer’s cowboy boots as he strides across the Mexican desert, curls into the clouds on the very next panel.

 

 

Further “negotiations” will eventually take him to London and Paris where, of course, he will bide his time in boulevard bars, musing on human nature.

“Optimism can sometimes seem like naïveté, but pessimism is often a fruitless affectation. I’m all for clear-sightedness. Not wearing blinders, not getting hoodwinked by pretenders and received ideas.
“Meanwhile, I wait and watch. I want to see what’s coming.”

The fifth hardcover is reprinted here too.

SLH

Buy The Complete Killer s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Sandman Overture: Absolute Edition (£110-00, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & J.H. Williams III.

“Everyone kills, little brother.
“They even kill their dreams.
“And you have waited too long.”

Everything is ending: life and afterlife, birth and rebirth. Eternity will be extinguished because Morpheus made a mistake born of compassion. When he failed to cauterise the chaos in time the universe itself went mad.

He has one last Hope and an unexpected ally. But then what greater driving force is there than the will to live?

Neil Gaiman returns to SANDMAN with a prequel which is integral and reminiscent in so many ways of Alan Moore’s PROMETHEA whose metaphysical musings on the nature, power and achievements of the human imagination weren’t just illustrated but illuminated by one of comics’ most inventive artists, J.H. Williams III. Once more Williams brings his very best to bear on a script which would have overwhelmed many others and sheds the most spectacular light on some pretty dark matter.

 

 

SANDMAN Synopsis: Morpheus is the Lord of Dreams, his family are The Endless. Each of them is older than you can comprehend, though some are older than others. They are as gods to mortals, though they can surely die, and they change as we change for they are aspects of our everyday existence. Drawing on so many elements of prior mythologies, this was one of the 20th Century’s very best comics and Neil Gaiman’s prose readers will love it.

In a story which leads straight into the original book, SANDMAN VOL 1: PRELUDES AND NOCTURNES, long-time devotees will discover so many answers to questions they may not have realised existed. For example, if Destiny holds in his hands the book of everything that was, is, and ever will be, then who gave that legacy to him? Who gave birth to the Endless? You will finally meet Morpheus’ mother and you will meet his father. So will Morpheus after such a long time. Their last encounters didn’t necessarily end too well. Parents and their children, eh?

You’ll meet Delirium when she was once known as Delight. Indeed, you’ll meet all of The Endless once again but before you first did so. Including the one they don’t speak of who went away.

 

 

I promise you a complete and satisfying pay-off during the fourth, fifth and sixth chapters regarding the siblings, their relationships with each other, themselves (“Despair is now another aspect of herself”) and with those who gave them birth. Their parents have very specific names and very specific roles and they both make so much sense.

But perhaps most satisfying is the further exploration of Morpheus. Both of his nature as Dream itself…

“It is the nature of Dreams, and only Dreams, to define Reality.”

… and as an individual, and how that impacts, has impacted and will impact on his role both here and hereafter.

“Am I always like this?”
“Like what?”
“Self-satisfied. Irritating. Self-possessed, and unwilling to concede centre stage to anyone but myself.”
“I believe so, yes. In my experience.”

And he of all people should know.

 

 

I’d love to about talk responsibility – which is key both here and throughout SANDMAN – and specifically about someone whom Dream deems his self-serving opposite in that respect. I’d like to talk about promises too which are not unconnected, but I made you a promise and I keep them.

As for this comic’s exquisite beauty, I remind you of the most inspired choice of artists imaginable in J.H. Williams III.

Like Will Eisner, Jim Steranko and Dave Sim, Williams truly experiments when constructing individual pages or sequences of pages from the most unusual, often organic panel compositions which are additionally apposite to the proceedings. As in, you’ll be presented with a defiant predator on the prowl through panels constructed from teeth when teeth are both that protagonist’s signature aspect and the enamelled elements between which he literally perceives what surrounds him. You’ll see!

 

 

Then, like David Mazzucchelli, within and beyond that backbone Williams also ensures that as many constituent components of comics storytelling as possible serve the story itself.

Please don’t think that colour artist Dave Stewart of lettering legend Todd Klein have been slacking, either.

