Posts in the ‘Reviews’ Category

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews February 2019 week three

Wednesday, February 20th, 2019

“It serves to remind us that love, free thought, individuality, novelty and a complete range of emotional experiences are all essential for lives fully lived.”

 – Jonathan and Stephen on The Giver by Lois Lowry, adapted by P. Craig Russell

The Giver h/c (£20-99, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) by Lois Lowry & P. Craig Russell with Galen Showman, Scott Hampton…

“I certainly liked the memory, though. I can see why it’s your favourite. I couldn’t quite get the word for the feeling that was so strong in the room.”


As to why absolutely no one in the Community has any idea what the emotion love is except The Giver, and now Jonas, the new twelve-year-old Receiver, well, that’s where our sad, dystopian tale of woe, but also ultimately hope, begins.

At first black and white glance, especially through the eyes of the young children being inculcated into the system of beliefs and morals that prevail, you might conclude that this is a utopian paradise. In fact, everyone living there (except The Giver who must keep his own counsel), is wholly convinced that it is.

From the moment they were born – then taken away from their anonymous birth mothers and placed by committee with carefully selected parents, who themselves have had their partners and jobs specifically chosen for them to match their mindsets and abilities – free will and choice is effectively entirely absent from their lives.



Obedience is everything, and nothing so troubling as novelty or diversity is allowed to intrude on their bliss. Through a combination of conditioning and emotion-suppressing drugs, the population of the Community has, so it seems, quite literally nothing to worry about.

Even after a full life spent contributing to the Community, people go to live in the House Of The Old, cared for tenderly and attentively by the young people, until their joyful Release is granted.

This blessed Release is practised by the Community as a way to bring a long and valuable life to a peaceful and celebrated conclusion, their life achievements being read out in a ceremony before they wave a cheery goodbye then walk through a door.

People are also Released under other instances. For example, if babies don’t settle sufficiently at night to be placed with a family after being professionally nurtured, then they too are Released, so as not to bring distress into any household.  If someone gives birth to identical twins then the child with the lowest birth weight is also Released, for the Committee fears the heinous confusion that two identical-looking beings would cause in their meticulously ordered idyll. And above all, to maintain the tranquillity, if someone fails to adhere to Community standards of behaviour or questions authority on more than two occasions, then they are most definitely Released…


… into another community. Apparently.

People just don’t seem willing, or able, to think too deeply about what is actually going on. Except Jonas… which is how he ends up being selected for the once in a generation job of Receiver. He’s been selected by committee for the role because he is brave and because he is different.

But maybe picking someone capable of independent thought to be entrusted with the entire memories of all mankind’s history: the good, the bad and the very, very ugly, isn’t the Committee’s best idea…?

For that is the role of the Receiver: to be the repository of everything that the rest of the Community, including the Committee, is shielded from, handed down from the previous generation’s Receiver who as he becomes the Giver is finally freed from his painful burden. But it seems quite clear even to young Jonas that, as the old Biblical adage goes, surely tis better to give than to receive…?

I’ve really only touched upon the barest premise of this tremendously affecting work. I can see why the prose original has sold millions of copies since its release in 1993 and won myriad awards including the prestigious Newbury Medal for “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children” for its author Lois Lowry in 1994. It’s definitely an all-ages work this, though. I personally found it both deeply disturbing and immensely uplifting as everything Jonas has ever known is fundamentally challenged and his inherited beliefs shaken to their very foundations.

P. Craig Russell has taken on the immense challenge of adapting and illustrating this modern classic, and he has done so with all of the careful deliberation and lateral thinking which he brought to bear on THE RING OF THE NIBELUNG, as he makes abundantly clear when interviewed in the back of the book.

Initially, as I alluded to above, the story is only told in black and white, with some additional blue pencil for texture and emphasis. This is because the Community’s emotional natures are so suppressed and lives been so deliberately homogenised that they can now only see in black and white. Jonas, however, begins to have small spontaneous flashes of colour vision appear to him, such as an occasional object like an apple, or a friend’s hair. This is perceived as him having the ability to ‘see beyond’ and is further taken by the Committee as a sign of the veracity of their wise choice in making Jonas the new Receiver.



As more and more of the memories of humanity, painful and pleasurable alike, are passed to him by the Giver, and he ceases to take his medication prescribed to quell early romantic and sexual stirrings, Jonas’ perceptions and emotions begin to rapidly open up and he starts to experience reality increasingly more vividly. There’ll be substantially more colour by the time the book ends, but I don’t really want to spoil anything as to explaining precisely why. Suffice to say as the book reaches its dramatic climax there’s a delightful ambiguity to the ending which left me pondering deeply.

I can certainly see this is a book which would provoke a considerable amount of debate and discussion amongst young readers, particularly if it were put on a school syllabus, not least on the subject of empathy. Which is a subject more than a few adults could do with a refresher on, frankly.

P. Craig Russell’s art, exceptional as always, should help to ensure this reaches a whole new audience and will hopefully serve to remind us that love, free thought, individuality, novelty and a complete range of emotional experiences are all essential for lives fully lived.

JR with SLH

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

Pip And The Bamboo Path h/c (£11-99, Flying Eye Books) by Jesse Hodgson ~

High in the Himalayan mountains you’ll find the mischievous red panda cub, Pip, and her mother, playing in the trees and nibbling delicately on the bamboo shoots. They have a glorious home, a place abundant with life and bursting with every colour imaginable, a true image of paradise! But danger is just around the corner for our blissful pair, as their utopia is on the brink of disastrous change…

Pages drenched in crayon create a tactile and tangible world. You feel as though you could almost stroke the luscious fur coats of Pip and her mother, run your fingers through the velvet grass, or feel the hard rocks, cold to the touch in the high altitude snows. And this truly is a story that tells itself through colour, as subtle as it may be to young eyes.



We begin in a verdant forest, filled with greenery and flowers while stoic mountains in rich teals watch over the pair, the sun casting its glorious, embracing orange glow as it sets for the evening.



But that warm glow quickly gets turned into fire-red danger, when a turn of the page reveals that the habitat that Pip and her mother love is being ravaged by monstrous claws as they dredge up the earth and tear the trees to the ground. In black silhouette, Pip and her mum scurry away to safety as quickly as they can. We’re then thrust into a long dark night of cobalt blues as our two refugees travel through scary places unknown in search for the mystical bamboo path, and a new place to call home.


Hodgson has crafted a beautiful book encouraging bravery, understanding and the strength and importance of togetherness. Importantly, it’s a whimsical telling of a very real plight of the critically endangered red panda. Hopefully, it will encourage young nature lovers to understand the impact of humans on the environments, and the plight that animals have to go through in order to adapt and survive in places they’re never expected to.

A charming story, elegantly told with an abundance of cute. I couldn’t get enough of Pip’s little expressions, especially in moments of play with pink-padded paws splayed and tail thrashing in the air. I implore you to name a creature cuter than a baby red panda!


Buy Pip And The Bamboo Path h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Back On Our System

Eightball: Pussey! (£11-99, Fantagraphics) by Daniel Clowes.

A reprint of material from the early 1990s which Clowes, in his introduction, puts down to frustration and jealousy he felt while trying to carve a viable career of his own as a comicbook creator in a country where the medium and industry were dominated to their detriment by superheroes.

I don’t think he should be so hard on himself: this is a surprisingly accurate skewering of the industry not only as it was then, but had been for years, with some side-swipes at the easily bought – sorry, SPONSORED – Comics Buyers Guide; Stan Lee (the way in which he ran Marvel Comics back in the 1960s and the way in which those veterans continued to be treated at conventions until recently); the original Image Comics crew… and even Fantagraphics’ co-publisher Gary Groth makes a brief but verbose appearance as Mr. Anger.

Mr. Anger!



But it’s more complex than that. Just like Feb 2019’s CRIMINAL #2 (which too takes place in the comics world) with few exceptions you can’t really say, “This is him, this is her” etc. They’re more embodiments of common attitudes and behaviour in the industry and without: the lessons here about pride, fall, fame being both fickle and fleeting, treating people on the way up then being treated on the way down… They’re timeless. I may be missing something, but I certainly can’t pin buck-toothed Dan Pussey down as any artist in particular. And I wonder if Chris Ware was thinking of the narrative structure here when he began to offer up pieces of ‘Rusty Brown’, because it does dot backwards and forwards in time, gradually revealing what made Dan Pussey into the repressed man-child and hackneyed superhero artist who eventually becomes comicbook king… for a year.

If you’ve ever heard of superheroes being referred to as male power fantasies and didn’t quite know what was meant by that, this is the definitive explanation with ‘The Origin Of Dan Pussey’ providing an uncomfortable portrait of a weak and unsociable child with daydreams of revenge as one of the superheroes he draws badly: “I’ll crush you all like ants!”



Like Evan Dorkin in THE ELTINGVILLE CLUB, another classic stab at the less salubrious aspects of a superhero-dominated US/UK industry – Clowes is more even-handed than you might expect, because the pretensions of the Fine Art Gallery crowd come under fire as well, and my favourite scenes were those set in the world of the wilful obscurists, a collective published by Emperor’s New Clothes Magazine (“Look how much it costs — they must pay higher page rates!”) whose editor is as rapacious and slimy as the superhero hustler who cons his crew to work for nothing. In fact the entire book is about money and using people.

“Welcome, my boy, to the editorial offices of Emperor’s New Clothes Magazine: The moderne, avant-garde, neoexpressodeconstructivist Compendium of Comics (or, as I like to call them, Kommix). I am Gummo Bubbleman: Editor, Emperor, Enfant Terrible. Did you bring any samples of your work, or are you just here to waste my time!?”
“No… I – I figured you’d have seen it… I’m Dan Pussey!” 
“Pussey? …Pussey? …No, can’t say that I have. Tell me, Pussey… why do you want to work for me?”
“Eh… well… I … I… eh…”
“So! You’re a snivelling little cowardExcellent! That’s a quality I admire in an artist!”



The next day, Dan brings in some samples of his superhero work…

“Pussey, this is really first rate work! You’ve captured the primitive essence, the crude vitality of derivative, mindless slop! It’s really quite an achievement! You’ve got keen sensibilities to be able to recognise and deconstruct the various trite and mundane clichés inherent in the common comicbook… and to lay them bare in such an artless and… and venomous way!”

Oooh, that sounds insightful and intense, while utilising unique aspects of this medium to —

“I-It was s’posed to be kinda like Batman crossed with Star Trek…”

Oh dear.

This, of course, was long before Clowes turned his hands to mainstream, mass-appeal contemporary fiction like GHOST WORLD whose quieter, more natural and nuanced visual sensibilities matched the friendship study portrayed. Here instead we are firmly in the realm of highly accomplished and ugly caricature with aforementioned buck teeth, rictus grins of self-satisfaction and deceit, the odd penis-shaped nose, greasy hair falling across undoubtedly acne-pocked foreheads, fashion senses in middle age indicating that those who sport them are stuck in era even earlier, and an astonishing array of spectacles, not a single pair of which suits the one wearing it.



I’ve just typed “Not a single pair of which suits the one wearing it” and realised for the first time ever that we refer to a singular set of glasses as a pair, as in plural, and it has confused the linguistic / syntactical hell out of me. I guess it’s because there are two lenses…?


Buy Eightball: Pussey! and read the Page 45 review here

The Great Northern Brotherhood Of Canadian Cartoonists (£16-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Seth…

“I know that time is ticking toward twelve. But perhaps our day will dawn again. Maybe this graphic novel thing has some legs.”

There are some works which demonstrate their grand majesty, their epic qualities, immediately on their first page; you just know you’ve struck gold as soon as you begin reading. And then there are those works which go quietly about their business, building their story, drawing you in little by little, encompassing your imagination further and further, until almost without realising it, you’re completely immersed in a marvellous and splendid world, on a journey that you never want to come to an end, and when you finish the final page and close the book, you’re already a little wistful for what you’ve just left behind.

This latest work from Seth is a classic example of the latter, though it actually almost never saw the light of day at all, as in its original incarnation in his sketchbooks, it started off as more of an essay on early Canadian cartoonists, and frustratingly for the author, wasn’t really progressing in the way he’d hoped. So instead he concentrated on the hilarious story of the world’s greatest comic collector, WIMBLEDON GREEN, and was apparently only convinced to return to this work after friends who’d seen the roughs convinced him there was a classic of a story waiting to told, and so he set to work. The first thing he did was completely revise his vision, and in fact ended up redrawing most of it, incorporating many fictional elements, to produce this finished work. So what exactly is the Great Northern Brotherhood of Canadian Cartoonists?

Ostensibly it’s a story told on two levels, an actual tour of the headquarters of the said  club of luminaries by Seth himself, wandering round the various lounges, halls, corridors and studios, (several of which provide an art deco statement la Société des Artistes Décorateurs would have been proud of) whilst he narrates the great history of the club and regales us with examples of many of its famous members’ most outstanding and noted works, thus providing an elaborate illustrated history of the 20th Century’s most celebrated Canadian cartoonists.



Except, of course, most of these people never existed and these stories were never told! For sure there are some nods to real-life greats like Doug Wright worked in there, clearly someone Seth has a lot of affection for, but on the whole it’s fictional stories about Eskimo astronauts, generational period dramas and flying ghostly canoes that capture the imagination. There are many, many tantalising tidbits of such stories shown to us, which I’d dearly love Seth to go back and expand on at some point, as they contain such wonderful ideas it seems a shame not to explore them further.



Even though Seth shows us a myriad of these creators throughout this book, the art style remains his own throughout, with only the most minor stylistic modifications employed to illustrate the many creators’ works. It’s a conceit that works extremely well actually, because otherwise it undoubtedly would lose the coherency that pins this work together, the sense of seamless progression through the ages as we wander deeper and deeper into the club itself, finally culminating in an appropriately wistful little rumination from Seth himself, quoted above, as he enjoys a quiet cigarette on the roof overlooking the city skyline. And if people can keep producing graphic novels as outstanding as this work, I don’t think we or Seth need worry about our beloved medium for a long, long time to come.


Buy The Great Northern Brotherhood Of Canadian Cartoonists and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

New reviews to follow, but if they’re new formats of previous books, reviews may already be up; others will retain their Diamond previews information we receive displayed as ‘Publisher Blurb’



Bloom (£13-99, FirstSecond) by Kevin Panetta & Savanna Ganucheau

Hicotea: Nightlights Book 2 h/c (£14-99, Nobrow) by Lorena Alvarez

Days Of Hate vol 2 s/c (£15-99, Image) by Ales Kot & Danijel Zezelj

Lucy & Andy Neanderthal h/c (£10-99, Crown) by Jeffrey Brown

The Electric State h/c (£18-99, Simon & Schuster) by Simon Stalenhag

The Handmaid’s Tale – The Graphic Novel h/c (£20-00, Jonathan Cape) by Margaret Atwood & Renee Nault

Transmetropolitan Book 1 s/c (£16-99, Vertigo) by Warren Ellis & Darick Robertson, Rodney Ramos

The New Teen Titans vol 1 s/c (£16-99, DC Comics) by Marv Wolfman & George Perez

Amazing Spider-Man vol 2: Friends And Foes s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Nick Spencer & Humberto Ramos, others

Captain America vol 1: Winter In America s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Ta-Nehisi Coates & Leinil Francis Yu

Deadpool: Secret Agent Deadpool s/c (£13-99, Marvel) by Christopher Hastings & Salva Espin

Ghost Rider: The War For Heaven Book 1 s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron, others & various

Old Man Hawkeye vol 2: The Whole World Blind s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Ethan Sacks & Marco Checchetto

Punisher vol 1: World War Frank s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Matthew Rosenberg & Szymon Kudranski

Runaways vol 1: Find Your Way Home s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Rainbow Rowell & Kris Anka

Runaways vol 2: Best Friends Forever s/c (£16-99, Marvel) by Rainbow Rowell & Kris Anka

Inside Mari vol 2 (£11-99, Den Pa) by Shuzo Oshimi

That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime vol 3 (£11-99, Kodansha) by Fuse & Taiki Kawakami

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews February 2019 week two

Wednesday, February 13th, 2019

“Great Monarch butterflies migrate right across and up through the page towards us, the depth of perspective increased by the orange light of sunset which falls only on those closest to us.”

 – Stephen on Darwin – An Exceptional Voyage by Fabien Grolleau & Jérémie Royer.

Darwin – An Exceptional Voyage (£16-99, Nobrow) by Fabien Grolleau & Jérémie Royer.

“So God created mankind in his own image…”

Actually, He did nothing of the kind: we created God in ours.

Or at least, the patriarchy did, hence the big beard and not infrequent genocidal strops.

There are several points to this which are all too pertinent to Charles Darwin, his discoveries, his revolutionary, evolutionary extrapolations (the origin of our species etc), and to this gorgeous graphic novel from the creators of AUDUBON which follows the tracks of his treks around the world from 1831 to 1836, focussing on South America and its surrounding seas.

It was, if you like, the original five-year mission to seek out new life and new civilisations (before we set about extinguishing them) whilst digging through ancient geological strata, thence discovering some very old life (which we also extinguished on arrival, albeit 16,000 years earlier when Homo Sapiens first settled in America) while challenging some entrenched Christian presuppositions about time.



The sermon on Genesis is delivered early on in the graphic novel – almost as soon as The Beagle has set sail – to impress upon us the almost universal doctrine still prevailing 3 centuries into the Scientific Revolution that the world was created in 7 days, just a comparative couple of fortnights ago. What Darwin and others like Lyell (geologist), Wallace (naturalist) and Hershel (astronomer) were on the cusp of pronouncing based on their empirical evidence was not about to go down well within inward-looking ecclesiastical cloisters and the wider society which they continued to dominate with their blissfully ignorant dogma.

It’s not the sermon which drives Darwin to his bunk below deck, shuddering “Agh… Hell on earth!”, but his first experience of seasickness which will rarely pass. Still, the juxtaposition does serve to emphasise that the 22-year-old graduate of Cambridge who’d studied to become an Anglican Parson is going to start preaching something else altogether and become blasted with charges of blasphemy. The sense of looming conflict is emphasised visually, first by an illustration of the literary Eden harbouring an array of animals which cleverly conflates continents (African zebras, Indian peacocks), then more forcefully by a striking full page in which Darwin lies, sweatily gritting his teeth with nausea, as a serpent-coiled Eve holds out a rosy-red apple from the Tree of Knowledge while commanding “Respect the word of God, Darwin”.

If you’ve an appetite for irony, there’s about three courses served up there on a single platter.


This book is an English translation, honest! – ed.



Aaaaaanyway, fast-forward to Argentina, September 1832, and Charles Darwin – still in his early 20s, grey beard to follow without even a hint of post-modernist irony – has unearthed some spectacular fossils: gigantic skulls of big beasts that no one has seen since (*checks Christian calendar*) last Tuesday.

Subsequently we are treated to a delicious double-page spread of Darwin meandering with a Gaucho guide through an unspoiled verdant grass and arboreal landscape, conjuring in their minds all manner of South American Megafauna, like giant ground sloths and glyptodonts.



“All these lives lost in the oblivion of a time much longer than we imagined.”
“You mean longer than The Bible tells us…? You do realise what you’re saying could be deemed blasphemy, Darwin? Yes, you do.”

It’s sure starting to dawn on our Darwin. He’ll be discussing that very subject with Hershel later.

“Those animals were gigantic. How could they have just disappeared one day?”
“Hunger? Thirst? Natural disasters?”

Brilliantly, their final supposition hovers over the spread’s single inserted panel of soldiers standing over the bodies of some poor indigenous individuals they’ve just shot dead. That final supposition:




There’s a laudable balance throughout of the euphoria Darwin experiences on discovering, collecting and, errr, dissecting so many new animals and plants and seashells before shipping them home, and his dismay – at one meal boiling over into a rage which kept him in conflict with his Captain far longer than the script suggests here (it should be noted that he was the Captain’s guest, not his employer) – at the way in which his compatriots mistreated the locals like slaves while in service or, out and about, as savage intruders upon the so-called civilisation which they were exporting. A little after-dinner irony for you, there.

Also admirable is the portrayal of Darwin’s inconsistency, for although he was a humanist who believed all the other humans he encountered as essential equal, he was also repelled at times by their dirtiness and diseases and, yes, “savagery”. This ambivalence (but also evidence of equality) is brought into especially sharp focus by a substantial, unexpected narrative thread about which I’d previously known nothing: the three individuals which Captain Fitzroy had abducted in chains on a prior visit to Tierra Del Fuego at the southern tip of South America.

“He secretly planned to save them from their savagery and convert them to the true faith… He turned those savages into real English gentlefolk, good Protestants. Fuega is now an educated young woman and an incredibly gifted linguist.” She’ll also prove a very quick learner invaluable to some of Darwin’s studies. “Good old Jemmy is a plump little gent: perfumed, coiffed and always impeccably turned out. He never misses one of Reverend Matthews’ services. Only York Minster still has his dark Indian stare. Might he have been too old at the time of his capture?”

All three are onboard as the Beagle sets sail, the plan being to return them to Tierra Del Fuego with Reverend Matthews and use them in a missionary capacity. Wait until you see how that turns out.



It’s at this point that I’d refer you to the back of the book, as I did with AUDUBON, in which it’s indicated where the graphic novel departs from known historical fact: no one, for example, has a clue about the final fate of these three, but I enjoyed the conjecture, it seemed entirely right not to dismiss their story without one, and it’s used to provide much food for imperialist thought.

I relished the entire endeavour from start to finish, apart from – I own – the some of the stilted, cliché ridden posh-speak and gruff-speak (“For goodness’ sake! This filthy brute broke the poor boy’s nose!” “You’re in for it!”), but that’s by the by. What a work like this must do above all if it’s to be a roaring success is to evoke the intoxicated awe that must have been felt by Darwin at the beauty, majesty and sheer variety of everything his eyes encountered for the very first time, and then replicate that beauty and epic majesty. Well, as with AUDUBON, A+++ on all fronts.



Great Monarch butterflies migrate right across and up through the page towards us, the depth of perspective increased by the orange light of sunset which falls only on those closest to us.

You’ll be treated to truly terrifying stormy seas – “KRAAK”ed overhead with black thunder and spiked, white lightning against Vandyke-brown skies – the body of the tempestuous ocean rendered in the richest and deepest slate-grey while multiple cusps, like iced mountain peaks, are granted their power with the striking, counter-intuitive application of a dry-brush effect!



The mountains and glaciers themselves will not disappoint, either, towering over the HMS Beagle, way up into the sky with all the mythical power of Mount Olympus. Through crisp contours and sharply contrasting colours, there’s the most remarkable sense of layered distance achieved between the nearest rocky crags, the glaciers behind them, then the final summits beyond, like insanely sized stage slats. The Beagle, on the other hand, is nestled firmly in the same sea that the first crags rear from, entirely at one with its environment.

And when Darwin sleeps out in the open air for the first time in Argentina, lying back on looking up at the infinite sky, the constellation of stars cannot help but stir your imagination as it did the explorer’s, the naturalist’s, the great pioneer of natural selection and human evolution.




Buy Darwin – An Exceptional Voyage and read the Page 45 review here

Lone Sloane: Salammbo h/c (£35-99, Titan) by Philippe Druillet, Gustave Flaubert…

“The wild beast hurls himself forth, and is swallowed by this new world, new to him and yet so oddly familiar. A feeling of deja vu. Time’s serpent is forever unspooling its coils…”

Yep, that’s pretty much how I feel every single week when I start reviewing a new batch of comics…

But enough of me… here is the publisher to try and make some sense of this artistic slice of Euro-madness.

“A heady perfume of blood and rage across the stars featuring Philippe Druillet’s legendary Lone Sloane. In the third century BC, mercenaries employed by Carthage during the first Punic War rose against their employers, who repeatedly postponed their pay. Two barbarian clan chiefs, Matho and Narr’Havas, fell in love with the beautiful and ethereal Salammbo, daughter of Hamilcar of Carthage. A bloody conflict arose.



Based on the 19th century novel by Flaubert, Salammbo was reappropriated and recontextualised by Druillet in this masterwork. Transposing the ancient Punic Wars into his space fantasy universe, and splicing the identity of the novel’s Mathô with his favorite character, Lone Sloane, Druillet works his intoxicatingly psychedelic magic on a literary classic, reinvigorating it from the inside out with his own transcendent storytelling.”



It’s quite something, that’s for sure. The word psychedelic is frequently over-used, devaluing its proverbial psychoactive coinage, but it certainly applies here, let me tell you. Be in no doubt of that whatsoever.

In fact, I’m rendered slightly speechless by the sheer kaleidoscopic insanity of what I’ve just… absorbed.



If in artistic terms you like Bryan Talbot’s (frustratingly still out of print) NEMESIS THE WARLOCK, Brandon Graham and chums’ PROPHET, Kevin O’Neill’s LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN, Mike JUDGE DREDD McMahon, then I think this is going to hit all those notes for you in a cacophonous, riotous rhapsody… with additional ultra-vibrancy included of the sort that only an entire extra-large set of felt-tips can produce. It’s bright… like Brendan McCarthy bright.



Storytelling-wise it is also as out there as GARDENS OF GLASS by Lando, PICNOLEPTIC INERTIA by Tsemberlidis, and Moebius’ more philosophical stuff such as THE WORLD OF EDENA. Yet… this also has its own strangely urgent, precise tension that is almost certainly due to the accompanying staccato narration that frequently appears in intense, rather substantial chunks.

Consequently I felt like I could either just look at the pretty mind-bending pictures or simply read the prose story. The two definitely feel like a parallel attack. They work together certainly; it just felt like a perversely, deliberately incongruent approach. Like, “I’ve just drawn this brilliant artwork, so, I suppose I better come up with some suitably mesmeric words to go with them.” As I say, it works, it absolutely works, it is just not what one is typically exposed to. Which for this material is entirely apt.


Buy Lone Sloane: Salammbo h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Wrath Of Fantomas h/c (£26-99, Titan) by Oliver Bouquet & Julie Rocheleau…

“The irony is that Fantomas is indeed readying his revenge. That’s why the city is so quiet tonight.
“Paris is holding its breath, Fandor… Paris is holding its breath.”

Maybe Paris just has hiccups?

Here is the excited exhalation from this particular breathless behemoth of periodicals…

“Freely adapted from the work of Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre, with a plot worthy of the best black novels, Rocheleau plunges the reader into the Paris of the 1910s and provokes terror and fascination by resuscitating Fantomas, the evil character with a hundred faces … Fantomas is the first superhero in history. All masked men and women who grace the pages of American comics and movie screens are his illegitimate children.”

I think they mean supervillain, surely, but I get the rapier-sharp point. It’s a bold statement, though, that those beloved American icons Batman and Spider-Man are the bastard offspring of a psychopathic French dandy…?

So extrapolating wildly… basically, what they’re saying is it is the French who are responsible for a genre-drowning sub-niche that threatens to subsume the quality artistic output so beloved at Page 45 which is striving valiantly just for its fair share of the wider market. Why would you want to claim that?

