Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews June 2019 week three

Featuring Mariko Tamaki, Jillian Tamaki, Marguerite Abouet, Mathieu Sapin J.M. DeMatteis, Jon J. Muth, Kent Williams, George Pratt, M. K. Reed, Greg Means, Matt Wiegle, Marcos Prior, David Rubin, Evan Dahm, Jessica Martin, Anders Nilsen

Skim s/c (£11-99, Groundwood Books) by Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki.

An all-time Page 45 classic about first love during those oh so troubling teenage years – when so much was a mystery to us, especially ourselves – this astutely observed piece of poignancy by the Tamaki cousins was originally reviewed by our Tom in 2010 who finished with the following flourish:

“Keep an eye on these two as they are going to go far.”

He wasn’t wrong.

Together or separately, sometimes with other artists, Mariko and Jillian Tamaki have since been responsible for LAURA DEAN KEEPS BREAKING UP WITH ME, my personal favourite graphic novel of 2019 and Page 45’s Current Comicbook Of The Month, former Page 45 Comicbook Of The Months THIS ONE SUMMER and BOUNDLESS, plus the equally thought-provoking LUISA: NOW AND THEN, the Governor General’s Award-winning all-ages picture book THEY SAY BLUE, and the frankly bonkers collection of comedy shorts SUPERMUTANT MAGIC ACADEMY

In light of all that exceptional elegance and eloquence, it’s time for a brand-new review of this diary-driven confessional about secrecy, sexuality, suicide, the rumours which subsequently run rampant and what happens to those left behind.



“Do you think this is a club for people who are going to commit suicide or people who know people who might commit suicide?”
“Why, are you thinking of joining?”
“Ha! I’d rather hang myself!”

Oh yeah, Skim’s cynical best friend Lisa is soooooooooooo very funny. She always has a disdainfully droll line or wry, witty rejoinder, but let’s put this into context:

Teenage John Reddear has just committed suicide. Lisa said he shot himself (he didn’t); others are saying he did it because he was gay and in love with a lad on his volleyball team (possible but unsubstantiated). So yes, John was on St. George’s volleyball team, and I don’t know if that qualifies him as a jock, but success in school sports certainly comes with cachet and he was pretty up-tempo and popular. But obviously he was, privately, profoundly distressed underneath. He was also going out with a blonde beauty called Katie Matthews whom he dumped but a few days earlier.

Katie was devastated. Katie drew broken hearts on her hands. And that was before the suicide.

You may consider drawing broken hearts a little on the look-at-me side, but she’s a teenager, and there’s a full-page portrait of Katie, genuinely distraught, being comforted in a crowd by her best friend, Julie Peters. It’s a high school crowd cluttering up the walkway between lockers, and Lisa is looking back at Julie’s compassion towards Katie’s distress (evidenced by her wilted, imploded form) with judgemental and distanced scepticism.



To Skim, Lisa pronounces:

“It’s like, please, so you break up with some tenth-grade loser and you get to act like it’s the end of the world or something.”
“Super lame. I mean, just because you’re in the drama club doesn’t mean you have to ACT all the time.”

But remember that Skim echoed “lame”.

It’s sad, but I get that: it’s easy when young to be influenced by those who are confident, forthright and seemingly worldly-wise yet corrosive. Plus Skim, with troubles at home, is otherwise reclusive, retreating into her diaries and continually doubting herself, while Lisa is her inseparable, very best friend and ally in a sea of so much hormonal competitiveness.



So John Reddear has committed suicide leaving Katie Matthews wretched, inconsolable (loss, shock… guilt?) and…

“On Monday Mrs Hornet announced in prayers that Katie Matthews “accidentally” fell off her roof and broke both her arms. How do you accidentally fall off a roof?”

