Posts in the ‘Reviews’ Category

New Comics & Graphic Novels late June 2020

Wednesday, June 24th, 2020

Please click on images or the links to buy or learn more from the publishers. Or, in the case of The Andi Watson Mini-Comics Collection Box, from me!

The Andi Watson Mini-Comics Collection Box (£4-99, Self-Published) by Andi Watson

Buy The Andi Watson Mini-Comics Collection Box from Page 45 and /or read Page 45’s Review here

Buy from our Andi Watson Mini-Comics selection and / or read Page 45’s reviews here

Brand-New Arrivals: Graphic Novels

Ascender vol 2 s/c (£14-99, Image) by Jeff Lemire & Dustin Nguyen

Buy Ascender vol 2 s/c from Page 45 and /or read the publisher’s hype here

Check, Please! vol 2: Sticks & Scones s/c (£12-99, FirstSecond) by Ngozi Ukazu

Buy Check, Please! vol 2: Sticks & Scones s/c from Page 45 and /or read the publisher’s hype here

Deadly Class vol 9: Bone Machine s/c (£14-99, Image) by Rick Remender & Wes Craig

Buy Deadly Class vol 9: Bone Machine s/c from Page 45 and /or read the publisher’s hype here

Deep Breaths s/c (£16-99, Top Shelf) by Chris Gooch

Buy Deep Breaths s/c from Page 45 and /or read the publisher’s hype here

Farmhand vol 3 (£14-99, Image) by Rob Guillory

Buy Farmhand vol 3 from Page 45 and /or read the publisher’s hype here

Moonshine vol 3 s/c (£14-99, Image) by Brian Azzarello & Eduardo Risso

Buy Moonshine vol 3 s/c from Page 45 and /or read the publisher’s hype here

Snowpiercer vol 1: The Escape s/c (£12-99, Titan) by Jacques Lob & Jean-Marc Rochette

Buy Snowpiercer vol 1: The Escape s/c from Page 45 and /or read the publisher’s hype here

Wendy – Master Of Art s/c (£18-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Walter Scott

Buy Wendy – Master Of Art s/c from Page 45 and /or read the publisher’s hype here

Doomsday Clock h/c Part vol 2 With Slipcase (£22-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Gary Frank

Buy Doomsday Clock h/c Part vol 2 With Slipcase from Page 45 and /or read the publisher’s hype here

Daredevil vol 3: Through Hell s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Chip Zdarsky & Marco Checchetto, Francesco Mobli

Buy Daredevil vol 3: Through Hell s/c from Page 45 and /or read the publisher’s hype here

Fantastic Four: Epic Collection vol 5 – The Name Is Doom s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

Buy Fantastic Four: Epic Collection vol 5 – The Name Is Doom s/c from Page 45 and /or read the publisher’s hype here

Iron Man: Epic Collection vol 1 – The Golden Avenger s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & Don Heck

Buy Iron Man: Epic Collection vol 1 – The Golden Avenger s/c from Page 45 and /or read the publisher’s hype here

Iron Man: Epic Collection vol 3 – The Man Who Killed Tony Stark s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Archie Goodwin & George Tuska, Johnny Craig

Buy Iron Man: Epic Collection vol 3 – The Man Who Killed Tony Stark s/c from Page 45 and /or read the publisher’s hype here

Silver Surfer Omnibus vol 1 h/c (£89-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & John Buscema

Buy Silver Surfer Omnibus vol 1 h/c from Page 45 and /or read the publisher’s hype here

Hell’s Paradise: Jigokuraku vol 2 (£9-99, Viz) by Yuji Kaku

Buy Hell’s Paradise: Jigokuraku vol 2 from Page 45 and /or read the publisher’s hype here

Levius est vol 4 (£9-99, Viz) by Haruhisa Nakata

Buy Levius est vol 4 from Page 45 and /or read the publisher’s hype here

Ping Pong vol 1 s/c (£23-99, Viz) by Taiyo Matsumoto

Buy Ping Pong vol 1 s/c from Page 45 and /or read the publisher’s hype here

Brand-New Arrivals: Comics

Old Haunts #1 (£3-50, AWA) by Ollie Masters, Rob Williams & Laurence Campbell, Lee Loughridge

Buy Old Haunts #1 from Page 45 and /or read the publisher’s hype here

That Texas Blood #1 (£3-50) by Chris Condon & Jacob Phillips

Buy That Texas Blood from Page 45 and /or read the publisher’s hype here

And oh so many more! If a graphic novel doesn’t say “Out Of Stock” then it is in stock! Not so with comics, so if you would prefer to check if we’ve specific comics in stock before ordering, please email page45@page45.com and we’ll let you know, but FYI over the past few months These Current Comics have all come in through our doors, and we’ve plenty of older issues in those series too if you want to email and ask.

ALSO: WE ARE OPEN AGAIN NOW! Regular Page 45 Opening Hours too! Please come along and ask for personal recommendations etc. I promise you won’t have to queue, and there is plenty of space for a 2-metre distance. We’re sticking to 2 metres, cheers, much safer, and we’ve not seen more than four people in at any one time, so you’ll feel perfectly relaxed.

Until Jonathan and I start hard-selling you more lovely comics and graphic novels than you can carry or, quite frankly, afford.

Cheers,

Stephen

Page 45 New Comics & Graphic Novels early June 2020

Wednesday, June 10th, 2020

Please click on images or the link to buy to, you know, buy, or learn more from the publishers. Luther Arkwright and Kevin’s Great Escape already reviewed.

Department Of Mind-Blowing Theories h/c (£12-99, Canongate) by Tom Gauld

Buy Department Of Mind-Blowing Theories h/c from Page 45 and / or read the publisher’s hype here

Luther Arkwight: The Adventures Of Luther Arkwright & Heart Of Empire s/c (£35-99, Dark Horse) by Bryan Talbot

Buy Luther Arkwight: The Adventures Of Luther Arkwright & Heart Of Empire s/c from Page 45 and / or read the publisher’s hype here

You Brought Me The Ocean s/c (£12-99, DC) by Alex Sanchez & Julie Maroh

Buy You Brought Me The Ocean s/c from Page 45 and / or read the publisher’s hype here

Medicine: A Graphic History s/c (£15-99, SelfMadehero) by Jean-Noel Fabiani & Philippe Bercovici

Buy Medicine: A Graphic History s/c from Page 45 and / or read the publisher’s hype here

Paul Is Dead s/c (£14-99, Image) by Paolo Baron & Ernesto Carbonetti

Buy Paul Is Dead s/c from Page 45 and / or read the publisher’s hype here

Dragon Hoops h/c (£15-99, First Second) by Gene Luen Yang

Buy Dragon Hoops h/c from Page 45 and / or read the publisher’s hype here

Go To Sleep (I Miss You): Cartoons From The Fog Of New Parenthood h/c (£11-99, First Second) by Lucy Knisley

Buy Go To Sleep (I Miss You): Cartoons From The Fog Of New Parenthood h/c from Page 45 and / or read the publisher’s hype here

Bone Adventures s/c (£8-99, Scholastic) by Jeff Smith

Buy Bone Adventures s/c from Page 45 and / or read the publisher’s hype here

Kevin’s Great Escape: A Roly-Poly Flying Pony Adventure s/c (£6-99, Oxford University press) by Philp Reeve & Sarah McIntyre

Buy Kevin’s Great Escape: A Roly-Poly Flying Pony Adventure s/c from Page 45 and / or read the publisher’s hype here

Star Wars: Age Of Rebellion – Villains s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Greg Pak with Simon Spurrier & Marc Laming with many more

Buy Star Wars: Age Of Rebellion – Villians s/c from Page 45 and / or read the publisher’s hype here

Superman Action Comics vol 2: Leviathan Rising s/c (£15-99, DC) by Brian Michael Bendis & Steve Epting with Yanick Paquette

Buy Superman Action Comics vol 2: Leviathan Rising s/c from Page 45 and / or read the publisher’s hype here

Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed s/c (£14-99, DC) by Laurie Halse Anderson & Leila De Duca

Buy Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed s/c from Page 45 and / or read the publisher’s hype here

The Amazing Mary Jane vol 1: Down In Flames, Up In Smoke s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Leah Williams & Carlos Gomez, Lucas Werneck

Buy The Amazing Mary Jane vol 1: Down In Flames, Up In Smoke s/c from Page 45 and / or read the publisher’s hype here

X-Men vol 1 s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Leinil Francis Yu with R. B. Silva, Matteo Buffagni

Buy X-Men vol 1 s/c from Page 45 and / or read the publisher’s hype here

Attack On Titan vol 30 (£9-99, Kodansha) by Hajime Isayama

Buy Attack On Titan vol 30 from Page 45 and / or read the publisher’s hype here

Blue Flag s/c (£8-99, Viz) by Kaito

Buy Blue Flag s/c from Page 45 and / or read the publisher’s hype here

Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 4: Diamond Is Unbreakable vol 5 h/c (£15-99, Viz) by Hirohiko Araki

Buy Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 4: Diamond Is Unbreakable vol 5 h/c from Page 45 and / or read the publisher’s hype here

My Hero Academia Smash! vol 4 (£7-99, Viz) by Hirofumi Neda

Buy My Hero Academia Smash! vol 4 from Page 45 and / or read the publisher’s hype here

Not Your Idol vol 1 (£7-99, Viz) by Aio Makino

Buy Not Your Idol vol 1 from Page 45 and / or read the publisher’s hype here

Perfect World vol 1 (£10-99, Kodansha) by Aie Aruga

Buy Perfect World vol 1 from Page 45 and / or read the publisher’s hype here

The Way Of The Househusband vol 3 s/c (£9-99, Viz) by Kousuke Oono

Buy The Way Of The Househusband vol 3 s/c from Page 45 and / or read the publisher’s hype here

Brand-New Arrivals: Comics

If you would prefer to check if we’ve specific comics in stock before ordering, please email page45@page45.com and we’ll let you know, but FYI over the past few months These Current Comics have all come in through our doors, and we’ve plenty of older issues in those series too if you want to email and ask.

I Tweeted a whole bunch of photos of those we’ve stock of yesterday (Tuesday June 9), but hopefully you can see for yourselves when we reopen on Monday June 15! Fingers crossed, folks!

Cheers,

Stephen

Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month – June 2020

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020

Normally retailing at £17-99 but a mere £14.39 for Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month members… this month’s selection is…

A Gift For A Ghost h/c by Borja Gonzalez

You can learn more and join the Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month here

Meanwhile, here’s our Page 45 review of A Gift For A Ghost…

A Gift For A Ghost h/c (£17-99, Abrams) by Borja Gonzalez

“Did you really like the tape?”
“She wants to be in the group.”
“I didn’t say that.”
“Look, we have the guitar, what’s the problem?”
“I don’t know how to play any instruments. I tried to explain that to Cinderella over here.”
“Huh, you think I know how to play this? I’m not even sure what the black buttons are for.”
“Okay. I accept that knowing how to play an instrument isn’t necessary for a high school punk band, but… there’s no one who can understand these lyrics.”
“Of course you don’t understand them. Laura writes them. Imagine the Bronte sisters giving a talk about a study on the thermonuclear fusion of stars. I think its supermodern.”
“I have a gift and I must use it.”

Indeed you must, Laura, indeed you must…

It’s only upon much reflection, and a third re-read of this dainty ethereal work, at first glance pure stark juxtaposition, yet in fact so deftly immaculately intertwined, that I finally realised just how clever it truly is.

 

 

The word play is delightful, even when we can’t initially possibly grasp how precisely Borja is playing with us, with his seemingly carefree turns of phrase yet actually very purposeful choice of words…

 

 

The art too is mesmeric, stretching seamlessly across the gulf of two very different social eras with hints of elements as disparate as Tom DEPARTMENT OF MIND-BLOWING THEORIES Gould and Mike HELLBOY Mignola. It also kept making me think at times of LOVE & ROCKETS but I think that was primarily because of the girl punk band angle and the sense of playful fun that is also woven throughout this work. There’s some very interesting and clever use of colour too, and a suitably unusual palette that definitely contributes to the mildly spooky sense of atmosphere gently pervading proceedings.

 

 

(PSSST… have a peak under the dust jacket for even more butterflies!)

But how times change and how they don’t… as we start by finding ourselves back in 1856 and a girl seemingly out of time, in several senses. For whilst Teresa’s family want nothing more than to ensure she’s launched successfully onto the debutante circuit, which will of course hopefully lead to a respectable well bred hand in marriage, she’s far more interested in writing some pretty off-the-wall avant garde poetry such as “The Ghost Rider.”

“The fire velocipede hero! The fire velocipede hero?
“Can you see it beautiful lady?
“It is sparkling like the stars.
“The stars, the stars, the stars, the stars of the k…”

Her mum’s a tough audience though…

“Can you tell me what this is about? Is this what you call a poem?”
“It’s… I’m not sure yet, mother. I think it is about someone who shines.”
“It’s less than a month until your debut. Your father and I have everything ready. You know it’s important, right?”

“Yes.”

So when Teresa bumps into a sad skeleton late at night by the lake (who most definitely isn’t Johnny Blaze) she’s not remotely scared.

 

 

In fact, she’s more than up for some cultural cross-pollination and simply wants to chat about poetry with this amazing apparition. Shame the skeleton is having a somewhat morose time of it and isn’t really in the mood to muse about metre and rhyme.

Meanwhile, Teresa’s older sisters Gardenia and Daisy, already lost to society by having firmly established their conforming places in it with their bonnets and frilly dresses, and of course ladylike behaviour at all times, are not remotely sympathetic to Teresa’s plight. Younger sister Rose, still possessed of her rampant childish imagination, is as intrigued as she is terrified by Teresa and her tall tales of stygian assignations with fleshless wailers. She’s also a total snitch…

As we gently oscillate backwards and forwards temporally between our two sets of protagonists we start to unravel that perhaps Laura and Teresa have far more in common than one might think. Both products of their time, yet wanting to rebel against the constraints that they, as young females, find placed upon them. But perhaps not knowing precisely how to, or indeed just how much they can. There’s a question neatly posed of just how much identity is perennially forged by rebellion I suppose, but that’s not overly dwelled upon.

For this is an exceptionally well nuanced and delicately balanced work. It’s certainly one for the reader to find their own place within as they read it. I hugely admire that talent, to create something which has the potential to engender very different responses in those who engage with it. Plus then to leave people thinking about it long after they have finished… Which is precisely why I picked it up again for a second, and then a third read.

But most of all I absolutely adored the deeply mysterious, almost wilfully amorphous and I am sure deliberately ambiguous feel to it. I desperately felt throughout I wanted an answer as to how these two parallel narratives were connected, whilst suspecting I wasn’t going to get that closure. But when we do, of a fashion, it is an immensely satisfying payoff. I didn’t suspect at all. Maybe I should have. Perhaps I was just too drawn in and masterfully hypnotised to see it coming. Bravo to Borja for that!

It’s also wonderful to see just how expressive a relatively simple art style can be. None of the characters have faces, just blank visages, or are occasionally even simply silhouettes, but there is so much emotion conveyed in the body language of the figures themselves.

 

 

Thus it’s almost like mime or watching marionettes in that respect, and again, I think causes the reader to be invested more deeply emotionally into the characters sense of their identities.

Quite unlike anything else I’ve read so far this year, it’s a timely (that word again…) reminder of the prodigious power of comics to take us away from the present moment into other realms and states entirely. A gift from the very real Borja Gonzalez in this case.

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

Yes, there have been new arrivals recently!!! Two whole weeks worth of goodies arrived last week (and another fortnight of fun will be arriving next week)!! For more on those new arrivals please read our Stephen’s recent blog…

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews AND New Comics & Graphic Novels UNDERNEATH, May 2020

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews AND New Comics & Graphic Novels UNDERNEATH, May 2020

Friday, May 29th, 2020

New Comics and Graphic Novels are now flooding back in, and soon it will be time to open the shop properly once more! Meanwhile, Page 45’s Worldwide Mail Order Service Has Never Ceased! Please do check out all the New Releases below our reviews. Thanks!

The Fire Never Goes Out: A Memoir In Pictures h/c (£16-99, Harper Collins) by Noelle Stevenson.

“There are no concave lines on the human body – only overlapping convex lines.”

Yes, yes, yes!

And Noelle recreates an illustrative life-drawing sketch which she made at the time when this moment of satori first hit her!

Until I read this page I hadn’t fathomed this either, but what a vital piece of observation to impart to anyone embarking on a career in art – whether it be comics, picture books, illustration, design or those well serious fully painted things – and to anyone who has suffered from body issues, as Stevenson has under the tyranny of ubiquitous wafer-thin media models. Its scope is much broader still, but one has to begin a review somewhere.

 

 

Stevenson is still only in her mid-20s, yet her astonishingly honest, hard-won wisdom moved and impressed itself upon me as fiercely as Tilly Walden’s equally early autobiography SPINNING. And by “hard-won”, you will swiftly realise why this graphic memoir has been included in Page 45’s burgeoning and ever so vital Mental Health Section.

