Archive for August, 2018

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews August 2018 week five

Wednesday, August 29th, 2018

Featuring Chabouté., Anders Nilsen, Andi Watson, Brenna Thummler, Cullen Bunn, Mark Torres, Jeff Smith, Jason Aaron, R.M. Guera, Davide Furno, Francesco Francavilla, Joanthan Hickman, Dale Eaglesham, more!

Alone (£15-99, Faber & Faber) by Chabouté.

“IMAGINATION n. The ability to form a mental image of fictional or perceived objects or concepts not actually present to the senses. The ability to invent, create, or concoct.”

With that definition, this book begins.

If it were Chabouté blowing his own trumpet, I would not begrudge him, but it isn’t. Both its form and its content constitute a very clever conceit at the heart of this work, which only someone as sharp as Chabouté could possibly have invented, created or concocted and then controlled by the astute observation that that which has never been observed may be subject to an even wilder imagination.

It’s first signalled by an initially baffling “BOOM!” resounding from the top of an otherwise silent lighthouse.



From the creator of THE PARK BENCH which we made Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month, this UK edition of an earlier work is almost as wordless, this time because it stars a lifetime loner living a solitary existence in a lighthouse surrounded by sea, and two men on a boat whose taciturn skipper does not encourage conversation.

Regardless, there is absolutely no substitute for slowly turning a sequence of Chabouté’s elegant and eloquently orchestrated pages, like the first sixteen here showing a choppy ocean swept over by a seagull before finally alighting on a corroded iron railing, only to be battered off by a crashing wave. It flies higher above the sea-bashed rocks, circling and circling the single, beacon-topped tower until it reaches railings far safer, around the giant lantern itself.



Then “BOOM!” Something is happening inside.

The sun sets. Time passes. You’ve just passed page sixteen and if you adore sequential art, you will already be in love with this book. However, we have only just begun…




A small trawler approaches the lighthouse rock from afar. It moors up against the concrete quay. A couple of crates are unloaded. The skipper shouts at his new employee to hurry it up. What could possibly be the rush? The boat casts off again, the skipper barking more complaints. It’s no wonder the other guy keeps his own council. Until days later, upon a return visit, he can no longer contain his curiosity about the boxes, suspecting his skipper of smuggling, drugs-running or money laundering.

“They’re supplies. Food!
“That’s right!
“I leave boxes there every week. Been doing it for years.”

They stare up at the lantern.

“He was born there.
“His mother gave birth in the lighthouse…
“He lived with his parents. His father was the keeper.
“His mother died first.
“And then, fifteen years ago, when his father died…
“The kid preferred to stay in there. Well… kid… he was thirty-five then. He must be fifty or so now…
“The guy’s never set foot on land.”

No one’s ever seen him, either. He only fishes with a line once the coast is clear.



“BOOM!” We see leafy boughs.
“BOOM!” a stallion is startled, and stampedes.
“BOOM!” a centaur in gladiator gear rears up and glares out from under the shadow of his helmet menacingly.

What on earth are those sequences doing there?! I’m not going to tell you.

It’s worth studying the window ledge though, when you find out, for the few found objects of flotsam and jetsam that have washed up on the quay or perhaps been hooked on the fishing line. Then, when there are wonkier sequences still…

Oh, it’s so clever!



There’s plenty of tension from time to time, but also a great deal of humour. For example, those wonky sequences, but also this: the recluse’s only companion is a goldfish in a goldfish bowl. Yes, he is surrounded by fish and surrounded by water, yet he keeps a goldfish in water. On the poignant side, it too is living a solitary existence, isolated from the rest of the world, imprisoned, but it isn’t aware of its situation, so doesn’t know what it’s missing.

Infer what you will for what follows.



There’s a superb use of silhouette and contour, and an echoing spiral staircase, a very high tide which serves to emphasise the confinement, and a kindness which may prove anything but.


Buy Alone and read the Page 45 review here

Tongues #1 (£13-99, self-published) by Anders Nilsen.

“What do you think, Eagle? Interpret my dream for me. Should I have left her to die?”
“Knowing what you know now?”
“Yes,” says the eagle. “Clearly.”

If you think the eagle’s being harsh, then look at what we’ve done to this planet. Because the girl they’re referring to was quite possibly the very first human, sculpted by Prometheus from clay.

Also, the eagle and Prometheus are on surprisingly good terms: it addresses the Titan as “my Lord”, pays due deference and doesn’t even rip out his liver until given explicit permission.

“We can pick up tomorrow, as ever.” He’s not exactly going anyway, chained to the mountain, and that liver regenerates daily.



Once the eagle’s departed, mountain goats or deer lap at Prometheus’ open-wound entrails, signalling the unnatural state of affairs.

The crisp lines and rich colours are gorgeous throughout, and I loved the textures in this sequence, particularly the lush, lichen-like mossy stuff he’s sitting on. It looks pretty springy, rising from the hard rock formations in techno-organic patterns which we know that Nilsen is fond of. It matches Prometheus’ mottled, horny-backed form.

I’m kind of hoping Hercules doesn’t kill the raptor in this version. I like him.



The second chapter here is actually called ‘Hercules’ – which is intriguing given who startlingly pops back up in it. Long-term Nilsen fans may find him familiar. On the very first page, with the eagle soaring majestically above the desert at dawn, the barren but beautiful land scarred by exploded shell craters and up-ended military jeeps, I thought, “Ooooh, this is a bit DOGS & WATER!” I honestly had no idea.



The up-ended jeep will be revisited later on. To begin with it attracts the attention of the eagle on account of something rattling around inside it. It’s a monkey. The side-window is shattered resourcefully with a rock, stray glass plucked away by a beak. Then something surprising happens which I found so funny. Terrific cartooning. You haven’t seen the last of that chittering monkey, either.



From the creator of BIG QUESTIONS, POETRY IS USELESS  DON’T GO WHERE I CAN’T FOLLOW, and THE END (GOD AND THE DEVIL back in stock soon), we have the first instalment of a long-form work which poses so many questions, mostly about war both present and in the mythological past, with something slightly futuristic slipped in for good measure. I wonder why so many weapons are being represented as cubes these days? I also wonder it there’s some connection between the squiggly stuff seeping out of the cube is connection in some way to what Prometheus reclines on.



My final conjecture for the moment is whether the young, Swahili-speaking girl who emerges from the jeep’s boot and pulls herself out from under her two dead friends in ‘The Murderer’ might be a version of Pandora whose story is not unconnected with Prometheus’ (she ends up marrying his brother, Epimetheus in spite of Prometheus’ warnings – hilariously the latter means forethought while the former means afterthought or hindsight!) because she’s the one with that box and that box looks pretty lethal.

It’s reflected in the square of paper, rotated 45 degrees and inserted between the comic’s staples, because Anders simply cannot stop himself when it comes to design. And this is a lavish production, slightly larger than A4 with a thick, cardstock cover and French flaps. Each page of Prometheus’ dream or possibly part-memory is framed in a dissection with yet more entrails and organs.

Anders will be sending us the second instalment shortly.


Buy Tongues #1 and read the Page 45 review here

The City Never Sleeps (£2-99, self-published) by Andi Watson.

My favourite single, self-contained comic of the year so far, if there were any justice in this industry, it would sweep up on the Eisners.

(There isn’t; it won’t.)

All our copies have been signed.

“It isn’t true to say the city never sleeps.
“The city is an insomniac.”

They’re too very different propositions, aren’t they? The first suggests abundant, eternal energy, the second a debilitating mental malaise. I’ve been in both camps.

“Awake at night, it re-runs the day’s worries on a treadmill of anxiety.
“Preparing contingency plans for traffic flow, dirty bombs, concrete corrosion and flood.
“Forgetting them all in the fog of morning.”

Someone appears to have spent a great deal of time inside what I thought was my private head.



To begin with we soar above the city at night, composed of so many individual and individualistic sky-scraping entities, clustered together and perhaps communing. But they’re also cramped in a confining night-sky that appears to be rubbed something raw: so many voices, batting and battling about in your head.

The fog of morning lifts them clear from each other in a calm, cool grey and cream sunshine. It is a blessed relief!

But the cycle never stops, does it?



We’ll return to this first of four short stories in a second, but what I am promising you here are twelve succinct pages of meticulously composed, wit-ridden sequential art inside an exquisitely designed cardstock cover. It’s the first of twelve such mini-comics with a chic, matching trade dress which we’re calling The Andi Watson Collection. They really are that classy, and each will make you grin from ear to ear.  Previously available solely to Andi’s patreon subscribers (, the section will expand as Andi releases each one in turn to Page 45, and we could not be more honoured.

Known to so many families as the creator of GLISTER, GUM GIRL and PRINCESS DECOMPOSIA, Watson’s more adult-orientated material like BREAKFAST AFTER NOON has sadly languished out of print for a shamefully long period now. We made his LITTLE STAR about being a Dad – and it doesn’t get much more mass-appeal mainstream than that – our first-ever Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month. So it is a joy to once again promote his prime contemporary fiction, for Andi Watson is one of the finest British creators that this medium has ever known.



‘Garden Party’ in green will bear strange but all too familiar fruit, and ‘The Eaters’ will make you choke in recognition.

But ‘The Killer Inside Me’ you will never see coming.

And once you have read it, please remember I wrote that.

I was initially perplexed yet intrigued by its page construction in black, pink and purple, but do please trust me when I type that if I continued to describe or analyse its very specific panel layouts in any detail at all, then we would all be spilling into the sad realm of spoilers.



Instead let’s return to where we came in with the next line of our somnolent city.

“The city never sleeps but it does begin to feel drowsy around mid-afternoon.”

That’s not the punchline by any stretch of the imagination, though that would do fine for me.

No, Andi’s imagination stretches much further than that. As, I hope, you shall see.


Buy The City Never Sleeps and read the Page 45 review here

Sheets (£11-99, Cubhouse) by Brenna Thummler.

Thirteen-year-old Marjorie has more to contend with than most.

And it shows. Her poor, heavy eyes are so sad.

Her Mom died last spring, “and then Dad sort of did, too.”

He’s become a ghost of a man, floating silently round the house, barely lifting a finger, leaving Marjorie to tend to her brother and run the family business single-handedly, all outside school hours. Unsurprisingly, in spite of all her hard work, the business is starting to crumble.

Some of the customers are far from supportive. Mrs. Waffleton, with eyes like Eastenders’ Angie Watts, cuts her no slack for being even a minute late, while her spoiled daughter Tessi stares, self-absorbed, into the distance.

“Tessi Waffleton always looks like a spring holiday basket.
“But, like, one that you give for revenge or a prank or something that is sort of pretty but is filled with saw blades and worms.”

It’s a perfect description of the overly-made up, pouting girl in pearls. Tessi demands to be the centre of everyone’s attention at school, keeping her entourage in check by denigrating their personal quirky speech patterns. It’s very effective.

These aren’t the worst customers, however.



Mr Saubertuck immediately grates but seems harmless enough to begin with: eccentric, with lips constantly pursed under a bushy moustache, hair affectedly sculpted with brilliantine and glasses shaped high so as to add to his primly supercilious air. He’s fastidious too, and from this florid suit (everything he wears is patterned) he plucks what I suppose must be a handkerchief but looks more like a pair of pink-patterned panties, and proceeds to wipe down the windows, loudly, squeakily, critically, until he’s drawn attention to himself.

“Oh, don’t mind me.
“I thought this place could use a little TLC.”

He buys a potted plant and plonks it on the counter.

But later he’ll be bringing other things into the laundromat, he’ll find a way of letting himself in, and his self-regard, meddling and presumption will grow increasingly sinister. He has an agenda. I don’t think I’ve disliked a character in comics more since the loathsome Rusty Brown in Chris Ware’s big red ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY h/c. And that’s quite the accolade.

Yes, I found this very affecting in places – very angry-making too.

Wendell, meanwhile, is a ghost. A ghost of the kids-popping-a-bed-sheet-over-their-head-for-Halloween variety. This will prove important.




We first meet Wendell in a ghost town of small suburban shacks and the pinks and mauves and violets give way to an eerie, ethereal, green-tinctured grey. He’s not adjusting well to being dead – he died very young. He’ll tell you how eventually, but for the moment he’s attending group therapy and telling epic fibs about how extravagantly he kicked the bucket.

“See, it all started when I was taken captive by a crew of mutant pirates.”

His tale grows even taller but, in spite of abusing the therapeutic process, his fellow ghosts invite him to the bathhouse.

“Err… bathhouse?”
“Yes, the house with all the baths.”

It’s not just the colours which prove a pale version of reality – even the smells do:

“They just got a new scent of Ghosturizer: Vaguley Vanilla. I hear it’s better than Barely Bubblegum.”

Isn’t this well written?



Wendell opts instead to go home alone, to stare mournfully out of the caravan window all night. Then from the ghost town he hops on a forbidden ghost train to take him back to the human world, and wakes up in a wicker basket to a glorious sunrise. Tentatively, he tries to make friends with other sheets, flapping in the breeze on a washing line, but they don’t respond to his pokes. Instead he hears the sound of a piano being played, floats up to the open window and sees Marjorie sat at her Mom’s favourite place, the piano. Then… then he ventures downstairs and…!!!

When Wendell discovers the laundromat it’s like the ultimate spa for ghosts! So many luxurious treatments! A sauna of steam, an iron to work out those knots in this sheet’s shoulders, but the centrifugal force of the spin-dryer may give him a bit of a shock!




The profound irony of all this I will leave you to discover for yourselves, but if you think this is where it becomes all comical an’ cute, and Marjorie and Wendell become best friends, then think again. This is, instead, where the nightmares really begin and I honestly believe I’ve told you quite enough already. As in, I’ve laid out all the specific elements which will come into far from clean play.



Marjorie spends a great deal of time huddled, constantly under threat from all corners. Alternatively, she’s left to stroll on her own down streets which can feel as lonely and as desolate as the ghost town’s, even when strewn with such beautiful, bright autumn leaves.




And the colours are exquisite, absolutely exquisite, the neon pinks of the senescent leaves striking a contrast with the yellow-green lawn they’ve fallen upon.

As I say, very affecting, and fine for all ages.


Buy Sheets and read the Page 45 review here

Cold Spots #1 (£3-25, Image) by Cullen Bunn & Mark Torres.

An SUV drives through the wrought iron gates of an estate substantial enough to have a sizeable spread of trees, yet close enough to a major city that its light pollution taints the sky purple at night.

It pulls up at the imposing entrance to an even more imposing mansion.

“Mr. Warren values punctuality.
“You’re late.”

It’s always a good idea to establish the hierarchy of employment early on, isn’t it?

A man much younger than the snow-haired butler steps out of the vehicle.

“Is that right?
“Because your boss once told me that he never wanted to see me again.
“By my watch, that makes me early.”

It’s a good line in itself, but also a careful clue artfully slipped in early on, which is why I haven’t quoted you the publisher’s own blurb which is one big blunder-headed spoiler. Instead, I’ll leave you to join your own dots because, quite rightly, they aren’t in the comic itself.




Mr. Warren has reluctantly summoned this Mr. Kerr back after 8 years of absence, for he values his ability to find those who’ve gone missing. And Mr. Warren’s daughter Alyssa went missing, a month ago. There’s a photograph of her in an envelope laden with cash.

“Seems like there was an envelope full of money on the desk the last time I was here.”
“And tell me… how long did those funds last?”

It’s the second photograph which first ruffles Mr. Kerr’s cool, of a girl nearly 8 years old.

“Her name is Grace. She vanished along with her mother. She’s a special child, Mr Kerr, and the courts have seen fit to make me her legal guardian.
“Alyssa was never one to make good decisions.
“I’m concerned for my grand-daughter… for Grace… and I want her brought back to me, where I can protect her. If Alyssa doesn’t want to return… well… It wouldn’t be the first time she’s used poor judgement.”

It’s a scene well played by Mark Torres, for at that last implied sleight, Mr Kerr’s eyes shoot daggers.

Have you figured it out yet? One final clue: Mr Kerr calls Mr Warren “Arthur”.

It’s pretty cold where Mr. Kerr’s headed, to the coast which is close to an offshore island whose inhabitants have recently chosen to dispense with a ferry altogether.




It was preternaturally cold when we first and last saw that island, during the first four pages. Even inside with the thermostat turned up, the breath of the bearded man hangs in the air. His shoulders hang heavy too. He sits alone and pallid in the bungalow’s colourless lounge, overly empty save for some family portraits. also hanging, on the wall.

His wife in the kitchen’s stopped washing the dishes. Instead she’s staring out of the window.



“Louise? What are you doing?”
“Hmm? I’m sorry. I wasn’t paying attention. I was just watching the boys play.”
“The.. the boys? What are you talking about? You can’t watch them play. The boys are –“

The boys are in the garden, one standing on a swing, the other racing towards a football.



But you can see right through them. And then there are those faces and eyes

Beautifully judged by Torres for maximum eeriness, there will be more temperamental temperature during the second half of this first issue which I’ve not even touched on.

From the writer of HARROW COUNTY (first two volumes reviewed).


Buy Cold Spots #1 and read the Page 45 review here

RASL Colour Edition vol 1 (of 3) Drift s/c (£8-99, Cartoon Books) by Jeff Smith.

Under Jeff Smith’s direction these colours provided by Steve Hamaker with Tom Gaadt are like little else in the business, with a completely different aesthetic to BONE‘s glossy gleam. For a start the paper stock is a lovely, thick matt while the colours themselves are soft and warm at night, yet clean and bright with wide, azure skies during the day out in the dessert.

There is an extended sequence towards the end of volume 3 when our battered and blood-caked RASL, weighted and weary, lets himself surf slowly down the scree-slopes of the arid, clay-coloured outcrop exposed to a desiccating sun under the indifferent watch of a midday moon. There the blues and the sandy stones complement each other beautifully: heat and light and so much fresh air, even if it’s too hot to handle.



Jeff Smith even spent two weeks sweating bare-chested in the desert surrounded by cacti – something that’s imprinted itself on the art here. There’s a real physicality to the protagonist with slightly simian looks, his big mop of hair, his compacted, body-builder physique and the fountain of sweat that sprays off his face. Even the way he pulls up his slacks is sexually charged. You imagine he might have a growl like Tom Waits, and he sure likes his liquor bars and strip joints.





Does the name Nikola Tesla mean anything to you? He experimented with electricity and (some would say in hushed whispers) with much, much more. Credit went to his former friend turned ruthless and vengeful enemy, Thomas Edison, while Tesla’s monumental achievements in alternating current were followed by an obsession and deception which proved his downfall, sending him down a different road altogether.*



This is a brutally noir piece of extrapolated science set over several fictional worlds in which our art-thief hero stole the technology he’s been using to hop between dimensions because it could have been used as an electromagnetic weapon. It involves parallel universes, conspiracy theory, Native American symbolism / spirituality and knowing your Bob Dylan. Well, it does for “RASL” Robert, which is why he knows he made the wrong turning at the trans-dimensional traffic lights.