Compassionate counselling goes into overdrive but neither that nor the formation of the Girls Celebrate Life club with its own school notice board has the desired effect, especially on Katie Matthews whose arms are in plaster and so is forced to have her books carried around by others wherever she goes. If you think she was looking miserable before…



The other main thread on top of Skim’s toxic friendship and Katie’s increased isolation, is sparked when Skim skips gym for a secretive smoke behind the proverbial bike shed, and she’s caught red-handed by her English teacher, Ms. Archer.

“I was just leaving.”
“Only if you don’t have a light on you.”

Writes Skim, “It’s a rule that if an adult ask to smoke with you, you have to smoke. So we ended up talking and smoking.”

What they end up talking about is ‘Romeo and Juliet’ which Skim thinks is stupid, a love story not worth studying.

“Maybe it’s more than that. Maybe it’s the story of rebellion. Maybe it’s a story about two people who fall in love, when falling in love, with your enemy, is the one thing you’re not supposed to do. I’m sorry you don’t like it.”
“Oh no, I mean, it’s fine. I mean, I’m looking forward to talking about it in class.”
“You should try that. That talking-in-class-thing.”

Perhaps partly catalysed by that unexpected act of encouragement, the equally kind interest in Skim’s real name (Kimberly Keiko Cameron – “I’ll assume you prefer Kim”), the shared intimacy of a clandestine cigarette and a moment of physical contact albeit through plaster when Ms Archer draws something specific on Kim’s own cast, Skim tumbles blindly in love for the very first time. And, yes, to complicate matters in an already turbulent heart in a confusing world, it’s with her English teacher, Ms. Archer.

A first love drowns out everything else from lessons to casual conversations with the incessant, thunderous tom-toms pounding in your heart reverberating constantly through your head. Or is that an over-share? Sorry. Plus, this is her English teacher we’re talking about, with all the responsibilities that entails. Oh, the potential repercussions!

I mean, if it’s even reciprocated. What can Skim possibly hope to happen? She becomes a bit of an out-of-school stalker.



Jillian’s visual storytelling came fully formed even back then. The expressions, whether musing, amused, accusing or cross-patch, convey so much emotion with so very few lines. The body forms are as diverse as they should be for a group of teenagers growing at vastly different rates, and you don’t always see that acknowledged in comics.

Quite a lot of it is surprisingly sedentary (perhaps not so surprising, now that I think back on those years), but there’s also a full panel-less page of serpentine sequential art similar to the dance scene in THIS ONE SUMMER and just as accomplished in its swirling movement when “this herd of ballerinas swooped into the room and chased Hien and me out of the house.”

“Everybody out!” the teenage late-night, party-goers cry, but they only meant Hiem and Skim.
“We waited and waited for them to let us back in.
“After a little while Hien left.
“Hien’s parents adopted her from Vietnam two years earlier and she never got invited to parties. Maybe she thought that’s how people left parties in Canada. Asians first.”




It’s such a sad book with tender, haunting, overwhelmingly solitary art, even when in a crowd. There’s little that’s more lonely than being stuck in a crowd you want out of: glance back and forth at Katie throughout.



The environments are stunning, whether woodland, snowscapes or Ms. Archer’s eerily lit, three-storey house at night, watched then approached from across the suburban road by Skim.

This exceptionally understanding and grounded graphic novel doesn’t go where you’d expect it to, which is one of the reasons why I’ve always respected it so highly and winced for poor Skim when trying so tentatively – clumsily, oh so clumsily – to imply her affection.

It’s full of the gauche things we do when young, and the diary entries – it is all diary entry, first-person narration – could not be more perfectly written. If one of the key elements of noir is that you must relish spending time in the narrator’s head, so it is here in Skim’s diary.



It strikes me that so much of this is about the contrasting nature of the public and the private – the things experienced alone in one’s head – none more so than in the Katie’s experience when her ex-boyfriend’s private suicide becomes public property.


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

Moonshadow Definitive Edition h/c (£26-99, Dark Horse) by J. M. DeMatteis & Jon J. Muth with Kent Williams, George Pratt.

“I blamed myself for Mother’s death, for Ira’s unhappiness, for my poor cat’s misfortune.
“I blamed myself for war, famine, pestilence and disease.
“I blamed myself for blaming myself – then blamed myself again.”