Noelle Stevenson is the creator of our Young Adult best-seller NIMONA, as well as the co-creator of Page 45’s smash-hit LUMBERJANES series, and her early success in both – detailed here in what could very much be regarded as a galvanizing, inspirational “How To” guide for so many young individuals now embarking on their first tentative steps towards honouring us all with their brand-new voices – comes in stark contrast to what you might assume would be a self-satisfied, artistically vindicated “the world is now my oyster”. Instead, even at the height of her triumphs (and with a tentatively discovered and supportive, newfound lover), Stevenson is plagued with the same crippling self-doubt which so many of us secretly harbour too.

“At night, you like awake and shake.
“You feel guilty all the time.
“It feels like a piece has been ripped out and left behind, but you can’t tell which piece and you can’t look back to check or you will surely fall apart.”

The illustrations which accompany these retrospective confessions are so tender and so fragile.

 

 

“Your fear of doing wrong is keeping you from doing good.
“This is what you wanted, ain’t you proud?
“You’re not evil, you are a mundane, selfish kind of bad and that is what you’ve always feared, isn’t it?”

There’s a profound humility here which informs the candour and self-awareness.

“You do kind things for praise, or to feel better.
“You fear hurting people, but maybe because you fear being disliked.
“You’re not strong or brave in the way you want to be.”

 

 

It’s a very rare kind of courage that can commit this to paper in order to help others who might be suffering the same serious self-assessment in silence, fearing that they are alone while the rest of the world waltzes on in oblivious abandon. Clue: most of the world isn’t, in my experience, waltzing on in oblivious abandon, whatever it looks like from the outside. So much of this certainly resonated with me.

If I were to summarise the overwhelming, prevalent, rare but vital humane quality on display here, it would be compassion: compassion, in retrospect, towards yourself.

Told in annual snapshots from 2011 to 2019, each chapter is divided into immediate impressions as they happen, then a considered annual overview of what that year actually brought about. There are sequential art sections, then integrated, illustrated prose.

 

 

The art morphs in rendition from a fragile, febrile even at times angry sort of Hayao Miyazaki (cf NAUSICAA), to bold, emphatically concave Philippa Rice forms (like SISTER BFFS) to a front cover illustration below the dustjacket that struck me very much as akin to Jan Ormerod. But those are just my personal references, not at all necessarily Noelle’s own.

There’s also an enormous, connected tenderness on display, especially when it comes to coupling – to spooning – with her girlfriend now wife, and if you enjoy the occasional photographic portraits interspersed throughout, I promise you will air-punch with unbridled glee at the final, glorious, giggling, and celebratory photograph which rounds off this journey of at times painful self-discovery with a “Yeah, you can do it too!” moment of exquisite, unequivocal and unconditional love.

 

 

Artless, exceptional, and recommended to all, this would be perfect as a gift to anyone embarking on a career in art, the arts, or this thing called life.

SLH

Buy The Fire Never Goes Out and read the Page 45 review here

Crash Course: If You Want To Get Away With Murder Buy A Car s/c (£14-99, Street Noise) by Woodrow Phoenix.

Do you drive a car? Please read this book.

A heart-felt, eloquent and surprisingly gripping indictment of our current obsession with cars, our behaviour on the roads and the vulnerability of the pedestrian, this is as Paul Gravett observes, “an extraordinarily human book… without showing a single human being.”

I’d hazard a guess that this very exclusion forms part of Woodrow’s argument that pedestrians have been relegated to anonymous and dehumanised second-class citizens whose rights are as nothing compared to those of us enclosed in thousands of pounds worth of hard, heavy metal. We’re what counts: we need to get where we going far more urgently than you lot on foot, so don’t you dare cross the road until you’re told to, where you’re told to, and I don’t give a shit if it’s raining outside because it’s not raining in here. Where’s that CD I burned last night?

Yes, that’s how old this review is, resurrected with tweaks for a timely brand-new edition with an infinitely more apposite title, CRASH COURSE: IF YOU WANT TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER, BUY A CAR.

 

 

I originally read this an hour before my own car was due in for its annual MOT and service, plus as a precautionary measure they changed what I believe is called the cambelt. If they hadn’t, they would definitely be changing it now. I’ve never understood a mate who was so concerned for his children on board that he turned on his headlights in broad daylight, yet happily answered his mobile phone whilst driving along, one-handed, distracted. For my own guilty part I’ve lit so many cigarettes over the years while driving. Yup, the first one to put his hand up is me. I’ll never do it again, and nor will you once you’ve read this. I feel wretched.

 

 

 

As Woodrow navigates motorways, turns at junctions and admires the view through his windscreen he muses on our self-delusion when it comes to safety, our attitude to death by driving (you kill someone any other way, and you’re in deep trouble; in a car, not necessarily so much), the horrors of the pedestrian underpass, the weirdness of an empty retail car park, and the absurd SUV 4×4 family arms race. It’s moving, compelling and even poetic in places, pared down to level-headed wake-up calls like this:

“There is a dreamlike quality built into the experience of driving. A car windshield is a big window. And also a screen. A windscreen. A long rectangular picture frame. Locations unwind on the other side of this rectangular glass almost as they do on a movie screen. The constant, smoothly unrolling scenery. The continuously changing vistas. It’s like the ultimate cinematic presentation. With you, the driver, as both the director and the star.”

It can be mesmerising too.

 

 

“It’s an intoxicating feeling to have the power to govern every aspect of your private world. You sit cocooned in your cabin. You control the temperature of the interior and you listen only to the soundtrack you have chosen. Everything outside your windows is contained, the rest of the world an arm’s length away.”

But no more than that for BMW drivers who tailgate.

That’s from about the least affecting couple of pages of this book (and they ring so true, don’t they?) as Phoenix assesses what your car says about you, why some arrogant arseholes refuse to budge out of the middle or even outside lane regardless of what speed they’re doing (my own biggest irritation with others, along with their failure to indicate – the consequences of which you’ll discover towards the end), and quietly relates some very real incidents of fatal failures to give a damn about cyclists and those on foot.

As to road rage:

“How did it happen that ridiculous, inappropriate eruptions of impulsive brutish aggression should have been thought to be adequately described by the handy appellation, ‘road rage’? It’s a phrase that hides more than it reveals. Designed to neuter and tidy away the truth. A sheet thrown over a misshapen lumpy ogre of violence. Almost legitimising the strange shapes that poke around underneath. Road rage is an indulgent, doting term, dignifying and excusing behaviour that has no dignity and no excuse.”

 

 

And so we come to the art. Roads. Roads and roads of roads. And rorries.

Is it even necessary? Would your experience reading this be any different if you’d just paid £1-50 for this week’s Guardian, and this was reduced to a single prose feature in the Weekend Supplement rather than 150 pages of chevrons? Yes. Yes it would, because the chevrons here are as hypnotic as they are in real life, and therein lies a point.

Anyway it’s not all roads: there is, for example, a small procession of human beings reduced from individuals to the faceless figurative forms that symbolise human beings on pedestrian crossings; and you’ll never take those for granted again, either. Best not think of all those actual lives now snuffed out: people who woke up and went for a walk but will never come home again.

 

 

The ideas I’ve expressed here are all Woodrow’s – ideas, not views: his views if not awful experience match my own seamlessly. I could never have done so without his prompting, and it worries me terribly that I may ever be careless enough to hit someone in my car. The chances of that after reading this, however, are at least a lot slimmer because I’ve been given a wake-up call, and we could all use a little reminding, surely?

Originally released as RUMBLE STRIP in 2008 (still in stock), this comes with a new essay by Woodrow Phoenix of PANTS ANT infamy, who co-curated the British triumph NELSON with its instigator, Rob Davis. Please note: some of the interior art comes from the original UK publication from Myriad and may have since been amended – for example to reflect other countries driving on the right – other images come from this new edition.

SLH

Buy Crash Course: If You Want To Get Away With Murder Buy A Car and read the Page 45 review here

American Jesus vol 1: Chosen s/c, American Jesus vol 2: The New Messiah s/c (£8-99 each, Image) by Mark Millar & Peter Gross.

 

 

The first collection is from over a decade ago!

“Can I ask you something, Father?”
“Of course you can. That’s what I’m here for, right?”
“Nah, you’ll just think I’m an idiot. I shouldn’t even be here. My mom and dad aren’t even Catholics.”
“Well, neither’s Muhammad Ali, but I’d still given him five minutes of my precious time. Just tell me what you want to know.”
“Do you think it’s possible I’m the returned Jesus Christ?”

Jodie’s a normal kid who’s been living the normal life a normal kid does: comics, salvaged porn and average grades at school. Then one day a truck careers off a bridge and lands right on top of his noggin, but Jodie walks away without a scratch – just a fresh fluency in any known language, an intuitive understanding of all forms of science and a complete encyclopaedia of history on tap in his head.

 

 

When his mother tells him she’s never had sex, he begins to entertain the idea that he’s the reincarnation of Jesus Christ, as do many of those around him with the emphatic exception of the local priest. As the priest explains, it’s common for people of Jodie’s age to think they’re a little different, especially after they’ve survived some sort of accident. It’s tempting to give in to grandiose presumptions of being special. Tempting, and dangerous.

 

 

Gross keeps suburban life real, whilst Millar keeps the suspense simmering, exploring what a young boy like Jodie might make of the situation. I loved the extended comparison Jodie comes up with between the Bible Testaments and the Star Wars Trilogy. Not only does it work, it’s just what a kid might do if they were suddenly that bright. As for what’s really at work, well, Jodie’s thirty-three as he looks back at these difficult days, so he’s evidently come to terms with how things have turned out.

One way, or the other…

As to the second volume from last year’s series (there will be three), we switch to a young girl at school with a kind, thoughtful boyfriend so respectful of her that he’s not even sure he should ask for a kiss. She falls pregnant but swears she’s never had sex. Against all imaginable odds, her boyfriend believes her unquestioningly. At which point, he became my favourite young man in the whole of comicbook fiction.

 

 

She’s telling the truth.

Then we fastforward, and I do believe that you will recognise some of these… institutions.

Brilliant.

SLH

Buy American Jesus vol 1: Chosen s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Buy American Jesus vol 2: The New Messiah s/c and read the Page 45 review here

House of X / Powers Of X (£22-99 UK s/c; £49-99 US h/c) by Jonathan Hickman & Pepe Larraz, R.B. Silva.

Exceptionally eloquent and comprehensively thought-through elevation of the mutant legacy.

For the very first time the X-Men have a geopolitical power base and a global economy of their own. The latter derives firmly from the former, thereby securing its stature, and indeed future.

Didn’t you ever wonder how ridiculous it was that Charles Xavier could somehow sustain a Westchester mansion housing, feeding, clothing and presumably funding several dozen Playstations for nearly one hundred mutants…? For decades…? Let alone defend it!

All of this – all of it – is secured by their new base of operations and its “produce”. As if that weren’t clever enough, Hickman hasn’t even had to invent their home – it’s an established part of mutant lore – but he has extrapolated infinitely more potential from its nature than any writer has been imagined before.

 

 

 

Plus, mutants now have a language of their own for, without language, how can they hope to have a culture?

With all this now laid as bedrock, Professor Charles Xavier approaches the global stage with a positive, pro-active, worldwide agenda. He has economically enticing gifts – many revolutionarily beneficial for human health – to offer countries which would revoke their former genocidal hostility towards mutantkind, and engage openly, honestly and commercially instead with his new nation state.

Professor Xavier also has sanctions.

 

 

This is the most astute and entertaining X-MEN run ever, easily equalling Claremont & Byrne’s tenure on UNCANNY X-MEN, Morrison’s NEW X-MEN, then Whedon and Cassady’s ASTONISHING X-MEN.

Artist Pepe Larraz was a revelation, too. Svelte! His gesticulations are graceful, arms acting expressively when a face is concealed.

From the writer and designer of BLACK MONDAY MURDERS, THE NIGHT NEWS, THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS, EAST OF WEST, SECRET,as well as his fabulous new series, DECORUM #1.

 

 

It’s also from the writer and designer of the definitive FANTASTIC FOUR VOL 1 and FANTASTIC FOUR VOL 2, equally recommended and reviewed at greater length, this whopping edition collects HOUSE OF X #1-6 and POWERS OF X #1-6, and leads straight into X-MEN #1 which launches the new slyly composed and attitude-ridden series by Jonathan Hickman and Leinil Francis Yu. At the time of typing, we’ve a complete run in stock.

This is twelve chapters long, I would remind you, and only the beginning…

SLH

Buy House of X / Powers Of X s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Buy House of X / Powers Of X h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Brand-New Arrivals: Comics & Graphic Novels

Before we get to the new graphic novel / collected editions, a quick word about all the comics on our shelves! Page 45 Has Been Mail Order Only for two whole months and, although we’re looking to open ASAP in June, because the comics on our website aren’t quantity-specific like the graphic novels (which, unless they say “Out Of Stock” are most definitely in stock) they’ve been kind of languishing on our shelves in the darkness. If you would prefer to check if we’ve specific comics in stock before ordering, please email page45@page45.com and we’ll let you know, but FYI over the past few months These Current Comics have all come in through our doors, and we’ve plenty of older issues in those series too if you want to email and ask.

 

 

I can certainly confirm that we have a complete run so far of the new, exceptional Hickman and Yu X-MEN series which follows directly on from Hickman’s HOUSE OF X / POWERS OF X reviewed above, and a complete run of the NEW MUTANTS series which also spins out of it, one storyline of which is by Hickman & Reis and is very, very funny indeed. To save you the trouble of searching, I’ve linked to each below:

X-MEN #1, X-MEN #2, X-MEN #3, X-MEN #4, X-MEN #5, X-MEN #6, X-MEN #7, X-MEN #8, X-MEN #9

GIANT-SIZED X-MEN: JEAN GREY & EMMS and GIANT-SIZED X-MEN: NIGHTCRAWLER were also written by Hickman. The former and contains a major plot point; the latter is in stock regardless of the pre-order blurb.

 

 

X-MEN / FF #1, X-MEN / FF #2, X-MEN / FF #3 by Chip Zdarsky & Terry Dodson are also all in stock; you can also pre-order the final X-MEN FF #4. Thanks! Not read, ‘em, sorry, but isn’t it extraordinary how little help Sue and Reed Richards have ever offered our beleaguered mutants given that their son Franklin is a mutant too? That is the bone of contention.

By Hickman & Reis (one uninterrupted story; and, as I say, I laughed a lot!) NEW MUTANTS #1, NEW MUTANTS #2, NEW MUTANTS #5, NEW MUTANTS #7.

 

 

You might think you’ve missed something when you start reading that last one. You haven’t: it’s Hickman mischievously messing with the very notion of recaps!

By Brisson & Flaviano (in all honesty: not my cup of tea, but very few superheroes outside of MISTER MIRACLE, reviewed in depth, are these days) NEW MUTANTS #3, NEW MUTANTS #4, NEW MUTANTS #6, NEW MUTANTS #8, NEW MUTANTS #9

New Graphic Novels

Please click on images or the link to buy to, you know, buy, or learn more from the publishers. Cheers!

Akissi: Even More Tales Of Mischief s/c (£12-99, Flying Eye / Nobrow) by Marguerite Abouet & Mathieu Sapin

Buy Akissi: Even More Tales Of Mischief s/c from Page 45 and / or read the publisher’s hype here

Amulet vol 1: The Stone Keeper s/c (£8-99, Scholastic UK) by Kazu Kibuishi

Buy Amulet vol 1: The Stone Keeper s/c from Page 45 and / or read the publisher’s hype here

Bog Bodies s/c (£11-99, Image) by Declan Shalvey & Gavin Fullerton

Buy Bog Bodies s/c from Page 45 and / or read the publisher’s hype here

Family Tree vol 1 s/c (£8-99, Image) by Jeff Lemire & Phil Hester

Buy Family Tree vol 1 s/c from Page 45 and / or read the publisher’s hype here

Flake h/c (£18-99, Jonathan Cape) by Matthew Dooley

Buy Flake h/c from Page 45 and / or read the publisher’s hype here

Kairos h/c (£15-99, First Second) by Ulysse Malassagne

Buy Kairos h/c from Page 45 and / or read the publisher’s hype here

The Phantom Twin s/c (£13-99, First Second) by Lisa Brown

Buy The Phantom Twin s/c from Page 45 and / or read the publisher’s hype here

Snotgirl vol 3: Is This Real Life? (£14-50, Image) by Bryan Lee O’Malley & Leslie Hung

Buy Snotgirl vol 3: Is This Real Life? from Page 45 and / or read the publisher’s hype here

Stranger Things: Six s/c (£15-99, Dark Horse) by Joudie Houser & Edgar Salazar

Buy Stranger Things: Six s/c from Page 45 and / or read the publisher’s hype here

Summer Spirit s/c (£12-99, Nobrow) by Elizabeth Holleville

Buy Summer Spirit s/c from Page 45 and / or read the publisher’s hype here

Tinderella s/c (£10-99, Uncivilised Books) by M. S. Harkness

Buy Tinderella s/c from Page 45 and / or read the publisher’s hype here

Transmetropolitan Book 3 s/c (£24-99, DC) by Warren Ellis & Darick Robertson

Buy Transmetropolitan Book 3 s/c from Page 45 and / or read the publisher’s hype here

Batman: Last Knight On Earth h/c  (£24-99, DC) by Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo

Buy Batman: Last Knight On Earth h/c  from Page 45 and / or read the publisher’s hype here

The Girl From The Other Side vol 8 (£10-99, Seven Seas) by Nagabe

Buy The Girl From The Other Side vol 8 from Page 45 and / or read the publisher’s hype here

 Levius est vol 3 (£8-99, Viz) by Haruhisa Nakata

Buy Levius est vol 3 from Page 45 and / or read the publisher’s hype here

Demon Slayer vol 12 (£7-99, Viz) by Koyoharu Gotouge

Buy Demon Slayer vol 12 from Page 45 and / or read the publisher’s hype here

Dr. Stone vol 11 (£7-99, Viz) by Riichiro Inagaki & Boichi

Buy Dr. Stone vol 11 from Page 45 and / or read the publisher’s hype here

Knights Of Sidonia vol 5 (Master Edition) (£29-99, Vertical Comics) by Tsutomu Nihei

Buy Knights Of Sidonia vol 5 (Master Edition) from Page 45 and / or read the publisher’s hype here

Persona 5 vol 2 (£6-99, Viz) by Hisato Murasaki

Buy Persona 5 vol 2 from Page 45 and / or read the publisher’s hype here

Twisted Visions: The Art Of Junji Ito h/c (£25-00, Viz) by Junji Ito

Buy Twisted Visions: The Art Of Junji Ito h/c from Page 45 and / or read the publisher’s hype here

Lastly, our Jonathan wrote a big blog about the interim delivery of New Comics and Graphic Novels that arrived a fortnight ago after being held up in the Diamond UK warehouse, all linked up so you can buy some of those seriously excellent books!

