Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews August 2018 week one

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

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