Unfortunately someone or something is hot on his tail, has murdered his girlfriend and is on verge of murdering her counterpart if Robert can’t take the fight back to them…

The science, he stole came from a research facility he once helped run. Now the dimensions appear to be cracking. There are echoes, traces, visual footprints if you like, and seemingly random bursts of electricity strong enough to kill hundreds of birds in the sky. Then there’s the strange little girl, mute with a lolling head, who seems to know more than she should. On top of all this Robert has been complicating things beautifully by seeing two different women with multiple counterparts and… oh, you really do have to read this for yourself!



It’s eerie, unnerving, but utterly compelling, particularly the science itself. It is also, as you’d imagine, very, very beautiful with some extraordinary effects as the rooms start to ripple and morph.


Please note: this review was originally written for the complete RASL h/c and our accompanying images may come from any of the three softcovers.


Buy RASL Colour Edition vol 1 (of 3) Drift s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Scalped Book 3 (£22-99, Vertigo) by Jason Aaron & R.M. Guera, Davide Furno, Francesco Francavilla.

Because I rate this so highly, I’ve written extensive brand-new reviews for this series of five double-editions, but this time I’m merely going to rework what I’ve already for the original volume 5 and 6.

But first, here’s how I introduced SCALPED BOOK 1 and SCALPED BOOK 2 to set the scene.
“Yet, here we are, still forgotten, still a third world nation in the heart of America.”

Crime and grime on the Prairie Rose Indian Reservation, South Dakota, “where the great Sioux Nation came to die”.

Gone is the majesty, the beauty, the health, the wealth and the freedom to roam. They’ve been replaced by grinding poverty enforced by unyielding societal shackles, dilapidated housing patched up with corrugated iron, refuse-strewn streets, gutted car wrecks abandoned on pock-marked asphalt and a burned-out people deprived of any opportunity but to drink themselves to death.

That’s all that we – the colonising, genocidal White Eyes – have given back to them, in lieu of their true heritage and of the bounty which was already their own. For more of that history, please see the great graphic novel INDEH by Ewan Hawke and Greg Ruth: it will tear your heart out.



Scalped vol 5: High Lonesome

The series of secrets is blown wide open here.

Some of them come clean whilst others are seen and you will find out who killed Gina Bad Horse.

You’ll find out Agent Nitz’s true agenda and in another flashback witness Diesel’s harsh transformation from a gullible boy just eager to fit in to a ruthless fear-monger. But it’s all about the structure of storytelling here and once more Aaron does not disappoint, setting it up from the perspective of a travelling trickster arriving at the casino to count cards, whose every utterance is a compulsive lie countered neatly by an inner thought. Then Jason Aaron, I imagine, laughs loudly to himself as he makes you wait until the last two chapters to pick that thread back up and bring it all together in a collision of past and present, and a great big fucking shoot-out.



Scalped vol 6: The Gnawing

And it’s at this pivotal point, when everything looks like it will fall apart for everyone – when Dashiell Bad Horse will be exposed for the undercover FBI agent he is, when his other employer Chief Red Crow will finally be fingered for murder and his casino invaded by the Asian-American crimelords he’s just insulted, when the other undercover agent Diesel will be released from jail by the FBI despite having murdered a young boy Dashiell had taken under his wing – that Catcher re-enters the fray. He’s barely done more than circle so far, preferring the oblivion of booze and visions of the Thunder Beings (which may or may not be the result of said booze), but now he has some words to say to Dashiell and a sniper rifle with one bullet in it which he’s going to make count.

Everything explodes.



If you read and review enough graphic novels you can see a lot of them being written and a lot of them being drawn, and you shouldn’t. You shouldn’t be able to peer behind that curtain. Here you can’t. It’s just that good.


Buy Scalped Book 3 and read the Page 45 review here

Fantastic Four By Hickman Complete Collection vol 1 s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Sean Chen, Dale Eaglesham, Neil Edwards, Adi Granov.

Bumper book of brilliance and one of the best runs ever on this sporadically functional family. I’ve hardly had to change a word since my original reviews in 2010, just find you the appropriate pretty pictures.

Even the opening quote sent shivers back up my spine after all this time.

But you’ll also find plenty of fun!

Fantastic Four by Jonathan Hickman vol 1

“So… you’ve been spending a lot of time with yourself.”
“Yes, yes I have.”

Right from the cover with its heads circled around the logo, the whole thing smacks of the George Perez era made glossy with Eaglesham’s finishes feeling half John Cassady, half David Finch – clean and sturdy with hairy forearms and some great stubble on Reed Richards. Thought’s even gone into the flashbacks which find a school-aged Reed receiving sound advice from a father who could never quite follow it himself. There the pages are framed by corners of copper wiring and old transistors. And I loved the Perez era, but this is so much sharper and on a much grander scale.




For a start there are some neat parental interactions, background smiles, and a broad theme of having to try without the fear of failing. There’s also the potential for more marital strife as Reed becomes obsessed not with his successes but with the potential he has squandered to do more. For in the face of a future far from bright and in his search to solve everything, he has discovered The Council – The Council of Infinite Reed Richardses.



They show him The Farm: hundreds of previously uninhabitable planets terraformed to feed galaxies. They show him The Hole wherein a legion of Dr. Dooms are locked away, collared by a mechanism that destroys their higher functions. Then they show him the infinite possibilities of solar surgery from the Upper Dimension. The problem is, he may have to choose between all that accomplishment… and his family.



There’s a poignant but also joyful juxtaposition between Reed’s dramatic Extra-Dimensional exploits and the morning breakfast table where dreamboat Johnny Storm is a bed-haired slob in a vest, and almost certainly talking with a mouth full of cereal when he’s peeved to hear that Franklin wants Spider-Man to come to his birthday party:

“What do you want that guy for? If you want a super-cool superhero at your party — someone that says, “Franklin Richards: Livin’ The Dream!” — then you’re gonna want the Human Torch, kid. I’m sure I can squeeze it in.”
“Mom, I’d really rather have Spider-Man.”
“Listen, I’m going to tell you this because no one else will, Franklin. Spider-Man sucks.”
“You suck, Suckface!”
“Franklin! Apologise.”
“Okay, Mom. Fine. Sorry, Uncle Suckface.”



Johnny’s not just vapid here, he’s hilariously childish, only a few mental grades up from Franklin. There are neat visual nods in The Council to previous incarnations of the FANTASTIC FOUR, some interesting variations on former foes, and a return to a Nu-World gone wrong. But Hickman’s opening salvo culminates ominously after Franklin’s birthday when, late at night, the family’s home is invaded by an intruder who has grave news for daughter Val. Unfortunately Franklin stumbles on him first and his mother watches helplessly as her young son is ‘neutralised’ in front of her. What Sue says next is born of pure maternal instinct:

“It doesn’t matter if it takes me the rest of my life, I’m going to find you… I’m going to find you and make you wish you had never been born.”

Or is it?



Fantastic Four By Jonathan Hickman vol 2

A second tremendous book by Hickman, this time with 100% Eaglesham wonder as the Fantastic Four do what they always do best: explore.

It’s more science than supervillains and that’s how it should be, give or take a Latverian despot. In four seemingly self-contained chapters Hickman and Eaglesham take us around, under and high above the Earth as Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben encounter other races. Some species are new, some quite familiar, for Hickman is building a wider picture peace by peace (sic). But one thing’s quite clear: we are surrounded.

Some clever new ideas like the home-pad analysis after each episode (then, tellingly, during one) and I’m still laughing at Johnny Storm striding onto the Antarctic Ice wearing little more than cowboy boots and a pair of black, red- and gold-flamed boxers.  Why would The Human Torch need insulation?



NB This volume also includes DARK REIGN: FANTASTIC FOUR #1-5 which I’ve never read and a slither from DARK REIGN: THE CABAL.


Buy Fantastic Four By Hickman Complete Collection vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

 The Legend of Kevin: A Roly-Poly Flying Pony Adventure h/c with FREE, EXCLUSIVE Page 45 signed bookplate (£8-99, Oxford University Press) by Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre.



Yes, it’s arrived a week early!!!

Here are those exclusive Page 45 bookplates all signed!



They’re limited to 100 copies and – at the time of typing (5-19pm Tuesday August 28) – over 60 copies have already gone. Review to follow once I’ve read it on holiday. In the meantime please see all the extant reviews in Page 45’s Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre section!



We’ve far, far more by Sarah McIntrye solo like THE NEW NEIGHBOURS with its own, signed, limited edition bookplate!



Strangers In Paradise Gallery Edition h/c (£110-99, Abstract Studios) by Terry Moore

Stray Bullets – Sunshine & Roses vol 2: Change of Plans (£17-99, Image) by David Lapham

Life On Earth Book 1: Losing The Girl (£10-99, Graphic Universe) by MariNaomi

Sugar: Life As A Cat (£14-99, Soaring Penguin Press) by Serge Baeken

Love And Rockets (Palomar & Luba vol 7): Three Sisters (£16-99, Fantagraphics) by Gilbert Hernandez

Fruit of Knowledge (£14-99, Virago) by Liv Stromquist

Coyote Doggirl (£17-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Lisa Hanawalt

Fang vol 1 (£6-99, Fantagraphics) by Marc Palm

Batman A Lot Of Lil Gotham s/c (£22-99, DC) by Derek Fridolfs & Dustin Nguyen

Jim Henson’s The Power Of The Dark Crystal vol 3 h/c (£22-99, Archaia) by Simon Spurrier, Phillip Kennedy Johnson & Kelly Matthews, Nichole Matthews

Final Fantasy Lost Stranger vol 1 (£9-99, Yen Press) by Hazuki Minase & Itsuki Kameya

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

Tales From The Hidden Valey vol 1: The Artists (£12-99, Flying Eye Books) by Carles Porta

You Are There (£26-99, Fantagraphics) by Jean-Claude Forest & Jacques Tardi

Captain America By Mark Waid: Promised Land s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Leonardo Romero, various,

Amazing Spiderman Epic Collection Venom s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Ann Nocenti, David Micheline, various & Cynthia Martin, Alex Saviuk, Todd McFarlane, various

The Superior Spider-Man: The Complete Collection vol 2 s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott, Christos Gage & Ryan Stegman, Humberto Ramos, Javier Rodriguez, various

I Hate Fairyland vol 4: Sadly Never After (£14-99, Image) by Skottie Young

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews August 2018 week four

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018

Kill Or Be Killed vol 4 s/c (£14-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips, Elizabeth Breitweiser.

“Is everything all right, Dylan?”
“No… not really. But it will be.”

Will it?

It’s the KILL OR BE KILLED finale from the creators of THE FADE OUT, FATALE etc, and if the penultimate chapter’s cliffhanger is a narrative bombshell you couldn’t possibly see coming, then the final-page punchline is a visual whose eyes will bore into your own so hard and so deep – meeting your gaze directly, unflinchingly – that I defy you to look away. For a full five minutes I studied those dense, shining shadows, sweeping black lines and broad colour brushstrokes, so bold that anything behind became even more ethereal. Then, almost as soon as I looked away to flick back through the preceding four pages which made so much sense, I had to return almost immediately.

I think that’s the general idea with obsession.

And this all about obsession.

Up until now KILL OR BE KILLED has been the psychological self-examination of an educated young man with a gnawing sense of social justice but a fine line in convivial conversation as he descends into a surprisingly efficient mass murder spree.



That initial spree at least is all but over, though there’s always room for one more, don’t you think?

“Stairs are actually not that effective for killing people, in case you were wondering.
“Too many variables. You can never know for sure how someone’s going to land…
“Or if they’re going to break their neck.”

You may have to step in and finish the business on foot.

“I get away with this, by the way.”

The narrative is as charming as disarming as ever: even the chapter breaks (originally the ends to each monthly issue) add to the illusion of this being an off-the-cuff account.

“Shit, I completely forgot.
“We’ll have to talk about that next time.”

In KILL OR BE KILLED VOLUME 3.I wrote about the disconnect between Dylan’s wretched preoccupations and the beauty which surrounds him which he, cruelly, has no mental access to, and it is only accentuated further on the first two pages here.



It’s something that comics can do ever so well under the right creators: when the words and the pictures ‘disagree’. Jon Klassen has made a career out of this for comedic, Young Readers purposes. This is tragic instead.

Look at the exquisite silver livery on these idyllic snow-swept scenes and the rapture being relished by those able to fully inhabit those landscapes by being in the moment and sharing between them its gift!



Now read the words of a perceived grinding life and the fall of the world into geopolitical disorder. “Sad” doesn’t begin to cover it. In volume three of KILL OR BE KILLED Dylan consciously castigated himself thus:

“I’d been so stupid… We’re all so stupid all the time.”
“We stop noticing our miracles.”

Yet within that same volume he almost immediately failed to retain that self-knowledge. It wasn’t wilful, it wasn’t negligent. It was because he was trapped, in his own head and his immediate circumstances of needing to act or the love of his life would be dead. Now he is shackled once again, even further removed from this extraordinary, ordinary joy, and the windows through which he is looking are barred.

The cover may give you a clue, but only on reading this will you understand how he got himself sectioned. It has nothing to do with volume three whatsoever. This is an entirely new development, and, to begin with, Dylan is quite content to be locked up, for it means that the outside world should be safe from him.

It isn’t. Nor is he, from what he has left behind him outside.



Expect Breitweiser blizzards so dense that they will all but obliterate your vision, which will give Dylan ample opportunity to talk about climate change, industry, government, and the war between wealth and accountability. It will also give the unexpected ample opportunity to sneak unseen upon the unwary.

Sorry…? Oh, you’re halfway through this book and just remembered that sentence. You think I’m referring to that snow storm! Haha!

I’m not.

I’ve run out of time, but it’s also worth studying all the different hair treatments throughout the series. Yes, hair!



Dylan’s mother’s is completely different from the others’ not only in style but in its method of rendition, far closer to Kira’s. Phillips goes to great lengths to draw identifiable, individual strands of hair for both women and men, whereas Dylan’s mum’s is lifted by mousse to look like a meringue or Mr Whippy.

For far longer, more in-depth reviews, please see previous editions of KILL OR BE KILLED.


Buy Kill Or Be Killed vol 4 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Idle Days (£14-99, FirstSecond) by Thomas Desaulniers-Brousseau & Simon Leclerc.

“It would only be a matter of minutes.
“You’re alone here.
“By the time the flames are seen, there would be nothing to be done.
“And then… oblivion.”

Two hundred and sixty pages lit by fire and heavy with death, few from natural causes.

It’s happening all over Europe on the landing shores and battlefields of World War II, news seeping over the airwaves and out of radio speakers crackling with static and hundreds of thousands of fatalities. Canada promised there would be no conscription, but reneged. So Jerome deserted and now hides in his grandfather’s remote and rickety old house, sequestered in a forest in Quebec. His grandfather is grumpy and the house needs renovating, for it’s been through several degrees of trauma.

It has an unsettling, opaque history which Jerome becomes increasingly obsessed with uncovering. And, in the night, alone in the barn or out in the woods, Jerome’s mind becomes plagued with startling visions of even more death.



The art is haunting. The cows at night are silent, wide-eyed and eerie.

The thick textures on the cover refuse to let your eyes settle, while inside the lines and black shadows have evidently been superimposed upon boards separately ‘painted’ in oil pastels and gouache which gives them an unconstrained freedom to roam and bleed out behind, to dance around hair and faces like flame. The forest too shimmers with autumnal light or burning sunset colours in rays across purple evening snow.



The grandfather’s drawn with a line and looseness reminiscent of those similarly acting their socks off in Dave McKean’s CAGES. He is turn kind, stern and highly evasive, especially when talk turns to digging the garden. They talk while they renovate and they talk round the bonfires at night.

“You know, your father… that hunting accident…
“When something like that happens… it moves to the centre of your mind… and, whether you realise it or not… it can grown to leave little room for anything else.”

At which point, like the mind, the entire panel is consumed by fire.



Except for brief visits from his mother or Mathilde whom Jerome’s gently courting, their only constant companion is the grandfather’s dog Jack who finds more to bark at than can be seen. That sense of threat pierces what is otherwise a densely claustrophobic sensation throughout, thick with oranges during both night and day. The radio broadcasts add to that claustrophobia and threat, for there are posters splattered about town encouraging folks to dob-in deserters.



With so much time for solitary thought, there is, throughout, a brooding intensity.

And a house with a history of fire.


Buy Idle Days and read the Page 45 review here

Spill Zone vol 2 h/c (£17-99, FirstSecond) by Scott Westerfeld & Alex Puvilland with Hilary Sycamore.



Hats off to Hilary Sycamore, because the colours are phenomenal.

Even before you break into the Spill Zone, the photographs in the gallery glow against its grey walls.



It’s those colours on Puvilland’s extraordinary geometrical extravagance that give the Spill Zone its sense of the alien and otherness, so when they’re brought outside, the results are thrilling.

But even on the very first page the skyscraper’s been drawn so that its windows play tricks on your eyes, almost moving alive.

And we’ve only just begun…



“Why do I feel so strange? What’s happening to me?”
“Short version? You bit off more than you can chew.”

How true.

In SPILL ZONE VOL 1 h/c (much longer review with heaps of outstanding interior art) we learned that Addison once worked in secret, photographing the spectacular living art within the deadly, quarantined Spill Zone which erupted one night, three years ago, to swallow the small city of Poughkeepsie.



It killed every living soul within reach of its transdimensional touch, transforming them into dangling corpses called meat puppets, including Addison’s parents who worked in its hospital which now seems the epicentre of its spectral activities. Addison only survived because she had abandoned her younger sister Lexa, whom she was supposed to be babysitting, to go on a binge-drink outside the city, so she feels pretty bad about that. Lexa only survived because Vespertina, her doll who’s possessed, led her unharmed from the carnage. But Lexa feels pretty bad too, because she harbours a terrible secret, which is why she went schtum for three years.

But now Addison’s ventured too far into the Spill Zone, risking everything for an art collector (and one million dollars paid for by the North Korean government) to extricate an item from the hospital’s radiology department. What if she bumped into her meat-puppet parents, for example?



She hasn’t, yet. But she did come away touched by what she found within the hospital’s re-jumbled rooms, and now every faction in action is going to converge on Addison: the US army, Don Jae – the sole survivor of North Korea’s own Spill Zone – the American Secret Service, the North Korean Secret Service and the strange new inhabitants of the Spill Zone itself.

For although North Korea’s Spill Zone went inert almost immediately – and you will learn why – Poughkeepsie’s still simmering, beginning to bubble and boil.