You’ll relish being astonished by Williams’, Stewart’s and Klein’s contributions while immersing yourself in this book. That’s all you could really want. But when you turn to this edition’s considerable back-matter material including  the whole story’s original, uncoloured art by J.H. Williams III in the ABSOLUTE edition, plus interviews with the entire artistic orchestra and composer Neil himself, you will surely need to reacquaint yourself with that misplaced mandible currently residing on your carpet.

Such are the elaborate lengths they all went to achieve specific effects for individual sequences as a team that you will wonder no longer why this series took so long to materialise before you as one of the pinnacles of comics’ construction.

 

 

As I always say on the shop floor when a project’s delayed, quality is worth the wait.

No one wants to read something cobbled together without caring for the sake of a corporate cash-cow. No one wants their treasured dreams diluted by the shoved-out second-best when what we desire above all is a comic which lives up what we once loved.

Prepare to have your expectations exceeded.

You will travel through time and you will travel will space, as will Morpheus himself. If not of his own volition.

That’s how this begins and that’s how it ends, which is where it all began in the first place.

“And I am pulled halfway across the universe in one fraction of forever, with a pain that feels like birth…”

 

 

Don’t miss the epilogue. *shivers*

SLH

Buy Sandman Overture: Absolute Edition and read the Page 45 review here

Beanworld Omnibus vol 1 s/c (£22-99, Dark Horse) by Larry Marder.

“The search party departs. The adoration continues.”

The whole of the original series in one massive chunk.

Just occasionally something comes along in the comics medium that is so completely unique and different to anything else you’ve ever read that it makes you stop and just marvel. BEANWORLD is just such a creation.

Mark rated this right next to Jim Woodring’s work (THE FRANK BOOK, WEATHERCRAFT, FRAN, JIM etc) as one of those inspired visions so personal and peculiar that most other creative industries would neither support nor understand its genius. I’m with him on that.

Larry Marder created a unique world with a fully realised, sustainable ecosystem which operated with its own radically viable laws for construction, reproduction and sustenance. Its several species of inhabitants had their own hierarchy, its individuals their own roles, aspirations and priorities. They even had their own terminology/slang. With their passion for play, exploration, art and invention, if I were to try to capture the series in a single word, I’d try “Celebration”. If I were allowed a second word, it would be “Cooperation”.

 

 

Both those concepts lie at the heart of any healthy and fecund friendship or community, so there were lessons to be learned way back then that would have put the human race much further ahead of the game than it currently stands. I’m going to stick my neck out to say something typically stupid too: it’s like a platform game. The Beans’ learning process is like a platform game. “Oh, this is what I need to find/create and fit in there in order to make progress…!”

Many moons ago the far sager Mark wrote this:

“I’ve read this work for a decade now and I find something new each year I try it again. First it was a cute little story of two races in an imaginary world and the antagonistic/symbiotic way they lived with each other. Then I noticed that the three leads were Beanish, an artist, Professor Garbanzo, an inventor, and Mr Spook, a protector, so it lead to their place in society and their growing knowledge about their role and the work of the others. Everyone has a ritual and everything’s there for a reason. When a new element is added we get to see each reaction, either for or against.

 

 

“There are nods to native American art and mythology, Jack Kirby and Marcel Duchamp (sooner or later Beanish is going to hit on The Large Glass although he’s a long way off yet). Both art and writing are pared down to the bare minimum; symbols are one of Marder’s favourite subjects (he once worked in advertising, but forgive him that).”

 

 

More recently the far fitter Jonathan wrote:

“Larry Marder succeeds in creating a whole bizarre new reality, or in fact The Four Realities of Slots, Hoops, Twinks and Chips which you might just fall into if you leap off The Legendary Edge whilst on a chow mission amongst the Hoi-Polloi Ring Herd! He then proceeds to populate it with an ever increasingly weird set of individuals who just happen to be beans such as Beanish, an artist and creator of the Fabulous Look-See Shows, Mr. Spook, hero and leader of the Chow Soljer army, and Professor Garbanzo, problem solver and generally deep thinker. And certainly not forgetting the musical Boom’r Band who try to keep everyone entertained.

 

 

“The only way I can do justice to BEANWORLD is to say reading it feels like you are a spectator to a very different version of Universe creation unfolding before your very eyes, piece by surreal piece. You never guess who or what is going to appear next and what it may mean for the Beans and their reality, and therein lies the beauty of it. All disbelief is suspended, anything is possible, but don’t imagine you’ll ever guess what’s coming next – because you honestly won’t!!

