Archive for December, 2018

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews December 2018 week three

Wednesday, December 19th, 2018

Featuring Paul Duffield, Alejandro Jodorowsky & José Ladrönn, Oliver Schrauwen Daniel Clowes, John Allison, Garth Ennis, Goran Sudžuka, Chris Claremont, John Byrne

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

I swear that you have never read anything quite like this in your life.

One of the most beautiful books that I have ever beheld, THE FIRELIGHT ISLE’s production values are exquisite.

More pertinently, however, is its thoroughly innovative, highly intelligent, and visually thrilling composition. I have actually seen jaws drop upon showing customers this gorgeous graphic novel.

A series of vertical ribbons woven together quite often by colour from a sequence of tall, interlocking pages that flow freely when read on Paul Duffield’s website – yet which are each, individually, so satisfying to absorb in their own right – the cascade is carefully controlled by the insertion of horizontal sound-effects, embedded panels and the occasional stone hearth, tapestry or carpet.



Crisp blue, clean white and rich, warm terracotta (when arranged with such spacious precision) is ever so striking.

It is especially so when combined with the recurrent motif of circular frames: windows which focus your attention on that which is most important, of what is happening right now or that which once occurred according to ancient lore.



Ah yes, ancient lore! Duffield spent years studying anthropology for this project before embarking on a single panel, artistically satisfying himself instead on attendant, investigative preparatory sketches, and it has paid dividends! If you relish rich world-building – like Antony Johnston and Chris Mitten’s UMBRAL or Greg Rucka and Michael Lark’s LAZARUS – which doesn’t attempt to overwhelm you all at once with all the work that’s gone into it in order to prove how clever it is… then you are in for such a subtle treat here.

I say “subtle”, because there’s a couple of elements unique to this specific society of barterers which I spotted for myself but which Duffield refrains from announcing outright. How fortunate it is that Duffield’s a master of midnight constellations and fire! Even the skin oil applied to render hands and forearms water-repellent when dyeing pre-treated white fabric in a sacred ceremony is only touched on after the fact. But it will prove pivotal.



Perhaps the single most important quality in homo sapiens which has defined our history, development and prosperity post-Cognitive Revolution – as Yuval Noah Harari emphasises over and over again – is that we are storytellers. That we can create shared fictions which we tacitly or fervently agree to believe in like religion, law and money has meant that we can cooperate in such vast numbers (or indeed go to war with each other on such an enormous scale when those fictions clash) that make elephant tribes, chimpanzee communities and extended meerkat families look miniscule. This is far from off-topic. From the back of this book:

“In the beginning the nameless dark smothered all. The people of the earth were empty vessels. Lifeless. And then, the stars were lit. Gathering, they kindled heavenly flame, and each star filled each waiting body with breath.

“Anlil and Sen both carry a star of their own. They are childhood friends, their heavenly journeys woven together as Sen takes his first step down the path of priesthood, and Anlil weaves a sacred offering that could save her household.

“But all paths branch, all threads unwind, and all flames die. For ever the nameless dark waits at the shores of The Firelight Isle.”

I don’t know about you, but a shiver just went up my spine.



The very first page, following a sumptuously designed diagrammatical map, opens on teenage Anlil and Sen overlooking their shared city below. And it is most splendid!

Circular suburbs surround and envelope the vertical emphasis of the religious hub’s central towers. Ecclesiastical Gothic architecture, both exterior and interior, also always looked towards the heavens and, further back, stone circles erected to worship our sun were comprised of sky-seeking obelisks.

Then sounds the morning call to worship! It spirals out upon the page in booming, pulsing, rhythmical ripples and echoes which are hypnotic.



But as soon as the second page, our childhood friends have fallen out. They’ve fallen out over Sen’s vocation to undertake a religious ritual which will remove him from wider society, but also her equally sincere and devoted friendship throughout all these years.

“What makes you think I’ll fail?”
“You didn’t even have the courage to tell me you wanted to try.”

She is initially concerned for his safety, because the ritual has proven fatal to those who have failed; he is affronted by her lack of confidence in his direction, devotion and prowess; ultimately, however, Anlil feels betrayed by his failure to confide. And it’s tearing these true friends apart.



This is such potent stuff, set up so early on with extraordinarily distilled concision and precision that it makes room for so many subsequent story strands that can be conveyed predominantly by images instead. As I keep carping on (please do forgive me!): comics is a visual medium and this, to me, is comics at its finest.

The patterns are phenomenal, the masked priesthood suitably intimidating, and the traditional costumes throughout consistent in colour and design. It’s a living, breathing community with a history, both in terms of culture and family, and you’ll be thrust back and forth between the present and the past which will explain and so inform that present. Childhood play can be ever so telling.



You will also be treated to two trials undergone and presented on the page in tense, sweaty parallel.

But you will never suspect where this is heading or foresee the thematically perfect climax coming.

Circles and cycles; tradition and truth; success and failure; loyalties and love.

At the end of any day, what is truly important, what weighs most in your heart?



I don’t know which I admire most in this work: its exceptionally fierce ambition or its flawless execution.


Buy The Firelight Isle vol 1: Heavenly Blue h/c (signed) and read the Page 45 review here

The Sons Of El Topo vol 1: Cain h/c (£14-99, Archaia) by Alejandro Jodorowsky & José Ladrönn…

“Oh, father, I cannot kill you, but I can kill your son…”

Which despite Alejandro Jodorowsky being completely bonkers and the original film ‘El Topo’ being the weirdest Western ever made by some considerable distance, is not some suicidal statement of intent – because, let’s face it, that would make for a pretty short sequel – but instead a fraternal threat. Here’s some mumbling mojo from the peyoted-up publisher to confuse us more…

“The sequel to cult film, El Topo, from controversial filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky.

El Topo was a bandit without limits, a man with no moral compass, but when his journey through the arid west brought him face to face with a series of rogue outcasts, he found enlightenment in the unlikeliest place and was forever transformed, becoming a holy vessel imbued with the power to perform miracles. This was a journey that took him far from his first born son, Cain, and brought about the birth of Abel.



Fuelled by resentment, and unable to kill his saintly father, Cain begins the slow pursuit of his half brother in a tale of magic and mayhem worthy of legendary filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky and virtuosic illustrator José Ladrönn. Together, they deliver an allegorical and surrealist western where the genre is at the service of deeper philosophical and spiritual considerations.”

Right, first things first, to clear up any nonsensical goings-on in the names department… If you are a fan of the film, you might well remember – or not depending on how battered you were when you last watched El Topo – that his son was actually called Hijo, which simply means ‘son’ in Spanish. So, somewhere along the line, he is now known as Cain. Which, given the mock- / mocking Christianity elements to this subsequent story, will all make complete sense* when you read it.



Hardcore fans of the film will probably love this. It’s a well-told engaging yarn which certainly hits its marks (and targets) in terms of Jodorowsky’s usual obsessions …and targets. It’s beautifully illustrated by José Ladrönn too.



I think it is a testament to both Jodorowsky’s story-telling powers and Ladrönn’s artistry that this work also stands up extremely well as a stand-alone story. People who have never seen the original film can enjoy this all by itself as there’s sufficient enough cleverly woven in recapitulation to make total perfect sense** of what has gone before.

* Maybe…

** Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.


Buy The Sons Of El Topo vol 1: Cain h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Wilson h/c (£12-99, Fantagraphics) by Daniel Clowes.

Originally published early in 2011 when we made this Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month, I have no idea when or how this dropped off our system. Perhaps it went out of print when the film came out. I still haven’t seen that.

Anyway, in the days before we had access to interior art to show you, I set the scene thus.

Wilson accosting a stranger trying to type diligently on his laptop in a cafe:

“Hey brother – mind if I sit here?”
“It looks like there’s plenty of empty tables…”
“I know, but I like to sit by the window. You working?”
“Good man. Wife? Kids?”
“That’s beautiful. Living the Dream…”


“Hey, shit-head – I’m talking to you!”

That’s Wilson: philosopher, philanthropist, bon viveur



Actually he’s a case study in self-centred misanthropy and deluded hypocrisy, constantly craving an ear yet too self-involved to lend anyone his own; paying lip-service to self-awareness and comprehending the world around him, but the first to give up if any thought or empathy is required. He’s a man who values a decent day’s work but has never done one himself; a family man without a family.

“I keep forgetting that my father is still alive.”



