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Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews July 2015 week five

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015

“If you dehumanise others then you dehumanise yourself.”

 - Stephen on NOUGHTS & CROSSES by Malorie Blackman, Ian Edginton & John Aggs, below.

Noughts & Crosses: The Graphic Novel (£12-99, Doubleday) by Malorie Blackman, Ian Edginton & John Aggs.

Young Adult literature at its most intelligent, pertinent and affecting, this graphic novel adaptation of award-winning prose comes highly recommended.

“This is growing up, isn’t it?”
“I think it is.”

It’s not going to be easy.

We make things so difficult for ourselves, don’t we? Racial prejudice is as ridiculous and unreasoned as it is vile and unnecessary, yet we’ve polluted our history and corrupted our children with it for millennia. It’s also the biggest source of rank hypocrisy outside of organised religions battling each other for authenticity and superiority whilst spreading lies and hatred about “the other”. It’s an insult to our God-given intelligence.

With a single, simple, straightforward if comprehensive inversion Malorie Blackman eloquently exposes how we complicate everything from friendship to family and every aspect of society just because of the colour of our skins. How utterly superficial of us.

Enhanced by John Aggs with the most tender art imaginable which breaks into stark brutality, the key success is in making you care: by making it personal. And despite the best intentions and the very real love of the two lead protagonists, Sephy and Callum, no one is perfect: everyone will make mistakes which will make you physically wince.

Persephone Hadley and Callum McGregor have been friends since early childhood. Callum’s mother Meggie worked for Mrs Hadley as Sephy’s nanny and on sunny summer days she was allowed to bring Callum along to play. On the surface it seemed idyllic. But when Meggie failed to produce an alibi for Mrs Hadley for an evening’s affair while Mr Hadley was away, she was summarily sacked after fourteen years of faithful service.

Flash forward a few years and it hasn’t stopped Sephy and Callum from meeting up on the beach, their romance tentatively blossoming. The future still looks as bright as can be. But back home their families are showing fractures – massive ones at the McGregors’ – and it’s going to grow very dark indeed.

So what’s the big schism? It’s race and racism, I’m afraid.

The comprehensive inversion…? In this world of white Noughts and black Crosses, the Noughts never created empires through military and economic conquest. It’s the Crosses who have always called the shots. They do to this day, whose social conditions approximate America’s in the early 1960s as recollected by Congressman John Lewis in MARCH Book 2.

Seph is a Cross who comes from one of the most privileged families of all: her father is a ruthless, top-tier, two-faced politician who only reluctantly agreed to a few Noughts entering Cross schools under the presumption that so few would qualify academically that the difference would be negligible. Because Noughts are all thick, aren’t they?

Callum, a Nought, has just qualified.

The McGregors’ reaction to this news is far more complicated than would be obvious, but then this is a complex book full of complicated and conflicted individuals. Yes, individuals! In spite of the very real domestic hardship – and personal affront – that her dismissal by Mrs Hadley caused the McGregors, Callum’s mother Meggie won’t abide use of racial slur ‘dagger’. But the two more vocal members of the family – his father and older brother – have grown increasingly resentful. Dare I even use the term “militant”? As to Callum’s sister, Lynny, she seems withdrawn and confused about her own racial identity. Oh, just you wait, but again – not as obvious as you may think. She has some wise words to counter Callum’s optimism about being allowed access into a Cross school, then, potentially, university:

“Just remember, Callum. When you’re floating up in your bubble, they have a habit of bursting. The higher you climb, the further you have to fall.”

Are they wise words, or a defeatist attitude to making a difference? Whatever you believe, reality has a horrible habit of slapping sleepy dreams wide awake. We are, if you remember, in the realms of Congressman John Lewis’ very real MARCH Book 2 when the decree for the desegregation of schools was met with mendacity and obstruction by local government and law enforcement.

“Noughts are treated the same way here as they would be outside…” says the feckless headmaster.
“And that’s the problem!” argues a teacher who typically cares.

Callum’s reception will not prove pretty, but it is Seph whom I felt for the most. Time and again, in spite of Callum’s self-sacrificial advice to stay away from him at school, she tries to intervene against the rife racial prejudice, putting her neck on the line by joining him at lunch – a brave display of public support – then reaping the wrath of her friends. Did I mention that the racial slur for white Noughts was ‘blanker’? Seph’s called a “blanker-lover” (just as I was, aged 14, once called a dagger-lover*) and is physically struck in the face.

“Stick with your own kind! I don’t care who your Dad is! Sit with blankers again, we’ll treat you like one! You need to wake up and check which side you are on!”

Ugh. One of us. One of them. One of your own kind. Blackman recalls the divisive, dismissive language so accurately. It was vital that she came up with fictional racist language so that no one had to repeatedly read the real atrocity yet could still experience its vicious and sickening impact. And how cleverly did Malorie coin the denigratory term ‘blanker’?

Blank by name, blank by nature.
“Blank white faces, no colour in them. Blank minds, empty and stupid. Blank, blank, blank.
“That’s why they serve us and not the other way around.”

Jeepers, but John Aggs excels here.

The young ladies aren’t demons or demonised. They’re perfectly approachable, pretty and chic and exactly the age they’re supposed to be. They look loving and reasonable until the moment they’re neither. You wouldn’t see their ire coming, either.

Aggs’ Callum with his blonde, floppy hair and English-Rose air will have you grinning with affection and wishing that Callum was in a completely different graphic novel if only for his own sake. Sephy and her older sister Minerva you instinctively recognise as siblings, each in their own way influenced by their mother’s fashion sense but with entirely natural departures. I love an artist who thinks of these things!

It was our Jonathan who spotted the similarity in style to THE DROWNERS’ Nabiel Kanan whose equally school-centred, teen-centric but out-of-print EXIT – to which this is closer – was sublime. It’s there in the crisp lines, tree textures and shadows cast too! It’s so obvious now that I see it. There’s a particular panel I don’t have for you here in which, after a moment of misunderstanding resolved, Sephy reaches up to Callum’s chest with the most delicate hand gesture, their eyes meeting.

“I’m sorry.”
“So am I.”

And you just know that they’re going to be okay.

You know that, don’t you?

One of the smartest adaptations I’ve ever read, this feels neither overly abridged nor cluttered – both a real risk when transforming prose into comics, but Ian Edginton has judged it to perfection.

In terms of the ingenious reversal and what we all take for granted, one moment that particularly stuck in my mind was this, when Sephy – worriedly and with genuine concern – asks a pale-skinned Nought girl how she’s faring after being bashed about with a brick:

“How’s your head?”
“It’s okay. Thanks for asking.”
“That plaster’s a bit noticeable.”
“They don’t sell pink plasters. Only brown ones.”

I’ll let that sink in, if I may.

I could go on for pages – another real risk when this is not printed on paper – but you need to discover this for yourselves. I’m hugely indebted to its artist John Aggs for taking the time and trouble to send me interior art which I couldn’t find anywhere online.

*Sadly the word used was not ‘dagger’. But you get the gist.

If you dehumanise others then you dehumanise yourself.

SLH

Buy Noughts & Crosses: The Graphic Novel and read the Page 45 review here

Sunny vol 5 h/c (£16-99, Viz) by Taiyo Matsumoto.

SUNNY’s a series we love so much we’ve reviewed every volume.

It has the capacity to win your heart and then break it over and over again.

Episodic in nature, with six self-contained chapters in each book with a beginning, middle and end, it’s centred round a communal Japanese foster home and focuses on the children taken into its care… often by their parents. Who leave them there. Permanently.

Here, for example, we finally find out how imaginative, excitable and rebellious, ash-haired Haruo was introduced to the rest of his life:

“Haruo thought he was being taken to an amusement park or something. He was so confused. What a mess… A lot of the kids get told stuff like that when they come. They start freaking out, hanging onto their parents. I guess they can feel something bad’s coming.”

Yeah. Like being left there, permanently. His parents stayed overnight but by morning were gone, leaving Haruo to run around screaming all day in search of them. Maybe twice a year he receives a visit from his mother. Haruo associates her with the smell of Nivea and to this day he carries a tin of it everywhere in his pocket, bringing it out from time to time to sniff.

Smell is something snot-nosed Junsuke also associates with his mother. In his case the smell is of hospitals, for Junsuke’s mother is so ill that she’s been lying in one for what seems like forever. When Junsuke catches a cold this volume – a real stinker – he’s taken to a much closer hospital against his fervently expressed wishes… but then relaxes once he’s there because with that smell in the air he can imagine his mother being right by his side.

(Quick note: this manga reads from right to left. Would you look at that downpour? I’m drenched!)

What impresses one above all, then, is the resilience of these young individuals, and the kindness of the carers like Miss Mitsuko, Makio and his grand-father who modestly suffixes all his life lessons with the qualifier “That’s what I think.” Miss Mitsuko takes the trouble to get Junsuke’s bed-ridden mother on the phone, if only for a few moments, to reward his mental resourcefulness.

Ah, resourcefulness too! Quiet, studious and bespectacled Sei’s had enough, waiting for the proverbial train that never comes: not a single visit. So he copies out the transit timetables he finds in the home and makes meticulous notes on his own plan of action which you will only discover afterwards, and his honour may make you cry. Can you imagine what it’s like to be told this: first that your mother has disappeared, asked not be traced, then…

“Your dad changed jobs, so he had to move. So no one’s even in the apartment you used to live in.”

In a perfect piece of storytelling the panels close in from Sei and Makio’s granddad on opposite sides of a low Japanese coffee table to Sei silently absorbing the news, to Sei with his eyes shut, and then darkness.

 

Equally poignant is the visit from Megumu’s Auntie and Uncle. Rumour is rife round the home that they plan to adopt her. As we’ve learned from SUNNY VOL 3, Megumu’s mother is quite dead and they are the last hope she has. What a wonderful couple they are, both tireless in a patience which you may consider sorely tried if it wasn’t for their unconditional love. Still, it proves quite the weekend and you do know that I’m prone to misdirection, don’t you?

As I’ve written before the presentation of the children in SUNNY is far more raw than you might expect if all you know of Japanese comics is the sugar-buzz adrenaline rush of the shouty-shouty, wide- and glossy-eyed brigade. This scruffy lot are infinitely more human, the art more humane so you can’t help but care. There is both a fragility and a fractiousness here both in the art and in the heart of its antagonists. Take Haruna, not from the orphanage, but caught as if by a fishing fly in less than salubrious circumstances.

“Everything I do goes wrong.
“It really sucks.”

Haruna does try, sometimes, she really does. But she’s not exactly her own best friend; she can be belligerent to the point when a teacher sighs…

“You’ll have to warn me next time you decide to attend. I’m not dressed for foul weather.”

SLH

Buy Sunny vol 5 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Tim Ginger (£14-99, Top Shelf) by Julian Hanshaw…

“So your book. I have to be honest, I didn’t know you could do that with comics. I guess I’m a bit old fashioned. Thinking of the strips I used to read in the base newspapers.”
“It’s a brave new world out there, Tim.”

Indeed it is!

Well, well, well, hasn’t Julian Hanshaw come a long way since the crowd-splitting THE ART OF PHO? This is one of the best written pieces of graphic novel fiction I have read this year, and the art is rather good too.

Tim Ginger is passing his twilight days living in a trailer in a deserted caravan park in the middle of the desert in New Mexico. A former test pilot, replete with eye patch, his only hobby these days is his cricket played with a group of ex-pats at a nearby field they lovingly set up for matches. His beloved wife Susan passed away a long time ago, and he seems content to see out his days sitting drinking a few beers outside his trailer during the day, and gazing at the near-infinite number of stars in the clear desert sky at night.

The only thing that might tempt him to break his regime is his publisher Mike, who is always trying to get him on the lucrative sci-fi and comic convention circuit. For you see, during Tim’s last tragic flight to the edge of space, something happened. Something strange and inexplicable, that he wrote a book about, which was hugely successful with UFOlogists and conspiracy theory nuts.

Unfortunately for Tim, given his position that there are certain matters he isn’t at liberty to speak about due to his military background, there are those who still believe he knows much more than he revealed. So when he agrees to do some conventions, one such nut, Karl, begins to hound him and chastise him for his part in perpetuating the ‘big cover-up’.  He’s particularly enraged when Tim reveals he’s working on a follow-up book… about cricket. There’s a wonderful scene, that neatly conveys how cleverly written this work is, where Karl is sat in the audience at a panel Tim is speaking on and takes his opportunity to cross-examine Tim in public. Tim’s reply blows Karl’s mind…

“Do you really want to know the truth, Karl?
“About the universe.
“And still be stuck in supermarket queues.
“Or waiting on the end of a phone to some call center on the other side of the world?
“Or. Why not just kill yourself?
“Hurry up the moment of enlightenment.
“Fast-track it.
“Or perhaps that’s a leap of faith too far?
“And you know what, Karl?
“The real kicker?
“The government are no smarter than you.
“Trust me.
“They can’t believe society manages to tick over as it does. And there isn’t rioting in the streets.
“They do their four years.
“Fill their pockets.
“Get on some quasi non-governmental body.
“And pray it doesn’t all go tits up.
“On their watch.
“We worry too much.
“I still worry too much.
“There is already too much information out there.
“Live the life you love, Karl.
“Choose a God you trust.
“And don’t take it all so seriously.”

The scene then cuts to Karl, still sat in a deserted auditorium, immobile, eyes staring into the distance, hours later, as the light is eventually turned off.

So where does the opening quote about comics come into it then? Well, whilst on the convention circuit, Tim runs into Anna, a member of his ground crew who used to prep his planes for his flights. She’s written a book too, a graphic novel as it happens, the true stories of various people who have chosen not to have children and why. People like her and her ex-husband Chuck, and indeed Tim and Susan, who were the only ones of their wide circle of friends on the military base who made that choice. Which firmly cemented their mutual friendship as the rest of their friends got embroiled in the day to day minutiae of kids.

Anna separated from Chuck a long time ago, and truth be told, Tim and Anna always had an unspoken, unacted-upon, mutual attraction. Anna would be interested in rekindling those romantic feelings, but Tim isn’t over the loss of Susan, whom he dearly loved, and nor is he fully over what happened on the edge of the atmosphere that day. For something quite remarkable did happen. Something that he only ever shared with Susan.

Ahh, what a fabulous story this is! I was absolutely gripped from start to finish. I was so intrigued by Tim’s story, what exactly did happen to him up there, and were he and Anna going to get their happy ending? There are some wonderful twists and reveals Julian throws in mid-way, (the eye patch has two of its own!!) which only add to the poignancy of Tim’s tragically reclusive lifestyle choice. The art is really excellent too, entirely in keeping with the tone of the work. Julian reminds me of Michael DeForge quite a bit, though without the surrealism. I love the gentleness and subtlety of people’s expressions he captures. This is going to end up on my top five books of the year list for sure.

JR

Buy Tim Ginger and read the Page 45 review here

Poetry Is Useless h/c (£22-50, Drawn & Quarterly) by Anders Nilsen.

“Everything I needed to know about life I learned from opening other people’s mail.”

That sets the tone perfectly. Also:

“Why can’t we just get along
“Stick and beat each other senseless?”

Additionally:

“A bird in the hand is better than a horse in the mouth.”

It’s not necessarily the most profound proverb, but it’s clearly inarguable.

These are Anders Nilsen’s notebooks full of cartoons and comics bursting with mirth and wholly intentional bathos.

“The entirely of world history, yes, including Napoleon and the Black Plague, has led to this moment, in the grocery store, where you’re choosing what kind of cereal to buy.
“Don’t fuck it up.”

God and Satan are very much in evidence, God petulantly flicking his cigarette butt into Satan’s back yard. It’s silly to start a fight. The repercussions can be of quite Biblical proportions.

I think the process may be something like this: Anders reads, hears, sees or remembers something and amuses himself enormously by questioning it, often at length and in such ridiculous details that it is rendered absurd. He pokes things until they puncture, even admirable things like imagination and empathy. He can be pithy as well:

“Dear empty, lifeless void…
“Thank you for nothing.”

It’s easy to forget that the creator responsible for the haltingly moving eulogy DON’T GO WHERE I CAN’T FOLLOW and its epilogue, THE END, plus the raw, vulnerable and dreamlike DOGS AND WATER is an effortless comedian. I don’t know why: BIG QUESTIONS is one of the funniest graphic novels I’ve ever read, and his piece in the equally enormous door-stop treasure chest that is DRAWN AND QUARTELY: 25 YEARS OF CONTEMPORARY CARTOONING, COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS had me roaring with laughter. RAGE OF POSEIDON is riddled with wit.

A lot of the comics involve you being addressed by a black silhouette, which may sound a little simplistic but nothing more is required for it’s all in the timing of the speech balloons, their contents, and this is the man’s notebooks, remember? They weren’t intended for publication, but if they hadn’t been we’d be missing one of the funniest books on our shelves which fans of Tom Gauld’s YOU’RE ALL JUST JEALOUS OF MY JEPACK will adore.

There are pages of portraits accompanied by pronouncements – snippets of stupid things his oblivious models are saying – and sometimes he gets caught and adds that to the memento as well.

Graph paper appears to provoke Anders into producing patterns and shapes, usually bleeding out from the centre of his sketchbook like a techno-organic virus.

One of the funniest slices is a retort to a critic’s snotty response to BIG QUESTIONS:

“Apparently, about my last book, the philosophy one with the little birds, some comics critic said my philosophical “reach” exceeded my “grasp”.
“In answer to this criticism, I would cite the conversation Heidegger and Kirkegaard had in the Sorbonne as the first guns were erupting at the start of the First World War.
“Kirkegaard: “Is someone gonna go on a beer run?”
“Heidegger: “Where’s my pants?”
“Kirkegaard: “Cuz I have five bucks but I’m not drinking any more fucking Miller High Life.”

Coming in for a right satirical slapping are institutions like the Food And Drug Administration and poetry, obviously, which is useless.

Apart from Byron, apparently, for Anders and Lord (I think that was his first name) do agree on the whole Sorrow being Knowledge fandango – you know, “Those that know the most must mourn the deepest” etc.

“They say the unexamined life is not worth living.
“They don’t mention that the examined life can be kind of like getting dragged through the desert at the end of a rope, too.”

Amen. Excuse me, but it’s wine o’clock and oblivion calls.

SLH

Buy Poetry Is Useless h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Nearlymades: A Smattering Of Found Stories And Kipple Narratives (£9-00, Boing Graphics) by Simon Russell…

We get asked about abstract comics on a not infrequent basis and since the excellent ABSTRACT COMICS hardcover anthology went out of print, seemingly into the great abstract void of fuzzy-black-never-to-be-reprintedness without even the merest hint of brilliant-shining-tunnel-of-light back-from-the-dead softcover reprint, we have nothing to show people. Until now…

Simon Russell first came on my personal radar when he sent us his ROY (Reclaiming Lichtenstein For Comics), a lovely barbed dig at the titular plagiarist who considered ‘comics to be non-art’. My opinion, not necessarily Simon’s. We didn’t stock that, simply because it was a very mini-mini, but it showed real talent, I thought. This though, is a very different beast. Creating abstract comics is a real art form. Go too abstract and well, it becomes so subjective as to be practically meaningless.

A perfect example of a brilliant and very meaningful abstract comic would be Anders Nilsen’s ‘Event’, which only appeared in a MOME collection. It was a series of ever-increasing, coloured small rectangles, accompanied by statements like “eight events you have sent on course” and “sixteen things that would have happened but now will not”. Actually, I have a totally unique version of that work as I asked Anders to add an additional page on the blank page that followed it in my copy of MOME. He was rather tickled by that!

This collection contains 29 individual works, many one- or two-pagers, plus a few longer ones. I personally preferred the longer ones, simply because the narrative felt stronger. Some of the shorter ones tend more towards abstract art in my opinion; nothing wrong with that. I personally need a few more sequential panels to get my juices flowing with this type of material, but I definitely respect the craft that’s gone into each work, even the shorter ones. What they all are, without exception, are thought-provoking. Which is of course essential with this type of material otherwise it is pointless. The titles often provide a clue as to the theme, as does the minimal amount of text accompanying or submerged within the panels.

My favourite, a longer one, ‘Interview With Medusa’, commences and concludes with a sequence of Photoshopped coloured images of bare planks of wood, the lines of the circles through the wood running horizontally, as of course happens when you plane planks from a tree trunk. Most of each plank is a deep blue, with a single huge orange circle overlaid, each of these circles containing a knot of wood of deeper orange still. The effect is clearly meant to be of the planet Jupiter and it’s never ending, always moving, Great Red Spot dust storm. The fact that the horizontal lines are in a different position and with a different knot, as it is a separate plank each time, only adds to the illusion of the movement of the Great Red Spot and the passage of time. This collection is chock full of clever devices like that and you’ll find yourself marvelling at the construction.

So yes, next time someone asks if we have any abstract comics, we will have something to show them.

JR

Buy Nearlymades: A Smattering Of Found Stories And Kipple Narratives and read the Page 45 review here

Fante Bukowski (£9-99, Fantagraphics) by Noah Van Sciver…

“Someone told me you were trying to make it as a writer now?”
“Yeah.”
“Good luck! Me? I’m still at the firm. Actually your father just gave me a big promotion! Hey, you take care! Boy, oh, boy! What a life, huh?”
“When I’m famous I’ll crush you.”

I could very easily simply say that if you loved Dan Clowes’ portrayal of the self-proclaimed ‘people person’ WILSON you would get a real kick out of this, though stylistically the art is much closer to a tidied-up Jeffrey Brown. Fante Bukowski – real name Kelly Perkins, he changed it to make himself cooler – is absolutely desperate to be a writer. The work of his favourite writer of all time, unsurprisingly being Charles Bukowski, is seemingly his idea of how a real scribe should live too.

Consequently, he’s given up his job at a top law firm where his unimpressed father is a partner and is now living out of a cheap motel, drinking cheap booze, singularly failing to impress women, or indeed literary agents, and generally agonising about not coming up with any good ideas to write about. In other words, comedy gold in the hands of Noah SAINT COLE Van Sciver who likes his humour dark and his protagonists as flawed as a roll of cheap lino.

It reads a lot like WILSON too in the sense that each page, or sometimes two pages, is a gag strip in and of itself, always with Fante as the punchline. And so gradually we build up this unflattering portrait of a man flailing helplessly, perhaps haplessly might be a better adverb actually, against the tides of life, the ever-present fear of remaining in obscurity forever crippling his will and motivation to knuckle down to some actual writing! The occasional quote from a literary giant perched atop the next page merely compounding our opinion that Fante isn’t going to break his losing streak any time soon…

‘Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.’ – Stephen King.

But! Inspiration does strike like a bolt from the blue in the middle of the night and somehow Fante comes up with an idea, starts writing, manages to get a girl, and then even persuades an agent to take a look at his book. Surely things aren’t about to change for our hopeless hero… No, that’s right, of course they’re not! But I guarantee you that his misery is our mirth as everything falls apart once again and Fante decides a Kerouac-esque road trip is the only solution to his blues. No, that’s right, of course it’s not! But I guarantee you…

Well, you get where I’m going with this… Fante, meanwhile, is going nowhere fast.

JR

Buy Fante Bukowski and read the Page 45 review here

Island #1 (£5-99, Image) by Brandon Graham, Marian Churchland, Emma Rios, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Ludroe.

“No man is an island…” John Donne c.1623

Indeed. I have no idea whether the classic work by the metaphysical poet and cleric inspired the title for this eclectic anthology series. Be nice to think so, but who knows?! Anyway, this issue opens with a couple of double-page abstract paintings from Marian BEAST Churchland, closely followed by the first instalment of a great sci-fi ménage à trois bodyswapping yarn set against the backdrop of an unstable society beset by anarchistic riots and domestic terror outrages, simply entitled ‘I.D.’, from Emma PRETTY DEADLY Rios.

‘I.D.’ was probably my pick of the bunch from this first issue, as the three protagonists meet for a drink to begin discuss their own particular reasons for wanting to engage in this most unusual of transitions. Illustrated in a rather unusual palette of red and white, the unique feathery penmanship will be immediately familiar to anyone who has seen any of Emma’s previous work, but let me tell you, she’s an incredible writer too. I will be reading the next issue of ISLAND just to see how this story continues.

Then, an interlude of a prose memoir essay about a dear departed friend by Kelly Sue BITCH PLANET DeConnick. This thoughtful, touching reminiscence is very sweet, we’ve all had someone in our lives who have had that sort of gentle but powerful impact, and I respect the fact Brandon Graham has allowed DeConnick to eulogise about someone comics readers will never have heard of in this issue. I hope this type of piece might become a regular feature actually, I would like that.

Then, it’s straight back to sequential art based antics as we have a full thirty pages of new MULTIPLE WARHEADS madness from the man himself, before this inaugural tip of the archipelago  culminates with forty-five glorious pages of all-action vigilante undead skate punk nonsense called ‘Dagger Proof Mummy’ from someone called Ludroe. Who apparently comes from Ludlow, which is of course well known for its undead skate punk culture… Neither half of that last sentence may be entirely factually accurate.

Fans of MULTIPLE WARHEADS will be delighted, for this is Brandon right on top nonsensical form here, with all the usual visual and verbal play on word gags coming thick and fast alongside the preposterous story itself. It’s not a direct analogy by any means, but the wandering story, surrealist narrative and illustrative elements plus the colour palette made me think of Moebius’ AIRTIGHT GARAGE.

Hmm… after the recent impact the first few issues of MEANWHILE, the anthology carrying Gary Spencer Millidge’s much anticipated conclusion to STRANGEHAVEN, and now this exciting mix of tricks, it seems the periodical anthology might not be quite so dead and buried post-MOME as we had originally thought.

JR

Buy Island #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Wolf #1 (£3-99, Image) by Ales Kot & Matt Taylor.

“How do you feel about myths, Antoine?”
“I love myths.”
“You are one. And I apologise for not believing you. I hope you understand – the measures we had to take were simply business. Examining the stock, so to say.”

Ooof. Where have you heard that before?

Meet Sterling Gibson, “a well-known supporter of occasionally having black people set on fire”.

Meet Antoine Wolfe, a black person Sterling Gibson saw occasion last night to set on fire.

To be precise, he tied him into a straight-jacket and set him on fire on top of the hills overlooking Los Angeles. It took him quite some time to get as far as Mulholland and throw himself into a white celebrity’s swimming pool. Naturally Antoine is arrested. He’s black. He’s probably not as crispy as he should be, though.

 

No one who’s read Matt Taylor’s THE GREAT SALT LAKE will be remotely surprised to learn that this is beautiful to behold. The eyes particularly have it. This is important given that there’s a great deal of one-on-one confrontation going on. Antoine Woolfe has a clear head and quick wit. But so do those he’s antagonising, and I like that. He particularly enjoys antagonising those with power over others, be they lowlife thieves using mind-control to rob old ladies on buses, both literally vampiric landlords (“cuisine sucks”) or multi-millionaire businessmen who support occasionally having black people set on fire. Did I mention Antoine was barely singed?

So. Eloquent anti-authoritarian occultist detective who relishes playing verbal sabres, sticks up for the vulnerable, despises injustice and is haunted by dead friends – in his case fellow former soldiers. Did you read Alan Moore’s SWAMP THING and HELLBLAZER? As a revitalised John Constantine with a radically different accent and vocabulary, Antoine Wolfe is a joy to spend time with.

The only thing missing is the requisite spirit of place. Except it’s not missing:

“You see this city? This city is a blend. It’s desert and it’s woods and it’s ocean and it’s cheap junk and it’s expensive junk and it’s ugly and it’s beautiful and it’s fiction and it’s real.”

Once more Matt Taylor, lit by Lee Loughbridge, excels. This could not be anywhere other than Los Angeles, a city I know intimately from so many visits… err, playing Grand Theft Auto. I even enjoyed the treated photography which jarred not a jot: beautifully coloured to denote time of day with just the right degree of detail retained.

This is a big, thick issue full of big, intelligent ideas and a great deal of fun – the most accessible thing I’ve read that Kot’s written. It’s far from linear with multiple strands I’ve barely alluded to and some that I haven’t even touched. I think you’ll like his mate, Freddy Chtonic, whose face isn’t particularly well appointed for drinking coffee without a straw. Whether anyone will like the teenage girl found covered in blood between her mauled parents, I’m not sure yet. She sees very open and innocent but has a rather disturbing name and so, potentially, heritage. I think much may depend on how she is treated.

“You got kids?”
“No, sir.”
“Sometimes the only procedure that matters is empathy.”

In stock by Kot: complete runs so far on THE SURFACE and MATERIAL plus all the ZERO tpbs and CHANGE.

SLH

Buy Wolf #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Starve #1 (£2-75) by Brian Wood & Danijel Zezelj…

“Gavin Cruikshank is a name that can attract unwanted attention. It’s also a name I gave up years ago. These two things are closely related.”

With very good reason. Gavin Cruikshank was once upon a time a feted celebrity chef, with a moderately popular TV show called Starve. But personal problems – including an extremely bitter divorce with his ex-wife who was a teensy-weensy bit shocked and upset at learning the love of her life and father of her child was suddenly ready to come out of the closet – meant that just disappearing seemed like a good option, even if abandoning his daughter broke his heart.

Plus he had begun to fall out of love with cooking as well, spending increasingly less time in the kitchen and more and more in front of the cameras promoting the Cruikshank brand. To his surprise, in a world where global warming and an increased sea level has wreaked havoc upon major conurbations almost entirely at the expense of the have-nots, vanishing amongst the hoi-polloi in distant south-east Asia was far easier than he expected. Suspiciously easy, perhaps.

Except, except… in this brave new world where most of the population are struggling to find anything decent to eat, the rich have elevated the consumption of excess and fancy to obscene new levels. And thus, during his absence of several years, and quite unbeknownst to him due to his off-the-grid lifestyle, Starve has become the number one rated television programme on the planet.

It’s not the programme he left behind, though. It’s become something far more disgustingly voyeuristic than that. As those with all the money flaunt their boorish opulence with increasing abandon, Starve has practically become a culinary gladiatorial arena. These stellar ratings however, must be maintained at all costs, and so someone came up with the idea to bring back Gavin Cruikshank, to see if he could hack it in this new cut-throat competition.

So the Network tracked him down, keen to keep up the juggernaut momentum of their entertainment behemoth, politely pointing out he was legally obliged to do eight more episodes from his existing contract, then not so politely pointing out if he didn’t they would ruin his life, and oh, he wasn’t likely to see a penny of income from selling his soul once more, because his ex-wife now owned all his rights to Starve…

There are all sorts of little games at play here. I’m not sure I entirely believe the Network’s execs, his one-time colleague and rival Roman Algiers who is the current host of Starve, or Gavin’s cunning and still very bitter ex-wife, as to what is going on, and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t either. It clearly isn’t going to be as simple as that. But he decides to take up their challenge, partly to find out what is going on, also because he wants to rekindle his relationship with his now grown-up daughter, and most definitely due to the healthy pinch of egomania that every top chef needs. He wants to take them all on at their own games and beat them. He trusts his daughter implicitly, though, and I do have to wonder if that isn’t going to be his Achilles heel…

Ah, he does come up with some good concepts for stories, Brian Wood, I must say. There are all sorts of sub-pots, sorry, plots, bubbling away in the background here, but basically this is going to be a character-driven story. You can see the look and personality of Gavin has been part-inspired by the original British enfant terrible of cuisine, Marco Pierre White, and then just given that little bit of a cocktail sexuality shake up before being served with a twist on the crushed ice of a collapsing, polarised society. Sounds tasty!

I really enjoyed Danijel Zezelj’s art here. It’s mean and moody, thickly lined and darkly coloured, with Gavin Cruikshank in particular looking like a brooding serial killer who’d be as likely to carve you up as fillet a fish, and who definitely prefers his steak dripping with blood. As I say, just like Marco Pierre White then! Intriguing palette cleanser of an opening issue… now bring on the main!

JR

Buy Starve #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Zenith Phase Four h/c (£20-00, Rebellion) by Grant Morrison & Steve Yeowell…

“… So all I’m saying, Robert, is that we need to get the next phase of your career sorted out. A new image, keeping up with the times. All this rave stuff’s had its day. The minute I heard that record where the fellow sings ‘Raving, I’m Raving,’ I knew it was the finish.”
“I don’t need an image, Eddie. I’m a household name. And anyway, the last time we talked about this you said punk was coming back.”
“Did I? No, it’ll not be punk, it’ll be a revival of all that gender-bender nonsense. Boy George and Marilyn , remember? You wait and see, once that RuPaul fellow starts getting records in the charts, they’ll all be swapping their trousers for tights.”
“Why don’t you just say it, Eddie: you want to see me in a bra, don’t you? You have for years you daft old tart.”

Funny how you can have a completely different perception of certain material when you re-read it. I distinctly remember this being my least favourite ‘Phase’ by some distance upon initial reading nearly twenty years ago. After the all-out superhuman war epic of ZENITH: PHASE THREE, this just felt like a massive anti-climax with a cop-out deus ex machina ending, and even the art seemed inferior in comparison.

In fact, upon reading it once again, I was struck by how fitting a conclusion it brings to the whole Zenith story, as well as being a great arc in its own right. And I appreciated the ending much more this time, more precisely a deos universi, for its cleverness (along with a certain other revelation regarding the true nature of the superhumans), especially when you realise Morrison certainly wasn’t trying to suddenly wrap things up neatly because he had no idea how to finish the story. He almost certainly had this in mind right from the very beginning.

On the art front, I do still think Steve Yeowell looks better uncoloured. I loved the stark nature of his black and white art in PHASES TWO and THREE, and most of PHASE ONE. It just seemed more angular, precise. I think some of the beauty of his illustration is lost during the colouring process employed through this volume, but I fully appreciate that others may disagree.

Anyway, following the events of PHASE THREE, the surviving superhuman community has experienced a schism. The vast majority, under the banner of the Horus Programme, led by three of the original members of Cloud 9: Lux, Spook and Voltage, are openly proposing superhumans simply take charge of the planet for their own ends, humans being an out-evolved irrelevance. On the other side, wanting to maintain the status quo and trying to help humanity is their former colleague Peter St. John, a.k.a. Mandala, now the British Prime Minister, who is backed only by Zenith and Archie the robot.

Events escalate and rapidly start to spiral out of control following a failed decapitation strike on the Horus group by mildly psychic-powered human US government agents, then the revelation I alluded to changes everything, and the reason why the main story is interspersed with the memoirs of a de-aging Dr. Michael Peyne, told from a future where the Lloigor rule a devastated earth dimly illuminated by a huge black sun, becomes all too clear…

Then there’s that ending… which as I said, is a brilliant conclusion to an early Morrison epic, which is as good as anything he’s done since, I believe, but then I did always have a soft spot for this material, it being such a radical departure for a 2000AD strip at the time. Meanwhile, in amongst all the action, you get pearls of genius comedy poking fun at the popular music nonsense of the eighties and nineties like the opening conversation between Zenith and his manager Eddie, above. In terms of blending action and comedy, it’s pitch-perfect. Unlike Zenith’s singing.

JR

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

Fables vol 22: Farewell (£13-50, Vertigo) by Bill Willingham & Mark Buckingham, various.

AKA FABLES #150.

Yes, this is the final periodical issue as well as the final trade paperback – confusing no one! I don’t envy retailers who sell it on their shelves as a monthly. Fortunately we’ve just popped it in all its lovely supporters who have a Standing Order with us!

Whether you regard FABLES as a hit or a myth, you cannot deny its longevity!

Twenty-two collected editions, two or three original graphic novels, one prose novel and several spin-off series, all of which you can find on our FABLES web page or on our shelves with the rest of the Vertigo books, just past the till on the left! We even have those Diamond has long considered out of print!

That was a Public Service Announcement on behalf of our ravenous till.

Thank you.

SLH

Buy Fables vol 22: Farewell and read the Page 45 review here

The Motorcycle Samurai vol 1: A Fiery Demise s/c (£14-99, Top Shelf) by Chris Sheridan.

“I’m not boring, fool!
“I’m a bloody riot.”

No, you’re boring.

Shockingly repetitive and life-suckingly slow, I suspect half the problem lies in its original incarnation as a digital comic: no one worked out the cost of all the paper they’d be wasting.

“Roy, it’s not every jubilation some strangers rolls into town with the fugitive brother of the town’s criminal boss in tow.”

Yet it is every ten pages on which someone will tell us so.

“Just to be clear, in case you didn’t know, you’re standing before the boss of this town, Frankie Parker. That was my brother you dumped at the sheriff’s feet.”

It was pretty clear, don’t you worry. What isn’t clear is why this page needs to exist:

“Come on. Just don’t let this turn out like that time in Chino.”
“With that old fool of a sword swallower?”
“”That was nothing like this, Chuck.”
“Exactly.”

I don’t understand.

SLH

Buy The Motorcycle Samurai vol 1: A Fiery Demise 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 Divine (£14-99, FirstSecond) by Boaz Lavie & Asaf Hanuka, Tomer Hanuka

Katzine Issue One (£5-50, self-published ) by Katriona Chapman

Katzine Issue Two (£5-50, self-published) by Katriona Chapman

Nearlymades: A Smattering Of Found Stories And Kipple Narratives (£9-00, self-published) by Simon Russell

Haunter (£10-99, Study Group Comics) by Sam Alden

Leaf (£18-99, Fantagraphics) by Daishu Ma

Not Funny Ha Ha (£12-99, Fantagraphics) by Leah Hayes

Sshhhh! (£12-99, Fantagraphics) by Jason

Steven Universe vol 1 (£10-99, Kaboom) by Jeremy Sorese & Coleman Engle

The Diary Of Teenage Girl (£13-99, Random House / Vertical) by Phoebe Gloeckner

Meat Cake (£16-99, Fantagraphics) by Dame Darcy

Wasteland vol 11: Floodland (£14-99, Oni) by Antony Johnston & Christopher Mitten

Zero vol 4: Who By Fire s/c (£10-99, Image) by Ales Kot & Ian Bertram, Stathis Tsemberlidis, Robert Sammelin, Tula Lotay

Batgirl vol 5: Deadline s/c (£13-50, DC) by Gail Simone, Marguerite Bennett & Fernando Pasarin, various

Hawkeye vol 4: Rio Bravo s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Matt Fraction & David Aja, Chris Eliopoulos, Francesco Francavilla

Inhuman vol 3: Lineage s/c (£9-99, Marvel) by Charles Soule & Ryan Stegman, Andre Araujo

Rocket Raccoon vol 2: Storyteller (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Skottie Young & Filipe Andrade, Jake Parker

Spider-Man 2099 vol 2: Spider-Verse (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Peter David & Will Sliney

Bleach vol 64 (£6-99, Viz) by Tite Kubo

Master Keaton vol 3 (£12-99, Viz) by Naoki Urasawa

Monster Perfect Edition vol 5 (£12-99, Viz) by Naoki Urasawa

Fairy Tail vol 49 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor vol 1: Revolutions Of Terror (£10-99, Titan) by Nick Abadzis

News!

