Archive for October, 2018

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews October 2018 week four

Wednesday, October 31st, 2018

Featuring Una, Dave McKean, Brenden Fletcher, Karl Kerschl, Msassyk, Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Avon Oeming, Brian Froud, Joshua Dysart, Matthew Dow Smith, Alex Sherman

Cree (Sketched & Signed) (£12-99, Mayfly) by Una…

“There was a time I felt completely alone… Now I’m among friends I wonder how I lived like that for so long.

“Joy cuts through every day like a sunbeam. I see beauty everywhere.
“When I finally turned to face the world with a sense of honesty and courage, I found it less fearsome than I’d imagined and much more ordinary.”

Now, just in case you don’t know, and I certainly didn’t, I will let Una explain what a ‘Cree’ is, which she kindly does in her afterword, “…a Cree is a place you go to escape the world, make and fix things and find peace…” Now, for Una, that’s her garden shed, but for the ladies portrayed here in the North East it’s their group where they get together at the Just For Women Centre in Stanley, County Durham to do some crafting and just be themselves.



It’s a real place, the Just For Women Centre in Stanley, County Durham. A social enterprise run by women, for women, offering all kinds of support and services, advice and education. As you might well imagine, it’s a vital lifeline for women who have, and continue to, endure some tough times. The main character, here, Jolene, is just one such woman. We don’t find out about her particular circumstances that bring her to catch the bus into Stanley from the countryside, attend the Cree, before making the return journey home again, but that’s not what’s important.

No, it’s the transformational power of the Cree to change a person’s state of mind for the better that is the key thing to take away from this work. Through shared experience and communication in a safe and stimulating environment. We see this profound effect for ourselves as evidenced by the uplift in Jolene’s private thoughts on the return leg of her commute, empowered and reinvigorated by her crafting session and natter with her confidantes…

“Starting again… It’s not easy, but it’s possible.
“I don’t where I’m headed next, but I’ll not go round in circles again. Not now. Not ever.”

What a wonderfully uplifting work! And brilliantly constructed, or should I say, crafted. Firstly, I found Una’s use of words during Jolene’s two bus-ride soliloquies immensely moving, which combined beautifully with the imagery, such as an overhead shot of a roundabout juxtaposed with the circles quote above. Comics perfection! On that poetic point, I would put this work up there with Tim Bird’s award winning FROM THE CITY TO THE SEA.



The art style is a mix of vibrant foreground colours and little to no background throughout, which gives this work a very much handcrafted and therefore personal feel. As with her other works like BECOMING UNBECOMING and ON SANITY there are also several panel and page compositional devices that further draw you in. For example, there is a very clever use of perspective and vanishing points going on in several pages of Jolene’s journey where often she isn’t visible to the reader. The sense of motion, of moving towards a destination, is tangible. Those sections are deliberately minimal in their content, with immense stretches of white background, but have an almost cubist feel in their layout and use of blocks of colour. There are also a couple of expansive foldout pages that welcome you into the Cree itself as Jolene arrives at the Centre and greets her friends. It’s abundantly clear throughout just how much thought Una has put into this work, of the combination of words and images.



On that note, Una also leaves us with something to think about on the nature of thinking. It’s not something that had ever occurred to me before but I reckon she’s onto something, you know. It’s also presented in a rather hilarious manner that actually makes you start to realise probably just how very true it is. I’m not going to spoil it for you by revealing it, I’ll let you discover it for yourselves, but it just goes to show what an accomplished comics creator Una is.

As well as a wonderful human being whom it was a pleasure to play host to in Page 45’s Georgian Room at the Lakes International Comics Art Festival 2018.


Buy Cree (Sketched & Signed) and read the Page 45 review here

Isola vol 1 s/c (£8-99, Image) by Brenden Fletcher, Karl Kerschl & Karl Kerschl, Msassyk.

The cat and the captain have a long way to travel.

Stealthily they prowl across wetlands, through meadow valleys lush with summer-green trees, and over buzzing forest floors which prickle with humidity during daylight, then fall to dark, dank and dangerous at night.

The fabled island of Isola lies far, far away and, they say, is surrounded by vast stretches of water. It is also said that the souls of the dead reside there. But no one knows if it actually exists.

The cat and the captain have a long way to travel, without any guarantee that they’ll ever get there.

That’s one of the reasons. There are so many more.

This first issue opens on a night of natural indigo, high up on a mountain range commanding spectacular views which are obliterated by sheets of driving rain.



The soldier sits guard outside the tarpaulin tent in a Moebius hat, fur-trimmed cloak, leather boots and leggings. Her lance-like spear is struck, up-ended and so ready in the ground. Under the tarpaulin sleeps the adult tiger, but its rump and tail stick out the back, so the loyal soldier shelters its hind with her shawl.

A ssssss-ssssssound from one side attracts her attention, luring the Captain from her vigil. Repeated, she falls for its call, cautiously following it, bent-over under gnarled, twisted tree-trunks which look more like roots rising from the craggy terrain. And there sits a fox with eyes glowing gold, perched upon what…? A stone seat upon a stone pole? There are others. Did they once house a feral parliament or perhaps a raised rail?



She follows the fox down into a major brook and the colours shift subtly, introducing more than a hint of lambent green. And there lies her charge: the tiger, shot dead on the river-bank with a flash-flurry of arrows.

“No! No! This is all my fault!”
“Yyyyyyessssss” the sound seems to say, backwards, upside down.
“I’ll kill you for this! You hear me?”

Then the tiger disappears… The arrows disappear… And she’s left standing all alone in the water.

Hello! How are you doing? This is terrific!

Don’t worry, come morning, the big cat rises from the tent and braces itself against itself, stretching its back/spine and sinews under the more golden glow of an early dawn.



It leaps up the rocks to gain the best vantage point and take in the lie – and so lay – of the land. But it looks back. Back to an island from whose distant, highest peak rises a dark plume of dense, ugly smoke in front of the breath-taking aurora.

And it laments.

It doesn’t speak – this creature cannot speak – but it laments. It’s all evident in its ever so suggestive but underplayed body language.



Time and again, I’ve written about artist Sean Phillips as an exceptional character actor (most recently in KILL OR BE KILLED and THE FADE OUT reviews), and that’s what our best comicbook artists are. Karl Keschl does the same here for the feline, and it is done with quiet and controlled dignity but also decisiveness as befits the tiger’s true nature.

Like me, you too will be bursting with delirious conjecture yourselves. That’s exactly how it should be. This is both exquisitely beautiful and so supremely well judged, not least for throwing you in half-way through the equivalent of any other chapter two without a clue as to what has transpired so far. You are now embarked – and so invested – with the captain and the cat on their journey.

Neat trick #1: I love the luminous glow of the tiger’s inverse stripes once the sun hits their spots. But only then, for the lighting and shadow do so much to illuminate the big cat’s muscular form. There is a degree of tranquillity and calm which others would have jettisoned in favour of spectacle and show.



Neat trick #2: they’re a party of two, but only one of them can speak. This is pretty brave storytelling, and it is impressively successful. The Captain can only infer from the cat’s cool, calm but occasionally halting stares and glares, how she / he / it is reacting to what’s thrust against them. Nor can the captain know for sure that what she suggests is fully understood, though I think it is.

You will encounter others on your way, for they will encounter others on their way.

But you just know that they can never go home.



Top tip: ‘isola’ (ee-so-lah) is Italian for ‘island’.

Due to deference paid by the soldier to the big cat, you may by now have guessed that she isn’t simply a tiger, but that personal pronoun is all I’m giving away. As their perilous journey progresses and they become separated, you will discover other denizens of this world who may not be entirely human either.

You’re going to be treated to the lushes of landscapes in every weather, and I, for one, am a sucker for rain under canvas as anyone who’s read Luke Pearson’s all-ages HILDA AND THE TROLL will already know.




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

Dave McKean’s Short Films h/c & Blu-Ray (£22-99, Dark Horse) by Dave McKean…

“Dave demands his characters agonize over the meaning of life but he forces us to take the roller-coaster ride as well… right to the heart of the creative process–his words and drawings cascading across the page in perfectly structured cacophony. Beautiful!”–Terry Gilliam


So what mixed-media madness do you get for your moolah then? I shall let the publisher proudly proclaim all. And I do mean all…

“Dark Horse proudly presents Dave McKean’s short cinema on Blu-Ray included in a behind the scenes 9 1/2′ x 11′ hardcover book featuring photos, posters, stills, drawings, and more. A must-have for McKean fans!”

Yes, from the creator of CAGES, BLACK DOG etc, and contributor to 2018’s TRACES OF THE GREAT WAR anthology, here is the Blu-Ray breakdown:

“Week Before – 23 minutes – Inspired by the music of Django Reinhardt, a story about two neighbours, God and The Devil.

Neon – 27 minutes – This film is narrated by Velvet Underground founder John Cale and was first prize winner at Clermont-Ferrand (one of most prestigious short film festivals in the world).

Whack! – 14 minutes – Based on Mr. Punch graphic novel by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean.

Displacements – 14 minutes – A combination of three short films featuring Michael Moorcock, Iain Sinclair, and Ed Dorn.

Dawn – 9 minutes – Filmed after McKeans’s work on the movie Mirrormask, this short is based on the Dark Horse Comics graphic novel Pictures that Tick.

Iain Ballamy & Stian Carstensen – 3 1/2 minutes – A video short of jazz musicians Iain Ballamy & Stian Carstensen.

Sonnet No. 138 – 1 minute – An animated version of one of Shakespeare’s sonnets as part of a large project to turn all of them into short films, the project was subsequently cancelled and all that remains is this short film.

MTV-9/11 Reason – 1 minute – Reason was created to play on Sept. 11th 2002, a year after the terrorist attack in New York in 2001. McKean made this image as an illustration for a memorial book published by Dark Horse, and turned it into a film shortly after.

MTV-World Aids Day – 1 minute – McKean’s short film for MTV on World Aids Day.

Visitors – 15 minutes – Created to be a video shown during live performances for the band Food, this film was shot at the Pacific coastline at Pebble Beach, Point Lobos, Big Sur, Pacific Grove, and at the Monterrey Bay Aquarium.

A short film for Adobe – 4 minutes – Short film of the making of an image, which was the cover of The Particle Tarot.

Signal to Noise – 4 minutes – Based of his own Graphic Novel Signal to Noise.

RAINDANCE 7 – 1 minute – Trailer/Advert for the Raindance Film Festival.

KODAK: TAKE PICTURES FURTHER – 40 minutes – Commissioned by Kodak to launch a new film stock, and consisted of a lavish book, featuring several photographer/ artists, and accompanying ‘making of’ films for each contributor.

BUCKETHEAD -THE BALLAD OF BUCKETHEAD – 4.5 minutes – Dave’s ode to the musician Buckethead

Izzy – 3.5 minutes – Film dedicated to opera singer Izzy, featured on MTV’s Classical Channel.

Lowcraft – 1 minute – A music video made for the band Lowcraft, inspired by the artist Lorenzo Mattotti.

The Old Monkey – 4 minutes – A performance by McKean of a song he wrote for jazz composer Iain Ballamy and poet Matthew Sweeney.

9 Lives: Sheepdip, Johnson and Dupree; 9 Lives: The Cathedral of Trees – 4 minutes – Two short films from a show by McKean called Nine Lives.”

So now you know you’re getting a pretty sizeable bang for your proverbial buck. Which is all well and good, but what do the films actually look like? At this point, we would normally show you a bit of interior art, but that’s clearly not going to cut it on its own… So I think the best thing to do is link to Dave’s own trailer for this book, which is a glorious dada-esque coruscating spin through most of the shorts on the Blu-Ray. You will be utterly mesmerised I promise. I can now see precisely why Terry Gilliam is a fan. As is actor Michael Sheen, who provides an insightful foreword that posits that Dave’s short films are the answer to “How do you fit an elephant into an egg-cup?”

In terms of the paper-based content, each film is introduced in the first person by Dave, explaining its conception and gestation, accompanied by stills and some trademark McKean constructions of imagery. There is also an occasional in-depth article about a particular piece from relevant others.



As a companion to the films themselves, this material all serves to provide a deep insight into Dave’s thought processes and working methods. It certainly gave me pause for thought on a few occasions. The notes accompanying the Whack! film, which originally was intended to add to the classic McKean and Gaiman collaboration THE COMICAL TRAGEDY OR TRAGICAL COMEDY OF MR. PUNCH were utterly fascinating and also disturbing in equal measure!

Certainly one for anyone interested in the art of short film making, but also for anyone interested in learning more about one of this country’s most imaginative and inventive artists and this particular celluloid-flavoured slice of his many, many talents.


Buy Dave McKean’s Short Films h/c & Blu-Ray and read the Page 45 review here

The United States Of Murder Inc. vol 1: Truth s/c (£14-99, DC) by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Avon Oeming.

I won’t fuck about.

If you love the fuck out of Mafia movies then this fucking fuck will have you sweating like fuck, then running for fucking cover, the fucker.

There may also be the occasional expletive.

I don’t know about you but few things terrify me more than the Mafia or its equivalents, like the IRA. I don’t want to get sucked into worlds which leave me impotent and exposed yet from which there is no hope of escape. People with power who are way beyond accountability who can use you and abuse you and demand your submission.

From the creative team who brought you POWERS comes something equally dark but completely free from capes. In a power struggle between some very dangerous men it is so, so tense. I highly recommend it to readers of CRIMINAL.

Here the Mafia were never subdued in America. Instead a considerable portion of the country was conceded to them to rule semi-surreptitiously and with impunity as long as they left the rest of the politicians alone.

Handsome young Valentine is sworn in as a Made Man long before his few years of service would generally merit it. But his father – and his father’s father before him – was of such stock that he was effectively fast-tracked. And Valentine is equally committed to the family.



His first duty is to deliver a message to a Senator in Washington DC. The message was in the form of a briefcase and that, however cryptic to others, would speak for itself. Valentine asked for his cousin to accompany him and reluctantly that was agreed. He didn’t ask for hitwoman Jagger Rose to accompany him but she was persuasive, effective, so reluctantly he agreed.

The message was seemingly delivered but another was sent in its place: the detonation of a bomb, blowing up said Senator. Nobody knows what it means. Or at least, no one will admit to knowing or to being its messenger.

The hunt for the truth behind the bomb blast is on and it’s a race against time because Valentine and Jagger Rose – although caught in its path – are the most obvious prime suspects. They’re wanted more dead than alive by the government, the families in general and their very own family in particular who claim to their faces that Valentine and Jagger have betrayed them.