One of the funniest books I have read in a very long time, it’s composed of 71 single-page gags, their final lines beautifully undercutting the panels that precede them as Wilson begins to pine for an ex-wife he never really loved and, tracking her down, discovers she had a daughter sixteen years ago whom she gave up for fostering. Don’t skip ahead because on attempting to establish contact with his daughter, the whole thing goes monumentally tits up in a way that only Wilson could manage.

Clowes cleverly lays down elements early on that later turn into punchlines, circles back round to characters you thought long-abandoned, and he uses a variety of styles and colour schemes for each fresh page depending upon its contents.



Radically different from any of his previous books (GHOST WORLD, DAVID BORING, THE DEATH-RAY etc. – all in stock), it’s the first graphic novel not culled from the periodical EIGHTBALL, more of which I really don’t think we’ll be seeing under this industry’s current trends.

… I wrote in 2011. Hey, I can do prescience.



Daniel Clowes’ most recent graphic novel was PATIENCE, I mention that because you may have missed it.


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

Parallel Lives (£21-99, Fantagraphics) by Oliver Schrauwen…

“Now sing after me: Ski-bi dibby dib yo da dub dub.”
“As soon as she starting singing, Ooh-lee proved up to the task…
“Making one of the worst songs in musical history sound even worse.
“She asked her friends to sing along…
“… and they gleefully obliged…
“…mocking to her face.
“She was singing her heart out…
“… bearing her soul to a crowd of ‘friends’ who felt nothing but contempt for her.
“They were all joined in a hate fest, in which she was the unwitting dupe.
“Luckily she was protected by her ignorance…
“Her inability to comprehend what was going on…
“Her absolute dumbness…”

She is singing “I’m a Scatman,” by Scatman Joe, though, so perhaps we can forgive her ‘friends’ just this once…

Pure genius. It’s extremely difficult to explain just how clever this work is. I’ll let the publisher have a crack at it first…

“This collects six wildly inventive short comics stories that might collectively be dubbed ‘speculative memoir.’ Schrauwen’s deadpan depictions of his and his offspring’s upcoming lives include alien abduction, dialogue with future agents, and coded messages in envelopes at breakfast.”

Speculative memoir, I like that term… I’ll keep that in mind the next time the police are questioning me…



Moving on swiftly… there is also, in addition to his offspring, including Ooh-lee (think about it), his very, very weird father and amateur scientist, Armand, who believes he can communicate with the future. Without wishing to spoil anything whatsoever, well, he can. Sort of… One of the additional fabulous elements to this work, besides the whacked out stories themselves, is realising just how cleverly they fix together to form the most demented jigsaw.

In that time-hopping masterfully mangling-it-all-together respect, this collection has elements in common with Malachi ANCESTOR Ward’s excellent and frequently overlooked FROM NOW ON. All the individual stories here are far, far odder mind you and the overall tone is intentionally very overtly darkly and stupidly humorous. But in terms of precisely how things fit together, it is as brilliantly and deftly done as David Mitchell’s award winning prose work ‘Cloud Atlas’.



Artistically… I am equally struggling to adequately describe this. The cover does offer a fair summation of what you will find within to be fair. It’s… harshly forceful in the way it attacks your retinas… and your mind… and certainly makes a lasting, seared-on impression. It scared me slightly at times, I think, and yet I couldn’t put it down. Our Jodie has just commented to me, when I asked for her artistic assessment, “it’s like a nightmare in Vaporwave.” I get that. But it’s way weirder than even that frankly.

Just be warned too, this is very rude in places and extremely wrong everywhere. All the time.



If you like your comics more than a little bit odd and challenging to one’s senses and sensibilities, then this is for you.


Buy Parallel Lives and read the Page 45 review here

Giant Days: Early Registration s/c (£10-99, Boom!) by John Allison…

All three John Allison self-published issues from the original mini-series together in a book at long last! Although we do also have packs of the GIANT DAYS SELF-PUBLISHED MINI-SERIES if you’d prefer those.

Of Giant Days 1 Tom wrote:

Free from the shackles of school Esther Le Groot thought, like any young goth, that university might be a place to find like-minded people. A place to swap corpse paint-tips and exchange existential banter into the night. Unfortunately being a headgirl in school brings an altogether more sinister clique into play, as the legion of drunken preppies try to steal her away. Now it’s up to sheltered Enya fan Daisy and insomniac beatnik Susan to save her from becoming a bff in the hardcore Freshers crowd.

Be warned, there will be boxing, tutus, and come-uppance. Ah, Esther, the second most beautiful woman in Tackleford comes into her own in this punchy off-shoot from John’s fantastic SCARY-GO-ROUND web comic. If you’ve ever been the new kid in town the empathy rays will be drawing you to this like a student to £1 drinks.



Of Giant Days 2 (at which point the series became full colour) Jonathan wrote:

“Were you CAREFUL?”
“In a prophylactic sense, yes, but… I may have knocked his guitar off the wall and broken it… while trying something.”
“He wasn’t pleased.”

Featuring the return of crazy-haired introvert Daisy Wooton, the phlegmatic and rather blunt Susan Ptolemy, plus the divine man-mesmerising beauty that is Esther de Groot. Readers of the first GIANT DAYS may recall our friends are in their first year of University, having only just made each other’s acquaintance in Fresher’s week. Already firm chums, they’re now settling in nicely to Uni life with all the endless socialising and lack of studying that entails. For Esther this also means pining for her boyfriend Eustace from back home and unwittingly attracting the romantic attentions of the completely harmless and also slightly gormless Ed Gemmell.

The fact that Esther is completely out of his league doesn’t deter Ed from dreaming but he’s going to regret revealing his crush to his streetwise new mate, and budding guitar god – in his own mind at least – Steve Shields. Cue one heated phone call from Eustace, a drinking binge at the rock night for the ladies down the Slag Pit (surely the best name ever for a night club?) , and a rather unwise decision on Esther’s part about who to share a taxi home with. The next day there’s a very forlorn Ed to console, a reputation to repair, and a guitar to… err… repair as well. Note-perfect British comedy from Mr. Allison, illustrated as exquisitely as ever.

Of Giant Days 3 Jonathan wrote:

“Isn’t that Thom from Indie Society?”
“Yeah, with his pride and joy. Hey THOM, what’s going on?”
“Heh, just giving Vetiver a polish.”
“My 1990 Fiat Panda. Once owned by David Gedge of the Wedding Present.”
“Literally the most indie car EVER.”
“Fully restored. My parents got her for my 18th birthday. Great for getting to gigs. We don’t get the good bands here very often.”
“Well, goodnight, Thom. Remember, hands on top of the duvet.”

Ha ha, the University adventures of Susan Ptolemy and Daisy Wooton continue, and they have a new friend in the shape of acid-tongued Erin as they investigate the merits of the Indie music society, whilst their chum Esther de Groot gets further lured to the dark side by the Black Metal Society. Ed Gemmell, meanwhile, is still following Esther around like a lost puppy dog, bless him, even though Black Metal is really absolutely most definitely not his scene at all.


Buy Giant Days: Early Registration s/c and read the Page 45 review here

A Walk Through Hell vol 1: The Warehouse (£13-99, Aftershock) by Garth Ennis & Goran Sudžuka.

…but what you don’t see represented on the cover, right, is the gaping hole of glistening spot-varnish which is the yawning, pitch black chasm of the warehouse entrance. It draws the eye, just as it’s already drawn others physically inside…

Hello! How you doing? Had any decent nightmares recently?

Excellent! Here, have some more!

Just to give you a sense of perspective, I relished Garth Ennis’ socio-political run on HELLBLAZER (volumes 5 to 8) and heartily chuckled my way through PREACHER; I admired his eloquence and unusual, highly personal perspectives in WAR STORIES, I believe his run on PUNISHER MAX – which also included war stories – is unlikely to be surpassed down that particular dark alley, and I roared my head off at his PUNISHER: WELCOME BACK FRANK in no small part due to Steve Dillon’s deadpan. But none of Ennis’ horror since has really done much for me, until now.

Special Agents Shaw and McGregor have been dispatched to a Long Beach warehouse where two fellow agents, Hunzikker and Goss, have gone missing. They ventured inside several hours ago, but haven’t been heard from since.

Shaw and McGregor are greeted by a local police Lieutenant who’s been hovering by its entrance while his SWAT team sit cowering inside their armoured vehicle. They too went inside the warehouse – for all of 30 seconds.



Exasperated, mid-career Shaw leads the much fresher McGregor to see what’s happening inside. Nothing good, I can promise you that.