ITEM! Rare, hilarious CEREBUS treasures by Dave Sim have been animated, appropriately enough, online!

Dave Sim’s Animated Cerebus Portfolio: A Well Equipped Bar

Dave Sim’s Animated Cerebus Portfolio: Add One Mummified Bat

Dave Sim’s Animated Cerebus Portfolio: His First Sword

ITEM! Creator of the British Comic Awards-winning, Young Readers HILDA graphic novels, that Luke Pearson has a glorious revamped website. Oh yes! Read Luke Pearson’s entire ADVENTURE TIME comic here!

ITEM! From the creator of online comicbook marvel THE FIRELIGHT ISLE (get your gawping gear around that!), Paul Duffield writes a second clear and considered essay on ‘Comics And The Value Of Language’. Ever wondered what happened when a sequence in a comic seemed not quite right? Or even the entire thing? Paul explores the ways in which things can go wrong and the root causes of why. Clue: this is a visual medium!!!

We’ve something rather special coming from Paul any day now.

ITEM! Comicbook creators Sean Phillips, Dave Gibbons, Bryan Talbot, Jonathan Edwards, Sarah McIntyre with Philip Reeve and more re-create the Lakes District for The Lakes International Comic Art Festival in October in “Wish You Were Here – Postcards from the Edge of Reality”. Click on that link to see the full collection!

Each is naturally very different in tone and style, but the below unmistakeably belongs to Poblin-creator Jonti Edwards, doesn’t it!

 - Stephen

 Page 45 Reviews written by Stephen & Jonathan then edited by a clapped-out cassowary on ketamine

 

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews July 2015 week four

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015

Racism, crime and commandeering! Vast Baroque architecture, mountaineering, life in the Lebanon, a stroll through the woods! Moomins, Martians, dragons, giant space robots and the best ADVENTURE TIME comic ever!

News underneath: substantial previews of new comics by Hannah Berry, Marian Churchland, Jennifer Hayden & more!

High Crimes h/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Christopher Sebela & Ibrahim Moustafa.

“The key is to commit: no matter how dumb or doomed it seems.”

Alternatively:

“Please don’t be dead, Sully. I still want to pull your secrets out, one tooth at a time.”

Either of those should give you idea of the flavour of the climb ahead of you. At 200 full-colour pages saturated with former Olympic snowboard medallist’s Suzanne Jensen’s internal monologue recalling her fall from grace during her ascent of Everest while fleeing one fuck-load of armed and highly trained trouble, it is a dense and intense read well worth your fifteen quid.

Almost all of this takes place during that painful, laborious and desperate crawl during which it is most emphatically impressed upon you how many and severe are the dangers even if you don’t have an American black ops faction fixing to fix you once and for all. The more impatient element in me wanted Zan and the story to get a bloody move on but anything swifter would have been doing a disservice to the experience: climbing a mountain like Everest is punishingly and perilously arduous and is going to take page after page after page.

“Perilously arduous”? Just look at all the bodies! I hadn’t thought of that: it has never occurred to me how many bodies litter the snowscape, unclaimed, because although climbing a peak that high above sea level is so close to impossible that so few have done it, getting down alive, once exhausted, is much harder still. Carrying down the deceased? Forget it!

This is HIGH CRIMES’ premise, its pivotal plot point and – before I forget to allude to it later – will prove a vital resource.

Like LAZARUS’ Greg Rucka (steaming with professional jealously during his introduction) I’m in awe with how much already extant knowledge then further research Sebela has not just packed into but utilised to full effect during the uphill struggle of this gruelling graphic novel. Speaking of packed, how many meanings do you imagine a title can hold? Just take a look at those three covers I’ve selected out of so many more.

 

 

Not only does each tell an extensive story in its own right (as do all the others) but they are immaculately composed by artist Ibrahim Moustafa and all reproduced within along with additional promotional design work carefully coordinated with and instigated by Sebela himself. My point is this: if “the key is to commit” then these two have unlocked the motherload. There are no half-measures here.

So:

Haskell Price is a vulture. While in the guise of a guide aiding wealthy explorers to reach summits, he loots the well preserved corpses of those long left behind in the snow. He carefully bags a few items of interest, then severs a hand. Once back in Nepal’s Kathmandu he pays a bent police officer to identify the hands’ owners by way of finger prints. Price then contacts the deceased’s nearest and dearest to demand a fee for retrieving the body itself. It’s quite a very steep fee but then it’s a very steep climb. And I know from personal experience directly related to Kathmandu that you would pay almost anything to have your loved one’s actual body back to bury. Closure, etcetera.

Suzanne Jensen is the business partner Price took under his wing when she fled the fall out of her blood tests. An Olympic snowboarding champion who won multiple medals, she failed a blood test for drugs. Not just performance-enhancing drugs, either. The media went ape-shit, the authorities closed in and demanded her medals back. She ran. Suzanne left it all behind – everything except herself, the drugs, her self-loathing and her addiction. Everything, in essence, that could continue to haunt her: Suzanne left nothing behind. She’s a wreck.

Haskell Price scavenges the body of a man called Sullivan Mars. It’s just another body, yet another corpse he will identify by its finger prints which will be known only to him and his corrupt cop. Except that if you want to identify finger prints then you have to go online and access a worldwide database. Does “American surveillance” ring any bells with you?

“Remember, Mars went rogue to protect the future from people like us. Let’s show him how badly he failed.”

His body’s still up there and only Price and Jensen knows where it is. Or what is on it. Or what one of them already has: Sullivan Mars’ journal.

The one thing I would warn you about is that – unlike many corporate comics’ collected editions wherein the story ends so much earlier than you were expecting because of the padding they’ve played the book out with – HIGH CRIMES is a book of false summits: you’ll think you’re nearing its apex, its end, only to discover that yet another steep climb lies ahead of you.

SLH

Buy High Crimes h/c and read the Page 45 review here

An Entity Observes All Things (£8-99, Retrofit) by Box Brown…

“The alien entered me.
“The lizard-man and I became one entity.
“Together. We. Destroyed. My ego.
“Viewing my memories without any sense of attachment.
“The lizard reduced my existence to nil.
“And then we rebuilt.
“I was moulded into my most perfect form.
“The negative ideas that once impeded me destroyed.
“My body had been remodelled.
“My chronic conditions gone.
“The lizard fixed me…
“The lizard fixed me.
“The lizard then showed me the depths of the universe.
“I say “then” as if it happened in sequence.
“But you have to understand this was all happening simultaneously.”

Of course, Box, I understand completely…! The above is about a third of a monologue from a story called The Lizard in this mind-bending collection of nine short stories, all of which definitely swing well towards the more fantastical end of the science fiction spectrum. Each one takes some bizarre conceit such as revisiting past memories as a form of therapy, a cult leader attracting followers through music and the power of social media, someone taking an abandoned giant war robot for a spin through space, or indeed being probed by an alien lizard-man flying a gigantic pyramid.

But, there’s always a devious or deviant twist in every story whether it be choosing to ignore the doctor’s implicit instructions to repeat the memory exactly, being poisoned by a weird drug, giant space robot copulation, or becoming ultra-successful and wealthy post-abduction. None of the stories without exception goes where you would expect, which I think is the primary appeal of these works. They have a real primal feel to them and pack an extremely powerful punch, which is all you can ask for from a short story.

I love the art too, usually black and white with one additional colour. He does like his black dot hatching too, our Box. Some elements of the illustration are clearly freehand in a loose style quite reminiscent of Johnny Ryan, yet these are combined in practically equal measure with figures and heads composed of perfectly straight lines, corners and circles that look like they could be Chris Ware’s warm-up material.

Also, there are some incredibly elaborate buildings and detailed structures that defy all architectural logic. Somehow, it all comes together perfectly to produce a style as fascinating as it is unique in its totality. In comparison to his far more controlled and composed ANDRE THE GIANT, this compilation looks more like he’s emptied out of the contents of his mental sketchbook and then decided to compose stories ad hoc from the various components. I like it lot! Also, each title page comes with a drawing of a different giant robot, every single one of which looks like it could batter all the Transformers and the Decepticons put together!

JR

Buy An Entity Observes All Things and read the Page 45 review here

The End Of Summer (Signed & Sketched In) (£9-99, Avery Hill) by Tillie Walden.

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.

Our current copies have the most swoonaway sketches of snoozing cats inside.

SLH

Buy The End Of Summer (Signed & Sketched In) and read the Page 45 review here

Moomin And The Martians (£6-99, Enfant) by Tove Jansson.

“But how can there be room for a Martian in a flying saucer?” asks Moominmamma.

She eyes her dirty dishes at the sink, incredulously.

Are you traumatised by new technology? Does nano-bling and digital do-da baffle you to the point where they might as well be magic, their means of operation a heart-sinking, hair-tearing mystery? Welcome to my world! That I can actually format these reviews in WordPress and populate them with size-adjusted interior art is a minor miracle, true testament to the teaching prowess (and patience) of Jonathan and Dee.

Family Moomin is about to experience extreme bewilderment, for the Martians have landed! Well, one of them has. He’s a funny little fellow the colour of coal with a head so fuzzy he looks as if he’s stuck his fingers into an electricity socket. He appears to be wearing a glass gas lamp globe. Twin springs dangle down on either side or sit up straight in be-startlement.

He’s a classic piece of Jansson design (which you can admire aplenty in the back of the MOOMIN DELUXE SPLIPCASED EDITION) with big, expressive eyes, at once mysterious and ridiculous and entirely at odds with clichés of the day, as Moomintroll discovers when he roots out his old science fiction book as reference.

Anyway, the little chappy’s innocuous enough: it’s the box of wires and cogs and bulbs and buttons the Moomins find in his spaceship that cause all the mayhem. They don’t come with instructions so learning how it works will have to a question of trial and error. Well, mostly error. Mrs. Fillyjonk’s cow will never be the same.

If Tove has anything social to say this time round, it’s pretty brief and right at the beginning when Moomintroll is given a hand-me-down transistor radio which doesn’t work to begin with but he doesn’t really mind: he just admires its complicated looking inner gubbins. I had precisely that experience myself way back then.

“If you hadn’t hidden my Superstrofonic Box in the baking oven I would have learned English a week ago.”

If Moominmamma had hidden the Martian’s Superstrofonic Box in the baking oven the second she found it, this entire fiasco could have been averted. The laws of physics are in for a right battering. I’m not sure having a luminous police force is an entirely positive development.

SLH

Buy Moomin And The Martians and read the Page 45 review here

Moomin Complete Lars Jansson Comic Strip vol 10 h/c (£14-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Lars Jansson.

“I would never watch TV. Strictly a plebeian pastime!”
“Oh, we don’t watch it, either.”
“What do you do with it, then?”
“We bought it for a sideboard.”
“Between vulgarity and snobbishness there’s really little to choose.”

Ha! Typically of the Jansson siblings there is much mirthful social commentary here on what was then a boom in square-eyed covetousness and obsession, but equally typically of the Moomin family they fall into it quite by accident when Moominpappa is persuaded to buy a television set as the latest thing to put ornaments on! Initially they’re oblivious to its true function and wonder why there’s no room inside to store crockery inside. Like so much they encounter it is an enigma to them.

Once Moominpappa does tune in, however, he’s swiftly turned on and completely drops out of regular family activity and interaction, so desperate is he not to miss out on a single minute or new development. He snubs the spectacle of cranes flocking outside in favour of a TV programme on birdwatching and misses a meteorological marvel outside because there are waves on the gogglebox instead. Does any of this seem familiar, much? Snorkmaiden starts judging her beloved Moomintroll by soap opera standards, conflicting advertisements for competing washing powder brands cause chaos in the household as they try to keep up with the paid-to-praise Joneses, and Lars Jansson essentially invents TiVo decades before its time.

The biggest recognition box I ticked, however, was everyone and everything cordially inviting themselves round to watch TV and in doing so displacing the Moomins, and then when Moominmamma offers them coffee they hiss:

“Ssh! Must you talk?”

Black, white and brilliant. Also in for a skewering: Beatniks. Their dance one of the funniest things Lars has ever drawn!

SLH

Buy Moomin Complete Lars Jansson Comic Strip vol 10 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Strange Fruit #1 (£2-99, Boom!) by Mark Waid & J.G.Jones.

In which I get to haul out one of my two favourite words, “serendipity” (the other being “parenthetically”), for although this comic was written and drawn many months ago it is right now that the confederate flag is hitting the news big-time as a public display of racism.

In light of which, the full-page punchline will have you grinning from ear to ear with glee. Best use of a confederate flag ever, and it could not possible be better placed!

“It’s 1927 in the town of Chatterlee, Mississippi, drowned by heavy rains. The Mississippi River is rising, threatening to break open not only the levees, but also the racial and social divisions of this former plantation town.”

So many prejudices are given a fetid airing here, balanced by acts of bravery and if you thought you already loved WANTED’s J.G. Jones art, you will weep in adoration at the glory within.

 

 

The first few pages I have for you here are meticulously painted and ever so lambent they are too, but even they are completely outclassed by the thrilling compositions of the final nine pages and their raw, physical beauty. On top of the impeccable, muscular neo-classical physique, the weight of a hefty tree trunk, the folds in the robes of the Ku Klux Klan and a purple stormy sky crackling with lightning, there are two perspectives of phenomenal power shot from below then a double-page spread split into radial panels worthy of Neal Adams (except these actually work better – *cough*) to present a monumental sense of movement.

Think I’m laying it on a bit thick? I really am not.

What you might infer from the above is a distinct change of pace and perhaps even genre within, for this wasn’t what I was expecting. I was expecting straight historical fiction, and I’m trying to imply that there’s more than one reason why fans of Mark Waid and Alex Ross’ KINGDOM COME will love this.

My first clue was the comet streaking across the sky.

La la la… leaving it there

SLH

Buy Strange Fruit #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Four Eyes vol 1: Forged In Flames s/c (£7-50, Image) by Joe Kelly & Max Fiumara.

Dragons are a draw.

If we harbour so much love for creatures long lost – the giant lizards of yore whose haunting, hollow, excavated skeletons loom so impressively over our heads in natural history museums, catalysing the human imagination and a deep-seated regret – how much more romantic is our notion of the winged beasties which never existed?

Freed from the confines of both biology and physics, these dazzlingly hued, fire-breathing, multiformed majesties have taken wing in our hearts and minds since mythologies began. However ferocious their threat, they’ve often been imbued with a certain nobility – hence perhaps the designated rank and heroic calibre of their various nemeses, and their pride of place on the Welsh national flag. There’s also an aspect of tragedy involved, perfectly evoked here.

 

There aren’t enough decent dragon comics. Fewer still are those that do something different with them, like this, and it’s full of heart right to the very last page.

Speaking of “different”, I applaud the aesthetic decision to bleach this book of its former colour which throws focus onto its intricate line work and the gigantic forms which fill so many pages with their tough and rough hide. It’s certainly not a commercial decision. Some customers are so averse to black and white graphic novels that I have to sell them with a set of coloured pencils. The grey tone is gorgeously warm, as is the bronze effect reserved for two specific elements: the young lad’s thick leather handling gloves… and the dragon he handles.

It’s set firmly in New York of the 1930s during The Great Depression when on both sides of the Atlantic the economies fell apart, welfare was slashed, unemployment rocketed and what employment there was could often be described as slave labour given the wage cuts and individuals’ desperation for any way to pay for their next meal. FOUR EYES manages to reflect its social setting with power and compassion.

Ten-year-old Enrico is enjoying a rare day on the beach with both his parents. If you could find work you certainly didn’t shirk it, so for his dad to be there, towering above his sandcastles, that means the world to him.

“We have had a good year. I know because Mama has stopped crying so much. Papa found new work. Steady work. With real pay. “The Lord provides,” he says, always with a smile, like he’s telling a joke. I don’t know what his work is. When I ask, he always says “Taking care of you and Mama is my job.” Then he tickles me and we laugh. Mama doesn’t laugh with us.”

That’s because she knows what her husband’s work is, and who he works for. Enrico is about to find out too, and then his job will be looking after Mama because he makes a terrible mistake he couldn’t possibly recognise as the mistake that it is, and his world comes crashing down around him.

I liked Enrico, and I understood where he was coming from: his burning desire to provide for a mother who is far too beholden to others for comfort. Also, his fear of the enormous beasts, nesting in their subterranean lairs – they’re terrifying to behold and Joe Kelly does a cracking job of building your trepidation in advance through their handler’s stern warnings of what to do and what not to do if you start to smell methane.

But there’s a newspaper page in the back of the book which is worth reading quite early on, convincingly explaining the relationship between the human population and the rarely spotted, rarely threatening but brutally treated dragons, used and abused in the same we as we do other animals, by making them fight for sport and gambling. Enrico has a lot of learning to do, and the final issue here was the clincher for me. There better be more.

SLH

Buy Four Eyes vol 1: Forged In Flames s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Through The Woods (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Faber & Faber) by Emily Carroll.

Long out of print, this review would obviously be higher up if we hadn’t already published it for the hardcover. Here we go, then…

Emily Carroll has a thing for teeth. I wish she didn’t. It’s very upsetting.

And I don’t mean just jagged teeth, but teeth where there ought not to be, doing things which they shouldn’t. Wobbling teeth are most worrisome of all: imagine what lies behind.

Also present and most incorrect: woods, caves, families and intruders – infesting your house, inhabiting your body and eating away at your soul.

It’s the not-quite-right taking a turn for the oh-my-god-no!

Eerie and chilling, this Victorian brand of horror owes less to the likes of RACHEL RISING or FATALE and much, much more both in tone and style to THE HIDDEN’s Richard Sala and especially MEATCAKE’s Dame Darcy. The protagonists are called Janna, Yvonne, Mary and Mabel, and they all have pert, pointy noses and long, slender fingers. There is the same sense that anything can happen on the page: the countryside may suddenly loom at a tilted angle, the path snaking through it becoming representational (of both space and the time taken to travel it); colouring may bleed outside its boundaries; the wail of a tortured soul may curl across the glossy paper forming the very gutter between its pitch-black panels haunted by past deeds in bright white and electric blue. As with Dame Darcy, lettering plays an integral part in the art and storytelling.

In ‘A Lady’s Hands Are Cold’ the not-quite-right is signalled early on by the intense flush on a young girl’s face as she sits in nervous trepidation at the other end of a vast, opulently laid dining table to the man her father has told her to marry. He, we never see but for the back of his head and a mouth into which he slides slabs of rare, juice-dribbling meat he has stabbed and cut with a two-pronged fork and carving knife. The oh-my-god-no is not far behind.

Another features a brother taking credit where far from due. Jealousy often goes unnoticed.

Then there are three sisters left to fend for themselves when their father goes hunting. In the woods, of course, but for what is uncertain. He says he’ll be gone for three days but warns them to leave the house and seek their neighbour’s if he fails to return on schedule. He fails to return on schedule. Things fall apart.

A Victorian parlour prank becomes more successful than anyone ever wanted it to. Two life-long friends find themselves at odds, and one starts seeing the most terrifying spectre I have ever laid eyes on because of what I laid eyes on. This one’s not as transparent as most.

A stylish soon-to-be-sister-in-law plays host to… No, there we will not go.

Nor will we go through the woods now that we are safely back home.

“Oh, but you must travel through those woods again and again,” said a shadow at the window.
“And you must be lucky to avoid the wolf every time…
“But the wolf… the wolf only needs enough luck to find you once.

SLH

Buy Through The Woods (UK Edition) s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Baddawi (£14-99, Just World Books) by Leila Abdelrazaq…

No, not a biography of the ground-breaking television and radio journalist Zeinab Badawi, but a coming of age biography about a Palestinian boy called Ahmad raised in a refugee camp in northern Lebanon. This work has been compared to the likes of PERSEPOLIS, MUNNU: A BOY FROM KASHMIR and FORGET SORROW: AN ANCESTRAL TALE. It’s good, but I certainly wouldn’t put it on a par with those works.

Much like FORGET SORROW: AN ANCESTRAL TALE, this story is recounted by the protagonist’s daughter, young Ahmad being creator Leila Abdelrazaq’s father. His story, of life growing up effectively in exile in Lebanon, displaced from Palestine and unable to return, is undoubtedly one of hardship, certainly. But also of the adaptability and ingenuity of children forced to grow up fast under those tough conditions. Ahmad and his school chums still managed to have fun, despite the deprivation. Part one spans 1959-1969 and covers his time in the camps.

In part two from 1970-1975, the family moved to Beirut as Ahmad’s father got a job managing an apartment building, and this period of Ahmad’s life was, by and large, relatively content and comfortable, despite the rising political tensions that would eventually break out into a brutal fifteen-year civil war in 1975. The third part of the book covers the first five years of the war as Ahmad gradually came to the conclusion that to create any sort of future for himself he needed to get out of Lebanon and go and study overseas. The ever-present danger of bombings and shootings punctuated these times, as friends and family were lost to the escalating sectarian conflict.

Where this work does succeed is in raising awareness of the human cost of this period to a very put-upon community, the Palestinians, something which obviously continues to this day. But I have to say, I didn’t feel anywhere as engaged as with PERSEPOLIS, MUNNU: A BOY FROM KASHMIR and FORGET SORROW: AN ANCESTRAL TALE. It might be because it felt a little disjointed at times, in comparison to some of those other works. In places it felt more like a collection of anecdotes than a seamless narrative, though I appreciate it is extremely difficult when compiling a biographical work, also referencing historical events, of what to put in and what to leave out. Similarly the art is nice enough, if relatively basic. The closest comparison that springs to mind is it looks a little bit like David B, though not as good.

I’m glad Leila Abdelrazaq has taken the time to create this memoir, because I do personally believe that anything which help maintains general public awareness of what the Palestinian diaspora has been, and is going through, is a very good thing. But I don’t believe this work will achieve the widespread acclaim of PERSEPOLIS.

JR

Buy Baddawi and read the Page 45 review here

Adventure Time: Graybles Schmaybles s/c (£7-99, Titan) by Danielle Corsetto & Bridget Underwood…

“I’ll bet you schmaybles would like to know the theme of today’s graybles! Since it’s your first time, let’s review some hints. Are you ready?”

Ha, I was wondering if Cuber was going to turn up! This is by far the closest any ADVENTURE TIME comics material has come to feeling exactly like an episode of the cartoon phenomenon of a generation. If you’re a fan of the show, you’ll exactly know what a grayble is, why there are always five of them, and how indeed there is always a connecting theme. I didn’t guess what the theme was either, until Cuber revealed all, which made me smile. It’s a tricky one!

For those of you who have absolutely no idea what I’m going on about, a grayble is a short story. There have been several episodes of Adventure Time presented by Cuber (who is from the future) where he pulls out a holo-pyramid, presents five stories from ‘days of old’, and breaks the fourth wall by inviting us, the audience, to try and guess the theme.

Why Cuber calls stories graybles, your guess is as good as mine, but much like the graybles TV episodes, this OGN was great fun featuring most of our usual favourites: Finn, Jake, Ice King, BMO, LSP, Tree Trunks, and also a rare appearance from a personal fave, Party God, who is a huge floating Alsatian head wearing a baseball cap perched at a jaunty angle and howls about partying hard a lot. It all makes no sense, it really doesn’t, but that doesn’t matter one iota.

I wonder how long Adventure Time can continue to feel fresh and fun, I just know after six seasons of the show I’m still utterly hooked, and if the comics material continues to be of this high standard, which is entirely down to employing the writers who work on the show to do the comics – always a good idea – then I’ll keep reading them too!

JR

Buy Adventure Time: Graybles Schmaybles 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.

Fante Bukowski (£9-99, Fantagraphics) by Noah Van Sciver

Sunny vol 5 h/c (£16-99, Viz) by Taiyo Matsumoto

The Motorcycle Samurai vol 1: A Fiery Demise s/c (£14-99, Top Shelf) by Chris Sheridan

Tim Ginger (£14-99, Top Shelf) by Julian Hanshaw

A Quick Dip Into Deep Thinking: The Growing Of Dreams (£6-50) by Dori Kirchmair

Fables vol 22: Farewell (£13-50, Vertigo) by Bill Willingham & Mark Buckingham, various

William Shakespeare’s The Clone Army Attacketh h/c (£11-99, Quirk) by Ian Doescher

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

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest h/c (£22-50, Vertigo) by Stieg Larsson, Denise Mina & Andrea Mutti, Antonio Fuso

Batman: Arkham Manor vol 1 s/c (£10-99, DC) by Gerry Duggan & Shawn Crystal

Batwoman vol 6: The Unknowns s/c (£12-99, DC) by Marc Andreyko & Georges Jeanty, various

Daredevil vol 3: The Daredevil You Know s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Chris Samnee

Deadpool Classic vol 12 s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by various

Guardians Of The Galaxy vol 3: Guardians Disassembled s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis, various & Nick Bradshaw, various

Thor vol 2: Who Holds The Hammer? (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Noelle Stevenson, Don Glut, C.M. Punk & various

News!

ITEM! 8HOUSE ARCLIGHT’s Marian Churchland is interviewed with co-writer Claire Gibson and artist Sloane Leong about their new comic FROM UNDER MOUNTAINS. Interior art there too. What a cover!

You can pre-order FROM UNDER MOUNTAINS #1 from Page 45 here!

ITEM! From the creator of shiver-fest ADAMTIME (you will never take the last train home again – never!) and oh-so-British comedy BRITTEN AND BRULIGHTLY, Hannah Berry presents a substantial preview of her next graphic novel, LIVESTOCK!

ITEM! Substantial preview of Jennifer Hayden’s graphic memoir about breast cancer, gamely titled THE STORY OF MY TITS. Simone Lia agrees with me that, under these circumstances, this is possibly the best title ever.

ITEM! Illustrated interview with Tom Devlin about the exceptional 750+ page DRAWN AND QUARTELY: 25 YEARS OF CONTEMPORARY CARTOONING, COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS anthology.

My review: DRAWN AND QUARTELY: 25 YEARS OF CONTEMPORARY CARTOONING, COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS

ITEM! Preview of Rick Remender & Sean Murphy’s TOKYO GHOST.

You can pre-order TOKYO GHOST #1 from Page 45 here.

 - Stephen

Page 45 Reviews written by Stephen & Jonathan then edited by a cock-eyed chameleon which is probably a tautology, I know.

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews July 2015 week three

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015

In the news section below: Page 45 is proud to sponsor The British Comics Awards!

Bacchus Volume One Omnibus Edition s/c (£29-99, Top Shelf) by Eddie Campbell.

“Hey, deadface!”
“Are you talking to me?”
“Yeh, you, old man. What are you in for?”
“Drunk and disorderly.”
“Ha ha. You look old enough to know better.”
“Is 4000 years old enough?”

In the very first panel on the very first page “Are you talking to me?” is seen from behind bars.

I’m loving the cover over which someone’s spilled a great big bottle of burgundy. “Cheers!” salutes the sozzled old storyteller.

Fifteen years ago I wrote: “A mature, full-bodied comic with a musky, oaken flavour, which is heart-warming in the winter, but equally refreshing on a summer’s day picnic.”

“Full-bodied”?! This first half comes in at a whopping 550-pages! It’s almost as hefty as Eddie’s 640-page autobiographical ALEC OMNIBUS which I’ve long declared the single finest body of work in comics anywhere in the world to date. Fiercely literate and a phenomenally astute philosopher, he’s comics’ finest raconteur both in person and in print. He had us all howling with laughter when he performed the secret history of THE FATE OF THE ARTIST using customer Vis Pather’s young son as an impromptu prop.

 

As Neil Gaiman puts it:

“Eddie Campbell is the unsung King of comic books. The man’s a genius and that’s an end to it.”

Last year saw the release of Gaiman and Campbell’s THE TRUTH IS A CAVE IN THE BLACK MOUNTAINS as a book after being performed live by Gaiman at the Sydney Opera House with projections painted by Campbell. When Neil signed at Page 45 the first thing he did was ask for the latest instalment of BACCHUS which was being serialised for the second time as a monthly. That’s Gaiman’s idea of a rider, so he’s not making that up for the back cover.

Campbell has been recounting tales of his weather-worn demigod for decades now. Sub-titled “Immortality Isn’t Forever”, it finds the Greek god of revelry washed up 4,000 years later on strangely sympathetic modern shores in far from fine physical fettle but with his spirits still riding high. He boasts a lot of lived-in laughter lines and his turns of phrase seem to tumble effortless out of his mouth:

“I’m Bacchus. I’m a god. I’m living testimony to the fact that it’s a dying profession…
“I’m the god of wine. Once I was the bouquet promising great things. Now I’m the gritty bits at the bottom on the glass.”

And it’s as much about the stories Bacchus has to tell – of his and other gods’ escapades – as it is about Bacchus himself, who now wanders 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.  Wherever he roams he finds ancient friends and quite ridiculous foes, along with new devotees eager to imbibe his wisdom.

In ‘Doing The Islands With Bacchus” he encounters three naturists on holiday, corrects them on the earliest means of modesty (they weren’t fig leaves for the most part but vine leaves, of course) then embarks on a discourse about the history of fashion.

“Now the Spartans were a great mob. They were the first to appear naked at the Olympic Games…. The willy was regarded with awe.”

Two of them point to the other’s little willy.

“Awww.”
“Awww.”

Half the hilarity comes from the juxtaposition of the modern and mythological, Bacchus using contemporary vernacular like “natty dressers” and “the big cheese”. For example, while Bacchus and his acolytes are down a dockside “taverna” overlooked by an industrial crane, glugging down jugs of wine and scoffing wild mushrooms (“Amanita muscaria… that sacred mushroom: ambrosia nectar… food of the gods!”),  Joe Theseus is opening a can of coke and a packaged sandwich in an airport. Joe Theseus! Just sticking “Joe” in front of Theseus makes me laugh.

To begin with it has all those trappings of a comedy crime caper, then lobs in the most ludicrous fight scenes involving The Eyeball Kid, overly endowed with ten pairs of eyes perched on top of one another. If ever you were in doubt about the relationship between ancient gods and modern superheroes, this thrusts it right in your face. There’s even an early full-page take-down with a much burlier Bacchus than you’d suspect once the coat comes off launching himself at his assailant which could be – and was almost certainly directly inspired by – Jack Kirby inked by Vince Colletta on THOR.

 

“I wanted to mock the improbability of a big sprawling adventure while still having one,” writes Campbell in the introduction. It’s something he’d return to much later on in THE AMAZING REMARKABLE MONSIEUR LEOTARD.

Another early flourish finds Bacchus striding through sheets of rain at night. As the grizzled god looks up into the downpour in close-up it’s impossible not to flash forward in time to similar scenes in Frank Miller’s SIN CITY VOLUME 1, only this is much less clinical and infinitely wetter. Which is what rain should be, really.

Basically, this: if you think you know all there is to know about Eddie Campbell as an artist from the ALEC OMNIBUS, FROM HELL, THE FROM HELL COMPANION, THE FATE OF THE ARTIST, THE LOVELY HORRIBLE STUFF, THE PLAYWRIGHT etc., you’re in for some startling surprises. Yes, you’ll recognise his fine line and particular style of portraiture but here you’ll find a far, far wider range of renderings, organic textures and experimental special effects than in any other of his works even – given how big this book is – on a whittled-down page-per-page ratio.

This is the material with which Mark first introduced me to Campbell’s craft twenty-five years ago (admittedly there wasn’t much more to choose from back then other than early ALEC and In The Days Of The Ace Rock’n’Roll Club) because I shared the same passion for wine, Greek mythology and have been obsessed by Bacchus, Pan et al since the age of fourteen. I fell head over heels in love immediately with this mind-bogglingly novel approach which manages the neat trick of being both wholly irreverent and completely faithful. Its greatest fidelity, perhaps, is to the Greeks’ art of storytelling and their reverence of it.

Collects Immortality Isn’t Forever, The Gods of Business, Doing The Islands With Bacchus, The Eyeball Kid: One Man Show and Earth, Water, Air & Fire, with new introductions to each. Additional writing by Wes Kublick, substantial art contribution by Ed Hillyer, with bits by Pete Mullins and – haha! – I thought I saw SWAMP THING’s Steve Bissette in some of those roots and monsters. Page 325 was my biggest clue when you get there. If I’m wrong then the yolk’s on me.

SLH

Buy Bacchus Volume One Omnibus Edition s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Moose (£12-99, Conundrum International) by Max De Radigues…

“Why are you doing this?”
“I think you know.”
“But nobody’s even watching.”
“Well… I started to get a kick out of it, with or without an audience…”

We eventually find out the real reason why Joe is getting mercilessly and remorselessly bullied by Jason. He has two mothers, which in such a small parochial town is obviously sufficiently outré as to be different enough from the supposed ‘norm’ to get picked on. Jason is clearly getting sadistic thrills out of his treatment of Joe, possibly even sexually so, given a certain turn of events towards the end of the book. So you suspect that if it hadn’t been Joe’s atypical family setup, then there would have some other equally inconsequential reason found for Jason’s victimisation of him.

It’s the sheer relentless, inescapability of the bullying which will break your heart, no matter how Joe tries to avoid his tormentor by wandering through waist-deep snow-filled fields and woods, for example, which is where we learn of his affinity for nature and we also see the titular moose. All this so as to avoid catching the schoolbus, Jason having ‘reserved’ the seat directly in front of him for Joe, to allow the maximum torture potential…

Joe’s trapped, of course, by the code of silence, that unspoken childhood rule that you shouldn’t tell the teachers on someone, not even if they’re kicking you up the arse with a compass (the pointy circle drawing kind, not the directional aid). His only ally is the school nurse, a young girl who knows exactly what is going on and is thus the only adult-ish individual Joe can confide in. And so you begin to wonder if, when, Joe will snap.

After all, people can only take so much, even those with the strongest of wills. But when people snap it can go two ways, depending on just how scared of their bully they are. They can lash out in desperation, or look to hurt themselves in despair. I was getting fearful for Joe, I really was, wondering which way he’d go when he finally cracked and then… the story takes an altogether unexpected turn, and Joe is presented with a very tough moral dilemma indeed…

Wonderful storytelling from Max De Radigues, who is definitely a talented artist too. You’ll be minded of several different creators, I think. I could see the likes of Kevin Huizenga, Liz Prince, Sammy Harkham, Ethan Reilly, even a bit of Jeffrey Brown actually. His characters have a real sensitivity to them, he portrays their emotions very well, even the odious Jason whom, when he revealed one particularly snide smile, I was absolutely willing Joe to batter. Very Gandhi-esque of me, I know! I will definitely be looking for more from Max in the future. He is Belgian and apparently has produced a few other works, so hopefully if this is successful enough then they will get translated.

JR

Buy Moose and read the Page 45 review here

Cakes In Space (£6-99, Oxford) by Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre.

In zero gravity, no one can hear you butter-cream scream.

Ah, the perils of being peckish!

This stars the most ferocious fruit cakes you could ever imagine. The most belligerent and bellicose Battenbergs ever! There’s a green Fondant Fancy which I really don’t fancy and that cupcake’s a killer for sure! Hundreds & Thousands should be the icing on your cake, not the number of them desperate to do you dietary damage. Abandon ship!

From the creators of UKLA Award-winning OLIVER AND THE SEAWIGS, one of the most thrilling and funny illustrated prose books I’ve ever read (I rate it right up there with Dave Shelton’s exquisitely well observed and equally award-winning A BOY AND A BEAR IN A BOAT), comes a tale so tall it’s told way up there in outer space.

Imagine this: one hundred and ninety-nine years until your next breakfast!

Astra’s family is all set to travel to Nova Mundi, such a faraway planet that it will take yonks to get there.

“Yonks” is a specific, space-science unit precisely calibrating time taken between planets. I thought you already knew that.

Mum, Dad and Astra will all settle down in cryogenic suspension pods and so go to sleep for the duration. But Astra’s not quite sure what the duration really means. One hundred and ninety-nine years sounds a long time to go before her next breaker so she asks the all-knowing Nom-O-Tron for a quick snack which won’t ruin her appetite between meals. Guess what? It ruins her appetite between meals!

“Please state the exact type of cake you require,” said the Nom-O-Tron.

She is a bit vague. And a bit too specific.

“Oh, just make me the most amazing, super-fantastic cake ever!” she said. “I want something brilliant! I want something so delicious it’s scary! I want the ultimate cake!”

At which point Astra is whisked away by her parents and settled down to sleep. And, while she sleeps, Nom-O-Tron clicks and ticks away, working on her instructions, interpreting them as accurately as it can – “brilliant”, “delicious”, “ultimate”… I’m sure there was another adjective there – until the results cause a systems-wide wibble which wakes Astra up when the spaceship’s journey is only halfway complete!

No one else wakes up, only Astra. So tentatively, ever so tentatively, she explores the corridors to discover that Nom-O-Tron has delivered the goods and come up with the confectionary: it’s made the ultimate cake. It’s made a bazillion if not squillion of them. They may well be so delicious it’s scary but – with big, bulging eyes and the most fearsome of fangs – it is they are who are scary and Astra who seems quite delicious. And she’s out there, all alone, in the night…

Well, until the googly-eyed Poglites pop up to plunder the spaceship’s spoons. These aliens have developed warp-drive, hyper-drive and even parking-when-permitted-at-night. But they have never managed to master spoon technology! It’s too advanced. They threaten to zap Astra with their Arkle-splifflicator.

“The first alien’s suit might not have been able to find a translation for ‘Arkle-Splifflicator’, but Astra still felt pretty sure that she didn’t want her arkles splifflicated: the last thing she needed right now, she felt, were splifflicated arkles.”

Yep, there’s that same love of language I found in OLIVER AND THE SEAWIGS: “the spilled-salt glitter of the stars” and a clinical, dark dining area “where clean white surfaces shone coldly in the dim light, like icebergs on an Arctic night.” Cake has been turned into a verb and this definitely one book in which you do not want to be “caked”!

The prose once more has been fully integrated into the illustrations, or is that vice-versa? Either way, it is as one. I adored the far from obvious coronas of McIntyre’s stars, representing their radiating luminosity. Which sounds awfully highbrow so let me add that I also loved her maniacal, man-eating mega-sponges which are worthy of Jim Henderson, bibbling with bobbly cream. Astra is wide-eyed with wonder throughout – check every single page! – while the Poglites could not look more loopy and gormless.

So who will win out, do you think, between the mutant meringues and the dim-witted Poglites, tentacled to the teeth with stolen spoons?

“So you’ve escaped, have you?” growled the Poglite captain. “You still think you can scare us with your cakes? We are Poglites! We eat cakes for breakfast! Well, not really for breakfast – that would be weird – but we eat them for afternoon tea…”

SLH

Buy Cakes In Space and read the Page 45 review here

ODY-C vol 1: Off To Far Ithicaa s/c (£7-50, Image) by Matt Fraction & Christian Ward…

“It’s vulgar, Mother-Father, finding bloodsport in torturing great women like Odyssia, warrior or not.”
“And yet the little apes are so very good at it.”
“There will be more. There will be blood yet to come.”
“There should be recompense. There should come thunderous punishment from we Olympians for their insolence and hubris.”

