Archive for February, 2020

Page 45 Graphic Novel Reviews late February 2020

Wednesday, February 26th, 2020

Featuring Cyril Pedrosa, Roxanne Moreil, Cecil Castellucci, Jim Rugg, Eric Shanowar, Jim Pascoe, Heidi Arnhold & Nicholas Gurewitch.

Golden Age Book 1 h/c  (£26-99, St Martin’s Press) by Cyril Pedrosa & Roxanne Moreil…

“By the Devil’s horns… STAND BACK!!”
“Calm down, sister. Put the dagger down. I’m afraid you’re all alone. And kneel before your King.”
“How dare you?”
“All the vassals in the Kingdom have already pledged their allegiance to me.”
“That’s impossible. Lord Ulrik? Lord Darcelle? Is this true? You too, Ancelin? Have you so little honour?”
“It would have been easy to slit your throat. But I am magnanimous. I’ll settle for exiling you to the Island of Malefosse per the Regent’s counsel.”
“Vaudemont. Of course. Your lust for power has no limits, I see.”

Nothing like a good old-fashioned family bust-up to brighten the (coronation) day. Except… it’s not going to be Princess Tilda’s triumphant accession to the gilded armchair of absolute authority any longer, following the sad dynastic demise of her much loved father.



Nay, instead her weasely bowl-headed younger brother is about to usurp the unsuspecting Tilda with the aid of the dastardly Lord Vaudemont and ah… her mum! Now that’s a wholly wrongful birthright betrayal which must cut very deep indeed… Maybe Tilda shouldn’t put down that dagger just yet!



Here’s the publisher to deliver a rousing regal decree regarding Tilda and her (almost) subjects’ malcontent of the state of current affairs in the most definitely not Queendom…

“A medieval saga with political intrigue reminiscent of Game of Thrones, The Golden Age is an epic graphic novel duology about utopia and revolution! In the kingdom of Lantrevers, suffering is a way of life – unless you’re a member of the ruling class. Princess Tilda plans to change all that.

As the rightful heir of late King Ronan, Tilda wants to deliver her people from famine and strife. But on the eve of her coronation, her younger brother, backed by a cabal of power-hungry lords, usurps her throne and casts her into exile.

Now Tilda is on the run. With the help of her last remaining allies, Tankred and Bertil, she travels in secret through the hinterland of her kingdom. Wherever she goes, the common folk whisper of a legendary bygone era when all men lived freely. There are those who want to return to this golden age – at any cost. In the midst of revolution, how can Tilda reclaim her throne?”

I think I will just add at this point… but what is more important to Tilda, her throne or the happiness of the people…?



For by the end of this opening majestic tome of who knows how many – probably not as many volumes as George Arf Arf Martin will never quite finish penning of the moneymaking musical merrygoround of stately seating – you might be left pondering the idea that personal revenge is considerably more important to Tilda than the rights of her potential subjects, given how stroppy she manages to get with one the very few remaining people still loyal and prepared to help her…

“You’re turning a blind eye and deaf ear to your people’s will for justice!”
“Don’t use that tone with me! You’ve forgotten to whom you speak!”
“Tilda. In the world you would reign over, we will never be equals. I can’t forget that… Your Highness…”



I guarantee, however, that you will want it to be quite a few volumes after reading this glorious opening salvo resplendent with pageantry and replete with privation alike. I’m guessing two or three in complete candour, but you certainly could twist my arm – preferably not with a medieval torture device – and make it four or five, which would certainly result in screams of pleasure rather than pain!



But let’s enjoy the era of Golden Age The First… errr first… for in the realm of graphic novels there are some that are destined to rule over all too! At least for a few weeks once crowned Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month anyway! With that said, this is certainly a courtly contender for my most beautiful book of the whole year already.



A quick glance at the cover, shrouded in mystery and inviting intrigue with a lonesome cloaked Tilda astride a horse, casting a strange mystical armoured reflection in a gently eddying pool of water, deep underneath the canopy of a dark royal blue forest of leaves, surrounded by brilliant pink blossom-filled bushes, is merely the most teasing hint of what wonders lies within the covers.



Fans of Cyril EQUINOXES Pedrosa, who previously lorded over it all like the aristocrat of art that he is – well, okay for a month again with former Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month PORTUGAL – will already be well aware already of what a prodigious talent he is. But here I feel he has upped his game anew, with a wilfully, dashingly different and at times strikingly contrasting, expansive colour palette, complimenting an intoxicatingly elegant art style, all elevated further still by use of short, staccato linework for shading and texture that I suspect even the master of said technique himself, Signor Toppi (COLLECTED TOPPI), would have had to just pause and admire. Yes, this is a book whose artwork you can radiantly bask in most indulgently indeed.



The writing, co-scripted by Roxanne Moreil with Pedrosa, is just as imperiously brilliant. You may well find yourself rooting for the underclass even more than Tilda, though, depending on your personal republican vs. regent sensibilities, as the rabble gets ever rowdier and more rambunctious against the backdrop of the increasingly obnoxious Tilda’s unlikely mission to regain, well technically gain I suppose, her throne.



