Archive for March, 2019

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews March 2019 week three

Wednesday, March 20th, 2019

In which we issue a Neil Gaiman Sandman alert….

Asleep In The Back (£5-00) by Tim Bird…

“Lindum Drive
“Goose Lane
“Bawtry Road
“Towards the motorway
“Hypnotised by traffic rhythms
“And monotone radio.”

The master of comics psychogeography returns, in part, to the theme where he and I first met. I remember very well just how entranced I was upon reading his GREY AREA #2 – THE OLD STRAIGHT TRACK, a paean to the much maligned and misunderstood Great British motorway network. It’s sadly out of print now, but happily this work brings back wistful memories of my first Tim Bird experience, and indeed also long car journeys as a child.

 

 

If you’d like to be touched by Tim Bird then I heartily recommend GREY AREA – FROM THE CITY TO THE SEA, GREY AREA – OUR TOWN, THE GREAT NORTH WOOD, ROCK & POP and THE ROCKET. Go on, you won’t regret it, trust me.

So here, first we see young Tim’s experiences as a nipper being taken by his parents along with his sister to visit his grandparents for Sunday lunch…

 

 

…or more precisely the soothing, sleep-inducing vehicular voyage back to Oughtibridge before finally being carried upstairs oh so gently to bed by his dad.

 

 

Awwww…

Then we get some trademark temporal juxtaposition with a twist as adult Tim and his wife load their car up with their two kids and set off up the motorway for his parents. But immediately before that, there’s a page which, to me, perfectly sums up the magic Tim wields as we see him age from boy to man in three small square panels, superimposed over a motorway flyover bedecked in a continuous red line of sped-up car breaklights, with a full lunar cycle sequence bisecting the page.

The whole image alone is perfect, but there are also two sentences that neatly serve to underscore that Tim is also a master of words. He has a lyrical quality that flows so naturally creating its own imagery that perfectly complements the visual. His choice of words never fails to captivate me.

“Time drives onwards. Year after year like a constant stream of traffic flowing endlessly along the motorway.”

 

 

That it does.

He also does something I’ve never seen him do before, on the final page. I’m not going to spoil it, and I very much doubt it is something he will make a habit of, but if there was a more perfect, heart-meltingly beautiful way to end this work, I can’t think of it.

JR

Buy Asleep In The Back and read the Page 45 review here

Rock & Pop (£4-00, self-published) by Tim Bird…

“On Saturdays my dad would listen to Radio Sheffield on the way home from the football.
“They played pop music in between people phoning in to talk about the match.”

<“Sheffield Wednesday were awful today, we can’t keep playing like that…”>
<“Thanks for the call… we’ll get back to the football debate after some music… this is the new single from Belinda Carlisle…”>

“Heaven Is A Place On Earth is the first song that really stuck with me.
“I remember listening to the radio hoping to hear the song again, but they never seemed to play it after that.”

24 pages of pop perfection, and indeed imperfection (really, Tim… Boyzone! I would ask what on earth you were thinking but as you’ve freely admitted here, you’ve honestly no idea) from the man whose own talent for wordsmithery I rank amongst the finest in comics today.

 

 

It makes perfect sense, therefore, for someone so adroit in their use of the English language to be into such diverse musical offerings as the likes of Belle and Sebastian, Radiohead, Nirvana, Saint Etienne and Neil Young, plus more than a few groups I must confess to being entirely unfamiliar with.

 

 

In this brief chronology of Tim’s life to date he’ll take us on his very own magical musical mystery tour set against the backdrop of some mildly insignificant moments, plus some very significant ones. One scene detailed per page, each with its own particular musical selection. Sometimes the music is the lead, at other times merely the accompaniment.

Thus without giving anything away, the page featuring Tim and his girlfriend April going to see the Magnetic Fields in concert, well, I can completely understand why the track The Luckiest Guy On The Lower East Side is now forever burnt into his consciousness!

 

 

Many of the earlier pages are more about Tim discovering and getting into various artistes, reminding me wistfully of an age when we had all the time in the world to discover new aural pleasures, whereas it’s the latter pages where the music begins to take a more supporting role of soundtrack to life events.

It’s all combined with the typical Bird visual panache, even when baring his (musical) soul for our amusement, that’s seen him produce such moving and heart-warming delights as THE GREAT  NORTH WOOD, GREY AREA – OUR TOWN and GREY AREA – FROM THE CITY TO THE SEA. He’s such a talented creator I bet he could even do a comic about snooker and make it a fascinating read… wait a minute, he has! Check out THE ROCKET.

 

 

Speaking of soundtracks, I’ll let Tim and April play you out to the sound of The Bulldozers with their Another Girl, Another Planet…

“You know how we’ll have been together ten years this year?”
“Hmmm.”
“Why don’t we get married?”
“Hmmm.”
“I’ve started putting some wedding ideas together…”
“Hmmm… I’ll sort out the music.”
“Hmmm.”

JR

Buy Rock & Pop and read the Page 45 review here

Brazen – Rebel Ladies Who Rocked The World h/c (£17-99, Ebury Press) by Penelope Bagieu…

A heartfelt homage to women throughout history who never feared to stand out from the crowd and stand up for what they believe in.  And with 30 fabulously ferocious woman ensconced in this 296 page book, it packs just as much punch as its cover suggests.

In celebration of women from all walks of life, these are stories that exude passion and determination, whilst still being full of heart and loving humour. Each one as pleasurable to read as the last, this is a book you’ll want to have on standby, ready to plunge back into at a moment’s notice when the inspiration strikes.

I adore the opening choice of Clémentine Delait, a bearded lady living life to the fullest and giving zero fucks. What a babe! Another personal favourite included Margaret Hamilton, who embraced her unique appearance by giving a terrifying portrayal of the Wicked Witch of the West in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. But it was a line about her career following the dramatic events of the film that had me happily chuckling away in admiration: “When it comes to being scary, she is the best. She appears in an episode of Sesame Street. An episode the network takes off air for good after parents complain.” 

As an illustrator and a comicbook lover, taking a huge chunk of my heart, of course, is the tribute to Tove Jansson. I’ve always had a special love for the woman and this beautifully succinct story of her life, in the familiar primary pop colours of THE MOOMINS, is a small slice of perfection, only improved by its end page illustration of Tove and Tuulikki snuggled together reading a paper out on the lake surrounding their secluded cottage. Oh, how my heart did soar!

Danielle Ceccolini deserves a shout out of her own for the brilliant cover design. Emblazoned front and centre is a clenched fist raised high and powerful, gold and bold, almost trophy-like, the emanating rays highlighting its wonder. Portraits of some of the fantastic women depicted inside are artfully arranged around in bubblegum pink bubbles, which only just manage to contain their uniquely exuberant personalities.

 

 

A peppermint green background complements and highlights the pink wonderfully, which in this case is being used as a celebration of femininity and female identity. Pink is a powerful colour. It is bold, brash, vibrant and fun, much like the women whom you’re about to discover within the pages of this book. I’ll let Janelle Monáe sing us out… “We got the pink!”

JP

Buy Brazen and read the Page 45 Review here

Cult Of The Ibis h/c (£24-99, Fantagraphics) by Daria Tessler…

It’s like stereo surrealists Hans THE SQUIRREL MACHINE Rickheit and Theo THE UNDERSTANDING MONSTER Ellsworth have had their DNA combined in a terrible accident involving a riso printer and decided the only thing they could possibly do was to carry on making comics. Or something. Here is the marginally more coherent explanation from the publisher for this madness…

“This exquisite and mostly silent graphic novel takes place in a fantasy cityscape loosely inspired by German expressionist films. Cult of the Ibis tells the story of an occultist getaway-driver who, after escaping with the loot from a bank robbery gone wrong, orders a build-your-own-homunculus kit and goes on the lam. Steeped in architecture and atmosphere, Tessler’s gorgeous cartooning fuels this strangely gripping yarn, which is packaged in a gorgeous hardcover design.”

 

 

Despite my recombinant ratiocination the closest singular point of comparison would have to be A. Degen’s MIGHTY STAR AND THE CASTLE OF THE CANCATERVATER.

 It’s all so clear to you now isn’t it?

 …

 Could you explain it to me please?

