Archive for May, 2019

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews May 2019 week three

Wednesday, May 15th, 2019

Featuring Mac Barnett, Jon Klassen, Mark Millar, Olivier Coipel, Dave Stewart, Joakim Drescher, Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Gaydos, Robert Venditti, Kevin Maurer, Andrea Mutti, Sam Humphries, Jen Bartel, Posy Simmonds

Magic Order vol 1 (£17-99, Image) by Mark Millar & Olivier Coipel with Dave Stewart.

“How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child.”

 – William Shakespeare, ‘King Lear’

Poor Cordelia, side-lined by her father for failing to flatter him!

Or, in this Cordelia’s case, for being so contrary that she cannot be trusted, so unreliable that she fails to make family funerals (and then turns up plastered) and is a catastrophic liability when it comes to being hired as a magician for children’s birthday parties. It’s come to my attention recently that parents are now expected to hang around and make small talk with each other during their sproglets’ celebrations: in our day parents considered it a few hours free babysitting and buggered off to enjoy their brief break of freedom.

Far from enjoying a brief break of freedom following her most recent engagement, chic but worse-for-wear Cordelia finds herself sitting in the back of a police car in handcuffs.



“What kind of a person gets arrested at a five-year-old’s birthday party?”
“The magician, obviously.”
“How the hell does that even happen? You’re supposed to be in there making balloon animals and shit.”
“Well, I guess it all took a turn for the worse when the mother caught me fucking her husband in the kitchen. She threw a punch. I hit her back. Next thing you know, we’re wrestling on a bouncy castle and some kid’s having an asthma attack.”

She pauses, easing her back leather jacket back off her shoulders, eyes staring wearily into space.

“I think the moral of this story is never pour vodka on your breakfast cereal when you run out of milk.”



One of the cops reads Cordelia’s business card.

““Children’s Entertainer. Stage Magician. Professional Escapologist.” “Is escapology even a thing?”
“Take a look in your rearview mirror.”

Cordelia’s gone, leaving only the handcuffs.



Deliciously drawn by Olivier Coipel and coloured by Dave Stewart with relish, this is meticulously constructed for maximum hindsight-satisfaction after the three successive whiplash revelations / reversals in the final two acts. It’s by far the finest thing that Mark Millar’s written since JUPITER’S LEGACY VOL 1, JUPITER’S CIRCLE VOL 1, JUPITER’S CIRCLE VOL 2, JUPITER’S LEGACY VOL 2 (suggested reading order, otherwise the last one will leave you utterly baffled as to one man’s motivation and its emotional core), and it’s infinitely more accessible for you can file this self-contained graphic novel under 16+, horror, comedy, fantasy and yet another good old family feud. That’s what King Lear’s all about too.

For King Lear, I give you the patriarch Leonard, performing stunts live every night to a packed-out theatre and basking in his audience’s adulation. He’s father to Cordelia, Regan and Gabriel, the last of whom has left the family business after losing his daughter to said family business. The family business in question is magic; specifically saving an unsuspecting global population from the darker forces at large without them ever being aware of The Magic Order’s efforts or indeed existence. They’ve done it for generations, consulting each other from their castle base which has been hidden inside a painting since a security breach in 1986. Now it cannot be accessed except through formal invitation. Its permanent resident is dear Uncle Edgar, who’s seen better days and no longer allowed out to play. Let me be plain: he is forbidden from leaving the castle.



The feud in question stems from the slight of Leonard inheriting the family business from his Uncle Conrad instead of Conrad’s own daughter, Madame Albany, another thankless child deemed untrustworthy who has since taken it upon herself to dress in flowing, funereal black and a black rubber gimp mask. With the head-of-house mantle also came The Orichalcum, a book containing the darkest spells of Old Atlantis, bequeathed to Leonard only on the strict condition that he never open it. It is housed securely in the castle’s library.

Albany only wants that which she deems to be hers, and to prove her father wrong in failing to trust in her honourable intentions.



To that end she has acquired the assistance of The Venetian, a porcelain-masked assassin otherwise bearing a striking resemblance to Guy Davis’s Vol de Galle from THE MARQUIS, only with a wand instead of sabre and pistols.

I can assure you that the wand is catastrophically more effective: within the first four pages The Venetian has dispatched the first of the family’s inner circle by possessing his infant son, who climbs stealthily up over the contented couple’s post-coital sheets like a vampire bat, before thrusting a kitchen knife up through his father’s throat. There’s barely time for a graveside post-mortem squabble before the rest of the family start falling like flies.

This is important: they’ve no time to rally. There’ll be nothing new that they can bring to the table with which to defend themselves, only their resolve and character.

As to The Venetian’s disposition, one of his assaults involves jamming the doors of a taxi then flooding it from the inside with a wave of his wand and the customary car-command when once there were petrol pump attendants of:

“Fill ‘er up.”



Now, the thing about magic is that there must be rules.

Without rules it’s just nebulous, free-form hocus pocus with no room for tension.

Mark Millar establishes all the rules very early on and – like any great conjuror – he does so while distracting you so that you don’t even notice. When everything’s played out so satisfyingly, however, and you look back in retrospect, they’ve all been hidden in plain sight, I promise!



Equally distracting is all the art.

You may know Olivier Coipel from his distinctly Norse eyebrows in J. Michael Straczynksi’s THOR VOL 1 (or as I call it “Loki be a lady tonight”), Marvel’s HOUSE OF M and CIVIL WAR II. If so you’ll know that his forms are bold and his fashion sense exquisite. Even Gabriel’s affectation-free dismissal of all but the most comfortable clothes works, for it places him resolutely in the world of quotidian life, vowing never to return to that which killed his daughter in order to protect his mentally vulnerable wife. When his daughter appears in flashbacks, it will floor you.

Yet Dave Stewart has here switched to a far softer style, colouring over Coipel’s precise lines in order to render them not just moody but far more ethereal, which is perfect for when the physical realms start shifting subtly and very, very dangerously. Particularly striking are Madame Albany’s eyes – cold black dots on ice-white, glassy balls – and The Black Kingdom Castle (“It’s rumoured to be accessed through a crack in an asylum wall. Others say it sits in the shadow of a former church.”), rising brutally from sharply spiked, Stygian grey mists like a multiple-towered, ebony stake through easily giving flesh.



Meanwhile, back to Cordelia, who’s been an escape artist, practically speaking, since very soon after conception.

“I don’t know why I’m less reliable that the others. Maybe it’s because Mom got tired of Dad’s infidelities and left him for a regular Joe who didn’t know her past. Maybe it’s because Dad tried to abort me. But I’ve made bad choices my entire life, and I doubt that’s going to change any time soon.
“So I drink too much, fuck the wrong guys, and try to gain my father’s approval by doing the same job he does. My friends say I’m needy and they’re probably right. Should I really give a fuck what my father thinks, when I’m standing on the cusp of turning thirty in September?”

We pull back on the next page to reveal whom she’s addressing, shell-shocked, under banners and balloons.

“Anyways, I hope you kids had a lovely party.”

Like FROM HELL, this isn’t a whodunit, it’s a whydunit.

But, unlike FROM HELL, please don’t think you know any of the answers yet.


Buy Magic Order vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Pearl vol 1 s/c (£14-99, DC) by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Gaydos…

“No orientals. Have I ever told you that? This was one of those streets. Not anymore.
“Pearl. Not to worry… I already figured it out.
“Steady hand with the tattoo needle. Steady hand with a gun.
“All these years, no one ever connected the two professions…”
“Mr Miike. I was just there.”
“Just ‘one of those things.’”
“The thing is… things like that become bigger things.
“Do not worry. I am not giving you to the other clan.
“Come with me.”

Well, I guess being an incredibly talented tattoo artist and ‘accidental assassin’ isn’t the most preposterous employment overlap.  I mean, I’m a comics retailer and a ninja on the quiet… Though I only sling shuriken when people don’t pick up their standing orders…

Anyway… Pearl’s hidden skills are revealed when she saves the life of a fellow tattooist at a food cart from an Uzi-wielding motorcyclist, by popping the biker straight in the head with a pistol given to her for protection by her dad, who is currently doing a long stretch in prison.

Certainly Mr Miike, the local Yakuza boss sees Pearl’s sharp shooting as grounds for  involuntary advancement within the ‘business’ and promptly hands her a list of people to take care of. You know, permanently.

Unfortunately top of the docket is one Rick Araki, the name of tattooist she’s just earned an undying debt of gratitude from for not letting him be ventilated good and proper. Oh and she quite fancies him too…

This is going to get complicated isn’t it?