Whom do they trust? Whom do you trust? Who has set whom up and why?

Oeming and Soma have delivered something dark, stark, brooding and sweaty: claustrophobic and unsettlingly lit. The colours are far from naturalistic and occasionally venomous – I’m thinking the intrusion of Valentine’s Ma on her son and Jagger Rose – while the first page’s flashback in chapter two was a wee bit Hernandez. Lots and lots of silhouettes. Quite a lot of crimson.



It’s jagged and nasty and grotesque. The faces are like masks when you can see them at all. So often all you get are the eyes, burning with bitterness or hatred. So much of this is instinctively delivered, expressionistic, like lines of reverse silhouettes or tiny side-panels offering background chatter, the rolling of dice and the cocking or firing of guns.



I haven’t told you everything. Valentine has been set up, I can assure you of that. But was it by his own don, another family, Rose herself or another party? Because in the very first chapter immediately after being sworn in to the mafia family and its innermost circle whom Valentine has been raised to love with all his heart, he is called to one side by his mother.

And she tells him a secret.

I’ve never known a series with so many reversals so early on then repeated throughout right to the very last page. I rated POWERS. I rated it very highly. I am big fan of Bendis to a degree that is almost unseemly. Pop him in our search engine and see for yourself!

But this is on another level from POWERS completely.


Buy The United States Of Murder Inc. vol 1: Truth s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Jim Henson’s Dark Crystal Creation Myths Trilogy s/c Box Set (£26-99, Archaia) by Brian Froud, Joshua Dysart, Matthew Dow Smith & Alex Sherman.

All three softcovers in a sturdy slipcase, this shouldn’t be confused with THE POWER OF THE DARK CRYSTAL three-piece series which, against all odds and prior history, we do have in stock and in depth. Never once before have we managed to acquire all three DARK CRYSTAL CREATION MYTHS for the shelves at the same time!

Five years ago, Tom wrote of volume one:

Has it really been thirty years since this beautiful fantasy first came to the cinema?

Brian Froud’s designs for this film gave the story a weight the technical skill of the Jim Henson Co. couldn’t carry alone. While in the film we see a dying world populated by mysterious characters, the world they inhabited was by far the most intriguing aspect the whole. Its ruined structures hinted at past prowess through the undergrowth, and a lot of thought went into what exactly they meant. The strange glyphs and diagrams carved into the buildings and stones weren’t just throwaway aesthetic garnish, but based upon an understanding of the astronomical knowledge of this fictional world’s tri-star system. Which if you remember from the film, orbited the planet Thra and “sung” to the Crystal deep in its bowels. This is symbolised by a series of concentric circles encasing an inverted triangle. From this emblem Henson & Co created not only a world, but a religion, a complex society. Then they destroyed it, leaving us with arcane hints in the fantastic dystopia of Thra.”



In lieu of a review for volume two, I wrote (decidedly off-topic, feel free to ignore):

One of my many nicknames over the years was Gelflin. I know it’s hard to believe these days, what with me looking like the sickly child of Uncle Fester and Nosferatu but with my ski-slope nose I was pretty once…  after the artful application of much slap and kohl.

My primary pseudonym is Peter. It endures to this day in post-punk circles, possibly because it doesn’t sound like a nickname. It was so prevalent in the ‘80s that even the closest of friends sometimes took ten years to realise that my real name was Beelzebub. Peter also owes itself to my ski-slope nose and consequent youthful demeanour: it was Peter as in Peter Pan.


Shut up.



Other nicknames have included Jimmy Dean (must be pronounced in a broad Glaswegian accent), “boss” (no one has actually ever regarded me as their boss – it was pure mockery on Tom’s part) and, when my mother is so often infuriated with me, it’s Herbert Henry Arthur George.

You have to really bellow that one.

All the above is true.


Buy Jim Henson’s Dark Crystal Creation Myths Trilogy s/c Box Set 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’.

Mort Cinder h/c (£26-99, Fantagraphics) by Hector German Oesterheld & Alberto Breccia

Black Science vol 8: Later Than You Think s/c (£14-99, Image) by Rick Remender & Matteo Scalera

Cucumber Quest vol 4: Flower Kingdom s/c (£11-99, FirstSecond) by Gigi D.G.

Dark Justice: Dominion h/c (£19-99, Rebellion) by John Wagner & Nick Percival

Frankenstein Alive, Alive! The Complete Collection h/c (£22-99, IDW) by Steve Niles, Bernie Wrightson, Kelly Jones

Frankenstein Story Collection (£15-99, Viz) by Junji Ito

Last Pick vol 1 (£13-99, FirstSecond) by Jason Walz

Lost Soul, Be At Peace h/c (£10-99, Candlewick Press) by Maggie Thrash

Maestros vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Image) by Steve Skroce

Moonshine vol 2 s/c (£14-99, Image) by Brian Azzarello & Eduardo Risso

Optic Nerve: Killing And Dying s/c (£12-99, Faber & Faber) by Adrian Tomine

Space Boy vol 2 s/c (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Stephen McCranie

The Snooty Bookshop: Fifty Literary Postcards (£12-99, Canongate) by Tom Gauld

Through A Life h/c (£16-99, Nobrow) by Tom Haugomat

Batman: The Dark Prince Charming h/c (£29-99, DC) by Enrico Marini

Man Of Steel By Brian Michael Bendis h/c (£22-99, DC) by Brian Michael Bendis & Ivan Reis, various

Bleach vol 74 (£6-99, Viz) by Tite Kubo

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews October 2018 week three

Wednesday, October 24th, 2018

Featuring Philippa Rice, Kristyna Baczykski, B. Mure, Jeff Lemire, Andrea Sorrentino, Rick Remender, Bengal, Tsutomu Nihei, Lucy Sullivan, John Porcellino, Stan Lee, Steve Ditko

Sister BFFs h/c SIGNED AND SKETCHED IN (£9-99, Andrews McMeel) by Philippa Rice.

Was your brother or sister your very best friend? And have you remained so forever? Or has it been a constant ball-and-chain battlefield from which you have never escaped?

“You’re tacky and boring and I roll my eyes at you so much my eyeball wires have gone curly.”

The disdain in those hooded eyes!

£9-99 for a 140-page full-colour hardcover is ridiculously cheap – the publisher’s bound to notice shortly – and all our initial copies come sketched-in for FREE.

This is tug-of-war territory and most of these battles begin on the sofa.

“Get your feet off me!”
“Sorry, what?”
“They stink of sewage.”
“No, that’s your own breath.”




Quite often Philippa resorts to sitting on Holly in lieu of an argument, in order to extract a retraction or compliant silence. She gets neither.

“The only crush I have… is a crushing despair every time I remember we share a gene pool.”
Your genes aren’t allowed in the pool. They’ve got verrucas!”

It put me in mind of Newman and Baddiel’s “That’s you, that is…” escalating confrontations, except that the comedians’ characters never made up as these two do on occasion, in an alliance of outrage and revenge strategies. Holly’s not above helping out an embattled Philippa, for example, when she’s caught short of make-up in a supermarket where the former “cool guy” from school is spied working on the checkout.  They help themselves to the shelves’ samples of slap, Holly dutifully working her magic.

“You’ve a stubborn face, but I’ve done my best.”



Then some perfume is required.

“What was that? It STINKS!”
“Um… “
“”A striking fragrance designed by the hit boy band TrueGuyz”. I reek of preteen.”

From the creator of SOPPY, WE’RE OUT, ST COLIN AND THE DRAGON, and OUR SOPPY LOVE STORY etc, these snort-inducing comedy shorts star Philippa and her younger sister Holly – who may or may not be real – in conversational snap-shots either in person or by text. At first I suspected that Holly must surely be fictional, but the bathroom intimacy rings way too true for that.



It’s partly the cartooning, but also the hyperbole that’s so hilarious: the extreme and elaborate nature of the put-downs, especially in the cramped train carriage sketch conducted via cell phone. It’s beautifully orchestrated with a dip in the middle so that the tirade erupts almost out of nowhere before being deflected by a virtual non-sequitur from Philippa, after which the target of the ire / petulance is redirected once more towards her sister’s fellow travellers.

Anyway, Holly has just been squashed against a man whose coat “stinks of old smoke and rotting vegetables” and is clearly overdue for a weekend break at a dry cleaner’s. Philippa:

“I’d just spritz it with some deodorant.”
“That’s why you stink.”
“You stink of boiled eggs.”
“You stink of the egg smell that comes out when you open a packet of cooked chicken slices.”
“You do.”
“You bathe in egg-water and use mayo as a face mask and have boiled egg slices on your eyes.”
“Eggs are good for you.”

Rice is immediately recognisable from her autobiographical SOPPY self-portraits. Never one to shy away from self-denigration, there is a delicious panel in which she is shown enthusiastically diving, head-first and with zero dignity, into a bag of her sister’s clothing cast-offs, her rounded bum up in the air, short legs and tiny, white-socked toes waving wildly.



The two BFFs’ rubber-lipped mouths are flapping, yapping things, like hands in glove puppets of ducks, squidged up against the sisters’ faces, making them pudgier, more chubby-cheeked. They were either the inspiration for or inspired by Rice’s hand-crafted woollen animals who star in her ‘Soft Spot’ animations (, composed with SOPPY co-star and the creator of HILDA, Luke Pearson. That’s where I first learned that Philippa could be surprisingly and delightfully rude, and so it is here.

“I hate my hair, I hate my face, and I hate my life.”
“Well, you’ll be dead one day. That’s something to look forward to.”



It’s less Men Behaving Badly, more Children Behaving Competitively, and all the funnier for them being adults. They are obsessed by smells, particularly eggs smells but also bodily function smells and I am heartily relieved that this is not scratch-and-sniff. There’s zero dignity but mass of indignation instead.

Philippa: “I don’t like to think of my organs or innards. I like to think of my body as solid meat all the way through.”
Holly: “I’m solid rage all the way through.”


Buy Sister BFFs h/c SIGNED AND SKETCHED IN and read the Page 45 review here.

Terrible Means (£8-99, Avery Hill Publishing) by B. Mure ~

It started when the plants began to wilt, and was swiftly followed by the river turning black. Something unpleasant is happening in the Republic Of Ismyre and the government seems to be suffering from a bit of a blind spot. Out of sight, out of mind, I suppose. But then, they are rather preoccupied at the moment. A charismatic aristocrat has arrived in town with a marvellous new invention, and along with the endorsement of the utterly self-absorbed Lady Morwen, the powerful and wealthy have all gathered to witness the dazzling new product. Swilling champagne and cooing in awe, their greedy eyes are treated to a masterful display of magic like nothing they have ever seen before…

We’re back in ISMYRE, but in this prequel we are taken beyond the confines of the city boundaries into the rolling hills of the countryside. Here we meet botanist Henriett and his dear friend Sybil, both quite distressed by the condition of the native plants, and mischievous young wizard Emlyn, who is somewhat perturbed by the sudden darkening of the river. What is certain is that all of them have reached the end of their tether with the government wilfully choosing to ignore the dwindling magic of the countryside.



A book as colourful as its cast of characters, Mure uses lashings of translucent layers of watercolour to create a vibrant world that positively glows throughout. With ever so subtle shifts in colour palette the story is given a real pacing, as we begin in a summer-coloured afternoon that transitions to glowing warm dusk, then we’re subdued with sultry, cold blues and purples of the night, before finally being whisked back to life with a pastel-coloured sunrise. It’s a brilliantly executed storytelling device that serves to highlight the sense of urgency felt by our anthropomorphised cast, as we see their story unfurl over just a few short, rebellious days.

A tale of defiance and of fighting the good fight. You’ll be rooting for this unlikely gang of disruptors and be inspired by their determination.

“I’d rather live fighting than die having never tried”


Buy Terrible Means and read the Page 45 review here

Retrograde Orbit (£11-99, Avery Hill Publishing) by Kristyna Baczykski ~

“My name is Flint.
“I live on the sixth planet, Tisa.
“Can you hear me?
“Is anyone there?”

For her entire life, Flint has yearned for the distant planet Doma; a lush and beautiful globe of waterfalls and mountains, worlds apart from her condensed, crowded city ‘living’. Her grandmother was lucky enough to spend her childhood on Doma, but was urgently evacuated due to a nuclear disaster – though we don’t speak of that – never to return. The mysterious, unknown circumstances of her forebearer’s enforced departure only serves to further fuel Flint’s curiosity about Doma, which as she approaches adulthood and begins to feel ever more detached from her own world, becomes a burning obsession to get there.



It’s a refreshing new take on the familiar theme of self-discovery and belonging, or lack of it. Kristyna’s trademark design aesthetic truly lends itself to the sci-fi genre. With her geometric line work and pastel colour palette she artfully merges the everyday with the other-worldly, creating an environment that is both simultaneously familiar and alien. This perfectly echoes the overall theme of the story and drives home that slightly unnerving sense that perhaps you yourself have experienced… of feeling like one doesn’t somehow quite belong in a place one is intimately familiar with…

Having been a fan of Kristyna’s mini comics and self-published zines for years, It was great to finally see her take on a long format story with a fully realised cast of characters and world… well… solar system! It is a lovely first graphic novel and one that will resonate with anyone who has struggled to carve their place in life.


Buy Retrograde Orbit and read the Page 45 review here

Gideon Falls vol 1: The Black Barn s/c (£8-99, Image) by Jeff Lemire & Andrea Sorrentino, Dave Stewart…

“Actually, Mrs. Tremblay… there is one thing.”
“Of course, Father. Anything.”
“In all the rush to get to Gideon Falls, I don’t think the Bishop ever told me… how did Father Tom die?”
“Oh. I… I had thought you would have known.”
“No. Was it his heart?”
“I… I’d rather not talk about it.”

Hmm… I have a sneaking suspicion that wasn’t an accidental omission on the Bishop’s part, the lack of details on the sudden demise of Father Tom. Still, Father Wilfred has now arrived in the rural, backwater town of Gideon Falls, against his wishes, to take up the suddenly vacant position of their pastor. He’d have preferred to remain in the seminary, teaching, but the Bishop felt he was the man to answer the call so off he went.



What precisely Father Fred, as he likes to be known, or indeed Gideon Falls, has to do with the lunatic Norton obsessively cataloguing and cross-referencing specific pieces of garbage across the distant, big city we will gradually learn. We see Norton interacting with and deceiving his therapist, in a bid to avoid being sectioned again, but it would seem, to him at least, that he senses the presence of something or someone he regards as evil incarnate in the vicinity.