 JR

Buy Cult Of The Ibis h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Sandman vol 1: Preludes & Nocturnes (30th Anniversary Ed’n) (£14-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg, Malcolm Jones III.

Every bit as brilliant as you’ve been told, I honestly do consider this the finest mythology of the last century in any medium.

ALERT: the first re-coloured trade dress of SANDMAN volumes 1 to 10 is fast slipping out of print, so if you’re halfway through I strongly suggest you pick the rest up right now. At the time of typing we still have volumes 2 to 10, and will keep them in stock for as long as they remain available.

If you’ve yet to experience this exceptional epic, there have been five 30th Anniversary Edition volumes so far, all in stock. Gaiman’s most recent return to the series, SANDMAN: OVERTURE with PROMEHEA’s JH Williams III on art matches neither trade dress, so you can add that whenever you fancy.

Right, if you’re all tucked up comfortably in bed, here’s my introduction written a decade or so ago. Interior art by Mike Dringenberg from SANDMAN VOL 4: SEASON OF MISTS

 

 

Morpheus is the Lord of Dreams, his family are The Endless. Each of them is older than you can comprehend, though some are older than others. They are as gods to mortals – though they can surely die – and they change as we change, for they are reflections of our everyday existence.

Destiny, cowled and quiet, holds in his hands the book of all that is, all that was, and all that will ever be.

Dream, his skin as white as the moon, his clothes the colour of midnight, is remote and cold and unforgiving, meticulous in his duties, obsessive when in love.

By contrast, Death, his older sister, is kind and compassionate and far better company than you’d image, although one day you’ll discover that for yourself.

Desire is fickle but irresistible: he/she will appear as the most beautiful woman or man you have ever seen, whereas their twin, Despair, is terrible to behold and terrible to endure.

Delirium doesn’t know what she is for most of the time, but in her rare, lucid moments she remembers many things, most tragically, perhaps, that she used to be Delight. But we are no longer content with mere joy – we demand it on drugs – and so Delirium she has become.

 

 

They are a family, like the Greek gods, and like most families they squabble, they fight and fall out.

One member of the Endless is missing. Who that is I will not tell you, nor why they went away or what might happen if they ever returned. All I will impart is that one member of The Endless is playing a very dangerous game, as another will soon discover…

Over the course of ten books and now prequel Neil Gaiman introduces us to The Endless and their roles in Morpheus’ story. This will draw him to Hell and back via ancient Africa, the East and Greece, Elizabethan England, the dreams of cats, a city preserved inside a bottle, and an American serial killer convention. It’s quite like a comicbook convention, only for psychopaths who get together and swap top tips.

 

 

You’ll meet Norse and Egyptian deities, demons and angels, Lucifer, Shakespeare, Barbie and Ken, Orpheus, the Faerie, and a host of contemporary individuals as they come into contact with Dream and his siblings, for The Endless have always played a role in our lives – often benign, sometimes less so – and none of them are above making mistakes.

Overwhelmingly this is a story about stories and story telling, about decisions and consequences, responsibility, growth and the power of dreams.

It opens in Britain in 1916 where an obsessive occultist, Roderick Burgess, is planning to live forever. In order to do that he must capture Death herself. He fails. He captures someone else instead, and it has ramifications all over the world until Roderick’s son makes a fateful error in 1988…

SLH

Buy Sandman vol 1: Preludes & Nocturnes (30th Anniversary Ed’n) and read the Page 45 review here

Infinite Dark vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Image) by Ryan Cady & Andrea Mutti…

“What were we seeing back there? That was an incredibly violent reaction, Deva… Do you want to talk to me about it?”
“The simulation degraded and a fucking shadow monster attacked me… what did you expect me to do?”
“You know that nothing in the sims can hurt us. I think there’s more to your reaction than just fight or flight. You just came face-to-face with The Black. Pure entropy. And it’s affected you.”

It’s hard to read in the dark, particularly the infinite kind of dark after the heat death of the universe, I would imagine. But it wasn’t hard to read this horror sci-fi mash-up; in fact I rather enjoyed it. Here is the invitation to the grand finale of existence and the after party from the publisher…

“The universe ended, but humanity survived. And for years, the passengers and crew of the vessel Orpheus found the endless void between realities to be a surprisingly peaceful home. Then they found a body – bloodied, brutalized, and surrounded by inscrutable runes. As Security Director Deva Karrell investigates the Orpheus’ first murder, she’ll come face-to-face with a horror from beyond the confines of time itself…”

If you are a fan of the likes of the classic schlock horror sci-fi film Event Horizon from 1997 with its tagline “Infinite Space, Infinite Terror”, this will be perfect for you. In comics sci-fi horror terms, I would say this falls between Garth Ennis and Facundo Percio’s CALIBAN and Dan Abnett and Ian Culbard’s BRINK. In horror terms, it is much more brooding and involved than the all-out gutripper that is CALIBAN, but isn’t as mysteriously engrossing and indeed clever as BRINK.

But it’s jolly good fun for what it is. Except for the characters trapped on the vessel Orpheus, obviously… with what appears to be their imaginations running riot and meltdowns occurring with increasing rapidity. No, it’s becoming a total living nightmare for them. Surely there couldn’t be anything else out there could there, because there is no out there…?

 

 

 

 

 

I thought the premise was genuinely creepy, how can the end of all reality as we know it possibly not be? The science aspects of how a tiny fraction of humanity has managed to survive it was well thought through, being sufficiently plausible (in science fiction terms at least) to suspend my disbelief. The horror element, when we finally get the explanation of that, works, just about, but then most horror of this type usually has some aspect of the preposterous to it, once you get right down to it. Ultimately this is reasonably well written entertaining slightly middle of the road fright-fun from Ryan Cady.

It actually feels like the end of this arc should be the end of the whole thing as it has a certain finality to it. Yet I note a new arc has been solicited and I can say I will be reading it. So he clearly has done enough to hook me.

Art-wise, Andrea ROME WEST / REBELS Mutti has also turned his hand to science fiction before on Zack Kaplan’s PORT EARTH, which I also note is finally coming back for more issues later this year. His crisp art combined with an eerie palette of aquamarine, cyan, pale blues and many other such colours in which dark shadows can hide and murderously emerge from – if they were real, that is – only add to the spooky atmosphere.

JR

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

Marcy And The Riddle Of The Sphinx s/c (£7-99, Flying Eye Books) by Joe Todd-Stanton…

“Every evening, Marcy loved to listen to the tales of her father’s adventures. She never quite believed him… After all, he was very old and far too portly.

“But at night, everything changed. The creatures from her father’s amazing tales turned into terrifying monsters in the shadows. Marcy felt utterly lost and alone in the dark. All she could do was close her eyes tight and wait for sunrise.”

Yes! After reading all about the adventures of Marcy’s dad, when he was just a slim whippersnapper himself in the fabulous ARTHUR AND THE GOLDEN ROPE I can state two things with certainty. Firstly, I can vouch that he was indeed a formidable hero and secondly, that I was desperately hoping for more of the family Brownstone from Joe Todd-Stanton!

 

 

Once again, this time narrating from the splendour of the Brownstone family’s observatory, complete with a kaleidoscopically coloured telescope and a gigantic clockwork mobile of a galaxy spinning away merrily, the elder bearded Brownstone of the modern era has returned to reprise his introductory preamble to another member of his adventurous ancestors.

Before too long Marcy is plunged into a death-defying adventure of her own that will see her gamely battle ancient Gods in dusty Egypt for high stakes indeed. But first we see the replete, grey-bearded Arthur, complete with eye patch, attempting to take Marcy on her first gentle adventurous excursion into a cave, to surprise her by meeting the benevolent King of the Water Spirits, who looks like a sort of free-floating giant waterfall complete with beatific smile and a tiny crown.

 

 

However, upon reaching the entrance, surrounded by spooky shadows that look very much like the ones that plague her bedroom ceiling at night, little Marcy is frozen with fear and unable to proceed any further… But when Arthur disappears off on an errand to find a mysterious book and doesn’t return, Marcy decides she’s brave enough to head off after him to save the day. After all, in her eyes, her dad has trouble just bending over when he’s dropped his glasses!