Of course it is, for this is Bendis back on top crime-related form, paired up with his Jessica Jones co-creating crony Michael ALIAS Gaydos! So before too long you’ll be wondering just how naive Pearl really is, precisely what it is her banged-up dad is actually protecting her from, and be in absolutely no doubt whatsoever how fucking annoying her best mate Kim is.

The hidden games that seemingly everyone is playing soon start to be revealed, much like Pearl’s tattoos that only appear all over her albino white skin when she becomes flushed, merely one of many exquisite artistic flourishes from Gaydos.

Pearl also has another tattoo, a very visible spider on her wrist inked by a near-mythical master named Iriguci, which is actually responsible for kicking off all her current woes. I suspect we may eventually find out more about that spectacular arachnid specimen, the precise circumstances of how she came by it and indeed the mysterious Iriguci himself…

It’s an intriguing, action-packed opener from two talents operating at peak efficiency. I found the story from Bendis more than sufficiently complex in comparison to his recent DC capes output, which I have to say, really feels like it has to still get going for me. But if he keeps producing works like this and the mildly comedic COVER in conjunction with David Mack, about a comics artist who gets recruited as a spy, though, then I won’t really care.

Gaydos, meanwhile, is just on top absolute top form here. The backgrounds, patterned panel layouts, full page spreads, you name it, I could wax lyrical about so much, but I will let the interior art I have selected speak for itself. I’m not sure I could do it just anyway.

It isn’t often I will just flick through a book again after reading it to absorb matters on an entirely purely artistic level, but I did so for a good twenty minutes on finishing this. Absolutely masterful and entirely faultless. Gaydos would probably make an exceptional tattooist. I’d certainly trust him to ink me based on this work. I’d probably not offer to get myself into a life and death situation and hand him a pistol to save the day mind.

Crazy thought that, though… The next thing, you’ll be telling me a comics artist would make a great spy too… what glorious lunatic would come up with a crazy concept like th… Ah!


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


Circle h/c (£12-99, Walker Books) by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen.

The third in what I call Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen’s ‘Iconic Shape Trilogy’ (my favourite by far being SQUARE), this comes with a question right at the end which I believe you’ll find very, very hard to answer. Our Jonathan was understandably a little sceptical – as you may well be yourself – until I showed it to him.

He thought for a moment, then grinned and chuckled.

And that to me is the genius of this one. Not necessarily that it brought a smile to Jonathan’s face, though that’s always a bonus, but that… well, I do believe I’ve got in covered it my very first sentence.




So much so that I send you instead to Page 45’s Jon Klassen Section for lengthier reviews dealing with why we think that he and Mac Barnett are so ridiculously clever, why I believe some of their all-ages picture books are also comics, and how much mileage Jon Klassen gets out of almost static images which emphasise the intelligence behind the eyes, as well as their telling movement.

There will be more eyes here than you might suspect.



Aren’t the waterfall’s colours and cool, refreshing spray delicious?

It’s probably time to head straight to the Market Square water feature and soak yourselves silly.


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

Blackbird vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Image) by Sam Humphries & Jen Bartel…

“When everyone told you magic wasn’t real, you gave up.”
“No, I did not!”
“When your mom died, you bounced back real easy.”
“You only made it with the help of your family. And even then… you failed.”
“No, I didn’t have any help. Dad went crazy and Marisa moved out! I had to do it all on my own!
“I didn’t fail. I graduated high school. I held down jobs. I moved out of that house!
“No! I am done feeling bad for all the shit they put on me! I found the cabals and I found Mom!
“I didn’t fail. I didn’t fuck up. I’M STILL HERE!
“Standing in an open grave…”

That’s her cat giving Nina a hard time, by the way. Except her cat isn’t… well… I’m grappling with a huge spoiler that would make a superb gag here… But then maybe her cat is gagged… Let’s just leave it at that, shall we…



Except her cat isn’t just a cat. Obviously. I will give you that. Let me let the publisher muddy matters further…

“Magic is like water. Your heart is like a fountain.

Nina Rodriguez knows there’s a hidden magical world run by ruthless cabals hiding in Los Angeles. And when a giant magic beast kidnaps her sister, Nina must confront her past and her demons to get her sister back and reclaim her life.”



So this is a magical quest / voyage of self-discovery yarn then with elements of humour, horror and plenty of sexy sassiness?



And a talking cat? Yes, most definitely. Penned by Marvel and DC stalwart Sam Humphries this will most definitely appeal to fans of THE WICKED + THE DIVINE, not only in terms of storytelling but also artistically with Jen Bartel’s clear, colourful and dare I say it slightly cute art.



Of course it’s far too early to tell whether this can hits the heady heights of Kieron and Jamie’s masterpiece, but certainly Sam has sewn enough intrigue and created enough dramatic tension, including plenty of the familial variety, to lure me in.



I have certainly already concluded that absolutely no one is to be trusted, not least Nina with her penchant for self-destructive behaviour.

Expect bad decisions and worse consequences.


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

Motel Universe h/c (£19-99, Secret Acres) by Joakim Drescher…

“What’s that sensational smell?”
“Oh gee, it’s my lucky day.”

It really isn’t the little dweebs’ lucky day. Far from it. I can’t say I’d want to check into Motel Universe and here is the publisher’s promotion to tell us precisely why…

“Check in to Motel Universe, a dystopian, casino galaxy of tasteless hedonism! On a macabre jungle planet, the Skins, a slave race, are hunted for their precious hides by tycoon dictator, Barton Flump.



Join the Skins as they run for their lives, but when there’s nowhere left to run, it might just be time for a little revolution!”



Haha, Barton Flump, now I wonder which ‘tycoon dictator’ that is meant to be…? Actually, Donald Trump should wish he looked as good as Barton Flump!

Given the first impression of this work is all-out, full-on sensory assault with the spectacularly, crazily coloured delightfully, deliberately crude* artwork blitzing one’s brain right from the off it took me more than a few pages to appreciate just how good a storyteller Joakim Drescher is too.

I think a very good point of general comparison would be Theo UNDERSTANDING MONSTER Ellsworth, though Joakim’s colour palette is more retina searing.



* I feel I very strenuously need to make the point that I am using the word crude in an entirely positive sense here. You might think you could draw like this, but trust me, you can’t. Unless you are actually a good artist, I guess, which I’m certainly not. But I still can’t draw like this. It reminds me of an anecdote recounted by the Arch-Drude Julian Cope in his book ‘Krautrocksampler’ concerning the legendary Can drummer Jaki Liebezeit. In fact, you know what, here is the quote in full…

“Jaki Liebezeit had been playing free-jazz in Spain for five years. But recently, he had had a moment of immense life-changing clarity at a show he’d played. Leibezeit had been touched and changed by the words of, what he called, “some kind of freak.” The “freak” had slagged Leibezeit for playing free-jazz, and said: “Why do you play that shit? You must play monotonously.” Those words stayed with him forever. Jaki Leibezeit had never heard the word ‘monotonously’ used in a positive way before, and the pealing bells of truth shot through him. Leibezeit changed his drum style immediately.”

The moral of the story being when you pick up a comic and see an art style that you don’t get or indeed perhaps even like, don’t put it down. For, if you persist, perhaps your mind will be blown and you too might even have “a moment of immense life-changing clarity”. Comics can do that too, you know! On the other hand, you might just think it’s a crock of shit. As I always say, life would be very boring if we all liked the same things. I personally like this a lot, though.


Buy Motel Universe h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Six Days: The Incredible True Story Of D-Day’s Lost Chapter h/c (£22-99, DC) by Robert Venditti, Kevin Maurer & Andrea Mutti…

“Sarge… this can’t be our drop zone.”
“It ain’t, Travers. Maps showed no marsh north of Amfreville.”
“So why’d we jump?”
“Light goes green, we jump. Wasn’t just us. Birds were dropping troopers all over.”

Ahhh… the things the Royal Mail go through to deliver the Page 45 mail order to your doors…

Not as much as the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division, though! Here are the dispatches from Vertigo HQ to inform us just how this seeming footnote of the burgeoning fight-back against the Nazis went full-on FUBAR before it even got started…

“June 1944. World War II. D-Day. One hundred eighty two members of the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division parachute into the French countryside-a full 18 miles southeast of their intended target.

This original graphic novel from DC Vertigo is the true story of an obscure World War II battle that took place in the small village of Graignes, France, for six days and the men who survived to tell the tale. In the worst misdrop of the D-Day campaign, a group of soldiers are rattled to the core to find themselves even deeper behind enemy lines than anyone had intended.

Miraculously, the citizens of Graignes vote to feed and shelter the soldiers, knowing that the decision will bring them terrible punishment if their efforts are discovered by the Germans.

