Archive for November, 2018

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews November 2018 week four

Wednesday, November 28th, 2018

Featuring 24 Panels, Illegal, Traces Of The Great War, Tiger Vs. Nightmare, Fante Bukowski Three, Versailles Of The Dead vol 1, Immortal Hulk vol 1

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.

“An eye for an eye only ends up with the whole world blind.”

 – Mahatma Ghandi

So begins Mary Talbot and Bryan Talbot’s exceptionally eloquent, direct, pithy and masterfully controlled contribution to this potent anthology so desperately deserving your attention.

Priced at a ridiculously affordable £14-99 for a 150-page, album-sized hardcover, TRACES OF THE GREAT WAR is part of 14-18 NOW and the Lakes International Comic Art Festival’s continued campaign to keep the impact and legacy of WWI alive in our minds, just as Dave McKean’s BLACK DOG did so successfully before it; to make us sit up and think once again about so much that was endured by those caught in the merciless clutches of a physically horrific and mentally shattering First World War before being left mind-blinded, angry and exhausted in its wake.




The Talbots’ post-war ‘Make Germany Pay’ is an improbably calm and well weighted excoriation of the British public’s understandably vindictive demand (egged on as always by the likes of the Daily Mail hate-rag and by opportunistic politicians who could see ever so clearly which way the ballot-wind was blowing) for such extreme, punitive reparations against a drained Germany in the aftermath of World War I that the country-cleaving Treaty of Versailles inevitably – not even almost, but inevitably – led to a Second World War.

So much for the War To End All Wars.




Balanced against this short-sighted slavering is the Talbots’ knowledge of what the Suffragette Movement sought to so stridently educate into the public’s collective mind (their publicly pronounced prescience as to where it would lead: WWII), in authentic, historically documented detail, and who were their greatest supporters…? The returning Allied soldiers: those who knew first-hand, so much more keenly than anyone else, the cruel cost of war. It was they who understood most clearly that their children must never have to witness what they did, to lose so many and so much.

It carries with it a punchline which is as powerful as that of their SALLY HEATHCOTE SUFFRAGETTE graphic novel – and equally pertinent – for the Talbots draw a parallel with our next big mistake for precisely the same reason and with exactly the same collaborative entities which is looming so large as I type: Britain’s imminent withdrawal from Europe.


As to gender inequality, you might want to inspect the rationing cards reproduced here from 1918 (above).




There is so much in these diverse perspectives from some of international comics’ finest – along with fellow craftsmen from outside this medium like author Ian Rankin illustrated by Sean Phillips and Oxford Professor of Poetry, Simon Armitage, illustrated by Dave McKean – that is surprising, reflective, intense and affecting, rendered in highly personal and so re-arresting detail.

TRACES OF THE GREAT WAR has also been artfully arranged in its order.

Jean-David Morvain, Scie-Tronc and Hiroyuki Ooshima’s ‘Mines for the miner!’ and Maël’s ‘A Pretty Little Village’ are the perfect examples of all of this. Both deliver fictional first-hand accounts of very real mine-related explosions which occurred at 7:28am on July 1st 1916 (marking the beginning of the Battle of the Somme) and at 16:30pm May 14th 1916, respectively.

On the surface it seems counter-intuitive to run the two stories in reverse chronological order, but the former not only explains the role of the former Welsh miner turned war-time sapper digging deep down underneath enemy trenches, but brings that awful horror alive in personal, self-sacrificial detail.

Then, several stories later, Maël plays a particularly powerful visual trick as two of the troops talk in the French trenches where once stood the village of Vauquois. It is an idle moment during a pause in hostilities, as the two soldiers together conjure in each others’ mind’s eye the idyll of a quiet café life.

“How sad! No birds signing in the trees on a day like this! Mind you, there aren’t any trees left, either… But this place must have been so nice, before the war..”
“Oh yes, it was! I came here once, as a kid – I had some relatives near here. Vauquois.was very pretty, and there were plenty of trees!”

The man lights a tobacco pipe.

“There was a church, too – can you see, just over there? That heap of stones?”
“Right in front of the German machine-gun?”
“That’s it. That’s all that’s left of the bell tower.”

From the muddy bottom of the now-amorphous trenches from which vantage point there are no longer any landmarks to speak of, they imagine / recall beautiful buildings in architectural, sandy-orange line super-imposed on the painted page. Gradually, they then repopulate Vauquois with its joyous villagers, productive, contented or at play. Their imaginations running exuberantly rampant!

But then, in a flash, their minds are no more…

There follows a pastoral page in gorgeous green.



What else can I promise you? Brothers fighting on opposite sides, early strife without any end perceived in sight, and a quiet contemplative story by Ian Rankin and Sean Phillips called ‘War Games’ in which the creator of a video game company which makes interactive entertainment “for people who like to kill things”, and directs a designer called Helmut who’s working on one of those set in the trenches WWI to see if he can dig into the history of a metal hip flask engraved with the name ‘Reiner Iser’ which was salvaged from the battlefield as a trophy by his grandfather. Helmut’s from Berlin and speaks German. He is a little more successful in his research than perhaps proves comfortable.



There’s so much more that I haven’t covered like the halting Haiku of Julien Vocance discovered by Riff Reb’s (although by “discovered” I mean pilfered from someone’s party) in The Book Of Haï-Kaï.

Also, the dreadful cost of the 1918-1919 Spanish Flu will astound you; mortality in such numbers as to be incomprehensible to me, but isn’t it always the way that civilian deaths – as in our recent illegal invasion of Iraq – outweigh those of the combatants?

The cost of the “Great” War: 5 million soldiers; 13 million civilians.



It can’t happen here, it can’t happen now, and it cannot happen again: that’s what Edmond Baudoin is emphatically not trying to tell you in ‘Really?’ There are logistical reasons why this would never happen again, a young boy patiently explains.

“Really?” replies his childhood sweetheart, at the end of every page.

Because, I’m afraid, he is wrong.

Also recommended on the subject of WWI: AFTER THE DREAMLESS DEAD anthology with Eddie Campbell, Simon Gane, Hannah Berry etc and THE GREAT WAR by Joe Sacco.


Buy Traces Of The Great War h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Illegal (£10-99, Hodder) by Eoin Colfer, Andrew Donkin & Giovanni Rigano…

“So far, this is not much of a new life.”

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again. If I were living in extreme poverty in, for example, certain places in Africa, I am pretty sure I would be attempting to get into Europe by any means possible, no matter how long it took.

We can debate all day about what has to happen in those poverty-stricken countries, both economically and socially, to dissuade people from needing to leave, but the fact remains, when someone has literally nothing, and certainly nothing to lose, you are not going to prevent them from trying to reach somewhere where they earnestly believe they might be able to build a new and better life. Whatever it takes…



That people are willing to risk their lives trying should give you some indication of just how bad their situations are. We hear stories of treks on crammed jeeps, indeed even on foot, through the searing heat of the deserts and overloaded cargo ships to Europe organised at great expense by people traffickers, but I don’t think we can actually understand what is really involved in undertaking such an arduous, dangerous journey.



To be those people so desperate to change their lives that they are willing to put them at such extreme, sustained risk. Even if those new lives aren’t exactly what they expected, or wanted.

Please see Olivier Kugler’s ESCAPING WARS AND WAVES and Kate Evans’s THREADS: FROM THE REFUGEE CRISIS first-hand accounts for some of these individuals’ lives.

This graphic novel attempts to show us their stories through the big, emotion-laden eyes of one young child.



Here is the publisher’s information and some pull quotes from the broadsheets’ reviewers to tell us more about this very worthy work…

“This is a powerful and timely story about one boy’s epic journey across Africa to Europe, a graphic novel for all children with glorious colour artwork throughout. From Eoin Colfer, previously Irish Children’s Laureate, and the team behind his bestselling Artemis Fowl graphic novels. Ebo: alone.

His sister left months ago. Now his brother has disappeared too, and Ebo knows it can only be to make the hazardous journey to Europe. Ebo’s epic journey takes him across the Sahara Desert to the dangerous streets of Tripoli, and finally out to the merciless sea.

But with every step he holds on to his hope for a new life, and a reunion with his sister.

Winner of the Judges’ Special Award at the Children’s Books Ireland Book of the Year Awards ‘Beautifully realised and punchily told.’ Alex O’Connell, The Times Children’s Book of the Week

‘A powerful, compelling work, evocatively illustrated … It would take a hard heart not to be moved by this book.’ Financial Times”

It’s difficult to know what to add, really. I can only suggest picking up this work, having a look for yourself, and I suspect if you have any soul at all, you’ll be entranced and appalled in equal measures. It’s sensitive and intelligent writing from Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin, who put poor young Ebo and his older brother through hazardous situation after situation. It’s never sensationalist or hyperbolic in tone, instead focussing on capturing the humanity of the people who undertake these odysseys.

In that sense, artistically, they have found the perfect foil in Giovanni Rigano. If you don’t find yourself rooting for Ebo, portrayed note-perfectly as the innocent child he is, trapped in the most horrendous and continually trying of crazy circumstances, with his big soulful eyes, that actually save the day upon one occasion, well, then, I suspect you have no soul of your own. Prepared to be moved…


Buy Illegal and read the Page 45 review here

24 Panels: An Anthology Comic To Aid PTSD Needs Of Survivors Of The Grenfell Tower Fire (£14-99, Image) by Kieron Gillen, Sean Azzopardi, Alan Moore, Melinda Gebbie, Al Ewing, Sara Kenney, Alex De Campi, Laurie Penny, Paul Cornell, Dilraj Mann, Antony Johnston, Lizz Lunney, Leigh Alexander, Tom Humberstone, Dan Watters, Ram V, Doug Braithwaite, Caspar Wijngaard, Ted Brandt, Ro Stein, Gavin Mitchell, Paul Cornell, Rachael Smith, Trevor Boyd, Bev Johnson, Robin Hoelzemann, Eshrieka Price, Mike Garley, Sarah Gordon, Deshan Tennekoon, Linki Brand, Tula Lotay, Dee Cunniffe, more.

“In June 2017, the Grenfell fire killed 72 people in a 24-storey tower block in West London. 24 PANELS is an anthology comic to support the PTSD needs of the survivors. Curated by Kieron Gillen (THE WICKED + THE DIVINE), it features 24 stories, each no longer than 24 panels. Half drawn from professional creators who volunteered their time and half drawn from open submissions, 24 PANELS is about community, hope, and (most of all) raising as much money as possible.”

It was the local council skimping in its fire protection by using cheap cladding What Dunnit.

As Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie note within, this saved but “a piddling thirty thousand pounds”, which looks like a pretty (and petty) false fucking economy right now, doesn’t it?



That comes in ‘If Einstein’s right…’ which is indeed a celebration of community and hope within the first four panels of its first three pages which evoke the sort of time-caught-in-amber Eternalism that Moore discussed in depth in A DISEASE OF LANGUAGE with its artist Eddie Campbell. Succinctly put, time has already happened – all of it – and is continually happening all at the same time, therefore nothing, and no one is truly lost.

‘If Einstein’s right…” begins thus:

“Don’t fret. If Einstein’s right then time is wrong,
“A shadow that our minds cast as they pass
“Through solid spacetime’s changeless 4D glass,
“Where every moment’s an eternal song

“And nothing dies, and nothing goes away.
“Each life’s held sage amidst the centuries,
“An archived film with every frame on freeze
“In which our legends endlessly replay.”

Then, as I say, Moore and Gebbie go on to celebrate those individual lives within a community in all its colour before a final, horizontal black and white panel on each of the first three pages outlines the guilty as ghosts, like Boris bloody Johnson.



“But that same year a Bullingdon Club clown
“Swears that he’ll leave fire services alone,
“Then, three years late, cuts them to the bone,
“Says “get stuffed” as ten stations as closed down

“And twenty-seven engines fade from view.
“He also shall endure forevermore,
“His treacheries caught in time’s amber, for
“Disgrace and shame are both eternal too.”

Pertinently enough, he also touched on Eternalism in Alan Moore’s 2017 interview conducted by the Daily Grail, right under the paragraphs in which he lamented “the move from companionable terraced streets to ugly and alienating high-rise blocks, a move made for entirely commercial reasons to maximise the value of a plot of land by building high”. In that context too £30,000 is a pittance.


Extensive damage is seen to the Grenfell Tower block which was destroyed in a disastrous fire, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Hannah McKay – RTS17W8Y


Accentuating the positive, however, the final full-page flourish is a modest tower of building blocks bursting with colour and diversity united in harmony.

‘Silhouette Titans’ by Ram V (GRAFITY’S WALL) and Pablo Clark doubles as a history lesson in all things high-rise from a pillar in India circa 200BC to the very first tower blocks in Chicago in 1885 (after most of the city burned down in 1871), supposedly inspired by the architect’s wife piling a stack of heavy books on a bird cage. Hmmm… There’s one particularly startling fact in that from the highest occupied floor of the world’s tallest building you can’t even see people on the ground anymore.

Anyway, that tale being told to a youngster comes with quite the surprise.

Sticking with buildings and communities (I can’t cover all of these 24 stories, so I set myself a theme) my favourite was possibly ‘They Say’ by Alex de Campi (BAD GIRLS etc) and Ro Stein, Ted Brandt. You could consider it in so many ways an adult-orientated companion to Sarah McIntyre’s all-ages THE NEW NEIGHBOURS. Both feature a block of flats, a journey down through them, and the rebuttal of rumours wherein scurrilous gossip is exposed as not merely idle but also erroneous.



Here we are told what “They say” about half a dozen of its inhabitants, and what They say isn’t very nice at all. For example, “They say Mrs Abdullah just came here for the benefits. She doesn’t even speak English”, and “They say Kell is on drugs. She hardly comes out of her flat, and when she does, she’s pale and shaking”.

