Posts in the ‘Reviews’ Category

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews August 2016 week four

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

“If it doesn’t already exist, Eddie Campbell will invent it.”

 – Stephen on Bacchus Volume Two

Bacchus Volume Two Omnibus Edition s/c (£35-99, Top Shelf) by Eddie Campbell.

“The Screamin’ Habdabs! How did they get back?”
“It’s beyond me.”
“Everything’s beyond you, Mortal Ken.”

Let the revelry recommence!

ALEC’s Eddie Campbell recounted tales of his 4,000-year-old, weather-worn demigod for nearly one and a half decades, ending in 1999. Sub-titled “Immortality Isn’t Forever”, BACCHUS VOLUME ONE found the Greek god of wine washed up on strangely sympathetic modern shores in far from fine physical fettle but with his spirits still riding high.
It was as much about the stories Bacchus had to tell – of his and other gods’ escapades – as it was about Bacchus himself, who wandered across the globe from bar to bar or beach to beach in a battered old coat and a fisherman’s cap which hides his wizened brow and his twin, stubby horns but not his lived-in laughter lines. Wherever he roamed he found ancient friends, along with new devotees eager to imbibe his wisdom.

Bacchus vol 2 1

In this concluding volume our weary one seeks successive sanctuary in two English country pubs, the second of which – on the shore – secedes from Britain after being condemned by Health & Safety.

Structurally, things will not improve save for a singular and substantial erection commemorating the King’s birthday. The King in question is Bacchus himself who brews beer from abstract concepts on which – as an independent state – they refuse to pay taxes. Worried lest some Scottish islands distilling whiskey follow suit, thereby depriving the government of millions in revenue, the pub is besieged by the police; but it’s that glorious morning’s monument which will finally put paid to the monarchy and bang Bacchus back up for a much longer stint than the one during which we first met him – at Her Majesty’s pleasure.

Meanwhile there’s that revelry I made mention of, which is where Eddie’s cohort in ‘Campbell Industries’ comes to the fore, because Pete Mullins has one hell of an eye for drop-dead gorgeous ladies dancing their deliciously curved hips off.

Bacchus vol 2 2

These contours are accentuated by ever-so-chic dresses patterned with horizontal black and white stripes which – in the interests of equality – will serve a similarly revealing purpose on Bacchus’ old-skool bathing suit, showing off his own not inconsiderable assets.

Unfortunately this attracts the attention of both Delirium Tremens and dour, disapproving Mr Dry, the latter pursuing the drink-loving demigod through a series of paintings, leaving each one a great deal less lively for his prohibitive presence. Hogarth’s ‘Beer Street’, for example, loses all its lust, lustre and indeed frothy beverages, rendering its remaining denizens so sour-faced that one of them petulantly kicks a cat.

Bacchus vol 2 4

There are so many background jokes in that sequence alone, but this entire penultimate storyline is packed full of similarly anarchic ideas including a lady called Collage and a whole host of your favourite comicbook creators – Dave Sim (“I’ve fixed it so I can’t be wrong!”), Neil Gaiman (constantly in demand to write blurbs for the back of the bar menu), Alan Moore, Jeff Smith et al – enduring mischievous mockery and considerable indignities, all in the aid of an elaborate storytelling slight-of-hand.

Bacchus vol 2 3

Eddie Campbell’s portraits are so spot-on that you’ll recognise anyone you know immediately – so much so that when a character copyrighted by a certain corporation crops up without signing-posting, your brain will flip in a single second from an incredulous “He hasn’t…!” to a grin-inducing “Oh yes, he has!” As to Campbell’s ability to mimic, there’s also an extensive parody of superhero trends at the time, right down to Rob Liefeld’s inking style. If you think that’s odd in such a body of work, then it’s perhaps because I’ve yet to remind you that two-thirds of each volume is given over to the insane and highly explosive antics of the Eyeball Kid.

I alluded to Campbell’s love of Jack Kirby in BACCHUS VOLUME ONE, but here there’s an out-and-out 90-page slugfest (‘Hermes Versus the Eyeball Kid’) specifically inspired by Lee & Kirby’s Hulk VersusThing showdowns. It comes complete with similarly structured splash pages, as well as more than one homage (making much use of that cog-based Spirograph toy which was all the rage half a century ago) to the photographic special effects which Kirby occasionally introduced to his line work. As to its laugh-out-loud, OTT “Behind you!” climax, it is ever so worthy of Kirby and Lee.

Bacchus vol 2 5

Anyway, stories: instead of Bacchus regaling his acolytes, this time he’s on the receiving end both in clink and in his cups. In ‘1001 Nights of Bacchus’ it’s a Sheherezade-like situation, only without the threat of instant execution. As Bacchus settles in at The Travellers Joy and threatens to fall asleep, the storytellers’ incentive is to keep him awake and so each evening’s Last Orders at bay. Eddie explains his colleagues’ collaboration and later the whole ‘Campbell Industries’ semi-satirical scenario in the various introductions, but – initially inspired by the short stories of O. Henry – Campbell and co come up with a dazzling array of entertainments, diverse in form, content and execution. There’s an illustrated, rhyming ditty on bad beer penned by Marcus ‘Minty’ Moore, a ridiculously elaborate twist on the stock scenario of the Englishman, American/Welsh/Scottish and Irishman joke involving a badly behaved superhero (the stuff that Campbell can pack in to a single six-page story!), a wordless wonder ostensibly mimed by a Marcel Marceau – and when I say “ostensibly” and “wonder”, it actually stars an impeccably drawn Stan Laurel surviving a day of very bad omens and incredibly good luck with “another fine mess” of a punchline – and, perhaps my favourite, the complete discombobulation of ‘The Man Who Couldn’t Say Boo’ for whom order is all and firing someone such an anathema that he goes to increasingly ludicrous, message-leaving lengths not to do it in person.

Bacchus vol 2 6

As to the styles used in rendering, we have crisp and clear for the meticulous one above, photography with attendant ransom-note cut-and-pasted lettering, lots of scalpel-cut Letratone, a dirty sort of affair employing background textures acquired through grained paper or board rubbed with graphite for a grave-based, hallucinatory horror story which may owe something to Aristophanes’ Ancient Greek play ‘The Frogs’ (I’m thinking the “Bobok” refrain – and also the frogs!) … and that’s just for those opening short stories!.

Basically this: it is by now a cliché – which I am as guilty of as anyone in perpetuating – to describe Eddie Campbell as the finest raconteur in comics.

But I don’t just mean his gift of the gab in person or in print. I mean Eddie’s ability to time his tall tales with such pin-point precision for maximum mirth, conjuring whatever visual tricks he deems most efficacious from previously thin air.

If it doesn’t already exist, Eddie Campbell will invent it.

Bacchus vol 2 7

For more salutations and celebration, please see our review of BACCHUS VOLUME ONE, ALEC and so much more by popping Eddie Campbell into our search engine.

“It’s been centuries since I commanded such devotion.
“And I thought that young people today had no respect for traditional values.
“And in these post-convivial times, too. My cult is born again.
“The doings of this day will re-establish my worship in the world.
“My disciples will carry forth the word and the word is…
“Cheers.”

SLH

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

10 Great Ways To Spend A Day in Nottingham Print (Signed, Limited Edition of 75) (£6-00) by Christian Palmer-Smith.

“God, this fills me with such affection for Nottingham.”

– Chris Gardiner

Bigger than a 7-inch single, printed on quality paper, backed, bagged and signed by Christian Palmer-Smith, this glorious artefact to treasure forever is limited to 75 copies worldwide. I tried to persuade Kit to go for a higher price point but he wasn’t having it, so now you can instead for a ridiculously affordable six quid.

Mine’s mounted and framed, hanging opposite original Page 45-related art by Duncan Fegredo and Marc Laming with some Bryan Lee O’Malley thrown in for good measure. For yes, Page 45 features stage-centre here along with 9 other Nottingham Independent outlets including Rough Trade, Ludorati and Ideas On Paper.

It’s an inspired and inspiring print that reflects not just the diversity of Nottingham’s independent pleasures but also their quality and individuality. And since time passes, we can comfortably call it a comic!

10 of my fav things to do in Nottingham

I love the real wit of each panel, evidenced by precisely which aspect/details of his visits Christian has chosen to illustrate, the parenthetical asides and the carefully chosen colour palettes. Page 45’s shelves aren’t the same soft faun, nor are all its graphic novels, yet by restricting himself to a warm and gentle range, Page 45 is presented as a relaxed and comfortable place to browse and one’s eyes are drawn to this central panel around which the more colourful recommendations can then orbit in an orderly fashion without bombarding your brain.

By contrast, Ideas On Paper’s magazines – catering for every interest you could imagine, no matter how recondite – are rendered in all their multicoloured splendour against a spacious white wall and reproduced with a mind-boggling level of detail which put me in mind of Philippa Rice’s diorama window for Page 45 many moons ago. In Rough Trade’s case, the evening’s entertainment is spotlit instead, just like any gig. Clever!

In many other hands this would have been a simple checklist, but by considering each experience from its singular perspective (dwarfed by a modern art exhibition at the Contemporary; intimate, framed, with heads seen from behind at the Broadway Cinema) and by indicating added value (“Get a tutorial in comics from Page 45: they sure do know their stuff” – we do love providing shop-floor recommendations to anyone who asks!) it surpasses any mere A-Z and becomes a journey to cherish and remember.

We begin, of course, as is customary for all Nottingham assignations, by meeting Mr. Palmer-Smith at the Lions.

SLH

Buy 10 Great Ways To Spend A Day in Nottingham Print (Signed, Limited Edition of 75) and read the Page 45 review here

Hellbound (£8-99, Retrofit) by Kaeleigh Forsyth & Alabaster Pizzo.

“I’m going to start wearing lipstick and if that doesn’t get me anywhere I’ll begin to address my emotional problems.”

All the funnier for being delivered deadpan by writer and artist alike, these are succinct Notes To Self satirise bad behaviour, warped priorities and consumerist claptrap like editorial advertisements.

With primary colours which belie the procession of daily disappointments, they’re clever without screaming about how clever they are.

“Intimate life details I know about dudes who only possibly remember my name”, for example, is not just a list of extraordinary confidences or confessions, which sounds sweet, but – when you consider the title – a searing indictment of the self-obsessed: those who don’t listen nor care to ask questions.

Hellbound 2

HELLBOUND is also one big commiseration with those who feel – or are made to feel – lonely, inadequate or unfulfilled.

“New goals for 2016” includes:

“Cry less in public
“Cry less in private
“Continue not having children
“Get to 5pm every day without fastening cinder block to ankle + walking into East River
“Clean grout in shower.”

Boastful round-robin Christmas or New Year messages are given a good roasting, as is Ernest Hemingway, while “Problems I’ve Learned To Live Around’ will speak volumes to the world’s worst procrastinators like me.

You can be sure that self-validation through approbation on social media like Instagram and Twitter crops up and I laughed at myself a lot then.

Hellbound 3

One of the finest sequences involves a language learning app taken “to kill time & quell the mind demons on the flight home”. The humour is cumulative as the app offers up sentences to translate from German which are as random as they are ridiculous as they are least likely to lull your thoughts from imminent plane-crash conflagration.

My favourite, however, is a single page in which our long-suffering lady has dressed up smartly for a date (lipstick dutifully applied) and sits with all the composure in the world on a train en route to meet him, while casting her mind back on all their previous liaisons. She’s drinking. Heavily.

“by the time i get to the stop i hate him abd am embarrassed to br seen our w/ him”

Now would probably be a good – if not propitious – time to start addressing those emotional problems instead.

Hellbound 1

SLH

Buy Hellbound and read the Page 45 review here

Cry Havoc vol 1: Mything In Action s/c (£13-99, Image) by Simon Spurrier & Ryan Kelly, various.

And the award for very best titular pun goes to…

“So why is she on her own?”
“Huh. She ate her sister. Ah, it was ill. Probably would’ve been put down anyway. But Princess Giggles, there? Whoof.”

In which you will learn more about hyenas’ genitalia than you expected to. Certainly more than I’m comfortable talking about here. If you care to read Si’s extensive annotations in the back you will learn even more about lithium, opium, exocannanibalism, theophagy, Blackwater (a right old, well deserved rant), assorted American military hardware and oh so many myths from throughout history and across the globe including a rich vein of vampires which make Bela Lugosi look bland. About werewolves you will learn that we shouldn’t be calling them werewolves. For now, I will be calling them werewolves.

Cry Havoc vol 1 1

I like a comic whose arcane aspects have been thoroughly researched but which isn’t insistent on ramming that research down your throat in order to get a First Class degree in Esoterics and require readers do same to decode it. By all means give us a gander in the back, but not in the story itself, please. Hurrah for Si Spurrier, then! I thought this was enormous fun.

Drawn throughout by LOCAL and THE COMPLETE NEW YORK FOUR artist Ryan Kelly, CRY HAVOC flips between three time periods colour-coded by Nick Filardi for the sequences set in London (the past), Matt Wilson in Afghanistan (the present) and Lee Loughbridge in… well, not in a good place. In a cage.

That’s where we know blue-haired violinist Louise Canton ends up, some undisclosed time in the future on the very first page. Back in London she’s looking inside that other cage – the hyena’s – in the zoo where her girlfriend works. And in the middle sequences Louise is in Afghanistan, dressed in military combat gear, and looking outside a CH47-F Chinook Helicopter which is hovering above the exploding guts of a goat it’s just fired upon.

It’s not an obvious career move, I grant you.

Cry Havoc vol 1 2

But back in the beginning while busking by the Old Bailey, she was bitten down an alley by what looked like a werewolf and it unleashed in her a sensory overload, a craving – an intoxication – followed by a transmogrification.

Cry Havoc vol 1 3

 

Cry Havoc vol 1 4

 

Cry Havoc vol 1 5

Each of the crew Louise has now found herself with, working for Inhand Org, appear to have had similar transformative experiences with differing results and know more about their condition and its history than she does. One by one you will meet their… inner demons? Too judgemental – let’s say what’s been unlocked in each individual.

For now Louise is being transported to a deserted U.S.-run rendition centre which was mothballed when “a civilian employee lost her shit, killed five C.I.A., released ten insurgents”. By “lost her shit” he means she went feral.

Lupine.

They’re here to track her down.

Cry Havoc vol 1 6

It’s not just the colour-coding and panel grids which differ between time periods, but Kelly’s art too. London’s the style you’ll be accustomed to. I’ve never seen him draw anything like the Afghanistan sequences before: much sharper, more detailed lines in both the interior and exterior shots of the rendition centre, while the faces in places are closer to Mark Laming’s and, in one notable instance, almost as if inked by Tom Palmer. That Chinook’s pretty mighty when seen from below with a tremendous sense of weight which is being so improbably held aloft by the whirling blades above it. Below and behind, the dusty mountains fade into an almost infinite distance. It’s quite a big country.

There’s plenty of politics to sink your teeth into, playful dialogue, behavioural and cultural analysis, and blood-baths galore once the timelines join up and each player’s hand / paw / claw is revealed.

Cry Havoc vol 1 8

 

Cry Havoc vol 1 7

Wherever you think this is going is far from where you’ll wind up. I haven’t the first clue what to expect next.

SLH

Buy Cry Havoc vol 1: Mything In Action s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Superf*ckers Forever #1 (£2-99, Top Shelf / IDW) by James Kochalka.

Too, too funny!

I can’t quote a single sentence – at least, not the most uproarious proclamations – for fear of offending and sending the more mature amongst you scuttling for the hills, hands over your horrified, gaping mouths, for this is as delinquent as the title suggests.

However, like the preceding SUPERF*CKERS collection, family man James Kochalka milks maximum comedy here from the self-evident juxtaposition of the wholesome – or at least innocent – inherent in 1950s superhero team comics like the Legion Of Superheroes and the profane. It’s emphatically not a seedy Johnny Ryan profanity, more a joyous abandon which injects the already juvenile with the uninhibitedly puerile, focusing on Jack Krak’s obsession with his missing lady parts.

Yes, you read that right.

It culminates in two howlingly funny pages with Jack Krak’s entire arm up a rip in the Space-Time Continuum.

Poor Kyle.

SLH

Buy Superf*ckers Forever #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Lucifer vol 1: Cold Heaven s/c (£13-99, Vertigo) by Holly Black & Lee Garbett…

“You don’t look guilty at all, coming back here with that wound. Fought someone, did you? Someone powerful, I’d guess. Did you win?”
“I didn’t kill him.”
“They call you the prince of lies for a reason.”
“I tempt, I deceive, I trick. I am cruel and I am ruthless, but I dislike being foresworn.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I am going to help you discover his murderer.”
“Why would you do that?”
“Because no one gets to kill God but me. And because he was my father too.”

And so Samael, better known as Lucifer Morningstar – or just plain the Devil – has returned from the void into which we saw him disappear at the end of Mike Carey’s expansive run on LUCIFER, now collected in five chunky books. God, meanwhile, is dead, which as you might imagine, is causing some consternation in the Silver City. And, as the rest of the angelic host are very keen to point out to him, Lucifer was the last person to see God alive, during their melodramatic climatic chat over a cup of tea at the end of Carey’s LUCIFER BOOK 5.

Lucifer-Garbett-0

That’s why the host have set Gabriel, himself a fallen angel courtesy of John Constantine and Ellie the succubus waaaay back in HELLBLAZER VOL 7: TAINTED LOVE*, to investigate the murder, hopefully pinning it on Lucifer, in exchange for his wings and heart back. Except Lucifer really didn’t do it. Not that he’s expecting anyone to believe him, which is why he decides to help Gabriel. Or maybe he has his own agenda too…

This, then, is effectively a direct continuation on from the previous Vertigo material, though it is not penned by Mike, but Holly Black. I’m not aware of her writing any comics previously, but she does seem to have written a lot of fantasy fiction, and possibly the best compliment I can give her, at this point, was if you were unaware this material wasn’t written by Carey, you would never realise. She’s even kept Lucifer’s trademark devilish font for the lettering of his speech which I always rather liked. (It’s Meanwhile Uncial if you’re interested.)

Lucifer-Garbett-1

Clearly this is going to appeal to fans of the original, who will see a number of other familiar faces returning including the Lady Mazikeen, Lucifer’s former squeeze, now ruling Hell in his stead. She’s not best impressed at the return of the prodigal son, not at all. Hopefully Holly will take a similar long-game approach to this title like Mike did, his run effectively being one huge arc about Lucifer’s grand plan for getting out from under the thumb of God, interspersed with much other sub-plot oddness, as the longer narrative really added something. She’s already set up a nice little sub-plot of her own featuring another relative of Lucifer, though not a fraternal one this time… Readers of the original may have an inkling as to whom I’m referring… Whether that person is truly a king or merely a rook remains to be seen, though.

Lucifer-Garbett-2

Lee Garbet picks up the pencils this time, again, not a name I was familiar with, though he has done some bits and pieces for Marvel and DC. It’s a style that fits very neatly with the story, I think he’s pretty decent actually. I’ll certainly be continuing to read this title; it’s certainly nice to have an old school Vertigo character return at the same high standard that was set originally. (On that note, please be aware the softcover of Neil Gaiman and J.H. Williams III brilliant SANDMAN: OVERTURE is now available for pre-order.)

Lucifer-Garbett-3

Which brings me to * Can someone at DC please, please sort John Constantine out? It really shouldn’t be too hard. Re-reading just a tiny bit of HELLBLAZER VOL 7: TAINTED LOVE to check it was the right volume to reference reminded me of how bloody brilliant it was. I didn’t want to put it down. Every incarnation since leaving the Vertigo imprint, including the current Rebirth reboot (the Rebirth one-shot was just such awful, trite nonsense), has been such a pale imitation in comparison that reading it is as painful as an eternity spent in Hell itself. Just admit you were completely wrong, take John Constantine out of the mainstream DCU and get a proper Vertigo HELLBLAZER title going again.

JR

Buy Lucifer vol 1: Cold Heaven s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Hellblazer vol 14: Good Intentions (£22-99, Vertigo) by Brian Azzarello & Richard Corben, Marcello Frusin, Steve Dillon, Dave V. Taylor.

“All I’m sayin’, is chose the right words…
“And you can talk a person into just about anything.”

The first three books of Brian Azzarello’s stand-out, self-contained and so perfectly accessible American tenure on HELLBLAZER collected in a single exceedingly grim grimoire even by the series’ own harrowing standards.

For the most part 100 BULLETS’ scribe Azzarello was accompanied by Marcello Frusin whose chain-smoking occultist John Constantine is all saturnine scowls and wicked, knowing grins, primed to bait you. Relentlessly and remorselessly terrifying, visually he’s the most charismatic he’s ever been.

Some prefer the more matey Ennis & Dillon interpretation or Alan Moore’s enigma in SWAMP THING, whence he first came. I love both of those without reservation but under this pair he’s a cold, calculating and dangerous son of a bitch, and as masterful a manipulator as ever, choosing his words very carefully indeed. That’s the core Constantine – the user, the player. He’ll be getting his pawns lined up to perfection here, long before showing up to play…

Hellblazer vol 14 1

The first chapter of the second story, ‘Good Intentions’, is a perfectly formed short in its own right. The tension is held by a very tight, ominous, arched-eyebrow script and a claustrophobic palette of midnight, headlight and silhouette, as John hitch-hikes his way across the US of A, never missing a trick. The subgenre of hitch-hiker as victim/serial killer is given a great new twist with immaculate timing.

After that, Constantine’s travels take him into the forested hills of West Virginia and a town called Doglick whose name you’ll like even less when you learn its relevance. There the cocky bastard has the smirked wiped right off his face when he finds himself an unwilling, sexual participant in what looks very much like a snuff flick.

Hellblazer vol 14 3

 

Hellblazer vol 14 2

The third arc, ‘Freezes Over’, is at heart a cleverly crafted and equally claustrophobic, old-fashioned whodunnit with a singularly Constantine twist. Several parties are stranded by a snowstorm at Keith and Hope’s remote bar. There are the regulars, Rudy and Alma, there’s Pete, a couple with their young girls, a burly trucker and three surly strangers, one of whom is bleeding from the gut. And then there’s the guy in the car…

Enter John Constantine, strolling through the blizzard with that oh so knowing look on his face. He stops to look in the car window, and the two men’s eyes meet. A few minutes later the trucker finds the man in the car dead, impaled on a chunky icicle. Then the phone lines also go dead, the strangers grow hostile, their guns come out and fear of the local legend – the so-called Ice Man – takes hold.

But if, as Constantine maintains, there is no Ice Man, then who killed the guy in the car?

We begin, however, with ‘Hard Time’. Here artist Richard Corben has put away his airbrush in favour of forms and textures which are puffy, rancid and grotesque. They’re physically unpleasant for a script which pulls no punches when it comes to depicting the brutal racial and sexual politics of a maximum security US penitentiary.

Hellblazer vol 14 4

You won’t find out why Constantine’s in there until the final chapter, but you’ll be too busy wincing and wondering just how John’s going to keep his arse and tackle intact long enough to give everyone exactly what they deserve.

Which he does.

Collects issues #146-161 and a story from VERTIGO SECRET FILES: HELLBLAZER #1.

SLH

Buy Hellblazer vol 14: Good Intentions and read the Page 45 review here

Snowpiercer vol 3: Terminus h/c (£22-99, Titan) by Jean-Marc Rochette & Oliver Bocquet…

“Who are these people? How can they be alive?”
“No one can survive outside without an ice suit.”
“Apparently they can! We have to let them in!”

Concluding part of Jean-Marc Rochette’s examination of the perils of post-apocalyptic train travel, I believe, but then I mistakenly thought that after SNOWPIERCER VOL 2! I did think it was a bit of an oblique ending to volume 2, but now having read Oliver Bocquet’s afterword about receiving the invitation from Jean-Marc Rochette to illustrate the next instalment because Bocquet felt there was still more story to be told, I suspect he was probably hedging his bets!

Snowpiercer-Vol-3-1

So, after decades of never-ending travel on the titular Snowpiercer, ploughing its way through the endless frozen wastelands of an Earth plunged into a new Ice Age, with nary even a tiny scrap of tundra to break up the monotony, the train has at long last come to rest. The mysterious signal playing music detected at the end of volume two has been shown to be a long-abandoned radio transmitter much to the despair of our ragtag nation of hobos. That is until one bright spark asks the question where the transmitter is still getting its power from… Cue one quick game of ‘follow the cable, excavation and discovery of a buried skyscraper’ later and we have ourselves a story!

What follows, whilst not having quite the intense, claustrophobic, condensed insanity of the first two volumes, simply due to the fact that our passengers have disembarked their confines, is just as disturbing in terms of social commentary when our hardy travellers find a whole underground city seemingly thriving. There are a few customs that seem a little odd, sure, but it’s not like the inhabitants are going to turn out to be complete mentalists, right…?

Snowpiercer-Vol-3-2

Rochette does indeed have another worthy tale to tell! Bocquet’s art, the third artist to take a turn after the late Lob and then Benjamin Legrand, once again provides a slightly different feel to proceedings. All three have their merits, but it is probably testament to the strength of the writing that any differences in art style are completely unimportant. The ending this time feels more definitive, though it’s by no means conclusive so I suppose if Rochette does come up with yet another idea, there may well be more SNOWPIERCER. Given the mantra of those aboard is “Forward, forward, forward, the train only knows that word…” I wouldn’t bet against it.

JR

Buy Snowpiercer vol 3: Terminus h/c and read the Page 45 review here

DC Superhero Girls: Finals Crisis s/c (£8-99, DC) by Shea Fontana & Yancey Labat…

“Aunt Martha, I have big news, I’m quitting school.”
“What happened?”
“Nothing yet.
“But something’s coming.
“Something bad.
“IT’S FINALS!
“Tests were my kryptonite even before kryptonite was my kryptonite.”
“Supergirl, you’ve fought supervillains and saved Super Hero High more times that I can count. Surely a little test can’t be that bad?”

Ha ha, oh, it will be, especially given someone is abducting all the girl heroes and anti-heroes of Super Hero High for some all-ages mildly nefarious non-sinister ends. Yes, Supergirl, Wonder Woman, Katana, Bumblebee, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn are being excluded from school by a mysterious shadow figure intent on making sure our chums fail their finals!! To what possible end?!

DC-Superhero-Girls-1

Well, I’m not going to give the culprit away, but it’s nice to see DC doing some material squarely aimed at younger kids, and girls in particular, as some of the animations and their spin-offs can be a little heavy handed on the violence for the teeny-tiny ones aimed more as they are for the man-child market.

It’s well written enough with art that’s clearly aimed to appeal to the on-tap cartoon generation. I did try explaining to Whackers that ‘when I were a lad’ we got five minutes of Tom & Jerry a day if you were lucky and if you missed it, there were no catch-up rewinds or on-demand replays. The look of total and utter disbelief on her young face was hilarious. She was quite convinced I was perpetuating another of my many wind-ups. Kids today…

Anyway, decent enough fun filler of a superheroine bent whilst we all actually wait for the next HILDA (not long at all now!!!) / AMULET (far too long!!!) / ZITA THE SPACEGIRL (not sure, but Ben Hatke does have the first volume of a new kids series MIGHTY JACK VOL 1 out very soon!!!).

[Editor’s note: ZITA THE SPACEGIRL was a trilogy. All books in stock, but it is over. Do check out Hatke’s big book of empathy, LITTLE ROBOT, though!]

JR

Buy DC Superhero Girls: Finals Crisis s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

March: The Trilogy Slipcase Edition (£44-99, Top Shelf) by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin & Nate Powell

Pretty Deadly vol 2: The Bear s/c (£13-99, Image) by Kelly Sue DeConnick & Emma Rios

Scarlet vol 2 h/c (£22-99, Icon / Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev

Alena (£15-99, Dark Horse) by Kim W. Andersson

Bera The One-Headed Troll (£12-99, FirstSecond) by Eric Orchard

Invader Zim vol 2 (£17-99, Oni) by Jhonen Vasquez, various

Viking vol 1: The Long Cold Fire s/c (£14-99, Image) by Ivan Brandon & Nic Klein

Amazing Spider-Man: Amazing Grace s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Jorge Molina & Simone Bianchi

Deadpool: World’s Greatest vol 3: Deadpool Vs Sabretooth s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Gerry Duggan & Scott Koblish, Matteo Lolli

Batgirl vol 3: Mindfields s/c (£14-99, DC) by Cameron Stewart, Brendan Fletcher & Babs Tarr, various

Fairy Tail vol 55 (£8-99, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Inuyashiki vol 4 (£9-99, Kodansha) by Hiroya Oku

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

News!

ITEM! Big blog’s heading your way in the next week/fortnight with all our free creator signing details (who/when) at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival Oct 14-16 2016.

In the meantime I’m afraid I spent far too much time last week with my Ma being completely surrounded by cute at Twycross Zoo. You could actually walk amongst lemurs!

Lemurs 3

 

Lemurs 2

 

Lemurs 1

 

Lemurs 4

I’d like to have swung with the gibbons too, but they were 60 feet up and my physical grip is almost as bad as my relationship with reality.

– Stephen

P.S. Regarding our headline review, I drank this the other night and it was Heavenly! British too!

Bacchus Wine

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews August 2016 week three

Wednesday, August 17th, 2016

Jonathan’s back with Wrinkles (insert your own jokes), Fresh Romance, Tales To Diminish, vol 2 of Injection and Starve! I’m kicking off with Black Monday Murders, Dame Darcy and Rachel Rising, still available as s/cs but…!

Rachel Rising Omnibus h/c (£67-99, Abstract Studios) by Terry Moore.

“What has Johnny told you?”
“About what?”
”About Rachel… and me.”
“Well… she told me you girls have had a lot to deal with lately. And you need your family and friends around.”
“Did she tell you we’re dead?”
“…”
“…”
“We all have our little quirks, dear.”

In a single sturdy hardcover you’ll find all 900 pages of horror-hybrid RACHEL RISING including the glorious full-colour covers not included in the trade paperbacks which constitute one of our top-five highest-selling series of the last six years. Cunningly, Terry has widened the margins at the spine so that nothing goes missing. Every stare, every glare, every threat, every promise, every nuanced implication, moment of kindness and witty one-liner has been preserved for you to read this so effortlessly – unless you’re dancing, out jogging or swimming your seventh length.

Trust me on this: it’s worth every penny. I was mesmerised from the very first page to the last.

Rachel Rising Omnibus minus 1

 

Rachel Rising Omnibus 0

It begins in the early hours of the morning in a sequestered glade above a dried-up riverbed. Black birds take flight as a woman waits, silently and patiently, until a leaf spontaneously combusts…

And another woman claws herself from her all too shallow grave, slowly and painfully and gasping for air… then stumbles falteringly through the trees to make her way back home.

Rachel Rising Omnibus 1

 

Rachel Rising Omnibus 2

I can promise you two things: Rachel’s no zombie; she’s very much aware of everything and everyone around her. But she’s definitely dead.

She just doesn’t know who killed her yet.

The pacing of the opening sequence – one of the most immediately gripping in comics – is masterful.

Rachel Rising Omnibus 3

 

Rachel Rising Omnibus 4

The resurrection, pushing through dried chunks of clay, is so evidently arduous, and Terry’s is the sort of art where you can feel the soil when it grits beneath your finger nails. And then there are those stricken eyes – the irises bright, the whites blood-red from asphyxiation – as Rachel rises in her short black dress and starts to grasp where she is, if not why.

When she finally looks up there is no one to be seen. Instead she heaves herself up the furrow until the trees finally part and she emerges, exhausted, dirty and limp onto the grassy meadow beyond.

Rachel Rising Omnibus 5

 

Rachel Rising Omnibus 6

Oh, so many questions! And those are the key to any instant addiction.

The first woman swiftly reappears as a catalyst for death, shadowing Rachel around town while corrupting the innocent, turning love into hatred and the town of Manson into a mass graveyard. Well, it already is – look to the past.

Nothing good can come from a town called Manson.

Rachel Rising Omnibus 9

Note Terry’s seasonal deployment of the same silhouetted tree as a landmark.

From the creator of STRANGERS IN PARADISE and ECHO, this third epic, RACHEL RISING, proved to be another tour de force combing comedy and tragedy, mercy and mischief, fury and the foibles which make human beings the flawed individuals we all are. It’s the humanity I love in a Terry Moore comic.

That’s what I mean by ‘horror-hybrid’. I emphatically do not imply that this is comedy-horror whose burlesque obviously has its own place. Instead Moore has ever evidenced the knack of juxtaposing tragedy and comedy so that each acts to underline as well as undercut the other when it’s so desperately required. The comedy’s funnier for its juxtaposition, the horror all the more startling.

Rachel Rising Omnibus 10

Terry’s books always focus on real women full of quick-witted, arched-eyebrow attitude but also vulnerability and kindness with complicated friendships rather than two-dimensional bravado, and that’s reflected in his art for he draws fulsome curves where they are, rather than where our modern plastic surgeons or prurient photo-shop dingbats dictate they should be.

It’s not enough to show someone in pain: almost every other month for some fifteen years throughout STRANGERS IN PARADISE‘s epic, heart-felt run, Moore managed to summon the best in his characters to care for each other whenever tragedy struck or wrong decisions were made. Not necessarily immediately – who of us gets it right every time at the very first sign? – but in the long run, when the chips are down, when it is needed the most.

Rachel Rising Omnibus 13

There’s more nature than ever in RACHEL RISING, both flora and fauna, in open, snow-swept landscapes with skeletal trees or dense summer woodland populated by deer and dogs and ever so many crows. Life and death are central to its premise, the natural cycle all too unnaturally broken by Lilith and Rachel and – of course – in a different way, by the man who’s been slaughtering women then burying them, face down with a rope around their necks in shallow graves.

Sorry, did I abruptly introduce Lilith there? You’ll find her quite the cultivator.

“Wow, Lilith… I never pictured you as a gardener.”
“Really? I was the first.”

Then there’s small Zoe whose tender years and delinquent behaviour belie her true age and enthusiasm for extreme, psychopathic violence. Giving her the sharpest knife in Christendom probably wasn’t the wisest idea. What’s her connection? You’ll see.

Rachel Rising Omnibus 7

 

Rachel Rising Omnibus 8

Now, along with her best friend Jet – guitarist and mechanic – and beloved Aunt Johnny the town’s top mortician, Rachel must try to come to grips with her condition, its attendant… properties… and try to find clues to who killed her, all while avoiding the repercussions of a history which has lied buried under that selfsame riverbed for years.

Jet in particular is a goldmine of deadpan, pithy rejoinders. She and Rachel make for the perfect tag team of intimate friendship born of frank understanding, which makes what follows all the more horrifying. Zoe’s no slouch on the comebacks, either, and this series is all about comebacks.

Terry Moore, meanwhile, is all about inclusivity. It shone throughout STRANGERS IN PARADISE, and does so here. I know you’ll adore Aunt Johnny, the mortician who is resolute and unflustered even when out of her depth. Typically, that’s when she’ll start digging deeper.

Rachel Rising Omnibus 11

 

Rachel Rising Omnibus 12

And if I care for anyone above all here it is her quiet, self-contained, mortuary assistant Earl whose eyes you never see while hidden behind such thick glasses, but who nonetheless wears his great big heart on his equally gargantuan sleeve and doesn’t have a duplicitous or disloyal bone in his body. Bulky and bald, he’s not as simple as he seems for he knows right from wrong. He’s just reticent and easily embarrassed, so suffers in silence because of it.

There will be history, there will be tragedy in its truest sense, and there will be subplots so very well hidden because Terry trusts his readers enough to know that perfect sense in retrospect is a much bigger payoff than signposting. There will be crime and there will be punishment.

And before the end it’s not impossible that you’ll come to love Lilith, too.

“You should have more respect for human life.”
I would if they would.”

SLH

Buy Rachel Rising Omnibus h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Black Monday Murders #1 (£3-99, Image) by Jonathan Hickman & Tomm Coker.

“Are you sure I can’t help, sir? You’re bleeding quite a bit… Perhaps I should call a doctor.”
“It’s not me, you damned fool… It’s the money.”

The cabal made a deal. It brought them money, which bought them power.

But when Wall Street crashed on October 24th 1929 and America started haemorrhaging money, the man sat in the Stone Chair at the moment the music stopped started to haemorrhage blood.

There’s no way to circumvent their original transaction: the balance must be paid.

Big, fat-cat package of occult crime satirising investment banking in which conspiracy theory turns out to be decades of carefully constructed practice. Surprising no one.

 

If you thrilled to KILL OR BE KILLED #1 by Brubaker, Phillips and Breitweiser, our biggest order for August, then this will make your heads spin.

Black Monday Murders 3

I’m thrilled to see Tomm Coker back. Hopefully you remember him from the likes of the equally umbral BLOOD + WATER and UNDYING LOVE VOL 1, and here his masterful eye for tight composition gives us an elaborately staged, cryptic crime scene with a timely message.

The very first panel is set ominously under the shadow of a barrage balloon which – rightly or wrongly – I always associate with war. What’s bombing is the Stock Exchange. On the second page there’s an acute emphasis on the vertical, on the drop. First there’s the aerial shot of Caina Investment Bank tower / spire; then there’s the blood from the one going down.

Black Monday Murders 2

One free-fall aside, Coker controls all other expressions – just as Garland does the colours – with enormous discipline, lending the dialogue a weight and a power and a shadow, if you like, under which you are drawn to wonder what lurks: all sorts of nasties dressed up to the nines.

Black Monday Murders 1

Hickman shines parenthetical light in extensive, symbol-laden documentation of the history of the cabal – pieces for us to puzzle together stretching from the 1929 crash to the present day which is where the main meat is located – and the wheel around which its quartet rotates, indicating quite the dynasty. It’s only fitting of a crime comic that you’re invited to do your own detective work.

Speaking of which, the page that made me laugh was the one in which a website is suggested whereby…

“People can go to fact-check supposed urban legends. I want it to appear to be completely above board. Open-source documentation, superusers who can edit articles, etc. We’ll literally traffic in openness and truth.
“Except when we don’t.”

The example that follows is ingenious (and pertinent to the proceedings), leaving enough readers in doubt, I’ll wager, that they will Google the incident… and then wonder how just authentic the sources they discover really are.

Black Monday Murders 4

Anyway, back to the bankers and their oh so lovely opportunism, making money from money or even money from nothing when their shenanigans have insured that money’s worth nothing.

“First comes the great flood and the loss of faith in the market.
“Then they will panic, Mister Bischoff. And panic always produces a bottom.
“Watch. They will all sell. They always sell. And when the time comes – when they can be had for pennies – we will buy it all.”

SLH

Buy The Black Monday Murders #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Wrinkles (£17-99, Fantagraphics) by Paco Roca…

“The director is busy finishing up your paperwork. She asked me to show you around.”
“Thank you.”
“Uh, she also said that you need to pay a ten-dollar document processing fee. It’s complicated. You wouldn’t understand.”
“I was a bank manager.”

“Oh yeah? Well, it’s a standard charge for all new arrivals. A silly thing.
“Perfecto! If you need anything, let me know. I can get you whatever you want.
“Come on… I’ll show you around.
“There are two floors… here on the first floor are the healthy ones… those of us who can look after ourselves… more or less.
“Almost everyone here still has their wits about them. Maybe not as sharp as before. But we can think a little.”

Multiple-award-winning heartbreak from Spanish creator Paco Roca on the touching subject of descent into dementia. I knew this was going to be a very bitter-sweet read and so it proved.

wrinkles-1

I think if there is one way out of this life that I really don’t want to have to endure it is losing my marbles, and thus with it, all semblance of dignity. Extreme physical pain wouldn’t be fun clearly, but at least one would be present. On the other hand, as Paco demonstrates with some beautifully tender daydream sequences, not entirely knowing what’s approaching seems for some a fairly peaceful meander towards expiration…

“Excuse me. Is this seat taken?”
“Are you going to Instanbul also?”
“Yes.”
“The mountains are so beautiful in the springtime.”

Our main character, the distinguished Emilio, finds himself parked in an assisted living facility by his family, caring as they are, and at the tender mercies of his new roommate, the caddish Miguel, who may well have had a career as a conman, given the way he blatantly perpetuates his various cash-collecting schemes on his unsuspecting vulnerable fellow residents. With no family of his own, he professes love and loyalty to no one. Though, as our story progresses and Emilio finds himself becoming gradually more confused, it’s Miguel who steps up to protect Emilio from himself, and the dreaded, inevitable one-way trip up to the second floor…

wrinkles-2

I really enjoyed this work and I can well understand why it was made into a critically acclaimed animated film, voiced by Martin Sheen and Matthew Modine, a few years ago. It has a poignancy running throughout that will inevitably get you choked up, particularly a sequence where it’s explained to Emilio precisely why he is in the facility. It’s an absolute revelation to him and shatters the very bedrock of his existence beyond repair. From that point on, as the story focuses more and more on his inevitable decline, and Miguel’s ever more ingenious and crafty means of hiding it from the attentions of the staff, I found myself welling up.