That day of reckoning comes faster than anyone could expect. As a small German militia passes through, the world’s war comes to their remote town in the countryside, and for the next six days, the small band of American paratroopers and French citizens must fight for their lives to hold back 2,000 enemy combatants.

Six Days is a true story of survival, loyalty, the brutality of war, and a triumph of the human spirit so rarely brought to the comics form. Writers Kevin Maurer (the #1 New York Times bestseller No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden) and Robert Venditti (GREEN LANTERN)- whose uncle fought in the Battle of Graignes and is a key character in the tale – completed comprehensive archival research in preparation for this unbelievable untold story of World War II.”

That was a pretty comprehensive blurb too! Nearly took six days to read! Okay, so the key word there is probably obscure. I have to say, and I know more than a reasonable amount about WWII, that I was completely unaware of this particular encounter. The final paragraph revealing the fact that Robert Venditti’s uncle was involved therefore gives us the reason why this particular previously unchronicled incident was picked. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but I can’t personally say I found this particular encounter overly remarkable in comparison to what was going off across France immediately after D-Day. Still, it is extremely important to honour all the individual sacrifices that were made during those dark times and thankfully Robert Venditti helps ensure we can do that for his Uncle and his comrades.

Venditti and Maurer do an excellent job surmising a credible timeline from the paucity of information available and creating entirely believable period dialogue, both between the Americans and also the French locals, even introducing a little proto-romantic side-plot and a very touching and satisfying extended emotional epilogue.

Andrea INFINITE DARK / ROME WEST / REBELS / PORT OF EARTH Mutti throws us right into the military mixer with his trademark grit. As the Germans start their inevitable assault, the tension is palpable. We know the Americans are going to get forced out of the town due to the overwhelming odds they were facing and history records the Germans weren’t too kind to the villagers for their assistance, but still, the action is recounted with a level of drama that ensures you feel as engaged as if the mortars were actually raining down on your reading position. If you need some assistance to simulate this, you could always get a chum to hide behind your sofa and lob biscuits at you. No full cups of tea, though, that would just be cruel, and besides napalm wasn’t deployed in this particular battle.


Buy Six Days: The Incredible True Story Of D-Day’s Lost Chapter h/c and read the Page 45 review here

More Copies Found / Back On Our System

Literary Life: Revisited h/c (£18-99, Jonathan Cape) by Posy Simmonds.

Dear, dear Posy Simmonds! Such a classy lady and such a class act: literate, erudite, eloquent, posh and not above putting the word ‘penis’ on the cover.


From the creator of the long-form graphic novels CASANDRA DARKE, TAMARA DREWE and GEMMA BOVERY plus the MRS WEBER’S OMNIBUS of exceptionally well observed 1980s, socially satirical one-page comic-strip wonders (all of which Paul Gravett covers in POSY SIMMONDS: THE ILLUSTRATORS SERIES) comes a new edition of the 2003 publication with 40 new cartoons and comic strips.

Clipped from the Guardian Review section, these are also one-page comics or cartoons both celebrating and satirising the world of book publishing: writers, readers, book shops and publishers all come under her all-seeing eye as she arches her eyebrow ever so playfully at authors’ egos and their dustjacket photographs, launch parties, creative challenges, publishing peccadilloes, inane and sometimes insane questions during festival panels, and the good-old, in-store author appearances to sign or read extracts.



There arise matters of expectations, promotional activities and attendances. I’ve a cracking collection of recollections called ‘Mortification’, dripping with tears wept by those invited to make such public appearances only to find themselves humiliated by the lack of turn-out, often on account of zero publicity on the part of the store managers or festival organisers. I personally know of a couple owning a comic shop twenty-five years ago who invited a comicbook creator whose regular readership there numbered precisely three. Nor were they expecting to increase that audience: the couple simply wanted to meet him.

The interior art I’ve found for you isn’t of the highest quality, I’m afraid, and lacks the soft, pale indigo tones of this edition, nor does it adequately reflect Simmonds’ fine, flowing lines. She does ‘chic’ oh so well. I’ve always marvelled at her ability to present so much on the page whilst maintaining a harmonious composition full of space.



One of my favourite pieces is called ‘Rustic Block’ in which an author sits at her laptop in a warm, cosy, countryside kitchen complete with AGA stove, hanging straw baskets and bunches of dried flowers. Through her rain-lashed window we can see sheep.

“9.05am  Chapter one: It was raining. The sheep were
“9.20am  It was raining. The sheep were in the field.
“10.15am  It was pouring. The sheep languished in the field. The gutters dripped. The clock ticked.”

Already weary when she started, our author is approaching exhausted. Her ashtray is beginning to overflow.

“10.50am  Hannah yawned, “Wish I’d never moved to the country. You feel positively catatonic. You can’t think of any
“11.45am  “Christ,” snarled Hannah. “Wish I’d never moved to effing, sodding Suffolk. Had a brain once. In Kentish Town I used to
“12.30am  Suddenly one of the Jacob ewes ran amok, stabbing, slashing and gouging a bloody path as it”

The trace of a smile appears on her lips.

‘Ask Doctor Derek’ is a fabulous conceit of great lateral thinking: a series starring a man and his stethoscope imparting words of reassuring wisdom to troubled writers who visit his surgery as they might a priest in a confessional.



Visually there are elements of ‘60s romance comics, especially the dark, feathery, female eyelashes, long blonde hair and utter innocence. Naturally matters of maternity and paternity arise:

“Doctor, is it too soon to try for another?”
“Well, let’s see… You had your first last April… and it sold all right.”

Then there are those “pre-delivery jitters”:

“See, I’m three months overdue! I got my dates wrong! … My editor’s going spare!!”

As to authorial maladies like writers’ block, Doctor Derek diagnoses them with intestinal logic:

“You see, I was so regular, doctor! Eight thousand words a day… every day! But now I sit in that little room for hours and hours… and nothing comes out!”
“You’re on the second of a two-book contract… and you’ve taken a very, very bulky advance, yes? Well, this can weigh heavily on the system…. cause it to seize up!”

Suspecting complications, Doctor Derek digs deeper, suggesting that a second opinion on her synopsis might reveal additional causes behind the blockage. Her plots prove so twisted that the script has become knotted, compacted.

“And it took just another ten minutes to work it out with a pencil!”

Look, I did warn you. Posy is a dame, but the word ‘penis’ is on the cover.


Buy Literary Life: Revisited h/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’.




Glitch h/c Page 45 Exclusive Bookplate Edition (£23-99, Scholastic) by Sarah Graley

Glitch s/c Page 45 Exclusive Bookplate Edition (£13-99, Scholastic) by Sarah Graley

Avatar, The Last Airbender vol 17: Imbalance Part 2 (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Faith Erin Hicks & Peter Wartman

The Boys vol 2: Get Some (£17-99, Dynamite) by Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson

The Boys vol 3: Good For The Soul (£17-99, Dynamite) by Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson

The Boys vol 4: We Gotta Go Now (£17-99, Dynamite) by Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson

The Boys vol 5: Herogasm (£17-99, Dynamite) by Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson

Camouflage: The Hidden Lives Of Autistic Women h/c (£9-99, Jessica Kingsley Publishers) by Dr Sarah Bargiela &Sophie Standing

Colourblind: A Story Of Racism h/c (£11-99, Zuiker Press) by Johnathan Harris

Doctor Who: The 13th Doctor – A New Beginning (£13-99, Titan) by Jody Houser & Rachael Stott

Eileen Gray – A House Under The Sun (£15-99, Nobrow) by Charlotte Malterre-Barthes & Zosia Dzierzawska

The Fairy Tales Of Oscar Wilde vol 4: The Devoted Friend, The Nightingale And The Rose s/c (£6-99, NBM) by Oscar Wilde & P. Craig Russell

In Waves (£16-99, Nobrow) by AJ Dungo

Jim Henson’s Labyrinth Coronation vol 2 h/c (£18-99, Archaia) by Simon Spurrier, Ryan Ferrier & Daniel Bayliss

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me s/c (£15-99, FirstSecond) by Mariko Tamaki & Rosemary Valero-O’Connell

Literary Life Revisited h/c (£18-99, Jonathan Cape) by Posy Simmonds

Lorna (£8-99, Silver Sprocket) by Benji Nate

The Many Not The Few: An Illustrated History Of Britain Shaped By The People (£9-99, Workable) by Sean Michael Wilson & Robert Brown

MCMLXXV s/c (£8-99, Image) by Joe Casey & Ian MacEwan

Moon Face h/c (£22-99, Humanoids) by Alejandro Jodorowsky & Francois Boucq

Nico Bravo And The Hound Of Hades (£9-99, FirstSecond) by Mike Cavallaro

Outer Darkness vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Image) by John Layman & Afu Chan

