Posts in the ‘Reviews’ Category

Page 45 Reviews November 2014 week three

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

To build something truly epic in scale, grandiose in both concept and construction, you first need to have a vision, then the indomitable will to carry your plans to completion over a vast stretch of time, no matter what the obstacles or difficulties you encounter.

- Jonathan on Robert Moses The Master Builder Of New York City

The Wicked & The Divine vol 1: The Faust Act s/c (£7-50, Image) by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie with Matthew Wilson.

Reach out and touch faith…

Popstars on their pedestals: that’s where we place them in order to worship, just as we used to old gods. Mass hysteria really is nothing new. Add in unhealthy hubris and the confluence of ideas here makes perfect sense.

There is little more likely to drive me to ecstasy than a gig.

“Her eyes scan the front row like the sun rising and setting. Oh god. Oh god.
“The girl to my left passes out, hyperventilating. The boy to my right falls to his knees, cum leaking from his crotch. She’s not even looking at them. She’s looking at me. I swear, she’s looking at me.”

I love Amaterasu there, her black eyes blazing with the corona of a solar eclipse.

Amaterasu is a relatively new pop goddess already catalysing the sort of tearful, screaming crowd hysteria formerly generated by the likes of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Duran Duran; commanding a Bowie-like level of devotion which inspires one to dress up and make up to match. Also: generating all the cynical, scornful nay resentful press coverage that can come with it. Paul Morley is a very clever man, but he can also be the world’s most crashing bore.

The difference is that Amaterasu isn’t just a pop goddess in Smash Hits terminology, she’s a pop star who claims that she really is a goddess and she’s not alone. There is a pantheon of them performing gigs separately, each with a shtick of their own – which is fabulous marketing.

And that’s all today’s interviewer sees: a sophisticated advertising campaign built around bullshit. Mythological claptrap. Pretention. Dissemblance. To Cassandra – a journalist with a Masters in Comparative Mythology – the very idea that Amaterasu is anything other than Hazel Greenaway from Exeter is preposterous. She did her thesis on The Recurrence and she’s taking it all very personally.

The Recurrence is supposedly this: every ninety years twelve gods are born again, assigned to young extant lives by their keeper, the ancient Ananke, a woman wizened with age but graceful and quiet with a steely resolve. Throughout the flux – the rise and the fall – Ananke appears to be the one constant. And yes, there is a fall for in two years each god will be dead: immortality doesn’t last forever. But for those two years the twelve gods will blaze as bright as the sun before burning out. Surely that price is worth paying.

Cassandra remains unconvinced and in is giving Amaterasu a hard time which really gets the most vocal of the pantheon’s goat. That would be Lucifer, by the way, the devil herself.

“Please. The empress of stupid is annoying me.”
“Do you know what I see? Kids posturing with a Wikipedia summary’s understanding of myth. I see a wannabe who’s never got past the Bowie in her parent’s embarrrassingly retro record collection. I see a provincial girl who doesn’t understand how cosplaying a Shinto god is problematic at best and offensive at worst. I see someone who’s been convinced that acting like a fucking cat is a dignified way for a woman to behave!”

All of which is witnessed by seventeen-year-old Laura – last to pass out, the first to wake up – who has lucked into Lucifer’s favour and been taken under her wing. Suddenly the ultimate fangirl finds herself very much on the inside. And so, shortly, will Luci…

I love Luci: sexy, slinky, positively sybaritic. As styled by McKelvie she is the ultimate in androgyny, immaculately dressed in pressed white. As scripted by Gillen she is an arch, knowing merchant of mischief but beneath the velvet veneer there is something sharp and a little brittle waiting to break. Oh yes, it’s called a temper.

From the creative crew behind PHONOGRAM and YOUNG AVENGERS and the writer of Ancient Greece drama THREE, the first issue moved startlingly fast in a flash. For a writer who relishes wit-riddled repartee – and provides plenty here packed with musical winks and nudges – this is quite the “fuck, no!” jaw/floor thrill, and you just wait for the final fifth chapter’s wham/bam double punchline. I nearly wet myself.

Without giving the game away (which is what someone usually says when they are about to give the game away) McKelvie and Wilson have come up with multiple special effects involving dots, rays and flat, spot colour to make the more miraculous moments stand out a mile from the warmer, graded pages. Who decided what is always difficult to discern with Team Phonogram, but there is some gorgeous design work on display as well (hello, Hannah Donovan!) from the swoonaway cover and its logo to the make-up and most especially the recurring round-table / constantly ticking clock of symbols, each denoting the twelve gods’ current status. After each major act it’s updated depending on whose hour has come round at last. Study it closely and infer what you will.

As ever with Gillen there’s many a contempory pop culture reference – and I don’t just mean music – like Twitter DMs and “snapchats” and the odd naughty crack in that febrile fourth wall as when Laura starts Googling the gods on her mobile. This is what pops up:

“SITE WITH NO RELEVANCE
“Blah blah blah…

“ANOTHER SITE WITH NO RELEVANCE
“Yet more blah…

“AM I GOING TO HAVE TO
“GO ONTO THE SECOND
“PAGE OF SEARCH
“RESULTS? OH GOD. NO.
“This is turning into homework…”

Laura, by the way, is visually modelled on Gillen’s good friend Leigh Alexander, one of games’ most insightful journalists who campaigns eloquently and relentlessly for individuality, diversity and creativity in her chosen craft very much like Page 45 does for comics.

Meanwhile if I misread Baphomet and The Morrigan’s subterranean tube-station appearances as The Sisters Of Mercy’s Andrew von Eldritch and Patricia Morrison, well, there’s none-more-goth than me.

There are loads of post-show, back-stage extras like the covers, Nathan Fairbairn’s fresco in all its full glory, the series’ two-page teaser plus a four-panel photo-comic starring Kieron Gillen ska-dancing into a shop Madness-stylee in order to pre-order his copies of THE WICKED + THE DIVINE. Sage advice, wondrously rendered and almost worth the price of admission alone.

What is any live performance, however, without an encore? I won’t tell you why Lucifer is remanded into custody but it’s that which propels this first epic act. Here she is at Her Majesty’s Pleasure, being visited in Holloway Prison by Laura:

“Now I know you must feel terribly teased we didn’t consummate our flirtation, but this screen makes it somewhat tricky. Intangible cunnilingus is beyond even my abilities. That said, I’ve never tried. They do say I’ve a wicked tongue… Do you have a cigarette? Or cocaine? Ideally cocaine?”
“Nuh-uh.”
“Not even a little bit of cocaine?”
“Nuh-uh.”
“What kind of teenager are you that you don’t have Class A Drugs to hand? Hmm? Has The Daily Mail been lying to me?”

Tuned in.
Turned on.
Drop doubt.

It’s time to get recreational.

SLH

Buy The Wicked & The Divine vol 1: The Faust Act s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Art Schooled h/c (£14-99, Nobrow) by Jamie Coe…

“I wish I was still there.”

Ha, not sure how much of this material is autobiographical, quite a bit I suspect, given the final-page reveal which had me chuckling yet again, but in any event what a brilliant exposé of the bizarre and otherworldly place the art school is, populated as I had always suspected almost entirely by people who are either utterly fake, completely weird or indeed some hybrid fusion of the two.

Dan, our hero of sorts, is neither and thus feels extremely uncomfortable upon his arrival, convinced that everyone will think he is an unsophisticated country bumpkin. In reality he’s just being himself but, parachuted unarmed into what seems like an insane asylum, populated by beings from another planet (not least of which being the tutors) whose initial advice on the actual subject of art seems well, somewhat… subjective… at best, it’s understandable how a lad away from home for the first time could feel a little unsure of himself.

Ah, Jamie Coe perfectly captures that sense of leaving home for the first time and heading to University, as it was for me rather than art school though, trust me, the Chemistry department of Nottingham circa 1990 was also populated by some very strange characters… No one knows anyone else, everyone is desperate to impress, and there’s more cheap booze and readily available drugs than you could possibly have imagined in your wildest dreams. Recipe for continuing your hitherto hard-won education in a stately manner, no, but having the time of your young life, oh yes!

But back to the matter at hand: young Dan is gradually finding his feet, getting used to the different categories of weirdo amongst his fellow students and interpreting the nonsense and gibberish as ‘taught’ by the tutors, when a certain young lady takes his eye. She seems keen to be friends, even after he’s knocked out by the falling sculpture of a pair of breasts, but not so keen as to become his girlfriend, which is a conundrum a hormone-laden young chap like Dan finds particularly disconcerting. I wonder if there’s a reason why she’s blowing hot and cold with him, like an arsehole of a boyfriend lurking somewhere perhaps…?

Not content with being a great storyteller, Jamie Coe is also a brilliant artist. I shouldn’t be surprised, I expect no less from a Nobrow-published creator, but still, I can’t believe this is a debut work from such a young man, it’s such an accomplished piece. He already has a complete handle on panel composition, page layout, pacing. I can only imagine how good he can become. There’s no skimping anywhere, the amount of work that’s gone into every single panel is impressive indeed. There were numerous sequences that got me chuckling, not least the classroom sequences with the cringe-worthy tutors, but it’s Dan’s depiction of his student colleagues that had me creased with laughter. There’s a genius sequence where he breaks down the myriad different self-manufactured ‘brands’ of art student and their archetypical fashions and generic foibles and it just had me in stitches.

This work is so, so much fun, an outstanding piece of contemporary British comedy. If you had a riot of a time back in your student days, you’ll no doubt find yourself reminiscing as you read this, but it’s when Dan is focusing on the absurdity of art school and its inhabitants that this work really does hit the heights. As satirical social commentary on this particular corner of the <ahem> art world goes, it’s absolutely on the money. Oscar Wilde may have famously opined “life imitates art far more than art imitates life” but I think if he’d have read ART SCHOOLED, he might have had to revise that opinion.

JR

Buy Art Schooled h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Marx h/c (£13-99, Nobrow) by Corinne Maier & Anne Simon…

“Karl Marx, hello.”
“Hello.”
“So, what’s new?”
“Struggle, always struggle.”
“Struggle… always struggle.”
“Yes! Struggle.”
“Karl Marx, where would you place yourself?”
“Hmm. I’m not a Marxist, I know that for sure.”
“So what do you think about Marxists then?”
“I wanted to found a science not a sect.”
“Happiness, for you, Karl Marx, what is that?”
“Happiness… I’ll tell you, Chateau Margaux 1848. You can’t get more red than that! Cheers!”

So, the really weird thing about this excellent, even-handed biography of one of the most important socio-political pundits of relatively recent times is the fact the artwork minded me slightly of KING ROLLO, and his sidewise, gangle-limbed leaping gait. I could try and make some spurious case as to why it is also an accurate socio-political comparison, given Marx’s wealthy family background, but frankly it would be pushing it, even for me, and also more than a little unfair on the great man.

For me, this biography is up there with FEYNMAN for its part-enlightening, part-amusing depiction of someone who, by his own admission, was desperate to be an agent for social change, or at least be known as such. I wonder what Marx would make of his legacy as it is perceived these days? I think for those in the know, particularly in the academic arena, there is no doubt he is held in the highest regard for his contributions to economics, the social sciences, and indeed philosophy. In fact, I don’t doubt that were he alive today he would be occupying an endowed chair at some esteemed seat of learning, rather than eking out an existence, reliant on donations and unbelievably fortuitously opportune multiple inheritances from various family members, to supplement the meagre royalties from his published works.

That he spent his life espousing socialist revolution is probably how he is best known amongst the public at large. How successful he was, in inspiring others rather than taking direct action himself, is open to debate, but there is no doubt that his was an extremely powerful voice at the time, earning him the wrath and opprobrium of various western European rulers and governments. That he believed that capitalism was a despotic creation whilst desiring to live in the lap of luxury, enjoying the finer things that life could offer, is not so well known, and I think this is where and why this particular biography sheds light on the all-too-human side of the great thinker. It also portrays him as the undoubted family man that he was, notwithstanding his fathering a child by the family’s maid…

I think what would displease Marx most about our current world would be the apparent absolute stranglehold capitalism has over such a large swath of the populace, and I am pretty sure he would raise a knowing eyebrow and sigh a weary sigh if he were to read Darryl Cunningham’s SUPERCRASH, but I think he would also be mightily encouraged by the relative freedom of speech we enjoy today compared to his era, and also comparatively comfortable lifestyle the majority of the working and lower-middle classes enjoy. It is exactly the sort of lifestyle he himself aspired to: a warm place to live, food (and wine) on the table, and decent medical facilities available to all. (Not getting into any sort of discussion about the NHS or Obamacare etc. etc. here, merely making a comparison between the 1800s and modern day).

This work does a fantastic job in educating readers regarding the politics and struggles of the day, that Marx faced in constructing and communicating his ideas to the masses, and also the fun and failings of someone who was ultimately only a human being, not an icon, despite how he might be revered and championed, rightly or wrongly, by some today. The fact the creators manage to do it with such humour and panache right throughout, it all seeming like one gargantuan political newspaper cartoon, is proof you can do a riveting biography on what could be a very dry subject indeed, if you know how to bring your subject to life.

JR

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

Expecting To Fly #2 of 2 (£3-00, Scary Go Round) by John Allison.

“I don’t know how one of the kindest people I’ve ever met came out of human garbage like you.”

Ouch. You should see the way Ryan’s Dad’s shoulders stoop in the wake of that pithy put-down. He deserved it, though.

EXPECTING TO FLY #1 was a belter. Set inextricably in Britain, 1996, it saw Shelley Winters cope with loss, Ryan Beckwith attempting to cope with an errant yet distracting Dad, and Tim Jones sailing through school with flying colours. It was smart, sassy, bright and breezy with barely a hint of what’s in store here.

Oh my days, this is dark!

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still as funny as ever: John Allison’s timing on each page released first online, one at a time, is immaculate. Sometimes the punchline is verbal, often it’s visual, but every page comes with one which makes the final printed copies amongst the tautest comics ever released. Same goes for the man’s BAD MACHINERY. Pop in him our search engine and see what crops up. At the moment John’s comics are all on our counter corner and shooting out.

It all looks so casually done but you can only look this casual when your craft is rigorous. Expressions like bewilderment, mock self-righteousness, delight and despair are matched only with the flamboyance of gestures or tiny, telling postures. I also loved the panel in which Tim tries to explain the mysteries of light physics, folding his arms into a prism so dispersing white light into a refracted spectrum, and the sequence when Shelley starts smoking and her hard-earned halo is left to drift off into the sky.

 

Everyday observations are lobbed in like they’re obvious but aren’t. Ryan’s been looking after Shelley and here takes her fishing.

“I brought you a bacon and egg sandwich. Thought you might need some strength.”
“Oh, you SAINT.”

Shelley starts munching.

“Ryan, I think fishing is cruel. I don’t know if I wanna catch a fish.”
“You’re basically eating a piglet’s dad and a chicken’s son.”
“They had it coming.”

Meanwhile, Ryan’s home work has been suffering on account of his dad’s self-indulgence, taking him out to the pub and getting him drunk on Ryan’s own pocket money. But if you imagine he’s been led astray so far, you haven’t seen anything yet. Then there are the repercussions of Tim’s elaborate act of kindness in helping Ryan grasp basic physics and by the end of this comic everything has changed at home, at school, at work. I wasn’t expecting that at all. Radical.

As a bonus John Allison has spent both issues winking at 1990s’ Marvel Comics on the covers and within, emulating their monthly marketing page with a mock editorial and check list of comics like SURFEIT (*snorts*) and a 12-issue mini-series which spins out into other titles called ENTER THE TAXMAN.

“Every year, the IRS turn me inside out. They work me over like a sailor’s Johnson on shore leave. I heard that possession is 9/10 of the law, but try telling that to them!” There lies the inspiration but you won’t believe it impacts on Scary Go Round’s other titles!

Lastly, back to the fishing expedition and Shelley is curious.

“Have you ever caught crabs?”
“Don’t spoil this.”

SLH

Buy Expecting To Fly #2 and read the Page 45 review here

Robert Moses The Master Builder Of New York City (£15-99, Nobrow) by Pierre Christin & Olivier Balez…

“Have no fear of change as such and, on the other hand, no liking for it merely for its own sake.”

- Robert Moses.

“Cities have the capability of providing something for everyone, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”

- Jane Jacobs.

To build something truly epic in scale, grandiose in both concept and construction, you first need to have a vision, then the indomitable will to carry your plans to completion over a vast stretch of time, no matter what the obstacles or difficulties you encounter. Clearly then, you have to be single-minded, perhaps to the point of being bloodily so, both in terms of your certitude in the face of dissent and disagreement from others, and also in terms of the sacrifices you are prepared to make, on your own part, but also what you will put others through, just to achieve your aims. Robert Moses, a man I would imagine very few of us have ever heard of, was just such a man.

For a period of around forty years, between the mid-1920s and ‘60s, Robert Moses effectively built up complete control over the planning and implementation of any and all construction in New York City be it housing, civic centres, roads, bridges, tunnels plus all the other general infrastructure that allows a city to function. He managed to head various bodies directly controlling vast amounts of income such as road tolls, millions upon millions of dollars, to effectively have the complete autonomy to create whatever he wanted.

 

And so he built what we know as modern-day New York. Inevitably, of course, his star ultimately began to fade, as there were the failures as well as the many successes which affected his public popularity, plus his by-then rampant ego causing as much damage for himself as anything else. There were dissenting voices all along the way, not least the strident Jane Jacobs, also accusations of racism against the black communities, but it wasn’t really until the mid ‘70s, when he himself was in his mid-80s, that the wider public opinion, informed by a Pulitzer Prize-winning biography revealing much about the man himself, finally turned vehemently against him. Though over further time that eventually softened and a strong legacy does endure. Undoubtedly he shaped the New York we know, I think most impartial and informed commentators would agree, both for better and for worse, but what we have today is certainly his vision.

I bought this work in without knowing anything about Robert Moses; I did so entirely on viewing a few exquisite pages of the art which Nobrow had posted on social media, of iconic scenes such as Times Square and the Flatiron Building. Ironically, it was at the Flatiron Building – or the Fuller Building to give it its correct name – where a young Moses volunteered his services to the then administration in the early 1920s. It was an invaluable yet frustrating lesson of the quagmire of politics bogging down progress. Something that no doubt played its part in Moses’ dogged determination to circumvent any outside interference whatsoever in his grand schemes by those with political power.

It’s fitting, actually, that a biography about such an extraordinary man is illustrated so beautifully. I could talk all day about what I’ve learnt about Robert Moses, when I should be raving about Olivier Balez’s art. It has a wonderfully elegant period feel, of a city on the cusp of radical change, both architecturally and also socio-economically with the turbulent forces of the Great Depression of the ‘30s rapidly followed by World War 2, then cataclysmically shaken up again by the swinging ‘60s.

Balez neatly encapsulates the enormous divide between the ‘20s era Gatsby-esque socialites colonising Long Island, oblivious and probably uncaring for the most part, of the deprivations faced by those less fortunate of their not too distant fellow citizens, whose conditions you’ll clearly recognise if you’ve ever read much Eisner. It’s also clear that a desire for social justice did drive Robert Moses to a degree, though how much of that was forged purely by his sense of disenfranchisement from the social elite by his own Jewish heritage is debatable.

But one thing is clear, he was an advocate of social change, and that change in his eyes, could only be achieved by rebuilding the city to his design. As we move forward in time, Balez captures the huge changes in the landscape: architectural, politically and socially, shifting seamlessly back and forth between the changing skylines and construction sites, bustling street scenes and character studies of the locals and bigwigs alike in an understated palette of ochre, pastel blue and other such subtle tones. This work is a fitting testament to Robert Moses, I think, because it succeeds so admirably in its epic portrayal of a man and his city, for the long decades it was simply his.

JR

Buy Robert Moses The Master Builder Of New York City and read the Page 45 review here

Graveyard Book Graphic Novel vol 2 s/c (£12-99, Bloomsbury) by Neil Gaiman, P. Craig Russell & P. Craig Russell, Scott Hampton, David Lafuente, Kevin Nolan, Galen Showman.

Nobody grew up in a graveyard. And it seemed very normal to him.

A man called Jack killed his parents and older sister but Bod was adopted by ghosts in a graveyard and Silas, a tall, gaunt man who lived by night with skin as pale as the moon.

In the GRAVEYARD BOOK GRAPHIC NOVEL VOL 1 Bod learned all sorts of practical things like how to open Ghoul Gates and survive Night-Gaunts, along with more important lessons about caring for others at all costs. But by and large he did so in a leisurely manner. His night gown seemed to grow with him over the years, but now it’s time to put aside childish things because the men who had his parents killed are coming to kill Bod.

It’s time to grow up in every conceivable manner, and Bod will have to do that very, very fast, using everything he’s learned so far.

After a single introductory chapter drawn by David Lafuente involving an aborted attempt to attend school and a very persistent bully – plus a very funny sub-story about a young man who died furious because as an apprentice he’d been tricked into going in search of red-and-white-striped paint! – this is a startling change of pace with BOOKS OF MAGIC’s Scott Hampton carrying the weight of the book as it charges towards its climax. Scott’s lines are thinner than usual and the chapter’s quite pallid – genuinely scary.

P. Craig Russell returns with Kevin Nowlan and Galen Showman for the finale and it’s devastating in a different way but I’ll leave you to find out for yourselves.

I love the way Gaiman uses language apposite for whomever it concerns. For example, “Miss Euphemia Horsfall and Tom Sands has been stepping out for many years”. You wouldn’t use “stepping out” in a current context but it works for them: Euphemia lived between 1861 and 1883; Tom died during The Hundred Years War. “The couple seemed to have no troubles with the difference in their historical periods.”  That made me smile. And think.

SLH

Buy Graveyard Book Graphic Novel vol 2 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Jampires (£6-99, DFC Books) by Sarah McIntyre, David O’Connell.

“There’s no Jam! yelled Sam.
“This doughnut’s all wrinkly!
“This doughnut is jamless and dry!
“Someone has got to this doughnut before me and sucked out the jamminess! WHY?”

I don’t know!!! It is an outrage!!!

Mum swears it wasn’t her and it probably wasn’t and Dad is adamant too. The cat’s looking nonchalant so I’m slightly suspicious, but then that’s what a cat tends to do.

Sam sets a trap using doughnuts at night and peers from his sheets, underneath. The trap’s quickly sprung with two critters caught fast and look at their twin shiny teeth!

THEY’RE JAMPIRES!!!

Well, you can’t really blame them. Of course they drink jam – that’s what Jampires do! But what will happen now that Sam’s sussed them? (I have stopped rhyming now, yes.) It’s time for a tasty adventure!

This would have thrilled me when young: all the imaginary treats in a wonderland made from blueberry pie, ice cream and cupcakes all frosted under a snow of sherbert! The art is ebullient and charming without being remotely cloying. I’m not the target audience of kids’ illustrated prose, obviously, but I do find some of it sickly whereas this is cute and mischievous with funny little things to spot in the background and I know I’d share my jam with these Jampires!

Some of it. Probably.

Though possibly not bramble jelly. Mmmmm…..

SLH

Buy Jampires and read the Page 45 review here

Mouse Guard: Baldwin The Brave And Other Tales h/c (£10-99, Archaia) by David Petersen.

Six short, sweet and moving morality tales – each by original MOUSE GUARD creator David Petersen – two of which are completely new. The others appeared as Free Comicbook Day Comics from 2011 to 2014.

In terms of the MOUSE GUARD matriarchal society’s timeline they take place between Spring 1124 and Winter 1155, and in each a young mouse is told a salutary story which will go on to shape their lives.

In the first a town finds itself effectively under siege from three fearsome predators – a hawk, a snake and a crab – but although its mightiest warriors fail to break the giant beasts’ grip, a weaver uses cunning in a way so that each comes undone proving that, as ever, the ken is mightier than the sword.

The second is told as a puppet show involving a town deemed cursed, its mighty gate sporting the slogan, “Evil Prevails”. Thanks to one individual’s actions, however, the sign finds itself substantially amended for by the end.

The third was my favourite: a tale of true love told as a tapestry about a female mouse so beautiful and talented she is not short of suitors. The fourth, using a paler palette, explores the mice’s version of Heaven, Seyan, and its equivalent of Saint Peter at its gates, Sefatus, judging who is worth to enter. It expounds the value of service and sacrifice above notoriety.

Being true to your nature and trusting your instincts lies at the heart of the fifth as three sisters share the role of THE BLACK AXE, cooperating to take on beasts bigger than they might otherwise manage single-handedly, and the sixth is a lullaby.

It’s impressive how much Petersen can slip in to ten-page segments without them feeling cramped, and you’ll feel far from short-changed by the results. The colours are exquisite, the reproduction as classy as ever, and it’s a perfect entry point to the wider world of MOUSE GUARD which would make a thoroughly heart-warming present.

SLH

Buy Mouse Guard: Baldwin The Brave And Other Tales h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Son Of The Gun h/c (£25-99, Humanoids) by Alejandro Jodorowsky & Georges Bess.

A freak child, born with a tail and abandoned in the ghettos of a South American city, is found by a gay transvestite dwarf who also happens to be a prostitute, and who dies while ramming the doors of a church in a cart full of dynamite. Not with, but in.

An outcast raised by an outcast and suckled by a dog in the slums: how southern is your gothic? Can it really grow any grimmer? Yes indeed, for one thing and one thing alone can turn this embittered brat’s life around: the power of a gun.

From thereon in it’s rape, gang warfare, political corruption, torture, attempted castration, initiation ceremonies and assassination, as Juan strives to rise to the top of the criminal cream, all executed with strong action sequences and moody-faced art.

If the colouring’s a sickly spread of oranges, ochres and coffee-carmine, it only adds to the sensation of an exhausting heat in an unforgiving environment.

If you’re feeling starved of Milo Manara, this one’s for you.

SLH

Buy Son Of The Gun h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Luminae h/c (£18-99, Magnetic Press) by Bengal…

Have you ever wished that battle manga was produced in a larger format in full lush colour on lovely glossy high quality paper stock? If so, you need look no further, for this will fulfil your heart’s desires. It is a bit of a wafer-thin, Final Fantasy-esque, good versus evil, light versus dark, demons, angelic beings, plus of course lots of bad-ass warriors and the requisite cannon fodder plot, I must say. Which if it were to be reproduced in typical black-and-white, pocket-sized manga style, probably wouldn’t overly stand out that much.

That is not a criticism of the story or linework, far from it, because the majority of Viz, Kodansha, Yen Press et al manga output is slickly produced conveyor belt stuff with decent artwork, but there is a rather a lot of it, most of which is much of a muchness. And it tends to take something a bit different from the norm story-wise, like say ATTACK ON TITAN, to achieve a huge break-out success. This work, however, is elevated considerably simply by the addition of colour and excellent production values. I should also add it reads left to right, western-style, which I think is a good idea, further breaking the manga connotation, and thus an apparent restriction on audience.

 

 

It’s certainly no ZAYA, a former PAGE 45 COMICBOOK OF THE MONTH from the same publisher, which is wondrous on many levels, packing a really strong story, but this would make a very nice stocking filler for fantasy fans as is great fun with all the over top fights plus whizzing and popping magic everywhere. You’ll need an outsize stocking obviously, because it’s not traditional manga size… did I mention that already?

JR

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

All-New Captain America #1 (£2-99, Marvel) by Rick Remender & Stuart Immonen.

“Really makes you wonder why I wasn’t the one he picked.”
“Cronyism beats nepotism, I guess.”

That made me smile.

There is a new Captain America! There have been plenty over the years, but now it’s Sam Wilson AKA The Falcon and he has never been so beautifully, so spectacularly drawn. The all-but-opening double-page spread is an immaculate composition of speed, perspective, foreshortening, shadow and light. Utterly thrilling.

There is also a new side-kick! There have been plenty over the years including The Falcon himself, but now it’s Nomad’s turn. There have been plenty of Nomads over the years including Captain America himself, but now it’s Ian’s turn. Who’s Ian? I had absolutely no bloody idea until I read the handy-dandy summary at the front after which I didn’t really care either way.

Rick Remender is a formidable writer: I am currently lapping up his subaquatic LOW while Jonathan is a big fan of BLACK SCIENCE. And this is a perfectly accessible entry point after reading the summary with even greater gymnastics given that the Falcon can fly, with a couple of key shield moments. That’s Captain America’s schtick, yeah? The shield. Remender remembered and so delivered.

The wasn’t one of them but no one can say Stuart Immonen hadn’t delivered!

I also loved the repartee from the first familiar supervillain who has always been the one-dimensional, stereotypical brunt of a certain degree of xenophobia but here gives as good as he gets in America’s direction and on the mark. It’s thoughtful and balanced is what I’m saying.

The new dynamic with Steve Rogers acting as operations supervisor and Captain America – the U.S.’s flagship superhero – now being non-caucasian will almost certainly be explored and explored well. I look forward to that. As yet, however, it’s not quite that different from the standard superhero fare for it to grip me like, say, MS MARVEL.

But it’s good, it’s good, and my days but that cover!

SLH

Buy All-New Captain America #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man vol 1 – Revival s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & David Marquez.

This is the fourth incarnation of ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN, all of it written by Bendis, and I have loved every second.

But it’s the first iteration to have specified exactly who is the ultimate Spider-Man in its title: it’s Miles Morales whose story effectively began in ULTIMATE COMICS: SPIDER-MAN VOL 1 after Peter Parker died in the preceding ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN VOL 4: DEATH OF SPIDER-MAN. Specifying Miles Morales in the title implies that Peter Parker is very much dead and Miles is here to stay.

Imagine your shock, then, on coming back home and finding Peter Parker alive and well, rifling through your things and stealing your stuff.

Yes.

Yes absolutely and then some.

Is that Peter Parker, and if so how are Gwen, MJ and Aunt May going to react? If it isn’t, who is playing a very sick joke? Also, what is it about S.H.I.E.L.D. custody that sucks so badly that they can’t keep Norman Osborn locked up for more than five seconds?

SLH

Buy Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man vol 1 – Revival s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Batman Superman vol 1: Cross World s/c (£10-99, DC) by Greg Pak & Jae Lee and many, many, many, many others.

You know, we could have sworn Jonathan reviewed this, but I’m afraid it was me. What Jonathan did, having seen my review, was attempt to explain to me what was happening here with the change in artist and different Earths. Unfortunately it required such an arcane knowledge of DC Comics superhero history that I failed to understand his patient and considered “demystification”.

Which I think says it all. I re-run my original review then, with the disclaimer that I have no idea whatsoever if it works as a complete book. At the end of the first issue I jumped out of the car and walked in the opposite direction.

I have no idea what I just read.

I wasn’t drunk when I read it, but I confess that I have been driven to drink since.

I love Jae Lee. His neo-gothic art on Grant Morrison’s nihilistic FANTASTIC FOUR: 1234 was to die for while I heralded his work on Paul Jenkin’s INHUMANS as a masterclass in chiaroscuro. It is no less exquisite here – just wasted on a comic I couldn’t comprehend.

Also: maybe it was a deadline snafu, a last-minute editorial rewrite or – I don’t know – maybe they sacked Jae post-solicitation (you can never tell with corporate comics), but the fact that he fails to finish the very first issue of a new flagship title and pages are assigned to Ben Oliver instead does not bode well for this title’s future.

Maybe Jae walked. I wouldn’t blame him. I didn’t blame him when the second half of Paul Jenkins’ excellent BATMAN: JEKYL & HYDE was finished by Sean Phillips – largely because for me that is a comicbook upgrade.

If you’re looking for some prime Batman, may I recommend GOTHAM CENTRAL, THE BLACK MIRROR, IDENTITY CRISIS and THE KILLING JOKE?

If you’re looking for some prime Superman, may I recommend instead either ALL-STAR SUPERMAN by Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely, SUPERMAN AND THE LEGION OF SUPERHEROES by Geoff Johns & Gary Frank, KINGDOM COME by Mark Waid and Alex Ross, and even – you’ll see what I mean – SECRET IDENTITY by Kurt Busiek and one of comics’ greatest chameleons, Stuart Immonen, which is lush!

Always turn a negative into a positive!

Seize every opportunity to sell something!

Diversion Ends. You may now resume your regular comicbook journey.

Did you remember to bring sweets?

SLH

Buy Batman Superman vol 1: Cross World s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

Reviews already up if they’re new formats of previous graphic novels. The best of the rest will be reviewed next week while others will retain their Diamond previews as reviews. Neat, huh?

 

Nicholas & Edith (£6-00) by Dan Berry

The Dream-Quest Of Unknown Kadath (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by H.P. Lovecraft & I.N.J. Culbard

Princess Ugg vol 1 s/c (£11-99, Oni Press) by Richard Stark & Darwyn Cooke

Saga Deluxe Edition vol 1 h/c (£37-99, Image) by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

Syllabus: Notes From An Accidental Professor (£14-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Lynda Barry

The Art Of Dragon Age: Inquisition h/c (£29-99, Dark Horse) by various

Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 10 vol 1: New Rules (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Christos N. Gage, Nicholas Brendon & Rebekah Isaacs

Bumf vol 1 (£12-99, Jonathan Cape) by Joe Sacco

Doctor Who: The Blood Of Azrael (£13-99, Panini) by various

Fairest In All The Land s/c (£10-99, Vertigo) by Bill Willingham & many artists

Lazarus: The First Collection h/c (£25-99, Image) by Greg Rucka & Michael Lark

Maleficium (£11-99, Avery Hill Publishing) by EdieOP

Metroland #2 (£4-99, Avery Hill Publishing) by Ricky Miller & Julia Scheele, Rebecca Strickson

My Little Pony: Friends Forever vol 2 s/c (£13-50, IDW) by Thomas F. Zahler, various & Tony Fleecs, Andy Price, various

Tomb Raider vol 1: Season Of The Witch (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Gail Simone & Nicolas Daniel Selma

Batman: Detective Comics vol 5: Gothtopia h/c (£18-99, DC) by John Layman, various & Jason Fabok, Aaron Lopresti, various

Batman: Detective Comics vol 4: The Wrath s/c (£13-50, DC) by John Layman, James Tynion IV & Andy Clarke, Jason Fabok

Justice League 3000 vol 1 s/c (£12-99, DC) by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis & Howard Porter, others

Teen Titans: Earth One vol 1 h/c (£16-99, DC) by Jeff Lemire & Terry Dodson

Guardians Of The Galaxy vol 3: Guardians Disassembled h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Nick Bradshaw, Frank Cho, various

Guardians Of The Galaxy: Abnett & Lanning Collection vol 2 s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning & Brad Walker, Wesley Craig

Iron Fist: The Living Weapon vol 1: Rage s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Kaare Andrews

Runaways Complete Collection vol 2 s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Brian K. Vaughan & Adrian Alphona, Takeshi Miyazawa

Thor God Of Thunder vol 4: The Last Days Of Midgard (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Esad Ribic

Wolverine vol 2: Three Months To Die s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Paul Cornell, Elliott Kalan & Kris Anka, Pete Woods, Jonathan Marks

Bokurano Ours vol 11 (£9-99, Viz) by Mohiro Kitoh

My Little Monster vol 5 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Robico

Soul Eater vol 23 (£8-99, Yen) by Atsushi Ohkubo

News!

ITEM! Page 45 is now stocking the full range of our Jodie Paterson’s swoonaway greetings cards!

ITEM! Original comic art auction in aid of The Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Includes work by Dave Gibbons, Mark Buckingham, Sean Phillips, Junko Mizuno, Emma Vieceli, Boulet and Jeff Smith

ITEM! Random interview I gave Nosy Bones on Saturday morning. It really was random, relying on the roll of dice!

ITEM! FLUFFY’s Simone Lia writes about whether her characters age. Oh, and Fluffy is now almost definitely a boy – whereas once I felt foolish, I now feel vindicated and my review has reverted to its original form! FLUFFY: one of the most beautiful books in the world!

- Stephen

Page 45 Reviews November 2014 week two

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

It boasted a strong socio-political context, a deft cultural awareness totally in touch with the zeitgeist (Zenith would reinvent himself during each phase depending on what was the musical movement du jour) and appeared on the page blessed by one of Britain’s best-ever artists, Steve Yeowell.

 - Stephen on Zenith

Meanwhile #1 (£4-95, Soaring Penguin Press) by Gary Spencer Millidge, Sally Jane Thompson, Chris Geary, Yuko Rabbit, David Hine, Mark Stafford.

“Once you have tasted the fruit of the village, it is impossible to forsake its seductive power.”

That certainly sums up STRANGEHAVEN to perfection!

A true British classic beloved by Bryan Talbot, Alan Moore, Warren Ellis and JH Williams III amongst many, many creators, STRANGEHAVEN sadly stalled ten years ago at three volumes with one more to come, but now it is back with a vengeance!

It’s also now in full colour: colours which are so warm and rich against a crisp, cloudy sky and as British as the oak tree itself. As the village’s vicar takes a stroll round the countryside (and swift swig of whisky straight from the bottle) he reflects on how far his beloved flock have gone astray: on the arrival of Alex Hunter “literally by accident – when he crashed his car into a tree” since when Alex has felt unable to leave, his coercion into the masked Masonic Lodge and all the subsequent deaths and disappearances.

“George gave in to the temptation of an illicit affair with the doctor’s wife Maureen. So much for brotherly love.
“But he’s in a better place now.
“In the ground, decomposing.”

 

 

I didn’t say “consequent”, I said “subsequent”. Let’s see how it all plays out first, shall we?

It’s a fluent introduction, deftly done with real character, so new readers are embraced and some of us old-timers are provided with a far from boring, much-needed refresher course on just how much is Not Quite Right in this secluded parish of Strangehaven.

Speaking of Not At All Right, there are further Masonic manoeuvrings including temptation and even deeper induction, while one village member’s playing truant. That doesn’t go down well. That doesn’t go down well at all…

MEANWHILE is a fresh UK anthology with something for everyone and almost all of it for me.

I adored Sally Jane Thompson’s self-contained short story told in the same bilberry blues as THIS ONE SUMMER. Their gloss here is so attractive. In it a young woman makes or takes a phone call. We don’t know what she says but to begin with she’s quite quiet, subdued, then annoyed then despondent. When you see how Sally accomplishes that in her speech bubbles, I rather think you will smile. It concludes on a magical note of determined resolve thanks to a blackbird’s feather found on the floor.

Sean Bright’s ‘Peas In Our Time’ one-page, nine-panel nonsense made me laugh and it’s not often that politics makes one laugh at the moment, is it? A bag of frozen peas wins the UK General Election. The effects prove efficacious. And then we go and blow it all in the final panel’s punchline which made me howl!!!!

There’s a burst of black and white sci-fi, a Kate Brown-influenced episode of black and white fantasy from Yuko Rabbit whose external townscape on the final page took my breath away, and then there’s the first instalment of ‘The Bad Place’ by THE MAN WHO LAUGHS’ David Hine and Mark Stafford.

A girl call Jenny is warned away from the fabled perfect new town of Faraway Hills by its Town Crier. He is its only resident remaining. The town was built on the site of Crouch Heath with its tavern, The Horned Man. That too was deserted and had fallen into dereliction but everything was knocked down and built back up apart from the Castavette estate. Nought was left there but a wasteland of tipped rubbish yet with no known descendents, still it could not be compulsory-purchased.

Then overnight the Castavette mansion rematerialised in all its hideous, Victorian, four-storey splendour and that’s when things began to go seriously awry…

SLH

Buy Meanwhile #1 and read the Page 45 review here

The Wake h/c (£18-99, Vertigo) by Scott Snyder & Sean Murphy.

Dive deep, swim fast!

“Now the creature, the noise it’s making, it sounds a lot like a section of the whale’s song that’s urgent, a section that comes right before a response.”
“What kind of response?”
“A massive response. Because the creature isn’t talking to us. It’s talking to them.”

At which point Sean Murphy will send the mother of all shivers up your spine…

Sub-aquatic, ice-cold horror from the writer of AMERICAN VAMPIRE, SEVERED, BATMAN: BLACK MIRROR, and the current run on BATMAN and the glorious, gawp-worthy writer/artist of PUNK ROCK JESUS, JOE THE BARBARIAN and HELLBLAZER: CITY OF DEMONS.

In 200 years’ time: a wet-suited woman glides over the narrow waterways between what were once dry-land skyscrapers, one of which is leaning precariously. A dolphin harnessed with sonic and survey equipment surfaces from the water lapping gently against a brownstone’s roof. And then there’s another tidal wave!

Now: marine biologist Lee Archer, sacked from NOAA and on the Department of Homeland Security’s shit-list for her marine biology conservation is contacted by Agent Cruz and coerced into flying to Alaska’s South Slope to analyze an eerie, underwater call they cannot explain. Base camp is thousands of feet below sea level:

“Jesus, what is that?”
“It’s called a Ghost Rig. It’s a prototype. Yes, it’s a secret. No, it’s not legal. But it has the potential to extract nearly two hundred barrels a day, so there it is.”

Lee discovers she is not alone. There’s Dr. Marin, successfully published professor of folklore and mythology has been summoned to study an ‘artefact’, and the enigmatic yet supremely capable Leonard Meeks – an infamous poacher of very rare species – to study tissue samples. He looks like a vulture. And where do you think these sounds and tissue samples are coming from? Oh dear, that’s never a good idea…

On one level this is classic Doctor Who: illegal and environmentally disastrous strip-mining of Earth’s natural resources while invading the home territory of an ancient and previously undiscovered species. Exacerbate situation by capturing a creature and then belatedly bring in the experts before all hell breaks loose in a half-lit and confined environment in this case flooded with water. It won’t help that the Merman sprays hallucinogenic toxins from glands in its eye sacks.

But wait: that’s just the first half. In part two we swoop to the future 200 years later which has born the brunt – the repercussions – of the first half’s actions, and the world has surely changed in so many ways. Rarely have I encountered a future so thoroughly thought-through by its writer with some genuine shockers in store. This graphic novel is so much bigger and so much more brilliant than it appears on the sea’s choppy surface.

For a start, it is all about eyes: what we perceive and what we persuade others to perceive. And it’s all about ears: what we hear and that which we desperately hope will be listened to.

It stretches back thousands, nay millions of years. There is a key sequence involving the hunting of a giant white shark by hundreds with spears just like we used to hunt mammoths; and they actually use a downed mammoth as bait.

 

On the surface this is a beyond-worrying horror story, yes: it will make you go “Brrrrrrr!” But it will also make you think.

