Posts in the ‘Reviews’ Category

Page 45 Reviews October 2014 week five

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

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

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

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

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

He’s playing Doom!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh yes, it is.

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

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

John also does “drunk” very well!

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

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

SLH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wow. Just wow.

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

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

SLH

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

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

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

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

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

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

JR

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

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

“How to say good-bye to the dead.”

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

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

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

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

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

That’s when everything changes.

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

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

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

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

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

SLH

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

SLH

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

JR

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

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

Signed!

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

So, you know, I’d act fast.

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

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

SLH

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

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

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

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

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

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

SLH

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

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

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

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

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

JR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JR

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

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

News!

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

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

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

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

I WILL NOT BACK DOWN! BUT NEITHER WILL I!

THIS COULD GO ON FOR FIFTEEN YEARS!

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

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

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

- Stephen

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

Monday, October 27th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TAKE AWAY‘s Lizz Lunney & me:

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

Customers Lou Powell, Craig Dawson, Chris Powell:

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

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

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

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

So that was a moment.

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

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

I think this means we’re now married.

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

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

Warning: this is ebullient!

Thursday 16th October

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

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

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

Friday 17th October

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

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

Thank you for that, by the way.

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

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

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

A police van drives past. I kid you not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Mission accomplished, but I digress.

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

 

 

 

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

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

Ivy and Scott McCloud wander in.

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday 18th October

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

10am to 12pm: our Scott McCloud signing!

So that was a thing.

This really is Scott with Aliki Chapple to the left:

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

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

Deafening silence. The creators howl with laughter.

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

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

1.45pm and we are approaching our Glyn Dillon signing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time to celebrate!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think we may need a little context.

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

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

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

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

That night I had no gay bed.

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

Next was Bryan Talbot!

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

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

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

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

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

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

And frankly, there really wasn’t.

Sunday 19th October

Yup, up, yup, up bright and early!

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

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

Fumio Obata! Such a gracious man!

Joe List and Lizz Lunney!

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

10.30am The Art Of Selling Comics.

This was completely new territory for me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hmm. I appear to have slipped into past tense.

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

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



She so chic!

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Always finish with a flourish and a startling surprise.

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

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

Why’s that a surprise?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Those two paragraphs are not unrelated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SLH

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

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

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

Haha! Genius!

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

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

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

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

Do you think Hyper and Magnetic are related?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Signed,

Typo Turtle Twit

SLH

Buy Lakes History Mysteries and read the Page 45 review here

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

There is nothing I love more than mischief.

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

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

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

This too makes me very happy indeed!

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

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

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

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

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

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

This too, from queen of the zines, Zinny:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There: I’ve said it.

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

SLH

Buy Destination Kendal and read the Page 45 Review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

 

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

Adventure Time: The Art Of Ooo h/c (£24-99, Titan Books) by various, edited by Chris McDonnell

BPRD Plague Of Frogs vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola & Guy Davis and many others

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

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

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

Sandman: Annotated Sandman vol 3 h/c (£37-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & Leslie S. Klinger

Storm h/c Signed Slipcase Edition (£20-00, Orion Books) by Tim Minchin & DC Turner

Storm s/c (£12-99, Orion Books) by Tim Minchin & DC Turner

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

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

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

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

Harley Quinn vol 1: Hot In The City h/c (£18-99, DC) by Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti & Chad Hardin, various

Suicide Squad vol 5: Walled In s/c (£12-99, DC) by Matt Kindt, Sean Ryan & Patrick Zircher, various

Hulk vol 1: Banner DOA s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Mark Bagley

Original Sin: Hulk Vs. Iron Man s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid, Kieron Gillen & Mark Bagley, Luke Ross

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

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

News!

ITEM! Page 45 is 20 Years Old. I wrote that blog about it!

Thank you for reading and thank you for everything during the 20 best years of my life.

Good night!

- Stephen x

Reviews October 2014 week three

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

“Okay, this… this looks bad. Is there a plan here, Kate?”

Oh, Kate, of course you’ve no plan. You’re as bad as Clint is!

 - Stephen on Hawkeye vol 3. There’s a new Blacksad below as well.

The Motherless Oven (£12-99, SelfMadeHero) by Rob Davis.

“Mums know more than they let on.”

Never were truer words written.

“They say it’s natural for mothers to be protective of their kids. I don’t see why. They need protecting as much as we do.”

Welcome to a graphic novel that is so wickedly new and so densely inventive that comparison points virtually elude me.

Its warped reality reminds me of Gorillaz tracks with their attendant videos. There are weather clocks issuing knife-storm warnings; instead of the goggle box there’s a Daily Wheel to watch; and teenage Scarper Lee may not know his birthday but he certainly knows his deathday: it’s in three weeks time.

I shouldn’t be surprised and I’m not: THE MOTHERLESS OVEN comes from Rob Davis, the creator of THE COMPLETE DON QUIXOTE and the instigator, director and chief writer of NELSON, another all-time classic which – like the equally original THE NAO OF BROWN – won the British Comic Awards for best graphic novel of its year, deservedly.

Everything here will sound so very familiar although almost everything here has been turned on its head. Truths are often much more enlightening when seen from a fresher perspective.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, for example, that children are created by parents – not just by procreation but by osmosis as well: nature and nurture. The behaviour of parents rubs off on their progeny. But even without the following reversal, the behaviour of children must surely, similarly, rub off on their parents? Or at least wear them down. Or buoy them up. We just haven’t given that enough consideration yet.

But what if children created their parents? We might look at things differently then, and so now we do.

“We were sat on Peter Cake’s Mum as usual. Pete’s Mum used to be a dinner lady at the school. She had a breakdown in the playground a few months back and no one has come to pick her up yet. It’s funny, Pete never used to go near her when she was working.”

It is so typical of Rob Davis’ love of language that he bestows on the word “breakdown” two different meanings with identical results.

In THE MOTHERLESS OVEN, you see, children fashion their parents as paintings or mechanical objects as if made from Meccano, and Pete’s Mum had a physical breakdown like any old car and a mental breakdown like any highly stressed, under-paid, overworked parent trying to provide with a job. Now she just lies there where she fell, inert, like so much scrap metal. They sit on her.

“Turned out today is the day they tow Pete’s Mum away. They’ll take her to the Mother Ruins, unless Pete’s Dad can get permission for a permanent residence in their front garden. He wants to turn her into an ornamental fountain.”

Another play on words: Mother’s Ruin becomes Mother Ruins and wait until you see that nurseless nursing home.

Scarper Lee isn’t a misanthrope. He actually cares. He’s just very private and prefers sitting at home. He’d rather not be bothered with people.

Then along comes Vera Pike, the most bothersome girl in the world, and Scarper Lee can’t get her out of his head. She’s direct, disruptive and completely unphased by the weather. She’ll even go out in a knife storm, carrying a thick wooden table over her head like an umbrella.

“You don’t like the laughing gales, then? You do realise the wind isn’t laughing at you, don’t you? I mean, you’re not so vain and neurotic as to think that, are you, Scarper?”
I know for a fact the wind is laughing at me…
“Having said that, if the wind is laughing at you, you might as well just laugh along, right?”

Needless to say, at school she’s immediately shunted off into the deaf unit where all the kids with “special needs” go – just like Castro, whom she calls her “new toy”. Castro has “medicated interference syndrome”, with a “brain aid” to modulate his behaviour.

“Just watch him go when I turn it all the way up! Ask him a question. Go on, Scarper, ask him anything!”
“Y’alright, mate? Your nose is bleeding! D’you need a tissue?”

I told you he cared.

Scarper cares most about his Dad, a brass, land-bound boat yacht whom he polishes meticulously every Sunday, tightening his seals. He keeps his Dad chained up in the shed for his own safety, though on Saturdays he’ll sail down the pub, as you do.

Saturdays are the best!

“Saturday is the day when I feel like I can see the horizon. It’s the day that doesn’t ask for anything and is happy with what you give it.”

That’s a fabulous page: a small-town high street on a sunny day with a thrilling, open perspective. There are shops, snap-frame A boards and Scarper himself, idling along the pavement in a striped jumper and jacket and tight, black denim jeans. You might not even notice the parents being driven down the road.

Davis’ designs on the Daily Wheels are well worth studying closely, but it’s his faces and figure work I love most: lithe forms with slim legs, and Scarper’s bushy hair, bulbous bottom lip and eyebrows as thick as big, black caterpillars frowning deep over his eyes. Ian Culbard told me Mike McMahon is a huge influence on Rob and I can see that, transformed here into something a lot less angular and cheekier so I’m sticking with my Jamie Hewlett comparison. It creates a stark contrast with the sculptures, murals and trundling mechanical objects which are everyone’s parents.

The grey, pen-brush washes are warm and soft, while the knife storms – kitchen-knife storms – are stark and sharp and I’m never going to complain about hail again.

As to the inventiveness, it’s thoroughly organic. Davis doesn’t just drop a pun and run. He rolls an idea out, rolls it around in his mind, follows it through then sits it spinning in yours, whether it’s nature, billboard newspapers, circular history, Castro’s Mum or the secret of the Motherless Oven itself. Here’s my favourite exchange, Scarper being “reassured” by his headmaster about his impending deathday:

“When I was your age, a classmate of mine faced his deathday in year eleven, just like you. And, just like yours, his deathday was on a Wednesday. I saw him on the morning of his death, stood at the bus stop. His mother was beside him, leaking everywhere. His father, it turned out, was hiding in his pocket…

“He did all his lessons that day and afterwards played for the school football team against the local girls’ school. Thirty minutes in, a big girl with an eye patch stood on his leg and snapped his shin. The poor fellow bled to death on the halfway line.
“The boy’s father remained in the lost property box for years. The mother went quite doolally, I’m sad to say.
“She had a propeller hairstyle, all the rage in those days – damn thing went into a hysterical spin cycle. Ripped her head off her shoulders. It flew around the school for weeks before the groundsman shot it down.”

So with his deathday approaching and the clock ticking inexorably on, what will Scarper Lee do with the little time left? Momentum doesn’t seem to be something he’s ever built up. He’ll probably just stay at home with his Mum and Dad.

Ah. And then that happens…

SLH

Buy The Motherless Oven and read the Page 45 review here

Blacksad: Amarillo h/c (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Juan Diaz Canales & Juanjo Guarnido.

“I’ll just try to find a nice, quiet job here, where I don’t have to dodge bullets and nobody winds up dead… for a change.

Did you know that Walt Disney’s Bambi was originally a flop? It’s hard to believe these days, but the only thing that saved the studio was the Pentagon hiring it for propaganda purposes during WWII.

I mention this because we have a long love of anthropomorphism and most unused to comics usually associate the genre with childhood pleasures like Alice Through The Looking Glass or Winnie The Pooh. But don’t be deceived: like so much anthropomorphism in comics (MAUS!), BLACKSAD is decidedly adult in nature.

All the characters are bipedal animals working, living and loving like we do and they can be equally vicious and flawed. BLACKSAD VOL 1 contained one particularly powerful story involving racism, segregation and lynching using each creature’s colour to clever effect, while its star, P.I. John Blacksad, is a big black cat… with a patch of white on his chin. What I inferred from that is here – for the first time, I think – expressly explored when a hitch-hiking John is forced to endure the charmless verbal diarrhoea of a truck-driving macaw.

Yeah, don’t worry: it has been translated – the book is in English!

BLACKSAD books are all period pieces: the Cadillac on the cover isn’t a classic yet, it’s current. One glance at the glorious, dark grey spread preceding the story itself instantly reminds one of Will Eisner works like A CONTRACT WITH GOD set fairly and squarely in a bustling, fully functioning, very specific environment.

The level of craft on Disney-trained Guarnido’s part is mesmerising. When it comes to architecture, both exterior and interior, Guarnido is on a par with animator Hayao Miyazaki for detail. His line is seductive – both sharp and smooth – making it impossible not to linger on the curves of wood, the folds in bunched drapes, the intricately patterned rugs or even the general desk clutter which you’d normally not even register.

In BLACKSAD: A SILENT HELL there was a sunlit courtyard cafe dappled in leafy shadow, a funereal street scene populated by dozens more mourners than you’d think you could fit on a page, and even a thirty-page art class in the back, Guarnido explaining his compositional decisions through preparatory sketches and paintings – enlightening for aspiring artists of any genre, not just anthropomorphism. Here there’s a sunny, open airport, a grand old railway station foyer and one hell of a motorbike for Blacksad to stand astride on.

His clothes are so slick, sleek and attractive that you could actively consider them well pressed, and the expressions on each of these creatures are exquisitely realised each and every time – animal versions of our own, exaggerated with such energy that you’ll be grinning from cover to cover.

It begins with a moment of bravado by the private swimming pool of author Chad Lowell, a lion who’s spent two years on his latest manuscript in the days when there often was only one – no back-ups. His supposed friend and fellow writer, poet Abraham Greenberg, ducks then holds Chad’s head underwater, then sets fire to his own poetry before lobbing Chad’s scroll at the pool. The red-check-shirted Bison thinks this is funny.

“No guts, no glory, Chad. Give your story a happy ending for once, and leave that roll of paper in some toilet, where people can put it to good use.”

Chad catches the script – just – but the expression under his mane, dripping with water, says it all.

John Blacksad, meanwhile, is considering a change of career when his sharp eyes and act of kindness at an airport earn him the respect and trust of a wealthy, outbound bull. He needs someone to drive his expensive yellow Cadillac back to his house in Tulsa, so hands John its keys.

“Ya seem like a straight shooter, son – the kind who stays outta trouble.”

And he does seem that but we, by now, know differently. Blacksad’s a trouble-magnet, his sense of fair play his undoing, and the raw iron filings heading his way are those loose-cannon writers. Bloody writers, eh?

SLH

Buy Blacksad: Amarillo h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Hawkeye vol 3: L.A. Woman s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Matt Fraction & Javier Pulido, Annie Wu.

“Okay, this… this looks bad. Is there a plan here, Kate?”

Oh, Kate, of course you’ve no plan. You’re as bad as Clint is!

Much of the mirth in HAWKEYE has been watching Kate Bishop, the younger, female and infinitely more clued-up Hawkeye, pick up the pieces of her mentor Clint Barton’s balls-ups. They have been manifold, and Kate has been constantly peering over her sunglasses at the archer / Avenger with a mixture of recrimination and resignation. Now it transpires that our equally impetuous Ms Bishop is equally prone to pratfalls.

I’ve described HAWKEYE as being a book about helping people starring the one guy who cannot help himself. We’ve now swapped coasts – New York for Los Angeles – as well as sharp-shooters’ perspectives, but hilariously nothing has changed except the age and gender of the dive-in-first and wonder-what-on-earth-went-wrong wrong-righter.

Okay, no, the artists have changed as well. While Aja will return along with Clint Barton in HAWKEYE VOL 4, Kate’s West Coast sabbatical is introduced by Javier Pulido who will delight Darwyn Cooke fans with a fine line in fashion coloured by Matt Hollingsworth as if L.A. was the brightest, most beautiful city with the freshest air in the world.

As Annie Wu takes the driving seat things grow much darker, though the body language – both broken and indefatigable – can rarely be beaten along with the facial ticks which reveal exactly what our Kate’s thinking long before she’s uttered a word.

Kate Bishop has set off for L.A. in a very flash car after finally losing patience with Clint as well as her cash-rich father.

“Kate, let your mother get you a little something to drink.”
“She’s not my mother.”
“Well, no, but I hope, maybe with time, you’ll begin to think of me as –“
“You’re three years older than me. We were literally in school together, Heather.”
“That was a nice time. Diazepam?”

Lovely touch with the Jack Kirby Sue Storm portrait in the background there!

Unfortunately before she even turned her ignition key Madame Masque had Kate in her revenge-seeking sights and arranged for her credit card to be bled, her stuff to be stolen and that car won’t last long, either. Broke and homeless, Kate is determined to reverse her misfortune by taking on taking on jobs as a Private Investigator. Alas, she has no knowledge of the law and absolutely no knack for investigating privately. She’s spotted within seconds. Also, swimming pools aside, L.A. isn’t all it’s cracked up to be:

“People can be so mean to each other and out here you can take bus tours to get better views of it all.”

But, as I say, this book at its heart is about helping people and, oh, it has so much heart!

There’s the tragic case of the Bryson Brothers who essentially were The Sixties to some. But the musical one, Will, became so absorbed in his masterpiece ‘Wish’ that he could never complete it to his own satisfaction so his production-orientated brother, Grey, could never release it. They’re now old, ill, and at odds in a sequestered mansion.

“It’s like if Mike Brady designed the Bates Motel. If I had to live here for 60 years I bet I’d have gone full Syd Barrett m’self…”

Fraction fills every page with these pop culture references both contemporary (which Kate mostly gets) and less so (mostly not, but please see above). It’s a completely different approach to writing a superhero comic that this isn’t one. Never has been. It’s an action-adventure comedy of manners.

 

Back to the heart of this book, and the first case Miss Bishop chances on involves her neighbours Marcus and Finch who, after waiting so long to be married, find their perfect day in danger of being ruined when the orchids of Marcus’ dream-vision are stolen. You won’t believe how fast that escalates and where it eventually leads to. Nor will Kate, but it all comes beautifully – yet appallingly – full circle.

Before then, however, there’s plenty of time to exasperate the L.A.P.D.’s Detective Caudle, infuriate Flynt Ward The Weed Lord (it is all legal there) and throw in a great many cat jokes while the mysterious man in the market aisle, a certain Harold H. Harold (you’ll never guess his middle name), offers words of encouragement at every wrong turn. Will our couple ever get their orchids back and their wedding on track? Regardless:

“Oh honey. You are my happily ever after.”

Awww.

SLH

Buy Hawkeye vol 3: L.A. Woman s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Jacques Tardi World War One Box Set: It Was The War Of The Trenches h/c & Goddamn This War! h/c (£29-99, Fantagraphics) by Jacques Tardi with Jean-Pierre Verney…

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of WWI, Fantagraphics has released a two-volume boxed set of these classics.

Of volume 1 I wrote…

“Joyful, despite their grief, are those families whose blood flows for their country.”

- General Rebillot December 13th, 1914

“Bastards, bastards, miserable fucking bastards! Fuck the army! France can kiss my ass!”

- Private Jean Desbois, 3rd Company of the 115th French Infantry November 27th 1916

Very powerful collection of short stories from the trenches of WWI which certainly will appeal to aficionados of CHARLEY’S WAR. Start with the premise that no one is actually going to get out alive – well, maybe one or two but they’re certainly not intact – and you’ll understand the approach Tardi is taking here. Not that it’s overly gratuitous, far from it; it’s merely realistic. Many a story actually starts with the knowledge that the protagonist ends up dead or disfigured and then lets things unfold so we can see exactly how inescapable their fates are in the wasteland of battlefields and trenches.

Possibly my favourite story (entirely the wrong word to use, really) involves the man who somehow survives all night in a shell crater in No Man’s Land wearing his gas mask after being gut-shot in the midst of yet another suicidal, failed attack. First light sees the maskless stretcher bearers coming towards him and, thinking he’s going to be evacuated home for certain with his wounds, he takes off his gas mask. Unfortunately for him, as he immediately remembers, mustard gas is heavier than air and the shell crater he’s laid up in is in fact a pocket of the undispersed toxin which instantly decimates his lungs and eyes. Tardi always approaches the stories from the most human of perspectives, which of course makes the inevitable bleak endings even harder to bear. I think that’s probably why most of the stories do start off with the denouement revealed to us, so that we’re already steeling ourselves for what’s to come.

The neo-’clear line’ art is classic Tardi, conveying significant details with apparent minimal effort and a certain distinctive rotundity of style that I really like. Something that suddenly hit me was the frequent lack of complexity in the structure of certain peoples’ faces throughout the book, and then you realise in fact he’s making their faces look almost skull-like as they approach their deaths. It’s powerful, shocking, and truly manages to capture the almost unbelievably hellish landscapes that were the battlefields of Western Europe in World War I.

From GODDAM THIS WAR:

This work is a fine starting point for people unfamiliar with Tardi and will almost certainly make you want to have a look at his WEST COAST BLUES about a depressive Parisian who accidentally witnesses a murder and is subsequently hunted by a pair of hit men who just happen to be lovers. It’s something which all noir fans out there really, really should be picking up and just aren’t for some reason. If you’re looking for a different creator to try, I sincerely suggest you try some Tardi.

For more, please see my GODDAMN THIS WAR! review with interior art.

JR

Buy Jacques Tardi World War One Box Set: It Was The War Of The Trenches h/c & Goddamn This War! h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Hip Hop Family Tree Box Set: 1975-1983 (£45-00, Fantagraphics) by Ed Piskor…

If it were not enough that this box set collects both volumes of Ed Piskor’s epic chronology of the music form that first shook the South Bronx then the rest of the world, in a robust and bombastically designed slipcase (and you can read my reviews of both volumes below), there is the added ‘bonus’ of the exclusive ‘Milestone, Variant, Limited, Ashcan Edition’ Hip Hop Family Tree #300 with its gold-embossed Cable-esque flashing-eyed Rob Liefeld on  the cover.

Featuring the story as Ed so aptly describes it, of an ‘unconventional pairing of David Bowie / Bing Crosby proportions’, when Spike Lee picked up-and-coming comics creator Liefeld out of 700,000 entries in 1990 to feature in the next Levis Jeans commercial. I don’t think it ever aired in the UK, I certainly don’t remember it, so for those of you that have never seen it just click on the following link and marvel that someone could actually make such an epically awful advertisement… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJhoa2SVGNA

I am particularly amused by the part where Rob is asked if he has any formal art training…

Of volume 1 of Hip Hop Family Tree I wrote…

“DJ Kool Herc is already a legend in the borough, but this doesn’t stop him from constantly practicing and experimenting to make his shows as enjoyable as possible. Using 2 copies of the same record he discovers that he can loop the instrumental breaks in his favourite music ad infinitum, if he chooses so. Tinkering in his apartment with the window open, he realises he’s on to something. Mixing one break into the break of a different song, a term he calls “merry-go-round,” becomes a part of Kool Herc’s arsenal. Adding such complexity to his performance, he makes the decision to enlist a friend to emcee and handle duties on the microphone.”

One of the most comprehensively researched examinations of the beginnings of hip hop I think I’ve ever read, and I have read a few, the prose work It’s Not About a Salary… Rap, Race and Resistance in Los Angeles by Brian Cross being a firm favourite though that obviously only takes in a West Coast perspective, and a slightly different time period. This work looks at the true beginnings of the scene in mid-‘70s downtown New York from parties in parks and baseball courts, DJ and MC battles in dancehalls, through to the eventual wider public recognition due to radio exposure and the early vinyl releases, and the evolution of the music itself into what we would understand as the modern day rap genre.

The ability of comics to transport you to a time and place in a manner that prose works just cannot match is demonstrated here as Ed perfectly captures the nature of street life and the crazy characters at that time. I did also like the fact that in one of the after pieces, he explains how you can dissemble hip hop considerably further back, but obviously you have to say there was a definitive point in time where hip hop as we know it began, and Kool Herc discovering the concept of mixing will do nicely for me. I can well imagine it was a transcendental moment for the good DJ!

It’s all the little anecdotal facts Ed just continually slips in that blew me away though, my absolute favourite being that Afrika Bambaataa was a massive fan of Kraftwerk! It shouldn’t surprise me really that such a muso would appreciate a not entirely dissimilar branch of music, it’s I just had never thought that the leader of the hardcore Black Spades gang would be chilling out to Trans Europe Express!

Fans of hip hop need this work, everyone else just won’t be bothered probably, but that’s fine. Ed seems far more interested in taking on projects that interest him personally like this one and WHIZZYWIG, and when he is doing it so brilliantly it is clearly all about reality and not the salary for him. Sorry, couldn’t resist slipping in one lyrical gag. Must just mention the gallery of artists at the end, which other creators have contributed to too, Jeffrey Brown’s Beastie Boys looking like butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths. You can scarcely credit the Daily Mail tried to have them banned from ever entering the UK all those years ago, being such a threat to the morals of the nation’s youth and all…

Of volume 2 I wrote…

“Why you lookin’ at me like that, Russell?”

Ha! I do love Ed’s portrayal of Russell Simmons, and I am pleased he gets the props here – to use the street parlance – that he so richly deserves, for his huge part in the explosion of Hip-Hop and its subsequent introduction to the club-going and record buying masses. He remains a fascinating bloke to this day, actually: a staunch vegan, transcendental meditation practitioner, and long-time supporter of gay rights, inter-faith dialogue and social activism. But, back in the day, his interests were somewhat more focused on getting paid by finding new musical talent, and having a good time.

That he kept his younger brother out of the studio for so long, despite his ever more vocal protests, is all the more amusing when you know his brother is Joseph Simmons, or as he soon became far better known, Rev. Run of iconic hip-hop grandmasters Run-D.M.C. When he finally let his brother and his mate into the studio, ostensibly to shut them up, Russell quickly realised he had struck not just gold, but multi-platinum. Their first few gigs as a lyrical duo, though, were something of a trial by fire, getting ridiculed for their check jackets and flares stage outfits. Cue one typical flash of Russell Simmons’ genius later, as he spied a casually dressed, hat wearing, sneaker pimped, ghetto blaster toting Jason “Jazzy Jase” Mizell entering the studios whilst debriefing the boys, and the fresh and fly trio of Run-D.M.C. that we know and love today were born. In an era of ever more surreal and outlandish performers’ costumes, their laidback street attire was exactly what was required to appeal to the masses.

The little nugget I have just described above takes up barely a couple of pages of this magnificent second volume, which explores 1981-1983, detailing the continuing, burgeoning public acclaim of the early pioneers like Grandmaster Flash, Melle Mel and Arika Bambaataa, whilst revealing the childhoods and very early days of future legends like Run-D.M.C., the Beastie Boys, Public Enemy and NWA. This series of books, for I assume Ed is going to continue onwards past 1983 which is where this volume concludes, is vital reading for anyone wanting to know more about this era of music. His knowledge of his subject is truly encyclopaedic, but the piecing together of all the various insane anecdotes to produce a coherent and engaging narrative is magnificent craft, and he captures the raw charisma and sheer chutzpah that many of the performers, who had polished their skills on the mean streets the hard way, possessed in abundance. Confidence, usually, was the one area they were not lacking in. Naivety in dealing with record labels, on the other hand…

Just going back to sartorial elegance, or the lack thereof, it takes some believing these days, the outfits some of the early pioneers used to wear. There is a great little scene where someone gets extremely excited over Ice T’s first proto-single simply because he looks like he is straight out of Mad Max. And I am talking Beyond Thunderdome, not Road Warrior… In fact when you look at how Afrika Bambaataa and his acolytes dressed around this period, you can perhaps understand how it wasn’t that big a stretch to someone coming up with the Village People…

I think the connections and friendships Ed details, between various apparently very disparate elements of the wider music and arts scene, particularly in New York, are absolutely paramount to understanding the fast-moving morphology of music at a time where public exposure was also exploding exponentially through MTV, which launched in August 1981. There are some bizarre friendships, occasionally of complete convenience, which you would never expect, yet in retrospect make perfect sense, both musically and indeed fiscally. So when a certain ginger, wild-haired chancer called Malcolm McLaren starts to take an interest in how he can export Hip-Hop to the UK, he insinuates himself into the scene like the veritable social and musical chameleon we now know he was, glad-handing and appropriating everything he needed for his next sonic experiment. Whether the tracks Buffalo Gals and Double Dutch deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as the canon of truly great hip-hop records isn’t for me to decide, but we can’t dispute they certainly played their dancefloor-filling part in helping to bring hip-hop to the UK.

I really do hope Ed continues with this work, not least because his still has a few years to go before hitting my own personal era of getting into rap and hip hop, circa 1988. That all began with catching the Public Enemy video for Don’t Believe The Hype on Top Of The Pops one Thursday night and simply thinking, “What on earth is this?” I did already like a bit of Chicago House at that point, probably had heard some of the Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel stuff, but one purchase of “It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back” later the following Saturday and a lifelong love with that genre had well and truly begun.

JR

Buy Hip Hop Family Tree Box Set: 1975-1983 and read the Page 45 review here

Explorer vol 3: The Hidden Doors (£8-50, Scholastic) by Kazu Kibuishi, Jason Caffoe, Jen Wang, Faith Erin Hicks, Johanne Matte, Jen Breach, Steve Hamaker, Douglas Holgate…

Another volume in the Kazu AMULET Kibuishi-curated anthology series where the seven completely different stories are only tenuously linked by the barest titular premise, in this case the hidden doors. So, the doors in the respective stories lead to: hidden parts of a patient’s mind, a giant’s kitchen, the person the opener really wants to be, a grand adventure but it requires two people to walk through together, a very unusual munitions bunker, a haunted tomb in a pyramid, where monsters are. Right, I think that last sentence just about makes grammatical sense.

As before the stories are all-ages fun, ranging from the all-out comedic through to some speculative fiction, with some great twists thrown in along the way. The key word is fun, though, and the contributors without exception all produce the goods. I think my favourite this time around is ‘Two-Person Door’ by FRIENDS WITH BOYS’ Faith Erin Hicks, due to its thought-provoking nature. I can imagine it giving a few kids some pause for thought as they think the potential ramifications through.

Definitely worth picking up if you’ve finished your copy of AMULET VOL 6 already…

JR

Buy Explorer vol 3: The Hidden Doors and read the Page 45 review here

Costume Quest: Invasion Of The Candy Snatchers h/c (£18-99, Oni Press) by Zac Gorman…

I want candy. Which, I mention for no other reason than to amuse myself reminiscing about the classic Bow Wow Wow single. Well, maybe not the only reason, for our cast of lil’ monsters, or Grubbins as they are known, want candy too. Lots of it. But there is a nationwide shortage in their home dimension of Repugia, so whatever can they do? Well, it’s fast approaching Halloween, so they hatch the crazy idea of hopping through a magical portal into the human world to gatecrash the time-honoured tradition of trick or treating. Given that they already look like they are in costume, they expect it’ll be just like stealing candy from errr… dim-witted adults.

In fact there will be more sweet-pilfering going on than in the much-missed pick n’ mix departments of Woolworths (even as honest a child as myself couldn’t stop purloining the odd fizzy cola bottle as I went to peruse the latest singles and drool over Annabella Lwin…) as Klem and his sidekicks find themselves assailed by older, sugar-hungry bullies on both sides of the portal. Then there is the ‘slight’ added danger that once the portal closes at midnight on Halloween, it won’t open again for a whole year! It’s going to take all Klem’s considerable cunning for the friends to make it back to Repugia at all, never mind with their haul of goodies intact.

 

I am a bit of a curmudgeon when it comes to trick and treating, I must confess. I find the concept of myriad kids hammering on my door all night a total pain in the arse, to be frank, and I am dreading the day when my daughter is old enough to want to go out doing it herself. With me in tow, no doubt. Though bizarrely, last year was the first time we had got sufficiently organised to get shed loads of sweets in preparation, and there was not a single knock on our door… The wife and I kept looking out of the upstairs window wondering why on earth all these costumed kids (and adults) were avoiding us, wondering if the preceding ten years of closing the curtains and blatantly ignoring the door knocking had finally had the desired effect. But no, apparently you have to have a lantern in the window now, or some such, to indicate you are happy to be visited by junior ghouls and spooks. Which is a good thing, I guess, as it avoids the kids getting upset when people don’t answer the door, and the curmudgeons can just get on with doing whatever it is they do behind their curtains.

I seem to have digressed. I really enjoyed this work. It was funny. The art is a fizzing, colourful treat too, with the antics of the young Grubbins garishly illustrated in a manner that suggests the artist had consumed rather a lot of E numbers himself. The older bully Grubbins being just monsterly enough too, without being too scary for the youngest readers or listener / viewer in my daughter’s case. This was definitely a hit with her, and me, there being enough story and jokes to hold my marginally more demanding adult attention too.

