Archive for September, 2018

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews September 2018 week four

Wednesday, September 26th, 2018

My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies comes with a free signed bookplate exclusive to Page 45.

Sean Phillips and Jake Phillips will be signing and sketching and colouring in My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival from 10-30am to 12-noon on Sunday 14th October.

Published Wednesday 10th October, here’s your full review, a fortnight early.

My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies h/c (£14-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips with Jake Phillips.

“I was much further out than you thought
“And not waving but drowning.”

 – Stevie Smith, ‘Not Waving But Drowning’,1957

“Hey, I never said I had a drug problem.
“That’s everyone else’s opinion.”

–  Ellie on the cover, to eighteen-year-old handsome lad Skip, inside.

Inside a palatial, five-grand-a-week rehab clinic, to be precise, with colonnades and balustrades, encircling protective wings, poplars and locked gates.

To herself: “And I sure as hell am not planning on getting sober.”

That’s a lot of money to throw away without any intention of detoxifying. So what’s Ellie really up to, and why did she scope out every other patient’s private files the night that she was admitted?



A few years ago, Sean Phillips – Ed Brubaker’s creative partner on the emphatically noir CRIMINAL, FATALE, THE FADE OUT and KILL OR BE KILLED – asked Ed to write him a romance comic. Sean: “And this is as close as he could get.”

Previous efforts haven’t been promising for the protagonists involved. Romance in comics rarely ends well in any event, but FATALE proved particularly problematic for the men caught blinking in Josephine’s headlights, while the whole crux of CRIMINAL: LAST OF THE INNOCENT was one man’s attempt to reverse his wrong romantic turning at the crossroads of life by running over his wife… metaphorically speaking.



But this is indeed, on the surface at least, a strikingly different beast, so Sean Phillips has shifted gears accordingly, and startlingly, away from the twilight world of long shadows and motive-masking, half-lit faces to spot-blacks for some clothing, but otherwise crisp lines and clear forms. These are left open for Jake to dapple and daub with sprays of light blue, silky cream, pinks and admittedly bruised purple. I love that the walls have almost been sponged.

Is it just an affectation of innocence? Surprisingly, predominantly, no – it’s the evocation of a youthful innocence retained against all odds.

The first surface we encounter is the cover. I could be wrong but it bears a striking resemblance to Andy Warhol’s ‘Shot Blue Marilyn, 1964’, only less lurid. That was rendered after her death, and innocent the image is not. Here all the knowing guile is gone, replaced by wide-open eyes, the face-on portrait bathed under watery waves of light – although it is still quite the poker-face, no?

Young Ellie’s not lost, but she is perhaps rudderless, without an anchor, parental, guardian or otherwise.



Inside the combined effect of clean line and colour, as well as Ellie’s hair, smacks to me of 1970s fashion advertising and romance comics, as evoked / referenced so often by Posy Simmonds (LITERARY LIFE, TAMARA DREWE, GEMMA BOVERY and especially the relevant, pastiche passages of the MRS WEBER’S OMNIBUS). Innocence, once more.

All this in unexpected and clever contrast to the central theme of drug dependency: that’s what they’re all holed up in rehab for after her all, and Ellie’s heroes have indeed always been junkies, including Van Gogh. As they drive off into a sunset (of course they do – at least, halfway through) there’s a page dedicated to the artist’s perceptions as enhanced by absinthe and digitalis, and Jake Phillips earns every penny that I hope you’ll throw their way in the most arresting, full-colour, Vincent Van flourish.



So yes, you may perhaps have spied a few preview pages before now and believe you’ve caught Ellie and Skip, thrown together and on the run from a society which simply doesn’t understand their mutual intoxication and drug-addled ways, then taken Ed and Sean at their word that this is a traditional romance / crime combo. And there is romance in being outside the law – all the romance in the world in setting yourself contra mundum.

However, however, this is Ed Brubaker.

While Ellie may be romancing 18-year-old Skip in the clinic, she’s more than a little perturbed to find herself falling for him. Also, as I’ve suggested, she’s more interested in romanticising her own past and all the soulful singer-songwriters whom her dead junkie mum once worshipped. It’s her rebellious inheritance, if you like. Ellie’s not above singing their praises, either, in group therapy, extolling the virtues of that which everyone else is in there to quit.

“It’s like Keith Richards said… The worst thing you can say about heroin will still make somebody want to try it… I mean, talking about dope just makes you want to do it… It’s like a worm in your brain. And it seems like being sober is just constantly talking about all the times you got high. So how stupid is that?”



Group leader Mitch is getting ruffled, but Ellie is just getting started. She’s on a roll.

“And why do we automatically assume that getting clean is this great thing?
“What if drugs help you find the thing that makes you special?”

I do love the way in which young, be-quiffed Skip is enjoying these iconoclastic moments, with quiet, corner-mouthed smiles to himself. Hey, he’s a teenager, a virtual synonym for rebellion, and Ellie knows precisely what she is doing, twitching that particular, fly-adorned, hook-hidden line.

She’s going to cite Lou Reed and David Bowie in a moment, isn’t she? I remember an interview with Bowie some 35 years ago in which he refused to apologise for the promise that he would never again put take such elephantine quantities of horse simply to create another ‘Scary Monsters’ album. And I can’t say I blame him – it wouldn’t have been us who’d have to suffer the subsequent withdrawals – but a world without ‘Hunky Dory’ or ‘Scary Monsters’ doesn’t really bear dreaming about.



Anyway, in stark contrast to the feathered, sky-bright colours of blue and yellow and pinks which radiate Ellie’s seemingly unclouded optimism, her recollections are framed in funereal black and shaded in a grey which we associate with the past. There she laments the fate of the recording artists featured on a mix-tape her mum made for her dad who was languishing in prison. They were every one of them drug addicts. One of her mum’s favourite albums was recorded by Billie Holiday who was arrested in a hospital bed for possessing narcotics, and died handcuffed, under police guard, after they’d forced the doctors to stop giving her methadone. Holiday’s own dad had fared little better, having been refused treatment at a ‘Whites Only’ hospital. The link between them was the song ‘Strange Fruit’, and mum would listen to Billie Holiday while staring out of at the rain, when Ellie was four-years-old.

“That was the year I learned what a junkie was.”



And you’d be forgiven for thinking that both you and Ellie were finally going to be forced wide awake by a brutal memory to puncture Ellie’s almost determined dreamlike reverie, but instead you are treated to yet another rose-tinted spectacle of almost supernatural beauty.

So what did Sean Phillips mean, by “this was as close as he could get”?

Where is the come-down, the crash, the fatal flaw which almost always propels the protagonists in noir to fuck things up for themselves, good and proper?

It’s all there if you read carefully enough, early on, only to resurface a little later.



“It’s a dream, living like this… But I start to think, why do dreams have to end?
“I hear Judie Garland in my head, singing about a faraway land, where troubles melt like lemon drops… and bluebirds fly.
“Judy was caught in the pull between downers and amphetamines as she sang that, of course. Maybe that’s why it sounds so true.
“But anyway, my troubles aren’t the kind that melt away.
“They’re the kind that follow you.
“Even over the rainbow.”


Buy My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Please note: Published Wednesday 10th October, you can pre-order this exclusive edition now and select Worldwide Shipping, Collect In Store or Collect In Kendal, postage free. We’ll simply bring your bookplate edition along with us for you to read and get sketched in by Sean and Jake at the Lakes Festival. Hooray!

Agrippina Arithmetic (£2-99) by Andi Watson ~

“You have a mother and a father, three brothers, two sisters, two husbands, a cousin, an uncle, a son and five canines.”

No, this is not the beginning of one of those convoluted math problems that plagued our childhood classrooms, though you would certainly be forgiven for thinking so. This is the title story ‘Agrippina Arithmetic’; a tale of a domineering young woman, her somewhat unconventional family, and power. You are the empress Agrippina, a woman of great beauty and an extra canine in her upper jaw (apparently held as a symbol of good fortune, but that would certainly depend on your perspective of things.) A catalogue of chaos, this is the story of the demise of one of ancient Rome’s most prominent families and the empress in the shadows of a tyrannical son. And you’ll be glad of that math-problem-style opening. Recurring throughout, it poetically punctuates the timeline, centralising the many characters packing the pages of this ominous tale.



Another delightful display of diversity, Andi has once again presented us with a wonderfully eclectic mix of mini-comics. After Ancient Rome we’re jettisoned into a haunting short of speculative fiction in ‘The Future’s So Bright’, followed by a melancholic, mid-century number ‘The Picture’ with aesthetics very reminiscent of ASTERIOS POLYP.



Finally, we are grounded back in present day with ‘Speak Your Weight’; a humorous perspective of that all too relatable moment in our lives of taking those tentative steps onto the bathroom scales. I certainly know which one speaks to me, and it is the succinct statement of “hummus”.


Buy Agrippina Arithmetic and read the Page 45 review here

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

I’ve only just spotted it, but stairs!

Those tiny bunnies are forever finding stairs to bounce down!

You may by now be more familiar with Vern and with Lettuce from Sarah McIntyre’s 2018 picture-book pleasure THE NEW NEIGHBOURS which wrapped its warm heart around the welcoming of strangers and comes (at the time of typing) with free signed bookplates designed exclusively for Page 45 by La McIntyre herself.

This, then, is a reprint of those characters’ earliest appearances in fully fledged comics, a long lost treasure rescued from legal-rights limbo by Bog Eyed Books publisher Gary Northfield, creator of the equally exuberant DEREK THE SHEEP and so much more that you can find reviewed in Page 45’s Phoenix Comic Collection Section.

I’ve found the graphic novel’s original review by our Tom who left to become a chef, so I’m going to adapt a few of his choice cuts to bounce off myself.

“Vern is a park keeper, trimming its grass, a job that doubles as an all-you-can-eat buffet when you’re a sheep. All he normally has to worry about are biker moles wrecking his immaculate green.”



Yup, you can really plough a furrow on a Harley-Davidson. I love the way that they’re treated throughout like Hells Angels – the underground movement of the animal kingdom!

If you look closely during the fairground escapade you might spot an un-signposted background joke as the everyday anarchists engage in a gleeful game of whack-a-mole.

“His neighbour, Lettuce, in the flat below, is the oldest daughter in a huge family of bunny rabbits, who is constantly lumbered with looking after her many excitable, poopin’ brothers and sisters.”

They call Vern their uncle, in the way that you do some family friends, and oh the dedicated sacrifices that Vern often makes! “Unca Vern, can we plait your hair?” “Uh, ok.” It’s quite the comical make-over. I don’t suppose many of you whippersnappers have caught your mother or even grandmother – let alone your granddads – in curlers, but that’s kind of what happens to Vern, with the additional indignity of finding one of the little bunnies still lurking within.

“I seem to have an ingrown hare.”




“The early one-page comics here are brisk set-ups for puns, but quickly evolve into clever explorations of stereotypes and prejudices when a family of Polar Bears move into their block after their ice floe melted. It’s snow joke.”

Oh Tom! You’re fired!

It should be noted that Polar Bears aren’t vegetarians, their go-to diet naturally including all sorts of inhabitants native to the land they’ve been displaced from. The popsicles they keep in their fridge-freezer may contain Inuit, innit.



That’s not the end of the naughtiness, either. One early page presaged by bunnies bouncing and bonking downstairs all higgledy-piggledy (as they do in THE NEW NEIGHBOURS) involves put-upon Unca Vern agreeing to their cake-baking ‘cooperation’.

“We’re here to help!”
“Uh huh.”

Oh dear. There’s quite a left-over mess on the floor of flour and sugar and….

“I didn’t buy any raisins.”
“Sorry, Vern.” “They’re not raisins.”



The colours are highly unusual, lots of nature-derived blue and green, all suffused with the softest of cream.

Even back then the cartooning was exquisite, Vern’s wool portrayed like some thread-embossed, spiral-patterned duvet. Later there’s a page in which both Vern and Lettuce dress up as extravagantly as Sarah McIntyre and Philip Reeve do for their kiss-thrilling public appearances!



My favourite combines composition and colours in the most magical way during a moon-and-star extemporised slumber session that put me in mind of some sort of dimly recalled, mythological Eastern midnight: Vern the sheep stuck most awkwardly up a tree, yet Lettuce reclined, equanimous to it all, her normally never-letting-up brothers and sisters adapting with ease, going native, getting into the swing and hanging upside down from its branches like bats.

“Look, one foot!” one boasts, as if doing a wheelie or something.



And the gentle social satire never falters, either, with cellophane-packaged super-health foods parodied well ahead of their time in place of what would be far more nutritious, natural and accessible fruit and veg.

For far, far more from Sarah McIntyre, I commend to you all these beautiful books reviewed in Page 45’s Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre section I’ll just leave you with this insignificant little observation which I believe is no more than the most magical of typically fortuitous serendipities: the very last panel of VERN AND LETTUCE could be interpreted as leading you straight into the first page of THE NEW NEIGHBOURS, right there on the rooftop!


Buy Vern And Lettuce and read the Page 45 review here

Follow Me In (£18-99, Avery Hill) by Katriona Chapman…

Well, I think I will, my dear. In fact I did, and was utterly enraptured for the entire 248 pages of Mexican majesty I found within. Long-term Katrionaddicts may recall seeing a sneak peek preview of ten pages in her KATZINE: THE GUATEMALA ISSUE in its pure pencil state without colours. It was a thing of beauty already, but now enriched with lush, soft colours that actually look like they have been done with coloured pencils, it is elevated to a level higher than Popocatépetl itself.

Now, Katriona and her long ago ex-boyfriend Richard Popocatépetl didn’t attempt to scale Popocatépetl, it’s just an active volcanic mountain in Mexico I’ve long held in fond regard for no other reason than my favourite bar in Prague was named after it. A suitable name for a place that could erupt into riotous life at any moment. I once saw a woman dance off the top off a table in there in response to an impromptu nonsensical song my friends and I were regaling the patrons with to accompany a gypsy quartet playing various stringed instruments I’d never seen before nor since… I digress… but I should probably just add the lady in question leapt right back up and carried on dancing. A real trouper…

Before we get back to Mexico proper, Katriona starts us off with what is actually a mini-epilogue in considerably colder climes, a conversation with at that point her most definitely ex, regarding her intentions to produce this graphic novel of their trip together. Over a decade has passed since they went adventuring together, but Katriona feels it necessary to advise Richard, and therefore also the reader, that the book will be quite personal, an allusion to the fact that his excessive drinking was responsible for the deterioration of their relationship. In fact, Richard is completely fine with it, encouraging Katriona to include it. I too, mention this in advance of talking about their trip, because it is a significant sub-plot. Another very fascinating sub-plot is that this trip inspired her to start drawing again. Thank goodness for that!



Right, Mexico! It’s a country I’ve never visited, despite a deep desire to see the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon in the ancient city of Teotihuacan one day. But after reading this work, I want to see far, far more of Mexico and its people! Katriona, in addition to superbly presenting her own travelogue and the beautiful locations she took in also does a brilliant job of highlighting the very diverse and distinct pre-Hispanic indigenous cultures that still exist in Mexico, albeit in localised, often very rural and isolated pockets. It’s a country rich in traditions and steeped in ancient beliefs that a casual visitor would miss. I can honestly see many a reader being inspired to consider a trip there after reading this. I certainly am!



A perfect example of how to do a travelogue, capturing not only the intensely personal aspects of such a journey – because it is impossible to undertake such a trip and not be changed by the experience – but also the heady combination of cultural diversity and geographical gloriousness of the destinations themselves.



Note: our initial copies from Avery Hill themselves have been very kindly sketched in by Katriona. Don’t miss out!


Buy Follow Me In and read the Page 45 review here

Marilyn’s Monsters (£22-99, Humanoids) by Tommy Redolfi…

“Holy Wood. The sacred forest.
“The only place that can make a face shine for millions to admire on giant, silver screens.
“Because in the movies, people become larger than life.
“Big enough to be seen and never forgotten.
“It’s a tried-and-true formula.
“Perfect nobodies have often become true symbols of success and happiness.”

A completely different take on perhaps the most famous nobody made good of them all. Here’s the trailer from the Humanoids studio to tell you how this particular type of movie star gets made…



“The famous Holy Wood Hills. A strange spooky forest filled with freaks and old trailers. This is where movie stars are born in this alternate world. Determined to become one, shy Norma Jean Baker a.k.a. Marilyn Monroe comes to this ghost-town with hopes and dreams. She’ll have to face all kinds of monsters to reach her ultimate goal.”

That she will. But don’t expect ghouls and goblins. There’s the odd classic 1920s-esque cinema freak, for sure, and there is a touch or two of dark magic deployed to spooky effect, but the true LA monsters, as in real life, are of course the movie execs and producers. You will see Norma Jean reborn as the titular blonde bombshell only to die as Marilyn all over again, but just experiencing a very different and primarily first person take on it in doing so.



Always nice to see someone try to do something a touch unconventional with an established story, especially when the art is as delicate but as dangerous as Marilyn herself. I guess this fantastical fable is intended to come off as a Brothers Grimm-esque fairytale, all dark and brooding with a tragic death awaiting the protagonist. It certainly succeeds in that respect. It’s painful to relieve Norma Jean’s inevitable demise with the ‘monsters’ playing their inevitable parts in any format. But I guess it is good to see that just for once there is no fudged-up Hollywood happy ending!


Buy Marilyn’s Monsters and read the Page 45 review here

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

“Oh, oh man. This is just too adorable.”

Alexis is being embraced by both her young brothers, out of their depth, but determined to triumph. It is not a development which will be easily won, not least because, until earlier today, she only knew she had one. And he’s been a bit of a brat.

“Don’t take your pubescent moods swings out on me.”

Now there’s an ace line for any older sisters or brothers to strike back with.

And Edmund isn’t even her real brother. Unfortunately she didn’t know that. Perhaps the publisher can explain?

