Archive for December, 2019

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews December 2019 week three

Wednesday, December 18th, 2019

Featuring Brian Blomerth, Richard Marazano, Christophe Ferreira, Gilbert Hernandez, Neil Gaiman, Dave McKean, Jiro Taniguchi, Brian Froud, Joshua Dysart, Matthew Dow Smith, Alex Sheikman, Lizzy John, Grant Morrison, Liam Sharp.

Bicycle Day (£20-00, Anthology Editions) by Brian Blomerth…

“Fire up the Bunsen burner, Susi!
“We’re gonna try something unorthodox… revisit an old friend…
““Usually we strike experimental substances from the research program if they lack pharmacological interest…” Those are your words, not mine!”
“You’re right… however… this compound LSD-25 has bugged me…”

Good old Albert Hoffman, for if it weren’t for him and his curious cerebral itch of some five years, we might not have had the opportunity to turn on, tune in and drop out in quite so colourful fashion with the delights of Lysergic acid diethylamide…

Though as Dennis McKenna posits in his excellent four page foreword, “… does one create, or discover a compound like LSD? I think it is more the case that one incarnates such a molecule.”

Maybe… I do know it was certainly an interesting set of circumstances which first allowed Albert to experience the ‘delights’ of an LSD trip, initially astride his trusty velocipedal steed, hence the book’s title.



Thus for those in the know, April 19th has long been celebrated as ‘Bicycle Day’. In fact, Albert was actually accidentally exposed to a much, much smaller amount of LSD-25 three days earlier, the mild effects of which sufficiently piqued his curiosity to go against all established common sense for those working in the pharmaceutical industry and consciously ingest what, shall we say, would be an extremely sizeable dose three days later. Thus taking the first ever deliberate acid trip…



Oh boy, was he in for a wild ride! Which is portrayed in all its glorious insanity here for us to safely and a little, but only a little mind you, more sedately enjoy…



If you’ve ever imagined what early 20th century animation master Max Fleischer would have been able to do with infinite colour in his majestic pomp, under the influence of LSD or otherwise, well then this might just be the book for you!



A truly psychedelic riot of colour combined with rubber-limbed antics, and believe you me, it’s very tricky to ride a bike with rubbery legs. If you have any interest whatsoever in this most marvellous of molecules, I think this will truly hit the proverbial spot. Right in the hypothalamus…


Buy Bicycle Day and read the Page 45 review here

Milo’s World Book 2: The Black Queen h/c (£17-99, Magnetic Press) by Richard Marazano & Christophe Ferreira…

“This search party could be dangerous, Milo. You should probably learn to control your gift. Do you think you can do that?”
“My… my gift?”
“Yes, your gift! You have powers!”
“But… I thought my gift was just being able to travel between worlds…?”
“Well, of course you can do that, but you have another gift… a special power! We all have more than one. It’s hereditary.”
“Yes, meaning inherited from both parents.”
“Well, maybe I only have one gift since my father is just a normal human being…”
“Sigh. You don’t know what you’re talking about. You’re bound to have another gift, and you must find it as soon as possible…”

Those of you who read MILO’S WORLD BOOK ONE: THE LAND UNDER THE LAKE might be just as surprised as our eponymous hero to see the villainous sorcerer return seemingly from the dead.  Though this time around the psychopathic spellcaster has had the proverbial change of heart and healing of mind and is now desperately seeking Milo’s help rather than attempting to disintegrate him on sight…



For since Milo’s last sojourn through the magical tunnel to the enchanted village on the underside of the lake… via the now terminally ailing giant goldfish… his bristly adventuring chum Valia, the sorceror’s sassy daughter, has succumbed to the dark side herself and become the titular Black Queen, intent on destroying the hamlet’s newly found peace and tranquillity and generally slaughtering all and sundry with her giant spider army. What is it with her family?!

Given the sorcerer is expecting Milo to step up and save the day with a power he doesn’t even believe he possesses, it might be useful and more than a little considerate of him to explain that [REDACTED]. But, seeing as semi-anarchic action-based blundering is Milo’s chief mode form of engaging with a tricky situation, rather than careful, thoughtful strategic problem solving…

“Oh boy… what kind of trap have I gotten myself into…?”

… it’s perhaps not that surprising he hasn’t put two and two together…

I’m sure you may well have by now dear reader, even from that parsimonious presentation. Still, perhaps the paternal penny might finally drop with Milo by the finale of volume three…

Anyway, expect more Hayao Miyazaki-esque hi-jinks as our accident prone protagonist attempts to rescue the children of the village in his trademark ham-fisted haphazard fashion and convince Valia that a career as a mass murderer isn’t going to win her any popularity contests.



Don’t expect Milo to work out who his dad is though…

As before Milo’s three witchy aunts pop up regularly with delightfully reassuring absurdly blithe asides to no one but themselves and the reader to steal every single scene they’re in.



They contribute wonderfully to the gentle humour of it all which so enjoyably helps convey this frenetic crackpot tale along to its conclusion.

“Ooo, a fancy ceremony! It’s been so long!”
“And maybe a ball!”
“Maybe with some strapping firemen!”


Buy Milo’s World Book 2: The Black Queen h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Maria M h/c Complete Ed (£26-99, Fantagraphics) by Gilbert Hernandez.

Crime and punishment executed with rapid-fire, bullet-point precision.

You’ve not read anything like it! Here are three one-panel snapshot scenes featuring three different men wooing Maria:

“I love you, Maria.”
“I – I love you, Maria.”
“I love you, Maria.” *phone rings* “That’ll be my wife.”

Before we go any further, you may have read something like it – the first half, published some ten years ago. Alas, the second half was never published separately, an increasingly common phenomenon, I’m afraid to say, which penalizes those who invest early on and so undermines confidence in the market. The culprits are some of my favourite publishers, too: Top Shelf was the first with the final instalment of Dylan Horrocks’s HICKSVILLE, then Drawn & Quarterly with Seth’s CLYDE FANS, and now Fantagraphics. I understand the financial arguments, honestly, I do. It is, however, completely dishonourable.

Anyway, of the first half I wrote:

Maria arrives in the U.S. and gradually learns the language as she begins to understand the country, taking and getting fired from a succession of very dreadful jobs while demonstrating even worse taste in men. She’s neither afraid nor ashamed to use her two greatest assets, which are enormous. Eventually she settles down as the doll of drug-peddling mob boss Cienfuegos whose ostensive family business is in ladies’ lingerie, and he treats her well, while one of his two sons, Gorgo, secretly falls in love and silently protects her.



But Cienfuegos has plenty of enemies out to get him for good – largely, because he won’t condemn communism! – and Gorgo himself comes under continual attack. Fortunately he is as formidable as he is efficient as he is ruthless; unfortunately he’s not the only target.



With one notable exception involving a full bowl of steaming noodles, Maria is a predominantly passive participant in events which take place around her, and – given the style of storytelling – a great deal does happen during these 136 pages. And remember, this is but the first of two volumes – do remember that, because I didn’t! [Oh, the irony of it all – ed.]

The cartooning is, as ever, an immaculately clean and balanced black and white joy, the expressions are exquisite and the breasts, they are humungous. Nudity abounds.

You need know nothing of LOVE & ROCKETS but as an added bonus for those who do…. Here’s Fantagraphics.

“Long-time LOVE & ROCKETS readers will find the storyline familiar… and that’s because, in a meta twist, MARIA M is actually the B-movie film adaptation of the life story of Luba’s mother Maria, as previously seen in its ‘real’ version in the classic graphic novel Poison River (available in the BEYOND PALOMAR collection) starring Maria’s own daughter playing her own mother. Confused? Don’t be! MARIA M will work perfectly on its own terms as the kind of violent, sexy pulp tale that Gilbert Hernandez has proven so adept at these past several years, and the ‘source material’ for the story will just provide an extra layer of delight for the cognoscenti.”


Buy Maria M h/c Complete Ed and read the Page 45 review here

Black Orchid s/c (£16-99, DC) by Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean.

This is a book of impressions: of memories, shadows and echoes.

So many songs evoke a past much missed, misremembered or barely recalled at all.

There is a wreck of man out there called Carl; a drunken, washed up, one-time player full of hot-air and an acrid obsession with the ex-wife who had the audacity to leave him for another, less violent man, and then testify against him. Her name was Susan Linden and he killed her for it. Or he thought he had; he’s in for a bit of a surprise.

For then there was the other Susan. An effective, solitary agent, undercover and on the brink of exposing a criminal organisation and the mastermind behind it. They caught her, they shot her, they set her on fire and then bombed the inferno for good measure. She was the Black Orchid, named after a flower that doesn’t exist and she is quite, quite dead.



So who is this new Susan of radiant purple, grown in a greenhouse, and cast adrift in a world she’s had no time to comprehend? She has no idea. She doesn’t know who she is, what she is, or what she should do now. The only clues lie in a dead man’s past, in his contemporaries at college: Dr. Jason Woodrue, Pamela Isley and Alec Holland. Her only brief ally is a man in a mask who hides in the shadows of Gotham, and he says:

“Most of the things that “everyone knows” are wrong. The rest are merely unreliable.”

Now, several of those names may sound surprisingly familiar for a Neil Gaiman book. What one forgets is the Vertigo line originally had far stronger ties to the DC universe and its superhero community; what one may also have forgotten is that this was created long before the Vertigo line even existed. It’s a far more ethereal read than most DC Universe books – it’s far more of a child of Alan Moore’s SWAMP THING – but a DC Universe book it most certainly is. It’s just… going to do things differently.

“I’ve seen, y’know, the movies, James Bond, all that. I’ve read the comics. So you know what I’m not going to do? I’m not going to lock up in the basement before interrogating you. I’m not going to set up some kind of complicated laser beam death-trap, then leave you alone to escape. That stuff is so dumb. But you know what I am going to do? I’m going to kill you. Now.”

That was within the first six pages, and it was quite the arresting development.

Returning to the legacy of Alan Moore, the early segues and black humour owe much to THE KILLING JOKE. “You’re fired” was inspired. But it quickly establishes its own tone which, as I say, is far more ethereal, far more impressionistic, as our newly bloomed Orchid struggles with the genetically implanted memories she shares with her dead sister, and reacts to the world empathically. Here, for example, is Arkham.

“This is the bedlam. The jungle of despair. I watch their expressions: milky eyes peering from frozen faces, mouths unsmiling wounds in ruined flesh. I spy a skull-faced man who lies unsleeping; his nightmares pool and puddle on the floor around him. In a glass cell a blazing x-ray sits and smoulders and weeps. His tears burn as they fall… then his out on the pocked glass floor.”

Another marked departure from the superhero genre is that the only hunting being done apart from the peripheral predators – domestic and child abuse both play a part here – is by the antagonists and the only one out for revenge is the bitter ex-husband and resentful ex-employee. Some people really don’t handle rejection well. In other authors’ hands it would be the Black Orchid out to avenge her predecessors’ murders – particularly given their shared memories – but no, that is the instinct of the animal. A plant has quite different priorities.