There’s also a subplot which, as the rear cover blurb states, has echoes of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, albeit very mild ones, as some of the inmates plot a dramatic escape. The blurb also draws a comparison to the wonderful mid-eighties, Oscar-winning film Cocoon directed by Ron Howard, but I can’t make that connection myself, as we know there aren’t going to be any little green men whisking Emilio off for an implausible happy ending. But despite that, it’s a surprisingly uplifting read as we gradually see that love of every kind can thrive in even the most unusual and trying of circumstances.

wrinkles-3

Paco’s art matches his gentle storytelling, at times making me feel like he’s a softened version of I.N.J. Culbard. It’s a very soothing style, and I could feel myself being lulled into a rather relaxed frame of mind, much like the sedated and sedentary residents, most of whom simply sit around waiting for the inevitable, lost in their own imaginary worlds which Paco brings to life so convincingly for them, and us.

JR

Buy Wrinkles and read the Page 45 review here

Meat Cake Bible (£44-99, Fantagraphics) by Dame Darcy.

“The living are more transparent than the ghosts.”

Hallelujah!

Behold a brand-new hefty hardcover with a die-cut cameo, and adorned with a golden heart-lattice frame, cake wedges and bats.

Too, too heavenly!

Within you’ll find all seventeen issues of MEAT CAKE and their full-colour covers, along with new material created for this collection and a fashion-shoot photo gallery of Dame Darcy herself decked out as a lace-loving naval officer, bare-chested-sailor-strewn mermaid and genteel country lady, coming across in toto like a sublime marriage of Danielle Dax and Lynsey de Paul. Sorry…? Okay, Stevie Nicks, then.

Magnificently individualistic, Dame Darcy has always been a Renaissance Woman: comicbook creator, musician, actress, fortune teller (I did not know that), and dollmaker.

Meat Cake 0

From 1993 she summoned louche and sybaritic, macabre and mysterious neo-Victorian fantasies full of dastardly deeds, with decorative chapter titles that glide and slide across the mastheads. Think Emily Carroll’s THROUGH THE WOODS in spidery black and white, a delinquent Donna Barr in a secret passage full of cobwebs and bats, or early Kate Bush lost alone in the woods! Jonathan’s just suggested Richard Sala, and he’s not wrong.

“Any of your friends can become your enemy but a relative is one from the start.”

In 2003 Mark previewed a less extensive edition thus:

“I love people who draw and write as if no one matters but themselves. Selfish storytelling, done for their own obsessions and somehow leaked out into the world for the occasional sympathetic eye to wander over. If Edward Gorey had a sickly daughter who refused to live in – and was possibly allergic to – the 20th Century, she would look and draw like the singular Dame Darcy.

Meat Cake 1

“Willowy, kohl-eyed waifs summoning up the energy to pine for a similarly insubstantial beau, identical twins, ghost girls, animal-headed ne’er-do-wells all live here in the woods.

“A keepsake collection of the best of the first decade including the collaboration with Alan Moore. Darcy followed in Melinda Gebbie’s tailored satin footwear by drawing the ever-slinky Cobweb stories for Alan’s TOMORROW STORIES. Here she brings more attic-creaky, two-headed girl freak stories littered with romantic Victorian prose and consumptive females. Characters named Perfida and Hindrance are not to be passed over.”

To which I would add stockings. There are lots and lots of tiaras, stockings and knives.

Meat cake 2

Here’s an advertisement from 2007, and if you think persuading Joan Collins of even Elizabeth Taylor to endorse a spellbinding perfume would be a coup…

“Hi! I’m Helen of Troy.
“Thyme derives from my tears and thus shares my essence.
“Bathe in an infusion of thyme and you will radiate the power of a…
“LOVE MAGNET!”

Looking back at us over her shoulder as a ship sails towards her between two ominous rocks, she adds:

“Use with caution!
“I was kidnapped twice!”

MAS / SLH

Buy Meat Cake Bible and read the Page 45 review here

Fresh Romance (£22-99, Oni Press) by Kate Leth, Sarah Vaughn, Sarah Kuhn, Marguerite Bennett, Kieron Gillen & Arielle Jovellanos, Sarah Winifred Searle, Sally Jane Thompson, Trungles, Christine Norrie…

“But Megan… Fresh Romance coverhow does one go about revealing such… intimate information?”
“Hell if I know. Maybe try being honest?”
“I am part of an otherworldly species that prides itself on assisting other beings with a variety of essential tasks, I was sent to your dimension to help humans find love, and I did make Josh kiss you using magic.”
“You are a massive weirdo. And I love that! But… how about a simpler version of honesty?”

I am probably not the target demographic for this title, I suspect, but I like a bit of romance as much as the next comics reader. Particularly where, as the great Bard himself put it, the course of true love never did run smooth. So STRANGERS IN PARADISE, LOVE AND ROCKETS and the NAO OF BROWN, then. I also have no idea why I am now minded of the theme tune for the early ‘80s sitcom A Fine Romance starring Judi Dench and Michael Williams, but then the course of my mind never seems to follow much of a logical path either these days.

So… five very different stories from a host of talented writers and artists, on the thorny topic of finding love. And indeed keeping or even losing it.

Fresh-Romance-1

There’s high school comedy with a dash of magic from Kate INK FOR BEGINNERS & ADVENTURE TIME: BITTER SWEETS Leth and Arielle Jovellanos in School Spirit that involves much frantic and farcical parental mis-direction to ensure Prom night passes off smoothly for all concerned. The lengths people will go to for a snog behind the bike sheds without mum and dad finding out! Still, if my parents were wizards and witches I might be tempted to take extra precautions!

Fresh-Romance-2

Next up is probably my favourite, the wonderful extended Jane Austin-esque period piece Ruined from Sarah ALEX + ADA Vaughn & Sarah Winifred Searle about first love lost amidst the strictured confines of an arranged marriage. I was genuinely captivated by this and therefore somewhat gutted to find it was only part one. Noooooo!!!

Fresh-Romance-3

Sarah BARBIE Kuhn and Sally Jane SCARS Thompson’s The Ruby Equation features Ruby the not-so-accurate cupid from the pull quote above with a massive crush on someone herself, which frustratingly she has absolutely no idea what to do about it. Honesty, where affairs of the heart are concerned, is always the best policy, at least for us viewing salaciously from the safety of outside the pages! There’s some wonderfully excruciating, toe-curling moments of embarrassment in this one.

Fresh-Romance-4

Then there’s two powerful little shorts rounding out this collection in the form of Beauties, a very enchanting take on the Beauty and the Beast from Marguerite INSEXTS & DC BOMBSHELLS Bennett and the enigmatically named Trungles, and finally First, Last And Always from Kieron PHONOGRAM & THE WICKED AND THE DIVINE Gillen and Christine HOPELESS SAVAGES Norrie which shows that you do indeed need to risk it all to even have a chance of finding true, everlasting love. Forewarned is not always forearmed though.

Fresh-Romance-5

There are five very different stories in terms of plot and art style, which only adds to the heart-warming depths of this anthology that’s sure to ignite, or indeed perhaps rekindle, a spark in your eye for the object of your own heart’s desires. The first three stories also feature fascinating postscript discussions from the respective creative teams about their process and approach to producing their work. Bravo to Oni for publishing such an excellent collection of material from a relatively neglected genre, in current comics terms at least.

JR

Buy Fresh Romance and read the Page 45 review here

Tales To Diminish (£4-50) by Paul B. Rainey…

“The van has been parked outside of my property for two days now and I have absolutely no idea whose it is!”
“That’s very interesting, professor, but we really called you to take part in our religion versus science discussion.”
“Well, of course, there’s absolutely no evidence that God exists so, if you believe in him, you are an idiot! In the meantime, this damned van is all I can see from the front windows of my house and, I daresay, it is causing an obstruction on the public footpath also!”

Another collection of comedic capers from the man behind THERE’S NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT and POPE FRANCIS GOES TO THE DENTIST. In a similar vein to the satirical look at the papal woes on finding a decent N.H.S. dentist to attend to ones pearly gates, I mean whites, plus taking a well deserved dig at various political clowns such as Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, here Paul’s once again taking potshots at a plethora of demented demagogues, various celebrity numpties and other odious public figures.

Tales-To-Diminish-1

Michael Gove once again gets a very satisfying bashing, this time in his ‘Comic Collectors Corner’ feature, Chancellor Osbourne makes several appearances trying to be down with da’ kids as ‘Master Of The Mystic Arts’, then there’s Eric Pickle “fighting for your consumer rights” as he harangues various small shopkeepers demanding bargains for himself, plus Ed Miliband’s In Spaaace as he tackles the testing delights of Klingon fast food!

Tales-To-Diminish-2

I think my favourite, though, is Richard Hawking’s ongoing travails of badly parked white vans in Man Versus Van. Every time he finds his rather limited patience stretched to breaking point, up pops an imaginary hippie and a hoodie on his shoulders to provide some salient words of wisdom of the merits of compassion versus confrontation. In short, Paul perfectly captures what a complete self-aggrandising dickhead he is.

Tales-To-Diminish-3

Plus there’s several other very amusing shorts such as Janet Street Preacher, Dumpster Beard, Time Travel Teacher, Oooops Professor, I Just Think Charity Should Begin At Home plus Peter The Slow Eater which in particular had me just howling with laughter at Peter’s children’s ever-escalating despair whilst they wait for their father to finally finish his fodder so they can leave the table! Paul is truly a master of the visual punchline as well as the satirical stiletto in the ribs.

But I’ll leave you with the titular, self-explanatory excerpt from the opening panel of They Forgot About Kelvin MacKenzie which neatly sums up the chortle-worthy disdain in which Paul so rightly holds one of the pillocks, sorry pillars, of the Great British tabloid establishment (i.e. Murdoch’s lap dogs) and made me cry with tears of mirth. And that’s before the actual strip where Kelvin’s epic meltdown ranting about Piers Morgan’s success in America has even begun!

“They say that after a nuclear attack only the cockroaches will thrive. But they forgot about one other thing…”

Heh heh heh.

JR

Buy Tales To Diminish and read the Page 45 review here

Injection vol 2 (£13-99, Image) by Warren Ellis & Declan Shalvey…

“I am Headland. I am offended by your ham, sir.”

We’ll return to the porcine proclamation but first let me introduce Vivek Headland properly. He’s, shall we say, a loving homage to the greatest consulting detective of them all, and this arc follows him almost exclusively as he attempts to crack the mysterious and mildly titillating case of a man apparently having sex with the ghost of his late wife.

A former member of the Cross Culture Contamination Unit, whose purpose was to research possible futures on behalf of the British government, Vivek’s therefore one of the five people who thought injecting an artificial life form directly into the internet to spice things up a bit might be a good idea. Unfortunately, given the Injection has started to mess around with the human race and perhaps even reality itself – albeit on a very small experimental scale for now, at least – it’s starting to look like a somewhat rash decision. But, from Headland’s point of view, it’s certainly made the world a less boring place, which was partly his motivation for wanting to administer the Injection.

At this point, you might want to catch up with Stephen’s review of INJECTION VOL 1.

injection-1

So, the ham… Don’t worry, I’ll get back to the ghostly sex in a minute, I realise that’s more exciting than the bad pork product but the pig is key to the plot, trust me, you blithering buffoon, Watson – I mean, dear reader. For much like a certain detective’s encyclopaedic knowledge of tobacco scents and various other trivial topics apparently utterly tangential but in fact absolutely crucial to curtailing criminal endeavours, Headland is an aficionado of, amongst many other things, meat. The two pages of flashbacks relating to his accumulation of knowledge on the topic of human flesh, including a very cheeky cameo from the Dalai Llama, provoked by a most perturbed question from his personal chef is one of my favourite sequences in this volume.

“Sir? How did you know? Because the only way I can see is that you know what human meat tastes like.”
“A full education is crucial to a complete life, chef.”

injection-2

I’m enjoying Warren’s writing on this series immensely, just as much as his speculative, slow-building, post-alien-invasion yarn TREES. With both series Warren is clearly taking his time setting up his considerable cast of characters, plus building up the mystery, which hopefully means he’s settling in for a long run on both. I’m still adjusting to Declan Shalvey’s minimal angular art here, I have to reluctantly say, coloured as it is by the ever excellent Jordie Bellaire. Just a personal thing. In fact, it reunites the team that put out, sadly, just one excellent volume of MOON KNIGHT: FROM THE DEAD together.

Shalvey really doesn’t seem to like putting in much background detail which I find a touch distracting myself, but I think it’s certainly a bit churlish of me to get hung up on that. You know what it’s like, though: when you’ve spotted something, you can’t then unobserve it. A friend recently pointed out to me how Rafa Nadal seems to have a nervous habit of pulling his pants out of his behind between every single point and, sure enough, the Mallorcan maestro is indeed seemingly a chronic sufferer from bum-crack-climbing undergarments. Just thought I’d share that with you so you too can be similarly afflicted…

injection-3

So, back to the ghost sex. Headland instantly knows the Injection is involved, of course, he’s was in no doubt about that from the start. The fascinating question for him, though, is why has the Injection chosen to mess with this particular individual? Along the way he’ll have to deal with various idiotic interferences such as a fanatical cult-like group who have become aware of the Injection and are convinced it is the mythical Philosopher’s Stone, capable of gifting immortality to those who posses it, and thus will stop at nothing to acquire it. Seems like Headland’s going to get that uplift in excitement he’s been craving!

Looking forward to the third arc already.

JR

Buy Injection vol  and read the Page 45 review here

Starve vol 2 (£13-99, Image) by Brian Wood & Danijel Zezelj…

“Gorgeous things, the red crab. We’ll catch ‘em, stash ‘em, and cook them for our adoring audience here and at home.
“I’m having a pretty decent day.
“Almost makes me forget about Greer.
“Ah, Christ, the wife.
“Stabbed me, nearly snuffed me out, but who can blame her?
“Mother of my child, and all that.
“But no more clichés.
“She deserves some mercy.
“She’s lost the war, the fight’s completely gone out of her.”

I’m happy to report the second and concluding platter of former Page 45 Comicbook of The Month STARVE VOL 1 is just as tasty a feast for the discerning connoisseur of graphic novels as was the starter! Chef Gavin Cruishank continues his one-man guerrilla mission of culinary vengeance on those who’ve done him wrong, in his (cook)book at least, as he simultaneously carves his way through the contenders on his gladiatorial cooking show with consummate ease.

starve-2-1

Though, as he’s starting to realise – and deep down knew all along but has been finally brave enough to admit to himself – perhaps the cause of his wife’s fervent desire to destroy him completely and utterly might just have been entirely his own fault. Ooops! Thus, in this case, the chilled dish of revenge he thought he’d be savouring is proving somewhat less palatable and rather harder to stomach than he’d fantasised about.

So, now, for a man used to deconstructing cookery classics and reinventing them with a modern twist, it’s in fact the reconstruction of Gavin Cruishank the man, the father, and the soon to be ex-husband that’s proving to be his most testing creation to date. Of course, it’s easy to take the moral high ground after you’ve driven your estranged wife to try and stab you to death and she’s cooling her now not-so-designer heels, facing a very long stretch between courses, sorry, behind bars.

Gavin, though, a veritable walking contradiction akin to that craziest of desserts, the baked Alaska, all burnt and caramelised, crispy surface, but an icy cool exterior underneath, well, he’s never been a man to take the obvious approach to human relations as his long-suffering wife well knows. It’s his special lasagne that seals perhaps the most amicable divorce deal ever, though.

starve-2-2

So, having put family matters to bed, with his rapprochement with his long neglected daughter complete, and now on civil terms at least with his wife, there’s the small matter of the Network to deal with. But filleting those ruthless sharks is going to take even more finesse than possibly even Gavin possesses. For as he now ruefully recognises, he sold his soul when he gleefully took their offer of fame and fortune all those years ago, so he’s determined to protect his daughter Angie, herself a potentially extremely talented chef, both blessed and cursed with the Cruishank moniker, from their avaricious clutches, but also from repeating his own mistakes. There’ll be a hefty bill waiting for Gavin to pay to get out from under them when all’s said and done, but he’s still got a couple of crafty ideas tucked under his chef’s whites about how to beat the bastards once and for all.

Fantastic finale to a series that has ultimately been all about deep character flaws and their effects on family, tempered with the possibility of emotional resurrection and redemption.

JR

Buy Starve vol 2 and read the Page 45 review here

Devolution (£17-99, Dynamite) by Rick Remender & Jonathan Wayshak…

“But still, the war went on. Politicians debated for months before reaching a conclusion. It was clear to them all, in secret meetings of course, that the stem of the problem was religion… and science can cure that.
“They created a secret research team to produce a viral agent to neuter the part of the brain that believed in God.
“An international coalition of scientists devised the agent, named DVO-8, which would isolate the part of the brain associated with belief and devolve it, shrinking it away to nothing. Turning off the recipients’ belief in God.
“Of course there were side effects, but nothing severe enough to preclude its use in a few tests.”

And of course they all lived happily ever after…

Ha ha, of course not. The clue as to what those pesky side effects might have been lies in the title… Yes, aside from a chosen few who were inoculated against the virus, and perhaps some with natural immunity, the entire animal and indeed vegetable population of the planet has devolved. Not just humans, who have regressed physically and intellectually to cavemen, but every living species has also devolved into far more toothsome, scary prehistoric versions of themselves, even the insects and the plant life.

Devolution-0

For those few humans not affected, the world has thus become considerably more hazardous, which is of course the exact opposite of what the great and good intended. But one such lady, our heroine Raja, is convinced the situation can be reversed. She believes there is a revolution agent antidote in a laboratory in San Francisco. She just has to make it there alive… Between the primitives patrolling the overgrown streets for food, and the survivalist remnants hunkered down in their fortified camps – including one run by a completely insane white supremacist with a penchant for hanging people she comes across – it’s clearly not going to be like nipping down to the local chemist for some paracetamol…

Devolution-1

Another fascinating speculative fiction premise from Rick which once again isn’t that far removed from what could conceivably happen in the labs of meddlesome government scientists. Apparently this is an idea he’s had on the back burner for the last ten years, presumably whilst working on DEADLY CLASS, BLACK SCIENCE, LOW, TOKYO GHOST and myriad merry projects for Marvel. Fans of his previous stuff will certainly enjoy this self-contained work. The only real criticism I can level at the writing is it’s a real shame he decided not to spin it into a longer series because it wraps up far too quickly. Perhaps after having it kicking around for so long he just needed to get it over and done with. As I say, a shame as I think he could have done a lot more with the story. Perhaps that’s why this has come out on Dynamite rather than Image.

Devolution-2

I wasn’t remotely familiar with the artist Rick’s working with this time, Jonathan Wayshak, though I thought I could recall seeing his stuff before. Sure enough, he did a LOST BOYS: REIGN OF FROGS movie prelude which we (very) briefly stocked. His style reminds me of Mark Texeira, actually, just a tidier version. I rather like it and it certainly suits the visceral nature of the story.

Devolution-3

JR

Buy Devolution and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Bacchus Volume Two Omnibus Edition s/c (£35-99, Top Shelf) by Eddie Campbell

10 Great Ways To Spend A Day in Nottingham Print (Signed, Limited Edition of 75) (£6-00, ) by Christian Palmer-Smith

Agatha: The Real Life Of Agatha Christie (£12-99, FirstSecond) by Anne Martinetti, Guillaume Lebeau & Alexandre Franc

The Comic Book Story Of Beer (£14-99, Ten Speed Press) by Jonathan Hennessey, Mike Smith & Aaron McConnell

Cry Havoc vol 1: Mything In Action s/c (£13-99, Image) by Simon Spurrier & Ryan Kelly, various

Hellblazer vol 14: Good Intentions (£22-99, Vertigo) by Brian Azzarello & Richard Corben, Marcello Frusin, Steve Dillon, Dave V. Taylor

Hound vol 2: Defender h/c (Signed & Numbered!) (£29-99, Cuchulainn Entertainment) by Paul Bolger & Barry Devlin

Lucifer vol 1: Cold Heaven s/c (£13-99, Vertigo) by Holly Black & Lee Garbett

The Trial Of Roger Casement (£12-99, SelfMadeHero) by Fionnuala Doran

Snowpiercer vol 3: Terminus h/c (£22-99, Titan) by Oliver Bocquet & Jean-Marc Rochette

Star Wars vol 3: Rebel Jail (£17-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen, Jason Aaron & Leinil Yu, Angel Unzueta

Batman / Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles h/c (£22-99, IDW / DC) by James Tynion IV & Freddie E. Williams II

DC Superhero Girls: Finals Crisis s/c (£8-99, DC) by Shea Fontana & Yancey Labat

DC: The New Frontier s/c (£31-99, DC) by Darwyn Cooke

Injustice Year Four vol 2 h/c (£20-99, DC) by Brian Buccellato, Tom Taylor & Bruno Redondo, Mike S. Miller, various

Deadpool & The Mercs For Money vol 0: Merc Madness s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Cullen Bunn, Gerry Duggan, Brian Posehn & Salva Espin, Scott Koblish

New Avengers: A.I.M. vol 2: Standoff s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Al Ewing & various

Fairy Tail Zero (£9-99, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Fruits Basket Collectors Ed vol 3 s/c (£14-99, Yen Press) by Natsuki Takaya

UQ Holder vol 8 (£8-99, Kodansha) by Ken Akamatsu

News!

ITEM! Watch Jamie Smart drawing BUNNY VS MONKEY!

Old skool pencil, brush and ink. Mesmerising. Fascinating to see how long he’ll go without dipping brush back in. I’d have slapped on waaaay too much ink.

Read reviews of Jamie Smart’s PHOENIX COMICS: BUNNY VS MONKEY collections and FISH HEAD STEVE here.

Trillium perfect cb moment

ITEM! Jeff Lemire writes about creating comics, process and time management.

He’s currently working on 8 monthly comics and drawing one as well. Also, his house is insanely clutter-free and clean. *gazes round study floors and walls woefully*

Pop ‘Jeff Lemire’ into our search engine then please click on covers for reviews.

Trillium perfect cb moment reprise

Cheers,

– Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews August 2016 week two

Wednesday, August 10th, 2016

New Simone Lia! Congressman John Lewis’ March Book 3! Riad Sattouf’s The Arab Of The Future, Sophie Franz’s Experts, Claire Scully’s Internal Wildnerness, Jim Henson’s Storyteller: Dragons … and Miami Vice?! More!

They Didn’t Teach This In Worm School! (£8-99, Walker Books) by Simone Lia.

“It took me ages to learn Mandarin.”

A deliriously illustrated, all-ages read from the creator of FLUFFY and PLEASE GOD, FIND ME A HUSBAND, I gobbled up this deceptively clever 180-page adventure in a single, giggle-filled sitting.

It’s magnificently ridiculous but far from nonsensical, for its howl-inducing comedy is derived from a witty worm logic challenged with deadpan abandon throughout.

We all know what a worm is. We all know what a worm can do. We all know what a worm is patently incapable of doing.

Like learning Mandarin.

French, maybe; but Mandarin is ever so tricky.

The first clue comes when Marcus the mud-loving earthworm introduces himself, his hobbies and his habitat in a cross-section of his burrow.

Worm School 1

Of course there’s a table tennis room. Of course there is.

The thing is, once you’ve seen that, you can’t help but imagine two worms playing table tennis, and that is Simone Lia’s genius.

The same goes for when you read each piece of seemingly random ridiculousness, like when Laurence the corpulent, gullible bird is packing light for their holiday together, and Marcus encourages him to take more and more.

“Well, it’s just that… it’s a long way and you might get bored. I thought you might need some other things. You know, for entertainment.”
“I see. Well, I could take my yo-yo.”

And off you go again, your mind’s eye agog.

The preparations grow increasingly elaborate / insane given that Laurence is supposed to be flying them there. So why is Marcus intent on Laurence encumbering himself with everything bar the kitchen sink? (He even un-plumbs his own toilet – just in case there aren’t that many en route.)

Well, Marcus woke up that morning – after a dream about flying a spaceship made from potatoes – to find himself inside a cereal bowl sat between a knife and fork, with a scruffy bird who looks a lot like a chicken fixing him hungrily with big, beady eyes.

And that’s not easy to handle; not before your first cup of coffee.

Worm School 2

No, when you’re a worm staring down the barrel of a peckish-looking beak, it’s quite discombobulating. But Marcus proves very quick-witted and resourceful throughout and immediately introduces himself AND HIS FAVOURITE COLOUR AND HIS FAVOURITE HOBBY AND ASKS WHAT THE BIRD’S NAME IS AND DOES HE HAVE A HOBBY, PLEASE, SIR? in a very loud voice and as fast as he can because it’s much more difficult to scoff someone up when they’re engaging with you personally and ever so politely.

It transpires that the big bird’s hobby is travelling. But he hasn’t been anywhere – anywhere at all – because he has no sense of direction and is utterly rubbish at map-reading.

I’ll just leave that one sitting there.

Ideally he’d like to go to Kenya in Africa to visit his fellow flamingos (!) which is rather ambitious for any first flight but Laurence is convinced that Marcus’ subterranean homing instincts will serve them equally well in the air… over the Channel, across Europe, then the Mediterranean and… it’s quite a long journey. Maybe they’ll stop off in Paris on the way and visit the Eiffel Tower which is pictured on the front of Laurence’s guide book.

Anyway, the reason Marcus is setting Laurence up for such a substantial heavy baggage penalty is that he’s not sure if he wants to go, but he’s inspired by the sincerity of the plump bird’s seriously deluded flamingo-fellowship, so they take off for the south.

Worm School 4

What follows is a truly epic journey and, if you doubt their combined abilities, there is the most masterful page turn following this:

“As I was pretending to admire the view, I noticed that there actually was a view. And it looked oddly familiar, just like the cover of Laurence’s French guidebook…
“Was it?
“It was…”

The next page’s image is integral to its punchline.

Without that it wouldn’t work, so like Reeve & McIntyre’s all-ages PUGS OF THE FROZEN NORTH, OLIVER AND THE SEAWIGS and CAKES IN SPACE, Lia’s illustrated prose often verges on comics. It never quite swerves into that medium as far as Gary Northfield’s profoundly and exuberantly stoopid JULIUS ZEBRA – RUMBLE WITH THE ROMANS and BUNDLE WITH THE BRITONS but there is a scene wherein Laurence has been kindly leant an ice-cream by a fellow non-flamingo called Bernard:

“Instead of taking one lick – which was what Bernard was offering – he slowly ate the whole thing while staring into space.”

The sentence is sandwiched between two sequential images of Laurence’s absent-minded yet quite thorough scoffing as poor Bernard watches woefully and silently, increasingly regretting his instinctive generosity.

Worm School 5

The main action’s depicted in black, white and grey – including a phenomenal shot of the British countryside from above – with orange dedicated solely to worms, one central surprise much later on, and Marcus’ self-visualisations and daydreams which elicit extra, absurd, worm-logic laughter.

My favourite example of this double-punchline comes after Marcus (in order to avoid becoming an essential ingredient in worm and chicken stew) fools a mole, a squirrel and crow into believing his uncle was a chef in the hope of sending them out for further essential ingredients which they couldn’t possibly collect. One porkie too far and the ruse is rumbled then the mole is furious to have been taken in by the very idea that any worm’s uncle could possibly be a chef.

“I couldn’t look at the mole. He was right.
“My uncle isn’t really a chef;
“he’s a waiter.”

Worm School 6

During any journey there are lessons to be learned, and amongst those on offer are making friends with those you might think are unlikely at first, sticking up for your friends in their hour of need, being proud of who you are and of your friends’ best qualities, and if at first you don’t succeed, then try, try again.

I’m afraid they don’t teach those at Worm School. Sometimes you just have to figure these things out for yourselves. Or read a good book.

This is a Good Book.

Worm School 3

And this is a spaceship made from potatoes.

SLH

Buy They Didn’t Teach This In Worm School! and read the Page 45 review here

Internal Wildernesss (£7-00, Avery Hill) by Claire Scully.

One of the mostInternal Wilderness cover beautiful artefacts I’ve beheld this year.

It’s a silent, 4 x 6 inch comic printed on sturdy, finely grained, crisp white paper with an even thicker cardstock cover.

We travel under moonlight which bounces off snow-capped mountains and shimmers on the surface of the lakes or lochs and the fresh, fast-flowing rivers which meander into their midst.

There’s barely another soul in sight, but there’s evidence of human habitation, albeit asleep save for single chimney stack’s plume of white smoke swirling into the sky and a light-house’s giant lantern, a comforting, reassuring beacon in the night.

All else is bathed in the softest of blue-tinged greys under a rich midnight blue. The shapes and the textures of the trees, the leaves, the tall blades of grass and the fern-fronds are exquisite.

Internal Wilderness 1

 

Internal Wilderness 2

By contrast there’s a sheer sheet of ice below us, breaking up; above or at eye-level depending on how high we’ve climbed, there are equally pristine layers of mist suspended in the sky.

If you are need of serenity or simply crave its experience, you’ll find it waiting within.

Internal Wilderness 3

 

Internal Wilderness 4

“INTERNAL WILDERNESS is part of an ongoing project looking at ‘landscape and memory’ – our relationship with the environment, effects we have on the world and space around us and in turn its profound effect on our own memory and emotions.”

There is a surprise inside which I will leave you to both discover and interpret for yourselves.

SLH

Buy Internal Wilderness and read the Page 45 review here

March Book 3 s/c (£17-99, Top Shelf) by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin & Nate Powell.

It begins with a bombing.

It begins where the last book ended with the bombing, on September 15th 1963, of a Baptist church in Birmingham, Alabama, full of black school children on its annual Youth Day. It left four young girls – Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Denise McNair – dead and many more critically injured.

More precisely it begins with four slightly awe-struck young ladies including Denise discussing their nerves about playing music in front a big crowd at the game tomorrow, and the quiet but reassuring clik-tik clik-tik of leather soles on a clinically clean, tiled floor as a kindly woman walks away after gently shoeing them out of the toilets and, she hopes, the church.

Moments later, artist Nate Powell shatters a whispered reassurance – and the tranquillity of a sermon preaching love even to one’s enemies – with an ear-drum-deafening explosion and monstrous, coal-coloured clouds of impenetrable, toxic smoke followed by chaos and carnage, tear-streaming shouts in search of Denise and her tiny white shoe, torn and bloodied and dangled by its broken, thin white lace.

March Book 3 0

 

March Book 3 1

These deaths were immediately and aggressively celebrated in the streets by white teenagers while, encouraged, a couple of Eagle Scouts picked 13-year-old Virgil Lamar off his bike with a hand-gun. Also murdered: 16-year-old Johnny Robinson, shot in the back by a police officer. He was never indicted.

That’s how this begins as we stride ever onwards towards the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on March 7th 1965, when ABC news interrupted its Sunday Movie to show fifteen minutes’ footage of the extreme, racist brutality meted out by Alabama State Troopers on the protesters’ march to Montgomery. You may remember that well from BOOK 1.

The third and final part in this remarkable first-hand account of the American Civil Rights Movement from Congressman John Lewis could not be more timely given the overt racism of the Republican Party’s current candidate for American President and further mendacious attempts right now to restrict voters’ registration under the guise of fraud prevention when there is no fraud to speak of. Which particular section of society do you suppose is suffering most from these obstacles?

March Book 3 2

In MARCH BOOK 1 and MARCH BOOK 2 we witnessed the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee et al staging peaceful protests against segregation in schools, cafeterias and public transport. These were met with unbelievable State-endorsed, governor-sanctioned, police brutality, executed with relish.

What became shocking clear – and does so again here – is the split between Country and State: local refusal to obey federal law. When segregation at schools was outlawed nationally, named and shamed State officials not only refused to enact those laws, they ordered the illegal arrest of those protesting the state’s illegal non-compliance.

March Book 3 3

 

March Book 3 4

So now we move on to voting.

“In Selma – and throughout most of the South at that time – it was almost impossible for African-Americans to register to vote. In Dallas County, only 2.1% of African-American of voting age were registered.”

Oh so many ways were found to thwart anyone of colour attempting to register, even though the Constitution was amended 95 years earlier “to require that no American be denied the right to vote because of race or colour.” Seriously.

“Even if a black citizen were able to register, their name would be printed in the local paper… making them a target. The white Citizens Council could pressure their employer to fire them. Their house could be burned down by the KKK. Or worse.”

Yes, I’d say what happed to Fannie Lou Hamer was worse. She was indeed fired, arrested and severely beaten simply for attempting to register to vote, which was her constitutional right. If that sounds appalling enough – and if it doesn’t, then God help you – the pages in which Mrs. Hamer finally recounts the horrific details, blow by blow, in front of a committee at the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City on August 21, 1964, will make you ill. As Mrs. Hamer concludes:

“Is this America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, where we have to sleep with our telephones off the hooks because our lives be threatened daily… because we want to live as decent human beings, in America?
“Thank you.”

The testimony was televised by all the major national networks until President Johnson deliberately interrupted it by staging a sham statement from the White House, but the desperate gambit backfired because those same networks then led their evening news broadcasts with Mrs. Hamer’s speech instead.

March Book 3 6

As I wrote previously:

“It’s a testament to Nate Powell that not once do the hundreds of individuals depicted here seem generic: the first black and white Freedom Riders defying transportation segregation by sitting together, each of them identified; the young girl who will not be moved even as a speeding truck screeches to a halt in front of her then revs threateningly, angrily as its driver contemplates running her right over; another schoolgirl on May 2nd 1963 asking for no more than the basic right to freedom as dozens of her fellow protestors are bundled into a police van.”

So it is here as each individual is identified for their specific, heroic endeavours or dissenting points of view, patience with their lack of progress threatening quite understandably to run out. The SNCC’s very growth brought with it tensions and many times here things look very bleak indeed for the wider movement as a whole, the SNCC’s position within that movement and John Lewis’ position within the SNCC.

Nate Powell keeps us riveted through each and every conversation, confrontation and set-back, his lettering so sympathetic to the tone. His art is dark and stark but full of humanity or lack thereof which is, I regret, an enduring feature of humankind.

March Book 3 7

I can promise you the most stirring of speeches, especially towards the end – one in particular delivered by President Lyndon Johnson following the march to Montgomery – but we’re reminded soberly than the deaths didn’t stop simply because of any single success. They went on and on as they continue today, and the battle is far from won.

For much, much more, please see our extensive reviews of MARCH BOOK 1 and MARCH BOOK 2.

SLH

Buy March Book 3 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Arab Of The Future vol 1: 1978-1984 (£18-99, Two Roads) by Riad Sattouf.

“On TV, they said that Gaddafi had announced new laws forcing people to swap jobs. Teachers would now be farmers, and farmers would be teachers.”

At which point Raid’s dad, teaching at university, decided it was time to leave Libya.

Welcome to a great big book of behaviour, all seen through the eyes of a pre-school Raid Sattouf and lavishly sprinkled with the brashest and rashest of generalisations from his perpetually pontificating, pan-Arabist father.

Set in the early 1980s, it’s autobiographical travel with great comedic timing and an eye for the absurd, so making it highly recommended to fans of Guy Delisle’s equally entertaining PYONGYANG, SHENZHEN, BURMA CHRONICLES and JERUSALEM. There is much that was absurd in Libya and Syria then, but this is as much about the very odd children and adults whom Riad encounters after his Syrian father meets his French mother while studying in Paris, determined to become a ‘Doctor’ but majoring in history because blood made him squirm. Actually, he always had his sights set on politics and quite fancied staging a coup when young.

Arab Of The Future vol 1 0

Oxford offers him a job as an assistant professor – “Oxford!!! Wow, classy!” exclaims Riad’s mum excitedly – which he rejects somewhat petulantly because they misspell his name in their letter. Instead he plumps for a post in Libya because, he proclaims, they get his name right on the envelope. They don’t. This elicits from his wife the first of many more looks of wide-eyed bewilderment to come. I don’t think she ever imagined a life in Libya.

Arab Of The Future vol 1 1

 

Arab Of The Future vol 1 2

So it is that they arrive in Tripoli to be shown their accommodation fit for a university associate professor and his young family.

“Welcome to our People’s State, Doctor… Free of charge, of course! In our People’s State, all housing is free.”
Inside it was yellow, and water dripped from the ceiling.
“Ah, it’s nothing. It never rains.”

It’s raining.

“Anyway, it will dry soon. This is the “Little Green Book, where the Leader explains his vision of society and democracy.”

Gaddafi was a dictator.

“You must read it. It’s truly a masterpiece.”
“Hang on, my brother, you forgot to give me the keys!”
“Keys? There are no keys. Look, there’s no lock…”

There really isn’t. They take a stroll round their neighbourhood and, upon their return, discover their bags neatly arranged outside their new house. Riad’s dad knocks on their door.

“Hello, brother. How can I help you?”
“Hello to you, brother. What are you doing in my house?”
“But, brother, this is my house. It was empty… The Leader gave all citizens the right to live in unoccupied houses, as you know.”
“What? Listen, I’m a professor at the university! I’m going to the police!”
“There’s no point. I’m a policeman.”

The father who led his family to Libya scratches his nose and sniffs, staring into the distance with a small smile on his face. That’s his resilient reaction to humiliation and it is the first and only time that Satouff signposts this. It isn’t, however, the last time you’ll see it.

Arab Of The Future vol 1 3

Some of this reality is so ridiculous that it verges on episodes of The Simpsons, and I extend that comparison to the family unit with a long-suffering mother and a father was in no way stupid but utterly oblivious to the contradictory nature his broad, sweeping statements.

“Hee hee! Have you ever seen dollars? The best currency in the world, look! Beautiful dollars!”

He hates America.

“The Jews are our enemies. They’re occupying Palestine. They’re the worst race in the world. Well, them and the Americans of course, who are their biggest pals…”
“Why are you telling him that? It’s total crap…”

Arab Of The Future vol 1 6

He loves to lecture on God (whom he doesn’t believe in), Satan, soldiers (“Soldiers are morons! I want to give orders, not take them!”) internal politics, international politics, religions and races in a manner that’s (at times but not always) almost sublimely blithe.

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

Ah, there’s that long-suffering look to the heavens again! I can just hear Marge Simpson’s “Hmmm…”

On Libya’s Gaddafi and Syria’s Assad, he declares:

“Of course they’re dictators! I’m not a moron! But it’s different with Arabs…
“You have to be tough with them. You have to force them to get an education, make them go to school…. If they decide for themselves, they do nothing. They’re lazy-ass bigots even though they have the some potential as everyone else…”

Are you sensing that ‘contradictory’ element I mentioned?

Arab Of The Future vol 1 4

Un-phased by his own inconsistencies, Abdul is at heart a dreamer – whether about education and pan-Arabism or his own goal to build a big villa in Syria – and he’s admirably undaunted aboard, or at least determined to cope, constantly seeing silver linings like laughing at rats and “Look at the lights!” as the family traipses through the extraordinary squalor of Homs. It’s there that they encounter the aftermath of an execution:

“They just leave them hanging like that?”
“That’s life! It’s horrible, but it’s necessary. It sets an example. This way, people stay law-abiding. You have to frighten them…”

He doesn’t fluster easily, is what I’m saying.

Riad as an adult narrator doesn’t comment on any of this. Aged 4 or 5, he doesn’t understand a word of it; he only knows that he adores his dad. He does, however, have a fully developed sense of smell which permeates his recollections and evocations and takes most of these novel experiences in his stride because at his age everything is novel. Nothing is alien because he has no comparison points for familiarity. I’d have run wailing from some the kids he encounters. They’ve been thoroughly indoctrinated into religion-based hatred but – with one notable exception – roam undisciplined and even delinquent (you’ll see), defying their parents and mistreating animals atrociously.

Arab Of The Future vol 1 5

But this is a book of observation, not judgement, so even as I typed it I realised that last sentence seems inappropriate. It’s a comic containing remarkable customs – like Riad’s grandmother licking the young boy’s eyeball clean of grit – and strange behaviour, like his uncle’s aversion to the sea.

Each country is colour-coded: while in France all is blue, Libya’s ochre and Syria’s in pink. That’s neat in itself, but the effect of this assignation isn’t superficial, it’s immersive. It signifies that you are now in that country and you’re not necessarily getting out. Your life for the foreseeable future is within that country: deal with it, even if it means you are destined to go to school with those who have vowed to beat you to a pulp.

