Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews January 2019 week two

“The colouring throughout by Phillips Jr. is particularly striking, being expressionistic, fiery, bruised, bloody, battered, dirty and suitably stained. On the pages I describe immediately above, as the bourbon’s consumed, it’s as if someone’s spilled claret across them.”

  – Stephen on Criminal #1

Criminal #1 (£3-25, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips with Jacob Phillips.

“He had to admit, the kid had surprised him. Impressed him, even.
“Maybe those three months in juvie had done his son some good after all, Teeg thought…”

Teeg Lawless: father-figure extraordinaire!

He’s straight out of county jail (again) after son Ricky’s sprung for the bail with a stolen diamond necklace.

Apples / trees, trees / apples: learned behaviour, innit?

Thing is, the necklace was stolen before Ricky nicked it, and the original thief he pilfered it from is not someone to be messed with. Certainly not someone you kick the crap out of, so there will be repercussions both for Teeg and more immediately for teenage Ricky: broken bones of his own, courtesy of his clearly doting daddy.

 

 

Loyalty and betrayal is a theme that runs like a sorry, impure seam right through this filthy underworld rock face. Teeg isn’t so oblivious that he can’t catch himself in the act of romantic betrayal and feel a pang of guilt, but self-awareness doesn’t necessarily determine self-guidance, and he’s in for a shock when he discovers that he himself has been betrayed for years. Honour amongst thieves…? Do me one!

From the team who recently brought you the brilliant broken romance that is MY HEROES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN JUNKIES with Page 45’s exclusive bookplate signed by Brubaker, Phillips & Phillips (itself a CRIMINAL graphic novel, though it was never announced as such so as not to spoil a certain surprise inside) comes a brand-new monthly series, some of whose stories will be completely self-contained, like this one. That last piece of good knowledge will make this first issue’s final page almost as arresting as KILL OR BE KILLED’s.

The first five pages which I have for you here attest to Brubaker’s ability to flip with agility between two individuals’ perspectives with mutually mounting tension, and the old man’s broken short-term memory is masterfully, painfully evoked to render him in our eyes all the more vulnerable to Ricky’s guile. This could also be construed an act of betrayal – on the elderly and infirm – regardless of the mistaken identity.

 

 

 

 

 

Phillips Sr. pulls a neat stroke of his own in his depiction of Sharon, the ex-wife of Teeg Lawless’s ex-partner-in-crime: she’s glamorous enough on the first page, but on closer inspection and intoxication her face droops and her hooded eyes sag into the bags beneath them. She perks up again shortly, though…

The colouring throughout by Phillips Jr. is particularly striking, being expressionistic, fiery, bruised, bloody, battered, dirty and suitably stained. On the pages I describe immediately above, as the bourbon’s consumed, it’s as if someone’s spilled claret across them.

There are crimes within crimes as you’d expect for a title with this depth and complexity, but for much lengthier analysis of Brubaker and Phillips’ work, please see the series referred to above, plus their FATALE and THE FADE OUT.

SLH

Buy Criminal #1 and read the Page 45 review here

The Chancellor And The Citadel (£13-99, Iron Circus Comics) by Maria Capelle Frantz ~

“They all trust me too much.
“They think I know the difference between right & wrong.
“Someday I’ll make the wrong call.
“I‘ll mess up.
“And they’ll realise I’m just like them…
“…I need to know if I’m on the right side.”

Standing steadfast in a post-apocalyptic world, dense with magic and bustling with life, is the Citadel. Of which the many residents, safely ensconced inside, depend on the protection of a mysterious being capable of magnificent power: the Chancellor. Tightly wrapped in a lustrous blue cloak, her identity remains a secret to all of the Citadel’s inhabitants. To even her dearest companion, Olive, her identity remains unknown.

 

 

The Citadel doesn’t hold the only life in this disparaged world, for beyond the walls the humans lurk in the forests. Humans who are restless, who are fearful, angry, and who only refer to the Chancellor as “Witch”. They plan an ambush, outnumbering her 50 to 1, but it doesn’t matter how hard a fight they are willing to give, they are merely humans, and with a great flash of light it is over. But the Chancellor didn’t want this to happen. She never wanted to hurt anybody. At least not now. All she wants is to do right by all of those that depend on her. But there is a history. One that has become muddied and forgotten over the ages of time. One that has forged fear deep into the humans and has convinced them that what they must do is fight back against her. They need to make her pay for what she has done.