Lastly, lastly, two Page 45 Young Readers Reviews from silly old me.

Cheers,

Stephen

 

 

Page 45 Graphic Novel And Picture Book Reviews Early May 2020

Sunday, May 3rd, 2020

Featuring Sarah McIntyre, Brigita Orel & Jennie Poh…

Don’t Call Me Grumpycorn Page 45 Signed Bookplate Edition (£6-99 s/c, Scholastic UK) by Sarah McIntryre.

First 100 copies come with a FREE, EXCLUSIVE PAGE 45 BOOKPLATE SIGNED AND DESIGNED by Sarah McIntyre!

Welcome back, my lovelies, for a brand-new all-ages adventure by our biggest-selling picture book creator, Sarah McIntyre! Please pop ‘Sarah McIntyre’ into our search engine or visit our dedicated Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre webpage here https://www.page45.com/store/Philip-Reeve-And-Sarah-McIntyre.html for all her other books and our reviews.

FABULOUS! It’s all going to be FABULOUS!

And discovery is everything, especially when it comes to friendship.

 

 

Dawn beckons you into a brand-new day of fresh air, enormous potential and limitless possibilities. And oh, but the patterns of colour!

The northern sun radiates dazzling displays of prismatic gold, and then streams across a quite chilly sea, rippling its liquid light over cool blue and purples.

Out on a wooden jetty, Unicorn has evidently been fashioning something very big and very exciting and very, very mysterious – and he has done so with a DIY diligence that puts me to shame.

 

 

It is a rocket!

“I’m going to discover the most FABULOUS planet in the universe,” he said.

Do you believe him? I do!

“This made him feel very pleased with himself. He already liked being an astronaut.”

He‘s certainly put a lot of work in; and a great deal of thought too. For as well as the buttons and switches and levers, as well as the gizmos and views screens and astronomical charts, Unicorn has decked out his new cockpit domain with hand-drawn portraits of his favourite friends (all his friends were his favourites, but too many more pictures and there’d be no room for doughnuts) and all the other essentials for intergalactic travel.

His tea and coffee making facilities won’t let him down!

There are biscuit dispensers and foil-wrapped boiled sweets in case his tummy rumbles or his mouth runs dry… I spy a toothbrush and a tube of toothpaste too! Very wise! There’s a bell jar with a miniature fruiting orange tree inside. Underneath I spy a sleeping bag complete with cuddly Teddycorn! What else can you and your young ones spot? Sarah always packs her pages with so many fun things for bright eyes to discover and relish! Those ‘accelerate’ and ‘brake’ hoof pedals made me howl!!!

And that is a disco ball, yes!

There should always be disco! He might want to dance!

 

 

Unicorn might also want to get his ego back under control again too. Do you remember where he went wrong in GRUMPYCORN? I do!

For when Mermaid and Narwhal and Jellyfish are keen as can be to accompany him on His Expedition (for which he is secretly grateful – most of the best experiences are shared experiences and nobody wants to be left all alone), he doesn’t half make himself the centre of attention and demand that he must do everything FIRST and LOUDEST like…

“LIFT OFF!”

Or

“BLAST OFF!”

Or whatever he booms: whatever he booms is bound to be FABULOUS!

 

 

Best beloveds, we have barely begun, but I’m going to leave you there to discover for yourselves what happens next.

Clue: they do discover a planet, and it is FABULOUS!

Another clue: Unicorn needs to get one – a clue. A clue as to what are really the most important things in life.

Final clue: the answers are true friends and friendship.

Mermaid and Narwhal and Jellyfish are thrilled with their voyage, as loyal as ever and so very patient with Unicorn’s self-centred commands, but he really does need to rein himself in!

 

 

Far from saccharine, like THE NEW NEIGHBOURS, this is another exuberant belter from Sarah McIntyre about getting your priorities right early in life and so setting yourself firmly on course for maximum fun and frolics.

Did I mention the details? There are no spoilers here, but you’re in for a riot of running jokes that grow cumulatively funnier, and a planetary sphere which could only be called Disco!

SLH

Buy Don’t Call Me Grumpycorn Exclusive Page 45 Signed Bookplate Edition s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Pirate Tree h/c (£11-99, Lantana Publishing) by Brigita Orel & Jennie Poh.

“The breeze is generous and the ocean is wide before them.”

Look at the language there; it’s all so very positive!

The breeze is “generous” and the ocean is “wide”, plus it’s now a new shared experience: “them”.

This is such a thoughtful, poignant and positive book which, like Sarah McIntyre’s THE NEW NEIGHBOURS, has at its heart the warm welcoming of strangers.

But first, there are obstacles to overcome. Reservations, shall we call them.

‘The gnarled tree on the hill sometimes turns into a pirate ship. A rope serves as an anchor, a sheet as a sail, and Sam is its fearless captain.
‘Today, the tree watches as another sailor approaches.’

 

 

I love the warm antler-grey of the venerable tree and its long, feathery, willow-like leaves; the cool blue above them and the exotic orange blossom which is reflected, a little paler, in the stripes of Sam’s t-shirt. Then there’s the strong red of young Agu’s long-sleeved shirt, picked out in the parrot which later wears a pirate hat.

(Yes, yes, it’s a Macaw! A Macaw is a parrot. I was making maximum use of my ‘p’s!)

I also adore all the clean white space, so that those colours stand out and breathe.

‘“Can I play?” Agu asks, standing on the ship’s leeward side.
‘Sam hoists the sheet up over a branch and glares.
‘“I don’t know you. You’re not from my street.””

Ah yes, the reservations…

 

 

‘Agu’s face falls. He watches her struggle with a thick rope.
‘No one wants to play with him because he’s a newcomer.’

However, Sam hasn’t rejected him; she’s just so immediately swept up again in her imaginary game that she’s forgotten him. Nevertheless, the effect on Agu is profound, and Jennie Poh nails the boy’s body language, his arms drooping heavily to his sides in contrast to Sam’s wild gesticulation, his head bowed in introspection.

 

 

‘When Sam doesn’t as much as look his way, Agu’s shoulders slump. Auntie told him to be patient, but he’s been patient for days.’

Oh, the poor love! There’s no self-pity, merely dignity and disappointment. Unlike the pirate tree, he’s had the wind knocked out of his sails, once more.

But what makes all the difference in the world on the very next page is… well, Agu’s difference!  It’s his specialist knowledge that there are no diamonds in Nigeria. He tells Sam that he used to live in Nigeria, and he has sailed on a ship! His voice rising, Agu offers to tell her all about it, and that has Sam most intrigued!

 

 

“They set sail again.”

Hooray! Which is where we came in, but where will their shared imaginations take them?!

My heart soared while reading this book, and so will those of families so keen for their young ones to make new, exciting friends. I adore all of mine for their individuality and all the knowledge and mad skills that they possess which are way out of my current capabilities. I do love to learn, though!

 

 

Indeed, I’ve loved all the books I’ve seen published by Lantana like Chitra Soundar & Poonam Mistry’s YOU’RE SAFE WITH ME and YOU’RE SNUG WITH ME and YOU’RE STRONG WITH ME which are full of warmth, reassurance and maternal wisdom and the most meticulously composed, radiant illustrations.

You can see those on the bottom rung of our central Young Readers section here:

 

 

I also have enormous respect for Lantana’s committed, progressive policies, addressing the very real imbalance which persists in Young Readers Picture Books and comics alike:

‘In the United Kingdom, almost a third of school children identify as Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic (BAME) yet fewer than 5% of children’s books feature BAME characters and fewer than 2% of children’s book creators are British authors of colour. And the picture is even more bleak for those who identify as working class, LGBTQ+ or disabled.’

That’s truly shameful, isn’t it?

‘At Lantana, we’re changing the game and publishing inclusive books that celebrate our differences – whatever they may be. And because we all live on one extraordinary planet, we print our books with non-petroleum-based inks on Forest Stewardship Council certified paper to minimise our carbon footprint.”

They’ve won so many rewards. Please visit their website!

SLH

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

 

 

 

Also Arrived Online & Ready To Buy!

New releases arriving imminently!

After two months delay due to all our suppliers’ warehouses being understandably closed, distribution looks set to begin again in a week or so.

We’ll keep you updated, but for the current situation about purchasing what we have in stock now, please read my recent blog…

Page 45 Temporarily Switches To Mail Order Only. We Ship Worldwide!

Cheers,

Stephen

 

Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month – May 2020

Friday, May 1st, 2020

Normally retailing at £16-99 but a mere £13.59 for Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month members… this month’s selection is…

Altitude h/c by Jean-Marc Rochette with Olivier Bocquet

You can learn more and join the Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month here

Meanwhile, here’s our Page 45 review of Altitude…

Altitude h/c (£16-99, SelfMadeHero) by Jean-Marc Rochette with Olivier Bocquet

“That was the day I fell in love with mountains.

“Beauty in its purest form.
“And there was only one thought in my head: going up. All the way up.”

Which immediately brings but one thought into my head… What goes up has to come down, right?

One way or another…

I’ve never really understood the appeal of staring death in the face in which mountaineers seem to revel. Getting completely off my face, certainly, but the prospect of repeatedly daring the grim reaper to come and take me away has always seemed a bit much. I certainly can’t deny the power of a majestic snow-capped mountain range to induce awe in me, mind you.

 

 

I do believe, though, a not inconsiderable part of the appeal of mountaineering for most is the mental peace and quiet. Aside from the eye-watering vistas and the lung-bursting exercise obviously! But I do wonder whether seeking absolute overwhelming solitude in the near infinite and icy vastness of unforgiving mountains isn’t perhaps just a little about trying to escape one’s self too. Or find one’s true self, depending on your perspective. I’m just not sure dangling from a precipice by little more than my fingertips is the right angle of approach in that direction for me…

 

 

No, I’ll just read about it instead thank you!

I think there is definitely the risk of addiction to the adrenaline induced by such activity, though, which is possibly what encourages mountaineers to take crazy chances when perhaps the risk versus reward calculations don’t really stack up. In other words, they get over-confident, both in their own abilities, but also in that of the natural world not to prey upon them. Others yes, but not them…

Right, philosophical aside and the mildest of hints about the content of this work complete, I suppose I should tell you a bit more about it really!

From the creator of the epic post-apocalyptic trilogy SNOWPIERCER consisting of VOL 1: THE ESCAPE, VOL 2: THE EXPLORERS and VOL 3: THE TERMINUS, plus also now the pre-apocalyptic anticipatory lead-in with SNOWPIERCER: THE PREQUEL PART 1 EXTINCTION (all four reviewed by Page 45) comes this autobiographical tale of one young man’s burgeoning obsession with mountains, and indeed also learning to draw comics.

I found lone wolf Jean-Marc’s coming-of-age story inspirational and moving in equal measure. It’s not going to make me want to climb mountains, it’s had quite the reinforcing opposite effect in that respect, but I came to greatly admire his indomitable will, and also his complete absence of desire to conform. Sounds like he’d be perfect for a career in comics…

 

 

The seeming disinterest of his mother towards pretty much any part of Jean-Marc’s life whatsoever must certainly have contributed enormously to his sense of isolation, but I would imagine also helped to engender his immense independence.

 

 

Even the one true bonding attempt she tries to make, asking a teenage Jean-Marc if she can come climbing with him, inevitably takes a turn for the worse. Instead she seems far more interested in simply collecting the stipend from the French state for the loss Jean-Marc’s father in Algeria many years previously.

So it’s probably no surprise that upon attaining his emancipation from her with his 18th birthday, Jean-Marc promptly kicked her out of his life.

 

 

The control of his cash payout, which he would continue to receive for another three years, allowed him to pursue his love of mountaineering with a greater intensity. Indeed, we don’t see his mother again until a certain… disturbing moment… when even then, she seems far more interested in herself than her son.

It seems puzzling therefore that he actually dedicated this book to his mother…

 

 

I almost wonder whether it was entirely to prove a point. That despite her complete lack of maternal affection, he had succeeded in achieving his goals. Though I am sure it is perhaps far more complex than that. Still, she doesn’t seem to come out of this work with much merit at all.

Before that moment, though, there are a few far-too-close brushes with death for Jean-Marc and his coterie of climbing chums. It’s inevitable, of course, that eventually one of them will succumb, but when it happens, it’s still as much of a shock for Jean-Marc as it is for us. Not least because of the circumstances…

 

 

Does Jean-Marc learn his lesson at that point though? No, of course not… Nothing could happen to him, right?

 

 

So once again it seems the peerless natural wonder of mountains and their deranged devotees and denizens is the perfect material for brilliant comics! I am a huge fan of Jiro Taniguchi’s THE SUMMIT OF THE GODS, in fact it is one of my all-time favourite comics, being primarily a story of one of the most bloody-minded and singularly determined individuals ever to decide to do it just because it’s there. There‘s more than a little of that attitude going on here.

Also, Gou Tanabe’s exquisitely beautiful insanity inducing two-part adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s classic AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS. You might think that title isn’t an appropriate comparison to this work in terms of content, but I don’t know, it certainly seems to be that all mountains have a way of inducing a temporary insanity of sorts in those who become truly obsessed with them.

Rochette has buddied up for this project with writer Olivier Bocquet (who wrote the concluding part of the SNOWPIERCER trilogy) who I imagine has merely (I say merely, but who wouldn’t want a brilliant writer giving you a hand with your autobiography?!) provided some degree of input on that aspect to help his artist friend. Between them they’ve done a superb job. I was gripped from the off like a well-tightened crampon and the tension doesn’t just come from taut climbing ropes either as Jean-Marc finds himself under immense emotional pressure both at home and at school.

 

 

Which is why the mountains provide his escape route… where he finds a group of like-minded individuals with whom he comes to enjoy a true sense of camaraderie.

 

 

The art meanwhile is suitably rugged, yet subtly detailed, like an unforgiving rock face that reveals more and more complexity as you are required to pay it increasingly close attention. There are some lovely flourishes of colour too, an early trip to the museum providing an example of the sort of almost rapturous trance than our young Jean-Marc could concentrate himself into even then.

 

 

There’s actually a delightful reprise to that visit many years later which I thought was a brilliant touch.

 

 

Plus, it was truly fascinating to learn of the local pioneering legends of climbing in the French Alps. There are some brilliant anecdotes that Jean-Marc and his chums recount to each other of these early alpinists. His adoring respect for them and their part in opening up the mountains he loves is clear to see as he and his friends try to follow in their huge footsteps, whilst also dreaming of making their own marks for posterity.

 

 

Danger, however, is of course always only ever a misstep, a brief lapse in concentration or just a random moment of misfortune away. Much like comics really, read enough comics and you’ll get a paper cut eventually…

 

 

As we exit the book we find Rochette wisely leaving the mountains behind, but firmly in the foothills of a new and equally demanding odyssey, his ascent towards the pinnacle of the extremely treacherous and demanding professional world of the comics creator. I think there can be no doubt he has reached the summit.

 

 

[NOTE: Assistant Ed. – Just stepping outside of comics for a moment, if you do get chance, you really should check out the film version of Snowpiercer which was very loosely adapted indeed by director Boon Joon-ho, who of course recently won the Oscar for Best Film with Parasite. It is genuinely brilliant and I think a superb example of how an adaptation of comics material needn’t just be a slavish (if frequently abridged) copy of the original, but how the comics can instead provide the inspiration for something rather wonderfully different.