As mentioned, I genuinely don’t know how many more volumes this epic will run to. I do suspect just one or two, maybe three at a push, rather than attempting to better Louis The XIX reign as the highest ever numbered French ruler. Even though I felt he never really counted, only managing some twenty minutes as King himself, before wisely following his dad’s example who swiftly abdicated during the July Revolution of 1830 when he felt the sharpening winds of change blowing around his suddenly itchy collar… Always better to quit whilst you’re ahead… and you’ve still got yours, I find. Probably not advice that Tilda is likely to follow though…


Buy The Golden Age And Read The Page 45 Review Here

The Plain Janes (£13-99, Little Brown Book) by Cecil Castellucci & Jim Rugg.

Firstly, I am beyond excited to note that a whole third of this very reasonably priced indeed volume is a brand new Plain Janes story entitled JANES ATTACK BACK!

If that were not enough the previous two stories collected here, the first of which was a Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month way back in May 2007, have also been treated to a spectacular new colour scheme.

Right, without further ado, let me present our reviews of the first two instalments!

First up, here’s Stephen with the original THE PLAIN JANES…

“Hopeless is lying in a hospital bed with a ringing in your ear and trying to forget the screaming.
“Loud noises made me jump. Sounds I couldn’t identify made me jump.
“Silence made me nervous.
“But there was hope in that sketchbook.”

Since the bomb blast, life has changed for Jane. Some of it – her hair, for example – she changed herself; other aspects, like being relocated from cool city to staid suburbia, has been thrust upon her by her fearful parents. “Mom doesn’t see the beauty in anything any longer.  She only sees the danger. I want her to stop worrying and love the world again, because if she can, then I can.” Her mum, in fact, is neurotic, incessantly phoning her at all manner of embarrassing moments and as we all know, “It’s hard to be a rebel on a leash.”

PLAIN JANES is packed with such eminently printable quotes, but that’s the young lead lady for you: feisty, defiant, quietly cool, predominantly optimistic yet occasionally sardonic.

“Here we go. Nothing worse than starting the school year six weeks late. Remember, it’s just four years. Om, and all that.”

Jane’s actually well received by the “in” crowd at school, but sees no merit in that, electing instead to sit at a table with three other Janes – one a thespian, one a scientist and one an aspiring soccer player – but they’re simply not interested in Jane, each other, or anything else outside their own insular little worlds until Jane summons all her wit to understand them, then guile to galvanise them. And so begins their inspired campaign of local art attacks as the covert club called P.L.A.I.N – People Living Art In The Neighbourhoods, and Catellucci’s astute observations on adult society’s overwhelming confusion if not outright hostility towards public art.



I was honestly quite surprised to declare DC’s first salvo in their bid for young-teen female readers such an attractive success. The original cover was horrid (2020’s edition is a vibrant delight!), but the art inside communicates mood and expression successfully and succinctly, whilst there are elements of Jane and her life that are instantly identifiable as nigh-universal, whether it’s the overprotective mum (all mums are perceived as overprotective, regardless of innocence or guilt!), the missed opportunities, frozen in romance’s blinding and gagging headlights, or just the immortal phrase (muttered several times a week, I’ll bet): “Boys suck.”

I like the fact that Jane’s far from perfect, giving way on occasion to unreasonable sulks, and suffering the setbacks we all do in life along with the inevitable, attendant deflation of confidence. But her creativity and her sense of fun are infectious both for the three Janes and for this reader, and I’d have thought there’s nothing more seductive to the book’s target audience than the act and art of rebellion. This is full of it.


Then here’s JR with  JANES IN LOVE…

“The question is: what are we going to do?”
“We must remind her that as George Bernard Shaw says, ‘Without art, the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable.’”
“You are so weird.”

A direct follow on to THE PLAIN JANES which if you’ve not read, why not? It was great! On the Minx label so billed as a comic for girls this, like its predecessor, still has appeal for people like me (a middle aged male) that just likes a well written story. The title is also slightly misleading as again the story primarily revolves around the girls’ undercover art attack exploits as P.L.A.I.N. (People Loving Art In Neighbourhoods). However, this time they very quickly get caught by the wonderfully volcanic crew-cropped and moustachioed Officer Sanchez. Surely exactly what J. Jonah Jameson would have been like had he decided to take up a career in law enforcement instead of publishing!?! So the Janes decide to try and go legit and apply for planning permission with the council for an urban art installation in the local park only to be thwarted by the bristling and seething Officer Sanchez. But will the girls manage to win out in the end?



And the reference to love in the title of the book? Well, in between being their neighbourhood’s answer to Banksy they all somehow find time to have a look for the man of their dreams in their own inimitable ways for the upcoming school dance, as well as managing to act as matchmakers for two of their favourite local retirees, and deal with various family and friendship problems. I particularly enjoyed the disastrous consequences of Brain Jane’s attempt to manufacture a pheromone potion for herself in chemistry class.