We are given a snapshot view of an intricately detailed world: one of mystery, of unrest, and of fear. There is a lot left unspoken which causes our cast of characters, on both sides of the wall, to begin to question the reality of their situation. This is a story packed with intrigue which will keep you hooked from the very first line. But within all the tension also lies a great deal of tenderness: the gentle moments between Olive and the Chancellor when they share a brief word of encouragement, or the smattering of tiny spirits that huddle together in comfort.

 

 

Frantz has achieved such rounded characters and masterfully demonstrates all aspects of their personalities – particularly with the Chancellor – that you gain a full understanding of who they are, and who they are trying to be. Gloriously packed with texture, Frantz creates a very tangible, yet ethereal, world. With intricate line work reminiscent of Aaron THE UNSINKABLE WALKER BEAN Ranier, and an environment so exuberant with magic you will feel like you’ve fallen into a Miyazaki film.

 

 

This is an embracing story of acceptance and strength. Strength in courage, in trust, and in knowing ourselves.

JP

Buy The Chancellor And The Citadel and read the Page 45 review here

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

The following review was originally written by my mate Ryz – occasionally known as Bettie Page 45 – when there was a certain degree of fuss in the UK delaying LOST GIRLS’ availability here.

I’ve enormous admiration for her getting into the true spirit of the work by enjoying it precisely in the manner for which it was intended. If you want something more erudite… you’re kidding yourselves. However, I can add that the graphic novel is also a lacerating tract on a war during which hundreds of thousands of young, virile men were sent to end each others’ lives, rather than expending that same potent sexual energy lovingly creating new ones.

I also adore that it was created by a couple who were – and remain – lovers.

It’s no longer a boxed set but a single all-in-one hardcover.

Here we go! – Stephen

 

 

OK, let’s get the gloating out of the way first.

I actually got my grubby little mitts on this beautiful boxed set when it was first published in America, past the international comics Gestapo before there was a complete ban on getting the thing through customs. I was very impressed at my cloak and daggeryness, and was very excited to read it.

And after reading some of it, I was very, very excited indeed.

 

 

I have to say, it took a while, what with the several unscheduled visits to lock myself in the bathroom, so I didn’t respect myself in the morning and could barely look myself in the eye in the restroom mirror.

Yep, it really is pretty filthy stuff – proper adult comic porno. Actually, my copy isn’t so much just filthy as sporting a rather large fag burn, after a drunken houseguest passed out on the sofa with a lit ciggie dangling over my lovely pristine boxed set. So book one, ‘Older Children’, is slightly battle-scarred, but I believe you can purchase lovely shiny new sets from Page 45 now that the threat of legal action in the UK from the Barrie estate has subsided.

 

 

The books themselves tell the various stories of Alice (of ‘Looking Glass’ fame), Wendy (from ‘Peter Pan’) & Dorothy (visitor to Oz) through flashbacks and now as grown women, who have all met each other in an Austrian hotel, pre-WWII. The flashback stories really cleverly and imaginatively (and did I mention, filthily?) re-tell and explain how Wonderland, Neverland, Oz and their well-known characters played a part in their youth / puberty, not always in completely pleasant circumstances, either. Oh it’s all here – incest, male rape, boarding-school shenanigans, non-consensual drugged up party games, bestiality – something for everyone, I’d have thought.

The stories are beautifully crafted and wonderfully erotic at times – just downright dirty at others and often told with great wit and comic timing. The majority of the work is illustrated in an innocent, almost child-like manner (presumably to increase the illusion of reading children’s fairy story books), however there are some really beautiful art deco frames, some fantastically detailed, delicate, black and white pen and ink frames, and some highly stylised art throughout, making these books gorgeously sumptuous to look at.

 

 

Yes, definitely picture-books for adults to ‘look at’ rather than ‘read’ I think. I mean, I’ve owned them for over 18 months and still haven’t managed to get past the second half of the second volume (‘Neverlands’). It’s been exhausting, if you know what I mean. So I can’t review what actually happens in the books, how the stories end, or what it’s all about, as I’ve never errm, lasted that long. I mean, I only even saw what the insides of book three (The Great & Terrible’) looked like for the purpose of this review. There are a lot of Nazis at the end.