Zut alors! It’s like saying you voted for Brexit…

I’m pulling the proverbial frog’s leg, by the way, not least because to my mind this is pure crackpot crime that needs no tightening up by passing references to the newly found and hopefully soon forgotten Gallic genealogy of capes… There’s just a pure 24-karat pulpy period preposterousness to the story which sees Fantomas trying to steal all the gold in Paris, including the gilding on the roof of Les Invalides and stripping the statues on the Alexandre III bridge.



Not to mention those Napoleon coins in the Bank Of France and The Mint which are propping up the entire French economy and thus the country… That’s a lot of bling. It wouldn’t be good for those in power if it were to disappear overnight, now, would it?



The surprisingly competent if understandably frustrated police are well aware of Fantomas’ scheme but the master of disguise seems mysteriously able to stay one step ahead of the long, rather well-tailored arm of the law… I wonder how that might be…? Okay, so maybe they’re not that competent.



If you like your crime with a dash of daft and a grind of gruesome, this will be well seasoned to your tastes. Writer Oliver Bouquet was only familiar to me for stepping in on the scripting for the concluding third part of SNOWPIERCER with artist Jean-Marc Rochette, which he finished off very well, I must say.

Art-wise, it’s not your typical ligne claire Euro-fare, not at all. Julie Rocheleau, who excelled on ABOUT BETTY’S BOOB, penned by Vero Cazot, returns with her enticing blend of subtle, soft yet striking pencils and swathes of strong colours. Here the combination of glossy paper and bolder colours only serves to add to the drama and the tension.



A passing point of reference that sprang to mind, which I’ll throw into your path to catch you unawares like a well-placed caltrop, would be Kyle Baker in full-on colourful YOU ARE HERE mode, for the occasionally slightly exaggerated facial features.



Once again, I can only applaud Titan for expanding their horizons to take us on a trip to the continent as they have before under their Statix Press imprint with the likes of THE BEAUTIFUL DEATH and KONUNGAR, plus of course also the SNOWPIERCER trilogy and UNIVERSAL WAR ONE. At least we won’t need a visa to read bandes dessinées after Brexit. If it actually happens… maybe Fantomas can come back to steal all Jacob Rees-Mogg’s gold… I’d pay good money to see that.


Buy The Wrath Of Fantomas h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Reel Love – The Complete Collection h/c (£14-99, Unbound) by Owen Michael Johnson…

“This is your first memory of dreams in the dark.
“This is your first memory of me.
“Your father brought you to me.
“A little gift.
“Year later, when you learned of my origin, you would recall your own.
“I was but a child myself in 1896, as the Brother Lumiere released a vision at the Salon Indien Du Cafe Grande.
“Myth and memory fused to provide a greater story than truth.
“It was too much.
“Beginnings are always difficult.
“You emerged from me, kicking and screaming into a world of light.
“You did not yet know how to love me.
“But you would…”

I originally read the opening chapter of this work in self-published form several years ago and really loved (no pun intended) it, so I’m delighted to see the completed tale finally in the can and gracing the screens – I mean the shelves – in a comic shop near you in plush hardback form.



It’s the story of one man’s life-long, obsessive love of cinema, told in three acts of course, entitled entirely appropriately: ‘Projections’, ‘Concessions’ and ‘Admissions’.



Starting with the young boy somewhat overwhelmed by his first visit to a cinema (as you may have gathered from the pull quote above)…



…we see him grow into an aspiring film student with high hopes of one day making it to the bright lights of Hollywood, through to… well, we don’t want to give any spoilers out now do we…?

Our unnamed protagonist finds others who share his interest along the way, albeit perhaps to not quite the same degree. So consequently his all-consuming compulsion towards the cinematic is as likely to cost him relationships as it is to make them. Still, presumably that drive is going to get him to the big time, his films up onto the silver screen in front of the adoring eyes of millions…? For we all know ‘the business’ isn’t a fickle one, right?

Very well-written, I found all the characters entirely credible and the story extremely compelling. Artistically, here’s another pull quote to set the scene before I commence my comics buffery in that particular direction.

“But that black and white shit? Who likes stuff in black and white?”
“I do. They’re atmospheric… elegant.”
“He can stay.”




I like black and white comics. Frequently they are indeed atmospheric and also elegant. I think applying the term elegant might be stretching it slightly when talking about Owen’s art style, which isn’t as strong as his writing, but it is certainly not remotely lacking in atmosphere. It’s extremely consistent with respect to itself and conveys the story more than adequately, but very, very occasionally I found myself noticing some slight over-emphasis of the characters, or other minor inconsistency and subconsciously slightly critiquing it, which momentarily took me out of the narrative.  But let’s be honest, nobody likes a critic!

I should at this point add that he is a lot, lot better artist than myself and I am sure he will only get tighter artistically. In fact I was at times minded of very early Nate MARCH Powell and Jeff ROUGHNECK Lemire stylistically. I merely mention this regarding the art because it might preclude the odd person, upon first perusal, from persisting and purchasing this. But they shouldn’t because it is well worth the price of entry.

Overall I simply admire Owen’s sheer tenacity in getting what is an extremely entertaining, accomplished and very nicely produced debut graphic novel out there and hopefully into your hands. Without his grit and drive to get this work completed, like many other comics creators out there who toil away for years to relatively little reward, our industry would be much poorer.

Not everyone gets to follow their artistic dreams, let alone achieve them, or indeed ‘make it big’ so kudos to Owen for writing, directing and producing this arthouse gem. I am sure it was a labour of real love for him. Pun most definitely intended.


Buy Reel Love – The Complete Collection h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Back On Our System:

My Cardboard Life (Signed & Sketched In) (£10-00, self-published) by Philippa Rice.

Paper, scissors, stoned!

Who could fail to fall for a book as riddled with mischief as this? It’s a gloriously simple set up which plays with its raw materials with childlike glee, yet a lot of lateral thinking.

Basic ingredients: corrugated cardboard, paper, cloth, wool and the occasional piece of string; chocolate coins, real coins, tin foil and a sticking plaster. Nothing tricksier than that. Pen at the ready; Tippex on standby.

Recipe: take your basic materials, turn them into two-dimensional characters, then photograph the poor things as you put them through the wringer. Also through a hole puncher, and more emotional trauma than you can imagine. Poor Cardboard Colin gets his heart ripped out – quite literally at one point just so Pauline can make sweet music. Clever, clever, clever.




One of my favourite gags began, “Colin, I’m gonna punch your lights out.” Can you guess the next panel?

Bonus material includes a family tree (it’s where they all came from – ba-dum!), original layout sketches, and three-dimensional tableaux including a miniature comicbook convention alley and comics which will be very familiar to those shopping here!



Review Update: Cardboard Colin went on to star in the all-ages collage comic, ST. COLIN AND THE DRAGON and the fully photographed WE’RE OUT set in Nottingham city centre (Page 45 appears on page 45!), and highly reminiscent of the stop-animation of Oliver Postgate (‘Bagpuss’ etc).

Meanwhile Philippa Rice herself went on to star in SOPPY and OUR SOPPY LOVE STORY alongside Luke Pearson, the creator of HILDA.




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

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

New reviews to follow, but if they’re new formats of previous books, reviews may already be up; others will retain their Diamond previews information we receive displayed as ‘Publisher Blurb’

The Giver h/c (£20-99, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) by Lois Lowry, P. Craig Russell

Over The Garden Wall vol 3 (£13-99, Kaboom!) by various

The Problem Of Susan And Other Stories h/c (£15-99, Dark Horse) by Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell, Scott Hampton, Paul Chadwick

Rumble vol 5: Things Remote s/c (£14-99, Image) by John Arcudi & David Rubin

Black Hammer: Doctor Star And The Kingdoms Of Tomorrow s/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Jeff Lemire & Max Fiumara

Mister Miracle s/c (£22-99, DC) by Tom King & Mitch Gerads

Immortal Hulk vol 2: Green Door s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Al Ewing & Joe Bennett, Lee Garbett, Martin Simmonds

Infinity Wars s/c (UK Edition) (£18-99, Marvel) by Gerry Deodato Jr., Andy MacDonald, Mark Bagley, Andrew Henessy, Cory Smith

Spider-Geddon s/c (£22-99, Marvel) by Christos Gage, others & Jorge Molina, Carlo Barberi, Todd Nauck, Stefano Caselli, Joey Vasquez

Giant Days vol 9 (£10-99, Other A-Z) by John Allison & Max Sarin

Edens Zero vol 2 (£9-99, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Barefoot Gen vol 2 (£14-99, Last Gasp) by Keiji Nakazawa

Barefoot Gen vol 5 (£14-99, Last Gasp) by Keiji Nakazawa

Barefoot Gen vol 6 (£14-99, Last Gasp) by Keiji Nakazawa

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews February 2019 week one

Wednesday, February 6th, 2019

“Wow, that is one tough YTS scheme.”

 – Jonathan on Shanghai Red by Christopher Sebela & Josh Hixson

To Drink & To Eat vol 1 h/c (£22-99, Lion Forge) by Guillaume Long…

“Don’t confuse letting an idea marinate and marinating pickles.”
“Because anyone can make mistakes.”

Haha, like ever-attentive waiter, there is a gag strip that pops up with wonderful frequency throughout this work featuring “Pepe Roni’s Good Advice.” That the punchline is always, but always, “Because anyone can make mistakes” (delivered by Pepe Roni from the comfort of his armchair, knocking back what looks like a fine Armagnac, presumably for its renowned therapeutic benefits), only serves to add to the delight of these tasty amuse-bouches.

Right, so what’s on the menu then? Here’s the publisher to tell us all about this particular special…

“Hungry for help in the kitchen? Go from basic cook to master chef with Guillaume Long’s clever and charming lessons in French food. Cooking blogs and comics come together in TO EAT & TO DRINK, the newest and most unique cookbook to add to your kitchen shelf.”

What a fabulous work this is!

Served à la carte in sixty or so delightful dégustations, it comprises an eclectic collection of culinary delights such as recipes presented by Guillaume…



…though not necessarily all for their taste presumably, given one includes raven – also various sage advice like ‘The Ten Commandments Of Raclette’, many an absurd anecdote regarding some mild kitchen chaos or indeed culinary near-catastrophe…



…plus extended tasting notes from trips to Budapest, Venice and errr… a local Chinese restaurant. All flavoured with Guillaume’s self-deprecating trademark sense of humour. Here he is regaling us with his take on dealing with the aftermath of a moment of silliness whilst shopping in the supermarket…

“The other day in the supermarket you had a flash, a moment of weakness… of craziness… during which you entered the Fourth Dimension… that is to say, you bought some broccoli. Now alone in your kitchen, you have returned to reason and you ask yourself: “Shit. Why did I buy this thing?””



Served up with finesse, I found much to salivate over here. This is no mere junk food to be gobbled down unappreciatively. No, you will want to savour it, a bite or two at a time. A feast for both the eyes and the soul, this will appeal both to foodies and those who simply have good taste in comics. Well, that my professional advice anyway. Speaking of which…



Plus, there’s plenty of variety in its presentation, from said visit to Venice in free-floating panels in delicate line on parchment-coloured paper to full-colour sequential-art narrative which glows on the glossy page, then straight-up illustrated guides to kitchen utensils, a trip to a fishmongers and its fruits of the river and sea, or those you’ll find hanging from trees. Sexy spot-varnish cover, too! Handy for wiping cooking oil off!


Buy To Drink & To Eat vol 1 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Shanghai Red (£14-99, Image) by Christopher Sebela & Josh Hixson…

“Get your lazy asses up, you filthy rats. Your useless lives just became worth something again.
“You’re free. Contracts is up.
“The captain took on your debts when he bought you, a fair bit of coin. Now you’re all paid up.
“Started with a dozen of you. I been cracking the whip across your backs, trying to teach you somethin’ and now comes the day of reckoning. You got a choice to make, boys.”
“One, ya stay on the Bellwood. Sign up for another go-round. Only now you’d be pulling wages, equal with the rest of the men. No more sleeping in the hold.
“Two, soon as we land in Shanghai, you walk. Make your own way home. Though I’m not sure how you’d be able to, skint as you all are.
“You got two minutes to decide. Captain wants me back on deck. Smile boys. You’re sailors now. Just need all five of your names on…”

Wow, that is one tough YTS scheme.

Get shanghaied in Portland, be locked up in a ship’s hold for two full years with a mortality rate of over fifty percent, repeatedly getting hell thrashed out of you, before being told you’re free to go if you want when you land – oh irony of ironies – in Shanghai… It’s almost like the Captain and his first mate aren’t really giving you that much of a choice, right?

Well, “Jack” certainly thinks so.

It’s just that her choice to kill the Captain and the entire crew, seize the ship and set sail back for Portland to deal with the people who put her on the Bellwood in the first place in a similarly rewarding manner might not be the most obvious one. Unless of course getting kidnapped and effectively kept in slavery on the high seas for two years is the holiday you’ve always been dreaming of… Because nothing says “thank you” for giving someone the opportunity to see the world quite like slitting their throat.


Yes, that’s right, for “Jack” is in fact Molly, or Red as she now prefers to be known.

Here is the sad sea shanty from the publisher to make you salty seadogs shed a tear or two as they clue you in on Red’s revenge mission…

“Red is one of hundreds of people who were shanghaied out of Portland in the late 1800s. Drugged, kidnapped, and sold to a ship’s captain for $50, she wakes up on a boat headed out to sea, unable to escape or reveal who she is. Now, she’s coming back in a blood-soaked boat to find her family and track down the men responsible for stealing her life out from under her. Eisner-nominated writer Christopher CROWDED Sebela & Joshua Hixson bring you a tale of revenge, family, and identity that stretches from the deck of a ship outside Shanghai all the way to the bleak streets and secret tunnels beneath Portland, Oregon.”



Oh yeah, it is ON! I love me a good bit of retaliation, retribution and reprisal. So do remember to pick your standing orders up won’t you, me hearties…? It’s just that finding those responsible for the shanghaing shenanigans shore-side and dealing with them is going to be a lot harder than clearing the decks of the not-so-good Captain and his lackeys.

No, the second part of Red’s equalising errand is going to take considerably more guile and cunning. Good job for her she’s got those skills in abundance. Perhaps she’d like to take on those responsible for Brexit next?



There’s a lot of the suitably rough and ragged about the art for the bruising fist-fights, comfortless conditions and blood pooling over the floorboards. And, I kid you not, everyone is glaring at each other throughout with such effectively depicted ice-cold hostility and suspicion that you may find your own eyes narrowing, however subconsciously.

If you have a need to see wrongs righted and wrongs ‘un sent off to sleep with the fishes (who presumably might have a little nibble on them after they wake to find breakfast has been kindly served up), this is for you. Brutal, nasty, probably exactly what life in 1800s Portland was like, both on ship and shore, this is a cautionary tale awash with all shades of pale blues and bright reds that a tot or two too much rum in a less than salubrious local can lead a to – a hangover that might last a very long time indeed…


Buy Shanghai Red s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Bad Machinery vol 7: The Case Of The Forked Road (Pocket Slipcase Edition) (£11-99, Oni) by John Allison.



It’s actually exactly the same original, portrait-orientated graphic novel, except housed in a landscape slipcase so that it’s perfectly aligned with your other small-hands editions.

“FLIP! Ole Knotty’s coming!”
“Get in there! Quick!”
“Oof, move up!”
“Which one of you touched my bum?”

The bad boys have hidden in the science lab’s fume cupboard. There’s something very strange about that fume cupboard, and it will lead to a forked road – but a forked road to where?!?



We’ve written extensively and in depth about all things John Allison (GIANT DAYS etc) so if you want a more detailed analysis of Allison’s comedy craft try BAD MACH 6 or the BOBBINS one-shot, Page 45’s biggest-selling comic of 2016. He is the British king of gesticulation, whether it’s arms aloft in exaggerated exasperation / despair, hands clasped round cheeks for wide-eyed adoration / wistful daydream or Linton tugging at his own tie, just below the knot, in preparation for some action /super-sleuthing, like the proverbial girding of loins.



That particular added-extra would have occurred to so few other artists, and it’s what keeps the pages of clean, crisp lines so vibrantly active and alive. Speaking of added extras, you won’t find that Linton page online – it’s one of many new story pages which Allison creates specifically for each printed collection.

It’s all very British and ever so brilliant and BAD MACHINERY itself is all-ages, perfect for those who’ve grown up reading the likes of LOOSHKIN and BUNNY VS MONKEY by Jamie Smart.

However, kids do grow up, don’t they, and speaking of fumes one of my favourite albeit brief sequences this time involves Sonny’s bedroom.

“So, Mildred… did you get much out of him?”
“Sorry. He’s a bit… you know.”
“That’s all right, Uncle Tom. I opened a window.”

Sonny lurches out, shoulders hulked high, in nothing but his boxers and vest, a blonde, teenage, monosyllabic Neanderthal, to spray deodorant under his armpits in the bathroom then return, equally unresponsive, to sit cross-legged, frowning at a screen.

“Just going to play video games in your pants, then, son? I’ll shut the door.”



In fact, not to disrespect the central mystery – which is ingenious and comes with quite the sly epilogue involving The Beetles (sic) – but most of my favourite sequences this time involve the three lads, Linton, Jack and Sonny, who sit most of this session out while they hit or “catch” puberty, experiencing its own mysteries in hilarious single-panel growth spurts, beautifully drawn, before coming out of their hormonal chrysalises as three different varieties of a classic subculture. In this, as in everything, Allison actually thinks to maintain their distinct individuality where other, lesser creators would have dressed them all up the same. And it all works so well: of course Linton, Jack and Sonny – specifically they – would emerge into young adulthood as modern iterations of that particular British subculture!

Now, you may think puberty an unsuitable topic for what has been so far an all-ages comic but a) I don’t think so (there was way too much misinformation in my day filling the void that is British reserve, reticence and outright embarrassment), but also b) the references are both fleeting and innocent, plus 3) the youngest most people start in on BAD MACHINERY is aged 12, and even if you begin aged 10, most kids will be 12 by the time they reach volume 7. See also a) and b) if they can’t really wait.



It’s very much like Jeff Smith’s BONE in that what starts off as a light-hearted comedy comic which children as young as 6 adore grows ever darker as it gets older, but its readers grow with it too.

As to the girls, Charlotte, Shauna and Mildred, of course they handle things better – with books and the like – but then they’ve got their mystery-orientated minds focussed elsewhere. Haven’t they?

“Mildred. I… are you all right?”
“I saw something strange yesterday evening. But I need to ask my dad about it.”
“What? Mildred, what?”
“Was it a daddy cow on top of a mummy cow in a field? Because you don’t need to ask your dad. I will lay it on the line for you.”
“No, Lottie.”
“S-R-S-L-Y. Strickly scientific.”

Again, see BAD MACH 6 for what I love about Lottie’s language (it amuses me to refer to this series as BAD MACH – it sounds like a blunt and so defunct razor, or a hypersonic speed completely out of control), but here we are treated to “Britane”, “Laaa!”, “MENTILE!” and “the BECHAMEL test”.

“Right, so if you make a film with two ladies in it, and all they do is talk about MEN… it fails the BECHAMEL test.”
“… the bechamel test!”
“Yeah. It means your film is bland and cheesy.”
“Lottie, you are ruddy treasure trove of culture.” *




Meanwhile there are as ever strange “doings” to discern, cogitate upon and pursue to their logical conclusions, like why a young boy has appeared at Griswalds Grammar School in Tackleford wearing a school cap and shorts when nobody wears shorts and even Shauna wears full-length trousers rather than a skirt.

Did you spot that she wears trousers? Details! John Allison’s characters are all individuals, and he is all about the details. Pay attention to Occam’s Razor early on too!

“Why is this case 80% CROSS COUNTRY RUNNING? We were so close to CAKE!”

* It’s the Bechdel test. As in comics’ Alison Bechdel of FUN HOME etc.


Buy Bad Machinery vol 7: The Case Of The Forked Road (Pocket Slipcase Edition)  and read the Page 45 review here

Iron Or The War After s/c (£14-99, Archaia) by Shane-Michael Vidaurri…

Gripping, slow-burning espionage thriller clothed in delightfully wan and moodily atmospheric watercolours.

The rabbit Hardin has stolen some vital information from the victors of a civil war. He’s part of the Resistance that haven’t given up battling the Regime, though others’ loyalties, on both sides, are less clear cut. There’s a plan afoot to do something spectacular, to prove to the masses the good fight is still worth fighting, but will the Resistance get the chance to bring their plot to fruition, or will the intelligence agents of the Regime, combined with the incompetence of some of Resistance members, manage to foil their scheme? And when the dust settles who will be regarded as a hero, and who as a traitor?



A truly beautifully illustrated work, also poignantly penned by S.M. Vidaurri, which neatly showcases his burgeoning talents in both areas. He’s clearly a talented chap, and I’ve no doubt we will be seeing much more from him in the future. Storywise, this has much in common tone-wise with DUNCAN THE WONDER DOG, though that is a much more complex work.



If he plans to stick with anthropomorphics, though, he’s someone we could be talking about in the future in the same breath as Juan Diaz Canales & Juanjo Guarnido, the creators of BLACKSAD, but I’ve no doubt whatever he turns his hand to next is going to be visually spectacular.



For more anthropomorphics, highly recommended, please see Bryan Talbot’s five-volume GRANDVILLE.


Buy Iron Or The War After s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Submerged vol 1 (£13-99, Vault) by Vita Ayala & Lisa Sterle…

“There’s something else, girl. What is it that you want?”

A slightly better attempt at hiding something rather significant early on, I would have thought. Oh no sorry, that’s what I wanted…

Here’s the publisher to apprise us (and Elysia) of what the hell is going on…

“On the night of the biggest storm in New York City history, Elysia Puente gets a call from her estranged little brother Angel, terrified and begging for help. When the call cuts out suddenly, despite the bad feelings between them, Ellie rushes into the night. Finding his broken phone in front of a barricaded subway station, Ellie follows echoes of her brother into the sinister darkness of the underground, desperate to find him before it’s too late.”



I’m having to restrain myself here. It’s very tempting to throw out a spoiler. After all, the writer seems to fling out a truly huge one very early on for me. Nobody likes a spoiler, particularly when it is penned by the writer themselves… Unless, perhaps the whole point is that we are supposed to realise precisely what the hell is going on, even if Elysia doesn’t…? I’m not sure that makes it any cleverer, if so.

It just struck me as a little bit of a shame, because the real reason behind Elysia and Angel’s woes is only gradually revealed over the course of the whole story, in a manner that I thought was expertly done making that side of the story very interesting with some real depth. I just knew what the ultimate ending had to be all along. But, as I say, possibly that was the point; I just would have been tempted to hide it for longer myself. Allowing for that, I will certainly concede that this is cleverly written. The more I think about it, it must be that writer Vita Ayala intends us the readers to be aware of one very important fact that Elysia is most certainly not. Still, that not knowing is certainly going to ensure she’ll confront some serious demons, both figurative and literal.



For this curious mix of madcap mythology and criminal misdeeds serves to tell us of a journey in a most surreal subway that seems entirely designed to draw out one’s worst fears and where nightmares are made all-too-real. It’s a journey that despite me having a pretty good idea of the final destination, at least for one of our protagonists, is worth taking. For despite my comments above I was soon sinking into the sofa squirming along with Elysia as the veritable tortures of the damned are visited upon her.



That the art is rather good helped a lot with that too. It struck me as having elements of Faith Erin THE NAMELESS CITY Hicks, particularly in the facial features, and also Tula SUPREME: BLUE ROSE Lotay both in pencils and palette terms. I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for artist Lisa Sterle in the future.


Buy Submerged vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Dark Nights: Metal s/c (£16-99, DC) by Scott Snyder, various & Greg Capullo, various…

“Whoa. Big door. Vic, I’m sending you over the image…”
“Got it, Barry. I’ve run it over a thousand times already. But it keeps coming up unknown…”

Said big door being on the entrance to the hidden bunker in the centre of the huge mountain that has just materialised in the middle of Gotham City… destroying most of the city centre, sky scrapers and all…

Long-time DC fans will immediately recognise it as the base of the Challengers Of The Unknown, who these days work for… ah, well that would be telling. I enjoyed how Snyder weaved in all sorts of DC history into this tale right from the off, be it references to individual bat-books such as BATMAN: THE RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE written by Grant Morrison, or lesser-used third-string characters like the C.O.T.U.



It is a bit weird having to remember in this current version of the DC Universe that the Justice League has no idea who the Challengers are yet (Batman aside, obviously, being his usual know-it-all self). I think there was also a very odd, brief-lived, New 52 incarnation involving reality TV ‘stars’ as the Challengers if the memory serves.

Anyway, DC never particularly worried about re-writing their history with the various Crises and other events over the years. There are also a couple of much more familiar characters who crop up in this issue too, who will be very well known to even casual DC readers. If not the Justice League, yet…




So… following on from events in the Dark Days: The Forge and Dark Days: The Casting one-shots, now collected with a host of relevant reprinted New 52 issues in DARK DAYS: THE ROAD TO METAL, something not so fun and cuddy from… elsewhere… is on the way, apparently being drawn to this reality in some strange way by Bruce Wayne, who could actually do with a good cuddle, so that’s a shame.

There’s a nifty and amusing explanation involving a certain poster of the New 52 Multiverse (also thrown in DARK DAYS: THE ROAD TO METAL back matter) that probably graced more than a few comic shop walls a few years back which sheds an absence of light on the situation, and that’s probably all I should really say by way of plot explanation at the moment.

I was, and still am, perplexed by the prologue battle that will titillate fans of enormous, transforming Japanese robots… I’m still oblivious as to precisely what wider purpose that served. I commented in my review of the first issue that this event had the potential to get completely preposterous, but hopefully Snyder could keep it on track. He did, just about, but only just.



There are a few conceits in there that test the old suspense of disbelief, it must be said. It’s certainly big, convoluted, bombastic fun, though, and truly an infinite number of times better than the crisis of writing that was CONVERGENCE. I think I can safely rank this up there with CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS and FINAL CRISIS in pure madcap superhero event enjoyment terms.

Capullo, meanwhile, continues to dish out his impressive linework. He and Snyder, the team primarily responsible for the BATMAN DC NEW 52 run, are excellent foils for each other. If as a writer you are going to try and cram in that much action, you do need someone that can deliver clean, precise mayhem.

DARK NIGHTS: METAL – DARK KNIGHTS RISING, to be read perhaps before the final chapter, expands on ne’er-do-wellings of the seven glass-darkly permutations of a certain lead protagonist.


Buy Dark Nights: Metal s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

New reviews to follow, but if they’re new formats of previous books, reviews may already be up; others will retain their Diamond previews information we receive displayed as ‘Publisher Blurb’

Darwin – An Exceptional Voyage (£16-99, Nobrow) by Fabien Grolleau & Jeremie Royer

BPRD Devil You Know vol 2 – Pandemonium (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, Scott Allie & Sebastian Fiumara, Laurence Campbell, Laurence Campbell

The Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina vol 1: The Crucible s/c (£14-99, Archie) by Roberto-Aguirre-Sacasa

Eightball: Pussey! (£11-99, Fantagraphics) by Daniel Clowes

Firefly Legacy Edition vol 2 s/c (£22-50, Boom!) by Joss Whedon, Chris Roberson & Georges Jeanty, Karl Story, Stephen Byrne

The Great Northern Brotherhood Of Canadian Cartoonists (£16-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Seth

Lone Sloane: Salammbo h/c (£35-99, Titan) by Philippe Druillet, Gustave Flaubert

Pip And The Bamboo Path h/c (£11-99, Flying Eye Books) by Jesse Hodgson

Reel Love – The Complete Collection (£14-99, Unbound) by Owen Michael Johnson

The Wrath Of Fantomas h/c (£26-99, Titan) by Oliver Bouquet & Julie Rocheleau

Berserk vol 9 (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Kentaro Miura

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews January 2019 week four

Wednesday, January 30th, 2019

“The perfect primer for those young and old alike wanting to learn more about the mighty Mesoamerican marauders who had it all before some psychopathic Spanish pendejo arrived and promptly took it all away from them.”