 

 

Donning the cap Arthur always told her would summon the mighty bird Wind Weaver, more in hope than belief, Marcy is delighted to see the giant red-feathered friend waiting to whisk her away to lands far, far away in search of her father. And so, her first adventure truly begins! She’s going to encounter dangerous deities bent on world domination, stowaway on a flying boat floating through stunning night skies, brave terrible traps in subterranean, stygian depths, and of course, get to play a round of riddle-me-ree with the mysterious Sphinx itself!! But can Marcy manage to conquer her fear of the dark to rescue her dad…?

 

 

Of course she can!!

What a triumphant follow-up to the brilliant ARTHUR AND THE GOLDEN ROPE this is! This has all the attention to detail in the exquisite art and madcap mayhem in its plotting that made its predecessor so swoon-worthy and gallantly gripping in my eyes. Once again, reading with Whackers, little fingers continually stopped me from turning the pages so she could take in each page in all its glorious detail, spotting hidden delights and tracing trails of potential doom narrowly avoided!

 

 

I can only add I’m already avidly awaiting the next instalment of the epic endeavours of the brave Brownstone brood!

JR

Buy Marcy And The Riddle Of The Sphinx s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Marvel Knights Punisher Complete Collection vol 2 s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon, Joe Quesada, Darick Robertson, Tom Mandrake.

Before the more hard-hitting, real-world PUNISHER MAX series written by PREACHER’s Garth Ennis came his more burlesque stab at the PUNISHER which occasionally incorporated the Marvel Universe. But in several stories here you could see him testing the waters for a broader and more poignant approach to how humanity treats itself.

‘Do Not Fall In New York City (Noone’s Going To Catch You When You Do)’, for example, lucidly demarcates the limits of U.S. social compassion, whilst Dillon’s solo outing, as part of Marvel’s silent month, is all the more impressive because I was completely oblivious to its deliberate wordlessness until halfway through.  PREACHER’s Steve Dillon: quite the master storyteller.

Much to my surprise I found several ancient paragraphs like the above in our vaults on the original, thinner volumes which this collects and I reproduce edited highlights here with apologies for their scattershot nature.

 

 

Punisher: Business As Usual was an aptly titled third volume of Ennis’ take on the implacable crime cruncher whose perpetual, straight-faced impassivity, especially under Dillon’s pen line, is all part of the humour.  For those who care – amongst whom I do not count myself – Wolverine guest stars in a two-parter, but the recent Northern Ireland issue, grimly concise, rounded off the volume on a high if hardly up-tempo note, with something to say and something well said.

Punisher Streets of Laredo took the Punisher out West for some old fashioned shootin’ with a new fangled sheriff who’s just lost his boyfriend to a bunch of militia. The best single story was drawn by Steve Dillon in which Frank drops in – unexpectedly and much the worse for wear – on the sweet, timid and doting Joan who used to bake him cookies then sigh herself to love-stricken sleep back in MARVEL KNIGHTS PUNISHER VOl 1 . Unfortunately out-of-commission Frank Castle is being pursued by some less-than-savouries, so it’s up to Joan instead to fend them off as best she can.

Steve plays her bit lips and shy smiles to perfection, as the duo improvise with a penknife, some culinary spoons, a gardening fork and a duck pond.

 

 

 

Here are the bullet points of the fabled Marvel Bullpen which exists neither now nor ever (see MARVEL COMICS THE UNTOLD STORY) howsoever effective the illusion:

“Nobody writes the Punisher like Garth Ennis – and these brutal tales prove it!

When ex-Marine Frank Castle saw his wife and children murdered by the mob, he began a war on crime! So why is he trying to rescue a Mafia don from angry guerrilla fighters in South Africa?

And Frank faces off against Wolverine as the two compete to take down a bizarre underworld predator who’s cutting off crime at the knees!

 

 

Plus: Belfast-born Ennis brings Frank face-to-face with terrorism in Northern Ireland.

The Punisher investigates a drug ring – and the cops meant to be dismantling it.

Frank helps a social worker who has discovered a dark secret beneath the streets…and does a little dental work in a tale drawn by Joe Quesada!

Collecting PUNISHER (2001) #6-7 and #13-26, and material from MARVEL KNIGHTS DOUBLE-SHOT #1.2”

SLH

Buy Marvel Knights Punisher Complete Collection vol 2 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Belzebubs h/c (£13-99, IDW) by JP Ahonen

Beasts Of Burden: Wise Dogs & Eldritch Men h/c (£20-99, Dark Horse) by Evan Dorkin & Benjamin Dewey

Crowded vol 1 s/c (£11-99, Image) by Christopher Sebela & Ro Stein, Ted Brandt

Angel Claws h/c (£18-99, Humanoids) by Alejandro Jodorowsky & Moebius

Roaming Foliage (£9-99, Koyama Press) by Patrick Kyle

Seven To Eternity s/c vol 3 (£14-99, Image) by Rick Remender & Jerome Opena, Matt Hollingsworth

The Prisoner vol 1: Shattered Visage s/c (£21-99, Titan) by Dean R. Motter, Mark Askwith & Dean R. Motter

Tyler Cross: Angola h/c (£21-99, Titan) by Fabien Nury &  Bruno

Vei vol 1 h/c (£16-99, Insight Press) by Sara B. Elfgreen & Karl Johnsson

Batman vol 9: The Tyrant Wing s/c (Rebirth)  (£14-99, DC) by Tom King, various & Mikel Janin, Otto Schmidt

Dark Nights Metal – Dark Knights Rising s/c (£22-99, DC) by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Grant Morrison, Dan Abnett, various & Carmine DiGiandomenico, Philip Tan, Tony S. Daniel, Doug Mahnke

Black Panther Vs Deadpool s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Daniel Kibblesmith & Ricardo Lopez Ortiz

Return Of Wolverine s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Charles Soule & Steve McNiven, Declan Shalvey

Uncanny X-Men vol 1: X-Men Disassembled s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Ed Brisson, Matthew Rosenberg, Kelly Thompson & Mahmud A. Asrar, R.B. Silva, Adriano Di Benedetto, Yildiray Cinar, Pere Perez

Hitorijime My Hero vol 2 (£10-99, Kodansha) by Memeco Arii

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews March 2019 week two

Wednesday, March 13th, 2019

“This will resonate with young readers who are perhaps a little shier than their peers. I found it very touching in places.”

 – Stephen on Star Bright by Rob Zwetsloot & Alice Clarke.

The Perineum Technique h/c (£17-99, Fantagraphics) by Jerome Mult & Florent Ruppert…

“So, JH. Sarah tells me you’re a libertine?”
“Oh, yeah? Is that how she describes me? Huh. Well, I’d just call myself your average sex fiend.”

I’m not really sure what I’d call him, frankly. Certainly a bit needy and definitely more than a bit seedy. Here is the kiss-and-tell-all profile from the publisher to lure you in further.

“JH and Sarah meet online, connecting on a regular basis for virtual hook-ups. Their unromantic connections, brief and solitary, eventually obsess JH, who tries to convince Sarah to meet him in person. A strange game of seduction ensues, eventually resulting in JH accepting a challenge of abstinence in the hopes of gaining intimacy with Sarah.

The Perineum Technique is a masterful meditation on intimacy in our era of hyperconnectivity, brilliantly employing visual metaphor in lieu of sexual explicitness – the couple’s acts of online congress often begin with naked plunges off giant obelisks – to create a wildly original graphic novel tour through the subconscious of young romance.

 

 

Originally serialized in the pages of Le Monde, the prestigious French newspaper, THE PERINEUM TECHNIQUE is one of the country’s most acclaimed graphic novels of recent years, by two of its most exciting creators.”

Firstly, I’m extremely impressed that this was serialised in Le Monde, because it is certainly no holds barred stuff. Strikes me the editor of Le Monde must be a bit of libertine themselves to allow it. It’s errr… rather racy stuff in places. I think modern erotica might be an appropriate phrase.

 

 

But it’s actually primarily a character study of a rather unusual individual in J.H., a self-professed moderately famous avant garde artist who specialises in making video art. He’s currently working on a piece that uses the metaphor of cutting ones’ own fingers off as sexual arousal but he seems far more interested in getting to physical grips with Sarah.

