Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews September 2018 week one

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

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