Also, there is a loose continuation of Snowpiercer coming to French TV soon, which I am rather intrigued about. Again, it looks like it is going to take inspiration from the comics rather than just be a direct adaptation / continuation. But it certainly looks to have just the right post-apocalyptic vibe from what I’ve seen so far, and I’m sure more than a few snow-capped mountains.]

JR

Buy Altitude on the Page 45 website here

Online & Ready To Buy!

Well, there have been no other new arrivals recently, due to all our suppliers’ warehouses being understandably closed. That will be changing in the not too distant future, and obviously we will keep you updated on that.

But for the current situation regarding purchasing what we have in stock now, please read our Stephen’s recent blog…

Page 45 Temporarily Switches To Mail Order Only. We Ship Worldwide!

Page 45 Graphic Novel Reviews early April 2020

Thursday, April 2nd, 2020

Featuring Frederick Peeters, Rensuke Oshikiri, Alexander Utkin, Katie O’Neill, Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, Joshua Dysart, Paul Azaceta, Gabriel Ba, Fabio Moon, Max Fiumara, Dave Stewart…

Lupus (£26-99, Top Shelf) by Frederick Peeters…

“And so that’s how a girl from nowhere managed, in a handful of days, to turn my whole life upside down, making it an inconceivable mess.”

It had all started out so simply, as these things always do… just an interplanetary fishing trip with his oldest friend Tony and loads of drugs.

Well, perhaps more precisely an interplanetary drug trip with his oldest friend Tony and loads of fishing…

But then Sanaa came into Lupus Lablennorre’s life and everything changed in a heartbeat.

Not least because three’s a crowd…

Because let’s face it, meeting a lonely, mysterious girl with the saddest eyes and a complicated back story in a seedy bar is going to upset the dynamic of any duo, drug-addled or otherwise, right? Especially given Lupus and Tony’s friendship, as old and storied as it is, has started to feel rather… strained… recently, as their inherent differences seem to be serving to push them further apart these days, rather than bonding them together like they used to.

 

 

So throw a femme fatale into the mix and it’s bound to be deadly for someone…

 

 

But just what or who is Sanaa so desperate to run away from? Will Lupus and Tony ever be able to actually talk about the strange, unspoken tension between them? Are the fish biting? All these questions and many more will be danced and danced around in this not-quite-crime, not-quite-romance on-the-road odyssey around the stars as our trio look for somewhere off the galactic grid to hide out.

 

 

I’m a huge fan of Frederick AAMA / BLUE PILLS Peeters. AAMA is one of my favourite science fiction graphic novel stories ever, and BLUE PILLS is an incredibly moving love story in the widest possible, most touching of ways, not just the typical romantic sense. Here he has managed to interweave both of these aspects into a beguiling, compelling and very frequently moving epic.

All three main characters – and well pretty much all of the secondary ones too for that matter – are deeply, deeply flawed, and thus their interactions, and lack of them, are full of conflicting and mismatched emotions that cause conflict aplenty.

 

 

I think Peeters puts on a masterful display of pathos here, as in turn I felt such pity for Sanaa, Tony and most definitely Lupus, for their collective inabilities to simply be the people who they really want to be. Though frequently, of course, that is also down to the actions, and indeed also inactions, of other highly culpable parties.

 

 

In this dysfunctional scenario can Lupus ensure they stay one step ahead of those who are hunting them? Possibly… But probably the biggest question of all is what will happen if they actually do manage to get away…? For Lupus, already fundamentally questioning his own sense of identity and purpose, this increasingly unsettling sequence of events might just be the unmaking and thus making of him.

Reverting to a black and white art style after the glorious colours of AAMA allows Peeters to deploy a lustrously thick brushstroke style of line. At times he uses it sparingly, often depending on the environment I feel, to create intensely stark and brutal surroundings leaving his protagonists completely emotionally exposed, yet at others there is a plethora of detail which is almost hypnotic in its intensity both to us and his characters.

If you want to read something which will challenge your idea of what a science fiction work can be, then this will certainly do it like a long, slow course-correcting re-entry burn. A character study first and foremost, I feel, about how the possibilities for personal change can be seemingly and terrifyingly infinite when suddenly faced with complete and total uncertainty about your future. It might just even change your ideas about yourself. It didn’t make me decide to take up fishing though…

JR

Buy Lupus and read the Page 45 review here

Hi Score Girl vol 1 (£10-99, Square Enix) by Rensuke Oshikiri…

“Argh… crap…!! I’ve lost to this guy seven times in a row now…
“I used up my 500 Yen snack money before I knew it!
“He’s got a 27-win streak! Who the heck is this gu… HER…?!!
“She’s in… my sixth grade class… Akira Oono…
“She’s not s’posed to be the type of girl who’d come to a place like this.
“She lives in a totally different world…
“She’s a top student beloved by everyone, and I’ve heard her family’s loaded too!!
“She’s like the polar opposite of me… someone who holes up in an arcade filled with the stench of cigarettes and gets lost in games!!”

The year is 1991, the Gulf War has just broken out and arcades – proper arcades chock-full of glorious single-game stand-up cabinets rather than endless rows of misery-inducing money-gobbling fruit machines – still existed. Hardcore gamer Haruo Yaguchi, who fancies himself as a local legend of arcade action, is about to have his idyllic avoidance-of-existence bubble well and truly bobbled, I mean popped. Sorry, classic old school arcade game in-joke there… If you never frantically chased a level-warping umbrella around the screen on Bubble Bobble then you’ve never truly lived I reckon…

 

 

I guess, though, you have to be of a certain age to remember the sheer visceral pleasure of discovering an arcade machine, let alone a whole arcade’s worth, often in the most random of locations, and then playing it to death, hammering your ten pences in one after another in a bid to be the best. Or at least not die very quickly! I mean when your pocket money for the week was a mere fifty pence, you soon get the knack of zapping those aliens trust me.

 

 

Thus as a young lad in the eighties I learnt to beat Scramble on a machine randomly plonked behind the checkouts in a Morrison’s supermarket in Morley, used to do battle with the barrel-rolling Donkey Kong in the video shop near my Gran’s, plus I would beg my dad to arrive early at the ABC cinema in Leeds to be able to play Space Invaders, Asteroids AND Missile Command in the foyer. Gorf (certainly the first speaking arcade machine I remember) taunting the space cadets at Richard Dunn Sports Centre meant it was only ever the trigger finger getting any exercise there! Even the local golf club in Batley had a table-top Moon Cresta…

There were also two excellent arcades in Leeds city centre that myself and my best mate Savage would frequent pretty much every Saturday during our excursions into town when we were a little older. An hour or two spent on classics such as Gauntlet and Outrun were an essential part of whiling away the weekend. Trips to random seaside towns or better yet a visiting funfare offered the pleasure of discovering an array of little known machines such as Section Z.

 

 

Good times, as they say. Yes, I had my Atari VCS console and my ZX Spectrum, but an arcade machine was its own particular bundle of electronic joy that was just that little bit different, more exciting, somehow. Whether it was the fact that you had to pay to play which immediately sharpened your concentration a little, or that there could be a random audience of people to applaud or take the piss accordingly, well that was very probably a huge part of part of it too.

And yes, I have to admit, back in the eighties, you really didn’t see that many girls in arcades. If you did, they were probably in tow with their boyfriend looking utterly bored wishing they could be off to Woolworths to get their pick and mix, so my teenage self can well understand Haruo Yaguchi’s total astonishment at first getting completely battered on Street Fighter II, then repeatedly bested on pretty much every other machine by a girl… And not just any girl either, but as he points out basically a total swot! Huzzah for the ladies!!

 

 

Of course, fast forward to current times and my eight year old avid gamer daughter would be completely baffled by this one-sided sexist scenario. As she mows down the opposition on Fortnite there’s complete sexual equality in being her cannon fodder! She can’t beat me on Street Fighter II yet though… Yep, there’s nothing like repeated Guile knee drops to the death dispensed by a cackling parent to induce a tantrum!

 

 

Anyway, I realise I have written virtually nothing about this manga! The joy here is two-fold, firstly listening to Haruo dribble on excitedly about the games of yesteryear making me slightly misty-eyed for the days of my misspent youth, but also the unexpected friendship that develops between our two player team of misfits as Haruo rapidly begins to learn respect for his opponent the hard way.

JR

Buy Hi Score Girl vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Gamayun Tales 1: An Anthology of Modern Russian Folk Tales s/c (£12-99, Nobrow) by Alexander Utkin…

Collects The King Of Birds, The Water Spirit and Tanya Of The Lake into one complete story.

The King Of Birds:

“Now then, best beloved, I will tell you an amazing tale: The King Of Birds.
“It all started with an apple.
“No ordinary apple, but a golden apple that grew on a magic tree in the garden of a warrior princess…
“Anyone who ate a golden apple would become young and mighty again.”

Ooh, that sounds fab – I’ll take two!

It’s a beautiful opening to a beautiful book, o’er-brimming with opulence and mesmerising from cover to cover.

Its narrator is Gamayun, a magical, human-faced bird from Slavic mythology, whose blue face, golden tresses and wide, glowing eyes emerge theatrically from behind fanned, feathered wings, all with more than a hint of the Egyptian.

 

 

Almost immediately a knight on his steed gallops over the roofed walls and steals an armful of the ripe, restorative fruit in order to cure his ailing father. But Gamayun is a tease, for she will not reveal what happens next; not of the knight and his father, at least.

No, it is the apple which was dropped which proves so pivotal. It’s one small accident with collateral consequences whose wide-spanning repercussions are enormous.

For, where once was harmony throughout the realms of the birds and the beasts there will be soon be a battle and blood loss, all because one small bird and one tiny beast break their firm friendship over this fallen treasure. Everything, they shared until now: every morsel of scavenged food. But the mouse is too taken by this golden apple to care, whips it away for herself, and is discovered!

 

 

The sparrow is aggrieved and flies far south, thousands and thousands of miles, to the kingdom of animals in search of justice. Had the Lion King only considered the complaint, then that might have been the end of it (yet, admittedly, the end of the mouse), but no! And so the ripples of cause and effect continue to emanate as the bird seeks restitution and revenge from the Bird King not only for the mouse’s misdemeanour, but now for the King of Beasts’ haughty snub.

And this, best beloved, is but the beginning of a tale that will take you over vast oceans to three sequestered citadels housing great treasure and, within each, a royal relative. It will transform the fortunes of one lowly merchant who finds within him the compassion to forego harming his natural enemies and prey and, if only he can keep his promises, he will reap rewards for his generosity – as well as a fright for an earlier slight.

 

 

I promise you the unpredictable.

Where there are temptations they are generally given into – just look at the mouse and the sparrow! – and when dire warnings are issued you know that almost always they will be disobeyed. But don’t be so sure. Retaliations will be other than what you expect. Anything could happen. So much of it will!

Always remember not just your manners but, forever more importantly, good will and gratitude!

Well, as you’ve probably gathered by now, this is all a bit gorgeous. It’s one of the most luxurious graphic novels I’ve ever laid eyes on. The colours don’t simply glow, in Africa they radiate heat. While on the wing, you can feel the cool sea breezes that help keep the eagle aloft.

 

 

The initial battle is ferocious, full of sharp edges from the lion king’s crown of sharpened bones to the talons that scatter them. The eagle’s mighty wings are whipped with colour, slashes of it fanned out in feathers: green, blue and black on fire-burning brown. It’s all teeth and beak, while all-seeing Gamayun stares you straight in the eye: all because of an apple.

Even more majestic is the first of the three citadels, rising from the deepest blue sea like a gigantic, earthen eyrie. Its copper colour is complemented by clouds billowing above the horizon while the ocean is reflected in the eagle king’s wings, just as it reflects the brighter blue sky up above. This is exactly the sort of spectacle of monumental, fantastical antiquity which has lit my imagination since first encountering the films of Ray Harryhausen. Even Gamayun cannot help but gaze in wonder, turning her head to direct your own eyes to its apex, its external “throne”.

 

 

And this, best beloved, is still just the beginning!

No, really it is. Even this graphic novel is just the beginning, a first instalment to whet your appetite for what is to come. I did warn you that Gamayun is a tease. Over and again she promises to pick a thread up later – and she will, but not yet. No single tale is completed: not the thief’s nor the merchant’s; not the King of the Beasts’ nor the King of the Birds’ – although the eagle may believe that his is.

Oh, you will be thoroughly dangled! But you will relish every second!

What is up for discussion here? Loyalty, harmony, generosity; patience and priorities; retribution, to be sure, and the real risks of war. Gratitude is always a good thing.

 

 

But, best beloved, I will keep you no longer, for I see that you are eager to begin. So I only add this: make sure you keep turning the pages right unto the very end, and remember that blue-skinned is beautiful. Hmmmm….

The Water Spirit:

Ah, best beloveds, now sit yourselves down!

I see you’ve returned to learn what became of the humble merchant who found and rescued a wounded eagle, then nursed it back to health. It transpired that this mighty raptor was none other than the King of the Birds, a blue-skinned being with three regal sisters, one of whom rewarded her brother’s saviour with her most prized possession, a heavy, gleaming gold chest.

Having soaked up the spectacle of three stunning palaces, our lowly merchant now wends his way home, for he has been gone from the wife whom he loves with all his heart for almost a year, and he is desperate to see her once more. Alas, even as he draws near – to within but a few days’ walk of his house – the foulest of weather descends: snow, icy rain and hailstones as big as his fist. And he does have two very big fists.

With nowhere to shelter, he opens the treasure chest, perhaps seeking to snuggle up inside, even though the King of the Birds commanded that it be left locked until the merchant was safely home. But that’s the thing with any such strictures: they’re begging to be broken, aren’t they?

Well, wonders of wonders, my best beloveds, for the merchant will not have to struggle!

 

 

Instead the casket transforms itself into a vast, golden palace. Structured for maximum strength, it’s a little bit Soviet, but with windows that shimmer with banded ocean-blue, sea green and salmon pink, as if aspects of another dimension. Indeed, it proves even bigger on the inside than on the outside, and surprisingly homely, with a feast laid out and candles all welcomingly lit. Wine is poured as if by an invisible servant and, after dessert plucked from a bowl of fruit, a candlestick hovers then shows the traveller to bed. A four-poster bed! And, oh, what a glorious view!

The winter weather has blown over to reveal the most tranquil of lakes, a crescent moon’s reflection streaming over the still, midnight blue waters. The merchant does not recall a lake in this region, but no matter. He bites into the rosy-red apple he’d saved for later and pfft – there’s a worm wriggling inside – so he tosses the apple out of the window and PLOP into the water below.

“A foolish mistake,” notes our narrator.

And so it seems, for there’s something slumbering in the shadowy depths, about to be woken, and about to take umbrage at our merchant’s distinct lack of manners and complete disregard for Local Authority Planning Permission. (Article 11 Notice, if you don’t own all the site).

Still, one lucky fish gets a free worm-supper.

 

 

GAMAYUN TAKES VOL 1: THE KING OF THE BIRDS began with an apple at its core too. They’re so often the seed of a story. Ask Eve!

I urge you to get a gander at that, for it dealt with the premise and artwork in depth, whereas I am on holiday – can you tell?

We are far from done in this second instalment, for even more potential tales are opened up with promises to be told, and there are more oaths exchanged with the alarming repercussions. Top tip: never shake hands on an agreement without knowing what you’re agreeing to; never make a deal without knowing its details. If you’ve been away from home for nearly a year, there’s quite a good chance that there have been changes. Hopefully the bed linen, for one.

If you relished David B’s HASIB & THE QUEEN OF SERPENTS, then I recommend this wholeheartedly, with only the caveat that David B delivered an entire epic, each of whose threads, however digressive, was woven together to form a complete tapestry. Here we conclude with an even more intriguing, whiplash, OMG cliff-hanger than book one!

 

 

It’s equally luxurious, though. The treasure-chest transmogrification aside, I spent an entire hour staring at a single image of the lake when revisited at first light, marvelling at the flatness of its waters. They’re the flattest thing in the world, are lakes – liquid does find its own level – and it’s a very clever artist who can render such a sheer surface in perfect contrast to the vertical thrust of that which emerges from, in front or behind it.

I also liked the different visual treatments of what we are witnessing and what we are listening to. Golden-tressed Gamayun appears in occasional asides, either addressing us directly or commenting on what she has just watched replayed herself, glancing in the panels’ direction. Gamayun is all sleek and smooth; what we watch has a certain rugged texture to it.

“I wish I could help you somehow, poor boy,” mourns the invisible golden palace’s inhabitant.

Says Gamayun, “Oh, darling, you will”.

 

 

Finally, like HASIB & THE QUEEN OF SERPENTS, this mythological excursion also offers broken-promise offenders the opportunity of redemption – second chances, if you will – although there appears to be a far greater price to be paid.

“Nine years has passed joyfully, but even the longest day must have an end.”

Oh dear. The holiday’s over. I’m being sent back to boarding school, aren’t I?

SLH

Buy Gamayun Tales 1: An Anthology of Modern Russian Folk Tales s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Princess Princess Ever After s/c (£8-99, Oni Press Inc.) by Katie O’Neill…

“You heard what she said… and she means it. I thought the tower was the only place for me. But then you came. Somehow, seeing how excited you were made me want to escape. But now…”
“I’ll protect you, Sadie! I have a sword, a unicorn, and kick-butt hair!”
“It’s true, your hair is kick-butt. And I trust you.”