“Edmund and the Childe were swapped at birth. Now Edmund lives in secret as a changeling in the World Above, his fae powers hidden from his unsuspecting parents and his older sister, Alexis. The Childe lives among the fae in the World Below, where being a human makes him a curiosity at the royal palace. But when the cruel sorceress Hawthorne seizes the throne, the Childe and Edmund must unite on a dangerous quest to save both worlds, even if they’re not sure which world they belong to.”



We begin down below in the Fae court, a decadent society of preening self-aggrandizement, stifling in its haughty, dismissive sneering mockery which extends from the royal mother to her son.

“Where is it anyway? Fetch the Childe! … There it is, everyone! I present our Childe, a proud knight of the realm!”
*courtly applause*
“You needed me, mother?”
“Did you hear that? It called her “mother”! How precious!”

They are all too aware that the Childe is human, is other, and treat him like a monkey that’s learned to talk. It’s a spectacular realm whose courtyard ceilings are lit with crystal and glass, but there is no sky.

Above ground, however, the first page of chapter two comes as a breath of fresh air, the lines and colour crisply contrasting with what was really rather fetid down there. And the chapter breaks themselves are exquisitely designed, tree roots crawling round grey metal drain pipes.



The family above have no idea that Edmund isn’t theirs – that he isn’t even human – something which Edmund is desperate to keep a secret, for he treasures all that he has and is terrified of losing it. But he’s experiencing growth spurts and mood swings and, with them, the emergence of pyrokinetic powers he finds impossible to control. So when Childe emerges from down below after his adoptive parents’ throne has been challenged, taken and usurped, desperate to find his “twin” and persuade the Changeling to join them in defying the sorceress, Edmund, to say the least is conflicted.



There’s a huge heart and tenderness here (the tears are well done), along with some breathtaking art and very fine finery and so much that minded me of Mark Oakley (THIEVES AND KINGS, 3 volumes of STARDROP). In a graphic novel filled with wonders, Aldridge is clever in keeping the greatest spectacles for later. For example, however intriguing the land of the Fae seems to begin with, it is only upon their return that the artist really lets rip with full-page spectacle.



It’s then that the conflict – already begun up above, endangering Edmund’s family – really begins.

For there be dragons.



Some of the later more confrontational dialogue / posturing struck me as a touch forced, but there are plenty of ideas I haven’t seen elsewhere, like a city arranged as a set of shelves and the Chylde’s guardian Whick, a wax-candle Golem who’s rendered inert whenever his flame is snuffed out. His hair cascades down in clotted, molten-wax dreads. Superb use of androgyny too.

Young Adults and Adults alike will be staring at the detail for hours.


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

Flocks s/c (£19-99, Other A-Z) by L. Nichols…

An extremely affecting auto-biographical work that covers one person’s arduous journey of self-realisation of their trans status set against a relentless backdrop of all too predictable prejudice. With that said, it is chock full of pure spirit-lifting, soul-lightening joy too. Here is a psalm of calm from the publisher’s pulpit to bless you further…

“L. Nichols, a trans man, artist, engineer and father of two, was born in rural Louisiana, assigned female and raised by conservative Christians. Flocks is his memoir of that childhood, and of his family, friends and community, the flocks of Flocks, that shaped and re-shaped him. L.’s irresistibly charming drawings demonstrate what makes Flocks so special: L.’s boundless empathy.”

That is what shines through this work, actually, L.’s empathy and it is indeed boundless. For his parents, his schoolmates, his college friends and even his backwater church congregation and their pastor. It’ll not surprise you the ecclesiastical crew are by far the worst of the bunch when it comes to being, well, ignorant.

Consequently I found chapter three (the book moves forward in chronological order through L.’s life with some very cute photos of him as a child as chapter breaks) particularly affecting where L is determined to reconcile his belief in God, which is very much of the blissful wondrous ‘all-encompassing awe of nature and one’s place in it’ kind, with the word of man, here the local preacher repeatedly railing against the ‘sins of homosexuality’.



The whole chapter is effectively an extended essay on the subject of L.’s faith versus the prejudice of the preacher, a constant valid point and pointless counter-point which I found extremely powerful indeed. L is certainly a forgiving person who has very clearly realised that prejudice stems from learned and inculcated ignorance, which unfortunately the preacher is doing his very best to pass on to everyone else in the congregation. Still, turning the other cheek and love your enemy and all that is easier said than done, so I am impressed with L.’s clarity of mind and wisdom and above all, compassion.

Maybe one day the proverbial scales will fall from the community’s eyes. If that is eventually going to happen, works like this will certainly have played their part.

The rest of the work details L.’s slightly fraught relationship with his warring parents, who are utterly oblivious of his youthful growing belief that he had to be a lesbian, coupled with his own gradually ever-expanding understanding that the wider world and people outside of rural Louisiana were at least a little more socially enlightened, some of them anyway.



By the time he got to college, to study engineering at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology in liberal Cambridge, Massachusetts, his worldview was beginning to be ever-more rapidly transformed, helping to create an environment for his sense of identity to be also. A triumph of positivity, and indeed, empathy.


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

As The Crow Flies (£26-99, Iron Circus Comics) by Melanie Gillman.

Long-sought-for-restocks! Hooray!

Do you want something to make your hearts soar and your souls sing?

Melanie Gillman presents you with two hundred and seventy pages of warm, rich, full-colour beauty successfully celebrating the awe-inspiring majesty of nature and the equally impressive ability of young individuals to reach out to one another while keeping you worried that they won’t.

And they don’t, some of them – not to begin with. No one is perfect: we can’t ask for that. People are complex, behaviour can be mean and words very careless indeed.

History and religion are complicated too, and it behoves us all to dig a little deeper. But if you think I’ve already given too much away, oh no: there are many mysteries for you to discover for yourselves, some of which I won’t even allude to here.



“I always thought that was cute – girls with boys’ names.”

Charlie Lamonte has only just arrived, and is already worried that this was all a massive mistake: electing to spend an entire week at a remote Christian youth backpacking camp where, it transpires, all the other twelve-to-fourteen-year-old girls are white.

Charlie, you see, is black. She’s also self-aware, as painfully self-conscious as any teenager, queer and beginning to question her formerly firm belief in God.



Not only that, but the other girls have already arrived and seem far more confident than Charlie. A couple of them are quiet and dubious, but others have made friends and are playing cheerfully, energetically, even raucously. What greets Charlie is daunting, to say the least. She’s hoping not to get noticed. She’s hoping not to stand out. She’s hoping to find the reason that she believes she was led here today.

“Please talk to me again.
“Don’t go silent.
“Don’t leave me here all alone.”

There are admittedly worse things in life, but being alone in a crowd is excruciating, particularly when you are young.



The early signs are not good. Sydney, 13, is combative, swiftly attracting the contempt of the older, slightly sanctimonious Adelaide and Therese for her age, flat shoes and skirt.

“Who wears a skirt on a backpacking trip??”

Therese and Adelaide pair up fast over supper, establishing a pecking order and bonding over the romance of weddings – so that’s another awkward subject for Charlie (“I’ve never really been the, uhh… marrying type)  – and Adelaide even manages to drop in the word “gay” as a lazy, disdainful pejorative.



The good news is that this week-long camp is thoroughly feminist and so empowering in nature, which is a refreshing change for such a patriarchal organised religion. Counsellors of Charlie’s six-strong Cherokee group – Bee and her 18-year-old daughter, Penny – are at pains to point out that the backpacking hike that they are all about to undertake together follows in the footsteps of the women of the former gold-mining colony who did all the farming on top of domestic duties and raising as many as seven kids, so found themselves with less time and fewer opportunities than the men to form bonding ties on hunting trips or down the local saloon. Led by a woman called Beatrice, they broke ranks with their husbands to proceed undaunted on an expedition of their own up, up and into the chartered wild, creating their own space right at the range’s apex where they celebrated in a ceremony which the girls at Camp Three Peaks will be re-enacting when they too reach the summit. But both Bee and Penny are determined to keep the nature of that ceremony secret from their young charges, and that gives Charlie some concern, to say nothing of the loaded language used to describe it.

Here’s another mystery: if the wives all defiantly struck out in secret and at night leaving their husbands back at base, who looked after their newly-born babies still needing to suckle?



The trek is arduous.

Over and again Gillman give us silent panels of huge endeavour emphasising both the scale of what these young women are undertaking, but also the difficulties that they casually encounter along the way. One panel gave me extreme vicarious vertigo.

But the views are epic, they are heavenly, and hues are sublime. Gillman’s softly textured coloured pencils really come into their own as the white-hot disc of the sun sweeps across the sky, casting the farthest, hazy ranges into an otherworldly Martian red while the nearer verdant peaks, denser in rugged detail show off both coniferous green and purple concave shadow. 



It’s easier for some than for others, but Charlie is finding it particularly problematic: she’s just come into her period a week earlier than expected so hasn’t brought any sanity-towel protection. Already de-hydrating, this loss of blood is both embarrassing to Charlie but also dangerously debilitating, on top of which she’s plagued by the most excruciating cramps. And she is trying to make friends! And not stand out! The last thing she needs is to feel a burden.

She discovers she’s bleeding while assigned to collect and purify mountain water for the group with 13-year-old Sydney who provides her with tissue paper from her backpack as a stop-gap.

“You okay in there?”
“Fine! Just met some too-friendly foliage.”
“Tell it to keep its grubby tree-mitts to itself!”
“If I’da known, I could’ve gotten you the mace from my bag, too!”

They don’t collect much water, but at least they’re beginning to bond and Sydney is kind and inclusive.

“I think we’re destined to be terrible water-bearers, you and I.”



But Charlie’s curiosity won’t go away.

“Okay, I gotta ask – did you actually pack mace?”
“Would it weird you out if I did?”
“I guess I’d just want to know why.”
“… Not everybody’s equally safe in places like this.”

Sydney looks away, cautiously.

Charlie starts to smart.

“What the hell does this girl know about feeling unsafe?” Charlie thinks.

And Sydney looks back.




Yay for Young Adult diversity and friendships! This will sit beautifully on our shelves next to Hope Larson’s CHIGGERS, Maggie Thrash’s HONOR GIRL and the recent, more urban BREAKS by Malin Ryden and Emma Vieceli, for example.

The art could not be more welcoming, the borderless panels radiating with natural beauty of green, gold and brown between clean white gutters. I make no pretence of knowing Gillman’s visual inspiration, I only observe that some of Charlie’s expressions while she and Sydney are (not!) collecting water put me surprisingly in mind of Richard Sala’s. Eyes / nose, everyone?



What I loved above all about this on top of Sydney and Charlie’s burgeoning trust and innocent collusion is the absence of unquestioned, theological perfection (why does organised religion insist that such an omnipotent being as God even has a limiting gender? – rhetorical) as well as the complete absence of two-dimensional stereotypes set up purely for the purposes of antagonism. People have the ability to disappoint (and I include myself there), but also to surprise and delight you.

Here’s Adelaide, freely admitting that she really needs to work on being mean (which she can be, even to friends):

“Sometimes I think we’re trained to do just that – make friends like we’re jockeying for position.
“By the time you realize it, it’s already become engrained.
“It doesn’t feel very Christian.”



Buy As The Crow Flies and read the Page 45 review here

Beowulf s/c (£17-99, Image) by Santiago García & David Rubin.

“To idly live is to wait for death.”

It won’t be long coming.

I give it three pages.

Even the first eerie offering foreshadows the doom. Lit like Charles Burns, an underground river cascades through a bleak, black cavern below jagged stalactites and knotted, invasive roots. Lurking in the darkness, a pair of glowing, inhuman eyes incarnadine the gristly, reptilian, obsidian flesh surrounding them.

Something has already had its fill.

Up above on the snow-swept, pink-dawn plains something hasn’t so much raised a dog’s hackles as left them buffeted weakly by the wind. A deafening murder of blood-stained carrion crows has formed and is feasting, fighting each other for the most prized pickings: the eyes. There appears to be a lot of carrion.





Behind them still stand the fractured remains of the Danes’ banqueting hall of Heorot, if only barely. Its broad timbers have been shattered like wooden toothpicks and smeared with blood.

“Fortune favours the Danes!
“I, Hrothgar, son of Beow, son of Scyld, arrived on these shores in but a humble driftboat…
“Now I lead the Danes’ most glorious era!”

It’s very well done: Hrothgar’s boastful pride is presented through flashback panels embedded above the very same pages on which he discovers its painfully brutal rebuttal in the form of the corpse-ridden obliteration of the very hall which he hailed at the Danes’ greatest glory. It is a perfect piece of juxtaposition, his face falling between past and present as he comprehends his own hubris.

“Who dared massacre our own?” he demands, post-pyre, while we’re shown a sequence of panels inlaid once more above, showing that self-same, limb-rending massacre with mere glimpses of the intruder: a gigantic arm, eyes and teeth which will prove many and set fast in a crocodilian jaw.



Welcome to a big book of blood, guts and the shredding of sinews. Sinews will feature prominently, as will cleverly inset panels.

The first known manuscript of Beowulf – following many centuries of being passed down through the oral tradition – is dated roughly around 1000 AD. Even once written it preserved the importance of the oral tradition for sung stories featured prominently. These were how names were remembered, how histories were celebrated and how eternal glory became a goal far more treasured than mere trinkets.

“You’ve no debt to my kingdom. Why would you come to die so far from all you know?”
“Eternal glory, M’lord. After all… gold’s spent, life ends. Only glory remains eternal.”

So speaks Beowulf, more than a decade after Hrothgar commanded his finest warriors to seek out the murderous demon Grendel and exact retribution for the massacre.

“May the fury of Danes rain upon the earth.”

It didn’t. They failed. They have since retreated to a fortified town high up an isle like Mont St Michel, only land-bound. Now Beowulf has learned of this Grendel, has come to slay the beast with his bare hands, and as the stranger leads his men up the steep, icy path through its outskirts more inset panels show their own furtive glances and the reception by bird, beast and man alike.



The very finest deployment of these “windows”, however, lies within a double-page spread of the Danes’ new banqueting hall, glowing red late at night after the warriors have eaten and drunk their fill and lie sleeping on its think-planked, bear wooden floor. It is so tight with tension that I stared at its details for a good half an hour. And there’s a lot of subtle detail.

At the far right, furthest from the entrance lies Beowulf, naked on fur. The others are clothed but oblivious to the creature who, having ambushed the sentry with its prehensile tail then bitten him in two, has gained entrance. Now, seen from above, Grendel slithers stealthily and unimpeded across the hall in four movements, its freedom to roam emphasised by the absence of vertical panel borders. Instead, multiple square panels hung in mid-air like free-floating portraits depict close-ups of the demon’s potential victims as its gaze darts left and right, assessing them, sniffing them, its steaming jaws mere inches from their faces. But Garcia and Rubin aren’t done, for there is an additional clutch of panels tangential to each of those already inset, all in bright red and revealing the ribbed, skin-peeled muscles underlying their arms, chests and heads. The beast can see through to their actual prowess: let’s call it Grendel-vision.



That’s about as far through the story as I’m prepared to take you, except to say that the next few pages come with a slight surprise which has sent this book straight to one of our top shelves. Consider that a Parental Warning for I have known Gareth Hinds’ interpretation of BEOWULF (back in stock and on our site in a fortnight – I’ve found an American edition now that Walker Books have sold out) be bought for the whole family. This gladdens my heart but, if you want to avoid some awkward dinner-table chit-chat, I would probably not be sharing this with your young sons and daughters.

I will also add that the title of this book is BEOWULF, not Grendel, and it is much wider in scope that you might initially imagine.

Comparison points for the art come in form of Becky Cloonan, Paul Pope and Rafael Grampa. It’s not as faithful in its literary nuances as Gareth Hinds’ version but it is absolutely riveting in its own right. There’s no real point in replicating others’ interpretations, and what I can promise you in lieu of the strictest tradition is visual innovation and jaw-dropping, jaw-splitting spectacle.



This is an over-sized book bursting with page after page of visceral, slice-and-dice conflict and gore as the stakes increase exponentially in line with each successive, monstrous adversary so that the pages, however large, can no longer contain the leviathans that lie within. At this point we reference Jack Kirby, Geof Darrow, Michael Oeming et al. None of those are random.

But it’s not just about the battles. The primal, raw sensuality is maintained by feasts depicting mouths dripping with rare-cooked meat and red-berry juices. And, oh lord, the colouring! I don’t think you could make this much more luminous or lambent if you’d lit it on fire: subterranean, glowing greens poisoned by reds and a dragon’s breath which appears to fill the air not just with cinders but it’s as if every single molecule were a curled piece of combusted paper, blinding and burning your eyes.



If that weren’t enough, the coup de grace comes in the form of an epilogue so unexpected but also so exceptionally apposite for a tale that’s been passed down through so many generations and translated into so many different languages.


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

Marvel Knights: Fantastic Four 1234 s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Grant Morrison & Jae Lee with Manuel Gutierrez.

Astute psychological thriller, lit to a thunderous, midnight perfection, this will in no way appeal to fans of superhero series outside of the likes of Paul Jenkins’ & Jae Lee’s THE SENTRY and INHUMANS.

I found it both extremely tense and exceptionally funny.

The following is a mash-up of one-liners I loved.

“Sue. It shouldn’t sound like that. It’s not raining outside…”
“That’s not thunder, is it…? It’s under the ground….”
“Johnny, I love what you do to me, but these are third degree burns…!”
“Shut up. Stop trying to hurt us, you stupid, lonely, ignorant man!”

There’s a storm brewing over Manhattan, and Marvel’s most dysfunctional family, wandering through the echoing chambers of their soulless, high-tech skyscraper, are coming apart at the seams. Someone’s playing a game of chess with their lives. It’s rigged, of course, with a scattering of rogue pawns lying in wait across the board. One by one husband and wife, brother and friend are being isolated and taken down by their own hopes, fears and inadequacies.



