Posts in the ‘Reviews’ Category

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews October 2016 week four

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

Yes, that is new Craig Thompson, directly below! News under reviews.

Coelifer Atlas (£5-00) by Alex Paknadel, Dan Watters & Charlie Adlard, Dan Berry, Nick Brokenshire, Joe Decie, Mike Medaglia, Bruce Mutard, Ken Niimura, Jake Phillips, Bryan Talbot, Craig Thompson, Petteri Tikkanen, Emma Vieceli.

“You sure these seats are ours? Check the tickets.”
“Jess…it’s me.”

Rarely have I experienced a comic whose final two pages changed everything I’d thought I’d read: everything.

Suddenly each element of the story – what I had seen, what had been said, and the sheer enormity of it all – reconfigured in my head from chaotic, spinning molecules to form the stillest and clearest of crystals.

And it really was an “experience” – a transformative one – which impressed upon me the agonising reality of living with OCD in a most surreal way. It’s very clever stuff, and not without comedy value, either. My educated guess is that your own second read-through will prove as much of a revelation as my own.

“Look, we gave ourselves some wiggle room so you could do your… so you could do you. But time’s up. Train’s due in five minutes, mate.”

Neil doing Neil can be painful to watch. Steps must be taken; steps must be counted, and if things don’t add up, they must be taken and counted again. He’s certainly not going to take the wrong seat on a train. But his sister has known him all his life, and knows that listening to Neil talk himself through it works wonders.

It’s just that today of all days it is vital that Neil and Jess get where they’re going, and that’s only going to heap on added pressure.


“Atlas never carried the world on his shoulders.”
“Popular misconception. He holds the Celestial Sphere – the heavens.”

Regardless, it was still very heavy.

Neil knows stuff, especially about order and especially about time. You’ll learn why it was that railways exposed the disorder in sundials. Well, think about it: “The sun sets eleven minutes after London in Carnforth”.

There’s a lot of disorder today.

I’ve carefully chosen two pages of interior art – by Bryan Talbot then Emma Vieceli – which don’t give too much away. But you’ll notice the serpentine coils in place of passengers and seats filling the carriage as Neil desperately dives for the washroom, implying danger, disorientation and even perhaps the avoidance of those standing, while the clear path between indicates an emergency exit and only one goal. The serpent will be reprised by Medaglia.


Also on Vieceli’s pages, rarely have I seen blood diluted by water so well coloured, and the loving concern on Jess’ furrowed face in the third panel is pitch-perfect.

As for Talbot’s final, slightly startling panel on comic’s first two pages, you will understand later how exceptionally well judged that is too. I can assure you that is but a hint of the chaos to come, Nick Brokenshire upping the ante – deadpan and in exquisite detail – to great comedic effect.

On your first time round, I suspect that the abrupt and extreme switch in styles between the likes of Jake Phillips’ fine lines, deep shadows, sand-paper-brown, grained photo-collage and Dan Berry’s cartoon fluidity and flood will make you wonder, but this choice and turbulence is far from uncalculated. The contrast if not conflict in the baton-changes between artists (who drew two pages each in under two hours) is deliberately dramatic and disorientating because those shoes, they do need to be walked in. The handover between Berry and Adlard, on the other hand, could not be better timed in its wake-up call.

I cannot say much more for fear of spoiling your own surprises, except that Craig Thompson’s final two pages are arresting and worthy of Will Eisner, the last one carrying such enormous emotional weight on its shoulders.

“We award points for effort under THIS roof, my ducks.”

What an incredible effort.


All five pounds of every single sale goes to OCD Action via LICAF.

For another exceptional work involving OCD, please see my favourite piece of comicbook fiction, Glyn Dillon’s THE NAO OF BROWN. For another exceptional comicbook relay race between artists, I recommend the brilliant piece of British social history which is the fictional NELSON.


Buy Coelifer Atlas and read the Page 45 review here

The Lottery (£14-50, Hill & Wang) by Shirley Jackson & Miles Hyman.

“The childrenlottery-cover assembled first, of course.”

A virtually silent adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s prose short story, its few words are chosen carefully for maximum, ominous impact.

It was a very short story if its only words are reproduced here.

From the very first page I was unsettled, but then came the faces as furrowed as the fields in this small and remote country hamlet, the knowing looks, the date so evidently important, and the portrait of the woman in its austere cameo frame which looks stern, strict and perhaps disapproving of anything so fancy as a newfangled camera.

It’s as if the locals are isolated in time as well as geographically. Every one of them frowns. They seem to share a knowledge you are not privy to.

Lottery GN - final.pdf

Lottery GN - final.pdf

Lottery GN - final.pdf

On the night of June 26, the evening before the annual lottery, Mr Joe Summers lets Mr. Harry Graves into the Summers Coal store front. They greet each other solemnly, then retire to a backroom, lit by a single overhead bulb, wherein waits an old wooden box high on top of the shelves. They lift it down together, as if observing some sacred ritual, and proceed to check the empty rectangles of white paper, folded in two to form simple squares, to ensure that they are all blank.

One by one these folded slips are posted through the dark hole waiting in the top of the box.

Without a word, Mr Harry Graves takes a pencil and on the inside of a single one of those slips of paper he proceeds to draw a circle, then fills it with graphite from the outside in until it is indelibly black. He hands it Mr Joe Summers who drops it through the hole in the lottery box where it waits with the others until tomorrow morning.


“The morning of June 27 was clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth a full-summer day.
“The flowers were blossoming profusely and the grass was richly green.”

Yes, it is a bright day indeed, and the village is verdant. The soil is quite evidently fertile, for the fields are rich in ripening corn.

The white chapel shines in the sun, as does the crisp, fresh laundry flapping on lines in a welcome breeze. Everything seems right, everything seems ordinary. But today is June 27, the day of The Lottery.

“In some towns there were so many people that The Lottery took two days and had to be started on June 26.
“But in this village, where there were only about three hundred people, the whole lottery took less than two hours.
“It could begin at ten o’clock in the morning and still be through in time to allow the villagers to get home for noon dinner.”


The art is neat. It is neat and tidy like the village folk themselves. It is also laden. Otherwise ordinary images – I’ll say it again – unsettle you. Heavy, agricultural machines and implements loom large and take on a threatening nature.

Ancestors are invoked. Tradition is respected around these parts. And The Lottery is part of that tradition.

On time, the villagers dutifully drop what they are doing and gather round. They congregate.

But by noon – after all is said and all is done – they will be back in their family houses, in time for luncheon.

I should emphasise that this is not a supernatural story. It would be far more reassuring if it were.


Buy The Lottery and read the Page 45 review here

The Marionette Unit (£12-99, TMU Workshop) by Azhur Saleem, James Boyle & Warwick Johnson-Cadwell…

“Have you got any steampunk?”

… Is a fairly oft-heard refrain within the four mind-bending and wallet-emptying walls of Page 45, but frankly, there is somewhat of a dearth of material on said topic which we can heartily recommend. Bryan Talbot’s LUTHER ARKWRIGHT and Matt Fraction’s FIVE FISTS OF SCIENCE are usually mentioned, along with Warren Ellis’ AETHERIC MECHANICS and CAPTAIN SWING AND THE ELECTRIC PIRATES OF CINDERY ISLAND. Also Bryan Talbot’s GRANDVILLE, plus Alan Moore’s early LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN if you’re pushing the definition (trust me: true steampunk pedants, sorry, aficionados, will disagree). Oh, and most definitely DOCTOR GRORDBORT PRESENTS ONSLAUGHT for comedy value, but there’s not a great deal else, surprisingly.

This, happily, will now become my de facto recommendation for it is premier amongst hoodlums of the condensation-producing variety! With its plethora of pipework and variety of valves on the cover background, as quilled by Warwick DANGERITIS / 21st CENTURY TANK GIRL / NELSON Johnson-Cadwell, no one could be in any doubt as to its temperature-titillating temptations.


Actually, it’s an extremely clever cover beyond that because the sinister foreground profile of the top-hatted toff, with his tailcoat of twisted tentacles reaching down to plug into our heroine’s back, perfectly encapsulates what disturbing dystopian ductwork, of both the figurative and literal type, you will find within. For Beatrice, searching for her lost sister, is forced to enter the disturbing Saint Mary Abbot’s workhouse, owned by the evil Dubré, whose peculiar idea of social mobility is, shall we say, rather different to the accepted definition… I think I shall allow him to explain his dastardly scheme to exploit the hoi polloi of the social strata.

“My name is Dubré and I am the foreman and engineer of all that you will see here.
“Years I have been perfecting the tools that you will use… and that will be plugged into you.
“You are in safe hands… hands that will serve a working class of and for the future.
“I expect total cooperation. You will see that none complain here, and for good reason.”

Yes… because if they do, they get clubbed and thrown in the back of a horse-drawn carriage, never to be seen again. Sorry, couldn’t help interrupting his maniacal monologuing there…

“There are two things I believe in here… a strong work ethic… and a resilient nature.
“You will work many hours, but you will not tire. I assure you, this is like no other workhouse.
“I bid you a warm welcome, dear workers of the future!”


Which all sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Except of course, the workers are no more than another, ultimately disposable, cog in Dubré’s empire of capitalist output. Indeed, very precisely so, as the plugged-in workers suddenly find their bodies are no longer their own to control, merely obeying Dubré’s industrial instruction…

Work them ‘til they drop, then, and when they are of no more use, get rid of them… In this era of zero-hours contracts, it’s a cutting reminder that whilst we might like to believe that workers’ rights and protections have evolved beyond Victorian values, for many, they simply haven’t, as Mike Ashley is only too happy to attest. Well, once he was finally forced in front of the MPs Select Committee, that is…


So it’s a scything piece of social satire from writer Azhur Saleem, then, as well as a steampunk-powered adventure romp, conceived with co-creator James Boyle. Excellent! Whilst this is their first foray into the world of comics they’ve a long background in film-making and the media and design industries and clearly understand how to craft an engaging story. I think fans of PORCELAIN would very much enjoy this, actually. An impressive debut! I look forward to the next instalment. Yes, for this work is merely the opening chapter in Beatrice’s quest to track down her sister.


Buy The Marionette Unit and read the Page 45 review here

Demon Vol 1 (£17-99, FirstSecond) by Jason Shiga.

Wickedly crafty, demon-coverthe extent of Shiga’s ingenuity will only begin to become clear during chapter four, and then it will blow your brains out. Which is apposite enough.

Up until then, you’re going to have trust him.

Fortunately I do, for the inventive mathematician of comicbook creators responsible for EMPIRE STATE and MEANWHILE is meticulous with detail, known neither for imprecision nor for being random. He is a logic-driven puzzle-maker and a puzzle-solver, and here he invites you to solve the following puzzle before his protagonist does.

I too will be methodical in removing one word and adding another from the situation so as to retain the sequence of events as I originally perceived it.


Jimmy Yee is in a modest motel room. With much consideration, he writes a suicide note and hangs himself.

He wakes up in bed, perplexed. Some time has passed but not much. The suicide note on the motel stationery is gone, as is the rope he hung himself from. He’s been given a second chance, but is determined to kill himself. So he writes another suicide note, draws a bath and slits his wrists with a razor blade.


Jimmy Yee wakes up in bed. Yup, that painting above it is still there but the room’s a little messier. Some time has passed but not much. He’s been given a third chance, but he is still determined to kill himself. Fortunately a gun has now materialised beside the obligatory Bible in his bedside drawer. He writes another note, repairs to the bathroom, wraps the gun in a towel, sits on the bath which is free from blood and water, and shoots himself in the mouth. His skull explodes.

This time Jimmy Yee wakes up in the bath and there have been repercussions. The tiles have been shattered by the gunshot and the bullet is lodged there at the fracture’s epicentre. He necks a bottle of pills and passes out on the bathroom floor.

“Enough already!” he screams when he wakes up in bed. He hastily scribbles another note and goes to the bathroom whose tiles remain fractured but this time there’s his corpse in the middle of the floor. There’s only one thing for it: he throws himself directly into the path of an oncoming juggernaut.

Lucky to wake up at all, he does so next – understandably – in hospital. He has a concussion but little else. He receives a visit from his daughter, but it totally confounds for him three precise reasons I will not explain. He acts with a degree of suspicious hostility which we, the reader, do not comprehend.

We have only just begun.


Once Jimmy Yee finally works out what’s been happening to him, he begins to calculate the potential his predicament provides, how to make the most use of it and how to successfully access its means of execution.

Unfortunately he’s not the only one who knows what he’s doing. The Office of Strategic Services is on his case.

The subtle body language best exemplified in EMPIRE STATE is back in full evidence. Love the defensive hunched shoulders. But what Shiga has done with the visuals here – once the proverbial penny has dropped – will have you in even more awe.

This is my best poker face, yes.

Please note: although the majority of FirstSecond books these days seems aimed squarely at the Young Reader or Young Adult market, this, emphatically, is not, and there will be some very awkward conversations around the kitchen table should you mistakenly buy DEMON for young ones you dote on.


Buy Demon Vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Tetris – The Games People Play (£12-99, SelfMadeHero) by Box Brown…

“Haha! Why?! What’s with these puzzles and games, Alexey? Aren’t we here to study psychology, behaviour, that stuff?”
“Hear me out here: games aren’t just an escape, not there just to keep us busy during idle hours.
“Puzzles and games reveal a lot about psychological behaviour! They imitate the mind! They inform life!!”

Indeed they do. And Alexey Pajitnov, computer scientist at Moscow Academy of Science in 1984, was just about to have to his own mind blown as to how much impact his musings about the development of human consciousness and subsequent meddling with computer coding were going to have.

Tetris, it’s a funny old game, as renowned addict Jimmy Greaves might have been heard to articulate… I actually didn’t pay it a great deal of attention as a callow teenager, fixated as I was on what I perceived to be far more sophisticated games: the likes of Elite, Jet Set Willy and err… Daley Thompson’s Decathlon.


As a more mature gamer, with infinitely less time these days, and probably somewhat more sluggish reflexes (I doubt I would get anywhere near my personal best of 41.12 seconds for the 400metres on Daley’s, a feat that required two of my friends to physically hold my computer desk down with their full weights to prevent it tipping over whilst my digits dashed across the sexy rubber keys of my ZX Spectrum 48K…) I have recently come to appreciate the merits of puzzle games, in my all-too-brief twenty-minute tram commute gaming slots. And their addictiveness…

I think, actually, that will be one of the true lasting legacies of Tetris, that it was a game which transcended the then traditionally rather narrow demographic of computer gamers, almost entirely young male teenagers at that time, appealing to absolutely everyone, right up to pensioners, on a level that ignited the avarice of games manufacturers on a hitherto unimaginable degree. In that sense, looking at the demographics of gamers today, Tetris truly was years ahead of its time.


Box Brown provides us with a fascinating insight into both the genial genius of Alexey Pajitnov, who truly could have had no way of knowing what RSI-inducing monster of a time-thief he was about to unleash on an unsuspecting world, and the greedy, grubby shenanigans of big business, including one Robert Maxwell, who engaged in a frantic scramble for the various rights for different territories and platforms, with varying degrees of success.

The fact that they were all dealing with the inscrutable, hard-nosed Soviet party apparatchiks rather than a naïve game designer, thus being played off against each other beautifully, makes it all the more chaotically delicious a read. It would be fair to say there were more than a few shady stunts pulled and noses put out of joint on the capitalist side of the equation. Box details them all for our delectation.


Plus we get to see Robert Maxwell sink into the drink, quite literally, one more time, as his vast empire began to unravel and crumble around his ears. I remember very well all the kerfuffle at the time, the suspicions that he’d faked his own death (still wouldn’t surprise me to find he was living in the lap of luxury somewhere), the rumours of suicide which would have invalidated his vast life policy, quite delighting his insurance company I’m sure. Anyway, that alone brought a fair few memories back, I must say.

We also get a brief history of the rise and rise of the likes of Nintendo, then just a card trading company, as they made the bold decision to diversify their gaming offering. I think we can say it was a wise decision! Even Alexey eventually gets paid, even if he only manages to get a mere slice of the vast pie of riches his creation plundered from the pockets of gamers, old and young alike. But money was never the point for Alexey. He just wanted to see if he could make a game that people – everyone – wanted to play. I think it’s safe to say he succeeded in his aim. Another brilliantly constructed chunk of late twentieth-century cultural history from the man who also brought us ANDRE THE GIANT.

For a comic which uses Tetris as a metaphor for coping with life, please see John Allison’s EXPECTING TO FLY #1 and #2!


Buy Tetris – The Games People Play and read the Page 45 review here

Giant Days vol 3 (£13-99, Boom) by John Allison & Max Sarin.

“’Dangles and makes noise’ or just ‘dangles’? I can’t choose.”

Does that chime with you? Trying to find the perfect present for friends? Daisy’s trying to find one for Susan’ birthday.

“A delicately embroidered pashmina?”
“She’d just wipe up a spill with it.”

I love John Allison’s vocabulary. It’s full of pinafores and broaches and Singer Sewing Machines: feminine things of the past which he picked up from his Mum. Being in John’s company is like being sprinkled by pixie dust. He’s not quite of this world, and I love it.

But whereas BAD MACHINERY is magic realism, GIANT DAYS is essentially grounded in astonishingly well remembered real life at university. Clearly he drank a lot less than I did. It stars Susan, Esther, Daisy, young Ed who’s infatuated with Esther and older McGraw who once dated Susan and may now be doing so again. McGraw’s seniority is denoted by his surname. John’s very precise with his words. The cadence of each sentence is judged just-so.

“Why are you being nice to me, Susan? I know it takes a lot out of you.”


Specifically recalled here is the exhausted delirium of staying up two nights on the trot feverishly writing an entire dissertation at the very last minute which you had a whole month to hand in on time. By which point you become a nocturnal, a creature of the night, and Magic surrealism sure creeps in then, full-blown in Max Sarin’s giddy art. Her timing is every bit as funny and thrilling as Allison’s.


It’s a dangerous existence if you linger too long, its more committed, permanent residents lurking like vampiric vultures.

“They’re sun-deniers. They think ‘daytime’ is government propaganda.”


In order to rescue Susan, Esther – already attuned to the night and armed with gothic knowledge –  embarks on three essays back-to-back including 3,000 words on Ibsen’s ‘Hedda Gabler’ overseen by a framed photo of a certain cinema critic looking ever so erudite.

“That’s right, Dr. Kermode, stare the learning into me.”

She flies through those 3,000 words at a furious pace (on a notepad, in pencil!) and some of them might be in the right order until —

“...The End! Wait, do you write ‘The End’ at the end of an essay?
“I wish I’d actually read ‘Hedda Gabler’.”


Max Sarin’s also on top, manic form in a flashback after McGraw’s given Ed Gemmell’s sexual secret away to Susan.

“I had to tell Susan. You don’t understand, Ed, she’s cruel.”

The next three panels show Susan extracting that secret with a barrage of “Tell me tell me tell me tell me. Tellllllll meeeeee…” as she attacks McGraw with a skeleton’s claw, right in the face.

There’s an equally expressive sequence during a sonic obliteration at a Black Metal gig, the audience’s hair blasted back as if in a deafening wind tunnel. Her eyes watering, visiting hell-raiser Big Lindsay concedes defeat by scrawling in eyeliner on the palm of her hand, “CAN WE GO BOWLING?”

For far, far more, please see GIANT DAYS VOL 1, GIANT DAYS VOL 2 and the GIANT DAYS PACK of self-published comics which precedes them both.


Buy Giant Days vol 3 and read the Page 45 review here

Goodnight Punpun vol 3 (£16-99, Viz) by Inio Asano.

“People are so stupid.”goodnight-punpun-cover-3

Few are more stupid than Punpun Onodera, Mama Onodera and Uncle Yuichi Onodera. Each of the family is a complete fuck-up in their own increasingly alarming, dark, dark way.

Ironically it was Punpun’s father who was ex-communicated for domestic malfeasance in volume one, but you’re in for such a jaw-dropping revelation about that episode here that I had to reread it three times to make sure I hadn’t misunderstood. I hadn’t.

Punpun is now a teenager, sporting the sort of long, lank hair that put me in mind of Harry Enfield’s Kevin until he discovers hair gel to hilarious effect. It wouldn’t be so funny if the Onoderas weren’t all presented as minimal, cartoon birds with stick arms and legs in a world in which is photo-realistic.

After obsessing with another girl in his younger years, he now finally embarks on his first-ever date.

He is embarrassingly awful at it.

Also: during it, most especially towards the end.

It is cringe-worthily comical. Until it isn’t.

It’s all so masterfully done, Asano presenting you with a cripplingly internalised lead character who over-thinks everything, yet who is at heart utterly shallow.

Although you may feel for Punpun when he experiences the art gallery exhibition. Briefly.


We have a whole section on our website dedicated to Inio Asano, so please click on any of the covers for far more extensive reviews, including two considerable and – I hope – considered assessments of this specific series, each volume racking in at nearly 450 haunting pages car-crash people and densely detailed art. I’m not normally so brief especially on any of my three favourite Japanese creators, Inio Asano, Jiro Taniguchi and Taiyo Matsumoto (SUNNY etc).

Strictly adults only, just like A GIRL ON THE SHORE.


Buy Goodnight Punpun vol 3 and read the Page 45 review here

Black Road vol 1: The Holy North (£8-99, Image) by Brian Wood & Garry Brown…

“Fuck off. I’m eating.”
“Take it easy. This is business. You are Magnus, yes?”
“I only arrived in town this morning. No one should know me.”
“Perhaps your reputation precedes you?”
“Reputations kill. I prefer to be alone and unknown.”
“How much privacy, Magnus, would this buy you?”
“What’s that for? You want someone killed?”
“Not at all! Good heavens. I’m not talking about murder. I’m talking about an escort job. Taking a church official up the Northern Road to Hammaruskk Coast.”
“The Northern Road. We call it the Black Road, and had you spent more than two fucking minutes in this land, you’d have known that. And a voyage up the Black Road most likely is a murder trip.”

Finally! For those of us who have been waiting patiently since the flaming longboat burial afforded to Brian Wood’s NORTHLANDERS saga on the Vertigo imprint, our patience has been rewarded, and how! Magnus the Black is a man with much on his mind. He’s had the emotional bedrock of his life shattered with the loss of his wife and seen the presumed sovereignty of Odin and the old gods smashed by the one true God of Christianity.


It’s the latter which probably causes him to take the escort job, at four times the original price, of course, because it gives Magnus the chance to ask the Cardinal some burning questions. About how a man born a heathen can get into Heaven, for example… He’s hoping the answers will give some structure to the rest of his life, one way or the other. Not that he believes a life of piety and forgiveness will be required in either eventuality…

“… I wanted to be closer to the Christians. They talk in riddles. They preach peace and love in the midst of performing incredible violence.
“There’s a structure, a purpose to what they do that is beyond my ken. They’re changing Norskk, changing it with words and with iron and with blood. I need to understand them better.
“I have yet to determine if I will go to war for the Christians, or against them.”


It won’t surprise you to learn that the trip up North isn’t without its challenges. Of the head meets hammer variety, that is… The Cardinal’s not worried, though, he says he’s got a guardian angel. Which is where the mystery really begins…

What a wonderfully dark opener! It’s like NORTHLANDERS never went away (please note, the rest of the re-collected bigger editions of NORTHLANDERS will be out shortly). And whilst Garry Brown never worked with Brian Wood on that title, fans of THE MASSIVE will be more than familiar with his work. It’s a gritty, flinty style that’s perfect for this title and as with NORTHLANDERS, the colours, provided here by Dave McCaig are suitably understated and restrained.


Buy Black Road vol 1: The Holy North and read the Page 45 review here

New Editions!

The End Of Summer (£11-99, Avery Hill) by Tillie Walden.

Album-sized re-issue of Tillie Walden’s first work following the two Ignatz Awards and the spectacular success of I LOVE THIS PART (a Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month) and A CITY INSIDE.

This is my original review, untouched, before I knew what further treasures lay ahead.

Well, would you just look at this architecture!

Vast arches, vaulted ceilings and windows several storeys high; classical statues set inside concave bays; halls which conclude with the opulence of a Roman cathedral’s chapel. Could you get more Baroque than this?

Then there’s the ethereal air, nightgowns and all that time spent in bed; an indoor lake on which the children go sailing; and a giant cat called Nemo.

Winsor McCay, anyone?




This is a family home! Also a haven from a three-year winter during which the doors must remain firmly closed, but for a sanctuary it doesn’t seem very safe. It’s cold and it’s hard and there will be conflicts and confinements. I don’t think this family is very healthy at all.

Quite apart from the fact that young Lars is dying. I’m not sure of what but he seems rather sickly, consumptive. He appears to be fading away. His closest relationship is with his sister, Maja, but that’s also going to run into trouble. As I say, not the healthiest of families.


He’s comforted by that giant cat which – when it’s not carrying Lars on its back – is constantly curled up like a gigantic, fluffy, white pillow which is what Lars uses it as.

To be honest I wasn’t sure what was happening towards the end. It’s all very rarefied and the family far from distinctive. But it’s very beautiful with the crispest of architecture which boasts the most enormous sense of space and attendant frigidity. You can almost hear the echoes.



Buy The End Of Summer and read the Page 45 review here

The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story s/c (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Vivek J. Tiwary & Andrew Robinson, Kyle Baker.

“…So what’llfifth-beatle-cover it be for you? What is it that you want..?”
“Well, I suppose I want what everyone else wants… Peace, love, and belonging… that perhaps it’s belonging that’s most elusive.”

On the surface this is pure effervescent swinging sixties fun with a dapper yet cheeky biopic feel, portraying the charismatic guiding hand behind the Beatles’ rise to stardom. But when the cheers die down, the after party is over, the champagne bubbles have gone flat, what can you do if what you really feel is completely and utterly alone? Brian Epstein made making the Beatles his life’s work and tragically it probably greatly curtailed his, with his untimely death at the age of 32. As the Beatles themselves began to indulge in less legal pharmacological pursuits, Epstein became first addicted to amphetamines, and then sleeping tablets to try and help with his acute insomnia. Ultimately, it was an overdose of barbiturates which caused his premature passing.


It’s inevitable that any work like this will be only a potted history of events, even in a career as short as Epstein’s, but it features all the notable highs and lows, and of course bizarre anecdotes you would expect. Epstein had his personal demons, primarily due to having to hide his sexuality at a time when despite the Sixties sexual revolution, male homosexuality was still illegal in England and Wales, ironically enough only being decriminalised about a month after his passing. And whilst this work doesn’t shy away from looking at the deep sadness Epstein clearly felt about being unable to openly look for romantic love, which he clearly felt could be the one thing that might save him from his workaholic and destructive tendencies, there is also much fun and frivolity about the magical journey he and the Beatles were on. The absolute highlight for me though is his lunch meeting with Colonel Parker, manager of Elvis and a man with a notorious appetite for money…

“You take fifty percent of everything Elvis earns?!”
“No. Elvis takes fifty percent of everything I earn.”




As Parker launches into tirade after tirade about Jews in the entertainment industry then just for dessert indulging some casual homophobia, Epstein begins to see the Colonel almost metamorphosising into some devilish version of Mammon in front of his very eyes. It’s a timely reminder that whilst Epstein himself was on a staggering 25% gross (not including expenses) of The Beatles’ income, he never had anything but their own best interests at heart. Indeed, just three years after Epstein’s death in August 1967 and with the breakup of Beatles then complete, John Lennon noted in a Rolling Stone interview that upon hearing of Epstein’s death: “I knew that we were in trouble then… I thought, ‘We’ve fuckin’ had it now'”.


The beautiful artwork, from Andrew C. Robinson and Kyle Baker, elegantly captures the wild rollercoaster ride that was Epstein’s life from the moment he laid eyes on the proto Fab Four in the Cavern to the moment he was finally laid to rest, complementing Vivek J. Tiwary’s excellent script.


Buy The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story 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.




Cormorance (£18-99, Jonathan Cape) by Nick Hayes

A Walk In Eden (£14-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Anders Nilsen

The World Of Edena h/c (£44-99, Dark Horse) by Moebius

Burt’s Way Home (£14-99, Koyama Press) by John Martz

Bait: Off-Colour Stories h/c (£19-99, Dark Horse) by Chuck Palahniuk & Lee Bermejo, Kirbi Fagan, Duncan Fegredo, Tony Puryear, Alise Gluskova, Marc Scheff, Steve Morris, Joelle Jones

BPRD Hell On Earth vol 14 – The Exorcist (£16-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, Cameron Stewart & Chris Roberson, Mike Norton

East Of West vol 6 (£13-99, Image) by Jonathan Hickman & Nick Dragotta

Habitat (£8-99, Image) by Simon Roy

The Intercorstal 683 (£4-00, ) by Gareth A Hopkins

Johnny The Homicidal Maniac h/c (£35-99, SLG) by Jhonen Vasquez

Midnight Days s/c (£14-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman, Matt Wagner & various inc. Dave McKean, Mike Mignola, Steve Bissette, John Totleben, Sergio Aragones

Prince Of Cats h/c (£22-99, Image) by Ronald Wimberly

The Flash By Geoff Johns vol 3 s/c (£22-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Scott Kolins, various

Black Widow vol 1: S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Most Wanted s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Chris Samnee

Captain America White s/c (£22-99, Marvel) by Jeph Loeb & Tim Sale

Deadpool: World’s Greatest vol 4: Temporary Insanitation s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Gerry Duggan, Charles Soule, David Walker & various

Doctor Strange: What Is It That Disturbs You, Stephen? s/c (£26-99, Marvel) by various including P. Craig Russell

Inuyashiki vol 5 (£9-99, Viz) by Hiroya Oku




ITEM! “Page 45 Shatters Sales Record At Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016!” And I mean, obliterates!

Blog with lots and lots of photos of fabulous creators having fun, like Tom Gauld and Emma Vieceli!



Beautiful comics, beautiful comics!

In that blog you’ll find Tillie Walden, Bryan Lee O’Malley, Sean Phillips, Jake Phillips, Hannah Berry, Craig Thompson, Isabel Greenberg, Ben Haggarty, Adam Brockbank, Darryl Cunningham… Eugene… and so many more!




Original art and sketches to swoon over, too. It’s all there!

Ooh, look, here’s Dave McKean in our room!




ITEM! Speaking of Mr McKean, if you enjoyed his BLACK DOG: THE DREAMS OF PAUL NASH, you’ve still some time to see this BBC programme on Paul Nash: The Ghosts of War.


Black Dog 1


ITEM! And speaking of the Beeb, The BBC’s Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 Blog.

Really captures the spirit of it all! Take a great gawp at what happens outside our room!

Also: here, have a tree! That was in Kendal too.




ITEM! Aaaaaand, speaking of The Lakes Fest, here’s the winner of LICAF’s 2016 Beatrix Potter Re-Imagined Competition. Exquisite.




ITEM! Terry Moore to bring back STRANGERS IN PARADISE – as a comic!

Hooray! From the creator of RACHEL RISING, there are few series I’m fonder of than the epic that is STRANGERS IN PARADISE, and there are few creators I am fonder of than the adorable Terry Moore!

Strangers In Paradise boxed set

ITEM I wish it wasn’t.

I’m afraid that on Sunday Steve Dillon died.

Staggered, all I could manage on Twitter @pagefortyfive was:

“Steve Dillon’s gone. Ridiculous.”

“Steve Dillon’s faces were so nuanced he could make a 200-page conversation in a bar absolutely riveting.”

“I’d only add that Steve Dillon’s art was all the more eloquent for being understated: it drew you in, rather than pounced on you.”

Garth Ennis pays tribute to his friend and PREACHER partner Steve Dillon.


– Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews October 2016 week three

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016

Includes new Jon Klassen, the Charles Burns trilogy, and News underneath with teasers of far more to come!

Parade: An Artist’s Odyssey (£25-00, Abrams) by Si Lewen.

Hooray for parades!parade-cover

Hooray for their trumpet-blowing procession of pageantry!

Hooray for the streets pullulating with crowds swept up in celebration, whooping with joy and waving their colourful flags!

The multitudes mill, a dog dashes by to give chase. Quick, quick, you mustn’t miss it!

How lucky to be local enough to live up above, for the terraced-housing windows supply the best vantage points for the ebullient reception below! Although some of their occupants aren’t quite so sure.

Oh, it may be a little eerie in brass-rubbing black and white with its grainy textures and spectral, almost skeletal throngs, but surely it is impossible not to be caught up in the euphoria, the almost ecstatic energy of shouts and screams and the regimented, hypnotic, rattle-gun roll of military drums?




Personally those drums terrifies me even during peace-time, civic parades.

But yes, that’s what the likes of Adolf Hitler have always relied on: the euphoria and the ecstasy and the sheep mentality. You’ve seen the old film footage of the Nazi war machine in human, jack-booted, foot-soldier form, goose-stepping through German cities on their way to restore national honour. The multitude of onlookers jostle for position and go wild. They go wild!


Here the military first appear relatively small on the page both in number at stature on the left-hand side of an otherwise open and empty page, not threatening at all. But swiftly they swell, uniform in uniform, a relentless, implacable black tide of terrifyingly angular forms, jagged bayonets jutting out into the sky from the barrels of their brandished rifles.


We close in further still, all else obliterated by the intimidating density.

Heels on bitumen, heels on bitumen; unending heels on unyielding bitumen: this is a deafening, crushing and crusading cacophony in “das ist richtig“ visual form.




It gets worse.

Children used to play at parades. I clearly recall E. H. Shepard illustrating an A. A. Milne procession that included Christopher Robin, though I’m not sure it was in ‘Winnie The Pooh’ itself. Nothing could be more innocent.

So it is here under bright summer sunshine, two birds soaring effortless in the distance, as three small youths imitate their elders, grinning under their paper hats, one toot-tooting a toy trumpet.

But we all know what happens to innocence in war.


It gets worse.

I’m not going to take you any further, but it gets much worse.

Originally published in 1957 and now edited and introduced by Art Spiegelman, this slipcased hardcover reproduces Si Lewen’s ostensibly silent comic in accordion form, which is perfect for any procession of pedestrians or atrocities. You will be witness to both.

Some images recall Picasso’s Guernica from 1937, but without the comfort of colour. It is spiked throughout by thousands of back-slung bayonets in stark silhouette like razor wire atop an impenetrable, ever-advancing wall. The grainy textures are those of the grave – of hundreds of thousands of shrouds – and there is a certain fearful symmetry as to how this begins and how it will end, and ever and forever, I fear.

Highly recommended to those who admire the likes of Drooker (THE FLOOD) and a perfect companion to Joe Sacco’s THE GREAT WAR, the flip-side presents a full-colour, illustrated guide to Si Lewen’s wider career as a “serial painter”. I don’t use that term randomly, either. He was very keen on seeing his works hung close together so that they would inform one another.

And so am I.


Buy Parade: An Artist’s Odyssey and read the Page 45 review here

Meanderings (£4-00, Throwaway Press) by Matthew Dooley.

Seventeen stories of disillusion and disappointment.

If disappointment is something you crave, you’re in for a famine or feast, depending on how you look at it.

Prime Minister Salisbury stands proudly on his pedestal.

“Ah… to be commemorated in stone is truly to live for eternity!”

