Archive for February, 2019

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews February 2019 week four

Thursday, February 28th, 2019

“It’s about creation, illusion, reality and fiction; survival, escape and escapism.

“On so very many levels, it’s about escaping your past.”

 – Stephen on Mister Miracle by Tom King & Mitch Gerads.

Mister Miracle s/c (£22-99, DC) by Tom King & Mitch Gerads.

“I can always escape.”

 – Scott Free, Mister Miracle

“Comics will break your heart.”

– Jack ‘King’ Kirby, creator of Mister Miracle (and so much more)

Before we begin, I promise you this:

This is no more a superhero comic that Fraction and Aja’s run on HAWKEYE. Indeed separating this eminently approachable book from its publishing past – of which you need know nothing – plays an integral part in its mischief and in its multilayered narrative.

It is instead a Real Mainstream book, accessible to all, with exceptionally nuanced, neo-classical yet expressionistic art owing much to Bill Sienkiewicz, bursting with wit, insight and passion, about discerning one’s true priorities and appreciating your bounties; embracing and so not running from them, but celebrating them instead in all their often irksome but iridescent best.



Sure, it’s also about torture, death-traps, war, paternal betrayal, screwed up ideas about what constitutes a wholesome upbringing, and unleashing a weapon of prevalently held fears and anxieties upon mankind in an eons-old feud between two warring Kingdoms of Gods.

But really it’s about the indispensable upgrade, to any occasion, of a fresh veggie tray and dips.



It’s about creation, illusion, reality and fiction; survival, escape and escapism.

On so very many levels, it’s about escaping your past.

This goes equally, whether you’re a comicbook creator like Jack ‘King’ Kirby, or one of his creations, Scott Free.

Above all it’s a slick comedy, merrily juxtaposing the crazy and the quotidian, the dire and the daft.

Like Scott’s beautiful wife’s less than becoming bed-face, drawn to observational perfection by line and colour artist Mitch Gerads.



And the strange but not unexpected truth that even a stinking dungeon-kingdom of hellish fire-pits called Apokolips must have a restroom somewhere.

It’s… different.

First we’ll talk plot, then we’ll talk craft.



Celebrated escape artist Scott Free (Mister Miracle) has an enviable life in sunny Los Angeles, with an ever so understanding, preternaturally tall wife, an equally adoring public and – he will soon learn, at the least appropriate juncture – a beautiful baby boy on the way. Oh, there are such play times ahead! So why has Scott Free attempted to pull off the ultimate escape trick, from life? For there he lies sprawled on the bathroom floor, wrists slit, blood swimming round the toilet bowl, staining his colourful costume and mask.

Why does his wife Barda catch him, upon convalescing, talking to an old colleague about new manacles, reputedly impossible to escape from, and a kid who once drew the unknowable: the very face of God? Oberon passed away last month, from throat cancer brought on by his cherished cigars.

Has someone – or something – got to Scott?

“Everything’s wrong. Everything.
“I can’t… There’s something wrong with me.
“I see things… I do things… Things that aren’t…
“I don’t know how to escape this.”

And why is our vision constantly fritzing in and out, like a broadcast losing its tuning? (Bottom left.)



I’ll tell you why.

Scott Free was a God of the Fourth World, born of the Highfather, ruler of New Genesis. The Highfather was engaged in a relentless, ruthless bloody war with Darkseid, ruler of Apocolips, hell-bent on unleashing the Anti-Life Equation.  After untold eons, they eventually called a ceasefire. To cement this fragile truce they agreed to swap their own baby sons: Darkseid’s spawn Orion would live on New Genesis, while Scott Free was abandoned to Darkseid and tortured by Granny Goodness (mythological sarcasm) in the stygian X-Pit of Apokolips. It was there that he met his future wife, Big Barda, herself a resilient product of those pits. Unsurprisingly, Scott spent his entire youth determined to escape, and eventually he did so. He moved to planet Earth and became a celebrated escape artist with an enviable life in –

I’m sorry, but you’re breaking up again…



Scott Free AKA Mister Miracle never actually existed except in the fictional DC Comics universe. He was and remains a fictional character from the Fourth World created at DC by Jack Kirby (born Jacob Kurtzberg) after he left Marvel Comics. At Marvel Comics he co-created Captain America, then later the Fantastic Four, X-Men, the Hulk, the Silver Surfer and so many more characters with the infamously alliterative Stan Lee who stole as much of the credit for those fictitious children as possible while the company declined to pay Kirby royalties and managed to “lose” almost all of his original art.


“Comics will break your heart.”

Jack meant the US/UK comics industry. He’s not wrong, and all of this is relevant.



As this book opens, ‘The Secret Origin of Mister Miracle’ is being retold as if on a TV screen in a very specific typeface with a certain degree of moralistic simplicity, a huge heap of hyperbole and a thunderous foray of exclamation points!!!! The art by Mike Norton emulates that of Jack Kirby.

Abruptly we’re then thrown on that cold bathroom floor with Mitch Gerads’ comparatively photo-realistic art and Scott Free’s slit wrists.

“I can always escape” is both Scott’s boast and his fall-back plan.

But can he? Should he? Did he?

What is he really running from, and what’s coming next?

Well, I know it doesn’t sound like it at this point, but the answer is an enormous amount of laughter as every aforementioned element comes into play including Stan Lee returning to the fore as Scott and Barda’s baby son’s nanny. Their son is tellingly called Jacob. Scott Free has a penchant for wearing DC superhero comics t-shirts (the icon range), swapping them between chapters (this escalates), so he isn’t averse to buying his son cuddly superhero toys to play with. This leads to the one line that I never thought I’d read in a DC Comic:

“Batman kills babies.”

Former DC censor-in-chief and professional worrywart Paul Levitz would never have allowed a single sentence of this iconoclastic book to exist. He’d have put it all in the microwave, along with creator Kyle Baker.



Tom King wrote my favourite ever Batman story in BATMAN: RULES OF ENGAGEMENT in which Lois Lane, Selina Kyle, Clarke Kent and Bruce Wayne bond during a night off at a theme park. Tom King thinks outside the box and brings things back down to Earth.

Throughout, Scott and Barda – who’d prefer to do lunch, bask on beaches or survey the starry night sky from the hills above LA’s city lights – are called away to Awful Events, Terrible Treaties and Outrageous Ultimatums from far-off quarters of the Mind-Blowing Multiverse linked (via a teleportation-like conduit called a Boom Tube) to their condominium’s front door.

“Have you fed the cat?”

You’ll be treated to an exquisite short story about a painter and his apprentice which echoes beautifully with the comic’s concepts of illusion and verisimilitude, and if you thought hospital child birth was traumatising enough under ordinary circumstances, it’s infinitely worse when there are harridans outside the ward waiting patiently to disembowel your husband.



Artist Mitch Gerads plays it all to perfection, accentuating the contrast between luridly coloured off-world evisceration and a quiet, pale blue palette with sand, cream and flesh for what you and I are more used to, and his crisp, clean, nine-panel grid ensures that no one will feel alienated, however new they be to comics.

It’s also integral to the comedic timing, a final beat so often falling on the finale.



His forms are both sturdy and svelte, and his incorporation of Kirby’s original rendition of craggy-faced Granny Goodness (Denis Healey runaway eyebrows and all!) into his own Bill Sienkiewicz / Sean Murphy style is seamless.



Plus his light, deft, balletic choreography of the life-or-death fight, flight or infiltration scenes emphasises the ease of their execution while Scott and Barda concentrate instead on their far more pressing issues, like how to best rearrange their condo cupboards and living room in order to incorporate the arrival or their soon-to-be newborn child.



Almost lastly, this: I don’t know about you, but whenever I’m visiting my friends, getting to grips with the idiosyncrasies of their showers is of paramount importance and often completely baffling.



So it is that we return at last to escape and escapism, the struggle to survive, and the will to live through it: to move on, create and to thrive!

“And the son asked, “What is the Fourth World?”
“And the father said,
“The First World is the Old World, the world of my parents from which they fled.
“The Second World is the New World which they sought, which they found, where I came to be.
“The Third World is our world as it is now, in the making, the future being born.
“And the Fourth World, my child, that is my world. The world I see when I close my eyes…”

Young Jack Kirby, born of Austrian Jewish immigrants, looks at us directly, out of the page…

“And try to escape.”


Buy Mister Miracle s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Sharkey The Bounty Hunter #1 of 6 (£3-25, Image) by Mark Millar & Simone Bianchi.

“You’re looking at eighteen months’ intensive deep cover to get all your criminal friends in one place. I wasn’t proud of what I did in this holo-suit, but I’ll do what it takes if the price is right.”

Oh, the look on the lured victim’s fast-paling face!

And oh, the glee in the patient angler’s grin…

“Oh yeah.”

I chuckled like a sixteen-year-old schoolboy.

Mark Millar enjoys throwing it all about these days, hopping swiftly from one speculative sub-genre to another, as if the last one’s caught fire, in a concerted effort to cater for as many science-fiction tastes as possible. It’s quite a broad church. Admittedly it is a prerequisite that any of those tastes include an attraction to action, arched-eyebrow attitude and more often than not a certain degree of sexual mischief.



He’s not lingering long enough in any one territory for some serious dissection. Quiet and contemplative, he’s not. Not any longer, anyway. It’s been a while since JUPITER’S LEGACY VOL ONE, JUPITER’S CIRCLE VOL ONE and TWO then JUPITER’S LEGACY VOL TWO (to be read in that order, and highly recommended), and much longer still since THE ULTIMATES (ditto). But since most of Millar’s recent set-ups could be considered emergency situations leaving his protagonists neither time to consider nor room for manoeuvre, it works.

Like Millar’s own EMPRESS with art by Stuart Immonen, we’re once more flying across the cosmos, albeit in a space-faring ice-cream van, such is Sharkey’s woeful credit status. And with painterly art by Simone Bianchi, Warren Ellis’s artistic partner on the self-contained ASTONISHING X-MEN: GHOST BOX, this may well appeal also to those of a European Humanoids persuasion.

