Posts in the ‘Reviews’ Category

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews March 2018 week three

Wednesday, March 21st, 2018

Featuring Sophie Burrows, Chris Forsman, Pornsak Pichetshote, Aaron Campbell, José Villarrubia, Rich Tommaso, Jason Aaron, R. M. Guera, Davide Furno, John Paul Leno, James Kochalka, more.

Infidel #1 (£3-25, Image) by Pornsak Pichetshote & Aaron Campbell with José Villarrubia.

“My mother’s all about obsessing over shadows in a room full of light. We’re not doing that to Leslie.”

There’s so much humanity and individuality in Aisha’s face, there. Her mouth lies slightly open and gentle, but her eyes gaze into the distance, the future, determined. On the previous page – in recollection of her mother – Aisha’s shoulders were slumped while leaning forward, with the weight of having been rejected. But she will not give up on her mother-in-law.

One of the many wonders of this – one of my two favourite new series of 2018 – is that the evidence remains deeply ambiguous as to whether Aisha’s being too trusting and optimistic, or whether her fiancé Tom knows his own mum better than she does.

What could any of this possibly have to do with a horror comic?



Well, there are so many more horrors other than the occult or the alien. There is uncertainty and vulnerability, not knowing if you can trust someone: the threat of harm, physical or otherwise, can be just as frightening as its actuality. Ask anyone who’s ever worried about being bullied at school the next day. Aisha is confident that Leslie’s no threat, either to herself or to her step-daughter, Kris, even in the knowledge of what’s gone before, but her university friend also has substantial doubts and we, the audience, are privy to some extra moments which they are not.

Secondly, there’s the very real and all too current horror of racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia: ignorance voiced with pride, spread sheep-like by osmosis or deliberately through disinformation as a virus which currently culminates increasingly not decreasingly in America, England and some parts of wider Europe in extreme intimidation and outright violence: beatings, acid attacks, murder and mass terrorism.

But equally there is the horror for Aisha of being rejected by her mother simply for becoming engaged to a non-Muslim, Tom, no matter how devout she’s remained.

What’s this series called again?



Then, of course, there is absolutely the horror of the creeping, the intangible and supernatural against which we have no defence. Worse still, if only you see it, feel it or smell it, no one may believe you. If no one else experiences what you do, then you go through it alone. That, I would suggest, is the ultimate horror.

Aisha is experiencing nightmares. They’re growing increasingly vivid and intense. A corpse-white cadaver wraps itself around her, draining her sleep and suffocating what’s left with its cloying stench of rotting meat. Ghastly grey hands creep over her shoulders and thighs, an intimacy of the unknown, invading her like an incubus with cold hands, cold fingers, cold heart.



Ah yes, that which cannot be fought or reasoned with. With that we come back again to real-life horror: those who are violent that cannot be reasoned with on the street, at work, in your home. It’s chilling.

Aisha, Tom and Kris have relatively recently moved into Tom’s mother’s apartment on the top floor of a tenement building on the Lower East Side which was the target of a bombing attack. I spotted the smoke stains on the very first page past the prologue, rising from the top of the fourth-storey windows.



It’s there on the metal shutters on the ground floor too. The bomber was verified by law enforcement as a lone wolf, but they had once glanced at an ISIS website, so you know how that goes…  Now the tenement has few tenants left for it is far from repaired, and some of those that remain, well, they don’t like seeing a brown Muslim of Pakistani origin climbing their rickety stairs. There is still so much anger, and even if hatred is suppressed then it will usually out somewhere, somehow.

I swear to whatever (if any) god you believe in that INFIDEL has been ridiculously well thought through and comes with a sophisticated balance and so many unexpected perspectives, for the final irony is that it is non-Muslim Tom, Aisha’s fiancé, who is so determined to protect Aisha and respect her faith along with its sacred traditions that he is the one fighting her corner against his own mother, Leslie. He was reluctant to move his family in because Leslie used to poison his daughter with sweeping Islamophobic slurs, as if all Muslims obeyed barbaric laws, condoned or actively encouraged terrorism. For example when Kris once played with Aisha’s hijab:

“Women who wear this let people get killed for drawing cartoons. They let men throw rocks at girls like you!”



But to Aisha that was two years ago, she believes Leslie has learned and that it’s vital that Kris know her grandmother because her biological mother died so early that Kris can’t even remember her.

The first chapter begins in paranormal terror and it climaxes in paranormal terror, before an even more awful real-world ellipsis of a cliff-hanger which could go any number of ways that I am so very desperate to read next month’s instalment.



HELLBLAZER used to combine occult and socio-political horror to successful, cathartic effect, but it was always a little bit burlesque because its star, John Constantine was a dabbler in diabolism et al. This is a very different beast, being grounded firmly in the street-level, down in the subway or on the park bench: on what we see all around us right now. I would suggest that the exceptionally uncomfortable paranormal aspect is merely a symptom, side-effect or result of the rot, not its cause.

It doesn’t make it any less pants-wettingly terrifying or grotesque.

I’m sure that I read somewhere that artists and co-collaborators on all aspects of the comic, Campbell and Villarrubia, chose to illustrate all the everyday elements in digital while pulling back to the traditional, more physical art process for the psychically parasitic. They rendered that on Bristol board.



It may seem perverse, but I’ve seen so many other offerings where the purportedly real has been rendered in pen and ink and the preternatural given a computer-driven day-glo and gloss. The result has always been a distancing disassociation between the two elements: here is the real world, but the other is freaky, immaterial so won’t matter to you – they’re special effects, so you don’t empathise.

What Campbell and Villarrubia have achieved, by contrast, is an unholy marriage which makes what would otherwise be ethereal all too sensually and so immediately repugnant, overwhelming and nasty.

So, you know, thanks for that.


Buy Infidel #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Crushing (£7-50, self-published) by Sophie Burrows.

I adore the little love heart which adorns the cover, replacing the diacritic dot above the ‘i’ (true fact: it’s called a “tittle”).

Behold! This silent, A4-sized comic set up on top of a summer’s Hampstead Heath, the London Tube system, then somewhere within the Capital’s sprawling outer conurbation, is an astutely observed, tender joy!

CRUSHING could not have been more aptly titled, for within the rich blue, early evening covers you will discover vast landscapes to swoon over, crowded commuters all crammed together, and telltale little blushes and flushes that give our game away when we’re a wee bit, briefly smitten.

Yes, this is all about crushing.

Oh, but we’re British! So what do we do?



Do we receive such often involuntarily leaked, sweet signals as an opportunity to return the kindly meant compliment, perhaps strike up a conversation or at least smile, maybe wave? Oh, how much happier this world would be, were we all to give a little light love back!

But we do not: we react by looking embarrassedly away or hiding behind newspapers in annoyance.

The poor love has already been snubbed up on Hampstead Heath. Yes, she has: by a pigeon!

Pigeons aren’t backwards in coming forth and strutting themselves as close as possible in the hope of being thrown a stale crumb. One alights on the back of her park bench, so she generously offers it a whole triangle of fresh, tasty goodness…

Glossy magazines are equally insulting.



Lord, but this is so rich and clever. It will speak volumes to those who are single and seeking love, however inactively.

It will also remind those who have been lucky enough to find it of what it was once like to so solitarily stare from a park bench at a beautiful view which you wished you could share. Maybe you saw other couples, perhaps even their progeny, and wondered what you were missing out on and why? Have you ever felt awkwardly, self-consciously alone in a crowd?



Burrows nails that particular isolation on a double-page spread while waiting for the train to arrive. For a start, there are a hundred-odd commuters as equally crammed together as they will be in the carriage, but there is a markedly massive, empty gap between them and the edge of the platform (mind it!), after which loom the tracks down below. Everyone else is depicted, individualistically to be sure, but in soft grey shading; not so, our solo single lady.

There is a blindingly clever use of colour throughout: each panel bears examining to see what it says.

Later that day (which has since turned to night), our pretty-in-pink protagonist becomes hungry but finds her Hubbard cupboards all bare. She fancies a slice of pizza or two, so ventures out to the local takeaway. Beautifully set up by Sophie in advance, what happens next?

I’ve just scratched the surface: underneath you will find all sorts of wistful, alone-at-home pining for love.



Top Tip: if you’d like to give a little love back but – like silly old me – become dazed, confused and so discombobulated by compliments, why not carry a copy of CRUSHING around with you? That way, whenever you find yourself the lucky recipient of such affection but cannot quite bring yourself to accept the attention, you could open up its A4 covers and hide behind its sheets, so suggesting by the title that you too may be crushing!

Advanced Skills Option: open up CRUSHING, inside out, to display the pages on which this exact behavioural exchange is occurring. Then look up again, with a bashful smile.



Buy Crushing and read the Page 45 review here

Dry County #1 (£3-25, Image) by Rich Tommaso.

“I could hear the yells and curses coming from the roof, but couldn’t stop myself hurling into the hydrangea.”

Hilarious! It wouldn’t have been half so funny had it not been a hydrangea.

Set in the Sunshine State’s boat-floating playground that glows neon at night, this is the most colourful noir that you’ll ever know. By day – as Lou Rossi cycles home from the Miami Herald where he works part-time as a comic strip artist – the city bridge gleams a lemon yellow while the bright white clouds blow below a fresh blue sky and leafy green trees stand out against pale pink hotels.

There is so much light and so much space, with lines as clean as the waterfronts themselves.

And yes, by night, there will be that oh-so familiar neon on the balconied apartment buildings in contrasting pink and mint green.

But what possible crimes could a comic artist bear witness to? Apart from blaring House Music, I mean?



Ah, well, it’s all in embracing ‘Everyman Crime Series’ to which DRY COUNTY belongs: quotidian crimes you stumble upon occasionally in conversation with someone you may have just met, like abusive boyfriends, perchance. Although there is the possibility that a potential drive-by alluded to briefly by Lou’s raucous mate Robert might tie in somewhere. And where might you meet someone new…? In an apartment block’s communal laundry room!

It’s there, after despairing at the lack of potential pulls at a nightclub which he cannot abide (“seething pit of vipers”), that Lou Rossi finds Janet reading alone while waiting for her spin cycle to end. Alas, she is not a new tenant. She’s only staying over at a friend’s flat for the night… or for the weekend… “I’m not sure yet”, but she does at least work in town, gives him her business card and proffers the possibility of having lunch one afternoon.



From there it only gets better: her employers turn out to be brothers, the rental firm like a family, and at lunch they make plans for dinner later that very same week. Finally, after six solitary months in Miami, things are looking up for Lou, and there’s more fresh air and open skies and passenger planes flying overhead as he strolls home, a spring in his step, allowing himself to feel jaunty.

Oh dear.

I’m going to stop there while noting only that what I loved most about what is revealed is that so often we escape from one thing by a route which only turns out to be the very same thing. Is that vague enough for you? That’s what Tommaso’s come up with, giving the blow so much more of a punch.



Whereas most noir slinks about in an environment alien to most of us, in circumstances most of us would never encounter, Tommaso sticks to his promise of filling Rossi’s account with the familiar routines of walks round town, showers, settling down to basic meal from whatever we find in our fridge, perhaps a few beers and so TV. Then there’s the not wanting to look like you’re trying too hard by dressing to impress and making that first phone call too early.

“Man, I couldn’t wait… But then later, once I got home, I decided I should wait, possibly a week…
“This was based on advice that my old friends in high school gave me: “Don’t ever call a girl up right away, you gotta wait like, a week or so, or else she’ll think you’re a desperate loser!” …So, I decided to wait at least a week…”


“Two days later, I called.”



What makes the pages even more visually brilliant is that the first-person narration is hand-written on blue-lined, yellow legal pad paper like a story you might stumble upon rather than one being told directly to you. It’s not that big a drama. He’s not a professional P.I. typing up his notes to keep on file, either.

As to the title, nowhere I know of in Florida is a Dry County – certainly not Miami, and Lou doesn’t half neck beers throughout, hence the well deserved fate of those hideous hydrangeas – nor is El Paso, whence Janet hails and where all her troubles first began. My off-the-cuff guess, therefore, is it’s somewhere we’re headed or a direction from which trouble’s coming.


Buy Dry County #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Scalped Book 2 (£22-99, Vertigo) by Jason Aaron & R. M. Guera, Davide Furno, John Paul Leno.

I’ve plenty more to say about SCALPED below, which was the first series from Vertigo, I believe, to reduce me to tears, and within this very volume. However, for the moment from SCALPED BOOK 1:

“Yet, here we are, still forgotten, still a third world nation in the heart of America.”

Crime and grime on the Prairie Rose Indian Reservation, South Dakota, “where the great Sioux Nation came to die”.

Gone is the majesty, the beauty, the health, the wealth and the freedom to roam. They’ve been replaced by grinding poverty enforced by unyielding societal shackles, dilapidated housing patched up with corrugated iron, refuse-strewn streets, gutted car wrecks abandoned on pock-marked asphalt and a burned-out people deprived of any opportunity but to drink themselves to death.

That’s all that we – the colonising, genocidal White Eyes – have given back to them, in lieu of their true heritage and of the bounty which was already their own. For more of that history, please see the great graphic novel INDEH by Ewan Hawke and Greg Ruth: it will tear your heart out.

What ripped mine to shreds here wasn’t the strange death of main protagonist Dashiell Bad Horse’s campaigning mother, Gina, which hangs over this volume like an enigmatic shroud, challenging the degenerate Dashiell to actually give a fuck about his own mother. (You will be surprised to learn that it is the ostensible central villain of series, Chief Red Crow, who is most devastated by her murder, unexpectedly prepared to risk all to find out who did it.)



No, it’s the reaction of Shelton, the eldest of five children of another murdered mother, which got to me, several times.

It also gets to Dashiell who swears blind that he will bring the perpetrator to justice until he takes its news to his FBI boss – whose sole dogmatic focus lies in the discrediting of Chief Red Crow – and in so doing learns the full and sometimes ugly meaning of the word ‘compromise’.

Young Dashiell, you see, is undercover for the FBI, posing as a cop in the pocket of crooked casino-owner Red Crow in order to bring him down. What he doesn’t know is that another FBI agent has been assigned undercover to the Reservation, and how much of a callous, ruthless bastard their shared boss is.

But then Dashiell was by no means the perfect son, as you’ll learn in flashback. In fact, rearing the ungrateful little brat was a particularly thankless task, something brought home to him only too clearly by Shelton’s unwavering fidelity, and the realisation that it’s now way too late to make amends.



R.M. Guera is fast becoming a favourite illustrator of mine: fully fleshed-out figures in relentless (yet not murky) shadow, even if it’s cast at high noon. There is tremendous humanity in the faces, and his mouths are particularly expressive, whether they’re old and pursed in barely controlled anger, or young and trembling with barely controlled grief.

As always with SCALPED, for me it’s the combination of the story structure and the art in its telling. The opening scene in the third story, ‘The Gravel In Your Gurs’ takes place in three weeks time, at night, as Chief Red Crow pulls up outside the Badlands Cafe.







He apologises to the cloth bag on the back seat, then enters under the bar’s distinctive neon sign before there’s a final, four-panel page as the sign goes out, shots are fired, and the neon reignites. It’s so visually distinctive that it will lurk in your head throughout the next several issues until – having since witnessed the events leading up to that scene and knowing now exactly who’s in the cafe – the bar front reappears, when your heart will sink.



This is a key turning point in the Indian Reservation power struggle, but it’s also the story of how silk-haired Dino, father to a toddler, through a single encounter with a speeding ticket, descends into running with bent cops, selling drugs, collecting debts and inadvertently stabbing an old man through his lower jaw. There’s an arresting panel after he’s dropped off at home, the house owned by Granny, from which she has sworn to eject him if ever he once again got into trouble with the police. Having snuck past his baby, his forearms splattered with blood, he makes it back to his own room… and it’s still full of remote-controlled cars and Tonker Toys, reminding you just how young he still is.

I love 100 BULLETS but the characters here are more than albeit blindingly directed ciphers for Azzarello’s witty wordplay: they’re living, breathing individual and fallible human beings broken by their environment then damned by their decisions. Very highly recommended.

This larger “book 2” takes you up to end of the old, smaller “volume 4” exactly.


Buy Scalped Book 2 and read the Page 45 review here

The End Of The Fucking World (s/c £12-99; h/c, £17-99) by Charles Forsman.

“At 15, I stuck my hand into the garbage disposal.”

James is not like other boys.

Curiosity is one of the few traits he shares with other people. Other than that he is an emotional void.

He discovers a porn magazine in a draw, opens it open, sees a naked woman, and after a few seconds tosses it over his shoulder. There’s no connection; nothing there.

He and Alyssa have adopted each other after James decided to pretend to fall in love with her. Alyssa’s more direct. She is very direct.

“God I want you.”

He considers strangling her. But he doesn’t.


“James and I still haven’t done it all the way.
“I want to, but it’s complicated.
“He seems so far away.”

Later, in the passenger seat of a car which he and Alyssa have flagged down, James allows an old man, the driver, to grope him: to slide his hand under James’s jeans and let it lie there. Alyssa is dumbfounded.

“What’s wrong with you?”

To himself:

“I guess I thought I might feel something. Something other than nothing.”



Bonnie and Clyde, Thelma and Louise, James and Alyssa: you’re in for a very different sort of road trip.

Dispassionately told in eight-page instalments alternating between James’s and Alyssa’s point of view (originally published as individual mini-comics), this clusterfuck of a journey also alternates between the mundane and abrupt, sometimes comical violence. It is exceptionally well controlled, especially James’s blank face, registering nothing, and his minimal responses when prodded.

“Alyssa, that man – he was a bad man.”



It also defies expectations. The first chapter climaxes before they set off with James punching his dad in the face and stealing his car. They’re off! No, they’re not: the opening page of chapter two finds the car upside down in a dried-up gorge after being run off the road. Above, the crash barrier stands broken. Huge economy: we’ve no need to see the crash. It’s not that sort of comic, as you’d anticipate if you’ve read Forsman’s CELEBRATED SUMMER.



If you’re coming to this from the Channel 4 series now on Netflix, I’m not sure what you’ll make of this. You’re going to have to do your best to blank Alex Lawther’s commanding performance as James right out of your head. Just remember that this is the source material without which none of what you loved would have been possible: the ideas were all conceived and first executed to perfection right here.

“Did you do it inside of me?”
“I’m not sure.”


Buy The End Of The Fucking World s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Buy The End Of The Fucking World h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Mechaboys (£17-99, Top Shelf) by James Kochalka…

“I’m sorry, Zachery.”
“Don’t call me that. My name is Zeus now. I told you to call me Zeus.”
“Oh, yeah. Sorry, Zeus. But in this part Spider-Man is just about to…”
“WHAT?! Spider-Manchild. You should read a comic about ME. I’m the damn Thunder God. I mean, listen. Who owns Spider-Man?”
“Well, Disney owns Marvel, but Sony owns the…”
“Exactly. No one owns ME.”
“Well no one owns me either, Zachery.”
“Bullsugar. Spider-Man owns you. Now stop being a slave to your corporate overlords and help me take apart your dead dad’s stupid lawnmower.”

Haha, there’s a great reprise of this conversation later on where Zachery, sorry Zeus, takes Jamie’s collection of Marvel and DC comics – “all corporate crap” – as he kindly refers to them, and… well… I’m not going to spoil that little scene for you, but suffice to say, it had me giggling for a good few minutes.



I should explain they’re taking apart Jamie’s late father’s lawnmower to build a ‘mecha battle suit’. To their great surprise, as much as anyone else’s, they succeed, which is where the chaos really begins. Bullied at school by the jocks and ignored by the girls, they hatch a crackpot scheme to crash a keg party in the woods and astound everyone with their cool armour.

I probably needn’t add it goes badly wrong, particularly for Zachery. Sorry! Zeus. Soon, he’s heading well and truly for the dark side with a plan to crash the forthcoming prom and annihilate everyone. Just one teeny-weeny problem, he’s in traction and needs Jamie to carry out his dastardly plan. Jamie, having managed to sneak in his first kiss at the party before it all kicked off, just kind of likes the idea of going and having a dance, maybe squeezing in a bit more romancing. And then there’s Mr. B, the recently fired teacher covertly stalking our duo. How does he figure into all this?!

Ah, there’s so much delightfully ridiculous humour going on in this work, which is like a glorious mash-up of many a high school movie, with added mecha battle suit, of course. I’ve not even touched upon the trio of ladies who Jamie has the hots for. They’re equally nutty in their own right, most uproariously in a scene that manages to reference the Bechdel-Wallace test before ending in a rather politically incorrect manner.



But, before you think Kochalka is having a sly dig at Alison Bechdel, I must add she’s one of the big names pullquoted on the inside front French flap lauding James as her ‘autobiographical icon’. Frank Miller, meanwhile, states of James “He brings the joy back to comics” and I really can’t argue with that. Quite the incongruous pair, there, Alison and Frank! But Kochalka has his ardent comics fans and for me, the former cartoonist laureate of Vermont has made a triumphant return with his finest work since MONKEY VS. ROBOT and the original run of SUPERF*CKERS.

Art-wise, James seemingly hasn’t changed his style one iota since he began either. He still looks like he effortlessly dashes his creations off with a sharpie. I’m sure it’s nowhere near as straightforward as that but I admire the seeming economy of effort and big fat chunky line that he employs. There might not be a surfeit of detail, but it’s all placed to perfection. Here, I continually found myself shaking my head at Zeus’ resplendent bumfluff. All six tufts of it!

Long-term Kolchalka devotees will adore this return to top form and for anyone looking to try something new that is, in its own way, as delightful daft and titter-worthy a parody of and homage to school days and all that attendant angst, as John Allison’s BAD MACHINERY, why not give this a try? Now, if I could just get Teenage Dirtbag by Weezer out of my head…


Buy Mechaboys and read the Page 45 review here

Archival Quality (£17-99, Oni Press) by Ivy Noelle Weir &  Steenz.

“I loved it. I loved the quiet. The order. Everything in its right place. There’s a system, y’know? And you can always count on the system.”

Usually, yes, but not if there’s something else – something “other” – messing around with the material world.

A deliciously drawn Young Adult graphic novel, this has thrilling colours, fabulous hair and a big heart of gold. Both its main cast and background characters sat around cafes are casually, naturally and fully diverse without shouting about the inclusivity, so normalising it. It also deals with the vital issue of Mental Health with great understanding to begin with, and the nightmare of not being believed, drawing a very clever parallel with Celeste’s new co-workers’ repeated scepticism about her experiences with supernatural forces and some of society’s often dismissive or disbelieving attitude towards depression, extreme agoraphobia etc.



There’s plenty of comedy in the form of museum curator Abayomi Abiola super-serious hyper-formality which, when combined with the odd arched eyebrow, put me in mind of Star Trek: Voyager’s Tuvok. After which, I couldn’t stop hearing his voice. I never saw Tuvok tending a flowerbed in full uniform / pristine 3-piece suit while wearing purple gardening gloves, though. Top marks.



My problems lie in the limping lack of momentum (50 pages of repetition could have been culled), the cringe-inducingly stiff, right-on speeches instead of conversation about choosing to believe Celeste, the confused (not conflicted) motivations, and finally the massive plot credibility chasms. For example, you won’t know what I mean when I mention the acquisition of the key to the boardroom, but there is no way one of the board members would surrender it voluntarily under these circumstances to anyone, not even [redacted].

It’s a huge shame, because there are moments which are genuinely chilling, especially as the past starts seeping through to the present, plus her boyfriend successfully rendered as is a suffocating idiot.



Here’s the publisher’s blurb:

“After losing her job at the library, Celeste Walden starts working at the haunting Logan Museum as an archivist. But the job may not be the second chance she was hoping for, and she finds herself confronting her mental health, her relationships, and before long, her grasp on reality as she begins to dream of a young woman she’s never met, but feels strangely drawn to. Especially after she asks Cel for help… As Cel attempts to learn more about the woman, she begins losing time, misplacing things, passing out-the job is becoming dangerous, but she can’t let go of this mysterious woman. Who is she? Why is she so fixated on Cel? And does Cel have the power to save her when she’s still trying to save herself?”

Finally, you are sure to feel Celeste’s frustration with ancient computer equipment taking an eon to scan a single photo.


Buy Archival Quality and read the Page 45 review here

Green Lantern: Earth One vol 1 h/c (£22-99, DC) by Corinna Bechko & Gabriel Hardman…

Ah… finally, another decent Green Lantern story. No, let me rephrase that, finally an excellent GREEN LANTERN story. After the peerless Geoff Johns ‘rainbow run’ that dazzled us with the entire spectrum of ring-slinging, I have to say I’ve found what followed more a little lacklustre and, dare I say, low on charge. And actually, even the Johns run was fading slightly towards the very end.

Consequently all the various associated Lantern titles have long since dropped off my DC reading list, so my expectations were somewhat low for this Earth One spin-off that seemed somewhat late to the other-dimensional party. Surely the time for this was at peak illumination when the dazzling light show from the DC shelves and kerchinging of Lantern-related comics through the till made it seem like a continual trip to Blackpool Illuminations, all hyped up on candy floss.



We even had people desperate to load up their mitts with coloured plastic rings that were about as tasteful as a chav’s full set of sovereigns, such was the allure of Johns’ story-telling. If they’d got something out back then, it would have sold more copies than Guy Gardner’s had temper tantrums. Which, let me tell you, if you’re not familiar with the man who still holds the record for worst-ever superhero haircut with his classic original bowl, is quite a few.

So, following on as this does from the excellent J. Michael Straczynski penned SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE trilogy, the rather disappointing BATMAN: EARTH ONE duology (a rare miss from Geoff Johns though Gary Franks’s art, as always, was exceptional), the very different  TEEN TITANS: EARTH ONE jaunt from Jeff Lemire & Terry Dodson and last but not least the fabulously indulgent WONDER WOMAN: EARTH ONE offering from Grant Morrison & Yanick Paquette, I did kind of think, is there really any point to a GREEN LANTERN: EARTH ONE offering?

Well, I was completely wrong, wasn’t I? Husband and wife team Corinna Bechko & Gabriel Hardman, probably best known for their sci-fi epic INVISIBLE REPUBLIC published by Image have nailed it. This is therefore, as you might expect, a yarn that relies heavily on the sci-fi angle. In this alternate universe, Hal Jordan is a former disgraced NASA employee now working for the Ferris Galactic mining corporation out in the asteroid belt, chasing the dwindling supply of elements needed to meet our ever-burgeoning demand for smartphones. It’s not quite the reaching for the stars an idealistic young Harold had in mind when he joined NASA all those years ago, but at least he’s out in space not stuck on an Earth that’s run by a virtual dictatorship.



Unfortunately he’s just had his contract pulled and been told to head back to Earth after eight long years when he finally strikes paydirt and finds an alien ship and a certain piece of jewellery… So: all good, right? Nope. In this universe the Manhunters have entirely eliminated the Green Lantern Corps, the Guardians themselves, and turned what remains of Oa into a slave world. All that remains are a few scattered rings across the various galaxies. Just the sort of doomsday scenario all Hal Jordans in all dimensions everywhere would relish: assemble a ragtag new corps, overthrow the Manhunters, save the universe. But is that realistically possible? Maybe not.

Hardmans’ hard-edged artwork neatly compliments the gritty storyline. His style reminds me of Mack BRIGGS LAND Chater. It’s note-perfect for this bleak, dystopian yarn. As ever, when these alternate reality tales are done well, they are excellent. A few plot points are neatly left open for a second volume, of course, which, on this showing, I’m looking forward to.

Buy Green Lantern: Earth One vol 1 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Inking Woman: 250 Years Of Women Cartoon And Comic Artists In Britain h/c (£19-99, Myriad) by Nicola Streeten & Cath Tate.

Out 29th March.

Hands up, who knew that Rupert the Bear was created by a woman?

Okay, I see half a dozen of you there; and five of you are comicbook creators.

Can you name her? Rupert the Bear was created by Mary Tourtel in 1920, and drawn by Tourtel for fifteen years. Originally Rupert was brown, but the Daily Express cut back on printing expenses, hence the iconic white fur.

See? You will learn stuff. Oh, how you will learn stuff!

The publisher’s blurb in this instance is fulsome in both senses, so for once I will leave you in their more than capable hands. All you really need to know is are they singing their own praises louder than they ought? Nope.

It’s embracing, engaging, lavishly illustrated, clearly and cleverly structured with a commendable sense of context.



“For many years, the world of cartoons and comics was seen as a male preserve. The reality is that women have been drawing and publishing cartoons for longer than most people realise. In the early 1760s, Mary Darly illustrated, wrote and published the first book on caricature drawing published in England, A Book of Caricaturas.



“In the nineteenth century, Britain’s first comic character, Ally Sloper, was developed by the actress and cartoonist Marie Duval (1847-1890). Cartoons were used by the suffragettes, and, during the “Great War, artists such as Flora White and Agnes Richardson produced light-hearted propaganda comic postcards.; From the 1920s, a few women cartoonists began to appear regularly in newspapers. The practice was for artists to sign with their surname, so most readers were unaware of the cartoonist’s gender.



“In 1920, Mary Tourtel created Rupert Bear for the Daily Express, and nearly a hundred years later her character is still going strong. From the 1960s, feminism inspired cartoonists to question the roles assigned to them and address subjects such as patriarchy, equal rights, sexuality and child rearing, previously unseen in cartoons. Over the last thirty years, women have come increasingly to the fore in comics, zines and particularly graphic novels; This wide-ranging curation of women’s comics work includes prints, caricatures, joke, editorial and strip cartoons, postcards, comics, zines, graphic novels and digital comics, covering all genres and topics.



“It addresses inclusion of art by women of underrepresented backgrounds. Based on an exhibition of the same name, held at the Cartoon Museum in 2017, this book demonstrates that women have always had a wicked sense of humour and a perceptive view of the world.”


Buy The Inking Woman: 250 Years Of Women Cartoon And Comic Artists In Britain h/ and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Akissi: Tales Of Mischief (£12-99, Flying Eye Books) by Marguerite Abouet & Mathieu Sapin

Mudbite (£16-99, Fantagraphics) by Dave Cooper

Aliens: Dead Orbit s/c (£15-99, Dark Horse) by James Stokoe

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

Black Science vol 7: Extinction Is The Rule s/c (£14-99, Image) by Rick Remender & Matteo Scalera

Cucumber Quest vol 2: The Ripple Kingdom s/c (£11-99, FirstSecond) by Gigi Dee

The End Of The F***ing World s/c (£12-99, Faber & Faber) by Charles Forsman

Fukushima Devil Fish: Critical & Biographical Essays (£24-99, Breakdown Press) by Katsumata Susumu

Giant Days vol 7 (£13-99, Boom!) by John Allison & Max Sarin

Harrow County vol 7: Dark Times A Coming s/c (£15-99, Dark Horse) by Cullen Bunn & Tyler Crook

Mean Girls Club: Pink Dawn h/c (£14-99, Nobrow) by Ryan Heshka

Moonstruck vol 1 (£8-99, Image) by Grace Ellis & Shae Beagle

The Realm vol 1 (£8-99, Image) by Seth Peck & Jeremy Haun

Warhammer 40,000 vol 3: Dawn Of War s/c (£14-99, Titan) by Ryan O’Sullivan & Daniel Indro, Kevin Enhart

Flash vol 5: Negative Rebirth s/c (£12-99, DC) by Joshua Williamson & Carmine Di Giandomenico, Christian Duce, Neil Googe

Planetary Book 2 s/c (£22-99, DC) by Warren Ellis & John Cassaday

Spider-Men II s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Sara Pichelli

X-Men Blue vol 3: Cross Time Capers s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Cullen Bunn & Thony Silas

X-Men Gold vol 4: Negative War Zone s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Marc Guggenheim & Luke Ross

X-Men: Mutant Massacre s/c (£29-50, Marvel) by Chris Claremont, Louise Simonson, Walter Simonson, Ann Nocenti & John Romita Jr., Walter Simonson, Alan Davis, Barry Windsor-Smith, others

Invincible vol 25: End Of All Things Part 2 s/c (£14-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Ryan Ottley

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews March 2018 week two

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018

Featuring Eleanor Davis, Anneli Furmark, Moebius, Etgar Keret, Asaf Hanuka, Jeff Lemire, Andrea Sorrentino, Robert Kirkman, Lorenzo De Felici, Terry Moore, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and more!

Gideon Falls #1 (£3-25, Image) by Jeff Lemire & Andrea Sorrentino, Dave Stewart…

“Actually, Mrs. Tremblay… there is one thing.”
“Of course, Father. Anything.”
“In all the rush to get to Gideon Falls, I don’t think the Bishop ever told me… how did Father Tom die?”
“Oh. I… I had thought you would have known.”
“No. Was it his heart?”
“I… I’d rather not talk about it.”

Hmm… I have a sneaking suspicion that wasn’t an accidental omission on the Bishop’s part, the lack of details on the sudden demise of Father Tom. Still, Father Wilfred has now arrived in the rural, backwater town of Gideon Falls, against his wishes, to take up the suddenly vacant position of their pastor. He’d have preferred to remain in the seminary, teaching, but the Bishop felt he was the man to answer the call so off he went.



What precisely Father Fred, as he likes to be known, or indeed Gideon Falls, has to do with the lunatic Norton obsessively cataloguing and cross-referencing specific pieces of garbage across the distant, big city remains to be seen. We see Norton interacting with, and deceiving his therapist, in a bid to avoid being sectioned again, but it would seem, to him at least, that he senses the presence of something or someone he regards as evil incarnate in the vicinity.



Norton’s collection of disparate refuse is not remotely random, either, to him, for he senses a common source to his slivers of wood, rusty nails, shards of glass and bent hinges, which he unerringly homes in on, however implausible that seems. The thought occurs as I type, and I have absolutely no way of knowing whether this is correct or not for it is pure supposition on my part,  that he is finding all the components you might expect to compose a door…


Yes, mystery, murder and suspense abound, both in the urban environment and the dusty countryside, plus most certainly within the pages of this comic book. And horror, genuine blood-curdling horror too, by the end of this first issue. For Father Tom’s death isn’t the only one in Gideon Falls by the time this opener concludes.

So, what are we, the readers left with? An absolute mystery. What is the connection or connections, between the places and / or the protagonists? I very much doubt Jeff is going to give too much away too soon either.


Andrea Sorrentino, probably best known for his gritty, fine linework on Lemire’s OLD MAN LOGAN is an ideal foil for such a tense, taut story that slides straight into psychologically perturbing territory right from the off like the veritable knife between the ribs. His panel and page composition in the Norton sequences particularly – complete with two spectacular double-page spreads, one featuring a mind-bending fish-eye lens effect and the other a collage of scattered Polaroids over a time-lapsed, anguished Norton rocking in a chair against a cityscape – plus inverted pages and crafty use of symmetry contribute immensely to the disorientating, fractured feel and a very rapidly building sense of unease.