The finest rip-up-the-rule-book reinterpretation of Homer’s Odyssey since the classic animation Ulysses 31! That merely updated the Greek mythological epic to the 31st Century. ODY-C takes that same future science-fiction starting point and then throws in a gender flip too, reversing the sex of most of the characters.

Story-wise Fraction takes what is classic material, in all senses, and refashions it, scintillatingly relevant and exciting for even our over-indulged, battle-weary modern tastes.

It helps, obviously, that the original plot is brilliantly captivating, a ten-year struggle against impossible odds and overwhelming obstacles simply to get back home to loved ones and the throne. The gender flip freshens the material up further, allowing Fraction to put significantly different emphases and affectations on both the characters and plot. It’s a conceit which in a lesser writer’s hands could have turned into a right old chariot crash, but definitely makes this unique version of the Odyssey well worth reading.

 

However, what really turns this into a shining triumph is Christian Ward’s psychedelic art and colouring. I don’t know if he used every single hue and tint of his virtual palette, but I rather suspect he didn’t leave very many out. Rich and vibrant are oft-used terms but this is as expansive use of a truly vast array of colours, successfully I should add, as you are ever likely to see in a comic.

Fans of Ward’s work on Nick Spencer’s equally mind-bending INFINITE VACATION will already know of his ability to combine said colouring with surprisingly fine and intricate line work. He has a particular stylistic element to his line work, employing innumerate, endless flowing curves and waves going in all directions, with barely a straight line in sight that I absolutely love. The overall effect is one of such depth and complexity, he’s undoubtedly the perfect artist for this futuristic space opera.

About the only negative comment I can make about this first volume is that it doesn’t include the ultra-widescreen, multiple-page fold out splash-entrance that the first issue commenced with! They’ve included all the pages, and it does still work because they are beautiful, but they don’t have that same incredibly dramatic impact.

JR

Buy ODY-C vol 1: Off To Far Ithicaa s/c and read the Page 45 review here

They’re Not Like Us vol 1: Black Holes For The Young s/c (£7-50, Image) by Eric Stephenson & Simon Gane.

“I didn’t ask for any of this.”
“None of us did, but here we are. And I know you don’t trust me, but I promise you, when you know the whole story, you will feel better about being here.”

She won’t.

Hurrah, my leap of faith has been vindicated!

I love Simon Gane.

Since ALL FLEE I’ve been smitten, his landscape sketchbooks are amongst the most thrilling I’ve seen and his contribution to ABOVE THE DREAMLESS DEAD: WORLD WAR I IN POETRY AND COMICS was for me its star turn: all those ivy-strewn statues setting the tone in stone and reinforcing the poem’s haunting sentiments.

From the very first page he does not disappoint, the leaves on the trees as special and semi-detached as ever, enhanced by colour artist Jordie Bellaire’s paler echoes behind and beyond. Gane’s clothes have all the requisite wrinkles depending on where they’re stretched by the flesh beneath – the sort of detail Art Adams excelled at – while his faces are angular yet soft, and where Simon excels is at eye contact. So much of this is about eye contact: about trust and distrust, truth and lies. Which will be which, do you suppose?

Atop the Saint Francis Memorial Hospital, San Francisco, a young woman called Syd balances perilously close to the rooftop’s edge, her arms outstretched, tears streaming down her eyes.

“I live to fall asleep.
“It’s the only way I can get some relief from it all.
“The worrying.
“The planning.
“The lying.
“It’s the only way to escape from the complete lack of silence, the complete lack of peace. All I have to do is close my eyes and I’ll be at rest forever.”

Now, I was curious as to exactly why “the worrying” was set against an old woman, face buried in her hands; why “the planning” showed a handsome young man, smiling as he stood at a tram stop; and “the lying” seemed to refer to a middle-aged businessman dressing after sex with a woman who clearly wasn’t the one about to jump off life’s cliff.

You’ll have to wait a few pages while a dapper young man in a suit and tie – who clearly loves himself dearly – tries to talk Syd down and fails. Syd’s been dragged in and out of that hospital by her parents for years. She’s been plagued by voices, so many voices; a cacophony that has driven her to distraction while building a barrier between her and her parents who have never believed her. But she’s been telling the truth: she’s a telepath, and it’s only now that The Voice has found her that she has a seemingly sympathetic soul able to explain her condition and ease her mind. By controlling it.

Now there is silence and sanctuary in a gabled, gated mansion thick with Simon Gane foliage. I’d like all my foliage to be Simon Gane foliage. I wonder if he’d come and draw my garden for me? It’s in a bit of a state.

Under Gane and Bellaire the mansion becomes a character and star in its own right. The bedspreads, picture frames, carpets, chairs and stairs are so opulent!

It was, however, at this point that I originally ran into difficulties, but suspected that the big reveal was almost a distraction from a very important sentence which – combined with an extreme sense of entitlement expressed by The Voice – did not bode well for any of them. The big reveal came in the form of ten other occupants who were not all straightforward telepaths but an empath, a clairvoyant, an illusionist, a pyrokinetic, a –

Are you getting whiffs of Charles Xavier’s School For The Self-Sequestrated?

“But I don’t think there will be any big battles except between egos and control-freaks within,” I wrote. “I don’t think everyone’s showing their true colours.”

Sure enough it becomes increasingly clear to Syd that this group of young men and women squatting in a house which is not theirs, preying on whomever they fancy and taking whatever they please has been persuaded that this is their right. That because they’ve been mistreated because they are different, they are entitled to do the same. Because The Voice says so. Syd’s essentially fallen in with a cult, and a very dangerous one at that.

Stephenson balances the indoctrination brilliantly. It’s impossible to feel sorry for at least one of their targets when out on the streets and the self-justification comes thick and fast. But such extreme misfits living in such close proximity, almost under house arrest for so much of the time is going to cause increasingly worrying behaviour, you mark my words…

SLH

Buy They’re Not Like Us vol 1: Black Holes For The Young s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Supreme: Blue Rose s/c (£10-99, Image) by Warren Ellis & Tula Lotay.

Diana Dane, meet Darius Dax. You’ll find him in equal parts lucrative and infuriating.

“You seem to know a lot of people, who want others to know they know you, but who don’t want anyone to know about you. So I was curious enough to take the meeting.”
“That is as it should be. I imagine it was quite frustrating for you, though, important investigative reporter and all.”
“I don’t know if I’d agree with “important”.”
“I was being polite. I meant “unemployed”.”

Diana Dane is indeed unemployed. She won an award then was laid off the week after.

“That’s the universe telling you something.”

Now it’s Darius Dax who’s telling her something: that it wasn’t a plane that came down on Littlehaven a few months ago. It was something altogether more unusual and included the vast arch of gold now suspended above Dax’s desk declaring wherever it came from “Supreme”.

This is of interest to Dax for Dax too is an acquirer of knowledge which few will ever have access to. He specialises in Blue Rose cases – “Blue roses do not occur in nature” – “rare truths” he sells on to very wealthy entities, and he will pay Diana Dane $300,000 to start gathering information on whoever might have connections to the artefact and $700,000 if she succeeds in bringing him something concrete.

Elsewhere and elsewhen, outside of time and space, someone else was telling her many things – about reality and revision; about how the universe occasionally reboots itself. But above she was told this:

“Don’t trust Darius Dax.”

Warren Ellis seemed back on top linguistic form to begin with, and certainly found an artist to match the daydream, elusive, other-dimensional aspect of the book. There is a quiet and soft vulnerability to Lotay’s forms and colours over which pale blue lines swirl like a chilly wind, giving them a sense of the ethereal; as if who and what you’re looking at might not even be there. Or you might not even be there. As if you’re looking at it all remotely, through a window, a viewscreen or a tank of liquid, especially in Darius Dax’s National Praxinoscope Company where there are additional, geometrical overlays.

There are sonic cathedrals and ghostly gazelles radiating light and colour like noboby’s business and when they cross the bridge which “is, of course, a quarter of a million miles long” they pass under monumental, neoclassical, triumphal arches of white stone held aloft by twin Supreme statues after gliding by what appears to be a curved, seaside scene of boarding houses basking in a Northern-Lights green.

As a colourist alone, Tula Lotay excels: she is inspired, dazzling, delirious. I promise you these pages are like nothing you’ve ever seen, though there’s something of the Michael Allred in the faces.

The art is something new for something both borrowed and blue, for this yet another remix of a funny old brand called SUPREME. And I’m afraid to say it, but this is akin one of those noodling 12-inch ‘80s vinyls which is so full of filler and goes nowhere. Like Darius Dax, it is deliberately obtuse and infuriating, full of long, clever words where much simpler ones would do. It really is this simple:

Twenty years ago a former Marvel artist called Rob Liefeld created a superhero called Supreme for what was then an illiterate brand relying solely on what was perceived to be the strength of its Image. Supreme was a dumb rip-off of the most obvious aspects of Superman. Then along came Alan Moore who rebooted the character and, with a winking glint in his eye, used the very nature of its rip-off to have enormously clever fun with all the more interesting and really very silly but endearing aspects of Superman in its own multiple, multiversal incarnations.

So now here we have Warren Ellis doing a new reboot in which the reboot’s gone wrong and former aspects of its previous versions have filtered through into the new. It’s all very meta but not rocket science, yet it’s been cloaked in terminology which makes it seem so. What am I missing?

Very, very, very beautiful.

Try Ellis’ INJECTION. It’s deliciously British, taking in legend and lore, reminiscent of Jamie Delano’s early HELLBLAZER and has the most swoonaway sweeps of leaves by Declan Shalvey.

SLH

Buy Supreme: Blue Rose s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Amazing World Of Gumball vol 1 (£10-99, Kaboom) by Frank Gibson & Tyson Hesse…

“WHAT THE WHAT?”

I discovered The Amazing World Of Gumball TV show last year. We had gone on the annual Rigby summer jaunt to bella Italia. The country, that is, not the dreadful chain restaurant that has about as much in common with Italian cuisine as a McCain’s oven pizza.

Actually, digressive and non-digestible true story, there used to be an Italian restaurant called [REDACTED] very near where I live and the food was absolutely appalling. Just the worst, and it was so renowned for it that the wife and I actually felt compelled to try it, believing it couldn’t possibly be that bad.

So, the one and only time I ate there I ordered a pizza and the wife a lasagne. We then watched the ‘chef’ wander out the door to the Spar convenience store next door and shuffle back in not particularly surreptitiously with a frozen pizza and lasagne in his hands. I wondered out loud whether he seriously could have got those for us, surely not, but yes indeed, he shortly proudly brought out the obviously microwaved, offending articles. Unsurprisingly he closed not too long after that, though not before turning into a fish and chip shop for two whole weeks…

Anyway… back to bella Italia… the Whackjob (my 4-year-old daughter) and I had worked our way through every episode of ADVENTURE TIME, BRAVEST WARRIORS and REGULAR SHOW in the preceding months and I was conscious that it would be useful to find something else to entertain her whilst the wife and I attempted to enjoy our long, prosecco-soaked lunches without having pasta and pizza twirled round our ears. Someone recommended Gumball so I acquired the first season. Much like ADVENTURE TIME, BRAVEST WARRIORS and REGULAR SHOW, I quickly realised I was going to enjoy it just as much myself as Whackers! (This year’s luncheon lifesaver, by the way, was the first season of Steven Universe!)

It’s quite impossible to describe exactly what Gumball is all about, mind you. Basically loveable idiot Gumball and his eclectic multi-coloured bunch of friends and enemies – which include fish, dinosaurs, giants, flying eyes, monkeys, ghosts, even a talking balloon – have the most absurd adventures, often simply revolving around their street or school, but frequently involving danger levels of cosmic, world-shattering proportions. It is all utter nonsense, I can’t honestly ever recall what any episode was about ten minutes after I have watched it, but it’s relentlessly entertaining without pausing for breath as every good cartoon should be.

The animation is a mixture of standard illustration and overlaid photo inserts of some of the characters, like the T-Rex, which only adds to the fast-paced surrealism of it all. Gumball does only seem to have one volume and pitch of talking though, shouting in a monotone basically, which can get a little wearisome if you have to watch, or indeed by serenaded by, ten-plus episodes in a row whilst you’re mentally willing the waiter to hurry up with your tiramisu before the littlest tourist gets too restless in the restaurant…

Anyway, as I have commented on before, I do think that is extremely difficult for comics to achieve the same level of engrossment as truly brilliant cartoons, and much like longer form television dramas, I do think we are in a new golden age of cartoons also. But, if you are a fan of Gumball, you will get great enjoyment from this comic adaptation, as it is wittily written, perfectly capturing the hurricane-strength blow-you-along wind tunnel appeal of the show, plus they’ve done an excellent job of emulating the style of illustration.

JR

Buy The Amazing World Of Gumball vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

The Cat With A Really Big Head h/c (£13-99, Titan) by Roman Dirge.

Oh dear, Titan miss a trick as the original title for the £2-20 pamphlet was its best joke:

‘The Cat With A Really Big Head (And One Other Story That Isn’t As Good)’.

Channelling Tim Burton (THE MELANCHOLY DEATH OF OYSTER BOY AND OTHER STORIES – you can consider employing far less flattering verbs if you like), it’s now been turned into a colour picture book full of blood and bones.

The story revolves around a cat with a really big head, so it’s far from false advertising. The fun is in watching the poor little mite trying to do all the things normal cats do – imagine it negotiating the cat flap, if you will – if that’s your idea of fun.

Please be warned that it’s a very quick read and, this being Roman LENORE Dirge, we don’t see a lot of sympathy for the moggy.

If you laugh at things like Vasquez’s FILLER BUNNY, you’ll like this one.

I’ve done my duty.

SLH

Buy The Cat With A Really Big Head and read the Page 45 review here

Civil War #1 (£3-99, Marvel) by Charles Soule & Leinil Francis Yu.

Genuinely bleak and nasty, this is another of those satellite series to Marvel’s current SECRET WARS. But, unlike the few others I’ve dipped into, it doesn’t appear to reference that series at all – for the moment, anyway.

I rate the original CIVIL WAR by Mark Millar & Steve McNiven very highly. It had something genuinely interesting to say about privacy and power, and it speaks volumes about our distrust of recent governments – with what they do with our information, how they glean it and what they are most likely to do with superior military might – that everyone I know instinctively sided with Captain America’s refusal to register with the American authorities and submit to their potential deployment (even though he’s a former soldier used to obeying the chain of command) rather than Iron Man who recognised that those with superpowers are potentially lethal loose cannons, as witnessed when a bunch of relatively inexperienced, attention-seeking teens took on a bunch of supervillains they were woefully ill-equipped to handle, resulting in the death of six hundred souls. It’s interesting because those same individuals who sided with Captain America, like almost everyone else in Britain, are adamantly in favour of American gun control which is what Iron Man was effectively advocating.

In case you’re intrigued enough to take a punt on the collected edition, I won’t tell you how it ended except that it was abrupt, unexpected and yet entirely in keeping with character.

In this alternative scenario – by the writer of DEATH OF WOLVERINE and the artist on Mark Millar’s NEMESIS – hostilities between the two sides of superheroes didn’t cease. They escalated. They escalated because things went horrifically wrong while the two factions were locked in battle in Iron Man’s prison hidden in a pocket dimension.

The Black Panther hacks into its security systems which sets off a fail-safe self-destruct sequence he attributes to Iron Man. I am choosing my words carefully, yes. Iron Man is informed by Commander Maria Hill of S.H.I.E.L.D. that the Black Panther set off the self-destruct sequence deliberately under direct orders from Captain America. I am still choosing my words very carefully. Both sides are incredulous about the other’s callousness. Then the bomb goes off. The bomb goes off just as Cloak is teleporting as many as possible from both warring parties, en masse, back to New York City. Some make it out, some don’t. What does make it out, is the blast.

The bomb-blast destroys New York and takes fifteen million people with it.

Whose side are you on now?

I ask that because in spite of my original analysis and the ante that’s now been upped I still instinctively sided with Captain America, and what follows, six years on, only goes on to entrench that alignment… because both scenarios are very carefully written.

Six years on and — haha, no! You wouldn’t thank me. You’ll want to read this comic for yourselves.

I’m a big fan of Yu who is solid, sure and exciting, and studies expressions well. They change only incrementally between panels as our own do between seconds unless something does actually take us by surprise. If every character reacts to everything and every word with melodrama as happens woefully often in superhero comics (and the sugar-buzz mainline of manga) then how do you discern the mellow from the genuinely dramatic? Inked by Gerry Alanguilan and coloured by Sunny Gho, there is a light, bright modelling going on.

But by “carefully written” I mean who do you think is backing whom? Which of Marvel Comics’ most cherished couples finds itself on opposing sides of the argument, in different camps which are not speaking to each other and so cannot meet in an America which has quite literally, geographically and geologically been divided in two? Can you spell “chasm”? There is one, right in the heart of the dessert.

Peace talks are proposed and, against all odds, a single woman persuades Captain America and Iron Man to meet in a building in the middle of the bridge which straddles that cavern.

Even before it goes horribly wrong it is patently obvious that they are both so set in their ways, so locked in their mindsets, so trapped in their past and so bitter about what they believe the other has done that recriminations are all they can offer each other.

Then it goes horribly wrong, and there is no hope to speak of.

SLH

Buy Civil War #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.

Poetry Is Useless h/c (£22-50, Drawn & Quarterly) by Anders Nilsen

An Entity Observes All Things (£8-99, Retrofit) by Box Brown

Baddawi (£14-99, Just World Books) by Leila Abdelrazaq

Four Eyes vol 1: Forged In Flames s/c (£7-50, Image) by Joe Kelly & Max Fiumara

Moomin And The Martians (£6-99, Enfant) by Tove Jansson

Moomin Complete Lars Jansson Comic Strip vol 10 h/c (£14-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Lars Jansson

Adventure Time: Banana Guard Academy s/c (£9-99, Titan) by Kent Osborne, Dylan Haggerty & Madeline Rupert

Adventure Time: Graybles Schmaybles s/c (£7-99, Titan) by Danielle Corsetto & Bridget Underwood

Predator: Fire & Stone s/c (£10-99, Dark Horse) by Joshua Williamson & Chris Mooneyham, John Lucas, Lucas Graciano

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles / Ghostbusters (£13-50, IDW) by Erik Burnham, Tom Waltz & Dan Schoening

Batman: Arkham Knight vol 1 h/c (£14-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi & Viktor Bogdanovic, various

Batman: Harley Quinn s/c (£14-99, DC) by Paul Dini, various & various

New Suicide Squad vol 1: Pure Insanity s/c (£12-99, DC) by Sean Ryan & Jeremy Roberts, Tom Derenick, various

Sinestro vol 2: Sacrifice s/c (£12-99, DC) by Cullen Bunn & Dale Eaglesham, various

The New 52: Futures End vol 2 s/c (£22-50, DC) by Brian Azzarello, Jeff Lemire, Dan Jurgens, Keith Giffen & Georges Jeanty, Patrick Zircher, various

Miracleman Book vol 3: Olympus (UK Edition) h/c (£19-99, Marvel) by Alan Moore, Grant Morrsson, Peter Milligan & John Totleben, Joe Quesada, Mike Allred

Spider-Man 2099 vol 2: Spider-Verse s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Peter David & Will Sliney

Thor God Of Thunder vol 4: The Last Days Of Midgard s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Esad Ribic, R.M. Guera, Simon Bisley

Dogs – Bullets & Carnage vol 10 (£9-99, Viz) by Shirow Miwa

News!


ITEM! Page 45 is proud to promote The British Comics Awards! Yes, Page 45 is the BCA’s official Executive Sponsor! Scroll down to read all about it then please get your nominations in! Voting is open to all!

It seemed such a natural partnership to us. The winners of the @BritComicAwards best graphic novels – NELSON then THE NAO OF BROWN and THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF EARLY EARTH – were my favourite books each successive year, and it’s by far the best award institution British Comics has ever known. I may have to blog about it later.

ITEM! Time-lapse vimeo of Jonathan Edwards painting a waterfall – three minutes of your life in exchange for hours of awe and adoration as you daydream about it forever. You can buy Jonathan Edwards’ prints here!

ITEM! STAR CAT’s James Turner’s hilarious comic on the perils of procrastination. Creators may well relate!

ITEM! New interview with Asaf Hanuka and Tomer Hanuka about THE DIVINE.

ITEM! Brilliant blog by Sarah McIntyre, the co-creator of, JAMPIRESOLIVER AND THE SEAWIGS (which just won the UK Literacy Assocation Award for 7- to-11-year-olds), and CAKES IN SPACE which I reviewed above:

“Pictures Mean Business: Why Do So Many People Keep Forgetting To Credit Illustrators?”

Why indeed! It’s absolutely crazy as every comic lover knows, but this carelessness is prevalent amongst publishers of illustrated prose and picture books. Take a gander, it’s great, and if tweeting about it, please use the hashtag #picturesmeanbusiness.

 - Stephen

Page 45 Reviews written by Stephen & Jonathan then edited by an elephant that’s as blind as a bat.

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews July 2015 week two

Wednesday, July 8th, 2015

Announcing THE WICKED + THE DIVINE Patheon t-shirts! Oh yes! News below our reviews includes details for pre-ordering!

The Wicked + The Divine vol 2: Fandemonium s/c (£10-99, Image) by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie with Matthew Wilson.

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

In which we learn why – as the Pantheon dies only to be reincarnated every ninety years in a new body, a new aspect – ancient Ananke stays behind to find them and activate them; to guide and nurture them through their new, short life spans and, if necessary, even keep the peace. If she didn’t stay behind, all former knowledge would be lost.

Ananke’s finally found the twelfth god. I’m afraid it isn’t Laura.

In THE WICKED + THE DIVINE VOL 1: THE FAUST ACT we witnessed the latest, highly inclusive Recurrence of gods and goddesses casting themselves in a highly exclusive role – that of pop stars whom we place on pedestals in order to worship from afar.

The most wicked and divine of them, Lucifer, was targeted for assassination by a couple of gunmen. They failed: Luci blew their brains out with a click of her finger. Luci was put on trial but someone blew the judge’s brains out. Then someone blew [SPOILERS] brains out.

This will blow your brains out.

Determined to disprove the existence of any Pantheon – to expose the mythology as a music marketing scam – is sceptical journalist Cassandra Igarashi. Determined to expose the killer is seventeen-year-old Laura, a fangirl who found herself on the inside, taken under louche Lucifer’s ever-so-saucy wings and now granted access to the others.

Once she clicked her fingers and they lit a cigarette just like Lucifer. She’s been trying to recreate the miracle ever since. Nothing’s happened. Brockley, South London, on her way home, clicking her fingers disappointedly:

“I’m not a god.
“I was delusional to think I was. I was delusional to think I could be.
“Fuck you, Laura Wilson. Quitter. All I get is calluses? They’ll be the best calluses in the world.
“I won’t give up on Lucifer. I don’t understand what happened. I will.
“I won’t give up on any of them. They’re all fucked up, all doomed. If all I can do is help them, I’ll help them. No one gets a happy ending. So I’ll make sure they get the least terrible one possible.”

Unfortunately a lot of people are banking on the Prometheus gambit: kill a god to steal their powers. It doesn’t work. But what if a god were to slay another god? Maybe they’d get their oh-so-limited lifespan? Two years is, after all, a very short time to shine…

From the creators of YOUNG AVENGERS and the two music-as-magic PHONOGRAM collections (PHONOGRAM III: THE IMMATERIAL GIRL #1  – please pre-order!), this is chic, sharp and thoroughly contemporary. And, as I say, highly inclusive. It’s so inclusive that straight white males are scarce on the ground. If I were to detail exactly how inclusive it is then I would be giving for too much away, but it’s typical of Gillen and McKelvie that, during a burst of black and white satori, a wheelchair user is amongst the crowd of silhouetted gig-goers on the receiving end. That shouldn’t be remarkable, but it is.

In THE WICKED + THE DIVINE VOL 1: THE FAUST ACT I made much of Jamie McKelvie’s line and Matthew Wilson’s colour art and here in the back there are process pieces which will have you bewildered by just how much thought and work has gone into a double-page spread, for example, overlooking the Ragnock music festival.

Behind all the elaborate, sleek and sexy eye make-up designs and the spectacular Pantheon threads which have inspired so much cosplay (you will love Inanna’s Prince regalia), there is an interest and understanding few other comic artists display of civilian fashion sense: what the best dressed are wearing today as well as the moms who are waiting up late for their errant offspring to get back from gigs.

McKelvie’s Paul Smith-inspired line has long been this crisp but grows increasingly smooth and soft. Even Ananke’s wizened wrinkles give the actual folded flesh a much moisturised feel.

As to Gillen, there are so many fundamentally thought-through observations about the human condition: our aspirations and our most superficial and deep-seated fears. Urdr’s blinding flash of mass enlightenment is entirely consistent in its contradictions! Oh, and he knows the story a seventeen-year-old’s bedroom tells.

Look, I can just keep on typing until this review falls off the edge of the virtual page but I risk running out of misdirections and actually giving stuff away. You know, like the climax. If I told you that I would sell an extra two hundred copies before you’ve finished reading this week’s other reviews. Instead:

Ragnarok for our demi-gods and goddesses approaches. Ragnarock 2014 in Hyde Park, to be precise. 500,000 tickets sold for the five-day festival.

Kieron does love his puns, doesn’t he? The thing is, they’re never throwaway.

“You feel like you’ve got a raw deal.”
“There is no one in this story who has not got a “raw deal”.” says Ananke.

Still, I’m sure it’s going to be okay.

SLH

Buy The Wicked + The Divine vol 2: Fandemonium s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Criminal vol 6: The Last Of The Innocent s/c (£10-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips.

From the creators of FATALE and THE FADE OUT, these are the best crime comics in the business, right up there with the recently revived STRAY BULLETS.

CRIMINAL is a series of completely self-contained stories you can read in any order you like, and for me this is its finest outing yet.

Summoned home by his father’s sudden illness then death, Riley Richards has briefly escaped the city of his sins which have begun to cost him dearly, and travelled back to the town of his youth.

It was a sunlit life immersed in the relatively innocent pleasures of crime comics bought by his Dad and meeting down the diner where his best friend, Freakout. With the monumental munchies of being stoned, they would regularly break records for scoffing ice cream.

Then there was sweet Lizzie Gordon, the girl who lived literally next door; the girl whom everyone assumed he would marry. If only he had.

But his life changed course dramatically on the arrival of rich bitch Felicity Doolittle, bringing with her the alluring, honey-pot cocktail of novelty, sophistication, self-confidence and sexual availability. They argued, they split, they got back together, but eventually Riley made a fatal mistake: he married her.

Now he’s a man who witnesses the world around him at a remove, as if it’s not his own life at all. He’s become so detached that he doesn’t know how to feel at his father’s funeral, he just calculates what’s expected of him. He’s become so resigned that when he caught his wife shagging Teddy, the man he loathes most, he concluded that it simply made sense. He’s almost immune to his father-in-law’s long-voiced contempt, and he had all but ignored the slurred cries for help Freakout would leave on his answer phone before finally seeking help and sobering up for good. But returning home now – seeing Lizzie as kind and beautiful as ever and Freakout still funny when dry – has reminded Riley of how promising it once looked before the empty marriage and the crushing gambling debts in the city which he’s grown to hate. He had been a key crossroads in his life and, in marrying Felicity, taken the worst turn possible.

But gradually it occurs to Riley that there may well be a way to reverse all his misfortunes in one fell swoop.

He’s going to kill his wife.

Nothing Brubaker drops in early on is accidental; everything is reprised. Riley’s machinations are fiendishly clever. There is nothing and no one he won’t use to achieve his goal, but that’s all it is to him: an objective. You’ll be shaking your head at the calculated lows he will sink to and yet – an incredible testament to the seductive strength of creative team here – you’ll still find yourself rooting for the rat, fearful in case he fucks up.

For any successful first-person narrative it’s crucial that reader wants to spend time in protagonist’s self-absorbed head, and that’s where Brubaker excels. That the intricate plot mechanics are so devious and the delivery so adroit is what makes each read so enormously satisfying. What makes them so attractive is the art of Sean Phillips, by far the finest draughtsman in this most twilight of genres. His faces stay cast and masked in a permanent semi-shadow – I never trust anyone drawn by Sean Phillips – and some of them are positively threatening.

Allowed for once to play in the suburban sunlight as well as the metropolitan grime, Phillips appears to have had great fun not only in capturing a much younger, less tainted crowd, but also in drawing the flashback sequences: snapshots of memory rendered here in Archie-Comics innocence, even when the style beautifully belies the content under Felicity’s prom-night gown.

All the original periodical’s landscape covers are reproduced within and now all six volumes of CRIMINAL have iconic new covers. Together they look like the most lambent but lethal stained glass window or an elaborate set of traffic lights sending mixed signals to stop, get set (up) and go.

Or, in this case, swim like crazy or sink forever.

SLH

Buy Criminal vol 6: The Last Of The Innocent s/c and read the Page 45 review here

8house #1 Arclight (£2-25, Image) by Brandon Graham & Marian Churchland.

“The borders must be near.”
“Closer than you think.”
A border creature: a living edge of the bloody lands.
*hek*
“It’s dying. We need it alive.”

There are so many strains of fantasy but the most infectious by far are those that are ethereal and otherworldly, not just in aspect but in custom and cadence and the in which way their creators communicate them to us. 8HOUSE ARCLIGHT excels at all four.

Mysteries should not be delivered to you, hand-held, but laid before you in such a way that you are required to tease them apart yourselves. There’s a difference between oblique and obscure.

The above is the script to the third early page reproduced here. All three come, like the graphic novel ZAYA, with a restrained Arthur Rackham palette in an ancient woodland setting which Rackham admirers would feel quite at home in and populated by two figures they would be equally comfortable keeping company with. The light at the root-tunnel entrance is very subtle.

 

 

The one with the aquamarine cloak could easily be from Faerie nobility, far from incongruous in A Midsummer Night’s dream and there is much of the Elizabethan about everything here from the courtly intrigues to its couture.

The other is more “other” still. Are those matted tresses blowing in the breeze or, as seems more likely, soft roots or tendrils blowing in the breeze? If a comic causes you to ask questions this early in then it’s doing its job properly. She has arcane knowledge and an instinct in touch with both the natural and unnatural world. Like the three witches in Macbeth, we’re still not straying from Shakespeare in that respect nor in the creature she prizes. Like the turquoise cloth, its fire-red skin stands out a mile from the olive-browns surrounding it.

I’m not going to give you much more.

Given that this is written by the creator of MULTIPLE WARHEADS and KING CITY and both drawn and coloured by the creator of the equally allusive, elusive BEAST, you would be so surprised if this repeated old tropes without infusing them with something so new to comics. I imagine Charles Vess of SANDMAN, STARDUST and DRAWING DOWN THE MOON would swoon over this, but equally so Monsieur Moebius, for the double-page landscapes are epic.

But this is an alchemical fusion which transmutes those and any other influences into an entirely new element of Churchland’s own crafting. I’m speculating on Rackham, Vess and Moebius but I know for a fact that Churchland incorporated Yoshitaka Amano’s fashion sense into the mix.

And so we come to the androgyny and it’s not your Natassja Kinski ‘Cat People’, girl-with-a-boy’s-bob thing going on. Cut to the court, and it’s ostensibly a much more sybaritic affair but also, above and beneath that, a genuine, heartfelt and complete relaxation of stereotypes to form new norms. Well, new to comics. Thankfully it’s being going on around us in real life for years.

Post-script for pedants:

Yes, yes, officially it’s called 8HOUSE ARCLIGHT #1 but by its third issue it’s officially called 8HOUSE #3 KIEM and by its fourth issue 8HOUSE #4 YORRIS so we’re nipping any confusion in the bud early on – just like you would an Azalea’s flowers once over – in order to promote better growth. Pop yourself down on a Page 45 Standing Order by mail or for collection in store and we’ll insure you get the lot regardless of subtitle.

SLH

Buy 8house #1 Arclight and read the Page 45 review here

Pain Is Really Strange (£7-99, Singing Dragon) by Steve Haines & Sophie Standing…

“Pain does not exist in this dojo, does it?”
“NO SENSEI!!”

Sensei John Kreese and his demented dojo dwellers from The Karate Kid on how to deal with pain…

Of course, whilst the members of the Cobra Kai might have a slightly different approach to overly stimulating skin pressure to you and I, it shouldn’t be doubted that there is definitely a subjective element to the sensation of pain. After all, taken to extremes, one man’s pain is another’s pleasure; however this excellent 36-page work doesn’t get into those realms, instead concentrating on the current critical scientific thinking on the nature of pain and our physiological, psychological and indeed emotional experiences of it. Plus how, perhaps, with the right approach from both patients and doctors alike, we can alter the perception of pain to make it far more manageable, without having to resort to the usual pharmacopoeia of medicinal delights.

Probably the major argument the author and long-time healthcare professional Steve Haines puts forward is that to understand an individual’s pain, you first need to understand the individual, because the experience of chronic pain is an incredibly complex phenomenon arising from a large number of interconnected and interrelated systems, both of body and mind. Thus two people could have exactly the same ‘injury’ but experience extremely different levels of pain.

Which all sounds like a very heavy read, however this work is beautifully illustrated by Sophie Standing in a manner that conveys the more complex concepts and theories of neurophysiology put forward by Steve, just as clearly as the witty look at brain chemistry that is NEUROCOMIC, or even the headscratching theorems of quantum physics in FEYNMAN.

As Nick Sousanis explained in his recent expansive graphic novel PhD submission UNFLATTENING, images can convey meaning and thus understanding far more simply and eloquently than words alone can do. And that is abundantly true here as Steve examines the process of how pain arises right through to how our very different individual subjective experiences of it occur.

Plus it is very impressive production qualities too from Singing Dragon, akin to a Nobrow release, all neatly sutured, sorry saddle-stitched, with inviting French flaps that always add a touch of gravitas to a smaller sized release.

This is an intriguing and informative look at a subject which we all have first-hand, personal experience of, typically the myriad acute comedy to catastrophic variations on the theme, but is utterly devastating for many chronic sufferers. I have to say I personally agree with his thinking, that the experience of pain can be, to a degree at least, ameliorated by changing the sufferer’s mental approach to it. But I’ve never seen the whole process of how one might practically go about doing just that explained so simply. This is a work which actually ought to be handed out to all GPs and is another very worthy addition to the rapidly burgeoning genre of graphic medicine.

JR

Buy Pain Is Really Strange and read the Page 45 review here

We Stand On Guard #1 (£2-25, Image) by Brian K. Vaughn & Steve Skroce…

“What if it was us?”
“Don’t even joke about that. I could lose my security clearance if people heard you spouting that kind of nonsense.”
“But I’m serious. We burned down the White House before once, right?”
“We did?”
“Like, three hundred years ago.”
“That’s just a myth, Tommy. Canada wasn’t even a country back then. It was the British who torched Washington.”
“Yeah, for trying to steal this land.”
“Why would the U.S. try to steal our…”
“The hell? What happened to my feed?”

A lot of exceedingly heavy ordnance, that’s what, as Ottawa is practically flattened during the initial thunderous start to the 2112 US invasion of Canada. Yeah, you read that right: Canada…

Unfortunately for young Amber cuddling her fluffy white teddy bear – I’m guessing she is maybe six – and her slightly older brother Tommy, this blitzkrieg rain of missiles instantly wipes out their parents, leaving the terrified siblings to fend for themselves. Fast forward ten years and Amber is now part of the resistance movement fighting the tyrannous occupiers.

Hmm… is it really over thirty years since siblings Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen, plus the rest of their ragtag teen-band of ‘Wolverines’ took on the might of the invading Soviet forces in the classic bratpack film Red Dawn? Hegemonous, brutal bad guys versus the righteous protectors of their beloved homeland…

Ah well, plus ça change as they would say in ‘free’ Quebec! However, you have to say in the intervening three decades since Ronald Regan was the Cold War warrior President protecting the Free World from the belligerent Ruskies, while we all fervently hoped Sting was right and the Russians did love their children too, the Americans have rather managed to besmirch their own reputation over those years, haven’t they? We can argue the merits or otherwise of their various military invasions and interventions in the interim ad infinitum, but you would seriously hope that Canada might be not be in President Clinton’s – Hilary that is – crosshairs come her probable election next year. Mexico on the other hand…

Anyway, you can immediately see where Vaughn is going with this. Much like Brian Wood’s DMZ – one huge what if the Iraq civil war was actually happening in American with Manhattan being the epicentre – this tale of what, in theory, would never happen, is going to presumably allow him to make some serious points about the state of current American foreign policy under the cover of a ripping adventure yarn. Much like he did to superlative effect on various hot social political topics in EX MACHINA. And let’s be totally frank, it’s not really that much of a stretch to see the American military as out-and-out bad guys. There are plenty of people in the world who have that viewpoint already.

Nice enough clean art from Steve Skroce who hasn’t really done much in comics for years, mainly doing concept art story boards for cinema instead for people like the Wachowskis. I think that possibly shows a little bit in places, some of the panels feel a little bit flat, primarily because there’s virtually nothing going on in the background of the panels that are mainly conversation between characters; whereas, in contrast, some of the more action-based panels have plenty going on. Having a look at some of the concept art pencils included at the end; I thought that material was considerably more impressive actually. But whilst it’s not Fiona SAGA Staples or Tony EX MACHINA Harris, it’s certainly a style well suited to the story.

This first issue is primarily a set up, about some of the various characters who are presumably going to form the backbone of the series, though without giving too much away at all beyond that. The big question, why America launched the invasion, has yet to be explained. I am looking forward to that nugget! Also, the current whereabouts of Tommy, Amber’s brother…

There’s certainly potential for a decent series here, particularly in as skilled a writer’s hands as Vaughn. Based on this opener I do suspect it will be quite similar in flavour to EX MACHINA, and that’s fine by me!

JR

Buy We Stand On Guard #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Gun Machine s/c new edition (£7-99, Mulholland Books) by Warren Ellis.

“He glided across the street to the fenced perimeter of Central Park and slipped between its bones like a knife.”

Behold the hunter, a predator subsisting on what little is left of Manhattan’s nature, a man more in tune with its past. The present is virtually toxic to him. He is a creature of ceremony, of meticulous preparation and exact execution, successfully stalking both the streets and his targets undetected for years. He is a man with a mission, and it has just been rudely interrupted.

Detective John Tallow has been jaded and weary but he’s waking up now with a start. His partner’s had his head blown off by some random naked guy with a shotgun. Another blast strayed and sprayed into an apartment wall through which John can see guns: hundreds and hundreds of guns arranged in a precise pattern of rows and spirals and… there appear to be gaps, waiting to be filled in fill. They’ve all been used, these guns. They have all done their duty, the purpose for which they have been precisely selected. And now they are Tallow’s problem. He should be on sick-leave on compassionate grounds, but for some reason his Lieutenant has kept him on the case. He’s being set up to fail, and he’s now on the hunter’s radar.