I also sensed trappings of old-school 2000 AD, the bawdy bits of Garth Ennis and Goran Parlov’s first Barracuda story in PUNISHER MAX VOL 5, the first two Keith Giffen, Alan Grant and Simon Bisley LOBO mini-series, and perhaps Warren Ellis and D’Israeli’s LAZARUS CHURCHYARD (there’s even a toilet in the first few pages, though thankfully it keeps its own counsel).

That doesn’t smell overly fresh, does it?

Even the woman determined to transform herself into a security vehicle smacked of something which Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen’s DESCENDER dealt with in far more depth.

Yet I was entertained, momentarily.



MAGIC ORDER is where brevity has worked best for Millar most recently – indeed it proved pivotal to the proceedings, rendering the last two of six chapters side-blindingly brilliant in their multiple reveals – and I’ll be back to beseech you to buy that book once it’s been collected, with a far more reasoned response.

For now: contrary to his outward disdain for others and against his better judgement, bounty hunter Sharkey saddles himself with a pre-teen side-kick after handing the boy’s bald uncle in for a lot less lolly than was originally offered because he’s so massively in dept that bondsmen have been instructed to deduct it from his earnings at source. Fortunately a much more lucrative contract is offered and that’s where we’re heading, only it’s been openly tendered so expect competition – from the bloke gloating in the pull quote, for one.

Thanks to Simone Bianchi – still employing the trademark white-lined cut-out effect surrounding some faces and forms – Sharkey with his nascent handlebar moustache comes off like Nick Cave circa ‘White Lunar’ with the other Warren Ellis. The big difference is that above his long-worn, slick black hair, Saint Nick’s not bald on top. Sharkey most emphatically is.

On confronting his shaven-haired quarry, this led Sharkey to a proud bald-bloke joke which our Jonathan enjoyed enormously. As did I, for I too am an angler, patiently waiting with a small smile on my face for J’s inevitable Day of Decision.




Buy Sharkey The Bounty Hunter #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Transmetropolitan Book 1 s/c (£16-99, Vertigo) by Warren Ellis & Darick Robertson, Rodney Ramos.

“Journalism is just a gun. It’s only got one bullet in it, but if you aim right, that’s all you need. Aim it right, and you can blow a kneecap off the world…”

DC has recently been repackaging its slimmer Vertigo volumes into heftier editions, and this combines the first two precisely – BACK ON THE STREET and LUST FOR LIFE – for little more money than those single editions.

Back On The Street

Campaigning journalist Spider Jerusalem is a very cranky man. Five years ago he sold his ass to a publisher for a two-book deal whose advance he squandered on escaping his fans by barricading himself up in a shack on a mountainside and surrounding it with mines, guns and ammunition.

Spider is not a people person.



So here is he is with not a word written, hairy and naked and covered in tattoos, the guns now bartered for drugs which have long since run out and the devil is wanting his due:

“That ignorant, thick-lipped, evil, whore-hopping editor phones me up and says, “Does the word contract mean anything to you, Jerusalem?” I was having a mildly paranoid day, mostly due to the fact that the mad priest lady from over the river had taken to nailing weasels to my front door again.”

And so it is that to avoid being sued Spider Jerusalem has to return to a noisy, stinking city he loathes but which feeds him exactly what he needs to write. There he hunts down old friend Mitchell Royce, city editor of The Word, for a regular, paying column in which to scream truth to apathy and all the blind eyes being turned. After that it’s one long refrain of “Where’s my fucking column?!”



Set in a future not so distant as to be unrecognisable from the present which it’s passing judgement upon, this was Warren’s first perfect vehicle in which to address his chief obsessions – technology, politics, drugs, sex and bowel movements – and do so in a foul-mouthed frenzy of highly cathartic rage. Apart from political and social apathy, his first targets included organised religion (Spider dressed up as Jesus at a temple of mad new religions, overthrowing the stalls of the money swindlers) and multi-channel TV saturation, all the hideous advertising that comes with it, and the state of what passes for journalism there:

“…You people don’t know what the truth is! It’s there, just under their bullshit, but you never look! That’s what I hate most about the fucking city — lies are news and truth is obsolete!”



It’s also round two between him and the US President about to seek re-election, in a hotel toilet with a bowel disruptor gun. That one’s going to run. But first it’s live feed from a rooftop overlooking the massacre by the state police of a group of Transcients (“Transcience is all about the right to change your species”) mislead by their dickhead and dick-led leader into attempting secession from The State.

It’s a riot throughout, with the second half lightening up both comedically and visually with fewer panels bleeding off the page and the return of some white behind the panel borders. Darick undergoes a massive leap from the very first page of the fifth issue, his faces and figures more fully formed, but he’s the perfect artist for this from the start, as are the two cover artists Geoff Darrow and Frank Quitely. It’s packed full of background details from a Direct Action Baptist roaming the streets with a water cannon (I laughed a lot at that), hoardings advertising newly invented foods or fetishes, and the insignia of the Transcients, a smiley button with three eyes and a devil’s tail smile.



Lust For Life

Although most readers become instantly addicted to the profane ragings of the easily antagonised political columnist Spider Jerusalem, there are some who come away bewildered by the bombast. Here, however, the first three issues are an emphatic change of style and pace as Jerusalem – against all expected odds – shows that he has a heart. Each self-contained chapter is bursting with speculative science about where humanity and the societies it inhabits might potentially go from here.



In the first Spider’s assistant finds herself nursing a broken heart as the boyfriend whom Spider never liked ditches her in order to die. At least, that’s how she sees it, but Jerusalem has prior experience of the transfiguration: a friend who’s already successfully “downloaded” himself into a billion tiny machines, self-sustaining and strung together by lightning, so leaving his mortality behind. In an attempt to give her closure he explains the process as they travel by a horse-drawn cab through the open parks of the future city, introduces his friend and then arranges for her to witness the event itself. Unfortunately the final moments are so traumatic that she ends up quitting to join a nunnery.



That’s followed by two of Spider’s columns. The second sees the journalist experiencing firsthand some of the reservations built to preserve ancient societies, whilst the first follows the story of one woman’s attempt to preserve herself by electing to be cryogenically frozen, then revived when technology had advanced far enough to create for her a new artificial body. And it has. But society hasn’t advanced far enough to care. She’s dutifully revived as per contract — then left to fend for herself in a traumatically alien world. It’s touchingly done, Jerusalem/Ellis juxtaposing each remarkable feat of science involved in recreating her brain for a new body not only with the less than clinical conditions it’s performed in, but also the less than impressed performances of those executing it in-between petty office politics, casual drinking and sex in the toilets. Oh yes, and when her husband died three years after Mary he was too far from America to be frozen himself, so Mary wakes up alone.

After that… it’s back to the bombast as Spider finds himself the target of a death threat conspiracy involving the theft of his ex-wife’s cryogenically frozen head, a longstanding French vendetta, a disgruntled target of Jerusalem’s journalism and an apoplectic British Bulldog whom Spider once relieved of his prodigious wanger.

Tip of the hat to artist Robertson, not just for making the burlesque great fun, but also for the most gorgeous landscape portrait of a contemporary San Francisco Bay swathed in fog under the crystalline light of an early morning sun.



Reminder: Spider Jerusalem is not a people-person:

“If you loved me, you’d all kill yourselves today.”


Buy Transmetropolitan Book 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Nightlights s/c (£8-99, Nobrow) by Lorena Alvarez.

Now out in softcover, just in time for its sequel, HICOTEA!

And that cover is such a pretty thing in orange, blues and purples, with tactile spot varnish picking out the title, some flowers and Sandy’s sketches. Oh how she loves to draw! But I promise you that this is nothing compared to the wonders within…

Sandy is lying flat on her back on the lounge carpet, as far from her bedroom as possible, positively gluing herself to the ground.

“I’m a heavy, heavy rock…”

Haha! So many kids do love to prolong the day, don’t they? They go to great guileful lengths, first to avoid climbing those stairs to Bedfordshire, then to keep Mummy or Daddy reading to them for as long as possible. For example, when all else fails and her bedside light looks like going out, our Jonathan’s young Nutjob has been known to clasp her hands studiously, look him in the eyes with a serious, concerned expression and say:

“So, Daddy, tell me about your day…”

I don’t quite know why Sandy’s so keen to delay, for her day is far from done.



Once the bedroom is dark, tiny pink baubles of light appear above her head, which – with a whoosh of wide-spread arms – she transforms into the most magical and diverse parade of magnificent space-swimming creatures! Some come from the ocean, like a gigantic red octopus with big bulbous yellow eyes; some seem to float in their own bubbles of water complete with seaweed. One’s like a giant white wolf with huge orange orbs, there’s an owl, a regal lute-strumming monkey and a cat at the back that could be its queen. She might be reading her own bedtime story.



There’s so much for wide eyes to explore and linger over – those two double-page spreads are actually one long scroll which I’ll show you at the bottom – and Alvarez does aqueous and gelatinous so very well, with pools of light reflected on the membranes. As your eyes drift slowly from left to right, you will see Sandy drifting too – off to a contented sleep.



In the morning it’s time for school. It’s run by nuns, and the Sister supervising the front gate to take attendance is ever so stern.

“Where’s the rest of that skirt, Miss Garcia? This is a sanctuary for learning, not a disco.
“Miss Lopez, are you trying to blind me with that pink hairband?
“You there! Pull those socks up!
“And I don’t want to see you wandering off at break again, Sandy.”

Break seems like fun, and they’ve grass to play on rather than a hard asphalt school yard. It’s just as well, because one of the young ladies is rugby-tackling another to the ground!



Sandy is diligently sketching some of the wonders from the night before when she’s interrupted by a moon-faced girl with lavender-tinted white hair who asks to look at her drawings. She studies them while Sandy waits, worried that she might disappoint and that this newcomer won’t like what she sees, but…

“Your drawings are really good!
“You’ll be famous one day!”

Her name is Morfie, she says, and it’s her first day. But suddenly a storm sets in and Sandy quickly gathers up her school books and hurries inside.

“Bye, Sandy.”

But how did she know Sandy’s name? And why – when Sandy looks out of the window during lessons – is Morfie sitting perched up a tree, with the rain pouring down all around her, her hair blowing like the loose leaves in the squall?



Rain is another element which Alvarez excels at. I can hear all the little droplets’ individual, pitter-patter impacts and splashes on the grass and the trees, and then on the fresh, green heathers and ferns as Sandy cycles back home.