Then, when the spine goes from mild tingling to collapsing in complete terror back in Gideon Falls, with immense amounts of the colour red involved, I had a strong suspicion I recognised the exact shade from BPRD and BALTIMORE, and yes indeed, it is Dave Stewart providing the colour palette in his own inimitable fashion. It’s a sure sign you’ve probably read too many comics when you can identify a colourist from just one colour… He also seems to have employed a vertical texturing technique on practically every section of black shading which is also cumulatively… troubling… to the eye, and mind… in an artistically positive sense, as if something is persistently scratching away at what you are experiencing. Spooky.

I now eagerly wait to see how messers. Lemire, Sorrentino and Stewart will continue to torment and disturb us further in the next issue. In the meantime, I’m left to ponder my door theory…


Buy Gideon Falls #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Why Art? (£12-99, Fantagraphics) by Eleanor Davis.

“If you don’t mind my asking, what are you reading?”

I’ve never been stopped like this on the bus before, but the first dozen pages of WHY ART? had so intrigued a middle-aged man peering over my shoulder from behind and above, that he needed to know. My explanation then so intrigued the passenger immediately to my right that she, too, needed to know.

So what do you need to know?

Well, eventually the cover’s Shadowbox miniature art object / working world – which contains the same flowers as those on the cover to Davis’ HOW TO BE HAPPY, and whose sense of scale is emphasised by the hands which are exactly the same size as yours (try matching them on a physical copy!) – will come into play in a deliciously recursive narrative via the most extraordinary act of escapology. Into the Shadowbox itself!

However, the initial pages which had so amused their admirer bear Davis’s helpful hints for amateur art critics so that each individual expression can be classified and so catalogued by its most essential qualities for a more profound understanding. It begins thus:

“Why Art?

“Before we can answer that question, let’s explore some examples of different kinds of artworks. The most basic category of artwork is, of course, Colour.”

Of course it is.

That her “orange artworks” and “blue ones” are presented in black and white is priceless.

We are then treated to ‘Big’ artworks and ‘Small’ artworks, with the human form in attendance for sense of scale, anticipating what is to come. Do you feel that you are learning the language that will enable you to talk authoritatively about art? Excellent! Then we come to explore those objects which involve “the intent of the artist or the response of the audience” which is eloquently summarised thus: “MAKES YA THINK”.

The masks are amusing, the warped mirrors are funny, but the ‘Ordinary Mirror’ is even funnier: “continues to fascinate both artist and audience alike”.

Like the sense of scale between creator and creation, this pre-amble too is far from irrelevant.


After we witness different audiences responding rather powerfully (!) to various works of art, we meet Dolores, a performance artist who is by definition both artist and the art itself, and who incorporates her audience too for good measure. She stands very still then tells them “I love you”.

“Some responses get very intense.”

I don’t have those pages for you, but that’s just as well, for I like to imagine you all guffawing out loud on your buses instead, then we will each of us create a self-sustaining chain reaction of sales which will ensure that WHY ART? becomes this year’s Page 45 chart-topper.


Note: this particular Davis image *doesn’t* appear in WHY ART? but is so similar to some which do, later on.


It is Davis’s cartooning which contributes so substantially to the comedy. I adore her forms which are so satisfying physical, and so sleekly drawn in smooth, extended lines which dip at the necks, blossom out at the shoulders, bloom round curved hips, then the slide down the thighs to be pinched together with immaculate, dainty feet. Arms hang heavy or flop like flippers, but always there is poise and harmony. There was a phenomenal use of space inside a tent within Davis’s YOU & A BIKE & A ROAD, and there’s an exquisite page here of one of Dolores’ most ardent admirers reciprocating her performance with a love letter posted through the letter box of her front door. She is crouched on her haunches to do so (in high heels!) and the single sweep incorporating her back, buttocks and thighs, before another line projects diagonally back down her calves with perfect balance, is magnificent.

Doroles looks down through the door’s window, probably on the phone to the police.

A little earlier we are introduced to a group of artists, which includes Dolores, specialising in different disciplines from papier mâché and fabrics to talismans and massive multi-media. José specialises in concrete and fondant. It’s Richard who’s into papier mâché which can be prone to water damage. As can Richard: he has an oversized fibreglass head and oversized papier mâché body and hands.

Together they will be presenting their very latest triumphs in a joint exhibition. “They’re pushing boundaries and breaking barriers – psychological, physical, metaphysical and temporal.” They’re blithely unaware, however, at just how successful they will be.

We were warned about the type of art which can terrify, presented as an abyss of solid black. Now, another abyss beckons. The creators have completed their creations…

“But there’s a storm raging outside.”



It is raging and it is roaring and there is shouting and wailing and it is so deafening and suddenly the outside seeps in.

Now, about those Shadowboxes…


Buy Why Art? and read the Page 45 review here

Pizzeria Kamikaze h/c (£22-99, Archaia) by Etgar Keret & Asaf Hanuka with Dan Jackson.

“Two days after I killed myself, I found a job at some pizza joint called Kamikaze.”

What an exceptional opening sentence.

Unfortunately it’s the ninth, so I made it my own first instead.

Pizzas are not important to this weird and wonderful twilight tale. Unless I’m missing something, they’re incidental. The fact that Mordy committed suicide is not.

Our man Mordy offed himself a short while ago, and has since been reborn into a world which is much like our own, with two key differences: everyone here committed suicide; but the pressure is all gone.

No one seems to be in actual need of a job or its income, nor do they harbour the same worries or insecurities which might have catalysed their crises in the first place, or the sort of judgemental prejudices which could have once been redirected at them. Oh, Mordy has more than a passing curiosity in spotting any tell-tale scars which might denote how others killed themselves, but that really is the extent of it. No one is blaming each other; and nobody cares… about anything, really. Apart from musing on who may have made it to his funeral and what they’d have thought, Mordy is fairly equanimous to it all.



It’s just a bit dull and disappointing, to be honest.

“Whenever people used to talk about life after death and go through the “is-there-isn’t-there” routine, I’d always imagine beeping sounds and people floating around in space and stuff. But now that I’m here, it reminds me of Tel Aviv.
“My German roommate says the place could just as well be Frankfurt. I guess Frankfurt’s a dump too.”

Uzi Gelfand has a great big bullet hole in his head, but he’s much happier now, having found his parents reincarnated in this shared limbo because they’d reacted similarly to the anxieties that life had in store for them. Plus his little brother is newly arrived, having offed himself during Basic Training in the conscriptive Israeli army, so now they’re all living together, bonded in the afterlife as never before through their shared exiting option.

I think the bullet through the brain must have taken his internal editor with it, because Uzi isn’t half the opinionated, contrarian bore.



So yes, it’s a life of dark bars (one’s called Stiff Drinks!), playing at pool, and perhaps pulling if you care to. But Mordy shares none of Uzi’s interest in girls, for his libido’s been lost in this limbo too. Until Mordy discovers, via a previous room-mate, that the girlfriend Desirée – whom he adored and who survived him in life to mourn at his graveside – has arrived in this afterlife too. Now, there is a new, unexpected impetus: locating Desirée and discovering why she committed suicide. Clue: it wasn’t over Mordy.

So it is that Mordy persuades a reluctant Uzi to join him on a journey in a car with no headlights into a countryside which could well be endless, in a world without maps. It’s not just topography that’s absent; it may well be topologically unstable too.



Along the way they pick up young Leehee, a woman who shows no overt evidence of having offed herself at all. Unlike the others, she misses everything about her prior existence and is on a hunt of her own – for whoever’s in charge – and with very good reason.

When Leehee takes her turn to drive the headlights start working.

Eventually, in the middle of nowhere, they meet a man called Kneller who does show some sort of impetus – to entertain – and this draws its itinerant crowd. But then, in search of Kneller’s cat, they discover an extravagant, plush mansion bathed in sunshine, with a swimming pool. There, even larger crowds have gathered, permanently round a pied-piper-like figure and self-proclaimed Messiah. But in a world in which no one else feels the need to repeat their suicide, why does this bloke want to give it a second ceremonial go?

You may be familiar with Etgar Keret now from ‘The Seven Good Years’ and ‘Jellyfish’. Connoisseurs of comics are more likely to have relished Asaf Hanuka’s solo explosions of fierce creativity and wit-ridden lateral thinking within THE REALIST and THE REALIST: PLUG AND PLAY as well as his work with Tomer Hanuka on THE DIVINE. If so, you will take the most enormous delight in seeing that most accomplished of comicbook creators evolving as a young artist on the pages right in front of you, for this work originally appeared in the periodical BI-POLAR some 15 years ago prior to reappearing in a collection in 2006.



Compare the first chapter with the third, then the fourth: it’s illuminating! The lines become cleaner, the light brighter, no longer bogged down by extraneous, haggard texture. The colours become lambent thanks to Dan Jackson (the original printings were black and white) and the space opens up, figures better framed in their environment. Or maybe everyone’s having more fun!

It’s a privilege to witness this sort of personal evolution, and artists new to this medium should take note: never refrain from publishing until you believe you have achieved perfection, because you – in your own mind – never will; also, never go back and waste time on fixing too much earlier material which you could otherwise employ to create your next work. Martin Wagner did precisely that on his anthropomorphic HEPCATS, and we have never heard from him since.

The logic of this particular afterlife isn’t watertight (I’ve no idea why condoms might be deployed when you’re already dead, no one seems to become pregnant or suffer from disease; then Kurt Cobain makes a cameo appearance, face intact) but, jeepers, this is an afterlife, so it’s all up for grabs, and there’s almost a perverse pleasure in mulling over what Etgar Keret has come up with and wondering what you might substitute instead. What matters is this: does Keret come up with ideas that make you think, and does his world serve its specific story?

It does.

Thought For Day / Review Addendum

You can probably stop reading now.



We often hear of the “afterlife” as some carrot dangled before us – with its attendant, punitive stick habitually waiting in the sermonic wings – in order to make us behave ourselves better on this mortal coil. Not just in authoritarian religions organised to control us through brainwashing, but also in the infinitely more liberating Buddhist teachings too.

For, yes, you will be reincarnated so watch what you do, otherwise options include returning as cat, bat, rat, stoat or snail, or even another human being.

Heaven forfend that we should love, comfort, enable and empower each other because it’s A Good Thing To Do, which will make us all quantifiably happier ourselves right here, right now, along with those whom we’ve helped.

Buddhists, I’m curious: can you be reincarnated backwards in time? Could I be reincarnated as a medieval monk? Related: has any enlightened Buddhist found themselves in possession of memories from the future rather than a past life? I ask, because what happens when someone like Trump pushes the big red button and there are no more human beings to look forward to in our abruptly curtailed timeline?

This ‘Thought For Today’ was presented by Stephen L. Holland. Now make yourself a hot mug of Horlicks and pop off to bed! We’ll see you in the morning.

Sweet dreams!


Buy Pizzeria Kamikaze h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Red Winter (£16-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Anneli Furmark.

“I have to go. It’s late.”
“Siv, when can I see you again? We’re not done talking.”
“I’ll call you when I can.”

That won’t be easy.

Siv and Ulrik are in love.

Ulrik is single and only twenty-four, but Siv is thirty-eight, married, with a son of fourteen called Peter and two younger children, Lars and Marita. They live in big, squat concrete block of flats in subarctic Sweden.

Ulrik lodges with Ralf, his local Communist party leader. Such a dalliance as Ulrik and Siv’s would be looked down on sternly, especially given Siv’s status as Social Democrat.

There would be repercussions.



“Hello, comrades!”
“Hi, Ralf!”
“No, no. You answer, Hello, comrade!
“Hello, comrade!”
“Ha ha can’t you tell I’m joking?”

Not really.

“New sweater? Did your mom knit it?”



Calling each other isn’t easy; the opportunities to meet, few and far between. The secretive couple’s current options and future prospects are limited and bleak. Instead Siv pours her heart out in a badly hidden journal; Ulrik professes his passion in love letters he never sends.



Peter spends too much time in the back of a car owned and driven by delinquents, one of whom doesn’t really like him.

Lars is often out at practice and Dad works long hours, so when Siv sneaks out for her assignations, Marita is left alone to experiment with adult toiletries and Tampax. She may rummage through drawers, but she probably won’t understand what she finds there.



Poor Siv.

This is a quiet book; a sad, dark, stark mid-winter book as cold as its climate and Ulrik’s humourless, intransigent, dogmatic, revolutionary associates. I’m guessing from the fashions – and in particular from a knitting pattern for a jumper with stripes the colours of a Zoom ice lolly – that this is set in the seventies; it’s certainly before the dissolution of the U.S.S.R..

But – and this is vital – the sense of both time and place are enveloping, and the colours emanating from the perfunctory, concrete blocks of flats glow with a yolk-yellow warmth against the black and pale blue night.



The same light illuminates the family table from under a central shade, and burgundies are deployed on that table’s cloth, the occasional skirt, shirt and jumper, and Marita’s woollen hat and jeans.

For maximum immersion, I heartily recommend you read it after dark.



“What do we do now? When can I see you again?”
“I’ll call you when I can.”


Buy Red Winter and read the Page 45 review here

Oblivion Song #1 (£3-25, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Lorenzo De Felici…

“It’s okay, it’s okay… I know it’s disorientating, but you’re safe now. You hear me? You’re safe.”
“Him! What did you do to him?!”
“He’s asleep. He’s going to be okay. You’re going to be okay. Just calm d…”


“Sedative! Hurry! Bridget! I can’t hold her much longer!”
“I can’t believe she scratched you.”
“She was over there almost a decade. She’s scared… how could she not be?”
“Still… I need to look at those scratches… there’s no telling what’s under those fingernails.”

I don’t know what Bridget is worried about. It’s not like the lady they’ve just rescued is a zombie…

I should probably clarify that she really isn’t a zombie. Or indeed possessed. Sorry, I was always going to try and get at least one WALKING DEAD gag in there. And then I had to go and over-egg matters even further with an OUTCAST rejoinder… I really can’t be arsed to try and shoehorn an INVINCIBLE gag in, though…

Moving on… yes, Robert Kirkman returns to terrify us once more, this time with a science-fiction / horror hybrid that owes as much to Quantum Leap as it does to Alien. Well, technically it’s more like Sliders rather than Quantum Leap, but let’s be honest, you’d probably forgotten all about that particular show until I mentioned it.



Anyway… Mr. Kirkman very kindly printed an advance copy of the first four issues or so, in a not-for-sale advance copy trade for retailers, and let me tell you, it was all utterly brilliant. What it actually reminded me of most in comics terms would be Jeff Smith’s RASL with its dimensional hopping, but with lots of added monsters and intrigue. Also because of Lorenzo de Felici’s exceptional art which definitely has a touch of Mr. Smith about it too.

Fabulous colouring from Annalisa Leoni also, who manages to combine an astonishing variety of shades and hues in a remarkably understated, subtle way. Quite the masterclass in the use of contrasting and complimentary colours to spot highlight and draw attention to detail and so take the illustrations to another level altogether. Very clever.



Very unusual for me to get this far into a review without rambling on about the plot, so I’d better get on with it, I guess! A decade ago there was an… incident. The city centre of Philadelphia was wiped out in an instant, replaced in the blink of an eye with 30 square miles of a huge vegetative ecosystem and its incumbent voracious predators. Almost 20,000 people were seemingly wiped out of existence in a moment.

Eventually, once the ‘invasion’ was brought under control after a not inconsiderable number of additional casualties and the area quarantined, a scientist named Nathan Cole worked out what had happened. The 30 square miles of Philadelphia which vanished, had in fact, merely swapped places with the new terrain. Suddenly hope was raised that somewhere on an alien world, that promptly became named Oblivion, there were possibly thousands of presumably terrified survivors.


Technology was quickly developed to allow incursions to Oblivion and search and rescue missions launched to retrieve many of the missing Philadelphians cowering in the ruins of their city, which itself was rapidly being assailed and assimilated by the native fauna and flora. After ten years, however, the last few of which proved completely fruitless in finding any remaining survivors, government funding inevitably dried up and public interest waned. A monument to the remaining lost souls was built, inscribed with each of their names, and a museum built in their honour.


Nathan Cole, however, remains convinced further humans remain on Oblivion, including his brother. In fact, he believes that there is a whole community hidden away somewhere, possibly even thriving. And so, he continues to make unauthorised, dangerous solo excursions with his own technology. When he manages to find a husband and wife and successfully retrieves them, to much understandable public fanfare, he consequently expects to be given a new remit and improved budget to conduct further missions. To his surprise and anger, he finds all the government really wants is to move on and draw a line under the whole Transference as it ultimately became known. Lest the public continue to fret the mysterious, spontaneous occurrence could suddenly happen again. Nathan, of course, has got other ideas…


Buy Oblivion Song #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Inside Moebius Part 1 h/c (£33-50, Dark Horse) by Moebius…

“Arzak! The Major! And Blueberry! They’re all against me. Only John DiFool has left me alone. I hope he doesn’t have it in for Jodorowsky…”

Haha. INSIDE MOEBIUS is precisely that as Jean Giraud takes himself, and us, on an inner journey through his soul desert, simply known as “Desert B”, where he documents his final attempt to quit smoking weed once and for all, whilst being continually harangued by many of his creations such as Major Grubert of The Airtight Garage fame, but also the likes of Osama Bin Laden, all of whom seem determined to convince him to keep toking away.

Probably the worst offender he’ll encounter in his attempt to defeat his recidivistic behaviour is his younger self, replete with flowing black, wavy hair and moustache. Plus ever-present spliff! As Moebius continues to rationalise his desires to knock off the pot, his characters talk about him disparagingly behind his back and, in the case of Jean Giraud Jr., to his face. Moebius Prime, meanwhile, continues to torture himself both existentially, and also artistically, as we see him grapple with his creative process on the likes of Blueberry.



And that, really, in a nutshell is it. If you are expecting fantastical megalopolis cityscapes and weird colourful alien worlds in the style of THE INCAL, you are likely to be disappointed. The backdrop for virtually all the conversations that take place is quite literally a barren desert. On the other hand it’s a fantastic conceit for what is by turns insightful and hilarious biographical jaunt through the psyche of one of comics’ greatest ever creators. In that respect, the psychodrama that unfolds is closer to the likes of (Jodorowsky’s and) his MADWOMAN OF THE SACRED HEART. But it is all quite, quite real. At least inside Moebius…


Buy Inside Moebius Part 1 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Motor Girl Omnibus s/c (s/c £24-99; h/c £35-99, Abstract Studio) by Terry Moore.

Complete, twelve-chapter collection available in hardcover and softcover, originally reviewed in two halves.

“Are you okay?”

She really isn’t.

So you think you know what to expect from this comic: a burlesque comedy starring a hyperactive desert-based, junkyard mechanic who’s tied at the hip to an anthropomorphic wry, dry mountain gorilla who sasses and back-chats, right? And there were diminutive, comedy, green aliens on the first chapter’s cover, so we knew we were in for those too. Sure enough, they were all present and correct, along with Terry’s persistent, consistent campaign against cretins who use cell phones whilst driving, which is deadly and ever so slightly illegal.



But is that really all you’d expect from the creator of RACHEL RISING, STRANGERS IN PARADISE and ECHO? The man who’s made a career out of juxtaposing comedy with hard-hitting trauma?  All it takes is a single, early, un-signposted panel to suggest that you’re in for a lot more than you first bargained for. This would fit comfortably on Page 45’s Mental Health Awareness Counter: Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.

“What happened here?
“Iraqi prison.”
“You were in the military?”
“I was in the navy. Six years. Did you suffer any head injuries?”
“I guess. They hit me every day for ten months.”

Sam’s recurring headaches are excruciating, and when you finally begin to witness the flashbacks, they will flatten you.

Now former Sergeant Samantha Locklear works virtually alone in a desert junkyard owned by ancient but far from frail Libby who is determined Sam should at least wear a hat and shades. It’s almost unbearably hot, but its isolation and practical purpose provides Sam with the stability she needs not to stay sane, but to survive.



Walking that tightrope alongside her is Mike the mountain gorilla, her constant companion who is more than just a figment of Sam’s imagination, but a coping mechanism, a projection she knows isn’t real. So if Mike isn’t real, what about the UFO and the comedy green aliens who crash-land on the doorstep? Only Sam and Mike see those, late at night, fixing up their stereotypical flying-saucer’s engine, to be thanked by an almighty embrace, the alien’s antennae bending into the shape of a heart, his oil-stained hands planted firmly on Sam’s boxer-shorted buttocks. The stain’s still there in the morning, as plain as plain can be… unless Sam’s imagining that too?



Nope. There’s a very real reason why Mr Walden is prepared to pay a ridiculous sum of money to purchase the land, then up the ante with intimidation. Nice visual reference to Hergé’s TINTIN: DESTINATION MOON.

I love that Libby, the direct, gum-flapping old-age pensioner is even less likely to “do” intimidation than Sam; that she understands Sam’s needs and treats her like a daughter. She won’t sell unless Sam’s ready to move on, and she isn’t. She has a family that worries about her, but she’s simply not ready.

I can hear Libby’s “Ooo dogey!” drawl distinctly in my head which, weirdly enough, I am positive is partly due to the cartooning.



As well as wearing a hat and shades, Libby’s also determined that Sam, to stave off dehydration, should drink more.

DRINK!” Drink or you’re going straight to bed with no supper!
“That’s what Momma used to say, she could really bring the pain.
“Now I drink a Martini every day at five…
“And toast to Momma.”

Fab, flapping hair once flying about on a quad bike, suitably matted and ill-conditioned when not, superb use of grey tones at night, and there’s an exquisite slow-motion scene in which a certain party’s launch through the air is virtually halted as Sam and Mike weigh up the situation calmly, unhurriedly, before Sam demonstrates quite ably why ex-Marines don’t need to carry firearms.



Part Two

“She just wants to help.”
“I don’t need any help! Okay?
“I carry my own load! No one has to help me!
“I help them!
“I’m the strongest person in the room! That’s how it works!”
“Damn straight!”
“Then why am I here?”

In which you will learn precisely why Mike’s in Sam’s mind, and why he is specifically a mountain gorilla.

It involves a young boy in Iraq who was chained with steel braid to a big bundle of explosives, then left in an upstairs window to lure in someone just like Sergeant Samantha Locklear. It worked. The sequences in Iraq are halting and horrific, rendered without any of the cartoon galumphing exhibited by Walden’s paid goons.




The stark contrast is bridged by the quiet solemnity of Sam’s current, consequent medical condition when Libby goes silent and Sam and Mike finally begin to address each other seriously. And I found the sincere respect due to veterans so deftly done, for example paid here by a barman after yet another drunken altercation between Sam and Mike – or, to any observer, thin air.

“What’s her problem?”
“Sam? She did three tours in Iraq. Captured, tortured, survived two bomb attacks.”
“If she wants to come in here and yell at the back wall, I say yes ma’am, thank you for your service and would you like a beer for your ‘friend’.”



I don’t have any of the Iraqi pages to show you, but perhaps that’s for the best: they should come out of the blue and blow you to bits. But even during its comedic confrontations MOTOR GIRL is more than just mouth and mania: it’s about the little guys getting trampled on by the big boys with money and clout; about those under threat looking out for each other. Eh, it’s also about slapstick, soap-sudded aliens in your bath.

“I know how the military works, Libby.”
“I know you do. I’m just saying…”
“There’s more to it than duty.”
“Like what?”
“Like caring what happens to people who can’t defend themselves.”



STRANGERS IN PARADISE has now returned for its 25th Anniversary with STRANGERS IN PARADISE XXV #1  and SiP XXV #2.


Buy Motor Girl Omnibus s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Motor Girl Omnibus h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Fantastic Four: Epic Collection vol 1 – The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby.

Saying “No, sir!” to NASA, four thieves steal a space rocket, and strangely we applaud.

“No time for official clearance!”

Or a countdown – I used to love pre-launch NASA countdowns.

“Conditions are right tonight!”

You can see stars! So at least they’ll know which way to go.

There’s a single guard on duty. I’m not even kidding you.

We even sympathise, then respect this delinquent family of anarchists (“property is theft” – but then so is theft) as they’re bombarded with cosmic rays, crash, and are transformed into earth (the lumpy orange Thing – rocks to follow), wind (as Invisible as a Woman in those days) and fire (car-driving dreamboat Johnny ‘clueless’ Storm). Oh, and I guess water too, if you consider Mr. Fantastic’s ability to flow. But maybe that’s stretching it.

These arm-crossing Four Musketeers then proceed to fight off invading shape-shifting Skrulls, a time-travelling tyrant (Victor von Doom, again and again) and the Moleman, a mop-topped minger with no sense of hygiene and a terrible pair of sunglasses ill-equipped to deal properly with the modern menace of U.V. rays.



As well as a blatant disregard for federal property, feminism and his fiancée in particular, Reed Richards also demonstrates a surprisingly strange sense of humour in using Skrulls’ shape-shifting ability against them by hypnotising them into believing they’re cows. He’s essentially immigrant-averse Donald Trump, six decades early, and this is a legacy which will lead to upset stomachs around fast food chains everywhere once Grant Morrison and Mark Millar find out.

Hot-headed and easily bedded Johnny Storm quits quite early on so that he no longer has to moonlight as a mechanic, but can show-off fool time (sic) by using his powers as the Human Torch to weld random bits of metal together which he claims are car components.



The Full Frontal Lobotomy then burns the beard off an already bullied bum with deep-seated amnesia to see if it’s really Prince Namor, Marvel’s Golden Age Sub-Mariner.

It’s Namor, Marvel’s Golden Age Sub-Mariner!

Now, Namor (Marvel’s Golden Age Sub-Mariner) had two temperaments back in 1939 – tetchy and very tetchy indeed – and wasn’t particularly disposed towards due care and consideration when it came to collateral damage whilst on an anti-land-dweller rampage. Fortunately, his memory loss holds after this initial close shave and he has in any case been out of his beloved, strength-sustaining sea-water for decades. So far, so phew!

But Johnny “I Can’t Even Spell Health & Safety” Storm has a very cunning plan: he drops Prince Namor into the ocean.

“If he is the Sub-Mariner, the water will bring back his memory and his full powers! If not, I’ll dive in and save him!”

It may or may not surprise you to learn that Johnny Storm also flunked history.



Cue immediate memory and full-power restoration, plus subsequent anti-land-dweller rampage with absolutely colossal property damage throughout Manhattan courtesy of Giganto, a 70-storey-high, amphibious, bipedal Sperm Whale, summoned by a sea shell. Okay, a sea-shell horn.

An invisible Sue Storm grabs the horn, but then Namor grabs Sue Storm. Instantly the high tide is turned, for Namor has Sue Storm, the horn and the horn for Sue Storm.

That mess will play itself out for decades.



This collection reprints all the clever little cross-pollination marketing teasers that used to run underneath Marvel Comics’ pages:


To his own comic, obviously, but also to next volume’s titanic pages of FANTASTIC FOUR, ‘The World’s Most Chauvinist Comic Magazine Until We Invented The Avengers’.



Next volume, I’ll actually be talking about the excellence of artist Jack Kirby, including yet another Caravaggio rhombus composition. I know this because I wrote those paragraphs over a decade ago.

But really, I’ll still be ripping the piss out of Stan Lee’s truly awful storytelling logic and utterly outrageous sexism.

You wait until Reed and Sue get married and then have a kid: they’re the worst parents ever. I’ve written all that too.


Buy Fantastic Four: Epic Collection vol 1 – The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Avengers: Epic Collection vol 1 – Earth’s Mightiest Heroes s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Larry Ivie & Jack Kirby, Don Heck, Dick Ayers.

A review of the first 20 issues told in two 45-minute halves, with an interlude so you can suck oranges before switching sides.

Part, The First:

Welcome to the very first adventures of Earth’s Most Mightiest of Heroes!

Iron Man, the Golden Avenger!
Thor, the Norse God of Thunder!
Captain America, WWII Super-Soldier!
Hulk: Incredible, but a Bit Mardy!
Giant-Man / Ant-Man / Amazing Identity Crisis Man!

Janet van Dyne, the “winsome” Wasp, whose only job here appears to be flirting outrageously with everyone in sight, and calling everything else “silly”.

Suspect I’m being a bit hard on super-sexist Stan ‘The Man’ Lee? All these utterances are real:

“Know something, handsome? You look like the poor man’s Ben Hur on that silly ant!”
“Personally, I think it’s silly not to have a permanent leader!”
“Couldn’t you have made these silly things taste better while you were inventing them?”
“I’m as all right as any girl could be who had her make-up smudged by a silly ol’ collapsing ant hill!”
“You, sir, are about as romantic as the rotor blade on this silly ol’ plane.”

It’s a helicopter, Jan!



“Did anyone ever tell you that you have the most deliciously blue eyes, Henry Pym?”
“I’ll bet he’s not bad-looking under that silly head-gear he’s wearing!”
“Hmm… he’d be real dreamy if he was a little huskier!”
“Look! An intruder is coming! Hmmm… he’s not bad looking!”

OMG, she wants to hump the intruder! Nevertheless, it’s team-mate Thor she’s truly stuck on:

“He sounds like a burlesque of a comic hero in MAD Magazine! But with those shoulders… those eyes — who cares how corny he talks!!!”

All this swooning comes right in front of her boyfriend, Hank Pym / Giant-Man / Ant-Man. No wonder he has size issues. But then that’s what happens when the world’s most sophisticated biochemist dates a flying clothes horse with a brain the size of a butterfly’s.

“That whirling shield of yours is a like an all-purpose detergent, Cap!!”

Janet, in what possible way…?!?



A feminist tract, this is not. Covers aside, it’s not much to look at, either (it honestly isn’t): tiny figures all boxed in, largely by Stan Lee’s insane over-writing. There’s a scene wherein the duplicitous Wonder Man swats a boulder back at Giant-Man, and you can just tell from the art (drawn before Stan’s written his script) that it’s intended to back-fire on the traitor by smashing into his leader’s machinery, yet Stan feels the need to append this off-panel bobbins:

“But, though wracked with pain, the valiant Giant-Man again lifts the boulder and, before Wonder Man can stop him, sends it smashing into Zemo’s Magnet Mechanism!”

That’s not what happened! You’ve ruined a perfectly decent irony, Stan!

So yes, villains include Wonder Man, Zemo, The Enchantress, The Executioner, Kang The Conqueror (himself conquered here by the ludicrous, Rick Jones-led Teen Brigade of random ruffians), The Hulk (conflicted), The Space Ghost, The Radioactive Man, The Black Knight, Immortus, Namor The Sub-Mariner, some Lava Men, Janet Van Dyne’s sex drive and the chap what unwittingly brought them all together in the first place: Loki, Norse God of unbelievably half-assed cock-ups.

Phenomenal, really. I love it to bits.





From the age of seven or so, I grew up on Marvel Comics. No others would do. I lapped them up, one and all.

But THE AVENGERS had a colourful, iconoclastic, rough-and-tumble cast whereas the FF and original X-Men wore homogenous uniforms and were each lead by a fun-free, dominating patriarch. I thrilled seeing Iron Man’s armour evolve early on, and totally geeked-out each time Hank Pym / Ant-Man / Giant-Man / Amazing Identity Crisis Man (coming soon: Goliath and Yellow Jacket plus multiple mental breakdowns) changed his costume.

My favourite eras as a kid were the early adventures drawn by John Buscema (coming shortly) then Neal Adams (KREE-SKRULL WAR), plus George Perez and John Byrne’s 50-odd issues. Later, as an adult, my kiddie thrills all paid off during writer Brian Michael Bendis’s NEW AVENGERS run which I recommend to any modern sensibility seriously interested in superheroes with all my heart and none of this naughty nit-picking.

Have you finished your oranges? Excellent!

Part, The Second:



Another pulse-pounding pageant of pugilism, but also the end of an era as the Wasp runs out of compact, so opts to resign. Thor and Iron Man follow suit (as does her boyfriend Giant-Man, somewhat defensively) leaving no one for the recently resurrected Captain America to bark orders at. Handily Hawkeye the marksman offers his services, as do siblings Quicksilver (Pietro) and Wanda, The Scarlet Witch, which gives Stan Lee a fresh opportunity to demonstrate his sterling credentials as a forward-thinking feminist:

“You are the oldest, Pietro, and I shall so as you say!”

Obviously the outgoing Avengers must first ascertain how qualified each applicant is to take over by judging their strength, stamina and skill-set with a rigorous and impartial eye, beginning with Hawkeye who ties up their butler in order to play William Tell.

“I’m sold! How about you, Wasp?”
Va va voom! Oh  >eh<  I mean — he ought to do fine!”

Left to their own devices, the boys begin bickering immediately, each one jockeying for position of leader in a tidal wave of testosterone that would threaten to drown poor Wanda if she wasn’t perpetually falling through trap-doors. It’s funny how the lads start walking on opposite sides of the street.

Fortunately statesman Captain America is above it all:

“Stay out of this, Wanda! It’s between Hawkeye and myself!”
“You’re blamed right it is! I’m sick of the way you try to push your weight around all the time! Do ya read me?”
“Loud and clear, feather-brain! And get your finger out of my face before you lose it!”

Well, almost above it all.



What they can unite behind is their righteous disgust towards evil foreigners like The Mandarin and The Commissar of the Communist-ruled puppet state of Sin-Cong. One which Captain America invades (without so much as a phone call to the United Nations, let alone a Resolution), overthrows those squalid Commie bastards, then issues this stern warning to all right-minded Marvel readers:

“Be always on your guard! Their goal is nothing less than total world conquest, and world enslavement! Only constant vigilance and devotion to freedom can stop them! And remember — The Avengers always stand ready to do their part!”
“Cap, did you take lessons on how to be a cornball, or does it come natural?”
“Sorry, Hawkeye! Guess I got carried away by my own convictions!”
“With convictions such as those, one has a right to be carried away!”

Yes, right away.



Some terrific covers, though, including this exceptional Jack Kirby composition, its perspective and narrative enhanced by an upright triangle, its base the row of heads, gazing up on both sides at the Swordsman and his sword (further emphasised by Wanda and Hawkeye’s gesticulations), on the left via Cap & the plank from which he jumped. (He did actually jump.)