Reed Richards isn’t just brooding, he’s hooked up to his machines like some reclusive techno-junky, leaving his wife to feed fake fish, his careless, callous brother-in-law to preen and party, and Ben Grimm, the most insecure of the lot, in temptation’s way.



Morrison and Lee strip away all comfortable elements of this superhero family team title, with its preposterous dialogue and garish colours, leaving some vulnerable, emotional individuals to crash and burn by their own hands. Once again, it’s time to ignore the publisher and trust the creators, for, like the INHUMANS, this is far more Vertiginous in style and content, and you’re going to kick yourself if you let the title dissuade you from grabbing another slice of prime Grant Morrison.

Jae Lee has once more risen to the challenge of adapting his art to the task at hand. The backgrounds are relentlessly slate or green-grey, with a mass of sharp, angular blacks, crumbling sympathetically with its occupants. It’s a miserable, neo-Gothic environment for miserable, 21st Century people. 



“Richards. In one short evening, I’ve taken everything. The boy is blinded, crippled and enslaved. The monster is shattered, lost, his lover now the Mole Man’s bride in his kingdom of filth. Your wife is drowning in the deep fathoms of her adulterous frenzy. And all that remains… is Doom. While you’ve been locked away, I’ve been busy destroying the life and loves of your family forever, Richards. Tell me… what have you been doing?”
“Well, Victor…  I’ve been thinking.”

It’s cold out there. Get ready to shiver.


Buy Marvel Knights: Fantastic Four 1234 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Moomin: Comic Strips vol 1 h/c (£12-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Tove Jansson.


They call to me at the night, and through the early hours of the morning.

We’ve built quite the collection of MOOMIN at Page 45, including the very first illustrated prose book, THE MOOMINS AND THE GREAT FLOOD, so do please take a gander.

Childhood favourites, this restless, resourceful, hyper-inquisitive and highly inventive family of white, bulbous beauties – like bipedal, bleached cartoon hippos – may have reached their audiences first as comics, animation, or illustrated children’s books. Most were charmed at first night, although I have heard a significant number of complaints (from young men only) that they were scarred for life by some creepiness they discerned. I blame the Japanese anime.

Anyway, later editions I attended to more thoroughly, but books one and two never got their full due so do so now.

Contains ‘Moomin And The Brigands’, Moomin and Family Life’, ‘Moomin on the Riviera’ and ‘Moomin’s Desert Island’.



Moomin On The Riviera

“What a wonderful feeling to be poor… and listen to the rain on my little hut.”

There speaks a very rich man!

“Of course it is romantic to play poor, but I don’t like it when the roof leaks… and it is rather chilly sleeping under a boat at dawn.”

Hmmm. That’s the Marquis Mongaga in love with the idea of being bohemian and slumming it with the Moomins after they’ve had enough of high society and posh hotels, neither of which they understood. Nor could they comprehend why almost everywhere was marked “PRIVATE”.

“I think picking flowers would soothe our nerves. It usually helps.”
“This is a private wild meadow. Get off this property!”
“But who owns everything here, then?”
“People with money, of course!”


I think you’ll find that 99% of the biggest Bajan houses are owned by 1% of Barbados’ population and 99% of them will be white and only part-time residents.



Still, Snorkmaiden and Moominpappa did want to see The South (it really was that vague) and so they set sail to foreign climes with alien customs. They found it surprisingly easy to get a room at the snazziest hotel but they were under the impression it was a house and they were its private guests. Do you suppose that it all went horribly wrong?

Over and over again Tove Jansson in the form of right-minded Moominmamma extols the virtues of a modest life in MOOMIN. She finds the hotel room way too big for comfort so they retire to the bed instead and set up shop under its canopy.

I love the way she answers everyone about everything with “Yes, dear”, reassuring all and sundry whilst sort of ignoring them.



Moomin’s Desert Island

“Are they after us?”
“I hope so!”

Everyone loves to be chased.

Thirty-five pages of in which our flailing family of unceasing optimists finds itself marooned on a desert island. They don’t mind: in MOOMIN VOL 7 they actively set out to shipwreck themselves, and found it surprisingly difficult!

Moomin Mamma’s immediate priority is to go foraging for food, carrying her handbag (as you do) and hunting a wild boar with her compact. I’m not even kidding you. She blows make-up powder up its nose and into its eyes, seasons it with salt (it’s a well equipped handbag) then sets fire to the poor brute, shaggy coat and all.



However, Moomin Mamma isn’t the only Moominmummy on the island. Plus Moomintroll discovers a message from The Mymble bobbing in a bottle on the sea.

“Help! I am the beautiful prisoner of the pirates on board the Black Shark!”

Beautiful? Uh-oh. Well, it wouldn’t be MOOMIN if Moomintroll’s missus, Snork Maiden, didn’t sulk. It’s so like Tove Jansson to be that random: Moominpappa, Moominmamma, Moomintroll and… Snork Maiden. Maybe Moomin’s the name of the family, not the species – that’s only just dawned on me!

The laugh-out-loud sequences involve the Professor who boarded the helicopter against his better judgement having forecasted a storm. A death-obsessed doom merchant, his umbrella was up before the first drop of rain and remains firmly aloft on each and every page until the, err, accident. It’s an exquisite piece of timing when, after a dozen or so gloomy projections, the imminent disaster is left hanging in the air on the last panel of a page, just like the agent of destruction above the poor Professor’s head. I don’t think that umbrella will help much.


Buy Moomin: Comic Strips vol 1 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Moomin: Comic Strips vol 2 h/c (£14-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Tove Jansson.

For an introduction which sets the scene for all that will follow, please see MOOMIN VOL 1.

Here, however, begin the adverse weather conditions and enter the first of many irritating, overly presumptuous house guests.

Being restless, resourceful, hyper-inquisitive and highly inventive made for great drama, but above all the Moomin family were ever-welcoming and felt duty-bound to find room in their house for even the strangest of strangers, so built up quite the circle of equally curious friends whose definitions of ‘friendship’ varied considerably, often straying into “How do we take maximum advantage of this limitless hospitality?”  The Moomins’ naivety in this regard often made them victims of their own innocence, so there’s more drama to be gleaned there.



If not, the weather will oblige and one can’t help but consider Jansson well ahead of her time environmentally, for winter is one thing but the floods could be biblical in proportion.

This edition includes ‘Moomin Mamma’s Maid’ and ‘Moomin Begins A New Life’ plus…



Moomin’s Winter Follies

“I do think the behaviour of the human male very strange.”
“Yes. But they are wonderful.”


The family Moomin break their tradition of winter hibernation to discover the joys of a snowswept Moominvalley, only to be roped into winter sports by the officious Mr. Brisk of the Great Outdoors Association.



Ever so swiftly it grows way too competitive and people’s feelings get hurt. Especially Mymble’s: she’s only gone and fallen in love… again!

Includes what is possibly the only snowball fight ever to be thrown (arf!).



Moomin Buillds A House

“Pappa? There is some villain outside!”
“How exciting!”

That’s no villain, that’s Mymble’s mother and her seventeen new brothers and sisters! Oh wait, it is a villain because she’s invited herself to stay with no warning at all and no plans to leave until Midsummer. Also, she’s oblivious to the wretched little monsters’ chaos and destruction.

“Don’t they fight each other?”
“Of course. But I don’t like to keep scolding them. I just… pour some water over them… or lemonade.”



Little My is the worst, rousing the rabble into abducting Mrs. Fillyjonk’s offspring and tying them to totem poles. She’s relentless and remorseless in terrorising the Moomin household, while her mother takes a positive pride in what she sees as skills. Poor Moomins: always the victims of their own goodwill and hospitality! In the end, they can only persuade her to behave by abiding by My’s harsh ultimatum: she wants Moomintroll’s bedroom all to herself.

And that’s why he has to build a house for himself and Snorkmaiden. He’s… not very good at it.



The ultimate in poor parenting and the dangers of D.I.Y..

Which is why I don’t do any.

D.I.Y. or parenting – you take your pick. See also: dusting, vacuuming, washing up… We could be here all day.


Buy Moomin: Comic Strips vol 2 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’.

Kingdom h/c (£16-99, Nobrow) by Jon McNaught

Amulet vol 8: Supernova (£11-99, Scholastic) by Kazu Kibuishi

Art Matters h/c (£9-99, Headline) by Neil Gaiman & Chris Riddell

Be Everything At Once: Tales Of A Cartoonist Lady Person (£10-99, Chronicle Books) by Dami Lee

Check Please Hockey vol 1 (£12-99, FirstSecond) by Ngozi Ukazu

Dementia 21 (£20-99, Fantagraphics) by Kago

F*ck Off Squad (£13-99, Silver Sprocket) by Dave Baker & Nicole Goux

Fraternity h/c (£17-99, Lion Forge) by Juan Díaz Canales & Jose-Luis Munuera

Infidel (£14-99, Image) by Pornsak Pichetshote & Aaron Campbell

Kabul Disco vol 2: How I Managed To Get Addicted To Opium In Afghanistan (£14-99, Humanoids) by Nicolas Wild

Klaus: New Adventures Of Santa Claus h/c (£22-99, Boom!) by Grant Morrison & Dan Mora

Mrs Weber’s Omnibus h/c (£20-00, Jonathan Cape) by Posey Simmonds

Open Earth (£17-99, Limerence) by Sarah Mirk & Eva Cabrera

Saga vol 9 s/c (£13-99, Image) by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

The Ballad Of Halo Jones (Colour Edition) vol 3 s/c (£9-99, Rebellion) by Alan Moore & Ian Gibson

The Ideal Copy (£10-99, Koyama Press) by Ben Sears

DC Super Hero Girls vol 7: Search For Atlantis s/c (£8-99, DC) by Shea Fontana & Yancy Labat

Flash vol 7: Perfect Storm s/c (£14-99, DC) by Joshua Williamson & Carmine Di Giandomenico

Hulk: World War Hulk II s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Greg Pak & Carlo Barberi, Marco Lorenzana

Iron Man: Armor Wars s/c (£22-99, Marvel) by David Micheline, Bob Layton & Mark D. Bright, Barry Windsor-Smith

You Are Deadpool s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Al Ewing & Salva Espin, Paco Diaz

Laid Back Camp vol 1 (£9-99, Yen) by Afro

RWBY 2: Mirror, Mirror (£11-99, Viz) by various

Page 45 at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2018 with Special Guests

Tuesday, September 25th, 2018

Includes Book Launch of My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies original graphic novel published October 10th by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips, Jake Phillips with free signed bookplate and a Sean Phillips & Jake Phillips sketching session!



Page 45 is proud to present hundreds of swoonaway graphic novels – many of which you won’t find elsewhere – for you to browse through, buy and then fondle forever in the privacy of your own home!

Entry is free all weekend long. We accept both cash and credit cards.

Where: Georgian Room, upstairs in the Kendal Clock Tower (access by lift)
When: Saturday October 13th, Sunday October 14th 2018

What On Earth Will We Bring This Year?!



We Will Definitely Be Bringing Luke Pearson’s HILDA, all of which have been signed, and some of which have been sketched-in for YOU for FREE! Cheers, Luke!




Page 45’s Comicbook Creator Guests Signing & Sketching

Eleanor Crewes: all Saturday and Sunday FREE!

Una: all Saturday FREE!

Yomi Ayeni & Corey Brotherson: all Sunday FREE!

Emma Vieceli: Sunday 14th 1pm to 2pm FREE!



Guy Delisle: Saturday 13th 3-30pm to 5-00pm LICAF pass required

Sean Phillips & Jacob Phillips: Sunday 14th 10-30am to 12 noon LICAF pass required



To find out more about their books, please click on their links for reviews or pop the creators into our search engine at



Any graphic novels on our website can be brought by us to the festival, postage-free if you buy online at then “Collect In Kendal 2018” at the checkout. Offer closes Monday 8th October 2017 when we’ll be all but packed up to go!

Lakes Festival Merchandise on sale in our Georgian Room.



This includes comics, cards, prints and last’s year’s SPIRIT NEWSPAPER (reviewed).

All proceeds over the weekend go to the LICAF Creator Development Programme etc.

2018’s big launch is the TRACES OF THE GREAT WAR anthology of stories exploring the continued relevance and resonance of the First World War and its aftermath in our lives today. Creators include Charlie Adlard, Simon Armitage, Edmond Baudoin, Juan Díaz Canales, Régis Hautière, Joe Kelly, Kris, Thomas Von Kummant, Denis Lapière, Victoria Lomasko, Maël, Dave McKean, Mikiko, Ken Niimura, Sean Phillips, Ian Rankin, Riff Reb’s, Robbie Morrison, Orijit Sen, Bryan Talbot and Mary Talbot.

As to our own graphic novels, we’ll be on hand to provide personal recommendations tailored to your tastes, or take you through any comics which attract your attention, spoiler-free. Please do ask! Or, if you’ve a mobile phone handy, you can pop titles or creators into our search engine for our written reviews at

We’ll be accepting cash and credit cards all weekend long!

I may well have mentioned that.



More Lakes Festival Information

The Lakes International Comic Art Festival website
The Lakes International Comic Art Festival Programme 2018
Page 45’s Dedicated LICAF Blog featuring links to photo-filled blogs of every year we’ve attended.

LICAF Twitter: @comicartfest
Page 45 Twitter: @pagefortyfive

Our Twitter’s very handy for when other creators pop into our room for impromptu sketching!

Page 45 is a proud Patron of the Lakes International Comic Art Festival

It’s More Pretty Than A City!



Even in a car park.



Occasionally wet, but with sheep!

But it’s adored! And this is just our room. The Kendal Clock Tower is massive!





Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews September 2018 week three

Wednesday, September 19th, 2018

Featuring Jason Lutes, Shaun Tan, Tillie Walden, Julian Hanshaw, Box Brown, Krent Able, Erik Svetoft, Tom Manning, Benjamin Dickson, Eric Shanower, Terry Moore, Rich Tommaso, Robert Kirkman, Lorenzo De Felici, more…

I Feel Machine (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by Krent Able, Box Brown, Julian Hanshaw, Erik Svetoft, Shaun Tan, Tillie Walden…

“Sometimes I miss the rhythm of it.
“That sweet mindless staring,
“…going from this to that,
“…that to this,
“…over and over.
“That doesn’t happen any more.”

Can you imagine a world where all technology: phones, laptops, even televisions just turned off and never turned on again? Tillie ON A SUNBEAM (EXCLUSIVE PAGE 45 BOOKPLATE EDITION) Walden can, and I have to say, it sounds idyllic to me.

Suddenly people are forced to communicate using the old-fashioned tried and tested ways again. Speech… and touch. For some it’s a boon, others a curse…. It’s definitely unfortunate when two such people share a relationship, for sure, as Tillie elucidates for us.



It would certainly increase comic sales too, I reckon…

Can you imagine an anthology where six top comics creators each come up with a very different take on the myriad interfaces and interplays between technology and humanity? You don’t have to. Because curators of the curious Krent Able and Julian Hanshaw have done it for you. Happily, they even had it printed courtesy of the kind folks at SelfMadeHero, just in case there is such a technology outage…

The result is six very different vignettes approaching this broad topic from utterly different perspectives. We open with a typically bonkers look at how physical death might soon not be an end but merely a stepping stone from Box AN ENTITY OBSERVES ALL THINGS Brown.



Followed by Erik Svetoft’s crackpot take on how vintage jpgs and mp3s might become a hot black market item in the future for digital smugglers. Completing the first half of our scheduled programming is Shaun TALES FROM OUTER SUBURBIA Tan, (YES, that Shaun Tan!!!) with his equivalent of a 2000AD Future Shock about an astronaut looking for a lost girl done in his own inimitable sweet, gorgeous way. It is as mesmerisingly beautiful as it is subtly surreal, both in the art and the storytelling.



Then we recommence with Tillie’s poignant tale of the heart… If you know someone that really ought to put their tech away and engage their loved ones a bit more, you could do worse than push this under their nose! Julian CLOUD HOTEL Hanshaw then immediately presents us with a complete change of tone by means of a very special projector and a chicken… Nothing salacious or unsavoury I hasten to add, but there is a bit of fowl play, I have to warn you…



Speaking of foul play, Krent Able concludes matters, very finally for most of his cast, with some rather disturbing horror. It’s like a modern day House Of Hammer story. Very British, very wrong, very Krent and left me feeling more than a little perturbed. The more I reflected on it, though, and it did stay with me as I am sure it will you, the more I liked it. It would make a very good episode of Black Mirror, actually.



Between the six stories here, you will get all your proverbial buttons well and truly pushed. You will laugh, you will want to cry, you may want to run and hide. But you can’t outrun the advance of technology. A superbly crafted and wonderfully eclectic selection, I must say. Kudos to Krent and Julian for organising it all in addition to their own contributions.

I will finish simply by commenting on the cover, which I was initially rather underwhelmed by upon first inspection. I thought to myself, when you have all that talent contained within, bursting to get out, isn’t it a little underwhelming, indeed perhaps bland? However the material within is so diverse both visually and plot-wise, that the cover is actually perfect in its own unique simplicity, utterly distinct from everything that lies within. It’s the equivalent of a loading screen – I’m talking old-school Spectrum standard not modern movie-quality cut scenes – nothing more, nothing less. A very clever piece of well thought through graphic design.


Buy I Feel Machine and read the Page 45 review here

A City Inside h/c (£12-99, Avery Hill) by Tillie Walden.

“You gave up the sky for her.”

That’s possibly the most romantic sentence ever written.

Another quiet, contemplative and sublime gem from Tillie Walden, creator of I LOVE THIS PART, a former Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month and one of my favourite little books in the shop.

Along with her autobiographical SPINNING – released aged 21 in 2017 and another Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month – this, from 2016 and now in hardcover, also comes with a sense of perspective which no one of Tillie’s relatively tender years should possess.