A new printing of the first work from Katie O’Neill who has since gone from strength to strength, particularly in terms of her story-telling and dialogue but also her art, which has got lighter of touch, with AQUICORN COVE, THE TEA DRAGON SOCIETY and THE TEA DRAGON FESTIVAL, since I wrote this review.

Who better to rescue a princess in distress than a princess not in a dress? Katie O’Neill’s very sweet take on how a princess can be just as capable and daring-do when it comes to staging a rescue and helping another princess overthrow her villainous sibling, finding true love with each other in the process, certainly has its heart in the right place, but I couldn’t get completely past the thin storyline and stilted dialogue. Nice, clean, colourful art though, again a very cartoony style that’s obviously influenced by many a current TV show.

 

 

If the aim of this is purely in helping educate teeny-tinies about sexuality, then I think it hits the mark perfectly, job done. As the delightful John Allison has insightfully written on the back cover (not on each one obviously, that would take forever) “… a big-hearted fable where the boxes we’re expected to fit into are simply dragons to be slain.”

 

 

Beyond that, whilst it is lovely, and fun, it’s basically a very simple story and that dialogue is so badly in need of loosening up. It’s all a bit Emma Watson’s enunciation in the first Harry Potter film…

 

 

JR

Buy Princess Princess Ever After and read the Page 45 review here

BPRD: 1946 – 1948 s/c (£22-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, Joshua Dysart, Paul Azaceta, Gabriel Ba, Fabio Moon, Max Fiumara, Dave Stewart…

Of the concluding part of this collected trilogy I wrote…

“During the war, the Germans were attempting to break through a barrier between worlds, to access some power that they could use against the allies. They failed… and yet they didn’t fail.”
“I’ve never heard anything about this. How is that possible?”
“You never had the clearance, Anna. But I checked Colonel Betz, and the State Department, and you have it now. As I said, they failed to win the war, but a gateway was opened… and a creature did come through.”
“My God, it’s just like a little devil. Looks like we got it instead of the Nazis, huh? Is it still in custody?”
“Er, actually I’m raising him.”
“RAISING HIM?!! Raising him to be what?!”

Third part of the 1940s’ arc starring the founder of the BPRD Professor Trevor Bruttenholm, revealing cases from the bureau’s earliest days, and of course the adventures of young Hellboy. Not quite as action-packed as the two preceding volumes, 1946 and 1947, but still great fun, as Trevor is invited by the US military to investigate the strange monsters popping up at a remote nuclear test facility. Positively utopian days compared to the HELL ON EARTH the bureau is having to deal with in the modern day, frankly.

 

 

Hellboy, meanwhile, is going through a sensitive phase, which is going to require a hacksaw to resolve, and in the process finally clear up one of the great Hellboy mysteries. Also, everyone’s favourite demon in a Russian child’s body returns, although it seems the only person who can see her, aside from us, of course, is the Professor. Spooky. Which is the point obviously. Given her current… status… in modern times BRPD I am intrigued to see how her pandemonius story is going to play out…

 

 

[NOTE: now modern era BPRD has completely wrapped up, I think the word badly would sum it up…]

JR

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Cayrels Ring h/c (£22-99, A Wave Blue World) by Shannon Lenz &  Marian Churchland, Alchemichael, Simon Roy, Brandon Graham, Grim Wilkins, Faryl Dalrymple, Filya Bratukhn, Aaron Conley, Aaron Petovello, Dustin Weaver, John Le, Francois Vigneault, Pablo Clark, Cassie Hart

Chrononauts vol 2 (£13-99, Image) by Mark Millar & Eric Canete

Claire: Justice Ninja vol 1 (£8-99, David Fickling Books) by Joe Brady & Kate Ashwin

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

I Am Brown h/c (£11-99, Lantana Publishing) by Ashok Banker & Sandhya Prabhat

Iron Maiden: Legacy Of The Beast vol 1 s/c (£8-99, IDW) by Llexi Leon, Ian Edginton & Kevin West

Money Shot s/c (£15-99, Vault) by Sarah Beattie, Tim Seeley & Rebekah Isaacs

The Naughtiest Unicorn (£5-99, Egmont) by Pip Bird & David O’Connell

The Naughtiest Unicorn On A School Trip (£5-99, Egmont) by Pip Bird & David O’Connell

Oblivion Song vol 4 s/c (£14-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Lorenzo De Felici

Pretty Deadly vol 3: The Rat s/c (£13-99, Image) by Kelly Sue DeConnick & Emma Rios

The Rise And Fall Of The Trigan Empire vol 1 (£19-99, Rebellion) by Mike Butterworth & Don Lawrence

Trees vol 3 s/c (£13-99, Image) by Warren Ellis & Jason Howard

Batman Allies: Alfred Pennyworth s/c (£16-99, DC) by various

Superman: The Unity Saga vol 2: House Of El s/c (£16-99, DC) by Brian Michael Bendis & Ivan Reis, various

Conan The Barbarian vol 2: The Life And Death Of Conan Book Two s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Mahmud A. Asrar,  Gerardo Zaffino

Immortal Hulk vol 6: We Believe In Bruce Banner s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Al Ewing & Joe Bennett

X-Men / Avengers: Onslaught s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by various

Mob Psycho 100 vol 4 (£10-99, Dark Horse) by One

One-Punch Man vol 19 (£6-99, Viz) by One & Yusuke Murata

Page 45 Graphic Novel Reviews 12th March 2020

Thursday, March 12th, 2020

Featuring Steven Appleby, James Tynion IV, Werther Dell’Edera, Paul Pope, Paul Jenkins, Jae Lee, Sean Phillips…

Dragman h/c (£18-99, Jonathan Cape) by Steven Appleby.

“Did I mention I can fly? Oh. Sorry. That’s rather important.
“When I put on women’s clothes I can fly.”

Fabulous!

Only Steven Appleby could or would lob in such a profound statement of elevating empowerment and celebration disguised as a superhero sub-plot.

He can do this, hilariously, because DRAGMAN is no more a macho superhero mag than Fraction and Aja’s HAWKEYE or King and Gerads’ MISTER MIRACLE. Indeed few who’ve read even those left-field comedic triumphs – let alone the more corporate claptrap – are going to be looking in Steven’s infinitely more demure direction.

I far more and fully expect fans of CASSANDRA DARKE’s Posy Simmonds and WHEN THE WIND BLOWS’ Raymond Briggs to be sallying forth instead, because that’s the strength of the book’s aesthetic and the breadth of its appeal. It is a very British book, in part about how we treat each other, ourselves and our souls, and the way the corporations ain’t half taking over. Also, the very idea of British superheroes is ever so silly, and there will be plenty within to make you grin. Like this wonderfully well placed “Welcome” mat!

 

 

Drawn in what Posy Simmonds refers to as his “nimble, nubbly line”, then washed over by Nicola Sherring’s warmest watercolours, Steven Appleby’s infectiously affectionate art leaves one feeling as safe as if in the hands of an English village’s road-straddling lollipop lady.

Freed from the confines and constrictions of panel borders, the gentle, fluid forms and wibbly-wobbly gesticulations don’t so much control your reading as liberate it from harm. Even something as far-out as flying full-pelt from the cloud-covered city of London to race trains past the patchwork, hedge-seamed farmland of bucolic Britain is rendered as regular as popping down to the corner shop.

 

 

 

The truth of this contention becomes clearer when you’re left to experience the graphic novel without the graphics: those dozen or so pages interspersed within the full three hundred others which are pure prose, bleak and bereft, unadorned – and emphatically unmitigated – by Steven’s dainty doodlings.

For when the pictures disappear, so does any trace of the fanciful, as we slip into a subplot which will shimmer queasily below the surface, in and out, on and off, until its relevance becomes all too terribly clear.

“The tide is in and the police tape droops down into the water, rising and falling as a fresh breeze sweeps in off the sea, rocking the boats on their moorings. Waves slap-slop up and down the grooves in the concrete slipway while far out in the estuary birds bob on the surface in dotted flocks.”

Arresting, no? At one point the prose and sequential art criss-cross oh so tantalisingly close – no further apart that the width of a crowded club – but the fleeting opportunity goes unnoticed for what it unexpectedly is.

“All in all, no one at Pretty Pretty can work out if they knew any of the victims or not, because all the trans-girls and most of the guys in the room, including himself, use scene names, meaning their secret lives and their real lives, or whichever way round you want to think of it, don’t connect up.”

It’s also more difficult for the police to connect the smudged trail of bloody dots, and so very much easier, therefore, to get away with murder.

“The man leans deeper into the shadows and watches until the meeting breaks up, the lights are dimmed, the music comes back on and the crowd return to their hedonistic pleasures. At which point the new arrivals disappear into the office with Filly and the man suggests to Cindy that she take him back to her place, to which she greedily agrees, so they collect their coats and slip out into the real world, where the real murders take place.
“And no one notices them go.”

Brrrrr… I told you that you’d miss the art.

It’s time for a superhero secret origin!

 

 

Many moons ago a teenage Augustus Crimp – and indeed his creator, Steven Appleby – discovered a stocking down the back of a sofa and put it on, instinctively, without thinking. Immediately they felt that they were floating on air, but in Augustus’s case the effect was far from just figurative for yes, my dears, he found he could fly!

And he promptly cracked the back of his bonce upon the plaster ceiling.

Neither looked back as they further explored the natural fit of wearing more women’s clothing, but they did look over their shoulders because, you know, society… And some mothers…

 

 

 

You’ll learn more about Steven’s trajectory in the Afterword, but for August the second pivotal point came while enjoying a quiet cup of tea, several floors up in the local art gallery, only to spy young Cherry Mingle, who lived opposite Augustus and his Mum, playing on the cafe balcony outside. Just as August is fretting as the prospect of being recognised by Cherry in a wig and women’s clothing… over the railing goes Cherry!

And in leaping immediately, selflessly after her, that’s how Augustus became the reluctant superhero called Dragman. Briefly.

“Mr Crimp?”
“Sssh. Don’t tell.”

Things… didn’t work out. It was a territorial thing. Some people are dicks.

Since then Augustus has retired, met a lady, got married and had a baby boy. (Did I mention that Augustus likes ladies? Oh. Sorry. That’s hardly important, but Augustus likes ladies.) And I’m so sorry to fast-forward so swiftly, but his missus must never, ever learn that Augustus was once Dragman because oh you’ll see, and now Cherry needs Dragman’s help yet again!

People are selling their souls.

 

 

It’s not some covert Faustian Pact for the few, it’s the very latest equity-freeing opportunity for the many, and the masses are selling their souls to huge corporations for cash. It’s all over the TV…

“You know how we all sometimes get the feeling that the world is an illusion and nothing is real? Well, if you sell your soul you’ll find that alarming feeling GOES AWAY… Pop into a Black Mist store today…”

There’s tidy.

“Souls are valuable. You can get a great deal of money for your soul…” observes Augustus. “Better to have a new car than something ancient and invisible. Only, when your soul was gone… nothing made much sense any more. Except jumping out of a plane.”

They’re doing that too: buying a plane ticket and jumping…

And Cherry’s parents have sold their souls.

Everything I’ve told you about ties together; every single element, I swear – apart from the lollipop lady.

It’s so deftly done, each episode so diverting that you won’t spot it all creeping up on you, and the central concern really couldn’t be more topical, because every day we make decisions about money, and who we’re prepared to give it to in the full knowledge of what they are likely to do with it and how that in turn will affect what happens to us within our wider society.

“It’s so much easier to run a business without scruples.
“Principals are painful.
“Without a soul the pain simply fades away.”

 

 

I leave you with the exquisite endpapers – August Crimp’s ‘Finding Myself’ Journey of the Unknown, Unimagined, Not Yet Invented or Unexplored – because I’ve just reminded myself that this is an astutely insightful comedy, as all the interior art here will attest, full of the feel-good and the funny.

And, of course, the nimblest and most nubbly of lines.

SLH

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

Something Is Killing The Children vol 1 s/c (£10-99, Boom!) by James Tynion IV & Werther Dell’Edera…

“You getting off here, hon?”
“Hm?”
“Archer’s Peak. You getting off?”
“Yeah.”
“Terrible about those children.”
“Yeah.”
“I wish somebody would do something about it…”
“Yeah.”

Fortunately for the terrified residents of Archer’s Peak, who have suffered the horrifying tragedy of nine dead children in just two weeks with more going missing every day, the puzzled police trying to pass it off to people as the attacks of a rabid bear, someone is about to do something about it…

Meanwhile, here’s the publisher to perturb you even further…

“When the children of Archer’s Peak begin to go missing, everything seems hopeless. The few children that return alive have terrible stories – impossible details of terrifying creatures that live in the shadows. Their only hope of finding and eliminating the threat is the arrival of a mysterious stranger, one who believes the children and claims to be the only one who sees what they can see.

Her name is Erica Slaughter. She kills monsters. That is all she does, and she bears the cost because it must be done.”

Indeed. Which actually makes this sound a tad one-dimensional when in fact it’s anything but with the character of young James – who’s about to insist with near-suicidal determination on becoming Erica’s sidekick – very firmly and brilliantly established in three distinct scenes in ten of the opening fourteen pages.

Our scary story opens very late at night with three pages of James and his friends Noah, Karl and Robbie on a sleepover playing truth or dare and James spinning them all a spooky yarn about a nearby ravine. Which promptly induces them to go out for a midnight meander to check out his story.

We then immediately cut to two pages of a totally distraught James at the police station recounting to the sympathetic officer just how he became separated from his mates and then heard them screaming their heads off. Well, screaming whilst they had their heads bitten off probably…

Returning to school (after a wonderfully surreal four page interlude to introduce us to Erica) James immediately finds himself vilified by the local bully and promptly ends up in the very understanding principal’s office who simply expresses to James his wish that James had punched the bully in the face. If only all headmasters were like that! Meanwhile all the locals are utterly baffled, horrified and struggling to make any sense of it all. If only someone were arriving on the next bus to Archer’s Peak to do something about it… Ah wait!

What follows is most definitely full of delightful terror but also beautifully bizarre black humour, including Erica irritably conversing about the monsters with her cuddy toy octopus, in what must surely be a nod to the possibly alien hand puppet in THE KUROSAGI CORPSE DELIVERY SERVICE. James seems to think it’s just one of Erica’s strange foibles, because let’s face it, if you’re a professional monster hunter you’re bound to have the odd screw loose. But when the octopus starts talking to him, well, perhaps that’s a sign that his sidekick related problems are about to start rapidly escalating…

Excellent lean, pointed artwork, in fact slightly mean-looking art at times in an entirely appropriate way from Werther Dell’Edera, who looks like he has sharpened his line and tidied up slightly since taking over on the second volume of Brian Wood’s brilliant BRIGGS LAND. He was really great there anyway but this has definitely taken it up a notch. Some highly varied textural shading work and colouring from Miquel Muerto too, combining the subtle and the striking to superb effect, which all serves to give this book a very distinct feel of its own indeed.

I’m intrigued to see what happens in volume two as I can’t see this being a book that runs and runs given how quickly events seem to be unfolding… I mean, they’re going to run out of kids shortly if they’re not careful for starters!

Which they probably are for the monsters, just a starter that is…

JR

Buy Something Is Killing The Children vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

100% s/c (£22-99 Image) by Paul Pope –

A book Page 45 loves so much we’ve reviewed it twice already and its back once again so let’s have both!

First up here’s Mark’s original review…

“Anyway, it’s just a business arrangement. It’s just money. There’ll be time for my serious work later.”
“Eloy, the last thing in the world that you should do is what they’re asking! Sure, they’ll let you into their rotten little club! All you gotta do is let ’em change you so much, you won’t be you anymore. Then who gets the acclaim — and who’ll deserve it?”

Eloy’s ready to… well maybe not ‘sell-out’ but change his vision for a little piece of the funding pie. The installation that he’s been working on for so long will get the money if he changes one aspect. But then it won’t be his, it’ll be theirs. In his head, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to survive.

Kim felt the same way a few days ago. A girl she knew from the Catshack turned up dead. Assaulted and left in an alley, naked apart from her gold trainers.

 

 

She & Kim have (had) the same shoe size. She’d tried those sparkling trainers on weeks back. Suddenly the city seems too real, too predatory so she acquired a gun just to be safe. Hopefully she’ll never need to use it but she feels safer with it in her pocket. The comfort of cold metal that fits in her palm. Strel went with her to buy it but she thinks that it’s a bad move. Violence isn’t her thing and she’s seen enough of the underworld working as the dance manager of the Catshack. It’s not where she wants to be though. She’s got this dream of a coffee grinding company but she needs a regular wage to look after her kid now that his father’s touring the world. She doesn’t approve of Haitous boxing, doesn’t like the violence and doesn’t want Ben growing up with that influence. 