Norton’s collection of disparate refuse is not remotely random, either, to him, for he senses a common source to his slivers of wood, rusty nails, shards of glass and bent hinges, which he unerringly homes in on, however implausible that seems. The disturbing thought occurred as I read the very first issue that Norton was finding all the components you might expect to compose a door… In that respect I was… partly… correct. Though much like Norton I had an incomplete grasp of matters…



Yes, mystery, murder and suspense abound, both in the urban environment and the dusty countryside, plus most certainly within the pages of this comic book. And horror, genuine blood-curdling horror too. For Father Tom’s death isn’t the only one in Gideon Falls by the time this opening salvo concludes.

So, what are we, the readers left with? An absolute mystery. What is the connection or connections, between the places and / or the protagonists? We’ll learn some answers by the end of this first volume, including one truly heartbreaking one, but there’s so much left to be revealed…



Andrea Sorrentino, probably best known for his gritty, fine linework on Lemire’s reprise of OLD MAN LOGAN is an ideal foil for such a tense, taut story that slides straight into psychologically perturbing territory right from the off like the veritable knife between the ribs. His panel and page composition in the Norton sequences particularly – complete with several spectacular double-page spreads, one featuring a mind-bending fish-eye lens effect and another a collage of scattered Polaroids over a time-lapsed, anguished Norton rocking in a chair against a cityscape – plus inverted pages and crafty use of symmetry contribute immensely to the disorientating, fractured feel and a very rapidly building sense of unease.



Then, when the spine goes from mild tingling to collapsing in complete terror back in Gideon Falls, with immense amounts of the colour red involved, I had a strong suspicion I recognised the exact shade from BPRD and BALTIMORE, and yes indeed, it is Dave Stewart providing the colour palette in his own inimitable fashion. It’s a sure sign you’ve probably read too many comics when you can identify a colourist from just one colour… He also seems to have employed a vertical texturing technique on practically every section of black shading which is also cumulatively… troubling… to the eye, and mind… in an artistically positive sense, as if something is persistently scratching away at what you are experiencing. Spooky. And then some.


Buy Gideon Falls vol 1: The Black Barn s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Death Or Glory vol 1: She’s Got You (£14-99, Image) by Rick Remender & Bengal…

“What did the doctor say?”
“Won’t see us. Owe ’em too much money.”
“How the hell do we live in a world where some fuckers at an insurance company get to decide who lives and dies?”

Quite. Action and misadventure abounds in this high-octane opener of a crime caper from Rick THE LAST DAYS OF AMERICAN CRIME Remender and artist Bengal. Plus a bit of relevant social commentary too!

So… Glory Owen needs copious amounts of hard cash fast, like yesterday, to get her adoptive father Red a new liver. Red’s lived his life off the grid, free from the system, in fact, not even Glory knows his real name. Just that he looked after her when her mother died and now it is time to repay him in his dying hours of need. Because no paperwork, no social security number and certainly no health insurance means without serious amounts of hard cash to buy a new organ, he’s on his way out. Glory’s pretty sure Red wouldn’t want her to do what she’s about to do, but in her eyes, it’s time to repay the debt of a lifetime of love he’s shown to her.



She’s about to rob her ex-husband and big time drug dealer Toby of a briefcase full of his illicit lolly… Well, not him technically, just his couriers, who happen to be the local sheriff and his deputy. She has a plan, kind of, which mainly seems to involve a wing and a prayer and a very fast car. It’s not going to go well, clearly, which of course it doesn’t.

Special mention should also be made of the hitman who has one of the most novel ways of killing people I’ve seen since Javier Bardem went around knocking on doors and nailing people with his pneumatic captive bolt pistol in No Country For Old Men. This lunatic’s weapon of choice is liquid nitrogen…



Fans of car chases are going to enjoy this series, for sure. Set out in what feels like the Midwest somewhere, it all has a touch of the Dukes of Hazard about it, though the stakes and consequences are clearly somewhat higher.

Artist Bengal, probably best known for the likes of NAJA / MEKA / LUMINAE for Magnetic Press has a lovely crisp style with a cinematically vibrant colour palette. I’ve seen him comment online that he thinks he’s a considerably better inker than penciller but I think he’s being incredibly harsh on himself as it all looks as immaculate and highly polished as a freshly washed, polished and buffed car bonnet.



Remender only ever seems to work with top quality artists who love a crisp line: Sean Murphy on TOKYO GHOST, Matteo Scalera on BLACK SCIENCE, Greg Tocchini on LOW, Jerome Opena on SEVEN TO ETERNITY and I think Bengal is right up there with those folks.

In the hope that it intrigues, I leave you in noting that Glory’s hunt for a liver donor leads in all sorts of… unexpected directions.


Buy Death Or Glory vol 1: She’s Got You and read the Page 45 review here

Aposimz vol 1 (£10-99, Vertical) by Tsutomu Nihei…

“N—no! There are people with Frame disease over there…”
“So what? That’s not so rare, is it?”
“It’s a bit weird, though. There’s lot of new ones.”
“New ones?”
“You’re right… There are lots of fresh Frames among them.”
“Yeah. You often see the messed-up old ones, but this…”
“Because of Rebedoa’s invasions, the borders are all in chaos. They could have escaped from some town’s quarantine.”
“They say when you become a Frame, you lose your sense of self, but I wonder if that’s true… If they have even the tiniest bit of consciousness left… and they’re stuck roaming this world in that state for decades, or even centuries… if it ever looks like I’m becoming a Frame, I want you to kill me.”

Weird geographical spacey location involving huge mega-structures… CHECK!
Strange zombie-like creatures… CHECK!
Big guns… CHECK!
Sentient Artificial Intelligence… CHECK!
A brutal asymmetric conflict between two ideologically entrenched opponents… CHECK!
A rag-tag bunch of heavily outnumbered goodies who’ll have to save the day, well everything, actually and / or die trying … CHECK!
Big guns… like REALLY BIG GUNS… CHE... oh, we did that one already…

Yes! Tsutomu BIOMEGA / KNIGHTS OF SIDONIA / BLAME! returns with another implausibly titled… errr…. title. It is also quite tricky to pronounce. On that note, I am still waiting for someone to definitively explain why BLAME! isn’t BLAM! given it is meant to be the sound of gun going off, but who cares, frankly?! I have absolutely no idea what an Aposimz might be. It sounds like a cybernetically enhanced opossum, and knowing Nihei, that is possible, but it probably isn’t the case.

Let’s see if the publisher’s blurbe! (sic) tells us more…

“This story takes place on the frigid, massive artificial planet known as Aposimz.



“Eo, Biko and Etherow, residents of the White Diamond Beam, are in the middle of combat training when suddenly a girl appears, Rebedoan Empire soldiers in hot pursuit. The girl asks for their help in keeping safe a “code” and seven mysterious “bullets.” This chance encounter marks a major shift in the fate of the entire planet…”

So that clears that little bit of abstract nomenclature up, then! And probably tells you everything else you need to know as this point. I absolutely loved this frenetic, all-action opener. Fans of Nihei will lap it up, for sure. I can make only one mild criticism which I am prepared to actually classify as merely an observation at this time as I am sure I will eventually adjust to it / it will all be explained…

Firstly, it took me a week or so to actually even pick this up despite it being Nihei because I felt the cover seemed so insubstantial with its entirely white background. Then, once you get inside the art is equally light. It feels like there is a layer of inking entirely missing. There is practically zero shading. Which if you are familiar with his previous works, you’ll know is not his typical style. You could almost make a case for him being a bit ‘ink heavy’ typically. So strange.



Unless of course the fact they live in the ‘White Diamond Beam’ zone has something to do with it and Nihei will rediscover his inkpot as our cast fight their way towards the subterranean centre of Aposimz? Presumably by the time they get there it’ll be pitch black and the reader will require night vision goggles to follow the action…



Anyway, consequently this opening salvo felt more like the equally deranged GARDENS OF GLASS by Lando or indeed the also as surreal PICNOLEPTIC INERTIA by Tsemberlidis than Nihei, though the linework is most definitely recognisable as his. With that said, it is always nice to see creators, particularly manga creators who aren’t exactly renowned for changing up their approach, continuing to try new things stylistically.


Buy Aposimz vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Barking by Lucy Sullivan.

Look at that time stamp!

Oh right, we’ll get to that in a bit; you’re probably distracted by the arresting black and white cover, and its black-dog shadow of depression our protagonist can’t shake, her haunted backwards stare at a past from which she cannot escape, and that’s quite the oppressive, heavy-hanging black cloud of awful, unsuppressable anxiety buzzing away above her.

Within, it gets worse.

It’s not a horror comic in the lunar transmogrification sense which I first mistook it for, but it is horror all the same in its all too real-world manifestation, and rendered as appallingly on the page as it is to endure, with power and a punch and an expressionistic frenzy yet total control that put me in mind of Bill Sienkiewicz.

The clue’s in the title which implies a second word, and if you want some idea of how tightly this has been conceived and executed from start to arresting finish, then the opening chapter’s called ‘Hounded’.



We’re breaking with tradition here of reviewing only that which we stock to hammer out the most urgent exhortation for a project that’s got me fired up into a frenzy of admiration and expectation, based on the first two printed chapters which Lucy Sullivan handed to me in person at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2018.

It’s a limited run which you can buy direct from Lucy Sullivan’s website and it comes with a code which will give you 10% off the cost of the full graphic novel. However, to help spread the word even further, Page 45 has kindly been given clearance to use the following consecutive pages plus its much later, subsequent punchline at the bottom of this preview.

I would seriously brace for impact.




See what I mean?

Jeepers, but the kinetic energy is so very well rendered there.

I’m sincerely hoping you’ll back the creator and publisher in its crowd-funding campaign and so receive the entire graphic novel as well as early, immediate incentives.

Plus 10% of the author’s revenue from each Hardback will be donated to MQ: Transforming Mental Health, Charity No. 1139916 & Scotland SCO46075

Ah yes, as you know by now, Mental Health is so important to Page 45 that we have our own prominent shop-floor counter-corner display and Page 45’s Online Mental Health Section, full of non-fiction and fiction alike to help us all personally or increase our understanding of others.

Anyway, here’s the next two pages immediately following and, as I mentioned earlier, just look at the comparative time stamp! Clever, eh?




The publisher portends:

“Alix is having a very bad day. Easily her worst so far.
“A year after they fished her friend’s body from the river, Alix finds herself haunted, chased and driven to the brink by… what? 
“Figments of her addled mind? Certainly.
“Delusions from too much booze and not enough sleep? Probably. 
“Sectioned and left in the hands of an umbrella health system, Alix is about to find out just how fine a line it is between the sane world and the psychiatric ward at St. Judes.”

I leave you, then, with a) the terrible knowledge that this based on the author’s very own devastating experiences of “a grief-triggered mental health crisis”, and b) the much later, final double-page spread.



Rarely have I been left more chilled and dreading yet desperate to know what happens next.

Here’s an unusual sign-off for us…


Read the Barking Crowd-Funding Page and Perhaps Back Barking from Unbound


Thoreau At Walden s/c (£10-99, Disney) by John Porcellino ~

Now out in softcover, after over a decade, Tom once took this on thus:

“On Independence Day in 1845, the American philosopher Henry David Thoreau moved into a small cabin, built by his own hands, on the shore of Walden Pond outside Concord Massachusetts. He lived there for two years, two months and two days, and wrote a book about his experience called Walden, which has gone on to become one of the most influential philosophical works in the world. Walden‘s message of self-reliance, self-reflection, social criticism, and harmony with nature has resonated with readers for over 150 years. Thoreau at Walden is an impression of Thoreau’s time at the pond, with text taken directly from Thoreau’s own published writings. Henry David Thoreau is one of my biggest inspirations as an artist and human being, so this project was very near and dear to my heart.” – John Porcellino

For those who’ve followed Porcellino’s KING-CAT comics and know of his passion for philosophy and adapting various moral tales to comics, this should be something of a treat. Set over the course of four seasons, John has taken choice quotes from Thoreau’s book, Walden, and paired them with his own visual musings. Effectively John is developing within comics a style akin to the works of the philosophers he learns from therefore creating his own ethical code. And although he seems too modest and humble to admit it, with his King-Cat Comics he also teaches as he learns. 

A quiet confidence enables John to break away from Thoreau’s powerful words and reflect upon the man and his surroundings in moments of silent wonder which often last many pages. Most artists would inadvertently detract from any deeper meaning here with stylized visual monologues serving to placate their ego rather than pay homage to one of America’s great thinkers. John, however, perfectly complements the original text with his own branch of visual philosophy, making this not just a fascinating introduction to Henry David Thoreau but also to the unique work of John Porcellino. Two great minds for the price of one.


Buy Thoreau At Walden s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Doctor Strange: Epic Collection s/c Master Of The Mystic Arts (£35-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko.

Still tripping on the transdimensional trials and tribulations of Doctor Strange in Mr. McCarthy’s SPIDER-MAN: FEVER? [No. It’s out of print – ed. ] Here, true believer, are the original occult-orientated offerings which inspired the brain-bothered Brendan to such lurid lunacy!

[And you can quit the Stan Lee shtick any time you fancy, mate – ed.]

Witness the Dread Dormammu berate Baron Mordo for his mere-mortal impudence! Hear Doctor Strange alliterate himself into a something akin to catatonia! Listen as the white-wigged Clea pleads from her trap-of-the-day! And sweat in fear as the Mindless Ones approach…

“Do you have any DEADPOOL in stock?”

Thirty-one STRANGE TALES of the Sorcerer Supreme complete with the Wand of Watoomb, the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth and the Eye of Agowhatthehey. Correct spelling not necessarily guaranteed.

For more Strange doings please see Page 45’s Doctor Strange section. Particularly recommended: DOCTOR STRANGE VOL 1: THE WAY OF THE WEIRD by Jason Aaron & Chris Bacchalo.


Buy Doctor Strange: Epic Collection s/c Master Of The Mystic Arts 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’.