Now, the reason I’m back on board doesn’t really have anything to do with that. The meat of this first instalment lies in Shaw’s last case, and the lengths she went to secure a result. As the two agents attempt to keep each other sane in the wake of what they are witness to, their recollections make it increasingly clear that their current plight is not unconnected to their previous frustrations in dealing with the abduction of children.

You’re not going to like the fur-trimmed coat hanging on the bird box. You’re not going to like that at all.



There’s plenty of discussion about the current Presidency, the normalisation of hate-speech and hate-crime through Trump’s endorsement of the KKK and its radicalisation of the young into a wider white-supremacist right, plus the dissemination of their message on social media.

Where Sudžuka succeeds is in a normalisation of his own, anchoring this firmly in the real world; in the wearied expressions and sagging body language (at rest) of Shaw contrasted with the forward-leaning earnestness and energy of McGregor, and especially in the blank-faced comportment of their prior prime suspect during interview. I doubt it’s easy to give nuance to neutrality, to impassivity, but Sudžuka manages to do precisely that.

Only towards the end does Ennis reveal how that case finally panned out.

A WALK THROUGH HELL: THE CATHEDRAL begins with #6, running a little late but due any day now.


Buy A Walk Through Hell vol 1: The Warehouse and read the Page 45 review here

X-Men: Days Of Future Past (£14-99, Marvel) by Chris Claremont & John Byrne with John Romita Jr.

A much bigger edition than previously issued, this reprints all the final Claremont & Byrne chapters following immediately on from X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX SAGA, drawing a line under the title’s finest era until Grant Morrison, Joss Whedon then Warren Ellis revitalised the property just a few years ago (NEW X-MEN and ASTONISHING X-MEN, respectively, all reviewed).

As such it kicks off with Jean Grey’s funeral on a bleak autumn day, the bitter wind blowing leaves across an empty sky and tugging at the mourners’ black trenchcoats. There her lover, Scott Summers, stands silently at the graveside, churning over the events that led them to this awful moment, at the end of which he will say good-bye. However revised since then, it remains a useful synopsis of the X-Men’s early history, and when first published acted as a fitting way of letting the severity of what just occurred sink in. No fights, no sub-plots, just a group of friends standing shoulder to shoulder in solidarity, utterly bereft.



All the original X-Men attend but only the Angel stays on, and finds himself both out of practice and a fish out of water. Things have changed. The days are far darker and there’s much worse to come, their one hope lying in their youngest recruit who arrives in a taxi and sits on her suitcases awaiting their return: Kitty Pryde aged 13 ½.

The atmosphere’s broken somewhat by the annual illustrated by a John Romita Jr. far from fully formed as yet, and I’d probably skip that if I were you. Go back and read it later after the Wendigo storyline guest-starring Alpha Flight and the final farewell as Kitty Pryde undergoes a rite of passage, alone in the X-Mansion, single-handedly fending off an intruder Alien-stylee.



In between all that we have ‘Days Of Future Past’ itself, a pivotal X-Men two-parter which will be revisited over and over again but never with the same shocking power.



It kicks off abruptly, right out of nowhere, in a future where Kate Pryde (whom we’ve barely had time to meet) is one of the last surviving members not just of the X-Men but the entire superhero community exterminated alongside most of the mutant species in a cold, methodical pogrom executed by the robotic killing machines known as the Sentinels… initially at the behest of the American government. Now the few mutants left alive subsist in a concentration camp whose endless rows of tombstones pointedly outnumber its inhabitants. She’s on her way to meet Logan, now with the Canadian resistance movement, and the New York she navigates is a bleak, bombed-out and perilous pile of ruins barely populated save for punk-like predators. Logan has what she needs: the final component of a mechanism that will block the inhibitor collars worn by Kate’s few surviving allies: Storm, Colossus, Franklin Richards and his telepathic wife, Rachel Summers. Oh, and a man in a wheelchair, but not necessarily who you think.



Their plan is two-fold: break out and attack the Baxter Building, the nexus of the Sentinels’ genocidal operations before the world retaliates with a nuclear holocaust, and send Kate Pryde back in time to prevent this future from ever happening. Friday October 31st 1980 and Presidential candidate Senator Kelly is about to deliver his address on the Mutant Hearings attended by Moira MacTaggert and Professor Charles Xavier. By the end of the day all three will be dead, murdered by the new Brotherhood Of Evil Mutants, so sparking the future we’ve seen come to pass… unless Kate in young Kitty’s body can convince the X-Men to stop it.

Let me tell you: the final few pages are devastating.

It’s become second-nature these days to criticise John Byrne for his conservatism (and I think we can all consider that a euphemism by now) and Claremont for his long-winded exposition and interminable sub-plots but here they are both at the top of their games on a title I loved dearly. For corporate superhero comics at the time, it was intricate, innovative, disciplined, and paid off in full.

It looked pretty sexy as well.




Buy X-Men: Days Of Future Past and read the Page 45 review here

…Aaaaaand we’re now done on the reviews front for the next two or three weeks! Both you and will be too busy celebrating Christmas and howling in the New Year, anyway!

See you in 2019! (A date which will only take me a month to get used to typing.)

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’

Doom Patrol vol 2: Nada s/c (£12-99, Young Animal) by Gerard Way & Nick Derington, Michael Allred, others

Lost Girls Expanded Edition h/c (£35-99, Knockabout / Top Shelf) by Alan Moore & Melinda Gebbie

Memorabilia h/c (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Sergio Ponchione

Rivers Of London: Water Weed (£13-99, Titan) by Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel & Lee Sullivan

Scarlet vol 2 s/c (£12-99, Jinxworld) by Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev

Vanishing Act h/c (£12-99, Fantagraphics) by Roman Muradov

Daredevil: Back In Black vol 7: Mayor Murdock s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Charles Soule & Mike Henderson

Marvel Knights Punisher Complete Collection vol 1 s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon, Doug Braithwaite

Moon Knight Legacy vol 2: Phases s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Max Bemis & Ty Templeton, Paul Davidson, Jacen Burrows, Jeff Lemire, Bill Sienkiewicz

Thor vol 1: God Of Thunder Reborn s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Michael Del Mundo, Christian Ward

Venom: First Host s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Mike Costa & Mark Bagley, Ron Lim, Paco Diaz

Batman vol 8: Cold Days s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Tom King & Lee Weeks, Tony S. Daniel, Matt Wagner, Mark Buckingham, others

Batman: Europa s/c (£14-99, DC) by Matteo Casali, Brian Azzarello & Jim Lee, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Diego Latorre, Gerald Parel

Justice League: The World’s Greatest Heroes s/c (£24-99, DC) by Paul Dini & Alex Ross

Wonder Woman vol 7: Amazons Attacked s/c (Rebirth) (£16-99, DC) by James Robinson & Emanuela Lupacchino, various

Black Torch vol 2 (£6-99, Viz) by Tsuyoshi Takaki

Devilman Vs. Hades vol 3 (£9-99, Seven Seas) by Go Nagai &  Team Moon

Devilman: The Classic Collection vol 2 h/c (£22-99, Seven Seas) by Go Nagai

Avatar, The Last Airbender vol 16: Imbalance Part 1 (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Faith Erin Hicks & Peter Wartman

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews December 2018 week two

Wednesday, December 12th, 2018

Featuring Lizz Lunney, Kieron Gillen, Stephanie Hans, Charles Vess, Zidrou, Edith, Joe Latham, Garth Ennis, Darrick Robertson, Stan Lee, John Romita Sr.

Die #1 (£3-25, Image) by Kieron Gillen & Stephanie Hans.

“… Are you okay? What’s wrong?”
“I can’t say.”

“Wait… where’s her arm? What happened to you?”
“I… I can’t say.”

“It’s been twenty-seven years, Dominic. Please. After all this time, show a mother some mercy. I have no hope. I just want to bury Solomon before they bury me.”
“I can’t… say… anything.”

Construe Dominic’s exact words how you will, but those of you who’ve read Alexis Deacon’s GEIS may have a better clue than most.

Like MY HEROES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN JUNKIES’ Ed Brubaker, THE WICKED + THE DIVINE’s Kieron Gillen is a master at directing a gripping tease of a trailer, here splicing Stephanie Hans’ sequential art to deliver something sharp, slick and guaranteed to make you shiver.

Rather than typing out something less skilled, therefore, I present you instead with that very visual trailer below or, if you’re reading this in the comicbook’s product page, to your right.