If you are planning on buying a set of LOST GIRLS – and speaking to the female populous of Page 45’s customers here, I really do think you should – take it from me: buy yourself a couple of drinks and a nice dinner first, then maybe you’ll feel a little classier about the whole affair than I’ve managed to thus far…

Ryz

Buy Lost Girls Expanded Edition h/c and read the Page 45 review here

A Million Ways To Die Hard h/c (£12-99, Insight Comics) by Frank Tieri & Mark Texeira…

“For the last time, that badge is no good, sir.”
“And for the last time, asshole… I’m John McClane. Yeah, the guy that fucking nutball with the mask is calling out John McClane. So maybe, just maybe, it’s kinda real fucking important you let me in there.”
“Let him through.”
“Finally, somebody with some goodamn sense.”
“Somebody who knows you actually. I’m officer Cam Powell.”
“As in… Al’s kid?”
“Yeah.”
“Well, I’ll be a son of a bitch. How’s your old man?”
“Retired. In Florida. It’s the law, ya know?”
“Yeah, well, I don’t do too good with the law these days, I guess.”
“I’d say that’s a good guess. But we’ve got time to catch up later. Building’s evacuated. Go do your thing, man.”

Indeed, go shuffle that zimmer frame and do your thing, pensioner McClane. Which is shooting people and blowing stuff up, rescuing the innocent bystanders – at least the non-expendable ones – and of course taking down the bad guy and saving the day all the whilst cussing like a true badass. Bad words devalue the coinage you say…? Not fucking likely in John McClane’s eyes and from his potty mouth.

Have you ever seen a film that was so incontrovertibly bad but was actually such immensely entertaining nonsense that it somehow transcended it’s many, myriad flaws to come out being ‘good’? I’m not referring to ‘Die Hard’, I should add, which is undoubtedly the best Christmas movie ever made, but if you understand what I’m referring to, well, this is exactly like that. This is excruciatingly awful and yet I absolutely loved it!

There is a point on the sliding scale of diminishing sequel returns, beyond which the films typically begin to become a parody of the original material, the ‘better’ ones quite deliberately so, exaggerating whatever features made the original such a success to the point of lampooning them, with a cheeky knowing wink to the audience as they attempt to extract every last bit of cash from us. Thus the title of this work alone ought to have given me a clue as to the intentions of Frank Tieri in that respect… If you’re keeping track, this is technically the sixth ‘Die Hard’ outing, though in the parody terms I’ve just been referring to, it might as well be the millionth…

So I’m not even going to try and avoid spoilers, after all the ‘plot’ is so wafer-thin there’s really no point. Basically, there is an old villain from McClane’s distant past – 5 cheesy sequel points right there for that – called Moviefone who has decided to call out John on the 30th anniversary of the original shebang at the Nakatomi building, thus immediately scoring another 5 sequel points for timing.

 

 

 

Trapping John’s wife, Mr. Nakatomi’s son and for some reason the penitent sister of Hans Gruber, thus scoring another 5 sequel points for introducing an innocent bystander with an oh so tenuous connection to an original character. Along with original doughnut munching cop Al’s cop son already racking up a further 5 sequel points on that particular score…

The twist… that elevates this from crap(est) sequel to knowing gloriously insane motherBLEEPing parody… is that Moviefone will only attempt to kill John and his captives by the means of classic movies… We therefore start with a 1978 bomb called The Swarm which, you’ve possibly guessed it, involves killer bees thus setting the tone at totally ridiculous right from the off, before swiftly moving onto the rather more traditionally deadly Earthquake, then concluding the opening chapter with the classic Towering Inferno. Yep, that’s just the opening chapter…

 

 

At this point, still trying to give it all some semblance of credibility on my initial read, I was struggling. By the time a giant shark was deployed in the basement of a knockoff Bates Motel however… I was hooked.

This doesn’t just jump the shark. It stuff, mounts and surfs it through a tsunami. It makes no sense, truly, but it doesn’t even try. It’s genuinely awful but if you have any affection for the John McClane character and his particular brand of preposterous bad-assery you really won’t care. You’ll just be chuckling away at the sheer stupidity of it all. Hats off to Frank Tieri for managing to pull it off, truly.

On the art front, I had only recently commented to Stephen that I wondered what had ever become of former Marvel <ahem> hotshot Mark GHOST RIDER Texeira whose undoubted prowess on Christopher Priest’s BLACK PANTHER made for much mirthful timing. Well, now we know. I guess his time to be fashionable with the capes ‘n’ tights fanboys might come around again eventually… I can’t see it mind. Still, there’s probably another billion ‘Die Hard’ sequels to keep himself busy with…

JR

Buy A Million Ways To Die Hard h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Dark Days: The Road To Metal s/c (£16-99, DC) by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, various & Andy Kubert, Jim Lee, Scott Williams, various.

“Oh, Mr. Green Lantern. Are you afraid?”
“I don’t get afraid.”
“Oh, I think you do… I think we all do… it’s all in that moment of discovery…
“When you’re about to learn something you will never be able to unlearn.
“Something that puts all the pieces together, and you finally see the truth, and the world changes.
“And you know it’ll never go back the way it was before.
“But if you’re so very brave, then just open the door.”