Traces Of The Great War h/c (£14-99, Image) by Marguerite Abouet, Charlie Adlard, Simon Armitage, Edmond Baudoin, Juan Díaz Canales, Aurélien Ducoudray, Efa, Ergün Gündüz, Régis Hautière, O. Hiroyuki, Joe Kelly, Kris, Denis Lapière, Virtuel L’Atelier, Victoria Lomasko, Maël, Dave McKean, Mikiko, Robbie Morrison, J.D. Morvan, Ken Niimura, Sean Phillips, Ian Rankin, Riff Reb’s, A. Samama, Scie-Tronc. Orijit Sen, Bryan Talbot, Mary Talbot, Thomas Von Kummant

Isola vol 1 s/c (£8-99, Image) by Brenden Fletcher & Karl Kerschl, Msassyk

Art Comic h/c (£19-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Matthew Thurber

Breaks Book 2 #1 (£5-00, Soaring Penguin Press) by Malin Ryden & Emma Vieceli

Dave McKean’s Short Films h/c & Blu-Ray (£22-99, Dark Horse) by Dave McKean

Aquicorn Cove h/c (£11-99, Oni) by Katie O’Neill

A Clash Of Kings (Game Of Thrones) vol 1 h/c (£14-99, Harper) by George R. R. Martin, Landry Q. Walker & Mel Rubi

Likely Stories h/c (£15-99, Dark Horse) by Neil Gaiman & Mark Buckingham

Lumberjanes: Infernal Compass s/c (£13-99, Boom! Box) by Lilah Sturges & Polterink

RASL Colour Edition vol 2 (of 3) Romance At The Speed Of Light s/c (£11-99, Cartoon Books) by Jeff Smith

The Wormworld Saga vol 2: Shelter Of Hope (£8-99, Caracal) by Daniel Lieske

LICAF 2018 Postcard Set 1 (£3-00, LICAF) by Dave McKean, Rian Hughes, Ken Niimura, Kripa Joshi, Petteri Tikkanen, John Ferguson

LICAF 2018 Postcard Set 2 (£3-00, LICAF) by Sean Phillips, Frank Quitely, Elizabeth Breitweiser, Mikiko, Petteri Tikkanen, Stanley Chow

Abbott vol 1 s/c (£15-99, Boom!) by Saladin Ahmed & Sami Kivela, Taj Tenfold

Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation (£14-99, Penguin) by Anne Frank, Ari Folman & David Polonsky

The Forever War – Forever Free s/c (£17-99, Titan) by Joe Haldeman, Gay Haldeman &  Marvano

The Funniest Book Ever! (£9-99, David Fickling Books) by Jamie Smart, Gary Northfield, James Turner, James Stayte, Laura Ellen Anderson, Jess Bradley

Home After Dark h/c (£19-99, Liveright) by David Small

The Illustrated World Of Mortal Engines (£20-00, Scholastic) by Philip Reeve & Jeremy Levett

Jim Henson’s Dark Crystal Creation Myths Trilogy s/c Box Set (£26-99, Archaia) by Brian Froud, Joshua Dysart, Matthew Dow Smith & Alex Sherman

Super Mario Bros. Encyclopedia: The Official Guide To The First 30 Years: 1985 – 2015 h/c (£35-99, Dark Horse) by various

To Kill A Mockingbird – A Graphic Novel h/c (£16-99, Penguin) by Harper Lee, Fred Fordham

The United States Of Murder Inc. vol 1: Truth s/c (£14-99, DC) by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Avon Oeming

Bloodborne: The Death Of Sleep s/c (£13-99, Titan) by Ales Kot & Piotr Kowalski

Bloodstrike: Brutalists s/c (£8-99, Image) by Michel Fiffe

Batman vol 7: The Wedding s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Tom King & Tony S. Daniel, various

Wakanda Forever s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Nnedi Okorafor & Alberto Alburquerque, Ray-Anthony Height

Doctor Strange: Damnation s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Donny Cates, Nick Spencer & Rod Reis, Szymon Kudranski

My Hero Academia vol 15 (£6-99, Viz) by Kohei Horikoshi

My Hero Academia: Vigilantes vol 2 (£6-99, Viz) by Hideyuki Furuhashi & Betten Court

Battle Angel Alita – Mars Chronicle vol 4 (£9-99, Kodansha) by Yukito Kishiro

The Flowers of Evil Complete vol 4 (£15-99, Vertical) by Shuzo Oshimi

Tokyo Ghoul re: vol 7 (£8-99, Viz) by Sui Ishida

Page 45’s Signed / Sketched / Bookplated Editions

More at the link above, too!

The Firelight Isle vol 1: Heavenly Blue h/c (Signed) (£19-99, self-published) by Paul Duffield

Tick Tock IPA Omnibus Edition – A Clockwork Watch Story (Signed) (£20-00, ) by Yomi Ayeni, Corey Brotherson & Jennie Gyllblad

Evolution Omnibus Edition – A Clockwork Watch Story (Signed) (£20-00, ) by Yomi Ayeni, Corey Brotherson & Jimenez Bradbury

Cree (£12-99, Mayfly Press) by Una

Grandville vol 5 (Exclusive Sketched & Signed Page 45 Bookplate Edition) (£18-99, Jonathan Cape) by Bryan Talbot

Shenzen h/c (Signed) (£14-99, Jonathan Cape) by Guy Delisle

Hostage h/c (Signed) (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Guy Delisle

Burma Chronicles s/c (Signed) (£12-99, Jonathan Cape) by Guy Delisle

Pyongyang s/c (Signed) (£12-99, Jonathan Cape) by Guy Delisle

Jerusalem h/c (Signed) (£12-99, Jonathan Cape) by Guy Delisle

Traces Of The Great War h/c (Signed) (£14-99, Image) by various

Page 45 Breaks Its All-Time Sales Record at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2018 – for the 5th consecutive year!

Wednesday, October 17th, 2018

It’s time for our annual photo-filled blog!

Kendal is kindness personified, and you’ll find every single comicbook creator in Page 45’s Georgian Room, captured below, beaming with unbridled delight! Look, here’s Joe Kelly and Ken Niimura guerilla-signing LICAF’s brand-new TRACES OF THE GREAT WAR graphic novel.



Page 45 Breaks Its Sales Record at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival for the 5th Consecutive Year!

In 2014 we broke our all-time weekend sales record at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival by taking £5,500, then kept exceeding previous records until we hit £10,000 for two years running.

But in 2018 we’ve just smashed it again by taking £11,006.91 with just 1% of the range of our stock!

£1,784.48 of which – taken on LICAF comics, books, prints and postcards – goes directly to The Lakes International Comic Art Festival, its Creators’ Development Fund and the OCD Action charity etc.







It may have something to do with all the gorgeous graphic novels we bring, the glamorous Georgian Room which we are given to curate by ourselves,  the creators who give up their time so generously, and the fact that the Kendal Clock Tower is FREE ENTRY!

That means that those entirely unaccustomed to comics come in out of curiosity, flow through the room, and browse through our books to their hearts’ content.






I’ll bring you more books in a bit. You can pop any of the titles you see – or their creators – into Page 45’s search engine for our reviews. We Ship Worldwide!

Meanwhile, the rest of the Kendal Clock Tower is pretty spiffy too! Here’s the room opposite ours, for example, (there are many) both empty as we’re setting up (it takes us six hours, so we have to start early – you’ll see!), then bustling just 10 minutes after the doors open.




“Who did you have signing and sketching, Stephen?”

Officially we had the beaming ray of sunshine that is Eleanor Crewes all weekend, sketching portraits of her readers in THE TIMES I KNEW I WAS GAY.

Plus the effervescent Una survived a train journey in which a guard carried an axe through her carriage in order to chop down a tree that had fallen across the tracks (I kid you not), to sign and squiggle on Saturday in BECOMING UNBECOMING, ON SANITY and her new book CREE which we’ll have on our system hopefully by the time you are reading this!





She’s kindly sketched in all our shop copies for us!

We had Guy Delisle drawing in PYONGYANG (North Korea), SHENZHEN (South China), BURMA CHRONICLES, JERUSALEM and his most recent book HOSTAGE, and if you look in Page 45’s Signed / Bookplate Graphic Novels Section you’ll find, for a limited time, that we still have signed copies of those exceptional observations of the absurd. There’s a lot that’s absurd in North Korea – not short of material, there.



Then on Sunday, after their triumphant nocturnal steampunk parade / performance with students whom they’d been tutoring on interactive storytelling, we were graced by long-term LICAF exhibitors turned special guests Corey Brotherson and Yomi Ayeni of CLOCKWORK WATCH fame.

True fact: Yomi was one of the very first people I ever met at LICAF five years ago, after I heard him coming two corridors away. Nobody laughs like Yomi Ayeni!








Oh look, there’s volunteer Dave, out of his Red Shirt and dappered up to the nines! (New verb: to dapper)

He’s standing outside The New Union Kendal (run by the adorable Phil who hosted Page 45’s 20th Birthday Party in 2014, at which Lizz Lunney ate all the cake) where the parade ended and the performances truly began!

Also on Sunday, because it’s now a tradition, we snatched up Emma Vieceli, co-creator of Young Adults LGBT BREAKS and so much more (some clues in the photo, but again, activate search engine, please!) for a special hour of pencil biting. She’s very, very good at it.



But before that came Phillips & Phillips, that famous legal firm, to launch their brand-new original graphic novel written by Brubaker, MY HEROES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN JUNKIES. At the time of typing we still have a limited number of Page 45’s Exclusive Bookplate signed by Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips and indeed Jake Phillips, thanks to Sean’s exceptional generosity, and indeed Ed’s, because we can’t seem to get either of them to bill us for the printing and transatlantic postage. Don’t you just love comics people? (A refrain I heard over and over again, throughout the weekend.) This is it:



Please pop Sean Phillips into our search engine, because I have personally reviewed every piece of paper he’s ever been printed on.

Here he is being photographed with a super-fan who’d traveled all the way from Greece specifically to see him at LICAF.






Sean Phillips drew while Jake Phillips industriously coloured, until Sean Phillips stopped drawing and just jabbered away. What an outrageous slacker!






Throughout the weekend we were proud to sell LICAF’s official comics, prints, postcards, more copies of THE SPIRIT NEWSPAPER which Sean Phillips curated and personally paid for out of his own pocket (reviewed at that link and now on sale exclusively via Page 45 – and yes, We Ship Worldwide!) co-created by Ed Brubaker, Brendan McCarthy, Graham Dury, Chris Samnee, John M Burns, Sergio Aragones, Peter Milligan, Seth, Jason Latour, Jonathan Ross & Sean Phillips, Becky Cloonan, Brendan McCarthy, Simon Thorp, Chris Samnee, John M Burns, Sergio Aragonés, Duncan Fegredo, Seth, Jason Latour, Bryan Hitch, Michael Cho….

… and LICAF’s brand-new graphic novel TRACES OF THE GREAT WAR (again, now available worldwide via Page 45’s website) by Marguerite Abouet, Charlie Adlard, Simon Armitage, Edmond Baudoin, Juan Díaz Canales, Aurélien Ducoudray, Efa, Ergün Gündüz, Régis Hautière, O. Hiroyuki, Joe Kelly, Kris, Denis Lapière, Virtuel L’Atelier, Victoria Lomasko, Maël, Dave McKean, Mikiko, Robbie Morrison, J.D. Morvan, Ken Niimura, Sean Phillips, Ian Rankin, Riff Reb’s, A. Samama, Scie-Tronc. Orijit Sen, Bryan Talbot, Mary Talbot, Thomas Von Kummant.





The night before I’d waylaid THE WALKING DEAD‘s Charlie Adlard in a new super-secret speakeasy sequestered down a side-street (again, not joking – I only heard about it because Emma Vieceli, Pud and Steven Appleby snatched me away from The Brewery and led me there, blindfolded), and as promised he kindly popped by unannounced to sign in TRACES OF THE GREAT WAR, along with I KILL GIANTS‘ Joe Kelly and Ken Niimura. All of them, absolutely lovelies!





All proceeds of our LICAF sales over the weekend went to the Lakes International Comic Art Festival (£1,784.48!) – we took not a penny, as is good and proper – and so many more creators kindly popped by to ruin mint copies with their Sharpies including Bryan and Mary Talbot (search engine, please!) who even sketched and coloured in them. (Mary is most excellent at spot-blacks and colours.)

Here’s Edmond Baudoin similarly sketching for us. What a star!




Jonathan and I are so very grateful for these impromptu offers of extra love, especially to Bryan Talbot who sat down to sketch in some special GRANDVILLE bookplates for us completely out of the blue.

For far, far more of our 5-year involvement with LICAF (we are proud Patrons!), please see Page 45’s dedicated Lakes International Comic Art Festival hub with links to LICAF, previous years’ blogs, even more photos and everything!

I type that now (I may reprise it later) because I’m going to go a little off topic with a) How A Room Is Built then b) What We Got Up To In Cumbria. Because if you’re coming to the Lakes International Comic Art Festival – rain or shine – you’re going to want to gawp at the countryside!

How We Cluttered Up Our Georgian Room With Comics



That is Page 45 Central. It doesn’t normally look like this, honest. We try to make it  as easy as possible for you to hand over cash at the counter.

Every year Jonathan and I ponder previous years’ graphic novel sales at LICAF, figure out what is still working but mostly which brand-new beauties to bring. Bearing in mind that we can only take what Jonathan can fit, Tetris-like, into our van (this is a special skill), it takes some strict discipline and fierce negotiation.

Then we ignore all that and order loads more of the last month’s arrivals to boot.

That’s Jonathan’s job and as I am always adamant in emphasising that none of this would be possible without Jonathan. Dee and Jodie then meticulously catalogue numbers as the books get packed, after which we trundle of to Kendal.




That van was rammed!

Thankfully not by a ten-tonne truck.

This is our room rather naked, soon to be filled with boxes of books courtesy of Mr. Lift and Mr. Minion.




It’s actually Craig Dawson, Page 45’s highest-ever spender at something like £1,600 in a single spree, who is one of loveliest blokes you could meet, generous enough to help us unload every single year. Saves us a good couple of ours with his unpacking too.

Don’t worry Craig, it’s only a listed building.




I think you’ll agree that’s rather a lot of books.

I would remind you that our room looks like this…



… until it doesn’t after five hours of me tearing my hair out!

(So now you know where it’s gone.)

That’s my job. I try to re-arrange the room each year for increased accessibility, aesthetic beauty and to showcase these glorious graphic novels in the most attractive fashion that they so richly deserve.




Also, you don’t want to bugger up a room as beautiful as that.

We don’t have any round tables at Page 45 so I can’t practise, but the very first year we discovered that the long tables were less conducive to a smooth, organic, undulating thoroughfare accessible to wheelchairs and therefore maximum perusal. Live and learn, eh?