All I will only add – because it’s come up on the shop floor – that Kieron himself has already succinctly summarised the plot’s premise as ‘Goth Jumanji’. But you know what Kieron’s like: he’ll give you flippant, off-the -cuff distillations (so that you can make easily arrived-at associations) when he knows full well that what he has contrived is infinitely richer and broader in scope.





You’ve read the trailer, then…? Excellent!

So yes, two years after they first disappeared, five of the six role-players reappeared minus one arm and their games master, Solomon, he who had taken the single 20-sided die to play with himself. Obvious questions were asked. Where had they been? What had happened? And where was Solomon?

But… they couldn’t say.

Brilliantly, after but two pages we immediately flash-forward another 25 years to the point where the former sixteen-year-olds are now all over forty. Some have married, some have divorced and one at least has found a certain degree of commercial success. Dominic and his sister Angela, not so much: they are tired, battle-wearied, and Stephanie Hans excels at depicting their exhaustion then the varying degrees or trepidation or congratulation when the five are forced once more to meet up.

They’re forced to meet up because – while drinking down a London pub whose pavement outside is being lashed with rain – Dominic and Angela are presented with a package which the barman found on the doorstep. In it is a box, and within that box lies Solomon’s prized D20, covered in blood.

The subsequent page outside the pub is one of Hans’ most accomplished of so very many. The light at night emanating from the street lamps and closed retail outlets still blasting out come-look-at-me-luminosity cascades through the deluge onto the rain-soaked stone, and there is so much red carried over from the previous page’s blood-bathed die. In spite of all that occurs later on, it is the most violent page in the comic, as Dominic attempts to [redacted]

 Both impressionistic and expressionistic, it is a scene that will stay for you forever.

Likewise, I believe, a panel which I thankfully do have for you, but which I will decline from putting into any context whatsoever.



It bears all the neo-classical grandeur and majesty of a scene from PS4’s ‘God of War’. It’s worth scanning the rich, lambent background for details, because in any other context like animation this glorious landscape would not be just a single-panel scene-setter, but the backdrop to so much more super-imposed art to follow.

Once more, a reminder that red features prominently.

But wait until you see what’s become of the celestial body that is this Earth’s spherical globe! Now that is a moment of pictorial genius.

I leave those of you reading Page 45’s Weekly Reviews Blog with the first eight pages of what is undoubtedly going to be this year’s most epic new release. Sales have so far exceeded any other first issue’s here, and we’re only one week in.











Buy Die #1 and read the Page 45 review here

#Instabunnies (Sketched In) (£8-00) by Lizz Lunney…

“Did you like the food I cooked yesterday?”
“Of course. I told you I liked it yesterday.”
“So you liked the meal, but you didn’t like the photo I put online of it??”
“78 other people liked it.”
“Does it matter?”
“A bit of public appreciation wouldn’t go amiss.”

Haha, Janet and Jason are two rabbits who go at it with a passion. ‘It’ being arguing – what did you think I was referring to? Frequently (anti-)social media or some other element of the online world will be the root cause of their endless bickering. Whether that’s having a pop at each other over who is the most photogenic (online, obviously), every aspect of holidays in general, drinking preposterously priced, pretentious Brazilian coffee, almost attending art exhibitions and, last but not least, their social (media) rivalry with ‘best friends’ Maureen and Tony, two cats who are just as obsessed with keeping up their online appearances as Janet and Jason. Who, I have to say, feel like a much gentler, considerably saner, but no less amusing version of those dairy products gone bad themselves, MILK AND CHEESE. It’s just got that same deliciously mildly mean edge to it.



Indeed, this is so, so acutely, and indeed cutely, socially and satirically well observed, it’s almost like it might be partially based on personal experience… Surely not, though. I couldn’t imagine our lovely Lizz tongue-lashing anyone! Although with that said I note on the inner back cover there is a dedication…

“For Wilm, I know you like to think this isn’t based on us, but, it is. XXX”

Haha, well in that case… I want to know who Maureen and Tony are… as probably do most of Lizz and Wilm’s mates!!

I think we must still be in Lizz’s good books, though, because each first interior page has the following conversation between our undynamic duo hand-scribed to complete the scene of one of them bellowing at the phone-in-hand inattentive other…

“I just want a new comicbook!”
“Fine. We’ll go to Page 45.”


Buy #Instabunnies (Sketched In) and read the Page 45 review here

Emma G. Wildford h/c (£21-99, Titan) by  Zidrou &  Edith…

“To be honest, Mister Hansen… I’d imagined Lapland… differently.”
“Ha! Ha! Welcome to Kautokeino!”
“In winter temperatures can fall below -40°C, whereas in summer they frequently climb close to 25°C. Take into account the ten thousand lakes scattered in the region… and you’ll understand why the mosquitoes have made this their place of choice.”
“Ten thousand? To top it all someone amused themselves counting them all?!”

I suspect the titular Emma G. Wildford, as game, nay redoubtable as she is, might be starting to suspect her expedition up to the nether regions of the Arctic Circle could be a little bit harder than she previously thought…



Here’s a telegram from the publisher to tell all, as handed to me by a very smartly dressed footman who of course I dismissed with a snobbish wave of my aristocratic hand…

Actually, I got it off the internet. Well, I got my butler to do it, but you know what I mean… He’ll read it out for you now…

“Journey back in time to the roaring twenties, and across England and Lapland, to experience the charming and thrilling adventure of Emma G. Wildford, a tale that mixes mystery, grand adventure, and love.

It’s been fourteen months since Emma G. Wildford’s fiancé, Roald Hodges, a member of the National Geographic Society boarded the good ship Kinship and set sail for Norway… and she has had no news of him since. Every day, she questions the other members of the Society about his whereabouts, and his current situation, whether good or ill, but to no avail.

Before he left, Roald gave Emma a mysterious envelope to open, but only in case something happened to him. Rejecting the very thought of Roald’s death, Emma decides to leave behind everything – her life, her comfort, her England, to go to Lapland in pursuit.



Along the way, Emma’s certainties and beliefs will be challenged in every way, changing this quest for her fiancé into a quest for her true, essential self. Beautifully illustrated and rivetingly written, Emma G. Wildford is a character that will imprint herself on your mind and memory forever!”

Thank you, Jeeves.

Yes, expect adventure aplenty as Emma treks to furthest reaches of the planet in search of her missing love! But also an endearing character who despite believing she knows everything about herself is indeed about to embark on a voyage of profound self-discovery. That course she’s so carefully charted in life… well… she’s not going to end up where she expects!

It is indeed also beautifully illustrated in a suitably tasteful manner, from the blue and gold Art Deco front and back endpapers and their flyleaves, through to the period feel of the gently quirky artwork style and slightly subdued yet rich colour palette.



Edith, who did an equally enchanting adaptation of the classic TOM’S MIDNIGHT GARDEN, perfectly captures the feel of the roaring twenties with the fashions and looks of the time. I found myself rather captivated by Ms. Wildford and her story which is both sensitively and sensationally penned by Zidrou.



I’ll not spoil the ending for you, but suffice to say, it is one which took several minutes after I had closed the cover to fully sink in with me. But when I did, it made me smile a great deal.


Buy Emma G. Wildford h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Book Of Ballads And Sagas h/c (£21-99, Titan) by Charles Vess, Neil Gaiman, various & Charles Vess.

Ah, such bucolic beauty!

Specifically old woodland and all those ancient forests of which we have since been denuded!

You might want to check out Tim Bird’s magical, lyrical THE GREAT NORTH WOOD for that.

The rustic idyll where man and woman can join hands in partaking of the beauty of nature, fill their hearts with love, their lungs with sweet fresh air, and feel the breeze sweep softly through their so recently washed, fragrant hair.

Or, as folklore would have it: where they’ll be robbed, raped and cursed for all eternity.

Charles Vess (SANDMAN, STARDUST and FABLES: 1001 NIGHTS OF SNOWFALL etc), master of gnarled, knotted trees illustrates a variety of myths, often in verse, which overwhelmingly conjure up a landscape haunted by tricksters, shape-shifters and other assorted demons.

But enough about the British Countryside Alliance.



Powerful! Majestic! Heart-rending!

Fated – and of course fêted too!




Black and white, I hasten to add, with some excellent lettering, this is perfect for autumnal evening reading with a bottle of Burgundy, snuggled up by the fire.

I know it’s now December, but that works equally well.



I promise you that on the boiled-up, seasoned, then reduced coulis of my grandmother’s plump and once-beating heart.