In the back of what I consider a very good value-for-money hardcover (£18-99 for 10 chapters) are additional process pieces full of sketch pages, the thought that’s gone into the colouring by the great Matt Hollingsworth and the ridiculous amount of consideration given to the lettering by Jared K. Fletcher.

Now, what is a Raindrop?

“It means the real-life referent that inspires a system of folklore. The raindrop hits the water, and concentric rings of lore spread from the point of impact. Like the Asiatic Bear in Tibet, its habit of walking on its hind legs. Now that inspired legends of Yetis.
“There’s no telling how many legends this creature inspired. From the Mermaids of Assyria, to the Sirens of Greece, with that call it’s making.”

The call that goes out to millions.

SLH

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

The Complete New York Four (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Brian Wood & Ryan Kelly.

Two thoroughly contemporary dramas starring young women handling life in the Big Apple with varying degrees of self-awareness, self-discipline and self-confidence.

There’s a lot of new back-up material including full-colour paintings of the cast, like Ren in a comic shop – that one is so warm and detailed! – and this hefty edition collecting both the original NEW YORK FOUR and THE NEW YORK FIVE is incredible value for money!

As you might expect from the creators of LOCAL this as much about location as those inhabiting it. Kelly proved he could nail so many different urban environments as that series sailed across the States, and evoke their unique ambience as well as physical architecture. Here he fills every single page with hair whose weight and body you can almost hold, masonry you could lean on and gusts of wind and snow in the parks that you can feel against your cheek.

Riley is a resident of Park Slope (“NY 101: As good as Brooklyn gets.”) who’s just joined New York University with all the potential that offers in terms of new friends and is getting back in touch with Angie, her black sheep of a sister ostracised by her overbearing parents some years ago for crimes unknown – being far too much fun, by the looks of it. That shouldn’t happen to Riley: she’s a top-grade student, but her sister’s more worried about Riley’s addiction to texting.

She’s not wrong, either: Riley’s no dweeb by any stretch of the imagination, but her journeys are made to an iPod soundtrack and her social life is virtually all virtual, interrupting even the most personal or important conversations to answer messages that could so easily wait. She’s insular to say the least, and she only meets her three new friends by accident through the need for employment and somewhere to live outside campus dorms.

Angie introduces Riley to adult social life in the form of gigs and with the aid of her warm, cool and gregarious boyfriend. And it’s at one of these gigs, the night of Riley’s life, that someone there slips an email address into her pocket, at which point the texts really begin to fly much to the annoyance of anyone trying to get a real-world word in edgeways. As well as the bizarre priority Riley gives to someone she doesn’t know over those she should be caring about, there’s also the very real worry that Riley has no idea who she’s in communication with – an imbalance of power over which she has no control.

Do you think it will all go horribly wrong? It all goes horribly wrong.

I now issue a very rare SPOILER ALERT for the much longer, more substantial sequel hinges on who Riley’s mysterious admirer was.

By now Angie Wilder has her own band which has just struck it big on the gig circuit. But she still has her boyfriend called Frank who is anything but: he anonymously seduced her younger sister Riley by text. Angie’s no longer speaking to Riley, Riley isn’t speaking to Frank, but Frank hasn’t done using Angie to speak to Riley as the first chapter’s cliffhanger makes clear.

Riley’s attending NYU with Merissa, Lona and Ren who all share an East Village flat roughly the size of a cupboard, their rent paid through part-time jobs evaluating PSAT/SAT tests. For this they need to undergo casual therapy sessions but the beautiful, outgoing Marissa’s stopped attending. In fact she seems to be spending an awful lot of time going back home to Queens. Lona’s less outgoing but still going out, if only to stalk her professor. We’re talking the breaking-and-entering end of stalking, dumpster-diving for dirt, and her boyfriend’s unimpressed. I really don’t know what Ren’s problem is. She doesn’t seem to have one right now. She likes older men. Is that a problem?

Here the ever-exceptional spirit of place comes in the form of civic parks in winter, the city skylines at night and the chunky tenements with street-level steps rising up to their doors. The gigs are perfectly populated while the pavement outside is teeming with individuals hanging out on bikes, checking their bags or checking out each other. You can tell when an artist is trying to avoid drawing something; I couldn’t find a single instance of that here. Even the iron fire escapes and scaffolding have been lavished with so much attention that they have as much weight and character as the pedestrians passing them by. When you stop to take in just how many cityscapes there are on top of that…

Someone was on their way to New York the other day, and she asked if we had any comics that would act as a good guide. This would make the perfect guide, dotted as it is with insider titbits on every location featured including The Strand (used book shop), Washington Square, the Ukrainian diner Veselka, and St. Mark’s Place in The East Village:

“NY 101: St. Mark’s Place, as iconic and compelling as SF’s Haight Astbury, this enduring hang-out block is way more seedy and has much cooler rock and roll roots. But, in the end, both succumbed to The Gap. This author’s most-missed: the St. Mark’s Cinema.”

As seen in LOCAL, for me this is what Brian Wood does best: compelling and thoroughly contemporary straight fiction with a young cast of real individuals – females with foibles, individuals with issues – gradually revealing bits of themselves as they contemplate, hesitate or override their better instincts. Because coming back to that cliffhanger, it really is one of those, “Noooo, don’t do it!” moments.

SLH

Buy The Complete New York Four and read the Page 45 review here

Grey Area – From The City To The Sea (Signed) (£6-00, Avery Hill Publishing) by Tim Bird…

“A life lived in mud and clay… concrete and steel… manuscript and satellite signals…
“Wars fought between settlers along the marshy banks of the River. Ludgate, Tower Hill, Cornhill.
“Kings and Queens ruling far reaching empires.
“Plagues.
“Fires.
“Riots.
“Wealth and poverty.
“Heroes and villains.
“New stories being written every minute.
“Constantly on the move.
“East… further east.
“Beneath the surface.”

Tim Bird undoubtedly has what breakbeat meisters the Stanton Warriors would refer to as the power of ‘uninterrupted flow’. Now, I will grant you on the face of it, that is an apparently incongruous analogy to begin a review with, but in fact, Tim’s work is all about and indeed composed of continuous transition, even in the face of the strange disruptive interfaces thrown up between man and nature. His worldview of our sceptred isle encompasses the epochs and the aeons, not ignoring the here and now, but understanding its transitory place astride the fixed topological canvas of the landscape.

One of the most powerful moments for me in his previous work, GREY AREA: THE OLD STRAIGHT TRACK, a testament to that most visible evidence of man’s dominion over vehicular time and space, the road, comes when the tarmac slices right by Stonehenge. Similarly, in this work detailing a trip from the centre of London out to the coast, first by underground and train, then on foot, Tim’s combination of observational illustration and poetic overview has a deeply resonating effect.

Often in our lives, we don’t have the time to think about the journeys we make, so concerned are we with simply getting from A to B as quickly as possible, for usually there is a purpose we need to fulfil that has necessitated our travels. Instead, Tim, wandering without an aim of his own, is able to consider all the journeys ever made along that route, resulting in the incremental changes over centuries from untamed wilderness to the measured, graduated, controlled environment of modernity that is the city of London and its suburbs. But we also see that in reverse, purely in modern day, as he finally ends up at the coast, or as he more romantically describes it…

“A terminus. A place where… the landscape… ceases.”

Then moving on to the sea, as a coda, where once again, we see the fingerprint of man indelibly altering nature, Tim reciting the hypnotic mantra of the shipping forecast sea areas which will be soothingly familiar to anyone who has ever spent much time listening to Radio 4, as a cargo vessel slips past a buoy against the backdrop of a dramatic red sunset. A suitably tranquil, composed ending to another splendid issue of thoughtful musing.

JR

Buy Grey Area – From The City To The Sea (Signed) and read the Page 45 review here

aama vol 2: The Invisible Throng h/c (£12-99, SelfMadeHero) by Frederik Peeters…

“Talk, goddammit!”
“I… I’m afraid I won’t be much help… what I’m seeing is way beyond my wildest imagination!”

She’s not wrong. Verloc Nim and his secret agent – and irritatingly superior younger brother – Conrad have made it to the planet Ona(ji) to establish precisely what has become of the group of research scientists sent to test a potential genetic manipulation wonder agent called aama. They’ve discovered one group of the scientists holed up at their base awaiting rescue. The project leaders, as a result of an apparent ideological schism, have assumed control of the aama agent and decided to continue the experiment elsewhere on the planet.

You could say, in some senses, the experiment has been a resounding success, given the rapidly advanced flora and fauna which Verloc, Conrad, Churchill the robotic ape bodyguard and the scientists brave enough to accompany them encounter en route. It’s clear it has effected an evolutionary developmental process at a rate far beyond natural speeds. It’s also abundantly clear there have been some serious, unforeseen consequences as well. As the group progresses further into the evolutionary wilds, it seems that aama is increasingly aggressively trying to actively incorporate any and all genetic – and even inorganic materials – it can into its ever more rapid modifications. Cue the mad scientist caused horror…

 

 

 

Which still doesn’t bring us up to where we started AAMA VOLUME ONE: THE SMELL OF WARM DUST  with a dazed and confused, amnesiac Verloc trying to piece together what the hell has happened to him and why he is alone. It gives me hope there is still much, much more to come from this prestigious Best Series of 2013 Angoulême prize winner, because it is as deliciously mysterious as it is spectacular. We also learn more of Verloc’s back story, his unusual desire for a genetically unmodified offspring ultimately causing his estrangement from his wife after their daughter was born with what seems to be a form of high-functioning autism.

How that is connected to the unexplained presence of a being with the exact physical appearance of his daughter on Ona(ji) has yet to be revealed, but I will bet that the increasingly unhinged Conrad, suffering an emotional disconnect from not being intrinsically subconsciously linked to the future version of Earth’s internet where everyone is part of a huge, permanent communications net (probably like seeing Facebook every time you close your eyes, which is a truly horrifying thought), almost certainly knows more than he is letting on. So, now I just have to patiently wait until March 2015 for volume three…

JR

Buy aama vol 2: The Invisible Throng h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Zenith: Phase One h/c (£20-00, Rebellion) by Grant Morrison & Steve Yeowell.

“You don’t understand what time can do to people.”
“It can make them late.”

Perpetually preening, drunk and incorrigibly egotistical, ignorant and easily bored, I basically was young Zenith 25 years ago. I even had the quiff and studded leather jacket. Unfortunately I had none of Zenith’s powers nor musical prowess. Actually, I’m not sure Zenith had any musical prowess but as the first phase kicks off he is at number three in the pop charts.

This is even better than I remembered it to be, and I cherished it dearly back then.

On top of its horrific Neo-Nazi / Cthulu antagonists it boasted a strong socio-political context, a deft cultural awareness totally in touch with the zeitgeist (Zenith would reinvent himself during each phase depending on what was the musical movement du jour) and appeared on the page blessed by one of Britain’s best-ever artists, Steve Yeowell. His was the shiniest-ever superhero art, bathed in bold black which benefits enormously for the infinitely improved production values, printed on the crispest of paper preventing any bleed.

Trapped in legal hell for 20 years, it’s almost as surprising and wondrous to find it back on our shelves as STRAY BULLETS.

It kicks off during WWII with a broadcast of blinding hubris as Britain answers the German threat of Aryan meta-man Masterman with its own meta-human Maximan, himself a sort of blonde English Rose. By the very second page, however, it is clear that Britain has underestimated Masterman by misunderstanding his nature and Maximan lies broken in Berlin. At which point we drop The Bomb on them both. The Bomb, yes.

Cut straight to 1987 and pop star Zenith has been invited onto Good Morning Britain to discuss a book re-evaluating the reputation of Cloud 9 – “the group of British superhumans who were as much of the swinging ‘60s as The Beatles or Twiggy” – but he’s really only interested in flogging his new single. Instead it’s the more mature Ruby Fox, former model then known as Cloud 9’s own Voltage, who refutes the allegations of self-indulgence by maintaining that they were all ill-prepared victims of an experimental drug, including Zenith’s own parents, Dr. Beat and White Heat, who went missing in 1968.

Zenith is now the only known active superhuman and he’s only active in ways which enhance his lock-jawed, pop-star, thicker-than-pig-shit career; and only when his fluctuating, monthly biorhythm cycle allows. At its peak he can fly, crush ball bearings and is virtually invulnerable. Well, every 19-year-old feels that way, don’t they? Ruby Fox hasn’t manifested her electrical energy abilities in years, Siadwell Rhys AKA Wales’ pyrokinetic Red Dragon has put himself out with the demon drink and former turned-on, tuned-in and dropped-out Peter St. John AKA Mandala has become a high-rising Tory MP destined almost inevitably for leadership. I wonder if he still has those powers of persuasion? It’s funny how former radicals become such reactionaries, isn’t it?

I told you this had a socio-political punch.

Meanwhile, as I say, Britain’s manufactured response to Nazi Germany’s Masterman misunderstood his true nature and Germany had a reputation for using twins. Fräulein Haas and Doctor Driesch have just succeeded in reviving Masterman’s twin and in summoning his true power from Overspace using the Ritual of Nine Angles: it has multiple eyes, many mouths, very sharp teeth and the sound of its wings flapping is something that would drive any man or woman insane.

Masterman has now flown to Great Britain, home to the National Front, and has his sights set first on Ruby Fox left all alone and defenceless in her flat…

What is so extraordinary about this work – other than its thoroughly entertaining, bright social commentary, good humour and space – is that it was serialised in such short segments in the UK’s iconic and enduring weekly comic 2000AD yet feels neither disjointed nor awkwardly compressed when read in this album-sized hardcover. It is as smooth as silk, as rich as Belgian chocolate and as beautiful to behold as anything offered more recently by the artistic masters of the superhero genre, Bryan Hitch, Steve Epting, Michael Larkin, Jamie McKelvie, Mike Deodato, John Romita Jr, Sara Pichelli or Steve Yeowell’s contemporary John Byrne.

Eyes, teeth and hair, folks; eyes, teeth and hair. Also, a fine line in fashion.

SLH

Buy Zenith: Phase One h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Herobear And The Kid vol 1: The Inheritance (£14-99, Kaboom) by Mike Kunkel.

An all-ages album of wonder and friendship which will really tug at your heartstrings, while leaving your eyes twinkling at the sheer spectacle, this new format is the size of the average American trade paperback.

A young boy is left an inheritance by his grandfather and initially he’s unimpressed:

“It was just an old stuffed bear and a broken pocket watch.”

There’s a painful sequence early on where he’s bullied by some bigger kids who snatch away the polar bear, after which Tyler rejects the stuffed toy, and flings it away in disappointment. And that’s when the magic starts.

Kunkel’s animation experience shines through the pages. The black, white and grey forms are softened by his canny decision not to erase the sketchlines underneath, so the figures flow and glide. Added to that the striking scarlet cape of the transformed polar bear, which cleverly enhances the creature’s definition.

The former sketchbook in the A4 is gone, I’m afraid, but it’s been replaced by two new stories so I’d call that a bonus!

SLH

Buy Herobear And The Kid vol 1: The Inheritance and read the Page 45 review here

The Leaning Girl s/c (£22-50, Alaxis Press) by Benoit Peeters & Francois Schuiten…

“Honestly, Dr. Texier, can you figure out what’s wrong with her?”
“Hmm… Part of it could be a put-on, it’s possible. Your daughter has always been a character…”

Mary has a condition, a very strange one indeed.

Ever since a ride on a most peculiar rollercoaster during a visit to a large World’s Fair-esque Exposition, she has leant at an angle of about twenty degrees. It is as if gravity, for her, were acting in an entirely different direction to everyone else. Despite the best attempts of doctors to establish the real or imagined cause of her malady, no one really has any clue whatsoever as to why she leans. It is a real condition, that much is apparent to us, but what connection does it have to the strange group of astronomers and physicists sequestered doing secretive research in a mountain-top observatory? And then what possible connection does any of it have to the photo-based chapter interludes featuring a lonely artist struggling to make sense of his life?

There is a foreword from Benoit Peeters which starts with a comment that he and his friend Francois Schuiten created this world purely for the purposes of exploring it. Now, that might mean they basically had no idea what story they were going to write when they started and just made it up as they went along, because I did get a slight sense of that, but even so, they have created something rather unusual which has genuine artistic merit. I’m not sure it works completely, but if you approach this from the sense that you are observing two undoubtedly talented creators undertaking a highly involved experiment, you will enjoy it.

Peeters then details in his foreword how during the long gestation of this work they received much correspondence from someone claiming to be the real Mary, so much so that they received a compiled book of it whilst at Angoulême. He states that most people presumed they were behind the correspondence, particularly because they also openly produced two pseudo-documentaries to publicise this work, but he claims this was not the case, and they are as baffled as anyone else as to the identity of the letter-writing ‘Mary’. Having read the whole of the work, but not wishing to give anything anyway, I would suspect that is complete and utter hogwash, and it was indeed them, and the correspondence is a device which mirrors an element of the plot revealed towards the end. Anyway…

What did really work for me was the art. Beautiful black and white ligne claire with seriously detailed line shading. Gorgeous city-scapes and vivid characters illustrated to a standard not far off Bernie Wrightson’s FRANKENSTEIN (which they really do need to get on with reprinting). I was also, oddly enough, minded of CEREBUS in places. The photo-story sections really didn’t work for me, they just seemed too jarring until I finished the work, understood the reason behind the conceit, and then I could readily accept them as part of the experimental whole. Overall, I can’t honestly see this work appealing to a wide audience, but certainly there will be those that think it is an exceptional piece.

JR

Buy The Leaning Girl s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Walking Dead vol 22: A New Beginning (£10-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard…

“I want you to know, I really do appreciate our little talks. It… really breaks up my days. Helps me… mark time. I think they’re good for you, too, having someone to talk to.”
“Sure. I’ll try and come back tomorrow.”
“Wait… before you go…”
“Yeah?”
“After all this time… all these talks… the things we’ve shared. Do you still want to kill me?”
“Yes… you know I do.”

I have deliberately left out who is talking to whom there for the benefit of those who are not completely up to date, but what I will clarify is time. Two years have passed since the events of ALL OUT WAR, and much has changed. It would seem there has been little in the way of confrontation since then, indeed the communities Rick is now fully in charge of are prospering, despite the ever-present threat of zombies. Often the device of shifting forward in time is done when a writer is running low on ideas, but here it is used to great effect to instantly set up several interesting new potential plot threads, and allow the mass introduction of several new characters, plus radical new haircuts and facial topiary on existing ones…

I am sure there will be some retrospective references that will allow us to fill in the blanks about what happened in the aftermath of the war, but after wondering how on earth Kirkman was going to follow that epic arc, and wondering if it was all going to go a bit flat for a while, I’m now reassured it will be quite the contrary.

Also, it does provide an excellent starting point for new readers in terms of the single issues. Alternatively, just start at the very beginning with WALKING DEAD VOL 1 or why not WALKING DEAD COMPENDIUM VOL 1 if you’re feeling flush / want to have something really heavy to hand just in case the zombie apocalypse begins…

JR

Buy Walking Dead vol 22: A New Beginning and read the Page 45 review here

Black Orchid s/c (£12-99, Vertigo) 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.”

SLH

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

Batman: Arkham Asylum (25th Anniversary Edition) s/c (£14-99, DC) by Grant Morrison & Dave McKean.

Batman: “You’re free. You’re all free.”
The Joker: “Oh, we know that already. But what about you?”

The new, new 25th Anniversary edition comes packed with even more extras than last time. Still here: Morrison’s complete script and original notes, annotated by both himself and Karen Berger, many of Morrison’s original thumb-nail breakdowns (like Bendis and Moore, he’s not a bad artist, either), and lots of other behind-the-scenes tomfoolery. But now: all the different covers over the years including the Japanese hardcover, an illustration for The Face, another for UKCAC ’88, the clay mask used as the base for McKean’s photo-painterly jiggery-pokery and convention painted “sketches” in a completely different style. Good golly!

I loved this dark, sexually charged Bat tale in which The Joker taunts Batman into Arkham Asylum (where both of them belong) through sadism and psychology, then pinches his bottom.

“Loosen up, tight ass!”

McKean was still in his BLACK ORCHID post-Sienkiewicz stage, using both pencil and paint but little photography, and his exploded, expressionist artwork brings the Joker to cackling life, Day-Glo green hair flowing like sea-grass, his speeches slashed freely across the page in bright red ink, unconstrained by speech bubbles.

And all the other regular inmates are on hand to scare what passes for the daylight out of Batman including the Scarecrow, Two-Face and, here, the Hatter:

“I’m so glad you could make it. I have so many things to tell you. You must be feeling quite fragile by now, I expect. This house… does things to your mind.
“Now, where was I? Where am I? Where will I be?
“Ah yes, the apparent disorder of the universe is simply a higher order, an implicate order beyond comprehension. This why children… interest me. They’re all mad, you see. But in each of them is an implicate adult. Order out of chaos. Or is it the other way around? To know them is to know myself.
“Little girls especially. Little blonde girls. Little shameless bitches! Oh god. Gold help us all!
“Sometimes… sometimes I think the Asylum is a head. We’re inside a huge head that dreams us all into being. Perhaps it’s your head, Batman.
“Arkham is a looking glass. And we are you.”

SLH

Buy Batman: Arkham Asylum (25th Anniversary Edition) s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Original Sin (UK Edition) s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron, various & Mike Deodato Jr., various.

And £17-99’s not bad given that Marvel U.S. want you to fork out £37-99 for a hardcover. This UK softcover contains ORIGINAL SIN #0-8 and ORIGINAL SINS plural #1-5. Let’s stick with the original here.

From the writer of SCALPED.

For eons The Watcher has overseen Earth’s most seismic schisms.

His presence is a prescience born of pure instinct.

Whenever a crossroads has manifested itself requiring soul-searching and due diligence rather than desperate, knee-jerk reactions, Uatu has appeared. He is there not to counsel but to observe, for Uatu is forbidden to interfere. But his very materialisation has proved a welcome warning for all to think very carefully before the wrong road is taken in haste.

Can you imagine what The Watcher has seen, what his eyes have beheld? Such knowledge would be a most coveted prize.

But how do you ambush a being who sees what will be? Well. Ambushing a being like Uatu would be seismic schism in itself. He would surely, ineluctably, be drawn there. Not sure that’s what happened but that would be my merry Marvel No-Prize entry in case it needs be explained!

Instead what is concentrated on to begin with is the firepower needed to take the bald boy down for that is what’s happened: The Watcher is dead, shot point-blank in the head. Few know Uatu exists; fewer still have the wherewithal and weaponry to execute him. Most of them are on the side of the gods so if stones are upturned will it be a superhero seen scrambling from underneath?

Nick Fury is recalled from self-sequestration.

Some unlikely allegiances are formed amongst the superhero community (exemplary clue: Dr Strange and the Punisher?!).

And Mike Deodato has rendered it all in his exceptional, neo-classical demi-darkness.

How did play out? It was epic thanks in no small part to Mr Deodato whose sense of scale is breathtaking.

It was also a little turgid and utterly implausible but given that Marvel already has Wolverine on twenty-two teams and in thirty-six countries at once, you shouldn’t be surprised that someone here is revealed to have had more than two day jobs and for a very long time. Another character acquires another new job to boot.

Are you watching carefully?

SLH

Buy Original Sin (UK Edition) s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

Reviews already up if they’re new formats of previous graphic novels. The best of the rest will be reviewed next week while others will retain their Diamond previews as reviews. Neat, huh?

Expecting To Fly #2 (£3-00, Scary Go Round) by John Allison

Graveyard Book Graphic Novel vol 2 s/c (£12-99, Bloomsbury) by Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell

Jampires (£6-99, DFC Books) by Sarah McIntyre, David O’Connell

Luminae h/c (£18-99, Magnetic Press) by Bengal

Mouse Guard: Baldwin The Brave And Other Tales h/c (£10-99, Archaia) by David Petersen

Night Post h/c (£12-99, Improper Books) by Benjamin Read & Laura Trinder

Robert Moses The Master Builder Of New York City (£15-99, Nobrow) by Pierre Christin & Olivier Balez

Sam Jamwitch And The Sad Wooden Ferrets (£2-50, ) by Kate Hazell, Ed Hawkesworth

Sam Jamwitch And The Snoozle Pigs (£2-50, ) by Kate Hazell, Ed Hawkesworth

Single Black Glove (£3-50, ) by Kate Hazell

Son Of The Gun h/c (£25-99, Humanoids) by Alejandro Jodorowsky & Georges Bess

Stickleback vol 2: Number Of The Beast (£14-99, Rebellion) by Ian Edginton & D’Israeli

The Wicked & The Divine vol 1: The Faust Act s/c (£7-50, Image) by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie

Batman Adventures vol 1 s/c (£14-99, DC) by Kelley Puckett, Martin Pasko & Ty Templeton

Batman Superman vol 1: Cross World s/c (£10-99, DC) by Greg Pak & Jae Lee

Batman Superman vol 2: Game Over h/c (£18-99, DC) by Greg Pak, Paul Levitz & Brett Booth, Jae Lee

Avengers World vol 2: Ascension s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Nick Spencer, Al Ewing & Marco Checchetto, Stefano Caselli, Dale Keown

Deadpool Vs X-Force s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Duane Swierczynski & Pepe Larraz

Fantastic Four vol 2: Original Sin s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by James Robinson & Leonard Kirk

Original Sin: Thor And Loki – The Tenth Realm s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron, Al Ewing & Simone Bianchi, Lee Garbett

Invincible vol 20: Friends (£12-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Ryan Ottley

Deadman Wonderland vol 5 (£6-99, Viz) by Jinsei Kataoka

Sword Art Online: Aincraid (£14-99, Yen) by Reki Kawahara & Tamako Nakamura

Gantz vol 32 (£10-50, Dark Horse) by Hiroya Oku

Samurai Executioner Omnibus vol 3 (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Kazuo Koike & Goseki Kojima

Mistletoe Christmas Card (£3-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

Orange British Bee Greetings Card With Seed Packet (£3-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

Yellow British Bee Greetings Card With Seed Packet (£3-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

Baby It’s Cold Outside Christmas Card (£3-00, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

Top Shiba Inu Greetings Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

Red Fox Greetings Card (£2-75, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

Grey Fox Greetings Card (£2-75, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

News!

 

ITEM! Ooooh, on sale NOW: the magical, silent, all-ages NIGHT POST by Ben Read (PORCELAIN, BUTTERFLY GATE) and Laura Trinder. This preview of NIGHT POST points to it being perfect for Christmas! There’s even an enchanting NIGHT POST trailer!

ITEM! Speaking of PORCELAIN, we have free copies of the PORCELAIN: BONE CHINA preview to give away in the shop – and why not ask for one when placing an order by mail? Isn’t it beautiful?!

ITEM! Harlan Coben’s all-time favourite Amazon one-star review. Funny! You know, if you’re not keen on Amazon you can buy discounted prose, CDs and DVDS via Hive, delivered to your door or even delivered to Page 45 for collection for free Either way, if you nominate Page 45 and we make a cut! Hurrah!

ITEM! SelfMadeHero’ Spring Catalogue 2015 includes Scott McCloud’s THE SCULPTOR! SelfMadeHero is the publisher of Page 45’s Comicbook Of The Month, Rob Davis’ magnificent MOTHERLESS OVEN and currently all Page 45’s copies of THE MOTHERLESS OVEN come with a free, limited edition, signed bookplate.

ITEM! Preview of Matt Taylor’s THE GREAT SALT LAKE which looks stunning! Page 45 will be receiving copies very shortly indeed!

ITEM! Molly Crabapple’s 15 Rules For Creative Success – make perfect sense to me!

ITEM! Look at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival Poblin Award statuette! Isn’t he cute?

I don’t have any big announcements for you this week, sorry.

But I can tease you about one!

Be here on Valentine’s Day 2015 for something a bit special.

Heh heh,

- Stephen

Page 45 Reviews November 2014 week one

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

G. Willow Wilson, you are a loving star! The kindness you have spread in this beautiful, brilliant comic will never be forgotten.

 - Stephen on Ms Marvel. Highly recommended.

Supercrash: How To Hijack The Global Economy (£14-99, Myriad) by Darryl Cunningham…

“This is where the ‘greater fool’ theory comes into play.
“The theory is that there is always a greater fool, somewhere, who can be sold a toxic loan and the dangerous piece of paper attached to it.
“Globalisation had opened up a whole world of fools who did not understand the American mortgage market.
“Nobody ever thinks that they themselves might be the greater fool…
“… caught holding the package…
“… when the music stops.”

“During 2007, lenders began foreclosure proceedings on nearly 1.3 million properties – a 79% percent increase over 2006. Then things got worse. By August 2009, 9.2% of all US mortgages were either delinquent or in foreclosure. One year later, this had risen to 14.4%. The party was over. The music had stopped. The bill had to be paid at last.”

Indeed it did. Just not by the people who had created the problem. I think this may well be the finest piece of investigative graphic journalism I have ever seen. I know Darryl doesn’t necessarily consider himself a journalist, from his perspective he’s just telling the story as he sees it, but it lays bare the truths and falsehoods behind the cause and consequences of the ‘supercrash’. And, as you might intuit from the title, there is undoubtedly blame to be apportioned, and he does so in a truly excoriating yet completely fair manner.

But there is also a wider story to be told here, because inevitably events of this magnitude don’t come about overnight, and in Darryl’s eyes we need to start by looking at the life and influence of Ayn Rand. Rand was a strange, practically messianic figure to some, yet full of contradictions evidently apparent to anyone not blinded by the fervency of her socio-political assertions, and also someone who brooked absolutely no dissent from her coterie of followers who became rapidly known as ‘The Collective’. Amongst those heavily influenced, some might say indoctrinated by Rand, was one Alan Greenspan, who rose in power to become the Chairman of the Federal Reserve of the United States from 1987 to 2006.

Chief amongst Rand’s beliefs was in the need for absolute unfettered freedom of the financial markets. Regulation by government of the financial systems was tantamount to heresy in Rand’s eyes. The markets should be left to regulate themselves. Now, it doesn’t take a genius to imagine what is going to happen if you let the most avaricious members of society set their own rules does it? And yet, that is precisely what Greenspan presided over during his tenure as the top financial dog of the US economy. Gradually the checks and balances that were in place to prevent the wholesale rape and pillage of the bedrock of the US financial economy were eroded, sidestepped or just outright dismissed  as ever more toxic debt was packaged and passed on in ever more inventive and increasingly immoral, if not at times also downright illegal ways.

Eventually as Darryl explains so clearly, unravelling the mess as he does in the second act of the book, someone was going to end up in deep trouble, and so the runs on the various banks began, the frantic bailouts negotiated by Governments globally at the taxpayers’ expense, whilst the villains of the piece, the individuals that actually caused the problems got off not only scot-free but also trousering vast amounts of cash, some of them in the order of hundreds of millions of dollars. I am pretty sure I am right in stating that not one high level banking executive in the UK or US has been sent to prison for any sort of financial impropriety associated with the supercrash.

Gradually however, through pieces like this shining a bright and focussed light on the industry as a whole, and more traditional investigative journalism, we are at last starting to expose very serious wrongdoing such as collusion in fixing the LIBOR rate etc. which must surely see some custodial sentences imposed. Though when we actually see someone sent down instead of merely being given a hefty if token fine I’ll believe it. Plus I’m old enough to remember one Ernest Saunders, sent to prison in the early 90s for fraudulently attempting to manipulate the price of Guinness shares, his sentence commuted after a mere ten months in prison on compassionate grounds due to him almost immediately developing the incurable Alzheimer’s disease, and his subsequent miraculous full and entirely unique recovery upon release.

Reading Darryl’s work makes you realise how much corruption there is at the highest levels of government and the finance industry, how very often it’s a rotating door between the two for various individuals who have no sooner passed laws benefiting investment banks then promptly ending up on the board of one, at least one, in some capacity or other. Capitalism might not be the outright brutal oppression that North Korea imposes on its people but it’s definitely designed to minimise true social mobility and ensure all the wealth remains concentrated in the palms of the very few.

So in the third act, titled ‘The Age Of Selfishness’ Darryl tackles the thorny topic of what could replace capitalism, and how perhaps the ever swinging pendulum of political liberalism and conservatism (to use the American definitions) is in part responsible for the situation we currently find ourselves in. He goes on to make some interesting observations regarding how early people’s political tendencies are apparently created, before looking at the current political situation in both the UK and the US. It’s pretty bleak stuff I must say, but fortunately the final three pages provide some small cause for optimism pointing out as they do that mass citizens movements have brought about substantial societal change before, and have the possibility to do so again.

This is a truly outstanding piece of work, illustrated so intelligently as ever in his wonderful no nonsense informative style, which hits new heights of in terms of detail and its ability to disseminate such complex information so simply, and it deserves to win awards and gain the highest praise and plaudits from not just within the comics industry but also the wider world. I also don’t doubt he’ll now find himself on the watchlist of some very wealthy and well connected people, but that’s the price you pay for shining the light of truth on such a murky morass of quasi-illicit activities by the so called great and good. He’s probably ensured he’ll never get a mention on the Queen’s birthday honours list now either, but he’s certainly deserving  of it in my book for the public service he’s done everyone in writing this work. Bravo Darryl, I salute you.

JR

Buy Supercrash: How To Hijack The Global Economy and read the Page 45 review here

Ordinary h/c (£14-99, Titan) by Rob Williams & D’Israeli.

“You let people down. It’s… who you are.”

Drawn with such energy then coloured to sunshine perfection, this is packed with hundreds of visual background jokes. D’Israeli appears to have had the laugh of his life!

As to Willams, “Truly, we were on the road to random”, I thought – utterly bananas! And it is. But scratch below the surface and so much makes sense and you wait until you encounter its heart.

Michael is a muppet. A divorced plumber with a son in school… somewhere… he is perpetually late, increasingly broke, in debt to some thugs and in spite of a widow’s peak of raggedy, receding hair he dreams of his chances with actress Scarlett Johansson.

Today he is late assisting his business partner with an octogenarian’s crapper. The assistance in question is taking on the old biddy’s verbal incontinence while Brian finally gets down to the plumbing. On his way he encounters said thugs and in the middle of negotiations a plane breaks down. Well, its engine goes boom. Then everything starts to change.

Well, every one. Everyone in the world experiences a transmogrification, reflecting their career, personality or self-esteem. One bloke turns into a dragon, a New York Yankees baseball player becomes a giant, thwacking off the top of the Empire State Building and it turns out the American Chief of Staff is a Hawk. Who knew? Even a taxi driver appears to have experienced an epiphany of sorts – calmness, satori, enlightenment. Instead of a know-it-all he’s genuinely omniscient. If he was working in London, he might even drive south of the Thames.

Everyone except Michael, that is, who is freaking the fuck out and I seriously can’t blame him.

For so long irresponsible, he now grows increasingly desperate about his young son’s safety, last seen at school over the river on Manhattan island. As he struggles to get there a powerplay erupts between the American Vice-President who wants to amplify his superpower’s superpowers and Dr Tara McDonald who is determined to find a cure. Dr McDonald doesn’t appear to have manifested a preternatural ability but I can assure you she both has and does. And I’d keep an eye on the religious Vice President’s aureole of demons and angels slogging it out round his bonce for supremacy.

I wouldn’t call all these mutations “abilities” – some are most emphatically afflictions. The President, for example, has his thoughts made manifest while addressing the nation in actual, visible thoughtbubbles just like a comic and, oh my, how I love creators who really think about their medium of choice!

Another waterslide ride like Grant Morrison & Richard Case’s DOOM PATROL, this is totally mental but you cannot stop and sure can’t get off so you might as well sit back and adore the insane trajectory. Long before approaching its perfect finale you’ll have realised how rich this really is.

Backtracking to the kick-off, D’Israeli delivers on the sweaty, weeping desperation department swiftly followed by the stooped head and sunken shoulders of a down-trodden man. Will this prove the making of him or the breaking off him?

SLH

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

In Real Life (£13-50, First Second) by Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang…

“I’m a gamer and I kick arse. No, seriously. I organise a guild online and I’m looking for a few of you chickens to join me.
“This is Coarsegold Online, the fastest growing massive multiplayer role-playing game with over 10 million subscribers worldwide. You might’ve heard of it.
“This is my avatar. In game, they call me the Lizanator, Queen of the Spacelanes, El Presidente of the Clan Fahrenheit.
“How many of you girls game?
“And how many of you play girls?”

I don’t play MMORPGs so I was unaware that the vast majority of female gamers apparently don’t play female characters online, basically through not wanting to be harassed by men-children. Highly topical in the light of the recent #gamergate controversy, I must say. It’s not the main thrust of this story, the fact the main character Anda joins a guild created by ladies for ladies only, so they can feel confident enough to play female characters online, but it does firmly ground the story in reality for sure.

Anda our heroine is blown away by the presentation at her school and offer by renowned gamer Liza McCombs to join her Coarsegold clan as a probationary member. Assuaging her mum’s well-meaning concerns about her playing games on the internet with complete strangers, Anda convinces her mum to use her credit card to sign her up, and promptly enthusiastically dives into the online world, making firm friends with another newbie called Sarge. At first they undertake the usual levelling up antics battling monsters, but then Sarge gets wind of a way to make some cash in the real world, by assassinating gold farmers.

 

Gold farming for the uninitiated is defined by Wikipedia as ‘playing a massively multiplayer online game to acquire in-game currency that other players purchase in exchange for real-world money.’ And apparently again according to Wikipedia ‘gold farming in the People’s Republic of China is more pervasive than in any other country, as 80% of all gold farmers are in mainland China, with a total of 100,000 full-time gold farmers in the country as of far back as 2005. Gold farming in China is done in Internet cafes, abandoned warehouses, small offices and private homes. When organized as an actual informal business, they are known as gaming workshops. Prisoners in Chinese labour camps have been forced to engage in gold farming for the financial benefit of prison authorities.’ Righty-o.

Consequently, the act of gold farming is generally frowned upon and real world bounties are indeed placed on the heads of specific groups of gold farmers, often at the behest of other nearby competing gold farmers obviously… The naive Anda initially believes she’s going after bots, but even after she realises she is wiping out real players, Sarge persuades her that they deserve it and Anda is simply doing every other Coarsegold player a favour. And, even better than that, she’s getting real money arriving in her PayPal account as a reward to boot. Well, actually it’s her mum’s PayPal account, which she has access to.

It’s only when she befriends a young gold farmer and learns his real world story, that of someone, indeed in China, struggling on the breadline, in harsh working conditions, that she begins to wonder whether her homicidal actions are justified, causing a serious fracture in her friendship with Sarge, as she tries to galvanise her new Chinese friend to talk to his workmates and take some collective action to improve their lot by demanding better pay and conditions from their boss. Meanwhile, her mum, finally noticing her PayPal account is suddenly awash with cash, sent by various strange men, goes ballistic and electronically grounds Anda, despite her protestations, cutting her off from the internet completely leaving her with no way of knowing what has happened to her friend. When she finally gets back online, well, things have changed…

What a well written, totally plausible tale this is, highlighting various social issues associated with online gaming, without ever seeming preachy. The pull quote from Felicia Day, actress and star of amongst other things The Guild and also writer of THE GUILD comics states entirely accurately, ‘A lovely graphic novel for gamer girls of all ages’, but I’d go further than that, it’s something that boys and indeed parents should read and would also enjoy immensely too.

I’m immensely impressed with how well constructed this story is, which despite being about a subject many a reader would know precisely nothing about, is written in a manner by Cory Doctorow which elucidates an otherwise potentially mysterious topic beautifully. The art similarly, by Jen KOKO BE GOOD Wang is perfect for this tale and moves seamlessly from online to offline and back again scenes. I actually think they’ve made the right call not utilising a different art style for the two worlds, the real and the online, aside from the use of characters’ avatars to depict them in the Coarsegold world, because isn’t the whole point, indeed points, of this story that in fact the two cannot be separated? Another brilliant addition to the ever-burgeoning legion of books we can whole heartedly endorse for teen and younger readers and school libraries.

JR

Buy In Real Life and read the Page 45 review here

Battling Boy: The Rise Of Aurora West vol 1 (£7-50, First Second) by Paul Pope, J. T. Petty & David Rubin…

‘There were three ‘big conversations’ in Aurora’s childhood.
Age 3…
“Your father is a science hero. We fight monsters.”
Age 7…
“I should tell you the story of how your mom died…”
Age 14…
“I’m going to train you to fight monsters.”’

Volume 1 of 2 detailing the back story of Aurora West, the feisty monster fighting daughter of Haggard West, last seen being extremely perturbed by the show stealing arrival of BATTLING BOY in her home city of Acropolis.

First up, I have to give the warning that this work is not illustrated and indeed only part written by Paul Pope. Why that would be so, I honestly don’t know. Whether it was originally intended this was something Paul would do, or just a great subsequent idea for a spin-off he didn’t have time to do, I don’t know. It’s also in black and white, not glorious colour like BATTLING BOY.

Your initial impression therefore may well be the same as mine, one of mild disappointment, simply because BATTLING BOY was so, so good, I wanted more of the same, and this didn’t seem to be it. But if you can look at this work in its own right, it’s actually brilliant fun, very well written and extremely well illustrated. It’s just going to suffer a bit in comparison for some people, die hard Pope fans, on first impressions at least.

So, Aurora West is an all-action girl, learning multiple martial arts and mystical meditation techniques alongside her regular schooling by day, whilst being her heroic dad’s sidekick by night. She’s determined to get to the bottom of her mother’s death, but there’s a monster named Sadisto running a local gang snatching kids off the streets to contend with first. Sadisto has much bigger plans too, but perhaps Aurora’s decision to undertake some investigations of her own might not be the wisest course of action…

I would say this is ostensibly aimed at younger readers, perhaps a touch more so than BATTLING BOY, though I certainly enjoyed it too. There is a reasonable degree of extreme if comedic violence, plus the use of various martial arts weaponry, so it might not be suitable for the smallest of readers, and obviously the loss of a parent is always a difficult subject to write sensitively about, but if action is what is required to entertain, this certainly has it in abundance, as Aurora careens from one dust-up to the next.

I think J.T. Petty may well be responsible for the majority of the writing duties with Pope advising on continuity and plot perhaps, though the general feel and dialogue of BATTLING BOY and this work are reasonably similar, and David Rubin’s art style is just close enough to Pope’s that you feel this work can co-exist quite nicely in the BATTLING BOY milieu, though ultimately it also stands alone quite nicely as well. I will certainly be recommending people read it in its own right.

JR

Buy Battling Boy: The Rise Of Aurora West vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Hellblazer vol 9: Critical Mass (£14-99, Vertigo) by Eddie Campbell, Paul Jenkins, Jamie Delano & Sean Phillips, Pat McEown.