He may be dead, but he has centuries of veneration ahead of him. Or is that pigeon droppings? The final panel is perfect.

Two more sculptures – more abstract in aspect – anticipate their own grand urban unveilings.

“Where I’m going I’ll be affecting real change in people’s lives.”
“Really! Helping to inspire and lift people out of poverty.”

Alas, not all poverty is pecuniary.


Matthew Dooley is even disappointed in himself. I don’t know why: there are plaques commemorating Matthew’s accomplishments all over the country.


“Noted dawdler finally emerged here 24th May


“Wimpy know it all annoyed many here

Sixth Form:

“Obdurate muso made little impact here


“Argumentative pseudo coasted here


It’s at this point in typing my free-form, off-the-cuff review (heavily edited and reorganised over the weekend) that I realise that commemoration is another key theme. That, and the passage of time. There are five more English Heritage memorials as Dooley attempts to climb the ladder of heady accomplishment only to find all the rungs missing.

The problem is that, on page after page, Matthew Dooley totally fails to disappoint.

I love his fine line and neat, unargumentative lettering.

The colours are soft and sweet in sage, cold blues and pink with a rusty red reserved for Dooley’s own beard and bonce. The eyes are very Chris Ware, don’t you think? As are the moribund musings.

In summary, if you’re someone who’s looking forward to the end of the world – as the occupants of the first entry within – then this is the comic for you.

The cover could not be more bereft.


Buy Meanderings and read the Page 45 review here

Last Look s/c (£18-99, Jonathan Cape) by Charles Burns.

“N-no!! There’s got to be a way out!”

And then you wake up.

This is the sort of work that terrifies me.

It’s the nightmare scenario of things being beyond your control: wandering around in your pyjamas, no money to pay for a meal you’ve just eaten, not knowing where you are or where to go and being alone in the company of deeply unsettling strangers.

And that’s just the nightmare – the images, thoughts and scenarios which Doug can’t shut out in spite of the number of pills that he’s necked – of embryos in eggs, putrescent meat riddled with giant, outraged maggots plucked then gobbled down by a cowled figure whose nose appears eaten with syphilis; terrified creatures clinging to driftwood as they’re carried helplessly downstream by the rapids.

Yes, that’s just the nightmare. But it seems Doug’s real life took a turn for the worse as well.


The book begins with Doug, his features simplified to a TINTIN cartoon with two crossed plasters stuck to his temple, waking up in bed not knowing where he is. There’s a hole in the far brick wall which his black cat climbs through, into the darkness beyond.

He’s sure his cat is supposed to be dead. Doug dons a dressing gown and follows…


When Doug actually wakes up in bed, you’ll notice he’s no longer so simply drawn. That’s your cue to discerning what’s real from what’s not, though those lines are so often blurred, are they not?

His temples have been shaved, and a bandage is taped to one side of his skull, but he still hasn’t a clue where he is.


Evidence lies on the covers: a basic cassette tape recorder, a graphic novel, a photograph of a girl holding a giant heart to her naked breasts. There’s a flick-knife embedded in the heart. The sound of the door buzzer terrifies him. Why?

Some of the answers to this series of puzzles – why he perceives himself to look like Tintin in his dream, who the girl in the photograph is, where the hole in the wall came from and why that buzzer might terrify him – are slowly revealed by Doug’s returning memory. But not where the bandage came from, not yet, though one can easily infer.


The production values are beautiful, unusually for Burns it’s in colour, and although he’s breaking new personal ground, readers of BLACK HOLE will still be in familiar territory. There are disaffected teens indulging in drugs, alcohol and extreme art projects involving the body; violence threatens to break in from outside, and raging hormones may well prove the source of much trouble. Oh yes, holes. There are lots and lots of holes.

“What didn’t I tell her?
“What parts of the story did I leave out?
“I wanted to tell her everything. I wanted to tell her the truth.
“…And I tried… I really did.”


If the first chapter freaked me out – preying on fears that feature frequently in my own dreams: food you really shouldn’t eat, holes that shouldn’t be there, getting hopelessly and helplessly lost only to be misled further by strangers (I don’t know what happened to the missing stairs, filthy latrines and my teeth all chewed out on the floor) – then the second proved equally unsettling.


There’s more of that when he delivers romance comics on a metal trolley to bedridden female patients, pushing the cart down endless, roughly hewn tunnels in a semi-industrial warren prone to unseen accidents that render certain off-limit areas toxic. Apparently there was screaming in the late hours last night. It came from Cindy’s cubicle, and it went on for hours… until it stopped.

Meanwhile, in his waking world, Doug is recalling his courtship with raven-haired Sarah: a stroll in windswept, autumn-leafed park where they picked up sixties’ romance comics from an old man at the flea market. Sarah was delighted at the find. Doug bought her the lot, and it bought him a kiss.


“You know what? That was really sweet of you. I know you think these are stupid, but… but wait.. here’s where you stop and kiss me… just like they do in the comics.”

“My kiss was awkward and clumsy,” recalls Doug. “But she made up for it… She made it perfect.”

The evening too seemed perfect, a simple dinner together back at Sarah and Nicky’s. Nicky was out, at band practice but Sarah… Sarah is a little more fragile than she looks.

There’s more about the buzzer and the threatening voice behind it, as well as Doug’s stage performances behind a Tintin mask. Oh yes, and those photographs.


But it’s the romance comics that particularly fascinated me this time: the search for missing issues, and speculation on what must have happened in the gap. For those of us reading comics before the birth of the collected edition that’s got to ring bells, as well as dreams in which you finally fill your gaps at a second-hand stall – gaps that in real life might never have existed. The comics are in Japanese so it’s even more difficult to fathom what happened, and they’re drawn unmistakably by Marvel Comics veteran John Romita Sr. whom Burns nails both in the composition and the man’s brush strokes. The hair is quite perfect.

There’s a telling scene during 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…. Is that really any way out?

This collects the hardcover Charles Burns trilogy of X’ED OUT, THE HIVE and SUGAR SKULL.


Buy Last Look and read the Page 45 review here

We Found A Hat h/c (£12-99, Walker Books) by Jon Klassen.

“We found a hat.
“We found it together.
“But there is only one hat.
“And there are two of us.”

So the dilemma begins!

“It looks good on both of us.
“But it would be right if one of us had a hat and the other did not.”

Awww! Kind and considerate, brotherly love!

They’ll just have to leave it where they found it, in the middle of the desert, right? Hmmm…

This is the third and final instalment of Klassen’s hat-trick trilogy which began with I WANT MY HAT BACK followed by THIS IS NOT MY HAT. I can only assume that Klassen suffered some sort of hat-related trauma during his formative years, for in each of first two an item of headgear is stolen. Neither ends well for the thief, and quite right too!


Deliciously, what looked on the surface like straightforward illustrated prose was, in fact, comics; for without the images all would have been lost. The pictures began in perfect accordance with the written word, but swiftly started shedding controversial or even contradictory light on what was being said. Howls of laughter from me and every youngster I’ve seen being shown the books on our shop floor.


The simplicity of what’s said is of equal importance – there is an identifiable Klassen cadence – for when the rhythm is first broken in I WANT MY HAT BACK, that’s when you suspect that something is up.


Here we are presented with a three-act play, and although I promise you that Klassen will not prove predictable, there will of course be an equally mischievous break between overt claim and covert curiosity, with its attendant hiccup in the otherwise rhythmic beat.


Buy We Found A Hat h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Low vol 3: Shore Of The Dying Light (£13-99, Image) by Rick Remender & Greg Tocchini.

Deliciously drawn sub-aquatic sci-fi, this is about the vital importance of maintaining hope, when there is no hope to speak of.

I, for example – against all evidence to the contrary – am still desperately praying that someone will stop us Brexiting Europe and so breaking this country.

In this instance, the entire world is burnt out and its leaders are broken. Newsflash:

In the future our sun will expand then go supernova, at which point the Earth itself as well as its inhabitants will need more than Factor 500. We will be engulfed. Obliterated. And that will be the end of our story. That isn’t speculative fiction, it is a scientific certainty.

Long before then, the radiation levels on the Earth’s surface will have exceeded intolerable, so if we haven’t already escaped this solar system then we’ll have needed to move underground or deep, deep, deep underwater.


In LOW humanity hasn’t yet found an alternative, habitable planet, so it has sunk itself into our oceanic depths in several separated colonies. Probes have indeed been dispatched in search of alternative astronomical accommodation… but that was over 13,000 years ago. None have returned.

13,000 years without success; 13,000 years of failure!

Can you imagine maintaining hope in that terrible knowledge? Few others have and now less than a year’s supply of air remains for Stel’s deep-sea colony.

Yes, LOW as a title works both ways.


In the wake of almost insurmountable adversity – including the dispersal and dire straits of her family – one woman has so far held it together. But how long will that last?

Please see our reviews of LOW volumes one and two for much, much more.


Buy Low vol 3: Shore Of The Dying Light and read the Page 45 review here

Shame – Collected Trilogy h/c (£26-99, Renegade) by Lovern Kindzierski & John Bolton.

Shame is a young girl, the result of an immaculate conception brought on by a silent prayer: one moment of weakness in an otherwise exemplary life of selfless benefaction on the part of Mother Virtue. Every day she has hobbled into town from her countryside cottage to ruffle the hair of small children and administer herbal remedies to the sick, the needy and the poor. She loves and is much loved for that, but one evening’s idle contemplation of a flower given in thanks unearths a deep-seated desire in Mother Virtue and, albeit briefly, she wishes for a child of her own.

“Sadly, as is so often the case, Mother Virtue’s selfish wish echoed like a dinner bell in the Heart of Darkness… where, waiting for such an opportunity, lay a dark, dark evil.”




I think “selfish” is a bit harsh, but all things are relative. It’s as if after twenty-five years of promoting beautiful comics by brilliant people I suddenly succumbed to the woeful desire that a comic of my own see print. I can assure you I have not, for the result would be an equal abomination: a true horror unleashed upon a world that deserves no such thing. Also because I am far from wanting the devil to pop down my chimney and poke me in the bottom.

That’s what happens here, more or less, only without the bottom-poking: Mother Virtue, in spite of her advanced years, finds herself pregnant and in fireside conversation with a demon called Slur:

“Oh yes, dear Mother Virtue! A black seed grows in your barren womb. Planted by your wish and quickened by my magick, for God would never hear such selfish words! Forget all thought of sweeping this off the hearth with your white meddling. The child’s soul is fixed and there is naught you can do about it. She even knows her name. It is Shame!”


Now, Mother Virtue could have risked exploring the possibilities of nature versus nurture but instead makes her mind up immediately. She lures dryads and nymphs to her rustic cottage and, binding them there to play nursemaid and nanny to her daughter, hoofs it lickety-split, sealing them all behind her in the Cradle she calls home. It is perhaps her very absence that confirms Shame’s fate because – thanks to a casual cruelty so prevalent in play and a chink opened in the spell by errant village children and their shadows – Slur manages to get his minions and message across and it all goes horribly wrong.

John Bolton you may know from HARELQUIN VALENTINE written by Neil Gaiman or, more recently, Peter Straub’s THE GREEN WOMAN. Here his palette is far, far brighter, his dryads and nymphs glowing in the sun, and even when that’s eclipsed there remains a lot more light. Slur’s shadow servants are horrible, spindly creatures vaguely reminiscent of Richard Case’s Mr. Nobody from Grant Morrison’s DOOM PATROL, nor is his Mother Virtue a sweet old lady, more closely resembling Leatherface from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.


It’s a book that’s sexually charged so I warn you of that right now: there be boobage and satanic shenanigans for Shame grows up and finds a novel and highly elaborate way of having her revenge on Mother Virtue. It’s certainly the strangest mother/daughter relationship I’ve come across. Or is it a daughter/mother/daughter relationship? The begets do beggar belief, but that’s witchcraft for you.


You can tell Shame is evil because she has black hair. She doesn’t half ramble on – to herself, her minions and the darke daemon Slur.

Oh, she shall sully all and sundry! Once she has conquered, cursed and corrupted the whole wide world, there will be no free school milk, no more bedtime stories and every Kinder Egg will come with quite the salutary surprise. Worse still, every chocolate in every box will henceforth be Turkish Delight. She will whip down One Direction’s kecks on live TV (actually, this gets my vote) and curdle your clotted cream teas. There will, in short, be suffering the likes of which has barely been endured outside of a modern British Post Office.


But wait! Do we have a vessel of vengeance, perchance? A young, simple man whose father is smitten before his eyes, now determined to follow his mother’s verbal breadcrumb trail to who knows what end?

Meanwhile Slur hovers at Shame’s sybaritic side, addressing her as “my shapely talon”, “my septic blossom”, “dear putrescence”, and “my mephitic marchpane”. (New words: “mephitic” meaning “foul-smelling” and “marchpane” meaning “marzipan”.)

Which witch will prevail?


Buy Shame – Collected Trilogy h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Punisher Max Complete Collection vol 3 s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by Garth Ennis & Goran Parlov, Leandro Fernandez, Lan Medina.

Highly punisher-max-vol-3-coverrecommended, PUNISHER MAX (each one reviewed) is by far the finest run on Frank Castle to date, finally given a socio-political bite by Ennis’ decision to swerve the Punisher’s targeted sights from superheroes to real-world pricks worth punishing like international sex-slave traffickers.

It’s a very different beast to PREACHER team Ennis and Dillon’s PUNISHER: WELCOME BACK, FRANK which was a burlesque played more for laughs.

There’s certainly not a lot of high camp ‘Widowmaker’, although the mismatch of the titular widows does have its moments, and Garth can’t resist giving one of them a lisp. Instead Ennis takes a look at what it might mean being “married to the mob”: knowing what their men do, how they earn their money, and who pays the price, yet sticking around to enjoy that wealth by keeping their guys sweet, even if it means sacrificing their little sisters by matchmaking them to monsters.


Over the years Frank Castle has set his sights on one thing only: killing those who hurt innocents. Not out of revenge for the death of his family, nor to seek solace in self-justified violence, but quite simply to prevent them from hurting, maiming, torturing or slaughtering again. His verdict is final, and his sentences always end with a full stop.

High on his hit list has always been the mafia, but what of the widows he’s made in his wake? Some of them are tougher than others, and these five are out for vengeance, gathering round their finest china to take down the man who killed their husbands, and using one of their own as bait. They do it quite cleverly too, but what they haven’t figured into the mix is that there’s another widow close to home for whom The Punisher proved a saviour; a liberator from a life of constant marital torture and violence. She’s also out for revenge, but not on Frank Castle – on them.


Ennis’ stories are invariably self-contained, wisely ignoring the idea of an extended saga that won’t let new readers in, so you can pick up his best without the rest. There’s an uncommon variety in his tones and approaches as well, keeping it fresh for those who do follow the series as a whole.

Lan Medina delivers in every aspect as well. He’s the sort of artist who, like the venerable John Buscema, never seems to make the headlines, but thoroughly deserves to when you take a closer look and realise just how solid and engaging it all is. It’s not “look at me” art; it’s “look at them” art, which is what great storytelling is all about.

Before all that we have Leandro Fernandez illustrating ‘Man Of Stone’ and Gorlan Parlov on ‘Barracuda’ which will provide some of the comedy you may crave.




If you thought British Gas was underhand, try this group of corporate energy fraudsters, prepared to do anything to hike up their profits. One raped man’s squeal leads the Punisher on a trail of blood, most of it in the water and swimming away from the mouths of sharks. Equally primal is the Barracuda himself, reinvented by Ennis as a gold-toothed mutha with an almost contagious zeal for black humour and slaughter, and who – in true Ennis fashion – is relieved of several body parts along the way.

He’s cackling to the end, though.



Buy Punisher Max Complete Collection vol 3 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.


Bobbins vol 1: 2016 (Signed) (£5-00) by John Allison

The End Of Summer (£11-99, Avery Hill) by Tillie Walden

Demon (£17-99, FirstSecond) by Jason Shiga

Ancestor (£13-99, Image) by Matt Sheean & Malachi Ward

Cowboys And Insects One Shot (£3-99, Floating World Comics) by David Hine & Shaky Kane

Grey Area – Our Town (£7-00, Avery Hill) by Tim Bird

Ghost Stories Of An Antiquary vol 1 (£9-99, SelfMadeHero) by M.R. James & Leah Moore & John Reppion

I Thought You Hated Me (£7-50, Retrofit) by Marinaomi

Insexts vol 1: Chrysalis s/c (£17-99, Aftershock) by Marguerite Bennett & Ariela Kristantina

Jim Henson’s Dark Crystal vol 3: Creation Myths s/c (£13-99, Archaia) by Matthew Dow Smith & Alex Sheikman, Brian Froud

Miss U.S. Of Heya (£10-50, Retrofit) by Menorah Horwitz

Predator: Life And Death s/c (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Dan Abnett & Brian Thies

Rick And Morty vol 3 (£17-99, Oni) by Tom Fowler, Pamela Ribon & CJ Cannon, Marc Ellerby

The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story s/c (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Vivek J. Tiwary & Andrew Robinson, Kevin Baker

The Lottery (£14-50, Hill & Wang) by Shirley Jackson & Miles Hyman

Grayson vol 4: A Ghost In The Tomb s/c (£14-99, DC) by Tim Seeley, Tom King & Mikel Janin, various

Green Arrow vol 9: Outbreak s/c (£15-99, DC) by Ben Percy & Patrick Zircher, Szymon Kudranski

Midnighter vol 2: Hard s/c (£13-99, DC) by Steve Orlando, Brian K. Vaughan, Christos Gage, Peter Milligan & various

Supergirl By Peter David vol 1 (£22-99, DC) by Peter David & Gary Frank

All New Wolverine vol 2: Civil War II s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Tom Taylor & Marcio Takara

Captain Marvel – Earth’s Mightiest Hero vol 2 s/c (£26-99, Marvel) by various

Daredevil / Punisher: Seventh Circle s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Charles Soule & Szymon Kudranski, Reilly Brown

Doctor Strange vol 2: The Last Days Of Magic (UK Edition) s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Chris Bachalo

Doctor Strange: The Flight Of Bones s/c (£22-99, Marvel) by various

Assassination Classroom vol 12 (£6-99, Viz) by Yusei Matsui

Platinum End vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata

Tokyo Ghoul vol 9 (£8-99, Viz) by Sui Ishida



ITEM! Awful.

Apparently it is over for History of Art ‘A’ Levels thanks to Gove’s Thatcherite blinkers when it comes to anything remotely cultural in education.

Seriously, there will be no more History of Art ‘A’ Levels in England.

I use what I learned about Art History in A Level and Degree every single week, professionally, in business.

And think on this: not only does History of Art teach you about human perspectives on beauty throughout the ages, but about literature, historical socio-politics and even urban planning. See Rome / Paris etc.


ITEM! THE WALKING DEAD‘s Charlie Adlard is declared the new Comics Laureate at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016! Both the Guardian and BBC picked up on this immediately, then we made page 3 on the Independent. Selected by the Patrons of LICAF, including my silly self, Charlie will be phenomenal!


True Fact: Not only did I go to school with THE WALKING DEAD’s Charlie Adlard, but we shared the same art class. Oh yes, I’ve seen Adlard originals the world will never see!

Now, guess which one of us is the international best-selling comicbook creator, and which one’s the comic shop till monkey?


ITEM! We will have staggering sales news about Page 45 at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 in a dedicated blog with loads of photos any day now.

And I do mean staggering!

– Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews October 2016 week two

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 is upon us! Perhaps you are there? Exciting! Scroll down to our News section for all You Need To Know!

The Fade Out: Complete Deluxe Edition h/c (£44-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips with Elizabeth Breitweiser.

“All he’dfade-out-hc-cover been thinking about the past few weeks is who could’ve murdered Val…
“He’d forgotten to ask why.”

In which I begin to understand what an exceptional character actor Sean Phillips truly is.

Oh, I’ve written thousands of words about specific, expressive elements of Sean Phillips’ craft in reviews for CRIMINAL, FATALE, KILL OR BE KILLED, THE FADE OUT softcovers and THE ART OF SEAN PHILLIPS etc, but here we are in Hollywoodland so it strikes me as apposite that I finally speak about the acting involved on the part of our favourite artists.

Give me love! Give me lust! Give me conflicted ambivalence and emotional exhaustion! Now give me terrified out of my bloody mind.  Sean Phillips delivers on every single page.

It’s Los Angeles, 1948.

Cinema screenwriter Charlie wakes up in the bath of a bungalow in Studio City, built to keep stars close to the set. The night before is an alcohol-induced 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. They’re going to make out it was suicide, smearing the poor girl’s name, and it’s going to make Charlie, now complicit, sick to the stomach.

“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.”

As for Gil, it’s going to make Charlie’s old friend, mentor and covert co-writer very angry indeed. It’s going to make him drunk and dangerous – especially to himself.


Period crime from the creators of CRIMINAL, FATALE and KILL OR BE KILLED, this homes in on Hollywoodland, famous for its writing and acting and myth-spinning slights of hand. They’re lying professionally before they’ve begun to be truly mendacious.

Acting itself is a form of lying – creating the semblance of someone else – but so often stars extend this dissemblance off-screen as well, aided and abetted by elaborate campaigns 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 manly 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.”


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.

This complete twelve-chapter graphic novel gives room for Brubaker to examine relationships in detail. Gil and Charlie’s co-dependent career ties them inextricably together. Gil has been blacklisted while Charlie’s lost his literary spark so the former dictates to the latter. This should make them allies for they both seek the same thing, albeit searching in different directions. But since both abuse booze for different reasons – Charlie for oblivion, belligerent Gil for release – they’re set on a collision course instead. What one does will inevitably impact upon the other but, as I say, they’re not working together: Charlie doesn’t trust Gil to act rationally, with restraint; Gil doesn’t trust Charlie to act at all.

“They were two broken-down writers, running on desperation and booze….
“And they’d written their story wrong.”


Actual plot points I’m steering well clear of. We don’t do spoilers around here. But, boy, there are some pretty brutal (if strategically brilliant) scenes of intimidation and one huge misstep when intimidation gives way to condescension.

The recasting of Valeria Sommers with the similarly styled Maya Silver – and the subsequent reshooting of the film – allows Brubaker to examine the worst of Hollywood and its interminable, often last-minute rewrites ruining what was originally inspired. It’s cleverly done with the film’s eloquent and affecting first shoot recalled, immediately juxtaposed by the second lacklustre effort.

As to Phillips, an early morning beach scene gives him a rare opportunity to show what he can do in full sunlight rather than the twilight or midnight he normally resides in.




Here the lines unfettered from their shadows are unusually crisp, smooth and delicate. Lit more lambently still by Breitweiser with a palette of sand, green and aquamarine, and the sea becomes virtually irresistible. Both their endeavours enhance what is a similarly rare stretch of innocent play free from subterfuge. Of course, that would also be the perfect time to lob in an equally innocent question and a guileless answer which will nonetheless send your mind spinning right back to the beginning.

Because Charlie remains haunted by Valeria there are also some scenes depicting both actresses. Maya was cast partly on account of her striking similarity to Val, but thanks to Phillips you couldn’t mistake one for the other for a second, either on the beach or on set. Maya is beautiful, talented, intelligent and caring; so was Val, but her deportment is instantly recognisable as far more experienced, confident and – there’s no other word for it – classier.


As I say, 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. So much here is tied to the Congressional Hearings just before McCarthyism really hit its stride including a role for Ronald Reagan. Thankfully Sean Phillips is a dab hand at likenesses for Reagan is joined in this fiction by the likes of Clark Gable.

Phillips’ eye for period detail is exceptional, whether it’s the way skirts hang or fly at an angle during a dance, the home furnishings or a buffet banquet. It’s perhaps there that Breitweiser’s decision to avoid local colour shines best, refusing to let your eye settle but dazzling you instead. I can’t imagine how dull and lifeless the spread of food would have looked had it been lit literally instead. Instead it’s both impressionist and expressionist, concerned with the colour and quality of light not as it actually falls or what it falls on but as it might dance on the brain. It’s rendered in free-form, panes of light and slabs of colour with scant regard for the line on the page and every regard for your eye and emotional impact.


As to Brubaker, as ever he excels at making you want to linger as long as possible in each of his characters’ heads. I challenge anyone to foresee what’s coming. Certainly Charlie doesn’t. He hasn’t been able to for ages. It’s no coincidence that for the entire book Charlie’s been looking through cracked glasses which Phillips has turned into yet another of his fortes. There have been bits of Charlie missing, both as a man and as a writer, ever since he saw combat, and this is the brilliance of Brubaker, tying the two together:

“In that moment, he saw why things always went wrong for him now.
“He understood his problem.
“It was that he’d lost the ability to imagine what happened next.”


This complete collection of THE FADE OUT three softcovers contains an exceptional wealth of extra back-matter as do all this team’s deluxe hardcovers. Sean Phillips introduces his cover gallery – fully painted portraits of each of the protagonists – with an exploration of how he came up with their linking logo / motif. Ed Brubaker’s on hand with an explanation of why he teases each of his series with a fully-fledged trailer rather than a random splattering of preview pages, and it makes so much narrative sense. And yes, you get that trailer too.

There are some of the essays and which only appeared in the twelve monthly periodicals, along with all their illustrations; Brubaker presents his research; then Phillips and Breitweiser each introduce then demonstrate so much of their process from thumbnails to finished colour pages.


Page 45 will be bringing this beauty to the Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 where Sean Phillips will be signing with us, upstairs in the Kendal Clock Tower, FOR FREE from 2pm to 3pm this Sunday 16th October.


Buy The Fade Out: Complete Deluxe Edition h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Black Dog: The Dreams Of Paul Nash (£22-99 s/v; £71-99 Ltd Ed oversized h/c, Dark Horse) by Dave McKean.

“Art black-dog-coveris an empathy machine. Art allows one to look through a fellow human’s eyes.”

Art – when derived from studious and subtle observation – can not only allow one to look through another individual’s eyes but to communicate what you see there, to pass on those perspectives.

In that endeavour as in so many more, BLACK DOG is a clever, profound and eloquent beast.

With sympathetic skill Dave McKean has succeeded not only in communicating to a new audience and a new generation Paul Nash’s vision and visions but, in doing so, furthered Nash’s goal to “bring back words and bitter truths” to remind us of the horrors and insanities of war which show no sign of stopping, and to counter those who would perpetuate them.

“I hope my ochres and umbers and oxides will burn their bitter souls.”

Good luck with that one, the pair of you. But they can instil in the rest of us, prone to forgetfulness, a renewed revulsion in order to speak out against these repugnant warmongers and their godawful obliteration of lives, of individuals, they leave in their wake.

Black Dog black dog

That was the vocation discovered by Paul Nash, and the whole raison d’être of the commission by 14-18 NOW, the Lakes International Comic Art Festival and On a Marché sur la Bulle: to blast back into our consciousness the very real, specific horrors of World War I during its centenary years.

Dave McKean has delivered on every front, but he has done so in ways that are far from obvious. For a start, it is not just through the queasy deployment of “ochres and umbers and oxides”, much in evidence during the gruelling sequence setting sail from Southampton Docks along with its sea-slick of blood…

Black Dog ochres

… but in contrasting them with the most spectacular colour: with that which is other and bright and beautiful; with that which is natural and which should be instead.

One of the most vivid chapters is Nash’s dream, whilst convalescing, of a viciously sharp, scarlet-thorned briar which impedes his progress towards the shimmering blue light of a kingfisher, thence its elusive clutch of tiny, fragile, life-giving eggs.

Black Dog 4

“How can this delicate perfection exist in the same world as a 14-ton howitzer firing 1,000 kg shells that propel hot metal shrapnel into soft human tissue, into minds protected by perfectly proportioned, frangible shells?”

Three shells, then: the brain’s, the bird’s and the bombs’. It is in gently compelling us to compare this absurd contrast in our own minds that the truth seeps out: the first’s content is creative, the second’s procreative, while the third’s sole goal is destruction and death.

It is the power of the mind – as well as its vulnerability, to be sure – which is evoked as much as anything during this intense graphic novel. Nash sees colour in the unexpected green shoots amidst trenches when few could see through their desolate, limb-numbing, mind-flattening, seemingly never-ending nightmare to any form of future at all. I wouldn’t be able to without McKeans’ help here.

Black Dog Contrast

But once again, it proves part of what Nash wanted for the future: a tsunami, a revolution of thought “breaking over our ossified society, tabula rasa, wiping the cant and lies from English life.” Sure enough, following the juxtaposition of life-giving green and bleak brown trenches bursting with a spray of white butterflies, there rises an almighty tidal wave that is thunderous.

There will be more time spent in the trenches – with Nash’s brother, just once, when they discuss the distraction and abstraction of the artistic process which may go some way to explain Nash’s later, problematic detachment – but this narrative stretches far further thematically, both backwards and forwards, to what else might have made this man, including the “sadistic discipline” of a school “which was ideal training for an infantryman’s life in the trenches.” He continues:

“It taught me nothing worth speaking of, it answered none of my questions, it required only a kind of desperate obedience, and a stoic acceptance of the constant threat of sudden and terrible violence.”

The grotesque, gap-toothed giant of a martinet towers over young Nash, barking out garbled, mathematical commands as nonsensical as those which would follow, and as impossible to answer with any sane response.

The person who does teach him something worth learning is his grandfather who is by contrast “a man of infinite calm and discretion”, nurturing Nash’s love of art. It’s a scene played out against a chessboard, another battle arena around which Nash and his perpetually distant father keep their distance from each other like any pawn and opposing king lest their contact prove fatal.

“The kings checks his position
“As the pawn moves towards promotion
“Hoping not to be seen
“And neither of them comment on the absence of the queen.”

Black Dog 2

The first page consists of four square panels; the second of nine; the third expands into that fully fledged chessboard of similarly black and white squares. Across this are drawn multiple, fractured images of Nash’s distressed mother, oscillating between the darkness and light, representing her turbulent, chequered present. Something extraordinary occurs.

“The dog didn’t return to my dreams
“For a very long time.”

Up until this point we’ve said nothing of the titular black dog, as I think is right. But its shadow has haunted him from the beginning and it will hound the painter almost until the end in a very telling sequence. At times it is ferocious, at others a bounding spirit he pursues. But its presence is pervasive and it goes by another name which is just as revealing.

Black Dog extra

You need know nothing of Nash before embarking upon this, but his paintings are referenced throughout both in the language and images (‘We Are Making a New World’,”The Shore (at Dymchurch)’, and I see ‘Wood on the Dawn’ in the boy’s early trees). Often I find engaging in a work like this without prior knowledge a boon. It will surely prompt a wave of its audience to embark on research afterwards and subsequent readings will then spark satisfying flashes of recognition.

Visually the storytelling displays a complete command of dream logic and that “hypnagogic” or indeed hypnopompic state wherein you’re not quite sure what is real and what is imagined. It is in constant flux, morphing from one medium to the next, from light to dark, with subtle sheens, bleeds or explosions of colour. “The fog of war” which drifts over St. Martin-in-the-Fields church to overshadow Nash’s wedding day is terrible to behold, casting a pall over the proceedings: “A confetti of embers and ash approaching the church ahead of the leviathan.” And wait until you see that coelacanth monstrosity.

Black Dog 1

But it’s this lyrical deftness I came away admiring the most. McKean manages to find exactly the right word, time after time again, to pair one thought with another, to throw a startling new light on our expectations or twist the natural order of things, as when Nash is advised to “fight to live another day”.

For it’s not just the battles with bayonets and barbed wire and bombs that one fights on the field, but also hunger and disease and madness and memory, both then and thereafter. Nash sought to evoke this in his art and so McKean too seeks to peel back the layers, to get beneath the skin and comprehend the complexities which lie beneath. To examine not just a life but what is ‘lived’ – which is something altogether different.

These are the U.S. Dark Horse editions which Page 45 will be launching with a signing by Dave McKean at 10.30am Saturday 15th October at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 upstairs in the Kendal Clock Tower.


Buy Black Dog: The Dreams Of Paul Nash s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Black Dog: The Dreams Of Paul Nash Limited Edition Hardcover and read the Page 45 review here

Notes On A Thesis (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Tiphaine Rivière.

Placard held aloft during a Parisian university protest rally:

“We’re losing our faculties!”

Coming as it does towards the end of this sanity-sapping spiral, it made me roar with laughter. I don’t think it’s their departments they’re referring to.

Caveat: do not read this wry and ever so well observed graphic novel if you have just this second committed yourself to a three-year PhD.  The rest of us lucky pups who left academia behind decades ago – or never moored there in the first place – will have a whale of a time, but you will probably cry.

Perhaps you’re thrilled to be embarking on your brand-new endeavour, just like cheerful, fresh-faced Jeanne Dargan who is so relieved to be relieved of her hyperactive Year-Nine students that she’s ecstatically ditched full-time, inner-city teaching in favour of research which she must fund herself. She’s bursting with enthusiasm, especially since Kafka expert Karpov has agreed to supervise her thesis on ‘The Labyrinthine Motif in the Parable of the Law in Kafka’s The Trial’. Exciting!




Honestly, this is in English.

Brigitte Claude, secretary for the Doctoral School since 1987, does her best to dissuade Jeanne with ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos of similarly perky pupils now rendered lank, limp and weary after 3-7 years of critical endeavour, but Jeanne will not be bowed. The city basks in sunshine and once she’s met the great Karpov herself, not even a little rain dims the bright autumnal colours as she strides purposefully and proud along the banks of the Seine.

“Don’t worry,” she joyously reassures her boyf, “I’m going to get it done in 3 years. 3 years and not a day more…”

Were this early Gerald Durrell autobiography, the next sentence would have read “4 years later…”


No, really, this is in English. It’s a translation, mes amis!

But no, Jeanne has a plan. She draws up a detailed, three-year timetable involving research, reading and note-taking; a finished PhD plan; writing part 1; writing part 2; writing part 3; revisions and finishing touches; submission. Unfortunately this immediately follows her even more detailed, weekly time-management-table, by the hour, in which Jeanne will juggle her studies with the full-time job she needs to take in order to make ends meet. It’s in Brigitte Claude’s office! Hooray!

“I’m going to join the Events Team at the university! I’ll be the one organising all the literature conferences at the Sorbonne! I’ll be right in the nerve-centre, at the heart of Parisian literary life.”

Just one glance at that timetable would tell anyone less in denial that it’s completely and utterly untenable.

This is crammed full of satirical detail, from posters promoting events like “Laughter in Nineteenth-Century German Philosophy” (Schopenhauer!) to a conference day’s agenda over-optimistically entitled ‘Hope In Kafka’ and a new PhD student gleefully declaring, “I have a feeling I’m going to make some serious waves in the world of Renaissance punctuation!”

Brigitte Claude herself is a masterful visual invention, jealously guarding her administrative office like a triple-chinned, fiery-eyed bullfrog, hands buried beneath her bosom, slinking down her desk to answer the phone with enormous reluctance, and only in defiance of someone entering her secretarial arena in need of information. Her jowls are a joy.