It’s about to spill over and out.



SPILL ZONE VOL 1 h/c was a visual feast of multicoloured questions and so many secrets which were only beginning to be answered, whereas this second half swiftly delivers its key revelations, punches its way through some astonishingly harsh, bonfire reactions (Addison!!!!), then mercilessly administers the repercussions before unleashing its lupine fury on a woodland in which tree trunks are shattered into translucent, crystalline shards.

I loved how Addison rips off her original, corrupt art dealer in precisely the same way in which he used to screw with her (and I love that it’s not sign-posted; thanks for trusting your readership), and there’s a substantial epilogue set another three years later which reunites some of the survivors so satisfyingly, and in quite unexpected ways.

More extensive epilogues, please, certainly for longer works.



SPILL ZONE VOL 1 is also now out as a s/c but in all honesty that cover is bland, betraying the beauty within for the sake of looking like an Image trade paperback, and if you can’t wait another six months to read volume 2 then I recommend you buying both matching hardcovers for they make a sweet, stylish and metallically enhanced set which reflects the majesty of what you’ll find inside.


Buy Spill Zone vol 2 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Vs vol 1: Front Towards Enemy s/c (£14-99, Image) by Ivan Brandon & Esad Ribic…

“Is that them?”
“It’s not. WAIT…”
“It IS! Do you see him?”
“Praise the Oversight!”

Ahhh… do you love Rollerball with James Caan? If you do, then this is for you without any doubt whatsoever. Here’s the Corporations’ infomercial to educate you further… Just imagine a little Toccata and Fugue in D minor playing away merrily on a pipe organ in the background whilst you allow yourself to be indoctrinated…

“War has become a spectator sport. Privately funded armies of superstar soldiers march into battle for fame, profit, and the glory of their sponsor nations. When a new generation of soldiers arrive, top gladiator Satta Flynn is about to discover how fleeting the limelight can be. From writer Ivan Brandon (BLACK CLOUD, DRIFTER) and superstar artist Esad Ribic (SECRET WARS, UNCANNY X-FORCE) in his creator-owned Image debut, with painted colour by Nic Klein and designs by Tom Muller, VS delivers spectacular action, darkly humorous satire and explores our hunger for fame and our penchant for self-destruction.”



And also how our future will be shaped by those in charge of our entertainment…

This is indeed a gloriously brutal glimpse of a world where our apparent innate need for combative sport, and therefore of course visceral violence, is being sated by sponsored lunatics attempting to blast each other to smithereens and saturated with corporate logos and blipverts for all manner of inane must-have products. War ain’t cheap, you know. It’s like Robot Wars made real, except played out on an actual battlefield with human combatants. Though without Craig Charles prattling hyperbolically away on commentary duties. So not all negative, then…



Behind the scenes there’s a lot more going on, of course, as the powers that be plot the storylines and trajectories of the militias and characters to maximise their ratings and keep the masses so emotionally engaged that it leaves no time for individual thought never mind serious social or political discourse, let alone dissent.

Ivan VIKING Brandon crafts a bleakly dystopian yet vibrantly alive world here which is portrayed beautifully by Esad THOR Ribic and coloured equally perfectly by Nic Klein. I first seriously clocked onto Ribic’s work during on Rick Remender’s brilliant UNCANNY X-FORCE run which felt, and looked, much more like sci-fi than superheroes.



So… the greatest and most celebrated gladiator of them is all is Satta Flynn, but no one can stay on top forever… particularly when it’s been decided that your demise might make a compelling story arc.  But don’t count Flynn out just yet, particularly when he has the love of his adoring public on his side to sway the producers and controllers. We all love a good comeback story!



Let me complete the excerpt I started above…

“The people asked you to stand for them. You have to go out there and STAND.”
“Make some noise for HISTORY!
“New sponsors! Top secret gear head to toe! Satta Flynn has had a wartime makeover!
“What’s OLD is NEW again!”

Yeah, but Satta Flynn is finally starting to wise up to the bigger game at play. So it’s a real shame his comeback is intended to be a very short one…


Buy Vs vol 1: Front Towards Enemy s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Ghost Money: Death In Durbai h/c (£19-99, Lion Forge) by Thierry Smolden & Dominique Bertail…

“These kids reference Rummy and Dick like they taught them how to cheat at poker. So tell me, Google. Do you regret our time in Iraq?”
“What? No way! Shit, Kendricks, I still remember the four of us talking about what we’d do with Al-Qaeda’s fortune if we ever found it… You? How are things since you bought the team?”
“Honestly? Caesar’s Hand has never been better!”
“Yeah? Tell me!”

I tell you what, I’ll let the publisher give you a need-to-know briefing instead. And trust me, you do need to know about this work, because it’s a hugely captivating, very believable espionage escapade set in 2020 replete with hi-tech upgrades and killer Euro-style ligne claire art, all contributing to making it an absolute belter.  It’s full of odious characters, all with their own agendas, plus the odd innocent thrown into the New World Order blender for good measure.



Here we go, just remember your wallet will self-destruct in five seconds if you don’t head straight to the Page 45 website after reading this…

“Intriguing characters and plotlines intertwine in a near-future political thriller drawing on contemporary world events and actual growing technology contributing to a cyberwar in both reality and virtual reality. When Lindsey, a young student in London, is rescued from a riot by Chamza, a young woman from the Arab world, they begin a relationship based on both fascination and convenience.




“Before she knows it, Lindsey is drawn into a world of vast wealth and intrigue; her new friend seems to have ties to political movements and revolutionaries throughout the Islamic world, but it is not clear what their agenda might be, or where her great wealth comes from. Could it be the fabled legendary lost treasure of Al-Qaeda, supposedly amassed through insider trading prior to 9/11?




“Unbeknownst to either Lindsey or Chamza, a set of US contractors called Caesar’s Hand, all veterans of war in Iraq and the CIA’s rendition program, are focusing their sites on Chamza, believing her wealth is indeed the key to a larger threat to the entire world economy. The series looks at surveillance, clandestine military action, and class warfare in the twilight of the current War on Terror, all within the context of a thriller that ultimately seeks to find out what controls the global economy.”



If they can manage to find Al-Qaeda’s lost treasure, I’m calling in Caesar’s Hand to sort out Brexit before the British economy self-destructs completely… In meanwhile why not enjoy ten absorbing issues of high-octane excitement bound in a very presentable chunky hardback for the exceedingly reasonable price of £19-99? Go on, I’m watching you…


Buy Ghost Money: Death In Durbai h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Crowded #1 (£3-25, Image) by Christopher Sebela & Ro Stein.

Originally this was going to have been called CROWDFUNDEAD, which amused me greatly.

I’ll tell you why in a while. This is ever so clever and fresh.

As the cover to SOMETHING CITY made comically clear, we really should share our lawnmowers. Given how modest most of our lawns are, there are a ridiculous number of lawnmowers per suburban square mile.

But we are learning to share more: carpools for school have long been common; now some rent out their homes while on holiday themselves. Then there’s the multiple job front whereby students take part-time work while studying and others take on a second and even third job to supplement their primary wages. Plus, there is now an app for everything.

Sebela has combined all three phenomena and pushed them along the trajectory they look like heading, towards their logical conclusions.



So imagine an imminent future with even more flexibility in which we rent out, while we’re not using them, our houses, our cars (they don’t half sit idle for most of the day, even week!) and even our best clothes which we wear only to weddings. It does make sense, yes? We probably still won’t share that packet of Maltesers: some things are sacred, after all. Then we take out bit-jobs – a bash at babysitting, a dash of dog walking, a few hours ferrying folks about as a taxi service – all bid for and booked via cell-phone apps called Dogstroll, CitySitter, Kloset for clothes and ‘Palrent’ for when you want some idle company.

Charlotte Ellison embarks on all manner of such innocent yet lucrative activities on a daily basis. So why has someone trying to kill her?



Ah, well, they’re not exactly. Instead they’ve Kickstarted a campaign on Reapr, raising a not inconsiderable $1,257,642, with 2,249 backers committed to kill Charlotte Ellison. Someone’s popular – or unpopular.

And remember, in a world where any of us might try our hands at anything for a couple of hours if the money’s right, who knows what sort of amateur assassins might take the gig at the right bid? You’ll not see them coming.

Fortunately you can hire bodyguards with equal ease and that’s where Vita Slatter comes in. She may have the lowest rating on Dfend, but she too is wondering why someone might want Charlotte dead.

“Did you cut a guy off in traffic? Act rude to cashier? [Please don’t do that.] Borrow something years ago and forget to return it?”

Structured so that the past day’s recollection is split between action, this clapped along at a cracking pace, with an assured sense of off-hand humour and expressive outrage reminiscent of GIANT DAYS. I loved Ro Stein’s cross-section of Vita’s hopefully safe house, using its rooms, stairs and landing as panels, with an ever so clever about-turn to keep the left-to-right reading flow.



Lastly, there’s a subtle little clue as the TV screen goes blank and plenty of pictures which betray the lies on people’s lips. That’s good comics, that is.


Buy Crowded #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Pearl #1 (£3-25, Jinxworld) by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Gaydos…

“I came to work. I thought… I thought that is what you’d want me to do.”
“Mr. Mike didn’t know about this talent of yours. I sure as shit didn’t.”
“Oh no. No. It just happened.”
““It just happened.” You may have started a war of the Yakuza bigger than the Yama-Ichi feud.”

Well, that’s what happens when you shoot dead several gun-toting assassins, including one riding a motorcycle firing an Uzi, with the apparent ease of… errr… a highly skilled assassin…

Except Pearl is in fact a tattoo artist, albeit a very, very good one. So good, that local gang boss Mr. Mike wouldn’t dream of going to anyone else. Now, though, Mr. Mike sees a new career path opening up for his shining Pearl. Indeed, he’s about to make her the traditional offer she can’t refuse. Start to put her hidden talents involving a very steady hand to good use, or… well… Mr. Mike is pretty convinced she’s not going to refuse. Me either, frankly.



Excellent opener, of apparently six, from a certain well known continuity-hopping writer of superheroes. Who had a pretty reasonable prior track record writing crime too! Plus of course, combining the two a la JESSICA JONES and DAREDEVIL. Along with artistic cohort Michael Gaydos, his fellow co-creator of JESSICA JONES, Bendis is back breaking the law. Well, his characters at least. I’m sure Brian himself is as honest as the day is long; it’s just his imagination that’s more than a bit dodgy, which is fantastic for us.



Beyond informing you that there’s the usual snappy dialogue we’ve come to expect from Bendis – he does love a good colloquy our Brian – and typically intriguing cast members, plus sublime fine-lined, deeply, dramatically washed effect coloured art from Gaydos – including a superb Yakuza full body tattoo on Mr. Mike – there’s not a great deal more I can tell you.

Well, aside from the fact that Pearl seems to derive her nomenclature from her alabaster white skin. There’s that.



Oh, and she also has a solitary tattoo herself, of an insanely detailed spider that looks like it’s about a million megapixel definition, by the Michelangelo of body ink himself, the mysterious Iriguci. Why do I have a sneaking suspicion we may return to that particular arachnid…?


Buy Pearl #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’.

XTC69 (£8-99, Koyama Press) by Jessica Campbell

A Western World (£16-99, Koyama Press) by Michael DeForge

Alone (£14-99, Faber & Faber) by Chaboute

Corpse Talk Queens & Kings And Other Royal Rotters (£9-99, David Fickling Books) by Adam Murphy, Lisa Murphy

Estranged s/c (£11-99, Harper) by Ethan M. Aldridge

Giant Days (Prose Novel) h/c (£13-99, Amulet) by Non Pratt

Giant Days vol 8 (£13-99, Boom) by John Allison & Max Sarin, Lissa Treiman

Nowhere vol 1 (£16-99, Caliber) by JSB

RASL Colour Edition vol 1 (of 3) Drift s/c (£8-99, Cartoon Books) by Jeff Smith

Scalped Book 3 (£22-99, Vertigo) by Jason Aaron & R.M. Guera, Davide Furno, Francesco Francavilla

Somnambulance (£21-99, Koyama Press) by Fiona Smyth

Stairway vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Image) by Matt Hawkins & Raffaele Ienco

Tongues #1 (£13-99, ) by Anders Nilsen

Vern And Lettuce (£8-99, Bog Eyed Books) by Sarah McIntyre

Bram Stoker’s Dracula h/c (£26-99, IDW) by Bram Stoker, Roy Thomas & Mike Mignola, John Nyberg

Deadly Class vol 7: Love Like Blood s/c (£14-99, Image) by Rick Remender & Wes Craig

The Omega Men: The End Is Here s/c (£22-99, DC) by Tom King & Barnaby Bagenda

Superman Action Comics vol 5: Booster Shot s/c (Rebirth) (£16-99, DC) by Dan Jurgens & Brett Booth, Will Conrad, Norm Rapmund

Fantastic Four By Hickman Complete Collection vol 1 s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Sean Chen, Dale Eaglesham, Neil Edwards, Adi Granov

Venom: Dark Origin s/c (£13-99, Marvel) by Zeb Wells & Angel Medina

Black Torch vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Tsuyoshi Takaki

Dead Dead Demon’s Dededede Destruction vol 2 (£9-99, Viz) by Inio Asano

My Hero Academia vol 14 (£6-99, Viz) by Kohei Horikoshi

One Piece vol 87 (£6-99, Viz) by Eiichiro Oda

Platinum End vol 6 (£6-99, Viz) by Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata

Tokyo Ghoul re: vol 6 (£8-99, Viz) by Sui Ishida

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews August 2018 week three

Wednesday, August 15th, 2018

Featuring Liz Prince, Jerry Kramsky, Lorenzo Mattotti, Alex De Campi, Victor Santos, Neil Gaiman, Simon Spurrier, Kat Howard, Nalo Hopkinson, Dan Watters, Bilquis Evely, Tom Fowler, Dominike Stanton, Max Fiumara, Sebastian Fiumara, Jeff Lemire, Scott Westerfeld, Alex Puvilland, Robert Hunter, C.S. Pascat, Johanna The Mad, Paul Pope

Bad Girls h/c (£18-99, Groundwood Books) by Alex De Campi & Victor Santos…

“You decent, Miss Chandler?”

She really isn’t. In any sense whatsoever! One of the three titular misbehavin’ ladies, Miss Carole Chandler is a gangster’s moll, trapped in her life of luxury as the decorative arm candy of the mob casino manager Mr. Rothman in glamorous Havana, Cuba. The other two soon-to-be dishonest dames being single mum mambo queen Ana and revolutionary jazz singer Taffy. Revolutionary in the Che Guevara sense, rather than some scat vocal malarkey, I should add. All of our trio are about to decide that a permanent vacation from the Pearl of the Antilles would be a very good idea indeed for considerably differing reasons.

But then it’s amazing what six million dollars in ‘missing’ mob money – plus the untimely death of a visiting New York capo – can do to make up your mind that a last-minute getaway is in order. It’s just that getting their very important hand luggage out of the country is going to prove even harder than negotiating an online booking with Ryan Air without shelling out more than a heap of cash in hidden extras. They’re all about keeping their cash. Well, it’s not their cash yet, but, you know, working on it.



So… it’s New Years Eve 1958, the El Eden casino joint is jumping and Havana is awash with US dollars being splashed around by well-heeled tourists and movie stars lording it over the impoverished locals. The American high-rollers were welcomed with open arms under the US-backed President Batista, but with rebels lurking around practically every corner, the times they are a-changing… Well, just about to…

Indeed, the glorious revolutionaries finally tasted ultimate victory in the early hours of New Year’s Day 1959 as Batista panicked and decided it was time to take his own ill-gotten megabucks and run. (Just for the record, Batista made it out to the Dominican Republic before eventually settling into political exile in Portugal.) And so Cubans welcomed in 1959 with a certain Fidel Castro about to take charge.



But will our ensemble of ladies make it out amidst the fireworks of New Year’s Eve and the bullets of the Brigadas, or will the mounting chaos prove an impossible barrier to their own great escape?

This is a hot and humid, sweaty and sexy slick heist thriller penned by Alex MAYDAY De Campi with glorious, glamorous period art that has more than a dash of Darwyn Cooke about it from Victor VIOLENT LOVE Santos. If you like your crime with a touch of class and more than a splash of nerve-wracking suspense, I think this will prove a hit.



The first few copies come with a signed sticker from Alex herself guaranteed to provide free passage out of any revolutionary hot zone…*

* This may be a slight fib.


Buy Bad Girls h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Garlandia h/c (£34-99, Fantagraphics) by Jerry Kramsky & Lorenzo Mattotti.

“The Gars were gathered in the cool air, all dreaming the same dream.
“The dream flew in the wind.”

Soft seeds blow too, like those of a dandelion clock.

Perhaps they are that dream.

Some kiss the brows of the Gars fast asleep on the rolling meadows, naked and at peace in their Eden-like idyll.

Then they’re swept away “past the peaks of the Fishbone Mountains, over the slumbering swamp” and across the path of a perched Legendary Bird who is about to bid a final farewell. It surveys all it has ever flown over, quietly, acutely, before a tear wells up in its eye.

I’m sure it’s only the wind.

It’s certainly just the beginning.



What follows is the first of so many strange transformations that make this journey – embarked on by many in diverse directions – like a Jim Woodring fable, albeit with an altogether different visual vocabulary.

It begins thus:

“Beyond the sighs of the clouds, between the horizons of twilight, lies the land of Garlandia. Its vast plains and soft slopes seem to preserve light; its climate is mild. Since time immemorial, it has been home to the Gars, a species of peaceful creatures who delight in contemplating the magic of the place with childlike wonder.”


Yet instinctively, all I could ponder was: how far will they fall?

You’ll have nearly four hundred pages to find out.



They seem to lead a passive, communally serene and united existence, but to my mind their community already has flaws: it’s built on a hierarchy which defers to the shaman, the supposedly wise man who interprets omens for them, and they question not.

Easily led, and so submissive, they have been conditioned not to think for themselves. This will be part of their undoing.

Then there’s that very reliance upon signs and on portents. The cows lie down in the field: will it rain?



Early on, their territorial instincts too are established, heightened by a sense of superiority, when a “Wrinkle-Face” with a decidedly Chinese, mythological aspect tries to warn them of change and is dismissed as “insolent” and shooed away as unworthy with stones. So, they aren’t adverse to violence, either.

Now watch what happens when something new and genuinely ugly slinks into their midst, and takes advantage of precisely those flaws…

GARLANDIA is so well constructed, so immaculately set up with soft subtlety that whatever the innocents do, they will come a cropper of what they’ve previously been happy to inculcate or to perpetuate, and so have to go it alone. Vilified and ostracised, they will travel so far from their safe and familiar comfort zone into territories new, strange and potentially hostile.