SLH, MAS, JR

Buy Beanworld Omnibus vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Gantz G: vol 1 (£12-99, Dark Horse) by Hiroya Oku & Keita Iizuka…

“There’s a lot this time.”
“Yeah.”
“Must have been a school trip.”
“Whatever.”
“Shall we get things started?”
“Whatever.”
“OKAY! EVERYONE LISTEN UP!!”
“In a few moments… you will all… be transported somewhere else against your will.
“There you will find yourself in a weird hunting game.
“This black sphere is going to start giving out orders.
“We call this sphere… GANTZ.”
“You are going to hunt… that is, kill… living things called aliens.
“You will continue to be forced to do so unless you kill a bunch and earn points.
“If you are killed by an alien, this time you die for real.”
“Inside Gantz are highly tailored suits for each of you.
“You must put this suit on. If you don’t, you will die.”

 

 

Yep. The confusing and indeed confused, massively entertaining sci-fi killathon returns!! I think the explanation above to the bewildered rookies who died in a bus crash only to find themselves resurrected in a strange room with a large black sphere and a pair of know-it-all teens probably just about covers it. Though, technically, even being killed by an alien needn’t be the end, if someone is altruistic enough to use their hard-won 100 points to bring you back again (again) instead of choosing to be set free, but you know, there’s time for the newbs to find that out. Well, for the small percentage of them who will become our main characters, that is… The majority are just going to be complete and utter cannon fodder…

For those wondering why GANTZ is back, I have absolutely no idea whatsoever. I note with wry amusement that Hiroya Oku is only writing this time around, instead young turk Keita Iizuka has been brought in to handle the pencils. Given how long Oku took to apparently finish GANTZ, with earlier volumes actually going out of print before the final few even came out (good old Dark Horse), this is only a good thing. And if you didn’t know Oku wasn’t illustrating you’d actually have no idea as Iizuka has managed to recreate Oku’s style near perfectly.

 

 

Main point to note is this is apparently a parallel team whose story runs concurrently to the team in GANTZ, meaning that the major apocalyptic alien invasion etc. etc. is in the future, but I suspect this series won’t get into all that. Instead, though, both long-time GANTZ fan Stephen Mortiboy and myself had exactly the same response when we heard about this series.

“Maybe we’ll finally find out what the vampires were all about.”

Omnibus editions of the previous GANTZ series are on their way.

JR

Buy Gantz G: vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

The Phoenix Colossal Comics Collection vol 1 (£9-99, David Fickling Books) by Jamie Smart, Robert Deas, Laura Ellen Anderson, Dan Boultwood, Joe List, Jess Bradley, Chris Riddell, Mike Smith.

Junior jollity and top-notch action, we’ve had the most monumental success with Page 45’s Phoenix Comic Collection Section comprised of some 24 graphic novels culled from the kids’ weekly comic, plus Neill Cameron’s galvanising, practical entertainment HOW TO MAKE AWESOME COMICS,

Now the publisher is trying something a little different akin to an old-school anthology annual with multiple creators offering up their diverse series for you to get a feel for the overall breadth of The Phoenix Comic Weekly or as springboard for you to try more of their collected wares.

If you already own the likes of LOOSHKIN, I do advise you that you’ll already have all of Jamie Smart’s material here, but I don’t think any of the EVIL EMPEROR PENGUIN stories are in either of those collections.

Moreover, this anthology format has afforded the publisher to present some creative gems which wouldn’t have filled more than a very slim pamphlet of their own.

 

 

Topmost for me are Joe List’s absurdist, wavy-armed, bendy-legged single-page stories starring ’Doug Slugman P.I.’ which – entertaining enough in their own right – benefit substantially from being gathered together so that you can revel in the diverse permutations of Slugman’s increasingly insane then mundane (and quite contradictory) Marvel-style origin / introductions. I shall attempt to explain. Spider-Man comics open with something like:

“Accidentally bitten by a radioactive spider, Peter Parker gained the proportional powers of a spider, learned that with great power comes great responsibility, and now fights crime as the AMAZING SPIDER-MAN.” I’m not looking it up.

Joe’s begin:

“A normal garden slug found his way into a mystic shoe that gave him crime-solving powers… DOUG SLUGMAN P.I.” Or:

“After an enchanted detective novel was dropped on a slug, it gave him the mystical powers of detection. DOUG SLUGMAN P.I.” Or even:

“After accidentally finding and returning a lost kitten, a slug decided to dedicate his life to detection. DOUG SLUGMAN P.I.”