Buy Avengers: Epic Collection vol 1 – Earth’s Mightiest Heroes s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Crushing (£7-50, self-published ) by Sophie Burrows

Archival Quality (£17-99, Oni Press) by Ivy Noelle Weir &  Steenz

It’s All Absolutely Fine: Life Is Complicated So I’ve Drawn It Instead (£14-99, Andrews McMeel Publishing) by Ruby Elliot

Mechaboys (£17-99, Top Shelf) by James Kochalka

Mobile Suit Gundam Wing vol 5 (£11-99, Vertical) by Katsuyuki Sumizawa & Tomofumi Ogasawara

Port Of Earth vol 1 (£8-99, Image) by Zack Kaplan & Andrea Mutti

Puerto Rico Strong: A Comics Anthology Supporting Puerto Rico Disaster Relief And Recovery (£11-99, Lion Forge) by various

Scalped Book 2 (£22-99, Vertigo) by Jason Aaron & R. M. Guera, Davide Furno, John Paul Leno

The End Of The Fucking World h/c (£17-99, Fantagraphics) by Charles Forsman

Vague Tales h/c (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Eric Haven

We Ate Wonder Bread (£20-99, Fantagraphics) by Nicole Hollander

White Sand vol 1 s/c (£17-99, Dynamite) by Brandon Sanderson, Rik Hoskin & Julius Gopez

All-Star Batman vol 2: Ends Of The Earth s/c (Rebirth) (£13-99, DC) by Scott Snyder &  Jock, Francesco Francavilla, Tula Lotay, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Mark Morales

Green Lantern: Earth One vol 1 h/c (£22-99, DC) by Corinna Bechko & Gabriel Hardman

X-Men: X-Cutioner’s Song s/c (£33-50, Marvel) by Peter David, Scott Lobdell, Fabian Nicieza & Greg Capullo, Andy Kubert, Jae Lee, Brandon Peterson, Larry Stroman

Monster Hunter Flash Hunter vol 3 (£6-99, Viz) by Keiichi Hikami & Shin Yamamoto

Monster Hunter Flash Hunter vol 4 (£6-99, Viz) by Keiichi Hikami & Shin Yamamoto

Monster Hunter Flash Hunter vol 5 (£6-99, Viz) by Keiichi Hikami & Shin Yamamoto

Monster Hunter Flash Hunter vol 6 (£6-99, Viz) by Keiichi Hikami & Shin Yamamoto

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews March 2018 week one

Wednesday, March 7th, 2018

Featuring Audrey Niffenegger, Eddie Campbell, Tommi Parrish, Eric Haven, Jerry Frissen, Philippe Scoffoni, Reinhard Kleist, more.

Bizarre Romance h/c (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Audrey Niffenegger & Eddie Campbell.

“The attic was infested with angels again. I could hear them bumping around above the ceiling. Plus, the harp music made it pretty obvious.”

If my name were Jacob, I probably wouldn’t go climbing any ladders. You never know what you’ll encounter.

What Jakob Wywialowski discovers, once he’s stuck his head over the proverbial parapet and up through the attic hatch, is a small orchestra of Byzantine angels sat on the floorboards or upon the carved antique chairs belonging to his great-aunt Rachel. Now, harp music would probably prove soothing to most, but there’s a lute, a lyre and some sort of trumpet. That’s sure going to carry. And although they stop strumming the second they see Jakob (and stare him down coldly), they strike right up again the second he’s popped the lid back.

Have you ever had noisy neighbours? Plus, you know, if you don’t take action, things can escalate.

“One thing leads to another, and before you know it, you’ve got Seraphim.”




The angels are rendered, as per Byzantine tradition, faces turned but in bodily profile, even when all hell breaks loose later on. There’s an exquisitely funny, ornately framed, two-dimensional tableau of this (wherein the angels remain coloured in flat olive hues in contrast to their contemporary assailants) which can be viewed from all angles, as you might a church ceiling from the same period. For the same effect, hold the book above your head then turn it round.

The tale takes a truly upsetting twist (which is sadly familiar if you transpose it), but the punchline is perfectly judged for maximum, serves-you-right mirth.

So, twelve short stories and a sermon (!), some of which have seen the light of day before but in different ways, some of which haven’t except as one-off performance pieces, with one which is brand-new to the public. Apart from a couple which were co-created by the couple for comics, all are written by Audrey Niffenegger (‘The Time Traveller’s Wife’, ‘Her Fearful Symmetry’ etc), and each has been transformed into illustrated prose or full-blown comics by Eddie Campbell of ALEC OMNIBUS, BACCHUS, FROM HELL, FROM HELL COMPANION, THE TRUTH IS A CAVE IN THE BLACK MOUNTAINS, THE PLAYWRIGHT etc, all reviewed.



Kicking a piece of prose fiction off with a double-page illustration is a risky business, but the specific shimmering imagery preceding ‘Secret Life, with Cats’ (note the exact title including punctuation) could not anticipate and complement what follows better and Campbell’s contribution to ‘The Composite Boyfriend’ is a stroke of mischievous genius. It’s a paper-doll dress-up of a naked, bald man with slots through which you can stick the tabs attached to the various mix-and-match head gear, shirts, jackets, boots, high-heeled shoes, pants and panties. There’s additional lateral thinking I’ll leave you to discover yourself, but only Eddie Campbell would think to include a variety of genitalia for preferences’ sake or a fig leaf for the prudish, deeply religious or asexual.

The short story itself is a free-flowing composite too:

“I met him at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, where he worked as a guard. I met him in a class I was taking. I met him at a school where we both taught. I met him at a party; we smiled at each other across a crowded room. We were introduced to each other by our mutual friend Paula, an Austrian immigrant who had escaped from the Nazis as a young girl.”

“…I gave him my phone number but accidentally transposed two digits because I had just changed it. He managed to call anyway.”

The sex was largely problematic.




So, what are you in for thematically? The title would suggest bizarre romances, and there are plenty of relationships here (romances, family, friendships) which either begin bizarrely or take quite the startling turn at the transdimensional traffic lights. There are initial connections, strange transformations and passages through mirrors, hatches and doors, whether you can see all of them or not. Offers, for examples, are doorways; agreements are you stepping through.

There are also a great many cats, some living, some dead, one dead-and-buried and about-to-be-exhumed, while others were never alive. See juggled ocelots. That they were specifically ocelots is funny in its own right.



Originally written between 2003 and 2014, I note that ‘Secret Life, with Cats’ was originally published in 2006, three years prior to Niffenegger’s novel ‘Her Fearful Symmetry’ and I wonder which more informed the other, for they share more than a few of the same elements. It’s a story about houses, one of which is bequeathed to the narrator by a friend called Ruth whom she met while they worked together at a cat rescue, rehabilitation and re-housing centre after Ruth disappears. The narrator finds that she too would like to disappear and does so, twice – the first time in order to escape life with a neglectful husband by moving into her new house; the second time in order to escape what she finds there. After an extended, predominantly tender tale, the narrator abruptly signs off, over and out with a shockingly ruthless expediency which is so completely in keeping with her quiet, resigned pragmatism that it is comical.

Ever and always, throughout this collection, you can see the creators’ eyes twinkle.

As well as the humour, there’s an unworldly eeriness to some of Eddie’s art here, not least in ‘The Ruin of Grant Lowery’ which begins in the very fixed and concrete location of “the Village Tap on Rancine” before some of those dangerous doors begin beckoning. At that bar an imperious-looking lady accosts him, her face a too perfectly beautiful, impassive mask. She asks Grant Lowery to settle a bet between her friends, but that invitation too is a mask for what she really wants. It’s a clever approach, to offer alternatives. One of her friends has a facade which exhibits slightly feral features; the other’s smile is so asymmetrical that “Grant wondered if she had been in some sort of accident”. I liked this: “Migly, as he looked at her, seemed to become subtly more asymmetrical, until she was almost cubist.” Wait until you see what Campbell does with that! Wait until you learn what Grant Lowery doesn’t: he doesn’t run away.



The eeriness is in evidence too in ‘Backwards in Seville’. There the pages open right up with vacuums of white: silent space in which only five sentences are actually uttered and upon which each panel seems to hang as if suspended in space, but more accurately time.

The effect is that within fluid prose – as the narrator talks herself out of an existence she no longer cherishes in favour of her frail, aging father – each solitary reflection is given its due. It’s difficult not to linger. It also divorces a blur-faced Helene from the world she perceives and the life she has led which she reflects upon remotely, dispassionately and disappointedly as their boat backs away from Seville.

“She had met Evan when she was twenty-eight and he was thirty-six. He’s always seemed on the verge of marrying her; she was patient.
“When he broke up with her fourteen years later and married a girl half her age, she understood that she’d been gullible and that he was a jerk, but, oh, well, and so she had lapsed into a quiet, permanent rage.”

Helene’s father has been recently widowed, you see, and she has taken her mother’s place on their traditional Mediterranean cruise holiday. Slowly but surely as Helene reflects upon what little she has made of her own life, she comes to the conclusion that her more interactive, proactive, still-smiling father could make far better use of her extra time which she – being too timid and ineffectual to date – wouldn’t have the first clue what to do with. Almost anyone other than Audrey Niffenegger would have then turned this into a cautionary tale of being careful what you wish for. But such proscriptive stifling is really not her style.




So we come, appropriately enough, to the ‘Gaeia Manchester Sermon’ which Niffenegger originally delivered in a cathedral to a congregation celebrating the Manchester Literary Festival in October 2014. Yes, it was a real sermon delivered in a real cathedral to a real congregation, even though the writer had long abandoned organised religion in favour of Art, and all of their interests lay firmly and fervently focussed thataway!

She is diplomatic.

“The thing that makes us want God is the same thing that makes us want Art – we want meaning. We want there to be more than meets the eye.”

She is honest.

“I am an inappropriate person to be giving a sermon. I have spent thirty-six years of my life avoiding sermons. I might even be allergic to sermons; they make me itch.”

Not rich. Her mother left the Catholic Church shortly after Audrey left art school upon graduation. Her Mum realised that she didn’t like the way the church treated women, and more. Her local church’s pastor wrote her a letter in which he said he was sorry she was leaving, but that he prayed that she would please still continue to give them the same stipend of money. That was his priority.

What is so very clever about the sermon is that does address the ecclesiastical, marries rather than divorces it from the history of art, argues with evidence that its scriptures and strictures are contradictory, hypocritical with respect to said art, and then humbly enounces a far more inspiring, communicative and so constructive potential focus for our shared devotion.


As has now become laughably traditional at Page 45 – but never once regretted or rescinded – I now pronounce this my book of the year, once again as early as March. Hahahahahaha!


Buy Bizarre Romance h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Lie And How We Told It h/c (£21-99, Fantagraphics) by Tommi Parrish.

“That friendship was my whole world once.”
“People change.”

Oh how they do!

Bar-staff wisdom, there: never underestimate it. They observe everything and everyone – except me when I’m attempting to buy a round on a heaving Saturday night. It’s those propping up that bar whose advice you should be wary of.

Cleary and Tim haven’t seen each other in years, but bump into each other again because Cleary is working at the local supermarket’s check-out and Tim has brought some produce to buy.


Uncommitted small talk ensues then Tim signals his intention to leave, but Cleary thinks she should give it a go: she finishes in 5, and she says they should catch up. Tim’s caught, as startled as a deer in her headlights, and automatically agrees. Outside, he waits for her. Reveries or perhaps memories seep in.

And then, when they walk and talk, it’s far from a meeting of minds.



Yes, it’s going to be awkward. Parrish does “awkward” ever so well, as you shall see. In fact, why don’t we start again?

THE LIE AND HOW WE TOLD IT is an essay in awkward: awkward bodies, uncomfortable environments, and a mis-meeting of minds engaged elsewhere or else-when; they’re certainly no longer on the same wavelength, if they ever were.

The figures are hulking, extended, exceptionally physical and when one pushes someone else away literally or metaphorically, they do with a palpable, tangible physicality.

The bar scenes are visually, colourfully crowd-loud, dense and intense.



Have you ever been led to a new pub, bar or club by someone totally used and inured to its charms: someone at least familiar with its regular denizens and accustomed to its customs? But you find it oppressive, overwhelming and so hostile, even if it isn’t? If the music or chatter is so loud that you cannot communicate with the one who brought you there and so find solace in their familiarity amongst this alien environment, then that’s even worse. They stand there, relaxed, beaming and proud of themselves, while you shudder silently inside.

But Parrish takes this one step further, for although Tim leads Cleary to a bar he perhaps honestly believes she’ll enjoy because of its sexuality diverse population (alternatively, to prove he’s so very cool), in spite of all his ostensible equanimity, he’s about to squirm too in its toilets.

There’s nothing awful or untoward going on in its toilets. Everyone there is perfectly friendly; it is Tim who imperfectly is not.



Cleary finds a book along their way, and we are privy to its text.

“How can someone learn so little in all those years?”

Distance, it seems to me, is not only a matter of miles.




Buy The Lie And How We Told It h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Compulsive Comics s/c (£17-99, Fantagraphics) by Eric Haven…

“Hell-ooo! Helloo-HUH? DAN?”
“Wow! I can’t believe it!”
“ADRIAN?! It’s great to see you, lad! Although I wish our circumstances were different… I think we’re dead.”

They are. Dead, that is. Yes, EIGHTBALL’s Dan Clowes and OPTIC NERVE’s Adrian Tomine are conversing in the afterlife and discover to their mutual outrage that the same blithering idiot has managed to knock them both down in rapid succession in his black VW bug! The idiot in question being the creator of Compulsive Comics, Eric Haven, who is now having a complete meltdown over how to dispose of their bodies because he doesn’t want to go to prison…

Meanwhile, the dynamic duo of Dan and Adrian are about to negotiate with the Creator – capital C, note – to get sent back on a mission of vengeance to deal with the lower-case one… Quite why Eric Haven felt the need to bump those two off, only he knows, but he does have the manners to apologise to both of them at the end of the strip, and thank them in the credits at the back of the collection, in addition to letting them gain their revenge with the pages of his comic as well. So he can’t be all bad! Also, his conceit of having Dan call Adrian “lad’ totally cracked me up. I’d love to know where that came from.



It is as bizarre as it sounds, not least because God is not quite what you’d expect, neither in appearance nor in fashion sensibilities, as He insists Dan and Adrian get dressed as superheroes before their resurrection. Dan’s a little concerned the outfits look a bit “sheer” but God insists they’ll hit the spot in striking terror into mortal men… As I say, at least Eric had the good grace to say sorry to them!

That surreal short is but one of eleven strips of varying levels of insane that make up this collection drawn from various sources penned between 1996 to 2006. Some are little more than one or two page gag strips, in a nervous laughter sense that is, whereas others are psychotic, surreal affairs that just seem to ramble dangerously on in a random fashion over several pages. I think my favourite is possibly ‘It’s Okay… I’m Wearing A Tie’ which as you can probably guess features Eric in a number of… situations… that no normal person would remotely consider okay, whether one was fully suited and booted or not. It’s all very deadpan humour throughout and wonderfully absurd.



Content-wise and artistically I can make comparisons with Charles LAST LOOK Burns, Joe HIGHBONE THEATER Daly, Tim LONESOME GO Lane and I’m even going to throw Fletcher Hanks in there on the basis of the one strip that is in colour entitled Mammology, featuring Eric slumped in an armchair watching a TV show starring a deliberately period superhero called the Mongoose. Also, there’s more than a touch of Joe SPENT Matt in how Eric draws himself, which is probably somewhat revealing!

On the basis of this excellent selection of shorts I’d love to have a look at Eric’s longer form work. Apparently he did one last year, also for Fantagraphics, entitled VAGUE TALES about a man (presumably Eric!) telepathically visiting other worlds whilst sitting in his apartment. I can certainly identify with that… but that’s the power of comics for you!!


Buy Compulsive Comics s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Secret Loves Of Geeks (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Margaret Atwood, Hope Larson, Cecil Castellucci, Gerard Way, Levi Hasting, Jamie McKelvie, Katie West, JP Laroque, Marley Zarcone and more.

Unexpectedly enormous fun! Apart from the bits that will tear your heart in two.

But, predominantly, this is unexpectedly enormous fun in which comicbook creators are generous enough to have a good old laugh at themselves, and in doing so go some not inconsiderable way to demonstrate that we’re far from alone if we act a bit wonky in love, lust or dear old infatuation.

But first a few words about the collection’s inclusivity so that none of you feel you’re being left on the shelf. *sobs*

“Representation matters, and people find it easier to become who they are when they see themselves reflected in media and stories.”

 – Chris Roberson, from the foreward.

If you’re still not sure whether representation matters, Roberson’s own history is almost certain to convince you, and you may end up researching demisexual and indeed graysexual which, sadly, isn’t an attraction to crumblies like me. Terms like that aren’t about pigeon-holing and labels, but about a vocabulary that allows greater understanding of others and more communicative self-expression in conversation. Hooray!


Absolutely no art I’ve found online corresponds to the stories I’m about to introduce you to. Never mind, they’re all somewhere in the book!


As suggested on the cover by Becky Cloonan, there’s a full spectrum of representation here “of diverse genders, orientations and cultural backgrounds” – also of art styles and narrative approaches from the era-spanning and the era-straddling to a weekend whirlwind romance.

As the word ‘Geek’ might suggest, unusually fervent obsessions are also very much to the fore, whether it’s Katie West’s collection of Vampire Lestat editions (not different books in the series, but different editions of the same book; and you for the punchline!!!) or Marley Zarcone’s startling moment of waking disassociation from reality in front of boyfriend James Stokoe following waaaaaaaaaaaay too much video-game bingeing. Hello? Yes, I saw a lot of hands going up there. Me too! Unfortunately, however much Bryan Lee O’Malley might suggest it in SECONDS, most of us can’t simply reload an old save.



Other contributors manage to combine tales of their obsessions with stories of their love lives in extraordinarily powerful, extremely elaborate or completely ridiculous ways, two of the very best being Levi Hastings’s sequential-art heartbreak and JP Laroque’s pun-tastically titled ‘Love In Alderaan Places’.

It’s a Star Wars reference, and a surprisingly clever one at that, for Laroque once had a boyf for whom Star Wars was sacrosanct. It was sacred to the point that even the suggestion that a single celluloid frame might be imperfect was a relationship deal-breaker, let alone all the prequels. And Mr Laroque, he held no love for the Star Wars franchise whatsoever; indeed, he hated it all.

So he lied. Oh, how he lied! Such was his love / lust / infatuation that he willingly subjected himself to entire evenings and repeated sittings of wall-to-wall Star Wars to please his boyfriend and then, to earn extra points, extolled the virtues of what he had seen at length, in depth and with a passion. I can’t recall whether this lasted weeks or for months, but I am slightly in awe. The key to all this is how Laroque sets it up – the crash, burn and inevitable, cataclysmic parting of ways when the truth comes out, after which he goes Solo – for Laroque is not without his own passions including the Alien franchise, he’s a great deal more candid than he was during this pantomime, and he’s a very funny writer with immaculate timing.



On an infinitely more poignant note, Levi Hastings fell for a guy while sojourning in a small, remote town which was thinly populated by those with even smaller minds. No matter. He still fell for this guy who loved the socio-political remake of Battlestar Galactica, so on their weekends, they watched it together and Levi found himself hooked on both fronts.

“The show became our date-night ritual, and I started to equate the drumbeats of the opening credits to the thumping of my eager heart.”

Awwww. The couple are all cuddled up on the sofa (this one’s comics). But here’s where it gets really interesting:

“I soon began to draw parallels between our progress in the show and the stages of our relationship.”

And parallels he draws, season to season, are absolutely remarkable and ever so telling. Or, as our own Battlestar expert Dee put it when I told her of this trajectory: “Uh-oh!” Uh-oh indeed! I’m not going to go any further, but that one’s a poignant must-read.



What else did I make notes on? Oh yes, Hope Larson’s ‘Cosplay’. A bit disappointed that it was prose, for I love Larson’s art, but the prose itself does not disappoint. She’s meeting someone at a bar for the first time:

“I got there early, like I always do, to buy my own drink and avoid the dance over the check. I call this move the Conflict-Averse Feminist. I moved around the bar trying out different seating options, like one of Goldilocks’s bears, until I located a spot that would allow for close conversation but didn’t invite too much coziness.”

Actually it was Goldilocks who tried out all the furniture and the bears who discovered her, but it’s a terrific analogy. Anyway, the convention-break date goes swimmingly well and Larson is exceptionally self-aware.

“I trotted out my best material: my most charming stories, my greatest hits.” It’s at this point I’m usually either tongue-tied or self-deprecating; I find the latter charming, but I might as well just stick a post-it note to my forehead with “LOSER” scrawled across it. “There was no rationing it out, or worrying that I’d built myself up to a sum greater than my parts. I’m not the type to dress up like Wonder Woman and trot about conventions, slipping into character for every amateur photographer, but I understand the impulse. This was my own brand of cosplay, and I was in disguise as myself.”

Everything that follows is equally eloquent with a superb sense of stock-taking when it comes to the stage in her life she had found herself at, and he in his. It’s the sort of thing you can gauge by your living conditions, love life or work responsibilities.

I count 37 pieces and I haven’t read all of them, but I will over time.

One last piece of wit is the 8-bit love hearts between each prose story’s chapter break. Neat!


Buy The Secret Loves Of Geeks and read the Page 45 review here

Exo h/c (£18-99, Humanoids) by Jerry Frissen & Philippe Scoffoni…

“We’re nearly there.”
“What?! “We’re nearly there?” Does the lieutenant come here a lot?”
“Maybe he knows some cool bar behind that big boulder over there?”

I’d be up for visiting a bar on the moon…

It’s not a bar, obviously…

Jerry Frisson, who collaborated on writing duties with Alexandro Jodorowsky on the recent new METABARON material returns solo here with a hard sci-fi yarn about a covert alien invasion of Earth, and all manner of other lunar-based malarky.

In the best tradition of covert alien invasions of Earth, the extraterrestrial excursionists are bodysnatchers, but it’s not long before the visitors come to the attention of NASA. Partly because an orbital space station gets attacked by a mysterious weapon fired from the dark side of the moon, thus requiring a cadre of marines to be dispatched to investigate, setting everyone on high alert for anything unusual. Like, you know, a covert alien invasion. How are the two events connected? And what on Earth, and the Moon, is going on?



Can it all possibly have anything to do with NASA’s recent announcement that they’ve discovered an exoplanet so likely to harbour life they’ve named it Darwin II? By reprogramming an existing probe already out in the big beyond since 1996 to get there within a mere 2 years, rather than the 40 years it would take a new mission, they are utterly convinced they will finally discover alien life. Too late, it’s already here!!

It’s up to John Koenig (surely a cheeky nod to Walter?), the ‘bad boy of NASA himself’ to puzzle it all out! I should probably add that John didn’t award himself that particular honorific, it was in fact his daughter Io’s ex-boyfriend, the fabulously bemulleted Peter, just before he medicined John good and proper with some peyote tea, to prevent him from retrieving his daughter. This stupid, seemingly random action will in fact prove to be a pivotal plot point…



John’s subsequent intuitive flashbacks are probably where my suspension of disbelief was most tested during this work, which is saying something given the epic journey Frisson takes us on, but overall it’s an fabulously entertaining romp which is in the best traditions of a huge (good) Hollywood sci-fi blockbuster, so I guess I can forgive the odd tenuous plot device that makes all the crazy stuff hang together.

The parallel strands of tension on terra firma – and then underwater just for a bit of additional Abyss-style alien action – and the moon that develop, kept me completely intrigued before they dovetailed neatly, as we get the big reveals piling up rapidly during the conclusion. Though, the final few pages did feel slightly rushed, almost as though a couple of key explicative scenes were missing. I’m not one for unnecessary exposition, but we really could have done with a touch more here right at the death. I actually checked to see whether I hadn’t turned over a few pages at the same time by mistake in my excitement. A case of rapidly diminishing page count, I suspect! Anyway, a very minor gripe.



The art from Phillippe Scoffoni, who is new to me, I must confess, is truly excellent, exactly what you’d want and expect from a Humanoids book. Precise ligne claire, really detailed linework, with a wonderfully natural colour palette. I’m probably most minded of François BOUNCER Boucq as a point of comparison, but I really hope Scoffoni does more for Humanoids, his art is an absolute pleasure to look at.


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

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds: An Art Book h/c (£24-99, SelfMadeHero) by Reinhard Kleist.

“Closer to the truth than any biography, that’s for sure!”

 – Nick Cave on Reinhard Kleist’s graphic novel, NICK CAVE: MERCY ON ME.

We have sold a shed load of those at Page 45.

It’s a dilapidated shed, to be sure, half-hidden by undergrowth, with a rusted padlock and a suspicious smell seeping through the cracks in one of its windows. Betty Coltrane no longer lives here; we strongly suggest you stop looking for her.

You might already know Kleist from his JOHNNY CASH graphic novel. Kleist doesn’t do straight biographies. How boring would that be? He tells stories instead, weaving mythologies from already twined thread, and that’s what Cave relished so much in Kleist’s approach.



Reinhard also enjoys storyboarding songs and here, amongst all the glorious, liberated, free-form art that didn’t have to be saddled to his story but was drawn simply for pleasure, you will find ‘Deanna’, ‘The Good Son’ and ‘Stagger Lee’ given a decidedly different treatment to – well, in the case of ‘Deanna’, different to what would have been technically possible with a camera.

I’m not that fussed about those. I have a turbulent, piping-hot / ice-cold relationship with pop promo videos; I’ve always sensed from the resultant emissions that so has Cave. I used to have 60+ hours of pop promos on VHS cassette (including all of Nick Cave’s) but they can kill a song dead. All that ethereal imagery and associations which you, individually, connect to a song that makes it your own is overwritten by someone other than you, then set in concrete.

You cannot un-see stuff; un-learning it is barely more practicable without the onset of age.



With Cave, the clue is probably in the word “promotional”: a necessary evil, like interviews. Oh, Cave does love to tell stories, so give him an interesting subject (i.e. interviewer – they really are not in control) and he’ll have him some dry, laconic or ironic, arched-eyebrow fun; give him an inspired storyboard and up-for-it co-star like Kylie Minogue and Blixa Bargeld and he will act his Australian socks off or mess about with glee. Otherwise, he’s bored. You just know that he’d rather be on stage, doing what he does best: performing the stories which he’s already written, direct to his audience.

Yes, I’m writing whatever comes into my head so that I have enough paragraphs of prose to justify showing you a few delicious photographs snapped from this beautiful art book.



Along with preparatory material for the graphic novel itself, this is Kleist breathing out from all the hard work and letting his brush have some fun: portrait after portrait of Nick Cave strutting his stuff from sixteen to sixty with or without his Bad Seeds, his Antipodean Boys Next Door, The Birthday Party, Grinderman etc.

It is at its best when it’s at its loosest, capturing all the energy and swaggering staggering movement of Cave on stage. He nails Warren Ellis (the other one) with all his furrow-browed intensity, dedication, inspiration and throw-it-forward drive which transformed a live performance of ‘The Weeping Song’ from something I could only associate with Blixa Bargeld into an almost military yet eerie drummer-boy assault / defiant lament.



Anyway, in order to impress upon you that St Nick wasn’t merely being flippant about NICK CAVE: MERCY ON ME (reviewed for us by Dr Matt Green with infinitely more erudition), here is Cave’s full assessment:

“Reinhard Kleist, master graphic novelist and myth-maker has – yet again – blown apart the conventions of the graphic novel by concocting a terrifying conflation of Cave songs, biographical half-truths and complete fabulations and creating a complex, chilling and completely bizarre journey into Cave World. Closer to the truth than any biography, that’s for sure! But for the record, I never killed Elisa Day.”

I wouldn’t bet on that.



This comes with Kleist’s account of the projects. Out March 15th 2018.


Buy Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds: An Art Book h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Fire Punch vol 1 (£8-99, Viz) by Tatsuki Fujimoto.

“You’re delicious, brother.”

All things are relative, including repugnance and (arf!) appetite, but it’s not quite as bad it seems.

Almost, but not quite.

Those born with the ability to perform miracles are called “The Blessed”. Everyone else might as well be called “The Cursed” because one of “The Blessed” has turned the entire planet into a spherical ice cube. I’m not quite sure how long that’s been going on, but teenage Agni remembers summer days in a flowering wood and flowing streams, even if his younger sister Luna doesn’t.

They were found outside the village three years ago and cared for using already scarce resources, since when Agni has been providing the village with sustenance of his own making.

The second page shows Luna wielding an axe above Agni’s arm; the third depicts its downswing and “Aaaaaaaaaaaaargh!” she’s gone and chopped her own brother’s arm off! Does it have frostbite or gangrene? No, it does not! It’s perfectly healthy for a little light broth or stew, then.



Don’t worry, there’s plenty more where that came from – he has an entire village to feed, after all – because Agni is one of “The Blessed”, able to re-grow a limb or fully regenerate after being reduced a cinder. It doesn’t half smart, though.

Yes, the entire village consists of cannibals now, ever so grateful for Agni’s tender flesh. It’s okay, they don’t tend to receive visitors, so – ah, they have visitors!  A military plane has landed while Agni was shooting a deer (?) and out steps Doma who’s disappointed to find only pensioners. He was kind of hoping to find children, so when Agni arrives he is offered citizenship in Behemborg, a new “city of freedom” – except for the slaves. Unfortunately the villagers’ breakfast, lunch and dinner menu slips out during casual conversation and Doma is so horrified that he immolates the entire settlement and its population using his own power as one of “The Blessed”, which is a fire that will not die until its fuel has completely perished.

Now, remember Agni’s own regenerative abilities? Remember the cover too? Correct: Agni is the fuel that will never completely perish, so he is now a walking, talking, human firebrand. That smarts too. And he is determined to have his revenge.



I’ve no idea why this is one Viz’s ‘Signature’ imprint which is supposed to denote quality (Inio Asano, Junji Ito, SUNNY etc), because it’s mindless, sensationalist gubbins with excruciatingly incoherent visual storytelling in places and science / logic / plot holes wide enough so that even I could putt a golf ball into the them. And by sensationalist, I mean that children are under constant threat of rape.

Also, Luna does find Agni delicious in exactly that way:

“Will you make a baby with me?”

I’m not making this up.


Buy Fire Punch vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Baccano! vol 1 (£9-99, Yen Press) by Ryohgo Narita & Shinta Fujimoto…

“Let the crazy ruckus begin!”

No, not the Page 45 refit! The more observant of you will have noticed it hasn’t. Begun, that is. As it was supposed to, the other weekend… Suffice to say (to mangle the old military adage), no plan ever survives contact with a builder! We’ll keep you advised. Having had a sneak preview of the plans (what, you haven’t read Stephen’s Page 45 Refit Blog Special?) I’m sure you know it’ll be worth the wait.

Right, digression over, what’s BACCANO! all about? Well, the presence of the exclamation mark in the title might give you a clue, if you know your manga titular fetishes, for it’s the new acclaimed series by the creator of the surprisingly difficult to type DURARARA!! Now, obviously, Ryohgo Narita has restrained himself to a mere one dramatic punctuation stopper this time around but, fret ye not, he’s managed to shoo-in his trademark dashes of random oddball plot devices that make this not just a mere period mafia knockabout, but something else entirely.



I should probably add for the organised crime pedants amongst you it’s actually the Camorra that feature in this work rather than the Mafia, the Camorra originating from the Naples along with thin-crust pizzas, rather than Sicily where the Mafiosi originated chewing away on their inch-thick pizza crusts, but let’s not be picky. Except in the case of pizzas, where anything other than thin and crispy is a crime against humanity. Or I’ll measure you up for a concrete comic box… Baccano, by the way, just in case you were wondering, is Italian for ruckus…

So… I really have finished waffling on now, I think…



Set in 1927 New York City, our central protagonist, pretty boy pugilist Firo Prochainezo is determined to make his mark and move up the ranks in the Martillo family. The Martillo’s are a small outfit, but they’ve got certain… advantages… which they use to great effect. Like their accountant seems to possess a healing factor Logan would be proud of. Nope, he’s not a mutant, there’s a more alchemical reason for his prodigious coagulative powers, thus providing a nice side plot involving a mysterious group including a similarly robust priest. And errr… clearly, he’s not your typical accountant, though he does seem quite good at racking up a body count…



Yes, just like DURARARA!! what starts off seemingly like a straightforward premise ends up being something far more entertaining entirely, though that series did end up have more tangents than hedgehogs have spines. The modern day headless horseman equivalent who rode a motorcycle being my favourite. Anyway, this also seems like it’s going to be a heap of bonkers fun, so indeed, why not pick up a copy and let the ruckus begin?


Buy Baccano! vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Demon vol 4 (£15-99, FirstSecond) by Jason Shiga.

This is the fourth and final volume of DEMON in which you will see no ostensible demons, because it’s not that sort book, but they’re there both in spirit (increasingly more people are behaving in a diabolical fashion – this book comes with a higher corpse count than PREACHER) and in their more Biblical sense, I guess.

For three volumes now I have attempted to review a series whose biggest selling point is its secret, and the way in which Shiga extrapolates from that, which is more than a little problematic given that the first half of book one is one big puzzle for you – and the protagonist – to figure out for yourselves.

I therefore refer you to the spoiler-free review of DEMON VOL 1 which begins thus:

“Wickedly crafty, the extent of Shiga’s ingenuity will only begin to become clear during chapter four, and then it will blow your brains out. Which is apposite enough.
“Up until then, you’re going to have trust him.”

And me.

I’ll only add that unlike most books from First Second this is most sincerely 16+ or parents will experience some very awkward conversations around the kitchen table.

I would strongly suggest that First Second inaugurates the opposite of Nobrow in its Young Readers’ Flying Eye imprint, and gets itself a Mature Readers label.


Buy Demon vol 4 and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Why Art? (£12-99, Fantagraphics) by Eleanor Davis

Chimichanga: The Sorrow Of The World’s Worst Face h/c (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Eric Powell & Stephanie Buscema

Firebug s/c (£14-99, Image) by Johnnie Christmas

Hellblazer vol 3: The Inspiration Game (Rebirth) s/c (£14-99, DC) by Tim Seeley, Richard Kadrey & Jesus Merino, Davide Fabbri, Jose Marzan Jr

Inside Moebius Part 1 h/c (£33-50, Dark Horse) by Moebius

Motor Girl Omnibus h/c (£35-99, Abstract Studio) by Terry Moore

Nightlights h/c (£14-99, Nobrow) by Lorena Alvarez

Walking Dead vol 29: Lines We Cross (£14-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard

Fantastic Four: Epic Collection vol 1 – The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

Fantastic Four: Epic Collection vol 2 – The Master Plan Of Doctor Doom s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

Marvel Legacy (UK Edition) s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron, Robbie Thompson & various

Planet Hulk Omnibus (UK Edition) s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Greg Pak & Carlo Pagulayan, Aaron Lopresti

The Flowers of Evil Complete vol 2 (£19-50, Vertical) by Shuzo Oshimi

Battle Angel Alita – Mars Chronicle vol 1 (£9-99, Kodansha) by Yukito Kishiro

Battle Angel Alita vol 2 Deluxe Edition h/c (£25-00, Kodansha) by Yukito Kishiro

Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card vol 2 (£9-99, Kodansha) by Clamp

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews February 2018 week four

Wednesday, February 28th, 2018

Featuring Tee Franklin, Jenn St-Onge, Joy San, Box Brown, Adam Murphy, Lisa Murphy, Nicola Davies, Cathy Fisher. Neil Gaiman, P. Craig Russell, Scott Hampton, Colleen Doran, Glenn Fabry, Walter Simonson, Andy Kubert, Yuki Fumino, Carlo Zen, Chika Tono, more!