At this juncture it would seem a wee bit churlish not to at least let you have a glorious glimpse of a page from the third story JANES ATTACK BACK! So let’s finish with this belter…



Buy The Plain Janes And Read The Page 45 Review Here

Cottons Book 1: The Secret Of The Wind s/c (£13-99, First Second) by Jim Pascoe & Heidi Arnhold…

“You’ve weaponized art?”
“Oh, Wampu, all art is a weapon… in the right hands.”

This is entirely true. Here, quite literally so.

A further glance inside the cover itself is rewarded by endpaper maps of the countryside surrounding the rabbits’ warren beside The Blue Heart Lake, in a valley between craggy ridges: Goldenseed Meadow and the Wavering Wood overlooked by Stillbreeze Peak.

You’d be forgiven if by now you’re expecting something akin to ‘Watership Down’ but, prologue aside, it’s actually much closer to MOUSE GUARD, the animals and their habitat more anthropomorphised, their burrows quite habitable to humans.



While we’re on the subject of MOUSE GUARD, however, if you thought the world-building was impressive there, this is on another level entirely, and you’ll find a rabbit scholar’s notes on Lavender’s known history, industry, religion and magic.

Ah yes, magic.

Magic, art and the potential to weaponize it.

The rabbits’ industry involves refining their natural source of energy, carrots, into another source of energy entirely, called cha. This heats and lights their warren, but in skilled paws like Bridgebelle’s and her former tutor Thom Crocket’s, can turn sticks and stones into beautiful and intricate glass artefacts called thokchas. To those more pragmatic and less inspired, this is regarded as a frittering waste of raw material. To others, the crystalline thockchas are merely a halfway house, for ‘detonating’ them with a twist causes a dazzling and potentially hallucinogenic display. It’s possible to become addicted. At a pivotal moment, however, Bridgebelle will discover another use for them entirely.



There’s supposed to be a truce between the rabbits and the foxes, but the bluntest and seemingly most brutal of the foxes breaks that truce almost immediately, by snapping poor Soozie’s neck. However, as Soozie and Bridgebell dash as fast as they can from the threat, Soozie reveals a key secret:

“Help me, Bridgebelle!
“I hid something. Find it before they do. Go where the flow is slow.”

I really do think that’s all you need.



The rabbits in flight are fluid as you like, and lithe when turning at breakneck speed. The detonated thockcha visions are truly blinding, and you’ll love the skeletal Scapegraces whose feathers are formed from a purple, miasmatic mist.

This is a trilogy and so far it holds together very well indeed, with one full-length, satisfyingly resolved campaign leaving us still in a spine-tinglingly ominous place.



“Everyone is afraid of something.”


Buy Cottons Book 1: The Secret Of The Wind s/c And Read The Page 45 Review Here

Age Of Bronze vol 2: Sacrifice s/c (£17-99, Image) by Eric Shanowar

Now in full colour.

Projected to run for seven volumes, this epic, in-depth and dramatic retelling of the Trojan War has garnered Eisner Awards as well as praise from outside our industry from the likes of The Washington Post and Publishers Weekly. Booklist said that it “unfolds with heartbreaking determination,” and they’ve pinpointed one of its chief strengths.

If you’re not that well schooled in the classics, this will prove startling and compelling; if you are, then so much of the power lies in the inevitable, for you know just who is doomed, how and why – but it won’t stop you desperately hoping that they somehow avoid their destiny.



Speaking of destiny, this is a time where the population believed in Fate, believed in prophecy and portent and, unfortunately, sacrifice. It’s amazing what your beliefs will make you do, but that doesn’t make you any less courageous. For some, it will prove the ultimate test: betray your army, or sacrifice your daughter? It’s not so cut-and-dried as it sounds. You have responsibility not just to your kingdom but to thousands of lives under your command. And if it does sound like a no-brainer then Shanower will convince you otherwise, for this is huge enough that everyone is rounded out, given a depth and an individual perspective.



There are some superb visual devices as well, from the mists that rise to isolate Helen and Paris atop Troy’s tallest tower (“It’s as if we’re the only people left in the entire world.”), to the pages of constant wind, denoted by “SHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHS” between each tier of panels until Agamemnon’s daughter leaves her tent for the final time. It’s a very clear panel structure as well, like Talbot’s THE TALE OF ONE BAD RAT or Gary Spencer Millidge’s STRANGEHAVEN, making it effortlessly readable by those unused to comics.

Also there’s a map, for the names have all changed (along with the territorial boundaries), a couple of family trees, and a great big glossary of names including how to pronounce them.

For far, far more, please see my new review of AGE OF BRONZE VOL 1: A THOUSAND SHIPS.

Also, while you’re here, Gareth Hinds’ THE ODYSSEY and THE ILIAD.


Buy Age Of Bronze vol 2: Sacrifice s/c And Read The Page 45 Review Here


The Perry Bible Fellowship Almanack (£22-99, Dark Horse) by Nicholas Gurewitch.

All the below from 2009 remains true, except that it’s no longer landscape, but portrait…

The 2007 sales sensation considerably expanded and restructured into a landscape hardcover with tactile lettering and a brightly coloured rainbow appealing directly to young minds which must never, ever be allowed to encounter it. (We were racking it with CYANIDE & HAPPINESS at the time, if that gives you a clue).