Good old guilt.

I remain immensely fond of this fully painted, coming-of-age fantasy – very much reminiscent of prime Douglas Adams – not least because when young Moonshadow originally grew up on these pages, he turned into David Sylvian, erstwhile singer-songwriter of pop group Japan turned experimental orchestrator of all manner of sonic noodling.

We’ll return to that in a second.

Moonshadow is a strange boy, but then he had strange parentage: his mother was a pacifistic revolutionary hippy who called herself Sunflower, his father a G’l-Dose. The G’l-Doses are large, glowing, spherical objects for whom the only motive is caprice. Makes them somewhat difficult to reason with, let alone learn life lessons from. There’s not much there by way of paternal instincts.



And so it is that David – sorry, Moonshadow – is thrown out of his home by his father (his father was his captor; the home a galactic zoo) and voyages into life among the stars with his faithless companion Ira, a sex-obsessed big bundle of matted brown fur in a bowler hat with a cigar clenched permanently between his teeth. Also, with his mother and black cat called Frodo.

As the inquisitive dreamer and innocently optimistic Moonshadow gradually learns first-hand about love, sex, war and death, the contrastingly self-centred and cynical Ira insists upon occasionally imparting his own life’s journey, stopping and restarting several times after confessing, “I lied”.

The saga is recollected in a whimsical, iconoclastic fashion by Moonshadow himself as an old artist.



If you want a taste for its tone, there’s a potentially poignant scene towards the end when a character questions: “Ridiculous, isn’t it? To love someone like that?” To which Moonshadow replies:

“Ridiculous and illogical. I love him, too.”

They exit the stage… to the sound of Ira, asleep, oblivious, farting.

If Ira remains resolutely unimpressed by Moonshadow, the latter ill-advisedly sees the former as the father-figure he never had.

“He was a surly, cynical, lecherous grouch; a horny sensualist who cared for nothing save filling his belly and fondling his genitals. He farted with malice, belched without shame, and offended everyone.
“No wonder he stole my heart.”

Originally billing itself “A Fairy Tale for Adults”  and published in 1985 by Marvel’s aptly titled Epic imprint (it’s a long, improbable story but God bless editor Archie Goodwin), it ran to a full twelve monthly instalments during which punishing schedule Jon J. Muth (SANDMAN: THE WAKE, M etc), found himself floundering. Equally accomplished stablemates Kent Williams and George Pratt were therefore reigned in for a couple of issues. As a youngster I could barely see the join but I can, admittedly, now. They’re still beautiful, every single page.



It was the very first series I read that had not a cape in sight and its revelatory effect upon me – as to what else I might relish – was almost as transformative as working alongside our beardly beloved Mark. So if you’re a superhero reader teetering on the edge of trying something new, this comes highly recommended with the proven prospect of thirty-five years of branching out further and enjoying this medium in all its diverse glory. You might even open a comic shop some day.

This is also recommended to those who simply enjoy lambent watercolours or a daft old quest full of mischief.



Muth’s wet-brush washes over his tight, neo-classical pencils evidence the sort of looseness I fervently envy but have never been able to reproduce. It’s aesthetically pleasing enough in fine art, but in sequential art this proves vital, for it encourages the eye to move along at the same jaunty, clipped pace of the narrator. You must surely have stumbled upon some comics rendered in stodgy gouache whose cover may have held promise, but whose interior panels clog up the proceedings with their overwrought detail and density. Not so here, not remotely. I reckon readers of DESCENDER and MIRROR (MIRROR volume 2 out now) will adore this.



Returning to the book’s visual references to David Sylvian, although for the first collected edition Muth repainted certain pages after he found his heart worn a little too vulnerably upon his sleeve and so pulled his cuffs down a notch (by lessening the likeness to the singer-songwriter repeated voted most swoonaway man in pop by the readers of Smash Hits) when he rejoined J. M. DeMatteis for an additional one-shot of MOONSHADOW illustrated prose (reprinted here with additional back-matter sketches), he reversed his sartorial thrusters and resumed direct portraits.