We are, of course, looking from outside (not even in from the outside) – as a family cat makes its escape from our main protagonists’ top-floor flat via the flat roof then leaps down the terraced verandas – from which vantage point you cannot possibly have any information relevant to judging someone’s history, motivation, pastime pleasures or character. Then in a matching double-page spread in cross-section, as the cat saunters back in through a window then makes its way up the interior stairwell, we are entrusted with the truth behind the outsiders’ prejudices by peering into each panel / flat and, oh look:

“Mrs Abdullah fled her country after her husband and parents were killed. She works two jobs, ones They don’t want to do, and speaks enough English to know what They call her.”

That final clause was the line that impressed me the most, but you mark my words, there are plenty more revelations in store before our framing family brings kindness and community firmly back into a more balanced equation.


‘Heath Magic’ by Leigh Alexander & Tom Humberstone


At 100+ pages I think you can imagine that I too have merely skimmed the surface here.


Buy 24 Panels: An Anthology Comic To Aid PTSD Needs Of Survivors Of The Grenfell Tower Fire and read the Page 45 review here

Tiger Vs. Nightmare h/c (£13-99, FirstSecond) by Emily Tetri ~

“The grown-ups think you’re just in my imagination.”
“Do you really think we’d get to hang out and play every night if they knew I was real?”
“Hmm, yeah. Good point.”

Monster is very wise.

Monster lives under Tiger’s bed, a not untypical place for monsters to reside. But this particular monster is a little different. For this monster is a fierce fighter against one of the most frightening things of all: nightmares. Monster is Tiger’s best friend.

Monster also loves curry.

Monster is one half of a perfect friendship, the other half, of course, being Tiger:  a charming kid who is a lover of board games and the owner of a particularly active imagination, and that is what makes their friendship so special. You see, Monster was meant to scare Tiger when she was a baby, but thought it all very unsportsmanlike to scare such a tiny cub, so decided to be her friend instead.


Monsters have got to scare something, though, so Monster assumes the role of valiant night-time protector, scaring away Tiger’s nightmares so she has a lovely, peaceful sleep every night without fail. In return for fending off the frighteners, Tiger feeds Monster delicious homemade food. This arrangement continues swimmingly until one evening a nightmare so big and so scary appears that even Monster bottles it!



Monster scurries away terrified to hide under Tiger’s bed, all sad and remorseful at being unable to keep her friend safe that evening. The next day, after a motivational chat, the two find themselves joining forces to take on the nightmare together. It’s time for Tiger to learn to be brave and to stand up to her fears!

A story of friendship, kindness, and team work, what’s not to love?! Tiger and Monster are two very loveable (and cute!) characters, full of happiness and bursting with personality. Emily’s expressions on Tiger are absolutely perfect and often had me grinning from ear to ear, especially at moments of particular determination from Tiger. She has also infused the two characters’ personalities with wonderful little details, such as Tiger’s tail poofing up like a domesticated house cat when she gets scared, or Monster stretching and limbering up before a long night of frightening. The nightmares themselves are delightfully dark and creepy, with the biggest nightmare being the spookiest of all, of course, and are perfectly designed to be just scary enough to give your little ones a buzz without being so overwhelmingly spooky a trip under the covers is needed!

As for the artwork itself, Emily has flooded the pages with lush, rich watercolour, with additional little details in crayon. It has real honesty, and I would hope upon seeing this that wide-eyed children will be inspired to crack out the paints and crayons themselves to imagine what their monster BFF would look like.

Tiger Vs Nightmare is a great rationalisation of what nightmares actually are and how they are really nothing to be afraid of. It’s a wonderful advocating of bravery and friendship, plus a fantastic example of how through complete determination you can take charge of your own destiny!


Buy Tiger Vs. Nightmare h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Fante Bukowski Three: A Perfect Failure (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Noah Van Sciver ~

“Bret Easton Ellis wrote ‘Less Than Zero’ when he was 21!
“Of course, he was hated by 22…
“I was somehow able to jump right to being hated.
“I win that round.”

Yes, Fante, because that’s the real achievement to take away here <sigh>…

We’re back in Ohio to catch up with the future literary legend himself, as he sees it at least, Fante Bukowski. He’s being interviewed by The Dispatch – the oldest paper in town, as he boasts to his father in a ranting email – as a “notable voice” about the upcoming Zine Fest.

The Fest itself is an “ocean of amateurs” (Fante’s words, not mine), with glorious cameos from Noah Van Sciver himself, selling “…a graphic novel. It’s the comic book of the future!” titled ‘Sad Lincoln’ (THE HYPO – A MELANCHOLIC YOUNG LINCOLN), and a completely haggard and unflattering portrayal of John (KING CAT) Porcellino all burnt-out with a thousand yard stare peering straight out of the panel at us readers.



Fante, meanwhile, does make a grand total of 25 dollars at the Fest, but maybe if there hadn’t been quite so much glitter involved in ‘Love Songs From Extinction’ he might have been able to snag a few more sales! But the Zine Fest is just the beginning, once again, for Fante. He’s after the big bucks and for once even has a lead on a paying gig! But is the world finally ready for the greatest book of all time? If he actually gets around to writing it that is…



Accompanying Fante as he drunkenly fumbles his way through life is the sunny, albeit slightly unhinged Norma, an inadvertently hilarious performance artist with her own struggles in the so-called creative industries. Though completely away with the fairies most of the time, she is at least a little more grounded than Fante, knowing that to survive in the real world you need to have an actual paying job on the side and not just <ahem> drink whisky in a prostitute’s back yard. She is a thoroughly delightful contrast to our bitter, downtrodden protagonist; I actually couldn’t get enough of her. I would love to see to have her own book, but maybe that’s because as a former art student she was an all too familiar character for me!



In this third and final volume, we also learn how Kelly Perkins became Fante Bukowski. The journey from angsty teen Emo, desperately trying to carry on the legacy of a musical movement that even his dad knew was over fifteen years ago, through to his very brief corporate days of interning at his father’s law firm before ‘recreating’ himself. But even knowing his self-inflicted shambolic back story of family wealth-ridden faux woe doesn’t make you one iota more sympathetic towards the delusional, self-titled literary genius. I know you’re probably wondering whether Noah is going to let Fante have an entirely undeserved happy ending, but let’s just say he gets an appropriate one…

Every part of this book is dripping with Fante’s personality. From the less than enthusiastic pull quotes on the back, to the “Emerging Genius” award from a certain Firewater Press (see FANTE BUKOWSKI BOOK 1) emblazoned on the cover. Which itself is even a gag, being a take on the cover of David Foster Wallace’s ‘Infinite Jest’! No doubt Fante considers it one of the greatest modern literary classics – outside of the treasured work of Charles Bukowski, of course – though I have a sneaking suspicion that he may never have quite got around to tackling the full 1104-page tome. He’s probably skimmed it and got the gist so he can wax lyrically about it, for a true literary genius can capture the essence of a great novel with merely a few quick glances. Now if only he could write one as fast…


Buy Fante Bukowski Three: A Perfect Failure and read the Page 45 review here

Versailles Of The Dead vol 1 (£9-99, Seven Seas) by Kumiko Suekane…

Presumably inspired by a manga creator who read or watched PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES – just taking a wild machete swing in the zombie-filled moaning dark there – and decided to put their own slash on it… Here’s the emergency broadcast from the publisher to inform us all how to avoid infection by thinly-disguised rip-offs, I mean reworkings…

Actually, before that, can I just say, copyright-fringe-trimming joking aside, I rather enjoyed this…

“The French Revolution with zombies? A slick, gender-bending twist on history! While en route from Austria to marry Louis XVI and become the Queen of France, Marie Antoinette’s carriage is intercepted by bloodthirsty zombies. The sole survivor of the attack is Marie’s twin brother, Albert. He heads for Versailles in his sister’s gown – and instead of continuing life as himself, decides to take his sister’s place. Now at the heart of the French royal court, Albert must face the undead horrors as the man who would be queen.”

Yep, this really is as daft as that suggests. Played entirely tongue-in-powdered-cheek, heavy on the comedy of manners as the twin stories of the zombie apocalypse and royal court based rumblings intertwine causing a spontaneous outbreak of preposterously bewigged yet strangely amusing nonsensical fright-fest, I couldn’t help but smile. Even the bold legend on the rear cover of “LET THEM EAT BRAINS!” only further serves to indicate what a frightful mash-up creation lies within.



One sometimes feels in the relentless churn-‘em-out-world of mainstream manga publishing that there is a mentality of ‘gotta publish them all’ and just see what sticks. Somehow this has with me!


Buy Versailles Of The Dead vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Immortal Hulk vol 1 Or Is He Both? s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Al Ewing, various & Joe Bennett…

“Dad… I… I can see…”
“I can see a door. A… a green door… and… and there’s someone looking through it.”

Well, it’s obvious isn’t it? It’s Shakin’ Stevens clearly.


Hmm… I wonder who it could be…? How about we let the mighty marketing juggernaut (no relation to Cain Marko, I should add) clue us in…

“Horror has a name. You’d never notice the man. He doesn’t like to be noticed. He’s quiet. Calm. If someone were to shoot him in the head…all he’d do is die. Until night falls – and someone else gets up again. The man’s name is Banner. The horror is the Immortal Hulk! And trouble has a way of following them both. As reporter Jackie McGee tries to put together the pieces, Banner treads a lonely path from town to town, finding murder, mystery and tragedy as he goes. And what Banner finds, the Hulk smashes! Elsewhere, the hero called Sasquatch can’t help but feel involved. In many ways, he’s Banner’s equal – and his opposite. Sasquatch is about to risk his life by looking for the man – and finding the monster! Collecting IMMORTAL HULK #1-5 and material from AVENGERS (2016) #684 by Jim Zub and Mark Waid.”



Actually, it’s not the Hulk either, immortal or otherwise, behind the green door…

No, it’s… something else entirely… 

Which brings me neatly to my main point. As you might have just gathered, this is not a superhero comic. No, it really is a horror comic masquerading as a superhero comic and it is so, so much better for it. Yes, the Hulk is a monster, and monstrously drawn too by Joe Bennett, all bulging of vein, sinew and also eyes atop the requisite mountain of muscle. And he does bring some of the horror. (In that sense, this version of the old gamma grouch has much more in common with the classic Lein Wein, Herb Trimpe and Sal Buscema material and I welcome it whole-heartedly.)

At least at night time anyway, as the blurb suggests. For by day it’s Bruce “Danger Magnet” Banner who goes around allegedly trying to stay out of trouble but of course ending up in a whole Hulk-sized heap of it. Even occasionally getting killed just for good measure. But when the sun sets, the Hulk rises once more and starts playing vigilante smashing criminals left, right, centre and underneath him, plus a fair few of those crazy enough to try and take him down.



Of course, no self-respecting run on the radioactive wrecking ball would be complete without a roving reporter trying to track him down and this is no exception, with the fearlessly foolish Jackie McGee on the crushed-up case. Who is of course a cheeky nod to the great Kenneth Johnson who played the supremely irritating Jack McGee in the 70s/80s TV version. As a kid I wanted Hulk to squish that particular puny human soooo badly. I mean, Banner warned him enough times… Anyway, issue #3 of this run sees Jackie take centre stage as she interviews three eye witnesses to a recent rampage, all illustrated very differently stylistically by three guest artists, which I thought was a great little additional conceit.



This is certainly not the comedy cretin Hulk of the Marvel movies, either. No, he’s as devious and dangerously intelligent as he’s almost ever been. He is also seemingly really immortal which of course presents a rather large and tricky problem to the particular authorities who rightly or wrongly view him as one.

As to precisely how that seems to be the case, I sincerely hope it isn’t anything to do with the couple of flim-flam quasi-resurrections during SECRET EMPIRE and NO SURRENDER.



I doubt it given how slickly Al Ewing is writing this so far, plus the presence of a certain… apparition… of which I shall say no more for the moment, suggests otherwise. No, I suspect it’s far more to do with that green door…

The apparition isn’t Shakin’ Stevens by the way… No, come on, even horror has to have some limits…


Buy Immortal Hulk vol 1 Or Is He Both? 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’

I Am Not Okay With This (£12-99, Faber & Faber) by Charles Forsman

Love Removal Men (Sketched & Signed In) (£2-99, ) by Andi Watson

A Dreadful Battle (Sketched & Signed In) (£2-99, ) by Andi Watson

The Herring’s Head (Sketched & Signed In) (£2-99, ) by Andi Watson

@kafkapathy (Sketched & Signed In) (£2-99, ) by Andi Watson

Dinosaur Police s/c (£6-99, Scholastic) by Sarah McIntyre

The Highest House s/c (£22-99, IDW) by Mike Carey & Peter Gross

Jimmy’s Bastards vol 2 s/c (£13-99, Aftershock) by Garth Ennis & Russ Braun

The Making Of s/c (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Brecht Evens

One Dirty Tree h/c (£17-99, Uncivilised Books) by Noah Van Sicver

Pandora’s Legacy vol 1 s/c (£7-50, Kaboom!) by Kara Leopard & Kelly Matthews

The Realm vol 2 (£14-99, Image) by Seth Peck & Jeremy Haun

Signal To Noise (£12-99, Bloomsbury) by Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean

Sword Daughter vol 1: She Brightly Burns h/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Brian Wood & Mack Chater

A Walk Through Hell vol 1: The Warehouse s/c (£13-99, Aftershock) by Garth Ennis & Goran Sudzuka

Green Arrow vol 6: Trial Of Two Cities s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Ben Percy & Stephen Byrne

Superman vol 7: Bizarroverse s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, Doug Mahnke, Scott Godlewski

The Brave And The Bold: Batman And Wonder Woman h/c (£22-99, DC) by Liam Sharp

Amazing Spider-Man vol 1: Back To Basics s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Nick Spencer & Ryan Ottley, Humberto Ramos

Mighty Thor vol 5: The Death Of The Mighty Thor s/c (£22-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Russell Dauterman, various

X-Men: Marauders s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Mike Carey & Chris Bachalo, Humberto Ramos, various

The Ancient Magus Bride vol 9 (£9-99, Seven Seas) by Kore Yamazaki

Barefoot Gen vol 1 (£13-99, Last Gasp) by Keiji Nakazawa

Dragon Ball: That Time I Got Reincarnated As Yamcha (£6-99, Viz) by Dragongarow Lee

Fruits Basket Another vol 2 (£11-99, Yen Press) by Natsuki Takaya

The Girl From The Other Side vol 5 (£9-99, Seven Seas) by Nagabe

Inside Mari vol 1 (£11-99, Den Pa) by Shuzo Oshimi

Pez (£22-99, Den Pa) by Hiroyuki Asada

RWBY Anthology vol 3: From Shadows (£8-99, Viz) by various

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews November 2018 week three

Wednesday, November 21st, 2018

Featuring Shaun Tan, Joe Decie, John Allison, Aaron Renier, Sophie Campbell, Paco Roca, Riad Sattouf, Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, Elizabeth Breitweiser, Kurt Busiek, Alex Ross.