Delivering speeches is portrayed as a swimming race, accepting questions from the floor akin to opening yourself up to an oncoming battle charge. The exhaustion and despair of the older post-graduates drips from their word balloons and (in a move similar to Mazzuccheilli’s ASTERIOS POLYP wherein Asterios literally talks over the love of his life, his word balloons obliterating hers) one speaker’s conversation-stealing monomania is conveyed firstly by the sheer number – the barrage – of her balloons, then by her swallowing Jeanne’s single, tiny, plaintive speech whole, before blowing an enormous one of her own back out, like bubblegum.

“I’m my own boss!” comes back to haunt Jeanne, as does Jeanne’s visualisation of her thesis as the most splendid, ornate, meticulously crafted piece of neo-classical architecture. I cannot tell you how funny the eventual reprise is. Can you imagine the nightmare of finally composing a 500-page thesis from notes you’ve taken on books you’ve read – and long forgotten – two years ago?


Sympathy for all you will find in abundance, but students, lecturers and indeed administrators will be pertinently yet playfully poked in the ribs. Poor Karpov, for example, endures such excruciating presumption and neediness from his overly entitled students that one of them is shown offloading from a psychiatrist’s couch; on the other hand, I do believe students should be entitled to some sort of supervision rather than a six-month wait for an eventually evasive reply from their ever-absent professor while he’s swanning about Rome engaging in fully-paid personal research.

Egos will be exposed, intentions will be questioned and both mental and critical faculties be sorely tested.


Moreover, by the end of the book you may well re-examine your initial infuriation / exasperation with the Year-Nine children let loose on The Louvre in search of The Mona Lisa. There’s a very, very funny background joke on that sequence’s final panel and at the end of the day you should never mock energy, lest you lose it yourself.

Enthusiasm is all!


Buy Notes On A Thesis and read the Page 45 review here

Light (£17-99, Magnetic Press) by Rob Cham…

What light-coverwould you do if you lived in a world without colour, a boring black and white existence with nary a hint of any chromaticity at all to get your spectral-deficient synapses firing and brighten up your day? Well you’d probably grab a friend and go on an epic adventure to find five magical crystals and see what happens when you put them all together. Along the way you’d probably have to battle multiple monsters and deal with other assorted oddballs and weirdoes intent on hindering your quest.

Which is basically what this is! But whereas you or I would probably make a lot of noise doing it, this is a wordless graphic novel. And because every page is a single-panel illustration without borders, drawn mostly to the exact same scale from an identical perspective set on a black background, it very much has the feel of a gorgeous silent animation.


There is, however, a lot of colour, of all the major hues. Great, whopping, eye-popping explosions of it left, right and centre! In fact, the number of pure black and white pages is but a tiny handful, forming a stark introduction to the boring world our main character inhabits, before the vibrant splashes of primary and secondary colours start.


He’s a curious fellow, our redoubtable dungeoneer, that’s for sure. He looks like the hybrid offspring of Fone Bone and Morph. Actually, the black and white pages very strongly reminded me of the original BONE comics – still available in one meaty collected BONE tome – before the coloured individual BONE volumes came along. A fun and very pretty all-ages read that takes a different approach to the silent graphic novel and succeeds with aplomb.



Buy Light and read the Page 45 review here

Nicolas (£9-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Pascal Girard.

Brave, bold, Brown (Jeffrey); or brief, basic, banal.

That’s your basic reception spectrum right there and, as in all matters, I am 100% to the left.

This is, I think, going to polarise people. Lazy people who think it’s clever to start each word with a ‘b’.

The good news for the likes of Porcellino and Penfold is that it’ll take the heat off them when the less enlightened superhero readers want to cite autobiographical comicbook creators who, according to their ill-informed prejudices, “can’t even draw”. Fuck you, by the way!

From the creator of REUNION (a Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month), PETTY THEFT and the co-creator of FANNY & ROMEO, this new edition is accompanied by 25 new pages of Pascal Girard in the present which explain so much about Girard’s anxiety in REUNION that I’m tempted to tweak my review. I won’t, but I’m tempted.


This crippling anxiety – with attendant superstitious rituals recalling (as in “calling back”) his little brother – he directly attributes in no small part to his complete inability to process his sibling’s death when Pascal was barely more than seven years old himself.

The first and last three pages of the original confessional show them joyfully, exuberantly play-acting together as Ghostbusters; by the fourth page Pascal is sitting outside on the pavement, on his own.

How do you react to such an abrupt, gaping and irreversible hole both in your home and in your heart – at the very centre of your world?

You react inconsistently. And, as E.M. Forster suggested in ‘Angels Fear To Tread’, we must not be afraid to be inconsistent.


For a start, a child’s desires are innocently self-centred, so games and Christmas presents bring as much joy as ever, and Pascal is put out by his parents’ grief during these early anniversaries which spoils all his fun. It’s only as he grows older that he begins to understand what happened and by that point self-awareness comes with the additional price-tag of guilt.

I’d wager it will speak volumes to those who’ve been bereaved at any age: there’s a gnawing gut-level guilt that perhaps you weren’t devastated enough at the time and therefore didn’t care, and a suspicion (or even determination) that you shouldn’t be enjoying yourself now.

Girard makes no such clumsy evaluations on the printed page, electing instead to offer up the simplest of fragments of what he recalls: moments when he’s struck by his brother’s death or even benefits from it through sympathy. That’s why I call this a “confessional”. Judge him if you want, but it’s just human nature.


Brave and bold for me, then, and very Jeffrey Brown.

Oh, and you know the old adage that it’s only when you lose something that you appreciate what you’ve got? Sometimes you don’t. For Pascal Girard has another younger brother who survived…


Buy Nicolas and read the Page 45 review here

The Wicked + Divine vol 4: Rising Action s/c (£13-99, Image) by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie with Matt Wilson.

Pop stars on their pedestals. You know how the likes of Bowie and Kylie are referred to as pop gods and goddesses? Turns out some of them really are.

“You are of the Pantheon.
“You will be loved.
“You will be hated.
“You will be brilliant.
“Within two years you will be dead.”

Every 90 years a Pantheon of a dozen gods is born anew, activated by ancient Ananke who finds them in young individuals previously oblivious to their fate. She helps them shine brightly for their brief two years. If they are lucky.

Because some of those lights have been snuffed out already.

It’s a brilliant conceit, executed immaculately. Of course the role assumed by these gods in this modern age would be as those most worshipped today, and Gillen takes the opportunity to examine journalism, fame, fandom, aspiration, envy, competitive back-biting, fear, mortality and manipulation, for some are putting ideas into the others’ heads.

They have been played.

You have been played.


Kieron Gillen has been ever so naughty: he left key moments out to mess with your mind.

Now you’re going to get an unexpurgated replay in chapter three. You will like what you see, but it will make your heads explode.

I cannot tell you anything more for it would all be spoilers – even a single page of volume four’s interior art. Instead I recommend you read our previous, extensive reviews of THE WICKED + THE DIVINE, and leave with you with the book’s sly teaser-trailer.

Wicked And Divine issue 18 teaser 2


Buy The Wicked + Divine vol 4: Rising Action s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Trees vol 2 s/c (£11-99, Image) by Warren Ellis & Jason Howard.

In the run-up to The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 Page 45 is scrambling for time, but consider this at least a signpost to the knowledge that more TREES have arrived!

They are big trees.

These trees are so big that a mere axe wouldn’t cut it – nor even your average, hand-held chainsaw.

They are so vast that if they had canopies, they would be lost from view in the stratosphere. Their girth would exceed the radius of your average town or village, and not just its Green. These trees don’t have leaves, but do they have an agenda?

They have planted themselves implacably on our planet and have so far shown few signs of their nature, nurture nor broader intention, except to sick-up their occasional toxic vom.

They may be staring at you, or they may not. They simply sit there, rooted to the spot, giving nothing away. One thing’s for certain, however: you cannot miss them; you can see them sitting silently from a shoreline away.

What happens now?

Look, I’m basically asking you to refer to our review of TREES VOL 1.

From the writer of  INJECTION VOLUME 1, INJECTION VOLUME 2 and TRANSMETROPOLITAN etc. Pop Warren Ellis into our search engine and see how long he lasts without access to his beard-trimmer *, cigarettes and whiskey.

* He doesn’t have one.


Buy Trees vol 2 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

An Unreliable History Of Tattoos (£14-99, Nobrow) by Paul Thomas.


Paul Thomas will be signing with us at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 from 1-15pm on Saturday 15th October!

Landscape prose hardcover lavishly illustrated on every page with full-colour cartoons, the ink in question is predominantly blue – as are the jokes!

Those I can’t quote, but Thomas’ art here is to dream up new (and old) contexts for current colloquialisms or conceits, juxtaposing the contemporary with the historical, the irreverent with the revered, and putting frivolous phrases into the mouths of famously po-faced public figures for maximum iconoclastic impact and LOLZ.


This isn’t merely “unreliable”; it’s full of absolute whoppers, like the most startling set of knuckles to ever be adorned with that ‘LOVE’ / ‘HATE’ legend: the Sphinx’s.

“In 1066, King Harold II famously had his wife Edith’s name tattooed on his chest. The Anglo Saxon Chronicle reported the design to be ‘beautifulle to beholde, beynge of qualyte and reallye cool’, The decoration surrounding it was, however, said to looke ‘a bitte shitte on hyse man boobes.’”

Adding an ‘e’ doesn’t hurt while in those parts of the past that deployed them, but it’s the lateral thinking I admire the most.

“In 1483, Richard III’s first act as king was to convert the Tower of London into a ‘worlde class childcare facilite’.”

I know of two princely playmates who might have claimed otherwise.


My favourite piece of lateral thinking combined a) the art of tattoo and b) the printed paper bills we have to pay. Or, in this case, the additional surcharge attached to being married to a certain misogynistic monarch. Anne Boleyn is shown paraded in front of the public for beheadification, her executioner behind  her and a line of dashes – – – – – – – – – – –  inked round her neck with the legend “coupez ici” underneath.

I liked the old-fashioned flourish on the ‘z’. I also smiled at Charles Dickens being deemed “celebrated poverty ogler”, which wasn’t quite his humanist mission.

It works best the further back in time you go, perhaps because we’ve almost exhausted the satirical wet sponges that can be thrown at more recent regents and reprobates.


And while I remind you that I have explicitly alluded to some of the more ribald humour (so don’t run cumming to me), I did chortle childishly at two mutual male admirers in a prison shower being told by the guard to “Get a cell!”” One has a male hen tattooed on his chest, the other twin ’R’s on his buttocks. “I like your Rs”, says one. The other says something else.


Buy An Unreliable History Of Tattoos and read the Page 45 review here

Shade The Changing Girl #1 (£2-99. DC’s Young Animals) by Cecil Castellucci & Marley Zarcone.

Kelly Fitzpatrick’s colours brighten this beautiful beast up no end.

It’s from the same Young Animals stable as Gerard Way & Nick Derington’s DOOM PATROL #1 which we singularly failed to review. Given Way’s profile we doubted it needed any extra publicity from us, but it was utterly mental and required no prior knowledge of Grant Morrison & Richard Case’s DOOM PATROL. In fact, My Chemical Romance’s Gerard Way took cheeky delight in confounding previous readers’ expectations at every turn.

This too requires no prior knowledge for we’ve a brand-new cast with bags of potential to alarm all and sundry, especially those who thought young, blonde-haired Megan was gone from their lives for good. This includes not just her friends, but also her parents who were assured that their comatose Megan was so without hope that they’d signed all the papers to pull the plug.

She’s just woken up, and the hospital would be exceedingly grateful if her mother and father would kindly collect her, please.

“She’s upsetting the other patients.”






She seems very cheerful, though. Almost as if she’s a completely different person.

Now, you’d think that her friends would be thrilled and her parents ecstatic at this modern medical miracle. But if you knew Megan like I’m beginning to know Megan, then you might have more cause for concern.


It’s the old Megan I’m referring to. But the old Megan is quite, quite gone; her body now inhabited by an alien who’s travelled all the way from Meta by way of Shade’s ever-shifting, technicolour dream coat. Therein lies all the dramatic irony we could wish for.

So, umm, you might by now be wondering what put this girlfriend in a coma to begin with.


From the writer of Young Readers’ ODD DUCK (with Sara Varon art – oh, yeah!) and Young Adults’ THE YEAR OF THE BEASTS, THE PLANE JANES (one of our earliest Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month) and its immediate sequel JANES IN LOVE (all excellent, all reviewed), this is suitable for neither of those demographics, the Young Animals imprint being very much a modern cousin to DC’s Mature-Readers’ Vertigo.


Buy Shade The Changing Girl #1 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.

 The Fade Out Complete Deluxe Edition h/c (£44-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips, Elizabeth Breitweiser

Goodnight Punpun vol 3 (£16-99, Viz) by Inio Asano

I Am A Hero Omnibus vol 2 (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Kengo Hanazawa

Hellboy In Hell vol 2: The Death Card (£15-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola

The Metabaron Book 1: The Techo-Admiral & The Anti-Baron h/c (£20-99, Humanoids) by Alexandro Jodorowsky & Jerry Frissen, Valentin Secher

Parade: An Artist’s Odyssey (£25-00, Abrams) by Si Lewen

She Changed Comics (£13-99, Image) by various edited by Betsy Gomez

Tokyo Ghost vol 2: Come Join Us (£13-99, Image) by Rick Remender & Sean Murphy

Batman By Ed Brubaker vol 2 s/c (£17-99, DC) by Ed Brubaker, Geoff Johns & Scott McDaniel, Andy Owens, Sean Phillips, various

The DC Universe By Neil Gaiman Deluxe Edition h/c (£26-99, DC) by Neil Gaiman, Alan Grant, Mark Verheiden & Arthur Adams, Michael Alred, Simon Bisley, Sam Keith, Mark Buckingham, Matt Wagner, John Totleben, Eddie Campbell, others

Catwoman vol 8: Run Like Hell s/c (£13-99, DC) by Frank Tieri & various

Convergence s/c (£22-99, DC) by Jeff King, Scott Lobdell, Dan Jurgens & Ethan Van Sciver, Andy Kubert

Superman: American Alien h/c (£22-99, DC) by Max Landis & various

All New X-Men: Inevitable vol 2: Apocalypse Wars s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Dennis Hopeless & Mark Bagley

Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows: Warzones! (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott & Adam Kubert, Scott Hanna

Extraordinary X-Men vol 2: Apocalypse Wars s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Jeff Lemire & Victor Ibanez, Humberto Ramos

Punisher Max Complete Collection vol 3 s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by Garth Ennis & Goran Parlov, Leandro Fernandez, Lan Medina

Wolverine: Old Man Logan vol 2: Bordertown s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Jeff Lemire & Andrea Sorrentino

X-Men: Gambit & Rogue s/c (£22-99, Marvel) by Howard Mackie & Lee Weeks, Mike Wieringo

The Rise And Fall Of Axiom s/c (£17-99, Legendary) by Mark Waid & Ed Benes

Fairy Tail vol 56 (£8-99, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Groo Vs. Conan (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Sergio Aragones, Mark Evanier & Sergio Aragones, Thomas Yeates

X-Force / Cable: Messiah War s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost, Duane Swierczynski & Jamie McKelvie, Ariel Olivetti, various


ITEM! Here we go! It is upon us!

1 Lakes Fest Clock Tower

At the time of typing, The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 is mere days away (October 14-16) and we’ve published the Page 45 blog starring comicbook creators signing with us FOR FREE!

Adam Brockbank,Bryan Lee OMalley 2
Ben Haggarty,
Bryan Lee O’Malley,
Dan Berry,
Dave McKean,
Emma Vieceli,
Felt Mistress,
Hannah Berry,
Isabel Greenberg,
John Martz,
Jonathan Edwards,
Katriona Chapman,
Paul Thomas,
Sean Phillips,
Tillie Walden,
Tom Gauld

We are also joined in our graphic-novel-stuffed Georgian Room, upstairs in the Kendal Clock Tower, by the magnificent Avery Hill Publishing!

You’ll find details of everyone’s signing times on that Page 45 LICAF 2016 blog, plus so much more, including all the links you could want to the Festival itself.

Come up and see us, make us smiii-ii-ii-iiiiile!Page 45 sign left


ITEM! I promise you we don’t normally keep repeating ourselves in our News Section like this, but The Lakes International Comic Art Festival is Page 45’s biggest event of each year, and we are so proud to be a part of it.

Avery Hill

ITEM! We’ve created a Panel at LICAF to help empower new and aspiring comicbook creators.

Sunday October 16th, 1pm to 2pm in the Clock Tower Council Chamber

You Ask, We Tell! Helping Creators Pitch To Publishers, The Press and to Comic Shops.

Although everything else we do is free, this bit will cost you £8 plus a £1-50 booking fee, I’m afraid (see link), but consider it an excellent investment in your creative and commercial future! Here’s why:

Independent publishing and self-publishing isn’t just a means to critical acclaim but to concrete, commercial success.

Porecelain Expecting To Fly

Page 45’s biggest-selling graphic novel of 2015 was PORCELAIN: BONE CHINA, independently published by Improper Books and beating everything from DC, owned by multi-millionaire mega-corps Time Warner.

Page 45’s biggest-selling comic was EXPECTING TO FLY, self-published by John Allison and beating everything from Marvel, owned by multi-billionaire Disney.

With independent publishers you can retain creative control, ownership and be nurtured like nowhere else, fostering long-lasting, personal relationships with retailers and review sites like Broken Frontier which will prove invaluable throughout your career. We’ll show you how.

On that experienced, hand-picked panel:

Ricky Miller (Director, Avery Hill Publishing)
Katriona Chapman (self-publisher of KATZINE, freelance for larger publishers and part of Avery Hill)
Andy Oliver (Editor-in-Chief of pioneering review website Broken Frontier, and brand-new self-publisher)
Stephen L. Holland (Festival patron, award-winning retailer at Page 45 and prize buffoon.)

Every week I’m asked at the counter, “What’s the best way to get my comic published?”, “How do I get myself covered by Broken Frontier?” and “How do I get my self-published comic onto your shelves?”

We’re about to answer your questions.


ITEM! This is the first year that the legendary Sarah McIntrye has been unable to appear with Page 45 in our Georgian Room. Last year Sarah was even joined by co-creator Philip Reeve to sign their PUGS OF THE FROZEN NORTH, OLIVER AND THE SEAWIGS and CAKES IN SPACE!

1 Seawigs sketched

Sarah and I could not bear to disappoint the loyal following of families she’s built up at the Festival so Page 45 will be bringing the brand-new JINKS & O’HARE FUNFAIR REPAIR… and Sarah in spirit! How…? Sarah has very generously drawn four original sketches which we will give out FREE OF CHARGE to the first families to buy a copy or twelve of JINKS & O’HARE FUNFAIR REPAIR during the weekend and who then declare:

“I read your blog, and I’ve got a sprog!”

Terms & Conditions: Adults must be accompanied by a child (which is a nice twist, don’t you think? This is such a family-friendly festival!). Also, the rhyme above is mandatory.




ITEM! Under Page 45 Reviews (September 2016 week four) we detailed all the LICAF merchandise that would be on sale in our room alongside our own glorious graphic novels including exclusive prints by Hannah Berry, Sean Phillips, Charlie Adlard and Duncan Fegredo et al.


ITEM! We’ll also be launching LICAF’s all-ages CARROT TO THE STARS graphic novel (reviewed).

Poignant and pertinent, every school library should have one.


ITEM! Also, also, we will be selling the brand-new 24-Hour Comic Relay Race comic directed by Dan Berry, which will be created in the 24 hours leading up to LICAF by the likes of Dan Berry, Craig Thompson, Charlie Adlard, Emma Vieceli, Joe Decie, Mike Medaglia and Bryan Talbot. Here’s 2014’s anthology, 24 x 7:

ITEM! We would remind you that Page 45 accepts both cash and credit cards at LICAF, and we’ve made upgrades to our till this year to make the process swifter for you and safer for us.

For us: a till drawer which shuts.

For you: we’ve a second scanner so we can whip whichever dozen graphic novels you’ve selected from our mounds of magnificence through that till before you can scream “Second Mortgage!”

Page 45 sign right

ITEM! LICAF is brought to you by Julie Tait and Carole Tait without whom none of this would happen. Without Sharon Tait, the loveliest light in the world, I would still a quivering mess in the Kendal Clock Tower foyer, 2014.

Together they are the Holy Tait Trinity.

A round of applause for the Holy Tait Trinity all weekend long, please!

– Stephen xxx

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews October 2016 week one

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016

Families! Win free original Sarah McIntryre sketches! More BREAKING NEWS about The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 below our reviews!

A Distant Neighbourhood h/c (£19-99, Fanfare / Ponent Mon) by Jiro Taniguchi.


If it were at all possible, would you go back in time with your current critical faculties and relive your life from the age of fourteen?

If so, what would you change – if anything at all – and what would you learn that eluded your former fourteen-year-old mind?

This is a graphic novel which may make you reflect upon your past, on your present, and perhaps on your future. With crystal clear lines of breath-taking beauty and grey-tone shadows which denote so much sunlight, it’s my favourite work so far from the creator of GUARDIANS OF THE LOUVRE, collecting the two former softcovers, the first of which we made Page 45’s Comicbook Of The Month.


It is executed with all the dignity, quiet calm and accomplished craftsmanship that made THE WALKING MAN such a transporting experience, and sees a forty-something businessman, tired and hung-over, boarding the wrong train by mistake. It takes him back to the town he grew up in. Rather than fret, he takes advantage of the happenstance to stroll through the streets of his childhood. They’ve changed so considerably that they’re barely recognisable now, but when he reaches the graveyard under the verdant hillside where his mother lies buried, he stops to meditate by her headstone:

“What were my mother’s thoughts when she passed away?
“My father suddenly went missing when I was in eighth grade. I have no clear idea why my father decided to leave. Even now, whereabouts still unknown, I don’t know what’s happened to him… I don’t even know if he’s alive or dead! I don’t know the pain she might have felt inside, but Mom passed away without ever saying a hateful word about my father.
“I asked my mother once again. ‘Were you happy?'”


There’s a shift in his shadow as the sun shines down from above, and a shift in his weight so that he loses his balance. A butterfly flits by. He’s wearing his old school uniform.

Hiroshi Nakahara is fourteen years old again. His mother’s alive, and his father’s still there with no sign at all of significant strife. So why did his father suddenly disappear, and can Nakahara do anything to prevent it?

Originally published in Japan in 1998, the time taken to translate it gave Alex Robinson’s similarly themed TOO COOL TO BE FORGOTTEN the chance to emerge onto our shelves first. Whatever their similarities, stylistically they’re very different beasts: Taniguchi has an exceptionally fine, precise yet surprisingly soft and sympathetic line whereby even interiors are spacious and full of window light, whilst his landscapes are a loving tribute to the beauty of nature, the grass dappled in sunshine and shadow, the leaves painstaking rendered in gentle folds above.


One can’t help but fall in love with so many of his cast, either. Whether wide-eyed in wonder or deep in reflection, harbouring a melancholy kept to himself, Nakahara is drawn by Taniguchi in perfect sympathy with his inner monologue. For although he delights in a confidence around girls he never had as a child, although he rejoices in a rejuvenated athleticism and overindulges in an alcohol binge his younger body can’t cope with, there are school friends whose funerals he’s already attended who are chatting to him now without a care in the world, and he can’t help but look at his mother and father with a different eye to a child’s.

For he knows his father will leave his mother soon, just as his own family in the present are wondering what’s happened to their husband and father…

It’s a work that can’t help but catalyse self-reflection. How would you cope in the same situation? Who would believe you if you told them the truth? How soon would one simple act cause a domino effect leading you down a completely different road to that trodden before? And how come you can’t just take a boy or a girl out to dinner any longer?!


Taniguchi’s best works are more about contemplation and a search for truth or at least peace of mind than anything else, and usually in the middle of the most beautifully lit countryside you will ever encounter. There’s also an emphasis on respect and gratitude – the touching and impressive Japanese courtesy of not wanting to put anyone else out (it is not about manners; it is all about genuine good will) – and it’s evoked well here as Hiroshi’s grandmother continues to explain his father’s particular circumstances following his experience in World War II, and his mother struggles with her understanding of the debt she owes her second husband, her knowledge of what he has sacrificed for her, yet her need for his presence.

Meanwhile Hiroshi takes the girl he’d never have had to courage to talk to the first time round to the seaside where he relishes the freedom and sensations of being fourteen again, but without the same insecurities.


Buy A Distant Neighbourhood h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Carthago h/c (£23-99, Humanoids) by Christopher Bec & Eric Henninot, Milan Jovanovic.

Is it okay if I start crying now?carthago-cover

Welcome to a whopping, album-sized, 275-page graphic novel of exceptional light and beauty – and the most enormous, razor-sharp teeth.

Specifically, the most enormous, razor-sharp teeth embedded in a mouth big enough to engulf a bathysphere as if it were a bonbon. That mouth belongs to an eighty-foot long Megalodon, a species of shark which didn’t have the decency to die out 2.6 million years ago as we were all promised. Since it didn’t die out, you can assume with some certainty that it’s not alone. It’ll have to have some honeys to breed with.

How has it survived? That proved quite clever. Not everything here passes the credulity test quite so creditably: like Major Bertrand’s decision to dive back into the water once a diving cage has been crushed / mangled / mauled beyond recognition, just to see what enormous subaquatic creature could have done that. It proves a pivotal plot point – on account of what else he spies lurking below which he vows never to impart to anyone – but you really wouldn’t do that, would you? “All you can eat” must surely be the default menu of any Megalodon on the move.


I thought it cruel, being made to read and review this, for I am terrified of sharks. Mesmerised, but terrified. I don’t really want any species to die out, but the very idea of diving in a cage surrounded by Great White Sharks – or even a solitary soul out for a leisurely, late-afternoon swim-stroll – is insane.

I used to have shark dreams once a week between the ages of eight and thirty-five. They rarely ended well.  I would see shadows of sharks even within in-door swimming pools, for which I blame James Bond. Strangely, those dreams ceased once I came face to face with a barracuda while snorkelling in Barbados. It swam, fast as lightning, to within two feet of my nose. Thankfully it executed an equally abrupt about-turn, but not before I was gifted with a true appreciation of how phenomenally hideous its ugly mug was.

All things are relative.

It’s about to get uglier.


Carthago is the name of the international corporation which trades in both gas and oil, drilling out to sea for both. In 1993 one of their drills penetrated a deep-sea cavern and all four divers disappeared. They couldn’t resist investigating this new, exotic environment, and this new, exotic environment couldn’t resist investigating them. Nom-nom, etc.

I cannot begin to convey to you how tense and claustrophobic Henninot renders their initial, tentative, reconnoitre, so much hidden in the impenetrable, inky black which their tiny, inadequate flares and torches barely manage to illuminate. Thanks to the two-page prologue 73 years ago, we are anticipating a certain sort of… reception… but it’s ever so subtly introduced on the final, small panel of a right-hand page by a free-floating hand and attendant rivulet of blood.

Mr. Snyder, Carthago’s chairman of the board who sports a fetching black balaclava, is well aware of what went on way back then. He’s had video footage since day one. Now he shares it with his suit-and-tie board members, but with strict instructions that it must never be leaked lest they be hit with multiple law suits, not least for negligence. Further fears include the plug being pulled on further drilling, and their already precarious profits ($90 billion from one rig alone) will go into free-fall.

Unfortunately for Carthago, its chairman is not the only one in possession of that film. A radical environmentalist sub-cell within Greenpeace has copies too and shows one to Dr Kim Melville, fresh from discovering three-foot-long crayfish below the Sarrans Dam in France. Parenthetically her daughter, Lou, has discovered pike three times her size in the freezing waters, 150 feet down without the aid of any breathing apparatus or indeed any facial protection whatsoever.

“Lou’s not like other little girls…”

No, indeed, as you will see.


We’re still on the first two-dozen pages, but what follows is an ultra-competitive race between multiple factions to a) capture proof of a Megalodon’s existence b) expose Carthago’s less than ethical cover-up and collusion, then  c) get to the very bottom of the sea’s hidden depths and secrets sustained over the centuries – improbably so since photography was invented.

Drop in the ocean? I should say so! I’ve not even touched on the prime mover, one elderly Mr Feiersinger confined to a futuristic wheelchair / life-support system. An unimaginably wealthy, ruthless and obsessive collector of the rarest artefacts imaginable, he resides in Eagle’s Eyrie atop the Carpathian Mountains of Romania in a vast, Gothic castle whose cathedral-like hallway resembles the central nave of the British Museum. He has in his indebted thrall the graphic novel’s action hero, London Donovan. You will learn of this debt and of the expedition which led to Mr Feiersinger’s current condition anon, but not here.


All these paths and many more will cross, criss-cross and re-cross again in an increasingly convoluted, full-blown sci-fi experience involving maritime survivors, monomaniacal malfeasance, more monsters than I’m willing to give away here, hereditary hiccups, ancient civilisations and, yes, the most enormous, razor-sharp teeth.

The planet is changing: it’s realigning. Ice floes are shifting. Whales and dolphins are beaching themselves in what appears to be a coordinated mass suicide or desperate flight. Forces – both familiar and familial – are coming into play, and if you believe that “the blood-dimmed tide” is already loosed then I swear that you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

This is spectacular. It truly is spectacular.


Delphine Rieu’s colours in particular complement Eric Henninot’s crisp, clean lines to perfection. Her whites and blues are bright and pure, while Henninot’s faces are a little like P. Craig Russell’s. His sense of scale is as thrilling, particularly when looking up at the dam or Eagle’s Eyrie’s interior, so rich in vertical detail. Moreover, his sharks are ferocious and, as I’ve intimated, they are not the only challenge present.

His successor halfway through, Milan Jovanovic, isn’t quite all that but only because you’ve been spoiled rotten beforehand. The tidal waves are still terrifying, the underwater menaces still petrifying and there’s one page featuring the most misjudged practical joke of all time which will leave one young lad speechless for years.


However, honestly dictates I concede that two-thirds of the way in it threatens to collapse under the weight of increasingly ridiculous coincidences, along with improbable decisions and observational failures on the part of the cast. It doesn’t, but it threatens to, especially when those cast members haven’t proved so dim in the past. (Apart from Dr Kim Melville, perhaps: “Take your daughter to the seaside!” you will be screaming at her for the hundred odd pages it takes her to do so.)

As to Mr Feiersinger’s younger brother… forty years younger? Okay, if he’s revealed later on to be a covert catamite instead, I will whoop with penitent joy and enormous respect for the lack of hand-holding clues early on. Otherwise pfft!


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

Carrot To The Stars (£6-00, Lakes International Comics Art Festival) by Regis Lejonc, Thierry Murat & Riff Reb’s.

“Some dream of love
“While dancing in the moonlight.”

A cautionary, all-ages fable, this has an elegant and eloquent simplicity, and a fearful symmetry whose missing element will haunt me for decades. Except that, as drawn by Riff, it isn’t entirely missing, and therein lies the power of its punch.

I cannot be more specific than that, but you will know what I mean when you see it.

The cautionary aspect is emphatically not about dreaming – how tragic would that be? – nor about invention or industriousness. This isn’t some sort of awful, prohibitive, Daedalus and Icarus yarn which William Blake shot down so succinctly in ‘The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell’ thus:

“No bird soars too high, if he soars with his own wings”.

Aspiration should be encouraged. Not even the sky is your limit.

Instead, the cautionary note lies in entrusting your dreams to those with less beneficent interests than your own. It is about the perversion of dreams, and it boasts a specific, all too awful pertinence to our wider world today, and indeed throughout the ages with one particular instance in mind.



“Some dream of love
“While dancing in the moonlight.”

How romantic is that? And how beautiful is that opening page with its innocent, Dr Seuss-like revelry shared under the inspiring light of a benign, beaming moon? Our inventive rabbit “dreams of something dazzling” and is inspired to build something beautiful in order to give others pleasure. He labours night and day, and his endeavours are rewarded with success.






“The carrot shoots straight up in the air, as if sucked up by the sky.”

Great line!

“Everyone wakes and wonders and marvels.
“No one can believe their eyes.
“It’s marvellous!
“Who has created this wondrous thing?”


Ah yes, his endeavours are rewarded with success: more success – and a different sort of success – than he bargained for.

Once more, let me be clear: it doesn’t go to his head. Nothing the rabbit does (except maybe the initial, slightly toxic process which may leave organic carrot farmers frothing at the mouth!) is an indictment of his invention, his intentions or his honour throughout. Indeed his sense of duty is commendable. Just remember whom your sense of duty and loyalty lies with, or is given to.

Corporations have only their own self-interests at heart.


The art is smooth, bold and beautiful, making maximum use of spotlights, striking shadows and stark silhouettes, leaving the colours to glow in the darkness.

Copies go on sale at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 on Saturday 15th October in Page 45’s Georgian Room upstairs in the Kendal Clock Tower. Thereafter you can happily purchase from here and elsewhere for worldwide shipping and even pre-order right now. I’d mention LICAF’s partners in this except that it would give the contents’ game away, but those lucky enough to have secured LICAF’s earlier exclusive this year after a certain multimedia performance or via Page 45’s own website may infer what they will.

Translation by LICAF’s own Carole Tait.


Buy Carrot To The Stars and read the Page 45 review here

Odd And The Frost Giants h/c (£14-99, Bloomsbury) by Neil Gaiman & Chris Riddell.


“The wise man knows when to keep silent. Only the fool tells all he knows.”

Reviewers, take note: you’re supposed to intrigue, not give the entire game away.

A wise and wonderful tale reprising known Norse mythology in a new guise, and another of those all-ages books which will overwhelmingly be picked up and relished here by adults. Like many of Gaiman’s stories, it is in part about the power of words and the determination to succeed – but also the secret of smiles.

Originally published in 2008, this new die-cut hardcover edition is generously illustrated on every page by Chris Riddell (see THE SLEEPER AND THE SPINDLE and FORTUNATELY, THE MILK… also by Gaiman), each black and white portrait adorned with lavish, silver-ink frames. The bear is gigantic, his eagle is imperious and that fox is as lithe as you like.


Odd is the son of a Scottish mother who loves to sing – of “fine lords riding out on their horses, their noble falcons on their wrists, a brave hound always padding by their side… freeing the oppressed from tyranny” – and a Viking father who stole her away during a particularly fine day’s pillaging.

However, because his father would not even touch her until he had taught her enough of their language to clearly state his honourable intention of making her his wife, they ended up loving each other very much indeed.

Unfortunately he died at sea.

When told the news, Odd didn’t cry, he didn’t say anything. He merely shrugged.

“Nobody knew what Odd was feeling on the inside. Nobody knew what he thought. And, in a village on the banks of a fjord, where everybody knew everybody’s business, that was infuriating.”

That, and his bright smile, unnerved his settlement.


Now, his father had been a woodsman, a true master of the axe, invaluable to a community where wood was used to make everything – “wooden nails joined wooded boards to build wooden dwellings or wooden boats” – and, determined to make himself useful, Odd took up his father’s axe, so heavy he could barely lift it, and set about felling a tree. And he did. But it fell on his foot and it fell on his leg and it crushed those bones completely. Still, he used to axe to dig himself free, cut a branch for a crutch and hauled his father’s heavy axe home, for metal was scarce and could not be left out to rust.