Where they end up in Syria is particularly bleak. Like Libya it’s unfinished, but plastic bags fly on the wind and so much of it looks like a wasteland or a landfill littered with human faeces. There are no shops and no bars until they travel to Homs by bus which, like the taxi which they took from the airport, has a gaping hole in its undercarriage so that you can see tarmac rolling by below you.

Looking out of the window, Riad’s dad observes:

“This was a forest when I was young. Now it’s the modern world.”

SLH

Buy The Arab Of The Future vol 1: 1978-1984  and read the Page 45 review here

Experts (£4-50, Retrofit) by Sophie Franz.

This comic’s so quiet you can almost hear the waters lapping against the raft.

I might dip my toes in. Would that be wise?

“I wish it would clear up out there – this fog is really starting to get to me.”

To say nothing of the pale blue beings, bobbing on the surface of the chilly lake or sea, who appear to be observing our small crew, silently… but waiting for what?

This is an eerie little comic about three individuals also treading water, adrift on a platform floating far from any shore which might once have been a research station – they’re can’t really remember.

They’re can’t recall who they are or why they, specifically, are there.

Experts 1

Has the fog outside been clouding their brains, or is it the very presence of these impassive entities?

“I’ve got this idea that I might have been an artist or something. A field naturalist – a scientific illustrator. Anyway, I’ve been trying my hand at drawing some stuff. It’s going okay.
“I mean, it’s not really creative. I’m just drawing what I see.
“But now I’ve got all these pictures that I don’t know what to do with. Do I send them off with the Colonel? With our list of requests and our weekly report? Who is on the other end, and why do they never respond?”

Experts 2

The Colonel’s their greyhound whom they dispatch, periodically, with a list of supplies they need replenishing, all alone, on a boat. He looks lost.

What they receive in return doesn’t appear to be what they asked for.

“What is this? Canned okra? Tripe?”
“I dunno, the list is in French. I don’t speak French, do you?”

Experts 3

SLH

Buy Experts and read the Page 45 review here

Butter And Blood (£9-00, Retrofit / Big Planet) by Steven Weissman…

“Look! It’s Eagle-Man and Hatboy!!”
“Yah!”
“Where are the bank robbers?”
“They took off in that ‘copter.”
“Hmm…”
“Why don’t you fly after them??”
“Um…”
“Flying isn’t his power!”
“What is your power?”
“Well…”
“He can eat almost anything!”
“Doesn’t someone else already have that power?”
“Ahem… cough…”
“So??”
“So, why he is even called Eagle-Man?”
“See…”
“He has a pet eagle! Ok!?”
Really? Where is it?”
“It’s… it’s at home.”
“And why do you call yourself Hatboy? You don’t wear a hat.”
“Hello? I RESCUE HATS! DUH.”
“You rescue hats? From what?”
“From the garbage, mostly…”

Butter-And-Blood-0From the creator of CHOCOLATE CHEEKS and CHEWING GUM IN CHURCH comes another chaotic selection of surreal and most assuredly stoopid humour strips spiced up with a heavy dash of wrong. There’s a couple of recurring strips, one about the original members of Guns N’ Roses working in a Jewish delicatessen where their vile kitchen antics are just as tasteless as the food, and the adventures of the Honeycomb Rabbits, who are only seemingly ever one bad drug-influenced decision from a painful / potentially fatal experience. But aside from that daft duo every other strip in this collection, and there are many, these are gloriously crackpot one-offs.

Butter-And-Blood-2

Be it Pioneer Chicken, a friendly ten-gallon-behatted, kerchief-wearing, rootin’ tootin’ poultry wandering the trails of the Wild West, or Little Swingey Swingerton – “He loves to swing. It’s what he does.” – achieving orbit on his favourite piece of playground equipment, to Playing Hide And Go Seek With America’s Favourite Sauce, which doesn’t remotely end how you’d expect, but then nothing in this collection does. You will be as entertained as you are aghast, or perhaps simply bemused if this eclectic mix of the ribald and the ridiculous isn’t to your particular comedy palette. It’s the sort of material that you perhaps have to be just slightly unhinged yourself to appreciate.

Butter-And-Blood-3

Art-wise, for those unfamiliar with Mr. Weissman, the closest comparison I can muster some of his material would be James Kolchaka, himself shortly to reprise the glorious insanity that is SUPERF*CKERS with a new series SUPERF*CKERS FOREVER!! The strips in this collection, along with some exquisitely daft sketchbook pages, sticker designs, Andy Warhol-esque poster rip-offs have previously appeared in publications as varied as Giant Robot, Vice, Mome and even Playboy.

Butter-And-Blood-4

JR

Buy Butter And Blood and read the Page 45 review here

Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: Dragons h/c (£22-99, Archaia) by Daniel Bayliss, Fabian Rangel Jr, Hannah Christenson & various.

“A terrible thing, hate.Storyteller Dragons cover
“It takes root deep within your heart, expanding like branches from a tree, until it turns you into something you barely recognise.”

Dragons are a draw. Few words sell comics or art books so successfully as we discovered with IN SEARCH ON DRAGONS. You might try FOUR EYES with two books out now as well, and why not pop “dragon” into our search engine?

The quote above comes from Jorge Corona’s adaptation of the Japanese legend of Yofune-Nushi, which explores hatred as an often ill-informed waste of space and spiritual energy, and self-sacrifice as the only viable option when it comes to love, as a woman goes in search of her exiled father.

The first of these four self-contained stories involves a similar separation and boasts more than one gorgeous, fanged, aquatic dragon with iridescent dermal scales and wild-stag antlers, along with other beasts resplendent in equally ornate markings, all drawn by Daniel Bayliss.

Storyteller Dragons 0

 

Storyteller Dragons 1

A proud father is taking his young son fishing with spears, determined to pass on his skills of self-sufficiency and provision. He urges his son to pay attention. However:

“Most fathers often struggle with being too hard or too soft on their children. And this father was no exception. But with just a wink he could set his son’s mind at ease.”

The pair become caught in the middle of a maelstrom as a serpent – rising up from the waters to strike them down – is itself seized upon by airborne, electrically charged Thunderbirds which shatter the skies which their “Skreeee!”

Storyteller Dragons 2

The boat is broken in two and the father and son are separated. The son is washed ashore, stranded on a strange island and forages for what food he can find; the father too is washed ashore, on an island too barren even to provide material for a raft.

Guess what lives there, then?

It’s a heartbreakingly poignant tale, with plenty of surprises I haven’t even hinted at but every word that I’ve written and quoted is relevant to the many subsequent twists. Of course, if you’re going to call a comic STORYTELLER and you can’t tell stories then you’re only setting yourself up as a laughing stock.

It includes the words “dreadful”, “ghastly”, “deafening” and “fury”.

Hannah Christenson was the creator I singled out for praise in MOUSE GUARD: LEGENDS OF THE GUARD VOL 3, and she brings the same flair to bear on something much more fiery here.

My only personal disappointment was Nathan Pride’s version of The Legend Of The Lambton Worm, but perhaps I’d been spoiled by Bryan Talbot’s intense rendition within ALICE IN SUNDERLAND, mimicking the language of the period and alluding to illuminated manuscripts with its page frames and decorated title page. Typically of Talbot, he also took the trouble to pause, mid-Crusade, to give that nasty little piece of Christian history the savaging it deserves, encompassing it within the legend’s central tenet of the Devil being at play, and arrogance being punished by its curse upon successive generations to come.

By contrast, in deference to the dog, Pride changes the ending, diluting what was supposed to be an unremittingly harsh tale right to its treacherous end.

Storyteller Dragons 3

I was never a fan of the framing device of an overly knowing bloke preaching to his pooch. He was thankfully absent from STORYTELLER: WITCHES which contains some seriously beautiful and unusual compositions, but his presence here didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the stories he’s telling.

Also available: the original JIM HENSON’S THE STORYTELLER collection.

SLH

Buy Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: Dragons h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Judge Dredd: The Cursed Earth Saga Uncensored h/c (£25-00, Rebellion) by Pat Mills, John Wagner, Chris Lowder & Mick McMahon, Brian Bolland…

“Ah have a dream, ma friends – a dream where ah see every square inch of this fair land covered by one big MacDonalds burger bar!
“A dream where every American child – be normal or mutie – kin grow up without knowin’ the horrors o’ natural food!
“Where every burger is served with pickle, an’ every ‘shake is so thick yu gotta drink it with a spoon!
“Yes, ma friends, ah dream o’ the day when all that’s decent and American – Mom’s apple pie, Hershey bars and the New York Yankees – yeah, everything that’s decent and American… HAS BEEN WIPED OUT!
“…And in its place will stand MacDonald’s – one huge, onion-spangled MacDonald’s – from sea to shinin’ sea!
“Enough speechifyin’. Let’s eat! The burgers an’ shakes is on me!”

Cursed-Earth-1

Yes, as Chris Lowder and John Wagner write in their forewords, between their ‘speechifyin’’ Ronald MacDonald, a scheming Colonel Saunders, a rampaging Jolly Green Giant and even the old Bibendum the Michelin man himself, it is astonishing that the <ahem> guest appearances were neither spotted and frantically scratched by the publishing higher-ups or attracted the subsequent attendant legal ire of the corporations squarely in the satirical crosshairs of Mills et al.  But then as they also point out, 2000AD was a very different beast back then in 1978 (this collection covers Progs 61-85!), barely gestated and certainly not that well known.

Cursed-Earth-1a

Hence though, having got away with it once, the potentially copyright-offending parts of this epic  were expunged from subsequent collections of the Cursed Earth Saga, including JUDGE DREDD: COMPLETE CASEFILES 2, which sees Judge Dredd trying to cross the radioactive wastes from coast to coast to rescue Mega City Two from the raging Tooty Fruity virus turning citizens into cannibals.

Cursed-Earth-2

Extremely entertaining, iconoclastic (if you’re a fast food fan, that is) brand-bashing aside, this is a classic bit of extremely early Dredd regardless as he battles through the Radlands encountering weirder and weirder resistance week after week, reluctantly assisted by returning villainous biker Spikes Harvey Rotten, even encountering ‘Smooth’ Bob Booth, the last President of the United States, along the way, whom the Judges sentenced to 100 years suspended animation for starting the Atomic Wars which resulted in their subsequent coup d’état.

Cursed-Earth-3

Current Dredd readers might find such early material a touch two-dimensional and the stories seemingly dashed off and practically joined together with sticky tape, but to me it’s fascinating to look back and see how Mills even managed to get five pages of such exquisite madcap nonsense out on a weekly basis given the very, very limited resources he was working with. It’s also amusing to observe the at times almost polite nature of the early lithesome Dredd, drawn so beautifully by Bolland in particular here. There’s certainly no such pleasantries from the hulking version of today as he heads gradually out of middle age towards drawing his pension!

JR

Buy Judge Dredd: The Cursed Earth Saga Uncensored h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Miami Vice Remix (£9-99, Lion Force Comics) by Joe Casey & Jim Mahfood…

“…I think I can take us right to the source of this stuff. Right to him. My brain feels like a divining rod or something.”
“Well, hell… you know this is what it’s all been leading up to… and you sure as hell aren’t going in alone again. You feel me, partner?”
“Right on.”
“Let’s do it.”

Indeed. People of a certain age, i.e. mid-forties and older, will remember the impact that the original Miami Vice TV show had on pop culture, which musically and visually was then experiencing its MTV ‘awakening’. I think it might even be fair to say Don Johnson invented the suit over t-shirt look!

Anyway, Miami Vice was the now hugely famous producer / director Michael Mann’s first monster hit, powered as it was by its retro Art Deco look – certain colours were entirely banned from appearing on screen – combined with Jan Hammer’s amazing synthesiser soundtracks, it just looked and felt so different to all the other American TV imports at the time such as CHiPS, Knight Rider, The A-Team, The Dukes Of Hazard etc.

Miami-Vice-1

Yes, it had a few comedic sub-plots and laughs, but it also had such extreme grit – including bad guys actually dying in intense episode-concluding shoot outs, followed by Crockett and Tubbs’ utter sense of futility in that ever more bad guys from various drug cartels would just appear to replace them by the following week – that gave the show a flavour which perfectly captured the zeitgeist of a certain segment of ‘80s cocaine-addled America. The dream was over, dystopia was dawning. It’s hard to credit that cruising around to the sounds of Phil Collins could ever look cool, but have a gander at an iconic scene which possibly sums up Miami Vice up perfectly.

So, this then, is not that. Which sounds like something Dennis Norden might strangulate out, clipboard in hand, smug grin on face. But, with the neat use of the word ‘remix’ in the title, handily, it doesn’t claim to be. Long-time superhero scribe Joe Casey very possibly captures the tone of the original, probably going a little over the top with Voodoo drug lords and drugs that zombifie the citizens of Miami, though looking at this recent real footage from Brooklyn captured by a man of people off their nuts on a bad batch of the synthetic marijuana known as K2 Casey maybe is bang on point.

Miami-Vice-2

Any such mild over-egging of the plot and dialogue, though, is completely obscured by Jim Mahfood’s brash art style which is as outrageous as the combined egos of Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas squared. He’s probably best known recently for his work on TANK GIRL: EVERYBODY LOVES TANK GIRL. It’s a hyper-intense, kinetic style that I personally find rather too much for my sensibilities. At its best I could try to compare it to the incomparable Kevin O’Neill on MARSHALL LAW, though it also minds me of Todd McFarlene’s worst excesses on SPAWN and SPIDER-MAN.

Miami-Vice-3

At the end, I really wasn’t sure whether I had enjoyed this or not! I just can’t really understand who it is aimed at, as I genuinely can’t see it appealing to anything other than a tiny segment of those who retain a fondness for the show. They’ve all moved on to reading the likes of CRIMINAL. I understand the faithful retreads of the likes of BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA, to a degree. But all this really did was make me feel nostalgic for watching the original back in the day, plus needing to listen to Phil Collins and cruise around the mean streets of Nottingham for a while to calm down…

JR

Buy Miami Vice Remix and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Wrinkles (£17-99, Fantagraphics) by Paco Roca

Meat Cake Bible (£44-99, Fantagraphics) by Dame Darcy

One Year Wiser – A Gratitude Journal (£11-99, SelfMadeHero) by Mike Medaglia

Injection vol 2 (£13-99, Image) by Warren Ellis & Declan Shalvey

Hellbound (£8-99, Retrofit) by Kaeleigh Forsyth & Alabaster Pizzo

Hellboy And The BPRD – 1953 (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, Chris Roberson & Ben Stenbeck, Paolo Rivera, Michael Walsh

Devolution (£17-99, Dynamite) by Rick Remender & Jonathan Wayshak

Starve vol 2 (£13-99, Image) by Brian Wood & Danijel Zezelj

Tales To Diminish (£4-50, ) by Paul B. Rainey

Y – The Last Man Book 5 (£17-99, Vertigo) by Brian K. Vaughn & Pia Guerra, Goran Sudzuka

Batman: The Golden Age vol 1 s/c (£22-99, DC) by Bill Finger, Gardner Fox, Whitney Ellsworth & Bob Kane, Sheldon Moldoff, Jerry Robinson, George Roussos

Deathstroke vol 3: Suicide Run s/c (£14-99, DC) by Tony S. Daniel, James Bonny & Tyler Kirkham, Paolo Pantalena

Teen Titans: Earth One vol 2 h/c (£20-99, DC) by Jeff Lemire & Andy MacDonald

Black Panther: Complete Christopher Priest Collection vol 4 s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by Christopher Priest, J. Torres & Dan Fraga, Jorge Lucas, Jim Calafiore, Patrick Zircher, Joe Bennett

Darth Vader vol 3: The Shu-Torun War (£14-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Salvador Larroca, Leinil Yu

Angel & Faith Season 10 vol 5: A Tale Of Two Families (£16-99, Dark Horse) by Victor Gischler & Will Conrad

Guardians Of The Galaxy: Guardians Of Infinity s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Dan Abnett & Carlo Barberi

7th Garden vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Mitsu Izumi

Monster Perfect Edition vol 9 (£12-99, Viz) by Naoki Urasawa

News!

Highwayman 1

ITEM! Read Koren Shadmi’s intense, hitch-hiking HIGHWAYMAN comic part one and part two free online. Outstanding distinctive colour schemes on each.

I’m hooked.

Shadmi was recently responsible for the satirical LOVE ADDICT – CONFESSIONS OF A SERIAL DATER and, before that, ABADDON.

Highwayman 2

ITEM! Brief film on – and interview with – Margaret Calvert who co-designed most of Britain’s road signage, as well as British Rail’s and Gatwick’s, including the fonts.

Road sign

How did I not know this until now. Truly iconic and an integral part of all our daily lives, I think she deserved more than an OBE!

Here’s an article on Margaret Calvert’s road signs in particular.

Road sign 2

Maybe we should turn that into a Page 45-centric Caption Competition.

– Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews August 2016 week one

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

Featuring brand-new Jeff Smith Bone, Adam Murphy’s Lost Tales from Phoenix Comic Weekly, Abnett & Culbard on Wild’s End Vol 2 and this, straight off the press!

Kill Or Be Killed #1 (£2-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips with Elizabeth Breitweiser.

In which the snow blows thicker and thicker.

To begin with it’s almost soft. It’s softer than a sidewalk from six storeys up, anyway.

It tumbles across the sprawling city as far as the eye can see, which is further than you might think, even at night, especially when you’re on one of its rooftops and so precariously close to the edge.

From below the thick flakes recede, smaller and smaller, into the heavens which glow a rich, luminous turquoise, while below all is neon-lit for danger.

By the final four pages it’s a veritable blizzard in blinding, icing-sugar white, with wild flashes of thought and explosions of violence like landmines detonated in your head. Then, when it’s settled there’s a moment of clarity – for Dylan at least.

He’s not going to kill himself. He’s going to kill other people instead.

Kill Or Be Killed 1

 

Kill Or Be Killed 2

 

Kill Or Be Killed 3

 

Kill Or Be Killed 4

 

Kill Or Be Killed 5

 

Kill Or Be Killed 6

From the Eisner-Award winning creators of CRIMINAL, FATALE and THE FADE OUT, the first six pages are a bludgeoning barrage of quite cathartic violence, all the more brutal to behold because Phillips has dispensed with the frames to go full-bleed to the edge of each page. It’s more immediate. It’s more in-your-face, just like that shotgun, which is meticulously rendered and weighted.

Crucially, however, even if it’s more difficult to draw then it’s as easy to read as ever, for the three-tier structure remains intact, the panels inset instead against an extended background. It’s something he carries right through the subsequent flashbacks and it pays off especially outside because the wider sense of space is phenomenal.

Kill Or Be Killed 7

Anyway, in case you’re reading this on the product page rather than the blog, here’s some of Dylan’s socio-political self-justification. It’s not why he’s blowing holes in these very bad people, but isn’t it kind of comforting to know that you’re making the world a better place than it currently is?

“Just look at the news for five fucking minutes and it’s obvious…
“Big business controls your government…
“Assholes go on shooting rampages almost daily…
“Terrorists blow up airports and train stations…
“Cops kill innocent black kids and get away with it…
“Psychopaths run for President…
“Oh, and the Middle East is one nuke away from turning us all to dust…
“And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

Talk about topical – and that was written months ago.

What follows doesn’t lead directly into the opening sequence, but it does go some way to explaining how Dylan, studying later in life than most at NYU, might eventually find himself a) with a shotgun b) using it. As to how proficient he is, I know we will get there eventually.

Kill Or Be Killed 8

It begins with the attempt at suicide I hinted at earlier – not his first, either – and that began with a girl. It began with his best friend called Kira, one of the few people Dylan felt ever understood him. She got his sense of humour, his taste in music and his sense of isolation which had already set in before his flatmate Mason got between the two of them by dating.

“Their relationship ruined the one good thing I had.
“Kira still came to our place all the time, but almost never to hang out with me.
“And that made me feel even lonelier than I usually did.”

That sense of being cut off from Kira is emphasised by Phillips in a similar way to what Ware did at the window in JIMMY CORRIGAN: by distancing Dylan, isolated inside his own panel, from the rest of the couch where Kira and Mason sit closer together. Breitweiser bathes the lovers in light from the television set they’re watching, whereas Dylan remains shrouded in darkness. I can’t imagine anything much more uncomfortable.

Kill Or Be Killed 9

Oh wait, I can, because that’s what happens next.

And eventually it leads to the rooftop.

Where that leads is even more startling, but I’m not about to spoil that for you now. All I will say is that Dylan’s head is far from healthy. He’s fallen far enough already, but he’s got a long way to go before picking up a gun and going if not postal then at least house-hunting.

As I’ve mentioned before, one of Brubaker’s many fortes is making you want to spend as much time as possible in his protagonists’ minds, no matter how disturbed. Here he does so in part through Dylan’s vulnerability and confessional, apologetic tone. However confident in his newly acquired worldview Dylan seems on the first six pages – and I’d place money on that being a ‘good’ day – none of that is reflected in any red-bloodedly aggressive tendencies either earlier in life or even now.

Give or take that shotgun.

No, I mean inside his head. Indeed Dylan breaks off halfway through his recollection of Kira with an apology for tears:

“The person who knew me best felt sorry for me…
“After every – ah, fuck, sorry — ”

And while the illusion cast by Phillips in showing us those tears in the past is that it’s the past that we’re listening to, it isn’t.

Kill Or Be Killed 10

For a masterclass in getting readers to root for the least likely candidate, try CRIMINAL: LAST OF THE INNOCENT.

Thanks as ever to Sean Phillips for the advance pdf so I could screen-grab for the review and have the confidence to make this Page 45’s biggest comicbook order of August. Some layouts and text may have changed since then (so consider it a behind-the-scenes bonus!), but the first six pages come direct this week from Ed Brubaker’s newsletter which you should probably sign up to and are completely up to date.

SLH

Buy Kill Or Be Killed #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Lost Tales (£8-99, Phoenix / David Fickling) by Adam Murphy.

“Oh. My. God. Have you heard!? Palace. Ball. Tonight.”
“I know! It’s going to be epic.”
“OK, it is on,” thought Princess Dionysia. “Situation just got real.”

Ha ha! It certainly has, and you wait until you clap eyes on what she’ll be rocking to that ball!

“State-of-the-art, ultra high-tech embroidery science allowed the dressmakers to decorate it with whole galaxies… And within those galaxies, realistically detailed exo-planets, each one complete with its own alien geography, eco-systems and complex societies.”

That’s a tall order for any artist, but believe it or not Adam Murphy has fashioned a gown which looks as dazzling as that description. What a triumph in cosmically star-strewn blue, black and purple!

There’s a similarly spectacular shot of the heavens over America’s north-east coast in the very first fable as a young, picked-upon sister is the only member of her tribe to be able to see the otherwise invisible great warrior, Strong Wind. And he is celestial!

Lost Tales 1

From the creator of the two CORPSE TALK volumes which you’ll find in our all-ages PHOENIX COMIC section comes another graphic novel originally serialised in that hallmark of quality.

It contains eight exotic tales from across the globe and throughout the ages brought to wit-ridden life with an engagingly conversational, often conspiratorial twang sprinkled ever so merrily with current colloquialisms to wring maximum mischief from their ostensibly traditional form.

“The prince is here as well? You’re really in for it now…”
“Not helping…”

Stuffiness is an anathema to Adam Murphy, and he has so many storytelling tricks up his idiosyncratic sleeve to ensure that kids and adults alike are not just transfixed but grinning from ear to ear.

Overwhelmingly they’re tales of justice, injustice and almost invariably poetic justice during which Adam can break off at any moment to comment on what’s going down:

“Whoa! That escalated quickly….
“What is wrong with these two? I mean seriously, have they no moral compass of any sort?”

Pause.

“Apparently not.”

Lost Tales 2

In these instances he leaves his visual storytelling skills to show you the specific misdemeanours that his miscreants are up to, and it gets funnier each time, because if you thought the Scottish landowners’ last crime was ghastly….

“Oh no. You absolutely vile idiots. Don’t do it!
“ – sigh – They did it.”

Murphy knows full well the mirth that lies in a refrain repeated with just the right timing, as when an African king tries to get to the bottom of a dispute between an honest merchant and his duplicitous fellow traveller who’s only gone and claimed the former’s property for his own, the wretch.

“You know, if there’s one thing I can’t stand…” says the King first time round. Then:
“Well, if there’s another thing I can’t stand….” after which
“One thing I really can’t stand….” and finally
“If there’s one thing I really just can’t stand…”

… before the truth is revealed by a lie. Clever!

Lost Tales 3

LOST TALES’ cover promises some exceptional beauty within and it delivers, every one of these fables finishing with a full-page, landscape flourish which is to die for. I wish I could show you them but since most constitute the punchline or at least resolution to the crafty endeavours or woeful miscalculations, I can’t. Typically the one that brought a tear to my eye was one of the happiest, but there is one so shockingly sad resolution – or, more accurately non-resolution – that I was totally taken aback and relieved it wasn’t the last.

The last, set in Scotland has to be my favourite simply on account of the sheer wealth of extras which Murphy brings to it as a storyteller. They all feature his trademark, seemingly off-the-cut commentary, but that one is particularly packed with little tricks of the trade to embrace the reader in such a way as to offer you the illusion that you’re watching the shameless shenanigans unfold alongside the narrator himself.

Oh, while I think of it, here’s that dress I mentioned:

Lost Tales 4

This book would be the most enormous joy to read out loud to your youngsters (I’ve practised in my head because it demands to be done), and it comes with the addictive trait of making you desperate to know what will happen next. In the spirit of which, I leave you with this pearl of wisdom:

“We are all just pages in the Great Book of Allah. Sometimes we just have to accept His will…”
“Not very helpful…”
“I said sometimes…. Other times, He’s waiting to see what you’re going to do about it…”

SLH

Buy Lost Tales and read the Page 45 review here

Bone Coda 25th Anniversary s/c (£13-99, Cartoon Books) by Jeff Smith.

“Are we having an adventure now?
“I almost wet myself.”

Yep, they’re having another adventure!

For twelve years we’ve been wondering what happened to the three Bone cousins on their way home with sweet, shaggy Bartleby in tow and now, quite unexpectedly, we’re about to find out!

And if it won’t all prove Phoney Bone’s fault, then I’ll eat my map of the Valley.

If you’ve yet to encounter Jeff Smith’s BONE and so, understandably, can’t quite comprehend why we are all so ridiculously excited, it was our biggest-ever all-ages comic appreciated equally by youngsters and adults alike. It ran for 55 issues with attendant spin-offs and was published by Jeff Smith and his wife Vijaya from 1991 to 2004. It’s been translated into 26 languages and won 41 national and international awards.

Its closest, contemporary equivalents for age-wide adoration at Page 45 are Luke Pearson’s HILDA and Kazu Kibuishi’s equally epic AMULET whose sales here are stratospheric.

Bone Coda 1

Sparkling with comedy gold before shivering into darkness, BONE was an immaculately choreographed and deliciously drawn fantasy drama starring open-hearted Fone Bone, scheming, greedy and grumpy Phoney Bone, and care-free, goofy and always optimistic Smiley Bone who have been chased out of Boneville on account of Phoney Bone’s antics while running for Mayor. They arrive in a Valley of rich, deep forests and vast mountains, to be greeted by the beautiful young Thorn with her rough and tough Gran’ma Ben, tiny Ted the Bug and his leaf-like, waaaay bigger brother, plus an enigmatic, poker-faced big Red Dragon whom Gran’ma Ben steadfastly (and slightly suspiciously) refuses to admit existed. Almost immediately they become hunted as the contents for quiche by the Stupid Stupid Rat Creatures. I don’t know why, but they specifically like quiche. I do know why they’re called stupid, though.

Bone Coda 2

As the series unfolds an ancient battle is reignited between even stranger, darker forces, and a secret royal lineage is revealed.

It had a beginning, middle then emphatic end which we dared not dream might spawn a coda… until now! The surprise and the joy is the comicbook equivalent of J.K. Rowling returning to Harry Potter.

In comic terms it’s Neil Gaiman reprising his SANDMAN series (as he just has with SANDMAN: OVERTURE!), Dave Sim revisiting CEREBUS (as he is about to, with CEREBUS IN HELL!) or our beloved Terry Moore threatening to cleave hearts in two once again on STRANGERS IN PARADISE. On that last one, we do live in hope!

Here Jeff Smith reminds us a) just how effortless he made look the very best cartooning inspired by Carl Barks, Walt Kelly, Chuck Jones and Don Martin, and b) how few can actually accomplish that with such dexterity, vivacity and seemingly throwaway mischief.

Bone Coda 3

Oh Lord, the craft! I give you the eyebrows for a start which burrow when furrowed or bounce above each Bone’s bald white bonce. I give you glossy, luminous eyes in the Stupid, Stupid Rat Creature Bartleby, or the hollow, haunting, pitch-black shark eyes of the hideous Kingdok. Ummm, in the main series at least; here you’ll have to contend with a gigantic vulture’s patient and unknowable staring, blinking eyes.

Originally intended for black and white only (as this episode is), the clear lines and spot-blacks nonetheless made the later colour editions a natural.

Anyway, you’ll find far more about the craft within for it comes with an illustrated prose companion written by Stephen Weiner which is a little light in detail and rather obvious for those already familiar with the series but will make an excellent primer for teachers or librarians and will certainly make newcomers desperate to devour the main body of work. I did like what he wrote about the aspect of physical danger derived from the likes of Chuck Jones’ Wile E. Coyote which I hadn’t actually thought of before: for example, when the Red Dragon finally gives in and reluctantly lets rip with his flame-thrower breath. Fone Bone is shown to be thoroughly scorched but actually otherwise unharmed.

“Um.”
“That’s right, kid. Never play an ace when a two will do.”

In addition there’s an interview in the back during which Smith talks both about BONE and his subsequent science-fiction series RASL. But the very best bit of the back-matter is Jeff himself reminiscing (with personal photos of friends / colleagues) about the history of the series, as both a creator and a self-publisher, which nearly stalled in its first six issues because US and UK comicbook retailers were even more in thrall to the cape corporations than they remain today, so initial sales and exposure were lamentably low. He details the precise turning points and the invaluable resource for gaining new readers which was the then-novel idea of a collected edition and – even though we have the luxury of knowing in hindsight what a stellar success BONE became through Jeff and Vijaya’s hard graft, quick thinking, faith, commitment and determination – I found myself rooting for them both and almost air-punching at their success.

Bone Coda 4

This love letter to supportive readers and retailers and fellow creators is far from dashed off, but an in-depth appraisal and a catalogue of gratitude. It’s warm, intimate and exceptionally generous, paying tribute to the likes of Larry Marder, Dave Sim, Neil Gaiman, Frank Miller, Scott McCloud, Heidi MacDonald, Marv Wolfman, and most especially Vijaya whose name I so spectacular failed to get to grips when pronouncing that she graciously allowed me to call her “Vee” instead of slapping me one as I quite richly deserved.

It’s particularly infectious for me because Jeff’s trajectory – like Terry Moore’s – mirrored our own at Page 45. We all kind of grew up together at the very same time, and the one thing that isn’t remarked on within is this: before the trade paperbacks Jeff Smith did something which no one has ever done before or since: he kept the first dozen or more individual issues available with numerous, colour-coded printings so that in the days when we had only 100 different graphic novels available to stock (as opposed to the 7,000 we choose to house now), Page 45 was able to devote an entire wall of shelving to BONE alone, every single issue displayed face-on, without overlaps!

Oh man, the luxury!

And it worked wonders both for BONE and for a nascent Page 45 which craved and so desperately needed this sort of accessible, mass-appeal, quality craft to make us so swiftly successful.

SLH

Buy Bone Coda 25th Anniversary s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Wilds End vol 2: Enemy Within (£14-99, Boom) by Dan Abnett & I.N.J. Culbard.

Sorry about that. Punching your ex-husband.”
“You only jumped the queue.”

Welcome back to War Of The Wolds and the centre-piece of its trilogy. It’s perfectly structured.

In WILD’S END VOL 1: FIRST LIGHT the dozy inhabitants of the sleepy hamlet of Lower Crowchurch (not necessarily in the Cotswolds, but equally green and pleasant) find skittering, metallic, spider-like creatures infesting its woodlands and click-clicking their way through its cornfields. The one thing scarier than an enemy you can’t see coming is one which you can hear all around you. Lethal enough in their own right, they were as nothing to the far more formidable, lantern-topped alien which towered above them atop mechanical, octopoid tentacles. They barely survived its incinerating death-rays – some of them didn’t – and that was but a single specimen.

Now Abnett does what any self-respecting science fiction writer would do and ups the ante. Considerably.

Wilds End vol 2 1

The survivors of the first encounter – ex-seadog Slipaway, local journalist Peter Minks,feline Susan Peardew and Alphie the piglet whose Auntie’s now so much crackling  – sought to raise the alarm, and the Ministry Of Defence is now both suitably alarmed and thoroughly paranoid. Lower Crowchurch has been quarantined by the British army, our valiant if fearful foursome have been arrested, and with no prior experience of aliens, the Ministry has lured in the only experts they can think of: science fiction writers.

The first is a self-satisfied, supercilious fat cat called Herbert Runciman who holds his more successful colleague Lewis Confelt in contempt for peddling “fanciful juvenilia” which “tarnishes the credibility of proper science fiction”.

Wilds End vol 2 2

But that’s as nothing compared to the contempt Susan Peardew has for Lewis Confelt, for he’s the ex-husband in question who’s been hogging all the credit for the “scientific romance” novels which Susan effectively ghost-wrote herself.

In addition to the friction within the detainees – they’re all detainees now – cracks begin to appear between the military and the Ministry who’ve sent a squirrel of a man called Mr Laidlaw who believes the aliens may have been around much longer than anyone thinks, and suspects they may even walk amongst them, disguised. The problem is that this paranoia extends to the heroic survivors – the only real experts he has at this disposal – whose experience he obstinately refuses to utilise.

Nothing is being done and while the clock is ticking, the fields begin clicking once more.

Wilds End vol 2 3

In some ways Culbard’s storytelling here is similar to Jeff Smith’s in BONE: uncomplicated character designs made centre-stage through uncluttered backgrounds and crystal-clear page compositions. Same goes for the colouring. But things really heat up which the flames start flying with all the searing intensity of a white-hot furnace.

In addition there are some spectacular full-page flourishes where you’re either crooking your neck almost painfully up at the relentless, implacable invaders or looming over the relatively tin-pot army, with its tin-can tanks, from the aliens’ P.O.V. which dwarfs them.

Wilds End vol 2 4

Truly they don’t stand a chance, but if you imagine their situation is dire, then there’s a subtle piece of foreshadowing by both Abnett and Culbard which leads later on to a full-blown discovery on the final four pages so neatly reflected in the panel immediately preceding it.

Coming back both to the implacability, and the notion that an enemy you can hear on approach is even scarier than one that you don’t see coming, it’s noted by Herbert Runciman (who is as good as his word when it comes to extrapolation) that our invaders either don’t have, need or at least use a written language. Here they show no evidence of language as we know it at all. They don’t communicate. You can’t reason with someone or something you cannot communicate with. That’s even more frightening, and will prove Lewis Confelt’s most bitter and specific disappointment.

For much, much more including Culbard’s specific approach to anthropomorphism and body language, please see our review of WILD’S END VOL 1: FIRST LIGHT. Cheers!

SLH

Buy Wilds End vol 2: Enemy Within and read the Page 45 review here

DMZ Book 2 (£18-99, DC) by Brian Wood & Riccardo Burchiell with Danijel Zezelj, Nathan Fox, Kristian Donaldson, Viktor Kalzachev.

Some books are clever, some are entertaining and some have something to say. This combined all three.

Second substantial slab containing the previous volumes 3, 4 and 5 plus an extensive interview with Brian Wood and lots of preliminary sketches, there’s one chapter drawn by Zezelj whose art, it occurs to be now, looks just like his name sounds.

Previously in DMZ: America deployed waaaay too many troops abroad to be able to cope with a military insurrection at home. Manhattan is the demilitarised zone between the two sides, and what with all that construction and private security money, all the corruption and ineffectual military leadership of undertrained men, it looked a hell of a lot like Iraq when this was first published almost a decade ago.

DMZ Book 2 1

“Everyone knows Trustwell’s crooked. They’ve survived countless investigations, scandals, whistle-blowers, and left-wing documentaries. They’ve been making money from conflict since Kabul and Baghdad. They have all the right friends in all the right places.”

Sound familiar? *

Manhattan is caught in the middle of an American Civil War – and so is rookie journalist Matty. In a new period of relative peace, a private corporation called Trustwell has been given the lucrative contract to start rebuilding, whilst U.N. troops have been deployed there partly to protect the construction company from acts of sabotage, and partly to protect the citizens of the demilitarised zone from Trustwell’s own security teams. It’s doing a pretty shoddy job on both counts.

DMZ Book 2 5

As the “insurgent” terrorists infiltrate the workers hired by Trustwell for a pittance, Matty infiltrates the terrorist cell by turning a blind eye, but when the bombs start going off the U.N. retreats leaving Trustwell Inc’s security in charge, and it’s only a matter of time before Matty’s given a mission – and a bomb to detonate – himself.

Burchielli has a knack for refuse and ruins, and Matty’s torture is particularly nasty. His large cast of characters are all instantly recognisable, which is essential in such a complex tangle of deceit.

That’s Wood’s triumph. Not only are there obvious comparisons to what was happening south-east of us at the time (Lord, I hope that’s right – my geography’s worse than my geometry), but the plot is wrought round its own separate and specific dynamics involving both sides of the wider conflict and media at large, and indeed several factions inside the DMZ. He’s also created an engaging, fallible and increasingly battered protagonist, without whom the book would fall flat on its face. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have to concentrate on this, but if I instantly understood who was playing whom and for what, there’d be little investigative journalism for Matty to do, and none of the enormous pay off when the deviousness is revealed in its full scale.

* In September 2007 I wrote: c.f. Halliburton and Blackwater in Iraq. Blackwater’s the US security firm enjoying its immunity to prosection in Iraq, it seems, by killing its civilians. The incident in Nisour Square, Baghdad, in which up to 28 Iraqi civilians were killed is now under investigation by the FBI… who are using Blackwater to provide their security. Well, that’s going to be thorough.

I’ve not finished.

DMZ Book 2 3

This was followed by ‘Friendly Fire’.

Strictly speaking, however, this wasn’t about Friendly Fire, but about the US Army shooting innocent civilians, and the subsequent show trial conducted merely in order to draw a line under the incident. This is, in fact, about how the demilitarized zone in Manhattan between the government troops and the anti-establishment militia came to be:

“On Day 204 a hundred and ninety-eight civilians – peace protesters – were gunned down by twitchy United States soldiers. The U.S. government quit Manhattan and entered into cease-fire talks with the Free States… that’s how much moral high ground was lost that day. The military opened tribunals against the soldiers in question nearly three years after the fact. No one up the chain of command is being tried. Or was ever accused. Just the soldiers.”

With the trial imminent, journalist Matty Roth is given access both to Sgt. Nunez, the patrol’s commanding officer, and PFC Chris Stevens, the only one who didn’t open fire that day, but who’s going down anyway. What Stevens tells Matty establishes why those higher up the chain are culpable, for the war they were fighting up to that point was terrifying, chaotic and completely mismanaged:

“We had nowhere to hide. No idea who was firing, where they were, or what they looked like. Our maps were shit and every street looked the same. What the fuck kind of war is that?”

DMZ Book 2 2

Oh yes, and the grunts were deployed after a mere six weeks of boot camp training, many of them highly unsuitable to the task, and dragged from their lives as civilians through coercion. Once more this is all too familiar. Please see Kyle Baker’s SPECIAL FORCES.

Then there are the survivors of that march, and the victims’ friends and relatives, indeed the wider volatile community of the DMZ who demand blood for blood, and they certainly get it, but not through legal channels. As to the “Day 204 Massacre” itself, and the cowled peace protestors shambling past the soldiers in the blinding downpour, the art by Burchielli and Fox on the first, feverish account from PFC Stevens is haunting and hellish.

DMZ Book 2 4

In summary I leave you with the very real Sgt. John G. Ford, who’s served in Afghanistan, South America and Iraq, and his introduction reprinted here at the front of the back-matter, whilst apologising for transposing the last two paragraphs for impact:

“Here we have a PFC Nobody from the Midwest whose options are revolution or jail and not much else. But hey, if he joins up maybe he’ll get to make something of himself, maybe even learn a trade and if he’s really lucky – money for college.
“Now put him in a bad situation – scratch that, a nightmare situation, with minimum support, poor leadership, and the ever-present reality of punishment for any and every action. Shit goes down and he’s the one left holding the bag: game over, man. Set up for failure from Day One.
“Now comes damage control. Those in charge have “careers” to think about, promotions to deserve, asses to cover. Coming forward and admitting the system is broken or that the military is hurting is not an option. There’s too much at stake for those in charge.
“You don’t think this goes down? Go to war and then disagree with me.”