Rat Queens vol 6: The Infernal Path (£14-99, Image) by Kurtis J. Wiebe & Owen Gieni

Star Wars Adventures: Tales From Vader’s Castle (£11-99, Disney) by Cavan Scott & various

Star Wars Han Solo Imperial Cadet s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Robbie Thompson, Gerry Duggan & Leonard Kirk, Marc Laming, others

Star Wars: Age Of Republic – Heroes s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Jody Houser, Marc Guggenheim & various

Sword Daughter vol 2: Folded Metal h/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Brian Wood & Mack Chater

The Wormworld Saga vol 3: Kingspeak (£8-99, Caracal) by Daniel Lieske

Waves h/c (£13-99, Archaia) by Ingrid Chabert & Carole Maurel

Amazing Spider-Man: Epic Collection – Assassin Nation s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by David Michelinie, various & Todd McFarlane, various

Immortal Hulk vol 3: Hulk In Hell s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Al Ewing & Joe Bennett

Black Torch vol 4 (£8-99, Viz) by Tsuyoshi Takaki

Goblin Slayer vol 5 (£9-99, Yen Press) by Kumo Kagyu & Kousuke Kurose

Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 4: Diamond Is Unbreakable vol 1 (£12-99, Viz) by Hirohiko Iraki

One Piece vol 90 (£6-99, Viz) by Eiichiro Oda

One-Punch Man vol 16 (£6-99, Viz) by Yusuke Murata

Smashed h/c (£15-99, Viz) by Junji Ito

Tokyo Ghoul re: vol 10 (£8-99, Viz) by Sui Ishida

Ultraman vol 1 (£8-99, Viz) by Eiichi Shimizu & Tomohiro Shimoguchi

Ultraman vol 2 (£8-99, Viz) by Eiichi Shimizu & Tomohiro Shimoguchi

Ultraman vol 3 (£8-99, Viz) by Eiichi Shimizu & Tomohiro Shimoguchi

Ultraman vol 4 (£8-99, Viz) by Eiichi Shimizu & Tomohiro Shimoguchi

Versailles Of The Dead vol 2 (£9-99, Seven Seas) by Kumiko Suekane


Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews May 2019 week two

Wednesday, May 8th, 2019

Featuring Posy Simmonds, Paul Gravett, Box Brown, Colleen AF Venable & Ellen T. Crenshaw, Eva Schlunke, Robert Poole, Polyp, Malaka Gharib, Michel Fiffe, Neil Gaiman, P. Craig Russell, Scott Hampton

Kiss Number 8 (£13-99, First Second) by Colleen AF Venable & Ellen T. Crenshaw ~

“You can’t deny that he’s totally hot.”
“You’re going to hell, Cat. You know that, right?”
“I mean. Look at those abs! If we get more decent-looking altar boys, maybe I’ll stop drooling over our lord and savior.”
“So, you’re telling me you come to church because you have the hots for Jesus?”
“Nooo. I have the hots for THAT SCULPTURE of Jesus.  Shame you never get to see the back. Betcha Jesus’s got an ass that could crack a walnut… Hell, I bet it could shell a cashew!”

Being mischievous with friends in Church on Sunday followed by cheesy fries at the minor league game with dad, studying for exams and sneaking out on a Friday night, Amanda is your typical high school teen. But after overhearing a conversation between her dad on the phone with a mysterious woman named Dina, Amanda’s life is about to unravel as she uncovers a whole tangle of secrets and lies, and enters one very intense month of discovery, not just about her family, but also about herself.



Amanda’s best friend is the vivacious Cat. A punk full of attitude and sass, rebellious to the bone, loving nothing more than sneaking out to her fave club “Zipper” to drink cheap vodka, dance the night away to the latest dreadful band and find a hot guy to snog, she’s a bit of a one, is Cat. After all, I’m not sure how many in the congregation are crushing on Jesus’s abs each Sunday. But her and Amanda balance each other out perfectly, and are as such inseparable.

Lately, Cat has been on at Amanda because the lack of boys she’s kissed makes her fear that she’s turning into a nun. Why not have some fun with Adam, the cute boy next door? He clearly has the hots for Amanda , so why the hell not? But so far, Amanda has successfully managed to artfully dodge Adam’s advances. But she is starting to realise something. The more that Cat goes on at her, the more she comes to the realisation that the reason she isn’t interested in kissing any boys is because the person who she really wants to kiss is Cat…



Friendship, family, religion, infidelity, self discovery and sexuality, KISS NUMBER 8 is a book that packs a punch. While it does have its moments of impassioned anger, it is also peppered with subtle unspoken moments of tenderness, such as Amanda tentatively stroking a love bite on Cat’s neck with the back of her hand, while Cat revels in the attention of the chance to show off a trophy from the previous evening’s conquest.

Venable and Crenshaw have created an intimate cast of characters that deftly deliver a coming-of-age psychodrama, which ebbs and flows so naturally you will be completely swept away with it. Their variety, their humour and their personalities are all people we have known at some point or another in our lives, and so this book brings its own sense of familiarity.



If you have enjoyed the likes of Kevin Panetta and Savanna Ganucheau’s BLOOM, Mariko and Jillian Tamaki’s THIS ONE SUMMER, or Tilly Walden’s SPINNING, then let me introduce you to your new favourite read.

“We don’t get to choose who we love. But sometimes we get lucky and fall for someone wonderful.”


Buy Kiss Number 8 and read the Page 45 review here

Cannabis: An American History (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by Box Brown…

“The report said cannabis is not physically addictive.
“The gateway drug theory is false. It’s not harmful to anyone.
“It should be descheduled and declassified.

“Nixon went into a rage. He trashed the report.

“Instead, Nixon had Senator James “Segregation-Is-Not-Discrimination” Eastland hold hearings. The hearings would present a different view, using their own experts… They would completely disregard the thousands of hours put into the Schafer report in favour of hours of provably false testimony by a litany of people in on the whole point: to demonise cannabis.

““Oh, it damages your immune system, your white blood cells, other cells, too. All kinds of cell damage. There are many cases of brilliant young people going on pot benders, and even after they quit they are left dumb. This all started in Berkeley with the students. The culture is out of control. It’s spreading and soon our whole population will be half-zombie. We may find ourselves with a generation of brain-damaged youth.””

“President Nixon signed the comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention Control Act in the 1970.”



Obviously Tricky Dicky ended up with more than his so-called ‘war on drugs’ to worry about, but he did manage to even more deeply entrench already conservative views in the US population regarding marijuana use. A trite approach that various other Presidents continued to espouse including Ronald Regan, who even managed to famously get wife Nancy to perform a truly cringe-worthy anti-drugs cameo on the hit TV show Diff’rent Strokes with her “Just Say No” message. The kids of Grange Hill did it far better, even if it didn’t do poor Zammo any good…

Anyway… the legislation Nixon helped drive through in the early ‘70s equating cannabis with the likes of heroin would, and still does to this day, ensure an astonishing number of entirely unnecessary marijuana-related convictions and particularly against the Black American community, something Box also highlights.



But, of course, it didn’t begin with Nixon. So how did it come about that a drug which had been used for recreational and medicinal purposes for centuries be suddenly demonised as one of the primary ills of American society? To examine the complex history of this most controversial substance, Box Brown starts by going even further back, just as he did with the origins of gaming in his award-winning look at the story of the ground-breaking video game TETRIS.

Here, Box begins with Indian mythology and recounts the creation myth of how Shiva received the cannabis plant as a divine blessing during a ceremony known as the Churning and promptly ate the leaves and flowers before planting the seeds. Presumably he didn’t have time to bake a hash brownie.




We then skip forward to late 19th century India where the British colonial rulers were busy debating the wisdom of allowing their Indian ‘citizens’ the right to continue using a plant they had been consuming for hundreds, if not thousands of years. And so, the use of disinformation began as an attempt to support prohibiting something regarded as a religious sacrament by the local populace…

Meanwhile across the Atlantic in the New World in 1518 and Conquistador Hernan Cortes arrives in Mexico, bringing with him Spanish hemp seeds, along with disease and destruction. Interestingly, given the current right-wing media obsession with blaming immigrants for everything, by the time that cannabis eventually made its way up to the US and began to be noticed by the authorities in the late 17th century, the press were already hard at work demonising migrant Mexican workers…



Box then settles into his modern chronology proper by showing how certain factions – indeed a very small number of exceedingly determined individuals – single-handedly made the moral decision on behalf of the entire US population that cannabis was evil and set about ‘proving it’ so that legislation could be passed to bring about their vision of a cannabis-free country, in fact cannabis-free world.