Told in the second person singular, a young woman casts her mind across her life. It’s so engrossing, so cleverly done that you won’t notice the switch in tenses the first time around, and as it concludes you’ll have forgotten where you came in so that the final three pages are truly startling.



The lines are crisp, the shadows deep and the night sky positively glows.

There’s always something truly magical in Walden’s work and at one point, as the pull quote suggests, the woman finds herself suspended in the sky, living in the cup of a hollow sphere, from the top of which billow curtains which are never truly closed. Can you imagine the view? Can you imagine the tranquillity, reading and writing and sleeping with your supine cat?



“Then one day, you met her.”

She was cycling through the sky.

“She was beautiful, wasn’t she?”

Yes, so what did you do?

“You gave up the sky for her.” Obviously.

Bittersweet does not even begin to cover this tale.

Only once is there more than a single sentence per panel – quite often there is silence instead – and within the recollection itself those panels are bordered only by what lies within.

High in the sky, with the wind tossing the lanterns and tousling her hair, there are no borders at all.



Out next week, Tillie Walden’s epic ON A SUNBEAM, the first 100 copies of which will come with a free, exclusive and exquisite Page 45 bookmark drawn, designed and signed by Tillie Walden herself.


Buy A City Inside h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Berlin (Complete) h/c (£35-00, Drawn & Quarterly) by Jason Lutes…

“In Berlin I have found the world – the great, messy, beautiful world beyond the hedge surrounding the haute-bourgeois home of my youth. Sometimes it frightens me, sometimes it terrifies me – but I still wake every morning in anticipation of the city’s next surprise. I will remain where I have found love; where people fight in the street; where I can feel the world spinning underfoot.”

Back in April 1996 issue #1 of what was destined to become a true comics classic arrived on comics retailers’ shelves, with absolutely no idea of what stoic patience would be required of the loyal faithful that read it, adored it and decided to sign on for the long haul. A mere twenty-two years later, ironically matching the number of single issues the series comprised in that time, we have finally arrived at its conclusion.

Jason Lute’s BERLIN is an epic endeavour with an exceptional scope of detailed storytelling and a beautiful black and white, clean-line drawing style that makes an absolute truism of the term graphic novel. This is undoubtedly the most impressive work of historical fiction I have come across in our medium to date.

Set in the final years of the failed Weimar Republic, in a Berlin gradually being torn apart by the ideologically opposed Communist and fascist National Socialist factions and their street-level thugs and militias, this work perfectly captures and conveys the polar opposites of bare survival and nihilistic hedonism variously endured and enjoyed by the city’s many citizens.



We follow the lives of an extremely varied and engaging set of characters from all walks of life illustrating the very different social strata of Berlin between the wars. Their stories are inevitably intertwined, both with each other and the historical events occurring rapidly around them: a journalist, ill at ease with the growing sense of German nationalism and apparent abuses of the Versailles treaty by the Weimar leadership; an art student who is gradually drawn into a decadent, hidden high society scene determinedly trying their hardest to ignore the reality of what is happening around them; a Jewish family concerned only about the increasingly bitter political struggles and its implications for them; a gentleman tramp, trying his hardest to simply survive by bartering anything he can find for food; and a poor working class family, brutally torn apart as the parents choose conflicting sides in the escalating struggle between the Communist and Nationalist Socialist grass roots movements.



In a story crammed with fascinating historical factual detail, Lutes perfectly captures the growing sense of impending dread and potential civil cataclysm that starts to penetrate the lives of Berlin’s citizens on a more frequent basis as gradually, it seems, everyone is eventually forced to choose a side.



A special mention must be given to the artwork which allows the city itself to come to life as another character in the story. Dramatic views across the beautiful city are interspersed with close-up street portraits of the daily hustle and bustle of a vibrant if troubled populace. In whole, it has the feel of a beautifully and lovingly directed film. Even the choice of an ivory coloured paper rather than stark white adds to the atmospheric period flavour of the work.



Also available as three separate volumes for those who have been collecting this in trade paperback form instead of ad-hoc periodical as it has been coming out, BERLIN VOL 1: CITY OF STONES is set against the backdrop of the events of September 1928 to May Day 1929, culminating with the massacre at the May Day march concluding the first book. BERLIN VOL 2: CITY OF SMOKE takes up the story immediately after May Day 1929 through to September 1930 when the National Socialists are brought to power in a then surprising landslide election victory. The concluding BERLIN VOL 3: CITY OF LIGHT takes us through a somewhat tumultuous additional three and a bit years to mid-1933, when a certain Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany, formally signalling the end of the Weimar Republic and the rise of the inglorious Third Reich…

If, however, you are brand new to the series, or indeed just fancy an upgrade for the ages, this expansive hardcover containing the complete series is the one to go for. With an ominous cover, replete with a close up partial Nazi Swastika starting to obscure the peaceful bustling cityscape of the Alexanderplatz central square, bathed in rays of glorious sparkling sunlight, it perfectly visually foreshadows and bookends what dramatic upheavals the city and inhabitants were about to experience. A true triumph of comics. I’d just like take a moment to personally applaud and thank Jason Lutes for his own stoicism and will power in seeing this project through to its completion.


Buy Berlin (Complete) h/c and read the Page 45 review here

A New Jerusalem (£12-99, New Internationalist) by Benjamin Dickson…

“Feels strange that the war is over.”
“Yeah. The soldiers must be on their way home by now.”
“Mum said they won’t be back for a while. They’ve got to go to Japan first.”
“Japan? Yeah. The Japanese are still fighting, aren’t they?”
“Do you think that’s where our dads are?”

Ralph’s dad is actually already on his way back to Blighty after six years at war. Dave’s dad… that’s a different matter entirely… Here’s a dispatch from the publisher to give us our reading orders…

“1945. The war is over. Eleven-year-old Ralph lives with his mother, plays in bombed-out buildings, and dreams of the day his father will come home and tell him all about his heroic battles.



“But when his father actually does return, he’s far from what Ralph expected: his father is sullen, withdrawn and refuses to discuss the war at all. As Britain looks to a future fit for heroes, Ralph’s father struggles to adjust to civilian life. Susceptible to fits of crying and uncontrollable rages, his behaviour starts to directly impact Ralph and his mother, and the community around them.”

Not sensationalist in any way, nor over-sentimental or remotely mawkish, this work deals with the harsh realities faced by a returning soldier attempting to re-assimilate back into his family and everyday working life without first being able to deal with the extreme traumas they experienced during the long conflict. It has the feel of a classic kitchen sink drama in that both Ralph’s dad, and then by extension Ralph, are the archetypal angry disillusioned man. For Ralph’s dad, it’s abundantly clear to our modern minds he’s suffering from PTSD, but Ralph simply can’t understand why he’s taking it out on those closest to him. Violently.


An immensely informative and engrossing drama about the lives of those left behind when their husbands and fathers went off to war for King and country, and the extremely disturbed dynamics many a family must have had to endure, to some degree at least, when, indeed if, their loved ones returned home. It’s a painful topic that Jacques Tardi also attempted to process for us with the recent I, RENE TARDI, PRISONER OF WAR IN STALAG IIB concerning his dad’s time as a prisoner of war and subsequently trying to come to terms with his incarceration and attempts to reintegrate into society.

Artistically you’ll spot strong comparisons to Bryan Talbot in his DOTTER OF HER FATHER’S EYES mode, which isn’t too much of a surprise as I believe Bryan has mentored Benjamin in the past. It’s a style that works perfectly for this bleak, bombed-out story. A highly recommended addition to the realistic war story canon that’s just as dramatic as any bullet-ridden conflict zone yarn.


Buy A New Jerusalem and read the Page 45 review here

Eric (£24-99, Robots & Monkey Publishing) by Tom Manning…

“Theeeeeere you are. Well, hello… I’m Carmelita.”
“I… uh… I’m Phil.”
“Phil, huh? Well, Phil, what brings you to the Hollywood Hawaiian?”
“I gotta…lay low, you know. I don’t think I should… leave.”
“Heaven help the one who leaves.”
“There’s some people looking for me. And… um… OWLS. I, uh…”
“HEY, don’t worry. I get it. I come here for the piña coladas, myself.”
“I’m a normal guy…”
“Hey… we’re all normal and we want our freedom, right?”
“E-excuse me?”
“But you know, except in dreams? You’ll never really be free.”
“Don’t the sun look angry at me? I… I gotta go.”
“Well, then… take care, Phil. Or was that Bill?”
“Oh… it’s… uh Phil. Phil.

‘Phil’ really did need to go. And he really isn’t a normal guy. Not least because his name is actually Eric…

Eric is… confused or drug-damaged or both. Both, definitely. Unfortunately for him, or possibly fortunately for him, the only way he can see to get out of his current predicament is get right out of it. So he decides to call Carloan Eddie. Not about a car loan, clearly. No, he wants to travel Route 87 and he’ll need fifty gallons of gas to get to where he wants to go. Route 87 isn’t a road, clearly. Nor is fifty gallons a quantity of gasoline, either. Meanwhile, Eddie tells Phil, I mean Eric, that Trout needs to get a hold of him. Now, Trout is a real person, not a fish, and that really is his name. The owls, though… those folk no one is particularly sure about. Not yet, anyway.

Confused? Don’t worry, that’s entirely the point, and we’ve barely got started. Eric was a ‘pioneer of beach bum culture and psychedelic surf rock’ from the early sixties. He was big for a while, huge in fact, before he burnt out spectacularly. Now he’s ready for a comeback. And another gigantic breakdown, seemingly…



Our story doesn’t actually open with Eric. It opens with a peculiar magic ritual performed by cloaked figures with owl masks in front of an audience of besuited, wealthy-looking capitalist types in the woods. Their ritual does not go entirely according to plan… It goes to someone’s plan, though.

Still confused? Don’t worry, that’s really is entirely the point, and trust me, we’ve barely got started…

So after reading the opening couple of chapters I was thinking ah-huh, Bohemian Grove dialled up a notch, yep, got that, coupled with a Brian Wilson-esque figure in Eric. I understand what this is. Then it all started getting really, really strange in a Grant Morrison’s INVISIBLES fashion. For Eric is about to find himself embroiled in a reality shifting conflict. Or is just completely off his nut? Or both? Possibly both… Definitely both.


As the scenery keeps shifting, as well as the proverbial ground beneath Eric’s feet, plus just plain old real honest to goodness reality itself, you’ll find yourself drawn into a labyrinthine rabbit hole of lunacy. There is an epic conflict afoot, I’ll give you that much to go on. As for Eric’s chosen role in it, not chosen by him that is, well, that will take some time and space to unfold it. What it will reveal when it does is anyone’s guess…

One of the most deliberately complicated and fabulously convoluted works I’ve ever read. Eric’s role as the damaged idiot savant, the unconscious potential saviour, and the mental tortures he is put through and puts himself through, makes for surprisingly emotional reading. He is the very definition of a complex character. With is a shame for him because he could really do with a simple life just to be able to survive. He’s not going to get it.

It’s wonderful to see self-publishing on this epic scope with such excellent production values. If you didn’t know this 392-page walk on the weird side(s) wasn’t published by the likes of Fantagraphics you’d have no idea. The intense mind-frazzling orange and white cover featuring Eric’s face, with his deeply haunted eyes staring out at you, is part entreaty to / part warning against opening this up and being dragged into something completely beyond your rational comprehension.



Inside, by complete contrast, the art style is dark, by which I mean its black and grey with some white elements, frequently the foreground characters or the lettering, which provides a stark, quite deliberate almost jarring effect in addition to depth. Combined with a certain looseness of line, heavy inking and the odd dash of faux Letratone for added texture, it is quite its own beast stylistically. The dense shadow only adds to the obtuse sense of it all. You feel like the next plot twist or tangle could be lurking in practically every panel. Which it frequently is… No wonder poor old Eric doesn’t know what to make of it all… I guess he’s going to have to put that comeback on hold. The breakdown… not so much.


Buy Eric and read the Page 45 review here

Age Of Bronze vol 1 s/c (£17-99, Image) by Eric Shanower.

Now in full colour.

“I saw a ship sailing far out on the water – too far to turn back. It carries a man – a boy, really – who burns with a flame that will consume all he touches. A woman rides with him. She is proud and beautiful… but where she treads, death follows.”

First of seven award-winning volumes interpreting the story of Troy most famously propagated by Greek poet Homer. They are bursting with passion, epic in scope and astonishingly rich in detail.

Visual detail comes in the form of beautifully delineated bodies clothed in meticulously researched period clothing and gently nuanced expressions, all of which I’d compare to P. Craig Russell (SANDMAN: DREAM HUNTERS, FAIRY TALES OF OSCAR WILDE etc.) as inked by Art Adams. i.e. Thin, crisp lines but with a far softer touch. There is, however, no clutter at all, the panels composed in a joyous variety of forms all of which are thoroughly accessible to newcomers. There is nothing too tricksy and, in spite of the scope, nothing extraneous nor laborious. It is what they call “a real-page turner”.




It opens in the pastoral calm of the verdant cow-grazing pastures not far from the city of Troy. There young Paris awakes from a dream, about which we will learn only later, to find messengers demanding the family’s highly prized bull for King Priam of Troy’s next Festival Games. Determined to be the one to sacrifice the bull to the gods, Paris persuades his father to take him to the Games but discovers, after victory in a race, that his real father is King Priam himself. Priam embraces his long-lost son and Paris’ new brothers, formally hostile during the competition, all rally round.




Alas, aging King Priam is still smarting from Herakles’ sacking of Troy when he was but a child. It was then that his older sister Hesione was taken and given to the King of Salamis. Now that Troy has been rebuilt, Priam sends envoys demanding her return and although Hesione claims to be perfectly happy where she is, Priam suspects against all evidence to the contrary that she may have said so under duress. His sons suggest war, but they are too young to know war’s terrible cost and wisely King Priam rebuffs them. But when Paris suggests a stealthy raid instead, Priam likes the idea and dispatches Paris along with Aeneas to call on King Menelaus of Sparta first, in order to gain his support and so test recent treaties.

And this is where. It goes horribly. Wrong.



Although brother Hektor attempts to impress upon the inexperienced Paris (but four months at court) the complexity of the current geographical and so commercial context of this already dodgy endeavour, Paris’ eyes already blaze with a much greater ambition than the task he’s been given. So it is that when Paris lands and spies King Menelaus’ wife Helen of Sparta, he determines to make her his Helen of Troy.

The seduction sequence is breath-taking. Told in retrospect, Shanower repeats a single panel of Menelaus’ warning “Do you know what he’s here for?” over and over again, even though, ironically, Menelaus hasn’t the first fucking clue.

Dramatic irony abounds throughout, even for a modern reader. For although today we may not take oracles or horoscopes seriously, we know well enough to trust their eventual unfolding in Greek literature. As to the ancient Greeks – both the cast and the story’s original readership – they believed fervently. They believed so fervently that Menelaus’ older brother Agamemnon, leading the multinational retaliation for Helen’s abduction, risks his army’s starvation in order to wait for Achilles to show his girl-disguised face because only with Achilles on board, it is foretold, will Troy be left burning in ruins. Shame no one listens to the women, then, (same as it ever was) in this case both Kassandra and Helenus. They’re pretty prescient and very, very specific.

As to the prophecies surrounding Achilles, they open up a whole new can of calamari…



Every library should have one. Or two. Or three. School libraries should be a little cautious when it comes to younger readers because this isn’t some simplistic white-wash and there are scenes both of a sexual nature and of child-birth.

It’s one of the very best treatments of Homer I’ve read (although please do see Gareth Hinds’ THE ODYSSEY – especially schools, you’re on safer ground there) and far more than a mere adaptation but an integration of so many different sources – often conflicting – as Shanower details in the extensive resources in the back. It is, in short, the version Shanower wants to tell, in considerable depth and with exceptionally keen judgement.

It’s also a lot more fun than my old classics lessons aged 12 when I was forced to translate and study the original. The original is fab, but translating passages aged 12 before reading them outloud in front of your class and a very “volatile” headmaster was far from fun.

Still, I did learn the origin of words like “euphemism”.


Buy Age Of Bronze vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Strangers In Paradise XXV vol 1: The Chase s/c (£14-50, Abstract Studio) by Terry Moore.


There’s a sign on the New York subway accentuated, emphasised and made urgent by piercing eyes. It says:


In a pressed white shirt, suit and tie, a smart man on his smart phone is standing. He is sombrely checking for texts or the latest, breaking News Headlines. He would do well to do that. Satisfied, he slips the phone into his overcoat, scowling at the crowd as the carriage doors open. Commuters get on, commuters get off and, once on the open platform, he checks his coat pocket as per habit, pat-pat. It is not well weighted.





The boy and the man are dashing up the escalator, the small boy diving between pedestrians while the smart man is impeded and – shit – there’s another kid who’s tossed the cell phone sideways in passing! It’s nimbly caught in a pre-planned relay race, the brat in the hoodie heading up the stairs at speed, swerving right towards the foyer’s crossover before throwing this exceptionally mobile phone clean over the gleaming glass balustrade!

It’s gone.



Down below a good-looking woman in her thirties, well dressed for winter in a jacket and loose woollen scarf, calmly and casually removes the SIM card from its casement. As she discards the rest, the detritus unnecessary to her purpose, she glares up at the smart man who’s not now feeling very smart at all, looks her victim straight in the eye and she gives him a grimace which he will never forget.

Oh my God! It’s — !

Welcome to Terry Moore’s STRANGERS IN PARADISE – or indeed, welcome back! – on this, its 25th Anniversary, recently celebrated with a whopping SiP GALLERY EDITION which will not fit through your letter box. You can read our prior reviews if you fancy, but you need know nothing in order to settle straight in to one of the series we have been most phenomenally fond of in all of our years working in comics, for this is a very fresh start.