If you harbour any further doubts just Google David Sylvian’s ‘Red Guitar’ single from his first solo album and watch Anton Corbijn’s video. Oh, here you go:

Yes, that’s Moonshadow as an old man. There are even balloons if you wait long enough.



I leave you with an extract from the boy’s earliest contact from outside his spaceship, a distress signal which immediate ignites the “rose-tinted Romantic” in him. Ira’s to the left of him, his mother to the right. He’s stuck in the middle, boo-hoo.

“Someone was in trouble, in the heart of the Kickapoo Cluster. A true Lancelot-in-training, visions of endangered damsels filling my head, I reached for the controls.

“Are you stupider that you look? This whole sector’s infested with plague! We can’t go in there!”

“Sunflower”, rising from a languorous rest below deck, dissented:

“If someone wants our help, Moon, then they should have it. “Show kindness to thy brothers and free them from suffering, right?”

I was utterly confused: To turn my back on a being in need contradicted every belief I held dear. But entering the Cluster was flirting with suicide, and I had no desire to indulge in cosmic wrist-slashing.

I agonized; I theorized; I scrutinized my conscience.

I decided:

“We’re going in!”

… then wet my pants.”


Buy Moonshadow Definitive Edition h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Penny Nichols s/c (£17-99, Top Shelf) by M. K. Reed, Greg Means & Matt Wiegle…

“I never wanted to be a teacher or lawyer. I never wanted to be anything, really.”

I think there might be a fair few people out there who can admit to that.

Still at that point, with the true horrors of the reality of what awaits one post-education just beginning to kick in, you just have to get your finger out of your proverbial behind or you’ll end up stuck in a crap job living with a flatmate who totally hates you.

Well, maybe not that last bit, but Penny Nicholls has managed to ‘achieve’ that feat as well! Here is the plot summary from the publisher as to how she’s going to try and clapperboard the second act of her life into action…

“Somehow, cynical Penny Nichols has gotten roped into helping make a ridiculously over-the-top slasher film. With a crew of flakes and oddballs, she’s probably the only one who can save this stupid movie… but maybe it can save her, too. Now can somebody please stop that dog from licking the fake blood?

Stuck working mind-numbing temp jobs, Penny Nichols yearns to break free from the rut she’s found herself in. When, by chance, she falls in with a group of misfits making a no-budget horror movie called Blood Wedding, everything goes sideways.

Soon her days are overrun with gory props, failed Shakespearean actors, a horny cameraman, and a disappearing director. Somehow Penny must hold it all together and keep the production from coming apart at the seams.

This hilarious graphic novel is a loving tribute to the chaos and camaraderie of D.I.Y. filmmaking, and the ways we find our future and our family in the unlikeliest of places.”

Come on; admit this too, we’ve all seen certain films and thought, “I could do that.” In fact it never ceases to amaze me just how many bad films of all budgetary levels get made. I’ll freely admit I’ve thought the same regarding many a comic too, and yet I’ve made neither a film nor a comic, and probably never will. Why? Well, it does seemingly takes a special sort of lunatic to make films and indeed also to make comics*. Which is why a comic about absolute rank amateurs making a low-budget horror film has got high farcical potential written all over it. And so it proves!

* You just have to be a complete lunatic to sell them…



Fortunately for the hapless duo of directors in question it seems they’ve lucked out by begging and pleading with Penny to come on board to help out as she promptly warms to her task with gusto, taking all the myriad problems – mostly caused by the incompetence and slackassery of her new colleagues – in her stride, as the gang attempt to complete their flick in record time to submit it to Slashercon, where they are convinced the inevitable fortune and glory await. Well, the more deluded of them. And so it…

Ah, ah, no spoilers now! Nowhere worse than a comic shop for someone spouting out a film spoiler without the proprietor managing it too…

M.K. PALEFIRE / AMERICUS Reed returns (in conjunction with co-writer Greg Means) with yet another completely different project having covered crime as well as kids’ works previously. This comedy offering is one of the most wittily entertaining ensemble tales I’ve read in a while, really getting into the characters foibles and fixations, particularly Penny’s, in excruciatingly entertaining depth.