Telepathy Practice (Sketched In) (£5-00) by Joe Decie…

“Here’s let’s practice our telepathy. I’m thinking of an object. Try to picture it…”
“Ok. It’s working.”
“I was thinking of a square.”
“I saw an ice cream.”
“Shall we try again?”
“Or shall we buy an ice cream?”

Haha, the prince of punch lines returns with another twenty single-page strips that will have you gagging on your cuppa. Note: never drink whilst reading Joe’s work or you risk unleashing a mirthy maelstrom of nasally projected beverage. You have been warned!

As ever Joe covers an eclectic range of topics including almost entirely truthful nuggets about family time with his mum, his take on a breakfast classic, worrying (a classic Joe pastime), peculiar British Spring Bank holiday traditions, through to the odd outrageously entirely false fabrication such as his time spent working in the fashion houses of Paris and New York…





Yes, you can’t beat a good four-panel fandango! Joe is the master of taking a mundane everyday scenario… his time as the King of Couture aside… and grinding out our grimaces and groans as he takes one step beyond into the fringes of frippery and frivolity ending up somewhere entirely unexpected and utterly implausible, Occasioning you to realise the boy Decie has done it to you again…

Well, not the boy Decie, for the boy Decie is of course Joe’s son, who as long-time Decie devotees will know is frequently wheeled out to provide yet another deadpan delivery to torpedo Joe’s proverbial ship. It’s a lovely conceit that as the owner of an inadvertent child comedian myself, I recognise all too well. I just hope the boy Decie has negotiated image rights with his dad… An ice cream or two at least…

There are some lovely little extras hidden around a Decie book too, if you keep your eyes peeled. Hint: interior covers, front and rear, including this time around some disturbing tasting notes, highly dubious advice on comic storage, plus a sketch of a dripping cone of cold, creamy goodness, complete with flake, apparently sent back in time from the future… How does he do that? Still, good to know that Old Man Decie will still be fracking the nature reserves of domestic comedy for years to come!

Don’t forget the back cover either! The back cover in particular cracked me up as Joe tries one last gambit to ensnare the browsing customer by employing a telepathic suggestion implanting selling technique I have occasionally been known to try on a customer myself…



You will, you really will.

Please see Joe’s COLLECTING STICKS graphic novel for Decie’s long-form family antics, and for more four-panel brilliance, please see DOGS DISCO and POCKET FULL OF COFFEE, then I BLAME GRANDMA and THERE’S NO BATH IN THIS BATHROOM for something inbetween.


Buy Telepathy Practice and read the Page 45 review here

Twists Of Fate h/c (£33-99, Fantagraphics) by Paco Roca…

“Some took the opportunity to change their name.”
“Those name changes have made it very difficult for the scholars to follow your tracks.”
“That’s exactly why it was done.”
“But why did they do that?”
“Some out of fear from deserting the Foreign Legion, some of us were afraid that our families would suffer reprisals if we fell into German hands.”
“Wait…! Miguel Campos? Then what my historian friend suspected is true. You… you’re a legendary member of La Nueve.”

Attention! Right you horrible lot, here are the despatches from the publisher HQ to give you your marching orders… straight to the bookshelves of your favourite comics retailer. Which would be us, hopefully…

“Eisner-award winner Paco Roca (Wrinkles) reconstructs World War II through the memories of Miguel Ruiz, a member of ‘La Nueve,’ a company of men that went from fighting against the Franco regime in the Spanish Civil War to battles across Europe and Africa, spurred on by their patriotism and hate for brutal dictatorships.

Ruiz’s stories are filled with horror and humour but Twists of Fate is much more than a forgotten hero’s personal story. It’s a timely look into what we remember and why we forget, a reminder that everyone has a tale to tell, and an ode to a generation that stood up to, and beat back, violent fascism.”

I was utterly gripped, dear reader, for Spaniard Miguel Ruiz aka Miguel Campos was indeed a true war hero. The fact that he managed to somehow disappear entirely at the conclusion of hostilities and live a very quiet life in France is another story entirely. Paco Roca, having managed to track him down through some determined detective work, regales us with both.

This is simply one of the finest ‘war story’ works I have ever read. We see Paco gently interviewing the initially very reluctant Miguel daily over a number of weeks, conversing patiently with him, gradually teasing his remarkable reminiscences out of him.



During those sessions Paco frequently puts us into the first person perspective of Miguel, allowing us to see through his eyes, which ensures that the reader is fully transported back to those dark, tumultuous days. Of course for the men who had been unsuccessfully fighting Franco’s fascist rule in Spain during their civil war that ran from 1936 to 1939, those days started earlier than for most in Western Europe.



We see Miguel’s own personal odyssey and also the similar sad stories of a group of very brave individuals who longed to believe that once the Axis powers were dealt with, the Allies would then turn their attention squarely upon the fascist Franco and help them liberate Spain. We see their war, beginning with being outcast and exiled from their homeland, then unwanted and unwelcome in Vichy France and its territories, so having their refugee status promptly revoked and effectively made prisoners of war, toiling as slave labour in coal mines and railroads in the burning heat of Saharan Africa. Eventually they were freed by the advancing Allies, before mostly deciding to join up with the Free Corps of Africa French forces along with deserters from the then Vichy controlled French Foreign Legion and head to mainland France as liberators, indeed ending up as part of the very first group arriving in Paris itself.



Of course, after overthrowing the Nazis, the Allies decided to let Franco stay in power, being willing to accept Spain’s politically ‘neutral’ position during WW2 as reason to do so, despite Franco letting the German and Italian navies use Spanish ports and various other low grade support for the Axis powers, presumably out of fear that Hitler would prove victorious. To Miguel and his friends, though, it felt like an unforgiveable betrayal. Some former La Nueve fighters tried to start an insurrection, but following one particularly brutal, haunting, personal loss, Miguel decided that enough was enough, his war was over.

Until Paco tracked him down and stirred it all up again… Ultimately, though, Miguel was very glad he did. As, of course, so should we be. So the sacrifices these exceptional people made for our freedom are never forgotten. Plus in this case, the long overdue recognition due to one particularly unassuming individual be made public in this exceptional graphic memoir.


Buy Twists Of Fate h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Unsinkable Walker Bean And The Knights Of The Waxing Moon (£14-99, FirstSecond) by Aaron Renier…

“…Is this for real? I am beyond excited if so…”
“Yes! It is a thing. I’m sorry it took so long.”
“No need to apologise that is amazing news.”

No, not anything that appears within the pages of this thrilling follow-up to what I had long believed was my all-time favourite ever self-contained all-ages graphic novel (and former Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month) THE UNSINKABLE WALKER BEAN.

No. In fact, this was a conversation between myself and the ridiculously polite Aaron Renier shortly after I had spotted the advance solicitation on the Ingram website earlier this year. Ten long years after poor old Walker Bean and his chums had been left high and dry with us all wondering what might happen next, my prayers to the comics gods had been finally answered… there would be more!!!!

So… now there is a sequel… I can no longer officially call THE UNSINKABLE WALKER BEAN my all-time favourite ever self-contained all-ages graphic novel… I’ll guess have to start thinking about what the new title holder might be! In the meanwhile, just to get you up to speed, whether you have read THE UNSINKABLE WALKER BEAN or not, because, you know, ten years is a long time, here’s the publisher’s sea-shanty to test out the proverbial cut of your jib, Jim lad…

“SHIPWRECKED! After their perilous encounter with the sea-witches, Walker and the pirate crew of the Jacklight find refuge on a deserted island. But it might not be as deserted as it seems–shadowy creatures have been spotted in the jungle, and strange animal tracks appear overnight. When Walker, Shiv, and Genoa discover a secret passage and mysterious ruins, the dark history of the archipelago begins to unravel. Legend tells of a mad king, a fallen civilization, and a powerful royal family in search of their lost sister. And for reasons Walker can’t understand, Genoa seems to be at the centre of it all.

In this triumphant follow-up to the epic graphic novel The Unsinkable Walker Bean, Aaron Renier is back with more breathtaking art and high-sea adventure.”

Oh my word, he is. Just let me catch my breath and stop my timbers shivering me hearties! I can’t begin to tell you the joy I felt upon reading this work. You can see once again just how much effort Aaron has put into the story-telling, the character development and oh my goodness the art.



When something is going to be this amazing, nay spectacular, you don’t mind waiting for it. I mean, it would have been nice to know it was actually happening, instead of just daring to dream like a stranded shipwreck survivor, and I did email his publisher twice without reply during the long interval, I was that desperate to know, but still, now it matters not. For salvation is at hand.



Everything I adored about the first book – the sheer vibrant grandiose detail of the art (including a dash of glorious shiny signature gold on the cover once more!), the deliberately, rewardingly, complex plot, plus the sheer satisfying depth of the machinations and motivations of all the characters, all so well fleshed out – is all here on show for us once again.




If you didn’t know there was a decade of distress between the publication of the two volumes, you would never know. It is seamless. Indeed, for Walker Bean and his chums, plus some brand-new enemies, nary a moment has passed. So this is in essence a continuation of the first work, not a separate story. You will need to have read what was for ten long years my all-time favourite ever self-contained all-ages graphic novel (did I mention that by the way?) THE UNSINKABLE WALKER BEAN before starting on this volume.

But guess what? That is just double the comics joy for you! Will there be more…? I’m not sure…

Certainly there are some plot threads left tentatively dangling… Dare I ask, perhaps press-gang, Aaron? Because I’m sure what has seemed like a long ten years to us has felt like an eternity to him! But this second book could also very easily and very neatly wrap things up perfectly, and I do mean perfectly. In any event these two books together set the bar for all-ages action fiction as high as a crow’s nest of the maritime variety. In fact… they might just be my all-time favourite ever all-ages graphic novel duology…


Buy The Unsinkable Walker Bean And The Knights Of The Waxing Moon and read the Page 45 review here

Cicada h/c (£14-99, Hatchette) by Shaun Tan.

“Cicada work in tall building.
“Data entry clerk. Seventeen year.
“No sick day. No mistake.
“Tok Tok Tok!”

Deep inside one of a thousand, grey windowless skyscrapers – identical save for the amount of sky that they scrape – sits a solitary cicada, dutifully at his desk.

That grey disk sits within a grey cubicle, within a seeming maze of other grey cubicles, identical save for the fact that the rest are all empty.

“Seventeen year. No promotion.
“Human resources say cicada not human.
“Need no resources.
“Tok Tok Tok!

Quite evidently he needs no appreciation, either. Literally, it has been a thankless task.



While the humans clock off work on time whether their work is finished or not, our cicada remains until his work is done. He is diligent.

He’s also homeless, living hidden in one of the walls. He’s not paid enough to afford rent.

Nor is he allowed in the human washroom. Instead he has to scuttle downtown, twelve blocks, the timed docked from his wages.



Then there are the beatings.

“Human co-worker no like cicada.
“Say things. Do things.
“Think cicada stupid.
“Tok Tok Tok!”

That painting is particularly clever. The humans tower above the cicada, knocked down on his back and therefore helpless to move. The co-worker who doesn’t like our cicada presses his highly polished shoe down on the data entry clerk’s chest, bringing his full weight to bear, while the other bears silent, collaborative witness. We’re looking in, as if through a door, as if in collusion.



That element’s ambiguous: it could be other workers or even the boss observing; or it could be signalling that the beating is being meted out in secret. Either way, that door or cubicle wall adds another unsettlingly element to the evidence.

“Seventeen year. Cicada retire.
“No party. No handshake.
“Boss say clean desk.
“Tok! Tok! Tok!”

And then it really grows worrying as the cicada, now homeless, heads for the rooftop, alone.

This being Shaun Tan, however, you’re in for quite the surprise. In fact, you’re in for several.



From the creator of THE ARRIVAL (also available as a smaller softcover), ERIC,  TALES FROM OUTER SUBURBIA, TALES FROM THE INNER CITY, THE RABBITS, THE SINGING BONES and so much more (please pop him into our search engine, and don’t forget his sequential-art story in I FEEL MACHINE!), what is no surprise either is another poignant approach to how we treat each other, especially when they are ‘other’.

That our cicada is not allowed in the human restroom and is made to travel miles speaks of segregation, of racism, as seen in the film ‘Hidden Figures’ starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe.

Anyway, dear, dear soulless corporations, and their dehumanization and dismissal of those who work hardest to make them all their lovely money! Ingratitude is to take others for granted, and to fail to appreciate what they contribute to the world – even that of the workplace – and in  this world of grey only the cicada harbours any colour, although he’s had to hide most of it inside his shirt, suit and tie.

For now…


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

Wet Moon vol 7: Morning Cold (£17-99, Oni) by Sophie Campbell.

“There are way worse things than you.”

That’s not intended as a comforting balm; it’s a realisation, and an empowering expression of self-liberation after living under someone’s shadow for so long.

Welcome to the WET MOON finale, lord knows how many years in the making, and it is perfect!

After the angriest opening page that I can ever recall, watering with newly released rage, a face so contorted and scrunched up with righteous fury that it almost distorts the paper page, I can promise you closure: so many moments of quiet, intimate closure as things held silently unsaid are finally spoken, at long last shared, and the young women who have endured so much turmoil and conflict and grief, finally find a peace that’s as soft and serene as freshly fallen snow.