 

 

The book starts off with the death of the gold trainer girl before opening up for the story of three couples. We’ve got the beginnings of a relationship (Eloy & Kim), a couple estranged (Strel & Haitous) so we need one more, something with a little fire. Enter Daisy. Arriving at the Catshack, first day as a dancer, ready to get on stage and show her all. She starts a passionate affair with one of the dishwashers, a mild diversion for her but an obsession for him. John’s tired of his job, ready to move on or ready to share his life with someone else. A better choice could have been made.

 

 

This project started out as a series of shorts with a shared location. The city, and the Catshack, are big enough to be intimate with each of the threads we’re presented with. It’s set in the near future, just enough technological advances to make it different but enough similarities to keep it recognisable. The dancers are wired to show their insides floating above them. After stripping and gynaecological porn this is the next vicarious thrill ahead, seeing what’s inside a girl when she dances. The boxers use it too. The city, possibly the same one we’ve seen in Pope’s previous HEAVY LIQUID, is cluttered and multi-cultural, akin to the San Angeles of BLADE RUNNER but lighter and more alive.

On John & Daisy’s first date, he tells her the story of Tristram & Iseult (or Isolde), a tale of romantic love. She immediately bats it back by telling a soured story of love, addiction and abuse using the same names. We’re allowed to see her outward disgust with romance even as she’s feeling herself falling for John. John either ignores this and her use of sex to avoid difficult questions or is oblivious to it, captivated by her charm. It’s doomed. We know it, Daisy knows it. Rather than keep this as the main story, Pope balances it out with the other two relationships to avoid it becoming too dark. And it’s not just a romance book, there are themes of love, money, escape and trust running through the whole thing.

“Words. It’s full of little black words.
I can almost read ’em when I do this…
I could break the lock…
…pry it open…
Bet it wouldn’t even be hard.
I could read her diary…
…I could…
…if I really wanted to…”

MS

Now here’s Jonathan’s review when the book was reprinted the first time…

”Wake up and it just hits you. Someday, you’re gonna die… Such a terrible thing, and for what? Why life? Why this life? What’s it all mean? Deep down, you fear nothing. But you still hope something. Either way, you’re not really sure. That’s my crisis. I don’t wanna die. But if I gotta die, first I’m gonna live. I’m gonna peel life like fruit, and use it up. I’m gonna light up an’ burn. I’ll burn and burn until I’m snuffed out. Then I’ll just fade away. But until then, I’m gonna live! ‘Im ready. I’m gonna do it! Come what may, one hundred percent…”

 

 

And so we meet John the busboy humping crates of beer and washing dishes in the Gastro Bar, where he meets Daisy the new dancer who’s comfortable with up to fourteen centimetres gastro-penetration, no problem. Gastro being the latest burlesque craze for seeing right inside the human body to the internal organs of a near-naked dancer because mere flesh isn’t enough anymore.

 

 

Daisy has been hired by Strel the manager of The Catshack, who with a young child and an absent partner is getting by but who dreams of getting out of Gastro and running her own coffee-roasting company. Strel is more immediately concerned, however, with ensuring Kim, her waitress and best friend, doesn’t get ripped off whilst buying herself a gun for protection; a gun Kim thinks she needs because of the girl with the weave-in white braids and gold trainers who somehow ended up dead in the trash cans behind the club last night. And also for setting Kim up with Eloy her cousin, or Kettlehead as he’s known for his obsession with creating a truly insane avant-garde piece of art with one hundred boiling kettles all tuned to whistle at the same note over multiple octaves, an impossible orchestra creating a one-note symphony.

 

 

However, Eloy can’t get the money to complete his masterpiece without compromising his artistic beliefs… except there’s Haitous, the Frankenstein-faced second-ring fight master returned from a year on tour fighting in Eurasia who might be able to help. Haitous has got a scheme to make some money out of his last fight with the much younger and brutal up and coming Wallman.

 

 

This is the Haitous who happens to be the father of Strel’s little boy and who would very much like to be part of their lives again, except Strel won’t even acknowledge his comm-threads to her, let alone speak to him.

 

 

Thus the lives of our six central characters intertwine and twirl around a Chinatown in New York City with hot happening venues like the Klube which has “generated a fair share of crooning from uptown Sikhs to downtown freaks” and seedy bars with private four-dee booths allowing you sample your drinks sat on a solar panel of a satellite orbiting the earth, or in the midst of an ostrich stampede in the desert depending on what sort of ambience you’d like to create, or yarn you’d like to spin your companion.

For me 100% is Paul Pope’s finest hour to date, exceeding even the mysterious HEAVY LIQUID, the pathos-filled ESCAPO, the genuinely spooky BATMAN: YEAR HUNDRED and the haunting and sadly long-out-of-print BALLAD OF DOCTOR RICHARDSON, all of which are superb comics in their own right. I can’t actually bring myself to talk too much about THB, something he has described as his Dune (presumably for how long it’s taking), because it still rankles me mightily to this day that he seems unwilling to finish it. What’s your problem Pope?!!!(* & **)

100% is a truly engrossing tale of desire, romance, passion and heartbreak, set amongst a city that never pauses to take a breath never mind sleeps. Where Pope pulls his master-trick is to leave some blanks for us to fill in along the way, apparently cutting small portions of scenes where we’re left to ponder the meaning of what we’ve just seen, to surmise exactly what might be happening, and not until the very end is everything made clear. Even then we are left with possibilities, not certainties, nothing is quite 100%. The story never ends and their destinies are left in the characters’ own hands to shape as they will.

I haven’t even mentioned the art yet which is just masterful, masterful work with not a line out of place and not a square millimetre of space wasted which just further adds to the non-stop whirring insanity of Pope’s future New York City. Think Blade Runner squared and you’re not even halfway there. 100% is such a beautifully drawn book it’s very difficult to say which parts are my favourite, but some stand-out sequences are the dialogue-free negotiation for Kim’s gun conducted in the middle of the Klube filled with pounding Indian music…

 

 

… or the first date between John and Daisy in the four-dee booth where we start to realise Daisy might just have a few issues, Daisy dancing Gastro in her flaming firecoat and blonde wig in the transparent dance cube, Eloy’s passionate demonstration of his artwork to Kim in an abandoned grain silo, and John’s closing scene (again split masterfully into two short staccato sequences by Pope) which just so perfectly brings 100% to a conclusion of sorts.

JR

* [THB is due out from First Second as a complete work sometime in the unspecified future – Ed] **

** [Wrote Stephen in April 2009 hahahahahaha!]

Buy 100% and read the Page 45 reviews here

Batman: Jekyll And Hyde h/c (£11-99, DC) by Paul Jenkins & Jae Lee, Sean Phillips

Quick tip of the hat to June Chung on her charnel-house colouring, with its green/blue-greys and splatters of cardinal red, which unites the surprisingly well matched art of Jae Lee on the first half and Sean Phillips on the second. Monumentally gothic in every aspect, Jae’s jagged art fills each page with far more substantial forms than many; similarly, when I have ever referred to Sean’s characters other than in half-light / shadow? I don’t suppose for five seconds the 50/50 split in art chores has anything to do with the duality that lies at the heart of this nasty little number, but hey, it provides a neat link to Two-Face and his own personality split visibly down the middle.

His respectable half is Harvey Dent, besuited ex-lawyer trying desperately to control his acid-scarred, vitriolic other half who spits out green-lettered bile at anyone stupid enough to try reasoning with him. But what if Two-Face doesn’t want to be controlled? What if he’d rather be freed from inhibition and let loose all that his sick heart desires? What if he’d perfected an hallucinogenic drug to do just that? Well, he’d probably want to field-test it on someone else first: someone with own history of demons in check, who secretly wants to be unshackled himself. Some things can never be unlearned, and Bruce Wayne is about to discover more about himself than he’d ever want to.

 

 

Despite the direction you think this may be going in (“Oh no, not another mad dash to close down Gotham’s water supply!”) which is a deliberate misdirection, you can add this to the list of dozen superior Bat-books with more meat than gristle. Just like Ennis’s take on The Punisher (PUNISHER MAX and MARVEL KNIGHTS PUNISHER), Jenkins suggests that a simple accident with acid couldn’t have been enough to induce this degree of trauma. Indeed Harvey’s memories of life with his brother Murray would indicate that he’d an early fixation on relinquishing control – and responsibility – to fate in the form of a toss of a coin. Chocolate or vanilla? Life or death? It’s all the same thing, surely?

But what was the trauma?

 

 

Paul gives Two-Face some lines so monstrously direct that they’re funny, whilst Alfred’s on form with his weary, wry asides. Also, Commissioner Gordon gave me a chortle in the aftermath of one of several psychotic episodes here resulting in mass murder and cannibalism.

Crime Scene Officer: “This is what we found once we got inside. Most of the victims were battered with the blunt end of an axe. What’s left of the husband is downstairs. The perp’s over there on the sofa. She decapitated herself with a fork.”

Commissioner Gordon: “Mmm. Might make her reluctant to testify.”

For more Jae Lee, please FANTASTIC FOUR 1,2,3,4 and INHUMANS; for more Sean Phillips, please see noir masterpieces KILL OR BE KILLED, FATALE, CRIMINAL, THE FADE OUT and, if you insist upon capes with your crime, SLEEPER.

SLH

Buy Batman: Jekyll And Hyde h/c and read the Page 45 reviews here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Becoming Horses s/c (£16-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Disa Wallander

Embarrassment Of Witches s/c (£17-99, Top Shelf) by Sophie Goldstein & Jenn Jordan

Goblin Girl h/c (£22-99, Fantagraphics) by Moa Romanova

The Deep & Dark Blue s/c (£9-99, Little Brown) by Niki Smith

Thoreau And Me (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by Cedric Taling

The Web Of Black Widow s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Jody Houser & Stephen Mooney

Bunny vs. Monkey Book Seven (£8-99, David Fickling Books) by Jamie Smart

Familiar Face h/c (£16-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Michael Deforge

Grass Kings vol 3 s/c (£15-99, Boom) by Matt Kindt & Tyler Jenkins

Hyperbole And A Half (£17-99, Gallery Books) by Allie Brosh

Jim Henson’s The Power Of The Dark Crystal vol 3 s/c (£14-99, Boom) by Si Spurrier, Philip Kennedy Johnson & Kelly Matthews, Nicole Matthews

The Pirate Tree h/c (£11-99, Lantana) by Brigita Orel & Jennie Poh

The Song Of The Machine h/c (£22-99, Black Dog & Leventhal) by David Blot & Mathias Cousin

The Song Of The Tree h/c (£14-99, Particular Books) by Coralie Bickford-Smith

The Wicked + The Divine vol 4 h/c (£58-99, Image) by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson

DC Super Hero Girls vol 10:  Powerless s/c (£8-99, DC) by Amy Wolfram & Agnes Garbowska

Absolute Carnage s/c (UK Edition) (£14-99, Marvel) by Donny Cate & Ryan Stegman, Mark Bagley

Annihilation Scourge s/c (£22-99, Marvel) by Matthew Rosenberg,  others & various

Fantastic Four vol 4: Point Of Origin s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott, others & Sean Izaakse, others

History Of Marvel Universe s/c (£26-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Javier Rodriguez

A Tropical Fish Yearns For Snow vol 2 (£6-99, Viz) by Makoto Hagino

Dr. Stone vol 10 (£6-99, Viz) by Riichiro Inagaki & Boichi

Dragonball Super vol 8 (£6-99, Viz) by Akira Toriyama & Toyotarou

Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 4: Diamond Is Unbreakable vol 4 h/c (£12-99, Viz) by Hirohiko Araki

Pleasure And Corruption vol 1 (£11-99, Den Pa) by You Someya

Page 45 Graphic Novel Reviews late February 2020

Wednesday, February 26th, 2020

Featuring Cyril Pedrosa, Roxanne Moreil, Cecil Castellucci, Jim Rugg, Eric Shanowar, Jim Pascoe, Heidi Arnhold & Nicholas Gurewitch.

Golden Age Book 1 h/c  (£26-99, St Martin’s Press) by Cyril Pedrosa & Roxanne Moreil…

“By the Devil’s horns… STAND BACK!!”
“Calm down, sister. Put the dagger down. I’m afraid you’re all alone. And kneel before your King.”
“How dare you?”
“All the vassals in the Kingdom have already pledged their allegiance to me.”
“That’s impossible. Lord Ulrik? Lord Darcelle? Is this true? You too, Ancelin? Have you so little honour?”
“It would have been easy to slit your throat. But I am magnanimous. I’ll settle for exiling you to the Island of Malefosse per the Regent’s counsel.”
“Vaudemont. Of course. Your lust for power has no limits, I see.”

Nothing like a good old-fashioned family bust-up to brighten the (coronation) day. Except… it’s not going to be Princess Tilda’s triumphant accession to the gilded armchair of absolute authority any longer, following the sad dynastic demise of her much loved father.

 

 

Nay, instead her weasely bowl-headed younger brother is about to usurp the unsuspecting Tilda with the aid of the dastardly Lord Vaudemont and ah… her mum! Now that’s a wholly wrongful birthright betrayal which must cut very deep indeed… Maybe Tilda shouldn’t put down that dagger just yet!

 

 

Here’s the publisher to deliver a rousing regal decree regarding Tilda and her (almost) subjects’ malcontent of the state of current affairs in the most definitely not Queendom…

“A medieval saga with political intrigue reminiscent of Game of Thrones, The Golden Age is an epic graphic novel duology about utopia and revolution! In the kingdom of Lantrevers, suffering is a way of life – unless you’re a member of the ruling class. Princess Tilda plans to change all that.

As the rightful heir of late King Ronan, Tilda wants to deliver her people from famine and strife. But on the eve of her coronation, her younger brother, backed by a cabal of power-hungry lords, usurps her throne and casts her into exile.

Now Tilda is on the run. With the help of her last remaining allies, Tankred and Bertil, she travels in secret through the hinterland of her kingdom. Wherever she goes, the common folk whisper of a legendary bygone era when all men lived freely. There are those who want to return to this golden age – at any cost. In the midst of revolution, how can Tilda reclaim her throne?”

I think I will just add at this point… but what is more important to Tilda, her throne or the happiness of the people…?

 

 

For by the end of this opening majestic tome of who knows how many – probably not as many volumes as George Arf Arf Martin will never quite finish penning of the moneymaking musical merrygoround of stately seating – you might be left pondering the idea that personal revenge is considerably more important to Tilda than the rights of her potential subjects, given how stroppy she manages to get with one the very few remaining people still loyal and prepared to help her…

“You’re turning a blind eye and deaf ear to your people’s will for justice!”
“Don’t use that tone with me! You’ve forgotten to whom you speak!”
“Tilda. In the world you would reign over, we will never be equals. I can’t forget that… Your Highness…”

 

 

I guarantee, however, that you will want it to be quite a few volumes after reading this glorious opening salvo resplendent with pageantry and replete with privation alike. I’m guessing two or three in complete candour, but you certainly could twist my arm – preferably not with a medieval torture device – and make it four or five, which would certainly result in screams of pleasure rather than pain!

 

 

But let’s enjoy the era of Golden Age The First… errr first… for in the realm of graphic novels there are some that are destined to rule over all too! At least for a few weeks once crowned Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month anyway! With that said, this is certainly a courtly contender for my most beautiful book of the whole year already.

 

 

A quick glance at the cover, shrouded in mystery and inviting intrigue with a lonesome cloaked Tilda astride a horse, casting a strange mystical armoured reflection in a gently eddying pool of water, deep underneath the canopy of a dark royal blue forest of leaves, surrounded by brilliant pink blossom-filled bushes, is merely the most teasing hint of what wonders lies within the covers.

 

 

Fans of Cyril EQUINOXES Pedrosa, who previously lorded over it all like the aristocrat of art that he is – well, okay for a month again with former Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month PORTUGAL – will already be well aware already of what a prodigious talent he is. But here I feel he has upped his game anew, with a wilfully, dashingly different and at times strikingly contrasting, expansive colour palette, complimenting an intoxicatingly elegant art style, all elevated further still by use of short, staccato linework for shading and texture that I suspect even the master of said technique himself, Signor Toppi (COLLECTED TOPPI), would have had to just pause and admire. Yes, this is a book whose artwork you can radiantly bask in most indulgently indeed.

 

 

The writing, co-scripted by Roxanne Moreil with Pedrosa, is just as imperiously brilliant. You may well find yourself rooting for the underclass even more than Tilda, though, depending on your personal republican vs. regent sensibilities, as the rabble gets ever rowdier and more rambunctious against the backdrop of the increasingly obnoxious Tilda’s unlikely mission to regain, well technically gain I suppose, her throne.

 

 

As mentioned, I genuinely don’t know how many more volumes this epic will run to. I do suspect just one or two, maybe three at a push, rather than attempting to better Louis The XIX reign as the highest ever numbered French ruler. Even though I felt he never really counted, only managing some twenty minutes as King himself, before wisely following his dad’s example who swiftly abdicated during the July Revolution of 1830 when he felt the sharpening winds of change blowing around his suddenly itchy collar… Always better to quit whilst you’re ahead… and you’ve still got yours, I find. Probably not advice that Tilda is likely to follow though…

JR

Buy The Golden Age And Read The Page 45 Review Here

The Plain Janes (£13-99, Little Brown Book) by Cecil Castellucci & Jim Rugg.