There’s also a second video involving Samurai that he’s continually trying to progress but inspiration is repeatedly failing to strike, which of course isn’t remotely helped by his state of complete and utter distraction, much to the chagrin of his faithful assistant Julie and video editor / Grindr king Jeremy.

After J.H. finally convinces Julie to meet him, she then propositions him in a most peculiar manner. At least, J.H. thinks it’s a proposition… Given what he undertakes to do, or rather not do, hence the title of this work, for four months, he’s certainly committed. Or perhaps just needs to be.

 

 

Perfectly capturing the absurdity of a “tour through the subconscious of young romance”, this at times titillating tale may well have you frequently groaning in disbelief as well as pleasure. I genuinely had about as much an idea as J.H. as to whether he was going to get a happy ending, of any description. When we eventually got to the climax, it was rather satisfying, though, I have to say.

 

 

Delightfully light, delicate Euro-lines combined with a warm, if slightly subdued colour palette serves to give this work a somewhat surprisingly demure feel. It’s very much in keeping with J.H.’s uncertain, somewhat reserved personality in that respect actually. I have also finally put my finger on a perfectly pointless point of comparison that was driving me mad with ever-increasingly pent-up frustration. I was convinced there was someone who used an identical lettering font, even down to the use of lower case ‘i’s surrounded entirely by capitals. I won’t torture you trying to work it out for yourself, that’d be like asking someone not to, well you know, for four months, positively cruel. It’s Guy BURMA CHRONICLES Delisle.

Anyway, if you fancy learning about what fabulous frolicking fancies the French get presented to them in their daily journals then this is for you. Not one to get caught in flagrante delicto reading on public transport, this is most definitely best consumed at home. Perhaps in conjunction with a coffee and croissant for the full Parisian effect.

JR

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

Abara – Complete Deluxe Edition h/c (£20-00, Viz) by Tsutomu Nihei…

“Even if they are trying to cover something up, you really think you’ve got the authority to expose it?!”

No, but that’s not going to stop Sakijima from going full loose cannon and confronting the corrupt and wonderfully Orwellian sounding Observation Bureau head-on. Good lad. He’s about to get himself into a whole heap of trouble.

Here is the down low download from the publisher to let us know just how bad it is all going to get for him and pretty much everyone else.

“A vast city lies under the shadow of colossal, ancient tombs, the identity of their builders lost to time. In the streets of the city, something is preying on the inhabitants, something that moves faster than the human eye can see and leaves unimaginable horror in its wake. Factory worker Denji Kudou just wants to keep his head down and continue his quiet existence, but he is the key to stopping forces that would bring about an apocalyptic transformation of the world.”

Tsutomu BIOMEGA / KNIGHTS OF SIDONIA / BLAME! / APOSIMZ Nihei is back once again with, well, exactly more of just what it is that he does best. That being dystopian cyberpunk set in an architecturally imposing situation…

 

 

…featuring characters which are prone to spontaneously morphing into gigantic multi-limbed monsters…

 

 

…as they are losing their heads to the horrific sounding “vertebral detachment mechanism”.

 

 

There’s big guns too. Obviously. Plus that all important impending potential apocalypse to be averted, or at least steered in an entirely unexpected direction.

 

 

Surprise? There’s usually at least one whopper in a Nihei work.

Closest in tone, content, pace and art style to BIOMEGA by far, this self-contained high-octane horror in plush hardback form should win Nihei some new rabid fans and go straight on the shelves next to all his other material for existing ones. You could, if you were sufficiently churlish, wonder if he is ever going to do anything completely different, but given I always finish his works wanting more, I’m not going to be that person. Plus I don’t want a chiropractic treatment from the “vertebral detachment mechanism”.

I can’t ever imagine Nihei writing a romance, but if he did, I’d be on tenterhooks waiting for a dashing damsel to turn into an AI-powered flesh-eating zombie and start marauding across a mega-city spreading death and destruction behind them. Nihei’s just that sort of guy. What can I say, I like him a lot! If you finally feel like putting down AKIRA and trying something else, give him a go.

JR

Buy Abara – Complete Deluxe Edition h/c and read the Page 45 review here

After Man – A Zoology Of The Future h/c (£24-99, Breakdown Press) by Dougal Dixon.

Oh how I adored Medieval Bestiaries when I was a small boy!

You know what I mean: ancient books of awe-inspiring creatures that were imagined to exist based on legend, hearsay or travellers’ wild exaggeration. They were hybrids, a lot of them.

I would pore over those almost excitedly as I would over details of dinosaurs!

Painted ‘Animals of the World’ books were lapped up too. The more exotic the animal, the better, with extinction like the Great Auk a bloomin’ big bonus!

It was the exoticism of it all and, sadly, the impossibility of ever encountering them.

Evolution fascinated me.

 

 

Well, if any of that hits home with you then I have one hell of a treat in store, for this is all of the above wrapped up into one thrillingly illustrated encyclopaedia, complete with an in-depth, 30-page education on evolution before the highly informed and therefore genuinely witty post-Sapiens speculation begins!

It is essentially one big book of extrapolation, and the basic set-up is this: man finally fucks off and dies, leaving beleaguered nature to breath a collective sigh of relief and recover from Homo Sapiens’ 45,000 years of casual, unintentional but unapologetic mass murder beginning with the extinction of Australia’s mega-fauna then bequeathing the same gift to America on first settling there some 29,000 years later. See DARWIN – AN EXCEPTIONAL VOYAGE.

We’re still at it, and accelerating rapidly.

50 million years later, what has evolved from what we were negligent enough to leave alive?

 

 

 

Well, you can forget the remnant populations of big beasts like elephants, rhinos, tigers and whales recovering: we didn’t leave nearly enough of them alive to survive. We probably haven’t already. Crocodiles, maybe: they’ve been around since – I don’t know – the Carboniferous Era? Something close, anyway. I should check.

Instead, Dixon anticipates what will take their place in his first 30 pages. Nature abhors a vacuum in any of its environments and at all levels of its food chain so long as we leave it in peace, so more big beauties will arise from humble origins. The horse, for example, was originally just a couple of hands high, scurrying about in the undergrowth until the plains first appeared. So the place of the whales and other aquatic mammals like the dolphin will be taken by evolutionary offshoots of…

Nope, no spoilers, but it does all make perfect sense, especially when it comes to size, temperature and extremities. I promise you, those first 30 pages before you get to the goods you’re really after are golden.

“The influence of latitude on animal shape and form has two oddly contrasting effects. One known as Berman’s rule predicts that, within related groups, animals living nearer the poles will be larger. The other, Allen’s rule, states that, again in related groups, those living nearer the poles will have smaller extremities. Both effects are heat-conservation measures designed on the one hand to preserve body temperature and on the other to prevent frostbite.”

Equally interesting is the rise of the rabbit and rat in so very many divergent forms here. I loved the reasoning behind the Swimming Ant-Eater. Also if, like me, horns and armour were a big thing for you when it came to dinosaurs, I can promise you protrusions aplenty!

 

 

 

The book’s most famous fan is the great Desmond Morris, he of ‘The Naked Ape’ which I also devoured albeit a little later in life, during puberty, and what an honest, silence-breaking breath of informative fresh air that was precisely when I needed it the most! Morris heaped praises on AFTER MAN in its introduction when originally published back in 1981, while Dixon provides a brand-new foreword which delightedly points out that, during the intervening years, animals similar to those he’d conjured have since been discovered, living and breathing, and I don’t just mean superficially.

Take his Oakleaf Toad:

“It gets its name from a peculiar fleshy outgrowth on its back that looks exactly like a fallen oak leaf. The toad lies partly buried in the leaf litter, totally camouflaged and quite motionless except for its round, pink tongue which protrudes and wriggles about just like an earthworm. Any small animal that approaches to investigate falls victim to the toad’s powerful jaws. The animal’s only real enemy is the predator rat.

 

 

“These two creatures, the oakleaf toad and the predator rat, have a curious relationship. Within their blood streams lives a fluke that spends the juvenile stage in the toad and the adult stage in the predator rat. When the fluke approaches adulthood it produces a dye that turns the leaf-life outgrowth on the toad’s back bright emerald green. As this happens in the winter the toad becomes highly conspicuous and is quickly eaten. In this way the fluke is transferred into the body of the predator rat, where it becomes sexually mature and breeds. The fluke’s eggs return to the toad through the predator rat’s faeces, which are eaten by beetles that are preyed on by the toad. As the fluke needs to spend a period of at least three years growing in the toad’s body before it is ready to parasitize the predator rat, and the toad is sexually mature at eighteen months, all toads have the opportunity of breeding before being exposed to predation.”