JR

Buy Costume Quest: Invasion Of The Candy Snatchers h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Manga Dogs vol 1 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Ema Toyama…

Sometimes you can look at a manga and see precisely which recent high-selling title has ‘inspired’ it. Without a shadow of a doubt this has been conceived following BAKUMAN, an intriguing story by the creators of DEATH NOTE, following two high school students wanting to be manga masters. There were some romance elements thrown in the mix but, by and large, it was a fascinating look behind the scenes of the insane workload that goes into creating, then sustaining, a hit manga series, the whole process of getting published, initially in Shonan Jump magazine, then in book form, and if you’re particularly lucky, the anime spin-off. They also do frequently mention the well used concept of, shall we say, emulating a premise whilst transplanting it into a different genre, to try and come up with a hit…

This work is neither as serious nor remotely realistic as BAKUMAN, but it does have the same relentless energy and sense of fun to it. Kanna Tezuka is a fifteen-year-old manga prodigy. She has already achieved the near-impossible feat of getting something published in a Shoujo magazine, but is concerned enough about maintaining the popularity of her series to enrol on a new manga-drawing course at her high school. Thus neatly introducing the most ubiquitous trope in manga as the setting for our yarn. I really don’t understand the Japanese fascination with manga set at high schools, the pupils being ghosts, witches, vampires, zombies and indeed even normal children, indeed sometimes a mixture of all of those, but it clearly works as the setting for many a yarn.

What there is also in abundance in these high school works is romance, and make no mistake this is a Shōjo (sometimes spelt shoujo) manga aimed squarely at teenage girls. Which probably explains why the three other manga class members, all boys, become completely obsessed with Kanna. Once they realise who she is, they’re demanding that she becomes their manga sensei and teach them all she knows, which appears to be considerably more than the teacher. Kanna, meanwhile, somewhat unused to any male attention, let alone the close proximity of three rapt, attentive, and rather dishy males hanging on her every word, competing for her attention, and no doubt in the not too distant future, her affections as well, is unsurprisingly finding it rather difficult to even focus on drawing a straight line.

If you approach this type of work – and Yaoi as well for that matter – with the right attitude, and it is as well written as this, then it is rather difficult not to be amused by the comedy of manners and farcical humour of it all. In addition, I would even go as far as to say this title does have some genuine satirical points to make about the manga-creating industry, much like BAKUMAN does.

JR

Buy Manga Dogs vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Crossed vol 10 (£14-99, Avatar) by Garth Ennis & Christian Zanier…

“Look, Harry, et me walk you out. There’s something I need to talk to you about. We’re having to cut our losses for the time being. Senior government personnel and their families are being moved to installations like this one, from which… well, hopefully we’ll be able to regain some measure of control, at least in the long term. Doctor Chopra is here. If anyone has a chance of finding an answer to this, it’s her and her team. But if we can’t… this is a location, along with details how to gain access. It should be seen only as a last resort.”
“Understood.”
“Thank you. It was… sort of over before it began in a way, wasn’t it?”
“Prime Minister?”
“The way events unfolded, since they brought that poor bugger in here. It felt like we never had a chance. I mean, you think about other times the country’s been threatened… what they had to cope with… Churchill. He had all the time in the world. How does it go? We shall not flag or fail… We shall move into broad sunlit uplands… We shall go on to the end, and so bear ourselves…
“You’re actually combining two separate speeches, Prime Minister.”
“Oh?”
“This is where I leave you.”
“Well, good luck to you, Harry. Thank you for everything.”
“You too, Prime Minister.”
“It’s been an honour.”

It’s a funny old series, CROSSED. Every time I think I have had enough of it, I just think, well, I’ll read the next volume, and I get dragged back in. I thought the slow-burning spin-off series CROSSED: WISH YOU WERE HERE by Si Spurrier was exceptionally well written horror from start to finish, with some extremely gory moments, certainly, but it never overpowered the storytelling.

Whereas with this main title, passed from writer to writer, hopping from plot idea to plot idea as it does, there have been some suspenseful, gripping story arcs, and then some that were just pure gore trash. The best arcs, frankly, have all been penned by series originator Garth Ennis, though I did also very much enjoy the one by Jamie Delano, and here Ennis has returned to a previous set of characters from the ‘The Fatal Englishman’ arc in CROSSED VOL 6, to write a prequel for them co-starring none other than Gordon Brown in his time as Prime Minister.

Yes, it’s not enough that Tony Blair left him in the shit with the economy, he’s managed to swerve Armageddon as well, a fact that doesn’t escape poor old Gordon, which did make me smile. The Prime Minister as he is written actually comes out of this with a lot of credit, unlike his weaselly sidekick Alastair – wonder who that is meant to be – but it certainly makes for a great story, seeing the beginnings of the outbreak in the UK from his unique perspective, hunkered down inside a secure bunker.

Except, except, the other co-star of this tale, who may or may not be the mysterious patient zero and originator of the virus, is brought to the very same bunker for observation by the scientists on hand. Maybe not the best idea Alastair has ever had to help out the Prime Minister…

Ennis is also planning to write a sequel to ‘The Fatal Englishman’ for issue 100 of the title, which I am already intrigued about giving how that arc ended. But in the meanwhile Kieron Gillen is up next on writing duties, and is apparently going to look at previous historical outbreaks, thus neatly counterpointing Uncle Alan Moore’s tale in the forthcoming CROSSED +100, which obviously is going to look at how humanity is coping 100 years after this current outbreak started. I think Avatar have  finally got the idea that people are actually more interested in the characters and stories associated with the CROSSED, rather than the gore per se, which in my opinion is best used, as here, for ridiculous comedic relief. If so, I’ll keep reading.

JR

Buy Crossed Vol 10 and read the Page 45 review here

America‘s Got Powers s/c (£13-50, Image) by Jonathan Ross & Bryan Hitch.

A) My favourite superhero artist of all time, THE ULTIMATES’ Bryan Hitch.
B) That Jonathan Ross, much more at home than on TURF.
C) Sarah Palin lookalike (actalike too!)
D) Something to say.
E) Effectively said.
F) Funny in places to boot.

This is spectacular stuff set in San Francisco seventeen years after a giant blue stone lands there, and every pregnant mother within a five mile radius successfully gives birth. No matter how pregnant, they all give birth at exactly the same time. To children with gifts. With powers. Every single one except Tommy Watts, brother to Bobby, the boy who burned out on TV.

See, there’s a TV show called America’s Got Powers which is a bit like Gladiators but without the – no, which is exactly like Gladiators: preposterous posturing, rabid crowds and its most popular star is the biggest dick.

So anyway, Bobby Watts won all his battles but it cost him too much and he died.

Which was absolutely fantastic for ratings! Hurrah!

Reacting accordingly, the producers of the new season of America’s Got Powers have lifted all limits on the level of violence permissible: the mechanical Paladins will be bigger, operating at maximum force, and the combatants can use all the power they’ve got. That there may be more military motivation behind the rule changes, nobody has thought about yet…

There’s so much merely hinted from the start: the San Francisco Power Riots that prompted the development of these TV tournaments in order to channel the children’s attention and give them a controlled outlet for their potentially destructive gifts; the military’s beef with the project’s head scientist Professor Syell (David Tennant); and Syell’s latest discovery which does sound ominous, doesn’t it?

I can assure you it’s all going to go to hell in a helicarrier with poor Tommy Watts the pawn they’d make king. Well, dauphin, perhaps.

Some of the best bits initially, visually, are set high above the stadium (which I note is adjacent to Alcatraz); also in the cash-cow gift shops of the super-mall surrounding the arena, which may sound odd when one considers Hitch’s gift for hyper-dynamic fist-fights which are indeed stunning here, but I’ve always loved his architecture, his everyday faces and civilian clothing even more. New artists would do well to study his emphasis on storytelling in BRYAN HITCH’S ULTIMATE COMIC STUDIO.

It’s the quiet moments later on which bring the biggest heart and make the big, big moments explosive. Conversely it’s the gargantuan moments – on a scale with will make your eyes blister – that make the soft scenes so much more tender.

Jonathan Ross has relaxed and really thought this through: the chirpy commentators’ blithe blood-thirstiness as combat goes disastrously wrong is perfect and far from overplayed – the key being “blithe”, oblivious to their own crass, crowd-pleasing cretinicity and indifference to everyone’s healthy and safety including innocent bystanders.

 

Tommy is spontaneously iconoclastic without being a relentlessly rebellious smart-arse and – given the reputation of San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury – I love that the teenagers who received their gifts from that big blue stone are called “Stoners”.

When the military powerplay escalates, dividing the kids into two blood-thirsty tribes with another caught in their middle, it is hair-tearingly tense. Also, I concede, somewhat dense with recrimination after recrimination and almost no hope for anything than a blood-bath solution. There will be nuclear missiles aimed at San Francisco by America’s own military with the threat of an equal and opposite reaction.

At this point you might consider this over-thought through, but I’d disagree. I abhor simplistic superhero series where one side is wrong from smacking people upside the head and the other is supposed right for doing exactly the same. Here it is clearly demonstrated that just as there are three sides to every coin, there are at least three sides to every argument – it’s just that the third side (a coin’s edge) is far more difficult to keep balanced and upright so why even bother when dogma is easier?

No, it’s not over until Ross and Hitch say it’s over and Senator Hindler (that Sarah Palin substitute) won’t take “No” for an answer. She’s tenacious and she’s got balls – you’ve got to give her that. She’s also as callous and egomaniacal as her original. Unfortunately for everyone, she isn’t an iota as stupid.

“What about his family?”

SLH

Buy America’s Got Powers s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Captain Marvel vol 1: Higher, Further, Faster, More s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Kelly Sue DeConnick & David Lopez.

That’s right, Kelly Sue DeConnick, as in the gothic western PRETTY DEADLY. The cadence of that comic was perfect.

So, isn’t that a lovely cover? It’s fairly indicative of what lies within: softer than usual superheroic art for a softer than usual superheroic saga but make no mistake: Carol Danvers is a very naughty lady. You can see it the mischievous smile and the I-know-what-I’m-doing smile.

Except that Carol’s never quite known what she’s doing: not in the wider scheme of things, anyway. Once she was lost to alcoholism and became ultra-defensive to boot. Now she’s having a tryst with Rhodey, former pilot of War Machine now Iron Patriot. They seem pretty well matched.

“Tony Stark just tried to play me with the suggestion that you’re a better pilot than me.”
“I am.”
“In your dreams.”
“Let’s talk more about my dreams. I’m seeing you in a little black lace number –“
“Careful. Your heart.”
“A cocktail dress. Colonel Danvers. Who’s the one with the dirty mind here?”
“I am. I thought we established that.”

Alas, the subject which Stark was trying to play her on was the opportunity to head into space as part of a formal, rotating Avengers presence and it’s seems the perfect opportunity during which to find herself.

Fast-forward to the first page and Colonel Danvers (who in costume appears to accept demotion) has accepted and gathered a personal posse of intriguing individuals one of whom nearly crash-landed on Earth in an escape pod six weeks earlier. This is very much a space-faring saga and an appearance by the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is guaranteed!

The ever-competitive exchange between Stark and Danvers takes place while they nonchalantly deal with a couple of lowlifes, killing two narrative birds with one rolling stone and thereby keeping the whole thing popping along at a bright and breezy pace.

SLH

Buy Captain Marvel vol 1: Higher, Further, Faster, More s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

 

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

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

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

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

The Art Of Princess Mononoke h/c (£25-99, Viz) by Hayo Miyazaki

Adventure Time vol 5 (UK Edition) s/c (£8-99, Titan Books) by Ryan North & Shelli Paroline, Braden Lamb

Doomboy vol 1 h/c (£18-99, Magnetic Press) by Tony Sandoval

Kick-Ass vol 3 h/c (£22-99, Titan Books) by Mark Millar & John Romita Jr.

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

Satellite Sam vol 2 (£10-99, Image) by Matt Fraction & Howard Chaykin

All-New Ultimates vol 1: Power For Power s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Michel Fiffe & Amilcar Pinna

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

Daredevil vol 1: Devil At Bay s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Chris Samnee, Javier Rodriguez

Deadpool: Dracula’s Gauntlet h/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Gerry Duggan, Brian Posehn & Reilly Brown, Scott Koblish

Iron Man vol 5: Rings Of The Mandarin (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Luke Ross, Joe Bennet, Scott Hannah, Cliff Richards

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

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

Uncanny X-Men vol 4: Vs. SHIELD (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Chris Bachalo, Kris Anka

Ranma 1/2 2-in-1 vols 7 & 8 (£10-99, Viz) by Rumiko Takahashi

Usagi Yojimbo Saga vol 1 (£18-99, Dark Horse) by Stan Sakai

News

ITEM! AMULET’s Kazu Kibuishi painting digitally, live. And Kazu Kibuishi’s finished painting. Wow! Cannot recommended AMULET highly enough to Young Adults, Adult Adults or even Addled Adults.

ITEM! Gary Spencer Millidge’s STRANGEHAVEN returns in the pages of MEANWHILE and debuts at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Some beautiful interior art there, plus the anthology also features Sally-Jane Thompson.

Page 45 will have copies, of course, on sale on October 17th, which is a slightly special date for us…! All three previous STRANGEHAVEN volumes in stock now! Read why it’s a favourite of Alan Moore, Warren Ellis, JH Williams III and Bryan Talbot!

ITEM! Our own Jodie Paterson’s new greetings card, ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside, perfect for winter!

ITEM! Leeds Film Festival is showing a documentary on comicbook creator Seth for free! We love Seth and I write about that town constructed from cardboard in  PALOOKAVILLE #20!

ITEM! The British Comic Awards 2014 judges announced! The very long long-list of British Comics 2014 before the committee whittle it down to five in each category for the judges to judge.

ITEM! Tom Gauld’s cover to The New Yorker!

And lastly… pretty obviously…

ITEM! Page 45 Celebrates its 20th Anniversary on 17th October 2014 at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival.

Don’t forget our Friday night Page 45 20th Anniversay Boozebash at Ruskins in Kendal transformed – I kid you not – into The Batcave!

All the weekend’s details in the blog linked to above.

I’m going to try to write something new for the website in time for Friday, but if not you’ll just have to wait until our 21st Birthday Booze on Saturday 17th October 2015 in Nottingham. There will be speeches, for sure!

Thank you for everything. It’s been the most remarkable twenty years and I’m honoured to have spent them with you!

- Stephen

Final Reminder:

Page 45 Signings Schedule in Georgian Room, Comics Clock Tower

Saturday 18 October 2014:

Main Tables

10am – 12pm   Scott McCloud
2pm – 4pm       Glyn Dillon

Table 1

10am – 2pm      Dan Berry & Kristyna Backzynski
2pm – 6pm        Lizz Lunney & Joe List

Table 2

10am – 2pm      Jack Teagle & Joe Decie
2pm – 6pm        Jade Sarson & Donya Todd

Table 3

10am – 2pm      Sarah McIntyre & Warwick Johnson – Cadwell
2pm – 6pm        Fumio Obata & Dan Berry

Sunday 19 October:

Main Tables

2pm: arrival of 24 hour comic marathon limited edition comics and all creators available

Table 1

10.30am – 2pm     Liz Lunney & Donya Todd
2.30pm – 5pm      Fumio Obata & Joe Decie

Table 2

10.30am – 2pm     Sarah McIntyre & Dan Berry
2.30pm – 5pm      Warwick Johnson Cadwell & Joe List

Table 3

10.30am – 2pm     Jack Teagle & Kristyna Backzynski
2.30pm – 5pm       Jade Sarson & Donya Todd

Please see Page 45 20th Anniversary At The Lakes International Comic Art Festival blog for more details including our own show-and-tell times and The Art Of Selling Comics talk.

Reviews October 2014 week two

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

Zoey is made up of layers and layers of the things that make *actual people* tick. And she’s the lead character in a serial killer story. *And* she’s female. *AND* she’s not a white blonde girl.

Well bloody hell.

  – Dominique on A Voice In The Dark.

Southern Bastards vol 1: Here Was A Man s/c (£7-50, Image) by Jason Aaron & Jason Latour…

“Earl… where you goin’, boy?”
“You know where I’m goin’.”
“Vietnam, huh. That’s a long damn way from here. Why you wanna go fight in some war that ain’t yours?”
“It’s the right thing to do, ain’t it?”
“Son, if you gonna go half ‘round the world just to die… least be honest with yourself about why you’re doin’ it.”
“Goodbye, Daddy. Goodbye, Craw County. Good Goddamn-bye, Alambama.”

Earl Tubb never expected he’d be back in Craw County. It’s taken the death of his father to bring him home. There’s his childhood house to clear out, purely to let a realtor put it on the market, before he can leave again, and those three days he thinks it’s going to take are three more than he wants to be there. There are the ghosts of too many memories still present, that much is apparent as our story opens with Earl driving a removal truck to his daddy’s out-of-town property, leaving a message for persons as yet unknown with his mobile phone.

I enjoyed reading Jason Aaron’s foreword. He was born in Alabama, in a small town called Jasper. About an hour away from the town of Guntersville where I spent eighteen very pleasant if bizarre months, funnily enough. I fully understand his comments regarding the deep south of the good ole United States of America… “The south is more peaceful than any other place I’ve ever been. But more primal too. More timeless. But more haunted. More spiritual. More hateful. More beautiful. More scarred.”

And I equally understand why he says he’ll never move back there. I encountered some wonderfully hospitable people who treated me like family, saw places of rugged, outstanding natural beauty, but it also has a darker, other-worldly quality that takes some explaining, never mind understanding. I saw a Christian preacher handling snakes in front of an enraptured congregation. I was given a lecture on how I was going to hell for my Buddhist faith whilst playing pool with a scantily-clad stripper in a titty bar. I watched someone sink a friend’s speedboat with a gun over a disagreement about their water-skiing prowess. And was proudly told by a thoroughly upstanding member of the community that they didn’t agree with the fact that their father had been in the Ku Klu Klan, and that they had nothing whatsoever against black people, but gays, well gays were the devil’s work. All without any hint of irony. And that would be a fairly typical week.

Drugs were everywhere, coke and crystal meth, long before it was made fashionable by a certain Mr. Heisenberg, lurking just beneath the friendly facade of a world where everyone, but everyone, says hello when they pass you by in the street. To not do so is a massive social faux pas expected only of those without manners and any sense of decorum. A civilised veneer overlaying the rather more torrid goings-on.

Alabama is also one of only two places I have ever managed to get myself arrested (the other being at the Polish-German border on suspicion of terrorist offences, but that’s a story for another time). The crime? Public intoxication, for having three beers in a bar and walking one hundred metres down the street to my hotel. The police, meanwhile, were not remotely interested in the departing drinkers getting in their pickup trucks and weaving merrily back and forth across the white lines whilst they made their respective ways home. A stranger on foot though, well, no doubt bound to be up to no good, and more importantly perhaps, just likely to pay the $100 fine after a night in the drunk tank being serenaded by an orchestra of snorers without kicking up too much of a fuss.

So I fully understand the character of this world and its denizens which Jason Aaron portrays for us here. Trust me, much like SCALPED, it is not our civilised world. It is a world perhaps best avoided if you should happen to stumble upon it. For Earl Tubb, though, finally back in the town as a older, if not wiser, bull of a man heading rapidly towards his pensionable years, where his sheriff daddy used to rule the roost armed only with a very large stick both at home and on the streets, well, he just seems to have finally decided he’s not prepared to walk away anymore.

He’ll wish he had.

You certainly get a sense of Clint Eastwood in Earl Tubb. There’s bad men running the town now, controlled it would seem by the local football coach, who was one of Earl’s teammates back in the day. Earl knows he should just let it go, pack up his removal truck and head on out of town. But… the manner of his leaving perhaps means he feels he has unfinished business. There’s seemingly no one prepared to stand up to the Coach and his thugs, so, when Earl receives what he takes to be a sign from his late, if not so much lamented, father, he makes a decision. There will be consequences.

Grotesquely brutal art from Jason Latour, much like R. M. Guéra on SCALPED, which will make you feel every punch, every kick, every baseball bat to the head. Teeth go flying, fingers are smashed, limbs mangled. It’s extremely hard-hitting stuff, with a spectacularly brutal and somewhat shockingly unexpected conclusion to this first volume. Then, just when I was reeling from that, you get the final sucker punch, as you find out just who Earl was leaving that phone message for…

JR

Buy Southern Bastards vol 1: Here Was A Man s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Sugar Skull h/c (£12-99, Jonathan Cape) by Charles Burns.

“N-no!! There’s got to be a way out!”

And then you wake up.

If you’re lucky the cold light of day is much kinder.

Before Doug wakes up, his dream alter ego Johnny has infiltrated The Hive to bring his bed-ridden beloved the romance comics she craves, along with chocolates in a red, heart-shaped box. She knows she shouldn’t eat them – she is kept on a special diet to maintain her strict schedule – but Johnny insists she at least try one. When they wake up, there’s a problem.

It’s the sort of nightmare scenario, vividly and so horrifically portrayed, that could only happen in dreams.

But Johnny’s reaction is telling.

So BLACK HOLE’s Charles Burns concludes the trilogy begun in X’ED OUT then continued deep in THE HIVE in which Doug dwells on his Dad and casts his mind back on two failed relationships with Sarah then Tina, his early experiments with photography and performance art behind a Tintin-esque mask, and a deep-seated fear of flat-door intercoms. “Bzzzt!”

As with all finales it behoves me to avoid revealing much in the way of detail except perhaps the most minute details of all. There’s a scene in which Doug attempts to win a tortuously circuitous argument by shrugging off his own role in its potential resolution, knowing he’s doing so and so only looking Sarah’s way – more than a little sheepishly, to see if it’s working – once her back is turned. It’s a precisely judged expression.

A little later there’s a rare glimpse at Burns’ talent for exquisite photorealism – on the television screen at his father’s which is where Doug retreats to.

“I wanted a safe, dark place to hide.”

Hmmm…

As the conclusion kicks off, Doug’s Dad has been dead for six years but still very much on his mind. Doug’s now seeing Sally and has mended his drug- and alcohol-addled ways, having been clean for one year, seven months and fourteen days. But the past tempts him back in the form of tickets from Tina to see a punk band called Animal Byproducts formerly known as Bacon. That was the band Doug used to perform alongside and whose bandmate Nicky originally introduced him to Sarah.

Foreshadowed throughout, we finally find out precisely what went wrong between Doug and Sarah.

There, I hope you’ve been tempted to try X’ED OUT and THE HIVE. If not, both books are reviewed with far less evasion, especially the nightmare aspects which are threaded throughout the trilogy and so successfully evoke the worst of my own!

SLH

Buy Sugar Skull h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Star Cat Book 1 (£7-99, DFC) by James Turner.

Meet Captain Spaceington, deadly serious action man of no-nonsense derring-do for whom everything is one big frown!

Shake multiple hands with monocular Science Officer Plixx, she of the green, squidgey tentacles!

“She may not know the difference between a proton and a neutron, but she’s always happy to whack them both with a hammer and hope for the best.”

Bravo!

Duck as the most supercilious android of all time, Robot One, casts aspersions on our frail human inadequacies whilst covering up its own lo-tech leanings!

Then fjidbt jablyt when The Pilot sets course for it-gives-not-a-crap-where while attending to anything more interesting instead! That incluses grbatifleds, plimbragrs and blagandrars. Accuracy is irrelevant, disdain is all! Be careful where you leave your loved chocolate puddings.

These are your zero heroes on board Star Cat, the latest and most sophisticated spaceship in blistery whose Super Computer houses a mouse, a mallard and a fish. They will save the galaxy and many more chocolate bars besides from the vaguest of vampires, the worst ice-cream ever and that rage-prone rogue, the two-dimensional Dark Rectangle destined to fall flat on his back along with his paper-thin posse.

“Luckily I’m a Black Belt in Origami!”
“Ooh! Make me into a little hat!”

THE PHOENIX weekly comic for kids and its publisher DFC have become hallmarks of both literacy and lunacy, and this is no exception. LONG GONE DON, GARY’S GARDEN, BUNNY VS MONKEY, CORPSE TALK… even its art book, Neill Cameron’s HOW TO MAKE AWESOME COMICS, is hilarious while its puzzle book, VON DOOGAN, is also a thrilling interactive comicbook adventure!

Nothing escapes the ever-ready eye of Captain Spaceington. Everything escapes Science Officer Plixx.

“Red alert! Raise shields! Evasive manoeuvres! Activate repulsor fields! Pack away the board games!”
“Aye aye, sir!”

*waggle* *turn* *press* *push*

“You have no idea what those controls do, do you?”
“None at all, sir!”

The cartooning is exquisite – almost every expression guarantees grins – while the timing is immaculate. Some of my favourite jokes revolve around their space ship being a cat.

“Pilot, activate Hyper Warp, Level 5!” commands Captain Spaceington.
“Sbejtift,” replies that boss-eyed Pilot, yanking on a lever.

Cue external shot of the hybrid cat-craft, its gormless eyes staring to camera as a hatch in its head springs open. Then the final panel on the page reveals the elusive, rocket-science secret to the last-resort Hyper Warp 5: a dangling, giant, red ball of wool. The cat’s eyes spy it in a perfectly pitched moment of silent ellipsis…

… And boom!

James Turner is in absolute command of these bottom-page ellipses. There’s another in the very first episode when a space mouse in search of space cheese is considered space harmless, yet no one can work out why The Pilot is strapping itself in for dear life.

Clue: the pilot is also a cat.

As the space mouse passes outside, the Star Cat spaceship opens one eye and spots it…

SLH

Buy Star Cat Book 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Sam & Dave Dig A Hole h/c (£11-99, Walker Books) by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen.

Yippee!

A new Young Readers’ graphic novel from the headwear-conscious creator of THIS IS NOT MY HAT and I WANT MY HAT BACK and with writer Mac Barnett on board, hats are no longer the issue.

Nothing here is missing, but an awful lot is missed.

On Monday, you see, Sam and Dave dug a hole.

“When should we stop digging?” asked Sam.
“We are on a mission,” said Dave.
“We won’t stop digging until we find something spectacular.”

And so dig they do. They dig and dig deep. They dig so deep that their heads disappear underground, and then they dig deeper still. They are, I would remind you, on a mission!

So intent are they on this Important Excavation, what they don’t seem to have noticed is that their dog has embarked on this mission too. Or they’ve forgotten. The dog happened to be standing between them when work first commenced and looked a little dubious from the start. On the cover his eyes are to camera, as if to say, “What a bunch of buffoons”.

Yes, Sam and Dave should probably take a little more notice of their dog.

But they do have a lot of digging to do…

Brilliant! As with both THIS IS NOT MY HAT and I WANT MY HAT BACK the words tell one story while the images reveal the truth! That’s what makes this comics.

What they also share is a comedic oblivion.

SLH

Buy Sam & Dave Dig A Hole h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Hospital Suite (£16-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by John Porcellino…

Powerful, oh my…

“As the days passed by, despite my condition, things began to take on a startling clarity.
“The whole world seemed to be glowing…
“The trees, the squirrels, the grass, the curbs on the corner.

“And I realised I wasn’t afraid to die.”

I was moved to tears at several points reading this autobiographical tale of ill-health, physical and mental, and also marital breakdown from the creative genius behind KING-CAT COMICS. (Long-time Page 45 review readers will know it goes without saying, but I was on the tram at the time, of course…)

John Porcellino lays himself bare and simply takes us on his journey. You can’t help but feel such empathy for him reading this as he is put through the wringer by a long-undiagnosed medical condition.

He does a fantastic job of gradually self-diagnosing the root of his problem over time, when myriad healthcare professionals seem at a complete loss, but there is extreme punishment to endure along the way as his body and mind play havoc with him, with chronically painful episodes requiring surgical intervention and crippling, recurring bouts of OCD  that paralyse him completely. It’s testament to his ever-evolving Zen Buddhist faith that he has the indomitable will to carry on, where others would perhaps simply give in.

Yes, there are dark days, some very dark days, but once you have glimpsed the true nature of reality, touched it directly as happened to Jon during some of his physically weakest moments, as the line between life and death began to blur slightly, as he describes above, it gives you an inner strength to endure, and endure he does. There are some experiential aspects of faith it is impossible to put into words, they are by their very nature beyond words and ineffable, but John does a wonderful job of expressing the profound joy and deep serenity they bring. As a balm to the suffering, they are like no other.

Ultimately this is a work about transformation and perseverance. Positive change in one’s circumstances, of any sort, inward or indeed outward, can’t come without hard work. Also, you do need a lot of it to become one of the best autobiographical comics creators of your generation – of any generation – which John most certainly is. With a body of work stretching over decades that’s ultimately uplifting and illuminating in equal measure, he’s a genuine treasure. A triple treasure perhaps. (Sorry, a little Zen in-joke I couldn’t resist.)

I wish him continued good health and all the happiness in the world. Keep shining your light, John.

JR

Buy The Hospital Suite and read the Page 45 review here

Loverboys h/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Gilbert Hernandez.

“Mrs Paz! How many people live in Lágrimas?”
“Well, last time I checked, it was six hundred and seventy-seven, Daniela.”
“Of course a teacher would know the answer! Thanks!”
“Sure.”

Mrs Paz turns away from her window.

“Lágrimas… Tears…”

Whenever someone asks for recommendations we first enquire what they’re already into in this or other media, then what sort of a comic or graphic novel they’re after that particular day.

Matching the right books to the right people is crucial, and it’s very easy now there is so much quality and diversity in comics: plenty of politics, masses of memoirs, so much sci-fi, enough crime to fill the average jail cell and quite enough comedy to keep you chortling until you choke. You’ve seen our Young Adult sections, right? Plural, yes.

However, occasionally we’re asked for romance and although we fall far from short in that department too, when asked for romances to make you feel better, well… relationships do not end well in comics! Think about it: Adrian Tomine’s SHORTCOMINGS, Posy Simmonds’ TAMARA DREWE and GEMMA BOVERY (she’s dead at the start of that one!), Julie Maroh’s BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOUR (ditto!) Will Eisner’s THE NAME OF THE GAME and even Simone Lia’s FLUFFY can’t be counted on for that!

There is one Los Bros Hernandez graphic novel that gives one unexpected cause for optimism, but if I reveal which one then I’ve rather spoiled it for you. Then there’s quite of lot of Yaoi which is inexplicable give how fucked up most of the protagonists are, and I guess there’s Tomine’s SCENES FROM AN IMPENDING MARRIAGE. That ended well: he got married!

But I tell you, we do struggle.

In the small town of tears called Lágrimas young Daniella is suspicious of a strange building, determined to avoid school and toying with idea of blowing up the school building or even the entire town with dynamite. I’m not sure where she’d get some. Now she’s discovered that Mrs Paz will be her new school teacher come Monday and she’ll be giving them a big test immediately. She settles on the more practical solution of pinching Mrs. Paz’s cell phone and cribbing the answers off that.

Meanwhile, her old brother Rocky who looks after her in their parents’ absence is studiously fending the off the advances of his beautiful boss. He only has eyes for his former high school teacher, Mrs. Paz. She isn’t young. She has the worry lines of someone to whom life could have been kinder and a faraway look in her eyes. But with rich, dark hair and eyes to match she remains very handsome indeed.

“Will you go out to dinner with me?” asks Rocky.
“Yes.”

Once again, there is that faraway look in her eyes, the top half of her face in close-up. She hasn’t turned round.

But on the very next panel she’s seated at the restaurant with Rocky, and her face has lit up. She’s now wearing lipstick and a simple, elegant necklace.

At which point I refer you back to the beginning of my sales pitch and leave you to wonder what happens next.

This is an original A5 graphic novel completely separate from LOVE AND ROCKETS. At eighty pages it’s a relatively slight affair compare to MARBLE SEASON or JULIO’S DAY but I found it charming. Well, the first fifty pages or so. After that some people start losing their charm, others their tempers, but the first fifty pages have a certain stillness to them. Some of the eyes in particular are very quiet. Also, I notice that with one exception the men are all straight, perpendicular lines – only the women have curves.