Hilariously, within these nine stories there is not one single act of detection and no crimes are solved.

 

 

Woes are witnessed, conundrums encountered and in one instance a couple hiking round the hills asks Doug the slug simply to take a picture of them enjoying the pastoral beauty. In each instance the solutions Doug deploys are over-elaborate and, by any stretch of the imagination, bonkers. But please do remember that a) a book was once dropped on his small squidgy, shell-free head, and b) he is just a mollusc, however “enhanced” by eating nothing but peanut butter sandwiches for two weeks.

As to “wavy-armed” and “bendy-legged”, gastropods are not renowned for having too many of those.

My favourite experience of the surreal was one which began by being ever so cleverly anchored in logic which is absurdist humour’s antithesis. A magician finds himself floundering in water, his cards all soaking wet. How will he now perform his magic tricks?

“I can fix that!” declares Doug, unexpectedly surfacing above water. “What you need is a waterproof alternative…”

Yes, laminate those suckers!

No.

“Fish!”

Which is a fabulous absurdist echo in and of itself.

They’re all the same size, and blue. What’s he to do for his next trick? Haha! You’ll see!

Each episode ends in “Case closed!” and “Next…” Some of the cases are closed, but “Next” never happens.

Look, he’s a detective, not a psychic.

SLH

Buy The Phoenix Colossal Comics Collection vol 1 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’.

The Artist h/c (£12-99, Breakdown Press) by Anna Haifisch

The Dream Of The Butterfly vol 2: Dreaming A Revolution (£11-99, Cub House) by Richard Marazano & Luo Yin

Entropy (£17-99, Secret Acres) by Aaron Costain

Hasib & The Queen Of Serpents (£21-99, NBM) by David B.

Hilda And The Stone Forest (vol 5) s/c (£7-99, Flying Eye) by Luke Pearson

Mister Morgen (£21-99, Conundrum) by Igor Hofbauer

Skin And Earth vol 1: Lights s/c (£22-99, Dynamite) by Lights

The Times I Knew I Was Gay (£9-99, Good Comics) by Eleanor Crewes

The Weaver Festival Phenomenon h/c (£17-99, Fantagraphics) by Ron Rege

We Shall Fight Until We Win: A Century Of Pioneering Political Women (£9-99, @404ink / @BHP_Comics) by various

Hellblazer vol 19: Red Right Hand (£22-99, Vertigo) by Denise Mina, Mike Carey & Leonardo Manco, Cristiano Cucina, John Paul Leon

Batman: The Dark Prince Charming vol 2 h/c (£11-99, DC) by Marini

Spider-Gwen vol 5: Gwenom s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Jason Latour & Robbi Rodriguez, Veronica Fish, Olivia Margraf

Spider-Man: Miles Morales vol 4 s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Oscar Bazaldua

Doctor Who: The Lost Dimension vol 2 (£13-99, Titan) by Gordon Rennie, Emma Beeby, George Mann, Cavan Scott & Ivan Rodriguez, Wellington Diaz, Rachael Stott, Mariano Laclaustra

Black Clover vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Yuki Tabata

Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card vol 4 (£9-99, Kodansha) by Clamp

Devilman: The Classic Collection vol 1 h/c (£22-99, Seven Seas) by Go Nagai

Monster Hunter Flash Hunter vol 7 (£6-99, Viz) by Keiichi Hikami & Shin Yamamoto

Monster Hunter Flash Hunter vol 8 (£6-99, Viz) by Keiichi Hikami & Shin Yamamoto

Monster Hunter Flash Hunter vol 9 (£6-99, Viz) by Keiichi Hikami & Shin Yamamoto

Monster Hunter Flash Hunter vol 10 (£6-99, Viz) by Keiichi Hikami & Shin Yamamoto

So Much Love For You Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

Hooray! Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

Thank You Kindly (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

Most Brilliant Birthday! Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

So Very Proud Of You Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

You Are Loved Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

I Am So Gonna Catch The Bouquet Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

All Of Me Loves All Of You Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

Best News Ever! Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

I Am Always Here For You Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

You Give Me Life Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

Let’s Get Through This Together Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

Go Get ‘Em Tiger! Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

Get Drunk Eat Cake Celebrate! Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

Over The Moon Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson