Posts in the ‘Reviews’ Category

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews January 2015 week four

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

Including art by Fiona Staples prior to SAGA;  MARCH by Congressman John Lewis; a new graphic novel by Michael DeForge; and Hope Larson’s new comic SOLO which is signed, sketched-in and exclusive to Page 45 in the UK!

March Book 2 s/c (£14-99, Top Shelf) by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin & Nate Powell.

“I’ll end up where I need to be.”

Autobiography from indomitable Civil Rights campaigner – now United States Congressman – John Lewis.

Every event chronicled here in painful, painstaking detail happened to John Lewis and those around him between 1961 and 1963 during The Freedom Rides and Operation Open City.

And there is so much blood.

There is so much blood, so much ferocious anger, so many heads smashed against floors and so many skulls caved in by police batons. Never mind the water cannons then rabid, salivating dogs unleashed against school children by Police Chief Eugene “Bull” Connor in Alabama. These were not college students but school children aged 7 upwards and nearly a thousand were arrested on May 2nd 1963 during their peaceful protest.

All this very real horror – this leering and jeering and sneering and snarling and spitting and mob attacks by white civilians and policemen and militia upon defenceless black pacifists – is depicted unflinchingly by Nate Powell (SWALLOW ME WHOLE, ANY EMPIRE, THE YEAR OF THE BEASTS, SOUNDS OF YOUR NAME). It is at times claustrophobic when The Freedom Riders are trapped on buses which were firebombed… or penned in a waiting room in the dark surrounded by the Ku Klux Klan and affiliated officials and laymen… or thrown into prison for refusing to endorse segregation by paying their fines, so left at the mercy of vicious prison officers given free rein by their equally malicious governor, Fred Jones, away from any possibility of being caught on camera.

In one savage onslaught a woman holding a baby screams at the quiet and respectful pacifists simply standing their ground by standing in line, “GET THE NIGGERS! GET THE NIGGERS!” and it is all one can do not to weep.

This self-contained volume of the trilogy – which began in MARCH BOOK 1 with John Lewis’ childhood then early sit-ins at whites-only cafeterias which were later, here, met with a lock-in and fumigation – is yet again intercut with the Inauguration of America’s first black President, Barrack Obama, in Washington DC on January 20th 2009.

There is an arresting double-page spread of Aretha Franklin, right arm flung wide, singing her heart and soul out at the ceremony in an electric rendition of ‘My Country, ‘Tis Of Thee’, its lyrics splashed across the paper from border to border:

“LONG MAY OUR LAND BE BRIGHT,
WITH FREEDOM’S HOLY LIGHT,
PROTECT US BY THY MIGHT,
OH LET FREEDOM RING!”

All of which is juxtaposed against a montage of memories – the price which the fight for that freedom cost while those selfsame words were being sung so patriotically but emptily by others – of a policeman casually, dispassionately lighting a cigarette and of the bandaged, bloodied bodies the police were (either directly or through their culpable, collaborative refusal to protect) responsible for.

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.

As well as identifying each individual member of the SNCC and the specific, heroic roles they played at each juncture, John Lewis names and shames those who engaged in overt racism on a local, State or national level even as a seemingly powerless government failed to enforce integration, Attorney General Robert Kennedy being completely ignored.

Mendacity was rife.

You may have wondered about the back cover, as I surely did: the stained glass window, the face of Christ smashed in, letting a white light shine through. It was actually night-time on May 21st 1961, to be precise.

“After hearing of the violence at the bus station, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. flew to Montgomery. A mass meeting was called at Ralph Abernathy’s church. Governor Patterson, despite promising to protect us, has warrants sworn out for our arrest.”

Yet another angry mob swelled outside, that brick breached the stained glass window but the troops supposedly sent to protect the church’s vulnerable occupants did nothing of the sort.

“General Henry Graham of the Alabama National Guard, a real estate agent in his civilian life, refused to allow anyone to leave.”

Worst of all was that Police Chief Eugene “Bull” Connor, determined to deport any Freedom Riders who finally made it to Birmingham, Alabama, without their bus being firebombed after letting the mob have its way. Asked on television why there were no police officers at the bus station, he replied:

“Mother’s Day. We try and let off as many of our policemen as possible, so they can spend Mother’s Day at home with their families.”

As I said: mendacity.

“We found out later that he’d promised the Ku Klux Klan fifteen minutes with the bus before he’d make any arrests.”

May 18th 1961 seemed most terrifying to me. After Lewis et al had been banged up in police cells yet again, towards midnight Chief Connor made a personal visit.

“I’m putting you people under protective custody, and sending you all the way back to Nashville where you belong. And just to make sure you get there… I’m gonna ride along.”

All the way back to Nashville…? No. As soon as they reached the Tennessee line, the men and women were summarily ejected from the car in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere without transportation… right in the heart of Klan country.

What this gripping graphic novel makes abundantly clear over and over again is that it is a miracle John Lewis survived to end up where he needed to be: in Washington for the march on August 28th 1963 as chairman of the SNCC. It wasn’t a day without conflict – this time from within – but it did prove a milestone in American history.

However, it isn’t where the book ends, I’m afraid. Someone always has to get the last word in.

It ends on September 15th 1963, outside the Baptist Church of Sixteenth Street, Birmingham, Alabama.

Youth Sunday.

SLH

Buy March Book 2 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Solo: Book One (Sketched In) (£9-99, self-published) by Hope Larson.

“Your dirty look it left a mark
no one can see it in the dark
and if you meant for this to sting
sweetheart
I don’t feel a thing”

Well, will you look at that cover!

With its gold block-printing ink haphazardly rolled on with a brayer, each front cover is unique. With the opening pages signed and sketched in for Page 45, each interior of this pocket book is also unique! Oh, and Page 45 is unique in being the only retailer in the UK to stock this beauty at the time of typing.

It’s in a “shitty little town” in the middle of nowhere, before the final song on the last leg of a tour, that Andy announces to a devastated crowd his split with wife and fellow musician, Leah.

The above was recorded by Leah drunk on Peppermint Schnapps during the first evening of separation, and I know that revenge is a dish best served creatively but the split was at the least ostensibly mutual. On the other hand, when you have your eyes set on a new future, it’s difficult not to blurt out things which may seem a little insensitive, competitive, especially when you are creatively inclined.

So. Leah is hoping to record at Tommy’s studio in Montana, but first she has to get there. When her carburettor claps out not far from the gig and the local mechanic needs $300 which Leah simply does not have, Leah has little option but to pawn her guitar and wedding ring. Imagine you were a massive fan of the band, had been to that gig the night before… and it was you behind that counter.

This is the first half of a whole which I’ve read in its entirety and, boy, you are in for a treat! Have you never day-dreamed about what it would be like to meet one of your idols on neutral, mutual territory? Now imagine it from your idol’s point of view when they’re out of luck.

From the creator of CHIGGERS and MERCURY, the artist on Madeleine L’Engle’s WRINKLE IN TIME graphic novel, the writer of WHO IS AC? and, of course, the co-creator of Page 45’s exclusive Hope Larson & Bryan Lee O’Malley 2012 signing print, this is a more stripped-down and direct affair, Leah’s eyes gazing out of the page, into the crowd and towards an uncertain future.

It leaves her a little vulnerable, sends her a bit off-kilter and makes her more than a tad defensive, all of which is reflected in the spot-black, grey-toned art as Leah’s mood shifts at a moment’s notice.

96 silky pages with a cardstock cover. And I repeat: grey tone, not green as depicted here.

SLH

Buy Solo: Book One and read the Page 45 review here

Guide To The Round Things Of The Solar System (£10-00) by Richard Swan…

“If we were a double planet system then one side of the Earth would face the moon the whole time too and we would be dancing like Rose and Jack on the Titanic. Although romantic and exciting, this would mean that half the planet wouldn’t be able to see the moon and that would affect property prices.”

Wouldn’t it just? Not sure this is technically comics* though Richard does move sequentially from the centre of our solar system, starting with the sun, past the Kuiper Belt into the Scattered Disc region.  He himself describes it as ‘a delicious pocket guide / coffee table booklette of painted solar system objects with heartwarming descriptions”. Which pretty much sums it up, actually; it has that slightly insane feel of the narrator in the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, which perfectly complements the surprisingly detailed, dainty paintings.

 

Overall it looks like the best GCSE astronomy project ever produced, hand-bound with a metal spiral for added boutique effect. I’d give him an A* for this, I really would. Plus, importantly, you will learn stuff. Armed with the knowledge you will cull from this handy reference you should be more than prepared should an impending Vogon Disruptor Fleet necessitate an immediate planetary evacuation…

* Editor’s note: it really isn’t, but it is very beautiful, educational and very, very funny!

JR

Buy Guide To The Round Things Of The Solar System and read the Page 45 review here

First Year Healthy h/c (£10-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Michael DeForge…

Following an ‘episode’, not elaborated upon, which necessitated a stay in hospital (presumably of the mental variety) our narrator, a young woman possessed of almost Mandlebrotian-style ginger hair has returned to her home town. Whatever this episode was, and however long it lasted, it was of sufficient severity to ensure she is no longer allowed to visit her brothers at their family homes, presumably due to the potential danger she might represent to their spouses and offspring. She doesn’t realise this initially, but the revelation comes as a sudden insight as her life once again begins to fall apart.

This is one of those comics, as all Michael DeForge’s are, which is very difficult to pin down, with an obtuse ending that is left open to interpretation. There’s a representational element throughout involving a huge and monstrous wild cat, replete with fangs and spiky mane, plus a smaller silhouetted cat, at times extending out from the woman’s hair – which suggests much, but clarifies precisely nothing. There’s potentially at least one murder, possibly at least two more, though again, precisely who the perpetrator is, and indeed if any foul play has actually taken place, is not entirely clear. Murder mystery it isn’t, neither horror, more a disturbing tale of woe that is designed to delight and confound.

 

 

 

The confounding elements I’m sure I’ve just explained; the delight, however, comes from Michael DeForge’s unique art style and unusual compositional approach. It looks very simple, minimal even at first glance, but when you start to study each panel, you’ll frequently see a complex, layered construction that is often quite thought-provoking, and again, representational. I would put him up the Chris Ware end of the spectrum, in the sense that there is a preciseness that seems very design led, though there is a surrealist element combined with that content-wise which gives it its own unique bent. Scott McCloud picked one of Michael’s stories for the BEST AMERICAN COMICS 2014 compilation, which gives you some idea of how highly regarding he is within the industry.

JR

Buy First Year Healthy h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Ex Machina Book 4 (£14-99, Vertigo) by Brian K. Vaughan & Tony Harris.

“Dear Lord in heaven, if you let this work, I will owe You for the rest of my life.”

If you believe in God then you already owe Him, but how many times have we each uttered a sentence ending in something like “… then I swear I will stop crank-calling my mother.” Kept many of those, have we? Because I’m still working on that one.

From the writer of SAGA, this is one of my all-time favourite series. Obviously EX MACHINA BOOK 1 of 5 is where to really begin, but I don’t see why you can’t start here and with this review. All you need to know is that Mitchell Hundred, Mayor Of New York City, can talk to mechanisms and make them do what he wants. Unfortunately for him, someone’s worked out that it may be a two-way communication: that a machine might be able to make him do what it wants.

All this just as a dying Pope John Paul II requests a private audience with Mayor Hundred at the Vatican… Why would he do that?

It’s not just the slick wit of the dialogue – although that’s here in abundance – it’s the lateral thinking that Brian brings to the table, the very real world politics (here, for example, ex-President Vladimir Putin’s history of covert overseas assassinations) and his interest in stepping outside of his own political viewpoint and giving eloquent voice to others’. It makes for genuine surprises and Mitchell, a natural sceptic, is in for a real revelation. But then sceptics are different from cynics in that deep down, don’t a lot of them rather hope that beneath their doubts something might be true? Here’s some of that deft verbal juggling:

“I’m Father Chetwas, the Vatican’s chief astronomer.”
“Seriously?”
“Is it so shocking that a Nigerian would be interested in space?”
“I’m not surprised that you’re an astronomer, Father, I’m surprised the Vatican has one on retainer. I have a feeling the guy who said the Earth moves around the sun would be surprised, too.”
“It may have taken The Church three hundred years to apologise for what The Inquisition did to Galileo… but it’s worth noting that your host is the one who made that extraordinary gesture.”

Pope John Paul, by the way, turns out to be the real hero in the book, in two scenes I found profoundly moving and we all know what a sceptic – or even cynic – I am!

Meanwhile Tony Harris’ art manages the improbable trick of filling each page with big, solid forms whilst letting them breathe in plenty of space. His sense of light is impeccable, and he delivers one highly imaginative wrap-around cover.

Finally: Hundred raises his sights from Mayor to a considerably higher office, George W. Bush visits New York City and a young woman inspired by an encounter with the Great Machine conducts a novel protest against Dubya’s presence using a motorbike, the surviving Twin Tower and a parachute.

In this repackaged format there’s just one more book to go with a finale I never saw coming.

SLH

Buy Ex Machina Book 4 and read the Page 45 review here

Burning Fields #1 of 8 (£2-99, Boom! Studios) by Michael Moreci, Tim Daniel & Colin Lorimer…

“What do you want me to say, Kendrick? You have mutilated bodies, random victims, and no leads. Excuse me if I’m not eager to jump on a plane and play Se7en in the desert.”

And yet, jump on the plane she will, our Dana, to Kirkuk, Iraq, to investigate a very brutal murder indeed on an oilfield. After dealing with some goons who break into her apartment to dispense a warning to keep her nose out, that is. Which of course just makes her even more determined that she’s not going to be intimidated, as well as demonstrating to us she can clearly take care of herself.  The oilfield in question is run like a private fiefdom by an American company called Verge.

The Verge boys in charge on the ground, led by chief goon Decker, are unquestionably morally corrupt thugs and Dana, in her investigatorial capacity, has some serious history with them, but whether they are responsible for the horrific crime scene she finds is open to question. By the end of this first issue we’ve no idea who might have any real motive for the killing, though the opening page does provide us with more clues than Dana gets as to the identity of the assailant, but it’s abundantly clear that pretty much everyone has got some dirty secret to hide.

Impressive opener, this, particularly for a title on the Boom! Studios imprint. We’re mainly reviewing it so it gets the attention of those who enjoyed SOUTHERN BASTARDS, SCALPED, 100 BULLETS etc. because it will certainly appeal and may otherwise slip under the radar. It’s gritty stuff, nicely penned so far by Michael Moreci and Tim Daniel, and the art from Colin Lorimer is rather well composed. Worth a look if you’re in the mood for some violent crime / thriller action.

JR

Buy Burning Fields #1 and read the Page 45 review here

North 40 s/c (£10-99, Vertigo) by Aaron Williams & Fiona Staples.

Early work from SAGA artist Fiona Staples and – let’s be clear – that is precisely why DC are reprinting it now and why we have to decided to stock it.

None of us had heard of Staples back then, except as a stationary item whose deployment was and remains as satisfying as popping bubble-wrap.

And it’s fascinating to see her develop on the page and across the series from the barely recognisable to “Look at that hair!” and splat goes the cat.

For yes, this is horror, as a sleepy, seedy, backwards town in the arse-end of nowhere – full of deeply unpleasant individuals and a waitress – is overtaken by a transmogrifying curse following the ill-advised opening of an ancient tome with an octopoid eye on its cover. Borrowed from the local library.

I say “individuals” but, alas, they’re a bunch of clichés from the abusive dad demanding his son fetch his porn to the mayor’s wick-dipping dickhead of a son lying through his teeth to get his rocks off. Basically this: everyone’s very thick.

Then suddenly everyone has wings, fangs or weight issues and they turn mighty violent. I cannot begin to tell you how trite and turgid this is.

“Wouldst though like the honour of opening it?” asks the geek to the gothstress who astonishingly doesn’t slap him upside the head.

No. No, I would not.

SLH

Buy North 40 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

In Search Of Lost Dragons h/c (£25-99, Dynamite) by Elian Black’mor, Carine-M.

There is a story told in a Riven / Myst sort of a way. It’s like an ancient, album-sized journal full of sketches and suppositions.

But let’s face it, you’re here – just like me – for the sepia sketches and fully painted art which are both drop-dead gorgeous.

I have experience in this area for I myself have roamed the snow-swept realm of Skyrim, hiking up mountains, dashing down dales, skittering ‘cross scree slopes and plunging all pugilistic-like into a cavern of cobwebs behind which lurk gigantic, venomous spiders. But only if you are very, very lucky. There are worse things in the cracks and crevices, you know.

All the while I have been accompanied by my Clopsy.

My Clopsy is a beautiful, bleating beast with a lead-lined stomach capable of digesting whatever catches its satanic, roving eye. My Clopsy gives me great personal pleasure and on troubled evenings it soothes my furrowed brow. But just the other evening something really got my goat.

Unfortunately it was a dragon.

“On the trail of dragons forgotten,” he quotes, somewhat lazily, “an intrepid illustrator and reporter journeys from Europe through the Middle East and finally to Saigon in search of the dark caverns and mountaintop perches where the elusive winged serpents dwell. With the gift of seeing the invisible, our explorer friend records each encounter in a journal of gorgeous, fully painted artwork, capturing every majestic and fearsome visual detail of the scaly behemoths, and accompanies his findings with snippets of local lore as evidence that these hidden beasts continue to shape the world in ways we may never expect!”

Perched upon your portico, dragons can be intimidating.

It’s for this very reason that Debenhams, opposite Page 45, spikes its window ledges with sharp, metal prongs.

Okay, it’s possibly the pigeons but it’s worked equally effectively against dragons, for I have not once seen a serpent or wyrm up above, waiting to singe me to sleep.

SLH

Buy In Search Of Lost Dragons h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Criminal vol 1: Coward s/c (£10-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips

Love And Rockets (vol 11): Ofelia (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Gilbert Hernandez

Moomin: The Deluxe Slipcase Edition (£50-00, Drawn & Quarterly) by Tove Jansson

Outcast vol 1: A Darkness Surrounds Him s/c (£7-50, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Paul Azaceta, Elizabeth Breitweiser

Black Science vol 2: Welcome Nowhere s/c (£10-99, Image) by Rick Remender & Matteo Scalera, Dean White, Michael Spicer

Plumdog h/c (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Emma Chichester Clark

Run Like Crazy, Run Like Hell h/c (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Jacques Tardi

Saint Cole (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Noah Van Sciver

Bear Hug Card (£2-75) by Jodie Paterson

Moon And Stars Card (£2-50) by Jodie Paterson

Guide To The Round Objects Of The Solar System (£8-50) by Richard Swan

Adventure Time: Bitter Sweets s/c (£7-99, Titan) by Kate Leth & Zachary Sterling, Chrystin Garland

Baltimore vol 1: The Plague Ships h/c (£18-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden & Ben Stenbeck

The Squidder s/c (£13-50, IDW) by Ben Templesmith

Flash vol 5: History Lessons h/c (£16-99, DC) by Brian Buccellato, Christos N. Gage, Nicole Dubic & Patrick Zircher, various

Avengers: Time Runs Out (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Stefano Caselli, Mike Deodato, Kev Walker, Paco Medina, others

Cataclysm: The Ultimates Last Stand s/c (£29-99, Marvel) by Joshua Hale Fialkov, Brian Michael Bendis & Mark Bagley, various

Deadpool: The Ones With Deadpool s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by various

Death Of Wolverine (UK Edition s/c) (£12-99, Marvel) by Charles Soule & Steve McNiven

Guardians Of The Galaxy / All New X-Men: The Trial Of Jean Grey s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen, Sara Pichelli

Miracleman Book vol 2: The Red King Syndrome (UK Edition) h/c (£16-99, Marvel) by Alan Moore & Alan Davis, John Ridgway, Chuck Austen, Rick Veitch

The Superior Foes Of Spider-Man vol 3: Game Over s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Nick Spencer & Steve Lieber

Uncanny Avengers: Axis Prelude s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Rick Remender, Cullen Bunn & Salvador Larocca, Daniel Acuna

Akame Ga Kill vol 1 (£9-99, Yen Press) by Takahiro & Tetsuya Tashiro

Black Butler vol 19 (£9-99, Yen Press) by Yana Toboso

Fairy Tail vol 46 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

One Piece vol 73 (£7-50, Viz) by Eiichiro Oda

Sword Art Online Progressive vol 1 (£9-99, Yen Press) by Reki Kawahara & Kiseki Himura

News!


ITEM! Jonathan Edwards, co-creator of chortle-fest DESTINATION KENDAL is currently painting the most staggering, original, organic, thrillingly-full-of-light landscapes like the one above of Swallow Falls. Obviously it’s copyright Jonathan Edwards so consider the previous sentence a review and this a plug for Jonathan Edwards’ online shop where you can buy so many similarly staggering prints! Just click on that link where the type is fainter!

ITEM! New submarine comics by Kate Beaton. Funny!

ITEM! Finally the Tory ban on books being received by HMP inmates from home is being lifted! Prison is precisely the place where as many books as possible should be available for education and entertainment while you have time on your hands lest the devil find work for them. This Thursday Page 45 helped HMP Nottingham’s new librarian hand-pick £3,000’s worth of graphic novels for its occupants and I would give anything to be there when the readers first get an eyeful of all those beautiful books on the shelves!

ITEM! All the creator and publisher exhibitors at this May’s Toronto Comic Art Festival 2015 (TCAF)!

ITEM! There’s a new GIANT DAYS #1 (of 6) on its way in March from John Allison, the creator of Page 45’s Comicbook Of The Month January 2015, BAD MACHINERY: THE CASE OF THE SIMPLE SOUL and Lissa Treman. Not to be confused with the original GIANT DAYS (all three in stock still, but only just and they are all out of print) by John Allison solo, here’s a great big preview of the spanking new GIANT DAYS #1 by Allison & Treman.

- Stephen

 

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews January 2015 week three

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

Featuring STRAY BULLETS by David Lapham, RACHEL RISING by Terry Moore, a new graphic novel by LAZARUS’ Greg Rucka, Ken Niimura’s new manga masterpiece and more!

Rachel Rising vol 5: Night Cometh (£12-99, Abstract Studios) by Terry Moore.

“My grandfather was lynched with a rope like this. They took a photograph of him… lying on the road.
“His neck looked like yours.”

The next two panels made me burst into tears.

Spoiler-free, I swear, this review is deployed to bring brand-new readers to one of the very best books in the business!

Terry Moore is the Georgie Porgie of comics: he kisses with kindness so making his readers cry.

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 VOL 1 boasts one of the best-ever beginnings in comics:

Early one morning a tall and beautiful but austere blonde woman wanders down to a sequestered glade and waits patiently above a dried-up river bed. Until a leaf spontaneously combusts and another woman claws herself slowly… and painfully from her grave… then staggers her way back home…

That woman is Rachel. She’s not a zombie, I can assure of that: she’s fully mobile and completely cognizant but she is most emphatically dead. She just can’t remember who killed her. All she has to go on is a couple of late-night snapshots of someone bearing down on her and the rope scars seared round her neck.

In the first arc of RACHEL RISING (volumes one to four) so much stuff happened which I am not about to ruin with spoilers. It was nasty and funny – oh, so funny, for Terry Moore has made a career out of combining comedy with tragedy in the best possible way, elevating each element through their juxtaposition – but one major question went unanswered: who killed Rachel and why?

Finally you will begin to receive answers but Terry is so good at scene-cutting! You think I am a tease on Twitter…? Terry has it down to a tee.

So much is going on here that you are left breathless, demanding to know what happens next to this party, that party or what seems like a most ill-advised sortie. There’s one particular death which is very grizzly indeed.

The landscapes towards the end of the book are halting: crisp and crinkled leaves strewn upon winter’s cold-baked, unyielding ground as a major character draws her last breaths and predators swoop down from above to peck out her eyes or stumble unsuspectingly from the dense foliage beyond.

But it’s Terry Moore’s rain that’s most impressive of all: I was so sodden to the core that I had to towel myself down while keeping half an eye on Zoe just in case, just in case… For this eleven-year-old girl has a very sharp blade with a very long history and she is not afraid to use it.

Lastly for long-term readers: did something strike you as odd and unexpected about Aunt Johhny’s [redacted]? Something slightly out of character about her [redacted]’s behaviour? Hahahaha! Terry must have been grinning his head off for months. It’s all there and so obvious when you look back but not necessarily evident at the time. And that’s the best sort of writing, is it not?

On a personal note:

“Someday I’m going to rent a big truck and ram it into every driver on the phone.”

Includes exploding rodents.

SLH

Buy Rachel Rising vol 5: Night Cometh and read the Page 45 review here

Stray Bullets vol 6: The Killers (£14-99, Image) by David Lapham…

“You sure this is okay?”
“No, it’s not okay. That’s why it’s called breaking in.”
“You do this a lot?”
“Yeah, well, I’ve been on my own…”
“You must have some crazy stories.”
“I hung out for a while with a guy who pulls fingers off for a living.”
“For a living?”
“Technically, he mostly kills them, but pulling fingers off is his “signature move”.”
“Whoa.”

For those of you new to STRAY BULLETS, just take a moment to study this cover closely. Very, very closely… because, it actually sums up the complete and utter mayhem you will find within to perfection. And, to get the party started, on the pages inside just like on the cover, is that most cool of cool bad-ass motherfuckers, Spanish Scott, solitary finger raised to lips, instructing us, politely (for that is his way), to quieten ourselves before we read on.

 

Our story opens in 1978 with young Eli playing peeping tom at his local strip club, peering at the cavorting ladies and sleazy johns. He’s more than a little surprised to see his dad in there, which leads to his first encounter with Spanish Scott. Then follows a two-page driving sequence, Spanish Scott at the wheel with an unsuspecting Eli in the passenger seat, that is pure Grand Theft Auto in its execution. At its conclusion, dropping Eli back off at his house, our superfly bad guy is behoved to dispense a few words of wisdom, to complement the (terminal) life lesson he’s just dispensed to a couple of not-so-wise guys.

“Sorry about that, kid. You have to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves. Your loser father probably won’t tell you that.”

Yes… Eli might not get too many more chances to either… not if Spanish Scott has anything to do with it…

Fast forward to 1986, when everyone’s favourite teenage hellraiser – Virginia Applejack a.k.a. Amy Racecar – suddenly reappears, and where Virginia goes, well, trouble is certainly sure to follow. Eli would do well to heed his mother’s warnings about Ms. Applejack. For Eli though, missing a limb as well as a father, Virginia seems like an angel sent down from heaven to save him. She could well be responsible for getting him there rather quicker than he’d like but somehow these two misfits fall madly in love and before too long it’s them against what feels like the entire world, or at least Eli’s mom.

So when Virginia is hired by Mr. Finger, yes that Mr. Finger, to babysit his kids whilst ostensibly he takes his wife out for a romantic meal, you just know there’s going to be more to it than that. There is, obviously, as in reality Mr. Finger wants Virginia to find his wife’s stash of emergency cash for a ‘business opportunity’ that’s just arisen, and so she gets herself and Eli dragged into some heavy drama that just going to escalate further and further with very serious consequences for all concerned. Just another chaotic episode in the crazy life of Virginia Applejack…

 

Ah, some people are just made to create a particular comic, and so it is with David Lapham. He is STRAY BULLETS and STRAY BULLETS is him. The snappy dialogue, so street, so witty and so on the money, is beyond even Bendis at his finest. The plot – pure convoluted, gritty, brutal contemporary-fiction unpleasantness – made real for our guilty and salacious enjoyment. Is he the best at what he does, to borrow a well used phrase? I think so, I think so, he is certainly right up there. To give this material some context, there are a handful of other comics of this ilk over the last twenty years that have had as much impact on me. Some of SCALPED and 100 BULLETS probably, much of CRIMINAL certainly, but then STRAY BULLETS is that good, it always was.

There are some artists – and this is the only way I can describe it – about whom you get the sense they are drawing it entirely for themselves, not for anyone else, just for them. I get the strongest sense that Lapham is precisely like that. This is his comic, written just how he wants, then drawn just how he likes: tough, uncompromising, exactly how a contemporary crime comic should be. The psychotic flashes of Amy Racecar fantasy – there is a hilarious issue included in this arc – only serve to heighten the sense of deranged tension you feel reading STRAY BULLETS. With every turn of a page, you’re expecting it all to go pear-shaped, and when it eventually does, it is as spectacular as it is devastating…

Volumes 2 to 5 will be republished shortly, although you can read their entirety now as STRAY BULLETS: UBER ALLES collecting volumes 1-5.

JR

Buy Stray Bullets vol 6: The Killers and read the Page 45 review here

Henshin (£14-99, Image) by Ken Niimura.

“I feel like I’m surrounded by walls made of air.”

Well, that had me thinking….

Thirteen short stories, each of them full of moments of magic or surprise: when music drifts down an alley a young women bursts into dance round the back of city buildings and all over the full-page spread; a shop assistant on an errand in Paris flies high on his ability to communicate; a cat adds its own special ingredient to an improvised gourmet dinner.

Those first two were breathtaking in their sense of space and exuberance, the first putting me much in mind of young Windy in Mariko and Jillian Tamaki’s THIS ONE SUMMER bouncing round her chalet’s living room, the second of Stuart Immonen’s extraordinary feats of weight yet weightless in Kurt Busiek’s SECRET IDENTITY – and, oh, that blissed-out smile on his face!

Niimura’s art dispels every ludicrous but annoyingly prevalent preconception and cliché of what manga looks like. Far from the sugarbuzz shout-athon, it’s also a far cry from Taniguchi’s clear, crisp lines. An office scene called to mind Posy Simmonds; at a picnic I perceived elements of mid-Mazzucchelli; a merry reunion boasted bits of both Kyle Baker and Joann Sfar. It’s all very energetic.

‘Henshin’ means “transformation” but it’s this element of surprise which characterises the episodes much more strongly, including wholly unexpected acts of violence.

A niece called Nat bookends the collection, first joining then departing the household of a beaming uncle with something secreted in his car’s glove compartment.

A family home is threatened with a visit by the dad’s company’s C.E.O. and the promise of a promotion if all goes well, as if ripped from the very cathode rays of a 1970s’ BBC Play For Today. It is impressed upon the son that good behaviour is essential but in this instance good behaviour entails not helping out in order to suppress a strange genetic secret!

Victory Sign proves to be a very moving tale of enduring friendship, while Lying Is Bad’s explosive trappings wherein people go postal harbours a serious point about how Japanese treat gaijin with kindly-meant kid gloves – in fact how every nation’s population speaks to new arrivals even 10, 20, 30 years after immigration: differently.

The story title Par-tay immediately evokes the ghost of a Beastie Boys’ bellowing, beer-guzzling house trashing, but it is immediately, hilariously undercut by the refined decorum of a trio of friends sitting quietly on floor cushions around a traditionally low Japanese table, sipping wine while watching a video-game cut-scene in silent appreciation. That’s where the cat comes in, Civet-stylee.

In fact the cat makes multiple appearances for Ken has a crush on one – there’s no other word for it – who visits to accept Ken’s evening offerings of food then leaves him little “presents” as a thank you. Ken’s surprisingly appreciative of them. So appreciative that another dinner digresses onto the subject of poo and where/when you can’t.

No, I wouldn’t have brought that up, either, especially not at the table. But still, I did smile!

SLH

Buy Henshin and read the Page 45 review here

The Talion Maker part 1 (£3-50, self-published) by Neal Curtis.

“When he came to see me, I lost it… or found it… depends on how you look at it.”

Under the circumstances I think he found it, punching his University’s Dean in the face.

It was later that this previously pacifistic lecturer in new media lost it: after his beloved Hannah was murdered in a neo-Nazi arson attack on the independent bookshop she helped run, and the Minister for Immigration proclaimed on British radio that she had ties to terrorist organisations. She hadn’t: she was simply a lawyer campaigning for human rights, equality and justice, all of which Tony Blair defenestrated the second he endorsed – and collaborated in – the illegal invasion of Iraq.

This is all relevant, trust me.

Talion is defined thus: “the system or legal principle of making the punishment correspond to the crime; retaliation”.

Otherwise known as “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” – which isn’t a strict legal principle, although it was a common and somewhat messy practice leading Jesus to recommending the alternative of submitting to a slapping. I think our protagonist here is way beyond turning the other cheek.

The circumstances which led Daniel to decking the Dean were when the Dean suspended him after one of his students sent a set of Bob Dylan lyrics to Number 10 in protest at the Iraqi War. On these derisibly flimsy grounds said student was arrested then marched from campus in handcuffs under the new Anti-Terrorism Legislation, was publicly branded a terrorist by the Daily Fail and Daniel himself was interviewed by police in a very leading manner.

Do you think this far-fetched? It is not.

It begins well after the fact with a single sentence:

“I’ve been told I need to open up.”

The box flaps beneath it open and close silently in a rhythm resembling lungs breathing in and out. A tentative attempt to open up followed by a reluctance to do so.

Shards of glass accompanied a fractured sentence then reconstitute themselves into a single shattered pane as the narrator tries to piece it all together. And then, bit by bit, he does so.

Let us be perfectly clear: Neal Curtis is no draughtsman. His lines are thin and his figure and facial work is weak, although he does manage an unexpectedly well composed full-page flourish depicting Lake Barley in Ireland with a wall leading down to it in perfect perspective.

And it is the composition here along with the content which caught me for not once did I struggle to comprehend what was being shown or so eloquently said. Moreover, the tricks of this unique medium’s trade don’t merely punctuate the pages, they permeate them: “POLICE /// DO NOT CROSS” tape masking off the panels as the student is cuffed then thrust into a police van and a police officer looms with a transparently insincere, passive-aggressive smile in Daniel’s face.

Sentences are broken between boxes when Daniel confesses about his relationship with Hannah, “We seemed to have… lost touch… with each… other”.

He adapts the familiar open / closed shop sign to forward the narrative twice, that shattered pane of glass will be reutilised as a form of punctuation, and a map is wittily annotated with both “You are here” and “She is here, too”. I notice the comma: this man can write.

And – do you know what? – I say that Curtis’ drawing skills need improvement (and they demonstrate an improvement throughout this first part of 3 or 4), but when he shows you a great big grin, you will know instinctively whose it is.

Dedicated to Mark Simpson (1968-2005).

“Can I take a bit of a break, please? I’m tired.”

SLH

Buy The Talion Maker part 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Veil h/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Greg Rucka & Toni Fejzula.

From the writer of LAZARUS and STUMPTOWN comes a graphic novel with some nasty nests of rats: subterranean, street-level and skyscraper-high.

It opens with a perfect page based on a 9-panel grid with a diagonal driving it from top left to bottom right as a candle on the point of a pentangle burns bright, is extinguished leaving an acrid plume of smoke, then spontaneously reignites. Elsewhere: a gun holstered behind a civilian belt, money changing hands in front of a tattered triple-X poster, a subway train approaching down a debris-strewn tunnel and a rat looking up, its attention caught by we know not what. Yet.

It’s a status update which will be reprised at the beginning of each chapter, a thick chain featuring with increasing prominence.

But right now that train is approaching fast, the litter on the tracks swirls up ahead of it and a woman sits up suddenly on the subways platform, gasping for air, sending the vermin she’s attracted scuttling for cover.

“Hhn nhnn hu-huh hurts… It… hurts…?”

She’s naked and doesn’t seem to understand the world around her, her vocabulary at first scant and limited to rhymes.

There’s a waxy feel to the pages, Fejzula electing to use colour rather than solid black tone to fill the shapes of shadows, and those colours are at first delicious: pale purples offset by slate blues and greens. There’s also a softness, a vulnerability which each cover sadly lacked.

The first two chapters had me gripped as the woman makes her way up through locked iron gates to a busy red light district and – being naked – attracts all the wrong attention, saved only by the swift intervention of a dude with curvy braids and a nose ring who scoops her away and up to his flat. It’s not much to look at; he apologises.

Unfortunately they’re going to be pursued, relentlessly and by multiple parties, because that pentangle didn’t draw itself, you know.

Alas, halfway through the narrative narrowed into a far more linear affair reminiscent of HELLBLAZER only without the wise guy, wisecracks, history lessons and wider ramifications. Even the politics were nebulous: people after power, the nature of which is never stipulated.

Black and white unpublished pages in the back.

SLH

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

Star Wars #1 (£3-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & John Cassaday…

“Threepio, you worthless rust bucket, you better not have damaged my ship.”
“For once, sir, the Millennium Falcon appears to be in good working order.
“As we hoped, Chewbacca was able to pilot us undetected through the moon’s orbital field.
“At present, the Falcon and I are safely hidden amongst the extensive refuse fields that surround the factory.
“If I may say so, Captain Solo, I do find it rather disconcerting that your vessel continues to be so easily mistaken for garbage.”
“You’ll be garbage if you mess this up, Goldenrod!”

Already heading to second printing at time of typing it would seem the appetite for all things Star Wars remains undiminished. It remains to be seen whether such faith is justified, either on the comic or indeed film front. I remember all too well going to see the first of the second trilogy of films and coming away from the cinema probably more disappointed than on any other occasion. Actually, if we’re being honest, Return Of The Jedi wasn’t that great, either. I mean, could they really not have come up with a different plot than another Death Star needing destroying? And Ewoks, sigh, really not that much better than Jar Jar Binks, frankly. And yet, still off I trotted to watch them all…

Anyway… comic readers of a certain age will remember a UK title called STAR WARS WEEKLY, which ran for a considerable period of time immediately after the first film and featured the further adventures of Luke, Han, Leia, Chewie, C3PO, R2D2 et al in various adventures, pursued all the whilst by Darth Vader. It was actually rather good, featuring decent writing by, amongst others, Roy Thomas and great art from the likes of Howard Chaykin. Also, being published as it was by Marvel, it had great back-up strips reprinting classic material such as Adam Warlock, Guardians of the Galaxy, Deathlok and Micronauts. For those of us thirsting for more lightsabre-wielding, blaster-frapping, outer-space wise-cracking antics, it was perfect.