American Gods vol 1 h/c (£20-00, Headline) by Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell, Scott Hampton with Colleen Doran, Glenn Fabry, Walter Simonson. Cover by David Mack.

“These are the gods who have been forgotten, and now they might as well be dead. They are gone. All gone…. Even their names have been forgotten. Gods die and when they die, they are unmourned and unremembered.
“Ideas are more difficult to kill than people, but they can be killed in the end.”

So, let us remember, can people. Many a woman has died at a god’s decree; many a man too. They have been known to use us as pawns, and there is a game to end all games afoot here, before the lights finally go out.

First of three books – each containing nine sequential-art chapters – in which Gaiman elaborates on an element which he first explored during his epic SANDMAN mythology: that of faith, and the dwindling of gods’ power if followers fall by the wayside. If ancient gods are no longer believed in or worshipped, what power have they left?



And how did they come to America at all from lands so far away? Each was carried in the hearts and minds of immigrants, and mortals have been landing on America’s shores long before Christopher Columbus mistakenly believed he’d reached the Indies. Which gods of many faiths you will meet under most unexpected circumstances, I shall not say, for half the fun is in spotting them, but there are history lessons aplenty interjected – along with rude discoveries – and both Colleen Doran and Glenn Fabry have produced my favourite art of their substantial careers for these brief interludes.



The former illuminates the tumultuous history of one resourceful Essie Tregowan who once worked as a scullery maid on the shores of Cornwall and whose days ended – after many marriages, children and much meandering, up-and-down fortune – on the other side of the Atlantic. She never forgot the Piskies and the Spriggans, she always paid tribute, and it seems they never forgot Essie. Doran’s lines are as delicate as her softly lit colours, and her knowledge of historical fashion in hair and costume spot-on.



In a more modern setting, poor Salim is dispatched by his brother-in-law from Oman to cold New York City in order to sell cheap copper trinkets from a suitcase. His meetings with business owners are wholly unsuccessful and his funds, like his spirits, drain away until he strays into a taxi whose driver displays certain attributes which Salim finds fearfully familiar. Adam Brown’s colours on Glenn Fabry’s line art are quite extraordinary: I’ve never seen rain on a windscreen in a neon-lit city quite like it.



For these acts of worship in storytelling, story-spreading, acknowledgement and sexual congress, the gods will show their… gratitude? … to differing degrees and in many different ways. Top tip: I’d probably avoid reading this on public transport, though, for my own adjoining seat wasn’t empty.

So we come to the central narrative. It’s so long since I read Gaiman’s AMERICAN GODS prose novel that much of this came as a pleasant surprise: it was like being reacquainted with an old friend who was as charming and witty as ever yet – thanks to P. Craig Russell on crystal clear layouts and Scott Hampton on hyper-real art – had grown even more handsome in the interim.

It also triggered recollections of further down this long and winding road which reminded me that – as any SANDMAN reader knows – Neil Gaiman is a master of foreshadowing. P. Craig Russell, whose exceptional adaptations to comics include Wagner’s RING OF THE NIBELUNG and THE FAIRY TALES OF OSCAR WILDE is no slouch on the foreshadowing front, either, and has distilled Gaiman’s prose to its vital essence while retaining so much of the original words’ key cadence, along with ideas like this which would be much missed had they ended up on the cutting room floor:

“The short service ended. The people went away. Shadow did not leave. There was something he wanted to say to Laura, and he was prepared to wait until he knew what it was.”

As to structure, sleight-of-hand stepping stones are one of Neil Gaiman’s fortes. I’ve spoken of this at least twice before in HOW TO TALK TO GIRLS AT PARTIES and THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE wherein Neil’s stories begin grounded firmly in our shared reality but then his protagonists pass over a subtle, metaphorical bridge – or some sequestered, sun-dappled stepping stones – into another. It’s as though a rarely spotted signpost has popped up, redirecting you down a road less travelled, a side-path to somewhere else, somewhere other.



This is why Hampton’s hyper-real yet not-real art works so well from the start, for Mr Wednesday’s ever so many sleights of hand have already begun from the get-go. It is Shadow’s path that we follow, and it has an eerie, distanced quality to it, the protagonists not quite inhabiting their landscapes which, as you see, have a mutable quality to them anyway. Shadow has so little control over his environment, his circumstances or indeed his entire trajectory, and this will prove all the more disconcerting to someone who considers himself a pragmatist.

“Shadow had done three years in prison.
“He was big enough and looked don’t-fuck-with-me enough that his biggest problem was killing time.
“So he kept himself in shape, and taught himself coin tricks and thought a lot about how much he loved his wife…
“He did not awake in prison with a feeling of dread; he was no longer scared of what tomorrow might bring because yesterday had brought it.”



Instead he keeps himself to himself and marks the days off on a certain calendar until he will see his wife once again. During these three years of calm incarceration Shadow’s cellmate, Low Key Lyesmith, introduced him to Herodotus’ ‘Histories’ (circa 425 B.C.) and the self-professed reluctant reader became hooked. What happened to Lyesmith? Transferred without warning, apparently; vanished into thin air.

“Shadow did not believe in anything he could not see.
“Still, he could feel disaster hovering in those final weeks, just as he had felt it in the days before the robbery. He was more paranoid than usual, and in prison, usual is very, and is a survival skill.”

With five days to go before his release, after a collect-call to his beaming wife who enthuses about the last leaves of autumn, Shadow is warned of an approaching storm: something cataclysmic waiting outside. There’s no audible thunder in the figurative air but then lightning strikes: Shadow is told that although he was due to be released on Friday… he will in fact be released a whole two days early. His wife has been killed in a car accident.



In an instant everything Shadow had mapped out for himself after his three years in prison is gone. He still has a future but it is empty, unfurnished, unforeseeable and so unimaginable. Numb, he boards the bus to the airport, then his plane home, but home is not what he thought it would be. Shadow falls asleep in the storm.

“Where am I?”
“In the earth and under the earth. You are where the forgotten wait. If you are to survive, you must believe.”
“Believe what? What should I believe?”



When he dozes once again he is back in prison.

“Someone has put out a contract on your life.”

Then when he wakes up, Shadow’s nightmare begins.

I don’t know about you, but I am constantly lost, late and disorientated in my dreams. But that is now Shadow’s reality. He’s at the wrong airport: the plane was redirected because of the storm. He misses its replacement; the next one is cancelled; but if he’s quick there is one he can catch.



“Shadow felt like a pea being flicked between three cups.”

And that’s precisely what he is. Now, following the death of his wife, his early release, the redirected plane, the plane that he missed, the one that was cancelled and the seat which taken, Shadow is finally where he needs to be. Well, he’s where Mr. Wednesday needs him to be: right across the aisle.

“You’re late.”
“I said… you’re late.”



For someone inhabiting this Age of Information, Mr Wednesday is far from forthcoming, but he’s on a mission and to fulfil that mission they must journey across America, gathering allies as they go. It is of course Shadow who will attract the one-eyed man’s enemies, receiving forewarning not from Mr Wednesday but from others who crossed their path.

“You’re walking on gallows ground, and there’s a hempen rope around your neck and a raven-bird on each shoulder waiting for your eyes, and the gallows tree has deep roots, for it stretches from Heaven to Hell, and our world is only the branch from which the rope is swinging.”



Over and again, Shadow will receive visitors – mostly late at night – and some are more welcome than others. Animals and birds may not be quite what they seem, but then, are they ever? Names will have meaning, coins will gain currency and promises will hold power. Beware whom you worship.

“Now there are new gods in America: gods of credit cards, of internet and telephone and beeper. Proud gods, puffed up with their own newness and importance. They are aware of us and they fear us, and they hate us. They will destroy us if they can.”

I’m sure you’ve gathered by now from all the references who and what Mr Wednesday is.

If so, you will be unsurprised to learn that Wednesday means war.


Buy American Gods vol 1 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Bingo Love (£8-99, Image) by Tee Franklin & Jenn St-Onge with Joy San.


What luxurious forms, deliciously drawn, delicately poised, full of innocence, joy and mutual, unequivocal adoration. Eyes fixed on each other – except when closed whilst kissing – the couple’s arms are entwined as the many years roll by, the bingo sheets passing like the pages of a calendar.

I love the cover’s narrative: hair greys, fashions change, but not their love for, nor loyalty to each other. Hazel Johnson and Mari McCray, two women of colour, and eventually of some considerable age, able to share their affection and relish their relationship, free from outside adversity and —

If only.

I’m afraid the real world has a habit of intruding and it does so, dramatically, inside. But don’t give up hope, for hope this has in abundance. Whatever hostilities Hazel and Mari may face, I promise you that the cover doesn’t lie.



We begin in 2033 with a young girl kicked out by her parents simply because she is gay. If you think it’s disheartening that this would still happen in 2033, yes, it is. But I’d remind you that racism remains rife even though the Civil Rights Movement (detailed in the MARCH trilogy and THE SILENCE OF OUR FRIENDS) kicked off long before the Gay Rights Movement, and progress unfortunately isn’t a one-way street, as evidenced in America today under racist hate-enabler President Donald Trump.

Aaaanyway, the good news is that the girl is comforted by an elderly lady who recalls her own childhood back in 1963 when a younger Hazel Johnson first spotted, at church bingo, a girl who also turns up at school. It is, of course, Mari McCray, newly moved to this more conservative area from California, bursting with an energy that has her stretching her arms and an exuberance which Hazel finds immediately infectious.



“Mari was on my mind for the rest of the day.
“We didn’t have any other classes together so I kept replaying our interactions over and over in my head.”

That’s ever so true! The feeling that someone is so close that they could be glimpsed at any sense, yearning for such another meeting, yet frustrated by incompatible timetables and a big crowd. Instead you are indeed left to replay the last encounter in search of signs and nuances that you’d made a new friend.

Franklin is forever presenting us what is familiar. Here comes another instance, after the pair has bonded over hot chocolate, an instinct for generosity, and a new nickname offered with affection which helps cement any new friendship with its personal, private stamp. Over the following, St-Onge provides us with a montage of further shared endearments as Mari and Hazel root for each other, dance with each other, play each other their favourite songs and sympathise when spice in the food proves too hot.



“From that first hot chocolate, Mari and I were best friends.
“My mother used to say we were joined at the hip.
“Between school and sports, we spent every moment we could together.
“We really loved each other as friends…
“But I wanted something more.
“I wrestled with my feelings for Mari for years. Was it worth ruining our friendship if she didn’t feel the same way?”

So there you go: the terrible dilemma which faces so many of us who establish a friendship first, then worry about the risk when you don’t know if someone wants something which you do, too.



There’s so much which is wonderfully universal about this love story.

In multiple ways it reminds me of Jade Sarson’s equally embracing, era-spanning, gorgeous graphic novel, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, MARIE. That one’s 16+ with discretion, but there’s nothing here that should signify that BINGO LOVE isn’t for all. It’s not preachy; it’s kind and the celebrations, once they start, will induce big, beaming smiles galore.



Its colours by Joy San are as rich and warm inside as they are on cover and I know that I’ve a habit of harping on about hair, but St-Onge for me is right up there with Emma Vieceli, Kyle Baker et al. Hazel’s young, star-struck wide eyes also put me in mind of Sophie Campbell. My favourite bits, however, were the little fingers clasping each other, sometimes in sight, sometimes not.

Representation is important in its own right, as Chris Roberson makes so eloquently clear in his foreward to THE SECRET LOVES OF GEEKS because “people find it easier to become who they are when they see themselves reflected in media and stories”. If you’ve experienced a lifetime of seeing yourselves reflected in media and stories, then this may not occur to you. And, hey, good for you too!

But there isn’t enough old age in comics, for a start, and I’m getting on.


Buy Bingo Love and read the Page 45 review here

Corpse Talk Ground-Breaking Women (£9-99, David Fickling Books) by Adam Murphy, Lisa Murphy.

Hello, and welcome back to another attack of the dead who are well read, the bodies that begat break-throughs, and the worm-riddled women who were once a lot less lived in.

I guarantee 100% Putrefaction Satisfaction, as well as whole lot of learning.

I reviewed at coffin-creaking length and in burial depth CORPSE TALK: GROUND-BREAKING SCIENTISTS, the two previous volumes, plus these very creators’ LOST TALES, all of which you can find along with so much in Page 45’s Phoenix Comic Book Section.

Having exhausted my musings on the craft of these two crazies – and the ever-so-clever conceit of interviewing reanimated corpses with modern-day irreverence rather than simply dishing out lacklustre history lessons – I’m going to resort this time to succinct bullet points in the hope of satisfying those with Attention Deficit Disorder (which is basically the entire human race in this multi-channel / internet age), then I’m going to have me some fun with Princess Caraboo’s interactive exercise on creating your own real-life fictional character. It’s not as much of a paradox as it may sound.

But first, the bullet points:

The cartooning is exquisite. Just glance at Adam Murphy’s puckered mouth and eyebrows, and those hands, hands, hands, bringing so much to gesticulatory life during the talking heads sequences!



Each page contains even more unnecessary alliteration than my longest-lasting reviews.*

* An independent analysts protests

These books are 100% historically and scientifically accurate, packed with hard facts which you could honestly pass exams on. (Caveat: apart from the bit about Adam ever interviewing a single one of these spectral specimens, let alone any lesser-known cadavers for pastime pleasure. Oh, and Granny Nanny’s precise details on buggering up the Jamaican slave trade which were passed down through the oral traditional – bit more of a mythology, that, but she sure showed the culprits what’s what. Princess Pocahontas’ legend will come into a much needed de-Disneyfication, though!)



They are laugh-out-loud funny with anachronistic banter from the bone idols (“Not chuffing likely!”) and puns galore including ‘The Sails of the Century’ and ‘A Killer Look’.

This collection of overwhelmingly new material also reprints the Queen Elizabeth pages from CORPSE TALK II which were so rip-roaringly brilliant that I spent the entire first half of that review fixated upon them, especially the double-spread ‘A Killer Look’ because OMG but Queen Bess didn’t do herself any favours whatsoever when it came to keeping young with cosmetics!



Here’s Adam introducing Queen Bess:

“This week, one of history’s feistiest fighting females! It’s the Tudor Tigress, the lean, mean Virgin Queen, Elizabeth I!
“Elizabeth, you might be the world record holder for the most insane family drama of all time!”

Our corpse-questioning host then catalogues what probably is “the most insane family drama of all time” by hailing two Marys (sister and cousin), a furious father bent on beheading (Henry VIII: amongst those on the chopping block, Liz’s own mum), family fights over the throne, further bumpings-off and finally Philip II of Spain, former husband to her dead sister, asking for Betty’s hand in marriage, then not taking rejection too well. Most young men would have slunk off sheepishly and ordered in pizza. Philip II ordered out the Spanish bloody Armada! Elizabeth:

“First we blasted them with cannons! Then we sailed shops of fire into them! Then God got in on the action, and stormed them to death! Don’t mess with The Bess – she gon’ open up a can of whoop-ass!”
“Aw yeah!”

You may have noticed that I haven’t quite grasped the concept of “bullet points”.

So we finally return to Princess Caraboo (1791-1864) who appeared penniless on the doorstep of one Mrs Worral, the local magistrate’s wife in the sleepy Gloucester village of Almondsbury which was about to wake up to its newly arrived, exotic occupant.



Princess Caraboo hailed from they knew not where, to begin with, for she knew not one word of the English language, and so they could not converse. She could mime. She could dance, in an Indian continent way. And she could speak in some foreign tongue which no one could identify until one bright spark suggested the language of Malay and offered to translate. Then they learned of her capture by pirates from the remote Island of Javasu, her bitter ordeals at their hands and her eventual escape, overboard, when Britain’s shores were in sight. Oh, how she was paraded and celebrated throughout England’s High Society, this regal, oriental princess!

In actual fact, she was a serving maid from Devon called Mary Baker.

All power to her! England 1791-1864: not much chance of a legal leg-up on the social or employment ladder for a woman, as Jane Austen’s tale will make clear. Socio-political context is ever so important in examining either history or literature, and the four-page condensation of ‘Pride And Prejudice’ (which is a triumph of salient points and satire) kicks off with just such a reminder.



So what is my point and where am I going to have some fun? As I’ve mentioned, each of these trailblazer’s tales is followed by a double-page diagrammatical spread whereon we are privileged to witness the extent of their legacy, the science or boat-building skills behind their stories, the details behind the slave-saving underground railroads (no trains, train times or consequent delays involved, how to dance the Charleston as performed, step by step, by none other than Josephine Baker, plus the extraordinary revelation that is the Golden Ratio found throughout nature and denoted by the Greek letter Phi. I actually think that Adam and Lisa did a better job of explaining that than Terry Moore did in his tension-drenched ECHO.

The ‘Brief History Of Women’s Rights’ timeline is given a full six pages, which is only right given the subject of this volume and the appalling length of time it took for women to actually achieve some.

And so at last to the fun!

Following Princess Caraboo’s wool-over-eyes antics, Lisa and Adam forsake their customary post-mortem spread for an interactive opportunity to hone your own lying skills, and to create your own real-life counterfeit / deceit with the help of some very silly suggestions from themselves.



Before that, however, ‘Try Writing Down Your Translations For These Common Words’

Hello: Monaye!
I’m hungry: Give’till monaye
Thank you: Multi monaye!

Good-bye: Theresa
Good-bye forever: Theresa-May

There’s plenty more, but you get the idea, and I’m sure you can do better!

Out March 1st 2018.


Buy Corpse Talk Ground-Breaking Women and read the Page 45 review here

The Pond (£11-99, Graffeg) by Nicola Davies & Cathy Fisher.

“Just you wait until you see the water lilies.”

Oh yes, just you wait!

It’s Dad who looks to the future for his family.

He can foresee their shared joy in the nature and teeming wildlife which they will attract to their new pond once it is built, and he inspires them with his enthusiasm.

It’s so very good to have a project!

“There will be tadpoles,” he said, “and dragonflies.”
Mum told him that our garden was too tiny and my brother said that ponds were gross and stinky.
Dad took no notice.
He just smiled and whispered,
“Wait until you see the water lilies!”

And yes, you just wait!



“Dad never got his tadpoles of his dragonflies.
“He died and left a muddy, messy hole that filled our garden.
“Dead leaves blew in, tin cans, all sorts of rubblish.
“Ugly weeds grew tall.
“We all stared out at it: the muddy, messy hole that filled our hearts.”

I’m sorry to do this to you yet again but, just as with the same creators’ PERFECT, Nicola Davies and Cathy Fisher have something important to say – this time about bereavement – and they do so honestly and eloquently.

Kindness and communication is everything, and so often our young ones don’t know where to start. And it is so very important to start, otherwise they (or we) are left lost and alone, with no one to talk to about what is a very bewildering experience, violent in its finality.



Adults find it difficult enough to talk about bereavement when they have years of experience with which to make a good go of it. We have a certain sense of context, at least. Children don’t.

We all need a way of seeing through abysmal loss to some form of future that will shine the light back into our lives without feeling disloyal: something to carry us through, like a promise to ourselves and to those we still miss. We need a way to honour their memory and so carry it forward in order that they will never, ever be forgotten.

“Just you wait until you see the water lilies.”

So yes, just you wait! They’ll be here.



As improbably as last time with PERFECT, Davies and Fisher have united to synthesise a pictorial story which openly owns to the understandable eruptions of outright anger at being left behind – at feeling betrayed – without which it would be as shallow as the first pond and so speak to no one.

Instead, this encompasses all of that, on day after disappointing day.

But also it projects forward, so that even the initially reluctant then obdurate brother sees the promise in a new spring ahead.

And. It. Is. Celebrated!



Cathy Fisher pulls no punches during the bleakest days. Those pages are dark and raw and as muddy as the hole in the ground left by Dad’s absence. But they’re still accompanied by the same sense of cocooning – of encircling – which forms a comforting motif throughout: there are hugs and swirling leaves, there’s the looping hosepipe and the pond life framing the family and joining the siblings together when once they were at odds. Finally there’s the finished oval-shaped pond itself, which forms a heart through being bisected by the book’s spine and binding, as the pages rise from its centre. Which is clever.

I don’t think that pond was ever going to be big enough for ducks, but ambition is a beautiful thing.


Buy The Pond and read the Page 45 review here

Is This Guy For Real? The Unbelievable Andy Kaufman (£14-99, FirstSecond) by Box Brown…

“Andy, how come you like the bad guys? They’re mean and they cheat.”
“Yeah… they’re mean… They can get away with anything!”

I first came across Andy Kaufman in the very late seventies in his role as the loveable Latka Gravas in the sitcom Taxi. I remember being fascinated as a very young kid by this oddball character that everybody seemed to like. There was something childlike and otherworldly about the character than instantly made you warm to him. But because Kaufman died so young in 1984, aged 35, I never really knew that much else about him, probably like most people outside of the US, where he was infamous.

In fact, Kaufman became almost universally reviled and disliked in America for his various other appearances on television and his seemingly strange wrestling career that saw him wrestle only women including declaring himself the Women’s World Wrestling Champion. It wasn’t until I watched the Jim Carrey-helmed biopic Man On The Moon from 1999 that the genius of Andy Kaufman started to make some sense. The man wasn’t a madcap comedian in archetypal American sense, he was a performance artist who from a very early age understood that playing the heel, in wrestling parlance, was going to get you a far more visceral response and fervent engagement from the audience, than simply being a nice guy, however talented.



Andy Kaufman took that performance art to such a level with his obnoxious characters, always staying in character whilst in public, that only his very close friends and family knew who he really was, a loveable, gentle man who didn’t drink or do drugs and practiced transcendental meditation every day without fail. Obsessed with Elvis, magic and in particular wrestling from a very young age, he quickly decided he wanted to entertain people, and then set about building his own unique path to stardom.



This work, from a creator who would probably relish in the title oddball himself, Box AN ENTITY OBSERVES ALL THINGS, TETRIS, ANDRE THE GIANT Brown, chronicles the short, spectacular life and career of a man who delighted in being misunderstood and revelled in the rage he could induce in people. It’s a little ironic, therefore, that he probably remains best known by the general public for the one character that everyone did love, Latka Graves, who in emotional terms was the closest Andy came to portraying and revealing any element of himself to the world at large.



When I heard Box Brown was doing this particular autobiography, I wasn’t remotely surprised as he makes no secret of the fact he loves wrestling as much as Andy Kaufman did. In fact this time around Box wanted to explore the make-up of a man who loved fooling people even more. But you don’t remotely have to be a wrestling fan, or indeed even an Andy Kaufman fan to love this work. Knowing practically nothing about him I was utterly engrossed by every aspect of his existence as brought to life by Box. Truly one of the late twentieth century’s strangest stars. As penned by one of the twenty first’s!


Buy Is This Guy For Real? The Unbelievable Andy Kaufman and read the Page 45 review here

I Hear The Sunspot vol 2: Theory Of Happiness (£12-99, One Peace Books) by Yuki Fumino…


“Will they?

Won’t they?

Are they?

I don’t know!

Even after finishing I’m not sure! When they talk about a gentle romantic comedy, this is like being oh so teasingly tickled with a feather duster. You don’t know whether you actually like it, but it does feel rather pleasant. Or so they tell me…”

So… after finishing this sequel which, following the smash success of the original manga and its subsequent film adaptation, apparently only came about due to the huge public demand in Japan from people absolutely desperate to know the answers to those questions above… I really can only begin my review of this volume with…

Will they?

Won’t they?

Are they?

Well, I guess you can imagine that all those enchanted members of the public weren’t after an unhappy ending… so you can probably take a good guess at how this mixed-up matter of the heart ends up…

Or maybe not… HAHAHAHA!!

Yes, volume two is just as teasingly, tantalisingly frustrating for all those who are grappling with Kohei and Taichi’s lack of err… grappling… as they continue their “more than friends, less than lovers…” pas de deux routine.

There will be no third volume. I can at least be kind enough to tell you that…!

Meanwhile, Taichi has seemingly grown up somewhat since the last volume and is behaving considerably more like a responsible adult. He’s always had a big heart and now he’s trying to do his best to help more people like Kohei, who despite becoming ever more independent, continues to struggle in the world at large with his profound hearing impairment. In fact, between Taichi’s good works and Kohei’s increasing self-reliance, the friends are spending less and less time in each other’s company. Plus there’s a new friend on the scene…

When they do get a bit of quality time together, once again the hard of hearing Kohei repeatedly fails, or chooses not to see, the subtle yet semaphore-sized romantic signalling of the boisterous, bellowing Taichi, much to Taichi’s agonising dismay. Scene after scene of mildly comedic misunderstandings, unfortunate mishaps and missed / botched opportunities for pronouncing said feelings will practically have you screaming at the page. It’s like being a love-struck incompetent teenager all over again!!

As the two continue to be like ships that pass in the night, one does begin to wonder if their ‘relationship’ will ever find safe harbour or end up dashed on the rocks once and for all. Or even just continue drifting aimlessly on and on without actually ever getting anywhere…? For I did also comment of volume one that I never knew non-romance romance was actually a sub-genre…

(PSSST!!! No volume three remember… Don’t give up hope just yet!!!)


Buy I Hear The Sunspot vol 2: Theory Of Happiness and read the Page 45 review here

The Saga Of Tanya Evil vol 1 (£9-99, Yen Press) by Carlo Zen & Chika Tono…

“You will be born into an unscientific world…
“…as a woman…
“… come to know war…
“… and be driven to your limits!!!”

No, not a real-life story, but a marvellously complicated piece of fantasy with a couple of salient points to make. But mainly just madcap mayhem.

An obnoxious Japanese salaryman manages to get pushed under a train by someone he’s just taken great delight in making redundant and finds himself, to his surprise, getting admonished by what appears to be God. Being the sort of irritating smartarse he is, he starts talking back to said deity, and then to his even greater shock, gets told he’s going to be reincarnated as a female child soldier in a war torn alternate version of Europe.



Now, Tanya, as he subsequently becomes, does have some magical military abilities, but it’s clearly no picnic of a life for a nine year old. However, applying the same sort of ruthless Machiavellian stratagems and ruthless approach to his, sorry her, new career, as he did to his carving through the rank and file and up the greasy corporate pole, she soon becomes a lauded, decorated war hero with several bloody victories to her name at the front. Despite the fact that what she’s actually trying to do is simply get a safe posting behind the lines. It’s almost like someone has got it in for her…



Meanwhile, it turns out there are several Gods, of all the flavours you would expect. Who are bickering and tinkering away with their various creations behind the scenes, playing games with each other and just generally abusing their omnipotence.



Where it’s all going I have absolutely no idea, but it’s as fun as it sounds daft. Which is very and completely, respectively.


Buy The Saga Of Tanya Evil vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

The DC Universe By Neil Gaiman s/c (£17-99, DC) by Neil Gaiman, Alan Grant, Mark Verheiden & Andy Kubert, Arthur Adams, Michael Alred, Simon Bisley, Sam Keith, Mark Buckingham, Matt Wagner, John Totleben, Eddie Campbell, others.

In which we concentrate on the question “Whatever Happened To The Caped Crusader?”

I’ll tell you what happens when you finish a great story by Neil Gaiman: you go Very Quiet and Very Still. Nothing else happens except in your mind, and perhaps not even there for a few seconds. It needs time to process, to percolate. Shhh…

From the literary magician who can transform a motorcycle manual into something that not only sounds but is profound, comes another story about telling stories and indeed about stories told. Or, as Alan Moore might put it with particular application here, “All stories are true”.

After Lord knows how many fingers tapping on Lord knows how many keys, and so many wrists rendering different shades of pencil, there are so very many tales told about Batman in so many different ways that not all of them join up. How could they? Why even should they? Does it actually matter? The only important thing is that The Batman never gives up: “There’s always something you can do.” He’ll live, he’ll die and he’ll live again in animation on the television, in live action on the silver screen and on the page in prose and in comicbook form: revised, re-envisioned, reinvented.



This is Gaiman and Kubert’s answer to the question of discontinuity, embracing it all in word, in form and in deed. And celebrating it by paying tribute. Kubert’s pencils are glorious, and his ability to mimic Mazzucchelli, Lee, Kane, Adams, McKean et al is stupendous. In addition, can I confess that I guffawed at Two Face’s car?



As the story opens, Batman lies dead in a casket. His friends and adversaries from across the last several decades gather round in the back of the Dew Drop Inn (and you should, you really should) tended by the man who killed Bruce’s parents in Crime Alley.



Each stands up to tell a different story of his demise or recall what the driven dark knight said about life. As they do so, the man they are mourning listens to them closely and watches unseen, unsure of what he is witnessing. Is Bruce dead? And if so, who is his female fellow shade?

“This is Crime Alley.”
“Yes. Very good.”
“But it hasn’t looked like this for sixty years or more. This is crazy… Why are we here?”
“Why? Bruce, you never left.”

The finest pages are most certainly the last, but my secular self very much enjoyed this exchange edited to safeguard your own discovery, summing up exactly why I just don’t care whether or not there is an afterlife. It’s one of the best explanations of and exhortations to altruism that occurs to me right now:

“Are you ready to let it go now? To move on?”
“To go to my final reward? I told you, I don’t believe in –”
“You don’t get Heaven, or Hell. Do you know the only reward you get from being Batman? You get to be Batman.”





Buy The DC Universe By Neil Gaiman s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Pizzeria Kamikaze h/c (£22-99, Archaia) by Etgar Keret & Asaf Hanuka

Compulsive Comics Sc (£17-99, Fantagraphics) by Eric Haven

Crosswind vol 1 s/c (£8-99, Image) by Gail Simone & Cat Staggs

Exo h/c (£18-99, Humanoids) by Jerry Frissen & Philippe Scoffoni

Yellow Negroes And Other Imaginary Creatures (£14-99, New York Review Comics) by Yvan Alagbe

The Inking Women: 250 Years Of Women Cartoon And Comic Artists In Britain h/c (£19-99, Myriad) by Nicola Streeten & Cath Tate

Little Sid: The Tiny Prince Who Became Buddha h/c (£13-99, FirstSecond) by Ian Lendler & Xanthe Bouma

Motor Girl Omnibus s/c (£24-99, Abstract Studio) by Terry Moore

A Game Of Thrones vol 1 h/c UK Edition (£14-99, Harper Collins) by George R. R. Martin, Daniel Abraham & Tommy Patterson

Angel Catbird vol 3: The Catbird Roars h/c (£12-50, Dark Horse) by Margaret Atwood & Johnnie Christmas

Brody’s Ghost Collected Edition (£20-99, Dark Horse) by Mark Crilley

Star Wars: Jedi Of The Republic – Mace Windu s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Matt Owens & Denys Cowan, Edgar Salazar

Troll Hunters: Tales Of Arcadia – The Secret History Of Trollkind (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Marc Guggenheim, Richard Hamilton & Timothy Green II

Justice League vol 5 s/c: Legacy (Rebirth) s/c (£14-99, DC) by Bryan Hitch & Fernando Pasarin

Teen Titans vol 2: The Rise Of Aqualad s/c (Rebirth) (£13-99, DC) by Ben Percy & Khoi Pham, Pop Mhan

Amazing Spider-Man: Epic Collection vol 1 – Great Power s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby

Amazing Spider-Man: Epic Collection vol 2 – Great Responsibility s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko

Avengers: Epic Collection vol 1 – Earth’s Mightiest Heroes s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Larry Ivie & Jack Kirby, Don Heck, Dick Ayers

Avengers: Epic Collection vol 2 – Once An Avenger… s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Roy Thomas, Gary Friedrich & John Buscema, Don Heck, Werner Roth, George Tuska, Gene Colan

Avengers: Epic Collection vol 3 – The Masters Of Evil s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Roy Thomas, Gary Friedrich & John Buscema, Don Heck, Werner Roth, George Tuska, Gene Colan

Avengers: Epic Collection vol 4 – Behold… The Vision s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by Roy Thomas & John Buscema, Sal Buscema, Gene Colan, Barry Windsor-Smith, Frank Giacoia, Howard Purcell

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl vol 7: I’ve Been Waiting For Squirrel Like You s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Ryan North & Erica Henderson plus Anders Nilsen, Michael Cho, Carla Speed McNeil, Chip Zdarsky, others

Weapon X vol 2: Hunt For Weapon H s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente & Marc Borstel, Ibraim Roberson

Fire Punch vol 1 (£8-99, Viz) by Tatsuki Fujimoto

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews February 2018 week three

Wednesday, February 21st, 2018

Featuring Tove Jansson, Nicola Davies, Cathy Fisher, Vera Greentea, Laura Muller, Kirsten Wild, Zara Slattery. Sebastian Girner, Galaad, and Jason

Nenetl Of The Forgotten Spirits Parts 1-4 (£4-99 each, Greentea Publishing) by Vera Greentea & Laura Muller.

“This is where the forgotten spirits wait, hoping that someone finds an old photo and lights a candle for them.
“They smell like the rain. No, like a flood.”

No one has truly died until they’re forgotten.

Their spirits survive in our recollections of how they affected our lives.

Throughout Mexico, families gather to celebrate and remember their immediate loved ones and older ancestors during the Day of the Innocents and the Day of the Dead, so keeping their legacies alive in their hearts and minds.

But some stories slip through the cracks – along with unfinished business – for not everyone leaves a living relative behind to keep that flame alive. Those spirits are restless, those spirits are pained.

Some of us cannot bear to be forgotten.

Emotional investment: do you know what ‘Nenetl’ means?



My second review of our Greentea Publishing comics imported direct from Vera herself is of this complete four-part fantasy which is immaculately structured and ever so satisfying once the true nature of Nena becomes clear, and her remaining ties to this world are disentangled, revealed, both to us and to the tight tale’s young cast. I wasn’t expecting anything quite so clever, but one should never underestimate Vera Greentea.

We first meet Nena in a bustling market square bathed in late-afternoon shadows – already decked out with street-straddling flags and sugar skulls galore – bumped into by tiny Jonah who’s sporting some short-legged, bright orange dungarees. I don’t think I’ve ever typed the word “dungarees” before. There are a lot more collisions to come, and I don’t mean that merely metaphorically. Laura Muller loves drawing multiple “strobe shots” of figures in flight across a single environment, thrusting them forward with a much greater sense of momentum than had they been split between panels. Almost always they are then brought to an abrupt halt, either by themselves on coming to the edge of a rooftop, or by being thumped into by someone else in a hurry. During the first issue alone that happens three times, and it’s very effectively done.





So what’s Jonah carrying? You’ll have to wait for part three. Why’s he in such a rush? Again, see part three! Why is Nena waiting there and where did she come from? I’d suggest patience until the middle of part two – that which takes place several hours earlier. I did promise you clever structure, didn’t I?