Two years later, Odd’s mother remarried. Fat Elfred already had seven children and did not care for a crippled step-son, especially when drunk. In winter the men drank more and, confined to the Great Hall, tempers would fray and fights would break out, and that year spring never came. The ice refused to melt and the snow refused to soften. “The games got nasty. The jokes became mean. Fights were to hurt.” So Odd decided he’d sever his few ties completely and retreat to his father’s log cabin deep in the heart of the forest.

And it’s there that he meets a flame-coloured fox, a voracious bear and an eagle with only one eye.

Strangely, he discovers, they can speak…


Deliberately, I have taken you no further than what effectively is the prologue, but every element I’ve introduced is vital for the journey that follows: determination, resourcefulness, that knowing smile, and keeping it under your hat.

Readers of Gaiman’s graphic novel series SANDMAN and his American Gods prose will relish Neil’s return to three of his favourite characters. I particularly enjoyed the eagle with its one-word screeches, the bear being a bit stupid and the fox being extremely embarrassed about once being a mare. You’ll see, as their history with the Frost Giants unfolds.

All I will only add is that I’ve long admired Gaiman’s ability to put you in other people’s shoes, and then have you walk a mile in them:

“Odd pushed himself to keep walking, one step at a time, remembering when he had walked with ease and never thought twice about the miracle of putting one foot in front of the other and pushing the world towards you.”

The things we take for granted…


Buy Odd And The Frost Giants h/c and read the Page 45 review here

From Under Mountains s/c (£13-99, Image) by Claire Gibson, Marian Churchland & Sloane Leong.

Brotherfrom-under-mountains-collected-cover Marcellus to his sister Elena about their father, Lord Crowe, from astride his snorting steed:

“Have you asked him about your trip yet?”
“I’m putting it off so I can pretend he might say yes.”
“I’ve been to Menkha a dozen times. I don’t see why you can’t.”
“Don’t you?”
“He might let you come along with me in the spring. I’ll bring it up when I get back.”

Marcellus charges out into the sunlit desert beyond the thick-stoned keep.

“Close the gates.”

Conceived by the creator of BEAST, it’s no surprise that this too deals in part with the dismissal of women in a patriarchal society. Here we have one that’s feudal, and the fact that Elena springs from nobility empowers her not one jot, her father seeing no more in her future than a strategically advantageous marriage. After reading the opening chapter, you might wonder if the House of Karsgate has much of a future.


Its Volan neighbours are encroaching increasingly on Karsgate territory, the goblin race which holds the balance of power appears to be reneging on their treaty, while the keep itself will be infiltrated tonight by an intrepid thief Tova; and although she thought she’d be alone in that, she won’t be. Something else has been set free by a summoning which takes place well beyond those walls.

Born of fire and a frenzy of hands under a low red moon, it is both ethereal yet as weighty as the words which have bound it, and “the rune that breaks the steel of men”. It is luminous in blue and purple and is given a ceremonial knife…


Claire Gibson’s script is indeed well weighted and nothing whatsoever is extraneous.

“Every decision you make must have your full attention, no matter how small,” cautions Marcellus’ father, Lord Crowe. The same could be said of every word Gibson’s written, and Lord Crowe would do to heed them himself, for throughout this book he will fail to appreciate that he has a daughter at all. This will lead him to make fatal mistakes, just as he made a fateful one through pride and arrogance a long time ago.


As Elena attempts to confront her father on her lack of opportunity to learn through travel, birds flap about the sky, not coincidentally, mostly off-panel. There’s quite a lot of Paul Pope in Leong’s faces, while her warm, glowing colours are rich and redolent of the East. A lot of attention has been given from the get-go by Marian herself to the various classes’ costume designs reprinted in the back along with landscape double-page spreads by MULTIPLE WARHEADS’ and KING CITY’ Brandon Graham, while you’ve a map you help navigate by at the front.


Plenty more politics to come – gender, domestic and state – including pragmatic but empowering words of advice from Elena’s aunt, Lady Ure, and a Council which may not be sending the help Lord Crowe thinks he’s received to negotiate with the goblin Mausgol.


Buy From Under Mountains s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Becoming Andy Warhol (£15-99, Abrams Comic Arts) by Nick Bertozzi & Pierce Hargan.


That’s a perfectly judged cover, the relevance of its silver ink becoming clear within the graphic novel itself. Meanwhile, it’s silver screen time.

“So what do I do, Andy? Read a script?”
“Just do anything. Or nothing… Just try to look fantastic.”

You could consider this lack of structure to be a liberating flexibility, Andy trusting his actor / models to be fabulous: a freeform study. Alternatively you could view it as hollow, lazy, clueless and superficial – a bit like Andy’s attitude to friendships. There’s nothing quite like nailing your colours to the wall early on in a review, is there?

“Hi, John…
“We’re in Nebraska or New Mexico or something.
“We decided to drive to LA.
“I guess I forgot to tell you.”

They’re sleeping together.

Throughout Warhol is depicted as careless and callous – and by “careless” I mean he simply doesn’t care. His attitude to almost everything is one long, shrug. I’d be almost surprised if he hadn’t invented “Whatever”.

“Oh, hi, John.”
“We were supposed to meet for dinner tonight!”
“Oh, right. Well, I got busy with this meeting.”

The meeting he’s currently in with Henry Geldzahler, seen earlier coaching Warhol’s contrary interview technique. It’s an honest explanation, but that’s all it is. There’s no apology, no of hint of contrition. That would require a teaspoon of empathy. Warhol dismissed people once he grew bored with them. Actually that would require some effort. Instead he lets them walk away, humiliated.

And, as we’ll see, Warhol was very easily bored.

“This is Billy. The young man who helped Andy set up the show.”
“Actually, I set up the show.”
“Of course. But along Warhol’s guidelines.”
“Not really. He just said put them up in rows.”

It’s good to delegate.

“Andy, you wanna check over the colours?”
“Gosh, you’re all doing such a great job. Choose whichever one.”


As the book opens in 1962 Warhol is bored of drawing shoes. He’s bored of the whole illustration process, farming it out to his original assistant Nathan.

“Okay, so, Andy. Just prime the colours for the illo, then?”
“Sure, but maybe just do the whole thing, Nathan. You’re so good at getting my style. Make it ‘Warhol’.”

No one lasts long in Warhol’s bitchy circle during these two years which lead to 1964’s World’s Fair and architect Philip Johnson’s commission of a 20 x 20 foot mural to be hung on the New York State Pavilion. It’s a high profile gig. Warhol initially comprehends its magnitude – its importance to his career – and makes some effort to appear grateful. But, true to character, he lets his end of the bargain slide until the last minute before coming up with two successive ideas which infuriate Johnson, the first without any thought to the context of the commission or even its completion, the second wilfully antagonistic. Then there’s the third and final solution…


Please don’t take my antipathy towards Warhol the vain, affected, work-shy, fame-craving, disloyal, emotional vacuum of a man for a dismissal of his work as an originator of ideas. I certainly rate his pop-art creativity inexpressibly more than I do Roy Lichtenstein’s parasitic pap. Although ideas plural might be stretching it, there is at least a consistency between repeating identical images or variations on that theme in a single exhibition then repeating that process for subsequent exhibitions. And indeed a consistency in repeatedly throwing away whomever he grew bored of like Kleenex.

Consistency is one of this graphic novel’s greatest virtues. Never once does Bertozzi’s Warhol speak out of carefully studied character. His dialogue – on occasions artfully drawn from filmed interviews – is such an accurate evocation of Andy’s vapid mumbling that I could hear his inertia in my head.

Hargan had me convinced I was watching him, too. Every single individual within each frame is immediately identifiable, especially Taylor Mead and Warhol himself, fey and pallid, with his equally inarticulate, immutably inexpressive mask complete with sunglasses even after dark.

In addition, there’s something appropriately boyish about Hargan’s expressions and figures (especially during the one temper tantrum Warhol can muster) which I strongly suspect must stem from a love of THIEVES & KINGS’ Mark Oakley, who I’ve always felt would make yet another perfect illustrator for Peter Pan.

Together they convey so successfully the art of giving nothing away that you can comprehend its widespread allure. But what Bertozzi intended above all is to give you a glimpse behind those sunglasses, behind the reputation, to the heart and soul of the man. Mission accomplished: he had neither.

For more Andy Warhol in comics – and it really is a pitch-perfection impression – please see Neil Gaiman & Mark Buckingham’s MIRACLEMAN: THE GOLDEN AGE.


Buy Becoming Andy Warhol and read the Page 45 review here

Picnoleptic Inertia (£12-99, Breakdown Press) by Tsemberlidis…

Wow. picno-coverTo make any sense of what is easily the most ‘out there’ comic I have read this year, you probably need to have some understanding of the title.  Picnolepsy would be a state where the mind and body could be said to be not functioning as a whole. For example, a simple daydream, or perhaps a medical episode such as an epilepsy seizure, or indeed even absolute, all-consuming  concentration on a task, such as texting on your smartphone whilst meandering down a busy street, oblivious to the rest of the irritated world around you…

In other words, temporary mental absence or disconnection from one’s physical self. Often, particularly with daydreams, the picnoleptic event is clearly extremely transitory. I suspect the inertia part of the title is referring to the fact that this intensely, psychologically perturbing sequence of short stories should be viewed as one extended picnoleptic episode. Given the cyclical nature of the entire work, it makes sense, though it’s about the only thing that does!


It feels like Tsemberlidis, off his head on salvia divinorum, has climbed inside your mind’s eye armed only with a black biro and a trembling hand, and is perched precariously atop your pineal gland, frantically stabbing out join-the-dots scenes on the spongy canvas of your recoiling brain. This is one of the most surreal metaphysical trips I’ve been taken on for some time. It’s as disturbing as it is enlightening, particularly the ending… I have literally just realised what the dramatic conclusion probably actually means whilst typing this review and whilst it’s offset the extremely strange feeling I was left with, slightly, I feel… well, yes, disturbed.

Can you tell I loved it?


On the same publishing imprint as GARDENS OF GLASS by Lando, which is as equally bizarre as this work, in a not-altogether dissimilar black and white, ultra-minimal style, I’m therefore not entirely surprised to learn that Tsermberlidis and Lando are the co-founders of Breakdown Press. That may very well be because no one else would publish them, the crackpots, but all power to them for doing it anyway!

There is so much going on here visually, astonishing given the minimalism, that it does indeed feel like you are being squeezed through a pinhole camera obscura into some other distorted, compressed, concentrated hyper-reality. It is psychedelic enough without any need whatsoever for colours. I think colouring would detract from the power of it, actually.


It is, also, I think, chock full of great little nods to popular culture. There’s definitely a knowing wink to THE INCAL, I believe also the beginning of the truly insane HEAVY METAL 1981 film (which, thinking about it, does contain certain picnoleptic elements), plus Alan Moore’s PROMETHEA, and I am pretty sure I even spotted a wireframe space station from the classic 1980s video game Elite in one space scene! It’s just too distinct a shape for it not to be that. I am sure there are many more such nods, I certainly felt a few twitching at the corners of my consciousness which I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

At this point, you’re either thinking, I have to buy this immediately, or more likely, about to break free from the daydream, or should I say, PICNOLEPTIC INERTIA, you’ve slipped into whilst I’ve been rambling on, and move on to the undoubtedly more coherent next review…


Buy Picnoleptic Inertia and read the Page 45 review here

Blame! Vol 1 (Master Edition) (£26-99, Viz) by Tsutomu Nihei…

You know blame-vol-1-coverwhat I was saying about a more coherent review…

Before the hyper-kinetic BIOMEGA and the supra-chlorophyllic space odyssey KNIGHTS OF SIDONIA there was BLAME! Actually, it’s apparently pronounced Blam, as in gunfire, which has to make you wonder why they didn’t just call it that. Plus surely it would have been a moderately onomatopoeic title, rather than a bizarrely irrelevant one? Though my phonetic pedantry might be slightly coloured by the fact I have spent many a moment recently explaining to a bemused 5 year old why the phonetic sounds she has been learning for all the alphabet don’t actually translate perfectly to how words sound… But then Tsutomu Nihei’s works don’t tend to make complete sense either, he’s more of an action man, whom I suspect might be prone to screaming “BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!” in the ear of his inking assistant whilst they’re working on a particularly frenetic scene just to help them get into the mood…


Yes, as part of the current generation of denshoushas of Japanese cyber-punk manga, on a par with Hiroya GANTZ / INUYASHIKI Oku in my mind, following in the blazing trail left by Katsuhiro AKIRA / DOMU Otomo and Masamune Shirow, Tsutomu Nihei takes no prisoners whatsoever when it comes to helping his readers understand what the hell is going on in his works. I can’t help but admire that almost autistic blinkered approach. You wouldn’t want it all the time, but it’s a refreshing change occasionally, particularly in the speculative fiction genre. He did do a similarly austere Wolverine mini-series for Marvel where Logan gets flung forward to 2038 a few years back (that’s now long out of print) which Stan Lee was probably twitching uncontrollably to add some dialogue to.


Nihei just loves hi-tech weaponry, especially big guns, has a definite penchant for villains that have been infected by weird mutating techno-organic viruses, and utilises vast chaotic super-structures for his story settings. As a student of architecture, he clearly likes to make good use of what precise draughtsmanship he’s learnt in that respect for his backgrounds, which are always in complete juxtaposition to the utterly chaotic full-on mayhem going on in the foreground.

Fans of Nihei will clearly see the huge influence this series has on BIOMEGA and KNIGHTS OF SIDONIA. The foreground art isn’t quite as polished at this point in his career, but it’s still extremely impressive. It has as barebones a plot and dialogue as BIOMEGA, but again, that’s not really why people buy his stuff. Personally, I prefer KNIGHTS OF SIDONIA as it is a more sophisticated story, but this is absolutely cyber-punk manga at its most direct and forceful.


I suppose I should give you a little plot summary to finish as BLAME! is most definitely a great manga in its own right, where lone wolf Killy wanders “The City”, a huge, randomly expanding super-structure that began on Earth and may well now be bigger than the size of a Dyson Sphere, but certainly extending past Jupiter. Armed with his trusty Gravitational Beam Emitter (a VERY big gun basically), he’s looking for any surviving humans with a particular genetic marker that will allow them to access the “Netsphere”, to take back control of the computer network of The City. Along the way he’ll repeatedly encounter the techno-organic mutated Safeguard, who view any humans without the Net Terminal Gene – which is most of them – as a threat to be extinguished on sight. With that now said, it’s time to lock and load and away we go!


Buy Blame! Vol 1 (Master Edition)and read the Page 45 review here

Wonder Woman: The True Amazon h/c (£20-99, DC) by Jill Thompson…

“Diana grew from adorable baby to lovely girl as if overnight.
“The tears of the Gods had enchanted this girl and she possessed beauty, intelligence, strength and wondrous powers.
“Handsome and graceful with thick flowing hair, she mesmerised all who met her.
“Weavers spun ethereal threads and tailors stitched night and day to design her the most delicate of robes.
“Clever thinkers invented machines to amuse her.
“Sweet delights were served to her on golden platters at every meal.
“Musicians composed melodies to serenade her as she played or slept.
“Gardeners grew the flowers that were most pleasing to her nose.
“Theatrical performances were created in her honour…
“… and no one ever told her “no.””

Oh dear.

“So the beautiful princess who was so doted upon not only was striking and elegant, but also conceited and arrogant, as well.”


Yes, before the Amazonian Wonder Woman who – as Jill so eloquently puts it towards the conclusion of this exquisitely beautiful exploration of Diana’s early years – ‘wanders the world, defending the weak, righting wrongs and fighting evil’, there was a right over-indulged spoilt little madam. Which in a small child is perhaps mildly amusing, at times at least (especially if they’re not your own), but not in a full-grown woman.

No, such character traits, if unchecked or unameliorated by adulthood, are obviously going to lead to the tears of many a person, not just the brat themselves when their every whim isn’t catered for instantly.  And so it proves here with disastrous consequences for the delightful denizens of the hidden isle of Themyscira, as there are some very valuable life lessons which are belatedly going to have to be learnt the hard way…


But first Jill recounts just how the Queen Hippolyta and her Amazons came to sequester themselves away from mankind, Hippolyta’s poignant longing for a child, and the Gods’ answer to that fervent clarion call of desire. It’s a version that will satisfy the comic purists and the scholars of classics alike, told as it is with an elegance and grace to match Jill’s glorious watercolour painted artwork, particularly the Mediterranean palette of olive, terracota and aquamarine divinely invoking the heady sensations of an endless summer in paradise. Why would anyone leave such a veritable heaven on earth to brave the base outside world with all its sins and suffering…?

Fans of Jill’s SCARY GODMOTHER and BEAST OF BURDEN material, and also her take another comics classic, the Sandman and his family, with the hilarious THE LITTLE ENDLESS STORYBOOK and DELIRIUM’S PARTY, will know precisely what to expect. But for people, perhaps Wonder Woman fans, new to Jill’s majestic touch with the brushes and indeed lyrical weaving of words, I think it will be quite the revelation. There’s a fantastic few extra pages of process (I would have loved more!) at the end where she takes us through from pencils to finished colours on a few pages, and it’s quite the visual feast.



Buy Wonder Woman: The True Amazon 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.

Black Dog: The Dreams Of Paul Nash Limited Edition Hardcover (£71-99, Dark Horse) by Dave McKean

Black Dog: The Dreams Of Paul Nash s/c (£22-99, Dark Horse) by Dave McKean

Giant Days vol 3 (£13-99, Boom) by John Allison & Max Sarin

Trees vol 2 s/c (£11-99, Image) by Warren Ellis & Jason Howard

Troll Bridge (£12-99, Headline) by Neil Gaiman & Colleen Doran

The Wicked + Divine vol 4: Rising Action s/c (£13-99, Image) by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie

We Found A Hat h/c (£12-99, Walker Books) by Jon Klassen

Black Road vol 1: The Holy North (£8-99, Image) by Brian Wood & Garry Brown

Garden Of Flesh (£8-99, Fantagraphics) by Gilbert Hernandez

Head Lopper vol 1: Island Or A Plague Of Beasts (£14-99, Image) by Andrew Maclean

Last Look (£18-99, Jonathan Cape) by Charles Burns

Low vol 3: Shore Of The Dying Light (£13-99, Image) by Rick Remender & Greg Tocchini

The Marionette Unit (£12-99, TMU Workshop) by Azhur Saleem & Warwick Johnson-Cadwell

Meanderings (£4-00, Throwaway Press) by Matthew Dooley

Notes On A Thesis (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Tiphaine Riviere

Paul Up North (£15-99, Conundrum) by Michel Rabagliati

The Secret Loves Of Geek Girls (£13-99, Dark Horse) by various including Mariko Tamaki, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Marjorie Liu, Margaret Atwood, Jen Vaughn

Shame – Collected Trilogy h/c (£26-99, Renegade) by Lovern Kindzierski & John Bolton

Tetris – The Games People Play (£12-99, SelfMadeHero) by Box Brown

Thought Bubble Anthology Collection – 10 Years Of Comics (£8-99, Image) by various including Warren Ellis, Rick Remender, Fabio Moon, Gabriel Ba, Duncan Fegredo, Becky Cloonan, Sean Phillips, Charlie Adlard, Emma Rios

Trayaurus and the Enchanted Crystal (£14-99, Trapeze) by DanTDM

Wolf vol 2: Apocalypse Soon (£13-99, Image) by Ales Kot & Ricardo Lopez Ortiz

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up Marvel Universe h/c (£22-99, Marvel) by Ryan North & Erica Henderson

Vote Loki s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Christopher Hastings & Langdon Foss, Paul McCaffrey

Fruits Basket Collector’s Edition vol 5 (£14-99, Yen Press) by Natsuki Takaya



ITEM! Tillie Walden, recent recipient of two Ignatz Awards and creator of A CITY INSIDE and I LOVE THIS PART, has just launched her new web comic ON A SUNBEAM for free online!

Needless to say, it is beautiful!

Tillie will be signing in Page 45’s Georgian Room at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 on both Saturday 15th and Sunday 16th October.

For there follows another great big plug….

ITEM! NOW INCLUDES JOHN MARTZ!                          

The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 is little more than a week away (October 14-16) and we’ve published the Page 45 blog starring creators signing with Page 45 there FOR FREE:

Adam Brockbank,Fade Out vol 2 3
Ben Haggarty,
Bryan Lee O’Malley,
Dan Berry,
Dave McKean,
Emma Vieceli,
Felt Mistress,
Hannah Berry,
Isabel Greenberg,
John Martz,
Jonathan Edwards,
Katriona Chapman,
Paul Thomas,
Sean Phillips,
Tillie Walden,
Tom Gauld

… and the magnificent Avery Hill Publishing!

You’ll find details of their signing times on that Page 45 LICAF 2016 blog, and so much more, including all the links you could want to the Festival itself.

ITEM! Under last week’s Page 45 Reviews (September 2016 week four) we detailed all the LICAF merchandise that would be on sale alongside our own glorious graphic novels including exclusive prints by Hannah Berry, Sean Phillips, Charlie Adlard and Duncan Fegredo.


We’ll also be launching LICAF’s all-ages CARROT TO THE STARS graphic novel, reviewed above and pictured above.

We would remind you that Page 45 accepts both cash and credit cards at LICAF, and we’ve made upgrades to our till this year to make the process swifter for you and safer for us. Like a till drawer which shuts.

Jinks & OHare for blog

ITEM! This is the first year that the legendary Sarah McIntrye has been unable to appear with Page 45 in our Georgian Room. Last year Sarah was even joined by co-creator Philip Reeve to sign their PUGS OF THE FROZEN NORTH, OLIVER AND THE SEAWIGS and CAKES IN SPACE!

1 Seawigs sketched

Sarah and I could not bear to disappoint the loyal following of families she’s built up at the Festival so Page 45 will be bringing the brand-new JINKS & O’HARE FUNFAIR REPAIR… and Sarah in spirit! How…? Sarah has very generously drawn four original sketches which we will give out FREE OF CHARGE to the first families to buy a copy or twelve of JINKS & O’HARE FUNFAIR REPAIR during the weekend and who then declare:

“I read your blog, and I’ve got a sprog!”

Terms & Conditions: Adults must be accompanied by a child (which is a nice twist, don’t you think? This is such a family-friendly festival!). Also, the rhyme above is mandatory.


ITEM! You’ve just one week left to order whichever graphic novels you fancy for free collection in Kendal at LICAF. We’ll be bringing along our own selections, obviously, but you can order any of our 7,000 different graphic novels right now, so you don’t have hope that we’re mind-readers.

I don’t know if that’s a democratic upgrade or a capitalist expansion.

Either way, details (surprising no one) are on that Page 45 LICAF 2016 blog.

Pick Up In Kendal

– Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews September 2016 week four

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016

More Lakes International Comic Art Festival news beneath reviews and New Books list! Limited edition prints exclusive to LICAF and more!

Mooncop h/c (£12-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Tom Gauld…

“Living on the moon . . . Whatever were we thinking? . . . It seems so silly now.”

I think that may well be about 5% of the entire text in this most laconic of pithy odes to a future that’s been and gone, much like practically all the lunar population! To be honest, it never really happened.

Britain’s doyen of deadpan comic humour returns with this existential examination of the isolation of a lonely lunar plod, patrolling his meteor-pitted manor in the vain hope of finding anything remotely amiss.

It’s a rather solitary existence, punctuated primarily by his daily trip to the doughnut and coffee dispenser. A lost robo-dog provides a brief burst of, well, excitement would probably be taking it too far, but at least it provides the chance for some momentary interaction with the rapidly dwindling inhabitants. For those that still remain are rapidly upping sticks and heading back to the hustle and bustle of mother Earth.


Our trusty bobby would love to join them, but his request for a transfer is denied, on the grounds of his impressive, 100% successful crime solution rate! Given that no crimes are ever committed in the rarefied confines up there, it’s looking somewhat unlikely it’s ever going to dip far enough to warrant his own collar being felt and get recalled back home for poor performance. Oh dear.


This is a wonderfully wistful, melancholic musing on how the future might not bring us quite what we want or expect, particularly if technology is involved somehow. It’s good to see computers haven’t got any more reliable years from now! It’s very low-key, meditative stuff from Tom this work, especially given some of the satirical bite he’s more famous for in his strips, of which there is a fantastical selection of online at the Guardian HERE, and in the excellent print collection YOU’RE ALL JUST JEALOUS OF MY JETPACK.


Like Gauld’s GOLIATH, there is a tremendously impressive sense of space here, enhanced and extended by the overwhelming silence. There are very few landmarks. It’s mostly just blue, blue vacuum although, hilariously, there is the odd, single palm tree isolated in its own bell jar.



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

Snow White: A Graphic Novel h/c (£17-99, Candlewick Press) by Matt Phelan.

“I, uh… I’m not feeling up to snuff. You go on without me.”
“I shall.”

Ominous, much? If looks could kill…

Camille Rose Garcia’s rendition of SNOW WHITE has proved a monumentally popular book here, its traditional prose illustrated with real relish.

The marked departure of Matt Phelan’s new graphic novel is immediately apparent for it opens with Snow White lying “in state” in the winter wonderland window display of a major New York department store circa 1930.

What Phelan has so cleverly done is use the past as a fantasy world of its own. And it is, when you think about it, for much is not as we now know it.


Here the seven dwarves are still small but are street urchins, almost Dickensian in aspect, self-reliant, thick as thieves and initially not half so welcoming as their progenitors of this seemingly affluent heiress. But although this iteration’s wicked step-mother is, as ever, raging with jealousy at her step-daughter’s beauty, it’s her inheritance she truly covets after doing away with her Dad.

This is the Great Depression, and it is all about money.

The widowed father is the King of Wall Street, one of the few whose wealth has successfully survived the market crash through studious attention and wise investment. Once an anonymous chorus girl, she is now Queen of Broadway, glamour personified, and her stage entrance atop a multi-tiered crystalline marvel is spellbinding.


The old man is awe-struck, dumb-struck, smitten, bewitched. Her own painted face is pure, chic and serene… until she opens her eyes. Her mouth twitches at the corner and her eyebrows arch in the very picture of predatory guile.

It is the book’s greatest flourish and it is faultless.



There are pages, I own, where more contrast in light would have made elements clearer, but the predominantly washed-out aspects enhance the ethereal atmosphere and so fantastical element. The greys and sepias reflect the photography of the time and in that way our sense of it, colour being reserved for… well, you know the key components of the story yourself. Some things never change.

As to the step-mother’s chosen assassin, this is a world without huntsmen so where could he possibly come from? That’s cleverly calculated in the context of this setting, as is his motivation for betraying his Mistress – in a single foreshadowing panel. That’s a moment which would stick long in the craw of any woman or man.


The story is told in the form of short scenes, sparse in dialogue, picture-driven instead. That lends emphasis both to what little is said and to the only extended conversations – between those who are honest with each other.

Throughout, of course and almost inevitably, the step-mother remains the star. Her eventual fate is once again entirely apposite both in this relatively modern setting and her own source of vanity, but before we get there her eyes, full of seething hatred, will burn deep into your own just as they did in Walt Disney’s animation classic.

”Snow will fall,” pronounced the youtube trailer. And she does.


Buy Snow White: A Graphic Novel h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Cat Rackham h/c (£17-99, Koyama Press) by Steve Wolfhard.

Poor Cat Rackham!

Sometimes he’s Too Sad To Sleep. He lies on his side, tears streaming down his face, matting his fur, until a gentle duck soothes him with a “Shhhh…”

“Shhhh…” she or he sings, patting Cat Rackham’s poor, tired head. Then the duck sits on his face – nests on his noggin – and Cat Rackham falls sound asleep.

Eight panels, simple but affecting, and thoroughly cute.

In a three-page episode Cat Rackham Tosses And Turns late into the night by a camp fire and pulls off his jumper. A spider descends, disappearing into its folds. Gradually the fire burns low, then out and it grows very cold. Cat Rackham reaches for his jumper. The final, single, daylight morning panel is hilarious. Superb timing.


The strip I have for you here is Cat Rackham Gets Depression. Initially enchanted by the fluttering-by of a bright, white butterfly, once all alone he is seized by inertia. His body lists, leans over until he lies on the ground, open-eyed, motionless, quite, quite paralysed by depression. Night falls. Morning breaks. Spring arrives, autumn falls, then winter comes too, as time accelerates in ROBOT DREAMS fashion and Cat Rackham is buried under a thick blanket of snow.




When the snow melts Cat Rackham awakens to the tiny sound of two love bugs making out.

This pleases Cat Rackham enormously.

Now, everything so far is ever so gentle and cute. He even has his ear licked by a deer.




But if you read the interview with Steve Wolfhard conducted by his wife, it will colour each one of those strips ever so slightly and perhaps make them even more affecting for you.

And the colours are delightful. Fresh as a daisy.

None of this, however, prepared me for the central, extended story when Cat Rackham is sent in search of coffee by exuberant Jeremy The Squirrel and finds himself adopted by a little old lady. Except she’s not very little. Her dressing gown bulges as if under pressure from tumours. They are not tumours. And suddenly we’re in transgressive, Fantagraphics territory.



Buy Cat Rackham h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Velvet vol 3: The Man Who Stole The World s/c (£13-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Steve Epting with Elizabeth Breitweiser.

“I didn’t believe that Frank Lancaster had killed X-14…
“So I looked into it… and my entire life fell apart.”

In which the period-perfect espionage thriller concludes its first story arc, and it will finally be revealed exactly who has been using whom, and why. Just not here.

What I’ve never done is tell you how I sell this series on our shop floor, with aid of Epting and Breitweiser’s exceptionally sleek and thrilling interior art. So let’s do that thing.

1973. There is an international espionage agency called ARC-7 so secret that most other ops don’t even know it exists. Its agents are so effective that the chances of any of them being taken out in the field are minimal. As VELVET opens, one of their very finest is taken out in the field.

Immediately an inside job is suspected and all fingers point to Frank Lancaster. But Velveteen Templeton, the Director’s secretary, has doubts. A former field agent herself, she suspects it’s a set-up.

It is. But what Templeton doesn’t realise is that she’s being set up to believe it’s a set-up and so get set up herself.


On the run from her own agency, Templeton has been desperately retracing assassinated Agent X-14’s steps and contacts across Eastern Europe while cross-referencing what she discovers with her own substantial and at times painful history in order to work out why X-14 was murdered from within. What had he stumbled upon in America that made him such a threat? Was it the same thing that her husband discovered? Because he too was set up and Templeton took the fall so far for it that she almost didn’t recover.


With only one lead left alive to follow, Templeton believes she has no choice but to take the fight back to America, even though she knows that the second she sets foot on its shores alarm bells will start ringing. She’s counting on it.

“Every move I make from now on has to be two moves.”

Sometimes you won’t see the second move coming; often you won’t have seen the first move being made.

Velvet vol 2 3

I can’t take you any further with the story, so let’s talk about the art.

Firstly, I love that Velvet shows her age. It’s not just the thick, white streak of maturity in her sable hair, it’s in the eyes that have seen too much and the suggestion of extra flesh around her mouth which put me in mind of Terry Moore’s RACHEL RISING. There was an American TV company desperate to sign the series… if Brubaker would just agree to Templeton being in her mid-20s, thereby missing both the point and the plot.

In addition, her body language changes when undercover as a temp in Paris, her hair dyed grey to fade into the background. She holds a file modestly and meekly to her chest. When she brings a tray of tea to the investment manager’s desk, she’s slightly hunched in high heels.


As to “period perfect”, it’s not just in the fashion of fabrics, though the black bathing suit in VELVET VOL 1 during the flashback to 1950s Bermuda was a masterpiece, its white stripe anticipating the streak which will appear in Velveteen’s hair. It’s also evident in the hotel room furnishings, the bar tops, aircraft interiors, office spaces, shop windows, fly-posters and the cars with their polished chrome.




From the writer of THE FADE OUT, CRIMINAL, KILL OR BE KILLED and FATALE, this is just as smart and satisfying.


Buy Velvet vol 3: The Man Who Stole The World s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Arab Of The Future vol 2: 1984-1985 (£18-99, Two Roads) by Riad Sattouf.

I promise you, this is an English translation; I’ve only been able to find French language interior art!

“Christians? Pfft. What’s the point in being Christian in a Muslim country? It’s just a provocation… When you live in a Muslim country, you should do as the Muslims do… It’s not complicated. Just convert to Islam and you’ll be fine…”

One of my favourite pronouncements from Riad’s Dad in THE ARAB OF THE FUTURE VOL 1, it’s typical of the man’s engagingly ridiculous reductions of complex situations to simplistic solutions in search of an easy life.

Most of the comparisons I see bandied about by the likes of the Observer / Guardian are to Spiegelman, Satrapi and Sacco, but Sattouf’s recollections are far closer in tone to Guy Delisle’s equally entertaining PYONGYANG, SHENZHEN, BURMA CHRONICLES and JERUSALEM, in that they’re more observations of individual human quirks and habits or societal customs and behaviour, all seen through the eye of a wide-eyed six-year-old growing up in Syria, but with the added reflection of a more experienced adult.


It’s by no means big bundle of laughs from start to finish. Even within his father’s extended Syrian family there will be some pretty grim encounters and if you thought your first few days at school were a nightmare, Riad’s trepidation proves completely justified. But it is overwhelmingly an entertainment, as signalled by the art with its curvaceous cartoon forms, gesticulations and expressions.


It’s those very skills which flip that first term at school from horrific to mesmerising for the book’s audience, lucky as we are to be viewing from afar, not just in the playground but in class itself, for the teacher is visually riveting. A woman of imposing stature, her face is as soft as her voice, full of love and devotion towards her country and country… until it isn’t, and the entire panel flames red. In addition her garb is a curious combination of modesty and flesh, wearing a hijab above and a very tight, very short shirt exposing her thick, muscular legs and huge, bulging calves atop pencil-thin high heels. She commands the attention of the reader as much as she undoubtedly would have the pupils. Woe betide any for whom that wasn’t the case.


Riad is shown paralysed, utterly subjugated by his situation.

There’s so much more to learn alongside the lad, for he’s new to both the world and to the country, his outsider status compounded by his startling blonde hair inherited from his French mother which is taken by one of his cousins in particular as a sure sign that Riad is Jewish. This is far from good news if you’re growing up in Syria.

As the memoir progresses we’re introduced to more affluent areas of the country, but although his father is comparatively well off, having secured a position at Damascus University, he chooses – to his credit – to set up home in the desperately impoverished village of Ter Maaleh close to the barely more affluent town of Homs in order to be close to his family. Not all of whom feel or act close to him. Both his mother and elderly half-sister whom we meet later adore him, but the men are another matter completely.

Construction is not the country’s forte: you’ll find cracks everywhere, even throughout the more lavish villas. Against all evidence, Riad’s forever daydreaming Dad enjoys the delusion that his villa will be built with superior craftsmanship – if it’s ever built at all. That would require both action and expenditure, neither of which is in his nature.

During the family’s first ever holiday by the sea, he doesn’t want to stray further than their balcony.

“Given how much it costs we should make the most of our room.”

Then there are the rare words of wisdom he issues after a gang of holiday makers rise up from a swimming pool to ransack a stall selling overpriced inflatable rings in its vendor’s absence. Riad wants one too and suggests that they must be free if everyone’s making off with them.