Buy The Book Of Ballads And Sagas h/c and read the Page 45 review here

I Am Winter, I Am Blight (£5-00) by Joe Latham…

“I travel by night,
“I revel in pestilence,
“And cherish in spite,
“For I am winter, I am blight!”

Joe Latham, creator of the triple treasure trove that is THE FOX / THE WOLF / THE WOODSMAN returns with a meditation on the meanness of most people’s least favourite season. Yes, yes, I know we all love a good crisp, sunny winter’s day, the odd slippery slope or two of sledging shenanigans and building snowmen who look like they could do to go on a diet, and yes, Christmas is usually good entertainment value. But let’s be honest, we’re all really just impatiently shivering through January and February waiting for Spring to arrive.

Here Joe gives voice to Winter itself, in all its curmudgeonly, creeping cruelty. Fortunately that’s offset by the beautiful landscapes and nature he lays out for us: the chirpy birds, tall pine forests, wide mountain ranges and running rivers. But… as Winter attempts to take charge and crush the spirit of natural life under its cold covers, we soon mercifully see it isn’t going to have it all its own way…



Part of a limited one-off print run on uncoated recycled paper, which as Joe comments, “…so it feels nice…” which it really does, I have to say, with a very slight velvety, moleskine feel to it, there will be no second chance to pick this up. It’s a seasonal purchase! So do act quick because they’re sure to be gone in a flash. Unlike Winter…


Buy I Am Winter, I Am Blight and read the Page 45 review here

The Boys vol 1: The Name Of The Game (£14-99, Dynamite) by Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson.

Back in print in time for the prime-time TV series…

“Unadulterated carnage”

Yeah, that pretty much sums it up, cheers.

From the writer of PREACHER, PUNISHER MAX and WAR STORIES and the artist on Warren Ellis’s TRANSMETROPOLITAN comes a darkly satirical series of ten adults-only books from the POV of a Machiavellian British bruiser who is exceedingly angry at everything regarding the nature of above-the-law superheroes, their suffocating male hegemony, and their history of publication along with the genre’s real-life, attendant, corporate propaganda.

Writer and comedian Simon Pegg provides the introduction in which he offers the experience that, as an actor, you rarely switch on the TV to find yourself starring in a series you hadn’t performed for. Errrmmm… will he, now that this has been commissioned for that very medium? He could probably name his price.

I mention all this because Simon Pegg – or rather a character with his exact likeness – is the star of this particular sequential-art show in which his love-life( or the love of his life) is quite literally torn apart by a couple of squabbling super-freaks in the first few pages.

Great timing, that panel, but I’ll leave you to see its exceptional execution for yourselves.




This makes him easy pickings for Billy Butcher, a man with a mission to bring down the high-and-mighty but secretly down-and-dirty super-thugs and super-sluts who enjoy the adulation of millions along with the support of the authorities, yet whose team leaders like The Homelander emotionally and sexually abuse their fresher female and indeed male cohorts.

Together with The Frenchman, Mother’s Milk, The Female and Wee Hughie (the naive Pegg-alike), Billy Butcher embarks on his first new mission to covertly film a team of teens in the all-together, doing the unmentionable.

Billy Butcher’s not going to expose them, though. Not in the way that they expose themselves. He’s going to blackmail them into self-destructing in mass-media public. It’s about making these nasty, hypocritical, conceited celebrities with their polished media profiles squirm and turn on each other.

So it’s still rather topical, I would have thought.





Little is left to the imagination as both Garth and Ennis trawl through an A-to-Z of what Wertham worried about, and which Marvel and DC have never allowed to be shown in superhero comics. It’s little surprise, therefore, that DC – originally slated to publish THE BOYS – dropped this title. The only astonishing thing is that it took them so long.

It’s crude, it’s lewd, but the lascivious relish is infectious, and you wait to see what happens when The Boys start climbing the ladder to take on the equivalent of the Justice League of America.

Now they won’t go down so easily – except on each other. 


Buy The Boys vol 1: The Name Of The Game and read the Page 45 review here

Amazing Spider-Man: Epic Collection vol 3 – Spider-Man No More s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & John Romita Sr. with Larry Lieber, Don Heck, Marie Severin.

“Face it, tiger…
“You just hit the jackpot!”

Oh yes, that immortal line is first uttered here by the beaming ray of beatnik sunshine that is Mary Jane Watson.

For several issues Peter’s been swooning over Gwen Stacy whilst sweating it over Aunt May’s constantly proposed but perpetually postponed introduction her friend Anna Watson’s niece, Mary Jane, whom he’s convinced will turn out to be a wallflower, a dud.

Err, no.

She’s drop-dead gorgeous, up for some action and in marked contrast to the rest of the cast here she doesn’t worry about how she’s perceived, nor does she second-guess other people’s motives.



Speaking of which, one forgets how accurately Stan Lee used to nail neuroses. I don’t mean the melodrama of “What’s wrong with me? I’ve defeated some of the most powerful supervillains of all time – without batting an eye! But why do I have such trouble – just managing my own life…?”, I mean the little things like conversations that become unusually and unexpectedly awkward, stilted, and difficult to engage in as Peter’s does with former flame Betty Brant. They haven’t seen each other in ages and the connection is gone, Peter groaning his way through a casual cup of coffee, fully aware that neither of them is comfortable.

This is the point where I first came on board through the Marvel UK black and white prints, spoiled on John Romita Sr.’s contemporarily hip art and MJ’s ludicrously hip dialogue:

“I never thought a tiger who wore his hair so short could be so dreamy! And you’ve got a bouncin’ bike too! Dad – you’re the end!”



Plus, this era boasted some of the most exquisite cover compositions in Marvel’s history. #50 in particular is that classic portrait of Peter walking towards us, face-down in dejection as above him looms the back-turned spectre of the Spider-Man identity he’s given up for good.

You might have seen this paid tribute to, expertly, by Sean Phillips on his cover of KILL OR BE KILLED #20.




Issues #42, #43, #45 and #46 boast perfectly arranged and thrillingly dynamic one-on-one confrontations between Spider-Man and J. Jonah Jameson’s son, then the Rhino, the Lizard and the Shocker, respectively. And although the adult in me is no longer that interested in superhero fist-fights – I’m more about the relationships – John Romita Sr. manages to find a surprising variety of ways to choreograph them, even if throughout these early years a bizarre proportion end in the death of a brick chimney.

Famously, of course, one will later end with the death of a central character buried beneath a brick chimney… and an avalanche of deeply unnecessary explosion.




It’s also refreshing to see how smoothly some single stories flow through into each other over the course of several issues, one event catalysing another: J. Jonah Jameson’s son is exposed to space spores bringing about his first but not last transformation (roughly 150 or so issues later he becomes a moonstone-metamorphosed werewolf!); the Rhino kidnaps him so that the spores can be analysed by foreign military scientists; then Peter seeks help from scientist Dr. Curt Connors to dissolve the Rhino’s hide and Curt Connors once more transforms into the Lizard.




There’s a lot of J.J.J. Junior on offer, whilst his dad struts about furiously, impotently, puffing on his cigar and glowering around like a manically mardy Groucho Marx:

“That blasted wall-crawler sabotaged your capsule himself, in order to make everyone think he’s a hero by later saving you!”
Dad! Who told you such a ridiculous story?”
Nobody! I made it up!”

Spoken like a true tabloid journalist! And I didn’t make it up. If the Daily Bugle ever stops parping, Jonah would fit like a glove onto a poisonous appendage or the Daily Fail.

Anyway, as we kick off, Romita takes the artistic helm from Ditko just in time for the so-far substantial Green Goblin sub-plot to burst wide-open, and covers don’t come much more iconic than #39’s in which plain-clothes Peter, his Spider-Man top and tights exposed for the whole world to sea underneath his torn shirt and trousers, is dragged through the air against an azure sky, arms bound to his side, the very essence of helplessness in spite of his virile frame.



As a superhero artist you couldn’t make a more immediate first impression, and in that single issue alone Peter finally bonds for life with Harry Osborn when his father Norman pushes him away, Peter’s secret is exposed right outside the house where Aunt May is convalescing, and we finally find out after months of wondering who the Green Goblin himself is. It might have come as a shock to Ditko purists, Romita’s faces and frames being far sturdier affairs, but to my mind it’s precisely what the title needed at the time, fleshing out Ditko’s seemingly limitless imagination with the weight of Romita’s forms.