 – Jonathan on Discover… the Aztec Empire by Imogen and Isabel Greenberg.

The Collected Toppi vol 1: The Enchanted World h/c (£22-99, Lion Forge) by Sergio Toppi…

“You have only one thing to do: Listen to me!
“That’s it!
“Just do what I say!”

Are you listening? That’s Toppi talking, by the way not me. You tell ‘em, Toppi! If it was me, I’d be telling you to buy this. I am just about to do that shortly, by the way, I feel I have to warn you…

Anyway, it’s not Toppi himself, of course, but one of his creations giving you the hard word. Well, giving another of his creations a stern talking to, but you see what I mean. If you don’t, and I wouldn’t blame you, because I am blathering on rather, just have a look at the amazing art inside this first of seven planned works collecting eleven of his shorts which have appeared in various publications over the years.



I think, given that the subtitle of the second collection due later this year is ‘North America’ and it apparently “contains eleven tales set in historical periods within the early United States, Canada, and Alaska” and judging from the content here, which ranges from a vengeful Celtic god to a mushroom-hating gnome and all manner of magical, fantastical malarkey in-between, usually with a cynically dark, if not deadly, edge going on somewhere, the seven books are all going to have rather different themes.

I must say, as brilliant and stylistically unique an artist as Toppi is, and he truly is, I therefore tend, much like with Paul ESCAPO Pope, to forget just how fabulous a writer he is too. There were many of these shorts which I would have loved him to expand upon. Don’t get me wrong, the pieces here are no throwaway half-formed shorts, even the shortest is ten superlative pages, but each is such a gem of an idea that they could all have easily been expanded / worked into longer-form works. My two favourites were probably ‘Solitudinis Morbus’ about a very, very peculiar sickness that afflicts only lighthouse keepers…



…and ‘Aioranguaq’ about an Inuit who loses his name whilst out hunting and has to earn it back.



As mentioned, I note this volume also contains eleven stories. Now, I have no idea if that is some sort of mystical thematic numerical congruency the editor is trying to achieve, and each of the other five volumes will also contain eleven yarns making a grand total of seventy-seven. Possibly upon completing reading the seventy seventh story, a large portal will open up, Toppi will appear and drag the reader off to the comics underworld. Given how enjoyable reading this particular set was, I’m willing to take that risk…

If you want a more sensible review of some Toppi material, please check out THE COLLECTOR, as unfortunately SHARAZ-DE is seemingly out of print for good now. One more thing… like I said…

Buy this! That’s me telling you.


Buy The Collected Toppi vol 1: The Enchanted World h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Supers: A Little Star Past Cassiopeia (£13-99, Top Shelf) by Frédéric Maupomé and Dawid.

Starting a new school is tough. What with large buildings housing a labyrinth of corridors, confusing timetables, and countless new people – none of whom seem particularly interested in helping you find your way around. Oh, not to mention this is a whole new planet to get used to…

Matt, Lily and Benji spent the early years of their lives on a space station in the asteroid belt surrounding a distant star, but when the local situation got dangerous they were promptly whisked away, out of harm’s reach. Now, they find themselves on planet Earth and the three siblings are the only family they have. So whilst they may have Al, a rather unimaginatively named green, space age A.I. Assistant, it has fallen on Matt’s shoulders to keep them all together.



Benji is headstrong, and Lily is still a little naïve, and neither can see the point in keeping their super powers entirely secret. Did I mention they had superpowers? Little do they know how much danger they could potentially be putting their tiny family unit in, were some unsuspecting human to spot them levitating the shopping away through the kitchen window.



In this first volume we get to follow the three as they settle into their new home and get used to school life. They make a few new friends along the way, but also an enemy or two, for as with every school, there is always the school bully.

Dawid’s artwork glows with an autumnal warmth throughout, whether it’s the chaotic buzz of a school day, or a pensive moment of our three siblings sat nestled on a rooftop, gazing longingly at the night sky. But no place has quite the same exuberant amount of warmth as Matt’s new friend Jeanne’s room does. It glows with shade of orange as a golden sunlight gently touches the clutter and keepsakes decorating her room. It is a space every bit as embracing as Jeanne herself, and I can’t help but get the feeling that she is going to become a wonderfully positive ally to the tiny family unit.



Maupomé has beautifully blended the super with the ordinary to create a relatable and heartfelt story of adolescence, self-discovery, and finding your place in life with a fun, exciting twist.

For another excellent example about the travails but also potential delights of starting a new school, please see FRIENDS WITH BOYS by Faith Erin Hicks.


Buy Supers: A Little Star Past Cassiopeia and read the Page 45 review here

Discover… the Aztec Empire h/c (£8-99, Frances Lincoln) by Imogen Greenberg & Isabel Greenberg…

“On their way, they discovered that the Aztec Empire was made up of many cities, and that there were many rivalries between those cities. The Spaniards began to take advantage of this.”

“We want their money. You want their money. Let’s take their money together. It’s win-win!”
“That sounds suspiciously simple…”
“There’s nothing to it. You do all the fighting, and we’ll split all the profits.”

Which is sadly where it all started to go wrong for the mighty Aztecs, when Hernán Cortés and the good old conquistadors arrived in search of the mythical El Dorado and had to settle for destroying an empire instead. Prior to that, for nigh on two hundred years, the Aztecs managed to conquer most of Central America themselves, establishing grand cities and of course indulging in the odd human sacrifice or two… thousand.



Read all about it from the pen and pencils of Greenberg and Greenberg who also brought you DISCOVER… THE ANCIENT EGYPTIANS and DISCOVER… THE ROMAN EMPIRE. (Isabel Greenberg even brought you THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF EARLY EARTH and THE ONE HUNDRED NIGHTS OF HERO, both of which we made Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month.)

If you need some fun historical learning, then these creators have the low-down on everything you need to know to enjoy an empire: right-uppity royal rulers, grand cities constructed by slave labour, a complicated calendar, a suitably plausible creation story complete with scary gods that need to be obeyed, thereby neatly providing a justification for sacrifice and a rewarding heavenly afterlife, bloody wars that simply had to be fought and the warriors that waged them, plus the basic structures of society and routines of daily life themselves.



Jovially illustrated complete with fold-out map and timeline (because why not?!) this titter-worthy treatise is the perfect primer for those young and old alike wanting to learn more about the mighty Mesoamerican marauders who had it all before some psychopathic Spanish pendejo arrived and promptly took it all away from them.



You win some, you lose some…


Buy Discover… the Aztec Empire h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Dungeons & Dragons: Art & Arcana – A Visual History h/c (£35-00, Ten Speed Press) by Michael Winter, Kyle Newman, Jon Peterson, Sam Witwer…

Well, it isn’t comics, but we thought more than a few of you might be interested in this insightful integration of information on the iconic icosahedronic… oh dear, I seem to be suffering from alliteration breakdown…

Anyway, here are the sage words of wisdom from the DM, okay the publisher, to clue you in before you turn the virtual page by scrolling down slightly and start adventuring, I mean, reading…

Dungeons and Dragons is the most iconic and pervasive gaming franchise in the world. This officially licensed illustrated history provides an unprecedented look at the visual evolution of the game, showing its continued influence on the worlds of pop culture and fantasy. It features more than 700 pieces of artwork-from each edition of the game’s core books, supplements, and modules; decades of Dragon and Dungeon magazines; classic advertisements and merchandise; and never-before-seen sketches, large-format canvases, rare photographs, one-of-a-kind drafts, and more from the now-famous designers and artists associated with the game. This is the most comprehensive collection of D&D imagery ever assembled, making this the ultimate collectible for the game’s millions of fans around the world.”

Slightly on the hyperbolic side perhaps, but I have to say that this is a truly epic work. I wholeheartedly applaud the immense amount of research and curative care that has gone into putting this tome together. For anyone with an interest in the back story of what I think we can agree is the RPG daddy of them all, this will more than satisfy. One man’s mountain of minutiae is a treasure trove of tantalising trivia to another. I was certainly in the latter camp with this work. It was darker than a goblin’s privy before I finally managed to stop reading yet another fascinating chapter and close the lid, I mean covers.



Every aspect of the creation and subsequent evolution of the RPG itself and its playing materials and so much more besides is covered in extensive depth, including the nonsensical negative media attention it attracted, foolishly believed by many paranoid parents, following the mysterious disappearance of Michigan State student James Dallas Egbert III <casts spell of bewilderment – 5 common sense> who subsequently re-appeared to rather less media sensationalism a month later. His decision to run away had everything to with academic pressure and nothing to do with Dungeons & Dragons…

It also covers the myriad spin-off merchandise and media tie-ins, such as the much beloved cartoon series that cashed in on the game’s popularity. Though I notice the brief cameo appearance D&D made to much faux-derision in the Grange Hill spin-off Tucker’s Luck somehow escaped the editor’s attention… The perhaps inevitable politics, in-fighting and consequent legal shenanigans that occurred following D&D’s runaway exponential success is also walked through for the record.



If you haven’t got the time to read this, for a brief potted history of the early days of D&D and its DM-in-chief, there is RISE OF THE DUNGEON MASTER: GARY GYGAX & THE CREATION OF D&D which is indeed comics, but if learning about the lore of the game itself is what you’re after, rather than the characters involved in its inception, this behemoth is the one you need.



If you just want RPG-related fictional comics by the way, then look no further than Kieron Gillen’s magnificent, multifaceted DIE, which after a mere two single issues is already shaping up to be a classic.

If you want comics about people playing RPGs then perhaps THE ADVENTURE ZONE: HERE BE GERBLINS by the Brothers Elroy of apparently some degree of podcast fame may take your fancy.

If you want to play D&D… well, I can’t help you there, just pick up the dice and get rolling…


Buy Dungeons & Dragons: Art & Arcana – A Visual History h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye s/c (£19-99, Epigram) by Sonny Liew…

My Book of the Year 2016, now out in softcover.

“In the beginning, there was Tezuka. They called him the God of manga.”
“I’ve got that book of his over here…
“As for me, I was born in the year of nothing. 1938.
“Well, as far as Singapore’s history is concerned, anyway… 1938… It was before the war, not a year of any particular significance…
But it was the year that The Beano first appeared in the UK…and Superman made his debut in the United States.”

I never knew that. Perhaps someone needs to organise a Dennis The Menace vs. Superman centennial crossover for 2038? I can just imagine the put-upon Clark Kent being best chums with Weedy Walter. It wouldn’t be the weirdest match up, surely; I mean SUPERMAN VS. MUHAMMED ALI was pretty odd, though I would contend BJORN BORG VS. PLUG of The Bash Street Kids, with the toothsome teen thrashing the great tennis maestro, is probably more bizarre still.



Hmm… not sure if one can technically have said to digressed before you’ve actually started something, but I’d best get on with the review! Or at least provide some background first…

Singapore, the “Crown Jewel of the British Empire”, is arguably the most successful former colonial territory, of any of the ‘great’ 19th and 20th Century European empires, in terms of its transition to independence. It’s economic prosperity and increased living standards enjoyed by its citizens were the envy of all its Asian neighbours in the latter half of the 20th Century. Most of the plaudits for that progress can be laid at the feet of The People’s Action Party which has formed the democratically elected and re-elected incumbent government since 1959, and its first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who actually held the position until 1990.

That progress, guided by Lee who is regarded as the founding father of modern Singapore, from “third world to first world in a single generation”, is clearly impressive. As ever, of course, along the way, there were certain dissenting voices who were, shall we say, removed as obstacles, by a combination of political chicanery, state abuse of power (particularly in the sphere of silencing dissenting journalists) and a disturbing use of extended internment without charge for radicals. It is probably testament to the relatively small scale and generally bloodless nature of these measures, that the vast majority of Singaporeans regard them as having been a necessary evil.



That moral conundrum, plus the history of this island from colonial trading outpost to fully fledged Asian tiger and much more besides is explored through the eyes, and art, of Singapore’s greatest comics artist: Charlie Chan Hock Chye.  Except… such a person never existed…



Sonny Liew has created a truly fascinating proxy to allow him to take us on the Singaporean independence journey, warts and all. That story in and of itself is immaculately laid out, very objectively, without shying away from any of the darker elements. But it’s the retrospective of the faux career of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, shown in snippets of chapters and sketches, à la mode of Seth’s THE GREAT NORTHERN BROTHERHOOD OF CANADIAN CARTOONISTS, which elevates this to a work of genius. Because Charlie Chan Hock Chye was always a man who expressed himself through his comics, and was someone who had much to say. With the arm’s length remove of anthropomorphic satirical gag strips or a speculative fiction premise about a fascistic future regime of hegemonistic alien overlords, his comics allowed him far more freedom of speech than the oppressed journalistic press itself enjoyed.




Thus Sonny Liew is very neatly able to provide a much more personal and subjective commentary on the never changing political landscape and various tumultuous events as they affected the typical man in the street. As with Seth’s masterpiece, you’ll be left wishing that some of Charlie Chan Hock Chye’s works actually existed because you’ll be wanting to read them in full!



There is an additional comedic level revolving around Charlie Chan Hock Chye’s entirely self-appointed status as “Singapore’s greatest comics artist” and his complete lack of any substantial commercial success, including his attempts to crack America, which is almost certainly a bit of personal commentary on Sonny’s part on working as a comics creator I would imagine, but which only serves to season our appreciation of this fake master even further.



Sonny employs a truly enormous range of art styles throughout this work, which is undoubtedly his magnum opus, demonstrating the various creative twists and turns (and cul-de-sacs) a comics artist might take during such an extensive and varied career. Fake or not, he’s had to draw them all! I seriously hope this work serves as a springboard to greater widespread recognition and rewards for Sonny though, because he truly deserves it. I can’t imagine how he can top this creatively, mind you, but I’m fascinated to see how he’ll try.


Buy The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Proxima Centauri s/c (£14-99, Image) by Farel Dalrymple.

“Get behind the blast glass!”

*        *       *

“Don’t freaking lecture me.”

*        *       *

 “Everything’s so stinking annoying today.”

*        *       *

“That thing ate my ride! What a jerk.”

*        *       *

From the creator of THE WRENCHIES, POP GUN WAR VOL 1, both extensively reviewed, plus POP GUN WAR VOL 2, and IT WILL ALL HURT which I also dipped into.

If you enjoyed THE WRENCHIES, then it’s time to rejoin The Scientist and indeed fractious Sherwood, still fretting about his lost brother Orson while frowning and drowning in post-pubescent hormones.

“Don’t forget to drink water, Sherwood.”
“I know.”



Here’s the publisher:

“4.243 light-years from Earth, the teenage wizard adventurer Sherwood Breadcoat is stuck in the confounding spectral zone on the manufactured dimensional sphere, Proxima Centauri, looking for escape and a way back to his brother while dealing with his confusing emotions, alien creatures, and all sorts of unknown, fantastic dangers. The Scientist H. Duke sends Sherwood on a salvage mission and gives counsel to the troubled boy in his charge.

“PROXIMA CENTAURI is six issues of psychedelic science fantasy action comicbook drama starring Sherwood Breadcoat, ‘The Scientist’ Duke Herzog, Dr. EXT the Time Traveler, the ghost M. Parasol, Shakey the Space Wizard, and Dhog Dahog.”



Dalrymple nails Sherwood’s teenage obstreperousness with giant, proclamatory speech balloons and defiant, sword-brandishing impatience to which The Scientist issues sage and scholarly advice without any thought to the certainty that it’ll mean nothing whatsoever to a self-obsessed teenager:

“Why so impatient to grow up? Learn to be present and your anxiety will subside.”



It’s hard to be present while under assault from sewer-swarms of monstrous, sharp-toothed insectoids while racing through gravity-shifting concrete jungles and spectacular, architectural retro-futuristic collisions.

There’s some Basil Wolverton about the bloating of the beasts’ heads, and a big love of Moebius in some of the floating landscapes.



File under “all kinds of crazy” and drink in the varied colour treatments.


Buy Proxima Centauri s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Dropped Off Our System / Now Reinstated

The Book Of Mr. Natural h/c (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Robert Crumb.

“You’re just a crazed old man… that’s what you are! And I’m half crazy for ever taking you seriously!”

“Now we’re getting somewhere! Come here, I’ll let ya in on a secret! THE WHOLE UNIVERSE IS COMPLETELY INSANE!”

Meet Mr. Natural, all shoes and beard, finger perpetually raised, poised to pronounce advice to those like Flakey Foont who are too feckless to think for themselves. It’s like some sort of lovers’ battle as Foont oscillates between adoration and desperation to declaring his mentor a fraud; the same goes equally for Mr. Natural as he lectures his acolytes then refuses to say a word, rejecting the fawning Foont as he hops about him maddeningly. Getting back to nature and away from cars, television sets and household appliances is what Mr. Natural is all about – which is odd for someone so fixated on washing the dishes.

It’s all about private meditation, not the ostentation of “Omm”ing on the streets of Sham Francisco. Sex too is a top priority, but not at the cost of commitment which infuriates the insatiably horny Devil Girl (“I want to merge with you!”).

So is Mr. Natural a sage or a charlatan? Absolutely.

He’s also, if you believe one version, an ex-taxi driver from Afghanistan.

Classic underground material from way back then.


Buy The Book Of Mr. Natural h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Hippopotamister (£13-50, FirstSecond) by John Patrick Green.

The joy of learning job skills and finding your personal calling!

Packed with wit and delivered with relish, this is a delightful Young Readers surprise told in three acts during which every aspect of the initial decay is, most unexpectedly, dealt with. I love a good structure and this is ever so neat – unlike these entropic enclosures.

“The old City Zoo was falling apart.
“No one was buying tickets.
“No one was managing the office.
“The habitats needed repair.
“The monkeys had no energy.
“The lion’s mane wasn’t very regal.
“The walrus’s smile wasn’t very bright.
“And in the centre of it all lived Red Panda and Hippopotamus.”

To be honest, the whole thing needs relocating and a thorough Gerald Durrell or Chester Zoo make-over. But it’s an old City Zoo and I think we can leave matters of a breeding programme to one side with 3 to 5 year olds.

Red Panda is thoroughly bored of it all and leaves to live amongst humans, returning each season to impress Hippopotamus with a dazzling array of jobs he claims are “awesome”. Indeed they may be, but either Red Panda has the attention span of a bluebottle on Benzedrine or… well, we’ll see shortly, won’t we?

Finally his friend becomes fed up too, and asks Red Panda if he could find him a job too. Ever enthusiastic, Red Panda immediately agrees, for to live amongst humans you must learn to stand on your own two feet. And they do, quite literally, hence Hippopotamister!



Together they try their hands at construction, banking, hairdressing… and it swiftly becomes clear that although Hippopotamister has an aptitude for almost everything, well, here’s what happens when they attempt to cook up something suitable in the kitchen.

Hippopasta Primavera:

Pasta al dente tossed with garlic and olive oil.
Steamed broccoli, crisp bell peppers, and grape tomatoes.
Sprinkling of parmesan over sautéed onions.

Antipasto A La Red Panda:

Critters, insects and assorted bugs.
Twigs, pebbles and burnt rocks.
Lint and mismatched buttons.
Red vine liquorice, mushrooms and car keys.

Car keys! I love that the rocks are burnt.

No matter, what Red Panda lacks in finesse, he more than makes up for with inexhaustible optimism. “This is going to be the best job ever!” he declares each and every time. You too will probably wince when they enter the dental practice. Particularly funny was the accelerated four-page montage during which Red Panda manages to make such a spectacular – and I mean catastrophic – mess of absolutely everything that he turns failure into an extreme sport. I adored their fling at being firemen!




However, if there’s one thing Red Panda excels at, it’s energy and enthusiasm and he doesn’t know how to give up. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

It’s at this point I leave you for fear of having to type “Hippopotamister” again with any accuracy, but it will all fit together – a lot better than Red Panda’s plumbing, anyway.


Buy Hippopotamister and read the Page 45 review here

You Are A Cat Pick A Plot vol 2 Zombie Apocalypse (£13-50, Conundrum Press) by Sherwin Tjia.

What was that sound?!

Imagine you’re a cat curled up on lounge sofa, merrily moulting ginger hair all over your gothic owners’ black cushions after having scratched several shades of shit out of their floor-length, velveteen curtains. It was exhausting – you deserve a nap.

But just as you’d settled down to doze, contemplating the decapitated frog you’d left beside the bed upstairs (exactly where the mother will soon place her naked foot), there’s a jangling of keys and the teenage lady of the house laughs her way through the front door accompanied by her new girlfriend. And that’s okay, but when her father staggers in a few minutes later and slumps like a drunk against the hall wall… that’s when your life changes forever.

Before we launch properly in I should emphasise that, unlike the two self-determining graphic novels we stock (KNIGHT & DRAGON and Jason Shiga’s enormously inventive MEANWHILE), this and YOU ARE A CAT VOL 1 are both illustrated prose brought to our comicbook attention on account of Tija’s magnificent short-story collection HIPLESS BOY which I described as “early Tomine if Adrian was an optimist.” Of the seemingly innocuous YOU ARE A CAT VOL 1 I wrote:

“WARNING: most certainly not suitable for kids! Oh, I know it looks as if it should be: for a start it’s a cat, secondly it’s riffing off and indeed mimicking your childhood favourites where you controlled the narrative by becoming the protagonist, making her or his decision for them, and then turning backwards or forwards to the duly prescribed page.”

What it actually contained was all manner of mischief involving moments of a dysfunctional family that only a cat would witness. This time the warning’s in the title and the cover, but nothing there could possibly prepare you for the true horror within. And we’re not even talking about the zombies: there are worse fates than getting your neck nibbled on by a bunch of hive-minded shamblers.

“The next two hours are awful.”



That, I promise you, is an understatement, for Sherwin Tija has put his thinking cap on sideways and come up with all manner of fucked-up futures for a cat caught in the midst of a zombie apocalypse, several strands involving you being bitten and infected yourself.

I am no expert in zombies, myself, but I consulted with Dominique and it appears that there are indeed very few strains which involve a zombie’s perspective, let alone a zombified cat, and Tija’s take is far from obvious because, to his mind, every animal would react differently. At one point when fresh human flesh is on offer you’re given three options, one of which is “Will you teach them your love?” * Funny.

There are a substantial two hundred and fifty pocket-sized pages here which Sherwin has packed with enormous fight-or-flight variety involving your bit of fluff down the road, her aging owner, a fenced-off enclave surrounded by snipers, a helicopter, outrageously ruthless scientists and some brand-new means of infection which I would never have imagined in a million years. Hint: you may never breast-feed again.

As to the myriad of final fates, they are soooooooooooooo dark that the brightest is almost the opportunity to throw yourself off a roof without having even attempted to negotiate DC’s juddering, advert-stuffed website.

“But, Stephen, is there no hope of happiness?”

Maybe. Define “happiness”. Hahahahaha!


* That was a hand-written note and I can no longer find the relevant page so it may not be verbatim. Also, I made the decapitated frog’s head up from an all-too-true personal, cold, clammy, squelch-crunch experience for which I never forgave my own Mr Bob-San, God rest his perpetually stoned so insatiably hungry but oh so photogenic, fat, feline soul.


Buy You Are A Cat Pick A Plot vol 2 Zombie Apocalypse and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

New reviews to follow, but if they’re new formats of previous books, reviews may already be up; others will retain their Diamond previews information we receive displayed as ‘Publisher Blurb’

Shanghai Red s/c (£14-99, Image) by Christopher Sebela & Josh Hixson

Submerged vol 1 (£13-99, Vault) by Vita Ayala & Lisa Sterle

To Drink & To Eat vol 1 h/c (£22-99, Lion Forge) by Guillaume Long

Bad Machinery vol 7: The Case Of The Forked Road (Pocket Slipcase Edition) (£11-99, Oni) by John Allison

Cicada h/c (US Edition) (£17-99, AAL) by Shaun Tan

Herakles Book 2 h/c (£17-99, Lion Forge) by Edouard Cour

Iron Or The War After s/c (£14-99, Archaia) by Shane-Michael Vidaurri

My Cardboard Life (Signed & Sketched In) (£10-00, ) by Philippa Rice

Courtney Crumrin vol 4 s/c (£11-99, Oni) by Ted Naifeh

Darth Vader: Dark Lord Of The Sith vol 4: Fortress Vader s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Charles Soule & Giuseppe Camuncoli

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews January 2019 week three

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2019

“Perhaps loving someone shouldn’t be confused with understanding them…?”

 – Jonathan on James Sturm’s Off Season

The Lady Doctor (£14-99, Myriad) by Ian Williams…

“So how are things with you? You sounded a bit upset on the phone.”

“I got a letter. From my mother.”
“From Cilla? Jesus Jones!”

Haha, that’s a great curse for those of us of a certain age. I might have to start using that. The good doctor returns – that’s Ian Williams by the way, certainly not any of his creations – to tell us more of the going-ons at and by the practitioners and patients of the Meddygfa Llangandida Health Centre which, with sincere apologies to our Welsh customers, itself sounds like it’s named after a particularly debilitating brain disease. Perhaps from reading too many comics…

We will see Dr. Iwan THE BAD DOCTOR James, still covertly and timidly lusting after his very available titular co-worker, plus the supremely obnoxious Dr. Robert Smith, still just being a complete tosser, but the star of the show this time around is most definitely Lois. And her mum who tries her best to steal every scene she’s in!




They have something in common, our Cilla and Lois, which after not seeing each other for nearly  forty years since her mum simply dropped everything and walked out of Lois’ life as a tiny child is somewhat unexpected. That it is Lois’ liver, well, that falls into the completely totally and utterly variety of unexpected…

With no suitable husband material on the horizon (much to Dr. Robert’s delight who is desperate for Lois not get herself up the duff and inconvenience the practice, well him at any rate…) and a drink habit verging on the cusp of getting out of hand, Lois finds herself at somewhat of a crossroads in life.



Her long-standing crop of patients, including one particularly prescription-mad one, are doing her head in, plus her sideline of sorting people’s bits and bobs out at the nearby genitourinary clinic is, shall we say, not exactly satisfying her professionally, despite its potential for the occasional moment of hilarity. Good job her mum’s about to drop a hepatic hammer blow on her before promptly attempting to bulldoze her way back into her liver, I mean life!