“We’re not thieves. And just because everyone does something, that doesn’t mean you should do it, too.”

Tellingly, however, this constitutes a dissuasive instruction, not one designed to galvanise his son into action. Confronted with stark inequalities or even serious injustices, his mantra remains “That’s life…”

It’s only after a year or so of moving to Syria and their starkly under-furnished home (with its attendant cracks, of course), that he reluctantly shells out for a washing machine and a stove, after Riad’s surprisingly stoical Mum has had to make do with cooking on a camping stove set on the floor. Paying the price for French food is an annual luxury, and when buying his son’s school uniform he opts not for one made of actual cloth with a belt, but the cheap, plastic version whose fake belt is painted on!


This he justifies with the seemingly sage observation that uniforms are a great equaliser, and in others I’d suspect the sacrifice of pride in order to appear as poor as other parents would be honest and noble. But he buys Riad a book bag with pockets which Sattouf renders in lurid green, setting him exceptionally apart from his classmates who carry their pencils around in thin carrier bags.

It’s a fascinating upbringing, full of so much which may seem alien, odd and sometimes outright awful, but we’ve all of us been children and, even if the contexts are different, you’ll find far more in common with this than you might at first imagine. Perhaps I should presume. I certainly found far more in common with these experiences that I first imagine: dreading my first days at three different schools; being proved right twice; humiliating inability to summon any coordination or sports skills (I was briefly nicknamed Sebastian un-Coe); terrifying encounters with kids outside my social experience; bewildering, wrong-headed, paternal epithets; the thrill of early holidays; leaning to draw, and a love of new languages, partly through TINTIN.


Buy The Arab Of The Future vol 2: 1984-1985 and read the Page 45 review here

Jerusalem h/c and Jerusalem s/c (3 volume Slipcase Edition) (£25-00 each, Knockabout) by Alan Moore.

Alan Moore’s VOICE OF THE FIRE was one of the most imaginative prose books I’ve ever read, with a real love of language, exposing the temporal strata of a single geographical location (Northampton) and mapping their interconnections through a series of first-person narratives with vastly different perspectives.

This too is prose, set in Northampton and deals with time.

Quite how I won’t know for some weeks or months for this is nearly 1,200 pages long and I am an excruciatingly slow reader.

We will have a review for you eventually but, in lieu of that for the moment, we’ve three interviews for you, the first of which is by David Marchese discussing JERUSALEM, the working class, Donald Trump, Brexit and Athenian Democracy.

It begins, hilariously, with this.

“You’ve said in the past that an artist’s job is to give audiences what they need, not what they want. What audience need is being filled by a thousand-plus-page modernist novel built on the idea that all time is happening at the same time?”
“That’s easy. One of the needs it’s filling is for an alternative way of looking at life and death. I have a lot of very dear rationalist, atheist friends who accept that having a higher belief system is good for you — you probably live longer if you have one. You’re probably happier. So I wanted to come up with a secular theory of the afterlife. As far as I can see, and as far as Einstein could see, what I describe in the book looks like a fairly safe option in terms of its actual possibility.”

“Which is that everything that can happen has already happened?”

“So we’ve already had this conversation?”
“It’s probably more accurate to say we’re always having this conversation. We relive it over and over again, and it’s always the same.”

“Then let me retroactively and pre-emptively apologize for that.”
“It does feel like the conversation’s gone on a bit, doesn’t it?”

Both editions appearing to be selling in equal quantities at the moment here, but I personally am plumping for the slipcased softcover set on account of the portability of its component parts and their swoonaway covers as seen above.

The rest of that interview, you’ll find here:

Then there’s this:

And this:



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

Buy Jerusalem s/c (3 volume Slipcase Edition) and read the Page 45 review here

Power Man And Iron Fist vol 1: The Boys Are Back In Town s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by David Walker & Sanford Greene, Flaviano…

“Are you and him back together again?”
“No, baby. We are not back together. Just gotta take care of this thing.”
“A thing? Okay. Just remember… you’re the one who keeps saying you don’t want to get the band back together.”
“And I don’t. This is just me and him doing what we gotta do.”
“Then go do it. I just don’t want to see any tiara pics. I love you.”
“Love you, too, baby.”

Some people are just destined to end up together, for better or for worse. No matter how times they break up, they are inexorably end up drawn back into each other’s orbit. No, not Luke Cage and Jessica Jones, even though they’ve had their fair share of ups and downs amidst the hustle and bustle of capes, tights and nappies, but Power Man and Iron Fist! Yes, Luke and Danny are back doing their ‘thing’ once more, and that thing is busting heads and wisecracks at the same time. Oh, and trying to retrieve their former Heroes For Hire secretary’s family heirloom. Which just so happens to have ended up in the possession of irascible, rock-hard supervillain Tombstone…


Even though Luke keeps trying to reassure himself this is a one-time ‘thing’, both he and Danny, and indeed a mildly exasperated yet most definitely amused Jessica, know full well the dysfunctional duo ride again once more. At least until poor sales ensure the inevitable cancellation…

Which would be a shame because this is a very funny comic. As funny, dare I say it, as HAWKEYE. It’s the relentless dialogue between the boys, Jessica, and the various bad guys getting a four-handed beatdown that makes it.


Pretty sure I haven’t read anything else this particular writer has done, but so far, the witty repartee wouldn’t look out of place in a Bendis-penned comic. In particular, there is an extremely funny running joke regarding Luke not swearing in front of his and Jessica’s baby where he has to substitute various words instead of cursing. Only to make it stick, he’s doing it all the time, much to Danny’s immense glee…

“Wow, Jessica keeps you on a short leash.”
“We’re not talking ‘bout my relationship with my wife. We’re talking ‘bout the fiddle-faddle favour you committed us to doing.”
“Bet you can’t say fiddle-faddle favour five times fast.”
“Could you stop annoying the fiddle-faddle out of me? Could you do that? Can’t believe we’re doing this.”
“You already said that. Jennie is family.”
“And you said that. Just let me do all the talking. Okay? This guy is a bad knick-knack-paddy-whack.”

Ha, indeed he is. But even the villains like Tombstone get some great lines…

“S’up, Luke. Been a minute. Didn’t know you was back together with Iron Man.”
“Fist. Iron Fist. And we ain’t back together, per se. Just two friends kickin’ it. Good to see you , Lonnie. I like that suit.”


Jump on board the fun train and enjoy the runaway ride before it hits the leaf-encrusted buffers. Very nice art from Sanford Greene too, who I suspect has to be a massive Paul Pope fan.


Buy Power Man And Iron Fist vol 1: The Boys Are Back In Town 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.


A Distant Neighbourhood h/c (£19-99, Fanfare / Ponent Mon) by Jiro Taniguchi

From Under Mountains s/c (£13-99, Image) by Claire Gibson, Marian Churchland & Sloane Leong

Light (£17-99, Magnetic Press) by Rob Cham

Becoming Andy Warhol (£15-99, Abrams Comic Arts) by Nick Bertozzi & Pierce Hargan

Dali (£12-99, SelfMadeHero) by Baudoin

An Unreliable History Of Tattoos (£14-99, Nobrow) by Paul Thomas

Blame! Vol 1 (Master Edition) (£26-99, Biz) by Tsutomu Nihei

Odd And The Frost Giants h/c (£14-99, Bloomsbury) by Neil Gaiman & Chris Riddell

Picnoleptic Inertia (£12-99, Breakdown Press) by Tsemberlidis

Nicolas (£9-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Pascal Girard

Batman Beyond vol 2: City Of Yesterday s/c (£13-99, DC) by Dan Jurgens & Bernard Chang

Superman vol 1: Before Truth s/c (£14-99, DC) by Gene Luen Yang & John Romita, Klaus Janson

Wonder Woman: The True Amazon h/c (£20-99, DC) by Jill Thompson

All New, All Different Avengers vol 2: Family Business s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Adam Kubert, Alan Davis, Mahmud Asrar

Captain America: Sam Wilson vol 2: Standoff s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Nick Spencer & various

Silver Surfer  vol 4: Citizen Of Earth s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott & Mike Allred

Spider-Man: The Complete Clone Saga Show vol 1 s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by various

Dragon Ball 3-in-1 Edition vols 40-42 (£9-99, Viz) by Akira Toriyama

Happiness vol 1 (£9-99, Kodansha) by Shuzo Oshimi

Seraph Of The End, Vampire Reign vol 10 (£6-99, Viz) by Takaya Kagami & Yamato Yamamoto

2000AD Prog 2000 Chris Burnham cover (£3-99, Rebellion) by Earthlets

2000AD Prog 2000 Glenn Fabry cover (£3-99, Rebellion) by the same Perps.


ITEM! The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 is imminent (October 14-16) and we’ve published the Page 45 blog starring:

Adam Brockbank,I Love This Part 1
Ben Haggarty,
Bryan Lee O’Malley,
Dan Berry,
Dave McKean,
Emma Vieceli,
Felt Mistress,
Hannah Berry,
Isabel Greenberg,
Jonathan Edwards,
Katriona Chapman,
Paul Thomas,
Sean Phillips,
Tillie Walden,
Tom Gauld

and the magnificent Avery Hill Publishing…


ITEM! In additional news, however, the following limited merchandise exclusive to LICAF will be on sale in Page 45’s Georgian Room upstairs in the Kendal Clock Tower, with 20% of the proceeds going to OCD Action, the rest to help fund LICAF itself.


Prints at £25 each:

30 x Charlie Adlard Beatrix Potter
30 x Luke McGarry Beatrix Potter
30 x Duncan Fegredo Beatrix Potter
20 x Dave McKean Black Dog signed
20 x Gilbert Shelton festival giclee
20 x Jordi Bernet festival giclee
20 x Ken Niimura festival giclee


Festival lapel badges £2.50 each

Sets of 4 Beatrix Potter Re-Imagined postcards featuring Hannah Berry, Charlie Adlard, Luke McGarry and Duncan Fegredo £2 each

And, wait for it…

25 x Sean Phillips Kill or Be Killed screenprint (50×70) festival variant £50 each


For more of those images, please see page 43 of The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 Programme.

We’ll have another surprise – a graphic novel – for you next week!

–  Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews September 2016 week three

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016: link to our comic creator-crammed blog in the News section below!

Audubon – On The Wings Of The World (£15-99, Nobrow) by Fabien Grolleau & Jérémie Royer.


Every single page inside is bursting with beauty, with the feathered miracles of nature which so obsessed Jean-Jacques Audubon that he abandoned his wife with her blessing to travel throughout the perilous wilds of early 19th-Century North America and draw them in all their vivid glory. Truly the man was driven, and that drive proves infectious here.

435 truly enormous aquatint prints of gobsmacking colour and beauty were the result, collected over an eleven-year period into the ‘Birds Of America’, a gigantic tome of 200 editions, few of which sadly remain intact. In December 2010 one complete collection sold of £7.3 million at Sotherby’s.

Our Jodie Paterson, an exceptional artist in her own right, recalled, “All the birds are life-size: eagles only just fit on the page, while hummingbirds swarm or else would seem lost.” Jodie also noted that there are some nice nods to these paintings throughout this book, not just when we see him in his studio but also, without signposting, as organic parts of the visual narrative, like the passenger pigeons.


The original compositions are startling: so startling that Jean-Jacques Audubon (or John James Audubon, or simply Laforêt) only found favour once he’d travelled to Britain where the art establishment revelled in what to them were extraordinary exotica, the museums of America having roundly rejected the paintings as unscientific.

“What am I to make of this fluttering feather, or the blood on the beak of the Peregrine Falcon?”
“Life, Alexander, is what I aim to represent.”
“As far as I’m concerned, it’s inappropriate for sentimentality to take precedence over the object. But here it’s the other way round. It looks as if it’s going to leap from the page! It’s too ‘romantic’.”
“For goodness’ sake, Wilson! A bird is a living entity, not just lifeless matter!”

Although to be fair, Jean-Jacques, it wasn’t quite so living after you shot it clean out of the sky.

“Yes, I represent my falcon screeching, squawking, pecking at the still-warm entrails of a duck! Devouring its flesh, his beak bloodied Yes! Yes! Yes! Precisely because that is life!”


Audubon made a lot of his drawings from life in situ, but he saw absolutely no conflict between wide-eyed adoration of his living subjects and harvesting them for further, angularly-posed inspection later on. He enjoyed hunting very much. It’s almost comical at times.

“I often say that if I shoot less than 100 birds a day, they must be rare…”


This, it should be remembered, was before Darwin’s time, and there’s an early, eerie sequence back in his adopted home of Louisville, Kentucky, in 1812, when Audubon discovers a colony of swallows – some nine thousand, he calculates – nesting at night in an ancient hollow Sycamore he hacks into by day. He lies in wait for the flock’s return then clambers up amongst them, bagging one hundred specimens for later examination. It’s their seasonal departure en masse by the end of August that confounds him, along with their return to the exact same spot come Spring.

“Such an astonishing mystery…
“It seems that these swallows leave the woods for winter – but where do they go?
“Before winter, I’ll try to mark a few.”




However, it’s his travels which we follow throughout most of the book. With but a guide, an apprentice and his art supplies, he navigates the Mississippi encountering all manner of dangers from the elements to the inhabitants; but he barely notices, for always it is the birds that take precedence, mesmerised as he is by each single sighting, or by the clouds of migrating passenger pigeons, so dense that they almost blot out the sky. Three days, they take to pass – such are their numbers!

The awe with which Audubon regarded the mysteries and majesty of nature would be lost or left weightless were the art in this book anything less than spectacular. On every single instance Jérémie Royer captures that majesty.


There are the flapping, multicoloured flocks in an almost Biblical scene as the three adventurers return to the raft they’d abandoned overnight in the wake of a raging storm to seek sanctuary in a cave… where, naturally, Aubudon seized the opportunity to sketch owls.

There’s that raging storm itself, creeping ominously across the sky as we stare into the sun on the very first, blindingly beautiful page…


… then breaking instantly on the second, the pale light on the horizon all but obliterated by unimaginably vast, rich brown clouds.

Each chapter opens with a full-page panorama: river or sea shots of jaw-dropping splendour and intensity from Missouri to New Orleans. The quality of light is exquisite. It radiates from the heavens, glows through the clouds and it shimmers on the water’s surface, while shafts of it penetrate canopies of leaves to illuminate forest floors and fauna.


Much of this is based on Audubon’s writings, though artistic liberties are documented in the back along with a few reproductions of Audubon’s own art prints pertaining to the graphic novel itself, including the Great-Footed Hawks and the eye-popping (and quite frankly mad) composition of the Carolina Parrots, both of which showcase Audubon’s ability to animate with wings braced for fight or flight.





Buy Audubon – On The Wings Of The World and read the Page 45 review here

Mirror vol 1: The Mountain s/c (£13-99, Image) by Emma Rios & Hwei Lim; Hwei Lim & Emma Rios.

“Nothing is entitled to anything.
“Only humans dream they are.”

This is a story which will give you much pause for thought and, perhaps, hit you hard in your heart.

But it’s also an inspiring tale, an elevating one, during which individuals learn and grow – change or are changed – and adapt. It’s a book of perspectives, as we shall shortly see, partly about man’s proprietorial nature, and humanity’s ability to empathise, think it does, or fails to. It is especially astute and eloquent about how we regard and treat animals – even our environment. Colonists are no more than visitors, after all…

A bright and beautiful comic full of fresh colours and organic designs, to read this is like being given glimpses through an ornate window.

There’s no hand-holding, no unwieldy exposition, just key conversations overheard about dominion, control, captivity, desire to be free, the need to be free and to be both recognised and understood as an individual. You may wish to rewind multiple times, as the narrative does itself, in order to discern precisely what’s at stake. I found reading chapters in reverse order the second time round to be most illuminating and ever so satisfying. Then I went forward again.


The window aspect is emphasised by the arched panel frames on the very first page, then Emma Rios’ illuminations of Hwei Lim’s script for the first of the parallel back-up features called ‘The Hand That Holds The Leash’. It is daubed in purple-blossom washes along with a landscape overlooking the cathedral-like Esagila compound at the heart of the young Irzah Colony. From a distance it looks as though it could have been fashioned from glass.


Come to think about it, Kazbek the scientist too is painted by Rios to resemble shards of glass, reflecting the sky’s lilac colours as he sits calm and relaxed in the open-air gazebo or porch surrounded by the greenery of a substantial garden. Set around page four of the first chapter, Kazbek is being instructed by Elena, chancellor of the Irzah colony, to get rid of “the dog” once it’s recaptured. It’s a dispassionate match of verbal sabres:

“She is much more than a dog.”
“Why do you say so?”
“She truly loves the boy.”
“Heh… nothing knows true love better than a dog…”
“If you think so highly of dogs, why would you have me get rid of her?”
“If you think so highly of dogs, why do you try so hard to make them human?”

Elena concludes with a flourish:

“Yes, I’m being selfish. I’d rather be human and selfish than the noblest of dogs. The hand that holds the leash, not the neck wearing the collar. What about you?”


Our first encounter is a mere five years after the colony’s formation. This prologue is called ‘The Boy And His Dog’. And you would be forgiven for imagining that Sena was a dog to begin with, for young Ivan’s at cheerful play with her. But we’re already fast-forwarding through time between panels as the towering Kazbek interrupts school class, stick clasped behind his back.

“My apologies. I’m in need of Ivan’s assistance again.”

As Kazbek approaches outside, Sena’s delighted bark turns to a growl.

“Come. It is time.”
“Do we have to? She’s not fully recovered yet… “

Notice the cages and lab coats on the very first tier, above.


The Irzah colony was built around the Esagila compound which itself is a spaceship long since vertically anchored, having flown not once since it landed. Why Elena and Kazbek came there, and it what state, I will not say, but I will tell you that Irzah’s an asteroid, although that wasn’t always the case.

They released some animals into the terraformed wild and something strange happened: they became sentient, self-aware, clairvoyant; they became Guardians – but of what? Now Kazbek seeks to replicate this evolution by creating animal-human hybrids, and he’s had some success in Sena and Phinx, while former lab rat Zun is partly the result of Ivan’s own prowess as a mage. The origins of Aldebaran, the imposing but gentle albino Minotaur, classically cloaked in red, are far more startling and something else altogether.


I’m reluctant to give you much more than that, except that as the story opens, Lesnik the bear, thought to be one of the original Guardians, lies dying in human captivity following yet another of Sena’s attempts to stop the experimentation and liberate the hybrids. When you see the laboratories you will understand why. But, as I’ve intimated, everyone has a distance to travel over the course of this book, having come rather a long way already.

Lim’s colours for the main event are less impressionistic than Rios’ but equally lambent. Both artists employ a great many arches and curves in the exquisite architecture, and even rat-monkey Zun’s descent to Ivan’s room is choreographed like a helter-skelter ride.


Lim’s landscapes are magical, exotic, with some far-east influences in some of boughs, branches and blossoms, while her Frozen Forest where the Guardians reside is both of this world and other.

You can tell how much time has been spent and how much fun has been had by both artists coming up with designs for this society’s fashions. Each one of their creatures is as alive with humanity and individuality, with superb, sinuous body language. The lettering is species-specific too, which is rather telling, don’t you think?





Buy Mirror vol 1: The Mountain s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Libby’s Dad (£6-00, Retrofit / Big Planet) by Eleanor Davis…

“Do you really not know what happened?”
“Don’t tell her, she’s too young.”
“I am not.”
“Libby’s Mom told everyone that Libby’s Dad said he was gonna shoot her. With his gun.”
“SHHH! No, shoot Libby’s Mom.”
“Oh my God!”

It’s pool party time for the girls at the recently divorced titular dad’s new house. He’s even bought them all KFC, so he can’t be that much of a nutter, right? Except Taylor’s Mom clearly thinks he might be, because she’s not let Taylor come, much to the other girls’ dismay and disgust. Fun and frolics are being had by all, and Libby is enjoying hosting her friends, with nary a parental Armageddon in sight.


Later on in the day, though, when the girls are all settled down in their PJs enjoying a good old bedtime gossip, there’s an unfortunate accident involving a bottle of nail polish and a pristine carpet. Ah… Suddenly, no one is too keen to tell Libby’s Dad… But, what’s there to worry about? He couldn’t really be a headcase who might shoot someone just for ruining his brand new deep pile, could he…?

Ha ha, this took me straight back to a forgotten memory when, aged six, I accidently smashed my mother’s favourite garden ornament – some grotesque, huge, fake Greek urn – with a badly placed football rocket shot (my five-a-side cohorts will tell you I haven’t got much more accurate in the intervening four decades, either). I felt so distraught I sent all my mates home before slinking inside to confess. No idea why I was so worried, she was perfectly alright about it. My dad, meanwhile, was well chuffed as he’d always hated it! Libby’s Dad, though…


Fantastic little bit of absurdity illustrated in a kaleidoscopic manner akin to the maestro of farce himself, Brecht THE MAKING OF Evens. Though where Brecht puts watercolours of every hue straight down without the need for pencils, Eleanor here uses nothing but. Pencils, that is. Though the only time she breaks out the regular, grey, boring type is for the speech bubbles and lettering!


I was particularly intrigued by the fact that she seems to have done most of the shading with a rough surface underneath, which due to the mild brass rubbing-esque effect, has given a subtle sense of additional texture and thus depth. I very much applaud the fact she seems to come up with a different style for practically every story she does as very neatly evidenced in her excellent HOW TO BE HAPPY collection, which featured one of Stephen’s favourite covers of 2014!


Buy Libby’s Dad and read the Page 45 review here

The Fix vol 1: Where Beagles Dare s/c (£8-99, Image) by Nick Spencer & Steve Lieber.

“If you liked classic crime comics like CRIMINAL and 100 BULLETS we apologize in advance for letting you down.”

Having read over 100,000 solicitation summaries over the past 25 years – most rammed full of po-faced hyperbole – it’s refreshing to read something that redirects a mug of tea right through your nostrils.

It also sets the tone perfectly for this is far closer to the mischief-riddled THIEF OF THIEVES, except that these contemporary criminals here have zero finesse, cannot conceive of pre-planning and couldn’t even spell ‘fiscal prudence’. Thanks to Steve Lieber there’s even some fine visual slapstick as the buffoons who pass for our heroes only just get away to steal another day.

Let me be perfectly clear: if I were a betting man I wouldn’t bet on these two.


They do, however, have an ace up their sleeve. It’s delivered in the form of a very specific car radio halfway through the first chapter after the dysfunctional duo’s old people’s home heist, during which they are gentle, respectful and far more considerate than their absentee orderlies and supervisor. That car radio changes everything you thought you were about to read, but then that’s what this comic does: confound your expectations at every comedic corner over and over again.

Sometimes it’s no bad idea to return to the scene of a crime; sometimes you simply have no choice. In this instance Roy and Mac have no choice at all because they are the crime’s investigating officers. I’m sorry…? That’s right, they may be criminals, but they’re not career criminals. They are career cops.


There’s some wicked humour to be gleaned here from artfully juxtaposed panels, fast-forward shenanigans and flashbacks to boot. There’s even more wicked humour every time sex-obsessed film producer Donovan shows up. Those are sequences you’re least likely to feel comfortable discussing with your parents (probably). Donovan may have a one-track mind, but displays lots of leeway when it comes to how he’s prepared to drive.


Roy and Mac’s much bigger problem, however, is that not only are they strapped for cash, but they’re heavily in debt. The good news is that they’re in debt to Josh and Josh is a gentle, easy-going gourmet cook who loves his dogs very much. The bad news is that the dogs are rescue pit bull terriers, and I was lying about the “gentle” and “easy-going”.

Lieber’s ability to wring maximum comedy from nuanced expressions – and indeed not-so-nuanced expressions when things go spectacularly shit-creek in a split second – is exceptional. Both creators know that it’s all in the timing, and here it is fiercely fine timing. Speaking of shit-creek, half the humour lies in waiting for you know that it’s almost inevitable.

“I wish we could chalk this up to being a learning experience…
“But that would require learning something.”

What they have learned is that modern crime is virtual. The only people who carry cold, hard cash are old age pensioners, hence the heist, and it’s true. It is not unusual for someone to pay by credit card for a two-quid Lizz Lunney comic at Page 45 after they’ve asked for a Student Discount.

What you will learn is the lack of wisdom in sticking someone up with a shotgun while wearing a distinctive floral shirt… then interviewing the victim without changing first. And at this point I would like to thank all the shoplifters who’ve taken the trouble to identify themselves in advance with very specific, stand-out tattoos.


Typically, Roy cannot resist pushing things as far as he can. Here he is with Mac by his side, covered in roses, trying to see if they’ll come out smelling of them against all odds. By his second salvo he’s actually pointing at Mac!

“Never mind that. How about how tall they were?”
“I dunno – I didn’t really get the best look at them. The one with the gun in my back was a little taller than the other guy – ”

“Like, how tall? About my partner’s height, or taller?”
“Ehh – probably about right.”
“Mm, and build? Again, compared to my partner here.”
“Yeah, ‘bout the same, I guess, I dunno?”
“Sure, sure. It can be difficult to recall these things, I understand – but what about their clothing? Their shorts maybe. Any distinctive colours, or patterns…”

I swear on the Bible, that’s only the beginning of Roy’s brazen bravado as he takes every opportunity to really relish committing almost every crime conceivable then flaunting the flimsiest of cover-ups.

Don’t worry: by the end of almost each chapter our champ chumps have their grins wiped right off their gormless faces. Sometimes it doesn’t even take that long.


Buy The Fix vol 1: Where Beagles Dare s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Wormgler (£2-00, self-published) by David Frankum.

A neat little number with a cardstock cover, slipped inside a CD sleeve and signed with good cheer by David.

I’m a sucker for packaging, but not form over content.

Fortunately the form is very much a reflection of that content, and these eight invigorating pages of intrigue will take you much further than you can imagine.

Framed in black and told in a strict 3 x 3, nine-panel grid with a regular beat, I like the subtle shading at the corners, off-setting the regimented gutters. It’s also reminiscent of old-school cine-camera film-footage, as if the whole thing is an ancient recording left for posterity which you’ve been lucky enough to stumble upon. Will its mystery – its message – be of some import? I should say so.

We begin with a man in black suit and tie bearing a briefcase, the bowler hat suggesting a man on a mission. Either that, or he works for Homepride.


Is that the horizon we spy behind him or something else? The briefcase is set on the floor, its combination lock opened, and out fly a flock of origami early birds. They catch worms and dutifully drop them, with improbable accuracy, into the briefcase. Step one.

Delighted with his haul, our man on a mission snaps his case shut and walks towards a tall tower on the horizon. You know, if that’s the horizon. He presses its exterior elevator button and obviously he’s going up.

Wrong! Step two.


There I will leave it. I’ve taken it as far as the interior art which I’ve photographed for you – against two different backgrounds, on a whim, in case you’d like to see if they have different emotional resonations for you – and leave you to burrow solo on a far from random but certainly surreal journey.




I’ll only add that – because it gives nothing away – I loved the fresh growth, as if like leaves on a rejuvenated, blooming spring tree.

There have been clues.


Buy The Wormgler and read the Page 45 review here

Our Mother (£7-00, Retrofit / Big Planet) by Luke Howard…

“I am the wood car that mom made…
“I will come back at the end of the story.
“I am made with great love and care…
“My body is of sturdy cherry that has been sanded.
“I am a gift handed down from a parent to child.
“I will bring great comfort to those in need.
“But I will also bring back bad memories.
“I’m a very complicated car.”

Quite so. It’s also a little fibber because I’m pretty sure, unless I’ve missed something, that it does not return. However, I was so delightfully bamboozled as to what the hell was going on by the time I’d finished, I’d forgotten all about the car until I returned back to the beginning for a second approach. Having just re-read this pink, white and brown trick or treat, I’m still no wiser as to whether this is one contiguous story or in fact several very, very different vignettes of completely different genres that continually reprise throughout. I think it’s the former, but it’s still got me puzzling over it!


After our one-page automobile themed introduction, the strips come thick and fast in two- and four-page spurts. Between mental breakdowns, imposter moms, malfunctioning robotic sentries from the future, dungeoneering kids fighting mud monsters, mad scientists trying to communicate with intelligent simians, one-way time-travelling portals, a random guilt-tripping photo-story and errr… a farting, talking hotdog bringing this exercise in insanity to a conclusion, you’ll be just as entertained and confused in equal measure as me, I suspect.


It’s either one of the most esoteric themed concept anthologies you’re ever likely to come across, on the topic of mater familias, or something even cleverer than that. I still think there is a tenuously, tautologically twisted thread running riot right through this. I really am going to have to go back for a third read to try and work it out. Brilliant stuff! Fans of Michael BIG KIDS DeForge, Box AN ENTITY OBSERVES ALL THINGS Brown and Malachi FROM NOW ON Ward this one is for you, trust me.


Buy Our Mother and read the Page 45 review here

Mighty Jack (£10-99, FirstSecond) by Ben Hatke…

“Maddy? Wh… where… Maddy! There you are! What were you doing? What if…?”
“She’s fine, Jack. Trust me.”
“Who… how did you know my name?”
“Easy. Your sister told me.”
“Nice try. Maddie doesn’t talk.”
“As you say.”

Jack’s not a fan of the summer holidays. You’d think any kid would be, but for Jack the prospect of looking after his autistic younger sister Maddy every day, whilst his single mother works all hours just to pay the bills, is not his idea of fun. But during a trip to the local flea market, Maddy mysteriously breaks her silence to persuade Jack to swap his mother’s car for a packet of seeds.


As you can imagine, his mother is not best impressed, but when Jack and Maddy plant the seeds in the back yard, resulting in a most unusual and not entirely hazard-free garden overnight, well, the summer suddenly seems to come alive with the prospect of adventure. Plus giant, pink pumpkins with huge teeth, mud-flinging plant hands, onion babies running amok, chillies that make you leap a hundred feet in the air, and last but certainly not least, a dragon…


Extremely entertaining take on the classic Jack and the Beanstalk yarn from the creator of the excellent series of ZITA THE SPACEGIRL books. Despite the lack of a volume number, MIGHTY JACK is most definitely going to be a series of books too, rather than a one-off. In fact I don’t want to use the words cliff hanger, but oh dear, I just did, didn’t I? Probably should be stalk hanger but you get my drift…


Fans of Ben’s previous works will definitely enjoy this, and with two strong female characters in the form of sister Maddy and neighbour Lilly, it’s clearly aimed at both boys and girls. There’s a surprising amount of emotional darkness, peril and mildly sinister activity going on too. Not perhaps Doug GHOSTOPOLIS, BAD ISLAND, CARDBOARD TenNapel levels, but not far off. Perfect for living up an otherwise dull summer holiday, in other words!


Buy Mighty Jack and read the Page 45 review here

Ghosts (£9-99, Scholastic) by Raina Telgemeier…

“Carlos, are we gonna meet any ghosts today?”
“Oh! Well… they usually can’t be seen this early in the year, but as we get closer to autumn, you’ll notice them more.”
“Told you he was lying…”
“I’m not lying. Ghosts really do hang out there.”
“No, that’s…”
“I have to talk to a ghost, Catrina!”
“What do you want to ask it about?”
“I want to know what happens when you die.”
“Uh-huh, and I want to fly. But it’s not like that’s ever going to happen.”
“Dying isn’t pretend, Cat. It’s real.”


So Raina Telgemeier returns with her fourth original graphic novel following on from SMILE, SISTERS and DRAMA. She clearly likes her one-word titles, and obviously prefers to make it abundantly clear what you’re going to get! And you will get ghosts here, lots and lots of them. In that respect, though, it’s a little bit of a departure from Raina, or perhaps more precisely a broadening of the fictional brushstrokes, from entirely contemporary matters which she does so well, to include some more supernatural, fantastical elements. With that said, the true heart of the story still revolves about the relationships between the three main young characters: Carlos, the local boy familiar with the ectoplasmic entertainers of the area, and sisters Catrina and Maya, who’ve recently moved to wet and windy Bahia de la Luna due to Maya’s cystic fibrosis.


Carlos likes Catrina, who definitely fancies Carlos but is too shy to show it and thus maintains an aloof and arrogant facade. Catrina and Maya do get on in typically rollercoaster sibling fashion, but not surprisingly Catrina, despite having much compassion for her sister’s condition, takes the restrictions it places on her own life with a typical touch of excess teenage angst at times. Maya, meanwhile, thinks Carlos is wonderful and wants him to introduce her to the ghosts, which he does with some unexpected consequences… Despite the unsettling and upsetting emotional element to the story with Maya’s life-shortening illness, it still has plenty of the mischief that Vera Brosgol produced by combining schoolgirls and spooky apparitions so very well in ANYA’S GHOST.


It’s definitely a step on in the sophistication of Raina’s story-telling, which has been developing nicely since SMILE, and indeed, whilst her art style hasn’t changed dramatically, it is becoming ever more polished. For what on the surface appears to be a relatively simplistic, colourful, cartoony style, akin to the likes of the animation on the likes of the STEVEN UNIVERSE show, there’s frequently a lot of detailed work in there.


There are a couple of other interesting factoids probably worth mentioning about Raina, who is considerably more well known in her native continent than over here, and her output. In 2015, her previous books accounted for a staggering 11 million dollars worth of sales… beaten only by a certain Robert Kirkman with his zombie army of WALKING DEAD trades. SMILE, SISTERS and DRAMA all being New York Times #1 bestsellers. Which probably all explains why the first print run for GHOSTS was a staggering 500,000 copies, a record for an original graphic novel. Irrespective of whether her material is to your particular taste or not, I think it’s absolutely brilliant that all-ages material is selling so well.


Buy Ghosts and read the Page 45 review here

Princess Princess Ever After h/c (£11-99, Oni) by Katie O’Neill…

“You heard what she said… and she means it. I thought the tower was the only place for me. But then you came. Somehow, seeing how excited you were made me want to escape. But now…”
“I’ll protect you, Sadie! I have a sword, a unicorn, and kick-butt hair!”
“It’s true, your hair is kick-butt. And I trust you.”

Who better to rescue a princess in distress than a princess not in a dress? Katie O’Neill’s very sweet take on how a princess can be just as capable and daring-do when it comes to staging a rescue and helping another princess overthrow her villainous sibling, finding true love with each other in the process, certainly has its heart in the right place, but I couldn’t get completely past the thin storyline and stilted dialogue. Nice, clean, colourful art though, again a very cartoony style that’s obviously influenced by many a current TV show.


If the aim of this is purely in helping educate teeny-tinies about sexuality, then I think it hits the mark perfectly, job done. As the delightful John Allison has insightfully written on the back cover (not on each one obviously, that would take forever) “… a big-hearted fable where the boxes we’re expected to fit into are simply dragons to be slain.”


Beyond that, whilst it is lovely, and fun, it’s basically a very simple story and that dialogue is so badly in need of loosening up. It’s all a bit Emma Watson’s enunciation in the first Harry Potter film…





Buy Princess Princess Ever After 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.