Anyway, here are the books. Reminder: you can pop any of the titles or their creators into our search engine for reviews and Worldwide Shipping.






You’re using our search engine, right?







Did I do an okay job?

Dear lord, I hope so! I had to race in on Saturday morning an hour before anyone else was officially let in, so that I could make all the final adjustments.






I liked that shot, so you’ve got it again.

What We Got Up To In Cumbria


It’s More Pretty Than A City!

Rain or shine, Cumbria is so bloody romantic.

Which is fortunate, because this year this rain was torrential, and the gales of such strength that the LICAF banner had to be taken down the day after I took this shot on Thursday night.




That’s the view from our Riverside Hotel bar’s balcony above the, err, river.

Fortunately half of it’s undercover, from which we spied this poor, desolate umbrella, snatched out of its owner’s hand. You can see it in situ in the photograph below this if you look hard enough at the bridge’s triangular cutwaters.




That umbrella almost demands narrative, doesn’t it? What is its story, and that of its owner?

As Jonathan observed, it’s like a graphic novel by Chabouté (THE PARK BENCH or ALONE, both pictured above, the first of which we made Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month).

I found it a day later outside the Kendal Clock Tower.



That seems unlikely, doesn’t it?

Anyway, on our way up on Thursday afternoon we called into Kirkby Lonsdale where I taught comics on behalf of LICAF at the Queen Elizabeth School. I’m heading back there again next year, thanks to its ace school librarian Gemma. Below you’ll find photos of Ruskin’s View.

We loved the church’s well wonky clock tower (seriously, just look at that clock’s positioning) and its graveyard’s Mr. Tickle Tree.








Then back in Kendal we spotted this most alluring of alleys, and I love what they’ve done with the down-lit lighting, making maximum use of the textured stone walls.





And that’s where we’ll leave it, I think.

I was going to show you Ullswater where the inland lake was as choppy as a stormy sea, but you can discover it all for yourselves next year, eh, when you all come along to the Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2019. Good on you! I would. We will!

Oh wait, the speakeasy hahaha!

It’s now open all year round down a side-alley on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I was told not to tweet about it while I was up, so I didn’t. I’m not normally that well behaved. But I did take a shot away from it on Friday night, if you can discern from this where it might lurk.



On Saturday night I could tell that Jonathan was curious even though he did his best to hide it, so I led our ensemble down the street in search of it… a full 50 yards further on until I told them they’d missed it. Truly, it is that covert!

I’m not about to spoil things now, but it is well worth the hunt, for within lies such exceptional character acting and cocktails composed individually to your specific tastes. Jonathan asked for something smelling of bonfires (!) and I swear to god that I have never sniffed anything so reminiscent of an autumnal bonfire than the glass which this magnificent madman concocted out of his incomparably arcane and erudite knowledge of alcohol.



Oh, go on, then, you can glean clues of your own from following him @blind_bus on Twitter!

I’m @PageFortyFive

There’s More Of A Story Than Anywhere Else You Will Visit

Even the torrential rain gave me so many romantic shivers. It really is more pretty than a city which you might visit for a comicbook convention, and it’s overwhelmingly free-entry

Plus we broke our all-time sales records, regardless of the gales!

Of course it all cleared up on the Sunday afternoon! Of course it did!



And, in case it needs saying, all these photos are my own from this very year. Feel free to use them in order to promote LICAF.

Huge love for all that they do to Julie Tait, Carole Tait, the incomparable Aileen, Chris, Chris, Dave, so many Phils and everyone whom I’ve so rubbishly failed to mention!

LICAF Volunteers are the best in the world. I am in awe and, ever since year one, I’ve been forever in their debt. As a visitor, please do ask and they will provide!

For far, far more of Page 45’s 5-year involvement with LICAF (we are proud Patrons!), please see Page 45’s dedicated Lakes International Comic Art Festival hub with links to LICAF, previous years’ blogs, even more photos and everything!

I’ll see you in 2019, then?


 – Stephen xxx


Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews October 2018 week two

Wednesday, October 10th, 2018

Featuring Tillie Walden, I.N.J Culbard, Luke Jones, Anna Mill, Greg Rucka, Justin Greenwood.

On A Sunbeam h/c Exclusive Page 45 Signed Bookplate Edition (£24-99, Avery Hill Publishing) by Tillie Walden…

“Gracie. Time to go.”
“Not yet. Mia is coming to say good-bye.”

Arrrrgghhhhh. 271 pages in to this 534-page tome, just past the halfway point, and I could feel a little tickle in the tear ducts beginning… I’ll give no spoilers – which is actually going to be impossible, thinking about it so forget that – but suffice to say, some goodbyes will haunt you… Even if it’s only one you’re reading about rather than experiencing first hand… I then spent the remaining 263 pages desperately hoping that Mia would… could… somehow… sniff… where’s my hanky…?

Speaking of moist moments, I have to say, as a complete digression, I almost had another one reading the afterword. It is one of the sweetest, most complimentary ones I think I might ever have read. It is certainly one that only Tillie could have written. Bless her, just when you thought you couldn’t love her any more than you already did!

Right, what to expect from this epic interstellar romance set in two time periods a mere five yet interminably long years apart…?



Well, we will see the budding romance between moderately tough-nut fourteen-year-old Mia and the mysterious new girl at school Gracie. They are quite literally worlds, if not galaxies apart, and yet… there’s a mutual attraction which neither can deny. Mia doesn’t particularly want to. Gracie it seems might, but then all that’s to do with the whopper of a secret she’s hiding…

“You’re an IDIOT.”
“Excuse me?”
“I said you’re an IDIOT. You don’t get it, do you?”
“Um, I…”
“I like ALL of you, Grace. Even the parts I don’t get yet. I’m not dating the 12% of you that I understand, I’m dating 100% of you. Including all your secrets that I don’t know. So don’t EVER say I’d hate you because that’s stupid and not true.”
“Oh, Mia. I’ll tell you everything someday…”



And that sad day will come dear reader… But fast-forward five years and Mia is cast adrift, emotionally at least, on the spaceship Aktis. Well, I say spaceship, imagine a beautiful tropical fish with a huge caudal fin and vast wing-like pelvic fins, all dazzling of colour, twizzling friskily through the vacuum like a salmon desperate to get upstream for some fun and games and you should get the picture. I seriously think Tillie Walden should design spaceships. Perhaps someone can have a word with Elon Musk? She’s also very good at naming them too…

This time(-period) around it’s Mia’s turn to be the newbie, joining a rag-tag crew assigned to renovating weird old buildings like abandoned churches that just happen to be merrily floating in space. They’re an extremely tight bunch, yet over time, as she proves herself to be just as much of an oddball as the rest of them, Jules, Charlotte, Elliott and Alma welcome Mia into their little family of sorts. Indeed when she reveals her secret to them, she finds to her complete surprise they are more than amenable to help her with an epic quest of the heart… not least because of a couple of guilty secrets of their own…



Ahhh… so many secrets! I wish Tillie would let us into the one of how she keeps getting better and better! For this is, for me, her finest work yet. Not just in the storytelling, which will both melt and break your heart over and over, but also artistically. The trademark gentle, almost too delicate, linework, is still very much in evidence, but she’s given her imagination full rein in terms of design and expression. This work brings together and incorporates all the different aspects of her pencilling we’ve seen so far, from the architectural grandiosity evident in THE END OF SUMMER to the quiet intimacy between characters that proved so moving in I LOVE THIS PART to the sudden flights of the fantastical that made A CITY INSIDE so compelling a read.



Here she seamlessly visually blends profound emotional drama and high concept fantasy with such ease that at differing times you could very easily forget this is both science fiction and romance. Because at one moment you’ll be quietly observing star-crossed lovers looking intently into each other’s eyes and the next simply marvelling at an intricately constructed landscape. So very cleverly done.

Colours-wise, I think this is also the most I have ever seen her use in a single work and the shifts back and forth between the few subtly different palettes is used to great effect, not least when Mia’s quest takes her to the strange region of space known as The Staircase where there’s a wondrously alien yet comfortingly animistic feel to the world we encounter. The textures and depths she manages to achieve with complimentary pale colours such as lilac, pastel blue, cornflower yellow and burnt ochre are spectacular.



I genuinely wonder how on earth, or indeed space, she can possibly top this work. I will wait with bated breath to find out. The brilliant thing about the prolific Miss Walden, though, is that I will probably only have to wait a few months! Which is a very good thing, because I don’t believe I could hold my breath much longer than that…



Were the above exhortation of excellence not enough to entice you to purchase this work Tillie has also produced an exclusive Page 45 signed and numbered bookplate for us, available whilst stock last. Oh, and don’t forget to read that afterword. It will truly make your heart melt one last time.

For more Tillie Walden, please see her autobiographical SPINNING which sheds new light on I LOVE THIS PART, and her recent contribution to I FEEL MACHINE.





Buy On A Sunbeam h/c Exclusive Page 45 Bookplate Edition and read the Page 45 review here

Square Eyes h/c (£18-99, Jonathan Cape) by Luke Jones & Anna Mill ~

“Picture it in your mind… think about its shape, its texture.
“… Not too hard…
“Don’t injure yourself…
“It just starts to take shape on its own… reading the impression you mentally project.
“See how it starts to emerge kind of hazy at first but your mind starts to populate it…
“… Now it’s sharpening.
“Can you see it?”

Fin is the creator of a cutting-edge computer programme that blurs the boundaries between the real world and the digital by creating an interface between the visualisation space and the brain. Called ‘Corvis’, it’s an incredibly powerful piece of technology that allows its users a collective, visual experience, which just a few days ago Fin was demonstrating live-on-air to a completely captivated studio audience.



But now Fin has woken up disoriented and disconnected. There is a strange woman living in her apartment – at least she thinks that’s her apartment – and her memories are vague and unrecognisable, if indeed they even are her memories at all…?



SQUARE EYES is a cyberdelic mind-melt of a mystery, set in an entirely plausible, indeed rapidly approaching, near-future of augmented reality and constant connectivity; where technology is a part of your very being, and every piece of information you would ever need is literally at your finger tips. But when the most talented programmer out there finds herself cut off from the world and her code stolen, it becomes a race to find out who has it, before such incredible power falls into the wrong hands.



Visually stunning, you’ll certainly be fully immersed in this overwhelming, holographic world, no headset required! Overlapping imagery and choice colours of reds, blues and purples create a gently kaleidoscopic aesthetic, which might leave you thinking that perhaps you were missing a set of cardboard 3D specs. I’m actually intrigued to see what difference they would make!



You will also be treated to an elegant interface of carefully constructed chaos, looking as though it has been hacked directly from the dreamy depths of Chris Ware’s sleeping mind, and the most intelligent use of negative space as a storytelling device I have ever seen in comics. Square Eyes truly is an outstanding achievement of design.

Runner Up in the 2010 Observer / Cape Graphic Short Story prize to a certain Stephen THE GIGANTIC BEARD THAT WAS EVIL Collins, it is absolutely fascinating how this story has evolved, both artistically and in plot terms, beyond practically all recognition from that comparatively sparse initial concept. You can see for yourselves from this article. It’s certainly makes a compelling case for believing in your artistic vision and persevering with a good idea.


Buy Square Eyes h/c and read the Page 45 review here

HP Lovecraft: Four Classic Horror Stories h/c SIGNED & SKETCHED IN (£24-99, SelfMadeHero) by I.N.J. Culbard…

I.N.J. Culbard gives terrifying form to four classic tales by H.P. Lovecraft: ‘The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath’, ‘The Case of Charles Dexter Ward,’ ‘At The Mountains of Madness’ and ‘The Shadow Out of Time’ in a gorgeous hardcover collection priced lower than two of its constituent softcovers!

Here are all my original reviews in the order the softcovers appeared.

At The Mountains Of Madness

“Do you have a name for them yet?”
“Yes I do. Remember the book that Professor Armitage kept under lock and key in the university library? The Necronomicon?”
“I… I do.”
“Then you’ll understand when I speak of Elder Things.”
“I’m here.”
“I think… err… think we should tone down reports to the outside world for now… until at least until we’ve substantiated these findings.”



On the face of it Ian Culbard’s well rounded style of art so ably demonstrated on the four recent SHERLOCK HOLMES adaptations is not perhaps the most obvious for adapting a classic horror story, probably one of the two finest works within Lovecraft’s Cthulhu canon along with (in my opinion) The Silver Key. Except in fact in this case, it is absolutely perfect, because MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS is nothing to do with gore and everything to do with a very unsettling story that moves the reader inch by imperceptible inch nearer to an uneasy psychological state. This is classic horror, in that fear of the unknown, “What exactly is it lurking in the hidden depths?” type of horror. Or in this case, within the Mountains Of Madness, a virtually impenetrable mountain range right in the heart of the frozen Antarctic wastes.

I can certainly understand why they’ve picked this particular work for adaptation as it is in some ways the most straightforward and comprehensible of Lovecraft’s books, simply because whatever else it is, it’s also a great Boy’s Own adventure tale. To set the scene it’s September 1930 and an expedition from Miskatonic University is in the Antarctic taking deep geological samples when they make some rather puzzling and shocking finds. These inexplicable discoveries quickly change the planned intent and indeed course of the expedition, taking the learned explorers into hitherto unexplored and inaccessible territories. Discoveries and geography which start to seem disturbingly familiar to some of the explorers who have read the fabled Necronomicon, kept safely under lock and key by a colleague back at the university.

Indeed the marked similarities of what they find, compared to the widely considered fictional rantings of a madman suggest the world may have a rather longer, darker and most disturbing pre-history than current academic wisdom would opine. As things take a sinister and even more suspenseful turn with the disappearance of part of the exploration party, those that remain at base camp feel compelled, against all good sense and reason, ever nearer the soaring jagged mountain range ahead.

If you like intelligent horror, do take a look at this. It’s been very cleverly adapted by Culbard who works in the more fantastical elements in a manner than never seems completely outlandish or utterly unbelievable. Indeed his warm art style and vibrant colours perfectly counterpoint the bleak locale of the situation, where it’s all too easy to believe, in a time where the world still had some unexplored and remote regions, that such a place could just possibly exist.

The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward

What a wonderfully evocative opening two pages, as we pan in from the depths of frigid outer space very gradually down to the surface of Earth at night, reminding us, lest we forget, how small and insignificant we are in the grand scheme of things, before finally reaching an empty cell in a sanatorium. The perfect beginning for a Cthulu story, though at the risk of mixing my authors for a moment I could almost hear Richard Burton intoning “slowly and surely they drew their plans against us” from H.G. Wells’ War Of The Worlds whilst Jeff Wayne begins to play in the background. Anyway, it sets the atmosphere straight to spooky levels instantaneously, which is my point!