John Tallow is in deep, deep shit.

If you love your language then you’re in for a treat. What struck me very early on was that Ellis has changed voices for this second prose novel, not altogether but enough to set this apart from CROOKED LITTLE VEIN and indeed almost all of his comics to date bar PLANETARY. The one sequence that did put me in mind of CROOKED LITTLE VEIN was when Tallow snaps on the police radio to shut everyone up, and it surely does.

“All at once, horror tumbled out of it.”

Crime after almost inconceivably grotesque crime floods from its speakers in a relentless slurry of casual sadism and cruelty. It’s like a condensation of FELL: FERAL CITY. But beyond that the lurid sex-talk and angry bombast – which amuses me no end – has been set aside for now, replaced by two alternating narratives, one following Tallow, the other the hunter.

It’s as much about observation as anything else, for here we’re presented with two preternaturally perceptive individuals able to read the world and the people around them, albeit in radically different ways. I doubt my tells would get past either of them.

“Emily seemed to be sliding into a state of… he wouldn’t say emotionlessness, but certainly distance and apathy. Her voice came from somewhere deep inside her, somewhere dusty that was a long drive away from being present in the world. The same remote point that he has sometimes, in rare self-aware moments, heard his own voice coming from over the past few years.”

The dialogue is as deft as you’d expect, for which Ellis supplies two new assistants, albeit slightly less filthy that TRANSMETROPOLITAN‘s except when Tallow’s just bought them coffee:

““Oh my God,” Bat prayed. “I love you. I would let you have sex on me and everything. But I am very tired and would prefer not to move.”
Scarly killed a cup lid with feral fingers and chugged a third of the container. Her eyes flexed weirdly in their sockets. “Oh, that’s the stuff,” she said. “That really is the stuff.”
Bat was weakly pawing at the lid of the cup nearest him. Tallow reached over and took it off him, abstractedly wondering if this was what fatherhood felt like.”

The history and geography of Manhattan lie at the book’s heart, and possibly its future too for there’s a very neat use of security cameras. Above all else, however, I can promise you a killer the likes of whom you’ve never encountered before, and I hope you never will. There’s probably one out there waiting, though.

SLH

Buy Gun Machine s/c and read the Page 45 review here

S.H.I.E.L.D. vol 1: Perfect Bullets s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Carlos Pacheco, Humberto Ramos, Alan Davis, Christ Sprouse, more.

Alert! Angry English Dad on the phone! Wall of words on its way!

“Good lord! Your mother and I are staggeringly disappointed by the mediocre path in life you seem to have chosen since you moved to the States! Party planner? A woman with your education? For God’s sake, you were brilliant at university, which cost us a fortune, by the way – No, you’re not grateful. Your brother and sister appreciated it! Maybe you should talk to them! What’s that? I can’t hear – Don’t you dare hang up on me! I’ll call you at “work” if I want to call you at “work”! You told me you blow up balloons and pitch canopies for a living! What urgent task can you not pull yourself away from?”

Poor Jemma! I’ve received several similar calls over the years, but I wasn’t an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the middle of the mother of all firefights. That’s the problem with cell phones.

Much comedy’s been made over the years about the hidden life of spies, so secret that not even their spouses know what they’re doing. I rather enjoyed James Cameron’s ‘True Lies’.

Lying to your loved ones is a common dilemma facing many a superhero too, as a young Ms Marvel is currently discovering in the family-centric, heart-of-gold escapades of MS MARVEL, a comic which we adore.

S.H.I.E.L.D. technician Jemma Simmons empathises and has a quiet word. Her history’s familiar for spies, which is why I found Waid’s diatribe above so well written. I found the following rather touching.

“S.H.I.E.L.D. recruited me when I was still at university. Due to the classified nature of my work, though – well – my dad and mum think I’m a corporate party planner. Explains all the travel, but doesn’t make them proud, exactly.”
“How long have you managed to – “
“Keep the secret? Years. It can be done, But before you file that away as good news, I’m afraid I fell compelled to add this: I love my parents. And I miss the days when they knew their daughter.”

The central star of the series – as in the TV show – is Agent Coulson. He’d rather Ms Marvel hadn’t gotten involved in that episode because she’s far too young, but he can’t help but admire her encyclopaedic knowledge of supervillain paraphernalia gleaned from writing meticulously researched superhero fan-fic. She is, dare I say it, a nerd; by which I mean someone who has what is widely regarded as a disproportionately obsessive interest in things so arcane and esoteric that no one in their supposedly right minds should give a chuff about. Please note: that does not include comics. Comics are for everyone!

Parenthetically it was just such knowledge which saved the day in Mark Millar & Tommy Lee Edwards’ delightful MARVEL 1985, a surprisingly tender graphic novel for Mark Millar about a young boy which is emphatically not set in the Marvel Universe. That’s its whole point. I recommend you take a quick gander.

Agent Coulson approves, however reluctantly, because he sees himself in her. His was a similar enthusiasm which he’s since honed into his field’s special skill. So shall we begin?

“It’s fun when your hobby becomes your work.”

It really is!

There Mark Waid speaks for himself, for S.H.I.E.L.D. Special Agent Phil Coulson and for me too. The key, once it’s your job, is to stop treating it as your hobby and to apply your knowledge and affection into something professional, invaluable and accessible to all. That is exactly where all too many comic shops fall so lamentably short and where a fair few comics writers fail too. Not Mark Waid. His knowledge of superhero comics is virtually unparalleled and it all dovetails beautifully here.

In the opening flashbacks Agent Coulson is seen gathering superhero intel from almanacs then transcribing it onto index cards from the tender age of nine; seen aged nineteen analysing the information from television news coverage; updating it as a junior agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. at twenty-five; using it to save his sanity before being saved from solitary only last year, and then deploying it last night to clean up at poker! With a mind like that you could not only card-count but anticipate your superhero competitors’ every move and motivation.

It is in the field, however, where it proves invaluable. At his disposal Agent Coulson has so many superhero power sets to call in as required for each specific threat. He’s basically Miranda Zero from Warren Ellis’ highly recommended none-superhero action-thriller GLOBAL FREQUENCY. He will have to improvise depending on who’s already preoccupied with other repeat offenders or merely reroute those already in the field with a crafty slight-of-hand.

That is precisely what Coulson does in the opening scenario and the pay-off is so satisfying that you may squeal.

Let us be clear: this is a fully fledged superhero comic at the heart of the Marvel Universe not – as has been the case before – a satellite spy thriller or a time-travelling mind-melt. As such the first chapter comes with thrills-aplenty Carlos Pacheco art featuring so many of your favourite powerhouses attempting to contain the demon-strewn, multidimensional fallout of Asgard’s Rainbow Bridge being shattered into portal-opening pieces.

In chapter two Humberto Ramos does a mean, lean and lanky Ms Marvel; chapter three sees the great Alan Davis on Spider-Man, roped in to act as a canary in a coalmine when Dr. Strange’s mansion is made skew-whiff with magic; and Chris Sprouse is on hand for when Sue Storm receives a summons to a sale on at a department store and shown into a changing room which is anything but. Nice nod there to the old sequestered S.H.I.E.L.D. entrance via a barber’s shop chair which used to descend through the floor. See? I know this stuff too!

Coming back to the strategic planning, Agent Coulson could do none of that in this comic if veteran writer Mark Waid didn’t excel at precisely the same key skills: using his encyclopaedic knowledge of superheroes both past and present (always with his finger on the pulse of the present) then judging how to combine the most interesting and unused elements in the most intriguing new ways.

Please see Waid & Ross’ exquisitely painted KINGDOM COME set in the future of the DC Universe when it’s already gone horribly wrong and about to grow much, much worse.

SLH

Buy S.H.I.E.L.D. vol 1: Perfect Bullets 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.

Bacchus Volume One Omnibus Edition s/c (£29-99, Top Shelf) by Eddie Campbell

The End Of Summer (Signed & Sketched In) (£9-99, Avery Hill) by Tillie Walden

Bunny vs. Monkey Book Two (£7-99, David Fickling Books) by Jamie Smart

The Cat With A Really Big Head h/c (£13-99, Titan) by Roman Dirge

Cheer Up (£3-99, Hic & Hoc) by Noah Van Sciver

Crickets #4 (£5-99) by Sammy Harkham

Crossed vol 13 s/c (£14-99, Avatar) by David Hine, Justin Jordan & Nahuel Lopez, Fernando Heinz

Baltimore (Novel): Or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier & The Vampire (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola & Christopher Golden

Godzilla: Half Century War h/c (£25-99, IDW) by James Stokoe

High Crimes h/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Christopher Sebela & Ibrahim Moustafa

Jack Of Fables vol 4: Americana (£10-99, Vertigo) by Bill Willingham, Matthew Sturges & Russ Braun, Tony Akins

Kabuki Library vol 1 h/c (£29-99, Dark Horse) by David Mack

Moose (£12-99, Conundrum) by Max De Radigues

They’re Not Like Us vol 1: Black Holes For The Young s/c (£7-50, Image) by Eric Stephenson & Simon Gane

Through The Woods (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Faber & Faber) by Emily Carroll

Batman Eternal vol 2 s/c (£29-99, DC) by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV & various

Justice League vol 6: Injustice League h/c (£18-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Ivan Reis, various

Amazing Spider-Man vol 3: Spider-Verse s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott & Olivier Coipel, Giuseppe Camuncoli

Guardians Of The Galaxy / All New X-Men: The Black Vortex  (UK Edition) s/c (£16-99, Marvel) by Sam Humphries, Brian Michael Bendis, various & various

UQ Holder vol 5 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Ken Akamatsu

The Amazing World Of Gumball vol 1 s/c (£10-99, Kaboom) by Frank Gibson & Tyson Hesse

News!

ITEM! THE WICKED + THE DIVINE Pantheon t-shirts are available to pre-order! PAGE 45  SHIPS WORLDWIDE! The price of postage will be indicated towards the end of your order. All Page 45 postage is at cost, based on weight. If you don’t like the cost you can cancel and walk away!

Please pre-order by July 20th because Page 45 has to pre-order by July 22nd! Any orders placed later cannot be guaranteed. When we offered THE WICKED + THE DIVINE “Lucifer Died For Our Sins” t-shirts 100 people pre-ordered and every single order was filled. Then dozens of people tried to reorder after publication and burst into tears.

They will be crying forever.

ITEM! Warren Ellis writes the new JAMES BOND comic!

ITEM! SCOTT PILGRIM, SECONDS and LOST AT SEA‘s Bryan Lee O’Malley & Leslie Hung have a new monthly comic heading your way soon: SNOTGIRL. I’m not even kidding you! Sounds thoroughly infectious.

 - Stephen

Page 45 Reviews written by Stephen & Jonathan then edited by a clapped out cockatoo with cataracts

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews July 2015 week one

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015

Featuring Scott Snyder & Jock; Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre; Kathryn Immonen & Stuart Immonen; Jason Little; Alex Grecian & Riley Rossmo; John Arcudi & James Harren; Peter David & George Perez, Dale Keown; Nick Spencer & Ramon Rosanas; Lee Bermejo & Rob Haynes, Jorge Corona.

News underneath!

Russian Olive To Red King h/c (£18-99, Adhouse Books) by Kathryn Immonen & Stuart Immonen.

“Just let me know when you’re coming home.”
“I will. I will always come home.”
“I’m counting on it.”

He’s a tough, muscular guy with a square jaw, chiselled features and cropped white hair. But Red really is counting on it.

He likes being left behind far less that he’s letting on.

Why will only become clear during the substantial coda which Red writes for Olive in prose illustrated by photographs of windows smashed in by stones.

And it all seems to start so idyllically, early on the morning before Olive leaves. Light streams into the bedroom in lemon yellow as Olive’s Border Collie, Pasha, pads in and considers carefully before bounding onto the bed anyway. What dog could resist?

 

Jet-haired Olive is the first to surface from underneath the sheets, tentatively at first. It’s a quiet, tender scene, beautifully choreographed with body language that says so much, Red reaching out to here with his hand: he really, really doesn’t want her to go. He won’t say as much, of course, but he’s frowning slightly even after Olive’s reassuring smiles and enveloping touch.

He promises to walk Olive’s dog, but is far from keen.

He’s really not as stoical as he seems.

 

If you were in any doubt after the opening remarks that Olive isn’t coming home, there’s her flippant reply to this, quoting Chekov.

“Why do you always wear black?”
“Because I’m mourning my life. Duh.”
”Okay, Masha. But I don’t think Chekov wrote “Duh”.”

After that you’re just waiting, and as Red walks Pasha down the tranquil, tree-lined, Brownstone avenue, Olive flies away through a cloudless azure sky in a rust-red seaplane piloted by an old man with heartburn.

“Sixty is miles away from fifty-nine, I tell ya.”

The scenes are intercut and played out against each other beautifully, two commercial jets streaking the sea-green sky up above Red and Pasha while opposite the silent seaplane banks at a disastrously steep angle. Extraordinarily it is still all so quiet. But then Red remarks, “The light’s changing”.

 

Boy, Stuart can control colour and light, and ever so abruptly in places. In places it works on an audible level. The skies are absolutely majestic. He’s so versatile, too, adapting his entire style for each project. This really couldn’t be much further from SECRET IDENTITY or – at another end of the spectrum – NEXTWAVE. There’s a huge sense of heaviness in what follows. Inertia too, as the darkness closes in.

Kathryn completely eschews the obvious far before the stark and startling coda. There’s no melodrama. Instead it’s all very elliptical, especially the phone conversations.

I’ll be interested to hear what you make of the final page of chapter six.

But yes, I think it’s safe to say that Red has abandonment issues.

“It’s hard to tell when you’re blinded by despair.”

SLH

Buy Russian Olive To Red King h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Oliver And The Seawigs (£6-99, Oxford) by Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre.

Hold on to your hats, your toupees, your seawigs, this is going to prove… exploratory!

Oliver Crisp may be only ten years old but he’s already seen so much because his parents are Famous Explorers. They even met on top of Mount Everest!

Since Oliver was born they’ve taken him right round the world. They’ve pushed his pram across rope bridges dangling precariously above alligator-infested rivers; they’ve balanced him in their backpacks as polar bears roared so loudly that ice cliffs have cracked; they took him into a musty old tomb where his mum met a mummy. (Oliver didn’t scream “Mummy!” Probably.)

Now that they believe they’ve peered into every nook and cranny and discovered all there is to discover the family’s going home to Deepwater Bay, to the house they’ve barely set foot in. Believe it or not, Oliver’s delighted to lay down some roots for a change. But when they get there they discover that there is more to discover: the bay is full of steep, craggy, grass-tufted islands that weren’t there before. The Crisps of course love exploring mysterious islands, but now they’re going to encounter mysterious islands which love to explore! These are the Rambling Isles whose dark caves are mouths and they’re about to set off for The Hallowed Shallows for the Night Of The Seawigs contest – taking Oliver’s mum and dad with them!

This illustrated prose for Young Readers is such deliriously great fun that I bought a copy myself! Both creators constantly surprise.

At their first sight of Deepwater Bay Oliver goes “Wow!” and his parents go “Wow!” and I defy you not to go “Wow!” as well. The headland they’re driving down from curves up in a cliff of line-free grey tone leaving room for its black nesting birds to stand out a mile; the gabled house below is all curves too, reflecting the Crisps’ quirky nature – it’s quite wonky-woo! – while the sea blooms below it, more curved lines reflecting the white-on-black stems of the bushes up above.

On page after page Philip Reeve lobs out such loopy ideas so often that I swore even Sarah McIntyre – comics’ own exuberant human hat-stand of JAMPIRES and VERN AND LETTUCE fame – couldn’t possibly illustrate them, yet she does. In fact she illuminates them, matching Reeve’s zeal with her own wild imagination to create gibbering, chittering, chattering sea monkeys which grin with gormless glee no matter what chaos is coming up behind them! There are googly eyes everywhere – blinking within shipwrecks, lurking in the murk of tunnels or poking up from behind flapping fern fronds – while Colin the crab pops up all over the place.

But, oh my days, you wait until you see all the Seawigs!

What is a seawig, you ask? They’re wigs worn by the Rambling Isles fashioned from all sorts of found things. Everyone loves a little bounce to their bonce, so imagine you’re an island with a lighthouse on top of you. That’s flashy all right! But what if you were a sentient isle that could dip down underwater then come up for air (they don’t really need air) with a narwhal on your noggin, a train in your tresses or even a radio telescope? Somehow one does. Ridiculous!

They’re all so elaborate they almost match McIntyre’s own crazed and colourful headpieces, and they’ll have to if they want to win the Seawig competition.

That might be Neil Gaiman on the right of Sarah, yes!

 

Now let’s catch up with Oliver in pursuit of his parents on top of another Rambling Isle called Cliff. He’s also made friends with a short-sighted mermaid called Iris (of course she’s called Iris!) and Mr. Culpeper, a grumpy old Albatross. When Oliver leaves Iris a handwritten note she has to squint hard to read it.

“What does it say?” she wondered.
“How would I know?” said Mr. Culpeper. “I’m an albatross.”

Quite.

I love the way Reeve tweaks one single word to create hours of caustic commentary thus:

“We must be in the Sargasso Sea!” [Oliver] said excitedly. “Sailors fear it because their ships get becalmed here, and the weed tangles round them and traps them.”
“No, this is a completely different place,” said Iris. “It’s called the Sarcastic Sea, and sailors fear it because the weed keeps making horrid, hurtful comments about them.”

Oooh, dangerous!

Once more McIntyre delivers on the eye front, the seaweed bladders we all love to pop peering with withering disdain.

Eventually they will find the Rambling Isle that ran off with Oliver’s mum and dad. It’s called the Thurlstone and it’s not very nice at all.

“Octopuses writhed their tentacles among its eyebrows, and a shark fell out of its nose like a fierce bogey.”

It has a most elaborate seawig already including a stone temple, knotted trees, a rusty battleship and a mean-spirited bully called Stacey de Lacey in command of the pesky sea monkeys. He overcompensates appalling for having a girl’s name. The language here is delicious.

“He was older than Oliver: a tall teenager, balancing precariously on beansprout legs and about to tumble clumsily into adulthood.”

Sometimes the text is integrated within the illustrations. When Oliver crawls through the cave which is the Thurlstone’s craggy throat, so does the writing. When the sea monkeys grow so boisterous at play that they threaten to smother Oliver out at sea, Sarah comes up with a double-page spread which is as close as you can imagine to the suffocating sensation of drowning, the monkeys’ faces looming over him, wide-eyed and grinning, squeezing the text between them and the air out of Oliver.

Stacey de Lacey and the Thurlstone are going to give Oliver, Iris, Cliff and that Culpeper a terrible time. So are the sea monkeys.

You, on the other time, are going to have a riot. Err… so are the sea monkeys. “Eep!”

SLH

Buy Oliver And The Seawigs and read the Page 45 review here

Wytches vol 1 s/c (£7-50, Image) by Scott Snyder & Jock…

“Pledged is pledged.”
“… Yes, it is.”

Brrrr… this is one of the creepiest, nay horrifying, comics I have read in some considerable time.

The Rook family – Dad, Mom and daughter Sailor – have moved to the sleepy town of Litchfield to begin again after a life-shattering event. What they find hiding beneath the friendly veneer of this sleepy backwater is beyond even their worst nightmares. For lurking in the woods around the town are dark forces that have a taste for human flesh… preferably young human flesh. And they are old, very old. But perhaps even worse is the fact that these Wytches couldn’t operate unseen without the assistance of their mortal acolytes…

 

The unease that builds throughout this volume before exploding in spectacularly violent fashion had me squirming in my seat. There was a grindhouse film classic from 1975 starring Peter Fonda and Loretta Swift called Race With The Devil (check out the official trailer HERE) that I was vividly reminded of after reading this. Basically in the film the four main protagonists who are travelling around relatively rural America in a camper van stumble across a midnight black mass and then are relentlessly pursued by the coven.

There is growing paranoia then full-blown hysteria as our heroes gradually realise to their ever-increasing horror that the coven is far larger and more influential than they could possibly have feared, and they are being watched at absolutely every turn, before the pursuit truly begins. There is no escape, no happy end either. The film concludes with them being burned alive in their camper van, surrounded by chanting, cowled figures. It certainly made a powerful impact on me, watching as a child of far too tender years, shocked that the heroes hadn’t once again triumphed despite overwhelming odds…

I’m not entirely convinced there is going to be a happy ending for the Rooks either. Some of them, possibly. All of them…?  I very much doubt it, as the forces of darkness begin their inexorable circling in towards their intended prey. Their pledged prey… Of course, it does take someone to pledge you to them…

So if you are in the mood for some grisly chills, look no further, albeit through half-closed eyes from behind the settee. Brutally captivating art from Jock (who did one of the finest Batman covers ever in my humble opinion, during Scott Snyder and his’ BLACK MIRROR arc – The Joker’s face nearly entirely composed of bats – see it HERE), he really nails the practicably unbearable tension in some of the pursuit sequences.

The Wytches, when we finally see them are so horrifically gruesome, contorted perversions of a barely human shape, practically faceless aside from chittering, exposed teeth, you can really understand the stark terror experienced by the Rooks. I’m reluctant to give too much more away in terms of the plot, specifically because there are a number of shock reveals and twists that serve to increase reader discomfort even further up to those full-on seat-squirming levels, but suffice to say this is already up right there with OUTCAST and RACHEL RISING for me in terms of horror rating!

JR

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

Borb (£14-99, Uncivilised Books) by Jason Little.

“Beggar
Bum
Derelict
Drifter…
Tramp
Transient
Vagrant
Wino”

This is true horror.

It will have you wincing or even retching depending on your tolerance threshold. Unlike some critics the one thing it never did was made me laugh, even grimly. It’s painful.

Obviously it’s not as painful to watch as it is painful for Borb to endure: a catalogue of extractions, infections, infestations and more than one compound fracture leaving bearded Borb with his tibia or fibula split in two and jutting out of his lower leg. The fracture is further compounded even after medical assistance by inflammation then a transmogrification worthy of FRANK’s Jim Woodring. Alas, there is nothing fantastical about it or what follows, which is worse.

Glimmers of hope turn out to be temporary or even illusory. Even on a vaguely upward curve, always he goes back to the spirits, and every time he does so it destroys the scant help given to him. But guess what? Borb passed the point of alcoholic a lifetime ago. It’s a chronic addiction. A new set of dentures doesn’t come with a concurrent cure for addiction.

Nevertheless Dean Haspiel speaks true when he writes:

“Jason Little’s empathy-challenging BORB is the antidote to Frank Capra’s It’s Wonderful Life. You will beg for Borb to bite the dust while stuffing your face with chocolate and watching hours of puppy and cat videos to wash away the elegant horror that is Borb’s trains-wreck on a life.”

“Empathy-challenging” is right and intentionally so. Jason Little has in no way romanticised the plight of the terminally transient which is, as I say, true horror. What appears on the page is revolting. Again, intentionally so, and I did beg for Borb to bite the dust, so help me God.

This hasn’t been written or drawn to tug at your heartstrings, though he may do during and post-illusion: if Borb was a Horseman Of The Apocalypse he would be Pestilence.

It’s delivered in the form and style of an unrelenting series of newspaper strips “[paying] homage to the Depression-era imagery of Harold Gray (LITTLE ORPHAN ANNIE) and Frank King (GASOLINE ALLEY), and the long tradition of the comic strip slapstick vagabond archetype” which it surgically undercuts. You’ll see what the publisher means during the pratfalls and split seams and their ramifications.

“Oops.”

Oops of all things.

SLH

Buy Borb and read the Page 45 review here

Rumble vol 1: What Colour Of Darkness s/c (£7-50, Image) by John Arcudi & James Harren.

Next time you wish for more excitement in your life, think twice.

“If your life were a movie it would be over in an hour and a half.”

So says Cogan, an old man propping up the bar. And he should know: he’s even older than he looks and not really a man at all.

He’s talking to Bobby the barman, who is exactly who he seems. Already unlucky in love, he’ll be lucky if his life lasts longer than a minor movie’s credits!

He wasn’t expecting closing time to be called by a sword-wielding scarecrow slashing his way through the door and Cogan’s right arm. What on earth is their beef? Why has it lasted for thousands of years? Why is there no blood and no Cogan when the cops are called? Just a whole mess of straw and that ancient blade Bobby decided to hold onto.

He might want to rethink that: there’s a whole menagerie of monsters on their way to lay claim to it.

Labelled an “urban fantasy / horror” on the back, I’d call this more of a caper.

Bobby’s mate Dell declares, “Be-Bop, c’mon! You always do this! Stop overthinkin’ it! Let’s just have fun!”

A perfect description. It’s a vast variety of creepy critters slicing and dicing each other to bite-size pieces, a short-tempered fire god who’s not so hot when he’s been put out (funny visual gag, that) and a quest to get the scarecrow chap his ancient body back (real name: Rathraq), all interspersed by an old lady’s kittycat Mr. Bildad making a mess while gorging himself into something increasingly gargantuan.

Those were my favourite bits – James Harren nails cute-gone-wrong. There’s also a great deal of gurning going on for this is very much an up-and-at-‘em action comic – with icky stuff.

SLH

Buy Rumble vol 1: What Colour Of Darkness s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Rasputin vol 1: The Road To The Winter Palace s/c (£10-99, Image) by Alex Grecian & Riley Rossmo…

To people of a certain age, mention one Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin, and they will almost certainly think of this… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OBXRJgSd-aU . However long before Boney M re-popularised the exploits of Russia’s greatest love machine, he was widely lionised and lambasted in equal measure, depending on your politics, by the chattering classes of turn-of-the-twentieth century Europe.

What is undoubtedly true about Rasputin is that he had an enormous impact and influence upon Russian political and regal life, by dint of sheer force of personality, to such a degree that eventually, certain people decide he needed to be done away with… Though achieving that wasn’t quite so straightforward. Rasputin managed to surviving multiple assassination attempts, a fact which only added to his considerable mystique with the public.

Rather than being a straight biographical work, though, this is most definitely a fantasy yarn, appropriating the mad monk as its central character and building a heavily fictionalised story about and around him. It’s very entertaining, actually, with the transformation of Rasputin from a callow youth with a reputation for healing powers into a full-blown beardy magician, courtesy of the spirits ruling the snowy plains of Siberia.

So, in this first volume we see his early years, his initial development as a mage, and the burgeoning cost to his soul of using even his healing powers. Simultaneously Rasputin himself narrates the story of his demise, the final successful assassination attempt, perpetrated this time by his friends and travelling companions. He knows it is coming, foreknowledge of his own life, and consequently his death, being another of his acquired magical powers, yet gives no warning to his friends that he is aware of their impending treachery.

Why he seems happy to go along with his own murder I have no idea, but I suspect we will find out in volume two, presumably along with the answer to a most puzzling and not entirely unrelated mystery that transpires in the final pages of this volume resulting in an intriguing temporal cliffhanger.

I think people who enjoyed the likes of UMBRAL and PORCELAIN may well enjoy this. It’s basically a dark fantasy revolving around a character that you really shouldn’t be rooting for, but much like the Romanovs, you may well find yourself charmed and lured in by his charismatic ways.

Art is supplied by Riley Rossmo who I was not previously familiar with, but he does a mean angular face with piercing eyes, a touch Sean Murphy-esque, plus it’s always nice these days to see someone break out the coarse dot-stippling effect in the background, very retro. He throws in the occasional dramatically splendid full page too, usually when Rasputin is filling the air with eldritch cracklings, or when the spirits of the plains are making their considerable supernatural presence felt.

JR

Buy Rasputin vol 1: The Road To The Winter Palace s/c and read the Page 45 review here

We Are Robin #1 (£2-99, DC) by Lee Bermejo & Rob Haynes, Jorge Corona.

What a contemporary cover – all very inclusive and le parkour!

It’s drawn by the writer, Lee Bermejo, artistic collaborator of Brian Azzarello on that nasty little number THE JOKER, and I mean that in a good way – brrr…

The interior art is by Jorge Corona over Rob Haynes’ breakdowns and it’s as lithe as you like as our principal protagonist for the moment, Duke Thomas, fends off attacks – by which I mean beatings with baseball bats – at school. He does so very successfully. Too successfully for his adoptive family and social worker who now needs him to move on to another.

It’s a lose / lose situation and you feel for his plight. Duke has no stability, no castle that he can call his own and that’s what you need from a home: stability and safety. He doesn’t even know if his parents are dead or alive. They were victims of THE JOKER: DEATH OF THE FAMILY but they’ve never been found. They may be dead or left to wander the sewers of Gotham with amnesia, and that makes Duke restless: if there is a chance at all that they’re there, he must do his best to find them.

Obviously given the title and cover there is something much bigger brewing about taking back the streets but on top of the acrobatics there’s easily enough here in this first instalment to make you care and that’s what counts. Corona has no powers, just hours and hours of wondering where his life is heading without structure, a safety net or – let’s cut to the quick – love.

“Who here does not  belong?” snarls an underground rabble-rouser once Duke’s been detected.

I believe that’s very much on Duke’s mind.

SLH

Buy We Are Robin #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Hulk: Future Imperfect s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Peter David & George Perez, Dale Keown.

Back in time for its SECRET WARS satellite sequel FUTURE IMPERFECT #1 which is on our shelves now!

Future stories of your favourite Marvel characters have met with varying degrees of acclaim and indifference. Quite how the 2099 line lasted as long as it did 18 years or so ago is beyond me.

On the other hand Byrne and Claremont’s X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST which capped their collaboration – and in which most mutants have finally fallen victim to man’s love affair with genocide and concentration camps – is single-handedly responsible for so many homages and follow-ups that it’s easy to forget what a neat little self-contained number it originally was. We’ve seen the Punisher take on (and out) the Marvel Universe, we’ve seen the final days of the Avengers. There are so many variations that nothing is definitive – indeed they’ll only have aged another year or so by 2099 anyway, so putting a date on them seems somewhat foolish.

SPIDER-MAN: REIGN was a belter with more than a whiff to it of DARK KNIGHT RETURNS (a book so ancient that at the time of typing we don’t even have a review of it) but by far my favourite – which took us all by surprise at Page 45 – was Mark Millar’s WOLVERINE: OLD MAN LOGAN. In it we discover that something so atrocious has befallen the crested Canadian that he’s sworn to the cause of pacifism no matter the provocation. And it’s quite provoking having the inbred, redneck offspring of the Incredible Hulk as your landlords. Actually they’re just collecting the rent because Daddy dearest is very much alive and well and so many people have evidently made him so very angry over the years that nobody likes him at all anymore.

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

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

Originally written with a specific but unidentified European artist in mind, you could not have found a more apposite replacement back then than George Perez, an American master of ligne claire, so distinctly European-looking it remains. That trophy room (“Needs a giant penny. Pretty complete otherwise”) is full of tiny details – even at the back of a bookcase you can make out the Serpent Crown – some of which may prove useful or even fatal later on.

SLH

Buy Hulk: Future Imperfect s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Ant-Man vol 1: Second-Chance Man s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Nick Spencer & Ramon Rosanas.

“That thing earlier was just the setup. There was no way to beat it.”
“You mean like the Kobayashi Maru?”
“The what?”
“From Star Trek.”
“Oh, you’re of those.”

Stark’s arched eyebrow there by Ramon Rosanas is priceless. I think he’s a John Byrne fan which is no bad place to start especially since Scott Lang’s first appearance as Ant-Man was drawn by Byrne and now reprinted in ANT-MAN: SCOTT LANG along with his subsequent team-ups with Iron Man against the Hulk and Hawkeye, Spider-Man and The Avengers en masse against the Taskmaster, all of which will be revisited in this much more modern incarnation.

So yes, this is the Scott Lang Ant-Man who will feature in the forthcoming film, not the original Hank ‘Who Even Am I Today?’ Pym, he of the multiple identities, mental breakdowns and size issues whose early exploits in TALES TO ASTONISH made me chuckle heartily.

This too made me chortle but I expected no less from the writer of THIEF OF THIEVES VOL 1, EXISTENCE 2.0 / 3.0, FORGETLESS and MORNING GLORIES. He’s gone for the HAWKEYE model of self-deprecation on the protagonist’s front for Scott is a clot and always has been, even in FF: FANTASTIC FAUX (highly recommended).

He’s a failed thief so ex-convict and ex-husband, but his redeeming feature right from the start has always been as a doting dad. Spencer wisely focuses in on this – his relationship with his daughter and understandably less than enthusiastic ex-wife – so that there are as many “Awww” moments as there are in Grant Morrison and Chas Truog’s family-centric ANIMAL MAN which itself comes highly commended and in three volumes. See also G. Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona’s current run on MS MARVEL.

Scott’s also an ex-corpse, and explaining that gap in your CV is never easy.

Nevertheless – in spite of all the above – he does get an interview with Tony Stark for the job of Stark Industries’ Head Of Security. Stark turns him down immediately. Nevertheless does get the chance to hack Stark’s security alongside the likes of Prodigy. He fails that too. Nevertheless he decides to do what he does best which is steal the password instead by breaking into Stark’s private apartment at night. He gets caught.

“Tony, I, uh… I don’t know what to say.”
“Hey, if I saw what you just saw for the first time in there, I’d be speechless too.”

Oh my god, that really is a knob gag!

Don’t worry, it’ll all go over the heads of your young ones, but if any doubt at all we’ve the MARVEL UNIVERSE ANT-MAN DIGEST for your youngest.

What follows is a move to Miami to maintain contact with Scott’s daughter Cassie and a decidedly dippy attempt to start up a small business by selling his skills as a thief on a giant billboard:

“Ant-Man Security Solutions: Who knows how to not get your stuff stolen better than the guy who used to steal your stuff?”

Inset is a thumbs-up portrait of Iron Man, declaring: “I’d hire him”.

“And no, for the record,” Scott says, “I don’t think Iron Man will mind. Regardless of what happened, us superheroes gotta stick together!”

Iron Man’s alter ego Tony Stark sits still, fingers pressed together, in front of a laptop snapshot of the billboard held aloft by his lawyer: “Sue.”

SLH

Buy Ant-Man vol 1: Second-Chance Man 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.

Noughts & Crosses: The Graphic Novel (£12-99, Doubleday) by Malorie Blackman, Ian Edginton & John Aggs

Supreme: Blue Rose s/c (£10-99, Image) by Warren Ellis & Tula Lotay

The Wicked + The Divine vol 2: Fandemonium s/c (£10-99, Image) by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie

Criminal vol 6: The Last Of The Innocent s/c (£10-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips

Devlin Waugh: Red Tide (£18-99, Rebellion) by John Smith & Colin MacNeil, John Burns, Peter Doherty, Sean Phillips

Gun Machine s/c new edition (£7-99, Mulholland Books) by Warren Ellis

Hound vol 1: Protector h/c (£20-00, Cuchulainn Entertainment) by Barry Devlin & Paul Bolger

Magic Trixie vol 1 (£6-99, Harper Collins) by Jill Thompson

Nimona s/c (£9-99, Harper Collins) by Noelle Stevenson

Pain Is Really Strange (£7-99, Singing Dragon) by Steve Haines & Sophie Standing

The Autumnlands vol 1: Tooth & Claw s/c (£7-50, Image) by Kurt Busiek & Ben Dewey

Bob’s Burgers vol 1 (£13-50, Dynamite) by various

The Classic Comic Colouring Book (£9-99, Michael O’Mara Books) by various

Star Wars: Jedi Academy vol 3: The Phantom Bully h/c (£9-99, Scholastic) by Jeffrey Brown

Batman: Arkham Origins s/c (£10-99, DC) by various

Runaways: Complete Collection vol 4 s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Terry Moore, various & Phil Noto, Emma Rios, Sara Pichelli, Humberto Ramos, various

S.H.I.E.L.D. vol 1: Perfect Bullets s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Mark Waid & various

Assassination Classroom vol 4 (£6-99, Viz) by Yusei Matsui

Blue Exorcist vol 13 (£6-99, Viz) by Kazue Kato

Dragon Ball 3-in-1 Edition vols 25-27 (£9-99, Viz) by Akira Toriyama

Lone Wolf And Cub Omnibus vol 9 (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Kazuo Koike & Goseki Kojima

News!

ITEM! Out this week: 8HOUSE #1 by MULTIPLE WARHEAD’S Brandon Graham & BEAST’s Marian Churchland Have an illustrated 8HOUSE interview with Marian Churchland!

ITEM! Adorable flick-animation effect going on at Richard Swan’s panel-per-day UNTITLED COMIC.

ITEM! From the creator of comicbook creepiness THROUGH THE WOODS, Emily Carroll illustrates Neko Case’s ‘Wild Creatures’ for Songs Illustrated.

ITEM! Check out Tom Gauld’s ‘Endless Journey’ a “myriorama” for the Laurence Sterne-based Shandy Hall Museum! “Twelve picture-cards which can be arranged to form 479,001,600 different landscapes.” Ha!

 - Stephen

Page 45 Reviews written by Stephen & Jonathan then edited by a clapped out cockatoo with cataracts

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews June 2015 week four

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

Joe Decie’s THERE’S NO BATH IN THIS BATHROOM, two Young Readers’ graphic novels, TOKYO GHOUL manga, Malik Sajad’s MUNNU and more!

Munnu: A Boy From Kashmir h/c (£16-99, 4th Estate) by Malik Sajad.

“A young boy fell in the street like a loose overcoat from a hanger.”

He’s just caught a stray bullet.

Occupied Kashmir during the 1990s and Sajad dubbed Munnu (“the youngest”) is seven years old. Echoing Malik Sajad’s own childhood, this is a dense, intense and arresting read that will tear your heart apart and have you sweating with vicarious fear.

Those who already relished Marjane Satrapi’s PERSEPOLIS, Belle Yang’s FORGET SORROW or  Kunwu & Otie’s A CHINESE LIFE are going to love this. I’m thinking particularly PERSEPOLIS, for this too centres on the strength, resilience and resourcefulness of a family in the wake of oppression.

That’s one heck of a cover with its title in gold relief, but immediately striking inside is the way the images resemble prints made from woodcuts, in keeping with the artisan trade of Munnu’s Papa. On the very first page there’s a topographical map of the city, each landmark raised on contoured hills in a medieval manner.

This effect’s emphasised further in the white lines, as if scooped out, between the angular forms of the Kashmiri people represented by a black, stylised version of their national animal, the Hangul deer, with whose beautiful, white, diamond-shaped eye-markings Sajad succeeds in imbuing an enormous range and depth of emotion using surprisingly subtle, simple strokes.

National symbolism aside, it’s also an astute choice of animal, deer (ideally) being free-roaming herbivores associated with nobility, strength and grace. Under Indian occupation, of course, the Kashmiris’ days of free-roaming have here been substantially curtailed with a bludgeoningly repetitive and brutal enforcement but they certainly maintain their grace on the page.