How well thought through was that speculation? Sure enough, such a parasitical relationship has since been unearthed!

You will learn loads about parallel and convergent evolution, and the overriding role that environment plays (either stable or in flux) upon natural selection / evolution!

But really you’re here for the pictures aren’t you?

If so, I heartily commend to you also WILD ANIMALS OF THE NORTH and WILD ANIMALS OF THE SOUTH

Oh, I had fun with those two reviews!

SLH

Buy After Man – A Zoology Of The Future h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Star Bright (£11-99, self-published) by Rob Zwetsloot & Alice Clarke.

“You’re so much better at making friends than me, and… I feel like I’m losing you.”

Awww, no!

“I’m not yours to lose.”

Oooof!

Don’t be too quick to judge: there are subtleties at work, the behavioural observations are astute and this is a big bag of warmth for your young ones.

Successfully crowd-funded through Kickstarter (such was the level of interest in the title’s original appearance as web comics), this will resonate with young readers who are perhaps a little shier than their peers.

I found it very touching in places.

A young girl called Zoe has two close early-teen friends called Robin and Sarah, yet turns down every invitation to visit them at home and stay overnight, no matter how alluring the offer is of sharing their favourite anime.

“Ah, it’s okay. I have stuff to do and my Mum will probably say no.”

Her cheeks flush red, but why? And why does she presume that her Mum will say no…? It was clever to introduce that so early on.

 

 

Then one night in a bright ball of light, so golden that it glows in the sky, an alien crash-lands in Zoe’s back garden, takes up residence in the bottom drawer of her dresser and goes to school in the guise of her cousin. Instantly popular, it’s not that Star tries to intrude; it’s just that her inquisitiveness is natural, her enthusiasm is infectious, and she can see no reason not to start accepting Zoe’s friends’ invitations while Zoe stays home on her own. I mean, Zoe was invited too – it was her choice to decline.

But really, how would that make you feel?

How would you feel if you were too anxious to express your thoughts and feelings on any given topic – if you felt uncomfortable in a crowd but really not that more confident with far fewer around – and suddenly, everyone in your tightly knit group is hanging off your new friend’s every word?

How would you feel about that, if you were shy, even when Star is consistent in her kindness and solicitous of Zoe’s feelings? I think you might feel a little jealous and left out, even when no one is excluding you for five seconds. Worse still, I think you might feel even more inhibited, inadequate.

This is so well balanced.

 

 

 

In addition, the tone is masterfully controlled right from the get-go, a bright burst of initial colour to invite you in followed by sombre grey tones once Zoe’s turned down that first invitation. The light fades fast as she sits alone at the bus shelter, then on the bus. Home is in half-light, like a limbo, as Zoe treads water while her parents converse.

But then the night sky erupts to spectacular effect, for a quite different new light is about to enter Zoe’s world and all will be well in the end!

 

 

 

Alice Clarke works at Dave’s Comics in Brighton. You really must pop in whenever you’re down south. I’m so very fond of them: one of my five favourite comic shops in the UK!

For more “alien lady lands on Earth and lives in the world of humans”, please see the three volumes of Mark Oakley’s more mischievous, mirth-inducing STARDROP.

SLH

Buy Star Bright and read the Page 45 review here

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

 

 

“You want to ask me something. Go ahead.”
“No. I can’t. It’s not your fight.”
“Oh really? Honey… do I look particularly white to you?”

I love how the covers of this two-parter look together on our shelves.

It’s like your annual eye test.

On which does the writing look clearest to you?

Seeing clearly is precisely what this is about. Not everyone is as alert as they should be when their country starts sliding into fascism.

 

 

 

Britain’s well on the way, with Theresa Dis-May’s personally instigated Hostile Environment; her “Go Home Or Face Arrest” vans (I still cannot f***ing believe them) and the Windrush Scandal which has seen the wrongful deportation of so many perfectly legal UK residents who’ve worked ridiculously hard for decades for the likes of the NHS after this country begged them to help out after WWII by upping-sticks and leaving behind their family homes and beautiful, bountiful, warm and sunny countries of original for this sad, small, cold, rainy country which met them with racism and resentment.

We’re back to bookshops being raided by masked men, such is the renewed rise of the far right, fanned by the hate-flames of the Daily Fail and the most extreme and self-serving of the isolationist Brexiteers.  We’re back to assaults on buses and trams of people of colour and an increase in domestic violence. All hate crime is on the rise while those now joining, advising and leading Ukip are uglier politically than Nigel bloody Farage. Not a sentence I ever anticipated typing.

 

 

 

We’re even facing the very real possibility of an overt racist leading the Tories – as opposed to the barely covert one we have now – as our Prime Minister in the form of Boris Johnson. He’s already been Foreign Secretary. A racist Foreign Secretary! For Britain!

As for America, this is where it’s headed and is almost there, far further ahead down the slippery slope to inhumanity, fascism and indeed feudalism than even we are.

 

 

 

 

My review of DAYS OF HATE VOL 1 was so much more on-topic than this – lavishing praise on the dark, stark, rugged art which at the same time managed to glow –  that most things I could write now would be repetitive, redundant and potentially full of spoilers. However:

One moment, almost unimaginably awful, has torn two lovers apart.

One of them has joined a small resistance cell, investigating homophobic bombings – which now elicit no response from the government or public alike – then turning the tables, meting out their revenge, but not without considerable risk to themselves. The other woman has fallen into the hands of – then thrown herself into bed with – the manipulative monster in charge of capturing her ex-lover who has teamed up with a man equally disaffected by this grave new world, and who can no longer visit his family, for the law isn’t above using your loved ones.

And the law, it dutifully visits all their loved ones, one by one…

 

 

 

Let’s leave it with that chilling ellipsis, shall we?

What’s extraordinary about this second half, in addition to its emotional charge, is that Ales Kot is not renowned for this reticence in writing. He is a furnace fired up with ideas. Yet he has left Zezelj and Bellaire so much room for their penumbral art to haunt you in silence.

It hovers like a shroud throughout, over everything and everyone.

For more, please see DAYS OF HATE VOL 1.

SLH

Buy Days Of Hate vol 2 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Last Siege s/c (£17-99, Image) by Landry Quinn Walker & Justin Greenwood.

Enjoyed this!

It’s a castle-based, hereditary, territorial pissing contest.

Should appeal to Game Of Thrones folks.

Unless you’re only there for the dragons.

SLH

Buy Last Siege 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’

Asleep In The Back (£5-00, ) by Tim Bird

By Night vol 1 s/c (£10-99, Boom! Studios) by John Allison & Christine Larsen

Cult Of The Ibis h/c (£24-99, Fantagraphics) by Daria Tessler

Dragon Post h/c (£10-99, Walker Books) by Emma Yarlett

Infinite Dark vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Image) by Ryan Cady & Andrea Mutti

Marcy And The Riddle Of The Sphinx s/c (£7-99, Flying Eye Books) by Joe Todd-Stanton

Oblivion Song vol 2 s/c (£14-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Lorenzo De Felici

PTSD h/c (£19-99, FirstSecond Books) by Guillaume Singelin

Rosalynd h/c (£19-99, Dark Planet) by Stephen Franck

Sandman vol 1: Preludes & Nocturnes (30th Anniversary Ed’n) (£14-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg, Malcolm Jones III

Sandman vol 3: Dream Country (30th Anniversary Ed’n) (£14-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & Malcolm Jones III, Charles Vess, Steve Erickson, Colleen Doran, Kelley Jones

Sandman vol 4: Season Of Mists (30th Anniversary Ed’n) (£14-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & Neil Gaiman, Kelley Jones, Harlan Ellison, Mike Dringenberg

Sandman vol 5: A Game Of You (30th Anniversary Ed’n) (£14-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & Bryan Talbot, George Pratt, Stan Woch, Samuel R. Delany, Shawn McManus, Colleen Doran