So often there is a strong element of folklore in Beto’s books. Jaime’s as well, now I think of it. And quite often that folklore’s proved true.

Lastly, as ever, the children with their often ill-informed perspectives play not inconsiderable roles, and come out with the bluntest of questions.

“How come your name is still Mrs. Paz? Just in case Mr. Paz ever comes back?”

Ouch.

SLH

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

Bumperhead h/c (£16-50, Drawn & Quarterly) by Gilbert Hernandez…

“Oh, there’s a bump bump bumperhead here! Thumpin’ bumpin’ bumper! El Bumpo!”
“What, you’ve never seen a ten ton bumposity before? Bump thumper! Ba-ba-ba-bumpus!”
“Bump. Bump.”
“BA-BUMP!”
“WHOOSH! Bump. Bump.”
“Don’t get mad, bumpo! BUMP BUMPO BUMP!”

“Why, God? Why did you curse me with a bumperhead?”

His head, of course, is not that big or oddly shaped, but it is enough for Bobby to attract the unwelcome attention of his older neighbours. You never know with Gilbert what autobiographical material gets recycled into his works, by his own admission, but I will bet a pound to a penny, he knew someone who was just such an unfortunate in his childhood days.

Anyway, happily for Bobby, the Bumperhead moniker soon gets dropped and in fact he starts socialising with his tormentors, once the age difference starts to become less meaningful as they grow up and discover the holy trinity of most boys’ teenage years: music, girls and drugs.  In fact, he is a bit of a ladies’ man, our Bobby, changing his favourite highschool squeeze with a regularity even one Arthur Fonzarelli would approve of, I’m sure. He’s not quite so motivated in the schoolwork arena though, so as his peers start to go off to college and thus onwards and upwards to bigger and better things, he begins the first of many menial jobs, seeding a future social inequity between himself and others that will continue to flourish.

This lack of commitment, to relationships, to learning, to a career, is the major theme of Bobby’s existence, and it’s something that whilst he recognises is the source of much, indeed all of his suffering, he seems unable or unwilling to change his trajectory. There are glimpses of what his life might end up like, all too visible, in the shape of his own father. But again, Bobby’s either too stubborn or reluctant to see, and more importantly admit, that his own potential future is staring him right in the face. It’s like he has subconsciously accepted his fate, whilst all the while blithely assuming something is just going to come along and change everything for him.

You can see one of Gilbert’s favourite recurring themes, our formative years, explored thoroughly again here as he did so successfully in MARBLE SEASON, whilst also following the JULIO’S DAY near-cradle-to-grave story arc process of one person’s life. I think it’s great Gilbert is in such prolific form at this period of his career; he clearly has many stories left to tell, and clearly is no slacker in the application department himself.

JR

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

Some Comics By Stephen Collins h/c (£12-99, Jonathan Cape) by Stephen Collins…

‘We were all quite surprised when the high street left us.
…RUMBLE…
It just stood up one day and said: “I’ve had enough of the empty shops and the bookies and the vomit. If I’m dying I’m bloody well doing it in style.”
So it went off travelling and after Andean trekking and skydiving in Chile, and a torrid affair with the Champs-Élysées, it finally expired during a PADI course off the coast of Mauritius. It gets a lot of visitors now…
“And to your left you can see the world’s deepest Gregg’s.”’

Do you know, I think this may be the most beautifully illustrated collection of gag strips I have ever seen. Each one is an exquisitely drawn and gorgeously coloured joy to behold.

Whereas most cartoonists have just one style, here every strip is appropriately rendered with incredible attention to detail. I think he ‘just’ does one a week for the Guardian, so obviously he doesn’t have to churn them out on a daily basis, but still, they are wonderful. I wouldn’t characterise them as laugh-out-loud funny gags, more pithy, expertly constructed tableaux that will make the corners of your mouth twitch gently into a smile. Those of you who have read his excellent graphic novel THE GIGANTIC BEARD THAT WAS EVIL will appreciate his refined sense of absurdist humour already.

With that said, one or two of the more ribald ones that are included in this collection did make me giggle, I must say, with Gwyneth Paltrow bemoaning to Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg the mysterious appearance of a massive kebab, right in the middle of the emotional bit of her ‘look back’ Facebook movie, my favourite. His jokes frequently skewer their targets from multiple directions, and you might well need to be up on the current affairs of the day and also rather less newsworthy detritus to fully get all the nuances of some of them, but overall I thought the rib-tickle hit rate was extremely high.

I can see this being an excellent stocking filler for those wishing to find something more discerningly humorous for their nearest and dearest this Christmas. I’ll certainly be buying my dad a copy, along with a new whoopee cushion.

JR

Buy Some Comics By Stephen Collins h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Lonesome Go (£29-99. Fantagraphics) by Tim Lane…

“But my destiny lay elsewhere. So I rented a room in a flophouse on Valencia Street for fifteen bucks a night.
“There was an outdated neon sign outside my window that blinked and buzzed theatrically.
“The room was stuffy and the walls seemed to sweat. The air was dense enough to congeal in my lungs.
“I cut off my hair. I washed myself in the sink.
“In the early morning, while the junkies argued in the street, I asked God to shine his light.
“I slept in my sleeping bag rolled out on top of my bed.
“I spent my nights following the Mariachi musicians as they made their rounds from one Mexican restaurant to the next…
“… Watching as they divved up their tips in deliberate silence, tucked into shadowy alleyways between taquerias.”

Phew, Tim Lane really ups the Burroughs factor in this quasi-sequel to ABANDONED CARS. This is a considerably weightier tome at nearly three times the length. If that work proclaimed itself as the ‘Great American Mythological Drama’, this is heading way, way beyond that, deeper into the metaphorical heart of darkness. Again, it’s a narrative of sorts detailing a journey, less autobiographical this time I think, at least I hope so, interspersed with all manner of strange vignettes, bizarre adverts, short pieces of prose and even song lyrics. The overall effect is disorientating and disturbing in equal measure, clearly quite deliberately so.

 

 

Yes, Tim Lane wants you to feel disgusted and possible a little aroused by what he is showing us, I’m sure. It’s a freak show of the veritable American heartland laid bare. I came away, just like ABANDONED CARS, feeling somewhat sullied and perturbed for the experience.  The most disturbing thing of all is we know he’s really only showing us what horrors are truly out there, if we were foolish enough to go looking in the wrong places. He may have strayed into the realms of the unreal, with the more surreal elements perhaps, but not by much, perhaps not at all.

There are also some uplifting moments in here though, punctuating the tension and leavening the insanity. I was particularly touched by the ‘Pacific Ocean Or Bust!’ monologue that is pure Kerouac in its Beat faux-Zen optimism. Though I’m not entirely sure whether he is trying to offer up any hope, or merely demonstrate its futility in the face of the overwhelming chaos of existence. Maybe a bit of both, just to keep us off balance emotionally, before he moves on unabated.

But these moments are like rays of sunshine during the darkest of days, something to cling onto during the maelstrom that is this work. He’s a very talented writer Tim Lane I think, and as before, with his rawer than Charles Burns’ BLACK HOLE-esque art style, well, he knows just how to burn his dystopic visions into the very fabric of our souls. I don’t know where it will all end, I really don’t. If you’ve ever seen the 1998 film Dark City, it’ll probably be something like that…

JR

Buy The Lonesome Go and read the Page 45 review here

Doctors (£12-99, Fantagraphics) by Dash Shaw…

“I’m sorry I took the form of your daughter.
“She gave me permission… she was the only person in your mind I thought you would listen to…
“I’m sure you must be very confused.”
“I…”

Ah, Dash Shaw, a man who loves his metaphysics, philosophy, speculative thinking and just generally fucking with your head in his comics. Here he manages to not only do that with us but also his characters as, after their expiration and entry into the unknown limbo of what lies beyond, they are going to get a rather unexpected wake-up call.

For Doctor Cho has invented a device called the Charon, allowing for the temporary resuscitation of a deceased individual – though only for a finite number of day or weeks – in theory to allow loved ones to say their final goodbyes properly, and the reanimated to set their affairs in order. It’s a top secret procedure, of course, available only to those ultra-wealthy and in the know, as Doctor Cho and his assistant, his daughter Tammy, are understandably wary of what would happen if the wider world found out.

There’s just one small, weeny catchette. So far, every single patient they have brought back – by inserting them into someone’s remaining consciousness in the guise of a loved one to tell them they have passed over but can return if they so choose – has ended up going stark raving bonkers. It’s probably not going to be too long before the authorities cotton on to what’s happening…

Great fun, this, and nice to see Dash doing something fairly short form but still substantial, plot-wise. I do love his really brief minis like NEW JOBS and 3 NEW STORIES, but you don’t get enough with those to get a handle on what his writing is really like, and his very chunky longer works like BODYWORLD, THE BOTTOMLESS BELLY BUTTON, THE UNCLOTHED MAN IN THE 35th CENTURY A.D. and NEW SCHOOL can possibly look a bit daunting for those unfamiliar with him, I suspect. This, I reckon, neatly encapsulates what he’s all about: surreal, haunting, hilarious pieces that are illustrated in his own inimitable fashion in what looks like pretty much just a black felt tip pen. He makes it look so bloody easy, but in reality, that’s just another way he’s fucking with you.

JR

Buy Doctors and read the Page 45 review here

A Voice In The Dark vol 1 (£14-99, Image Comics) by Larime Taylor -

Messed-up stories www.page45.com/store/A-Voice-In-The-Dark-vol-1.htmlabout messed-up people doing messed-up things are (judging by what we seem to like reading and watching on TV) fascinating to us. We love seeing the world from a skewed viewpoint, travelling a totally different, dangerous path and from that fascination some of our greatest stories – horror stories in particular – have come.

Messed-up stories featuring messed-up women doing messed-up stuff, however, tend to be of a very stilted ilk. A (very) few notable exceptions aside, they usually involve heavy doses of tits ‘n’ ass, voyeurism and some version of “Oooooh, I’ve been a very bad girl” along the way. They are generally devoid of plot or character development and are all about titillating the audience until the main girl finally “gets” whatever it is that is apparently “coming to her”. It’s still quite rare, especially in a horror / crime context that we get to see a complex, competent female character that isn’t defined primarily by sex or sexual vulnerability but rather by, you know, all those millions of other things that other characters (a.k.a. male ones) get to be defined by. Obsession, anger, revenge, ego, loyalty, love, passion, moral outrage – Zoey (the main character here) is made up of layers and layers of the things that make *actual people* tick. And she’s the lead character in a serial killer story. *And* she’s female. *AND* she’s not a white blonde girl. Well bloody hell.

So, yes, Zoey is the serial killer. When we meet her she has “only” killed once but clearly it’s not going to stay that way for long, because she did rather enjoy it. She feels bad about it, but she definitely did enjoy it all the same. And she’s clever enough and disciplined enough to get away with it, at least for a while, I would guess. The whole murdering thing aside, you’d have to say she’s a good person and that the lives of the people around her, (her sister, her new roommates, her Uncle who’s a Homicide Detective, ooopsie!) would be poorer without her in them. She’s a little reserved at first but once you get to know her she’s warm, clever and interesting. She’s a thinker, a realist and she only really murders people who are kind of dickheads so…

Well yes, it’s murder and clearly that’s not OK and there will have to be a reckoning at some point. But meeting Zoey and following her story through this first volume you can’t help but think that, for the moment at least, the only person who’s in a position to dictate how this all plays out is Zoey herself. She knows what she is doing in every sense of the phrase and watching her come to understand this darkness within herself is far more entertaining and fascinating than a lumbering chainsaw wielding maniac chasing an inexplicably bra-less girl through the woods could ever be. Clever, funny, dark, delicious stuff.

DK

Buy A Voice In The Dark and read the Page 45 review here

Moon Knight vol 1: From Dead s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Warren Ellis & Declan Shalvey.

“What are you supposed to be?”
“I’m the one you see coming.”

Here’s what you need to know about Marc Spector AKA Moon Knight: he’s barking mad. Or at least we thought he was.

Turns out he’s merely brain damaged, his brain colonised by an ancient consciousness with whom he communes late at night. It appears to him as a cobwebbed, skeletal humanoid in the same white suit Spector wears, it’s skull reminiscent of a Plague Doctor with a big beak. Maybe this is a reference to the Benu Bird, I don’t know. Spector believes it’s the Egyptian god Khonshu under whose statue he died before rising again from the dead with four individually functioning personalities to protect travellers in the night – dreamers included.

The storytelling is as efficient and effective as Moon Knight himself: sparse dialogue with the narration left largely to Declan Shalvey using a lot of landscape panels. There are six self-contained chapters, each with a succinct, one word title and a colour scheme of its own heralded by the covers. Green was particularly well deployed. The last is a reversal of the first and so it is inside, following the repercussions of a dismissive discussion in chapter one.

There Ellis swiftly establishes a new aesthetic and modus operandi.

Rather than descend, crescent-caped from a ‘copter, Spector sits sedately in the back of a whit, voice-controlled stretch-limousine, calmly coordinating technology to take him to the scene of a crime. He inspects the scene of that crime. He doesn’t exactly consult with the cops although he does acknowledge their presence. He analyses, deduces and decides on a unilateral plan of action.

He is, in short, a gentleman in a gentleman’s attire, and he will take matters into his own more-than-capable hands with the maximum preparation that’s possible for an impromptu operation with the minimum of fuss.

 

The action is swift, clipped and decisive.

There is something slightly Ditko-esque in Declan Shalvey’s side-stepping, white-suited squire and the way he descends through the city’s strata. Maybe it’s more Dean Mutter’s MISTER X – unlike Mark I never read enough of that. Regardless, I loved the way he strides to the scene, all matter-of-fact and determined, without a care in the world for how he’s perceived, gimp-mask and all. I also loved Jordie Bellaire’s complete disinclination to colour him in costume: it’s pure black and white. Spectral.

The second story starts out using panels in a similar structure to Ray Fawkes’ ONE SOUL and, more recently, THE PEOPLE INSIDE whereby the same panel every page is devoted to a single individual at the same time until each is taken out by a sniper one by one. The panel then disappears leaving a stark, empty space for Ellis to fill with narration, should he be so inclined. He is not.

SLH

Buy Moon Knight vol 1: From Dead s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Jim Henson’s The Musical Monsters Of Turkey Hollow h/c (£18-99, Archaia) by Jim Henson,  Jerry Juhl & Roger Langridge.

Ian Herring’s colours on Langridge’s line-art are a joy.

There’s not a spot of black. The closest you’ll get even at night is a purple, and that’s not as dark as it looks.

As to what he’s done when there’s music in the air, it’s like ten of the most expensive Catherine wheels going off in your living room all at once. Which is not as good an idea as it sounds.

As to the Musical Monsters, they’re an instantly recognisable Jim Henson / Dr. Seuss hybrid: strange, colourful, adorable.

However, if you take a look at the photo Jim Henson took in 1968 in the woods behind his house (reprinted on the inside front cover)… well, it’s quite a surprise. The original puppets Don Sahlin built from Jim Henson’s designs which Jim then posed with his children amongst the undergrowth (it was always going to a be show set outside) are a perfectly camouflaged dark, mossy green. Their eyes are bright and shiny, but their fur is scraggy, scruffy and matted like they’ve all jumped in a stagnant pond and haven’t yet dried off.

Now, I like that look – I love it. But I think it goes some way to explaining why the proposed TV show was never optioned.

As to actual graphic novel, I found it all a bit obvious. Eccentric, loving family – already persecuted by pitchfork-wielding, irascible neighbour Mister Sump who is determined to lay claim to their land – befriends music-loving, rock-munching, non-monstrous monsters which then provide the perfect excuse for Mister Sump to terrorise them further.

 

The gag that did make me laugh early on was the poor man who’s finally finished painting his huge “Welcome To Turkey Hollow” sign (Human Population 28; Turkey Population 3,687). He’s just had to change 28 to 27 and now another truck-load of caged turkeys passes by, either to be released into a farmer’s open enclosure or on their way to the Turkey Burger factory 50 yards up the road.

Take your pick: either up or down, that population just changed substantially.

SLH

Buy Jim Henson’s The Musical Monsters Of Turkey Hollow h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

 Blacksad: Amarillo h/c (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Juan Diaz Canales & Juanjo Guarnido

The Best American Comics 2014 h/c (£18-99, HMH) by various including Jaime Hernandez, Gilbert Hernandez, Charles Burns, Adrian Tomine, R. Crumb, Raina Telegemeier, Fanny Britt, Isabelle Arsenault, Tom Hart, Brandon Graham, Chris Ware, Ron Rege Jr, Michael DeForge, Theo Ellsworth edited by Scott McCloud

Jacques Tardi World War One Box Set: It Was The War Of The Trenches h/c & Goddamn This War! h/c (£29-99, Fantagraphics) by Jacques Tardi with Jean-Pierre Verney

The Motherless Oven (£12-99, SelfMadeHero) by Rob Davis

Costume Quest: Invasion Of The Candy Snatchers h/c (£18-99, Oni Press) by Zac Gorman

Crossed vol 10 s/c (£14-99, Avatar) by Garth Ennis & Christian Zanier

East Of West vol 3: There Is No Us (£10-99, Image) by Jonathan Hickman & Nick Dragotta

Explorer vol 3: The Hidden Doors (£8-50, Amulet) by Kazu Kibuishi, Jason Caffoe, Jen Wang, Faith Erin Hicks, Johanne Matte, Jen Breach, Steve Hamaker, Douglas Holgate

The Goon vol 13: For Want Of Whiskey And Blood (£12-99, Dark Horse) by Eric Powell

In A Glass Grotesquely (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Richard Sala

Regular Show vol 2 s/c (£10-99, Kaboom!) by various

The Unwritten vol 10: War Stories (£10-99, Vertigo) by Mike Carey & Peter Gross, Al Davison

America’s Got Powers s/c (£13-50, Image) by Jonathan Ross & Bryan Hitch

Batman vol 5: Zero Year – Dark City h/c (£18-99, DC) by Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo

Earth 2 vol 3: Battle Cry s/c (£10-99, DC) by James Robinson, Paul Levitz & Nicola Scott, various

Green Arrow vol 5: The Outsiders War s/c (£12-99, DC) by Jeff Lemire & Andrea Sorrentino

Captain Marvel vol 1: Higher, Further, Faster, More s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Kelly Sue DeConnick & David Lopez

Hawkeye vol 3: L.A. Woman s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Matt Fraction & Javier Pulido, Annie Wu

She-Hulk vol 1: Law And Disorder s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Charles Soule & Javier Pulido, Ronald Wimberly

Dragon Ball 3-in-1 Edition vols 16-18 (£9-99, Viz) by Akira Toriyama

Manga Dogs vol 1 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Ema Toyama

Spice & Wolf vol 9 (£9-99, Yen Press) by Isuna Hasekura & Keito Koume

Vinland Saga Book 5 h/c (£16-99, Kodansha) by Makoto Yukimura

News

ITEM! Equality versus Equity – such a clear, clever image brought to my attention by comicbook creator Kate Brown (@autojoy on Twitter).

ITEM! Jamie McKelvie (THE WICKED + THE DIVINE) posted some fan art he’d drawn 10 years ago. Super-sweet!

ITEM! FLUFFY and FLUFFY VISITS PAGE 45 and PLEASE GOD, FIND ME A HUSBAND’s Simone Lia has a revamped website including pages from BAD MOTHER for you to read.

ITEM! ELLERBISMS’ Marc Ellerby visits Page 45 for the first time ever! I was so stoked! Here is Marc Ellerby with John Allison on Page 45’s counter.

ITEM! SelfMadeHero to publish Scott McCloud’s THE SCULPTOR! There’s a link there to some beautiful blue art!

ITEM! Gorgeous roofscape by Ian McQue! Believe it or not, that is a work in progress. Compare it with this interior art from Robert M. Ball’s DARK TIMES below:

ITEM! Well impressed by Salgood Sam’s DREAM LIFE preview pages! Such a lot of work has gone into them. If you too are impressed you can buy the graphic novel in print or digitally by following this link.

ITEM! HOW TO DRAW AWESOME COMIC’s Neill Cameron continued his Comics And Literacy campaign for Young Adults throughout the whole of last week. You can read his final post there with links to the others.

ITEM! Andrew Waugh has a new website: clean, elegant, full of beautiful art.

ITEM! A lot of American Comic Conventions stopped being comic conventions a long time ago, but it’s only getting worse. Here the The Beguiling’s manager and Toronto Comic Arts Festival explains exactly what’s wrong and why these conventions are so wrong for comics.

ITEM! Thankfully The Lakes International Comic Art Festival is ALL about comics. AND IT IS ALMOST UPON US!

ITEM! Glyn Dillon (THE NAO OF BROWN) and Fumio Obata (JUST SO HAPPENS) have an exhibition of original art in The Warehouse Café in Kendal. If you’re up for The Lakes International Comic Art Festival this October, make sure you visit!

ITEM! Page 45 Celebrates its 20th Anniversary on 17th October 2014 at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. So much going on in our very own comicbook-creator-crammed room.

As to my own ticketed talk, The Art Of Selling Comics, it is now in the can!

Which is an odd place to give it, I grant you.

Page 45 Signings Schedule in Georgian Room, Comics Clock Tower

Saturday 18 October 2014:

Main Tables

10am – 12pm   Scott McCloud
2pm – 4pm       Glyn Dillon

Table 1

10am – 2pm      Dan Berry & Kristyna Backzynski
2pm – 6pm        Lizz Lunney & Joe List

Table 2

10am – 2pm      Jack Teagle & Joe Decie
2pm – 6pm        Jade Sarson & Donya Todd

Table 3

10am – 2pm      Sarah McIntyre & Warwick Johnson – Cadwell
2pm – 6pm        Fumio Obata & Dan Berry

Sunday 19 October:

Main Tables

2pm: arrival of 24 hour comic marathon limited edition comics and all creators available

Table 1

10.30am – 2pm     Liz Lunney & Donya Todd
2.30pm – 5pm      Fumio Obata & Joe Decie

Table 2

10.30am – 2pm     Sarah McIntyre & Dan Berry
2.30pm – 5pm      Warwick Johnson Cadwell & Joe List

Table 3

10.30am – 2pm     Jack Teagle & Kristyna Backzynski
2.30pm – 5pm       Jade Sarson & Donya Todd

Please see Page 45 20th Anniversary At The Lakes International Comic Art Festival blog for more details including my own show-and-tells, The Art Of Selling Comics talk, and the Page 45 Booze Bash on Friday 17th October!

- Stephen

P.S. Click on this cover for the coolest comic in town!

 

Reviews October 2014 week one

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

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

 - Stephen on Destination: Kendal by Jonathan Edwards, Felt Mistress, Sean Phillips

Fatale vol 5 Curse The Demon s/c (£10-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips.

The FATALE finale!

Now this is what I call a cover!

Thematically, it hones in on everything this book is about: passion and horror and the latest in a long line of men in thrall to a woman who cannot help herself, knowing he is in thrall yet willingly, ecstatically abandoning himself to her. Their soft bodies yield to each other, Josephine’s on top. All the while the world is being watched for any and all signs of their activity – of Josephine’s in particular – and those awful, burning eyes are staring directly into yours!

The colours are far from obvious, their thrillingly unnatural hues glowing all the stronger for being framed in a crisp, pure white. Combined with the logo, it is a design masterpiece and – haha! – how fortunate are we that Page 45’s shelves are black!

I promise you are in for a Sean Phillips surprise.

Oh, the majority of this volume is executed with the same shadow-intense, deeply troubling twilight you have come to expect, and the same rigorous discipline when it comes to the strict, tiered storytelling. But its climax is exactly that: an orgy of colour and composition as the barriers are broken, the walls between them collapse and all secrets are finally surrendered.

And it is at this precise moment that the most profound tragedy of Josephine’s curse is revealed. Her curse is that almost all men spending any length of time in her company will lose their hearts to Josephine and become emotionally and erotically obsessed. It’s a tragedy I never saw coming.

There’s even more to look forward to: architectural flourishes like San Francisco, 1906, and Otto’s library.

It is, however, the final two pages after such a long journey that are the belters. That face and that mouth and the far-away look in those eyes…

For far, far more on FATALE – on Ed Brubaker’s craft as well as Sean Phillips’ – please see our extensive reviews of the preceding volumes including the FATALE VOL 1 DELUXE H/C where I adapted my original review of its constituent softcovers to better reflect my seemingly spontaneous shop-floor show-and-tells.

Mesmerising.

SLH

Buy Fatale vol 5 Curse The Demon s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Fade Out #1 – second print, first review (£2-75, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips.

“This was just how it was here… something in the air made it easier to believe the lies.”

Los Angeles, 1948.

Hollywoodland, to be precise, where the art of selling lies is its business.

Acting itself is a form of lying – creating the semblance of someone else – but there are also the myths spun to make actors more attractive to their idolatrous fans. Take the profile of dreamboat actor Tyler Graves, concocted by bright publicity girl Dotty Quinn, playing up his years as a ranch hand in Texas.

“Dotty, you’re a riot… I’ve never ridden a horse in my life.”
“I know, I still prefer the first one we came up with…”
“Oh right. I was a mechanic Selznick discovered when he broke down in Palm Springs.”
“It was your own little Cinderella story.”

But there’s a telling line in Posy Simmond’s British classic TAMARA DREWE from the horse’s mouth of successful crime novelist, Nicholas Hardiman:

“I think the real secret of being a writer is learning to be a convincing liar… I mean, that’s what we are: story tellers… liars…”

He should know: he’s a serial philanderer.

 

Screenwriter Charlie Parish is already lying. He’s a good man at heart, though he does like to party, by which I mean he drinks much more than he should. He’s prone to blackouts: not just passing out in the bath – which he did, last night – but to alcohol-induced memory blackouts. He’s not as bad as Gil Mason, the former writer now blacklisted for supposed Communist sympathies. That man is a full-time drunk, a bar-room bore, badgering Bob Hope before being thrown out on the street. Charlie and Gil used to be friends before Charlie shopped him. Now it’s common knowledge that they hate each others guts.

That’s a lie for a start – a dissemblance. For a very good reason.

But this morning Charlie has woken up in one of those little bungalows set up in Studio City to keep people close to the set. The night before is a mystery to him, but there’s a lipstick kiss on the bathroom mirror that reminds him of a smile, the smile leads to a face, and that face belongs to the woman lying dead on the living room floor.

It’s Valeria Sommers, young starlet of the film Charlie’s working on. She’s been strangled while Charlie was sleeping. Slowly, assiduously, Charlie begins to remove all trace of his and anyone else’s presence. But that’s nothing compared to the cover-up the studio’s about to embark on, and it’s going to make Charlie sick to the stomach…

Anyone who’s read CRIMINAL knows of Brubaker’s unparalleled ability to immerse readers in the minds of others and make those minds utterly compelling. Anyone who’s read CRIMINAL VOL 6 knows he’s so good at it that he can make your root for a prospective murderer. You’re certainly going to want Charlie to get away with his role – however circumstantial it may be – in Valeria’s death and his complicity in the subsequent cover-up, even though the studio is going to smear the poor girl’s name.

“He felt sick. Because he knew exactly what they were doing.
“Studios had been covering up murder and rape and everything in between since at least the Roaring Twenties. That’s what men like Brodsky were there for… to prevent scandals.
“And he’d helped them this time. He’d helped them.”

Charlie is yet another man trapped by his own act of fear, plagued by his guilt and about to do something else he knows he really, really shouldn’t…

Oh, and if readers think they will miss the horror of this team’s FATALE, wait until you see what Phillips pulls off for the nightmare.

It’s a period piece, the period being rife with tight-knit nepotism, closed-doors studios and overtly voiced bigotry. Wisely Brubaker has refrained from redacting that. Some people are shits – they just are – and there is such a thing as the non-authorial voice.

It’s very claustrophobic.

And I do believe that THE FADE OUT #2 is released today.

SLH

Buy The Fade Out #1 and read the Page 45 review here

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

There is nothing I love more than mischief.

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

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

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

This too makes me very happy indeed!

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

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

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

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

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

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

This too, from queen of the zines, Zinny:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There: I’ve said it.

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

SLH

Buy Destination: Kendal and read the Page 45 review here

Like A Shark In A Swimming Pool (£6-00, Other A-Z) by Verity Hall –

This is a great little comic: a coming out story, a growing up story and a “some people can be absolutely awful, but others can be really quite great” story. Although told mostly in retrospect the key points, the ones on which the story hinge, hit you as very current, like the whole horrible thing is unfolding on you right now.

School-days drama is captured really well – boozy parties going a bit wrong, best mates transformed into bullies overnight and previously joyous things like favourite lessons and lunchtime hang-outs turned into desperate 45-minute sessions of hiding away in a corner. Even lovely parents, previously seen as protectors and champions suddenly just don’t seem to get it. Thankfully there are the little points of light too – the teacher who just “gets” it, the parents who *do* see what needs to be done and the friends who actually *are* friends, for real.

The art is nice with a blue and purple colour scheme that fits the story very well. There are a couple of truly great “what you look like in your mind’s eye” moments too which are both a bit funny and totally tragic, which is a pretty clever thing to pull off. A really touching, spirited and honest story, well told.

DK

Buy Like A Shark In A Swimming Pool and read the Page 45 review here

Rover Red Charlie (£14-99, Avatar) by Garth Ennis & Michael Dipascale.

“I’m a dog! I’m a dog! I’m a dog!”
“I’m a dog! I’m a dog! I’m a dog!”
“I’m a dog! I’m a dog!”
“I’m a dog! I’m a dog! I’m a dog!!”
“I’m a dog!”

There’s a little more going on in a dog’s brain than that: more they’re communicating to each other, to other animals and to ourselves although we are far too stupid to comprehend what that might be! But when they bark for the sole purpose of barking – of meeting and greeting and delighting in each other’s new-found company or warding off predators or prey – they are expressing this and this only:

“I’m a dog! I’m a dog! I’m a dog!”

Communication at its purest.

From the writer of PREACHER, THE BOYS, CROSSED and HELLBLAZER vols 5 to 8, I have to confess that Ennis has been starting so many so-so series of late only to relinquish them to others, that I had no expectations of this.

I was wrong.

Like Morrison and Quitely’s WE3 it is in part a work which doesn’t reflect well on the way some human beings treat their household pets – that the humans are soon absent from the story altogether, having immolated themselves or each other, makes no difference for their shadow looms long. The dogs may now be free to roam the world untethered and without constantly being pulled back on their leads with a “No!”, but it is very much a world made by human beings for human beings and if you’ve spent your entire life on Manhattan Island being provided for by those whom dogs call “feeders”, you’re going to find much of the wider world a bit of an eye-opener, other elements incomprehensible.

Also in common with WE3, the animals here have not been anthropomorphised. They’re quadrupeds without opposable thumbs and though they communicate, they do so very much from an animal’s perspective, where instinct plays a prominent part. There’s some great use of language: night to a dog is “sun-lie-down”, cats are “hisspots” and all that a chicken thinks is “shit!” A military dog later on has been programmed – sorry, trained – to perform very specific functions and that too is reflected in its priorities and the way it expressed them.

Alan Moore, who in VOICE OF THE FIRE achieved something similar with language and perspective in early man, provides a glowing and informative introduction, including a passage about how difficult such a project is to pull off.

“Most evidently, there’s the risk of cloying sentiment bringing a diabetic sweetness to the work, especially considering the likelihood that anyone attempting such an enterprise is either an admirer or, potentially, an owner of the animal in question. Even were we to presume a high degree of self-control in our imagined wordsmith there are other, far more serious obstacles, foremost among these being Ludwig Wittgenstein’s astute and perhaps insurmountable conclusion that if lions could talk, presumably in our own language, we would nonetheless still be incapable of understanding them. That is to say that the mind of a different species, predicated on a different range of sensory impressions and prerogatives, would be completely alien to our own.”