This title is basically yet another extension of that original franchise and cast. Obviously Dark Horse started doing exactly the same thing a couple of years ago with the STAR WARS material penned by Brian Wood, which I have no idea whether that now will be considered canon or not. Or any of the other myriad Dark Horse material covering several time periods spanning thousands of years in Star Wars history. Or indeed the original STAR WARS WEEKLY material. Does it even matter, really?

This tale is set almost immediately after the end of the first film. Our chums have a mission to fulfil which naturally involves ridiculous personal and collective peril, implausible hokey plot twists and of course much lightsabre swishing, blaster waving and never-ending threats of personal violence directed at C3PO from Han Solo, sick and tired of Threepio’s verbal diarrhoea. They haven’t even waited five minutes to break out the big bad guns either as Vader is back by the end of this first issue, though the clue is in the background of the cover, I suppose, which does indeed make me think it will be much like the STAR WARS WEEKLY run with the continual cat-and-mouse chase of our pals trying to stay one step ahead of Vader, whilst getting neck deep in whatever various near fatal shenanigans the current plot arc throws up.

I can’t say I was massively excited by this first issue. The humorous dialogue is on point, easily the best thing about it, though the plot seems wafer-thin.

The art, well, for the second time in recent years Cassaday seems a bit stilted and flat frankly, following on from his three issues opening Rick Remender’s UNCANNY AVENGERS before he left / was replaced. I dunno, maybe it’s just not floating his artistic boat, but it seems a far, far cry from his PLANETARY days. Strange.

Will I even bother reading #2? Probably. Will I be daft enough to go see the new film. Certainly.

[Editor’s note: mirth merchants, please check out
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE’S STAR WARS,
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE’S THE EMPIRE STRIKETH BACK
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE’S THE JEDI DOTH RETURN]

JR

Buy Star Wars #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Solo: Book One (Sketched In) (£9-99, self-published) by Hope Larson

Ex Machina Book 4 (£14-99, Vertigo) by Brian K. Vaughan & Tony Harris

First Year Healthy h/c (£10-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Michael DeForge

In Search Of Lost Dragons h/c (£25-99, Dynamite) by Elian Black’mor, Carine-M

March Book 2 s/c (£14-99, Top Shelf) by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin & Nate Powell

North 40 s/c (£10-99, Vertigo) by Aaron Williams & Fiona Staples

Abe Sapien vol 5: Sacred Places (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, Scott Allie & Max Fiumara, Sebastian Fiumara

BPRD Plague Of Frogs vol 2 s/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, various & Guy Davis, various

Bravest Warriors vol 4 s/c (£10-99, Kaboom!) by various

Batman: Beware The Batman vol 1 s/c (£9-99, DC) by Ivan Cohen, various & Luciano Vecchio, Dario Brizuela

Black Widow vol 2: The Tightly Tangled Web s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Nathan Edmondson & Phil Noto

Ghost Rider vol 1: Engines Of Vengeance s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Felipe Smith & Tradd Moore

Legendary Star-Lord vol 1: Face It I Rule s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Sam Humphries & Paco Medina, Freddie Williams II

News!

ITEM! MOOMIN global success for one of our favourite comics publishers, Drawn & Quarterly. It’s also a really good overview / intro to the series. How Page 45 loves MOOMIN! And we have so very many!

ITEM! Beautiful Winsor McCay LITTLE NEMO page analysed structurally along with two distinct modes of reading.

ITEM! Hey! Hey! Comicbook creators: are you even aware about the Public Lending Right organisation? The Public Lending Right organisation remunerates creators for graphic novels borrowed from public libraries! Sign up now!

ITEM! NOTES FROM THE SOFA by Raymond Briggs: fund it now, receive rewards later! There are few graphic novels I love more than Raymond Briggs’ ETHEL & ERNEST. A glorious slice of British socio-political history!

ITEM! Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie discuss their plans for THE WICKED + THE DIVINE, PHONOGRAM III, Gillen’s own LUDOCRATS and more.

ITEM! Ever the iconoclasts and entertainers, Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie then submit themselves to an online question-and-answer session which… oh, just read it and weep!

ITEM! Neill Camerom invites Young Adults to the new run of MEGA ROBO BROS in the weekly PHOENIX COMIC this Friday!

ITEM! Lizz Lunney is interviewed! That is the creator of TAKE AWAY!, yes!

ITEM! Five Questions for Philippa Rice about her new SOPPY h/c

Phillippa Rice and Luke Pearson Co-Signing SOPPY on Valentine’s Day 2015

Please click on that link for the deetz!

Cheers,

- Stephen

Page 45 Reviews January 2015 week two

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

Unlike Mattotti’s illustrations to Gaiman’s HANSEL & GRETEL which I can only describe as bucolic gothic, Chris Riddell’s are so crisply delineated that one might suspect the deployment of Rotring.

 - Stephen on The Sleeper And The Spindle h/c by Neil Gaiman & Chris Riddell.

Bark! (£3-00) by various including Philippa Rice, Jack Teagle, Roddy Doyle…

“The rainforest is full of bugs.”
“I can’t see any.”

Heh, he soon will, our Cardboard Colin – oh yes! – in this exclusive 2-pager by Philippa Rice for this most worthy conservation conversation compilation! As ever he is accompanied by Pauline, who takes great delight in being his rainforest guide with a difference.

Schoolkids Max and Reuben decided to do their bit to help save the rainforest by creating a comic to raise funds to purchase some rainforest in conjunction with www.worldlandtrust.org. They contacted various creators for submissions which you can read more about on their blog http://bark-cc.tumblr.com/ and the end result was this wonderful self-published comic.

Philippa’s strip is just great fun, as is Jack Teagle’s, but there are also some more serious and informative pieces in the twelve you’ll find inside. How’s that for value for money?! You’ll see from the interior art there’s a great selection of material and I am extremely impressed with what the boys have put together. Budding publishers of the future, perhaps!

 

 

 

 

All proceeds go to charity, we aren’t keeping a penny, so why not buy a copy and support a good cause? Incidentally, just in case you’re thinking that buying a paper comic probably isn’t the best way to save the rainforest, be assured (as indeed it says on the rear inside cover) that “forestry, paper and printing are amongst the most sustainable industries in existence”. Just not illegal logging and deforestation obviously…

JR

Buy Bark! and read the Page 45 review here

Second Avenue Caper (£10-50, Hill & Wang) by Joyce Brabner & Mark Zingarelli…

“Hold on… I’m talking to Dr. Molina. There’ve been reports of a drug that might help. It’s only available in Mexico.”

AIDS. Obviously not a joyful topic, but imagine yourself in the position of someone in the early 1980s struggling to understand and come to terms with the illness suddenly ravaging their friends and community. Joyce Brabner, possibly best known for her excellent collaborations with her husband Harvey Pekar on a number of works such as OUR CANCER YEAR, tells us one such story, that of her friend Ray. What follows is actually a rather uplifting story of activism and mutual support in the face of adversity, prejudice and of course, ignorance.

As the few facts known about HIV and AIDS begin to disseminate amongst the gay community of New York, and the diagnoses and deaths begin to rise, there is understandable despondency. So when Ray hears of a drug that offers some promise against the virus, but it’s only available south of the border, it’s time for a road trip. Oh, and a little pharmaceutical smuggling.

Assisted and abetted by various shady contacts within the world of organised crime (though morally dubious favours are of course required in exchange), Ray and friends manage to acquire the drugs and dispense them free of charge within the community. They fund their own version of the NHS through the cultivation and sale of another illegal drug… marijuana.

So clearly whilst this biography, illustrated by Mark Zingarelli as it was narrated to Joyce by Ray, has its darker, desperate, more poignant moments, there is a lot of laughter and hi-jinks here also. It’s certainly far more uplifting than the hard-hitting 7 MILES A SECOND which I found such an eloquently profound yet distressing read when it was first released back in 1996. Reading this work, you can’t help thinking if there was such strong general community spirit shown at the best of times, not just the worst, then the world might be an altogether happier place. A worthy addition to the canon of literature documenting this traumatic time when, let’s not forget, before relatively recent pharmacological advances, contracting HIV was basically a death sentence.

JR

Buy Second Avenue Caper and read the Page 45 review here

The Sleeper And The Spindle h/c (£12-99, Bloomsbury) by Neil Gaiman & Chris Riddell.

“Names are in short supply in this telling.”

They are indeed, they are indeed.

Why do you imagine this would be so?

Ah, but that would be as telling as the telling of names and in this telling – in this marked departure of what you may think you know of the princess cursed to lie prone by the pricking of her thumb – everyone is in for a nasty surprise.

“The queen woke early that morning. “A week from today,” she said aloud. “A week from today, I shall be married.””

She doesn’t look very happy about it. Oh, that frowny face! Those heavy, dolorous eyes staring mournfully into the abyss of impending marital bliss… Even her ebony tresses hang lank if still lustrous as she sits up in bed. The day’s dress awaits, presumably propped over a mannequin, but with its headless ruff splayed like a frilled-necked lizard’s it looks like the ghost of a monarch beheaded. The reginal counterpane is embroidered with gold… gold skulls.

Did I mention that this is illustrated prose?

Unlike Mattotti’s thick-set illustrations to Gaiman’s HANSEL & GRETEL which I can only describe as bucolic gothic, Chris Riddell’s are so crisply delineated that one might suspect the deployment of Rotring. They too have much of the gothic about them – it is, after all in the nature of this narrative – but it’s more neo-gothic, more late-Victorian fantasy. And then there’s the gold, adorning the dwarfs’ candle-lit mining lamps, which comes to a crescendo of its own at the close.

Sorry…? Ah, yes, the queen! I don’t think it’s her suitor that’s at issue here. It’s the finality of it all.

“It would be the end of her life, she decided, if life was a time of choices. In a week from now, she would have no choices. She would reign over her people. She would have children.”

I think you will find that being reigned over limits your choices more than the reigning, but she does have a point about children. Most people choose to have children but when you’re a queen and then married, well, the press won’t let babies drop until you have.

Meanwhile three industrious, loyal dwarfs determined to find the finest silken cloth fit for their queen have bypassed the impassable mountain range separating the queen’s kingdom from Dorimar by going underground. And I feel for them, I really do: from October to December Page 45’s office / mail order salt mine is blocked from all passage by just such a mountain range made out of cardboard. Graphic novels don’t materialise in our sort of quantities without a great many boxes being involved.

Once they’ve resurfaced in Dorimar the dwarfs find an inn filled to the brim with refugees fleeing the knock-on ill-effects of a curse in the heart of a castle. I think you know the drill: a princess has pricked her thumb on a spindle and, it / she being cursed by a wicked old witch, it’s made her ever so woozy. Okay, she’s totally conked out and flat on her back (so they say) but not so the roses which are positively virulent. They’ve writhed and risen right up the castle walls, carrying with them whichever brave souls have strived to get in – knights impaled on their thorns now reduced to armour-clad skeletons – and formed an impenetrable wall.

But the sleeping sickness is spreading at an alarming rate and it knows no mountain-range boundaries. The queen’s own kingdom may be under threat! It’s probably time for a quest.

Far, far longer than HANSEL & GRETEL – a quest takes time, after all – this doesn’t actually feel quite so Gaiman-y. I couldn’t discern the same level of portentousness that usually makes Gaiman read like A. A. Milne’s Winnie The Pooh in which Almost Every Sentence sounds like it should Come With Capital Letters. I like that in Gaiman’s prose.

It is, however, as ingenious as you’d expect – although I’d plump for “devious”, actually.

SLH

Buy The Sleeper And The Spindle h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Gun Machine new printing (£12-99, Mulholland Books) by Warren Ellis.

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

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

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

John Tallow is in deep, deep shit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SLH

Buy Gun Machine and read the Page 45 review here

Drug & Drop vol 1 (£8-50, Dark Horse) by CLAMP.

“What you see before you isn’t necessarily what it is. The same may be true… about me.”

Uh-oh.

That’s not the sort of thing you want to hear from your employer. I had one once who was jailed by the Greek authorities for plane spotting. Such a dark horse!

The Japanese CLAMP collective is known for two modes of manga: cutesy, cutesy CARDCAPTOR SAKURA and really rather mischievous yet danger-driven yaoi like TOKYO BABYLON (recommended) and indeed LEGAL DRUG to which this is a sequel.

Of LEGAL DRUG our Tom wrote the following observational sentence and its blindingly brilliant follow-up:

“All the male characters are gay. Which isn’t an issue, so there’s no prolonged thoughtful insights into what it is to be gay, because only groups of straight men do that.”

Haha! Also: correct. It isn’t an issue here. There isn’t even the will-they-won’t-they sub-plot that permeates most yaoi yearnings. Kazahaya Kudo and Rikuo Himura may or may not be boyfs and their pharmacy boss Kakei may or may not be shagging that chap in shades. What is important is Kazahaya’s visions (he is an empath) and Rikuo’s past (or is it Kazahaya’s?)

Both involve a woman covered in blood.

Now their boss Kakei sends them to Kimihiro Watanuki’s shop which trades on wishes and his wish is that they journey to another building, dark and derelict and haunted by a young man who – oh god, I’ve bored myself.

Involves blood and alcohol as do most of my evenings, but at least I get to the point.

“How much can a guy drink, anyway?”

You have no idea.

“Even in the clutching of the one thing left to you, you shall still experience… THE ABYSS OF DESPAIR.”

I will not be held responsible for UKiP’s manifesto.

SLH

Buy Drug & Drop vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Death Of Wolverine h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Charles Soule & Steve McNiven.

“I deserve to be known for something other than helping to make a killer unkillable.”

There you go, that’s your clue.

The very first thing one asks oneself when presented with a title like this is, “How will he die?” Will it be a deathly dull slugathon signifying nothing like THE DEATH OF SUPERMAN? Will it be an ingenious, plot-driven slight of hand like THE DEATH OF CAPTAIN AMERICA? Or – saints preserve us – will there be something apposite about the final furlong and finishing line?

Yes. Yes, there is and the pull quote above only adds to the irony, so well done, Charles Soule!

Steve McNiven you may know as Mark Millar’s artist on WOLVERINE: OLD MAN LOGAN, NEMESIS and Marvel’s CIVIL WAR, all of which come with the highest recommendation to superhero fans, the first one being my favourite Wolverine book to date. Obviously to become an old man he’ll need to last a lot longer than this title implies which should probably have been Looting Logan For All He’s Worth Although It’ll Be Pretty Damn Lucrative When We Bring Him Back Too but they saved that for the multiple follow-ups.

It’s Steve’s art that impresses, increasingly so with each project he graces, and the opening double-page spread may not be the flashiest you’ve ever seen but its composition is impeccable: those man’s shoulders are very broad indeed.

The second chapter’s – set in a club’s private booth – is in some ways a reflection of the first’s but just wait until you flip open the third’s, set in Tokyo’s Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens. Lord, I love me some Acers – I’ve half a dozen in my own back garden – and what colour artist Justin Ponsor brings to bear on the water garden’s vertical reflections, contrasting beautifully with the bright green, horizontal, lily-pad flats, is a shimmering marvel.

Logan has lost his healing factor, the one thing that helped him survive the most comprehensive filing in dental history during WEAPON X.

As the book opens he’s sat on a battered porch clutching his Mom’s sick note so he can skip P.E. and mooch around a mall, but both he and his claws are covered in blood. This is bad news because, as Reed Richards explains, without his restorative powers…

“You’re a prime candidate for heavy metal-related leukemia. If you don’t get endocarditis from all the bacteria you pull into yourself every time you use your claws.”

So far neither Stark nor McCoy nor now Reed Richards have been able to revive Wolverine’s healing factor so staying out of brawls until they do is Logan’s best bet. Unfortunately the second word gets out that Small, Dark And Hirsute is vulnerable to damage, brawls are going to be unavoidable.

Word gets out.

It’s not long enough for Soule to soak this in history but it certain dips its toes in all the right waters, though not every fellow swimmer is exactly who they seem. It’s also not long enough for me to divulge much more without giving too many games away but, as I said, the final few pages will certainly make you nod your head and wonder how he’ll get out of that one.

Process pieces are fascinating, and in the last dozen or so pages – after 2,375 variant covers – Steve McNiven takes you through pages as they evolve and shows you a few he simply binned because the composition wasn’t right. He pays tribute to Barry Windsor-Smith’s work and ably shows how he’s incorporated that double-barrelled influence.

There’s also an extensive interview with Wolverine’s co-creator Len Wein who pays tribute to Dave Cockrum and explains that the name came from Roy Thomas and how he lined Logan up in case the X-Men – cancelled due to poor sales – were ever revived from their hiatus.

SLH

Buy Death Of Wolverine h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Ant-Man #1 (£3-99, Marvel) by Nick Spencer & Ramon Rosanas.

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

Stark’s arched eyebrow there by Ramon Rosanas is priceless. I think he’s a John Byrne fan which is no bad place to start especially since Scott Lang’s first appearance in MARVEL PREMIERE was drawn by Byrne.

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

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

He’s a failed thief (he got caught), ex-convict and ex-husband but his redeeming feature right from the start has always been as a doting dad. Spencer wisely focuses in on this – his relationship with his daughter and his ex-wife – so that there are as many “Awww” moments as Grant Morrison’s family-centric ANIMAL MAN which comes highly commended and in three volumes.

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

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

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

Oh my god, knob gags!

SLH

Buy Ant-Man #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Avengers: No More Bullying one-shot (£1-70, Marvel) by various.

Okay, this is no HEART TRANSPLANT but then its heart is already in the right place and this is aimed fairly and squarely at youngsters and parents of youngsters to help them talk about this most important of childhood issues.

To break the silence.

It works.

Okay, I don’t know if it works yet: it’s too early to have received any concrete feedback. But I can see how it could help bolster those bullied and even help bullies realise what they’re doing when some may well be oblivious.

It may help parents recognise either trait in their children. It gives hope and a few practical solutions. Above all it has a damned good go while keeping the price point low and – now that I’ve written the final couple of paragraphs of this review – it occurs to me that even if you neither bully nor are bullied, it’ll give you much to recognise, think about, then act upon.

There are four tales, three super-centric with one at the end deliberately set in a scenario kids are more likely to relate to: school. Oh, they’ll recognise elements in the others, don’t you worry.

The first – featuring Hawkeye made to feel small, ineffectual and undervalued by his fellow Avengers – addresses the cumulative effect of casual teasing: the sort of affectionately meant mockery which many most don’t realise is seriously degrading to a recipient’s self-esteem… Especially when everyone else joins in as it becomes a running joke. I don’t mean the sort of ribbing Dee and I give each other: she for my complete illegibility when it comes to hastily scribbled notes, I for her… loquaciousness! You can tell this is mutually agreed-upon because we send ourselves up for exactly the same things while uniting in our self-deprecating role as Page 45’s Saturday Girls (emery boards, ahoy!) then constantly extolling each other’s virtues loud and clear for all others to hear.

Which is rather sweet on Dee’s part because I don’t have any virtues: she has to make them up.

No, this is the sort of humiliation which occurs when you receive only criticism and no praise. A glib, post-prank “I was just joking” is the ultimate in passive-aggressive.

The second – starring The Guardians Of The Galaxy – is about ostracism: about joining in the rat race by not sticking up for your friends. You know, “I do like you but I can’t be seen to like you when the rest are around”. I found it genuinely moving.

The third is the sort of overt bullying that results in kids being physically humiliated in public: taped to lampposts then – increasingly – the bullies spreading photos of the victims via social media. Spider-Man’s solution to that is ingenious: he snaps a thumbs-up selfie of him and the young lad which he knows is more likely to go viral.

I mention that in case you don’t buy this comic because it‘s something constructive which we, as parents or friends, can all participate in: if you know that someone of whatever age has just been humiliated, snap a photo of the pair or a group of you together rejoicing in each other’s company and send it out into the ether. You may not have the social profile of Spider-Man but it’s a very effective start.

A big thank-you to editor Devin Lewis who provides an afterword for putting this all together.

SLH

Buy Avengers: No More Bullying #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Soppy h/c (£10-99, Random House) by Philippa Rice

Stray Bullets vol 6: The Killers (£14-99, Image) by David Lapham

Rachel Rising vol 5: Night Cometh (£12-99, Abstract Studios) by Terry Moore

Veil h/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Greg Rucka & Toni Fejzula

American Vampire vol 7 h/c (£16-99, Vertigo) by Scott Snyder & Rafael Albuquerque, others

Crossed vol 11 s/c (£14-99, Avatar) by Justin Jordan, Simon Spurrier & Georges Duarte, Rafael Ortiz

Avengers: Time Runs Out vol 1 h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Stefano Caselli, Mike Deodato, Kev Walker, Paco Medina, others

Flash vol 4: Reverse s/c (£12-99, DC) by Francis Manapul & Brian Buccellato

Deadman Wonderland vol 6 (£6-99, Viz) by Jinsei Kataoka & Kazuma Kondou

Dogs – Bullets & Carnage vol 9 (£8-99, Viz) by Shirow Miwa

Henshin (£14-99, Image) by Ken Niimura

Meanwhile #2 (£4-95, ) by Gary Spencer Millidge, Yuko Rabbit, David Hine, Mark Stafford, others

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic vol 6 s/c (£13-50, IDW) by Ted Anderson, Jeremy Whitley & Agnes Garbowska, various

Sonic – Mega Man: Worlds Collide vol 3 (£8-99, Archie Books) by various

Whispered Words vol 2 (£12-99, One Peace Books) by Takashi Ikeda

Amazing Spider-Man vol 2: Spider-Verse Prelude s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Dan Slott, Christos Gage & Giuseppe Camuncoli

Avengers vol 5: Infinite Avengers (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Leinil Francis Yu

Avengers World vol 2: Ascension (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Nick Spencer, Al Ewing & Marco Checchetto, Stefano Caselli

The Punisher vol 2: Border Crossing s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Nathan Edmondson, Kevin Maurer & Mitch Gerads, Carmen Carnero, Phil Noto

News!

ITEM! Nottingham’s Ideas On Paper is a beautiful, beautiful shop down Cobden Chambers selling independent, esoteric, artisan magazines you won’t find anywhere else. Delicious! How often do you call a shop not selling fine food delicious? Click on the above for a brilliant, illustrated appraisal by @IanSanders! Click on this for Ideas On Paper’s website!

ITEM! 22 Cartoons full of heart, humanity and uncowered solidarity in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre.

ITEM! 99 WAYS TO TELL A STORY’s Matt Madden writes about the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris as an American comicbook creator and father living in France. It’s very thoughtful and far from obvious.

ITEM! Joe Sacco’s response questions the need for satire. Some good points, but it is a bit rich coming from someone who’s just produced BUMF.

ITEM! @RubenBoiling responds to Joe Sacco’s response.

ITEM! And Stephen Fry caps it all off beautifully with a sense of perspective and a heart of gold

ITEM! Want to create your own comics but don’t know where to start? JAMPIRESSarah McIntyre has some top tips to enable you to get started in comics and cartooning. Creativity is cool!

ITEM! IDW acquires Top Shelf, one of our favourite publishers, but don’t panic: Top Shelf will be a distinct imprint with the great Chris Staros its Editor-In-Chief. Phew!

ITEM!  Ed Brubaker interviewed on the new CRIMINAL self-contained one-shot and working with Sean Phillips. The CRIMINAL collections are about to be repackaged one by one but we still have most in stock and I’ve reviewed each and every one. Noir at its best. The same creative team responsible for FATALE.

ITEM! Kieron Gillen announces Image announcing Gillen’s LUDOCRATS. Funny!

ITEM! Image announces everything ever to come. Seriously, bookmark that page and pre-order now! May include a tiny little thing about the return of one of my favourite series of all time.

It’s called PHONOGRAM!

- Stephen

 

 

Page 45 Reviews January 2015 week one

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

So much of this is about eye contact: about trust and distrust, truth and lies. Which will be which, I wonder?

 - Stephen on They’re Not Like Us #1

Shadow Show #2 self-contained (£2-99, IDW) by Audrey Niffenegger & Eddie Campbell, Neil Gaiman, Mort Castle, Maria Frőhlich.

ATTENTION! You don’t need #1 and won’t need #3!

Neither Audrey, Eddie nor Neil have stories in any other issue of this mini-series dedicated to Ray Bradbury than this completely self-contained edition containing adaptations for comics of two original short prose stories by Niffenegger and Gaiman.

Both of them were brilliant but Niffenegger’s now glows with its fresh composition across each page in a mixed-media style which ALEC’s Eddie Campbell has been developing ever since THE FATE OF THE ARTIST and last seen mutating further still during THE LOVELY HORRIBLE STUFF – which is money.

Here the pages have opened right up with vacuums of white: silent space upon which each panel seems to float or hang as if suspended in space and indeed in time. Just like the words themselves.

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

Helene’s father has been recently widowed, you see, and she has taken her mother’s place on their traditional Mediterranean cruise holiday. Slowly but surely as Helene reflects upon what little she has made of her own life, she comes to the conclusion that her more interactive, proactive father could make far better use of her extra time which she – being too timid and ineffectual to date – wouldn’t have the first clue what to do with.

It concludes with a final sentence which is full of a confidence which we are… No. We will discuss after class, haha!

Having redacted five further sentences to maintain the ellipsis, we come to Neil Gaiman’s tale about words, names, labels and things going missing. And as someone whose Senior Moments are mounting to the point of suspected senility, I can relate! It’s ever so slightly terrifying.

Neil explains the story’s context halfway through the comic, as does Niffenegger the origin of hers. But having analysed Audrey’s above I have to leave you something to look forward to in Neil’s. How about this for a love of language?

“I remember my boots going. Boots do not just ‘go’. Somebody ‘went’ them.”

SLH

Buy Shadow Show #2 and read the Page 45 review here

7 String vol 2 (£9-99) by Nich Angell…

“But what can I do? I don’t want to hurt anyone. I made a promise, no instruments. I guess the only option left is playing it by ear!”

Zach’s back! Actually, if I were to compose something more musical for my percussive punnery (which, given how the entire milieu of 7String is constructed from musical terminology and references, would be highly appropriate) I could possibly have gone for Zach’s Bach! But, really, it would have just looked like a daft typo, wouldn’t it?

Yes, the melodious mash-up of SCOTT PILGRIM vs. AVATAR THE LAST AIRBENDER continues in its own inimitable style from 7 STRING VOL 1 as Zachary Briarpatch, wielder of the legendary 7STRING guitar sword, quests to find the mysterious war-mongering murderer of his mother. I think my favourite character ,though, might be the renegade assassin with a conscience, the exquisitely named Efex Petal.

I love the planet of Melodia which Nich has created: he really has permeated it with the musical conceit as far as is possible to go, I think. There is a great map after the initial prologue showing the world and its various continental masses and oceans including the B-Flats, C-Major and its smaller neighbour C-Minor plus – my favourite – the great expanse of water known as the Middle Sea, as well as a compass constructed, of course, of treble and bass clefs. This theme runs throughout with various cities named by musical time such as FourFour, characters like The Soloist (HINT: he’s not a team player) and arcane, hidden locations such as The Record, plus various lyrical turns of phrase like the opening quote.

It’s a tricky one to keep a conceit as huge as this going (much like a concept album, I’d imagine) without falling into the realm of parody, deliberately or otherwise, or going down the route of outright full-on comedy like the also musically themed RAYGUN ROADS by Owen Johnson & Indio, which I did enjoy, but I think would be far too much for more than a one-shot. Nich manages it admirably, though, and the musical references are always key to the plot and action rather than merely being adjunct labelling.

So why the SCOTT PILGRIM / AVATAR THE LAST AIRBENDER comparisons? Well, there are some moments of great bombast and pure, rock-star posturing and posing during the crazily choreographed fight sequences that really minded me of Scott’s excitable exclamations, often ‘to camera’, as it were. And, with the whole four Clef clans: Brace, Altern, Trouble and Tremor, each providing a different element of musical balance and ideally overall cultural harmony, though with of course the potential for dischord (sp.), you get the similarity with the four ‘tribal’ elements of air, earth, water and fire utilised in AVATAR.

Probably the work 7STRING comes closest to though, both artistically and also in sensibilities, might be KING CITY by Brandon Graham. I can well imagine his fans enjoying 7STRING for its imagination and innate sense of fun. I can also see elements of James ORC STAIN Stokoe in there as well, particularly in the elaborate stage costumes and clothing. Also, anyone who loves the sheer exuberant playfulness of ADVENTURE TIME is sure to find this a sure-fire hit.

JR

Buy 7 String vol 2 and read the Page 45 review here

They’re Not Like Us #1 (£2-25, Image) by Eric Stephenson & Simon Gane.

“She’ll be fine as soon as she stops feeling sorry for herself.”

I love Simon Gane.

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

From the very first page he does not disappoint, the leaves on the trees as special and semi-detached as ever, enhanced by colour artist Jordie Bellaire paler echoes behind and beyond.

His clothes have all the requisite wrinkles depending on where they’re stretched by the flesh beneath – the sort of detail Art Adams excelled at – while his faces are angular yet soft and where Simon excels is at eye contact.

So much of this is about eye contact: about trust and distrust, truth and lies. Which will be which, I wonder?

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

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

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

You’ll have to wait a few pages while a dapper young man in a suit and tie – who clearly loves himself dearly – tries to talk this nameless woman down and fails. The young woman – who will remain nameless throughout – has been dragged in and out of that hospital by her parents for years. She’s been plagued by voices, so many voices; a cacophony that has driven her to distraction while building a barrier between her and her parents who have never believed her.

But she’s been telling the truth: she’s a telepath, and it’s only now that The Voice has found her that she’s found a sympathetic soul able to explain her condition and ease her mind. Finally there is silence and sanctuary in a gabled, gated mansion thick with Simon Gane foliage. I’d like all my foliage to be Simon Gane foliage. I wonder if he’d come and draw my garden for me? It’s in a bit of a state.

It’s at this point, however, that I ran into difficulties as did our J-Lo and Jodie, but I love Simon Gane and I trust Eric Stephenson so I will be back to watch, wait and see. I think the big reveal is almost a distraction from a very important sentence which – combined with an extreme sense of entitlement expressed by The Voice – bodes ill for them all. I’m wondering about those paintings too. Anyway, the big reveal comes in the form of ten other occupants who are not all straightforward telepaths but an empath, a clairvoyant, an illusionist, a pyrokinetic, a –

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

But I don’t think there will be any big battles except between egos and control-freaks within. I don’t think everyone’s showing their true colours. I think there’s some deliberate misdirection going on. As to the rules, you’ll like the rules, though I’m not at all sure our new girl will. It may depend on just how estranged she really is.

*smiles*

SLH

Buy They’re Not Like Us #1 and read the Page 45 review here

BOOM! Box 2014 Mix Tape (£7-50, Boom! Studios) by Shannon Watters et al.

“He didn’t exactly give me a lot to go on.”

Trust me: that’s toilet humour. Also one of my favourite lines in this A4, softcover album with French flaps.

I reckoned an anthology curated by Shannon Watters featuring an adventurous, reach-out combination of LUMBERJANES and CYANIDE & HAPPINES with a transfusion of new blood was worth a punt and certainly both those lived up to expectations, the latter casting the truth behind “The Creator’s Curse” on an otherwise optimistic self-doubter while giving those of us game-players considering New Year’s Resolutions a timely if self-defeating fail-safe.

The LUMBERJANES short, ‘A Girl And Her Raptor’ was a pretty poignant affair for those who dote on their dogs and keep them close by, but see them relegated to kennels at night. On the other hand a raptor is no more of suitable household pet than, say, an orang-utan or a leopard, is it? I don’t mean it’s not suitable for the household – though it isn’t – it’s not suitable for the creature in question. So: pertinent as well as poignant.

MUNCHKIN was rescued by a maths-centric punchline, THE MIDAS FLESH by some cartooning which dinosaur enthusiasts will enjoy, ‘The Port-A-Potty Of Remington Lane’ by puns like the above and ‘The Last Bigfoot’ by Becca Tobin’s tasty cocktail colours.

The rest come across as utterly pointless to me, and I do seem to require a point. Is that a failing in myself, a shortcoming perhaps? Or does it indicate of a set of standards?

Discuss.

SLH

Buy BOOM! Box 2014 Mix Tape and read the Page 45 review here

SHIELD #1 (£3-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Carlos Pacheco.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is well worth your attention. The comic, I mean, but also this:

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

It really is!

There Mark Waid speaks for himself, for chief protagonist S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Coulson and for me too. The key, once it’s your job, is to stop treating it as your hobby and to hone your knowledge and affection into something professional, invaluable and accessible to all. That is exactly where all too many comic shops fall so lamentably short and where a fair few comics writers fail too. Not Mark Waid. Nor Agent Coulson.

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

It is in the field, however, where it proves invaluable. At his disposal Agent Coulson has so many power sets to call in as required for each specific threat. He’s basically Miranda Zero from Warren Ellis’ highly recommended GLOBAL FREQUENCY. He will have to improvise depending on who’s already preoccupied with other repeat offenders (which presumably means reading 261 Marvel titles monthly) or merely reroute those already in the field with a crafty slight-of-hand.

That is precisely what Coulson does here and the pay-off is so satisfying you may squeal.

Also set up well in advance: this month’s surprise superhero guest stars disguised as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D..

“Are you the new Thor?” Leo Fitz asks an imposingly tall blonde lady.
“No.”

The word balloon drips ice.

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

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

My only criticism – apart from the unnecessarily jarring credits page with pedestrian art by who even knows whom? – is the price point which, on top of the other 732 Marvel titles this month, will put so many potential readers off. Wouldn’t it be more constructive if Marvel had the same faith in its series as Image (whose first collected editions like UMBRAL VOL 1 are just £7-50 for up to six issues) and set even double-sized first-issue entry points at just $2-99?

It would indeed!

SLH

Buy SHIELD #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Preview

Porcelain vol 2: Bone China (£14-99, Improper Books) by Ben Read & Chris Wildgoose.

Available 2015, but we know not when.

“I do not walk alone at night.”

I don’t know if we’re allowed to say this yet, but haha, Page 45 will once more have an exclusive signed bookplate edition limited to 200 copies.

I would probably pre-order right this second because this is what happened when we did the same thing with PORCELAIN volume one:

“Never in over two decades have I witnessed such a zealous reaction to a new creative team and a publisher’s first-ever graphic novel in advance of publication. I kicked off our campaign on Friday 1st February 2013 and within a mere 36 hours we’d received 25 pre-orders. I am delighted to the report that rose to 50 pre-orders and the book is in stock now! Although we did sell out of our 100 limited edition signed bookplate editions in 10 days!”

And now Ben and Chris are much, much better known.

Immediately striking, of course, is the cover both in its own right and in its stylistic cohesion with book one: much the same frame in ceramic white and a similarly restrained palette switching here from twilight blue to the most verdant of greens from André May. Also: Child is now very much a Lady, although not above resorting to urchin-speak when it suits her needs:

“I find that the more ridiculous the hat, the more awkward they feel when they have to deal with a ranting guttersnipe. Proper wrong foots them, it does.”

In this instance “they” are the military engaged in a war and suffering heavy losses. This being an era equivalent to Tennyson’s they are in dire need of cavalry replenishment and Lady has agreed to sell them her animated porcelain horses… but emphatically not the artificial soldiers they’re after as well.

The general is enraged, but her more conciliatory adjunct fares no better and – as he’ll discover all too soon – the general isn’t the only one with a short fuse.

All of which begs the question as to what has become of the Porcelain Maker himself in the intervening years and those of you who’ve already relished PORCELAIN volume one may think you know the answer. I wouldn’t be so sure. I wouldn’t be so sure…

Preview copies wherein you can find out the answer are still available at the Page 45 shop-floor counter for free or you can request a copy with any mail order purchase. They won’t last much longer, so chop-chop!

Decidedly off-topic, I had dinner with Chris Wildgoose and NIGHT POST’s Laura Trinder for the first time the other month (they are in luuuuurve) along with my good mate Marc Laming (THE RINSE, KINGS WATCH). Given the refined nature of PORCELAIN’s beauty – and indeed my intake of Sauvignon Blanc – I felt forced to blurt out the following:

“I had no idea you were so young, Chris!”

Having no internal editor, I found myself adding, “Or so hot!”

Page 45: above all, we’re professional.

SLH

Pre-order Porcelain vol 2: Bone China and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Bark! (£3-00) by various including Philippa Rice, Jack Teagle, Roddy Doyle

Soppy h/c (£10-99, Random House) by Philippa Rice

The Sleeper And The Spindle h/c (£12-99, Bloomsbury) by Neil Gaiman & Chris Riddell

Meanwhile #2 (£4-95, ) by Gary Spencer Millidge, Yuko Rabbit, David Hine, Mark Stafford, others

Drug & Drop vol 1 (£8-50, Dark Horse) by Clamp

Gun Machine (£12-99, Mulholland Books) by Warren Ellis

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic vol 6 s/c (£13-50, IDW) by Ted Anderson, Jeremy Whitley & Agnes Garbowska, various

Sonic – Mega Man: Worlds Collide vol 3 (£8-99, Archie Books) by various

Whispered Words vol 2 (£12-99, One Peace Books) by Takashi Ikeda

Amazing Spider-Man vol 2: Spider-Verse Prelude s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Dan Slott, Christos Gage & Giuseppe Camuncoli

Avengers vol 5: Infinite Avengers (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Leinil Francis Yu

Avengers World vol 2: Ascension (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Nick Spencer, Al Ewing & Marco Checchetto, Stefano Caselli

Death Of Wolverine h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Charles Soule & Steve McNiven

The Punisher vol 2: Border Crossing s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Nathan Edmondson, Kevin Maurer & Mitch Gerads, Carmen Carnero, Phil Noto

News!

ITEM! Anders Nilsen’s brilliant and beautiful comic on Optimism. Includes surprise guest-stars right at the end!

ITEM! YouTube interview with Shaun Martinbrough, artist on THIEF OF THIEVES. THIEF OF THIEVES VOL 4 out now!

ITEM! Snoopy reacts to publisher’s rejection slip. Brilliant!

ITEM! Cat comics from Liz Prince, creator of TOMBOY, FOREVER ALONE etc.