There’s something far more affecting to me about seeing the face of a faun nuzzling the neck of a maternally protective deer than there would have been had it been a drawing of a human mother and child. Perhaps it’s the residual effect of having bawled my eyes out during Bambi at the pictures aged four or five. Indeed when humans do rear their ugly heads as soldiers, there are grotesque scenes of them molesting a sister visiting her brother in prison under the excuse of frisking her for weapons as those detained watch helplessly in the dark from behind iron bars.

It’s juxtaposed on either side by a peaceful gathering of prayer and song in a former cricket ground now given over to the gravestones of martyrs as far as the eye can see. There the Kashmiri people / deer raise their hands towards the heavens, their arms like the bifurcating branches of the trees up above them.

Another early scene shows them swarming round a sacred mulberry tree in grief as two bodies in “snow-white shrouds” are returned after being shot by soldiers during one of the all-too regular crackdowns when houses are wrecked as they’re searched for all men over a certain height who are then paraded in front of an informant to be identified as militants. The rolling mass, rippling with those white demarcation lines between so many individuals, looks like a swollen river engorged with grief. It is beautiful yet terrible to behold.

Another wise decision to win over readers is making the heart of this book Munnu’s family. His beloved, touchingly affectionate older brother Bilal boasts the antlers of a healthy young buck implying he’s in his late teens, whereas Munnu and his two other brothers have small budding stubs: Munnu is seven, his other male siblings no more than a couple of years older than him. His sister Shahnaz is closer in age to Bilal. His father sports a pair of geometrically elaborate glasses which come over like a Perspex visor and that made me smile. His perpetually worried mother in her shawl and headdress looks a little like she’s an example of origami.

The tight-knit family is everything, and they’re keenly aware that theirs is lucky to be intact: so many of Bilal’s teenage contemporaries have snuck across the border to the Pakistani-controlled portion of Kashmir to received armed training before returning and to become some of those all-too-young martyrs in that repurposed cricket ground. Also, there are those crackdowns I mentioned and each time the tension is taut as the mother waits in agony at home for her husband and Bilal’s safe return, tearfully praying within each of the three segments of a slowly ticking clock between the second, minute and hour hands.

Growing up under these intrusive conditions which have had a severely deleterious effect upon Papa’s trade (once thriving tourism is now all but extinct) is no ideal childhood and Munnu’s nightmares after a family friend is shot during an identification parade are prolonged and horrific. Sure, there are regular childhood games to be played – like fantasy cricket using the page numbers of an Urdu / English dictionary to score – but it’s hardly normal for a seven-year-old when practising his art to be copying disfigured bodies and AK-47s from newspaper photos. When we carved ink-stamps from erasers (and we did) we made the shapes of horned devil heads not machine guns. There’s something far more sinister about a machine gun ink-stamp mass-reproduced on children’s exercise books than individual drawings – or indeed horned devil heads.

Religion plays a large part inside and outside his regularly disrupted schooling as principals are arrested when linked to militants and some teachers are more kindly than others. One respected elder perceptively remarks, “The heat of the pulpit can either make one divine or a devil”. But however brutal you rate the punishments at school (and I rather think you will), it’s as nothing compared to dragging bodies through a street behind a military van until all the skin on their faces is scraped off to instil fear in the population. Now that is medieval.

Together we follow Munnu through his first published political cartoon aged 13 – then regular employment as a daily visual satirist at the Greater Kashmir newspaper during his early teens – to his first introduction to comics in the form of Joe Sacco graphic novels of extended reportage. Whence this graphic novel. After everything he witnesses he’s not short of passion in denouncing the Indian army’s occupation – chronicled here is atrocity after casual and callous atrocity; the army will even vandalise the ambulance due to take Munnu’s mother to hospital later on – but is candid about his lack of historical knowledge to keep his cartoons fresh, partly because of the jumble of languages the population is forced to speak, read and write in, emphatically excluding Kashmiri.

So the reader is not made to feel relatively ignorant. It’s only halfway through MUNNU that we’re given a history lesson ourselves and – wouldn’t you know it? – good old empire-building Britain plays its woefully traditional, substantial part in fucking things up for Kashmir, catalysing bloodbath after bloodbath before the current conflict kicks off during October 1947 and Kashmir is carved up by the United Nations between the two nuclear powers of India and Pakistan without any consultation whatsoever about what the Kashmiri people want.

It’s a recurring response – of lack thereof. The fervent desire of the Kashmiri population for independence is completely ignored.

Whenever Munnu (increasingly referred to as Sajad as his reputation as an artist expands) is received by outsiders during a Kathmandu summit or when visited by E.U delegates he is patronised to death by well meaning westerners as being ignorant and simplistic in spite of the fact that he’s lived the life that they only hear of from afar.

“I might not know where the bullet came from but I could tell her who the bullet hit.”

But if you think that Malik white-washes the Kashmiri factions’ own roles in massacres (the statistics of which lie in the eyes of the various different statisticians), you’re very much mistaken because if the Indian Army’s atrocities weren’t bad enough, organised religion is used by some Muslim Kashmiri to decry the minority Pandit Kashmiri whose homes are mob-attacked with stones in order to drive them out. Hands up who’s even remotely surprised?

“Infidels, infidels, get out of Kashmir but leave your women here!”

The Pandit population does get out, en masse, but wisely take their women with them. But then there’s an internal free-for-all just to settle personal or religious scores on every side and there’s lovely, isn’t it?

The last fifty-plus pages are terrifying on so many levels. If this had been a mere history lesson it wouldn’t have been half so effective or affecting. But no, this is a highly personal account cleverly constructed so that you care.

At any given point any one member of the family could succumb to a bullet or an illness whose cure could have been readily available were there not an occupying army sabotaging access to treatments or even decent nutrition. I lost count of the times that Munnu or one of his family were detained, restrained, searched and beaten until they could prove they were who claimed to be.

So when a young American woman whom Sajad falls for loses his mobile phone while visiting a highly restricted area… well, she simply doesn’t understand the consequences of it being discovered there with his SIM card intact by the Indian Army.

There’s so much about life in Kashmir which I didn’t understand. Since the terrifying nuclear brinksmanship in 1999 which I remember so well, it’s rather fallen from our news cycles, hasn’t it?

This great graphic novel, I am convinced, will bring it back to the forefront of our attention. To those of us who read great graphic novels, at least. Good luck in waiting for the oh-so-trusted mass media to report.

SLH

Buy Munnu: A Boy From Kashmir h/c and read the Page 45 review here

There’s No Bath In This Bathroom (Sketched In) (£5-00) by Joe Decie.

How To Sell Comics: a textbook example.

Look at that cover! Such gorgeous greens!

Laugh at that title! How daft is our language?

It’s so full of contradictions and hilariously vestigial nomenclature once history’s moved on.

When America imported its language from England to receive a right royal twatting it was just waiting for a comic like this. North Americans call toilets “bathrooms”. Long have their bathrooms been without baths. But then, so have ours: I have two bathrooms at home and one of them has but a shower.

As ever with Joe Decie (I BLAME GRANDMA, THE LISTENING AGENT etc) this is slyly suspect autobiography with a mischievous punchline delivered deadpan.

In this case it concerns a night on the town during Canada’s Toronto Comic Arts Festival with fellow comicbook creators like Dan Berry, spent in an open-all-hours cheap pizza establishment rumoured to be run by gangsters. It would have been a much more relaxed meal for Joe if he hadn’t needed the loo. Or at least if the loo had been a little more sanitary. You will not believe what’s in there. Or who.

There’s usually something magical about a Joe Decie tale whether it’s tall or not. For I don’t mean magical / fantastical (though that’s not out of bounds), I mean odd encounters or flights of thought, and this is no exception. How Joe reacts to them is always worth a smile.

I BLAME GRANDMA was created within 24 hours so the drawings were necessarily less embellished than the positively lush washes here. It verges on photorealistic. He’s a magnificent portrait artist too. Unlike many autobiographical cartoonists you can recognise Joe Decie immediately from his art – though he’s about half a foot shorter than I imagined – and his Dan Berry’s so lifelike, it’s eerie!

There are some fabulous gesticulations and comical expressions, my favourite being the bluff as Decie nods earnestly in agreement to something he couldn’t even comprehend.

Love the background winks to fellow creators Joe List, Liz Lunney and John Porcellino.

SLH

Buy There’s No Bath In This Bathroom (Sketched In) and read the Page 45 review here

Monkey Nuts vol 1: The Diamond Egg Of Wonders (£9-99, DFB Library) by the Etherington Brothers.

“And so LordMonkey Nuts Terra sent his terrible signal pulsing upwards through the earth. He really is very naughty.”

Oh, he’s so very naughty indeed!

From the creators of LONG GONE DON, BAGGAGE and the ingenious action-adventure puzzle book VON DOOGAN comes even more cracking comicbook chaos for Young Readers.

They will thrill, chill – and maybe dribble a little bit – at the sheer spectacle of it all! Is there anyone working in children’s comics today who can pack more colour and fine-lined detail into each and every page? I don’t think so! There are always extra background jokes in the form of signage but I positively wet myself during the cacophonous climax when the landscapes took on a life of their own! And upon Isla De Monstrea they’re as exotic as early Tombraider’s only with 25 gazillion times sharper definition!

Aarrgh! What is happening?! In order to distract all other contenders in his hunt for the Diamond Egg Of Wonders, Lord Terra has sent out a sonic signal which makes monsters drawn to the island like moths to his flame.

In their rampaging way stand but three idiotic individuals just like The Magnificent Seven, only fewer and far less magnificent:

Sid the tap-dancing monkey is addicted to lunching, munching and brunching on bananas! Rivet, the walking, talking, robotic, hot-beverage dispenser, is bananas! Police Chief Tuft is not bananas but he is as crazy as a coconut! Umm. Largely because he is one.

Are these three fully prepped for policing? Do they have take-down, truss-‘em-up tactics and tricks up their sleeves? Do they have their combined wits about them in order to conquer the chaos that erupts upon their delinquent doorsteps? They do not

They are about as witless as the most nit-witted numbskulls you can possibly imagine! I guess they’ll just have to wing it then.

Duck and cover!

Wave after wave of monsters hit Monster Island from tentacled terrors and petulant, primate-hating pyramids to a colossal, fire-headed fury in a very foul mood because he’s managed to get an alarm clock lodged up his bottom. Lodged up his bottom!

I once got an alarm clock lodged up my bottom and, let me tell you, when the alarm went off it was most discombobulating!

SLH

Buy Monkey Nuts vol 1: The Diamond Egg Of Wonders and read the Page 45 review here

Tales Of Fayt: The Mystery Of The Crooked Imp (£7-99, DFB) by Conrad Mason & David Wyatt.

Welcome to Port Fayt, so-called jewel of The Middle Islands which lie on The Ebony Ocean!

I say “so-called” because hook-handed buccaneer Crafty Crocklewick takes the time and trouble to deliver dire warnings about what lies ashore in the form of an annotated map upon which you will discover The Rusty Anchor and The Pickled Dragon amongst several insalubrious saloons!

The Rusty Anchor is described as “the safest lodging house in town, so long as you sleep with one eye open” while of The Pickled Dragon it’s suggested, “Try their gutspiller grog for a night you’ll never remember”. Given that the target audience probably averages around ten years old, they probably won’t remember that by the time they come to risk not remembering, but still. I love good map, me!

Bursting out from the pages of THE PHOENIX weekly story comic for kids, I can only compare the level of eye-popping detail to LONG GONE DON, BAGGAGE, MONKEY NUTS and the ingenious action-adventure puzzle book VON DOOGAN by stablemates The Etherington Brothers. The colouring style is softer and more painterly but behind that lie lines quite as crisp and just as much action.

Wyatt draws a mean, mist-shrouded pirate ship that’s run aground on the rocks beneath a silvery full moon and the Rattigan’s family mansion is rich with intricately carved woodwork even if, on closer inspection, you can spot some wallpaper peeling off its walls. I rather think the family has seen wealthier days.

Far worse, the Rattigans have learned that last night their horse-and-coach driver Whelk was set upon and their baby son Clarence abducted from the carriage so they have summoned The Demon’s Watch, a band of thinkers and fighters far more effective than Fayt’s official Dockside Militia, the Blackcoats.

Led by Captain Newton, a human-ogre hybrid, they are: ancient elf, Old Jon; green-skinned troll twins, The Bootle Brothers; wand-waving magician Hal; and young tomboy Tabitha with bright blue hair, determined to make her mark and so her membership official.

Immediately something seems off about the case but it’ll grow even more tangled before the day is done and the battle’s been won. Oh yeah, you can expect plennnnnnnnty of action involving fairies, a mysterious, red cowled mastermind, that pirate ship, an old-school Elizabethan theatre and its grandstanding lead Actor who is quite the troll, green beneath his grease paint.

He really is a complete and utter ham, and unfortunately writes his own lines. I guess for him it’s a theatrical release.

SLH

Buy Tales Of Fayt: The Mystery Of The Crooked Imp and read the Page 45 review here

Tokyo Ghoul vol 1 (£8-99, Viz) by Sui Ishida…

“Boy eats girl… da da da, dara da da, da da da dara da da…”

With sincere apologies to Haircut 100.

So… we finally got in the manga title seemingly everyone’s been desperate for and I thought I better give it a read. Set in a modern-day Tokyo haunted by ‘ghouls’ with a taste for human flesh, it’s a horror with comedic undertones for reasons I will elaborate on shortly.

No one has ever caught a ghoul, but people suspect that they are walking amongst the population hiding in human form. Then, occasionally, the half eaten remains of some poor unfortunate will be found on the pavement in the morning. These attacks aren’t frequent enough to cause mass panic, or indeed apparently to stop people walking the streets alone at night, but obviously people are concerned.

When our shy central protagonist, bookworm Ken Kaneki, is invited out for a dinner date by the glamorous Rize, it all seems too good to be true. It is, obviously, as she is a ghoul who’s decided Ken is going to be her Special Of The Day. Fortunately for him whilst she is in the middle of pouncing on him and his kidneys (after he’s chivalrously offered to walk her home) some scaffolding collapses, killing her instantly. Unfortunately for Ken, after her late-night snack, he’s in need of an organ donor. Now where you suppose they might find somebody, without any bothersome next of kin to say no to such a worthy request?

You got it, poor old Ken ends up as the recipient of various ghoulish innards – instead of ending up as the contents of them – and that’s where his problems really start. Unable to turn to anyone human including best friend Hike for help, in case he decides to turn them into a sandwich, he’s forced to seek succour from his new-found half-brothers and half-sisters. And their social skills leave a lot to be desired…

Hmm. I can’t honestly say I was as instantly gripped this as I was by say, ATTACK ON TITAN. It’s an interesting enough premise, but I think it is going to be far too much battle manga-esque for me. Which is a surprise given it is on Viz’ signature Ikki imprint. But then again so was MARCH STORY and I thought exactly the same about that. So: upmarket battle manga with a decent premise, then.

JR

Buy Tokyo Ghoul vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Gotham Academy vol 1: Welcome To Gotham Academy s/c (£10-99, DC) by Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher & Karl Kerschl…

Can I get away with describing this as a BATMAN / COURTNEY CRUMRIN-esque mash-up? I think I possibly can, just about… Along with BATGIRL OF BURNSIDE s/c and a slew of titles DC are just releasing such as BLACK CANARY #1 (both written by Brendan Fletcher) this definitely represents a welcome partial shift in their traditional ‘superhero’ output.

So… our hero Olive is attending the prestigious Gotham Academy. She’s a little bit of a social malcontent right now, having split up with her boyfriend and managing to alienate most of her friends over the summer. She also had a run in with Batman… which had quite an impact on her.

Initially struggling to settle in, including being bullied because her mum is in Arkham Asylum, she decides to turn teen sleuth when some masked figures are spotted on campus. Like any good, ridiculously posh American school, they are of course merely members of a secret society, but they are definitely up to some serious no good, that’s for sure. Can Olive uncover their dastardly scheme whilst avoiding demerits and detentions?

 

This is great fun with a slightly spooky edge, which I suspect might be both Brendan Fletcher and Becky Cloonan’s respective contributions neatly balancing out. Much like BATGIRL OF BURNSIDE s/c , the art, this time from Karl Kerschl, is relatively cartoonish but excellent nonetheless, and totally in keeping stylistically with the content and tone of the story. And whilst it is obviously intended to be relatively lightweight fare (DETECTIVE COMICS this is not, though arguably there is considerably more sleuthery going on here), it does handle the darker side of schooling, the bullying and social pecking order skulduggery that goes on everywhere, rather well.

I’ve seen enough of Brendan Fletcher’s work recently to realise he is actually a pretty good writer, certainly in terms of current DC output. I’d quite like to see him tackle completely non-caped contemporary fiction at some point.

JR

Buy Gotham Academy vol 1: Welcome To Gotham Academy s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Black Canary #1 (£2-25, DC) by Brenden Fletcher & Annie Wu.

“From the moment the lights went up, the Wizard’s Wand show in Detroit was a performance to remember. Paloma Terrific debuted her new custom gear in the rig. D.D. was finally playing to the crowd. Lord Byron sat perfectly in the pocket playing to the crowd. And silent wunderkind Ditto pulled sounds out of her semi-acoustic so otherworldly that Leon Theremin would’ve been dumbstruck.”

- From some music magazine or other.

Artist Annie Wu a great many of you will already know from the deliciously drawn HAWKEYE VOL 3, given which you will be far from surprised that this is not your average superhero comic.

It’s not even your average superheroine comic because although Black Canary still sports fishnet stockings, this isn’t about the long legs, thigh shots and deep, forward-thrusting cleavage otherwise known as “tits’n’ass” comics which are a total disgrace to the medium.

Here the fishnets are torn in punk and post-punk fashion and that’s a studded leather jacket on top of the bodice which reveals nothing at all except a new wave fashion sense as our trouble magnet, now lead singer of the rock band Black Canary, lets it rip into the mic.

Wu’s lines are all whoosh-whoosh on the page, hair flying everywhere or lolloping over the forehead when the cast is feeling more sedate. It keeps the story sweeping along beautifully and the story right now seems to centre on Black Canary’s mute guitarist Ditto, for although it looked as though D.D. was attracting all the violence spilling onto their set so cutting the gigs short and ruining their reputation, she was merely defending their territory.

Really they were after the silent and secretive Ditto – she of the ethereal strings – and their assailants were merely the vanguard. What’s coming next (and I do mean what, not who) I can only compare to the Umbral in UMBRAL. Lee Loughbridge’s colours do something clever there: they take over everything on the page – all the linework and shadow which would ordinarily be black – except for the creatures themselves.

The effect is to render the inky ones alien, otherworldly and the centre of your eyes’ attention. They’ve got the bands too. Thank goodness D.D. used to be in the Justice League. For five seconds.

So what’s her story, then?

SLH

Buy Black Canary #1 and read the Page 45 review here

 

Thors #1 (£2-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Chris Sprouse.

“Names, Throg. I need an I.D. on the victims. So far Ray and I have nothing to go on.”
“What can I tell ya? They’re not in the database.”
“None of them? How is that possible.”
“You’re talking to a frog that carries a hammer, pal. Any damn thing is possible.”

It is now!

In SECRET WARS #1 the regular Marvel Universe and its Ultimate counterpart collided, obliterating both. Now all that’s left is Battleworld, consisting of concurrent cross-overs and major events from Marvel’s past playing themselves out further than they did before or in different ways. Each takes place in a different domain between which travelling is strictly forbidden by decree of Battleworld’s deity Doctor Victor Von Doom. He is the law; order is maintained by the Thors.

This, therefore, is now a police-procedure crime comic, and it’s cracking!

For a start the art is by TOM STRONG’s Chris Sprouse so it’s big and it’s bold with smooth and attractive figure work without being over-busy or brutal.

Its stars every Thor throughout history – well, Marvel’s history – and there have been many: Stormborn (the X-Men’s Ororo), Thorlief (the Ultimate Universe’s Thor) Beta Ray Bill (he has the head of a skinned horse!) and Throg (he’s a frog). There are in fact hundreds of the hammer-hefting hearties.

The primaries on this investigation are Thorlief and Beta Ray Bill and the pressure is on for it’s just been designated an “Allthing” by Odin. This means all hands on deck because the case needs to be closed quickly before Doom himself gets wind of it and demotes the two primaries which would involve losing a great deal more than their police pensions.

So what’s got them all baffled? Five dead bodies have appeared in five different domains but what isn’t different is their identities: they’re all the same woman. Five versions of the same woman have been murdered. Who is the woman? Clue: she’s ever so slightly central to the Marvel THOR mythos.

What I love about the best of these SECRET WARS satellite series (and there are hundreds of those too; amongst those reviewed so far and still / back in stock, OLD MAN LOGAN #1 and PLANET HULK #1) is that they each contain a different piece of the jig-saw puzzle which is Battleworld and the secrets that lie behind it. Beta Ray’s informant, living on the street out of a cardboard box, knows stuff:

“I can tell you what I’ve learned in the shadows, Stormbreaker. I can tell you why people are dying. Your good friend Loki can tell you about the greatest lie of all. But I don’t believe you’re gonna want to hear it.”

A lie that’s bigger than Loki’s? Blimmin’ ‘eck!

SLH

Buy Thors #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.

Wytches vol 1 s/c (£7-50, Image) by Scott Snyder & Jock

Rumble vol 1: What Colour Of Darkness s/c (£7-50, Image) by John Arcudi & James Harren

Russian Olive To Red King h/c (£18-99, Adhouse Books) by Kathryn Immonen & Stuart Immonen

Borb (£14-99, Uncivilised Books) by Jason Little

Invincible vol 21: Modern Family (£12-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Ryan Ottley

Massive vol 5: Ragnarok s/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Brian Wood & Garry Brown

Oliver And The Seawigs (£6-99, Oxford) by Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre

Cakes In Space (£6-99, Oxford) by Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre

Rasputin vol 1: The Road To The Winter Palace s/c (£10-99, Image) by Alex Grecian & Riley Rossmo

Strangers In Paradise vol 5 Pocket Edition (£13-50, Abstract Studio) by Terry Moore

Strangers In Paradise vol 6 Pocket Edition (£13-50, Abstract Studio) by Terry Moore

Adventure Time Sugary Shorts vol 2 h/c (£16-99, Titan) by various inc. Roger Langridge, Noelle Stevenson, Frazer Irving

Batman And Robin vol 5: The Big Burn s/c (£12-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, various

Batman And Robin vol 6: The Hunt For Robin h/c (£18-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi & Andy Kubert, Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray, various

Supergirl vol 1: Last Daughter Of Krypton s/c (£10-99, DC) by Michael Green, Mike Johnson & Mahmud Asrar

Supergirl vol 2: Girl In The World s/c (£10-99, DC) by Michael Green, Mike Johnson & Mahmud Asrar, George Perez

Supergirl vol 3: Sanctuary s/c (£12-99, DC) by Mike Johnson & Mahmud Asrar

Supergirl vol 4: Out Of The Past s/c (£10-99, DC) by Michael Alan Nelson, Scott Lobdell, Justin Jordan & various

Supergirl vol 5: Red Daughter Of Krypton s/c (£13-50, DC) by Tony Bedard & various

Ant-Man vol 1: Second-Chance Man s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Nick Spencer & Ramon Rosanas

Hulk: Future Imperfect s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Peter David & George Perez, Dale Keown

Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service vol 14 (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Eiji Otsuka & Housui Yamazaki

Mobile Suit Gundam Origin vol 10: Solomon (£22-50, Random House / Vertical) by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko

News!

ITEM! Artist Daren Bader interviewed about TRIBES OF KAI graphic novel which looks ferociously fine – and feline!

ITEM! Interview with Kate Beaton about her next comic collection, STEP ASIDE, POPS! Kate Beaton’s HARK, A VAGRANT! always in stock at Page 45!

ITEM! Craig Thompson’s new graphic novel – for Young Adults – is on the horizon! Pre-order Craigh Thompson’s SPACE DUMPLINS from Page 45! There’s so many Craig Thompson SPACE DUMPLINS process pieces online on his blog! Duck under the bridge and scroll down!

- Stephen

Page 45 Reviews written by Stephen & Jonathan then edited by an Aye-Aye with no eye for errors.

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews June 2015 week three

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

Bodies s/c (£12-99, Vertigo) by Si Spencer & Dean Ormston, Phil Winslade, Meghan Hetrick, Tula Lotay.

“Know you are loved.”

This is going to surprise you.

Longharvest Lane, London: 1890, 1940, 2014 and 2050.

Four different artists for four distinct time periods. In each of them a naked male corpse is discovered in the same position, in the same location, with the same vicious mutilations and the same stark symbol slashed upon its wrists.

This brand begins to crop up everywhere and every when: on the finger prints of the corpse itself; on a Spiritualist & Pharmacist shop front window and door; at the Whitechapel Masonic Lodge, on the parachute of a doll in a dream; within the Pulsewave Generator’s holographic schematics in the future; as a mark left in place of one of the corpses which goes AWOL; and on the ancient painting titled “So Begins The Long Harvest”.

Whole thoughts and phrases echo throughout time, like “Who are you and what do you remember?” and “This is brutality”.

So this brutality begins during four eras which saw or will see extreme hatred and violence.

2014 sees D.S. Shahara Hasan, a Muslim East-Ender, in police riot gear leading the charge against an aggressively racist anti-Muslim demonstration rallied by England’s Glory. She is philosophical about the thugs and amused by her subordinate’s sense of humour:

“Tell me again why I’m the one in the armour and you’re swanning about in Hugo Boss?”

“Because your people are on a ruthless Jihad to set up an Islamofascist annex of Mecca on the Mile End Road?”

“And don’t you forget it. Your head’ll be first to roll as soon as my scimitar arrives from Taliban Central.”

She’s about to have that smile wiped off her face.

In 1890, during Jack The Ripper’s murderous rampage, Inspector Edmond Hillinghead strays on a top-hatted toff receiving oral relief down a dark alley from a woman with stubble before he trips in flight over a hacked and slashed corpse.

“Someone really didn’t like him.”
“Or really liked doing this to him.”

Dutiful and diligent, Hillinghead will do his best for the victim using fledging forensics in spite of his superior’s less than enlightened attitudes towards homosexuality. These too are dark times.

In 2050. armed with a bow and arrow, Maplewood discovers her own incarnation of the body in the scantily populated, broken capitol, along with a brightly coloured ball and a conspicuously coherent girl called Bounce. For like someone with Alzheimer’s and everyone else around her, Maplewood struggles with labels, scrabbles for the right words and barely remembers her own name. The Pulsewave saw to that many moons ago. But who saw to the Pulsewave?

During an air raid in 1940’s East End – while across The Channel The Holocaust is occurring – we find one Inspector Weissman hiding his Jewish heritage with an anglicised name which no one will use. He has unorthodox methods of policing his turf, using the long rain of Blitz bombs to harvest a fortune in theft.

“The blackouts and the raids mask a multitude of crimes. Most of them mine.”

But not all of them, apparently, are his.

All four artists – Meghan Hetrick, Dean Ormston, Tula Lotay and Phil Winslade – bring distinct atmospheres to their eras: smooth and clean, suppressed grotesque, elusive and ethereal, and a Butch Guice brand of photorealism, respectively.

Dean Ormston’s lines are a tightly controlled cross between SPIRITS OF THE DEAD‘s Richard Corben and HELLBOY’s Mike Mignola when it comes to the shadows and period feel. Lee Loughbridge adjusts his colour palette for each era and with Ormston restricts himself largely to black, white and a glowing spot-red for spectacles, sigils and blood. When complementing Tula Lotay’s dreamlike sequences he’s far softer, far brighter and in places quite close to Paul Pope’s HEAVY LIQUID. Those sequences are almost like a mirage.

The eight chapters are split into six pages for each time period, which is a discipline in itself, but their order rotates as required. You’re encouraged – nay, compelled – to cross-reference densely packed clues. These range from the more obvious iterations of Longharvest Lane (by 2050 the cracked and dilapidated street sign is missing several letters) and Longharvest Arms, Green and indeed Infirmary. And, deliciously, the time periods will bleed into each other with both cause and effect.

But I promised you surprises, didn’t I? The biggest is this: it’s no mere whodunit. Like Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s comicbook masterpiece FROM HELL, this is a whydunit, and the self-sacrificial “Why?” is infinitely more important.

For, at its great big heart, this is a wake-up call, combating wave after wave of human prejudice and its sick and sorry attendant violence.

It’s precisely the sort of thing Will Eisner spoke of so wisely in DROPSIE AVENUE, THE NAME OF THE GAME and TO THE HEART OF THE STORM etc. The clue’s on the very first page.

SLH

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

Blubber #1 (£2-99, Fantagraphics) by Gilbert Hernandez.

Holy Hellfire from the Heavens upon High!

Thank fuck that this comes with a crazed-critter cover so lurid that even the natural world’s most voracious, omnivorous and top-of-the-food-chain predators would recognise that it is as venomously lethal to their guts as it will prove to the spiritual well-being of any human foolish enough to lap up the body fluids within.

We’re all about consumers at Page 45 for we are unashamedly capitalist bastards, but what is being consumed within may make you gag.

From LOVE & ROCKETS’ much beloved Beto, Sunday evening David Attenborough this is not!

In last week’s review of the magnificent and monumental 750-page DRAWN & QUARTERLY: 25 YEARS OF CONTEMPORARY CARTOONING, COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS anthology (a title designed to garner as many Google points as it possibly can – hey, we play those games too!), I quoted publisher Fantagraphics as being designated “transgressive” and no new comic could possibly underscore the accuracy of that epithet more emphatically than this. I am a firm advocator for transgression which is why I love Fantagraphics as dearly as I do Drawn & Quarterly.

But you have been warned: LOVE & ROCKETS is as literary as you could like but Gilbert is taking a holiday here to revel with delirious abandon in detailing the reproductive life cycles and carnal pleasures of various beasties you would least like to encounter on safari.

If I can find even a single page of interior art online I probably won’t reproduce it here. If I have republished it here, it is the one least likely to land me in jail.

Sorry..? Of course it made me laugh!

SLH

Buy Blubber #1 and read the Page 45 review here

East Of West vol 4: Who Wants War (£10-99, Image) by Jonathan Hickman & Nick Dragotta.

“Hope?
“I think hope will be the death of us.”

I loved the lie.

The lie right at the end of the last book, discerned only if you interpret the visuals.

That’s what comics at its brightest does best, and EAST OF WEST is amongst the brightest and the best of Image’s creator-owned series, shot through with Jonathan Hickman’s impeccable design sense.

Lo and behold, this volume kicks off with another Hickman flourish to remind you where we are, what’s happening and what has gone before in the form of a beautiful, colour-coded timeline which could not be clearer taking you up to 2064AD when The Horsemen were reborn and the Apocalypse began.

The current status of each of the Seven Nations making up the divided States of America is detailed in a summary and stats from its government, language, population and GDP to its military might, economic strength, political stability and long term viability, all accompanied by a map. If that sounds dry, you haven’t seen Hickman’s design work!

And if you think a comic involving the Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse has to look bleak, dark and dreary, then you haven’t seen Nick Dragotta’s lush line work glowing with Frank Martin’s colours. Very much in the tradition of John Buscema and Lee Weeks in its smooth and solid forms, Dragotta’s figure work is impeccable, his eyes are piercing and his own designs for the likes of the Endless Nation and the “blind” boy Babylon in his survival suit are sensational.

Here’s my own summary:

America which has been divided between Seven Nations, representatives of whom sit on a secret council and conspire against each other, vying for power, even though their goal is the same: to bring about Armageddon. It is their sworn duty, for they are The Chosen who follow The Message, a sacred text heralding the end of the world.

Fighting the same nihilistic corner are the Horsemen Of The Apocalypse, resurrected in EAST OF WEST VOL 1 as children. Well, three of them were: War, Famine and Conquest. Death was conspicuously absent.

Why? Death, had stayed behind as a white-skinned, white-haired, white-clothed, gun-slinging adult because he’d fallen in love with Xiaolian Mao, now leader of the Mandarin-speaking People’s Republic Of America on its West Coast, a woman who, he discovered, had born him a child and the hunt is now on for that son dubbed The Great Beast, Babylon.

The Child Horsemen want to kill Death’s progeny; Death wants to save him.

Death wants to save the whole world.

It’s that sort of a book, riddled with ironies, like the Endless Nation of Native Americans once so myth-based now being the technological champions of the modern world and, militarily, its mightiest: they have just conquered The United States of Texas. They export their technology to every trading nation which devours it hungrily, but there’s a rumour that the Endless Nation is holding back.

Whereas relationship was once strained, the scenes between Mao and Death are so very tender that you’ll feel hit by a brick at the punchline undercutting them. Yes, I know – Death, a romantic! He’s has so far failed to locate their son and so fulfil his promise.

His son is the one currently being subjected to that lie.

Nurtured in isolation and secret deep underground by the greatest schemers of them all, perhaps, the boy has been raised to help bring about the Apocalypse. He is now roaming above ground for the first time, both led and misled by the sentient receptacle of knowledge he is still umbilically linked to, a silver sphere which hovers above him and to which he is beholden for all that he sees. That which he’s shown is being filtered.

The sphere, for example, looks to the lad like a balloon with a reassuringly smiley face. There is much more for Babylon to be taught while he’s still malleable because the boy who is supposed to bring about the Apocalypse is in danger of becoming a vegan.

SLH

Buy East Of West vol 4: Who Wants War and read the Page 45 review here

The Boss h/c (£9-99, DFC Library) by John Aggs & Patrice Aggs.

“I hate field trips!”

I’m  with you, Nazim!

Ours were usually to some desolate agricultural or industrial museum. Educational away-days…? Bor-ring! Although we did once go to a zoo where we should probably have been locked up.

Nazim isn’t the titular Boss, by the way. The Boss is the level-headed, quick-thinking young man of purpose who’s striding into fully prepped action on the cover and tossing his cell phone behind him for Freddie to catch. Freddie will prove cracking on comms.

It’s just as well because Bella, Nazim, Lucy, Freddie, Alex, Joseph, Patrick, Anne, Robbie, Hannah and The Boss are all going to have to stay both in touch and on their toes if today’s field trip isn’t going to land them in detention forever or, far worse, on a mortuary slab.

I’m going to come clean and confess that in spite of DFC’s sterling reputation for kids’ quality comedy and adventure comics (they publish THE PHOENIX weekly and all its subsequent collected editions), I opened this somewhat gingerly. School-age super-sleuths…? Do me one! But this could not have been better thought through, using almost every element of its given environment – a town-bound castle packed full of sightseers, busy-body locals and eagle-eyed teachers – to create both opportunities and seeming insurmountable hurdles as our various young women and men in their give-away school uniforms desperately attempt to keep track of two thieves whilst staying as incognito as possible. The consequent tension was tremendous.

Think about it: they can’t go into pubs and they’re caught outside the castle grounds then it’s pretty much game over.

All they know is that a priceless illuminated manuscript – the Rackhamstone Psalter – is going to be stolen from its alarmed glass case at the top of one of the castle towers and if they’re going to stand a chance of obstructing the theft or catching them in the act they’re going to have to think ahead and work out how they’d do it first.

I liked that. Led by The Boss – and with distraction / interference being run by a thoroughly adept Alex – they’re not just reactive but pro-active and my adrenaline kicked in long before the action kicked off.

John Aggs you may already know as the artist on THE RECRUIT (another Young Adults graphic novel but for early- to mid-teens whereas this is emphatically all ages) but it’s Patrice Aggs on art duties here and where she excels is on individuality, the liveliest of expressions and expert body language.

There’s an early scene set on the school bus where The Boss sits at the back between Bella and Nazim, their forward-leaning, frantic anxiety neatly juxtaposed by The Boss’ cross-legged calm. He’s pretty dapper in his shirt sleeves and tie and ditching his school blazer lends him an immediate air of authority.

That’s not to say he’ll stay unflappable forever. The sense of movement accelerates on the page dramatically as parties are split, cell phone batteries are depleted and Nazim spots something alarming holstered under a jacket.

“Observe, record, fetch the police. Those are the rules.”

In an ideal world, at least.

SLH

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

Baggage (£9-99, DFC Library) by the Etherington Brothers.

Yowsa!

If the secret of a great graphic novel for Young Readers is to make their eyes light up like shiny marbles at the sheer sweet-shop spectacle of it all, then this is the golden gobstopper!

Also, this does contain a sweet shop full of Tripple Brittle Ripples, Choco Dip Nanas and Woofs! Woofs are made of white chocolate with cheddar and garlic. Err…. woof! There grumpy Granny Bee is moulding liquorice into the shape of bare bottoms.

Eh, it’s a hobby.

From the creators of LONG GONE DON and the ingenious action-adventure puzzle book VON DOOGAN, this is as colourful as a bird of paradise and as busy as a humming bird – relentless mayhem and a surprisingly dense read. And we mean that in the detailed not stoopid way, though there’s plenty of stoopid to boot!

Set in a city with exotic elements from Florence to San Francisco with the only trams in existence that could possible plunge the wrong way, it’s action-packed with non-stop escapades as Randall the disaster-prone lost property officer is set a seemingly impossible task by his cantankerous boss to avoid getting the sack. All he has to do is return the oldest item in the warehouse, a battered old suitcase splattered with stickers, to its rightful owner before the end of the day. Should be simple, right, if he puts his mind to it?

What mind would that be?!

This is the idiot whose “system” for filing things involves categories like “Things That Stack Nicely”, “Things That Are Really Quite Dangerous”, “Things That Smell Funny” and “Things That Might Not Actually Be Lost”. One of those things is wriggling and calling for help!

Cue slapstick shenanigans as Randall’s treasure hunt following clue after clue on the suitcase takes him all over the city before ending up… well, you won’t see that coming.

Before then there’s an interactive subterranean maze set in a sewer to the negotiate (which is probably the longest shortcut in history), and a grand stadium where they’re playing out the finals of… I have no idea what that sport could be!

“What part of TACKLE do you not understand, Steely? You’ve heard me use the word in training, yes?”
“Yeah, erm, it’s when we try to stop the other guys from scoring any points! Usually by kicking them hard in the WHATNOTS!”
“Textbook definition, son!”

SLH & JR

Buy Baggage and read the Page 45 review here

Life On Another Planet (£13-50, W.W. Norton) by Will Eisner.

Back on our shelves! Review originally written half a dozen years or so ago…

And now, as they say, for something completely different.

Also, a confessionette (it’s like a maisonette, only smaller, secret and guilt-ridden): I hadn’t until this afternoon actually read this book. 30 years I’ve had, so with an Eisner reprint every month at the moment, now seemed about bloody time. You can tell it’s 30 years old: it’s only 120 pages long yet it took me hours to devour. It’s like LUTHER ARKWRIGHT: dense and intense because way back then every page counted. No extravagantly silent or two-panel pages here! Instead there are lots of highly inventive layouts for which Eisner was famous in his SPIRIT pieces, with panels like windows under torrential rain or bordered by the sprawling, leafy drive of a mafia boss.

