Posts in the ‘Reviews’ Category

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews March 2015 week one

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015

Wildlife painted by Federico Bertolucci; brand-new CRIMINAL plus THE FADE OUT by Brubaker & Phillips; lost SERAPHIM manga from anime’s Satoshi Kon; Meredith McClaren’s doe-eyed, dreamy HINGES and far, far more. Remember, there’s news underneath!

Love vol 1: The Tiger h/c (£13-50, Magnetic Press) by Frédéric Brrémaud & Federico Bertolucci.

Beautiful, beautiful, album-sized book following a day in the life of a tiger.

And you know how David Attenborough can get all rip, tear, gouge, growl and predatorial on your Sunday evening ass…? (I don’t mean David personally, I mean his wildlife documentaries and the blood-thirsty cycle of life they portray.) This will too because a tiger does not spend its day perched on your window sill, idly gazing at your neighbours heaving heavy furniture into the removal van, furiously following a leaf buffeted by the breeze or hissing at next door’s cat.

No.

A tiger wakes, stretches and yawns (which is perfectly good manners if alone in the jungle and not listening to yet another of your lame holiday anecdotes), then immediately sets off in search of a snack. And, once again, that doesn’t mean pit-pattering down your carpeted stairs to the kitchen-floor cat bowl which you have filled to the brim with prime kitty nom-noms.

No, it does not.

It means tearing the throat out of whatever poor poppet is closest, assuming it can catch it first.

It then means defending that kill from other top predators and I’m just trying to warn you that this will pull at your heart strings just as the carnivores within will be pulling at tendons, muscles, fat, cartilage and sinew. Tigers aren’t invulnerable, either.

I have but one problem with this silent scenario in that there is – just occasionally and in this specific context – a wee bit too much anthropomorphism for my taste. As in, any at all: in this context there should be none. GON is burlesque so that’s perfectly fine. Here it shatters the illusion and kills the mood but the effects are mercifully brief.

 

Instead the rain, it will pour down. Lightning will strike, flamingos will fly and an owl will stir. There will be snail sex as well. Mmmm!

I don’t even need animals; the landscapes alone are to die for.

 

This is as lithe as lithe can be then – OMG! – sketch pages, folks! Just one look at the jaws and the haunches will show you that Bertolucci knows how these beasts are put together.

It is ridiculous that there aren’t more graphic novels which offer themselves up to the nature-loving rather than obsessing about the human condition (which is worth exploring) or hitting each other in the face with guns (not).

I will leave you with a reminder that THE RIVER exists.

SLH

Buy Love vol 1: The Tiger h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Criminal Special Edition (£3-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips.

“I wasn’t done reading that yet, you fat fuck…”

If you don’t want to sneeze tea all over your keyboard then either remove the keyboard to a safe distance before reading that page or try going dry for ten minutes.

A perfectly representative, accessible and self-contained introduction to the twilight world of CRIMINAL in which we finally get to meet Teeg Lawless, the often referred-to father of Tracy.

He’s not the smartest con in the can having landed himself there – en route to collect what would have been some considerable cold cash from an armoured-car stick-up – over failure to appear in traffic court. He stopped off for a beer then beat up a biker who didn’t press charges but, yeah, Teeg got sent down instead for a failure to appear in traffic court.

So he’s stuck on the inside instead of keeping his commitment to Sebastian Hyde – whom you do not want to piss off – to take down a councilman blocking a construction contract Hyde’s set his heart on. And Teeg’s trying to keep his head down, he surely is, by reading the latest instalment of ZANGAR, THE SAVAGE but he doesn’t half get interrupted every five fucking seconds.

“You Lawless?”

Which is a funny thing to ask a criminal.

Seems there’s a price on Teeg’s head and Hyde swears it ain’t him but he won’t offer protection, neither. Almost immediately they’re coming at Lawless from all directions – in the canteen, the laundry room and showers – and  Teeg is trapped in there with them. It’s relentless. So what, as they say, is actually up?

 

I wish every comicbook artist would make reading as easy, as fluid, as accessible and addictive as Sean: monologue or dialogue across the top. Also, there’s an immediate time and place: I love Teeg’s hair.