ITEM! More short autobiography, this time from Lucy Knisley: ‘A Comic About A Sad Thing That Happened’. Pretty poignant.

ITEM! To those peering in through our glass door with a certain degree of trepidation, then failing to fall in, I say this!

ITEM! Moebius’ ‘Brief Manual For Cartoonists’. If I were a cartoonist or comicbook creator, the one cartoonist and comicbook creator I’d take advice from would be Moebius.

ITEM! This on Twitter from @ljeomaOluo. Succinct and spot-on. Guys, get a grip!

“Woman: There’s still a long way to go to equality

“Dudes: Not true: A woman was mean to me once.

“Woman: That’s not what –

“Dudes: SO MEAN”

ITEM! Nottingham’s National Videogame Arcade is of even wider interest and importance than it may at first sound. Like all things GameCity it’s about interaction, education and creativity. Opportunity too! Consider joining The National Videogame Arcade Crew!

ITEM! ‘Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination’ exhibition at The British Library. I have it on good authority that it is spectacular!

ITEM! Although not available as comics you can buy prints of Natalie Andrewson’s swoonaway folktales from around the world! I think you will gawp.

ITEM! PREVIEWS for comics and graphic novels arriving March 2015 is up on our site. You can search by comics or graphic novels, then by publisher. Pre-ordering is vital for retailers because we have to order 2 months in advance too, just after the middle of each month. If you have a Page 45 Standing Order, don’t think you have to order online. You may want to add Becky Cloonan’s new comic, SOUTHERN CROSS, on a regular basis. Just tell us in the shop, email or phone in!

Here’s an interview with Becky Cloonan and Andy Belanger about SOUTHERN CROSS.

ITEM! Lastly… drumroll…

Simone Lia’s FLUFFY’S COMING BACK!

FLUFFY is one of our all-time favourite graphic novels and – you mark my words – we have plans of our own for Fluffy in 2015!

Happy New Year!

- Stephen

Page 45 Reviews December 2014 week four

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

I don’t eat children. I just think it’s wrong

 - Stephen on his Food & Drink interview underneath the reviews

Saga vol 4 (£10-99, Image) by Brian K. Vaughn & Fiona Staples.

“So yeah, your pet just menstruated all over the living room.”

If you think that’s easily fixed with a little hydrogen peroxide, that pet is a walrus.

Our fastest-seller series of trades, SAGA is above all a comedy romance in a science-fiction setting which is light on the science and thrilling in its fiction. J-Lo and I both emphasise its complete unpredictability. Who knew, for example, that we would suddenly fast-forward to when Alana and Marko’s baby Hazel is now a toddler?

This gives father Vaughan even more material to mine for your mirth because as well as exhausting you and plaguing you with lurgy after lurgy like some bacterial relay race, these miniature biological warfare agents don’t half land you in it, don’t they? The things they blurt out!

Jonathan’s own three year old nutjob flashed me her knickers the other day from the backseat of Joanna’s car. As they drove away she said, “He’s a nice man. He’s a very nice man”. That one’s going to be trouble as a teenager.

 

Here Hazel lands Marko in it several times but I won’t reveal how. I will remind you of how epic the series will prove to be, however, in that an adult Hazel is its narrator.

“Soak it up, I’m not always this adorable.”

Owning an invaluable sense of retrospect, the narration can clobber you with a prediction or two which you know to be true and the concluding words to the very first chapter will tear your heart asunder.

Boy, I’m being mean tease today!

Marko and Alana have been on the run almost ever since they were first thrust together. She’s from the planet Landfall; he’s from its moon. They’re not just from different races, they are entirely separate species and those species have been at war for what seems like forever. Marko went to the frontline and didn’t like what he saw so he surrendered to his enemy. Alana was his jailor; she freed him. Miraculously they are the first inter-species couple we know of in this context who have successfully bred.

As traitors – blasphemers, even, with loving coupling and progeny – they have each been hunted by their respective species using agents like Prince Robot IV from a race of walking, talking, fornicating television sets and the assassin The Will with his Lying Cat. Even their brief bout of tranquillity in SAGA VOL 3 came at a cost and before that they were crammed together in a solitary lighthouse, confined to each other’s company.

Now… now they have finally settled down in relevant safety on the planet of Gardenia and have found time to spend outside each other’s company. And that’s important, isn’t it? I think it’s important. It’s something I learned from Kahlil Gibran’s ‘The Prophet’:

“Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.”

It’s one of the most important books I have ever read, and I read it a lot.

Marko looks after Hazel during the day, taking her out to parks (albeit in bandages as some war-wound disguise); Alana has found a job under an assumed name and wearing a wig on the Open Circuit, an interactive TV performance troupe. It makes a substantial sum of revenue through product placement. As one of her fellow, pragmatic actors says…

“This part of the gig isn’t performing, it’s promoting. I’d refuse but I’ve got a dad in assisted living and three sisters who don’t feel like assisting with shit.”

We do what we do to get through. On the subject of which, fortunately there is assistance on offer in the form of a recreational drug called Fadeaway and I have to tell you that Fiona Staples – improbably, I know – excels her already swoonaway standards in a sequence where colours swirl, roses melt and the world accordions out, leaving Alana blissfully floating all foetal-like as though in utero

There are so many more Fiona Staples flourishes – one of which we get to in the very next paragraph – but I especially adored those involving the family of Prince Robot IV. For in a sub-plot his wife gives birth to a perfectly formed, portable, bi-pedal TV set, and there are two particular broadcasts (their TV-screen heads transmit what they think) which blew me away. One involves rain as you’d see cascading down your window. It is not what you think; it is not.

And you know how I wrote of SAGA VOL 3 that it included “the best-ever use of The Lying Cat”, that turquoise, furless feline compelled to expose lies like a tabby with Tourette’s syndrome?

SLH

Buy Saga vol 4 and read the Page 45 review here

The Graphic Canon Of Children’s Literature (£25-99, Seven Studies) by various, edited by Russ Kick.

Aesop, Brothers Grimm, Lewis Carroll, Leo Tolstoy (!), Jules Verne, Edward Lear, J.M. Barry, Oscar Wilde, Robert Louis Stevenson, Rudyard Kipling, H.G. Wells, Richard Adams, J.K. Rowling… some Russians, Europeans, Peruvians and Norse narrators practising the time-honoured oral tradition of passing stories down the generations so that they now arrive to delight this one before all the hideous sanitisation crept in.

Hans Christian Andersons ‘The Little Mermaid’ was not the wince-inducingly twee and anodyne dross that Disney turned it into. Here the magnificent MEATCAKE’s Dame Darcy reclaims the tale (emphatically in black and white) with her traditionally macabre, Victorian gothic style, while THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF EARLY EARTH’S Isabel Greenberg tackles ‘The Tinderbox’.

Roberta Gregory’s here, as are Peter Kuper and Noah Van Sciver (look out for SAINT COLE come February!)

I haven’t had time to read all of them (this album-sized collection runs to 450 pages!) but the knock-out pages for me came from Lesley Barnes’ ‘The Firebird’, played like a paper puppet theatre with (love the subtle shadows which give the feathers etc a sense of relief!) the sort of sumptuous colours one associates with India.

SLH

Buy The Graphic Canon Of Children’s Literature and read the Page 45 review here

In The Frame 2012-2014 (£12-00, Solipsistic Pop) by Tom Humberstone.

Pertinent and poignant, with a well judged sense of what will make you crack a wry smile or a big, broad grin, a lot of lateral thinking has gone into these pithy New Statesman strips. If you think you need to know a lot about politics to savour this sweetmeat strike-othon, I offer you immediate relief.

Here’s Putin being threatening with sanctions.

“Oh my! Not sanctions!
“How ever will I manage!
“I scoff at your sanctions! I sanction you!
“I sanction your face!
“You’re not my real parents!
“You don’t control me.
“Also, I’ve annexed the hallway and you’re intruding on my personal space right now.”

Like the best political cartoonists, Tom takes his subjects and gives them a popular context, a big, juicy twist and a fresh perspective often by flipping them upside down. ‘Regeneration of the Planet Of The Apes’, for example, goes with the flow of the films in which chimps inherit the Earth and make it their own… here by replanting the trees which we’re hacking down to make empty, ugly, artificial golf courses or great big concrete eyesores.

Yes, specific politicians come in for the rogering they so richly deserve: Michael goddamn Gove, David transparently mendacious Cameron, Nigel I-love-a-good-pint-like-any-other-racist Farrage and Boris seems-like-a-buffoon-but-that-makes-him-all-the-more-dangerous Johnson… but largely it’s more social than political, embracing the everyday so these say something to you about your lives.

Environment Ministers posing for photos in a flood, looking as they care about the community they have betrayed by doing nothing to reverse the climate change which has left it so vulnerable to more and more misery…

Art. Advertising. Equality. Protest marches and the media which report them (or don’t; or do so with such bias as to whip up fear).

My favourite is ‘Why not spend your Easter holiday in Isolationist England?’

Humberstone manages to cram in so many issues as a happy family play in the sand behind a fenced-up suburbia under the watchful gaze of a full four street cameras marked GCHQ.

“We’re ostracising all our neighbours so we have plenty of space!
“Better build a moat around that sandcastle!
“Everywhere’s too expensive to live, so don’t stay too long!
“You’ll certainly be safe. Or at least carefully watched!
“Not convinced? Look at the royal baby. Look at his cute little face!”

From the creator of ELLIPSIS of whom Dan Hancox writes, “In spite of everything, Tom never lets snark or sheer exasperation win the day.” And he doesn’t. Although that last one comes close!

SLH

Buy In The Frame 2012-2014 and read the Page 45 review here

Thief Of Thieves vol 4: The Hit List (£10-99, Image) by Andy Diggle & Shawn Martinborough.

“This book is a weapon, and I aim to use it.”

Diggle doesn’t miss, I assure you. I love a turn of phrase like that.

Gone, however, is the comedy. THIEF OF THIEVES used to be riddled with mischief but the smirk has been wiped off its face. It’s been wiped off Redmond’s too.

How does the most spectacularly successful, efficient and proficient wool-puller in the world manage to land himself in increasingly dire straights by the end and so beginning of each successive book? Here he’s in a police cell in Rome, being threatened with a cut-throat razor by a Chief Inspector on behalf of Italian mafia godfather Don Parrino.

Well, he liberated a ledger from Don Parrino’s palazzo in Venice. It contains a list of political and police payoffs and its blackmail gold or dynamite depending on how you look at it. In this world information is everything and Redmond will need to be economical with what he disseminates if he’s going to survive the police, Parrino and – back home – the bloodthirsty Lola. When you finally find out what that sadist has been fiddling with in his fingers you will wince. This gets very nasty indeed.

The lighting by Adriano Lucas is as ever a joy whether by a sun-bathed poolside or late into an explosive night, and I couldn’t imagine this series without Shawn Martinbrough’s bold forms and implacable stares.

There is more to come but you can consider this a finale of sorts, with the cast is substantially culled by its conclusion. I’d probably mop the floor now for your jaw will be greeting it shortly.

Oh, okay the comedy’s not altogether gone. There are always those multiple little sub-titles like…

“Home Again,
“Home Again,
“Jiggety-Jig”

… as Redmond is confronted with the burned out shell that used to be his shore-side luxury home.

SLH

Buy Thief Of Thieves vol 4: The Hit List and read the Page 45 review here

Silver Surfer vol 1: New Dawn (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott & Mike Allred.

This, let me tell you, has a Wow Factor 50.

“Wishes are powerful things, herald. Especially if you believe in them.
“They might just become your future.”

Memories! Metaphysics!

A monkey mashing cymbals together to the beat of the Never Queen’s heart!

Mike Allred has always been a wonder and is an inspired choice for this book.

Not for any old SILVER SURFER series – although he’s always shone with a Kirby sheen and here, with the Surfer’s gesticulations, reflects John Buscema’s tortured, soulful, doleful exile – but for this particular iteration for Dan Slott has brought his all to this book and thought well outside the box.

Unfettered from the relatively regimented confines of what a SPIDER-MAN series must be (although he did a commendable job of shepherding that series when it had multiple writers), Slott has blossomed and bloomed as if having ingested magic mushrooms while remaining 100% coherent.

Always it could have been anything for the silver one surfs the skies unknown but, now that I’ve seen and so believed, the SILVER SURFER should always have been this.

It takes quite the imagination to make such a break from tradition when tradition has become so established, so entrenched, but here be true wonders like The Impericon, “The Impossible Palace” and ‘eloquence’ seems an understatement to me.

“Our luxury suites are so massive, they have their own moon.”
“Impressive.”
“And that entire moon… is a nightclub. There are over six billion activities for the adventuresome. The Snowflower Slalom is one of my personal favourites.”
“That must damage the flora.”
“Quite the opposite. That white powder is their pollen. Our skis are their bees.”

Our skis are their bees! I have just melted with adoration and – I admit – envy that I never came up with that conceit, that sentence. There’s more.

“Our bazaar runs along our entire equator. Our shops never stop. Our stalls never –“

Stall.

Nor does Dan Slott, not once in this glorious, thrilling epitome of all that is possible if you are brave enough to first press the eject button then give me the tape.

Dawn’s escape from hostage as leverage – from her boxed-in cubicle presented as one of multiple adjacent comicbook panels – using amorphous Plorp’s acidic, regurgitated digestive juices is as ridiculous as it is wit-riddled as it is reminiscent of – but different to – Gillen & McKelvie’s YOUNG AVENGERS VOLUME 1!

Meanwhile only Allred could pull off this singular suspension of disbelief. Maybe Lizz Lunney or Philippa Rice or even Joe List, but I can’t think of many more comicbook creators capable of this. I love Laura Allred’s occasional dot-colouring when we go Power Cosmic. I love Laura Allred’s prime colouring throughout.

But let us return the beat of that heart before it became a cymbal-clashing simian.

“It’s – it’s beautiful. Can you hear it? That rhythmic beat? It’s every song you’ll never hear. Every hope and dream you’ll never have.”

This contains the first five issues of the current series then, at the back, the introductory short story as part of an anthology which I reviewed thus:

“My favourite was the not-yet-solicited SILVER SURFER which I am on board for purely on the strength of this left-field outing which I suspect may be informed by relatively recent Doctor Who. It’s not just the fact that the Surfer has a human companion: it’s her bubble-bursting irreverence and broader perspective on the potential for space exploration… together! It is a complete departure from any previous treatment of the surfing silvered one which has always been somewhat portentous and, being illustrated by Michael Allred, I was convinced I was reading Matt Fraction. (Please see FF VOL 1: FANTASTIC FAUX and its successors; please seem them – they’re brilliant!) I was wrong: it’s Dan Slott. Well done, Dan!

Together she and he visit an outer-space Venice to witness a fireworks display composed of cosmic rays. I am not going to spoil Slott’s joke, but it’s a good one delivered with a deft slight of hand relying on Marvel readers’ inescapable knowledge of a certain phenomenon. (Truly and trust me: this one is inescapable.) Its ten pages are packed with wit and I wonder if this is Allred’s true calling as – via Kirby – one of Moebius’ most successful successors. Let’s see if he goes there.”

He does go there, boldly, like no one has gone there before.

SLH

Buy Silver Surfer vol 1: New Dawn (UK Edition) s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Authority vol 2 s/c (£18-99, DC) by Mark Millar, various & Frank Quitely, various.

“Why do super-people never go after the real bastards?”

Now that is a very good question.

In Warren Ellis & Bryan Hitch’s blistering series of pyrotechnic crescendos which was AUTHORITY VOL 1, Jenny Sparks declared that they would make this a better world whether we liked it or not. Having defended the Earth against alternate dimensions and the closest thing to God, The Authority now turns its attention to Earth’s own dictators, reasoning that if they’re going to risk their lives defending this planet, it ought to be one worth saving. Or at least one they like.

Unilaterally they decide to depose a tyrannical regime in Southeast Asia and, led by Jack Hawksmoor, they do so with military precision and a ruthless efficiency. They use that swift and effortless victory in Southeast Asia – along with the somewhat intimidating shadow of their 50-mile-high shiftship – to persuade the Russian army to back off from Chechnya and China to withdraw from Tibet.

When was the last time you saw an invasion force persuaded to retreat without a single shot being fired? You would have thought that a nation allegedly espousing democracy enough to oppose dictatorships and invade their sovereign states would welcome these moves, but the American government is far from happy.

“Just watch your step, Mister Hawksmoor.”
“Frankly we could say the same to you. Mister President.”

Brrrr. But we’ll get to that in a bit.

It was a subtle game Mark Millar played for we rooted for the liberal-leftie, anti-establishment authoritarians without at first realising that paradox. Because as liberal-lefties ourselves we happened to agree with their stance. Also because we’d do it too, wouldn’t we? Give me virtually limitless power and I would be the first to intervene geo-politically.

Millar also won our affections with extreme prescience, inventive lateral thinking and a seemingless limitless wit. Here Jack Hawksmoor asks the normally masked Midnighter what has become of his trademark leather uniform. Well, adopting a small child changes more than you can possibly anticipate:

“Baby Jenny vomited all over it and I had to order a new one.”
“Couldn’t you just have cleaned it?”
“Milk doesn’t come out of leather no matter how hard you clean. Cow’s revenge, I suppose.”
“Makes sense.”

As to the lateral thinking, The Authority are first assaulted by a decommissioned Cold War U.S. enterprise, 42 levels above Presidential Clearance, which has no intention of letting The Authority get in the way of its own plans for a unilaterally-imposed worldwide Utopia, cheers. It is the brainchild of Professor Krigstein, immediately identifiable by his small stature and burning cigar as seminal superhero artist Jack Kirby:

“The kind of man who could probably have created all your favourite comicbook characters if he hadn’t been snapped up by Eisenhower at the end of the war.”

Half the fun there is identifying the Marvel characters Jack ‘King’ Kirby did indeed create for Marvel, now perverted into a bunch of bigoted rapists etc. Start with the original Avengers and the rest may fall into place or, if you’re struggling, ask me at the counter!

Which brings us to Frank Quitely. I wish this was all drawn by Frank Quitely. Hell, I wish this was all written by Mark Millar but, as promised, we will get to that in a bit.

Artists Chris Weston, Art Adams and Gary Erskine all delivered their ever-reliable goods, but Frank Quitely was on fire: those analogues were so witty. His forms were much more burly than we’d been used to from Bryan Hitch but that worked brilliantly: they weren’t just super-human, they were meta-human. Michelangelo did the same thing, especially to his women. I loved his constantly puckered lips too – largely the guys’.

With his analogue to Giant Man he achieved in scale what Hitch went on to in THE ULTIMATES and Luke Pearson did with HILDA AND THE MIDNIGHT GIANT by bending the man down yet, even so, failing to fit the full figure into the panel. It’s deliberate, trust me: that’s how it works.

And so we come to the sadness of it all. I was very much hoping – with this material now being re-released as definitive, collated editions – that DC under a new editorial regime rather than the one which went so fearfully, so destructively and so despotically awry might have corrected its irrational errors and given us a book that we could be proud to sell rather than one which we must, in all good consciousness, be apologists for.

What you read, increasingly throughout this volume, was not written by Mark Millar even when his name was slapped on it. It was rewritten by editors. What was drawn was not what was first intended. Under the Page 45 reviews blog where this review was first published (December 2013 week four and now December 2014 week four ) you will find a meticulously researched if not exhaustive article on how much criminal damage was done to this work which DC could have been proud of, but which their own sexuality-related timidity turned into a travesty.

The worst offence is not catalogued there. DC’s worst offence, as reported at the time by Rich Johnston, was excising this single sentence:

“You just pissed off the wrong faggot.”

Did DC believe that the word “faggot” was beyond the pale? It did not. It happily printed it as sneered and espoused by a homophobic supervillain at the Midnighter’s expense, and happily reprints it all here. But when, in a scene harking back to Wolverine during X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX SAGA, The Midnighter comes to retake the English language in an act of self-empowerment (for he is gay and his beloved boyfriend has been brutally abused to breaking point), he no longer says…

“You just pissed off the wrong faggot.”

But, limply…

“You boys just pissed off the wrong bastard.”

It really isn’t the same.

Here is a couple of sentences from the final page of this book aimed not at the protagonists within but the people who publish it, from my original review of the final issue:

‘”Do you think we made a difference in the end?”
“God yes, are you kidding? Even with all the crap they threw at us, we completely changed the landscape over the last twelve months.”

It was inevitable: The Authority’s radical stand was bad for the business of brainwashing. So it wasn’t the world’s governments who pooled together to take them down and replace them with a version they could control, it was the multi-national corporations who control them – who hire the world leaders to protect their tax breaks and overseas interests. Obviously enough the same can be said for comic itself, and for the very same reasons.

It had to be shut down and all under the excuse, the self-serving, printed (and, under the circumstances disgustingly offensive) lie that it had anything to do with the events of September 11th. We’ve been here before so I won’t belabour the point except to remind you that the finale to this blistering series you’ve loyally patronised with your hard-earned money is, I’m afraid, very much tainted by editorial treacheries, and the hard lesson is the same as The Authority had to learn:

Never, ever trust a fucking corporation.

SLH

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

Assassination Classroom vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Yusei Matsui.

“Let’s write some free-verse poetry. I’d like you to end all your poems with the word ‘tentacles’.”

Thank god it’s free verse, then. I’ll have a go, shall I?

There’s a man who read Lovecraft
From the young age of four.
He pops in our shop now and then.
He wears fingerless gloves,
Paws our books,
Furtive looks
Seem to indicate that whenever he comes across anything by I.N.J.Culbard he is utterly freaked out, writhing as he is in his mind’s eye in a metaphorical sea of metadimensional tentacles.

Nope, I can’t do it.

The first half is a limerick of sorts, the second is certainly prose. Outside of W.B. Yeats and Thomas Hardy, unless it’s a song lyric I fucking hate poetry anyway. So poncy, just like me. Either that or it’s some sort of cryptic crossword and I’m useless at them as well.

This is bananas.

A school class has been assigned by the Japanese government to a metamorphic worldwide threat who has already cleanly carved out seventy percent of the moon, rendering it forever crescent. No more werewolves, clearly. He’s threatened to do the same to Earth unless his selected human pupils can successfully shaft him and he’s willing to teach them how. Unfortunately he can move at Mach 20 and regenerate any lobbed-off limb just like that.

How will they ever succeed?!

Oh, they probably won’t: this will go on forever and ever while Yusei Matsui rakes in merchandise royalties from our resident teacher who has been designed to have a spherical, grinning head complete with multiple expressions / colour schemes / patterns to denote various moods so that models can be made (and sold) with interchangeable –

KILL ME NOW!

SLH

Buy Assassination Classroom vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

BOOM! Box 2014 Mix Tape (£7-50, BOOM!) by various

Lucifer Book 5 (£22-50, Vertigo) by Mike Carey & Peter Gross, Ryan Kelly, Colleen Doran, Zander Cannon, Dean Ormston, Aaron Alexovich, Michael Wm. Kaluta

The Manhattan Projects vol 5 (£10-99, Image) by Jonathan Hickman & Nick Pitarra

Sunstone vol 1 s/c (£10-99, Image) by Stjepan Sejic

Batman: Arkham Origins h/c (£16-99, DC) by Adam Beechen, various & Christian Duce, various

Green Lantern: Lights Out s/c (£12-99, DC) by Robert Venditti, various & Billy Tan, various

Marvel Masterworks: Warlock vol 1 s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Roy Thomas, Mike Friedrich, Gerry Conway, Ron Goulart, Tony Isabella & Gil Kane, Bob Brown, Herb Trimpe, John Buscema, Tom Sutton

Dragon Ball 3-in-1 Edition vols 19-21 (£9-99, Viz) by Hinako Takanaga

Fairy Tail vol 45 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Lone Wolf And Cub Omnibus vol 7 (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Kazuo Koike & Goseki Kojima

Naruto vol 68 (£6-99, Viz) by Masashi Kishimoto

NGE: The Shinji Ikari Raising Project vol 15 (£7-50, Dark Horse) by Osamu Takahashi

Souleater Not! Vol 3 (£9-99, Yen) by Atsushi Ohkubo

News

ITEM! Unbelievably cute! From the creator of WE’RE OUT and ST. COLIN & THE DRAGON etc, another fab Philippa Rice stop-animation short, “Is It Christmas Yet?”  This duo would win X-Factor. They make more convincing human beings that most of those contestants. (PS Fleur who came second…? She’s an exception: knock-out performances and obviously deserved to win. Obviously. Instead of that limp, bipedal piece of bleached tofu. I suspect racism and chauvinism, myself.)

ITEM! A not-at-all bad round-up of 25 of the most interesting graphic novels 2014. Far from flawless but some terrific choices too.

ITEM! Infinitely more inspired: 2014 Top Tens from Paul Gravett, comics’ greatest ambassador. I would take issue only with one (no clues!) while commending to you instead THE WICKED + THE DIVINE by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie and (beginning, middle and end – it is a two-parter) EXPECTING TO FLY #1 by John Allison and EXPECTING TO FLY #2 of which we have sold a shedload!

ITEM! Not unrelated: we have big news for you aaaaaaaaaaaaaaany second now. You follow me on Twitter, right? @pagefortyfive Of course you do, and I make no many apologies for everything I type. What a drunken fuckwit.

Funny, though, right?

ITEM! A reminder that STRANGEHAVEN is back, back, back and serialised in MEANWHILE which is still in stock. Its creator Gary Spencer Millidge done wrote a blog about it.

ITEM! It is coming towards the end of the year during which I get so sentimental because you make my life worth living. You. Yes, you! You support us with you craving for comics and your hard-earned cash, buy all the books which we love the most, and then you go online and Tweet or Bookface about our service. Please know that every single one of those signal boosts means the world to us: that you care enough to promote us to your friends and professional colleagues makes us melt.

Without you, we would be nothing. We would be sitting here twiddling our barely opposable thumbs.

Just the other day a local chocolatier whom Dee and I adore to bits went bust and closed down. I did what I could to promote them (and my Nottingham Post interview is reprinted underneath for your amusement) but evidently it wasn’t enough.

Thank you.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

2014: Page 45 Celebrated Its 20th Anniversary.

2014: Page 45 took its show on the road to The Lakes International Comic Art Festival and broke records, made promises.

2014: Page 45 bought its own building, 9 Market Street, thanks to Jonathan’s keen negotiations so securing its future forever without the potential interference of a capricious, mendacious, vampiric landlord.

Page 45: we love comics, we’re here to stay and we love each and every one of you to bits.

Behold, the surreal!

Nottingham Post Food And Drink Interview with Page 45 by Lynette Pinchess

Can you introduce yourself, please?

My name is Stephen L. Holland and 20 years ago this October I co-created the Page 45 comic shop which won the Nottingham Independents Best Business Award in 2012 and 2013, the Diamond Award for Best UK retailer in 2004, was shortlisted for The Bookseller’s Award for Best Independent Bookshop 2014 – the first-ever comic shop to be selected – and has just been nominated for the international Eisner Award 2014 which is comics’ equivalent of the Oscars. Pretty stoked!

What I lack in consumption of food I make up for in drink. You no longer hear of the European Wine Lake, do you? Well, I took care of that single-handedly. You’re welcome.

Favourite restaurant in Notts and why?

Piccolino in the Lace Market. It serves hearty and sexy Italian food, the complete opposite of those lank ‘80s pasta chains where everything tasted like it had been marinated in three-day-old dishwater. Plus this Tuesday night they squeezed me in well past serving time because they are very, very lovely. I did tip, yes.

Best for a romantic meal (in Notts)?

The Alley Cafe off Long Row. It’s so intimate. I mean really intimate: I don’t think they can squeeze more than 40 people in. If your official date goes wrong then there’s a good chance you’ll have made arrangements for another. Possibly by osmosis.

The food is vegetarian with optional vegan but packs such a punch that you’d think you were eating young puppies. Sorry, am I selling this to you?

Also: they promote local artists by giving them space on their walls, and Page 45 is all about promoting new voices, local voices and creativity.

A good restaurant to have a laugh with friends (in Notts)

I’ve not been thrown out of either of the above for laughing. That was something else entirely.

I’d hit Annie’s Burger Shack, recently relocated to the Lace Market. 30 ingenious ways of presenting a burger, be it beef, vegetarian or vegan.

Best for children (in Notts)?

I don’t eat children. I just think it’s wrong.

Best pub grub in Notts?

The Malt Cross. Scrumptious! Our own Jodie Paterson used to work there (Page 45 now stocks Jodie’s Paterson’s gift cards) and exhibits there frequently too in its upstairs gallery. You should so check her art out! http://jodiepaterson.co.uk/

Favourite takeaway food?

That I can summon a pizza via an incantation on my mobile phone is nothing short of magic. Magic should be practised sparingly lest it corrupt its practitioner, but I’ve discovered that there is a yawning chasm between self-knowledge and self-guidance.

The only quandary is calculating the value of value deals: do I go for 3 x 10” pizzas or 2 x 12” pizzas? Someone once drew me a pie chart but I ate it.

Live to eat or eat to live?

Oh, I live to drink. Nothing to me is more special to me than a conversation with much cherished friends over a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. By “glass” I mean “bottle”. And by “bottle” I mean “bucket”.

If I had to recommend a restaurant to a really fussy eater I would suggest….

Maltesers.

Perversely they now come in re-sealable packs. Hahahahahaha! You’re kidding, right?

Most memorable meal (anywhere) and why?

Almost every meal that involved a murder mystery. I’ve played them in private and performed them in public and always there are howls of laughter.

I’ve been the corpse, the killer and the policeman, but not on the same evening. When playing D.C. John Miller the diners did question my eyebrow ring but I told them I went undercover at raves. I’ve also played an abusive, gay boyfriend so vicious that my mother (a guest) didn’t speak to me for a month. Oh yes, and I’ve staggered into a dining room of 100 guests through a pair of French windows in nothing but a pair of Pants To Poverty boxer shorts, before collapsing and dying.

Hungry and needing food quickly, I’m most likely to….

Dash round to FABchocolats on Trinity Walk. New independent business with the most-melt-in-your-mouth chocolates ever. Myriam is Belgian. Actually, Myriam is an artist. Look! http://fabchocolats.co.uk/index.html

Fondest childhood memory of food?

Space Dust. It snapped, crackled and popped in your mouth. There’s an urban legend that it was banned for making kids explode. It was certainly the candy equivalent of crack cocaine.

 

And the worst?

My first-ever words were “Baked beans an’ horrible”. I couldn’t wait to get the hang of verbs: I felt a certain degree or urgency in getting the message across. *shudders*

What do you enjoy cooking at home?

Seared Tuna with butter-smothered new potatoes, minimally cooked carrots and sweet red pepper strips, drizzled in a balsamic vinegar and honey sauce. That sauce which I made up for myself is the key.

1) Take a red pepper, cut in two and remove all the gubbins (technical term for seeds etc)

2) Take a blow torch to the red pepper’s skin until black. If you have no blow torch then place skin-down on gas ring until charred. Place in plastic bag in fridge for half-hour then open and slide off the skin with a knife. Cut into strips.

3) Boil new potatoes. Also carrots (but not too much – they should give only a little).

4) Sear Tuna stakes in a frying pan. Approx 3 minutes on each side – judge by the centre of their sides.

5) Plate up the lot then pop those red pepper strips back in the pan with a whoosh of balsamic vinegar and an equally big dollop of honey or golden syrup. Let it bubble away until peppers are hot.

6) Pour red pepper strips in tangy sauce over carrots.

7) Devour!

Cookery book…or make it up as you go along?

Apart from the above, I’m shoddy at both.

Favourite celebrity chef and why?

No chef but a programme: the current John Torode and Gregg Wallace incarnation of Masterchef. Their eyes twinkle and their enthusiasm is infectious.

The food I would never touch is….

Meat, but I’m a complete hypocrite: I wear leather and do eat fish because they seem pretty stupid to me.

The best comfort food

Moules marinières with a fresh baguette or French fries. Maybe the moules are sentient and I will get clobbered in the Ever-After. It is a risk I am willing to take.

To me the most important thing about food is (provenance, taste, food miles, ethics, organic, cost, British?)

Remembering that I am fortunate enough to have some.

Which 4 famous people, dead or alive, would be your ideal dinner guests?

Australian singer, songwriter, musician and author Nick Cave; Rosa Parks who refused to budge off that bus; comicbook and prose author Neil Gaiman whom I have had lunch with and was full of stories; Tony Benn R.I.P. whom I was due to see at the Nottingham Playhouse last year but he fell ill and I now never will. He was that rarest of species: a politician with integrity and humanity. Kindness is what works for me.

My last meal would be….

Dim sum and egg fried rice from The Oriental Pearl in West Bridgford. Emphasis on their egg fried rice which is the best I’ve had anywhere in the world.

Obviously white wine would also be involved. I mean, obviously.

- Stephen

Page 45 Reviews December 2014 week three

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

Rodin’s hefty hands upon wrists in particular blow me away. With Fegredo the wrists are often set at similarly expressive angles. His figures dance across the page like Nijinsky, so lithe and supple, acting out each drama as choreographically required, while his street clothes are like few others’, their folds flopping or flapping in the breeze.

Stephen on The Enigma by Peter Milligan & Duncan Fegredo

The Great Salt Lake (£5-00) by Matt Taylor.

That’s quite the cover, I think you’ll agree.

And, to be fair, if the following four pages of majestic interior art don’t sell this to you solo, nothing I write is going to make a blind bit of difference.

After the whale dives below the boat the sailor’s mind drifts back to his loved one whose memory draws him ever on, and the ocean becomes a swollen challenge of creatures real and imagined.

For such a silent comic it doesn’t half fill your head with music. It’s like there’s a full orchestra in there for the forms are gigantic, rearing over the waves in inky pools of black or phantasmagorical white and, no, of course I’m not going to tell you what those forms are. It is, however, not entirely silent and the final page will give you much pause for thought.

 

 

 

I’ve seen some pretty special production values on our self-published, A5 beauties over the last few years from the likes of Becky Cloonan, Dan Berry and Robert M. Ball, but this one takes the Belgian-chocolate biscuit. The interior paper is almost as thick as the card stock cover and I can’t get over the illusion of it having French flaps!

Jonathan was thrilled to discover this while wandering round a convention this year: “Here’s something Stephen hasn’t come across yet!” Which is funny because, on the rare instances I stumbled upon something before Mark, I used to feel exactly the same elation. Exactly.

Alas for poor J-Lo, Matt had to tell him I’d already ordered our copies a fortnight before. Still, we are at least on the same page: this is arresting.

SLH

Buy The Great Salt Lake and read the Page 45 review here

Enigma s/c (£13-50, Vertigo) by Peter Milligan & Duncan Fegredo.

Poor Michael. He leads a mundane existence. He doesn’t really seem to count and nothing he does seems to matter.

“Sometimes he feels like a rumour drifting through a world of hard facts.”

Speaking of hard facts:

“Jesus! Where did that come from?”

Michael’s referring to his startlingly less than repressed hard fact poking out of his pants.

It isn’t his girlfriend who’s just turned him on. They only have sex once a week on Tuesdays and although it is indeed Tuesday night neither Michael’s spirit nor flesh was willing; both mind and body were weak. Until a news bulletin alerted Michael to the latest manifestation of the masked man known as The Enigma. That certainly aroused his interest.

You’re about to read a great many superlatives because this hugely underexposed work of sprightly wit and deftly delivered complexity means the world to me and I cannot tell you how euphoric I am that it is back in print. I re-read it today for the first time in over two decades and you know how sometimes you should never go back? How something which impressed you no end once upon a time then leaves you feeling like the younger you was more than a little jejune? Not this.

I want to talk to you about Duncan Fegredo first. This is where my love affair with the artist first began.

I’ve always referred to Fegredo as the Rodin of comics, and I rate Rodin right up there with Bernini. There is a weight to Rodin’s neoclassical sculptures as well as an emotional impact that’s often like reeling from a head-butt. I have been head-butted before so I know what that feels like and the whole of ENIGMA is like that, scriptwise and all. It is a revelation. It certainly will be for Michael.

Rodin’s hefty hands upon wrists in particular blow me away. Hands, wrists and forearms are right up there with the stomach when it comes to male beauty and well exceed anything else. With Fegredo the wrists are often set at similarly expressive angles. His figures dance across the page like Nijinsky, so lithe and supple, acting out each drama as choreographically required, while his street clothes are like few others’, their folds flopping or flapping in the breeze.

Duncan would be the first, second and third to not only concede but to bellow that the first couple of chapters here are overworked: way too many extraneous lines which do describe the forms but not like his later shadows sculpt them. By the time we get to chapters six, seven and eight this relatively young artist has transformed himself in front of us from startling and thrilling to stunning and accomplished. The opening full-page spread of chapter seven remains one of my all-time favourite pieces of comicbook art and I don’t think “startling and thrilling” is a bad starting point, do you?

On it Michael and The Enigma are post-coitally naked, and I know that I am telling you the plot but just this once, all right? Fegredo – in his gentleness of Michael’s wrist and hand and his lolling of Michael’s head – conveys everything you need to know about the dynamics of this sexual relationship. Milligan need not write a word.

He does, however, and every word he writes is delightful.

“An enigma is when a large chunk is concealed. An enigma is a riddle, a puzzle, an ambiguity.”

The Enigma was a three-issue comicbook written and drawn by Titus Bird which Michael cherished as a child. He lost those comics along with his Dad who died in an earthquake which swallowed his household whole. Michael was then abandoned on the sidewalk by his Mum who sealed her betrayal with a kiss. Twenty-five years ago a woman rose in rage and shot her husband repeatedly in the face before ditching her infant down a well.

Now The Head is sucking out brains through a tube, The Truth is confronting those who don’t want to hear it, The Interior League is redecorating lounges like nobody’s business, driving their occupants insane and The Enigma – masked in pure white porcelain and clothed more exquisitely than matador – is hovering aloof above it all.

What could this possibly have to do with Michael? What could this possibly have to do with The Enigma original comic’s creator, Titus Bird? What could this possibly have to do with Michael’s massive erection?

Please do not adjust your sets after the following sentence until you’ve read my follow-up.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE’s Kieron Gillen has referred to this as the greatest superhero comic of all time. High praise from an impeccable source. Completely merited, and I can see where Kieron is coming from so I wouldn’t necessarily disagree. But to describe it as a superhero comic at all would be like describing Oscar Wilde’s THE HAPPY PRINCE as a fairy tale. Which, umm, Oscar did.

My point is it will disappoint those looking for virtually pointless pugilism while putting the people it’s perfect for off. It’s closer to horror and romance and self-discovery. It’s more like the metafiction of Satoshi Con’s OPUS except that the meta is within the fiction itself, not pulling you out of it through its traditional, shattered fourth wall. Although I will concede that Milligan’s authorial voice is chatty and chummy and will speak to you directly.

“It’s like The Book Of Revelations but funnier. It’s like The Last Trumpet but hopelessly out of tune.

“It’s like the perennial battle between good and evil but no one can quite work out which is which anymore, and most people don’t even know what perennial means.

Some of us can barely spell it.

SLH

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

Bad Machinery vol 3: The Case Of The Simple Soul (£14-99) by John Allison.

“Rain rain rain rain flipping RAIN, Mildred.
“What’s for dinner tonight?
“Wait no, don’t tell me, is it RAIN?”

Britain, eh? We have, like, two hundred words for rain. Outside the singularly British town of Tackleford it is torrential, and the page is lit to perfection in that strange, almost eerie off-greeny-grey that often accompanies an impenetrably stormy sky.

“We can get out of it in the barn, Lottie.”
“It smells like a bonfire.”
“Be careful not to sit on a rusty nail. That’s basically deadly.”

It smells like a bonfire because it was one. Someone’s been lighting up local wooden barns – accidentally or otherwise – and there’s so little left of this one that I’d probably keep that hood up, Lottie.

This, of course, is exactly the sort of mystery our two competitive teams of pre-teen detectives would be investigating but both are currently a proverbial man down. Linton and Sonny have lost Jack while Charlotte and Mildred are missing Shauna on account of Shauna and Jack are in lurve.

“Jack, Wouldn’t it be romantic is we were run over by a combine harvester together?”

Hmmm. Unfortunately Jack isn’t very good at romance: he can’t read the signs. I love his dopey lips and wide eyes as Shauna presses his hands to her heart. She is excited! She’s excited because although they have avoided death by threshing they’ve just spotted a huge, hunched man with no shoes or socks and a big, bare, hairy back. And I think it’s spotted them. It’s hiding under the bridge like a troll.

Jack forbids Shauna to tell Lottie and Mildred but “Sisters before Misters”, right?

Meanwhile at school Linton and Sonny have acquired a substitute for Jack in the form of Irish lad Colm who’s more than a wee bit wayward when it comes to “shopping”. So that could get them in trouble: there are such things as security cameras, you know. On the other hand, he’s refreshingly direct and seems to know stuff.

“Now then, lads. That’s your missin’ friend isn’t it, over there with blondie? Don’t worry, you’ve got to let ‘em go so they’ll come back. That’s what my da’ says. Of course, he’s talkin’ about pigeons.”
“…”
“…”
“…”
“I believe pigeons are in some way… magnetic?”

Oh, Sonny! Sitting on the grass, all dopey, with a daisy-chain draped over your noggin’!

“Sonny, take that off. Someone will thump the dinner out of you.”

Effortlessly Allison has set up all the elements that will come into play later on as the temperature rises on the burning barns, Tackleford’s fire department blaze into rash action and Lottie’s new obsession with romance leads her to try teaching the troll they’ve been tracking The Art Of Romance. He’s about as good at that as Jack.

You don’t see John doing this because every page is such a glorious distraction both in its body-language beauty (see EXPECTING TO FLY #1 and 2), its cartoon flourishes like Colm’s world cracking when Charlotte snubs his advances, and all the circuitous shenanigans set at school (they have a new, somewhat unorthodox French teacher in Mademoiselle Broussard) and while kicking around town afterwards.

It also boasts the recognition factor for it’s all so astutely observed: sitting down to supper for the first time with a family and encountering alien table manners; the jumbled mess of less technically minded adults’ computers; Lottie and sister Sarah’s push-and-pull, tactile relationship and the sort of cheeky, kind-hearted teasing that can only come from love and trust; teachers and their elbow patches; teachers down the boozer of a Friday night.

Also, I’ve been meaning to mention the petticoat. I don’t think I’ve typed the word “petticoat” before and so seldom see one worn anymore. Credit-hogging, local journalist Erin Jane Winters is wearing one and, as drawn by Allison, its pendulous pleats are ever so pretty.

There are thirty new pages here including a glossary this time written by Lottie herself and that early schoolground landscape is a spacious and spatial joy. Speaking of Lottie, I loved her book of local beasts.

“Jerry the Cyclops
“Fearsome looking but his lack of depth perception and physical fitness mean he is NON-THRETTENING.
“Giant bee
“Does it make giant honey?
“NOT SURE
“Local cyborg
“Not billionaire playboy as suspected, just an idiot with a soldering iron and too much spare time.”

SLH

Buy Bad Machinery vol 3: The Case Of The Simple Soul and read the Page 45 review here

Brass Sun vol 1: The Wheel Of Worlds h/c (£25-00, Rebellion) by Ian Edginton & I.N.J. Culbard…

“Heed not the dissenter! Be not lured from the winding way by their wild abstractions!
“Stay constant!
“Stay steadfast!”

No, not Stan Lee proselytising on avoiding non-superhero comics at all costs, but the followers of The Cog extolling the virtues of being vigilant against the temptations of believing in The Watchmaker. And as the Archimandrite himself is behoved to exhort upon hearing Speaker Eusabius mention such a blasphemous term…

“Speak not that name in these halls! The Cog is, was and always shall be! The Cog was not created by a charlatan prophet! The Cog is creation!”

Maybe, maybe not. It would seem to be a question of faith, misplaced or otherwise… Me, I can’t say I’m a true believer, no matter how hard Stan preaches, but what cannot be disputed is The Cog itself is very real indeed, as yet another epic astronomical introductory sequence by Culbard makes clear. It really is becoming quite the trademark. The world Edginton has created, of a technologically devolving society, living on what seems to be a planet somehow mounted on an impossibly complex mechanical structure bearing, I should add, more than a passing resemblance to watch parts (waiting tensely for divine bolt of lightning to sizzle my private parts), is equally grandiose in concept, magnificently so in fact, both in scope and design. Design… hmm…

The populace at large, though, are almost singularly unaware of their situation. Those who think they know the truth, far fewer in number than the hoi polloi, but of course who have control, are doing their best to avoid dealing with the fact that their world is gradually, year on year, getting colder, with summers shortening and the winters becoming ever more harsh. Almost as though a watch were winding down (air positively crackling now!)…

The one person who does seemingly know the real truth, or at least considerably more than anyone else, a former high official of the church of The Cog, is about to commit a very elaborate form of suicide, both to save his granddaughter from the authorities and also to attempt to absolve himself for a frankly irredeemable sin. That this act will enable his granddaughter Wren to undertake a revelatory journey, both for her and by extension us, is also part of his intentions. Without wishing to spoil anything, it’s perhaps suffice to say The Watchmaker, well, it might not be an entirely abstract concept. But then worlds don’t just make themselves? Or do they?

That was most of my review of just the opening issue after which I added I was hooked! It’s the full line and sinker now after these first six issues as Edginton has astonished me with the truly epic milieu he has plotted out and Culbard has then so sublimely envisioned. By the end of this first arc we have only visited a few of the once heavenly spheres, now mostly in dystopian decline or apocalyptic ruin, as Wren continues her quest to establish why the vast mechanism controlling the various planets seems to be slowly winding down to a state of total heat death. I’m quite sure by the end of the overall story after another two or three arcs, we’ll have had the full galactic tour and maybe even learnt a few of The Watchmaker’s secrets…!

It’s rare to read speculative fiction that is based on such an out-there fantastical premise yet maintains a complete plausibility at all times, though I think the suspension of disbelief is greatly aided by the eccentric cast of zany characters that populate the work. Similarly, rarely do you get such a sense of impending, encroaching all-pervasive apocalyptic doom combined with crackpot, irreverent frippery and frivolous fun, and these contrasts are what make this such an entertaining read. It strikes me as I type this, it’s very Douglas Adams in nature actually this work, which is an extremely difficult trick to pull off, so huge congratulations to Edginton for that.

Culbard meanwhile applies that wonderful mix of character scenes and epic alien landscapes used to such good effect in his four Lovecraft adaptations to give the work a real sense of cinema. Perhaps it’s the lovely larger page size format (and it’s also a very chunky hardback too, I must add, a proper whopper for your £25) but I really noticed reading this how he often mixes those opposites up on the same page or even double-page spread, with the vast landscape or huge action scene that takes up half the space then also providing the background three or four story driving panels sit on top of. Not a square millimetre of page wasted on gutters. It’s a great little compositional trick that adds to the sense of scale and grandeur and, again, that cinematic feel. Fantastic to see two truly great British comics creators right at the top of their game.

JR

Buy Brass Sun vol 1: The Wheel Of Worlds h/c and read the Page 45 review here

A Bunch Of Amateurs (£4-99, self-published) by Andrew Waugh.

A BUNCH OF AMATEURS is about a bunch of amateurs, each of which turns out to be experts. Experts who have made vital contributions to various sciences.

None of which stops Andrew ‘This Means’ Waugh from having a right old laugh with his imagined scenarios – conversations between these amateur experts and their customers, colleagues or colonels.

Each of the four farces has a different, attractive matt colour palette beginning unsurprisingly with green.

Gregor Mendel (1822-1884), you see, was an Augustinian friar who not only grew but bred pea plants at his monastery presumably in search of the ultimate pea soup. Here they’ve become so virile they have indeed all but blotted out the sun and monopolised the monasterial gardens to the point where the monk in charge of the kitchens has had nothing else to work with in two whole years. He’s very patient, though. Well, you’d have to be at a monastery, wouldn’t you?

Hedy Lamarr (1914-2000) was an Austrian-born actress and star of MGM’s ‘Golden Age’. Together with composer George Antheil, however, she apparently also invented an early form of spread-spectrum communications and frequency hopping which would later pave the way for bluetooth and wi-fi.

Now at this point I was beginning to think we were in Joe Decie’s I BLAME GRANDMA territory in which Joe’s grandmother invented the paperclip. “You couldn’t make this up!” I wrote in my review. Well, I hope you’ve all bought your copies by now.

It transpires that Waugh has made none of this up – apart from the conversations themselves, and this one had me in stitches. It’s Lamarr’s sophistication giving way to an arched eyebrow and exasperation as she pitches her findings to a colonel and a professor, the former chomping on a cigar, the latter puffin on a pipe while Lamarr herself smokes a slim cigarette held like Europeans do at a back-bent angle. It’s also the professor and colonel’s star-struck chauvinism.

“I believe I have something that could greatly benefit the war effort.”
“Indeed. Well, I’ve got to say, you’re already benefiting the room with your presence. Simply ravishing. Am I right, professor?”
“Stunning.”

It gets worse.

“May I continue?”
“Please do.”
“It hasn’t escaped our notice that the country’s torpedoes are a particular risk from signal jamming. All it would take to send one off course would be for the enemy to locate the control signal and broadcast interference at that exact frequency.”
“I’m no scientist, Miss Lamarr but you are undoubtedly broadcasting a signal at this very moment.”
“Excuse me?”
“You’re causing interference in my heart.”
“Woof.”

And so it goes.

Mary Anning (1799-1847) is a plump cheeked palaeontologist in a bonnet, selling her wares on a table by some sand dunes. She did comb the cliffs at Lyme Regis and flogged her fossil findings to punters like this posho who takes her for a simpleton so seeks to take her for a ride. I think you’ll find it’s yourself in the passenger seat, matey.

Finally we have Michael Faraday (1791-1867). Him, you may have heard of. What you might not know, however, is that – following little formal education – he was self-taught during his seven-year stint as a bookseller apprentice.

This one put me in mind of YOU’RE ALL JUST JEALOUS OF MY JETPACK’s Tom Gauld. It’s probably all the books. It’s also another posho punter being inbred, aristocratically stupid as Faraday pops up from behind his test tubes like in Watch With Mother’s Mr. Benn. You know, “And suddenly the shop keeper appeared.”

“Good day, sir. How may I help you?”
“Ah, there you are. Yes, I’m interested in buying one of these new-fangled “books” I’ve heard so much about. Do you have any?”
“One or two, sir.”

Perfect panel, that.

Actually that exchange sounds delightfully familiar.

SLH

Buy A Bunch Of Amateurs and read the Page 45 review here

The Walking Man h/c (£14-99, Fanfare – Ponent Mon) by Jiro Taniguchi.

Do you go walking?

Every time I cross the River Trent on my way to work, something magical happens. I can’t explain it, but it makes all the difference: a sensation of space and light and beauty heightened several-fold when I cross it on foot. Eye-candy. We all need eye-candy.

And that’s the simple premise behind this book: one man, sometimes with the dog his wife found under their house, takes eighteen different walks round the Japanese suburbs and occasionally out into the countryside.

It’s clean and it’s beautiful and the word that keeps springing to mind is indeed ‘magical’. The amount of work that has gone into some of these landscapes is staggering: line after delicate line tracing the structure of trees, roofs and fencing.

A quiet book of exploration which will cure any brief bout of the blues.

10th Anniversary hardcover reprint.

SLH

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

Cochlea & Eustachia s/c (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Hans Rickheit…

More mind-rending material from the obscurist’s obscurist, Hans Rickheit. If, like me, you still can’t unsee in your mind’s eye the huge pipe organ constructed from pig’s heads from THE SQUIRREL MACHINE, or perhaps are still nervously trembling in anticipation of what unimaginable monstrosity might lie behind the next door, in his anthology of oddity FOLLY, THE CONSEQUENCES OF INDISCRETION, you’ll know precisely what to expect from this extended collection of material featuring possibly the strangest pair of identical twin sisters you’re ever likely to meet. I’m not sure if trouble is their middle name, but it probably should be as they have a natural affinity for getting into improbably grim scrapes akin to Santa Claus getting his arse wedged, chestnuts-a-roasting, over yet another open fire.

So it proves here as they wake up yet again in someone else’s rather disturbing abode, sparsely yet sinisterly decorated with surreal objets de rather terrifying art, most of which seem as though they might be stuffed / pickled trophies or implements to facilitate inconceivable and possibly anatomically impossible torture techniques. Someone who seems to be half-mole, half-man, and whose residence / laboratory is set in a vast field of birds’ skulls… I sense trouble! If Hans should ever offer to interior-design my house or landscape the gardens, I can assure you I’ll be politely but firmly refusing…

Meanwhile, at first the girls are content to secretly observe the moleman, scrambling along the rafters, but once they spot what seems to be an identical triplicate of themselves, also creeping around the house, it’s not long before they’re discovered and the peril factor starts to ramp up exponentially. As I have mentioned whilst reviewing his works before, the closest analogy I can make in modern comics to Hans’ material would be Charles Burns’ X’ED OUT / THE HIVE / SUGAR SKULL trilogy. This is even weirder, though, trust me.

JR

Buy Cochlea & Eustachia s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Sam Jamwitch And The Sad Wooden Ferrets; Sam Jamwitch And The Snoozle Pigs (£2-50 each) by Kate Hazell, Ed Hawkesworth >

Sam Jamwitch is a witch made of jam living in a house of toast with her aptly named familiar, Pectin (heh).

In episode one Sam and Pectin go into the woods to collect logs so that they can keep their toast house toasty warm. It is here that they come across the wooden ferrets, who are blubbering because of Sam chopping down the trees. Wanting to be a nice witch, Sam invites them home for a cuppa and crumpets to cheer them up. The wooden ferrets, however, are less than grateful and make a thorough nuisance of themselves, and they should certainly know better than to annoy a witch. It is here that we are exposed to the wonderfully dark humour of Kate and Ed and oh, how perfectly done it is!

It’s playful and naive illustration style perfectly complements the weird and whimsical world in with Sam and Pectin reside. Full of puns and with humour that is thoroughly British, I think that Sam Jamwitch is a bit of a gem.

In episode two Sam is after some Angry Acorns that “keep you at boiling point, maintain a livid complexion, and bitter aftertaste”; the perfect product for a witch finding herself a bit on the soft side these days. For the prestigious job of foraging for the Angry Acorns, Sam employs the Snoozle Pigs. With a nickname like that you would think that the inevitable is obvious, but apparently not to Sam. Oh, Sam. Maybe you won’t need those angry acorns after all.

Once again filled with silliness, puns, and dark humour; this is an enjoyable little treat that’s great for a chuckle.

JP

Buy Sam Jamwitch And The Sad Wooden Ferrets and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Sam Jamwitch And The Snoozle Pigs and read the Page 45 review here

The Shadow Hero (£12-99, First Second) by Gene Luen Yang & Sonny Liew…

“NO NO NO!”
“But you don’t even know what a superhero is!”
“Of course I know what a superhero is! They are all over the newspapers!”
“Then why don’t you want to be one!”

Haha, pushy mothers, exactly the same the world over since time immemorial, though perhaps Hank’s mother might have her sights set slightly higher than most. Two Page 45 favourites, Gene Luen AMERICAN BORN CHINESE Yang and Sonny MALINKY ROBOT Liew, combine to tell the tale of the first Asian American superhero The Green Turtle, but it’s an affectionate spoof of American immigrant culture as much as a homage to this little known comics character.

Hank’s mother was always determined her son would amount to more than her worthless – in her eyes – husband, in reality a hard-working family man running a grocery business, harbouring a strange, mystical secret. Before arriving in the US, Hank’s father liked a drink, well quite a few, and whilst in a drunken stupor that ended up with him on a steamer ship to the new world, he made a pact with a powerful spirit force looking to escape the rapidly changing, chaotic world of early 20th Century China. America, the land of opportunity beckoned, but needing a human host to get there it made a deal to grant Hank’s father one wish in exchange for passage.

 

 

I do like a bit of comedy superheroes when it’s done well. Gene Yang plays up the Chinese cultural tropes you would expect to great effect, both in terms of family and the wider potted history of Asian / American superheroes (and villains!), whilst Sonny Liew knows how to work facial features for the maximum humorous effect, that is for sure. Hank’s pained expressions at his mother’s latest crazy attempts to lure him into the world of do-gooding are a joy to behold. Expressions he’s desperate for his mother not to see of course, for whilst the pain of getting yet another battering by the thugs of Chinatown is weighing heavily on his mind, letting his dear mother down would be far, far worse of course!

JR

Buy The Shadow Hero and read the Page 45 review here

The Royals – Masters Of War s/c (£10-99, Vertigo) by Rob Williams & Simon Coleby.

Full-blooded art with some seriously fine architecture, most of it on fire or in ruins during this blue-blooded, Second World War, superhuman showdown.

Initially it’s the riff-raff on the receiving end but this gets bigger and bigger and nastier and nastier, sending you down some very dark and unexpected alleys. I don’t think comparisons with ZENITH Phase One are uncalled for: not just for the WWII setting and the superhumanity, but for the politics as well.

One of the many elements that intrigued and impressed me no end was how Williams incorporated so many historically recorded events so inextricably within the story he wanted to tell – how at times they even propel it – even if their execution and outcome necessarily prove different. The handling of Pearl Harbour in particular struck me as trenchantly observed when it came to the Japanese psyche. I should probably stop there before I give too much away.

London 1940, then, and the problem for young Prince Henry is that not only are his subjects on the receiving end, but they’re the ones doing all the fighting while his father, King Albert, holds lavish court in Buckingham Palace and his older brother gets pissed in the pantry with his trousers round his ankles.

Moreover, Britain is losing. London is being bombed to buggery in the Blitz while the RAF is painfully outnumbered and outgunned by the German Luftwaffe. The threat of an imminent Nazi invasion is all too real.

Royal Secret Intelligence Service liaison, Lt. Colonel Lockhart, isn’t exactly happy about the state of affairs, either, nor the affairs of the State. He’s sickened by the champagne-guzzling elite so far from the front line, and he’s all too easily goaded by the dissolute Prince Arthur.

“May I ask your Highness, why you do not enter the fight yourself?”

“Well… I’d have thought that was blindingly obvious, Lt. Colonel, even to a man of your blatant lack of breeding. But I’ll happily spell it out for you. I am a Prince. My life is extraordinarily enjoyable, and the gullible proles shoot their little guns and get blown to bits on my behalf. It’s a quite marvellous social system.”

So what’s new?

What’s new is this: the royal families of Europe have long enjoyed not only the Divine Right of Kings – the unquestionable and inalienable right to rule – but also supposedly God-given preternatural powers. Naturally they didn’t want to share them, hence all the inbreeding. However, after a little revolution or two in France and Russia – and King Albert being a genetic aberration, born powerless – the King decided to protect his children from jealous Bolshies by pretending his children were born without powers too. They weren’t. Princess Rose was born telepathic (something which drove her own mother mad), Prince Henry was born with the power of strength, flight and a certain degree of invulnerability, and Prince Arthur was born with the ability to piss everyone off within a fifty-mile radius.

Oh yes, Rose and Henry were born with something else which no royal family in Europe had been in possession of since records began: a social conscience. So late that same night, little more than an hour after the last German plane had dropped its incendiary load, they sneak out of the palace grounds, Rose cupped in Henry’s arms as they fly high above London, looking down on its black-out monuments. They are sharing a moment.

“It’s like Peter Pan.”

But as they descend past the dirigibles suspended in the evening sky, they see they are lit from the below, and what lies below is a holocaust of burning buildings, burning bodies and wailing orphans lost and alone in the blistering inferno.

“No, it’s not.”

Of Simon Coleby’s multiple stunning sequences and set pieces – including the prologue set in Berlin four years later; a titanic, oceanic confrontation; a jaw-dropping piece of perspective for the penultimate chapter’s cliffhanger and every single subsequent twenty-two pages – this held the most power for me: beautifully controlled one either side by both creators (JUDGE DREDD: TRIFECTA) but, in its molten core, coloured by JD Mettler so that you can feel the unbearable heat and hear the crackling corpses, it’s absolutely harrowing. Cut immediately to a morning shortly thereafter and the next German squadron making yet another of their relentless, remorseless approaches on the London skyline have more than they bargained for ahead of them: dozens and dozens of British fighter planes and a very angry, free-flying Prince Henry. He is not wearing royal livery, no, nor an officer’s uniform, but rank-and-file, khaki, rolled up sleeves, braces and brown tie. Nice.

It’s all quite angrily written, and I like that.

The early history lesson was far from perfunctory exposition but enjoyable in its own right (not a second of this is overwritten) and, in tandem with the ominous prologue, the cliffhanger is quite the ellipsis. Prince Henry has his day in the sun, all right, blasting through German bombers and returning one giant burning fuselage, held aloft, to a crowd cheering round the Victoria Monument with its angel of victory (again, great shot, Simon) but we already know by that point what will happen in 1945 and King Albert is reading The Telegraph headline with dismay.

His scheme had been far from unilateral, you see. He had made an international pact.

“Henry, you utter bloody idiot. Do you really think that we’re the only royal family with power?”

Nothing I have written here will prepare you for the brutality of what ensues or Rob Williams’ closely kept curve-balls; indeed I have compounded his own misdirection at least once above.

I did that with a review last week in a sentence which gave me inordinate pleasure, but only to enhance yours when you get to that comic’s punchline.

SLH

Buy The Royals – Masters Of War s/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

In its time, so contemporary. Twenty-five years on and it’s still so relevant that it appears positively prescient.

There was one particular boy-band manager who was notoriously gay. And not just notorious for being gay – for being casting-couch gay. Pop star Zenith’s manager Eddie MacPhail is much less predatory but he seems to have annoyed U.S. Intelligence’s Phaedra Cale.

“Okay! I’ve had enough of this ‘Monty Python’ stuff! Zenith’s coming with me and I will not be dictated to by some old Scotch fairy!”
“Excuse me!”

Indignation.

“It’s Scots, if you don’t mind. ’Scotch’ is a drink!”

Well played, that man, Morrison!

Powers, politics and some of the slickest superhero art of all time. Reprinted here, it’s so glossy it glows. I used to dream that my hair was drawn by Steve Yeowell. And – to be fair – my hair at the time did look as if it had been drawn by Steve Yeowell. I spent an hour each day making sure of that.

ZENITH Phase One was a beauty to behold but here Yeowell really takes flight, loosening up from what I presume was a John Byrne fetish to become its own flexible thing. My presumptions come from a couple of the poses and the reflective circles of light in young Robert’s eyes. My preference for Yeowell stems from his infinitely keener, contemporary fashion sense and a line which is looser, more humane.

You know how some people wonder which actor they’d like to portray their biopic on screen? I think of that in terms of comicbook artists: I’d like Steve Yeowell to depict me.

Okay, for the set-up, please ZENITH Phase One.

Robert is a pop star whose sales largely centre around him having superhuman powers and a bloody great quiff. He’s not a superhero, mind. He’s not in the hero business at all. He’s all about those singles’ sales so when called on to help out he needs some persuading. Here’s a particularly effective lure: the truth of what happened to his parents.

Zenith is the first pure-bred superhero, resulting from his birth from two others: he’s ingested none of the metamorphic drugs designed to create superhumans from scratch. He is unique. And targeted. And he’s about to meet Daddy.

Meanwhile Richard Branson has set up shop and is about to unleash the most monumental assault on Britain’s sovereign soil on record. Did I say Richard Branson…? It must be the balloon sweaters. I meant Scott Wallace, obviously. Nobody sue me, now.

Includes some of Morrison’s ecological arguments which would manifest themselves far more extensively in ANIMAL MAN and WE3, both recommended.

SLH

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

The Complete D.R. & Quinch (£11-99, Rebellion) by Alan Moore, Jamie Delano, Alan Davis & Alan Moore.

Back in 2001 we used to print Recommended Reading Lists which weren’t really lists at all.

But even at their longest they were “mere” 24-page brochures which Mark had enormous fun illustrating with flair, so space was limited and reviews were necessarily condensed from our mailshots or at least succinct.

I once summarised ENIGMA as “Contains a great many lizards and a closet.”

DEATH I described thus: “She’s funny, she’s sweet, she’s gorgeous and gothic. She’s enormously kind and very good company – as you’ll find out for yourself one day.” I pretty much left it like that. Of this Mark wrote in 2001:

“Only last month the latest revamp of the Judge Dredd Megazine had the first couple of stories of the delinquent duo and it still made me laff. A lot seems to have been cribbed from the Hitchhikers Guide but it’s worth the price of admission for the reduced James Dean does Shakespeare skit. Now could someone reprint Moore’s BOJEFFRIES SAGA?”

And they finally have, with a brand-new chapter!

“A suburban sitcom with a Chas Addams twist.”

Ah, I’ve just got it!

SLH

Buy The Complete D.R. & Quinch and read the Page 45 review here

Superman: Unchained Deluxe Edition h/c (£22-50, DC) by Scott Snyder & Jim Lee…

Of the first issue, I wrote…

Easy to see why DC have let Scott Snyder loose on Big Blue as his extremely popular, and more importantly excellent, run on BATMAN continues unabated. Whether he can replicate that success on what is a rather more… one-dimensional character (and indeed supporting characters – I really am tired of seeing Lois Lane written as highly strung and career-obsessed, Perry as the gruff editor with a heart of gold, and not forgetting comedy relief and donut delivery boy Jimmy Olsen) remains to be seen, but we’re off to a good start here, even if Lois is full-on multi-tasking mode, Perry yelling at all and sundry to meet deadlines and Jimmy off on a donut run…

Okay, secondary characters aside, I did really enjoy this. It’s an interesting enough set-up with multiple satellites falling from the sky, possibly at the behest of Lex Luthor, currently en route to a super-max prison facility, though he does find time to make a brief show-stealing cameo, showing he has nerves of steel, if not the skin to match. And of course, only Superman can catch them all and save the day, except it seems one additional satellite was stopped from falling… But if Superman didn’t do it, nor following his initial investigations any member of the Justice League or other heroes, then who did? Our glimpsed answer, privy only to us fourth-wall breakers (if not Source Wall – sorry crap DC in-joke), shows that Snyder has already got a potential belter of story arc up his sleeve. Promising…

What of the art then? Well, I must say, since Jim Lee’s relatively recent return to DC and subsequent current run on JUSTICE LEAGUE, written by Geoff Johns, I have been reminded just how good his art can be, when he’s actually illustrating something I’m bothered about reading – like ALL STAR BATMAN AND ROBIN – which always helps. Also, this issue features a crazy fold-out page right inside the front cover which gets things off with a bang. It doesn’t entirely work in that once you’ve folded it out, you realise it’s a double page spread on reverse sides of the huge page. I have to admit I did grab a second copy just so I could see what it looked like together in all its glory and who knows, maybe that’s what DC are intending, for everyone to buy two copies, precisely for that reason. Can’t quite imagine how on earth it’s going to work in the trade either, but anyway, it’s a nice touch.

[Editor’s note: we haven’t checked!]

JR

Buy Superman: Unchained Deluxe Edition h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Resident Evil: The Marhawa Desire vol 1 (£8-99, Viz) by Naoki Serizawa…

“If word of their condition got out, the students would have been terrified. I merely did what was necessary to avoid panic. All I need you to do now is find the source of the virus.”

I have commented a fair few times on the Japanese proclivity for basing manga at high schools, not matter what the genre of material, and now you can add official ‘dramatic horror’ video game prequel to that list, for this story arc is intended to act as a lead-in to Resident Evil 6. It’s not remotely connected in any important way I can see other than it shoe-horns various characters from that title in. I long since ceased playing the franchise so I merely read it from a comics perspective and actually it’s rather good.

In terms of both the relentless action and imminent-peril storyline provided by that ever-winning combination of big guns and even bigger monsters (and also the art), I was somewhat minded of GANTZ. Probably one purely for fans of the games, but if a publisher is going to do a spin-off / tie-in, it’s nice to see them make sure it is actually of decent quality.

JR

Buy Resident Evil: The Marhawa Desire vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Saga vol 4 (£10-99, Image) by Brian K. Vaughn & Fiona Staples

Thief Of Thieves vol 4: The Hit List (£10-99, Image) by Andy Diggle & Shawn Martinborough

7 String vol 2 (£9-99, ) by Nich Angell

Angel & Faith Season 10 vol 1: Where The River Meets The Sea (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Victor Gischler & Will Conrad,  Derlis Santacruz

Lobster Johnson vol 4: Get The Lobster! (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi & Tonci Zonjic

Second Avenue Caper (£10-50, Hill & Wang) by Joyce Brabner & Mark Zingarelli

Sonic Select vol 6 (£8-99, Archie) by various

Batgirl vol 4: Wanted s/c (£12-99, DC) by Gail Simone & Fernando Parsarin, Daniel Sampere, Jonathan Glapion

Batgirl vol 5: Deadline h/c (£18-99, DC) by Gail Simone, Marguerite Bennett & Fernando Parsarin, Jonathan Glapion, various

Batman And Robin vol 5: The Big Burn h/c (£18-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, Doug Mahnke, Mick Gray, various

Swamp Thing vol 5: The Killing Field s/c (£10-99, DC) by Charles Soule & Jesus Saiz, Javier Pina, Andrei Bressan

The Authority vol 2 s/c (£18-99, DC) by Mark Millar, various & Frank Quitely, various

All New X-Men vol 4: All-Different s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen, Brandon Peterson

Daredevil vol 7 s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Chris Samnee, Jason Copland, Javier Rodriguez

Silver Surfer vol 1: New Dawn (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott & Mike Allred

Uncanny X-Force: Rick Remender Complete Collection vol 2 s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Rick Remender & Jerome Opena, Billy Tan, Greg Tocchini, Phil Noto, Mike McKone, Julian Totino Tedesco, Dave Williams

Powers Bureau vol 2 (£14-99, Icon) by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Avon Oeming

Assassination Classroom vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Yusei Matsui

Dorohedero vol 14 (£9-99, Viz) by Q Hayashida

Mobile Suit Gundam Origin vol 8: The Origin (£22-50, Vertical) by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko

Spice & Wolf vol 10 (£9-99, Yen) by Isuna Hasekura & Keito Koume

News!

ITEM! Ooooooh, look! Saga vol 4 is in! Merry Christmas to us all! Ker-Ching!

Also, this!

- Stephen

Page 45 Reviews December 2014 week two

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

The two creators communicate; they are on the same page: what Gillen does in his scene-setting envelope is reflected by Bennett in her epistle within.

 - Stephen on Angela #1 by Gillen, Bennet & Jimenez, Hans

Here h/c (£25-00, Hamish Hamilton) by Richard McGuire.

1932: “I lost my wallet.”
1923: “I must have left the umbrella somewhere.”
2008: “I think I’m losing my mind.”

500,000 BC: You are currently on the coast. Tectonic plates will need to shift somewhat before that house even gets built.

Absolutely extraordinary.

I have never seen anything like this in my life

Six pages of this were originally published in Spiegelman’s RAW back in 1989. Thirty-five years later: here, have 200+ pages of something so current it could even be Chris Ware.

Every single shot on every single double-page spread takes place from the same vantage point: the corner of one particular room. The camera angle moves not once. However, there are two things to bear in mind:

1) That house has not always stood there.

2) Different things happen in different parts of that room during different periods of time. How interesting would it be to marry those events in separate panels on the same double-page spread?

I think this is one of those “Seeing is believing” books which I may have to show you on the shop floor. It’s a bit like Ray Fawkes’ equally inventive ONE SOUL and THE PEOPLE INSIDE in that respect.

The story weaves backwards and forwards in time as the various inhabitants move in, move out, take family photographs, grow up, grow old or break down. Exterior shots (remember, that house has not always stood there) are startling and rendered in rough-hewn pencil, wash or colour flats. Same goes for the inhabitants whether inside or out. But the interior shots of the room itself are all very much matt, colour flats with only the ever-changing wallpaper boasting any patterned line. It’s beautiful – absolutely exquisite.

‘Life’ and ‘Time’ magazines lie side by side on one tableau’s coffee table which seems – in this context – a very funny joke to me.

Exchanges or reflections may sound familiar:

“You find yourself singing a song…
“Then you realise the lyrics are the perfect commentary on your thoughts. Your subconscious has selected them like a jukebox.”

That happened to me the other day with Leonard Cohen and Sharon Robinson’s ‘In My Secret Life’ – which I guess is no longer so secret.

A lit fireplace at night in 1955 stood out as surprising, snug and warm; especially since in the inset 1986 panel a couple look coldly away from each other. I don’t suppose they lasted long there.

One page is given over to the multitude of insults thrown over the years.

I cannot be sure what is happening in 1777 but I have some very nasty suspicions.

Highly commended then, with all my soul: this is a graphic novel which will really make you reflect.

P.S. Dear publisher: comics is a medium, not a genre.

SLH

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

The Shaolin Cowboy s/c (£14-99, Burlyman) by Geof Darrow.

“How charmingly Asian of you…
“And without the aid of wires.”

Honey, you have never seen a kung-fu flick with such slick choreography, frozen-framed here for detailed analysis as only a comic can do!

Even the noble and nimble Jackie Chan would bow to Geoff (one ‘f’) Darrow’s superiority as nigh-on a hundred vengeful varmints queue behind King Crab, a somewhat self-involved crustacean whose entire family and prospective wife were gorged on by the Shaolin Cowboy in search of a sea-food platter. I can assure you these revengers will be disassembled in no uncertain terms, and will learn the true meaning of the term gut-punch.

First, though, they stand in line… after line… after line… in a sequence of double-page spreads so deliciously self-indulgent – so hilariously inexhaustible all the way to the fly-clouded portable loo – that you cannot help but cackle. This is the artist, remember, who rendered Frank Miller’s HARD BOILED in its all its gore-strewn glory and his detail exceeds even the great George Pérez. Pore over the Alton-Towers-scale queue with its cats, parakeets and monkeys, its tattoos, handcuffs and (warning) cock rings! It demands that you do so.

 

This is a man relishing his craft, drawing for the sheer joy of it. The landscapes are epic with gigantic geological outcrops, while the skies coloured predominantly by Peter Doherty are a lambent, pollution-free blue.

Then when those geological features start moving… What? Take a look at the back cover hinted at on its front! Those are quite specific rock formations, aren’t they? There’s a scene here I feel sure inspired another in Brandon Graham’s MULTIPLE WARHEADS.

Like Beat Takeshi, The Shaolin Cowboy himself is a man of few words, leaving those for his sun-visored, hip-hop-hating horse who has quite the thing for Robert Mitchum. The script is packed with political and cultural satire but remains light, bright and breezy. It’s all about the acrobatics instead.

SLH

Buy The Shaolin Cowboy s/c and read the Page 45 review here

I Blame Grandma (£4-99, self-published) by Joe Decie.

God bless The Deech: all our copies are signed and sketched-in!

I love everything about Joe THE LISTENING AGENT Decie: his mischief, his timing, his otherwise mundane household objects… even his handwriting.

Yes, his handwriting! It’s one of the most attractive in comics: capital letters, far from rigid, that dance up and down while remaining as crystal clear as the layout here. (Although now THE END’s Dan Berry’s going to tell me it’s one of the many fonts he’s created.)

Speaking of Dan Berry, like his own NICHOLAS & EDITH this is another of seven 24 Hour Comics he orchestrated at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival. I can’t imagine the pressure but it doesn’t look like Joe felt any.

This is as effortlessly entertaining as ever, about how his gran invented the paper clip, fashioning it from fuse wire while working as a clerk in Sir Gerald Patten’s War Office around 1940. So that’s several household objects on the very first page. Our Joe draws a perfect pair of pliers, you know.

 

I always wonder about who invented everyday objects and why: it’s usually necessity popping out another sprog, isn’t it? In this case Joe’s grandma felt the need to file faster and keep what she filed better organised. The paperclip quickly catches on and before you know it she’s given her own office to set to it in the reappropriated Malvern Road Tube Station.

“Apparently it was mostly used for anti aircraft operations, but Gran had her own bit, separate with its own lift!
“From her room she has direct access to the station.
“She said she used to eat her sandwiches down there. In the dark.”

You couldn’t make this up, could you?

Anyway, fast-forward to the present day and there are repercussions. Well, you have to think of the patent and all that implies. I’m not going to give the game away, but there’s a big chunk of Joe’s life here I knew nothing about and next time I bump into him I’m going to quiz him quite chronically. Fascinating!

I will just say she that his gran was given a St Hubbins Cross medal and – typically – kept it in a tin of boot polish. An empty one, obviously. Well, empty apart from the medal. Joe draws a mean tin of boot polish too!

SLH

Buy I Blame Grandma and read the Page 45 review here

Hansel & Gretel h/c (£12-99, Bloomsbury) by Neil Gaiman, The Brothers Grimm & Lorenzo Mattotti.

The drawings came first.

They are eerie, awful things, crawling with shadows, swirling in darkness, with the thickest of tree-trunks blotting out the sky.

Stark, dark and black with just a glimpse of white light, they are cold and claustrophobic, evoking all the bleakness of a land ravaged by soldiers to the point of being all but barren, bringing those few inhabitants left to the brink of starvation.

That is why the mother persuades the father to drag their children the ancient forest to be left to fend for themselves. Yes, “drag”, the second time; just look at the angle of Mattotti’s three figures!

“Nobody said anything about killing anybody. We’ll take them deep into the forest, and lose them.”

“We” won’t do anything. She will make him do that.

“They will be fine. Perhaps a kind person will take them in, and feed them. And we can always have more children,” she added, practically.
“A bear might eat them,” said the woodcutter, dejectedly. “We cannot do this thing.”
“If you do not eat,” said the wife, “then you will not be able to swing an axe. And if you cannot cut down a tree, or haul wood into the town, then we all starve and die. Two dead are better than four dead. That is mathematics, and it is logic.”

Terribly, Hansel’s stomach is so cramped with hunger he cannot sleep and overhears that entire conversation.

I’ve read many versions of this tale which the Brothers Grimm themselves tinkered with in different editions; none evoked quite this same sense of physical starvation or moral malnutrition. I’ve found almost all illustrations running contrary to the contents with their colour and candysticks. Here the old woman’s domestic lure looks more like some occidental pagoda, its furnace primed for human flesh raging in the darkness.

Not an ideal Christmas present, I grant you, but highly recommended all the same.

Illustrated prose BTW.

SLH

Buy and read the Page 45 review here

The Cats Of Tanglewood Forest s/c (£5-99, Little Brown) by Charles De Lint & Charles Vess –

Not comics (I repeat, not comics!) but prose with a healthy dose of illustration from the utterly lovely Charles Vess. Good god but do I want to live in a forest drawn by Charles Vess! The shade is cool, the leaves are damp and the tree bark is rough and warm. I do wish he did more sequential stuff but if I am to get my Vess fix through beautifully crafted children’s stories like these then I really won’t complain.

The story is of a likeable, kindly, headstrong girl who lives on her Aunt’s farm and loves to explore the woods around her home. Mostly she is looking for Faeries and magic; she’s sure there must be some about but she can never seem to find it. But when an accident occurs she is drawn into that magic; a magic which has existed all around her for her entire life but which she is only now becoming aware of. So begins the journey with all the trials, lessons and lucky escapes you’d expect from a fantasy adventure such as this.

While the story is very well written, engaging and very sweet in places it is the art which really made this book stick in my head.

 

Back in the day I had a conversation with the late great Mark Simpson (one half of the genius behind Page 45) about the books which informed our aesthetic. Picture books from very early childhood that we were barely able to remember but which had imprinted on our brains, shaping our idea of beauty before we were even really conscious of what beauty was. He showed me a book his parents had uncovered in storage somewhere; it was full of painted pictures of animals and immediately you could see where some of the colours and shapes he preferred in his own art came from. I feel similarly when I see Charles Vess’ art: there is something about the foliage and the trees which just takes me somewhere *else*. It’s beyond dreamy, utterly gorgeous.

I would have devoured this book as a child and so I have been recommending it to parents in the shop left right and centre! But I also enjoyed it as an adult, not just for the marvellous illustrations but for the rich sense of place the writing created. A lovely, lovely book.

DK

Buy and read the Page 45 review here

Andre The Giant: Life And Legend (£12-99, First Second) by Box Brown…

“We are unusual men
Though we walk with you
We don’t think like you
We are not like you
We see with unusual eyes
We have unusual minds
We wear one-piece suits
We are not you.”

Song lyrics from We Are Unusual Men, taken from Nine And A Half Psychedelic Meditations On British Wrestling Of The 1970s & Early 1980s by Luke Haines.

Wrestling. For people of a certain generation like myself, Saturday morning television consisted of Tiswas and repeats of the classic Adam West Batman, but Saturday afternoon, well, there was only one thing you wanted to watch during the Dickie-Davies-presented World Of Sport marathon, and that was the wrestling. It’s hard to comprehend now, the cultural sway this pastime held over vast swathes of the nation, young and old alike, at the time. With colourful characters like Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks, Rollerball Rocco and Kendo Nagasaki, it was a glimpse into a strange world of feuds, grudges and vendettas, that could only be settled honourably, or with a bit of judicious bending of the rules, inside the ring. The villains like Rocco always tried to cheat, mind you, but ninety percent or so of the time, the good guys would win out. And if not, well, there was always the inevitable rematch to settle the score.

Of course, we all believed it was completely real… Everyone – sensible, right minded adults, not just the kids – truly believed that someone could actually survive an Atomic Splash whereby a thirty-stone plus man would just drop his full bodily weight directly upon you whilst you were lying prone upon the ground.

Then, someone, the Daily Mail I think (always the Daily Mail…) ran a huge exposé proving it was all a big act, that the matches were in fact fixed, the opponents <gasp> colluding with each other, and somehow it just all seemed somewhat tawdry after that. Actually, I think the nation’s youth became ensconced in the rather more stimulating delights of the ZX Spectrum 48K, Commodore 64, BBC Microcomputer et al, but that’s a different story. But, coinciding with it disappearing off television in some sort of rights dispute, well, it gradually drifted from the UK public consciousness entirely.

Meanwhile though, across the pond, the burgeoning US wrestling scene managed to somehow make the transition from illegitimate sporting event to legitimate entertainment spectacle and remain in the forefront of television programming. One of the main reasons for this was undoubtedly the man mountain known as Andre The Giant. I had vaguely heard of him, simply because I was aware that the boxer versus wrestler match between Rocky Balboa and Thunderlips (played by Hulk Hogan who until the Rock came along in latter years was probably the best known US wrestler in the UK simply by dint of this cameo) in Rocky 3 was based on just such a miss-matchup between Andre and a hapless stooge of a pugilist.

This, then, is the story of one of the most colourful characters in US wrestling history. Born in rural France with a genetic disorder that resulted in his freakish large stature at even an extremely young age, and ultimately led to his premature death, Andre was always marked out as different. Thus when the opportunity to take the road less travelled into the grappling business presented itself, he quite literally seized it with both hands. Box Brown presents a fascinating tale of a complex character, who knew he was doomed to live a shorter life than most, and perhaps thus decided it needed to be lived to the full. You can’t say Andre was entirely a good man, he certainly had his demons and darker side, which came more to the fore particularly towards the end of his life, but he was always entertaining.

Whilst you might not be familiar with Andre, if like myself you think wistfully of the days of Kendo Nagasaki bashing Catweasel’s brains in on the corner stanchion before tagging his tag team partner in to complete the demolition job, you’ll get a flying dropkick out of seeing what was going at a comparable time on the other side of the Atlantic. Even without any great love of grappling it’s a splendid biography of a world inhabited by, as Luke Haines would put it, unusual men, with unusual minds, who wear one-piece suits, and are not like you. Unless you’re into cosplay that is I suppose…

It just goes to show how a biography written by a man with a passion for his topic is always going to engage the reader. Wonderfully illustrated, it really captures the incessant energy and rollercoaster emotions present throughout Andre’s eventful life, from an early encounter as a youth with Samuel Beckett who encouraged him to spread his wings and live his dreams, through to the difficult days towards the end, when prolific drinking was his only solace from the extreme pain of his condition.

 

Box clearly has the sort of fondness for wrestling from this era that I do, and I seriously wonder if could interest him in doing a graphic biography on that most mysterious man of all, Kendo Nagasaki? I can still recall my jaw dropping during his ceremonial unmasking performed in front of literally millions of people on television, with his manager Gorgeous George dressed in some spangly garb more befitting a glam rock star, the two robed acolytes falling prostrate upon the canvas whilst Nagasaki plunged his samurai sword into the centre of the ring, before his mask was removed to reveal a rather striking man with a part shaven head, plaited pony tail and mystic symbol tattooed on the top of his head. Pure theatre, quite incredible stuff, and if you would like to see it for yourself, check it out HERE, because someone has managed to get hold of the original World Of Sport broadcast and get it up on Youtube! These days Kendo holds Buddhist retreats at his Wolverhampton mansion, claims to have remote healing powers, and errr… drives a banana yellow Lamborghini Countach… A most unusual man…

JR

Buy Andre The Giant: Life And Legend and read the Page 45 review here

Crossed Plus One Hundred #1 (£2-99, Avatar) by Alan Moore & Gabriel Andrade.

One hundred years have passed since The Surprise.

And it was quite a surprise, let me tell you. You’d be quite surprised if you found yourself in Nottingham city centre and it was suddenly writhing in howling, bellowing, jabbering hoards of half-clad cretins, urinating in doorways and leering lasciviously at anyone who passed by.

Outside of a Saturday night, anyway.

Yet that’s what has happened in CROSSED, kicked off by Garth Ennis a dozen or so volumes ago: a worldwide pandemic of sexually insatiable savages in which no one – no matter how old or young or how closely related – was safe. “This is what the worst of humanity looks like uninhibited by law” is what Garth seemed to say; and you look at some geographical regimes and cannot help but agree.

I enjoyed the first book, if “enjoyed” is the right word. I was actually vicariously terrified, peering through my fingers as I tentatively turned the pages – which isn’t easy using only your elbows. I initially promoted the series thus:

“Whatever your most terrifying nightmare, this is infinitely worse.”

After that, I’m afraid it lost me. The genuine, stomach-churning tension which made me invest emotionally in each individual or shudder at their complete callousness and disregard for their fellow fugitive was replaced by such grotesquery that it repelled me with its not-necessary nastiness and so from what was occurring. Jonathan assured me that its spin-off series CROSSED: WISH YOU WERE HERE by Si Spurrier was a huge return to form but I haven’t been sufficiently intrigued until the words “Alan” and “Moore” lured me back, and look: he’s brought a rather fine artist with him.

The textures on this detritus-strewn landscape are as rich as its detail: there’s so much to look at surrounding the more obvious focal points of the plot: the libraries, churches and the rusted stream train carrying this cast of archivists across a much more thinly populated wilderness where you can almost hear the silence.

It seems there are now far fewer nests of The Crossed (so-called because of the cross of red blisters which erupts across their faces on infection like some pustular St George’s flag), largely because they’ve eaten their own children before they’re old enough to breed. So it’s relatively (relatively) safe to venture a little further from the tracks to see what can be gleaned from what’s left of the relics of their past to better understand what used to be considered their culture. Although everyone goes armed with a shotgun.

Just as well, because one such expedition is startled to be set upon by a second nest of nudists in two days, covered in blood and faeces, the men as priapic as ever and they are roaring, “Packemin! Packemin! Aha ha haaa…” And they do love to pack ‘em in, but that’s not what they’re screaming. Everyone is in for a very big surprise.

I’m back onboard and, in case you’re wondering, you need not have read a single sentence of this series before to launch straight in now.

This is far more culturally orientated, Moore extrapolating from the Ennis scenario and musing on what might have happened one hundred years on. For a start, the ozone layer has repaired itself. Well, all our smoke-billowing industries have shut down. So it’s not all bad. It’s still pretty bad and right now I am very much appreciating the safety of my study and my steady supply of Sauvignon Blanc.

In particular Moore is considering what may have happened to language and its slang in a world where there are isolated packs of human beings rather than an instantly accessible global information hub. There are neologisms aplenty, many of which made me smile but – Jonathan and I agree – rather too many. Language should enrich a story, not obfuscate it, and I wince typing this for Alan Moore is one thousand times the writer that I will ever be but, for me, the number rendered the narrative just a little too opaque. Maybe I need a little longer to adjust with a couple more instalments – I’m pretty confident that I am the one more likely to be failing!

Bonus in the back: Ennis is interviewed about CROSSED and comes up with some perceptive observations about heroism in fiction and heroism in reality. Sometimes you try, you really do, but sometimes the situation overwhelms you.

It’ll make you think, I promise.

SLH

Buy Crossed Plus One Hundred #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Tomb Raider vol 1: Season Of The Witch (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Gail Simone & Nicolas Daniel Selma.

“Oww!”

Why the films never incorporated that knee-scraping trademark as an in-joke eludes me.

It was one of my favourite elements. The favourite element of my housemate’s girlfriend was to send Lara Croft careening over a cliff to her bone-crunching death. Over and over again. My, how she chuckled at those really rather vivid sound effects. (I think she may have been jealous!)

Tombraider has been reborn!

Well, partly. There’s still waaaaay too much hand-holding rather than free-roaming exploration (and exasperation, to be sure) in order to solve the puzzles and so wend your way through; but I loved both the emotional investment and the slickness and thrill of the cut-scene-to-first-person-performance of Lara’s last desert-island outing.

I may have skewered an excessive number of innocent deer given that I’m such a strict vegetarian (who wears leather and eats fish – fish are monumentally stupid, don’t you think?) but I felt their pain too, just as I felt Lara’s bewilderment at her outnumbered predicament and whoooooooooooooo I wasn’t going to cross a rope bridge in my life to begin with but now….? Never.

It’s easy to forget that, before its potency was frittered away on several half-arsed outings, the Tombraider franchise was full of the most spectacular and exotic settings: from Escher-like labyrinths of staircases so high up I came down with vertigo and treacherous stone temples with secret passages, hidden traps and demonic creatures lurking in the shadows to rusting tanker hulks abandoned under the ocean… with sharks on the loose!

It was like Antony Johnston’s UMBRAL.

Then there were those sequences which set you on fire like in Venice when you had to pilot a speedboat through the canals and its mines just in time to… I played that to The Propellerheads’ version of ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ and ‘Spybreak’. It took me long-time.

Sorry…? No, I’m not reviewing the comic. Not read it. I’m sure it’s aces, though.

I’m just sharing the love of our candelabra-leaping Lara. Even my Mum got in on the act. Remember when you had to judge whether Lara sprang one-step or two-steps between stone edifices? The entire time Ma and I spent in Venice, we couldn’t help but look up and wonder whether various leaps of confidence were single jumps or “runny-jumps”. Runny jumps!

And we were in Venice!

We’re so fucking cultured, us two.

SLH

Buy Tomb Raider vol 1: Season Of The Witch and read the Page 45 review here

Angela: Asgard’s Assassin #1 (£2-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen, Marguerite Bennett & Phil Jimenez, Stephanie Hans.

“It was far too early in the day for murder.
“She really was trying to cut down.”

The two creators communicate; they are on the same page: what Gillen does in his scene-setting envelope is reflected by Bennett in her epistle within. This is a story about loyalty, oath, debt and indebtedness; about having a price, naming that price and then paying that price if that price is not paid.

I should be a bank manager. Or a judge. I’m already a Libran, if that helps.

There’s a lot of dead-pan humour thrown into an already heady mix of action, distraction, reputation and revelation designed to intrigue you further but give you single-issue satisfaction all the same. That’s reasonably rare. There is the mother of all cliff-hangers, don’t get me wrong, but you will still have read something so smile-inducingly succinct with a beginning, middle and end – distilling the very essence of the comics to come – that you will walk away nodding that you now know Angela even if you have never met her before in your life.

Angela has been revealed to be the daughter of Odin and Freyja but was raised to hate all Asgardians because complicated. Don’t worry, it’s all explained in the comic. It’s basically left her between a rock and a hard place, a lineage limbo of sorts, and that’s where we find her, battling through a flesh-tearing temporal sandstorm to save Sera, an angel from Heven (sic).

Flashback to the self-contained sub-story when she did that once before.

Angela used to think that she herself was an angel from Heven but now she knows better. She’s an Asgardian and Asgard and Heven have never got on since Angela was presumed murdered as a newborn babe. I said: “COMPLICATED”! As it so happens, Thor now knows better too and Angela’s done something ever so slightly inflammatory….

Sera aside, I really wouldn’t have recognised Gillen’s book-end sequences as being drawn by Phil Jimenez. Sera’s profiles still boast that George Pérez stamp but inked by the legendary Tom Palmer (John Buscema’s best ink artist) it’s a much fuller affair, closer to Quesada, and I’m equally up for that. Hans meanwhile is more painterly so think Frazer Irving. Either way it’s all very attractive but if you’ll excuse me I need to step back.

It’s “Evisceration Hour”.

For more Angela, please see Bendis’ GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY.

SLH

Buy Angela: Asgard’s Assassin #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Wolverine: Origin h/c (£22-50, Marvel) by Paul Jenkins & Andy Kubert, Richard Isanove.

Beautifully packaged hardcover reprint of the softcover reprint of the hardcover reprint of the six-issue series that started off like The Secret Garden (mansion, sickly male child, girl visitor) before blossoming into something really quite powerful. Lost of lush landscapes, gorgeously rendered, and lots of misery spread around by the miserable and twisted. And as hardcover it will sit better on your shelves with ORIGIN II that the ORIGIN I s/c.

For those seeking a straight forward account of Wolverine’s birth, adolescence and the order in which he was enlisted by various agencies before joining the X-Men, you might as well walk away now because Marvel decided not to be so bloody tedious, and instead served up a piece of historical drama, intelligently going for partial revelation with just enough mystery to make you do some of the work yourself.

The sickly, surviving son of wealthy John Howett, James, is given a playmate called Rose. His mother is sequestered on the top floors of the mansion, rarely to be seen since the death of her eldest. Rose recalls the events in her diary, as the pair of them make friends with ‘Dawg’, the gardener’s boy, but of course there’s trouble and whenever there is, James’ irascible grandfather erupts like a volcano and the alcoholic gardener beats his submissive son to a pulp. From the first time you see him, the growling, resentful servant with his feral child will look immediately familiar, and his name will only confirm your suspicions. But I’d curb your initial instincts if I were you, because thankfully this story, like Logan’s lineage, isn’t as obvious as it seems.

Some have said that Jenkins’ attempt at a Brontë feel was a bit naff, but it suits the story and Kubert’s seasonal landscapes, first on the Howlett estate then round the snow-capped mountains and quarries of British Columbia, shifting from parched to verdant then chill, are rendered with detail, majesty and, courtesy of Isanove, a subtlety of colour. The wildlife moves with astonishing vivacity and power, whilst the figure work is all you could hope for.

And, come on, you do want to know now, don’t you…?

SLH

Buy Wolverine: Origin I h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The New 52: Future’s End vol 1 s/c (£29-99, DC) by Brian Azzarello, Jeff Lemire, Dan Jurgens, Keith Giffen & Patrick Zircher, Ethan Van Sciver, various…

What If… DC decided to do a massive non-continuity event running weekly for nearly a year that focused on various smaller characters? Obviously not a new thing, they did it before with 52, or perhaps The Old 52 as it should be referred to now. Yes, yes, I know technically that was continuity, apparently filling in the ‘missing year’ between INFINITE CRISIS and, the errr… rather imaginatively titled ONE YEAR LATER (that no one remembers) when Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman had disappeared for some  spurious reason I can’t for the life of me remember, but actually, it was rather enjoyable nonsense.

This is basically more of the same, just with a much more interesting set-up. It all begins 35 years in the future in the BATMAN BEYOND era, which is now apparently in the mainstream DC continuity, whereas it never was before. I know I said this was a non-continuity yarn, but do bear with me, questions may be asked by The Answer Man later and he’s a bigger stickler than Norris McWhirter for detail…

The world of the future is now a total mess with the artificial intelligence Brother Eye having assimilated virtually all our heroes in a dystopian nightmare made real. I’m not quite sure how that factoid ties-in continuity-wise with Batman’s Brother Eye technology from (pre-New 52) THE OMAC PROJECT yet, (does anything pre-New 52 technically have any relevance with current continuity anymore, I honestly have no idea) but given Omacs feature heavily throughout this first volume and it all begins with an elderly cane wielding, if not tap dancing, Bruce Wayne sending the BATMAN BEYOND Batman a.k.a. Terry McGinnis back in time to our era to try and avert the A.I.’s ascension, I’d say it’s a passing nod at least

Anyway, the wrinkle is that Bruce only succeeds in sending Terry back thirty years, to a possible future five years from now, where Earth Prime is recovering from a massive war against alien intruders that came through a dimension rift from Earth 2, which itself had been under attack and virtually destroyed. Note: this really has absolutely nothing to do with the current Earth 2 storyline where Earth 2 is under attack from a vast alien invasion… I know, that confused me as well at first, trying to figure out if it was… I think not anyway…

Vast numbers of Earth Prime heroes were killed in defence of Earth Prime, and only a few hundred thousand Earth 2 refugees, including some of its heroes, were evacuated safely through to this dimension, but now live as mistrusted, stigmatised second-class citizens blamed for the destruction wreaked upon Earth Prime by the aliens – which seems a tad harsh given their world was entirely destroyed, but anyway… Meanwhile, the few surviving Earth 2 heroes have all mysteriously vanished. The overall implication though is that a bigger impending threat to Earth Prime is still looming, which we know of course is the dystopian future of Brother Eye.

What I have enjoyed about this weekly series so far is how it has constantly shifted from set of characters to characters, week after week, focusing mainly on a lot of the old Wildstorm characters like Grifter, Stormwatch etc. but also other random bods like some of the Justice League Dark such as Frankenstein and Amethyst , plus the Atom, Hawkman, Firestorm, Mr. Terrific etc. and only revealing another tiny piece of the much bigger puzzle each time. One issue you’re getting Grifter abducted by Deathstroke and taken to some mysterious island where Cadmus scientists seem to be experimenting on abducted Earth 2 heroes, then it’s into the Bleed where most of Stormwatch are wiped out instantaneously just for fun by some mysterious entity with some as yet unknown connection to what is happening back on Earth, then it’s over to John Constantine trekking round the desert in search of a bearded wandering Superman who seems to be having some sort of existential crisis. And all the while you have Terry McGinnis on his covert undercover mission. He’s obviously realised he’s five years later than he should be of course, but still thinks he can prevent the rise of the machines. He can’t reveal his presence to any of the superheroes of the day, of course, for reasons I won’t elaborate on here, and so is forced to turn to the lower end of the superpowered criminal fraternity for assistance. Who are just delighted to be helping any sort of Batman out of course!

It’s utterly bonkers clearly, but the writing from Brian Azzarello, Jeff Lemire, Dan Jurgens, Keith Giffen, who I get the impression are each writing the different slices of what I’ve outlined above is nice, slick stuff, and you feel they are enjoying themselves immensely. So much of the DC output at the moment is so turgid it beggars belief, weighed down under its own pomposity and primary-school-level plotting, so it’s nice to have something that’s a bit more convoluted and involved, frankly.

This is the first extended DC run I’ve read since Geoff Johns’ long GREEN LANTERN run that I can say has held my interest to the same degree, Scott Snyder’s BATMAN aside, and even that has had its patchy moments frankly. I think actually the weekly release schedule in helping in that respect, keeping me engrossed. Plus, compared to the hackneyed drivel that is the current big Marvel event AXIS (and hey, I am a big Rick BLACK SCIENCE / UNCANNY X-FORCE Remender fan), this title is positively Shakespearean.

Anyway, if you want an entertaining doorstep of capes ‘n’ tights material, some 18 issues worth which does just about justify the £29-99 price tag, to sensorially sequester yourself away with on Boxing Day whilst the rest of the family watch endless repeats on the goggle box, this will probably fit the bill. Note: I presume there will be two subsequent volumes if the plan is for it to run to 52 issues or thereabouts.

JR

Buy The New 52: Futures End vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Marshal Law s/c (£22-50, DC) by Pat Mills & Kevin O’Neill.

“I’m a hero hunter. I hunt heroes. Haven’t found any yet.”

450 pages of smear and loathing, designed to make your mouth curl at the very same time you’re chortling your toes off. You’ll be gurning and groaning, like the Elephantman being given a blowjob.

Before Veitch delivered pretty much the last word worth saying on the pervy nature of superheroes in BRATPACK (although we’ve since been treated to Garth Ennis’ sustained sexual assault in THE BOYS), Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill voiced their own distaste in their ultra-violent, iconoclastic, joke-in-every-corner MARSHAL LAW books. All things establishment and status quo get a jack-booted kick to the crotch, from Reagan and the Church to the Justice League of America and theme parks. It’s kind of like MAD on crack (I did not just type “it’s kind of like” – you never read that), though I don’t mean Kurtzman-esque, for you won’t find too much social dissection going on. That was left, as previous mentioned, to Rick Veitch.

What you will witness is a gross-out ejaculation of repressed sexuality; of sadism, masochism and self-loathing. Maximum punnage is the order of the day and they keep it coming, thick and fast, spawning now-familiar slogans like “Nuke Me Gently.”

It’s not quite as slick as I recall – the voice-overs don’t half interrupt the flow – but it’s still the work of two men having the grimmest of laughs while firing on all cylinders.

This whopping volume, heavy enough to cave in the cranium of anyone in a kinky costume or cape, reprints MARSHAL LAW #1-6, MARSHAL LAW: FEAR AND LOATHING, MARSHAL LAW TAKES MANHATTAN, MARSHAL LAW: KINGDOM OF THE BLIND and MARSHAL LAW: THE HATEFUL DEAD, MARSHAL LAW: SUPER BABYLON and MARSHAL LAW: SECRET TRIBUNAL #1-2. Gallery section, and an introduction by Jonathan Ross.

SLH

Buy Marshal Law s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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


A Bunch Of Amateurs (£4-99) by Andrew Waugh

The Great Salt Lake (£5-00) by Matt Taylor

Bad Machinery vol 3: The Case Of The Simple Soul (£14-99) by John Allison

Brass Sun vol 1: The Wheel Of Worlds h/c (£25-00, Rebellion) by Ian Edginton & I.N.J. Culbard

The Complete D.R. & Quinch (£11-99, Rebellion) by Alan Moore, Jamie Delano, Alan Davis & Alan Moore

Disenchanted vol 2 s/c (£14-99, Avatar) by Simon Spurrier & German Erramouspe

Enigma s/c (£13-50, Vertigo) by Peter Milligan & Duncan Fegredo

The Graphic Canon Of Children’s Literature (£25-99, Seven Studies) by various, edited by Russ Kick

In The Frame 2012-2014 (£12-00) by Tom Humberstone

The Royals – Masters Of War s/c (£10-99, Vertigo) by Rob Williams & Simon Coleby

Showa 1944 – 1953: A History Of Japan vol 3  (£18-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Shigeru Mizuki

The Walking Man h/c (£14-99, Fanfare – Ponent Mon) by Jiro Taniguchi

William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back h/c (£11-99, Quirk) by Ian Doescher

William Shakespeare’s The Jedi Doth Return h/c (£11-99, Quirk) by Ian Doescher

Nightwing vol 5: Setting Son s/c (£12-99, DC) by Kyle Higgins & various

Red Hood And The Outlaws vol 5: The Big Picture s/c (£10-99, DC) by James Tynion IV, Will Pfeifer, Joe Keatinge & various

Superman: Unchained Deluxe Edition h/c (£22-50, DC) by Scott Snyder & Jim Lee

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

Mighty Avengers vol 3: Original Sin – Not Your Fathers Avengers s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Al Ewing & Greg Land

Savage Hulk vol 1: Man Within s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Alan Davis, Stan Lee & Alan Davis, Sal Buscema

Attack On Titan: Before The Fall vol 3 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Ryo Suzukaze & Satoshi Shiki

Battle Angel Alita Last Order Omnibus vol 5 (£14-99, Kodansha) by Yukito Kishiro

Ranma 1/2 2-in-1 vols 9 & 10 (£9-99, Viz) by Rumiko Takahashi

Resident Evil: The Marhawa Desire vol 1 (£8-99, Viz) by Naoki Serizawa

Spell Of Desire vol 2 (£6-99, Viz) by Tomu Ohmi 

News!

ITEM! It’s glove weather! So the other morning I rootled through my winter wardrobe (it’s a heap of jumpers and scarves on the bedroom floor) and I found my gloves, hurray! Slight problem, I suspect. I just can’t put my thumb on it.

ITEM! Lizz Lunney’s one-a-day advent calendar comics are hilarious. For best results follow Lizz @LizzLizz on Twitter. For catastrophic results follow me on the Good Ship Drunk As Fuck @pagefortyfive where we sail the stormy — [you’re fired – ed.]

ITEM! I have been offline at home which is where I generally glean these ITEM!s. It’s very disconcerting. It’s like living in a cold dark cave. Thankfully my cave comes with a fridge full of Sauvignon Blanc. I’m diving in now.

Cheers,

- Stephen

Page 45 Reviews December 2014 week one

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

A damning indictment of man’s ceaseless inhumanity to man in the form of oppression, warfare and retribution: its attempts to justify war in the name of God or country; its failure to learn or advance except in more effective means of destruction; individuals’ consistent failure in power to live up to their promises made in revolution, and all the endemic, sorry subterfuge behind it all.

 - Stephen on Arkwright Integral by Bryan Talbot

Grandville vol 4: Noël (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Bryan Talbot.

“We’d best get on with it, then.”
“Sure. All hogtied up like this? You don’t happen to have anything sharp on you, do yuh?”
“Are you joking?

The badger bears his teeth.

The badger really bares his teeth in this fourth anthropomorphic outing to Grandville (Paris), as does its creator Bryan Talbot.

With a title like NOÊL you might expect a lot of Christmas presents – there are certainly enough Easter Eggs – and maybe some saccharine school nativity scenes.

But not from someone like Talbot who here grabs two of my own bêtes noires firmly by the throat and throttles them: organised religion with its avarice, mendacity, brainwashing and hate-mongering, and the similarly styled, racist far-right surging right now in Britain with UkiP as it has for a long time in France under the Front National’s Jean-Marie Le Pen and his equally loathsome daughter Marine Le Pen who in September topped a presidential poll.

Think about that. You are allowed to get angry; it’s all right if you cry.

 

The prologue takes us a little further afield than usual in GRANDVILLE, to the American East Coast where a religious cult led by a gryphon and its high-priest unicorn celebrates its sanctity by committing mass suicide. “Miraculously” the gryphon and unicorn survive along with their resident, decrepit old mutt of a doctor. Next stop: Grandville…

Back in London it’s beginning to snow, heralding holiday time for Scotland Yard’s Detective-Inspector LeBrock and Detective Sergeant Ratzi who invites LeBrock, his mother and children over for Christmas, along with LeBrock’s girlfriend Billie who, not to put too fine a point of it, is a Parisian prostitute. So that could prove awkward.

Before that, however, LeBrock is implored by his guinea-pig landlady to find her missing niece. Alienated from home by an abusive step-dad who also happens to be a badger (“These mixed marriages never work” – ouch), she doesn’t appear to have been abducted but instead to have found God and fallen foul of The Silver Path’s propaganda handed out by her school gates. The Silver Path and its Church of Evolutionary Theology are based in Grandville. The girl had recently returned from a school trip there and now she’s gone again along with some freshly packed clothes, her step-dad’s wallet, the cash from his money box and all her mother’s jewels.

Guess who’s in charge of the Church of Evolutionary Theology? Guess who’s the guiding light of and along The Silver Path?

As LeBrock steps up his investigations across The Channel he discovers Grandville gripped by a crime wave following extortion mob-boss Tiberius Koenig’s complete victory over the city, buying up all the brothels and much more besides.

On top of that bigotry is rampant. Disparagingly referred to as “doughfaces” (even by LeBrock), humans – very much an underclass discriminated against and often refused board or entry to cafes, bars and clubs – have been campaigning for, well, human rights, and violence on both sides is escalating rapidly. All of which is opportunistically seized on by The Silver Path which has already been fanning the flames of fear and prejudice by blaming the “doughfaces” for every imaginable societal problem, and whose gryphon and unicorn now announce a sister political party with a Final Solution. That is what you think, yes.

The True Gospels mystery I’m going to studiously avoid for fearing of giving too much away, but by gum this is a clever and complex graphic novel, its subplots so intricately interwoven and the implications of its revelations even craftier than you might think. Let us discuss after class instead! I’d so dearly love that!

Back to the story, however, and LeBrock has the bright idea of enlisting the aid of Billie herself to infiltrate The Silver Path cult thereby creating another potential problem, finds himself desperate for the aid of American sharp-shooter Chance Lucas (haha!) of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency and is so forced to confront his own prejudices.

 

I like that. Matt Wagner did the same thing with Wesley Dodds in SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE VOL 7: show his hero to have very similar failings.

From my brief burst of parenthetical laughter you will have gathered that, as ever with GRANDVILLE, there are so many Easter egg bonuses. That is Lucky Luke, you did spy Asterix and Obelix (the trousers are a dead giveaway), there are a couple of nods to Hergé and other childhood favourites, and that dying pose is unmissable as The Pietà. There are dozens more, but my favourite is Nicholas, the boss-eyed gryphon (it’s no coincidence that both religious leaders are mythological creatures, the gryphon based on Sir John Tenniel’s), doing his best Adolf Hitler impression during The Last Supper before sitting there silent and smug. Nicholas the gryphon? Nick Griffin, former leader of Britain’s neo-Nazi National Front party. It looks exactly like him!

As ever with Talbot, it is craft, craft, craft all the way with no skimping on detail. Some of the costumes here are ridiculously rich in colour flourishes, the architecture does Paris full justice and the interiors are equally lush. Plus you will love the gondola-like aerial sky tram used here like a James Bond set piece. There’s so much action, choreographed to perfection and you’ll get all your steam, punk, I promise!

The theology is equally up to scratch and meticulously researched, although on reflection I doubt Bryan had to do much more than check a few minutiae – he knows this sort of stuff. That the historical facts involving the True Gospels have been so cleverly utilised for his own anthropomorphic plot’s ends… well, once more, let’s discuss after class, shall we?

Finally, you get quite the bang for your buck. This is as dense as it is intense and whereas most stories are over once the fat lady has sung to crescendo so shattering the glass, here the repercussions are extensive with scene after scene of reprise, reversal, revelation and startling cliffhanger prologue before you even get to the most satisfying four-page epilogue of this series yet. *zips mouth, moves on*

Finally, finally, I think you’ve earned yourself some comedy, so here’s the nannyish Doctor Ermintrude Bovery, head of Religious Studies. Something’s really got her goat:

“You’re another damned atheist, are you, Mister LeBrock? I suppose you’re a meat-eater to boot.”
“Guilty as charged.”
“Why, oh why, are only intelligent people vegetarian? If your evolution tomfoolery were true, Ursine, you’d find that your brains were bequeathed by ancestors who ate no meat.”
“On the contrary. We couldn’t possibly have evolved from a herbivore species.”
“Why ever not?”
“Because, my dear Doctor… IT DOESN’T TAKE A GREAT DEAL OF INTELLIGENCE TO SNEAK UP ON A BLADE OF GRASS!”

SLH

Buy Grandville vol 4: Noël and read the Page 45 review here

Arkwright Integral h/c (£45-00, Dark Horse) by Bryan Talbot.

Hefty hardcover reprinting both THE ADVENTURES OF LUTHER ARKWRIGHT and HEART OF EMPIRE which, at the time of typing, are both out of print.

Bonus material not previously reprinted in either softcover includes all nine full-colour covers to Dark Horse’s serialisation, all nine full-colour covers to Valkyrie Press’ serialisation plus its ARKeogology, the three UK trade paperback covers, a substantial chunk of the enormous Bryan Talbot Arkwright Interview conducted by SAGA OF THE SWAMP THING’s Stephen R. Bissette originally published in 2012 and a new afterword / tribute by TRANSMETROPOLITAN’S Warren Ellis.

Here we go, then, first with THE ADVENTURES OF LUTHER ARKWRIGHT:

A damning indictment of man’s ceaseless inhumanity to man in the form of oppression, warfare and retribution: its attempts to justify war in the name of God or country; its failure to learn or advance except in more effective means of destruction; individuals’ consistent failure in power to live up to their promises made in revolution, and all the endemic, sorry subterfuge behind it all.

Bryan’s knowledge of political history is matched only by his command in communicating its lessons, however they may ignored by our lessers, and for a work which is essentially science fiction involving multiple parallel worlds, precognition and psychometry, this has its feet planted firmly in British history and on its very streets as Luther Arkwright is dispatched to a key parallel world in which Britain never succeeded in unshackling itself from its Cromwellian past. There he must uncover the Disruptor agents that have infiltrated key positions in the world’s governments and in particular that of repressionist, Puritan Britain, marshal the underground Royalist forces and start a great big fucking revolution to uncover the legendary Firefrost and prevent pan-dimensional Armageddon. I know that it’s a dirty job but someone’s got to do it.

This is a work that is rich in texture, vast in scope and charged with sexual energy. It’s also incredibly dense in its truest sense, for it could have been expanded into four times its length with no filler whatsoever. Instead, by weaving Arkwright’s complex history through the threads of the main narrative, by gradually lacing the present and particular with what is known of the parallels’ past, and by excavating as they go what few clues the guardians of central and stable Para 00:00:00 have of the mysterious Firefrost, their role and their goal in locating that ultimate weapon of mass destruction is slowly revealed. It really is intoxicating, as is the central climax of orgasmic satori when Arkwright rises from his own ashes – a phoenix primed with pure impressionistic poetry – which by contrast is allowed to explode across the pages in all its lush allusion. For anyone else this would be their magnum opus, not their opening salvo.