And those who go it alone are protecting their newborn child.

Visually, it is a tour de force, the writer wisely trusting on the legendary Mattotti to carry its predominantly silent weight for nearly four hundred pages.

Trails of blood are mirrored by ripples in the water.

There are jungle-framed watery landscapes which screamed India at me, and I basked in every single one.

No page should be rushed over, for Mattotti hasn’t.



I don’t have this specific image for you, but page 81 is the most perfectly composed landscape, lush and rich in delicate detail, over which the artist has bravely thrust thicker, darker slices of air-borne or even magic-based movement / susurration to give you an impression of the cosily cocooned under threat from unsuspected, outside forces.

There is so much space given over to the extraordinary transmogrifications and visionary fireworks that I’m thinking of Katsuhiro Otomo’s dozens-of-pages detonation during AKIRA.



The creators have dedicated this to the worlds of Tove Jansson’s MOOMIN and Moebius, but I also saw Dr. Seuss in the creatures and their cavorting.

I have three A4 pages of dense, impassioned notes I’m drawing on (which even I can barely read), but amongst them I can decipher an emphasis on all the brilliant beasts you’ll encounter from majestic Air Whales and giant, swimming snails to the Wrinkle-Faces, Rain-Monkeys and the Bird Of Fate itself. Plus the opportunistic, parasitic, mind-poisoning crustacean is worthy of Gerald Scarfe. I’m thinking the vile, looming magistrate during Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’.

I’m sure this will mean many different things to many different people, but for me it’s a warning against unthinking; against blindly giving credence to any authority which should be questioned and challenged instead. It’s also a wise warning against the intoxication of alcohol and all other anger-exacerbating drugs, when consumed communally, en masse, in a war party waiting to happen.

Oh, how far they have indeed fallen!

Two brief amusements to pick out before I pop off, otherwise I’ll be here all day:

Firstly, there’s the outside Elder who is told by a Gar of Garlandia’s existence but declares “Well, there’s nothing in my books!” which to him means that Garlandia can only be a figment of everyone’s imagination. It’s pre-Vespucci Columbus colliding with a new continent, determined that it must be already known; that hilarious, curiosity-free complacency and self-satisfied ignorance that kept humankind back before the Scientific Revolution.

Lastly, I loved how when the Lord of the Lagoon issues instruction to pregnant Cochineal to help her build and feather her nest, and says, “Let us see if you will succeed in following them,” those instructions are issued from his mouth not as words, but as stream of butterflies which she must physically rather than figuratively follow in order to find what she needs.


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

Look Back & Laugh: Journal Comics (£17-99, Top Shelf) by Liz Prince…



“Hello, and welcome to this collection of my 2016 journal comics.
“This project started as a way to break out of a crippling writer’s block while also completing a lifetime goal of drawing an autobiographical comic every dang day…
“As of this publication in 2018, I am still keeping up the daily comic practice!
“Thanks for reading! Enjoy.”

She should try reviewing comics every week without fail for over twenty years as our Stephen has been doing! Including a fair few Liz Prince classics like TOMBOY. That’s a proper test of endurance!



But if you want to know what a comics creator gets up to a daily basis – aside from creating comics that is – well, now you can. Every single detail of it!



Not just the emotional highs and lows like getting engaged and friends passing away, or the immense stresses of moving cities never mind house, but all the regular day-to-day stuff like trips to the cinema to see crap films, the myriad ways cats can do your head in and cost you money (I love the fact that her cats are called Wolfman and Dracula) to discovering new places to eat with friends.



Just Liz generally hanging out and having fun with her boyf Kyle and their mates. In that sense, the title sums it up nicely, for there are many laughs to be had here, at the general absurdities that life throws at you, plus the ones we frequently manage to make for ourselves. Plus various cat-astrophes to add to the financial woes and fun. Light-hearted autobio-comics that show you can be both prolific and consistently amusing and engaging at the same time. Well, Liz can anyway.




Buy Look Back & Laugh: Journal Comics and read the Page 45 review here

Sandman Universe One-Shot (£4-25, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman, Simon Spurrier, Kat Howard, Nalo Hopkinson, Dan Watters & Bilquis Evely, Tom Fowler, Dominike Stanton, Max Fiumara, Sebastian Fiumara…

“You know the feeling… right? Sure you do.
“Happens every morning, right after you wake.
“The moment you forget your dreams.”

Dream has vanished. Left the Dreaming and gone… well… no one seems sure quite where. All that remains within the disintegrating imaginary edifice at the centre of the Dreaming are a collection of familiar assistants and acolytes such as Lucien the librarian, Matthew the raven, the demi-deranged double act Cain and Abel and the… well, just plain old argumentative arsehole in the case of Marvin, the cigar-smoking pumpkinhead. It’s good to have them all back!

It’d be lovely to have Morpheus as well, or Daniel at least, as the reincarnate youthful Lord of Dreams was named. But he’s vanished with nary a trace and now seems unable or perhaps unwilling to answer the call of his sigil in the Gallery of the Endless located within his castle.



Fortunately, Lucien, if he can remember it – for this mysterious decay is beginning to affect the inhabitants too – has a plan… As a former raven himself – something Matthew, as well as myself had forgotten – he is aware of the psychic tether between the Lord Of Dreams and his atramentous avians. And so Lucien sends Matthew soaring off to roam the realms looking for their master before all of his creation crumbles away completely.

It’s a stratagem that twangs, sorry hangs, by the proverbial rubber band of a tenuous thread, to say the least, but it certainly forms an excellent conceit for allowing Matthew to pass mostly unawares by the characters who will form the cast of the four cornerstones of this new DC Vertigo Sandman Universe.



Said sound foundations being formed of…

The Dreaming #1 (£3-25) by Si Spurrier & Bliquis Evely out 5th September
The House Of Whispers #1 (£3-25) by Nalo Hopkinson & Dominike Domo Stanton out 12th September
Lucifer #1 (£3-25) by Dan Waters & Max Fiumara, Sebastian Fiumara out 17th October
The Books Of Magic #1 (£3-25) by Kat Howard & Tom Fowler out 24th October

So, yes, we will see several old favourites return, albeit many filled with the same egotistic notions of grandeur and / or crippling neuroses as before, for example in the form of the likes of the ever <ahem> trustworthy Lucifer Morningstar, still getting worked up about his absent daddy issues, and Timothy Hunter, still grappling with school life whilst wondering which end of his wand is which.



We’ll also see new characters aplenty, particularly in The House Of Whispers, which looks to open a hitherto unknown corner of the Vertigo mythos by taking us to a bayou where the houseboat of Erzulie Fréda floats. Erzulie, I think, seems to be a voodoo goddess who attracts the souls of her followers looking for agony aunt-esque advice on both supernatural and worldly issues.



Erzulie seems like she could be a bit of a party girl herself, on the not-so-quiet, with an interesting back story, so I’m particularly looking forward to reading more about her.

Matthew does eventually manage to locate Daniel, if not find him, just in case you are wondering. So we catch at least a glimpse of the albino teenage sulkpot at large in the big city and get half an answer to the question.



It seems he is there of his own volition, rather than caged against his will, which is where, if you recall, SANDMAN itself began all those years ago, in SANDMAN VOL 1: PRELUDES AND NOCTURNES.

Now, whilst Neil himself is involved with the writing of this one-shot, being credited with the story idea, he is not, I believe, involved directly with the writing of the four ongoing titles. Instead he’s hand-picked the writers, including three fantasy prose writers alongside comics veteran Si Spurrier who with the likes of GODSHAPER and THE SPIRE has certainly proven he can craft an atypical tale or two. If we can’t have Neil himself scribing away, I guess that this is the next best thing. Certainly, on the basis of where they’ve all taken his initial premise here, I’m more than sufficiently intrigued to want to read all the titles.



Artistically, this has all tickled my fancy too, especially the Fiumara brothers on the Lucifer title. My interest in that particular title is greatly reawakened after this lead-in. But all the titles look like they are going to have distinctive art styles to compliment the writing, precisely like Vertigo always had back in the day, and in fact always continued to do so with its better titles.

So far, so very good. And if we keep everything crossed, you never know, we might get a Vertigo HELLBLAZER reprise…


Buy Sandman Universe One-Shot and read the Page 45 review here

Roughneck s/c (£17-99, Simon & Schuster) by Jeff Lemire…

“I was never really a hockey player… I was just a thug. At least now I don’t have to pretend to be something I’m not.”

The doyen of downbeat is back with a frosty contemporary fiction feast of self-destruction and misery. Straight out in graphic novel form, unlike his equally excellent new ongoing mildly mysterious monthly series ROYAL CITY, this is Jeff firmly smack bang against-the-boards back in ESSEX COUNTY territory. Even to the extent of having a former professional ice skating central protagonist, hence the body check…

I’m starting to think Jeff is a frustrated plumber. By which I actually mean an ice hockey player who likes to go get the puck out of trouble, working in the dirty areas of the rink. Because that’s exactly how he writes. He drops his characters in a whole world of pain, leaving them slipping, sliding and scrapping on the metaphorical thin ice for their lives, the Zamboni bearing down on them for good measure… then writes a way out for them, even if they don’t exactly all make it out intact. But then, getting run over by a Zamboni will do that to you.*



Here, in the frostbitten, half-forgotten arse end of Canada that is the small (ice-)burg of Pimitamon, known locally as The Pit, we find Derek Ouelette, temporarily assuaging his ever present despair with an equally ever handy bottle of beer and / or shot of the hard stuff. Plagued by headaches from his days as an enforcer out on the rink in the NHL, before the red mist took his career in a spectacularly brutal, gruesome loss of temper, he’s now barely making ends meet as a short order cook back in his home town, whilst sleeping on a cot in the janitor’s office at the local ice rink.



He’s still willing to fight all-comers, though, being one stubborn Cement Head who’s clearly not learnt his lesson yet, but this time his opponents seem entirely to be those idiotic enough to taunt someone whose former profession was repeatedly battering people in the face for fun. They might think they have a chance against someone who’s slightly the worse for wear and seemingly over the hill, but given Derek used to give people a good beatdown whilst dancing around on ice skates, I hardly think a few beers is going to prove too much of an impediment to his balance or indeed fisticuffs technique. It doesn’t.



So, it seems like Derek is on an endless cycle of drink, beat, repeat which is only going to end up with him getting sent to prison, killing someone or possibly even both. So what will make him change his ways? Not even repeated ‘final’ warnings from his old school friend, and police officer, Ray, can make him hang up his metaphorical gloves. Enter stage left Beth, his long lost sister, who ran away from home as a teenager, down to the bright lights of the proverbial big city Toronto, ending up drug-addled and sleeping rough for a few years, before allegedly getting clean and her shit together. So if that’s the case, how come she’s turned up back in The Pit, penniless, with a black eye?



Well, she hasn’t got her shit together, obviously, she isn’t clean either, but she is pregnant…  and the fruitcake future father with the free-flying fists is in hot pursuit… Guess it’s at times like this that having an equally psychopathic brother to turn to could come in handy. Except… remember what I said about Derek being on the probable path to killing somebody and winding up in jail…? Still, it’s difficult to imagine him suddenly turning into the type of guy who he’d once of described in hockey parlance as having ‘eggs in their pockets’…

As much as I love Jeff’s writing, no matter who is illustrating, it is always wonderful to see Jeff wield the pencils and paints himself too. He’s gone for a typically subdued palette here, just black lines and shading with light watercolour blues, reflecting the chilly northern landscape and stunted, alcohol and oxycontin-anaesthetised emotional vibe, similar to ESSEX COUNTY and THE UNDERWATER WELDER. Where we have full colour panels here, as with his TRILLIUM and SWEET TOOTH, it is always either in flashback to scenes of the kids’ (in-)tense family life growing up with an abusive Cannuck knucklehead father and their put-upon Native mother, or Derek’s glory days out on the ice. And hallucinations…



It’s a device that well serves to further impress upon us the oppressive situation and circumstances of Derek and Beth’s lives. Then, there is an exquisite use of a single additional colour on two other pages which, well, I have perhaps said enough already, so I shall leave you to discover those masterstrokes for yourselves. In summary, another contemporary classic from Jeff.

* No Zambonis were hurt in the writing of this graphic novel; however several Hosers do get a good thwacking from the Cement Head.


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

Map Of Days h/c (£16-99, Nobrow) by Robert Hunter…

“After a time, inside an expanding space, the depths called nine siblings into existence. As they calmly drifted, they began to create order in the dusty cosmos.
“The siblings had the ability to draw in and mould pieces of the surrounding clutter into new forms. They used their gifts to bring together the disparate fragments and create shelter for themselves.
“As each unique exterior grew, the thick could of dust that obscured the depths began to disperse. As this heavy blanket lifted, a hidden light was revealed, never to be seen by the now cocooned siblings.
“One sibling continued to be prolific with his gift and focused his artistry on a natural fibre within his shell to weave a network reaching out to the surface.”

That sibling being the creator of the Earth. His contact with the surface of the planet through his creations and thus by extension the rays of the life-giving sun would have profound implications for his own existence…



And that’s just the beginning of the prologue of this exquisitely beautiful 48-page wonder! Once the sibling meets the sun… well… it doesn’t quite go how you might expect…



Which then leads us into the main story proper where young Richard goes to spend the summer at his grandfather Frank’s coastal house with no other plan than to go swimming every day. The simple joys of summer holidays as a child! The best laid plans, though… and soon Richard finds himself with rather more to think about than he could possibly have ever imagined. Here is a sunny deposition from the publisher to tell you more about Richard’s Plan B…



“Richard can’t stop thinking about the clock. He lies in bed each night listening to its tick-tocking, to the pendulum’s heavy swing. Why does his grandfather open its old doors in secret and walk into the darkness beyond?

“One night, too inquisitive to sleep, Richard tiptoes from his bed, opens the cherry wood door of the grandfather clock, and steps inside. There, in a strange twilight, he sees the Face the Earth, locked forever in a simulated world, where green things seem to grow in the semblance of trees and plants from unreal soil…



“In this quasi-world they sit together for many nights, the face and the boy, talking quietly of creation and the beginning of all things. Moved by the face’s ancient tale of mysterious, magnetic love, Richard longs to release him. So one night he secretly winds back the hands of the grandfather clock, and changes time forever…”



It’s going to be quite some holiday! For this is a splendidly curious fable that will lead you to a place most unexpected indeed. And whilst it is a beautifully written, tender, tantalising story, it is the wondrous art that will utterly captivate. A glorious rapture of colour and design portraying both the natural world and the heavenly sphere inside the grandfather clock. It’s a visual feast par excellence , very possibly the most beautiful work I’ve read this year. I found myself unexpectedly moved by the sentiment carefully woven through this work.


Buy Map Of Days h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Fence vol 1 (£8-99, Boom! Box) by C.S. Pascat & Johanna The Mad…

“Why’d you even like fencing that much?”
“My father was a fencer.”
“I thought you didn’t know your father. Just some anonymous guy who ditched your Mom, right?”
“… Right.”

Nicolas Cox wants to be a fencer to emulate his father, the Olympic Champion Robert Coste. Now, Robert Coste’s legitimate son, Jesse Coste, is ranked number one in the country for individual épée, the style of fencing most closely resembling duelling. So presumably Jesse will eventually end up as Nicolas’ arch-nemesis, but in the meanwhile, he has the supremely talented and immensely obnoxious Seiji Katayama to contend with. Both as a rival and very reluctant roommate at the Kings Row Boys School, to where Nicolas has won a scholarship, on the tricky proviso that he can win a place on the fencing team. With a roster of only three in the team and several boys competing for a spot, as well as each other’s affections, it’s going to be a testing time for Nicolas.



Yes, there’s many a Yaoi gag I could make about boys waving their swords around, but it really does seem here that at least half the potential team are more concerned about the action going on off the court than going off on it. If you follow me…



It’s all hilarious hi-jinks until someone gets poked with someone else’s sword… and loses a fencing contest… Then the sulking and self-flagellation begins. Hopefully without a sword in their hand…

Yes, despite being the wrong target audience for this, it amused me greatly. Very titter-worthy, I have to say. It’s extremely well-written unpretentious good fun about a group of pretentious stuck-up idiots that wouldn’t know good fun if it came and prodded them in the face with its sword. Well… actually… they might, I suppose…



I should add, at this sword point, if you are looking for actual hot boy-on-boy action on the page, this isn’t the title for you. However, if you’re into being tantalised and teased by the mere prospect of said activities, you’re definitely in the right arena. Trades descriptions and all that. Alternatively, if you’re just into highly amusing homoerotic sports comics regardless of your personal predilections I think you’ll get a rise out of it as well…



Back to the action… the actual sword-fighting variety… The only two who seem able to completely concentrate on the swords in their hands are Nicolas and Seiji, both of whom are equally totally obsessed with being the best. It’s a shame therefore for Nicolas that he’s lagging a long way behind Seiji in technique, but he’s able to compensate for that to some degree with natural raw talent, which is the only thing he inherited from his dad. Clean, crisp and mildly saucy colourful art from the wonderful named Johanna the Mad neatly adds to the fun.


Buy Fence vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Spill Zone vol 1 s/c (£12-99, FirstSecond) by Scott Westerfeld & Alex Puvilland.

“A hunt? What a charming idea. Did you know that the first nature photographers were safari hunters?”
“Um, no.”
“Preservation can take many forms.”

As tightly constructed as it is eloquently expressed, SPILL ZONE is charged with a fierce imagination and narrative drive which Puvilland has pulled off with panache. I have some stunning interior art for you following, but for the moment let us stick with preservation.

In Grolleau and Royer’s AUDUBON – which captured the pioneering, ornithological artist’s awe of the natural world and the plumed beauties which populated it – we learned that he didn’t half love to preserve his birds, after shooting them clean out of the sky.

Addison Merritt is preserving her home town too, in photographs taken at extreme risk to her life during illegal excursions undertaken alone and at night on her dirt bike. What she captures in the most radiant colours is both terrible and beautiful to behold.



As is her home town which was caught one night in The Spill, transforming the once mundane urban environment into an ever-evolving kaleidoscope of what might be considered ideas, experimentation, self-expression, but also killing almost everyone in its boundaries.



Since then the town has been quarantined lest other lives are lost, which makes it nigh-impossible for anyone to analyse what happened to it.

But Addison’s illicit images have become an obsession with elderly art collector Tan’ea Vandersloot, who has bought every shot and hung them in her private gallery in gentrified Harlem. Like most individuals with an eye for the arts Vandersloot is insatiably curious. Unsurprisingly, then, Ms Vandersloot has been conducting her own extensive research into The Spill, and with wealth comes contacts, the ability to acquire information under the counter and, if necessary, trade for it. Her reach is extensive; it is international; and not every country is as safety-conscious as America.