As before, Ian’s art style minded me of Kevin FIELDER Huizenga, and actually this time around Andi THE CITY NEVER SLEEPS Watson. I think I’ve mentioned before he’s exceptionally good at working expression into his characters’ faces, including here one glorious sequence after a particularly bad inebriated life choice from Lois which me made howl with laughter. As before he completely eschews panel borders, frequently using single soft colour backgrounds with rounded corners. There is also a… trying to avoid spoilers… a rather more colourful section which I found mind-blowing. As did Lois.



Once again, I really admire the careful attention paid to the construction of this work. I devoured it with delight and I do hope Ian holds to his original intention to make this a trilogy. One would presume therefore that Dr. Robert might be the final member of our triaging triumvirate to take his comics bow. Given the proverbial (and highly appropriate) bomb that gets dropped on him at the conclusion of this work which I hope is part of said set up, I look forward to watching his misery first hand in the future…


Buy The Lady Doctor and read the Page 45 review here

20th Century Boys Perfect Edition vol 1 (£12-99, Viz) by Naoki Urasawa.


From the creator of PLUTO and MONSTER comes a series so far set in 1997 – with childhood recollections flashing back as far as 1968 – but we have already caught glimpses from the other side of the millennial divide which will make you sit up and think, informing everything which you read within. This is a brand-new review.

It is time to get ominous on your ass.

“You want to know, open your mind!!
“You want to know, surrender your spirit!!
“You want to know, take a leap of faith!!
“You want to know, become a friend.”

The wild-eyed man means a very special sort of friend: a friend of their Friend, an enigmatic man who likes to hold court and answer questions, drawing devoted followers so numerous that they fill a darkened arena as large as the Budokan. They meet under a banner whose sign is an eye within an eye, and the inner eye emanates out from a hand pointing upwards.



An acolyte earnestly raises his hand:

“My Friend, what does it mean to find true tranquillity?”
“Good question,” replies this Friend, silhouetted in shadow.
“To be with me – that is what it means to find tranquillity.”

And who wouldn’t want to find tranquillity? But if you’re hearing intimations of Kahlil Gibran’s ‘The Prophet’, please think again: Kahlil Gibran’s Prophet never made anything about himself, this holy “me”.

I once had a friend who joined a karate cult which preached “Happiness is belonging”. It was one of many ways intended to dissuade departure and making dependence on one’s membership an emotionally addictive crutch. Think Jehovah’s Witnesses. It also actively taught outright obedience, transgression punishable by humiliation – like being told to strip in front of fellow friends, as my mate was, and did.

But then I’m an intransigent adversary of all forms of indoctrination and authority which is why I created my own comic shop, beholden to no one, so perhaps I’m a little bit biased…

Nope, I’m pretty sure that physical humiliation is wrong.

It is the discovery of (and investigations into) this Japanese cult – which will prove to have tendrils infiltrating all walks of life, and apocalyptic ambitions reaching far wider than one single nation – which forms the bulk of this opening volume. One of these angles is chased by lawyers alerted by members’ parents, another by the police alerted by the disappearance of a local, oddball professor. But that latter investigation is what also alerts lead protagonist Kenji, a local store owner who makes deliveries of produce to that professor, to embark on his own much more personal mission because, daubed like a swastika on that professor’s deserted door, he discovers a symbol: an eye within an eye, the inner eye emanating out from a hand pointing upwards.



It’s exactly the same emblem which he himself helped create back in 1969 with his pre-teen friends upon forming an innocent childhood, den-based, secret society of their own. One of their ambitions: to save the world!

And suddenly, everywhere Kenji looks, he sees that symbol resurfacing: for example, as a baseball team’s t-shirt colours at the university where one of those childhood friends taught until he recently committing suicide. It is at this friend’s funeral and his wake that the rest of those early playmates converge. Naturally, they begin swapping stories and gradually, reluctantly, a few among them start to agree that something about their jejune declaration to save the world has gone disastrously wrong…



What I loved about this is not necessarily what you’d expect, for it has such hidden depths.

Urasawa may not be Japan’s Jiro Taniguchi (A DISTANT NEIGHBOURHOOD, VENICE, GUARDIANS OF THE LOUVRE, FURARI etc) when it comes to tranquil, spiritual introspection or Taiyo Matsumoto when it comes to the evocation of very real, raw and deprived childhood in the likes of SUNNY. But the creator of PLUTO and MONSTER is not going to let you down when it comes to the fleshing out of characters, their socio-political predicaments, or their present and past.



Kenji, for example, is struggling with a present which makes demands of him as a failing shop owner under threat by the remonstrations, castigations and ultimatums of his chain-store boss, and the twin burdens weighing him down of a prune-faced mother dipping her hand into his produce and his potentially psychic baby-niece whom he carries everywhere upon his back now that his sister has deserted her family. But you will discover that she wasn’t once half so flighty (pun and understatement both intended), that she may have had most pressing reasons for this swift departure, and your jaw will be floored when it’s revealed what [REDACTED]. No, it really will.

More than any of that, though, the flashbacks you’ll experience within will tick so many recognition boxes relating to your own childhood: the bullies, the building of dens, the dependence on bikes, the ostracism of that other kid until they prove their true value which you should always have appreciated much to your immediate, red-faced shame then eternal loyalty, the holiday or after-school routines like visiting that local newsagent for bubblegum packets complete with collectible cards, or simply wondering what a wanton (here misunderstood as won-ton) floozy actually was when pinned up on a poster and advertised as such.



It’s also very, very funny in places.

Unlike our Friend who demands to be worshipped (and I like that neither that Friend nor his cult bear a name, only a symbol like The Artist Formerly Known As Prince), there is a so-far minor character (whom I suspect may come to play a much more major role) called Kami who cannot abide his honorific title amongst his fellow vagrants, “Kamisama”, indicating that they regard him as a god. An elderly and homeless man, he is at pains to point out that he is not a god with special powers and so does not deserve their adulation. Although…

“Kamisama dreams something, you know it’s gonna happen. I mean, right after he told Toku-san this would be the year he hits it big…”
“Toku-san got hit by a truck. We oughta visit him in hospital. I think he’s about to die…”

I’m afraid that Kami’s intuitive, science- or god-given knowledge will prove painfully more accurate as worldwide attacks build with ever-increasing urgency.


“This tranquil feeling’s so beyond people who don’t understand it.”

This from the wild-eyed zealot with a man-given mission… and a carving kitchen knife in his hand.

With an art style that I can only describe as Japan’s John Buscema, Ron Garney or Lee Weeks, without even being able to describe what I mean (more melodramatic than photorealistic, but still some sumptuous figure work), I imagine will be treated to more of the hyper-detailed cityscapes so many of you relished in PLUTO as the series progresses. This, from a future volume, for example…



Wow, I almost managed to get through this entire review without referencing my childhood hero, Marc Bolan. It’s relevant, though.


Buy 20th Century Boys Perfect Edition vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Buy 20th Century Boys Perfect Edition vol 2 and read the Page 45 review here

Off Season h/c (£18-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by James Sturm…



“Mom asks again if I can’t stay another night.
“Part of me feels guilty about taking off but once I’m on the road I know I made the right decision.
“Always better to leave too soon than stay too long.”

I thought James Sturm’s MARKET DAY back in 2010, the first time I became aware of him, was a truly moving work. A timeless piece about an artisan rug maker set in the early 1900s in Eastern Europe who finds himself unable to support his family as the shop that once took his wares now prefers to buy in cheaply manufactured tat. Slowly but surely, this proud creator of exquisite floor coverings begins to unravel faster than the competition’s products as he loses the thread of his hitherto certain life.



As a warning of the seemingly all-powerful forces of ‘the market’, of how people chose to spend their cash and with whom, it obviously holds true today, with seemingly yet another grim year for the high street in prospect. Don’t buy from Amazon et al folks; do frequent your high street instead. Or if you need to shop online, at least support an independent retailer. It may take a few clicks more but often they are just as cheap, trust me. I think we sold one copy of MARKET DAY by the way, which is a real shame, as it was a true high quality labour of love that frankly deserved a rather wider degree of appreciation.

Anyway, I digress… this time around James’s opted for a more contemporary setting for his latest tale of the travails of ‘real’ life, set against the dispiriting backdrop of the last American Presidential election. I’ll let the publisher give their stump speech before I cast my vote…



“James Sturm’s riveting graphic novel charts one couple’s divisive separation through the fall of 2016, during Bernie’s loss to Hillary, Hillary’s loss to Trump, and the disorienting months that followed. We see a father navigating life as a single parent and coping with the disintegration of a life-defining relationship.

Amid the upheaval are tender moments with his kids – a sleeping child being carried in from the car, Christmas morning anticipation, a late-night cookie after a temper tantrum – and fallible humans drenched in palpable feelings of grief, rage, loss, and overwhelming love. Off Season is unaffected and raw, steeped in the specificity of its time while speaking to a larger cultural moment.”



James can be my preferred comics candidate, that’s for sure. This is indeed at times, an emotionally hollowing read. I gradually began to feel quite empty inside indeed as I continued to turn the pages, and not just because Trump won. I… errr… might even have had to wipe my eyes at one point…

I think the key word in the publisher blurb above is “disintegration”. Seen from the position of Mark, struggling to deal with life, both emotionally and financially, as his separated wife Lisa distances herself from him more and more, it’s becoming increasingly impossible for him to feel, and by extension us the readers, any positivity about his situation whatsoever.

He still loves Lisa, and he certainly loves Suzie and Jeremy, their young kids, but he seems utterly powerless to prevent the seemingly permanent divergence of their lives. Perhaps loving someone shouldn’t be confused with understanding them…? At this point, Mark’s bitterness at his apparent inability to repair his marital situation, plus his rapidly dwindling fiscal prospects, is starting to really drag him down.

All of which sounds terribly depressing. And yet it isn’t, actually, which is a testament to James’ writing. You can sense Mark still has some fight left in him, even if he seems to be picking the wrong battles, or at least fighting them in the wrong manner. Lisa, well, Lisa has arrived at the point she’s at for reasons which eventually become clear, rather belatedly, both to Mark and to us. Whether that newfound clarity is going to help anyone is another matter entirely…



Fans of Adrian KILLING AND DYING Tomine’s bleaker material may well find this appeals tonally and content-wise. James has that same ability for all too clearly for comfort illustrating the painful morass that human interactions can quickly descend into. You may find yourself almost wincing and subconsciously shuffling with discomfort as Mark flounders on.

Art-wise, the very washed out palette of pale blues is entirely in keeping with the material. James also decided to make his characters anthropomorphic, specifically dogs. I think Mark might be a beagle actually, almost as if Snoopy were a human-bodied, hunched-shouldered, smoking depressive. I’m not entirely sure why, though it also gave me a slight flavour of Jason (ALMOST SILENT / IF YOU STEAL / LOW MOON), which given he isn’t actually Mr. Laugh-A-Minute himself, probably is also a good point of comparison.

I’m desperate to throw Mark a lifeline (I nearly said bone…) / give you a spoiler, but I won’t. Suffice to say, sometimes turning points can appear unexpectedly even when the road ahead seems only to stretch into the distance. The ending left me pondering…


Buy Off Season h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Farmhand vol 1 (£11-99, Image) by Rob Guillory…

“Your thumb. You broke your own rule. “No live human trials.””
“Yeah, well… someone had to do it. Who better? It was right after you left. Hit a bit of a dark patch. Hard to believe it’s only been seven years. Feels like a lifetime.”
“I’m glad you called. I wish you’d done it sooner.”
“I know, it’s just… you know me. After your mom… and after you left, I busied myself with hard work. And we’ve done a lot of good. We brought healing to people. But what good is it if I can’t even share this with my children? It’s the Jenkins family farm, for God’s sake. I was wrong, Ezekiel. About a lot. You were right to leave. But I’m glad you’re home. I want to start over. I want my family back.”
“Yeah, I’d like that. There’s a lot to work through. But I wanna move forward. All I ask is this: No more secrets. No more surprises. From now on, everything’s aboveboard in this family. Deal?”
“Scout’s honour, everything aboveboard.”

Of course it is Jedidiah, of course it is…



Here’s the publisher’s tasting notes to tantalise us further:

“Jedidiah Jenkins is a simple farmer. But his cash crop isn’t corn or soy. He grows fast-healing, highly-customizable human organs. For years, Jed’s organic transplants have brought healing to many, but deep in the soil of the Jenkins Family Farm something sinister has taken root. Today this dark seed will begin to sprout, and the Jenkins family will be the first to taste its bitter fruit.”



Jedidiah might profess to be a simple farmer, but he’s a wee bit more… devious than that. Not just with the public, but also his family as well. Which is a not inconsiderable part of the reason son Ezekiel was estranged from him for nigh on seven years. Still, he’s been lured back into the family fold by his undoubtedly charismatic father, who has also managed to charm the public with his miracle healing produce. And of course, because everything is above board, what could possibly go wrong? Errr… pretty much everything?



Much like Rob Guillory’s (and John Layman’s) hilarious long running CHEW series, which starred Tony Chu, the cibopathic federal agent with the ability to get psychic impressions from what he ate, this is madcap genetically modified fun right from the off going straight for the joke-jangling juiced-up jugular.



It feels slightly darker in tone than CHEW, which I think is entirely due to the somewhat sinister vibe of the all-too-evangelical Jedidiah, who is a wonderfully ambiguous character, much like Mason Savoy turned out to be in CHEW, but it’s still primarily laughs aplenty hitting the reader’s plate. Several other crackpots, Jenkins and otherwise, are introduced by the end of this first arc, fleshing out our cast nicely, and I’m expecting this to be a highly flavoursome character-driven comedy caper that will satisfy my taste for the farcically absurd. Because, you know, I don’t get enough of that working in a comic shop…


Buy Farmhand vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

DC Universe By Alan Moore (£22-99, DC) by Alan Moore & Curt Swan, Dave Gibbons, Klaus Janson, Kevin O’ Neill, Rick Veitch, more.

Alert! A new edition with a slight change in title, this no longer includes KILLING JOKE (now available as a gloriously recoloured hardcover) but does still contain SUPERMAN: WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE MAN OF TOMORROW about which I wrote in 2009:

“All these years, my greatest nightmare has been that someone would strike at me through my friends. Now it’s come true.”
“Listen, Bizarro’s dead, the others are behind bars. What’s to worry about?”
“I… I don’t know. It isn’t rational — It’s just… Well, if the nuisances from my past are coming back as killers… what happens when the killers come back?”

Originally published in September 1986, this “imaginary” story (that does make me laugh) was commissioned by SUPERMAN editor Julius Schwartz to answer any lingering questions at the end of his run on the book before John Byrne relauched the character. As such it takes place in the future, ten years after Superman’s death, when Lois Lane is married with a son to Jordy Elliot and is interviewed by a Daily Planet journalist for their Memorial Edition.



With clarity and with dignity, she speaks of the last days of the Man Of Steel when, after a lull, the crime suddenly starts escalating again with a murderous rage, threatening everyone associated with a Superman now publicly revealed to be reporter Clark Kent. As a last resort he gathers up as many as will come to his Fortress Of Solitude: even Perry White and his wife, their marriage having descended into awkward bickering, and long-term rivals Lois Lane and Lana Lang. It’s ominous enough that Krypto who’s been roaming the stars for years senses the need to return, but when the Legion Of Superheroes arrive from the 30th Century in order to pay tribute, Superman begins to wonder… why now?



It’s not Alan’s most subtle writing but then it wasn’t written with the most subtle audience in mind, yet what it has in abundance is heart. There’s a key scene in which Superman and Perry White, neither of whom can sleep on the night before the siege, settle down to talk:

“I think I’m going to die, and there’s so much in my life I have to get straight… like me and Lois. Like me and Lana. You see, I’ve messed up both their lives, haven’t I? They’ve wasted their love on me, while I couldn’t let myself love either of them the way they deserved. I wish I’d explained. I wish I hadn’t been such a coward.”

Meanwhile Jimmy Olsen and Lana Lang have been make preparations of their own to earn their privilege as Superman’s friends; he by drinking the Elastic Lad Serum, Lana by bathing in the lake that once gave her all of Superman’s powers, including super-hearing…

“You see,” continues Clarke, “back when I was Superboy, Lana was the only girl I loved. She still represents Smallville to me, that part of my life, and because of that I could never cast her aside. …But since I’ve grown and become a man, there’s only ever been one woman for me. Lois. Beautiful Lois. I love her, Perry. Dear God, I love her so much… But I can’t tell her without hurting Lana. I’d never hurt Lana, so I just walk around with this secret, this weight in my heart… and I’ll carry it with me to my grave… and neither of them will ever know.”

The exchange is made all the more poignant by Alan’s careful timing as to what – or rather who – is represented in each panel and the subtle expressions Curt Swan lends them.

Swan had become pretty much synonymous with Superman by that point, whilst the inking is unmistakably George Pérez. It has none of the explosive carnage of modern photo-realists, but then that’s not why you should be here. You’re here for the humanity yet make no mistake, Swan makes every self-sacrifice count as Krypto does what a dog will do in a final battle with The Kryponite Man, and the rest take on a Lex Luthor hijacked by Brianiac plus one other who’s been responsible for all the recent pain and suffering.



Also included are the two early Alan Moore Superman stories: ‘The Jungle Line’ from 1985’s DC COMICS PRESENTS #85 co-starring The Swamp Thing, and ‘For The Man Who Has Everything’ from SUPERMAN ANNUAL #11 illustrated by Dave Gibbons.

In the latter, Wonder Woman, Batman and his second Robin pay a visit to the Fortress bearing gifts for Superman’s birthday. Unfortunately he’s already opened one: an organism which has latched onto his body and invaded his mind. It’s supposed to seduce Superman with a perfect existence, but interestingly enough although Kal-el is married with children on a Krypton still intact, there’s trouble in paradise. His widowed father Jor-El was expelled from the Science Council for his faulty predictions and, in opposition to drug trafficking, and race riots which he’s doing as much to inflame himself, has taken up with extremist sects like the Sword of Rao who march through the street like the Ku Klux Klan, their burning crosses being up-ended swords.



There’s an early line that still makes me smile when Robin wonders how Wonder Woman can feel no cold in the Arctic Circle given how scantily clothed she is. Gibbons adds substantially to the impact with Batman’s smile, hidden to Robin, and Robin’s crestfallen reaction to being sussed out:

“Think clean thoughts, chum.”




Here’s our Mark on the rest of the original edition, a great deal longer ago:

A baker’s dozen of stories from ’85 to ’87. Only a short period, but it feels like a ‘best of…’ of someone else’s work.

About half of this I’ve never seen before because when came out when Moore was still rising up through the ranks and, once you’d heard about them, they were pretty unobtainable. His Green Lantern Corps was always fun. Even now, if you give him the possibility of an alien race, he’ll come up with an idea so obvious that you wonder why it took so long to be voiced. As with all of his writing, connections are shown. So, a new Green Lantern is needed in a far flung sector and a missionary is sent out. The problem starts when she realises that it’s a light-free planet and all the inhabitants are blind. How do you explain what a lantern is?




One of the other GLC stories has Kevin O’Neill art and got into trouble with the Comics Code Authority because of the foul, dripping artwork which makes you realise how lucky we were to have him on [2000 AD’s] NEMESIS in the UK. As a nostalgic superhero fix, it’s the tops. You get Batman, Superman, Swamp Thing and some very nice Dave Gibbons artwork.



Buy DC Universe By Alan Moore and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

New reviews to follow, but if they’re new formats of previous books, reviews may already be up; others will retain their Diamond previews information we receive displayed as ‘Publisher Blurb’

The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye s/c (£19-99, Epigram) by Sonny Liew

The Collected Toppi vol 1: The Enchanted World h/c (£22-99, Lion Forge) by Sergio Toppi

The Aztec Empire h/c (£8-99, Frances Lincoln) by Imogen Greenberg & Isabel Greenberg

Dungeons & Dragons: Art & Arcana – A Visual History h/c (£35-00, Ten Speed Press) by Michael Winter, Kyle Newman, Jon Peterson, Sam Witwer

Proxima Centauri s/c (£14-99, Image) by Farel Dalrymple

Dark Nights: Metal s/c (£16-99, DC) by Scott Snyder, various & Greg Capullo, various

Extermination s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Ed Brisson & Pepe Larraz

Barefoot Gen vol 4 (£14-99, Last Gasp) by Keiji Nakazawa

Dragonball Super vol 4 (£6-99, Viz) by Akira Toriyama & Toyotarou

My Hero Academia: Vigilantes vol 3 (£6-99, Viz) by Hideyuki Furuhashi & Betten Court

One-Punch Man vol 15 (£6-99, Viz) by One & Yusuke Murata

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews January 2019 week two

Wednesday, January 16th, 2019

“The colouring throughout by Phillips Jr. is particularly striking, being expressionistic, fiery, bruised, bloody, battered, dirty and suitably stained. On the pages I describe immediately above, as the bourbon’s consumed, it’s as if someone’s spilled claret across them.”

  – Stephen on Criminal #1

Criminal #1 (£3-25, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips with Jacob Phillips.

“He had to admit, the kid had surprised him. Impressed him, even.
“Maybe those three months in juvie had done his son some good after all, Teeg thought…”

Teeg Lawless: father-figure extraordinaire!

He’s straight out of county jail (again) after son Ricky’s sprung for the bail with a stolen diamond necklace.

Apples / trees, trees / apples: learned behaviour, innit?

Thing is, the necklace was stolen before Ricky nicked it, and the original thief he pilfered it from is not someone to be messed with. Certainly not someone you kick the crap out of, so there will be repercussions both for Teeg and more immediately for teenage Ricky: broken bones of his own, courtesy of his clearly doting daddy.



Loyalty and betrayal is a theme that runs like a sorry, impure seam right through this filthy underworld rock face. Teeg isn’t so oblivious that he can’t catch himself in the act of romantic betrayal and feel a pang of guilt, but self-awareness doesn’t necessarily determine self-guidance, and he’s in for a shock when he discovers that he himself has been betrayed for years. Honour amongst thieves…? Do me one!

From the team who recently brought you the brilliant broken romance that is MY HEROES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN JUNKIES with Page 45’s exclusive bookplate signed by Brubaker, Phillips & Phillips (itself a CRIMINAL graphic novel, though it was never announced as such so as not to spoil a certain surprise inside) comes a brand-new monthly series, some of whose stories will be completely self-contained, like this one. That last piece of good knowledge will make this first issue’s final page almost as arresting as KILL OR BE KILLED’s.

The first five pages which I have for you here attest to Brubaker’s ability to flip with agility between two individuals’ perspectives with mutually mounting tension, and the old man’s broken short-term memory is masterfully, painfully evoked to render him in our eyes all the more vulnerable to Ricky’s guile. This could also be construed an act of betrayal – on the elderly and infirm – regardless of the mistaken identity.






Phillips Sr. pulls a neat stroke of his own in his depiction of Sharon, the ex-wife of Teeg Lawless’s ex-partner-in-crime: she’s glamorous enough on the first page, but on closer inspection and intoxication her face droops and her hooded eyes sag into the bags beneath them. She perks up again shortly, though…

The colouring throughout by Phillips Jr. is particularly striking, being expressionistic, fiery, bruised, bloody, battered, dirty and suitably stained. On the pages I describe immediately above, as the bourbon’s consumed, it’s as if someone’s spilled claret across them.

There are crimes within crimes as you’d expect for a title with this depth and complexity, but for much lengthier analysis of Brubaker and Phillips’ work, please see the series referred to above, plus their FATALE and THE FADE OUT.


Buy Criminal #1 and read the Page 45 review here

The Chancellor And The Citadel (£13-99, Iron Circus Comics) by Maria Capelle Frantz ~

“They all trust me too much.
“They think I know the difference between right & wrong.
“Someday I’ll make the wrong call.
“I‘ll mess up.
“And they’ll realise I’m just like them…
“…I need to know if I’m on the right side.”

Standing steadfast in a post-apocalyptic world, dense with magic and bustling with life, is the Citadel. Of which the many residents, safely ensconced inside, depend on the protection of a mysterious being capable of magnificent power: the Chancellor. Tightly wrapped in a lustrous blue cloak, her identity remains a secret to all of the Citadel’s inhabitants. To even her dearest companion, Olive, her identity remains unknown.



The Citadel doesn’t hold the only life in this disparaged world, for beyond the walls the humans lurk in the forests. Humans who are restless, who are fearful, angry, and who only refer to the Chancellor as “Witch”. They plan an ambush, outnumbering her 50 to 1, but it doesn’t matter how hard a fight they are willing to give, they are merely humans, and with a great flash of light it is over. But the Chancellor didn’t want this to happen. She never wanted to hurt anybody. At least not now. All she wants is to do right by all of those that depend on her. But there is a history. One that has become muddied and forgotten over the ages of time. One that has forged fear deep into the humans and has convinced them that what they must do is fight back against her. They need to make her pay for what she has done.

We are given a snapshot view of an intricately detailed world: one of mystery, of unrest, and of fear. There is a lot left unspoken which causes our cast of characters, on both sides of the wall, to begin to question the reality of their situation. This is a story packed with intrigue which will keep you hooked from the very first line. But within all the tension also lies a great deal of tenderness: the gentle moments between Olive and the Chancellor when they share a brief word of encouragement, or the smattering of tiny spirits that huddle together in comfort.



Frantz has achieved such rounded characters and masterfully demonstrates all aspects of their personalities – particularly with the Chancellor – that you gain a full understanding of who they are, and who they are trying to be. Gloriously packed with texture, Frantz creates a very tangible, yet ethereal, world. With intricate line work reminiscent of Aaron THE UNSINKABLE WALKER BEAN Ranier, and an environment so exuberant with magic you will feel like you’ve fallen into a Miyazaki film.



This is an embracing story of acceptance and strength. Strength in courage, in trust, and in knowing ourselves.


Buy The Chancellor And The Citadel and read the Page 45 review here

Lost Girls Expanded Edition h/c (£35-99, Knockabout / Top Shelf) by Alan Moore & Melinda Gebbie >>

The following review was originally written by my mate Ryz – occasionally known as Bettie Page 45 – when there was a certain degree of fuss in the UK delaying LOST GIRLS’ availability here.

I’ve enormous admiration for her getting into the true spirit of the work by enjoying it precisely in the manner for which it was intended. If you want something more erudite… you’re kidding yourselves. However, I can add that the graphic novel is also a lacerating tract on a war during which hundreds of thousands of young, virile men were sent to end each others’ lives, rather than expending that same potent sexual energy lovingly creating new ones.

I also adore that it was created by a couple who were – and remain – lovers.

It’s no longer a boxed set but a single all-in-one hardcover.

Here we go! – Stephen



OK, let’s get the gloating out of the way first.

I actually got my grubby little mitts on this beautiful boxed set when it was first published in America, past the international comics Gestapo before there was a complete ban on getting the thing through customs. I was very impressed at my cloak and daggeryness, and was very excited to read it.

And after reading some of it, I was very, very excited indeed.



I have to say, it took a while, what with the several unscheduled visits to lock myself in the bathroom, so I didn’t respect myself in the morning and could barely look myself in the eye in the restroom mirror.

Yep, it really is pretty filthy stuff – proper adult comic porno. Actually, my copy isn’t so much just filthy as sporting a rather large fag burn, after a drunken houseguest passed out on the sofa with a lit ciggie dangling over my lovely pristine boxed set. So book one, ‘Older Children’, is slightly battle-scarred, but I believe you can purchase lovely shiny new sets from Page 45 now that the threat of legal action in the UK from the Barrie estate has subsided.