SLH

Buy DMZ Book 2 and read the Page 45 review here

Red Thorn vol 1: Glasgow Kiss s/c (£10-99, DC) by David Baillie & Meghan Hetrick.

“It rains in Glasgow like nowhere else in the world. It’s hard and cold, and it hits you in the face like a thousand tiny knives made of bone.”

Rarely do I quote a writer’s opening gambit. She or he will have put days of thought into the first few sentences of a brand-new series, so to steal that hard work for your own initial impact seems to me a little lazy. On the other hand, what a golden gift horse!

We’re in a Glaswegian graveyard, by the way, with a magnificent mausoleum on its summit.

“The perfect place for a temper tantrum – or a valiant gesture. But whichever of those options this actually was, it was never going to stop the events already set in motion.”

The valiant but doomed gesture comes in the form of pages of a sketchbook being torn out by red-head Isla Mackintosh. They flap and flutter like autumnal leaves up into the stormy sky only to be battered by the positively Bratislavan downpour over the headstones towards us. The first and foremost depicts a wretched figure slumped forward, its wrists and ankles manacled in chains.

Red Thorn 1

The panel beneath that depicts someone or something in a similar predicament, with a long, flame-coloured mane, flopped over his face. It is, however, emphatically not a sketch.

There’ll be plenty more of Glasgow, you mark my words, for Isla Mackintosh’s older sister Lauren studied architecture there. Indeed Lauren was much enamoured with the city’s most famous architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh, of the recently burned-down art school. Then one weekend she took off inexplicably for the Borders and was never seen again. Isla was born twelve months later. “Classic replacement kid syndrome,” hence the 25-year gap between them. She’s American, by the way, though her grandparents were from Glasgow and, after trying to trace some fresh clues as to her sister’s disappearance and failing, that’s where Lauren’s landed up: at a gig played by Strathclyde’s premier Nirvana tribute act and talking to a young bloke with a beard sitting alone at the bar and reading Camus.

“I couldn’t have met a boy more perfect if I’d drawn him myself.”

I liked his t-shirt (he teases).

Red Thorn 3

So what’s the problem? I have no problem with the comic at all or else why spend this time reviewing it? I loved Hetrick’s spirit of place and her invitingly soft figures and forms. I enjoyed Baillie’s mini-tour of Glasgow and his lovely Scottish lilt which was neither overly broad nor unnatural. There’s a moment of superb foreshadowing involving bridges plus I found his voice-over refreshingly direct and almost hilariously matter-of-fact, especially when it came to the real problem here, for that’s Lauren’s:

“In High School I’d spend most of my time doodling the cool, fun friends I really wanted. Then one day one of my drawings came to life and attended my school for a whole semester.”

I do beg your pardon?

That didn’t end well, but it did end abruptly, since when she’s vowed off sketching people for ten whole years. You’ll know exactly why when you get there.

Red Thorn 2

Then she got drunk with that Camus kid and now something’s knocking on the door.

On the final page artist Meghan Hetrick reprises the first page’s promise but with a marked makeover, for she makes good – oh so very good – on the writer’s own promise when he was recently asked:

“What can we expect from RED THORN tonally?”
“Abs,” he replied. “Lots of abs.”

At which point David Baillie basically won interviews.

I have to confess that after three weeks flying solo on our reviews I’ve run out of time and been unable to read the rest of the book – that was my review of the first issue – but flicking ahead I don’t think we’re in Glasgow any longer. Not unless it’s recently had a substantial Skyrim make-over.

Red Thorn 5

SLH

Buy Red Thorn vol 1: Glasgow Kiss s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Avengers: The Korvac Saga s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jim Shooter, Len Wein, Roger Stern, David Micheline, Bill Mantlo & Sal Buscema, Dave Wenzel, George Perez.

I am told byAvengers Korvac cover those that know that this is important to you now.

He appears in your video games, and I understand why given their often acquisitive nature. Precisely whom we speak of I will not say, but this was where he was best utilised and it came as a surprise both to us as readers back then and to our off-guard Avengers…

Ah, Marvel in the mid 1970s! What a thing to behold: billowing capes, ballooning boots, improbable team-ups and epic plots cascading over a dozen issues. Melodrama on a scale rarely experienced since the days of Caligula, all epitomised by this very book, distilled into a concentrate so strong that it’s virtually toxic.

This is the Dynasty of the superhero genre, where even the over-dubs wear shoulder pads:

“The Enemy tumbles backwards, the stunning impact of the blow ripping through the sum of his being. Somewhere in the depths of the cosmos within his mind, a planet shatters — and in unison, the billion billion souls who inhabit the sub-reality of The Enemy’s id scream in utter horror as their entire dimension trembles!”

Not just horror, but utter horror! Whoa!

Avengers Korvac Saga 1

Naturally I wasn’t around back then, having barely hit my teens last week [errrr… – ed.], but if I had been around to buy the originals I’d be able to tell you that I lapped it all up and then some. Almost every Avenger at that point bar the Hulk appeared, each blinking out of existence, one by one, through successive chapters in front of the others as they tried to deal with the immediate emergencies on hand. You know, like Ultron. Gradually the abductions accelerate leaving those remaining both helpless and petrified for their own safety.

What a terrific sub-plot: any one of them could fall prey at any moment!

Avengers Korvac Saga 3

The original Guardians Of The Galaxy from the future guest starred, everyone bickered, and X-Men nemesis Henry Peter Gyrich made his first appearance, promptly rescinding the Avengers’ National Priority Status so that several dozen high-ranking superheroes had to take the number 11 bus into action. Hawkeye cracked some gags which I swore blind were the funniest things I had ever heard back then, as Earth’s Mightiest attempted to locate their nigh-omnipotent Enemy in leafy suburbia and failed to find more than some antique fittings.

“Terrific. ‘Avengers Attack Suburban Home! Defeated By Stylish Decor!’ The tabloids are going to love this!”

Avengers Korvac Saga 4

And then – then – the really big fight happens with all 6,289 Avengers versus a single self-possessed dude in a pair shorts. Had I been old enough, I would have spontaneously ejaculated.

Now, of course – now that I’ve reached double figures – the whole thing sounds ludicrous. No, make that utterly ludicrous.

The plots have holes in them so big that even I could whack a golf ball through them, the exchanges are hokey, and the fact that you can just stroll into the Avengers’ Mansion off a little side-street beggars belief.

Avengers Korvac Saga 5

But this was written way before the summer blockbusters which we now take for granted like the original SECRET WARS, the subsequent SECRET WAR, the modern SECRET WARS or the socio-politically searching CIVIL WAR, so we’d never seen so many heroes sharing a sofa before. The only thing that could have topped it was if renowned crowd-scene maestro George Perez had drawn the whole thing rather than just the first few issues and some spectacular covers.

Pause for doom-laden prediction.

Avengers Korvac Saga 2

She’s not wrong.

SLH

Buy Avengers: The Korvac Saga s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Rachel Rising Omnibus h/c (£67-99, Abstract Studios) by Terry Moore

March book 3 s/c (£17-99, Top Shelf) by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin & Nate Powell

They Didn’t Teach This In Worm School! (£8-99, Walker Books) by Simone Lia

Interval Wilderness (£7-00, Avery Hill) by Claire Scully

Harold (£5-00, Retrofit / Big Planet) by Antoine Cosse

Butter And Blood (£9-00, Retrofit / Big Planet) by Steven Weissman

Nothing Whatsoever All Out On The Open (£5-00, Retrofit / Big Planet) by Akino Kondoh

Experts (£4-50, Retrofit) by Sophie Franz

Solomon Royal Ed h/c (£10-50, Kingpin Books) by Carlos Pedro

Fresh Romance (£22-99, Oni Press) by Kate Leth, Arielle Jovellanos, Sally Ann Thompson, Various

The Uncanny Inhumans vol 2: The Quiet Room s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Charles Soule & Brandon Peterson, Kev Walker, Various

Flash vol 7 Savage World s/c (£14-99, DC) by Robert Venditti, Van Jensen & Brett Booth, Andre Coelho, Miguel Seplveda

Suicide Squad Most Wanted: Deadshot s/c (£14-99, DC) by Brian Buccellato & Viktor Bogdanovic, Richard Friend

Jim Hensons The Storyteller: Dragons h/c (£22-99, Archaia) by Daniel Bayliss, Fabian Rangel Jr, Hannah Christenson & Various

Deadly Class vol 4: Die For Me s/c (£13-99, Image) by Rick Remender & Wesley Craig, Jordan Boyd

Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth Side: P4 Volume 2 (£9-99, Kodansha) by Mizunomoto

Miracleman Book 4: The Golden Age vol 1 (UK Edition) h/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Neil Gaiman & Mark Buckingham

News!

Coldest Winter cover

ITEM! Antony Johnston announces THE COLDEST WINTER drawn by Steven Perkins!

And it looks stunning!

We heaped praise on Antony Johnston & Sam Hart’s THE COLDEST CITY and if that extensive preview is anything to go by – with tonnes of interior Steven Perkins art – THE COLDEST WINTER is going to be a belter.

Coldest Winter 1

ITEM! The Guardian writes a big piece on Nottingham culture and includes not just a mention, but a link to, Page 45!

Please tell me who I should be grateful to for that and I will lavish them with thanks!

For The Love Of God Marie cover

ITEM! Jade Sarson is interviewed about FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, MARIE! by The Herald in Scotland.

As you might have gathered from last week’s reviews, Page 45 utterly adores FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, MARIE!

For The Love Of God Marie 4

Right, Jonathan will be back from his hols next week so I’ll have a lot more time for news.

– Stephen

For The Love Of God Marie 5

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews July 2016 week four

Wednesday, July 27th, 2016

Featuring Jade Sarson, Bryan Lee O’Malley & Leslie Hung, that chap John Milton & Pablo Auladell, Inio Asano, Jeff Lemire & Emi Lennox and more!

For The Love Of God, Marie! (£16-99, Myriad) by Jade Sarson.

This isFor The Love Of God Marie cover a book so bursting with love that it will make your hearts soar!

If understanding and kindness is what you crave, I present you with 225 pages of pure passion initially presented in the most heavenly, cohesive coupling of purples and gold.

There will be many more couplings to come and, as the brilliant Baroness Benjamin once brightly advised, “It might have some sexy scenes”. I can guarantee it, and each one will prove unashamedly joyful.

Just look at the cover with its natural, softly shaded flesh and flowing tresses as resplendent as Sandro Botichelli’s ‘Birth Of Venus’, the innocence of its daisy chain and the rosary beads broken – but why?

“They say what’s most important is loving those around you.
“You must love your neighbour… but not like that.
“Can’t be having that… because it’s wrong… right?”

For The Love Of God Marie 1

It’s mixed messages time for our Marie Lovitt, a girl who instinctively understands what’s most important in life and acts accordingly: she spreads love wherever she goes!

In addition to her nature, there is also her nurture: the lessons she learns from what she is told. Here’s Marie being taught at Catholic school, aged roughly 12, 14 and 16. Everything below is a quote until I speak to you again.

Marie was a very special girl.
She loved to learn.
“Curie was of the opinion that ‘Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood.’”
She loved to understand.
“You must love one another as God has loved you.”
And she loved to LOVE.

For The Love Of God Marie 2
“Please copy down the diagram and add the correct labels for the male and female reproductive organs.”
She had a kind soul, dedicated to understanding people.
Unfortunately, most people misunderstood her.

Right, I’m back. Sorry about that – translating such carefully crafted comics to prose isn’t always easy.

So far, so good but I mentioned mixed messages and unfortunately Marie’s Catholic parents perceive things quite differently. To them the emphatically unqualified ‘Love Thy Neighbour’ comes with some pretty specific exceptions.

They’re more concerned with what their neighbours will think – but only about their daughter. To their promiscuous son’s flagrant bedroom antics, right under their noses, they turn a blind eye. “Boys will be boys” is a phrase that will be bandied about all too often here.

For The Love Of God Marie 3

Instead Marie is constantly chastised for not being “presentable” or “ladylike” enough, a superficiality and sexism which will extend to her teacher-trainer once she’s left school, and those propping up the bar where she’ll find herself serving at to make ends meet.

“No one wants a sad pair of tits at the bar, yeah?”

Before we return to all the love I promised you, we should get this out of the way first then I won’t burden you with it to again: if you think the chauvinism’s bad, brace yourself for racist outbursts, some very harsh and hypocritical recriminations, more poisonous, parental words and an abrupt change in colour palette.

The wonderful thing about Marie, though, is her resilience, her complete lack of superficiality, her compassion at school and her unfaltering, unhesitating urge to constantly reach out regardless of what her classmates might think. This extends first to Colin who jumps his own hurdles without the need of much help (they begin in the bed), to the more troubled William who has hidden depths (they convene in the changing rooms, appropriately enough), and to dear Agnes. They end up spending a lot of quality time in the chapel.

For The Love Of God Marie 7

The other wonderful thing about Marie is her complete lack of shame. I don’t mean that she is shameless, for that has come to mean something else entirely – Marie doesn’t even know what a “slut” is. Instead she has a love of luxuriating in both spiritual and physical pleasure of her friends and simply cannot conceive that there is anything wrong with that, especially when it is done with love. Without a sense of shame, the Catholic nuns have nothing to use against her. She disarms them of their best weapon.

And so we come to Prannath whom Marie meets – still early on in the book – after leaving school in 1965 in order to teach, and this is where the colour scheme comes into its own. This is where it truly shines, Marie’s golden hair radiating in both the sun and the rain from which they shelter together under his yellow umbrella. Both hair and umbrella blaze like charms against all adversity including the elements which tower above and rage around them. I cannot conceive a more romantic image.

For The Love Of God Marie 4

The bruised berry purple of the storm clouds and the thrilling sense of movement remind me of the very first page of Alessandro Sanna’s THE RIVER.

It’s in this same park that Prannath courts Marie with twinkling eyes seen through gold-rimmed glasses whose broad frames reflect his openness and honesty; although if you think he’s averse to a little light mischief then you are mistaken! His body language is endearingly coy then increasingly confident as they play chess together in such softly dappled light under a canopy of leaves.

And, oh, Marie, the smile you take away with you along with his treasured umbrella! Utterly smitten but barely daring to hope, she’s biting her lip, eyes gently closed with dreams of a future, even perhaps in prayer.

For The Love Of God Marie 5

Mouths are one of Sarson’s many fortes as an artist. Obviously there’s the body language and oh so many body forms. You wait until you see from behind an old friend bunched over a bedside in a great big, smothering hug! Zero elegance – because who gives a damn about appearances? – but maximum eloquence about what matters more. Obviously there are also the eyes which are ever so expressive. There are so many carefully considered perspectives too, as when reaching up with a helping hand, or looking down over an empty, indifferent, straight-lined, conformist suburb very early on as a heart is broken and someone is left far behind.

For The Love Of God Marie 6

But the contours of the mouths are like nothing I’ve quite seen before, a long way from the many shortcut clichés so-easily absorbed from traditional sources. I strongly suspect that Sarson has been modelling from herself in the mirror, gurning away to achieve her own individualistic grins and grimaces.

I’ve had to be ever so elusive to give you but the flavour of what’s in store, careful to keep the surprises for you. To do that I’ve also virtually ignored the second two-thirds, so what I must emphasise now is the scope of this truly great graphic novel.

It’s a generational saga and its breadth is such that it covers fifty years and encompasses so much that in addition to being a thumping drama of ecstatic highs and gut-wrenching lows, of parental culpability and the determination to do better, of success and failure and reconsideration, it is also a prime slab of British social history which I rank right up there with the triumph that is NELSON and even with the exceptional, historical memory-jog that is Raymond Briggs’ biography of his parents, ETHEL & ERNEST.

It is also exceptionally inclusive and erotic that will be adored by fans of Jess Fink’s CHESTER 5000 XYV and enjoyed on another level entirely.

This is a book so bursting with Jade Sarson’s love that – as I’ve sworn – it will make your hearts soar.

For The Love Of God Marie 8

But, for the love of God, Marie, where will it all end? How could it tie up?

Oh, ever so satisfyingly and ever so pleasurably that you won’t know whether to laugh or to cry.

That’s such a great title.

SLH

Buy For The Love Of God, Marie! and read the Page 45 review here

Paradise Lost h/c (£20-00, Jonathan Cape) by John Milton, Pablo Auladell.

“Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.”

Satan was a silly old sod, wasn’t he?

I’m not saying I’d want to spend eternity in Heaven unless it’s my idea of heaven with Guy Pearce stripped to the waist circa Memento, and Billy MacKenzie and the Cocteau Twins on continual, ethereal rotation, but really…? You’d rather be top dog in an incessant rat race of equally deluded demons in some sort of tortuous cesspit than contribute in some small or even substantial way to something slightly more… azure?

For all the fear Satan so lamentably and so successfully instilled throughout the ages through his veneer of self-confidence, with that single sentence he gives the game away: that he is limited by his ridiculous pride and so self-damned to Hell.

What he does next proves that he’s not half so happy with his lot as he likes to make out, either. Liar!

Paradise Lost 1

Spanish artist Pablo Auladell presents us with a Hell as equally at odds with our traditional view of the fiery pit as Gaiman and Kelley Jones did in SANDMAN: SEASON OF MISTS. It may have been Milton’s vision too, I don’t know; I’ve never attempted to read the original until now. Either way, what we have here is an endless, colourless gloom so dispiriting that I find it far more frightening. That, to me, would be the terror of an eternity: a monotony of unbroken, infinite, soulless grey.

Auladell juxtaposes this with glimpses of Heaven bathed in the copper oxide aquamarine which we know so well from municipal and ecclesiastical roof tops. It’s used in the lettering too, and the graphic novel is printed on such perfectly chosen paper that it shines.

Paradise Lost 3

Back down below, and I love the way in which, as “the Stygian council” disbands, the winged denizens of hell swarm from Satan’s tower like flies from a putrescent corpse or pile of dung.

Belial, Beelezbub and friends have just discussed their next move after being cast down from above. Open warfare won’t work because, you know, “omnipotent”. Guile ain’t going to cut it because also “omniscient”. Recanting would be rubbish on account of subservience and we all know by now that they’re not keen on that.

Paradise Lost 2

No, what they want to do is truly exasperate Him, get under His skin – to hit Him where it Hurts. And Beelzebub has a cunning plan:

“What if we find some easier enterprise?
“There is a place (if ancient prophetic fame in Heaven err not), another world…
“The happy seat of some new race called Man.
“Thither let us bend all our thoughts, to learn what creatures there inhabit, of what mould, or substance, how indued, and what their power…
“And where their weakness.”

Wait for it! Killer move coming!

“Let us seduce them to our party, that God may prove their foe.
“This would interrupt His joy,
“And our joy upraise in his disturbance;
“When his darling sons hurled headlong to partake with us.”

Nice! We can’t beat God, so let’s sully his most cherished creation. That’s going to smart something chronic.

It’s like the Farage of UKIP realising that his party will never win a straightforward General Election or he a seat as an MP himself. Why not gain a vainglorious victory instead, less directly, by corrupting the British public with unwarranted fears about immigration and tempt them to his cause with illusory lies about the benefits of economic independence? Let’s fuck everything up purely for personal self-satisfaction! Destroy Britain to damage Europe! Hooray!

Added bonus: the British population are then left riddled with helpless, hopeless guilt because they as individuals went and pressed that bloody button.

Nice one, Satan, it’s your best one yet. I don’t think I’m stretching things, do you?

Paradise Lost 4

I am completely converted to the art in all its eeriness but I have to confess: my God, but Milton drones on. Repetitive, much…?

I’m sure the language was a tour de force in its day to those that learned, but it’s no fun to read right now and I grew so frustrated at having to decipher its every meaning that, I confess, I jumped ship. I abandoned my post long before the final furlong or Judgement Day. I don’t even know if Judgement Day is referenced but I do spy Adam and Eve.

Honestly, what an ignoramus.

SLH

Buy Paradise Lost and read the Page 45 review here

Snotgirl #1 (£2-25, Image) by Bryan Lee O’Malley & Leslie Hung with Mickey Quinn.

Meet Lottie Person, who seems so serene on the surface.

“I’m fresh.  I’m fun. It’s just who I am.”

A fashion blogger with glossy green hair and a high hit rate, her life is pretty much perfect.

Her fans are devoted (she knows), her blogs are the best (she believes) and that goes without saying (she blasés). New verb.

“Except my friends are all horrible people.
“And my boyfriend decided we’re on a break.
“And oh yeah –“

OH NO!

“I have allergies.”

She has such severe allergies that they rule her life. Under the carefully controlled camera conditions of fashion photography, she radiates, she glistens, she sheens. Hung and colour artist Quinn have her emanating girly-girl, cartoon sparkles and her hair bathed in wavy light as if seen through some sort sub-aquatic prism.

Snotgirl 1

But a surge in pollen or one moment of stress can render her centre asunder. You carry that knowledge wherever you go. Here’s her new doctor, offering her a brand new medication drug trial:

“So much pain in your eyes. You’re a flower afraid of the sun. Lottie… haven’t you suffered enough?”
“Yes, Dr. Dick,” she wells up to herself, “I have suffered enough. I’m a beautiful flower and I deserve to be extremely happy!”

Lord, but I’m taking liberties with verbs.

Snotgirl 2

In any case it’s just an illusion. Catch Lottie alone at night – free from prying eyes – with her laptop, her allergies, her issues, her tissues and she is one angry, competitive, social-media mess with raging jealousies.

Lottie has locked herself in to a life and a style that can’t handle criticism or blemishes of any other kind. She reduces her so-called friends or at least peers and even complete strangers to one-word labels, defining them by a single trait: Cutegirl, Trashboy, Normgirl, Sandigirl, Custodialdude. She doesn’t appear to like anyone except herself. Oh wait – she doesn’t like Lottie, either.

As Marc Almond once wrote, “Is it me who’s feeling insecure?”

Snotgirl 4

Then she meets fluster-free, uninhibited, self-assured Caroline, a start-up blogger of extraordinary natural beauty whom she’s so taken by that she immediately christens her Coolgirl and agrees to meet at a bar. Lottie doesn’t go to bars, but…

“People can change! This selfie proves it!”

Nothing that happens next will you in any way see coming. Nothing! No, it’s not same-sex pash time. No, it’s not brand-new boyfarama, either. But I have told you everything that you need to know. I do hope that no one else has spoiled this for you.

Pick this up quick, before someone does! There is far more going on that I’ve so far intimated. The creator of SECONDS, SCOTT PILGRIM and LOST AT SEA has proved himself over and over again to be a shrewd observer of personal foibles and contemporary interaction. Here each page is packed with both combined in single sentences like inaccurate, emoji-ridden texts sent through a cafe window instead of any meaningful one-to-one communication which could be achieved simply by stepping through a door!

Snotgirl 3

Hung and Quinn grow better and better with each successive page. I love how everything opens up (from the comparatively confined space) in the two pages where Lottie and Caroline have a meeting of minds over one ridiculously specific coffee. Later in the hot, dark, windowless bar claustrophobia returns, the pressure ramps up, and you can almost feel yourself sweating and spinning thanks to Quinn’s Bourbon colours.

And then you can relax when white space returns in the sanctuary of a toilet cubicle. Can’t you…?

Welcome to my nightmares.

As someone who used to blush or flush at the slightest provocation in public – after which there’d be no recovery for hours – I am ticking the recognition box of wretched self-consciousness and the fear that it could erupt at any second.

Bryan too is writing for experience – and you can tell – in his case with similarly severe allergies. There’s a bit in the back about all of that: a one-page comic drawn by himself.

SLH

Buy Snotgirl #1 Leslie Hung cover and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Snotgirl #1 Bryan Lee O’Malley cover and read the Page 45 review here

Goodnight Punpun vol 2 (£16-99, Vis) by Inio Asano.

Ideally Punpun would like everyone to be happy. He’s quite like to be happier himself.

“Punpun was sick of his own optimism.”

Don’t worry, it won’t last.

From Inio Asano, the most unpredictable Japanese comicbook creator that I’m aware of, comes a second instalment of GOODNIGHT PUNPUN which takes a startling turn for the dark. Although my search for interior art online suggests that we’ve only just begun.

Before we get there, comedy comes in the form of a teacher who has only one expression whatever he says – or doesn’t say – which is boss-eyed and open-mouthed, like a particularly gormless goldfish. There’s a similarly afflicted student who lists slightly as she hovers like a slack-jawed ghost, her back to the others and her hair hanging down in twin, lank bunches like so much pond weed.

“I’m not interested in shallow boys like that,” she pronounces as they discuss teenage Yaguchi’s reputedly prodigious member. I don’t know which is funnier: the delusion or the non sequitur.

Goodnight Punpun vol 1

The Onodera family’s an odd one. School student Punpun lives with his excitable, drunken mother and her brother Yuichi who moved in to help out following the father’s… departure. They alone are drawn as stick-limbed, cartoon birds, uncle Yuichi perpetually adorned by a woollen hat. Punpun’s easily flustered timidity is emphasised that throughout he never says a word directly, leaving his friends and relatives to interpret his actions, whereas his uncle never shuts up. Even so, it transpires that he’s been keeping what really lies within tightly bottled up.

Punpun and his uncle are both paralysed by guilt and self-loathing, the first over something he’s not even done yet, the second over a series of events that happened five years ago. It’s a recollection / confession which grows increasingly ominous, even more worrying then finally… good grief!

There’s layer upon layer of I-never-saw-that-coming and it goes a long way in explaining why Punpun’s uncle goes to such enormous, toe-curling lengths to sabotage his own chances of romantic bliss with cafe waitress Midori Okoma.

Goodnight Punpun vol 2 2

Midori is sweet, sincere and both generous and grateful when shown kindness. She’s 25 to Uncle Yuichi’s 33 which is no gap at all, both of them are single, and she is honest and open about her genuine adoration of Yuichi. So what is his problem?

Well, here’s an earlier conversation with a local grocery clerk:

“Yuichi, do you think being alive is fun?”
“Well… what can I say…? It’s not about whether or not it’s fun anymore…”
“Wow… that’s really cool. Then what is it about, Yuichi?”
“Atonement, maybe.”

What happened five years ago is layered and complex and intense – as is Midori and Yuichi’s attempts to work through it and reconcile the past with the present, and I’ve chosen our interior art carefully to hint but not divulge.

Goodnight Punpun vol 2 3

 

Goodnight Punpun vol 2 4

This substantial sequences forms the centre of the book, sandwiched in between Punpun’s own internal self-flagellation on either side, which isn’t helped by the incessant taunts and temptations of a voice in his head whom Punpun has decided is God. He appears to Punpun as a sort of celebrity guru, a hipster with a beard and afro – a grinning, two-dimensional cardboard cut-out.

For all that and more I’d refer you to our review of GOODNIGHT PUNPUN VOL 1, but essentially Punpun’s primary obsession is over a girl called Aiko whom he’s already failed once and who finally reveals one of her fears here:

“You know, I have the same dream over and over. I dream that I’m waiting for someone for a long time.
“In the dark, on a beach, I’m waiting for someone for years and decades.
“But then, at some point, I notice that someone is staring at me. It’s a middle-aged woman I’ve never seen before, but I’m so happy to see her that I pull my feet out of the sand and run over to her.
“But when I get there, it’s just my own reflection in the water.”

Asano’s books take a dozen pages to acclimatise to, after which there’s no leaving them on the table till later. And they’re lengthy. This one comes in at 400 pages long.

Goodnight Punpun vol 2 5

Hands always play a prominent part, and he can draw a tear wobbling on the edge of a lower eyelid with just the right surface tension, transparency and refraction. But the most phenomenal detail is reserved for landscapes, even at night, and the weather – as ever – is going to make itself felt during the climactic scenes.

SLH

Buy Goodnight Punpun vol 2 and read the Page 45 review here

Plutona s/c (£12-99, Image) by Jeff Lemire & Emi Lenox.

Deep in the dark, green coniferous forest, a very long way from the bustling Metro City, a woman lies battered and broken and dead. A fly crawls across the black cloth which partially obscures her face. It will be a miracle if anybody finds her.

“Teddy! You’re still not dressed? You better hurry or… “

Teddy’s been studiously logging the morning Metro news. Teddy’s a cape-spotter and there’s been a rare sighting of the reclusive Plutona in combat high over the city’s East end. It’s pretty exciting!

“… You’ll be late for school.”
“Almost ready, Mom.”

That’s Diane, just applying the subtle finishing touches to her light make-up. She can’t wait to wear her grey jacket to school now that it’s been embellished with spiked metal studs. She’s a pretty natty dresser, with a matching, skull-adorned neck chief and olive t-shirt.

Plutona 0

“Yo! That coat looks awesome!”
“You think? Not too much? I did it last night.”
“I want it.”

And what little Mie wants, she usually gets. No “please”, no “thank you”, just “bad ass” once she’s wearing it.

“I get it back at lunchtime.”
“Deal. Awesome!”

She doesn’t get it back at lunchtime.

Then there’s Ray with his black eye. While Teddy, Diane, Mie and her younger brother Mike have been coaxed down to breakfast by their parents, Ray’s been trying to raise his Dad, late for work and passed out on the sofa, beer can still in his hand.

Plutona 1

 

Plutona 2

It won’t be the last time that Lemire contrasts the four households. While Ray sneers and jeers his way to what he hopes is top-dog status in the small pack at school, he’s not just a big man at home. Forced to endure chain-smoked cigarettes and hours of awful television dictated by his dad, he sits there alone and friendless while in the bedrooms Mie texts, Diane plays with her new puppy and Teddy studies Plutona’s history intently.

Because earlier that evening they found the body – Plutona’s body – and they don’t know what to do.

Plutona 4

In a small-scale way it reminded me of Patrick Ness’ ‘The Rest Of Is Just Live Here’ – highly recommended – in that this emphatically not about the action which precedes the main thrust of the tale (I could have done without the flashback at the end of each chapter drawn by Lemire recounting Plutona’s activities the evening before), it’s about what happens to the small-town kids at the periphery.

Lemire’s observation of teenage tensions, strained friendships, loyalties and disloyalties – those tiny, careless betrayals that stack up – is what I enjoyed most about this book, along with Lenox’s fashion sense, subtle, subdued acting and Bellaire’s luminous colours. The teenagers’ eyes are wide and glowing – apart from little Mie’s which are pitch black. The sunrises and sunsets are splendid, with a thrilling spirit of time and place, especially at night under torchlight in the woods.

Plutona 5

Hold on: if they all agreed to keep the secret, who’s out there, alone in the woods, with Plutona’s body? What could they possibly want with it?

I doubt it’s who you’ll expect. Also: they’re not alone.

SLH

Buy Plutona s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Huck vol 1 s/c (£10-99, Image) by Mark Millar & Rafael Albuquerque.

ThisHuck cover is a book that begins as a very sweet tale about a man with a heart of gold and an earnest desire to help whoever he can, whenever he can. He doesn’t wait to be asked, he dreams up kind deeds for the day: selfless surprises like leaving money that he’s saved up in a library book for a stranger; mowing the lawn for all the old people in his remote seaside hamlet; helping a neighbour clear a space for a new barn; taking out all the trash out for everyone overnight.

It’s a lot of work for one man, but he’s very capable.

Huck’s not what you’d call bright in the academic sense nor is he worldly wise. But he’s exceptionally bright in every other sense, beaming at the prospect of giving pleasure. He seeks no reward except the knowledge that someone’s life is made easier, happier or safer.

Huck 0

His friends are his family for as a baby Huck was left outside the sleepy town’s orphanage with a note in his basket:

“Please love him.”

And they did. And they do. And he loves them very much back in return.

Huck 1

All he asks is that they keep his deeds secret because, well, if the rest of the world found out that Huck could uproot a three-foot-wide tree stump with his bare hands, that town wouldn’t be so sleepy no more.

The rest of the world finds out.

Huck 2

The first chapter is magical in a ‘Forrest Gump’ way. I can’t think that wasn’t its inspiration. And there’s a lot of love left to come.

But there’s also a whole lot of hurt.

Albuquerque manages to convey so much in Huck’s physique and body language beyond his weight and prowess, and there’s an earthiness to Dave McCaig’s colouring right from the beginning so that when the book takes a very sharp turn into unhappier terrain it doesn’t jar one jot. It’s as expressive as Eisner, especially when startled, and while so many of those who surround Huck grow nasty, Huck’s face retains its little-lost-boy look of astonishment under all but the direst circumstances.

SLH

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

Doom Patrol Book 2 (£22-50, DC) by Grant Morrison & Richard Case, many.

“They’re going to… to exterminate imagination and… strangeness…
“They’re building death camps for our dreams…”

A second frazzling feast of Grant’s mind-melting, uber-arty psychohero series which now contains the original, thinner third and fourth volumes and includes litigation-sensitive Flex Mentallo‘s first appearance. You know those Charles Atlas adverts where the beech nerd gets sand kicked in his face? Flex is the end product.

On the whole, though, he reflects the saner side of the spectrum when you consider that the Doom Patrol’s new team member is their own HQ: a sentient stretch of semi-detached housing called Danny The Street. With a penchant for Palare, he’s pretty useful accommodation. Able to do his own dishes, cross-dress his own windows and teleport wherever he fancies, Danny’s going to save a hell of a lot in bus fares. Quite good for rescue missions too.

Doom Patrol Book 2 1

If there’s an overall theme to Morrison’s tenure, it’s constant metamorphosis: Rebis’ initial merged state as man, woman and negative energy being, then eventual evolution towards the end; Cliff’s constant robotic body upgrades (which here involves an enormous set of crustacean legs); Rhea’s emergence as if from a cocoon as much as a coma; or indeed Crazy Jane’s abrupt transfigurations as each of her sixty-four personalities with their own unique power vie for control of her body. And that’s just the Patrol itself.

Doom Patrol Book 2 2

Then there are supervillains like Agent “!” in search of The Element of Surprise, Number None (“the person who bumps into you when you’re late for the train; the chair that collapses underneath you when you’re trying to make a good impression on your girlfriend’s parents; that man who seems thin but somehow you can’t get past him because he takes up the whole sidewalk…”) and The Beard Hunter, a Punisher parody who’s really a closet case unable to grow his own facial hair:

“You’re thirty-six years old,” scolds his mother. “Don’t you think it’s about time you had a girlfriend?”
“Well, I-I-I’ve got Shu-Sheba. Sheba. What’s wrong with her?”
“Sheba’s a German Shepherd, Ernest. I want grandchildren, not a police investigation.”

One of the most outstanding scenes is a trip to his police station where all the bobbies are shouting “Mee maw mee maw mee maw” and the notices on the walls prove more ambitious that most:

“Wanted: Hope”
“Wanted: The Shape Of Things To Come”
“Wanted: Light At The End Of The Tunnel”.

Doom Patrol Book 2 3

The second half kicks off with Flex Mentallo having stumbled upon some unknown horror in the heart of The Pentagon.

“Why is The Pentagon the shape it is?”
“You might as well ask, “Who runs America? Or maybe you just did.”

Also on offer this episode: The Kaleidoscape, the Anathematicians of The Mesh and The Tearoom of Despair.  Meanwhile The Painting That Ate Paris has resurfaced in Venice, Professor Caulder’s building something he probably shouldn’t, Rebis is about to engage in sex with him/her/itself, and Dorothy… Dorothy really should tell the others what price she’s having to pay in order to use her strange abilities.

Doom Patrol Book 2 4

Oh yes, there’s also a war on…

“Why are they shouting at each other?”
“Because we have entered the Zone of Words That Kill. Now… Where’s my dictionary?”

SLH

Buy Doom Patrol Book 2 and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Bone Coda 25th Anniversary s/c (£13-99, Cartoon Books) by Jeff Smith

Wilds End vol 2: Enemy Within (£14-99, Boom) by Dan Abnett & I.N.J. Culbard

The Arab Of The Future vol 1: 1978-1984 (£18-99, Two Roads) by Riad Sattouf

Never Goodnight (£14-99, The Friday Project) by Coco Moodysson

DMZ Book vol 2 (£18-99, DC) by Brian Wood & Riccardo Burchielli

Red Thorn vol 1: Glasgow Kiss s/c (£10-99, DC) by David Baillie & Meghan Hetrick

Lost Tales (£8-99, Phoenix) by Adam Murphy

Guardians Of The Louvre (US Edition)  (£22-99, NBM) by Jiro Taniguchi

New Suicide Squad vol 3: Freedom s/c (£14-99, DC) by Sean Ryan, Various & Philippe Briones, Various

Batman: Detective Comics vol 7: Anarky s/c (£13-50, DC) by Francis Manapul & Brian Buccellato

Abc Warriors Return To Ro Busters h/c (£14-99, 2000AD) by Pat Mills & Clint Langley

Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor vol 3: Hyperion (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Titan) by Robbie Morrison, George Mann & Daniel Indro, Mariano Laclaustra, Various

DC Superhero Girls: Final Crisis s/c (£8-99, DC) by Shea Fontana & Yancey Labat

Agents Of SHIELD vol 1: The Coulson Protocols (£13-50, Marvel) by Marc Guggenhein & German Peralta

Uncanny X-Men vol 6: Storyville s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Chris Bachalo

X-23 Complete Collection vol 1 s/c (£31.-99, Marvel) by Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost, Various & Billt Tan, Francis Portela, Various

Monster Hunter Flash Hunter vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Keiichi Hikami & Shin Yamamoto

Monster Hunter Flash Hunter vol 2 (£6-99, Viz) by Keiichi Hikami & Shin Yamamoto

Neon Genesis Evangelion Omnibus vols 13-14 (£12-99, Viz) by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto

Seraph Of The End, Vampire Reign vol 3 (£6-99, Viz) by Takaya Kagami & Yamato Yamamoto

Seraph Of The End, Vampire Reign vol 4 (£6-99, Viz) by Takaya Kagami & Yamato Yamamoto

Seraph Of The End, Vampire Reign vol 5 (£6-99, Viz) by Takaya Kagami & Yamato Yamamoto

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

Seraph Of The End, Vampire Reign vol 7 (£6-99, Viz) by Takaya Kagami & Yamato Yamamoto

Seraph Of The End, Vampire Reign vol 8 (£6-99, Viz) by Takaya Kagami & Yamato Yamamoto

Seraph Of The End, Vampire Reign vol 9 (£6-99, Viz) by Takaya Kagami & Yamato Yamamoto

News!

Not this week. I’ve only had two days off to read and review the above when normally I have three!

“You have three?!”

Yep, ordinarily I serve at the shop four days a week and it is a joy!

But there’s obviously no time to read comics on the shop floor. It’s ordering this, restocking that, paying for all the gorgeous comics we sell while accounting for everything to those lovely tax people while providing ebullient shop-floor recommendations to anyone who asks (and prompting plenty who don’t) and taking your ever so lovely, hard-earned lolly for which we thank you so much!

All my reviews are therefore written well away from that marvellous, Madding Crowd on my days off and during those scant sober hours after six.*

This week I’m flying solo on two days alone and I don’t think I’ve done badly, do you?

– Stephen

* Some reviews blatantly written while steamingly drunk. Sorry etc  But not this week.

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews July 2016 week three

Wednesday, July 20th, 2016

Includes Una’s On Sanity and exciting Page 45 News underneath! *squeals*

You Belong Here h/c (£13-99, Compendium) by M.H. Clark & Isabelle Arsenault.

You belong here.

You really do.

The publication of this quiet poem of profound truth could not be more timely.

For many weeks now we have, all of us, been assaulted by words, images and deeds seeking to divide and to destroy; to alienate individual human beings from one other. The isolationist emphasis has been on expelling and expunging.

Partly because of this ramped-up rhetoric of outright racism – and the long-term homophobia within the UK Independence party and elsewhere – lives have been destroyed, followed by confidence, a sense of security, physical safety and hope.

Here is a brightly shining beacon of hope just when we need it the most, and it is beautiful to behold.

You Belong Here 1

It is in part a love poem with a gentle lilt whose personal refrain of constancy and commitment is interspersed by an ode to the natural order of things.

Free from fuss, it relies instead on its simplicity, its eloquence and its truth.

Illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault with an empathy for both its embracing sentiment and its quiet, comforting tone, the book’s colours glow gently, warmly, whether it’s light emanating from a window on a cold, wintry day or the sandstone shades of senescent leaves blowing past summer to fall.