We do not know what caused The Spill, nor the nature of it. It is only via Addison’s observations that we can even begin to guess.

“An alien visitation? Something spilling from another world?
“Most of the people who escaped don’t say much of what happened that night.
“My little sister, Lexa, hasn’t uttered a sound since then.”

Lexa is seen clutching ragdoll, Vespertine, who also hasn’t uttered a sound since then.

Except to Lexa.

“I’d snuck off to New Paltz that night for a little underage drinking. Lucky me.
“Instead of watching it live, I got to see it on TV.
“My parents weren’t so lucky. They were at work that night at the hospital.
“Now there’s just the two of us.”

This first instalment comes with terrific stage-setting, our entire focus on Addison’s P.O.V., hitching along on her ride, but don’t imagine she necessarily notices everything which you will.



Our first glimpse of the town is seen at a very late hour from above, black bird-shapes flocking in synchronised flight like a murmuration of starlings, while below the buildings throb in a rainbow of radioactive colours, especially effective as the outer suburb rooftops emerge from the surrounding trees.

Once inside one would be forgiven for forgetting it is night for everything is so Day-Glo bright.

Even looking through the toy-shop windows where some of the former inhabitants hang as “meat puppets”, suspended in mid-air as if on hooks, the light is unnatural. Their eyes are empty, a vile yellow mist emanating irregularly from their open mouths.

“Whatever’s watching though their eyes isn’t them anymore.
“I hope.”



Out of respect, Addison won’t photograph the dead, but her other rules are born more out of self-preservation.

“Rule Six: never, ever get off the bike. Even in here in the playground where nothing has ever messed with me.

Is the playground empty? Puvilland puts tremendous weight on the springed things, and the swings, they are swinging like crazy.

“Because in the Spill Zone, there’s a first time for everything.”



Cue 0 to 60 and a full-throttle chase at some excellent angles past Flatsville, a stretch of road where the cars look accommodatingly level with the tarmac so leaving the route unimpeded, but make the mistake of riding over one and you’ll join the silently screaming cyclist, also squashed into two dimensions.



Are you beginning to see what I mean by “charged with a fierce imagination” yet? Also the “narrative drive” for the wolf-shadow’s pursuit propels Addison where she least wants to go: to the hospital where her parents worked as nurse and paramedic. Far from modern, it is instead a vast, foreboding, neo-gothic affair and if the intense level of dust-devil, geometric activity is anything to go by – both at ground level and spiralling above in the sky – it appears to be the very centre of this unearthly disturbance.

“Almost forgot I was scared of this place even before the Spill.
“And it’s not like a generous sprinkling of Hell has improved it much.”

As to the tight construction, you’ll understand exactly what I mean when you discover that this – for all its unnerving beauty and cleverly conceived, steadily built rules which are never to be broken and some of which I have intentionally left unspoken – is all just a taste and a teaser, a foreshadowing for the first climax upon which Puvilland will provide a walloping vertical spread at exactly the right moment after which my jaw required emergency medical treatment before I could articulate anything again.



Including my jaw.

But that’s just one climax, not the cliffhanger, so I would refer you all backwards to infer what you will.

The colouring throughout is phenomenal, not least during one of the creepiest scenes which was so well observed in terms of young behaviour. In it young Lexa has been left alone overnight. Well, left alone with Vespertine, her rag-doll who, I’d remind you, also survived The Spill.



There is something of the ceremony in child’s play.

I would assemble all of my Matchbox cars onto a starting line and play out my version of The Wacky Races, an animated cartoon starring Dick Dastardly, Muttley, Penelope Pitstop et al, few of whom were afraid to get their hands dirty in order to win (in terms of our stock, please see Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre’s PUGS OF THE FROZEN NORTH). I’d move all the cars about incrementally, a bit like shooting for stop-animation, and make my own narrative up in my head.

Here young, silent Lexa similarly assembles all her cuddly toys and dresses herself up as the Mistress of Ceremonies for her Royal Dance. She picks her toys’ partners for them and then, in the low-lit shadows, she holds one in each hand around their backs in order to make them dance together.

Around and around they go, Vespertine with her handsome pink beau, a bear…!

Then Lexa lets her hands go.




That’s not the cliffhanger, either.


Buy Spill Zone vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

More Copies Found!

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

“They conceived me up over that summer, those fresh-faced two…
“That little sperm and that little round egg, they joined and blended and rolled up, and they conceived me.
“And I was born in a sterile room full of steel tools and knives…
“… and they didn’t even ask if I wanted to be there.
“And it was in this way I made it through my very first escape hatch. Escapo, King of the World!”

You’ve either got it, or you haven’t. Me, having bought this newly coloured edition in addition to the black and white 1999 original, well, I guess now I’ve got it twice! Paul Pope just has it in abundance, though. Talent, that is. Seemingly he always has, though in a fascinating afterword, which explains why ESCAPO has been reworked and re-released, it’s clear Paul feels he’s moved on considerably since 1999, not just in artistic ability but also in the understanding of the tools of his trade. Not least that you shouldn’t used markers which will fade or bleed over time if you want to retain the integrity of the original artwork! Hence, his need to revisit, restore and thus (re)produce this new edition of what is, to my mind, an early Pope masterpiece.



There are comic artists who are truly, singularly unique, seemingly inspired by no one nor indeed inspiring others. Their style stands – in Pope’s case even down to his lettering – for all intents and purposes alone. I can’t imagine what effort of will it must take to produce such a performance. Much like that required to defy death purely for the entertainment of others perhaps, though obviously without the potential for a fatal mishap at any moment. Pope, however, does not perform with the drama-sapping luxury of a safety net, either. Epic in scale and grandeur, his pages and panels here are all spectacular in their concept and construction.

ESCAPO, though, is no showy piece of three-ring hoopla, instead it is a story bristling with passion and sentiment, albeit unfulfilled and misplaced, which at its pounding heart has the cruellest kind of love known to man, the unrequited variety. Poor Vic: the public may marvel at his exploits and gasp at his brushes with disaster as that most daring of escape artistes, but he’d happily trade it all for just a single kiss from the lithesome object of his desires, the capricious Aerobella. Unfortunately for Vic, her vainglorious heart belongs to another, the beautiful Acrobat King. Will Escapo choose to end it all distraught, mid-performance, under the gaze of a rapt but terrified crowd? Or will he choose to live forever more with a broken heart? You want to know? Well then step up, step up, buy your entrance ticket, come into Paul Pope’s tent of wonder and delight, and above all prepare to be amazed…



This edition also contains a whole host of extras not in the original edition, besides the afterword, including the two-page alternate ending from the original French version and various beautiful Escapo circus posters by Paul and various friends which I absolutely adored. Some things are just worth buying twice.


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

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins s/c (£14-99, FirstSecond) by Clint McElroy, Griffin McElroy, Justin McElroy, Travis McElroy & Carey Pietsch

Ghost Money: Death In Durban h/c (£19-99, Lion Forge) by Thierry Smolden & Dominique Bertail

Idle Days (£14-99, FirstSecond) by Thomas Desaulniers-Brousseau & Simon Leclerc

Kill Or Be Killed vol 4 s/c (£14-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips, Elizabeth Breitweiser

Making Friends (£11-99, Scholastic) by Kristen Gudsnuk

Sheets (£11-99, Cubhouse) by Brenna Thummler

Spill Zone vol 2 h/c (£17-99, FirstSecond) by Scott Westerfeld & Alex Puvilland

Hellboy: The Complete Short Stories vol 2 (£22-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola with Richard Corben, P. Craig Russell, Joshua Dysart, Dave Stewart, others

Vs vol 1: Front Towards Enemy s/c (£14-99, Image) by Ivan Brandon & Esad Ribic

East Of West vol 8 (£14-99, Image) by Jonathan Hickman & Nick Dragotta

Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal: Artist Tribute s/c (£22-99, Archaia) by various

Old Man Hawkeye vol 1: An Eye For Eye s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Ethan Sacks & Marco Checchetto

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews August 2018 week two

Wednesday, August 8th, 2018

Featuring Jacques Tardi, Alexander Utkin, Gary Northfield, Steve Lowes, John McNamee, Evan Dorkin, Jeff Smith, Dan Abnett, I.N.J. Culbard, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby.

Gamayun Tales vol 2: The Water Spirit (£12-99, Nobrow) by Alexander Utkin.

Ah, best beloveds, now sit yourselves down!

I see you’ve returned to learn what became of the humble merchant who found and rescued a wounded eagle, then nursed it back to health. It transpired that this mighty raptor was none other than the King of the Birds, a blue-skinned being with three regal sisters, one of whom rewarded her brother’s saviour with her most prized possession, a heavy, gleaming gold chest.

Having soaked up the spectacle of three stunning palaces, our lowly merchant now wends his way home, for he has been gone from the wife whom he loves with all his heart for almost a year, and he is desperate to see her once more. Alas, even as he draws near – to within but a few days’ walk of his house – the foulest of weather descends: snow, icy rain and hailstones as big as his fist. And he does have two very big fists.

With nowhere to shelter, he opens the treasure chest, perhaps seeking to snuggle up inside, even though the King of the Birds commanded that it be left locked until the merchant was safely home. But that’s the thing with any such strictures: they’re begging to be broken, aren’t they?

Well, wonders of wonders, my best beloveds, for the merchant will not have to snuggle!



Instead the casket transforms itself into a vast, golden palace. Structured for maximum strength, it’s a little bit Soviet, but with windows that shimmer with banded ocean-blue, sea green and salmon pink, as if aspects of another dimension. Indeed, it proves even bigger on the inside than on the outside, and surprisingly homely, with a feast laid out and candles all welcomingly lit. Wine is poured as if by an invisible servant and, after dessert plucked from a bowl of fruit, a candlestick hovers then shows the traveller to bed. A four-poster bed! And, oh, what a glorious view!

The winter weather has blown over to reveal the most tranquil of lakes, a crescent moon’s reflection streaming over the still, midnight blue waters. The merchant does not recall a lake in this region, but no matter. He bites into the rosy-red apple he’d saved for later and pfft – there’s a worm wriggling inside – so he tosses the apple out of the window and PLOP into the water below.

“A foolish mistake,” notes our narrator.

And so it seems, for there’s something slumbering in the shadowy depths, about to be woken, and about to take umbrage at our merchant’s distinct lack of manners and complete disregard for Local Authority Planning Permission. (Article 11 Notice, if you don’t own all the site).

Still, one lucky fish gets a free worm-supper.



GAMAYUN TAKES VOL 1: THE KING OF THE BIRDS began with an apple at its core too. They’re so often the seed of a story. Ask Eve!

I urge you to get a gander at that, for it dealt with the premise and artwork in depth, whereas I am on holiday – can you tell?

We are far from done in this second instalment, for even more potential tales are opened up with promises to be told, and there are more oaths exchanged with the alarming repercussions. Top tip: never shake hands on an agreement without knowing what you’re agreeing to; never make a deal without knowing its details. If you’ve been away from home for nearly a year, there’s quite a good chance that there have been changes. Hopefully the bed linen, for one.

If you relished David B’s HASIB & THE QUEEN OF SERPENTS, then I recommend this wholeheartedly, with only the caveat that David B delivered an entire epic, each of whose threads, however digressive, was woven together to form a complete tapestry. Here we conclude with an even more intriguing, whiplash, OMG cliff-hanger than book one!



It’s equally luxurious, though. The treasure-chest transmogrification aside, I spent an entire hour staring at a single image of the lake when revisited at first light, marvelling at the flatness of its waters. They’re the flattest thing in the world, are lakes – liquid does find its own level – and it’s a very clever artist who can render such a sheer surface in perfect contrast to the vertical thrust of that which emerges from, in front or behind it.

I also liked the different visual treatments of what we are witnessing and what we are listening to. Golden-tressed Gamayun appears in occasional asides, either addressing us directly or commenting on what she has just watched replayed herself, glancing in the panels’ direction. Gamayun is all sleek and smooth; what we watch has a certain rugged texture to it.

“I wish I could help you somehow, poor boy,” mourns the invisible golden palace’s inhabitant.
Says Gamayun, “Oh, darling, you will”.



Finally, like HASIB & THE QUEEN OF SERPENTS, this mythological excursion also offers broken-promise offenders the opportunity of redemption – second chances, if you will – although there appears to be a far greater price to be paid.

“Nine years has passed joyfully, but even the longest day must have an end.”

Oh dear. The holiday’s over. I’m being sent back to boarding school, aren’t I?

Nice Nirvana reference on page 46.


Buy Gamayun Tales vol 2: The Water Spirit and read the Page 45 review here

Heavy Manners Bulletin One (£4-00) by Steve Lowes…

“Hey, the Man.
“You buried our communities under concrete.
“The wholesale vandalism of our towns, villages and countryside.
“Leaving us living in a concrete hell of identikit high streets and indistinguishable housing schemes.
“Your facsimile out-of-town concrete retail Meccas have left up to one-in-three shops vacant in our decaying town centres.”

The creator of HARD CORE PAWN returns with another call to arms, an exhortation to let the proverbial scales fall from our eyes and start to take back our planet from the hegemony of greed that threatens its very existence in a myriad of ways.

I found this varied selection of material both depressing and uplifting in equal measure – Steve’s exact intentions, I am sure. He covers such varied topics in his own inimitable style as the day modern warfare changed forever, with the carpet-bombing of Gernika in the Basque country by the Luftwaffe at the request of Franco during the Spanish Civil War, the inspiration for Picasso’s famed anti-war painting, ‘Guernica’.



Then… what would Joe Strummer do if given free rein to hack into the electronic advertising hoardings in Times Square? Clue: not advertise a Clash Greatest Hits compilation…

Is television the opiate of the (m)asses? Told through subliminal ‘They Live’ style messages on television screens, obviously! Culminating in something I’m sure we’ve all thought about doing at some point.

The hypocrisy of First World cocaine users hoovering up the marching powder whilst blithely choosing to ignore the consequences elsewhere of their pulmonary pulverising power-up.



Plus probably my favourite, entitled ‘Concrete Soul’, from which the above pull quote is taken. A threne to the city centre soul desertification at the behest of developers of our once green and pleasant land. It has a lyrical quality that minds me greatly, synchronously enough, of Tim THE GREAT NORTH WOOD Bird’s paean to our once leafy locale.

So are we as a planet wholly without hope? No, as long as we resist and take the fight back to the Man however we can. Be that simply never forgetting the horrors of the past such as Gernika. Or caring about other enough to change our behaviours, be that cutting down on plastic use, never mind cocaine use, that’s contributing to current environmental catastrophes.



Or even simply not buying from certain global corporations that don’t pay their share of corporation tax thus preventing vital investment in our infrastructures. Okay, I added that last one myself, but just stop and think about it. That bargain you think you’re getting, that saving you’re making that high street shops can’t afford to give you, is basically tax not paid, which is money that’s not going into the NHS or schools, for example. It really is as simple as that.

Just in case you’re not sure who I’m on about, here’s a quote from Bernie Sanders at a rally in Michigan this week whilst stumping from the progressive gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed…

“Mr. Bezos sees his wealth increase by $275 million every single day, and yet he has thousands of workers who are earning wages so low that they have to go on government programs like Medicaid and food stamps.”

You can do something, anything. Otherwise… as Plato himself said: “The price of apathy towards public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.”

I’m not saying Jeff Bezos is evil. But he could clearly get Amazon to pay their fair share of taxes and look after his workers better, never mind simply funding his space rocket fun. Anyway…



Concrete Soul ends with a lovely heart-warming moment of defiance from our free-wheeling, narrating skateboarder making good his escape from the portly security guard…

“But listen up, the Man.
“Your concrete is our new playing fields.
“Our new recreation grounds.
“Our new canvases.
“I ride all over your concrete vision through these wheels.
“I give your concrete…


Buy Heavy Manners Bulletin One and read the Page 45 review here

Goldilocks And The Infinite Bears (£13-99, Lion Forge) by John McNamee.

Hysterical one-page comics with a lot of lateral thinking and a very high hit-rate which is so rarely seen outside Tom Gauld (BAKING WITH KAFKA etc), Sarah Andersen (HERDING CATS et al) and Evan Dorkin (DORK and more).

See the familiar rethought and re-wrought, your favourite legends desecrated – or at least looked at askew – like God, Godzilla, Goldilocks And The Three Bears, St. George And The Dragon, Jurassic Park, Snow White, Androcles And The Lion, Hamlet, Harry Potter, The Hungry Caterpillar, Pandora’s Box, Cinderella, Raiders Of The Lost Ark and Excalibur. Rudolf’s revenge is very funny.

You’ll even meet the Ancient Greek God of Atheism.

I know, right?




Here’s Merlin who begins in already rocky territory, then goes completely off the rails:

“He who pulls the sword from the stone shall be King.
“Fish the dagger from the bowl of marbles, and you’re Prime Minister.
“The cabinet shall be decided by this piñata full of ninja-stars.”

Dirty dairy farmer scratches his head:

“I just don’t get politics.”

Each successive swipe at the Bible’s a belter, be it the 7-Day Creation Schedule (“This seems doable” – but science can be hard!) infantile Adam, alternative Eve, an apple in Eden made as tempting as possible by the Big Beard himself or Jesus and daddy-dearest playing Good God / Bad God.





Death is ubiquitous (I’m afraid). Beware approaching your idols with unconditional and unquenchable adulation, especially if they have a scythe. I loved the bubble-bursting of the beach-side, Death-match chess match in Ingmar Bergman’s ‘The Seventh Seal’. After a solemn silence, the knight asks:

“Which way’s the horsey move?”



Other caveats include “Never mess with a magician” (they have mad skillz) and here’s a thought: what the Simon Pegg is so scary about zombies? There’s a great big plot-hole in almost every outbreak of urban overrunning which is this: we have massive military armies with bigger numbers and superior firepower. In WWII the Allied Forces beat the Nazi Axis of Evil backed up by 18 million troops.

“Plus, Germany had bombs & planes not just biting & slow shuffling.”

They’re not going to break into a tank by gnawing on its gun turret.




Conversely, here’s that humble chicken joke more closely examined:

“Why did the chicken cross the road?
“Why did the chicken receive a mysterious package?
“Why did the chicken make a fake passport?
“What the f*** is this chicken up to?”

Especially on a plane.

Plus there’s a very funny reminder that Superman’s an Alien. “Hiss!”



I leave you with a warning from Wizard School:

“All toilets are currently levitating or zombies”.

I really wouldn’t ‘go’ there.


Buy Goldilocks And The Infinite Bears and read the Page 45 review here

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

“The bad luck is back. I should have known.”