Finally, also included is Spider-Man’s famous audition for membership in the Avengers wherein Captain America sends him out to capture the Hulk, and the Wasp brings all her customary wits to bear on assessing his potential as a team-mate objectively, scientifically and with good grace:

“I vote no! I hate anything to do with spiders!”

For more nostalgic nonsense from silly old me, please see my more satirical (yet ever so fond) reviews of AVENGERS EPIC and FANTASTIC FOUR EPIC and SPIDER-MAN EPIC collections.

This one was relatively serious!


Buy Amazing Spider-Man: Epic Collection vol 3 – Spider-Man No More 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’

Giant Days: Early Registration s/c (£10-99, Boom!) by John Allison

Invisibles Book 4 (£19-99, Vertigo) by Grant Morrison & various

The Metabaron Book 3: The Meta-Guardianess & The Techno-Baron h/c (£22-99, Humanoids) by Alexandro Jodorowsky & Jerry Frissen, Valentin Secher

Parallel Lives (£21-99, Fantagraphics) by Oliver Schrauwen

Spectrum vol 25 s/c (£24-99, Flesk) by various

The Sons Of El Topo vol 1: Cain h/c (£14-99, Archaia) by Alejandro Jodorowsky & Jose Ladronn

Wilson h/c (£12-99, Fantagraphics) by Daniel Clowes

Flash vol 8: Flash War s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Joshua Williamson & Scott Kolins, Howard Porter

Amazing Spider-Man vol 9: Worldwide s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott &  various

Star Wars vol 9: Hope Burns (£17-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen, Cullen Bunn & Salvador Larroca, various

X-Men: Gambit – Complete Collection vol 2 s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by Fabian Nicieza, various & various

Coyote vol 1 (£8-99, Sublime) by Ranmaru Zariya

My Hero Academia vol 16 (£6-99, Viz) by Kohei Horikoshi

Platinum End vol 7 (£6-99, Viz) by Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews December 2018 week one

Wednesday, December 5th, 2018

Featuring Mike Carey, Peter Gross, Noah Van Sciver, Charles Forsman, Sarah McIntyre, Brian Wood, Mack Chater, Neil Gaiman, Dave McKean, Keiji Nakazawa, Kara Leopard, Kelly Matthews

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

“What are you?”
“One of the old powers. Though only the Lady is allowed to call herself a god these days.”
“But… you’re magic?”
“Magic is only a word. But yes, if you like.”
“And you’ll do anything I ask?”
“Anything. If you’ll swear to free me after.”
“I want my sister’s eyes not to close over.”
“That’s easy.”
“I want to know things. All the things in Magister Extat’s books.”
“Very well.”
“And I want all the slaves to be free.”
“Ah, now you meddle with matters much too big for you.”
“You said anything!
“I did. But…”
“Well that’s what I want!”
“Very well. I do not yet know how, but we will do this thing. Now kneel. Kneel and make my sign, as I taught you. You are mine, Moth. I am yours. And oh, what great mischief we will make together.”



Oh so cleverly crafted, slightly fantastical fiction, gorgeously illustrated with flourishes of Baroque brilliance, that is right up there with the likes of MONSTRESS, ISOLA, HEATHEN and BY CHANCE OR BY PROVIDENCE. Here is the scurrilous scroll from the scribes’ slave masters to tell us more…

“To be born a slave is in fact not a fatality. And facts can be changed. In the country of Ossaniul, there is a fortress that is as disproportionate as it is inaccessible: the Highest House. Its masters, the noble family of Aldercrest, reign over a veritable army of slaves. At the bottom of the ladder, young Moth performs the most thankless tasks and has little hope of living past childhood. Until the day he meets Obsidian, a mysterious prisoner of the House who whispers to him in his sleep. If Moth does what he asks, Obsidian will give him fortune and glory. And there’s every indication that Obsidian can make good on his promises. Will Moth accept the offer?

Through a subtle alternate history, The Highest House takes us to a fictional country reminiscent of the Balkan kingdoms of the 16th century. Mike Carey and Peter Gross (LUCIFER / THE UNWRITTEN) draw from this context a captivating fantasy narrative that reflects on the human soul, the corrupting power of slavery, and the inequalities of class, all from the different perspectives of the House’s many inhabitants. Both immediate and timeless, Highest House is a multifaceted fantasy sure to stay with readers long after the final page has turned.”



Except… this is merely part one!! Well, that’s what the final page says… This was always billed as a six-issue series, collected here in an album-sized extravaganza, reuniting the creative team of Mike Carey and Peter Gross. I must also mention cover artist Yuko Shimizu, who did all the fabulous covers for this work and also over 70 similarly amazing covers for THE UNWRITTEN.

As a complete aside I have just learnt the mildly amazing fact that Shimizu’s roommate when she began graduate studies at the prestigious New York School of Visual Arts was a certain James Jean, who of course did one bazillion FABLES covers that were all collected in their own swanky FABLES: THE COMPLETE COVERS book!

But, back to the Highest House… Young Moth, sold into servitude to the mysterious Magister Extat, and thus by extension, the House of Aldercrest, one of the richest families in the land who currently occupy the Highest House, is on a mission. Several in fact, including freedom from slavery and to achieve that he will need the help of the mysterious being locked deep in the recesses of the House. A being with a very different sort of liberation in mind…

I really don’t want to give too much more away other than to say this is a very intricately and elaborately constructed story from Mike Carey, much like the House itself as rendered by Peter Gross, which is where my Baroque comment above comes from.



There are some fabulous spreads of the sprawling house with its myriad towers, battlements, courtyards and of course the requisite secret passages and hidden rooms…



Very possibly the finest magical fantasy I have read this year (though clearly Tillie Walden’s ON A SUNBEAM trumps everything in pure fantasy terms). I seriously hope there is going to be a second volume.


Buy The Highest House s/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

“I made him keep his distance. I made sure he felt my anger.
“In return, I got a sword.
“The space of my life had always been small.
“From the minute my father’s eyes opened, he was looking beyond the horizon.
“So I followed.”

You could be forgiven for thinking that Brian Wood has a Viking fetish, what with the exceptional NORTHLANDERS series set across the entire Viking period, then BLACK ROAD telling the sorry tale of Magnus the Black and now this work. Actually, I think he may have a wider historical fiction writing fixation where there’s a clash or two involved, what with the superb alternate history ROME WEST and also the American Civil War rout that is REBELS.

Mind you, he’s pretty good at contemporary conflict fiction too, what with DMZ and indeed current series BRIGGS LAND, which is also in conjunction with artist Mick Chater, who once more brings his trademark fine-lined, dare I say almost savagely sketchy style to bear here. He makes it look ridiculously easy, I’m a big fan. Can I also just make mention of the exceptional colouring too, applied by no less a legend than Jose Villarrubia, which really adds to the vivid brutality of this world.

I should probably add for completeness, and before you conclude Brian is a blood-thirsty lunatic that he is also responsible for some contemporary fiction masterpieces too, albeit with the odd twist, such as previous Page 45 Comicbooks Of The Month LOCAL and STARVE, plus of course, DEMO and THE NEW YORK FOUR. He’s a bit good, isn’t he, our Brian? Do I therefore really need to justify why you should buy this…? Well, here’s the publisher’s saga of selling to lure you in further before the rapacious retailer lops your purse-hand off with his axe…

“One thousand years ago, a murderous clan known as the Forty Swords burned a village to the ground, leaving just two people alive: a shattered father and his teenage daughter. Setting off on a revenge quest that will span the width of Viking Age Europe, they find the key to repairing their damaged relationship lies in the swords they carry.”



Expect slashing, much slashing actually, including some particular scenic slashing in the middle of what I am pretty sure is the Ring Of Brodgar stone circle in the Orkney Islands.



But also the gradual rediscovery of a father-daughter bond that has had to endure a decade of practically catatonic parental absence after the trauma inflicted by the Forty Swords.



As virtual strangers, they are going to have to learn to first trust, and perhaps eventually love, one another, if they are to leave the tragedy of the past behind them. After a suitable sizeable amount of slashing, obviously.



I suppose there are elements of / parallels with LONE WOLF & CUB here if you want to look for them, but this is a considerably more straightforward revenge slice-and-dicing, albeit with some substantial degree of heart as our duo gradually begin to establish an understanding. Well, I thought that, and then there was the twelve-year time jump right near the end (with some fairly gruesome slashing obv.) that shows there is going to be an unexpected disembowelling (sword-)twist or two to the tale yet… I should have known it wouldn’t be quite so simple!