You Belong Here 2

You’d expect no less excellence from the artist of the equally tender JANE, THE FOX & ME but this is far more joyful throughout. The landscapes are all fully populated for a start, and not just by single species but by different creatures coexisting in tranquil harmony.

Why the animals are a silvery white will be revealed towards the end, and it’s ever so clever.

You Belong Here 3

Each line of verse is artfully placed within the images, especially on the very first page whose final promise – and it is a promise – is set apart for maximum impact in a very specific location. It begins thus:

“The stars belong in the deep night sky
and the moon belongs there too,
and the winds belong in each place they blow by…”

we are told

“….and I belong here with you.”

What follows is an assurance that every living creature is in its right place, wherever it happens to be; for we all belong wherever we roam, and you all belong here with me.

SLH

Buy You Belong Here h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Scarlet vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev.

Few thingsScarlet vol 1 cover anger most people I know more than the abuse of power.

Racism is one of them, so South Africa under Apartheid was a double whammy, and Congressman John Lewis has some arresting history for you in MARCH Book 1 and MARCH Book 2 when it comes to policing in America.

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

Welcome to Scarlet’s world: it’s just come crashing down around her.

A bent cop, high on drugs, stops and searches Scarlet and co. who are doing nothing more untoward than laughing and drinking coffee in an urban park in Portland. Wisely they attempt to deflect their own sense of violation and diffuse a volatile situation with humour, until the cop frisks Scarlet way too personally and her boyfriend Gabriel smacks him one.

They run, and it’s the most romantic moment in Scarlet’s life. Unfortunately by that point the cop has Gabriel’s wallet.

“Oh my God. He – he knows your name.”
“I’m in a lot of trouble.”

And that lone cop shoots defenceless Gabriel dead.

Scarlet vol 1 1

Days later when Scarlet wakes up in hospital, she reads the Portland Press front page. It’s complete fabrication.

“Teen Druglord Gunned Down
“Police Say Bloody Showdown Saved Lives”

A hostage situation…? I don’t think so.

“Deputy Commissioner Ashley offered this statement to the press: “I applaud the outstanding and brave work of the officers involved and promise the people of the city that this is only the first of many moves made by us to keep the city clean from any and all predators that think that this city is their playground.”

Imagine reading that after your boyfriend’s being murdered by a cop in cold blood.

“Everything is broken. Everything.
“Good people are victims. Bad people are heroes. Dumb is virtue, food is poison. Corruption is a national pastime. Rapists rape. The poor are left to rot. Religion is business. No one is safe, and everyone thinks that it’s funny.
“Why is the world allowed to be this way? Why doesn’t anyone do anything? Why don’t we fight back? Why is it like this? Why did it happen?
“And then it hit me. It doesn’t matter why.
“”Why” is the cloud. The redirect. The shell game. “Why” is bullshit. “Why” makes you feel better for just thinking the question. The question is… what am I going to do about it?”

Calmly and methodically Scarlet sets about rectifying the situation.

Scarlet vol 1 2

We’re not just talking revenge; we’re talking flash-mob revolution, which will indeed be televised.

Public opinion must be courted and won. That public most emphatically includes you, for Scarlet breaks off from time to time to talk directly, conversationally, to camera, with a calm, open honesty which is endearing, evaluating her progress and emotional involvement as she goes along. She won’t be alone in that.

Bendis and Maleev provide some additional, exceptional start-stop, flash-title timing which wrings humour from even the direst of circumstances. The first one focussing on a compressed history of Scarlet is the one I have for you here.

Scarlet vol 1 3

Scarlet vol 1 4

But there’s also the pivotal moment when she meets up with Brandon, Gabriel’s best friend, for the first time since she left hospital and Gabriel died.

“Now I know everyone has to automatically tolerate their best friend’s girlfriends. That is an unwritten rule of the world,” she confides in us.
“So I’m not entirely sure if Brandon likes me of just tolerated me…. because that’s what you do.
“I’m about to find out.”

The sweet thing is this:

“As for Brandon here, he was in love with Gabriel too.
“Not romantically, or maybe he was a little, who can say…”

What follows is that second compressed history reminding us just how romantic true friendships can be.

The art from Maleev is exceptional. That initial urban park with its pedestrians and skaters throwing long, long shadows is lit and coloured to perfection, whilst the watercolour washes round the Hawthorne highway lift bridge melted my heart. You’ll find that it at the bottom of Scarlet’s three-page bullet-point background.

Scarlet vol 1 5

The expressions are subtle and subdued, and the faces are full of humanity (or inhumanity) with unexpected, mottled flesh tones both warm and cold. When our bent cop sweats under pressure it’s almost as if he’s submerged in an aquarium.

The urban street fashions are immaculate, which is ever so important because as tensions rise and civilians take to the street it is their very individuality and vulnerability which stands out – even en masse – against the uniform wall of uniformed police in black-Kevlar riot-gear.

You’ll be satisfyingly surprised at the schisms within the system as the vested-interest powers-that-wish-to-perpetually-be wake up to the scale of Scarlet’s challenge and the public’s reaction both to it and to her, and Maleev rises to that challenge with half a dozen eye-dazzling, double-page spreads which celebrate those oh so brave folks opposing the phalanx.

Scarlet vol 1 6

Actually from what will be SCARLET VOL 2 but you get the picture

For earlier Bendis crime please see JESSICA JONES: ALIAS, my favourite comic ever published by Marvel, each of the four books reviewed without spoilers, as long as you’re over 18. I’m delighted to announce that Brubaker and Phillips now have some serious competition when it comes to crime, and if you crave more CRIMINAL then this one’s for you.

Extras include Bendis’ script to issue #1 with its covering note to Maleev and the script to #2 with Maleev’s exploratory doodles upon it.

Final quote (because who doesn’t love an encore?):

“I’ve been watching so much internet porn I think I learned German.”

SLH

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

On Sanity: One Day In Two Lives (£4-99, Becoming Press) by Una.

Powerful, important, sobering and yet surprisingly uplifting book, never has it been more vital to read both the Afterword and Afterthoughts.

These finally and substantially inform the whole, but before you reach this long, winding road of remarkable recovery which no one expected let alone dared hope for, you’re in for a haltingly stark experience articulated ever so eloquently with complete candour.

Told by both Una – the creator of the widely acclaimed BECOMING UNBECOMING – and her mother, now aged 72, it’s an illuminating, autobiographical aperture onto a very specific aspect of madness and one extraordinary, critical morning, after which the afternoon was all too inevitable.

On Sanity 1

On that afternoon we find Una and her mother sitting in the kitchen at the back of her mother’s big house, drinking tea, eating biscuits and reading the day’s newspapers.

“One of us waited anxiously for the medical team that assessed my mother under Section 2 of the Mental Health Act to decide whether to detain her. The other was relaxed in the knowledge that she’d been proved right about the global conspiracy against her (which the doctors were clearly in on), so neither of us was surprised when a doctor’s face appeared round the kitchen door to explain what would happen next.”

This house – originally Una’s grandparents’ – is almost a co-star of this comic. It’s the sole setting for its centrepiece and far more of a prison than the place where she is actually detained once liberated. Specific rooms play key roles, as does its layout and some sequences use its very floor plan as narrative panels. Another uses its staircase with its elaborate, angry red, wrought iron banister for a moment of conflict I suspect was imaginary. Others present full portraits of the hallway seen through doorways or of the rooms themselves and what is seen through a window. What you will find in the billiard room, presented with such sense of scale, will astonish you.

On Sanity 2

“After the brace of doctors had left, we waited for the police and ambulance to arrive. There were still four people in the house, but only one of us did not know that.”

So, what happened that morning?

The sad and unnatural schism between mother and daughter during her mother’s mental illness is quietly emphasised throughout. It’s there on that afternoon when one knows more than the other, but also during the entire main body wherein her mum is recalling that day and the world as she perceived it back then – the one she effectively inhabited.

The entire scenario was painfully familiar to me for reasons I touch on during my review of Darryl Cunningham’s PSYCHIATIC TALES which is an equally honest and important work and which sits proudly in our Mental Health Awareness Section alongside this, Terian Koscik’s WHEN ANXIETY ATTACKS, Allie Brosh’s HYPERBOLE AND A HALF, John Cei Douglas’ SHOW ME THE MAP TO YOUR HEART and so much more. That the section is proving so popular – that our customers care – I find immensely moving.

On Sanity 3

This comic is divided into three distinct chapters: the first few pages originally created in 2008 when there was no hope to speak of; her mother’s side of the story based on an oral history recorded over tea and biscuits (never underestimate the palliative power of tea and biscuits); then finally the Afterword and Afterthoughts. In the latter Una’s mother shares her current perspective including an episode which, again, ticked my own recognition box, and in the former Una herself provides context and makes an astute observation on what was not observed that day.

The thing, of course, is to cure mental illness. And if the drugs work then they work (eventually).

But understanding is everything in all aspects of life, and if we had more people in this world like Una who seek to understand, then we’d all be a lot closer too.

SLH

Buy On Sanity: One Day In Two Lives and read the Page 45 review here

Love Addict – Confessions Of A Serial Dater (£18-99, Top Shelf) by Koren Shadmi.

“Fake it till you make it.”Love Addict cover

Outright deceit aside, that’s actually not a bad adage for so many aspects of life.

Long-term facades are high-maintenance and I’ve certainly no time for fakery in friendship otherwise you make all the wrong friends. But if I’m ever feeling a little down in the shop I force myself to smile – which itself releases endorphins – and within minutes a customer’s shared enthusiasm rubs off on me and I’m glowing again.

Slightly trickier is courage, which is only gained after finding some first.

Similarly what we’re talking about here is the chicken-and-the egg confidence conundrum when it comes to success with scoring. And I am specifically talking about scoring. Not love, not romance, not relationships, but picking up men or women and getting beyond second base. The more you succeed, the more confidence you gain, the more likely your chance of a conquest.

But if love is a drug then sex is far more addictive.

Love Addict 1

Honestly, it’s in English!

Our narrator, K, is actually quite chipper as this all kicks off. His flatmate Brian is carefree and confident and ridiculously successful at scoring. But on the first few pages without any front or finagling, K manages to turn a casual, earnest enquiry into an honest romance.

They move in together!

It doesn’t work out.

Koren Shadmi: Love Addict - S. 15

It’s at this low juncture, on K’s winter birthday, that he’s caught all melancholy, brooding over snapshots of that failed relationship, despairing at remaining single forever, and Brian introduces him to Lovebug. Lovebug is a dating website. Brian schools our reluctant naïf in the art of securing dates not through openness and honesty but by working the system to maximum advantage.

There’s nothing wrong with putting your best foot forward – it’s important to focus on all your positive aspects it’s sometimes difficult for some of us to recall – but there are those pitfalls I touched on in lying: you attract all the wrong people. And, to begin with, K attracts all the wrong women.

Love Addict 3

Truly, this is in English. It’s just that others have been ahead of us.

Now wait! This was where I too was worried. I was worried that what I was seeing paraded in front of me, as well as K, were women with fault-lines deeper than San Andreas’. I’m a big fan of the foibles we share which is why I love Adrian Tomine’s OPTIC NERVE so much. We’re none of us perfect. But I have a massive aversion to blanket misanthropy.

But trust in the creator of ABADDON! That’s not what this is about, and everything in my introduction will be addressed here including chauvinism. What this is about is dating sites, addiction, superficiality and self-esteem: because things grow much, much worse when K begins to succeed.

“A new, insatiable greed started growing in me.
“I had already wasted all this time either being single or in monogamous relationships.”

If your eyebrows just arched as antagonistically high as mine at the term “wasted” either in conjunction with the words “monogamous” or “single” then welcome to my ceiling-split world. Sex is fab – I’m reasonably keen – but self-validation through sex alone…?

Love Addict 4

“I became arrogant and cocky. My attention span dropped to zero.
“And the weirdest thing was, the more arrogant I became, the more luck I had with women.”

Also: the happier he becomes! He’s finally in a place where he feels he can quit therapy because he doesn’t feel so much of a loser. You can’t begrudge him that! That has to be good, doesn’t it? Yes, it does, if how you treat others is of no consideration to you what so fucking ever.

K’s self-woven web becomes increasingly tangled personally and professionally as an animator – though not necessarily in the ways you might expect.

Love Addict 5

There is a glorious physicality to the art which revels in all sorts of female forms including in the more muscular like Robert Crumb did. And this is equally, sexually explicit in places. The forms are soft and round and fleshy – well, the women’s are. K’s a stick insect, and there is a masterful full-page panel when Taylor – who herself falls for Robert Crumb’s work once introduced – reveals herself.

“So, what do you think?” she asks, proudly.

And he sits there, as slack-jawed as he is lank-limbed, timidly on the bed. Better still, the composition is such that the shot is seen from the floor where both Taylor and K’s feet rest horizontally, while she rises up so far above him that his line of sight’s at eleven o’clock, totally dominated by both her confidence and physique. The quadrilateral is completed on the left and right by their vertical bodies.

Love Addict 6

It’s possible that I may know stuff.

Joe Matt is a fan and I can see why. K’s eyes behind glasses are never more than a dot, dazzled by almost everything he encounters.

The colours are a warm combination of purples, pinks, browns and terracotta. Structurally this is set up in seasons and when summer arrives, you can sure feel the heat. Whatever the time of year, however, neither the internal nor external environments have been skimped on: where dates take place tends to play a very large role in what transpires, doesn’t it? Brian will provide his own knowledgeable masterclass on that issue too.

Each date is numerically catalogued at the beginning of each chapter, then introduced by one colour-coded text each from K and whoever he’s meeting because that’s how their contact’s been developed after the initial site’s hook-up.

I love the final page’s ellipsis. I think that will make you smile.

SLH

Buy Love Addict – Confessions Of A Serial Dater and read the Page 45 review here

Monstress vol 1: Awakening s/c (£7-50, Image) by Marjorie M. Liu & Sana Takeda…

“Be smart. Be obedient. That might keep you alive… but nothing will keep you whole. Not in that place.”

No, not a new Page 45 recruit receiving last-minute instructions before entering the mail order salt mines on the upper floors, but advice offered to Maika as she arrives, bound in chains, at the palatial headquarters of the Cumea, an order of human witch-nuns who seem to like nothing more than vivisecting the Arcanics, magical creatures who are part-human, part-animal, and of which Maika is one.

Once upon a time humans and Arcanics co-existed peacefully, but that was before a bitter war erupted resulting in the deaths of one hundred and forty six thousand Arcanics at the decisive battle of Constantine. Since then the remaining Arcanics have been in hiding, gradually being hunted down and handed over to the Cumea for their vile experiments, but perhaps it’s not too late… Maika certainly thinks so, which is why she has arranged for her own capture.

Monstress-1

She’s convinced it is the only way to get behind the formidable defences of the Cumea headquarters, for she believes there is a mystical artifact the Cumea are looking for and have no idea it is hidden right under their very noses. When she acquires said artifact, though, and goes on the run, well, that’s when her problems really begin bifurcating off in all sorts of unexpected directions. But then, what precisely did she want the artifact for anyway…?

Monstress-0

Well, this was an unexpectedly dark blend of fantasy and horror. Let me make absolutely clear: it’s certainly aimed at a mature audience, not kids. Exceptionally well written, including an intriguing sub-plot about Maika’s late mother, with an extremely broad cast of varied and fantastical characters, but I suppose we should expect no less from a published fantasy author, Majorie Liu, and just as beautifully illustrated by Sana Takeda. They have worked together before these two, on an eminently forgettable few issues of X-23 for Marvel, but they’re clearly both operating well in their respective comfort zones here. This is outstanding work for its particular genre.

Monstress-2

As I say, it’s certainly not one for the squeamish, but both the writing and the exquisitely clean art have the feel of a Humanoids publication. If you liked say THE SWORDS OF GLASS, therefore, I think this would very much appeal.

Monstress-4

JR

Buy Monstress vol 1: Awakening s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Invisible Republic vol 1 s/c (£7-50, Image) by Gabriel Hardman, Corinna Bechko.

LifeInvisible Republic cover on the colony-moon of Maidstone isn’t the gleaming, frictionless future which certain science fictions promised us. Grindingly exploited by its mother-colony, it’s a place of food-stamps, indentured servitude, and political unrest. Recovering from its second violent regime change in living memory, no one can agree whether Maidstone’s deposed dictator – Arthur McBride – was an inevitability, a hero, or a monster.

So when journalist Nicholas Babb finds a diary recounting the untold history of McBride’s regime, he thinks it’ll resurrect his career. Especially when he learns it was written by McBride’s own cousin, Maia Reveron: a woman methodically erased from history. But Babb is about to learn that Maidstone’s past is buried in a shallow grave, and it doesn’t intend to rest in peace.

Invisible Republic vol 1 1

INVISIBLE REPUBLIC is as much political thriller as it is space opera; part Fatherland, part Star Wars. McBride seems built from secrets. Even Maia, the person who knew him best, has to suppose his motives, and piece together his schemes. Like the best science fiction, INVISIBLE REPUBLIC treats its future like history: intricate, contradictory, defiant.

Invisible Republic vol 1 2

Bechko, Hardman and Ponsor are meticulous world-builders, rendering Maidstone with such intimacy that it’s difficult to believe the place is invented. Bechko never allows her rigorous excavation of its daily life to undermine the dense plotting, while Hardman’s compositions are startlingly generous. He can pack an improbable amount of detail and incident into a single, clear panel. Ponsor’s colours conduct the worn, lived-in Maidstone atmosphere, but grow suddenly rich to highlight moments that are genuine and warm. Check out the jars of honey in issue 5, so thickly golden they’ll make you salivate.

Invisible Republic vol 1 3

INVISIBLE REPUBLIC is the good stuff: compelling, convincing, and complex. Strongly recommended to anyone who enjoys politics, history, messy science-fiction, or restless, developed characters.

CG

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

Wolverine: Old Man Logan vol 1: Berzerker s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Jeff Lemire & Andrea Sorrentino with Marcelo Mailo on colours.

A tasty little number deliciously drawn with some relish by Sorrentino, this is actually the third OLD MAN LOGAN but please do not worry for I will explain.

Let’s get my only problems with the book out of the way now, shall we, so I can go out with the prime punchline I’ve already planned: it’s the packaging.

Not the cover – also by Sorrentino – but the chapter breaks which crudely and rudely shatter your immersion which the artists, both line and colour, have gone to considerable, spellbinding trouble to successfully achieve. A black page followed by Sorrentino’s own covers to each subsequent instalment would have saved the day by preserving the atmosphere but instead of the black page Marvel reprints, directly opposite each episode’s cliffhanger… a montage of other artists’ invariably inappropriate variants including, most insultingly, a plastic dolly of Logan because you are aged three.

In addition, the last 30-odd pages are actually a reprint of the finale to the original OLD MAN LOGAN so however thick the book looks, you’re only getting four issues. They just cannot help themselves, these greedy little bean-counters.

On we go, then!

Old Man Logan vol 1 Berserker 0

Third series of this title following Bendis and Sorrentino’s OLD MAN LOGAN: WARZONES which was itself a sequel of sorts to Mark Millar & Steve McNiven’s original OLD MAN LOGAN which is completely self-contained and highly recommended as the finest Wolverine solo series of all time.

The original was set in an arid future when the heroes had lost and the villains have carved up America between them. Something so traumatic had happened to Logan that he’d become a pacifist, refusing to pop his claws for anyone or anything. When you learn what that was, you will completely understand why. Half the fun was wondering – then discovering – what had become of those you once loved. Those few left alive, anyway.

OLD MAN LOGAN: WARZONES saw that same survivor dropped into Marvel’s SECRET WARS world composed of various domains all ruled over by Vicky von Doom, each playing out alternate versions of key Marvel crossovers from the past or whatever else the writers came up with. It’s kind of difficult to explain, sorry.

“AT LEAST YOU TRIED, STEPHEN!” Thank you.

I adored its colours by Marcelo Maiolo which at times made you feel like you were travelling through the nocturnal section of a zoo’s ultra-violet tropical house under the influence of LSD.

Old Man Logan vol 1 Berserker 1

Maiolo is back to colour Sorrentino’s Jay-Lee like art here with suitable gnarled and jaggedy lines as the by-now thoroughly bewildered, battered and indeed naked Old Man Logan surfaces groggily on Marvel’s new post-SECRET WARS Universe which is almost identical to the one left behind but, since that’s years in Logan’s past, it’s going to take some adjusting to. Trust me: when you get to a certain age, your memory isn’t what it used to be. And then there’s the fuzziness that comes with any transdimensional travel of which I also have some considerable experience.

Presumably his old pals are going to need to make some adjustments too given that they thought their friend dead after the DEATH OF WOLVERINE. Will he tell them what becomes of the poor sods in their future? Will they even believe he is who he claims to be?

Old Man Logan vol 1 Berserker 2

Regardless, once he realises where and when he is, Wolverine’s main motivation and most pressing concern is this: changing the present so that the horrific future he lived through in the original OLD MAN LOGAN never comes to pass. Also: avenging some serious slights to his family that haven’t yet happened.

Expect memory flashes which will be new to you, a checklist of those who need to be taken out in order to divert the course of history, spectacular landscapes and a startling double-page homage to Frank Miller’s DARK KNIGHT RETURNS in the present. By “spectacular landscapes” I mean breathtakingly misty-blue, oceanic vistas whose horizons are bleached by the sun and whose crystal-clear waters seem so pure, belying what lies beneath. Contrast that with the rusted, battle-damaged hulk of a vast S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier under whose shadow has sprung and spread a shanty-town market, trading on the gutted carrier’s cargo and technology, all executed in the sort of colours you associate with old, frontier photographs.

Old Man Logan vol 1 Berserker 3

Lemire directs Logan’s trajectory with an impeccable logic derived from the character’s now much longer past which still allows for grin-inducing surprises – for the reader, Wolverine, and those he tracks down – while Sorrentino and Maiolo will make you yearn so hard for the safety of those long since lost. Which is a pretty tall order and massive achievement, I think you’ll agree.

However, there’s one enormous, incontrovertible and insurmountable snag to Logan’s reasoning and for his new-found campaign which lies ahead.

I wonder if you’ve worked it out, already. Either way, it’s quite the moment.

SLH

Buy Wolverine: Old Man Logan vol 1: Berzerker s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Wonder Woman By Greg Rucka vol 1 s/c (£22-50, DC) by Greg Rucka & various.

Contains WONDERWOMAN: THE HIKETEIA and WONDERWOMAN #195-205.

This is all I’ve got, sorry, from a dozen or so years ago:

Attractive, J.G. Jones-like art accompanies a solid story revolving around the Erinyes, or Furies, and a Greek supplication ritual used by a woman who pledges herself to Wonder Woman, who in turn is then duty-bound to protect her.

In this case from Batman.

Why does he want her? What crimes has she committed, and why was she encouraged in this by the Erinyes? And is Diana prepared to make herself an accessory to murder after the fact?

Yes. Yes, she is.

From the writer of LAZARUS, BLACK MAGICK, GOTHAM CENTRAL and the current WONDER WOMAN post-52 series.

SLH

Buy Wonder Woman By Greg Rucka vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Goodnight Punpun vol 2 (£16-99, Vis) by Inio Asano

Paradise Lost (£20-00, Jonathan Cape) by John Milton, Pablo Auladell

Time Clock (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Leslie Stein

Cloud h/c (£18-99, Archaia) by K. I. Zachopoulos & Vincenzo Balzano

Hip Hop Family Tree vol 4 (£20-99, Fantagraphics) by Ed Piskor

Doom Patrol Book 2 (£22-50, DC) by Grant Morrison & Richard Case

Huck vol 1 s/c (£10-99, Image) by Mark Millar & Rafael Albuquerque

Four Eyes vol 2: Hearts Of Fire s/c (£9-99, Image) by Joe Kelly & Max Fiumara

Miami Vice Remix s/c (£9-99, Lionforge) by Joe Casey & Jim Mahfood

Plutona s/c (£12-99, Image) by Jeff Lemire & Emi Lenox

Green Arrow By Kevin Smith s/c (£18-99, DC) by Kevin Smith & Phil Hestr, Ande Parks

Joe Golem Occult Detective vol 1: Rat Catcher And The Sunken Dead h/c (£18-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden & Patrick Reynolds

Cursed Earth Uncensored (£25-00, Rebellion) by Pat Mills & Matt Wagner, various

Fruits Basket Collectors Ed vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Yen Press) by Natsuki Takaya

Fruits Basket Collectors Ed vol 2 s/c (£14-99, Yen Press) by Natsuki Takaya

Captain Marvel vol 1: Rise Of Alpha Flight s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Michele Fazekas, Tara Butters & Kris Anka

Star Wars Obi-Wan And Anakin s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Charles Soule & Marco Checchetto

Rocket Raccoon And Groot vol 1 :Tricks Of The Trade s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Skottie Young & Filipe Andrade, Various

Spider-Man: Brand New Day vol 2 s/c (£29-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott, Joe Kelly, Various & Chris Bachalo, Marc Guggenheim, Various

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl And The Great Lakes Avengers s/c (£22-50, Marvel) by Steve Ditko, Dan Slott, Various & Will Murray, Matt Haley, Various

X-Men Trial Of Gambit s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Scott Lobdell, Various & Joe Madureira, Various

American Vampire vol 8 s/c (£10-99, DC) by Scott Snyder & Rafael Albuqerque, Dave McCaig

Injustice Gods Among Us Year Four vol 1 s/c (£10-99, DC) by Brian Buccellato & Bruno Redondo, Mike S Miller, Juan Albarran

News!

Nottingham Independent Business Awards

ITEM!  Page 45 Makes The Top Ten in the Nottingham Independent Business Awards 2016! THANKS TO YOUR VOTES!

Goodness but I hope they’ve announced that by the time this goes to press! I’ve been bluffing my ignorance of the outcome on Twitter since Monday!

To win the award again, highly cherished by Page 45, we will be assessed along with the other nine qualifiers by the Judges, deep undercover as Secret Shoppers! I love Secret Shoppers! I hope they were given a big budget.

Page 45 won the first-ever award for Best Independent Business in Nottingham 2012

Page 45 won the second-ever award for Best Independent Business in Nottingham in 2013

1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 Voting

Thank you again for your votes!

What may have swung it was my last-minute plea on Twitter declaring that, if you didn’t vote for Page 45, you’d find Boris Johnson at the till and Donald Trump providing shop-floor recommendations!

AND YOU WOULDN’T LIKE THOSE

1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 habibi

ITEM! Craig Thompson joins stellar line-up at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016, October 14-16 in Kendal!

That’s quite the coup, and a perfect match for this relaxed, town-wide festival which is like nothing else in this country and far closer to European model for comics celebrations.

By Craig Thompson:
HABIBI
SPACE DUMPLINS
GOOD-BYE, CHUNKY RICE
BLANKETS
CARNET DE VOYAGE

Craig Thompson is also featured in:
LITTLE NEMO’S BIG NEW DREAMS
FAIRY TALE COMICS

1 Space Dumplins

ITEM! I love these two pages of THE SHORT CON (you can pre-order there – we have to place our own pre-orders by 26th July) by Pete Toms & Aleks Senwald.

Here’s Aleks Senwalds’ website.

Short Con 1

 

Short Con 2

ITEM! Huge thanks to Chris Gardiner for the guest review this week. It’s years since we had a guest review. We don’t encourage guest reviews because this isn’t a democracy and we think trust and consistency is vital – “Jonathan / Stephen loved my last favourite and they’re also recommended this, so I’m definitely in!” – but it was so fine I was tempted to put my own initials on it. Cheers, mate!

– Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews July 2016 week two

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

In which we talk of William Godwin, Mary Shelley and Bernie Wrightson. News from Bryan Talbot and The Lakes International Comic Art Festival underneath!

How To Talk To Girls At Parties (£12-99, Headline) by Neil Gaiman & Fábio Moon, Gabriel Bá.

“You cannot hear a poem without it changing you.”

Reading a short story, a prose novel or a graphic novel by Neil Gaiman is both a transforming and transporting experience.

So often they begin as tales ostensibly set in this world and may well return to this world once more, but only after passing over a 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.

I’m thinking of DEATH, his BOOKS OF MAGIC, CORALINE, ANANSI BOYS and most especially THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE. That particular signpost was never meant to be glimpsed, I don’t think.

What you see is so rarely what you get. I wouldn’t bet on getting anything you see on the surface in a Gaiman graphic novel. THE TRUTH IS A CAVE IN THE BLACK MOUNTAINS will give almost everyone involved far, far more than they bargained for, including its readers. You should be careful of bargains, always.

How To Talk To Girls 1

Gaiman’s knack is to present you at first with the familiar, then take a subtle, almost unnoticeably swerve at the transdimensional traffic lights into the far from familiar in order to enlighten, to frighten and to change.

The set-up here is ever so familiar to those of us who, in our teens, didn’t know how to talk to girls at parties.

Vic and Enn are going to a party. The narrator, Enn, is being dragged along in the wake of Vic’s ebullient, carefree enthusiasm. He trails behind physically just as he has always lagged behind emotionally, and he is very much aware of his comparative awkwardness and ineptitude. To be honest, he’s terrified.

How To Talk To Girls 2

 

How To Talk To Girls 3His experience of girls is especially limited since he’s attending an all-male school. And then there’s the post-pubescent leap.

“When you start out as kids, you’re just boys and girls, going through time at the same speed. And then one day there’s a lurch and the girls just sort of sprint off into the future ahead on you…  And they know all about everything, and they have periods and breasts and makeup and god-only-knew-what-else… for I certainly didn’t.
“Biology diagrams were no substitute for being, in a very real sense, young adults.
“And the girls of our age were.
“Vic and I weren’t.”

How To Talk To Girls 4

All of this understandable hand-wringing is presented in the first half a dozen pages as the boys wend their way through London suburbs. And it is all so familiar.

“You just have to talk to them,” says Vic, helpfully.

But remember what I said. I don’t think it’s going to be quite that simple today.

It’s all so familiar because Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá, the creators of DAYTRIPPER and TWO BROTHERS have from the very first page established the spirit of place and time so superbly. Yes, time! This is a period piece, set in the early days of punk, and music will play its own part.

Look at the cars, the fashions, the dresses and blouses – and the hallway globe Atlas which I used to take great delight in spinning while studying its demarcations not one jot! African masks were a very big thing when I were a lad.

How To Talk To Girls 5

I love the late-summer light reflected later on in the conservatory, and the way in which the pavement bends and almost buckles beneath them. It’s all very human, comforting, soft and vulnerable. Anything ruled more strictly would have been way too clinical and far too modern.

There are no straight lines here. Avenues curve tantalisingly out of sight ahead of our teens as the regular, rhythmic pulse calls them ever on before then emanating from the bowed bay windows of the one detached house in the street.

How To Talk To Girls 6

But have you noticed the stepping stones being crossed?

The seed of doubt which Gaiman has so cleverly planted as quickly as Vic has dismissed it?

Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá are the perfect twin collaborators for this project. In my review of their DE: TALES long, long ago I referenced Neil Gaiman for it felt to me that so many of the short stories there could not only have been originated by but written by Gaiman as well.

This review will take you no further than the first dozen pages of this graphic novella, for this to me is Important. But once you’ve crossed over its yellow-bricked, wooden-fenced threshold both Moon and Bá will make the shadows dance, along with the house’s occupants.

Did you bring your bottle of blanc?

How To Talk To Girls 7

SLH

Buy How To Talk To Girls At Parties and read the Page 45 review here

Bernie Wrightson’s Frankenstein h/c (£25-99, Dark Horse) by Mary Shelley & Bernie Wrightson.

“EverywhereFrankenstein cover I see bliss, from which I alone am irrevocably excluded. I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend. Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous.”

I don’t think the chances are great.

A glorious, cloth-bound hardcover, white and silver on black, with crisp reproduction values so superior to its original printings that it’s barely recognisable, we thought we’d seen the last of this but I’ve salvaged some more from abroad.

We’ll come to Wrightson’s outstanding illustrations anon, but between them sits Mary Shelley’s original 19th Century prose, intact, reeking of self-obsessed arrogance, decrying social injustice and delivered in the form of ambulatory, Godwinian chit-chat.

William Godwin was Mary Shelley’s father, author of ‘Political Justice’ then the novel ‘Things As They Are; or The Adventures of Caleb Williams’ whose protagonist isn’t half such an ugly-head but still feels the stick of social stigmatisation after asking too many questions of his landed employer which he really didn’t want to know the answers to. He then promises to keep his boss’ secret but Good Intentions Alley inevitably leads to Destination Hell:

“Here I am, an outcast, destined to perish with hunger and cold. All men desert me. All men hate me… Accursed world! that hates without a cause.”

I’d remind you that’s Godwin’s Caleb Williams, but the similarities are striking.

Frankenstein by Bernie Wrightson 3

Subtitled, ‘The Modern Prometheus’, ‘Frankenstein’s protagonist is – unlike the original Prometheus – no benefactor of mankind, but a vainglorious git who gives not one whit for this fellow man nor for his immediate loved ones. Instead he creates a creature from disinterred human body parts and imbues it with life without any consideration for the quality of it. So repulsive is this cruelly self-aware, intelligent individual to its fellow human beings that he is universally shunned by the very society he craves. Added blows upon this bruise come, for example, when he saves a girl from drowning only to be shot at by a local.

“This then was the reward for my benevolence! …The feelings of kindness and gentleness which I had entertained but a few moments before gave way to a hellish rage and gnashing of teeth. Inflamed by pain, I vowed eternal hatred and vengeance on all mankind.”

Frankenstein by Bernie Wrightson 4

This edition’s reproduction is infinitely clearer, I promise!

Frankenstein is, in fact, the first scientist for whom the question “Just because I can” was in serious need of an Ethical Standards Committee musing on whether he should. Accepting no responsibility for his actions – a huge theme of Godwin’s – Frankenstein refuses to right his wrongs or even mitigate them, failing his creation whose endurance goes beyond stoical and whose sincerity in determining to change is genuine even after repeated rejection.

“How can I move thee? Will no entreaties cause thee to turn a favourable eyes upon thy creature, who implores they goodness and compassion? Believe me, Frankenstein, I was benevolent; my soul glowed with love and humanity; but am I not alone, miserably alone?”

Frankenstein by Bernie Wrightson 2

This isolation and sense of self-imposed exile is felt keenly throughout Wrightson’s illustrations, whether the creature is crouched cramped in his “kennel” (Shelley’s own words), filling that solitary space and watching the world turn without him or in the multiple, magnificent landscapes which rarely depict more than one rambler. The weather plays its own substantial part in the emotional charge, and even inside Wrightson brings it to bear along with the further seclusion of Frankenstein himself for whom connection is an anathema and moping about with quill and paper is a default setting.

Frankenstein by Bernie Wrightson 5

It’s all ever so Byronic with its rain-streaked windows, high collars and neck-length, wavy hair. The drapery isn’t just decadent but decayed and appealed to my post-punk teenage angst enormously. If you’ve ever been inside my study you’ll have seen a full-colour, signed and lovingly framed print as the centre-piece above my open fireplace. Pass me the absinthe, why don’t you?

Frankenstein by Bernie Wrightson 1

Astonishingly for such dark, brooding pieces there are very few solid blacks. Instead the art is composed of an eye-frazzling array of intricate, layered lines and subtle feathering, which screams of Gustave Doré via American illustrator Franklin Booth. The compositions are markedly different to Sir Bazza Windsor-Smythe’s, but you won’t be disappointed when it comes to the thousands of individually drawn blades of grass. The figure work is equally phenomenal and when there are two protagonists in a single shot their antagonism is projected by both their posture and lines of sight.

The novel’s more heart-breaking than horrific, but therein lies a horror of its own.

“I am malicious because I am miserable. Am I not shunned and hated by all mankind? …I will revenge my injuries: if I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear.”

Man’s inhumanity to man, with more than a dollop of hubris.

SLH

Buy Bernie Wrightson’s Frankenstein h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Hilda And The Bird Parade s/c (£7-99, Flying Eye Books) by Luke Pearson.

Magical!

Magical, exquisitely coloured, and so beautiful to behold, the third of the four all-ages HILDA graphic novels is now available in softcover.

Young school girl Hilda lives with her mother, a professional artist, out in the wilds of the most majestic countryside with mountains that rise into the crystal-blue skies, their snow-capped peaks enticing you ever upwards to explore!

They’re populated with fantastical creatures which Hilda loves to dash out to document and draw! Armed with a rucksack full of pens, pencils, paper and nature books, Hilda could spend an entire day…

… sitting bored indoors, looking mournfully out of her bedroom window onto the deadly-dull streets of a city suburb she is forbidden to set foot in. Oh dear. They’ve moved.

Hilda And The Bird Parade 1

To her mother’s mind these city streets are infinitely more dangerous than the troll-troubled hills they once frequented. With no discernible vantage points you could get so easily lost in the maze of seemingly homogenous house fronts, and then there are the people. People ain’t no good. Anything could happen to a young girl, out on her own…

Hilda And The Bird Parade 2

Bravely Luke Pearson has set his series on a brand-new course and brilliantly he’s played to his loyal readers’ fears. The school children who entice Hilda out know all the cool places, but they are very far from cool. They ring on doorbells and then run away, goading their potentially impressionable new friend to do the same. She doesn’t, for Hilda knows her own mind (thank you very much indeed!) and so stops to chat to the old lady she’s just called upon and takes time to compliment her window box of flowers. And then, just when you think Hilda’s winning, and beginning to bring them round in their search for the best and shiniest of rocks, there is a moment of awful brutality that had my jaw on the floor. Also: she does get lost.

Hilda And The Bird Parade 4

But oh, Luke Pearson, how well you know your craft! One of his finest skills is the ability to surprise – to make you gasp – and everything you have read so far is designed to do precisely that. Who am I to spoil that pleasure?

Hilda And The Bird Parade 3

There will be wonder aplenty, discoveries made from true discernment, and a heart-racing climax to get to the annual Bird Parade on time! Then the colours will morph out of all recognition and you will know the glow of an evening on fire. It’s so lambent, so eye-poppingly awesome, with exotic forms that fill every inch of each page.

Hilda And The Bird Parade 5

I love Hilda’s mouth when she goes “Oooh!” I’m making that face as I type: a projection to a small, rounded mouth to one side that lets out a well-rounded “Oooh!” It’s infectious – the sort of art that encourages you to enact what’s happening and so makes for the very best bed-time reading.

Coming shortly in 2016: HILDA AND STONE FOREST!

Hilda And The Stone Forest cover

SLH

Buy Hilda And The Bird Parade s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Scarlet Witch vol 1: Witches’ Road s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by James Robinson & Vanesa Del Rey, Jordie Bellaire, Marco Rudi, Javier Pulido, Steve Dillon, Chris Visions.

“I’ve had some problems in the past.
“My life has been a minefield of missteps, mistakes and – I’ll be the first to admit – even some mental instability.
“But I am more than the sum of those mistakes and I am better than that.
“And I resolve to put things right.”

A surprisingly spandex-free, site-specific series, its international, geographical locations are stunningly well served by each of the artists with deliciously disparate styles.

Following the films there are flocks of new Scarlet Witch fans actively asking for her key appearances on our shop floor. I’ll be helping you out at the bottom of this review, but rest assured that this is a book itself is a perfectly accessible entry point which wends its own way, free both from convoluted Marvel history and Wanda’s own past, though the ghost of Agatha Harkness, as arch as ever, may well intrigue.

Scarlet Witch vol 1 1

It’s an occult detective series during the course of which Wanda Maximoff follows a trail of broken or corrupted magic from New York to the Greek island of Santorini, thence to an Ireland whose fallow fields are as beleaguered by arable plague as they were during the mid-19th Century during the Potato Famine. The series is site-specific, as I say, its writer James Robinson focussing on each country’s legend, lore and often all too awful history.

The first volume finishes in the bucolic back roads of Spain, in a vineyard built on the site of an ancient nunnery whose inhabitants had taken a solemn vow of silence. Accused by their own religion of witchcraft during the Spanish Inquisition, their unfaltering devotion to God led not one of them to break their most sacred vow, even in their defence. They were burned or buried underground, chained to walls of their very own crypt. But now it’s been broken into by labourers employed to extend the vineyard’s cellar space and they’ve all become possessed of a fearful madness. The very church which caused this human catastrophe was summoned to perform an exorcism, but an exorcism requires words and anyone who speaks inside the walls suffers the same fate.

Scarlet Witch vol 1 2

Cue master class in silent storytelling by one Javier Pulido and some elegant forms and impressive spot-blacks worthy of Gilbert Hernandez.