Firstly, I am beyond excited to note that a whole third of this very reasonably priced indeed volume is a brand new Plain Janes story entitled JANES ATTACK BACK!

If that were not enough the previous two stories collected here, the first of which was a Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month way back in May 2007, have also been treated to a spectacular new colour scheme.

Right, without further ado, let me present our reviews of the first two instalments!

First up, here’s Stephen with the original THE PLAIN JANES…

“Hopeless is lying in a hospital bed with a ringing in your ear and trying to forget the screaming.
“Loud noises made me jump. Sounds I couldn’t identify made me jump.
“Silence made me nervous.
“But there was hope in that sketchbook.”

Since the bomb blast, life has changed for Jane. Some of it – her hair, for example – she changed herself; other aspects, like being relocated from cool city to staid suburbia, has been thrust upon her by her fearful parents. “Mom doesn’t see the beauty in anything any longer.  She only sees the danger. I want her to stop worrying and love the world again, because if she can, then I can.” Her mum, in fact, is neurotic, incessantly phoning her at all manner of embarrassing moments and as we all know, “It’s hard to be a rebel on a leash.”

PLAIN JANES is packed with such eminently printable quotes, but that’s the young lead lady for you: feisty, defiant, quietly cool, predominantly optimistic yet occasionally sardonic.

“Here we go. Nothing worse than starting the school year six weeks late. Remember, it’s just four years. Om, and all that.”

Jane’s actually well received by the “in” crowd at school, but sees no merit in that, electing instead to sit at a table with three other Janes – one a thespian, one a scientist and one an aspiring soccer player – but they’re simply not interested in Jane, each other, or anything else outside their own insular little worlds until Jane summons all her wit to understand them, then guile to galvanise them. And so begins their inspired campaign of local art attacks as the covert club called P.L.A.I.N – People Living Art In The Neighbourhoods, and Catellucci’s astute observations on adult society’s overwhelming confusion if not outright hostility towards public art.

 

 

I was honestly quite surprised to declare DC’s first salvo in their bid for young-teen female readers such an attractive success. The original cover was horrid (2020’s edition is a vibrant delight!), but the art inside communicates mood and expression successfully and succinctly, whilst there are elements of Jane and her life that are instantly identifiable as nigh-universal, whether it’s the overprotective mum (all mums are perceived as overprotective, regardless of innocence or guilt!), the missed opportunities, frozen in romance’s blinding and gagging headlights, or just the immortal phrase (muttered several times a week, I’ll bet): “Boys suck.”

I like the fact that Jane’s far from perfect, giving way on occasion to unreasonable sulks, and suffering the setbacks we all do in life along with the inevitable, attendant deflation of confidence. But her creativity and her sense of fun are infectious both for the three Janes and for this reader, and I’d have thought there’s nothing more seductive to the book’s target audience than the act and art of rebellion. This is full of it.

SLH

Then here’s JR with  JANES IN LOVE…

“The question is: what are we going to do?”
“We must remind her that as George Bernard Shaw says, ‘Without art, the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable.’”
“You are so weird.”

A direct follow on to THE PLAIN JANES which if you’ve not read, why not? It was great! On the Minx label so billed as a comic for girls this, like its predecessor, still has appeal for people like me (a middle aged male) that just likes a well written story. The title is also slightly misleading as again the story primarily revolves around the girls’ undercover art attack exploits as P.L.A.I.N. (People Loving Art In Neighbourhoods). However, this time they very quickly get caught by the wonderfully volcanic crew-cropped and moustachioed Officer Sanchez. Surely exactly what J. Jonah Jameson would have been like had he decided to take up a career in law enforcement instead of publishing!?! So the Janes decide to try and go legit and apply for planning permission with the council for an urban art installation in the local park only to be thwarted by the bristling and seething Officer Sanchez. But will the girls manage to win out in the end?

 

 

And the reference to love in the title of the book? Well, in between being their neighbourhood’s answer to Banksy they all somehow find time to have a look for the man of their dreams in their own inimitable ways for the upcoming school dance, as well as managing to act as matchmakers for two of their favourite local retirees, and deal with various family and friendship problems. I particularly enjoyed the disastrous consequences of Brain Jane’s attempt to manufacture a pheromone potion for herself in chemistry class.

JR

At this juncture it would seem a wee bit churlish not to at least let you have a glorious glimpse of a page from the third story JANES ATTACK BACK! So let’s finish with this belter…

 

 

Buy The Plain Janes And Read The Page 45 Review Here

Cottons Book 1: The Secret Of The Wind s/c (£13-99, First Second) by Jim Pascoe & Heidi Arnhold…

“You’ve weaponized art?”
“Oh, Wampu, all art is a weapon… in the right hands.”

This is entirely true. Here, quite literally so.

A further glance inside the cover itself is rewarded by endpaper maps of the countryside surrounding the rabbits’ warren beside The Blue Heart Lake, in a valley between craggy ridges: Goldenseed Meadow and the Wavering Wood overlooked by Stillbreeze Peak.

You’d be forgiven if by now you’re expecting something akin to ‘Watership Down’ but, prologue aside, it’s actually much closer to MOUSE GUARD, the animals and their habitat more anthropomorphised, their burrows quite habitable to humans.

 

 

While we’re on the subject of MOUSE GUARD, however, if you thought the world-building was impressive there, this is on another level entirely, and you’ll find a rabbit scholar’s notes on Lavender’s known history, industry, religion and magic.

Ah yes, magic.

Magic, art and the potential to weaponize it.

The rabbits’ industry involves refining their natural source of energy, carrots, into another source of energy entirely, called cha. This heats and lights their warren, but in skilled paws like Bridgebelle’s and her former tutor Thom Crocket’s, can turn sticks and stones into beautiful and intricate glass artefacts called thokchas. To those more pragmatic and less inspired, this is regarded as a frittering waste of raw material. To others, the crystalline thockchas are merely a halfway house, for ‘detonating’ them with a twist causes a dazzling and potentially hallucinogenic display. It’s possible to become addicted. At a pivotal moment, however, Bridgebelle will discover another use for them entirely.

 

 

There’s supposed to be a truce between the rabbits and the foxes, but the bluntest and seemingly most brutal of the foxes breaks that truce almost immediately, by snapping poor Soozie’s neck. However, as Soozie and Bridgebell dash as fast as they can from the threat, Soozie reveals a key secret:

“Help me, Bridgebelle!
“I hid something. Find it before they do. Go where the flow is slow.”

I really do think that’s all you need.

 

 

The rabbits in flight are fluid as you like, and lithe when turning at breakneck speed. The detonated thockcha visions are truly blinding, and you’ll love the skeletal Scapegraces whose feathers are formed from a purple, miasmatic mist.

This is a trilogy and so far it holds together very well indeed, with one full-length, satisfyingly resolved campaign leaving us still in a spine-tinglingly ominous place.

 

 

“Everyone is afraid of something.”

SLH

Buy Cottons Book 1: The Secret Of The Wind s/c And Read The Page 45 Review Here

Age Of Bronze vol 2: Sacrifice s/c (£17-99, Image) by Eric Shanowar

Now in full colour.

Projected to run for seven volumes, this epic, in-depth and dramatic retelling of the Trojan War has garnered Eisner Awards as well as praise from outside our industry from the likes of The Washington Post and Publishers Weekly. Booklist said that it “unfolds with heartbreaking determination,” and they’ve pinpointed one of its chief strengths.

If you’re not that well schooled in the classics, this will prove startling and compelling; if you are, then so much of the power lies in the inevitable, for you know just who is doomed, how and why – but it won’t stop you desperately hoping that they somehow avoid their destiny.

 

 

Speaking of destiny, this is a time where the population believed in Fate, believed in prophecy and portent and, unfortunately, sacrifice. It’s amazing what your beliefs will make you do, but that doesn’t make you any less courageous. For some, it will prove the ultimate test: betray your army, or sacrifice your daughter? It’s not so cut-and-dried as it sounds. You have responsibility not just to your kingdom but to thousands of lives under your command. And if it does sound like a no-brainer then Shanower will convince you otherwise, for this is huge enough that everyone is rounded out, given a depth and an individual perspective.

 

 

There are some superb visual devices as well, from the mists that rise to isolate Helen and Paris atop Troy’s tallest tower (“It’s as if we’re the only people left in the entire world.”), to the pages of constant wind, denoted by “SHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHS” between each tier of panels until Agamemnon’s daughter leaves her tent for the final time. It’s a very clear panel structure as well, like Talbot’s THE TALE OF ONE BAD RAT or Gary Spencer Millidge’s STRANGEHAVEN, making it effortlessly readable by those unused to comics.

Also there’s a map, for the names have all changed (along with the territorial boundaries), a couple of family trees, and a great big glossary of names including how to pronounce them.

For far, far more, please see my new review of AGE OF BRONZE VOL 1: A THOUSAND SHIPS.

Also, while you’re here, Gareth Hinds’ THE ODYSSEY and THE ILIAD.

SLH

Buy Age Of Bronze vol 2: Sacrifice s/c And Read The Page 45 Review Here

SLH

The Perry Bible Fellowship Almanack (£22-99, Dark Horse) by Nicholas Gurewitch.

All the below from 2009 remains true, except that it’s no longer landscape, but portrait…

The 2007 sales sensation considerably expanded and restructured into a landscape hardcover with tactile lettering and a brightly coloured rainbow appealing directly to young minds which must never, ever be allowed to encounter it. (We were racking it with CYANIDE & HAPPINESS at the time, if that gives you a clue).

Jim Woodring and Scott McCloud are both fans of these short gag strips in which innocence is shafted by horror and meanness, or even vice-versa. It’s wrong, wrong, wrong, but very funny indeed.

See the dangers of driving a truck that turns out to be a Transformer! Watch Aubrey Beardsley-like vampires attempting to apply make-up in a mirror! Look at the bunny-love providing a leg-up/over and out of a hole!

Still includes the suicide-bomber chessboard which was wrong, wrong, wrong. And ever so funny.

SLH

Buy The Perry Bible Fellowship Almanack And Read The Page 45 Review Here

Wrinkles (£12-99, Knockabout) by Paco Roca…

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

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

Multiple-award-winning (including last month’s Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month with THE HOUSE) heartbreak from Spanish creator Paco Roca on the touching subject of descent into dementia. I knew this was going to be a very bitter-sweet read and so it proved.

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

JR

Buy Wrinkles And Read The Page 45 Review Here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Dragman h/c (£18-99, Jonathan Cape) by Steven Appleby

Gamayun Tales 1: An Anthology of Modern Russian Folk Tales s/c (£12-99, Nobrow) by Alexander Utkin

The Legend Of Korra: Ruins Of The Empire Part Three (£9-50, Dark Horse) by Michael Dante DiMartino & Michelle Wong

Lupus s/c (£26-99, Top Shelf) by Frederik Peeters

Mental Load: A Feminist Comic (£12-99, Seven Stories) by Emma

Nailbiter vol 1: There Will Be Blood s/c (£8-99, Image) by Joshua Williamson & Mike Henderson

  1. Rodin h/c (£17-99, NBM) by Eddy Simon & Joel Alessandra

Space Boy vol 6 s/c (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Stephen McCranie

The Weatherman vol 2 s/c (£15-99, Image) by Jody LeHeup & Nathan Fox

Batman: Jekyll And Hyde h/c (£11-99, DC) by Paul Jenkins & Jae Lee, Sean Phillips

Tales From The Dark Multiverse h/c (£29-99, DC) by various

Marvel Action Avengers: The New Danger s/c (£8-99, IDW) by Matthew K. Manning & Jon Sommariva

Marvel Action Spider-Man: A New Beginning s/c (£8-99, IDW) by Delilah S. Dawson & Fico Ossio

Marvel Action Spider-Man: Bad Luck s/c (£8-99, IDW) by Delilah S. Dawson & Fico Ossio

Marvel Action Spider-Man: Spider-Chase s/c (£8-99, IDW) by Erik Burnham & Christopher Jones

Star Wars Adventures vol 8: Defend The Republic! (£8-99, IDW) by Delilah S. Dawson & Derek Charm

Hi-Score Girl vol 1 (£10-99, Square Enix) by Rensuke Oshikiri

Blood On The Tracks vol 1 (£10-99, Vertical) by Shuzo Oshimi

Knights Of Sidonia vol 4 (Master Edition) (£31-99, Vertical) by Tsutomu Nihei

Jujutsu Kaisen vol 2 (£6-99, Viz) by Gege Akutami

Levius est vol 2 (£8-99, Viz) by Haruhisa Nakata

 

 

 

Page 45 Graphic Novel Reviews Feb 19 2020

Wednesday, February 19th, 2020

Featuring Andi Watson, Jason Shiga, Gengoroh Tagame, Jon Klassen, Mac Barnett, Grant Morrison, Chaz Truog, Brian Holguin, Joshua Dysart, Matthew Dow Smith, Babs Kesel, Alex Sheikman, Lizzy John, Peter David, George Perez, Dale Keown

My Demons (Signed & Sketched In) (£2-99 each, self-published) by Andi Watson.

“I’m on sick leave, look, here’s my doctor’s note.”

She or he may be on sick leave, but they’re dangling the note over an office draw, for the company cannily provides employees’ accommodation on-site.

In filing cabinets.

Welcome back to The Andi Watson Collection, now complete: a dozen wit-ridden mini-comics, each containing a dozen story pages inside an exquisitely designed cardstock cover with chic, matching trade dress. The first was THE CITY NEVER SLEEPS which we made Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month. That’d be a  very good place to start.

A lot of lateral thinking goes into these satirical swipes at modern-day life or whimsical musings on how it always has been, and they can be dense with double meaning and visually playful as well.

 

 

Take ‘Love Removal Men’ from  LOVE REMOVAL MEN; it can be a very heavy load they bare.

“The Love Removal Men came today.
“I saw their van from my window.
“I told them I’d had a change of heart.”

 

 

Oooof! If you don’t demand to know what happened next, then you have none of your own. I promise you Watson follows every idea assiduously. The ramifications can be wrenching.

‘Join The Team At MCW’ – the one where everyone’s working from filing cabinets – is the last of three short stories in MY DEMONS.

Imagine that your next job will be to evaluate the efficiency with which the potential for company expansion was explored and then detailed for a team of profit monitors to employ as part of their ongoing study into assessing the – AAAAAARRRRGGGHHHHH! Now imagine that job will be yours for life – guaranteed! – and will therefore constitute your profession, your career in its entirety.

It’s precisely the sort of absurdity that Evelyn Waugh would be lampooning were he still in the business of books: self-generating, self-sustaining, the expenditure of infinite effort to produce nothing of either physical substance or practical benefit.

 

 

I got whiffs of Winsor McCay, Monty Python’s Flying Circus and The Fall And Rise Of Reginald Perrin. It’s positively Kafka-esque.

I love that those open drawers which the employees are nesting in are high up in the sky almost as unapproachable, as unreachable, as a golden eagle’s aerie. The workers look pallid and wan. I don’t think they get down a lot. One drawer door says “Flush after use”.

SLH

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

Buy Love Removal Men (Signed & Sketched In) and read the Page 45 review here

Meanwhile h/c 10th Anniversary Edition (£11-99, Abrams) by Jason Shiga.

It begins with the simplest, most instinctive and seemingly inconsequential choice in the world: would you like chocolate or vanilla…?

But please do deliberate with due care and attention, for your answer may end up destroying the world.

Family friendly and ever so clever, I’m about to bring back your youth!

Do you remember – way back before the age of interactive videogames – reading those magically immersive books during which you had to make weighty decisions every so often on the protagonist’s behalf which would dictate, in practical terms, which of two pages you turned to, and so what happened next…?

This is also a big book of dilemmas, but in comics form, and I don’t just mean that the pages are comics instead of prose. I mean that Jason Shiga – comics’ most thorough mathematician and inventive problem solver, creator of the blindingly brilliant, adults-only four-volume book of carnage and consequences called DEMON – has really gone to town and thought long and hard about how to take best advantage of sequential art’s unique properties in this specific endeavour, and so make maximum use of them.

 

 

You will, therefore, not merely be turning back and forth from one page to another, but sliding up and down tubes, following them around the ceiling, over the edge and round the bend until you drop into the comics panel to which your rash ruminations sent you. To avoid wear and tear on this back and forth, all the pages are laminated, as are the tabs which will guide you – you’ll see!

“3,856 story possibilities” declares the front cover, so I haven’t exactly “finished” it yet and won’t even know when I have.

Only one road leads to happiness, an older edition told us, which is a poor reflection on life and not something that you should probably tell small and impressionable children.

 

 

One of Shiga’s strengths is his body language, and since almost everyone involved in DEMON is doing dubious stuff indeed, that means a lot of furtive glances over hunched shoulders. So it is here, along with the biting of nails.

I’m going to leave the wider plot open for your discovery, but I will impart that it may or may not involve a trip to the toilet and a time machine; also, a memory-swapping squid. Prepare for all sorts of timey-whimey tomfoolery.