I’d say Garth Ennis has made a bloody good stab at it! And although there is even more of a risk to the artist than the writer of cute-ifying this to a saccharine extreme, Dipascale doesn’t. There is some slack-jawed lolloping because that’s what dogs do, but there’s also some extraordinary body language in defeat, some deeply upsetting canine carcasses, half-eaten or otherwise.

However, please don’t presume that this is all gloom, doom and Alsatians being bludgeoned to death on car bonnets. There is that: this is, after all a post-apocalyptic scenario similar in more ways than one to CROSSED except that in our madness we have at least had the good grace to rid this poor planet of our toxic, execrable existence. But in spite of this being very much a top-shelf series (please, please do not let your children near it because there will be nightmares and a lot of awkward explaining to do), there are moments of utter hilarity like trying to explain to a Red Setter – the stupidest creature in Christendom, which is why I love them the most – the importance of being smart.

“Eh?”

Nope, nothing going on upstairs whatsoever, just a tongue lolling out.

Charlie’s the bright one, a Border Collie guide-dog for the blind, trained to help humans and so better equipped for this sort of survivalism. But Red is the bravest, instinctively doing what Charlie is trained to, repeatedly saving their skins with his speed and his jaws continually clenched around one thing or another and, when thanked, mumbling with his mouth full, “Azzogay!” (“That’s okay”.)

It’s a comedic refrain which will lead to the single most moving moment in the book.

SLH

Buy Rover Red Charlie and read the Page 45 review here

Ex Machina Book 3 (£14-99, Vertigo) by Brian K. Vaughan & Tony Harris, John Paul Leon.

From the writer of SAGA.

EX MACHINA is a political comedy thriller, highly successful in all three aspects: it’s funny, it’s politically realistic rather than a big wet dream for pinko lefties like me, and it’s tense as hell.

Mitchell Hundred is mayor of New York City, but for some he will always be remembered as The Great Machine, a man who saved one of the Twin Towers from destruction using his ability to communicate with mechanisms. Until now we haven’t known exactly how he managed that; hell, until now we haven’t known where the powers exactly came from. All that changes at this half-way stage, and the signs are ominous.

As Mayor Hundred and his team gear up to tackle New York City’s drug laws – with internal debates as sophisticated as any of those you’ll have seen in that particularly cathartic episode of The West Wing – a woman sitting calmly on City Hall’s steps douses herself in kerosene and sets herself on fire. Is there a connection between that, Hundred’s recent admission to having smoked marijuana* and his earlier failure to get his priorities straight as a jet-packed crime fighter? Meanwhile his power to interact with machines appears to be overloading, and he’s having strange dreams with talking animals in them…

“These plants. They’re marijuana.”
“It’s not about the pot, 100. It’s about the black kettle.”

Threaded throughout is the search for a black male dressed in what looks like an authentic, department-issue fire fighter’s gear, using it to smash his way into apartments, assault and steal, with repercussions as brutal as The Shield’s. And that’s where Hundred’s liberal crusade to marry Wylie’s brother to his boyfriend so publicly comes back to haunt him, because Wiley’s brother is a fire fighter… and black.

“Actually, Mr. Major, I’ve got a pretty tight alibi. I was, uh… I was at a hotel. With another man.”
“When you say “another man,” please tell me you’re talking about your husband. Your lawfully wedded husband.”
“Sir, Bill and I have an… agreement. As long as it’s only physical, and as long as we’re safe and discreet, we trust each other enough to –”
“Jesus Christ, do you think that will mean anything to Middle America after some homophobic asshole in the NYPD leaks this to Limbaugh? You two had a responsibility! You represent fidelity and.. and commitment to millions of people who think that’s something your kind is totally incapable of!”
“”Your kind?”"

See, that’s what I love about this: even its chief protagonist is complex and flawed, and the issues – including the drug ones – will not be easily resolved, however good the intentions.

Now a man in what looks like a sophisticated deep-sea diving suit materialises by the harbour; the city is plunged into darkness as the electricity go out; the machines stop talking to Hundred.

The stranger is here with a warning, but where’s he from? Another planet? Another time? And what does he want with Kremlin, Mitchell’s old friend currently conspiring to sabotage his administration from within?

SLH

Buy Ex Machina Book 3 and read the Page 45 review here

Words For Pictures: The Art And Business Of Writing Comics And Graphic Novels (£16-99, Watson Guptill) by Brian Michael Bendis with friends.

“Inform, Inspire, And Entertain”

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, all education should be entertainment.

I’ve seen so many didactic and dry books on this subject, bludgeoning you with words while forgetting that this – the end product for which you are learning to write – is a visual medium and its audience are comics readers. This is not one of them. This is a highly personalised, engaged and engaging joy.

So much is given over to what the comics pages which have been written by Bendis (and guests Fraction and Brubaker) come to look like and the visual processes they go through in getting there, because it is vital that any writer understands those processes. You are writing for a comics-reading audience, for sure, but your script is a letter to your artist and – if you have one – editor.

“Inform, inspire, and entertain,” Bendis urges. “If your script is clear, precise, and a pleasure to read, you make your collaborator’s lives everything they ever hoped for. If your script is ill-conceived, clumsy, or naïve to the art of the comic book page, then you make artists’ lives a living hell.”

Here Bendis will help you understand the art of the comic book page – and understand your artist – the art of the pitch, the art of the story outline and the art of the full script while emphasising that unlike film scripts, there are no set rules: there is room for flexibility and personality and different working relationships. You will be privy to many, many examples of all three.

Crucially, his business manager – who like Terry Moore’s and Jeff Smith’s happens to be his wife – will also help cure your naivety when it comes to the business side of writing for comics. Because regardless of whether you are writing scripts as work-for-hire for giant corporations like Marvel Entertainment or whether you are self-publishing solo or as a team with an artist, you are also running a business: your writing is your business. And as Brian and Alisa agree, Brian was utterly hopeless at running his writing career as a business.

Fortunately Alisa Bendis has a masters in education and a degree in business and has worked successfully in this specific business for as long as Brian has. I’d take note even if you are working with friends. Mark was my friend: we had a partnership agreement. Jonathan is my friend: we have a partnership agreement. Memories are fallible; contracts are vital. “The trouble starts when the money comes in; so be prepared.”

Joe Quesada’s foreword is full of sage advice, reiterated later by Bendis. It’s not just your talent but your tenacity which will make you a successful comicbook creator. It is the way you deport yourself and your thirst for knowledge. Showing your portfolio isn’t just about trying to secure a gig: the best creators want to learn from the experience in order to improve that portfolio in order to better secure a gig which is potentially a long way down a crowded line. Use your failures to reduce your failures!

As mentioned earlier, the artist’s perspective on a script is vitally important – they’re the ones who are going to be drawing it – so the likes of Bill Sienkiewicz, Sara Pichelli, Klaus Janson, Skottie Young, Mark Bagley, Walt Simonson and Mike Deodato Jr offer their thoughts on the collaborative process: their likes and dislikes. There’s a lengthy conversation been Mack and Maleev, another with Michael Avon Oeming, an Editors’ Roundtable forewarning you about early mistakes and encouraging you on more positive ways to attract attention. Hint: take advice. Hey, seek advice! And, once you’ve got a gig, don’t disappear! Diana Schutz – a phenomenal writer in her own right but also the editor I would want giving me stick while watching my back – gives her invaluable Writer’s Guide To Editors.

Fraction is fascinating on lettering, on trimming the script after Aja’s turned in the art on HAWKEYE (whose individual issues were in any case written in a completely different order to the one they were published in), and there are revelations from Bendis too. Aunt May in ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN? That’s Bendis’ mum!

Finally, Brian’s introduction is an infectious account of his early quest for knowledge during a time when there were no books like these nor seminars nor Tumblr FAQ’s from creators easily accessible online. Some questions kept popping up again by aspiring writers hungry for knowledge, and those are reprinted here – with answers, obviously. We too are asked on a regular basis, “How do I get into comics?” Which is a bit like asking a music store assistant, how do I get a recording contract, except it isn’t. One of the best things about comics is their D.I.Y. aspect: you can create your own with a printer and some staples.

“How do I get into comics?” Make comics! If it’s work at one of the bigger companies you seek, “They will be your calling cards to editors.
“Inform, Inspire, And Entertain”

That’s what Bendis exhorts you to do; that is what he’s done here himself. If I wanted to write for comics, having read this I would no longer be sitting terrified in front of a keyboard, paralysed by what I didn’t know. I’d have a big, broad grin on my face, a twinkle in my eyes, and I would start typing and typing until the writing I saw started to match the ideas in my head.

P.S. “How do I make comics?” See MAKING COMICS by Scott McCloud.

SLH

Buy Words For Pictures: The Art And Business Of Writing Comics And Graphic Novels and read the Page 45 review here

Marvel Masterworks: The Mighty Thor vol 5 (£18-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby.

“How monstrous! That unspeakable creature… is he… a troll?”
“Do not avert thine eyes, beloved! Thou must become accustomed to such sights!”

Or you could block him and move on.

I’ve been on Twitter for four years now and only blocked once. That’s how lovely our sympathisers are. Sorry…? @PageFortyFive, since you ask. Come join the good ship Drunk As Fuck as we sail the stormy seas of look-at-me online onanism. I’m as desperate for affirmation as the next narcissist.

Speaking of love, there comes a time in any relationship which looks like it’s getting serious; when you have to meet the in-laws.

Such is the stuff of comedy for it is a fact, universally acknowledged, that every kind and compassionate soul mate is in possession of parents who are a minefield of hidden neuroses, overt prejudice, or just plain rude. And if you thought Robert DeNiro was difficult, you should meet Odin, Thor’s old man and Asgard’s All-Father. At least, that’s what Thor suggests to his beloved Jane Foster.

“Hey, foxstress, come and meet Pops, he’s an absolute sweetie! He’s only down the road. Well, over the bridge – the Rainbow Bridge that leads to Hallowed Asgard. It’s beyond mortal ken, ye ken.”

It’s also beyond his poor mortal lovely. For within seconds of being led into Odin’s Beardedly Beloved Presence – before a single cup of tea or mug of mead has been poured – The Almighty One lands plain Jane with the gift of “unlimited flight”. Off she shoots o’er rooftops, scared witless.

She’s not given a moment to recover before her prospective All-Father-In-Law sends a minion to summon the dreaded Unknown, a being so terrifying that the Asgardian serf (who’s done little more than bang on a giant tuning fork) needs medical attention for a complete mental breakdown. So what does Odin do? He shoves the frail nurse into a locked room with the stygian soul. And Thor lets him do it!

It’s a test, you see. A bit like DeNiro and the lie detector, only with added instant death. You can imagine the arguments when those two get home!

“Forsooth, Jane Foster, my beloved and betrothed, thou art a scaredy cat indeed!”
“Forsooth my arse, you pig! You wait until I tell my mother!”

Anyway, that’s just one of the godly get-downs on offer for just under two tenners. Also popping their heads over this pantheon’s parapet: globe-guzzling Galactus, The Growing Man (guess what his special power is?), The Destroyer (no clues) and Ego, The Living Planet! It’s a semi-sentient shit-stirrer about the size of a planet, with an ego to match.

Which is where we came in, I believe.

SLH

Buy Marvel Masterworks: The Mighty Thor vol 5 and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

 

Sam & Dave Dig A Hole h/c (£11-99, Walker Books) by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen

Doctors (£12-99, Fantagraphics) by Dash Shaw

Edgar Allen Poe’s Tales Of Death And Dementia h/c (£18-99, Dark Horse) by Edgar Allen Poe & Richard Corben

Fairest vol 4: Of Men And Mice s/c (£10-99, Vertigo) by Marc Andreyko & Shawn McManus

Hip Hop Family Tree Box Set: 1975-1983 (£45-00, Fantagraphics) by Ed Piskor

Jim Henson’s The Musical Monsters Of Turkey Hollow h/c (£18-99, Archaia) by Jim Henson & Roger Langridge

Loverboys h/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Gilbert Hernandez

Mobile Suit Gundam Origin vol 7: Battle Of Loum (£22-50, Random House / Vertical) by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko

Some Comics By Stephen Collins h/c (£12-99, Jonathan Cape) by Stephen Collins

Southern Bastards vol 1: Here Was A Man s/c (£7-50, Image) by Jason Aaron & Jason Latour

Star Cat Book 1 (£7-99, DFC) by James Turner

Sugar Skull h/c (£12-99, Jonathan Cape) by Charles Burns

The Hospital Suite (£16-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by John Porcellino

The Lonesome Go (£29-99, Fantagraphics) by Tim Lane

Batman vol 4: Zero Year – Secret City s/c (£12-99, DC) by Scott Snyder, James Tynioniv & Greg Capullo, Danny Miki, Rafael Albuqu

Injustice Year Two vol 1 h/c (£16-99, DC) by Tom Taylor & Bruno Redondo, various

Wonder Woman vol 4: War s/c (£10-99, DC) by Brian Azzarello & Cliff Chiang, Goran Sudzuka, Tony Akins, Dan Green

Wonder Woman vol 5: Flesh h/c (£18-99, DC) by Brian Azzarello & Cliff Chiang, Goran Sudzuka, Aco

Kick-Ass 3 h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Mark Millar & John Romita Jr.

Moon Knight vol 1: From Dead s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Warren Ellis & Declan Shalvey

One Piece vol 72 (£6-99, Viz) by Eiichiro Oda

Seraph Of The End, Vampire Reign vol 2 (£6-99, Viz) by Takaya Kagami & Yamato Yamamoto

News

ITEM! Neill Cameron is on a kids’ comics crusade. And I love it! Comics And Literacy Part One and Comics And Literacy Part Two. More to follow! Oh yes! Simply click on this for Neill Cameron’s latest blogs

ITEM! We are similarly passionate about young readers’ literacy. Please see Page 45’s Graphic Novels For Schools And Libraries 2014!

ITEM! THE BAD DOCTOR is shooting out here. Everything and anything to do with mental and medical illness is. Haven’t comics come of age! Here THE BAD DOCTOR’s Ian Williams discusses how comics can bridge the language gap between fine art and medicine.

ITEM! Man receives jail sentence for Twitter rape threats. Brilliant! More jail sentences for all rape threats, please!

ITEM! This is not a comic about eating a cat. But you never know with Dakota McFadzean, do you?

ITEM! Finally! Hurrah! CEREBUS full-colour covers bound in a book full of beauty! We really need your pre-orders, please!

It’s not on our website, so please send your pre-orders in via phone (0115 9508045) or email (page45@page45.com).

And if you have no idea what the fuss is about, we have reviewed every single edition of Dave Sim and Gerhard’s CEREBUS, currently on the verge of new printings. Not only is it one of the most powerful works in comics, it is the most substantial: 300 issues beginning, middle and end.

Also, without Dave Sim and Gerhard, there would be no Page 45. Scroll down, do!

- Stephen

Reviews September 2014 week four

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

As for the carnival in ‘Spring’ it is a riot of colour with a real sense of sound, such as I’ve rarely seen outside Paul Peart-Smith’s contribution to NELSON.

 - Stephen on The River.

The River h/c (£15-99, Enchanted Lion Books) by Alessandro Sanna.

A river is in constant flux.

Its very nature and purpose is a journey.

A coalescence of rain fallen from the sky which absorbs still more as it goes, it is its own transport to the sea.

Even its height and its girth ebb and flow. In the sunnier seasons its source may dry up or it may yield itself prematurely to the skies, but that is where the water was heading, inexorably, even via fauna and flora.

This theme of continual migration runs right through the book, a silent sequence of watercolour landscapes structured as a cycle of seasons; I was mildly surprised to see even evaporation alluded to in its quiet, closing moments. But it couldn’t kick off with more of a bang.

That this will be a journey is suggested immediately by the movement on the very first page. As a wild sky erupts and its bruised-berry clouds burst, the last leaves of summer scatter in the squall and birds take flight – as does a dog and its master. Could there be a greater sense of urgency?

 

The horizon disappears behind a curtain of rain while the river’s thin skin is lashed and slashed by the cascade. As we close in on its shattered surface there is a very real sense that the river is swelling. Sure enough the cyclist encounters a long line of locals – a very long line of locals – who seem to be watching and waiting. A second dog chases the first, and the cyclist overtakes cattle on the move, racing past tall, skeletal, Lombardy poplars to find another long line of locals, their silhouettes reflected in the ripples of the ever-rising river. They start shoring up the bank as the cyclist sets off on his last stretch home. Tomorrow it will look very different.

I love a wet brush and I love this cover anchored at the bottom by the same rich, rusty browns which draw your eye higher – along with the title and credit – to the sunken horizon, its partially submerged home, and the lone dog left peering anxiously in from the bow of a boat. Alessandro writes in the back:

“Here the rule of thirds is fundamental if you want to see things as they really are: one-third earth and two-thirds sky. When the river rises, the proportions are reversed.”

These proportions are maintained throughout the graphic novel bar each chapter’s opening full-page flourish, dominated by the endless, open heavens.

The colours are phenomenal. Throughout the opening season (‘Autumn’) I couldn’t get ice-cream associations out of my mind, the vanilla breaking through blackcurrant then blueberry frozen crush. I promise you many more palettes but have restricted the interior art to this one so that others remain a surprise.

 

They’re not obvious, either: ‘Winter’ is uncommonly clement. Sanna reserves the traditional crisp blue for ‘Spring’ with snow-white blossoms budding and puffing on the stark, bare branches. Instead the emphasis is on warmth emanating from within, whether it’s the children crowding at the windows of a school house, smoke rising from chimneys, breath drifting from open mouths or the calf emerging, seemingly white-hot from inside the womb. The overall effect of that stable sequence is like viewing it through a thermal scanner.

As for the carnival in ‘Spring’ it is a riot of colour with a real sense of sound, such as I’ve rarely seen outside Paul Peart-Smith’s contribution to NELSON.

Apparently Alessandro’s own river is The Po in north-eastern Italy but ‘Summer’ here is even more exotic than that – unless African elephants have migrated much further than I thought. The opening flash of colour there is so bright you’ll be reaching for your shades.

It’s an absolute masterpiece – and I rarely write that more than once in five years. It’s fluid and instinctive yet carefully controlled.

And here’s another thing I rarely do: suggest a soundtrack. But after you’ve floated through this a fair few times in silence, I’d heartily recommend David Sylvian’s ‘Gone To Earth’ – the entire album kicking off with ‘Taking The Veil’ whose musical ripples match those painted here perfectly.

SLH

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

Courtney Crumrin vol 6: The Final Spell h/c (£18-99, Oni) by Ted Naifeh.

“They’re the most powerful beings on Earth, and they’re dying of boredom.”

If that doesn’t send a shiver up your spine, then it should.

I’m afraid it’s the end of the road for COURTNEY CRUMRINand Courtney Crumrin herself. I had no idea this would be so severe.

Its origins stretch through the whole of the series, reprising elements and plot points I thought long left-behind, but no. Obviously the last volume’s sheer, severe cliff-hanger must inevitably be played out, but what about the set-up in COURTNEY CRUMRIN VOL 2, eh? And I do mean set-up.

A faction within The Coven Of Mystics has grown weary with the restraints placed on them by Ravanna’s Law, forbidding their witches and warlocks to interfere or mingle with regular folk. Its Council still holds with the law but a council is rarely at rest; there is always a struggle for power.

Meanwhile, time is running out for Great Uncle Aloysius: he’s dying. Sustained only by an elixir withheld by the Council until he returns his niece for what it promises will be a fair trial, he must surely imagine that Courtney will come quietly. She won’t.

Courtney is on the run with her former teacher Calpurnia Crisp, the Council’s marshals mere metres behind. They’re racing round mountain roads, the ocean waves breaking beneath them and they cannot afford to be caught. Calpurnia knows there will be no fair trial and the fate that awaits them is much worse than death: they will be banished, all knowledge of magic and their memories of wielding it erased. They will become hollow shells, ghosts of their former selves, destined only to wonder what on earth could be missing, dimly in the back of their minds. As to Aloysius, Calpurnia knows something few others do, and that changes everything.

Oh my god, girls! Oh my god, guys! When I first realised what [redacted, redacted] was actually showing, my jaw hit the floor. Suffice to say that there is not a second’s preamble; it kicks straight into gear. Rarely have I read a series’ conclusion that wraps everything up not just neatly but nastily with a final confrontation foreshadowed by the words of the hermit Cerridean Olds and the early actions of another who wields far more magic than anyone suspected. If you are as ancient as I am, the words ‘Dark Phoenix’ will mean something. Really mean something, and Naifeh has out-burned John Byrne: if that blistering image swirling in purple above Aloysius isn’t a direct homage then I would be so, so surprised.

 

Ted’s design work has always been delicious. It manifests itself not just in this new full-colour, hardcover incarnation with its silver inks, but in the enemies themselves: the Rawhead And Bloody-Bones of COURTNEY CRUMRIN VOL 2 with which I am always at pains to frighten young readers along with their parents during shop-floor show-and-tells, and here the various skeletal Golems animated by Cerridean.

I love that there are electricity pylons straddling the cliff tops of the introductory breakneck car chase.

But I wondered why the colours were so studiously muted in purples and blues, pale lemon-yellow and deep olive-green. Well, let’s just say that the bright light of day would be a boon to some if deprived for so long of its beauty, yet to others it could be the worst thing in the world.

“Have you ever awoken out of a deep sleep and found yourself in a place you don’t recognise, forgetting for a moment how you got there? Sometimes, when you remember at last, it’s a relief.
“And sometimes it’s not.”

I am so, so sorry.

Still to come: COURTNEY CRUMRIN TALES.

SLH

Buy Courtney Crumrin vol 6: The Final Spell h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Maddy Kettle vol 1: The Adventure Of The Thimblewitch (£10-99, Top Shelf) by Eric Orchard…

Poor old Maddy Kettle, the nasty old Thimblewitch has turned her mummy and daddy into rats! And if that wasn’t enough, now they’ve been kidnapped by some creepy creatures! Looks like it’s up to her to save the day, which is going to involve a very scary and spooky adventure fending off vampire bats and Spider Goblins, with peril and danger lurking at seemingly every turn. It’s a good job she’s not the type of girl who scares easily! She’s going to have some help along the way, though,  from Harry the bear and Silvio the racoon, who are cloud cartographers, and handily enough for a rescue expedition, have a hot air balloon powered by moon gas, the most floatable substance known to man, or indeed bear or racoon.

Aww, this is great fun, and it really is spooky. My three-year-old told me she found it scary after I read it to her, and I think it was the Spider Goblins that did it, because much like Maddy she’s not easily spooked!

 

 

I am fairly certain I have come across Eric Orchard’s artwork somewhere before, I know he has illustrated children’s books though this is his first graphic novel. The artwork, and tone, also reminded me a little bit of Coraline the film (rather than CORALINE the graphic novel) due to Maddy’s disproportionately large head and eyes, which is also a fright-fest for young kids. This isn’t quite so pulse-raising as everyone ends up friends by the conclusion, even the Spider Goblins, but there might be some peeking out from behind little fingers along the way!

JR

Buy Maddy Kettle vol 1: The Adventure Of The Thimblewitch and read the Page 45 review here

The Storyteller: Witches #1 (£2-99, Archaia) by S. M. Vidaurri.

Little about that low-key cover can prepare you for the beauty with its inventive layout, light and colour within.

Fear not, I will show you inside!

Strictly speaking, this is STORYTELLER #1 of 4, but each tale is self-contained, by different and hopefully equally deft storytellers.

This tells of a time long ago when a wild, wooded land was so remote that its king had so far failed to claim it. Its virgin, snow-topped mountain overlooked a village so small that it was self-sustaining and at one with its local habitat. It was in harmony with nature.

“The years fell as quickly and as gracefully as the autumn. And what was once a small town became a city, and a king laid his claim on the forest.”

Specifically he laid claim on the forest’s tallest tree: so tall that its topmost branches were said to catch stars which imbued them with magical properties. The king chopped the tree down to fashion a crown for the day of his son’s coronation. But the tree was much loved by Lord Of The Forest, a tall armoured rabbit who took umbrage.

 

That king already had a daughter much older than his son but, of course – oh, of course! – she was but second in-line to the throne. The princess loved her family but cared not for the court and its mannered pageantry, pomp and dull dealings. She preferred to wander through the forest and was particularly drawn to the sturdy, hollow stump of the tree her father had plundered. It was while loitering, daydreaming there that the princess overheard a curse cast upon the crown and what happened thereafter would change the kingdom forever.

I love a good twist – see Becky Cloonan’s THE MIRE – and have chosen my words very carefully.

There is a lovely lilt to how Vidaurri’s words tumble and often chime, her hand-drawn lettering as much an intimate part of the art as it is in Dame Darcy’s MEATCAKE or Emily Carroll’s THROUGH THE WOODS.

 

She uses the space around each boldly inset panel – often no more than a single panel per page – to further her narration while decorating it with a vaulted ceiling, maybe mountains or mice, oak acorns or red-berried leaves.

The panel borders themselves might be composed as a cloak-clothed woman whose image is mirrored like a knave or queen playing card, or soared over by a majestic white swan.

It’s the sort of playfulness I relish in self-published works but which is then often jettisoned when a “proper” publisher makes claim. Not so here, and for that I applaud both Vidaurri and Archaia itself.

From the creator of IRON, OR THE WAR AFTER.

Spellbound. Enchanted. Enthralled.

SLH

Buy The Storyteller: Witches #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Ikigami The Ultimate Limit vol 10 (£8-99, Viz) by Motoro Mase…

“I never dreamed this day would come. That was probably the last ikigami delivery I will ever make.”

The final volume! As Fujimoto becomes ever more dissatisfied with the National Welfare scheme of randomly selecting one young citizen between the age of 18 and 24 every day and informing them they have a mere 24 hours to live, ostensibly to keep the rest of the population in line, he finally finds the courage to join the shadowy group fighting undercover against this fascist policy. Given it’s Fujimoto’s duty to deliver this news, known as an ikigami or death notice, to the individuals in question, it’s not surprising it’s starting to affect him emotionally. Precisely who dies is decided by a small capsule inserted into every child whilst they were at junior school. One in a thousand capsules will prove fatal but there is no way of knowing in advance who has been given a death sentence.

In choosing to finally listen to his conscience and disseminate secret information he hopes will turn the weight of public opinion against National Welfare, Fujimoto risks everything, for if he is found out, he will be immediately arrested, labelled a thought criminal and disowned by friends and family alike, before being forced to undergo the rather grim thought-reform brainwashing procedure. But realistically, what chance do this tiny group of underground freedom fighters have to smash the system? Seemingly none, until war with a neighbouring state breaks out, changing everything overnight as the authorities reveal what they have always denied, that it is indeed possible to deactivate the capsules.

So for those who chose to be conscripted into the army, the choice is simple: are the odds of surviving on the battlefield better than the one-in-a-thousand lottery of staying at home? Or, if someone is already past the critical cut-off age of 24 they can chose to have a younger family member’s capsule deactivated instead, testing the bonds of family love and loyalty, by seeing who is prepared to risk their lives for their children or younger siblings. This revelation, coupled with the stark fact they are engaged in a war they might well lose, shakes society to its very core. But will Fujimoto even be able to have any further influence on what happens next, as unbeknownst to him the thought police are closing in on finding the leak…

 

I have really enjoyed this series. Most of the previous volumes have followed a set pattern of having Fujimoto deliver two ikigamis and then following the protagonists whilst they live out their final hours, knowing they are going to die, but also that if they commit any crime, their families will subsequently be ostracised by everyone they know, and indeed penalised by not receiving the generous stipend paid to the relatives of those making the ‘ultimate sacrifice’ for their country. Ikigami recipients are expected to die with honour, dignity and decorum of course.

Obviously, given the state of mental turmoil most recipients find themselves in, it doesn’t always work out like that, to say the least. Underpinning those dramas has been the ongoing story of Fujimoto, initially an idealistic believer in the benefits of National Welfare, but gradually having his blindly patriotic certainty eroded as he repeatedly witnesses the traumas and heartbreak caused by the policy. This final volume, after delivering his last ikigami squarely focuses on the nail-bitingly tense conclusion to his story. If you would like to read a series that has some thought-provoking points to make about the world we live in and is also packed with action, this may well appeal.

All IKIGAMI books in stock now!

JR

Buy Ikigami The Ultimate Limit vol 10 and read the Page 45 review here

Time Killers (£9-99, Viz) by Kazue Kato.

Lord, there are a lot of exorcists in Japan, aren’t there? It’s quite the competitive career!

Nor are they wrinkly old God-bothers with round-rimmed spectaclays or fully-fledged men of the cloth. They tend to be sartorially sharp, dashing young dudes with the most enormous weapons for maximum demon-damage or (potentially) shafting their competition.

So it is with the most recent short story in this collection spanning the first ten years of Kazue Kato’s career, spawned from her early notes for what would become BLUE EXORCIST, one of the most resilient titles in the faltering fad that was that sugar-buzz manga. It was a generational thing, and that generation has moved on. Just the sugar-buzz bandits, mind you. I don’t see sales of SUNNY etc declining.

A little more love has been lavished on this, with over a dozen full-colour pages and a contents fold-out flap whose other side reproduces the front- and back-cover spread without words.

It kicks off with ‘The Rabbit And Me’ drawn when Kato was nineteen. Nineteen! Extraordinarily accomplished, there are elements of Otomo which she would swiftly ditch, most clearly discerned in the face and clothes of Shuri Todo. This is a young lad who mercy-killed his own dad, a worn-out street thief wanted for murder, with a sizeable pair of scissors whose handles were bunny ears. Now Shuri’s a killer for hire himself, receiving his contracts half-naked in a public bathhouse, before executing them in goggles and a floppy-eared bunny hat.

The second’s a Western in which an overzealous, tomato-craving bodyguard partnered with an anthropomorphic rabbit is hired to defend vast tomato fields belonging to another (rabbit). The tomatoes are not for eating. They are sacred or something! Apparently Kazue just wanted to draw gigantic tomato fields. Oh, and anthropomorphised rabbits.

She also wanted to draw Indians and horses (Wow! Most artists don’t!) and paint lots of red, so she cakes the next story in blood. She’s definitely driven by what she wants to draw and aimed for “something kitschy” in ‘USABoy’. Mission accomplished! Please find, in gaudy acrylic gouache: candy, flowers, a red-and-white chequered, linoleum floor and a five-year-old boy with a button nose, shiny eyes and big rosy cheeks. Also: a giant rabbit. Rabbits!

‘Nirai’ is a subaquatic dream piece about a drowning man and a beluga-like mermaid, ‘Master And I’ comes with a sudden burst of detail and crazy-paving for panels, while ‘A Maiden’s Prayer’ is rendered in pencils. A girl who’s been left all alone in a frozen, isolated village following the death of her parents determines to find somewhere sunnier and does so.

The End.

SLH

Buy Time Killers and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

 

Bumperhead h/c (£16-50, Drawn & Quarterly) by Gilbert Hernandez

Ex Machina Book 3 (£14-99, Vertigo) by Brian K. Vaughan & Tony Harris, John Paul Leon

Fatale vol 5: Curse The Demon (£10-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips

Revival vol 4: Escape To Wisconsin (£12-99, Image) by Tim Seeley & Mike Norton

Rover Red Charlie (£14-99, Avatar) by Garth Ennis & Michael Dipascale

White Death h/c (£10-99, Image) by Robbie Morrison & Charlie Adlard

The Witcher vol 1 s/c (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Paul Tobin & Joe Querio

Words For Pictures: The Art And Business Of Writing Comics And Graphic Novels (£16-99, Watson Guptill) by Brian Michael Bendis

Harley Quinn: Vengeance Unlimited s/c (£14-99, DC) by A. J. Lieberman & Mike Huddleston, Troy Nixey

Guardians Of The Galaxy vol 2: Angela s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Sara Pichelli, Oliver Coipel

Marvel Masterworks: The Mighty Thor vol 5 (£18-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

Uncanny Avengers vol 4: Avenge The Earth (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Rick Remender & Daniel Acuna

Uncanny X-Men vol 4: Vs. Shield h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Chris Bachalo, Kris Anka

Fairy Tail vol 42 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Lone Wolf And Cub Omnibus vol 6 (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Kazuo Koike & Goseki Kojima

My Little Monster vol 4 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Robico

News

ITEM! I consider myself married to Page 45. In lieu of a boyf, I’m in a loving relationship with a semi-sentient shop and its entire customer base! It’s a monogamous relationship, and Page 45 has never been unfaithful nor let me down.