“The Second Coming of Johnny Silk Cut.”

John Constantine: basically he’s one big smoke-screen.

So Jamie Delano and Garth Ennis / Steve Dillon eras of HELLBLAZER in all their quick-witted, socio-political brilliance are wrapped up, complete, and we start afresh with new regular artist Sean Phillips of FATALE and CRIMINAL fame. Including a few earlier appearances Sean drew 38 issues in total with an unbroken run of 44 painted covers beginning here.

I know this because I bought THE ART OF SEAN PHILLIPS written by Eddie Robson based on extensive interviews with Sean and his collaborators, and heartily recommend that you do so as well! It’s not just an art book, it is a full and frank insight into one career and the recent history of comics as a whole. Within you learn also how many rewrites were demanded of ALEC, FROM HELL and THE PLAYWRIGHT’s Eddie Campbell on HELLBLAZER which is why, after such a frustrating experience, he quit. Really: you would demand rewrites of Eddie Campbell? It is to Eddie’s credit that you really can’t tell. His Johnny Silk Cut is a riot.

“Sashimi… Had some of that in a restaurant once, Arthur… I took it home and cooked it… Tasted just like fish.”

John is called in to exorcise a mate’s Uncle Arthur, killing him in the process. Whoops. What worries our John is that Arthur was having the same apocalyptic visions as himself and a quick browse of his bookcase confirms that Arthur was far more than he let on.

At which point Arthur’s family disappear, replaced by Murnaar the bipedal cat demon, Bona Dea who’s both blind and blunt, and the ghost of Sir Francis Dashwood, legendary founder of the equally infamous Hellfire Club. They have a warning:

“Reality has been hacked in the middle with a machete. The guts are about to start puking out.”

Urban legends are being made manifest.

“Unreason has been let loose like a mad dog.”

They claim the only way to reseal the fragile, thin membrane separating life and death, reality and unreality, reason and unreason is a world trip by plane, binding its circumference in a circle using a talisman which is Constantine’s case is a zippo lighter engraved with a snake-circled tree. Of course it is. It’s far more relevant than you think.

It’s the perfect plot for Campbell who lets loose his encyclopaedic knowledge of history, politics, literature, theatre and folklore while exploring the preoccupations with life and reality which he would later expound upon to great comical effect in THE FATE OF THE ARTIST.

“Wait! This isn’t a joke! This serious – real life’s a joke!”
You’re tellin’ me.”

All the while Sean Phillips is choreographing Constantine in what amounts to a ballet: as one ciggie after another is lit to perch permanently between his teeth, he is left with both hands free to lurch and pinwheel across the page, smoke swirling ever upwards. All this, I might add, is drawn straight into inks giving the forms, shadows and action a fluidity which blew my mind at the time. Phillips’ art is always fully grounded in each environment without cluttering it up with detail when unnecessary. His Australia is as immediately recognisable as his London suburbs in spite of all the photo references Eddie Campbell had diligently supplied getting no further than DC HQ. There’s also an arresting, haunting depiction of effects on an individual’s body of the Ebola virus as Eddie warns the world 20 years ago of what we’re all facing now. If only more people read comics, eh?

Paul Jenkins picks up the plot post-Campbell (who has stuck around long enough for a rip-roaring finale), delaying John’s flight from Australia just long enough to embroil him a struggle between Aborigines under siege from the relatively recent white man and facing eviction from their land that has been theirs for millennia. It gets brutal.

Before all of this, however, original series writer Jamie Delano returns to deliver a Constantine classic which finally explains precisely why his long-suffering taxi-driving constantly-on-call mate Chas is so loyal – no, so devoted – to the presumptuous, manipulative man who gets him into so much trouble with his missus, Renée.

It is gloriously gross, involving Chas’ excruciating dreadful mother – the proverbial mad woman in the attic – and her pet / agent / spy / familiar with whom she appears to be in symbiotic, telepathic contact: a wig-wearing chimpanzee called Slag.

SLH

Buy Hellblazer vol 9: Critical Mass and read the Page 45 review here

Sunny vol 4 h/c (£16-99, Viz) by Taiyo Matsumoto.

“Listen, Haruo. School isn’t just where you come when you’re hungry. You gotta show up in the morning an’ study too.”
“Yer gonna mess up my internal clock!”

Dear, dear Haruo has an answer for everything; but also one specific vulnerability.

Welcome back to the Japanese orphanage where imagination is one of the children’s very few assets and parents are everything.

That may sound like an odd thing to say about an orphanage but Japan is a foreign country: they do things differently there. Many of these “orphans” still have living parents who have jettisoned them into state care because looking after their children would evidently be too much fucking trouble.

“No need to sugarcoat it,” says Asako to her foundation-caked and rouge-slathered mother who’s all doll-faced mutton dressed up as lamb. “We’ll be fine. You just keep doing whatever makes you feel good.”

Haruo is feeling restless and has taken to petty theft. I mean, really taken to it. The local traders only tolerate it because they know what a rough life he’s had, but the teachers are mortified to the core: honour and the genuine shame felt at inconveniencing others are so profoundly important to the Japanese people (please see A DISTANT NEIGHBOURHOOD VOL 2). But Haruo is utterly unrepentant in spite of a store owner kindly declining to call the cops until his teacher promises, “I’ll make sure his mother hears about this.”

“Adachi, don’t tell my mom!! PLEASE, ADACHI, PLEASE!”
“We’re not talking about that now. How much is the pencil case?”
“If you do, she’ll never let me live with her again! I’LL DO WHATEVER YOU SAY!!”
“Uh… 1,200 yen, but…”
“I PROMISE I’LL NEVER DO IT AGAIN!!”

As ever with Matsumoto, there’s no sugarcoating the children, either. These aren’t the wide, shiny-eyed super-cutesies from sugar-buzz manga, but flush-faced, tiny-teethed and dripping with snot in the cold. They have straw hair and tantrums rather than glossy, tufty-wufty quiffs falling half-over their eyes and melodramatic, stylised gesticulations and proclamations.

There’s a sadness which haunts the series, often kept quietly to itself in ellipses, and if you want to gauge how highly we value this title, the first volume of SUNNY was our Dominique’s book of the year.

SLH

Buy Sunny vol 4 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

A Quiet Disaster (£5-00, Avery Hill Publishing) by Alex Potts…

‘Philip was getting old. His face was getting wrinkled, his hairline was moving backwards and he was on the waiting list for a knee operation. It was his day off and he didn’t have any plans, so, he ate his breakfast in front of the computer screen… and asked himself…
“What do I want to do?
“Is there anything in the world I actually want to do?
“Nothing comes to mind.”’

Not enjoying the luxury of ever having any personal spare time between the shop and my family, I can’t quite imagine myself in Philip’s envious position. I do vaguely remember the days where I could just do whatever I wanted, all day, but they seem like a distant dream now frankly. Two minutes on the toilet before my three-year-old nutjob bursts in demanding to know where I am is as good as it gets these days. So whilst I read this beautifully illustrated missive from the temporally rich Phillip as he puts on whatever half clean clothes he had lying around and sets off on a quiet stroll with no particular destination in mind, I allowed myself not to be too jealous as I eagerly awaited the riposte of his impending titular disaster.

When I’d finished reading, I actually felt a little sorry for lonely old Phillip. It’s not remotely dramatic at all this tale, which I guess is alluded to from the quiet element of the title, but there’s a real poignancy to several moments where we are seeing his overlaid memories, provoked by being stood in a similar place or situation, of what I believe to be the ending of a relationship. Meanwhile there’s also some strange comedic relief provided by a dog apparently wearing sunglasses that Phillip repeatedly encounters, or at least he thinks he does, which leads him into an embarrassing farcical finale of a confrontation in a local pub at last orders.

I really enjoyed this work, not least because it confounded my expectations, whilst simultaneously delivering a gripping, if paradoxically gentle, read. On the one hand, from start to finish, I kept thinking something tumultuous was imminently about to occur, yet the graceful poise of the plot makes perfect sense in its entirety. I was left feeling rather like Phillip at the start of his day, a bit deflated and empty, though I did raise a smile at the epilogue, which I think shows Alex has taken us on an all too typical day in the life of this character very successfully indeed. Alex has a nice style of illustration too, which reminded me a little bit, possibly more due to the colour palette than the penmanship per se, of Dan Berry. Just like Dan’s works, this has a very British feel to it, and fans of his should definitely check this out I think. One to watch out for.

JR

Buy A Quiet Disaster and read the Page 45 review here

C.O.W.L. vol 1: Principles Of Power s/c (£7-50, Image) by Kyle Higgins, Alec Siegel & Rod Reis.

“Why does everyone think they can touch me?”

Chicago 1962: hello, rank and ubiquitous chauvinism!

Well, I wasn’t expecting this: gripping from cover to climax and cover, this was both thrilling and faultless.

I’m afraid I’m unfamiliar with the creators. Certainly if I’d encountered artist Rod Reis I’d know about it because on the very first page (bottom panel) I was wowed instantly into thinking of Bill Sienciewicz’s NEW MUTANTS run. Blaze is essentially Bill’s Canonball.

The quality is maintained on each successive page, the period feel denoted by palettes of blue-greys or fauns with the occasional deft touch of luminous erosion. Nor is there anything meek or effete about the expressions as the members of C.O.W.L. take one for the team or, I’m afraid, from them.

There is, you might say, something rotten in the state of Denmark.

C.O.W.L. is an organisation of on-the-clock metahumans run by Geoffrey Warner who, post-WWII, have been employed by the city of Chicago to police the streets and protect its citizens specifically from other superpowered threats. (They’re not exactly nine-to-five for they operate for obvious practicalities’ sake in similar shifts to the police.) Even more specifically they were employed – as in paid good money – to protect Chicago from The Chicago Six and halfway through the very first chapter the last of The Chicago Six is taken down.

To all ostensible intents and purposes, C.O.W.L.’s work is done. They have effectively been so effective that they have won themselves out of a job.

It is therefore in every member of C.O.W.L.’s best interest to prove they still have some value to the city of Chicago and the politics here are played beautifully. Contracts for any sort of renewal have to be negotiated right down to terms and conditions and pay. And there is a strike. But the crucial thing about any strike is that if no one notices the difference between you being on the job and on strike… well, you’ve just proved yourself superfluous.

Some members of C.O.W.L. are better team-players than others, some more altruistic and some more… indulgent. Some do enjoy just getting their rocks off. The most conscientious is John Pierce of the Investigations Division. He’s not a punch-thrower, he’s a detective whose wife would love him to call it C.O.W.L. quits right now when the institution is on the brink of dispersal and the police would snap him up in an instant: it was Johns’ due diligence that delivered the last of The Chicago Six.

But the problem is… the problem is… some people are wise, some otherwise and the truth is not what it was.

It is John’s commitment and exceptional eye for detail which uncovers what could jeopardise his company’s reputation and so completely undermine the delicate balance of power in the above negotiations.

I hope I’ve been vague enough.

If you loved early POWERS – and I really, really did – you are going to adore this! Same goes for GOTHAM CENTRAL readers and those who relished IDENTITY CRISIS or THE AUTHORITY.

SLH

Buy C.O.W.L. vol 1: Principles Of Power s/c and read the Page 45 review here

100 Bullets Book 1 (£18-99, Vertigo) by Brian Azzarello & Eduardo Risso.

Collects first three 100 BULLETS volumes in one! It’s a thing DC’s doing now.

Gripping conspiracy crime fiction which, initially, looks simple enough: Agent Graves, a man of almost pensionable age in a suit and tie, arrivals on your doorstep with a briefcase.

In that case is irrefutable evidence that someone has seriously screwed you over plus the culprit’s identity. There’s also a gun and 100 rounds of untraceable ammunition. By “untraceable” I mean that if even a single bullet is found at the scene of any crime, investigations into it will cease immediately. How is that possible? Why is he doing it?

Would you use that gun, knowing you could get away with murder?

As the series progresses it becomes increasingly evident that this isn’t a game, it’s not even a private obsession. It’s a war.

Strings are being pulled while ties have already been severed; activations occur, more revenge is sought, but neither the original victims nor on occasion the original perpetrator are necessarily unconnected to Graves’s past or present. And some of them haven’t a clue they were victims, let alone connected.

There’s Mr. Shepherd, the Trust, the Minutemen and their history. There are several long-games in play.

So clever is this that there’s a stand-alone chapter in the next book containing two seemingly separate stories seamlessly interwoven and choreographed across a single park, and I cannot fault a word of dialogue. Azarello’s ear for dialect is superb. He has every nuance, every cadence of urban street patter down to perfection.

 

In the final story arc here we are introduced us to Loop, a young black guy raised in Philadelphia by his Ma, and whose Father is just someone she refers to. Loop talks the talk (and the talk is captured to the very syllable, with its own lyrical beauty), but so far he’s not yet walked the walk, though he teeters alarmingly close. A fine time for Agent Graves to tip the balance, providing Loop with an opportunity to meet the father he’s never known and resents, but for whom he constantly yearns. Unfortunately his Father turns out to be equally rudderless, collecting debts for a gnarled old loan shark, and although reconciliation does seem possible, they may well end up being the death of each other.

Recommended to readers of CRIMINAL and STRAY BULLETS. And indeed vice-versa.

Risso’s art is an essay in silhouette and shadow, so it’s recommended to SIN CITY patrons as well. There will be much more on Risso and the colouring so close that you can hear the cicadas anon.

SLH

Buy 100 Bullets Book 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Stray Bullets vol 1: Innocence Of Nihilism (£14-99, Image) by David Lapham

Terrible things happen to terrified young people, turning them into terrifyingly out-of-control car wrecks. They get caught in the cross-fire of other people’s greed, grief or beef, and it sends their lives careening in completely unintended directions.

Joey’s a car wreck. You just won’t find out why for hundreds of pages and then it all makes such appalling sense. But almost immediately it will dawn on you that a main protagonist in one chapter plays another role in someone else’s story as the narrative flips backwards and forwards in time.

Everything is connected.

This is the best crime comic in the business, right up there with Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ CRIMINAL, and we had missed it terribly. The new series kicked off with STRAY BULLETS: THE KILLERS #1 at £2-75 and, back in stock, that’s the perfect, affordable place to start and the best single comic I’d read all year. You know, until the other eight came out.

STRAY BULLETS UBER ALLES edition at £45 contains all 41 issues of the series prior to the current STRAY BULLETS: KILLERS, while this contains the first fifth of STRAY BULLETS UBER ALLES edition which shows you just how good value for money STRAY BULLETS UBER ALLES edition really is. However, you may not be comfortable with reading such a big book, so here is the alternative.

With more compelling individuals and more convincing characterisation in a single story than most people manage in a whole graphic novel, there is a density and intensity to these tales broken by moments of golden sunshine that make what follows all the more devastating.

In a way we are in Lynchian territory, for these suburban families seem perfectly normal from without, but wait until you see what simmers within. Also, I remember wondering what the fuck was up with the early, action-packed episode starring Amy Racecar and set in outer space. All I will say is that David Lapham isn’t the only one with a vivid imagination.

In later volumes these lives converge in a small town called Seaside, way out in the middle of the desert. Naturally. Young Virginia Applejack tries her best to protect vulnerable, drug-addled Nina from the advances of Seaside’s revoltingly seedy old-age pensioners, while Nina’s own friends, the ever-volatile Beth and Orson, land in trouble of their own when Spanish Scott turns up in search of his missing coke. And with Scott comes Rose, and of course little Joey. I told you everything was connected.

What follows is an accelerating climax of desperate, tangled gambits and frankly wince-worthy violence as these impossibly complicated relationships finally play themselves out. It’s an immensely satisfying pay-off for all your hard concentration at that point, but we will have only just begun. It’s followed by a new set of domestic freaks, and a short story which shows Lapham at his most manipulative:

After Kathy drags her boozed-up man into the house and out of the rain, she hears a knock at the door and finds two guys and a gal, pissed out of their skulls, insisting that Ricky owes them money. Kathy tries to shut the door on them, but the big guy – who insists he’s a cop – wedges his foot in the door, and the rest of that chapter grows increasingly worrying. Anything could happen. Anything.

Lapham’s command of the way dialogue can shift from confrontational to conciliatory to threatening – within breaths – will keep you on the edge of your anxious seat, but you’ll never guess from the lead-in how this story will end. To kick up the contrast, the next issue sees the return of the inimitable Amy Racecar in a private-eye spoof as ridiculously convoluted and funny as the opening credits to American television’s satirical SOAP. Amy’s on top, world-of-her-own form, and possibly Lapham’s most clever creation; I’m constantly forgetting that she’s actually [redacted].

Just when you think you’ve witnessed the worst atrocities this series of victims, survivors, chancers, bullies, losers and lowlifes has to offer, Lapham delivers a story of fatally misplaced trust which will have you turning the pages so tentatively with the words “No… no…” quietly riding your breath. You’ll start to worry ten pages in. It’s always the quiet ones to watch out for, but as soon as that photograph is surreptitiously slipped into the pile that the man is showing the boy, you’ll begin sweating. Child abduction and abuse are not subjects to be treated lightly or sensationally. Lapham does neither; you’ll soon wish he had.

The main differences between this and, say, 100 BULLETS which we all love to wit-riddled death is that this is all so intimate, so personal, and that the individuals – the victims in this series – are so young. That’s what made Lapham’s SILVERFISH such a nail-biter too.

As they reach their mid-to-late-teens with sex high on the agenda they make more mistakes. And because they’re older and capable of doing so much more with much greater strength, those mistakes have greater consequences. Brian and Mikey… now that’s one friendship which will never be the same.

As to the art, extraordinarily Lapham starts off knowing immediately how he wants to present these tales: all 1,200 pages are completely consistent whereas during STRANGERS IN PARADISE you can see Terry Moore develop in front of you. The paper used here has a satin sheen so that the shadows shine on the page. And it is pure black and white with no grey tone at all. It’s incredibly clean but supple as well. The figure work is immaculate, the forms soft are soft and yielding, and the hair falls just-so. As to the expressions, they communicate so much going on behind the eyes whether you like what you see or you don’t. Everyone here lives and breathes. For a while, anyway.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. This book contains the first series’ first seven issues.

SLH

Buy Stray Bullets vol 1: Innocence Of Nihilism and read the Page 45 review here

Ms. Marvel vol 1: No Normal s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by G. Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona.

“Everyone else gets to be normal. Why can’t I?”

Scream three hundred million teenagers worldwide.

G. Willow Wilson, you are a loving star! The kindness you have spread in this beautiful, brilliant comic will never be forgotten.

“It’s almost like a reflex like a fake smile. As soon as Zoe shows up I feel… uncomfortable. Like I have to be someone else. Someone cool. But instead I feel small.”

Page after page is riddled with this insight and empathy and it will mean so much to so many. If I have one piece of advice to those younger than me, to do better than me, to feel more comfortable, earlier than I did because I made this all-too common mistake, it comes in the form of this perfect observation:

“Being someone else isn’t liberating. It’s exhausting.”

Quite so. Be yourself!

It won’t get you a free pass to a party, mind you.

“Abu?”
“Hmm?”
“Can I go a party tonight?”
“Where?”
“On the waterfront.”
“With boys?”
“Yeah…”
“Very funny.”

Hahahaha! Oh, how I love this family. And that above all is what this comic is about: family and friendship.

 

Unlike most superhero comics this is genuinely mainstream with mass appeal. “Abu” the father is dead-pan and dry but unlike Jane Austen’s Mr. Bennet (Pride And Prejudice) he is so full of love. His priority is not how things look, but his daughter’s safety and happiness.

Starring sixteen-year-old Kamala, an American-born Pakistani, it confounds stereotypes and is instead packed full of genuine individuals like Kamala’s stylish friend Nakia who is thoroughly modern and savvy yet still proud of her Turkish heritage. For although Kamala can’t go to the party because there will be alcohol, Nakia won’t go to the party because there is alcohol. She knows her own mind, is what I’m saying.

Nor is Wilson afraid to pick holes in her own religion’s more superficial sillinesses, like the segregation of women from men in a mosque. It is rather difficult to concentrate when you can’t see the speaker!

Here there are those for whom race and religion don’t even figure like young shop assistant and school high-achiever, Josh, with the crush on Kamala that nobody notices. Then there are cast members who fail to see beyond the stereotypes, like over-privileged social blonde butterfly and concern-troll, Zoe.

“Your headscarf is so pretty, Kiki. I love that colour.”
“Nakia.”
“But I mean… nobody pressured you to start wearing it, right? Your father or somebody? Nobody’s going to, like, honour kill you? I’m just concerned.”
“Actually, my dad wants me to take it off. He thinks it’s a phase.”
“Really? Wow, cultures are so interesting.”

Kamala thinks Zoe “nice”, “happy” and even “adorable” but she’ll be disabused of that naïve notion before too long. Unlike Nakia, Kamala doesn’t yet know her own mind or other people. When she sneaks out at night to go to the waterfront the drink which she insists must be alcohol-free is spiked then she’s laughed at. As she stomps off in a defeated huff a metamorphic mist descends and Kamala passes out. Did I mention that she’s ever so slightly obsessed with Avengers? She writes online fan fic and everything! So Kamala has a vision…

From On High through billowing clouds, winged sloths and bobble-hatted doves descend her Holy Trinity of Iron Man, Captain America and Captain Marvel, the white, blonde goddess whom Kamala adores. Is she having a religious experience?!

Adrian Alphona’s art is adorable throughout. It’s soft and sweet and full of comedic expressions with a clearly defined spirit of place.

But it is on this particular page that he shows his real wit, transposing Iron Man and the couple of Captains gesturing beatifically into a traditional religious tableau complete with scrolling ribbons and… is that a hedgehog giving the victory salute?

“You thought that if you disobeyed your parents – your culture, your religion – your classmates would accept you. What happened instead?”
“They – they laughed at me. Zoe thought that because I snuck out, it was okay for her to make fun of my family. Like, Kamala’s finally seen the light and kicked the dumb inferior brown people and their rules to the curb. But that’s not why I snuck out! It’s not that I think Ammi and Abu are dumb, it’s just – I grew up here! I’m from Jersey not Karachi! I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. I don’t know who I’m supposed to be.”

It’s then that the vision of Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers) asks a key question:

“Who do you want to be?”
“Right now? I want to be beautiful and awesome and butt-kicking and less complicated. I want to be you. Except I would wear the classic, politically incorrect costume and kick butt in giant wedge heels.”

Like the later shape-shifting episode in the school washrooms, the punchline to that is hilarious. If there weren’t shrieks of outraged horror deafening the internet from those who could not wait, read, or comprehend a comic correctly then I would be very much surprised. Kamala has a lot of growing up to do, and I’m going to love watching her do so. While getting into trouble with her family.

Like YOUNG AVENGERS, HAWKEYE and LOKI, this is another fresh face for superhero comics, broadening their appeal through diversity. And I don’t even mean racial, religious, sexual or gender diversity – though that is important too – I mean that Willow G. Wilson has brought with her a different voice which is far from worthily earnest, but genuine, sympathetic and understanding of young hearts instead.

Here is Kamala transformed by the power of her will and the whim of her instinct into blonde superhero Captain Marvel / Carol Danvers.

“I always thought that if I had amazing hair, if I could pull off great boots, if I could fly… that would make me feel strong. That would make me happy. But the hair gets in my face, the boots pinch… and this leotard is giving me an epic wedgie.”

SLH

Buy Ms. Marvel vol 1: No Normal s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Gotham City Sirens Book 1 s/c (£18-99, DC) by Paul Dini, various & Guillem March, various.

If it wasn’t for the obligatory, silly supervillain sequences I’d be more disposed to remember the cute lines and deft expressions given by writer and artist to Harley Quinn, here back from a massive shopping spree dressed as a school girl with her blonde hair done up in a couple of bunches. Catwoman, having learned that her other co-star Poison Ivy has donated the 30 million dollars she gave her to global reforestation projects, reprimands Harley on her consumerist splurges:

“You’re worse than that the flower child. You might as well be throwing away your millions on the Joker.”
“Not this time. I’m over Mr. J.”
“Oh, please. He’ll be calling for your money the second he hears about it.”
“Then you’ll be skipping out the door for another round of abuse, humiliation and regret.”
Has he called?!”
“No.”
“Oh. Well, like I said, I’m over Mr. J.”

So: the three girls are going to move in together. What could possibly go wrong?

Collects #1-13. Thirteen? Unlucky for some!

SLH

Buy Gotham City Sirens Book 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

Reviews already up if they’re new formats of previous graphic novels. The best of the rest will be reviewed next week while others will retain their Diamond previews as reviews. Neat, huh?

 

aama vol 2: The Invisible Throng h/c (£12-99, SelfMadeHero) by Frederik Peeters

All You Need Is Kill (£9-99, Haikasoru) by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, Nick Mamatas & Lee Ferguson

Art Schooled h/c (£14-99, Nobrow) by Jamie Coe

Avatar, The Last Airbender vol 9: The Rift Part 3 (£8-50, Dark Horse) by Gene Luen Yang & Gurihiru

Herobear And The Kid vol 1: The Inheritance (£14-99, Kaboom) by Mike Kunkel

Marx h/c (£13-99, Nobrow) by Corinne Maier & Anne Simon

Neurocomic h/c (£14-99, Nobrow) by Dr. Matteo Farinella & Dr. Hana Ros

Serenity vol 4: Leaves On The Wind h/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Zack Whedon & Georges Jeanty, Fabio Moon

The Complete New York Four (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Brian Wood & Ryan Kelly

The Wake h/c (£18-99, Vertigo) by Scott Snyder & Sean Murphy

Walking Dead vol 22: A New Beginning (£10-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard

Animal Man vol 5: Evolve Or Die s/c (£10-99, DC) by Jeff Lemire & Rafael Albuquerque, various

Batman Beyond 2.0 vol 1: Rewired s/c (£12-99, DC) by Kyle Higgins & Thony Silas, Eric Wight

Batman: Arkham Asylum (25th Anniversary Edition) s/c (£14-99, DC) by Grant Morrison & Dave McKean

Avengers vol 6: Infinite Avengers h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Leinil Francis Yu

Deadpool Classic vol 10 (£22-50, Marvel) by Gail Simone, Buddy Scalera, Evan Dorkin, Daniel Way & various

Elektra vol 1: Bloodlines s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Haden Blackman & Mike Del Mundo

Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man vol 1 – Revival s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & David Marquez

New Avengers vol 4: Perfect World h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Valerio Schiti, Kev Walker

Original Sin (UK Edition) s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron, various & Mike Deodato Jr., various

Attack On Titan vol 14 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hajime Isayama

Gantz vol 33 (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Hiroya Oku

The Seven Deadly Sins vol 5 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Nakaba Suzuki

UQ Holder vol 3 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Ken Akamatsu

News!


ITEM! We have new Page 45 Tote Bags! Oh yes! Both a fashion statement and a status symbol, our first batch of 250 are almost sold out and – haha! – we created a variant cover! Because you know how much I love those! *spits* It was a printing error at the manufacturer but plenty of shop-floor folk have said they prefer the new one. Please do state your sartorial preference when ordering online or being fleeced on the shop floor. Cheers!

ITEM! IT’S COMPETITION TIME!

To celebrate Page 45’s 20th Anniversary we went to Kendal for The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014 and I done wrote big blogs about both of those. Full of photos!

We even had Glyn Dillon signing, sketching and watercolour washing in THE NAO OF BROWN which I declared two years ago to be the finest piece of graphic novel fiction of all time. So that was an honour!

What we have here is a copy of THE NAO OF BROWN which Glyn Dillon – after two hours hard work signing and sketching for Page 45 which we so, so appreciate – then went on to draw in with a unique variation on his regular thang. Look at this! *swoons*

That book is yours for free including postage (for we ship daily, worldwide) if you can just tell me this:

In my Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014 blog which blinding faux pas did I confess to about meeting Glyn Dillon?

Everyone who answers correctly within a week will be put into a hat. Because it’s winter now and hats are warm and snuggly. You’ll enjoy it in there!

At the end of the week we’ll get one of Nottingham’s finest creators like I.N.J. Culbard, Philippa Rice, Luke Pearson or D’Israeli to draw one of you out of that hat and you will receive that gift for free with love from Page 45 and gratitude for all your support.

Seriously: thank you.

Please email your answers into page45@page45.com with the title heading THE NAO OF BROWN COMPETITION and we’ll print ‘em all off.

Right, having bought this building last Monday, we’ve got a £350,000 mortgage to pay.

Fancy buying a comic?

Cheers!

- Stephen

Page 45 Reviews October 2014 week five

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

“Lived and died
“And struggled and lost
“And the end was unceremonious.”

 - Perfect cadence in Mike Medaglia’s Last Days Of Nobodies (Signed & Sketched In)

Expecting To Fly #1 of 2 (£3-00, Scary Go Round Comics) by John Allison.

“I reckon computer game realism has reached its peak.”

He’s playing Doom!

But didn’t we all think that when first immersed in the video game Doom? Racing down that first, three-dimensional tunnel alone blew my newbie little mind. Then eventually oh my god it was green and red and terrifying!

Set inextricably in Britain 1996 when copper-wire theft was a thing and some VHS video machines ran on short and long play (compatibility alert!) this is John Allison’s best book yet. And that’s saying something given how much I adored the revised-for-print edition of BAD MACHINERY: THE CASE OF THE GOOD BOY. I love the Marvel-homage and Tetris-tribute cover. Tetris is very telling here:

“It’s the perfect game. The rules are clear. Organise the world into perfect, neat little rows. Watch your problems disappear. There’s a tiny, two dimensional world in there. I’m keeping it going.”

So speaks Shelley Winters, a slim and attractive redhead always smartly dressed for school. She’s quick, witty and seems very wise. But she’s having to “keep it going” against all odds in the wake of a family tragedy.

Tim Jones too appears to have a level head on his shoulders. Older and taller than Shelley and his best mate, Ryan Beckwith, he seems organised, smart, attentive, generous and reliable. Ryan, meanwhile, has much to contend with. We’re talking about Tetris again:

“My life’s more like the ‘B’ game. It’s Level 9, High 5. Big messes clogging things up, making it impossible to do well. Everything happening too fast to change.”

The difference in Tim and Ryan’s lives in is made grin-inducingly clear during their morning schedule readying themselves for school. Allison ingeniously depicts this in a large, early shot of the two adjoining halves of their semi-detached house, each window of which is a panel. Ryan calmly brushes his hair, slips on his jacket, kisses his mum good-bye and leaves the house. Ryan panics, brushes his teeth, flails manically as his mum attempts to attach a school tie and… you get the picture.

The “big messes clogging things up” actually boil down to his dad. His parents are separated and his dad has moved out but he keeps coming back and dragging Ryan out to the boozer.

“Mum told me not to let you in the front door, Pa.”
“I let myself in the window anyhow, so it’s not a problem.”

Oh yes, it is.

However. However. Ryan is actually capable and he cares. He’s not the irresponsible idiot some might suspect from afar. It’s just difficult to say no to your Pa.

Two of the elements I love most about John Allison’s art are his figure work and faces. Everyone has a different body form and body language: Ryan wide-eyed and gesticulately wildly, though all too often weighed down by pressure and hangovers; Tim tall and lithe but not lanky; and the small of Shelley’s back could not be more perfect.

John also does “drunk” very well!

So. Ryan is assigned to watch over Shelley by a teacher who suspects she is fragile. Tim is very much taken by Shelley while Ryan fancies Becka and a party at Mick Speight’s approaches.

How long do you think it will be – in Tetris terms – before, I’m afraid, it’s game over?

SLH

Buy Expecting to Fly #1 and read the Page 45 review here

The Collector h/c (£25-99, Archaia) by Sergio Toppi…

“Let’s get one thing straight: don’t mistake me for your usual collector who fills his gallery with sundry items picked for age, trade value, and intrinsic beauty. Most such folk have no trouble showing off their treasures. That’s not me.
“I only collect things of deep personal means to me, things that have ‘lived’, actors in histories I alone know, from research. Once I obtain them, I set them aside, no one else ever sees them again.”

Originally published in 1984, at long last this masterpiece has been translated into English. I believe this is pretty much the only original longer form work that Toppi did, instead preferring to concentrate on various one-shots. I have no idea why that would be, perhaps just the circumstances and fashions of the Italian and French comics scene at the times, but to our modern tastes, seasoned as they in favour of the extended narrative, I can’t help but think that is a crying shame. Because as truly wondrous as Toppi’s line-led art style is, here the writing is equally as well crafted. He clearly was able to spin a tale just as well as he could illustrate it, because in the Collector he has created a truly fascinating character.

Yes, the Collector is a man who always gets what he wants, whether it be an enchanted Native American peace pipe, or a necklace imbued with magical powers once owned by the great Lama Padmasambhava. But when an object of his desire is acquired, it will never be seen again by another living soul, for the Collector’s treasures are for his avaricious pleasures alone. For the most past he is a man of absolute honour, but he’s not above a moment of crafty chicanery, devious double-dealing, or even outright treachery to gain his prize. And for those who cross him, or worst still also lust after what he covets, well, he’s a fearsome enemy to have to face.

There’s a superb foreword from Sean PUNK ROCK JESUS / JOE THE BARBARIAN Murphy which absolutely nails the appeal of Toppi’s unique style, and for me underscores everything that is beautiful about our preferred medium of choice. There is no wrong or right way to illustrate a comic, as Sean states, “Here’s the first lesson of Toppi: you don’t even need pretty lines to create pretty artwork – even the most basic, entry level type of scribble can be turned into a masterpiece if you apply it correctly.”

Toppi found a unique methodology of drawing that allowed him to express his own inner vision to its fullest. But beyond that, he also had an incredible understanding of how to make his artwork stand out from the page. Look closely at this work and what you’ll immediately notice is whilst there is immense foreground detail poured into the characters, there are equally vast expanses of white background, ensuring the focus stays firmly on the principals of the scene. He was very figure-focused, Toppi, but even on the occasions where there are vast open vistas, the insanely detailed landscape itself is contrasted against a blank white sky. Contrast is the key word here, and it’s a tool in all its forms that many artists don’t understand how to use properly, or haven’t mastered, at least not to this degree. Not all artists have styles that demand it as much as Toppi’s, to be fair, but where you have a style as rich in textural complexity as this, it’s essential for the balance of the panel composition.

At the start of this work there are listed about 20 or so other works by Toppi, as yet untranslated. I fervently hope that Archaia will continue to publish English language versions of this material, because it so deserves the widest audience possible. A true great.

JR

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

Last Days Of Nobodies (Numbered Edition of 100 & Signed & Sketched In!) (£7-00, Avery Hill Publishing) by Mike Medaglia.

“Lived and died
“And struggled and lost
“And the end was unceremonious.”

Oh, but the cadence is perfect! I’m adding that to my top twenty sentences written in the English language.

Wreathed in religious scrolls, this quietly elegaic and unsensationalist full-colour comic is both eloquent and beautiful to behold.

Framed in bright white yet drawn on a fine-grained, calico-coloured paper, it tells of Vincent van Gogh’s final countryside walk.

As he strolls the world whorls and warps around him as it did in his paintings. The sun is blinding, then a further two pages post-gun-shot are devoted to cross-hatched silence, the second one denser like woven wool in red and green. Later still, Vincent’s fading breath floats from his eyes and mouth to frame images of the alarm raised around town, the doctor dashing to Van Gogh’s assistance.

Wow. Just wow.

It was Jonathan who discovered Avery Hill Publishing here and so far that house appears to be an impeccable hallmark of quality.

Did I mention this comic is signed and sketched in and limited to 100 copies?

SLH

Buy Last Days Of Nobodies (Numbered Edition of 100 & Signed & Sketched In!) and read the Page 45 review here

The Garden Of Words (£10-99, Vertical) by Makoto Shinkai & Midori Motohashi…

A genuinely wonderful surprise, this understated tale of romance. I nearly didn’t bother giving it a read but I’m pleased I did, as it is of equal quality in terms of storytelling and art to the much lauded (and rightly so) 5 CENTIMETRES A SECOND. And like that work, it was also first an anime. The titular garden of words refers to a beautiful space in a Tokyo park where a 15-year-old schoolboy and 27-year-old mysterious woman forge an unlikely acquaintance over the course of the early summer rainy season.

Takao aspires to be an artisan shoemaker and finds the park a peaceful place to sketch his designs, and Yukari, well, her motives for visiting the park are not something she’s willing to speak about nor something the polite and well mannered Takao is willing to pursue. As their first chance meeting draws to a conclusion Yukari says goodbye to him by quoting an enigmatic poem, leaving Takao bemused and intrigued in equal measure.

Soon enough there’s a tacit agreement that both will find the other there when it rains in the morning, and so they gradually continue to further their acquaintance. It’s clear to both there is a potential mutual attraction, though obviously their age difference means it must remain unstated. Then summer comes into full bloom and the rains just stop. For several weeks Takao wonders if he will ever see Yukari again, but when he eventually does, it’s in very different circumstances.

Ah, I’m loathe to say any more, because what I’ve really done here is take you up to what is the pivotal moment of the story. To give anything else away would completely spoil things, I think, whereas hopefully I’ve merely piqued your interest. If you like a little anguished and tortured, will-they won’t they, romance, then you will absolutely love this. There’s a real delicate touch in the art that perfectly captures the gentleness of Takao’s and fragility of Yukari’s personalities that is a delight to behold. Their peculiar friendship is perfectly plausible, and in Japan’s formal society it’s glacially slow unfolding only adds to the deep emotional undercurrents present in the story.

JR

Buy The Garden Of Words and read the Page 45 review here

Doomboy h/c (£18-99, Magnetic Press) by Tony Sandoval.

“How to say good-bye to the dead.”

ID is a kid just like any other, only more partial than most to doom metal.

“Doom metal is this extreme type of metal with a real slow tempo and crunchy guitars playing these heavy sounds you don’t hear in other kinds of metal. The music and lyrics work together to give this feeling of despair and horror and looming danger.”

He goes to see gigs with friends like Spaghetti, a hulk of a teen with a temper; and with Sepilium whose eyes like ID’s lie completely hid under a long mane of hair. He plays his guitar which Annie drew eyes on but Mina’s the minor celebrity around these coastal parts.

Then one night ID takes a shortcut home across grass and there’s a freak gust of wind curling and swirling, throwing up trash with a noise. He finds his mum sitting up in the lounge.

“Annie’s mom called… She didn’t wake up in the hospital.”

That’s when everything changes.

ID finds a great big hole in his chest. Not just in his heart, but in his chest. He has the most almighty, violent break-up with his band who ostracise him, threatening ID with violence; he buys a star for inspiration from a girl he’s never seen before, selling them far from legally on the kerbside; he reinherits the dog Elsy he once gave to Annie; and he starts seeing vast wonders up in the sky…

Then he begins playing. Under the nickname Doomboy which Annie gave him, he plays his guitar secretly on the shore with Sepilium transmitting it into the ether. And the crowd, as they say, goes wild. They just don’t know where the music’s coming from.

Tony Sandoval grew up in the Northwest deserts of Mexico but this art feels continental to me. There’s a thin, fragile line matched with ragged textures, but big round heads with tiny eyes and tiny noses – elements of Lowbrow, now that I come to think of it – and mouths that break out into great big shouty chasms. The name Sam Kieth keeps cropping up in my mind.

The colours are predominantly sandy, brown, green and blue, and as for the cloud-bursting visions… You may want to click on these, blowing them up to full size!

The book hangs not heavily with melancholy but there’s certainly a yearning throughout, along with the constant threat of danger both from his pride-pricked, vengeful ex-bandmates and from Spaghetti about whom ID discovers a startling secret. I’d love to talk about that and the spot-on way Sandoval played it, but I want you to be as gobsmacked as Sepilium and ID.

SLH

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

Ricky Rouse Has A Gun (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by Jorg Tittel & John Aggs…

As you can see from the photo below, Jörg Tittel is a very intense man. I can testify to this personally having met him at The Lakes Comic Art Festival in Kendal recently. It took him about thirty seconds before he was interrogating me as to precisely why we weren’t stocking his book at the show. I told him that whilst I did enjoy much of it, that it did indeed have some salient points to make about the US military-industrial complex, China’s disregard for intellectual property – the titular Rickey Rouse being a blatant rip-off of Mickey Mouse – and much else besides, that I felt it all suddenly went a bit Die Hard, like some ‘80s action movie, with a completely preposterous, over-the-top ending.

Jörg then fixed me with his scary gaze and told me that was precisely what he had intended, satirising the golden age of action films whilst providing some serious political commentary. He may have been hypnotising me, actually, because the more I thought about it, the more I realised there are probably several Page 45 customers who would get a real kick out of it. So, buy this, it’s like Die Hard with an armed-to-the-teeth nutter dressed in a faux Mickey Mouse suit fighting terrorists who’ve taken over a theme park…

 

 

 

I should add that Jörg was an immensely entertaining bloke to chat and share a few beers with, and in addition to this work he has written and produced a play starring Richard E. Grant, plus written and produced a film ‘Testudo’ which was entered in competition at various top film festivals. He’s big into transmedia, particularly in the concept of games interacting closely with films and television. Sounds completely mad, but then having met him, I reckon if there is anyone insane enough to make it work, it’s him!

SLH

Buy Ricky Rouse Has A Gun and read the Page 45 review here

Action Philosophers h/c (£22-50, Dark Horse) by Fred Van Lente & Ryan Dunlavey…

“If a tree falls in a forest and Ryan Dunlavey isn’t there to draw it and Fred Van Lente isn’t there to script it, will it make a comic?”

Heh. There are as many word gags as visual gags in this panel-based philosophy primer, and they are multitudinous. In fact, scarcely a panel goes by without fun being poked at some great and learned thinker or their theories in some outrageously insouciant manner. Considering that intensity of humour, therefore, it is astonishing that this material is as wonderfully informative and subtly educational as it is. Weighty topics are dealt with precisely and succinctly, before yet another punchline has you sniggering again.

This tenth anniversary über edition collects what was previously four volumes featuring 40 luminaries from the ancient, medieval, modern and contemporary ages of philosophy. Slightly surprised not to see the wisest modern action sages of them all in there – Evan Dorkin’s MILK AND CHEESE – but I guess that just gives them something else to get irate about!

 

 

Anyone who enjoyed the excellent EVOLUTION: THE STORY OF LIFE ON EARTH and STUFF OF LIFE: A GRAPHIC GUIDE TO GENETICS AND DNA would definitely find this material as interesting and amusing a read. And genuinely, a really good philosophy primer.