It’s an insane caper of international proportions aspiring to the sky, catalysed by two Astronomers in New Mexico picking up a signal from space in the form of a stream of prime numbers. Within moments a Soviet mole gets wind of the discovery, then the CIA’s brought in, Nadia makes her first appearance and quickly the whole thing sprawls out of control as countries, corporations, cults and even dictator President Ami of Sidiami become embroiled in a race to respond or prevent a response to the alien message. For Sidiami, read Uganda (Idi Amin was in charge when this came out); and for U.S. Presidential candidate Milgate, read Nixon, I’d have thought. Heavily in debt to many world nations, Ami seeks to reverse his country’s fortunes by having his country secede from planet Earth then selling it to the highest bidder as a launch site for a probe into space whose single occupant will be a plant mutated from the cells of a mafia member fleeing family retribution after killing his wife.

Sorry…? Yes, it really is that insane – not your normal Will Eisner affair at all – with multiple alliances and reversals of loyalty as each individual connives to get what they want whether it’s a man, a woman, a seat on the board or a President in their pocket. As such it’s as well observed as his Jewish autobiography. It just couldn’t be further from DROPSIE AVENUE geographically or in scope.

SLH

Buy Life On Another Planet and read the Page 45 review here

The Wake s/c (£13-50, Vertigo) by Scott Snyder & Sean Murphy.

Dive deep, swim fast!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Now, what is a Raindrop?

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

The call that goes out to millions.

SLH

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

Batgirl vol 1: Batgirl Of Burnside (£10-99 s/c, DC) by Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher & Babs Tarr, Irene Koh…

Why so serious? No, seriously?

This seems to have been the question someone – possibly Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher – asked the head honchos at DC. Either that or one of the head honchos at DC saw the success of Gillen and McKelvie’s highly relevant, demographically diverse and most importantly fun YOUNG AVENGERS run and thought, “We’ll have a bit of that! Which B-list Bat-character can we risk trying it out on?”

And it seems to have worked because this is joyful, crackpot nonsense. I am also quite sure the positive buzz this reworking has engendered, along with the similarly off-beat GOTHAM ACADEMY, is partly responsible for the slew of cartoonishly illustrated comedy titles and mini-series such as BIZARRO and BAT-MITE that DC is suddenly launching post- (speaking of crackpot nonsense, although of the utterly shite kind) CONVERGENCE.

So, Babs Gordon is off to Burnside college, presumably feeling the need to get some qualifications just in case superheroing doesn’t work out, career-wise. I mean, how could that choice of jobs possibly turn out badly…? She’s still fighting crime in her spare time – well, what little there is left of it after partying hard with her new roommates and locking lips with random hunky strangers. And guess what? Chasing down goons with a pounding hangover isn’t much fun at all!

It’s well written, utterly preposterous stuff featuring pop-up social media commentary (à la YOUNG AVENGERS…) and villains who are seemingly more interested in grabbing the spotlight than actual criminal endeavours. Of course, it’s the ‘Batgirl of Burnside’ who starts trending before rapidly going viral, which probably isn’t ideal if you have a secret identity to protect. In that sense this did remind me a little bit of very early SPIDER-MAN where puny Peter Parker was forever fretting about someone working out he was Spidey, all the whilst fantasising about knocking Flash Thompson’s teeth down his throat.

Black Canary pops up, loosely keeping the BIRDS OF PREY connection going, and I note with mild interest the forthcoming BLACK CANARY title is also going to be written by Brenden Fletcher where “martial arts, super spies and rock and roll combine” and “she’s quickly learning she’d die to protect the gang of misfits she’s fallen into”, which all sounds a bit Matt Fraction’s HAWKEYE to me. Art will be from Annie Wu, who… errr… did the Clint Barton portions of HAWKEYE VOL 3

Anyway, the art here from Babs Tarr very strongly minded me of the colour versions of SCOTT PILGRIM in places, which is probably appropriate as it is does have that similar daft sense of fun. This ought to succeed in enticing some new younger, possibly even female, readers into superhero comics, so in that sense I applaud DC’s motives in commissioning this material. As a 43-year-old male, I rather enjoyed it also, despite me probably not entirely being the demographic this title is aimed at. A strong start, let’s see if they can keep it up.

JR

Buy Batgirl vol 1 s/c: Batgirl Of Burnside and read the Page 45 review here

Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man vol 2 – Revelations s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & David Marquez.

“Miles Morales is one of the top ongoing series in comics right now.”

That’s what Marvel chooses to quote on the cover.

Well, it was. It really was, and every episode written with warmth, wit and humanity by Brian Michael Bendis!

But ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN has ceased to be. It is that proverbial parrot which is pushing up its claws, Python-stylee.

And, oh, it had so much more life left in it! This seemed not rushed but effectively truncated, cauterised by a great big planet in the sky leading straight into SECRET WARS #1, and ULTIMATE END #1 by Bendis & Bagley.

What will emerge on the other side? Well, Miles will in one fictional universe or the other – as written by Bendis he’s far too much fun to lose – we simply don’t know in what form yet.

SLH

Buy Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man vol 2 – Revelations 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.

There’s No Bath In This Bathroom (Sketched In) (£5-00) by Joe Decie

Munnu: A Boy From Kashmir h/c (£16-99, 4th Estate) by Malik Sajad

Child Of The Storm h/c (£23-99, Humanoids) by Manuel Bichebois & Didier Poli, Guilio Zeloni

Colder vol 2: Bad Seed (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Paul Tobin & Juan Ferreyra

My Little Pony: Fiendship Is Magic s/c (£14-99, IDW) by various

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

Usagi Yojimbo vol 29: Two Hundred Jizo (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Stan Sakai

Deathstroke vol 1: Gods Of War s/c (£10-99, DC) by Tony S. Daniel

Flash vol 6: Out Of Time h/c (£18-99, DC) by Robert Vendetti, Van Jensen & Brett Booth

Gotham Academy vol 1: Welcome To Gotham Academy s/c (£10-99, DC) by Becky Cloonan, Brendan Fletcher & Karl Kerschl

Red Hood And The Outlaws vol 6: Lost And Found s/c (£10-99, DC) by Scott Lobdell & R. B. Silva, various

Avengers: Time Runs Out vol 4 h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Stefano Caselli, Mike Mayhew, Kev Walker, Mike Deodato Jr.

Spider-Woman vol 1 Spider-Verse s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Dennis Hopeless & Greg Land

Battle Royale: Angels’ Border (£8-99, Viz) by Koushun Takami & Mioko Ohnishi, Youhei Oguma

Fairy Tail vol 47 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Naruto vol 70 (£6-99, Viz) by Masashi Kishimoto

New Lone Wolf And Cub vol 5 (£10-50, Dark Horse) by Kazuo Koike & Hideki Mori

Tokyo Ghoul vol 1 (£8-99, Viz) by Sui Ishida

News!

ITEM! Dr Mary Talbot is back from the Munich Comics Festival with a big blog full of photos of herself, Bryan Talbot, Eddie Campbell, Audrey Niffenegger, Paul Gravett & co.

ITEM! From the creators of one of our all-time favourite graphic novels, DAYTRIPPER, have a preview of Fabio Moon & Gabriel Ba’s TWO BROTHERS graphic novel. You can pre-order the TWO BROTHERS graphic novel from Page 45 right now – we don’t take your money until books arrive and we ship worldwide!

ITEM! From the creator of PLEASE GOD FIND ME A HUSBAND plus  FLUFFY and the exclusive PAGE 45 FLUFFY POSTCARD (order that to be sent to you by mail and watch the ironies fly) here’s Simone Lia’s Guardian comic on being a second-generation immigrant to England.

ITEM! Great Neil Gaiman and Kazuo Ishiguro New Statesman discussion on genres. “I think that there’s a huge difference between, for example, a novel with spies in it and a spy novel.” This is the truth! (Illo by Tim McDonagh)

ITEM! Have you been relishing THE REALIST by Asaf Hanukah? Good news, then! Interview and swoonaway preview of THE DIVINE graphic novel drawn by Tomer Hanukah and Asaf Hanukah. You can pre-order THE DIVINE due in July from Page 45 here.

- Stephen

Page 45 Reviews written by Stephen & Jonathan then edited by a mild-mannered marmoset. In serious need of some spectacles.

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews June 2015 week two

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015

Comicbook crime, science fiction, dinosaurs, foreign exchange students, isolation and the illusion of autobiography! Plus two great big anthologies including this and 24 BY 7 starring Dan Berry, Sarah McIntyre, Joe Decie, Fumio Obata, Kristyna Baczynski, Jack Teagle, Warwick Johnson Cadwell.

Drawn & Quarterly: 25 Years Of Contemporary Cartooning, Comics & Graphic Novels h/c (£37-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Everyone! Ever!

“Comics
“Comics?
“Comics!”

This may be the first comic’s spine that is actually a comic!

Here are 750 pages of comics, comics criticism and comicbook creators providing keen insight into each other’s work whilst singing the praises of one of the greatest comicbook publishers in history, and I’ve been enthralled for days.

It’s true that some of the comics are readily accessible reprints but the overwhelming majority are either completely new (Tom Gauld) or so rare that you’ll never have seen them unless you are actually on the receiving end of Chester Brown’s Christmas cards.

Normally I would skip all the prose in favour of the comics themselves – at least to begin with – but Sean Rogers’ 45-page account of Drawn & Quarterly’s 25-year history with captain Chris Oliveros at its helm is so exceptionally eloquent that I barely even glanced at the photos. With additional research by Jeet Heer and interspersed with first-hand accounts by the likes of Oliveros’ cohorts Peggy Burns and Tom Devlin, it was exhilarating, infectious and refreshing, articulating everything I adore about Drawn & Quarterly’s honourable ethos, aesthetics and priorities which can be distilled succinctly thus: the comics and their creators come first.

 

While the publisher Fantagraphics is described as more “transgressive”, and RAW magazine under Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly as “formally inventive” and “avant-garde”, I would wholeheartedly agree that what distinguishes D&Q’s comics and graphic novels is that they are distinctly, overwhelmingly “literary”, as well as beautiful art objects. Speaking of beautiful art objects, BUILDING STORIES’s Chris Ware has this to say about its former flagship anthology:

“Conspicuously Canadian for its gentle editorial tone, the magazine seemed to point toward a new disposition from which to cartoon, offering a kind and congenial challenge to the sometimes sneery adolescence of American alternative comics of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Chester Brown, Maurice Vellecoop, and Seth (and yes, even you, Joe Matt) all seemed to be getting at something generous, uncertain and awkwardly human in their work…”

Hilariously human is how Lisa Hanawalt depicts life at the D&Q offices in a sprightly coloured double-page spread which sees them all out in a park, high-kicking in clogs while answering the telephone, languishing on a chaise longue or typing away in a hot tub while “Panels the pig selects promising submissions” from his really quite tidy pig pen. Their shipping and delivery service is handled by wolves, naturally.

As to the future, as well as the spine, Tom Gauld supplies the cover and endpapers wherein a cross-section of an asteroid shows beautiful books piled high – and low – everywhere! They’re racked on shelves, stacked on cupboards and some are even secreted under the floor boards while one has been left lying after being flicked through in its spacecraft hangar.

The message is emphatic and clear: IN THE FUTURE, THERE WILL BE BOOKS!

You really wouldn’t want to read this digitally, would you?

There is no way on God’s good Earth than I can cover all the comics here from David Mazzucchelli, Kate Beaton, Chris Ware, Anders Nilsen, Chester Brown, Dan Clowes, Michael DeForge, Tom Gauld, Miriam Katin, Rutu Modan, James Sturm, Jillian Tamaki, Joe Matt, John Porcellino, Louis Trondheim, Gabrielle Bell, Brian Ralph, Ron Rege Jr, Marc Bell, Pascal Girard, Yoshihiro Tatsumi, Shigeru Mizuki, Guy Delisle, Lynda Barry, Mimi Pond, Julie Doucet, Art Spiegelman, Kevin Huizenga, Adrian Tomine and so very many more, nor the enlightening essays by Margaret Atwood (yes, Margaret Atwood!), Lemony Snicket, Sheila Heti, Jonathan Lethem, Deb Olin Unferth, Heather O’Neill, Fiona Duncan and many more still!

However, I loved how Margaret Atwood described HARK, A VAGRANT!’s Kate Beaton’s approach in her appreciation of Beaton and the broader tradition of bubble bursting:

“There’s a burping in church aspect to Beaton’s approach. It doesn’t demolish the church, but it does add another dimension.”

While discussing Anders Nilsen, Fiona Duncan writes…

“To separate fiction from non-fiction is a false divide, I’ve come to believe. All communication is storytelling.”

And she does have a point. Even autobiography is subjective and there’s an awful lot of illusion involved, regardless of whether the wool-pulling’s intentional. Kevin Huizenga issues just such a slight of hand in ‘My Career In Comics’ – to begin with anyway. You start to suspect that he’s having a laugh when he details his distraction, nay, obsession with drawing and redrawing and Photoshopping hair.

Funnier still, BIG QUESTIONS’ Anders Nilsen can’t help himself when analysing The Past (Cosmic, Not To Scale) and The Present (More Or Less) before foraging in The Future during ‘Me And The Universe’ originally published in the New York Times on September 24th 2014 – and that’s what I mean about most of these comics being rare. Of the time period 0 to 38,000 years after the Big Bang he writes: “Clouds of particles too hot / agitated to connect in any meaningful way. (Similar to 3 year period in your late adolescence.)” You might spot the USS Enterprise among the planets.

From Chris Ware’s personal sketchbook comes ‘My New Pal Tramadol’ and a more recreational drug strip which ends in a queasy blur-burst of colour. It’s followed by a fully formed two-page ‘Joanne Cole’ comic I believe is brand-new and informed by an earlier sketch and the autobiography / far-flung life cycle of a copper coin which has only ever appeared in an abridged form in the New York Times Magazine on April 10th 2014.

There’s a new, blue Mimi Pond memoir about being invisible, man-spoken to and meeting Tom Waits.

And unless you read RAW you won’t have stumbled upon ‘Sneaking Out’ by WHAT IT IS’ Lynda Barry and you’ll never have seen her hand-painted script for ‘Cruddy’. It’s awful to think that Barry’s career was once almost over and resurrected only thanks to D&Q, which gives you some indication of why the publisher is indispensible.

But then it’s equally sobering to be reminded that D&Q was once so close to foundering that Oliveros “in all good consciousness” attempted to actively dissuade marketing genius Peggy Burns from coming to work with him. Of the Drawn & Quarterly retail outlet she writes – I forget where – that every publisher should spend time working in a book shop and every retailer should publish at least one book.

I’m definitely down with the first but staring at this D&Q doorstop the second enterprise petrifies me!

SLH

Buy Drawn & Quarterly: 25 Years Of Contemporary Cartooning, Comics & Graphic Novels h/c and read the Page 45 review here

24 by 7 h/c (£14-99, Fanfare Presents) by Dan Berry, Sarah McIntyre, Joe Decie, Fumio Obata, Kristyna Baczynski, Jack Teagle, Warwick Johnson Cadwell.

“Seven comics as diverse as they are witty as they are beautiful to behold, each created within the same 24 hours. An extraordinary accomplishment.”

- Stephen L. Holland, Page 45

Whoever the hell he is.

What a stellar line-up! What fertile imaginations! What a variety of styles!

What a bunch of cheats.

Or at least that’s what contributor, editor and all-round director Dan Berry would have you believe in his introduction. He’s so funny! All seven comics were indeed created within the same 24 hours then printed within another to go straight on sale in Page 45’s Georgian Room in Kendal’s Clock Tower at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014. Magnificent! Ridiculous! Miraculous!

So they had a little prep time! I made notes for this review.

I don’t do favourites so it’s mere coincidence (*snorts*) that I commence with Sarah McIntyre’s ‘Scribble’ in which only the scribble is scribbled and even that scribble is accomplished. It really is! It’s a dab hand at mimicry, posing as a grass stain on one day, a smashed fly on another, a bogey, a spider, then What Will Happen To My Sister If She Doesn’t Give Back My Book. That particular scribble is awfully succinct. I’m not sure which day it attempted to represent Chaos as a two-dimensional piece of graphite gurning but that was pretty existential. Almost certainly a Saturday, don’t you think?

Anyway, Jamie (the scribble’s name is Jamie) began life on a young girl’s napkin, got thrown in the bin then escaped and let out a roar: instant teeth. It began to cry – for which you need eyes. Then Jamie ran around, ever-so-excited and found itself with legs. Legs! Suddenly it’s darting about like a mad-eyed monster from Michael Bentine’s Potty Time. Next stop: social media frenzy and huge artistic acclaim!

The cartooning is so exquisite that I will forgive its two pages of mid-70s’ wallpaper because that’s what inevitably happens when you begin to wield orange. Sarah McIntyre has all the best scribbles and if you think Jamie’s a dude then wait until you bump into his best boyf, Bob. Bob is besotted and has flap-flap wings and a wide-eyed innocence and adoration which are beyond adorable.

Here be wit, here be glee. It’s not easy trying to represent philosophy, France or a full English breakfast in scribbles.

Fumio Obata’s ‘Anywhere Road’ couldn’t be more different in style, in tone, in genre, in subject matter. Fumio created the graphic novel JUST SO HAPPENS in gentle watercolours. Here he brings his familiarly soft and gentle line to a tale of truancy as a woman walking her dog on the beach discovers a young boy in a sleeping bag.

She takes him to a seaside cafe to buy him breakfast but the lad is reluctant to open up or own up to having run away from home. At first he tries to run away from his good Samaritan as well but there’s something about the woman that intrigues him and it’s not just her kindness or persistence. Obata had me holding my breath for the entire duration.

Jack Teagle’s terracotta ‘Witch Cat’ finds a crowd-shy country cat forced to fly into town after running out of ingredients for a potion. Her worst fears are realised when she runs afoul of some particularly bad apples. No really, they’re very bad apples – one has a worm wriggling its way out of his head! Fortunately our anxious feline is befriended by Bananasaurus, a fruit magician and – yeah, crazy indeed and one to read with your young ‘uns at bed time!

You may already be familiar with Dan Berry’s NICHOLAS & EDITH and Joe Decie’s I BLAME GRANDMA which we have on sale separately.

I love everything about Joe: his mischief, his timing, his otherwise mundane household objects… even his handwriting. Yes, his handwriting! It’s one of the most attractive in comics: capital letters, far from rigid, that dance up and down while remaining as crystal clear as the layout here.

He tells how his gran invented the paper clip, fashioning it from fuse wire while working as a clerk in Sir Gerald Patten’s War Office around 1940. So that’s several household objects on the very first page. Our Joe draws a perfect pair of pliers, you know.

Joe’s grandma felt the need to file faster and keep what she filed better organised. The paperclip quickly catches on and before you know it she’s given her own office in the reappropriated Malvern Road Tube Station. She even had access to the station down below where she said she used to eat her sandwiches in the dark.

Fast-forward to the present day and there are repercussions for Decie himself. Well, you have to think of the patent and all that implies. You couldn’t make this up.

I will just add that his gran was given a St Hubbins Cross medal and – typically – kept it in an empty tin of boot polish. Joe draws a mean tin of boot polish too.

In lovely, loose, full-colour washes project director Dan Berry delivers a haunting tale of love, longing and lament.

In a small village by a vast lake Nicholas and Edith are in love. Their parents disapprove of their relationship for no better reason than a petty family feud. To be together they must therefore find sanctuary away from the spying eyes and tattling tongues of the idle-minded villagers. And there is an island, you see, an island on the lake.

It is an object of local superstition involving some so-called spectre of doom but you know what close-knit communities are like. You know how local legends endure. You know how parents keep their children in check: with a little elaboration and fear. But when you’re in love you can see right through these things, so one evening when the waters are calm Nicholas rows Edith to the island.

They find a clearing in the trees overshone by the serene, silver light of the moon.

“I love you.
“I want you.
“I need you.”

I will say little more except think Becky Cloonan – THE MIRE in particular. When you’ve read this through once you will want to start again from the beginning immediately. Entreaties are reprised word-for-word like echoes. Reproachful echoes, you could argue.

Visually, interesting things are done with Edith’s hair. Oh, how how I wish I could say what they were!

We’re all at sea with Warwick Johnson Cadwell’s ‘Tom Hand’ too. Like any good sailor’s yarn it’s set in a tavern where all the tallest of tales are told. There three sea dogs take it turns to show off their tattoos, each dedicated to the old Tom Hand and his watery demise. Each differs in what finally did him in, but the barmaid’s tale trumps them all. She has a tattoo too, you see, but it’s not necessarily where you’d expect to find it.

The forms are big, bold and as burly as the barflies’, the monsters are terrifying and the deep blues are rendered as energetically as the stormy seas themselves. You’ll almost certainly end up soaking wet.

Finally, VANTAGE’s Kristyna Baczynski tells a wordless, anthropomorphic, semi-cyclical tale spanning millions of years which made me smile with enormous satisfaction throughout. Her leaf and timber textures – as well as the bone and stone – are perfectly balanced, never once bogging the page down or cluttering it up but letting the light shine through, while the brightest of sage greens prove to be perfectly placed tones.

‘Hand Me Down’ begins slightly upsettingly when a three-eyed prehistoric lovely hatches from an egg, grows up, falls for a female, curls up in cave with his beloved then before you know it Junior is hatched. All very idyllic but before you know it (once again), he ages, is exhausted and dies.

Eons pass before the creature’s bones are discovered, his horn is detached and that’s when the repurposing begins as the horn is handed down through history as one ornament then another, whittled away each time through wear and tear and outright vandalism. Where and when it ends up I will not say but there’s a Tom Gauld moment towards the end that had me roaring with laughter.

If you stop to consider for a moment that these 170-odd pages of comicbook magic were all created in the same room within the same 24 hours, I defy you not to shake your head slightly and smile.

This creativity was captured in a collection of colour photographs published at the back of the book which give you a very real sense of the energy involved and the exhaustion staved off by espresso coffees and galvanising visits by Jeff Smith, Mary Talbot, Bryan Talbot and the original instigator of the 24 Hour Comic challenge, THE SCULPTOR’s Scott McCloud himself.

There the creators all stand round their printed pamphlets on sale in the Kendal Clock Tower’s Georgian Room on October 19th 2014, beaming with pride and accomplishment and quite right too. Bravo!

SLH

Buy 24 x 7 and read the Page 45 review here

Between The Billboards & The Authoring Of Architecture (£18-99, Avery Hill) by Owen D Pomery…

“The billboards changed every month.
“Ebner wondered what he advertised on the outside.
“But pretended not to care.
“However far he leaned out…
“… it was impossible to see the complete picture.”

I knew of Owen only from his hilariously ribald THE MEGATHERIUM CLUB so I was intrigued to see how he was going to tackle a rather less (mis-)anthropological story. Although, although, you could very well argue this is very much anthropology, being a study of one man’s personal disaffection with the rest of society, viewed from his peculiar remove. For James Ebner does indeed live between two huge billboards, atop a high-rise building, in a single room, albeit quite plushly equipped and decorated.

Ebner descends down to the mean streets upon occasion, primarily for provisions including his essentials of gin and cigarettes, paramount to maintaining his solitary existence. However, the interactions with proprietors of shops and bars are onerous at best, often prickly affairs that only serve to reinforce Ebner’s ennui, despite their repetitive nature meaning these people have acquired a status of Ebner’s acquaintance, rather than simply being complete strangers. There is the occasional episode of socialising, prompted by much chivvying from his best, and now only friend, Israel, but these excursions become fewer and fewer as Ebner becomes ever more hermit-like.

We learn a little of his life before he withdrew from society and began living between the billboards, and we gain some sense that he is preparing for something. But what? As Israel remarks,

“You’ve taken so many steps back for your run up… that you’ve forgotten why you are jumping.”

Ebner disagrees, of course, but what we can see which he cannot, even from his lofty perch without a view atop the city is that he has sequestered himself away by design, entirely of his own volition. Perhaps he never intended to become so cut-off, but now it has happened he’s trapped in a mental prison of his own making. Could he escape now even if he wanted to?

Owen works as an architectural illustrator which I can clearly see informs much of his page and panel design. There are some great single pages, the larger picture composed of nine, three by three grid panels, taken from very specific viewpoints: face-on, plan and isometric. My favourite being a view of the underside of Ebner’s dwelling, the access ladder rising up to the entry trapdoor in the floor, other taller, surrounding buildings rising away higher all around to a unseen vanishing point miles above his abode. It’s a most striking page and I found myself returning to it a few times admiring the composition. Then, other sequences are very much about the passage of time within the exact same space, often viewed from Ebner’s personal viewpoint with narration as we attempt to understand the life our protagonist has chosen, is continuing to choose, from without and within.

They’re not precise comparisons, but partly due to Owen’s architectural background and partly the story of a man losing his place in the world, his very sense of identity, I was strongly minded of ASTERIOS POLYP, and also Paul Auster’s CITY OF GLASS. This is clearly not anywhere near as complex a work as either, but there is a sense of… orderly deconstruction… occurring here which is present in both of those works. Clearly David Mazzucchelli who drew both is a very different sort of artist to Owen, but there are strong elements of design underpinning and eloquently informing the narrative of all three. Additionally I was minded of a personal favourite of mine, again, no doubt because of the architectural connection, in CITIZENS OF NO PLACE, which is composed of a number of short stories revolving around design conceits.

In addition, after the main ‘Between The Billboards’ story, there are eight shorts which form ‘The Authoring Of Architecture’ part of this book, including a brief essay by Owen explaining his approach to comics. Additionally each short is prefaced by a paragraph of explanation from Owen revealing his thoughts about the work.

They’re a great selection of vignettes actually, comprising of some auto-bio bits, some entirely design-led conceits with visual punchlines, plus a particularly powerful one-page comic about an illegal card game which I thought was brilliant. It’s composed of one large panel which your eyes naturally, immediately take in first, which in fact turns out to be the conclusion, the disturbing story itself being told by a series of much smaller overlaid panels around the edge, explaining the chain of actions and consequences which leads us to this final panel.

I think Owen is definitely one to watch, there’s clearly far more to him than I suspected in terms of his story-telling abilities, both in word and image, than just the jester that wrought the ridiculous THE MEGATHERIUM CLUB, which I thought was comedy gold and I can’t wait for more of. I will make the one proviso which I made there once again though; his art style will not be for everyone. I love its sparseness and draughtsman-like approach, but it will challenge some sensibilities. Let yourself be challenged I say, because this is worth it. Also, whilst they last, Owen very kindly provided us with signed bookplates!

JR

Buy Between The Billboards & The Authoring Of Architecture and read the Page 45 review here

Criminal vol 5: The Sinners s/c (£10-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips.

Fifth self-contained nightmare of noir, but for those keeping track Tracy Lawless is back.

From the creators of FATALE and THE FADE OUT:

A year has passed since CRIMINAL VOL 2: LAWLESS and Lawless is still on the run for going A.W.O.L. from the U.S. military. He’s agreed to pay off his dead brother’s debts to Mr. Hyde by working out who’s been capping some major players who have little in common except that they should be ‘untouchable’. They don’t even work for Hyde – it just worries Hyde that it’s happening in his back yard.

Tracy diligently follows every legitimate lead and it’s almost comical watching him watch everyone except those he should be watching out for. You can’t blame him: his logic is impeccable. You can’t really blame the Triads either, for the same reason. Either way, it’s all very bad news for Lawless. As is Hyde’s daughter. And wife.

There’s no avoiding it: Sean Phillips is the most accomplished crime artist that international comics has ever witnessed. His faces are craggy and lived in, with minds racing behind every one of them. Introspection, intimidation, desperation and disdain; of course he can convey startled horror too – fear which will have you sweating vicariously – but it’s the more subtle nuances in a half-closed eye or a barely stifled snarl which make the man peerless.

Luckily for us he appears to relish working with the best crime writer since STRAY BULLETS’ David Lapham. It’s quite the library they’ve built together now. See also the two volumes each of SLEEPER and INCOGNITO for metahuman misdemeanours.

SLH

Buy Criminal vol 5: The Sinners s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Fuse vol 2: Gridlock s/c (£10-99, Image) by Antony Johnston & Justin Greenwood.

“I do not understand. Her real phone?”
“So handsome. So naive.”
“He’s like a puppy. I just want to squish him.”
“Every girl has two phones. One of them, you let your parents find so they think they’re reading your secret diary. Your actual secret diary is on a whole other phone you bought yourself.”

That’s teenage girls for you: infinitely smarter than adulterous male rats who honestly believe their wives won’t think to look at their mobile phones. I personally have known two errant husbands get caught like that once suspicions were raised.

Welcome back to the second instalment of cracking crime-precinct-procedure, homicide division. The big difference is that this particular precinct lies within an underfunded, patched-up, makeshift steel city on an energy platform orbiting 22,000 miles above terra firma.

In THE FUSE VOL 1: THE RUSSIA SHIFT young, highly promising German homicide detective Ralph Dietrich arrived on the space station to find himself partnered up with fractious, silver-haired veteran Klem Ristovych. If you’ve read volume one you’ll know that it ended with one hell of an ellipsis involving our Ralph and his own extra-curricular investigation. Here Johnston delivers a second last-minute whammy without warning and I like that. Detectives aren’t stupid, you know.

On the other hand this particular homicide won’t be solved without a great deal of legwork, a lot of dead ends, much ducking and diving, followed by split-second ninety degree turns. The thing is, you don’t know that you’ve reached a dead-end until you’ve navigated all the main roads and back alleys which lead there and, even then, you may well have missed a previously hidden passage or two.

Lesser writers set far more linear courses leaving the reader little to do but wait and watch from the proverbial passenger seat, but Johnston’s multidirectional approach means you’re constantly evaluating the detectives’ own evaluations and rating the red-herring level of each new clue. It is entirely possible that you’ll get there first if you keep your eyes open and listen carefully.

Better still, although Johnston knows his forensic science suspiciously well he also understands psychology and therein lie more leads if you look hard enough. It’s not just a question of how, when and with what, but why.

Reviewing THE FUSE VOL 1: THE RUSSIA SHIFT I also emphasised how much I appreciated Johnston and Greenwood’s resistance towards science-fiction-ication when far from necessary. Just because you’re in space or the future it doesn’t mean that everything’s changed beyond recognition. E-cigarettes still exist for a start because morons like me will still take up smoking but more impressively even in space we might want to recreate what we’re most familiar with like high streets with shops and pavements, and even gauche, nouveau-riche mini-mansions with driveways and grass lawns even though you’re living inside a big bucket of metal with a roof rather than the sky up above.

There’s also something about Greenwood’s loose, fluid line that drives the reader ever onwards and, lest colour artist Shari Chankhamma feels left out, can I just flag up the yellow, green and blue sheens on the space suit visors during the first chapter as well as the genuinely eerie atmosphere captured beneath The Fuse’s exterior solar panels. It’s a vast, open space beneath the cylindrical Fuse’s external shell which is still zero-gravity with a hot, red and yellow ceiling (the underside of the solar panels from which the energy generated is being siphoned) juxtaposed against a cool green emptiness with no floor in sight.

It’s hereabouts that this volume’s crime is committed or at least first discovered, on the external solar array. The latest Gridlock race is being broadcast on FUSE-Tube to very high viewing figures even though the sport is illegal. That’s another great extrapolation: I’m not kidding when I tell you that Nottingham’s Broadmarsh bus-station island was at one point the hub for equally illegal, informal racing around amongst all the regular traffic. Here that traffic is non-existent: no one except for technicians should be outside The Fuse. Yet Gridlock is the most popular sport in space: souped-up scooters magnetically bonded to the glass-smooth hull hurtling at full throttle across it.

Its lead League Spokesperson is Cathy Kuang, the young, glamorous daughter of one of The Fuse’s oldest, richest families. In a pre-filmed sound-bite introducing the show Cathy Kuang denies that the broadcast rights are about to be sold to for a great deal of money at FBN and instead deflects attention to today’s main event. It’s the League’s premier racers going one-on-one: Starlight versus Lockdown! No one knows who these fierce competitors actually are until the substitute race is abandoned almost before it’s begun.

It’s a substitute race because Starlight cannot be found. It’s abandoned because Starlight is discovered right in its path, one boot magnetically sealed to the solar array, ankle broken – E VA suit torn open by a recent meteoroid burst – frozen solid and quite, quite dead.

It transpires that Starlight is Cathy Kuang. Tethered to her wrist is a vacseal box containing a great big brick of distribution-ready drugs. But Cathy Kuang is straight edge: she cannot abide drugs, legal or otherwise. Also, as a seasoned Gridlock superstar, Cathy would know far better than to venture outside during a meteoroid burst forecast so far in advance.

Drugs, politics, corporate financing, underground sports, revolutionary ideology and family affairs. Not much to go on? They have too much to go on.

This is my autopsy. Proceed.

SLH

Buy The Fuse vol 2: Gridlock s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Airboy #1 of 4 (£2-25, Image) by James Robinson & Greg Hinkle.

Writer James Robinson and artist Greg Hinkle are groggily stumbling round a strange woman’s apartment, naked, after waking up in after an orgy of alcohol, ecstasy, cocaine, heroin and extra-marital sex.

“Relax,” says James Robinson. “People have done a lot worse.”
“Who. Hunter S. Thompson?”

At a single stroke – in a single comic after years of critical acclaim – James Robinson has effectively ruined his squeaky-clean reputation… whilst elevating it to “legendary”.

So how do you think that happened?

As the series opens James is sitting on his toilet – yes, bare-bottomed once more – on the phone to Image publisher Eric Stephenson, bemoaning his faltering career, and so self-confidence, at DC comics where he’s been type-cast as the go-to guy for Golden Age revivals: resurrecting old superheroes from a more innocent age. He’s doing that because Eric Stephenson is type-casting him too, offering him the opportunity to take on AIRBOY, now in the public domain, the ultimate in wide-eyed innocence from a bygone age.

At which point – having invited his hand-picked artist over to San Francisco in the hope of kick-starting ideas – Robinson by deliberate contrast show us precisely how bygone that age is. For what is actually catalysed is an evening of all-out, alcohol-fuelled and drug-induced depravity.

It is no coincidence that the pale green and tan colouring on the delightfully restful and spacious panels is immediately invaded and supplanted by the red-alert warning signs of wound-hued rusty-red and poisonous purple on increasingly cramped and claustrophobic panels lurching on the page before a moment of unedifying and potentially marriage-wrecking climax. Yes, both the creators are or were married.

I warn you right now that James Robinson figuratively and quite literally bares all, while artist Greg Hinkle “only” bears his enormous anaconda which is most assuredly a euphemism, yes. He tried to show his soul but Robinson is such a self-confessed egomaniac that he keeps interrupting Hinkle before he gets started.

At which point I should emphasise the illusion of autobiography!

This is all so immersive, so skilfully done that in spite of your better judgement you may well lapse repeatedly into believing that some if not all of this actually happened.

Whether or not this singularly sobering tale drives you to join the ranks of the Straight Edge brigade, this charade is performed for one reason and one reason only: to maximise the punch in the punchline, thereby setting the scene for all that will follow.

I love, love, love the cover to next issue’s inevitably culture clash as bygone-era Airboy is introduced to woebegone-era dissolution.

SLH

Buy Airboy #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Age Of Reptiles: Ancient Egyptians #1 of 4 (£2-99, Dark Horse) by Ricardo Delgado.

Aaargh!

Just when you thought it was safe to creep back into the Cretaceous shallows that lurk down the bottom of your cul de sac if only you had the courage to leap over your neighbour’s fence and jump into their garden pond… *

AGE OF REPTILES is back!

That impeccably choreographed omnibus of do-or-die dinosaur survivalism is a best-seller here. Who on earth doesn’t love dinosaurs?

These are all silent series for the dinosaurs are resolutely not anthropomorphised as they are in many recent family-friendly animations, but are ferocious and vicious and if not malicious then at least more than capable of defending their territory whether they be predators or not.

Size matters. Size splatters. And there is much to be said for safety in numbers.

All of which you will witness in this new mini-series starring a land-roaming but equally subaquatic Spinosaurus Aegyptiacus. Imagine a crocodile but with longer legs and, consequently, greater agility and a much more considered, time-biding approach to getting what it wants most – food – while avoiding what it wants least: a crippling injury followed by death.

Our snaggle-toothed protagonist bears many scars suggesting that these are lessons learned through painful experience, but learned they most assuredly are.

Much of this first instalment is conveyed in slow and stealthy horizontal panels which are given a quick flick of movement in triangular fashion, whilst most of the epic this time comes in the form of the mighty weight of the vast herbivores rising up in numbers to bear down on our lone-roaming ronin.

Ronin…?

Yes. Far from a pack hunter, this is a sole survivor.

Please see Delgado’s impassioned essay at the back in which he talks enlighteningly not about archaeology but about controversially coloured Westerns and the far from black and white films of Akira Kurosawa which inspired them.

* Your neighbour’s pond is indeed a trans-temporal gateway. You may claim that your neighbour has no pond – and so may they – but they do!

SLH

Buy Age Of Reptiles: Ancient Egyptians #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Eric h/c (£5-99, Templar Publishing) by Shaun Tan.

Another joy that dropped off our system a few cycles ago. It’s back!

You know, I rather suspect that Shaun Tan has a bottle-top collection. Maybe not quite as weird as the one in THE LOST THING but they do tend to pop up in his books. Or maybe the foreign student who once came to live with his family began one. And I’m fairly confident a foreign student did once come to live with them: this is far too astutely observed for it to be otherwise.

“Secretly I had been looking forward to having a foreign visitor – I had so many things to show him. For once I could be a local expert, a fountain of interesting facts and opinions. Fortunately, Eric was very curious and always had plenty of questions. However, they weren’t the kind of questions I had been expecting. Most of the time I could only say, “I’m not really sure,” or, “That’s just how it is.” I didn’t feel helpful at all.”

The guest amasses a seemingly odd collection of things – mundane bits and pieces we take for granted and would ordinarily trash, but which to him are cultural novelties. Ah, but Eric isn’t simply collecting objects for their innate curiosity value, for Eric is full of surprises…

All of which brings me to the salient observation that although this looks like illustrated prose, it is essentially comics; because apart from when Eric takes up residence in the kitchen pantry, perhaps, if you stripped away the images it is a very different read indeed.

Once you see Eric himself, especially in his environment, his interest in plugholes, bottle-tops and sweet wrappers (“small things he discovered on the ground”) becomes a lot less strange for they’re all at eye level but, conversely, the story becomes infinitely more fantastical and, crucially, the punchline is purely visual.

Lastly, it’s only just occurred to me that Eric’s singular method of “leaving” might well be a visual pun.