However, someone has recently – I kid you not! – actually married comics.

ITEM! FUN HOME’s Alison Bechdel wins award, rakes in moolah and announces her new graphic novel about her obsession with fitness fads!

ITEM! Alan Moore announces most unlikely comic yet: CROSSED +100! As in this CROSSED series, yes! Good grief! Well, I guess Alan Moore did write the Lovecraftian NEONOMICON. Brrrrr.

Famously, Alan Moore left comics many years ago. I know this because strangers tell me that with complete authority on a weekly basis. Funny how many new comics and graphic novels Alan has released over the last five or six years.

ITEM! Matt Wilson, colour artist on THE WICKED + THE DIVINE reveals #4’s mural credit. (Swoon!)

ITEM! Neill Cameron’s comicbook-creating workshops for schools and libraries!

ITEM! Niche, I know, but if you ever wonder why I cry when trying to complete the monthly PREVIEWS order form, here is Hibbs of Comix Experience and he doesn’t even mention all those wretched variant covers. Thank God we are primarily what Neil Gaiman called a graphic novel shop. For monthly comics, please help us to help you by setting up a Standing Order pull-list at Page 45, reserving the titles you want.

ITEM! So funny! Tom Gauld’s latest comic strip for the Guardian on literary awards!

ITEM! New TV series Gotham is imminent. If that takes your fancy Brubaker, Rucka & Lark’s GOTHAM CENTRAL was the finest ever on-going DC superhero series. Whilst it was going on, anyway. Four books in total, all out and in stock – that link in capital letters takes you to our review of book one with interior art.

ITEM! Bryan Lee O’Malley convention sketch: SCOTT and SECONDS!

ITEM! The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014 launches with Scott McCloud’s talk The Magic Of Comics! Here’s an idea of how much of a coup that is: the creator has 350,000 followers on Twitter. If you click on “creators” each is linked to the talks and workshops they’ll be giving, or try the gorgeous Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014 programme!

ITEM! Alex Valente reveals Creator Signings Timetable for Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014! Zoom in and click through – all of ours in the Georgian Room are there!

Not long now. Eeeeeeeeep!

- Stephen

Reviews September 2014 week three

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

I.N.J. Culbard has kindly agreed to sketch in all pre-orders for H.P. Lovecraft’s DREAM QUEST OF THE UNKNOWN KADATH placed with Page 45. (Due mid-November).

 - Stephen digressing from Abnett & Culbard’s Wild’s End #1

An Age Of License: A Travelogue (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Lucy Knisley…

“2011 was a year of travel! Through coincidence, work, and luck, I was offered opportunities to take trips. I took as many as possible. Recovering from heartbreak, I was determined to spend my travels having adventures and being a free agent.
“Some trips are more than distance travelled in miles. Sometimes travel can show us how our life is… or give us a glimpse of how it can be…”

I do love a good travelogue! Here Lucy Knisley stretches her wings and heads to Europe in search of adventure, and perhaps a little romance. Well actually there’s definitely going to be romance as she knows she’s meeting up with a boy called Henrik in Sweden, whom she recently made the acquaintance of at a fancy dress party in her home town of New York and was instantly smitten. Combined with a comics convention in Norway that she’s been invited to as a guest of honour, stops in glamorous cities like Berlin and Paris, plus a road trip to meet up with her mother and some of her friends who are housesitting in rural France, it sounds like the perfect cure for a broken heart.

She’s nervous about her trip, though, both in the practical and emotional sense, leaving her apartment, and cat, in the care of her recently exed boyfriend. They’re still good friends, but it seemingly leaves her unsure of whether she’s moving on or perhaps holding on. Sounds like she needs a holiday!

 

Cue much sight-seeing and smooching as she takes in some European culture, and allows herself to fall in love at least a little, as readers will with her. She’s honest and heartfelt about her emotions without being remotely angst-laden or schmaltzy. Fans of Lucy’s previous work FRENCH MILK will undoubtedly see the leaps and bounds she has made in terms of her storytelling and art, whilst refreshing our mental palettes for the obvious passion she has for her cuisine and gourmet ingredients, also amply displayed in her most recent previous work RELISH.

JR

Buy An Age Of License: A Travelogue and read the Page 45 review here

The Wrenchies (£14-99, First Second) by Farel Dalrymple.

“In this doom only children come and go listening to illegal radios.”

Crikey.

This is akin to a nightmare Never Never Land, a dystopian future in which only the children remain.

Those few who survive long enough to come of age are picked off, one by one, then absorbed by the suit-and-tied Shadowsmen. It’s how they reproduce.

The wastelands go on forever. The entire world is one great big landfill of garbage and trash, scavenged by feral gangs under constant assault from zombies, vermin, rabid dogs and the Night Creepers. If you slash off their heads, be sure to stamp on the swarms of green-sputum-spitting flies which loiter within bearing messages implying that The Wrenchies are next.

The very air is toxic and corrosive to body and mind, sapping hope, debilitating will and swarming with that which is rotten and putrescent. Entropy increases, things fall apart, and all that is left is dour determination and youthful grit. A catapult in hand and a voice calling out on the radio.

The Wrenchies are one such gang of girls and boys, holed up in their pretty neat bunker and subsisting as best they can. Boy, can they scrap! Armed with rocks, knives, catapults and baseball bats, they and their blue wolf Murmur fearlessly defend their territory from the ever-encroaching hoards.  They took their name from a comicbook written and drawn by one Sherwood Presley Breadcoat featuring adult adventurers in equally dire straits. And, advised by the solemn and ancient grey giant known as The Scientist, before long their own quest begins to read like a comicbook written like a daydream of children at play.

 

Back in an urban world more familiar to us with comics and Sunday school and bullies on every street corner, Hollis – a paunchy boy with a penchant for dressing up as a crimson superhero – struggles with what he worries is bad behaviour displeasing to God and obsesses about the safety of his soul. He fantasies about having friends but makes do with a silent ghost only he can see which seems to spend an awful lot of time in the open-plan apartment opposite Hollis’ where Sherwood Presley Breadcoat resides, drawing comics.

When he was ten Sherwood Presley Breadcoat and his younger brother Orson entered what they considered a cave. It was actually a vast industrial pipeline as big as a boy. At its entrance crows – the majority of them dead as doornails, flat on their backs, claws reaching from the skies they should never have flown down from – stalked about the detritus, disinclined to scatter as the two boys approached.

“The cave changed us. Made us. The cave cost us.
“I tried, but couldn’t close my eyes.
“We weren’t supposed to go in there. We never should have entered the shadows.
“Something left a back door open.”

As I say, crikey. We haven’t even touched on adult Sherwood’s drunken self-loathing.

“Jesus, I really have no idea what I’m doing. Nobody does. Some of us are just better at faking it.”

This dense, 300-page graphic novel with its complex, intertwined threads sewn together then spooling out madly, took me ages to absorb. You could write a dissertation on it, but I don’t have time and neither do you.

The detail is staggering, from the contemporary tenemenents with their iron fire escapes to the sprawling, apocalyptic trash heap of the future. There are elaborate cross-sections of those apartments, of The Wrenchies’ HQ and Olweyez’s “Hole” of silos and ducts and The Scientist’s Lair is a subterranean warren of wonder including a big but botched attempt at horticulture.

The colours are earthern and blood-caked and angry as anything at the drug-addled nightclub, with enough snot-green to make you feel queasy: if you have an aversion to flies you’ll find it amplified exponentially here.

The Wrenchies’ behaviour as a gang – their levels of respect and appreciation for talent – is as acutely observed as Taiyo Matsumoto’s SUNNY and TEKKON KINKREET, and I loved how Olweyez began to bore them with babbling until flashing in front of them a drawing dashed out before their eyes. Altogether:

“Ooooooh, COOL!”

Everyone loves an artist, right?

SLH

Buy The Wrenchies and read the Page 45 review here

Shoplifter h/c (£14-99, Pantheon) by Michael Cho…

“Ok, people. It’s new and it’s in 30 days. Thoughts?”
Hot. Nine to twelves is a great place to expand their brand. That segment is really opening up. I can get Liz at ChildLike to put together a focus. We’ll get specifics.”
“Right. And parents are a non-starter here. Obviously we’re doing placements, but how many blocks are we talking about? kTV? Street teams? I’d do games but that’s still iffy with girls. Print?”
“Print is dead. And TV is dead. I say we keep building something viral. We’ve been having some fun with Twitter later. But we need a new meme. A new story.”
“Corrina?”
“How about “Daddy says I smell special?”

“It’s perfume. For little girls. For little nine-year-girls.”

“Well, that was a bit awkward.”

Ha ha, advertising people. I’ve always had the strange feeling with the few I’ve met that they’ve sold so much bullshit to so many people, they’ve actually started to believe their own hype, in that they are a vital cog in improving people’s lives by bringing to their attention things people absolutely need to feel happy and fulfilled. Deep down, I’m sure they probably know that’s absolute nonsense, but if they admit it to themselves, well then how can they keep up the whole charade of what they do, pushing endless inanity to other people?

And so it is with Corrina Park… With a degree in English literature she always imagined that her first job at an advertising agency was merely to get some life experience and pay off her student debts before moving onto her dream career as a successful novelist. Five years later and she’s in a rut, both professionally and personally, and it’s becoming rather apparent to those around her. Her one outlet, to make herself feel at least a little alive, is shoplifting from her local convenience store. Nothing large, just the odd magazine here and there. She’s knows it wrong, but she manages to justify to herself regardless.

The shoplifting element is merely an aside to this work, as it happens, though it does contribute a pivotal moment when her pilfering is finally discovered. What this really is about is being at a crossroads in life, and having the mental strength to make the correct decisions that will keep you moving forward emotionally, rather than merely treading water and stagnating unhappily. Which is something everyone will be able to relate to, I’m sure. You’ll find yourself rooting for Corrina as she struggles with the difficult decision of whether to give up the apparent safety net of a secure if unfulfilling job, to pursue her dreams.

 

 

It’s certainly impressive writing from Michael Cho, but the art is even more so. If you’re a fan of Darwyn PARKER Cooke, the comparison will be immediately evident, even down to the use of a single colour alongside black for shading. Though whereas Darwyn usually picks blue or brown to provide an appropriately pulpy noir feel, Michael has gone for a pastel pink that is just perfect for this work, which is obviously completely different in tone to Cooke’s crime joints. From the endless bustle of the big city to the silent, lonesome box of Corrina’s apartment, the art is awash with exquisite detail. A genuinely uplifting read which I enjoyed immensely from start to finish.

JR

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

Wild’s End #1 of 6 (£2-99, Boom! Studios) by Dan Abnett & I.N.J. Culbard.

Surely there must be someone out there as dim as me who didn’t cotton onto the titular pun in Abnett and Culbard’s THE NEW DEADWARDIANS (“The Nude Edwardians”)?

Culbard had to tell me himself.

Which was embarrassing.

While we speak of the prolific craftsman known as Nottingham’s I.N.J. Culbard, the man has kindly agreed not only to sign but to sketch in all pre-orders of his forthcoming adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s DREAM QUEST OF THE UNKNOWN KADATH placed with Page 45. (Actually due mid-November.) Ian’s in so much demand that he cannot find time to hit the American comicbook convention circuit but, since we ship worldwide, this would be the perfect opportunity for those on t’other side of the pond to get a free sketch.

End of blatantly self-serving Public Service Announcement.

Abnett & Culbard seem to have a thing for alien invasion at the moment. In DARK AGES #1 and DARK AGES #2 (both still in stock at the time of typing, #1 reviewed with interior art) a cadre of 14th Century mercenaries were wishing for war and got what they wanted. Whoops.

Its alien invasion aside, this couldn’t be more different.

The leafy, tranquil and idyllic English country village of Lower Crowchurch is planning its annual fête over a few pints down the King’s Arms. Judging by the open-topped motor cars parked up outside, we’re looking at the early or mid-1930s. The wobbly-necked solicitor Gilbert Arrant is a shoe-in for the committee chair again. A natural leader, he’s confident, encouraging, forward-thinking and assertive without being overbearing. His good friend Peter Minks, a journalist for the local paper with his hat permanently set at a jaunty old angle, will be in charge of the tombola.

“That’s right, so bring along all your donations to me. Nice prizes, please. Not a lucky horseshoe again, Frank.”
“It were a lucky horseshoe!”
“Not for the winner it wasn’t.”

Monocled Squire Umbleton will be demonstrating his revolutionary new agricultural engine which runs on diesel combustion, and of course there will be all the traditional competitions for cakes, jams, vegetables, flower arrangements, arts and crafts and possibly farm animals.

Joining them this year is retired old seadog Mr Clive Slipaway who has just moved in to Journey’s End thatched country cottage and is giving its door and windows a fresh lick of nautical navy-blue paint. He appears reserved, even wary, reluctant to engage, but agrees to provide target practice with straw bales, tin targets and pellet guns. Nothing too dangerous, anyway…

Unfortunately for everyone danger is heading their way, regardless. I suspect you’ll have taken note of the cover.

The night before Fawkes and chum Bodie saw a falling star crash to earth on the other side of Hightop. He gate-crashes the committee meeting to warn his fellow villages, claiming it killed Bodie, burned up in a fierce flash of light. Unfortunately Fawkes is a fox who’s cried wolf way too often whilst under the influence, and only Slipaway gives credence to his cry for help.

“I’ve — I’ve seen enough young men gripped in terror to know what genuine fear looks like.”

As Arrant, Minks and Slipaway set off to investigate, something stirs at Shortmile End and heads for Mrs. Swagger’s cottage.

It’s all very Doctor Who. I’m thinking specifically of Spearhead From Space, John Pertwee’s first episode, with an element of Christopher Eccleston’s second. Except, of course, this is anthropomorphics – I haven’t mentioned that yet, have I?

It is, however, quite different from any anthropomorphic comic I’ve seen before. Compared to the likes of GRANDVILLE and BLACKSAD this looks far more like a children’s story book with bright colours, bold, clean lines and shapes, and a map at the back which has aged at the edges. It has that magical, fairy-tale aspect of Alice In Wonderland, the protagonists looking like actors who’ve donned oversized animal heads as they might for a pantomime. Whereas most anthropomorphic characters come with bright, shiny eyes, here – Fawkesie aside, wide-eyed in terror – the old ‘uns eyes are almost closed under the glare of the summer sunshine, giving them a terrific sense of age. When Gilbert’s do open a little indoors they have a fantastical sense of otherness.

Gilbert’s body language is exquisite, delicate, his hands afloat, fingers crossed or gently caressing his chin. Peter’s more of a cheeky chappy while Clive is doleful, heavy and tired with saggy jowls. The one time he becomes animated enough to exert his undoubted physical strength and authority, you can just about see his lower teeth bared to intimidate. It’s masterfully drawn.

It’s also very, very English. Not British – specifically English – with a fabulous sense of both time and space.

SLH

Buy Wild’s End #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Stumptown (vol 3) #1 (£2-99, Oni) by Greg Rucka & Justin Greenwood…

From the writer of LAZARUS. Brits: for flop, read “dive”.

“That was a total flop. You saw the way she was holding me?”
“Oh, I saw it… Now I’m wondering when you’ll finally get over yourself and ask her out?”
“Fuck you.”
“Hot sweaty bodies colliding roughly… if it’s not love, it’s lust, admit it.”
“She’s from Seattle. I do not date Flounders. The way you let her score on you, you’re one to talk.”
“That sounds like jealousy to me.”

P.I. Dex Parios returns, and in a football-related story to boot! Sorry, couldn’t resist that one, I’ll give myself a stern talking to, and a yellow card…

Ah, I really wish Rucka would make this an ongoing series, his characterisation and dialogue are superb. This time around, after the frankly odd artwork of STUMPTOWN VOL 2 which felt like an increasingly surrealist experiment (STUMPTOWN VOL 1’s art by the same artist was tremendous strangely enough), he’s also got an artist to match his talents in Justin Greenwood, currently also illustrating Antony Johnston’s THE FUSE.

This case opens with Dex playing in goal against the lovely ladies of Seattle Muddy Balls. Still, her team is called Reál Pain, which isn’t much better frankly, but considerably more classy than FC Vagisil, which was the name of my friend’s Sunday league team for a number of years… But, as Dex has to point out to her teammate Hoffman, it’s just a game. Hoffman, in the vein of Shankly, disagrees vehemently, and if you know the rest of Bill’s famous quote you might have half an idea where things are going…

After her kickabout, Dex is off to take her younger brother Ansell to the Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Flounders local derby. It’s a fiery affair to be sure, as much off the pitch as on it, I hadn’t realised Americans soccer crowds had become so skilled in the art of verbally abusing the opposition supporters. It quite took me back to my own salad days of terrace serenading. Issue one concludes with Dex’s friend Mike being found near the stadium, having taking a serious beating. On the face of it, it’s a simple case of hooliganism, but I’m sure there’s much more to it than that.

I really feel like Rucka is back on track with the emotional elements again after STUMPTOWN VOLUME TWO where I can’t say I really warmed to anyone, and Dex herself felt somewhat peripheral to the main action. Dex and her brother are key components of what makes this title so interesting so I’m pleased the focus, for this first issue at least, is squarely on them.

I am also extremely happy Justin Greenwood is on board for this arc. It’s exactly what this title required art-wise to bring it back to the forefront of crime comics. Clearly they’ve decided to go for less gritty and more colourful, but Justin’s style still adds a hard-nosed edge to proceedings.

JR

Buy Stumptown (vol 3) #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Y – The Last Man Book 1 (£14-99, Vertigo) by Brian K. Vaughan & Pia Guerra.

From the writer of EX MACHINA, SAGA and PRIDE OF BAGHDAD, this new edition reprints the first two softcovers.

Gripping premise in which everyone on the planet in possession of a Y chromosome haemorrhages in an instant. Think about that – Vaughan certainly has.

“495 of the Fortune 500 CEOs are now dead, as are 99% of the world’s landowners. In the US alone, more than 95% of all commercial pilots, truck drivers, and ship captains died… as did 92% of violent felons. Internationally, 99% of all mechanics, electricians, and construction workers are now deceased… though 51% of the planet’s agricultural labour force is still alive..”

Then there’s the religious and governmental significance of this sudden shift in power. Oh yes, and the military. Planes drop out of the sky; the fields, cities, roads and oceans are full of corpses. And although this is itself a damning indictment of the current state of gender play, if you think that the world would be a more peaceful place with women in charge, this series soon puts paid to that. Amazon cults emerge, severing their left breasts, seducing the impressionable and imposing their own bigoted militancy on others. Others wrestle for power, and it’s up to one agent and a lone scientist to escort the sole surviving males – escape artist Yorick and his pet monkey – to a laboratory where the doctor was working on an illegal process she suspects had something to do with the catastrophe when she tried to give birth to her own clone.

An earlier work than EX MACHINA, SAGA or even PRIDE OF BAGHDAD, although some of the dialogue reeks of exposition in the first half, I can assure you it improves swiftly and dramatically, plus Vaughan follows up on more repercussions than so many would have thought of.

The pace of the plot – the twists and the turns – constantly kept me on my toes, and Vaughan really knows when to slip those surprises in. He also threw characters down some unexpectedly dark dead ends, including the protagonist’s sister, and here introduced a town whose inhabitants share a secret they cannot afford to divulge.

Then there’s the matter of a space station, manned when disaster struck but unable to make a safe re-entry. Did the dudes drop dead there? Toss in international espionage, a missing girlfriend and a mother at the top of a precarious political ladder and you have a recipe for ramifications it took Brian K. Vaughan 75 issues to cook through.

SLH

Buy Y – The Last Man Book 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Legal Drug Omnibus (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Clamp ~

On the cover you’ll see this book has a “suspicious” leaf motif; on the back, a green and white pill. Why?

Kazahaya Kudo works at Green Drug pharmacy with a tall moody feller called Rikuo and their boss, Kakei. Kakei took them both off the streets, gave them a place (the storeroom) and now they earn their keep filling shelves and sweeping up. Or at least that’s how it seems to outside world. When the doors at Green Drug close, Kazahaya and Rikuo really start to pay the rent. By going on secret paranormal missions for their boss and filling out prescriptions for people with “special ailments”. Things that cannot be cured with conventional medicine.

Oh! The two young bucks have strange, psychic powers too, which kind of helps. Although the plot seems kinda throwaway (which they often do), CLAMP have a great knack of leaving things unsaid or unexplained. Like the guys’ powers, the origins of which will probably be explained later on. With much dramatic posturing and a flurry of multiple close-ups/speedlines. Or the fact that almost all the male characters are gay. Which isn’t an issue, so there’s no prolonged thoughtful insights into what it is to be gay, because only groups of straight men do that.

You might want to check out TOKYO BABYLON as well on that score.

I love the design with this book, lots of nice green on black. The suspicious leaf motif from the logo pops up again throughout.

TR

Buy Legal Drug Omnibus and read the Page 45 review here

Cyanide & Happiness vol 3: Punching Zoo s/c (£10-99, Boom! Box) by Kris, Rob, Matt, Dave.

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.

I love it.

Short strips merrily defiling innocence on the internet with thirty additional episodes here deemed too way awful for such webular exposure* plus The Hot Date dinner disaster chews-your-own-adventure story.

Instinctively I turned to Page 45 – and you should too, for all your comicbook cravings – and what I found there was so appallingly that I sobbed with laughter:

“You’ll be a big movie star, baby! I see Oscars and Tonys in your future!”
“Where do I sign?”

… he cries gleefully. Later:

“Okay, Oscar and Tony, you’re up!”

I could not possibly even imply the punchline, but infer what you will. The look on the poor lad’s face as he contemplates the nature of niche markets…

Its closest comparison point is the PERRY BIBLE FELLOWSHIP ALMANACK which also straddles the fine line at times between that which is inarguably either spot-on observation of some humans’ nature or the most wittily rendered, left-field expression of a very real phenomenon and that which should perhaps have been left on the cutting-room floor. See also Ivan Brunetti’s HO! If you’ve the stomach for it.

* I am not even kidding you.

SLH

Buy Cyanide & Happiness vol 3: Punching Zoo s/c and read the Page 45 review here

BPRD Hell On Earth vol 9 – Reign Of Black Flame (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi & James Harren…

So, just when think I can’t enjoy this title even more, it steps up the action and drama even further. Quick recap… the world has quite literally gone to hell in a badly woven handbasket following the events of the PLAGUE OF FROGS and subsequent spawning of huge Ctthulu-esque creatures, reducing pretty much every city in the world to slimy rubble.

Amidst the chaos, even darker forces seek to control what remains on behalf of the Ogdru Jahad, those seven entities with designs on our reality who lie beyond our space and time. For now… In New York City, the returned Black Flame, assisted by the ever-helpful Nazi remnants has complete control, reducing what remains of the city’s population to slaves. The BPRD doesn’t know what is going on within the confines of the city due to a strange electronic blackout preventing all communications and surveillance.

Thus, two teams, headed up by the bodiless Johann and resident pyrokinetic Liz Sherman, including various Russian elements from their own BPRD equivalent, are dispatched to reconnoitre and return with hard intel, without confronting the enemy. A simple in-and-out mission right…? Well, it certainly doesn’t help when people won’t follow orders. Still, that always was Liz’s strong suit, not listening to authority. Cue one spectacular conflagration when she confronts the Black Flame…

 

JR

Buy BPRD Hell On Earth vol 9 – Reign Of Black Flame and read the Page 45 review here

Forever Evil h/c (£18-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & David Finch…

It is a little known fact that, for a number of years, my nickname amongst the circle of my oldest friends was “evil Rigby” for, well, a variety of reasons that I need not elaborate on here. Said behaviour was nothing too untoward, I should add, hence the non-capital ‘e’. Why I felt the need to share that I have no idea.

Anyway… there is a world within the DC Multiverse where those who are good in our reality, are evil in theirs… Thus instead of a Justice League there is the Crime Syndicate containing twisted, villainous versions of all our heroes, who have managed to kill all the heroes of their world and take over the planet. They are probably Evil with a capital ‘E’, therefore.

However, something considerably more powerful than even them has destroyed their world, forcing them to seek another to conquer… ours.

So, this was DC’s big summer event, written by Geoff BLACKEST NIGHT Johns, and it was pretty decent, actually. There were a few clever tricks and switches amidst the usual over-the-top set-piece melees, not least being that Lex Luthor has decided he wants to play hero and be a member of the Justice League. Oh, and he’s worked out who Batman really is. Not that Luthor’s entirely on the straight and narrow, obviously, his ego just likes the idea that they can’t save the world without him.

If you fancy a bit of capes and tights of the DC flavour going at it with everything including the kitchen sink, this will do nicely.

JR

Buy and read the Page 45 review here

Winter Soldier Brubaker Complete Collection s/c (£22-50, Marvel) by Ed Brubaker & Butch Guice, Michael Lark.

“Your memorial starts in an hour. You planning on attending?”
“Ha. No… Just do me justice… And make sure all the girls are cryin’.”

Shadows and light. Like the weather itself – rain, sleet and snow at midnight – the colouring by Bettie Breitweiser is beautifully bleak: an erosion of Butch Guice’s phenomenal form and action so frantic that it’s like being tossed into the firefight yourself. Rarely do I rave so vocally about the colouring in a Marvel comic but it’s both brave and bold and works perfectly in what is essentially another espionage thriller by Brubaker who’s going out with a bang at Marvel, on his fiercest form there since the first three years of CAPTAIN AMERICA itself. And as an espionage action-thriller co-starring Nick Fury, there are apposite explosions of Jim Steranko and Gene Colan throughout – you really can’t miss them. A joy.

Following the catastrophic events in FEAR ITSELF, what’s left of the world is mourning for Bucky Barnes who fell on the frontline. For many years Steve Rogers’ best friend was thought dead, lost after a plane disaster in WWII, although in truth Barnes had been captured by the Russians, cryogenically frozen and brainwashed into becoming the Winter Soldier, their occasional stealth assassin during the Cold War. Thankfully he broke his conditioning and went on to sub for Steve Rogers as Captain America until being set up and exposed by Zemo for his Cold War crimes then sold out by elements in the US government to Russia. When he died on the battlefield of FEAR ITSELF, Bucky Barnes was still a wanted man.

Now: the report of Bucky’s death was an exaggeration. Nick Fury and Natasha Romanov, the Russian superspy codenamed Black Widow, conspired to save Bucky using an almost depleted source only at Nick’s disposal whilst covering up his survival. What did they use for a corpse? Oh, come on, you know your S.H.I.E.L.D. history! So that takes care of the international hunt for Bucky as fugitive. Only question is… who’s going to tell Steve?

Barnes and Romanov are now free to embark on a series of necessarily covert stealth missions to track down the three other Russian Sleepers that have since been shipped in stasis tubes to US soil. So far they’ve arrived just in time to be too late, finding the stasis tubes empty. And so desperate have they been to prevent the acquisition then activation of the Sleeper Agents, they’ve charged in too fast to take in the details: who they’re up against and the true identity of their opponents’ target.

The target is Victor Von Doom Esq, but the assassins have so far only used enough firepower to make Doom angry. To what end…? All will become a great deal clearer when you discover what else was bought alongside the acquisition codes. Oh yes, and who bought them.

This is slick as slick can be, with beautifully balanced banter between Barnes and Romanov. That they are lovers and equals makes for a different dynamic both in the field and in bed. Add in Natasha’s permanently arched eyebrow and you’re in for a treat. Doom too is the source of much mirth, and there was one panel in which he masked a certain degree of fretful guilt which I swear looks like it was drawn by SCOTT PILGRIM’s Bryan Lee O’Malley.

Of the second slice here, I wrote:

More exceptional, high-octane espionage action with one hell of a cliffhanger I never saw coming. I never see anything coming, do I? I shouldn’t be allowed to drive. Or cross the street.

Previously in WINTER SOLDIER VOL 1: two ex-Soviet sleeper agents, trained during the Cold War by a brainwashed Bucky Barnes then bought and brought to America, came close to starting World War Three. Two of them – and there were supposed to be three. Why didn’t the third one show?

The answer lies buried under San Francisco in an underground bunker where our Winter Soldier finds the shattered remains of that third sleeper agent’s cryogenic stasis tube. The whole place has been crushed. It’s as if a bomb went off or… when was the last time the San Andreas Belt shifted? Twelve years ago there was an earthquake and, as the saying goes, it woke the giant up. Unfortunately there was no one on hand to administer the reorientating drugs necessary for a successful resurrection or help acclimatise the walking, talking weapon of mass destruction as to where, when or who he was. He staggered naked to the surface, a lethal blank slate. So what’s he been doing for twelve years?

The central cast of S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Sitwell, Natasha Romanov (the Black Widow) and Bucky Barnes himself are so well played. And I mean that in both senses of the word for, without giving the game away, the Winter Soldier isn’t the only one who’s spent many years in Russia. Natasha comes with her own insider knowledge, set of skills and experience. And they’re very much in demand.

Of the third and final chapter:

“I like the rain… The way it sounds on the umbrella… The way the air feels.”

With which Ed Brubaker’s triumphant, epic stint on the world of CAPTAIN AMERICA which began with CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER comes to a devastating end. There are things worse than death, you know, and this is one of worst I can imagine. It is not what you think, no.

Butch Guice has been on blistering form with the mood-esque atmosphere enhanced no end by colour artist Bettie Breiweiser who made some very brave choices in volume one which paid off to perfection. Here they are better than ever, with rain that will soak you to your tear-stained skin and, boy, there are some neat Gene Colan riffs! Perfectly apposite as you will see, but I will not tell you why.

I have to be very careful what I type here so as not to spoil those books – particularly the second one – however…

“Here’s the thing about being under mind-control, the part nobody talks about… That you’re still in there… Some small piece‘a you is awake… watching. Like bein’ a passenger in your own body. You struggle to break free… but you lose… Over and over again… you lose… And it makes whatever you’re forced to do that much worse…”

Oh dear.

SLH

Buy Winter Soldier Brubaker Complete Collection s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Regular Show vol 1 s/c (£10-99, Kaboom) by various…

You know who else reads comics? MY MOM!

It’s true, actually, though probably not REGULAR SHOW. I would imagine it might fall into the ‘too weird’ category. Fans of the show will undoubtedly recognise the long-standing joke, repeatedly exhorted by Muscle Man to the increasing irritation of all the other crazy characters: Rigby, Mordecai, Benson, Skips, Pops and High Five Ghost, who are a bizarre mixture of animals, humans and even someone with a gumball machine for a head, who all live and work in a park. Where very, very strange things happen. A lot.

Obviously, I love comics. I have to say, though, I don’t fully understand the need to produce comic versions of cartoons, the blatantly apparent fiscal and cross-platform marketing benefits aside. To me, when comics and indeed prose books are converted to films or television shows, often much is left out and the adaptations are a pale imitation. I tend to find with cartoons being converted to comics that the same is equally true. For something as zany and insane as REGULAR SHOW, ADVENTURE TIME et al, to me their natural medium is on screen. I just find I am not as entertained by the comic versions of them to anywhere near the same extent as the shows.

 

Personal, curmudgeonly observations aside, if you are a fan of the coolest racoon* ever – and I don’t mean ROCKET RACOON, though that would be a pretty interesting rodent-related cross-over, now I come to think about it – and his friends, you probably will enjoy it regardless.

* Obviously I am heavily biased given my surname.