If that prospect sounds more than a little megalomaniacal let us not forget that this is the country which attempted to enact Prohibition… before eventually realising the sheer preposterous folly of that misadventure. It’s taking somewhat longer for them to get there with marijuana but at the time of typing 10 US states have legalised the recreational use of cannabis with a further 14 states having decriminalised it. Progress, it would seem. Were it not for the fact that certain minorities are still being disproportionately punished, in some cases unbelievably punitively so, for marijuana-related ‘crimes’.



As an inevitably potted history (sorry) of how we got to the ridiculous situation we find ourselves in today Box manages to highlight the key points and statistics along the timeline in an informed, incisive and extremely interesting and frequently ironic manner. It’s quite shocking to discover just how much disinformation and indeed downright lies the US authorities have told over the years to first begin and then maintain their war on a very benign and indeed now recognised to be extremely beneficial drug.

I suppose I shouldn’t be remotely surprised about politicians lying to us by now, but it is still astonishing to see the lengths these people will go to simply to further their own agenda. Fortunately we have the likes of Box to ensure their lies will be exposed in perpetuity and help exert a little bit more pressure for common sense and social justice to prevail.


Stephen adds:

Agreed, agreed and agreed on every level.

I’m no martinet and I’m certainly no angel. For a year in my early twenties I wouldn’t get out of bed before a couple of spliffs; at which point I couldn’t and – when I did – I might as well not have for all the writing I got done. Still, I enjoyed it all enormously and so many other illicit pleasures well into my late 30s.

However, conscience dictates a cautionary note about cannabis psychosis which I have seen destroy the minds and subsequently lives of two friends. This strikes me as an extraordinarily high hit rate, however many total stoners I’ve known in my life. Neither Billy nor Kes were total stoners. Both were in their late teens when cannabis psychosis struck out of the blue, so they hadn’t had time to get caned too often; my uneducated guess is that their minds simply weren’t wired to handle that specific drug well, but I am no Doctor Science.

One tried to kill his mother and girlfriend, and then gave me one particularly worrying night while I was trying to get him re-housed. Eventually we got him committed and consequently re-orientated, rebalanced, but he believed the process so complete that, once discharged, he came straight off his medicinals and back onto the mighty weed. I didn’t particularly enjoy being informed once more that the spiders were invading under the command of maniacal killer dolphins.

All I’ll add is that, fifteen years later, neither of these stories has ended well, although some other stories most surely must have.

Okay, that’s it, feel free to roll up and zone out. I’m off to open the first of my two daily bottles of Sauvignon Blanc and light up yet another of those ciggies, all of which have a far greater chance of killing me than cannabis ever could.


Buy Cannabis: An American History and read the Page 45 review here

Peterloo: Witnesses To A Massacre (£11-99, New Internationalist) by Eva Schlunke, Robert Poole & Polyp…

“The commander of Manchester and Salford Yeomanry, Major Thomas Trafford, ordered his men to send their sabres for sharpening – the first time this had been done in the two years since the unit was formed.”

Almost as though the powers that be had already decided what was going to happen…

I must confess I was unaware of the Peterloo massacre until relatively recently when I heard about the recent Mike Leigh film in the media. It seems as though, perhaps, it is one of those… unfortunate… incidents in British social history that the authorities would just prefer everyone to forget about. Don’t want the hoi polloi getting ideas and all that. It certainly wasn’t on my school history curriculum. It is however, therefore, precisely the kind of event that should never be forgotten.



As we reach the 200th anniversary of the massacre, the fundamental principles that those brave enough to march were fighting for – equality, dignity and simply some small measure of respect for their very existence from those who were exploiting them – are still under threat from those who sit merrily atop the fiscal pile.

In the week I read about the Chinese tech billionaire Jack Ma’s desire for a ‘996’ working week to be the norm in China, that’s 9am to 9pm six days a week – presumably because he wants to extract even more money at the expense of his basically indentured labour force – it is foolish to presume the victory for personal liberty and equality has been achieved. Zero hero contracts anyone…?

Give the rich a chance to oppress those with less than them to keep them in their place and they will always do so. With disaster capitalists like Rees-Mogg lurking in the wings to take advantage of the chaos that Brexit would cause, it is the responsibility of us all to fight against the tyrants, whatever form they may take, not just for our rights, but also for those of others less fortunate.



Peterloo is the story of when one such movement of the people became too powerful for the authorities to ignore. Purporting to the tell the true story of events from direct testimony drawn from “letters, memoirs, journalists’ accounts, spies’ reports and courtroom evidence” assembled by historian Professor Robert Poole and edited into script form by Eva Schlunke, works like this are vital in reminding us of the sacrifices people have made to earn us the relative degree of civil freedom that we do have.



Illustrated by the intriguingly named Polyp, presumably no relation to ASTERIOS POLYP, the clear art style with a colourful yet sensitively subdued in tone palette lends itself perfectly to this informative, narration-based approach. You feel like you are observing a fascinating documentary where this heinous tragedy is unfolding before your very eyes, almost as though you were there yourself, observing events directly. You’ll no doubt feel as indignant with rage as I did when the massacre commences, and just as impotent as the poor, terrified unfortunates caught up in it.



As with the excellent fictional A NEW JERUSALEM by Benjamin Dickson which captured the difficulties of soldiers returning home to civilian life after enduring the traumas of World War II, we are fortunate that there are publishers such as New Internationalist and Myriad willing to undertake these vital projects that help to shine a light on the darker elements of our British cultural history.


Buy Peterloo: Witnesses To A Massacre (£11-99, New Internationalist) and read the Page 45 review here

I Was Their American Dream: A Graphic Memoir (£12-99, Potter) by Malaka Gharib…

“Even amongst minorities, I was a minority.
“Everyone in high school hung out with people based on clubs, sports, ethnicity.
“Who’d be my friend?”

Making friends at school is a turbulent voyage of discovery at the best of times, but when you’re grappling with trying to understand the personal puzzle of being half-Filipino, half-Egyptian plus half-Catholic, half-Muslim all the whilst longing fervently to be all-American and indeed white, well it’s bound to make it all that little bit trickier!

Billed by the publisher as being one part Mari AM I THERE YET? THE LOOP-DE-LOOP, ZIGZAGGING JOURNEY TO ADULTHOOD, one part Marjane PERSEPOLIS Satrapi, I personally found this very similar in tone, illustrative style and humour to the hilariously excellent THE IMPOSTER’S DAUGHTER by Laurie Sandell.




I found the way the adult Malaka dissects her teenage insecurities very artfully and amusingly done, with real understanding of the models of thinking she was working through, well, conditioning herself with and also being conditioned by others, at the time. As a study of identity, this works on multiple levels: first simply that of the individual, of being a child of two very differing heritages, but also as the child of immigrants and then as a first-generation American.




Indeed, when her parents split up and her father returns to Egypt – the irony being that he was desperate to come to America all his life whereas her mother was distraught to be sent there as her family had a wonderful, privileged upper class life in the Philippines – we also see Malaka struggle to fit in to Egyptian society and step-family life during her school holiday visits.





She’s incredibly honest about her frequent faux pas when attempting to ingratiate herself with others and integrate socially, but it is always done with humour. You never get the sense that she’s looking back feeling sorry for herself. That may well be because she seems to have got herself completely sorted out now, including getting married to a delightful chap called Darren, but even there her in-depth analysis of her choice of life partner is conducted with agonising, if very amusing scrutiny. Equally, and importantly, it doesn’t feel self-deprecating either. You never feel like she is doing herself down just to get the laughs. It is just acutely well observed.



What this work proves perfectly is that you don’t have to have done the most extraordinary things or been to the most fascinating places to product an absolutely absorbing memoir. Having read this I feel like I got to know the teenage Malaka and her very diverse family members as well as if I was one of them myself.


Buy I Was Their American Dream: A Graphic Memoir and read the Page 45 review here

American Gods vol 2 h/c (£20-00, Dark Horse) by Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell, Scott Hampton with Mark Buckingham.

In which we are invited to think of the physical world as a theatre.

Would you like to look backstage?

“I’ve never been overly concerned with morality.
“Not as long as I get what I want.”

What Wednesday wants is to reassert the power of the old gods – so many forgotten that their powers are dwindling – over the new gods of technology which we worship instead.

To do so he has enlisted the help of widower and ex-convict Shadow, and to that end Wednesday was almost certainly responsible for making Shadow a widower, positioning him exactly where Wednesday wanted him.

Everything appears to have been arranged.

Everyone appears to have been arranged, especially Shadow.



Tellingly, this begins with a tale of two grafts, which Wednesday was wont to execute with another. His is the long game, but he’s been patient for long enough.