Jim Woodring and Scott McCloud are both fans of these short gag strips in which innocence is shafted by horror and meanness, or even vice-versa. It’s wrong, wrong, wrong, but very funny indeed.

See the dangers of driving a truck that turns out to be a Transformer! Watch Aubrey Beardsley-like vampires attempting to apply make-up in a mirror! Look at the bunny-love providing a leg-up/over and out of a hole!

Still includes the suicide-bomber chessboard which was wrong, wrong, wrong. And ever so funny.


Buy The Perry Bible Fellowship Almanack And Read The Page 45 Review Here

Wrinkles (£12-99, Knockabout) by Paco Roca…

“The director is busy finishing up your paperwork. She asked me to show you around.”
“Thank you.”
“Uh, she also said that you need to pay a ten-dollar document processing fee. It’s complicated. You wouldn’t understand.”
“I was a bank manager.”

“Oh yeah? Well, it’s a standard charge for all new arrivals. A silly thing.
“Perfecto! If you need anything, let me know. I can get you whatever you want.
“Come on… I’ll show you around.
“There are two floors… here on the first floor are the healthy ones… those of us who can look after ourselves… more or less.
“Almost everyone here still has their wits about them. Maybe not as sharp as before. But we can think a little.”

Multiple-award-winning (including last month’s Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month with THE HOUSE) heartbreak from Spanish creator Paco Roca on the touching subject of descent into dementia. I knew this was going to be a very bitter-sweet read and so it proved.



I think if there is one way out of this life that I really don’t want to have to endure it is losing my marbles, and thus with it, all semblance of dignity. Extreme physical pain wouldn’t be fun clearly, but at least one would be present. On the other hand, as Paco demonstrates with some beautifully tender daydream sequences, not entirely knowing what’s approaching seems for some a fairly peaceful meander towards expiration…

“Excuse me. Is this seat taken?”
“Are you going to Instanbul also?”
“The mountains are so beautiful in the springtime.”

Our main character, the distinguished Emilio, finds himself parked in an assisted living facility by his family, caring as they are, and at the tender mercies of his new roommate, the caddish Miguel, who may well have had a career as a conman, given the way he blatantly perpetuates his various cash-collecting schemes on his unsuspecting vulnerable fellow residents. With no family of his own, he professes love and loyalty to no one. Though, as our story progresses and Emilio finds himself becoming gradually more confused, it’s Miguel who steps up to protect Emilio from himself, and the dreaded, inevitable one-way trip up to the second floor…



I really enjoyed this work and I can well understand why it was made into a critically acclaimed animated film, voiced by Martin Sheen and Matthew Modine, a few years ago. It has a poignancy running throughout that will inevitably get you choked up, particularly a sequence where it’s explained to Emilio precisely why he is in the facility. It’s an absolute revelation to him and shatters the very bedrock of his existence beyond repair. From that point on, as the story focuses more and more on his inevitable decline, and Miguel’s ever more ingenious and crafty means of hiding it from the attentions of the staff, I found myself welling up.

There’s also a subplot which, as the rear cover blurb states, has echoes of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, albeit very mild ones, as some of the inmates plot a dramatic escape. The blurb also draws a comparison to the wonderful mid-eighties, Oscar-winning film Cocoon directed by Ron Howard, but I can’t make that connection myself, as we know there aren’t going to be any little green men whisking Emilio off for an implausible happy ending. But despite that, it’s a surprisingly uplifting read as we gradually see that love of every kind can thrive in even the most unusual and trying of circumstances.



Paco’s art matches his gentle storytelling, at times making me feel like he’s a softened version of I.N.J. Culbard. It’s a very soothing style, and I could feel myself being lulled into a rather relaxed frame of mind, much like the sedated and sedentary residents, most of whom simply sit around waiting for the inevitable, lost in their own imaginary worlds which Paco brings to life so convincingly for them, and us.


Buy Wrinkles 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’.

Dragman h/c (£18-99, Jonathan Cape) by Steven Appleby

Gamayun Tales 1: An Anthology of Modern Russian Folk Tales s/c (£12-99, Nobrow) by Alexander Utkin

The Legend Of Korra: Ruins Of The Empire Part Three (£9-50, Dark Horse) by Michael Dante DiMartino & Michelle Wong

Lupus s/c (£26-99, Top Shelf) by Frederik Peeters

Mental Load: A Feminist Comic (£12-99, Seven Stories) by Emma

Nailbiter vol 1: There Will Be Blood s/c (£8-99, Image) by Joshua Williamson & Mike Henderson

  1. Rodin h/c (£17-99, NBM) by Eddy Simon & Joel Alessandra

Space Boy vol 6 s/c (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Stephen McCranie

The Weatherman vol 2 s/c (£15-99, Image) by Jody LeHeup & Nathan Fox

Batman: Jekyll And Hyde h/c (£11-99, DC) by Paul Jenkins & Jae Lee, Sean Phillips