Poor Daphne. She does seem to be a bad luck magnet, I have to say. The worst slice being when she managed to lose custody of her young son to her formerly wayward, drunken failure of a social climbing wannabe of a husband. Well, he used to be like that, but now as Daphne puts it he’s…

“Straightened out his act.
“Arranged a space for himself in what he used to call prison and now claimed was a career.
“Found a woman who would police his wicked ways.
“And moved with her and her two kids into the finest neighbourhood supposedly known to humankind.
“All for the sole purpose of making me suffer.”



Technically Daphne has joint custody, but somehow the balance has shifted so she only gets to see her son every other weekend in her pokey little apartment. That hardly seems fair to her, but as the judge pompously pointed out to her…

“Joint does not mean equal. Joint means two things that are joined. Those things can be equal or unequal.”

Still, matters are looking up slightly as she’s found a new job and her lawyer has promised her if she can keep it for six months she might be able to have a somewhat more equal arrangement. The job, though, is being a positive-thought helpline recording assistant for someone who writes Self-Help books… It’s a cushy if unrewarding number. Well, mind-numbing actually, but a job’s a job.



All that changes, though, when her boss goes away for a lecture tour and asks her to look after her birds at double rate of pay. Daphne’s somewhat surprised to find the birds in question are 42 parrots of 20 different rare species worth a grand total of 100,000 dollars. No pressure then. Nor indeed time for an attack of her famed bad luck…

Still, she’s bought a book all about understanding the needs of parrots to bone up on the subject. The subtitle of ‘Know Your Prisoner’ ought to have given her a clue about the author’s feelings…

“If you have a parrot, you can be pretty certain this book is for you because anyone with a parrot does not understand him. Anyone who has a parrot is not up to the task.
“How do you think he likes being locked in a small dark box for his entire life?
“Do you think you can do anything other than try unsuccessfully to keep the bird from sliding into crippling, suicidal depression while you slowly squash every instinct he has?
“Failure is all you can hope for.”

Well, when you put it like that…



It is useful then that her loving if completely broke boyfriend is on hand to help. Well, try to help. But when an infestation of mites strikes and Daphne is forced to temporarily relocate the pandemonium of parrots (what a wonderful and highly appropriate collective noun!) to her apartment whilst they blitz her boss’ house, you can sense that Daphne’s fabled luck isn’t about to turn any time yet… Quite the opposite…



I loved this work! It made me chuckle throughout at Daphne’s disasters and also feel more than a little moved at the injustices perpetuated on parrots (and our other feathered friends) in the name of companionship. Perhaps Deb Olin Unferth is presenting us with a metaphor to mull over…? Or maybe she just really thinks birds should be in the wild and not trapped in cages for our own selfish emotional needs.



Elizabeth Haidle provides some sumptuous black, grey and white art to accompany this enchanting tail of chortle-inducing woe. It has a delightfully gentle yet robust feel. You can practically see the stresses etched in Daphne’s face despite the economy of line. Clever use of block shading and white space allow for a similar approach to the inking. It’s an extremely expressive style despite its seemingly relative minimalism.  I also loved her chunky lettering font. She clearly enjoys drawing parrots very much too! One of the most enjoyable comics I’ve read this year. I will certainly be looking for further works from both the writer and artist.


Buy I, Parrot and read the Page 45 review here

I, René Tardi, Prisoner Of War In Stalag IIB h/c (£26-99, Fantagraphics) by Jacques Tardi…

“Did you wear clogs?”

Good to see René kept up the grand tradition of French sartorial elegance even in the face of such adversity! And also his sense of humour, which I think was probably completely necessary to avoid going stark staring mad when faced with such a situation. The clogs do make sense in context, though, trust me.

Here’s the publisher’s surprisingly comprehensive and uncensored message to you the reader from behind enemy lines to tell you more…

“In September 1939, René Tardi went to war. Less than a year later, the French army was defeated and he was a prisoner of war, like 1.6 million other French soldiers. After 4 years and 8 months in a POW camp, René returned home, bitter and ashamed.



“Stalag IIB is Jacques Tardi’s homage to his father and a testimony to the silent suffering of a generation of men. Based on René’s memories, Stalag IIB – the first of two volumes – recounts brutal years of captivity under the Nazis and the POWs’ attempts to reclaim moments of humanity. René recalls the roll calls in sub-zero temperatures, daily acts of resistance, crushing boredom – and especially the omnipresent hunger.

“With four decades of cartooning and almost two dozen graphic novels behind him, Jacques Tardi masterfully recreates historical and personal details with remarkable fidelity, guided by extensive research and his father’s notes. Featuring some of Tardi’s most intense and meticulous drawing, punctuated by sombre greys and punches of red and blue rendered beautifully by Rachel Tardi, Stalag IIB is a personal and artistic triumph.”



Yes, this is the first volume of two. This opener encompasses René’s own personal lead-up to the war, plus conveying the foolish sense of superiority and bravado of the French people generally, still riding high like the British in their colonial pomp, before their total military humiliation at the hands of the Nazis. It then continues right through René’s incarceration in Stalag IIB until to January 29th 1945 when the order to evacuate the camp was given in the face of the unceasing Allied advance. Volume two will cover not only how he made it home in the following months, but how life had irrevocably changed for him afterwards.

For despite all the privations and sufferings experienced in Stalag IIB, which René so eloquent lays out to his son in the form of a conversation here – Jacques frequently walking alongside him as René recounts the daily ordeal of the myriad roll calls, harsh work regimen and the ever-crushing lack of food – the point which stuck with me the most comes from the foreword about a fellow POW, Jean Grange, in which it is heartbreakingly described how every time he tried to talk about his experiences upon returning home he was sarcastically mocked by his father-in-law, a WW1 veteran, as ‘the great soldier’ and thus gave up and retreated within himself. Terrible.



From Jacque’s own introduction, he clearly states what a negative impact being a POW for practically all the war had on his father emotionally, making him extremely bitter and cynical. Which no doubt we will see for ourselves in volume two, yet here the tone is far more of a man determined to survive, not be beaten down, and if he could do some small measure to put grit in the great German war machine, whatever that was, he would do it.

A fascinating glimpse into an often overlooked day-to-day aspect of the war experience, brought to vivid, painful life by one of comics’ greatest non-fiction war storytellers.


Buy I, Rene Tardi, Prisoner Of War In Stalag IIB h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Derek The Sheep: First Sheep In Space (£9-99, Bog Eyed Books) by Gary Northfield.

“But we’re lost! Lost! It’s like that mad TV show where they all got lost on an island with invisible monsters, secret hatches and weird magic numbers! And they were completely LOST!!”
“Sounds great, what’s it called?”
“Ooh, I can’t remember.”

To gaze on herds of gently grazing sheep, flecking a verdant pasture or hillside with their sedentary woolly white, you cannot imagine much more placid and seemingly satisfied souls. As long as they have an interrupted supply of juicy grass to chow-down on, they appear to want for nothing more.

Conflict seems only to arrive with the introduction of a Border Collie.

But conflict is a key component of comedy, and here Gary Northfield unleashes everything but a Border Collie upon Derek and Lenny and co, in the form of bees, bulls, biblical floods, a grumpy Swiss lumberjack with a very sharp axe, irate and territorial ear flees, tree pixies, a shirking Rudolf the Red Nosed  Reindeer, the whole of Australia and an ant whose wig they’ve accidentally incinerated while attempting to study it with a magnifying glass on a relentlessly sunny day.



It would be a nightmare, wouldn’t it, if a tree pixie then decided to teach Derek and Lenny a lesson for declaring their ant inspection a sheep-only game by quoting Fariik the Magician from the Banana Splits’ ‘Arabian Knights’ cartoon and reducing then to… “The Size Of An Ant”!

Yes, the greatest source of their disharmony is their own small-mindedness, over-ambition or Derek himself and his overwhelming stupidity.



You may already have howled your way through DEREK THE SHEEP VOL 1 and other Northfield romps found in Page 45’s Phoenix Comic Collection Selection, but ‘Where’s The ‘Arm’  is an absolute classic set-up from titular pun to its basic premise, thence how it’s dealt with.

Ludicrous competition: an arm-wrestling contest between armless animals, previously won by those least likely (a ladybird).
Cheat like crazy: preferably this should be over-elaborate with plenty to go wrong (a remote-controlled King of the Barn power arm)
Choose a co-conspirator: see remote control.
Whoops: cheat goes wrong before it even starts, much to co-conspirator’s delight, so generating anticipation for the maximum mirth.


If you can top this all off with a punch line that mirrors the ridiculous prize (a pair of glasses with googly eyes), then resounding applause!

He does.


Buy Derek The Sheep: First Sheep In Space and read the Page 45 review here

Milk & Cheese: Dairy Products Gone Bad s/c (£16-99, Dark Horse) by Evan Dorkin.

Now out in softcover.

“Gin makes a man mean!”
“Everyone booze up and riot!”

Love them with money or they’ll hate you with hammers! These dairy products gone bad are educating America – one moron at a time! This isn’t a review, it’s a misappropriation of Dorkin’s own comedy: scathing satire, mass destruction, immolation, incineration and if you’re an old-skool comic shop selling nothing more than superheroes to the painfully maladjusted, then you are in for a thorough kicking.

You should follow the man on Twitter. One of my favourites:
“Oh, comic book industry. You’ve gained so much experience, when will you level up?”

No one is safe: neither stand-up comedians nor fall-down pensioners; the police, the obese or those now deceased. Prepare for pointless conflict! There are dozens and dozens of maniacal short stories here filled with frenzy, fury and fist-fights, all effortlessly insane with comedy. We’re talking ART D’ECCO on amphetamines, SUGAR BUZZ on a sugar buzz.



We used to have the gorgeous vinyl-figure set which included implements of devastation. On the back was the first new Milk & Cheese strip in yoinks although you could probably guess what happened (see “implements of devastation”). It’s reprinted here on page 214, concluding with the commendable exhortation, “You’re either buyin’ or you’re dyin’!”




On top of the previously collected strips, these are the upgrades:

80 pages of comics that have never been collected before. A 24-page section featuring all the colour M&C strips, a cover gallery (not just MILK & CHEESE but also DEADLINE, COMICS JOURNAL etc.), pin-ups, trading card and merchandise art. I have the beer mat that screams (on either side), “Get that drink… THE @*#! OFF OF US!”



There’s a 24-page B&W supplemental section featuring pin-ups ups (neat Jill Thompson SCARY GODMOTHER crossover), t-shirt designs and more. The rare 1997 M&C Special Edition 16-page mini-comic featuring the expanded “Darth Vader Overdrive” strip and extras.



For more raw attitude aimed in exactly the right directions, please see Evan’s DORK and THE ELVTINGVILLE CLUB.


Buy Milk & Cheese: Dairy Products Gone Bad s/c (£16-99, Dark Horse) by Evan Dorkin and read the Page 45 review here

Smiley’s Dream Book h/c (£15-99, Scholastic) by Jeff Smith.

Arm-stretching space, lots of light, there are compositions and colour (by Tom Gaadt) to die for.

“From the creator of the internationally bestselling and award-winning BONE [and RASL] comes a charming and adorable picture book, the first to feature Smiley Bone in an adventure all his own!

“On a beautiful sunny day, happy-go-lucky Smiley Bone is walking through the woods when he begins to count some friendly birds. The birds sing and climb so high that Smiley must find a fantastical way to keep up with them! With lively drawings and expressive word balloons, Jeff Smith has created a one-of-a-kind picture book that will delight the youngest readers.”




I honestly have nothing further to add.


Buy Smiley’s Dream Book h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Brink vol 2 (£12-99, Rebellion) by Dan Abnett & I.N.J. Culbard…

“Your designs for Galina are exceptional. It is a joy to see them made real. Galina, even incomplete, is a spectacular sight.”
“It’s so far… so far from being finished. There is a symmetry I’m trying to attain… a symmetry.”
“I wanted to discuss the overrun on the project timetable. The board has some concerns…”
“Well… well, the delays are in part due for my need for…”
“I thought you’d understand. There’s a perfection… a perfection, and it is elusive. All the simulations had the most supreme symmetry, but as I walk around now… as it arises around me in solid form, the symmetry is off.”

Or is it? Depends upon precisely what is being built… and by whom…

And for whom…



Yes, we’re finally back to the Brink and still hovering right on the edge of it as former cop Bridget Kurtis returns only to once again find herself right in the middle of some very strange goings-on involving mysterious sects…

Kurtis was politely asked to leave the service despite her heroic actions which thwarted a deadly cult’s plot to drive everyone slowly mad on Odette habitat. It’s like the authorities want to sweep any crazy talk, and any reminders of it, right out of the airlock…

BRINK VOL 1 also culminated in the mysterious ‘Mercury Incident’ which left us with an epic cliff-hanger!! What could have made Mercury seemingly disappear completely? Surely the cults’ talk of elder space-gods lurking, waiting for their moment to enter our space, couldn’t possibly have any grain of truth to it…?

Anyway, both the sects and Kurtis are back. The latter’s now working as a private security consultant for Junot Corp, freshly assigned to Galina Habitat, currently a construction site running well behind schedule amidst rumours of spooky apparitions…



I have to say, I was utterly gripped by this second volume!! It’s near note-perfect science fiction with its own unique mind-warping edge of creeping horror. Which was just disturbing enough to ensure the obsessed architect in the pull-quote above decided to jump off into total nothingness, in his encroaching despair at the seemingly inexplicable asymmetrical elements being introduced into his design…

Speaking of design, once again, Ian’s art is crisp and vibrantly coloured and oh so precise. Whereas in the first volume, it was all about capturing the claustrophobia of close confines living in a floating tin can, here’s it’s all about the space. The sheer vertigo-inducing expanses of emptiness of the unfinished Galina Habitat, showing off the vast potential of its unfinished lines and curves… waiting impatiently to be filled…



Kurtis, meanwhile, is still apparently convinced all the space oddity can be explained entirely rationally. As she details for her new colleague whilst searching the sites of reported hauntings deep in the bowels of the half-constructed habitat…

“In my experience, it’s generated by the shit living conditions here on the Brink. Overcrowding, isolation, too much high-dose nudge… but those things, they somehow tap into some sort of shared psychosis. Some kind of lizard brain response.”
“What do you mean, shared?”
“There’s a kind of language that recurs. Bullshit words and phrases. Like the cults have a vocabulary of their own.”
“How could they…?”
“I don’t know. But “Low Theta” is one of the phrases.”

Guess what they’ve just seen sprayed on the wall…

Once again, it appears all is not what it seems… and I mean that in myriad ways… Next thing you know, I’ll be believing in ancient alien entities living inside the sun… But that would just be completely crazy, right? Right?


Buy Brink vol 2 and read the Page 45 review here

Fantastic Four: Epic Collection vol 3 – Coming Of Galactus s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby.

Features the first appearances of the Silver Surfer, The Inhumans and Galactus!

Also the wedding of Reed and Sue!

 “Fools! It is I, Madam Medusa, who has trapped you!
“Of what use are your clumsy guns and fists against my unconquerable hair!”

I used to think exactly the same thing too.

I do apologise: it was me who single-handedly destroyed the ozone layer with my daily, almost geological strata of hair mousse, hair gel, spray gel, then hair spray, heat-drying each individually applied coat to such a concrete immobility of spikes that the post-punk array once withstood an open-topped journey on a double-decker bus to Haringey in a howling, rain-swept gale.

You can see the results in Page 45’s Photograph Gallery, four photos right at the end.



I should point out that the INHUMANS’ Medusa is no Gorgon. Nor is the INHUMANS’ Gorgon, for that matter, and Madame Medusa’s hair is merely prehensile rather than a hissing nest of snakes. Nevertheless, that’s good enough for the Frightful Four to enlist her aid in invading the Baxter Building, wisely waiting for the Avengers and X-Men to leave the engagement party. The what now?!?!

Yes, Sue Storm and Reed Richards have announced their plans to be married!

Sue to the Submariner; Reed to his work.

No, no, to each other!

For now.



They didn’t even have the common courtesy to send Doctor Victor Von Doom an invitation, but he was always going to find out eventually: it’s splattered all over the newspapers, which he rends asunder with wrath.

“Reed Richards, the only man in the world ever to defeat me, getting married today!”
“This is my greatest chance for revenge – now, when he will least expect it!
“My attack must be foolproof, irresistible, all-powerful! Only by scoring the greatest victory of all time can I wipe out the humiliation of the past!”

God, it was only a game of Tiddlywinks.

Or was it strip-Tiddlywinks? Was your winkle tiddly, Victor?

Weddings: there’s always some trouble and strife. Traditionally, that is the end result, unless you’re left at the altar. What’s the cockney for left at the altar? Rocked in Gibraltar?

No one has ever wanted to marry me.

“Sue – my darling!”
“We’re married at last! And nothing will ever part us, my beloved!”

Yeah, not so much, really.



It’s not the supervillains who really get in the way, although an awful lot of them do try their hardest on the big day itself: Mr. Hyde, the Mandarin, the Mole Man, the Skrulls; the Red Ghost, the Black Knight, the Grey Gargoyle, the Pink Panther; the Puppet Master, the Mad Thinker, the Human Top, the Alien Bottom and Kang The Conqueror. Plus there’s Attuma the tuna and those pungent Masters Of Evil. Each and every one is “summoned” by Doom only to be dispatched by the most dysfunctionally dressed guest list in marital history: the Avengers, the X-Men, Nick Fury, Dr. Strange, Daredevil and Spider-Man. At least Nick Fury and Charles Xavier bring their tuxedos.



No, the real culprit – as we will discover over the next five decades – is Reed “I’ve got a test tube and I’m not afraid to let it obsess me for months before I actually get around to using it” Richards.

These are actual quotations.

“Don’t get too near them, darling – !”
“Stop sounding like a wife and find me that gun, lady!”

Yes, but she is your wife, matey, and – oh! – everything else in that sentence.

“Reed! Look at you! You haven’t even shaved! And you must be starved!”
“For the love of Pete, girl! Is that what you disturbed me for?”

So much for the honeymoon period.

The wedding aside, this is one long epic which begins with magenta-maned Medusa of the Frightful Four being frightfully forward with Ben then awfully backward in addressing her roots. By which I mean not her follicle folk but her brethren, the Inhumans, revealed here for the first time and determined that they should all return whence they came, sequestered away in the Himalayan Great Refuge.



But netting the human hairdo means venturing out themselves which is when Johnny “hotshot / brain-rot” Storm first spies Crystal and promptly falls head over heels in love with the one woman he cannot have.

For now.

It’s one of the most fertile FF eras with the introduction also of the Silver Surfer, Galactus and even Wyatt Wingfoot, and it’s here you will learn how the Silver Surfer comes to be stranded in exile on Earth, how he attracts the attention of The Thing’s girlfriend Alicia, and what the true nature of the Ultimate Nullifier is, other than a device evidently used on an infant Johnny Storm’s brain.