What follows is the finest H.P. Lovecraft adaptation in comics to date bar none, as a most curious case of nocturnal nefariousness and ghoulish experimentation is uncovered by the family physician to the Ward family, Dr. Willett. Asked to investigate by Charles’ father, growing increasingly concerned about his son Charles’ mental state and obsession with an ancestor named Joseph Curwen (who apparently practiced alchemy of a most unwholesome kind some two hundred years previously), what Dr. Willard begins to uncover scarcely seems believable, with suggestions of reincarnation or reanimation of ancient cadavers by a cabal of individuals of greatly extended lifespans seeking arcane knowledge of mysterious rituals. Yet, the further Dr. Willett progresses in his search for answers, the more likely it seems that such a cabal is still active today, and that Charles is slowly being drawn into their midst, for reasons yet unknown.



Ian Culbard has done a truly sterling job adapting this work, essentially a detective story, which is in complete contrast to the innate Boy’s Own adventure flavour of his previous Lovecraft adaption AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS (which I also loved), and again, his unique art style is perfect for a creeping tale of eldritch horror. It’s entirely credible art, yet sufficiently dissembled from a realist approach that we are little by little unnervingly tugged towards the inevitably unpleasant conclusion (good old H.P. just did NOT do happy endings) as the emotional intensity of the story is gradually ratcheted up to, then well beyond, breaking point.

The whole point about Lovecraft’s monsters (and indeed his approach to horror) was that they were amorphous, indescribably alien, completely incomprehensible to the human eye and mind, so when they do finally make an appearance how on earth do you actually draw them?! Well, no spoilers but suffice to say, were you ever to see in real life what Ian has drawn, I think your sanity would go in an instant. I know mine would! And once you have finished reading and are left to make your own conclusions about the… resolution… of Charles Dexter Ward’s curious case, Ian then pulls the masterstroke of reversing his initial opening page, panning back out to show the Earth as a tiny, helpless marble in the vast stygian depths of dark, very dark, space, in case we’d momentarily forgotten the Elder ones are still out there watching us, just biding their time…

The Shadow Out of Time

“Oh dear God, no!”
“NO, NO, NO! Remember, for God’s sake, remember.”

Yes, yes, yes! Another gloriously sanity-shaking adaptation from Mr. Culbard to tip us even further into a state of irreparable discombobulation. I really do marvel at his ability to produce such cogent works from such… steeped… source material. The original novella is probably one of my favourite Lovecraft works, simply because so much is revealed of the various Elder races and the prehistory of Earth before humanity became the dominant lifeform. It isn’t that straightforward a read, though, and I think Ian has done an exceptional job portraying what is revealed to the main protagonist, Professor Nathaniel Peaslee of Miskatonic University, as his mind is snatched from his body and replaced by that of another.



There is some speculation amongst Lovecraft biographers that certain elements of this character are auto-biographical or perhaps inspired by Lovecraft’s father, or that the idea for this story came from repeatedly watching a 1933 science fiction film called Berkley Square. In any case, what he wrote is one of the most chilling pieces of speculative horror fiction I have ever read. One of Lovecraft’s great talents lay in his unparalleled ability to make the reader feel truly insignificant, a veritable speck in a total alien and unfathomable universe, which in turn induces a genuine sense of trepidation in the reader. It’s horrific because of its very subtlety to infiltrate your mind, engendering a sense of unease.

Ian has captured that perfectly here as poor old Peaslee is well and truly put through the wringer both physically and mentally. The PLINK sound effect above, for example, is the sound of a torch going out leaving the poor chap very old in the dark, in somewhere he really, really doesn’t want to linger. Then, the sequences during which we learn precisely where Peaslee’s mind was during the period his body was occupied by… the other… are truly stygian in their alienness. It’s a quite literally mind-blowing reveal and you really get the grandiose sense of scale involved from the artwork, which is a real feat. I keep thinking Ian can’t raise the bar even further with Lovecraft material, but he keeps on managing it.

I am therefore delighted to report Ian has already agreed to do at least one more Lovecraft adapation for Self Made Hero, though I was unable to prise from him precisely which work it will be. I am planning on bodysnatching him, though, with a mind-swap device I keep in my laboratory on the fourth floor of the shop, so rest assured, dear readers, I will let you know more soon enough <fiendish cackles repeated with mild reverb tapering off in a most disturbing fashion>…

The Dream-Quest Of Unknown Kadath

One of my favourite Lovecraft yarns, this, featuring heavily as it does Nyarlathotep, he of a thousand forms and indeed mangled pronunciations.

Ian did try and instruct me in the correct pronunciation when he popped in to sketch in all our copies but unfortunately my dulcet northern tones were not able to effect the correct enunciation, which is probably just as well as I have insufficient sanity points to begin with and can scarce afford to lose any more through an injudicious summoning of the emissary of the Outer Gods…



I do like how each of these four Lovecraft adaptations demonstrate a very different aspect of the Cthulu mythos and H.P.’s writing. I have commented upon it before but AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS is a real Boys’ Own Adventure, THE CASE OF CHARLES DEXTER WARD a puzzling whodunit, THE SHADOW OUT OF TIME a piece of pure science fiction and a real Rosetta Stone to understanding the mythos, and this a veritable hallucinogenic Alice in Wonderland nightmare of a trip to the darkest recesses of the human mind, to the dimensional spaces beyond those we can normally access in our waking lives.

I think this tremendous variety in the scope of his writing is partly the reason why Lovecraft has endured. That and we all love being scared senseless. In many ways, though he is not beyond some outright in-your-face horror when required, Lovecraft frequently taps into humanity’s deepest and most complex subconscious fears, that of losing the sense of self, one’s sense of identity, our very coherence of reason itself, by the mere suggestion that there is far more to this world, this unimaginably vast, cold universe, than meets the eye. That in those spaces which we can sense but cannot see, there are beings that lurk, so alien, to encounter them directly would be enough to destroy the delicate balance of one’s mind forever. At least one such victim does shop at Page 45, I think, and he once engaged me in a conversation regarding Lovecraftian characters in such a manner I was left thinking he quite believed they were absolutely real… I kid you not.

[Editor: he told me he began reading Lovecraft aged 4. It showed.]

That very variety and complexity also means Lovecraft is very hard to adapt, of course. In every case I think Ian has done an incredible job deconstructing the work, really allowing the core story to stand out in a manner which makes it sufficiently rich and rewarding enough for the aficionados but also completely accessible for the neophytes. I would be astonished were there not readers out there who have been occasioned to commence reading Lovecraft prose on the basis of encountering these adaptations.

So… Randolph Carter begins to search for the hidden city of Kadath because he has dreamt three times of its glorious spires but awoken each time abruptly just before he can reach it. Repeated prayers to the gods of dream go unanswered, even for the next issue of SANDMAN: OVERTURE to finally arrive, but Carter resolves to find Kadath, no matter what the cost.

What follows is a strange, shifting journey, that on the face of it makes no sense at all, but viewed within the confines of the sleeping world seems not so fanciful at all. Along the way he will encounter strange entities and apparitions, some rather less friendly to travellers than others, and also the sinister Nyarlathotep in more than one of his many guises. Carter, desperate to tread the streets of the hidden city at last, is rather more trusting than he really ought to be. Obsessed, he starts to believe that there could be no possible fate worse than not reaching Kadath. He ought not to be so sure about that…

I can imagine this may well have been the most fun of the adaptations for Ian to undertake, from the perspective of the illustration, because there are the elaborate soaring sequences of pure fantasy which must have been a true delight to envisage. In fact, the book is arguably simply one long fantasy sequence. It’s certainly not as dense or intricate a story as many of his others, a fact which Lovecraft acknowledged during his lifetime, but it is an immensely vibrant, fevered construction, which engenders a sense of both wonderment and unease in the reader, and Ian captures this beautifully with his stygian, soporific cast and wild dreamscapes and netherworlds.

The wonderment comes because we are willing Carter along on his extraordinary journey, but also significant unease because we can see his most fervent desire is blinding him to both obvious dangers at virtually every turn, but also the malevolent, manipulative wiles of others, not least Nyarathotep. Will Carter finally reach Kadath? Well, you wouldn’t want me to spoil it for you would you? Suffice to say nothing is quite as it seems, with an ending that is in some ways as puzzling as it is enlightening, which I think is very appropriate indeed for the resolution to this most unusual of quests.

A true triumph once again, this adaptation, and I personally think Ian deserves great praise indeed for his own unique addition to the Cthulu mythos, which I believe all true Lovecraft fans will rightly hold in the highest regard.


Buy HP Lovecraft: Four Classic Horror Stories h/c SIGNED & SKETCHED IN and read the Page 45 review here

Stumptown vol 3 s/c (£17-99, Oni) by Greg Rucka & Justin Greenwood…

“That was a total flop. You saw the way she was holding me?”
“Oh, I saw it… Now I’m wondering when you’ll finally get over yourself and ask her out?”
“Fuck you.”
“Hot sweaty bodies colliding roughly… if it’s not love, it’s lust, admit it.”
“She’s from Seattle. I do not date Flounders. The way you let her score on you, you’re one to talk.”
“That sounds like jealousy to me.”

P.I. Dex Parios returns, and in a football-related story to boot! Sorry, couldn’t resist that one, I’ll give myself a stern talking to, and a yellow card…

Ah, I really wish Rucka would make this an ongoing monthly series, his characterisation and dialogue are superb. He’s also got an artist to match his talents in Justin Greenwood, who also illustrated Antony Johnston’s THE FUSE.



This case opens with Dex playing in goal against the lovely ladies of Seattle Muddy Balls. Still, her team is called Reál Pain, which isn’t much better frankly, but considerably more classy than FC Vagisil, which was the name of my friend’s Sunday league team for a number of years… But, as Dex has to point out to her teammate Hoffman, it’s just a game. Hoffman, in the vein of Shankly, disagrees vehemently, and if you know the rest of Bill’s famous quote you might have half an idea where things are going…

After her kickabout, Dex is off to take her younger brother Ansell to the Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Flounders local derby. It’s a fiery affair to be sure, as much off the pitch as on it, I hadn’t realised Americans soccer crowds had become so skilled in the art of verbally abusing the opposition supporters as their transatlantic cousins. It quite took me back to my own salad days of terrace serenading. The first issue of this volume concludes with Dex’s friend Mike being found near the stadium, having taking a serious beating. On the face of it, it’s a simple case of hooliganism, but of course there’s much more to it than that.

I really feel like Rucka is back on track with the emotional components of this series again after STUMPTOWN VOLUME TWO where I can’t say I really warmed to anyone, and Dex herself felt somewhat peripheral to the main action. Dex and her brother are key elements of what makes this title so interesting so I’m pleased the focus, for this first issue at least, is squarely on them.

I am also extremely happy Justin Greenwood is on board for this arc. It’s exactly what this title required art-wise to bring it back to the forefront of crime comics. Clearly they’ve decided to go for a less gritty and more colourful approach, but Justin’s style still adds a hard-nosed edge to proceedings.

All that remains now is to leave you with that classic parting shot by Bexsy (Gary Oldman) from what remains to this day, hands down my favourite football hooligan film, The Firm. The original from 1989, not the wishy-washy remake from a few years ago. As a young lad skirting around the periphery of football related violence back in the late 80s, early 90s, well, trying to avoid it at all costs frankly, his terrifying performance was seared into my mind’s eye creating a football hooligan bogeyman potentially lurking around every corner at away games, tooled up with hammer and Stanley knife, ready to smash me up then cut me to ribbons…

“I come in peace. I leave you in pieces…”


Buy Stumptown vol 3 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’.

Hellboy: The Wild Hunt s/c (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola & Duncan Fegredo

Iron Maiden: Legacy Of The Beast s/c (£8-99, Heavy Metal) by Lexi Leon, Ian Edginton & Kevin West

Konungar: War Of The Crowns s/c (£17-99, Titan) by Sylvain Runberg &  Juzhen

Retrogade Orbit (£11-99, Avery Hill Publishing) by Kristyna Baczykski

Royal City vol 3: We All Float On s/c (£14-99, Image) by Jeff Lemire

Doctor Strange vol 1: God Of Magic s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Donny Cates & Gabriel Hernandez Walta

Terrifics vol 1: Meet The Terrifics s/c (£14-99, DC) by Jeff Lemire & Ivan Reis, others

Aposimz vol 1 (£10-99, Vertical) by Tsutomu Nihei

Escape Journey vol 1 (£8-99, Sublime) by Ogeretsu Tanaka

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews October 2018 week one

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2018

Featuring Jon McNaught. Juan Díaz Canales, Jose-Luis Munuera, Andi Watson, Pornsak Pichetshote, Aaron Campbell, José Villarrubia, Kago, and Posy Simmonds with news of her next graphic novel!

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

This is sublime.

And it is going to resonate profoundly with almost every single one of you, for it’s the most astutely observed and skilful evocation on paper – through light, colour, carefully regulated pacing and that which is said and sometimes left sullenly unsaid – of sights, sounds, sensations and behavioural moments during a key time common to us all.

These are the four chapters: ‘To the Sea’, ‘Landmarks’, ‘Passing Time’, ‘The Waves’.

So how were your family holidays, as a child aged perhaps seven, ten or thirteen, and what lasting memories of them do you retain?

They’re about to come flooding back in the most minutely discerned detail!

‘To the Sea’

They set off in silence – the mum, son and daughter – though you can almost hear the drone of the traffic on the morning motorway.



McNaught nails the temperature and time of day through the angle of the shadows cast by the sun, the cars almost hovering over asphalt which is as pitted in the sunshine as it is pock-marked in the shade. And cars do glide now, don’t they, such is their suspension? We hear so much less of our own vehicle’s engine while inside, and although we are looking down from without on that page, it is the senses of the drivers and passengers which are paramount in successfully communicating this experience.

And, oh, the colours!

They may not actually set out in silence, but it’s that lull-time part of the journey which we come in on. Gazing out of the car window as a child on such a long journey, we see exactly what we did or would now of Britain’s countryside from a motorway: glimpses of grazing sheep between monumental overpasses or gigantic pylons overhead, their arms outstretched, perhaps a brief glimpse of oh no it’s gone! When you’re young (so reasonably unseasonably travelled) that which is mundane to adults all seems so much stranger, more exotic and even exciting.