Just open the bloody door, Hal!! So we can find out precisely who, and what, is in the secret cave inside the Bat Cave.

“Seriously. Only Batman would have a secret cave inside his secret cave.”

Obviously. Not forgetting the secret Lunar Batcave on the moon…

 

 

Bats has actually installed a hidden room in the Fortress Of Solitude as well, just for good measure. I mean, he did have the good grace to ask Clark’s permission first, though he made him promise not to peek inside it at what he’d put there for ultra-safe keeping…

Yes, I can promise you more than a certain degree of mystery in these two intriguing set up one-shot issues of ‘Dark Days: The Forge’ and ‘Dark Days: The Casting’ that is already a million times better than the execrable mess that was CONVERGENCE. I probably shouldn’t be surprised this was great, given the writers are the long-time Bat-scribes Snyder and Tynion IV, plus the stellar trio of artists Jim Lee, Andy Kubert & John Romita Jr. on the pencils. But still, I’ve been burnt far too often with these big summer events.

 

 

Basically, Batman is trying to solve a mystery, one that has disturbed him so much, for so long, that whilst he’s had to call upon the likes of Mr. Terrific, Mister Miracle and of course old blue tights himself for assistance, he’s given precisely nothing away to anyone else whatsoever about the nature of this troubling conundrum. That, however, is all about to change and not entirely through his own choice…

Piece by piece, what little information Batman has acquired is laid out for us, along with some cautionary insights from Carter Hall a.k.a. Hawkman, who has his own particular clandestine parallel interest to Batman’s investigations.

 

 

At the time of reading the one-shots, I thought there was a little nod to Grant Morrison’s BATMAN: THE RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE that had Bats twizzling through time following the climax of FINAL CRISIS, which also seemed to be alluded to. So very kind of DC therefore to bolster these two new issues by including BATMAN: THE RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE #1, FINAL CRISIS #6-#7, BATMAN (New 52 era) #38-#39, NIGHTWING (again New 52 era) #17 and more!

That concluding exclamation mark being DC’s, I should add. Not mine. No, mine would come at the end of “You’re reprinting FIVE issues of old material in a hardcover collection of TWO new issues? You greedy gits!” Actually, they are reprinting nearly six, because the ‘more!’ is actually merely an excerpt from DETECTIVE COMICS #950 and then they also throw in Morrison’s double-page spread Map Of The Multiverse for ‘added value’…

 

 

Just utter corporate greed. There is absolutely no reason why these new two one-shots, which are basically issues #00 and #0 of DARK DAYS METAL could not have been included in one collection with the six issues that formed the ‘main’ series. They are printing (nearly) eight issues in this volume, after all… It is disappointing because it is exactly the sort of nonsense I would fully expect Marvel to pull, and charge twice as much whilst they are at it, but I had felt in recent years DC were actually about giving readers better value for money than Marvel. Hey ho.

Anyway, the new material is an enjoyably complex and riveting set-up for the DARK DAYS METAL event that piqued my curiosity sufficiently to want to read the whole shebang.  Not least because of whom Hal finds behind the green door…

It’s an old piano, and Shakin’ Stevens is playing it hot.

Okay, well, the door isn’t green, and it isn’t Shakey banging out ’80s classics, but it is a shocker, certainly… Precisely how that person fits into it all, is just another perplexing part of this three pothole problem, Watson… Oh, do stop with the bad jokes…

 

 

NOTE: also available are the collection of bad guy one-shot tie-ins DARK NIGHTS: METAL – DARK KNIGHTS RISING which whilst not essential were certainly entertaining and just as popular as the main DARK DAYS METAL series. Plus there’s the usual utterly spurious sidebar material in various ongoing titles collected in DARK NIGHTS METAL: THE RESISTANCE, which DC obviously realised people wouldn’t be mug enough to buy in a hardcover and have put straight into softcover format…

Can I just add, above grumble aside, I did rather enjoy the event. It’s probably not that clear.

JR

Buy Dark Days: The Road To Metal 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’

Farmhand vol 1 (£11-99, Image) by Rob Guillory

Off Season h/c (£18-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by James Sturm

Supers: A Little Star Past Cassiopeia (£13-99, Top Shelf) by Frederic Maupome & Dawid

The Life Of Captain Marvel s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Margaret Stohl & Carlos Pacheco, Marguerite Sauvage, others

Hitorijime My Hero vol 1 (£10-99, Kodansha) by Memeco Arii

DC Universe By Alan Moore (£22-99, DC) by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons, Klaus Janson, Kevin O’ Neill, Rick Veitch, others

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