Buy Sword Daughter vol 1: She Brightly Burns h/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

“So, Noah, Gwen tells me you’re a… what, a cartoonist?”
“Yeah, I’m a cartoonist.”
“What does that mean? You draw animations like on TV or something.”
“No, I draw comics, but not superheroes. Usually about life and stuff like that.”
“Your life?”
“Sometimes. Not always. I write a lot of fiction…”
“You make money doing this?”
“Yeah and I’m published in MAD magazine and I do graphic novels… I work at Panera bread downtown too.”
“Oh! I love Panera bread!”
AND he works at his friend’s bookshop on Sundays.”
“That’s a lot of lot of jobs! Are you in school or something?”
“No, I’m a cartoonist.”
“He didn’t graduate. He’s a dropout.”
“Hm. So what happens when you’re a cartoonist? Do cartoonists eventually make a lot of money?”
“Um… well… no I guess not…”



No, but they do have the undying love and profound respect of people from all walks of life the world over, most of which they will never meet, but all of whom are sincerely grateful that these unsung heroes make the sacrifices they do in order to make their comics for us. Bless you, Noah Van Sciver and all your comics colleagues past, present and future!

Yes, the man with the self-professed fourth best moustache in comics is back in fine fettle, as is apparently the moustache judging from recent Facebook posts after a brief bare-lipped patch, regaling us with domestic horror stories from his youth, mixed in with more than a little modern-day maudlin regarding his romantic relationship with the <ahem> delightful Gwen and his car-crash of a career choice. Still, it’s all grist for the comics’ mill!

Here is the book of uncivilised woe as handed down by the publisher…

“In Noah Van Sciver’s new funny and heartfelt memoir, he is haunted by memories of growing up in a big, poor, Mormon family.



Noah Van Sciver is haunted by the house at 133 ***** Street, or as his brothers rechristened it “One Dirty Tree.” This sprawling, dilapidated New Jersey house was his first home and the site of formative experiences. Growing up in a big, poor, Mormon family-surrounded by comic-books, eight siblings, bathtubs full of dirty dishes Noah’s childhood exerts a powerful force on his present day relationship.”

And his comics! Much like in detailing his very first dating disaster for us in MY HOT DATE, Noah lays his soul bare about his chaotic upbringing and its moderately challenging consequences for him as an adult. The fact that he manages to make it so wryly humorous for us is testament to his talent as a story-teller.



Much like his hilariously mean FANTE BUKOWSKI material where the point is to provoke laughter at the poor protagonist, you may, if you’re a half-decent human being (heh heh), find yourself feeling more than a little unkind for chortling at Noah’s testing childhood circumstances and the situations he finds himself in. Well, getting himself into mostly, but you know what I mean.

The skipping back and forth between the days of high-hair (what a bush he had!), full of care-free skateboarding, plus clips round the ear from his older brothers with unfortunately also some right old beltings from his mentally melting-down dad… and the modern day somewhat wiser but riddled with self-doubts adult Noah are well-handled and combine very insightfully.



An autobiographical triumph! I personally believe Noah will come to be regarded as one of the 21st Century’s great North American ‘cartoonists’ and I for one will be able to say I was there laughing at him, I mean lauding him, right from the start!


Buy One Dirty Tree h/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

In which Olive Oyl channels her inner Jean Grey before going slightly Dark Phoenix…

I realise that is a slightly strange mash-up to suggest, but nevertheless, I’m going to stand by it. I also like bubble and squeak. Here is the publisher’s blurb to obfuscate matters further…

“Sydney seems like a normal, rudderless 15-year-old freshman. She hangs out underneath the bleachers, listens to music in her friend’s car, and gets into arguments with her annoying little brother – but she also has a few secrets she’s only shared in her diary. Like how she’s in love with her best friend Dina, the bizarre death of her war veteran father, and those painful telekinetic powers that keep popping up at the most inopportune times.

After his first two critically heralded graphic novels, CELEBRATED SUMMER and THE END OF THE F***ING WORLD, Forsman once again expertly channels the teenage ethos in a style that evokes classic comic strips while telling a powerful story about the intense, and sometimes violent, tug of war between trauma and control.



I AM NOT OKAY WITH THIS collects all of Forsman’s self-published mini-comic series into one volume. It comments naturally on familial strain, sexual confusion, and PTSD in his usual straight-faced-but-humorous style, and firmly stakes his place among the world’s best young cartoonists.”

Yes, Sydney has a few issues, and indeed secrets too, for sure. Like those telekinetic powers she hasn’t got control of… Or her temper, which she isn’t remotely in control of, either. Now that’s a great combination right?



Acting as our narrator whilst writing her private thoughts in a diary given to her by the student guidance counsellor, Ms. Capriotti, (to perhaps help her mitigate her self-confessed moods a little better) Sydney reveals all to us.



Her story is indeed that of a typical angst-ridden teenager grappling with fairly normal adolescent problems, albeit with some collateral damage from the… loss… of her father. Yes, that certainly is a ‘bizarre death’.



For such an in-your-face gritty story, there is a lot of surprisingly subtle and sophisticated story-telling going on here, particularly at the emotional level. In that sense, Charles certainly tells a tale as powerfully as the likes of Daniel GHOST WORLD Clowes and Adrian SHORTCOMINGS Tomine.

Artistically, I completely understand the ‘in a style that evokes classic comic strips’ quote, as to me Sydney definitely has more than a look of Popeye’s squeeze about her. There’s another point of classic reference too (at least), I think, but I can’t quite put my finger on it, annoyingly. It actually took me a while to settle into reading this due to the art, as I found with both of his previous works.

It’s possible that Charles’s choice of art style is the only real hurdle to him gaining a much wider readership as unlike Clowes and Tomine, he doesn’t necessarily deploy what could be described an immediately appealing style. But all power to him for that, though, he’s certainly clearly a highly talented creator who is obviously very happy creating his own corner of comicdom misery for his characters.


Buy I Am Not Okay With This and read the Page 45 review here

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

The pizza factory was a mess.
Inspector Sarah sighed,
”I should have guessed…
“It’s Trevor the T-Rex!”

Of course it’s Trevor! Of course it is!

Those of you who’ve already read Sarah McIntyre’s DINOSAUR FIREFIGHTERS will be familiar with the terrible Trevor who managed to get himself stuck in a climbing frame… AGAIN! In my review, far more extensive than this (delving in depth into McIntyre’s page composition etc), I wrote:

“The absurdity of that page is a scream. A) What does a T-Rex that large even want with a climbing frame? B) How did such an enormous beast get onto or even into the climbing frame in the first place, let alone then stuck in it and C) … AGAIN?!?!?!?!

There, however, our Trevor was merely a memory-challenged moron.

Here he goes full-on delinquent!



First in a pizza factory, gorging his fat face off on pizza (I love that Trevor’s face is 87.3% teeth, and that he’s managed to stuff at least two complete pizzas into his gaping gob; that really is the stringiest, gooiest cheese of all time, each loop leading your eye to Trevor), then on a sequential-art rampage through Dinoville, a town otherwise so quaint and quiet that its police precinct’s bulletin board has plenty of room for a missing cat poster!

Yes, even Dinosaurs have cats for pets. And cats will always stray and get themselves stuck up trees, as we discovered in DINOSAUR FIREFIGHTERS. I also note by scanning the background that Dino-cops have as much of a penchant for doughnuts as their human counterparts.



Dinosaurs, of course, come in all shapes and sizes. Sergeant Stig O’Saurus (originally of Irish stock) and Inspector Sarah Tops (snort!) fit nicely into their uniforms, colour-coded to denote rank but mostly to complement their hides’ hues, I think. Officer Brachio, however, is of a decidedly bigger build and therefore can’t fit into the police car let alone a standard uniform, so he has his own flashing light for emergencies just like this.

“Sergeant Stig O’Saurus and Inspector Sarah Tops were on their way faster than you can say “WOO WOO”.

Officer Brachio bellows “WOO WOO!” anyway. Because, hey, every officer needs a siren!

A late addition to our phenomenally popular Page 45 Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre Section because you really did demand it, this is yet another beauty for youngsters’ shiny wide eyes to wander around, spotting background details like the multiple narratives going on all about town in the pre-title double-page spread which they can fill in for themselves with their wild imaginations.



Once more the delightful absurdities had me howling. Last time it was Trevor’s climbing frame fiasco; here it’s Inspector Sarah Tops diligently doing her duty… by handcuffing Trevor.