Oh, not immediately. There’s so much in WET MOON that’s so far unresolved to be worked through first, including pieces of the past you may well have forgotten, now picked up and put into place. But after all they’ve struggled with, there will be peace and understanding, the mending of ways and the minding if not of manners then of something far more important: each others’ often fractured feelings. Some scars aren’t going to heal or fade away overnight – there will be repercussions – but they maybe they can be lived with.

There will be no spoilers here, as there weren’t throughout our substantial WET MOON reviews; I only hope to intrigue to you.

Except for this: Campbell has unexpectedly burst into colour! Only tinctures, mind, to highlight hair or some clothing, then a snow-speckled sky at night, and it works beautifully.



What have I loved most about this series?

Its inclusivity, its diverse body forms, its compassion, psychological depth and oh dear god the series came drowning in dramatic irony as this close community of emotionally vulnerable, largely female friends remained unaware until recently of the seething cauldron of hate which lurked within, grinding its teeth with festering, barely contained rage.

I’ve relished the art from the very first edition of book one, then adored seeing Campbell develop visually in public on the page, thanking god that she never saw fit (as others have) to go back and redraw what to me was pretty damn perfect in the first place.

So yes, “There are way worse things than you.”

What are they? What have they done?


Buy Wet Moon vol 7: Morning Cold and read the Page 45 review here

The Arab Of The Future vol 3: 1985-1987 (£18-99, Two Roads) by Riad Sattouf.

I adore this autobiographical series about Riad Sattouf’s early childhood years following his family as they moved to Libya and Syria, and wrote extensive reviews of THE ARAB OF THE FUTURE 1978-1984 and THE ARAB OF THE FUTURE 1984-1985.

They are two of the funniest books in comics, bursting with Guy Delisle-like observations of the absurd, so astute observed in one so young, then recalled with astonishing precision.

Alas, sales have been so astonishing flat here – while Guy Delisle’s et al soar – that a third review makes no sense at all: it’s simply not cost-effective.

Read the other two instead, please, and let’s double their distribution in Nottingham. Or even the Middle East: We Ship Worldwide!


Buy The Arab Of The Future vol 3: 1985-1987 and read the Page 45 review here

Brand-New Editions, Classic Reviews:

The Fade Out s/c (£22-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips, Elizabeth Breitweiser.

“All he’d been thinking about the past few weeks is who could’ve murdered Val…
“He’d forgotten to ask why.”

He’d forgotten to ask why.

In which I begin to understand what an exceptionally vivid character actor Sean Phillips truly is.

Oh, I’ve written thousands of words about specific, expressive elements of Sean Phillips’ craft in reviews for CRIMINAL, FATALE, KILL OR BE KILLED, THE FADE OUT softcovers, MY HEROES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN JUNKIES and THE ART OF SEAN PHILLIPS etc, but here we are in Hollywoodland so it strikes me as apposite that I finally speak about the acting involved on the part of our favourite artists.

Give me love! Give me lust! Give me conflicted ambivalence and emotional exhaustion! Now give me terrified out of my bloody mind.  Sean Phillips delivers on every single page.

It’s Los Angeles, 1948.

Cinema screenwriter Charlie wakes up in the bath of a bungalow in Studio City, built to keep stars close to the set. The night before is an alcohol-induced mystery to him, but there’s a lipstick kiss on the bathroom mirror that reminds him of a smile, the smile leads to a face, and that face belongs to the woman lying dead on the living room floor.



It’s Valeria Sommers, young starlet of the film Charlie’s working on. She’s been strangled while Charlie was sleeping. Slowly, assiduously, Charlie begins to remove all trace of his and anyone else’s presence. But that’s nothing compared to the cover-up the studio’s about to embark on. They’re going to make out it was suicide, smearing the poor girl’s name, and it’s going to make Charlie, now complicit, sick to the stomach.

“Studios had been covering up murder and rape and everything in between since at least the Roaring Twenties. That’s what men like Brodsky were there for… to prevent scandals.
“And he’d helped them this time. He’d helped them.”
As for Gil, it’s going to make Charlie’s old friend, mentor and covert co-writer very angry indeed. It’s going to make him drunk and dangerous – especially to himself.



Period crime from the creators of FATALE and KILL OR BE KILLED and the writer and artist of CRIMINAL and MY HEROES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN JUNKIES, this homes in on Hollywoodland, famous for its writing and acting and myth-spinning slights of hand. They’re lying professionally before they’ve begun to be truly mendacious.

Acting itself is a form of lying – creating the semblance of someone else – but so often stars extend this dissemblance off-screen as well, aided and abetted by elaborate campaigns to make actors more attractive to their idolatrous fans. Take the profile of dreamboat actor Tyler Graves, concocted by bright publicity girl Dotty Quinn, playing up his years as a manly ranch-hand in Texas.

“Dotty, you’re a riot… I’ve never ridden a horse in my life.”
“I know, I still prefer the first one we came up with…”
“Oh right. I was a mechanic Selznick discovered when he broke down in Palm Springs.”
“It was your own little Cinderella story.”



There’s a telling line in Posy Simmond’s British classic TAMARA DREWE from the horse’s mouth of successful crime novelist, Nicholas Hardiman: “I think the real secret of being a writer is learning to be a convincing liar… I mean, that’s what we are: story tellers… liars…”

He should know: he’s a serial philanderer.

This complete twelve-chapter graphic novel gives room for Brubaker to examine relationships in detail. Gil and Charlie’s co-dependent career ties them inextricably together. Gil has been blacklisted while Charlie’s lost his literary spark so the former dictates to the latter. This should make them allies for they both seek the same thing, albeit searching in different directions. But since both abuse booze for different reasons – Charlie for oblivion, belligerent Gil for release – they’re set on a collision course instead. What one does will inevitably impact upon the other but, as I say, they’re not working together: Charlie doesn’t trust Gil to act rationally, with restraint; Gil doesn’t trust Charlie to act at all.

“They were two broken-down writers, running on desperation and booze….
“And they’d written their story wrong.”



Actual plot points I’m steering well clear of. We don’t do spoilers around here. But, boy, there are some pretty brutal (if strategically brilliant) scenes of intimidation and one huge misstep when intimidation gives way to condescension.

The recasting of Valeria Sommers with the similarly styled Maya Silver – and the subsequent reshooting of the film – allows Brubaker to examine the worst of Hollywood and its interminable, often last-minute rewrites ruining what was originally inspired. It’s cleverly done with the film’s eloquent and affecting first shoot recalled, immediately juxtaposed by the second lacklustre effort.

As to Phillips, an early morning beach scene gives him a rare opportunity to show what he can do in full sunlight rather than the twilight or midnight he normally resides in.



Here the lines unfettered from their shadows are unusually crisp, smooth and delicate. Lit more lambently still by Breitweiser with a palette of sand, green and aquamarine, and the sea becomes virtually irresistible. Both their endeavours enhance what is a similarly rare stretch of innocent play free from subterfuge. Of course, that would also be the perfect time to lob in an equally innocent question and a guileless answer which will nonetheless send your mind spinning right back to the beginning.

Because Charlie remains haunted by Valeria there are also some scenes depicting both actresses. Maya was cast partly on account of her striking similarity to Val, but thanks to Phillips you couldn’t mistake one for the other for a second, either on the beach or on set. Maya is beautiful, talented, intelligent and caring; so was Val, but her deportment is instantly recognisable as far more experienced, confident and – there’s no other word for it – classier.



As I say, it’s a period piece, the period being rife with tight-knit nepotism, closed-doors studios and overtly voiced bigotry. Wisely Brubaker has refrained from redacting that. Some people are shits – they just are – and there is such a thing as the non-authorial voice. So much here is tied to the Congressional Hearings just before McCarthyism really hit its stride including a role for Ronald Reagan. Thankfully Sean Phillips is a dab hand at likenesses for Reagan is joined in this fiction by the likes of Clark Gable.

Phillips’ eye for period detail is exceptional, whether it’s the way skirts hang or fly at an angle during a dance, the home furnishings or a buffet banquet. It’s perhaps there that Breitweiser’s decision to avoid local colour shines best, refusing to let your eye settle but dazzling you instead. I can’t imagine how dull and lifeless the spread of food would have looked had it been lit literally instead. Instead it’s both impressionist and expressionist, concerned with the colour and quality of light not as it actually falls or what it falls on but as it might dance on the brain. It’s rendered in free-form, panes of light and slabs of colour with scant regard for the line on the page and every regard for your eye and emotional impact.



As to Brubaker, as ever he excels at making you want to linger as long as possible in each of his characters’ heads. I challenge anyone to foresee what’s coming. Certainly Charlie doesn’t. He hasn’t been able to for ages. It’s no coincidence that for the entire book Charlie’s been looking through cracked glasses which Phillips has turned into yet another of his fortes. There have been bits of Charlie missing, both as a man and as a writer, ever since he saw combat, and this is the brilliance of Brubaker, tying the two together:

“In that moment, he saw why things always went wrong for him now.
“He understood his problem.
“It was that he’d lost the ability to imagine what happened next.”




This complete, all-3-in-1 softcover collection of THE FADE OUT also contains Sean Phillips’ cover gallery – fully painted portraits of each of the protagonists – but it doesn’t (does NOT) contain the following which you will find in THE FADE OUT DELUXE h/c edition:

An exceptional wealth of extra back-matter as you’ll find in all this team’s deluxe hardcovers. Sean Phillips introduces his cover gallery – fully painted portraits of each of the protagonists – with an exploration of how he came up with their linking logo / motif. Ed Brubaker’s on hand with an explanation of why he teases each of his series with a fully-fledged trailer rather than a random splattering of preview pages, and it makes so much narrative sense. And yes, you get that trailer too.

There are some of the essays and which only appeared in the twelve monthly periodicals, along with all their illustrations; Brubaker presents his research; then Phillips and Breitweiser each introduce then demonstrate so much of their process from thumbnails to finished colour pages.

On the other hand, this softcover is half its price!


Buy The Fade Out s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Bad Machinery vol 6: The Case Of The Unwelcome Visitor (Pocket Edition) (£11-99, Oni) by John Allison.



In which our six sleuths from school have almost got their next mystery licked by the time the book opens.

“I can’t believe we have to stay here and hold the ladder.”
“Safety is important, Linton. The instructions are printed on the side of it, look.”

Sure enough there is a safety message sticker from the British Ladder Council printed in black on bright yellow with an incautious ascendant plummeting to his doom:




From the creator of BOBBINS, GIANT DAYS etc comes more of the best of British which we’ve reviewed extensively – and in the case of BOBBINS in great depth as to its mechanics – so I’ll restrict myself to a brief introduction, then a look at two specific elements of its art and craft I’ve not yet covered.



It’s summertime, and Jack, Linton and Charlotte have been left behind in Tackleford while Mildred, Sonny and Shauna swan off abroad.

“Maybe this will be your summer of love,” suggests Shauna.
“I am sorry to report that my skull has just filled up with sick.”

Lottie is having none of it. Her eyes blaze into the distance with a ferocious passion and earnestness:

Mystery is my boyfriend.”



Lottie’s greatest mystery at the moment is what her Mum sees in her new “special companion” Colin who is as dull as three-day-old dishwater but who has been invited to live with them, leading to incredibly violent toilet visits and incredibly dull conversation.

Linton’s greatest mystery is how his newly promoted police Dad is going to cope with the Gravel Pit estate crime rate whose graph is soaring so stratospherically high that, as Linton says, “I wouldn’t want to ride my bike up that.”

Meanwhile at the Tackleford Cormorant offices, Paula’s unyielding reign of inertia at the local gazette continues to confine its fields of interest – and so interest in it – to the unbridled anarchy that is dog mess. Sales have sunk so low that staff reporters have to buy their own tea bags. Except now Paula has taken an unprecedented leave of absence due to “nervous exhaustion, stress and St Vitus’ Dance”, leaving Mike in charge… to do Erin’s bidding. Erin is… ambitious.



So when “retired” children’s TV puppeteer Don ‘Gravy’ Wilkins is discovered in a ditch at night, catatonic with a rictus grin on his face, then two yoofs are found similarly afflicted and flung up in a tree, Erin smells headline news, Linton’s Dad sees the writing on the wall, and Jack, Lottie and Linton set about solving the mystery of the Night Stalker / Night Hero with some sense of urgency before Linton’s dear Dad is fired.

Unfortunately they are only thirteen with pre-determined bed times.



It is the age of cast in BAD MACHINERY which Allison nails over and over again, wringing a seemingly ceaseless stream of liquid comedy gold from their restricted circumstances, behaviour, body language and speech patterns. It will be recognised by adults, young adults, even younger adults alike (for, unlike GIANT DAYS with its recreational drug references, BAD MACHINERY is highly recommended to families and essential to school libraries), and I love that that Jack and co are still just young enough to do some of their most serious thinking on slides.

There is the passion – often inversely proportioned to whatever merits it – the petulance, the pouts and the way everything is taken so personally. Not just serious disagreements but mere differences of opinion on, for example, whether their unwelcome nocturnal visitor is indeed a hero or a villain. Conversely, there’s the love. Jack looks not just worried but potentially heart-broken at his friend Linton’s concern for his Dad:

“Come on, Linton! Punch me in the arm! A free punch! Don’t cry!”


“I’m not crying! ALL RIGHT? I’ve just got HOT EYES!”
“Do you know who else has hot eyes? Erin Winters.”
“You sicken me.”



Again, the passion – the disproportionate outrage – in Linton’s eyes when he states that is too funny for words (it’s a reprise, and grows funnier each time), while Jack is clasping his hands in adulation. Erin Winters, it should be pointed out, has a chequered past with our sleuths and Linton in particular. It might involve the selling of his soul or something. But Jack’s reached that age when he has begun to have certain “thoughts” and certain “feelings”.

This brings us neatly to an episode in which Jack and Linton meet Lottie in a lingerie department because she’s been grounded.

“I only got out of the house by saying I was rude because I was worried about bras. So, me and mum are having a bonding trip. BRAS FOR ALL. We’d better be quick, they’re measurin’ her up and strappin’ her in right now.”