JR

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

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

 

The River h/c (£15-99, Enchanted Lion Books) by Alessandro Sana

Courtney Crumrin vol 6: The Final Spell h/c (£18-99, Oni) by Ted Naifeh

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

Maddy Kettle vol 1: The Adventure Of The Thimblewitch (£10-99, Top Shelf) by Eric Orchard

The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor And The Ship That Sank Twice s/c (£10-99, Vertigo) by Mike Carey & Peter Gross, various

Blue Estate h/c (£22-50, Image) by Viktor Kalvachev, Kosta Yanev, Andrew Osborne & Viktor Kalvachev, Toby Cypress, Nathan Fox, Paul Maybury, Marley Zarcone, Tomm Coker, Andrew Robinson, Peter Nguyen

Astro City: Through Open Doors s/c (£12-99, DC) by Kurt Busiek & Brent Eric Anderson

Forever Evil: Arkham War s/c (£12-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi & Scot Eaton, various

All New X-Men vol 5: One Down (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen

Deadpool Vs. Carnage  (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Cullen Bunn & Salvador Espin

Guardians Of The Galaxy / All New X-Men: The Trial Of Jean Grey (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen, Sara Pichelli

New Avengers vol 2: Infinity s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Mike Deodato Jr.

Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man vol 5 s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & David Marquez

Deadman Wonderland vol 4 (£6-99, Viz) by Jinsei Kataoka & Kazuma Kondou

Ikigami The Ultimate Limit vol 10 (£8-99, Viz) by Motoro Mase

Loveless vol 12 (£6-99, Viz) by Yun Kouga

Spell Of Desire vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Tomu Ohmi

Time Killers (£9-99, Viz) by Kazue Kato

Pandora Hearts vol 21 (£9-99, Yen) by Jun Mochizuki

News

ITEM! Swoon, swoon, swoon, swoon, swoon! THE RIVER by Alessandro Sanna is in stock at Page 45 now (see top of Also Arrived). Just look at those watercolour landscapes!

ITEM! Alan Moore finishes one-million-word novel, Jerusalem!

ITEM! Spanish artist Max draws Jeff Smith’s BONE.

ITEM! Advance review / preview of Scott Snyder & Jock’s WYTCHES!

ITEM! Thrilling sense of speed then break-neck brakes in MURDER + MIDNIGHT by Jon Eastman & David Ward. Kickstarter deadline imminent. Eeep!

ITEM! Sally J. Thompson’s gorgeous Estonia sketches. Swoon!

ITEM! Sean Phillips’ limited edition giclee for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival.

ITEM! Finally, fanfare, please…

Behold the brand-new Lakes International Comic Art Festival Programme 2014!

Oh my days, it is beautiful!

So much to see, so much to do, and yet it’s laid out with such clarity I could cry!

Almost everything at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014 is FREE (click on that link for their website, click on the one directly below cover for programme) including Page 45’s signings with Scott McCloud & Glyn Dillon and Page 45’s 20th Anniversary Booze Bash!

However, please note that the ticketed talks with comicbook creators like Scott McCloud, Jeff Smith, Eddie Campbell, Becky Cloonan, Sean Phillips at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival do require a small contribution and should be booked as soon as possible because space is limited.

- Stephen

Reviews September 2014 week two

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

There are thirteen chairs set round a circular table, one of them waiting for you.

In each other chair sits a stranger. In turn they tell stories by candlelight. None of their stories end well.

Will yours?

 - Stephen on Thirteen Chairs by Dave Shelton.

Baby Bjornstrand (£14-99, Koyama Press) by Renée French.

Mickey is peering down the back of Marcel’s pants. Marcel, just above his bottom, has a tail.

“You don’t have to touch it.”
“Ok, ok.”
“You can touch it if you want.”

Well, now. A new Renée French is always an event. Also, a mystery.

Previously she’s had Neil Gaiman singing her praises after picking up her comics at Page 45. Oh yes! This time it’s the unlikely pairing of Guillermo del Toro and Warren Ellis. The latter writes:

“Like watching David Lynch and Samuel Beckett get mean-drunk: a demented comedy from one of the medium’s authentic geniuses.”

“Surreal”, you’ll be thinking and it won’t disappoint, but Samuel Beckett is particularly perfect as a benchmark. This takes place in a limbo of sorts, a bit like Anders Nilsen’s BIG QUESTIONS and, as with BIG QUESTIONS, there is plenty of empty silence so that what is said attracts your eye and fires your curiosity.

It’s all in the few carefully muted colours, so cleverly deployed.

Played out on a sepia shore so shrouded in fog that the islands to begin with are blurred and unknown, three child-sized playmates wearing elasticated masks discover Baby Bjornstrand, a bird-beaked blob of no words, little movement, and only one sound – “Hoooooo!” – emitted sparingly. It just sits there, inert. Its very inertia is compelling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, here come the colours (slightly more vivid on the printed page than here): each sprog sports a slightly different mask – variations on a theme – but they each also light up, along with the words that they speak: Cyril in yellow, Mickey in red, Marcel in turquoise. Baby Bjornstrand glows in green.

“Hoooooo!”

 

 

 

 

 

Formal word balloons with their tagging tails are therefore redundant and so discarded here, adding to the ethereal. The landscape, interaction and sparse sounds are as one, floating together just as they do in real life. Seriously: take a couple of friends out onto some misty moors, then watch and listen as they speak.

Three-quarters of the way through the landscape comes into focus: a vast, Scottish-like lake with sheer, vertical cliff tops on the other side. Are you wondering why this is so?

I was as mesmerised by this as Cyril himself is by Baby Bjornstrand. Marcel and Mickey stage a play of the proceedings. That was funny. There is also a very funny moment involving a ringed doughnut, but throughout I wasn’t sure whether I should be worried or not and that kept those pages turning.

SLH

Buy Baby Bjornstrand and read the Page 45 review here

Finder: Third World (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Carla Speed McNeil…

The debonair and devilish Jaeger, knower of hidden short-cuts and errr… much other useful stuff, takes centre stage in the first colour FINDER material!

It took me a little bit of getting used to that, actually, it being in colour, though I’m not sure exactly why. I guess I’m just subconsciously familiar with how it has always been before. It’s a statement on the quality of the previous material perhaps that I actually found it a little distracting at first, but ultimately the colour is a very welcome addition.

So, what we have here is something which actually adds as much to the mystery of the man as sheds lights on his many secrets, as he forced to take a job, a proper job, and so becomes a parcel delivery man. Which, you might think, would be a waste of his prodigious talents. But no, because these parcels are in places virtually impossible to make a delivery to… For any ordinary person, that is.

And, of course, along the way, Jaeger as ever finds time to become unnecessarily embroiled in other peoples’ business, as well as just doing the odd good deed like getting an old lady home safely. Mainly just getting himself neck-deep into trouble, though.

 

 

I think this volume may prove a very good jumping-on point for new readers in that it starts off all fun and froth before descending into typically darker territory as the level of drama – and  danger – escalates apace. Carla really does manage to pack a huge wealth of the diversity of the FINDER milieu into just this one book, a really great showcase for the spectacular speculative fictional world she has created.

JR

Buy Finder: Third World and read the Page 45 review here

Void h/c (£8-99, Titan) by Herik Hanna & Sean Phillips.

“Nancy… Why are you dancing with that guy? He… he doesn’t even have a head!”

It’s been a complete and utter bloodbath.

Goliath 01 is a prison ship, lost in space. Its inmates – low-level threats like thieves and bankers* – have been slaughtered along with its crew.

It wasn’t aliens; it was a single human being: its commander, Colonel Mercer, officially marble-free and lying in murderous wait somewhere below decks.

There remains a solitary man in orange overalls recalling it all while desperately trying to find some means of escape and avoiding the fate of his fellow felons. Without food or water for two days now and surrounded by entrails and body parts, he’s beginning to lose the plot, hallucinating about an ex-girlfriend, naked. Then there’s the talking banana.

You never thought you’d see Sean Phillips draw a talking banana, did you? Sean is the artist behind FATALE, CRIMINAL, SLEEPER, THE HEART OF THE BEAST, 7 PSYCHOPATHS, INCOGNITO, SCENE OF THE CRIME and indeed THE ART OF SEAN PHILLIPS (one presumes). He’s well known for noir, but not for science-fiction nor comedy peeled fruit.

 

He does, however, bring all the nerve-wracking twilight he’s renowned for, and there’s one feverish sequence which has been lit like the nocturnal zone of a zoo’s Tropical House in electric blues and neon purples. He’s also emphasised the relatively low technological feel of a physically flown ship with submarine gauges, gangways riddled with thick electrical cables and heavy iron levers which require real elbow grease to grapple with.

All of which would be – and indeed was – a pretty intense read. However…

Oh, yeah, you’ll be wanting to read this twice.

Hahahahaha!

* … he explains, tautologically

SLH

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

Amulet vol 6: Escape From Lucien (£9-99, Scholastic) by Kazu Kibuishi.

“Cogsley, we need to tell the Captain about this! If there’s something hidden in that cloud, we need to go back and investigate.”
“We won’t have to go back.”
“What do you mean? Why not?”
“Because it followed us.”

Cue yet another Hayao Miyazaki-inspired double-page flourish! You won’t have long to wait this time, the action kicks off immediately.

Second only to Luke Pearson’s HILDA, this is our biggest-selling Young Adult series of graphic novels and if it wasn’t already one of my all-time favourites (it was) it would most assuredly be now.

So much happens, and so much is revealed that makes perfect sense of the strange allegiances in this far from black and white war. But, oh, no spoilers! Why don’t you go back and read our previous reviews of AMULET – each of them extensive – instead?

Suffice to say that for once younger brother Navin takes the lead in a desperate mission to reactivate a beacon in the burned-out city of Lucien below and promptly gets trapped there along with Colossus co-pilots Aly, Trish and Rob. Is anyone still alive there? Anyone – or anything – at all?

Meanwhile his older sister Emily and fellow Stonekeepers Vigo and Trellis are captured by another, part of whose past is played out in front of them while they seek to keep their amulets unaware of what they’re all up to. What are they up to?

There’ll be plenty of new faces along with some old friends long thought lost, and a great big secret, which I’d forgotten was a secret, from the very first book is explained. There will also be fatalities, I’m afraid.

There are so many landscapes to swoon over here, even in the rain, and one of AMULET’s strengths has always been Kazu’s eye for design, like the Elf King’s metal mask whose shallow, vertical, curved trenches are coloured to highlight their topmost ridges. It’s a design reflected in their airships and elsewhere, but I don’t recall seeing that mask applied before, direct to the face, its razor-sharp, thin, conical spikes slipping into the flesh with a sinister “SHK!”

SLH

Buy Amulet vol 6: Escape From Lucien and read the Page 45 review here

Long Gone Don (£6-99, David Fickling Books) by the Etherington Brothers.

Quality comedy all-out adventure starring a dude who’s gone and dropped dead.

Don drowned in a bowl of oxtail soup. “Which smelt a bit like wet dog.”

It was a freak accident.

It was a really freak accident.

Okay, it was a succession of really freak accidents which fell like dominoes in the form of custard, cards, the caretaker’s leg and a poor, startled hamster. Did I mention the step-ladder? I don’t think we’ll talk about the puddle of puke. That school’s Health & Safety needs a certain degree of attention.

This is perfect for kids aged 5 through 15 to 5,015 which is, I’m afraid, where I come in.

It is full-on mirth-making mentalism replete with puns like The Demon Drink’s salutary slogan: “Cures What Ales You!” Now that’s a pub after my own heart. And probably my liver.

It all takes place in the netherworld known as Broilerdoom with its holy Krapookerville and its less divine, adjacent Corpse City. There Don encounters Castanet the crow with his mortal terror of flying, experiences the Welcome Arena and is showered with gifts only to fall foul of its Unwelcome Arena where he is swiftly relieved of them.

“Lesson number one: Broilerdoom gives with one hand and takes with the other. This is an opportunist’s underworld, Don, which means if you think you can get away with something, you probably can.”

Point in question: the stall called Stolen Stuff which happily sells its second-hand goods back to their original owners.

The demon who’s been getting away with everything up to this point is General Spode, high up in his ivory Bone Tower Monolith. Ruling aside his Regina, he has stolen the crown from rightful king Ripley who has since retired to sign books and shrubs as a celebrity gardener. Think Alan Titchmarsh as a dilettante and dandy. Spode’s right-hand man is Count Valush, a red-eyed shadow in a cape and a tall hat that he is inordinately protective of. Excellent for target practice.

In the opposite corner sit Lewd and Safina back at The Demon Drink, along with many a hidden ally like Viktor Rictus, the sentient squid with sloppy pink tentacles and a singular eye for invention.

Don will encounter and make use of a Brick Licker (armadillo/slug/hedgehog hybrid), Castanet’s tail-feather plumes and a great big bucket of black paint. Also, a lamprey-like giant worm called Thanatos with terrible tombstones for teeth.

If all this wasn’t enough, the art is insanely detailed and lush, with exotic, Eastern architecture not even hinted at on the cover. There are maps and monsters and a magnificent, walled, tiered garden. Moreover, if this was really serialised in THE PHOENIX COMIC, I cannot see the joins.

Also, I have a new favourite expletive:

“Sweet Sherbet Dipdabs!”

Lorenzo Etherington you may already have encountered in the VON DOOGAN puzzle adventure.

“The work those guys put into LONG GONE DON blows my miiiiind. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there are many, many creators whose work I love and admire and gasp in awe at, but Lorenzo is the only guy I know whose work I look at, and pause, and ask “are you actually HUMAN?””

- Neill Cameron of the awesome comic called HOW TO MAKE AWESOME COMICS

(Errrrr, in a private email which I haven’t even asked if I can quote. I am so indiscrete.)

SLH

Buy Long Gone Don and read the Page 45 review here

Thirteen Chairs h/c (£10-99, David Fickling Books) by Dave Shelton.

‘“Welcome,” says the pale man. “You are welcome.”’

Put yourself in young Jack’s shoes:

There are thirteen chairs set round a circular wooden table, one of them waiting for you.

In each other chair sits a stranger. There’s a big, bearded man with a bellowing voice; there’s a small girl with thick glasses who speaks in a swift monotone as if empty inside; and then there’s the pale man with well-behaved hair whose presence is commanding and whose posture is excellent.

In turn they tell stories by candlelight. None of their stories end well.

Will yours?

You know what they say about curiosity, and Jack is a curious boy. Come to think of it, each of these strangers in their own way is curious, as are their stories. Some sound like fables, others like confessions but they all are claimed to be true. Each involves death and most come laden with the weight of poetic justice, although one of the culprits is prose. Who knew that writing could kill you?

We stock very little prose at Page 45. For us, it is all about comics. Sure, we stock a full range of Neil Gaiman, but then he is ever so slightly renowned in our graphic world for things like THE SANDMAN and DEATH. There’s the heart-breaking A MONSTER CALLS by Patrick Ness and Jim Kay which you must never, oh never, read in public. But it’s packed full of the most jaw-dropping, Sienkiewicz-via-Steve-Bissette illustrations and – aside from the stories’ chapter breaks – this isn’t. What this has in common, however, is its horror yet humanity and its literary craft. I stole a little bit of it for my introduction. Here’s the pale man, the gathering’s compère:

‘He is a small man, soberly dressed in a dark suit that is neatly tailored and primly buttoned; a crisp white shirt with a wing collar; a plain dark tie. His hair is short and well-behaved. His posture is excellent.’

Try this, too:

‘”Come on in then,” she says, raising an arm and beckoning with long fingers, tickling at the air. “No skulking in the dark. Over here where we can see you.” Her voice is a soft and lovely thing, round and warm and with a sweet tang of teasing laughter.’

Dave Shelton is the author of the delightful all-ages comedy we also broke our no-prose policy to stock, A BOY AND A BEAR IN A BOAT, which we still seem to be selling at least one copy of every single week – usually to adults for adults. My Auntie Squee adores it. This is all-ages too, but emphatically not comedy. I was worried throughout, and so was Jack, and there is an ice-cold, chilling secret lying within which will reveal itself as soon as you’re ready to see it. The finale’s pay-off is sublime.

In the meantime you’ll enjoy multiple stories from diverse voices, each as distinct from each other as this is from A BOY AND A BEAR IN A BOAT. I was beseeched by its publisher to announce my favourite but I quite simply can’t. It could be the phantom in and of the deluge which I picture in my mind’s eye drawn by Will Eisner or coloured by Bettie Breitweiser. It could be Mr. Fowler’s childhood recollection of shirking work in his uncle’s tavern, spellbound by a ship all at sea and the cost to its crew of two brothers at war. Or maybe it’s matter-of-factual Amelia:

‘”I am not loud or funny or cheeky or popular. I am quite clever and quiet and not cool, and the other children make fun of my glasses, which are held together by sellotape at the moment because Dad fixed them with not very good glue in a hurry after Ellie sat on them, and so they broke again really easily when Sam kicked a football in my face, which was an accident again.”’

So no, actually, this isn’t without laughs.

‘”If Callum wants to try to make me cry he should call me something to do with being little, like ‘titch’ or ‘stick insect’ or something, because that would make more sense (even though it still wouldn’t make me cry because I don’t care about that sort of thing because I have a Positive Self Image because Dad told me I should).”’

She’s worried that Callum will “want to do revenge” on her because she got bored of him throwing her school bag in the air because it contained her school lunch and that contained tomatoes which could go squishy (they did) and so she punched him in the tummy and that made him sick all over his silly trainers.

‘”I try to keep an eye on them, but I drop some tomato on my biscuits (Dad gave me biscuits today because it is a Wednesday and Wednesday are biscuit days, and Mondays and Fridays are too, and Tuesdays are Healthy Choice days), and so I have to pay attention to that and get the seeds and juice off the top biscuit as fast as possible to stop it from being too tomatoey to eat (the bottom one is absolutely fine). I’m just deciding that the top biscuit is not OK to eat because it will be too tomatoey but that from now on I’ll ask Dad to wrap the biscuits in cellophane as well for extra safety, when I realise that I can’t see Mrs Fleet at all any more.”’

It reads breathlessly, like an infant’s school essay, doesn’t it?

I might have to concede, however, that my biggest soft spot is for big, bearded Piotr who repeats a story with a very grisly end told to him by his grandmother. (”My grandmother swears by her moustache that is true. So must be so.”) This is what I mean by completely different voices:

‘“So they take him to house, give him soup and bread and they tell him legend of silver ghost and red tree. Only they argue and can’t agree how story go. There is red tree and there is silver ghost, and some children and menfolk go missing in woods, and some cattle and plants die. This much they all agree. But rest? Oh boy! One say silver ghost live in red tree. One say, no, you fool, red tree grow fruit to protect from silver ghost. Another one say, you both wrong, silver ghost guard red tree. This all go on very long time and woodcutter bored. Also, soup is no good.”’

I’ve just realised I’ve picked out the two comically delivered monologues. I can assure you the rest will make you very uneasy.

So masterfully told are all these tales that only towards the end of each does it dawn on you where it is heading and whence it came: how expertly its outcome has been presaged. Within every one lies this moment of minor satori and that’s very clever, Mr. Fowler’s particularly so. All of which can be said for the book as a whole, but I see I must say no more.

So pull up a chair – any one from this spot-varnish cover, each as individualistic is its occupant – and prepare to be deeply unsettled by cats and by clocks and by things which are Not Quite Right.

The candles are burning low now.

But you may have just enough time.

SLH

Buy Thirteen Chairs h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Above The Dreamless Dead: World War I In Poetry And Comics h/c (£18-99, First Second) by various.

Eddie Campbell:

“It’s a bit preposterous us thinking we can illustrate this stuff that we know nothing of – sitting here in our air-conditioned rooms trying to imagine the horrors of being knee deep in mud with your feet rotting off.”

Well, quite.

Nevertheless, Eddie does a convincing impression of knowing precisely what it felt, looked and smelled like, at night, and throws it in front of your face. Towards the end there is a close-up of what left of a clod-encrusted cadaver, its skull-thin face with opaque eye-jelly being crawled round by maggots.

“A barb had pierced his eye and stuck there, rusting in the socket from which sight was gone.”

It opens with the occasional crack of sniper bullets whipping the sandbags as soldiers stumble about like phantoms in the miasmatic fog, barbed wire lit up in ghostly electric arcs or, later, glistening with spiders’ webs and dew drops as it resists being dragged down and sucked into the mud by the weight of what’s left of a once-living human being. What’s left of Loos church and graveyard is also lit up in a ghastly, bone-strewn son et lumière. The overall effect is like staring into old-school black and white photographic negatives: indistinct, often terrifying.

Campbell chose to condense the closing chapter of a novel by Patrick MacGill, The Great Push (1916), but the rest of this black and white book is given over to the World War I Trench Poets – writers on the frontline responsible for breaking through the propaganda with their terrible truths – interpreted by an impressive array of comicbook creators:

Hannah Berry, Stephen R. Bissette, Lilli Carré, Lisbeth De Stercke, Hunt Emerson, Garth Ennis, Simon Gane, Sarah Glidden, Isabel Greenberg, Sammy Harkham, Kevin Huizenga, Kathryn Immonen, Stuart Immonen, Peter Kuper, James Lloyd, Pat Mills, Anders Nilsen, Danica Novgorodoff, George Pratt, Carol Tyler, Phil Winslade.

 

George Pratt takes on Wilfred Owen’s Dulce Et Decorum Est and Greater Love. He notes in the back that, wishing to avoid overshadowing the words, he deliberately used thick tools like paint rollers and knives which wouldn’t allow him to overwork the images with details. It works.

My other favourite is Simon Gane’s second piece here, Osbert Sitwell’s The Next War, using war memorials from Britain and France, trailed with ivy, their age and textures perfectly rendered, each improbably well chosen to match and so evoke what was written. I urge you to hit the internet and gawp at the man’s architecture and landscape sketchwork.

Here you go, a rare external link: http://simongane.blogspot.co.uk/

 

There is an excellent introduction by Editor Chris Duffy, and commentary by the creators bringing up the rear. Kevin Huizenga’s is particularly worth noting.

SLH

Buy Above The Dreamless Dead: World War I In Poetry And Comics h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Truth And Dare: A Comicbook Curriculum For The End And The Beginning Of The World (£6-99, Ecosocialist Horizons) by Chris Cardenale, Ethan Heitner, Seth Tobocman, Kate Evans, Paula Hewitt Amran, Jordan Worley, Mac McGill…

Do you think the world is unfair? Specifically, do you think capitalism is an unjust system which can only inevitably end in the destruction of our planet if left unchecked? Many would agree, I think, to some degree at least, and so consider this a primer.

First of all in ‘Creation to Extinction’ and ‘the nightmare is real…’ we see it graphically explained where this path of rampant consumption is taking us. Then in ‘The Enemy of Nature’ we see how the capitalist juggernaut was created, and thus precisely why and how we find ourselves in a situation where over 99% of the world’s material wealth is in the hands of less than 1% of the population, and what that inequity inevitably causes to happen to those at the opposite end of the fiscal scale. For the creators of this work, capitalism is simply a cancer which, if left untreated, can only lead to a painful demise for us all.

Next up, leavening what is obviously a somewhat serious read is Kate Evans using the Three Stooges to explain why ‘Money is Green too’, ‘Environmentalism for Dummies’ and ‘Socialism for Suckers’. Here we see why even what most people would consider tools for good, like environmentalism, have been subverted by the capitalist structure and how what most people would consider as the obvious alternative to capitalism, socialism, has been expertly and quite deliberately demonised by those in control, particularly in American, as akin to communism.

Finally, alternative solutions to the impending apocalypse are pro-offered, along with a further reading list of some several hundred prose titles covering such diverse topics as ‘The Ecosocialist Horizon’, ‘Fighting Oppression’, ‘Anti-Capitalist Energy Transition’ and ‘The Solidarity Economy’.

 

I admire the enthusiasm and endeavour of all the creators. I agree with them to some extent, though I don’t entirely share their views by any means. But what this certainly is, though, is indeed a curriculum. The addition of the reading list, for those who do wish to learn more about class activism and the socio-economic chains that bind virtually all of us to lesser or greater degrees, is a fantastic collation of essential critical thinking and instructive works. A very worthy endeavour, which is also a fascinating and thought-provoking magazine-sized comic collection.

JR

Buy Truth And Dare: A Comicbook Curriculum For The End And The Beginning Of The World and read the Page 45 review here

El Nino h/c (£26-99, Humanoids) by Christian Perrissin & Boro Pavlovic.

El Niño, of course, is the name for the massive warming of coastal waters around South America resulting in freakish storms, shifts in currents, raisins in jam and huge piles of pasta all over the floor.

Well, it does if you’re on board a boat in one of those storms. Guess where Vera is? On board a boat in one of those storms.

Returning to Paris from a gruelling Red Cross mission, Vera, a self-confessed Gadjo (non-Gypsy), visits her father’s grave in Père-Lachaise to find some of her old folk there, eating brunch. When she visits them later in a flooded suburb, they reluctantly tell her about Kolya, her supposed Siamese-twin brother, who joined the merchant navy before disappearing, never to be heard from again. The last thing they received was a letter from one Jean René Isnard in Polynesia, who claims Kolya’s safe and on his way back home.

Confused by the medical knowledge that Siamese twins can’t be of different sexes, and restless to leave Paris in any case, Vera flies out to Polynesia to discover that Jean René is dead and his son, now a captain of a vessel himself, isn’t best pleased to see her. Now obsessed, Vera tries to intercept the boat in Bora Bora, which brings us to the storm.

Prime European drama (he says, sweepingly), with exotic landscapes perfectly evoked and the mandatory gratuitous nuddie scene. I’m a third of the way through and I can’t put it down…

… I wrote back in 2005.

I did put it down eventually: once in 2009 to celebrate Page 45’s 15th Anniversary with Jonathan, Dominique, Bryan and Mary Talbot, dear Liam Sharp, Dr Mel Gibson and over a hundred of you lovely wastrels; twice in 2011 to go to the toilet; then once during our recent Bryan Lee O’Malley signing when I dropped it on my knee. It’s very heavy, and I’m still wearing a Tubigrip to bring the swelling down.

We should probably celebrate Page 45’s 20th Anniversary in some fashion this October. Fancy coming along?

SLH

Buy El Nino h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Death Of Wolverine #1 (£3-99, Marvel) by Charles Soule & Steve McNiven.

The cover is a great deal shinier than this, but the comic isn’t as long as it looks.

I warn you about that right now. Process pieces are fascinating, and in the second half Steve McNiven takes you through pages as they evolve and shows you a few he simply binned because the composition wasn’t right. He pays tribute to Barry Windsor-Smith’s work and shows have he’s incorporated that double-barrelled influence.

Then there’s an extensive interview with Wolverine’s co-creator Len Wein who pays tribute to Dave Cockrum and explains that the name came from Roy Thomas and how he lined Logan up in case the X-Men were ever revived from their hiatus.

Fab. I’m just saying, brace yourselves for the credits to roll halfway through: it’s a right downer hitting To Be Continued when you thought you’d another 20 pages in store.

Anyway, yes, Steve McNiven you may know as Mark Millar’s artist on WOLVERINE: OLD MAN LOGAN, NEMESIS and Marvel’s CIVIL WAR, all of which come with the highest recommendation to superhero fans, the first one being my favourite Wolverine book to date. Obviously to become an old man he’ll need to last a lot longer than this title implies which should probably be Looting Logan For All He’s Worth Although It’ll Be Pretty Damn Lucrative When We Bring Him Back Too.

As the weekly, five-issue mini-series kicks off, Logan is sat on a battered porch clutching his Mom’s sick note so he can skip P.E.. Both he and his claws are covered in blood, which is bad news because as Reed Richards explains, without his healing factor…

“You’re a prime candidate for heavy metal-related leukemia. If you don’t get endocarditis from all the bacteria you pull into yourself every time you use your claws.”

So far neither Stark nor McCoy nor now Reed Richards have been able to revive Wolverine’s healing factor so staying out of brawls until they do is Logan’s best bet. Unfortunately the second word gets out that small, dark and hairy is vulnerable brawls are going to be unavoidable. Word gets out.

There’s not a great deal more to report on the story front. You can expect at least one supervillain per issue and I suspect that will only escalate. It’s Steve’s art that impresses, increasingly so with each project he graces, and the double-page spread here may not be the flashiest you’ve ever seen, but its composition is impeccable: those man’s shoulders are very broad indeed.

No, no, you’re quite right: this may be the dullest review I’ve ever written.

SLH

Buy Death Of Wolverine #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Thunderbirds vol 1, vol 2, vol 3 (£6-99 each, Egmont) by unknown & Frank Bellamy.

“Thunderbirds are go!”

You’ve got to love that tune: a jaunty little western number given the Flight of the Valkyries treatment.

Just like the films of Ray Harryhausen, Gerry Anderson’s puppetry – or supermarionation – represented class and craft, as well as an easy-to-mimic wibbly-wobbly walk in the school playground.

The Thunderbirds themselves were some of the most thrillingly designed crafts of all time, none more so than Thunderbird 2: ribbed, thick and sturdy in army olive green, boasting two enormous red engines and a series of interchangeable, central pod / hangars to carry industrial drilling machines or, most often, subaquatic, canary-yellow Thunderbird 4. Ahead of the craft’s take-off from the Tracy family island, twin rows of palm trees would flop obligingly over to let it through. I built a gigantic beast of a version in Lego (complete with slide-down hangars, yes) and would flick my own Lego trees over manually, two at a time.

Thunderbird 1 exploded out of a hidden central silo, Thunderbird 3… well, we rarely saw that, nor does it appear here except on the third volume’s cover! But each was reached by secret metal chutes hidden behind trapdoors hung with their respective pilots’ portraits (whose eyes lit up during communication!).

And oh, those pilots were fit! Scott Tracy of Thunderbird 1 was one of my very earliest crushes. The other Tracys were way too blonde and Captain Scarlet had a propensity for six o’clock shadow which, as a five-year-old, I simply couldn’t get into.

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that Thunderbirds was thrilling, and something we could all act out between episodes. Equally thrilling here is the F.A.B. art because, if I haven’t already succeeded in tripping your nostalgia switch, let me just repeat the name Frank Bellamy: Frank Bellamy, Frank Bellamy, Frank Bellamy. There is the sleekest foreshortening from behind or in front as each super-jet hurtles full-throttle towards you. And the colours, oh lord, the colours…

Of course, if you stop to think for five seconds, the whole Tracy set-up was one hell of a patriarchal boys-only club – science boffin Brains bobbing obediently alongside them, wittering “G-g-g-gee, Mister Tracy” before even evacuating his bowels – wisely eschewed by aristocratic super-sleuth Lady Penelope (who must surely be some sort of an influence for Lara Croft) who preferred to park up that pink Rolls Royce alongside her own English mansion, thank you. Or get Parker, her swarthy-faced butler, to do it for her.

At which point I’d like to close by ruining your childhood with one of my favourite jokes. You need to get into character for it, so practise Lady Penelope’s purring lilt and Parker’s sinus-troubled subservience…

Lady Penelope returns to her stately home after a night out on the town to find her butler Parker waiting dutifully at the door.

“Parker,” she murmurs in her sultry, upper-class accent, perhaps a little sloshed on champagne, ”Please come upstairs to my bedroom.”
“Yuss, m’lady.”
“Now, Parker, I want you to take off my coat.”
“Yuss, m’lady.”
“Take off my boots.”
“Yuss, m’lady.
“Take off my stockings.”
“Yuss, m’lady.”
“Take off my blouse.”
“Yuss, m’lady.”
“Take off my skirt.”
“Yuss, m’lady.”
“Take off my bra!”
“Yuss, m’lady.”
“Take off my knickers!”
“…Yuss, m’lady.”
“And never, ever let me catch you wearing them again!”