For an in-depth review of AMERICAN GODS please see volume one which we made Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month. This is merely here to alert you to the presence of this second of three instalments which once more sees Shadow with no real control either over his environment or indeed fate, hence the gloriously hyper-real art within which he doesn’t sit quite right at all. It’s all so supremely well judged.



There are sleights of hand aplenty, and non-sequiturs deployed as distractions.

It’s a road trip back and forth across America, throughout time and indeed its mythologies.



You’ll meet self-appointed authorities with names like Mister Town and Mister Road, Mister Wood and Mister Stone, and ultimately Mister World. Like all authorities, they’re only ideas. You can reject them if you’ve the willpower. Miz Black Crow does. I think you’ll like Miz Black Crow. She’s a cathartic antidote, and bloody hilarious in the process.

Meanwhile, both sides are manoeuvring for position, and it’s going to get messy.

“We’re writing the future in letters of fire.”

That future is fast approaching.



“Well, Shadow, do you believe yet?”
“I don’t know.”

Was all that suitably ominous for you?


Buy American Gods vol 2 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Posy Simmonds: The Illustrators Series h/c (£18-95, Thames & Hudson) by Paul Gravett.

“It’s terrifying riding something that is still hatching and by the end, I was only two weeks ahead. That meant making decisions very quickly and very rashly.

 – Posy Simmonds MBE, on the weekly schedule of producing 110 consecutive TAMARA DREWE pages for The Guardian.

There are so very many pleasures to behold in this heavily illustrated retrospective, including rarities I’d not stumbled across, as well as some startling behind-the-scenes secrets.

I’d no idea how substantially rewritten, redrawn and recoloured TAMARA DREWE had been between its episodical outings and the Jonathan Cape collected edition, let alone that she’d dropped in extended scenes and at least a dozen completely new pages. Here you’ll be treated to a startling ‘before’ and ‘after’ comparison of Tamara’s head-turning entrance among the writing retreat clique, including the removal of her green wellies which not only enhances her sensuality by showing a bit of ankle and walking barefoot on the grass, but also gives one of the cast the opportunity to be rebuffed when offering to carry the shoeless gossip columnist over the gravel. I don’t imagine the easily puffed-out Glen could have managed it anyway.

You’ll also be reminded of just how consistently and scathingly satirical Posy’s been in her fiercely feminist, left-wing, fifty-year career producing single-panel cartoons, illustrated prose and comics like CASSANDRA DARKE, TAMARA DREWE, GEMMA BOVERY, MRS WEBER’S OMNIBUS and A LITERARY LIFE (REVISITED). On the subject of how the plight of British women has progressed during this time, for example, she pithily asserts, “Things are much better, then same and worse”.



With Punch Magazine as of one her earliest influences, this satire is hardly surprising, and Paul Gravett is on hand to identify precisely which artists she most absorbed which makes so much sense once he’s said it. Paul Gravett, who appears as The Man At The Crossroads in Eddie Campbell’s autobiographical ALEC, is comics’ most knowledgeable historian bar none, as well as one of the medium’s most eloquent ambassadors, and his prose here is an evocative joy to read. For example, I can’t believe I’ve promoted the subtleties of Shaun Tan’s THE ARRIVAL for so many years without once employing the word “grisaille”.

Paul provides us with Posy’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ from 1987 which deftly combines the chief conceit of Charles Dickens’ prose novel – that of the ghostly walk-on wake-up calls – with the rhythm and rhyme of ‘While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night’ to deliciously damn the exchange-rate speculators of greed-centric Thatcherite Britain. I don’t have that one for you, sorry, so you’ll just have to buy the book.


Posy Simmonds’ studio space


Nor can I show you her 1972 cartoon which was well ahead of the relatively recent TV commercial lampooning the way some of us suck our stomachs in to impress before letting them out once the object of our desire has passed by!

I do have the institution of marriage being given a right old rodgering, though, especially women’s subservience within it and the promotion of their self-obsessed spouses’ dreams and aspirations over – and at the expense of – their own.



You’ll be given unprecedented access to previously unpublished pages, like the detour she decided not to take within GEMMA BOVERY, and there are a great many sketch pages and process pieces from pencils to finished, coloured art. Posy talks about her working methods and techniques, and Gravett gives you enough to go on to Google for yourselves in a Posy Simmonds Online Treasure Hunt.

Plus you’ll be reminded just how raunchy she’s been be as well. As Gravett notes:

“Don’t be fooled by her demure manner and upper-class accent; her powers of observation across the classes are laser-sharp, her mimicry of accents and types stingingly precise. No wonder Simmonds is one of the most astute chroniclers of contemporary British society.”



For more, please see all the books listed above, reviewed. Here’s the publisher:

“In the course of a career spanning more than fifty years, Posy Simmonds has become one of Britain’s best-known satirical cartoonists. She is also as a much-loved author and artist of widely translated children’s books and graphic novels. These include Fred, animated in 1996 into the Oscar-nominated short film Famous Fred, and Gemma Bovery and Tamara Drewe, both adapted into films, increasing her international fame.

Simmonds once described her job on a census form as `a visual engineer’. Her extraordinary precision of drawing, her powers of observation and her sharp but well tempered wit have made her one the Britain’s most sophisticated innovators, renowned especially for expanding the scope and subtlety of comics. This is the first book to explore Simmonds’s life and work from her early childhood to the present day.

In a series of interviews with Paul Gravett she offered insights into her creative process and provided unprecedented access to her ‘workroom’ and archives containing sketchbooks and rare or never-before-seen artworks. A portrait emerges of Posy Simmonds as a chronicler and critic of contemporary British society and a storyteller in words and pictures of rare perception and humanity.”


Buy Posy Simmonds: The Illustrators Series h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Copra Rounds One, Two, Three, Four and Five (volumes 1 to 4 £17-99, vol 5 £19-99, Image) by Michel Fiffe…

“And I’m about to lose my shit, thanks for asking.
“The problem with being a control freak is that you’re always looking for situations you can control, obviously.
“Maybe you find yourself attracted to chaos, as having something to fix or clean up gives you purpose, gives you meaning.
“There’s no end in either situation, though. No peace. Not that I’m trying to change.
“I will admit this: my therapist said “Control Freak” had negative connotations.
“He said that I should think of it as an “Omnipotent Mother Complex” instead.
“I fired him.”

I have to say, Control Freak is a much better superhero name than Omnipotent Mother Complex, even if that does sounds quite Kirby-esque, DC era. Michel Fiffe freely admits his Jack Kirby influences, and indeed also to Frank Miller, which is particularly evident in certain aspects of his illustrative style, but make no mistake this is most definitely its own rampaging, beautifully bombastic beast.



COPRA is absolutely a superhero book, again, something that Fiffe readily states, but it is a superhero book in the same sense that Brandon Graham and chums’ PROPHET is a superhero book. In other words, it is uniquely different whilst still honouring many of its prodigious forbearers and thus far, far elevating itself above the boringly complacent standard capes and tights fare.



As loquaciously written (with some absolutely cracking and utterly hilarious dialogue) as it is loosely illustrated, I can see why this title found an ardent army of fans who are as loyal to Fiffe as, say, fans of Paul Pope like myself are. The end result just feels like a top-notch creator effortlessly dashing it off, but you can see just how much thought and effort has gone into the construction of this yarn. Yes, you’ll spot crackpot reworkings of certain classic Big Two characters, but that is most certainly entirely satirical in intent and entertainingly exemplary in execution.



I’m not even going to attempt to summarise the plot (mad), side-plots (madder) or tell you about the bizarre cast of characters (utterly crackpot). Suffice to say, people who prefer their capes and tights all neat and corporate shouldn’t even bother to look at this. People who prefer their comics as deliciously dangerous as they are delightful daft will love it.



Buy Copra Round One and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Copra Round Two and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Copra Round Three and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Copra Round Four and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Copra Round Five and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

In time for the Audrey Niffenegger & Eddie Campbell signing at Page 45 on Thursday May 23rd 2019 from 5-30pm to 7pm:



The Time Traveler’s Wife (£8-99, Vintage) by Audrey Niffenegger

The Adventuress h/c (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Audrey Niffenegger

The Night Mobile h/c (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Audrey Niffenegger

Her Fearful Symmetry (£8-99, Vintage) by Audrey Niffenegger

Ghostly (£9-99, Vintage) by Audrey Niffenegger

The Goat Getters h/c (£44-99, IDW) by Eddie Campbell



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’.