The books themselves tell the various stories of Alice (of ‘Looking Glass’ fame), Wendy (from ‘Peter Pan’) & Dorothy (visitor to Oz) through flashbacks and now as grown women, who have all met each other in an Austrian hotel, pre-WWII. The flashback stories really cleverly and imaginatively (and did I mention, filthily?) re-tell and explain how Wonderland, Neverland, Oz and their well-known characters played a part in their youth / puberty, not always in completely pleasant circumstances, either. Oh it’s all here – incest, male rape, boarding-school shenanigans, non-consensual drugged up party games, bestiality – something for everyone, I’d have thought.

The stories are beautifully crafted and wonderfully erotic at times – just downright dirty at others and often told with great wit and comic timing. The majority of the work is illustrated in an innocent, almost child-like manner (presumably to increase the illusion of reading children’s fairy story books), however there are some really beautiful art deco frames, some fantastically detailed, delicate, black and white pen and ink frames, and some highly stylised art throughout, making these books gorgeously sumptuous to look at.



Yes, definitely picture-books for adults to ‘look at’ rather than ‘read’ I think. I mean, I’ve owned them for over 18 months and still haven’t managed to get past the second half of the second volume (‘Neverlands’). It’s been exhausting, if you know what I mean. So I can’t review what actually happens in the books, how the stories end, or what it’s all about, as I’ve never errm, lasted that long. I mean, I only even saw what the insides of book three (The Great & Terrible’) looked like for the purpose of this review. There are a lot of Nazis at the end.

If you are planning on buying a set of LOST GIRLS – and speaking to the female populous of Page 45’s customers here, I really do think you should – take it from me: buy yourself a couple of drinks and a nice dinner first, then maybe you’ll feel a little classier about the whole affair than I’ve managed to thus far…


Buy Lost Girls Expanded Edition h/c and read the Page 45 review here

A Million Ways To Die Hard h/c (£12-99, Insight Comics) by Frank Tieri & Mark Texeira…

“For the last time, that badge is no good, sir.”
“And for the last time, asshole… I’m John McClane. Yeah, the guy that fucking nutball with the mask is calling out John McClane. So maybe, just maybe, it’s kinda real fucking important you let me in there.”
“Let him through.”
“Finally, somebody with some goodamn sense.”
“Somebody who knows you actually. I’m officer Cam Powell.”
“As in… Al’s kid?”
“Well, I’ll be a son of a bitch. How’s your old man?”
“Retired. In Florida. It’s the law, ya know?”
“Yeah, well, I don’t do too good with the law these days, I guess.”
“I’d say that’s a good guess. But we’ve got time to catch up later. Building’s evacuated. Go do your thing, man.”

Indeed, go shuffle that zimmer frame and do your thing, pensioner McClane. Which is shooting people and blowing stuff up, rescuing the innocent bystanders – at least the non-expendable ones – and of course taking down the bad guy and saving the day all the whilst cussing like a true badass. Bad words devalue the coinage you say…? Not fucking likely in John McClane’s eyes and from his potty mouth.

Have you ever seen a film that was so incontrovertibly bad but was actually such immensely entertaining nonsense that it somehow transcended it’s many, myriad flaws to come out being ‘good’? I’m not referring to ‘Die Hard’, I should add, which is undoubtedly the best Christmas movie ever made, but if you understand what I’m referring to, well, this is exactly like that. This is excruciatingly awful and yet I absolutely loved it!

There is a point on the sliding scale of diminishing sequel returns, beyond which the films typically begin to become a parody of the original material, the ‘better’ ones quite deliberately so, exaggerating whatever features made the original such a success to the point of lampooning them, with a cheeky knowing wink to the audience as they attempt to extract every last bit of cash from us. Thus the title of this work alone ought to have given me a clue as to the intentions of Frank Tieri in that respect… If you’re keeping track, this is technically the sixth ‘Die Hard’ outing, though in the parody terms I’ve just been referring to, it might as well be the millionth…

So I’m not even going to try and avoid spoilers, after all the ‘plot’ is so wafer-thin there’s really no point. Basically, there is an old villain from McClane’s distant past – 5 cheesy sequel points right there for that – called Moviefone who has decided to call out John on the 30th anniversary of the original shebang at the Nakatomi building, thus immediately scoring another 5 sequel points for timing.




Trapping John’s wife, Mr. Nakatomi’s son and for some reason the penitent sister of Hans Gruber, thus scoring another 5 sequel points for introducing an innocent bystander with an oh so tenuous connection to an original character. Along with original doughnut munching cop Al’s cop son already racking up a further 5 sequel points on that particular score…

The twist… that elevates this from crap(est) sequel to knowing gloriously insane motherBLEEPing parody… is that Moviefone will only attempt to kill John and his captives by the means of classic movies… We therefore start with a 1978 bomb called The Swarm which, you’ve possibly guessed it, involves killer bees thus setting the tone at totally ridiculous right from the off, before swiftly moving onto the rather more traditionally deadly Earthquake, then concluding the opening chapter with the classic Towering Inferno. Yep, that’s just the opening chapter…



At this point, still trying to give it all some semblance of credibility on my initial read, I was struggling. By the time a giant shark was deployed in the basement of a knockoff Bates Motel however… I was hooked.

This doesn’t just jump the shark. It stuff, mounts and surfs it through a tsunami. It makes no sense, truly, but it doesn’t even try. It’s genuinely awful but if you have any affection for the John McClane character and his particular brand of preposterous bad-assery you really won’t care. You’ll just be chuckling away at the sheer stupidity of it all. Hats off to Frank Tieri for managing to pull it off, truly.

On the art front, I had only recently commented to Stephen that I wondered what had ever become of former Marvel <ahem> hotshot Mark GHOST RIDER Texeira whose undoubted prowess on Christopher Priest’s BLACK PANTHER made for much mirthful timing. Well, now we know. I guess his time to be fashionable with the capes ‘n’ tights fanboys might come around again eventually… I can’t see it mind. Still, there’s probably another billion ‘Die Hard’ sequels to keep himself busy with…


Buy A Million Ways To Die Hard h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Dark Days: The Road To Metal s/c (£16-99, DC) by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, various & Andy Kubert, Jim Lee, Scott Williams, various.

“Oh, Mr. Green Lantern. Are you afraid?”
“I don’t get afraid.”
“Oh, I think you do… I think we all do… it’s all in that moment of discovery…
“When you’re about to learn something you will never be able to unlearn.
“Something that puts all the pieces together, and you finally see the truth, and the world changes.
“And you know it’ll never go back the way it was before.
“But if you’re so very brave, then just open the door.”

Just open the bloody door, Hal!! So we can find out precisely who, and what, is in the secret cave inside the Bat Cave.

“Seriously. Only Batman would have a secret cave inside his secret cave.”

Obviously. Not forgetting the secret Lunar Batcave on the moon…



Bats has actually installed a hidden room in the Fortress Of Solitude as well, just for good measure. I mean, he did have the good grace to ask Clark’s permission first, though he made him promise not to peek inside it at what he’d put there for ultra-safe keeping…

Yes, I can promise you more than a certain degree of mystery in these two intriguing set up one-shot issues of ‘Dark Days: The Forge’ and ‘Dark Days: The Casting’ that is already a million times better than the execrable mess that was CONVERGENCE. I probably shouldn’t be surprised this was great, given the writers are the long-time Bat-scribes Snyder and Tynion IV, plus the stellar trio of artists Jim Lee, Andy Kubert & John Romita Jr. on the pencils. But still, I’ve been burnt far too often with these big summer events.



Basically, Batman is trying to solve a mystery, one that has disturbed him so much, for so long, that whilst he’s had to call upon the likes of Mr. Terrific, Mister Miracle and of course old blue tights himself for assistance, he’s given precisely nothing away to anyone else whatsoever about the nature of this troubling conundrum. That, however, is all about to change and not entirely through his own choice…

Piece by piece, what little information Batman has acquired is laid out for us, along with some cautionary insights from Carter Hall a.k.a. Hawkman, who has his own particular clandestine parallel interest to Batman’s investigations.



At the time of reading the one-shots, I thought there was a little nod to Grant Morrison’s BATMAN: THE RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE that had Bats twizzling through time following the climax of FINAL CRISIS, which also seemed to be alluded to. So very kind of DC therefore to bolster these two new issues by including BATMAN: THE RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE #1, FINAL CRISIS #6-#7, BATMAN (New 52 era) #38-#39, NIGHTWING (again New 52 era) #17 and more!

That concluding exclamation mark being DC’s, I should add. Not mine. No, mine would come at the end of “You’re reprinting FIVE issues of old material in a hardcover collection of TWO new issues? You greedy gits!” Actually, they are reprinting nearly six, because the ‘more!’ is actually merely an excerpt from DETECTIVE COMICS #950 and then they also throw in Morrison’s double-page spread Map Of The Multiverse for ‘added value’…



Just utter corporate greed. There is absolutely no reason why these new two one-shots, which are basically issues #00 and #0 of DARK DAYS METAL could not have been included in one collection with the six issues that formed the ‘main’ series. They are printing (nearly) eight issues in this volume, after all… It is disappointing because it is exactly the sort of nonsense I would fully expect Marvel to pull, and charge twice as much whilst they are at it, but I had felt in recent years DC were actually about giving readers better value for money than Marvel. Hey ho.

Anyway, the new material is an enjoyably complex and riveting set-up for the DARK DAYS METAL event that piqued my curiosity sufficiently to want to read the whole shebang.  Not least because of whom Hal finds behind the green door…

It’s an old piano, and Shakin’ Stevens is playing it hot.

Okay, well, the door isn’t green, and it isn’t Shakey banging out ’80s classics, but it is a shocker, certainly… Precisely how that person fits into it all, is just another perplexing part of this three pothole problem, Watson… Oh, do stop with the bad jokes…



NOTE: also available are the collection of bad guy one-shot tie-ins DARK NIGHTS: METAL – DARK KNIGHTS RISING which whilst not essential were certainly entertaining and just as popular as the main DARK DAYS METAL series. Plus there’s the usual utterly spurious sidebar material in various ongoing titles collected in DARK NIGHTS METAL: THE RESISTANCE, which DC obviously realised people wouldn’t be mug enough to buy in a hardcover and have put straight into softcover format…

Can I just add, above grumble aside, I did rather enjoy the event. It’s probably not that clear.


Buy Dark Days: The Road To Metal s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

New reviews to follow, but if they’re new formats of previous books, reviews may already be up; others will retain their Diamond previews information we receive displayed as ‘Publisher Blurb’

Farmhand vol 1 (£11-99, Image) by Rob Guillory

Off Season h/c (£18-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by James Sturm

Supers: A Little Star Past Cassiopeia (£13-99, Top Shelf) by Frederic Maupome & Dawid

The Life Of Captain Marvel s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Margaret Stohl & Carlos Pacheco, Marguerite Sauvage, others

Hitorijime My Hero vol 1 (£10-99, Kodansha) by Memeco Arii

DC Universe By Alan Moore (£22-99, DC) by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons, Klaus Janson, Kevin O’ Neill, Rick Veitch, others

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews January 2019 week one

Wednesday, January 9th, 2019

Featuring P. Craig Russell, Roman Muradov, Daniel Clowes, Brian Michael Bendis, Alex Maleev, Paul Dini, Alex Ross, Garth Ennis, Steve Dillon, Dougie Braithwaite

The Ring Of The Nibelung s/c (£22-99, Dark Horse) by P. Craig Russell adapted from Richard Wagner.

I had four full pages of notes on this, three more than I managed for Chemistry ‘O’ Level which kind of explains my results back then.

This big, thick softcover contains all four operas in Wagner’s Ring sequence: The Rhinegold, The Valkyrie, Siegfried, The Gotterdammerung.

To deliver a truly faithful adaptation – one with even a hope of stirring a reading audience as the original moves a crowd – Craig cannot and does not rely solely on plot and dialogue; a visual interpretation of mere lyrics would omit most of the power and the subtle weave of any opera delivered by the music. ‘O Mio Bambino Caro’ is, on paper, a fine set of poetry, but when sung so tenderly, so majestically in harmonious concert with music so heart-rendingly poignant (plaintive, aspirational, delicate?), it becomes something extraordinary. And that’s just a single aria.



An opera uses many devices to convey ideas and development to cue the audience subconsciously throughout its duration and Russell has thought long and hard about translating these into sequential art. He’s taken musical leitmotifs – signatures denoting individual characters, objects and even concepts such as love, regret, power and choice (sometimes combined in a single sequence, hinting at thoughts, informing the action and even able, I’d imagine, to add therefore a level of dramatic irony) – and turned them into visual cues.

One glimpse at the prelude is enough to prove just how accomplished and ingenious an adaptation this is. The opening sequence is ‘silent’; it begins quietly with a single finger in blue line and pencil, on which a drop of water swells. It falls into its own ocean to form ripples then waves in an expanding aqueous body, from which a fresh green seedling – the first hint of colour – emerges. By the bottom panel on that first page the tree has grown older than the oak, joined to three shrouded women by twine; and from its roots flows a river, reflecting the aurora above.



That’s the creation of the universe on page one. It also sets up three of the four central elements which bind the four operas: water & light, the tree and the sword. Three further pages, reduced to a sandy tone, provide the rest of the background whilst implying consequences for the events to follow. The great god Voton, introduced by his shadow, wanders into picture, stoops to drink then spies, beyond the thread of fate, a woman who will be his wife and goddess of wedlock, Fricka. Three small panels inlayed repeat the earlier sequence, as a drop of water falls from his chin. One of the three hooded women (or Norn) then plucks out Voton’s left eye, leaving behind the gift of inner vision, but suddenly her knowing confidence is shattered as Voton reaches up into the tree and breaks off a branch. He fashions it into a spear, takes Frika by the hand and departs, leaving behind him the tree fast falling into autumn then winter. The final four panels close in ominously on the wound inflicted on the tree, until all we can see is the hollow darkness. 





Several of these images and refrains will be reprised within the major body as the story unfolds. It’s a classic, dynastic tale of love, lust, envy, power, greed, wealth, rejection, duty, treachery, sacrifice and progeny. The dynasty involved is that of the gods of German mythology, and what a familiar pantheon they are! Voton: one-eyed and lustful, as impetuous in love as he is in wrath and for all his supposed wisdom, the perpetual victim of his own stupendously rash promises. He bears the weight of his responsibilities on his own faltering shoulders, and since his wife is goddess of marriage, you just know he’s going to be unfaithful. One of his stormy sons wields a hammer, one of his daughters has been sworn as payment to a couple of giants (none of Voton’s children receive much in the way of paternal care), and although he doesn’t appear to be related as he is in Norse mythology, there’s Logé, the flattering trickster.

The Rhinegold is essentially a fable of power versus love, of the choice between them, catalysed by the theft of said gold from the waters of the Rhine. Alberich the troll, cruelly taunted and scorned by three prick-tease mermaids has nothing to lose in love, so rejects it to steal the metal then fashion it into a ring which gives him absolute power over his race. And love must be rejected to wield that power, that’s the bargain. But news spreads fast of this new poisoned chalice, and when it reaches the heavens (via Logé, of course) the consequences may prove devastating.




The Valkyrie move some of the action back down to Earth where Voton’s been a busy boy. Once more the set up is a combination of familiar themes and plot points: lost siblings, unholy love, the treachery of children, the will of the gods, and the duty of husbands and kings. In the previous opera Voton has been warned about the Twilight of The Gods, the doom that awaits them, and in the sequence which links the two (once more combining water, light, the tree and now the sword, in panels that echo the prelude), Russell shows us Voton’s solution, the creation of a sword. This he hopes will be unsheathed from the tree into which he thrust it, by someone worthy, someone over whom he has no direct influence. But he only goes and shags a mortal to sire this someone! And if that weren’t enough to raise Frika’s ire, that very son soon falls in love with his own twin sister, already married to the man whose house is built round this tree.

None of which is going to go down well with protectress of wedlock. Add in another tragic offspring, Brunhildé, one of the Valkyrie, Voton’s daughter once again and the literal embodiment of his will (his actual will, not his stated position), and you’ve one family circle that’ll never be squared. I can’t tell you how cleverly it all comes together – the whole sword, fate and progeny thing – because there’s a final twist, a ramification of the incest which has yet to be played out, with Craig once more excelling himself in the final panel foreshadowing the next round.

If all of this wasn’t enough, it’s just occurred to me that there may be many as yet unfamiliar with P. Craig Russell as an artist. On the basis of his work on SANDMAN #50 alone he is justly celebrated.


His command of symbolism through design is beautiful to behold, and above all he’s just one of the most flat-out attractive neo-classical craftsmen. If you’ve never seen his pencils you’re in for an additional treat, for some of the preliminary sketchwork is reproduced in the back, bursting with a Renaissance homo-eroticism reminiscent of Donatello, Caravaggio and the less burly examples of Michelangelo.

In some ways it’s not an easy book – it’s only fair to warn you that the language throughout retains the original formality which some may find initially stilted or foreboding – but its appeal is far broader than I initially suspected: we’ve just sold four copies of this softcover edition on its very first day of publication!  I’ll probably receive some flack for this comparison, but the combined scenario and linguistic approach is really not far from a cross between Shakespeare and SANDMAN.

Which should shift a few units.


Buy The Ring Of The Nibelung s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Vanishing Act h/c (£12-99, Fantagraphics) by Roman Muradov…

“How to read this book.

  1. With your face.
  2. In given order.
  3. Out of order.
  4. Along with the supplements.
  5. Ignoring the supplements.
  6. More than once.
  7. In one sitting.
  8. At intervals.
  9. While falling asleep.
  10. Two or three acts at once.
  11. Less than once.
  12. As a puzzle.
  13. Enacting each act.”

Initially, I went for 1, 2, 8, 9 and 10… and perhaps also experiencing a little of 12.

I then went for 3, 6 and 7, though obviously still including 1.

I have, however, no idea what 4 & 5 even pertain to. Unless it is the first four pages which includes “How to read this book.” If so, I am therefore guessing most people will have automatically done 4 and practically no one 5… If it isn’t that, perhaps they mean the Sunday newspaper supplements?

Clearly 11 has to be true for some people because dear review reader, aside from the critical cognoscenti such as yourselves, many people are not yet aware of Roman IN A SENSE (LOST AND FOUND) Muradov. Which is a shame, because he is immensely talented.



I would also dearly love to believe there is at least one person who went for option 13, even if it is was just Roman’s extended family, blazing with pride… or at least purely to humour him.

Here is some supplemental information from the publisher to inform us more about what is already a contender for the most complex, convoluted comic I am likely to read in 2019…

“Written and drawn in thirteen styles, from comedy and confession to prophecy and interpretative dance, Vanishing Act is a polyphonic play of interconnected stories, synchronized in time and space on one melancholy evening. A paranoid man rehearses the upcoming party. A dishevelled actor expounds on the conceptual potential of sitcoms. A beloved dog disappears into the Internet and starts a cult. A couple runs their argument in reverse. A bored seagull excretes the entire known universe. Vanishing Act is governed by one looping constraint that unifies all of the disparate threads: each following story starts in the middle of the previous one, overlapping until the end of the night, and back into the beginning of the book.”



Did I mention it was rather brilliant? It is. It won’t appeal to all, mind you, as at times it’s belligerently blasé with the reader’s ability to keep up and bewilderingly brilliant in its individual pieces’ brevity – the dishevelled actor in particular so left me wanting more of his luvvieness – but, if you stay the course (option 7, remember!) or indeed digest it in more than one sitting (psst – option 8) I think you will be suitably impressed.



Artistically, be prepared to be taken for a tour too, as each of the thirteen vignettes is indeed rather different, yet there is more than sufficient stylistic coherence maintained overall, quite deliberately, despite the odd, again entirely intentional, detour or two towards the utterly abstract.



There are some particular points of pure comparison you can pick out here and there such as Dave MR. PUNCH McKean and David ASTERIOS POLYP Mazzucchelli, but that’s by the by, frankly.



If you are a fan of cleverly constructed comics in particular, the deployment of multiple art styles à la BLACKBIRD by Manuele Fior or Eleanor Davis’ HOW TO BE HAPPY, or stylistically much of the Nobrow output – who published Murodov’s IN A SENSE (LOST AND FOUND) – then this will be for you. Either with (option 4) or without (option 5) the supplements…


Buy Vanishing Act h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Mister Wonderful h/c (£14-99, Jonathan Cape) by Daniel Clowes.



“Dear God, could it be? Does she actually not loathe me?”

Almost an antidote to WILSON, this is a work from the great Dan Clowes which will confound your expectations. It’s as funny and acutely observed as ever, but for once it’s also very tender.

A hopelessly romantic, middle-aged divorcee, much out of touch with the dating game, awaits a blind date his mate’s set up for him. The thing is, she’s late… unless it’s that pretty young girl over there…?





Marshall proceeds to wind himself up in advance, trying to guess who in the coffee shop might be his date, planning verbal strategies for retreat in case it’s one of its less attractive denizens. He does that a lot: practising conversational gambits in his head; also thinking when he should be listening because when his improbably attractive date does arrive, he barely hears a word she says, his boxed, internal monologue sitting squarely over Natalie’s speech balloons, obstructing her words so that we can’t hear her either (see also Mazzucchelli’s ASTERIOS POLYP):

“Jesus, I’m plastered! Sober up!
“I really have to urinate, but I don’t dare leave the table. Mustn’t give her the chance to escape!
“My God, look at her. I don’t stand a chance.
“Most beautiful women turn so bitter when the realities of aging set in. Hard to blame them, I suppose. It must be kind of awful. But she seems so cheerful and good-natured and non-judgemental…. I wonder what Tim and Yuki told her about me?”



This is very familiar territory: Marshall spending his time second-guessing, trying so hard to judge how he’s coming across that he’s not necessarily giving the best first impression. He steels himself for her own strategic retreat, but no, it doesn’t come. This might actually be going somewhere…

As I said, this will confound you at almost every juncture, Clowes cleverly steering your expectations one way, playing on his reputation, only to surprise you.



There are a lot of neat tricks, like hiding parts of speech balloons in the panel gutters to reinforce the idea of Marshall operating on automatic pilot; the point in Nathalie’s marriage when she began to feel so alienated that her husband’s hollow, evasive laughter literally grows to fill the house so that she can no longer hear anything else; a moment of disappointment so profound that the world around Marshall on a double-spread landscape is reduced to small blocks of coloured light filtering through the street’s doors and windows in an otherwise total black-out.

So: one eventful evening in the life of a quiet man, as well as the morning after.


Buy Mister Wonderful h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Ice Haven h/c (£12-00, Jonathan Cape) by Daniel Clowes –



In the small town of Ice Haven a child has gone missing. A detective, bringing his wife with him, questions local residents and studies the ransom note.

That’s the main story but it’s all the other little incidents that make it one of the best books in the last couple of years [wrote our Mark in June 2005].



Sixteen of the inhabitants are given their own stories. Vida is visiting her grandmother, author of ‘Mauve Begonias’, 1978, and is writing a ‘zine about the town. She becomes infatuated with the guy living next door, another (awful) poet and a master of prevarication despising what he perceives to be the narrow-mindedness of the townsfolk. Charles is lent a copy of ‘Leopold & Loeb’ by a classmate and is convinced that this will link him to the abduction – and possible murder – that he’s sure his friend has arranged. Meanwhile his stepsister is planning to run away with her lover, worrying that he’ll find her unattractive when unclothed.

And it goes on.



Everyone’s given their own strip and each strip has its own style. The detective appears to be in a Bernie Krigstein EC comic, the younger kids in FAMILY CIRCUS. Issues of familial connections, creativity and believability are raised. At the end, the mystery is solved but we’re not told explicitly who took the boy. 



This originally came out a few years back as the 22nd issue of EIGHTBALL. For this edition the art has been jigged about and some new strips added. Clowes’ sometimes tender, often clinical view of his characters is never better than here. Vida’s final words before leaving Ice Haven may even top the last line of GHOST WORLD (comic version). Although, whether we’re supposed to believe her or not is another story.


Buy Ice Haven h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Scarlet vol 2 s/c (£12-99, Jinxworld) by Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev.

I don’t think I can better the introduction I wrote to volume one, so here we go again.

Few things anger most people I know more than the abuse of power.

Racism is one of them, so South Africa under Apartheid was a double whammy, and Congressman John Lewis has some arresting history for you in MARCH when it comes to policing in America.

Because when individuals, corporations or entire state institutions abuse their power and successfully get away with it through powerful connections, political indifference, mass-media collusion or wholesale capitulation, most of us get pretty steamed.

Welcome to Scarlet’s world: it’s just come crashing down around her. Her boyfriend was murdered by a corrupt cop in a city of corrupt cops and so not only did he get away with it, he was commended and promoted while the newspapers which displayed zero interest in investigative journalism barefaced printed police lies.



So far Scarlet has [REDACTED] and published film footage of her doing so. She’s successfully galvanised Portland’s public into supporting her at a flash-mob rally into whose crowd the police threw a live grenade. But now she’s really got the Mayor’s attention:

“I have a list.”
“I thought you might.”
“At first blush, I don’t think you’re going to like it. Being that you and I have decidedly different world views.”
“I don’t think that’s necessarily true, actually. We both want the world to be a better place. We both have dedicated our lives to it.”
“What a smarmy politician’s answer.”
“Well, I am a smarmy politician.”
“Can I insult you? Are you insultable?”
“I’m sensitive about my hairline.”

So how did Scarlet secure that face-to-face, one-on-one meeting when she’s the most wanted woman in the state?



From the writer of JESSICA JONES: ALIAS – which is cracking crime fiction – and his artist on DAREDEVIL comes something completely non-genre highly recommended to readers of KILL OR BE KILLED, CRIMINAL etc.

It’s brave stuff, not just in its direct attack on police duplicity but in where Bendis is prepared to take it. When I originally read book one, I wondered whether he’d written himself into a hole he couldn’t possibly climb out of, but that was pretty faithless of me given Bendis’ track record. Don’t expect him to back out or ease off now on the extreme actions both sides are going to take and the irreversible plight that then puts them in.

Maleev throws multiple art angles at the multiple flashbacks which depict the horrific events which tipped Scarlet’s growing inner circle. The most affecting of these is Isis’ appallingly brutal awakening from childhood idyll as a dutiful daughter with a doting Daddy. It’s narrated with a children’s picture-book clarity over three double-page spreads, illustrated by Maleev as fully painted portraits of Isis, close-up. The first, seen from above, depicts Isis delightedly holding her Daddy’s hand on the way to school.

“It was her favourite time of the day.”



The second is so closely framed that it almost crushes her. The third is the most successful rendition of wide-eyed, catatonic shock that I have ever seen in my life.

Maleev doesn’t skimp on the rowdy crowd scenes, either, but at one key moment the sound is effectively muted as the throng disappears to be replaced by an increasingly livid, fiery red when things go spectacularly wrong.

For more, please see SCARLET VOL 1 s/c


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

Justice League: The World’s Greatest Superheroes s/c (£24-99, DC) by Paul Dini & Alex Ross.