It’s not quite HELLBLAZER but please believe that – as written by Robinson – Wanda is not without her wits, tricking her way to against-all-odds success at least once. Robinson knows that nebulous spell-casting to win the day makes for zero dramatic tension. There has to be a certain degree of logic: there have to laws as well as lores to contend with and be obeyed, bent or broken.

And here is the thing: within Jason Aaron’s equally accessible, current DOCTOR STRANGE it has been established that – just like Newton’s Laws of Physics – for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. For every spell cast there is a price to be paid.

For every spell that Wanda’s now casting a price is being paid. For the moment it’s only glanced in a distorted mirror like a peak into Dorian Gray’s hidden attic, but her soul is aging rapidly. Plus, as long-term readers already know, sanity was never her strong point, either.

Scarlet Witch vol 1 3

Coloured by Jordie Bellaire, Vanesa Del Rey’s opening chapter in greys, greens and reds is as haunting as you could wish for. Even on the daytime streets of Manhattan it remains ethereal, Maximoff striding between two worlds, the mundane grey of one and the sorcerous scarlet of the other cleverly combined on the page in her garb. New York at night is a dream, lit up not by neon, but by the colour-coded impressions of its denizen’s souls.

Fast-forward to Greece and Marco Rudy’s painting presents you with both midnight hues punctuating once more by blood-red and with majestic daytime vistas of the island’s white-washed walls of its hillside town gleaming and beaming in the full summer sun against the Mediterranean blue of its cool ocean waters. Marco’s maze-like, circular and segmented panels are no random choice for we are in the modern lair of the Minotaur as Wanda strives to puzzle out its nocturnal activities then navigate her way to their core.

Scarlet Witch vol 1 4

Steve Dillon’s depiction is much more contemporary and chic, especially within the Irish airport, Maximoff striding down its functional thoroughfares in a long-coat/rain-coat affair buttoned at the belly. But it’s abruptly broken when Chris Visions steps in with something a little more… ancestral.

Hahaha SPOILERS! We no longer do spoilers around here, nor have we for years.

Scarlet Witch vol 1 5

We did once, which makes my AVENGERS DISASSEMBLED review one of the worst I have ever written. Please do not read it if you’re interested in picking up that book. But if you want the ultimate, all-encompassing background on Wanda Maximoff – if you’re not satisfied with this as your entry point – it will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about the troubled woman and her oh so chequered past with a passion I poured in, perhaps too liberally! I originally wrote it as an introduction to Bendis’s subsequent NEW AVENGERS run which lasted almost a decade.

I promised you other recommended Scarlet-Witch reading above, and this is it:

AVENGERS DISASSEMBLED and its immediate sequel, HOUSE OF M

MARVEL MASTERWORKS: AVENGERS VOL 2 purely as background

ULTIMATES SEASON ONE and ULTIMATES SEASON TWO which are my two favourite superhero books of all time.

KNIGHTS OF WUNDAGORE and the sequel to AVENGERS: VISION QUEST are, at the time of typing, out of print. Not my fault, I’m not the publisher. Sorrreee!

SLH

Buy Scarlet Witch vol 1: Witches’ Road s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Pope Francis Goes To The Dentist (£2-60) by Paul B. Rainey…

“D’you know what? I’ve been paying National Insurance for decades and there are only three things wrong with me: my hair, my eyesight and my teeth, none of which is covered by the N.H.S!”
“Perhaps you would like to make an appointment to see our specialist to discuss the work?”
“Sigh. Why not? What harm can it do?”
“She has a space free on Monday at three-thirty if you’re available.”
“Yeah, I can make that.”
“Please be aware that there is a charge of one hundred and thirty pounds…”
“WHAT?! A couple of years ago, I had doubleglazing put in! When I saw the man to discuss the possibility of me placing an order, it was free! This is because as an individual operating in a free market economy, he understood that if I placed an order, I would be spending a lot of money with him!”
“So, shall I book you in for Monday?”
“Go on, then.”

Ha, the punchline to this particular instalment of Pope Francis’ saga to find an NHS dentist with reasonable waiting times and affordable prices is that he has second thoughts overnight at the cost and thus decides to cancel his appointment and continue looking. It’s almost like his never-ending, self-perpetuating quest is his personal penance for his sins. Though to him, I’m sure it seems more like purgatory!

Pope-Francis-Goes-to-the-Dentist-1

Fresh from his brilliant recent time-travel epic THERE’S NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT, Paul’s rounded up this self-published collection of gag strip material featuring the likes of the dentally delicate Pope Francis, Monsieur Octopus the comics artist, Big Town News featuring a certain oafish mop-haired Mayor, the 14-year-old stand-up comedian, avid console gamers God + Son, plus Doctor Poo and his lovely companion Dara O’Briain in a particularly scatological strip!

Pope-Francis-Goes-to-the-Dentist-2

The whole thing reads like some bizarre sketch show whipping from one ridiculous character another, keeping the laugh factor as high as the preposterousness of scenarios our characters find themselves in. This is the most consistently funny, and daft, selection of peculiarly British shorts I’ve read for a while. Though actually, many of these strips are rather slyly satirical, with some choice observations to make about our current socio-political malaise.

Pope-Francis-Goes-to-the-Dentist-3

Paul even finds time to include a little autobiographical number “What Dave Gone Did” about his brief adventure to see Depeche Mode play, his favourite band of all time, in which amongst other things he pays homage to the fact that Dave Gahan didn’t succumb to a drugs overdose on May 28th 1996.

Great fun and fantastic value at the cost of less than a tube of toothpaste. The parsimonious Pope Francis would be ecstatic!

JR

Buy Pope Francis Goes To The Dentist and read the Page 45 review here

Boy’s Club (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Matt Furie.

“My bad.”

Rarely have I found a pull quote which sums up the whole so succinctly.

Andy, Bretty, Pepe and Landwolf share a flat and a proud penchant for fast food, slow digestion, regurgitation, other-end excretion, video games and psychotropic ganja. Accidents will happen – except most of these aren’t accidents.

There will be many melting faces as the hit takes hold, and a plenty of trips to the toilet to perform, photograph and then finally freeze one enormous faecal trophy. Never let it be said that I leave you ill-prepared. That’s not the only trousers-down performance, either. Inhibitions are overrated, aren’t they?

Boys Club 2

There are no inhibitions here.

I pretty much cracked all my weed jokes when reviewing Simon Hanselmann’s MEGG AND MOSS IN AMSTERDAM set in a similarly transgressive household, and if you lapped that up you’ll love this too, though you may want to wash your tongue afterwards.

Boys Club 1

That review was far more fulsome and is a fair reflection of what you’ll find here except there are no dissenting voices – the dudes are as one, revelling in their physical pleasures, although there are limits.

“No pants, no chance.”

Boys Club 3

Otherwise it’s pure, undiluted glee.

I wish the back-cover blurb hadn’t referred to the Muppets because I wanted to make that comparison too. It’s especially evident in the mouths and tongues. I would suggest “What if Fozzie Bear was a delinquent” but he was, wasn’t he?

Boys Club 0

Please Note: actual printed line art comes in a range of pretty colours. The lines, I mean.

SLH

Buy Boy’s Club and read the Page 45 review here

Ringside vol 1: Kayfabe (£7-50, Image) by Joe Keatinge & Nick Barber…

“You got one fuck up. That’s it. Just one. Normally we don’t care who you hang out with on your own time, but considering the circumstances, if it keeps up I’d be forced to wish you luck in your future endeavours, so to speak. We clear here?”
“Crystal clear. Thank you, sir.”
CLICK.
“Who was that?”
“Talent relations. Don’t worry about it.”
“They mention me?”

Like CRIMINAL meets ANDRE THE GIANT, with a dash of the humour of THIEF OF THIEVES thrown in for good measure, this crime versus wrestling tag team caper mashes up the action and drama to provide more entertainment than Rollerball Rocko receiving an Atomic Splash from Big Daddy. But as we know – well, some of us at least – whilst the violence between the ropes might be entirely make-believe, what brutality takes place outside the ring has rather more devastating and lasting consequences. Not that I would want to have received a Kamikaze Crash from Kendo Nagasaki, you understand, fake or otherwise!

ringside-1

 

ringside-2

Daniel Knossos AKA The Minotaur was one of the good guys, a babyface in wrestling parlance if you will. He’s retired now, having finished a stint in Japan after getting himself blacklisted on the US wrestling scene. He’s back in the country though, looking up old friends, but also with a score to settle. Not surprisingly his appearance has ruffled a few feathers, but there’ll be a lot more getting ruffled than that by the time the final bell rings. But for whom will it toll…? Ah, well, that’s where a plot filled with more twists and turns, including a classic heel turn, than a WWF title run comes into play!

ringside-3

Lovely chunky art from Nick Barber, ably coloured by Simon Gough, which is perfectly suited for a taking a dive into the seedy underbelly of the wrestling circuit.

JR

Buy Ringside vol 1: Kayfabe and read the Page 45 review here

 

Ultimates: Omniversal vol 1 – Start With Impossible s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Al Ewing & Kenneth Rocafort, Christian Ward…

In which the newest version of the Ultimates attempt to get the entirety of Page 45’s Tuesday delivery of new comics and graphic novels bagged, taped and ready for Wednesday customer collection and mailing out before the end of play. Once that impossibility has been dealt with our team of Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Ms. America, Spectrum and Blue Marvel move on to dealing with the easier task… Galactus. But, for a change our heroes aren’t suggesting a fisticuffs-enforced calorifically controlled diet for the purple-panted glutton, but instead deploying a game-changing idea worthy of Reed Richards to transform the Mr. Greedy of the Marvel Universe into an altogether more responsible type of cosmic citizen.

It’s a bold stratagem, but precisely the sort of high-level problem-solving our team have set themselves up for a fall over – I mean, to undertake. For, whilst their intentions might be morally sound, and on the face of it completely successful, it’s the unintended additional consequences of their actions which leave us with a very intriguing sub-plot… Cue a mysterious conversation between Galactus and Eternity, the very embodiment of the Marvel Omniverse itself.

“My apologies. One of them managed to achieve a state of hyper-cosmic awareness. Fortunately he will not be believed… and the others saw only what I wished them to. A simplified view of timespace. Seeing the full scope of reality would be too much for them…”
“And are you any different, Galactus? If I show the truth to you.., can you bear the sight?”
“No… Who did this? Who could do this? Who chained the cosmos?”
“If that is your question, Galactus… then that must be your task. Return to me. And find out.”

ultimates-omniversal-3

I’m betting on Stan Lee, I’ve always had my suspicions about that guy… Meanwhile, cosmic-level fans with find their power palates further sated with a mixture of covert and overt appearances from the likes of Thanos, Owen Reece AKA The Molecule Man, Master Order and Lord Chaos.

ultimates-omniversal-2

I’ve personally found this title to be easily the best ‘Avengers’ title since the post-SECRET WARS reboot, the ramifications of which get touched on here. Too many of the other Avengers titles feel utterly spurious, lightweight and throwaway currently, to me at least. Al Ewing has imbued this with a science fiction vibe which Jonathan Hickman employed to great effect, particularly in his extended FANTASTIC FOUR / FF run, most of which, baffling enough, is out of print. Also, given the current uncertainty regarding the whereabouts or eventual return of said World’s Greatest bunch of sticking their noses into cosmic matters that don’t concern them bickerers, I suspect this team may well be being set up as the interim substitutes for the time being. So FF fans should definitely take a look too.

ultimates-omniversal-1

Marvel newcomer Kenneth Rocafort does a sterling job on art with his gritty but clean style for the first five issues, which again, I prefer massively to the relatively cartoonish styles going on in some of the other Avengers titles currently, and he is the ongoing series artist, but his thunder is stolen somewhat by a gorgeous final issue from Christian Ward employing his trademark mesmeric psychedelic touch that will be familiar to readers of his and Matt Fractions’ ODY-C. I think it would be a bit much on an ongoing basis, but what a show-stopper to conclude this opening volume!

JR

Buy Ultimates: Omniversal vol 1 – Start With Impossible s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Avengers Standoff h/c (£37-99, Marvel) by Nick Spencer, Mark Waid, Al Ewing, others & various.

Great big crossover whose repercussions are still being felt, whose opening chapter pleasantly surprised me and which I read reviewed thus:

I loved Nick Spencer’s THIEF OF THIEVES, his MORNING GLORIES is complex and clever, Dominique is a worryingly big fan of his BEDLAM, plus his work at Marvel has been funny. But the last thing anyone wanted or needed so early into Marvel’s fresh, post-SECRET WARS relaunch was a crossover.

It will envelope nearly a dozen different Marvel titles – ranging from its multiple AVENGERS series to non-entity why-do-these-even-exists – written and drawn by completely different individuals, so the quality here is no indication of what is to come. To be clear: this is not an endorsement of the policy nor an encouragement for you to splash out ridiculous sums of cash  on a corporate crossover when superhero fans could instead be buying the enormously entertaining DOCTOR STRANGE or even UNCANNY or THE WICKED + THE DIVINE, both of which essentially feature powers without capes.

But this is, nonetheless, an interesting premise whose initial execution sets the stage for a great deal of dramatic irony.

Now, if I were reviewing the collection on completion [which I am now, so don’t worry about it], no one would criticise me for laying its prologue bare, and this is essentially its prologue. But you may consider what follows SPOILERS rather than “Oooh, that’s intriguing!” so it is entirely up to you. What I won’t do is ruin its beginning or end which together constitute the heart of the potential dramatic irony and a great deal of self-recrimination when the Avengers begin to be dragged into this.

Pleasant Hill is a leafy little town where everyone is idyllically happy and civic-minded. There are restrictions, to be sure: curfews etc, but everyone is exceedingly kind and almost excessively courteous, especially to strangers. Stray upon it by accident and you may not want to leave.

Which would be fortunate, since you can’t.

Avengers Standoff Welcome To Pleasant Hill 1

You can’t because it’s a construct, a sham. It’s a prison for supervillains created by S.H.I.E.L.D. which has grown bored shitless of incarcerating super-powered sociopaths only for them to break out and cause billions of dollars of collateral damage (and, incidentally, the loss of lives) to satisfy their psychopathy. If psychopathy is ever satisfied: I don’t think those two words mix, really, do they?

The whole enterprise is understandably way off the books because it involves a complete abandonment of human rights. S.H.I.E.L.D. is using fragments of the reality-altering Cosmic Cube to rewrite the felons’ entire identities. They’re not just brainwashing them, they are refashioning them into new individuals physically and mentally.

Now, let us be clear: I’m all for it. I don’t believe in the real-life death penalty because I don’t have faith in the British or American or almost every other justice system because they have been proved over and over again to be racist and target-driven rather than justice-driven: innocent individuals are locked up every day by those who know they’re not guilty. In the la-la land of superheroes wherein the villains run riot, however, I’m with Maria ‘Pleasant’ Hill of S.H.I.E.L.D. – fuck ‘em.

Avengers Standoff Welcome To Pleasant Hill 2

The problem lies in my previous paragraph, because S.H.I.E.L.D. has just done precisely that: they have incarcerated a hero who got too close to their truth. What I will not spoil for you who has become trapped there and who they’re been turned into on the very last page. Clever.

I don’t know if it’s Scott Hanna’s inks or a departure for ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN’s Mark Bagley, but the art here is slightly more grounded in reality, ironically enough.

According to Marvel HQ you should be able to pick and choose which titles you read without losing the plot: which you read will give you different perspectives on what goes down. I don’t actually care. I’m not an apologist for these sorts of shenanigans, I’d rather read the latest comic by Sarah Burgess or Dan Berry. I’m just saying, “Hey, I thought this was going to be utter bobbins and it turns out it’s pretty much okay”.

SLH

Buy Avengers Standoff h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

You Belong Here h/c (£13-99, Compendium) by M.H. Clark & Isabelle Arsenault

Love Addict – Confessions Of A Serial Dater (£18-99, Top Shelf) by Koren Shadmi

Metabarons Genesis: Castaka (£19-99, Humanoids) by Alexandro Jodorowsky & Das Pastoras

Kabuki Library vol 3 h/c (£29-99, Dark Horse) by David Mack

Monstress vol 1: Awakening s/c (£7-50, Image) by Marjorie M. Liu & Sana Takeda

On Sanity: One Day In Two Lives (£4-99, Becoming Press) by Una

Southern Bastards vol 3: Homecoming s/c (£10-99, Image) by Jason Aaron & Jason Latour

The Sheriff Of Babylon vol 1: Bang. Bang. Bang. s/c (£10-99, Vertigo) by Tom King & Mitch Gerads

Usagi Yojimbo vol 30: Thieves And Spies (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Stan Sakai

Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 10 vol 5: Pieces On The Ground (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Christos N. Gage & Rebekah Isaacs, Megan Levens

Batman: Road To No Man’s Land vol 2 s/c (£25-99, DC) by various

DC Comics: Bombshells vol 2: Allies s/c (£12-99, DC) by Marguerite Bennett & various

Wonder Woman By Greg Rucka vol 1 s/c (£22-50, DC) by Greg Rucka & various

Avengers: The Korvac Saga s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jim Shooter, Len Wein, Roger Stern, David Micheline, Bill Mantlo & Sal Buscema, Dave Wenzel, George Perez

Scarlet vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev

Spider-Women s/c (£22-50, Marvel) by varaious

The Totally Awesome Hulk vol 1: Cho Time s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Greg Pak & Frank Cho, Mike Choi

Wolverine: Old Man Logan vol 1: Berzerker s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Jeff Lemire & Andrea Sorrentino

Fairy Tail Ice Trail vol 2 (£8-99, Kodansha) by Yuusuke Shirato & Hiro Mashima

Fairy Tail vol 54 (£8-99, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth Side: P3 Volume 2 (£8-99, Kodansha) by So Tobita

News!

10 of my fav things to do in Nottingham

ITEM! Gloriously beautiful and tremendously witty one-page comic by Christian Palmer Smith featuring Page 45 and all your other favourite Nottingham hang-outs!

Page 45 still needs your votes to make the Top Ten in this this year’s Nottingham Best Independent Business Award, so please visit itsinnottingham.com/independents, email info@nottinghambid.com, tag @itsinnottingham on Twitter or Facebook, or use the hashtag #independentnottm on Instagram.

Here’s Page 45 winning the first-ever Best Independent Business 2012 Award, cheers! But we do need your votes to qualify, please.

Trophies

Sample tweet:

“@itsinnottingham I have been bludgeoned against my better judgement into voting for Page 45”

That should do the trick.

Luke Pearson self portrait

ITEM! Oh look, I found a beautifully illustrated interview with HILDA’s Luke Pearson from 2013!

You’ll find the latest HILDA softcover reviewed above.

ITEM! Attention Bryan Talbot and steampunk fans!

Someone tweeted Constant Moyaux’s ‘View of Rome from the Artist¹s Room at the Villa Medici’, 1863, the other night, which struck me as startlingly similar to the opening page of Talbot’s HEART OF EMPIRE, currently out of print but contained within the glorious ARKWRIGHT INTEGRAL hardcover (extensively reviewed!) which is very much alive and kicking and sitting on our shelves.

I thought it worth checking with Bryan himself, because if it was the inspiration I couldn’t conceive how he shifted of the POV perspective so substantially. He wrote:

“Yes, I saw it through the link James has to the tweets on my site. I was amazed. The similarity is incredible. I’ve never seen it before.”

Heart Of Empire comparison

“One of the similarities (barring the open window and the Vatican!) is probably because both pictures use the Golden Section. In fact most of the HEART OF EMPIRE illos and panel layouts were based on “the divine proportion”.

Heart Of Empire ripe fruit

“FYI  the notes on that page from the HEART OF EMPIRE CD Rom are copied below. Feel free to quote or paraphrase from them. When I say I made the view up, I did, but based the houses on the type of old buildings still in Rome.”

Page 1

I spent days trying to find this view of St. Peter’s, each day going to another bit of high ground in or around Rome. I didn’t find it. It didn’t exist so I had to make it up. Returning to Rome a year later and showing this page to some Italian friends, I was overjoyed by their response: in the world of the story, Mussolini never rose to power and so never had all these foreground houses bulldozed to make way for the huge boulevard that, on our parallel, leads up to the Vatican!

 I drew the pomegranates and figs from life; both represent fertility, (a reference to the twins) the pomegranate with its many seeds also immortality (the Homo Novus) and I personally have a soft spot for it through Rossetti’s inclusion of it as a vulvic symbol in his painting ‘Proserpina’. They are in season at this time of the year.

 Via Bottini is a tip of the hat to the Villa Bottini in the Via Bottini in Lucca, Tuscany, the headquarters of the organisers of the twice-annual Comics Festival. I’ve been several times and one year had an exhibition of the artwork from THE TALE OF ONE BAD RAT there and the cracked and dusty frescoes on thewalls and ceilings directly inspired the look of Barberini’s chamber.

The composition is based on the Golden Section.

1 LICAF tickets

 ITEM! Tickets are now on sale for creator events at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016, October 14th to 16th.

The Lakes International Comic Art Festival in Kendal is FREE EVERY YEAR!

Yup, you can wander into the Comics Clock Tower FOR FREE and meet your favourite creators and buy some glorious graphic novels in Page 45’s very own Georgian Room upstairs (lift access – oh yes!) then get them signed and sketched in FOR FREE! We’ll be hosting SCOTT PILGRIM, LOST AT SEA, SECONDS and SNOT GIRL‘s Bryan Lee O’Malley this year, for example, with other guests and resident creators to be announced imminently. FOR FREE!

Bryan Lee OMalley 2

However, some creator events are ticketed so you need to book ASAP, please, including….

YOU ASK, WE TELL! HELPING CREATORS PITCH TO PUBLISHERS, THE PRESS AND COMIC SHOPS

Porecelain Expecting To Fly

We’ll be extolling the virtues and advantages of independent and self-publishing, the relationships that can be built with retailers and reviews sites. Anyway, it’s all there so please click on the link.

I’m ridiculously honoured to be joined on that hand-picked panel by:

Avery Hill

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

Katzines

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

We’re about to answer your questions.

ITEM! Enter The Guardian Young Critics Award 2016!

Come on, you’ve got to be more eloquent to me. Top Tip: avoid my addiction to alliteration and assonance!

Another top tip to reviewers of all ages: avoid reading others’ reviews. Write what you believe, regardless of what others tell you to say. There is a certain sheep mentality in journalism of all areas, waiting for someone to say something first … then everyone falls in line. Don’t be those sheep! Be a shepherd instead, picking out prize lovelies which you like the most, then sticking rosettes all over their eyes!

Below is a comic with enormous potential which knows its own direction. To its right are a gaggle of geese.

Sheep shock

– Stephen

It is entirely possible that I failed my Biology ‘A’ Level, but I know a good book when I read one.

[Editor’s Note: Actuuuuuuuually, Stephen got an A. In Biology! I know! You will notice that Stephen never refers to his French ‘A’ Level efforts or his Chemistry ‘O’ Level. An entire county had to be decontaminated after that.]

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews July 2016 week one

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016

Featuring Hope Larson & Rebecca Mock, Emma Rios, Dan Berry, John Cei Douglas, Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples, Jodorowski & Moebius, Ian Larsen, Rob Williams & Henry Flint, Mark Millar & Frank Quitely, more

Static (£4-00) by John Cei Douglas.

Another spot-varnished beauty, whose sheen makes the evening outside glow.

Unfortunately the protagonist is ordering in, and has been doing for quite some time.

Whenever we’re lucky enough to receive a rare new work by John Cei Douglas, my heart leaps with joy. You could call my heart contrary, given the predominantly quiet, contemplative and often bereft nature of John’s short stories, but his empathy is exceptional and he expresses it so well with a gentle, careful consideration and a precision of panels which is the hallmark of a true craftsman.

His work is some of the most poignant in comics without ever playing to an emotional gallery. Instead what he has to say is true. It is honest and open and born of reflection. Days, weeks and months of reflection, I’d wager.

Static 3

Both HOLDING PATTERNS and SHOW ME THE MAP TO YOUR HEART which we made a Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month are currently standing proud on our Mental Health Awareness counter corner, for they contain eloquent evocations and expressions of anxiety and depression – in far from obvious ways – which have proved familiar and so sympathetic to so many.

What we have here is equally halting. What we have in ‘tick tock’ is mortality.

It’s a two-page comic constructed to be read left-to-right across its breadth but – here’s the clever thing – it’s the central two tiers which form the momentum. Those above and below them present a contiguous context. This is the trajectory; those are cookies crumbling.

And that is what I love about comics: invention.

Static 1

Also on offer this time: sedentary sedation, more passage of time, and long, lonely nights while the rain keeps on pouring, indifferent to those both within and without. Call me contrary once again but I love the rain. I love watching it through my window at any hour of the day, but especially at night. I’ll open a window even in winter just to hear the patter and scatter on glass.

Here, appearing briefly between two other women in the same story, one older lady ventures out at Ridiculous O’Clock in the morning in search of company. She’s even brought a means to her end. She is thwarted.

They are thwarted.

What makes you think they’re not the same woman?

Static 2

Tick Tock.

There’s more.

SLH

Buy Static and read the Page 45 review here

Compass South s/c (£13-50, Farrar Straus Giroux) by Hope Larson & Rebecca Mock.

A Compass South covercover makes a promise, but only the contents can deliver.

With its energy, its urgency and its two young twins, this fine-line cover promises a period piece of adventure and opposition akin to Tony Cliff’s teen treasures DELILAH DIRK AND THE TURKISH LIEUTENANT and DELILAH DIRK AND THE KING’S SHILLING, both of which have been knock-out successes at Page 45 with teenagers and adults alike.

I had every confidence, but not even the first clue as to how much would be packed into its 225 pages, how complicated the lives of these two individuals would become from so many different factions intent on tracking them down, hampering their progress and taking what little they have left, while consequent repercussions conspire to keep them apart.

Sorry…? No, they’re not both lads; one of them is a lass, disguised for a reason beyond gender impediment or safety’s sake.

Compass South 1

 

Compass South 2

What I want to impress upon you above all is that this is no mere A to C while B seems insurmountable, though B does seem a pretty tall order for anyone so short. For a start, this is but Book One of FOUR POINTS so C is far from the final objective, but even so I was poleaxed by how many individual threads were so intricately woven within this single volume.

It begins in Manhattan, 1860, with Cleo waiting with Luther, leader of a street-gang of youths, outside an opulent mansion for her brother, Alex, to rob it at night. He fails. Well no, he succeeds in lobbing the silver stash out of the window for Luther to abscond with it, but Alex is caught and sent with his sister to a police station. They’re to be split, Alex remanded to Randall’s Island prison, Cleo dispatched to the nun-run House of Mercy unless they betray Luther’s trust in exchange for a train out of town.

Compass South 3

Compass South 4

Alex finds an added incentive in the Daily Tribune advertising for information regarding another set of twins, male but both missing after their father’s long absence, which fit their description. There’s a reward of $200 and that’s a sum they both desperately need. The snag is that they’d need to find their way to San Francisco on America’s west coast and New Orleans on its east is as far as their train ride will carry them.

So far, so insurmountable, and Luther won’t be happy. But I lied.

It begins in Manhattan, 1848, with the twins being bequeathed to a man, Mr. Dodge, by their mother whom he loved. Alas, he’d been parted from Hester for a span of five years. They are not his, but he has no hesitation in adopting the babes even though his own prospects are small and he must travel in order to provide. The stranger also bears two objects from which they must never be parted: a pen-knife and a compass.

But in 1860 Mr. Dodge has failed to return from his most recent travels and wind of what he’s inherited has reached far further than a mere gang of youths…

Compass South 5

I haven’t. Even. Started.

Okay I’ve finished, but Larson and Mock haven’t.

Cleo and Alex are going to face many dangers and many challenges: practical, geographical, judgemental, legal, nautical and hierarchical. But not least among them is their own outlook on life. There are two key players they will share so much time with whose sense of perspective – of values, of priorities – differs from Alex’s own at least. It’s not all about the money.

Being only twelve, they have a lot of growing up to do and it’s not just the unchartered physical terrain which will prove problematic, but emotional awakenings too.

Mock’s inner art is actually much denser than displayed on the cover, and much thicker of line. It’s closer to Hope Larson’s own. I see she supplies colours also and, combined, there is a rich sense of time and space, and how little there may be of either. The rain outside will be ferocious, the lamp-lit intimacy within will have you willing those trapped together into acts of honesty and confessional confidence which Larson won’t let you off easily with. Always there is this tension. Words unsaid are pretty powerful.

So superb is Mock’s New Orleans seen from a seagull’s point of view that you’ll crave more panoramas. Sorry, you won’t get those, but there’s always Book 2.

Compass South 6

Instead you will marvel at how convincing Cleo and Alex are as male twins, without either of them ever losing their individuality. Not once does Mock give the game away, otherwise Cleo’s game would be given away too, both to those around her and to the readers. That’s no mean feat.

This is precisely why I want to tell you about the missing element I’ve so studiously avoided and redacted time after time from this review. It forms at least one whole half of the considerable complications which Cleo and Alex will be forced to deal with directly, each in their own way.

But hey, I had only this cover to go on before I launched in and now so do you.

SLH

Buy Compass South h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Saga vol 6 s/c (£10-99, Image) by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples.

“Anyone Saga vol 6 coverwho thinks one book has all the answers hasn’t read enough books.”

This is an indisputable truth.

But it’s also Brian K. Vaughan spreading more than a little authorial love since SAGA is the biggest-selling series of graphic novels on the shelves right now, and he’s suggesting that his readers might like to sample something new too.

Spreading love is what Vaughan and Staples do best. Like THE WICKED + THE DIVINE – equally venerated for its wit, irreverence and beauty – it is one of the most inclusive comics imaginable. Diversity is all, and SAGA’s space setting enables Vaughan and Staples to represent individuals of all shapes, sizes, colours, creeds, sexual orientations, thorax articulations and genital configurations.

And I’m not just saying; I am being a responsible vendor.

Saga vol 6 1

It’s neither prurient nor lurid, but every volume boasts what I now call a ‘Brian & Fiona Moment’ when two of the sweetest creators on the planet remind you that they’re both adults, that you leave these books lying around your grandparents’ bungalow at your own risk and that dragons have solitary sex lives too.

It is, however, deliciously mischievous and iconoclastic, taking every opportunity to turn preconceptions upon their heads. Here’s the always-infuriated Prince Robot – from a race of walking, talking, fornicating television sets – whom we dislike intensely but still adore:

“Why would I degrade myself by putting on a lesser’s uniform? I appear absolutely nothing like the man wearing it.”
“Looks close enough to me.”
“Because you people are filthy racists who think every Robot looks the same.”

Fortunately for this subterfuge, his Coalition partners are equally unenlightened but that’s wilful war / mindless hatred for you.

Saga vol 6 2

Regardless of its superficial setting SAGA is essentially about love instead: love between individuals and for their children. It’s a generational epic which leaps years between volumes, always ending with a WTF moment. Quite often those cliff-hangers are suspended upon separation or reunion. For a book about family, Alana, Marko and their daughter spend a great deal of anxious time apart. Distance makes the heart grow fonder and your heart – as well as theirs – will be left bursting.

Cleverly then, this book begins with three chapters of separated perspectives, each oblivious to what the others parties are up to or how they will eventually converge. Then some begin to converge, always leaving you with a lot of the unknown to forward to.

Saga vol 6 3

This review’s Fiona Staples Life Class for you is eyes. Will you just look at those eyes! Each pair is different, even between lovers. Alana and Marko are not the only two lovers here, though I did love Alana in glasses. No, I’m talking about two others who have very different priorities and outlooks on life, reflected in the bright ambitious glee or softer, soulful solemnity with which takes right from wrong seriously.

Saga vol 6 4

In others’ there is a wide-eyed innocence born, I concede, from a certain lucky ignorance, but just wait until you meet Petrichor! Petrichor’s eyes are constantly trying to discern then evaluate what they’re seeing: attempting to make sense of what they believe they’ve discovered. You can see intellect working in conjunction with instinct behind those two eyes which is a neat visual trick to pull off. But which of the two will win out?

Saga vol 6 6

If I were to sum up SAGA, and the experience of reading it, I would pick this:

Endless, unexpected revelations followed by kindness and truth.

“We’re all aliens to someone.
“Even among our own people, most of us will still feel like complete foreigners from time to time. Usually associated with invasions, abductions, or other hostile acts, the term “alien” gets a bad rap. But over the years, the word has come to mean something very different to me…”

Page-turn for one perfect beat.

“… Future friend material.”

Yes!

SLH

Buy Saga vol 6 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

I.D. (£7-50, Image) by Emma Rios…

“The ID coverstreets should be burning these days.”
“Sigh. I’m afraid I’m not in the mood for talking politics today. It’s been a pleasure…”
“You too?”
“Yup, it’s a bit late. The meeting was rather intense… and we all have a tough decision to make.”
“But… No! No please, don’t… don’t g…”

My very brief review, well précis really, of the first instalment of I.D. when it appeared in ISLAND #1 described it as a sci-fi ménage à trois bodyswapping yarn set against the backdrop of an unstable society beset by anarchistic riots and domestic terror outrages. Yes, three very different individuals are all so uncomfortable with their own bodies that they’ve decided to take the radical step of having their brains transplanted into a donor’s body.

As our three protagonists weigh up the pros and cons of the physical and mental merry-go-round they are about to embark on with this understandably controversial experimental procedure, they’ve decided to meet their new bodies in the flesh and get to know each other better, to discuss their very distinct reasons for wanting the ultimate of fresh starts.

id-1

It’ll not surprise anyone to learn this existential escapology doesn’t quite go to plan, as anyone who read the concluding second part, which appeared in ISLAND #2, will already know.

Illustrated in a rather unusual palette of red and white, described much more poetically by Stephen as “silky salmon”, the unique feathery penmanship will be immediately familiar to anyone who has seen any of Emma’s previous work such as PRETTY DEADLY, but let me tell you, she’s an incredible writer too.

id-2

Delighted to see she’s included the essay by neurologist Miguel Alberte Woodward which accompanied this work in ISLAND discussing the scientific aspects of her strip and also the current feasibilities of actually performing a brain transplant. I suppose it is probably only a matter of time before this type of procedure is science fact rather than science fiction. With 350 million a week extra post-Brexit being pumped into the NHS I’d imagine we’ll see the first procedure by Christmas… Oh wait, they did say they weren’t in the mood for talking politics today, didn’t they!

id-3

JR

Buy I.D. and read the Page 45 review here

Bear Canyon (Signed & Sketched In) (£6-00) by Dan Berry…

To paraphrase the Beastie Boys from their mid-career classic Sureshot, I do like Dan Berry, he’s very.

And then you can basically insert any suitable superlative you like. I think today I will go with consistently brilliant, but I could equally have employed prodigious, hilarious, enigmatic, and indeed, when the mood takes him, insouciant. But enough of the man, what about his comics, I hear you cry?! Well, they’re bloody good too and this is no exception.

Fashioned from absolute nothingness more empty than the vacuum of interstellar space in the span of a mere 24 hours for the 2015 Lakes International Comics Art Festival 24 Hour Comics Marathon – in addition to running the whole shebang – Dan only went and produced what might actually be my favourite comic of his full stop! (The 2014 LICAF 24 Hour Comics Marathon collected edition 24 BY 7 was nominated for a 2016 Eisner award recently by the way).

This is a visual masterpiece and I’m utterly delighted for this commercial release he’s gone for an enlarged A4 size which only highlights the bravura of his penmanship performance on the day… and the night… and a bit of day again… A mere pamphlet-sized A5 pocket book does not sufficiently display the wonders you will find within. Though being perfectly honest, it did actually look brilliant at that smaller size at the festival, it’s just that this is even more impressive. A grower as well as a shower then, if you will.

bear-canyon-1

For there are no less than eight glorious full page spreads amongst the 34 pages, featuring gargantuan craggy cliffs, tumultuous cascading waterfalls, desperately flapping fish and one very, very annoyed bear which benefit from this dramatic upscaling in size from the version that made its dramatic entrance at the festival. I can’t remember if there were medals awarded last year to the hardy Nychthemeronauts who scaled the peaks of mild hysteria and ploughed the troughs of caffeine-crutched tiredness to produce such excellence, but they all deserved them regardless, such was the collective quality of the output.

I seem to recall that Dan even had time to endure a heartfibrillating printing disaster upon realising one of the said full-page spreads had been missed from the file that got sent to the printer. Such is the cool, calm collectedness of the man that he merely strode purposefully to the nearest water closet, had but a mere minor emotional breakdown, then marched straight back out and dealt with it like the consummate comics professional he is.

So! Young Ben and his older sister Amy are riding the rippling rapids for a few days whilst at summer camp. Ben’s taken along a little light reading material inspired by events that took place on that very river entitled… The Lost Expedition Of Bear Canyon. Ah… But nothing seems too much amiss, to begin with at least, as our intrepid explorers float along down the frothy foam without a care in the world. Well, other than the fact that whilst boastful junior counsellor Connor has one eye on the rocks ahead the other is very firmly fastened onto Amy…

When Ben, more than a touch spooked from a creepy story round the evening camp fire, disturbs our budding new romantics and receives his marching orders, he storms off in tears. It’s then as much a surprise to him as to us that he finds himself being consoled by a fast-talking beaver, backed up by a glowering bear, who announces that Ben has been selected to be the River Champion! And that’s where the ride starts to get a little more, quite literally, hairy… and wet. As Ben continues to narrate the lost expedition’s descent into madness from his book, the bear suddenly appears to menace our travellers… and the motor-mouthed beaver demands a sacrifice for the river…

bear-canyon-2

Poor young Ben is about to find his mettle well and truly tested and be given a very difficult decision to make. Will the Lost Expedition of Bear Canyon require a sequel?!! Or can our motley crew possibly escape the capsizing clutches of the greedy gulch unscathed and without the need for a bathyscaphe?!

Note! As he always does, Dan has very kindly sketched and signed in all of our copies, as he has with his Man vs Machine computer catastrophe SENT / NOT SENT, reviewed last week by Stephen.

JR

Buy Bear Canyon (Signed & Sketched In) and read the Page 45 review here

Larsen Around – Niche (£5-00) by Ian Larsen.

“Imagine no possessions
“I wonder if you can…”

– John Lennon, ‘Imagine’

Although its ill-chosen cover resembling a glossy children’s health pamphlet which you might find outside your GP’s surgery doesn’t bode well, what lies within is a side-splittingly subversive series of comics and cartoons which will be spluttered over by devotees of our Lizz Lunney Superstore.

Book-ended by two related cartoons – the first of which will prove infinitely funnier once you’ve read the last – an ‘Inventory of John Lennon’s Possessions’ sits at its centre, requiring just a little more imagination from Ian Larsen than John Lennon evidently mustered when filming the video to ‘Imagine’ in a vast, white, multimillion-dollar mansion.

Still, if you have an enormous number of possessions you do need an enormous possession to house them in, even if the palatial piano room was cleared to fit the film crew. Here are a few:

Piano
Stools
Guitars
Bank Book containing millions of pounds
Table to put drugs and money on
Books on Mao (est. up to 90 million dead during peacetime)

Larsen Around Niche 4

Some of Larsen’s satirical lancing is equally short and sweet, like his ‘Script Doctors’ subtitled ‘Previously unseen early drafts of movie treasures’, which at their best cut to the quick or make up a memorable moment from which to distil their core essence.

Other objects of disaffection include content-averse TV commissioning editors and producers:

“The thing is, our audience doesn’t understand information so can you replace the information with funny ugly people? Yeah.”

Larsen Around Niche 1

Larsen Around extra 1

It’s a running gag which grows cumulatively funnier, just like the Berlin music scene 1976 onwards populated by ‘David And His Friends’ like Lou Reed and Iggy Pop, musing modestly on their place in history:

“Is Lou coming out tonight?”
“No, he’s become increasingly grumpy and difficult lately.”
“Well you have to give him credit, he is a rock legend.”
I’m a rock legend. We all are.”
“You don’t have to be aggressive about it.”
“Sorry, these German beers are quite strong.”
“At least you aren’t out of your mind on cocaine anymore.”

There’s a scathing stab at territorial music devotion coming down on the envious and ill-informed, an alien encounter on Earth, and a cautionary tale about the potential ramifications of changing your worldwide social media profile picture right in the heart of your home.

Larsen Around Niche 2

Larsen Around extra 2

Half of the humour is the veneer of childlike glee belying the bloody contents beneath it, but be not deceived: Larsen can do such instantly recognisable portraits of the likes of Bill Murray that the joke doesn’t need signposting.