Basquiat (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by Julian Voloj & Soren Mosdal

Blackbird vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Image) by Sam Humphries & Jen Bartel

Motel Universe h/c (£19-99, Secret Acres) by Joakim Drescher

Newbury & Hobbes vol 1: Undying s/c (£13-99, Titan) by George Mann & Dan Boultwood

Pearl vol 1 s/c (£14-99, DC) by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Gaydos

Six Days: The Incredible True Story Of D-Day’s Lost Chapter h/c (£22-99, DC) by Robert Venditti, Kevin Maurer & Andrea Mutti

Star Wars: Age Of Republic – Villains s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Jody Houser & various

Spider-Gwen: Ghost-Spider vol 1: Spider-Geddon s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Seanan McGuire & Rosi Kampe

Justice League vol 2: Graveyard Of Gods s/c (Rebirth) (£17-99, DC) by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV & Mikel Janin

Inside Mari vol 3 (£11-99, Den Pa) by Shuzo Oshimi

Dead Dead Demon’s Dededede Destruction vol 5 (£9-99, Viz) by Inio Asano

My Hero Academia: Vigilantes vol 4 (£6-99, Viz) by Kohei Horikoshi

My Hero Academica vol 18 (£6-99, Viz) by Kohei Horikoshi

My Hero Academica: School Briefs (Light Novel) vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Anri Yoshi

Platinum End vol 8 (£6-99, Viz) by Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews May 2019 week one

Wednesday, May 1st, 2019

Featuring Sarah McIntyre, Yokoyama Yuichi, Kelsey Wroten, Joe Kessler, Catherine LePage, Greg Pak, Dan McDaid

Grumpycorn (Exclusive Signed Page 45 Bookplate Edition) (£6-99 s/c, £12-99 h/c, Scholastic) by Sarah McIntyre.



FREE Limited Edition Bookplate Exclusive to Page 45, designed and signed for us by Lovely Sarah McIntyre with the first 100 copies of either hardcover or softcover! Please see photo below!



“Unicorn was sitting in his special writing house.
“I am going to write the most FABULOUS story in the world,” he thought.

Brilliant! Full marks for ambition! A+++

“This made him feel very pleased with himself.
“He already liked being a writer.”

Also for self-belief: once you start writing then you are indeed a writer! It’s finding the courage to put your first words to paper that’s the trick: actually starting in on your story…

But do you know what? Do it!



Don’t wait for inspiration to come knocking on your door; it’ll only be a cold-caller, touting for business. Clear your own mental gutters and begin doodling away, jotting down ideas! Start writing sentences – any sentences will do – until some start sounding right. They never will sound right until you begin!

That’s going to be Unicorn’s problem if he’s not careful. He’ll also have to overcome a certain degree of self-obsession; for one must always remember the value of friendship as the most important source of happiness, but also a well of that oh-so elusive inspiration.



What a deliciously vibrant book, with a dazzlingly shiny gold cover!

I adore all the reflected and refracted light; the way the colours pulse in the sky then shine like shards on the choppy seas’ surfaces; the way they wave and beam and whirl in the water below. Those are some truly tasty lemons, lime-greens and tangerines, and oh my days the plum-coloured purples!



Multiple award-winning Sarah McIntyre, author / artist of THE NEW NEIGHBOURS, DINOSAUR FIREFIGHTERS, VERN AND LETTUCE, THE LEGEND OF KEVIN etc (the last one co-created with Philip Reeve – do please see our dedicated Reeve & McIntyre section bursting with so many exuberant reviews), returns with another picture book of mischief, mirth and the mindfulness which parents so very much appreciate.

And this is the key to Young Readers’ picture books and comics: you need to get parents as enamoured with the stories (which they’ll be reading to young ones over and over and over again) as their wide-eyed offspring. It’s the adults’ enthusiasm on reading that’s infectious, and comedy and compassion work wonders.

So does spectacle!

Seldovia in Alaska is credited as inspiration within the dedication, and to me that manifests itself for example in the base of the snow-capped coned mountains which rise directly from the ocean, with their tiers of tree designs which you might find on very woolly jumpers. Also, the light, as dazzling as any Aurora Borealis!



Background jokes are a bonus too, the craft loosely resembling the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine which later returns as Mermaid’s mode of transport / mobile home, the joke of its redundancy delightfully left for all to observe for themselves.

On top of that, Narwhal, Mermaid and Jellyfish each project their own versions of what they imagine “the most fabulous story in the world” might entail in visual thought clouds. In Narwhal’s case it’s the gallant seahorse-assisted assault on a turreted castle in order to rescue a younger prince or princess, locked up in a tall tower, from the fiendish clutches or an orange octopus. You can tell that he’s fiendish from the twirled moustache. And an octopus’s clutches would take four times any ordinary extraction because of those eight suckered tentacles. Ambitious!



Lastly, no one needs saccharine, and I can assure you that Unicorn has a little bit of growing up to do lest he be called Grumpycorn for life. For by “a certain degree of self-obsession” I mean that he starts off as a right old diva, unnecessarily rude and thoughtlessly, hurtfully dismissive of his friends.

“”WOW!” said Narwhal. “Can I be in your story?”

His glee is self-evident.

“”Don’t be silly,” said Unicorn. “No one wants to read a story about a narwhal. Narwhals are very boring. There will be no narwhals in my story.”
“”Oh,” said Narwhal.”

His poor blue face is a devastating picture of startled, uncomprehending, internalised rejection.

“He swam sadly away.”



Don’t fret, families, friendship is what holds most sway here! A little bit of loving, a whole lot of baking, and a co-creative intervention will return that grandiose Grumpycorn round to appreciating that which matters the most.

There’ll just be a right old silly strop first!

P.S. Fab to see that Colin the Crab’s cheekily back! See OLIVER AND THE SEA WIGS, THE LEGEND OF KEVIN and PUG-A-DOODLE-DO! A BUMPER BOOK OF FUN!


Buy Grumpycorn h/c (Exclusive Signed Page 45 Bookplate Edition) and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Grumpycorn s/c (Exclusive Signed Page 45 Bookplate Edition) and read the Page 45 review here

Cannonball h/c (£22-99, Uncivilised Books) by Kelsey Wroten ~

A recent graduate, Caroline is very reluctantly being flung into the world of adulting. She’s got herself an apartment with a glorious view of a brick wall and neighbours that party seemingly non-stop. Her friends are moving away, going to grad schools or getting ‘proper jobs’, while Caroline stubbornly puts her foot down to follow her passion as a creative writer. She will NOT let that degree go to waste!

Writing, re-writing, shredding the whole lot, starting afresh then re-writing that and so on, she is a perfectionist with the determination to break out with a hit novel. She also has a stolen student card that grants her access to the college cafe, ensuring continued procrastination regarding her transition into the ‘real world’.

As an art school grad myself, I know that pang for creative success that Caroline feels; to want to do something big, be something great. But finding yourself standing by while your peers get those gallery exhibitions, get hired by the big companies, move away, move on, and grow up, while you feel the knock-back and rejection letters from submissions you’ve poured your heart and soul into.

Parents, with all the best intentions, adding extra pressure for you to find your feet, but they simply don’t quite understand the path you have chosen in life. I know this cast of mis-sold millennials intimately, with their mountains of student dept spent on creative degrees to “follow your dreams” only to find that the pool is overcrowded and over competitive.



Maybe what you’ve just read will resonate with you; you may feel akin to Caroline, Penelope and Trevor, fumbling their way through a new and confusing period in life. But before we go any further let me just explain one thing about Caroline: she is an absolute dick…

“Betwixt reality and perception is mystery. And mystery is *unf* so sexy.”
“And you’re not a judgemental asshole, you’re a dangerous genius.”
“Exactly. Maybe you do know me after all.”
“That wasn’t a compliment!”



Playing the tortured genius just as well as FANTE BUKOWSKI and learning about as little in the process, she is bitter and destructive, silver tongued and verging on alcoholic. She hates the world and everyone in it; they’re all a bunch of grebes anyway. But boy, do I love a flawed protagonist and Wroten has done a brilliant job with Caroline. You can see her path of destruction unfold before her and you’ll wince at her actions and recoil at her vitriolic diatribe. But yet, you’ll find yourself rooting for her. You want her have at least a small taste of success because maybe then she will calm down, see the world for what it is, maybe even grow up a little… maybe.

Witty and utterly cringe-worthy, I found myself simultaneously grinning and grimacing the entire way though. If, like me, you’re a fan of flawed characters and self deprecating humour then Cannon Ball will certainly scratch that itch.



In classic Lego brick colours and rounded cartooning, Wroten has encapsulated the aesthetic of a generation, while its attitude is captured is its disenfranchised bitterness.


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

Outdoors (£14-99, Breakdown Press) by Yokoyama Yuichi…

“Like a Japanese Cowboy…”

Ween – Japanese Cowboy.