It’s a beautiful book, rich in green and purples, by a Dave McKean in his photorealistic phase, much inspired at the time by Bill Sienkiewicz. The computer has yet to be embraced and the only element of photographic collage I registered was the psychotic grin. Instead it employs pencils – sometimes coloured – and paint, some chalk and maybe, I think, oil pastels. There’s a terrific sense of light. It’s also thoroughly accessible to new readers, McKean splitting the page in half horizontally then working with three or four columns across. The occasional break into tumbling panels and the larger compositions in the Amazon jungle are all the more spectacular for it.



This new deluxe edition also boasts those rarest of extras: handwritten early jottings from Neil Gaiman’s notebook, Karen Berger’s first, detailed reactions to Neil’s draft proposal, Neil’s own proposal and promotional marketing text,  preliminary notes and dialogue sketches for the second of the three original issues, its page-by-page, one-line breakdowns and an excerpt from its draft script.

“Winter is coming. The leaves are beginning to fall.”


Buy Black Orchid s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Walking Man (Expanded Edition) h/c (£25-00, Fanfare / Pontent Mon) by Jiro Taniguchi.

Do you go walking?

Every time I cross the River Trent on my way to work, something magical happens. I can’t explain it, but it makes all the difference: a sensation of space and light and beauty heightened several-fold when I cross it on foot. Eye-candy. We all need eye-candy.

And that’s the simple premise behind this book: one man, sometimes with the dog his wife found under their house, takes eighteen different walks round the Japanese suburbs and occasionally out into the countryside.

It’s clean and it’s beautiful and the word that keeps springing to mind is indeed ‘magical’. The amount of work that has gone into some of these landscapes is staggering: line after delicate line tracing the structure of trees, roofs and fencing.



A quiet book of exploration which will cure any brief bout of the blues.

All previous editions’ covers are included, along with three additional short stories.  There are also now several pages in colour where they existed in the original material.


Buy The Walking Man (Expanded Edition) h/c  and read the Page 45 review here

Jim Henson’s Dark Crystal Creation Myths Complete Collection h/c (£29-99, Archaia) by Brian Froud, Joshua Dysart, Matthew Dow Smith & Alex Sheikman, Lizzy John.

Collected for the first time in one oversized edition.

Many years ago, Tom wrote of volume one:

Has it really been thirty years since this beautiful fantasy first came to the cinema?

Brian Froud’s designs for this film gave the story a weight the technical skill of the Jim Henson Co. couldn’t carry alone. While in the film we see a dying world populated by mysterious characters, the world they inhabited was by far the most intriguing aspect the whole. Its ruined structures hinted at past prowess through the undergrowth, and a lot of thought went into what exactly they meant. The strange glyphs and diagrams carved into the buildings and stones weren’t just throwaway aesthetic garnish, but based upon an understanding of the astronomical knowledge of this fictional world’s tri-star system. Which if you remember from the film, orbited the planet Thra and “sung” to the Crystal deep in its bowels. This is symbolised by a series of concentric circles encasing an inverted triangle. From this emblem Henson & Co created not only a world, but a religion, a complex society. Then they destroyed it, leaving us with arcane hints in the fantastic dystopia of Thra.”



In lieu of a review for volume two, I wrote (decidedly off-topic, feel free to ignore):

One of my many nicknames over the years was Gelflin. I know it’s hard to believe these days, what with me looking like the sickly child of Uncle Fester and Nosferatu but with my ski-slope nose I was pretty once… after the artful application of much slap and kohl.

My primary pseudonym is Peter. It endures to this day in post-punk circles, possibly because it doesn’t sound like a nickname. It was so prevalent in the ’80s that even the closest of friends sometimes took ten years to realise that my real name was Beelzebub. Peter also owes itself to my ski-slope nose and consequent youthful demeanour: it was Peter as in Peter Pan.


Shut up.



Other nicknames have included Jimmy Dean (must be pronounced in a broad Glaswegian accent), “boss” (no one has actually ever regarded me as their boss – it was pure mockery on Tom’s part) and, when my mother is so often infuriated with me, it’s Herbert Henry Arthur George.

You have to really bellow that one.

All the above is true.


Buy Jim Henson’s Dark Crystal Creation Myths Complete Collection h/c  and read the Page 45 review here

Green Lantern vol 1: Intergalactic Lawman s/c (£15-99, DC) by Grant Morrison & Liam Sharp.

Original 2000AD run through with Douglas Adams – that’s how I’d characterise so much of this.

It’s highly inventive and very, very funny. Even mid-mass-arrest, there are so many stop-for-a-moment-to-laughs.

“Ye’ll never catch us now, copper!” boasts an 8-legged fiend.
“I won’t have to. My partner, Green Lantern Floozle Flem, is a super-intelligent all-purpose virus. Replicating in your bloodstream as we speak. Floozle Flem doesn’t catch you… You catch Floozle Flem.”

The police-patrol Green Lantern Corps’ pro-diversity recruitment drive knows no blinkers. You can’t expect to patrol then control the full range of a cosmos’s criminal manifestations if you don’t have an equally unorthodox armoury of agents. So yes, one Green Lantern is a virulent, sentient flu germ; another is a walking, talking, bi-pedal volcano.

No more a superhero series than Hickman and Aja’s HAWKEYE – which was instead a slickly designed, contemporary comedy of manners, therefore infinitely more accessible to a far broader audience – this is cosmic cop-crime whose precinct and jurisdiction are both set in space.



You can tell by its structure, which begins with a disciplined demand for a sit-rep update from HQ (a great big green-lantern-shaped space station) while at ground-level (somewhere similarly suspended but less lime-coloured) all is barely contained chaos. A spider’s just bitten a Green Lantern’s ring off.

“That was my favourite finger, you savage!
“Arachno-Sapiens! So bitey all the time!”



So yes, bursting with playful mischief to be sure, but if fingers can be cropped then so can entire individuals as – this being crime an’ all – it also comes with abrupt, contrasting (and so much more arresting) casualties.

You need know nothing of this title’s past to enjoy the opener to this first season (because that is what I sense this is, very much mapped out like a television show), for I’ve read fewer than dozen GREEN LANTERN issues in my life; only enough to recognise this as hilariously faithful yet totally fresh, with Liam Sharp art that is ridiculously detailed and full of authority.



To tell you more, plot-wise, would be to spoil the surprise, while the same goes for its structure which isn’t above slipping in memories like a meandering and meditative road journey.

Liam Sharp has brought his all – which is considerable – and I do hope he’s on double time for all the detail. The following need mean nothing to you, it is merely an observational self-indulgence based on my own historical comics-history bias:

On different pages yet sometimes in the same panels, I sensed serious amounts of neo-classical Neal Adams in the figure work, forearms and faces, enough Alan Davis to keep me amused in the background Glaswegian gamblers betting on a battle’s outcome, HR Giger – appropriately enough – in the mechanics during the discovery of a crashed spaceship, Jim Starlin rendering attending Hal’s ribcage and stomach muscles, bites of early Sir Bazza Windsor-Smythe in the biceps, Herb Trimpe female faces and forearms, a sizzle of Bill Sienkiewicz during an arm-spread lift-off, and Jim Steranko during what I’d call “assembly”, reciting the customary bright / night / sight / might / light riff.



I’d only add that if you like your heroes not necessarily anti- but perhaps more ambivalent, then Hal Jordan will prove as pragmatic as he is dogmatic and determined in his Green Lantern role, unintimidated when going up against an entity bearing a suspicious resemblance to the Biblical God (and all cops are inherently suspicious – it’s part of their job description and arsenal), not above some judicious deception of his own, and never comes close to dropping his guard by turning the other cheek.

“Nurse, I’d call a doctor if I were you.
“But tell them this man killed 2.5 billion people.
“Tell them there’s no need to hurry.”

Also, since I did mention 2000AD in my first paragraph, does this ambition and audacity remind you of Judge Dredd?

“Planet Earth – you are gamma-intoxicated and clearly no longer in control of your decisions or actions.
“I’m placing all of you under arrest until you come to your senses.”

Are we all allowed one phone call each?




Buy Green Lantern vol 1: Intergalactic Lawman s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Heavenly Delusion vol 1 (£11-99, Den Pa) by Masakazu Ishiguro

Jim Henson’s Dark Crystal Creation Myths Complete Collection h/c (£29-99, Archaia) by Brian Froud, Joshua Dysart, Matthew Dow Smith & Alex Sheikman, Lizzy John

Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: Sirens h/c (£18-99, Archaia) by various

Sonata vol 1: The Valley Of The Gods s/c (£17-99, Image) by David Hine & Brian Haberlin

Death’s Head: Clone Drive s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Tini Howard & Kei Zama

Loki: Agent Of Asgard – The Complete Collection s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Al Ewing & Lee Garbett, others

The Superior Spider-Man vol 2: Otto-matic s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Christos Gage & Lan Medina, Mike Hawthorne

Batman vol 11: The Fall And The Fallen s/c (£15-99, DC) by Tom King, various & Mikel Janin, various

Batman: Hush s/c (£24-00, DC) by Jeph Loeb & Jim Lee

Green Lantern vol 1: Intergalactic Lawman s/c (£15-99, DC) by Grant Morrison & Liam Sharp

Green Lantern vol 2: The Day The Stars Fell h/c (£24-99, DC) by Grant Morrison & Liam Sharp

Watchmen (Lenticular Cover Edition) s/c (£25-00, DC) by Alan & Dave Gibbons

Our Dreams At Dusk Shimanami Tasogare vol 2 (£11-99, Seven Seas) by Shimanari Tasogare

My Hero Academia vol 22 (£6-99, Viz) by Kohei Horikoshi

Saint Young Men vol 1 h/c (£21-00, Kodansha) by Hikaru Nakamura

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews December week two

Wednesday, December 11th, 2019

Featuring Lucas Harari, Michael Green, Mike Johnson, Andres Guinaldo, Molly Knox Ostertag, Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, Jake Phillips, Al Ewing, Joe Bennett

Swimming In Darkness h/c (£21-99, Arsenal Pulp Press) by Lucas Harari…

“So you’ve read all my books?”
“Yes, for my thesis. I studied architecture in Paris.”
“You’re interested in thermal establishments?”
“Yes, but Vals, most of all.”
“And your thesis was about Vals?”
“I’d very much like to read it.”
“Unfortunately, that’s impossible…”
“And why is that?”
“It’s kind of a long story… I lost all my research.”

It is indeed a long story, involving a temporary psychotic break and descent into insanity just for starters… before a temporary psychotic break and descent into…

But lest you go bonkers trying to guess what on earth is going on… here’s the publisher to prickle your curiosity further…



“Pierre is a young man at a crossroads. He drops out of architecture school and decides to travel to Vals in the Swiss Alps, home to a thermal springs complex located deep inside a mountain. The complex, designed by architect Peter Zumthor, had been the subject of Pierre’s thesis. The mountain holds many mysteries; it was said to have a mouth that periodically swallowed people up.