Alvarez incorporates so many of these feathery fronds into the fantastical pages too. But soon the eyes from the nocturnal sequences start to appear in the woods during daylight. Fungi sprout from the tree trunks and the leaf sprays take on a purple, luminous glow.



Morfie’s expressions, already ambiguous, begin to look greedy, her flattering attentions more overtly manipulative, and her demands on Sandy’s creativity become… vampiric.



More than once Sandy uses her drawing skills to create escape routes, and her clever delaying tactics prove that she does at least occasionally pay attention in class.

You will be unsurprised to learn that this gorgeous graphic novel comes from Nobrow. They and their Flying Eye imprint are responsible for a significant sum of our most luxurious Young Readers picture books including Luke Pearson’s HILDA.



Alvarez has lavished NIGHTLIGHTS with so many double-page spreads festooned with such a variety of cute wide-eyed wonders that perhaps your young ones’ imaginative minds will make up adventures of their own. When Philippa Rice once filled Page 45’s window with a vast diorama of colourful paper figures, I saw a five-year-old boy singling some of them out, and I overhead him tell his grandfather the most elaborate stories about them, conjured up on the spot.

There’s certainly plenty to play with here.


Buy Nightlights s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Electric State h/c (£18-99, Simon & Schuster) by Simon Stalenhag…



Given that this isn’t comics, I will let the publisher have the first plug to power things up before I switch on my current punnery. Ah, too late…

“Stranger Things meets On the Road in this hypnotic, lavishly illustrated novel. Set in a post-apocalyptic 1997, The Electric State is the story of Michelle who, accompanied by her toy robot Skip, sets out across the western United States in a stolen car to find her missing brother. Told in achingly melancholy, spare prose and featuring almost a hundred gorgeous, full-colour illustrations, The Electric State is a novel like no other.”



That is a fairly accurate description, I have to say. The artwork is exquisite. Simon Stalenhag has clearly started off with photographs, primarily of urban settings and rural landscapes then managed to manipulate them so they don’t look like manipulated pics at all, but more like painted artwork.



Before adding in the madness of huge robots and various other future tech…



The result is a gloriously bleak dystopian road trip with the prose elements recounted in the first person by Michelle.



You will be hanging on before turning over each page to fully take in the art, but also hanging in there to see if there is to be a happy ending.



At 144 pages, it’s far more substantial than you might expect.


Buy The Electric State h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Hiroshima – The Autobiography Of Barefoot Gen (£18-99, Rowman & Littlefield) by Nakazawa Keiji, Richard H. Minear.

Prose autobiography from the creator of BAREFOOT GEN, invaluable for students in prising apart the fiction from the heavily autobiographical elements in the classic, harrowing manga series.

“This compelling autobiography tells the life story of famed manga artist Nakazawa Keiji. Born in Hiroshima in 1939, Nakazawa was six years old when on August 6, 1945, the United States dropped the atomic bomb. His gritty and stunning account of the horrific aftermath is powerfully told through the eyes of a child who lost most of his family and neighbours.

The narrative continues through the brutally difficult years immediately after the war, his art apprenticeship in Tokyo, his pioneering “atomic-bomb” manga, and the creation of Barefoot Gen, the classic graphic novel based on his own experiences before, during, and after the bomb. Despite the grimness of his early life, Nakazawa never succumbs to pessimism or defeatism. His trademark optimism and activism shine through in this inspirational work.”


Buy Hiroshima – The Autobiography Of Barefoot Gen 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’

BPRD Vampire s/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, Fabio Moon, Gabriel Ba

Glint vol 1: The Cloud Raiders (£11-99, Caracal) by Samuel Sattin & Ian McGinty

Cold Spots s/c (£14-99, Image) by Cullen Bunn & Mark Torres

Guantanamo Kid – The True Story Of Mohammed El-Gharani (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by Jerome Tubiana & Alexandre Franc

Hobo Mom h/c (£12-99, Fantagraphics) by Charles Forsman & Max de Radigues

I Am A Hero Omnibus vol 9 (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Kengo Hanazawa

Jonesy – Nine Lives On The Nostromo h/c (£9-99, Titan Books) by Rory Lucey

Little Bear’s Spring (£6-99, Macmillan) by Elli Woolard & Briony May Smith

Nightlights s/c (£8-99, Nobrow) by Lorena Alvarez

Space Boy vol 3 s/c (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Stephen McCranie

The Weatherman vol 1 s/c (£15-99, Image) by Jody LeHeup & Nathan Fox

Green Lantern By Geoff Johns Book 1 s/c (£22-99, DC) by Geoff Johns, Dave Gibbons & Ethan Van Sciver, Patrick Gleason, Carlos Pacheo, Darwyn Cooke

Shazam s/c (Movie Cover Edition) (£11-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Gary Frank

Superman: The Unity Saga vol 1: Phantom Earth h/c (£22-99, DC) by Brian Michael Bendis & Ivan Reis, various

Amazing Spider-Man vol 2: Friends And Foes s/c (UK Edition) (£11-99, Marvel) by Nick Spencer & Humberto Ramos, Michele Bandini

Spider-Geddon: Covert Ops s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by  Priest, Jody Houser & Paulo Siqueira,  Andres Genolet, others

Aposimz vol 2 (£10-99, Vertical) by Tsutomu Nihei

Barefoot Gen vol 7 (£14-99, Last Gasp) by Keiji Nakazawa

Black Torch vol 3 (£6-99, Viz) by Tsuyoshi Takaki

Dead Dead Demon’s Dededede Destruction vol 4 (£9-99, Viz) by Inio Asano

My Hero Academia vol 17 (£6-99, Viz) by Kohei Horikoshi

One Piece vol 89 (£6-99, Viz) by Eiichiro Oda

That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime vol 2 (£10-99, Kodansha) by Fuse, Taiki Kawakami

Tokyo Ghoul re: vol 9  (£8-99, Viz) by Sui Ishida

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews February 2019 week three

Wednesday, February 20th, 2019

“It serves to remind us that love, free thought, individuality, novelty and a complete range of emotional experiences are all essential for lives fully lived.”

 – Jonathan and Stephen on The Giver by Lois Lowry, adapted by P. Craig Russell

The Giver h/c (£20-99, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) by Lois Lowry & P. Craig Russell with Galen Showman, Scott Hampton…

“I certainly liked the memory, though. I can see why it’s your favourite. I couldn’t quite get the word for the feeling that was so strong in the room.”


As to why absolutely no one in the Community has any idea what the emotion love is except The Giver, and now Jonas, the new twelve-year-old Receiver, well, that’s where our sad, dystopian tale of woe, but also ultimately hope, begins.

At first black and white glance, especially through the eyes of the young children being inculcated into the system of beliefs and morals that prevail, you might conclude that this is a utopian paradise. In fact, everyone living there (except The Giver who must keep his own counsel), is wholly convinced that it is.

From the moment they were born – then taken away from their anonymous birth mothers and placed by committee with carefully selected parents, who themselves have had their partners and jobs specifically chosen for them to match their mindsets and abilities – free will and choice is effectively entirely absent from their lives.



Obedience is everything, and nothing so troubling as novelty or diversity is allowed to intrude on their bliss. Through a combination of conditioning and emotion-suppressing drugs, the population of the Community has, so it seems, quite literally nothing to worry about.

Even after a full life spent contributing to the Community, people go to live in the House Of The Old, cared for tenderly and attentively by the young people, until their joyful Release is granted.

This blessed Release is practised by the Community as a way to bring a long and valuable life to a peaceful and celebrated conclusion, their life achievements being read out in a ceremony before they wave a cheery goodbye then walk through a door.

People are also Released under other instances. For example, if babies don’t settle sufficiently at night to be placed with a family after being professionally nurtured, then they too are Released, so as not to bring distress into any household.  If someone gives birth to identical twins then the child with the lowest birth weight is also Released, for the Committee fears the heinous confusion that two identical-looking beings would cause in their meticulously ordered idyll. And above all, to maintain the tranquillity, if someone fails to adhere to Community standards of behaviour or questions authority on more than two occasions, then they are most definitely Released…


… into another community. Apparently.

People just don’t seem willing, or able, to think too deeply about what is actually going on. Except Jonas… which is how he ends up being selected for the once in a generation job of Receiver. He’s been selected by committee for the role because he is brave and because he is different.

But maybe picking someone capable of independent thought to be entrusted with the entire memories of all mankind’s history: the good, the bad and the very, very ugly, isn’t the Committee’s best idea…?

For that is the role of the Receiver: to be the repository of everything that the rest of the Community, including the Committee, is shielded from, handed down from the previous generation’s Receiver who as he becomes the Giver is finally freed from his painful burden. But it seems quite clear even to young Jonas that, as the old Biblical adage goes, surely tis better to give than to receive…?

I’ve really only touched upon the barest premise of this tremendously affecting work. I can see why the prose original has sold millions of copies since its release in 1993 and won myriad awards including the prestigious Newbury Medal for “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children” for its author Lois Lowry in 1994. It’s definitely an all-ages work this, though. I personally found it both deeply disturbing and immensely uplifting as everything Jonas has ever known is fundamentally challenged and his inherited beliefs shaken to their very foundations.

P. Craig Russell has taken on the immense challenge of adapting and illustrating this modern classic, and he has done so with all of the careful deliberation and lateral thinking which he brought to bear on THE RING OF THE NIBELUNG, as he makes abundantly clear when interviewed in the back of the book.

Initially, as I alluded to above, the story is only told in black and white, with some additional blue pencil for texture and emphasis. This is because the Community’s emotional natures are so suppressed and lives been so deliberately homogenised that they can now only see in black and white. Jonas, however, begins to have small spontaneous flashes of colour vision appear to him, such as an occasional object like an apple, or a friend’s hair. This is perceived as him having the ability to ‘see beyond’ and is further taken by the Committee as a sign of the veracity of their wise choice in making Jonas the new Receiver.