So exactly who is our Nena? Ah-hah! The secrets will all eventually out, for now you’ll only learn where she’s heading: an assignation with older Bastian, friend of Jonah, thence an ancestral vault which leads to a catacomb of skulls.

However, have you studied the cover to part one properly? There Nena dances, arms perfectly poised mid-air for balance, her lower leg striding daintily out from under her dress, revealing… Oh.

It’s another of those classic rhombus compositions like Caravaggio’s ‘David With The Head Of Goliath’ (Villa Borghese version), this time using the line of the leg rather than a sword to complete the circuit between hands, arms, head and foot.

And don’t you just love the luminous quality of Nena’s red dress?



Material like that shifts in colour depending on the quality of light falling across it; material like that shifts in colour depending on what lights shines through it, as Nena drops down from the rooftop, her dress fanning out, all seen from below with the sun up above, not transparent but translucent. Then there’s the forward / sideways roll upon landing and, yup, carmine joins the crimson.



Muller will later show you what she can do with blue hues too, both in the candle-lit catacombs and in the graveyard where confident, ambitious Violetta  (sister of Eli, all part of the same set of friends as Jonah and Bastian, as tutored by Father Eduardo) makes a terrible mistake in a ceremony whose consequences she doesn’t fully understand.

“The spirits are waiting…”

Oh yes! That, they are!

As with WRAITH, Greentea generously allows her visual storyteller, Muller, to do so much of the immediately obvious fancy work. A less judicious or self-confident author might be tempted to clog up the shape- and colour-driven pages with extraneous dialogue and hideous exposition simply to show that they’re working. Some people get paid by the paragraph, you see. However, when you’re self-publishing and you’ve had the good fortune to secure an artist like Muller on your comic, then it would a crime to clutter it up.

I can assure you that, instead, Vera has set all the tale’s hidden vertebrae into interlocking perfection.


Buy Nenetl Of The Forgotten Spirits Part 1 and read the Page 45 review here
Buy Nenetl Of The Forgotten Spirits Part 2 and read the Page 45 review here
Buy Nenetl Of The Forgotten Spirits Part 3 and read the Page 45 review here
Buy Nenetl Of The Forgotten Spirits Part 4  and read the Page 45 review here

Don’t Call Me A Tomboy (£6-99, WildSlattern) by Kirsten Wild & Zara Slattery.

“Don’t call me a tomboy,
“I’m made of girly stuff
“like grazes, mud
“and tatty curls
“and toxic belly fluff.”

Artfully done!

I adore the entire attitude here, deftly delivered with a degree of defiance but also grace, as the young girls’ energy blasts unapologetically from the pages.

At 4” x 12” tall, I also adore the format which, on its first two of sixteen story pages, emphasises the other Winsor McCay elements: the lines, forms, the colours, the traditional rocking horse and the fierce, fantastical imagination of childhood, as well as the rhyme itself.



“Don’t call me a tomboy,
“my name is Lily-Lou,
“I love jumping through the treetops
“and hunting like a Sioux.”

Plus I adore the production values: thick card cover and silky-smooth pages.

What’s not to love?

Hurrah for individuals!


Buy Don’t Call Me A Tomboy and read the Page 45 review here

Scales & Scoundrels vol 1: Into The Dragon’s Maw s/c (£8-99, Image) by Sebastian Girner &  Galaad.

The fire has been lit, the stew has been eaten. It’s time for a friendly battle of wits.

“I am greater than a dragon and stronger than a Titan.
“The rich need me. The poor have me.
“And if you eat me, you die.
“What am I?”

Oh no, no, no, you’re going to have to buy the book to find out, but I can honestly say that I have seldom strayed across a more satisfying riddle.

I imagine we’ll be selling this fast-paced fantasy predominantly to adults, but you can also rack this safely next to LUMBERJANES, HILDA and BAD MACHINERY for the most excellent All-Ages adventure. The colours on the cover could not be fresher, while within you fill find rustic town roofs and windows lit like jewels in the night, forests given the most enormous depth with mixed sandy hues in the foreground spotlighted between greens which dominate the furthest stretches before glimpses, between tree trunks, of a blue sky beyond.



And then our small, gradually gathered crew discover The Dragon’s Maw, an ancient and vast labyrinthine citadel whose precarious stone steps spiral deep underground, taking them past warnings carved on the walls in a strange dwarven dialect, then across rickety old rope bridges spanning seemingly bottomless chasms.

I think, if it’s okay, I’ll turn back now; I’m not one for heights.

The initial, full-page reveal of the citadel which concludes chapter two (after two pages of groping blindly through darkness) is pure Tombraider. Glorious! I don’t mind sending Lara Croft into danger on my behalf.



We open late one evening in a tavern with war-painted, white-tufted Luvander delivering her finishing move with a flourish, winning hands-down at Dragon’s Horde: lots of lovely coinage to scoop up and spend! Ummm… not so much.

“You lousy cheat!”

Ooooh, such a sore loser!

He’s going to be very sore soon – they all are – for when they duff up then corner Luvander she responds with… is that’s dragonfire?! They’re going to need another tavern.




So that’s a mystery for another time. Normally she wouldn’t need it. She’s a nimble as anything, eluding the angry, armed townsfolk at her own leisurely pace with effortless acrobatics, but it does mean she’s back to sleeping in a barrel of smelly onions and down to one copper coin. Oh wait, there’s an urchin who hasn’t eaten for days. Back down to nothing, then.

It matters not, for Luvander is as tireless an optimist as she is an adventurer, forever smitten with a wanderlust which takes her out into the countryside and straight into the middle of a robbery. Instinctively she sides with the victims: Prince Aki, royal bodyguard Koro and Dorma Ironweed, a stocky young dwarf whom they’ve hired as a guide to The Dragon’s Maw. Her grandmother’s recipe for stew is quite spicy.



Prince Aki is only sixteen and embarking on his first quest, as is tradition. He may not match Luvander’s strength or cerebral dexterity, but he too is inextinguishably up-tempo, while Koro is ever suspicious. I suppose it’s her job.

Down they all go into darkness, seeking the Maw’s secrets and perhaps ancient gold. The stone stairs and passageways are littered with skeletons, so they’re not the first by any means. Unfortunately there’s someone hot on Luvander’s heels, and he brings with him two very big dogs. Also: none of them have noticed that there are braziers lit, and presumably kept fuelled…



Terrific stuff, with huge energy and humour, frantic, abyss-edge battles and, how I love a good dream sequence! Lots to try to interpret there: a stained-glass window, chains, padlock, temple ruins, treasure, a young Luvander… and what’s up with her eyes on occasion, anyway?

Do you like dragons? I do!


Buy Scales & Scoundrels vol 1: Into The Dragon’s Maw s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Perfect h/c (£8-99, Graffeg) by Nicola Davies & Cathy Fisher.

“I loved the little bedroom on the top floor of our pointy house. In summer, swifts nested in the roof above it and I watched their fledglings’ first flights from its window. They were perfect from the very start, soaring high to slice the sky with crescent wings.”

What superbly weighted cadence that final clause carries, darting up twice on “high” and “sky”, suggesting the power, speed and reach of the swifts’ sweeping trajectory, as well as their agile ability to “slice” with energy and precision.

That the fledglings were “perfect from the very start” is equally well worded. First sentences, I’m sure, are far from easy; but as more challenging third sentences go, that is a belter. Everything that follows is informed by it.



You’d be forgiven for thinking – given the manner in which I’ve chosen to introduce this eloquently expressed, profoundly moving and finally uplifting picture book – that you were about to launch into an idyllic memory of childhood delight, inspired by (and a tribute to) the almost inexpressible wonders of nature. You’d be forgiven because you’re not entirely wrong, but this is far more than that.

Cathy Fisher’s illuminations will make your souls soar as high as these birds’ constant, life-long flight; and your heart dip and twist, then beat again, in time to Nicola Davies’ almost impossibly successful evocation of what it can mean for a young child to anticipate the birth of a sibling with whom they long keenly and excitedly to share all things ebullient…

“That’s how it will be, I thought, me and my sister, racing and chasing, screaming with laughter and delight.”



… Only to discover, abruptly, that their newborn brother or sister doesn’t seem so immediately perfect after all.

“I could see that she would never race or chase. She didn’t even scream. Her dark eyes looked at me and she lay quite still.”

Here the air-borne freedom of the swifts lies in stark visual contrast to a baby who is beautiful, cocooned in soft cloth, but seen from behind the bars of her cradle, with wire-like coils of black and white scrawled above, then dragging the whole down into potential darkness.



As she gazes up into sky from the grass which bursts with dappled flecks of gentle summer colour, the older sibling’s initial, outright rejection is expressed with heartfelt regret but a candour which is vital, for this tale is told to “open up the subject of disability for young readers” so that communication can begin.

Where it takes you several pages later, however, after the swifts continue to screech, sweep and circle while the baby sister lies still, is… well, it’s perfect.



The reunification through understanding is inspired by the discovery of fledgling beached, as it were, on the lawn. It lies there, stranded, for swifts are incapable of taking flight except from above.

Clearly, the bird is going to need a helping hand… But that’s all it will take.



I wish I had even more interior art for you here. There’s a close-up against black of the fledgling’s head and winged shoulder, its glistening black eye reflecting the white-clouds and blue sky it yearns for once again, and the face of its new friend. The image is echoed a few pages later, and that one I do have for you, life and love radiating from the soft skin, lips and eyes.

Such immaculate structure!



I’m sorry it took me a couple of years to find this book for you. You may well have already discovered it for yourself. Our primary focus – for which we have more vocation than a monastery full of monks – is on comics and graphic novels, and so is the focus of the solicitations sent to us by our suppliers. But we are equally passionate about all forms of art, especially when created by those who have something important to say and the skills with which to say it. So occasionally I stray upon something new, outside our immediate arena, to add to our burgeoning selection of illustrated prose within our Young Readers already established graphic novel section. For this one, I’m indebted to our dear friend Helena Pielichaty, Page 45 customer, author and passionate patron of reading.

For another all-ages picture book which has something vital to say (albeit in a completely different tone!), please Sarah McIntyre’s THE NEW NEIGHBOURS, reviewed.


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

The Dangerous Journey (£9-99, Sort Of Books) by Tove Jansson.

“Susanna woke one morning
“Bored and confused and cross.
“She gave her cat a warning.
“She told it who was boss.”

Oh, that will work out well – as anyone who’s ever been owned by a cat will know well.

“You’re old, Cat, and you’re lazy –
“Too peaceful, too serene.
“Not me! I’m wild and crazy
“And I’m sick of all this green.”

Okay, but be careful what you wish for, Susannah…! Uh-oh.

“I’d love it if some vandal
“Turned green to sparkling gold –
“Danger, disaster, scandal!
“What might our future hold?”

Danger and disaster as it happens, for when Susannah discovers a second pair of glasses in her green and pleasant land, it stops being either green or pleasant, but becomes a nightmare terrain of slimy swamps, eerie landscapes full of “hot red clouds”, erupting volcanoes and birds flying backwards, upside down. There follows a frightful  but also funny flight through a world turned topsy-turvy, but fortunately she encounters some familiar friends from Moomin Valley in the form of Hemulen, Snufkin, Sniff, Thingummy and Bob, and together, through foul weather, they plough their way back to the sanctuary of home.



I’m informed that this was the last picture book completed by MOOMIN’s Tove Jansson (see also WHO WILL COMFORT TOFFLE etc) and, as before, British poet Sophie Hannah has worked her magic on a literal translation by Silvester Mazzarella to render the most extraordinary thing: a beat-perfect English-language version which manages to replicate the specific, mischievous wit and linguistic prowess of Jansson’s original, and still it rhymes!



In fact it rhymes beautifully. Astonishing, really, especially given Thingummy and Bob’s predilection for swapping bits of words round (clue – they’ve just encountered the volcano):

“Thingummy muttered, ‘Flazing blame’.
“Bob said, ‘It’s hed hed rot!
“Smorld up in woke – a sheadful drame,
“When smorld is all we’ve got!’”

Shades of Lewis Carroll there, and that last line is particularly clever in retaining “smorld”, for it makes no sense without its earlier accompanying swapsie, yet every sense, encapsulating their entire predicament: a world that’s gone up in smoke.



If this is Jansson’s very last picture book then in some ways she’s come full circle, for MOOMINS AND THE GREAT FLOOD, her first, also featured a fearful journey outside of the safety zone of Moomin Valley as Moominmamma leads Moomintroll through equally unnerving, spooky and potentially dangerous landscapes in search of a lost Moominpappa.

THE DANGEROUS JOURNEY comes with a quite traditional structure: tranquillity enjoyed, tranquillity lost (well, actively rejected) then tranquillity ultimately restored after much penitence and strife, with the unspecified verdant meadows replaced by and upgraded to the tulip blooms of magical Moomin Valley. You’ll note that the visual treatment of the two idylls is markedly different too: the first is serene, sedate, quaint, picturesque – what I might call country cottage – whereas Moomin Valley is a riot of cartoon effervescence.




There’s no further mention of the strange second pair of glasses – they’re not taken off – but the cat’s back, still sleeping soundly, and is treated and greeted with a great deal more appreciation.

Sorry? Yes, belated spoiler warning, possibly, but as with many things it’s very much the journey, not the destination.


Buy The Dangerous Journey and read the Page 45 review here

Almost Silent h/c (£22-99, Fantagraphics) by Jason.

Classy collection of four silent books, previously available separately, from the creator of I KILLED ADOLF HITLER, LOW MOON, IF YOU STEAL, ON THE CAMINO all reviewed with interior art so that you can get an idea of what Mark’s talking about.

Of Tell Me Something, Mark wrote:

Two conventions, one from comics, one from film, both from the same ear. All the faces here have blank eyes, no pupils (think Harold Gray). This tempers the expressions and makes each face (whether bird-like or dog-like) a mask. This is added to the use of (silent) film titles and the characters’ actions (hard) boiled down to archetypes. You’ve got the femme fatale with the two rival suitors, one from the wrong side of the tracks, a disappearing father and hired goons. Very refreshing to see Jason keep the ‘beauty’ drawn in the same style as the rest of the cast. Too many times I see an artist abandon a (for instance) gritty style to up the cheesecake on the dame. Just a pet peeve.



Of You Can’t There From Here [one of my favourite titles to any book — think about it!], Mark wrote:

Two evil henchmen take time off from fetching fresh brains for the evil scientist masters to have lunch in town. While they complain about the hours and the pay there is bedlam and love happening around them. The mad scientist has fallen for the bride of the monster but the monster doesn’t want to give her up. Jason adds a mundane layer to the horror story.



Of The Living And The Dead, Tom wrote:

Second instalment in the Norwegian cartoonist’s horror/comedy trilogy which started with ‘You Can’t Get There From Here’. This time he offers flesh-eating funnies with a George A. Romeo by way of Buster Keaton Zom-Rom-Com. Truly original twist at the end too, but I won’t give that away. This is carried once again by Jason’s intrepid use of timing, each panel perfectly captures the motion and the meaning of each second. Being almost silent – the little dialogue there is interrupts the visuals by stealing its own panel much like a silent film would give a few frames for the same effect – this almost invites you to steam through the action until you’re flying through the pages like a flip-book. More please, sir!


Of Meow Baby, Tom wrote:

Fun, short, mostly silent tales about Jason’s non-specific anthropomorphic versions of Hammer Horror staples Elvis, Godzilla, Godzilla’s mum, The Terminator, a caveman, a ’50s-esque Alien, a lynch-mob and an ice-cream vendor. Difficult to convey just how visually funny these are, but if you’ve read his more sombre tomes such as HEY WAIT, imagine the same heart-rending, understated timing applied to comedy. It’s pitch-perfect. 

And of Almost Silent, Stephen wrote:

Classy collection of four silent books previously available separately.

Never let it be said that I don’t do my research.


Buy Almost Silent and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

American Gods vol 1 h/c (£20-00, Headline) by Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell

Is This Guy For Real? The Unbelievable Andy Kaufman (£14-99, FirstSecond) by Box Brown

Bible Of Filth h/c (£30-00, David Zwirner Books) by Robert Crumb

Capture Creatures (£13-99, Kaboom!) by Frank Gibson & Becky Dreistadt

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds: An Art Book h/c (£24-99, SelfMadeHero) by Reinhard Kleist

Uber vol 6 s/c (£17-99, Avatar) by Kieron Gillen & Daniel Gete

White Sand vol 2 h/c (£22-99, Dynamite) by Brandon Sanderson, Rik Hoskin & Julius Gopez

Yellow Kayak h/c (£12-99, Simon & Schuster) by Nina Laden & Melissa Castrillon

The DC Universe By Neil Gaiman s/c (£17-99, DC) by Neil Gaiman, Alan Grant, Mark Verheiden & Arthur Adams, Michael Alred, Simon Bisley, Sam Keith, Mark Buckingham, Matt Wagner, John Totleben, Eddie Campbell, others

Astonishing X-Men vol 1: Life Of X s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Charles Soule & Jim Cheung

Invincible Iron Man: Ironheart vol: 1 Riri Williams s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Stefano Caselli

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews February 2018 week two

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018

Eternal: A Shieldmaiden Ghost Story (£6-99, Black Mask) by Ryan K Lindsay & Eric Zawadzki with Dee Cunniffee.

“Battle is a constant, inside and out.
“Reflection is something only found in still waters.”

I do love a double meaning and a deft turn of phrase. I found this to be eminently quotable.

ETERNAL is a juicily drawn, artfully coloured, album-sized graphic novella whose prologue – revisited intermittently – comes framed with great style and class, letting a whole lot of light in. Once we’ve moved passed the cover in Page 45’s Weekly Reviews Blog you are going to want me to stop writing and leave you to drool. I’ll just mention this before I forget: although each page I’ve provided is exquisite in its own right, there are even more gasp-inducing spectacles within from a green-misted morning to a radiant sunset followed three pitch-black pages later by a full-page, crackling, boat-bound pyre that glows in the night.

Sean Phillips and Marc Laming have both ordered copies, and there’s no greater compliment to (and endorsement of) an artist than being purchased by one’s peers.

Some of Zawadzki’s expressions put me in mind of 100 BULLETS’s Eduardo Risso, some of the line textures of Simon Gane (see ABOVE THE DREAMLESS DEAD), while subject and setting are going to appeal enormously to fans of NORTHLANDERS, BLACK ROAD and VIKING: THE LONG COLD FIRE.




As to the colouring by Cunniffee, there’s a substantial essay in the back (though sadly no process pieces – you have the line artist on hand for that) about his approach to this and several other projects which should prove very useful to those beginning their studies or commencing their careers. Cunniffee’s use of an overlaid watercolour effect for the skies and the pyre fire alone provide a subtle but strikingly effective contrast to the otherwise untextured colours, as when thick clouds of smoke belch and billow from a fortress destroyed by the shieldmaidens, along with its occupants.

Or so they think.

“When you play with magic, you come across problems.
“When you murder magic, you create problems.”

Some of my sale pitches are more narrative than others (STRANGERS IN PARADISE XXV #1 was almost entirely narrative two weeks ago, but I enjoy telling stories, and here stories sell), others are more analytical. This time I’m going to let the interior art do all of the talking and leave you to unlock the majority of the tale’s trajectory for yourself.

However, we begin with a brief lesson on the pragmatic necessity of violence in a world where, if you do not visit upon others, it will be visited upon you:

“I want to travel, I want to explore. Why must those things come with violence?” asks the young boy.
“They mustn’t, yet, alas, they do. This is merely the reality of things. But if you are the one cutting then you get to decide what’s cut.”



There’s an inarguable wisdom to those words under such circumstances, and our chief protagonist and shieldmaiden Vif will be doing a great deal of slicing and dicing accompanied by inset panels of zoomed-in effect which emphasise the speed of the slashes and thrusts. She is adept.

“It’s not about violence, Grimr…
“It’s about control.”

The problems will arise when she loses it – her self-control – twice.



When she does so the first time, there is a subtle visual clue right at the bottom of the page which merely hints at what she has done. The full, horrific reveal is carefully delayed until you’ve turned over the page, then you see what her rage has wrought.

Anyway, I suspect you may be craving more art. I have it. Go for your life!





“You poison the water of the world and then decry its taste?”

Sick burn!


I promise this will be back in stock next Wednesday.

Buy Eternal and read the Page 45 review here

Briggs Land vol 2: Lone Wolves s/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Brian Wood & Mack Chater, Vanesa R. Del Rey, Werther Dell’Edera.

Please treat this as if I’m reviewing volume one.

I am. I’m reviewing both.

“Did you just say you’re a Briggs?
“As in Briggs Land?
“As in those Nazis?”

One of the most terrifying series currently on our shelves, BRIGGS LAND is a riveting read containing no horror other than that which is real to our world: control through intimidation in the form of threats of violence which are always followed through with occasional deliberation but no hesitation whatsoever.

On the flipside it is, at its heart, the struggle of one woman to right decades of male wrong on the vast tracts of land that she so precariously owns. Does she even own it? That, along with her authority, is up for vicious, vitriolic contention.



Most of the women on Briggs Land rarely leave its hundred square miles of privately owned property.

In BRIGGS LAND VOL 1 we learned of one husband who forbade his wife to wear shoes. He took them away so that she wouldn’t stray, even from their household. To call it a patriarchal environment would be the most massive understatement, and if you imagine that its women resent this, then you would be wrong. It is so ingrained, so inculcated, that they believe in it too.

The sole exception is our main protagonist, Jim Briggs’s wife Grace. Not only has she seen the atrocious effects of his lack of empathy for women over these many years, she knows what is coming for her people, fast and furious, if she doesn’t wrench control from her husband right now.



For although Jim Briggs lies in jail, his influence remains at large, potent, infectious and commanding loyalty as fiercely as it always has done, from those who don’t know what he’s up to. What he’s doing is a deal with the Albany D.A. to secure early release by selling off Briggs Land from under everyone’s feet… to the very country from which they originally seceded. Their prison-bound patriarch is their ultimate traitor and – other than Grace – none of them know it.

So here she so resolutely stands, carving out as much command as she can, while under assault from all sides: the media, the FBI, the local police authorities who want the most money and can control access to their very amenities, and her own family. Her husband in particular has Grace aggressively in his sites, and she can’t even trust her eldest son not to misuse their neo-Nazi affiliations to extort what he wants from their former collaborators.

The threats to her life could come from anyone, at any time, and they do.

Breathe out.



Where Woods will surprise you this volume is in presenting a completely different angle.

I don’t know how you view American secessionists, but I imagine the opening quotation comes quite close: open, modern, reasonable and liberal are not going to play high on your hit lists. Nor should they: BRIGGS LAND VOL 1 made that very clear.

Oh, Grace will continue to come under increasing not decreasing threat (and from more quarters still), but Woods presents people as individuals and bigotry from both sides, not only at ground level, but on a socio-political scale too. I wouldn’t expect the writer of LOCAL, NEW YORK FOUR, DEMO. DMZ, STARVE, NORTHLANDERS, BLACK ROAD and more not to be nuanced.



This, from Grace, for a start:

“We didn’t start Briggs Land and invite you in just to see you all turn into addicts and white trash stereotypes.
“We’re supposed to be better.”

Some things can and should be cauterised, but the rot which remains has a way of making its way back home to haunt you. Expect complications.

These include an innocent backpacking couple straying on their land and getting the wrong end of a hidden-boy stick, so necessitating (according to one of Grace’s sons) their confinement. Even if it’s only temporary, their release would prove problematic, especially since they are military helicopters circling overhead, along with the sensation-hungry mass media.





Now, how do you think the male-dominated Briggs Land residents would respond to abortion, eh? Remember, there is an overwhelming sheep and indeed pack mentality in a closed community like this, but there still exists individuals and that’s how Brian Woods renders them.

Rendering them also is the series’ established artist Mack Chater, along with Vanesa R. Del Rey and Werther Dell’Edera plus colourist Lee Loughridge, all at the top of their games, each in their various ways bringing an extra element of palpable, infectious fear to that which unfolds. In both books I’ve found myself constantly watching over shoulders – Grace’s most of all, but here another female family member brave enough to help out a teenager out in her hour of need.  Del Rey brings extra textures to the nocturnal excursion, along with worried looks, hunched shoulders and desperate, out-of-breath terror.



Mack Chater is a woefully underrated artist in the vein of Marc Laming, grounding Briggs Land’s inhabitants in the here and now, stinting not once on their environment, be it the private compound with its defiantly displayed, fluttering stars-and-stripes flag or the chain link fences which surround its otherwise most accessible entrances and exits, preventing unwanted intrusion or unauthorised egress. Then there are the old smuggling routes through remote, dense woodland to (and over) the Canadian border, so rich in lush colour thanks to Loughridge and such brittle detail that you can almost hear a twig snap.

That you can fear a twig snap.


Buy Briggs Land vol 2: Lone Wolves s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Get Naked (£22-99, Image) by Steven T. Seagle & various.

There’s more than one way of feeling exposed.

It can be getting your kit off in public, to be sure, but there’s also finding yourself outside of your comfort zone and at the mercy of events you can’t seem to control.

Imagine, for example, finding yourself on the way to catch an international flight which you cannot miss, and pungently smelling of faeces. For no discernible reason. Such is the stuff of nightmares. There, but for the grace of God, go we!

Seagle has had plenty of experience of both vulnerabilities and generously opens himself up for you to have a right laugh at his expense – and a good think. You will learn loads because, surprisingly, this is as much a travelogue as anything else, and it’s all the richer for it.

The co-creator of IT’S A BIRD… and THE RE[A]D DIARY with Teddy Kristiansen has had professional cause to visit countless cities all over the globe where he has observed much to bring you great mirth, including different attitudes to communal nudity when it comes to swimming pools, saunas and showers.



Then there are his first-hand experiences of being naked in public. Not on the street – though there was one notable exception in Helsinki where out of necessity he found himself spread-eagled, starkers, like a starfish in the snow – but in places where most of us would naturally expect to strip… except, he informs us, in the US of A:

“[This] may seem obvious to non-Americans, but I can assure you that in the U.S.A., most pool-goers shower in their swimming suits, so as not to have to get naked.”

Good grief! And I thought the British were self-conscious prudes.



Put into the eye-opening context of America’s full-throttle recent retreat from nudity (as late as the ‘70s, during gender-segregated swimming sessions at some high schools, swimming naked for boys was mandatory), this is a personal journey through personal journeys of one man emerging into a healthy equanimity with removing his clothes from after a lifetime of crippling embarrassment when it came to his body on account of considering himself physically inferior, almost translucently pale and skinny.

For Steven it began with a girl – of course it did! – a girl whom he fancied at school. She called him “cute”, constantly, and he took it as a huge compliment… until the day on which he discovered that she was referring to his lack of muscular, manly development, and she made a big show of it in front of her friends.



It’s then that t-shirts and shorts were abandoned for decades, even in the sweatiest of weather, in favour of maximum length and multiple layers.

There’s an all too similarly sad moment in Liz Prince’s TOMBOY.

Recovering from this was a gradual progress that began, improbably enough, during one memorable experience at a tiny comicbook convention in Alicante. It doesn’t seem the most likely venue to be forced out of your clothes in front of others, does it? Nevertheless, that is what happens, but not on stage. The trauma begins with a friendly football match, the prospect of which was trauma enough for Steven who had no faith in his athletic prowess, nor the slightest comprehension of soccer rules. And I know what you may be thinking: “Oh come on, it’s only a game!” But I still have regular nightmares of being forced on stage without having even read the play in the first place, let alone memorised its lines. It’s exactly the same thing, and Seagle is ever so adept at placing you squarely in his emotional, short-coming shoes.



The break-through began when he bit the bullet of this post-match, communal shower and in full fear of being judged physically by those much buffer than himself. He found that he was not. Not one jot. No one was remotely interested.

Flipping backwards and forwards in time, the writer than expands on his liberation from self-stifling anxiety, not to a whey-hey get-it-all-out exhortation towards exhibitionism but to a realisation that this and his other fears surrounding nudity proved to be completely ill-founded. He’s equally eloquent and candid about all that. There’s even a personal, circumstantial-evidence poll about what his straight friends and his gay friends say they fear most about showering with other men. It does make perfect sense.

Now, I began this casual assessment by proclaiming that this collection of essays harboured far more than a catalogue of bath-house experiences, yet that is what I’ve appeared to fixate upon. I promise you that I wasn’t kidding.

Sometimes the naked bits feel like more of an excuse for other even more interesting anecdotes with which he’ll regale you in full – like Seagle’s complete inability to recognise the film-famous out of their celluloid context – but instances of skin-bearing actually act as an editor of sorts, confining what is, I suspect, a five-fold treasure-trove of additional stories to a later collection. “If it doesn’t involve stripping, then I can’t even go there.”





Each essay is illustrated by an artist whom you’ll grow so comfortable with that their successor will prove quite the surprise and delight. Some bring you something close to comics, others will deliver a more prose-and-illustration effect. One will cram your cranium full of yearning to visit the old / new majesty of Tallinn, newly freed from Soviet occupation. Now therein lies a sense of historical perspective!

Another will make you shudder as you embark on an ill-advised excursion into Karlovy Vary which you’ll wish Seagle had shied well away from. Seagle too! It’s so dank and darkly illustrated that you might fear you were straying into the latest hostel movie. Brrrrr…

As to why, after his flight out of Barcelona, he – and he alone – was bundled out of the plane in Munich by shouting, armed guards…





So many of my favourite pages, however, are the chapter introductions / interludes by Emel Olivia Burell. They are majestic, and I’ve a fair few for you here!


Buy Get Naked and read the Page 45 review here


Godshaper s/c (£17-99, Boom!) by Si Spurrier & Jonas Goonface.

One of the things I love most about Simon Spurrier’s creator-owned work is that on top of all the lateral thinking that he pours into its premise, he doesn’t let it lie there: there’s also the language which is far from flippant but instead – like Rob Davis’ THE MOTHERLESS OVEN and THE CAN OPENER’S DAUGHTER – comes with carefully thought-out connotations.

Here Jonas Goonface too goes that extra mile with lithe illustrations reflecting physical prowess and creative endeavour, leaving you much to infer from what they silently depict down the bar (none of which is clumsily and unnecessarily sign-posted by Spurrier) while adding, here and there, subtly highlighted details like this visual rebuttal to an idiot all too fond of the sound of his own ignorant voice:

“Man’s gotta be a martyr to fashion these days, wants to get anywhere.
“Sometimes I wonder if you poor schmoos got it easier, huh? No god, no money, no style….
“You know the first thing about fashion, Shaper?”

The staid, self-regarding, disregarding, pot-bellied, barrage-balloon of a man has failed to do more than glance at the man – from behind – who is currently restyling his god with some considerable artistic skill and who is the very epitome of understated dapper in gloves, rolled sleeves, braces over a well-starched shirt, a quiff fashioned topiary-like from dense hair above chic, shaved sides and – to the fore so that the reader’s eye cannot miss it on the bottom of the left-hand panel – a single and small diamond ear stud.

Now that is attention to detail.

God is in the detail and the detail has most certainly been injected into this title’s gods.



This is a world in which everyone has a god of their own, and every god has a person.

It just so happens that they treat their gods like employees or slaves, and their gods are the equivalent of personal bank accounts and/or RPG video-game characters, both of which we long to upgrade as much and as often as we can.

All transactions are conducted via these gods: the series’ sole currency lies in these powerful upgrades. What do we worship more than money and power? They’re basically the same thing, right?

There are, however, some singular individuals born without gods.

They are regarded as “nogodies”.



In this society – as in ours – they are treated as outcasts: the poor. For without a god they can neither acquire nor accrue money. They can never own a home for they have no money (and certainly no access to a mortgage without that bank account), so they are itinerants forever shunned but desperately needed for labour – for their unique ability to refashion everyone else’s gods. They are called Shapers.

The first but by no means last Shaper we meet is called Ennay, he of the braces and diamond ear stud, and the way he’s treated by our first customer – told to exit via the back door lest he be seen, for example – says it all.

He is, however, a bit of a hit on the cantik scene, which is akin to rockabilly and played unplugged, without a god.

“No holy harmonies here. No superpower pop. No gods as guitars. We don’t get aaawwwwf on that godly groove.
“We got a new manifesto. We’re here to repair the square.
“What we play, we play with our mouths and our hands and our hearts.
“This is cantik.
“It cannot be stopped.”



Ennay throws himself into the music, and the colours and the crowd go wild.

“Underground, unrefined, unlegal.
“A movement, a manner, a counter-culture crime.
“One seriously unholy racket.”

After which the spotlights go down, leaving a fluid double-page spread bathed in blue and purple neon as Ennay works the floor between tables, taking his credit and receiving his dues. He’s definitely an equal opportunities kind of a guy.



It’s a spectacular piece of fluid figure work and colouring, tracing Ennay’s movements and his admirers in a serpentine path of purple and pink between the rest of the onlookers in indigo, while their cartoon-animal, ghostly gods are lit in bright blue, their outlines an ethereal white.

Which brings us to Ennay’s second secret: he does have a god called Buddy. It’s just not his.

“Weird. Can’t see its believer.”

Gods aren’t supposed to exist without believers. Without believers they’re supposed to fade away (see SANDMAN / AMERICAN GODS). So what on earth is up with Buddy?

Once the subplot involving war and “riff-raff rations” kicks in, the relationship between gods and their owners is explored a little further and grows far darker than you’ll be anticipating.

Let’s just say that we all know the pain when our bank account’s drained but what if our bank account was a sentient god / ghost / animal?



So what else lies in store? Peggy Slim, queen of Synthpop Soul: her gigs fill stadiums, while her god has grown big enough to act as her entire stage set, such are the rewards she reaps. She’s married – very happily married – but this union harbours a secret. And what of good ol’ fashioned organised religion in this world of personal deities? Oh, same old, same old, hate-mongering as usual.

“Consider now the true serpents in our midst…”

He means the godless, obviously.


Buy Godshaper s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Incognegro: A Graphic Mystery h/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Mat Johnson & Warren Pleece.

Southern trees bear strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant south,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.

 – Abel Meeropol, ‘Strange Fruit’

“That’s one thing that most of us know that most white folks don’t. That race doesn’t really exist. Culture? Ethnicity? Sure. Class too. But race is just a bunch of rules meant to keep us on the bottom. Race is a strategy. The rest is just people acting.”



Zane Pitchback is an actor, and a consummate actor at that. He has to be. His job as a black journalist is to pass himself off as white, to travel south then infiltrate and report on the hanging of black men by white supremacists. This is a fiction, but it is a fact that “between 1889 and 1918 2,522 negroes were murdered by lynch mobs in America. That we know of.” And for the local people, it would be a gay family outing, including women and their children having their photographs taken as keep-sakes for the day in front of their dangling, humiliated and mutilated human trophies. By the 1930s it was no longer even considered news, but some extraordinarily brave individuals fought to make it news and expose the culprits by “going Incognegro”.