While the cast start to practically bounce off each other as the impending deadline looms ever larger and thus the pressure continues to mount ever further on Penny, can she handle it without cracking, particularly with her snarky snobby sister continually chipping in from the sidelines? Artist Matt Wiegle captures the bonkers nature of the story perfectly with a style that minded me greatly of a slightly toned-down (if that’s even possible!) Evan ELTINGVILLE CLUB Dorkin.

That’s a wrap. Just buy it. And why not?  Trust me, I’m like the Barry Norman of comics reviewing. Or something.


Buy Penny Nichols s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Grand Abyss Hotel h/c (£18-99, Archaia) by Marcos Prior & David Rubin…



“…According to his own statements, health care cuts are inevitable… they’re painful measures for which there is no workable alternative…”
“…Have announced a tax cut to encourage the flow of capital, which is key to economic recovery…”
“…The Minister of Education has reiterated that the cuts to the public school budget will not have a negative impact on teaching quality…”
“…We’ve got to be creative: we’ve got to learn to do more with less…”
“…Starting next month, electricity costs will go up 9.99%…”
“…Businessmen worried about the image and impact abroad of the street cleaners’ strike…”
“…The adoption of Bittercoin will lead to the disappearance of tax havens, there won’t be any need for them…”
“…The government has announced a new reformulation of the right to strike…”
“…Experts warn that the public pension system is unsustainable…”

Sigh. There are another three pages of the first protagonist, the masked activist who adorns the cover of this work, listening to depressingly real incoming snippets of news on various channels as he pumps iron in preparation for his big moment.



Here is the PR blitz from the publisher to tell us all why it is time to check out…

“Marcos Prior and David BEOWULF Rubín weave a politically satirical look at democracy today through the lens of hyper-violence and explosive action.

Imagine a world overrun by big business and ‘fake news’ via the social media machine…

In The Grand Abyss Hotel neoliberalism has become a state religion, while the citizens quietly and then not-so-quietly rebel, giving way to violence on the streets and sowing chaos. A masked vigilante takes on the role of hero to battle politicians, the erosion of democracy, and social media. After the fires burn low and the dust settles, social order returns. Or does it?”

It really isn’t that hard to imagine is it? “…a world overrun by big business and ‘fake news’ via the social media machine…” and “…neoliberalism has become a state religion…”

For we’re all too sadly living it, it seems to me. I should probably clarify at this point that the Grand Abyss Hotel is the (presumably colloquial) name of the home of the government in this city, which is shortly about to come under direct assault.



Which raises an interest question, actually. At what point would a full-blown national insurrection be socially acceptable? You would think it could never happen here even in these troubling times. Fast forward another fifty years though and who honestly knows.

Anyway, I digress. Split into four chapters, this work is very much about what is going on in the background, both story-wise and artistically, as it is in the (fist-)in-your-face foreground action. It is relentless brutal, both in the pace of the plot and also the punch it packs. The world Prior and Rubin have created here is rich in satirical depth and sardonic detail.

Prior certainly hasn’t skimped on loading up this power-keg of potential carnage and, of course, Rubin is more than capable of spectacularly lighting the fuse. As with BEOWULF, his portrayal of movement and bursts of intense activity is something to behold for the dramatic flare he manages to embed so gracefully into the action. He’s right up there with Paul HEAVY LIQUID / ESCAPO / BATTLING BOY Pope as one of my personal favourite artists.

