Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews November 2018 week two

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

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