As indicated, Talbot has much to say about governments and war. The Firefrost, as its name implies, is an entity of opposites, a conjugation capable of destruction and creation, death and rebirth: the ultimate weapon of mass destruction designed to preserve life “until inevitably – as with any deterrent – it was activated”. Concise and to the point, I think you’ll agree.

Nathaniel Cromwell, Lord Protector and head of the Church of England, is an exceedingly ugly creation. A puritanical preacher, he rages against sin yet fornicates in secret, forcing himself on young royalist virgins, bound and gagged in the dark. Riddled with venereal disease, he is rabid in public whilst, in private, deliriously drunk; he is plagued by his father’s abuse which left him sexually disfigured. Even the revolutionary Queen Anne has a ruthless side that will take you by surprise – or maybe not if you’ve read HEART OF EMPIRE. Just like HEART OF EMPIRE (a sequel of sorts) this shares its Shakespearian elements contrasting affairs of state with backstreet bawdiness, and this has an awful lot of omens. Bryan has a worryingly broad and vivid imagination when it comes to the hundreds of worldwide catastrophes visiting the other parallel worlds! Here too are the Hogarthian references as you’ll see down in Cheapside overlooked (I think) by Westminster, as foul-mouthed farter Harry Fairfax (again, some relation to Sir Thomas) questions the meaning of it all.

It’s also in Cheapside especially that the true majesty of the art – until now smothered and smudged beyond all recognition by a printing process inadequate to the task – really shines in this new shooting. The sheer detail on every page is remarkable from the exterior architecture with its intricate cross-hatching to the textures of a library crammed full of foliage, cloth and cultural carvings, and the final battle is epic. Steeped in British legend and lore (Boudicca, Britannia, George and the Dragon…), the World War fighter planes are dwarfed by futuristic helicarriers which hover in the sky like mighty, metal, military toads defying the laws of gravity. Absolute carnage!

October 2008 marks the 30th anniversary of the first pages seeing print in one form or another, and I think what may be most remarkable about this is that Talbot had the drive, ambition and courage back then to embark on it at all. That he then managed to successfully complete such a complex and painstakingly rendered grand narrative of sequential art which the British and American markets at the time were neither ready for nor willing to pay properly for, paving the way for future sales and showing what could and should be done, leaves us as progressive retailers (and others as subsequent comicbook creators), I believe, substantially in the great man’s debt.

Please note: readers of editions earlier than 2007 really won’t recognise what they see here: there are mountains whose delineation never made it onto the printed page and stars will explode in a night that was previously pitch-black – or rather bland grey. For many comicbook readers this is their favourite graphic novel of all time, and they’ll now need another copy to see what it should have looked like.

Talbot wrote to me:

Yes, I was trying to do a Hogarthian scene – though it’s not based on any specific one. I just looked at the page in the Czech edition with a magnifying glass and there’s a lot of stuff in there I’d forgotten – me at the drawing board looking out of the top left window, a woman hanging washing in the BG of the next window along, people pissing and fornicating in the narrow alleyway, an old guy sitting on the steps crushing body lice with his thumbnails (as seen in a plate from The Harlot’s Progress – the prison scene). And I noticed, for the first time, not having gone through this edition religiously, that Vaclav Dort, the publisher, has even unobtrusively translated the graffiti on the walls. I think that the tower is one from the old St Paul’s cathedral – the one that burned down on this parallel in the great fire of London 1666. You can see it two pages earlier in the rooftop scene. That scene is based on a Doré print – ‘cept in that it’s the new St Paul’s in the BG. Likewise before the Battle of London when Rose walks up to Westminster Abbey, it has the domes capping the side buttresses that were replaced on our parallel a couple of hundred years ago.
Best,
Bryan

And now our second feature this evening, HEART OF EMPIRE:

Highly ambitious, very British and totally engrossing work, this uses all the clarity and majesty Talbot found for THE TALE OF ONE BAD RAT.

It is, in fact, thoroughly Shakespearean both in scope and treatment, alternating between high matters of state and street-level bawdiness whilst emphasising the connection through social and sexual decadence amongst the aristocracy and their entourage, and revolutionary aspirations and individual courage in the no-go areas of London. Then there’s the dilemma raging between the individual and his/her role in society, the missing kin, the moment of upheaval and the looming cataclysm – all traditional elements of Elizabethan theatre; it might be stretching it a bit but the parallel worlds could be looked at as foreign territory and the science fantasy element as replacing the role of magic.

As to the story itself, 23 years ago Luther Arkwright saved this alternate reality, leaving behind him a wife, two children and an ambitious empire whose heart is Albion (England), and which has by now conquered most of the known world outside of America. Only the Vatican is allowed a modicum of independence. This world is very much a contemporary of ours – the two US reporters make that clear – but so much of it is Victoria in extremis: the all-consuming, rapaciously greedy imperialism, the vast state expenditure on monument (Talbot’s art here, particularly for the creation of the neo-Crystal Palace and its environs, is awe-inspiring, right up there with Guy Davis but with his own distinctive light and clarity), the seemingly unassailable, matriarchal monarchy, slavery bolstered by racism and apartheid, the hypocritical sexual values forced upon the commoners yet flouted by the well-to-do, flaunting both their bosoms and their catamites. Some sciences have advanced whilst others languish, superstitious prophets and quacks maintaining weight amongst the court, madhouses still the destination of the unstable or politically undesirable.

From the very first page looking out through a Roman window, with its overripe fruit cleaved by a knife, the waste, decadence and latent violence is made patently clear.

Talbot’s anti-authoritarian credentials are well documented (see ALICE IN SUNDERLAND’s substantial post-script), and this work has at its heart a total disgust for inequality, control and corruption. Machinations are rife. Brutality is common. Sycophancy permeates the court. But even so Talbot is not so dismissive as to avoid counter-arguments, and his strength as a writer shines through in his portrayal of the protagonist, for the princess at the heart of the story has a journey to make, and as the story opens she is as cold and aloof as the empire but has made use of its wealth, power and her own talent to build an astoundingly beautiful city, replete with buildings, squares and vistas rarely seen since the Renaissance, and on a scale we don’t even aspire to any longer.

The resources of the many squandered by the few on self-aggrandising, imperialist spectacle…? Well of course, but it’s more than a little tempting to mourn such architectural planning and achievement, especially after Talbot’s pen lines.

The book also boasts some fine Alan Moore-ish LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN mock endpapers, a great deal of explicit sex and I wasn’t kidding about the bawdy humour, so be warned. Okay, back to the plot and an interdimensional apocalypse approaches…

Haha!

Quick reminder that you can find Page 45’s Bryan Talbot interview in our website’s FUN & RESOUCES section. There are several paragraphs there relevant to this including a couple of behind-the-scenes secrets.

SLH

Buy Arkwright Integral h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Opus (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Satoshi Kon.

“So it’s true… my life is someone else’s story…”

Prepare yourselves for a mind-melt!

“Somehow I expected God to have a beard… not two days’ growth.”

You may have read comicbook metafiction before like Grant Morrison’s ANIMAL MAN or Dave Sim’s CEREBUS: MINDS wherein the fourth wall is breached, creator meets the characters and Grant Morrison’s cat becomes copyright DC, but this goes several steps further with a conclusion previously unpublished which… well, we’ll get there, don’t worry.

Satoshi Kon created the gripping graphic novel TROPIC OF THE SEA and directed the anime Perfect Blue which also impressed me no end. (His second film, Millennium Actress, tied with Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away for the Grand Prize in the Japan Agency Of Cultural Affairs Media Arts Festival.)

In terms of comics, however, this is the big one. The second I banged the book open I thought of AKIRA and there’s some serious structural damage going on here too, but the cause is dramatically different.

As the story opens Chikara Nagai’s spectacularly successful manga series, ‘Resonance’, is reaching its dramatic, nay shocking conclusion. Psychics Satoko and Lin are confronting The Masque, a mesmerising religious cult leader of The Nameless Faith. The Masque does indeed go down but takes Lin with him in a blast of pyschokinetic energy that bursts right through Lin’s chest and out of his back. Even its publishers never saw the ending coming, largely because Chikara changed it at the last minute. He’s just shown his editor the rough, pencilled pages.

“Wait. You’re killing off Lin…?”
“Yep.. bang! Epic, huh?”
“Yeah, it’s badass, and I like what you did, but… what happened to Satoko defeating The Masque…? The happy ending… all that?”
“Oh, that. Yeah, I tried a few ideas… but with Lin becoming more prominent in volume three, The Masque got stronger also. Too tough for Satoko to realistically take out… I thought this would make for a big finish.”

His editor trusts him and gives him the go-ahead but…

“I guess everyone has their favourite character… I just hate to see him go out like that.”
“I’m sure Lin hates to go like that, too…!”

And he laughs. Oh, Chikara, so glib, so glib… Those words are going to come back to bite you.

In spite of the deadline pressure Chikara relishes inking the final-page shocker but it does leave him frazzled. There’s a bang and a quake and now a new piece of artists’ bristol board materialises on his desk depicts a narrow shaft leading down with Lin crawling angrily up.

“You’re not getting rid of me that easily, asshole…!”

Several seconds later the comicbook artist finds himself tumbling down this Lewis Carroll-ian rabbit hole and trapped in the very fictional world he created himself but hasn’t quite finished. The Masque is still very much alive and bent on his destruction; Lin – determined to avoid his final, brutal fate – has swiped the book’s final-page splash and is bent on changing the future by destroying his fictional past; Satoko with her own childhood trauma is reluctant to go where no woman has gone before; and Lin’s young, blind, second-sight sister Mei registers what they are all reluctant to accept.

“The truth is that this world is fiction.”

That, I can assure you, is only the tip of this metafictional iceberg destined to destroy everyone’s lives and “lives”. Cracks begin to appear between reality and fiction and within the very volumes of the fiction itself as Lin tears through the pages of the last book to crawl himself into the earlier ones and stop the serial killer who will later become The Masque before The Masque kills the copper who will be reincarnated as Lin.

Look, I told you this would melt your mind.

I haven’t even touched on the logic that if a creator can become trapped in his own comicbook fiction then it stands to reason that fictional characters can break out into reality. A reality which is a fiction, by the way, because this graphic novel was created by Satoshi Kon not Chikara Nagai.

You just wait until the final chapter.

That final chapter, as I say, is new. Just like ‘Resonance’ never gets completed because… oh, you’ll see…Satoshi’s animation career took off so spectacularly that OPUS itself never got finished. Oh, the ironies! The final chapter here was found in Satoshi’s personal files after his passing and is printed in pencils with the script inked-in with the permission of Satoshi’s family.

This is a 350-page monster with incredible depth and I had so much more to report. Pages of notes! Like when Satoko is spotted in our world by a manga fan and assumed to be a cosplayer. When Satoko spies the artist’s girlfriend and realises who she’d modelled on. And when the artist improvises in his own fictional world by grabbing a moped to escape pursuit because his studio artist has put in all the hard work.

Background details! You gotta love ‘em…”

SLH

Buy Opus and read the Page 45 review here

Night Post h/c (£12-99, Improper Books) by Benjamin Read & Laura Trinder…

Like Raymond Briggs’ Snowman meets the Munsters in a true monster mash-up, this wordless yarn will bring a little festive fright cheer into your homes this Christmas. Actually, as our story begins with a typical day like any other drawing to a close, it is clear from the profusion of pumpkins peering out spookily from windows or devilishly illuminating doorsteps that this is around Halloween. But, irrespective of the time of year, the post must go out. So, after a doting dad has settled his precious little princess with a story, it’s out to work, heading off to the ‘Regal Mail’ depot for the late shift. Which is where we get our first hint that the job of the night postie might not be quite so straightforward as during the waking hours…

Past the restricted access door marked ‘Night Post’, down the endless, uneven stone steps to a gloomy dungeon lit only by a flaming brazier, our postie at last approaches a huge wooden door, festooned with elaborate ironmongery. With the aid of the golden key hanging half-hidden round his neck, he gains access into the inner sanctum of… the sorting office… Yes, at first glance you might think this is just a normal bustling posse of posties, sorting their bags and plotting their routes, but look closer… Are those bats hanging from the rafters? Do some of his colleagues look, well, a little ghoulish? Why are there tentacles wriggling out from underneath that desk?! Why is there a crocodile encased in purple paper wrapped paper complete with a lovely red bow perched on top of that desk?!! Still, his workmates give him a cheery wave and welcome him in, like it’s all perfectly normal. And, after some slight difficulties ramming one last huge, bizarrely shaped parcel into his TARDIS-like bicycle panniers, he’s ready to turn those peddles and get posting, which is where the fun-filled fright-fest really begins!

 

 

Ghosts, goblins, witches, werewolves, zombies, vampires, in fact pretty much every horror monster ever conceived, created or indeed brought to life with lightning in a laboratory are on our intrepid postie’s route. Most are delighted to receive their letters and parcels, but there are more than a few that just can’t help reverting to type and trying to munch their messenger immediately after receipt! How very ungrateful of them! Our valiant envoy of the Regal Mail will manage to complete his deliveries of course, rest assured, but there are going to be many an amusing close call along the way!

Ah, this is great fun. I loved reading it to my daughter, who does like her monsters, and hearing her cackle with delight as the postie came ever closer to being somebody’s supper. I say “read”, mind you, but do bear in mind this is a wordless tale. The upside of course being it will stimulate the imagination of children everywhere as their inner narrator gets to work composing a soundtrack and dialogue for the action. The downside is if you’re a knackered dad wanting to get his child off to bed so you can finally relax, you’ll have to put a bit more work in doing a monstrous enough narration to satisfy your audience. Actually I felt rather like I’d put on a one-man Hammer House of Horror half hour homage show by the time I’d finished – PG rated, obviously – but it was well worth it listening to Isabella’s giggles. Trust me, though, doing sound effects for the Creature From The Black Lagoon plays havoc with your tonsils…

So much to admire in the script and artwork here, there are some absolutely brilliant visual gags, such as when you find out that the vampire’s parcel in fact contains a vegetarian cookbook! Ben has really thought through his narrative and Laura has illustrated it to perfection in a style that is a glorious mix of Raymond Briggs and Charles Vess. There is an immense amount of work gone into the storytelling here, which of course is essential if you are going to do a wordless book, but having read more children’s books than I can recall in the last three and a half years, I can truly say this has been produced with so much more love and attention to detail by its creators than most. Adults will get a kick out of spotting all the classic monsters, as I did, and kids will adore the fact that it’s a teeny, weeny bit scary yet utterly ridiculous at the same time. Plus, there is that all important happy ending which I thought was very sweet and touching, actually.

JR

Buy Night Post h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Maleficium (£11-99, Avery Hill Publishing) by EdieOP…

“I DON’T NEED A BATH! I’VE CAST A CLEAN SPELL SO THERE!!!”

Ha ha, very funny. In our house it is usually not wanting to have hair washed and conditioned, because a certain somebody knows as sure as night follows day that the comb will then come out. And when your hair mysteriously likes to entangle itself in Gordian-level knots that even the hoariest of salty sea dogs would find tricky to untie, well, it’s going to hurt. So, a combed hair spell would be ideal.

Parking the preamble and moving on… Huxley Leighton-Lomax is a tiny tot of a wizard. With a cute hat that looks more akin to Wee Willie Winkie’s than Merlin’s, he’s clearly just begun the perilous path of mystic learning. Which probably explains why he’s not aware that feeding the monster under your bed with cornflakes is never, ever a good idea. He thinks he’s just doing his new friend a good turn, which is sweet of him, bless him, but as the monster begins to get hungrier, taking a fancy to Huxley’s little sister, he realises he’s got a serious problem. Unfortunately for Huxley, his dad doesn’t believe for a moment that malicious forces are at work, disrupting their household; he just thinks Huxley’s wild imagination is running away with him causing chaos. So it looks like it’s going to be up to Huxley to save the day and vanquish the monster all by himself! I reckon he’s up to the task…

 

Another exquisitely well produced release from Avery Hill featuring the talents of EDieOP who had a tale in issue #2 of the Avery Hill house anthology READS where I made the point that she has a great sense of fun and also a uniquely endearing art style. And so it is here, in her first longer-form work. There is a lovely sense of mischief in this yarn, you never really get the sense Huxley and his sister are in mortal peril, but the creepy critter inhabiting the house, all black and shapeless with multiple grasping hands, is certainly an intimidating foe for a wannabe wizard of such tender years. Not that Huxley is intimidated, far from it, Huxley doesn’t do intimidated, but initially at least, he really struggles to keep a lid of what is threatening to develop into full blown pandemonium. It’s just so unfair his dad is convinced it’s all just Huxley being naughty!

I do love EdieOP’s art style. It’s rare anyone lets you see all the initial pencil guidelines under their watercolours, but it really adds a sense of depth and motion to her panels. She’s gone for a quite a subdued palette of various hues of blue here, compared to her fairly riotous use of colour in The Story Of Lucius Jellybean (her story in READS about a whole new lifeform created from a dissolved slug), though I completely understand why. As does Huxley once he locates the relevant spook in his wizard’s tome on the Paranormal, as this beastie likes nothing more than to lurk and forment fear from the shadows. A great all-ages read and perfect for terrorising tiny tots as what might be lurking under the bed if they don’t stop wriggling about and fall asleep!

JR

Buy Maleficium and read the Page 45 review here

Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream h/c (£55-00, Locust Moon Press) by a multitude of talented artists.

What a whopper!

This hardcover is so utterly enormous I cannot take it home to review.

It’s not so much a coffee-table book but – pop four stacks of bricks underneath it – a coffee table.

Take a quick gander at this list of creators: Bill Sienkiewicz, J.H. Williams III, Paul Pope, Michael Allred, David Mack, Stephen Bissette, Craig Thompson, Gabriel Bá, Fábio Moon, Peter Bagge, J.G. Jones, Yuko Shimizu and many, many more.

If you’re unfamiliar with Winsor McCay’s original LITTLE NEMO published between 1905 and 1914, the titular chappy was a young lad in pyjamas travelling through his dreams to Slumberland, inevitably waking at the bottom of each page in one panic or another, to be consoled by parent or grandparent.

The concept, character and indeed the very format have all been used, incorporated or adapted to their own works by an extraordinary number of modern creators, most obviously by Gaiman in ‘The Dolls House’ chapter of SANDMAN.

The architecture, the warped scales (everything’s either far bigger or smaller), the perspectives, the design element (gradually elongated, vertical panels climaxing in Nemo tumbling from his bed, for instance), and the figure drawing were nothing short of spectacular, and more often than not a single page will have you mesmerised by a meticulous and improbably successful use of colour and pattern motif (striped shirts, dancing mermaid tails, elephant heads, whathaveyou) perfectly placed throughout the individual panels. Awesome to behold.

Here, have a sense of scale next to UMBRAL VOL 1.

SLH

Buy Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Serenity vol 4: Leaves On The Wind h/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Zack Whedon & Georges Jeanty, Fabio Moon.

I’ll come clean.

Well, I would if this blood would wash off, but we seem to be in Shakespearean “seas incarnadine” season as I commit so many culpable sins on Twitter.

It was Black Friday last, uh, Friday and I felt we had to join in with the special offer that if you gave Page 45 £45 we would give you £45’s worth of comics. Bonanza!

Seriously, retailers: don’t discount! You’re only hurting yourselves. I can honestly say that it drove me to drink – although I did ask to pull over when I saw that the off-licence was offering a two-for-one wine offer. I hate myself.

Sorry, where were we?

Basingstoke. Right…

“In the film Serenity, outlaw Malcolm Reynolds and his crew revealed to the entire ‘verse the crimes against humanity undertaken by the sinister Alliance government. In this official follow-up, circumstances force the crew to come out of hiding, and one of their own is captured, setting them on another mission of rescue and resistance . . . Collects the six-issue miniseries and the 2012 Free Comic Book Day story.”

Okay, yes, I’ll come clean: I’ve not read a word of this nor seen a single second of its on-screen incarnation but you seem to care because we’ve sold pod-loads which is why I mention it now. I might also mention the recent arrival of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER SEASON 10 VOL 1 s/c which seems to tie in this blatant piece of hucksterism.

Potentially brilliant!

I am a capitalist nightmare come true.

SLH

Buy Serenity vol 4: Leaves On The Wind h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Punk Rock Jesus: Deluxe Edition h/c (£29-99, Vertigo) by Sean Murphy.

I can’t get it out of my head.

I started singing “Punk-Rock Jee-sus” to the tune of Captain Scarlet and now that mind-worm is here to stay.

Dun-dun dun de-de dun! Whoo!

Hold this sucker side-on and you will see from all the white that a phenomenal third of this hardcover is extras above and beyond the PUNK ROCK JESUS softcover.

I have never in all my years as a comics reader seen such a wealth of process-piece material whereby you sneak behind the scenes like an errant school-child to see deleted scenes, thoughts in progress, character designs, sketches, thumbnails, self-analysis, concept art, studio photos… This is an artist’s artist edition. This is the Holy Grail!

Which is an interesting analogy given what we’re considering.

What we’re considering is this:

“What kinds of things will he be learning?”
“Math, English, American History, Creationism, Faith Healing.”
“Creationism and Faith Healing? You’re kidding me.”
“Many of our viewers are fundamentalist and would be uncomfortable with their saviour learning about science and evolution.”
“That’s ridiculous! The benefit of a billion-dollar learning centre, and all you teach is dogma?”
“It’s the American way.”

It begins with a prayer swiftly answered by violence. God knows where it will all end.

Ophis Entertainment has announced a new reality show starring the first human clone in history: it’s Jesus Christ himself.

Whether or not the revolution will be televised, the countdown to the Second Coming will! Season one will commence with conception and climax at birth. After that both nature and nurture will be on camera 24/7. Audience figures for the J2 Project will reach 3 billion daily and, in order to achieve those ratings, smarmy Dick Slate will do anything – absolutely anything. The insidiousness begins on day one, and the levels it reaches will stagger you.

First it requires a scientist: Dr. Sarah Epstein, geneticist in service to saving the environment. In 2013 she cloned polar bears in an attempt to stave off their extinction, then developed a hyper plant which fed off carbon dioxide faster than anything else. She even tried to pollinate the Brazilian rainforest before being stung by lawsuits from six fast-food chains. Now she’s determined to engineer new strains of algae to halt global warming but to do that she needs funds.

“And if I have to resurrect Jesus Christ to do it, then I will.”

Next the Immaculate Conception requires a self-sacrificial virgin in the form of naïve 18-year-old Gwen Fairling (presented to the world after some swift cosmetic surgery – teeth, nose, breasts), then some of our saviour’s DNA. And, you know, whatever happens next, this exchange on live television should certainly be born in mind:

“There’s never been any evidence that the [Turin] Shroud is as old as Christians would like to believe. And carbon dating has proven that. Most important here is no one outside of Ophis has been allowed to verify the validity of the DNA.”
“Blasphemy. Carbon dating is flawed – the Shroud is real and that proves Jesus was, too!”
“Is what Father Sterlins says true?”
“There’s no disputing carbon data. And there’s never been any empirical evidence that a person named Jesus Christ ever existed.”
“How dare you! Scientists are not to be trusted! Their arrogance has given us atomic bombs and nuclear waste. They tell us that we all come from monkeys, and insist on telling that to our children.”
“Evolution through natural selection is a fact. Fossil records prove it.”
“Evolution is just a theory!”
“So is gravity.”

Some of the Christian contingent are all for it – it combines their favourite pastimes to perfection – while others like the New American Christians protest vociferously outside Ophis’ island HQ. They’d far rather protest inside the high-tech laboratory turned TV studio, of course, which is where our Irish head of security comes in, born of sectarian violence. Yes, Murphy’s brought Northern Ireland into this already flammable mix: Thomas is a former member of the IRA!

I think it was HELLBLAZER’s Andy Diggle who first said to Sean, “And Vertigo gave this the green light?!?” You’ve got to admire the guy’s guts, for this is as packed as the pulp paper it’s printed on with plot and sub-plottery destined to offend all and sundry. Or delight them. I am totally delighted.

Don’t think this is but a convenient peg on which to hang Thomas’ heart or explain his efficacy, either. The book begins twenty years earlier with his parents’ slaughter right before his impressionable eyes, leaving young Thomas vulnerable to his uncle’s indoctrination. The Irish troubles are addressed and indeed redressed later on – if not in full then certainly in terms of Thomas’ history – and it’s all very far from random.

Indeed every element of this socio-political masterpiece is commendably complex and thought right the way through. For what follows is everything you suspected of Reality TV, taken to the extremes deemed necessary when your star is supposedly the saviour: media manipulation, emotional blackmail and indeed outright abuse, all in service to the ratings.

Gwen’s trajectory is particularly tragic, trapped as she is in this fishbowl for her own personal safety and stuck on a white-knuckle ride she could never conceive of. When she turns to drink (supplied by Slate to “cheer her up”) and mistakenly fills her baby’s bottle up with wine rather than juice, it’s spun as a biblical miracle while Gwen herself sinks even further into self-loathing. As to Jesus “Chris” Christ, fed lies all his life, well, you know what happens when you hit your teens: you take your education into your own hands and it generally begins with vinyl. All his life he’s been shown how to grab the public’s attention, so over the years he’s learned a thing or two and when the worm turns, the tables do too.

As to the art, you’ve already swooned over Sean Murphy on THE WAKE, JOE THE BARBARIAN and HELLBLAZER: CITY OF DEMONS and this is every bit as thrilling in its post-Bachalo, black-and-white beauty – a comparison which holds true right down to the o’er-shaded nose tips. It is so ridiculously rich in detail, from the Irish pub walls to the stadium-sized concerts, that you can only gasp at the sheer graft which Sean has put in. The action sequences are spectacular, for Murphy doesn’t half love his motorbikes and the NAC will seize any opportunity to sabotage the show. Also, when the Flak Jackets strike their opening crash-chords the pages sound as loud as Paul Peart-Smith’s in NELSON. Dear lord, but the energy released is intense.

So has Project J2 really played God with God and cloned the Second Coming into existence? And, if so, will he fare any better than his progenitor at the hands of those who worshipped his deity-Dad? What really happened to that other little miracle, his genetically impossible twin sister snuck in by Sarah Epstein then drowned at birth? And what, ultimately, does Chris himself believe?

“I don’t care whose DNA I come from. The way I see it, I’m the bastard child of America’s runaway entertainment complex.”

Preach it.

SLH

Buy Punk Rock Jesus: Deluxe Edition h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Royal Blood h/c (£12-99, Random House / Vertical) by Alejandro Jodorowsky & Dongzi Lui.

“Hold your tongue, harlot!
“A king is above human judgement!
“He knows neither limits nor taboos.”

Blimmin’ heck, he’s not kidding. This king certainly knows none!

If I were to name those taboos here I could set off so many ranking alerts it’s not true! As to the limits, that’s not the first tongue he’s silenced. Permanently. There’s hands-on parenting and hands-on parenting: this is the wrong sort of hands-on parenting.

This is excruciating and bloody and nudey. I believe the Borgias were better behaved.

The painted art’s rich in detail and just what medievalists tend to love: great big battle scenes, stone throne rooms so vast you can almost hear them echo, and at one point the weather got so chilly on the page that I put on a jumper.

Here’s the publisher:

“A shocking tale of betrayal, lust and warring kingdoms, from acclaimed creator Alexander Jodorowsky! Wounded, betrayed and left for dead, King Alvar returns to his kingdom to regain his stolen throne. Hungry for revenge, Alvar finds himself in the middle of a bloody political game for power. To keep his throne he must crush his enemies who would destroy him with their machinations. But his own horrific appetites may prove his undoing!”

If punching wolves in the face fires you right up, then this one’s for you.

SLH

Buy Royal Blood h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Justice League 3000 vol 1 s/c (£12-99, DC) by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis & Howard Porter, others…

“So we remember… and we don’t. We’re the Justice League… but we’re not.
“Am I the only one who thinks this is the stupidest idea ever?”

Judging by how few people are reading this title in single-issue form, at Page 45 at least, apparently not, but you know what? Everyone else is wrong because this is just utterly hilarious off-the-wall fun. If you ever read Giffen and DeMatteis’ classic JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL back in the veritable day, then you should have had some idea what to expect frankly with quality writing, crackpot plotting and bonkers characterisation. On the other hand, given the relative sales strength, rightly or wrongly, of the other JUSTICE LEAGUE titles, it is perhaps not surprising yet another apparent variation on a theme is falling through the cracks a bit.

So… it is the year 3000 and the Justice League are long dead. So why are Clark, Bruce, Diana, Hal and Barry running around acting like callow imitations of themselves? Well, that might be because the Wonder Twins (no, not those two, thank goodness) have partially successfully cloned our super friends and brought them back from the dead, to fight the encroaching threat of the hive-mind known as The Convert and his ultra-powerful shock troops, the Five, who have taken over the Commonwealth of planets.

It’s a last desperate attempt by the scientists of Cadmus to stave off impending galactic domination, but it’s immediately clear these versions of the Justice League are not exactly like our chums of old. They may have a handful of the memories and some of their powers, sure, but they’ve none of the traumatic yet formative experiences / years of disciplined training, so consequently they’re like five squabbling egomaniacs who seem as likely to punch each other’s lights out as follow the mission parameters. Yet the strange thing is they all know they are acting like complete bickering idiots, but aren’t really sure why. When we finally get the real answer to why they aren’t perfect clones of the originals, it certainly suggests the boffins might have circumvented a few ethical boundaries in their haste to try and save the galaxy.

It’s a great concept, this, from Giffen and DeMatteis, which they’ve clearly thought through and is already providing me with as much fun as I got from the classic JLI material. I hope they manage to keep this title going for a while at least, as it is easily one of the most entertaining titles of DC’s current output, such as it is. Also, really nice art from Howard Porter, who I haven’t seen that much of since he worked on the moderately seminal run of JLA with Grant Morrison and Mark Waid.

JR

Buy Justice League 3000 vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Iron Fist: The Living Weapon vol 1: Rage s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Kaare Andrews.

HAWKEYE’s Matt Fraction and David Aja are a hard act to follow. Their previous run on IRON FIST was a rejuvenating joy.

Fortunately one of comics’ finest chameleons, Kaare Andrews of SPIDER-MAN: REIGN, is no slouch.

He’s using at least four different visual styles so far including an exquisitely rendered black-and-white sequence like freeze-frame footage from a Bruce Lee film lit from the left by an industrial spotlight so throwing Daniel Rand’s body into stark silhouette, indelible on the east but eroded from the west.

He’s channelling Jim Steranko. With elements of SIN CITY there, yes.

“Two apaches descending hard and fast almost drown out the slide of nylon rope and chambered bullets. Almost.
“I draw them away from the girl. The apartments. Away from innocent lives.
“If they’re looking for something to destroy, how about an insurance company?
“I’m assuming they’re covered.”

Daniel Rand is tired and jaded. Numb. He is going through the motions.

He is being interviewed by a young lady “three steps out of a journalism degree, subsidized by Mommy and Daddy, enabled by a pretty face”. He is aware of the flattery yet prone to her interest not to mention her young, pretty face. So he tells of his childhood wrenched from home and into blizzardous mountains but seconds away from an avalanche by his father’s mad-eyed obsession with the mythical city of K’Un Lun. The expedition didn’t end well.

Now he’s in bed with her because, whatever, he’s earned it.

But whether sat opposite in the restaurant, brushing his teeth both before and afterwards or lying catatonic beneath Debbie / Barbie / Brenda or whatever her name is during sex, he remains robotic-eyed, close to drooling.

That is, until the helicopters strike.

I’d quote you the restaurant monologue in lieu of actual conversation which is hilarious in its relentlessness and slide towards size but please pick up the comic instead.

Once upon a time these satellite C-list series were mere filler while the big guns blazed well ahead. Now there seems so much invested in the five million Avengers titles to fuel its films’ fires that they’ve become self-indulgent, turgid and impenetrable. I prefer these far more accessible and individualistic series when given to creators of note, like LOKI and MS MARVEL and MOON KNIGHT – and of course YOUNG AVENGERS before them.

For more about Iron Fist himself, please see my review of THE IMMORTAL IRON FIST: COMPLETE COLLECTION VOL 1 and buy Fraction’s book: it’s a killer.

SLH

Buy Iron Fist: The Living Weapon vol 1: Rage s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Inhuman vol 1: Genesis s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Charles Soule & Joe Madureira, Ryan Stegman.

In which a cloud of Terrigen Mist is sweeping across the world, changing humans into Inhumans.

“You really need to think about a change.”

A change, you say? Did you know there is a cloud of Terrigen Mist sweeping across the world, changing humans into Inhumans?

“Change. Pfft. Easy to say. Hard to do.”

Not when there’s a cloud of Terrigen Mist sweeping across the world, changing humans into Inhumans.

“I’m on a track, with no way off. I know it’s not what I’m supposed to be. I can feel something better for me, I just can’t find it.”

Don’t worry, it’s heading your way, sweeping across the world as a cloud of Terrigen mist. Look, it’s on the TV in the next panel, and it’ll be with you on the next page. That’s, like, so ironic.

Drivel.

As to the art: horrible. Especially the colours by Marte Gracia who has made this as impenetrably murky as ULTIMATES vol 3.

I recommend MS MARVEL. That series is brilliant.

SLH

Buy Inhuman vol 1: Genesis s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

 

Here h/c (£25-00, Hamish Hamilton) by Richard McGuire

I Blame Grandma sketched-in (£4-99, self-published) by Joe Decie

The Cats Of Tanglewood Forest s/c (£5-99, Little Brown) by Charles De Lint & Charles Vess

Cochlea & Eustachia s/c (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Hans Rickheit

Hansel & Gretel h/c (£12-99, Bloomsbury) by Neil Gaiman, The Brothers Grimm & Lorenzo Mattotti

Just The Tips h/c (£9-99, Image) by Matt Fraction, Chip Zdarsky & Chip Zdarsky

Marshal Law s/c (£22-50, DC) by Pat Mills & Kevin O’neill

New Lone Wolf & Cub vol 3 (£10-50, Dark Horse) by Kazuo Koike & Hideki Mori

The Shaolin Cowboy s/c (£14-99, Burlyman) by Geof Darrow

Slaine: Books Of Invasion vol 1 h/c (£13-99, Rebellion) by Pat Mills & Clint Langley

Spectrum vol 21 s/c (£25-99, Flesk) by various

Wasteland vol 10: Last Exit For The Lost (£10-99, Oni) by Antony Johnston & Brett Weldele, Sandy Jarrell, Omar Olivera, Christopher Mitten

Zenith Phase Two h/c (£18-99, Titan) by Grant Morrison & Steve Yeowell

The New 52: Futures End vol 1 s/c (£29-99, DC) by Brian Azzarello, Jeff Lemire, Dan Jurgens, Keith Giffen & Patrick Zircher, Ethan Van Sciver, various

Red Lanterns vol 5: Atrocities s/c (£14-99, DC) by Charles Soule, Antony Bedard & Alessandro Vitti, Yildiray Cinar, Miguel Angel Sepulveda, various

Dorothy And The Wizard In Oz s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by L. Frank Baum, Eric Shanower & Skottie Young

Thor God Of Thunder vol 3: The Accursed s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Nic Klein, Ron Garney, Das Pastoras

Wolverine: Origin h/c (£22-50, Marvel) by Paul Jenkins & Andy Kubert, Richard Isanove

Assassin’s Creed vol 5: El Cakr h/c (£8-99, Random House / Vertical) by Eric Corbeyran & Djillali Defali

News!

ITEM! Gary Phillips & Marc Laming’s graphic novel THE RINSE to become a TV series. This pleases me enormously, especially if Page 45 gets to keep its San Francisco branch. Seriously, Page 45 is in THE RINSE! In San Francisco. Ask me in-store and I’ll show you!

ITEM! Calvin & Hobbes doing a little animated dance! We love CALVIN & HOBBES. And stock it too!

ITEM! New interview with Bryan Talbot with loads of behind-the-scenes insights into the world of GRANDVILLE including the fourth book reviewed above!

ITEM! Angoulême 2015 prize nominees announced! Includes so many of my favourite graphic novels!

ITEM! THE NAO OF BROWN Competition Time Winner! A couple of weeks ago we asked you which ridiculous faux pas I managed (out of a career of so very many) when it came to Glyn Dillon’s THE NAO OF BROWN signing in our Georgian Room at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014. The clue was I came clean in that very blog. This is 15 minutes prior to the signing:

Just as I’m getting very, very excited in walks this well-handsome man with a gentle demeanour and asks how we’re doing.

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

And this lovely, lovely oh lovely man says, “Who on earth do you think I am?”

The winner, drawn by ATOMIC SHEEP’s Sally-Jane Thompson, is the lovely oh lovely Leigh Hobson who now owns this sketched-in copy of THE NAO OF BROWN. Hurrah!


ITEM! “I’ve handed in scripts where instead of writing Hepzibah I typoed Hezbollah, which is a very different kind of X-men story where an entire political organization is sleeping with Cyclops’ Dad.” THE WICKED + THE DIVINE’s Kieron Gillen writes about what he sees as his scripts’ shortcomings, and is as entertaining as ever.

ITEM! One of comics’ finest-ever colour artists, Bettie Breitweiser (Ed Brubaker & Steve Epting’s period spy thriller VELVET and so much more), pays tribute to her right-hand man Eduardo Navarro, no longer with us.

ITEM! The ever-erudite Damien Walters exhorts science fiction authors to up their already considerable literary game to compete with video games. Brilliant article and overview.

ITEM! The Guardian First Book Prize goes to Colin Barrett’s Young Skins. In case you’ve forgotten it once went to comics’ own Chris Ware for the graphic novel JIMMY CORRIGAN. Oh yes!

ITEM! Loved GOLD STAR by John Martz – still available in print. John Allison calls it one of the best comics he’s recently and posted the link to read GOLD STAR online.

ITEM! Christmas Shopping At Page 45! Yes, I could do with updating the recommendations there but the key points still apply! Tell all your friends and family that, if they bring wish lists to the counter, we’ll find those graphic novels for them or – if they want fresh recommendations for out-of-the-blue surprises – we love, love, love providing shop-floor show-and-tells tailored to your taste!