The Breakaways s/c (£9-99, FirstSecond Books) by Cathy G. Johnson

The Hunting Accident: A True Story Of Crime And Poetry h/c (£26-99, FirstSecond Books) by David L. Carlson & Landis Blair

The Iliad (Graphic Novel) s/c (£12-99, Candlewick) by Gareth Hinds

Useleus – A Greek Oddity (£9-99, Flying Eye Books) by Alexander Matthews & Wilbur Dawbarn

Batman And Harley Quinn s/c (£12-99, DC) by Ty Templeton & Rick Burchett

Justice League Dark vol 1: The Last Age Of Magic s/c (£14-99, DC) by James Tynion IV & Alvaro Martinez Bueno, Daniel Sampere

Marvel Knights Punisher Complete Collection vol 2 s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon, Joe Quesada, Darick Robertson, Tom Mandrake

Giant Spider & Me – A Post Apocalyptic Tale vol 1 (£9-99, Seven Seas) by Kikori Morino

Mob Psycho 100 vol 2 (£10-99, Dark Horse) by One

My Solo Exchange Diary vol 2 (£11-99, Seven Seas) by Nagata Kabi

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews March 2019 week one

Wednesday, March 6th, 2019

Cat Getting Out Of A Bag mashed up with ‘Alienand served in a cute, full-colour kitty bowl of joy, complete with all those horrible bits of congealed jelly on top to queasify the unsuspecting stomach.”

 – Jonathan on Jonesy – Nine Lives On The Nostromo h/c by Rory Lucey

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

“This place is not yours to understand.
“It is mine to devour!”

Ooooooooh, it’s going to grow proper scary, shortly!

At that moment, the warm, rich palette of organic oranges, greens, browns and blues will abruptly give way to a pale purple void and a dark, blackcurrant vacuum: a roost ruled over by an enormous, yellow-eyed agent of destruction and despoiler of spaces, a sharp-beaked bird that can transform itself into a vast, black flapping flock, stealing away Sandy’s sketchbook and the wetlands of this world.

Nature itself is under assault, as we all know too well.

Lorena Alvarez – the creator of NIGHTLIGHTS, now out in softcover – returns with some of the most gorgeous sequential-art spreads you will ever behold, some earthly, some unearthly but always with such a command of form and colour that adults and youngsters alike will fall mesmerised until their spell!

 

 

The wide, misty wetland being explored by Sandy and her school friends invites wide eyes to roam around its outer reaches, spotting brightly coloured birds hopping between early autumnal berries, the leaves just beginning their senescent switch from dark summer-green to a rusty golden brown. Yet, like Joe Todd-Stanton’s MARCY AND THE RIDDLE OF THE SPHINX, these landscapes also lead the eye round the page through carefully choreographed conversation, perfectly balanced in its visual timing.

Okay, the first one here is more of an argument than a conversation, and Sandy’s so concerned for the wellbeing of all the critters being captured and collected – being removed from their natural, safe, life-sustaining environment and dropped into empty jam jars without any thought as to what they might eat – that on the very next page she kicks out in frustration before realising it wasn’t some sort of rugby ball she’d punted into mid-air, thence the brook’s waters, but a small turtle, hiding in its shell… and she is devastated.

 

 

 

 

I adore Alvarez’s eyes: pools of circular black ink so solid that you could, paradoxically, dive into then swim in them. It’s as if you can see straight through to Sandy’s emotional core, and a brain actively generating questions.

“Hello?” being an odd opening gambit to an amphibious reptile but sure enough, after a Lewis Carroll rabbit-hole segue, we discover that the shell’s inhabitant, curating a collection, is indeed entirely sentient with questions of its own.

Once more, those children’s eyes, they are going to wander!

 

 

At first the picture frames appear to contain birds, beasts and relatives in portrait mode; flora and fauna and full-blown landscapes, with the odd geometric arrangement.

But then there are colour wheels, solar systems, inventors and inventions like Da Vinci’s design for a bird-like flying machine! Hicotea, you see (a Colombian turtle), has been on a quest, a quest for knowledge but I’m afraid her source has dried up. We’ll get to that in a bit.

“I’ve been collecting these things for a while. Each of them represents a question that someone asked, and their journey to find an answer… an answer that might show the world in a different light. Take my home, for example. Something that you thought was small is in fact almost infinite… or if you look at a marble, perhaps there is a whole universe inside!”

 

 

On the subject of spotting details, I adored how the spiral staircase is carved out of a gnarled, ancient tree, and I admired all the clambering involved in Sandy and Hicotea’s journey through the found objects.

“You just have to ask the questions to find out, don’t you?”
“I… I don’t know. I guess. Sometimes it is easier to stay quiet. People get tired of questions that can’t be answered.”
“Or scared of the answers they find…”

Hicotea had been exploring the wetlands where she felt comfortable, safe and quite at home, but now they appear to have vanished along with all their vibrancy, life, variety and colour, the portal reduced to a blank space.

“There’s something out there that won’t let me through.”

Sandy manages to topple through, though.

Unfortunately she might not like what is waiting for her.

 

 

We haven’t even reached page 20. There is far, far more to explore, and along with all the scary stuff – whose compositions with the spaces and holes also manages to evoke a strong sense of emptiness and loss – there are some delightfully funny moments, as when Sandy, in a panic, fleetingly thinks that she’s been invited by new friends into their home as dinner, rather than guest.

Alvarez’s decision to concentrate on a specific natural ecosystem is very wise, especially one which many schoolchildren will be more likely to have discovered for themselves. We certainly took jam jars down to a big pond at infant school. If you try to communicate to Young Readers all our self-inflicted problems on a global scale, it all grows a bit too enormous, even nebulous rather than, ummm, concrete. This approach, by contrast, makes it more involved and personal.

 

 

From Flying Eye / Nobrow, the publisher responsible for Luke Pearson’s HILDA, ANIMALS OF THE NORTH, ANIMALS OF THE SOUTH, ARTHUR AND THE GOLDEN ROPE, AKISSI, THE JOURNEY and oh so very much more!  

SLH

Buy Hicotea: Nightlights Book 2 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

It’s the light, basically.

I bought this in for the light inside which is absolutely exquisite!

Over and over again, Briony May Smith captures – as perfectly as anything I’ve seen – the warm glow of a weak winter sun, low in the sky, on otherwise freezing cold snow. The dappled purple shadows are also present and correct. There’s one page in that respect that I’d rank right up there with Monet.

Contentious!

 

 

The solitary bear cub waking up alone after hibernation is as cuddly as can be. He’s feeling so small in this vast wintry landscape, but finds a little stone looking sad, lost alone, and so adopts it. It’s good to have friends, isn’t it?

 

 

Mind you, I also relish a good rhyme, and Woollard delivers that too. I can already hear you reading this to your kids. The cadence is perfect, and we are in a good old gambol up and down dell (okay, it’s more of a mountainous forest), leaping about with some hares racing round, excited for spring and its much softer ground; or birds flitting high with no time to rest, each in search of twigs for their nest.

“Oh,” the bear muttered. “So what is the spring?”
“Spring,” said the birds, “is a magical thing!
“The sun shimmers out through the cold winter’s gloom,
“And the buds open up and burst forth into bloom.”

“Oh!” said the bear. “I could help build a nest!”
But although the bear tried, his attempts weren’t the best.
So the bear lolloped off down the track all alone,
Saying, “Oh… well at least I have you, dear Stone.”

Slight mistaken identity there, mate, as soon you shall see.

 

 

It’s all so ridiculously pretty that I do wish I had more interior art for you but couldn’t find that much online, and what I could find was mostly, lamentably, cropped. However, this will only serve to enhance your own wonder when you open the book up for yourself.

Three gasps and you are legally obliged to buy the book.

I will be listening from behind our counter.

SLH

Buy Little Bear’s Spring and read the Page 45 review here

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

“We know you were working with Al-Qaida in London in 1993. You were part of a clandestine cell led by Abu Qatada Al-Masri.”
“Are you sure?”
“Look: 1993.”
“You should be smart and say 1998 or 1999. In 1993, I was six.”
“HA HA HA.”