As more and more of the memories of humanity, painful and pleasurable alike, are passed to him by the Giver, and he ceases to take his medication prescribed to quell early romantic and sexual stirrings, Jonas’ perceptions and emotions begin to rapidly open up and he starts to experience reality increasingly more vividly. There’ll be substantially more colour by the time the book ends, but I don’t really want to spoil anything as to explaining precisely why. Suffice to say as the book reaches its dramatic climax there’s a delightful ambiguity to the ending which left me pondering deeply.

I can certainly see this is a book which would provoke a considerable amount of debate and discussion amongst young readers, particularly if it were put on a school syllabus, not least on the subject of empathy. Which is a subject more than a few adults could do with a refresher on, frankly.

P. Craig Russell’s art, exceptional as always, should help to ensure this reaches a whole new audience and will hopefully serve to remind us that love, free thought, individuality, novelty and a complete range of emotional experiences are all essential for lives fully lived.

JR with SLH

Buy The Giver h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Pip And The Bamboo Path h/c (£11-99, Flying Eye Books) by Jesse Hodgson ~

High in the Himalayan mountains you’ll find the mischievous red panda cub, Pip, and her mother, playing in the trees and nibbling delicately on the bamboo shoots. They have a glorious home, a place abundant with life and bursting with every colour imaginable, a true image of paradise! But danger is just around the corner for our blissful pair, as their utopia is on the brink of disastrous change…

Pages drenched in crayon create a tactile and tangible world. You feel as though you could almost stroke the luscious fur coats of Pip and her mother, run your fingers through the velvet grass, or feel the hard rocks, cold to the touch in the high altitude snows. And this truly is a story that tells itself through colour, as subtle as it may be to young eyes.



We begin in a verdant forest, filled with greenery and flowers while stoic mountains in rich teals watch over the pair, the sun casting its glorious, embracing orange glow as it sets for the evening.



But that warm glow quickly gets turned into fire-red danger, when a turn of the page reveals that the habitat that Pip and her mother love is being ravaged by monstrous claws as they dredge up the earth and tear the trees to the ground. In black silhouette, Pip and her mum scurry away to safety as quickly as they can. We’re then thrust into a long dark night of cobalt blues as our two refugees travel through scary places unknown in search for the mystical bamboo path, and a new place to call home.


Hodgson has crafted a beautiful book encouraging bravery, understanding and the strength and importance of togetherness. Importantly, it’s a whimsical telling of a very real plight of the critically endangered red panda. Hopefully, it will encourage young nature lovers to understand the impact of humans on the environments, and the plight that animals have to go through in order to adapt and survive in places they’re never expected to.

A charming story, elegantly told with an abundance of cute. I couldn’t get enough of Pip’s little expressions, especially in moments of play with pink-padded paws splayed and tail thrashing in the air. I implore you to name a creature cuter than a baby red panda!


Buy Pip And The Bamboo Path h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Back On Our System

Eightball: Pussey! (£11-99, Fantagraphics) by Daniel Clowes.

A reprint of material from the early 1990s which Clowes, in his introduction, puts down to frustration and jealousy he felt while trying to carve a viable career of his own as a comicbook creator in a country where the medium and industry were dominated to their detriment by superheroes.

I don’t think he should be so hard on himself: this is a surprisingly accurate skewering of the industry not only as it was then, but had been for years, with some side-swipes at the easily bought – sorry, SPONSORED – Comics Buyers Guide; Stan Lee (the way in which he ran Marvel Comics back in the 1960s and the way in which those veterans continued to be treated at conventions until recently); the original Image Comics crew… and even Fantagraphics’ co-publisher Gary Groth makes a brief but verbose appearance as Mr. Anger.

Mr. Anger!



But it’s more complex than that. Just like Feb 2019’s CRIMINAL #2 (which too takes place in the comics world) with few exceptions you can’t really say, “This is him, this is her” etc. They’re more embodiments of common attitudes and behaviour in the industry and without: the lessons here about pride, fall, fame being both fickle and fleeting, treating people on the way up then being treated on the way down… They’re timeless. I may be missing something, but I certainly can’t pin buck-toothed Dan Pussey down as any artist in particular. And I wonder if Chris Ware was thinking of the narrative structure here when he began to offer up pieces of ‘Rusty Brown’, because it does dot backwards and forwards in time, gradually revealing what made Dan Pussey into the repressed man-child and hackneyed superhero artist who eventually becomes comicbook king… for a year.

If you’ve ever heard of superheroes being referred to as male power fantasies and didn’t quite know what was meant by that, this is the definitive explanation with ‘The Origin Of Dan Pussey’ providing an uncomfortable portrait of a weak and unsociable child with daydreams of revenge as one of the superheroes he draws badly: “I’ll crush you all like ants!”



Like Evan Dorkin in THE ELTINGVILLE CLUB, another classic stab at the less salubrious aspects of a superhero-dominated US/UK industry – Clowes is more even-handed than you might expect, because the pretensions of the Fine Art Gallery crowd come under fire as well, and my favourite scenes were those set in the world of the wilful obscurists, a collective published by Emperor’s New Clothes Magazine (“Look how much it costs — they must pay higher page rates!”) whose editor is as rapacious and slimy as the superhero hustler who cons his crew to work for nothing. In fact the entire book is about money and using people.

“Welcome, my boy, to the editorial offices of Emperor’s New Clothes Magazine: The moderne, avant-garde, neoexpressodeconstructivist Compendium of Comics (or, as I like to call them, Kommix). I am Gummo Bubbleman: Editor, Emperor, Enfant Terrible. Did you bring any samples of your work, or are you just here to waste my time!?”
“No… I – I figured you’d have seen it… I’m Dan Pussey!” 
“Pussey? …Pussey? …No, can’t say that I have. Tell me, Pussey… why do you want to work for me?”
“Eh… well… I … I… eh…”
“So! You’re a snivelling little cowardExcellent! That’s a quality I admire in an artist!”



The next day, Dan brings in some samples of his superhero work…

“Pussey, this is really first rate work! You’ve captured the primitive essence, the crude vitality of derivative, mindless slop! It’s really quite an achievement! You’ve got keen sensibilities to be able to recognise and deconstruct the various trite and mundane clichés inherent in the common comicbook… and to lay them bare in such an artless and… and venomous way!”

Oooh, that sounds insightful and intense, while utilising unique aspects of this medium to —

“I-It was s’posed to be kinda like Batman crossed with Star Trek…”

Oh dear.

This, of course, was long before Clowes turned his hands to mainstream, mass-appeal contemporary fiction like GHOST WORLD whose quieter, more natural and nuanced visual sensibilities matched the friendship study portrayed. Here instead we are firmly in the realm of highly accomplished and ugly caricature with aforementioned buck teeth, rictus grins of self-satisfaction and deceit, the odd penis-shaped nose, greasy hair falling across undoubtedly acne-pocked foreheads, fashion senses in middle age indicating that those who sport them are stuck in era even earlier, and an astonishing array of spectacles, not a single pair of which suits the one wearing it.



I’ve just typed “Not a single pair of which suits the one wearing it” and realised for the first time ever that we refer to a singular set of glasses as a pair, as in plural, and it has confused the linguistic / syntactical hell out of me. I guess it’s because there are two lenses…?


Buy Eightball: Pussey! and read the Page 45 review here

The Great Northern Brotherhood Of Canadian Cartoonists (£16-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Seth…

“I know that time is ticking toward twelve. But perhaps our day will dawn again. Maybe this graphic novel thing has some legs.”

There are some works which demonstrate their grand majesty, their epic qualities, immediately on their first page; you just know you’ve struck gold as soon as you begin reading. And then there are those works which go quietly about their business, building their story, drawing you in little by little, encompassing your imagination further and further, until almost without realising it, you’re completely immersed in a marvellous and splendid world, on a journey that you never want to come to an end, and when you finish the final page and close the book, you’re already a little wistful for what you’ve just left behind.

This latest work from Seth is a classic example of the latter, though it actually almost never saw the light of day at all, as in its original incarnation in his sketchbooks, it started off as more of an essay on early Canadian cartoonists, and frustratingly for the author, wasn’t really progressing in the way he’d hoped. So instead he concentrated on the hilarious story of the world’s greatest comic collector, WIMBLEDON GREEN, and was apparently only convinced to return to this work after friends who’d seen the roughs convinced him there was a classic of a story waiting to told, and so he set to work. The first thing he did was completely revise his vision, and in fact ended up redrawing most of it, incorporating many fictional elements, to produce this finished work. So what exactly is the Great Northern Brotherhood of Canadian Cartoonists?

Ostensibly it’s a story told on two levels, an actual tour of the headquarters of the said  club of luminaries by Seth himself, wandering round the various lounges, halls, corridors and studios, (several of which provide an art deco statement la Société des Artistes Décorateurs would have been proud of) whilst he narrates the great history of the club and regales us with examples of many of its famous members’ most outstanding and noted works, thus providing an elaborate illustrated history of the 20th Century’s most celebrated Canadian cartoonists.



Except, of course, most of these people never existed and these stories were never told! For sure there are some nods to real-life greats like Doug Wright worked in there, clearly someone Seth has a lot of affection for, but on the whole it’s fictional stories about Eskimo astronauts, generational period dramas and flying ghostly canoes that capture the imagination. There are many, many tantalising tidbits of such stories shown to us, which I’d dearly love Seth to go back and expand on at some point, as they contain such wonderful ideas it seems a shame not to explore them further.



Even though Seth shows us a myriad of these creators throughout this book, the art style remains his own throughout, with only the most minor stylistic modifications employed to illustrate the many creators’ works. It’s a conceit that works extremely well actually, because otherwise it undoubtedly would lose the coherency that pins this work together, the sense of seamless progression through the ages as we wander deeper and deeper into the club itself, finally culminating in an appropriately wistful little rumination from Seth himself, quoted above, as he enjoys a quiet cigarette on the roof overlooking the city skyline. And if people can keep producing graphic novels as outstanding as this work, I don’t think we or Seth need worry about our beloved medium for a long, long time to come.


