Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews July 2018 week three

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

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