Jerusalem h/c (£25-00, Knockabout) by Alan Moore

Jerusalem s/c (3 volume Slipcase Edition) (£25-00, Knockabout) by Alan Moore

Mooncop h/c (£12-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Tom Gauld

Snow White: A Graphic Novel h/c (£17-99, Candlewick Press) by Matt Phelan

Velvet vol 3: The Man Who Stole The World s/c (£13-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Steve Epting

The Arab Of The Future vol 2: 1984-1985 (£18-99, Two Roads) by Riad Sattouf

Carthago h/c (£23-99, Humanoids) by Christopher Bec & Eric Henninot, Milan Jovanovic

The Cowboy Wally Show (£9-99, Quality Jollity) by Kyle Baker

I Die At Midnight (£13-99, Quality Jollity) by Kyle Baker

Jim Henson’s Labyrinth Tales h/c (£14-99, Archaia) by Cory Godbey

Lumberjanes vol 4: Out Of Time s/c (£13-99, Boom! Box) by Noelle Stevenson & Shannon Watters

Grizzly Shark vol 1 s/c (£11-99, Image) by Ryan Ottley

Adventures Of Supergirl s/c (£14-99, DC) by Sterling Gates & Bengal, various

Constantine The Hellblazer vol 2: The Art Of The Deal s/c (£14-99, DC) by Ming Doyle, James Tynion IV & Riley Rossmo, various

Justice League vol 7: Darkseid War Part 1 s/c (£14-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Jason Fabok, various

Justice League vol 8: Darkseid War Part 2 h/c (£22-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Francis Manapul

Astonishing Ant-Man vol 2: Small-Time Criminal s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Nick Spencer & Ramon Rosanas, Annapaola Martello, Brent Schoonover

Doctor Strange Omnibus vol 1 h/c (£67-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & Steve Dikto

Power Man And Iron Fist vol 1: The Boys Are Back In Town s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by David Walker & Sanford Greene, Flaviano

Rocket Raccoon & Groot vol 0: Bite And Bark s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by Skottie Young, others

One-Punch Man vol 8 (£6-99, Viz) by One & Yusuke Murata


Kendal Brewery Arts Centre 1

ITEM! The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 is almost upon us (October 14-16) and we’ve published the Page 45 blog starring:

Adam Brockbank,seconds
Ben Haggarty,
Bryan Lee O’Malley,
Dan Berry,
Dave McKean,
Emma Vieceli,
Felt Mistress,
Hannah Berry,
Isabel Greenberg,
Jonathan Edwards,
Katriona Chapman,
Paul Thomas,
Sean Phillips,
Tillie Walden,
Tom Gauld

and the magnificent AveryHill Publishing…


You’ll find times and other details there, but so much more besides!

There’s the Sarah McIntyre surprise!

Discover how you can receive one of these beauuuuuuuuuuutiful original sketches Sarah has so generously drawn just for you in Kendal.

jinks-2      jinks-3


jinks-4   jinks-1

Page 45’s new service to collect comics in Kendal for FREE!

Every year we hear, “I was so hoping you’d bring [insert graphic novel title]. Now you don’t have to hope; you can ensure that we do just for you. Order online on this here website and select “Collect in Kendal for FREE!” (Or whatever it says.) Still don’t understand? There’s an illustration in the blog.


Panel featuring Broken Frontier’s Andy Oliver, AveryHill’s Ricky Miller, Katriona Chapman and silly old me…

To help new, prospective or current comics creators get noticed, reviewed, racked and even independently published.

Plus all the #LICAF links you could possibly need to enjoy this festival to the max!


– Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews September 2016 week two

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016

Featuring Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre, Luke Pearson, Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, Elizabeth Breitweiser, Ben Haggarty and Adam Brockbank.

Hilda And The Stone Forest h/c (£12-95, Flying Eye Books) by Luke Pearson.

Gorgeous composition of a cover for the fifth HILDA outing, and you may have already spotted a clue to one of this all-ages book’s many marked departures!

We’ve no time to talk of that yet, for Hilda’s hurried home to a less than impressed mother.

“Hey, I’m sorry I’m late!
“I totally lost track of time. I think my watch is broken.
“And I forgot to take it out with me, so that didn’t help, either.
“And then Twig wouldn’t stop chasing this dog…”

That’s a cracking last panel with poor Twig looking round in the background, alarmed at Hilda’s barefaced lie. With the raised brows and exclamation mark, he looks like George Herriman’s Krazy Kat after being hit by a brick thrown by Ignatz.


But if you think Hilda’s excuses are exhausting (they did go on…!), then the pages preceding them will leave you completely out of breath. For our adventure opens immediately with Hilda and Twig giving chase to a long-legged clump of semi-sentient turf which a family of tiny Hidden People from HILDA AND THE MIDNIGHT GIANT has unknowingly built their house on.

Off it gallops across a double-page spread of long, landscape panels accentuating the speed and distance travelled, as Hilda hurtles through a hole in the fence, over the top of a steep, sandy bank and tumbles downhill into a steam-train terminus. Instantly then they’re off again, leaping across country in pursuit of the agile and unexpectedly mobile home.


Ooof! Only when they’ve finally caught up with the critter do they realise how far from the city they’ve strayed, deep into Stone Troll territory. Now, Stone Trolls are sedentary during daylight so that’s reassuring, but overnight the local farmer’s fields have been plundered, his fields ransacked of their juicy crops and his goat stolen too. So that’s new. As are all the fires on the mountain late at night – they haven’t been seen for many years. It seems the Stone Trolls are growing increasingly active…


Now to the nub of the matter: this isn’t the first time Hilda’s been late or gone AWOL. There’s a glorious, extended montage of past adventures – some of which we haven’t been privy to yet – climaxing in some seriously sorry excuses for the states she comes back in, hilariously contradicted by the action-packed snapshots above them.

“It’s these dusty streets. It just seems to stick to me.”

You’re going to get covered in mud if you’re chased by wild onions underground.

“The puddles around here are outrageous.”

So was that porkie-pie, Miss Bedraggled and Be-drenched!

“Whatever you’re thinking it’s not that.”

Actually true: I doubt her Mum would have imagined a giant white rose splurting her daughter with bright-yellow gloop.

“Yeah, the library was fine.”

It wasn’t.


Now, Hilda’s Mum is no control freak (she gives her a lot of leeway) but she worries about her daughter’s safety because that’s what Mums do, and she just wants to spend a little quality time with her on a picnic or playing games. And they do have a lovely picnic (after a certain degree of misjudged spot-picking) but I’m afraid things come to a head when Mum denies her one night away and Hilda goes mental. Complete temper-tantrum meltdown, and she says some terrible, terrible things that made me vicariously ashamed.


But even through Hilda’s mother finally puts her foot down, Hilda’s never been good with temptation and the lure of a good old curiosity-quest, and it’s a tug of war which has radical ramifications for both Hilda and her Mum, who will be far from reassured by what follows…

On that, I shall attempt to say as little as possible, but you saw that cover, didn’t you?

There’s so much to relish here, not least the perils of a countryside picnic. Our Jonathan remarked, with great amusement, on how well Luke had observed all the stroppiness and backchat of a right young madam or little man in full flow.


There are brand-new creatures with fascinating and potentially useful diets to discover, and wait until you get a load of the eerie Stone Forest itself, coloured ever so exotically! There will be “Oooh!”s And there will be “Aaaah!”s when the central cavern is revealed, as vast as the vastest cathedral you’ve never seen.

I will say one thing: the stakes will be raised when it comes to the level of danger, but it will serve to prove that Hilda and her Mum are very much cut from the same cloth in their resilience, resourcefulness and their indefatigability.

Anyone who spoils the ending for you, in any way shape or form, should be sent to bed early and grounded for a fortnight or more.


Buy Hilda And The Stone Forest h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Jinks & O’Hare Funfair Repair (£8-99, Oxford Press) by Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre.

“Rampaging foodstuffs are a bit of a recurring theme in our books…” – Philip Reeve

He’s not wrong!

If you thought you’d already had your fill from CAKES IN SPACE, prepare to get stuffed once again, this time by a Candyfloss Colossus who’s gotten all grumpy: a sore-headed, sentient sugar mountain – sweet!

There will be screams, there will be squeals; there will be giggles galore and dodgem-car dashes in this all-ages outrage, full of the fun of the fair: a mad, moon-based fair, accessible by interplanetary spaceship only. Sequester your sandwiches and hold onto your hats – you’re in for the ride of your life!

Wouldn’t you just love to live on Funfair Moon? An entire moon dedicated to the best rides ever: the curliest roller coasters, the swirliest helter-skelters and the scariest haunted house ever because it’s actually haunted – by ghosts! Well, Emily does live there, above the Lost Property Office.


In a way, she’s a little bit of Lost Property herself, having hatched from a pale-blue egg laid accidentally by an over-excited occupant of the Switchback of Doom. You might well lay an egg yourself if you’re ever brave enough to embark! It was found the next morning by Jinks and O’Hare, the funfair repair men, and for nearly ten years Emily has been looked after by Mrs Mimms.

“Mrs Mimms, who ran the Lost Property Office, wasn’t exactly like a mum. In fact, she was more like a sort of giant alien octopus.”

That’s because she was one! The Lost Property office was right next to Jinks and O’Hare’s workshop.

“Emily often peeked in to see what they were fixing, and sometimes O’Hare would let her help with small jobs such as unclogging mega-thunk pistons or replacing worn-out thunderspin sprockets.”


On alternate days, however, Emily went to school. Now, I hope you didn’t yell “Bor-ing!” because this was a most forward-looking school created by the famous scientist, Floomish Spoob. It was all-about looking, basically, on account of being a Learny-Go-Round.

“Professor Spoob had discovered that people always learn more when they are on the move (that is why travel broadens the mind, but nobody learns much while they are asleep).”

Brilliant! You’ve got to adore Reeve’s lateral thinking as well his deep love of language. I mean, “mega-thunk pistons” and “thunderspin sprockets”! It gets better:

“So on the Learny-Go-Round the pupils sat at desks which whirled around and around the central podium where the teacher stood. During the more difficult lessons they also went up and down, like the painted horses on a carousel.
“That meant that some people got quite travel sick during double maths.”

I’ve just put my hand up in admission.


It was an idyllic existence because everyone who worked all the rides also lived there, and they were all sorts of shapes, sizes and facial arrangements – not to mention all the visitors from planets far and wide. Thanks to Jinks and O’Hare the Funfair Moon had the best Health and Safety record in existence; a spotless record renowned throughout the galaxy, the Milky Way and even the Mars Bar (non-alcoholic juice-drinks only).

Until today.

Because something black and spiny has arrived in a hatbox which Mrs Mimms popped onto her shelves, and now it’s scuttling and rustling about unnoticed all over and under the fair and rides are beginning to go substantially skew-whiff. What a day for Mr Moonbottom from the Galactic Council (Leisure and Entertainment Sub-Committee) to touch down with his assistant Miss Weebly, in their thoroughly dull but very heavy spaceship, squashing an I-Speak-Your-Weight-Machine!

“You weigh 7,224 tonnes, argh zzxxzx . . .

Bang out of order. And it is, now that they’ve crushed it!


That’s one black mark against the fair already, and it’s only going to get worse. Jinks and O’Hare are going to have their hands full dealing with the disasters while our Emily frantically races round, trying to get to the bottom of all the breakdowns while keeping Mr Moonbottom from the Galactic Council (Leisure and Entertainment Sub-Committee) and Miss Weebly in the dark.

Where have all the ghouls in the ghost-train gone? Why is something vast, pink and sticky striding around town and tearing up the Terror Mountain in a rage? What has happened to Mrs Mimms’ Lost Property Office?

“Someone comes in asking for a lost bobble hat and I check my list and see Bobble Hat – Number 79 – but when I fetch Number 79, it isn’t a bobble hat, it’s a pair of skis or a cement mixer.”


The well of Reeve and McIntyre’s co-creative inventiveness and quite frankly insane imaginations appears to be bottomless and never runs dry. O’Hare communicating through smiles, shrugs and cheeky eyebrow-wriggling only! Synchronised swimming followed by synchronised strimming! And of course there’s a park-and-ride on a nearby asteroid if the entire moon is dedicated to the funfair! Why would there not be?

The art is equally rich with little background jokes thrown in for the sharp-eyed and attentive: a pair of three-lens sunglasses dangling from one of Mrs Mimms’ many tentacles; a spider dangling from one of Miss Weebly’s hair-buns on the ghost train; the back-page of a newspaper in the mermaid lagoon featuring a photo of Iris, the short-sighted mermaid from OLIVER AND THE SEAWIGS. Oh, there are cameos of critters from all your favourite McIntyre and Reeve ridiculousnesses, if you look close enough, including PUGS OF THE FROZEN NORTH and even The Dartmoor Pegasus!

I’ve always admired how integrated the text and illustrations are – that must take an awful lot of juggling – so that, when they’re not, it’s for deliberate, striking effect, as when we get out first glimpse of the black and spiky thing peering ominously out of its hatbox, like a Tove Jansson creation from MOOMIN. Sat at the bottom of the page, the white space above suggests mystery, an ellipsis and an almost certain imminent exit…


Jinks and O’Hare are delightful designs – this time on Philip’s part, for he illustrated the original comic which Sarah wrote for The Phoenix Weekly Comic. O’Hare, drawn in pencil, is one big bundle of fluff with a further fluff of moustache. Jinks’ eyes stand out on stalks and make for great comedy on the rollercoaster ride. But my favourite here is Lord Krull (oh, there’s a lot more for Emily and co. to contend with than I’ve made out) who is ever so imposing!

“SILENCE!” roared the stranger, “I am Lord Krull, Commander of the Black Fleet, Conqueror of Worlds, Supreme Ruler of the Darkvoids of Quorn. Star systems tremble at my very name. But my wife’s gone to her sister’s for the weekend and she left me in charge of our little boy. So I thought I’d bring him to your Funfair Moon. I’m told children enjoy this thing you call ‘fun’.”
“Yes, we do,” said Emily.
“SILENCE!” bellowed Lord Krull. “Unfortunately I got rather dizzy on the Learny-Go-Round.”
“But the Learny-Go-Round isn’t a ride,” said Emily. “It’s our school…”
“I was told it would be educational,” said Lord Krull. “But it went a bit faster than I was expecting.”


Buy Jinks & O’Hare Funfair Repair and read the Page 45 review here

Mezolith vol 2: Stone Age Dreams And Nightmares h/c (£22-99, Archaia) by Ben Haggarty & Adam Brockbank.

Poika and Sisu sit side-by-side under the shelter of two lichen-rich boulders which lean against each other in mutual support. As the rain pours from the grey heavens above, eroding visibility of the lush foliage further downstream, they watch ripples on the river expand right in front of them.

“I like this place.
“I come here when I want to be quiet. Watching the water settles my thoughts.
“Tutta told me you could talk… Can you, Sisu?
“Can you?”

And if she could, what would she say?

Sisu has been welcomed by Poika’s people after being rescued from a tribe already at odds with the Kansa, but which has since been driven self-destructively mad by their vicious leader’s obsession with a mirror-stone. During her time in captivity something occurred which so traumatised Sisu that she hasn’t spoken since. Unfortunately not all of the Kansa are as kind as Poika, and her presence will cause ramifications because – just as the sound of rain on water still soothes the soul – in so many ways we haven’t changed at all in 10,000 years.


Set in the unspoiled wilds on the eastern shores of Stone Age Britain, MEZOLITH VOL 1 was a book of beauty that made my eyes glow and heart sing as a boy called Poika took his first tentative steps towards becoming a man.

I wrote:

“It’s an unforgiving life where wounds are deep, infection rife, the winters harsh and tribal territories fiercely enforced; but it’s also one rich in folklore, and although the lad’s courage far outstrips the experience his elders will need to teach him – about hunting, survival and the balance of things – his affinity for nature, tenacity and curiosity will undoubtedly prove the making of him.”

And so it did. I also remarked that Poika grew visibly and physically during the course of the book, but here it is even more evident, particularly in panels during which he’s being courted by Kiva, casually to begin with but then more directly. It unsettles, even embarrasses Poika who doesn’t consider himself ready yet but his arms and abdomen say otherwise.


Now is the time that pairing will come into play, and that will be reflected in one particularly instructive tale to young women being prepared ceremonially for their first dance.

“Some of you might find a husband.
“You giggle, but you might – though he cannot be an Owl man. They’ve broken their bonds with all of us. They and their kind are not welcome here.
“Taking the hands of a man is for companionship and helping each other – understand how the left hand works with the right hand.
“This paint and prettiness is all very well, but in truth, how you get on with a man depends on a meeting of spirits and how you can help each other as mates…”

The story she spins is of two sisters who learned nothing of use to themselves or their tribe, relying instead on their good looks while disdaining others’, dismissing and demeaning potential mates whom they nick-name according to what they considered physical defects.  Well, they’ve a fantastical journey ahead and hard lessons to learn. Physical differences will be much in evidence in MEZOLITH VOLUME 2. Haggarty’s ability to link certain strands and sustain specific themes is as impressive as his storytelling skills for which he is legendary, live.


It’s the oral tradition of passing down stories from one generation to the next which lies at the heart of both books. Since knowledge came so often at a terrible cost and survival depended upon it, preserving as much as possible in the form of fables was essential.

It should be noted that they are Young Adult books but largely bought by adults for adults. Brockbank is very much an artist’s artist and since his film credits range from Harry Potter to Maleficent you’ll be unsurprised to learn that his luminous artwork is a joy. In the first book there were the five ebony-eyed sisters with their snow-white swan feathers draped over their silk-smooth, cream-coloured bodies, an early, expertly choreographed hunt for fresh meat which went awry, and woodland climbs in the heat of the day.


Here there’s a bear and oh so many bees, and a spectacular fishing or rather fish-driving sequence using judiciously placed mesh tunnels crafted from flexible but durable inner bark. You’ll yearn for such clean waters and fresh, unspoiled landscapes lit by the sun but seen from the dappled shade as smoke from the camp fires drifts up in front of canopies which themselves rise towards of a misted mountain and the birds up above.


Brockbank is equally adept at the otherworldly – glistening ebony eyes being a favourite of his – and there’s no small element of horror in both volumes.

As well as traditions, MEZOLITH is also a book about family – the generations these practices are passed down through. Now, even as Poika is beginning to take an increasingly active role within the tribe, so his father Isa must reluctantly leave his hunting days behind. He’s already been shown by much older Konkari that age does not necessarily bring with it frailty or being unable to contribute (as we have seen, being useful to others is of paramount importance to this society) and Isa has already had to apologise once! But there’s a particularly moving scene – beautifully written and artfully depicted in semi-silhouette against the glare of a late afternoon sun as if seen through honeycomb – during which Isa is visited by his dead wife in a dream call, reassuring him that he has done well, that his story is far from over, and that he is strong and handsome and very much loved.


Buy Mezolith vol 2: Stone Age Dreams And Nightmares h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Criminal vol 7: Wrong Place, Wrong Time s/c (£13-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips with Elizabeth Breitweiser on colour art.

“I wasn’t done reading that yet, you fat fuck…”

If you don’t want to sneeze tea all over your keyboard then either remove the keyboard to a safe distance before reading that page… or try going dry for ten minutes.

A perfectly representative, accessible and self-contained introduction to the twilight world of CRIMINAL in which we finally get to meet Teeg Lawless, the often referred-to father of Tracy.

He’s not the smartest con in the can having landed there – whilst en route to collect what would have been some considerable cold cash from an armoured-car stick-up – over a simple failure to appear in traffic court. He stopped off for a beer then beat up a biker who didn’t press charges but, yeah, Teeg got sent down instead for a failure to appear in traffic court.

So he’s stuck on the inside, instead of keeping his commitment to Sebastian Hyde – whom you do not want to piss off – to eliminate a councilman who’s blocking a construction contract which Hyde’s set his heart on. And Teeg’s trying to keep his head down, he surely is, by reading the latest instalment of ZANGAR, THE SAVAGE. But he doesn’t half get interrupted every five fucking seconds.

Crim Spesh 1

“You Lawless?”

Which is a funny thing to ask a criminal.

Seems there’s a price on Teeg’s head and Hyde swears it ain’t him but he won’t offer protection, neither. Almost immediately they’re coming at Lawless from all directions – in the canteen, the laundry room and showers – and Teeg is trapped in there with them. It’s relentless. So what, as they say, is actually up?
I wish every comicbook artist would make reading as easy, fluid, accessible and addictive as Sean: monologue or dialogue across the top, with the image below. Also, there’s an immediate sense of time and place: I love Teeg’s hair.

As ever Brubaker has something to say about human behaviour – not rash generalisations but specific tendencies or patterns within individuals. With Teeg, it’s that this sort of structure in the slammer or army actually serves him quite well. Too much freedom gives him too many choices and too many opportunities to choose wrong. He really is Mr Bad Decision.

Crim Spesh 2

As to ZANGAR, THE SAVAGE, Phillips provides a dozen or so pages emulating the magazine-sized black and white barbarian adventures printed on paper so low-grade that they’d yellow and brown before you’d get them back home. I can only imagine how much easier it has been to apply computer-generated zip-a-tone than it used to be using a scalpel.

I warn you right now that Phillips has pulled no punches and that the art is as battered and brutal as the inmates themselves, and you will find within the dreaded Injury-To-Eye (And Almost Everything Else) Motif over and over again.

Still, he hadn’t finished reading that, you fat fuck…


So we come to the second instalment – the 10th Anniversary Special – and a reminder that CRIMINAL is the best crime in comics, along with the same team’s THE FADE OUT and David Lapham’s STRAY BULLETS. I have, without fail, reviewed every single edition of all of those, and relished doing so.

How was your childhood?

“It’s easier to be a fictional character.
“How sad is that?”

Not as sad as the ending, as an almost unheard of act of kindness in twelve-year-old Tracy Lawless’ bleak young life is flushed down the pan, along with all its potential. Out of fear.

Looked at from another angle, however, it is perhaps the one ray of hope that young Tracy might turn out okay against all nature-and-nurture odds, because it’s not for himself that he fears. It’s for a local girl who’s befriended him on the streets of a small town where, as a stranger, he sticks out like a sore thumb even whilst under an alias.

“I’m not supposed to be doing this. ‘Mike Johnson’ isn’t supposed to have fun.
“And he doesn’t get to make friends. Friends get remembered.”

Oh dear. We’ve already discovered what happens to those might remember Tracy. Brubaker deliberately sets this up on the very first pages so that it informs everything else that follows, throwing a terrible pall over anyone who comes near the boy.

Criminal 10th 1

This includes Lana, one of the individuals that Tracy’s Dad is out searching for. Because of this looming threat one fears, rightly or wrongly, that Tracy may have doomed the smiling shop assistant simply by identifying her. Tracy himself recognises this almost immediately afterwards. It’s not exactly a Judas moment, but it’s certainly made all the more poignant by their mutual, momentary affection which elicits the other act of kindness and their eyes light up. So it might as well have been a kiss.

Criminal 10th 2

Mike Johnson, by the way, is that fictional identity Tracy is forced to adopt whenever he’s travelling on the run with his career-criminal dad. He shouldn’t have been roaming the streets, he should have stayed safely shut away in the motel reading the comic which his father Teeg stole for him (which is nice), but Teeg hadn’t come back in the evening nor in the morning, and that’s pretty much par for the course. The boy’s got to eat.

What follows is a rough scrap of a friendship scraped from the car crash of Tracy’s neglected childhood before he witnesses that which a twelve-year-old son never should.

There’s a telling line early on from Tracy, referring to himself being taught to drive his dad’s getaway car last year as “just a kid” as if he considers himself an adult now. But he’s neither one thing nor the other: he’s not his father’s adult accomplice because he’s not been let in on what the mission is; yet if he’s still a child what on earth is he doing behind the wheel and changing number plates? What is he doing – worst of all – understanding his father’s fucked up priorities?

Criminal 10th 3

Sean draws the boy all droopy-mouthed and saggy-shouldered – weighted and weary beyond his years, far from care-free and truly troll-like. His eyes would be scathing if they could summon the energy but they are instead so heavy, so sceptical, expecting nothing. Which is just as well. It’s what makes the brief burst of reignited hope and rekindled vivacity in the shop with Lana so unexpected and arresting. The boy can actually smile – he can beam! – if engaged with at all.

But that’s as nothing to the central panel in a single page which is one of the finest I’ve seen in comics.

Criminal 10th 4

It is the epitome of wide-eyed, awe-struck enchantment as Tracy’s face comes electrically alive, spellbound by the DEADLY HANDS OF comic which straddles the same worlds he does between adult and child.

“This comic is weird…
“It kind of reminds me of the ones my dad gets some times…
“But those have naked ladies and stuff in them.
“And this one, you just feel like it’s about to have naked ladies all the time.
“Like it’s a comic for kids pretending to be a comic for grown-ups.”

Criminal 10th 5

Of course it is. It’s a mischievous tribute to a Marvel Comics combo of SHANG-CHI, MASTER OF KUNG-FU and WEREWOLF BY NIGHT (very seventies indeed, Daddio!), pages of which are paraded in front of you in all their tanned, aged-paper glory by Sean Phillips in immaculate impressions of expressionist Paul Gulacy the for sub-lunar werewolf sequences and of the far more conservative Sal Buscema inked by the likes of Mike Esposito when the angst-ridden protagonist reverts to puny Peter-Parker-like form. It’s all in the eyebrows.

Criminal 10th 6

I like what Breitweiser’s done with both the daytime and evening colours here: it’s something completely different to FATALE or THE FADE OUT for this is set is in such a small town that it’s virtually deserted after dark. There are no fancy-schmancy multicoloured neon bar signs projecting onto the street: in the evening the only monochromatic glow comes from the few sickly sodium lights and they don’t light anything up properly. In the daytime the colours may be muted and mundane but they do at least look relatively healthy and safe by contrast.

Criminal 10th 7

I don’t know whether Brubaker of Phillips decided which comics would be racked in the grocery store’s spinners but whichever it was we evidently shared similar summer holiday experiences.

Speaking of similar summer holiday experiences, hats off to both for the kids’ visit to the second-hand bookshop – the only place you’d find old comics back then. Phillips has almost beaten Bernie Wrightson at his own game for internal clutter. I could feel the binding of every single book on those shelves, but of course Tracy’s not interested.

“I’m just looking for comics.”

We’re all just looking for comics.

Criminal 10th Anniv screenshot


Buy Criminal vol 7: Wrong Place, Wrong Time 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.

Audubon – On The Wings Of The World (£15-99, Nobrow) by Fabien Grolleau & Jeremie Royer

Carrot To The Stars (£6-00, Lakes International Comics Art Festival) by Regis Lejonc, Thierry Murat & Riff Reb’s

Libby’s Dad (£6-00, Retrofit / Big Planet) by Eleanor Davis

Mirror vol 1: The Mountain s/c (£13-99, Image) by Emma Rios & Hwei Lim

Cat Rackham h/c (£17-99, Koyama Press) by Steve Wolfhard

The Fix vol 1: Where Beagles Dare s/c (£8-99, Image) by Nick Spencer & Steve Lieber

Ghosts (£9-99, Scholastic) by Raina Telgemeier

Harrow County vol 3: Snake Doctor s/c (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Cullen Bunn & Carla Speed McNeil, Jenn Manley Lee, Tyler Crook

Our Mother (£7-00, Retrofit / Big Planet) by Luke Howard

Walking Dead vol 26: Call To Arms (£13-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard

The Wormgler (£2-00, self-published) by David Frankum

Harley Quinn vol 4: A Call To Arms s/c (£14-99, DC) by Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti & Chad Hardin, John Timms, various

Superman: The Return Of Superman s/c (£26-99, DC) by various

Titans Hunt s/c (£15-99, DC) by Dan Abnett & Paulo Siqueira, various

Wonder Woman vol 8: Twist Of Fate s/c (£14-99, DC) by Meredith Finch & David Finch, various

Daredevil: Back In Black vol 2: Supersonic s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Charles Soule & various

Punisher:  War Journal s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Carl Potts, Mike Baron & Jim Lee, various

Uncanny Avengers: Unity vol 2 – Man Who Fell To Earth s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Gerry Duggan & Ryan Stegman, Pepe Larraz

X-Men Origins: Gambit s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by various

Attack On Titan: Lost Girls vol 1 (£8-99, Kodansha) by Hiroshi Seko & Ryosuke Fuji

Avatar, The Last Airbender vol 13: North And South Part 1 (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Gene Yuen Lang & Gurihiru

Fruits Basket Collector’s Edition vol 4 (£14-99, Yen Press) by Natsuki Takaya

Limit vol 6 (£9-99, Vertical) by Keiko Suenobu

Log Horizon – The West Wind Brigade vol 1 (£9-99, Yen Press) by Mamare Touno & Koyuki



ITEM! A slideshow of The New Yorker’s 9/11 covers.

These are my two favourites, which have a certain ghostly symmetry.

Above: “9/11/2001,” by Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly, September 24, 2001.

Below: “Reflections,” by Ana Juan, September 12, 2011.


ITEM! Brilliant page from John Allison’s imminent Bobbins.Horse book which may be pre-order only. We’ve already stuck our oar in to grab some, but remember: when they arrive, they may be your only chance so please don’t dilly-dally.

Which may be one of my favourite phrases ever along with skew-whiff and wonky-woo.


ITEM! Another interview with HILDA’s Luke Pearson, this one a little more whimsical.

ITEM! A much longer interview with Alan Moore about Jerusalem, the working class, Donald Trump, Brexit and Athenian Democracy.


JINKS & O’HARE FUNFAIR REPAIR bonus, before the addition of text, top left.

– Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews September 2016 week one

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016

Featuring Eric Orchard and Isabel Greenberg – then Luke Pearson, Philip Reeve, Sarah McIntyre and Simon Gane in the News!

The One Hundred Nights Of Hero (£18-99, Jonathan Cape) by Isabel Greenberg.

“He gave her new tokens, and this time promises came with them.
“But his eyes still slid hither and thither.”

What rich language! You can picture it, can’t you? He’s embracing his “true love” close to his chest, so his eyes can roam far and wide. Perhaps the couple are bathed in a romantic sunset glow. Or maybe the red there spells danger.

Whatever you think of Eve’s curiosity, the serpent was certainly male.

“I don’t know how we’re getting away with this, but we surely are!”
“I don’t know how they’re getting away with it, either. But I for one want to know what happens next.”

Such was the triumph of Scheherazade in ‘One Thousand And One Nights’, successfully staving off execution at the hands of her husband through storytelling.

It is also the triumph of THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF EARLY EARTH’s Isabel Greenberg yet again in such an addictively compelling set-up and seamlessly stitched-together sequence of tales that I swept through this in one afternoon, pausing only to refill and reflect.

One Hundred Nights Of Hero 0

Will handmaiden Hero similarly succeed in saving the virtue of her beloved mistress Cherry from the predatory advances of her husband’s lascivious and quite ridiculous best mate? Whom her husband’s encouraged for the sake of a bet and proving a point! Hero’s certainly won over the guards with her carefully chosen and craftily spun yarns, but where has the one hundred and first night gone?

The answers will prove elevating. I even anticipate an air punch or two.

This is a book about stories and storytelling; of sisterhood and story spreading; of love, loyalty, disloyalty and loss; and – though laced with playful, bubble-bursting, laugh-out-loud comedy – it is also a blisteringly effective, pin-point accurate and damning indictment of women’s treatment throughout the ages at the hands of men under a possession-based patriarchy which organised religion has played no small part in underpinning and enforcing.

Although I should emphasise that there isn’t a single sentence within it as miserably po-faced as that one. Greenberg’s much more mischievous.

“Lesson: men are false. And they can get away with it.
“Also, don’t murder your sister, even by accident. Sisters are important.”

What Greenberg has done here with the Scheherazade scenario – which elements she has incorporated and how she’s repositioned them – is ever so clever and makes for much mockery of man-pride.

“Once there were two men. (They were called Manfred and Jerome, if you want to know.) Anyway, they sat together and they talked, as men are wont to do, of Women.”

I really can’t wait. Manfred makes the first move.


One Hundred Nights Of Hero 1


“Fact: there are no good women.”

Pawn to king’s bishop two.

“They are all scheming bitches, whores and also fiendishly boring.”

I could be wrong, but I’d wager there’s a fiendish scheme ahead for this crashing bore which might involve soliciting a woman for monetary gain. Also, I think you just moved your knight out of turn.

“They’re only good for one thing, Jerome. And I think we both know what that is.”

He leers, of course. Within the first two panels Manfred has condemned himself with his own double standards but it gets better. Or worse. For Manfred once had a wife whose fidelity he tested by sending a servant to seduce her. This is important.

“He came out with her knickers. And a precise description of a scar she had on her inside leg.”
“What did your wife say?”
“She denied it. Said he had forcibly removed her knickers.”
“And you didn’t believe her?”
“Certainly not.”
“So what happened?”
“I killed her, of course. Anyway. Back to my criteria.”


One Hundred Nights Of Hero 2


We’ll get to why that’s important in a second, I swear. So what are Manfred’s criteria for the perfect woman? This’ll be rich, I reckon.

“Beautiful. Clever enough to have a conversation, not clever enough to disagree with me.
“Obedient. Chaste. Good at mending socks. Not ambitious.
“Marriage to me must be the height of her ambition.
“Interested in my passions. Falconry, battlements, maps, etcetera.
“But not as good as me at these things.”

At which point Jerome declares his own wife, Cherry, to fit that description precisely including the chastity, for he has yet to take her virtue himself. Goaded by Manfred’s disbelief, Jerome challenges Manfred to take his Cherry – and her’s – within 100 nights while he is away.

“But I guarantee she will be faithful.
“And then you must admit that I’m right.
“And give me your castle.”

All kinds of crazy, then.


One Hundred Nights Of Hero 3


One Hundred Nights Of Hero 4



In ‘One Thousand And One Nights’ the king takes a new wife for one night only and then beheads the poor love to prevent infidelity because he’d got stiffed the first time round. But here it’s Manfred’s already ingrained misogyny which prejudiced him against his wife’s word, and that didn’t end well so every card imaginable is already stacked against poor Cherry. Plus it’s all for the sake of a bet – a bet based on man-pride!

“Let us pause in the story and meet his wife. Now, everything Jerome had said was true. She was beautiful, obedient, good at battleworks and falconry. However, he had got one thing very wrong. She was far brainer than him.
“So how is that this smashing babe got landed with such a grade A pillock?”

She got married off by her Dad, of course. But here’s the final twist which raises the stakes even further: she was already in love. With her handmaid called Hero. And it is a True Love.

Now that Cherry’s husband’s away Manfred visits every night to take her virtue – by force if necessary – and it’s up to her Hero to distract and enthral him with her mad story skills. After Cherry successfully plays the piety card on night one.

“Woman. Had I not vowed to take you, and were my Manly Honour not at stake, I might feel a little ashamed…
“I don’t, however, because there is not only my Manly Honour, but also a castle at stake here.
“I shall return! Until tomorrow! My love.”

My love!


One Hundred Nights Of Hero 5


One Hundred Nights Of Hero 6


The tales Hero tells are full of love. Some feature true love, some feature false love and treachery, but each one is as poignant as you can imagine. In one the very words “I Love You” – written by hand on a misty window – are the cause of heart-breaking catastrophe.