After surviving all that the world and Katchoo’s pitch-black past could throw at them, Katchoo and Francine are now happily – nay, blissfully – married, living out in the dessert with their two delightful daughters in a luxury villa financed by Katchoo’s highly successful career in fine art… but probably her previous one too.

Katchoo was a Parker Girl. She “belonged” to Darcy Parker. Darcy Parker was a vicious woman who used other women to infiltrate the government at its highest levels. The Parker Girls were essentially the highest paid prostitutes imaginable, and they never got to leave.

Katchoo left, though I will not say how, and now sits with one of Darcy’s former enforcers, the formidable, ever-brooding, stone-faced Tambi, as they watch Francine play, splashing away during the heat of the day, in the extensive garden’s swimming pool with one of their beloved daughters.

There is so much laughter!

Katchoo is smiling maternally, lovingly, with all the adoration she has always held in her heart for her now-wife Francine, right from the very first moment we met them. Reciprocation did not come easily and it did not come quickly. STRANGERS IN PARADISE was a very long series: 2,400 pages long! But here they are, and they have arrived!

You’ll notice Tambi and Katchoo share a certain look. Darcy Parker liked blondes very much. Tambi is not smiling lovingly and her arms are criss-crossed with scars.



“You know,” begins Katchoo, a twinkle in her eye, “I used to think you only had two looks, mean and meaner. Then I saw you hold my babies.”
“You fought hard for what you have, Katchoo. Wife, kids, a new life… Nothing came easy for you.”

That’s very true.

“I don’t want to see you lose everything you worked for.”
“Why would I lose everything? Tambi?”

I loved the reversal on the first few pages where we came in. Initially I fretted for the smart man with the smart phone (his name’s Scott) for we all fear pickpockets and fewer ever say something even if they see something, and fewer still do anything about it. And Terry keeps you going breathlessly for three pages before you discover the phone’s final recipient.



Scott’s married to a woman called Laura, by the way.

She’s called Laura, but that’s not her name. Her real name is Stephanie, and she has that certain look too.


Oh no.



For more Terry Moore, please see RACHEL RISING, ECHO and MOTOR GIRL (reviewed rather than narrated!).

Nice reference to the original collection’s cover on the subway sign. Believe it or not, within a few chapters you will be visiting the Isle of Skye. Breathtaking landscapes both in real life and on the printed page.


Buy Strangers In Paradise XXV vol 1: The Chase s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Dry County s/c (£14-99, Image) by Rich Tommaso.

“I could hear the yells and curses coming from the roof, but couldn’t stop myself hurling into the hydrangea.”

Hilarious! It wouldn’t have been half so funny had it not been a hydrangea.

Set in the Sunshine State’s boat-floating playground that glows neon at night, this is the most colourful noir that you’ll ever know. By day – as Lou Rossi cycles home from the Miami Herald where he works part-time as a comic strip artist – the city bridge gleams a lemon yellow while the bright white clouds blow below a fresh blue sky and leafy green trees stand out against pale pink hotels.

There is so much light and so much space, with lines as clean as the waterfronts themselves.

And yes, by night, there will be that oh-so familiar neon on the balconied apartment buildings in contrasting pink and mint green.

But what possible crimes could a comic artist bear witness to? Apart from blaring House Music, I mean?



Ah, well, it’s all in embracing ‘Everyman Crime Series’ to which DRY COUNTY belongs: quotidian crimes you stumble upon occasionally in conversation with someone you may have just met, like abusive boyfriends, perchance. Although there is the possibility that a potential drive-by alluded to briefly by Lou’s raucous mate Robert might tie in somewhere. And where might you meet someone new…? In an apartment block’s communal laundry room!

It’s there, after despairing at the lack of potential pulls at a nightclub which he cannot abide (“seething pit of vipers”), that Lou Rossi finds Janet reading alone while waiting for her spin cycle to end. Alas, she is not a new tenant. She’s only staying over at a friend’s flat for the night… or for the weekend… “I’m not sure yet”, but she does at least work in town, gives him her business card and proffers the possibility of having lunch one afternoon.



From there it only gets better: her employers turn out to be brothers, the rental firm like a family, and at lunch they make plans for dinner later that very same week. Finally, after six solitary months in Miami, things are looking up for Lou, and there’s more fresh air and open skies and passenger planes flying overhead as he strolls home, a spring in his step, allowing himself to feel jaunty.

Oh dear.

I’m going to stop there while noting only that what I loved most about what is revealed is that so often we escape from one thing by a route which only turns out to be the very same thing. Is that vague enough for you? That’s what Tommaso’s come up with, giving the blow so much more of a punch.



Whereas most noir slinks about in an environment alien to most of us, in circumstances most of us would never encounter, Tommaso sticks to his promise of filling Rossi’s account with the familiar routines of walks round town, showers, settling down to basic meal from whatever we find in our fridge, perhaps a few beers and so TV. Then there’s the not wanting to look like you’re trying too hard by dressing to impress and making that first phone call too early.

“Man, I couldn’t wait… But then later, once I got home, I decided I should wait, possibly a week…
“This was based on advice that my old friends in high school gave me:

“Don’t ever call a girl up right away, you gotta wait like, a week or so, or else she’ll think you’re a desperate loser!” …So, I decided to wait at least a week…”


“Two days later, I called…”




What makes the pages even more visually brilliant is that the first-person narration is hand-written on blue-lined, yellow legal pad paper like a story you might stumble upon rather than one being told directly to you. It’s not that big a drama. He’s not a professional P.I. typing up his notes to keep on file, either.

As to the title, nowhere I know of in Florida is a Dry County – certainly not Miami, and Lou doesn’t half neck beers throughout, hence the well deserved fate of those hideous hydrangeas – nor is El Paso, whence Janet hails and where all her troubles first began. My off-the-cuff guess, therefore, is it’s somewhere we’re headed or a direction from which trouble’s coming.


Buy Dry County s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Oblivion Song vol 1 s/c (£8-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Lorenzo De Felici…

“It’s okay, it’s okay… I know it’s disorientating, but you’re safe now. You hear me? You’re safe.”
“Him! What did you do to him?!”
“He’s asleep. He’s going to be okay. You’re going to be okay. Just calm d…”


“Sedative! Hurry! Bridget! I can’t hold her much longer!”
“I can’t believe she scratched you.”
“She was over there almost a decade. She’s scared… how could she not be?”
“Still… I need to look at those scratches… there’s no telling what’s under those fingernails.”

I don’t know what Bridget is worried about. It’s not like the lady they’ve just rescued is a zombie…

I should probably clarify that she really isn’t a zombie. Or indeed possessed. Sorry, I was always going to try and get at least one WALKING DEAD gag in there. And then I had to go and over-egg matters even further with an OUTCAST rejoinder… I really can’t be arsed to try and shoehorn an INVINCIBLE gag in, though…

Moving on… yes, Robert Kirkman returns to terrify us once more, this time with a science-fiction / horror hybrid that owes as much to Quantum Leap as it does to Alien. Well, technically it’s more like Sliders rather than Quantum Leap, but let’s be honest, you’d probably forgotten all about that particular show until I mentioned it.



What it actually reminded me of most in comics terms would be Jeff Smith’s RASL with its dimensional hopping, but with lots of added monsters and intrigue. Also because of Lorenzo de Felici’s exceptional art which definitely has a touch of Mr. Smith about it too.

Fabulous colouring from Annalisa Leoni also, who manages to combine an astonishing variety of shades and hues in a remarkably understated, subtle way. Quite the masterclass in the use of contrasting and complimentary colours to spot highlight and draw attention to detail and so take the illustrations to another level altogether. Very clever.



Very unusual for me to get this far into a review without rambling on about the plot, so I’d better get on with it, I guess! A decade ago there was an… incident. The city centre of Philadelphia was wiped out in an instant, replaced in the blink of an eye with 30 square miles of a huge vegetative ecosystem and its incumbent voracious predators. Almost 20,000 people were seemingly wiped out of existence in a moment.

Eventually, once the ‘invasion’ was brought under control after a not inconsiderable number of additional casualties and the area quarantined, a scientist named Nathan Cole worked out what had happened. The 30 square miles of Philadelphia which vanished, had in fact, merely swapped places with the new terrain. Suddenly hope was raised that somewhere on an alien world, that promptly became named Oblivion, there were possibly thousands of presumably terrified survivors.



Technology was quickly developed to allow incursions to Oblivion and search and rescue missions launched to retrieve many of the missing Philadelphians cowering in the ruins of their city, which itself was rapidly being assailed and assimilated by the native fauna and flora. After ten years, however, the last few of which proved completely fruitless in finding any remaining survivors, government funding inevitably dried up and public interest waned. A monument to the remaining lost souls was built, inscribed with each of their names, and a museum built in their honour.



Nathan Cole, however, remains convinced further humans remain on Oblivion, including his brother. In fact, he believes that there is a whole community hidden away somewhere, possibly even thriving. And so, he continues to make unauthorised, dangerous solo excursions with his own technology. When he manages to find a husband and wife and successfully retrieves them, to much understandable public fanfare, he consequently expects to be given a new remit and improved budget to conduct further missions.

To his surprise and anger, he finds all the government really wants is to move on and draw a line under the whole Transference as it ultimately became known. Lest the public continue to fret the mysterious, spontaneous occurrence could suddenly happen again. Nathan, of course, has got other ideas… including for one very shocking reason which is revealed at the climax of this first volume…


Buy Oblivion Song vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Superman And The Legion Of Superheroes s/c (£13-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Gary Franks.

Superman’s best when you just dip in.

Actually, I’d go further: all superheroes are best dipped into. Their artificially long-term life leads to so much silliness, padding, inconsistency, strains of credulity above and beyond their basic premise, and after 80 years (condensed into 10 or so in DC Land) it’s more than a little odd to find Clark Kent still being barked at by would-be father figure Perry after all that they’ve gone through together. Let’s not even get into Jimmy Olsen in any way, shape or form. But if you ignore almost everything that has gone before in this space-chap’s history (and I have as much as possible over my years of reading comics), it then doesn’t matter. Okay, Perry is barking at Clark – that’s what he does. Fine.



Now that I’ve got that out of my system, this is meatier than most Superman stories (outside of ALL-STAR SUPERMAN and KINGDOM COME), both because it boasts slick visuals by DOOMSDAY CLOCK’s Gary Frank (the man who has made an art out of depicting well-weighted levitation), and through having something to say.

Several things, actually.

Imagine a childhood in which you’re unable to interact with your peers properly, for fear of breaking them. Also because you’re lying to them every single day, hiding the fact that you’re an alien.

Childhood is a very physical experience full of rough and tumble, be it sports, climbing trees or wrestling your best friend to the ground because he said something stupid, then hitting him over the head with a metal-topped cricket stump. For young Clark Kent that would come with its risks. But then into his life came The Legion Of Superheroes: kids from the future built of much sturdier stock who don’t break so easily, and don’t care if you’re an alien because they’re from numerous different planets themselves. Suddenly you can play because they open up a temporary temporal doorway to fantastical adventures in which Clark can be all that he is without destroying all that he loves. Under such circumstances, you’re going to bond…



Since then life on Earth has changed. I don’t mean now, I mean in the future where The Legion Of Superheroes reside.

For a start, they’re on the run, specifically because they’re aliens. Earth is no longer so welcome to aliens as it used to be, as the baby boy of a dying alien race finds out, catapulted into space (as the last son of Krypton was) in the hope that he could be received and fostered as warmly as his predecessor.

Nope. Earth has united in its xenophobia (it’s nice to know we can unite over something, however paradoxical), dispelled the myth through archaeological evidence that Superman was anything other than a super-human born in Smallville, and used this to twist everything that Kal-El ever stood for, which is embracing diversity and helping all others around you, regardless of whether they’re your own kind. Instead it’s now detention camps for “foreigners” – a bit like those we don’t like to talk about in England and America right now – and justice is upheld by a group of strictly Earth-born superheroes who… hmmm… did they fail their auditions for the Legion Of Superheroes? There’s nothing quite as human as a chip on your shoulder.



What’s Superman going to make of this perversion? Well, he’s going to be awfully polite, obviously. I wish for once he’d just lose his temper.

But why exactly do the Legion, his friends since childhood, not want him there? It may have something to do with that old shepherds’ proverb:

Red sky at night…? Shepherd’s delight!

Red sun in the morning then all day long? That’s fairly deleterious for your average Kryptonian, son.




Buy Superman And The Legion Of Superheroes s/c and read the Page 45 review here

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.

The second of two halves, this reprints the fourth, fifth and sixth softcover, and for some reason I happen to have copy for the fourth instalment which I reviewed thus:

The premise for SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN was relatively simple but its execution proved surprisingly thorough: in SPIDER-MAN: DYING WISH one of Spider-Man’s oldest, ugliest foes – mop-topped minger Otto Octavius PhD – finally won the day by switching his consciousness with Peter Parker’s just before his own body expired.

Dr. Octopus has made maximum use of this fitter new body and inflicted maximum abuse on both Spider-Man’s villains and Peter’s own family and friends. He’s been very resourceful, and so it proves here as Peter’s employer, Horizon Labs, comes under temporal assault when they attempt to shake off a corporate take-over by Peter’s old friend Liz Allan (once married to Norman Osborn’s son and now with one of her own) and Tiberius Stone, Horizon Labs’ ex-employee and past saboteur. Cue Spider-Man 2099 comin’ atcha and possibly here to stay.



It’s complicated to describe here, but perfectly clear if you read the book itself, revel in its fireball, nail-biting, game-changing climax so well illustrated in all its time-bubble, eye-popping glory by Ryan Stegman, and then move on to part two involving one of Dr. Octopus’ old flames, newly rekindled, who believes he was killed by Spider-Man. Oh.



This is proceeding at a cracking pace and I can finally confirm that this series will be six volumes long before Peter finally wrestles his way back through Marvels’ revolving death’s-door, as was corporately inevitable. Make no mistake, though: for once this has been no mere gimmick and the journey has proved thoroughly entertaining, rammed to the rafters with dramatic irony and “Why didn’t Peter do that?” Plus I wonder what Peter will finally come back to? He can’t explain these months away to everyone: not everyone knows he is Spider-Man!

Two people do: Forensics Officer Carlie Cooper whom Peter once attempted to date with all the suave sophistication of a highly conflicted and emergency-afflicted Alice-In-Wonderland White Rabbit (it went tits-up, yeah) and Police Officer Yuri Someone-Or-Other AKA The Wraith. Suspicious of this supposedly superior Spider-Man with his bottomless resources and knowing that Peter was broke, they are following the money trail. Unfortunately Carlie is being followed by somebody else.

And, all this while, the Green Goblin lies in wait, biding his time and building…




Buy The Superior Spider-Man: The Complete Collection vol 2 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

Firstly, all these beautiful comics and glorious graphic novels are fresh in from John Porcellino’s Spit And A Half distribution in America. Not distributed by Diamond, we’ve given them their very own section for now. Good luck finding them elsewhere in the UK!

Also… 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’.

Agrippina Arithmetic (£2-99) by Andi Watson

Rose (£2-99) by Andi Watson

As The Crow Flies (£26-99, Iron Circus Comics) by Melanie Gillman

Beowulf s/c (£17-99, Image) by Santiago García & David Rubin

Berlin vol 3: City Of Smoke (£22-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Jason Lutes

Coda vol 1 s/c (£8-99, Boom!) by Simon Spurrier & Matias Bergara

Descender vol 6: War Machine s/c (£14-99, Image) by Jeff Lemire & Dustin Nguyen

Flocks s/c (£19-99, Other A-Z) by L. Nichols

Follow Me In (£18-99, Avery Hill) by Katriona Chapman

Jim Henson’s Labyrinth Shortcuts vol 1 h/c (£22-99, Archaia) by various

Marilyn’s Monsters (£22-99, Humanoids) by Tommy Redolfi

Nocturne h/c (£13-99, Umber) by Tara Booth

Skyward vol 1: My Low-G Life s/c (£8-99, Image) by Joe Henderson & Lee Garbett

Hal Jordan And The Green Lantern Corps vol 6: Zod’s Will s/c (Rebirth) (£12-99, DC) by Robert Venditti & Rafa Sandoval

Justice League: No Justice s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Scott Snyder,James Tynion IV, Joshua Williamson & Francis Manapul, Jorge Jimenez, Riley Rossmo, Marcus To

Amazing Spider-Man: Red Goblin h/c (£31-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott, Christos Gage & Stuart Immonen, Mike Hawthorne, various

Infinity Countdown s/c (UK Edition) (£16-99, Marvel) by Gerry Duggan & Mike Deodato. Jr, Aaron Kuder, Mike Hawkthorne, Mike Allred

Marvel Knights: Fantastic Four 1234 s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Grant Morrison & Jae Lee, Manuel Gutierrez

Mighty Thor vol 4: The War Thor s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Russell Dauterman, Valerio Schiti

Venom By Daniel Way Complete Collection s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by Daniel Way & Francisco Herrera, various

Venom vol 4: Nativity s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Mike Costa, David Michelinie & Javi Garron, Mark Bagley, Ryan Stegman

Wonder Woman vol 5: Heart Of The Amazon s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, Marvel) by Shea Fontone, various & various

Legend Of Zelda vol 14: Twilight Princess vol 4 (£6-99, Viz) by Akira Himekara

That Blue Sky Feeling vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Okura & Coma Hashii

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews September 2018 week two

Wednesday, September 12th, 2018

Featuring Philip Reeve, Sarah McIntyre, Francesca Sanna, Carles Porta, Terry Moore, Jean-Claude Forest, Jacques Tardi, Gilbert Hernandez, Hiroya Oku, Federico Rossi Edrighi, Adam Murphy, Lisa Murphy, more.

The Legend Of Kevin h/c (£8-99, Oxford University Press) by Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre.



First 100 copies come with a Free Limited Edition Bookplate Exclusive to Page 45, drawn by Sarah then signed by them both!

At the time of typing 27 /100 copies remain!