The collection is rounded off with a far more introverted affair which readers were led to believe would focus on Ben Grimm’s plight as a man of deep feeling trapped in a body of bricks that made touching his girlfriend a somewhat abrasive affair.

‘This Man, This Monster’ kicked off with what was quite literally a splash page as The Thing is caught in a New York rainstorm at night. You’ll find it parodied by Evan Dorkin in THE ELTINGVILLE CLUB (second piece of interior art down).



A couple of policemen in a patrol car offer him a lift, but instead he chooses to be alone with his soggy old thoughts until accosted by a bald-bonced Billy No Mates who lures him inside for a cuppa. God knows how much ketamine the cuppa was cut with, for Ben’s instantly out like a light, then it’s the old switcheroo with Ben reverting to human and the real monster of the story out to destroy the Fantastic Four disguised as the Thing. It is, however, a story of that monster’s redemption as a moment of crisis leads to another of heroism and Billy suddenly realises why he had no mates: he is a bitter and selfish old plonker.

It is a classic, but it’s also completely ridiculous.



Somehow Billy No Mates is familiar enough with everyone to know their nicknames and even who Aunt Petunia is, but gives the game away almost immediately by ‘forgetting’ how much he can lift. Neither Reed nor Sue raises an eyebrow even when their beloved Ben bursts in to confront the impostor. Instead they send Ben packing and immediately Reed puts his life in the imitator’s hands. No pause for thought there. No, “Err, I think I’ll let Sue handle this one while you’re on the other side of the planet just to be on the safe side. You know, given that it’s 50/50 as to which one of you is trying to get one over on me.” Instead it’s straight into sub-space for a space-time experiment clearly marked “DANGER!” with the evil doppelganger on duty as his life-line.



Do you think it’s all going to go horribly wrong, dear readers?

More issues and “issues” from the swinging sixties, then, complete with the occasional piece of whacky photography illustrating the ocean’s depths, the far reaches of space, or Mr. Fantastic’s banks of weird and wonderful scientific doo-dads built from things that are grey.



It’s immediately striking whenever Joe Sinnott’s on inks (Kirby was famously dismissive about inkers – a very rare error of aesthetic judgement), and there are some cracking covers including a sunset scene anticipating Galactus and a most unusual choice in browns on issue #50’s.

Also, although Galactus’s now traditional purple attire is adopted in #49, moments earlier in #48 he’s clad more like an early Wonderman at a Transformers fancy dress party. Colour coordination is so very important.



For even more merciless mockery and the occasional kind comment about Kirby, please see more FANTASTIC FOUR EPIC COLLECTIONS.

Meanwhile, “If only Bruce Banner could be here,” muses someone at that engagement party.

Someone who is quite clearly insane.


Buy Fantastic Four: Epic Collection vol 3 – Coming Of Galactus s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Bad Girls h/c (£18-99, Groundwood Books) by Alex De Campi & Victor Santos

Jane, The Fox & Me h/c (US Edition) (£17-99, Groundwood Books) by Britt Fanny & Isabelle Arsenault

Look Back & Laugh: Journal Comics (£17-99, Top Shelf) by Liz Prince

Love Letters To Jane’s World s/c (£20-99, Lion Forge) by Paige Braddock

A Projection (£6-99, Avery Hill) by Seekan Hui

The Winner (£14-99, Retrofit / Big Planet) by Karl Stevens

Outcast vol 6: Invasion s/c (£14-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Paul Azaceta, Elizabeth Breitweiser

Rat Queens vol 5: The Colossal Magic Nothing s/c (£14-99, Image) by Kurtis J. Wiebe & Owen Gieni

Roughneck s/c (£17-99, Simon & Schuster) by Jeff Lemire

Sex Criminals vol 5: Five-Fingered Discount (£14-99, Image) by Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky

Spill Zone vol 1 s/c (£12-99, FirstSecond) by Scott Westerfeld & Alex Puvilland

Batman / Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II h/c (£22-99, DC) by James Tynion IV, Ryan Ferrier & Freddie Williams II

Champions vol 3: Champion For A Day s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Mark Waid, Jeremy Whitley & Humberto Ramos, various

Star Wars vol 8: Mutiny At Mon Cala (£15-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Salvador Larroca

X-Men Gold vol 6: ‘Til Death Do Us Part s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Marc Guggenheim, various & Michele Bandini, various

Vampire Knight: Memories vol 2 (£6-99, Viz) by Matsuri Hiro

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews August 2018 week one

Wednesday, August 1st, 2018

Featuring Evan Dorkin, Wilfrid Lupano, Gregory Panaccione, Brendan Leach, Aisha Franz, A. Degen, Jesse Jacobs, Mike Migola, Duncan Fegredo, Shaun Tan.

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

It’s big and it’s heavy, and so handy for settling arguments.

Was there ever a more pugilistic creator of comics? I think not!

I don’t mean that the man pulled on boxing gloves to pack a punch: he did that far more effectively by picking up a pen, perhaps a brush, then bulldozing right over the wrongful with righteous, well-aimed, lacerating wit.

His targets deserved every ounce of antagonism.

So much of it was aimed at ambition-deficient, service-stinting, male-centric, superhero-only comic shops and the wider, US/UK cul-de-sac comicbook industry at large from corporation-colluding distributors to rancid conventions and even the alternative “elite”. This once manifested itself in the form of a series of hypothetical trading cards, so using the very nadir of this industry’s vapid, self-referential collection-obsession to satirise its complete lack of integrity and soul.

You don’t even know what a trading card is, do you?  Quite right too!



But overwhelmingly Dorkin also drew from – and threw satirical ire at – more popular culture while railing that comics wasn’t, like prose, film, television and music, and I have never forgotten this early attack on supposed non-conformists emulating each other like homogenised sheep. It was called “Hey, everybody – are you Ready To Alternative Rock?”

“We are all expressing our individuality!” cries each style-clone-copy of the other in unison.

He was equally scathing about raves:

“Look out! It simply won’t stop! The wackiest non-social dance craze since the mosh pit! It works like this – strobes, lasers, drugs, and Kraftwerk albums played on 78rpm causes widespread mass teenage epilepsy.”

DORK was a breath of fresh air, breaking our windows then rending our curtains, slapping us all wide-awake with art that bore into your eyes. Each issue was such a dense, value-for-money read, taking well over a year to construct, some containing over one hundred four-panel gags.



“Vox Populi.
“Today’s question: are people less intelligent today than in the past?”
“Um.. YES! Wait… NO! Uh – what was the question again?”
“How they hell should I know? I dunno… I mean, how they hell should I know, hah?!?”

Lastly, with a shrug: “What’s the past?”

It’s just crack after crack after crack.

Fly News For Flies: “Our top story tonight — once again, millions are dead…”

Morning Sickness: girl wakes up – “Oh shit! I slept with him?” – and throws up on the oaf.
Mourning Sickness: girl wakes up – “Oh shit! I slept with him?!” – and throws up over the skeleton.

It’s funny, it’s filthy (it really is filthy), and irreverent as hell, as seen from the clouds above in ‘At Home With The Man Upstairs’, when God reads his Bible:

“That day will be a day of wrath… I will bring distress upon people… their blood shall be poured out like dust, and their flesh like dung.”
Zephaniah 1:15-17.
“Christ. Did I really say that?
“I must have been half in the bag that day. That’s crazy talk!”

‘At Home With Houdini’ was even funnier, as the revered escapologist sought to extricate himself from nothing more tricky than his coat and hat.



Amongst so very many new ideas in each instalment, several were reprised, like ‘Myron, The Living Voodoo Doll’. It’s the same joke in different iterations, over and over again, but it never stops being funny.

Step 1: Myron strays into dangerous territory (dog-defended alleyway, an ice rink or thunder storm).
Step 2: Myron comes a-cropper (savagely attacked, sliced in two or given the world’s worst Van de Graaff Generator experience).
Step 3: Bloke whom Myron is attuned to suffers identical injuries. “God, I have to find that doll!”

The joke is that he never does, and we know that he never will. “That @£$% doll!”



Another recurrent thread was ‘Fisher-Price Theatre’ in which the real-world Fisher-Price toys (limbless, wooden, barely distinguishable and cylindrical clones with no elements of articulation whatsoever) acted out the most complex and nuanced novels, poetry and plays which humankind has ever conceived at various lengths (that length itself being often so satirical): ’Of Mice And Men’, ‘The Lottery’, ‘The Wasteland’ and even ‘Catcher In The Rye’.

From the man responsible for MILK & CHEESE and THE ELTINGVILLE CLUB comes a complete collection of pithy short strips and longer comics from the 11-issue DORK series minus appearances from the above and his much-missed work with Kyle Baker, ‘Critics At Large’. For the last, I can lend you my copy of DORK #2, published six months before Page 45 opened some 24 years ago. There’s plenty of new stuff here to take their place including most of the full-colour THE HOUSE OF FUN one-shot reviewed at the bottom so, yes, more MILK & CHEESE!



Over a dozen years ago, our Mark wrote something I’ve long held to be true, which is why I’m going to great lengths to attempt to give Dorkin his due. Much to my astonishment I’ve managed to find that paragraph in the depths of my personal archives:

“There was something in the latest Comics Journal about the great humour cartoonists around at the moment and how they are largely unappreciated in the comics field. It’s much easier to praise a book with deep, deep thoughts that holds a mirror up to humanity blah blah blah than it is to say, “This is funny!” This is partly because there are precious few yuks in the largely dominant superhero world and those outside of the superhero world tend to lay praise on the serious story. Luckily there are almost enough artists who want to make us laugh out there. We’ve got Henderson, Ryan, Herschbaum, Langridge and, right at the top, Evan Dorkin.  Even in the depths of depression (DORK #7) it’s a laff riot, although we may be questioning if we’re supposed to be laughing. And the answer should be, yes. He’s right on the button with social commentary, pop culture attacks and general laffs. Which is what we need at the moment. ‘Kay?”

I remember Mark and I being more than a little worried (horrified) for Evan’s health when DORK #7 was first published. An experiment in extemporisation, it was one of Dorkin’s bravest and most complex narratives, immaculately executed with remarkable lucidity as he emptied onto the page so many of the very real anxieties which gnawed at him daily, and which eventually culminated in a full-blown mental breakdown.



The white-on-black page was terrifying enough. On it, Evan descended an endless set of banisterless stairs in total darkness, carrying a full glass of unknown liquid in each hand, terrified of losing his balance and spilling anything.

“If I fall I might never stop falling…
“This is all I can think about with each and every complex step. What makes it worse is – I don’t know how much farther down I have to go…
“And I have no idea where the steps are taking me.”

The last line is the killer.

“This is not a dream… this is the way it is.”

After which we get to his fear of bad paper cuts, thence to razor blades and beyond.



That wasn’t in his preparatory layouts, it’s just where he went and, as I say, it was remarkably coherent considering that he was constantly interrupting himself with digressions before reining himself in with remarkable fluency and fluidity. Then the all-too pervasive Devil Puppet begins adding his own commentary, a hostile audience starts heckling, and Dorkin’s work at the drawing board becomes disparaged – as he creates it! – by a trio of imaginary critics, the first of whom here appears in a beret and sunglasses, the second in a top hat, puffing on a cigar and squinting through $ signs.

“Do you really think that line works?”
“Leave it alone, it works well enough – “
“It’s a terrible line. It’s stiff, didactic and unfunny. It should be re-written.”
“He’s already re-written it twelve times because of you! Twice on paste-downs! Don’t you realize how late this goddamned book is?!”
“Fine, then, put out a piece of garbage. Ruin what little reputation he has – let them laugh at him rather than with him!”



Even visually it’s flashing from one style to another depending on what is required. Yet, as Mark commented, the comic was still comical…

“Random Thought #1
“When Edison came up with the idea of the light bulb… did he see one above his head when the notion hit him?”

Evan draws an iconic ‘eureka moment’ light bulb, then a flaming candle as a possible alternative. Edison clutches a ‘To Do’ list.  “1) Invent 2) Fuck Tesla over patent.”

And it was still topical…

“You know when there’s some bullshit sports fan riot after some stupid championship game that their dumb local team’s won?”

Yes, we do! Jodie and I witnessed the Nottingham city centre carnage on Saturday July 7th 2018 first-hand… after England won a match.

“We’re #1!”
“Our piss-poor lives have been given meaning!”
“We’re #1 even tho’ we didn’t do anything!”
“Dallas is the best! Let’s trash it!”

There you go.

“Here’s what I think should be done, while those clueless Neanderthals revel over their tribal bullshit… Helicopters should dump dyes – like those the banks use to mark stolen money – all over the stupid fucking mob of monkey fucks. Then, days later, the police can still identify the morons because they’re still marked by the ASSHOLE PAINT © and lock their pathetic asses up for, oh, for fucking ever.”



Dorkin provides an all-new autobiographical introduction to this collection, succinctly distilling his interests, ambitions, influences and career into two taut pages. Amongst his early interests was mouthing off at the back of the classroom, and amongst those early ambitions was to perform stand-up comedy. But he kept that to himself because, well, you have to do stand-up on a stage. As DORK #7 might suggest to you, he’s a wee bit too self-conscious to do that.

“See, mouthing off from the back of a classroom isn’t the same as working a room. It’s more like heckling than performing.”

So essentially, Evan’s still mouthing off from the back of the classroom.

For which I’m eternally grateful, otherwise we’d not have one of the funniest pages I have ever read in my life, called ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors’, which could never be performed anywhere other than on the paper page. You’ll find that at the top.

In summary, I doff my cap to the man who, against all odds, has never given up on himself or on comics, but has instead thrown himself so ferociously again and again from within the industry, at an industry which so suicidally surfed against his tide and tirades, like no one else in the business.



Time for some more laffs, gleaned from the HOUSE OF FUN one-shot. This one’s for you, Mark!

“When life gives you lemons…”
“Punch life in the fucking face!”

More maniacal malfeasance from MILK & CHEESE, The Murder Family, Bad Rabbi, Shitty Witch And Crappy Cat, Myron The Living Voodoo Doll and – coming soon! – Hank Jenkins, Chronic Masturbator. (“Yes indeed. I spill the seed.”). No one packs in more to a page than Dorkin. His mind fizzes with lateral-thinking lunacy.

Read ‘A Day In the Life Of Milk & Cheese’! There’s a certain consistency to it. It’s the consistency of blood-curdled milk. See them being sent a “Cease & Desist”, sued by the Disney Corporation! And here they’ve distracted themselves from burning down the house with the prospect of X-Ray Spex:

“I must say, it seems a little silly to send away for an item advertised in a decades-old comic.”
“The contrivance excites and delights me. It’s a gap in logic worthy of George Lucas.”

8-10 weeks later.

“Aha! Yes! This is it! Our eyes now have mad skillz!”
“I can see through everything now! Feng Shui! Scientology! ‘Family Guy’!”
“Science is wicked! What will it think of next?”
“Genocide boots, I hope!”

Also: The Murder Family (“The family that slays together stays together!”) is threatened by some late-night, extra-marital mutilation, but before then Ma Murder tries to set standards for son Dougie’s version of courtship:

“You weren’t over at that Judy Pilkington’s house again, were you? You know I don’t approve of her.”
“Aw, no, Mom! She got a court order! I’m stalking a new girl now, Vanessa Dobkin! You’d like her. She’s vulnerable!


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

A Sea Of Love h/c (£19-99, Lion Forge) by Wilfrid Lupano & Gregory Panaccione.

With nocturnal landscapes and diurnal seascapes lit to perfection as the sun rises, peaks, then falls slowly below the horizon, this silent story about straying off course – physically, metaphorically, environmentally – is as beautiful to behold as it is epic in its undulating, up-and-down fortunes.

It is also witty in its wealth of allegiances forged unexpectedly, comically, from the most unpropitious circumstances (seagulls, sea pirates, cruise-liner cooks and the Cuban high military command).

But more than anything else, it’s one of the most romantic books I have ever read, moving in its marital devotion, steadfast loyalty and the determination to succeed in being reunited against all oceanic odds imaginable.



It’s not a new formula in any medium or genre: swiftly establish unbreakable bonds between two loving souls (thereby investing your readers emotionally in the prosperity of their relationship) then almost immediately tear that couple apart – please see HABIBI, for a start. It’s cruel, but from that point on, we are hooked, desperate for the lost lovers to rediscover each other.

But that bait is far more difficult to judge then securely tether for the long haul than it looks, and this is a very long haul indeed, most of it spent by both all at sea, sometimes heading in different directions.

Are you ready, my lovers? Then we shall begin.



Early one morning while it is still dark, an old fisherman switches on the bedside table lamp and pops on his glasses. So thick are their lenses that they magnify his bulging myopic eyes, and he looks like Mr Magoo. This is a cue in itself: things, they are gonna go wrong!

Stretching and yawning, he is greeted downstairs by a nutritious and filling, steaming, savoury French pancake stuffed with ham, cheese and a fresh, broken egg prepared by his doting wife, up even earlier, who is decked out in a pristine black dress and laced white apron, tied at the back with a great big bow, a tiny chef’s hat balanced on her barnet.



None of this is random narrative, not the lace, the galette, its nutrition and sustenance, its expert execution or the early-morning effort. Each individual element is preparation for what will follow, exceptionally economical in its foundations, for we are only on page two of (*flips ahead*) two hundred and twenty pages plus!

Coffee is served before an old transistor radio crackles out the weather forecast: it’s going to be all over the shop! The old man’s missus, who’s actually a lot heartier than he is, dutifully packs him a day’s supply of food including a tin of sardines (as seen on the cover) which he quite evidently cannot abide. We will be seeing many more of those cans in the future. Not in this review, but I promise you this: plot points!



He showers and she glowers over clothes strewn with abandon all over the bathroom floor. Comedic pratfalls bring them back together, then she sees him off on what is evidently no more than a daily routine, but which will today prove a much bigger journey than either could possibly imagine.



We’re on page eleven now. How much more do I tell you? How profoundly do you trust me?

I thought this would be fun. Actually, I knew this would be fun, but I had absolutely no idea how much. It hurt not one jot that the figures and expressions are so exquisitely drawn with all the cartooning exuberance of Kyle Baker. It’s wordless, remember: key communicative skills, ahoy!



But way beyond that, each misstep, each misfortune, each rallying effort, each ingenuity and absolutely every unexpected public triumph of the very private, humble, unassuming, financially poor and self-sacrificial yet resolute wife is riveting, awe-inspiring and emotionally rewarding. I was a bit moved, yes.