There’s a perfect beat which isn’t even a pause but a reversal of camera angles from Lottie’s physical gesticulation across her chest in both directions to Jack, embarrassedly bursting with barely self-contained steam, whom Linton and Lottie both pat-pat on the shoulders with beautifully expressed, unstated understanding:

“Jack, maybe you should go and sit down in kitchenware for a bit.”



What you should understand is that – although these printed editions are embellished with extra pages and substantial tweaks – Allison publishes most of his stories initially online, page by page on a daily basis, which means each must tell a little story of its own complete with a comedic punchline which is sometimes verbal, sometimes visual and so often both. I cannot conjure in my admittedly addled mind a single other creator with such a high hit rate in that department except Charles Schultz. And although Schultz often mined a vein of an extended storyline, he wasn’t creating such long-form works as these with beginnings, middles and ends.

The upshot of this is that every solo John Allison work is almost incomparably rich and dense in entertainment while this hard-learned discipline has informed his offline collaborative projects too, regardless of whether each page must obey the same “rules”.

So here’s the other element I was just going to “touch on” before leaving you to read or re-read other John Allison Page 45 reviews (best to read BOBBINS as originally published in our blog so that the meticulously chosen illustrations are in synch:, and that’s Lottie’s language.



Her pronouncements are so intense, elaborate and embroidered with emphasis as to be hyperbolic. I’m struggling to analyse Allison’s skill and its effect precisely, but it’s as if they are definitive statements. Example the first:

“Whoa, is Erin Winters prayin’?
“Maybe her heart is not pure evil, Jack.
“Maybe she does not have a TAIL as I have LONG SUSPECTED.”

The additional dropping ‘g’s, the phonetic and the slang compounds the comedy with its contrast to the precociously eloquent. Here’s adult Erin followed by Charlotte, carefully chosen so as not to give the game away.

“His face was flickering on and off with the Creeper’s, like a pirate radio station cutting in and out.”
“Worr you can tell she’s a writer. Well evockertive.”



I will leave you to discover Jack’s pride in being “BEST AT COMPUTERS” and his more hubristic declaration, with attendant celebratory dance, to be “Best at Google. Best at Google. Best at Google” as well as subtle details like him bearing multiple cups of coffee while pushing door open with his foot (recognition button pushed!) and instead finish on his department-store horror at Linton’s suggestion.

“Let’s try CAMI-KNICKERS.”
“Erk, let’s NOT!”


Buy Bad Machinery vol 6: The Case Of The Unwelcome Visitor (Pocket Edition) and read the Page 45 review here

Marvels (Remastered Edition) s/c (£22-99, Marvel) by Kurt Busiek & Alex Ross.

A thoughtful and poignant history of the innocent age of the Marvel Universe, as America at large and a photojournalist in particular witness the arrival in their midst of hybrids, aliens, metahumans, mutants and a brave young man in a black-ribbed, red and blue suit who was destined to see the love of his life die after being thrown from a bridge, her neck snapped by his very own web line.

At which point the innocence is over.

Long before Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee’s INHUMANS, this was one of the very first comics which Marvel released with an ounce of literacy (other than projects published on its Epic label, Jim Starlin’s WARLOCK and THE DEATH OF CAPTAIN MARVEL).

In addition, it saw painter Alex Ross’s rise to critical claim, and justly so. Unlike many painters who’ve brought their brush to this medium, Alex Ross has a deft, luminous touch which allows your eye to drift across even his most intricate pages as sequential art is supposed to.



Along with ASTRO CITY and SUPERMAN: SECRET IDENTITY this has also been Kurt Busiek’s finest hour to date, as he observed the plight of individuals from ground-level, looking upwards into the sky.



It’s a beautiful book which manages, extraordinarily, to recapture the absolute awe one felt as a four-year-old on first beholding a superhero, and wondering what on earth they were.




Buy Marvels (Remastered Edition) 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’

Illegal (£10-99, Hodder) by Eoin Colfer, Andrew Donkin & Giovanni Rigano

24 Panels: An Anthology Comic To Aid PTSD Needs Of Survivors Of The Grenfell Tower Fire (£14-99, Image) by various

The Order Of The Stick: Good Deeds Gone Unpunished (£22-99, Giant In The Playground) by Rich Burlew

Piero (£11-99, New York Review) by Edmond Baudoin

Stray Bullets – Sunshine & Roses vol 3: The Queen Of Palm Court (£17-99, Image) by David Lapham

Tiger Vs. Nightmare h/c (£13-99, FirstSecond) by Emily Tetri

Unnatural vol 1: Awakening s/c (£8-99, Image) by Mirka Andolfo

Justice League vol 1: The Totality s/c (£15-99, DC) by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV & Jorge Jimenez, Jim Cheung, Doug Mahnke

Immortal Hulk s/c vol 1 Or Is He Both (£14-50, Marvel) by Al Ewing, various & Joe Bennett

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl vol 9: Squirrels Fall Like Dominoes s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Ryan North & Derek Charm

Venom vol 1: Rex s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Donny Cates & Ryan Stegman

X-Men: Grand Design – Second Genesis (Treasury Edition) s/c (£26-99, Marvel) by Ed Piskor

Battle Angel Alita: Holy Night & Other Stories h/c (£25-00, Kodansha) by Yukito Kishiro

Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card vol 5 (£9-99, Kodansha) by Clamp

My Brother’s Husband vol 2 h/c (£16-99, Little Brown Book) by Gengoroh Tagame

One Piece vol 88 (£6-99, Viz) by Eiichiro Oda

Saga Of Tanya Evil vol 4 (£9-99, Manga) by Carlo Zen & Chika Tono

Versailles Of The Dead vol 1 (£9-99, Seven Seas) by Kumiko Suekane

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews November 2018 week two

Wednesday, November 14th, 2018

Featuring Ram V, Anand Radhakrishnan, Sebastien Samson, Grim Wilkins, Ancco, Molly Knox Ostertag, Yupechika, Marie Nishimori, Grant Morrison, Liam Sharp

Grafity’s Wall h/c (£14-99, Unbound) by Ram V & Anand Radhakrishnan.

“Don’t dream so much, it’s painful to watch.”

Well, this is a little bit beautiful on every level; but it’s brutal too, as the thwarting of aspirations does tend to be.

Dreams can be thwarted by circumstance, happenstance or intention by individuals, and these specific streets of Mumbai – although teeming with life, energy and colour – are far from conducive to seeing them come to fruition.

They’re impoverished and crowded with elements of corruption, but the local police inspector is not the worst worry. That would be Mario, the local drugs baron, who is flash, charming when he wants to be, seemingly paternalistic but vicious and way too well informed for you to want to cross him. The shanty town designated a slum is under threat of being pulled down without any regard to those who will need re-housing (so won’t be), and there is the pressure on the young from older generations to jettison lofty, artistic ambitions which they consider pie in the sky in favour of buckling down to work for a relative pittance.



Gradually, in a narrative relay race during which a new baton is passed while the old one’s retained and continues to be run with in parallel, we are introduced to four young individuals, Suresh, Jayesh (who prefers “Jay”), Chasma and one other whom I won’t reveal, for I want their inclusion as the fourth perspective when they rise from the background to remain a surprise.

Each harbours artistic aspirations in different fields – art, music, literature and [redacted] – but only one of them (Chasma) attends college, while working long hours at night at an Indian version of a Chinese restaurant where he’s forced to wear a bandana featuring The Rising Sun. Oh ridiculous, I know, but there are plenty of Chinese Takeaways in Britain (in Nottingham indeed) called The Rising Sun!

Suresh draws constantly in softcover sketchbooks he carries round with him, then slips into areas more closely patrolled by the police to spray walls with the most elaborate, intricate and gorgeous graffiti they’re ever likely to see. Albeit a bit bruised, he’s rescued from arrest by Jay, using Mario’s drug money to bribe the inspector, who asks why Suresh does it when “half the chawl would love to have you paint something on their walls”.

“I guess I just like the idea of being somewhere I’m not meant to be. Like sneaking into someone else’s world and leaving a mark.”



Back home, his mother’s cooking dinner, greets him tenderly but adds ominously…

“And Suresh? Your father’s home.”

It starts of quite well, his father stuffing his smoke in his mouth to inspect his son’s sketchbook.

“Mm-hmm. >snf< These are pretty good. You’re getting better, eh?”

He tries to pour himself another drink, but the bottle is empty so he tosses it out of the window, into the garbage-bobbing waters below.

“You know something, son?
“Nothing is made here, in this place, not anymore. Everything is manufactured. Everything is bought and sold, you understand?”

It’s then that he utters the opening quotation, squeezing both Suresh’s cheeks together with a single powerful hand. It’s then that he does something awful.

Suresh’s face is a malleable joy. On the third page in, artist Radhakrishnan lends him all the power of deep concentration and creative consideration as he eyes what’s on the wall already and contemplates what best to add and how.



His deep, dark eyes are smoothly, deliciously hooded as hair falls over and on either side, while his top teeth pull his lower lip up and into his mouth. He’s a handsome young lad, and I love his multiple-holster belt, criss-crossed round his waist full of different coloured spray cans.

Jay, meanwhile, bursts blithely into the inspector’s office with greasy hair curling from under his backwards-on baseball cap, three pale plasters comically covering bits of his swarthy, unshaven face. They won’t seem so funny soon.

As to those streets, they’re exquisitely realised with an astonishing sense of three-dimensional, architectural space which almost paradoxically allows their cluttered confines to be rendered in full. A large, four-fifths panel looks down on a multi-tiered veranda, vibrant in floral colour and festooned with rope-suspended red lanterns. It’s populated by residents all perfectly proportioned to fit comfortably within the walks with room to spare, one hanging out the washing, another sitting to read a paper, while others hang or lean lazily over the railings to watch young Suresh being chased down a shop- and vendor-crowded alley by the inspector who’s just had his pride pricked and authority challenged.



That shanty-town slum is hardly lacking in draped detail, either, as seagulls circle up above. The light throughout is exceedingly well regulated to generate heat (Anand joined by Jason Wordie and Irma Kniivila on colours), and there’s one nocturnal moment of terrifying power when Mario’s eyes go blank with barely controlled rage, his skin behind glasses glowing a vivid, expressionistic orange, while spittle froths rabidly from his mouth. It is now that those plasters really aren’t funny.

It’s so tightly plotted. For example, poor Jay’s kind deed to Chasma in taking away the free wrap of speed or cocaine which Mario attempts to addict him with… well… you’ll see.



Chasma is writing letters. Initially, I infer, they’re to his sister Mary back home in Manipur, partly to impart news of his updated circumstances but mostly for the love of writing letters. He likes letters.

“Someone took the pain and the time to make words and put them on paper. There’s an endeavour to put down thoughts that have had time to linger.”

To linger and thereby percolate: some things are important but now largely lost.

“And then, so many people passed the letters amongst each other to make sure it got to the person it was meant for.”

Chasma’s quite the romantic, writing to letters to everyone, anyone and no one in particular, then handing them out, even to strangers. Suresh liked his, Jay can’t read, and some strangers react very strangely indeed. I like this:

“I left one in the back of a rickshaw in Byculla. It has a short story about a found letter.”



The book bursts with the spirit of place, and the script is lovingly peppered with local language (some of it surprisingly spicy and therefore also surprisingly commonplace – I looked it up!) and it’s worth noting, on the authenticity front, that writer Ram V grew up in Mumbai and artist Radhakrishnan still lives and works there. It’s one of the tightest, richest reads of the year, about four people who are “in love with the promise of things to come… not yet resigned to things as they were”.

At one point Jay protests:

“No… Because I have dreams. And they’re not for sale.”

Each chapter concludes with a full-page portrait of Suresh’s titular, remnant piece of free-standing wall which he discovered on his own turf amongst so much rubble – the sort of thing you’d find in a war zone. It’s increasingly embellished during the intermittent pages, in turns, to pay tribute to his three friends. The celebration of Jay as a master MC, decked out in the finest Day-Glo hoodie etc is particularly poignant given Jay’s plight at precisely that point, but the epilogue’s startlingly unexpected conclusion is so profoundly moving that it brought a choke to my throat, then made my heart soar.

That’s what the best dreams do: they make your heart soar. And it’s one of the very best feelings that a graphic novel can leave you with.


Buy Grafity’s Wall h/c and read the Page 45 review here

My New York Marathon (£14-99, Humanoids) by Sebastien Samson…

“I no longer have legs. I am made only of eyes.
“The opposite is about to be true, although I don’t know it yet.”

Foolish unfit Sebastien, in a moment of mildly drunken madness, proclaims he will run the New York Marathon. Unfortunately, it’s in front of his partner Rosalie and their friends Nadege and Wilfried, all hardcore long distance runners. They of course all burst out laughing at this ridiculous prospect, which only serves to strengthen Sebastien’s alcohol-fortified resolve to do it. Even when he wakes up the next day, he’s still totally determined to give it a go. How hard could it be?!

As the months, weeks and days tick down ever more rapidly to the start line, we follow Sebastien’s outer and inner physical and psychological transformation and turmoil brought about by his relentless training regimen. He knows full well he’s never ever going to be an athlete of the calibre of his chums, all clocking preposterously fast times, but he’s determined to rise to the challenge.



I greatly enjoyed watching Sebastien’s blood, sweat and tears as he puts himself through his gradually increasing paces, many, many of them, along the scenic coastal paths of Normandy, in preparation for his trip across the pond. By the time the fateful day comes in the Big Apple, he’s as ready to ‘enjoy’ it as he possibly could be.



Whilst our view of his marathon experience does indeed cover every progressively more tortuous step of the 26 miles 385 yards in question, Sebastien somehow manages to find time to drink in some of the sights and sounds of the city itself, along with much needed rehydration at the requisite water stations!



Yes, the chance to see New York City itself was a significant motivating factor for Sebastien to train up for the marathon as it was a place he’d always longed to visit. Though probably at a more leisurely pace… and without the aid of a head-mounted video camera for later drawing reference…



Sebastien has a lovely laid-back writing style, frequently portraying himself as the fool, which will undoubtedly appeal to fans of Guy BURMA / PYONGYANG Delisle. Plus there are some great little conceits as well, such as the incredulous little characters living inside his head, just the like the Numskulls (sic) from the Beano, who are utterly appalled by his masochistic attempts to push his body past his very low limits of initial ‘fitness’.