You know, for the first few furlongs, at least.

Then there’ll be rain. Of course there’ll be rain! It’s British Summertime and you’re off on your holibobs! There’ll be lashings more of that later, I’m sure! So there’s the odd horse suffering in water-drenched silence and you look into the back seat of the family saloon and it’s already cluttered with empty Haribo packets and a bottle of juice just lolling about, back and forth on the floor. The windscreen wipers reveal what they can rhythmically, then eventually there’s drowsiness, sleep. Mum checks her rear-view mirror….



“Four more hours!?” the son bleated earlier. “Why’re we going somewhere so far away?”
“Well, it’s a great place! You guys will love it! … It was my favourite place in the world when I was your age.”

Ah, but so much more has changed in the two or three decades than it had when I were a lad. A mobile phone signal wasn’t exactly a priority back then.

Their destination is a coastal caravan park. And, oh, the colours (reprise)!



How do you think they’ll get on?

As the sun sets on their first night and the lights go on one by one, through like intimate orange heat sensors below the vast purple heavens, that too is rendered magnificently, with a majesty or melancholy, you take your pick.



The next morning Mum takes Suzie on An Expedition (capitals courtesy of ‘Winnie The Pooh’) because Andy’s “being awkward”. The boy’s now just a little too old to be interested in a family holiday and wants to be left to his own devices.

“If we keep heading this way, we’ll get to the Mermaid’s Cave! That’s what your Grandpa used to call it! He used to tell us about the mermaids who lived there… guarding the treasure. He said you could hear them singing at night. If you listened carefully.”

Suzie’s spotted a crab.

“This one’s had its legs bitten off.”

Way to ruin the romance! But the Mermaid’s Cave, when they reach it, will surprise you and twice. It’s priceless, really.

It’s all very pertinent, poignant, bitter-sweet and of course some aspects of magic are, one prays, immutable and universal, like the sparkles of sun on wavering water when the sun lies so low in front of you.



Just the other day I sat staring at a long stretch of river, then lapping lakes, in precisely those dazzling conditions, absorbed by the sun falling full on my face while the cool blowing breeze set my spine off all tingling. McNaught’s diamond-shaped spangles of light capture that very specific, sensual beauty to nothing short of a thrilling perfection. There are even whole sheets of white light when the brilliance of sun upon water becomes almost too much for the unshielded eye to bear, and we love it!

It is oh so familiar, all of this – an almost impossible task, you would have thought, given the different configurations of diverse family dynamics and destinations, but McNaught has improbably succeeded through an extraordinarily keen eye, judicious selection and an uncanny ability to render with exquisite precision what to most of us would be fleeting and ephemeral or at least not quite communicable – and I am desperately looking forward to comparing notes with as many of you as possible, page by page and perhaps over a glass of wine, to see which instances you recognise most as well.

This, for example:

Visiting an elderly Great Auntie whom you’ve never met, with their drab rooms and fuddy-duddy old ornaments; your Mum and her Aunt chatting away about people you’ve no clue nor a care about. You’re left to look around the room, idly. Ah, but a tin of biscuits will be opened to go with the tea!

“There we go… There might be some chocolate ones in there… if you dig down deep enough.”



Over and over again, McNaught nails it. These are my memories. Only with more moths and spiders, and I don’t I ever saw the ramshackle roof of an ancient local museum glass cabinet, with its stray wires etc.

That it’s a single mum makes for a particular dynamic which is really quite sad, for there’s no sharing of the onus to keep the kids constantly entertained, but nevertheless it all rings so very true.

“Suzie, don’t waste your fries.”
“I’m not.”

She is. She’s flinging them at the crows. But don’t you just love the way that kids are so very contrary that they will blatantly lie to your face?

“Stop kicking my chair!”
It’s the back of Suzie’s big brother’s passenger seat.
“I’m not!”

She is.

What do you think Andy’s been up to?



Few creators pack the page with as many panels as this (Chris Ware, quite often, within the likes of BUILDING STORIES) but then there’s so much to see when you do have the time to stop and look around you, or when times stops to pass so seemingly slowly when you’re very young. Nature is forever getting on with its own thing, whatever you’re doing or not.

There are also some spectacular full-page phenomena which I won’t give away here for fear of ruining your surprise. But you mark my words: you’ll remember it all.

You’ll remember the rain, especially. It’s a staple of every British holiday, holed up in a tent, caravan or rented cottage and – once on the road, decisively – cramped in the confines of car, having beaten a hasty retreat from a harbour or seafront to eat your boiled eggs while staring out of the increasingly steamed-up windows.

And this will be remembered forever, as an all-time British classic.



Jon McNaught has exceptional award-winning form already, but at the time of typing all his other graphic novels – like Andi Watson’s and Nabiel Kanan’s mainstream British fiction – languish sadly out of print. Here’s hoping that this is the book which will catalyse a mass resurrection so that we can proudly create an entire Jon McNaught counter-corner display!


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

Rose (£2-99, self-published) by Andi Watson ~

“You rent a new place.
“It is conspicuously cheap.”

Who could resist? Especially in this housing market! I’ll take whatever I can get my hands on, personally, and if that turned out to be a monolithic European-style castle I certainly wouldn’t say no. But first the garden may need tending, just a little, and the rooms will certainly need a thorough dusting. With a new home this vast, exploring is a must; who knows what secrets a building like this could hold?

“She doesn’t know you’re here.
“She had a shiny bead of blood on the tip of her finger.
“No need to tiptoe around.”

At first glance this is seemingly merely a fresh take on ‘The Sleeping Beauty’ fable. We are presented with the familiar story from the perspective of an unsuspecting chap who simply needs a place to rent. Bemused by the sheer amount of dusting, and entirely clueless as to what, or more precisely who, lies hidden within his new home… until he stumbles across her… he nevertheless takes it all in his stride, over time finding himself becoming her valiant caretaker.


Look! Free sketches (left) in the entire Andi Watson Collection!


But this is a society with the slight quirk of having princes in abundance, all of whom are now attempting to break into our young protagonist’s new digs for their chance to awaken the fair maiden and claim her as their own. At first he simply calls the police and lets the flowers grow back a bit, but soon the princes start pushing their luck…

Deceptively gentle, you’ll be drawn in by wonderfully tender moments such as the perfectly content dormouse nestled in the snoozing beauty’s hair. But don’t be fooled as this is not a love story, for it wouldn’t be an Andi Watson comic if things were as straightforward as that! Consider it more of a cautionary tale of the potent effects of falling in love, of obsession, and of possession. Tread carefully, new renter, or you might not get your deposit back…

For another view-askew of ‘Sleeping Beauty’, please see Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell’s THE SLEEPER AND THE SPINDLE.

For more of his mini-comics, please see our burgeoning Andi Watson Collection, the first of which we made our last Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month.


Buy Rose and read the Page 45 review here

Infidel (£14-99, Image) by Pornsak Pichetshote & Aaron Campbell with José Villarrubia.

“My mother’s all about obsessing over shadows in a room full of light. We’re not doing that to Leslie.”

There’s so much humanity and individuality in Aisha’s face, there, as she talks to her best friend, Medina. Her mouth lies slightly open and gentle, but her eyes gaze into the distance, the future, determined. On the previous page – in recollection of her mother – Aisha’s shoulders were slumped while leaning forward, with the weight of having been rejected. But she will not give up on her mother-in-law.

One of the many wonders of this is that the evidence remains deeply ambiguous as to whether Aisha is being too trusting and optimistic, or whether her fiancé Tom knows his own mum better than she does.

What could any of this possibly have to do with a horror comic?



Well, there are so many more horrors other than the occult or the alien. There is uncertainty and vulnerability, not knowing if you can trust someone: the threat of harm, physical or otherwise, can be just as frightening as its actuality. Ask anyone who’s ever worried about being bullied at school the next day, for hours upon end, day after day. Or read JANE, THE FOX & ME.

Aisha is confident that Leslie’s no threat, either to herself or to her step-daughter, Kris, even in the knowledge of what’s gone before, but her university friend also has substantial doubts and we, the audience, are privy to some extra moments which they are not.

Secondly, there’s the very real, current and all too enduring horror of racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia: ignorance voiced with pride, spread sheep-like by osmosis or deliberately through disinformation as a virus which currently culminates increasingly not decreasingly in America, England and some parts of wider Europe in extreme intimidation and outright violence: beatings, acid attacks, murder and mass, white-supremacist terrorism.

But equally there is the horror for Aisha of being rejected by her mother simply for becoming engaged to a non-Muslim, Tom, no matter how devout she’s remained.

What’s this series called again?



Then, of course, there is absolutely the horror of the creeping, the intangible and supernatural against which we have no defence. Worse still, if only you see it, feel it or smell it, no one may believe you. If no one else experiences what you do, then you go through it alone. That, I would suggest, is the ultimate horror, and this book racks that up to almost unbearable degrees, on multiple occasions, in from several different viewpoints, as you shall see.

Aisha is experiencing nightmares. They’re growing increasingly vivid and intense. A corpse-white cadaver wraps itself around her, draining her sleep and suffocating what’s left with its cloying stench of rotting meat. Ghastly grey hands creep over her shoulders and thighs, an intimacy of the unknown, invading her like an incubus with cold hands, cold fingers, cold heart.



Ah yes, that which cannot be fought or reasoned with. With that we come back again to real-life horror: those who are violent that cannot be reasoned with on the street, at work, in your home. It’s chilling.

Aisha, Tom and Kris have relatively recently moved into Tom’s mother’s apartment on the top floor of a tenement building on the Lower East Side which was the target of a bombing attack. I spotted the smoke stains on the very first page past the prologue, rising from the top of the fourth-storey windows.



It’s there on the metal shutters on the ground floor too. The bomber was verified by law enforcement as a lone wolf, but they had once glanced at an ISIS website, so you know how that goes…  Now the tenement has few tenants left for it is far from repaired, and some of those that remain, well, they don’t like seeing a Muslim of colour and Pakistani origin climbing their rickety stairs. There is still so much anger, and even if hatred is suppressed then it will usually out somewhere, somehow.

I swear to whatever (if any) god you believe in that INFIDEL has been ridiculously well thought through and comes with a sophisticated balance and so many unexpected perspectives, for the final irony is that it is non-Muslim Tom, Aisha’s fiancé, who is so determined to protect Aisha and respect her faith along with its sacred traditions that he is the one fighting her corner against his own mother, Leslie. He was reluctant to move his family in because Leslie used to poison his daughter with sweeping Islamophobic slurs, as if all Muslims obeyed barbaric laws, condoned or actively encouraged terrorism. For example when Kris once played with Aisha’s hijab:

“Women who wear this let people get killed for drawing cartoons. They let men throw rocks at girls like you!”



But to Aisha that was two years ago, she believes Leslie has learned and that it’s vital that Kris know her grandmother because her biological mother died so early that Kris can’t even remember her.

The first chapter begins in paranormal terror and it climaxes in paranormal terror, before an even more awful real-world ellipsis of a cliff-hanger which could have gone any number of ways, but it is completely eclipsed by the second chapter’s real-world ramifications, which will have you screaming in vicarious terror. Now that is emotional investment.


There’s a sequence in the third chapter which perfectly exemplifies the “sophisticated balance and so many unexpected perspectives” I mentioned earlier which especially needs commending without, I hope, giving away that gut-wrenching ending to chapter two.

It involves Haley, one of the tenement’s other occupants whom Aaron Campbell does a masterful job of depicting at her most genuine, natural, open, friendly – in fact bubbly – as she meets and greets Medina, Aisha’s best friend and fellow Muslim, thanking effusively her helping to carry in shopping.  Haley is blonde; Haley is white. The dialogue is so cleverly directed during a single page from the brightest of bright which should lift anyone’s soul when it comes to kindness and inclusivity… to the darkest of dark, at its most abrupt, in the most awful accusation of racism, at its most personal.



Haley, you see (and this is where I have to be careful not to give the game away), has accused Aisha – to others – of something truly hideous. But the thing is, Haley doesn’t have a racist bone in her body and has only reported precisely that which she’s seen. She just didn’t see what Aisha saw.

At which point I’d remind you of what I wrote earlier, for it applies to Aisha, to Hayley and will soon to Medina, and it forms the whole heart of the horror here:

“Worse still, if only you see it, feel it or smell it, no one may believe you.”



The argument is reprised six pages later on. Huge props to Pichetshote for giving both scenes – and perspectives – so much punch.

HELLBLAZER used to combine occult and socio-political horror to successful, cathartic effect, but it was always a little bit burlesque because its star, John Constantine was a dabbler in diabolism et al. This is a very different beast, being grounded firmly in the street-level, down in the subway or on the park bench: on what we see all around us right now. I would suggest that the exceptionally uncomfortable paranormal aspect is merely a symptom, side-effect or result of the rot, not its cause, but that which it will come to catalyse only fuels it further.

So it doesn’t make it any less pants-wettingly terrifying or grotesque.


I’m sure that I read somewhere that artists and co-collaborators on all aspects of the comic, Campbell and Villarrubia, chose to illustrate all the everyday elements in digital while pulling back to the traditional, more physical art process for the psychically parasitic. They rendered that on Bristol board.

It may seem perverse, but I’ve seen so many other offerings where the purportedly real has been rendered in pen and ink and the preternatural given a computer-driven day-glo and gloss. The result has always been a distancing disassociation between the two elements: here is the real world, but the other is freaky, immaterial so won’t matter to you – they’re special effects, so you don’t empathise.

What Campbell and Villarrubia have achieved, by contrast, is an unholy marriage which makes what would otherwise be ethereal all too sensually and so immediately repugnant, overwhelming and nasty.

So, you know, thanks for that.


Buy Infidel and read the Page 45 review here

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

Whilst the world waits patiently for the concluding volumes six and seven of BLACKSAD (which were meant to be out in French already though there is absolutely no sign of them, so goodness knows how long us Anglophones will have to wait…) at least we have… the forthcoming BLACKSAD UNDER THE SKIN animated movie…

Sorry, got a bit excited there! Doesn’t that trailer look glorious?! Not as remotely fabulous as Juanjo Guarnido’s artwork in the comics, I have to say, but then I don’t believe that would be possible. Anyway, what I meant to say is at least we have this… Here is the rallying call to arms of the publisher to tell us more…

“Fraternity is a haunting horror story written by Juan Diaz Canales the co-creator of the popular BLACKSAD series and illustrated by the talented Jose-Luis Munuera. During the [American] Civil War, the inhabitants of a small frontier town discover a mysterious beast is prowling the forest around them, a beast that may have a connection to a feral child found several years earlier. Fraternity is perfect for fans of the monster genre and people who have a love for the classic universal monster movies as this tale feels like it would have been right at home amount them.”

