Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews August 2018 week two

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

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