Buy The Great Northern Brotherhood Of Canadian Cartoonists 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’



Bloom (£13-99, FirstSecond) by Kevin Panetta & Savanna Ganucheau

Hicotea: Nightlights Book 2 h/c (£14-99, Nobrow) by Lorena Alvarez

Days Of Hate vol 2 s/c (£15-99, Image) by Ales Kot & Danijel Zezelj

Lucy & Andy Neanderthal h/c (£10-99, Crown) by Jeffrey Brown

The Electric State h/c (£18-99, Simon & Schuster) by Simon Stalenhag

The Handmaid’s Tale – The Graphic Novel h/c (£20-00, Jonathan Cape) by Margaret Atwood & Renee Nault

Transmetropolitan Book 1 s/c (£16-99, Vertigo) by Warren Ellis & Darick Robertson, Rodney Ramos

The New Teen Titans vol 1 s/c (£16-99, DC Comics) by Marv Wolfman & George Perez

Amazing Spider-Man vol 2: Friends And Foes s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Nick Spencer & Humberto Ramos, others

Captain America vol 1: Winter In America s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Ta-Nehisi Coates & Leinil Francis Yu

Deadpool: Secret Agent Deadpool s/c (£13-99, Marvel) by Christopher Hastings & Salva Espin

Ghost Rider: The War For Heaven Book 1 s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron, others & various

Old Man Hawkeye vol 2: The Whole World Blind s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Ethan Sacks & Marco Checchetto

Punisher vol 1: World War Frank s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Matthew Rosenberg & Szymon Kudranski

Runaways vol 1: Find Your Way Home s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Rainbow Rowell & Kris Anka

Runaways vol 2: Best Friends Forever s/c (£16-99, Marvel) by Rainbow Rowell & Kris Anka

Inside Mari vol 2 (£11-99, Den Pa) by Shuzo Oshimi

That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime vol 3 (£11-99, Kodansha) by Fuse & Taiki Kawakami

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews February 2019 week two

Wednesday, February 13th, 2019

“Great Monarch butterflies migrate right across and up through the page towards us, the depth of perspective increased by the orange light of sunset which falls only on those closest to us.”

 – Stephen on Darwin – An Exceptional Voyage by Fabien Grolleau & Jérémie Royer.

Darwin – An Exceptional Voyage (£16-99, Nobrow) by Fabien Grolleau & Jérémie Royer.

“So God created mankind in his own image…”

Actually, He did nothing of the kind: we created God in ours.

Or at least, the patriarchy did, hence the big beard and not infrequent genocidal strops.

There are several points to this which are all too pertinent to Charles Darwin, his discoveries, his revolutionary, evolutionary extrapolations (the origin of our species etc), and to this gorgeous graphic novel from the creators of AUDUBON which follows the tracks of his treks around the world from 1831 to 1836, focussing on South America and its surrounding seas.

It was, if you like, the original five-year mission to seek out new life and new civilisations (before we set about extinguishing them) whilst digging through ancient geological strata, thence discovering some very old life (which we also extinguished on arrival, albeit 16,000 years earlier when Homo Sapiens first settled in America) while challenging some entrenched Christian presuppositions about time.



The sermon on Genesis is delivered early on in the graphic novel – almost as soon as The Beagle has set sail – to impress upon us the almost universal doctrine still prevailing 3 centuries into the Scientific Revolution that the world was created in 7 days, just a comparative couple of fortnights ago. What Darwin and others like Lyell (geologist), Wallace (naturalist) and Hershel (astronomer) were on the cusp of pronouncing based on their empirical evidence was not about to go down well within inward-looking ecclesiastical cloisters and the wider society which they continued to dominate with their blissfully ignorant dogma.

It’s not the sermon which drives Darwin to his bunk below deck, shuddering “Agh… Hell on earth!”, but his first experience of seasickness which will rarely pass. Still, the juxtaposition does serve to emphasise that the 22-year-old graduate of Cambridge who’d studied to become an Anglican Parson is going to start preaching something else altogether and become blasted with charges of blasphemy. The sense of looming conflict is emphasised visually, first by an illustration of the literary Eden harbouring an array of animals which cleverly conflates continents (African zebras, Indian peacocks), then more forcefully by a striking full page in which Darwin lies, sweatily gritting his teeth with nausea, as a serpent-coiled Eve holds out a rosy-red apple from the Tree of Knowledge while commanding “Respect the word of God, Darwin”.

If you’ve an appetite for irony, there’s about three courses served up there on a single platter.


This book is an English translation, honest! – ed.



Aaaaaanyway, fast-forward to Argentina, September 1832, and Charles Darwin – still in his early 20s, grey beard to follow without even a hint of post-modernist irony – has unearthed some spectacular fossils: gigantic skulls of big beasts that no one has seen since (*checks Christian calendar*) last Tuesday.

Subsequently we are treated to a delicious double-page spread of Darwin meandering with a Gaucho guide through an unspoiled verdant grass and arboreal landscape, conjuring in their minds all manner of South American Megafauna, like giant ground sloths and glyptodonts.



“All these lives lost in the oblivion of a time much longer than we imagined.”
“You mean longer than The Bible tells us…? You do realise what you’re saying could be deemed blasphemy, Darwin? Yes, you do.”

It’s sure starting to dawn on our Darwin. He’ll be discussing that very subject with Hershel later.

“Those animals were gigantic. How could they have just disappeared one day?”
“Hunger? Thirst? Natural disasters?”

Brilliantly, their final supposition hovers over the spread’s single inserted panel of soldiers standing over the bodies of some poor indigenous individuals they’ve just shot dead. That final supposition:




There’s a laudable balance throughout of the euphoria Darwin experiences on discovering, collecting and, errr, dissecting so many new animals and plants and seashells before shipping them home, and his dismay – at one meal boiling over into a rage which kept him in conflict with his Captain far longer than the script suggests here (it should be noted that he was the Captain’s guest, not his employer) – at the way in which his compatriots mistreated the locals like slaves while in service or, out and about, as savage intruders upon the so-called civilisation which they were exporting. A little after-dinner irony for you, there.

Also admirable is the portrayal of Darwin’s inconsistency, for although he was a humanist who believed all the other humans he encountered as essential equal, he was also repelled at times by their dirtiness and diseases and, yes, “savagery”. This ambivalence (but also evidence of equality) is brought into especially sharp focus by a substantial, unexpected narrative thread about which I’d previously known nothing: the three individuals which Captain Fitzroy had abducted in chains on a prior visit to Tierra Del Fuego at the southern tip of South America.

“He secretly planned to save them from their savagery and convert them to the true faith… He turned those savages into real English gentlefolk, good Protestants. Fuega is now an educated young woman and an incredibly gifted linguist.” She’ll also prove a very quick learner invaluable to some of Darwin’s studies. “Good old Jemmy is a plump little gent: perfumed, coiffed and always impeccably turned out. He never misses one of Reverend Matthews’ services. Only York Minster still has his dark Indian stare. Might he have been too old at the time of his capture?”

All three are onboard as the Beagle sets sail, the plan being to return them to Tierra Del Fuego with Reverend Matthews and use them in a missionary capacity. Wait until you see how that turns out.



It’s at this point that I’d refer you to the back of the book, as I did with AUDUBON, in which it’s indicated where the graphic novel departs from known historical fact: no one, for example, has a clue about the final fate of these three, but I enjoyed the conjecture, it seemed entirely right not to dismiss their story without one, and it’s used to provide much food for imperialist thought.

I relished the entire endeavour from start to finish, apart from – I own – the some of the stilted, cliché ridden posh-speak and gruff-speak (“For goodness’ sake! This filthy brute broke the poor boy’s nose!” “You’re in for it!”), but that’s by the by. What a work like this must do above all if it’s to be a roaring success is to evoke the intoxicated awe that must have been felt by Darwin at the beauty, majesty and sheer variety of everything his eyes encountered for the very first time, and then replicate that beauty and epic majesty. Well, as with AUDUBON, A+++ on all fronts.



Great Monarch butterflies migrate right across and up through the page towards us, the depth of perspective increased by the orange light of sunset which falls only on those closest to us.

You’ll be treated to truly terrifying stormy seas – “KRAAK”ed overhead with black thunder and spiked, white lightning against Vandyke-brown skies – the body of the tempestuous ocean rendered in the richest and deepest slate-grey while multiple cusps, like iced mountain peaks, are granted their power with the striking, counter-intuitive application of a dry-brush effect!



The mountains and glaciers themselves will not disappoint, either, towering over the HMS Beagle, way up into the sky with all the mythical power of Mount Olympus. Through crisp contours and sharply contrasting colours, there’s the most remarkable sense of layered distance achieved between the nearest rocky crags, the glaciers behind them, then the final summits beyond, like insanely sized stage slats. The Beagle, on the other hand, is nestled firmly in the same sea that the first crags rear from, entirely at one with its environment.

And when Darwin sleeps out in the open air for the first time in Argentina, lying back on looking up at the infinite sky, the constellation of stars cannot help but stir your imagination as it did the explorer’s, the naturalist’s, the great pioneer of natural selection and human evolution.




Buy Darwin – An Exceptional Voyage and read the Page 45 review here

Lone Sloane: Salammbo h/c (£35-99, Titan) by Philippe Druillet, Gustave Flaubert…

“The wild beast hurls himself forth, and is swallowed by this new world, new to him and yet so oddly familiar. A feeling of deja vu. Time’s serpent is forever unspooling its coils…”

Yep, that’s pretty much how I feel every single week when I start reviewing a new batch of comics…

But enough of me… here is the publisher to try and make some sense of this artistic slice of Euro-madness.

“A heady perfume of blood and rage across the stars featuring Philippe Druillet’s legendary Lone Sloane. In the third century BC, mercenaries employed by Carthage during the first Punic War rose against their employers, who repeatedly postponed their pay. Two barbarian clan chiefs, Matho and Narr’Havas, fell in love with the beautiful and ethereal Salammbo, daughter of Hamilcar of Carthage. A bloody conflict arose.



Based on the 19th century novel by Flaubert, Salammbo was reappropriated and recontextualised by Druillet in this masterwork. Transposing the ancient Punic Wars into his space fantasy universe, and splicing the identity of the novel’s Mathô with his favorite character, Lone Sloane, Druillet works his intoxicatingly psychedelic magic on a literary classic, reinvigorating it from the inside out with his own transcendent storytelling.”



It’s quite something, that’s for sure. The word psychedelic is frequently over-used, devaluing its proverbial psychoactive coinage, but it certainly applies here, let me tell you. Be in no doubt of that whatsoever.