What that little nugget doesn’t tell you is anything about the small town of New Fraternity, Indiana, where this story takes place. It was founded as a social utopia by a well-meaning idealist where everyone would share in the collective bounty of the community, but the fragile experiment now finds itself on the verge of collapse as food begins to run scarce and those of a more capitalistic mindset start to decide that perhaps a less egalitarian approach is what’s required. To benefit themselves at least… Throw in some hardcore communists, a few American Civil War deserters and of course that mysterious beast and feral child and it’s probably no great surprise when the proverbial powder keg finally ignites.

This is certainly no BLACKSAD, but it is still a well-written western horror mash-up that is far more to do with the malaises afflicting society and the population at large than a lurking monster, who in fact seems to have a far larger heart than pretty much any of the townsfolk.

Art-wise, it’s a nice clean, crisp Euro-ligne combined with a very subdued palette of primarily light brown and pale blue. It’s actually probably more one for those who enjoyed the likes of THE LIGHTS OF THE AMALOU by Christophe Gibelin & Claire Wendling.


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

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

“I… I don’t understand… There must be some kind of mistake!”
“We’ve had a lot of complaints from your former clients. Mixing up medicines, miscounting calories, allergic reactions… These have cancelled out your high scores.”
“There must be some kind of mistake!”
“At this rate we’ll have to cut your pay. And your bonus.”
“Let me care for them again. I’ll clear this up!”
“Sorry, but they say they never want to see you again. I can’t let you go back now.”
“But… but…”
“So I’m sending you to another client. This is your chance to redeem yourself. Don’t let me down.”
“Yes, sir! I’ll pour my heart and soul into this job!”

“Heh heh. Nice work.”
“Are you happy now? Don’t you think this is a bit cruel? Sending her there?”
“I relish the thought. I hope she turns into a basket case.”

As you might now already suspect, there has indeed been “some kind of mistake”… A dastardly rival to the delightful, devoted Yukie Sakai, beloved by her clients and always winning the coveted Employee of the Month title and bonus, has managed to sexually blackmail the area sales manager into fixing the customer feedback. Gasp!!! So now Yukie’s being sent out on the ‘special’ jobs, the ones that have caused the demise of more than a fair few care assistants…



Fortunately for Yukie, she’s not just got a heart of gold, she’s got nerves of steel to boot. She’s sure going to need them, though, as the various jobs she’s forced to take by the idiotic area sales manager become ever more surreal and testing on her sanity, not to mention increasingly dangerous to life and limb! We very quickly step out of the realm of realistic horror and into Junji Ito-style darkly comedic shenanigans and indeed full-on body horror. If you are an Ito fan impatiently waiting for his FRANKENSTEIN STORY COLLECTION (later this month!) trust me, this will more than fill the contorted, twisted gap in your head, I mean life…






Apparently Shintaro Kago refers to his genre of storytelling as ‘fashionable paranoia’. Not entirely sure if something has been lost in translation there or he’s just been hitting the ketamine a bit too hard but if you enjoy seeing others being put through the proverbial meat grinder rather than yourself, this will be perfect for you. I also highly recommend the zombie apocalypse with a twist I AM A HERO, including some very twisted zombies, for body horror fans.


Buy Dementia 21 and read the Page 45 review here

Mrs Weber’s Omnibus (£20-00, Jonathan Cape) by Posy Simmonds.



Rejoice, rejoice! All my Christmas quandaries have been answered once again, in one fell swoop, for this is back in print! I do hope no relatives read my reviews.

“No one reads your reviews, Stephen!”

From Posy Simmonds MBE, the creator of LITERARY LIFE, TAMARA DREWE and GEMMA BOVERY, I commend to you without equivocation one great big brick of a book, collecting Britain’s best-ever series of self-contained newspaper comic pages. I promise you unfaltering brilliance from cover to cover: a body of work which is both timeless and yet a time capsule of cultural mores as seen in Britain during the 1980s. Improbable, yes; impossible, no – not in the right hands.

Let us take a stroll down any street and eavesdrop on ‘Well Known Facts’. From the mouths of babes…

“But why can’t you walk on the cracks?”
“Because my mum says if you tread on the lines, bears will get you.
“And my mum says if you make a face like that & the wind changes, you’ll get stuck like that for ever & ever!
“And my mummy says if you swallow pips like that, an apple tree’ll grow out of your mouth & suffocate you to death!
“And my mum says if you pick a guinea pig up by its tail, its eyes drop out…”
“And my mum said if I’m good, the tooth fairy will put 50p under my pillow.”
“Liar Liar! Pants on fire! Nose as long as a Telegraph wire!”
“And my mum says if you unscrew your tummy button, your bottom falls off.”

… and adults alike…

“And my mum says if we have another baby, it’ll bring Mike & me together again.”
“And my doctor says if I had a more positive attitude to motherhood I wouldn’t feel so sick!”
“But my mother said if we stay together, it’ll be better for the children…”
“And my architect friend says if we knock down the front & back, it’ll give us more privacy.”
“And my husband says if he gave up smoking he’d only eat and then die of a fatty heart…”
“… and Peter said if we kept it discreet, Eric wouldn’t suspect a thing!”

That, my friends, is the perfect page of Posy Simmonds: searingly well observed, beautifully composed, artfully juxtaposed, and rammed to its riotous rafters with timeless truths, even when they’re lies. Like husbands fobbing off their wives with transparent lies about where they are and why they’re not home from work on time. God help you, morons.



There will always be children’s parties to be endured, full of fun, tears and trauma; family holidays with their preparation, packing and inevitable rain-drenched afternoons; the innuendo-obsessed and overenthusiastic soul of the party; editors bleaching authors’ individuality to oblivion in search of commercial conformity; mother-in-laws (and indeed mothers) unsubtly critiquing your house and domestic endeavours; parents judging other people’s parental skills via the behaviour of their children; mothers taking on all the worries of their children, their husbands, their own mothers, their babysitters… even their cats!

But Posy presents all these so wittily, so deftly, so mischievously, and with a lot of lateral thinking!



Take ‘Lonely Heart’, the heartbreaking ballad of Action Man and his Trudi-Doll – such a sad state of affairs! Once she lay up his manly torso at the top of the toy box, as sexy as a supermodel, then she started wearing his clothes, carrying his gun, and “Finally, last week, she moved into a gyro-powered assault craft, with rotating gun turret”. Truly their fate was in the tiny hands of playful Gods toying with their lives. “I have now moved in with a duck. It is far from ideal.”

There’s also an extended sequence involving Stanhope Wright, advertising executive and serial philanderer (hmm, there’s always one, isn’t there? See TAMARA DREWE), preparing to shoot a soup commercial, and the secretary he ignores in favour of the more flamboyant members of his creative team. Entitled ‘True Love’ (with a softly arched eyebrow), within Janice Brady wistfully daydreams of the boss she believes will one day notice her – the boss who one party did notice her when she nearly caught him snogging at the Christmas works do, and fobbed her off with a jar of stilton. Oh, the jar of stilton – she carries it around with her everywhere! In her dreams she is the irresistible queen of comicbook romance, Posy adroitly shifting styles to nail the hair, the mascara and then, once scorned, the blonde-haired beau who swoops in to make all around jealous, then carry her off into the sunset once tragedy has struck and she lies dying (in her mind) after a triumphant moment of self-sacrifice, trampled to death by a flock of satanic-eyed sheep sent stampeding by a jar of mint sauce.



Wonderfully ridiculous and yet, if we’re honest, once more absolutely true! I love the predatory Stanhope’s hooked nose and jutting chin, and the addition of red to the black and white pages works wonders.

The real draw and central stars, however, are ex-nurse and aspiring children’s author Wendy Webber and her husband George, a lecturer in Liberal Studies at an unnamed Polytechnic. Here George queues at the student canteen to be served by Marie and prepares a farewell speech in his head. Ah, and the things we dream of saying, but never do and never would!

“As one of the longer-serving lecturers here at the Poly… it is my great pleasure to remind the Staff & students that, after 15 years’ survive, Marie is going to New Zealand… and, therefore, things in the canteen can only get better…
“I think one can say that, during Marie’s despotic reign, never in the field of institutional cooking has so much food been left by so many… I for one will not miss her air of truculence, her fault finding, her inability to give the right change… I won’t miss her rudeness, her racism, her petty economies & above all, her congealing food, cooked & served in PURE BILE!”
“Go on! Take it! What d’you think I am??”

Lethal, I’d have thought.



Wendy and George are children of the ‘60s with children in the ‘80s, striving to live lives informed by those original ideals while passing them on to their children. Dispelling the taboo of boozums comes back to bite George when on the bus with young Benji, who can’t help but speak his little mind! Wendy despairs at the ignorance, petty parental prejudices and outright racism she sees outside the school gates when the scandal of headlice and nits starts doing the rounds. They are dismayed as city dwellers buy up seaside cottages and visit for just three weeks a year. They cater for neighbourly street parties while teenage Belinda, post-punk as you like, scowls at her parents disdainfully, resentfully, critically. Belinda is full of wrong-headed rebellion – a superficial elitist spouting social reform while practising none of it, snapping at her parents’ community-orientated offerings like their home-made wine and striding off to drink Pimms instead.



Simmonds’ layouts are impeccable: she always manages to pack in far more information on a page than you’d imagine possible whilst clearing the deck off all clutter – no extraneous self-indulgence here. Her characters are never caricatures – not even the boisterous and bulbous-nosed whisky salesman Edmund Heep – but full of humanity and individuality, and I particularly love Wendy Weber’s eyes drawn as dots on her glasses. The prevailing fashions and fabrics of the day are nailed, as are the day-to-day details of domestic routine on the early diary pages: appointments, phone numbers, rotas and little money sums. “Yes, yes, yes!” I cried when I saw the table keeping track of which of offspring had encountered which childhood diseases (chicken pox, measles, German measles and mumps) and so grown immunity.



So much here will strike familiar family chords: burst pipes, nativity plays, learning lines for school – the days when banks kept the hours they pleased rather than actually catering for their customers.

On top of that, over-analytical George is a hoot, seeing complex socio-political messages in a simple bourgeois and bucolic fabric pattern. Here an old friend from the sixties is over, hoping to join George on his faculty, and George cannot resist another opportunity for purple pontification:

“Wear a suit by all means, but don’t cut your hair! The Dean & the interviewing panel may draw probalistic inferences from your hair… Seen structurally, the pig tails signifies an identification with the North American Indian – giving you a political dimension. And you’ve got a rubber band round your hair… Rubber is a symbol of the mechano-cultural colonisation, compounded by rape, of the Amazon by Europeans! And your pigtail will link you in the Dean’s mind with his interdisciplinary here: Benjamin Franklin.”
“But, Dad, the student representatives on the panel will look at his hair & think: Boring, Geriatric old Hippy.”

That was indeed Belinda, yes. Her boyfriend Jasper is pretty exasperating too, but also prone to bursts of eloquence which may miss the point but certainly hit the mark. What a way to speak to your in-laws, eh?

“That’s a typical remark of you woolly liberals! Look at you! All your soft, frayed, faded, patched, ethnic, woolly, comfortable, old clothes sum up your attitude to life!
“Whenever controversy comes you way, you swaddle it in woolly deference and smother it in a cushion of irreproachable tolerance!
“You bile never bubbles! Your gorge never rises… your blood never boils! …because you sit on the bloody fence. You’re… TEPID!”

Exit Jasper & Belinda. I leave the last word to Mrs. Weber.

“That Belinda’s metallic pants & Dagger heels… Jasper’s piranha-teethed zips & crushing boots point to a life of unrestrained aggression? People like that meet violent ends!”
“And what happens to woolly liberals?”
“Ah, woolly liberals! An agonising death… We get moth eaten…”



Posy Simmonds’ CASSANDRA DARKE arrives on November 11th 2018, and it’s brand-new, not previously serialised, as others have been, in The Guardian.


Buy Mrs Weber’s Omnibus 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’.

Tales From The Inner City h/c (£19-99, Walker Studio) by Shaun Tan

Conspiracy Of Ravens h/c WITH FREE, EXCLUSIVE PAGE 45 SIGNED BOOKPLATE (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Leah Moore, John Reppion & Sally Jane Thompson

The Wicked + The Divine vol 7: Mothering Invention s/c (£15-99, Image) by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie

Annie Sullivan & The Trials Of Helen Keller s/c (£10-99, Disney) by Joseph Lambert

Bastard (£13-99, Fantagraphics) by Max de Radigues

Brat h/c (£17-99, Koyama Press) by Michael DeForge

Bunny vs. Monkey Book Five (£8-99, David Fickling Books) by Jamie Smart

Castle In The Stars vol 2: The Moon-King h/c (£14-99, FirstSecond) by Alex Alice

The Complete Angel Catbird s/c (£22-99, Dark Horse) by Margaret Atwood & Johnnie Christmas

Harrow County vol 8: Done Come Back s/c (£15-99, Dark Horse) by Cullen Bunn & Tyler Crook

The Nameless City vol 3: Divided Earth (£11-99, FirstSecond) by Faith Erin Hicks

Passing For Human h/c (£18-99, Jonathan Cape) by Liana Finck

Square Eyes h/c (£18-99, Jonathan Cape) by Luke Jones & Anna Mill

Stumptown vol 3 s/c (£17-99, Oni) by Greg Rucka & Justin Greenwood

Batman: White Knight s/c (£16-99, DC) by Sean Murphy

Teen Titans vol 3: The Return Of Kid Flash s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by various

Wonder Woman: Earth One vol 2 h/c (£22-99, DC) by Grant Morrison & Yanick Paquette

Avengers vol 1: The Final Host s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Sara Pichelli

Doctor Strange vol 2: City Of Sin s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Donny Cates & Niko Henrichon, Frazer Irving

Devilman Vs. Hades vol 2 (£9-99, Seven Seas) by Go Nagai &  Team Moon

Erased vol 5 h/c (£12-99, Yen Press) by Kei Sanbe

Your Lie In April vol 1 (£9-99, Kodansha) by Naoshi Arakawa

Your Lie In April vol 2 (£9-99, Kodansha) by Naoshi Arakawa

Your Lie In April vol 3 (£9-99, Kodansha) by Naoshi Arakawa