It’s nigh-on impossible not to feel at least a tad of visceral excitement at the attacks upon the ‘institution’ of government and also one particular individual who is singled out for some very special fiscally punitive treatment. In fact, that chapter made me smile a lot, and given some of the nonsense some of our politicians have got up on television in recent years to try and portray themselves as sensitive and understanding of the working class, I think it would be a bloody good idea for a reality TV show…

I found the ending, well epilogue, a trifle bemusing, initially at least, though the more I reflected upon it, and I have elucidated in that direction already, it was probably the only ending there could actually be to this particular work. As a piece of distressingly accurate and possibly prescient dystopian speculative fiction, this firmly obliterates the mark to smithereens, let alone hits it.


Buy Grand Abyss Hotel h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Akissi: More Tales Of Mischief (£12-99, Flying Eye Books) by Marguerite Abouet & Mathieu Sapin…

“I don’t wanna go! He’s too mean and ugly and stinky and he spits when talks to us!!”
“Akissi, enough! It’s the same old song every day!”
“Only because no one believes me! He will kill me one day and you will all finally GET IT!!”

That major maker of mischief herself is back for more merriment and much chaos. For a more extensive review of the madness and mayhem AKISSI brings everywhere she goes please read my review of the first volume HERE.

This time around she’s battling three new foes. I’ll let the first, responsible for Akissi’s outburst above introduce himself…

“My name is Mr. Adama, your new teacher. I won’t beat about the bush… I hate children!”

He really does, and whilst he might not beat around the proverbial shrubbery he certainly likes thwacking the behinds of errant children with a large ruler! Repeatedly… Now, do you think that is going to make Akissi and her friends behave? No, of course not, quite the opposite! In fact, I think Mr. Adama had better watch out…

Further providing a little local cultural context (and hopefully perhaps make us appreciate the NHS even more as well as our education system…) is Akissi’s second source of strife, the local Witch Doctor, who I reckon is even more terrifying than her teacher. But then given he’s decided Akissi is a devil who is stopping her mum conceiving another baby and his means of dealing with it are equally unconventional, well…

Finally we have Akissi’s ultimate nemesis, the new girl Sido, who despite missing a leg, allegedly due to having it eaten by a lion, has all the boys swooning over her due to her prettiness. Akissi, appalled at her rough and tumble chums fawning over this upstart sets about trying to hate her. But, of course, Akissi has got far, far too big a heart for that and promptly ends up best chums with Sido in a way that only Akissi could possibly manage, by thwarting an armed robbery.

Haha, once again Marguerite Abouet & Mathieu Sapin bring Africa to vivid, vibrant life in a way that both appals the sensibilities (seriously Akissi, stop borrowing people’s babies without their permission to play with!) and amuses uproariously in equal amounts.


Buy Akissi: More Tales Of Mischief and read the Page 45 review here

Island Book s/c (£17-99, First Second) by Evan Dahm…

“I should never have left…
“I shouldn’t have…
“What was I thinking?
“How… how did I ever think I could find it out here?”
“Find what?”
“The monster.”
“Th… the monster…
“Some creatures are of the land.
“Some are of the sea.
“The Monster is both.
“The Monster is neither.”

Sounds like it should be a straightforward quest for brave little inquisitive Sola then!



Here are the prodigious parameters of pursuit being set by the publisher to explain just how sizeable a task she’s about to undertake…

“Sola is cursed. At least, that’s what everyone tells her. It all started the day the Monster came to the island. While others fled, Sola stood before the creature, alone and unafraid. Since then she’s been treated like an outcast.

Shamed and feared for an event she doesn’t understand, Sola sets out to sea looking for answers. In an endless ocean far from home, she discovers that her island isn’t alone and the Monster isn’t the only life to be found in these uncharted waters.

Boundless adventure awaits in Island Book, an epic tale of friendship, teamwork, and the wisdom we gain when we face the unknown with bravery and an open heart.”

I enjoyed this rather askance adventure. I say askance because it is far more a meditation on personal qualities and interpersonal skills than an all-out all-ages romp. This is far more reflective in its nature, much like its main characters themselves. Albeit eventually in some of their cases…

It that sense, of a curious turtle-like creature going on an oceanic odyssey, combined with Sola’s large soulful eyes, it reminded me rather of Craig Thompson’s classic GOODBYE CHUNKY RICE.