Pierre, sketchbook in hand, is drawn to the enigmatic powers of the mountain and its springs, and attempts to uncover the truth behind them in the secret rooms he discovers deep within the complex. But he finds his match in a man named Valeret who is similarly obsessed, and who’d like nothing more than to eliminate his competitor.”

Indeed, and before I commence attempting to assemble a few pieces of the puzzle for you with my thoughts, I suppose I better let Pierre and Valert finish their dinner conversation…

“But I’ve started working on Vals again. That’s the reason I’m here.”
“Then we have something in common.”
“You’re writing a book about Vals?”
“Mmm… you know, Pierre, last night… I couldn’t help but look through your sketchbook. Your drawings of the baths are very beautiful. But what surprised me most of all are the plans… because they’re all wrong! Still, they seem to respect the composition of the existing building perfectly.”
“Ah, so you noticed that… Let’s just say they’re interpretations…”
“Interpretations? I see… is that the object of your research? What the building could have been?”
“Yes… what it might become.”
“Forgive me but I don’t understand.”
“It’s only just a theory…”
“Then explain it to me. I’m listening.”
“Really, it’s just speculation. Nothing serious, you know.”
“But I’m telling you, I’m interested…”
“No, really, it’s not…”



Yes, both men are seemingly becoming utterly obsessed with finding out the secrets of Vals…



Have you ever anticipated something, expecting it to be a certain way, and then when you actually experienced it, found it to be something completely different…? Pierre certainly has… and so did I. For, from the suspense laden, mildly sinister cover and peculiar publisher blurb I thought I was going to get something akin to Charles BLACK HOLE / LAST LOOK Burns, whereas in fact what I got was much more like Manuele THE INTERVIEW / BLACKBIRD DAYS Fior. Who, as a complete aside judging from the cover of BLACKBIRD DAYS really ought to be getting a design credit on Elon Musk’s new Cybertruck…

Harari lures the unsuspecting reader ever deeper and deeper into his mystery through our competing duo who become increasingly desperate, indeed frantic, to crack the conundrum before their rival, for it seems, according to legend at least, the answer isn’t something that can be shared. Valeret in particular will seemingly stop at no ends to ensure the mountain reveals its secret to him and him alone…



This is an intriguing story which is far more about the imperfectly formed personalities of the protagonists, including an eclectic supporting cast, than it is the supernatural or otherwise surroundings of the mountain and the hot springs themselves.

Art-wise the subdued palette of black, blues and hints of pinks and reds evokes a suitably spooky atmosphere of altitude and isolation. Harari also perfectly captures a sense of the hour of day or night including a plethora of pink-tinged sunrises and sunsets which only add to the alluring charms of this work.


Buy Swimming In Darkness h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Blade Runner 2019 vol 1: Los Angeles s/c (£13-99, Titan) by Michael Green, Mike Johnson & Andres Guinaldo…

“There’s a part of me in you…”

Well, there will be when you’ve read this review anyway…

When I heard there were going to be Blade Runner comics, my initial thought was… “Is this a test designed to provoke an emotional response?”

Because media tie-ins to all-time film classics have had some difficulties… shall we say… replicating the appeal and quality of the original…

Happily, this new material isn’t contributing to an itch you can never scratch… No, it hits the scabby, grimy, deeply dystopian oozing spot right from the opening confrontation between Los Angeles’ most feared Blade Runner Aahna ‘Ash’ Ashina and Replicant Benny.



Well, not so much of a confrontation as the coup de grace as we quickly establish Ash isn’t all she seems either, as she’s planning to harvest Benny’s valuable body parts for sale to body sharks for cold hard cash to satiate a rather desperate need of her own.



It’s not drugs, but when we find out precisely what it is, which also goes a long way to explaining her own fervent hatred of Replicants, well, you can understand why she’s trying to keep it very, very quiet indeed from absolutely everyone.



I think a not inconsiderable part of Blade Runner’s enduring appeal is the ever present fear of the ‘other’ and its very uncomfortable current analogue in a certain section of our own society’s rabid fear of immigration. It’s not that much of a stretch from Blade Runner’s speculative fictional premise of a workforce created to allow the population not to have to do all those unpleasant jobs suddenly getting declared illegal trespassers and being hunted down like dogs, to where we find ourselves today, not least given the Windrush scandal, never mind Brexit.

Given we are now officially past the 20th November 2019 which is when the original Blade Runner film was set, it’s slightly sobering to find that the posited dystopian future has seemingly come to pass, in part at least.



No flying cars, sadly, though at least we have Elon Musk’s Cybertruck as inspired (in my head) by Manuele BLACKBIRD DAYS Fior…

Anyway, despite being most definitely very well grounded in the original milieu, the main reason this new material is so good is that it is first and foremost a gritty noir thriller with its own dark secret at its pulsing, synthetic heart. As Ash begins to investigate the abduction of the beloved wife and child of a close business associate of Eldon Tyrell, it quickly begins to become clear that she’s about to uncover something considerable more complicated… which the powers that be would rather prefer she didn’t… They probably shouldn’t have press-ganged one of the city’s best detectives onto the case then, should they?!



Nice crisp, clean art with a fine line from Andres Guinaldo who has done some similarly decent work on Captain America and Doctor Strange for Marvel in recent years. Marco Lesko also does an excellent job colouring too, I must say, managing to capture the perpetual gloom of climate change challenged future LA whilst still keeping it all remarkably well lit with electric neon tones.

We had to wait thirty five years for a cinematic sequel to the original film. Happily the next story arc in these comics is out imminently with a glorious main cover by no less than Paul Pope to boot!! I wonder if we’ll have the next issue of THB in less than thirty five years on from the previous one…? Now waiting for that is a test designed to provoke an emotional response…


Buy Blade Runner 2019 vol 1: Los Angeles s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Midwinter Witch s/c (£11-99, Scholastic) by Molly Knox Ostertag…

“The way the tales tell it, magic is a wild force.

“It is the province of spirits and demons, and they can use it as easily as we breathe.
“It does not come naturally to us, but a few rare human families can see magic.
“Over many generations, we have learned to shape it.
“Through runes and potions, spells and shifting, we put it to use for good.
“To help and defend those without magic.
“But magic is not ours and it never was.
“Uncontrolled, it can turn to darkness when wielded by human hands.
“There is a reason we stay in close-knit families.
“The safeguards must be passed down.
“Magic is a gift, a blessing… and a great responsibility.
“Which means, Ariel Torres, that young witches need to pay attention to their magic lessons.”

Err quite. We certainly wouldn’t want something going horrifically wrong purely just for our entertainment would we…? Now, if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that this is the third (and final) spellbinding instalment from Molly Knox Ostertag following on from THE HIDDEN WITCH and THE WITCH BOY in this warm-hearted series which celebrates being tolerant of differences, encouraging acceptance of diversity and building friendships with people who aren’t simply exact copies of yourself. Plus of course, spell-based situations that always, but always, seem to spiral rapidly out of control…



Here’s the publisher to ply you with some verbal prestidigitation so that before you know what’s going on you are cash in hand ready to purchase…

“Magic has a dark side…

Aster always looks forward to the Midwinter Festival, a reunion of the entire Vanissen family that includes competitions in witchery and shapeshifting.

This year, he’s especially excited to compete in the annual Jolrun tournament – as a witch. He’s determined to show everyone that he’s proud of who he is and what he’s learned, but he knows it won’t be easy to defy tradition.

Ariel has darker things on her mind than the Festival – like the mysterious witch who’s been visiting her dreams, claiming to know the truth about Ariel’s past. She appreciates everything the Vanissens have done for her. But Ariel still craves a place where she truly belongs.

The Festival is a whirlwind of excitement and activity, but for Aster and Ariel, nothing goes according to plan. When a powerful and sinister force invades the reunion, threatening to destroy everything the young witches have fought for, can they find the courage to fight it together? Or will dark magic tear them apart?”

Given this is the concluding part of the trilogy I’m going to go with happy ending rather than apocalyptic misery all round, but you know, it’ll take some serious sorcery to get everyone there relatively unscathed! Good job Ariel was paying attention during her magic lessons instead of being a cocky know-it-all then…



Buy The Midwinter Witch and read the Page 45 review here

My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies s/c (£11-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips with Jake Phillips…

“I was much further out than you thought

“And not waving but drowning.”

 – Stevie Smith, ‘Not Waving But Drowning’,1957

“Hey, I never said I had a drug problem…
“That’s everyone else’s opinion.”

–  Ellie to eighteen-year-old Skip, inside.

Inside a palatial, five-grand-a-week rehab clinic, to be precise, with colonnades and balustrades, encircling protective wings, poplars and locked gates.

To herself: “And I sure as hell am not planning on getting sober.”

That’s a lot of money to throw away without any intention of detoxifying. So what’s Ellie really up to, and why did she scope out every other patient’s private files the night that she was admitted?



Also, what sly revelation further down the line makes this completely self-contained, original graphic novel an official addition to the CRIMINAL series?

A few years ago, Sean Phillips – Ed Brubaker’s creative partner on the emphatically noir CRIMINAL, FATALE, THE FADE OUT and KILL OR BE KILLED – asked Ed to write him a romance comic. Sean: “And this is as close as he could get.”

Previous efforts haven’t been promising for the protagonists involved. Romance in comics rarely ends well in any event, but FATALE proved particularly problematic for the men caught blinking in Josephine’s headlights, while the whole crux of CRIMINAL: LAST OF THE INNOCENT was one man’s attempt to reverse his wrong romantic turning at the crossroads of life by running over his wife… metaphorically speaking.



But this is indeed, on the surface at least, a strikingly different beast, so Sean Phillips has shifted gears accordingly, and startlingly, away from the twilight world of long shadows and motive-masking, half-lit faces to spot-blacks for some clothing, but otherwise crisp lines and clear forms. These are left open for Jake to dapple and daub with sprays of light blue, silky cream, pinks and admittedly bruised purple. I love that the walls have almost been sponged.

Is it just an affectation of innocence? Surprisingly, predominantly, no – it’s the evocation of a youthful innocence retained against all odds.

The first surface we encounter is the cover. I could be wrong but it bears a striking resemblance to Andy Warhol’s ‘Shot Blue Marilyn, 1964’, only less lurid. That was rendered after her death, and innocent the image is not. Here all the knowing guile is gone, replaced by wide-open eyes, the face-on portrait bathed under watery waves of light – although it is still quite the poker-face, no?

Young Ellie’s not lost, but she is perhaps rudderless, without an anchor, parental, guardian or otherwise.