Christmas shopping made easy and interactive at Page 45!

Someone write me a jingle.

- Stephen

 

 

 

Page 45 Reviews November 2014 week four

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

It is a searing yet effortlessly jolly satire which clops along at a cracking pace with President Nixon addicted to dropping bombs from drone planes as if playing a video game.

 - Stephen on Joe Sacco’s Bumf

The Dream-Quest Of Unknown Kadath (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by H.P. Lovecraft & I.N.J. Culbard…

One of my  favourite Lovecraft yarns, this, featuring heavily as it does Nyarlathotep, he of a thousand forms and indeed mangled pronunciations.

Ian did try and instruct me in the correct pronunciation when he popped in to sketch in all our copies but unfortunately my dulcet northern tones were not able to effect the correct enunciation, which is probably just as well as I have insufficient sanity points to begin with and can scarce afford to lose any more through an injudicious summoning of the emissary of the Outer Gods…

Note: at time of typing all of those sketched-in-for-free copies have gone so the moral of the story is “Pre-order, please…!”

I do like how each of these four Lovecraft adaptations demonstrate a very different aspect of the Cthulu mythos and H.P.’s writing. I have commented upon it before but AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS is a real Boys’ Own Adventure, THE CASE OF CHARLES DEXTER WARD a puzzling whodunit, THE SHADOW OUT OF TIME a piece of pure science fiction and a real Rosetta Stone to understanding the mythos, and then this, a veritable hallucinogenic Alice in Wonderland nightmare of a trip to the darkest recesses of the human mind, to the dimensional spaces beyond those we can normally access in our waking lives.

I think this tremendous variety in the scope of his writing is partly the reason why Lovecraft has endured. That and we all love being scared senseless. In many ways, though he is not beyond some outright in-your-face horror when required, Lovecraft frequently taps into humanity’s deepest and most complex subconscious fears, that of losing the sense of self, one’s sense of identity, our very coherence of reason itself, by the mere suggestion that there is far more to this world, this unimaginably vast, cold universe, than meets the eye. That in those spaces which we can sense but cannot see, there are beings that lurk, so alien, to encounter them directly would be enough to destroy the delicate balance of one’s mind forever. At least one such victim does shop at Page 45, I think, and he once engaged me in a conversation regarding Lovecraftian characters in such a manner I was left thinking he quite believed they were absolutely real… I kid you not.

[Editor: he told me he began reading Lovecraft aged 4. It showed.]

That very variety and complexity also means Lovecraft is very hard to adapt, of course. In every case I think Ian has done an incredible job deconstructing the work, really allowing the core story to stand out in a manner which makes it sufficiently rich and rewarding enough for the aficionados but also completely accessible for the neophytes. I would be astonished were there not readers out there who have been occasioned to commence reading Lovecraft prose on the basis of encountering these adaptations.

So… Randolph Carter begins to search for the hidden city of Kadath because he has dreamt three times of its glorious spires but awoken each time abruptly just before he can reach it. Repeated prayers to the gods of dream go unanswered, even for the next issue of SANDMAN: OVERTURE to finally arrive, but Carter resolves to find Kadath, no matter what the cost.

What follows is a strange, shifting journey, that on the face of it makes no sense at all, but viewed within the confines of the sleeping world seems not so fanciful at all. Along the way he will encounter strange entities and apparitions, some rather less friendly to travellers than others, and also the sinister Nyarlathotep in more than one of his many guises. Carter, desperate to tread the streets of the hidden city at last, is rather more trusting than he really ought to be. Obsessed, he starts to believe that there could be no possible fate worse than not reaching Kadath. He ought not to be so sure about that…

I can imagine this may well have been the most fun of the adaptations for Ian to undertake, from the perspective of the illustration, because there are the elaborate soaring sequences of pure fantasy which must have been a true delight to envisage. In fact, the book is arguably simply one long fantasy sequence. It’s certainly not as dense or intricate a story as many of his others, a fact which Lovecraft acknowledged during his lifetime, but it is an immensely vibrant, fevered construction, which engenders a sense of both wonderment and unease in the reader, and Ian captures this beautifully with his stygian, soporific cast and wild dreamscapes and netherworlds.

The wonderment comes because we are willing Carter along on his extraordinary journey, but also significant unease because we can see his most fervent desire is blinding him to both obvious dangers at virtually every turn, but also the malevolent, manipulative wiles of others, not least Nyarathotep. Will Carter finally reach Kadath? Well, you wouldn’t want me to spoil it for you would you? Suffice to say nothing is quite as it seems, with an ending that is in some ways as puzzling as it is enlightening, which I think is very appropriate indeed for the resolution to this most unusual of quests.

A true triumph once again, this adaptation, and I personally think Ian deserves great praise indeed for his own unique addition to the Cthulu mythos, which I believe all true Lovecraft fans will rightly hold in the highest regard.

JR

Buy The Dream-Quest Of Unknown Kadath and read the Page 45 review here

Nicholas & Edith (£6-00) by Dan Berry.

“Come with me to the island tonight.
“We will be alone, just me and you.”

All our copies are sketched in for free!

A haunting tale of love and longing, this is a million miles from THE SUITCASE’s sublime suburban comedy and closer by far to CARRY ME or THE END. Nevertheless it marks another departure for Dan Berry’s ever-evolving art.

NICHOLAS & EDITH has attracted an even wider chorus of voices to shout out in praise of Dan Berry than ever before. HELLBOY: MIDNIGHT CIRCUS’ Duncan Fegredo was in awe of this taut, disciplined and perfectly paced, lovelorn lament.

In a small village by a vast lake Nicholas and Edith are in love. Their parents disapprove of their relationship for no better reason than a petty family feud. To be together they must therefore find sanctuary away from the spying eyes and tattling tongues of the idle-minded villagers.

And there is an island, you see, an island on the lake.

It is an object of local superstition involving some so-called spectre of doom but you know what close-knit communities are like. You know how local legends endure. You know how parents keep their children in check: with a little elaboration and fear.

But when you’re in love you can see right through these things, so one evening when the waters are calm Nicholas rows Edith to the island. They find a clearing in the trees overshone by the serene, silver light of the moon.

“I love you.
“I want you.
“I need you.”

I will say little more except think Becky Cloonan (THE MIRE in particular). When you’ve read this through once you will want to start again from the beginning immediately.

Entreaties are reprised word-for-word like echoes. Reproachful echoes, you could argue.

Visually, things are done with Edith’s hair. Oh, how how I wish I could say what they were! I want to holler so loud about Dan Berry’s craft. What I am praying for shortly is something longer-form so that I can do so without giving too much away.

So let’s pull back to the first two pages.

In the very first panel with its aerial view of the village by the lake we are subtly shown in short-hand so much: that the houses of different elevations have no gardens but instead open up on the streets. These streets boast modest pedestrian courtyards like Venice and other European towns and are planted with trees here in their autumnal colours. It’s beautiful. But there is very little privacy. Everyone is evidently straight in each other’s face.

On page two the script doesn’t say so but the art implies that Nicholas is a builder of boats and Edith sells fish. It is a fishing village after all. Neither is particularly important to the plot except that Nicholas has access to rowing boats but my point is this: Dan Berry understands succinct storytelling in comics: that the image can convey much that the written word can therefore skip past and move immediately on to that which is salient.

The washes are looser than usual and I like that. I’ve always loved loose washes. I cannot believe this was accomplished in a mere 24 hours, pre-planning or no. But it was, as part of Dan Berry’s masterful, multi-creator 24 Hour Comics Marathon for The Lakes International Comic Art Festival.

This prolific pioneer is a miniature British Comics Industry in his own right, just like John Allison. I heartily recommend you pop them both into our website search engine… but then let them out immediately so they can start drawing again.

SLH

Buy Nicholas & Edith and read the Page 45 review here

Bumf vol 1 (£12-99, Jonathan Cape) by Joe Sacco.

”There’s been a serious fuck-up.”

No kidding.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth etc and it was all pretty splendid. It was a veritable Eden.

He did make one tiny cock-up as Anders Nilsen makes clear in THE MONOLOGUIST: GOD AND THE DEVIL AT WAR IN THE GARDEN:

He created man.

Years later, then, we’re about to go over the proverbial top in more senses than one. WWI. This is The Final Push:

“At the first whistle the men shall remove their books and uniforms and other articles of clothing.
“At the second whistle, the men shall sport massive erections.
“At the third whistle the men shall advance on The Hun trenches.
“The enemy is to be killed where he is found, and not just killed – the enemy is to be buggered.
“I want to be quite clear about that last point.”

As you may have gathered by now, this is not the Joe Sacco you know from JOURNALISM. Well, it is, but if you want more PALESTINE may I recommend FOOTNOTES IN GAZA, possibly my favourite Joe Sacco so far? This isn’t even BUT I LIKE IT which was early extracurricular activity as a rock and roll roadie.

BUMF – which has a sub-title we collectively decided need not grace our website – is a surreal and scathing satire on modern America, its Homeland Security, neo-Imperialist shenanigans, other military activity and war in general. It is no coincidence that the cast co-starring Joe Sacco, cartoonist, gradually divest themselves of clothes and pop lovely little cloth bags over their heads Abu-Ghraib-Prison-stylee. Or have it done for them.

A female American citizen-suspect, for example, is being interrogated (naked, with a lovely little cloth bag over her head) because Homeland Security became all bent out shape by her inactivity: they picked up no mobile phone signal to trace and track and she breached all modern surveillance standards by buying a pint of milk with cash rather than credit card. Not exactly hard evidence of culpability, the agents concede, but hardly proven innocence, either. Round her up, strip her, tie her to a chair and pop a lovely little cloth bag over her head! There’s tidy!

Here’s President Nixon (it works: this may be modern America in the dock but which President was last successfully impeached?) all at sea with his enablers and a wolf, disposing of an inconvenient dead body discovered in his bath tub.

“Does anyone know of an appropriate prayer, something from the scriptures, perhaps?”
“Afraid not, sir.”
“Well then, I’ll do my best… Man overboard.”
“Amen.”

I’ll come completely clean: I opened this up and did not like what I saw. I saw a lot of male and female full-frontal nudity and however keen I am on male full-frontal nudity as a personal pleasure I don’t really do ribald and assumed that this was that. It is not: it is a searing yet effortlessly jolly satire which clops along at a cracking pace with President Nixon addicted to dropping bombs from drone planes as if playing a video game.

“Our hearts go out to the families,” he solemnly declares in situ from his portable podium.

Moments before he clusterbomb-fucks those families.

THE GREAT WAR, Sacco’s most recent triumph, is reprised in an even more savage double-page spread of trench warfare but on the whole this is a very different beast come round at last to Britain to be born, with each cheeky chapter signed in with variations on the theme of “By Joe “Heart And Humanity” Sacco ©2014”.

What a book! What a man! Infinitely more youthful and handsome than he makes out in his self-portraits, by the way.

SLH

Buy Bumf vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Syllabus: Notes From An Accidental Professor (£14-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Lynda Barry.

“When I start feeling too concerned that all the words I write be very smart and about something worthwhile, I find my urge to write replaced with an urge to draw monkeys.”

Me too.

From the Wise Woman of Comics who brought you the inspirational WHAT IT IS and PICTURE THIS about rekindling creativity (but who also brought you the horrific yet hilarious fictional FREDDY STORIES) comes a lined school jotter of further artistic endeavour.

It’s a collection of notes, drawings and lessons Barry kept during her first three years teaching in Wisconsin-Madison University’s Art Department. Collated non-chronologically, they are still reproduced exactly as they appear in those journals and bound into a round-cornered, card-stock journal giving the effect of a facsimile.

It’s all about questions, exploring and demystifying art, how words and pictures are arrived at and what conditions best suit their construction, their… manifestation. The Image Lab, for example, is a shared space where individuals work on words and pictures in each other’s company – like Dan Berry and his fellow creators during the 24-Hour Comics Marathon – with Lynda wishing to examine what happens in that environment and why.

Many prose authors notoriously seek sanctuary in seclusion, while many artists thrive on sharing studios. Discuss.

“What is the difference between awareness and attention?” That sort of thing. Where do cartoon characters come from? Also, how long do pictures take to make a drawing? The answers aren’t as obvious as you might imagine.

As the title suggests there are plenty of tasks Barry set her students like sketching the same image within 3 minutes, 2 minutes, 1 minute, 45 seconds, 30 seconds, 20 seconds, 15 seconds, then 10 seconds and finally 5. Keeping diaries she finds essential but not necessarily traditional ones, as you’ll see. It’s all about observing what’s around you, and memory and recollection have always fascinated Barry (see WHAT IT IS and PICTURE THIS).

There are posters advertising her various classes to potential students emphasising that being able to draw is not a prerequisite for signing up but being willing to and desiring to are essential. There’s an emphasis on the exploration of the mind and on completing handmade compositional notebooks by the end of the semester (“⅓ of your grade”).

Fascinatingly there’s also a page in which she asks herself what qualities she seeks in a student (maximum twenty per class) and the questions she’ll ask them in order to assess whether they’re likely to benefit from the course and are therefore suitable. There are the questions you’d expect about academic history and indeed future plans, but also:

“What were some of the books you read as a kid?”
“What were some of the games you played?”
“Who was your favourite elementary school teacher? Why?”
“Who was your least favourite elementary school teacher? Why?”
“Was there an object of thing that disturbed you as a kid? Why?
“How do you feel about writing by hand?”

Well, I know how my colleagues feel about my writing by hand!!!

Oh, and then there are the dreaded grades but the homework looks enormous fun. I think I’ll do some of it right now with a glass of white wine. I wish I could do that at school. I wish we were set this sort of homework!

SLH

Buy Syllabus: Notes From An Accidental Professor and read the Page 45 review here

Princess Ugg vol 1 s/c (£11-99, Oni Press) by Ted Naifeh…

“The word you’re looking for is diplomacy.”
“Eh?”
“What you’ve come for. A means to put an end to war. I can teach you.”

How on earth to describe this work? It’s like a teenage Red Sonja attending a finishing school for Princesses because she wants to learn how to win friends and influence people, yet continually making social faux pas after faux pas, whilst all the brainless mean girls – who just want to marry a prince and pop out heirs and spares – bitch amongst themselves relentlessly about her. That really is it in a nutshell!

Obviously our axe-wielding heroine gets the meanest, most vain princess of all for her roommate, neatly setting up an ongoing farce of continually clashing opposites, though our two protagonists do gradually begin to earn each other’s grudging respect by the conclusion of this first volume. He does like his outcasts doesn’t he, our Ted? I think fans of COURTNEY CRUMRIN are clearly going to love this work. It is of considerably more knockabout humour for sure, mind you, though not as outrageously daft as, say, RAT QUEENS.

 

 

The gorgeous, wide-eyed expressive art style will be familiar to Crumrin fans too, and hopefully win Ted a legion of new fans because he is wonderfully talented. He’s one of those artists whom you find yourself gradually spending more and more time with, just taking in the art as you go along page by page because you start to spot some lovely detailing, which then inevitably leads you to spot some more, and then you start to realise just how much work he’s put in. This is a fun opener of something which is just that little bit different and promises to entertain and amuse in equal measure.

JR

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

Neurocomic h/c (£14-99, Nobrow) by Dr. Matteo Farinella & Dr. Hana Ros…

“No! I’m not ok! I’ve been lost in a forest, swallowed by a neuron, parachuted into a swarm of monsters and now I’ve almost drowned…
“What else is going to happen!?
“Who are you anyway?
“What’s going on in this submarine?”

Indeed. Perhaps I should let the captain of the submarine explain…

“Relax, my friend, you’re safe. I’m Sir Alan Hodgkin and this is my partner, Sir Andrew Huxley. Together we have been studying how a neuronal signal is actually generated. Here, let me show you…
“Look: electricity! This is the real secret of the brain!”

Have you ever wondered just how on earth the old grey matter works, but couldn’t be bothered wading through a textbook or even a copy of New Scientist? Then this is the graphic novel is for you. Much like the excellent EVOLUTION: THE STORY OF LIFE ON EARTH and THE STUFF OF LIFE: A GRAPHIC GUIDE TO GENETICS AND DNA this work takes what is, on the face of it, an extremely complex topic and illustrates it in a witty yet illuminating fashion.

The creators, both Doctors, have gone for a kind of FANTASTIC VOYAGE approach as our unsuspecting wanderer is unexpectedly miniaturised and popped inside a human brain. All without even the aid of even a single Pym Particle! He’s not entirely left to fend for himself, though, for as he goes through each stage of our current knowledge of the physical structure of the brain and how it works, he is guided by the very scientists who discovered that particular functionality. Often there are a couple of the blighters, arguing about precisely who was responsible for the discovery or how they debunked the others’ theories. It’s a lovely little conceit that allows the creators to provide a historical record of the development of our understanding of this most complicated of organs, and also give some well deserved exposure to the people behind the scalpels and microscopes.

As the book moves on, and we reach the modern era, we come to some of the more intangible elements of our cranium and the conundrums and queries faced by today’s scientific minds, such as precisely what is consciousness, where does it arise, is there an unknown component beyond what can be purely explained by the physical? Big questions, which the creators wisely avoid putting forward their own suppositions for because, as they state, the golden rule of science is not making too many assumptions about the unknown.

There will be those that think this work doesn’t go far enough in exploring the nature of the brain and mind but, to be frank, they need to be less lazy and pick up that textbook, because as a wide-reaching introduction to the topic, aimed I would suggest at a fairly broad age spectrum, I think it is an excellent primer. Importantly, it’s written and illustrated in an exciting and engrossing manner that will hold the attention of readers, all the while informing them of the salient points, plus slipping in some very amusing visual gags along the way. I did particularly chuckle at the panel suggesting the existence of the narrators of the book relies on the brain of the reader, illustrated by a panel of someone reading UNDERSTANDING COMICS by Scott McCloud and having the proverbial light bulb turn on inside their head! Very funny.

Respect also I think to Nobrow for publishing this work. I know they work extremely hard to maintain an extremely high quality of output on the imprint and I think this book, whilst certainly rather different in content to other graphic novels they have published, is an excellent choice. And, as ever, with a Nobrow book, it just looks like a piece of art, with its navy blue cloth binding and intriguing silver and gold cover artwork. It certainly attracts the eye, and I can imagine many a casual browser will be lured in, light bulbs a-twinkling inside their bonces.

JR

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

Saga Deluxe Edition vol 1 h/c (£37-99, Image) by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples.

“Bookgasm.”
“Don’t get too excited, they’re mostly review copies. Younger writers are always looking for “blurbs”, one of the few words that sounds exactly as awful as the crime it’s describing.”

Bookgasm is right!

This glorious hardcover reprints the first three softcovers with additional process material in the back as Brian, Fiona and their various cohorts show you down to the most minute detail how a single issue of SAGA is creating from beginning to end. By “beginning” I mean Brian shutting himself off in his shed (it’s probably not a potting shed: I bet it has heating at least and far fewer spiders) and maps out each page in a single sentence before sitting down to write a full script.

It’s at this point he bursts into tears and pulls all his hair out. Ummm. So that’s how that happened.

It’s a relief to know that something that seems so effortlessly brilliant actually involves sweat and tears – actual tears. As well as a great deal of editing.

Fiona takes you through her own process from the clearest of thumbnails – you can see exactly what’s happening to the fully “painted” pages minus everything than the lettering. Although young Hazel’s narration? That’s Staples too.

And then there’s the cover and its design and the thought that goes into that blew me away. Sorry…? You want to know about the story itself,,,?

It’s beautiful, funny and completely unpredictable. New readers, I present you with… previously in SAGA:

Alana and Marko are in love. She’s from the planet Landfall; he’s from its moon. Unfortunately their people have been at war for as long as anyone can recall. But both factions soon realised that either world’s destruction would cause the other to spin out of orbit. Such an assault would be suicidal.

So what they’ve kindly done is they’ve taken their fight to other people’s worlds. Which is nice.

Marko was sent to the frontline, didn’t like what he saw and surrendered. Alana was his captor and freed him. Each, therefore, is now on the run from their respective species for treachery, desertion… and blasphemy. Because, worst of all, they’ve successfully mated to produce a beautiful baby called Hazel. This unholy union is despised by all sides and for morale’s sake – to ensure no one else gets the wretched idea that love might be better than hatred – all traces of it must be eradicated.

Marko’s people have dispatched The Will, a phenomenal assassin with a Lying Cat. It is a cat that can tell if you’re lying. Problematically, it has Tourette’s Syndrome so it is likely to say so right in the middle of your poker-faced bluff. Alana’s people have dispatched Prince Robot IV from a race of walking, talking, fornicating television sets. You’ll be surprised what pops up on his screen.

But Marko and Alana have at least found sanctuary in a semi-sentient, wood-based rocketship along with an impromptu babysitter from what’s left of Cleave’s indigenous population. She’s a floating, glowing, pink ghost of a girl with her lower half missing, trailing her intestines behind her.

Finally they arrive with Marko’s abrasive mother at the doorstep of monocular D. Oswald Heist, the avuncular author of the subversive romance novel that first brought the couple together. He has much to impart: wisdom, wit and cunning ways to win at board games.

He’s singularly smart at ensuring hot heads see eye to eye with him, even winning over Marko’s mother by being candid when it counts.

“They say it’s the worst pain imaginable, losing a child. But that wasn’t my experience. Don’t get me wrong, my son’s death just about destroyed me. But if I’m being honest, nothing will ever hurt quite so deeply as the moment I heard the first person I ever really loved was gone. But I don’t need to tell you that, do I?”
“I wear it that plainly?”
“I’m guessing you lost him recently. For what it’s worth, your son will get better with time. And maybe you will, too. But if your spouse was anything like mine, I regret to inform you that the rest of your days will be, by and large, kind of shit.”

Vaughan has enormous fun using this author scenario to poke fun at himself via Heist who first presents himself to the family outside his lighthouse lurching under the influence with a gun in one hand, a bottle in the other, and urine-stained Y-fronts splayed between a dressing gown whose loose belt trails over the rocks beneath his pink-slippered feet.

“Over the years, we met every kind of person imaginable. But no one makes worse first impressions than writers.”

I cannot even quote what Heist says to earn that accolade, but you will guffaw. Like everything here it is handled with delicate – or even indelicate – aplomb by Staples, as is a later scene in which Alana has managed to strike the fear of God into Heist to the extent that his hands close weakly in tentative terror, held up almost in supplication. How has she done this?

“If you like kids’ books so much, why haven’t you ever written one?”
“Because it requires collaborating with an artist. And artists… terrify me.”

The Will, meanwhile, is nursing his ship’s wounds on a planet that seems like paradise, even if its flying fish are sharks which circle overhead. The age-old problem with paradise, of course, is that you have to be very careful what you eat. Haunted and taunted by his dead ex-girlfriend, The Will also has to contend with Marko’s ex-fiancée who doesn’t handle rejection very well. Nor unsolicited attention, for that matter. I really wouldn’t do that, The Will.

They have with them a girl whom The Will rescued from sexual slavery in SAGA VOL 1. She is bright, optimistic, yet suffering from the scars of what she was once made to do. In related news: the best-ever use of the Lying Cat which will elicit the biggest of “Awwws” from each of you and maybe a few choked-back sobs.

All our protagonists will converge before the end of this chapter which, I would suggest, concludes Act One. As surprising as anything and everything that precedes it, I think you will love the punchline.

SLH

Buy Saga Deluxe Edition vol 1 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Lazarus: The First Collection h/c (£25-99, Image) by Greg Rucka & Michael Lark.

Containing LAZARUS VOL 1 s/c and LAZARUS VOL 2 s/c this is one of our Dominique’s favourite current series. It just gets better and better and bigger.

We’ll get to the story in a second, but the extras here which you won’t find in those softcovers include an intro by Warren Ellis, a process piece on this edition’s cover by Owen Freeman, writer Rucka “On World Building”, then the world which he built in the form a map.

Carved up by the families (and, wow, Family Carlyle control more of North America than I realised but not all areas are equally strategic), the atlas is followed by those sixteen families’ profiles, series designer Eric Trautman’s essay on the representation of computer screens and finally all those telling advertisements which say so much about this new world’s priorities.

Anyway.

I swear this will speak to you: a series centred on family, loyalty and power.

In the very near future America’s economy has imploded, its political system has collapsed and its State structure has melted away, replaced by territories ruled by families with the most money. Money buys food, money buys guns and money buys people.

It is a feudal system, an archetypal pyramid structure with each Family at the top, a selected few Serfs with key skills in the middle, and the Waste toiling the land or eking out whatever living they can with little or no protection while paying a punitive tax.

The Family Carlyle have invested heavily in augmentation technology, bestowing it on daughter Forever who now acts as their ultimate protection. She’s been trained to the peak of human physical fitness in both armed and unarmed combat. She has enhanced regenerative capabilities closely monitored and backed up at base.

 

But in LAZARUS VOL 1 someone sent Forever a message:

“HE IS NOT YOUR FATHER.
“THIS IS NOT YOUR FAMILY.”

This is where it gets really juicy.

Out in rural Montana, farmers Joe and Bobbie find no help forthcoming as their land is deluged with rain, the river bursts its banks and their home along with everything they own is swept away by the flood. Leaving their land means losing it, but they see no other option than to journey 500 miles to Denver in the hope that their daughter Leigh, their son Michael and his girlfriend Casey be elevated to Carlyle Serfs in the next Lift Selection in a fortnight’s time. They will have to compete with 100,000 others for very few places, but first they will have to survive bandits roaming the open country.

Meanwhile, Forever discovers corruption in the Guard Corps and an active terrorist cell whose attentions seem focussed on Denver where the eldest Carlyle son Stephen is overseeing The Lift. And then there’s that message:

“HE IS NOT YOUR FATHER.
“THIS IS NOT YOUR FAMILY.”

I think I know who sent it.

Flashback to the Southern Sierra Nevada Facility where a young Forever is in training:

“I’m trying to remember… when was the last time I saw her, James?”
“On her birthday, Mister Carlyle… so just over five months ago.”
“Then this should be a pleasant surprise.”
“I’m sure it will. Forever! There’s someone here to see you.”
“DADDY!”

A thrilled Forever throws herself across the lawn, hugging her father at the waist, her beaming face pressed against his stomach.

“I’m so happy to see you! No one told me you were coming!”
“And is this the proper way to greet your father?”

She steps back, head bowed, ashamed.

“No, sir. Sorry, sir. It’s a pleasure to see you again, father.”

 

I said this was a series about family and power. That and subsequent scenes are very telling: Carlyle doesn’t want Forever’s love; he demands her loyalty instead, using her status as a family member – and a subservient one at that – to consolidate it. He sets her in combat against her skilled trainer, Marisol, and though she acquits herself well, Forever fails.

“I think we both know your apology is meaningless. Our enemies would not hear it, because you would be dead. Your mother and I and your siblings would not hear it, because we would likely be dead too.
“You’re not ready to wear the sword. I wonder, in fact if you should be allowed to wear the name Carlyle at all. The next time I visit, you will defeat Marisol… or you will no longer be permitted to call yourself my daughter.”

In a later visit he even addresses her as “my daughter”. Who does that except royalty, and in the expectation of obeisance?

Forever’s relationship with Marisol is very touching, their mutual affection strained not for one second by what they are commanded to do or ordered to endure. They endure quite a lot.

As for Bobbie, Joe, Leigh, Michael, and Casey, one of them too will discover harsh truths about the Carlyle family, the Lift Selection (Rucka’s really thought that through, including scanning for physical impairments not for automatic exclusion but so that they can be compensated for during the tests if easily corrected at a later date), but above all they will witness first-hand how much loyalty is prized above all else.

LAZARUS would be immeasurably poorer without artist Michael Lark, here with Brian Level and colours by Santi Arcas.  He does youth – as well as age, wear and tear of which there is much – phenomenally well. There’s both a natural softness (vulnerable is not a word I’d employ) and a resilient determination in the younger Forever’s face and posture. Her body may be slight, but it is already precociously capable, Lark giving you no doubts whatsoever about that.

I’ve always loved Lark’s urban landscapes, but here he proves master of hard-earth textures and sweeping, country panoramas even within a third-of-a-page panel overlooking the rain-drenched procession towards Denver. Arcas’ subtly clouded skies are worth poring over too.

As for the crowded camp scenes at a distance, those are so, so tricky, but Lark pulls them off with the exact amount of detail a human eye would be able to take in and no more.

I will shut up now before I’m accused of gushing.

SLH

Buy Lazarus: The First Collection h/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

Oh, the stuff Neil knows!

The third of four volumes celebrating the breadth and depth of SANDMAN’s rich cultural texture, specifically THE SANDMAN #40-55 along with THE SANDMAN SPECIAL #1 and ‘How They Met Themselves’ from VERTIGO: WINTER’S EDGE #3. Just like ANNOTATED SANDMAN VOL 1 and ANNOTATED SANDMAN VOL 2 this measures 12″ x 12″ and comes in at roughly 550 black and white pages with plenty of space in the margin for the annotations.

Klinger’s previous annotated editions of Sherlock Holmes books have won awards but Gaiman always joked to his friend that he didn’t want SANDMAN annotating until after his death. Then Neil realised he was beginning to forget things. Armed, therefore, with an electronic archive of the scripts, notes and correspondences, Klinger’s own considerable knowledge and Neil as proof reader to correct any errors and point out new secrets, Klinger went away, sat down and delivered this: a casket of hidden treasure that could have been buried forever, now unearthed and unlocked for anyone who cares to marvel at it.

There are notes from Gaiman himself plus historical, geographical, medical, mythological, literary and other cultural references explored. For more please see my review of ANNOTATED SANDMAN VOL 1

SLH

Buy Sandman: Annotated Sandman vol 3 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Orange British Bee Greetings Card With Seed Packet and Yellow British Bee Greetings Card With Seed Packet (£3-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson.

  

Well, aren’t these two honeys?

[Ed: I suspect they are bumbles]

Are you a melittologist, now?

[… No…?]

Then let us continue. Aren’t these two honeys?

The Orange British Bee appears to be sitting sedately and gorging on nectar. Perhaps you are lucky enough to have a farmhouse rose bush like I do, which flowers at least twice a year if you prune it properly. From May to September it is consequently covered in bees very much like this happy chappy. “Nom nom,” he is saying, though I am translating from “Bzzzzzz”.

I have a degree in bee.

The Yellow British Bee by contrast could be almost in flight or maybe he’s just contemplating it. He may be feeling drowsy after being knocked-up on nectar. I’m not normally so gender-specific but I’m on a roll since I correctly identified Simone Lia’s young FLUFFY as a boy bunny rabbit – fifteen years before Simone decided herself!

Also, I have a degree in bee and there are no princesses, only queens. Maybe there are some handmaidens, but I don’t think so. I only managed a Second.

Anyway, if you don’t have a ridiculously rampant rose bush like mine, maybe you’d still like to please your bees? Pleased bees buzz louder than their more disconsolate cousins.

Thinking ahead, therefore, our own Jodie Paterson has popped in a packet of wildflower seeds for you to sew in your garden or sprinkle over a flower pot which you can then balance precariously on your window sill, thereby adding a certain frisson of potential slapstick / litigation if ever it should fall from your four-storey, two-inch-wide ledge onto the naked noggin of Mrs. Dribble-Swift of 13 Calamity Close who famously fails to wear a builder’s hardhat even while walking to work.

Each card, printed on the most luxurious cream-coloured watercolour stock, comes with a sympathetically coloured beige envelope which itself has the texture of a wasp nest’s regurgitated pulp. Fibre in a diet is important.

SLH

Buy Orange British Bee Greetings Card With Seed Packet and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Yellow British Bee Greetings Card With Seed Packet and read the Page 45 review here

Grey Fox Greetings Card and Red Fox Greetings Card (£2-75 each, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson.

  

Aren’t these cousins cute?

I’m not convinced they’re actually cousins.

I only took Biology to A Level – and even then the scientists begged me to leave for the Arts (just like the Arts begged me to leave for the Sciences) – but I’m pretty sure these must be two different species. I don’t think it’s the same as a blonde boy marrying a sable-haired lady and their daughter or son turning out to be red-head then the in-laws accusing all and sundry of rampant infidelity. I don’t think it’s like that at all.

Both designs are exquisite.

The red fox’s ears are pricked right up, constantly scanning the countryside for sounds which might indicate a desperately desired winter-food source and perfectly valid prey close at hand.

That, or a blast of triumphalist trumpet indicating that a salivating swarm of over-privileged poshos are about to descend on it with rabid killer-hounds in order to rip it – plus its much-loved mate and children – limb from fucking limb just for the sheer bloody ballyhoo scream of it all.

Hahahaha, fuck you, foxes!

No, these are both beauties, the grey fox’s left ear (right as we perceive it) coming around like a cat’s in sympathy to sound it’s attracted to.

Both are printed on watercolour stock and come with an envelope equally classy in stock.

Nature: she is a thing, is she not?

SLH

Buy Grey Fox Greetings Card and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Red Fox Greetings Card and read the Page 45 review here

Mistletoe Christmas Card and Candy Cane Christmas Card and Christmas Stocking Card (£3-50 each, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson.

   

Limited editions, each of these three festive cards comes with a spangly, gold-foil envelope.

Oh my days, but the attention to detail here!

Printed on thick, vertically ridged, cream card-stock, each of these three limited-edition Christmas cards sent by you to your loved ones will say this:

“We think you’re worth more than a trite country snowscape reproduced at tuppence a pop.”

The sort of thing where the young man is patronising the lady he’s courting by holding her midriff, supporting her fumbling, flailing attempts to ice-skate round a townside lake whose ice probably ruptured mere minutes later with the town’s entire citizenship plummeting into the freezing-cold waters thus annihilating two if not three generations, and consequently leaving the town’s turkeys to burn themselves dry in the oven so that even the scampish scavengers rejected by the local orphanage fail to find so much as one juicy morsel.

“We would never send you one of them. You’re special. We love you. Also, we know that your letter box is tiny.”

That’s what any of these three limited editions will say to your friends.

What you say inside is entirely up to you.

I like the mistletoe best.

Mistletoe is poisonous, isn’t it?

SLH

Buy Mistletoe Christmas Card and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Candy Cane Christmas Card and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Christmas Stocking Card and read the Page 45 review here

Baby It’s Cold Outside Christmas Card (£3-00, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson.

It really is.

And what a cool card!

I adore the calligraphy perfectly positioned above the chilly blue snowflake; yet somehow the slogan’s “Baby” makes everything much, much warmer within. Don’t you feel that too? A little love goes a long way and this warms the cockles of my freezing-cold heart.

It’s deceptively simple yet inspired. Compositions as clever as this make my art-soul grin.

I must ask our Jodie how she came up with this, but not while she’s packing those eighteen graphic novels you ordered from us as Christmas presents because Swansea is a long way from Shoreditch and we must not distract her. We have a 48-hour order-to-door service to maintain.

Did I just throw in some advertising? I am a capitalist nightmare come true.

Watercolour stock with envelope. Classy!

SLH

Buy Baby It’s Cold Outside Christmas Card and read the Page 45 review here

King Shiba Inu and Robin Hood Shiba Inu and Fez Shiba Inu and Top Hat Shiba Inu Greetings Cards (£2-50 each, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson.

  

Printed on a light cream watercolour stock and coming with a crisp white envelope, each of these pink-tongued puppies has a hat on its head.

I don’t know why: you’d have you ask Jodie.

I asked our Jodie and she said, “Can you pass me the Sellotape, please, Stephen?”

Which is very polite and fair enough: we are very busy at Page 45!

They aren’t actually puppies, that’s an expression. But I’ve never heard of this breed so I turn to Wikipedia instead.

“A small, agile dog that copes very well with mountainous terrain, the Shiba Inu was originally bred for hunting. It looks similar to and is often mistaken for other Japanese dog breeds like the Akita Inu or Hokkaido, but the Shiba Inu is a different breed with a distinct blood line, temperament and smaller size than other Japanese dog breeds.It is one of the few ancient dog breeds still in existence in the world today.”

There you go!

Doesn’t explain the hats, though, does it?

  

SLH

Buy King Shiba Inu Greetings Card and read the Page 45 review here

Buy and Robin Hood Shiba Inu Greetings Card read the Page 45 review here

Buy Fez Shiba Inu Greetings Card and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Top Hat Shiba Inu Greetings Card and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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


American Vampire vol 6 s/c (£10-99, Vertigo) by Scott Snyder, various & Rafael Albuquerque, various

Andre The Giant: Life And Legend (£12-99, First Second) by Box Brown

Arkwright Integral h/c (£45-00, Dark Horse) by Bryan Talbot

Axe Cop vol 6: American Choppers (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Malachai Nicolle & Ethan Nicolle

Grindhouse Midnight vol 2: Bride Of Blood | Flesh Feast Of The Devil Doll s/c (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Alex De Campi & Federica Manfredi, Gary Erskine

Hinterkind vol 2: Written In Blood s/c (£10-99, Vertigo) by Ian Edginton & Francesco Trifogli

Incredible Change-Bots: Two Point Something Something (£14-99, Top Shelf) by Jeffrey Brown

Infinite Vacation h/c (£18-99, Image) by Nick Spencer & Christian Ward

Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream h/c (£55-00, Locust Moon Press) by a multitude of talented artists

Oz: Road To Oz s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Eric Shanower & Skottie Young

Punk Rock Jesus: Deluxe Edition h/c (£29-99, Vertigo) by Sean Murphy

Royal Blood h/c (£12-99, Random House / Vertical) by Alejandro Jodorowsky & Dongzi Lui

The Shadow Hero (£12-99, First Second) by Gene Luen Yang & Sonny Liew

Star Wars vol 4: Shattered Hope (£12-99, Dark Horse) by Brian Wood, Zack Whedon & Carlos D’Anda, Facundo Percio, Davide Fabbri

Batman And Robin vol 4: Requiem For Damon s/c (£12-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, Cliff Richards

Batman Eternal vol 1 s/c (£29-99, DC) by Scott Snyder, Jason Tynion IV, various & Jason Fabok, various

Batwoman vol 5: Webs s/c (£14-99, DC) by Marc Andreyko & Trevor McCarthy, Jeremy Haun, various

Catwoman vol 5: Race Of Thieves s/c (£13-50, DC) by Ann Nocenti, John Layman, Sholly Fish & Patrick Olliffe, Tom Nguyen, various

Justice League: Trinity War s/c (£14-99, DC) by Geoff Johns, Ray Fawkes, Jeff Lemire, J.M.DeMatteis & Doug Mahnke, Ivan Reis, various

Deadpool vol 6: Original Sin s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Gerry Duggan, Brian Posehn & John Lucas, Scott Koblish

Inhuman vol 1: Genesis s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Charles Soule & Joe Madureira, Ryan Stegman

Attack On Titan: Junior High vol 2 (£12-99, Kodansha) by Saki Nakagawa

Bleach vol 62 (£6-99, Viz) by Tite Kubo

Blue Exorcist vol 12 (£6-99, Viz) by Kazue Kato

Claymore vol 25 (£6-99, Viz) by Norihiro Yagi

Fairy Tail vol 44 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Opus (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Satoshi Kon

Soul Eater vol 22 (£8-99, Yen) by Atsushi Ohkubo

News!