Artistically it also very strongly reminded me of a smoother, softer version of Doug NNEWTS / BAD ISLAND / GHOSTOPOLIS / CARDBOARD TenNapel.



As Sola starts assembling her motley ragtag crew comprised of outcasts from the islands that she encounters during her search, when taken in conjunction with the ending, I also found myself slightly surprised to be also minded of The Wizard Of Oz.



Sometimes you find what you are searching for, discover it is completely different to what you expected, but realise you have learnt something much more important about yourself and life along the way. There’s no musical numbers, though, thank goodness…


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

Life Drawing: A Life Under Lights h/c (£16-99, Unbound) by Jessica Martin…

“Dad and I had a residency at the exclusive St. James’s club in Mayfair.
“Sir John Mills was a patron. I met with him at a West End theatre. Where he endorsed my Equity application.
“As did fellow club patron Michael Caine.
“Not a lot of people know that!”

If you’ve ever wonder just how much hard work it takes to make it in showbiz, and how many names you’ll be able to drop in your biography when you do, then this could be the book for you! Here is the programme as presented by the publisher to inform us of the running order.

“The lure of the spotlight can be intoxicating, and Jessica Martin was captured by it early on. The daughter of a bandleader, she came of age in the jazz clubs of London’s Soho before going on to forge a career as a West End regular, Spitting Image impressionist and Doctor Who actor.



Now entering a new phase of her performing life, Jessica Martin looks back on the parts and people that contributed to her success in this honest and revealing autobiography, which shows the true grit beneath the greasepaint.

Featuring a cast of diverse characters and guest appearances from some very recognisable personalities, Life Drawing is the story of a woman living a fully creative life.”

It is indeed. Firstly, top hats off and high kicks aplenty to Jessica for being brave enough to write and draw her own story. She’s clearly a multi-talented lady over and above her on-screen and stage accomplishments.

For people of a certain age, like myself, who fondly remember the likes of Spitting Image, Bobby Davro, Gary Wilmot and indeed Sylvester McCoy doing his turn as Doctor Who, there was a great deal of fascination and amusement as to which A- through to Z-lister was going to crop up next, as Jessica seemingly knows, and has worked, with most of them.



Whether that be a private command performance for Prince Charles at his Highgrove estate or in panto with the likes of Michael Barrymore attempting to chew up the scenery and steal the show.

But first we start with a fairly in-depth exploration of Jessica’s formative and unconventional early years…



… with her mum holding the family together and being responsible for her subsequent lifelong love of musicals…



… whilst her errant father was off playing jazz and only really taking an interest when he realised he could use her as singer. There’s even a mystery half-brother who briefly pops up from Iceland before disappearing again just as quickly!

If you’re remotely interested in reading about someone who has led a truly fascinating life, in the very delightfully peculiar cultural corner that is the British world of showbusiness, then this will definitely appeal. Her art style has a certain rawness which one would expect of a non-professional but she certainly has talent and her passion for telling her story – and indeed indulging in a bit of luvvie namedropping whilst knocking out some very amusing anecdotes – shines through like the star she is.


Buy Life Drawing: A Life Under Lights h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Tongues #2 (£10-99, self-published) by Anders Nilsen.

Prometheus and the eagle are playing a long game of chess.

But is it against each other, or another entity?

“History is full of repeating patterns.”
“The world’s chaos can look remarkably like pattern to even the most careful observer. It’s one of the hazards of that mind our Acquaintance has given you. But even real pattern is often punctuated by surprise…. Ah… I can’t believe you got me to take that knight. You are trying to distract me, aren’t you?”

Is there a pattern to be found within the circle panels inset on that double-page spread of the eagle gazing down from the mosque’s minaret, surveying the war-torn city below?

Also, was TONGUES #1 my favourite self-published comic of 2018? My memory’s shot, I don’t know.