Anyway, a family takes in a strange and wonderful visitor who prefers residence in their kitchen pantry, and it proves quite the revelation. Short story taken from the TALES FROM OUTER SUBURBIA.

SLH

Buy Eric h/cand read the Page 45 review here

Midnighter #1 (£2-25, DC) by Steve Orlando & Aco.

“Currently: single
Looking for: dates, friends, sparring
Interests: violence (inventive)
Chronically new in town.
Computer in brain.
Superhumanly flexible.
Looking for other uses.
Have headbutted an alien.
Whatever you’re thinking, the answer is likely yes.
But with punching.”

It’s an unusual online dating profile, filed only under “M” but the masked mug shot might give it away.

Wait wait. Midnighter? It doesn’t stand for, like, Mitch? All this stuff here is, in fact, not a joke?”

It’s a bit late now: you’re having dinner.

I’d type “from the pages of Warren Ellis and Mark Millar’s STORMWATCH and THE AUTHORITY…” except, of course, this isn’t precisely that same psychopath for although Apollo appears to have escaped The Midnighter, The Midnighter hasn’t escaped the relaunch rewrite which was DC’s New 52. I’ve no idea what’s happened since but The Midnighter is now single, on his first date with Jason who seems to be taking it all in his stride. But let’s see what happens when the high-tech terrorists teleport into town and put paid to their pudding.

It’s very attractively drawn with multiple, miniature inset panels revealing concurrent action – moves and counter-moves – or, when The Midnighter gets into his pugilistic stride, precisely what the local Accident & Emergency will be dealing with in the form of x-ray snapshots of breaking bones. Aco’s art also comes with a fine line which makes The Midnighter look positively dapper in his waistcoat and tie. Oh yes, he’s in civvies. You never used to see that much, did you? You’re going to be seeing a lot more of it. And him.

So if the sight of a man unbuttoning another man’s jeans is the sort of thing that will make you feel so uncomfortable that you’ll need to walk into a public bar and order a double bourbon in order to feel fully masculine again, I probably wouldn’t buy this comic – because hard liquor is bad for you.

Much was made of Mark Millar’s JUPITER’S CIRCLE #1 (still on sale) and its unapologetic post-coital cigarette but this is even less flinching with hands all over the place. Hurrah!

You could argue (and, oh, so many will have online!) that there’s nothing to distinguish this from any other DC superhero title (whereas you know what you’re in for with Millar) and your delicate nine-year-olds shouldn’t be subjected to sexuality. And I would agree so long as you would agree that a woman unbuttoning a man’s flies or vice-versa was equally below the belt. On the other hand it has long been established that superheroes have ceased to be the province of nine-year-olds but of college students instead and the fifty-year-olds who used to read superhero series as nine-year-olds and simply never stopped.

Plus, look at that cover! If you’re perfectly content to buy your children a comic with that level of overt violence, then you have already abandoned your parental role as a right-minded moral guardian and have no right to complain about a little consensual fumbling, same-sex or otherwise.

So here’s a suggestion: how about you stop buying your susceptible ones corporate superhero soap operas stuffed full of advertising and designed to addict them to their brand for life? Why not treat them to Page 45’s Young Adult and Young Reader graphic novels catering to every conceivable early teens and pre-teen tastes instead!

Meanwhile, someone has stolen The Midnighter’s secret origin from some old biddy called The Gardner and they’re going to get their lights punched out.

SLH

Buy Midnighter #1 and read the Page 45 review here

STRANGERS IN PARADISE OMNIBUS is almost depleted – 76 copies sold here @ £75-00 each! – so we’re reintroducing more of its component parts:

Strangers In Paradise vol 2 Pocket Edition (£13-50, Abstract Studio) by Terry Moore.

There are very few comics on this planet with the power to move me like STRANGERS IN PARADISE. I could choose to quote from so many of these 350 pages. So much happens, so much is said. So much of it should never happen to anyone and so much of it should never have been said. That’s life.

“Hello… Katina? I hope this is still your number. This is Marie Peters. I know it’s been a long time… but remember you gave me your number when you moved to Hawaii and then Santa Fe, and asked me to call you if anything ever happened to Francine…? Well… I guess I’m making that call. I’m in Houston, I’m calling from Francine and Brad’s house…”
“Luisa! Book me on a flight back to Houston!”
“But you just came from…”
“NOW, please.”
“Things aren’t right here, Katina. I’ve never seen Francine this way and I’m worried about her. She’s so sad all the time, she drinks and cries herself to sleep every night. She won’t talk to me about it, but tonight she said she wants to go home. I think she means you, Katina. Listen, I know it’s none of my business but I just can’t sit by and watch my daughter die like this. Please come back, Katina. Whatever happened between you two, let it go. Whatever I said about you and your relationship with Francine, I’m sorry. Please… come back.”

I remember my shock when Francine wakes from the dream at the beginning of this book and we see that she has aged a decade. Or is that the wear and tear of being a mother, married to a man who avoids her? After lunch at a restaurant for which Brad never shows up, she ventures onto the terrace with its garden gazebo and stares into the distance, the autumn wind tugging at her thick, dark hair. And she has a vision of a woman with long blonde hair, sitting with her back to her.

Sandwiched between those opening pages and the answer machine message above are events in the past far worse than the first volume, for Darcy Parker is back and this time she means business. She has every intention of getting one of her Parker girls into the White House and she will use Katchoo to do so. Also, something so monumental, so very final, happens which I had forgotten occurring so early.

But half the joy of this series is that Terry juxtaposes the tragic with the comedic and Francine’s stint as a model at a photoshoot is glorious.

“I want you to look into the camera and don’t say a word, don’t move a muscle… Just give me the look!”
“The look?”
“The look.”
“Give the camera a look.”
“Not a look… the look! You know, the one you women have that says, “I’m sexy but selective, demanding but worth it, aggressive… yet feminine! Seductive in my Anne Klein suit, irresistible in my Camry. Provocative as I make my own bread while closing a big contract on my mobilnet cell phone between reps on my Thigh-Master!”
“Oh yeah, that look. We have so many.”

But there was one particular new element that took some of Moore’s readers completely by surprise, as David makes another of his many attempts to connect with Katchoo only to have it backfire on him. Again.

“You can’t hide for the rest of your life, Katchoo.”
“I’m not hiding! I just… don’t know what else to do.”
“I know the feeling. You live like there’s no tomorrow, and one day you’re right… And it scares the hell out of you. Believe me, I’ve been there.”
“So… what did you do? How’d you get through it?”
“Jesus Christ.”

Brilliant.

Katchoo reacts with fury. Not because David is a Christian but because he kept it from her.

Yet a great many STRANGERS IN PARADISE fans reacted with fury exactly because David had come out as Christian swiftly followed by Terry himself. “How dare a man writing with love about same-sex relationships be Christian?” they appeared to demand. With confused animosity.

And I don’t know about you, but that just makes no sense to me at all. Here was someone who, unlike so many in the history of organised religion, actually followed Christ’s teachings to spread love and understanding wherever he went and was brave enough to do so in print when it occasionally put him at odds with friends and family. And he was being chastised for that.

Now, I cannot recall whether Terry had come all the way over from America to sign at Page 45 just before or just after that but when he asked me to write the introduction to STRANGERS IN PARADISE: LOVE ME TENDER, the original fourth book in the series that contained this very material, after faltering once I knew exactly what I wanted to write and I chose my words carefully as a subtle rebuttal.

This is what Terry printed. Err, minus the typo and a couple of grammatical errors on my part!

Strangers No More

Dear Terry,

Thank you so much for producing such a beautiful book. In addition to a personal bi-monthly joy Strangers In Paradise, like so much of the material emerging these days, makes our jobs as retailers so much easier. Without creators like yourself, brave and talented enough to produce a book which appeals to so many different people, we’d never be able to begin marketing comics to the general public. Believe me, there are retailers out there who leap with joy every time a new, quality title emerges which we can not only enjoy ourselves, but promote and sell to the rest of the world who’ve yet to find a comic they might enjoy…

Stephen L. Holland
Page 45, March 7th 1995.

So began a very lucrative, mutually-beneficial business partnership and a wonderful friendship now almost three years old between ourselves at Page 45 (Mark, Dominique and myself), and Terry and Robyn Moore, which I could characterise, succinctly, as a transatlantic, telephonic tennis rally, consisting from both sides almost exclusively of the phrase “thank you”.

Well, that’s not strictly true.

The lucrative, mutually-beneficial business partnership began the day we received our first issue of Terry’s life-breathing comic, and it was cemented but moments later when we sold the first of what have since turned into thousands of copies, to an audience at least 50% female and almost wholly new to comics.

Once we knew what we had in our hands it was relatively easy for us. We didn’t have to create the fiction, we just bought it in, promoted it, took the money, said “thank you very much”, and watched the broad, broad smiles of those returning for the very next issue, the next collection, or a further suggestion to add to their comicbook reading list.

It will come as no surprise to you, therefore, that this fine work of fiction, about two highly individual girls from Houston, has, for some time now, been our biggest single selling title. Particularly in this format, the collections.

Early in 1997 Page 45 had the pleasure of playing host to Terry and Robyn for a Strangers In Paradise signing and Terry, four hours in (jet-lag no doubt playing havoc with his brain), had a hand so cramped from continuous sketching that… that he just continued to sign and sketch for another full hour. No moans, no protestations, just pure glee and excitement that he was here, with those who cared about his stories as much as he did. Robyn and I caught him shaking that wrist beneath the counter to liven it up, and on he went.

The very last couple in line were a mother and daughter whose names, I regret, elude me during this, a very tight deadline. Neither had read a copy of Strangers previously, but had heard about Terry’s presence and the book, and were intrigued. The mother bought a copy of Jon J. Muth’s beautiful, watercolour re-interpretation of Dracula; the daughter, well under 16 and armed with some of her own spectacularly promising sketches, bought the first episode of the book you hold in your hands.

Do you know what they said, the very next week, was their favourite segment? The piece about the transsexual marriage. Oh, Terry Moore, the love you spread…

In a society bombarded with messages of hate, from the tabloid newspapers and self-serving politicians to the more vocal members of organised religions, it is so heart-warming to come across a book whose priorities lie firmly in what was always, to me, the key Christian doctrine: Love Thy Neighbour. I don’t remember any post-script, qualification or specific exceptions being made; seems a fairly clear and concise Commandment to me.

So, here we go again, Terry: “Thank you”.

Thank you for Francine, for David and Katchoo. Thank you for Darcy Parker, Louis and Phoebe, Freddie, Chuck, Rachel, Tambi and all the others. Thank you for such beautiful brush strokes, such moving poetry, and all the joie de vivre you pack into your work.

Stephen L. Holland
Page 45
Nottingham, England, 1997

SLH

Buy Strangers In Paradise vol 2 Pocket Edition and read the Page 45 review here

Strangers In Paradise vol 3 Pocket Edition (£13-50, Abstract Studios) by Terry Moore.

“We’re not going to make it to Nashville, David. Even if we did, we couldn’t land it.”
“What are you talking about? How do you know?”
“Planes can’t fly without a rudder, David.”

The third volume of six begins once again in the present with Francine trapped in a debilitatingly unhappy marriage, and it becomes gradually clear that not everyone has survived the intervening years. For if you thought that the venomous presence of Darcy Parker in the lives of Francine, Katchoo and David was gone, think again. She’s left a legacy behind and a vacuum in her wake with there’s a power struggle which is about to ignite and suck the poor girls in again.

“144 people died because they got on a plane with you. Are you at peace with that? …If you really do care about the girl and her family, you need to get them away from you – as soon as possible. Before they’re taken away. Permanently.”

And that’s the most horrific sequence in an already turbulent relationship where harsh words are said: after the plane crash when one of the cast jettisons the other in the most hurtful way imaginable in order to try to save her life. The dramatic irony is excruciatingly. Francine isn’t just pushed into the arms of her future husband who will cause her such pain, she is positively, literally punched there.

Unfortunately it’s not enough. Do you remember Darcy’s cousin, Veronica? Because Veronica certainly remembers Francine, and you’re in for a very brutal encounter.

It is this, of course, which makes the funny bits all the funnier back when they were safe and happy, and as well as snow and gales he evokes so well with our loved ones staring into the distance, Terry draws a glorious summer countryside where David and Francine once shared some lazy afternoons at Francine’s mother’s.

“You’re not sitting on a bughouse or anything, are you?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Bugs? You down there?”
“No answer. Must be safe.”
“That’s what they want you to think. That’s how they trick you!”
“Francine… I think it’s safe.”
“I’m all about a bug-free bottom.”
“It’s a wonderful thing.”

Three hundred and fifty more pages in which we see Katchoo’s first break in the art world, its unexpected effect on Francine, David’s secret finally revealed, and Francine struggling with her feelings for Katchoo as their trajectories diverge and all that is left are the lonesome lights flashing in the evening sky.

“See that star… the one shining brighter than all the others? I know the girl who hung it there.”

SLH

Buy Strangers In Paradise vol 3 Pocket Edition 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.

Bodies s/c (£12-99, Vertigo) by Si Spencer & Dean Ormston, Phil Winslade, Meghan Hetrick, Tula Lotay

The Wake s/c (£13-50, Vertigo) by Scott Snyder & Sean Murphy

Resident Evil: The Marhawa Desire vol 4 (£8-99, Viz) by Naoki Serizawa

Strangers In Paradise vol 4 Pocket Edition (£13-50, Abstract Studio) by Terry Moore

Uber vol 4 s/c (£14-99, Avatar) by Kieron Gillen & Daniel Gete, Canaan White, Daniel Gete, Gabriel Andrade

Alien Vs. Predator: Fire & Stone s/c (£10-99, Dark Horse) by Christopher Sebela & Ariel Olivetti

East Of West vol 4: Who Wants War (£10-99, Image) by Jonathan Hickman & Nick Dragotta

ODY-C vol 1: Off To Far Ithicca s/c (£7-50, Image) by Matt Fraction & Christian Ward

Batgirl vol 1: The Batgirl Of Burnside h/c (£18-99, DC) by Cameron Stewart, Brendan Fletcher & Babs Tarr

Batman: Cataclysm s/c (£22-50, DC) by various

Ant-Man: Scott Lang s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by various

Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man vol 2 – Revelations s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & David Marquez

Ms. Marvel vol 3: Crushed s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by C. Willow Wilson, Mark Waid & Takeshi Miyagawa, Humberto Ramos

Silver Surfer vol 2: Worlds Apart s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott & Mike Allred

Fairy Tail vol 48 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

News!

… is I’m knackered! More next week!

- Stephen

Page 45 reviews written by Page 45’s Stephen and Jonathan then edited by a manatee on malmsey.

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews June 2015 week one

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

Featuring Alan Moore & Jacen Burrows, Chuck Palahniuk & Cameron Stewart, Garth Ennis & Gary Erskine, Brian Michael Bendis & Andrea Sorrentino, Ales Kot & Will Tempest, Brian Buccellato & Toni Infante, Sally Jane Thompson, Jason Brubaker, Nate Simpson, Nick Sousanis, Ethan Wiltshire.

News underneath as usual!

Nonplayer #1 (£2-25, 3rd print, Image) by Nate Simpson.

Beautiful, absolutely beautiful!

The lines, the dappled shadows and the lambent colouring, so rich and warm, evoke a fantasy land you really wouldn’t want to leave. There’s a giant cat whose chin nuzzles over the side of a horizontal tree trunk; and gigantic, armour-plated dinosaurs along with their woollier, mammalian successors carry the local aristocracy in a caravan whose warriors our heroine and her compadre are about to ambush for maximum XP points.

Yup, it’s all just a Massive Multiplayer Online Game you plug yourself into: an elaborate virtual reality which Dana’s so addicted to that she’s constantly late for work.

Even in real life she prefers simulation-stimulation so when she sets out on her scooter through the grotty, concrete urban jungle she adjusts her proverbial set to make that journey more pleasant. I can’t say I blame her, but it does raise a few questions about escaping your environment or acknowledging, absorbing and even enjoying it. It put me immediately in mind of Woodrow Phoenix’s salient sentiments in RUMBLE STRIP about getting lost in your own little world while driving.

 

 

Virtual reality addiction is subject which Devin Grayson explored some time ago in the three-issue USER – and very successfully too (reprint, please!) – while Cory Doctorow gave me much pause for thought in his FUTURISTIC TALES OF THE HERE AND NOW.

Here, however, lies what I take to be the crux of the matter in NONPLAYER:

Massive Multiplayer Online Games like Warcraft allow you to combine forces with friends or even strangers from all over the world on quests for virtual loot and lolly against other avatars behind which lurk real human beings or the NPCs of the title: computer-driven Non-Playable Characters. These can and will interact with you in complex, context-specific ways which make them far from predictable. How you respond to them – verbally or physically – will dictate how they respond to you.

But when you’re nowhere near NPCs, surely they doesn’t exist? They’re certainly not playing out their own emotionally charged, personal conflicts in real time with other NPCs, are they? That would be quite the glitch.

A little over four years ago while our J-Lo was away on paternity leave I wrote about how much I relished this first issue while worrying about its schedule:

“Unfortunately I fear we may have discovered the new Joshua Middleton both in terms of talent and schedule for this single issue took a whole year to create, he’s being courted by the comicbook corp[oration]s, and ten years on we have yet to see the follow-up to SKY BETWEEN BRANCHES #0. Fingers crossed, though.”

Haha! Whatever was I worried about?

Fortunately NONPLAYER #2 is finally out today, this 3rd June, and I am rather excited!

SLH

Buy Nonplayer #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Fight Club 2 #1 (£2-99, Dark Horse) by Chuck Palahniuk & Cameron Stewart.

“Throughout childhood people tell you to be less sensitive.
“Adulthood begins the moment someone tells you, “You need to be more sensitive”.”

I swear on my psychotherapy couch that you do not need to have read the original prose novel to relish this original comic actually written – not suggested – by Chuck Palahnuik himself. I read the book many moons ago but can barely remember a word.

I seem to recall it was at least partially about smashing the system: rising in up in rebellion against corporate conditioning, financial finagling, governmental authoritarianism and the pervasive mediocrity we can obliviously settle for during our everyday, oh-so-short lives. About waking up from the ubiquitous mass hypnotism of messed-up humanity… whilst enthusiastically submitting to someone else’s indoctrination. If it wasn’t, it should have been.

It’s why Jonathan Hickman’s scathing NIGHTLY NEWS rang such a bell with me. The first paragraph of my NIGHTLY NEWS review reads:

“Terrorism. Communication. Authorative anti-authoritarianism. One man’s enlightenment is the same man’s indoctrination. Stop being a sheep, and be part of my flock instead!”

The cult of personality, eh? Unless it’s mine, I’m always suspicious.

As I said, however, Fight Club could have been about something else entirely, like hitting people. I imagine that’s why many went to see the film.

Fight Club 2 begins with a similarly iconoclastic personal survey in which you can discover, “Are You Space Monkey Material?” It poses 12 questions with mirth-inducing optional answers. Let’s try a couple.

“MY GREATEST REGRET IS…
A. The adverse effect my carbon footprint has on the intricate web of sensate life forms.
B. My past insensitivity to others whose cultural milieu and genetic makeup vary from my own.
C. My unexamined participation in the context of an entrenched capitalistic power hierarchy.
D. Nothing. Sir.”

We’ll leave aside “DO YOU GET OUT OF THE SHOWER TO TAKE A LEAK?” – it is funny, though – and skip straight past the increasingly angry activism of no-nonsense D to question number 12:

“THE GREATEST THREAT FACING OUR CURRENT GOVERNMENT IS…
A. Failure to recognise and reign in the scourge of white privilege.
B. The impending collapse of world oil reserves.
C. Dwindling honeybee populations.
D. Me.”

Okay, so the comic itself kicks off with the narrator addressing the audience directly.

“Look at him. He calls himself Sebastian these days. Ten years ago he was destined to be another Alexander the Great. A new Genghis Khan. But Sebastian… he calls himself happy.”

Well, with the aid of some tranks, anyway.

Back home his son is being nannied by a woman wielding a carving knife. But then his young son is having a time-out after being caught synthesising explosive compounds from local debris like dog poo.

His wife is unsatisfying and so dissatisfied, calling for a certain, so-far off-stage Tyler to “deliver me from this bland, boring life”. (First-time readers: you’ll see, you’ll see.) “Please, rescue me from my loving husband…”

By the end of the first issue Tyler may just have done that, but in the meantime she’s begun to take evasive manoeuvres of her own and Sebastian is swallowing them whole. Chic and suited, she’s quite the self-obsessed piece of work, invading a counselling session for those with Hutchinson Gilford Progeria Syndrome (such rapid aging that 10-year-olds appear to be 60) while complaining about her wrinkles – “They’re all on the inside!”

Chain-smoking throughout, she’s drawn by Cameron Stewart with a superb sense of insouciance that puts me in mind of Mrs Quinn, the rich bitch in Nabiel Kanan’s THE DROWNERS, though there’s more than a touch of Sean Murphy in her angular face.

My favourite pages are those on which pills or petals – rendered to striking contrast with three-dimensional modelling complete with shadows which fall over the panels beneath them – are imposed over what is being said by the narrator or the narrative’s participants. Whereas the dog’s barking merely drowns thoughts out like ASTERIOS POLYP talking over his girlfriend, the effect here is different because you can discern what lies below – with the romantic rose petals at least – suggesting that the bunch of flowers Sebastian has bought his missus is merely a smoke screen hiding the lie of their messed-up marriage.

“Happy Annive –“
“I lo – you –“
“Take your pill.”

There’s no hiding that last line.

Sebastian, meanwhile, is the epitome not so much of exhausted but sedated. Everyone’s more got more life in them than he has. Even his neighbour.

“Studies conducted by the United States Military prove that what women fear most is physical pain… What men fear most is being humiliated, losing social status, public ridicule.”

Sebastian used to be a fighter once, but he’s fallen asleep. Now it’s time to wake up.

I think I can hear alarm bells ringing.

SLH

Buy Fight Club 2 #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Providence #1 of 12 (£2-99, Avatar) by Alan Moore & Jacen Burrows…

“Say, weren’t you planning on writing a book, I heard?”
“Huh. Lot of planning, no writing. Don’t even have a subject yet, to be truthful.
“I want something big, something that cuts to the heart of this country and these times.
“That talks about things nobody’s dared talk about before.
“You know? Not just another slice of life in the city of bachelors.”

If you google providence, the two definitions you are offered are “timely preparation for future eventualities” and “the protective care of God or of nature as a spiritual power”. However I suspect no amount of preparation, nor indeed the care of God, is likely to provide much protection for what is to come for some of the characters in Alan’s return to the Lovecraft mythos in conjunction with artist Jaden Burrows after their grisly but gripping NEONOMICON

It’s set in Providence, Rhode Island, which itself has interesting origins, founded in 1636 by a man called Roger Williams, recently exiled from Massachusetts, to provide a refuge for religious minorities. The year is 1919 and the world, emerging from the carnage of WW1, has undoubtedly changed, yet also much has not. There are people still living double lives due to their sexuality, of which of our main character Robert Black is one. Now, apparently there is an irony here, as I have read Alan has commented he liked the idea of having a gay character in a period Lovecraftian yarn given H.P. Lovecraft was apparently immensely homophobic.

Whatever the reason it immediately helps creates a state of suspense as much of this first issue is taken up with establishing Robert’s back story, his reasons for being in Providence, and the ongoing emotional anguish he endures in trying to maintain a covert relationship, all the whilst endeavouring to appear to his co-workers at the Tribune newspaper as just another everyday Joe.

They’re all desperate to fill half a page in the next edition at short notice with something a trifle titillating when Robert mentions a French book, Sous Le Monde, that apparently sent people mad if they read it. The scandal surrounding which, Robert Chambers apparently based THE KING IN YELLOW on.

Being a bookish sort of cove, Robert knows of a professor nearby who wrote an article on Sous Le Monde, and so is dispatched to interview him. Which is where events start to creep into more Lovecraftian paranormal territory, as the good doctor has an exceptionally powerful air conditioning system in his apartment, a medical requirement due to an, as yet, unspecified illness… I’m pretty sure however it won’t be a malaise covered in any great detail at medical school, not even at Miskatonic University…

There’s much to admire in Alan’s writing in this first issue, I suspect it’s a project he’s enjoying. I like the little subtle points of connection, almost as asides he weaves in, including one a character makes to Tannhäuser which proves particularly apposite indeed. One of the biggest nods to THE KING IN YELLOW comes in the form of the Exit Gardens, which in truth are state-sponsored suicide chambers, dressed up in art deco buildings in beautiful floral surroundings. Where, once you check in, you are gently put to sleep forever whilst listening to the music of your choice. A posh version of Dignitas, basically. But because you don’t need to jump through myriad bureaucratic hoops first, anyone can simply walk in, sit down and rest in peace forevermore.

I’m intrigued to see how Robert picks up the pieces emotionally after this issue and precisely what is wrong with the mysterious professor. The best sort of opening issue, one that engages you completely, connects you emotionally with the characters, piques your curiosity and leaves you wanting more. I am quite sure the horror factor is going to be ramped up gradually until readers’ states of mental wellbeing are in tatters too. I’m still mentally wincing from the ‘where’s my contact lens’ scene in NEONOMICON

JR

Buy Providence #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Unflattening (£16-99, Harvard) by Nick Sousanis…

In our modern world, it often seems that the word in the king of communication, holding sway over images. We comics lovers know better, of course, but what if images really do inform our understanding of pretty much anything just as much as words? It’s kind of obvious when you think about it. I mean, IKEA have even taken it to a new level with entirely picture-based instructions for assembling their furniture, thus doing away with the need for multiple language versions of the same text. I’m pretty sure that’s not the example Nick Sousanis had in mind when he embarked upon this epic undertaking, but it actually sums up his philosophy quite nicely.

Nick started submitting his university work for one particular class in the form of comics, which went down so well that he started doing it for other classes too, gradually persuading more and more lecturers and professors to let him do so. In the end he decided this was something he could do a PhD about, the use of image as an equal partner to the mighty word. In the form of a comic, obviously.

So began his investigation of the process of ‘seeing’ from the perspective of science, art, literature, philosophy and even mythology to examine its specific role in the psychological process of interpretation that goes on in our brains. It’s a process he calls unflattening as he shows how images can be used not just to illustrate text, but in all manner of ways of communicating information. Text is by its very nature linear but imagery however is pure connectivity. The word ‘subtext’ springs to mind.

What follows is an extremely clever, engrossing and well constructed treatise… with pictures! He’s preaching to the converted with respect to us comic readers, of course, but it’s another vital piece of work in helping ferment wider discussion about the validity of our beloved medium. That’s not his primary aim with this work, but it’s certainly a useful adjunct.

 

Nick would like to see us “challenge text” and I think he has some very interesting points to make about the use of imagery, or lack of it, in academic learning, particularly for children. You only have to look at EVOLUTION: THE STORY OF LIFE ON EARTH or THE STUFF OF LIFE: A GRAPHIC GUIDE TO GENETICS AND DNA to see how fun comics can make pretty dry subject matter. FEYNMAN contains a lot of pretty high-end physics explained incredibly eloquently in comic form which I found far more digestible than in my excruciatingly boring quantum theory lectures at Uni. Equally, I would argue CRECY taught me more about that battle than reading about it in history at school ever did.

Ultimately, this is an impressive, powerful, and absolutely convincing display of just how much understanding can be achieved through the additional use of imagery. And comics. Now we just need a generation of comic creators to work on producing nothing but text books!

JR

Buy Unflattening and read the Page 45 review here

Material #1 (£2-75, Image) by Ales Kot & Will Tempest.

A tired and disillusioned professor questions the merits of modern life – how we’re spending so much time with machines that we’re becoming like them. A student objects and his daughter – via Skype – tells him she’s pregnant. At which point his computer begins to engage with him too.

A visionary director reaches out to a washed up, self-sedated actress for his next, largely improvised film. The studio seeks more commercially viable and quantifiable slants than ten sheets of blank script but the director is determined that the film will be both about and by the actress. Surprisingly it turns out she does have a mind of her own.

A fifteen-year-old boy standing passively at a protest march carrying the hand-written placard declaring “I cannot breath” is arrested, detained and questioned. On release, while babysitting, he discovers a pamphlet about The New Black Panther Party.

Seven months after being liberated from Guantanamo detention centre an innocent man finds he can no longer relate to his family or even touch his doting dog whom he played with as a puppy. They used dogs on him in the prison camp. Waterboarding too.  He never hurt anyone, nor planned to hurt anyone. But the only thing which arouses him now is being held down and hurt.

As with Kot’s ZERO, CHANGE, WILD CHILDREN and THE SURFACE, this is so unapologetically intelligent that it takes more than a single read to take in, and I’m still not entirely sure how these four scenarios except that lives are being changed. Rebellion seems to be on the cards.

Each is given two colour-coded pages at a time on a nine-panel grid, lending it a clarity I’m enormously grateful for. The art is direct, thin-lined and brittle. That bit about the dog really got me.

A synopsis is not a review, it’s true, so consider this a story about a story or a sales pitch. I bought it.

SLH

Buy Material #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Sithrah Book 1 h/c (£14-99, Coffee Table Comics) by Jason Brubaker.

Beautiful, spacious and unpredictable non-stop thrill-athon with the emphasis on the images so it’s perfect for a younger age range too.

I raced through this so fast whilst loving every second.

Seven-year-old Nirvana Page has been on a holiday expedition with her Dad. Insatiably inquisitive, Nirvana and her cat Sam have explored both flora and fauna and things so strange that they might well be both! I think she may have gotten a little too close to one of them. A sort of crustaceous lamprey, its teeth didn’t half look sharp and it managed to wrap a suckered tongue round her index finger. It’s feeling a bit sore but she doesn’t tell Dad – she hides it behind her back.

Her Dad, however, is hiding something too. For when Nirvana expresses a wish to visit Light City and to see her Mum again, well, there’s obviously something so wrong with Light City that Dad wants to avoid it at all costs – as well as all talk of Mum. He just won’t tell her why.

I think it’s the landscapes I love best: big, bold, tree-topped mountains, silhouetted in front of and behind all that mist as their seaplane takes off.

Although I did feel first-hand the alarm, desperation and blind panic as something from above destroys one of their engines then shatters the cockpit window before wrenching a helpless Nirvana right out of the plane altogether. She barely manages to grab a parachute and only just rescues her toy fluffy bunny from the spare seat which it was carefully buckled into. Heaven knows what’s happened to the cat. Heaven knows what’s happened to Dad, for that matter.

She wakes beneath the canvas of her parachute as it’s pattered by the first drops of rain heralding a storm. Peering out from under its heavy, saggy folds, Nirvana is caught under the last sunbeams of dying day in a vast, verdant countryside, so very beautiful to be sure, but so very empty.

Once more, I give you the landscapes and the rolling, roiling clouds above as the deluge descends. Superb, stark lettering as Nirvana calls out to her Dad. There’s no reply. She is completely and utterly alone.

SITHRA boasts a completely different aesthetic to Luke Pearson’s all-ages HILDA but Nirvana is just as resourceful and resolute and her faith in her father’s wisdom and love is very touching indeed. “What’s the smart thing to do?” she asks herself. “That’s something her father would ask her in a situation like this.” She is determined to make him proud but she has a very long night ahead of her.

Parents, I promise you this first instalment won’t leave you in the unenviable position of having to reassure your young ones for its morning brings magic.

It appears in the form of the glossy-eyed, lightning-fast, bi-pedal Sithrah, a bright-white, seal-like creature with hope in its heart and a message:

“No one is ever alone, Nirvana… Not completely.”

Their adventure has only begun.

SLH

Buy Sithrah Book 1 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Scars (£2-50) by Sally Jane Thompson.

There’s nothing like exploring the countryside, especially with your girlfriend or boyf.

The two of you alone yet together, undistracted by the intrusive, prosaic practicalities of modern living.

The sense of shared discovery and Mother Nature’s eye-candy as far as the eye can see! It’s absolute, unadulterated bliss.

“Um, listen…
“I, uh… I think we should break up.”

Whoa, get mister casual! I suppose at least he had the decency not to do it in a public bar.

I had a friend who was ditched by her pop-star boyfriend just after midnight on New Year’s Day… by text!

He wasn’t really a pop star. You could tell because he was constantly calling himself one.

The young woman here is caught completely off-guard and, cruelly, in the middle of the thrill of finding the jagged lower jaw of some beastie. So she has her back turned at the time and she does not turn round. She can barely straighten up so heavy do her shoulders now feel.

“Three years. That’s all three years is worth?” she thinks.

“Babe! Come on! What are you doing?”

It’s so well observed: “Babe”. It’s a bit late for affection, don’t you think? There’ll be a “Sweetie!” later on when he drops her off at home and she slams the car door in his face without a word. He’s reaching out with affection just to make himself feel better about having cut her heart in two. You’ve got what you wanted, tosser, so just shut up and drive away.

I was once ditched by a boyfriend. Immediately afterwards he tried to kiss me.

Sally Jane Thompson has many styles, some as lush as you like: http://www.sallyjanethompson.co.uk/gallery.php This is pared down completely to the most fragile pencils imaginable and rarely have a seen a tear well up so tenderly.

For such a tiny little comic it has a vast sense of space even when we return to suburbia with its tall flats, lower houses and back gardens big enough for trees.  I was particularly struck by the cover, along the bottom centimetre along of which in the distance rise conifer tree tops above which hangs a vast and empty sky.

The jawbone will play a considerable part in the healing process, by the way, whereas once it probably opened quite the considerable wound.

SLH

Buy Scars and read the Page 45 review here

Elders #1 (£4-00) by Ethan Wiltshire…

“Hello?”
“Ah, Mrs. Gibson I presume?”
“Oh no, there isn’t one…”
“Oh I’m sorry, we must have the wrong house.”
“No, it’s Stanley you’re looking for isn’t it?”
“We’re partners but we’re not married.”
“You’re NOT married… but you LIVE together?”
“Uhm yes?”
“INDEED.”

Ha. I do love the almost demonic, Kiss-like make up shading round Elder Cohen’s eye during that last exhortation. I should probably here point out that Elder Cohen and his door-knocking cohort Elder Christensen are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints better known to you and I as Mormons. Mr. Gibson, or Brother Stanley, upon whom they have called to pay a visit, is also a Mormon, though I think we can say his faith is… wavering slightly. Perhaps a concerned visit from the Elders complete with a few choice stinging rebukes… and the threat of eternal damnation… is just what he needs to scrabble back up atop the moral high ground. Or not. Indeed, given the Lord does move in the most mysterious of ways, perhaps what we perceive before our eyes in this very comic is not all to be believed…

Right, that’s as much plot and near spoiler collision avoidage as you are going to get from me! Suffice to say this is a comedy of manners in the classic British sense that pokes fun at the Mormon church and some of its tenets, with a lovely little twist that turns everything neatly on its head at the end. Tone-wise it actually reminded me a little of Dan Berry’s THE SUITCASE, itself a classic piece of British farce, being so gently over the top that even those on the receiving end could probably enjoy the joke. Though, I have to say, those of the door-knocking persuasion, of all religious flavours, are not usually known for their sense of humour.

I remember once, when having been door-stepped by a couple of Jehoviah’s Witnesses (I was expecting the wheelie bin cleaners so opened the door without looking first) and in my surprise foolishly uttering I was a Buddhist thus hoping they’d leave me alone. Instead, my heart started sinking rapidly as I immediately saw that in fact this was a full-speed-ahead we-are-go-for-conversion signal for them.

So I decided to change tactics and upon being asked why I practiced Buddhism rather than seeing the Glory of the Lord and indeed the error of my ways, I told them years of meditation now meant I could levitate… Seeing their shock and sensing their sudden uncertainty I ploughed ahead, claiming also telepathy, mind control of small animals, and if I had a full seven days of continuous, uninterrupted meditation in a completely dark underneath the house… pyrokinesis. Politely making their excuses, they backed away from the door in search of someone less mentally deranged. It’s a tactic worth remembering if you find yourself in just such a situation.

Anyway, Ethan’s done a sterling job here with his second publication, the first being the excellent JONATHAN STARLIGHT which we sold out of. It was originally intended as the first chapter of a longer form story, a teaser if you will, following the exploits of Elders Cohen and Christensen (not forgetting Brother Gibson!) and the trials and tribulations of the door-knocking adventures. I hope it’s something he’ll pursue in some manner or other as I think the concept has legs.

Art-wise, he’s come on considerably since JONATHAN STARLIGHT, and there’s a couple of lovely artistic devices here, plus a brave extended use of black panels for a particularly amusing sequence. Yes, you can see this is an artist who is still working on his style and panel layouts in places, but undoubtedly he has excellent illustrative ability.

I should add Ethan recently commented to me that he felt very unsure about even publishing this material after finishing it, whether it was sufficiently good enough, that he could see everything that was wrong with it. I am quite sure that’s an extremely common thing amongst artists of all ages and indeed experience levels. But one needs to keep moving forward, always, even if at times you just feel like you’re scrabbling around in the dark. Dare I even say, just publish and be damned?! It’s just so important to getting keeping your material out there.

For whilst you can’t choose the faith you were born into – or indoctrinated by – as a child, you can put your faith in yourself, and then commitment and hard work will surely get you there. Maybe not being able to levitate perhaps, but to become a great comic creator, certainly!

JR

Buy Elders #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Dan Dare Omnibus (£14-99, Dynamite) by Garth Ennis & Gary Erskine.

No idea how this dropped off our system, so sorry!

The complete edition of Erskine’s finest work to date: the perfectly poised, beautifully restrained yet totally trenchant take on the classic British space pilot, hauled out of retirement by a Prime Minister he despises in charge of a country he’s no longer in love with. Ennis’ restrained handling of Dare’s eloquently voiced disappointment keeps the man dignified but direct, a formidable figure as he sizes up the politician in front of him and delivers a considered but withering indictment of all that’s been lost through lack of leadership.

So it is when Dare has been joined by faithful old Digby and a battalion of soldiers who’ve just staved off a furious attack by a hoard of ferocious green monsters on a colony populated by both humans and the Treen (the Mekon’s people) who until recently were getting along splendidly. But the Mekon’s back, so suspicions are raised and tempers are high.

Oh yes, and there’s a thousand more nasties on their way:

“Mister Dare, I’d like a word with you please…”
“A very brief one, Captain.”
“Are you really giving civilians priority for evacuation? Over military personnel?”
“I take it you disagree?”
“Look here, sir, Fitzgerald and Kent and I are officers. If there is going to be some sort of final battle with the Mekon, chaps like us will be at a premium. And our tours of duty are almost done, and — well, frankly, we don’t feel like getting killed for a lot of prospectors and green wogs…”
“Well, if that’s the way you feel, you should board the shuttle as soon as you can.”
“Really?”
“You’ll leave your uniforms behind, of course.”
“Our — ?”
“You’re no longer British officers, you can’t possibly wear the uniform.”