Tales From The Dark Multiverse h/c (£29-99, DC) by various

Marvel Action Avengers: The New Danger s/c (£8-99, IDW) by Matthew K. Manning & Jon Sommariva

Marvel Action Spider-Man: A New Beginning s/c (£8-99, IDW) by Delilah S. Dawson & Fico Ossio

Marvel Action Spider-Man: Bad Luck s/c (£8-99, IDW) by Delilah S. Dawson & Fico Ossio

Marvel Action Spider-Man: Spider-Chase s/c (£8-99, IDW) by Erik Burnham & Christopher Jones

Star Wars Adventures vol 8: Defend The Republic! (£8-99, IDW) by Delilah S. Dawson & Derek Charm

Hi-Score Girl vol 1 (£10-99, Square Enix) by Rensuke Oshikiri

Blood On The Tracks vol 1 (£10-99, Vertical) by Shuzo Oshimi

Knights Of Sidonia vol 4 (Master Edition) (£31-99, Vertical) by Tsutomu Nihei

Jujutsu Kaisen vol 2 (£6-99, Viz) by Gege Akutami

Levius est vol 2 (£8-99, Viz) by Haruhisa Nakata




Page 45 Graphic Novel Reviews Feb 19 2020

Wednesday, February 19th, 2020

Featuring Andi Watson, Jason Shiga, Gengoroh Tagame, Jon Klassen, Mac Barnett, Grant Morrison, Chaz Truog, Brian Holguin, Joshua Dysart, Matthew Dow Smith, Babs Kesel, Alex Sheikman, Lizzy John, Peter David, George Perez, Dale Keown

My Demons (Signed & Sketched In) (£2-99 each, self-published) by Andi Watson.

“I’m on sick leave, look, here’s my doctor’s note.”

She or he may be on sick leave, but they’re dangling the note over an office draw, for the company cannily provides employees’ accommodation on-site.

In filing cabinets.

Welcome back to The Andi Watson Collection, now complete: a dozen wit-ridden mini-comics, each containing a dozen story pages inside an exquisitely designed cardstock cover with chic, matching trade dress. The first was THE CITY NEVER SLEEPS which we made Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month. That’d be a  very good place to start.

A lot of lateral thinking goes into these satirical swipes at modern-day life or whimsical musings on how it always has been, and they can be dense with double meaning and visually playful as well.



Take ‘Love Removal Men’ from  LOVE REMOVAL MEN; it can be a very heavy load they bare.

“The Love Removal Men came today.
“I saw their van from my window.
“I told them I’d had a change of heart.”



Oooof! If you don’t demand to know what happened next, then you have none of your own. I promise you Watson follows every idea assiduously. The ramifications can be wrenching.

‘Join The Team At MCW’ – the one where everyone’s working from filing cabinets – is the last of three short stories in MY DEMONS.

Imagine that your next job will be to evaluate the efficiency with which the potential for company expansion was explored and then detailed for a team of profit monitors to employ as part of their ongoing study into assessing the – AAAAAARRRRGGGHHHHH! Now imagine that job will be yours for life – guaranteed! – and will therefore constitute your profession, your career in its entirety.

It’s precisely the sort of absurdity that Evelyn Waugh would be lampooning were he still in the business of books: self-generating, self-sustaining, the expenditure of infinite effort to produce nothing of either physical substance or practical benefit.



I got whiffs of Winsor McCay, Monty Python’s Flying Circus and The Fall And Rise Of Reginald Perrin. It’s positively Kafka-esque.

I love that those open drawers which the employees are nesting in are high up in the sky almost as unapproachable, as unreachable, as a golden eagle’s aerie. The workers look pallid and wan. I don’t think they get down a lot. One drawer door says “Flush after use”.


Buy My Demons (Signed & Sketched In) and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Love Removal Men (Signed & Sketched In) and read the Page 45 review here

Meanwhile h/c 10th Anniversary Edition (£11-99, Abrams) by Jason Shiga.

It begins with the simplest, most instinctive and seemingly inconsequential choice in the world: would you like chocolate or vanilla…?

But please do deliberate with due care and attention, for your answer may end up destroying the world.

Family friendly and ever so clever, I’m about to bring back your youth!

Do you remember – way back before the age of interactive videogames – reading those magically immersive books during which you had to make weighty decisions every so often on the protagonist’s behalf which would dictate, in practical terms, which of two pages you turned to, and so what happened next…?

This is also a big book of dilemmas, but in comics form, and I don’t just mean that the pages are comics instead of prose. I mean that Jason Shiga – comics’ most thorough mathematician and inventive problem solver, creator of the blindingly brilliant, adults-only four-volume book of carnage and consequences called DEMON – has really gone to town and thought long and hard about how to take best advantage of sequential art’s unique properties in this specific endeavour, and so make maximum use of them.



You will, therefore, not merely be turning back and forth from one page to another, but sliding up and down tubes, following them around the ceiling, over the edge and round the bend until you drop into the comics panel to which your rash ruminations sent you. To avoid wear and tear on this back and forth, all the pages are laminated, as are the tabs which will guide you – you’ll see!