Inside the combined effect of clean line and colour, as well as Ellie’s hair, smacks to me of 1970s fashion advertising and romance comics, as evoked / referenced so often by Posy Simmonds (LITERARY LIFE, TAMARA DREWE, GEMMA BOVERY and especially the relevant, pastiche passages of the MRS WEBER’S OMNIBUS). Innocence, once more.

All this in unexpected and clever contrast to the central theme of drug dependency: that’s what they’re all holed up in rehab for after her all, and Ellie’s heroes have indeed always been junkies, including Van Gogh. As they drive off into a sunset (of course they do – at least, halfway through) there’s a page dedicated to the artist’s perceptions as enhanced by absinthe and digitalis, and Jake Phillips earns every penny that I hope you’ll throw their way in the most arresting, full-colour, Vincent Van flourish.



So yes, you may perhaps have spied a few preview pages before now and believe you’ve caught Ellie and Skip, thrown together and on the run from a society which simply doesn’t understand their mutual intoxication and drug-addled ways, then taken Ed and Sean at their word that this is a traditional romance / crime combo. And there is romance in being outside the law – all the romance in the world in setting yourself contra mundum.

However, however, this is Ed Brubaker.

While Ellie may be romancing 18-year-old Skip in the clinic, she’s more than a little perturbed to find herself falling for him. Also, as I’ve suggested, she’s more interested in romanticising her own past and all the soulful singer-songwriters whom her dead junkie mum once worshipped. It’s her rebellious inheritance, if you like. Ellie’s not above singing their praises, either, in group therapy, extolling the virtues of that which everyone else is in there to quit.

“It’s like Keith Richards said… The worst thing you can say about heroin will still make somebody want to try it… I mean, talking about dope just makes you want to do it… It’s like a worm in your brain. And it seems like being sober is just constantly talking about all the times you got high. So how stupid is that?”



Group leader Mitch is getting ruffled, but Ellie is just getting started. She’s on a roll.

“And why do we automatically assume that getting clean is this great thing?
“What if drugs help you find the thing that makes you special?”

I do love the way in which young, be-quiffed Skip is enjoying these iconoclastic moments, with quiet, corner-mouthed smiles to himself. Hey, he’s a teenager, a virtual synonym for rebellion, and Ellie knows precisely what she is doing, twitching that particular, fly-adorned, hook-hidden line.

She’s going to cite Lou Reed and David Bowie in a moment, isn’t she? I remember an interview with Bowie some 35 years ago in which he refused to apologise for the promise that he would never again put take such elephantine quantities of horse simply to create another ‘Scary Monsters’ album. And I can’t say I blame him – it wouldn’t have been us who’d have to suffer the subsequent withdrawals – but a world without ‘Hunky Dory’ or ‘Scary Monsters’ doesn’t really bear dreaming about.



Anyway, in stark contrast to the feathered, sky-bright colours of blue and yellow and pinks which radiate Ellie’s seemingly unclouded optimism, her recollections are framed in funereal black and shaded in a grey which we associate with the past. There she laments the fate of the recording artists featured on a mix-tape her mum made for her dad who was languishing in prison. They were every one of them drug addicts. One of her mum’s favourite albums was recorded by Billie Holiday who was arrested in a hospital bed for possessing narcotics, and died handcuffed, under police guard, after they’d forced the doctors to stop giving her methadone. Holiday’s own dad had fared little better, having been refused treatment at a ‘Whites Only’ hospital. The link between them was the song ‘Strange Fruit’, and mum would listen to Billie Holiday while staring out of at the rain, when Ellie was four-years-old.

“That was the year I learned what a junkie was.”



And you’d be forgiven for thinking that both you and Ellie were finally going to be forced wide awake by a brutal memory to puncture Ellie’s almost determined dreamlike reverie, but instead you are treated to yet another rose-tinted spectacle of almost supernatural beauty.

So what did Sean Phillips mean, by “this was as close as he could get”?

Where is the come-down, the crash, the fatal flaw which almost always propels the protagonists in noir to fuck things up for themselves, good and proper?

It’s all there if you read carefully enough, early on, only to resurface a little later.



“It’s a dream, living like this… But I start to think, why do dreams have to end?
“I hear Judie Garland in my head, singing about a faraway land, where troubles melt like lemon drops… and bluebirds fly.
“Judy was caught in the pull between downers and amphetamines as she sang that, of course. Maybe that’s why it sounds so true.
“But anyway, my troubles aren’t the kind that melt away.
“They’re the kind that follow you.
“Even over the rainbow.”


Buy My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Sandman Overture (30th Anniversary Ed’n) s/c (£16-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & J.H. Williams III

“Everyone kills, little brother.
“They even kill their dreams.
“And you have waited too long.”

Everything is ending: life and afterlife, birth and rebirth. Eternity will be extinguished because Morpheus made a mistake born of compassion. When he failed to cauterise the chaos in time the universe itself went mad.

He has one last Hope and an unexpected ally. But then what greater driving force is there than the will to live?

Neil Gaiman returns to SANDMAN with a prequel which is integral and reminiscent in so many ways of Alan Moore’s PROMETHEA whose metaphysical musings on the nature, power and achievements of the human imagination weren’t just illustrated but illuminated by one of comics’ most inventive artists, J.H. Williams III. Once more Williams brings his very best to bear on a script which would have overwhelmed many others and sheds the most spectacular light on some pretty dark matter.



SANDMAN Synopsis: Morpheus is the Lord of Dreams, his family are The Endless. Each of them is older than you can comprehend, though some are older than others. They are as gods to mortals, though they can surely die, and they change as we change for they are aspects of our everyday existence. Drawing on so many elements of prior mythologies, this was one of the 20th Century’s very best comics and Neil Gaiman’s prose readers will love it.

In a story which leads straight into the original book, SANDMAN VOL 1: PRELUDES AND NOCTURNES, long-time devotees will discover so many answers to questions they may not have realised existed. For example, if Destiny holds in his hands the book of everything that was, is, and ever will be, then who gave that legacy to him? Who gave birth to the Endless? You will finally meet Morpheus’ mother and you will meet his father. So will Morpheus after such a long time. Their last encounters didn’t necessarily end too well. Parents and their children, eh?

You’ll meet Delirium when she was once known as Delight. Indeed, you’ll meet all of The Endless once again but before you first did so. Including the one they don’t speak of who went away.



I promise you a complete and satisfying pay-off during the fourth, fifth and sixth chapters regarding the siblings, their relationships with each other, themselves (“Despair is now another aspect of herself”) and with those who gave them birth. Their parents have very specific names and very specific roles and they both make so much sense.

But perhaps most satisfying is the further exploration of Morpheus. Both of his nature as Dream itself…

“It is the nature of Dreams, and only Dreams, to define Reality.”

… and as an individual, and how that impacts, has impacted and will impact on his role both here and hereafter.

“Am I always like this?”
“Like what?”
“Self-satisfied. Irritating. Self-possessed, and unwilling to concede centre stage to anyone but myself.”
“I believe so, yes. In my experience.”

And he of all people should know.



I’d love to about talk responsibility – which is key both here and throughout SANDMAN – and specifically about someone whom Dream deems his self-serving opposite in that respect. I’d like to talk about promises too which are not unconnected, but I made you a promise and I keep them.

As for this comic’s exquisite beauty, I remind you of the most inspired choice of artists imaginable in J.H. Williams III.

Like Will Eisner, Jim Steranko and Dave Sim, Williams truly experiments when constructing individual pages or sequences of pages from the most unusual, often organic panel compositions which are additionally apposite to the proceedings. As in, you’ll be presented with a defiant predator on the prowl through panels constructed from teeth when teeth are both that protagonist’s signature aspect and the enamelled elements between which he literally perceives what surrounds him. You’ll see!



Then, like David Mazzucchelli, within and beyond that backbone Williams also ensures that as many constituent components of comics storytelling as possible serve the story itself.

Please don’t think that colour artist Dave Stewart of lettering legend Todd Klein have been slacking, either.

You’ll relish being astonished by Williams’, Stewart’s and Klein’s contributions while immersing yourself in this book. That’s all you could really want. But when you turn to this edition’s considerable back-matter material including interviews with the artistic orchestra and composer Neil himself, you will surely need to reacquaint yourself with that misplaced mandible currently residing on your carpet.

Such are the elaborate lengths they all went to achieve specific effects for individual sequences as a team that you will wonder no longer why this series took so long to materialise before you as one of the pinnacles of comics’ construction.



As I always say on the shop floor when a project’s delayed, quality is worth the wait.

No one wants to read something cobbled together without caring for the sake of a corporate cash-cow. No one wants their treasured dreams diluted by the shoved-out second-best when what we desire above all is a comic which lives up what we once loved.

Prepare to have your expectations exceeded.

You will travel through time and you will travel will space, as will Morpheus himself. If not of his own volition.

That’s how this begins and that’s how it ends, which is where it all began in the first place.

“And I am pulled halfway across the universe in one fraction of forever, with a pain that feels like birth…”



Don’t miss the epilogue. *shivers*


Buy Sandman Overture (30th Anniversary Ed’n) s/c  and read the Page 45 review here

Immortal Hulk vol 5: Breaker Of Worlds s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Al Ewing & Joe Bennett…

“Bruce Banner of Earth. I am the Sentience of the Cosmos… and you are its last survivor.

“You have been baptized in the energies of creation. And now, we two will become a new form of life.
“As Galan of Taa was to the Seventh and the Eight… the Devourer, the Galactus… you shall be to the Ninth.
“You and I will merge, and together… we will become what must be that new age.
“But what will that be, Bruce Banner of Earth? What will you become?
“What will you… who is that?”
“Who? Mr. Immortal? His real name was Craig. He was homo supreme, the ultimate evolution of mutant power.
“He thought that made him special. But in the end, he was just a back up. Someone to stand here, meet you, do… this… if the anointed prince, Franklin Richards, couldn’t make it.
“I killed Franklin Richards two billion years ago. The same way I killed Craig. And your Galactus. And all the rest of them…”
“… How?”
“Like this.”
“NO! No, this isn’t… this isn’t right! This isn’t how it happens! This isn’t what’s meant to be! Something is wrong with… with everything… SOMETHING IS WRONG…”




I do keep telling everyone… this is a horror comic… and until Jonathan Hickman’s HOUSE OF X /  POWERS OF X… chunky tinsel-covered hardcover collecting both the six issue series out today (11th December) in one huge hit for those of you looking to buy a present for your Marvel- lovin’ beloved… spontaneously popped into existence it was by some considerable distance my current favourite Marvel read. This is now the fifth volume of what is effectively one gargantuan horror story arc… (all previous volumes in their own section HERE).

However with that said… the above conversation, at the heat death of our universe, at its pivotal moment of potential transformation and rebirth Marvel-stylee into the next, is but merely a prologue to one of the strangest, most sci-fi, single issues of Marvel comics I think I’ve ever read (Immortal Hulk #25). It’s in effect a weird and wonderful sidebar What If story. Which is basically… What If the Hulk went completely bonkers and decided to devour the entire universe?