In fact, I’m rendered slightly speechless by the sheer kaleidoscopic insanity of what I’ve just… absorbed.



If in artistic terms you like Bryan Talbot’s (frustratingly still out of print) NEMESIS THE WARLOCK, Brandon Graham and chums’ PROPHET, Kevin O’Neill’s LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN, Mike JUDGE DREDD McMahon, then I think this is going to hit all those notes for you in a cacophonous, riotous rhapsody… with additional ultra-vibrancy included of the sort that only an entire extra-large set of felt-tips can produce. It’s bright… like Brendan McCarthy bright.



Storytelling-wise it is also as out there as GARDENS OF GLASS by Lando, PICNOLEPTIC INERTIA by Tsemberlidis, and Moebius’ more philosophical stuff such as THE WORLD OF EDENA. Yet… this also has its own strangely urgent, precise tension that is almost certainly due to the accompanying staccato narration that frequently appears in intense, rather substantial chunks.

Consequently I felt like I could either just look at the pretty mind-bending pictures or simply read the prose story. The two definitely feel like a parallel attack. They work together certainly; it just felt like a perversely, deliberately incongruent approach. Like, “I’ve just drawn this brilliant artwork, so, I suppose I better come up with some suitably mesmeric words to go with them.” As I say, it works, it absolutely works, it is just not what one is typically exposed to. Which for this material is entirely apt.


Buy Lone Sloane: Salammbo h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Wrath Of Fantomas h/c (£26-99, Titan) by Oliver Bouquet & Julie Rocheleau…

“The irony is that Fantomas is indeed readying his revenge. That’s why the city is so quiet tonight.
“Paris is holding its breath, Fandor… Paris is holding its breath.”

Maybe Paris just has hiccups?

Here is the excited exhalation from this particular breathless behemoth of periodicals…

“Freely adapted from the work of Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre, with a plot worthy of the best black novels, Rocheleau plunges the reader into the Paris of the 1910s and provokes terror and fascination by resuscitating Fantomas, the evil character with a hundred faces … Fantomas is the first superhero in history. All masked men and women who grace the pages of American comics and movie screens are his illegitimate children.”

I think they mean supervillain, surely, but I get the rapier-sharp point. It’s a bold statement, though, that those beloved American icons Batman and Spider-Man are the bastard offspring of a psychopathic French dandy…?

So extrapolating wildly… basically, what they’re saying is it is the French who are responsible for a genre-drowning sub-niche that threatens to subsume the quality artistic output so beloved at Page 45 which is striving valiantly just for its fair share of the wider market. Why would you want to claim that?

Zut alors! It’s like saying you voted for Brexit…

I’m pulling the proverbial frog’s leg, by the way, not least because to my mind this is pure crackpot crime that needs no tightening up by passing references to the newly found and hopefully soon forgotten Gallic genealogy of capes… There’s just a pure 24-karat pulpy period preposterousness to the story which sees Fantomas trying to steal all the gold in Paris, including the gilding on the roof of Les Invalides and stripping the statues on the Alexandre III bridge.



Not to mention those Napoleon coins in the Bank Of France and The Mint which are propping up the entire French economy and thus the country… That’s a lot of bling. It wouldn’t be good for those in power if it were to disappear overnight, now, would it?



The surprisingly competent if understandably frustrated police are well aware of Fantomas’ scheme but the master of disguise seems mysteriously able to stay one step ahead of the long, rather well-tailored arm of the law… I wonder how that might be…? Okay, so maybe they’re not that competent.



If you like your crime with a dash of daft and a grind of gruesome, this will be well seasoned to your tastes. Writer Oliver Bouquet was only familiar to me for stepping in on the scripting for the concluding third part of SNOWPIERCER with artist Jean-Marc Rochette, which he finished off very well, I must say.

Art-wise, it’s not your typical ligne claire Euro-fare, not at all. Julie Rocheleau, who excelled on ABOUT BETTY’S BOOB, penned by Vero Cazot, returns with her enticing blend of subtle, soft yet striking pencils and swathes of strong colours. Here the combination of glossy paper and bolder colours only serves to add to the drama and the tension.



A passing point of reference that sprang to mind, which I’ll throw into your path to catch you unawares like a well-placed caltrop, would be Kyle Baker in full-on colourful YOU ARE HERE mode, for the occasionally slightly exaggerated facial features.



Once again, I can only applaud Titan for expanding their horizons to take us on a trip to the continent as they have before under their Statix Press imprint with the likes of THE BEAUTIFUL DEATH and KONUNGAR, plus of course also the SNOWPIERCER trilogy and UNIVERSAL WAR ONE. At least we won’t need a visa to read bandes dessinées after Brexit. If it actually happens… maybe Fantomas can come back to steal all Jacob Rees-Mogg’s gold… I’d pay good money to see that.


Buy The Wrath Of Fantomas h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Reel Love – The Complete Collection h/c (£14-99, Unbound) by Owen Michael Johnson…

“This is your first memory of dreams in the dark.
“This is your first memory of me.
“Your father brought you to me.
“A little gift.
“Year later, when you learned of my origin, you would recall your own.
“I was but a child myself in 1896, as the Brother Lumiere released a vision at the Salon Indien Du Cafe Grande.
“Myth and memory fused to provide a greater story than truth.
“It was too much.
“Beginnings are always difficult.
“You emerged from me, kicking and screaming into a world of light.
“You did not yet know how to love me.
“But you would…”

I originally read the opening chapter of this work in self-published form several years ago and really loved (no pun intended) it, so I’m delighted to see the completed tale finally in the can and gracing the screens – I mean the shelves – in a comic shop near you in plush hardback form.



It’s the story of one man’s life-long, obsessive love of cinema, told in three acts of course, entitled entirely appropriately: ‘Projections’, ‘Concessions’ and ‘Admissions’.



Starting with the young boy somewhat overwhelmed by his first visit to a cinema (as you may have gathered from the pull quote above)…



…we see him grow into an aspiring film student with high hopes of one day making it to the bright lights of Hollywood, through to… well, we don’t want to give any spoilers out now do we…?

Our unnamed protagonist finds others who share his interest along the way, albeit perhaps to not quite the same degree. So consequently his all-consuming compulsion towards the cinematic is as likely to cost him relationships as it is to make them. Still, presumably that drive is going to get him to the big time, his films up onto the silver screen in front of the adoring eyes of millions…? For we all know ‘the business’ isn’t a fickle one, right?

Very well-written, I found all the characters entirely credible and the story extremely compelling. Artistically, here’s another pull quote to set the scene before I commence my comics buffery in that particular direction.

“But that black and white shit? Who likes stuff in black and white?”
“I do. They’re atmospheric… elegant.”
“He can stay.”




I like black and white comics. Frequently they are indeed atmospheric and also elegant. I think applying the term elegant might be stretching it slightly when talking about Owen’s art style, which isn’t as strong as his writing, but it is certainly not remotely lacking in atmosphere. It’s extremely consistent with respect to itself and conveys the story more than adequately, but very, very occasionally I found myself noticing some slight over-emphasis of the characters, or other minor inconsistency and subconsciously slightly critiquing it, which momentarily took me out of the narrative.  But let’s be honest, nobody likes a critic!

I should at this point add that he is a lot, lot better artist than myself and I am sure he will only get tighter artistically. In fact I was at times minded of very early Nate MARCH Powell and Jeff ROUGHNECK Lemire stylistically. I merely mention this regarding the art because it might preclude the odd person, upon first perusal, from persisting and purchasing this. But they shouldn’t because it is well worth the price of entry.

Overall I simply admire Owen’s sheer tenacity in getting what is an extremely entertaining, accomplished and very nicely produced debut graphic novel out there and hopefully into your hands. Without his grit and drive to get this work completed, like many other comics creators out there who toil away for years to relatively little reward, our industry would be much poorer.

Not everyone gets to follow their artistic dreams, let alone achieve them, or indeed ‘make it big’ so kudos to Owen for writing, directing and producing this arthouse gem. I am sure it was a labour of real love for him. Pun most definitely intended.


Buy Reel Love – The Complete Collection h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Back On Our System:

My Cardboard Life (Signed & Sketched In) (£10-00, self-published) by Philippa Rice.

Paper, scissors, stoned!

Who could fail to fall for a book as riddled with mischief as this? It’s a gloriously simple set up which plays with its raw materials with childlike glee, yet a lot of lateral thinking.

Basic ingredients: corrugated cardboard, paper, cloth, wool and the occasional piece of string; chocolate coins, real coins, tin foil and a sticking plaster. Nothing tricksier than that. Pen at the ready; Tippex on standby.

Recipe: take your basic materials, turn them into two-dimensional characters, then photograph the poor things as you put them through the wringer. Also through a hole puncher, and more emotional trauma than you can imagine. Poor Cardboard Colin gets his heart ripped out – quite literally at one point just so Pauline can make sweet music. Clever, clever, clever.




One of my favourite gags began, “Colin, I’m gonna punch your lights out.” Can you guess the next panel?

Bonus material includes a family tree (it’s where they all came from – ba-dum!), original layout sketches, and three-dimensional tableaux including a miniature comicbook convention alley and comics which will be very familiar to those shopping here!



Review Update: Cardboard Colin went on to star in the all-ages collage comic, ST. COLIN AND THE DRAGON and the fully photographed WE’RE OUT set in Nottingham city centre (Page 45 appears on page 45!), and highly reminiscent of the stop-animation of Oliver Postgate (‘Bagpuss’ etc).

Meanwhile Philippa Rice herself went on to star in SOPPY and OUR SOPPY LOVE STORY alongside Luke Pearson, the creator of HILDA.