JR

Buy Action Philosophers h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Last Temptation (Signed Edition) h/c (£55-99, Dynamite) by Neil Gaiman & Michael Zulli, David Curiel, Dave Mckean

Signed!

Signed not just by Neil Gaiman and by Mike Zulli, artist on Neil’s THE FACTS IN THE CASE OF THE DEPARTURE OF MISS FINCH CREATURES OF THE NIGHT, but also signed by Mr Face Paint himself, Alice Cooper!

So, you know, I’d act fast.

Inevitably brief return of the elusive Gaiman story that originally saw print at Marvel, the first part of which came, I think, with the Alice Cooper album which Gaiman wrote lyrics for. Seems rather unlikely, doesn’t it? Perhaps it’s just a dream I had.

Steven, not the bravest of blokes, takes a ticket to the Showman’s Theatre of the Real on a dare, then wishes he hadn’t.

SLH

Buy The Last Temptation (Signed Edition) h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Powers vol 1: Who Killed Retro Girl? (£11-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Avon Oeming.

Out of print for a long, long time, so please bear in mind that what follows was written just as our records began…

Bendis is doing the Warren Ellis thing at the moment. He’s someone working in the superhero field, writing what seems like half a dozen titles, touted by everyone as the new big thing and suddenly you turn around and there’s a bunch of his books on the shelf.

POWERS focuses on the police force in charge of a superhero-filled city. Detective Christian Walker is assigned a new partner. He and Deena Pilgrim make a good team, upholding the tried and true rules of the genre: he’s not happy about the arrangement, she’s heard about him and eager to make a friend. It’s not exactly ‘Tango & Cash’ but they hover in the same area. Bendis, as detailed in FORTUNE & GLORY, has had some dealings with Hollywood and his scriptwriter’s ear for quick, snappy, overlapping dialogue and understanding of screen formula pacing makes this, along with his surprisingly enjoyable ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN, a modern superhero take in a way that ASTRO CITY actually isn’t. Oeming’s art treads around the animated Batman arena, touching on Hempel’s SANDMAN work with rich, complementary colours by Pat Garrahy, bringing out the fluorescent lights and night time skies.

Retro Girl, one of the most loved figures in the city sky is dead. The media are quick to paint her as a mix of Kurt Cobain and Lady Diana. Walker and Pilgrim are on the case, rounding up the suspects and trying to find out what the graffiti at the scene (‘chaotic chic’) means.

SLH

Buy Powers vol 1: Who Killed Retro Girl? and read the Page 45 review here

Amazing Spider-Man vol 1: Parker Luck s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Dan Slott & Humberto Ramos…

“Alright it’s true. I am Spider-Man. But I’m not the Spider-Man you know. Or the Peter Parker you think you know.”
“Wait. What does that even mean?”
“Months ago a very superhero-ish thing happened to me. I got mind-swapped with a bad guy.”
“You’re serious?”
“Yeah. But I’m back to normal now.”
“Mind-swapped?”
“Yeah.”
“With a supervillain?”
“Uh-huh.”
“Which one?”
“Doctor Octopus.”
“For how long?”
“Before we ever met.”
“So this whole time… Doctor Octopus?”
“Yes… I know this is a lot to take in, but the person you… had a relationship with wasn’t me. That was…”
“That mad scientist. The one with the metal arms?”
“That’s the one.”
“Well he was bold and decisive…”
“Sounds like him.”
“…yet surprisingly tender.”
“I… uh… wouldn’t know about that.”
“And that does account for his unparalleled genius.”
“Well, not to brag, but I am a bit of a… Sorry.”

Ha ha, poor old Peter Parker, even now he’s back in control of his body, he’s still clearing up the various messes Otto left behind. And, as ever with Peter, it’s affairs of the heart that usually cause him the most consternation even when he’s not to blame. I think out of all the Marvel titles, ASM is the one that can rightly be most labelled as pure soap opera. And I do mean that in a positive, affectionate way. The endless rounds of fighting then making up between Peter and his friends, plus the ever-amusing pantomime villainy of one J. Jonah Jameson, fresh from his the debacle of his term as Mayor, ruined for him of course in his eyes by the wondrous web-slinger, ensure this title remains interesting, if not ground-breaking.

I did enjoy the SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN run, I must say, because when a solo character has been going for as long as Peter has, it is nigh on impossible to keep coming up with new ideas to freshen things up, but even so, I can’t help but be pleased Peter is back. There’s something mildly comforting about the fact that even someone with the proportional strength and speed of a spider has about as much luck as a fly trapped in the proverbial web. And, Dan Slott seems to still have a few more ideas up his sleeve for tormenting Peter based on this ‘first’ volume, so I shall keep reading!

JR

Buy Amazing Spider-Man vol 1: Parker Luck s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Locke & Key vol 6: Alpha & Omega s/c (£18-99, IDW) by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez

Impressively cataclysmic conclusion to Joe and Gabriel’s sotto voce horror masterpiece. The school year is winding to an end, graduation looms for many of our cast, and the kids of Lovecraft are preparing for their after prom party, a rave in a cave, yes that particular cave, which you might think by now everyone would be trying really hard to avoid… though I suppose everyone thinks the villain has already been vanquished at the end of volume five. OH NO HE HASN’T! As we well know…

The dastardly miscreant in question has been secretly going about his business in the possessed body of [SPOILER] and now has almost everything he needs to execute his apocalyptic plan and bring the rest of his kind through the portal into our world. There’s just one more of the Keyhouse’s keys he needs to get his hands on, and he’s knows Kinsey Locke will be bringing that particular item to the party, which just so happens to be taking place where he needs it most… in that cave! Fortunately for the Locke family, the residents of Lovecraft and indeed the entire world, Tyler Locke has finally realised precisely what his lucky charm gifted by deceased father actually is, and more importantly, how it can be weaponised. He also has a sneaking suspicion everything isn’t over just yet. Clever boy.

Tyler won’t be the ultimate hero of the piece, though. No, that prize is reserved for someone else: someone, who after all he has been put through already in a very, very difficult life, truly deserves it, bless his cotton socks. It’s time for the pure of heart and simple of mind to take centre stage at last as Rufus and his toys undertake their final mission for the highest of stakes.

Joe Hill has created a brilliant set of characters within this work, but Rufus has easily been my favourite. He now knows exactly who the villain is and exactly what needs to be done to stop him, but when you’ve the mental capabilities of barely more than a toddler, and you’re locked up in a secure hospital several miles from where the action is going to go down, what can you do? The answer? Whatever it takes soldier! Go, Rufus!

When you’ve put so much time and effort into following a series, you obviously want it to conclude in a befitting and satisfactory manner. Happily Joe Hill achieves that with aplomb and I believe this will be a series that continues to sell for a good number of years to come. It has everything you could possibly want in a good horror yearn: creepy locations, a fabulous cast of fully realised primary and secondary characters, plus an evil menace beyond measure. Also Gabriel Rodriguez has provided stellar art throughout. My initial impression was the art style was going to be incongruous with horror writing, but it just works perfectly in conveying the more fantastical elements of the story whilst dissembling the occasional burst of shocking violence. So, when all is settled are there happy endings for everyone? Certainly not, but suffice to say, some people get the endings they certainly deserve…

JR

Buy Locke & Key vol 6: Alpha & Omega s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

Reviews already up if they’re new formats of previous graphic novels. The best of the rest will be reviewed next week while others will retain their Diamond previews as reviews. Neat, huh?

 

Battling Boy: The Rise Of Aurora West vol 1 (£7-50, First Second) by Paul Pope, J. T. Petty & David Rubin

In Real Life (£13-50, First Second) by Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang

The Leaning Girl s/c (£22-50, Alaxis Press) by Benoit Peeters & Francois Schuiten

Preacher Book Book 6 (£14-99, Vertigo) by Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon, John McCrea

Star Wars vol 3: Rebel Girl (£12-99, Dark Horse) by Brian Wood & Stephane Crety

Stray Bullets vol 1: Innocence Of Nihilism (£14-99, Image) by David Lapham

C.O.W.L. vol 1: Principles Of Power s/c (£7-50, Image) by Kyle Higgins, Alec Siegel & Rod Reis

100 Bullets Book 1 (£18-99, Vertigo) by Brian Azzarello & Eduardo Risso

DC Comics Year One h/c (£25-99, DC) by Scott Snyder, various & Greg Capullo, various

Green Lantern vol 4: Dark Days s/c (£12-99, DC) by Robert Venditti & Billy Tan

Marvel Masterworks: Avengers vol 6 (£18-99, Marvel) by Roy Thomas, Gary Friedrich & John Buscema, Don Heck, Werner Roth

Miracleman Book vol 1: A Dream Of Flying (UK Edition) h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Alan Moore, Mich Anglo & Gary Leach, Alan Davis, Don Lawrence, Steve Dillon, Paul Neary

Miracleman Book vol 2: The Red King Syndrome h/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Alan Moore & Alan Davis, John Ridgway, Chuck Austen, Rick Veitch

Ordinary h/c (£14-99, Titan) by Rob Williams & D’Israeli

Attack On Titan: No Regrets vol 2 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Gun Snark & Hikaru Suruga

Black Butler vol 18 (£8-99, Yen Press) by Yana Toboso

Blade Of The Immortal vol 30: Vigilance (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Hiroaki Samura

Fairy Tail vol 43 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Monster Perfect Edition vol 2 (£14-99, Viz) by Naoki Urasawa

Naruto vol 67 (£6-99, Viz) by Masashi Kishimoto

Vampire Knight vol 19 (£6-99, Viz) by Matsuri Hino

News!

ITEM! Nottingham’s GameCity9 is a go! On now! Until the weekend! Good golly!

ITEM! Jonathan and I have bought Page 45’s building. All four floors and the cellar! It cost us hundreds of hours work and £350,000 so please pop in and spend money!

ITEM! Yay, no capricious landlord and the freedom to renovate when necessary.

WE ARE NOW IN FEROCIOUS NEGOTATIONS WITH OURSELVES ABOUT THIS OUTRAGEOUS RENT!

I WILL NOT BACK DOWN! BUT NEITHER WILL I!

THIS COULD GO ON FOR FIFTEEN YEARS!

ITEM! Page 45 review of The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014. It is epic. But then so was the festival.

ITEM! Page 45 declares its return to The Lakes International Comic Art Festival in 2015 and promises to be there forever!

It’s the same blog. It took me ten days. I even review a comic there by local school children who are amaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaazing!

- Stephen

Page 45 Reviews October 2014 week four The Lakes International Comic Art Festival Special

Monday, October 27th, 2014

Page 45 took more money at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014 – with under 5% of our shop’s range – than we have during our busiest-ever Christmas weekend.

 - Stephen on an all-time high. There will be a great deal of name-dropping!

The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014 (£0-00 totally free, LICAF) by Julie Tait with the best Festival Volunteers the world has ever known.

A round of applause for Julie Tait, please, for this was magnificent!

Kendal is kindness personified, and I was ecstatic for every second that I spent there.

I cannot think of many other experiences in my life about which I can say that. And I can’t think of any I can say that about when I was so hilariously ill.

I lost my greatest asset – my voice – after the preceding night while projecting in a very loud bar full of creators and customers whom we call friends, all celebrating Page 45’s 20th Anniversary. Yippee! But the more one projects, the more others project and soon the room is one great big Brian Blessed!

TAKE AWAY‘s Lizz Lunney & me:

Jonathan and I were so thrilled with everyone who turned up: shop-floor customers like Lou and Rob Lewis, mail order customers like Craig Naples, Lou and Chris Powell whom we so rarely see, creators we’d known for 20 years like Mary and Bryan Talbot, Ivy and Scott McCloud, Gary Spencer Millidge, the dapper Woodrow Phoenix who pinched my cheek (*swoons*) and THE UMBRAL’s Antony Johnston who’s one of the kindest men you will ever meet! Vijaya and Jeff Smith with whom we’d only corresponded briefly via email or snail mail dropped in; more recent comic buddies from whom we make so much money like Lizz Lunney, Becky Cloonan, Dan Berry, Ian Culbard, Sally-Jane Thompson, Paul Duffield and Emma Vieceli after a nightmare drive up with Pud. Still they both came!

Customers Lou Powell, Craig Dawson, Chris Powell:

THE GIGANTIC BEARD THAT WAS EVIL‘s Stephen Collins & THE SUITCASE‘s Dan Berry:

I met up with reviewer Richard Bruton and his missus for the first time in yonks. His daughter Molly wears MOOMIN, and quite right too! I met Nora from Knockabout. And Titan. And Soaring Penguin Press. And Foyles. And… I’m not sure where Nora doesn’t work.

There were comicbook creators we’ve long-loved but never met in person like Sara Dunkerton, Matt Gibbs, Stephen Collins, Joe List, Rob Davis, Adam Cadwell, Jorg Tittel, John Aggs and the festival mascot creators Jonathan Edwards and Felt Mistress (we may have hatched plans!). I think Joe Decie floated in. Please forgive serious omissions for I got somewhat plastered and I promise I’ll get round to you later!

Even the magnificent Julie Tait, the Festival’s director, popped her head round the door in spite of being so ridiculously busy with final preparations. That was a bit special. We’d been planning Page 45’s appearance since the July 1st 2013 but never once met. I can honestly say that other than Team Page 45 I have never before worked with someone so tirelessly enthusiastic, so ridiculously well organised, so can-do, will-do, imaginative, innovative and generous. None of this would have been possible without her – the entire festival, I mean!

So that was a moment.

We did all this at Ruskins run by Philip Walker (who’s a sweetie) and his staff who were each of them legendary including Nina Pengelly, Fergus Atkinson, Rory Swords, Dane Wallace and Sally Thompson. They presented us with champagne (I am rather partial) and a beautiful cake which blew me away.

Look, here’s J-Lo and me cutting into it!

I think this means we’re now married.

Not a single crumb was left over. Lizz Lunney saw to that almost single-handedly, growling proprietorially every time Felt Mistress came near!

This, then, is my Page 45 Lakes International Comic Art Festival Diary seen from a guest’s perspective. A first-time guest at that! We’ve never done a festival or convention before. It was time to learn stuff. Please click on any image to enlarge.

Warning: this is ebullient!

Thursday 16th October

Boxes of comics on our shop floor, waiting to be loaded. At this point Jonathan phones for a bigger van. They don’t have one.

Thankfully it transpires that our J-LO is a comic box ninja. Total Tetris level-up!

Hint on Twitter that there may be Page 45 20th Anniversary Blog with previously unseen photos of our beardly beloved Mark. My great mate Monkey Marc Laming, one of comics’ most marvellous artists, gets very excited indeed. He is a lovely.

Friday 17th October

8.30am Publish the Page 45 20th Anniversary Blog. Wonder if anyone will care.

Tweet blog, phone taxi, return to Twitter and almost burst into tears. Apparently people care quite a lot.

Thank you for that, by the way.

Taxi to J-Lo’s, quick ciggie and it’s The The, Beck, Depeche Mode and Madness all the way to Kendal.

Arrive 1pm and oh my days, Kendal’s gorgeous! Autumn colours against a blue sky.

Attempt to find The Brewery Arts Centre. Discover the circuitous delights of Kendal’s one-way system. This takes five minutes. Drive past The Brewery Arts Centre and contemplate what another circuit would mean. Jonathan pulls up and reverses slowly down what is a one-way street.

A police van drives past. I kid you not.

We hold our breath but apparently so many heinous crimes are being committed in Kendal that their presence is required elsewhere. Either that, or they’re hungry. It’s lunchtime.

Discover The Brewery Arts Centre. Turns out that’s gorgeous too.

The Festival Volunteers direct us to Kendal’s Clock Tower. Apparently the route is… circuitous. J-Lo parks outside The Kendal Clock Tower and guards the van while I jump out and enter gingerley. I’m really quite shy, you see.

That’s when I meet Sharon Tait, and from that very first second I realise this festival is going to switch from being very, very hard work… to a joyous holiday. That woman, I tell you, is a goddess! I receive immediate hugs, complete reassurance, our festival passes plus a tour to The Georgian Room upstairs which has been dedicated solely to Page 45. Guess what? Turns out that’s bloody gorgeous as well.

I start beaming. I don’t stop for next 60 hours.

The box-carrying cavalry arrives in the form of Craig Dawson, Retail Director of That’s Entertainment and record holder of the biggest single non-librarian spend at Page 45: over £1,500 in one afternoon. And he’s in at least four times a year.

During our 15th Anniversary Booze, Craig and his fiancée challenged me to get their impending wedding blessed by Alan Moore. I don’t know Alan Moore. We’d only met once. But I do know Eddie Campbell and wee Hayley Campbell and a couple of months later I found myself boozing in Nottingham’s Olde Trip To Jerusalem with Eddie Campbell and Michael Eaton who were creating a graphic novel about Charlie Peace which turned into a fabulous play. (Click on that sentence for Eddie’s astonishing stage set designs!) We all went to see it together this time last year with Eddie’s lovely lady,  The Time Traveler’s Wife’s Audrey Niffenegger.

Anyway the very next day, Eddie was set to meet up with wee Hayley Campbell and Alan Moore in Northampton. So this happened.

 

 

 

Mission accomplished, but I digress.

Sally-Jane Thompson arrives with birthday chocolates and robot mug and together we decide how to organise the tables to show off the stock and all our creators in residence to best effect. Having a comicbook creator like Sally around is quite an advantage for that! A lovely bloke called Stephen comes in to drape the tables in black, Sally and Craig unpack and I take three whole hours arranging all our gorgeous graphic novels!

 

 

 

Andy Diggle wanders in. Hurray! I’ve never met Andy before. Thankfully he introduces himself: I’ve no idea what so many comicbook creators look like. You’ll remember I said that later! *cries*

Mary and Bryan Talbot wander in and introduce us to Vijaya and Jeff Smith. I’ve never met them before, either. Hurrah!

Ivy and Scott McCloud wander in.

Oh, them I’ve known for just over twenty years. We named Page 45 after the 45th Page of UNDERSTANDING COMICS (for the full story see the Page 45 FAQs here). It’s why they insisted on signing with us at the festival. Lucky us!

Then a career highlight: I introduce the Scott McCloud to a graphic novel that he’s. Never. Heard of: THE RIVER by Alessandro Sanna.

It’s Scott who introduces you to comics you’ve never heard of!

Second career highlight on the trot? A tall man I don’t recognise starts inspecting all our meticulously arranged lavish, hardcover graphic novels. “Oh, these are marvellous, beautiful, fabulous books…” Or words to that effect. I can’t really remember. I think I introduce myself and explain what we’re doing over the weekend. I can’t really remember that, either. My memory’s rubbish isn’t it? Do you want to write this blog instead?

Anyway, he has a French accent so that was a clue. Turns out it was Boulet! And if Boulet believes you have beautiful books… Well, I began to believe we might have brought the right graphic novels!

 

 

J-Lo returns from the hotel, we pop up our signs (note for next time: we need more, and bigger ones!) and wander down to reception wondering where Ruskins could be.

It was at this point we began to discover the festival’s greatest asset:

THE LAKES INTERNATIONAL COMIC ART FESTIVAL VOLUNTEERS CANNOT DO ENOUGH FOR YOU!

Seriously. They bring you tea and coffee and water all weekend round. Ask for anything: an extra table, some tissue paper to absorb the excess watercolour on Glyn Dillon’s brushes… Ask for anything at all and ye shall receive within seconds. They’re constantly and consistently asking if you need anything. One wonderful woman fetched me throat lozenges and I didn’t even ask! She’d simply spotted that I’d started struggling.

There were always several on hand in the lobby with Sharon Tait and outside offering programmes to the public passing by – smiling, never flagging – and one young man (everyone’s a young man to this Methuselah) didn’t just point us in the right direction, he took us to Ruskins – right to its door.

Which, I believe, is where we came in: Page 45’s 20th Anniversary Booze Bash.

Have a photo of Festival Volunteer Alex Valente. I tried introducing comicbook creators to Alex Valente but almost all of them knew him already. He’s that kind of guy. What a star!

Saturday 18th October

We’d been booked in to The Best Western Green Castle Hotel. Hey, guess what? It was gorgeous. Breakfast had quite the view.

There were a lot of comicbook creators booked in there, but mysteriously none of them made it to breakfast quite as early as we did. I’d pop in a wink but it turns into a smiley on blogs and they bug me.

Sorry…? Nope, I don’t get hangovers. I am immune. But apparently not to a ragingly raw throat. I rasped my way right through the festival.

9.30am and our first roster of rotating creators begins to arrive in the Georgian Room. Rotating? Sarah McIntyre positively pirouettes! Here she is with Ivy!

 

They start setting up their stalls of self-published comics backed up with their books which we’d brought with us from various other publishers. Look, here’s Kristyna Baczynski!

Kristyna with the 24-Hour Comics Marathon maestro, Dan Berry!

Jack Teagle on the right, Joe Decie to his left, with a seemingly invisible left hand!

Warwick Johnson-Cadwell popped in later. You’ll see him in the 24-Hour Comics Marathon photo later on! Ooh, and Oliver East swings by to make sure all ten of issues of his comic THE HOMESICK TRUANT’S CUMBRAIN YARN are on sale in our room. They are, and readers have already been asking about specific journies. (I have to tell you, Oliver is looking so hot these days. I had to tell him too, because some days I have no internal editor).

The public begin drifting in. The public start surging in. The public start browsing our books. The public start buying our books!

One of the most rewarding aspects of this Festival is how many members of general public – The Real Mainstream, many of whom had never come across adult graphic novels or quality Young Adult and Younger Reader graphic novels before – flooded into the Clock Tower. It’s because it’s such an attractive venue in the centre of town and the whole of Kendal is taken over by comics way in advance. Unlike some other conventions, you cannot accuse The Lakes International Comic Art Festival of failing to advertise – they do it months in advance!

Also: NO ENTRANCE FEE! Nice one! Why wouldn’t they meander in and take a look? I would. I did! I might have put in some work.

Another equally rewarding aspect this year was how many of The Real Mainstream who never knew they were in search of Real Mainstream graphic novels like ours then studiously picked them up and leafed through them. Then another! Then another! Not “Oh no, this isn’t for me!”

And then there were families! Oh my days, there were families! Thankfully early on I’d decided to devote an entire round table to kids’ comics because kids’ comics are cool!

 

 

Look, here’s Captain Stoopid himself, the gorgeous Gary Northfield, sketching in our copies of TEENYTINYSAURS and GARY’S GARDEN!

That man is a star! He was over in The Phoenix Comic area at the Shakespeare Centre doing workshops with Adam Murphy and Neill Cameron et al, teaching Young Readers and Teens HOW TO MAKE AWESOME COMICS. He didn’t have to zap round to Page 45 and sketch for us too, but he did! And guess what? Over the weekend, we sold out!

Similarly Adam Murphy slipped round early Sunday to sign CORPSE TALK but we were already down to three copies! And then there were none.

It was RAINBOW ORCHID’s Garen Ewing who declared, “Children aren’t the future of comics; they are the present!” Quite right too! Pop quality kids’ comics in front of bright, shiny eyes and they will devour them. And fibre is awfully important in any diet.

10am to 12pm: our Scott McCloud signing!

So that was a thing.

This really is Scott with Aliki Chapple to the left:

It was at this point, I think, that mail order customer Derren Phillips popped in with birthday cards both for the shop and for silly old me. He’d secretly contacted J-Lo to supply him with our logo and typeface and replaced “PAGE 45” with “AGE 49” and “AGE 20”. So cool!

1pm. I announce to a packed room – rather bravely, I thought – that it is time for my first show-and-tell. Like Tom Waits with a loud hailer (I can project, sore throat or not!) “Who’s here for my show-and-tell on The Hidden Secrets Of Graphic Novels?”

Deafening silence. The creators howl with laughter.

Bums, I think, but launch in anyway with the wonderful Jade Sarson helping me unravel Joe Sacco’s THE GREAT WAR to great gasps! Immediately I have an audience! I am utterly astonished. Then on I charge through Shaun Tan’s THE ARRIVAL and David Mazzucchelli’s ASTERIOS POLYP showing them how each creator had so cleverly composed those graphic novels with secret tricks that only the comics medium can muster. I’m not sure how many books we cover. Maybe a dozen, perhaps? I love every minute of it.

Throughout the weekend some of that audience come back and buy graphic novels, asking me to remind me which ones they were. So it worked after all. Never miss an opportunity to spread the good word, I say! Turn every obstacle into an opportunity!

1.45pm and we are approaching our Glyn Dillon signing.

I have publicly declared Eddie Campbell’s ALEC OMNIBUS to be the finest single body of work in comics, and it is. Eddie is comics’ finest raconteur as everyone attending his talk at the festival found out and his autobiographical musings are as profound as they are laugh-out-loud funny. Whenever I spend time with Eddie he is always full of stories and almost always half-convulsed with laughter.

“But enough of Eddie Campbell!” (cries his entire family), we are here for Glyn Dillon right now, and I am rather excited! I have known Glyn Dillon via Twitter and e-mail for three or four years having publicly declared THE NAO OF BROWN to be the book of the year… six months before it was published. I’m rather brash with my public declarations, aren’t it? But I’d already seen enough. On publication it turned out to be substantially more: the finest piece of comicbook fiction of all time.

He’d already shown me so much support and so many behind-the-scenes kindnesses like during the only time I can recall ever having been attacked on Twitter – by someone in our own industry whom I’d always supported. That was an odd evening.

But. Glyn and I have never met. Just as I’m getting very, very excited in walks this well-handsome man with a gentle demeanour and asks how we’re doing.

“Oh, tremendously well, cheers!” I croak. “I mean, look at this lavish room the festival has given us! We’ve a rotating cast of creators all sketching and selling away! We’ve all these jaw-dropping graphic novels the public are lapping up. And. And. In fifteen minutes time we have the great Glyn Dillon not just signing or sketching but painting in THE NAO OF BROWN!”

And this lovely, lovely oh lovely man says, “Who on earth do you think I am?”

If ever you had any doubts (I know you don’t), I am indeed an utter buffoon.

 

As revenge we keep Glyn busy for a full two hours and I even pronounce his brilliance rather loudly across the room in order to ensure extra sales and make the man blush. Both worked rather well, I thought.

You can buy THE NAO OF BROWN t-shirts we had on sale here.

Next up at 4pm is my Kids Comics Are Cool! show-and-tell and thankfully an audience arrives for that. Smaller than the last one, I grant you, but then I’d already given a private showing to mail order customer Marcus Nyahoe. Marcus Nyahoe is one of my favourite people anywhere in this world. He wanted recommendations for his young son called Max. So I ask what Max likes and he likes ninjas and stoopidity and –

I didn’t have to hear any more.  I showed him a lot but I focussed on Jamie Smart’s FISH HEAD STEVE. This is the result: one happy chappy!

Yeah, that’s my favourite photo of the festival as well!

At 6pm Jonathan shows me our Z Read. That’s when you find out how much you’ve taken.

J-Lo has been in charge of the till, by the way. He’d created a hybrid of our original Ronnie Barker ‘Open All Hours’ till drawer (it is rapacious!) and a modern console which thanks to J-Lo’s inexhaustible ingenuity meant that we could take credit cards as well as cash. It might sound like I had been working but while J-Lo was stuck behind the till I had snuck off for some smokes. Such a slacker!

There I’d finally met up with my Duncan Fegredo and festival patron Sean Phillips whom I’m begun to fear that I’d miss. Duncan Fegredo was the reason that Page 45 couldn’t do the festival’s first year because of this. That’s right, blame Duncan Fegredo! *eyes wander skywards innocently*

“BUT WHAT ABOUT YOUR TAKINGS, YOU NAME-DROPPING NUMBSKULL?”

Oh. We’d taken already taken more money on the first day than we expected to in our wildest dreams all weekend. Page 45 took more money at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014 – with under 5% of the full shop’s book range – than we have during our busiest-ever Christmas weekend.

Time to celebrate!

 

Back we go to The Brewery Arts Centre where people with passes get fed. For free! Alas, we have mislaid our meal tickets, but here comes FREAKANGELS’ Paul Duffield who has been buzzing all weekend long. I’ve never known him as hyper as this! On Saturday night he was stood at the taxi rank with Emma Vieceli and Pud then abruptly changed his mind and bolted right back to Ruskins. Hurrah!

Paul takes the time and trouble to scout round his table for spares just for us and, oh, but the food is delicious. I hadn’t eaten for 48 hours. Well, I had breakfast but unfortunately my throat decided against it and my loss was the toilet bowl’s gain.

We have dinner with Hannah Berry for whose ADAMTINE we ran a chilling – and I mean chilling – campaign when Hannah designed these replica notes which we snuck into other graphic novels all round the shop. Read the review and all will become clear! That’s my letter knife and old keyboard, by the way. One is slightly shinier than the other. Theatrics are important!

Also sitting with us: Jade Sarson, Darryl Cunningham, Stephen Collins, Corinne Pearlman from Myriad Publishing along with their Gareth Brookes and, oh, there’s Joff Winterhart – two of Page 45’s Comicbook Of The Month creators sitting next to each other! I never got to speak to Joff Winterhart – I didn’t want to interrupt – but apparently lovely things about Page 45 were said in his talk. I don’t quite know what but Sharon Tait said it was so. Thank you, Joff!

Once everyone packs up along come replacements Eddie Campbell, Audrey Niffenegger and Dan Franklin. Eddie and Audrey, I know. But Dan Franklin is essentially the commissioning editor of graphic novels and beyond at Jonathan Cape. He’s Bryan Talbot’s editor. He’s Salman Rushdie’s editor. I am slightly intimidated.

Oh wait, no I’m not. I don’t do intimidated; I do drunk. I campaign relentlessly. Every obstacle is an opportunity etc! I should probably have done intimidated.

Left to right: Matt Green, J-Lo, this idiot, Craig Dawson, Eddie Campbell, Audrey Niffenegger, Dan Franklin:

Scottish-born then Australian-bound Eddie insists I tell everyone about my big gay bed. He does this every time.

I think we may need a little context.

Eddie Campbell’s entire family came to stay with me some 18 years ago. I’m guessing at this point, but 18 years sounds about right. Hayley was about 10, wee Callum was roughly 4 and Erin was there in the middle. Eddie and Anne had my en suite guest room, Hayley had my double bed, Erin had the spare room’s single and Callum had the couch. Everyone went to bed and Callum dozed off while Eddie and I blathered on until 4 in the morning about everything from comics to ancient Greek statues. That was when I first learned – from Eddie – that Greek statues weren’t white. They were very brightly coloured.

Anyway, I have a thing for black sheets and Hayley decided they were gay.

Now I cannot recall if wee Hayley knew I was gay but knowing wee Hayley I suspect this is so. Regardless, she certainly wasn’t using “gay” in its pejorative sense, as in naff. *Kicks you in the cods if you use it that way!* She’d decided my black-sheeted beds were gay. Or used for gay purposes. *snorts*

And the very next morning – after I’d spent the rest of the early hours on the sofa watching Disney films with four-year-old Callum who’d woken up just as Eddie collapsed into bed – Hayley Campbell declared that I had a “big gay bed” and a “wee gay bed”.

That night I had no gay bed.

“But enough about Eddie Campbell!” (shrieks his entire family). “What happened next?”

Next was Bryan Talbot!

Now, I’ve known Bryan Talbot for years. THE TALE OF ONE BAD RAT – set, of course, in The Lakes District – catalysed our friendship: an impeccably composed graphic novel whose Beatrix-Potter-inspired cover sold itself to The Real Mainstream, it was one of our very first golden winners. When Bryan first came to sign we sold  a copy to a blue-rinsed octogenarian Tory who’d wandered in by mistake. She recognised specific landscapes in Bryan’s book and was instantly converted to comics.

Later, Mary Talbot came to live with me for a year while lecturing at Trent University. She showed me healthy salads; I showed her my fridge.

I even appear on Bryan Talbot’s GRAPHIC NOVEL MAN DVD, popping up when you least expect it. I’m so sorry about that.

Blame its director, Russell Wall. I’m quite good at this blame game, aren’t it?

So there I am chatting to Bryan, Mary, Russell and Kate Charlesworth, illustrator of their SALLY HEATHCOTE: SUFFRAGETTE, when somehow their friends Dougie Braithwaite and Dave Gibbons are mentioned and I’ve never met either. Bryan fixes that immediately. They’re both here! Doug has an exhibition on at The Brewery Arts Centre.

So I finally met Dave Gibbons in person and tweet that I may have been squiffy. The great man replied, “There’s no “may” about it.”

And frankly, there really wasn’t.

Sunday 19th October

Yup, up, yup, up bright and early!

Did I mention I’m immune to hangovers? Sorreeeeeee!

Now new stars appear in our Georgian Room who’d been there the previous day but post-2pm! Donya Todd and Jade Sarson who kindly helped with Saturday’s Show-And-Tell!

Fumio Obata! Such a gracious man!

Joe List and Lizz Lunney!

Lizz Lunney made us a present! How cool is this?!

10.30am The Art Of Selling Comics.

This was completely new territory for me.

Well, selling comics isn’t, obviously, nor putting that dark art into such card-crushing practice that some poor customers have found themselves careening from healthy savings account to second mortgage in six seconds flat! But although I’ve enjoyed delivering loads of interactive, hour-long show-and-tell sessions with librarians and book clubs, I’d never constructed a PowerPoint presentation with a sort of set “script” dictated by the order of slides. I love learning stuff – it’s empowering and the construction itself was great fun.

Dr. Mel Gibson kindly volunteered to act as compère and took me took the Council Chamber hidden behind closed doors at the back of the Clock Tower. It was quite the revelation: ornate wooden panelling, with rows of seats raised round the room above the central presentation point with its screen. It felt a bit like a courtroom (there was even a gavel!) in the round. Every seat had a microphone, and maybe I should’ve used mine because my tongue by now felt like it was made of red-hot barbed wire. But the one thing I can always do is project, and I was determined to keep it as lively and theatrical as possible, kicking off with how I hand-sell Isabel Greenberg’s THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF EARLY EARTH directly to customers on the shop floor.

Fortunately my routine for that contains multiple jokes: all education should be entertainment to keep your audience engaged, whether it’s a review, a presentation or Twitter! Also, by good fortune, that routine contains almost every element I wanted to explore on The Art Of Selling Comics which I’d bullet-pointed on two sheets or paper – one addressing retailers, the other addressing creators and publishers – both of which I’d left by each seat because a) I had no idea who would be which and b) to show that they’re pretty much identical. Whether it’s a review for readers or a preview for retailers, both are sales pitches and both, to my mind, should reflect the spirit of the book that you’re selling.

As it happens Jared Myland from OK Comics kindly came, as did Corinne Pearlman from Myriad Publishing and, at a guess, 30 more?

Sharon Tait told me it generated a big buzz in the lobby afterwards and it certainly got a lot of laughs during the talk, but if I am brutally honest with you it was the one part of the festival for me which didn’t go according to plan. Sorry! Having a throat that sore and a voice that raw is distracting. I forgot a few things (I read from no script, relying instead on the slides to prompt me on the elements I’d rehearsed, because reading from a script can be crushingly dull and you don’t meet the eyes of your audience), I overran painfully to the point where I’d just ten minutes left to address publishers properly and there was no time for questions except afterwards. I could really have done with an extra half hour. My bad, I know! Still, live and learn!

I took a particularly good question outside from two young creators currently creating a comic which reminded me of a crucial First Second article on building your fanbase, and my advice was to start getting pages online well in advance of pitching to publishers or pitching directly to retailers like me, then hitting Twitter  and spreading the word.

Hmm. I appear to have slipped into past tense.

Returning to our room I discover Eddie Campbell has sidled by to sign the ALEC OMNIBUS, THE FROM HELL COMPANION etc, then Jeff Smith squiggles in RASL.

Mary Talbot signs SALLY HEATHCOTE, SUFFRAGETTE, one of my biggest books of the year:



She so chic!

2pm. Time for the 24-Hour Comic Marathon celebrations!

A phenomenal achievement, Jack Teagle, Warwick Johnson-Cadwell, Donya Todd, Dan Berry, Fumio Obata, Joe Decie and Sarah McIntyre (left to right) had all created comics in just 24 hours then the printers miraculously turned them around in under 12!

Here they are artfully spread around by the marathon’s instigator and coordinator, Dan Berry, creator of THE END and THE SUITCASE etc. (Pop Dan into our search engine – we’ve loads of his comics!)

 

Awards were presented by Dougie Braithwaite, and there was a roar of laugher as Sarah McIntyre wrestled with getting her medal over one of her legendarily large and ornate hats! Here’s Sarah McIntyre’s ‘A Peak At The 24-Hour Comic Marathon’! Her blogs are the best! Such fun photos!

Shortly afterwards I served comics maestro Hunt Emerson and FATALE’s Sean Phillips dropped in for a chat, reuniting me with WALKING DEAD’s Charlie Adlard.

Charlie and me went to school together – we even attended the same art class every week! Guess which one of us is now one of comics’ most successful artists and which one’s the till monkey! We hadn’t actually spoken since school: Charlie wasn’t even sure it was the same Stephen Holland at Page 45 that he went to school with. And now we’re back in contact! Hurrah! Do you think we may have hatched plans?! Hahahahahahaha!

And then suddenly it was all over and we had to pack up.

Once again, without the help of the help of the Festival Volunteers this would have been so much more arduous. There was time for a final round of hugs, two swift smokes then into the van. Leaving Sharon Tait was such a wrench.

Jonathan and I had a riot on our way back, manically exchanging anecdotes and planning for even more fun in the future at what I honestly believe to be the greatest UK Comicbook Festival of all time. It was our first, it was fabulous and we made so much money selling great graphic novels and comics to those who’d never encountered a single graphic novel in their lives. We have ideas! Oh, so many ideas!

And we will be back, I promise you. We will be back with a vengeance!

Always finish with a flourish and a startling surprise.

Page 45 Announces Its Presence At The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2015 Oct 16-18

We will be back upstairs in The Georgian Room with more gorgeous graphic novels and rotating creators signing and sketching for free just like this year. Hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

Why’s that a surprise?

Page 45 had promised in public to hold its 21st Birthday Party and my own 50th Birthday Party on Saturday 17th October 2015 in Nottingham. It’s the very same day: we opened by chance on my birthday.

I hate breaking promises. Moreover, I don’t normally celebrate my birthdays any longer and Page 45 customers will understand why I couldn’t possibly celebrate my 40th birthday in any way shape or form: we’d just lost our Mark. So I’d set my heart on being in Nottingham that day with friends, relatives and customers if only for one year only.

I can promise all of you this: Page 45’s 21st Birthday Booze Bash will be in Nottingham on a subsequent Saturday which we’ll announce as soon as humanly possible. And we will make it special!

But all weekend long we were asked if we’d be back to LICAF next year in the sort of tone than implies “Please!”

We reached The Real Mainstream, converting hundreds of new people to comics and that has always been Page 45’s prime stated mission.

In doing so we took more money this year at LICAF than on our biggest-ever Christmas weekend with under 5% of the range of our books.

Those two paragraphs are not unrelated.

Then Festival Director Julie Tait and Sharon Tait asked us back immediately in two eloquent emails which moved me like few others I have ever received in my life.

Lastly, when the momentum is a strong as this, when a Comic Art Festival in only its second year does such enormous good for our beloved medium of choice, it would be insane not to commit yourself to it every single year. So that’s my second announcement:

Page 45 Announces Its Presence At The Lakes International Comic Art Festival Exclusively & Forever

We now have the courage to take our shop roaming to the Book Festivals too, where we can continue our crusade to bring comics and graphic novels to new readers. But for comics Page 45 has found its natural home in The Lakes International Comic Art Festival. That’s where we’ll be every year.

Thank you for reading, thank you for coming; I hope you’ve had as much fun as us.

I’ve had the time of my life. See you in Kendal next year!

THE GIGANTIC BEARD THAT WAS EVIL‘s Stephen Collins & THE SUITCASE‘s Dan Berry:

SLH

Here’s The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014 Programme It was pretty fabulous, yes!

Lakes History Mysteries (£1-00, Langdale Primary) by school children assisted by Jim Medway.

“I think I’ve invented the Plinky Plonk!”

Haha! Genius!

This is as hilarious as only young minds like the great Gary Northfield’s can be. Please see TEENYTINYSAURS and GARY’S GARDEN.

It costs one whole Earth Pound which I know is outrageous, but all funds raised go to a cancer charity and we’ve already paid them at full cover price, so hurrah!

Created by Lakes District school children then hand-sold by those same young entrepreneurs all around The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014, it boasts a startling line up of comicbook stars in the making:

Tarantula Ninja Squad, Jellyfish Egg Lazer, Angry Bird, Mini Haribo. 3 D.S., Robot Hedghog, Jim Bob, Mr Jellytime, Hyper Squirrel, Magnetic Squirrel, Appl Craver, Trigger Button, Alligator Wigwam, Jelly Lemon Biscuit, Coconut Cracker, Electric Bubble Water, Jammy Nutellacustard, Turquoise Wallaby, Isla Maize King, TrGo Fenfer, Kally Elly Pepper, Sam Gutter!

Do you think Hyper and Magnetic are related?

Some of the creators in our Georgian Room like Joe List and Donya Todd thought fast on their feet and got their copies signed so they could soon be worth a small fortune. I’m not even kidding you. If you’re confident enough to co-create then sell a comic at ComicArtFest and already thinking about page composition at such a tender age, the chances are you’ll go far.

Also, how kind was that? Established comicbook creators treating the young girls and boys as their equals and make them feel as special as they are. That’s one of things I love about the comicbook industry and I swear I almost cried.

LAKES HISTORY MYSTERIES is a relay race of artists and writers telling speculative stories about Necessity’s daughter Invention along with her close living relative Accidental Discovery over the last 5,000 years.

Inspired by local artefacts like a lithophone and prehistoric stone tools, each creator pops on their thinking cap and wonders how or why these objects were invented. Also: who were their first casualties and what do you think happened next? It definitely has the “Whoops!” factor.

The consistency of line is astonishing, every three-panels-per-page layout is as clear as clear can be, plus the paper stock has an attractive satin sheen which shows off the black ink beautifully.

Brilliant! Congratulations to all and good going, Jim Medway, creator of PLAYING OUT on his two-day workshop which evidently worked wonders.

Sincere apologies to any creator whose immaculate handwriting fell foul of my fumbling fingers in transcription.