A4-sized reprint of all those huge, floppy Dini and Ross one-shot morality tales (SUPERMAN: PEACE ON EARTH, BATMAN: WAR ON CRIME, WONDER WOMAN: SPIRIT OF TRUTH, SHAZAM!: POWER OF HOPE) in one won’t-droop-over-the-sides-of-your-bookcase volume. Pretty good value for money it is too.

Alex Ross (MARVELS, KINGDOM COME) has a unique take on DC superheroes in that his versions really do show their age. Batman’s coming up to 50, Wonder Woman’s approaching the same age and Superman’s face and physique are those of someone at least 65, if in remarkably buff condition. Why…? I don’t know but it does lend them a weight and a sense of authority – a seniority over their peers – that others’ interpretations seldom convey. This also contains JLA: SECRET ORIGINS, JLA: LIBERTY & JUSTICE, one heck of a lot of sketchwork plus two enormous landscape paintings in the form of a double-sided, four-page fold-out

I’ve dug out some of my original reviews from when the floppies first appeared.



SUPERMAN: PEACE ON EARTH. A first-class seasonal story, convincingly narrated by the being called Superman, who finds that one man’s seemingly limitless capabilities and the best will in the world cannot overcome the politics of men. So instead, you accept your limitations but you don’t throw the towel in: you do what you can, each in her or his humble but determined way.



It’s gorgeously painted, with an exquisite command of light, quiet, thoughtful and dignified.

Rarely for superhero comics, this is also recommended for all ages because it isn’t about punching people.

That was the truncated version from an old Recommended Reading List because I know that originally I also mentioned Ross’ African animals which would have fixated me as a young man. Dieter Braun’s WILD ANIMALS OF THE NORTH and WILD ANIMALS OF THE SOUTH will have a similar effect upon you and your young ones.



BATMAN: WAR ON CRIME I found more problematic: Look, it’s very beautiful. It’s very, very beautiful. It’s also rather disappointing.

What was I expecting? I don’t know; perhaps I hadn’t thought this through in advance. I think this is the first Alex Ross work which has taken superheroes away from an epic background and tried to pop them into contemporary grocery stores. Now, you tell me, how precisely is someone wearing latex and a cape going to ‘sneak’ silently between these pencil-thin aisles to ambush a thief (with what I believe is called a ‘batarang’) without knocking the Twinkies flying? Nor, parenthetically, have I ever seen a grocery store so fully stocked or beautifully arranged, before or after a masked crusader comes squeak-creaking past the chewing gum and prophylactics.



Of course, this doesn’t matter in most superhero comics – design can take care of such silliness and create a dynamic spectacle – but Ross is a photo-realist and the ‘real’ Batman here is patently too bulky for the physical real aisle. Where Ross excels is in the majestic, the epic and indeed, conversely, in a boardroom filled with normal, underpants-on-the-inside, real-estate-dealing speculators. MARVELS worked so well because Kurt cleverly combined for Ross the street perspective of the photographer with the magnificent, other-worldly spectacle he was gazing at from below. So those scenes featuring Bruce are fine; Ross’s interior and exterior scenes where Gotham’s elite network are magnificent.

But, oh no, here we come to the story. It’s an excellent introduction to those who have never encountered Batman before: it’s an everything-you-need-to-know about Bruce, his loss, his tortured existence, the scars on his back (metaphorical and otherwise), his luxury lifestyle and his nightly excursions. For those of us who’ve read a single decent Batbook (I commend to you BATMAN: RULES OF ENGAGEMENT), it’s superfluous. In fact it’s a facile cliché: urban poverty, nasty gunmen, here comes an orphan; Bruce has a flashback, boy turns to crime (must involve drugs), Batman turns him round, then Bruce spends a few pennies and miraculously solves all the ghetto’s problems.




The scene in which we first stumble across this particular orphan is genuinely arresting. The layout of the double-page spread is perfect, the model he chose for the boy can evidently act, and Ross evokes the mutual shock and horror with great pathos. And, if you’ve forgotten after this unexpectedly unfavourable review which I really didn’t want to write, this book is beautiful. So enjoy the pictures. They’re very big.




SHAZAM!: THE POWER OF HOPE. A return to form for Dini and Ross, who seem much more capable in the bright light of day and on a grander scale than on the streets of Gotham or dealing with everyday problems. For those of you unfamiliar with DC’s acquisition, Billy Batson, now working at a radio station, is a young orphan able to swap himself when required with Captain Marvel; they share an innocent outlook on life, and Ross’s triumph here is the evocation of Billy’s features in the broad-set Captain whenever his naivety is exposed. If it’s all a little nicer than nice, well, that works a good deal better for the creators than when they tried to introduce a darker element. When their heroes are setting standards to aspire to (occasionally a little clumsily, but more often than not gently), they’re doing fine, especially when limitations are reached (which is why the Superman volume succeeded). Unfortunately there is one howler in this book which destroys both the subplot and, consequently, the finale. One of the lads in the hospital Batson visits was beaten up by his Father. So what does the Captain do? He threatens him. Physically. Not only is it entirely out of character, but you just don’t bully a bully. It may be one’s immediate, knee-jerk and quite natural instinct or desire (they must certainly be stood up to if at all possible, because a bully thrives in the knowledge that their actions will have no ramifications), but, hey, add to the cycle, why don’t you? I never expected to say this, but even SPAWN handled this better, showing the nasty repercussions which aren’t even suggested as a possibility here.

A tad irresponsible.



WONDERWOMAN: SPIRIT OF TRUTH. Fourth giant-sized annual from painter Alex Ross and, like SUPERMAN: PEACE ON EARTH, the premise is a good one, that there are limits to what the best intentions of a single person can achieve, howsoever good-hearted and empowered they may be. Wonder Woman can help in disasters, take down criminals, but when she ventures into foreign affairs, hoping to stop the practice of using human shields in a war zone, her involvement creates fear amongst those whom she seeks to help.

So she talks to Clark Kent, who has experienced such frustrations and who suggests that the view from street level is substantially different from the perspective of one who can fly; and she might perhaps try working with people rather than above them.

So she does. She goes on protest marches and averts an escalation by snapping a gun in two; she attends a peaceful demonstration against loggers operating in a rain forest which the country’s government has already been paid substantial amounts of money to preserve and secretly sabotages their equipment with her super-strength. And she returns (in disguise) to the country where she met an impasse, joining the human shields as they’re about to be moved to another area where the bombs will be falling… and blows up the truck, freeing the women.




Now, if the idea of the book is to educate young readers about some of the world’s injustices, I think these are great vehicles. They’re beautiful, awe-inspiring, and written with accessible language. I’d certainly recommend the Superman volume to any parent buying it for a youngster.

But more than most superhero stories the Wonder Woman and Shazam tales inadvertently support Dave CEREBUS Sim’s contention that the entire genre is strictly male fantasy fodder. It is merely a flaw of this book that the solutions offered above are, even in this context, no such thing: there would be nothing to stop the dictatorship rounding up and replacing the women the second kindly Diana leaves the stage. But each one of Diana’s little tricks also involves the use of a superpower, the private fantasy of the Mummy’s Boy who’d love to just kick those bullies’ asses if only he had cawwabungium claws. Which he doesn’t.

And – maybe I just got out of the wrong side of the bed this morning – I think this is… distracting. Whenever important issues are brought ‘realistically’ into the superhero genre it is rare that they aren’t trivialised partly because – superheroes not actually existing – the solutions are impossible. We don’t have that magic wand. We’ve got to deal with things as they stand.

Mark Millar is quite often the exception. Initially fearing the worst, I found his treatment of Multiple Sclerosis in SUPERIOR to be surprisingly canny – the very antithesis of the pitfalls I point out above – while his two ULTIMATES books proved to be a lacerating diatribe on America’s duplicitous, geo-political neo-imperialism, cleverly reconceived for the specific sub-genre that is superhero comics.


Buy Justice League: The World’s Greatest Heroes s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Marvel Knights Punisher Complete Collection vol 1 s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon, Doug Braithwaite.

Collects PUNISHER (2000) #1-12, PUNISHER (2001) #1-5 and PUNISHER KILLS THE MARVEL UNIVERSE, which is substantially more than just ‘Welcome Back Frank’. However, this contains that too.

“I can’t believe you’re actually doing this…!”
“You’re a monster and I’m killing you. It’s not complicated.”

The Punisher’s reason for living is to eliminate people he doesn’t like. Not for Frank, the moral vagaries of two wrongs and a right. He’s not here to soliloquise, he’s here to blow people’s heads off, and time wasted weighing the scales of justice is time that could be far more effectively and satisfying spent with an Uzi, a six-pack of hand-grenades and a mortuary full of Mafiosi.

For the creators of PREACHER, this laugh-out-loud burlesque was one long opportunity for some seriously black comedy as deadpan Frank slaughters his way to the top, both disarming and dismembering an increasingly grotesque crime lord, Ma Gnucci. Yes, it’s Ennis’s trademark Loss of Limbs Motif.

His first stint on Frank Castle, this is a far cry from what he went on to accomplish in the far more socio-political PUNISHER MAX, but sometimes you have to eat the hamburger to appreciate the steak* and this is the Linda McCartney Vegetarian Mozzarella quarter pounder of burgers for which product placement I’d appreciate a lifetime’s supply: very, very tasty.

Anything and everything is a weapon to Frank, so imagine what he can do in a zoo.




As with PREACHER, it’s friendship and loyalty which form the heart of the book, coming this time courtesy of the unsuspecting naïfs he’s shacked up with in rented accommodation: punk Spacker Dave, the over-excitable man of so many piercings that he’s become a human curtain rail…

“Doing the town, huh?” he asks, as Frank leaves their home.
“It’s tempting.”



… Mr. Bumpo the balloon-shaped pizza addict constantly stuck in his own doorway, and shy young Joan who brings Frank freshly baked cookies as tokens of her timid affection.

Steve Dillon acts his heart out, playing Frank imperturbably straight in the even most ludicrous circumstances, pulling bloated Mr. Bumpo through his own doorway without breaking his stride, constantly emphasising the man’s efficiency. Dillon is a master of communicating emotion through expression, so that although anger appears to come easily to artists (on the page!), few do pants-wettingly worried as well as Dillon. And there’s plenty to worry the wrong people here.




With ‘Welcome Back Frank’ alone, you’re in for twelve full chapters which I concede I haven’t read for a couple of decades or so, but Jonathan recalls Frank being less than impressed by three copy-cat vigilantes who want to join forces with him and I once referred to this as “the comicbook equivalent of an Arnie film, but with fewer plot holes and a lot less overacting”. Sounds about right.

* Thank you, Marc Almond (‘Ugly Head’)


Buy Marvel Knights Punisher Complete Collection vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

New reviews to follow, but if they’re new formats of previous books, reviews may already be up; others will retain their Diamond previews information we receive displayed as ‘Publisher Blurb’

The Chancellor And The Citadel s/c (£13-99, Iron Circus Comics) by Maria Capelle Frantz

Diosamante (£14-99, Humanoids) by Alejandro Jodorowsky & Jean-Claud Gal

Fence vol 2 (£10-99, Boom) by C.S. Pacat &  Johanna The Mad

Hellblazer vol 20: Systems Of Control s/c (£22-99, DC) by Andy Diggle, Mike Carey & Leonardo Manco, Danijel Zezelj

Jim Henson’s The Power Of The Dark Crystal vol 1 s/c (£12-99, Archaia) by Simon Spurrier & Kelly Matthews, Nichole Matthews

The Lady Doctor (£14-99, Myriad) by Ian Williams

Mega Robo Bros vol 3: Mega Robo Revenge (£9-99, David Fickling Books) by Neill Cameron

A Million Ways To Die Hard h/c (£12-99, Insight Comics) by Frank Tieri & Mark Texeira

RASL Colour Edition vol 3 (of 3) The Fire Of St George s/c (£11-99, Cartoon Books) by Jeff Smith

Black Hammer vol 3: Age of Doom Part 1 s/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Jeff Lemire & Dean Ormston, Dave Stewart

Witchfinder vol 5: Gates Of Heaven s/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Chris Roberson, Mike Mignola &  D’Israeli

Batman Shadow: The Murder Geniuses s/c (£14-99, DC) by Scott Snyder, Steve Orlando & Riley Rossmo

Dark Days: The Road To Metal s/c (£16-99, DC) by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, various & Andy Kubert, Jim Lee, Scott Williams, various

Hal Jordan And The Green Lantern Corps vol 7: Darkstars Rising s/c (Rebirth) (£16-99, DC) by Robert Venditti & Rafael Sandoval, various

Astonishing X-Men vol 3: Until Our Hearts Stop s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Matthew Rosenberg & Greg Land, Neil Edwards

Deadpool vol 1: Mercin’ Hard For The Money s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Skottie Young & Nick Klein, Scott Hepburn

Spider-Geddon vol 1: Edge of Spider-Geddon s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Jed MacKay, Aaron Kuder, various &Gerardo Sandoval, Aaron Kucer, various

Tony Stark Iron Man vol 1: Self-Made Man s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Dan Slott, Valerio Schiti, Max Dunbar, various

Wolverine: Old Man Logan vol 10: End Of The World s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Ed Brisson & Damian Couceiro, Ibraim Roberson, Simone Di Meo

20th Century Boys Perfect Edition vol 2 (£12-99, Viz) by Naoki Urasawa

An Invitation From A Crab (£11-99, Denpa) by Panpanya

Barefoot Gen vol 3 (£14-99, Last Gasp) by Keiji Nakazawa

Gantz Omnibus vol 2 (£22-99, Dark Horse) by Hiroya Oku

Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 2: Battle Tendency h/c vol 2 (£12-99, Viz) by Hirohiko Araki

Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 1: Phantom Blood vol 2 h/c (£12-99, Viz) by Hirohiko Araki

Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 1: Phantom Blood vol 3 h/c (£12-99, Viz) by Hirohiko Araki

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

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews December 2018 week three

Wednesday, December 19th, 2018

Featuring Paul Duffield, Alejandro Jodorowsky & José Ladrönn, Oliver Schrauwen Daniel Clowes, John Allison, Garth Ennis, Goran Sudžuka, Chris Claremont, John Byrne

The Firelight Isle vol 1: Heavenly Blue h/c (signed) (£19-99, self-published) by Paul Duffield.

I swear that you have never read anything quite like this in your life.

One of the most beautiful books that I have ever beheld, THE FIRELIGHT ISLE’s production values are exquisite.

More pertinently, however, is its thoroughly innovative, highly intelligent, and visually thrilling composition. I have actually seen jaws drop upon showing customers this gorgeous graphic novel.

A series of vertical ribbons woven together quite often by colour from a sequence of tall, interlocking pages that flow freely when read on Paul Duffield’s website – yet which are each, individually, so satisfying to absorb in their own right – the cascade is carefully controlled by the insertion of horizontal sound-effects, embedded panels and the occasional stone hearth, tapestry or carpet.



Crisp blue, clean white and rich, warm terracotta (when arranged with such spacious precision) is ever so striking.

It is especially so when combined with the recurrent motif of circular frames: windows which focus your attention on that which is most important, of what is happening right now or that which once occurred according to ancient lore.



Ah yes, ancient lore! Duffield spent years studying anthropology for this project before embarking on a single panel, artistically satisfying himself instead on attendant, investigative preparatory sketches, and it has paid dividends! If you relish rich world-building – like Antony Johnston and Chris Mitten’s UMBRAL or Greg Rucka and Michael Lark’s LAZARUS – which doesn’t attempt to overwhelm you all at once with all the work that’s gone into it in order to prove how clever it is… then you are in for such a subtle treat here.

I say “subtle”, because there’s a couple of elements unique to this specific society of barterers which I spotted for myself but which Duffield refrains from announcing outright. How fortunate it is that Duffield’s a master of midnight constellations and fire! Even the skin oil applied to render hands and forearms water-repellent when dyeing pre-treated white fabric in a sacred ceremony is only touched on after the fact. But it will prove pivotal.



Perhaps the single most important quality in homo sapiens which has defined our history, development and prosperity post-Cognitive Revolution – as Yuval Noah Harari emphasises over and over again – is that we are storytellers. That we can create shared fictions which we tacitly or fervently agree to believe in like religion, law and money has meant that we can cooperate in such vast numbers (or indeed go to war with each other on such an enormous scale when those fictions clash) that make elephant tribes, chimpanzee communities and extended meerkat families look miniscule. This is far from off-topic. From the back of this book:

“In the beginning the nameless dark smothered all. The people of the earth were empty vessels. Lifeless. And then, the stars were lit. Gathering, they kindled heavenly flame, and each star filled each waiting body with breath.

“Anlil and Sen both carry a star of their own. They are childhood friends, their heavenly journeys woven together as Sen takes his first step down the path of priesthood, and Anlil weaves a sacred offering that could save her household.

“But all paths branch, all threads unwind, and all flames die. For ever the nameless dark waits at the shores of The Firelight Isle.”

I don’t know about you, but a shiver just went up my spine.



The very first page, following a sumptuously designed diagrammatical map, opens on teenage Anlil and Sen overlooking their shared city below. And it is most splendid!

Circular suburbs surround and envelope the vertical emphasis of the religious hub’s central towers. Ecclesiastical Gothic architecture, both exterior and interior, also always looked towards the heavens and, further back, stone circles erected to worship our sun were comprised of sky-seeking obelisks.

Then sounds the morning call to worship! It spirals out upon the page in booming, pulsing, rhythmical ripples and echoes which are hypnotic.



But as soon as the second page, our childhood friends have fallen out. They’ve fallen out over Sen’s vocation to undertake a religious ritual which will remove him from wider society, but also her equally sincere and devoted friendship throughout all these years.

“What makes you think I’ll fail?”
“You didn’t even have the courage to tell me you wanted to try.”

She is initially concerned for his safety, because the ritual has proven fatal to those who have failed; he is affronted by her lack of confidence in his direction, devotion and prowess; ultimately, however, Anlil feels betrayed by his failure to confide. And it’s tearing these true friends apart.



This is such potent stuff, set up so early on with extraordinarily distilled concision and precision that it makes room for so many subsequent story strands that can be conveyed predominantly by images instead. As I keep carping on (please do forgive me!): comics is a visual medium and this, to me, is comics at its finest.

The patterns are phenomenal, the masked priesthood suitably intimidating, and the traditional costumes throughout consistent in colour and design. It’s a living, breathing community with a history, both in terms of culture and family, and you’ll be thrust back and forth between the present and the past which will explain and so inform that present. Childhood play can be ever so telling.



You will also be treated to two trials undergone and presented on the page in tense, sweaty parallel.

But you will never suspect where this is heading or foresee the thematically perfect climax coming.

Circles and cycles; tradition and truth; success and failure; loyalties and love.

At the end of any day, what is truly important, what weighs most in your heart?



I don’t know which I admire most in this work: its exceptionally fierce ambition or its flawless execution.


Buy The Firelight Isle vol 1: Heavenly Blue h/c (signed) and read the Page 45 review here

The Sons Of El Topo vol 1: Cain h/c (£14-99, Archaia) by Alejandro Jodorowsky & José Ladrönn…

“Oh, father, I cannot kill you, but I can kill your son…”

Which despite Alejandro Jodorowsky being completely bonkers and the original film ‘El Topo’ being the weirdest Western ever made by some considerable distance, is not some suicidal statement of intent – because, let’s face it, that would make for a pretty short sequel – but instead a fraternal threat. Here’s some mumbling mojo from the peyoted-up publisher to confuse us more…

“The sequel to cult film, El Topo, from controversial filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky.

El Topo was a bandit without limits, a man with no moral compass, but when his journey through the arid west brought him face to face with a series of rogue outcasts, he found enlightenment in the unlikeliest place and was forever transformed, becoming a holy vessel imbued with the power to perform miracles. This was a journey that took him far from his first born son, Cain, and brought about the birth of Abel.



Fuelled by resentment, and unable to kill his saintly father, Cain begins the slow pursuit of his half brother in a tale of magic and mayhem worthy of legendary filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky and virtuosic illustrator José Ladrönn. Together, they deliver an allegorical and surrealist western where the genre is at the service of deeper philosophical and spiritual considerations.”

Right, first things first, to clear up any nonsensical goings-on in the names department… If you are a fan of the film, you might well remember – or not depending on how battered you were when you last watched El Topo – that his son was actually called Hijo, which simply means ‘son’ in Spanish. So, somewhere along the line, he is now known as Cain. Which, given the mock- / mocking Christianity elements to this subsequent story, will all make complete sense* when you read it.



Hardcore fans of the film will probably love this. It’s a well-told engaging yarn which certainly hits its marks (and targets) in terms of Jodorowsky’s usual obsessions …and targets. It’s beautifully illustrated by José Ladrönn too.



I think it is a testament to both Jodorowsky’s story-telling powers and Ladrönn’s artistry that this work also stands up extremely well as a stand-alone story. People who have never seen the original film can enjoy this all by itself as there’s sufficient enough cleverly woven in recapitulation to make total perfect sense** of what has gone before.

* Maybe…

** Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.


Buy The Sons Of El Topo vol 1: Cain h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Wilson h/c (£12-99, Fantagraphics) by Daniel Clowes.

Originally published early in 2011 when we made this Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month, I have no idea when or how this dropped off our system. Perhaps it went out of print when the film came out. I still haven’t seen that.

Anyway, in the days before we had access to interior art to show you, I set the scene thus.

Wilson accosting a stranger trying to type diligently on his laptop in a cafe:

“Hey brother – mind if I sit here?”
“It looks like there’s plenty of empty tables…”
“I know, but I like to sit by the window. You working?”
“Good man. Wife? Kids?”
“That’s beautiful. Living the Dream…”


“Hey, shit-head – I’m talking to you!”

That’s Wilson: philosopher, philanthropist, bon viveur



Actually he’s a case study in self-centred misanthropy and deluded hypocrisy, constantly craving an ear yet too self-involved to lend anyone his own; paying lip-service to self-awareness and comprehending the world around him, but the first to give up if any thought or empathy is required. He’s a man who values a decent day’s work but has never done one himself; a family man without a family.

“I keep forgetting that my father is still alive.”



One of the funniest books I have read in a very long time, it’s composed of 71 single-page gags, their final lines beautifully undercutting the panels that precede them as Wilson begins to pine for an ex-wife he never really loved and, tracking her down, discovers she had a daughter sixteen years ago whom she gave up for fostering. Don’t skip ahead because on attempting to establish contact with his daughter, the whole thing goes monumentally tits up in a way that only Wilson could manage.

Clowes cleverly lays down elements early on that later turn into punchlines, circles back round to characters you thought long-abandoned, and he uses a variety of styles and colour schemes for each fresh page depending upon its contents.



Radically different from any of his previous books (GHOST WORLD, DAVID BORING, THE DEATH-RAY etc. – all in stock), it’s the first graphic novel not culled from the periodical EIGHTBALL, more of which I really don’t think we’ll be seeing under this industry’s current trends.

… I wrote in 2011. Hey, I can do prescience.



Daniel Clowes’ most recent graphic novel was PATIENCE, I mention that because you may have missed it.


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

Parallel Lives (£21-99, Fantagraphics) by Oliver Schrauwen…

“Now sing after me: Ski-bi dibby dib yo da dub dub.”
“As soon as she starting singing, Ooh-lee proved up to the task…
“Making one of the worst songs in musical history sound even worse.
“She asked her friends to sing along…
“… and they gleefully obliged…
“…mocking to her face.
“She was singing her heart out…
“… bearing her soul to a crowd of ‘friends’ who felt nothing but contempt for her.
“They were all joined in a hate fest, in which she was the unwitting dupe.
“Luckily she was protected by her ignorance…
“Her inability to comprehend what was going on…
“Her absolute dumbness…”

She is singing “I’m a Scatman,” by Scatman Joe, though, so perhaps we can forgive her ‘friends’ just this once…

Pure genius. It’s extremely difficult to explain just how clever this work is. I’ll let the publisher have a crack at it first…

“This collects six wildly inventive short comics stories that might collectively be dubbed ‘speculative memoir.’ Schrauwen’s deadpan depictions of his and his offspring’s upcoming lives include alien abduction, dialogue with future agents, and coded messages in envelopes at breakfast.”

Speculative memoir, I like that term… I’ll keep that in mind the next time the police are questioning me…



Moving on swiftly… there is also, in addition to his offspring, including Ooh-lee (think about it), his very, very weird father and amateur scientist, Armand, who believes he can communicate with the future. Without wishing to spoil anything whatsoever, well, he can. Sort of… One of the additional fabulous elements to this work, besides the whacked out stories themselves, is realising just how cleverly they fix together to form the most demented jigsaw.

In that time-hopping masterfully mangling-it-all-together respect, this collection has elements in common with Malachi ANCESTOR Ward’s excellent and frequently overlooked FROM NOW ON. All the individual stories here are far, far odder mind you and the overall tone is intentionally very overtly darkly and stupidly humorous. But in terms of precisely how things fit together, it is as brilliantly and deftly done as David Mitchell’s award winning prose work ‘Cloud Atlas’.



Artistically… I am equally struggling to adequately describe this. The cover does offer a fair summation of what you will find within to be fair. It’s… harshly forceful in the way it attacks your retinas… and your mind… and certainly makes a lasting, seared-on impression. It scared me slightly at times, I think, and yet I couldn’t put it down. Our Jodie has just commented to me, when I asked for her artistic assessment, “it’s like a nightmare in Vaporwave.” I get that. But it’s way weirder than even that frankly.

Just be warned too, this is very rude in places and extremely wrong everywhere. All the time.



If you like your comics more than a little bit odd and challenging to one’s senses and sensibilities, then this is for you.


Buy Parallel Lives and read the Page 45 review here

Giant Days: Early Registration s/c (£10-99, Boom!) by John Allison…

All three John Allison self-published issues from the original mini-series together in a book at long last! Although we do also have packs of the GIANT DAYS SELF-PUBLISHED MINI-SERIES if you’d prefer those.

Of Giant Days 1 Tom wrote:

Free from the shackles of school Esther Le Groot thought, like any young goth, that university might be a place to find like-minded people. A place to swap corpse paint-tips and exchange existential banter into the night. Unfortunately being a headgirl in school brings an altogether more sinister clique into play, as the legion of drunken preppies try to steal her away. Now it’s up to sheltered Enya fan Daisy and insomniac beatnik Susan to save her from becoming a bff in the hardcore Freshers crowd.

Be warned, there will be boxing, tutus, and come-uppance. Ah, Esther, the second most beautiful woman in Tackleford comes into her own in this punchy off-shoot from John’s fantastic SCARY-GO-ROUND web comic. If you’ve ever been the new kid in town the empathy rays will be drawing you to this like a student to £1 drinks.



Of Giant Days 2 (at which point the series became full colour) Jonathan wrote:

“Were you CAREFUL?”
“In a prophylactic sense, yes, but… I may have knocked his guitar off the wall and broken it… while trying something.”
“He wasn’t pleased.”