Anyone interested in the inner workings of the long distance runner and the insanity of those who would choose to become one of their own free will should read this work and weep. Tears of laughter.


Buy My New York Marathon and read the Page 45 review here

Mirenda (£15-99, Image) by Grim Wilkins…

“You’ll pay your debts this time.”

No, not the Page 45 heavies collecting payment for a long overdue standing order… as most of you pick up your stash promptly thank you very much, and anyway, we just vapourise those miscreants that don’t… but instead one of about five lines of texts in this extraordinarily beautiful wordless (practically) fantasy yarn. Here’s a performance mime from the publisher, helpfully transposed into text, to illustrate a little more…

“When a jungle-dwelling woman gets a mysterious demon trapped in her leg, she sets off on an extraordinary adventure to get it out. Artist/writer Grim PROPHET: EARTH WAR Wilkins plays with the possibilities of comic storytelling, letting the visuals carry the weight. Originally appearing in ISLAND magazine, MIRENDA picks up the gauntlet left by the works of Moebius and Frazetta and runs with it.”

Oh yes he does. That’s a very good summation of this work, actually. The titular Mirenda does indeed end up with an imp in her thigh and it is up to us the reader to puzzle out from the perpetually time- and place-shifting chapters as to why. It is relatively complex plotting, which will require you to concentrate on the devilishly detailed art to comprehend precisely what is occurring, but given the quality of the artwork, that’s an absolute pleasure anyway.



Yes, the visuals are indeed more than up to the task of carrying the story! In fact, the story probably feels like it is being propelled effortlessly along upon a jewel-encrusted palanquin such is the depth of the design, the lightness of touch of the linework and the calibre of the colouring. It may actually be too much for some, who might prefer a slightly less dense approach to their wordless fun such as that employed by A LAND CALLED TAROT which also debuted in ISLAND, but if you are prepared to slow your eyes and brain right down and get fully absorbed into the illustrated narrative, you will reap the rewards.


Buy Mirenda and read the Page 45 review here

Bad Friends (£16-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Ancco…

“We eventually called our parents.
“But for some strange reason, my parents didn’t get angry.
“I’d assumed they were just waiting to give me a proper beating.
“But they didn’t lay a finger on me, let alone ask where I’d been.
“That’s probably because they’d known where I’d been all along.”

Which was ‘working’ at an escort bar… for all of a couple of days before Jinju and her friend Jeong-Ae began to realise what that would actually entail, and with whom…

But, as she mentions, this was one of the very rare occasions that Jinju didn’t get a right old battering off her dad / mum / close relative / teacher / all of them!


Written from the point of view of a comics creator looking back at her high school years – and I think it may therefore be at least in part inspired by Ancco’s own experiences – South Korean society in the ‘90s certainly seemed to espouse a somewhat hands-on philosophy of child rearing, shall we say. Barely a day seems to go by without Jinju being subjected to a GBH-level assault from someone at least mildly irritated with her. Here’s the rap sheet from the publisher to tell us more…

“Jinju is bad. She smokes, drinks, runs away from home, and has no qualms making her parents worry. Her mother and sister beg her to be a better student, sister, daughter; her beleaguered father expresses his concerns with his fists. BAD FRIENDS is set in the 1990s in a South Korea torn between tradition and Western modernity and haunted by an air of generalized gloom. What unfolds is a story of female friendship, a Ferrante-esque connection formed through youthful excess, malaise, and struggle that stays with the young women into adulthood.”

But whilst Jinju does briefly run away, this is no QUEST FOR THE MISSING GIRL, neither tonally, artistically, nor indeed simply because her parents didn’t even bother looking for her. Though I suspect on that latter point, it was purely down the fact that they had finally had enough and were hoping a short, sharp shock of hard reality might bring her scampering sheepishly home, which it did.

No, tonally this has much more in common with the likes of Yoshihiro A DRIFTING LIFE Tatsumi’s fictional works such as THE PUSH MAN, all bleak, grim and unhappy, though offset with some dark humour reminiscent of Taiyo Matsumoto’s SUNNY material. The overall feel is thus one of mildly delirious despair, both Jinju with her teenage existential angst and her parents with their rapidly diminishing hopes that their wayward daughter will sort her life out before she does something she really regrets. Like becoming a comics creator…


Buy Bad Friends and read the Page 45 review here

The Hidden Witch (£11-99, Scholastic) by Molly Knox Ostertag…

“I gave Charlie her protection charm today. I wonder who cursed her.”
“It is sad that her family didn’t teach her better.”
“Or him. Shouldn’t we try to find out who it is? Stop their magic from becoming corrupted.”
“There is a reason magic is passed down in families. We teach each other, we watch, we take care of our known. We do things differently from family to family, and we respect that.”

Indeed. For example, only Aster’s family – well, some of them like his Gran at least – is prepared to tolerate a male trainee witch like himself. And of course, not everyone has a family to teach them anything at all, which is the unfortunate case with our ‘hidden’ witch here. Not to make excuses for evil behaviour, but, you know, role models and all that.



So, new girl in town Ariel, stuck with yet another foster family, has serious trust issues and a shadow self to back up her bad attitude. Aster’s non-witch friend Charlie is trying to make friends with Ariel, as that’s just the lovely sort of person Charlie is, but so far, all she is getting for her troubles is some serious shadowy spectral spooking.



Much like THE PRINCE AND THE DRESSMAKER, this is actually really about being tolerant of differences, encouraging acceptance of diversity and building friendships with people who aren’t simply exact copies of yourself, rather than any sorcery-based shenanigans, though there’s just enough of that to cast a spell on proceedings.

It’s definitely aimed at every element of the all-ages audience, so don’t expect anywhere as sophisticated a storyline as THE PRINCE AND THE DRESSMAKER or NIMONA. It’s much more comparable to the likes to REAL FRIENDS, MAKING FRIENDS and pretty much anything written by Raina GHOSTS Telgemeier.


Buy The Hidden Witch and read the Page 45 review here

Satoko And Nada vol 1 (£9-99, Seven Seas) by Yupechika, Marie Nishimori ~

“I’ve… decided I wanna try new things. I’m in America now, after all. I shouldn’t just be with Muslims all the time. I’ve got to try opening a new door…”

Moving from a bustling family unit in Saudi Arabia to study in America, Nata has come to the realisation that solo living isn’t quite for her. So, she does what any typical college student does and puts up an ad for a roommate. And in walks Satoko, a timid girl with disheveled hair, fresh off the plane from Japan. A budding friendship immediately starts to blossom, as Satoko is swept away by Nada’s charm and cheerful disposition, while Nada takes Satoko under her wing, nurturing her curiosity with sisterly compassion.

With each page dedicated to a different theme, the book is split into many small, easily digestible slices of life, tackling many disparate aspects of both cultures including religion, clothing, romance, birthdays and food; always done with such benevolent affection and good humour. Satoko and Nada are a very believable pairing, as they have such warmth and kindness towards each other, embracing each other’s customs with honest curiosity and a healthy dose of good humour.



Yupechika’s soft line work beautifully reflects the gentle nature of the story and the delicate tenderness with which the girls treat each other. Refreshing and feminine, this charming book is like a comfortable hug from a friend, and you’ll find yourself wishing that you were able to hang out with Satoko and Nada; sharing stories and experiences, and most importantly, your favourite recipes.




Buy Satoko And Nada vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

The Green Lantern #1 (£4-25, DC) by Grant Morrison & Liam Sharp.

Original 2000AD run through with Douglas Adams – that’s how I’d characterise so much of this.

It’s highly inventive and very, very funny. Even mid-mass-arrest, there are so many stop-for-a-moment-to-laughs.

“Ye’ll never catch us now, copper!” boasts an 8-legged fiend.
“I won’t have to. My partner, Green Lantern Floozle Flem, is a super-intelligent all-purpose virus. Replicating in your bloodstream as we speak.
“Floozle Flem doesn’t catch you…
“You catch Floozle Flem.”

The police-patrol Green Lantern Corps’ pro-diversity recruitment drive knows no blinkers. You can’t expect to patrol then control the full range of a cosmos’s manifestations if you don’t have an equally unorthodox armoury of agents.

No more a superhero series than Hickman and Aja’s HAWKEYE – which was instead a slickly designed, contemporary comedy of manners, therefore infinitely more accessible to a far broader audience – this is cosmic cop-crime whose precinct and jurisdiction are both set in space.



You can tell by its structure, which begins with a disciplined demand for a sit-rep update from HQ (a great big green-lantern-shaped space station) while at ground-level (somewhere similarly suspended but less lime-coloured, flu-mucous aside) all is barely contained chaos. A spider’s just bitten a Green Lantern’s ring off.

“That was my favourite finger, you savage!
“So bitey all the time!”



So yes, bursting with playful mischief to be sure, but if fingers can be cropped then so can entire individuals as – this being crime an’ all – it also comes with abrupt, contrasting (and so, more arresting) casualties.

You need know nothing of this title’s past to enjoy the opener to this first season (because that is what I sense this is, very much mapped out like a television show), for I’ve read fewer than dozen GREEN LANTERN issues in my life; only enough to recognise this as hilariously (yes, hilariously) faithful yet totally fresh, with Liam Sharp art that is ridiculously detailed and full of authority.



To tell you more, plot-wise, would be to spoil the surprise, while the same goes for its structure which isn’t above slipping in memories like a meandering and meditative road journey.

Liam Sharp has brought his all – which is considerable – and I do hope he’s on double time for all the detail. The following need mean nothing to you, it is merely an observational self-indulgence based on my own historical comics-history bias:

On different pages yet sometimes in the same panels, I sensed serious amounts of neo-classical Neal Adams in the figure work, forearms and faces, enough Alan Davis to keep me amused in the background Glaswegian gamblers betting on a battle’s outcome, HR Giger – appropriately enough – in the mechanics during the discovery of a crashed spaceship, Jim Starlin rendering attending Hal’s ribcage and stomach muscles, bites of early Sir Bazza Windsor-Smythe in the biceps, Herb Trimpe female faces and forearms, a sizzle of Bill Sienkiewicz during an arm-spread lift-off, and Jim Steranko during what I’d call “assembly” (reciting the bright / night / sight / might / light riff) that I chuckled heartily.



Liam Sharp shakes his head.

“What are you even on, Stephen?”

The air is so rare that I’m on a high, Liam. Thank you very much indeed.




Buy The Green Lantern #1 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’

Telepathy Practice (Sketched In) (£5-00, self-published) by Joe Decie

To Build A Fire (£13-99, Gallery 13) by Chabouté

Wet Moon vol 7: Morning Cold (£17-99, Oni) by Sophie Campbell

The Arab Of The Future vol 3: 1985-1987 (£18-99, Two Roads) by Riad Sattouf

Bad Machinery vol 6: The Case Of The Unwelcome Visitor (Pocket Edition) (£11-99, Oni) by John Allison

Cicada h/c (£14-99, Hatchette) by Shaun Tan

The Fade Out s/c (£22-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips, Elizabeth Breitweiser

Fante Bukowski Three: A Perfect Failure (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Noah Van Sciver

Firefly Legacy Edition vol 1 s/c (£22-50, Boom!) by Joss Whedon, Brett Matthews, Jim Krueger, Zack Whedon, Patton Oswalt & Will Conrad, Chris Samnee, Fabio Moon, Patric Reynolds

Kingdom Of The Dwarfs h/c (£26-99, IDW) by Robb Walsh & Dave Wenzel

Doctor Who: The Road To The Thirteen Doctor s/c (£13-99, Titan) by various

Marvels (Remastered Edition) s/c (£22-99, Marvel) by Kurt Busiek & Alex Ross

The Punisher: War Machine vol 2 s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Matthew Rosenberg & Stefano Landini, Guiu Vilanova

20th Century Boys Perfect Edition vol 1 (£12-99, Viz) by Naoki Urasawa

Yotsuba&! vol 14 (£9-99, Viz) by Kiyohiko Azuma

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews November 2018 week one

Wednesday, November 7th, 2018

Featuring Posy Simmonds, Tom Gauld, Adrian Tomine, Tom Haugomat, David Small, Hector German Oesterheld, Alberto Breccia, Brian Azzarello, Eduardo Risso, Steve Skroce, Stephen McCranie

Cassandra Darke (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Posy Simmonds.

On Friday November 17th 2017 a woman’s body was discovered in Surrey woodland by a couple who were walking their dog.

This we are shown in a newspaper clipping on the very first page.

It will not impact immediately upon disgraced and perpetually disgruntled London art dealer Cassandra Darke, her estranged family or her increasingly far fewer friends, for they are all, each one of them, obliviously unconnected.

For the moment.

A gripping, warmly and flavourfully rendered master-class in behavioural self-justification, plot precision, dramatic irony and visually delicious comicbook craft, this comes courtesy of entertainer Posy Simmonds MBE, the creator of British classics TAMARA DREWE, GEMMA BOVERY, LITERARY LIFE and MRS WEBER’S OMNIBUS. And this, her first new work in a decade, is another belter, with the most exquisite and varied tableaux.



Set in the run-up to two London Christmases – and flashing back to a year’s crucial events before either – the pages glow in the December snow, with store-front window displays luring in bag-burdened shoppers, all clad in scarves or clutching their collars closed.

One of those is Cassandra Darke, decked out in a boiler suit, thick boots and Trapper Hat, though she was only in search of macaroons from Piccadilly’s Burlington Arcade, on a brief break from the gallery which she manages for her ex-husband. He’s been semi-retired for a while now, with Alzheimer’s. Cassandra agreed to return even though Freddie had run off with her stepsister Margot – hence the divorce – because she’d got over him (and it) almost immediately. Still, things aren’t so serene when it comes to Margot, the sons they had together, and especially not their daughter Nikki. That… became personal last year.