Seen entirely from the point of view of the strange, fluttery being called Observer Par%l floating round what little remains of the universe in his solar-powered Berth ship, it is a stylish, engrossing yarn which, upon a little reflection, appears to complete itself quite neatly… At least I think so… And let’s be quite frank, that’s not something Marvel comics make you do very often… think, that is.



On that point please see Jonathan Hickman’s HOUSE OF X POWERS OF X

Did I mention that was going to be a swish snow-kissed hardcover collecting both six issue series due out 11th December  for those of you looking to buy a present for your Marvel- lovin’ beloved….? Christmas is coming and all that…

PS At time of typing we still have three copies of the single IMMORTAL HULK #25 single issue for those merely wishing to dip a tentative toe into gamma-infused galactic gluttony…


Buy Immortal Hulk vol 5: Breaker Of Worlds s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

The Boys Omnibus vol 6 (£26-99, Dynamite) by Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson, Russ Braun, John McCrea, Keith Burns, Richard Clark

Firefly vol 2: Unification War Part Two h/c (£14-99, Boom!) by Greg Pak & Dan McDaid

Five Years vol 1: Fire In The Sky s/c (£14-50, Abstract Studios) by Terry Moore

Ghost Tree s/c (£14-50, IDW) by Bobby Curnow & Simon Gane

Lumberjanes vol 13: Indoor Recess (£10-99, Boom!) by Shannon Watters, Kat Leyh &  Dozerdraws

Pearl vol 2 s/c (£14-99, DC) by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Gaydos

Rumble vol 6: Last Knight s/c (£17-99, Image) by John Arcudi & David Rubin

Sharkey The Bounty Hunter s/c (£17-99, Image) by Mark Millar & Simone Bianchi

Strangers In Paradise Omnibus Slipcase h/c Signed Bookplate Limited Edition (£159-99, Abstract Studios) by Terry Moore

Strangers In Paradise Omnibus Slipcase s/c (£98-99, Abstract Studios) by Terry Moore

The Sons Of El Topo vol 2: Abel h/c (£17-99, Humanoids) by Alejandro Jodorowsky & Jose Ladronn

House Of X / Powers Of X h/c (£49-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Pepe Larraz, R.B. Silva, other

Silver Surfer: Black – Treasury Edition s/c (£26-99, Marvel) by Donny Cates & Tradd Moore

Test vol 1 s/c (£15-99, Vault) by Christopher Sebela & Jen Hickman

Dead Dead Demon’s Dededede Destruction vol 7 (£9-99, Viz) by Inio Asano

Dragonball Super vol 7 (£6-99, Viz) by Akira Toriyama & Toyotarou

Jujutsu Kaisen vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Gege Akutami

One-Punch Man vol 18 (£6-99, Viz) by One



Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews December week one

Wednesday, December 4th, 2019

Featuring Jon J Muth, Stanislaw Lem, Kevin Huizenga, Neil Gaiman, John Bolton, Scott Hampton, Charles Vess, Paul Johnson, Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, Elizabeth Breitweiser, Brian Azzarello, Lee Bermejo.

The Seventh Voyage h/c (£17-99, Scholastic) by Stanislaw Lem & Jon J Muth.

We’re all a little wont to get in our own way, aren’t we?

A deft, whimsical comedy set in the inky depths of space, adapted to comics by MOONSHADOW’s Jon J. Muth from a Polish author (1921-2006) whom I shall now be searching out. Handily, there’s a reasonably extensive background and process piece in the back, revealing along the way just how long this has been in the making.

You know the phrase “’Ave a word with yourself!”…?

That’s precisely what space mechanic Ijon Tichy will be doing for the foreseeable future: attempting to extract practical information from himself as he was yesterday, as he will be tomorrow or indeed as the person he will become on Friday from the vantage point of the chap he has since become on Wednesday after leaving both Monday and Tuesday behind.

It’s all in the hope of mentally unravelling and so fathoming the cause-and-effect complexities of time travel, before he mentally unravels himself, or even brains his more belligerent aspects with a length of lead piping.

At some point, one or two of them might even cooperate long enough to perhaps change the rudder outside, which was damaged on the very first pages by a tiny passing meteoroid, and was why he first set course for the temporal anomalies, in order to give himself a helping hand. He can’t change it on his own because it’s held on by a single gigantic nut-and-bolt screw, and he cannot reach round its fin to turn the screw whilst maintaining adequate purchase on the wrench round the rudder’s other side. He tried that. The wrench flew out from under his feet and is now slowly orbiting the space ship, tantalisingly too far away.

It’s more of a space rocket than a space ship: everything is extremely low-tech for, as I say, Tichy is more of a mechanic than a pilot. There aren’t many switches; you pull levers instead. From the outside at least, it’s no larger than your lounge, and our narrator is first discovered baking bread in an old-school electric oven.



He looks out of a portal as you might your bedroom window at night, while his library houses a small coffee table and comfy armchair. The lampshade’s very cosy. The ballooning space suit he dons in his initial attempts to fix the rudder is closer akin to a deep-sea diving affair – and that, from a century ago – but with a bell-jar helmet. There’s no way it would actually fit through the hatch, but that’s the sort of book this is. See gigantic nut-and-bolt screw.

As you’d expect from the artist on MOONSHADOW it is exquisitely painted in lovely loose washes predominately in lilac and yellow ochre over light pencil outlines, and I spent many, many minutes contemplating how Muth had managed to execute the wet-brush starscape behind the back-lit meteoroid. Gerhard on CEREBUS used to flick white ink onto black backgrounds with an old toothbrush.

As in the script, so in the art there lies comedy. I loved the star chart declaring his current course to be within decidedly dangerous territory, multiple red arrows warning “DON’T GO HERE” while other areas are marked “run away” or “yikes!” Thanks to all the vortex turbulence and gravity gone right wonky-woo, he keeps getting battered upside the head by a hardbound copy of the General Theory of Relativity.

Get ready for your own head to hurt in harmony with his. Not everyone enjoys their own company.

“Quick, let’s go outside, we might just make it!”
The Thursday me grabbed the me that was I.
“But the rocket will fall into the vortex any minute now. The shock could throw us off into space, and that would be the end of us.”
“Use your head, stupid. If the Friday me is alive, nothing can happen to us. Today is only Thursday.”
“But it’s Wednesday.”

There’s a serious flaw in Wednesday him’s plan, just as there had been in Monday’s and Tuesday’s and from now on solving that will become key. That, and keeping track of himself:

The Friday me wasn’t there; I looked in the bathroom, but it was empty too. I returned to the kitchen where the Thursday me methodically cracked an egg with a knife and poured its contents onto the sizzling pan.
“Where’s the Friday me?”
“Somewhere in the neighbourhood of Saturday, no doubt.”


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

Glenn Ganges In: The River At Night h/c (£25-00, Fantagraphics) by Kevin Huizenga…

Collecting all material from the six Ganges periodicals in one glorious hardcover! Split therefore into six chapters, here are my original reviews of issues four and five.

Chapter 4…

I’ve only had the misfortune of suffering real insomnia once, after a rather foolish third post-prandial double espresso at a particularly good Italian restaurant in Bedfordshire following a ‘business’ meeting many years ago. Sadly for me, I wasn’t at home with a full range of distractions available to me, unlike Glenn Ganges in this latest instalment of his ongoing grapple with life in general. Instead I was staying at a quiet hotel in the middle of nowhere.

This was also in the days where ‘24 hour’ television consisted solely of Pete Waterman and Michela Strachan ‘aving it large on the Hitman and Her on a Saturday night. Unfortunately for me, however, it was a Wednesday, so I had the choice of the test card or teletext. And, as the clock ticked its merry way on throughout the night, I, sans reading material of any nature save my road atlas and meeting notes, just lay there as my sense of wakefulness moved gradually from initial amusement, on to mild despair, developing into full blown existential crisis, before neatly circumnavigating briefly through hysterical laughter at about six a.m. when I finally fell asleep. For all of an hour before I had to get up….



Amusingly enough Glenn seems to pass through most of the same stages, whilst also finding time to fret about the size of his book collection, accidentally let the cat escape from the house and then have to retrieve it, and also get rather spooked by some innocuous shadows whilst half-asleep. Great fun as always from Kevin, he certainly knows how to spin a yarn out of almost nothing.

Chapter 5…

“Mom, how old is the Earth?”
“It’s like, 4.5 billion years.”
“Yeah right, ha ha… that’s what they’ll try and teach him in public school.”

What you can’t see from the above exchange between Kevin, his wife Wendy’s cousin Angela and her son having dinner together after the funeral of Wendy’s Great Aunt Shelly is the huge kick under the table Kevin receives from Wendy, when he answers the young kid’s question without thinking! I should probably add that Shelly’s family are Baptists living in Florida and smack bang in the heartlands of America’s Bible Belt. Creationism is rife down there and offense can be taken very easily.

Meanwhile, not thinking, and indeed, not doing, are two things Wendy accuses Kevin of rather a lot. Quite rightly so, by his own admission, but it’s to the extent that not only can he now usually see an admonishment of yet another transgression coming, but he’s developed a whole range of deflective techniques to avoid said lectures on the twin topics of his thoughtlessness and procrastination.

This time, though, Wendy’s needed to put the boot in sharpish before he can sink his own foot any deeper into troubled temporal waters. It’s not even the first time she’s had to do it today, either, having already dispensed another covert leg sweep during the eulogy itself as Kevin zoned out to a happier place of pondering the big question you might find yourself asking at any funeral… of what they were having for lunch…



As ever, Kevin does a marvellous turn in self-deprecating humour and once again the amusing auto-biographical material provides a neat lead-in to this issue’s topic on which he’d like to enlighten us, the evolution of our planet, and the timescales thereof. Or as he much more prosaically describes it… “Time Travelling: Deep Time.”



I love how Kevin really let’s his talents for composition run wild in these sections. He always starts us off gently with a few simple devices, gradually increasing in educative and artistic complexity, as he explains how Scottish “Gentleman Scientist” James Hutton, who we could arguably call the first geologist, decided in the 1700s (pre-Charles Darwin mind) that the Earth simply had to be considerably older than the perceived scientific wisdom of the time of a mere five to six thousand years.



Kevin then walks us through Hutton’s theories and thought experiments to show us how he hypothesised the formation of the planet, plus also illustrating the geological processes actually involved, culminating in a truly impressive double page spread. His ability to get what he’s visualising out of his head and onto the page is exceptional.


Buy Glenn Ganges: In The River At Night h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Books Of Magic (30th Anniversary Edition) s/c (£16-99, DC) by Neil Gaiman & John Bolton, Scott Hampton, Charles Vess, Paul Johnson.

“Magic grants no freedoms, friend pupil. Everything it buys must be paid for.”

“Science is a way of talking about the universe in words that bind it to a common meaning. Magic is a method of talking to the universe in words that it cannot ignore.”