Signed,

Typo Turtle Twit

SLH

Buy Lakes History Mysteries and read the Page 45 review here

Destination: Kendal! (£1-50, Lakes International Comic Art Festival) by Jonathan Edwards, Felt Mistress, Sean Phillips.

There is nothing I love more than mischief.

And when it comes cloth-covered in kindness, I love it even more!

I love it when writers and artists – or indeed anyone else – understand and trust each other to the point where they relish having fun poked at them!

Me and our Dee are constantly teasing each other on the shop floor. We’ve worked with each other for nearly twenty years now, mocking our own mannerisms, our failings and foibles whilst poking each other in the metaphorical ribs all day long. It makes me so happy.

This too makes me very happy indeed!

Produced to promote The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014 and on sale there all weekend, this laugh-until-you-cry comic stars its Poblin’s Gang of hyperactive, completely deluded yet infectiously exuberant red, furry mascots.

Designed by POP! A COMPLETE HISTORY’s Jonathan Edwards, brought to lush, three-dimensional life by CREATURE COUTURE’s Felt Mistress and then photographed here by FATALE’s Sean Phillips, the Poblins are each as individual as the Banana Splits and are en masse an insane force of nature to be reckoned with. Now they are coming to town!

The town is Kendal, home to The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014 in this, its second year, and the town doesn’t quite know what’s hit it.

These gleeful nutters have made studious notes on which comicbook creators will be appearing where and when (Scott McCloud, Becky Cloonan, Jeff Smith, Mary and Bryan Talbot, Glyn Dillon, Lizz Lunney, Dan Berry, Eddie Campbell, Junko Mizuno et al) but seem singularly fixated on artist and patron, Sean Phillips.

“We really hit it off when I visited his studio,” claims Poblin. “When I climbed up his drainpipe to wave at him through his studio window he screamed with delight that I was back again!”

Poor Sean! As for Poblin’s unauthorised helping hand to TRAINS ARE MINT’s Oliver East and his painstakingly painted, black and white murals, it was at that point that tears of laughter ran down my face right there on the bus back home.

This too, from queen of the zines, Zinny:

“My first was called “Zinny’s Zine” then I teamed up with my friend Dan on “Zinny’s Zine With Dan”, then I thought it would be funny to do a zine about Zinedine Zidane with Dan called “Zinny’s Zinedine Zidane With Dan”. Then I got writer’s cramp.”

Poblin himself is the most manic and crush-worthy creation in town! Fall for his lop-sided lunacy, gawp at his gormless grin and then hug him to death for his wide-eyed naivety and the most tactile, svelte pelt in history!

Photographed by Sean Phillips against Kendal’s green grass and then framed on the reddest paper in history, our comic-crash casualties come truly alive! Those colours are to die for.

I so, so want to meet them. I wonder if they’ll wander into Page 45’s Georgian Room in Kendal’s Clock Tower where we will have over £12,000 worth of the most diverse and individualistic comics and graphic novels on sale and where we are playing host to so many of those creators noted earlier?

If so, I pray they will allow themselves to be photographed with us and by us – unless poor Sean has recovered enough from Poblin’s last apparition to stop by himself. I want this so much. I don’t normally fall for the hirsute but if Poblin ever exhibits any, you know, “tendencies”, then I’ve begged the magnificent Felt Mistress to let me know.

I’d send Poblin flowers, but he’d probably eat them.

The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014 takes place from 17th to 19th October. This is the Lakesfest website! This is the Lakesfest 2014 programme!

All proceeds from our sales go directly to the Lakesfest: we’re not taking a penny. We’re doing this because we believe in this festival with all our hearts plus its director and curator, Julie Tait, is a complete and utter star.

There: I’ve said it.

Big hugs also to the Lakesfest’s Sharon Tait, Sandra, Jenny and all the volunteers without whose organisational acumen – equal only to Julie’s – exhibitors would be dazed and confused. You are all so loved and thank you.

SLH

Buy Destination Kendal and read the Page 45 Review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

Reviews already up if they’re new formats of previous graphic novels. The best of the rest will be reviewed next week while others will retain their Diamond previews as reviews. Neat, huh?

 

A Quiet Disaster (£5-00, Avery Hill Publishing) by Alex Potts

Adventure Time: The Art Of Ooo h/c (£24-99, Titan Books) by various, edited by Chris McDonnell

BPRD Plague Of Frogs vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola & Guy Davis and many others

Grey Area – From The City To The Sea (Signed) (£6-00, Avery Hill Publishing) by Tim Bird

Last Days Of Nobodies (Numbered Edition of 100 & Signed & Sketched In!) (£7-00, Avery Hill Publishing) by Mike Medaglia

Meanwhile #1 (£4-95, Soaring Penguin Press) by Gary Spencer Millidge, Sally Jane Thompson, Chris Geary, Yuko Rabbit, David Hine, Mark Stafford

Sandman: Annotated Sandman vol 3 h/c (£37-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & Leslie S. Klinger

Storm h/c Signed Slipcase Edition (£20-00, Orion Books) by Tim Minchin & DC Turner

Storm s/c (£12-99, Orion Books) by Tim Minchin & DC Turner

The Garden Of Words (£10-99, Vertical) by Makoto Shinkai & Midori Motohashi

The Last Temptation (Signed Edition) h/c (£55-99, Dynamite) by Neil Gaiman & Michael Zulli, David Curiel, Dave Mckean

Zenith: Phase One h/c (£20-00, Rebellion) by Grant Morrison & Steve Yeowell

Gotham City Sirens Book 1 s/c (£18-99, DC) by Paul Dini, various & Guillem March, various

Harley Quinn vol 1: Hot In The City h/c (£18-99, DC) by Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti & Chad Hardin, various

Suicide Squad vol 5: Walled In s/c (£12-99, DC) by Matt Kindt, Sean Ryan & Patrick Zircher, various

Hulk vol 1: Banner DOA s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Mark Bagley

Original Sin: Hulk Vs. Iron Man s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid, Kieron Gillen & Mark Bagley, Luke Ross

Supercrash: How To Hijack The Global Economy (£14-99, Myriad) by Darryl Cunningham

Sunny vol 4 h/c (£16-99, Viz) by Taiyo Matsumoto

News!

ITEM! Page 45 is 20 Years Old. I wrote that blog about it!

Thank you for reading and thank you for everything during the 20 best years of my life.

Good night!

- Stephen x

Reviews October 2014 week three

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

“Okay, this… this looks bad. Is there a plan here, Kate?”

Oh, Kate, of course you’ve no plan. You’re as bad as Clint is!

 - Stephen on Hawkeye vol 3. There’s a new Blacksad below as well.

The Motherless Oven (£12-99, SelfMadeHero) by Rob Davis.

“Mums know more than they let on.”

Never were truer words written.

“They say it’s natural for mothers to be protective of their kids. I don’t see why. They need protecting as much as we do.”

Welcome to a graphic novel that is so wickedly new and so densely inventive that comparison points virtually elude me.

Its warped reality reminds me of Gorillaz tracks with their attendant videos. There are weather clocks issuing knife-storm warnings; instead of the goggle box there’s a Daily Wheel to watch; and teenage Scarper Lee may not know his birthday but he certainly knows his deathday: it’s in three weeks time.

I shouldn’t be surprised and I’m not: THE MOTHERLESS OVEN comes from Rob Davis, the creator of THE COMPLETE DON QUIXOTE and the instigator, director and chief writer of NELSON, another all-time classic which – like the equally original THE NAO OF BROWN – won the British Comic Awards for best graphic novel of its year, deservedly.

Everything here will sound so very familiar although almost everything here has been turned on its head. Truths are often much more enlightening when seen from a fresher perspective.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, for example, that children are created by parents – not just by procreation but by osmosis as well: nature and nurture. The behaviour of parents rubs off on their progeny. But even without the following reversal, the behaviour of children must surely, similarly, rub off on their parents? Or at least wear them down. Or buoy them up. We just haven’t given that enough consideration yet.

But what if children created their parents? We might look at things differently then, and so now we do.

“We were sat on Peter Cake’s Mum as usual. Pete’s Mum used to be a dinner lady at the school. She had a breakdown in the playground a few months back and no one has come to pick her up yet. It’s funny, Pete never used to go near her when she was working.”

It is so typical of Rob Davis’ love of language that he bestows on the word “breakdown” two different meanings with identical results.

In THE MOTHERLESS OVEN, you see, children fashion their parents as paintings or mechanical objects as if made from Meccano, and Pete’s Mum had a physical breakdown like any old car and a mental breakdown like any highly stressed, under-paid, overworked parent trying to provide with a job. Now she just lies there where she fell, inert, like so much scrap metal. They sit on her.

“Turned out today is the day they tow Pete’s Mum away. They’ll take her to the Mother Ruins, unless Pete’s Dad can get permission for a permanent residence in their front garden. He wants to turn her into an ornamental fountain.”

Another play on words: Mother’s Ruin becomes Mother Ruins and wait until you see that nurseless nursing home.

Scarper Lee isn’t a misanthrope. He actually cares. He’s just very private and prefers sitting at home. He’d rather not be bothered with people.

Then along comes Vera Pike, the most bothersome girl in the world, and Scarper Lee can’t get her out of his head. She’s direct, disruptive and completely unphased by the weather. She’ll even go out in a knife storm, carrying a thick wooden table over her head like an umbrella.

“You don’t like the laughing gales, then? You do realise the wind isn’t laughing at you, don’t you? I mean, you’re not so vain and neurotic as to think that, are you, Scarper?”
I know for a fact the wind is laughing at me…
“Having said that, if the wind is laughing at you, you might as well just laugh along, right?”

Needless to say, at school she’s immediately shunted off into the deaf unit where all the kids with “special needs” go – just like Castro, whom she calls her “new toy”. Castro has “medicated interference syndrome”, with a “brain aid” to modulate his behaviour.

“Just watch him go when I turn it all the way up! Ask him a question. Go on, Scarper, ask him anything!”
“Y’alright, mate? Your nose is bleeding! D’you need a tissue?”

I told you he cared.

Scarper cares most about his Dad, a brass, land-bound boat yacht whom he polishes meticulously every Sunday, tightening his seals. He keeps his Dad chained up in the shed for his own safety, though on Saturdays he’ll sail down the pub, as you do.

Saturdays are the best!

“Saturday is the day when I feel like I can see the horizon. It’s the day that doesn’t ask for anything and is happy with what you give it.”

That’s a fabulous page: a small-town high street on a sunny day with a thrilling, open perspective. There are shops, snap-frame A boards and Scarper himself, idling along the pavement in a striped jumper and jacket and tight, black denim jeans. You might not even notice the parents being driven down the road.

Davis’ designs on the Daily Wheels are well worth studying closely, but it’s his faces and figure work I love most: lithe forms with slim legs, and Scarper’s bushy hair, bulbous bottom lip and eyebrows as thick as big, black caterpillars frowning deep over his eyes. Ian Culbard told me Mike McMahon is a huge influence on Rob and I can see that, transformed here into something a lot less angular and cheekier so I’m sticking with my Jamie Hewlett comparison. It creates a stark contrast with the sculptures, murals and trundling mechanical objects which are everyone’s parents.

The grey, pen-brush washes are warm and soft, while the knife storms – kitchen-knife storms – are stark and sharp and I’m never going to complain about hail again.

As to the inventiveness, it’s thoroughly organic. Davis doesn’t just drop a pun and run. He rolls an idea out, rolls it around in his mind, follows it through then sits it spinning in yours, whether it’s nature, billboard newspapers, circular history, Castro’s Mum or the secret of the Motherless Oven itself. Here’s my favourite exchange, Scarper being “reassured” by his headmaster about his impending deathday:

“When I was your age, a classmate of mine faced his deathday in year eleven, just like you. And, just like yours, his deathday was on a Wednesday. I saw him on the morning of his death, stood at the bus stop. His mother was beside him, leaking everywhere. His father, it turned out, was hiding in his pocket…

“He did all his lessons that day and afterwards played for the school football team against the local girls’ school. Thirty minutes in, a big girl with an eye patch stood on his leg and snapped his shin. The poor fellow bled to death on the halfway line.
“The boy’s father remained in the lost property box for years. The mother went quite doolally, I’m sad to say.
“She had a propeller hairstyle, all the rage in those days – damn thing went into a hysterical spin cycle. Ripped her head off her shoulders. It flew around the school for weeks before the groundsman shot it down.”

So with his deathday approaching and the clock ticking inexorably on, what will Scarper Lee do with the little time left? Momentum doesn’t seem to be something he’s ever built up. He’ll probably just stay at home with his Mum and Dad.

Ah. And then that happens…

SLH

Buy The Motherless Oven and read the Page 45 review here

Blacksad: Amarillo h/c (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Juan Diaz Canales & Juanjo Guarnido.

“I’ll just try to find a nice, quiet job here, where I don’t have to dodge bullets and nobody winds up dead… for a change.

Did you know that Walt Disney’s Bambi was originally a flop? It’s hard to believe these days, but the only thing that saved the studio was the Pentagon hiring it for propaganda purposes during WWII.

I mention this because we have a long love of anthropomorphism and most unused to comics usually associate the genre with childhood pleasures like Alice Through The Looking Glass or Winnie The Pooh. But don’t be deceived: like so much anthropomorphism in comics (MAUS!), BLACKSAD is decidedly adult in nature.

All the characters are bipedal animals working, living and loving like we do and they can be equally vicious and flawed. BLACKSAD VOL 1 contained one particularly powerful story involving racism, segregation and lynching using each creature’s colour to clever effect, while its star, P.I. John Blacksad, is a big black cat… with a patch of white on his chin. What I inferred from that is here – for the first time, I think – expressly explored when a hitch-hiking John is forced to endure the charmless verbal diarrhoea of a truck-driving macaw.

Yeah, don’t worry: it has been translated – the book is in English!

BLACKSAD books are all period pieces: the Cadillac on the cover isn’t a classic yet, it’s current. One glance at the glorious, dark grey spread preceding the story itself instantly reminds one of Will Eisner works like A CONTRACT WITH GOD set fairly and squarely in a bustling, fully functioning, very specific environment.

The level of craft on Disney-trained Guarnido’s part is mesmerising. When it comes to architecture, both exterior and interior, Guarnido is on a par with animator Hayao Miyazaki for detail. His line is seductive – both sharp and smooth – making it impossible not to linger on the curves of wood, the folds in bunched drapes, the intricately patterned rugs or even the general desk clutter which you’d normally not even register.

In BLACKSAD: A SILENT HELL there was a sunlit courtyard cafe dappled in leafy shadow, a funereal street scene populated by dozens more mourners than you’d think you could fit on a page, and even a thirty-page art class in the back, Guarnido explaining his compositional decisions through preparatory sketches and paintings – enlightening for aspiring artists of any genre, not just anthropomorphism. Here there’s a sunny, open airport, a grand old railway station foyer and one hell of a motorbike for Blacksad to stand astride on.

His clothes are so slick, sleek and attractive that you could actively consider them well pressed, and the expressions on each of these creatures are exquisitely realised each and every time – animal versions of our own, exaggerated with such energy that you’ll be grinning from cover to cover.

It begins with a moment of bravado by the private swimming pool of author Chad Lowell, a lion who’s spent two years on his latest manuscript in the days when there often was only one – no back-ups. His supposed friend and fellow writer, poet Abraham Greenberg, ducks then holds Chad’s head underwater, then sets fire to his own poetry before lobbing Chad’s scroll at the pool. The red-check-shirted Bison thinks this is funny.

“No guts, no glory, Chad. Give your story a happy ending for once, and leave that roll of paper in some toilet, where people can put it to good use.”

Chad catches the script – just – but the expression under his mane, dripping with water, says it all.

John Blacksad, meanwhile, is considering a change of career when his sharp eyes and act of kindness at an airport earn him the respect and trust of a wealthy, outbound bull. He needs someone to drive his expensive yellow Cadillac back to his house in Tulsa, so hands John its keys.

“Ya seem like a straight shooter, son – the kind who stays outta trouble.”

And he does seem that but we, by now, know differently. Blacksad’s a trouble-magnet, his sense of fair play his undoing, and the raw iron filings heading his way are those loose-cannon writers. Bloody writers, eh?

SLH

Buy Blacksad: Amarillo h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Hawkeye vol 3: L.A. Woman s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Matt Fraction & Javier Pulido, Annie Wu.

“Okay, this… this looks bad. Is there a plan here, Kate?”

Oh, Kate, of course you’ve no plan. You’re as bad as Clint is!

Much of the mirth in HAWKEYE has been watching Kate Bishop, the younger, female and infinitely more clued-up Hawkeye, pick up the pieces of her mentor Clint Barton’s balls-ups. They have been manifold, and Kate has been constantly peering over her sunglasses at the archer / Avenger with a mixture of recrimination and resignation. Now it transpires that our equally impetuous Ms Bishop is equally prone to pratfalls.

I’ve described HAWKEYE as being a book about helping people starring the one guy who cannot help himself. We’ve now swapped coasts – New York for Los Angeles – as well as sharp-shooters’ perspectives, but hilariously nothing has changed except the age and gender of the dive-in-first and wonder-what-on-earth-went-wrong wrong-righter.

Okay, no, the artists have changed as well. While Aja will return along with Clint Barton in HAWKEYE VOL 4, Kate’s West Coast sabbatical is introduced by Javier Pulido who will delight Darwyn Cooke fans with a fine line in fashion coloured by Matt Hollingsworth as if L.A. was the brightest, most beautiful city with the freshest air in the world.

As Annie Wu takes the driving seat things grow much darker, though the body language – both broken and indefatigable – can rarely be beaten along with the facial ticks which reveal exactly what our Kate’s thinking long before she’s uttered a word.

Kate Bishop has set off for L.A. in a very flash car after finally losing patience with Clint as well as her cash-rich father.

“Kate, let your mother get you a little something to drink.”
“She’s not my mother.”
“Well, no, but I hope, maybe with time, you’ll begin to think of me as –“
“You’re three years older than me. We were literally in school together, Heather.”
“That was a nice time. Diazepam?”

Lovely touch with the Jack Kirby Sue Storm portrait in the background there!

Unfortunately before she even turned her ignition key Madame Masque had Kate in her revenge-seeking sights and arranged for her credit card to be bled, her stuff to be stolen and that car won’t last long, either. Broke and homeless, Kate is determined to reverse her misfortune by taking on taking on jobs as a Private Investigator. Alas, she has no knowledge of the law and absolutely no knack for investigating privately. She’s spotted within seconds. Also, swimming pools aside, L.A. isn’t all it’s cracked up to be:

“People can be so mean to each other and out here you can take bus tours to get better views of it all.”

But, as I say, this book at its heart is about helping people and, oh, it has so much heart!

There’s the tragic case of the Bryson Brothers who essentially were The Sixties to some. But the musical one, Will, became so absorbed in his masterpiece ‘Wish’ that he could never complete it to his own satisfaction so his production-orientated brother, Grey, could never release it. They’re now old, ill, and at odds in a sequestered mansion.

“It’s like if Mike Brady designed the Bates Motel. If I had to live here for 60 years I bet I’d have gone full Syd Barrett m’self…”

Fraction fills every page with these pop culture references both contemporary (which Kate mostly gets) and less so (mostly not, but please see above). It’s a completely different approach to writing a superhero comic that this isn’t one. Never has been. It’s an action-adventure comedy of manners.

 

Back to the heart of this book, and the first case Miss Bishop chances on involves her neighbours Marcus and Finch who, after waiting so long to be married, find their perfect day in danger of being ruined when the orchids of Marcus’ dream-vision are stolen. You won’t believe how fast that escalates and where it eventually leads to. Nor will Kate, but it all comes beautifully – yet appallingly – full circle.

Before then, however, there’s plenty of time to exasperate the L.A.P.D.’s Detective Caudle, infuriate Flynt Ward The Weed Lord (it is all legal there) and throw in a great many cat jokes while the mysterious man in the market aisle, a certain Harold H. Harold (you’ll never guess his middle name), offers words of encouragement at every wrong turn. Will our couple ever get their orchids back and their wedding on track? Regardless:

“Oh honey. You are my happily ever after.”

Awww.

SLH

Buy Hawkeye vol 3: L.A. Woman s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Jacques Tardi World War One Box Set: It Was The War Of The Trenches h/c & Goddamn This War! h/c (£29-99, Fantagraphics) by Jacques Tardi with Jean-Pierre Verney…

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of WWI, Fantagraphics has released a two-volume boxed set of these classics.

Of volume 1 I wrote…

“Joyful, despite their grief, are those families whose blood flows for their country.”

- General Rebillot December 13th, 1914

“Bastards, bastards, miserable fucking bastards! Fuck the army! France can kiss my ass!”

- Private Jean Desbois, 3rd Company of the 115th French Infantry November 27th 1916

Very powerful collection of short stories from the trenches of WWI which certainly will appeal to aficionados of CHARLEY’S WAR. Start with the premise that no one is actually going to get out alive – well, maybe one or two but they’re certainly not intact – and you’ll understand the approach Tardi is taking here. Not that it’s overly gratuitous, far from it; it’s merely realistic. Many a story actually starts with the knowledge that the protagonist ends up dead or disfigured and then lets things unfold so we can see exactly how inescapable their fates are in the wasteland of battlefields and trenches.

Possibly my favourite story (entirely the wrong word to use, really) involves the man who somehow survives all night in a shell crater in No Man’s Land wearing his gas mask after being gut-shot in the midst of yet another suicidal, failed attack. First light sees the maskless stretcher bearers coming towards him and, thinking he’s going to be evacuated home for certain with his wounds, he takes off his gas mask. Unfortunately for him, as he immediately remembers, mustard gas is heavier than air and the shell crater he’s laid up in is in fact a pocket of the undispersed toxin which instantly decimates his lungs and eyes. Tardi always approaches the stories from the most human of perspectives, which of course makes the inevitable bleak endings even harder to bear. I think that’s probably why most of the stories do start off with the denouement revealed to us, so that we’re already steeling ourselves for what’s to come.

The neo-’clear line’ art is classic Tardi, conveying significant details with apparent minimal effort and a certain distinctive rotundity of style that I really like. Something that suddenly hit me was the frequent lack of complexity in the structure of certain peoples’ faces throughout the book, and then you realise in fact he’s making their faces look almost skull-like as they approach their deaths. It’s powerful, shocking, and truly manages to capture the almost unbelievably hellish landscapes that were the battlefields of Western Europe in World War I.

From GODDAM THIS WAR:

This work is a fine starting point for people unfamiliar with Tardi and will almost certainly make you want to have a look at his WEST COAST BLUES about a depressive Parisian who accidentally witnesses a murder and is subsequently hunted by a pair of hit men who just happen to be lovers. It’s something which all noir fans out there really, really should be picking up and just aren’t for some reason. If you’re looking for a different creator to try, I sincerely suggest you try some Tardi.

For more, please see my GODDAMN THIS WAR! review with interior art.

JR

Buy Jacques Tardi World War One Box Set: It Was The War Of The Trenches h/c & Goddamn This War! h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Hip Hop Family Tree Box Set: 1975-1983 (£45-00, Fantagraphics) by Ed Piskor…

If it were not enough that this box set collects both volumes of Ed Piskor’s epic chronology of the music form that first shook the South Bronx then the rest of the world, in a robust and bombastically designed slipcase (and you can read my reviews of both volumes below), there is the added ‘bonus’ of the exclusive ‘Milestone, Variant, Limited, Ashcan Edition’ Hip Hop Family Tree #300 with its gold-embossed Cable-esque flashing-eyed Rob Liefeld on  the cover.

Featuring the story as Ed so aptly describes it, of an ‘unconventional pairing of David Bowie / Bing Crosby proportions’, when Spike Lee picked up-and-coming comics creator Liefeld out of 700,000 entries in 1990 to feature in the next Levis Jeans commercial. I don’t think it ever aired in the UK, I certainly don’t remember it, so for those of you that have never seen it just click on the following link and marvel that someone could actually make such an epically awful advertisement… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJhoa2SVGNA

I am particularly amused by the part where Rob is asked if he has any formal art training…

Of volume 1 of Hip Hop Family Tree I wrote…

“DJ Kool Herc is already a legend in the borough, but this doesn’t stop him from constantly practicing and experimenting to make his shows as enjoyable as possible. Using 2 copies of the same record he discovers that he can loop the instrumental breaks in his favourite music ad infinitum, if he chooses so. Tinkering in his apartment with the window open, he realises he’s on to something. Mixing one break into the break of a different song, a term he calls “merry-go-round,” becomes a part of Kool Herc’s arsenal. Adding such complexity to his performance, he makes the decision to enlist a friend to emcee and handle duties on the microphone.”

One of the most comprehensively researched examinations of the beginnings of hip hop I think I’ve ever read, and I have read a few, the prose work It’s Not About a Salary… Rap, Race and Resistance in Los Angeles by Brian Cross being a firm favourite though that obviously only takes in a West Coast perspective, and a slightly different time period. This work looks at the true beginnings of the scene in mid-‘70s downtown New York from parties in parks and baseball courts, DJ and MC battles in dancehalls, through to the eventual wider public recognition due to radio exposure and the early vinyl releases, and the evolution of the music itself into what we would understand as the modern day rap genre.

The ability of comics to transport you to a time and place in a manner that prose works just cannot match is demonstrated here as Ed perfectly captures the nature of street life and the crazy characters at that time. I did also like the fact that in one of the after pieces, he explains how you can dissemble hip hop considerably further back, but obviously you have to say there was a definitive point in time where hip hop as we know it began, and Kool Herc discovering the concept of mixing will do nicely for me. I can well imagine it was a transcendental moment for the good DJ!

It’s all the little anecdotal facts Ed just continually slips in that blew me away though, my absolute favourite being that Afrika Bambaataa was a massive fan of Kraftwerk! It shouldn’t surprise me really that such a muso would appreciate a not entirely dissimilar branch of music, it’s I just had never thought that the leader of the hardcore Black Spades gang would be chilling out to Trans Europe Express!

Fans of hip hop need this work, everyone else just won’t be bothered probably, but that’s fine. Ed seems far more interested in taking on projects that interest him personally like this one and WHIZZYWIG, and when he is doing it so brilliantly it is clearly all about reality and not the salary for him. Sorry, couldn’t resist slipping in one lyrical gag. Must just mention the gallery of artists at the end, which other creators have contributed to too, Jeffrey Brown’s Beastie Boys looking like butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths. You can scarcely credit the Daily Mail tried to have them banned from ever entering the UK all those years ago, being such a threat to the morals of the nation’s youth and all…

Of volume 2 I wrote…

“Why you lookin’ at me like that, Russell?”

Ha! I do love Ed’s portrayal of Russell Simmons, and I am pleased he gets the props here – to use the street parlance – that he so richly deserves, for his huge part in the explosion of Hip-Hop and its subsequent introduction to the club-going and record buying masses. He remains a fascinating bloke to this day, actually: a staunch vegan, transcendental meditation practitioner, and long-time supporter of gay rights, inter-faith dialogue and social activism. But, back in the day, his interests were somewhat more focused on getting paid by finding new musical talent, and having a good time.

That he kept his younger brother out of the studio for so long, despite his ever more vocal protests, is all the more amusing when you know his brother is Joseph Simmons, or as he soon became far better known, Rev. Run of iconic hip-hop grandmasters Run-D.M.C. When he finally let his brother and his mate into the studio, ostensibly to shut them up, Russell quickly realised he had struck not just gold, but multi-platinum. Their first few gigs as a lyrical duo, though, were something of a trial by fire, getting ridiculed for their check jackets and flares stage outfits. Cue one typical flash of Russell Simmons’ genius later, as he spied a casually dressed, hat wearing, sneaker pimped, ghetto blaster toting Jason “Jazzy Jase” Mizell entering the studios whilst debriefing the boys, and the fresh and fly trio of Run-D.M.C. that we know and love today were born. In an era of ever more surreal and outlandish performers’ costumes, their laidback street attire was exactly what was required to appeal to the masses.

The little nugget I have just described above takes up barely a couple of pages of this magnificent second volume, which explores 1981-1983, detailing the continuing, burgeoning public acclaim of the early pioneers like Grandmaster Flash, Melle Mel and Arika Bambaataa, whilst revealing the childhoods and very early days of future legends like Run-D.M.C., the Beastie Boys, Public Enemy and NWA. This series of books, for I assume Ed is going to continue onwards past 1983 which is where this volume concludes, is vital reading for anyone wanting to know more about this era of music. His knowledge of his subject is truly encyclopaedic, but the piecing together of all the various insane anecdotes to produce a coherent and engaging narrative is magnificent craft, and he captures the raw charisma and sheer chutzpah that many of the performers, who had polished their skills on the mean streets the hard way, possessed in abundance. Confidence, usually, was the one area they were not lacking in. Naivety in dealing with record labels, on the other hand…

Just going back to sartorial elegance, or the lack thereof, it takes some believing these days, the outfits some of the early pioneers used to wear. There is a great little scene where someone gets extremely excited over Ice T’s first proto-single simply because he looks like he is straight out of Mad Max. And I am talking Beyond Thunderdome, not Road Warrior… In fact when you look at how Afrika Bambaataa and his acolytes dressed around this period, you can perhaps understand how it wasn’t that big a stretch to someone coming up with the Village People…

I think the connections and friendships Ed details, between various apparently very disparate elements of the wider music and arts scene, particularly in New York, are absolutely paramount to understanding the fast-moving morphology of music at a time where public exposure was also exploding exponentially through MTV, which launched in August 1981. There are some bizarre friendships, occasionally of complete convenience, which you would never expect, yet in retrospect make perfect sense, both musically and indeed fiscally. So when a certain ginger, wild-haired chancer called Malcolm McLaren starts to take an interest in how he can export Hip-Hop to the UK, he insinuates himself into the scene like the veritable social and musical chameleon we now know he was, glad-handing and appropriating everything he needed for his next sonic experiment. Whether the tracks Buffalo Gals and Double Dutch deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as the canon of truly great hip-hop records isn’t for me to decide, but we can’t dispute they certainly played their dancefloor-filling part in helping to bring hip-hop to the UK.

I really do hope Ed continues with this work, not least because his still has a few years to go before hitting my own personal era of getting into rap and hip hop, circa 1988. That all began with catching the Public Enemy video for Don’t Believe The Hype on Top Of The Pops one Thursday night and simply thinking, “What on earth is this?” I did already like a bit of Chicago House at that point, probably had heard some of the Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel stuff, but one purchase of “It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back” later the following Saturday and a lifelong love with that genre had well and truly begun.

JR

Buy Hip Hop Family Tree Box Set: 1975-1983 and read the Page 45 review here

Explorer vol 3: The Hidden Doors (£8-50, Scholastic) by Kazu Kibuishi, Jason Caffoe, Jen Wang, Faith Erin Hicks, Johanne Matte, Jen Breach, Steve Hamaker, Douglas Holgate…

Another volume in the Kazu AMULET Kibuishi-curated anthology series where the seven completely different stories are only tenuously linked by the barest titular premise, in this case the hidden doors. So, the doors in the respective stories lead to: hidden parts of a patient’s mind, a giant’s kitchen, the person the opener really wants to be, a grand adventure but it requires two people to walk through together, a very unusual munitions bunker, a haunted tomb in a pyramid, where monsters are. Right, I think that last sentence just about makes grammatical sense.

As before the stories are all-ages fun, ranging from the all-out comedic through to some speculative fiction, with some great twists thrown in along the way. The key word is fun, though, and the contributors without exception all produce the goods. I think my favourite this time around is ‘Two-Person Door’ by FRIENDS WITH BOYS’ Faith Erin Hicks, due to its thought-provoking nature. I can imagine it giving a few kids some pause for thought as they think the potential ramifications through.

Definitely worth picking up if you’ve finished your copy of AMULET VOL 6 already…

JR

Buy Explorer vol 3: The Hidden Doors and read the Page 45 review here

Costume Quest: Invasion Of The Candy Snatchers h/c (£18-99, Oni Press) by Zac Gorman…

I want candy. Which, I mention for no other reason than to amuse myself reminiscing about the classic Bow Wow Wow single. Well, maybe not the only reason, for our cast of lil’ monsters, or Grubbins as they are known, want candy too. Lots of it. But there is a nationwide shortage in their home dimension of Repugia, so whatever can they do? Well, it’s fast approaching Halloween, so they hatch the crazy idea of hopping through a magical portal into the human world to gatecrash the time-honoured tradition of trick or treating. Given that they already look like they are in costume, they expect it’ll be just like stealing candy from errr… dim-witted adults.

In fact there will be more sweet-pilfering going on than in the much-missed pick n’ mix departments of Woolworths (even as honest a child as myself couldn’t stop purloining the odd fizzy cola bottle as I went to peruse the latest singles and drool over Annabella Lwin…) as Klem and his sidekicks find themselves assailed by older, sugar-hungry bullies on both sides of the portal. Then there is the ‘slight’ added danger that once the portal closes at midnight on Halloween, it won’t open again for a whole year! It’s going to take all Klem’s considerable cunning for the friends to make it back to Repugia at all, never mind with their haul of goodies intact.

 

I am a bit of a curmudgeon when it comes to trick and treating, I must confess. I find the concept of myriad kids hammering on my door all night a total pain in the arse, to be frank, and I am dreading the day when my daughter is old enough to want to go out doing it herself. With me in tow, no doubt. Though bizarrely, last year was the first time we had got sufficiently organised to get shed loads of sweets in preparation, and there was not a single knock on our door… The wife and I kept looking out of the upstairs window wondering why on earth all these costumed kids (and adults) were avoiding us, wondering if the preceding ten years of closing the curtains and blatantly ignoring the door knocking had finally had the desired effect. But no, apparently you have to have a lantern in the window now, or some such, to indicate you are happy to be visited by junior ghouls and spooks. Which is a good thing, I guess, as it avoids the kids getting upset when people don’t answer the door, and the curmudgeons can just get on with doing whatever it is they do behind their curtains.

I seem to have digressed. I really enjoyed this work. It was funny. The art is a fizzing, colourful treat too, with the antics of the young Grubbins garishly illustrated in a manner that suggests the artist had consumed rather a lot of E numbers himself. The older bully Grubbins being just monsterly enough too, without being too scary for the youngest readers or listener / viewer in my daughter’s case. This was definitely a hit with her, and me, there being enough story and jokes to hold my marginally more demanding adult attention too.

JR

Buy Costume Quest: Invasion Of The Candy Snatchers h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Manga Dogs vol 1 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Ema Toyama…

Sometimes you can look at a manga and see precisely which recent high-selling title has ‘inspired’ it. Without a shadow of a doubt this has been conceived following BAKUMAN, an intriguing story by the creators of DEATH NOTE, following two high school students wanting to be manga masters. There were some romance elements thrown in the mix but, by and large, it was a fascinating look behind the scenes of the insane workload that goes into creating, then sustaining, a hit manga series, the whole process of getting published, initially in Shonan Jump magazine, then in book form, and if you’re particularly lucky, the anime spin-off. They also do frequently mention the well used concept of, shall we say, emulating a premise whilst transplanting it into a different genre, to try and come up with a hit…

This work is neither as serious nor remotely realistic as BAKUMAN, but it does have the same relentless energy and sense of fun to it. Kanna Tezuka is a fifteen-year-old manga prodigy. She has already achieved the near-impossible feat of getting something published in a Shoujo magazine, but is concerned enough about maintaining the popularity of her series to enrol on a new manga-drawing course at her high school. Thus neatly introducing the most ubiquitous trope in manga as the setting for our yarn. I really don’t understand the Japanese fascination with manga set at high schools, the pupils being ghosts, witches, vampires, zombies and indeed even normal children, indeed sometimes a mixture of all of those, but it clearly works as the setting for many a yarn.

What there is also in abundance in these high school works is romance, and make no mistake this is a Shōjo (sometimes spelt shoujo) manga aimed squarely at teenage girls. Which probably explains why the three other manga class members, all boys, become completely obsessed with Kanna. Once they realise who she is, they’re demanding that she becomes their manga sensei and teach them all she knows, which appears to be considerably more than the teacher. Kanna, meanwhile, somewhat unused to any male attention, let alone the close proximity of three rapt, attentive, and rather dishy males hanging on her every word, competing for her attention, and no doubt in the not too distant future, her affections as well, is unsurprisingly finding it rather difficult to even focus on drawing a straight line.

If you approach this type of work – and Yaoi as well for that matter – with the right attitude, and it is as well written as this, then it is rather difficult not to be amused by the comedy of manners and farcical humour of it all. In addition, I would even go as far as to say this title does have some genuine satirical points to make about the manga-creating industry, much like BAKUMAN does.

JR

Buy Manga Dogs vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Crossed vol 10 (£14-99, Avatar) by Garth Ennis & Christian Zanier…

“Look, Harry, et me walk you out. There’s something I need to talk to you about. We’re having to cut our losses for the time being. Senior government personnel and their families are being moved to installations like this one, from which… well, hopefully we’ll be able to regain some measure of control, at least in the long term. Doctor Chopra is here. If anyone has a chance of finding an answer to this, it’s her and her team. But if we can’t… this is a location, along with details how to gain access. It should be seen only as a last resort.”
“Understood.”
“Thank you. It was… sort of over before it began in a way, wasn’t it?”
“Prime Minister?”
“The way events unfolded, since they brought that poor bugger in here. It felt like we never had a chance. I mean, you think about other times the country’s been threatened… what they had to cope with… Churchill. He had all the time in the world. How does it go? We shall not flag or fail… We shall move into broad sunlit uplands… We shall go on to the end, and so bear ourselves…
“You’re actually combining two separate speeches, Prime Minister.”
“Oh?”
“This is where I leave you.”
“Well, good luck to you, Harry. Thank you for everything.”
“You too, Prime Minister.”
“It’s been an honour.”

It’s a funny old series, CROSSED. Every time I think I have had enough of it, I just think, well, I’ll read the next volume, and I get dragged back in. I thought the slow-burning spin-off series CROSSED: WISH YOU WERE HERE by Si Spurrier was exceptionally well written horror from start to finish, with some extremely gory moments, certainly, but it never overpowered the storytelling.

Whereas with this main title, passed from writer to writer, hopping from plot idea to plot idea as it does, there have been some suspenseful, gripping story arcs, and then some that were just pure gore trash. The best arcs, frankly, have all been penned by series originator Garth Ennis, though I did also very much enjoy the one by Jamie Delano, and here Ennis has returned to a previous set of characters from the ‘The Fatal Englishman’ arc in CROSSED VOL 6, to write a prequel for them co-starring none other than Gordon Brown in his time as Prime Minister.

Yes, it’s not enough that Tony Blair left him in the shit with the economy, he’s managed to swerve Armageddon as well, a fact that doesn’t escape poor old Gordon, which did make me smile. The Prime Minister as he is written actually comes out of this with a lot of credit, unlike his weaselly sidekick Alastair – wonder who that is meant to be – but it certainly makes for a great story, seeing the beginnings of the outbreak in the UK from his unique perspective, hunkered down inside a secure bunker.

Except, except, the other co-star of this tale, who may or may not be the mysterious patient zero and originator of the virus, is brought to the very same bunker for observation by the scientists on hand. Maybe not the best idea Alastair has ever had to help out the Prime Minister…

Ennis is also planning to write a sequel to ‘The Fatal Englishman’ for issue 100 of the title, which I am already intrigued about giving how that arc ended. But in the meanwhile Kieron Gillen is up next on writing duties, and is apparently going to look at previous historical outbreaks, thus neatly counterpointing Uncle Alan Moore’s tale in the forthcoming CROSSED +100, which obviously is going to look at how humanity is coping 100 years after this current outbreak started. I think Avatar have  finally got the idea that people are actually more interested in the characters and stories associated with the CROSSED, rather than the gore per se, which in my opinion is best used, as here, for ridiculous comedic relief. If so, I’ll keep reading.

JR

Buy Crossed Vol 10 and read the Page 45 review here

America‘s Got Powers s/c (£13-50, Image) by Jonathan Ross & Bryan Hitch.

A) My favourite superhero artist of all time, THE ULTIMATES’ Bryan Hitch.
B) That Jonathan Ross, much more at home than on TURF.
C) Sarah Palin lookalike (actalike too!)
D) Something to say.
E) Effectively said.
F) Funny in places to boot.

This is spectacular stuff set in San Francisco seventeen years after a giant blue stone lands there, and every pregnant mother within a five mile radius successfully gives birth. No matter how pregnant, they all give birth at exactly the same time. To children with gifts. With powers. Every single one except Tommy Watts, brother to Bobby, the boy who burned out on TV.

See, there’s a TV show called America’s Got Powers which is a bit like Gladiators but without the – no, which is exactly like Gladiators: preposterous posturing, rabid crowds and its most popular star is the biggest dick.

So anyway, Bobby Watts won all his battles but it cost him too much and he died.

Which was absolutely fantastic for ratings! Hurrah!

Reacting accordingly, the producers of the new season of America’s Got Powers have lifted all limits on the level of violence permissible: the mechanical Paladins will be bigger, operating at maximum force, and the combatants can use all the power they’ve got. That there may be more military motivation behind the rule changes, nobody has thought about yet…

There’s so much merely hinted from the start: the San Francisco Power Riots that prompted the development of these TV tournaments in order to channel the children’s attention and give them a controlled outlet for their potentially destructive gifts; the military’s beef with the project’s head scientist Professor Syell (David Tennant); and Syell’s latest discovery which does sound ominous, doesn’t it?

I can assure you it’s all going to go to hell in a helicarrier with poor Tommy Watts the pawn they’d make king. Well, dauphin, perhaps.

Some of the best bits initially, visually, are set high above the stadium (which I note is adjacent to Alcatraz); also in the cash-cow gift shops of the super-mall surrounding the arena, which may sound odd when one considers Hitch’s gift for hyper-dynamic fist-fights which are indeed stunning here, but I’ve always loved his architecture, his everyday faces and civilian clothing even more. New artists would do well to study his emphasis on storytelling in BRYAN HITCH’S ULTIMATE COMIC STUDIO.

It’s the quiet moments later on which bring the biggest heart and make the big, big moments explosive. Conversely it’s the gargantuan moments – on a scale with will make your eyes blister – that make the soft scenes so much more tender.

Jonathan Ross has relaxed and really thought this through: the chirpy commentators’ blithe blood-thirstiness as combat goes disastrously wrong is perfect and far from overplayed – the key being “blithe”, oblivious to their own crass, crowd-pleasing cretinicity and indifference to everyone’s healthy and safety including innocent bystanders.