Welcome to Stephen’s New All-Ages Taste Test in which I declare that if you can imagine a book being read aloud by Alan Bennett, with his dry yet full-mouthed, fruit-jam-flavoured, deadpan delivery, then you are onto a winner!

So it is here, with the most perfect preamble that I can recall, setting you in very good stead for all that will follow.



“Kevin lives in the wild, wet hills of the Outermost West, where he has built a large, untidy nest for himself in the branches of an old oak tree.”

Kevin – if you hadn’t gathered from the so-spangly cover – is a Roly-Poly Flying Pony. As David Attenborough once noted, their nests can be famously dishevelled.

Kevin comes from the “wild, wet hills of the Outermost West”. Not Plymouth, nor Basingstoke, nor even the Dartmoor plains; but somewhere wilder, wetter and even more westerly. This is Important, as you shall see.

“His favourite things to eat are:

“1. Grass
“2. Apples
“3. Biscuits

“… only not in that order.”

Why, Philip, why?



“Grass is quite easy to come by, because it grows all over the wild, wet hills of the Outermost West. Apples are grown on the trees in the orchards, and Kevin often flies down to eat them. (You can imagine how delighted the farmers are when they see him coming.) Biscuits are a bit harder to get hold of, but sometimes Kevin makes friends with a hiker, and if he’s lucky they share their biscuits with him. So if you ever visit the wild, wet hills of the Outermost West, be sure to take plenty of biscuits. Kevin’s favourites are:

“1. Pink wafers
“2. Bourbons
“3. Custard creams

“… only not in that order.”

Reeve is a master of playful repetition and the cumulatively funny joke, and that won’t be the last of his winking, tongue-in-cheek, parenthetical asides, either.



You are now fully prepped for the latest deliciously mischievous all-ages, illustrated and fully integrated prose from the award-winning creators of PUGS OF THE FROZEN NORTH, OLIVER AND THE SEAWIGS, CAKES IN SPACE, JINKS AND O’HARE FUNFAIR REPAIR and the creation inspiration that is the PUG-A-DOODLE-DOO BUMPER BOOK OF FUN. Never have I read a funnier kids’ activity book in my astonishingly long life.

It was there that I first acquired the sneaking suspicion that Philip and Sarah were building a subtly shared universe in which – at any unexpected moment! – you might meet much beloved, long-lost friends from previous adventures as guest stars in brand-new ones. Oh, my lovelies, that moment is now! Perhaps Kevin is not alone in living around the nebulous “wild, wet hills of the Outermost West” with its Outermost Coast and Outermost Sea. Who do you think you might become reacquainted with here?!

Clue: please bring shampoo! They’re all stinky and eww!



The blustery, rain-soaked action begins immediately as a preternaturally turbulent storm blows in from the Outermost Sea, scooping poor corpulent Kevin up out of his messy nest, and sweeping him far, far away to the towns and cities where ordinary people live until he bumps into the side of a very tall building. “Doof”! It’s a good job there’s a balcony.

Inside that building, in its topmost flat, live Max, his dad, his mum and his older sister Daisy who would prefer you call her Elivira, please, because she’s going through her gothic period (don’t we all).

Now, Max had always wanted a pet – a dog or a cat, or a bird-eating spider (guess who suggested that one) – but the flat was always deemed too cramped and tiny, without so much as a garden for even a small dog to do its ‘doings’ in. It’s the perfect size of a roly-poly flying pony, though, right?!

Of course, to begin with Max doesn’t know that it’s a roly-poly flying pony that’s landed like a hefty haggis outside his bedroom window. For a moment he’s fearful that it might be a fearsome polar bear.

“Don’t be silly, he told himself, how could a fearsome polar bear have got all the way up here?”

Or a pony, to be fair.



McIntyre’s startled, bright white, limp-winged, shivering and sopping-wet Kevin – eyes wide and clueless while caught in the flashlight – is a dripping masterpiece of lost and lonely forlorn fauna and I defy any of you with your melted hearts not to invite the poor creature indoors immediately, towel him down then wrap him in your duvet.

You might want to find him some biscuits.

“Quiet as a mouse, he opened the cupboard, opened the biscuit tin, and took out a custard cream. Then he took another one, because he thought a flying pony as far as Kevin might be able to manage two biscuits. Then he took a third, because he thought maybe he should have one himself to keep Kevin company. (Max was very thoughtful like that.)”

Of course Max’s torch battery is “going” – as in, dying – that’s what torch batteries do. Reeve nails this sort of everyday family life, like the biscuit tin (I’d forgotten we had one of those), Max’s “Swimming Things bag”, and that fact that parents have been saying “Yes dear” while paying no attention whatsoever to what you’ve been saying ever since Gerald Durrell’s mum. I love the animism in Reeve’s weather as well: the way the wind “leaned” against a window, or, later the sunlight coming down in “silvery fingers through the wave tops and tickled the shop signs” (italics, mine).

Ah, yes, the wave tops. I did mention, didn’t I, that this was a preternaturally turbulent storm



Well, it was, for it blew in from the wild, wet Outermost Ocean flooding the city from its sewers to its shops, its bike lanes and its bus stops, almost to the rooftops, and sweeping in all sorts of strange sea creatures.

From very first page McIntyre effortlessly integrates her illustrations with the type-set prose so that it is not just a balanced, harmonious whole but a narrative fusion, seamlessly incorporating both into a single fluid stream. Here, however, she instinctively and strategically leaves areas of space in her illuminations, so that the words artfully framed by the sides of the skyscraper, forming what actually looks like substructure to the building!



Elsewhere she uses colour to consolidate an image so that it has no need for a line-drawn frame, but melds the individual components into a single, unified coherent whole, as if the Sea Monkeys were caught in a mousse mould then plonked out on the page, set in a gelatinous or at least aqueous blue mass.



Haha yes! The bickering Sea Monkeys are back! Those chittering, chattering, smelly little mentalists from OLIVER AND THE SEAWIGS have returned to pull faces, blow underwater raspberries and throw whiteboard rubbers at Mr. Mould, Max’s headmaster, now stranded on the school roof. Personally I’d leave him to it, but Max isn’t that sort of a lad, so it’s action stations, rescue elevations once the winged wonder’s got his old strength back. Because, honestly, if Mr. Mould thought that the little human monkeys he was used to teaching were loud and ill-disciplined, then this lot are totally bananas.

“The monkeys threw a few pencil sharpeners and things after him, just to make themselves feel better. Then they went back underwater and started writing rude words on the school walls, and they didn’t even spell them properly or bother to use capital letters and full stops; it was an absolute disgrace.”



Quite a lot of this takes place underwater as Max attempts to rescue some resuscitating custard creams from the supermarket biscuit aisle, encountering a granny down there in an aqualung, I kid you not. It’s underwater that I first spied our old mate Colin the Crab, who is renowned for getting around, admiring himself in a circular compact’s mirror. Page 67 – perhaps you can spot him earlier?

This is a carnival of cooped up, flood-fleeing neighbours, a romp and a riot, and a minor misadventure for Beyoncé and Neville, two guinea pigs caught in a tide of their own. It’s also a book about newly found friendship – about looking after each other and pulling together whatever the weather, for that’s what Max and Kevin do!

And it’s a little bit about belonging too.



Kevin, you see, comes from “wild, wet hills of the Outermost West”. Not Plymouth, nor Basingstoke, nor even the Dartmoor plains.

But somewhere wilder, wetter and even more westerly. Somewhere that’s way, way beyond.

He doesn’t belong in a city. Not really.

It’s here that Reeve and McIntyre’s early decision to set limits on Kevin’s anthropomorphic qualities pays true dividends. To begin with, it’s comical hearing Kevin do little more than repeat “Biscuits!” or “Custard Creams!” oh so covetously. Oh what a funny fella! But that’s just about the extent of his ability to communicate verbally, and I’m afraid that when you first find the poor pony pining near the flat-roof railing – staring out at the sunset, tail still, ears drooping, without the first clue as to where he actually came from, a full fifteen pages from the end – you’ll know instinctively where his silent animal instincts are taking him, and you might remember that Reeve and McIntyre did this to you once before, in PUGS OF THE FROZEN NORTH.

The teary, heart-break stuff, I mean.




For many more reviews, pleases see Page 45’s Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre section, especially THE NEW NEIGHBOURS hardcover and THE NEW NEIGHBOURS softcover for which we still have a few signed editions of a completely different bookplate also drawn by Sarah.


Buy The Legend Of Kevin h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Me And My Fear (£12-99, Flying Eye Books) by Francesca Sanna.

“I have always had a secret.
“A tiny friend called Fear.”

From the creator of THE JOURNEY, one of my go-to Young Readers books for empathy and understanding, specifically about those seeking sanctuary.

As you’d expect, its successor is no less astutely observed or eloquent – and at times hard-hitting – in its communication.

Let’s begin again, while the grown-ups are nattering away in the shade by the seafront, sipping wine while our narrator explores contentedly, inquisitively a little farther afield.

“I have always had a secret.
“A tiny friend called Fear.”



And Fear is, at this point, ever so tiny, decidedly manageable and really quite cute. It looks like the squidgy Adipose squealers from Doctor Who. And certainly it’s still a friend, enabling the young girl to venture a ways from her mum while protecting her from the likes of heights.

A little fear is healthy.



“But since we came to this new country,
“Fear isn’t so little anymore.”

At which point I would sincerely and unequivocally like to apologise for the current state of my country, Little England. And, really, the rest of Europe TBH: we all need to be a lot more welcoming to those already disconcerted by the upheaval of travel and separation, not less.

Fear is still tender and loving on that page, but growing all too rapidly and already effectively smothering as something being clung to too tightly. By the next page it is scowling at the autumnal rain (apologies once more, but not a lot we can do about that bit!!!) and has then grown so massive that it blocks off the exits completely.



Ah, and then there’s school. Can there be anything more terrifying than a new school?

You can probably see where this is going: too much fear can prove overwhelming, paralysing, and a self-sustaining barrier which doesn’t just protect but pushes away others – perhaps equally under siege – who might like to help.



Our young lady is surrounded by potential friends – girls and boys in every sort of colourful winter-wear – enjoying themselves outside of Fear’s seemingly soft but intransigent grip. Others are puzzled, concerned, as she struggles….

The secret is that everyone has a little fear; and the solution is to share.

Someone has to make the first move; my hugest hugs to those who do.

Lots of orange and blue, which is brave.

For more heart and humanity for Young Readers, please see THE NEW NEIGHBOURS hardcover or THE NEW NEIGHBOURS softcover; for adults, see THREADS and ESCAPING WARS AND WAVES or – for something far more poetic, and for all – please see YOU BELONG HERE.


Buy Me And My Fear and read the Page 45 review here

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

“The leaves were turning different colours and saying goodbye to the trees. The wind was tumbling and leaping, like a wild horse that could not be tamed.

“After the lazy days of summer, it was time for a change.
“As the wind played with her hair, Sara had a curious idea.
“What if all the leaves are flying to the same place?”

Portas doesn’t mean into my porch, which is where all the leaves usually seem to end up… No, because these particular detached, dancing decoratives, vibrant with the signalling beacon colours of the harvest season, are being pirouetted around and gyrated into a most unusual place. Here are the evocative entreaties of the fine folk of Flying Eye Books to take us into their confidence…



“Hidden in a remote place surrounded by high mountains, there lies a secret valley. There is an entrance, but you could pass by it a hundred times and still not see it… It’s autumn in the hidden valley and there’s a sense of change in the air.



“Ticky is about to fly away to warmer places, and Yula is painting him a farewell gift. But when Yula draws, she loses all sense of the world around her… Welcome to Carles Porta’s beautifully imagined world, where tiny onion-headed ballerinas dance among multicoloured autumn leaves, and new friends are found in the strangest ways.”

Indeed they are! In fact, that concluding line could send me off on innumerable implausible tangents regarding how new chums can come unexpectedly cavorting into one’s life, but let’s not go there today, because, if we do, it’ll be winter next year by the time I conclude my review of this wonderfully heart-warming and exquisitely beautiful all-ages work, which has a charming, captivating enchantment all of its own.



Through gorgeous expressive artwork and poetic prose Carles crafts a stylish swirling story with the message of friendship fixed firmly at its core. Both of honouring old friendships and forging new ones. I could wax lyrical about Porta’s amazing art with its riotous chaos of carefully orchestrated colours for several paragraphs but his carefully chosen words are just as powerfully moving.



I see that there are already three further volumes slated for publication before the end of next year, which I gain the impression from their titles and publisher blurb are meant to mirror the seasons, so I’m avidly looking forward to being transported back to Ticky and Yula’s hidden valley already!


Buy Tales From The Hidden Valley vol 1: The Artists and read the Page 45 review here

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



It’s a love story: a phenomenally funny love story to melt your cold, black hearts.

Frustrated by complications and shot through with tragedy, though, it was never likely to end well.

Spoilers: it did… but only for some.

If you’ve no idea what all the fuss is about, STRANGERS IN PARADISE is possibly the single series that I’m fondest of. Try the OMNIBUS there to read the best overview, or the first couple of softcovers. Oh, and the recent relaunch of STRANGERS IN PARADISE XXV #1 is still in stock and comes with a brand-new review.

And if 12” x 17” really does mean nothing to you in terms of scale, then amongst the many photos that I have for you is one of the cover, taken with a regular US-sized comicbook (above).




Whereas most comics are printed far smaller than the original art, these Gallery Editions reproduce original art at high resolution and at its original size all the fascinating blemishes and corrections in paste-over and white-out.



“Celebrate the 25th Anniversary of SIP with this presentation of Moore’s art spanning the entire Eisner Award-winning series. The evolution of Terry together with Francine, Katchoo, David and all of the other characters that inhabit the SIP world is captured in this 248-page, large-format, hardcover edition. The artwork contained in this Smythe-sewn deluxe edition is framed by the original 20-page version of the very first SIP story and SIP #90, the series’ 2007 finale.”

I will have notes for you on what that means in a second.



“Included between these “bookends” is a representational page from each of the 105 issues published between issues #1 and #90. Also included is an extensive Gallery section containing covers and miscellaneous SIP art from the last 25 years. Sourced from high-resolution scans from the original art and reproduced at the actual size, this 12″ x 17″ deluxe volume is printed at 200 line-screen on heavy paper stock to approximate the look and feel of the original art itself.”

Firstly, then, the very first issue reprinted here is not the one that you’ve read!



Nope, the original version of #1 which was hastily redrawn and rewritten in part for publication and this edition has never been seen before. David, for one, sure looks different!!!

All this and more, Terry will talk about in the introduction, including the very first sketch Terry ever drew which cemented the SiP series in his head. The sketch itself is also reprinted but not in this very review because hahahahahahaha! Here’s Mr Moore:

“Francine was sipping on a milkshake on the couch. I began thinking about her weight problem and why she eats. I drew Freddie [her fiancé] next to her, probably saying something snarky, and I realized that’s why she eats. Then I began wondering how Katchoo reacts when she sees this pressure put on the woman she secretly loves and… BAM!!!! Suddenly I wasn’t drawing “characters” anymore, I was drawing human beings with complex personalities and lives that intertwine and turn on a dime according to the decisions they make – and how they handle the decisions of others forced upon them.”

I’ll shut up now, and just show you photos.






I love that you can even see how much ink is being laid down on the close-ups of Katchoo and Francine.




Buy Strangers In Paradise Gallery Edition h/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

A grand farce from the French master which hasn’t aged one jot since it first appeared thirty years ago.

It puts me in mind of Evelyn Waugh’s more outrageous works like Black Mischief, with naïfs being caught helplessly in a pincer movement of regal egos and state machinations, here in the form of a French President staring electoral disaster in the face and forging an insane plan for self-preservation that will ultimately prove more successful than anyone dared to hope.

Far from the grotesqueries of government, meanwhile, we find young Arthur There who’s been driven up the wall by the loss of his family’s ancestral land, his last remaining refuge being said walls that divide his old properties and their inhabitants.



Throughout the days of wind, rain and snow, he’s summoned across this interconnected raised maze by bells to extract meagre tolls for opening the gates whilst dancing over obstacles like fallen trees and avoiding the dogs below. It’s these coins that he pours into the bottomless dustbins of his lawyer, who has the art of procrastination and prevarication down to perfection whilst holding out just enough hope of Arthur’s obsession: the legal reclamation of his land. But Arthur’s been alone too long. Riddled with persecution complexes, he overthinks everything. And where exactly is his Mummy to whom he telephones daily reports of his progress?



It’s all quite absurd, from Arthur’s diminutive domicile (an elegant stone hut perched precariously on the wall that can’t measure more than 3 feet by 6 and its exterior stove for frying morning eggs) to his loquacious exchanges over the edge of the lake with the visiting grocer-sailor, and the truly bizarre Julie Maillard, daughter of one of the denizens whose legs are splayed in a sexual association of rain and urination, and who offers herself up to Arthur in a manner he finds mind-frazzling. Never less than innocent, she’s still managed to get around, which brings us back to Paris…

Thanks to more than a little madness the proceedings are presented on the page with a flourish of surrealism matched by the actions of the protagonists.



The acrobatics (visual and verbal) are a joy while the weather is magnificent, though I do concede that, for some, it may go on a bit! Here’s a typical pronouncement from the floating grocer which kicks off with four words that are irrefutable:

“Customers are sacred creatures, and fragile too…. One little misstep, and the days of eating and drinking are over! And then the grocer takes it on the chin! You see, everything is connected, Mister There, everything is connected. And because everything is connected, one should avoid ever touching anything… And to avoid touching anything one should avoid ever saying anything: Speech is harmful!

“Now, I know I just said “speech is harmful,” but on the other hand, silence isn’t much better. That way lie boredom, suspicion, gangrene. Eventually it eats away at you, from the ground up.”

That’s not going to do Arthur’s paranoia any good.