Because you wouldn’t want to actually immobilize a T-Rex, would you? Or secure that massively muscled mouth with its fulsome array of gigantic gnashers!!! No, what you really need to do is deal with those functionally useless forelimbs!

I’m still chuckling several hours later.



Deliciously coloured with enormous warmth, I’m now going to call Pizza Italia, and I will have pineapple on my pizza, so there!


Buy Dinosaur Police s/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

I could have sworn that I once wrote a far more extensive review of this, but the below is all I could find.

Originally serialised in ‘The Face’ magazine of all places during the late 1980s, this is another of those dark and personal tales (see THE COMICAL TRAGEDY OR TRAGICAL COMEDY OF MR. PUNCH – now that is one in-depth review!) at a time when McKean was still using some of the BLACK ORCHID techniques, but had really begun to experiment with expressionism along the Francis Bacon / Baron Storey/ Bill Sienkiewicz lines with distorted body work, and four truly terrifying Horsemen Of The Apocalypse rendered in four very different styles.

A film maker dying from cancer obsesses over the final movie he will never make, about a European village fearing the approach of 999AD, and the Armageddon they believe will ensue.

Prepare for a lot of blue.






P.S. 2018. Professor Science writes: “Signal-to-noise ratio is a measure used in science and engineering that compares the level of a desired signal to the level of background noise.”

I’ve used the term repeatedly to denote the current condition of multi-channel broadcasting (and now social media) and the even wider modern competition for our attention and assault on our senses, for, if one fails to erect adequate mental filters, the signals swiftly turn into noise.



Buy Signal To Noise and read the Page 45 review here

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

“This vivid and harrowing story will burn a radioactive crater in your memory that will never let you forget it”.”

 – Art Spiegelman, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of MAUS

A true manga classic, finally re-emerging into print.

“Barefoot Gen is the powerful, tragic, autobiographical story of the bombing of Hiroshima and its aftermath, seen through the eyes of the artist as a young boy growing up in Japan. The honest portrayal of emotions and experiences speaks to children and adults everywhere. BAREFOOT GEN serves as a reminder of the suffering war brings to innocent people, and as a unique documentation of an especially horrible source of suffering, the atomic bomb.”



First of ten books in which young Gen has to grow up very fast indeed, and everyone is dripping in sweat which doubles as comicbook shorthand for extreme anxiety or the level of hysteria generated when your experiences are no longer comprehensible or compatible with any sane response. Intense doesn’t even begin describe this, plus you can also see so much of Tezuka in here.



It’s a long, long, long time since I read this, but I recall that much later volumes finally see him taken under the wing of a kindly artist, start to express himself and then find love, but the effects of the bomb are never far off, nor other hard realities like the corrosive effects of drug addiction, and the arms industry given a business boost by Korean War.

It’s all based to some extent or another on personal experience, and Nakazawa gave an eye-opening interview to THE COMICS JOURNAL in which he talks in detail about his family, the day the bomb dropped, and the deafening silence in Tokyo afterwards about the Atomic bomb whose radiation was rumoured to be contagious.



Meryl Jaffe writes extensively about BAREFOOT GEN and its techniques for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, with a view to teaching it in school:


Buy Barefoot Gen vol 1and read the Page 45 review here

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

“Let’s go Po-Metheus.”
“Oh, I like that.”
“I’m Prometheus.”
“But our cat was Po! So now you’re Po-Metheus!”
“It’s not funny if you have to explain it.”

Yep, it’s a talking cat. Well, it was just a cat to start with, then the Titan Prometheus inhabited it when Charlie, Janet, and Trevor accidentally broke Pandora’s box, which had been reshaped into the form of a Greek urn. Nope, I’m not lying, and neither is the cat… See what I did there, non-all-ages comics chums…? Oh yeah, right, it’s not funny if you have to explain it…

Anyway… here’s the publisher fable to tickle and test your foible-for-fun all-ages fantasy material by explaining the mildly implausible set up…

“What starts out as a typical family vacation to Grandma and Grandpa’s house quickly erupts into supernatural mystery and peril when three siblings accidentally break an old, mystical jar hidden deep in the woods, revealing they are descendants of Pandora and their family has been tasked for generations with protecting the very jar they just broke…



As magical monsters pour out of the fractured relic and run amok, Charlie, Janet, and Trevor must find a way to capture all of the creatures in order to save their family and potentially the entire world before it is too late.

Writer Kara Leopard ([Super]Natural Attraction) and illustrators Kelly & Nichole Matthews (Jim Henson’s Power of the Dark Crystal) weave an otherworldly tale about finding help in the unlikeliest of places, learning the truth about your family history, and most importantly of all, talking cats.”



Right, firstly, what’s to like about this work? Well, Kelly THE POWER OF THE DARK CRYSTAL Matthews’ art is truly excellent. That alone is worth the very reasonable price of purchase. Where I have some mild criticism of this work, is that the otherwise exciting story feels very over-compacted and rushed through. It really could have done with another twenty pages or so at least to be allowed to breathe and unwind a bit more naturally. Well, as naturally as any story involving the Titan Prometheus inhabiting a cat trying to take down all kinds of mythical monsters can be…



Even after the first couple of pages I felt like I had missed a chapter or so of lead in. It is relatively slim in terms of page count, so perhaps it needed an editor stepping in early on in the process to just slow it all down a little bit and suggest inserting a few additional scenes. It’s a relatively small complaint, but one that I feel does stop this being on a par with the likes of NAMELESS CITY, LUMBERJANES and AMULET. Gorgeous art though, and a very cute talking cat! And that’s no lie!


Buy Pandora’s Legacy vol 1 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’

#Instabunnies (Sketched In) (£8-00, ) by Lizz Lunney

I Am Winter, I Am Bright (£5-00, ) by Joe Latham

The Boys vol 1: The Name Of The Game (£14-99, Dynamite) by Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson

Dredd: Final Judgement s/c (£12-99, Rebellion) by Alex De Campi, Arthur Wyatt & Henry Flint, Paul Davidson

Emma G. Wildford h/c (£21-99, Titan) by  Zidrou &  Edith

Prisoner s/c vol 1 Uncertainty Machine (£13-99, Titan) by Peter Milligan & Colin Lorimer

The Book Of Ballads And Sagas h/c (£21-99, Titan) by Neil Gaiman, various & Charles Vess

Sandman vol 2: The Doll’s House (30th Anniversary Ed’n) (£16-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & Malcolm Jones III, Mike Dringenberg, Michael Zulli, Clive Barker

Paper Girls vol 5 s/c (£13-99, Image) by Brian K. Vaughan & Cliff Chiang

Paradiso vol 2: Dark Dwellers (£14-99, Image) by Ram V. & Dev Pramanik

The Wicked + The Divine vol 3 h/c (£39-99, Image) by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie

Over The Garden Wall vol 1 (£13-99, Kaboom) by various

Over The Garden Wall vol 2 (£13-99, Kaboom) by various

Part Of It – Comics And Confessions (£15-99, Mariner) by Ariel Schrag

Lumberjanes vol 10: Parent’s Day! (£10-99, Boom) by Shannon Waters, Kat Leyh & Ayme Sotuyo

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Soul Dragon OGN s/c (£14-99, Boom) by Kyle Higgins & Giuseppe Cafaro

Batman: Detective Comics vol 8: On The Outside s/c (£14-99, DC) by Bryan Hill, Michael Moreci & Miguel Mendonca, various

Injustice 2 vol 3 s/c (£14-99, DC) by Tom Taylor & Daniel Sampere, Bruno Redondo, various

Injustice 2 vol 4 h/c (£22-99, DC) by Tom Taylor & Daniel Sampere, Bruno Redondo, various

Doctor Strange vol 1: Across The Universe s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Jesus Saiz

Hunt For Wolverine: Claws Of A Killer s/c (£13-99, Marvel) by Charles Soule, Mariko Tamaki & David Marquez, Paulo Siqueira

Wolverine: Old Man Logan vol 9: The Hunter And The Hunted s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Ed Brisson & Francesco Manna, Juan Ferreyra

Attack On Titan vol 26 (£9-99, Viz) by Hajime Isayama

Dead Dead Demon’s Dededede Destruction vol 3 (£9-99, Viz) by Inio Asano

Edens Zero vol 1 (£10-99, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

I Hear The Sunspot vol 3 Limit Part 1 (£11-99, One Peace Books) by Yuki Fumino

My Brother’s Husband vol 1 h/c (£16-99, Blackfriars) by Gengoroh Tagame