 

Tommy is spontaneously iconoclastic without being a relentlessly rebellious smart-arse and – given the reputation of San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury – I love that the teenagers who received their gifts from that big blue stone are called “Stoners”.

When the military powerplay escalates, dividing the kids into two blood-thirsty tribes with another caught in their middle, it is hair-tearingly tense. Also, I concede, somewhat dense with recrimination after recrimination and almost no hope for anything than a blood-bath solution. There will be nuclear missiles aimed at San Francisco by America’s own military with the threat of an equal and opposite reaction.

At this point you might consider this over-thought through, but I’d disagree. I abhor simplistic superhero series where one side is wrong from smacking people upside the head and the other is supposed right for doing exactly the same. Here it is clearly demonstrated that just as there are three sides to every coin, there are at least three sides to every argument – it’s just that the third side (a coin’s edge) is far more difficult to keep balanced and upright so why even bother when dogma is easier?

No, it’s not over until Ross and Hitch say it’s over and Senator Hindler (that Sarah Palin substitute) won’t take “No” for an answer. She’s tenacious and she’s got balls – you’ve got to give her that. She’s also as callous and egomaniacal as her original. Unfortunately for everyone, she isn’t an iota as stupid.

“What about his family?”

SLH

Buy America’s Got Powers s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Captain Marvel vol 1: Higher, Further, Faster, More s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Kelly Sue DeConnick & David Lopez.

That’s right, Kelly Sue DeConnick, as in the gothic western PRETTY DEADLY. The cadence of that comic was perfect.

So, isn’t that a lovely cover? It’s fairly indicative of what lies within: softer than usual superheroic art for a softer than usual superheroic saga but make no mistake: Carol Danvers is a very naughty lady. You can see it the mischievous smile and the I-know-what-I’m-doing smile.

Except that Carol’s never quite known what she’s doing: not in the wider scheme of things, anyway. Once she was lost to alcoholism and became ultra-defensive to boot. Now she’s having a tryst with Rhodey, former pilot of War Machine now Iron Patriot. They seem pretty well matched.

“Tony Stark just tried to play me with the suggestion that you’re a better pilot than me.”
“I am.”
“In your dreams.”
“Let’s talk more about my dreams. I’m seeing you in a little black lace number –“
“Careful. Your heart.”
“A cocktail dress. Colonel Danvers. Who’s the one with the dirty mind here?”
“I am. I thought we established that.”

Alas, the subject which Stark was trying to play her on was the opportunity to head into space as part of a formal, rotating Avengers presence and it’s seems the perfect opportunity during which to find herself.

Fast-forward to the first page and Colonel Danvers (who in costume appears to accept demotion) has accepted and gathered a personal posse of intriguing individuals one of whom nearly crash-landed on Earth in an escape pod six weeks earlier. This is very much a space-faring saga and an appearance by the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is guaranteed!

The ever-competitive exchange between Stark and Danvers takes place while they nonchalantly deal with a couple of lowlifes, killing two narrative birds with one rolling stone and thereby keeping the whole thing popping along at a bright and breezy pace.

SLH

Buy Captain Marvel vol 1: Higher, Further, Faster, More s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

Reviews already up if they’re new formats of previous graphic novels. The best of the rest will be reviewed next week while others will retain their Diamond previews as reviews. Neat, huh?

 

Expecting To Fly #1 (£3-00, Scary Go Round Comics) by John Allison

Hellblazer vol 9: Critical Mass (£14-99, Vertigo) by Eddie Campbell, Paul Jenkins, Jamie Delano & Sean Phillips, Pat McEown

The Collector h/c (£25-99, Archaia) by Sergio Toppi

Action Philosophers h/c (£22-50, Dark Horse) by Fred Van Lente & Ryan Dunlavey

The Art Of Princess Mononoke h/c (£25-99, Viz) by Hayo Miyazaki

Adventure Time vol 5 (UK Edition) s/c (£8-99, Titan Books) by Ryan North & Shelli Paroline, Braden Lamb

Doomboy vol 1 h/c (£18-99, Magnetic Press) by Tony Sandoval

Kick-Ass vol 3 h/c (£22-99, Titan Books) by Mark Millar & John Romita Jr.

Locke & Key vol 6: Alpha & Omega s/c (£18-99, IDW) by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez

Satellite Sam vol 2 (£10-99, Image) by Matt Fraction & Howard Chaykin

All-New Ultimates vol 1: Power For Power s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Michel Fiffe & Amilcar Pinna

Amazing Spider-Man vol 1: Parker Luck s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Dan Slott & Humberto Ramos

Daredevil vol 1: Devil At Bay s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Chris Samnee, Javier Rodriguez

Deadpool: Dracula’s Gauntlet h/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Gerry Duggan, Brian Posehn & Reilly Brown, Scott Koblish

Iron Man vol 5: Rings Of The Mandarin (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Luke Ross, Joe Bennet, Scott Hannah, Cliff Richards

Ms. Marvel vol 1: No Normal s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by G. Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona

Powers vol 1: Who Killed Retro Girl? (£11-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Avon Oeming

Uncanny X-Men vol 4: Vs. SHIELD (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Chris Bachalo, Kris Anka

Ranma 1/2 2-in-1 vols 7 & 8 (£10-99, Viz) by Rumiko Takahashi

Usagi Yojimbo Saga vol 1 (£18-99, Dark Horse) by Stan Sakai

News

ITEM! AMULET’s Kazu Kibuishi painting digitally, live. And Kazu Kibuishi’s finished painting. Wow! Cannot recommended AMULET highly enough to Young Adults, Adult Adults or even Addled Adults.

ITEM! Gary Spencer Millidge’s STRANGEHAVEN returns in the pages of MEANWHILE and debuts at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Some beautiful interior art there, plus the anthology also features Sally-Jane Thompson.

Page 45 will have copies, of course, on sale on October 17th, which is a slightly special date for us…! All three previous STRANGEHAVEN volumes in stock now! Read why it’s a favourite of Alan Moore, Warren Ellis, JH Williams III and Bryan Talbot!

ITEM! Our own Jodie Paterson’s new greetings card, ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside, perfect for winter!

ITEM! Leeds Film Festival is showing a documentary on comicbook creator Seth for free! We love Seth and I write about that town constructed from cardboard in  PALOOKAVILLE #20!

ITEM! The British Comic Awards 2014 judges announced! The very long long-list of British Comics 2014 before the committee whittle it down to five in each category for the judges to judge.

ITEM! Tom Gauld’s cover to The New Yorker!

And lastly… pretty obviously…

ITEM! Page 45 Celebrates its 20th Anniversary on 17th October 2014 at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival.

Don’t forget our Friday night Page 45 20th Anniversay Boozebash at Ruskins in Kendal transformed – I kid you not – into The Batcave!

All the weekend’s details in the blog linked to above.

I’m going to try to write something new for the website in time for Friday, but if not you’ll just have to wait until our 21st Birthday Booze on Saturday 17th October 2015 in Nottingham. There will be speeches, for sure!

Thank you for everything. It’s been the most remarkable twenty years and I’m honoured to have spent them with you!

- Stephen

Final Reminder:

Page 45 Signings Schedule in Georgian Room, Comics Clock Tower

Saturday 18 October 2014:

Main Tables

10am – 12pm   Scott McCloud
2pm – 4pm       Glyn Dillon

Table 1

10am – 2pm      Dan Berry & Kristyna Backzynski
2pm – 6pm        Lizz Lunney & Joe List

Table 2

10am – 2pm      Jack Teagle & Joe Decie
2pm – 6pm        Jade Sarson & Donya Todd

Table 3

10am – 2pm      Sarah McIntyre & Warwick Johnson – Cadwell
2pm – 6pm        Fumio Obata & Dan Berry

Sunday 19 October:

Main Tables

2pm: arrival of 24 hour comic marathon limited edition comics and all creators available

Table 1

10.30am – 2pm     Liz Lunney & Donya Todd
2.30pm – 5pm      Fumio Obata & Joe Decie

Table 2

10.30am – 2pm     Sarah McIntyre & Dan Berry
2.30pm – 5pm      Warwick Johnson Cadwell & Joe List

Table 3

10.30am – 2pm     Jack Teagle & Kristyna Backzynski
2.30pm – 5pm       Jade Sarson & Donya Todd

Please see Page 45 20th Anniversary At The Lakes International Comic Art Festival blog for more details including our own show-and-tell times and The Art Of Selling Comics talk.

Reviews October 2014 week two

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

Zoey is made up of layers and layers of the things that make *actual people* tick. And she’s the lead character in a serial killer story. *And* she’s female. *AND* she’s not a white blonde girl.

Well bloody hell.

  – Dominique on A Voice In The Dark.

Southern Bastards vol 1: Here Was A Man s/c (£7-50, Image) by Jason Aaron & Jason Latour…

“Earl… where you goin’, boy?”
“You know where I’m goin’.”
“Vietnam, huh. That’s a long damn way from here. Why you wanna go fight in some war that ain’t yours?”
“It’s the right thing to do, ain’t it?”
“Son, if you gonna go half ‘round the world just to die… least be honest with yourself about why you’re doin’ it.”
“Goodbye, Daddy. Goodbye, Craw County. Good Goddamn-bye, Alambama.”

Earl Tubb never expected he’d be back in Craw County. It’s taken the death of his father to bring him home. There’s his childhood house to clear out, purely to let a realtor put it on the market, before he can leave again, and those three days he thinks it’s going to take are three more than he wants to be there. There are the ghosts of too many memories still present, that much is apparent as our story opens with Earl driving a removal truck to his daddy’s out-of-town property, leaving a message for persons as yet unknown with his mobile phone.

I enjoyed reading Jason Aaron’s foreword. He was born in Alabama, in a small town called Jasper. About an hour away from the town of Guntersville where I spent eighteen very pleasant if bizarre months, funnily enough. I fully understand his comments regarding the deep south of the good ole United States of America… “The south is more peaceful than any other place I’ve ever been. But more primal too. More timeless. But more haunted. More spiritual. More hateful. More beautiful. More scarred.”

And I equally understand why he says he’ll never move back there. I encountered some wonderfully hospitable people who treated me like family, saw places of rugged, outstanding natural beauty, but it also has a darker, other-worldly quality that takes some explaining, never mind understanding. I saw a Christian preacher handling snakes in front of an enraptured congregation. I was given a lecture on how I was going to hell for my Buddhist faith whilst playing pool with a scantily-clad stripper in a titty bar. I watched someone sink a friend’s speedboat with a gun over a disagreement about their water-skiing prowess. And was proudly told by a thoroughly upstanding member of the community that they didn’t agree with the fact that their father had been in the Ku Klu Klan, and that they had nothing whatsoever against black people, but gays, well gays were the devil’s work. All without any hint of irony. And that would be a fairly typical week.

Drugs were everywhere, coke and crystal meth, long before it was made fashionable by a certain Mr. Heisenberg, lurking just beneath the friendly facade of a world where everyone, but everyone, says hello when they pass you by in the street. To not do so is a massive social faux pas expected only of those without manners and any sense of decorum. A civilised veneer overlaying the rather more torrid goings-on.

Alabama is also one of only two places I have ever managed to get myself arrested (the other being at the Polish-German border on suspicion of terrorist offences, but that’s a story for another time). The crime? Public intoxication, for having three beers in a bar and walking one hundred metres down the street to my hotel. The police, meanwhile, were not remotely interested in the departing drinkers getting in their pickup trucks and weaving merrily back and forth across the white lines whilst they made their respective ways home. A stranger on foot though, well, no doubt bound to be up to no good, and more importantly perhaps, just likely to pay the $100 fine after a night in the drunk tank being serenaded by an orchestra of snorers without kicking up too much of a fuss.

So I fully understand the character of this world and its denizens which Jason Aaron portrays for us here. Trust me, much like SCALPED, it is not our civilised world. It is a world perhaps best avoided if you should happen to stumble upon it. For Earl Tubb, though, finally back in the town as a older, if not wiser, bull of a man heading rapidly towards his pensionable years, where his sheriff daddy used to rule the roost armed only with a very large stick both at home and on the streets, well, he just seems to have finally decided he’s not prepared to walk away anymore.

He’ll wish he had.

You certainly get a sense of Clint Eastwood in Earl Tubb. There’s bad men running the town now, controlled it would seem by the local football coach, who was one of Earl’s teammates back in the day. Earl knows he should just let it go, pack up his removal truck and head on out of town. But… the manner of his leaving perhaps means he feels he has unfinished business. There’s seemingly no one prepared to stand up to the Coach and his thugs, so, when Earl receives what he takes to be a sign from his late, if not so much lamented, father, he makes a decision. There will be consequences.

Grotesquely brutal art from Jason Latour, much like R. M. Guéra on SCALPED, which will make you feel every punch, every kick, every baseball bat to the head. Teeth go flying, fingers are smashed, limbs mangled. It’s extremely hard-hitting stuff, with a spectacularly brutal and somewhat shockingly unexpected conclusion to this first volume. Then, just when I was reeling from that, you get the final sucker punch, as you find out just who Earl was leaving that phone message for…

JR

Buy Southern Bastards vol 1: Here Was A Man s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Sugar Skull h/c (£12-99, Jonathan Cape) by Charles Burns.

“N-no!! There’s got to be a way out!”

And then you wake up.

If you’re lucky the cold light of day is much kinder.

Before Doug wakes up, his dream alter ego Johnny has infiltrated The Hive to bring his bed-ridden beloved the romance comics she craves, along with chocolates in a red, heart-shaped box. She knows she shouldn’t eat them – she is kept on a special diet to maintain her strict schedule – but Johnny insists she at least try one. When they wake up, there’s a problem.

It’s the sort of nightmare scenario, vividly and so horrifically portrayed, that could only happen in dreams.

But Johnny’s reaction is telling.

So BLACK HOLE’s Charles Burns concludes the trilogy begun in X’ED OUT then continued deep in THE HIVE in which Doug dwells on his Dad and casts his mind back on two failed relationships with Sarah then Tina, his early experiments with photography and performance art behind a Tintin-esque mask, and a deep-seated fear of flat-door intercoms. “Bzzzt!”

As with all finales it behoves me to avoid revealing much in the way of detail except perhaps the most minute details of all. There’s a scene in which Doug attempts to win a tortuously circuitous argument by shrugging off his own role in its potential resolution, knowing he’s doing so and so only looking Sarah’s way – more than a little sheepishly, to see if it’s working – once her back is turned. It’s a precisely judged expression.

A little later there’s a rare glimpse at Burns’ talent for exquisite photorealism – on the television screen at his father’s which is where Doug retreats to.

“I wanted a safe, dark place to hide.”

Hmmm…

As the conclusion kicks off, Doug’s Dad has been dead for six years but still very much on his mind. Doug’s now seeing Sally and has mended his drug- and alcohol-addled ways, having been clean for one year, seven months and fourteen days. But the past tempts him back in the form of tickets from Tina to see a punk band called Animal Byproducts formerly known as Bacon. That was the band Doug used to perform alongside and whose bandmate Nicky originally introduced him to Sarah.

Foreshadowed throughout, we finally find out precisely what went wrong between Doug and Sarah.

There, I hope you’ve been tempted to try X’ED OUT and THE HIVE. If not, both books are reviewed with far less evasion, especially the nightmare aspects which are threaded throughout the trilogy and so successfully evoke the worst of my own!

SLH

Buy Sugar Skull h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Star Cat Book 1 (£7-99, DFC) by James Turner.

Meet Captain Spaceington, deadly serious action man of no-nonsense derring-do for whom everything is one big frown!

Shake multiple hands with monocular Science Officer Plixx, she of the green, squidgey tentacles!

“She may not know the difference between a proton and a neutron, but she’s always happy to whack them both with a hammer and hope for the best.”

Bravo!

Duck as the most supercilious android of all time, Robot One, casts aspersions on our frail human inadequacies whilst covering up its own lo-tech leanings!

Then fjidbt jablyt when The Pilot sets course for it-gives-not-a-crap-where while attending to anything more interesting instead! That incluses grbatifleds, plimbragrs and blagandrars. Accuracy is irrelevant, disdain is all! Be careful where you leave your loved chocolate puddings.

These are your zero heroes on board Star Cat, the latest and most sophisticated spaceship in blistery whose Super Computer houses a mouse, a mallard and a fish. They will save the galaxy and many more chocolate bars besides from the vaguest of vampires, the worst ice-cream ever and that rage-prone rogue, the two-dimensional Dark Rectangle destined to fall flat on his back along with his paper-thin posse.

“Luckily I’m a Black Belt in Origami!”
“Ooh! Make me into a little hat!”

THE PHOENIX weekly comic for kids and its publisher DFC have become hallmarks of both literacy and lunacy, and this is no exception. LONG GONE DON, GARY’S GARDEN, BUNNY VS MONKEY, CORPSE TALK… even its art book, Neill Cameron’s HOW TO MAKE AWESOME COMICS, is hilarious while its puzzle book, VON DOOGAN, is also a thrilling interactive comicbook adventure!

Nothing escapes the ever-ready eye of Captain Spaceington. Everything escapes Science Officer Plixx.

“Red alert! Raise shields! Evasive manoeuvres! Activate repulsor fields! Pack away the board games!”
“Aye aye, sir!”

*waggle* *turn* *press* *push*

“You have no idea what those controls do, do you?”
“None at all, sir!”

The cartooning is exquisite – almost every expression guarantees grins – while the timing is immaculate. Some of my favourite jokes revolve around their space ship being a cat.

“Pilot, activate Hyper Warp, Level 5!” commands Captain Spaceington.
“Sbejtift,” replies that boss-eyed Pilot, yanking on a lever.

Cue external shot of the hybrid cat-craft, its gormless eyes staring to camera as a hatch in its head springs open. Then the final panel on the page reveals the elusive, rocket-science secret to the last-resort Hyper Warp 5: a dangling, giant, red ball of wool. The cat’s eyes spy it in a perfectly pitched moment of silent ellipsis…

… And boom!

James Turner is in absolute command of these bottom-page ellipses. There’s another in the very first episode when a space mouse in search of space cheese is considered space harmless, yet no one can work out why The Pilot is strapping itself in for dear life.

Clue: the pilot is also a cat.

As the space mouse passes outside, the Star Cat spaceship opens one eye and spots it…

SLH

Buy Star Cat Book 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Sam & Dave Dig A Hole h/c (£11-99, Walker Books) by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen.

Yippee!

A new Young Readers’ graphic novel from the headwear-conscious creator of THIS IS NOT MY HAT and I WANT MY HAT BACK and with writer Mac Barnett on board, hats are no longer the issue.

Nothing here is missing, but an awful lot is missed.

On Monday, you see, Sam and Dave dug a hole.

“When should we stop digging?” asked Sam.
“We are on a mission,” said Dave.
“We won’t stop digging until we find something spectacular.”

And so dig they do. They dig and dig deep. They dig so deep that their heads disappear underground, and then they dig deeper still. They are, I would remind you, on a mission!

So intent are they on this Important Excavation, what they don’t seem to have noticed is that their dog has embarked on this mission too. Or they’ve forgotten. The dog happened to be standing between them when work first commenced and looked a little dubious from the start. On the cover his eyes are to camera, as if to say, “What a bunch of buffoons”.

Yes, Sam and Dave should probably take a little more notice of their dog.

But they do have a lot of digging to do…

Brilliant! As with both THIS IS NOT MY HAT and I WANT MY HAT BACK the words tell one story while the images reveal the truth! That’s what makes this comics.

What they also share is a comedic oblivion.

SLH

Buy Sam & Dave Dig A Hole h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Hospital Suite (£16-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by John Porcellino…

Powerful, oh my…

“As the days passed by, despite my condition, things began to take on a startling clarity.
“The whole world seemed to be glowing…
“The trees, the squirrels, the grass, the curbs on the corner.

“And I realised I wasn’t afraid to die.”

I was moved to tears at several points reading this autobiographical tale of ill-health, physical and mental, and also marital breakdown from the creative genius behind KING-CAT COMICS. (Long-time Page 45 review readers will know it goes without saying, but I was on the tram at the time, of course…)

John Porcellino lays himself bare and simply takes us on his journey. You can’t help but feel such empathy for him reading this as he is put through the wringer by a long-undiagnosed medical condition.

He does a fantastic job of gradually self-diagnosing the root of his problem over time, when myriad healthcare professionals seem at a complete loss, but there is extreme punishment to endure along the way as his body and mind play havoc with him, with chronically painful episodes requiring surgical intervention and crippling, recurring bouts of OCD  that paralyse him completely. It’s testament to his ever-evolving Zen Buddhist faith that he has the indomitable will to carry on, where others would perhaps simply give in.

Yes, there are dark days, some very dark days, but once you have glimpsed the true nature of reality, touched it directly as happened to Jon during some of his physically weakest moments, as the line between life and death began to blur slightly, as he describes above, it gives you an inner strength to endure, and endure he does. There are some experiential aspects of faith it is impossible to put into words, they are by their very nature beyond words and ineffable, but John does a wonderful job of expressing the profound joy and deep serenity they bring. As a balm to the suffering, they are like no other.

Ultimately this is a work about transformation and perseverance. Positive change in one’s circumstances, of any sort, inward or indeed outward, can’t come without hard work. Also, you do need a lot of it to become one of the best autobiographical comics creators of your generation – of any generation – which John most certainly is. With a body of work stretching over decades that’s ultimately uplifting and illuminating in equal measure, he’s a genuine treasure. A triple treasure perhaps. (Sorry, a little Zen in-joke I couldn’t resist.)

I wish him continued good health and all the happiness in the world. Keep shining your light, John.

JR

Buy The Hospital Suite and read the Page 45 review here

Loverboys h/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Gilbert Hernandez.

“Mrs Paz! How many people live in Lágrimas?”
“Well, last time I checked, it was six hundred and seventy-seven, Daniela.”
“Of course a teacher would know the answer! Thanks!”
“Sure.”

Mrs Paz turns away from her window.

“Lágrimas… Tears…”

Whenever someone asks for recommendations we first enquire what they’re already into in this or other media, then what sort of a comic or graphic novel they’re after that particular day.

Matching the right books to the right people is crucial, and it’s very easy now there is so much quality and diversity in comics: plenty of politics, masses of memoirs, so much sci-fi, enough crime to fill the average jail cell and quite enough comedy to keep you chortling until you choke. You’ve seen our Young Adult sections, right? Plural, yes.

However, occasionally we’re asked for romance and although we fall far from short in that department too, when asked for romances to make you feel better, well… relationships do not end well in comics! Think about it: Adrian Tomine’s SHORTCOMINGS, Posy Simmonds’ TAMARA DREWE and GEMMA BOVERY (she’s dead at the start of that one!), Julie Maroh’s BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOUR (ditto!) Will Eisner’s THE NAME OF THE GAME and even Simone Lia’s FLUFFY can’t be counted on for that!

There is one Los Bros Hernandez graphic novel that gives one unexpected cause for optimism, but if I reveal which one then I’ve rather spoiled it for you. Then there’s quite of lot of Yaoi which is inexplicable give how fucked up most of the protagonists are, and I guess there’s Tomine’s SCENES FROM AN IMPENDING MARRIAGE. That ended well: he got married!

But I tell you, we do struggle.

In the small town of tears called Lágrimas young Daniella is suspicious of a strange building, determined to avoid school and toying with idea of blowing up the school building or even the entire town with dynamite. I’m not sure where she’d get some. Now she’s discovered that Mrs Paz will be her new school teacher come Monday and she’ll be giving them a big test immediately. She settles on the more practical solution of pinching Mrs. Paz’s cell phone and cribbing the answers off that.

Meanwhile, her old brother Rocky who looks after her in their parents’ absence is studiously fending the off the advances of his beautiful boss. He only has eyes for his former high school teacher, Mrs. Paz. She isn’t young. She has the worry lines of someone to whom life could have been kinder and a faraway look in her eyes. But with rich, dark hair and eyes to match she remains very handsome indeed.

“Will you go out to dinner with me?” asks Rocky.
“Yes.”

Once again, there is that faraway look in her eyes, the top half of her face in close-up. She hasn’t turned round.

But on the very next panel she’s seated at the restaurant with Rocky, and her face has lit up. She’s now wearing lipstick and a simple, elegant necklace.

At which point I refer you back to the beginning of my sales pitch and leave you to wonder what happens next.

This is an original A5 graphic novel completely separate from LOVE AND ROCKETS. At eighty pages it’s a relatively slight affair compare to MARBLE SEASON or JULIO’S DAY but I found it charming. Well, the first fifty pages or so. After that some people start losing their charm, others their tempers, but the first fifty pages have a certain stillness to them. Some of the eyes in particular are very quiet. Also, I notice that with one exception the men are all straight, perpendicular lines – only the women have curves.

So often there is a strong element of folklore in Beto’s books. Jaime’s as well, now I think of it. And quite often that folklore’s proved true.

Lastly, as ever, the children with their often ill-informed perspectives play not inconsiderable roles, and come out with the bluntest of questions.

“How come your name is still Mrs. Paz? Just in case Mr. Paz ever comes back?”

Ouch.

SLH

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

Bumperhead h/c (£16-50, Drawn & Quarterly) by Gilbert Hernandez…

“Oh, there’s a bump bump bumperhead here! Thumpin’ bumpin’ bumper! El Bumpo!”
“What, you’ve never seen a ten ton bumposity before? Bump thumper! Ba-ba-ba-bumpus!”
“Bump. Bump.”
“BA-BUMP!”
“WHOOSH! Bump. Bump.”
“Don’t get mad, bumpo! BUMP BUMPO BUMP!”

“Why, God? Why did you curse me with a bumperhead?”

His head, of course, is not that big or oddly shaped, but it is enough for Bobby to attract the unwelcome attention of his older neighbours. You never know with Gilbert what autobiographical material gets recycled into his works, by his own admission, but I will bet a pound to a penny, he knew someone who was just such an unfortunate in his childhood days.

Anyway, happily for Bobby, the Bumperhead moniker soon gets dropped and in fact he starts socialising with his tormentors, once the age difference starts to become less meaningful as they grow up and discover the holy trinity of most boys’ teenage years: music, girls and drugs.  In fact, he is a bit of a ladies’ man, our Bobby, changing his favourite highschool squeeze with a regularity even one Arthur Fonzarelli would approve of, I’m sure. He’s not quite so motivated in the schoolwork arena though, so as his peers start to go off to college and thus onwards and upwards to bigger and better things, he begins the first of many menial jobs, seeding a future social inequity between himself and others that will continue to flourish.

This lack of commitment, to relationships, to learning, to a career, is the major theme of Bobby’s existence, and it’s something that whilst he recognises is the source of much, indeed all of his suffering, he seems unable or unwilling to change his trajectory. There are glimpses of what his life might end up like, all too visible, in the shape of his own father. But again, Bobby’s either too stubborn or reluctant to see, and more importantly admit, that his own potential future is staring him right in the face. It’s like he has subconsciously accepted his fate, whilst all the while blithely assuming something is just going to come along and change everything for him.

You can see one of Gilbert’s favourite recurring themes, our formative years, explored thoroughly again here as he did so successfully in MARBLE SEASON, whilst also following the JULIO’S DAY near-cradle-to-grave story arc process of one person’s life. I think it’s great Gilbert is in such prolific form at this period of his career; he clearly has many stories left to tell, and clearly is no slacker in the application department himself.

JR

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

Some Comics By Stephen Collins h/c (£12-99, Jonathan Cape) by Stephen Collins…

‘We were all quite surprised when the high street left us.
…RUMBLE…
It just stood up one day and said: “I’ve had enough of the empty shops and the bookies and the vomit. If I’m dying I’m bloody well doing it in style.”
So it went off travelling and after Andean trekking and skydiving in Chile, and a torrid affair with the Champs-Élysées, it finally expired during a PADI course off the coast of Mauritius. It gets a lot of visitors now…
“And to your left you can see the world’s deepest Gregg’s.”’

Do you know, I think this may be the most beautifully illustrated collection of gag strips I have ever seen. Each one is an exquisitely drawn and gorgeously coloured joy to behold.

Whereas most cartoonists have just one style, here every strip is appropriately rendered with incredible attention to detail. I think he ‘just’ does one a week for the Guardian, so obviously he doesn’t have to churn them out on a daily basis, but still, they are wonderful. I wouldn’t characterise them as laugh-out-loud funny gags, more pithy, expertly constructed tableaux that will make the corners of your mouth twitch gently into a smile. Those of you who have read his excellent graphic novel THE GIGANTIC BEARD THAT WAS EVIL will appreciate his refined sense of absurdist humour already.

With that said, one or two of the more ribald ones that are included in this collection did make me giggle, I must say, with Gwyneth Paltrow bemoaning to Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg the mysterious appearance of a massive kebab, right in the middle of the emotional bit of her ‘look back’ Facebook movie, my favourite. His jokes frequently skewer their targets from multiple directions, and you might well need to be up on the current affairs of the day and also rather less newsworthy detritus to fully get all the nuances of some of them, but overall I thought the rib-tickle hit rate was extremely high.

I can see this being an excellent stocking filler for those wishing to find something more discerningly humorous for their nearest and dearest this Christmas. I’ll certainly be buying my dad a copy, along with a new whoopee cushion.

JR

Buy Some Comics By Stephen Collins h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Lonesome Go (£29-99. Fantagraphics) by Tim Lane…

“But my destiny lay elsewhere. So I rented a room in a flophouse on Valencia Street for fifteen bucks a night.
“There was an outdated neon sign outside my window that blinked and buzzed theatrically.
“The room was stuffy and the walls seemed to sweat. The air was dense enough to congeal in my lungs.
“I cut off my hair. I washed myself in the sink.
“In the early morning, while the junkies argued in the street, I asked God to shine his light.
“I slept in my sleeping bag rolled out on top of my bed.
“I spent my nights following the Mariachi musicians as they made their rounds from one Mexican restaurant to the next…
“… Watching as they divved up their tips in deliberate silence, tucked into shadowy alleyways between taquerias.”

Phew, Tim Lane really ups the Burroughs factor in this quasi-sequel to ABANDONED CARS. This is a considerably weightier tome at nearly three times the length. If that work proclaimed itself as the ‘Great American Mythological Drama’, this is heading way, way beyond that, deeper into the metaphorical heart of darkness. Again, it’s a narrative of sorts detailing a journey, less autobiographical this time I think, at least I hope so, interspersed with all manner of strange vignettes, bizarre adverts, short pieces of prose and even song lyrics. The overall effect is disorientating and disturbing in equal measure, clearly quite deliberately so.

 

 

Yes, Tim Lane wants you to feel disgusted and possible a little aroused by what he is showing us, I’m sure. It’s a freak show of the veritable American heartland laid bare. I came away, just like ABANDONED CARS, feeling somewhat sullied and perturbed for the experience.  The most disturbing thing of all is we know he’s really only showing us what horrors are truly out there, if we were foolish enough to go looking in the wrong places. He may have strayed into the realms of the unreal, with the more surreal elements perhaps, but not by much, perhaps not at all.

There are also some uplifting moments in here though, punctuating the tension and leavening the insanity. I was particularly touched by the ‘Pacific Ocean Or Bust!’ monologue that is pure Kerouac in its Beat faux-Zen optimism. Though I’m not entirely sure whether he is trying to offer up any hope, or merely demonstrate its futility in the face of the overwhelming chaos of existence. Maybe a bit of both, just to keep us off balance emotionally, before he moves on unabated.

But these moments are like rays of sunshine during the darkest of days, something to cling onto during the maelstrom that is this work. He’s a very talented writer Tim Lane I think, and as before, with his rawer than Charles Burns’ BLACK HOLE-esque art style, well, he knows just how to burn his dystopic visions into the very fabric of our souls. I don’t know where it will all end, I really don’t. If you’ve ever seen the 1998 film Dark City, it’ll probably be something like that…

JR

Buy The Lonesome Go and read the Page 45 review here

Doctors (£12-99, Fantagraphics) by Dash Shaw…

“I’m sorry I took the form of your daughter.
“She gave me permission… she was the only person in your mind I thought you would listen to…
“I’m sure you must be very confused.”
“I…”

Ah, Dash Shaw, a man who loves his metaphysics, philosophy, speculative thinking and just generally fucking with your head in his comics. Here he manages to not only do that with us but also his characters as, after their expiration and entry into the unknown limbo of what lies beyond, they are going to get a rather unexpected wake-up call.

For Doctor Cho has invented a device called the Charon, allowing for the temporary resuscitation of a deceased individual – though only for a finite number of day or weeks – in theory to allow loved ones to say their final goodbyes properly, and the reanimated to set their affairs in order. It’s a top secret procedure, of course, available only to those ultra-wealthy and in the know, as Doctor Cho and his assistant, his daughter Tammy, are understandably wary of what would happen if the wider world found out.

There’s just one small, weeny catchette. So far, every single patient they have brought back – by inserting them into someone’s remaining consciousness in the guise of a loved one to tell them they have passed over but can return if they so choose – has ended up going stark raving bonkers. It’s probably not going to be too long before the authorities cotton on to what’s happening…

Great fun, this, and nice to see Dash doing something fairly short form but still substantial, plot-wise. I do love his really brief minis like NEW JOBS and 3 NEW STORIES, but you don’t get enough with those to get a handle on what his writing is really like, and his very chunky longer works like BODYWORLD, THE BOTTOMLESS BELLY BUTTON, THE UNCLOTHED MAN IN THE 35th CENTURY A.D. and NEW SCHOOL can possibly look a bit daunting for those unfamiliar with him, I suspect. This, I reckon, neatly encapsulates what he’s all about: surreal, haunting, hilarious pieces that are illustrated in his own inimitable fashion in what looks like pretty much just a black felt tip pen. He makes it look so bloody easy, but in reality, that’s just another way he’s fucking with you.

JR

Buy Doctors and read the Page 45 review here

A Voice In The Dark vol 1 (£14-99, Image Comics) by Larime Taylor -

Messed-up stories www.page45.com/store/A-Voice-In-The-Dark-vol-1.htmlabout messed-up people doing messed-up things are (judging by what we seem to like reading and watching on TV) fascinating to us. We love seeing the world from a skewed viewpoint, travelling a totally different, dangerous path and from that fascination some of our greatest stories – horror stories in particular – have come.

Messed-up stories featuring messed-up women doing messed-up stuff, however, tend to be of a very stilted ilk. A (very) few notable exceptions aside, they usually involve heavy doses of tits ‘n’ ass, voyeurism and some version of “Oooooh, I’ve been a very bad girl” along the way. They are generally devoid of plot or character development and are all about titillating the audience until the main girl finally “gets” whatever it is that is apparently “coming to her”. It’s still quite rare, especially in a horror / crime context that we get to see a complex, competent female character that isn’t defined primarily by sex or sexual vulnerability but rather by, you know, all those millions of other things that other characters (a.k.a. male ones) get to be defined by. Obsession, anger, revenge, ego, loyalty, love, passion, moral outrage – Zoey (the main character here) is made up of layers and layers of the things that make *actual people* tick. And she’s the lead character in a serial killer story. *And* she’s female. *AND* she’s not a white blonde girl. Well bloody hell.

So, yes, Zoey is the serial killer. When we meet her she has “only” killed once but clearly it’s not going to stay that way for long, because she did rather enjoy it. She feels bad about it, but she definitely did enjoy it all the same. And she’s clever enough and disciplined enough to get away with it, at least for a while, I would guess. The whole murdering thing aside, you’d have to say she’s a good person and that the lives of the people around her, (her sister, her new roommates, her Uncle who’s a Homicide Detective, ooopsie!) would be poorer without her in them. She’s a little reserved at first but once you get to know her she’s warm, clever and interesting. She’s a thinker, a realist and she only really murders people who are kind of dickheads so…

Well yes, it’s murder and clearly that’s not OK and there will have to be a reckoning at some point. But meeting Zoey and following her story through this first volume you can’t help but think that, for the moment at least, the only person who’s in a position to dictate how this all plays out is Zoey herself. She knows what she is doing in every sense of the phrase and watching her come to understand this darkness within herself is far more entertaining and fascinating than a lumbering chainsaw wielding maniac chasing an inexplicably bra-less girl through the woods could ever be. Clever, funny, dark, delicious stuff.

DK

Buy A Voice In The Dark and read the Page 45 review here

Moon Knight vol 1: From Dead s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Warren Ellis & Declan Shalvey.

“What are you supposed to be?”
“I’m the one you see coming.”

Here’s what you need to know about Marc Spector AKA Moon Knight: he’s barking mad. Or at least we thought he was.

Turns out he’s merely brain damaged, his brain colonised by an ancient consciousness with whom he communes late at night. It appears to him as a cobwebbed, skeletal humanoid in the same white suit Spector wears, it’s skull reminiscent of a Plague Doctor with a big beak. Maybe this is a reference to the Benu Bird, I don’t know. Spector believes it’s the Egyptian god Khonshu under whose statue he died before rising again from the dead with four individually functioning personalities to protect travellers in the night – dreamers included.

The storytelling is as efficient and effective as Moon Knight himself: sparse dialogue with the narration left largely to Declan Shalvey using a lot of landscape panels. There are six self-contained chapters, each with a succinct, one word title and a colour scheme of its own heralded by the covers. Green was particularly well deployed. The last is a reversal of the first and so it is inside, following the repercussions of a dismissive discussion in chapter one.

There Ellis swiftly establishes a new aesthetic and modus operandi.

Rather than descend, crescent-caped from a ‘copter, Spector sits sedately in the back of a whit, voice-controlled stretch-limousine, calmly coordinating technology to take him to the scene of a crime. He inspects the scene of that crime. He doesn’t exactly consult with the cops although he does acknowledge their presence. He analyses, deduces and decides on a unilateral plan of action.

He is, in short, a gentleman in a gentleman’s attire, and he will take matters into his own more-than-capable hands with the maximum preparation that’s possible for an impromptu operation with the minimum of fuss.

 

The action is swift, clipped and decisive.

There is something slightly Ditko-esque in Declan Shalvey’s side-stepping, white-suited squire and the way he descends through the city’s strata. Maybe it’s more Dean Mutter’s MISTER X – unlike Mark I never read enough of that. Regardless, I loved the way he strides to the scene, all matter-of-fact and determined, without a care in the world for how he’s perceived, gimp-mask and all. I also loved Jordie Bellaire’s complete disinclination to colour him in costume: it’s pure black and white. Spectral.

The second story starts out using panels in a similar structure to Ray Fawkes’ ONE SOUL and, more recently, THE PEOPLE INSIDE whereby the same panel every page is devoted to a single individual at the same time until each is taken out by a sniper one by one. The panel then disappears leaving a stark, empty space for Ellis to fill with narration, should he be so inclined. He is not.

SLH

Buy Moon Knight vol 1: From Dead s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Jim Henson’s The Musical Monsters Of Turkey Hollow h/c (£18-99, Archaia) by Jim Henson,  Jerry Juhl & Roger Langridge.

Ian Herring’s colours on Langridge’s line-art are a joy.

There’s not a spot of black. The closest you’ll get even at night is a purple, and that’s not as dark as it looks.

As to what he’s done when there’s music in the air, it’s like ten of the most expensive Catherine wheels going off in your living room all at once. Which is not as good an idea as it sounds.

As to the Musical Monsters, they’re an instantly recognisable Jim Henson / Dr. Seuss hybrid: strange, colourful, adorable.

However, if you take a look at the photo Jim Henson took in 1968 in the woods behind his house (reprinted on the inside front cover)… well, it’s quite a surprise. The original puppets Don Sahlin built from Jim Henson’s designs which Jim then posed with his children amongst the undergrowth (it was always going to a be show set outside) are a perfectly camouflaged dark, mossy green. Their eyes are bright and shiny, but their fur is scraggy, scruffy and matted like they’ve all jumped in a stagnant pond and haven’t yet dried off.

Now, I like that look – I love it. But I think it goes some way to explaining why the proposed TV show was never optioned.

As to actual graphic novel, I found it all a bit obvious. Eccentric, loving family – already persecuted by pitchfork-wielding, irascible neighbour Mister Sump who is determined to lay claim to their land – befriends music-loving, rock-munching, non-monstrous monsters which then provide the perfect excuse for Mister Sump to terrorise them further.

 

The gag that did make me laugh early on was the poor man who’s finally finished painting his huge “Welcome To Turkey Hollow” sign (Human Population 28; Turkey Population 3,687). He’s just had to change 28 to 27 and now another truck-load of caged turkeys passes by, either to be released into a farmer’s open enclosure or on their way to the Turkey Burger factory 50 yards up the road.

Take your pick: either up or down, that population just changed substantially.

SLH

Buy Jim Henson’s The Musical Monsters Of Turkey Hollow h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

Reviews already up if they’re new formats of previous graphic novels. The best of the rest will be reviewed next week while others will retain their Diamond previews as reviews. Neat, huh?

 Blacksad: Amarillo h/c (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Juan Diaz Canales & Juanjo Guarnido

The Best American Comics 2014 h/c (£18-99, HMH) by various including Jaime Hernandez, Gilbert Hernandez, Charles Burns, Adrian Tomine, R. Crumb, Raina Telegemeier, Fanny Britt, Isabelle Arsenault, Tom Hart, Brandon Graham, Chris Ware, Ron Rege Jr, Michael DeForge, Theo Ellsworth edited by Scott McCloud

Jacques Tardi World War One Box Set: It Was The War Of The Trenches h/c & Goddamn This War! h/c (£29-99, Fantagraphics) by Jacques Tardi with Jean-Pierre Verney

The Motherless Oven (£12-99, SelfMadeHero) by Rob Davis

Costume Quest: Invasion Of The Candy Snatchers h/c (£18-99, Oni Press) by Zac Gorman

Crossed vol 10 s/c (£14-99, Avatar) by Garth Ennis & Christian Zanier

East Of West vol 3: There Is No Us (£10-99, Image) by Jonathan Hickman & Nick Dragotta

Explorer vol 3: The Hidden Doors (£8-50, Amulet) by Kazu Kibuishi, Jason Caffoe, Jen Wang, Faith Erin Hicks, Johanne Matte, Jen Breach, Steve Hamaker, Douglas Holgate

The Goon vol 13: For Want Of Whiskey And Blood (£12-99, Dark Horse) by Eric Powell

In A Glass Grotesquely (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Richard Sala

Regular Show vol 2 s/c (£10-99, Kaboom!) by various

The Unwritten vol 10: War Stories (£10-99, Vertigo) by Mike Carey & Peter Gross, Al Davison

America’s Got Powers s/c (£13-50, Image) by Jonathan Ross & Bryan Hitch

Batman vol 5: Zero Year – Dark City h/c (£18-99, DC) by Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo

Earth 2 vol 3: Battle Cry s/c (£10-99, DC) by James Robinson, Paul Levitz & Nicola Scott, various

Green Arrow vol 5: The Outsiders War s/c (£12-99, DC) by Jeff Lemire & Andrea Sorrentino

Captain Marvel vol 1: Higher, Further, Faster, More s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Kelly Sue DeConnick & David Lopez

Hawkeye vol 3: L.A. Woman s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Matt Fraction & Javier Pulido, Annie Wu

She-Hulk vol 1: Law And Disorder s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Charles Soule & Javier Pulido, Ronald Wimberly

Dragon Ball 3-in-1 Edition vols 16-18 (£9-99, Viz) by Akira Toriyama

Manga Dogs vol 1 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Ema Toyama

Spice & Wolf vol 9 (£9-99, Yen Press) by Isuna Hasekura & Keito Koume

Vinland Saga Book 5 h/c (£16-99, Kodansha) by Makoto Yukimura

News

ITEM! Equality versus Equity – such a clear, clever image brought to my attention by comicbook creator Kate Brown (@autojoy on Twitter).