“3,856 story possibilities” declares the front cover, so I haven’t exactly “finished” it yet and won’t even know when I have.

Only one road leads to happiness, an older edition told us, which is a poor reflection on life and not something that you should probably tell small and impressionable children.



One of Shiga’s strengths is his body language, and since almost everyone involved in DEMON is doing dubious stuff indeed, that means a lot of furtive glances over hunched shoulders. So it is here, along with the biting of nails.

I’m going to leave the wider plot open for your discovery, but I will impart that it may or may not involve a trip to the toilet and a time machine; also, a memory-swapping squid. Prepare for all sorts of timey-whimey tomfoolery.

Sadly, some of my own decisions were the result of reactions born out of pure instinct: upon exiting the time machine and spying myself squealing in fright, I couldn’t help punching my other self full in the face rather than sticking around to explain.

I’d make a bloody useless Timelord.




We have three picture and prose pick-a-plot books in the form of Sherwin Tija’s deeply mischievous and really quite wrong YOU ARE A CAT, YOU ARE A KITTEN and YOU ARE A CAT (IN A ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE), plus Luke Hyde embarked on a communal iteration of this interactive endeavour on Twitter then turned the result into comics – including those interactions. It’s called POLLQUEST.


Buy Meanwhile h/c 10th Anniversary Edition and read the Page 45 review here

My Brother’s Husband s/c (£26-99, Pantheon) by Gengoroh Tagame.

A very gentle graphic novel full of quiet conversations and even quieter contemplations with such a huge amount of space that I devoured the entire 700 pages in a couple of hours, and I am a very slow reader.

It’s certainly no car crash or culture clash – this isn’t a book of conflict – but certainly eyes are opened and I learned stuff too. I did know that there is a tattoo ban in public swimming pools because my mate Ryz visited and she is covered in tats (tattoos are associated with organised crime), but I didn’t know that the Japanese don’t hug. Although young Kana does becomes delightedly addicted to this novelty.

Young Kana is delighted by most things and inquisitive about everything, so when burly and bearded Mike Flanagan from Canada arrives on her Dad’s doorstep she is stunned then uncontainably excited to learn that a) Mike was her Dad’s recently deceased brother’s husband b) in some countries outside of Japan, therefore, men can marry men and c) that her Dad even had a brother. But what she has now is a hugely exotic new uncle: a great big bear of a man with chest hair and everything! And he gives hugs!

He probably shouldn’t have hugged her Dad, though.



Immediately young Kana invites Mike to stay which puts her Dad in an awkward position because… well, her Dad, Yaichi, feels pretty awkward about all of it, and he begins to realise that he has a lot of thinking to do, and not a little soul-searching ahead of him about his twin brother, why they became so distanced (after an early, closely knit childhood), and his attitude towards sexuality.

I’d like to emphasise right now that Yaichi isn’t homophobic: he’s a thoroughly decent bloke and devoted single father, but there is a lot that this sensitive man has avoided until now and initially he catches himself having double standards that he’s ashamed of. For example, he’s used to wandering around the house in nothing but his boxers after bathing, but feels the need to cover up now that there’s a gay guy in the house. Especially since his brother Ryoji and he were pretty much identical twins haha! But then, he’d probably have thought to cover himself up with any strange man new in the house… I always have.

Basically he massively over-thinks things, realises he’s massively over-thinking things, and then becomes embarrassed about that. I think it’s all thoroughly forgivable, endearing indeed, don’t you?

In the meantime Kana is a whirlwind of enthusiasm – it’s Mike this, Mike that, Mike the other – and asks the bluntest of questions as kids do, even though she’s not quite aware of what she’s asking. Funny!



It’s his daughter’s wide-eyed, unwavering adoration that bonds Yaichi to Mike in these vital early stages and gradually Yaichi begins to come around to the idea of showing Mike round all the local haunts where he and Ryoji used to hang out. Opening up about Ryoji might take a little longer, but Mike’s a very, very patient guy…

As I say, this isn’t a culture clash – Mike is well versed in Japanese culture because he was married to a Japanese guy and he doesn’t go round wearing the pink triangle you see on the front – but where things grow slightly askew is after Kana, desperate to introduce Mike to her friends, learns from a friend’s mother the term “negative influence”. And her father, having become completely comfortable with his new brother-in-law, is horrified at the prospect of his daughter being taught prejudice.

There’s so much more in these pages for you discover yourselves, including a deeply affecting silent scene which has nothing to do with Yaichi or his brother, plus on top of that there’s Kana’s Mum’s place in the family to unfold.

I like that Kana’s drawn in the perceived ‘classic’ style of sugar-buzz manga (see YOTSUBA! for equally unbridled curiosity) which suits her personality perfectly, whereas the men are slightly closer to Taniguchi, if on steroids. The parks where the boys played have that same Taniguchi serenity too.



The sentences are much shorter than mine – markedly so – and this helps keep things free from melodrama, mawkishness, and didactic proselytizing.


Buy My Brother’s Husband s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Animal Man vol 1 s/c (£26-99, Vertigo) by Grant Morrison & Chaz Truog.

