Page 45 Graphic Novel Reviews Feb 19 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

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