ITEM! Jamie McKelvie (THE WICKED + THE DIVINE) posted some fan art he’d drawn 10 years ago. Super-sweet!

ITEM! FLUFFY and FLUFFY VISITS PAGE 45 and PLEASE GOD, FIND ME A HUSBAND’s Simone Lia has a revamped website including pages from BAD MOTHER for you to read.

ITEM! ELLERBISMS’ Marc Ellerby visits Page 45 for the first time ever! I was so stoked! Here is Marc Ellerby with John Allison on Page 45’s counter.

ITEM! SelfMadeHero to publish Scott McCloud’s THE SCULPTOR! There’s a link there to some beautiful blue art!

ITEM! Gorgeous roofscape by Ian McQue! Believe it or not, that is a work in progress. Compare it with this interior art from Robert M. Ball’s DARK TIMES below:

ITEM! Well impressed by Salgood Sam’s DREAM LIFE preview pages! Such a lot of work has gone into them. If you too are impressed you can buy the graphic novel in print or digitally by following this link.

ITEM! HOW TO DRAW AWESOME COMIC’s Neill Cameron continued his Comics And Literacy campaign for Young Adults throughout the whole of last week. You can read his final post there with links to the others.

ITEM! Andrew Waugh has a new website: clean, elegant, full of beautiful art.

ITEM! A lot of American Comic Conventions stopped being comic conventions a long time ago, but it’s only getting worse. Here the The Beguiling’s manager and Toronto Comic Arts Festival explains exactly what’s wrong and why these conventions are so wrong for comics.

ITEM! Thankfully The Lakes International Comic Art Festival is ALL about comics. AND IT IS ALMOST UPON US!

ITEM! Glyn Dillon (THE NAO OF BROWN) and Fumio Obata (JUST SO HAPPENS) have an exhibition of original art in The Warehouse Café in Kendal. If you’re up for The Lakes International Comic Art Festival this October, make sure you visit!

ITEM! Page 45 Celebrates its 20th Anniversary on 17th October 2014 at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. So much going on in our very own comicbook-creator-crammed room.

As to my own ticketed talk, The Art Of Selling Comics, it is now in the can!

Which is an odd place to give it, I grant you.

Page 45 Signings Schedule in Georgian Room, Comics Clock Tower

Saturday 18 October 2014:

Main Tables

10am – 12pm   Scott McCloud
2pm – 4pm       Glyn Dillon

Table 1

10am – 2pm      Dan Berry & Kristyna Backzynski
2pm – 6pm        Lizz Lunney & Joe List

Table 2

10am – 2pm      Jack Teagle & Joe Decie
2pm – 6pm        Jade Sarson & Donya Todd

Table 3

10am – 2pm      Sarah McIntyre & Warwick Johnson – Cadwell
2pm – 6pm        Fumio Obata & Dan Berry

Sunday 19 October:

Main Tables

2pm: arrival of 24 hour comic marathon limited edition comics and all creators available

Table 1

10.30am – 2pm     Liz Lunney & Donya Todd
2.30pm – 5pm      Fumio Obata & Joe Decie

Table 2

10.30am – 2pm     Sarah McIntyre & Dan Berry
2.30pm – 5pm      Warwick Johnson Cadwell & Joe List

Table 3

10.30am – 2pm     Jack Teagle & Kristyna Backzynski
2.30pm – 5pm       Jade Sarson & Donya Todd

Please see Page 45 20th Anniversary At The Lakes International Comic Art Festival blog for more details including my own show-and-tells, The Art Of Selling Comics talk, and the Page 45 Booze Bash on Friday 17th October!

- Stephen

P.S. Click on this cover for the coolest comic in town!

 

Reviews October 2014 week one

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

Poblin himself is the most manic and crush-worthy creation in town! Fall for his lop-sided lunacy, gawp at his gormless grin and then hug him to death for his wide-eyed naivety and the most tactile, svelte pelt in history!

 - Stephen on Destination: Kendal by Jonathan Edwards, Felt Mistress, Sean Phillips

Fatale vol 5 Curse The Demon s/c (£10-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips.

The FATALE finale!

Now this is what I call a cover!

Thematically, it hones in on everything this book is about: passion and horror and the latest in a long line of men in thrall to a woman who cannot help herself, knowing he is in thrall yet willingly, ecstatically abandoning himself to her. Their soft bodies yield to each other, Josephine’s on top. All the while the world is being watched for any and all signs of their activity – of Josephine’s in particular – and those awful, burning eyes are staring directly into yours!

The colours are far from obvious, their thrillingly unnatural hues glowing all the stronger for being framed in a crisp, pure white. Combined with the logo, it is a design masterpiece and – haha! – how fortunate are we that Page 45’s shelves are black!

I promise you are in for a Sean Phillips surprise.

Oh, the majority of this volume is executed with the same shadow-intense, deeply troubling twilight you have come to expect, and the same rigorous discipline when it comes to the strict, tiered storytelling. But its climax is exactly that: an orgy of colour and composition as the barriers are broken, the walls between them collapse and all secrets are finally surrendered.

And it is at this precise moment that the most profound tragedy of Josephine’s curse is revealed. Her curse is that almost all men spending any length of time in her company will lose their hearts to Josephine and become emotionally and erotically obsessed. It’s a tragedy I never saw coming.

There’s even more to look forward to: architectural flourishes like San Francisco, 1906, and Otto’s library.

It is, however, the final two pages after such a long journey that are the belters. That face and that mouth and the far-away look in those eyes…

For far, far more on FATALE – on Ed Brubaker’s craft as well as Sean Phillips’ – please see our extensive reviews of the preceding volumes including the FATALE VOL 1 DELUXE H/C where I adapted my original review of its constituent softcovers to better reflect my seemingly spontaneous shop-floor show-and-tells.

Mesmerising.

SLH

Buy Fatale vol 5 Curse The Demon s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Fade Out #1 – second print, first review (£2-75, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips.

“This was just how it was here… something in the air made it easier to believe the lies.”

Los Angeles, 1948.

Hollywoodland, to be precise, where the art of selling lies is its business.

Acting itself is a form of lying – creating the semblance of someone else – but there are also the myths spun to make actors more attractive to their idolatrous fans. Take the profile of dreamboat actor Tyler Graves, concocted by bright publicity girl Dotty Quinn, playing up his years as a ranch hand in Texas.

“Dotty, you’re a riot… I’ve never ridden a horse in my life.”
“I know, I still prefer the first one we came up with…”
“Oh right. I was a mechanic Selznick discovered when he broke down in Palm Springs.”
“It was your own little Cinderella story.”

But there’s a telling line in Posy Simmond’s British classic TAMARA DREWE from the horse’s mouth of successful crime novelist, Nicholas Hardiman:

“I think the real secret of being a writer is learning to be a convincing liar… I mean, that’s what we are: story tellers… liars…”

He should know: he’s a serial philanderer.

 

Screenwriter Charlie Parish is already lying. He’s a good man at heart, though he does like to party, by which I mean he drinks much more than he should. He’s prone to blackouts: not just passing out in the bath – which he did, last night – but to alcohol-induced memory blackouts. He’s not as bad as Gil Mason, the former writer now blacklisted for supposed Communist sympathies. That man is a full-time drunk, a bar-room bore, badgering Bob Hope before being thrown out on the street. Charlie and Gil used to be friends before Charlie shopped him. Now it’s common knowledge that they hate each others guts.

That’s a lie for a start – a dissemblance. For a very good reason.

But this morning Charlie has woken up in one of those little bungalows set up in Studio City to keep people close to the set. The night before is a mystery to him, but there’s a lipstick kiss on the bathroom mirror that reminds him of a smile, the smile leads to a face, and that face belongs to the woman lying dead on the living room floor.

It’s Valeria Sommers, young starlet of the film Charlie’s working on. She’s been strangled while Charlie was sleeping. Slowly, assiduously, Charlie begins to remove all trace of his and anyone else’s presence. But that’s nothing compared to the cover-up the studio’s about to embark on, and it’s going to make Charlie sick to the stomach…

Anyone who’s read CRIMINAL knows of Brubaker’s unparalleled ability to immerse readers in the minds of others and make those minds utterly compelling. Anyone who’s read CRIMINAL VOL 6 knows he’s so good at it that he can make your root for a prospective murderer. You’re certainly going to want Charlie to get away with his role – however circumstantial it may be – in Valeria’s death and his complicity in the subsequent cover-up, even though the studio is going to smear the poor girl’s name.

“He felt sick. Because he knew exactly what they were doing.
“Studios had been covering up murder and rape and everything in between since at least the Roaring Twenties. That’s what men like Brodsky were there for… to prevent scandals.
“And he’d helped them this time. He’d helped them.”

Charlie is yet another man trapped by his own act of fear, plagued by his guilt and about to do something else he knows he really, really shouldn’t…

Oh, and if readers think they will miss the horror of this team’s FATALE, wait until you see what Phillips pulls off for the nightmare.

It’s a period piece, the period being rife with tight-knit nepotism, closed-doors studios and overtly voiced bigotry. Wisely Brubaker has refrained from redacting that. Some people are shits – they just are – and there is such a thing as the non-authorial voice.

It’s very claustrophobic.

And I do believe that THE FADE OUT #2 is released today.

SLH

Buy The Fade Out #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Destination: Kendal! (£1-50, Lakes International Comic Art Festival) by Jonathan Edwards, Felt Mistress, Sean Phillips.

There is nothing I love more than mischief.

And when it comes cloth-covered in kindness, I love it even more!

I love it when writers and artists – or indeed anyone else – understand and trust each other to the point where they relish having fun poked at them!

Me and our Dee are constantly teasing each other on the shop floor. We’ve worked with each other for nearly twenty years now, mocking our own mannerisms, our failings and foibles whilst poking each other in the metaphorical ribs all day long. It makes me so happy.

This too makes me very happy indeed!

Produced to promote The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014 and on sale there all weekend, this laugh-until-you-cry comic stars its Poblin’s Gang of hyperactive, completely deluded yet infectiously exuberant red, furry mascots.

Designed by POP! A COMPLETE HISTORY’s Jonathan Edwards, brought to lush, three-dimensional life by CREATURE COUTURE’s Felt Mistress and then photographed here by FATALE’s Sean Phillips, the Poblins are each as individual as the Banana Splits and are en masse an insane force of nature to be reckoned with. Now they are coming to town!

The town is Kendal, home to The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014 in this, its second year, and the town doesn’t quite know what’s hit it.

These gleeful nutters have made studious notes on which comicbook creators will be appearing where and when (Scott McCloud, Becky Cloonan, Jeff Smith, Mary and Bryan Talbot, Glyn Dillon, Lizz Lunney, Dan Berry, Eddie Campbell, Junko Mizuno et al) but seem singularly fixated on artist and patron, Sean Phillips.

“We really hit it off when I visited his studio,” claims Poblin. “When I climbed up his drainpipe to wave at him through his studio window he screamed with delight that I was back again!”

Poor Sean! As for Poblin’s unauthorised helping hand to TRAINS ARE MINT’s Oliver East and his painstakingly painted, black and white murals, it was at that point that tears of laughter ran down my face right there on the bus back home.

This too, from queen of the zines, Zinny:

“My first was called “Zinny’s Zine” then I teamed up with my friend Dan on “Zinny’s Zine With Dan”, then I thought it would be funny to do a zine about Zinedine Zidane with Dan called “Zinny’s Zinedine Zidane With Dan”. Then I got writer’s cramp.”

Poblin himself is the most manic and crush-worthy creation in town! Fall for his lop-sided lunacy, gawp at his gormless grin and then hug him to death for his wide-eyed naivety and the most tactile, svelte pelt in history!

Photographed by Sean Phillips against Kendal’s green grass and then framed on the reddest paper in history, our comic-crash casualties come truly alive! Those colours are to die for.

I so, so want to meet them. I wonder if they’ll wander into Page 45’s Georgian Room in Kendal’s Clock Tower where we will have over £12,000 worth of the most diverse and individualistic comics and graphic novels on sale and where we are playing host to so many of those creators noted earlier?

If so, I pray they will allow themselves to be photographed with us and by us – unless poor Sean has recovered enough from Poblin’s last apparition to stop by himself. I want this so much. I don’t normally fall for the hirsute but if Poblin ever exhibits any, you know, “tendencies”, then I’ve begged the magnificent Felt Mistress to let me know.

I’d send Poblin flowers, but he’d probably eat them.

The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014 takes place from 17th to 19th October. This is the Lakesfest website! This is the Lakesfest 2014 programme!

All proceeds from our sales go directly to the Lakesfest: we’re not taking a penny. We’re doing this because we believe in this festival with all our hearts plus its director and curator, Julie Tait, is a complete and utter star.

There: I’ve said it.

Big hugs also to the Lakesfest’s Jenny, Sandra and Sharon without whose organisational acumen – equal only to Julie’s – exhibitors would be dazed and confused. You are all so loved and thank you.

SLH

Buy Destination: Kendal and read the Page 45 review here

Like A Shark In A Swimming Pool (£6-00, Other A-Z) by Verity Hall –

This is a great little comic: a coming out story, a growing up story and a “some people can be absolutely awful, but others can be really quite great” story. Although told mostly in retrospect the key points, the ones on which the story hinge, hit you as very current, like the whole horrible thing is unfolding on you right now.

School-days drama is captured really well – boozy parties going a bit wrong, best mates transformed into bullies overnight and previously joyous things like favourite lessons and lunchtime hang-outs turned into desperate 45-minute sessions of hiding away in a corner. Even lovely parents, previously seen as protectors and champions suddenly just don’t seem to get it. Thankfully there are the little points of light too – the teacher who just “gets” it, the parents who *do* see what needs to be done and the friends who actually *are* friends, for real.

The art is nice with a blue and purple colour scheme that fits the story very well. There are a couple of truly great “what you look like in your mind’s eye” moments too which are both a bit funny and totally tragic, which is a pretty clever thing to pull off. A really touching, spirited and honest story, well told.

DK

Buy Like A Shark In A Swimming Pool and read the Page 45 review here

Rover Red Charlie (£14-99, Avatar) by Garth Ennis & Michael Dipascale.

“I’m a dog! I’m a dog! I’m a dog!”
“I’m a dog! I’m a dog! I’m a dog!”
“I’m a dog! I’m a dog!”
“I’m a dog! I’m a dog! I’m a dog!!”
“I’m a dog!”

There’s a little more going on in a dog’s brain than that: more they’re communicating to each other, to other animals and to ourselves although we are far too stupid to comprehend what that might be! But when they bark for the sole purpose of barking – of meeting and greeting and delighting in each other’s new-found company or warding off predators or prey – they are expressing this and this only:

“I’m a dog! I’m a dog! I’m a dog!”

Communication at its purest.

From the writer of PREACHER, THE BOYS, CROSSED and HELLBLAZER vols 5 to 8, I have to confess that Ennis has been starting so many so-so series of late only to relinquish them to others, that I had no expectations of this.

I was wrong.

Like Morrison and Quitely’s WE3 it is in part a work which doesn’t reflect well on the way some human beings treat their household pets – that the humans are soon absent from the story altogether, having immolated themselves or each other, makes no difference for their shadow looms long. The dogs may now be free to roam the world untethered and without constantly being pulled back on their leads with a “No!”, but it is very much a world made by human beings for human beings and if you’ve spent your entire life on Manhattan Island being provided for by those whom dogs call “feeders”, you’re going to find much of the wider world a bit of an eye-opener, other elements incomprehensible.

Also in common with WE3, the animals here have not been anthropomorphised. They’re quadrupeds without opposable thumbs and though they communicate, they do so very much from an animal’s perspective, where instinct plays a prominent part. There’s some great use of language: night to a dog is “sun-lie-down”, cats are “hisspots” and all that a chicken thinks is “shit!” A military dog later on has been programmed – sorry, trained – to perform very specific functions and that too is reflected in its priorities and the way it expressed them.

Alan Moore, who in VOICE OF THE FIRE achieved something similar with language and perspective in early man, provides a glowing and informative introduction, including a passage about how difficult such a project is to pull off.

“Most evidently, there’s the risk of cloying sentiment bringing a diabetic sweetness to the work, especially considering the likelihood that anyone attempting such an enterprise is either an admirer or, potentially, an owner of the animal in question. Even were we to presume a high degree of self-control in our imagined wordsmith there are other, far more serious obstacles, foremost among these being Ludwig Wittgenstein’s astute and perhaps insurmountable conclusion that if lions could talk, presumably in our own language, we would nonetheless still be incapable of understanding them. That is to say that the mind of a different species, predicated on a different range of sensory impressions and prerogatives, would be completely alien to our own.”

I’d say Garth Ennis has made a bloody good stab at it! And although there is even more of a risk to the artist than the writer of cute-ifying this to a saccharine extreme, Dipascale doesn’t. There is some slack-jawed lolloping because that’s what dogs do, but there’s also some extraordinary body language in defeat, some deeply upsetting canine carcasses, half-eaten or otherwise.

However, please don’t presume that this is all gloom, doom and Alsatians being bludgeoned to death on car bonnets. There is that: this is, after all a post-apocalyptic scenario similar in more ways than one to CROSSED except that in our madness we have at least had the good grace to rid this poor planet of our toxic, execrable existence. But in spite of this being very much a top-shelf series (please, please do not let your children near it because there will be nightmares and a lot of awkward explaining to do), there are moments of utter hilarity like trying to explain to a Red Setter – the stupidest creature in Christendom, which is why I love them the most – the importance of being smart.

“Eh?”

Nope, nothing going on upstairs whatsoever, just a tongue lolling out.

Charlie’s the bright one, a Border Collie guide-dog for the blind, trained to help humans and so better equipped for this sort of survivalism. But Red is the bravest, instinctively doing what Charlie is trained to, repeatedly saving their skins with his speed and his jaws continually clenched around one thing or another and, when thanked, mumbling with his mouth full, “Azzogay!” (“That’s okay”.)

It’s a comedic refrain which will lead to the single most moving moment in the book.

SLH

Buy Rover Red Charlie and read the Page 45 review here

Ex Machina Book 3 (£14-99, Vertigo) by Brian K. Vaughan & Tony Harris, John Paul Leon.

From the writer of SAGA.

EX MACHINA is a political comedy thriller, highly successful in all three aspects: it’s funny, it’s politically realistic rather than a big wet dream for pinko lefties like me, and it’s tense as hell.

Mitchell Hundred is mayor of New York City, but for some he will always be remembered as The Great Machine, a man who saved one of the Twin Towers from destruction using his ability to communicate with mechanisms. Until now we haven’t known exactly how he managed that; hell, until now we haven’t known where the powers exactly came from. All that changes at this half-way stage, and the signs are ominous.

As Mayor Hundred and his team gear up to tackle New York City’s drug laws – with internal debates as sophisticated as any of those you’ll have seen in that particularly cathartic episode of The West Wing – a woman sitting calmly on City Hall’s steps douses herself in kerosene and sets herself on fire. Is there a connection between that, Hundred’s recent admission to having smoked marijuana* and his earlier failure to get his priorities straight as a jet-packed crime fighter? Meanwhile his power to interact with machines appears to be overloading, and he’s having strange dreams with talking animals in them…

“These plants. They’re marijuana.”
“It’s not about the pot, 100. It’s about the black kettle.”

Threaded throughout is the search for a black male dressed in what looks like an authentic, department-issue fire fighter’s gear, using it to smash his way into apartments, assault and steal, with repercussions as brutal as The Shield’s. And that’s where Hundred’s liberal crusade to marry Wylie’s brother to his boyfriend so publicly comes back to haunt him, because Wiley’s brother is a fire fighter… and black.

“Actually, Mr. Major, I’ve got a pretty tight alibi. I was, uh… I was at a hotel. With another man.”
“When you say “another man,” please tell me you’re talking about your husband. Your lawfully wedded husband.”
“Sir, Bill and I have an… agreement. As long as it’s only physical, and as long as we’re safe and discreet, we trust each other enough to –”
“Jesus Christ, do you think that will mean anything to Middle America after some homophobic asshole in the NYPD leaks this to Limbaugh? You two had a responsibility! You represent fidelity and.. and commitment to millions of people who think that’s something your kind is totally incapable of!”
“”Your kind?”"

See, that’s what I love about this: even its chief protagonist is complex and flawed, and the issues – including the drug ones – will not be easily resolved, however good the intentions.

Now a man in what looks like a sophisticated deep-sea diving suit materialises by the harbour; the city is plunged into darkness as the electricity go out; the machines stop talking to Hundred.

The stranger is here with a warning, but where’s he from? Another planet? Another time? And what does he want with Kremlin, Mitchell’s old friend currently conspiring to sabotage his administration from within?

SLH

Buy Ex Machina Book 3 and read the Page 45 review here

Words For Pictures: The Art And Business Of Writing Comics And Graphic Novels (£16-99, Watson Guptill) by Brian Michael Bendis with friends.

“Inform, Inspire, And Entertain”

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, all education should be entertainment.

I’ve seen so many didactic and dry books on this subject, bludgeoning you with words while forgetting that this – the end product for which you are learning to write – is a visual medium and its audience are comics readers. This is not one of them. This is a highly personalised, engaged and engaging joy.

So much is given over to what the comics pages which have been written by Bendis (and guests Fraction and Brubaker) come to look like and the visual processes they go through in getting there, because it is vital that any writer understands those processes. You are writing for a comics-reading audience, for sure, but your script is a letter to your artist and – if you have one – editor.

“Inform, inspire, and entertain,” Bendis urges. “If your script is clear, precise, and a pleasure to read, you make your collaborator’s lives everything they ever hoped for. If your script is ill-conceived, clumsy, or naïve to the art of the comic book page, then you make artists’ lives a living hell.”

Here Bendis will help you understand the art of the comic book page – and understand your artist – the art of the pitch, the art of the story outline and the art of the full script while emphasising that unlike film scripts, there are no set rules: there is room for flexibility and personality and different working relationships. You will be privy to many, many examples of all three.

Crucially, his business manager – who like Terry Moore’s and Jeff Smith’s happens to be his wife – will also help cure your naivety when it comes to the business side of writing for comics. Because regardless of whether you are writing scripts as work-for-hire for giant corporations like Marvel Entertainment or whether you are self-publishing solo or as a team with an artist, you are also running a business: your writing is your business. And as Brian and Alisa agree, Brian was utterly hopeless at running his writing career as a business.

Fortunately Alisa Bendis has a masters in education and a degree in business and has worked successfully in this specific business for as long as Brian has. I’d take note even if you are working with friends. Mark was my friend: we had a partnership agreement. Jonathan is my friend: we have a partnership agreement. Memories are fallible; contracts are vital. “The trouble starts when the money comes in; so be prepared.”

Joe Quesada’s foreword is full of sage advice, reiterated later by Bendis. It’s not just your talent but your tenacity which will make you a successful comicbook creator. It is the way you deport yourself and your thirst for knowledge. Showing your portfolio isn’t just about trying to secure a gig: the best creators want to learn from the experience in order to improve that portfolio in order to better secure a gig which is potentially a long way down a crowded line. Use your failures to reduce your failures!

As mentioned earlier, the artist’s perspective on a script is vitally important – they’re the ones who are going to be drawing it – so the likes of Bill Sienkiewicz, Sara Pichelli, Klaus Janson, Skottie Young, Mark Bagley, Walt Simonson and Mike Deodato Jr offer their thoughts on the collaborative process: their likes and dislikes. There’s a lengthy conversation been Mack and Maleev, another with Michael Avon Oeming, an Editors’ Roundtable forewarning you about early mistakes and encouraging you on more positive ways to attract attention. Hint: take advice. Hey, seek advice! And, once you’ve got a gig, don’t disappear! Diana Schutz – a phenomenal writer in her own right but also the editor I would want giving me stick while watching my back – gives her invaluable Writer’s Guide To Editors.

Fraction is fascinating on lettering, on trimming the script after Aja’s turned in the art on HAWKEYE (whose individual issues were in any case written in a completely different order to the one they were published in), and there are revelations from Bendis too. Aunt May in ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN? That’s Bendis’ mum!

Finally, Brian’s introduction is an infectious account of his early quest for knowledge during a time when there were no books like these nor seminars nor Tumblr FAQ’s from creators easily accessible online. Some questions kept popping up again by aspiring writers hungry for knowledge, and those are reprinted here – with answers, obviously. We too are asked on a regular basis, “How do I get into comics?” Which is a bit like asking a music store assistant, how do I get a recording contract, except it isn’t. One of the best things about comics is their D.I.Y. aspect: you can create your own with a printer and some staples.

“How do I get into comics?” Make comics! If it’s work at one of the bigger companies you seek, “They will be your calling cards to editors.
“Inform, Inspire, And Entertain”

That’s what Bendis exhorts you to do; that is what he’s done here himself. If I wanted to write for comics, having read this I would no longer be sitting terrified in front of a keyboard, paralysed by what I didn’t know. I’d have a big, broad grin on my face, a twinkle in my eyes, and I would start typing and typing until the writing I saw started to match the ideas in my head.

P.S. “How do I make comics?” See MAKING COMICS by Scott McCloud.

SLH

Buy Words For Pictures: The Art And Business Of Writing Comics And Graphic Novels and read the Page 45 review here

Marvel Masterworks: The Mighty Thor vol 5 (£18-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby.

“How monstrous! That unspeakable creature… is he… a troll?”
“Do not avert thine eyes, beloved! Thou must become accustomed to such sights!”

Or you could block him and move on.

I’ve been on Twitter for four years now and only blocked once. That’s how lovely our sympathisers are. Sorry…? @PageFortyFive, since you ask. Come join the good ship Drunk As Fuck as we sail the stormy seas of look-at-me online onanism. I’m as desperate for affirmation as the next narcissist.

Speaking of love, there comes a time in any relationship which looks like it’s getting serious; when you have to meet the in-laws.

Such is the stuff of comedy for it is a fact, universally acknowledged, that every kind and compassionate soul mate is in possession of parents who are a minefield of hidden neuroses, overt prejudice, or just plain rude. And if you thought Robert DeNiro was difficult, you should meet Odin, Thor’s old man and Asgard’s All-Father. At least, that’s what Thor suggests to his beloved Jane Foster.

“Hey, foxstress, come and meet Pops, he’s an absolute sweetie! He’s only down the road. Well, over the bridge – the Rainbow Bridge that leads to Hallowed Asgard. It’s beyond mortal ken, ye ken.”

It’s also beyond his poor mortal lovely. For within seconds of being led into Odin’s Beardedly Beloved Presence – before a single cup of tea or mug of mead has been poured – The Almighty One lands plain Jane with the gift of “unlimited flight”. Off she shoots o’er rooftops, scared witless.

She’s not given a moment to recover before her prospective All-Father-In-Law sends a minion to summon the dreaded Unknown, a being so terrifying that the Asgardian serf (who’s done little more than bang on a giant tuning fork) needs medical attention for a complete mental breakdown. So what does Odin do? He shoves the frail nurse into a locked room with the stygian soul. And Thor lets him do it!

It’s a test, you see. A bit like DeNiro and the lie detector, only with added instant death. You can imagine the arguments when those two get home!

“Forsooth, Jane Foster, my beloved and betrothed, thou art a scaredy cat indeed!”
“Forsooth my arse, you pig! You wait until I tell my mother!”

Anyway, that’s just one of the godly get-downs on offer for just under two tenners. Also popping their heads over this pantheon’s parapet: globe-guzzling Galactus, The Growing Man (guess what his special power is?), The Destroyer (no clues) and Ego, The Living Planet! It’s a semi-sentient shit-stirrer about the size of a planet, with an ego to match.

Which is where we came in, I believe.

SLH

Buy Marvel Masterworks: The Mighty Thor vol 5 and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

Reviews already up if they’re new formats of previous graphic novels. The best of the rest will be reviewed next week while others will retain their Diamond previews as reviews. Neat, huh?

 

Sam & Dave Dig A Hole h/c (£11-99, Walker Books) by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen

Doctors (£12-99, Fantagraphics) by Dash Shaw

Edgar Allen Poe’s Tales Of Death And Dementia h/c (£18-99, Dark Horse) by Edgar Allen Poe & Richard Corben

Fairest vol 4: Of Men And Mice s/c (£10-99, Vertigo) by Marc Andreyko & Shawn McManus

Hip Hop Family Tree Box Set: 1975-1983 (£45-00, Fantagraphics) by Ed Piskor

Jim Henson’s The Musical Monsters Of Turkey Hollow h/c (£18-99, Archaia) by Jim Henson & Roger Langridge

Loverboys h/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Gilbert Hernandez

Mobile Suit Gundam Origin vol 7: Battle Of Loum (£22-50, Random House / Vertical) by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko

Some Comics By Stephen Collins h/c (£12-99, Jonathan Cape) by Stephen Collins

Southern Bastards vol 1: Here Was A Man s/c (£7-50, Image) by Jason Aaron & Jason Latour

Star Cat Book 1 (£7-99, DFC) by James Turner

Sugar Skull h/c (£12-99, Jonathan Cape) by Charles Burns

The Hospital Suite (£16-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by John Porcellino

The Lonesome Go (£29-99, Fantagraphics) by Tim Lane

Batman vol 4: Zero Year – Secret City s/c (£12-99, DC) by Scott Snyder, James Tynioniv & Greg Capullo, Danny Miki, Rafael Albuqu

Injustice Year Two vol 1 h/c (£16-99, DC) by Tom Taylor & Bruno Redondo, various

Wonder Woman vol 4: War s/c (£10-99, DC) by Brian Azzarello & Cliff Chiang, Goran Sudzuka, Tony Akins, Dan Green

Wonder Woman vol 5: Flesh h/c (£18-99, DC) by Brian Azzarello & Cliff Chiang, Goran Sudzuka, Aco

Kick-Ass 3 h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Mark Millar & John Romita Jr.

Moon Knight vol 1: From Dead s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Warren Ellis & Declan Shalvey

One Piece vol 72 (£6-99, Viz) by Eiichiro Oda

Seraph Of The End, Vampire Reign vol 2 (£6-99, Viz) by Takaya Kagami & Yamato Yamamoto

News

ITEM! Neill Cameron is on a kids’ comics crusade. And I love it! Comics And Literacy Part One and Comics And Literacy Part Two. More to follow! Oh yes! Simply click on this for Neill Cameron’s latest blogs

ITEM! We are similarly passionate about young readers’ literacy. Please see Page 45’s Graphic Novels For Schools And Libraries 2014!

ITEM! THE BAD DOCTOR is shooting out here. Everything and anything to do with mental and medical illness is. Haven’t comics come of age! Here THE BAD DOCTOR’s Ian Williams discusses how comics can bridge the language gap between fine art and medicine.

ITEM! Man receives jail sentence for Twitter rape threats. Brilliant! More jail sentences for all rape threats, please!

ITEM! This is not a comic about eating a cat. But you never know with Dakota McFadzean, do you?

ITEM! Finally! Hurrah! CEREBUS full-colour covers bound in a book full of beauty! We really need your pre-orders, please!

It’s not on our website, so please send your pre-orders in via phone (0115 9508045) or email (page45@page45.com).

And if you have no idea what the fuss is about, we have reviewed every single edition of Dave Sim and Gerhard’s CEREBUS, currently on the verge of new printings. Not only is it one of the most powerful works in comics, it is the most substantial: 300 issues beginning, middle and end.

Also, without Dave Sim and Gerhard, there would be no Page 45. Scroll down, do!

- Stephen

Reviews September 2014 week four

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

As for the carnival in ‘Spring’ it is a riot of colour with a real sense of sound, such as I’ve rarely seen outside Paul Peart-Smith’s contribution to NELSON.

 - Stephen on The River.

The River h/c (£15-99, Enchanted Lion Books) by Alessandro Sanna.

A river is in constant flux.

Its very nature and purpose is a journey.

A coalescence of rain fallen from the sky which absorbs still more as it goes, it is its own transport to the sea.

Even its height and its girth ebb and flow. In the sunnier seasons its source may dry up or it may yield itself prematurely to the skies, but that is where the water was heading, inexorably, even via fauna and flora.

This theme of continual migration runs right through the book, a silent sequence of watercolour landscapes structured as a cycle of seasons; I was mildly surprised to see even evaporation alluded to in its quiet, closing moments. But it couldn’t kick off with more of a bang.

That this will be a journey is suggested immediately by the movement on the very first page. As a wild sky erupts and its bruised-berry clouds burst, the last leaves of summer scatter in the squall and birds take flight – as does a dog and its master. Could there be a greater sense of urgency?

 

The horizon disappears behind a curtain of rain while the river’s thin skin is lashed and slashed by the cascade. As we close in on its shattered surface there is a very real sense that the river is swelling. Sure enough the cyclist encounters a long line of locals – a very long line of locals – who seem to be watching and waiting. A second dog chases the first, and the cyclist overtakes cattle on the move, racing past tall, skeletal, Lombardy poplars to find another long line of locals, their silhouettes reflected in the ripples of the ever-rising river. They start shoring up the bank as the cyclist sets off on his last stretch home. Tomorrow it will look very different.

I love a wet brush and I love this cover anchored at the bottom by the same rich, rusty browns which draw your eye higher – along with the title and credit – to the sunken horizon, its partially submerged home, and the lone dog left peering anxiously in from the bow of a boat. Alessandro writes in the back:

“Here the rule of thirds is fundamental if you want to see things as they really are: one-third earth and two-thirds sky. When the river rises, the proportions are reversed.”

These proportions are maintained throughout the graphic novel bar each chapter’s opening full-page flourish, dominated by the endless, open heavens.

The colours are phenomenal. Throughout the opening season (‘Autumn’) I couldn’t get ice-cream associations out of my mind, the vanilla breaking through blackcurrant then blueberry frozen crush. I promise you many more palettes but have restricted the interior art to this one so that others remain a surprise.

 

They’re not obvious, either: ‘Winter’ is uncommonly clement. Sanna reserves the traditional crisp blue for ‘Spring’ with snow-white blossoms budding and puffing on the stark, bare branches. Instead the emphasis is on warmth emanating from within, whether it’s the children crowding at the windows of a school house, smoke rising from chimneys, breath drifting from open mouths or the calf emerging, seemingly white-hot from inside the womb. The overall effect of that stable sequence is like viewing it through a thermal scanner.

As for the carnival in ‘Spring’ it is a riot of colour with a real sense of sound, such as I’ve rarely seen outside Paul Peart-Smith’s contribution to NELSON.

Apparently Alessandro’s own river is The Po in north-eastern Italy but ‘Summer’ here is even more exotic than that – unless African elephants have migrated much further than I thought. The opening flash of colour there is so bright you’ll be reaching for your shades.

It’s an absolute masterpiece – and I rarely write that more than once in five years. It’s fluid and instinctive yet carefully controlled.

And here’s another thing I rarely do: suggest a soundtrack. But after you’ve floated through this a fair few times in silence, I’d heartily recommend David Sylvian’s ‘Gone To Earth’ – the entire album kicking off with ‘Taking The Veil’ whose musical ripples match those painted here perfectly.

SLH

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

Courtney Crumrin vol 6: The Final Spell h/c (£18-99, Oni) by Ted Naifeh.

“They’re the most powerful beings on Earth, and they’re dying of boredom.”

If that doesn’t send a shiver up your spine, then it should.

I’m afraid it’s the end of the road for COURTNEY CRUMRINand Courtney Crumrin herself. I had no idea this would be so severe.

Its origins stretch through the whole of the series, reprising elements and plot points I thought long left-behind, but no. Obviously the last volume’s sheer, severe cliff-hanger must inevitably be played out, but what about the set-up in COURTNEY CRUMRIN VOL 2, eh? And I do mean set-up.

A faction within The Coven Of Mystics has grown weary with the restraints placed on them by Ravanna’s Law, forbidding their witches and warlocks to interfere or mingle with regular folk. Its Council still holds with the law but a council is rarely at rest; there is always a struggle for power.

Meanwhile, time is running out for Great Uncle Aloysius: he’s dying. Sustained only by an elixir withheld by the Council until he returns his niece for what it promises will be a fair trial, he must surely imagine that Courtney will come quietly. She won’t.

Courtney is on the run with her former teacher Calpurnia Crisp, the Council’s marshals mere metres behind. They’re racing round mountain roads, the ocean waves breaking beneath them and they cannot afford to be caught. Calpurnia knows there will be no fair trial and the fate that awaits them is much worse than death: they will be banished, all knowledge of magic and their memories of wielding it erased. They will become hollow shells, ghosts of their former selves, destined only to wonder what on earth could be missing, dimly in the back of their minds. As to Aloysius, Calpurnia knows something few others do, and that changes everything.

Oh my god, girls! Oh my god, guys! When I first realised what [redacted, redacted] was actually showing, my jaw hit the floor. Suffice to say that there is not a second’s preamble; it kicks straight into gear. Rarely have I read a series’ conclusion that wraps everything up not just neatly but nastily with a final confrontation foreshadowed by the words of the hermit Cerridean Olds and the early actions of another who wields far more magic than anyone suspected. If you are as ancient as I am, the words ‘Dark Phoenix’ will mean something. Really mean something, and Naifeh has out-burned John Byrne: if that blistering image swirling in purple above Aloysius isn’t a direct homage then I would be so, so surprised.

 

Ted’s design work has always been delicious. It manifests itself not just in this new full-colour, hardcover incarnation with its silver inks, but in the enemies themselves: the Rawhead And Bloody-Bones of COURTNEY CRUMRIN VOL 2 with which I am always at pains to frighten young readers along with their parents during shop-floor show-and-tells, and here the various skeletal Golems animated by Cerridean.

I love that there are electricity pylons straddling the cliff tops of the introductory breakneck car chase.

But I wondered why the colours were so studiously muted in purples and blues, pale lemon-yellow and deep olive-green. Well, let’s just say that the bright light of day would be a boon to some if deprived for so long of its beauty, yet to others it could be the worst thing in the world.

“Have you ever awoken out of a deep sleep and found yourself in a place you don’t recognise, forgetting for a moment how you got there? Sometimes, when you remember at last, it’s a relief.
“And sometimes it’s not.”

I am so, so sorry.

Still to come: COURTNEY CRUMRIN TALES.

SLH

Buy Courtney Crumrin vol 6: The Final Spell h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Maddy Kettle vol 1: The Adventure Of The Thimblewitch (£10-99, Top Shelf) by Eric Orchard…

Poor old Maddy Kettle, the nasty old Thimblewitch has turned her mummy and daddy into rats! And if that wasn’t enough, now they’ve been kidnapped by some creepy creatures! Looks like it’s up to her to save the day, which is going to involve a very scary and spooky adventure fending off vampire bats and Spider Goblins, with peril and danger lurking at seemingly every turn. It’s a good job she’s not the type of girl who scares easily! She’s going to have some help along the way, though,  from Harry the bear and Silvio the racoon, who are cloud cartographers, and handily enough for a rescue expedition, have a hot air balloon powered by moon gas, the most floatable substance known to man, or indeed bear or racoon.

Aww, this is great fun, and it really is spooky. My three-year-old told me she found it scary after I read it to her, and I think it was the Spider Goblins that did it, because much like Maddy she’s not easily spooked!

 

 

I am fairly certain I have come across Eric Orchard’s artwork somewhere before, I know he has illustrated children’s books though this is his first graphic novel. The artwork, and tone, also reminded me a little bit of Coraline the film (rather than CORALINE the graphic novel) due to Maddy’s disproportionately large head and eyes, which is also a fright-fest for young kids. This isn’t quite so pulse-raising as everyone ends up friends by the conclusion, even the Spider Goblins, but there might be some peeking out from behind little fingers along the way!

JR

Buy Maddy Kettle vol 1: The Adventure Of The Thimblewitch and read the Page 45 review here

The Storyteller: Witches #1 (£2-99, Archaia) by S. M. Vidaurri.

Little about that low-key cover can prepare you for the beauty with its inventive layout, light and colour within.

Fear not, I will show you inside!

Strictly speaking, this is STORYTELLER #1 of 4, but each tale is self-contained, by different and hopefully equally deft storytellers.

This tells of a time long ago when a wild, wooded land was so remote that its king had so far failed to claim it. Its virgin, snow-topped mountain overlooked a village so small that it was self-sustaining and at one with its local habitat. It was in harmony with nature.

“The years fell as quickly and as gracefully as the autumn. And what was once a small town became a city, and a king laid his claim on the forest.”

Specifically he laid claim on the forest’s tallest tree: so tall that its topmost branches were said to catch stars which imbued them with magical properties. The king chopped the tree down to fashion a crown for the day of his son’s coronation. But the tree was much loved by Lord Of The Forest, a tall armoured rabbit who took umbrage.

 

That king already had a daughter much older than his son but, of course – oh, of course! – she was but second in-line to the throne. The princess loved her family but cared not for the court and its mannered pageantry, pomp and dull dealings. She preferred to wander through the forest and was particularly drawn to the sturdy, hollow stump of the tree her father had plundered. It was while loitering, daydreaming there that the princess overheard a curse cast upon the crown and what happened thereafter would change the kingdom forever.

I love a good twist – see Becky Cloonan’s THE MIRE – and have chosen my words very carefully.

There is a lovely lilt to how Vidaurri’s words tumble and often chime, her hand-drawn lettering as much an intimate part of the art as it is in Dame Darcy’s MEATCAKE or Emily Carroll’s THROUGH THE WOODS.