In which Neil Gaiman explores what magic means and what it can do; the myriad legends that it has already created, to which Neil now adds another. With almost impossible dexterity Gaiman gently folds DC’s established tall tales and occult-orientated characters into the wider mix of fantasies outside that specific setting, and binds them together while embracing all aspects, all variations on a theme, so that Christian stories of Heaven and Hell with their angels and archangels and its celestial city sit comfortably and compatibly alongside Egyptian, Chinese, Greek and British mythologies as well as DC’s own demons and The Dreaming et al. It’s a pretty neat trick to pull off.

Magic is the power of man’s imagination so, as ever with Neil Gaiman, this is also about stories: about the art of storytelling by conjuring carefully chosen words, so shedding light on the darkness. It’s about communication, and there is a great deal to be communicated here with some sense of urgency, for a young boy called Timothy Hunter has been identified as the most powerful mage of modern times, potentially. Whether he will be a power for creation or destruction is unclear, which is why the Phantom Stranger, Dr Occult and Mister E have taken it upon themselves to educate Tim Hunter, and dragged a reluctant John Constantine in too.

“Just what the world’s been waiting for. The Charge of the Trenchcoat Brigade.”
“I heard that, John Constantine.”



Constantine absolutely makes the book, so well is he played by writer and artists alike. DC’s cheeky chappie and ultimate rogue, he is neither a team player nor strong on reverence. He is reckless, he is dangerous, but in some ways he’s the safest pair of hands you can imagine. Although try telling that to the ghosts of his friends. Such is his history that he’s made welcome nowhere here except by Zatanna, and there’s a single-panel, snort-inducing sight-gag by Scott Hampton, which if you blink you will miss, after John visits the restroom and returns with a stinging, livid-red slap on the cheek.

A pomposity-puncturing iconoclast who rankles at authority, Constantine is immediately drawn to Tim Hunter’s cynical, sceptical and spirited defiance: Tim’s initial instinct is that his new mentors are a bunch of mack-wearing pervs. It is John’s role to introduce Tim Hunter to the contemporary cast of the DC universe: the Spectre, Jason Blood, Madame Xanadu, Baron Winter (Boston Brand AKA Deadman introduces himself, several times over, in a riotous running joke), and all of them have something to say about magic including Dr Fate, he of the hungry helmet:

“The imposition of order on formless chaos, the release of joyous chaos into the grey monotony of order… This is the true magic. All else is shadow.”

Hmm. I’d caution against judging until you learn the destiny of Fate.

This is the DC readers’ crowd-pleasing chapter, without once alienating those who’ve never bought one of those books before. Instead Neil neatly slots these characters into the story he wants to tell within its own context. Painted comic art was relatively rare in those days, so that helps set the alternative tone too. Almost everyone he encounters has dire warnings for Tim about the price he would pay, as do they all in the past.

The past is the province of the Stranger, illustrated by John Bolton who did a bang-up job of maintaining yet blending the pair’s physicality with the limbo-like nature of what they half-glimpse around and beyond them. There are layers and layers of painting art here, executed long before they could be all shot separately then blended by computer like ALICE IN SUNDERLAND. So much of it will have been in the script but not in the dialogue, so letting your eyes wander pays dividends.

As to Charles Vess who depicts Tim’s journey with Dr Occult through the rule-ridden, trap-laden land of Faerie, his line is as solid as his washes are ethereal; his colours so soft, yet as sharp and bright as you like. There is a spectacular, shepherd-delighting, early evening sunset over a lake that goes on forever; his Goblin Market is as fine as anything you saw in STARDUST; and Queen Titania’s palace is an exemplary essay in architectural jade.



Gaiman is perhaps at his finest in Faerie. Its appearance in SANDMAN: DREAM COUNTRY won him a World Fantasy Award in 1991, while he returned to the etiquette involved in INSTRUCTIONS, both also illustrated by Charles Vess. There’s something about Neil’s writing when it comes to these legends and lore which is far from portentous but Demanding You Pay Close Attention – a bit like capitalised phrases in AA Milne’s Winnie The Pooh!

It is here that a naïve Tim makes his most worrying mistakes, proving beyond doubt his need for both education and guidance; and it is here that we return to the vital aspect of magic as mind-altering alchemy in the hands of wordsmiths worldwide. Here’s Queen Titania:

“You wish to see the distant realms? Very well. But know this first: the places you will visit, the places that you will see, do not exist.
“For there are only two worlds – your world, which is the real world, and other worlds, the fantasy. Worlds like this are worlds of the human imagination: their reality, or lack of reality, is not important. What is important is that they are there.
“These worlds provide an alternative. Provide an escape. Provide a threat. Provide a dream, and power, provide refuge, and pain.
“They give your world meaning. They do not exist; and thus they are all that matters. Do you understand?”

No, Tim doesn’t, not yet. He may never get a chance to understand if other forces succeed. He’s yet to see the future – his possible future and those far beyond – but he’ll be led there by a blind man fixated on the darkness around him: the darkest aspects of the human heart. You’ll be alarmed by whom Tim meets in his future; but you will love it when you see who turns out the lights. Who does turn out the lights at the end of the universe? It’s not necessarily who you think, but sleep tight.



Comparisons have been made between this and the subsequent Harry Potter books by JK Rowling. Some would say “consequent”, but not me. Not in those scolding terms, anyway, for both writers have been charitably generous and, besides (totally besides), this too is a book based on (and informed by) stories which have gone before. That is its whole raison d’être.

Searchers will see by just one look that the opening sequence shows the two poles apart. However unloved, Harry Potter is lured from his relatively safe suburban surroundings into the privileged life of a boarding school, whereas Timothy Hunter is first seen skateboarding alone and vulnerable round the concrete jungle of a deserted industrial-estate market, its closed shops desperately crying about “Crazy Price Clearance” sales. It is bleak, it is barren, and the jaws of its pitch-black underpass gape wide.

Into the abyss, Tim Hunter. Into the abyss.



Timothy Hunter will need to make some smart and swift choices, not least of which will be whether to accept magic at all. He will hear conflicting stories of fortune and free will. He will see things which no fourteen-year-old was ever meant to see. And he will need to make those choices informed not by The Truth (for there is no such singular thing) but by truths, and by stories.

As Uncle Alan Moore once famously pronounced, “All stories are true”.


Buy Books Of Magic (30th Anniversary Edition) sc and read the Page 45 review here

Kill Or Be Killed Complete Deluxe Edition h/c (£44-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips with Elizabeth Breitweiser.

KILL OR BE KILLED is the psychological self-examination of an affable and educated young man’s descent into mass murder.

That’s the sentence I returned to, time and again, during my reviews of these four phenomenally compelling softcovers, tweaking or embellishing it a little each time. You’ll see it appear at least three times below. Before we begin, extras this time include all of Jake Phillips’s essay illustrations liberated from text, and some Sean Phillips art used elsewhere.

Kill Or Be Killed book one

“See? That’s what was going around in my head.
“An endless argument spin cycle.
“Point, counterpoint… all day long.”

In which the snow blows thicker and thicker.

To begin with it’s almost soft. It’s certainly softer than a sidewalk from six storeys up.

It tumbles across the sprawling city as far as the eye can see, which is further than you might think; especially when you’re on one of its rooftops, so precariously close to the edge and determined to jump.

From below the thick flakes recede, smaller and smaller, into the heavens which glow a rich, luminous turquoise, while below all is neon-lit for danger.

By the final four pages of the first chapter it’s a veritable blizzard in blinding, icing-sugar white, with wild flashes of thought and explosions of violence like landmines detonated in your head. Then, when it’s settled, there’s a moment of clarity – for Dylan at least.

He’s not going to kill himself. He’s going to kill other people instead.



From the Eisner-Award winning creators of CRIMINAL, FATALE and THE FADE OUT, the first six pages are a bludgeoning barrage of quite cathartic violence, all the more brutal to behold because Phillips has dispensed with the frames and the gutters to go full-bleed to the edge of each page. It’s more immediate. It’s more in-your-face, just like that shotgun, which is meticulously rendered and weighted.

Crucially, however, even if it’s more difficult to draw, then it’s as easy to read as ever, for the three-tier structure remains intact, the panels inset instead against an extended background. It’s something he carries right through the subsequent flashbacks and it pays off especially outside because the wider sense of space is phenomenal.



Anyway, in case you’re reading this on the product page rather than the blog, here’s some of Dylan’s socio-political self-justification. It’s not why he’s blowing holes in these very bad people, but isn’t it kind of comforting to know that you’re making the world a better place than it currently is?

“Just look at the news for five fucking minutes and it’s obvious…
“Big business controls your government…
“Assholes go on shooting rampages almost daily…
“Terrorists blow up airports and train stations…
“Cops kill innocent black kids and get away with it…
“Psychopaths run for President…
“Oh, and the Middle East is one nuke away from turning us all to dust…
“And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

What follows does not lead directly into the opening sequence – this is a long-form work, and Brubaker has a lot to explore in terms of psychology and practicalities before Dylan develops into a proficient and equanimous mass murderer – but it does go some way to explaining how Dylan, studying later in life than most at NYU, might eventually find himself a) with a shotgun b) using it.



It begins with that attempt at suicide – not his first, either – and that began with a girl. It began with his best friend called Kira, one of the few people Dylan felt ever understood him. She got his sense of humour, his taste in music and his sense of isolation which had already set in before his flatmate Mason got between the two of them by dating.

“Their relationship ruined the one good thing I had.
“Kira still came to our place all the time, but almost never to hang out with me.
“And that made me feel even lonelier than I usually did.”

That sense of being cut off from Kira is emphasised by Phillips in a similar way to what Ware did at the window in JIMMY CORRIGAN: by distancing Dylan, isolated inside his own panel, from the rest of the couch where Kira and Mason sit closer together. Breitweiser bathes the lovers in light from the television set they’re watching, whereas Dylan remains shrouded in darkness. I can’t imagine anything much more uncomfortable.



Oh wait, I can, because that’s what happens next. And eventually it leads to the rooftop.

Where that leads is even more startling, but I’m not about to spoil that for you now. All I will say is that Dylan’s head is far from healthy. He’s fallen far enough already, but he’s got a long way to go before picking up a gun and going if not postal then at least house-hunting.

As I’ve mentioned before, one of Brubaker’s many fortes is making you want to spend as much time as possible in his protagonists’ minds, no matter how disturbed. Here he does so in part through Dylan’s vulnerability and confessional, apologetic and self-searching tone. However confident in his newly acquired worldview Dylan seems on the first six pages – and I’d place money on that being a ‘good’ day – none of that is reflected in any red-bloodedly aggressive tendencies either earlier in life or even now.



This is not a revenge story and Dylan’s acts are not an expression of angry contra mundum. They are instead acts of survival which require – and result in – all sorts of practicalities which Brubaker explores in depth.