Things aren’t so serene, either, once Cassandra spots Jane McMullen – wife of a deceased sculptor whose works Cassandra has traded in – crossing the road on the way to the gallery. Jane had been pestering her all day with emails and phone calls (so far evaded) after a dinner during which an art collector and his wife had cut Cassandra cold then spent all evening muttering in Jane McMullen’s ear. And Cassandra knows exactly what that’s all about: her “jiggery-pokery”, as she puts it, has finally been rumbled.



We’ll return to the plot twice more, but I love the contrast between the two women, both of a certain age. Stocky Cassandra’s tightly dressed like a Giles character, grimacing away, her sour, disapproving mouth with its pressed, thin lips forming a central beak beneath glasses worn so as to signify a disdain of their own. Jane on the other hand is hat-free with long, jumbled grey tresses which her quarry refers to as a “rats’ nest”, her dress, jumper and loose woollen overcoat all flowing more freely: lots of comfortable, more natural textiles.

And then we’re treated to pedestrian congestion, a crowd-scene which perfectly portrays the nightmarishly crammed and cramped London high street Christmas shopping phenomenon, all in aid of the great god Mammon. It’s lovely and peaceful at Page 45, I promise, where we’re on hand to help you with recommendations and – [Snip! That’s enough – ed.]

I remember when Comics Laureate Hannah Berry was drawing her own exceptional, packed crowd scenes towards the climax of her wicked media, socio-political and pop-culture satire LIVESTOCK, and the sheer masochism, as she saw it, of doing so. Blow up the final page of interior art accompanying that review for one of those crowd scenes and oh dear, there’s me, bottom left, beaming with enrapt adulation!



My point is, look at this full-page Posy Simmonds accomplishment, with its vanishing-point perspective, and its detail which only diminishes as the human eye can take in no more! At the flock’s front, instead, it’s almost as if the human flood is upon you, about to sweep you away down the street when actually you desperately need to get to the fourth shop ahead on the left-hand side.

Back to the plot and, as she predicts of herself, Cassandra comes a-cropper, busted for selling two collectors the same numbered cast. Fast-forward a year to December 2017 and although she avoided a jail sentence, the disgraced gallery has closed, she’s been forced to sell her second home in France to pay for the damages and legal fees, jettison her driver and housekeeper / cook, and been reduced from nipping down to The Wolsey for eggs Benedict to eating ready meals alone, taking public transport and walking her own dog.

Still, on the whole, she is contentedly self-contained. Until, that is, her ex-husband’s Memorial is announced. Cassandra didn’t attend the funeral for multiple reasons that Simmonds is so astute in understanding – Posy’s very good at getting into people’s heads – but she is tempted into attending the Memorial, albeit covertly, watching from the gallery above the main congregation. Once more the social observation flows freely – one of the wealthy, for example, has a “glue-do” of hairspray – but mostly Cassandra is left to reflect and it is here where we begin to learn her true heart.

For yes, she is mean-spirited and mercenary enough to swindle art collectors, but only the investors: the Speculators whom she despises for their “ignorance, vulgarity and itchy palms”. This is what I meant about Posy being a master of the way we justify our less laudable thoughts and deeds. Cassandra also dismissively refuses to give to the freezing homeless (“that’s the job of the Government… charities… to get them off the street”), and as to those charities themselves, while still a dealer she once berated Jane McMullen for donating her deceased husband’s work to their auctions: “… but don’t you understand? … it lowers Ken’s market price! It hurts your pocket – and MINE.”



However, in spite of the stream of self-justifications, she’s not self-delusional. During the eulogy to her ex-husband’s Memorial’s eulogy, she observes of her stepsister whom she acknowledges was always the kinder one, the comforter…

“The paean to Margot rolls on. So many virtues! None of which I possess. If I’d been the widow today he’d be pushed to find a fitting cliché. “They broke the mould” (thank God); “Larger than life” (obese); “Blessed with a wonderful imagination” (Liar. Utter crook.)”

In her own words she’s “old and fat” and actively contemplates suicide in forensic detail, by freezing to death in her now derelict garden, so as to avoid her ex-husband’s Alzheimer’s, and the hoists, ramps and grab bars she would need during her slow, lingering death in any twilight home.



It’s when Cassandra gets home that the shocker occurs, when the true plot finally reveals itself. The alarm to her front door doesn’t bleat (so isn’t set), there are granite chips from the garden which she crunches on down the hall, as well as inside the back door to the garden which is, thankfully, locked. Immediately she suspects burglary and tears round the house but nothing is missing. Then, with relief, she imagines it must be her weekly cleaner, nipping outside for a cigarette and dragging the gravel in on her shoes… except that she hadn’t noticed until now. Then a more paranoid explanation kicks in – one involving Nikki, her ex-husband’s daughter who in 2016 had begged her for lodgings in the separate basement flat, and money to finance her art projects. As I have intimated, that didn’t end well.

Perhaps Nikki had returned with copied keys? So Cassandra tentatively journeys downstairs. Nothing seems out of place since it was cleaned up a year ago. But there’s a grubby towel in the bathroom bin… and, under it, lies a glove, a gun and several rounds of ammunition.

I’ve seen Posy Simmonds described best by Antony Quinn, thus: “Posy Simminds is the laureate of English middle-class muddle, a peerless observer of their romantic confusions, emotional insecurities and professional vicissitudes. She gets to the heart of them more incisively and wittily than any number of her contemporaries…”

By contemporaries, Quinn was referring to Posy’s prose counterparts (Posy is overwhelmingly read by prose readers who don’t imagine or often acknowledge that they’re reading comics!), and he is 100% on the money. To this I would only add that Simmonds here also excels her peers in television in terms of the behavioural and crime-driven, evidential logic. This is immaculate.



As we flash back to those crucial events of 2016 involving Nikki, her imaginative, crusading art projects, a pivotal hen night and its multiple repercussions, then flow consequently back to the present, every element laid early on comes into play, from text messages sent to the wrong mobile phone (sent erroneously but not accidentally, and that is so key!) to Cassandra Darke’s initial, privileged and self-serving dismissal of charities, and the homeless, her contempt for Nikki’s specific staged social media campaign, yet also Darke’s renowned skills when it comes to analysing clues as to a painting’s provenance, its origin and so authorship.

That the gun (and other vital items) had, we discover, come into her hands through such complex, convoluted and unorthodox ownership – along with her own previous conviction for crime – means that this could not play itself out in anything close to an easy conclusion by calling the police. It does so instead through such deviousness and daring that only a woman who has outgrown self-interest and caution for her own physical safety could muster. Even her own physical weight, of which she is self-conscious, pulls its own here.

Let us say nothing of her dog.

Yes, you will see and come to understand Nikki’s side of things in full, and I warn you that it grows pretty grim when men become involved.

We may begin in posh Piccadilly and cosy Chelsea, in the sort of society for which a funeral is not enough and a Memorial must be held too, but that body was found in Surrey.


Buy Cassandra Darke and read the Page 45 review here

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

Rodney is a very curious young boy. If he’s not examining creepy crawlies with a magnifying glass he’s usually watching the seaplanes landing on the nearby lake through his binoculars. Sometimes he’s covertly peeking at the neighbour hanging out washing through the gap in the fence, or standing on tip-toes, peering through the keyhole, to try and see what’s happening on the other side of a door.

But what captures his imagination the most is the moment he gets to view the stars through a telescope, guided by his father. That is in September 1967. Then in July 1969, sat cross-legged on the floor, glued to the television, he gets to watch the first lunar landing. It’s no wonder this lad turns out to be a Trekkie, but that’s just the beginning of his obsession with the final frontier…



Sparsely illustrated pages of crisp design plot the trajectory of Rodney’s life at approximately a page per year: the discoveries, the successes, the failures, the high points and the lows, each a perfectly encapsulated point of time that we get to witness in its entirety. You see, this is a very unique take on a life story for we the readers are not simply there to watch, but also to experience it exactly as Rodney does… to partake through his eyes.

Presented in a simple yet ingenuous format throughout, with a scene on the left and then Rodney’s view of it on the right, each double-page spread is a construction that gives us the perspective from both outside and also within, which only when viewed together gives us the whole.



Sometimes it is Rodney peering through a door on the left hand page over to what he can see on the right, other times it is him intently reading a book on the left, with a close up of the page itself on the right. Thus you get to see what Rodney himself is experiencing in each moment, but also the bigger picture, which on occasion reveals a crucial aspect that Rodney himself may have missed.

Being presented with both perspectives like this sounds like it should be intrusive, voyeuristic even, but in actual fact it is far from it, instead creating a real sense of intimacy. More like a story being told to you in hushed tones, almost a whisper, by a close companion while you’re both sequestered away in a secluded spot.

Punctuated with real life events such as the Challenger shuttle disaster the story is grounded in a familiar time and place, and therefore brings with it a real sense of honesty. Its seemingly simplistic art style and subdued palette of crimson, teal and warm, blond yellow holds an abundance of elegant detailing which you’ll discover with delight. A triumph of storytelling through design, fans of Chris Ware should definitely take a look. Also, remember what I said about trajectory…




Buy Through A Life h/c and read the Page 45 review here

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



From the creator of the longer-form GOLIATH and MOONCOP comes a booklet of fifty literary postcards to puncture our pretensions or wilful dim-wittedness with cartoons and short comics, accompanied where required with the deftest of timing.

The problem with that is it’s almost impossible to convey through quotation, so I selected some choice interior art for you instead. Some of all-time favourites are in here.

“But Stephen, we’ve already read some of these in Gauld’s BAKING WITH KAFKA and YOU’RE ALL JUST JEALOUS OF MY JETPACK!”

Well, tear them out and send them to somebody! It’s a book of postcards!





Alternatively frame the fiends, and arrange them artfully around your house where they can cause the most mischief: convulsive with laughter is ill-conducive to an accurate aim in the loo. Hmmmm. Arrange them around someone else’s house, then.

All the above titles reviewed in much greater length and depth. You’d never fit this on the back of a postcard as it is.





Buy The Snooty Bookshop: Fifty Literary Postcards and read the Page 45 review here

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

“Wait. I think I’ve got a quarter. Will you blow me for a quarter?
“Come on, man! I’m all ready!
“What did I say?”
“I’ll see you retards later.”
“Russ! Pal! Don’t leave me here with blue balls! It’s not nice!”

I think face of thunder would best describe Russ’ face in response to his ‘friend’ Kurt’s, as he perceives it, hilarious banter. In retrospect, Russ probably didn’t do himself any favours drunkenly mentioning how their school friend Warren had paid Russ to lie on top of him and hug him. But then neither does Kurt know that Russ is in fact gay, albeit very much in the closet, unlike Warren, who is about to be forcibly evicted. Still, with ‘friends’ like Kurt and his sidekick asshat Willie, who for some reason best known to himself (and us the reader) Russ has chosen to hang around with during the summer, Russ is going to have learn to keep his secret under wraps if he wants an easy life. Here’s the publisher’s slightly hyperbolic synopsis of David Small’s latest tale of emotional character torture.



“David Small’s long-awaited graphic novel is a savage portrayal of male adolescence gone awry like no other work of recent fiction or film. Thirteen-year-old Russell Pruitt, abandoned by his mother, follows his father to sun-splashed California in search of a dream. Suddenly forced to fend for himself, Russell struggles to survive in Marshfield, a dilapidated town haunted by a sadistic animal killer and a ring of malicious boys who bully Russell for being ‘queer.’ Rescued from his booze-swilling father by Wen and Jian Mah, a Chinese immigrant couple who long for a child, Russell betrays their generosity by running away with their restaurant’s proceeds. HOME AFTER DARK becomes a new form of literature in this shocking graphic interpretation of cinéma verité.”



Now, in case you are wondering what cinéma verité or indeed ‘blue balls’ are, dear readers, allow me to enlighten you… Cinéma verité literally translated as “truthful cinema” is apparently “a style of documentary filmmaking, invented by Jean Rouch, inspired by Dziga Vertov‘s theory about Kino-Pravda and influenced by Robert Flaherty’s films. It combines improvisation with the use of the camera to unveil truth or highlight subjects hidden behind crude reality. It is sometimes called observational cinema, if understood as pure direct cinema: mainly without a narrator’s voice-over.”

Sounds a lot like a not inconsiderable number of comics to me… Did the publisher really need to make the obscure cinema correlation? Maybe the hypewriter is a cinema buff?

Blue balls, on the other hand, was a term I’d never heard of until I lived in the USA for a couple of years. It’s, well, let’s just say it’s a highly dangerous condition that if not treated rapidly can lead to the sufferers, usually immature young males, exploding. So no bad thing, then, if they are idiots like Kurt.



Anyway… all you really need to know is that David STITCHES Small is back once again putting his characters through the wringer. All of them, pretty much. I certainly think you’ll be able to gather from the above blurb that Russell is not having an easy time of it. Indeed, the prologue of a young Russell just staring vacantly at his own reflection in a bauble on the Christmas tree – whilst his parents’ climatic argument rages on right before his mother runs off with the local football star – is pretty much the tip of the emotional trauma iceberg that is come for poor old Russell.

With zero in the way of a positive parental role model from his alcoholic dad either, who promptly drags him halfway across the country for a failed fresh start and struggling with his sexual identity, Russell is about learn about life for himself the hard way.



If only he had some decent friends to help him through it all…

If only Russell was better at choosing his friends…

Russell is actually going to come out of this particularly troubled summer better than some, though, I will give you that…

For those that like their contemporary fiction more than a little dark and troubling, and their art style black and white, with lashings of grey shading and oh so heartbreakingly expressive, this is for you. This very nearly triggered the Rigby tear threshold, I have to say.


Buy Home After Dark h/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

“It’s a pleasure… to see you again, Ezra… Ezra Winston.”
“For me, too, Mort.”
“Someone’s coming, Mort! Sounds like a lot of them.”
“Breathing again… It’s incredible…”
“They’re coming, Mort! The leaden-eyed men!”