As the book kicks off Zane is posing as a photographer’s assistant at one such publicly perpetrated and community-supported murder, taking down names and addresses for free photographs, but his cover for once is blown and he barely escapes with his life. Unfortunately he’s been clocked. Returning to New York City, he’s determined now to exchange his anonymity for a little local recognition and a job as managing editor of the paper he writes for. He’s surely deserved it. But there’s one fresh file he cannot ignore: a report from Tupelo Mississippi of another young black man arrested and jailed for the murder of a white woman he was seeing and shared a moonshine operation with. The man is Zane’s brother.



This time it’s not enough to witness the almost certain lynching; this time Zane has to thwart it, and clear his brother’s name in the eyes of local population blind to such trivialities as truth or culpability, and policed by those who’d rather not start causing ripples by resisting the baying for blood. Unfortunately Zane’s city friend Carl, smarting from the jibes of his girlfriend, is determined to prove himself Zane’s equal by accompanying him on his mission, and with his brash behaviour and ham British accent he breaks one of the cardinal rules of undercover operations: keeping a low profile.

All of this would be gripping enough, but there’s a much wider mystery here: it’s a “who really dunnit?” for the murder itself is far from what it seems, there are several instances of mistaken identity, and there’s much to come out about the missing deputy, Francis Jefferson-White – it won’t be what you expect.



The work is substantial in length and substantial in depth with plenty to say about race and society both present and past (if it truly is). It’s also Pleece’s finest moment so far, particularly in his eloquently expressive faces, but also his use of light and shadow, either under sunlight or beside firelight. In spite of the new grey tones (all bar three pieces of interior art here are from the original edition), there’s a starkness and intensity which befits the exceptionally dire circumstances.

The language is pretty stark too.


Buy Incognegro: A Graphic Mystery h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Anti-Gone (£12-99, Koyama Press) by Connor Willumsen…

“Order a weird art-house comic, get a weird art-house comic.”

 – Page 45 customer.

It is hard to disagree with that sentiment. Particularly meant in the positive sense, as it was. But then buy something from Koyama Press, and, well, there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to get something that will test your artistic sensibilities, and possibly even your sanity, like recent work CRAWL SPACE by Jesse Jacobs did. It’s a graphic novel that we seriously considered making a Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month but we just couldn’t get hold of enough copies.

This is actually weirder than that – which is saying something, trust me. But then this material was actually drawn on tracing paper for starters, something which Koyama Press have done their darndest to recreate in terms of paper stock, at probably not inconsiderable cost to themselves. Apparently the creator Connor Willumsen wanted to see what his creation looked like from both sides, which is very artistically diplomatic of him.



You can see where he has used what I assume is tippex for colouring or speech bubbles on the panels that are of a darker hued background. There’s a sequence that particularly stuck with me of a skunk and a man in a puffer jacket covered in capital Rs ascending some sort of stepped Mayan pyramid to arrive at what looks like a drawing table with a mysterious box just waiting there. Which is in fact a dream sequence that occurs during a trance induced in a cinema foyer… Which…



So what’s it really all about? Well, I’m actually going to cheat and quote the first paragraph from Koyama Press’ own blurb because I’m not sure I can describe something so resolutely abstruse and recondite as well as they do. And because there’s only actually about another three of you who will be remotely interested in buying this, as brilliant as it is, and Page 45’s impending refit is fast approaching. Time, as they say in the Twilight Zone, is a one-way street.



“Reality’s grip is loosened as Spyda and Lynxa explore a potentially constructed environment that shifts between dystopic future and constructed virtual present. Like a form of multistable perceptual phenomena, Anti-Gone exists in ambiguity.”

Okay, I probably should at least try. It’s a wee bit like some of Dash Shaw’s more out there material such as THE UNCLOTHED MAN IN THE 35TH CENTURY A.D. but not as finely polished, though that’s entirely because Connor Willumsen is doing his own thing exactly as he’s intended. However, it’s assuredly artistically worthy in its own right and absolutely deserving of attention. It’s big, bold ambitious comics, which I love, and if I think you like a bit of weird yourself don’t be surprised if I make you try to buy it the next time you’re passing the till…



I’ll leave you with a random line from one of his characters that sums Connor’s approach up perfectly…

“God damn, where did you get your style?”


Buy Anti-Gone and read the Page 45 review here


Parker: Slayground s/c (£15-99, IDW) by Richard Stark & Darwyn Cooke…

“Good. It’s real simple. Do what I tell you and you’ll live through this. You understand me?”

No, not new recruit Jodie being inducted into the dark arts of Page 45 mail order, but Parker dispensing a pearl of choice wisdom to the bent cop he’s trying his very hardest to be civil to. Given the cop and his partner are doing their level best to help a crew of mob guys rub him out and steal his score, I’d say he’s being pretty darn considerate. For a master criminal, Parker certainly manages to get himself into a fair few tight spots, but I guess if everything went to plan, that’d be pretty boring.

Here, hot footing it from the scene of an armoured car heist after a nervous getaway driver  has managed to roll their car in the snowy conditions, he’s spotted leaping the fence into a locked up fairground by a couple of on the take cops picking up their pay-off from some local wise guys. Hearing reports coming in of the heist over the police radio and putting two and two together, the bad guys decide there’s some easy money to be had and posse up with the intention of relieving Parker of his cash. Unfortunately for them, well, he’s Parker. So, after surveying his surroundings, planning as many moves ahead as a chess grandmaster, including laying some ingenious booby traps, surely only an easy mark would bet against him walking out through the fairground gates with his swag.



Another excellent adaptation of a classic Richard Stark novel, Darwyn Cooke again brings our favourite tough guy to life in his own inimitable pulpy, period style. This time around the locale is the rather less glamorous Buffalo, New York, though we do once again open up with the now requisite, scene-setting two-page landscape splash. As ever, amidst the gala of glorious art on display, there’s a unique little conceit and this time around it’s a fold-out map, in a few different art styles of course, of the fairground itself.

Darwyn Cooke truly is a master of his craft, there’s so much stylistically to admire here, so much background detail, so many clever devices. It’s not often I really enjoy breaking down someone’s work, understanding how every panel and page are put together, every bit of space used for maximum effect, but if you take the time to read this work a second or third time and do so, you’ll realise it’s an absolute masterclass in how to graphically portray a dramatic, action-packed story, it truly, truly is. Marvellous work, and only succeeds in taking my appreciation of his abilities to even higher levels.



My only criticism, and it’s a very reluctant one, is SLAYGROUND feels a touch lightweight in plot compared to the previous three PARKER capers. It all seemed over too soon, and whilst the end pages promise Parker will return in 2015, even despite the additional short story thrown in for good measure after the main event, that seems far too far away right now. I’d been looking forward to this for ages and now the wait begins anew. Ah well, maybe I’ll just read this one more time…


Buy Parker: Slayground s/c and read the Page 45 review here

John Lord (£11-99, Humanoids) by Denis-Pierre Filippi & Patrick Laumond…

Grisly, pulp tale set in 1920s New York and various other locales including a desert island. The head of the special investigative unit the UPI has been murdered in a particularly gruesome manner, and it falls upon John Lord to track down his mentor’s killer. There’s a pretty sophisticated plot which commences with the simultaneously telling of two separate tales, that of John Lord’s return to the Big Apple from the front after a spell in the forces, an appearance that seems to provoke an ambivalent response in pretty much everyone, and that of a group of castaways, marooned on an island after a rather brutal act of piracy.

This second tale, entirely wordless, would appear to reveal all about the identity of the murderer almost immediately, or is it in fact just a very clever red herring? I shall say no more!


The art is also most definitely up to the usual high standards of a Humanoids imprint release. Yet another highly recommended crime release! If you read and enjoyed THE BOMBYCE NETWORK, this will also appeal.




Buy John Lord and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Bingo Love (£8-99, Image) by Tee Franklin & Jenn St-Onge

Corpse Talk Ground-Breaking Women (£9-99, David Fickling Books) by Adam Murphy, Lisa Murphy

The Dangerous Journey (£9-99, Sort Of Books) by Tove Jansson

Demon vol 4 (£15-99, FirstSecond) by Jason Shiga

Don’t Call Me A Tomboy (£6-99, WildSlattern) by Kirsten Wild & Zara Slattery

Jimmy’s Bastards s/c vol 1 (£13-99, Aftershock Comics) by Garth Ennis & Russell Braun

Kim Reaper vol 1: Grim Beginnings (£13-99, Oni) by Sarah Graley

Lovecraft: The Myth Of Cthulhu h/c (£17-99, IDW) by Esteban Maroto

Lumberjanes vol 8: Stone Cold (£13-99, Boom! Box) by Shannon Watters, Kat Leyh & Carey Pietsch

The Pond (£11-99, Graffeg) by Nicola Davies & Cathy Fisher

The Secret Loves Of Geeks (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Margaret Atwood, Hope Larson, Cecil Castellucci, Gerard Way, Jamie McKelvie and many, many other

Titans vol 3: A Judas Among Us s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Dan Abnett & Brett Booth, Kenneth Rocafort, V Ken Marion, Minkyu Jung

X-Men: X-Tinction Agenda s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by Chris Claremont, Louise Simonson & Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld, Marc Silvestri, others

Baccano vol 1 (£9-99, Yen Press) by Ryohgo Narita & Shinta Fujimoto

I Hear The Sunspot vol 2: Theory Of Happiness (£12-99, One Peace Books) by Yuki Fumino

RWBY (£9-99, Viz) by Shirow

Saga Of Tanya Evil vol 1 (£9-99, Yen Press) by Carlo Zen & Chika Tono

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews February 2018 week one

Wednesday, February 7th, 2018

The New Neighbours PAGE 45 EXCLUSIVE SIGNED BOOKPLATE EDITION (s/c £6-99; h/c £11-99, David Fickling Books) by Sarah McIntyre.


Yes, our first 100 copies of either hardcover or softcover come with a free, signed bookplate designed by Sarah McIntyre exclusively for Page 45!

We could not be more grateful or proud.

Not only has Page 45 long been in love with Sarah McIntyre’s exuberant and kind-hearted craft, but here she delivers a big fluffy bundle of witty, exuberant joy for Young Readers which also wraps its warm heart around the welcoming of strangers, whoever they are and from wherever they’ve roamed.

Look, there’s a welcoming mat on the cover for just such a purpose as Sarah invites you in for tea, cake, and quite the cacophony! It’s going to grow ever so riotous inside, and the stairs are going to take quite the thumping. I love that the carrier pigeon which breaks the big news is dressed like the landed gentry who shoot grouse!



“Guess what!” shouted Piper.
“We have RATS in our flats!”

They really do! And Piper is beyond all containment.

Oh how the young bunnies bounce around any and all flats which open their doors to their din!

“We’ve got RATS!”

Brick towers tumble, a game of draughts is disabled and someone’s stuffed their head right into an upturned saucepan full of spaghetti. You can’t really blame them.



Their elder sister Lettuce is the first they encounter. She considers this development and responds with that which is right:

“Hmm… RATS! I’ve never lived with RATS before…
”We should go and say hi.”

Of course they should! So off they all hop down the stairs!

But their next neighbour Vern casts one note of slight caution:

“I don’t think rats are very tidy neighbours. We need to make sure they keep the place clean. Let’s gather everyone in the building and figure out what to do.”

And that seems okaaaaaay… But without giving too much awaaaaaay…

This is the crossroads. This is where excitement, enthusiasm and inquisitiveness begin to descend from “I don’t think” and “I am not sure” into accumulated, ill-informed gossip.



Each successive floor reveals itself to be inhabited by animals from all over the globe – like polar bears and great big buffalo bison – and they are all adored by each other now that they are established neighbours. But what of the brand-new, whose put-about reputation precedes them?! First rats are untidy, then they are dirty, then they are stinky and finally they supposedly steal!

The stairs become more crowded, dingier then darker as what began as a welcoming rush turns into a veritable lynch mob, and each time McIntyre adds a new verb until…

“Everyone HOPPED and TROTTED and TOTTERED and PADDED and CLATTERED downstairs…”

… And lastly they tumble, tripped up by their own unnecessary panic, into one chaotic heap on the floor.

But who’s going to knock on the door? No one dares!



Now, I’ve given far more away than I would ordinarily within any review, but my guess is that there are very few Young Readers who’ll be reading our blog themselves, so all the secrets will stay surprises for those with wide eyes who will read or be read to. Oh, how this demands to be read aloud like all Reeve & McIntyre books! I adore doing exactly that on Page 45’s shop floor, when I present families with any of our Young Readers illustrated books and graphic novels.

I will leave the final reveal to Sarah, but you can rest assured that there will be much contrite and sticky egg on many embarrassed faces.

Sarah is an immigrant herself, you see, from America, so understands how important it is that we all embrace each other’s individuality with open arms.



The legendary Will Eisner promoted the same message to adults throughout his career, specifically documenting various communities’ comings and goings in ‘Dropsie Avenue’ contained in A CONTRACT WITH GOD TRILOGY, while YOU BELONG HERE, THE JOURNEY and THE ARRIVAL all spread the same love for all ages.

Before we wind up, there is so much more to recommend this on a visual level. McIntyre has eschewed her usual strident pen lines and primary colours for softer watercolour pencils which are fabulous for bunny fur – but also for a more comforting feel throughout – along with pastel shades (and indeed pastel textures here and there) for a more carefully controlled atmosphere which, as I’ve said, subtly shifts as events take their course. Wait – no, they don’t! I mean, as the characters’ trajectory is dictated by their own over-anxious hand-wringing then mutually amplified, increasingly thought-free sensationalism.

There is enormous energy on every page which propels readers through the story while those who would linger will relish exquisite background details like the pigs proclaiming rats to be messy while their own pots and pans pile up in the sink, unwashed.



I loved all the wallpaper and ‘70s decor. It speaks of the safe, comforting and homely. It also says everything about renting accommodation, and not having enough dosh to redecorate – clever!

There is also a wonderful sense of shared community here and a rich harmony which will be restored. You can sense the rejuvenation of spirits on the penultimate double-page spread where (once again, like the opening rooftop) you can see the light from outside flooding in.

The funny thing is that creators – writers, artists and illustrators – like Sarah McIntyre will have taken months thinking all these things through, weeks structuring the whole, and days deploying their skills on these ideas and each individual page… and we, the readers, simply tear straight through them in nano-seconds because we cannot help but desperately crave reading what happens next! It’s their own fault, of course. If these authors weren’t so good at what they do, then we wouldn’t give a tinker’s cuss.



For more Sarah McIntyre and indeed Philip Reeve please see their dedicated section within our Young Readers enclave.

To guarantee your free signed bookplate, drawn exclusively for Page 45 by Sarah McIntyre, please pre-order ASAP for collection in-store or delivery to your home or workplace. Released March 1st 2018.

We Ship Worldwide!


Pre-order The New Neighbours s/c and read the Page 45 review here
Pre-order The New Neighbours h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Read Sarah McIntyre’s blog on Creating The Artwork for The New Neighbours
Read Sarah McInture’s blog on Stories Behind The New Neighbours

For more on migration, please see SKETCHES FROM A NAMELESS LAND – THE ARRIVAL COMPANION reviewed for the first time below.

Marcy And The Riddle Of The Sphinx h/c (£12-99, Flying Eye) by Joe Todd-Stanton…

“Every evening, Marcy loved to listen to the tales of her father’s adventures. She never quite believed him… After all, he was very old and far too portly.
“But at night, everything changed. The creatures from her father’s amazing tales turned into terrifying monsters in the shadows. Marcy felt utterly lost and alone in the dark. All she could do was close her eyes tight and wait for sunrise.”

Yes! After reading all about the adventures of Marcy’s dad, when he was just a slim whippersnapper himself in the fabulous ARTHUR AND THE GOLDEN ROPE I can state two things with certainty. Firstly, I can vouch that he was indeed a formidable hero and secondly, that I was desperately hoping for more of the family Brownstone from Joe Todd-Stanton!



Once again, this time narrating from the splendour of the Brownstone family’s observatory, complete with a kaleidoscopically coloured telescope and a gigantic clockwork mobile of a galaxy spinning away merrily, the elder bearded Brownstone of the modern era has returned to reprise his introductory preamble to another member of his adventurous ancestors.

Before too long Marcy is plunged into a death-defying adventure of her own that will see her gamely battle ancient Gods in dusty Egypt for high stakes indeed. But first we see the replete, grey-bearded Arthur, complete with eye patch, attempting to take Marcy on her first gentle adventurous excursion into a cave, to surprise her by meeting the benevolent King of the Water Spirits, who looks like a sort of free-floating giant waterfall complete with beatific smile and a tiny crown.



However, upon reaching the entrance, surrounded by spooky shadows that look very much like the ones that plague her bedroom ceiling at night, little Marcy is frozen with fear and unable to proceed any further… But when Arthur disappears off on an errand to find a mysterious book and doesn’t return, Marcy decides she’s brave enough to head off after him to save the day. After all, in her eyes, her dad has trouble just bending over when he’s dropped his glasses!



Donning the cap Arthur always told her would summon the mighty bird Wind Weaver, more in hope than belief, Marcy is delighted to see the giant red-feathered friend waiting to whisk her away to lands far, far away in search of her father. And so, her first adventure truly begins! She’s going to encounter dangerous deities bent on world domination, stowaway on a flying boat floating through stunning night skies, brave terrible traps in subterranean, stygian depths, and of course, get to play a round of riddle-me-ree with the mysterious Sphinx itself!! But can Marcy manage to conquer her fear of the dark to rescue her dad…?



Of course she can!!

What a triumphant follow-up to the brilliant ARTHUR AND THE GOLDEN ROPE this is! This has all the attention to detail in the exquisite art and madcap mayhem in its plotting that made its predecessor so swoon-worthy and gallantly gripping in my eyes. Once again, reading with Whackers, little fingers continually stopped me from turning the pages so she could take in each page in all its glorious detail, spotting hidden delights and tracing trails of potential doom narrowly avoided!



I can only add I’m already avidly awaiting the next instalment of the epic endeavours of the brave Brownstone brood!


Buy Marcy And The Riddle Of The Sphinx h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Wraith: House Of Wicked Creatures (£4-99, Greentea Publishing) by Vera Greentea & ELK.

“Yes, Bean, it’s true.
“We spent some time investigating.
“Humans are moving in.”

Ladies and gentlemen, Page 45 presents its Greentea Publishing collection: eight beautiful comics imported direct from Vera Greentea herself in America.

I was always going to review this one first because, what a cover! An immaculate composition using the late autumn silver birch trees with their very last leaves to frame a remote country mansion which is in need of considerable renovation, so proving the perfect home for foxes, racoons, magpies and mice and the most exotic squirrels the world will ever see.

I think they’re squirrels. One of their families has cross-bred with a Siamese cat, the other is anyone’s guess – but, oh my, they’re gorgeous! The former is Pan, the latter is Wraith who’s not been a part of their cosy community for a while now.

“Humans came to her previous home and killed her entire family… using food.”

Using food!



The fox is called Frida and she too boasts the bushiest of tails and ever such glossy, well-washed fur.

Within the abandoned home, still fully furnished, some of the plaster has cracked and come down, and the odd weed have taken root, but nests have been built and there’s still the odd thing to forage. Just as a gentle mist hangs low outside, so the inside is suffused in soft, floating light and shadow.



ELK’s forms are lithe and the animals acrobatic, but are they up to defending their home from human beings when determined? A little lateral thinking may be required.

Greentea generously gives ELK all the room required to both charm and alarm the reader: a self-contained story like this could so easily be overwritten when what we want most is to bathe in its beauty. Instead we are shown all that we need to know, like the alarming arrival of very large lorries, wending their way through the scrubland.

Coming back to the cover, it sang to me of my childhood: of William Backhouse’s endpapers to Jane Shaw’s retelling of Joel Chandler Harris’s ‘Uncle Remus Stories’.



These were read to me by an Aunt who wasn’t an Aunt, but a nurse from Northern Ireland and I’m so sorry she never read to you, because her accent was everything.

“And Br’er Fox, he lay low!”


Buy Wraith: House Of Wicked Creatures and read the Page 45 review here

Courtney Crumrin vol 2 s/c: The Coven Of Mystics (£11-99, Oni) by Ted Naifeh.

Second of seven COURTNEY CRUMRIN volumes to receive the softcover treatment, it’s one of my favourites which will rob you once and for all of the illusion that every Young Adult book necessarily comes with a cosy conclusion. I should also emphasise that this series is equally treasured by Old Adults alike: hello!

Courtney Crumrin desperately needs help to save the innocent faun-like Skarrow from summary execution at the hands of The Coven Of Mystics. That information may rest in the shadows of Radley Hall and the mind of dead demon Tommy Rawhead. But how to get in? Leave it to mystic moggie and actual cat burglar Tobermory – he’s getting intruder window.

“As ray of moonlight passes glass, so shall Tobermory pass.
“Take a note, Miss Crumrin. It’s much simpler to trick a spell than to break it.”



Young Courtney Crumrin will be taking a lot of notes here about how the world works around her: it’s full of self-interest and hate in the human heart. For those in love, the worst sin is silence, inaction the absolute killer. The good news is that Courtney and silence are far from synonymous, but will she be listened to in time?

Love, love, love this series, now in full colour. Ted Naifeh’s moonlit Council of Cats is like Kelley Jones’ equivalent work in SANDMAN: DREAM COUNTRY after an infusion of Mike Mignola and a wide- and shiny-eyed dose of his own design flair for a Crumrin transformed into cat.



That which she finds sheltering in fear from two arcane archers is quite magical and long been the stuff of my dreams. Naifeh does soft, sleek and otherworldly to perfection; his monsters are hideously twisted. He is exceptional at making you believe in impossibly large things lurking in improbably small cabinets, like the next one you’ll foolishly open.

Following COURTNEY CRUMRIN VOL 1,  this finds our belligerent young lady in her second year at school and under close supervision from Ms Crisp, a teacher with close ties to Uncle Aloysius but who understands that isolating yourself from the real world comes at a cost. That is a lesson which will be most painfully learned by all.



A demon has been summoned which dispatches whole families. A curse has been placed on witch Madam Harker, rendering spoken words into a cascade of frogs. When she tries to write, her hands become wriggling serpents. Someone is silencing all and sundry, while a mute woodland creature called Skarrow seeks sanctuary in Uncle Aloysius’s once well respected domain. Instead the villagers move in, their metaphorical pitchforks in danger of becoming cold steel. What under earth is going on?!

It’s time to convene the Coven Of Mystics, the council by whom all will abide. Wrap up warm, my lovelies; because I’m afraid it’s about to grow chilly.


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

Sketches From A Nameless Land – The Arrival Companion (£14-99, Lothian) by Shaun Tan.

“Who was I, in this place?
“Everything and nothing.”

From a spread of notes taken by Tan from interviews and biographies in which migrants spoke about their lives, embellished with the sketches they inspired.

“Often, the most difficult experiences were described by migrants in a very concise, understated way, partly because of poor English skills, but also due to the more general inadequacy of language to convey complex feelings and impressions.”

It’s one of the many reasons why the final graphic novel is silent, using instead the universal language of pictures whose tones are transformed according to the emotional highs and lows of its protagonists.



Shaun Tan’s THE ARRIVAL has to be one of the most beloved books at Page 45, bought then bought again as its readers are inspired, galvanised into spreading its empathy towards those most in need of understanding and help, but who are often the most ostracised and even vilified by the right-wing press, opportunist politicians, and the thoughtless, with hate in their hearts.

This is the story of the graphic novel’s evolution then construction, full of preliminary art and process pieces, photographs of friends posing for pictures etc which Shaun reproduces with extensive explanations or brief annotations, like the Registry Room or ‘Great Hall’ at Ellis Island in America circa 1907-1912, through which each new arrival had to pass in order to enter the country.




“Here, I tried to amplify the subtle ‘poetry’ of the original image: the huddled darkness of massed people, the bench-lines receding towards a flag in the centre (a strange symbol of authority and freedom) and the protective embrace of the cathedral-like vaulting. The over-exposure of the upper-storey window suggests a land of luminous opportunity just beyond the gates.”

In his final piece Shaun replaces the blinding light with vast, distant towers from which those who have been accepted – after intrusive inspections by military surgeons – are dispersed in balloons. In place of the flag hangs a gigantic sign in a fictional language indecipherable both to the book’s readers and those queuing for admission. So it is that throughout we walk these miles in their shoes. Later on Tan will demonstrate the construction of this script from a rearrangement of Roman letters and numbers using scissors and transparent tape.

Of his choice to use a shadowy serpent coiling round bleak, dilapidated housing in the asylum-seeker’s homeland, Shaun suggests it was “an ideal metaphor for many unspoken fears: political oppression, religious persecution and even ecological collapse. At the same time, they escape such specific interpretation, and I think that is the most important thing in illustration: that an image feels truthful beyond any explanation.”




For someone who’s fashioned a career largely from silent, pictorial narratives, Shaun Tan is ever so eloquent, as anyone who’s read his TALES FROM OUTER SUBURBIABIRD KING art book and THE SINGING BONES, inspired by the Brothers Grimm. He writes about his own complex international heritage, and this made me sit up and think because, when one casts one’s mind over the creator’s catalogue, it rings perfectly true:

“Consciously or otherwise, I’ve always been attracted to stories about characters who find themselves lost, displaced, in an unfamiliar world, or experiencing some other troubled sense of belonging.”



Please pop Shaun Tan into our search engine to discover his range for yourself.


Buy Sketches From A Nameless Land – The Arrival Companion and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Almost Silent h/c (£22-99, Fantagraphics) by Jason

Only The End Of The World Again h/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell, Tory Nixey

Get Naked (£22-99, Image) by Steven T. Seagle, various

Incognegro: A Graphic Mystery h/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Mat Johnson & Warren Pleece

Perfect h/c (£8-99, Graffeg) by Nicola Davies & Cathy Fisher

Red Winter (£16-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Anneli Furmark

Scales & Scoundrels vol 1: Into The Dragon’s Maw s/c (£8-99, Image) by Sebastian Girner &  Galaad

The Legend Of Korra: Turf Wars Part Two (£9-50, Dark Horse) by Michael Dante DiMartino & Irene Koh

Crisis On Infinite Earth s/c (£26-99, DC) by Marv Wolfmann & George Perez

Avengers & Champions: Worlds Collide s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Jesus Saiz, Humberto Ramos

Inhumans: Once & Future Kings s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Christopher Priest, Ryan North & Phil Noto, Gustavo Duarte




Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews January 2018 week five

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

Featuring Chabouté, Alexander Utkin, Tara O’Connor, David Gaffney & Dan Berry, Enrique Fernandez, Christophe Gibelin, Claire Wendling, Christophe Bec, Eric Henninot, Milan Jovanovic, Brad Meltzer, Phil Hester.

The Park Bench (£14-99, Faber & Faber) by Chabouté.

Do you often sit on park benches?

Maybe you just pass them by?

Perhaps you’re out jogging and use one to limber up on; rest your hand on its back while stretching. There’s a guy on a skateboard who regularly whizzes by, flipping over the length of its seat to land gracefully on the other side.

Another bloke with a briefcase strides first right every morning on his way to work, then later left, a little limp and exhausted. He’s been doing that for years: day in, day out, he clocks in, trudges out.

It’s part of a dog’s daily routine too. Usually it only pauses to mark its territory with pungent spray, but sometimes the rain has set in – torrential rain, at times – and it cowers for cover underneath.

But if you do sometimes sit on park benches, to catch your breath, have a snack or simply gaze at the scenery beyond, do you ever wonder who else was once perched there? Who was its last occupant, and what did they do? Who’ll be its next, and whatever will they be thinking?

Over ten seasons and 325 silent but exceptionally communicative black and white pages, Chabouté charts the course of two dozen or so lives whose route regularly takes them via the park bench. A lot can happen in two and a half years. You could find yourself pregnant – twice! People can change, even the most staid or conformist, or have change thrust upon them.

Others will leave their mark.  Right at the beginning a girl watches a boy carve a message for posterity: “I ♥ U”. I wish he’d watch where his thumb was. It’s going to survive the groundsman’s next lick of paint, but this graffiti won’t:


Which is fair enough.

A young man plonks himself down so that his t-shirt’s slogan artlessly replaces two of the words behind him, while the paper bag in his hand covers a couple letters:


This is equally sobering. Something similar occurs with a newspaper headline.

We are shown the bench from many angles, from many heights, but we never quite see what its visitors see – presumable relatively open civic parkland – just a glimpse of a tree-line beyond. In quick succession two similar women open two very different letters. What they see will change their lives substantially. Their expressions are so very subtle yet telling, but we’ll only discover the specifics later on.

Interactions between different parties whose paths you thought would never cross spark surprising results, while older relationships will evolve in astonishing ways. The park warden is bloody-minded, officious – and oh so proud of his cap! – belligerently moving on and issuing written warnings to a quiet old man with a long grey beard and two rucksacks. Sometimes the Methuselah manages to catch a kip, spread out at night, unmolested, but mostly it’s one long history of harassment. Where that one goes, eventually, left me in howls of laughter – so well thought out – but I loved how, on first arrival, the itinerant fetches a bottle of wine from one backpack and takes time to inspect its back label. We all deserve dignity and some of us inherently possess it.

Also very funny are the gags involving a child’s balloon evidently pumped with the most powerful helium on the planet,  and a sequence in which an old man’s distraction, lost in private reverie, gives him much more to ponder about the fattening effects of fast food.

However, I am an old softie so couples in love melt my heart, and my favourite, semi-regular park pilgrims are an old couple who have quite obviously doted on each other from day one, their mutual adoration undiminished. Once they are seated (to the left of the carved dedication), the woman looks up into his eyes, over her glasses, with the most tender gaze that I have ever beheld, as her Master of Ceremonies opens the small cardboard box on his lap, takes out his penknife and cuts their shared cream cake in two.

The scene is played out for quite some time as the sun in front of them slides down and they are seen from behind, cast in silhouette. Eventually the gentleman helps her up, and off they slowly stroll, still in silhouette. But they’ll be back. They’ll buy a different cake next time, and the next.

Under such a commanding conductor, this graphic novel would have brought enough joy had the lives all stayed separate. But they don’t, nor do they stay still: the orchestration is interwoven and has a direction with an emphatic end – and then an epilogue. Some stories continue even when you suspect they won’t.

The winter sun is out, so I’m going to take a break now, and pop down to the River Trent. It’s just a five minute amble from where I live, half of that in the countryside. There’s a park bench at the end of the path. I wonder who will be sitting there.


Buy The Park Bench and read the Page 45 review here

Gamayun Tales vol 1: The King Of Birds (£12-99, Nobrow) by Alexander Utkin.

“Now then, best beloved, I will tell you an amazing tale: The King Of Birds.
“It all started with an apple.
“No ordinary apple, but a golden apple that grew on a magic tree in the garden of a warrior princess…
“Anyone who ate a golden apple would become young and mighty again.”

Ooh, that sounds fab – I’ll take two!

It’s a beautiful opening to a beautiful book, o’er-brimming with opulence and mesmerising from cover to cover.

Its narrator is Gamayun, a magical, human-faced bird from Slavic mythology, whose blue face, golden tresses and wide, glowing eyes emerge theatrically from behind fanned, feathered wings, all with more than a hint of the Egyptian.



Almost immediately a knight on his steed gallops over the roofed walls and steals an armful of the ripe, restorative fruit in order to cure his ailing father. But Gamayun is a tease, for she will not reveal what happens next; not of the knight and his father, at least.

No, it is the apple which was dropped which proves so pivotal. It’s one small accident with collateral consequences whose wide-spanning repercussions are enormous.

For, where once was harmony throughout the realms of the birds and the beasts there will be soon be a battle and blood loss, all because one small bird and one tiny beast break their firm friendship over this fallen treasure. Everything, they shared until now: every morsel of scavenged food. But the mouse is too taken by this golden apple to care, whips it away for herself, and is discovered!



The sparrow is aggrieved and flies far south, thousands and thousands of miles, to the kingdom of animals in search of justice. Had the Lion King only considered the complaint, then that might have been the end of it (yet, admittedly, the end of the mouse), but no! And so the ripples of cause and effect continue to emanate as the bird seeks restitution and revenge from the Bird King not only for the mouse’s misdemeanour, but now for the King of Beasts’ haughty snub.

And this, best beloved, is but the beginning of a tale that will take you over vast oceans to three sequestered citadels housing great treasure and, within each, a royal relative. It will transform the fortunes of one lowly merchant who finds within him the compassion to forego harming his natural enemies and prey and, if only he can keep his promises, he will reap rewards for his generosity – as well as a fright for an earlier slight.



I promise you the unpredictable.

Where there are temptations they are generally given into – just look at the mouse and the sparrow! – and when dire warnings are issued you know that almost always they will be disobeyed. But don’t be so sure. Retaliations will be other than what you expect. Anything could happen. So much of it will!

Always remember not just your manners but, forever more importantly, good will and gratitude!

Well, as you’ve probably gathered by now, this is all a bit gorgeous. It’s one of the most luxurious graphic novels I’ve ever laid eyes on. The colours don’t simply glow, in Africa they radiate heat. While on the wing, you can feel the cool sea breezes that help keep the eagle aloft.



The initial battle is ferocious, full of sharp edges from the lion king’s crown of sharpened bones to the talons that scatter them. The eagle’s mighty wings are whipped with colour, slashes of it fanned out in feathers: green, blue and black on fire-burning brown. It’s all teeth and beak, while all-seeing Gamayun stares you straight in the eye: all because of an apple.

Even more majestic is the first of the three citadels, rising from the deepest blue sea like a gigantic, earthen eyrie. Its copper colour is complemented by clouds billowing above the horizon while the ocean is reflected in the eagle king’s wings, just as it reflects the brighter blue sky up above. This is exactly the sort of spectacle of monumental, fantastical antiquity which has lit my imagination since first encountering the films of Ray Harryhausen. Even Gamayun cannot help but gaze in wonder, turning her head to direct your own eyes to its apex, its external “throne”.



And this, best beloved, is still just the beginning!

No, really it is. Even this graphic novel is just the beginning, a first instalment to whet your appetite for what is to come. I did warn you that Gamayun is a tease. Over and again she promises to pick a thread up later – and she will, but not yet. No single tale is completed: not the thief’s nor the merchant’s; not the King of the Beasts’ nor the King of the Birds’ – although the eagle may believe that his is.

Oh, you will be thoroughly dangled! But you will relish every second!

What is up for discussion here? Loyalty, harmony, generosity; patience and priorities; retribution, to be sure, and the real risks of war. Gratitude is always a good thing.



But, best beloved, I will keep you no longer, for I see that you are eager to begin. So I only add this: make sure you keep turning the pages right unto the very end, and remember that blue-skinned is beautiful. Hmmmm….

To be continued!


Buy Gamayun Tales vol 1: The King Of The Birds and read the Page 45 review here

The Three Rooms In Valerie’s Head (£17-99, Top Shelf) by David Gaffney & Dan Berry.