We’ll be getting to that Brian Bolland cover in the penultimate paragraph.

We’re all about the foreshadowing today.

Prior to the riotous DOOM PATROL, Grant’s first major triumph still stands out –and not just because Morrison’s likeness, flat and cat all became copyright DC.

ANIMAL MAN #1 to 26 was one big story and makes no real sense until you have the whole in front of you, at which point, “Whoa!”, for Morrison does here what Moore did for SWAMP THING, taking an entirely throwaway DC superhero (indeed, playing with that C-list status) and turning out in his place a title about family, environment, animal rights, identity, fiction, construction and control.



Over the course of the series Buddy endears himself as a thoroughly likeable though fallible husband and father of two, and it’s this focus on the family unit which lodges the books firmly in one’s heart. Series artist Chaz Truog played no small part in maintaining the title’s domestic distance from all the pugilistic testosterone at DC Central for the family are, to be honest, all a bit gawky, including Buddy himself – in or out of costume.

But yes, as I say, it’s all about the family, and partly about them coping with Buddy’s new status as a fully fledged member of the Justice League of Europe, all the unwanted attention that attracts to their simple suburban life, and the new security systems that must now be installed into an otherwise low-tech home.



Ominously presaged in two momentary panels in this volume, there’s a sequence coming up during the second which is as haunting to read today as it was back then, where Buddy’s daughter is playing gleefully in their back garden, only to find the man her father will become staring down at her under the shadow of a tree:

“Hello, Maxine. I had a dream the other night, Maxine. I dreamed you grew up and everything was okay. You can’t even hear me, can you? I can’t even warn you.
“Oh, Maxine. I miss you. I miss you all so much.”




As the series comes to its climax, Buddy gradually becomes aware that he and his brood have fallen victim to barely imaginable forces beyond their control; forces which are hinted at as early as the fifth chapter, which are controlling his life in precisely the same way that I am currently controlling this online review.

With a keyboard. 


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

Circle s/c (£7-99, Walker Books) by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen.

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

He thought for a moment, then grinned and chuckled.

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



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



There will be more eyes here than you might suspect.

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



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


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

Jim Henson’s Dark Crystal Creation Myths Complete Collection s/c (£22-50, Archaia) by Brian Froud, Joshua Dysart, Matthew Dow Smith & Alex Sheikman, Lizzy John.

All three volumes collected in a single softcover 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 unnatural child of Uncle Fester and Nosferatu but with my ski-slope nose I was once pretty… 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 is in fact Beelzebub.



‘Peter’ also owes itself to my ski-slope nose and consequent youthful demeanour: it was Peter as in Peter Pan.


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’. That one is best bellowed.

All the above is true.

Irrelevant, but true.

Please see THE POWER OF THE DARK CRYSTAL for the second film which was never made.


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

Hulk: The End s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Peter David & George Perez, Dale Keown.

Future stories of your favourite Marvel characters have met with varying degrees of acclaim and indifference. Quite how the 2099 line lasted as long as it did 25 years or so ago is beyond me. On the other hand, Byrne and Claremont’s DAYS OF FUTURE PAST which capped their collaboration on UNCANNY X-MEN – and in which most mutants have finally fallen victim to man’s love affair with genocide and concentration camps – is single-handedly responsible for so many homages and follow-ups that it’s easy to forget what a neat little self-contained number it originally was.

Similarly, Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s OLD MAN LOGAN, which wasn’t meant to spawn subsequent series at all, and remains my single favourite Wolverine story of all time. In it we discover that something so atrocious has befallen the crested Canadian that he’s sworn to the cause of pacificism, no matter the provocation. And it’s quite provoking having the inbred, redneck offspring of Bruce Banner as your landlords. Actually they’re just collecting the rent because Daddy dearest is very much alive and well and so many people have evidently made him so very angry over the years that nobody likes him at all anymore.



This brings us to Peter David’s future counterpart of the Hulk as seen in this collection of FUTURE IMPERFECT from 1992 drawn by George Perez, and THE END as envisaged by Dale Keown in 2002. There we discover that the Hulk has finally got what he said he always wanted: to be left alone. By necessity, then, that’s a somewhat bleak and ruminative affair which has its origins in a short prose story called ‘The Last Titan’.



But back in FUTURE IMPERFECT there were still plenty of people to give the giant grief because he hasn’t aged well. He’s outlived almost everyone whom he could ever have considered his friend and, in their absence, succumbed to his own worst aspects. As the bearded Maestro he’s ruler of all he surveys. There’s only one real relic from his past remaining. That man sits in a trophy room of broken helmets, shredded capes, abandoned armour, fractured shields, and a poster of the X-Men’s Phoenix which reads “Dead… Again!” He’s lived far too long – it’s over ninety years since we last saw him – but he’s determined to be reunited with the much younger Hulk he once knew, even if it means bringing him forward through time so that Banner can look himself in the eye and see what he’s become.