For me the most successful comic was the six-page ‘Skip Chippington and the Journey Into Disappointment’, specifically London 1665 as visited by a time-traveller. It plays to readers’ preconceptions of what he will find, how he will be received and the language with which he’ll be greeted… before slapping them all upside the head over and over again, along with what a supposedly 17th Century simpleton will make of our own brave new world.

Only such an economy of expression could make the gags work so well, while the silent panels speak volumes.

I may actually leave a copy in my dentist’s waiting room.

Larsen Around Niche 3

Larsen Around extra 3

SLH

Buy Larsen Around – Niche and read the Page 45 review here

Madwoman Of The Sacred Heart h/c (£22-50, Humanoids) by Alejandro Jodorowsky & Moebius…

Brand-newMadwoman cover edition from Humanoids! Hurrah!

We can’t wait for Dark Horse’s Moebius Library which kicks off with WORLD OF EDENA!

“Before you pass any further judgement on me, I’ll give you a quote, the author of which you’re not worthy to learn: “There is no good or evil, only the divine presence under this or that trapping.”
“?!!”
“Those are the words of a saint!”
“?”
“Enough, you guys, this is a University not a temple.”
“Yeah, shut up, you ass-kissers.”

Finally Jodorowsky and Moebius’ masterpiece of religious and philosophical satire is available in its complete form in English. When Dark Horse first published this work in the US many years ago, they only collected the first two-thirds (and then only in black and white), which culminated in a rather odd and abrupt ending. Given the nature of the work I personally – like many others at the time having chatted with a few customers about it – just assumed it was a deliberately oblique ending which possibly I hadn’t grasped the full meaning of! However I think the actual reason behind not including the third part at the time was that it simply hadn’t been translated yet!

Madwoman 0

Anyway, enough preamble. How best to describe MADWOMAN to those unfamiliar with the work?! Professor Alan Mangel is a charismatic and eminent Professor of Philosophy at Paris’ Sorbonne University. Whilst beloved by his students, some of whom have taken to wearing purple in reverence of him, Mangel’s private life is somewhat less successful, with a rather bitter (very soon to be ex-) wife who berates him for his impotence and inability to impregnate her. He’s somewhat ambivalent about the whole situation preferring to take solace in, and perhaps also hiding behind, his spiritual practice, until she actually leaves him taking every single possession he owns with her. This precipitates a crisis of confidence and his loyal students soon desert him in droves.

Madwoman 1

The only student who still believes in Alan in the beautiful Elisabeth, who appears to be completely insane in her belief that she has been chosen for a divine mission, to be impregnated by Alan and thus bring about the reincarnation of John the Baptist. And that’s just the beginning! What follows is a delightfully farcical and satirical romp as Alan, seemingly unable to take control of the situation and sensibly just bring things to a halt, gets himself deeper and deeper into trouble.

Madwoman 2

He soon finds himself on the run for a murder he didn’t commit which occurs in the course of helping a local drug dealer spring a girl from a Parisian asylum. Elisabeth is convinced they are the reincarnations of Joseph and Mary respectively, and that they will produce a child who will be the second coming of Jesus. Just to make things a little more complicated for Alan the girl in question is the daughter of a Columbian cocaine baron, who promptly dispatches a hit squad to track down his beloved child and deal with the people responsible for her disappearance. If that weren’t enough to deal with, Alan is also finding himself troubled by a rather lustful inner demon in the shape of his younger self, who chides him for not grasping the moment and making the most of his current situation, whilst continually making some distinctly suggestive suggestions. Oh, and the slightest bit of stress is now causing Alan bouts of uncontrollable, explosive diarrhoea.

I’m not going to go into any analysis of precisely what J & M are satirising with this work. That’s one of the pleasures of reading it in depth for yourself. Not that it is remotely heavy going, and can be enjoyed entirely for its farcical content which comes across in places like a surreal cross-over between Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em and a particularly bawdy Carry On film. And I do genuinely mean that in a good way, I really do!!

Madwoman 4

The final third of MADWOMAN changes in tone as the humour is reined in considerably and things take an even more metaphysical turn out in the jungles of Colombia. It’s a path Jodorowsky has us taken down before in his various comic and cinematic works, perhaps once too often for it to have the same impact for me in all honesty, and it probably reveals more about himself and his own beliefs than simply continuing to entertain the reader with the same bonhomie as the first two-thirds of the work. Still, it doesn’t spoil the book and the plot is definitely still drawn to a very satisfactory conclusion. I do wonder whether there is a deliberate parallel to be drawn in terms of Mangel’s physical and psychological state at the very end of MADWOMAN and with the ending of THE INCAL material and its main protagonist John Difool, but maybe that’s me reading too much into it. I think I understand the point that’s being made, if there is a point that’s actually being made – and that the great thing about MADWOMAN: it will certainly get you thinking!

And of course we have the unique art style that we’ve come to know and love from Moebius, plus there is the added bonus of the truly wonderful conceit that he’s used Jodorowsky’s likeness for Professor Alan Mangel (unbeknownst to Jodorowsky at the time) which continually adds to the amusement as Alan’s circumstances get ever more ridiculous and fraught with danger. This is a genuine classic that stands reading and re-reading. It never fails to raise a smile for me, and still a quizzical eyebrow or two.

JR

Buy Madwoman Of The Sacred Heart h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Jupiter’s Circle vol 2 s/c (£12-99, Image) by Mark Millar & Wilfredo Torres, Chris Sprouse, Davide Gianfelice.

The prequel to JUPITER’S LEGACY is a book about relationships and politics set in a time when the superhero genre looked at them barely at all.

Certainly no hero left his wife and children for a star-struck teenager then attempted to recommend her as a new superheroine to his teammates. Also, back in 1959 cinema’s greatest heroes were all in the closet – because, umm, public opinion and box office…? But also: illegal. Yes, it was illegal to love if you were a bloke and your loved one happened to shave too.

Insane in the brain – what a bunch of myopic muppets we are when we promote hatred and division over diversity and love.

Millar dealt with all that beautifully, intelligently and unflinchingly in JUPITER’S CIRCLE VOL 1 while here he wonders what would true altruists – respected by the public and with the capacity to intervene – do when faced with the Los Angeles Watts Riots of 1965? When confronted by images on the television of young black men, understandably angry and disenfranchised after years of economic deprivation, being manhandled by white policemen? For example.

Jupiters Circle vol 2 3

The very motivation for this extended ‘family’ back in JUPITER’S LEGACY VOL 1 was economics following the Wall Street crash when Sheldon Sampson set about giving America something to believe in and people to give them hope: superheroes. A generation later what transpired was disastrous, but even this early on there is duplicity within this family of friends and I really am doing my best to avoid spoilers. It is a very different beast to JUPITER’S LEGACY, but equally deserves your attention because reading one informs your understanding and so appreciation of the other, and it asks imaginative questions of its own.

Jupiters Circle vol 2 0

What might the love life be like of a kind and considerate man with the ability to fly far out to space, when he is absolutely besotted by and dedicated to his loved one? What mountains might he move? There’s plenty of room for old fashioned romance here – examined thoughtfully from both perspectives – but not necessarily for everyone, so I’m afraid there’s room for much sadness too.

Jupiters Circle vol 2 2

Also touched on: the balance of power between humans and metahumans Lex Luthor-stylee, questions about what it might mean for future generations (oh, the dramatic irony!) and what might a man do in search of a super-powered son or daughter.

For me both series are Millar’s meatiest works since SUPERIOR, this one sharing its vulnerability and poignancy. I talked about the art in a little more detail in JUPITER’S CIRCLE VOL 1 with was perfect for a piece set in a period where superheroes were seen more innocently and written an emotional naivety. It’s mostly on target here too with Torres depicting the Utopian as a young Ronald Reagan but, in the interests of honesty, there are half a dozen pages by a fill-in artist which jar horribly, unnecessarily.

Jupiters Circle vol 2 1

Real-life guest appearances this time by Ayn Rand (see SUPERCRASH) and Spencer Tracy!

SLH

Buy Jupiter’s Circle vol 2 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Jupiter’s Legacy Vol 2 #1 (£2-99, Image) by Mark Millar & Frank Quitely.

In their AUTHORITY Mark Millar and Frank Quitely asked the question, “Why so super-people never go after the real bastards?” at which point their team of liberal totalitarians did precisely that, deposing despots around the world left, right and centre.

Oh how we cheered, because we agreed wholeheartedly even though The Authority had no mandate whatsoever.

As JUPITER’S LEGACY VOL 1 began it all looked like going a bit Pete Tong in a KINGDOM COME sort of way, with the younger generation of metahumans have jettisoned the altruism of their super-powered parents in favour of fashion contracts, drugs and alcohol.

But it didn’t turn out to be that straightforward by a long way, did it? One amongst the old guard had his sights set firmly on the American economy and – unlike Sheldon Samson’s original dream – not by uplifting it through inspirational deeds of defending the innocent and helping others, but by personal intervention in the White House.

Jupiters Legacy vol 2 number 1 1

Then, fearing familial retribution, he made a pre-emptive strike which gave every reader whiplash. Never have I known such an abrupt, truly shocking hand-break turn in superhero comics, executed by Quitely with brutality after lulling us into a juxtaposed sense of security with all things quaint. And everything went to hell in a hand basket.

Then everything went quiet. That next generation of seemingly self-interested loafers and those dismissed as losers – tainted by the supposed sins of their fathers – went to ground, desperate not to be detected and to protect what and whom they had left.

Until, that is [redacted].

Jupiters Legacy vol 2 number 1 2

Millar and Quitely display as much skill in the tenderness here as they did in the savagery of that hand-break turn. Watch the dates carefully too. There’s a whole lot of love in the opening flashback. Not tranquillity or delicacy, but stillness and a purity of communications and a sense of what matters at the end or the beginning of the day. It’s quite the torch that’s passed on.

Sunny Gho’s colours leave a lot of white space which is ever so thematically important.

Jupiters Legacy vol 2 number 1 3

Every creator is in complete control of their craft and, if you want to involve your readership in a genre which is so often reduced unnecessarily to conveyor-belt bombast – if you want them to invest emotionally in your story – this is crucial. I honestly believe you will care.

Please see the prequels JUPITER’S CIRCLE VOL 1 and indeed VOL 2 for all the dramatic irony you could wish for before embarking on what comes next.

SLH

Buy Jupiter’s Legacy Vol 2 #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Judge Dredd: Titan (£16-99, Rebellion) by Rob Williams & Henry Flint…

“How old are you, dog? Don’ take me wrong now. I realise you legendary and all, and I respect that. But this is space, feel me? I’m just wonderin’ if you the oldest dude to ever go into space. Must be some kinda record.”
“You’re Justice Department’s space marines, right? Some kind of elite. The best we got.”
“Damn straight.”
“They put the oldest man to ever go into space in charge. To make sure you don’t screw up this mission. Respect that.”

Totally irascible yet utterly unflappable. That’s the practically pension-age Judge Joe Dredd in a nutshell. There’s a great little moment shortly after this pull quote where the space marines, preparing for their drop from space to the surface of Titan, the penal colony where corrupt Judges get sent for life that has suddenly ceased all contact with Mega-City One, do a little preparatory chant right before they launch themselves into near-certain death. Dredd, being Dredd, is just irritated, but is completely self-aware enough to know that’s exactly what he is.

“Unconventional. It annoyed him.
“But everything annoyed him these days.”

Judge-Dredd-Titan-1

Heh, he really has become the veritable Victor Meldrew with attitude and a sidearm. It’s a constant source of fascination to me that right from the get-go, this most unreconstructed of unapologetic fascists is such a comics hero. I think it only works because the man has no ego whatsoever. He upholds the Law because it is the Law, irrespective. To him there is only the Law and if you break the Law you’re getting shot or hauled off to the Cubes. Even attempting to mildly bend or circumvent the Law is, in Dredd’s eyes, breaking the Law. He is simply the immovable object around which events unfold, always affecting them by his very presence with his granite jawed gravitational field of uncompromising authority. He is, as he occasionally observes for additional fear inducing effect, simply, the Law.

Judge-Dredd-Titan-2

This is a great bit of modern Dredd, I can see why it has been collected separately from the COMPLETE CASEFILES. Titan is a creation that goes back to the very, very early days of 2000AD, when Dredd’s imprisoned clone brother Rico escapes and comes to Earth looking for vengeance. It’s one of the very few strips where over the years you’ve seen Dredd display any sort of emotional, well weakness is far too strong a word for it, but I can probably count on one hand the number of occasions I’ve seen such a… moment.

So the title of this work alone intrigued me enough to pick it up, coupled with the fact the writer was Rob Williams, whose UNFOLLOW I have been enjoyed immensely recently, and the artist was Henry Flint, whose Dredd is the very epitome of the modern version of granite-jawed lawman. I always feel if you tried to punch Flint’s Dredd on that jaw, the only possible outcome would be a full set of broken knuckles.

Judge-Dredd-Titan-3

Here he’s going to need every annus horribilis of his years of experience and hard-earned, gun-slinging prowess to find out what’s behind the troubling lack of contact from the penal colony that has enough banged-up Judges to easily conquer the Big Meg after its latest near-apocalyptic brush with annihilation. A not inconsiderable number of them have got a grudge against Dredd himself too, given how many he personally sent there! And how do the sneaky Sovs and the murderous Kleggs fit in? Plus what is that strange energy source on the nearby moon of Enceladus? Will Dredd prevail? Obviously, he is the Law, but even Dredd will find himself pushed to the absolute limit this time. As I said, a fantastic fun chunk of modern Dredd.

JR

Buy Judge Dredd: Titan and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

How To Talk To Girls At Parties (£12-99, Headline) by Neil Gaiman & Fabio Moon, Gabriel Ba

Boy’s Club (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Matt Furie

Hilda And The Bird Parade s/c (£7-99, Flying Eye Books) by Luke Pearson

Our Super Adventure (£10-00, Shiny Sword Press) by Sarah Graley

A-Force vol 1: Hypertime s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by G. Willow Wilson, Kelly Thompson & Jorge Molina, Victor Ibanez

Amazing Spider-Man vol 2: Worldwide s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Dan Slott & Matteo Buffagni, Giuseppe Camuncoli

Scarlet Witch vol 1: Witches’ Road s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by James Robinson & various

Batman: Arkham Knight vol 2 s/c (£10-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi, Tim Seeley & various

Batman: Arkham Knight vol 3 h/c (£18-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi, Tim Seeley & various

Green Arrow vol 8: The Night Birds s/c (£12-99, DC) by Benjamin Percy & Patrick Zircher, various

Tiny Titans: Return To The Treehouse s/c (£9-99, DC) by Franco Baltazar & Art Baltazar

Bleach vol 67 (£6-99, Viz) by Tite Kubo

One-Punch Man vol 7 (£6-99, Viz) by One & Yusuke Murata

Ooh, slimmest week ever! Don’t worry, I’ve already got some other belters lined up for next week’s reviews as well!

News!

1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 Voting

ITEM! Please vote for Page 45 in Nottingham’s Independent Business Of The Year Award 2016!

Look, here’s our Jonathan holding up not one but TWO trophies Page 45 won as Nottingham’s Best Independent Business Of The Year 2012 and 2013.

We couldn’t have done it without your votes! Thank you!

Alas, last year Page 45 didn’t even make it into the Top 10 so failed to receive Secret Shopper judges. And I like Secret Shopper judges – we make them BUY stuff – so do please vote!

To make a nomination for Independent Business of the Year, visit itsinnottingham.com/independents, email info@nottinghambid.com, tag @itsinnottingham on Twitter or Facebook, or use the hashtag #independentnottm on Instagram.
Here’s Page 45 winning the first-ever Best Independent Business 2012 Award. Cheers!

I had fun with that one.

Trophies

ITEM! New interview with GIANT DAYS’ John Allison!

You can read all Page 45’s Reviews of John Allison’s BAD MACHINERY, EXPECTING TO FLY, MORDAWA and GIANT DAYS comics (including the self-published GIANT DAYS pack before the Boom! Studios stories!) here.

John Allison 1John Allison 2

ITEM! News just in! GIANT DAYS has been nominated for three Harvey Awards. Yippee!

Full List Of Harvey Awards nominations 2016!

Nominations also include autobiography about the history of America’s Civil Rights Movement by Congressmen John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell. Both MARCH BOOK ONE and MARCH BOOK TWO were absolutely arresting.

March book 2 Aretha 1March book 2 Aretha 2

– Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews June 2016 week five

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016

Includes Fight Club 2 h/c by Chuck Palahniuk & Cameron Stewart, Mythic by Phil Hester & John McCrea, Northlanders repackaged, Paul Dini & Eduardo Risso, two Dan Berry comics and News of Cerebus’ return underneath!

The Three Rooms In Valerie’s Head (Signed & Sketched In) (£15-00) by David Gaffney & Dan Berry.

Three Rooms cover

“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.

Three Rooms 1

Dan Berry’s exceptionally expressive cartooning you may already know from THE END, CARRY ME, THROW YOUR KEYS AWAY, the Eisner-Award-nominated 24 BY 7 or THE SUITCASE, a former Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month, and far, far more. The singularly dextrous David Gaffney 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.

Three Rooms 2

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. 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.

Three Rooms 3

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.

Three Rooms 4

“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.

Three Rooms 5

“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 freeze, 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.”

SLH

Buy Three Room’s In Valerie’s Head (Signed & Sketched In) and read the Page 45 review here

Sent/Not Sent (Signed & Sketched In) (£5-00) by Dan Berry.

“So basically, it is really easy, everything works first time and you spend your days in satisfied bliss.”

So that’s The Business of Illustration, your career as a creator, and our lives mapped out ahead of us. It all sounds very familiar to me, and I will sleep infinitely easier tonight.

But then there’s the title, isn’t there?

This is a day in the life of Dan Berry, written and illustrated hourly as it unfolded: what could possibly go wrong?

Over the centuries the human race has strived to leave itself decreasingly at risk from the weather. We’ve built houses, bought umbrellas and even erected orange and yellow striped wind-breaks on beaches. (Is that still a thing?) Some days, however, that just doesn’t cut the mustard.

Sent Not Sent 1

Over the last few decades, the human race has also strived with all its considerable, intellectual and inventive might to leave itself increasingly at the mercy of machines. There’s barely an institution that can function any longer if its computer systems crash, apart from Mrs Apiary’s Homemade Honey Pot stall in South Swithernshire. They don’t need to rise up en masse and enslave the human race in a post-apocalyptic wasteland to be a cause of never-ending grief. As every one of us knows it is enough for them to sit there in our homes and offices, wilful and recalcitrant on a daily basis.

SENT / NOT SENT. SAVED / NOT SAVED.

These things were sent to thwart us.

Sent Not Sent 2

We’ve even brought them alive by imbuing them in our heads with exactly these mean-spirited motivations and emotions. Don’t make them angry; you wouldn’t like them when they’re angry.

Berry brings all this to the fore early on, along with his role as a Dad to both his children and his cat (“I’m not your Dad”) on the very first page. For something so seemingly spontaneous and extemporised there’s an awful lot of serendipitous stage-setting for a killer drive-home dovetailing and an infuriated admonishment most parents will recognise with a grin.

Sent Not Sent 3

I’ve approached reviews of Berry’s comics in different ways, be they THE END, THE THREE ROOMS IN VALERIE’S HEAD, CARRY ME, the Eisner-Award-nominated 24 BY 7 or THE SUITCASE, a former Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month, but it is THROW YOUR KEYS AWAY which inspired me to write about the sheer energy and infectiousness of the man’s cartooning and its wild gesticulations. There will be a great deal more flailing and wailing before his day’s done, but since I’ve singled out machines let’s end with another of my favourite pages for its second-panel evocation of recoiling, venomous, looks-could-kill fury.

Sent Not Sent 4

“It isn’t going to be one of those days, is it?”

Yes, Dan. Yes, it is.

SLH

Buy Sent/Not Sent (Signed & Sketched In) and read the Page 45 review here

Fight Club 2 h/c (£22-50, Dark Horse) by Chuck Palahniuk & Cameron Stewart…

“ThroughoutFight Club 2 cover childhood people tell you to be less sensitive.
“Adulthood begins the moment someone tells you, “You need to be more sensitive”.”

I swear on my psychotherapy couch that you do not need to have read the original prose novel to relish this original comic actually written – not suggested – by Chuck Palahnuik himself. I read the book many moons ago but can barely remember a word.

I seem to recall it was at least partially about smashing the system: rising in up in rebellion against corporate conditioning, financial finagling, governmental authoritarianism and the pervasive mediocrity we can obliviously settle for during our everyday, oh-so-short lives. About waking up from the ubiquitous mass hypnotism of messed-up humanity… whilst enthusiastically submitting to someone else’s indoctrination. If it wasn’t, it should have been.

It’s why Jonathan Hickman’s scathing NIGHTLY NEWS rang such a bell with me. The first paragraph of my NIGHTLY NEWS review reads:

“Terrorism. Communication. Authorative anti-authoritarianism. One man’s enlightenment is the same man’s indoctrination. Stop being a sheep, and be part of my flock instead!”

The cult of personality, eh? Unless it’s mine, I’m always suspicious.

Fight Club 2

As I said, however, Fight Club could have been about something else entirely, like hitting people. I imagine that’s why many went to see the film.

Fight Club 2 begins with a similarly iconoclastic personal survey in which you can discover, “Are You Space Monkey Material?” It poses 12 questions with mirth-inducing optional answers. Let’s try a few.

“MY GREATEST REGRET IS…

  1. The adverse effect my carbon footprint has on the intricate web of sensate life forms.
  2. My past insensitivity to others whose cultural milieu and genetic makeup vary from my own.
  3. My unexamined participation in the context of an entrenched capitalistic power hierarchy.
  4. Nothing. Sir.”

We’ll leave aside “DO YOU GET OUT OF THE SHOWER TO TAKE A LEAK?” – it is funny, though – and skip straight past the increasingly angry activism of no-nonsense D to question number 12:

“THE GREATEST THREAT FACING OUR CURRENT GOVERNMENT IS…

  1. Failure to recognise and reign in the scourge of white privilege.
  2. The impending collapse of world oil reserves.
  3. Dwindling honeybee populations.
  4. Me.”

As you may have gathered — whoops, I was about to tell you what to conclude! Someone really should shoot my autopilot.

Okay, so the graphic novel itself kicks off with the narrator addressing the audience directly.

“Look at him. He calls himself Sebastian these days. Ten years ago he was destined to be another Alexander the Great. A new Genghis Khan. But Sebastian… he calls himself happy.”

Well, with the aid of some tranks, anyway.

Fight Club 3

Back home his son is being nannied by a woman wielding a carving knife. But then his young son is having a time-out after being caught synthesising explosive compounds from local debris like dog poo.

His wife Marla is unsatisfying and so dissatisfied, calling for a certain, so-far off-stage Tyler to “deliver me from this bland, boring life”. (First-time readers: you’ll see, you’ll see.) “Please, rescue me from my loving husband…”

By the end of the first issue-worth of material Tyler may just have done that, but in the meantime Marla’s begun to take evasive manoeuvres of her own and Sebastian is swallowing them whole. Chic and suited, she’s quite the self-obsessed piece of work, invading a counselling session for those with Hutchinson Gilford Progeria Syndrome (such rapid aging that 10-year-olds appear to be 60) while complaining about her wrinkles – “They’re all on the inside!”

Chain-smoking throughout, she’s drawn by Cameron Stewart with a superb sense of insouciance that puts me in mind of Mrs Quinn, the rich bitch in Nabiel Kanan’s THE DROWNERS, though there’s more than a touch of Sean Murphy in her angular face.

Fight Club 1

My favourite pages are those on which pills or petals – rendered to striking contrast with three-dimensional modelling complete with shadows which fall over the panels beneath them – are imposed over what is being said by the narrator or the narrative’s participants. Whereas the dog’s barking merely drowns thoughts out like ASTERIOS POLYP talking over his girlfriend, the effect here is different because you can discern what lies below – with the romantic rose petals at least – suggesting that the bunch of flowers Sebastian has bought his missus is merely a smoke screen hiding the lie of their messed-up marriage.

“Happy Annive –“
“I lo – you –“
“Take your pill.”

There’s no hiding that last line.

Sebastian, meanwhile, is the epitome not so much of exhausted but sedated. Everyone’s more got more life in them than he has. Even his neighbour.

“Studies conducted by the United States Military prove that what women fear most is physical pain… What men fear most is being humiliated, losing social status, public ridicule.”

Fight Club 4

Sebastian used to be a fighter once, but he’s fallen asleep. Now it’s time to wake up.

I think I can hear alarm bells ringing.

What you should now be asking yourself, is just who set off said alarm…?

Aficionados of Fight Club, the prose work that is, will absolutely devour this. It does everything they will have ever craved for in a sequel, which they probably never actually expected to happen, and so much more besides. They will learn who Tyler Durden truly is. Chuck Palahniuk will speak to them, and his characters, directly. No really, and their worlds will crumble into dust and ashes around their ears. Okay, maybe not that last bit, at least not for the readers, but I genuinely didn’t see where this was going until the big reveal and even then, armed with that particular piece of knowledge, I couldn’t see precisely how it would all end.

Fight Club 5

As exquisitely complex and tortuously dark as the original, I sincerely hope this encourages more prose literary figures to try their hand at comics writing (as William Gibson has just done with the excellent ARCHANGEL #1). I’m not sure I want a sudden raft of sequels to prose works in comics form, I think there are more than enough sequels generally already thank you, but given the original work was such a distinctive, vicious piece of satire regarding the culture of consumerism and the decay of Western civilisation, that has been proven so acutely accurate in the interim since its release, I think Chuck deserved his opportunity to play Tyler’s story out to its ultimate, nasty unavoidable end-game. In other words: FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT! The nagging question though, is what exactly is Tyler fighting for?

SLH & JR

Buy Fight Club 2 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Mythic vol 1 s/c (£12-99, Image) by Phil Hester & John McCrea.

“The bodyMythic vol 1 cover must be cleansed before entering the sacred cave.”
“Words to live by.”

I do love Cassandra, chic yet louche, with a boyish blonde haircut, sunglasses even after dark, consistently smoking and sipping from a glass. McCrea’s art is dainty and deliriously lithe here, quite the sharp contrast to what you might be used to in HITMAN etc.

It’s also thunderously epic for a giant along the craggy Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland. Hints of Walt Simonson there, and if that evokes fond memories of Norse mythology then you’re in for a treat for MYTHIC delivers that and far, far more in abundance.

Phil Hester is positively bursting with ideas: there’s zero let-up as Mythic Lore Services dash across the globe. In addition to Cassandra (yes, that Cassandra but now she is listened to) their members boast Venus (yes, that Venus, even more beautiful and infinitely more approachable than ever), and a two-eyed Cyclops called Anatol.

“He’s very sensitive about that second eye, Waterson. It’s a birth defect. Don’t bring it up.”

Mythic vol 1 1Mythic vol 1 2

Plus I’m positive this will prove your first experience of ghost candy.

But let’s pull back to the beginning which had me from the very first page which reminded me of Alan Moore & Steve Parkhouse’s hilariously grotesque and grotesquely hilarious BOJEFFRIES SAGA.

On it we’re introduced to a poor young man trapped at a clapped out till in a run-down phone shop who is confronted by a hideously warty old woman whom I swear I last saw cleaning a lavatory sloppier than a cowshed in a Parisian hotel which haunts me to this day. Some of its wooden stairs were missing and our room wouldn’t lock. I don’t want to talk about the lavatory in any more detail. I’m not sure what I saw could have actually existed.

Mythic vol 1 3

Anyway, our innocent young salesman Nate is in for a similarly nasty surprise when the harridan plops her mobile phone on his counter with the words “Phone dead”. Then he makes the mistake of touching it. To his fingers sticks a thread attached via the phone to one of the woman’s larger, thumb-sized facial pustules and he probably shouldn’t have pulled on it because what pops out…

You will never squeeze a zit again.

The entire sequence is choreographed by McCrea with such exceptional physicality than I can feel the tension in that thread myself and feel it pulling on a pustule of my own which I haven’t known in over three decades.

Mythic vol 1 4

You’re probably wondering what this book is actually about. So is the clerk once those demons are down.

“Nate, I’m not just here to spew cryptic exposition about your newfound destiny. Though I have to admit, I am pretty goddam great at it. I’m her to offer you a job.”

The card says “Mythic Lore Services.”.

Here’s Cassandra confounding a scientist with a much merrier account of the world than the one he once thought he knew, her eyes glowing with the colours of the universe:

“We are told the sun tracking through the sky above is a mass of incandescent gas, our earthly home a randomly formed satellite.
“Of course. A kindergartner knows as much.”
“These facts let you sleep at night, let you pretend to know what the world is all about. When actually the sun is pulled across the heavens by a flaming chariot piloted by a god clad in the dust of comets. Earthquakes are not the shifting of tectonic plates, but the wrestling of massive twin lizard-demons fighting for control of the underworld. The tides themselves rise and fall with the weeping of an immortal princess who sleeps beneath the shore awaiting her drowned lover’s return. In other words, magic makes the world go round. And when it breaks, we fix it.”
“Cass, you’re not really supposed to just come out and say it like that.”
“But I love the look on their faces.”

They begin by curing a persistent valley drought in America which has nothing to do with global warming and everything to do with a sexual standoff between the mountains and the sky. They simply haven’t fucked lately. It’s up to one of them to seduce the mountains and cause a raging romantic jealousy, reigniting their elemental ardour. I’m not even kidding you.

That’s their last easy mission as the various global teams become picked off one by one in a long-planned assault, leaving whoever’s left to regroup and follow whatever legendary leads they can.

Oh, the surprises for Nate especially have only just begun.

Mythic vol 1 5

Hester is on very rude form in both senses, upending all your expectations including that of the Midgard Serpent, so vast that it will one day encircle the Earth, thereby bringing about the end of the world.

“That’s the Midgard Serpent? I expected… more.”
“I’m a grower, not a shower, baby.”

It’s currently imprisoned close to the snow-swept South Pole. Now, why do you think that is the stupidest place on the planet to imprison the Midgard Serpent?

You’ll find out. And so will they.

“Someone’s trying to Ragnarok us.”

SLH

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

Northlanders Book 1: The Anglo-Saxon Saga (£22-50, Vertigo) by Brian Wood & Marian Churchland, Ryan Kelly, Dean Ormston, Daniel Zezelj, Davide Gianfelice.

“Lindisfarne.Northlanders Book 1 cover
“The Holy Island.
“In this bosom of our Lord, we slowly smother.”

A radical repackaging of what was our fastest selling series of Vertigo collections half a dozen years ago, the stories are presented in a completely different order. Jonathan preferred ‘Sven The Returned’, I ‘The Cross + the Hammer, then also ‘Lindisfarne’ and ‘The Shield Maidens’. What this means is that even though the basic theme is Vikings, Brian Wood is bursting with wildly different and totally unexpected takes on the times, from the role of women in the Viking world and Christianity in a Saxon society. In fact if there is a theme running throughout these disparate stories it is the various different beliefs of the day whether religious, secular or societal:

“Sometimes the Fates favour you. But you never take it for granted, never get complacent, because with a flick of their wrist they can sever the thread that is your life. Fate is relentless.”

Northlanders Book 1 2

That quote comes from the narrator of ‘The Shield Maidens’, one of three women who take a stand which surprises even them against the Saxons re-taking Mercia from the Danes. After slaughtering a Saxon scout they take shelter from the other fifty-odd warriors in an old Roman fort, abandoned by all because no one understood the craft of masonry enough in order to repair the stonework let alone build another. Surrounded by water, they are protected at high tide, only some are more resolute than others. Yet still they make preparations for the inevitable attack because they’ve just realised something vital about the numbers involved and it may just give them a fighting chance.

That one’s drawn by Zezelj, by the way, and its mists and silhouettes are as haunting as you’d expect, whereas Dean Ormston has gone for something completely different but no less striking in ‘Lindisfarne’ as crows circle and snow falls over the Holy Church. It’s a life made all the bleaker for young boy Edwin by both his father and older brother whose ‘cruel to be kind’ philosophy in showing him how to defend himself with a sword he can barely lift manifests itself in a way we’d term abusive. It does, however, stiffen his resolve. Just not in the way that they’d hoped.

Northlanders Book 1 1

The Cross + The Hammer

Outrageously clever and like nothing else I’ve read set in the early 11th Century, this is more like an episode of Cracker with bows, beards and bramble than some feuding families riddled with lice. And no, you don’t have to have read the first book: it’s set far from there in the rolling wilds of Ireland, magnificently rendered by Ryan Kelly, Brian’s travelling companion in LOCAL.

Northlanders Book 1 3

Ragnar Ragnarsson, Lord of lands, Dublin, is heading the chase of a one-man death squad, the seed of an insurgency against King Sigtrygg. For months now Magnus has been slaughtering Ireland’s occupiers and it’s up to Ragnarsson to use all his formidable tracking skills and newfangled theories of human psychology in service to the King to bring the man down. There’s only one problem: he’s wrong.

The man is not alone: he’s travelling with his daughter, sometimes carrying her piggy-back to leave but one set of tracks, and intent only in fleeing those in pursuit to keep her from harm. But Magnus is worried that his impulse towards violence in his daughter’s defence is beginning to overwhelm him. He has rages and blackouts which Ragnar may, if cunning enough, be able to use against him.

It’s swift, bloody and beautiful, with quite the revelation. Just remember my first line, is all I’m saying.

Northlanders Book 1 4

Sven the Returned

“At least give me a sword.”
“You think you deserve a warrior’s afterlife? I have spent most of my life doubting the existence of Odin’s hall, of the Norse afterlife, and I confess I still do not believe it exists. But do I dare take that chance, that one day when my life comes to an end and it turns out I was wrong… that, after all, I find myself walking through the great doors of that feasting hall… to find you sitting there?”
<KRRUUNCHHHH>

I guess that’ll be a no, then!

Sven, our eponymous hero, is a deeply troubled man on a personal mission, even if he doesn’t really know what that mission is, at least yet. He just knows he needs to do something having heard the shocking news that his father has been killed by his uncle Gorm to take control of the family wealth and the title of tribal leader. Having left his tribe and family behind on the Orkney isles as a young lad to seek adventure and visit far flung places such as the ‘Great City’ Constantinople which was widely regarded as the centre of the civilised world circa 980 A.D., he now feels the inexorable urge to return. Although the reasons behind that emotional pull back to his homeland seem to have far more to do with the manner of his leaving than any immediate need for revenge.

Northlanders Book 1 5

Wood makes it easy to imagine that this is exactly what life must have been like in Viking times, full of hardships and privation, fears and superstitions, with loyalty to tribe and fealty to a strong leader paramount for survival. His story telling is perfectly paced, the dialogue suitably blunt and strident without ever resorting to Viking cliché. And we are carried along by Sven’s emotional journey, which ultimately is about someone finding their own place in a changing world, not merely fulfilling the role they are born into. Throw in a couple of unexpected and gruesome plot twists, a rather inconveniently timed mini-invasion by a Saxon expeditionary force and we have a great story.

Northlanders Book 1 6

I really have to congratulate Davide Gianfelice on his artwork too. He demonstrates a fastidious eye for detail throughout and a wonderful sense of spacing and perspective, frequently using a slightly elevated position to great effect, which becomes particularly apparent in his landscapes and especially his battle scenes which flow from panel to panel seamlessly like cinematic pieces, never seeming cluttered or confused as lesser artists often do. His facial expressions are masterful with appropriate emotion rendered into every illustration from merest hints of deception and guile to full-on mouth-foaming berserker rage. And if that were not enough the colouring really brings everything off the page and almost into the third dimension, from choppy, rolling, slate-grey seas capped with white-tipped breakers, and blood-red spattered carnage overlaying a pristine white snowfall, to glimpses of the gaudy hues of Constantinople itself, it is gorgeous stuff.

SLH & JR

Buy Northlanders Book 1: The Anglo-Saxon Saga and read the Page 45 review here

Dark Night: A True Batman Story h/c (£16-99, Vertigo) by Paul Dini & Eduardo Risso…

“Get up. Go back to work.”
“Your bedside manner is lousy.”
“Your attitude is worse. Calling in sick. Moping and feeling sorry for yourself. Wasting your time with this trash. You’ve accomplished nothing.”
“I’ve been having a hard time.”
“And doing nothing to rise above it. Make a new choice.”
“Like what?”
“Mitigate the chance of being attacked again. For a start. Be alert. Be smart. Drop some weight. Tone up. The exercise will nourish both your body and your mind. Soon you’ll be walking with pride and authority. It will take a few months of hard work, but if you want to heal and restore your confidence, there really is no other way.”
“I want to buy a gun.”

That’s Batman, there, dispensing the tough love to the battered Paul Dini. Back in the 1990s, whilst on the up and up and writing for Batman: The Animated Series in Hollywood, Dini was very badly beaten during a mugging. In addition to shattering his face, the assailants shattered his confidence, resulting in a long and difficult recovery process that was as tough, if not considerably tougher, in mental terms, than the physical.

Dark-Night-0

During that period, having withdrawn nearly completely within himself emotionally, Dini would frequently find himself talking to the Batman, and a whole host of Bat-villains, all the while oscillating between despair and self-loathing. From blaming himself for walking blindly into the situation, to not being able to fend off his attackers, to repeatedly choosing to avoid putting it behind him and moving on with his life, Dini’s internal dialogues with the cast of characters that it had long been second nature writing, would form his psychological crutch whilst simultaneously also being the barrier preventing him regaining his mental health.

Dark-Night-1

Much like Steven T. Seagle’s (annoyingly out of print) IT’S A BIRD with art by Teddy Kristiansen, about his mental travails around working on Superman (also on Vertigo), this is not your normal Batman book. There are some fascinating little Bat nuggets thrown in here, including a Sandman and Death guest appearance (blessed by Neil himself) whilst Batman was hovering between life and death that Dini pitched for the animated series and sadly never happened, but ultimately this is simply a very painful, very tragic, true crime story. It is all the more excruciating to read when you are watching the blows rain down and enduring Dini’s protracted, emotionally suffocating recovery process, because you know it really happened.

Dark-Night-2

He certainly picked the right artist to work with him in Eduardo 100 BULLETS Risso too because as soon as I saw the two hoodlums sauntering towards Dini, him having petulantly refused a lift home from his hot actress date for the evening in a vain attempt to induce jealousy, well, any sort of interest in him from her, and him then thinking I don’t want to be that white asshole who crosses over the road just to avoid two black guys, who are probably simply well-to-do Hollywood creative types, I knew just how viscerally brutally the beat down was going to be illustrated. And it was. It’s one thing revelling in that sort of thing whilst enjoying crime fiction like 100 BULLETS, it’s another thing reading it, knowing it was a man’s life on the line.

Dark-Night-3

I admire his honesty in writing this. There was undoubtedly some degree of catharsis in doing so, indeed there’s a little sequence between Dini and The Joker berating him for exactly that, but he certainly doesn’t spare himself, or attempt to portray himself as some sort of martyr. Quite the opposite really, Dini lays bare the relentless hard time he, directly, and through the proxies of the entire cast of Bat-villains, plus Batman too, gave himself. For events during, after, and indeed before the mugging. Nowhere near as painful to read as what he went through I’m sure, but he does a very good job of giving us a glimpse of what a punishing period of his life it must have been emotionally.

Dark-Night-4

JR

Buy Dark Night: A True Batman Story h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Clean Room vol 1: Immaculate Conception (£10-99, Vertigo) by Gail Simone & Jon Davis-Hunt…

“Goddammit.
“I let that woman in my goddamn head.
“Now I have nothing.
“I don’t know how she did it.
“Hypnosis. Drugs. Doesn’t matter.
“I don’t care what happens.
“I’m taking that bitch to hell.”

It would be fair to say Astrid Muller is not journalist Chloe Pierce’s favourite person. But then when your fiancé has blown his brains out shortly after reading Ms. Muller’s self help book you can possibly understand why. When you then suspect she might have something to do with why his gruesome half-exploded head keeps popping up out of nowhere and talking to you, well, it’s not the best start to a beautiful friendship, now is it? Some relationships, though, particularly those that get off to such a shocking start, can take a little time to warm up.

And stories too. I read the first issue of this when it came out and was somewhat surprised to find it left me rather cold, unlike some of the other recent Vertigo output such as UNFOLLOW that grabbed me immediately. I like Gail Simone, I think she’s an excellent writer so I’m pleased I persisted because this is an elegantly dark and twisted bit of parapsychological horror that I think would appeal to people enjoying the likes of Scott Snyder’s WYTCHES, Robert Kirkman’s OUTCAST and also given how well  Gail writes strong female protagonists, Terry Moore’s RACHEL RISING.