Buy My Cardboard Life (Signed & Sketched In) 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’

The Giver h/c (£20-99, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) by Lois Lowry, P. Craig Russell

Over The Garden Wall vol 3 (£13-99, Kaboom!) by various

The Problem Of Susan And Other Stories h/c (£15-99, Dark Horse) by Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell, Scott Hampton, Paul Chadwick

Rumble vol 5: Things Remote s/c (£14-99, Image) by John Arcudi & David Rubin

Black Hammer: Doctor Star And The Kingdoms Of Tomorrow s/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Jeff Lemire & Max Fiumara

Mister Miracle s/c (£22-99, DC) by Tom King & Mitch Gerads

Immortal Hulk vol 2: Green Door s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Al Ewing & Joe Bennett, Lee Garbett, Martin Simmonds

Infinity Wars s/c (UK Edition) (£18-99, Marvel) by Gerry Deodato Jr., Andy MacDonald, Mark Bagley, Andrew Henessy, Cory Smith

Spider-Geddon s/c (£22-99, Marvel) by Christos Gage, others & Jorge Molina, Carlo Barberi, Todd Nauck, Stefano Caselli, Joey Vasquez

Giant Days vol 9 (£10-99, Other A-Z) by John Allison & Max Sarin

Edens Zero vol 2 (£9-99, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Barefoot Gen vol 2 (£14-99, Last Gasp) by Keiji Nakazawa

Barefoot Gen vol 5 (£14-99, Last Gasp) by Keiji Nakazawa

Barefoot Gen vol 6 (£14-99, Last Gasp) by Keiji Nakazawa

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews February 2019 week one

Wednesday, February 6th, 2019

“Wow, that is one tough YTS scheme.”

 – Jonathan on Shanghai Red by Christopher Sebela & Josh Hixson

To Drink & To Eat vol 1 h/c (£22-99, Lion Forge) by Guillaume Long…

“Don’t confuse letting an idea marinate and marinating pickles.”
“Because anyone can make mistakes.”

Haha, like ever-attentive waiter, there is a gag strip that pops up with wonderful frequency throughout this work featuring “Pepe Roni’s Good Advice.” That the punchline is always, but always, “Because anyone can make mistakes” (delivered by Pepe Roni from the comfort of his armchair, knocking back what looks like a fine Armagnac, presumably for its renowned therapeutic benefits), only serves to add to the delight of these tasty amuse-bouches.

Right, so what’s on the menu then? Here’s the publisher to tell us all about this particular special…

“Hungry for help in the kitchen? Go from basic cook to master chef with Guillaume Long’s clever and charming lessons in French food. Cooking blogs and comics come together in TO EAT & TO DRINK, the newest and most unique cookbook to add to your kitchen shelf.”

What a fabulous work this is!

Served à la carte in sixty or so delightful dégustations, it comprises an eclectic collection of culinary delights such as recipes presented by Guillaume…



…though not necessarily all for their taste presumably, given one includes raven – also various sage advice like ‘The Ten Commandments Of Raclette’, many an absurd anecdote regarding some mild kitchen chaos or indeed culinary near-catastrophe…



…plus extended tasting notes from trips to Budapest, Venice and errr… a local Chinese restaurant. All flavoured with Guillaume’s self-deprecating trademark sense of humour. Here he is regaling us with his take on dealing with the aftermath of a moment of silliness whilst shopping in the supermarket…

“The other day in the supermarket you had a flash, a moment of weakness… of craziness… during which you entered the Fourth Dimension… that is to say, you bought some broccoli. Now alone in your kitchen, you have returned to reason and you ask yourself: “Shit. Why did I buy this thing?””



Served up with finesse, I found much to salivate over here. This is no mere junk food to be gobbled down unappreciatively. No, you will want to savour it, a bite or two at a time. A feast for both the eyes and the soul, this will appeal both to foodies and those who simply have good taste in comics. Well, that my professional advice anyway. Speaking of which…



Plus, there’s plenty of variety in its presentation, from said visit to Venice in free-floating panels in delicate line on parchment-coloured paper to full-colour sequential-art narrative which glows on the glossy page, then straight-up illustrated guides to kitchen utensils, a trip to a fishmongers and its fruits of the river and sea, or those you’ll find hanging from trees. Sexy spot-varnish cover, too! Handy for wiping cooking oil off!


Buy To Drink & To Eat vol 1 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Shanghai Red (£14-99, Image) by Christopher Sebela & Josh Hixson…

“Get your lazy asses up, you filthy rats. Your useless lives just became worth something again.
“You’re free. Contracts is up.
“The captain took on your debts when he bought you, a fair bit of coin. Now you’re all paid up.
“Started with a dozen of you. I been cracking the whip across your backs, trying to teach you somethin’ and now comes the day of reckoning. You got a choice to make, boys.”
“One, ya stay on the Bellwood. Sign up for another go-round. Only now you’d be pulling wages, equal with the rest of the men. No more sleeping in the hold.
“Two, soon as we land in Shanghai, you walk. Make your own way home. Though I’m not sure how you’d be able to, skint as you all are.
“You got two minutes to decide. Captain wants me back on deck. Smile boys. You’re sailors now. Just need all five of your names on…”

Wow, that is one tough YTS scheme.

Get shanghaied in Portland, be locked up in a ship’s hold for two full years with a mortality rate of over fifty percent, repeatedly getting hell thrashed out of you, before being told you’re free to go if you want when you land – oh irony of ironies – in Shanghai… It’s almost like the Captain and his first mate aren’t really giving you that much of a choice, right?

Well, “Jack” certainly thinks so.

It’s just that her choice to kill the Captain and the entire crew, seize the ship and set sail back for Portland to deal with the people who put her on the Bellwood in the first place in a similarly rewarding manner might not be the most obvious one. Unless of course getting kidnapped and effectively kept in slavery on the high seas for two years is the holiday you’ve always been dreaming of… Because nothing says “thank you” for giving someone the opportunity to see the world quite like slitting their throat.


Yes, that’s right, for “Jack” is in fact Molly, or Red as she now prefers to be known.

Here is the sad sea shanty from the publisher to make you salty seadogs shed a tear or two as they clue you in on Red’s revenge mission…

“Red is one of hundreds of people who were shanghaied out of Portland in the late 1800s. Drugged, kidnapped, and sold to a ship’s captain for $50, she wakes up on a boat headed out to sea, unable to escape or reveal who she is. Now, she’s coming back in a blood-soaked boat to find her family and track down the men responsible for stealing her life out from under her. Eisner-nominated writer Christopher CROWDED Sebela & Joshua Hixson bring you a tale of revenge, family, and identity that stretches from the deck of a ship outside Shanghai all the way to the bleak streets and secret tunnels beneath Portland, Oregon.”



Oh yeah, it is ON! I love me a good bit of retaliation, retribution and reprisal. So do remember to pick your standing orders up won’t you, me hearties…? It’s just that finding those responsible for the shanghaing shenanigans shore-side and dealing with them is going to be a lot harder than clearing the decks of the not-so-good Captain and his lackeys.

No, the second part of Red’s equalising errand is going to take considerably more guile and cunning. Good job for her she’s got those skills in abundance. Perhaps she’d like to take on those responsible for Brexit next?



There’s a lot of the suitably rough and ragged about the art for the bruising fist-fights, comfortless conditions and blood pooling over the floorboards. And, I kid you not, everyone is glaring at each other throughout with such effectively depicted ice-cold hostility and suspicion that you may find your own eyes narrowing, however subconsciously.

If you have a need to see wrongs righted and wrongs ‘un sent off to sleep with the fishes (who presumably might have a little nibble on them after they wake to find breakfast has been kindly served up), this is for you. Brutal, nasty, probably exactly what life in 1800s Portland was like, both on ship and shore, this is a cautionary tale awash with all shades of pale blues and bright reds that a tot or two too much rum in a less than salubrious local can lead a to – a hangover that might last a very long time indeed…


Buy Shanghai Red s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Bad Machinery vol 7: The Case Of The Forked Road (Pocket Slipcase Edition) (£11-99, Oni) by John Allison.



It’s actually exactly the same original, portrait-orientated graphic novel, except housed in a landscape slipcase so that it’s perfectly aligned with your other small-hands editions.

“FLIP! Ole Knotty’s coming!”
“Get in there! Quick!”
“Oof, move up!”
“Which one of you touched my bum?”

The bad boys have hidden in the science lab’s fume cupboard. There’s something very strange about that fume cupboard, and it will lead to a forked road – but a forked road to where?!?



We’ve written extensively and in depth about all things John Allison (GIANT DAYS etc) so if you want a more detailed analysis of Allison’s comedy craft try BAD MACH 6 or the BOBBINS one-shot, Page 45’s biggest-selling comic of 2016. He is the British king of gesticulation, whether it’s arms aloft in exaggerated exasperation / despair, hands clasped round cheeks for wide-eyed adoration / wistful daydream or Linton tugging at his own tie, just below the knot, in preparation for some action /super-sleuthing, like the proverbial girding of loins.



That particular added-extra would have occurred to so few other artists, and it’s what keeps the pages of clean, crisp lines so vibrantly active and alive. Speaking of added extras, you won’t find that Linton page online – it’s one of many new story pages which Allison creates specifically for each printed collection.

It’s all very British and ever so brilliant and BAD MACHINERY itself is all-ages, perfect for those who’ve grown up reading the likes of LOOSHKIN and BUNNY VS MONKEY by Jamie Smart.

However, kids do grow up, don’t they, and speaking of fumes one of my favourite albeit brief sequences this time involves Sonny’s bedroom.

“So, Mildred… did you get much out of him?”
“Sorry. He’s a bit… you know.”
“That’s all right, Uncle Tom. I opened a window.”

Sonny lurches out, shoulders hulked high, in nothing but his boxers and vest, a blonde, teenage, monosyllabic Neanderthal, to spray deodorant under his armpits in the bathroom then return, equally unresponsive, to sit cross-legged, frowning at a screen.

“Just going to play video games in your pants, then, son? I’ll shut the door.”



In fact, not to disrespect the central mystery – which is ingenious and comes with quite the sly epilogue involving The Beetles (sic) – but most of my favourite sequences this time involve the three lads, Linton, Jack and Sonny, who sit most of this session out while they hit or “catch” puberty, experiencing its own mysteries in hilarious single-panel growth spurts, beautifully drawn, before coming out of their hormonal chrysalises as three different varieties of a classic subculture. In this, as in everything, Allison actually thinks to maintain their distinct individuality where other, lesser creators would have dressed them all up the same. And it all works so well: of course Linton, Jack and Sonny – specifically they – would emerge into young adulthood as modern iterations of that particular British subculture!

