Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews March 2019 week two

“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

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