“You can discover everything about your boyfriend by tossing a breakable object at him.”

That’s such a lovely line, lobbed in as effortlessly and unexpectedly as everything else, taking the reader – and Valerie’s boyfriend – completely by surprise. It’s not done in anger but out of calm curiosity, and the trajectory of that particular sequence will prove even more startling and funny than you think.

We will return to that anon.



Dan Berry’s exceptionally expressive cartooning you may already know from THE END, CARRY ME, SENT / NOT SENT, THROW YOUR KEYS AWAY, BEAR CANYON or THE SUITCASE (a former Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month), plus the Eisner-Award-nominated 24 BY 7 and COELIFER ATLAS, both of which, like THE THREE ROOMS IN VALERIE’S HEAD, were originally commissioned by The Lakes International Comic Art Festival which takes over the entire town of Kendal every year in October. All of these we have reviewed extensively.

The singularly dextrous David Gaffney, meanwhile, will now be shooting to the top of your attention and the forefront of your radar, once the wit in this read has been savoured. It is ever so carefully constructed.

There are three rooms in Valerie’s mind: a front, a back, and a cellar. But if you think that the front room’s a living room, you are very much mistaken. All she does there is obsess.

What should perhaps command her attention is studiously buried and ignored by banishing it into the back room.



What Valerie takes out to play instead are the ghosts of her former boyfriends, resurrected from the cellar, positioned like a trad-jazz band and articulated by herself. It is they whom she converses with throughout, wondering where it all went wrong.

“The drawback was having no space in the front room for anything else.”

Well, quite.

Before you leap to too many conclusions, I promised you surprises and I don’t break my promises. There may well be a very good reason why Valerie is so retrospective. And before you go blaming Valerie for being so unlucky in love, the individuals who’ll be paraded in front of you will prove to have looked through odd prisms of their own. Ever such odd prisms, and the art will adapt accordingly!

One, for example, invents a car windscreen to compensate for his myopia so that he doesn’t have to wear his glasses or corrective lenses while driving. Which is fine for him and it’s a genius foil against car thieves. Unless they possess the same prescription as he does, they won’t be able to see what’s in front of them. On the other hand, it’s a wee bit rubbish for any passengers he’s carrying and his own rear-view mirror may prove something of a blur.



There’s a lot of allusion and metaphor in this comic, but I swear that it’s sweet and not half as heavy-handed as my own. “Symbols should not be cymbals,” as Edward Albee once wrote.

Music is one of the big ones, specifically Mahler’s 2nd Symphony plus Valerie’s love of accordions and other bellow-based instruments. Don’t think you have to be an all-knowing clever clogs because I’m certainly not. Listen to Gaffney about music instead:

“It’s pure. Music doesn’t imitate, it doesn’t explain, it doesn’t try to be like other things.”

I’d not thought of that before. Most drawings, paintings, prose, poetry and comics all seek to create, recreate, imitate or elucidate on that which they are not: life, real or imagined. Words convey thoughts, actions or occasions as best they can and I adore them for that, leaving me with the freedom to let my imagination roam. Images imply or are otherwise representational. Music may elicit or imply, but otherwise it is its own beast. In the hands of the Cocteau Twins’ Liz Fraser even songs’ lyrics are left to be similarly ethereal because she left her voice free to be a musical instrument – no real words at all…

But this is a comic with images which do imitate ever so subtly well, and one of its best is the page in which Valerie responds to a former boyfriend’s recollection of their shared, supposedly idyllic past which doesn’t chime favourably enough with her own. The colouring aside, which is mood-specific throughout and beyond this specific page, it’s the body language and expressions which delight. Jake’s finger and closed eyes turn a contradiction – bad enough in Valerie’s eyes – into something close to a rebuke. As to those eyes, narrowed in the fourth panel as she leads challengingly forward, they really do seethe and spit daggers.



“Valerie,” we learn later, “kept a ball of tissue under her armpit and dropped shreds of it into his food to keep him loyal.”

This is an observational gem, more fanciful and energetic than Tomine’s but no less perceptive and far more engaging in that the reader is enticed into the recollections as an active observer on the spot, rather than a witness at a distance. Dan has gone to great lengths to make this so, including a sequence which – I was told in complete confidence – he drew with his left hand in order to accentuate the giddiness which worked all too well on myself, giving me an immediate sense of vertigo while lying flat on my back in bed. That’s no mean feat.

So we return to the where we came in with the opening quotation and its reprise of the vase on the very second page which Valerie’s so intent on remaining oblivious to. I showed you that vase earlier on. Like so many other visual refrains repeated unexpectedly throughout, it’s a fab piece of foreshadowing whose exceptional choreography by Dan Berry is surpassed here as Valerie throws caution to the wind and a bouquet at her boyf in an act of abandonment which is – to her – delightful spontaneity.



“You can discover everything about your boyfriend by tossing a breakable object at him.”

As the shining white and blue china hurtles towards him, Brett freezes, recoils and cowers in terror, and the leaves and flowers begin to tumble from their fragile, spinning vessel.

“Is he poised?
“Confident in his judgements?
“Does he seem willing to take responsibility for someone else’s actions?”

David Gaffney has a way with words which dance around and right off the pages to stick with you forever. There’s nothing extraneous or laden. Instead they trill so brightly and lightly like a musical movement that’s subtle and always heading somewhere. As often as not, they’re headed somewhere far from expected.

“You learn the most if the object belongs to someone else.”


Buy The Three Rooms In Valerie’s Head and read the Page 45 review here

The Altered History Of Willow Sparks (£17-99, Oni) by Tara O’Connor.

A cautionary tale for Young Adults about the delicate balance in friendships – of loyalty, listening and shared experiences – this has evolved considerably during its 8 years in construction as O’Connor generously displays in the process pieces that follow.

It has an element of the fantastical, but it’s not as extensive as you might as first think.

Willow Sparks and Georgia Pratt make kind and natural best friends, propping each other up when the going gets tough; the going gets rough almost immediately, because that’s what their life at High School is like.

It’s bad enough for Willow that her acne’s flared up just when a new haircut – more severe than she is comfortable with – fails to fall over any of it. She’s been invited to cover for Mr. Ages at the local library the next night and close up at 8pm on the dot, and that’s very of cool because Mr. Ages is all kinds of quirky. He’s rocking the bald, beard and ponytail look, which is brave.

However, before then Willow must endure the day, and what a day!



The school bully, Jenny, has already got it in for her, backed up by Jill and Perry. And if zits weren’t enough of an embarrassment, she’s rubbish at dodgeball (which seems to me to be a particularly punitive and overtly aggressive sport), fails to dodge said ball which is subsequently slammed right in her face, and develops a whopper of a big purple bruise which makes her pimples all the more livid. Oh, and then there’s the sanitary-towel-in-the-classroom debacle. Awkward.

Can this day grow any more humiliating and debilitating?

Yes. The bullies are there when Willow attempts to close up the library, and they refuse, point-blank, to leave. Willow persists, but they get right in her face, and there’s an accident. It is actually an accident, but it’s – ouch! pretty serious – so they scarper. It won’t tell you how, but it’s then that Willow discovers a hidden inner library of books and one of them bears her name.

“This must be a joke…”



Within it, what she reads is astonishing: the minutiae of her life which led directly up to that point, followed by dozens of blank pages. Tied into the tome is a nib pen with the warning words “for emergencies only”.

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I was a teenager, volcanic acne clearly classified as an “emergency”, so Willow begins to write and in the morning, the bruise and the pimples are gone.

Willow can re-write her life. Tempting, no?

At a first, superficial glance this looks very much like Bryan Lee O’Malley’s SECONDS illustrated by Hope Larson circa CHIGGERS. But, as I suggested, the elements of magic realism are actually surprisingly minimal. It’s far more about what the subsequent secrecy and balance of power does to Willow and Georgia’s friendship. There’s nothing that Willow writes in the book with its pen that is at all destructive or really, in any way, out of order.



It’s what she does or does not do with her best friend Georgia – who is undergoing considerable upheavals of her own – that causes the schism, and there’s an exceptionally well written scene, born of complete comprehension, about the impact a “free pass” for one, but not for the other, does to what was once equally shared experiences.

The art has loads to recommend it, as you’d expect from any comparison to Hope Larson. O’Connor’s use of a light blue hue is perfect for mid-tone light and for shadows which ripple and break towards their edges. Her eyes are inky black pools. Hair waves, the forms are so soft, and I love what she does with the lettering when it comes to a final sigh before falling asleep.



It’s on top form too during the wince-inducing, heart-stopping fall. There the jagged, unyielding, cold concrete steps are contrasted both in stark white against black, and with Willow’s painfully vulnerable back for which a pullover can prove no adequate protection. There’s a cracking dream sequence too, once Willow has discovered the life-changing book, as she is chased buffeted about by its pen.

For there is one added complication that I have so far failed to allude to: what Willow doesn’t know is that before she took possession of her own “journal”, another similarly singularly titled tome was returned to Mr. Ages in profound contrition by a young man called Samuel.



And Samuel was not looking well.


Buy The Altered History Of Willow Sparks and read the Page 45 review here

Tales From The Age Of The Cobra (£22-99, IDW) by Enrique Fernandez.

This delivers everything you’d expect from the cover and more: high-octane, swashbuckling action, romance and skulduggery in an exotic setting.

Passions will be postponed or permanently trodden upon; lovers will be betrayed if not intentionally then by accident or tragic distraction; others will find themselves thwarted either because they cannot comprehend the true, giving nature of love – mistaking it for acquisition – or because the king who should command their marital affection and attention is actually more interested in the un-fairer sex.

Forgive me, but this is going to be a quick one even though the graphic novel itself will fill you up far further than you might understandably expect. The first third is packed beyond all probability with whiplash cause-and-effect actions, inactions, diversions, transformations, repercussions and reversals of fortunes without once relinquishing the author’s deep love of language and extraordinary facility in its deployment. It could at any second so easily slide into the pitfalls of purple prose – of which, I own, I am an appalling abuser – but is rescued each and every time with linguistic gymnastics to keep it as free-flowing and exuberant as the art itself.



Throughout the art minded me of mid-period Kyle Baker when he first discovered digital. The art of Kyle Baker is at all times and during all periods a delicious, delirious thing.

From the creator of BRIGADA, a firm favourite of comicbook creators Bill Sienkiewicz, J.H. Williams III and Ben Templesmith: Fernandez is an artist’s artist.

The entirety is presented as a piece of theatre by a masked person unknown, to a sometimes sceptical and impatient audience. (I use that comma carefully.) This is entirely apposite given that the finale itself is a similar piece of theatre designed to topple a throne. However, theatrics can be learned when the influence and impulse is right, so please don’t suppose that your earlier actors have cracked. When all is revealed – and all will most assuredly be revealed – you may find that someone else entirely has taken the stage and carried the story forth.



We begin with a couple in love: Sian and Irvi, the pair you see snogging on the cover.

Neither is in possession of anything except exquisite beauty on the one hand, and preternatural acrobatic skills on the other – although Irvi is pretty fit on the other front too. They are separated by the cruel existence of The House of Princesses, a guarded hotel for hotties from which brides are bought, to which Sian’s parents gladly sell her. Which is nice.

But the couple have come up with a plan. With his keen acrobatic skills, Irvi will invade the House of Princesses in the quiet dead of night to ravish Sian, so stealing her most Prince-prized possession: her virginity. Yeah, that doesn’t work out, for others are in similar need and Irvi simply cannot say no. To his credit, he tries to, he really does – to begin with, anyway. But the House has many floors with so many in need and Sian is held right at the top.

I think we’re on page twelve.



What follows is the most almighty conflict of interests, intent, emotional advantage-taking, individuality-expunging, socio-political artistic elimination; then potion-guzzling, side-effect exacerbating conflict and craving for international power.

I think we’re still on page twenty-four.

And it’s still scene-setting. What comes next is one almighty conflagration.


Buy Tales From The Age Of The Cobra and read the Page 45 review here

Lights Of The Amalou s/c (£35-99, IDW) by Christophe Gibelin & Claire Wendling…

Has a lot of ferrets… and some incest. Between humans, not ferrets. Though be aware: there are some interspecies goings-on going on…

Just trying to set the tone for the level of peculiar in this enormously entertaining Euro-adventure, translated and republished under IDW’s autologically titled ‘Euro Comics’ imprint. They certainly couldn’t be done under trade descriptions, could they?!

I’m not being snarky – or whatever the equivalent French / Spanish / Italian / Esperanto snide aside would be – because I have for many years commented that there must be libraries full of quality ‘Euro Comics’ that never get translated and should. So let’s hope that IDW curator for the imprint chooses wisely. With this and TALES FROM THE AGE OF THE COBRA also fresh out, they are off to a solid start. In fairness, they have been doing various Hugo CORTO MALTESE Pratt for a while, but clearly they want to broaden English comic readers’ horizons, which is an excellent agenda.

You can read a little bit about their mission here.



Anyway, I certainly wouldn’t classify this as highly peculiar and wilfully esoteric as, say, Benoit Peeters & Francois Schuiten’s THE LEANING GIRL. Neither it is remotely in the ilk of some of Humanoids more dungeons and dragons-esque fantasy or science fiction output. It is ultimately an adventure story with some fantastically elements set nominally in our real world, though the action all takes place out of the unknowing view of the human race, who are utterly unaware of the existence of talking ferrets, alternate dimensions, weird creation myth magicks and errr… human-ferret hybrids…



Christophe Gibelin crafts a rather gripping story of a world, and species (plural), in danger from encroaching wooden-based entropic spirits, being defended and further imperilled by various ferret factions, including a couple of dashing adventurers, and indeed a few human (-looking) oddballs too. The closest parallel I could probably draw would be to say it has the fun elements of anthropomorphic action adventure MULP but with additional dreamlike, fairy tale qualities too.



Lovely, charismatic ligne claire art from Claire Wendling that will certainly appeal to Europhiles. I also liked the hand-lettering style. I’ve seen similar in several other Euro works and it adds to the general rustic, artisan feel of the work. I honestly have no idea how much of an audience IDW will manage to find for their ‘Eurocomics’. Hopefully sufficient to persuade them to persist with it.


Buy Lights Of The Amalou s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Carthago s/c (£19-99, Humanoids) by Christophe Bec & Eric Henninot, Milan Jovanovic.

I love this sense of scale!

Is it okay if I start crying now?

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

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

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



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

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

All things are relative. It’s about to get uglier.



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

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

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

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

“Lou’s not like other little girls…”

No, indeed, as you will see.



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

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



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

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

This is spectacular. It truly is spectacular.



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

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



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

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




Buy Cartago s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Green Arrow: The Archer’s Quest s/c (£14-99, DC) by Brad Meltzer & Phil Hester.

If you were given a second chance at life, would you be curious about who had attended your funeral? What would be worse: surprise absences, or worryingly unexpected guests?

Oliver Queen, the Green Arrow, wasn’t the first of his brightly dressed friends to die, so he made contingency plans for when the inevitable happened also to him.

But now that he’s back he finds that those instructions weren’t followed to the letter, and his old friends discover exactly whom he entrusted them to.

Brad wrote IDENTITY CRISIS, one of DC’s very finest superhero books (suggested 16+)  so if you’re one of the many who’ve enjoyed that then you’re more than likely to feel at home here, since once more it deals with the importance of privacy and the comfort of friends. There’s plenty of mischief on hand when the rest of the DC super-crew put in duper-cameos and, now that I think about it, the patter and a lot of the layouts combined with a more animated-cartoon-art style are as much reminiscent of ALEISTER & ADOLF’s Mike Oeming as anyone else.



Oracle is DC’s ultimate networker, the crippled daughter of Commissioner Gordon, holed up in a high-tech surveillance tower, from which she works closely with Dinah, the Black Canary. Ollie also works closely with Dinah, but in a different way. Here Green Arrow and Oracle are communicating via Black Canary’s earring:

“What are you doing on Dinah’s line?”
“She left her earrings on my… uh… kitchen table.”
“Don’t lie, Oliver. That microphone was switched on all night. I heard everything. Everything. Trick arrows, my rear end.”
“You serious?”
“Jeez, Ollie, Clark was right – you have gotten gullible in your old age.”
“Listen, you gonna help me or not?”
“Just tell me what you need.”
“I’m looking for a positive I.D. on a guy in a photo.”
“Now you’re singing my song.  Just hold it up to the window — And don’t block it with your fingers. I’ll have one of my satellites scan it from space.”
“You can do that?”
“Oh, Ollie… such a sucker.”

Fool me twice!




Buy Green Arrow: The Archer’s Quest s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Courtney Crumrin vol 2 s/c (£11-99, Oni) by Ted Naifeh

Maurie Duval h/c (£19-99, Myriad) by Simon Grennan, Roger Sabin, Julian Waite

Eternal (£6-99, Black Mask) by Ryan K Lindsay & Eric Zawadzki

Godshaper s/c (£17-99, Boom!) by Si Spurrier & Jonas Goonface

Briggs Land vol 2: Lone Wolves s/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Brian Wood & Mack Chater, Vanesa R. Del Rey, Werther Dell’Edera

John Lord (£11-99, Humanoids) by Denis-Pierre Filippi & Patrick Laumond

Parker: Slayground s/c (£15-99, IDW) by Richard Stark & Darwyn Cooke

Kill The Minotaur s/c (£17-99, Image) by Chris Pasetto, Christian Cantamessa & Lukas Ketner

Wayward vol 5: Tethered Souls (£15-99, Image) by Jim Zub & Steven Cummings

Ant Wars (£10-99, Rebellion) by Gerry Finley-Day, Simon Spurrier & Jose Luis Ferrer, Alfonso Azpiri, Luis Bermejo, Lozano, Pena, Cam Kennedy

Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor vol 6: The Terror Beneath (UK Edition) s/c (£13-99, Titan) by George Mann, James Peaty & Warren Pleece, Mariano Laclaustra

DC Super Hero Girls vol 5: Date With Disaster s/c (£8-99, DC) by Shea Fontana & Yancy Labat

Venom vol 3: Blood In The Water s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by various

X-Men: Mutant Genesis 2.0 s/c (£22-99, Marvel) by Chris Claremont, Jim Lee, John Byrne, Scott Lobdell & Jim Lee

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews January 2018 week four

Wednesday, January 24th, 2018

Featuring Terry Moore, Sarah McIntyre, Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, Elizabeth Breitweiser, Joris Chamberlain, Aurelie Neyret, David Gaffney, Dan Berry, Ales Kot, Danijel Zezelj, Pierre Christin, Olivier Balez, Jason Aaron, Steve Dillon.

Strangers In Paradise XXV #1 (£3-25, Abstract Studio) by Terry Moore.


There’s a sign on the New York subway accentuated, emphasised and made urgent by piercing eyes. It says:


In a pressed white shirt, suit and tie, a smart man on his smart phone is standing. He is sombrely checking for texts or the latest, breaking News Headlines. He would do well to do that. Satisfied, he slips the phone into his overcoat, scowling at the crowd as the carriage doors open. Commuters get on, commuters get off and, once on the open platform, he checks his coat pocket as per habit, pat-pat. It is not well weighted.




The boy and the man are dashing up the escalator, the small boy diving between pedestrians while the smart man is impeded and – shit – there’s another kid who’s tossed the cell phone sideways in passing! It’s nimbly caught in a pre-planned relay race, the brat in the hoodie heading up the stairs at speed, swerving right towards the foyer’s crossover before throwing this exceptionally mobile phone clean over the gleaming glass balustrade!

It’s gone.



Down below a good-looking woman in her thirties, well dressed for winter in a jacket and loose woollen scarf, calmly and casually removes the SIM card from its casement. As she discards the rest, the detritus unnecessary to her purpose, she glares up at the smart man who’s not now feeling very smart at all, looks her victim straight in the eye and she gives him a grimace which he will never forget.

Oh my God! It’s —

Welcome to Terry Moore’s STRANGERS IN PARADISE – or indeed, welcome back! – on this, its 25th Anniversary. You can read our prior reviews if you fancy, but you need know nothing in order to settle straight in to one of the series we have been most phenomenally fond of in all of our years working in comics, for this is a very fresh start.

After surviving all that the world and Katchoo’s pitch-black past could throw at them, Katchoo and Francine are now happily – nay, blissfully – married, living out in the dessert with their two delightful daughters in a luxury villa financed by Katchoo’s highly successful career in fine art… but probably her previous one too.

Katchoo was a Parker Girl. She “belonged” to Darcy Parker. Darcy Parker was a vicious woman who used other women to infiltrate the government at its highest levels. The Parker Girls were essentially the highest paid prostitutes imaginable, and they never got to leave.

Katchoo left, though I will not say how, and now sits with one of Darcy’s former enforcers, the formidable, ever-brooding, stone-faced Tambi, as they watch Francine play, splashing away during the heat of the day, in the extensive garden’s swimming pool with one of their beloved daughters.

There is so much laughter!

Katchoo is smiling maternally, lovingly, with all the adoration she has always held in her heart for her now-wife Francine, right from the very first moment we met them. Reciprocation did not come easily and it did not come quickly. STRANGERS IN PARADISE was a very long series: 2,400 pages long! But here they are, and they have arrived.

You’ll notice Tambi and Katchoo share a certain look. Darcy Parker liked blondes very much. Tambi is not smiling lovingly and her arms are criss-crossed with scars.



“You know,” begins Katchoo, a twinkle in her eye, “I used to think you only had two looks, mean and meaner. Then I saw you hold my babies.”
“You fought hard for what you have, Katchoo. Wife, kids, a new life… Nothing came easy for you.”

That’s very true.

“I don’t want to see you lose everything you worked for.”
“Why would I lose everything? Tambi?”

I loved the reversal on the first few pages where we came in. Initially I fretted for the smart man with the smart phone (his name’s Scott) for we all fear pickpockets and fewer ever say something even if they see something, and fewer still do anything about it. And Terry keeps you going breathlessly for three pages before you discover the phone’s final recipient.



Scott’s married to a woman called Laura, by the way.

She’s called Laura, but that’s not her name. Her real name is Stephanie, and she has that certain look too.


Oh no.



Please see RACHEL RISING, ECHO and MOTOR GIRL (reviewed rather than narrated, haha!) for more Terry Moore.

Nice reference to the original collection’s cover on the subway sign.


Buy Strangers In Paradise XXV #1 regular cover and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Strangers In Paradise XXV #1 sketch cover and read the Page 45 review here

Kill Or Be Killed vol 3 s/c (£14-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips with Elizabeth Breitweiser.

“And suddenly every word that she said was a gift.
“Every smile was a miracle,
“I’d been so stupid… We’re all so stupid all the time.
“We stop noticing our miracles.”

We do indeed.

And now for the bits you’ve been waiting for!

KILL OR BE KILLED book one began in blazing gunfire, a sequence we’ve been promised a return to, and by the end of this volume you will finally see Dylan in that “hotel” with the shotgun, you’ll understand exactly why he’s so focussed, specifically on social injustice, and it’s all but the beginning of a meticulously thought out act-and-distract plan to shut down the local Russian mafia for good.

If he doesn’t, they’ve given every indication that they will come for his girlfriend, Kira.



KILL OR BE KILLED has been the practical and psychological self-examination of one educated young man’s descent into mass murder.

It didn’t start with the Russian mafia, it began with a suicide attempt and several episodes which he now hopes were psychotic, but I still don’t want to give that game away because we’re looking for new readers here, and it forms such a substantial strand of the series that will keep you speculating feverishly far beyond this volume and well into the next chapters beginning with KILL OR BE KILLED #15.

As to practicalities, we’re most of us more capable than we imagine we are. Dylan is ruminative by nature – which is why it’s taken two volumes to get to this point! – thinking things through, though not all the time with a clear head; that, he would be the very first to concede. Here he contemplates courage, and the nature of fear as something self-imposed as well as instilled in us through aphorisms and cautionary tales designed to curtail our curiosity or limit our ambition (Daedalus / Icarus and “A bird in the hand…” etc). We are persuaded to believe not in ourselves, but in our weaknesses, drawing lines in the sand which we dare not cross. But if others have crossed them – if one person can kill a grizzly bear – why cannot we?



He’s forever referencing films, is our Dylan, and books. As I say, he’s educated and it’s his constant self-questioning which in part makes him so very credible and captivating, engaging his audience conversationally – for he is emphatically addressing each one of us – as to his various successes or failures in storytelling and whether we find him frustrating, which is funny. Here is he shown for umpteenth time breaking and entering into the brothel.

“Okay, so look, I promise you we’re getting very close to this moment.
“By the end of this chapter… for sure.
“I mean, this is all part of that plan I was formulating…
“As you’re going to see soon. Really soon.
“But before we get to this –
“And I know, I know, I’m the worst narrator in history for actually getting to the point…
“Well, maybe after Tristram Shandy
“But there’s just some stuff you have to know before the action gets going again.
“I mean, it can’t all be action… right?”



Dylan’s also unusually self-aware, constantly rummaging around in his own troubled memories and the physical boxes of published art which his father left behind, whilst musing on Kira’s past as well as his father’s sad life and suicide.

“I guess it’s different for people whose fathers didn’t commit suicide, but if yours did, then he’s probably a fairly tragic figure in your memory…
“That familial memory that shapes who you are.
“That’s how it always was for me. My father was legendary and tragic and sad… all at one time.
“And if I had to pick one word that described him best, it would’ve been a tie between “lonely” and “isolated”.

Dylan has just described himself, and little wonder: “That familial memory that shapes who you are.”

He’s far from alone but lonely instead, isolated inside his own head. So often there are moments of hope that he will be able to free himself from the shackles of his pragmatic secrecy, this solitary existence, and steer freely away from the desperate trajectory which he has found himself locked on.

One of those is where we came in and he realises that “We stop noticing our miracles.” Yet it’s these very preoccupations which prevent Dylan from fully engaging and actually existing inside the moment, and those moments of hope do not last long.

All of that is conveyed in the art: in the cinema, for example, with Kira beaming while Dylan sits dead-faced, obsessing over his predicament. And that’s after his supposed satori.



Thanks to Phillips and Breitweiser, Dylan is surrounded by so much arboreal beauty which he singularly fails to notice – even as he’s strolling through Central Park with the love of his life, lit bright with laughter, which was formerly all that he craved – and it will only become more pronounced in the next volume.





It’s not just that he fails to notice it, either: it is that he is entirely removed from its life-affirming balm by his inner demons – the psychotic shit that’s going on his head – and by the very real danger that surrounds them both. That Kira is oblivious to the danger (because Dylan has repeatedly refused to communicate for fear of blurting out the rest) makes the gap between them loom even larger. He has built the proverbial brick wall.

Next volume: Dylan attempts to break down the brick wall down and in so doing, finds it built even higher.

Oh, wait…. The shooty bits…? Knock yourself out. Non-consecutive pages, mind, but Lord, how I love Sean Phillips gunfire.





Parenthetically, there’s a very funny sequence in which a Russian courier clumsily attempts to flirt with a barmaid who may well be gay by solemnly impressing upon her the virtues not of Charles Portis’s novel ‘True Grit’ (which is a tremendously compelling narrative told by a fourteen-year-old girl of exceptional fortitude), but of its cinematic adaptation which was a travesty, and in particular the manly magnificence of John Wayne’s performance which… anyway. The sincerity on that man’s face!

For far, far more (gunfire, plus talk about 3-tier grids, full-bleed art, immersion and cleverly colour-coded displacement) please see prior reviews of KILL OR BE KILLED. Thanks!


Buy Kill Or Be Killed vol 3 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Kill Or Be Killed #15 (£3-25, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips with Elizabeth Breitweiser.

This follows immediately on from KILL OR BE KILLED VOLUME 3.

I wouldn’t normally do this, but we’ve been talking about the disconnect there – between Dylan’s wretched preoccupations and the beauty which surrounds him which he, cruelly, has no mental access to – and it is only accentuated further on the first two pages here.

It’s something that comics can do ever so well under the right writers like Brubaker and artists like Phillips and Breitweisser: the words and the pictures “disagree”. Jon Klassen has made a career out of this for comedic, Young Readers purposes. This is tragic instead.

Look at the exquisite silver livery on these idyllic snow-swept scenes and the rapture being relished by those able to fully inhabit those landscapes by being in the moment and sharing between them its gift!



Now read the words of a perceived grinding life and the fall of the world into geopolitical disorder. “Sad” doesn’t begin to cover it. In volume three of KILL OR BE KILLED Dylan consciously castigated himself thus:

“I’d been so stupid… We’re all so stupid all the time.”
“We stop noticing our miracles.”

Yet within that same volume he almost immediately failed to retain that self-knowledge. It wasn’t wilful, it wasn’t negligent. It was because he was trapped, in his own head and his immediate circumstances of needing to act or the love of his life would be dead. Now he is shackled once again, even further removed from this extraordinary, ordinary joy.



The cover may give you a clue, but only on reading this will you understand how he got there. It has nothing to do with volume three whatsoever. This is an entirely new development.

He’s not really still wearing his mask, but isn’t that ever so telling? Secrets are a terrible thing.


Buy Kill Or Be Killed #15 and read the Page 45 review here

There’s A Shark In The Bath (£6-99, Scholastic) by Sarah McIntyre.

Bed-time reading at its very best, this new red-ruby-foil edition shines especially bright under lamplight

Plus any book of fish that finishes with “FIN” is bound to be all kinds of pun!

(I’m sorry.)

Did you once have a fly in your soup?

Or a frog in your throat?

What about a shark in your bath? How frightful!

That there might be three is unthinkable: a Papa Shark, a Mama Shark and a Baby Shark. A Baby Shark in dental braces! It’s too, too funny! But not for young Dulcie, because Baby Shark’s teeth are as sharp as can be, and they are all ever so hungry!



Dad forgot to pull the plug on last night’s bath and let out all the water. Now the sea has swum up the house spout and brought all kinds of creatures with it!

I’ll show you them soon once they’ve clogged up the room and made a right mess of the sink. But Dulcie’s in deep if she can’t think fast on her feet so it’s lucky they’re curious, don’t you think?

Baby Shark wants to know what toothpaste is, and quick-witted Dulcie delights in showing them.

It is time to play the first game!

Oh, this is ever so clever! How do parents persuade reluctant children to do things they might otherwise avoid? Like brushing their teeth or taking a bath! Having greasy hair washed can elicit very loud wails because some girls don’t wanna have fun! And oh, boys can be even worse: they’d rather grow as manky as a medieval monkey than have Mummy or Daddy wash under their arms. So how do parents do it? (How do they do anything, to be honest? I am in awe.) They turn everything into a game!

So it is here that little Dulcie has learned their lesson well, successively and successfully staving off the starving sharks in a ONE HUNDRED NIGHTS OF HERO sort of a way – not with stories, but with an elaborate set of bathroom rituals and gleeful games.



Look how they love brushing their teeth! With a tooth brush, a back brush and a – oh, Papa Shark, that is a loo brush, you ridiculous buffoon! Ewwww!

Then it’s time for shampoo wigs and, hello, is that a crab?



I did mention, did I not, that the sharks were not the only animals that have swum up from the sea? Very soon the bathroom-based sea-creature carnival is joined by star fish, puffer fish, flying fish, eels, turtles, sea anemones and so many more salt-water critters. And, err, a frog, I think. They play with shaving foam, talcum powder and even lipstick.

Hey, frogs like lipstick! I never knew! (I love the snail’s puckered lips, if you spot them.)



And that is what so much of this riotous fun is about: exploration for wide, shiny eyes! That’s what delights our young ones: spotting all the oh-so-silly yet ever so witty details. Sarah McIntrye has made a career out of giving families value for money in JAMPIRES, PUG-A-DOODLE-DO and so much more (pop Sarah into our search engine – then please let her out to breathe!), spending days on each illustration which adults may only glance at for minutes but which our more inquisitive, discerning former selves would and will spend hours fixating upon!

I’ve drawn several diagrams showing how cleverly the three sharks are projected from the bath, aligned like waves or fountains in their “It’s time to eat you!” interruptions, but you’ll just have to discover those for yourselves.



I leave you instead with this truth: children are inquisitive, bursting with questions, and come fired with a feverish imagination that eludes most of us adults over time. This is precisely what this plays to, and why all your loved ones will relish it over and over again.

I haven’t even told you about the elephant in the room, have I? No, not the bathroom; in the kitchen, silly! It’s in the cereal – shhhhhh!

Top tip: give every kid’s book a similarly wicked reprise!


Buy There’s A Shark In The Bath and read the Page 45 review here

Cici’s Journal h/c (£12-99, FirstSecond) by Joris Chamberlain & Aurelie Neyret…

“See you later, Mom!”
“Alex! Wait!! Where are you…? That’s so strange! He does this every weekend now! He zips off, he’s gone all day, and he comes back covered in dirt and mud!”
“Mine is just the same! And the little girl next door too.”
“Hmm… I don’t know what they’re hiding from us… but it’s all very strange!”
“I can’t even begin to guess!”

Ah, that’s typical Cici! Solving one mystery only to create another, in this case where all the local children keep disappearing off to every spare moment they have, much to the bemusement of their mildly concerned parents. I won’t spoil the surprise by telling you, but it all came about from the ever-curious Cici spotting a strange old man in paint-spattered overalls carrying a parrot in a cage…



He was wandering through the woods near the treehouse which Cici and her two best friends Lena and Erica use as their secret clubhouse. As a writer-in-training, Cici fancies herself as a keen student of people, often profiling the locals and creating elaborate stories for them, so the pigment-coated pensioner promptly piqued her inquisitiveness sufficiently enough to begin a covert investigation into his goings-on. The results astonished her.

Unfortunately her propensity towards the secretive spills over into her relationship with her mum, often involving her two friends, who frequently find themselves covering for her whilst she’s off investigating solo. It’s not that she doesn’t want her mum knowing what she’s doing per se… she’s just got into the bad habit of not telling her, or indeed telling her something else entirely… Understandably, her friends are getting a bit fed up of shoring up Cici’s unnecessary fibs and it’s putting a strain on their friendship. It also grates considerably on her mother that Cici seems to prefer elderly neighbour and published author Mrs. Flores as her confidante…



There’s also a second case in this collection, featuring the widow Ronsin who takes out the exact same book from the local library week after week. All she has to remind her of her late husband Hector are his terse, dry letters from The Front talking about the daily, stark unending reality of war, collected in said book, entitled The Rose And The Mortar, about his troubling times in a secret communications battalion. Hector was so traumatised by what he encountered during the conflict that he came back completely mute, unable to vocalise his feelings for his wife until his death. Yet the widow remains convinced, by the light in his eyes and by his actions, that he still loved her truly and deeply. If only she had something more reflective of his true, caring personality to remember him by…

Enter Cici, fascinated by the widow’s repetitive reading of the particular book in question! Before too long she’s snooping around the library and once again telling fibs to her mum about her whereabouts and further alienating her friends. Even Mrs. Flores is starting to get fed up with Cici’s little deceits. But can Cici discover an emotional treasure trove that’s lain hidden for decades and manage to salvage her relationships with her friends and mum before it’s too late?