One of those practicalities is avoiding any meaningful conversation with Kira even though their relationship grows increasingly complicated and Kira’s being honest with him. The guilt that he’s not reciprocating gnaws at Dylan, but he is fully aware that if he begins to offload in one way he’s likely to do so in others. Kira’s love and genuine, deep-rooted concern for him is the one thing he has left, and it’s almost certain to evaporate instantly if she learns he’s beginning to stalk and murder very bad men, whatever the crimes they’ve committed.

As well as his prowess as a weather and landscape artist – there are so many daylight cityscape shots of extraordinary detail which Breitweisser colours with a finger-numbing freeze – Phillips gets to show off his photo-realistic skills as Dylan sifts through the erotic fantasy stories his father illustrated, recalling his dad’s craft by conjuring one of those nudes in his mind’s eye. Wouldn’t you just know that she’d look one hell of a lot like Kira? And as he remembers perving over the magazines with his young friends, aged 6 or so, he realises who has behaved so horrifically as to merit being his first target.



This begs further practicalities for a novice like Dylan, like finding a gun which won’t be traced. As to hunting down someone he only knew only tangentially many moons ago, well, that’s what Facebook’s for, right?

But then there’s the self-searching and doubt which I alluded to earlier.

“See, I kept having this sick feeling that I might have killed someone for no reason.
“Like, think about it for a second. There had to be some possibility that I hallucinated [REDACTED]. “Didn’t there? And if I did, if it wasn’t actually real, that meant my head was fucked, right?
“Which meant the way I remembered that day with Teddy could be wrong too… Right?”

Now, that’s all very specific to this particular story, but one of Brubaker’s interests lies in our universal, shared experiences and another of his skills is in making those connections and exploring their implications.

“I’ve read how memory works…
“I know we edit our memories so we look better in them.
“So what if I made up the whole thing?
“What if I was just like those assholes back in high school, pretending to have some secret link to the tragic dead kid?”

That would be Teddy.

“Except… Why would I make up a childhood story, especially one as sick as that, and never tell anyone about it?
“Who makes up a story and keeps it a secret?
“What is the point of that?”

Sorry to keep the quotations so cryptic, but you’ve got to be wondering what his memory was now… Right?



We’ve got a long way to go before we get to page one.

Kill Or Be Killed book two

The psychological self-examination of one affable if awkward young man’s descent into mass murder.

If you think it improbable that you will root for the guy, I’d remind you that such is the strength of Brubaker’s internal monologues that the self-contained CRIMINAL: THE LAST OF INNOCENT had us all desperately praying that a man could get away with uxoricide.



This is the periodical I pick up first no matter what else is on offer on any given week.

There’s nothing sensationalist about it. Our narrator is an astute individual with a keen moral compass, and that’s as much of a trigger as anything. Much of the priming in terms of mental isolation has already been explored, but the other trigger – the core motivation, if you like – is an element of the first KILL OR BE KILLED which I deliberately kept from you for fear of spoilers.

I’m not going to elaborate here, either, except to say that there is a moment of discovery on the part of his best friend Kira which leaves her in fear for Dylan’s safety, while holed up in his closet as he makes love to an ex-girlfriend. Kira, it should be noted, is undoubtedly the love of his life, but lest he blurts out something incriminating he’s been keeping her at a distance, even as she confides in him.

It’s not this discovery that he’s worried about, but he should be.

And it explains everything which you may have puzzled over in book one.

Where Dylan has become compromised is with both the NYPD and the Russian mob now, after one public blunder (or a spot of bad luck) and a miscalculation about just how wide the Russians’ net is spread and how tenacious they can be. Fortunately institutional sexism and male police pride may give him some breathing space for now, but the Russians are more open-minded and resourceful.



There’s little more that I didn’t explore in my substantial review of KILL OR BE KILLED VOL 1 (so I’d refer you there instead) including Sean Phillips’s decision to retain his three-tier structure while throwing the art full-bleed, right to edges of each page, so that you’re no longer kept at an observational distance but thrust right into the heart of the action and Dylan’s head.

Here’s more of his self-justification:

“Lobbyists aren’t all bad, of course. Some lobby for human rights or the environment. But most of the time, they work for big business and what they do is, they pay a lot of money to politicians to pass laws or repeal regulations… so the corporations they work for can do whatever the fuck they want.
“Gideon Prince was the kind of lobbyist who helped put poison in your drinking water and then laughed about it to his buddies.
“And what I mean is, he’d done that exact thing…
“And yes, look – I know this one is sort of a stretch. He didn’t personally poison that ground water. But people who can look at dumping chemicals as a good thing because it saves them money… who can make fun of the people who are suffering because of it?
“It’s hard to argue the world wouldn’t be better off without them.”

He’s exceptionally self-aware and quite the philosophical conversationalist when it comes to his audience if not his few “friends” whom he keeps at a remove. He’s not deluding himself, except when it comes to that one key element which, when you discover it, is sadly so common.



Most of his longer reflections and reminiscences are aligned down blank vertical columns outside of the art, giving them chance to breathe, but don’t get too complacent about what’s being shown there, that’s all I’ll say.

I never intended this second review to be anything but brief, but you could write an essay on the body language alone: little details which either Brubaker or Phillips drops in, like Detective Lily Sharpe – the one on the ball whom her fellow officers studiously dismiss and ignore – who was raised in foster care between several group homes, reading on the bottom bunk of a bed, the toes of her bare feet digging self-protectively into the duvet as someone else’s dangle over the top.

There’s something squat, rough and ready about Dylan’s physique and physiognomy. It’s not simian, but it’s burly and certainly atypical of most protagonists’, both within comics and without; I keep thinking of the Gallagher brothers from Oasis.



Anyway, with police attention now drawn, so is the media’s and I suspect Sean will become quite sick of drawing news stands before Dylan’s done.

Dylan is forced to become more reactive while increasingly restricted, and even though you know that he lives to tell this tale (if not under what circumstances), you will be kept on the edge of that proverbial seat, toes possibly digging into the carpet.

Kill Or Be Killed book three

“And suddenly every word that she said was a gift.
“Every smile was a miracle,
“I’d been so stupid… We’re all so stupid all the time.
“We stop noticing our miracles.”

We do indeed.

And now for the bits you’ve been waiting for!

KILL OR BE KILLED book one began in blazing gunfire, a sequence we’ve been promised a return to, and by the end of this volume you will finally see Dylan in that “hotel” with the shotgun, you’ll understand exactly why he’s so focussed, specifically on social injustice, and it’s all but the beginning of a meticulously thought out act-and-distract plan to shut down the local Russian mafia for good.

If he doesn’t, they’ve given every indication that they will come for his girlfriend, Kira.



KILL OR BE KILLED has been the practical and psychological self-examination of one educated young man’s descent into mass murder.

It didn’t start with the Russian mafia, it began with a suicide attempt and several episodes which he now hopes were psychotic, but I still don’t want to give that game away because we’re looking for new readers here, and it forms such a substantial strand of the series that will keep you speculating feverishly far beyond this volume and well into the next chapters beginning with KILL OR BE KILLED #15.

As to practicalities, we’re most of us more capable than we imagine we are. Dylan is ruminative by nature – which is why it’s taken two volumes to get to this point! – thinking things through, though not all the time with a clear head; that, he would be the very first to concede. Here he contemplates courage, and the nature of fear as something self-imposed as well as instilled in us through aphorisms and cautionary tales designed to curtail our curiosity or limit our ambition (Daedalus / Icarus and “A bird in the hand…” etc). We are persuaded to believe not in ourselves, but in our weaknesses, drawing lines in the sand which we dare not cross. But if others have crossed them – if one person can kill a grizzly bear – why cannot we?



He’s forever referencing films, is our Dylan, and books. As I say, he’s educated and it’s his constant self-questioning which in part makes him so very credible and captivating, engaging his audience conversationally – for he is emphatically addressing each one of us – as to his various successes or failures in storytelling and whether we find him frustrating, which is funny. Here is he shown for umpteenth time breaking and entering into the brothel.

“Okay, so look, I promise you we’re getting very close to this moment.
“By the end of this chapter… for sure.
“I mean, this is all part of that plan I was formulating….
“As you’re going to see soon. Really soon.
“But before we get to this –
“And I know, I know, I’m the worst narrator in history for actually getting to the point…
“Well, maybe after Tristram Shandy…
“But there’s just some stuff you have to know before the action gets going again.
“I mean, it can’t all be action… right?”



Dylan’s also unusually self-aware, constantly rummaging around in his own troubled memories and the physical boxes of published art which his father left behind, whilst musing on Kira’s past as well as his father’s sad life and suicide.

“I guess it’s different for people whose fathers didn’t commit suicide, but if yours did, then he’s probably a fairly tragic figure in your memory…
“That familial memory that shapes who you are.
“That’s how it always was for me. My father was legendary and tragic and sad… all at one time.
“And if I had to pick one word that described him best, it would’ve been a tie between “lonely” and “isolated”.

Dylan has just described himself, and little wonder: “That familial memory that shapes who you are.”

He’s far from alone but lonely instead, isolated inside his own head. So often there are moments of hope that he will be able to free himself from the shackles of his pragmatic secrecy, this solitary existence, and steer freely away from the desperate trajectory which he has found himself locked on.

One of those is where we came in and he realises that “We stop noticing our miracles.” Yet it’s these very preoccupations which prevent Dylan from fully engaging and actually existing inside the moment, and those moments of hope do not last long.

All of that is conveyed in the art: in the cinema, for example, with Kira beaming while Dylan sits dead-faced, obsessing over his predicament. And that’s after his supposed satori.



Thanks to Phillips and Breitweiser, Dylan is surrounded by so much arboreal beauty which he singularly fails to notice – even as he’s strolling through Central Park with the love of his life, lit bright with laughter, which was formerly all that he craved – and it will only become more pronounced in the next volume.




It’s not just that he fails to notice it, either: it is that he is entirely removed from its life-affirming balm by his inner demons – the psychotic shit that’s going on his head – and by the very real danger that surrounds them both. That Kira is oblivious to the danger (because Dylan has repeatedly refused to communicate for fear of blurting out the rest) makes the gap between them loom even larger. He has built the proverbial brick wall.

Next volume: Dylan attempts to break down the brick wall down and in so doing, finds it built even higher.

Oh, wait…. The shooty bits…? Knock yourself out. Non-consecutive pages, mind, but Lord, how I love Sean Phillips gunfire.




Parenthetically, there’s a very funny sequence in which a Russian courier clumsily attempts to flirt with a barmaid who may well be gay by solemnly impressing upon her the virtues not of Charles Portis’s novel ‘True Grit’ (which is a tremendously compelling narrative told by a fourteen-year-old girl of exceptional fortitude), but of its cinematic adaptation which was a travesty, and in particular the manly magnificence of John Wayne’s performance which… anyway. The sincerity on that man’s face!