Originally written with a specific but unidentified European artist in mind, you could not have found a more apposite replacement back then than George Perez, an American master of ligne claire, so distinctly European-looking this remains, complete with futuristic citadels surrounded by desert. That trophy room is full of tiny details to spot (“Needs a giant penny. Pretty complete otherwise.”), some of which may prove useful later on.


Buy Hulk: The End 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’.

Glass Town h/c (£18-99, Jonathan Cape) by Isabel Greenberg

Golden Age Book 1 h/c  (£26-99, St Martin’s Press) by Cyril Pedrosa & Roxanne Moreil

The Man Without Talent s/c (£19-99, New York Review Of Books) by Yoshiharu Tsuge

Die vol 2: Split The Party s/c (£14-99, Image) by Kieron Gillen & Stephanie Hans

Age Of Bronze vol 2: Sacrifice s/c (£17-99, Image) by Eric Shanowar

Bad Island h/c (£12-99, Hamish Hamilton) by Stanley Donwood

The Plain Janes (£13-99, Little Brown Book) by Cecil Castellucci & Jim Rugg

Bowie: Stardust, Rayguns & Moonage Daydreams s/c (£25-00, Insight Comics) by Steve Horton, Michael Allred, Laura Allred

Giant Days vol 12 (£10-99, Boom!) by John Allison & Max Sarin

Cottons Book 1: The Secret Of The Wind s/c (£13-99, FirstSecond) by Jim Pascoe & Heidi Arnhold

Cottons Book 2: The White Carrot h/c (£17-99, FirstSecond) by Jim Pascoe & Heidi Arnhold

House Of Whispers vol 2: Ananse s/c (£14-99, Vertigo) by Nalo Hopkinson, Dan Watters & various

Books Of Magic vol 2: Second Quarto s/c (£14-99, Vertigo) by Kat Howard & Tom Fowler, Brian Churilla, Kai Carpenter

Heartstopper vol 3 (£10-99, Hodder) by Alice Osman

The October Faction vol 4 s/c (£17-99, IDW) by Steve Niles & Damien Worm

Plummet (£14-99, Conundrum Press) by Sherwin Tija

Starblazer vol 1: Operation Overkill Jaws Of Death (£12-99, DC Thompson) by various

Wrinkles (£12-99, Knockabout) by Paco Roca

Circle s/c (£7-99, Walker Books) by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen

Jim Henson’s Dark Crystal Creation Myths Complete Collection s/c (£22-50, Archaia) by Brian Froud, Joshua Dysart, Matthew Dow Smith & Alex Sheikman, Lizzy John

Jim Henson’s The Power Of The Dark Crystal vol 3 h/c (£18-99, Archaia) by Si Spurrier, Philip Kennedy Johnson & Kelly Matthews, Nichole Matthews

Rat Queens vol 7: The Once & Future King s/c (£14-99, Image) by Ryan Ferrier & Priscilla Petraites, Marco Lasko

Space Bandits s/c (£14-99, Image) by Mark Millar & Matteo Scalera

Bloodborne vol 4: The Veil, Torn Asunder s/c (£13-99, Titan Comics) by Ales Kot & Piotr Kowalski

Buffy The Vampire Slayer vol 2: Once Bitten s/c (£10-99, Boom!) by Jordie Bellaire & David Lopez

Star Wars: Target Vader s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Robbie Thompson & Marc Laming, various

Star Wars Adventures vol 1: Heroes Of The Galaxy (£8-99, IDW) by Landry Q Walker & Derek Charm

Star Wars Adventures vol 2: Unexpected Detour (£8-99, IDW) by Landry Q Walker & Derek Charm

Harleen h/c (£24-99, DC) by Stejpan Sejic

Batman: Detective Comics vol 1: Mythology s/c (£15-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi & Doug Mahnke

Ghost Rider: The War For Heaven Book 2 s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by Simon Spurrier, Jason Aaron & Javier Saltares, Tony Moore, Roland Boschi

Gwenpool Strikes Back s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Leah Williams, Christopher Hastings & David Baldeon

Thor: Epic Collection – When Titans Clash s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

Venom vol 3: Absolute Carnage s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Donny Cates & Juan Gedeon, Iban Coello

Amazing Spider-Man: Epic Collection vol 5 – The Secret Of The Petrified Tablet s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & John Romita Sr., John Buscema

20th Century Boys Perfect Edition vol 6 (£12-99, Viz) by Naoki Urasawa

Gantz Omnibus vol 4 (£22-99, Dark Horse) by Hiroya Oku

Elfen Lied Omnibus vol 3 (£22-99, Dark Horse) by Lynn Okamoto

A Man & His Cat (£10-99, Square Enix) by Umi Sakurai

Can An Otaku Like Me Really Be An Idol? (£13-99, Kuma) by Wacocco Waco

Dementia 21 vol 2 (£26-99, Fantagraphics) by Kago

Legend Of Zelda vol 16: Twilight Princess vol 6 (£6-99, Viz) by Akira Himekawa

The Way Of The Househusband vol 2 s/c (£8-99, Viz) by Kousuke Ono

You Are Alice In Wonderland’s Mum! Pick A Plot Book 4 (£15-99, Conundrum Press) by Sherwin Tija