Album-sized with French flaps, inserted extra geometrical work, crisp white matt stock under a silky card cover, it certainly had the most lavish production values and the colour reproduction was to die for!

This second instalment is every bit as beautiful, but with a radically different light-set and palette. It’s going to grow dark, on every level. I have taken some photos, for sure.



From the creator of the mighty BIG QUESTIONS, POETRY IS USELESS  DON’T GO WHERE I CAN’T FOLLOW, THE END and indeed DOGS & WATER which was surprising reprised in the first issue. That’s the answer to a cryptic clue I gave you last time.

This is but a brief reminder which will make little sense without first referring to my review of TONGUES #1 which ran to a full dozen paragraphs. There’s really no point in repeating myself, is there?

Still resting on green moss and lichen, mountain-bound prisoner Prometheus and his appointed eagle remain on most excellent terms (daily liver extraction, aside). Indeed, their conversation may take a more conspiratorial turn here, however reluctantly on the eagle’s part. It’s possible that their Acquaintance’s power is waning, and a note of hope is sounded. Hope is a wonderful thing, but it can also prove terrible if clutched at then dashed.

I love that they won’t use their Acquaintance’s real name for fear that he’ll hear and take action.



Elsewhere, in the city, there will be strange transformations as a fountain takes on sinister new forms and a young girl is assessed as to her identity, her potential:

“Are you my sister, little mouse? Are you a diamond or just one more shard of broken glass? When the lion swallows you, will you take hold of his tongue and choke him on your way down?”

The girl remains silent. Very wise.



But most impressive for me is Nilsen’s ability to worry, to chill, within the camp of the renegade soldiers we met last issue. He’s created one motherfucker of a militia man in their self-assured, ostensive leader who loves the sound of his own manipulative voice. But it’s the resolutely silent Niko who you really need to watch out for. Upping the ante – that’s craft.



Buy Tongues #2 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’.

Desolation Wilderness (£7-99, Avery Hill) by Claire Sully

Giant Days vol 10 (£10-99, Boom!) by John Allison & Max Sarin

Heavy Liquid s/c (£22-99, Image) by Paul Pope

I Am A Hero Omnibus vol 10 (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Kengo Hanazawa

John Carpenter’s Tales Of Science Fiction – The Standoff s/c (£17-99, Storm King Comics) by David Schow & Andres Esparza

Milo’s World: The Land Under The Lake h/c (£11-99, Magnetic Press) by Richard Marazano & Christophe Ferreira

Over The Garden Wall: Distillatoria (£13-99, Kaboom) by Jonathan Case & Jim Campbell

The Follies Of Richard Wandsworth (£16-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Nick Mandaag

The October Faction s/c (£17-99, IDW) by Steve Niles & Damien Worm

Batman / The Flash: The Button (International Edition) s/c (£13-99, DC) by Joshua Williamson, Tom King & Jason Fabok, Howard Porter

Lucifer vol 1: The Infernal Comedy s/c (£14-99, DC) by Dan Watters & Max Fiumara, Sebastian Fiumara

Titans vol 6: Into The Bleed s/c (£16-99, DC) by Dan Abnett & Bruno Redondo

Amazing Spider-Man: Epic Collection vol 4: The Goblin Lives s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee, various & John Romita Sr., various

Dead Man Logan vol 1 s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Ed Brisson & Mike Henderson

Thor by Jason Aaron: The Complete Collection vol 1 s/c (£33-50, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Esad Ribic, Ron Garney, others

Thor vol 2: Road To War Of The Realms s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Tony Moore, Michael Del Mundo

Uncanny X-Men vol 2: Cyclops And Wolverine vol 1 s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Matthew Rosenberg & Salvador Larroca

Winter Soldier: Second Chances s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Kyle Higgins & Rod Reis

Dragonball Super vol 5 (£6-99, Viz) by Akira Toriyama & Toyotarou

Happiness vol 9 (£10-99, Kodansha) by Shuzo Oshimi


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