There can’t be many comics that immediately make one’s mind turn to alt-rockers Ween… but then Yokoyama Yuichi’s manga always makes my mind do strange things.

His unique art style, replete as ever with a truly insane amount of sound effects, is easily identifiable by its delightful future retro combination of curves and long straight lines. Those sounds effects, which I think must be present in at least 95% of the panels, really add to the at times claustrophobic intensity by the way, something Yuichi comments on in the excellent, if typically terse, two-page interview included at the back of the book. He seems a real character, I must say, which does not surprise me one iota.



His style has always struck me as being of two time periods, straddling both like an enormous yet elegant mega-robot. For there is a sense in which he has the feel of really early Yoshihiro Tatsumi, by which I mean the likes of BLACK BLIZZARD, and also Tezuka in ASTRO BOY mode. I think that is due to the seemingly simplistic panel layouts but also the panel progressions, the actual visual sequential storytelling which feels very of that period.



But then that is transformed into something truly idiosyncratic and futuristic with his trademark illustrative flourishes. Not least the repetitious symmetry of minor (and occasionally major) components, including the sound effects, frequently deployed in precise patterns and formations which has a very pleasing effect on the eye. Well, to mine at least!

The typically ultra-minimal plot, consisting entirely of a group of cowboys riding the range on their minature rocket ships, doing all the usual things that ranch hands do and nothing more exciting than that, okay occasionally waving their ray guns around, only adds to the dualistic contrary temporal feel.



Yuichi will never change, he clearly likes to make manga his own very special way, probably entirely for his own satisfaction I suspect, and I wholeheartedly applaud him for it.


Buy Outdoors and read the Page 45 review here

Windowpane (£19-99, Breakdown Press) by Joe Kessler…

“I got you some things.”
“Oh really?”
“Green things and for the sun… It’s a hat and gerkins.”
“I can see that. Thank you.”

Here’s my early front runner for weirdest comic of 2019! It’s not going to win, I suspect, as there’s a fair few furlongs of freaky to go before the finish line and no doubt something even more insane will come flying up late on the rails like Oliver Schrauwen’s PARALLEL LIVES did last year to snatch the gonzo glory.

But Joe Kessler has laid a pretty fair marker down with this anthology of the abnormal, let me tell you…



From a child riding the bus network alone late at night, to being teleported to go shell collecting by an evil wizard, to worrying about a lack of vitamins, to receiving summary justice from what appears to be worrisomely all-powerful jaundiced version of Noseybonk, there is much going on that is very strange indeed here.



Like a fever dream leading in an entirely abstract direction, I didn’t guess where any of these stories were going, and that is certainly a very considerable part of their charm. Frequently they adopt a semblance of surface normality before veering off savagely into the surreal!



As an aside, I did wonder at one point if the various stories very, very tenuously all linked together, a little like PARALLEL LIVES but even more disparately, but I’m honestly not sure. I think so…

Style-wise, it looks like Joe has used felt tips. I love felt tips, who doesn’t?! Simpler times…



The actual colour palette often harkens back to even simpler times still. I would say the days of four colour, but instead of cyan, magenta, yellow and black Joe has gone for red, yellow, green, blue and black. A proper bunch of fives to the flushed, confused face and highly activated optic nerves.

As I said, weird and abnormal. I loved it!


Buy Windowpane and read the Page 45 review here

Thin Slices Of Anxiety: Observations and Advice to Ease a Worried Mind (£9-99, Chronicle Books) by Catherine LePage…

“I always simultaneously see two sides of the same coin.”

Those two sides being, dear reader, the good side but also the bad side… For if one is prone to anxiety there is no resting on the proverbial laurels, for any scant moments of quiet contentment are surely about to be interrupted by the next display of internal disquiet?! But fret ye not! For as the publisher pronounces…

“Not to worry, a book on anxiety is finally here! A clever antidote to everyday angst, this illustrated book captures universal truths and comforting revelations about being human. Artist Catherine Lepage uses her wry humour to help us see that when thinly sliced and illustrated, emotions are much easier to digest.”



Yes she does. Honest, witty and very engaging indeed, this pocket packet of perturbation pacification deals with the causes and effects of Catherine’s personal crushing concerns as she prescribes sautéing up the stresses to ensure they don’t induce too much unnecessary agitation.



I found much to enjoy in this work as it has been created with genuine tenderness and understanding but also includes much hard-won hilarity.



It’s therefore an intimate, engaging look at what is for most people who suffer from it in one form or another, a very personal problem.



I particularly enjoyed how Catherine unpicked and analysed her own predilections to precipitating an onset of anxious thoughts…

“Chapter 4.
“Okay, I’ll admit…
“It’s a bit my fault as well.”

When we get the punchline that concludes this chapter as well as the book, I had a little a chuckle to myself. Forgiveness is very important. Particularly of oneself. I thought it was a delightfully insightful conclusion.

Artistically, the slices of illustration that accompany Catherine’s calamity-controlling conceptions will appeal to fans of David Shrigley, I suspect.



It’s not as bonkers all-out insane, for sure, but it has more than a little of that deliberately rough and ready absurdity slapping you about the face sensibilities at times.


Buy Thin Slices Of Anxiety and read the Page 45 review here

Firefly vol 1: Unification War h/c (£14-99, Boom!) by Greg Pak & Dan McDaid…

Once upon a time in a galaxy not so far away… well… ours actually… a TV show got cancelled…

People got rather upset about this, apparently. Well, some people… and so comics were made. (Oh, and somewhere along the way, a film too, almost forgot about that.)

Five volumes worth of comics, in fact, now available in two splendid ‘legacy’ editions entitled FIREFLY LEGACY EDITION 1 and, you’ve guessed it, FIREFLY LEGACY EDITION 2.

I even read one of the five arcs pertaining the back story of one of the more mysterious characters called Shepherd and despite knowing precisely nothing about him, or indeed the show, never having watched it, thought it was quite good. It almost made me want to watch the TV show.



Which brings us to now and this ongoing Firefly series. I’ve had a brief flick through and it seems quite entertaining. I can well imagine if you have any degree of affection for the characters you’ll probably love it, as Greg MAGNETO: LAST TESTAMENT / WORLD WAR HULK Pak is a darn good writer and Dan McDaid has been doing some solid work on IDW’s Judge Dredd line.



Not a lot more I can add really. Except, you know, buy the comics or they’ll get cancelled.


Buy Firefly vol 1: Unification War h/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’.



Cannabis: An American History (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by Box Brown

Aliens: Dust To Dust s/c (£15-99, Dark Horse) by Gabriel Hardman

Black Hammer: Quantum Age s/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Jeff Lemire & Wilfredo Torres

Copra Round 1 (£17-99, Image) by Michel Fiffe

Copra Round 2 (£17-99, Image) by Michel Fiffe

Copra Round 3 (£17-99, Image) by Michel Fiffe

Copra Round 4 (£17-99, Image) by Michel Fiffe

Copra Round 5 (£19-99, Image) by Michel Fiffe

I Was Their American Dream (£12-99, Potter) by Malaka Gharib

Oh No (£9-99, Andrews McMeel) by Alex Norris

Posy Simmonds: The Illustrators Series h/c (£18-95, Thames & Hudson) by Paul Gravett

Sandman vol 7: Brief Lives (30th Anniversary Ed’n) (£14-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & Jill Thompson, Vince Locke, Peter Straub

Secrets #4: Sexy Special (£3-00) by Lae Schafer

Secrets #5: Pained Edition (£3-00) by Lae Schafer

Share Your Smile h/c (£11-99, Scholastic) by Raina Telgemeier

Simak (£14-99, Humanoids) by Jerry Frissen & Jean-Michel Ponzio

Stranger Things: The Other Side s/c (£15-99, Dark Horse) by Jody Houser & Stefano Martino

Under The Moon: A Catwoman Tale s/c (£14-99, DC Ink) by Lauren Myracle & Isaac Goodhart

Injustice Vs. Masters Of The Universe h/c (£22-99, DC) by Tim Seeley & Freddie E. Williams II

Superman: Action Comics vol 1: Invisible Mafia h/c (£19-99, DC) by Brian Michael Bendis & Ryan Sook, Patrick Gleason, Yanick Paquette, Wade Von Grawbadger

Amazing Spider-Man vol 3: Lifetime Achievement s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Nick Spencer & Ryan Ottley, Chris Bachalo

Doctor Strange vol 2: Remittance s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Javier Pina, Andres Guinaldo, Jesus Saiz, others

Barefoot Gen vol 9 (£14-99, Last Gasp) by Keiji Nakazawa