Clean-Room-0

For something strange and deeply unpleasant also happened to Astrid Muller herself. A long time ago as an innocent child, she was the victim of a particularly nasty hit and run incident. Which seemingly left her with a rather unusual brain injury resulting in extremely horrific hallucinations. If indeed that’s what they were. Fast forward to the present day and it would seem that Astrid Muller is convinced that in fact she developed the ability to be aware of, and commune with, creatures from another reality or dimension.

Clean-Room-1

A realm that perhaps humans might colloquially consider to be, shall we say, of a rather hotter temperature and brimstone whiff than our earthly plane… She might be right, though in Chloe Pierce’s eyes Astrid Muller is simply a deluded megalomaniac. However, taking the last line of Chloe’s exhortation from the opening pull quote, well, she might just end up getting exactly what she wants if she’s not careful, metaphorically or otherwise.

Clean-Room-2

What is certain is that Astrid and her cult-like team of associates have a highly secretive agenda that certainly brooks them no favours in the more serious parts of the media. Chloe’s one lead from someone who seems to have escaped Muller’s svengali-like influence, albeit far from unscathed, is regarding something called the Clean Room and in the best traditions of gung-ho investigative journalism she’s barged straight into Muller’s HQ demanding an interview. One very unsettling discussion with Ms. Muller later, and Chloe’s none the wiser as to what the <ahem> heck is going on.

Clean-Room-3

There’s raw action aplenty in this first volume too which nicely sets up all the various characters and leaves us with much to chew over regarding the ambiguous nature of Astrid. Very crisp clean art from Jon Davis-Hunt that has slight hints of Frank Quitely and Steve Dillon in places and will certainly have you squirming uncomfortably at the terrifying psychic torments visited upon various unfortunates in this opener.

I will be continuing reading, from behind the sofa!

JR

Buy Clean Room vol 1: Immaculate Conception and read the Page 45 review here

NYX: Complete Collection s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Joe Quesada, Marjorie M. Liu & Joshua Middleton, Robert Teranishi, Sara Pichelli, Kalman Andrasofszky.

Hefty, all-in-one package, I reviewed the first four issues by Quesda and Middleton back in 2013:

The first sequential work from Josh Middleton since the frustratingly brief SKY BETWEEN BRANCHES preview, and those who immersed themselves in that ethereal, IKO-like beauty will be delighted to hear that he’s colouring this himself. If, of course, you care for the subject matter which is a long way from the bucolic fantasy which promised so much and delivered… complete silence.

You might be surprised, however, because wherever it’s going it’s taking its leisurely time establishing the fatherless family of a pretty young, pill-popping, trance-dancing people-user called Kiden. And I for one very much enjoyed its pace, the dialogue, and the strikingly different body language Josh is employing during the urban schoolground confrontations, right up until and including the obligatory “coming out” of the latent superpower. It was unusually eerie, surprisingly brutal, and the first time I found myself sympathising with the consistently obnoxious lead.

NYX 0

Joe Quesada can write.

It’s not often you can say that about an editor, still less an editor-in-chief. Moreover, he displays a different voice from anyone else in his stable, and if foul-mouthed banter is most definitely “in” these days, Joe is far more convincing at it than most.

It doesn’t hurt that he has Josh on board, who – for those unfamiliar with this most distinctive of UK artists [whom I suspect went on to influence FREAKANGELS‘ Paul Duffield] – is in possession of a whole new vocabulary on “pretty” involving delicate lines, bit lips, and a complete command of the juvenile face, arm, wrist and hand.

NYX 1

Any clichés – and there are a good half a dozen stock plot-points on display – are entirely forgiven on account of the breath of fresh air breezing right through them. Typically ignored by the superhero fanboys, I think you’ll be perfectly safe in assuming that’s a good sign, and – forgive me if I’m wrong – I wouldn’t expect spandex any time soon. More like nightclubs, street life and homelessness.

NYX 2

As soon as I’d finished typing that, of course, X-23, otherwise known as the current ALL-NEW WOLVERINE, was introduced. Yup, first appearance, hence the cover.

NYX 3

 

NYX 4

SLH

Buy NYX: Complete Collection s/c and read the Page 45 review here

James Bond vol 1: Vargr h/c (£14-99, Dynamite) by Warren Ellis & Jason Masters…

I don’t James Bond book coverknow what I expected from this really. I’m a huge James Bond fan, though like many people I have eventually come to feel rather weary with the character. There are after all, only so many retreads of the same adventure yarn you can sit through on the big screen or over a nut roast on Christmas Day. I thought perhaps an outing for James in comics, particularly penned by Warren Ellis, whom I am finding on top form with his outstanding TREES and INJECTION recently, might provide me with something fresh, but unfortunately it didn’t. Maybe there’s only so much even Warren can do with a character weighted down by such extensive cinematic baggage.

It’s slickly written for sure, make no mistake, and I did enjoy reading it tucked up in bed late at night as a quick and easy read before lights out, but it could just be another script treatment for a possible film. It’s all-action, absolutely nothing in the way of character development, with the typical interactions you’ve come to expect between Bond and M, Q, Moneypenny, the love interest, the bad guys etc. from the films. I can’t find anything to particularly complain about, but there wasn’t anything to really get excited about either.

James-Bond-1

 

James-Bond-2

I will compliment Warren on the dialogue, which did feel completely in keeping with Bond, and there are some amusing pithy asides, plus I did enjoy the bad guy’s dying monologue but if this is going to capture peoples’ imagination and continue as an ongoing series, it really needs to do something different, quickly. I also found the art from Jason Masters somewhat stilted. Possibly it’s the colour treatment rather than the pencils themselves, just failing to bring the illustrations to life, I’m not sure, it just rather flat and thin. Overall, certainly no Octopussy but decidedly more of a View To A Kill than a Thunderball. For a rather different take on the entire Bond film canon, check out young Stanley Miller’s THINGS I THINK ABOUT SOMETIMES.

James-Bond-3

JR

Buy James Bond vol 1: Vargr h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Static (£4-00) by John Cei Douglas

Beirut 1990: Snapshots Of A Civil War (£22-50, Humanoids) by Sylvain Ricard, Bruno Ricard & Christophe Gaultier

Bernie Wrightson’s Frankenstein h/c (£25-99, Dark Horse) by Mary Shelley & Bernie Wrightson

Compass South h/c (£13-50, Farrar Straus Giroux) by Hope Larson & Rebecca Mock

Copperhead vol 1 (£7-50, Image) by Jay Farber & Scott Godlewski

Jupiter’s Circle vol 2 s/c (£12-99, Image) by Mark Millar & Wilfredo Torres, Chris Sprouse

Larsen Around – Niche (£5-00) by Ian Larsen

Pope Francis Goes To The Dentist (£2-60) by Paul B. Rainey

Ringside vol 1: Kayfabe (£7-50, Image) by Joe Keatinge & Nick Barber

Saga vol 6 s/c (£10-99, Image) by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

White Sand vol 1 h/c (£18-99, Dynamite) by Brandon Sanderson, Rik Hoskin & Julius Gopez

Doctor Who: The Eighth Doctor vol 1: A Matter Of Life And Death (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Titan) by George Mann & Emma Vieceli

Fables: The Wolf Among Us vol 2 (£14-99, Vertigo) by Matthew Sturges, Dave Justus & various

Batman And Robin Eternal vol 2 s/c (£25-99, DC) by James Tynion IV, Scott Snyder & various

Supergirl vol 1: The Girl Of Steel s/c (£12-99, DC) by Jeph Loeb, Greg Rucka, Joe Kelly & Ian Churchill, others

Angela: Queen Of Hel vol 1 – Journey To The Funderworld s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Marguerite Bennett & Kim Jacinto, Stephanie Hans

Avengers Standoff h/c (£37-99, Marvel) by Nick Spencer, Mark Waid, Al Ewing, others & various

Infinity Entity s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Jim Starlin & Alan Davis, Ron Lim

Ms. Marvel vol 5: Super Famous s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by C. Willow Wilson & Takeshi Miyazawa, Adrian Alphona, Nico Leon

Ultimates: Omniversal vol 1 – Start With Impossible s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Al Ewing & Kenneth Rocafort, Christian Ward

Uncanny X-Men vol 1: Superior – Survival Of The Fittest s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Cullen Bunn & Greg Land

Venom: Space Knight vol 1 – Agent Of Cosmos s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Robbie Thompson & Ariel Olivetti

Vision vol 1: Little Worse Than A Man s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Tom King & Gabriel Hernandez Walta

Assassination Classroom vol 10 (£6-99, Viz) by Yusei Matsui

Black Clover vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Yuki Tabata

Dragon Ball 3-in-1 Edition vols 37-39 (£9-99, Viz) by Akira Toriyama

My Hero Academia vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Kohei Horikoshi

My Hero Academia vol 2 (£6-99, Viz) by Kohei Horikoshi

My Hero Academia vol 3 (£6-99, Viz) by Kohei Horikoshi

My Hero Academia vol 4 (£6-99, Viz) by Kohei Horikoshi

Tokyo Ghoul vol 7 (£8-99, Viz) by Sui Ishida

Vinland Saga Book 7 h/c (£17-99, Kodansha) by Makoto Yukimura

News!

Cerebus In Hell cover

ITEM! It’s bolt out of the blue time! CEREBUS IN HELL?

I never saw this coming, but CEREBUS will be back later this year, just before Halloween 2016 with CEREBUS IN HELL? #0. I’d make note of that question mark. This will be followed in 2017 with a four-part CEREBUS IN HELL? mini-series to mark CEREBUS’ 40th Anniversary.

Written and drawn by Dave Sim from 1977-2004 and joined by one of comics’ greatest landscape artists Gerhard for over two-thirds of the 300 monthly issues, CEREBUS was one of the most innovative comics the world has ever seen from its creator commitment to its visual storytelling inventiveness, its lettering, and its defiantly independent publishing status, inspiring hundreds of creators to follow suit and push themselves into new creative territories.

Cerebus In Hell gerhard

Dave Sim also virtually invented the collected edition / trade paperback in the US / UK without which you’d still be scurrying to find individual back issues of your favourite series at exorbitant prices to fill gaps in your collection and so read those works as a whole.

So there’s a thing.

Plus without Dave Sim and Gerhard there wouldn’t even be a Page 45.

(Scroll down, you’ll see.)

If CEREBUS wasn’t so important I wouldn’t have ensured that the Page 45 website contained reviews for every single volume before it launched, even though most of those books had been published long before Page 45 began writing reviews. And, oh look, Dave’s customised a page especially for us.

Cerebus In Hell Page 45 smaller

Co-creator Sandeep Atwal writes:

“Even though Dave Sim hasn’t been able to draw since Feb 2015, we’re not letting that stop us from getting a jump on CEREBUS’ 40th ANNIVERSARY (2017) with CEREBUS IN HELL? #0.

“CEREBUS IN HELL #0 [will be] in the July PREVIEWS for items shipping in October – Diamond Order Code: JUL161105.

“There will be a new CEREBUS IN HELL? strip every day at cerebusdownloads.com after the July PREVIEWS street date (starting June 25) and CEREBUS IN HELL #0 shipping near Halloween. Please feel free to post any of the strips on your website and in your social media. Every Friday, all of the previous week’s strips will be posted at amomentofcerebus.com.”

A lot of them are already there. Please make with the clicky then scroll down if necessary.

“None of the online strips will appear in CEREBUS IN HELL? #0 or in the 4-issue CEREBUS IN HELL? mini-series in 2017: they’re strictly to help generate sales (although they will be collected some day!)”

Once CEREBUS IN HELL? #0 is up on our website in the next fortnight, we’ll encourage you to order it there for Worldwide Shipping, but in the meantime you can add it to your Page 45 Standing Order – or, if you don’t have one you can start one up now – by emailing page45@page45.com or asking on the shop floor.

Cerebus In Hell lettering

That’s from CEREBUS: JAKA’S STORY, by the way, a perfect place to start as the review will explain. And yes, that’s Thatcher. See what I mean about the lettering?

Cheers!

–  Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews June 2016 week four

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

New Lisa Hanawalt, finale to Terry Moore’s Rachel Rising, Alexis Deacon’s Geis, Jamie Smart’s Bunny Vs Monkey 3, Sandman Mystery Theatre and Return Of The Dark Knight: Last Crusade with News underneath.

Geis: A Matter of Life and Death (£15-99, Nobrow) by Alexis Deacon.

“Don’t you understand? I have no choice.”

I understand perfectly; you always have a choice.

Whenever I’ve heard “I have no choice” it’s meant, “I don’t fancy the other options I’ve so far considered, so I’m completely abnegating responsibility for what I’m about to do.” Please file with “I’m just following orders”.

Admittedly on the surface the fifty souls sent on a mission here appear to have had their options substantially limited but not curtailed, for where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Before we begin, this is brilliant. Its beauty we’ll come to anon, but I want you to know from the start that this is enthralling and truly startling in places, with curses far more cunning in their detail and execution than you might initially suspect. Underneath the spot-varnish cover we are forewarned thus:

“Geis, pronounced gesh, is a Gaelic word for a taboo or curse. When a geis is placed upon you, it is like a spell that cannot be broken and certain rules must be obeyed. You might be prohibited from calling upon the aid of wolves, for example, or from breaking into someone’s kitchen. If you ignore or break a geis, the consequences are dire.
“But a geis is always broken.
“As soon as it is spoken or written, your fate is set.”

Geis 1

The matriarch Matarka is dead.

She lies in state in her ceremonial robes on a bed in the centre of a cloister’s courtyard. Around her sit fifty citizens, most of whom seem downright grumpy that they’ve been woken from their beds. The great chief Matarka named no heir but instead proclaimed that there would be contest to select her successor.

“The rich, the strong, the wise, the powerful, many gave their names in the hope of being chosen.
“But when the night came fifty souls were summoned.”

An agreement is being sent round to be signed and a brief squabble breaks out over power, but it’s silenced by the gurgling of Matarka before an ectoplasmic apparition issues from her mouth to settle in a vessel, a body of an old woman sat slouched at the foot of the bed.

“I am Niope, the sorceress. Prepare yourselves for I have come to test you.
“A good chief should know the land. All the land. Like seed on the wind I scatter you.
“Find your way back to me before the light of the next dawn touches the castle door… or no chief will you be!”

That’s it: that’s all they are told before being conjured into the air and summarily dispatched.

Geis 2

It’s possible that she may have omitted one or two salient items of interest, as at least a couple of the contestants will later find out. The others will remain oblivious to the consequences but I’ve chosen what I’ve written and quoted here carefully, for it’s not just God who’s in the details.

As we focus on a dozen or so individuals attempting to master their environment to make their way back after being dumped in a cave, between columns of rocks, in a wood and by quicksand or being thrust through a kitchen window, some prove more resourceful than others while others have certain skills which may afford them some desperately needed insight. We also discover that the Kite Lord’s daughter never entered her name into the contest, but when she attempts to withdraw, she discovers she can’t. None of them are going to be able to walk away and return to the lives they once knew, and it becomes increasingly clear that these challenges will be tests not just of capability, but of character too.

Geis 4

That’s the tip of the proverbial iceberg – with carefully concealed depths – for this is the first in a trilogy in which you will begin to glean the differences between Life Magic and Death Magic and their tightly knit relationship, just as it is with Life and Death itself.

There are some spectacular skies on offer at all times of the morning, noon and night. Not least of these is the early shepherd’s warning behind the monumental composite of a castle whose cloisters we first looked down upon. An unfeasibly large, fantastical and positively Tolkien-esque fortress surrounded by minarets sits atop the base of an already gigantic, heavens-headed gothic cathedral, its architectural details bathed in brown shadow as the dawn behind it ignites in flaming reds, oranges, yellows and purples while the cold, spectral-blue shades of the challengers are whisked round and around then away.

A little later we’ll catch another glimpse of this citadel from further afield, surrounded by substantial Tudor terraced houses and mansions whose warped walls will loom over a protagonist or two as improvisations are attempted. There the softer, sandy colours are dry-brushed against bright white clouds which themselves drift idly across the vastness of a pale green sky.

Geis 3

Then there are midnight flourishes during an unusually direct confrontation between two of the protagonists lest one learn the secrets of the other then disseminate that knowledge. A freezing, miasmatic mist rises like a monochromatic (but little less spectacular) version of the Aurora Borealis partially occluding a star-strewn, nocturnal heaven.

Atmosphere is all, and you won’t find it any less thrilling in a lamp-lit library as ancient Osha attempts to furnish the Kite Lord’s daughter with knowledge only to find that time has taken its toll and knowledge must be carefully kept alive and preserved… lest it be eaten away.

Geis 5

School library folks, this is equally fine for your teens or early teens section. It’s going to be another of those graphic novels snapped up by all ages for its wide-eyes wonder and harsh revelations.

SLH

Buy Geis: A Matter of Life and Death and read the Page 45 review here

Hot Dog Taste Test h/c (£16-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Lisa Hanawalt.

In Conclusion:

“Sprouts are fool’s noodles.
“Don’t trust smooth food.
“I have a hunch about croissants.
“Don’t eat your own eggs.”

Good call! It may seem like recycling – or something equally admirable, ecology-wise – but it probably breaks several HFEA guidelines or mandatory laws. Laws appear to be quite mandatory at the time of typing.

Every other non-mandatory law, rule or regulation of Food or Ablutionary Etiquette has been loudly breached in this ridiculous book and we soundly and roundly applaud! Hooray for throwing caution to the wind, kicking common sense to the curb and good taste into the gutters of genuine good will instead.

Hot Dog Taste Test 0

Hanawalt has all the good will in the world and here seeks to disseminate that and her recondite knowledge like our very own, much-loved Professor Lizz Lunney, with true scientific and in-depth analysis as when sacrificing her own personal pleasure to make a thorough investigation of New York’s high-sugar, fat-saturated fast-food street vendors solely for her readers’ edification and long-term biological benefit.

I cannot begin to tell you how funny it is, and that’s my main problem. Hanawalt sets up her jokes so well in advance with relatively po-faced matter-of-factism or equally dead-pan facetiousness that it would take me paragraphs to quote. Plus I no longer have the faintest idea which elements of her exclusive behind-the-scenes, hourly diary, day-in-the-life reportage of Wylie Dufresne’s Lower East Side Restaurant’s operations are true, True, “true” or mere off-the-cuff whimsy.

Hot Dog Taste Test 1

All I can do is warn you well in advance not to read this while handling heavy machinery because it’s is a convulsive-laugher liability:

La la laaaa…. (reading with interest)

La la laaaaaaaa… (white wine now spuming like a whale’s exhalation through my nose)

There are Q&As, top tips and food-photography terminology neologisms. If I’ve included that in the interior art here it’s worth clicking on to blow up.

Hot Dog Taste Test 5

Lisa does like to travel and has much to impart, like Katriona Chapman’s thrillingly informative KATZINES, These bits I’m more inclined to trust for basic veracity, but my metaphorical pinch of salt has been safely stuffed away into my mental hand-luggage just in case.

When visiting an animal sanctuary, Hanawalt manages to pet a pet sloth, who may or may not mind this attention – who is to tell unless you wait five years and three months for its physical reaction?

Hot Dog Taste Test 4

Then she swims with miniature otters which “have been bottle-fed and hand-raised. That means we’ll get to touch the heck out of ‘em!” Their synchronised squeaking gives her an all-time heavenly high which she may never be able equal. I’d like to be covered in wet, furry otters forever, please. They can nibble at my neck as much as they want. I will buy them ice cream and spiders.

But basically, this: Hanawalt appears to be permanently hungry and without any sense of self-control. I infer that her trip to Las Vegas with attendant boyf was paid for either by Lucky Peach Magazine or by the Cosmopolitan Hotel wherein she discovers Total Buffet Abandon (officially endorsed medical syndrome as of this review). Whilst suffering from Total Buffet Abandon you can do any goddamn thing you want. You can pile your plate high with everything on offer, mix ridiculously incongruous, mouth-destined dainties or expect a chef to serve them all up in an omelette and no one will complain. Not even Cosmopolitan’s PR manager Ranata for whom gluttony is either par for the course or a word long-eradicated from her dictionary.

Hot Dog Taste Test 3

“Look, I wish I could say we went insane and blew hundreds of dollars and then earned it all back! But in reality we bet low, made modest winnings, and basically broke even. Eating is the only thing I like to do to excess. I choose to gamble with my guts!”

What goes in must come out, and no restaurant meal would be complete without a trip to the toilet. Some are so squeamish about public restrooms that they line the toilet seat with toilet paper. Lisa suggests twigs instead, which you can gather, arrange and then nest on. It’s a subject she returns to, including her fear of being caught nesting. I really cannot show you that page. She also imagines travelling through time to see how they did it in the olden days or what spectacles lie in store for us in the future.

Hot Dog Taste Test 2

Best of all are her stabs at new slogans for multinational corporations’ advertising campaigns, like Nike’s “Just Do It”:

“Just fucking goddamned do it and be fucking done with it already”

I can’t quote the next line, crossed out, but it had me howling.

We perversely began at the end with this review, just as we purposefully conclude it with a reference to its origin because I can no longer discern rhyme from reason, a sheep from a cow, or what’s coming out of my brain.

That’s now been clinically diagnosed as The Lisa Hanawalt Effect.

It’s as if she turns the world upside down, gives it a damn good shake and sees what falls out.

SLH

Buy Hot Dog Taste Test h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Rachel Rising vol 7: Dust To Dust (£12-99, Abstract Studio) by Terry Moore.

“Today I’m going to do something terrible to another human being – I’m going to give back the darkness he gave to me.
“It’s not mine to carry.
“It never was.
“The balance is non-negotiable.”

So ends RACHEL RISING, very much as it began.

With a great many shivers, for a start.

It began early one morning in a sequestered glade, with a woman waiting above a dried-up river bed… Until a leaf spontaneous combusts, and our Rachel claws herself slowly, and painfully, from her grave… then stumbles her way back home.

I can promise you two things: Rachel’s no zombie; she’s wide awake and very much aware of everything and everyone around her. But she definitely died.

She just doesn’t know who killed her yet.

Rachel Rising vol 7 1

Now, in the final chapter of this finale volume, we’re about to find out.

From the creator of STRANGERS IN PARADISE and ECHO, this has been another tour de force combing comedy and tragedy, mercy and mischief, fury and all the foibles that make human beings the flawed individuals we are. It’s the humanity I love in a Terry Moore comic.

Rachel Rising vol 7 2

I adore Rachel’s Aunt Johnny, the mortician who is resolute and unflustered even when out of her depth. And if I care for anyone above all here it is her assistant Earl whose eyes you never see when hidden behind glasses, but who nonetheless wears his great big heart on his equally gargantuan sleeve and doesn’t have a duplicitous or disloyal bone in his body.

This isn’t misdirection. I do that – a lot. But this isn’t it. I don’t think Terry has created a kinder character: the ultimate gentle giant.

I might even have started to love Lilith.

“Wow, Lilith… I never pictured you as a gardener.”
“Really? I was the first.”

Oh, but Mr Moore has a way with deft dialogue.

“You should have more respect for human life.”
“I would if they would.”

Rachel Rising vol 7 3

He drops it onto page after page where so many other authors would simply be concentrating on plot mechanics.

The plot mechanics of this resolution are so fiendishly clever, their foundations laid in images whose meanings will only become clear later on. I’d watch what’s pictured, picked up and pocketed very carefully indeed. I love it when comicbook creators don’t necessarily tell you what you want to know, but show you what you need to know instead. This is, after all, a visual medium.

Rachel Rising vol 7 4

There’s more nature than ever in RACHEL RISING, both flora and fauna, in open snow-swept landscapes and dense woodland populated by deer and dogs and ever so many crows. Life and death are central to its premise, the natural cycle all too unnaturally broken by Lilith and Rachel and – of course – in a different way, by the man who’s been slaughtering women then burying them, face down with a rope around their necks in shallow graves.

Aunt Johnny thinks she’s finally found a lead: three bodies in the last 18 months, discovered by farmers or utility crews. Forensics may tell them something, but Aunt Johnny knows a shortcut because Rachel’s been able to experience the final moments before death both of living souls and/or their corpses.

Rachel Rising vol 7 5

A child, for example, has just been brought into the mortuary after being run over in a hit and run incident. Rachel reaches in.

Rachel Rising vol 7 6

It was a busy school mom driving an SUV. On her mobile phone.

But Rachel can’t make contact with the skeletal remains of the one remaining woman. Perhaps it was the passing of too much time or the lack of soft organic tissue. If only to answer that question, Aunt Johnny casually suggests that Rachel try the remains of a recently dredged up floater. There’s plenty of organic tissue there. In fact, there’s barely anything solid.

And if you’re wincing right now, just wait for the recoil.

Almost everyone plays a key role here including young Zoe, who’s neither young nor Zoe. (You’d better see previous, equally spoiler-free reviews.) And I like that. It doesn’t do to build up your characters then give only the lead a satisfying resolution.

The build-up is so gradual and so measured that when the punches stop being pulled without warning they will smack you full in the face, dislocating your jaw.

And all the while Ma Malai, the Angel of Death, circles slowly and silently in wait…

For anyone.

SLH

Buy Rachel Rising vol 7: Dust To Dust and read the Page 45 review here

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

“Hey, Pig! We hear you have an imaginary friend!”
“Lionel, yes.”
“Ha ha. Lionel. If I had an imaginary friend I’d call him… MONSTERTRUCKOTRON 4!”
“Why 4?”
“The previous 3 fought each other to the death!”

Of course they did. Can someone please cut off Skunky’s electricity supply? I don’t even know where he gets it from. It’s time to begin the review-proper.

Oh my days, would you look at these colours! Could they get any juicier? If you want your young ones to devour their comics – to gorge on reading – then this will appeal to their sugar-free frothy fruit cravings. I am salivating!

I demand that the PHOENIX COMIC WEEKLY immediately launches a range of ice lollies. As MEGA ROBO BROS’ Neill Cameron suggested, they could be sellotaped to the front of each paper issue. What could possibly go wrong with that? On this cover alone we have cherry, blueberry and black currant, fizzy lemon, orange and asparagus flavours. Maybe with a cabbage-cream filling. Yum!

Bunny vs Monkey book 3 1

Meanwhile, this is bananas, and the colouring inside is equally lush. The skies on a winter’s morning or early evening are a radiant yellow-below-blue behind purple mountains or peach-beneath-blue against bright white and blue-shadowed snow. It’s beautiful to behold.

But I promised you bananas and it lies in the bombast. Squeals, shrieks and screams fill the forest as Bunny, Weenie and Pig are terrorised by monomaniacal Monkey and too-clever-for-his-own-good Skunky or – in the case of Weenie and Pig – each other. Weenie and Pig are a couple of clots who once played Pass The Brain Cell between them and fumbled it.

The very first strip, ‘Log Off’, has them hiding behind masks. “From what?” asks Bunny.

“Well, I’m hiding from Pig because he’s wearing a scary mask!”
“And I’m hiding from Weenie because he’s wearing a scary mask too!”

Bunny vs Monkey book 3 2

 

Bunny vs Monkey book 3 3

So often it’s a question here of be careful what you ask lest you lose your marbles under a blanket of bafflement, but also: Touch Nothing! This is both, especially true of Action Beaver who is a coiled spring, a self-primed time-bomb waiting to go off with glee. What makes this particular two-pager pure Jamie Smart, however, is that central catastrophe has been carefully sandwiched between Weenie and Pig for a knock-out, domino-effect, double punchline.

Value for money – that’s what I’m saying.

You can read my two previous reviews of the series by hopping over to our PHOENIX GRAPHIC NOVELS emporium in the Younger Readers section. Towards the end of the second volume, Smart started to lay the foundations of a subplot which here begins bearing fruit. Up until then we’d been spending time in this potentially idyllic woodland surrounded only by animals. But the prospect of humans encroaching on their not-so-tranquil repose with roads between cities is forewarned by Le Fox and now they’re all beginning to be spotted.

I think I just sent a shiver up my own spine.

Don’t worry, Pig and Weenie will put paid to that.

Bunny vs Monkey book 3 4

 

Bunny Vs Monkey book 3 5

It’s the energy and the expressions which propel these comics. There are teeth, teeth everywhere.

I note of page 34 that some seven-year-old is going to learn the term “synthesise”. I hope they’re more responsible with it than Skunky.

SLH

Buy Bunny vs. Monkey Book Three and read the Page 45 review here

Sandman Mystery Theatre Book 1 (£22-50, Vertigo) by Matt Wagner & Guy Davis, John Watkiss, R.G. Taylor.

Jonathan and I both adored this series, a troubling period piece for a very troubled period leading inexorably to war. This isn’t about that war – though it does increasingly cast its pall as time marches on – nor should it be confused with the fantasy of Neil Gaiman’s SANDMAN, although there is a link.

Instead it’s crime fiction populated by remote or cruel parents, brutal, often sexual sadists, their helpless victims and broken progeny, all in a dark, pre-war, post-Prohibition America.

Rarely outside of FROM HELL has a comic been so successfully steeped in and anchored to its era. Guy Davis’ slightly flabby faces, drab clothing, gritty textures and impenetrable night are as accomplished as Campbell’s were for Moore’s Victorian graphic novel and Wagner (with later help from Steven T. Seagle) served up mystery after mystery which the reader could actively engage in solving before the main protagonists.

Wesley Dodds is the apparently dry and studious heir to a now deceased businessman, perfectly at home with judges and lawyers. But all is not as it seems, for Wesley’s sleep is troubled by enigmatic nightmares which compel him to rise and follow their elusive leads.

Sandman Mystery Theatre Book One 1

Far across town Dian Belmont is both a romantic and a deep thinker, something rare in her socialite circle. Fiercely independent, she also has a strong will and a reckless streak which her doting District Attorney father does his kindly but inadequate best to curb. As the first story opens Dian’s life is one of gossip, privilege and parties, but she’s in for a rude awakening – and about to meet the man of her dreams.

This point in the review is as good a time as any time remind readers that Vertigo is repacking its series into thicker editions they call Books as opposed to Volumes which are their slimmer predecessors. As well as ‘The Tarantula’, then, this includes ‘The Face’ and ‘The Brute’. It was a brief and quickly corrected mistake to let artists other than Guy Davis in, for the second story arc set in Chinatown put a lot of people off – including myself, almost. A huge shame, because virtually everything that followed, including the third four-parter included here, proved gripping.

Sandman Mystery Theatre Book One 2

Wagner continues to explore the realities of economic hardship, prejudices and dark family secrets. There’s a particularly upsetting sequence involving the sickly young daughter of a professional fighter.  Dian and Wesley’s compassion always provides a stark contrast to the seediness of what they encounter, and it’s their burgeoning romance which creates the momentum that propels the series ever onwards.

Its begins thus in a dream:

“First there is the woman, soft but indistinct. Like words written in darkness or the smell of a ripening peach.
“For soon she is eclipsed… by him.
“The man in black.”

You may recognise the helm, for it belongs to Morpheus.

Sandman Mystery Theatre Book One 3

Infer what you will, but in all honesty…?  They will not cross paths until much later on in ‘Sandman Midnight Theatre’ found within Gaiman’s MIDNIGHT DAYS. Although The Corinthian will form a clue in a future edition of this series.

SLH

Buy Sandman Mystery Theatre Book 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Dark Knight Returns: The Last Crusade one-shot (£4-99, DC) by Frank Miller, Brian Azzarello & John Romita Jr.

“Wolves, sheep… What’s the difference?
“It’s the numbers that count.
“One, two, use your shoe.
“Three, four, bar the door.
“Five, six, teach them tricks.
“Seven, hate…
“Hate
“My favourite number. Turn it on its side and it’s infinite.
“I learned that from a cartoon.”

Deliciously drawn by John Romita Jr, the sequence was perfectly timed as the ticking time bomb that is the Joker detonates his quietly contrived trap and makes his inevitable, unopposed exit through the least secure doors of any Maximum Security Mental Health Hospital in human history.

Arkham Asylum: containment costs little when they cannot contain you.

It’s financially inexpensive, anyway – unlike a new obsession spreading like a virus through Gotham’s wealthiest businessmen. They seem to be losing not just their money but their minds. One’s committed suicide after his bank account’s bled dry. Another’s taken his wife hostage on a bridge at night, holding a gun to her head.

“I need to prove to her that I love her.”
“By shooting her in the head?”
“Yes! I love her. I’ll prove it!”

His finger itches on the trigger.

“To an untrained eyes, it’s imperceptible. The slight twitch of the second knuckle.”

But Robin has been exceptionally well trained, all but taking man’s arm off at the elbow with a razor-sharp batarang.

“Robin – you could have just knocked the gun out of his hand.”
“I suppose.”

Yes, Robin has been exceptionally well trained, but there’s not a great deal of empathy there and he’s growing increasingly sullen, increasingly resentful and increasingly violent. It’s Jason Todd, the second Robin, by the way.

Dark Knight Returns Last Crusade 0

There’s more to that scene than meets the eye, and it forms the main mystery of this one-shot while the meat on the bone comes in the form of a Joker as vicious and eloquent as he became in Miller’s BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, and Bruce Wayne as bludgeoned and exhausted as well. His retirement – if not on Bruce’s mind – is certainly at the forefront of his friends’.

Those are the only connections I can discern to BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS and THE DARK KNIGHT STRIKES AGAIN other than Miller’s involvement, his use of inappropriately flippant or vapid media commentary from televisual dunderheads and Romita’s mimicry of its presentation with rounded, square sets. Perhaps the pallor of the colours, although there was a lot more white space in DKI.

Dark Knight Returns Last Crusade I

No, the main thrust of the story is forward through time and straight into the ever so welcoming arms of the green-haired grinning-one in another Batman classic in which a similar surliness and determination to prove himself won Jason a decidedly shorter career than he’d hoped.

This, then, is a parallel prequel to BATMAN: A DEATH IN THE FAMILY.

If you don’t know what happens there, please don’t click on the link; but it’s nigh-universal knowledge to anyone who’d be buying a Bat book and does afford this comic its dramatic irony.

Fabulous final page from Romita and the writers, juxtaposing extreme, silent violence on either side of a singular detachment – both voiced and visualised – and the reprise of a refrain which, when finished, gives it a fierce zoological bite.

Dark Knight Returns Last Crusade 2

SLH

Buy Dark Knight Returns: The Last Crusade one-shot and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Bear Canyon (Signed & Sketched In) (£4-50) by Dan Berry

Sent/Not Sent (Signed & Sketched In) (£3-50) by Dan Berry

Three Room’s In Valerie’s Head (Signed & Sketched In) (£8-00) by David Gaffney & Dan Berry

For The Love Of God, Marie! (£16-99, Myriad) by Jade Sarson

I.D. (£7-50, Image) by Emma Rios

Indeh- A Story of the Apache Wars (Signed Edition) h/c (£18-99, Grand Central) by Ethan Hawke & Greg Ruth

Screaming Planet s/c (£14-99, Humanoids) by Alejandro Jodorowsky & various including J.H. Williams III, Jerome Opena, Adi Granov

Madwoman Of The Sacred Heart h/c (£22-50, Humanoids) by Alejandro Jodorowsky & Moebius

Manifest Destiny vol 1: Flora & Fauna s/c (£7-50, Image) by Chris Dingess & Matthew Roberts

Invisible Republic vol 1 s/c (£7-50, Image) by Gabriel Hardman, Corrina Bechko

Midnight Days – The Deluxe Edition h/c (£18-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman, Matt Wagner & Teddy Kristiansen, Dave McKean, Mike Mignola, Steve Bissette, John Totleben, Richard Piers Rayner, Mike Hoffman, Kim DeMulder, Sergio Aragones

Mythic vol 1 s/c (£12-99, Image) by Phil Hester & John Mccrea

Northlanders Book 1: The Anglo-Saxon Saga (£22-50, Vertigo) by Brian Wood & Marian Churchland, Ryan Kelly, Dean Ormston, Daniel Zezelj, Davide Gianfelice

18 Days vol 2: Heroes And Legends s/c (£10-99, Graphic India) by Grant Morrison, various & various

Assassin’s Creed vol 1: Trial By Fire s/c (£10-99, Titan) by Anthony Del Col, Conor McCreery & Neil Edwards

James Bond vol 1: Vargr h/c (£14-99, Dynamite) by Warren Ellis & Jason Masters

Judge Dredd: Titan (£16-99, Rebellion) by Rob Williams & Henry Flint

Harley Quinn vol 3: Kiss Kiss Bang Stab s/c (£12-99, DC) by Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palimotti & various

Carnage Classic s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by various

Deadpool: Dracula’s Gauntlet s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Posehn, Gerry Duggan & various

Moon Girl And Devil Dinosaur vol 1: BFF s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Amy Reeder, Brandon Montclare & Natacha Bustos

NYX: Complete Collection s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Joe Quesada, Marjorie M. Liu & Joshua Middleton, Robert Teranishi, Sara Pichelli, Kalman Andrasofszky

Yotsuba&! vol 13 (£7-99, Yen) by Kiyohiko Azuma

News!

Lowdham

ITEM! FREE! Page 45 will be in conversation at the Lowdham Book Festival this Saturday 25th June for ‘The Literary Art Of Cracking Comics’ with Sally Jane Thompson and Matt Green.. 3-30pm to 4-30pm at the WI Hall, Main Street.

It should be our Jonathan, but it could also be me. We exist in a state of flux!

Which can be exciting.

Self-Publishing Century 3

ITEM! BREAKING NEWS!

Page 45 presents: Independent & Self-Publishing Century!

Yes, for over 21 years now Page 45 has extolled the virtues of independent publishing, self-publishing and promoted the best-selling comics and graphic novels that this fecund force has produced on a daily basis.

That’s 7,847 days so far!

In this not-new initiative Page 45 has made so many of these glorious story-telling triumphs not-so-small-sellers thus:

1) They are stacked next to our till!

Self-Publishing Century 2b

2) We have forced them into our window, bound and gagged, against their will!

3) They are racked right round our counter – Page 45’s prime selling spot – in a reckless display of warped priorities. Comics by Lizz Lunney, Philippa Rice et al. It is an outrage and I am disgusted!

Lizz Lunney Emporium

4) To redress this atrocity we have thrown John Allison off our counter and into a comicbook column of his own directly facing unsuspecting strangers as they waltz blithely through our doors. It is a veritable gulag or ghetto.

5) We have them Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month because so many of those creators, oblivious to their insignificance, are the best in the business.

John Allison 1

John Allison 2

In 2015 alone Page 45’s two best-selling comics were self-published: John Allison’s EXPECTING TO FLY #1 and EXPECTING TO FLY #2 beating Marvel’s SECRET WARS issues by furlongs, fathoms and miles.

In 2015 alone Page 45’s best-selling graphic novel was Ben Read & Chris Wildgoose’s PORCELAIN: BONE CHINA published by Improper Books, run out of a farmhouse (I kid you not) by Ben Read himself and MULP’s Matt Gibbs.

PORCELAIN: BONE CHINA outsold the NYT best-selling author Neil Gaiman’s exceptional  SANDMAN: OVERTURE illustrated by comicbook legend JH Williams III even though it was published by DC which is owned by Time Warner. You may have heard of them.

Porcelain Bone China bookplates

But wait!

Now, as part of Page 45’s token effort to promote quality and diversity regardless of its publishing status, we promise this: we will continue this endeavour every single day for the next 79 years!

We call this…. Page 45’s Independent & Self-Publishing Century!

Self-Publishing Century

Only one century, mind.

When the clock runs out on October 17th 2094, Page 45 will jettison this quaint campaign of self-defeating, fiscal insanity which has netted us so much more money than could be dreamed of by insular, unadventurous and corporate-compliant comic shops and we will….

Inevitably cease to exist.

Hilda And The Troll 2

ITEM! Luke Pearson’s glorious all-ages HILDA graphic novels are to be made into an animated Netflix series! New Yorker interview with that Luke Pearson.

You can swoon over all of Luke Pearson’s HILDA graphic novels reviewed by Page 45 here!

HILDA AND THE STONE FOREST is due out on September 1st.

Hilda And The Stone Forest cover

ITEM! The Lakes International Comic Arts Festival 2016 (October 14-16 in Kendal) announces more comicbook creator guests!

In addition to the likes of Bryan Lee O’Malley and Mick McMahon, the new list includes Duncan Fegredo, Leah Moore, John Reppion, Ilya, Rufus Dayglo…

… And a Charlie Adlard vs. Dan Berry smackdown!

Adlard versus Berry smackdown

Page 45 will be there, as always, in our very own Georgian Room up the stairs / lift in the Kendal Clock Tower. Entrance is FREE!

Website: The Lakes International Comic Art Festival

1 Lakes Fest Clock Tower

– Stephen