Buy You Are There and read the Page 45 review here

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

Reprints material which originally appeared in LUBA’S COMICS & STORIES #3-4, 6-8, LOVE AND ROCKETS VOL II #3-9, 11-18, 20, LUBA: THREE DAUGHTERS, that enormous LUBA OMNIBUS from yonks ago and HIGH SOFT LISP.

HIGH SOFT LISP is a mischievous journey through the intertwined fortunes of successful motivational speaker Mark Herrera and “Fritz” Martinez, former marriage guidance counsellor turned straight-to-DVD movie star and half-sister to Luba, He is her first husband, she is his fourth wife.

He has had six, and is broke.

“She wept when I asked her to marry me. I wept when she asked for a pre-nuptial agreement!”



Fritz is a voluptuous, gullible romantic with an appetite for sex which is so often taken advantage of. She also has a penchant for sci-fi conventions, dressing up, and guns.

“Most people prefer a cigarette or a sandwich after lovemaking, Fritz.”

She prefers target practice.

It’s very much a series of snapshots with Hernandez weaving in other lives in the background, like Petra’s memories of Joel whom we see first in person when they’re all very young, then later in a High School Yearbook, then later still in an obituary notice. A subtle scene closes that particular story in which Petra’s daughter finds what she assumes to be Petra’s High School jacket gathering dust in the closet. It isn’t, but Gilbert doesn’t rub it in.



Enrique too, so close to becoming Fritz’s third husband, has been simmering over the years with a rather unhealthy obsession, and I don’t think I even want to write about self-centred slob and husband number two, Scott “The Hog”, whom the punk rocker in Fritz adored. Meanwhile all bar one of Mark’s wives leave only to return in one role or another, often when he needs a favour, and it’s funny how so many of them end up writing children’s stories! You’ll also meet Pipo who becomes Fritz’s girlfriend and produces her films (see LOVE FROM THE SHADOWS, TROUBLEMAKERS and CHANCE IN HELL).

As ever with Gilbert there are elements of the surreal and supernatural and a lot of this is delivered as if to camera. Hernandez refuses to conform to any narrative rules except his own, liberating him to tell the story he wants to tell in the way he wants to tell it, and I admire that unequivocally – so, so refreshing.



There’s also a great deal of sex that would once have set him at odds with British Customs & Excise, though thankfully not any longer.

It’s kind of what adults do, or there’d never be any children for us to get so worried about.


Buy Love And Rockets (Palomar & Luba vol 7): Three Sisters and read the Page 45 review here

Gantz Omnibus vol 1 (£22-99, Dark Horse) by Hiroya Oku…

“Tokyo teens Kei and Masaru are killed by a subway train but awaken in a room with an ominous black orb that gives them weapons, suits . . . and orders. Fighting bizarre alien monstrosities in a deadly game, will they win their freedom or die for the final time?”

That, my comics friends, is a publisher warbling that can’t possibly even begin to come close to encapsulating the excitement of one of the most celebrated and gloriously confusing hot messes of a science fiction manga series that there has ever been.

Well, actually, it does begin to describe it, I  suppose, because it does indeed all start with school acquaintances Kei and Masaru taking a fatal header under a train, before being resurrected atom by atom in a strange room, surrounded by equally perplexed strangers and staring at the titular Gantz.



Taking a massive thirteen years, and 37 single volumes, for Hiroya Oku to complete, this is one of the most intense series I have ever read. It’s ultra-violent, well, ultra-everything, frankly. Sure it takes some bizarre inexplicable plot diversions at times, cul-de-sacs really, including one that never gets explained, but always upping the danger ante ever further for the characters. Those that survive, that is, or those get killed and promptly resurrected. But it all ultimately concludes in the most spectacularly satisfying and ultra-surreal manner. I don’t mind mentioning I shed a tear or two during the concluding chapters.



Is it perfect? Artistically, for a relentless sugar buzz sci-fi manga, certainly. No doubt. Oku is a master mangaka. The action scenes, which probably comprise three-quarters plus of the series are mind-blowingly brilliant. Plot-wise… I realise I keep coming back to this… it isn’t perfect, though not far off, but I don’t think it actually matters. By his own admission Oku never expected GANTZ to be so successful (including spawning the inevitable anime, but also two live-action films, a video game and a prose novel series) and felt under extreme pressure to keep the series going. I suspect at times he was plucking new plot devices from the increasingly thinning air.



Which almost certainly explains the detours… Also, without getting into spoilers, well, one super-huge spoiler in particular, there is one central aspect of the whole Gantz set-up that never made sense to me at all. But… without it… no GANTZ… However, I’m being churlish now, because frankly I didn’t care one iota. I devoured each volume of GANTZ as it came out, frantically flicking the action-packed pages over like an adrenaline junkie, consuming each volume in a matter of minutes, before having to wait months for the next one…

And… I’m hopeful the, well… what do you call a subsequent series that is set at the same time as the original? Not a sequel, a parallelaquel perhaps? Anyway, I am hoping GANTZ G: (just one volume out so far!) might just answer at least that one particular burning question for me and millions of other Gantz devotees.

For people intending to commence hostilities with these reprints, I can see three major advantages. Firstly, it looks like they are on a four-monthly publication schedule, so presuming they wrap the 37 volumes into 12 omnibi, you only have to wait for roughly four years to get the lot. Plus they work out at about two-thirds of the price. Also, you will be able to read GANTZ G: simultaneously for double the insanity and perhaps twice the comprehensibility!


Buy Gantz Omnibus vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

The Scarecrow Princess (£13-99, Roar) by Federico Rossi Edrighi…

“When the fields thrive, the sky becomes peat and the earth turns into gold. At the time of the richest harvests, he cometh.
“The deceiver, the thief, the drinker of eyes. The all-devouring black cloud.
“The King Of Crows.
“The earth is stripped bare by the insatiable shadow of his wings. And only the awakening of The Scarecrow Prince shall contain his hunger.”

“Then what?”
“Then nothing! There’s barely a page on the subject here! Perhaps we could have chosen a better-documented myth, mum.”
“Well, it’s a great opportunity to get our creative juices flowing! For the illustrations, I’m already thinking of a synthetic and dirty stroke, without any pointless virtuosities.”
“And make readers hate?”
“It’s not the job of an author to give the readers what they want… it is the job of author to give the reader what they need.”
“And today’s readers need superficial illustrations, right?”
“It was just an idea. When did you become so negative?”



Federico Rossi Edrighi is either a total wag or blissfully unaware of the irony he’s just perpetuated. For your first impression of the art here may very well be that it is comprised “of a synthetic and dirty stroke, without any pointless virtuosities”.

We’ll just get this one out of the way right now. The art style won’t spoil anything at all for you. In fact, by the end of this work, particularly whenthe King Of Crows finally arrives in full effect, all distressingly angular and midnight black of raiment, I found myself rather appreciating it. It is, however, going to prove a stumbling block for some, I suspect. Which is a real shame because this is a very gripping, bum-squeakingly suspenseful all-ages story full of spite and mystery…



Here’s the altogether natural and rather virtuous publisher pith to put you in the peculiarly drawn picture…

“Morrigan Moore has always been moody, but her new home is the worst. Her novelist mother has dragged her to the countryside, drawn by the lost myth of the King of Crows, a dark figure of theft and deceit, and the Scarecrow Prince, the only one who can stand against him. When Morrigan finds herself swept up in the legend, she’ll have no choice but to take on the Scarecrow Prince’s mantel, and to stand and fight. For her town, her family, and her own future. This… will pull you into its sinister secrets and not let go till the final page. For fans of Coraline…”



Yes, I definitely get the CORALINE reference. It certainly has that menacing, brooding feel to it. And that’s just to start with. Then the tension and peril really begins to ratchet up with increasing rapidity as Morrigan gradually starts to realise just how much trouble she’s really in. But, that’s what you get for being moody!! If Morrigan manages to survive, and somehow save her dysfunctional family and the unappreciative townsfolk in the process, maybe she’ll lighten up a bit! Recommended.


Buy The Scarecrow Princess and read the Page 45 review here

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

Haha! Even the title’s an additional pun! Brilliant!

And this humour-lit history lesson is indeed brilliant, like all former CORPSE TALKs you’ll find reviewed at so much length in Page 45’s Phoenix Comic Collection Section that I have honestly now run out of words.

Off you trot that away, please! And make sure you take a good gander at my review of Adam and Lisa’s LOST TALES too: it won a Blue Peter Award and they’re not dished out lightly.

“The third amazing thematic Corpse Talk book – all about the most astonishing rulers from history ever! Adam Murphy interviews the high-and-mighty men and women who changed the world – getting their stories straight from the corpses’ mouths! Reading Corpse Talk: Queens and Kings is like having history turned upside-down! It guarantees laughs, surprises, and a whole host of facts told to you by the rulers from all over the world, themselves. From Cleopatra to Queen Vic to Moctezuma, these are some royals with stunning tales to tell…”

It is all 100% historically accurate. The comedy lies in the telling, not messing around with recorded facts.


Buy Corpse Talk Queens & Kings And Other Royal Rotters and read the Page 45 review here

Batman: Dark Knight Master Race s/c (£22-99, DC) by Frank Miller, Brian Azzarello & Andy Kubert.

Now out in softcover.

“Hey, good-looking!”
“You make a pretty convincing Batman.”
“You think so?”
“You got mad game. Did he train you?”
“Bruce Wayne. What’s your name?”
“Bruce Wayne.”
“Bruce Wayne?”
“Bruce Wayne is dead! BRUCE WAYNE IS DEAD! BRUCE…WAYNE… IS…”

“Dead. That’s what you said. How?”

Sequels. Whether it be film or comics, it’s very rare that a sequel matches or even surpasses the original. You might actually wonder why they bother, but I’m not going to pop open that particular can of shark repellent… I mean worms…



BATMAN: DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, from way back in 1986, I hope we can all agree, is a classic of the modern superhero sub-genre. Along with Miller’s DAREDEVIL: BORN AGAIN also from 1986, (soon to be completely bastardised no doubt for the third season of Marvel’s Netflix Daredevil… sigh…), and that other book with the blue person with the funny tattooed forehead in, from yes you guessed it, 1986 (wasn’t that a rather pivotal year in superhero comics?), who will be popping up again in DOOMSDAY CLOCK, they helped shatter the paradigm of what people expected from superhero comics. And thus instantly redefined what people wanted. Shame we’ve had so relatively little of that level of quality since in this niche comics sub-genre.



Its loose sequel, BATMAN: DARK KNIGHT STRIKES AGAIN, from 2001, I would argue, falls into the mis-understood classic category. People wanted more of the same, and Frank dared to give them something different. Thus many people didn’t get it initially, like myself I will very freely admit, but then upon a second read I loved it, because it had something very distinct of its own to say.

Fast forward to 2011 and the Threequel that wasn’t, when we had HOLY TERROR, originally intended to be Holy Terror, Batman! Frank had something to get off his chest post-9/11, it was just that DC wasn’t comfortable with it being a Dark Knight Bat-book, so Batman became The Fixer, taking out Al Qaeda wholesale in New York City. I found it a bit one-dimensional, frankly, veering dangerously towards crypto-fascism and possibly even a teeny-weeny bit racist (just a personal opinion…) and I think the safest thing I can say about it… is that probably absolutely no one regards it as a classic… Given Frank’s well-documented wider health struggles over recent years, I genuinely wonder how he himself regards it now.



So, rolling forward to 2017… What has Frank got to say this time? Well… interestingly he was paired up with Brian Azzarello for the storytelling. I have absolutely no idea who has done exactly what but I’m guessing Frank came up with the plot outline and Brian helped whip the script into shape. Probably like Ben Hur riding a chariot. Before we go any further on that score, I will say Andy Kubert on pencils, Klaus Janson on inks and indeed Brad Anderson on colours are all superb, hitting the heights you want on a book as much anticipated as this. Right, back to the writing…

I read this initially as it was coming out in issues and my thoughts at the time were it got off to an exceptionally strong start in the first couple of issues, neatly reprising certain conceits from BATMAN: DARK KNIGHT RETURNS like the talk show hosts providing their own one-eyed politicised commentaries, plus updating neat little devices like the television-framed footage to mobile hand-held devices so indicative of our modern social-media sharing society. It then seemed to sag somewhat in the middle, but that was in part definitely due to the delays in release, before seeming to finish strongly enough. It definitely benefitted hugely from being re-read in one go.



In terms of the story, Superman and Wonder Woman now have two children, the teenage Lara and the infant Jonathan, neatly paying a sweet nomenclaturical tribute to both Clark’s Kryptonian and human roots. Though old Big Blue himself has skulked off the Fortress of Solitude to wallow in self-pity, partly due to the events of BATMAN: DARK KNIGHT STRIKES AGAIN, entirely encasing himself in ice, leaving Diana to take on the parenting duties alone! Consequently she’s struggling with rebellious teen Lara, who definitely sees herself as old-school Kryptonian and not remotely compassionate towards humanity. Carrie Kelly, meanwhile, Robin from the previous two Dark Knight works you may recall, seems to have replaced the late Bruce Wayne, finally killed in action three years previously, as Batman. He’s not dead, obviously.

“This mean you’re not dead anymore, Boss?”

‘This’ being the thousand Kandorians, let loose entirely due to the good intentions of Dr. Ray Palmer aka The Atom and rather less so of Lara, who led by the murderous Quar have decided to take over the Earth and if mankind doesn’t start worshipping them and doing exactly what Quar wants, be wiped off the face of the globe. If only Bruce Wayne wasn’t dead, if only someone could persuade Clark out of his self-imposed isolation, if only Diana wasn’t too busy looking after the baby to help… The rest of the Justice League might be useful too, I reckon… If only someone could do some additional tie-in mini-comics about them…



This is definitely a more straightforward work than either of its two predecessors. It does however have some distinct on-point things to say about the current state of the world we live in. And the current orange President makes a typically excruciating appearance. For the most part, it says them very eloquently, often rather amusingly and with some considerable degree of wit, and rather even-handedly. There are only two things I wish had been done differently. I wish Quar had had a less Arabic sounding name. And that his ‘wives’ weren’t wearing garb akin to that you would see a Saudi prince dressed in. Those two points just made me slightly uncomfortable.

Miller obviously wishes to very overtly draw the analogy with ISIS and their insane desire for hegemony at all costs. He clearly does, and actually, I suppose that is fine, but it just felt slightly unnecessary for those two strident embellishments to make it so obvious. If it weren’t for HOLY TERROR, and also some of his previous statements, they might not have bothered me at all, but because of that, I was probably subconsciously looking for something of that ilk, which I consequently found. I am aware he still feels very strongly about the events of 9/11 and he clearly still wants to express that in his comics, so perhaps it wasn’t surprising.



Where any such imbalance, real or not, is entirely redressed, at least in comics terms, is in that which was entirely lacking in HOLY TERROR, for this work has humanity and heart by the bucket load. There are some big emotional swings and personal journeys for various characters in this work, not least one stinging betrayal and dramatic redemption in particular, but this book also feels like Frank Miller’s redemption, partial or whole depending on your viewpoint, to me, again, in comics terms. He can still clearly write good comics, even with the unquantifiable assistance of Brian Azarello, which for all I know was something DC insisted upon for editorial control reasons. Anyway, as a team they certainly worked very well together.

This delightfully chunky softocover collects all nine issues of the main Master Race series, plus the additional very enjoyable mini-comics that came stapled into the middle of the issues, featuring all the various major old school Justice League members in a full set of cameos, with art from Eduardo Risso and John Romita Jr. How’s that for two fill-in artists?! There are also a few sketch pages and pin ups chucked in for good measure. Shame they didn’t include the 57-page DARK KNIGHT RETURNS prequel one-shot THE LAST CRUSADE, also co-written with Azarello, with its delightfully twisted, exquisitely painful ending, that came out in the middle of this run of issues. Still, at £22-99 for all that material, which Marvel would no doubt have been trying to charge at least another fifteen quid for, it’s very good value indeed.

Will this go down as a classic? I’m not sure, but it’s certainly an extremely good sequel well worth the price of admission.


Buy Batman: Dark Knight Master Race 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’.

Berlin (Complete) h/c (£35-00, Drawn & Quarterly) by Jason Lutes

Woman World (£17-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Aminder Dhaliwal

Roly Poly: Phanta’s Story h/c (£17-99, Fantagraphics) by Daniel Semanas

A City Inside h/c (£12-99, Avery Hill) by Tillie Walden

A New Jerusalem (£12-99, New Internationalist) by Benjamin Dickson

Age Of Bronze vol 1 s/c (£17-99, Image) by Eric Shanower

Dry County s/c (£14-99, Image) by Rich Tommaso

Eric (£24-99, Robots & Monkey Publishing) by Tom Manning

Hilda And The Hidden People h/c (Prose) (£9-99, Flying Eye Books) by Stephen Davis, Luke Pearson

I Feel Machine (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by Krent Able, Box Brown, Julian Hanshaw, Erik Svetoft, Shaun Tan, Tillie Walden

Kick-Ass: The New Girl vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Image) by Mark Millar & John Romita Jr.

Oblivion Song vol 1 s/c (£8-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Lorenzo De Felici

Penguins (£22-99, Fantagraphics) by Nick Thorburn

Slam! vol 2: The Next Jam (£13-99, Image) by Pamela Ribon & Veronica Fish

Strangers In Paradise XXV vol 1: The Chase s/c (£14-50, Abstract Studio) by Terry Moore

Darth Vader: Dark Lord Of The Sith vol 3: Burning Seas s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Charles Soule & Giuseppe Camuncoli

Star Wars: Thrawn s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Jody Houser & Luke Ross

All-Star Batman vol 3: The First Ally s/c (£14-99, DC) by Scott Snyder, Rafae Scavone & Rafael Albuquerque, Sebastian Fiumara

Justice League vol 7: Justice Lost s/c (Rebirth) (£12-99, DC) by Christopher Priest & Pete Woods, Ian Churchill, Philippe Briones

Nightwing vol 6: The Untouchable s/c (£16-99, DC) by Sam Humphries, various & Bernard Chang, various

Superman And The Legion Of Superheroes s/c (£13-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Gary Franks

Wonder Woman vol 6: Children Of The Gods s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by James Robinson & Carlo Pagulayan, various

Fragments Of Horror h/c (£10-99, Viz) by Junji Ito


Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews September 2018 week one

Wednesday, September 5th, 2018

I’ve been out of the country for a week and am still (allegedly) on holiday, so all reviews this week are by Jonathan.