 

She uses the space around each boldly inset panel – often no more than a single panel per page – to further her narration while decorating it with a vaulted ceiling, maybe mountains or mice, oak acorns or red-berried leaves.

The panel borders themselves might be composed as a cloak-clothed woman whose image is mirrored like a knave or queen playing card, or soared over by a majestic white swan.

It’s the sort of playfulness I relish in self-published works but which is then often jettisoned when a “proper” publisher makes claim. Not so here, and for that I applaud both Vidaurri and Archaia itself.

From the creator of IRON, OR THE WAR AFTER.

Spellbound. Enchanted. Enthralled.

SLH

Buy The Storyteller: Witches #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Ikigami The Ultimate Limit vol 10 (£8-99, Viz) by Motoro Mase…

“I never dreamed this day would come. That was probably the last ikigami delivery I will ever make.”

The final volume! As Fujimoto becomes ever more dissatisfied with the National Welfare scheme of randomly selecting one young citizen between the age of 18 and 24 every day and informing them they have a mere 24 hours to live, ostensibly to keep the rest of the population in line, he finally finds the courage to join the shadowy group fighting undercover against this fascist policy. Given it’s Fujimoto’s duty to deliver this news, known as an ikigami or death notice, to the individuals in question, it’s not surprising it’s starting to affect him emotionally. Precisely who dies is decided by a small capsule inserted into every child whilst they were at junior school. One in a thousand capsules will prove fatal but there is no way of knowing in advance who has been given a death sentence.

In choosing to finally listen to his conscience and disseminate secret information he hopes will turn the weight of public opinion against National Welfare, Fujimoto risks everything, for if he is found out, he will be immediately arrested, labelled a thought criminal and disowned by friends and family alike, before being forced to undergo the rather grim thought-reform brainwashing procedure. But realistically, what chance do this tiny group of underground freedom fighters have to smash the system? Seemingly none, until war with a neighbouring state breaks out, changing everything overnight as the authorities reveal what they have always denied, that it is indeed possible to deactivate the capsules.

So for those who chose to be conscripted into the army, the choice is simple: are the odds of surviving on the battlefield better than the one-in-a-thousand lottery of staying at home? Or, if someone is already past the critical cut-off age of 24 they can chose to have a younger family member’s capsule deactivated instead, testing the bonds of family love and loyalty, by seeing who is prepared to risk their lives for their children or younger siblings. This revelation, coupled with the stark fact they are engaged in a war they might well lose, shakes society to its very core. But will Fujimoto even be able to have any further influence on what happens next, as unbeknownst to him the thought police are closing in on finding the leak…

 

I have really enjoyed this series. Most of the previous volumes have followed a set pattern of having Fujimoto deliver two ikigamis and then following the protagonists whilst they live out their final hours, knowing they are going to die, but also that if they commit any crime, their families will subsequently be ostracised by everyone they know, and indeed penalised by not receiving the generous stipend paid to the relatives of those making the ‘ultimate sacrifice’ for their country. Ikigami recipients are expected to die with honour, dignity and decorum of course.

Obviously, given the state of mental turmoil most recipients find themselves in, it doesn’t always work out like that, to say the least. Underpinning those dramas has been the ongoing story of Fujimoto, initially an idealistic believer in the benefits of National Welfare, but gradually having his blindly patriotic certainty eroded as he repeatedly witnesses the traumas and heartbreak caused by the policy. This final volume, after delivering his last ikigami squarely focuses on the nail-bitingly tense conclusion to his story. If you would like to read a series that has some thought-provoking points to make about the world we live in and is also packed with action, this may well appeal.

All IKIGAMI books in stock now!

JR

Buy Ikigami The Ultimate Limit vol 10 and read the Page 45 review here

Time Killers (£9-99, Viz) by Kazue Kato.

Lord, there are a lot of exorcists in Japan, aren’t there? It’s quite the competitive career!

Nor are they wrinkly old God-bothers with round-rimmed spectaclays or fully-fledged men of the cloth. They tend to be sartorially sharp, dashing young dudes with the most enormous weapons for maximum demon-damage or (potentially) shafting their competition.

So it is with the most recent short story in this collection spanning the first ten years of Kazue Kato’s career, spawned from her early notes for what would become BLUE EXORCIST, one of the most resilient titles in the faltering fad that was that sugar-buzz manga. It was a generational thing, and that generation has moved on. Just the sugar-buzz bandits, mind you. I don’t see sales of SUNNY etc declining.

A little more love has been lavished on this, with over a dozen full-colour pages and a contents fold-out flap whose other side reproduces the front- and back-cover spread without words.

It kicks off with ‘The Rabbit And Me’ drawn when Kato was nineteen. Nineteen! Extraordinarily accomplished, there are elements of Otomo which she would swiftly ditch, most clearly discerned in the face and clothes of Shuri Todo. This is a young lad who mercy-killed his own dad, a worn-out street thief wanted for murder, with a sizeable pair of scissors whose handles were bunny ears. Now Shuri’s a killer for hire himself, receiving his contracts half-naked in a public bathhouse, before executing them in goggles and a floppy-eared bunny hat.

The second’s a Western in which an overzealous, tomato-craving bodyguard partnered with an anthropomorphic rabbit is hired to defend vast tomato fields belonging to another (rabbit). The tomatoes are not for eating. They are sacred or something! Apparently Kazue just wanted to draw gigantic tomato fields. Oh, and anthropomorphised rabbits.

She also wanted to draw Indians and horses (Wow! Most artists don’t!) and paint lots of red, so she cakes the next story in blood. She’s definitely driven by what she wants to draw and aimed for “something kitschy” in ‘USABoy’. Mission accomplished! Please find, in gaudy acrylic gouache: candy, flowers, a red-and-white chequered, linoleum floor and a five-year-old boy with a button nose, shiny eyes and big rosy cheeks. Also: a giant rabbit. Rabbits!

‘Nirai’ is a subaquatic dream piece about a drowning man and a beluga-like mermaid, ‘Master And I’ comes with a sudden burst of detail and crazy-paving for panels, while ‘A Maiden’s Prayer’ is rendered in pencils. A girl who’s been left all alone in a frozen, isolated village following the death of her parents determines to find somewhere sunnier and does so.

The End.

SLH

Buy Time Killers and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

Reviews already up if they’re new formats of previous graphic novels. The best of the rest will be reviewed next week while others will retain their Diamond previews as reviews. Neat, huh?

 

Bumperhead h/c (£16-50, Drawn & Quarterly) by Gilbert Hernandez

Ex Machina Book 3 (£14-99, Vertigo) by Brian K. Vaughan & Tony Harris, John Paul Leon

Fatale vol 5: Curse The Demon (£10-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips

Revival vol 4: Escape To Wisconsin (£12-99, Image) by Tim Seeley & Mike Norton

Rover Red Charlie (£14-99, Avatar) by Garth Ennis & Michael Dipascale

White Death h/c (£10-99, Image) by Robbie Morrison & Charlie Adlard

The Witcher vol 1 s/c (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Paul Tobin & Joe Querio

Words For Pictures: The Art And Business Of Writing Comics And Graphic Novels (£16-99, Watson Guptill) by Brian Michael Bendis

Harley Quinn: Vengeance Unlimited s/c (£14-99, DC) by A. J. Lieberman & Mike Huddleston, Troy Nixey

Guardians Of The Galaxy vol 2: Angela s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Sara Pichelli, Oliver Coipel

Marvel Masterworks: The Mighty Thor vol 5 (£18-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

Uncanny Avengers vol 4: Avenge The Earth (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Rick Remender & Daniel Acuna

Uncanny X-Men vol 4: Vs. Shield h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Chris Bachalo, Kris Anka

Fairy Tail vol 42 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Lone Wolf And Cub Omnibus vol 6 (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Kazuo Koike & Goseki Kojima

My Little Monster vol 4 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Robico

News

ITEM! I consider myself married to Page 45. In lieu of a boyf, I’m in a loving relationship with a semi-sentient shop and its entire customer base! It’s a monogamous relationship, and Page 45 has never been unfaithful nor let me down.

However, someone has recently – I kid you not! – actually married comics.

ITEM! FUN HOME’s Alison Bechdel wins award, rakes in moolah and announces her new graphic novel about her obsession with fitness fads!

ITEM! Alan Moore announces most unlikely comic yet: CROSSED +100! As in this CROSSED series, yes! Good grief! Well, I guess Alan Moore did write the Lovecraftian NEONOMICON. Brrrrr.

Famously, Alan Moore left comics many years ago. I know this because strangers tell me that with complete authority on a weekly basis. Funny how many new comics and graphic novels Alan has released over the last five or six years.

ITEM! Matt Wilson, colour artist on THE WICKED + THE DIVINE reveals #4’s mural credit. (Swoon!)

ITEM! Neill Cameron’s comicbook-creating workshops for schools and libraries!

ITEM! Niche, I know, but if you ever wonder why I cry when trying to complete the monthly PREVIEWS order form, here is Hibbs of Comix Experience and he doesn’t even mention all those wretched variant covers. Thank God we are primarily what Neil Gaiman called a graphic novel shop. For monthly comics, please help us to help you by setting up a Standing Order pull-list at Page 45, reserving the titles you want.

ITEM! So funny! Tom Gauld’s latest comic strip for the Guardian on literary awards!

ITEM! New TV series Gotham is imminent. If that takes your fancy Brubaker, Rucka & Lark’s GOTHAM CENTRAL was the finest ever on-going DC superhero series. Whilst it was going on, anyway. Four books in total, all out and in stock – that link in capital letters takes you to our review of book one with interior art.

ITEM! Bryan Lee O’Malley convention sketch: SCOTT and SECONDS!

ITEM! The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014 launches with Scott McCloud’s talk The Magic Of Comics! Here’s an idea of how much of a coup that is: the creator has 350,000 followers on Twitter. If you click on “creators” each is linked to the talks and workshops they’ll be giving, or try the gorgeous Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014 programme!

ITEM! Alex Valente reveals Creator Signings Timetable for Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014! Zoom in and click through – all of ours in the Georgian Room are there!

Not long now. Eeeeeeeeep!

- Stephen

Reviews September 2014 week three

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

I.N.J. Culbard has kindly agreed to sketch in all pre-orders for H.P. Lovecraft’s DREAM QUEST OF THE UNKNOWN KADATH placed with Page 45. (Due mid-November).

 - Stephen digressing from Abnett & Culbard’s Wild’s End #1

An Age Of License: A Travelogue (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Lucy Knisley…

“2011 was a year of travel! Through coincidence, work, and luck, I was offered opportunities to take trips. I took as many as possible. Recovering from heartbreak, I was determined to spend my travels having adventures and being a free agent.
“Some trips are more than distance travelled in miles. Sometimes travel can show us how our life is… or give us a glimpse of how it can be…”

I do love a good travelogue! Here Lucy Knisley stretches her wings and heads to Europe in search of adventure, and perhaps a little romance. Well actually there’s definitely going to be romance as she knows she’s meeting up with a boy called Henrik in Sweden, whom she recently made the acquaintance of at a fancy dress party in her home town of New York and was instantly smitten. Combined with a comics convention in Norway that she’s been invited to as a guest of honour, stops in glamorous cities like Berlin and Paris, plus a road trip to meet up with her mother and some of her friends who are housesitting in rural France, it sounds like the perfect cure for a broken heart.

She’s nervous about her trip, though, both in the practical and emotional sense, leaving her apartment, and cat, in the care of her recently exed boyfriend. They’re still good friends, but it seemingly leaves her unsure of whether she’s moving on or perhaps holding on. Sounds like she needs a holiday!

 

Cue much sight-seeing and smooching as she takes in some European culture, and allows herself to fall in love at least a little, as readers will with her. She’s honest and heartfelt about her emotions without being remotely angst-laden or schmaltzy. Fans of Lucy’s previous work FRENCH MILK will undoubtedly see the leaps and bounds she has made in terms of her storytelling and art, whilst refreshing our mental palettes for the obvious passion she has for her cuisine and gourmet ingredients, also amply displayed in her most recent previous work RELISH.

JR

Buy An Age Of License: A Travelogue and read the Page 45 review here

The Wrenchies (£14-99, First Second) by Farel Dalrymple.

“In this doom only children come and go listening to illegal radios.”

Crikey.

This is akin to a nightmare Never Never Land, a dystopian future in which only the children remain.

Those few who survive long enough to come of age are picked off, one by one, then absorbed by the suit-and-tied Shadowsmen. It’s how they reproduce.

The wastelands go on forever. The entire world is one great big landfill of garbage and trash, scavenged by feral gangs under constant assault from zombies, vermin, rabid dogs and the Night Creepers. If you slash off their heads, be sure to stamp on the swarms of green-sputum-spitting flies which loiter within bearing messages implying that The Wrenchies are next.

The very air is toxic and corrosive to body and mind, sapping hope, debilitating will and swarming with that which is rotten and putrescent. Entropy increases, things fall apart, and all that is left is dour determination and youthful grit. A catapult in hand and a voice calling out on the radio.

The Wrenchies are one such gang of girls and boys, holed up in their pretty neat bunker and subsisting as best they can. Boy, can they scrap! Armed with rocks, knives, catapults and baseball bats, they and their blue wolf Murmur fearlessly defend their territory from the ever-encroaching hoards.  They took their name from a comicbook written and drawn by one Sherwood Presley Breadcoat featuring adult adventurers in equally dire straits. And, advised by the solemn and ancient grey giant known as The Scientist, before long their own quest begins to read like a comicbook written like a daydream of children at play.

 

Back in an urban world more familiar to us with comics and Sunday school and bullies on every street corner, Hollis – a paunchy boy with a penchant for dressing up as a crimson superhero – struggles with what he worries is bad behaviour displeasing to God and obsesses about the safety of his soul. He fantasies about having friends but makes do with a silent ghost only he can see which seems to spend an awful lot of time in the open-plan apartment opposite Hollis’ where Sherwood Presley Breadcoat resides, drawing comics.

When he was ten Sherwood Presley Breadcoat and his younger brother Orson entered what they considered a cave. It was actually a vast industrial pipeline as big as a boy. At its entrance crows – the majority of them dead as doornails, flat on their backs, claws reaching from the skies they should never have flown down from – stalked about the detritus, disinclined to scatter as the two boys approached.

“The cave changed us. Made us. The cave cost us.
“I tried, but couldn’t close my eyes.
“We weren’t supposed to go in there. We never should have entered the shadows.
“Something left a back door open.”

As I say, crikey. We haven’t even touched on adult Sherwood’s drunken self-loathing.

“Jesus, I really have no idea what I’m doing. Nobody does. Some of us are just better at faking it.”

This dense, 300-page graphic novel with its complex, intertwined threads sewn together then spooling out madly, took me ages to absorb. You could write a dissertation on it, but I don’t have time and neither do you.

The detail is staggering, from the contemporary tenemenents with their iron fire escapes to the sprawling, apocalyptic trash heap of the future. There are elaborate cross-sections of those apartments, of The Wrenchies’ HQ and Olweyez’s “Hole” of silos and ducts and The Scientist’s Lair is a subterranean warren of wonder including a big but botched attempt at horticulture.

The colours are earthern and blood-caked and angry as anything at the drug-addled nightclub, with enough snot-green to make you feel queasy: if you have an aversion to flies you’ll find it amplified exponentially here.

The Wrenchies’ behaviour as a gang – their levels of respect and appreciation for talent – is as acutely observed as Taiyo Matsumoto’s SUNNY and TEKKON KINKREET, and I loved how Olweyez began to bore them with babbling until flashing in front of them a drawing dashed out before their eyes. Altogether:

“Ooooooh, COOL!”

Everyone loves an artist, right?

SLH

Buy The Wrenchies and read the Page 45 review here

Shoplifter h/c (£14-99, Pantheon) by Michael Cho…

“Ok, people. It’s new and it’s in 30 days. Thoughts?”
Hot. Nine to twelves is a great place to expand their brand. That segment is really opening up. I can get Liz at ChildLike to put together a focus. We’ll get specifics.”
“Right. And parents are a non-starter here. Obviously we’re doing placements, but how many blocks are we talking about? kTV? Street teams? I’d do games but that’s still iffy with girls. Print?”
“Print is dead. And TV is dead. I say we keep building something viral. We’ve been having some fun with Twitter later. But we need a new meme. A new story.”
“Corrina?”
“How about “Daddy says I smell special?”

“It’s perfume. For little girls. For little nine-year-girls.”

“Well, that was a bit awkward.”

Ha ha, advertising people. I’ve always had the strange feeling with the few I’ve met that they’ve sold so much bullshit to so many people, they’ve actually started to believe their own hype, in that they are a vital cog in improving people’s lives by bringing to their attention things people absolutely need to feel happy and fulfilled. Deep down, I’m sure they probably know that’s absolute nonsense, but if they admit it to themselves, well then how can they keep up the whole charade of what they do, pushing endless inanity to other people?

And so it is with Corrina Park… With a degree in English literature she always imagined that her first job at an advertising agency was merely to get some life experience and pay off her student debts before moving onto her dream career as a successful novelist. Five years later and she’s in a rut, both professionally and personally, and it’s becoming rather apparent to those around her. Her one outlet, to make herself feel at least a little alive, is shoplifting from her local convenience store. Nothing large, just the odd magazine here and there. She’s knows it wrong, but she manages to justify to herself regardless.

The shoplifting element is merely an aside to this work, as it happens, though it does contribute a pivotal moment when her pilfering is finally discovered. What this really is about is being at a crossroads in life, and having the mental strength to make the correct decisions that will keep you moving forward emotionally, rather than merely treading water and stagnating unhappily. Which is something everyone will be able to relate to, I’m sure. You’ll find yourself rooting for Corrina as she struggles with the difficult decision of whether to give up the apparent safety net of a secure if unfulfilling job, to pursue her dreams.

 

 

It’s certainly impressive writing from Michael Cho, but the art is even more so. If you’re a fan of Darwyn PARKER Cooke, the comparison will be immediately evident, even down to the use of a single colour alongside black for shading. Though whereas Darwyn usually picks blue or brown to provide an appropriately pulpy noir feel, Michael has gone for a pastel pink that is just perfect for this work, which is obviously completely different in tone to Cooke’s crime joints. From the endless bustle of the big city to the silent, lonesome box of Corrina’s apartment, the art is awash with exquisite detail. A genuinely uplifting read which I enjoyed immensely from start to finish.

JR

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

Wild’s End #1 of 6 (£2-99, Boom! Studios) by Dan Abnett & I.N.J. Culbard.

Surely there must be someone out there as dim as me who didn’t cotton onto the titular pun in Abnett and Culbard’s THE NEW DEADWARDIANS (“The Nude Edwardians”)?

Culbard had to tell me himself.

Which was embarrassing.

While we speak of the prolific craftsman known as Nottingham’s I.N.J. Culbard, the man has kindly agreed not only to sign but to sketch in all pre-orders of his forthcoming adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s DREAM QUEST OF THE UNKNOWN KADATH placed with Page 45. (Actually due mid-November.) Ian’s in so much demand that he cannot find time to hit the American comicbook convention circuit but, since we ship worldwide, this would be the perfect opportunity for those on t’other side of the pond to get a free sketch.

End of blatantly self-serving Public Service Announcement.

Abnett & Culbard seem to have a thing for alien invasion at the moment. In DARK AGES #1 and DARK AGES #2 (both still in stock at the time of typing, #1 reviewed with interior art) a cadre of 14th Century mercenaries were wishing for war and got what they wanted. Whoops.

Its alien invasion aside, this couldn’t be more different.

The leafy, tranquil and idyllic English country village of Lower Crowchurch is planning its annual fête over a few pints down the King’s Arms. Judging by the open-topped motor cars parked up outside, we’re looking at the early or mid-1930s. The wobbly-necked solicitor Gilbert Arrant is a shoe-in for the committee chair again. A natural leader, he’s confident, encouraging, forward-thinking and assertive without being overbearing. His good friend Peter Minks, a journalist for the local paper with his hat permanently set at a jaunty old angle, will be in charge of the tombola.

“That’s right, so bring along all your donations to me. Nice prizes, please. Not a lucky horseshoe again, Frank.”
“It were a lucky horseshoe!”
“Not for the winner it wasn’t.”

Monocled Squire Umbleton will be demonstrating his revolutionary new agricultural engine which runs on diesel combustion, and of course there will be all the traditional competitions for cakes, jams, vegetables, flower arrangements, arts and crafts and possibly farm animals.

Joining them this year is retired old seadog Mr Clive Slipaway who has just moved in to Journey’s End thatched country cottage and is giving its door and windows a fresh lick of nautical navy-blue paint. He appears reserved, even wary, reluctant to engage, but agrees to provide target practice with straw bales, tin targets and pellet guns. Nothing too dangerous, anyway…

Unfortunately for everyone danger is heading their way, regardless. I suspect you’ll have taken note of the cover.

The night before Fawkes and chum Bodie saw a falling star crash to earth on the other side of Hightop. He gate-crashes the committee meeting to warn his fellow villages, claiming it killed Bodie, burned up in a fierce flash of light. Unfortunately Fawkes is a fox who’s cried wolf way too often whilst under the influence, and only Slipaway gives credence to his cry for help.

“I’ve — I’ve seen enough young men gripped in terror to know what genuine fear looks like.”

As Arrant, Minks and Slipaway set off to investigate, something stirs at Shortmile End and heads for Mrs. Swagger’s cottage.

It’s all very Doctor Who. I’m thinking specifically of Spearhead From Space, John Pertwee’s first episode, with an element of Christopher Eccleston’s second. Except, of course, this is anthropomorphics – I haven’t mentioned that yet, have I?

It is, however, quite different from any anthropomorphic comic I’ve seen before. Compared to the likes of GRANDVILLE and BLACKSAD this looks far more like a children’s story book with bright colours, bold, clean lines and shapes, and a map at the back which has aged at the edges. It has that magical, fairy-tale aspect of Alice In Wonderland, the protagonists looking like actors who’ve donned oversized animal heads as they might for a pantomime. Whereas most anthropomorphic characters come with bright, shiny eyes, here – Fawkesie aside, wide-eyed in terror – the old ‘uns eyes are almost closed under the glare of the summer sunshine, giving them a terrific sense of age. When Gilbert’s do open a little indoors they have a fantastical sense of otherness.

Gilbert’s body language is exquisite, delicate, his hands afloat, fingers crossed or gently caressing his chin. Peter’s more of a cheeky chappy while Clive is doleful, heavy and tired with saggy jowls. The one time he becomes animated enough to exert his undoubted physical strength and authority, you can just about see his lower teeth bared to intimidate. It’s masterfully drawn.

It’s also very, very English. Not British – specifically English – with a fabulous sense of both time and space.

SLH

Buy Wild’s End #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Stumptown (vol 3) #1 (£2-99, Oni) by Greg Rucka & Justin Greenwood…

From the writer of LAZARUS. Brits: for flop, read “dive”.

“That was a total flop. You saw the way she was holding me?”
“Oh, I saw it… Now I’m wondering when you’ll finally get over yourself and ask her out?”
“Fuck you.”
“Hot sweaty bodies colliding roughly… if it’s not love, it’s lust, admit it.”
“She’s from Seattle. I do not date Flounders. The way you let her score on you, you’re one to talk.”
“That sounds like jealousy to me.”

P.I. Dex Parios returns, and in a football-related story to boot! Sorry, couldn’t resist that one, I’ll give myself a stern talking to, and a yellow card…

Ah, I really wish Rucka would make this an ongoing series, his characterisation and dialogue are superb. This time around, after the frankly odd artwork of STUMPTOWN VOL 2 which felt like an increasingly surrealist experiment (STUMPTOWN VOL 1’s art by the same artist was tremendous strangely enough), he’s also got an artist to match his talents in Justin Greenwood, currently also illustrating Antony Johnston’s THE FUSE.

This case opens with Dex playing in goal against the lovely ladies of Seattle Muddy Balls. Still, her team is called Reál Pain, which isn’t much better frankly, but considerably more classy than FC Vagisil, which was the name of my friend’s Sunday league team for a number of years… But, as Dex has to point out to her teammate Hoffman, it’s just a game. Hoffman, in the vein of Shankly, disagrees vehemently, and if you know the rest of Bill’s famous quote you might have half an idea where things are going…

After her kickabout, Dex is off to take her younger brother Ansell to the Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Flounders local derby. It’s a fiery affair to be sure, as much off the pitch as on it, I hadn’t realised Americans soccer crowds had become so skilled in the art of verbally abusing the opposition supporters. It quite took me back to my own salad days of terrace serenading. Issue one concludes with Dex’s friend Mike being found near the stadium, having taking a serious beating. On the face of it, it’s a simple case of hooliganism, but I’m sure there’s much more to it than that.

I really feel like Rucka is back on track with the emotional elements again after STUMPTOWN VOLUME TWO where I can’t say I really warmed to anyone, and Dex herself felt somewhat peripheral to the main action. Dex and her brother are key components of what makes this title so interesting so I’m pleased the focus, for this first issue at least, is squarely on them.

I am also extremely happy Justin Greenwood is on board for this arc. It’s exactly what this title required art-wise to bring it back to the forefront of crime comics. Clearly they’ve decided to go for less gritty and more colourful, but Justin’s style still adds a hard-nosed edge to proceedings.

JR

Buy Stumptown (vol 3) #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Y – The Last Man Book 1 (£14-99, Vertigo) by Brian K. Vaughan & Pia Guerra.

From the writer of EX MACHINA, SAGA and PRIDE OF BAGHDAD, this new edition reprints the first two softcovers.

Gripping premise in which everyone on the planet in possession of a Y chromosome haemorrhages in an instant. Think about that – Vaughan certainly has.

“495 of the Fortune 500 CEOs are now dead, as are 99% of the world’s landowners. In the US alone, more than 95% of all commercial pilots, truck drivers, and ship captains died… as did 92% of violent felons. Internationally, 99% of all mechanics, electricians, and construction workers are now deceased… though 51% of the planet’s agricultural labour force is still alive..”

Then there’s the religious and governmental significance of this sudden shift in power. Oh yes, and the military. Planes drop out of the sky; the fields, cities, roads and oceans are full of corpses. And although this is itself a damning indictment of the current state of gender play, if you think that the world would be a more peaceful place with women in charge, this series soon puts paid to that. Amazon cults emerge, severing their left breasts, seducing the impressionable and imposing their own bigoted militancy on others. Others wrestle for power, and it’s up to one agent and a lone scientist to escort the sole surviving males – escape artist Yorick and his pet monkey – to a laboratory where the doctor was working on an illegal process she suspects had something to do with the catastrophe when she tried to give birth to her own clone.

An earlier work than EX MACHINA, SAGA or even PRIDE OF BAGHDAD, although some of the dialogue reeks of exposition in the first half, I can assure you it improves swiftly and dramatically, plus Vaughan follows up on more repercussions than so many would have thought of.

The pace of the plot – the twists and the turns – constantly kept me on my toes, and Vaughan really knows when to slip those surprises in. He also threw characters down some unexpectedly dark dead ends, including the protagonist’s sister, and here introduced a town whose inhabitants share a secret they cannot afford to divulge.

Then there’s the matter of a space station, manned when disaster struck but unable to make a safe re-entry. Did the dudes drop dead there? Toss in international espionage, a missing girlfriend and a mother at the top of a precarious political ladder and you have a recipe for ramifications it took Brian K. Vaughan 75 issues to cook through.

SLH

Buy Y – The Last Man Book 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Legal Drug Omnibus (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Clamp ~

On the cover you’ll see this book has a “suspicious” leaf motif; on the back, a green and white pill. Why?

Kazahaya Kudo works at Green Drug pharmacy with a tall moody feller called Rikuo and their boss, Kakei. Kakei took them both off the streets, gave them a place (the storeroom) and now they earn their keep filling shelves and sweeping up. Or at least that’s how it seems to outside world. When the doors at Green Drug close, Kazahaya and Rikuo really start to pay the rent. By going on secret paranormal missions for their boss and filling out prescriptions for people with “special ailments”. Things that cannot be cured with conventional medicine.

Oh! The two young bucks have strange, psychic powers too, which kind of helps. Although the plot seems kinda throwaway (which they often do), CLAMP have a great knack of leaving things unsaid or unexplained. Like the guys’ powers, the origins of which will probably be explained later on. With much dramatic posturing and a flurry of multiple close-ups/speedlines. Or the fact that almost all the male characters are gay. Which isn’t an issue, so there’s no prolonged thoughtful insights into what it is to be gay, because only groups of straight men do that.

You might want to check out TOKYO BABYLON as well on that score.

I love the design with this book, lots of nice green on black. The suspicious leaf motif from the logo pops up again throughout.

TR

Buy Legal Drug Omnibus and read the Page 45 review here

Cyanide & Happiness vol 3: Punching Zoo s/c (£10-99, Boom! Box) by Kris, Rob, Matt, Dave.

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.

I love it.

Short strips merrily defiling innocence on the internet with thirty additional episodes here deemed too way awful for such webular exposure* plus The Hot Date dinner disaster chews-your-own-adventure story.

Instinctively I turned to Page 45 – and you should too, for all your comicbook cravings – and what I found there was so appallingly that I sobbed with laughter:

“You’ll be a big movie star, baby! I see Oscars and Tonys in your future!”
“Where do I sign?”

… he cries gleefully. Later:

“Okay, Oscar and Tony, you’re up!”

I could not possibly even imply the punchline, but infer what you will. The look on the poor lad’s face as he contemplates the nature of niche markets…

Its closest comparison point is the PERRY BIBLE FELLOWSHIP ALMANACK which also straddles the fine line at times between that which is inarguably either spot-on observation of some humans’ nature or the most wittily rendered, left-field expression of a very real phenomenon and that which should perhaps have been left on the cutting-room floor. See also Ivan Brunetti’s HO! If you’ve the stomach for it.

* I am not even kidding you.

SLH

Buy Cyanide & Happiness vol 3: Punching Zoo s/c and read the Page 45 review here

BPRD Hell On Earth vol 9 – Reign Of Black Flame (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi & James Harren…

So, just when think I can’t enjoy this title even more, it steps up the action and drama even further. Quick recap… the world has quite literally gone to hell in a badly woven handbasket following the events of the PLAGUE OF FROGS and subsequent spawning of huge Ctthulu-esque creatures, reducing pretty much every city in the world to slimy rubble.

Amidst the chaos, even darker forces seek to control what remains on behalf of the Ogdru Jahad, those seven entities with designs on our reality who lie beyond our space and time. For now… In New York City, the returned Black Flame, assisted by the ever-helpful Nazi remnants has complete control, reducing what remains of the city’s population to slaves. The BPRD doesn’t know what is going on within the confines of the city due to a strange electronic blackout preventing all communications and surveillance.

Thus, two teams, headed up by the bodiless Johann and resident pyrokinetic Liz Sherman, including various Russian elements from their own BPRD equivalent, are dispatched to reconnoitre and return with hard intel, without confronting the enemy. A simple in-and-out mission right…? Well, it certainly doesn’t help when people won’t follow orders. Still, that always was Liz’s strong suit, not listening to authority. Cue one spectacular conflagration when she confronts the Black Flame…

 

JR

Buy BPRD Hell On Earth vol 9 – Reign Of Black Flame and read the Page 45 review here

Forever Evil h/c (£18-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & David Finch…

It is a little known fact that, for a number of years, my nickname amongst the circle of my oldest friends was “evil Rigby” for, well, a variety of reasons that I need not elaborate on here. Said behaviour was nothing too untoward, I should add, hence the non-capital ‘e’. Why I felt the need to share that I have no idea.

Anyway… there is a world within the DC Multiverse where those who are good in our reality, are evil in theirs… Thus instead of a Justice League there is the Crime Syndicate containing twisted, villainous versions of all our heroes, who have managed to kill all the heroes of their world and take over the planet. They are probably Evil with a capital ‘E’, therefore.

However, something considerably more powerful than even them has destroyed their world, forcing them to seek another to conquer… ours.

So, this was DC’s big summer event, written by Geoff BLACKEST NIGHT Johns, and it was pretty decent, actually. There were a few clever tricks and switches amidst the usual over-the-top set-piece melees, not least being that Lex Luthor has decided he wants to play hero and be a member of the Justice League. Oh, and he’s worked out who Batman really is. Not that Luthor’s entirely on the straight and narrow, obviously, his ego just likes the idea that they can’t save the world without him.

If you fancy a bit of capes and tights of the DC flavour going at it with everything including the kitchen sink, this will do nicely.

JR

Buy and read the Page 45 review here

Winter Soldier Brubaker Complete Collection s/c (£22-50, Marvel) by Ed Brubaker & Butch Guice, Michael Lark.

“Your memorial starts in an hour. You planning on attending?”
“Ha. No… Just do me justice… And make sure all the girls are cryin’.”

Shadows and light. Like the weather itself – rain, sleet and snow at midnight – the colouring by Bettie Breitweiser is beautifully bleak: an erosion of Butch Guice’s phenomenal form and action so frantic that it’s like being tossed into the firefight yourself. Rarely do I rave so vocally about the colouring in a Marvel comic but it’s both brave and bold and works perfectly in what is essentially another espionage thriller by Brubaker who’s going out with a bang at Marvel, on his fiercest form there since the first three years of CAPTAIN AMERICA itself. And as an espionage action-thriller co-starring Nick Fury, there are apposite explosions of Jim Steranko and Gene Colan throughout – you really can’t miss them. A joy.

Following the catastrophic events in FEAR ITSELF, what’s left of the world is mourning for Bucky Barnes who fell on the frontline. For many years Steve Rogers’ best friend was thought dead, lost after a plane disaster in WWII, although in truth Barnes had been captured by the Russians, cryogenically frozen and brainwashed into becoming the Winter Soldier, their occasional stealth assassin during the Cold War. Thankfully he broke his conditioning and went on to sub for Steve Rogers as Captain America until being set up and exposed by Zemo for his Cold War crimes then sold out by elements in the US government to Russia. When he died on the battlefield of FEAR ITSELF, Bucky Barnes was still a wanted man.

Now: the report of Bucky’s death was an exaggeration. Nick Fury and Natasha Romanov, the Russian superspy codenamed Black Widow, conspired to save Bucky using an almost depleted source only at Nick’s disposal whilst covering up his survival. What did they use for a corpse? Oh, come on, you know your S.H.I.E.L.D. history! So that takes care of the international hunt for Bucky as fugitive. Only question is… who’s going to tell Steve?

Barnes and Romanov are now free to embark on a series of necessarily covert stealth missions to track down the three other Russian Sleepers that have since been shipped in stasis tubes to US soil. So far they’ve arrived just in time to be too late, finding the stasis tubes empty. And so desperate have they been to prevent the acquisition then activation of the Sleeper Agents, they’ve charged in too fast to take in the details: who they’re up against and the true identity of their opponents’ target.

The target is Victor Von Doom Esq, but the assassins have so far only used enough firepower to make Doom angry. To what end…? All will become a great deal clearer when you discover what else was bought alongside the acquisition codes. Oh yes, and who bought them.

This is slick as slick can be, with beautifully balanced banter between Barnes and Romanov. That they are lovers and equals makes for a different dynamic both in the field and in bed. Add in Natasha’s permanently arched eyebrow and you’re in for a treat. Doom too is the source of much mirth, and there was one panel in which he masked a certain degree of fretful guilt which I swear looks like it was drawn by SCOTT PILGRIM’s Bryan Lee O’Malley.

Of the second slice here, I wrote:

More exceptional, high-octane espionage action with one hell of a cliffhanger I never saw coming. I never see anything coming, do I? I shouldn’t be allowed to drive. Or cross the street.

Previously in WINTER SOLDIER VOL 1: two ex-Soviet sleeper agents, trained during the Cold War by a brainwashed Bucky Barnes then bought and brought to America, came close to starting World War Three. Two of them – and there were supposed to be three. Why didn’t the third one show?

The answer lies buried under San Francisco in an underground bunker where our Winter Soldier finds the shattered remains of that third sleeper agent’s cryogenic stasis tube. The whole place has been crushed. It’s as if a bomb went off or… when was the last time the San Andreas Belt shifted? Twelve years ago there was an earthquake and, as the saying goes, it woke the giant up. Unfortunately there was no one on hand to administer the reorientating drugs necessary for a successful resurrection or help acclimatise the walking, talking weapon of mass destruction as to where, when or who he was. He staggered naked to the surface, a lethal blank slate. So what’s he been doing for twelve years?

The central cast of S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Sitwell, Natasha Romanov (the Black Widow) and Bucky Barnes himself are so well played. And I mean that in both senses of the word for, without giving the game away, the Winter Soldier isn’t the only one who’s spent many years in Russia. Natasha comes with her own insider knowledge, set of skills and experience. And they’re very much in demand.

Of the third and final chapter:

“I like the rain… The way it sounds on the umbrella… The way the air feels.”

With which Ed Brubaker’s triumphant, epic stint on the world of CAPTAIN AMERICA which began with CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER comes to a devastating end. There are things worse than death, you know, and this is one of worst I can imagine. It is not what you think, no.

Butch Guice has been on blistering form with the mood-esque atmosphere enhanced no end by colour artist Bettie Breiweiser who made some very brave choices in volume one which paid off to perfection. Here they are better than ever, with rain that will soak you to your tear-stained skin and, boy, there are some neat Gene Colan riffs! Perfectly apposite as you will see, but I will not tell you why.

I have to be very careful what I type here so as not to spoil those books – particularly the second one – however…

“Here’s the thing about being under mind-control, the part nobody talks about… That you’re still in there… Some small piece‘a you is awake… watching. Like bein’ a passenger in your own body. You struggle to break free… but you lose… Over and over again… you lose… And it makes whatever you’re forced to do that much worse…”

Oh dear.

SLH

Buy Winter Soldier Brubaker Complete Collection s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Regular Show vol 1 s/c (£10-99, Kaboom) by various…

You know who else reads comics? MY MOM!

It’s true, actually, though probably not REGULAR SHOW. I would imagine it might fall into the ‘too weird’ category. Fans of the show will undoubtedly recognise the long-standing joke, repeatedly exhorted by Muscle Man to the increasing irritation of all the other crazy characters: Rigby, Mordecai, Benson, Skips, Pops and High Five Ghost, who are a bizarre mixture of animals, humans and even someone with a gumball machine for a head, who all live and work in a park. Where very, very strange things happen. A lot.

Obviously, I love comics. I have to say, though, I don’t fully understand the need to produce comic versions of cartoons, the blatantly apparent fiscal and cross-platform marketing benefits aside. To me, when comics and indeed prose books are converted to films or television shows, often much is left out and the adaptations are a pale imitation. I tend to find with cartoons being converted to comics that the same is equally true. For something as zany and insane as REGULAR SHOW, ADVENTURE TIME et al, to me their natural medium is on screen. I just find I am not as entertained by the comic versions of them to anywhere near the same extent as the shows.

 

Personal, curmudgeonly observations aside, if you are a fan of the coolest racoon* ever – and I don’t mean ROCKET RACOON, though that would be a pretty interesting rodent-related cross-over, now I come to think about it – and his friends, you probably will enjoy it regardless.

* Obviously I am heavily biased given my surname.

JR

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

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

Reviews already up if they’re new formats of previous graphic novels. The best of the rest will be reviewed next week while others will retain their Diamond previews as reviews. Neat, huh?

 

The River h/c (£15-99, Enchanted Lion Books) by Alessandro Sana

Courtney Crumrin vol 6: The Final Spell h/c (£18-99, Oni) by Ted Naifeh

Ricky Rouse Has A Gun (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by Jorg Tittel & John Aggs

Maddy Kettle vol 1: The Adventure Of The Thimblewitch (£10-99, Top Shelf) by Eric Orchard

The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor And The Ship That Sank Twice s/c (£10-99, Vertigo) by Mike Carey & Peter Gross, various

Blue Estate h/c (£22-50, Image) by Viktor Kalvachev, Kosta Yanev, Andrew Osborne & Viktor Kalvachev, Toby Cypress, Nathan Fox, Paul Maybury, Marley Zarcone, Tomm Coker, Andrew Robinson, Peter Nguyen

Astro City: Through Open Doors s/c (£12-99, DC) by Kurt Busiek & Brent Eric Anderson

Forever Evil: Arkham War s/c (£12-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi & Scot Eaton, various

All New X-Men vol 5: One Down (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen

Deadpool Vs. Carnage  (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Cullen Bunn & Salvador Espin

Guardians Of The Galaxy / All New X-Men: The Trial Of Jean Grey (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen, Sara Pichelli

New Avengers vol 2: Infinity s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Mike Deodato Jr.

Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man vol 5 s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & David Marquez

Deadman Wonderland vol 4 (£6-99, Viz) by Jinsei Kataoka & Kazuma Kondou

Ikigami The Ultimate Limit vol 10 (£8-99, Viz) by Motoro Mase

Loveless vol 12 (£6-99, Viz) by Yun Kouga

Spell Of Desire vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Tomu Ohmi

Time Killers (£9-99, Viz) by Kazue Kato

Pandora Hearts vol 21 (£9-99, Yen) by Jun Mochizuki

News

ITEM! Swoon, swoon, swoon, swoon, swoon! THE RIVER by Alessandro Sanna is in stock at Page 45 now (see top of Also Arrived). Just look at those watercolour landscapes!

ITEM! Alan Moore finishes one-million-word novel, Jerusalem!

ITEM! Spanish artist Max draws Jeff Smith’s BONE.

ITEM! Advance review / preview of Scott Snyder & Jock’s WYTCHES!

ITEM! Thrilling sense of speed then break-neck brakes in MURDER + MIDNIGHT by Jon Eastman & David Ward. Kickstarter deadline imminent. Eeep!

ITEM! Sally J. Thompson’s gorgeous Estonia sketches. Swoon!

ITEM! Sean Phillips’ limited edition giclee for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival.

ITEM! Finally, fanfare, please…

Behold the brand-new Lakes International Comic Art Festival Programme 2014!

Oh my days, it is beautiful!

So much to see, so much to do, and yet it’s laid out with such clarity I could cry!

Almost everything at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014 is FREE (click on that link for their website, click on the one directly below cover for programme) including Page 45’s signings with Scott McCloud & Glyn Dillon and Page 45’s 20th Anniversary Booze Bash!

However, please note that the ticketed talks with comicbook creators like Scott McCloud, Jeff Smith, Eddie Campbell, Becky Cloonan, Sean Phillips at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival do require a small contribution and should be booked as soon as possible because space is limited.

- Stephen