In another a noble soul falls in love with one of Early Earth’s three Moons. She visits him whenever her lunar cycle allows, on her nights off from shining in the sky. That too is a True Love, and Greenberg has all the right words to describe it:

“It began to seem to the man that everything that happened in between those nights was a dream; that he was sleepwalking his way through the days until she would come to him again.
“And when she was with him it was as if that twilight, muffled, underwater place he had been inhabiting was suddenly gone, and all the sights and sounds and smells of the world came back to him, in glorious technicolour.”

There is a truly beautiful page with the words “I love you” whispered in the sleeping woman’s ear. It concludes with a midnight panel in centre of which the two lie in bed in a moon-shaped glow which itself is lit up to one side by a warm lantern light.


One Hundred Nights Of Hero 7


As with THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF EARLY EARTH the colours the book’s bathed in, deployed with restraint, add so much to the ambience and I’d watch out whenever you see red. Often they’re used to connect characters emotionally.

What’s striking is the new use of dry-brush textures adding surface to space and filling out figures – which strangely makes them more fragile. Teeth tend to be tiny and spiked, but the eyes are ever so important, especially when they slither hither and thither. When enraged they are positively demonic.

Early Earth is essentially a medieval world, most of which is remote and rural. There are lots and lots of trees. Its few fortified cities are depicted as they were then, as an exotic jumble of towers and tall houses, but the closer one comes to so-called civilisation here, the less likely your chances of happiness.


One Hundred Nights Of Hero 8


That’s where the bald Beaked Brothers reside and preside over all in their Great Aviary erected in worship of their god Birdman. They wear their false beaks in tribute, coming across like ferocious vultures preying upon the population, especially women. Women are forbidden to read or to write, for both are seen – in women only – as a sluttish sort of sorcery punishable by defenestration from the top of tallest tower.

And reading and writing are magic, it’s true, with the ability to change hearts and minds.

Unfortunately not everyone’s.


One Hundred Nights Of Hero 9


On publication we made THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF EARLY EARTH Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month. It went on to win the British Comic Awards for best book of the year, and it was.

There’s no doubt in my mind that THE ONE HUNDRED NIGHTS OF HERO will also win multiple awards. Its storytelling is rich and riddled with iconoclastic wit – parenthetical asides and slapped-wrist remonstrations – addressing the reader directly. Refrains pop up when you least expect them, some when you need them the most. Key elements of some stories foreshadow future developments and rarely have I read a climax and conclusion so satisfying on every level.


Buy The One Hundred Nights Of Hero and read the Page 45 review here

Bera The One-Headed Troll (£12-99, FirstSecond) by Eric Orchard…

“What is that? It’s coming from the other side of the island.”
“It’s horrible! It sounds like a monster! Let’s go inside until it stops.”
“HA HA!”
“Ugh! It’s those nasty mermaids!
“Give it to me!”
“I saw it first!”
“Give it!”
“It’s mine!”
“They’ve got something.”

Indeed they do, but not for long as Bera, official pumpkin gardener to the Troll King, bops one of the mermaids – and they are quite the most gruesome mermaids you will ever see – on the head with a well placed gourd and retrieves the noisy creature which the loathsome sea beasts were tormenting. She’s somewhat astonished to discover it’s a human baby! Not surprisingly, she’s equally perplexed about how it got there, bobbing away in the sea out in the middle of nowhere near her little carefully tended pumpkin patch of an island.


The fact that the wailing urchin is in a tiny cauldron should have been a clue, but when Cloote – former head witch of the Troll King – comes knocking at her door, looking for the misplaced vital ingredient for her mindless monster magic spell which she’s planning on cooking up to worm her way back into the royal court, well, Bera knows she has to keep the baby out of Cloote’s clutches and get it back to the safety of the human village on the mainland. Just one huge problem in her eyes: that’s clearly an epic quest for a hero of legendary proportions, so Bera sets off to find one. Well, three actually by the time she’s finished, none of whom prove remotely up to the job for various rather unheroic reasons.


Yes, little does Bera suspect she’ll turn out to be the champion the baby needed all along! Assisted by her redoubtable owl Winslowe, she’ll find herself battling the odious mermaids, plus gibbering goblins, tree-gnawing shadow wolves and various other spooky beasties at every turn, (not forgetting the villainous Cloote!) though she’ll find some courageous creatures willing to help her too, particularly the hedgehogs, bless ‘em. (I can’t ever see a hedgehog in a comic without thinking of the rather amusing sequence with Timothy Hunter in the Baba Yaga’s Hut in THE BOOKS OF MAGIC!)

As all-age yarns go, this hits the mark perfectly in terms of story-telling with just the right amount of scariness for little ones (just as Eric’s previous work MADDY KETTLE: THE ADVENTURES OF THE THIMBLEWITCH did) balanced with the caring, courageous actions of the compassionate Bera, who’s certainly a role model for all trolls and mini-humans out there.


What makes this really stand out in the rapidly burgeoning all-ages arena, though, is Eric’s art. I see on the dust jacket he cites Arthur Rackham and Maurice Sendak as inspirations. With all the pointy teeth lining the mouths of goodies and baddies alike, the linework shading, and the ochre and umber palette, I can really see the Sendak influence, fantastic stuff. I think fans of HILDA would very much enjoy this big-hearted adventure and hopefully Bera will get a few more outings in the future as well!


Buy Bera The One-Headed Troll 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.

Angel Catbird vol 1 h/c (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Margaret Atwood & Johnnie Christmas

Criminal vol 7: Wrong Place, Wrong Time s/c (£13-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips

Hilda And The Stone Forest h/c (£12-95, Flying Eye Books) by Luke Pearson

Jinks & O’Hare Funfair Repair (£8-99, Oxford Press) by Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre

Kill 6 Billion Demons vol 1 (£13-99, Image) by Tom Parkinson-Morgan

Mezolith vol 2: Stone Age Dreams And Nightmares h/c (£22-99, Archaia) by Ben Haggarty & Adam Brockbank

Mighty Jack (£10-99, FirstSecond) by Ben Hatke

Insexts vol 1: Chrysalis s/c (£17-99, Aftershock Comics) by Marguerite Bennett & Ariela Kristantina

Northern Lights: The Graphic Novel vol 2 (£12-99, Doubleday) by Philip Pullman

Princess Princess Ever After h/c (£11-99, Oni) by Katie O’Neill

Revival vol 7: Forward (£13-99, Image) by Tim Seeley & Mike Norton

Batman vol 8: Superheavy s/c (£14-99, DC) by Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo

Batman vol 9: Bloom h/c (£22-99, DC) by Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo

Batman: Arkham – Poison Ivy s/c (£17-99, DC) by Neil Gaiman, Gerry Conway, Alan Grant, various & various

Batman: Arkham Knight – Genesis s/c (£13-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi & Alisson Borges, Dexter Soy

Doctor Strange: Strange Origin s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Greg Pak & Emma Rios

Secret Wars s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Esad Ribic

Assassination Classroom vol 11 (£6-99, Viz) by Yusei Matsui

Fairy Tail Blue Mistral vol 3 (£8-99, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima & Rui Watanabe

Log Horizon vol 1 (£9-99, Yen Press) by Kazuhiro Hara

My Hero Academia vol 5 (£6-99, Viz) by Kouhei Horikoshi


Hilda And The Stone Forest actual cover


ITEM! It has arrived! Luke Pearson’s all-ages HILDA AND THE STONE FOREST, the fifth graphic novel in the award-winning Netflix-bound HILDA series!

Interview: HILDA’s Luke Pearson talks about the books that he adored, absorbed and obsessed over as a child and most inspired him in later life too.

Hilda And The Stone Forest cover

This is NOT the actual cover, but it might have been. What’s different, do you think? It’s ever so telling! ;)


ITEM! Also arrived: Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre’s new all-ages illustrated novel, JINKS & O’HARE FUNFAIR REPAIR!

You’ll remember them from PUGS OF THE FROZEN NORTH, CAKES IN SPACE and OLIVER AND THE SEAWIGS, each in stock and reviewed! Why is a comic shop stocking illustrated prose? Well, like Gary Northfield’s snort-a-thons JULIUS ZEBRA – RUMBLE WITH THE ROMANS and JULIUS ZEBRA – BUNDLE WITH THE BRITTONS (pop him in our search engine for graphic novels too) and Simone Lia’s  THEY DIDN’T TEACH THIS AT WORM SCHOOL (ditto), the fabulous images are so integral to the proceedings – and the proceedings so ingenious – that we simply cannot resist.

In her new illustrated blog (Sarah’s blogs are the best!), Madame McIntyre delves into the origins of JINKS & O’HARE and its history as a comic illustrated by Philip Reeve!


Jinks & OHare for blog


ITEM! Simon Gane’s landscapes and architecture are simply stunning – and he has a whole blogspot full of them.


Simon Gane Architecture 2


ITEM! Two whole reviews this week. We spoil you!

Never mind, for far more extensive weeks, you can scroll back to your heart’s content here:

– Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews August 2016 week five

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

The comicbook history of beer! Seriously! Also, US police racism/corruption, white-supremacy secessionism, British colonial imperialism, other equal horrors plus Agatha Christie and a fair few laffs!

Pretty Deadly vol 2: The Bear s/c (£13-99, Image) by Kelly Sue DeConnick & Emma Rios.

“We are all shaped by what we do.”

Powerful, profound, and exquisitely coloured by Jordie Bellaire, this book bursts which what Emma Rios describes as “lyrical landscapes”.

With such a quietly controlled script, reading this is an intimate, sensual, spiritual, almost out-of-body experience as your eyes are drawn around organic page compositions, between free-floating visual ideas and inset panels.

There’s a process-piece conversation between DeConnick and Rios in the back which ably demonstrates how much thought goes into translating so many clever and complex concepts into elaborate, eloquent visual narratives.

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The Garden wherein the Soul of the World resides is particularly impressive. From there Sissy – who has assumed the mantle of Death and so become both the inner and outer worlds’ Gardener – can see all that occurs, pruning through necessity for the benefit of the bramble. As the branches bend and bifurcate above, so too the roots swell below, while the red-rose tendrils trail in the air, shedding green leaves against a pale pink sky.

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This is very much a book of the living and the dead, and the balance is currently out of kilter for we have reached World War I and the horse-mounted Reaper of War is sending 10,000 souls to The Black every day.

“When they dig their trenches… do you think they know that they’re digging their own graves?”
“I do.”

In PRETTY DEADLY VOL 1 we met Sissy and Foxy, Molly the Raven and Johnny Coyote, Deathface Ginny who had become the Reaper of Vengeance, and Big Alice, the Reaper of Cruelty. Here you will encounter other Reapers, one of whom you may not even suspect to exist, but when its identity is finally revealed it will make so much sense – not just for this story, but for the way in which the world works. For yes, this is also a book about how the world works.

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Previously our narrator Bunny Bones instructed Butterfly on the ways of nature: of adversity, fear, patience, perseverance and survival. Here Bunny has much to impart about the bear and the bees. About how bees are builders or foragers, guards or nurses – even undertakers. How their honey may be sweet but it is their larvae which actually sustains the bear.

“The needs of the bear are not the same as the needs of the bee.”

If the bee stings, it dies. On the other hand:

“Oh, Butterfly. Big things are often humbled by small. That too is the way of things.”

None of this is extraneous.

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PRETTY DEADLY is also a big book of compassion and, as it opens, Susan whom we encountered many moons ago is dying. It’s long been established that her line can see the dead, so when her old flame Fox comes to escort her to the other side, her daughter Verine begs Fox to let her linger just long enough to see her son Cyrus again. She makes this request even though Susan’s in pain and Cyrus is on the other side of the world. His head’s in the moon but he’s hidden himself and his heart well away in a French trench. He’s unlikely to make it out, for the Reaper of War is at work.

Just as the first book begins with a ballad – The Song Of Deathface Ginny and How She Came To Be – so this opens with another generational lament, including wise words for any wake.

“Don’t steal tears from tomorrow, boy
“Don’t grieve for what ain’t lost
“Don’t waste time on yesterday
“You still got paths to cross.”

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Almost everyone you loved from book one will be back, and their paths will surely cross. In doing so, hitherto unseen and unexpected aspects will be revealed, and more than one war will be fought to the death.


Buy Pretty Deadly vol 2: The Bear s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Comic Book Story Of Beer (£14-99, Ten Speed Press) by Jonathan Hennessey, Mike Smith & Aaron McConnell…

“Some might dismiss beer as nothing more than a throwaway consumer item.
“But make no mistake…
“Beer is not only ubiquitous… it is ancient.
“And it has played a far more vital role in the story of humanity that most people realise.
“Nowadays we tend to think of beer as a recreational drink… something to accompany food.
“But for untold centuries beer was food.
“Think about it. Grain, yeast, water… Beer has the same essential ingredients as bread… the stuff of life.”

Which therefore means I have, in fact, a bread belly!

I absolutely loved this fascinating study of the world’s favourite beverage. For indeed, one of the many facts I learnt from this carefully cultured aliquot of alcohol-based indulgence is that globally people consume more beer than coffee, wine and even coca-cola. I tell you what, have another one on me (fact, that is): beer likely takes its name from bibere, the Latin verb for ‘to drink’. So as extremely knowledgeable scribes Jonathan Hennessey and Mike Smith attest, beer is linguistically synonymous with the very act of drinking itself!


This, then, is the historical story of what is also my own personal favourite beverage, from time immemorial to its current social and skilful resurgence in this enlightened era of craft brewing. There’s a little bit of supposition involved in just how far back we can trace the beginnings of brewing, at least 9,000 years perhaps, accidental as it must have been, in part purely due to technical limitations of archaeology. But, one glorious day, the coincidental introduction of airborne yeasts into stored grain that was germinating in the sun and then processed to make gruel – proto-bread, essentially – resulted in an unexpectedly intoxicating brew. A magical happening that would have been a wondrous mystery to prehistoric people. An extremely fortuitous discovery that undoubtedly took a lot of experimentation to replicate and ultimately refine.

We then move forward through time via the Mediaeval revolution in brewing techniques right through to our modern era getting the full timeline of the development of beer, or beers, in all their myriad weird and wonderful varieties, that we have come to know and love. It’s truly educational stuff, I have to say: the level of research the creators have put in is testament to their own clear love for a drop or two of the heady brew.


We also get the occasional interlude of ‘Meet The Beer’ that describes the specific genesis of an individual type of beer, such as the Porter, a firm favourite of long-standing customer and frantic BUFFY flicker, Leigh Hobson. It’s a brew that’s a touch dark for my personal tastes, preferring pale ales as I do, but I was entranced like a drunkard in his cups reading the various origin stories of some of our favourite contemporary beers.

The art is provided by Aaron McConnell, who has illustrated a couple of other works in conjunction with Jonathan Hennessy: THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION: A GRAPHIC ADAPTATION and THE GETTYSBURG ADDRESS: A GRAPHIC ADAPTATION that sound rather more dry, prohibitive affairs, but I’m sure are equally exciting to the right audience.


I shall conclude with a little excerpt from the introduction of this work, which made me chuckle greatly and also neatly highlighted another parallel between fine beer and top-notch comics I have noted. That is, you can’t beat a good recommendation. Particularly if you purchase comics from Page 45 and beer from the truly excellent Brew Cavern situated in Flying Horse Walk Arcade. The book begins with someone walking into a beer emporium looking to purchase some decent brews for his friends and being utterly bemused as where to start even looking, simply utterly bedazzled by the sheer array on the shelves. Fortunately for him there’s an omniscient and mildly insouciant retailer, in the best possible way, only too happy to help…

“Holy…! Where do I even start? Lambic? Bitter? Kölsch? Porter?!”
“Hi. Can I help you find something?”
“Yeah. Dumb question, but… what’s good?”
“Beer. Beer is good!”


There’s a cheeky glint in the eyes of the pictured shopkeeper, as he adjusts his glasses before getting to work, that I’ve definitely seen in the eyes of a certain Stephen L. Holland as he sets out to educate, inform and lighten the wallet / purse of any newcomer into Page 45 in exchange for some quality reading material. I’ve also had several similar experiences with the equally informed Matt at Brew Cavern in recent months! If you need some sage advice on how to refine your drinking habits to hitherto untasted heights, whilst also cleaning you out of your supply of ready cash, he certainly is your man! Just… don’t spend all your money on beer instead of comics, please.


Buy The Comic Book Story Of Beer and read the Page 45 review here

Briggs Land #1 (£2-99, Dark Horse) by Brian Wood & Mack Chater…

“BRIGGS! You got a visitor. Fifteen minutes, Jim.”
“So what the fuck happened to yesterday?”
“I got busy.”
“I needed you here yesterday. We have a schedule for a reason, Grace. It’s like this: you come visit me and I give you orders. Now, if that’s suddenly becoming difficult for you to understand, well…  forgive me if I’m not sympathetic to you and your frivolous life. What the fuck do you do all day, anyway?”
“Jim, please…”
“Shut up. I run this family. Me, not you. I know it. You know it. Our boys know it. And everyone else we know knows it. And if you are ever late coming here again…”
“STOP IT! This is the last time I’m coming here. I’m telling you this face to face as a courtesy. We’re over. I’m taking over control of the family.”
“Yeah, right. Over my dead body you are. What the hell’s gotten into you?”
“I know about your negotiations with the Albany County D.A.’s office. How’s that for starters? I put a thousand dollars in your commissary account. Consider it severance pay. I suggest you make it last. Don’t underestimate me on this. I’m no sellout. I’m prepared to do whatever it takes to protect our land and our history. I’ve been a Briggs since I was seventeen years old. I’ve gotten pretty good at it.”


And that, as they say, is where we come in. It’ll not surprise you to learn that incarcerated antigovernment secessionist and local white power hoodlum Jim Briggs is not best impressed with his wife Grace’s attempt at a de facto coup. Quite how their three sons – all very different characters – plus the rest of the rank and file shock troops running protection rackets and goodness knows what else throughout the county will react remains to be seen.

It’s an absolute certainty Jim isn’t going to just take it, that is for sure. Being stuck inside serving a full life term for an assassination attempt on the President of the United States might make his control on the clan more than a little shaky, though, especially given Grace’s inside knowledge of his attempts to cut a deal with the authorities, potentially for lucrative fracking rights and real estate rights to their hundred square miles of rural wilderness. Sell out indeed, or perhaps buy out might be more appropriate depending on your point of view. If it’s one facing certain death behind bars slowly decaying in a tiny cell, well, it can give even a hardcore anti-establishment man a different perspective on the benefits of working within the political system.


Brian Wood has come up with another belter of a premise for us here, spending the rest of the first issue giving us the lowdown on Mama Briggs and her brood, as seen through the eyes of the pair of romantically involved FBI agents on undercover surveillance duties, who are as intrigued as everyone else by the power grab and how raucously it’ll play out. We don’t have long to wait on that score as Wood fires off the first round of gunfire and high explosives that I’m sure will become an ever-present  punctuation on this title.


I wasn’t aware of artist Mick Chater before, but his figure art is strong and substantial, very similar to Butch ARCHANGEL Guice’s. My thoughts upon reading this first issue were that it is almost certainly going to appeal massively to fans of SOUTHERN BASTARDS and SCALPED, plus the Justified and Sons Of Anarchy television shows. In fact, this is apparently already in development for an AMC show, which doesn’t surprise me in the slightest.


Buy Briggs Land #1 and read the Page 45 review here

The Trial Of Roger Casement (£12-99, SelfMadeHero) by Fionnuala Doran.

“The sun rises in the east, so I arrived that morning with the night sky behind me… facing an unbearable light. A metaphor for my whole life.
“A tired metaphor, to be sure…
“But I’ll have time to correct it before publication.”

He won’t, you know.

It’s Good Friday, 21st April 1916, three days before the Easter Risings.

Two months later, Sir Roger Casement would be tried for treason; and two months after that he’d be hanged.

It may seem odd that an account such as this begins with the mildly comedic, but that’s part of its charm – along with the illusion that Sir Roger’s narrating – and it endeared me immediately. It’s repeated when, after washing up on Ireland’s west coast then passing out on its shore, he’s discovered by a dog and its owner. He’d barely had time to help bury the cache of German arms, and had been desperate to reach Dublin incognito.


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‘Bollocks’ seems the perfect summary of this thoroughly bungled affair – from Roger Casement’s point of view, anyway. Throughout, this formerly effective, distinguished and decorated negotiator and diplomat for the British government is depicted as weary and worried – and frazzled, in fact. At one point he visually fractures. Again, there’s something funny about his wide-eyed dishevelment as he protests to a police sergeant later that day, claiming to be an academic and author writing a book on St  Brendan… until that cache of German arms is unearthed.

“Oh, shit.”

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It’s World War I, I’d remind you, and Britain is at war with Germany. So what was Casement doing smuggling German arms to Ireland?

Well, he’d been dispatched by the clandestine US-based Irish Republican Brotherhood to Germany in order to secure support there for an Irish revolt. His bargaining chip was that it would distract Britain from its war effort and divert troops to Ireland. In exchange he hoped to receive funding, arms and the release of German-held Irish soldiers to fight the revolution.

What’s made clear in this graphic novel – which flashes backwards and forwards in time between America, Germany, washing up on that shore and Casement’s subsequent trial – is that he received virtually no support from his own HQ (funding evaporated), a lukewarm fobbing off from German high command, and a great big duffing up from the Irish soldiers he was hoping would delight in his nationalist cause and their liberation. Slight miscalculation, there: they were German prisoners of war! They knew who the enemy was: the captors they’d just fought against. Britain was signing their pay cheques.

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Hapless is one word to describe Casement’s fall from grace; hopeless, his left-in-the-lurch and hung-out-to-dry predicament. And it’s not so much his fall from grace, either, it’s his fall from efficacy.

Doran handles the trial sequences very intelligently, presenting Casement’s silent retort to the prosecution’s dissemblance as a conversational, internal monologue outlining his motivations, his switch in allegiance following Prime Minister Asquith’s offer of the prospect of Home Rule to Ireland. Ulster’s Protestant middle classes “fearful of Rome and hating Papism, did not want a government domination by Roman Catholics” so the paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force is formed to resist Home Rule, followed by establishment of the Irish Volunteers as an equal and opposite reaction to the UVF.

The rest, as they say, is history. But so is this missed trick: Casement’s two decades in the Congo from 1884 where he met Joseph Conrad. If you’ve read Conrad’s damning ‘Heart Of Darkness’ you’ll know what a transformative experience that must have been. It was Casement’s exceptional work as a consul there – gathering evidence to expose and condemn Belgium’s King Leopold’s strip-mining exploitation of the country’s natural resources, and indeed its people who endured horrific, systematic abuse as slaves – which earned him his decorations including the British knighthood. Ironically it must surely have been those self-same atrocities which helped fuel his disgust for any sort of colonial imperialism – including that of Britain in Ireland. Nevertheless, none of this is mentioned during the graphic novel itself. There’s a nod to the Boer War but the Congo’s only mentioned in an editorial timeline. That doesn’t ruin the book for me one jot – it’s just a blindingly obvious missed opportunity.

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Instead Doran concentrates on another thread: Casement’s affair with a supposedly stranded Norwegian sailor whom he adopts as his valet, and other same-sex dalliances he documented in his diaries which the British government discovered then used to smear Casement in order to forestall any post-trial appeals for clemency. And that’s fair enough – the thread, I mean! – because it’s the trial that’s in the title.

I loved the rough-hewn art and all the haunting or haunted expressions, as well as the expressionistic flourishes like tuberculosis-ridden Joseph Plunkett, Casement’s only Irish Rising face-to-face contact in Berlin, whose face dissolves in front of an increasingly anxious, hopeless, deflated and defeated Casement into a skull. The faint sage green only adds to the austerity: the outlook is bleak throughout.

This is exactly what I want from a biographical graphic novel: an angle, clearly focussed and an immersion which gives me some sense of stake in what’s proceeding.


Buy The Trial Of Roger Casement and read the Page 45 review here

Agatha: The Real Life Of Agatha Christie (£12-99, SelfMadeHero) by Anne Martinetti, Guillaume Lebeau & Alexandre Franc.

This ticks all the boxes for me – the boxes in the ‘No’ column.

Oh, apart from the art whose lines are neat and tidy and ever so full of space, which conjures every country visited to perfection, and whose warm colours positively radiate with heat in the desert. So that’s a considerable achievement I shouldn’t have dismissed in the first line.

There’s no denying that Agatha Christie was a terrific writer with a full and fascinating life, and Poirot as a co-star driving her potty is a fabulous conceit. It grows repetitive and tired pretty swiftly, but it’s a fabulous conceit. And, if cramming for an exam, you want a condensed history of Agatha Christie with some pretty pictures to help the medicine go down, this wouldn’t be out of place in any Primary school library. Secondary, at a push.

But as a comic, it’s one long, insultingly clunky, two-dimensional, expository mess.

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The first page is fair enough: London 7th December 1926 on which the papers report that Aggie’s gone AWOL and we’re presented with six panels summarising public and private reaction, finishing on her husband’s interrogation as prime suspect by the police. Haha! Serves the unfaithful fucker right.

But by page two it had lost me. I seriously doubt any Home Secretary would bark, “This is no ordinary woman. She’s a novelist! We must find her, no matter the cost!”

Trust me: this works better in German,

Trust me: this works better in German.

Everything about that sentence annoys me. However, what really got my goat was being buried under a mountain of stilted explication. Who talks like this except in a job interview? In a ballroom while dancing hand-in-hand with a lady you’ve just met…? What a chronic, boastful bore.

“Are you also a good soldier?”
“I passed my entrance exam at the Woolwich Academy and was named second lieutenant in the Royal Artillery in July 1909.”

At what time of day?

“I just took the pilot’s course in Bristol. I flew solo for the first time on 6 July. Almost 30 minutes all by myself!”

What were the weather conditions? I want specific wind speeds, please, followed by the shipping forecast.

“And I got my certificate from the Royal Aero Club in mid-July flying a Bristol Boxkite. Now I’m waiting to get into the Royal Flying Corps. Shall I see you again?”

Not on your bloody Nelly.

On the very next page she marries him.

It also works better in French.

It also works better in French.

There’s page after page after page of this unsubtle shoe-horning during the most unlikely or inappropriate circumstances. Here’s some idle chit-chat while painting in Syria:

“Is there a link between your detective and Pierre-Achille Poirot, a member of the Morea Expedition, the 19th Century French Army Intervention in Greece that was also a scientific mission?”
“You’re very observant, Robin. Indeed, I was inspired by him.”

Also, very specific, Robin.

This is worse than an old-skool DC superhero comic:

“Good morning, Master Bruce. You are secretly Batman and I have worked for your family at the Wayne Mansion for 37 years, 6 months and 2 days in the capacity of butler. Your parents are dead, you know.”

I think it’s time for some lunch. She’s raising a glass…

“Dear Monsieur Pigasse, thank you so much for the work you’ve done for my books in your brilliant imprint Le Masque. French is one of the subtlest and liveliest languages known to man!”
“And may I congratulate you! The Mystery Writers Of America association has just honoured your body of work with its Grand Master Award.”

She probably knows that, Pigasse.

Hold on, she’s about to go fishing. Do you want to keep that contract or not?

“As a writer, I’ve often wondered what my place was…”
“Shakespeare’s right hand?”



Buy Agatha: The Real Life Of Agatha Christie and read the Page 45 review here

Scarlet vol 2 h/c (£22-99, Icon / Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev.

I don’t think I can better the introduction I wrote to volume one, so here we go again.

Few things anger most people I know more than the abuse of power.

Racism is one of them, so South Africa under Apartheid was a double whammy, and Congressman John Lewis has some arresting history for you in MARCH when it comes to policing in America.

Because when individuals, corporations or entire state institutions abuse their power and successfully get away with it through powerful connections, political indifference, mass-media collusion or wholesale capitulation, most of us get pretty steamed.

Welcome to Scarlet’s world: it’s just come crashing down around her. Her boyfriend was murdered by a corrupt cop in a city of corrupt cops and so not only did he get away with it, he was commended and promoted while the newspapers which displayed zero interest in investigative journalism printed barefaced police lies.

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So far Scarlet has [REDACTED] and published film footage of her doing so. She’s successfully galvanised Portland’s public into supporting her at a flash-mob rally into whose crowd the police threw a live grenade. But now she’s really got the Mayor’s attention:

“I have a list.”
“I thought you might.”
“At first blush, I don’t think you’re going to like it. Being that you and I have decidedly different world views.”
“I don’t think that’s necessarily true, actually. We both want the world to be a better place. We both have dedicated our lives to it.”
“What a smarmy politician’s answer.”
“Well, I am a smarmy politician.”
“Can I insult you? Are you insultable?”
“I’m sensitive about my hairline.

So how did Scarlet secure that face-to-face, one-on-one meeting when she’s the most wanted woman in the state?

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From the writer of JESSICA JONES: ALIAS – which is cracking crime fiction – and his artist on DAREDEVIL comes something completely non-genre highly recommended to readers of CRIMINAL etc.

It’s brave stuff, not just in its direct attack on police duplicity but in where Bendis is prepared to take it. When I originally read book one, I wondered whether he’d written himself into a hole he couldn’t possibly climb out of, but that was pretty faithless of me given Bendis’ track record. Don’t expect him to back out or ease off now on the extreme actions both sides are going to take and the irreversible plight that then puts them in.

Maleev throws multiple art angles at the multiple flashbacks which depict the horrific events which tipped Scarlet’s growing inner circle. The most affecting of these is Isis’ appallingly brutal awakening from childhood idyll as a dutiful daughter with a doting Daddy. It’s narrated with a children’s picture-book clarity over three double-page spreads, illustrated by Maleev as fully painted portraits of Isis, close-up. The first, seen from above, depicts Isis delightedly holding her Daddy’s hand on the way to school.

“It was her favourite time of the day.”

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The second is so closely framed that it almost crushes her. The third is the most successful rendition of wide-eyed, catatonic shock that I have ever seen in my life.

Maleev doesn’t skimp on the rowdy crowd scenes, either, but at one key moment the sound is effectively muted as the throng disappears to be replaced by an increasingly livid, fiery red when things go spectacularly wrong.

For more, please see SCARLET VOL 1 s/c or indeed SCARLET VOL 1 h/c which still in stock at the time of typing.


Buy Scarlet vol 2 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Hound vol 2: Defender h/c (Signed & Numbered!) (£29-99, Cuchulainn Entertainment) by Paul Bolger & Barry Devlin…

“As (blood) brothers we can talk plain… right?”
“To be sure.”
“I hear a voice in my head.”
“HA HA! Hey… calm… I’m sorry… all right? Sit. Talk… please. What does it say this… voice?”
“It… she… tells me what to do in a race… in a fight. When I hear her I start to shake. The world twists and turns red before my eyes.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
“Because I haven’t heard her since I came to Skye…”

Readers of the first volume of Paul Bolger and Barry Devlin’s homage to the legend of Cú Chulainn, HOUND VOL 1: PROTECTOR will know exactly why that voice is absent and that it will most assuredly reprise once our hero Setanta returns from his exile and sets foot on the Emerald Isle. For as a young boy, Setanta was chosen by the Morrigan, a witch who follows the old ways of the Great Mother Danú, to be her weapon in the times of war to come. When Setanta left Ireland to attempt to gain access to the fighting school of the warrior women of Skye, that earth magic connection was temporarily broken.


This second volume follows his training on Skye where firm friendships are forged and blood bonds made, plus the hoopla regarding his arrival back in his homeland, where surprisingly he’s actually hoping to eschew a life of violence. For despite all his martial prowess, deep down Setanta wishes for nothing more than to wed his childhood sweetheart and enjoy the quiet life as a farmer. However, before too long events and people are being manipulated wholesale by dark forces to force Setanta off his chosen path and back into blood-spattering battle once more. The Morrigan will have her way, and her champion, no matter the cost.


Of volume one I wrote and which still holds completely true for this volume…

This is definitely a very measured, romantic almost, re-telling of the material, which I think is highly appropriate. Yes, there are moments of utter brutality, and there will be many more in the next two volumes, but ultimately this is the saga of one man and his evolution from a mere boy into a potent symbol of a culture. It’s appropriate therefore that the art is as delicately composed as the story-telling, in black and white with the odd dash of red, usually due to the spilling of blood or supernatural, glowing eyes. Sometimes there are heavily full or near-full silhouetted sections with black backgrounds where the characters are rendered in white, which neatly counterpoint the more typical illustrations of black on white.

The illustration style is quite delicate. Paul Bolger’s faces and anatomy do remind me of Jeff Smith at times (humans à la RASL and TUKI, rather than the family BONE obviously!), yet there’s also the odd dash of Paul Pope’s extravagance and flourishes in the capes and backgrounds as well. It’s a lovely clean style and palette which is in complete contrast to, say, Clint Langley’s painted SLAINE, which is great and perfect for gorefest action, but this sympathetic art style really adds to the story-telling element.

These second volumes are from the numbered run of 750 for the Kickstarter and have also been very kindly signed by Paul.


Buy Hound vol 2: Defender h/c (Signed & Numbered!) and read the Page 45 review here

Alena (£15-99, Dark Horse) by Kim W. Andersson…

“What do you mean you met a guy?”
“I dunno. I mean a guy, just a guy… y’know. Nice, cute. He plays basketball and…”
“Are you kidding?! A jock? Alena?! I don’t believe it. Since when are we interested in guys? It’s not our thing. You know that.”

Nerve-jangling horror-fest that starts with the tension ramped right up to excruciating and only gets more exquisitely uncomfortable to read from there. Kim W. Andersson’s 2012 graphic novel has just been made into a rather well-received Swedish film and also finally translated into English, courtesy of Dark Horse.

So, our titular protagonist is empathically not in a good place. Trapped at a posh boarding school she’s brutally tormented daily by Philippa and her posse of lacrosse girls. The reason, well, one year previously, the above conversation between Alena and her friend Josephine ended rather badly, with Josephine taking a plunge from a high bridge, having climbed atop the barrier to instigate a dramatic confrontation with her confused girlfriend, Alena.


It’s a scene Alena has replayed over and over many times during the last year, during the endless verbal and physical assaults she’s had to endure over her mysterious relationship with Josephine and her untimely and equally enigmatic death. The fact that Josephine has been appearing to Alena, demanding she fights back against her bullies, probably hasn’t helped Alena move on… But is she merely an unwelcome self-induced hallucinatory reminder of perhaps true love lost forever in the midst of that tragic life-altering incident, or something more…? As the bullies start to experience callous, escalating retaliations from a shadowy figure and we move firmly into classic slasher-flick territory, matters only become more ambiguous…


If you are a fan of the Scream films, this will have huge appeal. Despite the pure gore factor, I found the character of Alena herself rather intriguing and very well written. The big reveal regarding the identity of the murderer I did guess, but I was so swept up in the comeuppance of Alena’s truly odious academic adversaries, that I didn’t mind one jot. Art-wise, it’s a style that dissembles the at times extreme violence, yet also allows for some excellent, subtle exaggeration of facial characteristics, particular on the part of Philippa who at times almost takes on slightly porcine features. As a good one-off chunk of bleeding horror, recommended.


Buy Alena and read the Page 45 review here

Snotgirl #2 (£2-25, Image) by Bryan Lee O’Malley & Leslie Hung.