Sadly, some of my own decisions were the result of reactions born out of pure instinct: upon exiting the time machine and spying myself squealing in fright, I couldn’t help punching my other self full in the face rather than sticking around to explain.

I’d make a bloody useless Timelord.

 

 

FYI:

We have three picture and prose pick-a-plot books in the form of Sherwin Tija’s deeply mischievous and really quite wrong YOU ARE A CAT, YOU ARE A KITTEN and YOU ARE A CAT (IN A ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE), plus Luke Hyde embarked on a communal iteration of this interactive endeavour on Twitter then turned the result into comics – including those interactions. It’s called POLLQUEST.

SLH

Buy Meanwhile h/c 10th Anniversary Edition and read the Page 45 review here

My Brother’s Husband s/c (£26-99, Pantheon) by Gengoroh Tagame.

A very gentle graphic novel full of quiet conversations and even quieter contemplations with such a huge amount of space that I devoured the entire 700 pages in a couple of hours, and I am a very slow reader.

It’s certainly no car crash or culture clash – this isn’t a book of conflict – but certainly eyes are opened and I learned stuff too. I did know that there is a tattoo ban in public swimming pools because my mate Ryz visited and she is covered in tats (tattoos are associated with organised crime), but I didn’t know that the Japanese don’t hug. Although young Kana does becomes delightedly addicted to this novelty.

Young Kana is delighted by most things and inquisitive about everything, so when burly and bearded Mike Flanagan from Canada arrives on her Dad’s doorstep she is stunned then uncontainably excited to learn that a) Mike was her Dad’s recently deceased brother’s husband b) in some countries outside of Japan, therefore, men can marry men and c) that her Dad even had a brother. But what she has now is a hugely exotic new uncle: a great big bear of a man with chest hair and everything! And he gives hugs!

He probably shouldn’t have hugged her Dad, though.

 

 

Immediately young Kana invites Mike to stay which puts her Dad in an awkward position because… well, her Dad, Yaichi, feels pretty awkward about all of it, and he begins to realise that he has a lot of thinking to do, and not a little soul-searching ahead of him about his twin brother, why they became so distanced (after an early, closely knit childhood), and his attitude towards sexuality.

I’d like to emphasise right now that Yaichi isn’t homophobic: he’s a thoroughly decent bloke and devoted single father, but there is a lot that this sensitive man has avoided until now and initially he catches himself having double standards that he’s ashamed of. For example, he’s used to wandering around the house in nothing but his boxers after bathing, but feels the need to cover up now that there’s a gay guy in the house. Especially since his brother Ryoji and he were pretty much identical twins haha! But then, he’d probably have thought to cover himself up with any strange man new in the house… I always have.

Basically he massively over-thinks things, realises he’s massively over-thinking things, and then becomes embarrassed about that. I think it’s all thoroughly forgivable, endearing indeed, don’t you?

In the meantime Kana is a whirlwind of enthusiasm – it’s Mike this, Mike that, Mike the other – and asks the bluntest of questions as kids do, even though she’s not quite aware of what she’s asking. Funny!

 

 

It’s his daughter’s wide-eyed, unwavering adoration that bonds Yaichi to Mike in these vital early stages and gradually Yaichi begins to come around to the idea of showing Mike round all the local haunts where he and Ryoji used to hang out. Opening up about Ryoji might take a little longer, but Mike’s a very, very patient guy…

As I say, this isn’t a culture clash – Mike is well versed in Japanese culture because he was married to a Japanese guy and he doesn’t go round wearing the pink triangle you see on the front – but where things grow slightly askew is after Kana, desperate to introduce Mike to her friends, learns from a friend’s mother the term “negative influence”. And her father, having become completely comfortable with his new brother-in-law, is horrified at the prospect of his daughter being taught prejudice.

There’s so much more in these pages for you discover yourselves, including a deeply affecting silent scene which has nothing to do with Yaichi or his brother, plus on top of that there’s Kana’s Mum’s place in the family to unfold.

I like that Kana’s drawn in the perceived ‘classic’ style of sugar-buzz manga (see YOTSUBA! for equally unbridled curiosity) which suits her personality perfectly, whereas the men are slightly closer to Taniguchi, if on steroids. The parks where the boys played have that same Taniguchi serenity too.

 

 

The sentences are much shorter than mine – markedly so – and this helps keep things free from melodrama, mawkishness, and didactic proselytizing.

SLH

Buy My Brother’s Husband s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Animal Man vol 1 s/c (£26-99, Vertigo) by Grant Morrison & Chaz Truog.

We’ll be getting to that Brian Bolland cover in the penultimate paragraph.

We’re all about the foreshadowing today.

Prior to the riotous DOOM PATROL, Grant’s first major triumph still stands out –and not just because Morrison’s likeness, flat and cat all became copyright DC.

ANIMAL MAN #1 to 26 was one big story and makes no real sense until you have the whole in front of you, at which point, “Whoa!”, for Morrison does here what Moore did for SWAMP THING, taking an entirely throwaway DC superhero (indeed, playing with that C-list status) and turning out in his place a title about family, environment, animal rights, identity, fiction, construction and control.

 

 

Over the course of the series Buddy endears himself as a thoroughly likeable though fallible husband and father of two, and it’s this focus on the family unit which lodges the books firmly in one’s heart. Series artist Chaz Truog played no small part in maintaining the title’s domestic distance from all the pugilistic testosterone at DC Central for the family are, to be honest, all a bit gawky, including Buddy himself – in or out of costume.

But yes, as I say, it’s all about the family, and partly about them coping with Buddy’s new status as a fully fledged member of the Justice League of Europe, all the unwanted attention that attracts to their simple suburban life, and the new security systems that must now be installed into an otherwise low-tech home.

 

 

Ominously presaged in two momentary panels in this volume, there’s a sequence coming up during the second which is as haunting to read today as it was back then, where Buddy’s daughter is playing gleefully in their back garden, only to find the man her father will become staring down at her under the shadow of a tree:

“Hello, Maxine. I had a dream the other night, Maxine. I dreamed you grew up and everything was okay. You can’t even hear me, can you? I can’t even warn you.
“Oh, Maxine. I miss you. I miss you all so much.”

 

   

 

As the series comes to its climax, Buddy gradually becomes aware that he and his brood have fallen victim to barely imaginable forces beyond their control; forces which are hinted at as early as the fifth chapter, which are controlling his life in precisely the same way that I am currently controlling this online review.

With a keyboard. 

SLH

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

Circle s/c (£7-99, Walker Books) by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen.

The third in what I call Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen’s ‘Iconic Shape Trilogy’ (my favourite by far being SQUARE), this comes with a question right at the end which I believe you’ll find very, very hard to answer. Our Jonathan was understandably a little sceptical – as you may well be yourself – until I showed it to him.

He thought for a moment, then grinned and chuckled.

And that to me is the genius of this one. Not necessarily that it brought a smile to Jonathan’s face, though that’s always a bonus, but that… well, I do believe I’ve got in covered it my very first sentence.

 

 

So much so that I send you instead to Page 45’s Jon Klassen Section for lengthier reviews dealing with why we think that he and Mac Barnett are so ridiculously clever, why I believe some of their all-ages picture books are also comics, and how much mileage Jon Klassen gets out of almost static images which emphasise the intelligence behind the eyes, as well as their telling movement.

 

 

There will be more eyes here than you might suspect.

Aren’t the waterfall’s colours and cool, refreshing spray delicious?

 

 

It’s probably time to head straight to the Market Square’s water feature and soak yourselves silly.

SLH

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

Jim Henson’s Dark Crystal Creation Myths Complete Collection s/c (£22-50, Archaia) by Brian Froud, Joshua Dysart, Matthew Dow Smith & Alex Sheikman, Lizzy John.

All three volumes collected in a single softcover edition.

Many years ago, Tom wrote of volume one:

“Has it really been thirty years since this beautiful fantasy first came to the cinema?

“Brian Froud’s designs for this film gave the story a weight the technical skill of the Jim Henson Co. couldn’t carry alone. While in the film we see a dying world populated by mysterious characters, the world they inhabited was by far the most intriguing aspect the whole. Its ruined structures hinted at past prowess through the undergrowth, and a lot of thought went into what exactly they meant. The strange glyphs and diagrams carved into the buildings and stones weren’t just throwaway aesthetic garnish, but based upon an understanding of the astronomical knowledge of this fictional world’s tri-star system. Which if you remember from the film, orbited the planet Thra and “sung” to the Crystal deep in its bowels. This is symbolised by a series of concentric circles encasing an inverted triangle. From this emblem Henson & Co created not only a world, but a religion, a complex society. Then they destroyed it, leaving us with arcane hints in the fantastic dystopia of Thra.”

 

 

In lieu of a review for volume two, I wrote (decidedly off-topic, feel free to ignore):

One of my many nicknames over the years was ‘Gelflin’. I know it’s hard to believe these days, what with me looking like the unnatural child of Uncle Fester and Nosferatu but with my ski-slope nose I was once pretty… after the artful application of much slap and kohl.

My primary pseudonym is ‘Peter’. It endures to this day in post-punk circles, possibly because it doesn’t sound like a nickname. It was so prevalent in the ’80s that even the closest of friends sometimes took ten years to realise that my real name is in fact Beelzebub.

 

 

‘Peter’ also owes itself to my ski-slope nose and consequent youthful demeanour: it was Peter as in Peter Pan.

“IT WAS NEVER YOUR NOSE: IT WAS YOUR OBLIVIOUS SELF-ABSORBTION, STEPHEN!”

Other nicknames have included ‘Jimmy Dean’ (must be pronounced in a broad Glaswegian accent), ‘boss’ (no one has actually ever regarded me as their boss – it was pure mockery on Tom’s part) and, when my mother is so often infuriated with me, it’s ‘Herbert Henry Arthur George’. That one is best bellowed.

All the above is true.

Irrelevant, but true.

Please see THE POWER OF THE DARK CRYSTAL for the second film which was never made.

SLH

Buy Jim Henson’s Dark Crystal Creation Myths Complete Collection s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Hulk: The End s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Peter David & George Perez, Dale Keown.

Future stories of your favourite Marvel characters have met with varying degrees of acclaim and indifference. Quite how the 2099 line lasted as long as it did 25 years or so ago is beyond me. On the other hand, Byrne and Claremont’s DAYS OF FUTURE PAST which capped their collaboration on UNCANNY X-MEN – and in which most mutants have finally fallen victim to man’s love affair with genocide and concentration camps – is single-handedly responsible for so many homages and follow-ups that it’s easy to forget what a neat little self-contained number it originally was.

Similarly, Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s OLD MAN LOGAN, which wasn’t meant to spawn subsequent series at all, and remains my single favourite Wolverine story of all time. In it we discover that something so atrocious has befallen the crested Canadian that he’s sworn to the cause of pacificism, no matter the provocation. And it’s quite provoking having the inbred, redneck offspring of Bruce Banner as your landlords. Actually they’re just collecting the rent because Daddy dearest is very much alive and well and so many people have evidently made him so very angry over the years that nobody likes him at all anymore.

 

 

This brings us to Peter David’s future counterpart of the Hulk as seen in this collection of FUTURE IMPERFECT from 1992 drawn by George Perez, and THE END as envisaged by Dale Keown in 2002. There we discover that the Hulk has finally got what he said he always wanted: to be left alone. By necessity, then, that’s a somewhat bleak and ruminative affair which has its origins in a short prose story called ‘The Last Titan’.

 

 

But back in FUTURE IMPERFECT there were still plenty of people to give the giant grief because he hasn’t aged well. He’s outlived almost everyone whom he could ever have considered his friend and, in their absence, succumbed to his own worst aspects. As the bearded Maestro he’s ruler of all he surveys. There’s only one real relic from his past remaining. That man sits in a trophy room of broken helmets, shredded capes, abandoned armour, fractured shields, and a poster of the X-Men’s Phoenix which reads “Dead… Again!” He’s lived far too long – it’s over ninety years since we last saw him – but he’s determined to be reunited with the much younger Hulk he once knew, even if it means bringing him forward through time so that Banner can look himself in the eye and see what he’s become.

 

 

 

Originally written with a specific but unidentified European artist in mind, you could not have found a more apposite replacement back then than George Perez, an American master of ligne claire, so distinctly European-looking this remains, complete with futuristic citadels surrounded by desert. That trophy room is full of tiny details to spot (“Needs a giant penny. Pretty complete otherwise.”), some of which may prove useful later on.

SLH

Buy Hulk: The End s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy

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

Glass Town h/c (£18-99, Jonathan Cape) by Isabel Greenberg

Golden Age Book 1 h/c  (£26-99, St Martin’s Press) by Cyril Pedrosa & Roxanne Moreil

The Man Without Talent s/c (£19-99, New York Review Of Books) by Yoshiharu Tsuge

Die vol 2: Split The Party s/c (£14-99, Image) by Kieron Gillen & Stephanie Hans

Age Of Bronze vol 2: Sacrifice s/c (£17-99, Image) by Eric Shanowar

Bad Island h/c (£12-99, Hamish Hamilton) by Stanley Donwood

The Plain Janes (£13-99, Little Brown Book) by Cecil Castellucci & Jim Rugg

Bowie: Stardust, Rayguns & Moonage Daydreams s/c (£25-00, Insight Comics) by Steve Horton, Michael Allred, Laura Allred

Giant Days vol 12 (£10-99, Boom!) by John Allison & Max Sarin

Cottons Book 1: The Secret Of The Wind s/c (£13-99, FirstSecond) by Jim Pascoe & Heidi Arnhold

Cottons Book 2: The White Carrot h/c (£17-99, FirstSecond) by Jim Pascoe & Heidi Arnhold

House Of Whispers vol 2: Ananse s/c (£14-99, Vertigo) by Nalo Hopkinson, Dan Watters & various

Books Of Magic vol 2: Second Quarto s/c (£14-99, Vertigo) by Kat Howard & Tom Fowler, Brian Churilla, Kai Carpenter

Heartstopper vol 3 (£10-99, Hodder) by Alice Osman

The October Faction vol 4 s/c (£17-99, IDW) by Steve Niles & Damien Worm

Plummet (£14-99, Conundrum Press) by Sherwin Tija

Starblazer vol 1: Operation Overkill Jaws Of Death (£12-99, DC Thompson) by various

Wrinkles (£12-99, Knockabout) by Paco Roca

Circle s/c (£7-99, Walker Books) by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen

Jim Henson’s Dark Crystal Creation Myths Complete Collection s/c (£22-50, Archaia) by Brian Froud, Joshua Dysart, Matthew Dow Smith & Alex Sheikman, Lizzy John

Jim Henson’s The Power Of The Dark Crystal vol 3 h/c (£18-99, Archaia) by Si Spurrier, Philip Kennedy Johnson & Kelly Matthews, Nichole Matthews

Rat Queens vol 7: The Once & Future King s/c (£14-99, Image) by Ryan Ferrier & Priscilla Petraites, Marco Lasko

Space Bandits s/c (£14-99, Image) by Mark Millar & Matteo Scalera

Bloodborne vol 4: The Veil, Torn Asunder s/c (£13-99, Titan Comics) by Ales Kot & Piotr Kowalski

Buffy The Vampire Slayer vol 2: Once Bitten s/c (£10-99, Boom!) by Jordie Bellaire & David Lopez

Star Wars: Target Vader s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Robbie Thompson & Marc Laming, various

Star Wars Adventures vol 1: Heroes Of The Galaxy (£8-99, IDW) by Landry Q Walker & Derek Charm

Star Wars Adventures vol 2: Unexpected Detour (£8-99, IDW) by Landry Q Walker & Derek Charm

Harleen h/c (£24-99, DC) by Stejpan Sejic

Batman: Detective Comics vol 1: Mythology s/c (£15-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi & Doug Mahnke

Ghost Rider: The War For Heaven Book 2 s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by Simon Spurrier, Jason Aaron & Javier Saltares, Tony Moore, Roland Boschi

Gwenpool Strikes Back s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Leah Williams, Christopher Hastings & David Baldeon

Thor: Epic Collection – When Titans Clash s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

Venom vol 3: Absolute Carnage s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Donny Cates & Juan Gedeon, Iban Coello

Amazing Spider-Man: Epic Collection vol 5 – The Secret Of The Petrified Tablet s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & John Romita Sr., John Buscema

20th Century Boys Perfect Edition vol 6 (£12-99, Viz) by Naoki Urasawa

Gantz Omnibus vol 4 (£22-99, Dark Horse) by Hiroya Oku

Elfen Lied Omnibus vol 3 (£22-99, Dark Horse) by Lynn Okamoto

A Man & His Cat (£10-99, Square Enix) by Umi Sakurai

Can An Otaku Like Me Really Be An Idol? (£13-99, Kuma) by Wacocco Waco

Dementia 21 vol 2 (£26-99, Fantagraphics) by Kago

Legend Of Zelda vol 16: Twilight Princess vol 6 (£6-99, Viz) by Akira Himekawa

The Way Of The Househusband vol 2 s/c (£8-99, Viz) by Kousuke Ono

You Are Alice In Wonderland’s Mum! Pick A Plot Book 4 (£15-99, Conundrum Press) by Sherwin Tija