Featuring the return of crazy-haired introvert Daisy Wooton, the phlegmatic and rather blunt Susan Ptolemy, plus the divine man-mesmerising beauty that is Esther de Groot. Readers of the first GIANT DAYS may recall our friends are in their first year of University, having only just made each other’s acquaintance in Fresher’s week. Already firm chums, they’re now settling in nicely to Uni life with all the endless socialising and lack of studying that entails. For Esther this also means pining for her boyfriend Eustace from back home and unwittingly attracting the romantic attentions of the completely harmless and also slightly gormless Ed Gemmell.

The fact that Esther is completely out of his league doesn’t deter Ed from dreaming but he’s going to regret revealing his crush to his streetwise new mate, and budding guitar god – in his own mind at least – Steve Shields. Cue one heated phone call from Eustace, a drinking binge at the rock night for the ladies down the Slag Pit (surely the best name ever for a night club?) , and a rather unwise decision on Esther’s part about who to share a taxi home with. The next day there’s a very forlorn Ed to console, a reputation to repair, and a guitar to… err… repair as well. Note-perfect British comedy from Mr. Allison, illustrated as exquisitely as ever.

Of Giant Days 3 Jonathan wrote:

“Isn’t that Thom from Indie Society?”
“Yeah, with his pride and joy. Hey THOM, what’s going on?”
“Heh, just giving Vetiver a polish.”
“My 1990 Fiat Panda. Once owned by David Gedge of the Wedding Present.”
“Literally the most indie car EVER.”
“Fully restored. My parents got her for my 18th birthday. Great for getting to gigs. We don’t get the good bands here very often.”
“Well, goodnight, Thom. Remember, hands on top of the duvet.”

Ha ha, the University adventures of Susan Ptolemy and Daisy Wooton continue, and they have a new friend in the shape of acid-tongued Erin as they investigate the merits of the Indie music society, whilst their chum Esther de Groot gets further lured to the dark side by the Black Metal Society. Ed Gemmell, meanwhile, is still following Esther around like a lost puppy dog, bless him, even though Black Metal is really absolutely most definitely not his scene at all.


Buy Giant Days: Early Registration s/c and read the Page 45 review here

A Walk Through Hell vol 1: The Warehouse (£13-99, Aftershock) by Garth Ennis & Goran Sudžuka.

…but what you don’t see represented on the cover, right, is the gaping hole of glistening spot-varnish which is the yawning, pitch black chasm of the warehouse entrance. It draws the eye, just as it’s already drawn others physically inside…

Hello! How you doing? Had any decent nightmares recently?

Excellent! Here, have some more!

Just to give you a sense of perspective, I relished Garth Ennis’ socio-political run on HELLBLAZER (volumes 5 to 8) and heartily chuckled my way through PREACHER; I admired his eloquence and unusual, highly personal perspectives in WAR STORIES, I believe his run on PUNISHER MAX – which also included war stories – is unlikely to be surpassed down that particular dark alley, and I roared my head off at his PUNISHER: WELCOME BACK FRANK in no small part due to Steve Dillon’s deadpan. But none of Ennis’ horror since has really done much for me, until now.

Special Agents Shaw and McGregor have been dispatched to a Long Beach warehouse where two fellow agents, Hunzikker and Goss, have gone missing. They ventured inside several hours ago, but haven’t been heard from since.

Shaw and McGregor are greeted by a local police Lieutenant who’s been hovering by its entrance while his SWAT team sit cowering inside their armoured vehicle. They too went inside the warehouse – for all of 30 seconds.



Exasperated, mid-career Shaw leads the much fresher McGregor to see what’s happening inside. Nothing good, I can promise you that.

Now, the reason I’m back on board doesn’t really have anything to do with that. The meat of this first instalment lies in Shaw’s last case, and the lengths she went to secure a result. As the two agents attempt to keep each other sane in the wake of what they are witness to, their recollections make it increasingly clear that their current plight is not unconnected to their previous frustrations in dealing with the abduction of children.

You’re not going to like the fur-trimmed coat hanging on the bird box. You’re not going to like that at all.



There’s plenty of discussion about the current Presidency, the normalisation of hate-speech and hate-crime through Trump’s endorsement of the KKK and its radicalisation of the young into a wider white-supremacist right, plus the dissemination of their message on social media.

Where Sudžuka succeeds is in a normalisation of his own, anchoring this firmly in the real world; in the wearied expressions and sagging body language (at rest) of Shaw contrasted with the forward-leaning earnestness and energy of McGregor, and especially in the blank-faced comportment of their prior prime suspect during interview. I doubt it’s easy to give nuance to neutrality, to impassivity, but Sudžuka manages to do precisely that.

Only towards the end does Ennis reveal how that case finally panned out.

A WALK THROUGH HELL: THE CATHEDRAL begins with #6, running a little late but due any day now.


Buy A Walk Through Hell vol 1: The Warehouse and read the Page 45 review here

X-Men: Days Of Future Past (£14-99, Marvel) by Chris Claremont & John Byrne with John Romita Jr.

A much bigger edition than previously issued, this reprints all the final Claremont & Byrne chapters following immediately on from X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX SAGA, drawing a line under the title’s finest era until Grant Morrison, Joss Whedon then Warren Ellis revitalised the property just a few years ago (NEW X-MEN and ASTONISHING X-MEN, respectively, all reviewed).

As such it kicks off with Jean Grey’s funeral on a bleak autumn day, the bitter wind blowing leaves across an empty sky and tugging at the mourners’ black trenchcoats. There her lover, Scott Summers, stands silently at the graveside, churning over the events that led them to this awful moment, at the end of which he will say good-bye. However revised since then, it remains a useful synopsis of the X-Men’s early history, and when first published acted as a fitting way of letting the severity of what just occurred sink in. No fights, no sub-plots, just a group of friends standing shoulder to shoulder in solidarity, utterly bereft.



All the original X-Men attend but only the Angel stays on, and finds himself both out of practice and a fish out of water. Things have changed. The days are far darker and there’s much worse to come, their one hope lying in their youngest recruit who arrives in a taxi and sits on her suitcases awaiting their return: Kitty Pryde aged 13 ½.

The atmosphere’s broken somewhat by the annual illustrated by a John Romita Jr. far from fully formed as yet, and I’d probably skip that if I were you. Go back and read it later after the Wendigo storyline guest-starring Alpha Flight and the final farewell as Kitty Pryde undergoes a rite of passage, alone in the X-Mansion, single-handedly fending off an intruder Alien-stylee.



In between all that we have ‘Days Of Future Past’ itself, a pivotal X-Men two-parter which will be revisited over and over again but never with the same shocking power.



It kicks off abruptly, right out of nowhere, in a future where Kate Pryde (whom we’ve barely had time to meet) is one of the last surviving members not just of the X-Men but the entire superhero community exterminated alongside most of the mutant species in a cold, methodical pogrom executed by the robotic killing machines known as the Sentinels… initially at the behest of the American government. Now the few mutants left alive subsist in a concentration camp whose endless rows of tombstones pointedly outnumber its inhabitants. She’s on her way to meet Logan, now with the Canadian resistance movement, and the New York she navigates is a bleak, bombed-out and perilous pile of ruins barely populated save for punk-like predators. Logan has what she needs: the final component of a mechanism that will block the inhibitor collars worn by Kate’s few surviving allies: Storm, Colossus, Franklin Richards and his telepathic wife, Rachel Summers. Oh, and a man in a wheelchair, but not necessarily who you think.



Their plan is two-fold: break out and attack the Baxter Building, the nexus of the Sentinels’ genocidal operations before the world retaliates with a nuclear holocaust, and send Kate Pryde back in time to prevent this future from ever happening. Friday October 31st 1980 and Presidential candidate Senator Kelly is about to deliver his address on the Mutant Hearings attended by Moira MacTaggert and Professor Charles Xavier. By the end of the day all three will be dead, murdered by the new Brotherhood Of Evil Mutants, so sparking the future we’ve seen come to pass… unless Kate in young Kitty’s body can convince the X-Men to stop it.

Let me tell you: the final few pages are devastating.

It’s become second-nature these days to criticise John Byrne for his conservatism (and I think we can all consider that a euphemism by now) and Claremont for his long-winded exposition and interminable sub-plots but here they are both at the top of their games on a title I loved dearly. For corporate superhero comics at the time, it was intricate, innovative, disciplined, and paid off in full.

It looked pretty sexy as well.




Buy X-Men: Days Of Future Past and read the Page 45 review here

…Aaaaaand we’re now done on the reviews front for the next two or three weeks! Both you and will be too busy celebrating Christmas and howling in the New Year, anyway!

See you in 2019! (A date which will only take me a month to get used to typing.)

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

New reviews to follow, but if they’re new formats of previous books, reviews may already be up; others will retain their Diamond previews information we receive displayed as ‘Publisher Blurb’

Doom Patrol vol 2: Nada s/c (£12-99, Young Animal) by Gerard Way & Nick Derington, Michael Allred, others

Lost Girls Expanded Edition h/c (£35-99, Knockabout / Top Shelf) by Alan Moore & Melinda Gebbie

Memorabilia h/c (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Sergio Ponchione

Rivers Of London: Water Weed (£13-99, Titan) by Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel & Lee Sullivan

Scarlet vol 2 s/c (£12-99, Jinxworld) by Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev

Vanishing Act h/c (£12-99, Fantagraphics) by Roman Muradov

Daredevil: Back In Black vol 7: Mayor Murdock s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Charles Soule & Mike Henderson

Marvel Knights Punisher Complete Collection vol 1 s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon, Doug Braithwaite

Moon Knight Legacy vol 2: Phases s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Max Bemis & Ty Templeton, Paul Davidson, Jacen Burrows, Jeff Lemire, Bill Sienkiewicz

Thor vol 1: God Of Thunder Reborn s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Michael Del Mundo, Christian Ward

Venom: First Host s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Mike Costa & Mark Bagley, Ron Lim, Paco Diaz

Batman vol 8: Cold Days s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Tom King & Lee Weeks, Tony S. Daniel, Matt Wagner, Mark Buckingham, others

Batman: Europa s/c (£14-99, DC) by Matteo Casali, Brian Azzarello & Jim Lee, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Diego Latorre, Gerald Parel

Justice League: The World’s Greatest Heroes s/c (£24-99, DC) by Paul Dini & Alex Ross

Wonder Woman vol 7: Amazons Attacked s/c (Rebirth) (£16-99, DC) by James Robinson & Emanuela Lupacchino, various

Black Torch vol 2 (£6-99, Viz) by Tsuyoshi Takaki

Devilman Vs. Hades vol 3 (£9-99, Seven Seas) by Go Nagai &  Team Moon

Devilman: The Classic Collection vol 2 h/c (£22-99, Seven Seas) by Go Nagai

Avatar, The Last Airbender vol 16: Imbalance Part 1 (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Faith Erin Hicks & Peter Wartman

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews December 2018 week two

Wednesday, December 12th, 2018

Featuring Lizz Lunney, Kieron Gillen, Stephanie Hans, Charles Vess, Zidrou, Edith, Joe Latham, Garth Ennis, Darrick Robertson, Stan Lee, John Romita Sr.

Die #1 (£3-25, Image) by Kieron Gillen & Stephanie Hans.

“… Are you okay? What’s wrong?”
“I can’t say.”

“Wait… where’s her arm? What happened to you?”
“I… I can’t say.”

“It’s been twenty-seven years, Dominic. Please. After all this time, show a mother some mercy. I have no hope. I just want to bury Solomon before they bury me.”
“I can’t… say… anything.”

Construe Dominic’s exact words how you will, but those of you who’ve read Alexis Deacon’s GEIS may have a better clue than most.

Like MY HEROES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN JUNKIES’ Ed Brubaker, THE WICKED + THE DIVINE’s Kieron Gillen is a master at directing a gripping tease of a trailer, here splicing Stephanie Hans’ sequential art to deliver something sharp, slick and guaranteed to make you shiver.

Rather than typing out something less skilled, therefore, I present you instead with that very visual trailer below or, if you’re reading this in the comicbook’s product page, to your right.

All I will only add – because it’s come up on the shop floor – that Kieron himself has already succinctly summarised the plot’s premise as ‘Goth Jumanji’. But you know what Kieron’s like: he’ll give you flippant, off-the -cuff distillations (so that you can make easily arrived-at associations) when he knows full well that what he has contrived is infinitely richer and broader in scope.





You’ve read the trailer, then…? Excellent!

So yes, two years after they first disappeared, five of the six role-players reappeared minus one arm and their games master, Solomon, he who had taken the single 20-sided die to play with himself. Obvious questions were asked. Where had they been? What had happened? And where was Solomon?

But… they couldn’t say.

Brilliantly, after but two pages we immediately flash-forward another 25 years to the point where the former sixteen-year-olds are now all over forty. Some have married, some have divorced and one at least has found a certain degree of commercial success. Dominic and his sister Angela, not so much: they are tired, battle-wearied, and Stephanie Hans excels at depicting their exhaustion then the varying degrees or trepidation or congratulation when the five are forced once more to meet up.

They’re forced to meet up because – while drinking down a London pub whose pavement outside is being lashed with rain – Dominic and Angela are presented with a package which the barman found on the doorstep. In it is a box, and within that box lies Solomon’s prized D20, covered in blood.

The subsequent page outside the pub is one of Hans’ most accomplished of so very many. The light at night emanating from the street lamps and closed retail outlets still blasting out come-look-at-me-luminosity cascades through the deluge onto the rain-soaked stone, and there is so much red carried over from the previous page’s blood-bathed die. In spite of all that occurs later on, it is the most violent page in the comic, as Dominic attempts to [redacted]

 Both impressionistic and expressionistic, it is a scene that will stay for you forever.

Likewise, I believe, a panel which I thankfully do have for you, but which I will decline from putting into any context whatsoever.



It bears all the neo-classical grandeur and majesty of a scene from PS4’s ‘God of War’. It’s worth scanning the rich, lambent background for details, because in any other context like animation this glorious landscape would not be just a single-panel scene-setter, but the backdrop to so much more super-imposed art to follow.

Once more, a reminder that red features prominently.

But wait until you see what’s become of the celestial body that is this Earth’s spherical globe! Now that is a moment of pictorial genius.

I leave those of you reading Page 45’s Weekly Reviews Blog with the first eight pages of what is undoubtedly going to be this year’s most epic new release. Sales have so far exceeded any other first issue’s here, and we’re only one week in.











Buy Die #1 and read the Page 45 review here

#Instabunnies (Sketched In) (£8-00) by Lizz Lunney…

“Did you like the food I cooked yesterday?”
“Of course. I told you I liked it yesterday.”
“So you liked the meal, but you didn’t like the photo I put online of it??”
“78 other people liked it.”
“Does it matter?”
“A bit of public appreciation wouldn’t go amiss.”

Haha, Janet and Jason are two rabbits who go at it with a passion. ‘It’ being arguing – what did you think I was referring to? Frequently (anti-)social media or some other element of the online world will be the root cause of their endless bickering. Whether that’s having a pop at each other over who is the most photogenic (online, obviously), every aspect of holidays in general, drinking preposterously priced, pretentious Brazilian coffee, almost attending art exhibitions and, last but not least, their social (media) rivalry with ‘best friends’ Maureen and Tony, two cats who are just as obsessed with keeping up their online appearances as Janet and Jason. Who, I have to say, feel like a much gentler, considerably saner, but no less amusing version of those dairy products gone bad themselves, MILK AND CHEESE. It’s just got that same deliciously mildly mean edge to it.



Indeed, this is so, so acutely, and indeed cutely, socially and satirically well observed, it’s almost like it might be partially based on personal experience… Surely not, though. I couldn’t imagine our lovely Lizz tongue-lashing anyone! Although with that said I note on the inner back cover there is a dedication…

“For Wilm, I know you like to think this isn’t based on us, but, it is. XXX”

Haha, well in that case… I want to know who Maureen and Tony are… as probably do most of Lizz and Wilm’s mates!!

I think we must still be in Lizz’s good books, though, because each first interior page has the following conversation between our undynamic duo hand-scribed to complete the scene of one of them bellowing at the phone-in-hand inattentive other…

“I just want a new comicbook!”
“Fine. We’ll go to Page 45.”


Buy #Instabunnies (Sketched In) and read the Page 45 review here

Emma G. Wildford h/c (£21-99, Titan) by  Zidrou &  Edith…

“To be honest, Mister Hansen… I’d imagined Lapland… differently.”
“Ha! Ha! Welcome to Kautokeino!”
“In winter temperatures can fall below -40°C, whereas in summer they frequently climb close to 25°C. Take into account the ten thousand lakes scattered in the region… and you’ll understand why the mosquitoes have made this their place of choice.”
“Ten thousand? To top it all someone amused themselves counting them all?!”

I suspect the titular Emma G. Wildford, as game, nay redoubtable as she is, might be starting to suspect her expedition up to the nether regions of the Arctic Circle could be a little bit harder than she previously thought…



Here’s a telegram from the publisher to tell all, as handed to me by a very smartly dressed footman who of course I dismissed with a snobbish wave of my aristocratic hand…

Actually, I got it off the internet. Well, I got my butler to do it, but you know what I mean… He’ll read it out for you now…

“Journey back in time to the roaring twenties, and across England and Lapland, to experience the charming and thrilling adventure of Emma G. Wildford, a tale that mixes mystery, grand adventure, and love.

It’s been fourteen months since Emma G. Wildford’s fiancé, Roald Hodges, a member of the National Geographic Society boarded the good ship Kinship and set sail for Norway… and she has had no news of him since. Every day, she questions the other members of the Society about his whereabouts, and his current situation, whether good or ill, but to no avail.

Before he left, Roald gave Emma a mysterious envelope to open, but only in case something happened to him. Rejecting the very thought of Roald’s death, Emma decides to leave behind everything – her life, her comfort, her England, to go to Lapland in pursuit.



Along the way, Emma’s certainties and beliefs will be challenged in every way, changing this quest for her fiancé into a quest for her true, essential self. Beautifully illustrated and rivetingly written, Emma G. Wildford is a character that will imprint herself on your mind and memory forever!”

Thank you, Jeeves.

Yes, expect adventure aplenty as Emma treks to furthest reaches of the planet in search of her missing love! But also an endearing character who despite believing she knows everything about herself is indeed about to embark on a voyage of profound self-discovery. That course she’s so carefully charted in life… well… she’s not going to end up where she expects!

It is indeed also beautifully illustrated in a suitably tasteful manner, from the blue and gold Art Deco front and back endpapers and their flyleaves, through to the period feel of the gently quirky artwork style and slightly subdued yet rich colour palette.



Edith, who did an equally enchanting adaptation of the classic TOM’S MIDNIGHT GARDEN, perfectly captures the feel of the roaring twenties with the fashions and looks of the time. I found myself rather captivated by Ms. Wildford and her story which is both sensitively and sensationally penned by Zidrou.



I’ll not spoil the ending for you, but suffice to say, it is one which took several minutes after I had closed the cover to fully sink in with me. But when I did, it made me smile a great deal.


Buy Emma G. Wildford h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Book Of Ballads And Sagas h/c (£21-99, Titan) by Charles Vess, Neil Gaiman, various & Charles Vess.

Ah, such bucolic beauty!

Specifically old woodland and all those ancient forests of which we have since been denuded!

You might want to check out Tim Bird’s magical, lyrical THE GREAT NORTH WOOD for that.

The rustic idyll where man and woman can join hands in partaking of the beauty of nature, fill their hearts with love, their lungs with sweet fresh air, and feel the breeze sweep softly through their so recently washed, fragrant hair.

Or, as folklore would have it: where they’ll be robbed, raped and cursed for all eternity.

Charles Vess (SANDMAN, STARDUST and FABLES: 1001 NIGHTS OF SNOWFALL etc), master of gnarled, knotted trees illustrates a variety of myths, often in verse, which overwhelmingly conjure up a landscape haunted by tricksters, shape-shifters and other assorted demons.

But enough about the British Countryside Alliance.



Powerful! Majestic! Heart-rending!

Fated – and of course fêted too!




Black and white, I hasten to add, with some excellent lettering, this is perfect for autumnal evening reading with a bottle of Burgundy, snuggled up by the fire.

I know it’s now December, but that works equally well.



I promise you that on the boiled-up, seasoned, then reduced coulis of my grandmother’s plump and once-beating heart.


Buy The Book Of Ballads And Sagas h/c and read the Page 45 review here

I Am Winter, I Am Blight (£5-00) by Joe Latham…

“I travel by night,
“I revel in pestilence,
“And cherish in spite,
“For I am winter, I am blight!”

Joe Latham, creator of the triple treasure trove that is THE FOX / THE WOLF / THE WOODSMAN returns with a meditation on the meanness of most people’s least favourite season. Yes, yes, I know we all love a good crisp, sunny winter’s day, the odd slippery slope or two of sledging shenanigans and building snowmen who look like they could do to go on a diet, and yes, Christmas is usually good entertainment value. But let’s be honest, we’re all really just impatiently shivering through January and February waiting for Spring to arrive.

Here Joe gives voice to Winter itself, in all its curmudgeonly, creeping cruelty. Fortunately that’s offset by the beautiful landscapes and nature he lays out for us: the chirpy birds, tall pine forests, wide mountain ranges and running rivers. But… as Winter attempts to take charge and crush the spirit of natural life under its cold covers, we soon mercifully see it isn’t going to have it all its own way…



Part of a limited one-off print run on uncoated recycled paper, which as Joe comments, “…so it feels nice…” which it really does, I have to say, with a very slight velvety, moleskine feel to it, there will be no second chance to pick this up. It’s a seasonal purchase! So do act quick because they’re sure to be gone in a flash. Unlike Winter…


Buy I Am Winter, I Am Blight and read the Page 45 review here

The Boys vol 1: The Name Of The Game (£14-99, Dynamite) by Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson.

Back in print in time for the prime-time TV series…

“Unadulterated carnage”

Yeah, that pretty much sums it up, cheers.

From the writer of PREACHER, PUNISHER MAX and WAR STORIES and the artist on Warren Ellis’s TRANSMETROPOLITAN comes a darkly satirical series of ten adults-only books from the POV of a Machiavellian British bruiser who is exceedingly angry at everything regarding the nature of above-the-law superheroes, their suffocating male hegemony, and their history of publication along with the genre’s real-life, attendant, corporate propaganda.

Writer and comedian Simon Pegg provides the introduction in which he offers the experience that, as an actor, you rarely switch on the TV to find yourself starring in a series you hadn’t performed for. Errrmmm… will he, now that this has been commissioned for that very medium? He could probably name his price.

I mention all this because Simon Pegg – or rather a character with his exact likeness – is the star of this particular sequential-art show in which his love-life( or the love of his life) is quite literally torn apart by a couple of squabbling super-freaks in the first few pages.

Great timing, that panel, but I’ll leave you to see its exceptional execution for yourselves.




This makes him easy pickings for Billy Butcher, a man with a mission to bring down the high-and-mighty but secretly down-and-dirty super-thugs and super-sluts who enjoy the adulation of millions along with the support of the authorities, yet whose team leaders like The Homelander emotionally and sexually abuse their fresher female and indeed male cohorts.

Together with The Frenchman, Mother’s Milk, The Female and Wee Hughie (the naive Pegg-alike), Billy Butcher embarks on his first new mission to covertly film a team of teens in the all-together, doing the unmentionable.

Billy Butcher’s not going to expose them, though. Not in the way that they expose themselves. He’s going to blackmail them into self-destructing in mass-media public. It’s about making these nasty, hypocritical, conceited celebrities with their polished media profiles squirm and turn on each other.

So it’s still rather topical, I would have thought.





Little is left to the imagination as both Garth and Ennis trawl through an A-to-Z of what Wertham worried about, and which Marvel and DC have never allowed to be shown in superhero comics. It’s little surprise, therefore, that DC – originally slated to publish THE BOYS – dropped this title. The only astonishing thing is that it took them so long.

It’s crude, it’s lewd, but the lascivious relish is infectious, and you wait to see what happens when The Boys start climbing the ladder to take on the equivalent of the Justice League of America.

Now they won’t go down so easily – except on each other. 


Buy The Boys vol 1: The Name Of The Game and read the Page 45 review here

Amazing Spider-Man: Epic Collection vol 3 – Spider-Man No More s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & John Romita Sr. with Larry Lieber, Don Heck, Marie Severin.

“Face it, tiger…
“You just hit the jackpot!”

Oh yes, that immortal line is first uttered here by the beaming ray of beatnik sunshine that is Mary Jane Watson.

For several issues Peter’s been swooning over Gwen Stacy whilst sweating it over Aunt May’s constantly proposed but perpetually postponed introduction her friend Anna Watson’s niece, Mary Jane, whom he’s convinced will turn out to be a wallflower, a dud.

Err, no.

She’s drop-dead gorgeous, up for some action and in marked contrast to the rest of the cast here she doesn’t worry about how she’s perceived, nor does she second-guess other people’s motives.



Speaking of which, one forgets how accurately Stan Lee used to nail neuroses. I don’t mean the melodrama of “What’s wrong with me? I’ve defeated some of the most powerful supervillains of all time – without batting an eye! But why do I have such trouble – just managing my own life…?”, I mean the little things like conversations that become unusually and unexpectedly awkward, stilted, and difficult to engage in as Peter’s does with former flame Betty Brant. They haven’t seen each other in ages and the connection is gone, Peter groaning his way through a casual cup of coffee, fully aware that neither of them is comfortable.

This is the point where I first came on board through the Marvel UK black and white prints, spoiled on John Romita Sr.’s contemporarily hip art and MJ’s ludicrously hip dialogue:

“I never thought a tiger who wore his hair so short could be so dreamy! And you’ve got a bouncin’ bike too! Dad – you’re the end!”



Plus, this era boasted some of the most exquisite cover compositions in Marvel’s history. #50 in particular is that classic portrait of Peter walking towards us, face-down in dejection as above him looms the back-turned spectre of the Spider-Man identity he’s given up for good.

You might have seen this paid tribute to, expertly, by Sean Phillips on his cover of KILL OR BE KILLED #20.




Issues #42, #43, #45 and #46 boast perfectly arranged and thrillingly dynamic one-on-one confrontations between Spider-Man and J. Jonah Jameson’s son, then the Rhino, the Lizard and the Shocker, respectively. And although the adult in me is no longer that interested in superhero fist-fights – I’m more about the relationships – John Romita Sr. manages to find a surprising variety of ways to choreograph them, even if throughout these early years a bizarre proportion end in the death of a brick chimney.

Famously, of course, one will later end with the death of a central character buried beneath a brick chimney… and an avalanche of deeply unnecessary explosion.




It’s also refreshing to see how smoothly some single stories flow through into each other over the course of several issues, one event catalysing another: J. Jonah Jameson’s son is exposed to space spores bringing about his first but not last transformation (roughly 150 or so issues later he becomes a moonstone-metamorphosed werewolf!); the Rhino kidnaps him so that the spores can be analysed by foreign military scientists; then Peter seeks help from scientist Dr. Curt Connors to dissolve the Rhino’s hide and Curt Connors once more transforms into the Lizard.




There’s a lot of J.J.J. Junior on offer, whilst his dad struts about furiously, impotently, puffing on his cigar and glowering around like a manically mardy Groucho Marx:

“That blasted wall-crawler sabotaged your capsule himself, in order to make everyone think he’s a hero by later saving you!”
Dad! Who told you such a ridiculous story?”
Nobody! I made it up!”