ITEM! Fascinating and thrilling process piece by Sean Phillips on creating a stunning HELLBLAZER cover from start to finish!

ITEM! Wonderful Worle School starts filling up a display stand Page 45 sent them with the manga we supplied! Page 45 loves, loves, loves school libraries and school librarians. Young Adult Graphic Novels for Schools And Families as of May 2014 with links to our library services for all ages and demographics!

ITEM! Stephen Collins’ latest comic for The Guardian starring Tony Hart’s plasticine Morph. So sad.

ITEM! So UKip wins a second seat. But not really – it was another incumbent Tory who’d merely switched sides from Covert Xenophobic Party to Overt Xenophobic Party. However, the rise of the right is undoubtedly happening again so here’s Tom Humberstone’s incisive and insightful five-page comic, Hostile Environment.

ITEM! LOVE VOL 1: THE TIGER looks pretty fearsome. There aren’t enough wildlife comics (ah, how fondly I remember Mike Zulli’s PUMA BLUES, sadly unavailable since as far back as Page 45 opened). Due early 2015, you can read an interview with artist Federico Bertolucci on LOVE: THE TIGER here with a preview underneath! And if you are a wildlife fan and can’t wait, there’s always Brian K. Vaughan’s PRIDE OF BAGHDAD.

- Stephen

Page 45 Reviews November 2014 week three

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

To build something truly epic in scale, grandiose in both concept and construction, you first need to have a vision, then the indomitable will to carry your plans to completion over a vast stretch of time, no matter what the obstacles or difficulties you encounter.

- Jonathan on Robert Moses The Master Builder Of New York City

The Wicked & The Divine vol 1: The Faust Act s/c (£7-50, Image) by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie with Matthew Wilson.

Reach out and touch faith…

Popstars on their pedestals: that’s where we place them in order to worship, just as we used to old gods. Mass hysteria really is nothing new. Add in unhealthy hubris and the confluence of ideas here makes perfect sense.

There is little more likely to drive me to ecstasy than a gig.

“Her eyes scan the front row like the sun rising and setting. Oh god. Oh god.
“The girl to my left passes out, hyperventilating. The boy to my right falls to his knees, cum leaking from his crotch. She’s not even looking at them. She’s looking at me. I swear, she’s looking at me.”

I love Amaterasu there, her black eyes blazing with the corona of a solar eclipse.

Amaterasu is a relatively new pop goddess already catalysing the sort of tearful, screaming crowd hysteria formerly generated by the likes of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Duran Duran; commanding a Bowie-like level of devotion which inspires one to dress up and make up to match. Also: generating all the cynical, scornful nay resentful press coverage that can come with it. Paul Morley is a very clever man, but he can also be the world’s most crashing bore.

The difference is that Amaterasu isn’t just a pop goddess in Smash Hits terminology, she’s a pop star who claims that she really is a goddess and she’s not alone. There is a pantheon of them performing gigs separately, each with a shtick of their own – which is fabulous marketing.

And that’s all today’s interviewer sees: a sophisticated advertising campaign built around bullshit. Mythological claptrap. Pretention. Dissemblance. To Cassandra – a journalist with a Masters in Comparative Mythology – the very idea that Amaterasu is anything other than Hazel Greenaway from Exeter is preposterous. She did her thesis on The Recurrence and she’s taking it all very personally.

The Recurrence is supposedly this: every ninety years twelve gods are born again, assigned to young extant lives by their keeper, the ancient Ananke, a woman wizened with age but graceful and quiet with a steely resolve. Throughout the flux – the rise and the fall – Ananke appears to be the one constant. And yes, there is a fall for in two years each god will be dead: immortality doesn’t last forever. But for those two years the twelve gods will blaze as bright as the sun before burning out. Surely that price is worth paying.

Cassandra remains unconvinced and in is giving Amaterasu a hard time which really gets the most vocal of the pantheon’s goat. That would be Lucifer, by the way, the devil herself.

“Please. The empress of stupid is annoying me.”
“Do you know what I see? Kids posturing with a Wikipedia summary’s understanding of myth. I see a wannabe who’s never got past the Bowie in her parent’s embarrrassingly retro record collection. I see a provincial girl who doesn’t understand how cosplaying a Shinto god is problematic at best and offensive at worst. I see someone who’s been convinced that acting like a fucking cat is a dignified way for a woman to behave!”

All of which is witnessed by seventeen-year-old Laura – last to pass out, the first to wake up – who has lucked into Lucifer’s favour and been taken under her wing. Suddenly the ultimate fangirl finds herself very much on the inside. And so, shortly, will Luci…

I love Luci: sexy, slinky, positively sybaritic. As styled by McKelvie she is the ultimate in androgyny, immaculately dressed in pressed white. As scripted by Gillen she is an arch, knowing merchant of mischief but beneath the velvet veneer there is something sharp and a little brittle waiting to break. Oh yes, it’s called a temper.

From the creative crew behind PHONOGRAM and YOUNG AVENGERS and the writer of Ancient Greece drama THREE, the first issue moved startlingly fast in a flash. For a writer who relishes wit-riddled repartee – and provides plenty here packed with musical winks and nudges – this is quite the “fuck, no!” jaw/floor thrill, and you just wait for the final fifth chapter’s wham/bam double punchline. I nearly wet myself.

Without giving the game away (which is what someone usually says when they are about to give the game away) McKelvie and Wilson have come up with multiple special effects involving dots, rays and flat, spot colour to make the more miraculous moments stand out a mile from the warmer, graded pages. Who decided what is always difficult to discern with Team Phonogram, but there is some gorgeous design work on display as well (hello, Hannah Donovan!) from the swoonaway cover and its logo to the make-up and most especially the recurring round-table / constantly ticking clock of symbols, each denoting the twelve gods’ current status. After each major act it’s updated depending on whose hour has come round at last. Study it closely and infer what you will.

As ever with Gillen there’s many a contempory pop culture reference – and I don’t just mean music – like Twitter DMs and “snapchats” and the odd naughty crack in that febrile fourth wall as when Laura starts Googling the gods on her mobile. This is what pops up:

“SITE WITH NO RELEVANCE
“Blah blah blah…

“ANOTHER SITE WITH NO RELEVANCE
“Yet more blah…

“AM I GOING TO HAVE TO
“GO ONTO THE SECOND
“PAGE OF SEARCH
“RESULTS? OH GOD. NO.
“This is turning into homework…”

Laura, by the way, is visually modelled on Gillen’s good friend Leigh Alexander, one of games’ most insightful journalists who campaigns eloquently and relentlessly for individuality, diversity and creativity in her chosen craft very much like Page 45 does for comics.

Meanwhile if I misread Baphomet and The Morrigan’s subterranean tube-station appearances as The Sisters Of Mercy’s Andrew von Eldritch and Patricia Morrison, well, there’s none-more-goth than me.

There are loads of post-show, back-stage extras like the covers, Nathan Fairbairn’s fresco in all its full glory, the series’ two-page teaser plus a four-panel photo-comic starring Kieron Gillen ska-dancing into a shop Madness-stylee in order to pre-order his copies of THE WICKED + THE DIVINE. Sage advice, wondrously rendered and almost worth the price of admission alone.

What is any live performance, however, without an encore? I won’t tell you why Lucifer is remanded into custody but it’s that which propels this first epic act. Here she is at Her Majesty’s Pleasure, being visited in Holloway Prison by Laura:

“Now I know you must feel terribly teased we didn’t consummate our flirtation, but this screen makes it somewhat tricky. Intangible cunnilingus is beyond even my abilities. That said, I’ve never tried. They do say I’ve a wicked tongue… Do you have a cigarette? Or cocaine? Ideally cocaine?”
“Nuh-uh.”
“Not even a little bit of cocaine?”
“Nuh-uh.”
“What kind of teenager are you that you don’t have Class A Drugs to hand? Hmm? Has The Daily Mail been lying to me?”

Tuned in.
Turned on.
Drop doubt.

It’s time to get recreational.

SLH

Buy The Wicked & The Divine vol 1: The Faust Act s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Art Schooled h/c (£14-99, Nobrow) by Jamie Coe…

“I wish I was still there.”

Ha, not sure how much of this material is autobiographical, quite a bit I suspect, given the final-page reveal which had me chuckling yet again, but in any event what a brilliant exposé of the bizarre and otherworldly place the art school is, populated as I had always suspected almost entirely by people who are either utterly fake, completely weird or indeed some hybrid fusion of the two.

Dan, our hero of sorts, is neither and thus feels extremely uncomfortable upon his arrival, convinced that everyone will think he is an unsophisticated country bumpkin. In reality he’s just being himself but, parachuted unarmed into what seems like an insane asylum, populated by beings from another planet (not least of which being the tutors) whose initial advice on the actual subject of art seems well, somewhat… subjective… at best, it’s understandable how a lad away from home for the first time could feel a little unsure of himself.

Ah, Jamie Coe perfectly captures that sense of leaving home for the first time and heading to University, as it was for me rather than art school though, trust me, the Chemistry department of Nottingham circa 1990 was also populated by some very strange characters… No one knows anyone else, everyone is desperate to impress, and there’s more cheap booze and readily available drugs than you could possibly have imagined in your wildest dreams. Recipe for continuing your hitherto hard-won education in a stately manner, no, but having the time of your young life, oh yes!

But back to the matter at hand: young Dan is gradually finding his feet, getting used to the different categories of weirdo amongst his fellow students and interpreting the nonsense and gibberish as ‘taught’ by the tutors, when a certain young lady takes his eye. She seems keen to be friends, even after he’s knocked out by the falling sculpture of a pair of breasts, but not so keen as to become his girlfriend, which is a conundrum a hormone-laden young chap like Dan finds particularly disconcerting. I wonder if there’s a reason why she’s blowing hot and cold with him, like an arsehole of a boyfriend lurking somewhere perhaps…?

Not content with being a great storyteller, Jamie Coe is also a brilliant artist. I shouldn’t be surprised, I expect no less from a Nobrow-published creator, but still, I can’t believe this is a debut work from such a young man, it’s such an accomplished piece. He already has a complete handle on panel composition, page layout, pacing. I can only imagine how good he can become. There’s no skimping anywhere, the amount of work that’s gone into every single panel is impressive indeed. There were numerous sequences that got me chuckling, not least the classroom sequences with the cringe-worthy tutors, but it’s Dan’s depiction of his student colleagues that had me creased with laughter. There’s a genius sequence where he breaks down the myriad different self-manufactured ‘brands’ of art student and their archetypical fashions and generic foibles and it just had me in stitches.

This work is so, so much fun, an outstanding piece of contemporary British comedy. If you had a riot of a time back in your student days, you’ll no doubt find yourself reminiscing as you read this, but it’s when Dan is focusing on the absurdity of art school and its inhabitants that this work really does hit the heights. As satirical social commentary on this particular corner of the <ahem> art world goes, it’s absolutely on the money. Oscar Wilde may have famously opined “life imitates art far more than art imitates life” but I think if he’d have read ART SCHOOLED, he might have had to revise that opinion.

JR

Buy Art Schooled h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Marx h/c (£13-99, Nobrow) by Corinne Maier & Anne Simon…

“Karl Marx, hello.”
“Hello.”
“So, what’s new?”
“Struggle, always struggle.”
“Struggle… always struggle.”
“Yes! Struggle.”
“Karl Marx, where would you place yourself?”
“Hmm. I’m not a Marxist, I know that for sure.”
“So what do you think about Marxists then?”
“I wanted to found a science not a sect.”
“Happiness, for you, Karl Marx, what is that?”
“Happiness… I’ll tell you, Chateau Margaux 1848. You can’t get more red than that! Cheers!”

So, the really weird thing about this excellent, even-handed biography of one of the most important socio-political pundits of relatively recent times is the fact the artwork minded me slightly of KING ROLLO, and his sidewise, gangle-limbed leaping gait. I could try and make some spurious case as to why it is also an accurate socio-political comparison, given Marx’s wealthy family background, but frankly it would be pushing it, even for me, and also more than a little unfair on the great man.

For me, this biography is up there with FEYNMAN for its part-enlightening, part-amusing depiction of someone who, by his own admission, was desperate to be an agent for social change, or at least be known as such. I wonder what Marx would make of his legacy as it is perceived these days? I think for those in the know, particularly in the academic arena, there is no doubt he is held in the highest regard for his contributions to economics, the social sciences, and indeed philosophy. In fact, I don’t doubt that were he alive today he would be occupying an endowed chair at some esteemed seat of learning, rather than eking out an existence, reliant on donations and unbelievably fortuitously opportune multiple inheritances from various family members, to supplement the meagre royalties from his published works.

That he spent his life espousing socialist revolution is probably how he is best known amongst the public at large. How successful he was, in inspiring others rather than taking direct action himself, is open to debate, but there is no doubt that his was an extremely powerful voice at the time, earning him the wrath and opprobrium of various western European rulers and governments. That he believed that capitalism was a despotic creation whilst desiring to live in the lap of luxury, enjoying the finer things that life could offer, is not so well known, and I think this is where and why this particular biography sheds light on the all-too-human side of the great thinker. It also portrays him as the undoubted family man that he was, notwithstanding his fathering a child by the family’s maid…

I think what would displease Marx most about our current world would be the apparent absolute stranglehold capitalism has over such a large swath of the populace, and I am pretty sure he would raise a knowing eyebrow and sigh a weary sigh if he were to read Darryl Cunningham’s SUPERCRASH, but I think he would also be mightily encouraged by the relative freedom of speech we enjoy today compared to his era, and also comparatively comfortable lifestyle the majority of the working and lower-middle classes enjoy. It is exactly the sort of lifestyle he himself aspired to: a warm place to live, food (and wine) on the table, and decent medical facilities available to all. (Not getting into any sort of discussion about the NHS or Obamacare etc. etc. here, merely making a comparison between the 1800s and modern day).

This work does a fantastic job in educating readers regarding the politics and struggles of the day, that Marx faced in constructing and communicating his ideas to the masses, and also the fun and failings of someone who was ultimately only a human being, not an icon, despite how he might be revered and championed, rightly or wrongly, by some today. The fact the creators manage to do it with such humour and panache right throughout, it all seeming like one gargantuan political newspaper cartoon, is proof you can do a riveting biography on what could be a very dry subject indeed, if you know how to bring your subject to life.

JR

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

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

“I don’t know how one of the kindest people I’ve ever met came out of human garbage like you.”

Ouch. You should see the way Ryan’s Dad’s shoulders stoop in the wake of that pithy put-down. He deserved it, though.

EXPECTING TO FLY #1 was a belter. Set inextricably in Britain, 1996, it saw Shelley Winters cope with loss, Ryan Beckwith attempting to cope with an errant yet distracting Dad, and Tim Jones sailing through school with flying colours. It was smart, sassy, bright and breezy with barely a hint of what’s in store here.

Oh my days, this is dark!

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still as funny as ever: John Allison’s timing on each page released first online, one at a time, is immaculate. Sometimes the punchline is verbal, often it’s visual, but every page comes with one which makes the final printed copies amongst the tautest comics ever released. Same goes for the man’s BAD MACHINERY. Pop in him our search engine and see what crops up. At the moment John’s comics are all on our counter corner and shooting out.

It all looks so casually done but you can only look this casual when your craft is rigorous. Expressions like bewilderment, mock self-righteousness, delight and despair are matched only with the flamboyance of gestures or tiny, telling postures. I also loved the panel in which Tim tries to explain the mysteries of light physics, folding his arms into a prism so dispersing white light into a refracted spectrum, and the sequence when Shelley starts smoking and her hard-earned halo is left to drift off into the sky.

 

Everyday observations are lobbed in like they’re obvious but aren’t. Ryan’s been looking after Shelley and here takes her fishing.

“I brought you a bacon and egg sandwich. Thought you might need some strength.”
“Oh, you SAINT.”

Shelley starts munching.

“Ryan, I think fishing is cruel. I don’t know if I wanna catch a fish.”
“You’re basically eating a piglet’s dad and a chicken’s son.”
“They had it coming.”

Meanwhile, Ryan’s home work has been suffering on account of his dad’s self-indulgence, taking him out to the pub and getting him drunk on Ryan’s own pocket money. But if you imagine he’s been led astray so far, you haven’t seen anything yet. Then there are the repercussions of Tim’s elaborate act of kindness in helping Ryan grasp basic physics and by the end of this comic everything has changed at home, at school, at work. I wasn’t expecting that at all. Radical.

As a bonus John Allison has spent both issues winking at 1990s’ Marvel Comics on the covers and within, emulating their monthly marketing page with a mock editorial and check list of comics like SURFEIT (*snorts*) and a 12-issue mini-series which spins out into other titles called ENTER THE TAXMAN.

“Every year, the IRS turn me inside out. They work me over like a sailor’s Johnson on shore leave. I heard that possession is 9/10 of the law, but try telling that to them!” There lies the inspiration but you won’t believe it impacts on Scary Go Round’s other titles!

Lastly, back to the fishing expedition and Shelley is curious.

“Have you ever caught crabs?”
“Don’t spoil this.”

SLH

Buy Expecting To Fly #2 and read the Page 45 review here

Robert Moses The Master Builder Of New York City (£15-99, Nobrow) by Pierre Christin & Olivier Balez…

“Have no fear of change as such and, on the other hand, no liking for it merely for its own sake.”

- Robert Moses.

“Cities have the capability of providing something for everyone, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”

- Jane Jacobs.

To build something truly epic in scale, grandiose in both concept and construction, you first need to have a vision, then the indomitable will to carry your plans to completion over a vast stretch of time, no matter what the obstacles or difficulties you encounter. Clearly then, you have to be single-minded, perhaps to the point of being bloodily so, both in terms of your certitude in the face of dissent and disagreement from others, and also in terms of the sacrifices you are prepared to make, on your own part, but also what you will put others through, just to achieve your aims. Robert Moses, a man I would imagine very few of us have ever heard of, was just such a man.

For a period of around forty years, between the mid-1920s and ‘60s, Robert Moses effectively built up complete control over the planning and implementation of any and all construction in New York City be it housing, civic centres, roads, bridges, tunnels plus all the other general infrastructure that allows a city to function. He managed to head various bodies directly controlling vast amounts of income such as road tolls, millions upon millions of dollars, to effectively have the complete autonomy to create whatever he wanted.

 

And so he built what we know as modern-day New York. Inevitably, of course, his star ultimately began to fade, as there were the failures as well as the many successes which affected his public popularity, plus his by-then rampant ego causing as much damage for himself as anything else. There were dissenting voices all along the way, not least the strident Jane Jacobs, also accusations of racism against the black communities, but it wasn’t really until the mid ‘70s, when he himself was in his mid-80s, that the wider public opinion, informed by a Pulitzer Prize-winning biography revealing much about the man himself, finally turned vehemently against him. Though over further time that eventually softened and a strong legacy does endure. Undoubtedly he shaped the New York we know, I think most impartial and informed commentators would agree, both for better and for worse, but what we have today is certainly his vision.

I bought this work in without knowing anything about Robert Moses; I did so entirely on viewing a few exquisite pages of the art which Nobrow had posted on social media, of iconic scenes such as Times Square and the Flatiron Building. Ironically, it was at the Flatiron Building – or the Fuller Building to give it its correct name – where a young Moses volunteered his services to the then administration in the early 1920s. It was an invaluable yet frustrating lesson of the quagmire of politics bogging down progress. Something that no doubt played its part in Moses’ dogged determination to circumvent any outside interference whatsoever in his grand schemes by those with political power.

It’s fitting, actually, that a biography about such an extraordinary man is illustrated so beautifully. I could talk all day about what I’ve learnt about Robert Moses, when I should be raving about Olivier Balez’s art. It has a wonderfully elegant period feel, of a city on the cusp of radical change, both architecturally and also socio-economically with the turbulent forces of the Great Depression of the ‘30s rapidly followed by World War 2, then cataclysmically shaken up again by the swinging ‘60s.

Balez neatly encapsulates the enormous divide between the ‘20s era Gatsby-esque socialites colonising Long Island, oblivious and probably uncaring for the most part, of the deprivations faced by those less fortunate of their not too distant fellow citizens, whose conditions you’ll clearly recognise if you’ve ever read much Eisner. It’s also clear that a desire for social justice did drive Robert Moses to a degree, though how much of that was forged purely by his sense of disenfranchisement from the social elite by his own Jewish heritage is debatable.

But one thing is clear, he was an advocate of social change, and that change in his eyes, could only be achieved by rebuilding the city to his design. As we move forward in time, Balez captures the huge changes in the landscape: architectural, politically and socially, shifting seamlessly back and forth between the changing skylines and construction sites, bustling street scenes and character studies of the locals and bigwigs alike in an understated palette of ochre, pastel blue and other such subtle tones. This work is a fitting testament to Robert Moses, I think, because it succeeds so admirably in its epic portrayal of a man and his city, for the long decades it was simply his.

JR

Buy Robert Moses The Master Builder Of New York City and read the Page 45 review here

Graveyard Book Graphic Novel vol 2 s/c (£12-99, Bloomsbury) by Neil Gaiman, P. Craig Russell & P. Craig Russell, Scott Hampton, David Lafuente, Kevin Nolan, Galen Showman.

Nobody grew up in a graveyard. And it seemed very normal to him.

A man called Jack killed his parents and older sister but Bod was adopted by ghosts in a graveyard and Silas, a tall, gaunt man who lived by night with skin as pale as the moon.

In the GRAVEYARD BOOK GRAPHIC NOVEL VOL 1 Bod learned all sorts of practical things like how to open Ghoul Gates and survive Night-Gaunts, along with more important lessons about caring for others at all costs. But by and large he did so in a leisurely manner. His night gown seemed to grow with him over the years, but now it’s time to put aside childish things because the men who had his parents killed are coming to kill Bod.

It’s time to grow up in every conceivable manner, and Bod will have to do that very, very fast, using everything he’s learned so far.

After a single introductory chapter drawn by David Lafuente involving an aborted attempt to attend school and a very persistent bully – plus a very funny sub-story about a young man who died furious because as an apprentice he’d been tricked into going in search of red-and-white-striped paint! – this is a startling change of pace with BOOKS OF MAGIC’s Scott Hampton carrying the weight of the book as it charges towards its climax. Scott’s lines are thinner than usual and the chapter’s quite pallid – genuinely scary.

P. Craig Russell returns with Kevin Nowlan and Galen Showman for the finale and it’s devastating in a different way but I’ll leave you to find out for yourselves.

I love the way Gaiman uses language apposite for whomever it concerns. For example, “Miss Euphemia Horsfall and Tom Sands has been stepping out for many years”. You wouldn’t use “stepping out” in a current context but it works for them: Euphemia lived between 1861 and 1883; Tom died during The Hundred Years War. “The couple seemed to have no troubles with the difference in their historical periods.”  That made me smile. And think.

SLH

Buy Graveyard Book Graphic Novel vol 2 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Jampires (£6-99, DFC Books) by Sarah McIntyre, David O’Connell.

“There’s no Jam! yelled Sam.
“This doughnut’s all wrinkly!
“This doughnut is jamless and dry!
“Someone has got to this doughnut before me and sucked out the jamminess! WHY?”

I don’t know!!! It is an outrage!!!

Mum swears it wasn’t her and it probably wasn’t and Dad is adamant too. The cat’s looking nonchalant so I’m slightly suspicious, but then that’s what a cat tends to do.

Sam sets a trap using doughnuts at night and peers from his sheets, underneath. The trap’s quickly sprung with two critters caught fast and look at their twin shiny teeth!

THEY’RE JAMPIRES!!!

Well, you can’t really blame them. Of course they drink jam – that’s what Jampires do! But what will happen now that Sam’s sussed them? (I have stopped rhyming now, yes.) It’s time for a tasty adventure!

This would have thrilled me when young: all the imaginary treats in a wonderland made from blueberry pie, ice cream and cupcakes all frosted under a snow of sherbert! The art is ebullient and charming without being remotely cloying. I’m not the target audience of kids’ illustrated prose, obviously, but I do find some of it sickly whereas this is cute and mischievous with funny little things to spot in the background and I know I’d share my jam with these Jampires!

Some of it. Probably.

Though possibly not bramble jelly. Mmmmm…..

SLH

Buy Jampires and read the Page 45 review here

Mouse Guard: Baldwin The Brave And Other Tales h/c (£10-99, Archaia) by David Petersen.

Six short, sweet and moving morality tales – each by original MOUSE GUARD creator David Petersen – two of which are completely new. The others appeared as Free Comicbook Day Comics from 2011 to 2014.

In terms of the MOUSE GUARD matriarchal society’s timeline they take place between Spring 1124 and Winter 1155, and in each a young mouse is told a salutary story which will go on to shape their lives.

In the first a town finds itself effectively under siege from three fearsome predators – a hawk, a snake and a crab – but although its mightiest warriors fail to break the giant beasts’ grip, a weaver uses cunning in a way so that each comes undone proving that, as ever, the ken is mightier than the sword.

The second is told as a puppet show involving a town deemed cursed, its mighty gate sporting the slogan, “Evil Prevails”. Thanks to one individual’s actions, however, the sign finds itself substantially amended for by the end.

The third was my favourite: a tale of true love told as a tapestry about a female mouse so beautiful and talented she is not short of suitors. The fourth, using a paler palette, explores the mice’s version of Heaven, Seyan, and its equivalent of Saint Peter at its gates, Sefatus, judging who is worth to enter. It expounds the value of service and sacrifice above notoriety.

Being true to your nature and trusting your instincts lies at the heart of the fifth as three sisters share the role of THE BLACK AXE, cooperating to take on beasts bigger than they might otherwise manage single-handedly, and the sixth is a lullaby.

It’s impressive how much Petersen can slip in to ten-page segments without them feeling cramped, and you’ll feel far from short-changed by the results. The colours are exquisite, the reproduction as classy as ever, and it’s a perfect entry point to the wider world of MOUSE GUARD which would make a thoroughly heart-warming present.

SLH

Buy Mouse Guard: Baldwin The Brave And Other Tales h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Son Of The Gun h/c (£25-99, Humanoids) by Alejandro Jodorowsky & Georges Bess.

A freak child, born with a tail and abandoned in the ghettos of a South American city, is found by a gay transvestite dwarf who also happens to be a prostitute, and who dies while ramming the doors of a church in a cart full of dynamite. Not with, but in.

An outcast raised by an outcast and suckled by a dog in the slums: how southern is your gothic? Can it really grow any grimmer? Yes indeed, for one thing and one thing alone can turn this embittered brat’s life around: the power of a gun.

From thereon in it’s rape, gang warfare, political corruption, torture, attempted castration, initiation ceremonies and assassination, as Juan strives to rise to the top of the criminal cream, all executed with strong action sequences and moody-faced art.

If the colouring’s a sickly spread of oranges, ochres and coffee-carmine, it only adds to the sensation of an exhausting heat in an unforgiving environment.

If you’re feeling starved of Milo Manara, this one’s for you.

SLH

Buy Son Of The Gun h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Luminae h/c (£18-99, Magnetic Press) by Bengal…

Have you ever wished that battle manga was produced in a larger format in full lush colour on lovely glossy high quality paper stock? If so, you need look no further, for this will fulfil your heart’s desires. It is a bit of a wafer-thin, Final Fantasy-esque, good versus evil, light versus dark, demons, angelic beings, plus of course lots of bad-ass warriors and the requisite cannon fodder plot, I must say. Which if it were to be reproduced in typical black-and-white, pocket-sized manga style, probably wouldn’t overly stand out that much.

That is not a criticism of the story or linework, far from it, because the majority of Viz, Kodansha, Yen Press et al manga output is slickly produced conveyor belt stuff with decent artwork, but there is a rather a lot of it, most of which is much of a muchness. And it tends to take something a bit different from the norm story-wise, like say ATTACK ON TITAN, to achieve a huge break-out success. This work, however, is elevated considerably simply by the addition of colour and excellent production values. I should also add it reads left to right, western-style, which I think is a good idea, further breaking the manga connotation, and thus an apparent restriction on audience.

 

 

It’s certainly no ZAYA, a former PAGE 45 COMICBOOK OF THE MONTH from the same publisher, which is wondrous on many levels, packing a really strong story, but this would make a very nice stocking filler for fantasy fans as is great fun with all the over top fights plus whizzing and popping magic everywhere. You’ll need an outsize stocking obviously, because it’s not traditional manga size… did I mention that already?

JR

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

All-New Captain America #1 (£2-99, Marvel) by Rick Remender & Stuart Immonen.

“Really makes you wonder why I wasn’t the one he picked.”
“Cronyism beats nepotism, I guess.”

That made me smile.

There is a new Captain America! There have been plenty over the years, but now it’s Sam Wilson AKA The Falcon and he has never been so beautifully, so spectacularly drawn. The all-but-opening double-page spread is an immaculate composition of speed, perspective, foreshortening, shadow and light. Utterly thrilling.

There is also a new side-kick! There have been plenty over the years including The Falcon himself, but now it’s Nomad’s turn. There have been plenty of Nomads over the years including Captain America himself, but now it’s Ian’s turn. Who’s Ian? I had absolutely no bloody idea until I read the handy-dandy summary at the front after which I didn’t really care either way.

Rick Remender is a formidable writer: I am currently lapping up his subaquatic LOW while Jonathan is a big fan of BLACK SCIENCE. And this is a perfectly accessible entry point after reading the summary with even greater gymnastics given that the Falcon can fly, with a couple of key shield moments. That’s Captain America’s schtick, yeah? The shield. Remender remembered and so delivered.

The wasn’t one of them but no one can say Stuart Immonen hadn’t delivered!

I also loved the repartee from the first familiar supervillain who has always been the one-dimensional, stereotypical brunt of a certain degree of xenophobia but here gives as good as he gets in America’s direction and on the mark. It’s thoughtful and balanced is what I’m saying.

The new dynamic with Steve Rogers acting as operations supervisor and Captain America – the U.S.’s flagship superhero – now being non-caucasian will almost certainly be explored and explored well. I look forward to that. As yet, however, it’s not quite that different from the standard superhero fare for it to grip me like, say, MS MARVEL.

But it’s good, it’s good, and my days but that cover!

SLH

Buy All-New Captain America #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man vol 1 – Revival s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & David Marquez.

This is the fourth incarnation of ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN, all of it written by Bendis, and I have loved every second.

But it’s the first iteration to have specified exactly who is the ultimate Spider-Man in its title: it’s Miles Morales whose story effectively began in ULTIMATE COMICS: SPIDER-MAN VOL 1 after Peter Parker died in the preceding ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN VOL 4: DEATH OF SPIDER-MAN. Specifying Miles Morales in the title implies that Peter Parker is very much dead and Miles is here to stay.

Imagine your shock, then, on coming back home and finding Peter Parker alive and well, rifling through your things and stealing your stuff.

Yes.

Yes absolutely and then some.

Is that Peter Parker, and if so how are Gwen, MJ and Aunt May going to react? If it isn’t, who is playing a very sick joke? Also, what is it about S.H.I.E.L.D. custody that sucks so badly that they can’t keep Norman Osborn locked up for more than five seconds?

SLH

Buy Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man vol 1 – Revival s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Batman Superman vol 1: Cross World s/c (£10-99, DC) by Greg Pak & Jae Lee and many, many, many, many others.

You know, we could have sworn Jonathan reviewed this, but I’m afraid it was me. What Jonathan did, having seen my review, was attempt to explain to me what was happening here with the change in artist and different Earths. Unfortunately it required such an arcane knowledge of DC Comics superhero history that I failed to understand his patient and considered “demystification”.

Which I think says it all. I re-run my original review then, with the disclaimer that I have no idea whatsoever if it works as a complete book. At the end of the first issue I jumped out of the car and walked in the opposite direction.

I have no idea what I just read.

I wasn’t drunk when I read it, but I confess that I have been driven to drink since.

I love Jae Lee. His neo-gothic art on Grant Morrison’s nihilistic FANTASTIC FOUR: 1234 was to die for while I heralded his work on Paul Jenkin’s INHUMANS as a masterclass in chiaroscuro. It is no less exquisite here – just wasted on a comic I couldn’t comprehend.

Also: maybe it was a deadline snafu, a last-minute editorial rewrite or – I don’t know – maybe they sacked Jae post-solicitation (you can never tell with corporate comics), but the fact that he fails to finish the very first issue of a new flagship title and pages are assigned to Ben Oliver instead does not bode well for this title’s future.

Maybe Jae walked. I wouldn’t blame him. I didn’t blame him when the second half of Paul Jenkins’ excellent BATMAN: JEKYL & HYDE was finished by Sean Phillips – largely because for me that is a comicbook upgrade.

If you’re looking for some prime Batman, may I recommend GOTHAM CENTRAL, THE BLACK MIRROR, IDENTITY CRISIS and THE KILLING JOKE?

If you’re looking for some prime Superman, may I recommend instead either ALL-STAR SUPERMAN by Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely, SUPERMAN AND THE LEGION OF SUPERHEROES by Geoff Johns & Gary Frank, KINGDOM COME by Mark Waid and Alex Ross, and even – you’ll see what I mean – SECRET IDENTITY by Kurt Busiek and one of comics’ greatest chameleons, Stuart Immonen, which is lush!

Always turn a negative into a positive!

Seize every opportunity to sell something!

Diversion Ends. You may now resume your regular comicbook journey.

Did you remember to bring sweets?

SLH

Buy Batman Superman vol 1: Cross World s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

 

Nicholas & Edith (£6-00) by Dan Berry

The Dream-Quest Of Unknown Kadath (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by H.P. Lovecraft & I.N.J. Culbard

Princess Ugg vol 1 s/c (£11-99, Oni Press) by Richard Stark & Darwyn Cooke

Saga Deluxe Edition vol 1 h/c (£37-99, Image) by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

Syllabus: Notes From An Accidental Professor (£14-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Lynda Barry

The Art Of Dragon Age: Inquisition h/c (£29-99, Dark Horse) by various

Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 10 vol 1: New Rules (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Christos N. Gage, Nicholas Brendon & Rebekah Isaacs

Bumf vol 1 (£12-99, Jonathan Cape) by Joe Sacco

Doctor Who: The Blood Of Azrael (£13-99, Panini) by various

Fairest In All The Land s/c (£10-99, Vertigo) by Bill Willingham & many artists

Lazarus: The First Collection h/c (£25-99, Image) by Greg Rucka & Michael Lark

Maleficium (£11-99, Avery Hill Publishing) by EdieOP

Metroland #2 (£4-99, Avery Hill Publishing) by Ricky Miller & Julia Scheele, Rebecca Strickson

My Little Pony: Friends Forever vol 2 s/c (£13-50, IDW) by Thomas F. Zahler, various & Tony Fleecs, Andy Price, various

Tomb Raider vol 1: Season Of The Witch (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Gail Simone & Nicolas Daniel Selma

Batman: Detective Comics vol 5: Gothtopia h/c (£18-99, DC) by John Layman, various & Jason Fabok, Aaron Lopresti, various

Batman: Detective Comics vol 4: The Wrath s/c (£13-50, DC) by John Layman, James Tynion IV & Andy Clarke, Jason Fabok

Justice League 3000 vol 1 s/c (£12-99, DC) by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis & Howard Porter, others

Teen Titans: Earth One vol 1 h/c (£16-99, DC) by Jeff Lemire & Terry Dodson

Guardians Of The Galaxy vol 3: Guardians Disassembled h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Nick Bradshaw, Frank Cho, various

Guardians Of The Galaxy: Abnett & Lanning Collection vol 2 s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning & Brad Walker, Wesley Craig

Iron Fist: The Living Weapon vol 1: Rage s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Kaare Andrews

Runaways Complete Collection vol 2 s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Brian K. Vaughan & Adrian Alphona, Takeshi Miyazawa

Thor God Of Thunder vol 4: The Last Days Of Midgard (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Esad Ribic

Wolverine vol 2: Three Months To Die s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Paul Cornell, Elliott Kalan & Kris Anka, Pete Woods, Jonathan Marks

Bokurano Ours vol 11 (£9-99, Viz) by Mohiro Kitoh

My Little Monster vol 5 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Robico

Soul Eater vol 23 (£8-99, Yen) by Atsushi Ohkubo

News!

ITEM! Page 45 is now stocking the full range of our Jodie Paterson’s swoonaway greetings cards!

ITEM! Original comic art auction in aid of The Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Includes work by Dave Gibbons, Mark Buckingham, Sean Phillips, Junko Mizuno, Emma Vieceli, Boulet and Jeff Smith

ITEM! Random interview I gave Nosy Bones on Saturday morning. It really was random, relying on the roll of dice!

ITEM! FLUFFY’s Simone Lia writes about whether her characters age. Oh, and Fluffy is now almost definitely a boy – whereas once I felt foolish, I now feel vindicated and my review has reverted to its original form! FLUFFY: one of the most beautiful books in the world!

- Stephen