SLH

Buy Thunderbirds vol 3  and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Thunderbirds vol 2 and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Thunderbirds vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

 

The Wrenchies (£14-99, First Second) by Farel Dalrymple

Zero vol 2: At The Heart Of It All s/c (£10-99, Image) by Ales Kot & Vanesa R. Del Rey, Matt Taylor, Jorge Coelho, Tonci Zonjic, Michael Gaydos

BPRD Hell On Earth vol 9 – Reign Of Black Flame (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi & James Harren

Crossed: Wish You Were Here vol 4 s/c (£14-99, Avatar) by Simon Spurrier & Fernando Melek

Cyanide & Happiness vol 3: Punching Zoo s/c (£10-99, Boom! Box) by Kris, Rob, Matt, Dave

Shoplifter h/c (£14-99, Pantheon) by Michael Cho

Uber vol 2 s/c (£14-99, Avatar) by Kieron Gillen & Canaan White

Y – The Last Man Book vol 1 (£14-99, Vertigo) by Brian K. Vaughan & Pia Guerra

Justice League Of America vol 2: Survivors Of Evil h/c (£18-99, DC) by Matt Kindt & Doug Mahnke, various

Justice League vol 4: The Grid s/c (£12-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, various

Justice League vol 5: Forever Heroes h/c (£16-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Ivan Reis, Doug Mahnke, Joe Prado, various

All New X-Men vol 5 One Down h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen, Sara Pichelli

Castle: Calm Before Storm s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Peter David & Robert Atkins

Thor God Of Thunder vol 1: The God Butcher s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Esad Ribic

Thor God Of Thunder vol 2: Godbomb s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Esad Ribic, Butch Guice

Uncanny Avengers vol 4: Avenge Earth h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Rick Remender & Daniel Acuña

Winter Soldier Brubaker Complete Collection s/c (£22-50, Marvel) by Ed Brubaker & Butch Guice, Michael Lark

Attack On Titan Guidebook (£10-99, Kodansha) by Hajime Isayama

Bleach vol 61 (£6-99, Viz) by Tite Kubo

D. Gray-Man vol 24 (£6-99, Viz) by Katsura Hoshino

Legal Drug Omnibus (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Clamp

Noragami Stray God vol 1 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Adachitoka

Rosario Vampire Season 2 vol 13 (£6-99, Viz) by Akihisa Ikeda

The Seven Deadly Sins vol 4 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Nakaba Suzuki

News

ITEM! Tom Gauld’s hilarious Guardian comic on grammar-correcting gits – oh god, I may be guilty, myself!

ITEM! Come along, creatives! Neill Cameron has big blog of free resources to go with his awesome comic, HOW TO MAKE AWESOME COMICS! He even links to our review where you can buy it directly from us. Bananas!

ITEM! Awesome photos as ever: Sarah McIntyre’s blog on GARY’S GARDEN graphic novel launch night! Are your eyes boggling? Page 45’s review of Gary Northfield’s GARY’S GARDEN.

ITEM! Sarah McIntyre writes about why she loves teaching kids to create, she doesn’t want any of her own. Clear, candid and lovingly expressed.

ITEM! ‘Morrissey Gets A Job by Brian Brooks’. ( I Know It’s Going To Happen Someday — To Me.)

ITEM! Infiltration, ahoy! Susie Cumberland has taken it upon herself to promote quality British Comics – on a website which seems dedicated solely to American superheroes. Love the subversion! Love her choices, too. What a kick off!

ITEM! Following last week’s article by Leigh Alexander, Penny Red on how and why women in games and comics are winning the war against online misogynists. Brilliant!

ITEM! Oh dear lord, but I love me some neo-classicism. Paul Reid’s ‘Cernunnos Study’. Oil on canvas

ITEM! Our Jonathan will be speaking at this free Nottingham Trent University Event for Small Businesses. Please see “programme” for the, err, programme.

ITEM! Nottingham’s GameCity 2014 (25th October to 1st November) clashes not with the Lake District’s Comic Art Festival 2014 where Page 45 will be celebrating its 20th Anniversary! Both events linked to there, yes!

My own ticketed talk, The Art Of Selling Comics, which you will need to book in advance is, incredibly, one of the best subscribed to, so please book now so I can call my next one The Art Of Selling Bums On Seats.

I refer, of course, to bottoms (and so often I do) not the vagabond chic I doubt you’ll be dressed in. You leave that to me.

- Stephen

Reviews September 2014 week one

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

Buy this from Page 45 then post Anders an idea, and he will send you an original, signed drawing of your idea for free!

 - Stephen on The Monologuist: God And The Devil At War In The Garden by Anders Nilsen.

How To Be Happy h/c (£18-99, Fantagraphics) by Eleanor Davis.

“We are all going to cry tonight!”

I hereby nominate this cover as the best so far in 2014!

Its composition is immaculately weighted and its colours are as warm as a travelling rug and equallly as embracing. It makes me happy.

The comics inside make me so happy too, but few of its protagonists.

As Eleanor Davis is swift to point out before you’ve even begun, “This is not actually a book about How To Be Happy”. Instead it’s a graphic novel full of people looking for happiness in all the wrong places, and either failing or fooling themselves into the easily led lie that they’ve succeeded.

Take ‘No Tears, No Sorrow’ in which a gullible group of individuals, desperate to feel anything, fall for the fraud of a man making money from their disengaged doubts. ‘No Tears, No Sorrow. No Sorrow, No Joy!’ is title of his facile and fatuous book, and his workshop is worse. He presents them with abstractions to which he wants them to connect, and so determined are they in a competitive way to not be the ones falling short that they rewire their own brains leaving their emotions, forced here, to get the better of them outside.

It’s artfully swathed in a cacophony of light and bright colours contrasted by the emotions evoked: mostly anger rather than empathy. Anger at themselves for failing to feel the masterly manipulated mass hysteria all around them.

Now have a listen to this. It’s from ‘Darlng, I’ve Realised I Don’t Love You’ in black and white in which a couple commune. Sort of.

“…”
“…”
“If I loved anyone, it would be you. But I love no one.”
“I’ve come to understand I don’t care about anything except myself.”
“Any kindness I’ve ever shown has been in my own self-interest.”
“The very existence of other people seems doubtful.”
“I wanted more from life than this.”
“…”
“Let’s have a baby.”

 

‘Stick And String’ doesn’t reflect well on the strengh of a relationship, either.  Told in line and rich, tree-trunk colours, a lute player enchants his countryside audience by day then is lured into the depths of forest at night by the bom-bom of drums being beaten round a crackling fire. The wild wood creatures scatter but one woman is tentatively drawn back as the man strums his lute anew…

‘In Our Eden’ sees a small group gradually disperse as their self-proclaimed leader – who’s ditched the name Darryl in favour of Adam! – rages at them in blood-vessel-bursting red to return to the bliss that was Eden. Hmmm. ‘Nita Goes Home’, meanwhile, harks to a future when the organic / genetically engineered produce debate is far from over and, with her father ailing, a sister returns from Satorispace to a city so toxic that you have to wear full-body bio-hazard suits in order to venture outside. Naturally, fashionistas have been catered for. Here (and elsewhere) I was put in mind of Dash Shaw but the variety of styles being employed within HOW TO BE HAPPY is mind-melting.

A lakeside tale of longing and love was so poignant; another black and white tale, ‘Thomas The Leader’, less so, examining as it does the hegemony of boyhood friendship, both mental and physical.

 

Finally (although there are many, many more), ‘Seven Sacks’ was for me the most beautiful and unnerving. A ferryman is hailed by a succession of nasty-looking (and if one case, nasty-smelling) creatures to take them and their wriggling sacks across the river in his small punt. Apparently the sacks contain rabbits. I have my doubts. My favourite of the critters is either the whiffy, dark woollen one with eight dangling arms and an odour that curls and swirls out behind it (I’m thinking camel pong at the very least) or the brown, beaked beastie cloaked in the skin and plumage of some poor speckled bird, its evil eye glaring through the sewn-back socket, the overall effect being of a 17th century plague doctor.

SLH

Buy How To Be Happy h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Tomboy (£11-99, Zest) by Liz Prince.

Liz Prince likes who she is.

She’s always liked who she is. It’s just others who’ve had a problem with her being a tomboy. And you know what school’s like, right? Here comes one heck of a reminder!

Funny, thoughtful, thought-provoking and at times very poignant, what struck me above all about this is that kids wouldn’t have complexes if they hadn’t been given them by others.

In a sequence which reminded me of Hope Larson’s CHIGGERS not simply because it’s set at summer camp, Liz suddenly becomes painfully, heart-breaking body-conscious after hearing two girls bitch about – sorry, judge – another:

“Did you hear that Dakota actually got naked in the shower?”
“Oh, gross.”
“So gross, and afterward she put on a bra even though she has no boobs. Like, dream on.”
“Haha.”

If you don’t go to boarding school then something like a girl scout camp is the first time you might shower and dress communally. Prince’s preference for boys’ clothes had caused her to be singled out for years, but not what lay beneath them.

“I knew that girls made fun of each other, but talking about someone’s body like that seemed so wrong. You can’t choose your body! I was suddenly aware that I was under-performing in ways I didn’t even know existed.”

Immediately she starts showering in her swimsuit because obviously that’s how you’re supposed to shower (thanks, girls!) but also, in an effort to avoid others judging her body’s lack of development, she begins swimming in a t-shirt thereby drawing attention to it.

“It is conspicuous,” she writes above a drawing of herself in a very baggy t-shirt sporting the slogan “I AM NOT COMFORTABLE WITH MY BODY”. The only thing that could have been worse would have been her boys’ tightie-whities falling out of her rolled towel or kit bag. Obviously that’s what happens next.

Anyway, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Since the age of four at least, Liz Prince has been a tomboy: “a girl of boyish behaviour”, and of course “boyish” is or should be subjective but alas, we haven’t as a society quite got there yet. Liz didn’t just prefer boys’ clothing, she refused to wear dresses but when you stop to think about it, that’s pure aesthetics.

A dad recently told me his son’s favourite colour was pink. The dad found it charming if anything, and irrelevant at heart which it is: any colour is an aesthetic preference that says nothing about your gender, sexuality or algebraic aptitude for solving complex quadratic equations. But he confessed – with embarrassment – that it was a concern to him how others would react. No need for embarrassment: that is pure paternal love and completely understandable because, as a society, we have not quite got to the bloody obvious yet!

Anyway, as well as the clothes Liz happened to like a great many sports which for no very good reason were and still are, to a ludicrous extent, seen as the exclusive province of boys. Also, the toys. There’s one screamingly funny episode in which Liz and her mate Tyler terrorise the playground with their twin set of watches in the shape of emergency vehicles complete with very loud, requisite sirens, honing in on whoever’s to hand in a pincer movement with their arms outstretched:

*Weeoooweee*
*Weeoooweee*
“You’re under arrest!”
“And on fire!”

What isn’t so funny is what happens to their friendship when Tyler becomes the first boy ever to develop a crush on Liz. It is, in its truest sense, tragic.

Which is, I believe, where sex education comes in, and the irony that the gender boundaries come down (instead of girls thinking boys are icky and v-a-v, classroom crushes are ignited and the chases begin) then go straight back up again when it becomes clear that any such overt affections are one more flag-waving “target me!” for further teasing and worse. Still, who here hasn’t stalked a be-crushed one, artfully positioning yourself in the place most likely to meet them by complete accident?!

“Dare I drink from this anointed fountain?” ponders young Prince once so-sporty Caleb has sipped from the water font, so rendering it the equivalent of Lourdes.

The art of all this is that although Liz Prince has a specific story to tell about having the outrageous temerity to, you know, not like all things flowery and frilly, its incidents and even issues will all prove so painfully yet (hopefully by now) hilariously familiar.

The hilarious is due in no small part to the cartooning with bashfulness, embarrassment and pleased-as-punch pictured to perfection – along with one poor lad’s bugged-out eyes in a necklock.

There are diagrams like ‘Ye Olde Social Ladder’ so that you know (but also “know”) your place, plus faux diary entries and oh god please shoot me now.

The style seems on the surface to be a combination of Jeffrey Brown, John Porcellino and the UK’s Andi Watson, but it isn’t any of those individually. It’s far less abstract than Porcellino, much less dense and intense than Jeffrey Brown nor as precise as early Andi Watson, but fans of all three – who are legion here – will embrace it to bits. It is crisp, clear and emotive and playful as hell.

It’s also a much, much longer, less episodic and more focussed read than anything Prince has attempted before (ALONE FOREVER, most recently) and so shifts her standing from the effortlessly engaging and entertaining to the cream of the comicbook crop.

One final note. Liz is incredibly lucky to meet a woman called Harley. Harley spies her potential and encourages Prince’s creativity just when it’s needed the most. Later she will meet Maggie who will introduce her both to zines and to a scene which will finally make her feel comfortable. Prince pays tribute to both these women and I love that. She also records one conversation with Harley which puts a second reading of this firmly into perspective.

For all that young ladies like Liz have endured because of our obsession with the woefully superficial as opposed to what it is really important – what lies underneath – it is still much easier for girls to wear boys’ clothing than it is for boys to wear girls’.

*sigh*

SLH

Buy Tomboy and read the Page 45 review here

The Monologuist: God And The Devil At War In The Garden (£11-99) by Anders Nilsen.

Rare, limited edition, A-4 album of exquisite beauty from the creator of one of my all-time favourite graphic novels, BIG QUESTIONS.

This isn’t being distributed in the UK, so we bought these in direct from Anders himself.

Unlike future editions, if any, these initial copies come with the CONVERSATION GARDENING mini-comic bound inside.

As Anders explains within, if you buy this from an independent retailer like Page 45 then post him an idea, he will send you an original, signed drawing of that idea for free! You will need to send him your receipt: all items bought at our till or on our website come with such a receipt.

Why would Nilsen give you this labour-intensive love? To support independent retailers.

CONVERSATION GARDENING is a mischief in and of its own right in which a cartoon centaur of sorts, standing in for Anders himself, illustrates Amazon’s business practices and its customers’ all too willing compliance and collaboration by way of slapstick visual metaphors and dead-pan rejoinders:

“Hey, excuse me.”
“Ah, hi. Yeah?”
“Did you just throw someone into that hole?”
“Why, yes I did. Why do you ask?”
“Why would you do something like that?”
“Well, it was incredibly cheap. And super convenient. I didn’t even have to get out my credit card.”
“Oh. I see. Have a nice day.”
[To reader:] “See how that works?”

 

We’re still only touching on the mini-comic. I promise we’ll get to the main feature soon, but here’s Nilsen’s moment of satori after he has explained why the exchange of ideas through the previously free printed press is so important:

“So there I am, this super lucky author, drinking my coffee one morning and looking at the internet. And I read this blog post about how Amazon, who has a near-monopoly, is making books it doesn’t like disappear from its site.
“The main book they’re disappearing is called ‘The Everything Store’ by Brad Stone.
“It’s about Amazon’s history and business practices. How it used books as a way to get customers’ information to create a monopoly. How it puts small booksellers out of business.
“On purpose.
“As part of its business plan.
“So, it’s critical of Amazon.
“But they’re also disappearing other books by the same publisher, Machette.
“And it’s not the first time. They have a history of doing this with other publishers and other authors.
“When the mob does it, it’s called extortion.”

The main, album-sized event whose name is so long I am not going to retype it is riddled with similarly incisive socio-political commentary, often without recourse to words. The three-Act cover alone is a masterpiece.

The front depicts an Eden complete with tree – a few thorny vines snaking round it – lounged on by a leopard while wildlife roams freely below. Now open it up, and more majesty unfolds seamless on the other side: African plains as nature intended (bar a few touristy palms) and amongst the indigenous animal population streaks a naked boy playing with a toy plane in one hand and a leopard cub in the other. You may have noticed he’s white. Still, it remains pretty utopian. Fold out the final, french-flap segment, however, and you’re in for a surprise. Remember that long-winded title now?

I’m not going to give all of this away because then why buy the book yourself? However, the first image inside is equally telling. It’s another landscape seemingly pastoral and tranquil in nature but far further from Heaven. It’s populated by domesticated ducks surrounding two unicorns who graze and gaze round them; one quite mournfully, the other quite angrily for a unicorn. The lawn is hedged-in. There is soulless, geometric topiary: the sort of thing you might find shorn on a poodle-dog’s tail. There are rubber tires.

All of which is reprised on either side of two damning, war-centred shorts, in the Tree Of Knowledge Of Good And Evil’s rootball and a waste of land in a vast, vacant lot. I’ll happily chat with you on the shop floor about all that remains after you’ve read it.

For example, you may be used to Anders’ fragile line and vulnerable forms, but the man is a trained artist with neo-Classicism at his disposal so witnessing his silhouettes of a hand holding aloft a flawlessly facetted diamond in stark black and white is something which will elicit a sharp intake of breath.

The First of the Fallen bears witness to God’s creation of the universe and even nudges the Dithering Deity along, but then he detects a flaw in His latest project called Man. He warns God against it, but when you’ve created something in Your Own Image then you’re going to take that sort of criticism personally.

Those eyes are haunting.

SLH

Buy The Monologuist: God And The Devil At War In The Garden and read the Page 45 review here

The Fuse vol 1: The Russia Shift s/c (£7-50, Image) by Antony Johnson & Justin Greenwood.

“Only two kinds of police volunteer for The Fuse. Guys who are fucked back on Earth and guys who are fucked back on Earth!”

Do you think Dietrich is fucked back on Earth?

From the writer of WASTELAND, UMBRAL and THE COLDEST CITY!

On paper Klem’s new partner in The Fuse’s Homicide Department is a catch. Aged 28 with a 75% case clearance rate over three years in Munich, he would be shooting up the ranks back on Earth. So why has he volunteered for an understaffed police department in an underfunded, patched-up, makeshift steel city on an energy platform orbiting 22,000 miles above terra firma? We don’t know yet. We do that that making friends with veteran Klem will prove difficult.

“Short for “Klementina”. You assumed I’d be a guy.”
“I assumed you would not be old enough to retire.”
“And I assumed you would be too old for High School.”

For a German, Dietrich can sure hold his own in a sharp-tongued bout of American verbal sabres. Let’s see how good he is at being thrown in at the deep end when a Cabler – one of The Fuse’s reclusive homeless – staggers out of the darkness and falls dead in front of him. In her pocket are a phone card which Cablers don’t use and an electronic card for a shuttleport locker which Cablers can’t afford.

Almost immediately a second Cabler falls flat on his face with a similarly fatal wound right outside Midway City Hall, dropping a gun with two empty chambers. And that’s an odd direction to head in. Inside Mayor Rocky Swanson is preparing for re-election by practising his speech craft:

“As you probably know, I lost my family in the riots of ’97.”
“”Fires of ‘97”. FLF will fall on any violent imagery. Add “like most of you”. Inclusive, even nostalgic.”
“When I needed help, Midway City took me in. Raised me, educated me, even sent me to college. This city became my family.”
“More vulnerable. Build up to the defiance.”
“Now, like any family… Sure we argue from time to time. We don’t always agree on how to get things done.”
“”Argue around the dinner table”. Like normal people.”

Oh, there will be family arguments all right. Did I mention that the phone card was used to contact the City Hall twice? And the riots…? They were race riots. There’s plenty of hard politics here along with a murder mystery which, in spite of hard-won leads, will confound Klem and Dietrich almost to the end.

Aside from the term “Cabler” which I promise you proves contextual, there’s barely a piece of the neologistic slang which always make me wince. (I liked the “Fuck a spaceman!” swear of exasperation or surprise.) Nor is there much in the way of futuristic design for the sake of it. The space shuttle interior is identical to a regular passenger aircraft’s. Why wouldn’t it be? We’ve already spent decades perfecting its functionality and design. The only difference is in docking: passengers are advised to be awake when the airlock’s thrown open or they’re likely to throw up.

Similarly, unlike many a space station full of free-standing stalls, the shopping streets are precisely that: streets with window-fronted shops, raised pavements and everything. This is all so familiar, creating a contrast all the more striking when you peer out of the passenger window to gawp at the sheer majesty of the five-mile-wide energy platform, shining in the night lie a gigantic electrical fuse.

Justin Greenwood and colourist Shari Chankhamma make the most of that moment, just as Justin makes the most of the crowd scenes and different physicalities: handsome, sprightly, dark-skinned Dietrich partnered with silver-haired, duty-worn Klem who has evidently seen so little sunlight of late that she is virtually an albino. No one looks particularly healthy – they’re all slightly wan – and you wait until you see where and how the Cablers live in their vertical shanty-town shafts of precarious metal ledges.

Let’s not forget another of Johnston’s passions: design. This is a classily designed comic whose cover doubles as a quick lesson in orbital physics, while subsequent chapter breaks are variations on that big, bold theme, all retaining its circular motif.

There were a couple of spreads I had to read twice, their top- tier panel layouts having failed to alert me that I needed to read right across the double page before dropping down (top tip: make sure the centre panel of that top tier is spread evenly over the crease, please) but that’s the VAT-man in me determined in find at least one fault in what’s otherwise perfection.

Antony proved himself a world-builder par excellence in UMBRAL without spewing it clumsily and messily at your feet all at once. Similarly here you’re left to learn the history and politics (office and otherwise) gradually and in manageable bursts as newcomer Dietrich does. He’s going to make mistakes. They all are.

Lieutenant Yuri Brachyinov:

“I hope we’ve all learned a valuable lesson today, or some other bullshit. Now get out there and solve these fucking murders.”

SLH

Buy The Fuse vol 1: The Russia Shift s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Star Wars: Lucas Draft s/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by J. . Rinzler & Mike Mayhew…

It’s Star Wars, George, but not as we know it.

A long time ago…

I heard a story regarding a young George Lucas, around the time he made THX 1138 – his first film, which if you haven’t seen you really should, it is a dystopian classic – touting a rough draft of his next film around various producers and moneymen in Hollywood, with a view to getting funding.

That was, of course, Star Wars but apparently the draft film, including sequences of space battles recreated with biplane dog fight footage, left the industry luminaries less than impressed and initially he struggled to find backers. This was perhaps not that surprising given the general attitude towards science fiction pictures at the time in Hollywood, post the 1974 debacle that was Zardoz* featuring Sean Connery rocking the mankini long before Borat made it popular. Seriously, how was he ever persuaded to wear that?

Anyway, what I don’t know is how much of that Star Wars proto-film was based on the final screenplay, and how much of it was based on this earlier draft, as the two are rather different. That proto-film is actually a DVD extra I would happily pay for, but maybe it is lost to the mists of time, or Lucas has long since wiped it, which would be a shame. In any event, this comic gives us a fascinating glimpse into a work in progress. It’s just as solid a script in its own right as the final version, and apparently Lucas himself okayed this comic page by page, so it is as close to a cinematic version of his original screenplay as we are ever likely to get.

Pretty much all the characters you would expect are here, just not as you know them. Not remotely. Certain key plot points also remain, but in essence it is a completely different story.

 

Nice, clean if slightly stilted art from Mike Mayhew, plus cinematically lit with vibrant colours from Rain Beredo, carries the relatively complex story well. Some may consider THE STAR WARS yet more indulgent and unnecessary retrospective tinkering with the Star Wars canon and established mythos by Lucas, but I think this work has genuine value for its insight into the early process that produced, whether you like it or not, a genre defining and generational cinema classic. Also, it is just great sci-fi fun in its own right.

(* If you have never seen Zardoz either, you really do need to see that as well, trust me. It takes some believing, given is truly awful on so many levels, with one of the most utterly bizarre ‘plots’ ever conceived, but it is a triumphant cult classic without a doubt.)

JR

Buy The Star Wars: Lucas Draft s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Killer Omnibus vol 2 s/c (£18-99, Archaia) by Matz & Luc Jacamon.

“Poor Mexico – so far from God and so close to the USA.”

- Diaz Ordiz, Mexican President, 1960

And so, with this reprint collecting volumes three and four, we start afresh with the titular assassin three years into retirement, lazing on the beaches of Venezuela. Lazing – that really doesn’t sound like him, does it? On the other hand he might well have stayed there had Mariano not sent fresh clients his way. Maybe they were the itch he couldn’t help scratching as they fed him a succession of contracts, one after the other.

The first seemed relatively straightforward: a Spanish oil broker living in Venezuela but thankfully staying in Mexico. Then an assistant manager of the Venezuelan National Bank: a little close to home but another easy target because riding a scooter in Caracas is tantamount to suicide anyway. But it’s the third target which begins to rattle our unflappable killer who hasn’t been as calculating as he should have been. Her name is Madre Luisa, much loved in Latin America as a nun working the shunned slums of Columbia. He’s basically been asked to off Mother Teresa. Why?

With the help of Mariano and his Padrino, the connections become as clear and as they prove crude. This is Venezuela, after all, the third-largest supplier of the USA’s oil. Its President Hugo Chavez is determined to nationalise the industry. Unfortunately that doesn’t change anything except the likely identity of his clients and their potential reach: if he doesn’t kill Madre Luisa someone else will, and then they’ll come looking for him.

As topical right now as I’m afraid it’s likely to prove for quite some time, events spiral out of control on a national level and when Cuba’s interest is revealed the cold cogitations inevitably take a turn for the political. Here’s our man in Havana:

“There were fewer people sleeping outside and dying of hunger in the streets of Havana than in New York or Bombay. Not bad for a country strangled by American embargos for more than forty years. They weren’t rolling in dough and might not eat their fill every day, but they weren’t America’s whore or flunky, or anyone else’s and they knew it.
“Why is Fidel criticised? ‘Cause Cuba isn’t a democracy? What country is? The USA and Europe are in name only. And they impose their so-called superiority on the rest of the world. Easy enough when you rape and pillage, when you grow rich off other men’s work, when you don’t respect the rules you force on them. Bolivar said in 1823: “Providence seems to have destined the United States to rain all sorts of calamities on South America in the name of liberty.” Seeing that far ahead is really something…
“Castro’s funny too. He once said Christ’s sermons would make for good radical socialism, whether or not you were a believer. At the UN, 184 out of 192 countries voted to lift the embargo on Cuba. Only Israel, the US, the Marshall Islands, and Palau voted no… and won. Democracy in action.”

There’s plenty more where that came from in a thriller whose killer has much more to say about foreign intervention and genocide throughout the ages and across the globe. You might say it’s his specialist subject and once more it’s that part of his nature he denies having that lands him in trouble: he can’t help but question everything he’s told, everything he sees around him, and in spite of his protestations he does actually care. In his line of work, nobody likes a troublemaker.

It’s the light that readers comment on most. Whether it’s the dappled shade at a corner café or looking up from the forest floor to the canopy above, the foliage growing fainter as more sunlight shines through, the colouring’s a joy. Plenty of Cuban sunsets this time, and Miami’s glorious aquamarine coastline is yet another of Jacamon’s flourishes which will have you gasping. His reflector sunglasses are out of this world – you’d think the paper had been chemically treated. Also, I love the way a puff of dusty sand, kicked up by the Cuban heels of our Killer’s cowboy boots as he strides across the Mexican desert, curls into the clouds on the very next panel.

Further “negotiations” will eventually take him to London and Paris where, of course, he will bide his time in boulevard bars, musing on human nature.

“Optimism can sometimes seem like naïveté, but pessimism is often a fruitless affectation. I’m all for clear-sightedness. Not wearing blinders, not getting hoodwinked by pretenders and received ideas.
“Meanwhile, I wait and watch. I want to see what’s coming.”

SLH

Buy The Killer Omnibus vol 2 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The New Wipers Times (£5-00, Nottingham City Museums) by various including Helen Cross & Carol Adams…

A wonderfully witty nod to the trench magazine published by soldiers who were actively fighting in WWI. Not many people have heard of the original Wipers Times these days, let alone know it was produced by the Sherwood Foresters regiment. In 1916, the 12th battalion of the Foresters was at Ypres when they came across an abandoned printing press. One of the soldiers, a printer in peacetime, managed to get it working, and thus the satirical paper, its name a deliberate mispronunciation of where they had found the press itself, was born.

It proved hugely popular with poems, cartoons, essays and jokes regarding the War from anonymous contributors. I can well imagine the paper wasn’t particularly well received by the top brass, who were often portrayed as clueless and self-absorbed, but at least they didn’t try to suppress it unlike the French Generals did with The Song Of Craonne, offering a million francs and an immediate honourable discharge to anyone who identified its creators. Not that anyone ever did.

This tribute, published by Nottingham City Museums, contains a selection of material written by army families, adults and children, edited by Helen Cross and then illustrated in a variety of styles by the redoubtable Carol Adams that neatly captures the subversive and silly flavour of the original. Not that the stories are all WWI based, far from it, many illustrate the current concerns of modern military spouses and kids. The pieces are liberally interspersed with spoof adverts for ridiculous contraptions of the ilk that DR. GRORDBORT would undoubtedly approve of!

I was very impressed, I must say, both by the quality of writing and also the artwork. Yes, you can obviously tell what has been penned by the different age groups, but there is some rather moving material here, as well as the more overtly humorous. The co-ordinator of the project, Kay Culbard, mentioned to me that Helen Cross, the artist, was determined to use a number of different styles, despite a rather tight deadline, and it was well worth her efforts because it really adds to the depth of this anthology as a whole. Lovely to see people remembering the sacrifices made by those who fought in WW1 in a touching, contemporary and innovative manner.

JR

Buy The New Wipers Times and read the Page 45 review here

Invincible Days h/c (£14-99, NBM) by Patrick Atangan.

“Bittersweet, joyful and reflective.” Yes, okay.

Childhood memories supplied to Atangan by friends and family then popped in a blender and poured onto each rigid, four-page tray like so much chocolate cake mix.

Look at the colours! They may be bright but they’re also pallid and opaque. Look at the anthropomorphics: each narrator’s child hasn’t been transformed into an animal, they’ve been turned into a plush-toy version of that animal. It’s like lingering uncomfortably long in a four-year-old’s bedroom. Cloying, to say the least.

My main problem, however, isn’t the colours or the teddybear protagonists, it’s the stop-start nature of the broken sentences divided almost equally and so arbitrarily between each unyielding panel of each identical twelve-panel page of each four-page story.

We’re not baking buns here, we’re making comics.

And actually, I’m not too sure about the “joyful” or “bittersweet” – most of those I’ve read are desperately sad, particularly when it comes to pets for whom it doesn’t end well. But yes, they are reflective and some are genuinely affecting, like ‘Displacement’. In it a grandmother is moved into a nursing home, enduring without complaint a feeding regime which will appal you, and leaving both a vacuum and a rift in the family household.

Moreover, the book ends on an absolute belter called ‘Responsibility’ in which the narrator’s sister is given a goldfish won by her boyfriend at a fair. Initially she is thrilled: she buys a bowl, some pebbles to line its bottom and even a plastic castle. But she swiftly loses interest in the bowl and its water’s maintenance and therefore the health of the animal, leaving her brother to intervene on the goldfish’s behalf or it simply wouldn’t get done.

She’s now pregnant.

SLH

Buy Invincible Days h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Sisters (£8-50, Scholastic) by Raina Telgemeier…

“I WANT A SISTER!!
“Sister.
“Sister.
“Sister.
“Sister.
“Sister.
“Sister.”
“Should we tell her?”
“I don’t know, what if it’s a boy?”

Ha, well it was a girl, but Raina certainly didn’t get the soulmate of a younger sister she was expecting. Instead she got a sibling, Amara, who seemingly has no interest in socialising with her, or indeed even being social to her. Right from her birth, her sister seems to take delight in generally antagonising and annoying her. Their only shared interest seems to be drawing, but even that doesn’t seem to be something they can bond over.

Meanwhile, the time has come for a family vacation and whilst Dad is flying to and from the destination of Colorado, Mum, the girls and their younger brother are going to drive in a VW camper van. From California. It proves to be a very long trip, in both directions, broken up only by a family reunion with various aunts, uncles and cousins, with whom they are staying. There is one female cousin in particular Raina is looking forward to catching up with, as she felt much more of a sisterly connection with her the last time they met than she has ever felt with her own. Several years have passed since then however, and now their slight difference in ages, Raina being the younger, is rather apparent, leaving Raina first a tad bemused and then disappointed.