Joris Chamblain completely enchanted me with this partly first-person perspective story-telling style, split between mostly pure comics and pages from Cici’s personal journal which is filled with theories regarding her cases and her private thoughts about herself and her friends. Aurelie Neyret illustrates the comics pages in a gorgeously colourful, vibrantly vivid artistic style, very distinct to the journal pages which are chock full of doodles, photographs, crayon drawings and diary entries. It’s a fabulous combination, though, that blends absolutely seamlessly together from a reader’s perspective. There’s even the occasional spot-panel of journal to highlight a certain critical clue or point in the middle of a comics page, which never feels remotely incongruous but only adds to the relentless feel of a young writer-in-training firmly on the sleuthing case! Highly recommended.


Buy Cici’s Journal h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Days Of Hate #1 of 12 (£3-25, Image) by Ales Kot & Danijel Zezelj with Jordie Bellaire.

In whichKot and Zezelj project American socio-politics just a few years down the line from where they are now. As you might suspect, they aren’t very pretty.

“The United States of America, 2022.
“The loss that ripped them apart drove one into the arms of the police state and the other towards a guerrilla war against the white supremacy. Now they meet again. This is a story of a war.”

No, by the way, you are quite mistaken, as was I. Ales Kot will surprise you.

It’s far from dystopian or post-apocalyptic – most of mainstream society’s getting on with life as usual, as it generally does. It’s not they who’ve been targeted. Most of mainstream society doesn’t care what happens to minorities.

“Remember when we all hated on 2016 online? Called it a “trash fire”?
“And then on 2017? 2018, the elections?
“People don’t even hate on 2022. We’re catatonic.”



But the internment camps are back for the dregs of society, and Peter Freeman, head investigator of the Special National Police Force Unit for the Matters of Domestic Terrorism could not be more delighted. That’s what happens when right-wing shit gets normalised.

He’s summoned a Person of Interest, by the way, and interrogating her in a most courteous, affable manner. Will she tell him what he wants to know? The chances are, he already knows it.



Meanwhile, some of the white supremacists are holed up in Herbie’s American Dining, on the outside as bleak as can be – and deliberately bland  – in an open concrete retail park, on the inside oppressively adorned with almost every inch of wall space decked out in red-and-white-striped, nationalistic Americana: giant, overbearing, emblematic bald eagles, wings stretched out proprietarily across flags.

It’s a social occasion, and they are far from stupid. Nor are they inhuman: never make that mistake. Dehumanisation is their preferred province. But the ladies will soon be heading out while the men discuss matters of domestic terrorism. Just not the sort that Peter Freeman’s interested in investigating: who even cares about the queers?

Fortunately someone else does.



“Multiple molotovs thrown through the windows and someone somehow accidentally left a few well-placed and easily flammable objects in close proximity to specifically those windows. Oh, and the doors got locked from the outside and the bouncers got shot.
“Clearly an accident.”

Zezelj excels at the toxic. Not necessarily the chemically toxic, but the socially unsafe, precarious, treacherous. His rough-hewn, shadow-heavy art is haunted. You can see the skulls beneath faces.



Oh, but this sprawling city shines in the dark! Its glossy skyscrapers, glowing with uncaring activity, rear between busy bypasses, overpasses, underpasses, all snaking circuitously in coils round Los Angeles.

Was that a bomb going off?



So yes, with Jordie Bellaire’s considerable colour enhancement, Zelzelj can do sleek and slick too. Those freeways are almost wet with light in the night.

We don’t yet know what happened in Philly. There’s a whole heap of history to explore.

Can we please keep doing our most vocal best to ensure that this never happens? Otherwise it will all begin to look increasingly familiar, normal, mundane.


Buy Days Of Hate #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Robert Moses – The Master Builder Of New York City s/c (£12-99, Nobrow) by Pierre Christin & Olivier Balez…

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

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

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



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

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



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



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

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



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


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

Punisher Max Complete Collection vol 7 s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Steve Dillon…

Originally collected separately as ‘Kingpin’, Bullseye’. ‘Frank’ and ‘Homeless’, this comes to you from the writer of SCALPED (South Dakota crime and grime in the wake of the great Sioux Nation) and the artist on PREACHER (bigger body count than Nick Cave’s ‘Murder Ballads’ LP).

Highly recommended, then, but before we begin, I would remind you that ‘Max’ indicates 16+

Punisher Max: Kingpin

“My eyes, Jesus Christ… I can’t… Are we going to the hospital now?”
“Sure thing, Joey.”
“I don’t know, do they just… just stuff ‘em back in or…?”
“This is far enough.”
“What? But we… but this… This isn’t the hospital.”
“Shut the fuck up, Joey.”


“Oh fuck, I been shot, I been shot! Oh fuck! Oh God in heaven, am I… am I dead?”
“Not yet.”



Intense, non-continuity punishment to the max as we get an alternative presentation of the rise of the most brutal crime lord of all, Wilson Fisk aka The Kingpin. Except in this spectacularly brutal version of events, even by Punisher Max standards, The Kingpin is initially mythical, a non-existent figurehead created by the bosses of the various families to draw Frank Castle out into the open. After nearly thirty years of taking the war to them he’s virtually brought the mob to its knees, and they’ve finally decided it’s time to get together and get smart to take him down. Except, of course, the person who has agreed to be put in the firing line, a bodyguard for one of the bosses, has his own ideas which include that actually being the Kingpin might prove rather rewarding. So as the bosses are playing their game against Castle, little do they realize they’re also fighting a war from within against Wilson Fisk until it’s far too late to do anything about it.

Fantastic black humour throughout from Jason Aaron, but make no mistake: this is serious stuff, complemented by some squeamishly fiendish finger-chopping, handsaw-wielding, head-squishing, eye-popping, gruesome art from Dillon. Both are on top form, combining to produce a very enjoyably dark tale. And just when you’re feeling all sad because it’s come to an end, yet another favourite villain with an eye for the target is introduced in the final panel promising an even bigger body count next time.

Punisher Max: Bullseye

“But, how did you…?”
“Your Russians should’ve never let me through the front door. Doesn’t matter if I’m unarmed or not. Hell, I could kill you with this toothpick. See?”
“Don’t be an idiot. I can’t kill you with a toothpick. But I can with this…”


After the über-intense retelling of the rise to power of one Wilson Fisk (thinking about the rats scene still gives me the shivers), this equally relentless and brutal volume opens with the new Kingpin of crime looking for some heavy firepower to take  Frank Castle out… before the Punisher gets the chance to take him out. Enter Bullseye, here reworked as a rather more disturbingly realistic – though no less psychotic – costume-free hitman for hire with a somewhat… unorthodox approach.



Rather like a method actor, Bullseye feels he can’t undertake the act of killing Frank until he understands what makes him tick, and to do so he needs to ‘become’ the Punisher. This includes kidnapping a mother and her two children (after having shot the father) and taking them to Central Park to be massacred by some of the Kingpin’s lackeys in front of Bullseye whilst they’re all ‘enjoying’ a lovely picnic. Unsurprisingly it doesn’t work, and the Kingpin begins to increasingly question the wisdom of employing an even more unpredictable headcase to rid himself of the one who’s on his case. Mesmerised by Frank’s relentless killing ability, Bullseye begins to fall almost in spiritual love with his quarry, and becomes all the more determined that he has to be the one to kill him.

Whilst no one should be surprised that someone writing something as downright mean and moody as the brilliant SCALPED can produce the incessant, ever more innovative violence that should always be on the menu for this title, it’s great to see Jason Aaron ladles out the sick humour with just as much gusto as Ennis ever did, which combined with the foil of Dillon’s artwork always serves to make Punisher Max a dish best served… from behind a bulletproof serving hatch.

Punisher Max: Frank

 “I don’t know at exactly what point I first became what it is that I am now.
“Maybe it was Vietnam. Maybe it was that day in the park.
“Or maybe I’d been that way all along.
“All I know is, once I finally embraced it, I quickly realised…
“I was never going to stop.”

Okay, it is official that Jason Aaron has now matched Garth Ennis’ previously peerless PUNISHER MAX run. This follows straight on from last volume’s epic physical and psychological confrontation with Bullseye and sees a battered and broken Frank cooling his heels in the State Penitentiary. As he’s laid up in the hospital wing, word spreads of his incapacitated condition and all the cons start sharpening their shivs and daring to dream about becoming a living legend by claiming the biggest scalp of all.



Meanwhile, as Frank’s body heals, he finds his mind wandering to his last days in ‘Nam after the climatic end to his third tour of duty in the hellhole of Valley Forge, and his subsequent attempt to return to civilian life before he lost his entire family in Central Park. As intense as Ennis’s ‘Born’ in PUNISHER MAX VOL 1, this is Aaron’s attempt to further add to the mystery behind the transmogrification of Frank Castle into the killing machine feared, and maybe even a little revered, by the underworld. There’s a truly shocking moment too when, just before the fateful carnage in the park begins, we hear Frank’s final words to his wife.

Punisher Max: Homeless



A fitting conclusion to Jason Aaron’s non-continuity run in which pretty much everybody dies, with the body count reaching truly prodigious levels, as the Kingpin and Frank enter their mutual and most assuredly destructive end game.


Buy Punisher Max Complete Collection vol 7 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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



Nenetl Of The Forgotten Spirits Part 1 (£4-99, Greentea Publishing) by Vera Greentea & Laura Muller

Nenetl Of The Forgotten Spirits Part 2 (£4-99, Greentea Publishing) by Vera Greentea & Laura Muller

Nenetl Of The Forgotten Spirits Part 3 (£4-99, Greentea Publishing) by Vera Greentea & Laura Muller

Nenetl Of The Forgotten Spirits Part 4 (£4-99, Greentea Publishing) by Vera Greentea & Laura Muller

Recipes For The Dead #1 – Dark Delight With Cranberries (£4-99, Greentea Publishing) by Vera Greentea & Ein Lee

Recipes For The Dead #2 – Apricot Asylum (£4-99, Greentea Publishing) by Vera Greentea & Ein Lee

Recipes For The Dead #3 – Steam Minted Meringue (£4-99, Greentea Publishing) by Vera Greentea & Allison Strom

Wraith: House Of Wicked Creatures (£4-99, Greentea Publishing) by Vera Greentea & Jade Mosch



The Altered History Of Willow Sparks (£17-99, Oni) by Tara O’Connor

Anti-Gone (£12-99, Koyama Press) by Connor Willumsen

Carthago s/c (£19-99, Humanoids) by Christophe Bec & Eric Henninot, Milan Jovanovic

Downward To The Earth h/c (£23-99, Humanoids) by Robert Silverberg & Philippe Thirault, Laura Zuccheri

Hellblazer vol 18: The Gift (£26-99, Vertigo) by Mike Carey & Leonardo Manco, Frazer Irving, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Lorenzo Ruggiero

The Lie And How We Told It h/c (£21-99, Fantagraphics) by Tommi Parrish

Marcy And The Riddle Of The Sphinx h/c (£12-99, Flying Eye) by Joe Todd Stanton

The Park Bench (£14-99, Faber & Faber) by Chaboute

Renato Jones: Freelancer Season 2 s/c (£14-99, Image) by Kaare Andrews

Shirtless Bear-Fighter! (£14-99, Image) by Jody Leheup, Sebastian Girner & Nil Vendrell

Green Arrow: The Archer’s Quest s/c (£14-99, DC) by Brad Meltzer & Phil Hester

Amazing Spider-Man vol 7: Worldwide s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott, Christos Gage & Stuart Immonen, Greg Smallwood, others

Punisher vol 3: King Of The New York Streets s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Becky Cloonan & Kris Anka, Matt Horak

Wolverine: Old Man Logan vol 6: Days Of Anger s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Ed Brisson & Mike Deodato Jr.

X-Men Gold vol 3: Mojo Worldwide s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Cullen Bunn, Marc Guggenheim & Jorge Moline, Mike Mayhew, Marc Laming, Diego Bernard

Sweet Blue Flowers vol 1 (£16-99, Viz) by Takako Shimura

Sweet Blue Flowers vol 2 (£16-99, Viz) by Takako Shimura

Fairy Tail vol 63 (£9-99, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews January 2018 week three

Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

Marazano, Luo Yin, Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson, Ales Kot, Andre Araujo, Jeff Lemire, Dustin Nguyen, Dean Ormston, McClung, Guerrero

The Wicked + The Divine vol 6: Imperial Phase Part 2 s/c (£14-99 each, Image) by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie with Matt Wilson.

“Mortals have always shown more interest in gods ever have in mortals.
“Generally speaking, gods desire nothing but adoration.”

Every 90 years a Pantheon of a dozen gods is born anew, activated and guided by ancient Ananke who finds them in overwhelmingly young individuals previously oblivious to their potential or fate. This is to be loved and be hated and to shine like stars and – within two years – to be quite, quite dead.

In this modern incarnation one element in that equation has now changed irrevocably, so that none of that sentence remains necessarily true, except this: they were each born anew. They retain none of their previous experience on which to formulate priorities or base a sense of perspective.



Now a balance has been broken, the trajectory changed. Warnings have gone unheard or unheeded. Those who are left behind are flailing in their newfound freedom, some falling into unthinking, untempered hedonism regardless of the cost to others’ hearts, and fighting each other because they can. And because power.

All of that power is intoxicating and addictive, both to witness and to wield.

Even the mildest among them are flashing their metaphorical teeth.



Also, can you imagine having been someone else? Perhaps you once were. Perhaps all of us once were, to some extent, after a teenage transmogrification, but few of us have survived this sort of schism.

That is one of the keys to Kieron’s success in making this pantheon of elevated individuals so very familiar and therefore intriguing: they are as emotionally vulnerable as those of us less exalted. Conflicts aren’t just battles you have with other people.



That is radically different to the way I’ve previously sold THE WICKED + THE DIVINE both on the shop floor and in extensive reviews. Do please check those reviews out if you are new and intrigued, because by this point we are trying our best to avoid spoilers while still luring new readers in to what is already one of our biggest selling series of graphic novels alongside SAGA, LAZARUS and anything by Brubaker & Phillips like CRIMINAL, FATALE, THE FADE OUT or KILL OR BE KILLED (all reviewed too).

Speaking or Rucka and Lark’s LAZARUS, however, that series contains within (I will not say where) the most successful sleight of hand I have ever encountered in comics so that, upon reading the final page of volume four, you will be compelled to re-read everything up to that point. Similarly (similarly – ha!), THE WICKED + THE DIVINE contains a dozen such sleights of hand to this date. Let me elucidate without explaining: there are a good half a dozen sequences which, as you read them, you will take as read; but what you have witnessed is not what occurred. Then there’s the retrospective reveal and each one holds water: hindsight can be a miraculous thing.



However, let us return to power as “intoxicating and addictive, both to witness and to wield”.

None of this intoxication – of modern mortals relishing gods in their midst, or of these petulant powerhouses getting high on their own supply – would be remotely credible were it not for McKelvie and Wilson delivering on the awe-inspiring wonder front.

Between them they have managed to channel what is chemically psychotropic into its visual equivalent and equal.  I once saw Goldfrapp perform while I was stone-cold sober, yet I could swear that I had necked ecstasy on top of elephantine quantities of speed. So it is here: what McKelvie and Wilson present on the pages is mind-altering and mood-altering, yet legal.



Almost every volume of THE WICKED + THE DIVINE comes with an extensive back-matter process piece wherein you are given a glimpse as to how the creators between them conjure (and I use that word with precision) effect after effect whose affect is nothing short of alchemical.

It’s far easier to talk of this in terms of adrenaline effect than it is to specifically parse or prise apart its constituent catalysts. Or at least, it is for someone like me: I’m a writer, not an artist. I’m still reeling from the day-glo.

But its day-glo is colour-coded, for example, to each individual’s propensity or power set, subconsciously informing you whence it came: its instance of origin. See Dionysius’s crowd-leap of faith.



Letter artist Clayton Cowles manages much the same thing in his cuing and so cluing: each individual has a unique signature speech which leaves the combined creators room to keep the free-flow show rolling without having to provide expository asides that would otherwise ruin your immersion.

What I am trying to impress upon you is that this is the most modern of multi-creator comics. It is all-embracing and all-inclusive not only in terms of its protagonists and audience, but in its cooperative cohesion when it comes to sequential-art storytelling: each element is understood as equally important and each uniquely-skilled contributor invited to give of their therefore informed and very best.

This is generous storytelling. It reaps rewards.



Which would be a fine note on which to finish any review but there’s a couple of action panels that I am particularly fond of this issue, when it is usually the nuanced conversations which I enjoy most, accompanied by equally subtle shifts in expressions which are evidence of an actor/director (the best artists are both) at their peak.

In the first, lightning strikes, in the form of Baal punching down on a bed. A split-second earlier, on it lay Sakhmet and Persephone. Persephone is thrown back by the force, but she wasn’t Baal’s target: his fist was aimed squarely at Sakhmet. Sakhmet is a lion-warrior goddess and I don’t believe that Baal was downwind. Such are her instincts and agility that she is already back-flipping behind Baal like the lithest of Olympic-level athletes on high-jump. That image alone is a triumph of action/reaction kinetic form and balletic grace, never mind its immediate, skin-shredding successor.



But that’s not actually my point. My point is the contrast between that and a panel in the second, earlier chapter when another woman is discovered by Baal in bed, dressed in tribute to Sakhmet. She is beautiful in her own right, but neither her build nor her poise possess any of the prowess that it would take to elude a similar strike. Nothing needs explaining: the visual is all you need to alert you in an instant to this mistaken identity.

Still, she does have quick enough wits to ask for an autograph.


Buy The Wicked + The Divine vol 6: Imperial Phase Part 2 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Descender vol 5: Rise Of The Robots (£14-99, Image) by Jeff Lemire & Dustin Nguyen.

“You are a liar, Quon. You are a good liar, but a liar nonetheless.”

TIM-22 is right, of course: Dr. Quon’s entire career has been built upon one key deceit.

“Robots never lied before you created the TIM series… before you gave robotkind the upgrades that made us more human and more like you.”

Dr. Quon’s stellar success followed his creation of the companion machines called TIM, each resembling an angelic human boy. It was a huge advance in robotics which he claimed as his own, but he stole the technology; and when the celestial, planet-sized Harvesters arrived ten years ago to wipe out vast swathes of organic life and so catalyse a war on all robots, it was discovered that they bore the same machine codex – the robotic DNA – of the TIMs.

We still don’t know why.

This is the penultimate volume.

Please see previous reviews of DESCENDER for more. The watercolours on the inside are every bit as beautiful as the covers.


Buy Descender vol 5: Rise Of The Robots and read the Page 45 review here

The Dream Of The Butterfly vol 1: Rabbits On The Moon (£11-99, Lion Forge) by Richard Marazano & Luo Yin.

“Once upon a time, I dreamt I was a butterfly. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man…”

 – Zhuangzi

It remains to be seen whether that famous, quizzical, open-minded perspective – quoted halfway through this first beautiful blizzard – carries any pertinence to the proceedings whatsoever, but if in any chaotic doubt, quote someone profound: it looks ever so impressive.

This too looks ever so impressive from cover to cover and the first three sky-bright, green-grass pages will have young eyes hooked. It’s all exceedingly Hayao Miyazaki, isn’t it? Those landscapes are lush!



It is quite evidently Spring, with pink cherry blossom blowing on the breeze before being buffeted further, almost psycho-kinetically, by Tutu’s first temper tantrum. Upon her second outburst at the position she has found herself in – away from home, her potential return coming only at a cost – those feathery flakes are then joined in the cerulean splendour by a cloud of radiant white butterflies on some elusive, migratory path. This isn’t accidental, but it is all quite, quite magical.



I love that the three-page sequence begins looking up from the verdant meadow as if kneeling (c.f.  Monet’s ‘Woman With The Parasol’) with majestic, snow-capped mountains rising in the distance under breathless, billowing clouds, and concludes in gazing down into the valley town whither she and her talking cat must evidently, so reluctantly return and such is the delicate detail that it almost demands a double-page spread of its own:

A clean and crisp island citadel surrounded by deep blue water, joined by bridges to its adjacent concentric rings and other outlying areas, all encompassed by more glacial mountains but, in between, similarly sweet Spring pastures.



Six months earlier, and what Tutu has accidentally tumbled into instead is a city, albeit extraordinary, which lies gripped under a bizarre dictatorship and in an eons-old winter, whose consequent, insatiable demands for heat energy has enslaved so much of its population to a daily grind of, umm… hamster-handling.

I’m not even kidding you.

Earlier that day, on a bright winter’s morning:

“Hurry up, children. Today we’re going to explore outside…”

Out into the snow dash a dozen children lead by their teacher. They are excited! Strangely, they have left Tutu behind. She emerges from her comfy bed in the shared dormitory (evidently this is a boarding school) to dress and discover that the only occupants left are the cooks.

“Yes! Yes! Yes! A whole day of freedom! Finally!”

And out into the snowscape strides Tutu too. Except that an un-forecasted storm suddenly closes in, the teacher finally thinks to do a head-count (because you always do that halfway through your field trip, don’t you?) and Tutu who’s solo is lost in the freezing-cold gale and wanders into that previously undiscovered town.



It’s an odd place indeed, populated by hostile, anthropomorphic animals which don’t appear to like little girls, not one jot. Ugly little girls aren’t allowed to have names, and they’re certainly not allowed out at night. They aren’t actually allowed, basically. And no one, it seems, likes strangers.

“Just what do you have against people who aren’t from here?”
“Well… they’re not from here, right?”
“Yes, that’s it! They’re not from here!”



Possibly the finest creation here, these are the Emperor’s Secret Police, initially arriving to arrest her. Ears flopping all over the place, they’re a bumbling bunch of albino rabbits which reappear over and over again to cause chaos wherever they go. Conversational and kindly, but largely clueless, they take her to court whereupon Tutu is billeted with a maternal budgerigar who is immediately on hand to meet and greet her and put her to bed. It is, at least, a very efficient care system!

The next morning she’s promptly pushed out on the street and told to work at The Factory.  What Tutu isn’t told, in this archetypal lost-dream scenario, is how to get there, but it’s here that the Secret Police begin to come into their own because they’re the least Secret Police of all time! Sent by the Emperor to spy on her, they instead break cover continually to help Tutu catch the right bus or boat on her way while trying to keep tabs on what she might be up to.



Most of the townsfolk remain far from friendly, scattering from the bus in horror, but a giant panda – himself on his way to work – is on hand to introduce Tutu to her new daily routine. Unlike the rest of this candy-like city, the industrial waterways are a grim, smog- and soot-clogged nightmare. This is odd, given that the whole system is powered organically by hamsters running frantically in tiny, treadmill wheels. It’s a bit barbaric, to be sure, but there’s no carbon or coal being burned, so why all the smoke? From an environmental viewpoint, it’s ecologically ideal, while its distribution system seems to be a stream of self-powering, air-borne Chinese lanterns.

If you haven’t yet twigged then, beyond the beauty, I am having a fair few problems here.

In my review of Joe Todd-Stanton’s excellent ARTHUR AND THE GOLDEN ROPE I opined that “In every all-ages / young-readers’ great graphic novel there must be certain things present including wit, rules and exploration for eyes.” Rules can be broken – they almost demand to be broken – but without establishing these boundaries first, dramatic tension quickly dissipates.



And I can see that the chaos of this city brings with it the most unexpected delights – you never know what to expect in this endless series of odd interventions! – but so much here does not add up. The only rule that seems to apply here is that Tutu needs to sleep every night in her bed (and so dream of Spring) but she doesn’t appear to need to eat: everything offered is so revolting that I don’t think she’s eaten for a week.

I think I’ve figured out the environmental conceit: the lost butterflies which Tutu’s been charged with finding and why this city is in perpetual winter. I think it’s something similar to Daishu Ma’s silent graphic novel LEAF but I could be wrong.



Look, this is lovely. It’s pretty. There’s certainly no lack of exploration for eyes. I like that the city looks like Bratislava with all its candy-coloured domiciles and exceedingly hostile inhabitants. (Trust me: I’ve been there.) I love that the Budgie’s house is built around a living tree topped with a giant nest, and that bath time at Mrs B’s comes with bog-eyed, sentient suds.  I adore that some of the civilians are automatons – one a bipedal gas lamp in a raincoat and hat.

But in this first of four parts at least, it lacks a certain degree of grist and that vital credibility needed to ground the otherwise fantastical. Still, first of four parts: hopefully the second will give me good cause to eat, then rewrite my words.


Buy The Dream Of The Butterfly vol 1: Rabbits Of The Moon and read the Page 45 review here

Generation Gone vol 1 (£15-99, Image) by Ales Kot & Andre Lima Araujo.

News headline:

“African American Shot After Offering Help To Lost Driver.
“Driver assumed man was going to rob him.”

Welcome to Generation Gone.

Most of our best comics’ covers contain some narrative element but few exceed snapshots or an elegant, perhaps impassioned distillation of what lies within. Almost all of my favourite graphic novels fall into those categories. I find no fault in that marketing strategy: please give me maximum impact.

But this collection’s cover speaks of so much more if you study it closely, and it contains not one lie.

However, were you to flip through this after a first read then you’d find page after page of unbridled anger, furious displays of once repressed rage; now empowered and unleashed: flashing eyes and screams of injustice bursting from previously gritted teeth.



“General… with all due respect, I don’t think you understand what I did…
“I know you are like me. You want to succeed at what you do.
“What I do is evolution…
“What you do is war.
“So I built you a perfect war machine.”

Ummm… no, you didn’t, Mr Akio: perfect war machines don’t have minds of their own. Perfect war machines aren’t already embittered towards their governments through acts of police brutality, endemic racism and authorities mismanaging that which they know to be toxic. Perfect war machines don’t already harbour long-standing grudges towards each other as well as the world and, in simple terms, are uncomplicated.

This is going to get complicated.



We begin on the other side of the Military Science fence with three young friends who have lives and ambitions of their own.

Two of them are a couple, late at night, flat-on-their-backs, and wishing upon stars. Elena wishes that her boyfriend Nick would reciprocate her love for him, vocally. Nick wishes that his “babe” would just shut the fuck up. Actually Elena’s aspirations aren’t even that high: she’s all apologies for her open declaration of unequivocal affection, while Nick insists that she should feel gratitude for his indulgence of (and tolerance towards) her pathetic, needy, cloying emotions. Sadly, she does.

“Are you ready for tomorrow?”
“Born ready. Born to make a mark.”

They’re really not ready for anything that will follow but, yes, Nick wants to make a mark. Delighting in his own ego, he is unable to meaningfully engage with any degree of comprehension; he’s a big fan of the film ‘Taxi Driver’, but I’m not sure that he’s learned the right lessons. I don’t think you’ll like him at all.

Nick, Elena and Baldwin are also consummate code-breaking hackers. They’ve already broken into the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency’s exceptionally well protected website twice and, in a trial run for their real end-goal which is money, they are about to do it a third time.



Baldwin is alone, organised, disciplined but driven. You may discern what drives him right at the top of this review. He exercises at the crack of dawn then blends nutritious juice to sustain his peak physical and mental acuity. Then he wipes the surfaces clean. He is meticulous.

Elena is loving and doting, not only on dismissive prick Nick to whom she is loyal, but on her mother who is undergoing treatment for cancer. Constantly they cuddle up on the coach. They tease each other too.

Nick eats with what’s left of his family in silence before skulking upstairs – to his childishly door-declared exclusive domain – to draw his own bath. Perched on the toilet and staring into his smart phone while the water runs, his finger is idly pressed between his big toe and second, and you just know that he’ll sniff himself before getting in.

How each behaves during their final trial (but still live) run at code-hacking is telling, excruciating even.



They think they’ve gone undetected. They haven’t. They’ve been hooked.

So let’s flick back to the military’s perspective:

“Everything in the world is code…
“The human genome. The computers. Your phones. The traffic. The movements of the oceans, the movements between our neurones.
“Everything is code. Including our flesh.
“So how do we rewrite it?”

This is young, bespectacled Mr. Akio, working for S.T.A.R., a subsection of D.A.R.P.A., tasked with helping to re-establish America’s global dominance which, as he perceives it, has been eroded “at an increasingly rapid rate since 1970s”. He has contributed to this military endeavour by building ideas, codes and machines, all part of Project Airstrip. We are shown some very big mechs indeed.



Now he unveils to the military board his own private ideal, Project Utopia. It is code-based and clever, pertaining to humans. But how do we rewrite that code in humans which generally takes multiple generations of genetic evolution?

“Have you ever read a book that changed your life? I bet you have. The content of the book changed the way you processed information. Then it changed the way your brain processed the information. Then it changed the way you interacted with the world.”

I don’t think the General is much into reading.

Mr Akio is ordered to stand down, but he doesn’t and is discovered. The General is infuriated.



“Project Utopia is dead.
“Please point out all hard drives containing anything pertaining to Project Utopia to the soldiers. We are confiscating everything related to the project effective immediately. Why the hell would you think, even for a second, that you can do this behind our backs? We own everything you make.
“We own you.”

From the writer of WOLF, ZERO and MATERIAL comes what seems on the surface to be a far more traditional comic about power and powerlessness but it still packs a political punch and has many an unusual angle to explore. You don’t generally associate Generals with powerlessness, do you? Yet over and again – and in spite of his iron-fisted rule – you will find this military man wrong-footed both by those under his immediate command and mere civilians whom he believes he can intimidate.

It begins from the outset, for once more behind his superiors’ backs, Mr. Akio throws the book full of life-changing code at our three hackers. Alter the code, upgrade the human – physically, anyway.



The immediate transformation at the end of the first chapter – and almost everything that follows born of multiple miscalculations – is a pretty grim ordeal, but the single Araujo image that haunted me most – and does still – is Mr. Akio’s eyes when threatened and dismissed.


Buy Generation Gone vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Dragonseed h/c (£22-99, Humanoids) by Kurt McClung & Mateo Guerrero…

“You saved me… you don’t even know me. Be mine, little hero… all mine!”

Steady on, I only recommended you some great comics! This doesn’t quite hit those heights, though it is certainly enjoyable enough, particularly for fans of Euro-fantasy fiction.

It proved a fascinating read, actually, from a reviewing perspective. I started off rather enjoying the story and the setting out of the characters, as we all know that can be the weak point with Euro-fantasy, yet struggling with the art slightly, which is certainly not on the ligne claire levels of other Humanoids output such as THE SWORDS OF GLASS. That soon past, however, although I did find it eventually became somewhat excessive on the Euro-boobage score for my tastes.



The plot revolves around the denizens of Krath and the uneasy, millennia-old truce that holds between humans and dragons. Our hero Adam Spittleseed, a half-man, half-dragon known as a Dragonseed is charged with finding the teardrop stone, a mythical relic that has the power to stave off the impending conflict by continuing to power a prophecy machine. Such stones are incredibly rare, mind, formed only when a dragon sheds a tear, an event occurring just once in each dragon’s lifetime. I should add, in case you are wondering about the eye-watering improbability of such an inter-species offspring, that dragons, in addition to their various other abilities, are also shape-changers…



By the end, however, I have to confess I was wearying of the continually over-dramatic language and slightly disjointed story-telling. It all makes sense story-wise, I just found myself having to concentrate a bit harder than I would have liked to follow the flow of the action for some reason, which is a shame, because it is an enjoyable romp with a decent, in-depth plot and some cracking characters. Still, as I say, if you fancy a bit of swords and sorcery with hordes of dwarves, elves, orcs, ogres and of course dragons, or are just likely to be titillated by some <ahem> robust figure-work, this could be for you.




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

Black Hammer vol 2: The Event s/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Jeff Lemire & Dean Ormston…


So I did just that, and read volume two of Jeff & Dean’s Pindaric ode to superheroes. What a resounding celebration, indeed homage, to many a classic cape ‘n’ tights character it is. It’s just that it is so much better than most of the DC and Marvel output which inspired it!

We pick up with our disparate group of bickering superchums still trapped in the surreal small town in the veritable middle of nowhere that increasingly seems more like a prison constructed to trap them forever than mere alternate reality. Being mangled as they are through Jeff’s trademarked wringer of angst at their temporally testing fate, their collective patience is getting stretched ever-tighter than Mr. Fantastic’s Y-fronts, and someone is about to snap…



We also learn precisely how Joseph Weber, the headstrong Black Hammer, managed to get himself disintegrated trying to affect an immediate escape to get back to his family. Which blows my own personal theory about precisely where they are totally out of the water… We also get his origin story in a glorious little nod to Jack Kirby.



Black Hammer’s then ten year old daughter Lucy was one of the few back in Spiral City who never stopped believing her dad and his friends are still out there somewhere. Ten years on, now a young woman who’s spent the last decade desperately missing her hero dad, she’s never stopped searching and her patience is about to be, at least, partially rewarded. That old adage about being careful what you wish for is what springs to mind, though…

Look closely at the single issue covers, by the way, included here in this collection as chapter breaks, and I suspect you may well ‘recognise’ some of them. Reading this title is just such fun, albeit rather punishing for our poor cast. What a double team Lemire and Ormston are! If Jeff is dour and downbeat Bruce, gradually grinding his characters into the proverbial chiropteran guano then Dean is showy and ostentatious Dick, all flashy lines and gaudy colours livening up the show!

For far, far more, please see BLACK HAMMER VOL 1.


Buy Black Hammer vol 2: The Event s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Kill Or Be Killed vol 3 s/c (£14-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips, Elizabeth Breitweiser

The King Of The Birds (£12-99, Nobrow) by Alexander Utkin

Lights Of The Amalou s/c (£35-99, IDW) by Christophe Gibelin & Claire Wendling

Robert Moses – The Master Builder Of New York City s/c (£12-99, Nobrow) by Pierre Christin & Olivier Balez

Sketches From A Nameless Land – The Arrival Companion (£14-99, Lothian) by Shaun Tan

Tales From The Age Of The Cobra (£22-99, IDW) by Enrique Fernandez

The Three Rooms In Valerie’s Head (£17-99, Top Shelf) by David Gaffney & Dan Berry

Nightwing vol 4: Blockbuster s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Tim Seeley & Javier Fernandez, others

Punisher Max Complete Collection vol 7 s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Steve Dillon

X-Men: Legion – Shadow King Rising s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by Chris Claremont, Fabian Nicieza, Peter David, Jim Lee & Bill Sienkiewicz, Butch Guice, Marco Silvestri, Andy Kubert, Whilce Portacio, others

Mobile Suit Gundam Wing vol 4 (£11-99, Vertical) by Katsuyuki Sumizawa & Tomofumi Ogasawara

There’s A Shark In The Bath (£6-99, Scholastic) by Sarah McIntyre