Ever wondered precisely what it would be like to be a detainee in Guantanamo Bay? If so, this work will shed some light on the shady incarceration practices of the U.S. government perpetuated in the name of the war on terror. Here’s the rap sheet from the publisher to lay out the charges…

“Saudi Arabia offers few prospects for the bright young Mohammed El-Gharani. His access to healthcare and education are restricted; nor can he make the most of his entrepreneurial spirit. At the age of 14, Mohammed seizes an opportunity to study in Pakistan.

One Friday in Karachi, Mohammed is detained during a raid on his local mosque. After being beaten and interrogated, he is sold to the American government by the Pakistani forces as a member of Al-Qaida with links to Osama Bin Laden, but Mohammed has heard of neither. The Americans fly him first to Kandahar and then to Guantánamo Bay. GUANTANAMO KID tells the story of one of Guantanamo Bay’s youngest detainees.”

 

 

Yes, if we are to believe Mohammed El-Gharani’s story, as the Americans obviously didn’t, he was merely in the wrong place at the wrong time, having chosen to fly under an illegal passport to Pakistan to study I.T. The illegal passport being necessary because his parents didn’t want him to leave Saudi Arabia.

Sold on to the Americans for the not inconsiderable sum of $5000, which perhaps explains why the local Pakistani authorities on the ground might have been happy to provide an endless production line of potential jihadis for enhanced interrogation at Camp X-Ray, Mohammed was about to lose several years of his life, indeed probably his entire potential future, at least as he foresaw it. Do make sure you read the writer Jérôme Tubiana’s afterword, because Mohammed’s problems with various security services continue to this day.

With a strength belying his tender teenage years, or perhaps because of it, Mohammed adapts, survives and possibly even thrives during his imprisonment with a surprising degree of stoicism and indeed even more astonishing displays of defiance.

 

 

It’s very difficult to know precisely just how one would react in such a situation. I’m not sure I would have responded with such defiance the way Mohammed apparently did, but then I’m not expecting to be hauled off the streets and forcibly rendered halfway around the world for the ultimate surprise getaway. Mind you, neither did he…

Along the way he befriends someone who most politically aware people in the UK will probably have heard of, the Saudi citizen and British resident Shaker Aamer, who was held at Guantanamo without charge for more than thirteen years, considerably longer than Mohammed’s not insubstantial seven, and became an unofficial spokesperson for his fellow detainees, though Mohammed too frequently advocated and agitated for better conditions at the camp.

 

 

I found Mohammed’s sad story incredibly upsetting. That seemingly pure sheer unfortunate circumstance can lead to such destruction of a life, indeed lives, because of course his family was devastated too. And yet, given the judicial injustices we see frequently repeated on domestic soil, particularly American, by law enforcement agencies, is it really so hard to believe Mohammed, and indeed Shaker Aamer’s  stories, amongst so many others?

 

 

I thought Alexandre Franc’s black and white, relatively straightforward art style, worked well for disseminating Mohammed’s hardships without making it overly-dramatic or indeed too emotionally difficult to digest. It’s punchy enough, though, and it also works perfectly in conveying the humour the inmates manage to find, and also the mischief they managed to make, in even the most trying of circumstances.

JR

Buy Guantanamo Kid – The True Story Of Mohammed El-Gharani and read the Page 45 review here

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

Haha, this is basically CAT GETTING OUT OF A BAG AND OTHER OBSERVATIONS mashed up with ALIEN and served in a cute, full-colour kitty bowl of joy, complete with all those horrible bits of congealed jelly on top to queasify the unsuspecting stomach. Let me allow the publisher to give you fair warning of the playful trip of terror you’re about to embark on…

“Aboard the USCSS Nostromo, Jonesy leads a simple life enjoying The Company cat food and chasing space rodents. Until one day, his cryostasis catnap is rudely interrupted. The humans have a new pet and it’s definitely not house-trained.

In space, no one can hear you meow.”

True, that final point, if a little unimaginative. I think my favourite rework on the classic Alien movie poster simply has to be the tagline for the surprisingly good horror film Killer Clowns From Outer Space which proclaimed that… “In space, no one can eat ice cream.”

Anyway, I dairily digress, because this is hilariously brilliant. From the moment Jonesy wakes up yawning and stretching and promptly attaches herself to Ripley’s still sleeping head like an alien facehugger that simply will not be shaken off, I was chortling away.

 

 

This work follows the plot of the film faithfully, just from the very puzzled feline eye of Jonesy who wonders who in space this shiny, spindly interloper might be and how they can be chased off. At least to start with…

 

 

You’ll recognise many of this movie’s iconic moments, such as the exploding chest and the acid dissolving through the floors, but just not quite how you remember them.

 

 

However, you might still find yourself watching, I mean reading, through your fingers (which does make it rather tricky to hold onto the book, I have to say) as Jonesy continues to burn through his allotted lives quicker than a squadron of suicidally gung-ho space marines confronted by a gaggle of excited Xenomorphs. Sorry, unnecessary sequel reference.

 

 

I liked the little intro from the creator who comments after finally convincing his wife to watch the film with him that there was only one thing she wanted to know before it started: did the cat survive?! Well, according to Jonesy’s own version of events, it was an extremely close call indeed! Repeatedly!

JR

Buy Jonesy – Nine Lives On The Nostromo h/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

“Sissy, go inside. What are you doing here, Tasha?”
“I just wanted to see her… Get to know her.”
“You don’t have the right. Did you tell her?”
“No. ‘Course not.”
“And you’re not going to. Why… what do you want?”
“Nothing. I swear.”
“I don’t have no money.”
“Like I said, I just want to get to know her.”
“You don’t have that right!”

Charles THE END OF THE F*CKING WORLD Forsman and Max MOOSE De Radigues combine their own unique talents to produce this mysterious low-key tale of a lady riding the rails instead of running the family home.

 

 

I say mysterious, because in true Forsman fashion, the main characters don’t offer up all the answers to their current motivations and precisely how they ended up in the collective and individual messes they find themselves in. Well, any answers really. Instead we are left wondering how this particular family hit the buffers and why Mom decided a life on the open road was the solution to her personal problems. We get feelings, though, albeit mainly of the intensely repressed kind. Some will out quite spectacularly. For a while at least…

 

 

Max De Radigues captures this sense of subdued yet strained inhibition very neatly with minimal linework combined with red letratone shading. For folks not familiar with his work I can see bits and pieces of Kevin FIELDER Huizenga, Hartley YOUNG FRANCES Lin and even a touch of Box AN ENTITY OBSERVES ALL THINGS Brown.

 

 

There’s a tangible sense of space in the artwork here which probably accurately reflects the emotional distance between the roving, restless mother and her sad, sweet husband and unsuspecting daughter.

JR

Buy Hobo Mom h/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

“You woke up in the hospital with a bump on your head and no memory of life before the accident. Sound about right? Nyseth’s people call it a “springboard”. Meant to keep you from asking questions about your previous life.”
“You’re lying.”
“Your D.N.A. matches his.”
“I’m not him! You hear me!”
“We found records of the operation when we raided Nyseth’s lab two months ago.”
“I’M NOT HIM!”

Oh, but you are, Nathan. Well, you’re not Nathan actually. You’re the most wanted man in existence called Ian Black. That’s a bit dull isn’t it…? Not the most wanted man bit, obviously, I meant the name.

Here’s the future fiction forecast from the publisher for the incoming sequential storm front about to blight Nathan Bright’s life…

“The future’s only hope… has a zero percent chance. Nathan Bright had it all: an awesome girlfriend, a kickass dog, and a job as the #1 weatherman on terraformed Mars. But when he’s accused of carrying out the worst terrorist attack in human history – an event that wiped out nearly the entire population of Earth – Nathan becomes the target of a manhunt that spans the galaxy.

 

 

But is Nathan truly responsible for such a horrific crime? And why can’t he remember? Confused, terrified, and totally unprepared for life on the run, Nathan’s fate lies in the hands of Amanda Cross, the disavowed government agent assigned to his case.

Together the unlikely duo will have to rely on each other as they battle their way through the solar system in search of the truth, and the key to stopping a second extinction-level attack.

A full-throttle, wide-screen, science-fiction epic about the damage we do in the name of justice and what it truly means to be redeemed.”