Spoken like a true tabloid journalist! And I didn’t make it up. If the Daily Bugle ever stops parping, Jonah would fit like a glove onto a poisonous appendage or the Daily Fail.

Anyway, as we kick off, Romita takes the artistic helm from Ditko just in time for the so-far substantial Green Goblin sub-plot to burst wide-open, and covers don’t come much more iconic than #39’s in which plain-clothes Peter, his Spider-Man top and tights exposed for the whole world to sea underneath his torn shirt and trousers, is dragged through the air against an azure sky, arms bound to his side, the very essence of helplessness in spite of his virile frame.



As a superhero artist you couldn’t make a more immediate first impression, and in that single issue alone Peter finally bonds for life with Harry Osborn when his father Norman pushes him away, Peter’s secret is exposed right outside the house where Aunt May is convalescing, and we finally find out after months of wondering who the Green Goblin himself is. It might have come as a shock to Ditko purists, Romita’s faces and frames being far sturdier affairs, but to my mind it’s precisely what the title needed at the time, fleshing out Ditko’s seemingly limitless imagination with the weight of Romita’s forms.

Finally, also included is Spider-Man’s famous audition for membership in the Avengers wherein Captain America sends him out to capture the Hulk, and the Wasp brings all her customary wits to bear on assessing his potential as a team-mate objectively, scientifically and with good grace:

“I vote no! I hate anything to do with spiders!”

For more nostalgic nonsense from silly old me, please see my more satirical (yet ever so fond) reviews of AVENGERS EPIC and FANTASTIC FOUR EPIC and SPIDER-MAN EPIC collections.

This one was relatively serious!


Buy Amazing Spider-Man: Epic Collection vol 3 – Spider-Man No More s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

New reviews to follow, but if they’re new formats of previous books, reviews may already be up; others will retain their Diamond previews information we receive displayed as ‘Publisher Blurb’

Giant Days: Early Registration s/c (£10-99, Boom!) by John Allison

Invisibles Book 4 (£19-99, Vertigo) by Grant Morrison & various

The Metabaron Book 3: The Meta-Guardianess & The Techno-Baron h/c (£22-99, Humanoids) by Alexandro Jodorowsky & Jerry Frissen, Valentin Secher

Parallel Lives (£21-99, Fantagraphics) by Oliver Schrauwen

Spectrum vol 25 s/c (£24-99, Flesk) by various

The Sons Of El Topo vol 1: Cain h/c (£14-99, Archaia) by Alejandro Jodorowsky & Jose Ladronn

Wilson h/c (£12-99, Fantagraphics) by Daniel Clowes

Flash vol 8: Flash War s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Joshua Williamson & Scott Kolins, Howard Porter

Amazing Spider-Man vol 9: Worldwide s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott &  various

Star Wars vol 9: Hope Burns (£17-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen, Cullen Bunn & Salvador Larroca, various

X-Men: Gambit – Complete Collection vol 2 s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by Fabian Nicieza, various & various

Coyote vol 1 (£8-99, Sublime) by Ranmaru Zariya

My Hero Academia vol 16 (£6-99, Viz) by Kohei Horikoshi

Platinum End vol 7 (£6-99, Viz) by Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews December 2018 week one

Wednesday, December 5th, 2018

Featuring Mike Carey, Peter Gross, Noah Van Sciver, Charles Forsman, Sarah McIntyre, Brian Wood, Mack Chater, Neil Gaiman, Dave McKean, Keiji Nakazawa, Kara Leopard, Kelly Matthews

The Highest House s/c (£22-99, IDW) by Mike Carey & Peter Gross…

“What are you?”
“One of the old powers. Though only the Lady is allowed to call herself a god these days.”
“But… you’re magic?”
“Magic is only a word. But yes, if you like.”
“And you’ll do anything I ask?”
“Anything. If you’ll swear to free me after.”
“I want my sister’s eyes not to close over.”
“That’s easy.”
“I want to know things. All the things in Magister Extat’s books.”
“Very well.”
“And I want all the slaves to be free.”
“Ah, now you meddle with matters much too big for you.”
“You said anything!
“I did. But…”
“Well that’s what I want!”
“Very well. I do not yet know how, but we will do this thing. Now kneel. Kneel and make my sign, as I taught you. You are mine, Moth. I am yours. And oh, what great mischief we will make together.”



Oh so cleverly crafted, slightly fantastical fiction, gorgeously illustrated with flourishes of Baroque brilliance, that is right up there with the likes of MONSTRESS, ISOLA, HEATHEN and BY CHANCE OR BY PROVIDENCE. Here is the scurrilous scroll from the scribes’ slave masters to tell us more…

“To be born a slave is in fact not a fatality. And facts can be changed. In the country of Ossaniul, there is a fortress that is as disproportionate as it is inaccessible: the Highest House. Its masters, the noble family of Aldercrest, reign over a veritable army of slaves. At the bottom of the ladder, young Moth performs the most thankless tasks and has little hope of living past childhood. Until the day he meets Obsidian, a mysterious prisoner of the House who whispers to him in his sleep. If Moth does what he asks, Obsidian will give him fortune and glory. And there’s every indication that Obsidian can make good on his promises. Will Moth accept the offer?

Through a subtle alternate history, The Highest House takes us to a fictional country reminiscent of the Balkan kingdoms of the 16th century. Mike Carey and Peter Gross (LUCIFER / THE UNWRITTEN) draw from this context a captivating fantasy narrative that reflects on the human soul, the corrupting power of slavery, and the inequalities of class, all from the different perspectives of the House’s many inhabitants. Both immediate and timeless, Highest House is a multifaceted fantasy sure to stay with readers long after the final page has turned.”



Except… this is merely part one!! Well, that’s what the final page says… This was always billed as a six-issue series, collected here in an album-sized extravaganza, reuniting the creative team of Mike Carey and Peter Gross. I must also mention cover artist Yuko Shimizu, who did all the fabulous covers for this work and also over 70 similarly amazing covers for THE UNWRITTEN.

As a complete aside I have just learnt the mildly amazing fact that Shimizu’s roommate when she began graduate studies at the prestigious New York School of Visual Arts was a certain James Jean, who of course did one bazillion FABLES covers that were all collected in their own swanky FABLES: THE COMPLETE COVERS book!

But, back to the Highest House… Young Moth, sold into servitude to the mysterious Magister Extat, and thus by extension, the House of Aldercrest, one of the richest families in the land who currently occupy the Highest House, is on a mission. Several in fact, including freedom from slavery and to achieve that he will need the help of the mysterious being locked deep in the recesses of the House. A being with a very different sort of liberation in mind…

I really don’t want to give too much more away other than to say this is a very intricately and elaborately constructed story from Mike Carey, much like the House itself as rendered by Peter Gross, which is where my Baroque comment above comes from.



There are some fabulous spreads of the sprawling house with its myriad towers, battlements, courtyards and of course the requisite secret passages and hidden rooms…



Very possibly the finest magical fantasy I have read this year (though clearly Tillie Walden’s ON A SUNBEAM trumps everything in pure fantasy terms). I seriously hope there is going to be a second volume.


Buy The Highest House s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Sword Daughter vol 1: She Brightly Burns h/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Brian Wood & Mack Chater…

“I made him keep his distance. I made sure he felt my anger.
“In return, I got a sword.
“The space of my life had always been small.
“From the minute my father’s eyes opened, he was looking beyond the horizon.
“So I followed.”

You could be forgiven for thinking that Brian Wood has a Viking fetish, what with the exceptional NORTHLANDERS series set across the entire Viking period, then BLACK ROAD telling the sorry tale of Magnus the Black and now this work. Actually, I think he may have a wider historical fiction writing fixation where there’s a clash or two involved, what with the superb alternate history ROME WEST and also the American Civil War rout that is REBELS.

Mind you, he’s pretty good at contemporary conflict fiction too, what with DMZ and indeed current series BRIGGS LAND, which is also in conjunction with artist Mick Chater, who once more brings his trademark fine-lined, dare I say almost savagely sketchy style to bear here. He makes it look ridiculously easy, I’m a big fan. Can I also just make mention of the exceptional colouring too, applied by no less a legend than Jose Villarrubia, which really adds to the vivid brutality of this world.

I should probably add for completeness, and before you conclude Brian is a blood-thirsty lunatic that he is also responsible for some contemporary fiction masterpieces too, albeit with the odd twist, such as previous Page 45 Comicbooks Of The Month LOCAL and STARVE, plus of course, DEMO and THE NEW YORK FOUR. He’s a bit good, isn’t he, our Brian? Do I therefore really need to justify why you should buy this…? Well, here’s the publisher’s saga of selling to lure you in further before the rapacious retailer lops your purse-hand off with his axe…

“One thousand years ago, a murderous clan known as the Forty Swords burned a village to the ground, leaving just two people alive: a shattered father and his teenage daughter. Setting off on a revenge quest that will span the width of Viking Age Europe, they find the key to repairing their damaged relationship lies in the swords they carry.”



Expect slashing, much slashing actually, including some particular scenic slashing in the middle of what I am pretty sure is the Ring Of Brodgar stone circle in the Orkney Islands.



But also the gradual rediscovery of a father-daughter bond that has had to endure a decade of practically catatonic parental absence after the trauma inflicted by the Forty Swords.



As virtual strangers, they are going to have to learn to first trust, and perhaps eventually love, one another, if they are to leave the tragedy of the past behind them. After a suitable sizeable amount of slashing, obviously.



I suppose there are elements of / parallels with LONE WOLF & CUB here if you want to look for them, but this is a considerably more straightforward revenge slice-and-dicing, albeit with some substantial degree of heart as our duo gradually begin to establish an understanding. Well, I thought that, and then there was the twelve-year time jump right near the end (with some fairly gruesome slashing obv.) that shows there is going to be an unexpected disembowelling (sword-)twist or two to the tale yet… I should have known it wouldn’t be quite so simple!


Buy Sword Daughter vol 1: She Brightly Burns h/c and read the Page 45 review here

One Dirty Tree h/c (£17-99, Uncivilised Books) by Noah Van Sciver…

“So, Noah, Gwen tells me you’re a… what, a cartoonist?”
“Yeah, I’m a cartoonist.”
“What does that mean? You draw animations like on TV or something.”
“No, I draw comics, but not superheroes. Usually about life and stuff like that.”
“Your life?”
“Sometimes. Not always. I write a lot of fiction…”
“You make money doing this?”
“Yeah and I’m published in MAD magazine and I do graphic novels… I work at Panera bread downtown too.”
“Oh! I love Panera bread!”
AND he works at his friend’s bookshop on Sundays.”
“That’s a lot of lot of jobs! Are you in school or something?”
“No, I’m a cartoonist.”
“He didn’t graduate. He’s a dropout.”
“Hm. So what happens when you’re a cartoonist? Do cartoonists eventually make a lot of money?”
“Um… well… no I guess not…”



No, but they do have the undying love and profound respect of people from all walks of life the world over, most of which they will never meet, but all of whom are sincerely grateful that these unsung heroes make the sacrifices they do in order to make their comics for us. Bless you, Noah Van Sciver and all your comics colleagues past, present and future!

Yes, the man with the self-professed fourth best moustache in comics is back in fine fettle, as is apparently the moustache judging from recent Facebook posts after a brief bare-lipped patch, regaling us with domestic horror stories from his youth, mixed in with more than a little modern-day maudlin regarding his romantic relationship with the <ahem> delightful Gwen and his car-crash of a career choice. Still, it’s all grist for the comics’ mill!

Here is the book of uncivilised woe as handed down by the publisher…

“In Noah Van Sciver’s new funny and heartfelt memoir, he is haunted by memories of growing up in a big, poor, Mormon family.



Noah Van Sciver is haunted by the house at 133 ***** Street, or as his brothers rechristened it “One Dirty Tree.” This sprawling, dilapidated New Jersey house was his first home and the site of formative experiences. Growing up in a big, poor, Mormon family-surrounded by comic-books, eight siblings, bathtubs full of dirty dishes Noah’s childhood exerts a powerful force on his present day relationship.”

And his comics! Much like in detailing his very first dating disaster for us in MY HOT DATE, Noah lays his soul bare about his chaotic upbringing and its moderately challenging consequences for him as an adult. The fact that he manages to make it so wryly humorous for us is testament to his talent as a story-teller.



Much like his hilariously mean FANTE BUKOWSKI material where the point is to provoke laughter at the poor protagonist, you may, if you’re a half-decent human being (heh heh), find yourself feeling more than a little unkind for chortling at Noah’s testing childhood circumstances and the situations he finds himself in. Well, getting himself into mostly, but you know what I mean.

The skipping back and forth between the days of high-hair (what a bush he had!), full of care-free skateboarding, plus clips round the ear from his older brothers with unfortunately also some right old beltings from his mentally melting-down dad… and the modern day somewhat wiser but riddled with self-doubts adult Noah are well-handled and combine very insightfully.



An autobiographical triumph! I personally believe Noah will come to be regarded as one of the 21st Century’s great North American ‘cartoonists’ and I for one will be able to say I was there laughing at him, I mean lauding him, right from the start!


Buy One Dirty Tree h/c and read the Page 45 review here

I Am Not Okay With This (£12-99, Faber & Faber) by Charles Forsman…

In which Olive Oyl channels her inner Jean Grey before going slightly Dark Phoenix…

I realise that is a slightly strange mash-up to suggest, but nevertheless, I’m going to stand by it. I also like bubble and squeak. Here is the publisher’s blurb to obfuscate matters further…

“Sydney seems like a normal, rudderless 15-year-old freshman. She hangs out underneath the bleachers, listens to music in her friend’s car, and gets into arguments with her annoying little brother – but she also has a few secrets she’s only shared in her diary. Like how she’s in love with her best friend Dina, the bizarre death of her war veteran father, and those painful telekinetic powers that keep popping up at the most inopportune times.

After his first two critically heralded graphic novels, CELEBRATED SUMMER and THE END OF THE F***ING WORLD, Forsman once again expertly channels the teenage ethos in a style that evokes classic comic strips while telling a powerful story about the intense, and sometimes violent, tug of war between trauma and control.



I AM NOT OKAY WITH THIS collects all of Forsman’s self-published mini-comic series into one volume. It comments naturally on familial strain, sexual confusion, and PTSD in his usual straight-faced-but-humorous style, and firmly stakes his place among the world’s best young cartoonists.”

Yes, Sydney has a few issues, and indeed secrets too, for sure. Like those telekinetic powers she hasn’t got control of… Or her temper, which she isn’t remotely in control of, either. Now that’s a great combination right?



Acting as our narrator whilst writing her private thoughts in a diary given to her by the student guidance counsellor, Ms. Capriotti, (to perhaps help her mitigate her self-confessed moods a little better) Sydney reveals all to us.



Her story is indeed that of a typical angst-ridden teenager grappling with fairly normal adolescent problems, albeit with some collateral damage from the… loss… of her father. Yes, that certainly is a ‘bizarre death’.



For such an in-your-face gritty story, there is a lot of surprisingly subtle and sophisticated story-telling going on here, particularly at the emotional level. In that sense, Charles certainly tells a tale as powerfully as the likes of Daniel GHOST WORLD Clowes and Adrian SHORTCOMINGS Tomine.

Artistically, I completely understand the ‘in a style that evokes classic comic strips’ quote, as to me Sydney definitely has more than a look of Popeye’s squeeze about her. There’s another point of classic reference too (at least), I think, but I can’t quite put my finger on it, annoyingly. It actually took me a while to settle into reading this due to the art, as I found with both of his previous works.

It’s possible that Charles’s choice of art style is the only real hurdle to him gaining a much wider readership as unlike Clowes and Tomine, he doesn’t necessarily deploy what could be described an immediately appealing style. But all power to him for that, though, he’s certainly clearly a highly talented creator who is obviously very happy creating his own corner of comicdom misery for his characters.


Buy I Am Not Okay With This and read the Page 45 review here

Dinosaur Police s/c (£6-99, Scholastic) by Sarah McIntyre.

The pizza factory was a mess.
Inspector Sarah sighed,
”I should have guessed…
“It’s Trevor the T-Rex!”

Of course it’s Trevor! Of course it is!

Those of you who’ve already read Sarah McIntyre’s DINOSAUR FIREFIGHTERS will be familiar with the terrible Trevor who managed to get himself stuck in a climbing frame… AGAIN! In my review, far more extensive than this (delving in depth into McIntyre’s page composition etc), I wrote:

“The absurdity of that page is a scream. A) What does a T-Rex that large even want with a climbing frame? B) How did such an enormous beast get onto or even into the climbing frame in the first place, let alone then stuck in it and C) … AGAIN?!?!?!?!

There, however, our Trevor was merely a memory-challenged moron.

Here he goes full-on delinquent!



First in a pizza factory, gorging his fat face off on pizza (I love that Trevor’s face is 87.3% teeth, and that he’s managed to stuff at least two complete pizzas into his gaping gob; that really is the stringiest, gooiest cheese of all time, each loop leading your eye to Trevor), then on a sequential-art rampage through Dinoville, a town otherwise so quaint and quiet that its police precinct’s bulletin board has plenty of room for a missing cat poster!

Yes, even Dinosaurs have cats for pets. And cats will always stray and get themselves stuck up trees, as we discovered in DINOSAUR FIREFIGHTERS. I also note by scanning the background that Dino-cops have as much of a penchant for doughnuts as their human counterparts.



Dinosaurs, of course, come in all shapes and sizes. Sergeant Stig O’Saurus (originally of Irish stock) and Inspector Sarah Tops (snort!) fit nicely into their uniforms, colour-coded to denote rank but mostly to complement their hides’ hues, I think. Officer Brachio, however, is of a decidedly bigger build and therefore can’t fit into the police car let alone a standard uniform, so he has his own flashing light for emergencies just like this.

“Sergeant Stig O’Saurus and Inspector Sarah Tops were on their way faster than you can say “WOO WOO”.

Officer Brachio bellows “WOO WOO!” anyway. Because, hey, every officer needs a siren!

A late addition to our phenomenally popular Page 45 Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre Section because you really did demand it, this is yet another beauty for youngsters’ shiny wide eyes to wander around, spotting background details like the multiple narratives going on all about town in the pre-title double-page spread which they can fill in for themselves with their wild imaginations.



Once more the delightful absurdities had me howling. Last time it was Trevor’s climbing frame fiasco; here it’s Inspector Sarah Tops diligently doing her duty… by handcuffing Trevor.

Because you wouldn’t want to actually immobilize a T-Rex, would you? Or secure that massively muscled mouth with its fulsome array of gigantic gnashers!!! No, what you really need to do is deal with those functionally useless forelimbs!

I’m still chuckling several hours later.



Deliciously coloured with enormous warmth, I’m now going to call Pizza Italia, and I will have pineapple on my pizza, so there!


Buy Dinosaur Police s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Signal To Noise (£12-99, Bloomsbury) by Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean.

I could have sworn that I once wrote a far more extensive review of this, but the below is all I could find.

Originally serialised in ‘The Face’ magazine of all places during the late 1980s, this is another of those dark and personal tales (see THE COMICAL TRAGEDY OR TRAGICAL COMEDY OF MR. PUNCH – now that is one in-depth review!) at a time when McKean was still using some of the BLACK ORCHID techniques, but had really begun to experiment with expressionism along the Francis Bacon / Baron Storey/ Bill Sienkiewicz lines with distorted body work, and four truly terrifying Horsemen Of The Apocalypse rendered in four very different styles.

A film maker dying from cancer obsesses over the final movie he will never make, about a European village fearing the approach of 999AD, and the Armageddon they believe will ensue.

Prepare for a lot of blue.






P.S. 2018. Professor Science writes: “Signal-to-noise ratio is a measure used in science and engineering that compares the level of a desired signal to the level of background noise.”

I’ve used the term repeatedly to denote the current condition of multi-channel broadcasting (and now social media) and the even wider modern competition for our attention and assault on our senses, for, if one fails to erect adequate mental filters, the signals swiftly turn into noise.



Buy Signal To Noise and read the Page 45 review here

Barefoot Gen vol 1 (£13-99, Last Gasp) by Keiji Nakazawa.

“This vivid and harrowing story will burn a radioactive crater in your memory that will never let you forget it”.”

 – Art Spiegelman, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of MAUS

A true manga classic, finally re-emerging into print.

“Barefoot Gen is the powerful, tragic, autobiographical story of the bombing of Hiroshima and its aftermath, seen through the eyes of the artist as a young boy growing up in Japan. The honest portrayal of emotions and experiences speaks to children and adults everywhere. BAREFOOT GEN serves as a reminder of the suffering war brings to innocent people, and as a unique documentation of an especially horrible source of suffering, the atomic bomb.”



First of ten books in which young Gen has to grow up very fast indeed, and everyone is dripping in sweat which doubles as comicbook shorthand for extreme anxiety or the level of hysteria generated when your experiences are no longer comprehensible or compatible with any sane response. Intense doesn’t even begin describe this, plus you can also see so much of Tezuka in here.



It’s a long, long, long time since I read this, but I recall that much later volumes finally see him taken under the wing of a kindly artist, start to express himself and then find love, but the effects of the bomb are never far off, nor other hard realities like the corrosive effects of drug addiction, and the arms industry given a business boost by Korean War.

It’s all based to some extent or another on personal experience, and Nakazawa gave an eye-opening interview to THE COMICS JOURNAL in which he talks in detail about his family, the day the bomb dropped, and the deafening silence in Tokyo afterwards about the Atomic bomb whose radiation was rumoured to be contagious.



Meryl Jaffe writes extensively about BAREFOOT GEN and its techniques for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, with a view to teaching it in school:


Buy Barefoot Gen vol 1and read the Page 45 review here

Pandora’s Legacy vol 1 s/c (£7-50, Kaboom!) by Kara Leopard & Kelly Matthews

“Let’s go Po-Metheus.”
“Oh, I like that.”
“I’m Prometheus.”
“But our cat was Po! So now you’re Po-Metheus!”
“It’s not funny if you have to explain it.”

Yep, it’s a talking cat. Well, it was just a cat to start with, then the Titan Prometheus inhabited it when Charlie, Janet, and Trevor accidentally broke Pandora’s box, which had been reshaped into the form of a Greek urn. Nope, I’m not lying, and neither is the cat… See what I did there, non-all-ages comics chums…? Oh yeah, right, it’s not funny if you have to explain it…

Anyway… here’s the publisher fable to tickle and test your foible-for-fun all-ages fantasy material by explaining the mildly implausible set up…

“What starts out as a typical family vacation to Grandma and Grandpa’s house quickly erupts into supernatural mystery and peril when three siblings accidentally break an old, mystical jar hidden deep in the woods, revealing they are descendants of Pandora and their family has been tasked for generations with protecting the very jar they just broke…



As magical monsters pour out of the fractured relic and run amok, Charlie, Janet, and Trevor must find a way to capture all of the creatures in order to save their family and potentially the entire world before it is too late.

Writer Kara Leopard ([Super]Natural Attraction) and illustrators Kelly & Nichole Matthews (Jim Henson’s Power of the Dark Crystal) weave an otherworldly tale about finding help in the unlikeliest of places, learning the truth about your family history, and most importantly of all, talking cats.”



Right, firstly, what’s to like about this work? Well, Kelly THE POWER OF THE DARK CRYSTAL Matthews’ art is truly excellent. That alone is worth the very reasonable price of purchase. Where I have some mild criticism of this work, is that the otherwise exciting story feels very over-compacted and rushed through. It really could have done with another twenty pages or so at least to be allowed to breathe and unwind a bit more naturally. Well, as naturally as any story involving the Titan Prometheus inhabiting a cat trying to take down all kinds of mythical monsters can be…



Even after the first couple of pages I felt like I had missed a chapter or so of lead in. It is relatively slim in terms of page count, so perhaps it needed an editor stepping in early on in the process to just slow it all down a little bit and suggest inserting a few additional scenes. It’s a relatively small complaint, but one that I feel does stop this being on a par with the likes of NAMELESS CITY, LUMBERJANES and AMULET. Gorgeous art though, and a very cute talking cat! And that’s no lie!


Buy Pandora’s Legacy vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

New reviews to follow, but if they’re new formats of previous books, reviews may already be up; others will retain their Diamond previews information we receive displayed as ‘Publisher Blurb’

#Instabunnies (Sketched In) (£8-00, ) by Lizz Lunney

I Am Winter, I Am Bright (£5-00, ) by Joe Latham

The Boys vol 1: The Name Of The Game (£14-99, Dynamite) by Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson

Dredd: Final Judgement s/c (£12-99, Rebellion) by Alex De Campi, Arthur Wyatt & Henry Flint, Paul Davidson

Emma G. Wildford h/c (£21-99, Titan) by  Zidrou &  Edith

Prisoner s/c vol 1 Uncertainty Machine (£13-99, Titan) by Peter Milligan & Colin Lorimer

The Book Of Ballads And Sagas h/c (£21-99, Titan) by Neil Gaiman, various & Charles Vess

Sandman vol 2: The Doll’s House (30th Anniversary Ed’n) (£16-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & Malcolm Jones III, Mike Dringenberg, Michael Zulli, Clive Barker

Paper Girls vol 5 s/c (£13-99, Image) by Brian K. Vaughan & Cliff Chiang

Paradiso vol 2: Dark Dwellers (£14-99, Image) by Ram V. & Dev Pramanik

The Wicked + The Divine vol 3 h/c (£39-99, Image) by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie

Over The Garden Wall vol 1 (£13-99, Kaboom) by various

Over The Garden Wall vol 2 (£13-99, Kaboom) by various

Part Of It – Comics And Confessions (£15-99, Mariner) by Ariel Schrag

Lumberjanes vol 10: Parent’s Day! (£10-99, Boom) by Shannon Waters, Kat Leyh & Ayme Sotuyo

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Soul Dragon OGN s/c (£14-99, Boom) by Kyle Higgins & Giuseppe Cafaro

Batman: Detective Comics vol 8: On The Outside s/c (£14-99, DC) by Bryan Hill, Michael Moreci & Miguel Mendonca, various

Injustice 2 vol 3 s/c (£14-99, DC) by Tom Taylor & Daniel Sampere, Bruno Redondo, various

Injustice 2 vol 4 h/c (£22-99, DC) by Tom Taylor & Daniel Sampere, Bruno Redondo, various

Doctor Strange vol 1: Across The Universe s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Jesus Saiz

Hunt For Wolverine: Claws Of A Killer s/c (£13-99, Marvel) by Charles Soule, Mariko Tamaki & David Marquez, Paulo Siqueira

Wolverine: Old Man Logan vol 9: The Hunter And The Hunted s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Ed Brisson & Francesco Manna, Juan Ferreyra

Attack On Titan vol 26 (£9-99, Viz) by Hajime Isayama

Dead Dead Demon’s Dededede Destruction vol 3 (£9-99, Viz) by Inio Asano

Edens Zero vol 1 (£10-99, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

I Hear The Sunspot vol 3 Limit Part 1 (£11-99, One Peace Books) by Yuki Fumino

My Brother’s Husband vol 1 h/c (£16-99, Blackfriars) by Gengoroh Tagame