You know the type… the ones that don’t set up a standing order and then expect the latest issue of Deadpool Kills Off All Good Comics to be sat waiting for them on the shelves and blink their leaden-eyes in disbelief when it’s not…

Right, without further ado, let us allow Fantagraphics to resuscitate some proverbial reprinted life into the man who could not be killed. Well, he could be killed, but then he kept coming back to life again…



“The great Alberto Breccia, in collaboration with the Argentine writer Hector German THE ETERNAUT Oesterheld present MORT CINDER, a horror story with political overtones that follows the wanderings through time of a man who rises from the grave each time he is killed, bearing witness to the darkest sides of humanity. American comics creators such as Frank Miller (300, SIN CITY) and Mike Mignola (HELLBOY) owe Breccia a great debt; these horror-adventure tales are as thrilling, dread-inducing, and accessible as when they were created a half a century ago.”



Verbosely dramatic, intensely pencilled with vast quantities of black shading and shadows casting themselves around dangerously in every direction, this is indeed pulp horror of the finest vintage. It’s a very dense, intense read, which is primarily due to Breccia’s relentless, pressurising style. He never lets up on Mort, the reader, or indeed himself, judging from the amount of effort you can see that’s gone into the artwork, not to overlook the note-perfect feel of the writing and dialogue. He manages to put the reader firmly right into the ever-perilous place of the world-weary Mort Cinder. If you’re reading this late at night in the gloom you might catch yourself nervously looking over your shoulder for a man with leaden eyes… weeping silently over a lack of DEADPOOL first printings…



In terms of ability, Breccia’s right up there with Sergio THE COLLECTOR / SHARAZ-DE: TALES FROM THE ARABIAN NIGHTS H/C Toppi for me. Fans of Tiziano Sclavi’s DYLAN DOG, a title that’s never really gained any traction in the English-speaking world – despite again the likes of Mignola being a self-proclaimed massive fan – would undoubtedly appreciate this. In terms of contemporary horror this is just as good as the likes of WYTCHES and HARROW COUNTY.


Buy Mort Cinder h/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

It’s an odd title for an Adrian Tomine collection, I grant you, but Jonathan and I are completely convinced it refers to the young woman who insists on performing stand-up comedy. You’ll see for yourself whether she metaphorically kills or dies there.

From one of comics’ most astute observers of human behaviour – quite often rifts in relationships – this reprints OPTIC NERVE #12, 13, 14 (OPTIC NERVE #14 still in stock) and a substantially revised version of Tomine’s contribution to KRAMER’S ERGOT #7. We’ve all Tomine’s other OPTIC NERVE books in stock and reviewed.

Let the foibles begin!

Optic Nerve #12

“What is it?”
“This is just a proto-type. But it’s a sculpture that I made, with a live plant growing through it.
“In this case, sweet Myrtle, it’s a synthesis of nature and craft, a marriage of the wild and the man-made; a living breathing objet d’art.
“It’s my life’s calling.”

What it really is, I’m afraid, is a rather bad idea which Harold the gardener has chanced upon whilst reading about Japanese horticulture in the bath. It’s an idea so bad in conception that everyone else except poor Harold can see it straight away. But with the type of deluded confidence in his invention you regularly see in the comedy round-up sequence of ridiculous ideas on Dragons’ Den, he presses ahead into fiscal oblivion. The story is told primarily as continuous, four-panel black and white shorts, two per page, with the occasional full-page colour short story, which works well given that it’s spread over a number of years in an episodic manner. The art is as wonderful as you’d expect from Adrian, though it looks far more like Sammy Harkham’s style in this particular tale.

The second story is called ‘Amber Sweet’ and here the full-colour art is more typically Tomine, though the colour palette and odd side-profile facial expression can also make you think momentarily of Chris Ware. Our nameless female lead bares a rather uncanny resemblance to adult entertainment actress Amber Sweet, and it’s making her college experience rather unpleasant to say the least, as everyone seems pretty convinced they’re one and the same person and Amber Sweet is merely her stage name.



This is a great little short story, which if the theory that everyone really does have a doppelgänger out there is true and that encountering them will only bring you misfortune, then having them be a porn actress certainly isn’t going to help matters! In the end, our Jane Doe feels the only way she can ever get closure is to take a road trip and confront Ms. Sweet.


Optic Nerve #13

“Opportunity is… what? Something we create, not something that happens. Right? And there’s always going to be hurdles, but what do we do when He hands us a challenge?”
“Utilize, don’t analyze!”
“That’s right.”

Our protagonist walks out at that point, and I can’t say I blame her. It’s not actually a prayer meeting, though: it’s Alcoholics Anonymous. She’s a young-ish woman, more than a little worn by what life has thrown at her. At the moment it’s housing problems.

The woman is pursued by another attendee who looks older than he says he is. He has a certain self-confidence – some would say the gift of the gab – though I would have punched him two pages in. But he offers to buy her coffee, and then puts her up at his gaffe. He probably shouldn’t have snapped at her in bed, but he apologises. He’s very contrite and as good as his word.

“Your key, Madame.”
“I told you… this is just until I get everything squared away.”
“Yeah, yeah. Just… go ahead!”

She opens the front door and there’s a vase of fresh flowers on the coffee table, and a banner saying “Welcome Home”. She stands, stunned, in the doorway.

“Sorry, I’m… trying not to cry.”

The OPTIC NERVE graphic novels are amongst Page 45’s biggest sellers. It was fascinating watching Adrian’s style develop so swiftly during his teens in 32 STORIES (such a beautiful package, at the moment: facsimile editions of all the original mini-comics with extras) then, as he refined his line, he settled in for a recognisable Tomine style, similar to mid-Dan Clowes. OPTIC NERVE #12, however, proved to be a marked departure, and so is the lead story here wherein we witness colour-coded snapshots of a relationship as it develops from consolation and practical assistance into something else entirely. What is the word so often used about addiction? Oh, yes, “dependency”.



I promise you this: a degree of hilarity, a great many lies and one massive surprise. It will also keep you on the edge of your seat.

The brief snapshot effect works beautifully, throwing you through their story, and Tomine’s famous observational skills are once more in full evidence. For all that chapter’s shenanigans, I found it no less true to life (I am afraid) than Adrian’s previous, gentler work.

I can see some Beto in the woman’s expressions and some Chris Ware in our other, paunchy protagonist, softened by a less regimented line – particularly when the man high-tails it across the park.



The second story is in full, flat colour as a woman narrates her return to California from Japan to her child. She leaves her parents who do not approve of her decision to fly to San Francisco. She is met at the airport by her estranged husband who has secured them a tiny apartment. It is quiet, measured, profoundly moving and ends on an enigmatic ellipsis.


Optic Nerve #14

‘Killing And Dying’ covers the budding but excruciating comedy career of Jesse, a rather introverted young lady with a debilitating stutter. Her parents – having seen many a new obsession come and go with perturbingly repetitive frequency – fall into their habitual roles and cycle of enthusiasm / pessimism / argument, before letting nature run its ever-turbulent course where their daughter is concerned.



What follows is another shot of Tomine’s classic blend of wince-worthy humour. I was practically peeking through my fingers when I got to Jesse’s first stand-up gig as her parents sit in the audience waiting in a state of hyper-tension for the inevitable car crash to occur. It doesn’t, for reasons I won’t elaborate on for fear of a spoil a great joke, but, rest assured, it’s a merely the metaphorical mother of all multiple-car pile-ups deferred…

The second story, told in a somewhat looser art style with lots of black shading and a single, secondary, light olive tone, tells the story of a divorced military veteran, living out of cheap motels, who unexpectedly bumps into a girl who house-sat an apartment he and his wife were renting when they were on vacation. Having recently cleaned out her car, she finds a set of keys she’d forgotten to give back to them. Pulled perhaps in equal part by memories past, the curiosity of who had replaced them as tenants, and the thrill of doing something illicit, he stakes out the apartment, making note of the comings and goings of the occupant, and when he finally feels safe he lets himself in.

It might be breaking and entering more on a scale of adult hedge-hopping, no maliciousness intended, but obviously it’s not going to end well. That’s the thrill with Tomine: bracing yourself for the moments the characters well and truly splash down in the fire, often before even realising they’ve been daft enough to leap from the comparative safety of the proverbial frying pan. As always, one comes away from an issue of OPTIC NERVE feeling a strange mixture of sadness and relief, the latter being purely for not having such a sad life as a Tomine character!


Buy Optic Nerve: Killing And Dying s/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

Of the very first chapter, I wrote:

Irreverent High Fantasy melded with funny Low Filth, this unsurprisingly appealed enormously to Brian K. Vaughan who gleefully ran a preview in the latest issue of SAGA, although emphatically not the pages which require us to bag every copy so that no eyes younger than sixteen years old stray unexpectedly across the transformational excess of a Personal Legend elixir.

There’s at least one moment like that in every collection of SAGA, reminding you – however lovely Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples are – why you thought better of lending the series to your mother, your grand-mother or your youngest nephew or godson.

With detailed blood, guts, gore that will score highly with any Geoff Darrow fan (see SHAOLIN COWBOY: START TREK SHAOLIN COWBOY: SHEMP BUFFET, SHAOLIN COWBOY: WHO’LL STOP THE REIGN and HARDBOILED), we open with a splendid, skull-crushing, infernal massacre as the wizard Mardok and his minions stage a surprise assault on the reigning Maestro, eviscerating him, his oh so many wives, and the entire royal family to boot – those who are still residing within the Realms, anyway.



One of his wives, Margaret, divorced the now former Maestro on the grounds of gross depravity and was consigned to a comfy cage for her troubles, but at least she secured the exile of her son. This saved both their souls, but now they are the only members of the royal line left alive so Margaret is dispatched by a walking, talking, bipedal sunflower to rescue full-grown Willy from his own low-grade, magical, ill-gotten gains before Mardok and his minions (do not forget them!) catch up with him in a strip joint.



Before you can holler “Too late!” we are treated to an extreme late-night viewing of The Little Shop Of Horrors and a page which I do wish I had for you involving the interior view of a floral gullet which would make a man-eating shark look all gummy and toothless.

Later, we learn about the origins of our planet, as a smaller Willy first discovers that Earth’s creator was in fact his great grand-father…

“We watched your people crawl out of the mud without the help of any magic or gods except what your imagination created. Your will and ingenuity amazed me.”

… And we are presented with a glorious panel of our gradual and deeply impressive evolution, rising up from hunched-over ape to homo erectus thence homo sapiens, to comic-carrying, fizzy-pop-guzzling, puppy-fatted, mid-teen Willy.



After the more earthly exploits, the vast majority of this collection follows Willy’s accession to his father’s throne and all the internal – and external – politics / skulduggery that comes with it. Expect extreme and unusual forms of torture, both physical and mental.


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

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



Previously in MOONSHINE VOL 1

“Speaking from experience…
“A lot of experience…
“It ain’t easy to describe the feeling of waking up in the unknown.
“Being in a spot you have no idea how you got to.
“It’s disorienting, a hole in the memory.
“And while the most immediate bit is to get your legs under you, it’s what’s missing that’s overwhelming. The hole…
“Did I dig it myself?”

Like ‘Boardwalk Empire’ meets ‘An American Werewolf In London’.  Do I really need to add anything else?

[Nope! – ed.]

Well, perhaps that it’s brought to you by the same team that produced the mesmeric, convoluted crime epic 100 BULLETS. At this point if you’re not reaching for your wallets, what is wrong with you?!

For far more, please see MOONSHINE VOL 1


Buy Moonshine vol 2 and read the Page 45 review here

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



Amy and Jemmah grew up together on a mining colony way out in deep space, but when Amy’s dad lost his job, the family was forced to travel back to Earth and begin a new life there, so separating the best friends in both space and time. For Amy knew that she would spend her 30 years on the spaceship in suspended animation and, on waking up, Jemmah would be in her mid-forties and, in all likelihood, with a family of her own.

SPACEBOY VOL 1 (reviewed at length) told of that separation, so agonising to Amy that she couldn’t bear to even contact Jemmah. Instead, she gradually made new friends at a new school in a new city on the coast of a new country on a new planet.

Now, can you imagine being Jemmah, and having waited thirty long years to hear from your best childhood friend again, those days drawing nearer and nearer… and then nothing?

It’s pretty poignant stuff.

However, as I observed at the time, the title of the series wasn’t AMY but SPACE BOY, and this second volume’s cover suggests, the following, late-developing subplot is almost certainly going to come to fruition, for the deepest isolation was yet to come.

Amy has synesthesia: she has always associated people with flavours, sensing different flavours “emanating” from different individuals, and for the very first time she encountered someone with none.

He’s a silver-haired lad who keeps himself to himself, often skipping class, and his peers are all very wary of him. Only once did Amy sense anything other than a void, in art class, when the boy began painting, and then there was something other than a terrible, overwhelming emptiness.


Buy Space Boy vol 2 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

 Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

New reviews to follow, but if they’re new formats of previous books, reviews may already be up; others will retain their Diamond previews information we receive displayed as ‘Publisher Blurb’.

Bad Friends (£16-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Ancco

Grafity’s Wall h/c (£14-99, Unbound) by Ram V & Anand Radhakrishnan

The Hidden Witch (£11-99, Scholastic) by Molly Knox Ostertag

I Am Young h/c (£16-99, Fantagraphics) by M. Dean

Jim Henson’s Labyrinth Coronation vol 1 h/c (£22-99, Archaia) by Simon Spurrier & Daniel Bayliss

Mirenda (£15-99, Image) by Grim Wilkins

My New York Marathon (£14-99, Humanoids) by Sebastien Samson

Star Wars Lando: Double Or Nothing s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Rodney Barnes & Paolo Villanelli

Twists Of Fate h/c (£33-99, Fantagraphics) by Paco Roca

The Unsinkable Walker Bean And The Knights Of The Waxing Moon (£14-99, FirstSecond) by Aaron Renier

Watersnakes h/c (£17-99, Roar) by Tony Sandoval

Champions vol 4: Northern Lights s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Jim Zub & Sean Izaakse, Emilio Laiso

Happiness vol 8 (£10-99, Kodansha) by Shuzo Oshimi

I Am A Hero Omnibus vol 8 (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Kengo Hanazawa

RWBY Anthology vol 1: Red Like Roses (£8-99, Viz) by various

Satoko And Nada vol 1 (£9-99, Seven Seas) by Yupechika, Marie Nishimori