Kill Or Be Killed book four

“Is everything all right, Dylan?”
“No… not really. But it will be.”

Will it?

It’s the KILL OR BE KILLED finale from the creators of THE FADE OUT, FATALE etc, and if the penultimate chapter’s cliffhanger is a narrative bombshell you couldn’t possibly see coming, then the final-page punchline is a visual whose eyes will bore into your own so hard and so deep – meeting your gaze directly, unflinchingly – that I defy you to look away. For a full five minutes I studied those dense, shining shadows, sweeping black lines and broad colour brushstrokes, so bold that anything behind became even more ethereal. Then, almost as soon as I looked away to flick back through the preceding four pages which made so much sense, I had to return almost immediately.

I think that’s the general idea with obsession.

And this all about obsession.

Up until now KILL OR BE KILLED has been the psychological self-examination of an educated young man with a gnawing sense of social justice but a fine line in convivial conversation as he descends into a surprisingly efficient mass murder spree.



That initial spree at least is all but over, though there’s always room for one more, don’t you think?

“Stairs are actually not that effective for killing people, in case you were wondering.
“Too many variables. You can never know for sure how someone’s going to land…
“Or if they’re going to break their neck.”

You may have to step in and finish the business on foot.

“I get away with this, by the way.”

The narrative is as charming as disarming as ever: even the chapter breaks (originally the ends to each monthly issue) add to the illusion of this being an off-the-cuff account.

“Shit, I completely forgot.
“We’ll have to talk about that next time.”

In KILL OR BE KILLED VOLUME 3 I wrote about the disconnect between Dylan’s wretched preoccupations and the beauty which surrounds him which he, cruelly, has no mental access to, and it is only accentuated further on the first two pages here.



It’s something that comics can do ever so well under the right creators: when the words and the pictures ‘disagree’. Jon Klassen has made a career out of this for comedic, Young Readers purposes. This is tragic instead.

Look at the exquisite silver livery on these idyllic snow-swept scenes and the rapture being relished by those able to fully inhabit those landscapes by being in the moment and sharing between them its gift!



Now read the words of a perceived grinding life and the fall of the world into geopolitical disorder. “Sad” doesn’t begin to cover it. In volume three of KILL OR BE KILLED Dylan consciously castigated himself thus:

“I’d been so stupid… We’re all so stupid all the time.”
“We stop noticing our miracles.”

Yet within that same volume he almost immediately failed to retain that self-knowledge. It wasn’t wilful, it wasn’t negligent. It was because he was trapped, in his own head and his immediate circumstances of needing to act or the love of his life would be dead. Now he is shackled once again, even further removed from this extraordinary, ordinary joy, and the windows through which he is looking are barred.

The cover may give you a clue, but only on reading this will you understand how he got himself sectioned. It has nothing to do with volume three whatsoever. This is an entirely new development, and, to begin with, Dylan is quite content to be locked up, for it means that the outside world should be safe from him.

It isn’t. Nor is he, from what he has left behind him outside.



Expect Breitweiser blizzards so dense that they will all but obliterate your vision, which will give Dylan ample opportunity to talk about climate change, industry, government, and the war between wealth and accountability. It will also give the unexpected ample opportunity to sneak unseen upon the unwary.

Sorry…? Oh, you’re halfway through this book and just remembered that sentence. You think I’m referring to that snow storm! Haha!

I’m not.

I’ve run out of time, but it’s also worth studying all the different hair treatments throughout the series. Yes, hair!



Dylan’s mother’s is completely different from the others’ not only in style but in its method of rendition, far closer to Kira’s. Phillips goes to great lengths to draw identifiable, individual strands of hair for both women and men, whereas Dylan’s mum’s is lifted by mousse to look like a meringue or Mr Whippy.

What a note for finish on. Honestly.


Buy Kill Or Be Killed Deluxe h/c and read the Page 45 Review here

Luthor s/c (£12-99, DC) by Brian Azzarello & Lee Bermejo.

Lex Luthor stares into space and broods about humanity being subject to the whims of a potentially untrustworthy alien being, whilst those around him – from employees in the form of construction workers to a cherished servant in the form of his own artificially created, female metahuman – find out what it’s like to be subject to the bitterness of a decidedly untrustworthy human being.

Far more interesting for me than Azzarello’s team-up with Jim Lee (SUPERMAN FOR TOMORROW), there are some credibly vocalised motivations, an ingeniously manipulated climax designed to discredit Superman through his own benevolent nature, and a tense stand-off through a plate glass window as Luthor stands way above the streets in his skyscraper tower, and Superman, floating outside, stares back. Hard.



This was the second time Azzarello and Bermejo had worked together on one of DC’s top properties, the first being BATMAN/DEATHBLOW wherein Bermejo rendered a Gotham in almost permanent, smog-shrouded twilight, the third being JOKER which will have you wincing on the edge of your seat throughout

Here we join Lex Luthor as the sun sets over a futuristic Metropolis, sharpening its edifices’ corners and reflecting off the glass of the vast monuments to man’s imagination, aspiration and ingenuity. At the end of another long day Lex sits and chats with Stan the cleaner, as they gaze out across the skyline at the Metropolis Science Spire, the billionaire’s latest project whose grand opening is due shortly.



Bermejo’s expressions are quiet and subtle, Lex all delightful smiles, his brow only furrowing with concern when he learns that that Stan’s son, though bright, is cutting classes. It’s then that you see Luthor as a human being whereas Superman throughout the first chapter is depicted as volcanic, his eyes burning with the fire of a thousand foundries. Here’s the beautiful Mona:

“The Von Raunch Academy’s Benefit Ball is tonight. I’m going to present your very generous donation, and tell them that though you would have loved to be there, some matters came up and –”
“Hmm. That’s that exclusive school, isn’t it?”
“Well, if you mean by exclusive it hand-picks only twelve students for acceptance each year, then yes. It’s exclusive.”
“Right… an employee of ours has a son who I think merits inclusion in that twelve. Joey’s a bright boy. Tell the Head Master I’d consider it a personal favour.”
“I will, but next semester’s class has already been selected. One of those children would have to be -”
“A personal favour, and I would be very grateful. Have a good time, Mona. Give everyone my best.”

See, he’s not all bad.

That scene is played to perfection – just like the reader.


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

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Bicycle Day (£20-00, Anthology Editions) by Brian Blomerth
The Books Of Magic (30th Anniversary Ed’n) s/c (£16-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & John Bolton, Scott Hampton, Charles Vess, Paul Johnson
Bunny vs. Monkey Book Six (£8-99, David Fickling Books) by Jamie Smart
Grass Kings vol 2 s/c (£13-50, Boom!) by Matt Kindt & Tyler Jenkins
H.P. Lovecraft’s At The Mountains Of Madness vol 2 (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Gou Tanabe
Kill Or Be Killed Complete Deluxe Edition h/c (£44-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips, Elizabeth Breitweiser
The Legend Of Korra: Ruins Of The Empire Part Two (£9-50, Dark Horse) by Michael Dante DiMartino & Michelle Wong
Life Is Strange vol 1: Waves s/c (£13-99, Titan) by Emma Vieceli & Claudia Leonardi
Little Bird Book One: The Fight For Elder’s Hope h/c (£26-99, Image) by Darcy Van Poelgeest & Ian Bertram
Looshkin: The Big Number 2 (£8-99, David Fickling Books) by Jamie Smart
Lumberjanes: The Shape Of Friendship s/c (£10-99, Boom!) by Lilah Sturges &  Polterink
Middlewest vol 2 s/c (£14-99, Image) by Skottie Young & Jorge Corona, Jean-Francois Beaulieu

The Midwinter Witch s/c (£11-99, Scholastic) by Molly Knox Ostertag

Moomin by Lars Jansson: The Deluxe Slipcase Edition (£50-00, Drawn & Quarterly) by Lars Jansson
Some Strange Disturbances s/c (£8-99, Northwest Press) by Craig Hurd-McKenny &  Gervasio, Carlos Aon
Spectrum 26 s/c (£35-99, Flesk) by various
Star Wars vol 12: Rebels And Rogues (£14-50, Marvel) by Greg Pak & Phil Noto
Star Wars: Age Of Resistance – Villains s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Tom Taylor & Leonard Kirk
Swimming In Darkness h/c (£21-99, Arsenal Pulp Press) by Lucas Harari
Dceased h/c (£24-99, DC) by Tom Taylor & various
The Death Of Superman: The Wake s/c (£14-99, DC) by Louise Simonson & various
Immortal Hulk vol 5: Breaker Of Worlds s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Al Ewing & Joe Bennett
Journey To Star Wars Rise: The Rise Of Skywalker – Allegiance s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Ethan Sacks & Luke Ross
Silver Surfer: Epic Collection – When Calls Galactus s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 4: Diamond Is Unbreakable vol 3 h/c (£12-99, Viz) by Hirohiko Araki
My Hero Academia Smash!! vol 2 (£6-99, Viz) by Hirofumi Neda
One Piece vol 92 (£6-99, Viz) by Eiichiro Oda
Avatar: Tsu’Tey’s Path s/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Sherri Smith & Jan Duursema, Doug Wheatley
Beautiful Darkness s/c (£14-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoet
Heart Of Darkness h/c (£14-99, Norton) by Joseph Conrad & Peter Kuper
Milo’s World Book 2: The Black Queen h/c (£17-99, Magnetic Press) by Richard Marazano & Christophe Ferreira
Rivers Of London vol 7: Action At A Distance (£13-99, Titan) by Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel & Brian Williamson
Avengers vol 4: War Of The Realms s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Ed McGuiness
Ms Marvel Team-up s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Eve L. Ewing, Clint McElroy & Joey Vazquez, Ig Guara
Thanos: Zero Sanctuary s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Tini Howard & Ariel Olivetti
X-Men: Epic Collection – Children Of The Atom s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee, Roy Thomas & Jack Kirby, Werner Roth, Alex Toth
Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card vol 6 (£9-99, Kodansha) by Clamp
League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen vol 4: Tempest h/c (£24-99, Knockabout / Top Shelf) by Alan Moore & Kevin O’ Neill
Black Orchid s/c (£16-99, DC Black Label) by Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean
Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji vol 1 (£19-99, Den Pa) by Nobuyuki Fukumoto
Invader Zim vol 8 (£17-99, Oni) by various
My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies s/c (£11-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips
The Big Country s/c (£13-99, Humanoids Inc) by Quinton Peeples & Dennis Calero
The Seas (£5-99, Body Parts) by various
Daredevil vol 2: No Devils, Only God s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Chip Zdarsky & Lalit Kumar Sharma
Mythical Beast Investigator vol 1 (£9-99, Seven Seas) by Keishi Ayasato & Koichiro Hoshino
A Tropical Fish Yearns For Snow vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Makoto Hagino
Attack on Titan vol 29 (£9-99, Kodansha) by Hajime Isayama