 

 

They didn’t mention the ridiculous humour for some reason! I think I’d have been tempted to label this as a full-throttle absurdist science-fiction romp as it’s definitely played for laughs… The initial character of Nathan Bright, before his entire world falls apart, you know, like he apparently did to the Earth when he was Ian Black, is just so incessantly cheerfully chirpy you want to punch him in the face repeatedly. He’s just one of those people who is so happy it hurts everyone else. Hahaha, it’s not going to last. Oodles of daft dialogue too, that’ll have you shaking your head in disbelief whilst smiling away merrily.

We don’t get to do it – punch him, that is – but plenty of others, both the good guys and bad guys, do. Good. Even though it really isn’t Nathan’s fault. Good job he’s got the lovely Amanda Cross, who definitely enjoys punching Nathan in the face, to keep him safe from practically everyone while they try and sort it all out.

 

 

I predict trouble aplenty ahead for one of the most entertaining and quite literally throwaway characters I’ve wanted to punch, I mean read, for a while! I actually started to wonder if writer Jody LeHeup might have a deep-seated pathological hatred of weathermen he gives Nathan such a proverbial buffeting. Maybe one ran off with his girlfriend or something…

Strong art too, from Nathan Fox, bursting with angular energy and vibrant colour. It’s a little bit Paul BATTLING BOY Pope in places and most definitely a dash of Jim STREET ANGEL Rugg too. Actually, maybe a bit of Alan TANK GIRL Martin as well, now I come to think of it. It matches the writing perfectly.

 

 

If you fancy reading something that doesn’t take itself remotely seriously, like MAESTROS, but with far less profanity and a sci-fi twist instead, this could be for you. I believe this is one and done too. It says volume one on the side, but it seems all blown over to me by the end.

JR

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

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

An SUV drives through the wrought iron gates of an estate substantial enough to have a sizeable spread of trees, yet close enough to a major city that its light pollution taints the sky purple at night.

It pulls up at the imposing entrance to an even more imposing mansion.

“Mr. Warren values punctuality.
“You’re late.”

It’s always a good idea to establish the hierarchy of employment early on, isn’t it?

A man much younger than the snow-haired butler steps out of the vehicle.

“Is that right?
“Because your boss once told me that he never wanted to see me again.
“By my watch, that makes me early.”

It’s a good line in itself, but also a careful clue artfully slipped in early on, which is why I haven’t quoted you the publisher’s own blurb which is one big blunder-headed spoiler. Instead, I’ll leave you to join your own dots because, quite rightly, they aren’t in the comic itself.

 

 

 

Mr. Warren has reluctantly summoned this Mr. Kerr back after 8 years of absence, for he values his ability to find those who’ve gone missing. And Mr. Warren’s daughter Alyssa went missing, a month ago. There’s a photograph of her in an envelope laden with cash.

“Seems like there was an envelope full of money on the desk the last time I was here.”
“And tell me… how long did those funds last?”

It’s the second photograph which first ruffles Mr. Kerr’s cool, of a girl nearly 8 years old.

“Her name is Grace. She vanished along with her mother. She’s a special child, Mr Kerr, and the courts have seen fit to make me her legal guardian.
“Alyssa was never one to make good decisions.
“I’m concerned for my grand-daughter… for Grace… and I want her brought back to me, where I can protect her. If Alyssa doesn’t want to return… well… It wouldn’t be the first time she’s used poor judgement.”

It’s a scene well played by Mark Torres, for at that last implied sleight, Mr Kerr’s eyes shoot daggers.

Have you figured it out yet? One final clue: Mr Kerr calls Mr Warren “Arthur”.

It’s pretty cold where Mr. Kerr’s headed, to the coast which is close to an offshore island whose inhabitants have recently chosen to dispense with a ferry altogether.

 

 

 

It was preternaturally cold when we first and last saw that island, during the first four pages. Even inside with the thermostat turned up, the breath of the bearded man hangs in the air. His shoulders hang heavy too. He sits alone and pallid in the bungalow’s colourless lounge, overly empty save for some family portraits, also hanging, on the wall.

His wife in the kitchen’s stopped washing the dishes. Instead she’s staring out of the window.

 

 

“Louise? What are you doing?”
“Hmm? I’m sorry. I wasn’t paying attention. I was just watching the boys play.”
“The.. the boys? What are you talking about? You can’t watch them play. The boys are –“

The boys are in the garden, one standing on a swing, the other racing towards a football.

 

 

But you can see right through them. And then there are those faces and eyes

Beautifully judged by Torres for maximum eeriness, there will be more temperamental temperature during the second half of this first issue which I’ve not even touched on.

From the writer of HARROW COUNTY (first two volumes reviewed).

SLH

Buy Cold Spots s/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

“You don’t care about anyone but yourself, do you? How sad is that?”

Another reboot yarn this time featuring Billy Batson, here updated for the 21st century as a right royal pain in the arse. A problem child who is unwanted and unloved, stuck in foster homes for most of his life, and consequently has a gargantuan chip to carry on his young shoulders. If only he could turn into someone super-strong to take the weight of all his woes… Gosh, that’d be magic wouldn’t it?

It works though, because the character of Billy is given real depth by Johns and there is an excellent supporting cast of goodies and baddies that flesh the story out perfectly. Excellent art from Gary Frank, who as usual has provided a masterclass of exactly how superhero books can and should be drawn. Every single face he has drawn here shows emotional content which adds an extra dimension to the storytelling.

 

 

Wonderful.

Apart from the new cover.

JR

[Editor’s note: collects the back-up strips from JUSTICE LEAGUE (NEW 52) #7-11, 0, 14-16 and 18-21. I love Gary Frank. See DOOMSDAY CLOCK etc. He makes you believe that a muscular, 15-stone man can fly – or even float in mid-air.]

 

 

Buy Shazam s/c (Movie Cover Edition)  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’

Blossoms In Autumn h/c (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by Zidrou & Aimee De Jongh

Book Learnin’ – A Pie Comics Collection (£13-99, Lion Forge) by John McNamee

Brazen – Rebel Ladies Who Rocked The World h/c (£17-99, Ebury Press) by Penelope Bagieu

Girl Town (£17-99, Top Shelf) by Carolyn Nowak

Kid Gloves  – Nine Months Of Careful Chaos (£15-99, FirstSecond) by Lucy Knisley

Kill 6 Billion Demons vol 3 (£14-99, Image) by Tom Parkinson-Morgan

Last Siege s/c (£17-99, Image) by Landry Quinn Walker & Justin Greenwood

Man-Eaters vol 1 (£11-99, Image) by Chelsea Cain & Kate Niemczyk

The Perineum Technique h/c (£17-99, Fantagraphics) by Jerome Mult & Florent Ruppert

Star Bright (£11-99, ) by Rob Zwetsloot & Alice Clarke

Walking Dead vol 31: The Rotten Core (£14-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard

The Wicked + The Divine vol 8: Old Is The New New s/c (£15-99, Image) by Kieron Gillen & Stephanie Hans, Andre Araujo, Ryan Kelly, Aud Koch, various

The Wild Storm vol 3 s/c (£14-99, DC) by Warren Ellis & Jon Davis-Hunt

This Woman’s Work (£18-99, Drawn + Quarterly) by Julie Delporte

Xerxes: The Fall Of The House Of Darius And The Rise Of Alexander h/c (£26-99, Dark Horse) by Frank Miller

Avengers vol 2: World Tour s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Sara Pichelli, David Marquez, Ed McGuinness

Fantastic Four vol 1: Fourever s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Dan Slott & Sara Pichelli, various

Abara – Complete Deluxe Edition h/c (£20-00, Viz) by Tsutomu Nihei

RWBY Anthology vol 4: I Burn (£8-99, Viz) by various

That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime vol 4 (£10-99, Kodansha) by Fuse, Taiki Kawakami

That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime vol 5 (£10-99, Kodansha) by Fuse, Taiki Kawakami

That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime vol 6 (£10-99, Kodansha) by Fuse, Taiki Kawakami

That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime vol 7 (£10-99, Kodansha) by Fuse, Taiki Kawakami

That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime vol 8 (£10-99, Kodansha) by Fuse, Taiki Kawakami

That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime vol 9 (£10-99, Kodansha) by Fuse, Taiki Kawakami