“Listen! Nobody cares about either of your stupid made-up boyfriends!”
“My boyfriend isn’t – Wait, I don’t even have a boyfriend!”
“Shushes, please!!”

Well, I’m even more delirious now that we made SNOTGIRL #1 August’s Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month, for this is one of the most surprising second issues I can recall. Just as the first instalment went in a direction no one saw coming (and I didn’t spoil for you), this doesn’t go where you’d expect from there, either (and I’m not about to spoil that, either).

The cast will be expanded considerably and – like Lottie herself – you’ll be kept guessing throughout how much trouble she’s in. O’Malley is really messing with your mind – and Lottie’s.

That’s it really. We don’t normally do second issue reviews, and I can’t say much more without blowing it anyway.


Buy Snotgirl #2 and read the Page 45 review here

Demonic #1 (£2-25, Image) by Christopher Sebela & Niko Walter…

“She’s got you on a short leash, partner.”
“I need my leash yanked every now and then. It’s good for me.”
“Wow. Remember when we used to say she was like a tick you couldn’t…”
“Long time ago, Fischer.”
“Lighten up, Graves. I’m allowed to use your past against you, Mr. Sensitive. It’s in the partner’s manual.”
“Uh huh. Let’s roll. Faster we knock this out, tell the roomies to stop fighting over the milk, faster we can catch something worth our time.”
“Famous last words. 5-to-1 we walk into a complete clusterfuck.”
“Your lips to God’s ear, Fischer.”

…as the eviscerated body hits the sidewalk just in front of them.

I guess the title is some clue to what to expect, so it’s no surprise to find our erstwhile partners in crime-fighting walking straight into what appears to be a full-on demonic possession and indeed total clusterfuck of the highest supernatural order.


It’s a situation that sends chills straight up Detective Grave’s spine, given his very strange upbringing as part of a commune, and more besides… It’s a piece of his, as yet to us, mysterious past that Graves and his wife have agreed to never, ever talk about again. Unfortunately for Detective Graves, though, it seems his past isn’t done with him yet as he is offered a very dark deal indeed to preserve the lives of those closest to him. He takes the deal, of course, but did he actually need to…?


I enjoyed this opener from the writer of HIGH CRIMES and I have a fair degree of confidence this initial excellent level of plotting and dialogue will be sustained. It’s basically a blend of KILL OR BE KILLED and OUTCAST with a police procedural backdrop. More sketchy artwork, which really does seem to be de rigueur at the mo, from another new name to me, Niko Walter, very much adds to the creepy feel. I fear Detective Graves is in for a very rough and extremely bloody time.



Buy Demonic #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Viking vol 1: The Long Cold Fire s/c (£14-99, Image) by Ivan Brandon & Nic Klein.

“It was an ugly thing you did, Egil.”
“Was it? I call it strong.”
“That man earned what he had.”
“But he could not hold it.”
“You’re not a child anymore, Egil. A child takes what he wants. A man makes it. I did not raise you this way. Your father died playing this game you’re playing. They killed your mother just for standing besides him.”
“He died a man, grandfather. They knew my father’s name before he died.”
“They knew it after. We sailed across the world to get away from those who knew your father’s name.”
“And maybe one day I’ll sail back so they can hear it again from me.”

Described as a Viking Crime book by the author Ivan, this is berserker-level intense in its depiction of just how violent society was at the time for those people engaged in, shall we say, a more… entrepreneurial lifestyle.

I don’t really want to give too much away of the plot; suffice to say as you can probably ascertain from the quotation above, revenge – usually served up hot, raw and bloody rather than cold and at leisure – is frequently the special of the day. Well, every day by the look of it. Our central protagonists have that short term ‘get rich quick, what could possibly go wrong’ worldview that the most idiotic of criminals regardless of era typically posses. And of course a botched job leads to complications best avoided in any century, especially if kidnapping royalty is involved, and the justice of the time probably isn’t going to involve a slap on the wrist and comfortable accommodation while you consider the error of your ways.

I love the grandfather fishing for eels using a dead horse’s head as bait! We have that sequence for you here. Gloriously grotesque!

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It’s well written crime from Brandon with the added bonus of swords and axes, so how can you go wrong?! I have to pass comment on the art too. I was initially slightly confused as to who was who, but once the initial bout of blood-letting is done with, Klein really settles down and produces some impressive and powerfully colourful work.

More good news on the Viking front: NORTHLANDERS is being repacked with the first substantial collection out now (highly recommended – its vast and diverse scope portrays multiple perspectives covering all sorts of social history), and BLACK ROAD #1 also written by Brian Wood is still in stock and reviewed.


Buy Viking vol 1: The Long Cold Fire 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.

The One Hundred Nights Of Hero (£18-99, Jonathan Cape) by Isabel Greenberg

Adventure Time: Fionna & Cake – Card Wars s/c (£9-99, Titan) by Jen Wang & Britt Wilson

Adventure Time: Four Castles s/c (£8-99, Titan) by Josh Trujillo & Zachary Sterling

Adventure Time vol 9 (UK Edition) s/c (£9-99, Titan) by Christopher Hastings & Zachary Sterling, Phil Murphy

Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor vol 4: Endless Song (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Titan) by Nick Abadzis & Eleonora Carlini, Elena Casagrande, Leonardo Romero

Black Panther vol 1: A Nation Under Our Feet s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Ta-Nehisi Coates & Brian Stelfreeze

Jessica Jones: Avenger s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Gaydos, Joe Quesada, Billy Tan, Mike Mayhew

Spider-Man / Deadpool vol 1: Isn’t It Bromantic s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Joe Kelly & Ed McGuinness

Attack On Titan vol 19 (£8-99, Kodansha) by Hajime Isayama

Attack On Titan: Before The Fall vol 8 (£8-99, Kodansha) by Ryo Suzukaze & Satoshi Shiki

One Piece vol 79 (£6-99, Viz) by Eiichiro Oda

Pokemon Adventures vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Hidenori Kusaka & Mato

Pokemon Adventures vol 2 (£8-99, Viz) by Hidenori Kusaka & Mato

Pokemon Adventures vol 3 (£8-99, Viz) by Hidenori Kusaka & Mato

Pokemon Adventures vol 4 (£6-99, Viz) by Hidenori Kusaka & Mato

Pokemon Adventures vol 5 (£6-99, Viz) by Hidenori Kusaka & Mato

Pokemon Adventures vol 6 (£6-99, Viz) by Hidenori Kusaka & Mato

Pokemon Adventures vol 7 (£6-99, Viz) by Hidenori Kusaka & Mato


Frederick Peeters blog

ITEM! Frederick Peeters’ tumblr has some gorgeous art!

ITEM! Some thoughts on this year’s Ignatz Awards nominees. Hooray for Tillie Walden!

A City Inside 2 - Copy

ITEM! Kieron Gillen provides an update on all his current comics projects including those not yet announced.

In doing so, he answers an FAQ here on THE WICKED + THE DIVINE.

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ITEM! Update on the restoration of CEREBUS: JAKA’S STORY

CEREBUS: READS back in print any second not, followed by CEREBUS: GOING HOME anon.

ITEM! Malin Ryden & Emma Vieceli’s BREAKS book one is now complete and online for free.

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– Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews August 2016 week four

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

“If it doesn’t already exist, Eddie Campbell will invent it.”

 – Stephen on Bacchus Volume Two

Bacchus Volume Two Omnibus Edition s/c (£35-99, Top Shelf) by Eddie Campbell.

“The Screamin’ Habdabs! How did they get back?”
“It’s beyond me.”
“Everything’s beyond you, Mortal Ken.”

Let the revelry recommence!

ALEC’s Eddie Campbell recounted tales of his 4,000-year-old, weather-worn demigod for nearly one and a half decades, ending in 1999. Sub-titled “Immortality Isn’t Forever”, BACCHUS VOLUME ONE found the Greek god of wine washed up on strangely sympathetic modern shores in far from fine physical fettle but with his spirits still riding high.
It was as much about the stories Bacchus had to tell – of his and other gods’ escapades – as it was about Bacchus himself, who wandered across the globe from bar to bar or beach to beach in a battered old coat and a fisherman’s cap which hides his wizened brow and his twin, stubby horns but not his lived-in laughter lines. Wherever he roamed he found ancient friends, along with new devotees eager to imbibe his wisdom.

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In this concluding volume our weary one seeks successive sanctuary in two English country pubs, the second of which – on the shore – secedes from Britain after being condemned by Health & Safety.

Structurally, things will not improve save for a singular and substantial erection commemorating the King’s birthday. The King in question is Bacchus himself who brews beer from abstract concepts on which – as an independent state – they refuse to pay taxes. Worried lest some Scottish islands distilling whiskey follow suit, thereby depriving the government of millions in revenue, the pub is besieged by the police; but it’s that glorious morning’s monument which will finally put paid to the monarchy and bang Bacchus back up for a much longer stint than the one during which we first met him – at Her Majesty’s pleasure.

Meanwhile there’s that revelry I made mention of, which is where Eddie’s cohort in ‘Campbell Industries’ comes to the fore, because Pete Mullins has one hell of an eye for drop-dead gorgeous ladies dancing their deliciously curved hips off.

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These contours are accentuated by ever-so-chic dresses patterned with horizontal black and white stripes which – in the interests of equality – will serve a similarly revealing purpose on Bacchus’ old-skool bathing suit, showing off his own not inconsiderable assets.

Unfortunately this attracts the attention of both Delirium Tremens and dour, disapproving Mr Dry, the latter pursuing the drink-loving demigod through a series of paintings, leaving each one a great deal less lively for his prohibitive presence. Hogarth’s ‘Beer Street’, for example, loses all its lust, lustre and indeed frothy beverages, rendering its remaining denizens so sour-faced that one of them petulantly kicks a cat.

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There are so many background jokes in that sequence alone, but this entire penultimate storyline is packed full of similarly anarchic ideas including a lady called Collage and a whole host of your favourite comicbook creators – Dave Sim (“I’ve fixed it so I can’t be wrong!”), Neil Gaiman (constantly in demand to write blurbs for the back of the bar menu), Alan Moore, Jeff Smith et al – enduring mischievous mockery and considerable indignities, all in the aid of an elaborate storytelling slight-of-hand.

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Eddie Campbell’s portraits are so spot-on that you’ll recognise anyone you know immediately – so much so that when a character copyrighted by a certain corporation crops up without signing-posting, your brain will flip in a single second from an incredulous “He hasn’t…!” to a grin-inducing “Oh yes, he has!” As to Campbell’s ability to mimic, there’s also an extensive parody of superhero trends at the time, right down to Rob Liefeld’s inking style. If you think that’s odd in such a body of work, then it’s perhaps because I’ve yet to remind you that two-thirds of each volume is given over to the insane and highly explosive antics of the Eyeball Kid.

I alluded to Campbell’s love of Jack Kirby in BACCHUS VOLUME ONE, but here there’s an out-and-out 90-page slugfest (‘Hermes Versus the Eyeball Kid’) specifically inspired by Lee & Kirby’s Hulk VersusThing showdowns. It comes complete with similarly structured splash pages, as well as more than one homage (making much use of that cog-based Spirograph toy which was all the rage half a century ago) to the photographic special effects which Kirby occasionally introduced to his line work. As to its laugh-out-loud, OTT “Behind you!” climax, it is ever so worthy of Kirby and Lee.

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Anyway, stories: instead of Bacchus regaling his acolytes, this time he’s on the receiving end both in clink and in his cups. In ‘1001 Nights of Bacchus’ it’s a Sheherezade-like situation, only without the threat of instant execution. As Bacchus settles in at The Travellers Joy and threatens to fall asleep, the storytellers’ incentive is to keep him awake and so each evening’s Last Orders at bay. Eddie explains his colleagues’ collaboration and later the whole ‘Campbell Industries’ semi-satirical scenario in the various introductions, but – initially inspired by the short stories of O. Henry – Campbell and co come up with a dazzling array of entertainments, diverse in form, content and execution. There’s an illustrated, rhyming ditty on bad beer penned by Marcus ‘Minty’ Moore, a ridiculously elaborate twist on the stock scenario of the Englishman, American/Welsh/Scottish and Irishman joke involving a badly behaved superhero (the stuff that Campbell can pack in to a single six-page story!), a wordless wonder ostensibly mimed by a Marcel Marceau – and when I say “ostensibly” and “wonder”, it actually stars an impeccably drawn Stan Laurel surviving a day of very bad omens and incredibly good luck with “another fine mess” of a punchline – and, perhaps my favourite, the complete discombobulation of ‘The Man Who Couldn’t Say Boo’ for whom order is all and firing someone such an anathema that he goes to increasingly ludicrous, message-leaving lengths not to do it in person.

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As to the styles used in rendering, we have crisp and clear for the meticulous one above, photography with attendant ransom-note cut-and-pasted lettering, lots of scalpel-cut Letratone, a dirty sort of affair employing background textures acquired through grained paper or board rubbed with graphite for a grave-based, hallucinatory horror story which may owe something to Aristophanes’ Ancient Greek play ‘The Frogs’ (I’m thinking the “Bobok” refrain – and also the frogs!) … and that’s just for those opening short stories!.

Basically this: it is by now a cliché – which I am as guilty of as anyone in perpetuating – to describe Eddie Campbell as the finest raconteur in comics.

But I don’t just mean his gift of the gab in person or in print. I mean Eddie’s ability to time his tall tales with such pin-point precision for maximum mirth, conjuring whatever visual tricks he deems most efficacious from previously thin air.

If it doesn’t already exist, Eddie Campbell will invent it.

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For more salutations and celebration, please see our review of BACCHUS VOLUME ONE, ALEC and so much more by popping Eddie Campbell into our search engine.

“It’s been centuries since I commanded such devotion.
“And I thought that young people today had no respect for traditional values.
“And in these post-convivial times, too. My cult is born again.
“The doings of this day will re-establish my worship in the world.
“My disciples will carry forth the word and the word is…


Buy Bacchus Volume Two Omnibus Edition s/c and read the Page 45 review here

10 Great Ways To Spend A Day in Nottingham Print (Signed, Limited Edition of 75) (£6-00) by Christian Palmer-Smith.

“God, this fills me with such affection for Nottingham.”

– Chris Gardiner

Bigger than a 7-inch single, printed on quality paper, backed, bagged and signed by Christian Palmer-Smith, this glorious artefact to treasure forever is limited to 75 copies worldwide. I tried to persuade Kit to go for a higher price point but he wasn’t having it, so now you can instead for a ridiculously affordable six quid.

Mine’s mounted and framed, hanging opposite original Page 45-related art by Duncan Fegredo and Marc Laming with some Bryan Lee O’Malley thrown in for good measure. For yes, Page 45 features stage-centre here along with 9 other Nottingham Independent outlets including Rough Trade, Ludorati and Ideas On Paper.

It’s an inspired and inspiring print that reflects not just the diversity of Nottingham’s independent pleasures but also their quality and individuality. And since time passes, we can comfortably call it a comic!

10 of my fav things to do in Nottingham

I love the real wit of each panel, evidenced by precisely which aspect/details of his visits Christian has chosen to illustrate, the parenthetical asides and the carefully chosen colour palettes. Page 45’s shelves aren’t the same soft faun, nor are all its graphic novels, yet by restricting himself to a warm and gentle range, Page 45 is presented as a relaxed and comfortable place to browse and one’s eyes are drawn to this central panel around which the more colourful recommendations can then orbit in an orderly fashion without bombarding your brain.

By contrast, Ideas On Paper’s magazines – catering for every interest you could imagine, no matter how recondite – are rendered in all their multicoloured splendour against a spacious white wall and reproduced with a mind-boggling level of detail which put me in mind of Philippa Rice’s diorama window for Page 45 many moons ago. In Rough Trade’s case, the evening’s entertainment is spotlit instead, just like any gig. Clever!

In many other hands this would have been a simple checklist, but by considering each experience from its singular perspective (dwarfed by a modern art exhibition at the Contemporary; intimate, framed, with heads seen from behind at the Broadway Cinema) and by indicating added value (“Get a tutorial in comics from Page 45: they sure do know their stuff” – we do love providing shop-floor recommendations to anyone who asks!) it surpasses any mere A-Z and becomes a journey to cherish and remember.

We begin, of course, as is customary for all Nottingham assignations, by meeting Mr. Palmer-Smith at the Lions.


Buy 10 Great Ways To Spend A Day in Nottingham Print (Signed, Limited Edition of 75) and read the Page 45 review here

Hellbound (£8-99, Retrofit) by Kaeleigh Forsyth & Alabaster Pizzo.

“I’m going to start wearing lipstick and if that doesn’t get me anywhere I’ll begin to address my emotional problems.”

All the funnier for being delivered deadpan by writer and artist alike, these are succinct Notes To Self satirise bad behaviour, warped priorities and consumerist claptrap like editorial advertisements.

With primary colours which belie the procession of daily disappointments, they’re clever without screaming about how clever they are.

“Intimate life details I know about dudes who only possibly remember my name”, for example, is not just a list of extraordinary confidences or confessions, which sounds sweet, but – when you consider the title – a searing indictment of the self-obsessed: those who don’t listen nor care to ask questions.

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HELLBOUND is also one big commiseration with those who feel – or are made to feel – lonely, inadequate or unfulfilled.

“New goals for 2016” includes:

“Cry less in public
“Cry less in private
“Continue not having children
“Get to 5pm every day without fastening cinder block to ankle + walking into East River
“Clean grout in shower.”

Boastful round-robin Christmas or New Year messages are given a good roasting, as is Ernest Hemingway, while “Problems I’ve Learned To Live Around’ will speak volumes to the world’s worst procrastinators like me.

You can be sure that self-validation through approbation on social media like Instagram and Twitter crops up and I laughed at myself a lot then.

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One of the finest sequences involves a language learning app taken “to kill time & quell the mind demons on the flight home”. The humour is cumulative as the app offers up sentences to translate from German which are as random as they are ridiculous as they are least likely to lull your thoughts from imminent plane-crash conflagration.

My favourite, however, is a single page in which our long-suffering lady has dressed up smartly for a date (lipstick dutifully applied) and sits with all the composure in the world on a train en route to meet him, while casting her mind back on all their previous liaisons. She’s drinking. Heavily.

“by the time i get to the stop i hate him abd am embarrassed to br seen our w/ him”

Now would probably be a good – if not propitious – time to start addressing those emotional problems instead.

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Buy Hellbound and read the Page 45 review here

Cry Havoc vol 1: Mything In Action s/c (£13-99, Image) by Simon Spurrier & Ryan Kelly, various.

And the award for very best titular pun goes to…

“So why is she on her own?”
“Huh. She ate her sister. Ah, it was ill. Probably would’ve been put down anyway. But Princess Giggles, there? Whoof.”

In which you will learn more about hyenas’ genitalia than you expected to. Certainly more than I’m comfortable talking about here. If you care to read Si’s extensive annotations in the back you will learn even more about lithium, opium, exocannanibalism, theophagy, Blackwater (a right old, well deserved rant), assorted American military hardware and oh so many myths from throughout history and across the globe including a rich vein of vampires which make Bela Lugosi look bland. About werewolves you will learn that we shouldn’t be calling them werewolves. For now, I will be calling them werewolves.

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I like a comic whose arcane aspects have been thoroughly researched but which isn’t insistent on ramming that research down your throat in order to get a First Class degree in Esoterics and require readers do same to decode it. By all means give us a gander in the back, but not in the story itself, please. Hurrah for Si Spurrier, then! I thought this was enormous fun.

Drawn throughout by LOCAL and THE COMPLETE NEW YORK FOUR artist Ryan Kelly, CRY HAVOC flips between three time periods colour-coded by Nick Filardi for the sequences set in London (the past), Matt Wilson in Afghanistan (the present) and Lee Loughbridge in… well, not in a good place. In a cage.

That’s where we know blue-haired violinist Louise Canton ends up, some undisclosed time in the future on the very first page. Back in London she’s looking inside that other cage – the hyena’s – in the zoo where her girlfriend works. And in the middle sequences Louise is in Afghanistan, dressed in military combat gear, and looking outside a CH47-F Chinook Helicopter which is hovering above the exploding guts of a goat it’s just fired upon.

It’s not an obvious career move, I grant you.

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But back in the beginning while busking by the Old Bailey, she was bitten down an alley by what looked like a werewolf and it unleashed in her a sensory overload, a craving – an intoxication – followed by a transmogrification.

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Each of the crew Louise has now found herself with, working for Inhand Org, appear to have had similar transformative experiences with differing results and know more about their condition and its history than she does. One by one you will meet their… inner demons? Too judgemental – let’s say what’s been unlocked in each individual.

For now Louise is being transported to a deserted U.S.-run rendition centre which was mothballed when “a civilian employee lost her shit, killed five C.I.A., released ten insurgents”. By “lost her shit” he means she went feral.


They’re here to track her down.

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It’s not just the colour-coding and panel grids which differ between time periods, but Kelly’s art too. London’s the style you’ll be accustomed to. I’ve never seen him draw anything like the Afghanistan sequences before: much sharper, more detailed lines in both the interior and exterior shots of the rendition centre, while the faces in places are closer to Mark Laming’s and, in one notable instance, almost as if inked by Tom Palmer. That Chinook’s pretty mighty when seen from below with a tremendous sense of weight which is being so improbably held aloft by the whirling blades above it. Below and behind, the dusty mountains fade into an almost infinite distance. It’s quite a big country.

There’s plenty of politics to sink your teeth into, playful dialogue, behavioural and cultural analysis, and blood-baths galore once the timelines join up and each player’s hand / paw / claw is revealed.

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Wherever you think this is going is far from where you’ll wind up. I haven’t the first clue what to expect next.


Buy Cry Havoc vol 1: Mything In Action s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Superf*ckers Forever #1 (£2-99, Top Shelf / IDW) by James Kochalka.

Too, too funny!

I can’t quote a single sentence – at least, not the most uproarious proclamations – for fear of offending and sending the more mature amongst you scuttling for the hills, hands over your horrified, gaping mouths, for this is as delinquent as the title suggests.

However, like the preceding SUPERF*CKERS collection, family man James Kochalka milks maximum comedy here from the self-evident juxtaposition of the wholesome – or at least innocent – inherent in 1950s superhero team comics like the Legion Of Superheroes and the profane. It’s emphatically not a seedy Johnny Ryan profanity, more a joyous abandon which injects the already juvenile with the uninhibitedly puerile, focusing on Jack Krak’s obsession with his missing lady parts.

Yes, you read that right.

It culminates in two howlingly funny pages with Jack Krak’s entire arm up a rip in the Space-Time Continuum.

Poor Kyle.


Buy Superf*ckers Forever #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Lucifer vol 1: Cold Heaven s/c (£13-99, Vertigo) by Holly Black & Lee Garbett…

“You don’t look guilty at all, coming back here with that wound. Fought someone, did you? Someone powerful, I’d guess. Did you win?”
“I didn’t kill him.”
“They call you the prince of lies for a reason.”
“I tempt, I deceive, I trick. I am cruel and I am ruthless, but I dislike being foresworn.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I am going to help you discover his murderer.”
“Why would you do that?”
“Because no one gets to kill God but me. And because he was my father too.”

And so Samael, better known as Lucifer Morningstar – or just plain the Devil – has returned from the void into which we saw him disappear at the end of Mike Carey’s expansive run on LUCIFER, now collected in five chunky books. God, meanwhile, is dead, which as you might imagine, is causing some consternation in the Silver City. And, as the rest of the angelic host are very keen to point out to him, Lucifer was the last person to see God alive, during their melodramatic climatic chat over a cup of tea at the end of Carey’s LUCIFER BOOK 5.


That’s why the host have set Gabriel, himself a fallen angel courtesy of John Constantine and Ellie the succubus waaaay back in HELLBLAZER VOL 7: TAINTED LOVE*, to investigate the murder, hopefully pinning it on Lucifer, in exchange for his wings and heart back. Except Lucifer really didn’t do it. Not that he’s expecting anyone to believe him, which is why he decides to help Gabriel. Or maybe he has his own agenda too…

This, then, is effectively a direct continuation on from the previous Vertigo material, though it is not penned by Mike, but Holly Black. I’m not aware of her writing any comics previously, but she does seem to have written a lot of fantasy fiction, and possibly the best compliment I can give her, at this point, was if you were unaware this material wasn’t written by Carey, you would never realise. She’s even kept Lucifer’s trademark devilish font for the lettering of his speech which I always rather liked. (It’s Meanwhile Uncial if you’re interested.)


Clearly this is going to appeal to fans of the original, who will see a number of other familiar faces returning including the Lady Mazikeen, Lucifer’s former squeeze, now ruling Hell in his stead. She’s not best impressed at the return of the prodigal son, not at all. Hopefully Holly will take a similar long-game approach to this title like Mike did, his run effectively being one huge arc about Lucifer’s grand plan for getting out from under the thumb of God, interspersed with much other sub-plot oddness, as the longer narrative really added something. She’s already set up a nice little sub-plot of her own featuring another relative of Lucifer, though not a fraternal one this time… Readers of the original may have an inkling as to whom I’m referring… Whether that person is truly a king or merely a rook remains to be seen, though.


Lee Garbet picks up the pencils this time, again, not a name I was familiar with, though he has done some bits and pieces for Marvel and DC. It’s a style that fits very neatly with the story, I think he’s pretty decent actually. I’ll certainly be continuing to read this title; it’s certainly nice to have an old school Vertigo character return at the same high standard that was set originally. (On that note, please be aware the softcover of Neil Gaiman and J.H. Williams III brilliant SANDMAN: OVERTURE is now available for pre-order.)


Which brings me to * Can someone at DC please, please sort John Constantine out? It really shouldn’t be too hard. Re-reading just a tiny bit of HELLBLAZER VOL 7: TAINTED LOVE to check it was the right volume to reference reminded me of how bloody brilliant it was. I didn’t want to put it down. Every incarnation since leaving the Vertigo imprint, including the current Rebirth reboot (the Rebirth one-shot was just such awful, trite nonsense), has been such a pale imitation in comparison that reading it is as painful as an eternity spent in Hell itself. Just admit you were completely wrong, take John Constantine out of the mainstream DCU and get a proper Vertigo HELLBLAZER title going again.


Buy Lucifer vol 1: Cold Heaven s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Hellblazer vol 14: Good Intentions (£22-99, Vertigo) by Brian Azzarello & Richard Corben, Marcello Frusin, Steve Dillon, Dave V. Taylor.

“All I’m sayin’, is chose the right words…
“And you can talk a person into just about anything.”

The first three books of Brian Azzarello’s stand-out, self-contained and so perfectly accessible American tenure on HELLBLAZER collected in a single exceedingly grim grimoire even by the series’ own harrowing standards.

For the most part 100 BULLETS’ scribe Azzarello was accompanied by Marcello Frusin whose chain-smoking occultist John Constantine is all saturnine scowls and wicked, knowing grins, primed to bait you. Relentlessly and remorselessly terrifying, visually he’s the most charismatic he’s ever been.

Some prefer the more matey Ennis & Dillon interpretation or Alan Moore’s enigma in SWAMP THING, whence he first came. I love both of those without reservation but under this pair he’s a cold, calculating and dangerous son of a bitch, and as masterful a manipulator as ever, choosing his words very carefully indeed. That’s the core Constantine – the user, the player. He’ll be getting his pawns lined up to perfection here, long before showing up to play…

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The first chapter of the second story, ‘Good Intentions’, is a perfectly formed short in its own right. The tension is held by a very tight, ominous, arched-eyebrow script and a claustrophobic palette of midnight, headlight and silhouette, as John hitch-hikes his way across the US of A, never missing a trick. The subgenre of hitch-hiker as victim/serial killer is given a great new twist with immaculate timing.

After that, Constantine’s travels take him into the forested hills of West Virginia and a town called Doglick whose name you’ll like even less when you learn its relevance. There the cocky bastard has the smirked wiped right off his face when he finds himself an unwilling, sexual participant in what looks very much like a snuff flick.

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The third arc, ‘Freezes Over’, is at heart a cleverly crafted and equally claustrophobic, old-fashioned whodunnit with a singularly Constantine twist. Several parties are stranded by a snowstorm at Keith and Hope’s remote bar. There are the regulars, Rudy and Alma, there’s Pete, a couple with their young girls, a burly trucker and three surly strangers, one of whom is bleeding from the gut. And then there’s the guy in the car…

Enter John Constantine, strolling through the blizzard with that oh so knowing look on his face. He stops to look in the car window, and the two men’s eyes meet. A few minutes later the trucker finds the man in the car dead, impaled on a chunky icicle. Then the phone lines also go dead, the strangers grow hostile, their guns come out and fear of the local legend – the so-called Ice Man – takes hold.

But if, as Constantine maintains, there is no Ice Man, then who killed the guy in the car?

We begin, however, with ‘Hard Time’. Here artist Richard Corben has put away his airbrush in favour of forms and textures which are puffy, rancid and grotesque. They’re physically unpleasant for a script which pulls no punches when it comes to depicting the brutal racial and sexual politics of a maximum security US penitentiary.

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You won’t find out why Constantine’s in there until the final chapter, but you’ll be too busy wincing and wondering just how John’s going to keep his arse and tackle intact long enough to give everyone exactly what they deserve.

Which he does.

Collects issues #146-161 and a story from VERTIGO SECRET FILES: HELLBLAZER #1.


Buy Hellblazer vol 14: Good Intentions and read the Page 45 review here

Snowpiercer vol 3: Terminus h/c (£22-99, Titan) by Jean-Marc Rochette & Oliver Bocquet…

“Who are these people? How can they be alive?”
“No one can survive outside without an ice suit.”
“Apparently they can! We have to let them in!”

Concluding part of Jean-Marc Rochette’s examination of the perils of post-apocalyptic train travel, I believe, but then I mistakenly thought that after SNOWPIERCER VOL 2! I did think it was a bit of an oblique ending to volume 2, but now having read Oliver Bocquet’s afterword about receiving the invitation from Jean-Marc Rochette to illustrate the next instalment because Bocquet felt there was still more story to be told, I suspect he was probably hedging his bets!


So, after decades of never-ending travel on the titular Snowpiercer, ploughing its way through the endless frozen wastelands of an Earth plunged into a new Ice Age, with nary even a tiny scrap of tundra to break up the monotony, the train has at long last come to rest. The mysterious signal playing music detected at the end of volume two has been shown to be a long-abandoned radio transmitter much to the despair of our ragtag nation of hobos. That is until one bright spark asks the question where the transmitter is still getting its power from… Cue one quick game of ‘follow the cable, excavation and discovery of a buried skyscraper’ later and we have ourselves a story!

What follows, whilst not having quite the intense, claustrophobic, condensed insanity of the first two volumes, simply due to the fact that our passengers have disembarked their confines, is just as disturbing in terms of social commentary when our hardy travellers find a whole underground city seemingly thriving. There are a few customs that seem a little odd, sure, but it’s not like the inhabitants are going to turn out to be complete mentalists, right…?


Rochette does indeed have another worthy tale to tell! Bocquet’s art, the third artist to take a turn after the late Lob and then Benjamin Legrand, once again provides a slightly different feel to proceedings. All three have their merits, but it is probably testament to the strength of the writing that any differences in art style are completely unimportant. The ending this time feels more definitive, though it’s by no means conclusive so I suppose if Rochette does come up with yet another idea, there may well be more SNOWPIERCER. Given the mantra of those aboard is “Forward, forward, forward, the train only knows that word…” I wouldn’t bet against it.


Buy Snowpiercer vol 3: Terminus h/c and read the Page 45 review here

DC Superhero Girls: Finals Crisis s/c (£8-99, DC) by Shea Fontana & Yancey Labat…

“Aunt Martha, I have big news, I’m quitting school.”
“What happened?”
“Nothing yet.
“But something’s coming.
“Something bad.
“Tests were my kryptonite even before kryptonite was my kryptonite.”
“Supergirl, you’ve fought supervillains and saved Super Hero High more times that I can count. Surely a little test can’t be that bad?”

Ha ha, oh, it will be, especially given someone is abducting all the girl heroes and anti-heroes of Super Hero High for some all-ages mildly nefarious non-sinister ends. Yes, Supergirl, Wonder Woman, Katana, Bumblebee, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn are being excluded from school by a mysterious shadow figure intent on making sure our chums fail their finals!! To what possible end?!


Well, I’m not going to give the culprit away, but it’s nice to see DC doing some material squarely aimed at younger kids, and girls in particular, as some of the animations and their spin-offs can be a little heavy handed on the violence for the teeny-tiny ones aimed more as they are for the man-child market.

It’s well written enough with art that’s clearly aimed to appeal to the on-tap cartoon generation. I did try explaining to Whackers that ‘when I were a lad’ we got five minutes of Tom & Jerry a day if you were lucky and if you missed it, there were no catch-up rewinds or on-demand replays. The look of total and utter disbelief on her young face was hilarious. She was quite convinced I was perpetuating another of my many wind-ups. Kids today…

Anyway, decent enough fun filler of a superheroine bent whilst we all actually wait for the next HILDA (not long at all now!!!) / AMULET (far too long!!!) / ZITA THE SPACEGIRL (not sure, but Ben Hatke does have the first volume of a new kids series MIGHTY JACK VOL 1 out very soon!!!).

[Editor’s note: ZITA THE SPACEGIRL was a trilogy. All books in stock, but it is over. Do check out Hatke’s big book of empathy, LITTLE ROBOT, though!]


Buy DC Superhero Girls: Finals Crisis 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.

March: The Trilogy Slipcase Edition (£44-99, Top Shelf) by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin & Nate Powell

Pretty Deadly vol 2: The Bear s/c (£13-99, Image) by Kelly Sue DeConnick & Emma Rios

Scarlet vol 2 h/c (£22-99, Icon / Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev

Alena (£15-99, Dark Horse) by Kim W. Andersson

Bera The One-Headed Troll (£12-99, FirstSecond) by Eric Orchard

Invader Zim vol 2 (£17-99, Oni) by Jhonen Vasquez, various

Viking vol 1: The Long Cold Fire s/c (£14-99, Image) by Ivan Brandon & Nic Klein

Amazing Spider-Man: Amazing Grace s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Jorge Molina & Simone Bianchi

Deadpool: World’s Greatest vol 3: Deadpool Vs Sabretooth s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Gerry Duggan & Scott Koblish, Matteo Lolli

Batgirl vol 3: Mindfields s/c (£14-99, DC) by Cameron Stewart, Brendan Fletcher & Babs Tarr, various

Fairy Tail vol 55 (£8-99, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Inuyashiki vol 4 (£9-99, Kodansha) by Hiroya Oku

Tokyo Ghoul vol 8 (£8-99, Viz) by Sui Ishida


ITEM! Big blog’s heading your way in the next week/fortnight with all our free creator signing details (who/when) at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival Oct 14-16 2016.

In the meantime I’m afraid I spent far too much time last week with my Ma being completely surrounded by cute at Twycross Zoo. You could actually walk amongst lemurs!

Lemurs 3


Lemurs 2


Lemurs 1


Lemurs 4

I’d like to have swung with the gibbons too, but they were 60 feet up and my physical grip is almost as bad as my relationship with reality.

– Stephen

P.S. Regarding our headline review, I drank this the other night and it was Heavenly! British too!

Bacchus Wine