You will witness a tiny private fishing boat which can’t even catch a crab – only a boot, rusted can and a tiddler — bludgeoned by a trawler so vast that its looks like a pleasure cruise liner. You will witness an actual pleasure cruise liner and its pampered, modern, rich residents wowed by traditional skills. You’ll encounter that very real, horrific floating island of plastic rubbish that soils our seas known as the North Atlantic Garbage Patch, oil spills, and a beer-can six-pack binder strangling a seagull. Always snip ‘em, folks, so hedgehogs don’t pop their heads through too, because otherwise it’s a noose!



Also on offer: the ludicrously detailed image of Ernesto “CheGuevara appearing within a pancake as a holy sign, just like the Virgin Mary bobs up in an apple core or latte froth. Fidel Castro makes two guest appearances too.

Actually that beer-can six-pack plastic binder strangling a seagull proved to be the genesis of the best allegiance of all. It begins as an extended sequence of comedic to-and-fro as our fisherman strives to free the exhausted bird, offers it some restorative sardines afterwards, then throws the empty can overboard. The seagull will ensure he regrets that.



The seagull’s expressions are to die for, and that specific relationship is beautifully reprised on the final few pages.


Buy A Sea Of Love h/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

“My day’s come at last…
“And woe unto man.”

She’s not kidding.

With its cloven hooves firmly planted in present-day Britain where both its Arthurian and witchcraft past is leaking through, this third, self-contained 500-page HELLBOY omnibus edition is the basis for the upcoming feature film ‘Hellboy: The Rise of the Blood Queen’. It should be nothing short of spectacular because, bursting with mythological beasts of all shapes and sizes – giant, serpentine, horned, winged, boar-headed  or battling in furnace-fuelled armour – this sure is. There’s even an old witch snogging a drooling goat, with tongue.

It is a demon lover’s paradise, plagued by possessions, resurrections, strange transformations and haunting refrains as Hellboy strives once more to evade his destiny, even as everyone seeks to crown him King.



“You are your father’s son, but you also had a mother…
“Either way you are bound to wear a crown.”

Unfortunately it could be the crown of Hellboy’s real name, Anung Un-Rama.

It’s the flaming Crown of the Apocalypse. And the Apocalypse is coming to England.

“Oh crap.”



Normally Hellboy would far rather be left alone to roam on his own – or hide from the world and drink with familiar ghosts – but there’s some very clever visual foreshadowing of Hellboy’s growing rage as he actively picks a fight with the first giants to roam Britain since 1402, when his oversized, gauntlet-like Right Hand of Doom comes firmly to the fore of the panels, even when it’s resting on a table as he markedly avoids talking about it.

Oh yes, then there are all the prophecies. Always, the prophecies.

“However this war ends, he will be lost.
“It will be for you to find him, and you will.
“And true to his nature, he will be both your salvation and your destruction.”



So what’s all this destruction malarkey about? And wait – did someone mention Hellboy’s mum?

It’s all about power, obviously, but also about power vacuums, especially the one left when Hellboy refuses to lead the witches early on by taking the place of their lost Queen. Someone else is only going to come along and seize the mantle. Hint: they do. Then he’s given the opportunity to wear another crown and become King of Britain to fix the mess which his prior refusal created. It’s offered to him by none other than Morgan Le Fey.

Do you remember Morgan Le Fey? Legend has it that this half-sister of King Arthur seduced her own brother in order to sire a son and so steal his kingdom. But King Arthur and his son Mordred slew each other in battle. Mordred left three bastard sons born to a witch, but they were all murdered by knights loyal to King Arthur, so ending the Pendragon name.

But not its bloodline.



Mordred, you see, had a daughter, and that daughter begat daughters and so on, their wedded surnames disguising the lineage until…

“You’ve carried a gun….
“But you’ve always felt more natural holding a sword.”

Oh look, there’s a sword set in stone, bobbing along in water. Will it be drawn, do you think?

What would you do? You’ve already catalysed the mother of all chaos threatening to engulf Britain by refusing to accept one crown; your destiny is dovetailing right in front of you with all that’s been forecast before, and this seems the only way to combat the unholy legion assembled to lay waste to this country. But as Jonathan once pointed out, all of this is divulged by Morgan Le Fey, and she has hardly been renowned either for honesty or altruism.



Duncan Fegredo astounds.

The Rodin of comics has clearly pored over Mignola’s own art to capture all the nuances and sensibilities of what makes Hellboy so special (there’s a sketchbook exchange in the back), then added even more weight to his already hefty hands and forearms. There’s always been something slightly simian about the scarlet giant’s gait: it’s not just the tail but, here, how far his extended upper limbs drop towards the ground, all adding up to an aspect of being ancient.

To have chosen such a British artist for this British tale was a masterstroke, and Fegredo delivers on all fronts from a vicar’s tweed jacket to a policeman’s short-sleeved summer uniform.



His masonry is monumental, whether it’s a high-vaulted country church with sturdy stone columns and space-spanning arches, its pews lined in perfect perspective, or an old county pile complete with corner quoining, some old, leaded windows surrounded by climbing ivy and a Tudor-style, back entrance porch from which so many slightly cracked steps lead down that it suggests another journey altogether. The detail is staggering.



Once actually underground (lit by a hand-held candelabra, as all good horror should be), the textures are even richer, be they on brickwork, monstrous head carvings, even craggier, more ancient stone steps, statuary that could at any moment creak into life, thrillingly ornate gothic window frames and iron-hinged doors which even the least inquisitive subterranean rambler could not resist opening.

There’s also a pub which possibly shouldn’t be there in woodland without roads, whose thatched exterior and wooden-beamed interior are rendered with relish and decked out with details ever so familiar to those of us on this side of The Pond.

You’ll enjoy ancient ruins aplenty and stray cats, too.

Meanwhile, as cataclysmic as it gets in the countryside, London’s burning too, and there’ll be nothing but rubble in the end.

“I thought… I hoped that Hellboy would be able to stop her before this. But the storm’s come.
“Now it’s laying waste to all Britain, and soon it will spread over the whole world.
“Monsters long buried will all rise again and for a while it will be their world… till it all burns.”

That’s Brexit for you.


Buy Hellboy Omnibus vol 3 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

By This Shall You Know Him (£10-99, Koyama Press) by Jesse Jacobs…

“Time and space died yesterday.”

What a fabulous opening line that is…

For some reason we let this slide off our shelves the first time we had it in, but Jesse SAFARI HONEYMOON / CRAWL SPACE Jacobs’ first work is back treading the proverbial Page 45 boards and what a visionary piece it is. Have some publisher blurb to elucidate slightly whilst I prepare myself to attempt a review of it…

“Witness the limitless ambitions of celestial beings as they fiddle and fuss with all sorts of molecular arrangements, creating infinitely detailed patterns and strange new worlds brimming with bizarre life forms. By This Shall You Know Him depicts all manner of beasts running, crawling, and slithering towards death’s cold embrace.”

The phrase limitless ambitions could, and does, equally apply to Jess Jacobs. Particularly in the sense that he is clearly creating exactly the sort of comics he wants to make. He’s not doing it to appeal to the masses, or even to appeal to a particular audience, I suspect. He just wants to make his comics.

In that sense, he’s amongst a coterie that in addition to unashamedly ploughing their own artistic furrough are also lovers of symmetry, design and motif, not to mention a dash or two of the surreal. The likes of Theo UNDERSTANDING MONSTER Ellsworth, Ron WHAT PARSIFAL SAW Rege. Jr, Jim POOCHYTOWN Woodring, Marc DRAWN & QUARTERLY: 25 YEARS OF CONTEMPORARY CARTOONING Bell and Box AN ENTITY OBSERVES ALL THINGS Brown.

Here Jesse has us observing a group of near-omnipotent beings playing with creating new lifeforms. Their master, the Adviser, is encouraging them to go silicon-based but one of their number, Ablavar, is obsessed with the “substandard building material” carbon, much to the disgust of Ablavar’s rival, the magniloquent Zantek.

Consequently Zantek can’t help himself from messing around with Ablavar’s work, which has some far-reaching implications for his creation. A version of a particular creation you might well recognise… and perhaps some of its associated characters and mythology.

As with his other works, the intricate patterns Jesse creates have a mesmerising mandala-like hypnotic effect in places. I’m pretty sure he was probably obsessed with mazes too as a kid. There’s also a two-page, sixteen-panel-per-page sequence where he is just zooming in on one of the Adviser’s mini-creations where I found myself analysing each panel, observing precisely how the geometrical transaction between each panel occurred. Fascinatingly intense work.



As with all his material, there are some comedically dark undertones warping the direction of the story, which occasionally erupts into mildly overt slapstick. But above all, it’s simply incredibly well structured psychedelic story-telling. I greatly admire his ability to tell such coherent if utterly surreal stories employing such a mind-bending art style. A true comics talent, our Jesse, in my literally dazzled eyes.


Buy By This Shall You Know Him and read the Page 45 review here

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



“Dores told me to tell you something.
“He says the terms is changed.”

Just when Eddie thought he was out…

But can you ever just make your polite excuses and leave a life of crime when you’ve started down that particular felonious path…?

Probably not, at least if your ‘friends and family’ have anything to do with it…



Eddie’s friend and former right-hand man with the appalling grammar, one Bento Chagas, or Benny as he’s known, is here to make just that point very clear to Eddie. Family, well, I think you probably know the sort of family I’m talking about, headed up locally by Mr. Dores, who’s more than happy to use the leather jacketed greasers in the Iron Bound gang as foot soldiers and muscle for his various rackets and schemes.

Here’s the publisher’s rap sheet on this superb crime joint…

“Iron Bound is a gritty, authentic account of street gangs and life in the margins of Newark, New Jersey’s Ironbound district at the start of the ‘60s. With all the elements of a noir mystery and a crime drama, it’s Leach’s insight into human nature and his ability to evoke place and moment that elevates the narrative to a complex examination of the tenuous relationships of people mired in conflict and fear.”



That’s an excellent summation of this work, I have to say. The portrayal of all the main characters is spot on; Brendan gives them real depth and makes them completely believable. Eddie and Benny, their girls Genie and Gloria, the scar-faced Mr Dores and the bent cop Dunham, we come to understand how they are indeed all mired, in fact I would go so far as to say trapped, in conflict and fear. As the rear cover boldly states… “Fists can do what talking can’t.”

Brendan’s art, as I commented in my review of his THE PTERODACTYL HUNTERS IN THE GILDED CITY has more than a look of the great GIPI’s LAND OF THE SONS style. Here, the linework contributes to some seriously dangerous looking hard faces, decorated with bent noses, pointy chins and in Mister Dores’ case, a very impressive scar. He certainly didn’t get that shaving…



A fabulously brutal self-contained clout of crime fiction, all shiny with battered black leather and glistening with hair grease, but it’s the emotional undercurrents that will pull you in and indeed the characters under.

Just to add, there’s a bright red flexi-disc, recorded by the official Iron Bound band, the Newark Wanderers, thrown in for good measure.


Buy Iron Bound and read the Page 45 review here

Shit Is Real (£17-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Aisha Franz…

Which strikes me as a mildly amusing title for a work that contains some crazy surreal sequences, which I think are meant to be dream sequences. Maybe. Anyway, here’s the publisher’s statement regarding this affirmation of the scatological:

“After an unexpected breakup, a young woman named Selma experiences a series of reveries and emotional setbacks. Struggling to relate to her friends and accomplish even the simplest tasks like using a modern laundromat, she sinks deeper into depression. Aisha Franz is a master of portraying feminine loneliness and confusion while keeping her characters tough and real. Base human desires and functions alternate with dreamlike symbolism to create a tension-filled tale of the nightmare that is modern life.”

Another surprisingly on-the-money summation. Clearly the hype writer with the typewriter was on fire that week…



It’s in English, honest.


Selma is indeed having a bad one. Her ex-boyfriend seemed like an idiot, mind, so whilst she’s definitely no worse off without him, she is finding single life and the comparative repeated social and career successes of her friends getting thrown in her face difficult to handle. What follows is a mildly surreal set of stumbles through life as she tries to come to terms with the fact she is struggling to cope with pretty much every facet of existence, and frankly, seemingly caught in a downwards spiral.



The one chink of light is the owner of the local pet shop, who seems to have a particular penchant for fish and perhaps more than a passing interest in her. Selma, whilst squatting in the luxury flat of her absent neighbour, attempts to create a new reality for herself and start getting her life back in order.



I found this gentle farce surprisingly moving. Aisha Franz has created a character in Selma whom I instantly attuned to. I was really willing her to get her figurative shit back together and achieve her happy ending. The black and white art style feels suitably wibbly for portraying someone who is such an emotional car crash. If you like your contemporary fiction with a slight twist of odd, this could be for you.


Buy Shit Is Real and read the Page 45 review here

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

“Cancatervate” – to heap into a pile.

One of the strangest works I’ve read in a while, this. Which in a week I also read BY THIS SHALL YOU KNOW HIM by Jesse Jacobs probably gives that statement some additional gravitas and perhaps some mild disbelief…

For whilst this is in essence simply a superhero tale, telling the story of the caped Mighty Star and his epic takedown of the dastardly Cancatervater, it’s considerably more than that. Oh yes…

It is like A. Degen has cancatervated – hey, you learn a new word as bonkers as that, you need to use it – superheroes, a dash of manga, silent 1930s Flash Gordon serials, ontology and various other incongruous ingredients, then smashed it all together with a Hadron Collider in hallucinatory, disorientating fashion. The results are not only spectacular but esoteric to say the least. This is not your typical superhero book…



It’s certainly not a straightforward read either to penetrate this somewhat off-kilter stylistic approach, but it bears dividends if you’re prepared to stick with it. I think in that sense it all minds me somewhat of the sort of material Antoine SHOWTIME Cosse makes. To start with you are continually straining to try and maintain a coherent sense of the whole, before you’re just sucked into the flow and have to roll with it, being mentally buffeted from panel to panel.



It’s mostly wordless, which I think in this instance is probably a good thing. There’s more than enough going on here without complicating matters further. Instead, the absence of verbal narrative allows your mind to ping around the evolving constellation of chaos and form your own internal construction of what is probably going on.



The style of artwork I can only describe as flamboyantly discordant yet abstractly coherent. In other words, it’s all over the place but it looks bloody great!

Why not test your sensibilities and cancatervate this into your (reading) pile?


Buy Mighty Star And The Castle Of The Cancatervater and read the Page 45 review here

The Arrival s/c (£10-99, Lothian) by Shaun Tan.

New, easily hand-held edition, roughly the same size as a standard American comic, although we do still have the album-sized hardcover of THE ARRIVAL, should you prefer, along with Shaun Tan’s fascinating and revelatory SKETCHES FROM A NALELESS LAND – THE ARRIVAL COMPANION.

This is nothing like how I now sell this book on the shop floor, but that show-and-tell requires more precise interior art than I could find online, so here’s what I wrote a lifetime ago for the original hardcover edition.:

Truly a book of wonders…

It’s a silent tale rendered in subtle but telling tones from the cold grey of bewilderment, death and despair, through sepia to a golden, burnished bronze that will lift your heart and make it sing.



It’s a voyage of discovery both for the book’s reader and its protagonist, who must reluctantly leave his sparsely decorated house, his soft-handed wife, their quietly anxious daughter, and all that is familiar to him to travel far, far abroad to a land of immigrants which at first resembles post-war New York, but which – beyond the docks, the queues and the cold, clinical and invasive physical processing – couldn’t be more alien.



The city is daunting in its scale: a maze of strangely shaped buildings and monuments made no more navigable by maps, for the language there is composed of indecipherable symbols, and the methods of transport are unfathomable. The customs are equally curious, the food is unknown, and the animals bizarre but loyal friends more than pets, accompanying their owners wherever they go. Even the time is told differently there, and you cannot help but fear and feel for the man who has nowhere to go, knows not what to do and can only communicate with drawings. Oh, for the kindness of strangers!



Slowly, however, in tentative steps, the man discovers that he isn’t alone: that there are others who’ve moved here before him, each to escape the horrors of their homeland, who introduce him to the spectacle of their adopted country in all its fantastical glory.



Shaun Tan has created here a perfect impression of just how daunting an experience seeking asylum must be: the sense of complete isolation, loneliness, and most of all helplessness. That’s why there are no words: you’re locked in the same lack of comprehension as the husband and father is, compelled to share his plight of interpreting what lies in front of him. It’s very, very affecting, and the most eloquent rebuttal to The Daily Mail’s outirght bigotry and the ignorant, thoughtless xenophobia so prevalent right now. It is also breathtaking in its imagination and beauty: the snow-white flying fish, the sun-dial skies, the life-cycle of a tiny, miraculous flower. Quite remarkable in every way, and certainly my book of the year [back then – ed.].


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

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Brink vol 2 (£12-99, Rebellion) by Dan Abnett & I.N.J. Culbard

Gamayun Tales vol 2: The Water Spirit (£12-99, Nobrow) by Alexander Utkin

Derek The Sheep: First Sheep In Space (£9-99, Bog Eyed Books) by Gary Northfield

I, Rene Tardi, Prisoner Of War In Stalag IIB h/c (£26-99, Fantagraphics) by Jacques Tardi

Garlandia h/c (£34-99, Fantagraphics) by Jerry Kramsky & Lorenzo Mattotti

Goldilocks And The Infinite Bears (£13-99, Lion Forge) by John McNamee

Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: Fairies h/c (£22-99, Archaia) by Matt Smith, Benjamin Schipper, Tyler Jenkins, Celia Lowenthal

Smiley’s Dream Book h/c (£15-99, Scholastic) by Jeff Smith

They Didn’t Teach THIS In Worm School s/c (£6-99, Walker) by Simone Lia

DC Super Hero Girls vol 6: Out Of The Bottle s/c (£8-99, DC) by Shea Fontana & Marcelo DiChiara, others

Injustice 2 vol 2 s/c (£14-99, DC) by Tom Taylor & Bruno Redondo, various

Injustice 2 vol 3 h/c (£22-99, DC) by Tom Taylor & Bruno Redondo, various

Superman vol 6: Imperius Lex s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, James Robinson & Doug Mahnke, various

Astonishing X-Men vol 2: Man Called X s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Charles Soule & Phil Noto, Gerardo Sandoval

Fantastic Four: Epic Collection vol 3 – Coming Of Galactus s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

X-Men Origins: Complete Collection s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by various

Demon Slayer vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Koyoharu Gotouge

Dragonball Super vol 3 (£6-99, Viz) by Akira Toriyama & Toyotarou

My Hero Academia: Vigilantes vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Hideyuki Furuhashi & Betten Court

I Am A Hero Omnibus vol 7 (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Kengo Hanazawa

Saga Of Tanya Evil vol 3 (£9-99, Yen Press) by Carlo Zen & Chika Tono