Classic British reserve, but with a bite. Unashamedly patriotic and unwaveringly brave, Dare really is the quintessential old-school man of honour, but also a leader prepared to put himself on the frontline alongside his men and lead.

With art like this – as rich and British as Chris Weston’s or Bryan Talbot’s – one can’t help but regret that Erskine seems to spend so much time making others’ pencils look good with his inks rather than giving us the joy of his own layouts. It couldn’t be more apposite for the task at hand, particularly when we first meet the national legend so far into his future that he’s fully retired. He’s spending his days walking the dogs through a traditional English village past cricket pitches, oak-beamed pubs, all surrounded by rolling green fields, dry stone walls, and a brazen fox. They stop to take each others’ measure. If that sounds like an idyll that’s perfect, then surely it’s no more than the space pilot deserves after his long record of service to his beloved country.

But times, they have a habit of changing, and illusions can be shattered. It’s a very different world now, as viewed from the space station: America is an arid patchwork of craters as big as the moon’s, for America and China have finally finished each other off, the UN has failed and international cooperation is a thing of the past. Jocelyn from the old crew has at least risen to the position of Home Secretary, which will prove vital if everyone’s going to survive what happens next. Unfortunately, they don’t.

SLH

Buy Dan Dare Omnibus and read the Page 45 review here

Sons Of The Devil #1 (£2-25, Image) by Brian Buccellato & Toni Infante.

“Come on, Riggs… I’m gonna be late. Will you go already?”

Travis’ Border Collie looks up at him from the pavement, tongue lolling expectantly.

“You’re really gonna make me do it, aren’t you?”

He really is. Travis is going to have to pick Riggs up and carry him. That’s one way of taking your dog for a walk.

Thank goodness for that one moment of smile-inducing comedy because the rest is pretty horrific.

Vitally artist Toni Infante is far from sensationalist. His art is grounded in faultless figure work and suffused with a brooding intensity. Meek and innocent eyes are wide and hopeful, while others glare up from beneath baseball caps with resentment and barely suppressed rage. That Border Collie could not come with a coat that’s sleeker or a better-natured, loyal adoration.

Other faces are full of smug, self-satisfied mendacity and if there’s one thing Infante excels at – with his angular noses and tight-lipped, taut-lined faces – it’s confrontation.

Before we even begin the book has been primed with hair-trigger tensions, some of which have been building for weeks, others for thirty-plus years. Now they burst open on every conceivable front and if I were to sum this first issue up it’s with that perennial downer I refuse to endorse that no good deed goes unpunished.

Travis spies a young boy sitting on the pavement, lost and alone. There is an immediate empathy: Travis is determined to reunite the waif with his parents for he’s in search of the same thing himself. It costs him dearly.

A private investigator, the son of one of Travis’ old foster parents, believes he can do the same for Travis – to make up for an old mistake with far-reaching consequences they both have had cause for regret. This Mister Landon has found an old photograph, you see, of another man with eyes so distinctive and similar to Travis’. But that costs him more dearly still.

Flash back on the very first page to 1989 and cots are being raided two at a time, their babies stolen. There is an appalling act of violence which baby Travis witnesses far too young with his blue and blood-red eyes. It’s no wonder that Travis now needs anger management. But beware whom you’re referred to…

How’s that for oblique?

This is a book about cults. Cults have connections, don’t they? Just look at the Masonic Lodge. Unfortunately for Travis and everyone around him this particular cult has been waiting for precisely this moment.

Recommended for fans of Robert Kirkman books like OUTCAST.

SLH

Buy Sons Of The Devil and read the Page 45 review here

Old Man Logan #1 (£3-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Andrea Sorrentino.

Of all the SECRET WARS satellite series, this is the one I’ve been looking forward to most.

It does not disappoint!

The sound effects for a start are an integral part of the art, fusing sound and vision into a single sensory experience worthy of Dave Sim himself in CEREBUS.

Its visuals come steeped in the shadow of Jae Lee on Paul Jenkins’ INHUMANS, though it’s closer in colour and texture to his more neo-Gothic outing in Grant Morrison’s FANTASTIC FOUR 1234. Both come highly recommended as singularly eloquent, self-contained graphic novels.

Moreover, some of the sequences are presented with Jim Steranko flourishes like Logan’s assault on the gambling den of child-thieves, the lights going on / off in swift, staccato succession as if there were a strobe in the room. The figures fighting are lit up in stark black and white against a blood-orange background then each narrow window is brush-flecked in blood.

Blood. There is an awful lot of blood, but then this is a Wolverine comic so, you know…

It’s a sequel of sorts to the finest Wolverine series of all time: Mark Millar & Steve McNiven’s OLD MAN LOGAN (reviewed). It was set in a future where the heroes had lost, the villains had carved up America and something so awful had happened to Logan that he’d become a pacifist, refusing to pop his claws for anyone or anything. When you learn what that was you will understand why.

Half the fun was wondering – then discovering – what had become of those you once loved and so it is here, even if it’s only their legacy that’s left.

“Ya wear this uniform?! Do ya even know who this was?”
“What? It’s j-just a look. It’s just – It’s just cool.”
“Ya don’t even know.”

This is Bendis: whose uniform do you think they’ve so ignorantly co-opted? Love the spectacles!

Yes, I can promise Bendis fans in particular some guest appearances from those who will be close to your heart but grown rather a lot older or up now. Also, what is it with Bendis and severed Ultron heads? These disembodied silver skulls of the Avengers’ psychopathic A.I. foe are littered throughout Bendis’ books and Logan’s just found another, fallen from the sky, and it troubles him.

It is suggested to Logan that it’s come from over The Wall, the climbing of which is verboten. I think you can imagine what Logan does next.

It’s rather a long way to the top, so I’ll see you next month.

SLH

Buy Old Man Logan #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.

Criminal vol 5: The Sinners s/c (£10-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips

Fuse vol 2: Gridlock s/c (£10-99, Image) by Antony Johnston & Justin Greenwood

D&Q: 25 Years Of Comtemporary Cartooning, Comics & Graphic Novels (£37-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Various

Between The Billboards & The Authoring Of Architecture (£11-99, Avery Hill) by Owen D Pomery

Thanos Infinity Relativity h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jim Starlin & Andy Smith, Frank D’Armata

Venom By Remender Complete Collection vol 1 s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Rick Remender & Tony Moor, Tom Fowler, Various

Marvel Universe Ant -Man Digest s/c (£7-50, Marvel) by Various & Various

Swamp Thing vol 6: The Sureen s/c (£12-99, DC) by Charles Soule & Javier Pina, Jesus Saiz, Matthew Wilson

Dragons Beware! (£10-99, First Second) by Rafael Rosado & Jorge Aguirre

Regular Show vol 3 s/c (£10-99, Kaboom) by K C Green & Allison Strejlau

Avengers World vol 3: Next World s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Nick Spencer, Frank Barbiere & Marco Checchetto, Raffaele Ineco

Usagi Yojimbo Saga vol 3 s/c (£18-99, Dark Horse) by Stan Sakai

Usagi Yojimbo vol 2: Samurai (£12-99, Dark Horse) by Stan Sakai

News!

ITEM! Hurrah! At last! From the creators of THE WICKED + THE DIVINE, a preview of Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie’s PHONOGRAM: THE IMMATERAIL GIRL

Please pop it on your Standing Order as soon as possible or bash these buttons to pre-order PHONOGRAM: THE IMMATERIAL GIRL #1 online! We ship worldwide!

Both previous collections on our shelves now! Reviews: PHONOGRAM: RUE BRITANNIA and PHONOGRAM: THE SINGLES CLUB.

Pre-ordering as early as possible is vital. Retailers order comics two months in advance. If you order in advance your copies are guaranteed! If you don’t, they aren’t and everybody cries. Nobody likes to see a comic lover crying on the shop floor. For a start, your tears may fall on our comics and that’s WATER DAMAGE!

ITEM! I haven’t finished yet. Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie’s THE WICKED + THE DIVINE is picked up for television. Page 45’s review of THE WICKED + THE DIVINE.

ITEM! Free! But you must, MUST book in advance! THE WICKED + THE DIVINE’s Kieron Gillen and his historical consultant, Professor Stephen Hodkinson, discuss the creation of the comicbook THREE at Nottingham University, Saturday 13th June. Public most welcome and it’s a beautiful campus to stroll around on a summer’s day! I know – I got absolutely slaughtered there most afternoons for three who years. Page 45’s review of THREE by Kieron Gillen & Ryan Kelly.

ITEM! Less free (£4/£8) but later that same day for Age 12+: Kieron Gillen & Chrissy Williams host a create-your-own-Classics-comic in which they use the comic THREE as a springboard to help you craft your own short sequences. Nottingham University. No skillz required – so I may pop along myself!

ITEM! Are you relishing THE REALIST by Asaf Hanukah, May’s Page 45 Comic Book Of The Month? In July Asaf Hanukah is joined by Tomer Hanukah for the art on THE DIVINE which you can pre-order right now – then collect in-store so saving yourself postage if that’s what you prefer!

If you need a nudge, here’s a huge preview of THE DIVINE beneath an extensive interview with Tomer and Asaf Hanukah!

ITEM! Tickets are now on sale for events at October’s Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2015. What a line up of talks, interviews, film presentations and workshops!

Remember: most of the festival is COMPLETELY FREE, including entry into the main exhibit hall, Kendal’s Clock Tower where creators will be signing all weekend long and Page 45 will once again be taking over the entire Georgian Room with our very own special guests!

October 16th – 18th. Hope to see you there!

- Stephen

 

Page 45 reviews written by Page 45’s Stephen and Jonathan then edited by a boss-eyed baboon.

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews May 2015 week four

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015

Ed Brubaker! Steve Epting! Adrian Tomine! David Lapham! Sam Humphries! Marc Laming! James Stokoe! Antonio Altarriba! Victor Hussenot! More! Apparently these lists are great for Google. WE ARE SUCH CYNICS!

The Spectators h/c (£14-99, Nobrow) by Victor Hussenot.

A book of reverie and rumination, this is a serene experience with plenty of space for you to stop and think for yourself.

It’s full of curiosity and questions, about one’s own life in the grand scheme of things and the lives of others – strangers you’ll never know or whose paths you may only partially, temporarily intersect.

As such there are a lot of silhouettes and shadows seen from afar, perhaps against the light of city windows at night.

And it is very much another city book, but a far less frightening one than FLOOD. There’s a nod to the existence of countryside beyond, right at the start rendered in a Gaugin-esque cacophony of non-local colour, before the tranquil misty blues, salmon pinks and creams herald the start of our tour round a city which has much to show us if we stop to look carefully and much to make us muse if we use our mind’s eyes. There’s a lot of imagining of what lies within and what lies beyond.

City transport features heavily. Early on Hussenot reflects on the contrast between the familiarity of one’s surroundings every day – the actual train or bus – and one’s fellow commuters who come and go. Some may reappear from time to time sitting in different pairs, others may never been seen again. But this was one of my favourite sequences as an actually playing card held up in one panel becomes instead a passenger on a platform seen through a subway car window.

“Arriving at a new station is as exciting as drawing a card in a poker game.
“A new platform appears… it’s a new deal of the cards…
“Some leave the game; others join it… but not always the one’s you’re expecting.
“Each is full of promise, but is the one we really need still hidden in the deck?”

Accompanying that third line is a page of six panels, roughly playing card shape, in five of which a commuter catches the narrator’s eye, their panels lighting up in different colours while the one who is oblivious remains in the figurative dark.

The unexpected one is a bloke, for the narrator’s a bloke, but he doesn’t make it onto the lamp-lit drawing board of possibilities whose face cards are all women!

There’s another devilishly clever page after two men who’ve been sitting inches apart on a bench surveying different aspects of the cityscape in front of them are shown to have largely parallel lives as well – give or take a musical influence. I won’t give the game away but there are elements of Ray Fawkes’ THE PEOPLE INSIDE.

That’s one of the rare instances that any word balloons appear in this graphic novel. Predominantly – if there are any words at all – you’ll find one or perhaps two sentences above, between or below a full-page spread or two or three tiers of images.

There’s a morphing motif which runs throughout, kicked off as our narrator discovers a clothes rail from which four bodies hang with differently coloured clothes. He tries one on for size (and sighs) before selecting another later on. Further down the line he’ll be clicking a remote control for a similar but quicker effect. I’ve been referring to him as our narrator because I couldn’t work out what else to do but he’s not really. Let’s call him our constant companion, even though the body swapping means that constant is the last thing he is!

“When I revisit certain places, painful memories resurface: In find myself back in that moment.”

Sure enough, as our narrator/companion walks onto set, there’s a differently coloured, former version of him sitting at a cafe table with a girl he quite evidently is not longer going out with. But – and this made me sit up and think for I’d never considered it an option – a red-hued future version of him now appears chasing a new girl across the page before they make merry with the drinks and the dancing.

“The only way to erase these memories is to return, again and again, to these same locations and fill them with new moments… Which in turn will become memories, which will renew themselves again… and again…”

I’ll leave you to discover how that is portrayed!

With debossed silver foil on the cover, it’s another Nobrow looker and a dreamy affair with some imaginative framing from which I was abruptly awoken, unnecessarily, by the legal gubbins being printed between the prologue and the main body of work. That was a bit daft, wasn’t it?

SLH

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

Optic Nerve #14 (£4-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Adrian Tomine…

“Hey, did you see that [censored] gave you a shout out on twitter? She used some of your art for her header image and said your drawing of her in The New Yorker was ‘a teenage dream fulfilled’.”
“Really? Wow, that’s nice!”
“So why didn’t you respond? You could’ve at least re-tweeted and said thanks.”
“Yeah… I’m actually not on twitter. I’m kind of… morally opposed to all that stuff.”
“Well, her two million twitter followers aren’t.”
“Haha… to each his own, right?”
“Made you look like kind of a dick, actually.”

Heh. As ever, the single-page autobiographical strip, once more tucked away right at the end after the letter column, steals the show even after the two brilliant stories that precede it. It is a mere three brief scenes of absolute perfection in terms of how to tell a story: chock full of drama, humour, plus Adrian’s trademark curmudgeonly angst, of course, with a belting piece of misdirection for the punchline that made me laugh out loud. I would say LOL but I know that is precisely the sort of modern day acronymical shennanigans that would make Tomine weep tears of despair. How he manages to pack so much into a mere twenty panels should be a compulsory lesson for all budding creators, that less really can be so much more when it comes to what to put in versus what to leave out.

As before, this issue follows the pattern of two very different longer form stories. The first, in Adrian’s new usual art style, covers the excruciating, budding comedy career of Jesse, a rather introverted young lady with a debilitating stutter. Her parents – having seen many a new obsession come and go with perturbingly repetitive frequency – fall into their typical roles and cycle of enthusiasm / pessimism / argument, before letting nature run its ever-turbulent course where their daughter is concerned.

What follows is another shot of Tomine’s classic blend of wince-worthy humour. I was practically peeking through my fingers when I got to Jesse’s first stand-up gig, as her parents sit in the audience waiting in a state of near hyper-tension for the inevitable car crash to occur. It doesn’t, for reasons of not wishing a spoil a great joke I won’t elaborate on but, rest assured, it’s a merely the metaphorical mother of all multiple car pile-ups deferred…

The second story, told in a somewhat looser art style, with lots of black shading and a single secondary light olive tone, tells the story of a divorced military veteran, living out of cheap motels, who unexpectedly bumps into a girl who house-sat an apartment he and his wife were renting when they were on vacation. Having recently cleaned out her car, she finds a set of keys she’d forgotten to give back to them. Pulled, perhaps in equal part by memories past, the curiosity of who had replaced them as tenants, and the thrill of doing something illicit, he stakes out the apartment, making note of the coming and goings of the occupant, and when he finally feels safe, let’s himself in.

It might be breaking and entering more on a scale of adult hedge-hopping, no maliciousness intended, however, again obviously, it’s not going to end well. But that’s the thrill with Tomine: bracing yourself for the moments the characters well and truly splash down in the fire, often before even realising they’ve even been daft enough to leap from the comparative safety of the proverbial frying pan. As always, one comes away from an issue of OPTIC NERVE feeling a strange mixture of sadness and relief, the latter being purely for not having such a sad life as a Tomine character!

JR

Buy Optic Nerve #14 and read the Page 45 review here

The Art Of Flying h/c (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Antonio Altarriba & Kim…

Sometimes, as with people, things are not always as they initially appear. A first glance inside this hardcover revealed what appeared to be a relatively primitive art style, wordily lettered in a somewhat jarring font. I persisted with it though, for three reasons.

Firstly, Random House / Jonathan Cape have published some rather good graphic novels over the years so I thought they at least deserved some benefit of the doubt! Secondly, I was aware this work has won six major European comic prizes including the Spanish 2010 Best Comic Prize. Finally, I do have an interest in that particular era, WW2 and the run up to it.

The Spanish Civil War, though, was not something I knew a great deal about, other than from accounts by people like George Orwell etc. who had volunteered to go there and fight against the rise of fascism in the form of General Franco. So I thought it would be an interesting historical primer if nothing else.

This work is narrated by Altaribba, recounting the entirety of his father Antonio’s life, beginning with his decision, aged 90, to leap from the top floor of his nursing home, freshly shaved and dressed to go out in style, which presumably inspired the title. Once we’ve seen that denouement revealed, we then go back to the very beginning, to his crushingly austere and rather brutal childhood in the rural, agricultural Spanish heartlands.

As biographies of a life go, it’s extremely well told, the child’s clear desire to escape what was tantamount to penal servitude and spread his wings, thus, inadvertently at first, getting caught up in an incredibly turbulent period of Spanish history. Antonio’s teenage and early adult life was certainly also one of struggle and strife, those he never really truly escaped.

After the rather chaotic years of partisan fighting, sometimes of an internecine, factional nature amongst other elements of the Republican resistance, as well as against their main enemy the fascists, things took a considerable turn for the worse  when the Republican forces were finally defeated and driven from Spain. Rather than being welcomed by France, the losers were forced first into internment camps, then indentured labour. The squalid conditions of the camps killed a number of gallant fighters and their families who had already given so much in their doomed support of the cause.

Eventually, seizing his chance to escape, Antonio tried at first to settle in France before eventually admitting defeat and heading back to Spain, where he found a number of his former comrades, now trying to get by in Franco’s Spain by keeping their heads down and their mouths shut about their pasts. For a brief while you could actually say he thrived, being reasonably successful in business, but his latter days were spent once more in comparative poverty, having been financially betrayed by one of his business partners.

Sadly, he then found life in the old people’s home which he entered relatively early – simply by dint of being unable to afford anything else – a rather strictured, unpleasant and ultimately demoralising experience. In many ways, no different from most of his life. So, when you reach the point where the ninety-year-old Antonio is preparing to make his final escape, you can fully understand his decision to depart this world entirely on his own terms.

This is a very moving book in many ways, with much to say about how life less than a century ago in what we now perceive as stable, civilised Western European was anything but, with widespread poverty, violence, political instability and corruption, large scale movement of refugees, discrimination. We do have it easy these days in comparison, there’s no doubt about that.

I think it’s testament to Altaribba Jr.’s narrative skills, plus the fascinating details of Antonio’s life, that very quickly I didn’t notice the art too much. It’s not bad, it’s just nothing special. Frankly, in some ways, the art isn’t actually that important in a work like this, it’s the story which is always going to be the star. I should note, aside from the fact I can’t draw at all, apparently Kim is a highly regarded cartoonist responsible for a hugely popular humour strip in Spanish newspapers called MARTINEZ THE FASCIST, though having googled that it seems far more Robert Crumb / Gilbert Shelton in style than this work. Meanwhile, I did realise that the lettering would obviously have originally been in Spanish, possibly in a different font, so I guess I shouldn’t be too critical on that point. Neither remotely spoilt my enjoyment of what was ultimately a fascinating and highly illuminating biography.

JR

Buy The Art Of Flying h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Velvet vol 2: The Secret Lives Of Dead Men (£10-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Steve Epting, Bettie Breitweiser.

“That’s what happens when you’re ordered to kill your own husband on your honeymoon, it turns out. You lose your mind.”

1973. There is a Britain-based espionage agency called ARC-7 so secret that most other ops don’t even know it exists. Within that service there are field agents who are not names but numbers, and at its heart lies the Director. The Director has a secretary with long, sable hair now distinguished with a thick, white streak of maturity. She is his eyes, she is his ears but for so many years she was something else: one of ARC-7s most effective field operatives. So deep was her cover that even ARC’s agents aren’t aware of her former activities. And that may prove the undoing of whichever infiltrator has just set her up for treachery, treason and murder.

Throughout VELVET VOL 1 Velvet Templeton has been on the run from her own agency, 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 Agent X was murdered from within. What had he discovered 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.

But Velvet’s been thinking things through and now she’s done running.

She’s going to do the one thing they’ll least expect. She’s going to turn right around, breeze back into London and head straight into the lion’s den: ARC-7’s highly secure headquarters. And for that she will require a bomb and some far from voluntary help from the Director.

“Velvet… what is this about?”
“I really do wish I could tell you… because it’s not you I don’t trust.”
“You know what you sound like? Like every operative who ever got lost down their own rabbit hole.”

At which point I refer you back to the opening sentiments.

Brubaker’s internal monologues have always been compelling, individualistic and often fucked up affairs – in CRIMINAL, FATALE, THE FADE OUT et al – but here you’re almost as much in the dark as Velvet is, learning as she goes along, so you’re even more emotionally invested than usual. Several times I found myself suspicious of what I was being told because it sounded almost too perfect but with the strangest gaps (why, for example, so-and-so hadn’t been offed when everyone around him had) and I wondered if I was missing something.

I was. But then so was Velvet.

During the final two chapters you will have your head whipped round not once, not twice, but three times in swift succession and at exactly the same moment as Velvet’s because these people she’s up against are so deviously clever and who is playing whom at any given moment is far from obvious.

As I mention in VELVET VOL 1, Breitweiser’s colours have always been one of the title’s great draws. Here she introduces some of the more expressionistic effects which have lit up the THE FADE OUT and helped draw the eye. However, so much of this takes place at night that you may be enjoying the results without necessarily noticing their cause.

As to Epting, once more his eye for period detail – from vehicles to lounge furniture and a particularly posh, trans-European train dining car – makes one deeply nostalgic for a 1970s I really wouldn’t want to revisit if the truth be told. It’s just fortunate that Velvet Templeton’s always had a better fashion sense than most and I almost wept when she had to ditch that knee-length, black and white pashmina cardigan. I’m very emotional, aren’t I?

Epting’s also exceptional at age and Velvet is certainly showing hers. She’s not slowing down – she cannot afford to – but that face could not belong to a thirty-year-old and quite right too. This is a period espionage thriller starring a woman with decades’ experience at the agency. It’s this very history which is revisited which informs her psychological makeup and the whole point of the plot.

Astonishing, then, that an America television channel was so keen to sign up the series… as long as they could turn our Templeton into her twenties. Or maybe not.

SLH

Buy Velvet vol 2: The Secret Lives Of Dead Men and read the Page 45 review here

Stray Bullets vol 2: Somewhere Out West (£14-99, Image) by David Lapham.

“A happy ending is knowing where to put those two words: THE END.”

They usually come way too late in STRAY BULLETS, which can be summarised thus:

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

Everything is connected.

This is the best crime comic in the business, right up there with Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ CRIMINAL, and we had missed it terribly.

STRAY BULLETS UBER ALLES edition at £45 contains all 41 issues of the series prior to STRAY BULLETS VOL 6: KILLERS, while this contains the second 7 chapters of STRAY BULLETS UBER ALLES edition – which shows you just how good value for money STRAY BULLETS UBER ALLES edition really is! However, you may not be comfortable with reading such a big book, so here is the alternative. They’re coming out at roughly two a year.

With more compelling individuals and more convincing characterisation in a single story than most people manage in a whole graphic novel, there is an 8-panel-per-page density and intensity to these tales broken by moments of golden sunshine that make what follows all the more devastating.

Here what seemed like disparate strands in STRAY BULLETS VOL 1 converge in a small town called Seaside, way out in the middle of the desert. Naturally. The mayor is waiting for an earthquake to swallow California whole, bringing Seaside to the coast.

Young runaway Virginia Applejack who had it unbelievably tough in book one tries her best to protect vulnerable, drug-addled Nina from the advances of Seaside’s revoltingly seedy old-age pensioners, one of whom looks just like a toad, another of whom has drugs of his own to further blur Nina’s brains out. Nina is far from her own best friend.

Come to think of it she’s no one’s best friend in this state, not even towards the ever-loyal if ever-volatile Beth and Beth’s far more orthodox boyfriend, Orson. Their relationship’s been struggling in this back end of nowhere. Beth craves conflict like smokers crave their next cigarette and she grows jittery and fractious without it. It’s good news / bad news, then when Spanish Scott turns up in search of his missing coke. And with Scott comes Rose, and of course little Joey. I told you everything was connected.

What follows is an accelerating climax of desperate, tangled gambits and frankly wince-worthy violence as these impossibly complicated relationships finally play themselves out. It’s an immensely satisfying pay-off for all your hard concentration that point, but we have only just begun because, remember, this series goes backwards as well as forwards in time!

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

As to the art, it is pure black and white with no grey tone at all. It’s incredibly clean but supple as well. The figure work is immaculate, the local behemoth Nick having the burly, hunched-up and sweaty same physicality as the protagonist of Jeff Smith’s RASL. In fact most of these townsfolk are drawn as grotesques. As to the expressions, they communicate so much going on behind the eyes whether you like what you see or you don’t. Everyone here lives and breathes. For a while, anyway.

Lastly, if you haven’t yet clocked who Amy Racecar really is, all will finally be revealed.

THE END

SLH

Buy Stray Bullets vol 2: Somewhere Out West and read the Page 45 review here

Ex Machina Book 5 (£14-99, Vertigo) by Brian K. Vaughan & Tony Harris.

From the writer of SAGA comes the finale to EX MACHINA, my favourite piece of political comic fiction of all time.

Hundred finds his tenure as Mayor of New York City coming to a close more abruptly than he’d planned. He’s already declared he won’t stand for a second term so that he can concentrate on finishing his job rather than campaigning for re-election. But the power of the media is demonstrated when a radio show compels the citizens of the city to rise up en masse and it’s not very pretty.

All of that is as nothing compared to the final issue set several months later where we witness the separate fates of Bradbury, Kremlin and Hundred himself. Not one of them will you see coming.

This is a promise I make to you: not one of them will you see coming.

I almost dropped the book when reading the Bradbury scene, I did drop it during the Kremlin confrontation and my mouth gaped wide after my mind had fully processed the final page and its preceding phone call…

 

Before the politics rears its ugly head, however, I promised you repercussions when it comes to the sci-fi element and here be rats. A lot of rats. Also a rat catcher with an eye-patch sporting the words “Out Of Order”. Ha!

As Pherson – the man who can command animals the way Mayor Mitchell Hundred can command mechanisms – returns again and again with a message for Mitchell that he simply won’t listen to, we finally learn exactly what all the colour-coded control systems are all about, and why they’ve been given. It’s not good news, nor is the White Box. In fact it has serious implications not just for the future but for how Hundred conducted his original election campaign way back when.

All of which brings us to this new edition’s cover, and way back at the beginning I promised you this series was far from black and white. What does that cover say to you of the man it portrays?

Pour yourself a stiff one. You’re going to need it.

SLH

Buy Ex Machina Book 5 and read the Page 45 review here

Godzilla: Half Century War s/c (£14-99, IDW) by James Stokoe.

“I had arrogantly begun to think of Godzilla as an anomaly, a one-off. An animal of the Atomic Age too stubborn to die. Once the A.M.F. figured out how to deal with him, that would be it. We could all go home knowing that we had done some good.
“Then the others showed up and humbled the lot of us…”

Ah yes, the others

Not since I glued together my very first Aurora model kit, at the tender age of eight, have I been so in love with Godzilla. And yes, I used every piece of glow-in-the-dark plastic they offered, including that magnificent, jagged spine.

Here too the crystalline spine glows, as does the billowing smoke on page after page thanks to some monumentally lambent colouring by, I infer, James Stokoe himself, assisted by Heather Breckel. So much attention has been paid to each cloudy puff’s highlights. From the very first page I can promise you carnage on a gargantuan scale – we’re talking Geoff Darrow on SHAOLIN COWBOY or Frank Miller’s HARD BOILED – whenceforth it only multiplies.

Along with rookie soldier Ota Murakami, we first encounter Godzilla in 1954; in Japan, of course, where they first dropped the bomb. It’s pretty tough luck for the Japanese, having to reap what we sowed in the form of this rampaging mutation. The soldiers cannot contain the beast; they can only survive it thanks to some shit-hot tank driving. In the wake of such wreckage the Anti Megalosaurus Force is formed, Murakami being its key recruit. But it’s in Vietnam in 1967 that they realise Godzilla is far from alone and, worse still, its trajectory is far from random. After that it’s Africa, Bombay, then the whole bloody world as those ridiculous creatures swarm: Megalon, Rodan, Ebirrah, Hedorah, Mothra… Battra! As the stakes escalate, so do the A.M.F.’s counter-measures, but just when you think the odds can’t get any worse, the fight is joined by those from beyond and oh dear lord my eyes are on fire!

Inevitably there’s some manga in the mix this time out, and I love the puffing, sweaty faces. Most of all, however, I love the way the transport subtly reflects each era, especially in 1975 where the crack team’s more of a whack team, crashing about in a VW Campervan presumably pimped in Haight-Ashbury.

SLH

Buy Godzilla: The Half-Century War and read the Page 45 review here

Planet Hulk #1 (£3-99, Marvel) by Sam Humphries & Marc Laming.

Seldom has an artist filled every conceivable inch on the page with big, bold forms without it for one second feeling cluttered or crowded.

And that’s what you want from a HULK comic: big, bold forms! Especially when there are multiple Hulks of so many different sizes, hues and degrees of semi-sentience! Regardless of whether or not they’re given lines, each is imbued with a distinct personality, some even less friendly than others.

Back with you in a second…

Previously on SECRET WARS #1 and SECRET WARS #2 (both reviewed): the Marvel Universe was destroyed, Earth ceased to exist and everyone on it perished. In its wake a new world appeared populated by those who will be familiar to you but in oh so different circumstances! This Battleworld is divided into kingdoms between which trespass is strictly forbidden by God above, the lord and master of all he surveys,  ****** ****** *** ****

Let’s play Hang Man! It wouldn’t be inapposite.

SECRET WARS, then, is the central title for the next few months and now sees the launch its satellite series, each of which focuses on a distinct kingdom or zone although – having read this first week’s wave (far many more than I’ll be covering here) – I can see how cleverly some will be connected, trespass or no trespass.

Here an incursion is authorised – but by whom? Who is it sitting there scowling implacably on his throne? * He’s a lot less loquacious than usual, I’ll tell you.

As the comic commences a blonde warrior called The Captain is hailed as victor in the latest Killiseum combat tournament transmitted throughout Battleworld. Huge jubilation to the non-existent rafters etc.

His chain-mail, cloth and leather garb combo is a fusion of warrior-race soldiers many moons ago, although its icons and arrangement are strangely reminiscent of a certain Steve Rogers. He has triumphed over the feral Wolverine Clan with the aid of an axe, a star-striped shield and a bellicose, bi-pedal, Cretaceous-era chappie we’ll simply call Tall, Red And Toothsome.

 

The Captain’s not done this for fame, he’s not done it for fortune. He’s done if for information about a missing companion; for this single moment when the vainglorious master of ceremonies, Arcade, strides forth to commend his accomplishment; and for when Steve Rogers springs his trap – ready and waiting and right by his side.

When you realise where Arcade’s been imprisoned, I promise you will roar with laughter!

What does any of this have to do with multiple Hulks? They’re subsisting in a barbaric environment similar to the original PLANET HULK and under attack by the Hammers of God whom we call Thors. They appear to be holding their own but don’t think they’re all working as one.

According to ****** ****** *** **** this is where The Captain will find his companion. Now why do you think he would impart this much-prized information to someone who has royally pissed him off?

I swear to green goodness that everything I’ve typed has been relevant. Sam Humphries has written this so you will care. It’s not a random companion Cap’s after – guess who! And if you thought someone was missing from this – your official HULK substitute for several months to come – Ahahahahahaha! I give you final-page, revelatory shenanigans!

* It is actually possible to scowl implacably. As irrefutable evidence I present you with exhibit A by Marc Laming. You’ll see.

SLH

Buy Planet Hulk #1 and read the Page 45 review here

A-Force #1 (£2-99, Marvel) by Marguerite Bennett, G. Willow Wilson & Jorge Molina.

Previously on SECRET WARS #1 and SECRET WARS #2 (both reviewed): the Marvel Universe was destroyed, Earth ceased to exist and everyone on it perished. In its wake a new world appeared populated by those who will be familiar to you but in oh so different circumstances! This Battleworld is divided into kingdoms between which trespass is strictly forbidden by God above, the lord and master of all he surveys,  ****** ****** *** ****

SECRET WARS, then is the central title for the next few months and now sees the launch its satellite series, each of which focuses on a distinct kingdom or zone although – having read this first week’s wave (far more than I’ll be covering here) – I can see how cleverly some will be connected, trespass or no trespass.

Although in this case: most definitely trespass!

“In the shadow of The Shield, with the sun on the sea… there is an island. Welcome to Arcadia. It’s pretty tight.”

It’s also thoroughly Florentine in its Italian Renaissance, red-roofed domes. Throw in a little Venice because we’re living by the sea, although there are fewer wooden jetties on stilts and a substantial, solid rock base instead.

Keeping its inhabitants safe from harm is A-Force, an female fun-for-all led by She-Hulk. While patrolling today A-Force discovers a stray mutant Megalodon, which is essential a Great White Shark on spinach and steroids before you even get to the “mutant” part. One of their members acts in haste and the world – in the form of Word From On High – comes crashing down around them. Autonomy? I don’t think so!

Of course I’m still being cryptic. I want you to enjoy discovering these for yourselves but you can join the dots up between what I’ve written here, just as I did with this and the preview for SIEGE #1 by Kieron Gillen & Filipe Andrade into which this so slickly ties. If you need any more clues just think which other Marvel titles Kieron Gillen has written.

Gorgeous art at either end while the bits in the middle are a bit toy-doll, to be frank. Certainly nothing like the great Jimmy Cheung on the cover.

SLH

Buy A-Force #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Thor vol 1: The Goddess Of Thunder (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Russell Dauterman, Jorge Molina.

“Thor… There are things that have happened since you fell… Things you should know before you…”
Not now, Father. It will have to wait until after I’ve –“
“Your hammer has gone missing.”
“What?”
“And so has your mother.”

Fairly standard superhero art, a little too heavy on the line until Molina turns up, but some pretty cool Frost Giants underwater.

Alas, the Son of Odin has fallen from grace and is no longer worthy enough to lift his fabled Mjolnir. Although neither is All-Doting Daddy. Has the All-Mithering Mother gone and got herself an immortal make-over while their backs were turned?

If she had, then the thought bubbles issuing in tandem with – but in contrast to – the new wench-warrior’s confident Thor-speak wouldn’t be so startled at her current condition, dubious about her abilities or ridden with Americanisms. On the other hand the new soul deemed worthy of being Thor is at least be familiar enough with the Odin-son, his family and his Mjolnir to know their names and past behaviour, so who is she?

I know the answer, it maketh sense, but after some deft misdirection Aaron rings a clanger of a bell so loud you’ll be hospitalised.

Meanwhile back to the story and Roxon Oil is at it again, sticking its international nose where it does not belong and sinking its corporate claws into that which belongs to others, in this case the skull of a fallen Frost Giant – their dead king. The Frost Giants are led on an underwater assault on Roxon by dark elf Malekith (used for largely comedic purposes like Gillen used Mephisto and Loki) and they’d all deserve whatever they’d get but our new female Thor intervenes.

Neither father nor son is remotely happy that someone has half-inched the hammer. The son’s complaint is proprietorial and so understandable. But the All-Incandescent, All-Intolerant, All-Interfering dipshit of a daddy is going to bollocks things up for everyone just because it wasn’t what he had planned and anyway she’s a girl.

Men!

SLH

Buy Thor vol 1: The Goddess Of Thunder (UK Edition) s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Sam Jamwitch #3 (£2-50) by Kate Hazell, Ed Hawkesworth

Scars (£2-50) by Sally Jane Thompson

24 by 7 h/c (£14-99, Fanfare Presents) by Kristyna Baczynski, Dan Berry, Joe Decie, Warwick Johnson-Cadwell, Sarah McIntyre, Fumio Obata, Jack Teagle

Sithrah Book 1 h/c (£14-99, Coffee Table Comics) by Jason Brubaker

The Power Of Tank Girl (£19-99, Titan) by Alan Martin & Rufus Dayglo, Ashley Wood

Superman Wonder Woman vol 2: War And Peace h/c (£18-99, DC) by Charles Soule & Tony S. Daniel

Deadpool Classic vol 11 s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Victor Gischler, Mary H.K. Choi & Bong Dazo, Rob Liefeld, Kyle Baker, Matteo Scalera

Deadpool vol 8: All Good Things s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by various

Thanos Vs. Hulk s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Jim Starlin

Wolverines vol 2: Claw Blade And Fang s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Charles Soule, Ray Fawkes & various

A Silent Voice vol 1 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Yoshitoki Oima

The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past (£13-99, Viz) by Shotaro Ishinomori

Rosario + Vampire Season II vol 14 (£6-99, Viz) by Akihisa Ikeda

The Summit Of The Gods vol 5 (£14-99, Fanfare / Portent Mon) by Yumemakura Baku & Jiro Taniguchi

Dan Dare Omnibus (£14-99, Dynamite) by Garth Ennis & Gary Erskine

Eric h/c (£5-99, Templar Publishing) by Shaun Tan

Strangers In Paradise vol 3 Pocket Edition (£13-50, Abstract Studios) by Terry Moore

News!

ITEM! Robot 6 at Comic Book Resources interviews Page 45’s own Jonathan! Loads of photos! Please note: there are two pages of interview! Please click on “NEXT” at the bottom of the first page!

ITEM! Alex De Campi has made a trailer for NO MERCY as recommended by Kieron Gillen & Bryan K Vaughan. Nice! NO MERCY #1 by Alex De Campi & Carla Speed McNeil reviewed by moi. In stock now!

ITEM! I watched Alan Bennett’s ‘Sunset Across The Bay’ (1975) again the other night. Devastating. Ridiculously you can buy a 12-film Alan Bennett BBC DVD collection for just £12-83 at Hive Stores. You can even nominate Page 45 as your local independent store so we make a cut and have it delivered here as well so you pay no postage at all. Here are the details:

How To Buy Discounted Books, CDs, DVDs etc Via Hive AND Support Your Local Independent.

“You can’t be branching out into yoghurt at our age!” Bernard Wrigley cameo in Alan Bennett’s Sunset Across The Bay.

- Stephen