 

If you are a fan of Raina’s previous work, the dentally traumatic SMILE, then you will be familiar with her cheerful, breezy art style, and find this just as much cringeworthy fun. I loved the recycling of the SMILE cover image into this cover as well, very amusing. This is a warmly written, humorous, and I am sure entirely accurate portrait of what it must be like to have endured a shared childhood with someone you could quite cheerfully have strangled at any given moment. Fortunately, being an only child I managed to avoid all that, though obviously now having Stephen as a business partner I feel I might be gaining some insight into the matter…

Amara can’t have been that bad though, or maybe they just get on better as adults, as Raina does dedicate this work to her!

JR

Buy Sisters and read the Page 45 review here

Dream Locations Postcards (£5-99,) by Joe List, Lizz Lunney, Soju Tanaka.

Come visit Page 45’s brand-new Lizz Lunney Megastore!

http://www.page45.com/store/The-Page-45-Lizz-Lunney-Superstore.html

“Greetings from the void,” says one of Joe List’s postcards, neatly naming my brain, while Lizz Lunney invites you to “Lovely, sunny, beautiful… Squirrel Park.” Keep your windows up and don’t get out of the car!

I was once chatting to a professional pest control expert and, if you think squirrels are cute little critters who just love to nibble their nuts, you wait until you get some in your loft. And if you do find some in your loft, under no circumstances try a summary eviction yourself. Rats will run away. Squirrels do not back down! Nuts are aphoristically famous for being tough to crack, so imagine the damage a squirrel’s teeth can do to yours.

Anyway (one public service announcement later), we are now bursting with Lizz Lunney epistolary madness, and this neat little booklet of 21 postcards by Joe, Soju and Lizz comes with a bonus of  8 glossy stickers.

I’m constantly misreading “the sea of faces”, though. I wonder if that’s intentional?

SLH

Buy Dream Locations Postcards and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

 

Above The Dreamless Dead: World War I In Poetry And Comics h/c (£18-99, First Second) by various

Amulet vol 6: Escape From Lucien (£9-99, Scholastic) by Kazu Kibuishi

An Age Of License: A Travelogue (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Lucy Knisley

Baby Bjornstrand (£14-99, Koyama Press) by Renee French

El Nino h/c (£26-99, Humanoids) by Christian Perrissin & Boro Pavlovic

Finder: Third World (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Carla Speed McNeil

Pariah vol 2 s/c (£10-99, Dark Horse) by Aaron Warner, Phillip Gelatt & Brett Weldele

Probably Nothing: A Diary Of Not-Your-Average Nine Months h/c (£16-99, Penguin) by Matilda Tristam

Regular Show vol 1 s/c (£10-99, Kaboom) by various

Thunderbirds vol 1 (£6-99, Egmont) by unknown & Frank Bellamy

Thunderbirds vol 2 (£6-99, Egmont) by unknown & Frank Bellamy

Thunderbirds vol 3 (£6-99, Egmont) by unknown & Frank Bellamy

Truth And Dare: A Comicbook Curriculum For The End And The Beginning Of The World (£6-99, Ecosocialist Horizons) by various

Void h/c (£8-99, Titan) by Herik Hanna & Sean Phillips

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic vol 5 s/c (£13-50, IDW) by Katie Cook & Andy Price

Batwoman vol 4: This Blood Is Thick s/c (£10-99, DC) by J. H. Williams, Haden Blackman & Trevor McCarthy, Francesco Francavilla

Deathstroke vol 1: Legacy s/c (£12-99, DC) by Kyle Higgins & Joe Bennett, Eduardo Pansica

Deathstroke vol 2: Lobo Hunt s/c (£14-99, DC) by Kyle Higgins & Joe Bennett, Eduardo Pansica

Forever Evil h/c (£18-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & David Finch

Green Lantern Corps vol 3: Willpower s/c (£12-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi, Geoff Johns & Fernando Pasarin, various

Battle Angel Alita Last Order vol 18 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Yukito Kishiro

New Lone Wolf & Cub vol 2 (£10-50, Dark Horse) by Kazuo Koike & Hideki Mori

News

ITEM! Colleen Doran’s Orpheus and Morpheus from SANDMAN!

ITEM! New Neil Gaiman short story collection (prose) Trigger Warnings: Short Fictions and Disturbances revisits American Gods. Due February 2015.

ITEM! Marc Laming is knocking it out of the park on a daily basis. Starlord – immaculate composition.

ITEM! Ian McQue’s sublime Lost World in green.

ITEM! Leigh Alexander writes about the damage done by Gamers to the reputation of the wider games industry. If you can’t see similarities with the less healthy aspects of superhero comics culture (I emphasise superhero there – not the Real Mainstream comics culture we all know, love, promote and propagate here), then I cannot help you.

ITEM! Comics and Graphic Novels for September 2014 onwards is up on Page 45’s website for free! Please add new titles you know you will want to your Standing Order here (or start up a new one) as soon as possible and you will be guaranteed copies! Alternatively please pre-order directly online!

Either way, ordering the day after publication reduces your hopes dramatically and may induce tears, making your mascara run so that you look like a raccoon. It’s not a good look.

Our Image Comics page includes Matt Fraction & Christian Ward’s ODY-C #1 What’s this? It’s Matt Fraction & Christian Ward’s ODY-C previewed here!

ITEM! Page 45 proudly announces its Lizz Lunney Megastore! A one-stop shop for all Lizz’s self-published comics and notebooks and cards. If it’s in print, we’ve got it!

Yippee!

Also: don’t forget Lizz Lunney’s TAKE AWAY, the TINY PENCIL anthology artefact, the HIC & HOC HUMOUR anthology and Page 45’s exclusive Lizz Lunney greetings card!

“You always have friends when you have comics.”

- Stephen

Reviews August 2014 week four

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

“Sometimes I’ll be walking down the street and I’ll suddenly recall some unspeakable transgression of mine, and the shame and horror I feel will stop me dead in my tracks!”

 - Jim Woodring in Jim. Does that sound familiar or what?

Zaya h/c (£22-50, Magnetic) by Jean-David Morvan & Huang-Jia Wei.

“Please, sir, perhaps you should stop drinking…”

Pick a page, any page, and I promise you will lap this up.

A tonic for tired eyes, it is a sublime fusion of European science fiction settling into steampunk in places, with plenty to please more mature manga readers too in the form of the Chinese protagonists, antagonists and subaquatic, aerial and upper-atmosphere dogfights.

The architecture is exquisite, from Zaya’s countryside getaway – an ornate, gabled mansion with white wooden and stone features overshadowed by trees – to the early morning marina with its Venetian towers and baroque clocks in what is evidently a very rich quarter of a very rich city. You should see Zaya’s hotel room – and just wait until you book into the saltwater resort of Estrella del Mar whose hotels, each competing to outdo the others in opulence and originality, sit right on the immaculate beaches, their balustraded stone steps rising from the sands.

However the art is actually composed, it looks like good old-fashioned pencil and wash with exquisite figure work and a fine eye for fashion. Zaya’s black waistcoats, miniskirts and cocktail dresses could not be more chic; her hair, blouses and battlesuit too.

The palette, for the most part, is pure Arthur Rackham: sepia, creams and muted greens which makes the rich blue skies of Estrella del Mar all the fresher and the minimally deployed reds stand out a mile.

As to the steampunk aspect, there is a charming mix of the antique, antiquated and futuristic from Zaya’s mail box, country house and classic car pimped with rocket pipes to the giant floating liners, airships and spaceships and Zaya’s spaceship bathroom with its pumps, plumbing and small generator only partially hidden by chain-linked metal mesh! Also, coming back to the architecture, we’re not on Earth but a colonised planet so everything has been built afresh. When we do reach Earth you’ll discover the modern sits atop ground-level conurbations far more familiar. I love that either the writer or artist has thought of that.

This isn’t created in shorthand, either, so you won’t feel short-changed: plenty of extended scenes so you can soak in the eye-candy.

It’s opening night at Zaya Oblidine’s holosculpture exhibition. The centre piece looks like some tumour-ridden mammoth to me, but it’s being very well received. An over-entitled nitwit being pleaded with by the waiter is getting drunk and obnoxious. Zaya steps in. The drunkard “steps out”.

Meanwhile, a family car is being targeted by a top-heavy mutant of a man or machine that looks like it could have been designed by Zaya herself. With gigantic jetpacks armoured and weaponised to the max, she/he/it prefers an aerial assault and it’s devastating. The first strike takes out most of the mother’s face and only the father manages to crawl from the wreckage and scramble for cover. Pursued to a dead end, the man cuts off his own hand with a circular saw and jettisons it into a garbage chute so its signet ring can transmit into space, there to be detected by Spiral. Oh, and space has another useful property too…

It transpires that he’s not been the first former agent of Spiral to be tracked down. It also transpires that sculpture wasn’t Zaya’s first occupation. After twenty years working for the top secret agency called Spiral (she joined very young, as you’ll discover) she retired six years ago when she fell pregnant and has since raised the two daughters she dotes on as a more than capable single parent. Her younger sister Carmen visits often. This is not irrelevant.

Now Zaya’s being reactivated for what Spiral claims will be such a low-risk, safe and simple assignment that she won’t even need a gun: she’s to work for one day as a hostess on a yacht moored at Estrella del Mar. But if it’s such a low-level mission, why are there 341 other Spiral agents acting as crew members too?

So there you go: a summary of Act One. As you might infer Act Two goes postal with the most monumental all-out action you can imagine before Act Three takes a completely unexpected turn at the transdimensional traffic lights leaving Zaya confounded, distraught then devastated. Readers will be tearing their hair out under a deluge of dramatic irony. You know what’s happening: Zaya hasn’t a clue.

A final note on Estrella del Mar that made me laugh:

“Many beaches of the central island are clearly separated for naturists and other groups of religious thought, so that everyone can relax without having to face the gaze of others.”

Plus:

“”Sorry” is really the last thing you should say to a woman after sex.”

My friend Cath found “Thanks for that” pretty shoddy too.

SLH

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

Corpse Talk Season 1 (£6-99, David Fickling Books) by Adam Murphy.

Julius Caesar:

“I didn’t abolish the Senate, I just filled it with my guys who all did what I said.”
“Good idea, boss!”
“That made some people mad!”
“We need to do something about it…”
“Something stabby…”

Something stabby.

All education should be entertainment, and this was so entertaining that I learned more about history in these sixty pages than I did during six years of lessons at school. Moreover, I read so retained more than I did watching three seasons of Simon Schama. Studies have proved you retain more when reading; add in the visual cues a comic can connect in your brain and you have a Young Adult bursting with knowledge, having had a whale of a time in the process and so looking forward to more!

The cartooning is bright, gleeful and incredibly detailed as each interviewee takes you back in time to celebrate their crowning achievements and most moronic moments. Did you know, for example, that Florence Nightingale’s Crimean endeavours ended up killing more soldiers than they saved? Her Nightingale Rose diagram shows the number that died in battle was dwarfed by the thousands who died of infections caught and spread within the confines of the hospital.

Dick Turpin turns out to be a much less impressive loser than his enduring reputation would have you believe, while Queen Boudica (she of the multiple name spellings) almost had the Roman soldiers on the run…

“We had them trapped and outnumbered by twenty to one.”
“Eep!”
“Uh, sir, I have to go. My wife’s giving birth…”
“My mum’s giving birth!
I’m giving birth!”

… but her soldiers, so confident that some charged in nekkid, all came a cropper at the impenetrable end of the Roman Tortoise, a wall of shields as strong as its shell with swords and spears sticking out of it.

That Adam Murphy chose conversations with cadavers is essential to the merriment: a long list of facts would have been so, so dull, and besides, kids love corpses. Instead the pun-prone man with the microphone really engages, aggravates and occasionally runs away from his guests in outright terror. It’s a performance like Kermit the Frog’s.

He’s also done his research like any smart interviewer and carefully constructs each episode around the most salient scenes, thus distilling but not distorting the stories, putting them firmly into perspective (especially Joan of Arc’s) and so really making you think! Just as education should be entertaining it should also be engaging: not just force-feeding students facts, but making them think about what they’re learning.

Marie Curie discovered radiation: hurrah! It killed her: hurr-oh! Her notebooks are so radioactive they still can’t be handled safely. Leonardo Da Vinci was a true Renaissance Man (he was both an all-rounder and had a slight helping hand in the Italian Renaissance) so studied the anatomy he painted so well. He then went on to design flying machines and weapons of war – lots of them including a robot! – but bought caged birds to free them and was possibly the only vegetarian in Italy. Unusual in those days. Pirate Anne Bonny initially cross-dressed to fool her crew but then got fooled too when the man she fell in love with turned out to be playing the same game. If you think Murphy could resist “What a drag!” you are very much mistaken.

Almost every conversation is curtailed with a similar pun, begins with a tombstone decorated according to the subject’s most iconic object or association, and is introduced to viewers with a big Kermit flail.

“This week, my guest is a truly timeless classic! It’s the piano prodigy, violin virtuoso, king of composers Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart!”
“Righteous.”

You can almost year the Muppets’ applause.

Like Andi Watson in GLISTER, Adam Murphy does not shy away from deploying what may be new words to young readers like “appellation” and quite right too: if you don’t encounter new words, how can you learn them? You can even learn a little Latin (“Ave!”) and where Crossing the Rubicon came from (clue: crossing the Rubicon).

The book begins with a chronological rabbit warren of graves, tombs and catacombs each denoting a key note in history, crucial for context, dating back from 1969 (Moon landing) to circa 3000 BC when writing was invented and I was aged five.

I leave you with a King Tut titbit in which we learn why the genetically disadvantaged Tutankhamun was a bit rickety on his pins and almost always ill: his dad married his own sister! And so did he!

SLH

Buy Corpse Talk Season 1 and read the Page 45 review here

The End (Silver Edition) signed & sketched in (£6-00, Thingsbydan) by Dan Berry.

“14 Days & Counting.”

Well, this will give you pause for thought.

Bound within a luxurious, rough-grained, card-stock cover which had been screen-printed with scarlet, black and silver ink are some of the most sobering pages I’ve read from Dan Berry. Such is the beauty of the cover you might not register at first that the objects which the gold [now silver] adorns are skulls.

It’s closer to CARRY ME in tone that the comedy of CAT ISLAND, THE SUITCASE, HEY YOU! and THROW YOUR KEYS AWAY, but in execution it’s yet another departure. The washes are in a wet, inky black and blue whose sheen is picked up beautifully on the crisp, white, satin paper.

A lot of this takes place at night, which doesn’t always bring out the best in us. We don’t like it when we can’t see what is happening. We don’t like it when we don’t understand what is happening. We don’t react well to that which we cannot control.

Time in particular we feel the need to control: we measure it out in years divided into months or weeks, which we decided should have seven days composed of twenty-four hours each housing sixty minutes and they, sixty seconds. A day makes solar sense, as does a year, but boy we don’t half attach a lot of importance to some of the more arbitrary measurements and a countdown sure gets the adrenalin rushing.

When the numbers first appeared overnight – all of them “14” – they did so on walls and billboards and buses: the sort of places you’d expect from a marketing campaign. So we shrugged because that’s what we assumed it was.

“Thirteen came and went the next day with a chorus of “I told you so” and eye-rolling from the people who kept up with this sort of thing. The progression from 14 to 13 was predictable and had been done to death, they said. If this was to be a truly effective ad campaign, we’d need to given a reason to car and we didn’t have that. 6 /10, must try harder.”

Love the smug, supercilious pundit there in his turtleneck sweater, brandishing a cigarette and tut-tutting with his fingers.

Dan’s put an enormous amount of lateral thought into this, a study in human behaviour under unusual circumstances extrapolated from how we do react to numbers and time. Also, I love the core conceit and where Dan ran with it right to the end.

SLH

Buy The End and read the Page 45 review here

Hip Hop Family Tree vol 2 (£20-99, Fantagraphics) by Ed Piskor…

“Why you lookin’ at me like that, Russell?”

Ha! I do love Ed’s portrayal of Russell Simmons, and I am pleased he gets the props here – to use the street parlance – that he so richly deserves, for his huge part in the explosion of Hip-Hop and its subsequent introduction to the club-going and record buying masses. He remains a fascinating bloke to this day, actually: a staunch vegan, transcendental meditation practitioner, and long-time supporter of gay rights, inter-faith dialogue and social activism. But, back in the day, his interests were somewhat more focused on getting paid by finding new musical talent, and having a good time.

That he kept his younger brother out of the studio for so long, despite his ever more vocal protests, is all the more amusing when you know his brother is Joseph Simmons, or as he soon became far better known, Rev. Run of iconic hip-hop grandmasters Run-D.M.C. When he finally let his brother and his mate into the studio, ostensibly to shut them up, Russell quickly realised he had struck not just gold, but multi-platinum. Their first few gigs as a lyrical duo, though, were something of a trial by fire, getting ridiculed for their check jackets and flares stage outfits. Cue one typical flash of Russell Simmons’ genius later, as he spied a casually dressed, hat wearing, sneaker pimped, ghetto blaster toting Jason “Jazzy Jase” Mizell entering the studios whilst debriefing the boys, and the fresh and fly trio of Run-D.M.C. that we know and love today were born. In an era of ever more surreal and outlandish performers’ costumes, their laidback street attire was exactly what was required to appeal to the masses.

The little nugget I have just described above takes up barely a couple of pages of this magnificent second volume, which explores 1981-1983, detailing the continuing, burgeoning public acclaim of the early pioneers like Grandmaster Flash, Melle Mel and Arika Bambaataa, whilst revealing the childhoods and very early days of future legends like Run-D.M.C., the Beastie Boys, Public Enemy and NWA. This series of books, for I assume Ed is going to continue onwards past 1983 which is where this volume concludes, is vital reading for anyone wanting to know more about this era of music. His knowledge of his subject is truly encyclopaedic, but the piecing together of all the various insane anecdotes to produce a coherent and engaging narrative is magnificent craft, and he captures the raw charisma and sheer chutzpah that many of the performers, who had polished their skills on the mean streets the hard way, possessed in abundance. Confidence, usually, was the one area they were not lacking in. Naivety in dealing with record labels, on the other hand…

Just going back to sartorial elegance, or the lack thereof, it takes some believing these days, the outfits some of the early pioneers used to wear. There is a great little scene where someone gets extremely excited over Ice T’s first proto-single simply because he looks like he is straight out of Mad Max. And I am talking Beyond Thunderdome, not Road Warrior… In fact when you look at how Afrika Bambaataa and his acolytes dressed around this period, you can perhaps understand how it wasn’t that big a stretch to someone coming up with the Village People…

I think the connections and friendships Ed details, between various apparently very disparate elements of the wider music and arts scene, particularly in New York, are absolutely paramount to understanding the fast-moving morphology of music at a time where public exposure was also exploding exponentially through MTV, which launched in August 1981. There are some bizarre friendships, occasionally of complete convenience, which you would never expect, yet in retrospect make perfect sense, both musically and indeed fiscally. So when a certain ginger, wild-haired chancer called Malcolm McLaren starts to take an interest in how he can export Hip-Hop to the UK, he insinuates himself into the scene like the veritable social and musical chameleon we now know he was, glad-handing and appropriating everything he needed for his next sonic experiment. Whether the tracks Buffalo Gals and Double Dutch deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as the canon of truly great hip-hop records isn’t for me to decide, but we can’t dispute they certainly played their dancefloor-filling part in helping to bring hip-hop to the UK.

I really do hope Ed continues with this work, not least because his still has a few years to go before hitting my own personal era of getting into rap and hip hop, circa 1988. That all began with catching the Public Enemy video for Don’t Believe The Hype on Top Of The Pops one Thursday night and simply thinking, “What on earth is this?” I did already like a bit of Chicago House at that point, probably had heard some of the Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel stuff, but one purchase of “It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back” later the following Saturday and a lifelong love with that genre had well and truly begun.

JR

Buy Hip Hop Family Tree vol 2 and read the Page 45 review here

Fish (£6-50, Nobrow) by Bianca Bagnarelli.

Golly.

Rarely has lilac been employed so effectively (inside – I know the cover’s black cherry), and young Milo’s skin positively glows under the Mediterranean sun.

It’s quite a short piece so I’ll say very little. It’s also the second story about drowning I’ve read in two days.

Milo’s parents drowned and now he is burdened with a sense of loss he finds difficult to express. When he tries, he fails and so he falls silent. His mouth is tiny.

When a girl is washed up on a beach, his curiosity will only make matters worse. Milo has questions which can never be answered.

There’s a stillness here which will leave you staring at each carefully composed page for quite some time. Who knew a prawn would prove so entrancing?

I liked the way Milo wiggles his toes when his legs are dangling over a bridge.

As to the titular fish… no, I’m not going there.

SLH

Buy Fish and read the Page 45 review here

Jim h/c (£22-50, Fantagraphics) by Jim Woodring.

“Sometimes I’ll be walking down the street and I’ll suddenly recall some unspeakable transgression of mine, and the shame and horror I feel will stop me dead in my tracks!”

Oh, that happens to me. All. The. Fucking. Time.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not neurotic: I’m deliriously happy at work and with most of the work that I’ve done, but we all have our doubts.

Jim Woodring’s not neurotic, either. He’s a thinker and a visionary and a craftsman with the visual skill and verbal dexterity to express his visions and, here, thoughts and dreams. He understands dream logic: its surreal segues, odd settings and reconfigured cast combinations. I have, before now, shared an apartment with our Mark, Jo Brand, Warren Worthington III (X-Men’s Angel), an old flame and a couple of strangers we found in the bath.

Because Jim Woodring is best known for the silent FRANK fables (there are many volumes now, each extensively reviewed, so please pop “Jim Woodring” in our search engine) what you may be unaware of until now is that the man also has a way with words. Also, an obsession with frogs whose explanation is revealed in a rather dramatic anecdote in Jim’s introduction which touches on his early experiences with Oz and the history of these earliest works in the magazine-sized JIM which Fantagraphics’ Gary Groth had so much faith in that he published them for years at a loss. What Woodring doesn’t do is explain the contents. You know, apart from that giant frog with its permanently arched eyebrow. Anyway, words:

“Once I had a little trust…
“Its burnished head nattered at me in a voice as wild and sullen as my own and led me to walls that sulked and raged and trees that blared fantastic music.
“I stole something poor in those days and everyone cared, for every leaf was seen not merely as green, but all-fulfilling, peaceful, the soul that sustains the whole universe.”

The images that accompany those words show Woodring playing with a puzzle in the countryside while being inspected by his ubiquitous (censorious? certainly serious) two-toed frog, one eye wide-open in judgement.

Woodring was Page 45’s co-creator Mark Simpson’s favourite comicbook craftsman. Both his imagination and introspection spoke to Mark, as well as – oh, how shall I put it? – the wonder of a reality as conceived and conveyed by its shaman. Along with the comics here you will find many a Jimland Novelty advertised in the back which Woodring hand-crafted and sold direct to the likes of our own visionary, Mark: recipes, recordings, sets of postcards and an Escaped Convict Weathervane with prices ranging from two bucks to two hundred dollars.

“Page 35
“One of the very worst nightmares on my entire life reproduced just as recorded on p.35 of my dream journal. Not recommended. Quickly but tellingly drawn. Tiny book, 12 pp. $3.00”

Thank god it wasn’t page 45!

“Biscuits
“Impromptu bedtime stories unspooled on demand for our two-and-a-half-year-old son, Maxfield. Sprawling sagas intended to bemuse and sedate, delivered in droning, fibreless voice. Some crying. Half-hour tape… $7.00”

There is the odd silent short included like Trosper, which lingered long with me and – I’ve just consulted – Dee. Painted in full colour (most of this book’s black and white), it starred a baby elephant whose trunk was coiled up like a snail shell. He’s happily absorbed in joyful, solitary play with a ball while protected by a three-eyed fellow whose skin is the colour of peach flesh (yellow with flecks of red towards its centre) and who wields a green scimitar bobbled with berry-like beads all shiny red. A hooded, would-be assassin in ornate robes strikes and Trosper flees in terror. The trauma’s short-lived. Another ball presents itself.

You might have gathered by now that I too am declining to explain. I’m not being coy or evading the risk of being declared wrong because I am on most days the most opinionated bastard I know. But as I wrote on reviewing Jim’s WEATHERCRAFT, these things are better left for readers to interpret for themselves (yourselves, I hope). You get out what you put in – what you bring to the table. Anything I say risks polluting your personal experience just like some music videos used to set in stone so much of a song which could have meant much more to you.

I will only add that the first comic offered in JIM, Seafood Platter From Hell, indicates that Woodring had first-hand knowledge of catching a skate or a ray as have I, for oh my god those devilish mouths and their prodigiously well-hung wangers!

Also, that Big Red will show you another side of your household cat you would rather not know.

Beyond that there are whimsical advertisements for the likes of Niffers which I am 100% positive Alan Moore must have encountered before emulating / adapting them – no doubt subconsciously – in his LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN comics. Niffers were otherworldly, invisible life forms you could invite into your household confident that they could be seen thanks to “a specially patented fluorescent dye-and-medication treatment” and which you could film in stop-motion to render their barely perceptible movements visible. And thereby lies a satori of sorts. “Proof Without Passion” it proudly declares.

Lastly, “Don’t Hit Your Child!” screams a headline for an institution you instinctively suppose to be both benevolent as well as ahead of its day. But its proposed alternative for spoiled brats acting up and so infuriating their parents to their wits’ ends is draconian, to say the least.

“Don’t delay – send ‘em away!”

Possibly effective if they’re ever returned, or damaged beyond repair.

SLH

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

Jellaby vol 2: Monster In The City (£9-99, Capstone) by Kean Soo.

Friendship, loyalty and the need to be loved.

Also a lesson in never abandoning your pet, even if it’s an axolotl. Particularly if it’s an axolotl.

New word: axolotl.

Young Portia and Jason have taken infant dragon Jellaby to a daunting city in search of a door they believe will take him home. Even if they don’t really want to lose him. Unfortunately for all concerned they find that door and what lies behind it finds them… attractive.

More grape colouring and big-eyed cartooning for all ages.

For more, please see my review of JELLABY VOL 1

“Jellaby will win your heart”

– Jeff Smith of BONE, RASL and now TUKI fame.

SLH

Buy Jellaby vol 2: Monster In The City and read the Page 45 review here

Loki: Agent Of Asgard vol 1: Trust Me s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Al Ewing & Lee Garbett.

“Trust me. I know what I’m doing.”

If Loki is the Norse God of Mischief, then Al Ewing is his British counterpart.

Yay for gratuitous shower scenes! Lee Garbett’s teenage Loki is hot! Also wet. And steamy.

Yay for a pair of Seven League Boots enabling Loki to dash up waterfalls, over rainbows and scale Avengers Tower! Yay for stolen Shadow Thread and Cheshire Cat grins! And yay for trouble-magnet Clint Barton AKA Hawkeye with his perpetually plastered nose, who can get himself into the unlikeliest of muddles even when playing console games.

“Clint.”
“I know – “
“You have the army after you and no health and you’re falling out of a crashing plane.”
I know, Nat – “
“It’s a bass fishing simulator, Clint.”
I know! It just – it just happens!”

Oh, this is a most worthy successor to Gillen and McKelvie’s YOUNG AVENGERS towards the end of which Loki enjoyed a sudden growth spurt and now wears black nail varnish. Teenagers! Also, like Fraction and Aja’s HAWKEYE, it kicks off right in the middle when it’s already gone horribly wrong with Loki stabbing Thor in the back with a very big energy sword. I thought they were getting along so much better these days?

But if Loki is the God of Lies, Mischief and Deceit, it probably stands to reason that all is not as it seems. For a start, there is the little question of this series’ sub-title, but who precisely is he working for? Also, how will he get on with Verity Willis whose preternatural skill is to see through lies and illusion? You’d be surprised.

This is fast, fresh and funny as hell with wit-ridden wordplay and plenty of action to boot. IT is, above, great entertainment and that’s what I want from a comic.

Gone is the old, predictable God of Evil with his crooked nose, his goblin eyes and nasty row of teeth. Gone, I say, gone!

Or is he?

As Loki and Lorelei dive-bomb off a passenger jet to break into the most secure cell in Asgardia while Thor provides a ridiculous distraction to avert Heimdall’s ever-watching eyes, the levels of deceit are revealed. Young Loki has played a long game getting where he wants to be, which is access to another cell entirely. But then so has someone else…

SLH

Buy Loki: Agent Of Asgard vol 1: Trust Me s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Heroic Legend Of Arslan vol 1 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Yoshiki Tanaka & Hiromu Arakawa…

A new series from the creator of FULL METAL ALCHEMIST which so far seems to be a straight high fantasy caper starring the young prince Arslan, son of the undefeated and borderline psychopathic warrior King Andragoras of Pars. Arslan seems a rather more civilised sort than his father, so when he is dragged out onto the battlefield at the tender age of fourteen for his first taste of combat, it would be fair to say it’s an eye-opener.

When disaster inevitably strikes Pars, many wonder whether Arslan will be up to the task of reclaiming and rebuilding the kingdom, but of course pledge their loyalty and support – to his face, at least.

I quite enjoyed this, I must say. Given FULL METAL ALCHEMIST‘s melding of fantasy and sci-fi, I kept waiting for the weirdness to kick in, but it does in fact appear this will be a straight period yarn. It has therefore much in common with THE VINLAND SAGA, and from this first volume, is on a par with that excellent series in terms of story and art.

 

 

JR

Buy The Heroic Legend Of Arslan vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

The Monologuist: God And The Devil At War In The Garden (£11-99) by Anders Nilsen

The Fuse vol 1: The Russia Shift s/c (£7-50, Image) by Antony Johnson & Justin Greenwood

Tomboy (£11-99, Zest) by Liz Prince

How To Be Happy h/c (£18-99, Fantagraphics) by Eleanor Davis

Invincible Days h/c (£14-99, NBM) by Patrick Atangan

The New Wipers Times (£5-00, Nottingham City Museums) by various

Sisters (£8-50, Scholastic) by Raina Telgemeier

The Star Wars: Lucas Draft s/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by J. W. Rinzler & Mike Mayhew

Even More Bad Parenting Advice s/c (£9-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Guy Delisle

Fables vol 20: Camelot (£14-99, Vertigo) by Bill Willingham & Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Russ Braun, Barry Kitson, Andrew Pepoy, Gary Erskine

Green Lantern – New Guardians vol 4: Gods And Monsters s/c (£12-99, DC) by Justin Jordan, Robert Venditti & Brad Walker, Geraldo Borges, Andrei Bressan, Sean Chen

Avengers Undercover vol 1: Descent s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Dennis Hopeless & Kev Walker, Timothy Green, Francesco Mattina

Deadpool Vs. Carnage s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Cullen Bunn & Salva Espin

Fantastic Four vol 1: The Fall Of The Fantastic Four s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by James Robinson & Leonard Kirk

NEWS

ITEM! Video of Dan Berry sketching in copies of THE END which you will find reviewed up above. All of our copies are sketched in, yes!

ITEM! Sean Phillips interviewed about THE FADE OUT! Which has SOLD out! Review more likely when a second printing arrives. There is a reason it’s sold out, so grab one wherever you can as soon as you can!

ITEM! Eleanor Davis diary comic days one (see HOW TO BE HAPPY in new arrivals).

ITEM! Marc Laming does not skimp on detail. Look at this HULK page!

ITEM! New Tom Gauld cartoon. Funny! Also: guilty!

ITEM! Farel Dalrymple interviewed about THE WRENCHIES – coming soon – which looks utterly phenomenal!

ITEM! Beautiful and tender new comic by Sally Jane Thompson called SCARS free to read online.

ITEM! Publisher First Second’s article on the importance of creator fanbases.

ITEM! Jamie Smart’s online Whubble comic!

ITEM! David O’Connell’s incisive article on the organisation of comicbook conventions: the bare minimum of what should be happening when quite clearly it’s not.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaand……..

ITEM! Page 45’s signings past and future revealed in a lavishly illustrated Pulp 365 article by Lynda Clark. Thank you, Lynda, so very kind!

- Stephen