Featuring Fiona Smyth, Michael DeForge, Jessica Campbell, Kristen Gudsnuk, Tom King, Mike Mignola, Inio Asano, Noah Van Sciver and more…

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

I must confess, Fiona Smyth was not a name I was familiar with. But she’s been cranking out the comics for nigh on thirty five years now. Based out of Toronto this kaleidoscope black and white collection of shorts, oddities and err… short oddities… certainly made sure I knew what she was all about by the time I completed it.

Here’s the publisher’s sweet sleep-inducing murmurings to initiate a waking dream and enter the sequential art supra-consciousness…

“Collecting a career in comics from 1983-2017 by a joyous, feminist contemporary of Julie Doucet, Seth, and Chester Brown… by Canadian cartoonist, painter, and illustrator Fiona Smyth. Over thirty years of comics that feature Fiona’s world of sexy ladies, precocious girls, and vindictive goddesses is revealed in all its feminist glory. This is recommended reading for sleepwalkers on a female planet.”



I certainly get the Julie MY MOST SECRET DESIRE Doucet comparison, though the big difference is that Julie’s comics are much more straightforward and grounded in reality than this material which is much more visual and far less narrative driven. It feels like comics by someone who is also a painter and illustrator rather than comics being their primary / solo medium of communication.

I don’t mean that as a slight, far from it, as the storytelling is most certainly there, but the visuals feel like Fiona’s chosen primary tool of engaging the reader. The key sentence in the blurb is most definitely “Fiona’s world of sexy ladies, precocious girls, and vindictive goddesses is revealed in all its feminist glory”. This is no salacious tome of titivation, not at all, yet there is a fair degree of artistic adult content with the ladies firmly on equal terms, if not on top. Figuratively speaking, I should add.



I might personally have chucked in a comparison to Lynda WHAT IT IS Barry, Donna DESERT PEACH Barr, Roberta NAUGHTY BITS Gregory and also Peter KAFKAESQUE Kuper too for various stylistic and story-telling reasons. Plus the material has at times a sense of the romantic bawdiness Jess CHESTER 5000 XYZ Fink has in abundance.



I’m also intrigued how Fiona feels about being name-checked alongside Chester PAYING FOR IT Brown given her feminist credentials… I’d like to ask her as based on this selection of zany / insane material, she certainly seems as though she’d be extremely interesting to have a conversation with. I don’t get the Seth comparison either, aside from the Canadian connection.

Anyway, it’s always great to see a chunky retrospective collection of a hard-working talented comics creator hit the shelves. I’m sure much like Chris THE NEW WORLD – COMICS FROM MAURETANIA Reynolds this will introduce Fiona to a new generation, indeed generations, of devotees.


Buy Somnambulance and read the Page 45 review here

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

Collects fifteen, count ‘em, fifteen short stories most of which (possibly all, I’m really not sure) have previously appeared, according to the blurb in the back, in Michael’s ad-hoc LOSE series of comics for Koyama Press, ON TOPICS comics for Breakdown Press, KRAMERS ERGOT #9 (volume 10 coming in February 2019 by the way eclectic comics fans) and ISLAND #10*.

The man is certainly prolific… and perhaps a little unhinged. He seems to have an obsession with transmogrification, for sure, amongst other oddities. He is also a huge favourite of mine!

Happily for me, and also therefore I suspect all but the most ardent and on-point DeForge fans, especially given the spotty availability and small print runs of much of his periodical output, there were probably about half the tales in this collection which I hadn’t read before. So, even if you have some of this material already, the collection is still very much worth picking up.

* This is actually wrong, weirdly. The story, Mostly Saturn, which I’m about to reprise my mini-review of below, didn’t appear in ISLAND #10, but in fact ISLAND #8. He was also slated to have something in ISLAND #10, which probably was this particular story, but it must have then got pulled forward into #8 for some reason. I remember it well, because I was a) surprised to find he had something in #8, then disappointed when he didn’t have something else in #10! (Note: whilst they are not on our website, at time of typing, we still have ISLAND #4,#5,#7,#8,#9,#10,#13,#15 on the shelves).

Right… on with the review…

“This probably seems like a big decision.
“I’m certainly thankful it’s not my decision to make.
“But if it’s helpful, try thinking of it this way instead.
“It’s not a big decision.
“It’s just one decision.
“In a lifetime of others.”

This is the US Vice President, who has kindly been given an impossible conundrum to crack by Michael DeForge. For in this extended self-contained yarn, whenever an American citizen dies they are reincarnated as an alien in a Utopian colony on Saturn. Why? No one knows.

Just like no one has any idea why these new arrivals reincorporate at the exact age they were at the time of their death before they gradually begin de-ageing, Benjamin Button-fashion, to nothingness.



What happens to them then? You’ve guessed it, no one knows. It’s not surprising therefore that more than a few Americans have decided to take matters into their own hands and head off for this brave new world, the President included, leaving the VP up to his neck in it.



Where will it all end? Fortunately for us, Michael DeForge does know and if you read this, you will too!

* But not if read you ISLAND #10… No, then you will just be left wondering forever before you… well, whatever you believe happens when you pop off the planet. Unless you buy this collection, of course…


Buy A Western World and read the Page 45 review here

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

“Oh yeah, I’m Jessica Campbell”
“QUIET! Who gave you this name?”
“Uh… my parents…
“But, uh… maybe you’re thinking of the actress from “Election?”
“Or, uh, the contemporary Christian music singer?
“Or the college circuit comedienne?”
“Commander! We must kill her!”
“NO! Let me introduce myself… I am Commander Jessica Campbell.”

Gasp indeed! But how can a woman who has been in stasis for seven hundred years, the sole remaining inhabitant of that world, have the same name as the doughty leader of a desperate space expedition to find males for a planet full of females to mate with to save their race?

It’s a fair question…



And you will eventually get all the answers in this ribald and ridiculous space burlesque. Just don’t expect any hard sci-fi along the way. Lots of laughs and poking fun at Incels for sure, though, which is never a bad thing. In its delightfully daft tone and saucy it minds me a little bit of Jess Fink’s time travel travail WE CAN FIX IT!



Art-wise – and on the farce front too – I can see strong elements of James MECHABOYS Kochalka. So if you’re a fan of his particular brand of insouciantly preposterous, this is definitely for you.


Buy XTC69 and read the Page 45 review here

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

“How can you be cool when trying to be cool makes you not cool?”
“Because people can smell your desperation. Just, like, exist. Exist whilst not caring what other people think.”

The irony being that Madison, the arbiter of cool, only exists at all because Danielle created her. Madison isn’t aware of that. Yet…

Back in my day, we only had the Fonz to advise on these matters… Anyway, here’s a surprisingly detailed synopsis provided by Scholastic the publisher about how Danny got herself into this particular pickle of popularity craving. Pay attention you at the back there!

“Danielle needs a perfect friend, but sometimes making (or creating) one is a lot easier than keeping one! Sixth grade was so much easier for Danny. All her friends were in the same room and she knew exactly what to expect out of life. Now that she’s in seventh grade, she’s in a new middle school, her friends are in different classes and forming new cliques, and she is totally, completely lost.

“What Danny really needs is a new best friend! So when she inherits a magic sketchbook from her eccentric great-aunt in which anything she sketches in it comes to life, she draws Madison, the most amazing, perfect, and awesome best friend ever. The thing is, even when you create a best friend, there’s no guarantee they’ll always be your best friend. Especially when they discover they’ve been created with magic!”

Yes… for Madison does indeed discover that she isn’t the transfer student with the out-of-town parents that she thought she was and well, it goes pretty much how you might imagine in terms of Madison and Danielle’s budding friendship. Fortunately for Danielle she also has the disembodied floating head of the evil, though rather dishy, Prince Neptune from her favourite anime, who was her first accidental creation, to keep her company. His advice tends to be more of the blunt just-don’t-give-a-whatsit variety, rather than how to win friends and influence people, plus despite being without a torso he’s not entirely given up on global domination…



This crackpot blend of magic and moral message works extremely well. Whilst it might not get into as anywhere near as thorough an examination of friendship as Shannon Hale’s REAL FRIENDS which should be recommended reading for all young people, particularly girls, it has sufficient punch to make it distinct from just another fun, frivolous adventure.

The art style will remind you of many, many different creators, not least Bryan Lee SCOTT PILGRIM O’Malley, though less polished. It has more than a look of the STEVEN UNIVERSE TV show (and comic spin-offs!) too. In other words, ideal for such a delightfully off-beat story. The ending, when it comes, is suitably epically chaotic and entirely appropriate given Danielle’s avid love of anime! The real moral of the story? If you do have access to a magic sketchbook, don’t draw a nasty noggin with a penchant for tyrannical terror…


Buy Making Friends and read the Page 45 review here

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

Actually the end was here on August 30th 2016 when this excellent kidnapped and having a crisis of faith Kyle Rayner-starring mini-series trade paperback came out. At that point Tom King was really only on my radar for his superb VISION mini-series for Marvel and his intense Iraq-based THE SHERIFF OF BABYLON that may or may not have been informed by his time in the CIA.

I wasn’t that blown away by the start of his current Batman run, being completely frank, but from volume 4 onwards it’s been really rather good, including the exceptional BATMAN VOL 5: THE RULES OF ENGAGEMENT which Stephen reviewed.

I think also possibly, I was still a bit burnt out on all things lantern post-Geoff Johns and I haven’t really enjoyed the various Lantern-based Rebirth titles so I guess just slipped under my radar.

Anyway, this is a very enjoyable self-contained work about Kyle Rayner getting himself abducted on the far side of the Universe by a group of freedom fighters / terrorists trying to free an entire galaxy, developing Stockholm Syndrome as they try to turn him to their cause but possibly engendering a wee bit of the lesser-known Lima Syndrome in his captors too.

It perhaps doesn’t take too much to see Tom King might be leaning on his previous career a little bit here!



The result is an extremely well-written story which touches on the falsehoods of public politics and organised religion and the myriad foibles of their representatives, but also deals very cleverly with the dichotomy of perception regarding the hero or villain status of those taking up armed insurrection. Plus just delivers a devilishly tight capes n’ tights caper. Which I submit to you is a tongue twister even Eel O’Brian might have some difficultly with…

Wonderful art from Barnaby Bagenda who sounds like someone who ought have a sideline in writing tongue twisters, but happily he clearly doesn’t need to give up the day job based on the evidence of this work. I must confess I hadn’t heard of him before but he’s a real talent.



It all just goes to prove superhero yarns can be thought provoking if someone has the talent, the inclination and gets given the freedom from the corporate overlords to write a decent story.


Buy The Omega Men: The End Is Here s/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

Right, apparently you’ve all been clamouring for this. Well, according to the publisher blurb you have…

“Mike Mignola is one of the most popular comic book artists of the past 30 years, known for such important works as Batman: Gotham by Gaslight, Cosmic Odyssey, and, of course, Hellboy. Considered to be among Mignola’s greatest works, Bram Stoker’s Dracula was his last project before Hellboy launched and was originally released as a full-colour four issue adaptation of Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 movie released by Columbia Pictures (Sony). Unavailable for nearly 25 years, and collected here for the first time ever in gorgeous black and white, Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a book fans have long been clamouring for… and the wait is finally over.”



So it’s actually Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula then? Or, given he did the movie script, Roy Thomas’ Dracula. I really rather enjoyed the much-maligned film in question which cast Gary Oldman as the tragic figure of Prince Vlad Dracula of Szeklys, who renounced his Christian God and cursed himself forever upon learning of the suicide of his beloved wife, who believed Vlad had fallen in battle against the Turkish hordes invading his homeland. I thought it was a rather different take on the character and intriguing twist on the classic story, making it a doomed romance between Dracula and Mina.



I’ve no idea why this collection is in black and white as opposed to colour, which the original issues were, but it’s still that instantly recognisable Mignola style and is incredibly atmospheric with extensive use of heavy shadow. It sounds like the only source for the artwork might have been Mignola’s original pencilled pages, a few of which are reproduced without John Nyberg’s inks at the back. So presumably the decision was made not to redo it in colour purely for artistic reasons.


Buy Bram Stoker’s Dracula h/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

“What… are we… doing here?”

Errr… reading reviews?

So, volume 2 of Inio GOODNIGHT PUNPUN / SOLANIN / GIRL ON THE SHORE Asano’s latest round of lunacy sees the most rubbish alien invasion ever take another surreal turn as one of the extraterrestrial interlopers dons a human disguise to walk amongst us. Meanwhile Kadode Koyama and her school chums just blithely continue on worrying about exams without a care in the world about the huge mothership hovering over Tokyo. I really have no idea whatsoever where the story is going.

As before, Asano takes great delight in sending up various ridiculous manga tropes, which is another wonderful element to this work that elevates the mischief factor even further. For example, a mere nine pages in and we get the gratuitous up-skirt panty shot. Except these panties have KILL stencilled on them in massive capital letters. The look on the face of the passing boy with headphones on, who inadvertently catches a glimpse as Kadode’s best chum Ouran performs an acrobatic free-running leap over his head is priceless. Sadly I could only find one of the preceding pages online…



For much more on the crackpot characters and bizarre goings-on please read the extensive review of DEAD DEAD DEMON’S DEDEDEDE DESTRUCTION VOL 1.


Buy Dead Dead Demon’s Dededede Destruction vol 2 and read the Page 45 review here

More Copies Found!

Disquiet (£17-99, Fantagraphics) by Noah Van Sciver…

“Why’d you run away, Dad?”
“From Mom and me. How could you do that? How could you be so selfish? We needed you.”
“Hold on a minute.”
“Not having you around really fucked me up. Mum had to work at an art store. We were poor. Where were you?”
“Is this what you found me for? To confront me?”
“I’m trying to understand you.”
“If I could go back in time there’s a lot of things I would do differently.”
“You wouldn’t have run out on us? You would’ve stayed with mom?”
“I wouldn’t have married your mom.”
“And where does that leave me? In the same spot?”
“You’re a grown man now, Nathan. I’m sorry for any problems you have, but part of being an adult is to stop blaming your parents for whatever shortcomings you have. That’s pretty basic.”

The Archduke of downbeat returns with a collection of 14 shorts that range from the darkly comedic to just plain dark.



This selection of early and more current material showcases both Noah’s prodigious writing talent and evolving artistic capabilities, covering tales such as the black and white ‘Dive Into The Black River’ and also ‘Down In A Hole’ that have that bittersweet impending car crash feel, and look, of his longer form SAINT COLE.



Then there are the more overtly humorous pieces such as the colour ‘Untitled’ that minded me of the brutally farcical FANTE BUKOWSKI. The second volume of FANTE has now been published since we first ran this review, and I did chuckle to see the not-so-great man of literature himself sat on a bench, note pad in hand, bottle at his feet, as a bonus extra between two stories. Plus Noah also revisits his love of the period yarn a couple of times (as in the sadly out of print THE HYPO: THE MELANCHOLIC YOUNG LINCOLN) with particular period linguistic vigour in ‘The Death Of Elijah Lovejoy’ about a Presbyterian newspaper editor who had dared to take a stand against the lynching of an escaped slave.



I only see Noah on an upward trajectory, I have a feeling there’s much, much more to come from him. He seems such an unassuming chap as well, even down his recent assertion that he only has the 4th best moustache in comics! It’s a real bushy belter of an ’80s Tom Selleck Magnum PI number which I suspect and sincerely hope has been grown for entirely comedic effect. I am also intrigued as to who he ranks as 1, 2 and 3! He seems like a real sweetie, he must be because he’s even managed to get his ex-girlfriend to write a very endearing and only mildly revealing foreword for him. Why am I not surprised he’s a Belle and Sebastian fan?


Buy Disquiet 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’.


Hellboy Omnibus vol 4 s/c (£22-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola

Sullivans Sluggers (£16-99, Dark Horse) by Mark Andrew Smith & James Stokoe

Me And My Fear (£12-99, Flying Eye Books) by Francesca Sanna

Monstress vol 3: Haven s/c (£14-99, Image) by Marjorie M. Liu & Sana Takeda

Prism Stalker vol 1 s/c (£13-99, Image) by Sloane Leong

The Fix vol 3: Deal Of Fortune s/c (£14-99, Image) by Nick Spencer & Steve Lieber

Twisted Romance s/c (£14-99, Image) by Alex De Campi, various & Katie Skelly, various

Walking Dead vol 30: New World Order (£14-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard

Scarecrow Princess (£13-99, Roar) by Federico Rossi Edrighi

Beatles Yellow Submarine h/c (£26-99, Titan) by Bill Morrison

Batman / Catwoman: The Wedding Album Deluxe Edition h/c (Rebirth) (£15-99, DC) by Tom King & David Finch

Batman: Dark Knight Master Race s/c (£22-99, DC) by Frank Miller, Brian Azzarello & Andy Kubert

Batman: Detective Comics vol 7: Batman Eternal s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by James Tynion IV & various

Batman: Preludes To The Wedding s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Tom King, Tim Seeley & various

Wolverine: Old Man Logan vol 8: To Kill For s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Ed Brisson & Talajic Dalibor, Ibraim Roberson

X-Men Red vol 1: Hate Machine s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Tom Taylor & Mahmud A. Asrar

Gantz Omnibus vol 1 (£22-99, Dark Horse) by Hiroya Oku