Now, you may think puberty an unsuitable topic for what has been so far an all-ages comic but a) I don’t think so (there was way too much misinformation in my day filling the void that is British reserve, reticence and outright embarrassment), but also b) the references are both fleeting and innocent, plus 3) the youngest most people start in on BAD MACHINERY is aged 12, and even if you begin aged 10, most kids will be 12 by the time they reach volume 7. See also a) and b) if they can’t really wait.



It’s very much like Jeff Smith’s BONE in that what starts off as a light-hearted comedy comic which children as young as 6 adore grows ever darker as it gets older, but its readers grow with it too.

As to the girls, Charlotte, Shauna and Mildred, of course they handle things better – with books and the like – but then they’ve got their mystery-orientated minds focussed elsewhere. Haven’t they?

“Mildred. I… are you all right?”
“I saw something strange yesterday evening. But I need to ask my dad about it.”
“What? Mildred, what?”
“Was it a daddy cow on top of a mummy cow in a field? Because you don’t need to ask your dad. I will lay it on the line for you.”
“No, Lottie.”
“S-R-S-L-Y. Strickly scientific.”

Again, see BAD MACH 6 for what I love about Lottie’s language (it amuses me to refer to this series as BAD MACH – it sounds like a blunt and so defunct razor, or a hypersonic speed completely out of control), but here we are treated to “Britane”, “Laaa!”, “MENTILE!” and “the BECHAMEL test”.

“Right, so if you make a film with two ladies in it, and all they do is talk about MEN… it fails the BECHAMEL test.”
“… the bechamel test!”
“Yeah. It means your film is bland and cheesy.”
“Lottie, you are ruddy treasure trove of culture.” *




Meanwhile there are as ever strange “doings” to discern, cogitate upon and pursue to their logical conclusions, like why a young boy has appeared at Griswalds Grammar School in Tackleford wearing a school cap and shorts when nobody wears shorts and even Shauna wears full-length trousers rather than a skirt.

Did you spot that she wears trousers? Details! John Allison’s characters are all individuals, and he is all about the details. Pay attention to Occam’s Razor early on too!

“Why is this case 80% CROSS COUNTRY RUNNING? We were so close to CAKE!”

* It’s the Bechdel test. As in comics’ Alison Bechdel of FUN HOME etc.


Buy Bad Machinery vol 7: The Case Of The Forked Road (Pocket Slipcase Edition)  and read the Page 45 review here

Iron Or The War After s/c (£14-99, Archaia) by Shane-Michael Vidaurri…

Gripping, slow-burning espionage thriller clothed in delightfully wan and moodily atmospheric watercolours.

The rabbit Hardin has stolen some vital information from the victors of a civil war. He’s part of the Resistance that haven’t given up battling the Regime, though others’ loyalties, on both sides, are less clear cut. There’s a plan afoot to do something spectacular, to prove to the masses the good fight is still worth fighting, but will the Resistance get the chance to bring their plot to fruition, or will the intelligence agents of the Regime, combined with the incompetence of some of Resistance members, manage to foil their scheme? And when the dust settles who will be regarded as a hero, and who as a traitor?



A truly beautifully illustrated work, also poignantly penned by S.M. Vidaurri, which neatly showcases his burgeoning talents in both areas. He’s clearly a talented chap, and I’ve no doubt we will be seeing much more from him in the future. Storywise, this has much in common tone-wise with DUNCAN THE WONDER DOG, though that is a much more complex work.



If he plans to stick with anthropomorphics, though, he’s someone we could be talking about in the future in the same breath as Juan Diaz Canales & Juanjo Guarnido, the creators of BLACKSAD, but I’ve no doubt whatever he turns his hand to next is going to be visually spectacular.



For more anthropomorphics, highly recommended, please see Bryan Talbot’s five-volume GRANDVILLE.


Buy Iron Or The War After s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Submerged vol 1 (£13-99, Vault) by Vita Ayala & Lisa Sterle…

“There’s something else, girl. What is it that you want?”

A slightly better attempt at hiding something rather significant early on, I would have thought. Oh no sorry, that’s what I wanted…

Here’s the publisher to apprise us (and Elysia) of what the hell is going on…

“On the night of the biggest storm in New York City history, Elysia Puente gets a call from her estranged little brother Angel, terrified and begging for help. When the call cuts out suddenly, despite the bad feelings between them, Ellie rushes into the night. Finding his broken phone in front of a barricaded subway station, Ellie follows echoes of her brother into the sinister darkness of the underground, desperate to find him before it’s too late.”



I’m having to restrain myself here. It’s very tempting to throw out a spoiler. After all, the writer seems to fling out a truly huge one very early on for me. Nobody likes a spoiler, particularly when it is penned by the writer themselves… Unless, perhaps the whole point is that we are supposed to realise precisely what the hell is going on, even if Elysia doesn’t…? I’m not sure that makes it any cleverer, if so.

It just struck me as a little bit of a shame, because the real reason behind Elysia and Angel’s woes is only gradually revealed over the course of the whole story, in a manner that I thought was expertly done making that side of the story very interesting with some real depth. I just knew what the ultimate ending had to be all along. But, as I say, possibly that was the point; I just would have been tempted to hide it for longer myself. Allowing for that, I will certainly concede that this is cleverly written. The more I think about it, it must be that writer Vita Ayala intends us the readers to be aware of one very important fact that Elysia is most certainly not. Still, that not knowing is certainly going to ensure she’ll confront some serious demons, both figurative and literal.



For this curious mix of madcap mythology and criminal misdeeds serves to tell us of a journey in a most surreal subway that seems entirely designed to draw out one’s worst fears and where nightmares are made all-too-real. It’s a journey that despite me having a pretty good idea of the final destination, at least for one of our protagonists, is worth taking. For despite my comments above I was soon sinking into the sofa squirming along with Elysia as the veritable tortures of the damned are visited upon her.



That the art is rather good helped a lot with that too. It struck me as having elements of Faith Erin THE NAMELESS CITY Hicks, particularly in the facial features, and also Tula SUPREME: BLUE ROSE Lotay both in pencils and palette terms. I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for artist Lisa Sterle in the future.


Buy Submerged vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Dark Nights: Metal s/c (£16-99, DC) by Scott Snyder, various & Greg Capullo, various…

“Whoa. Big door. Vic, I’m sending you over the image…”
“Got it, Barry. I’ve run it over a thousand times already. But it keeps coming up unknown…”

Said big door being on the entrance to the hidden bunker in the centre of the huge mountain that has just materialised in the middle of Gotham City… destroying most of the city centre, sky scrapers and all…

Long-time DC fans will immediately recognise it as the base of the Challengers Of The Unknown, who these days work for… ah, well that would be telling. I enjoyed how Snyder weaved in all sorts of DC history into this tale right from the off, be it references to individual bat-books such as BATMAN: THE RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE written by Grant Morrison, or lesser-used third-string characters like the C.O.T.U.



It is a bit weird having to remember in this current version of the DC Universe that the Justice League has no idea who the Challengers are yet (Batman aside, obviously, being his usual know-it-all self). I think there was also a very odd, brief-lived, New 52 incarnation involving reality TV ‘stars’ as the Challengers if the memory serves.

Anyway, DC never particularly worried about re-writing their history with the various Crises and other events over the years. There are also a couple of much more familiar characters who crop up in this issue too, who will be very well known to even casual DC readers. If not the Justice League, yet…




So… following on from events in the Dark Days: The Forge and Dark Days: The Casting one-shots, now collected with a host of relevant reprinted New 52 issues in DARK DAYS: THE ROAD TO METAL, something not so fun and cuddy from… elsewhere… is on the way, apparently being drawn to this reality in some strange way by Bruce Wayne, who could actually do with a good cuddle, so that’s a shame.

There’s a nifty and amusing explanation involving a certain poster of the New 52 Multiverse (also thrown in DARK DAYS: THE ROAD TO METAL back matter) that probably graced more than a few comic shop walls a few years back which sheds an absence of light on the situation, and that’s probably all I should really say by way of plot explanation at the moment.

I was, and still am, perplexed by the prologue battle that will titillate fans of enormous, transforming Japanese robots… I’m still oblivious as to precisely what wider purpose that served. I commented in my review of the first issue that this event had the potential to get completely preposterous, but hopefully Snyder could keep it on track. He did, just about, but only just.



There are a few conceits in there that test the old suspense of disbelief, it must be said. It’s certainly big, convoluted, bombastic fun, though, and truly an infinite number of times better than the crisis of writing that was CONVERGENCE. I think I can safely rank this up there with CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS and FINAL CRISIS in pure madcap superhero event enjoyment terms.

Capullo, meanwhile, continues to dish out his impressive linework. He and Snyder, the team primarily responsible for the BATMAN DC NEW 52 run, are excellent foils for each other. If as a writer you are going to try and cram in that much action, you do need someone that can deliver clean, precise mayhem.

DARK NIGHTS: METAL – DARK KNIGHTS RISING, to be read perhaps before the final chapter, expands on ne’er-do-wellings of the seven glass-darkly permutations of a certain lead protagonist.


Buy Dark Nights: 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’

Darwin – An Exceptional Voyage (£16-99, Nobrow) by Fabien Grolleau & Jeremie Royer

BPRD Devil You Know vol 2 – Pandemonium (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, Scott Allie & Sebastian Fiumara, Laurence Campbell, Laurence Campbell

The Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina vol 1: The Crucible s/c (£14-99, Archie) by Roberto-Aguirre-Sacasa

Eightball: Pussey! (£11-99, Fantagraphics) by Daniel Clowes

Firefly Legacy Edition vol 2 s/c (£22-50, Boom!) by Joss Whedon, Chris Roberson & Georges Jeanty, Karl Story, Stephen Byrne

The Great Northern Brotherhood Of Canadian Cartoonists (£16-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Seth

Lone Sloane: Salammbo h/c (£35-99, Titan) by Philippe Druillet, Gustave Flaubert

Pip And The Bamboo Path h/c (£11-99, Flying Eye Books) by Jesse Hodgson

Reel Love – The Complete Collection (£14-99, Unbound) by Owen Michael Johnson

The Wrath Of Fantomas h/c (£26-99, Titan) by Oliver Bouquet & Julie Rocheleau

Berserk vol 9 (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Kentaro Miura