For long-term readers there’s the not inconsiderable satisfaction of seeing Tracy from Teeg’s point of view, especially after Tracy’s reminiscence about the car pedals in CRIMINAL VOL 2 and it’s at this point I should point out to readers of the collected editions that this is almost certainly the only format you’ll be able to read this in for some time to come given that FATALE‘s Brubaker and Phillips are currently working on the long-form FADE OUT. We’re talking years!

As ever Brubaker has something to say about human behaviour – not rash generalisations but specific tendencies or patterns within individuals. With Teeg it’s that this sort of structure in the slammer or army actually serves him quite well. Too much freedom gives him too many choices and too many opportunities to choose wrong. He really is Mr Bad Decision.

As to ZANGAR, THE SAVAGE, Phillips provides a dozen or so pages emulating the magazine-sized black and white barbarian adventures printed on paper so low-grade that they’d yellow and brown before you got them back home, and I can only imagine how much easier it has been to apply computer-generated zip-a-tone than it used to be using a scalpel.

I warn you right now that Phillips has pulled no punches and that the art is as battered and brutal as the inmates themselves and you will find within the dreaded Injury To Eye And Almost Everything Else Motif over and over again.

Still, he wasn’t done reading that yet, you fat fuck…

SLH

Buy Criminal Special Edition #1 and read the Page 45 review here

The Fade Out vol 1 (£7-50, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips.

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

Los Angeles, 1948. Hollywoodland, to be precise, where the art of selling lies is its hugely successful business.

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

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

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

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

He should know: he’s a serial philanderer.

Screenwriter Charlie Parish is already lying. He’s a good man at heart, though he does like to party, by which I mean he drinks much more than he should. He’s prone to blackouts: not just passing out in the bath – which he did, last night – but to alcohol-induced memory blackouts. He’s not as bad as Gil Mason, the former writer now blacklisted for supposed Communist sympathies.

That man is a full-time drunk and a bar-room bore, badgering all and sundry before being thrown out on the street:

“Can you get up, Gil?”
“Not just this second… I threw my back out trying to deck Bob Hope.”

Charlie and Gil used to be friends before Charlie shopped him. Now it’s common knowledge that they hate each other’s guts.

That’s a lie for a start – a dissemblance to cover a mutually beneficial arrangement.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s a period piece, the period being rife with tight-knit nepotism, closed-doors studios and overtly voiced bigotry. Wisely Brubaker has refrained from redacting that. Some people are shits – they just are – and there is such a thing as the non-authorial voice. So much here is tied to the Congressional Hearings just before McCarthyism really hit its stride including a role for Ronald Reagan.

Thankfully Sean Phillips is a dab hand at likenesses for Reagan is joined in this fiction by the likes of Clark Gable. There are also a few neat new tricks from Sean like the ethereal memories of Val’s replacement Maya Silver which again reminded me of Posy Simmonds, this time specifically the Janice Brady sequences in MRS WEBER’S OMNIBUS. Makes sense when you think about the subject matter.

As for colour artist Bettie Breitweisser she leaves it until the open-air daylight hours of poor Valeria’s funeral in chapter two, but on that very first page – wham! – she’s invented yet another colouring technique which is in its own way both impressionist and expressionist concerning the colour and quality of light not as it actually falls or what it falls on but as it might dance on the brain. It’s rendered in free-form, fuck-you panes of light and slabs of colour with scant regard for the line on the page and every regard for your eye.

Anyway, back to the acting, the lying and back to the slight-of-hand rigmarole involved in marketing commodities (actors and actresses) to their adoring, lap-it-up public. We’re not necessarily quite talking beards here, but Tyler’s manliness needs boost-merchandising and Maya proves the perfect accessory. Plus she needs to be introduced to her soon-to-be-adoring public.

“So good old Dottie found a way to kill two birds with one photo op. After dinner, Tyler and Maya dodged the press just badly enough to be followed to Ciro’s… where a drunk in the crowd got too friendly with Maya… [Hey!”] … and Ty knocked his block off.”

Oh. In the process of typing this, I think I may have solved a substantial part of the puzzle.

SLH

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

Seraphim 266613336 Wings (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Mamoru Oshii & Satoshi Kon.

A global pandemic of bubonic proportions has wiped out the world as we know it. Whole countries have succumbed to the plague itself or the mass migration of refugees that followed.

Certainly Japan’s air force failed them, while China has ruptured under the stress and scant resources, the World Health Organisation having thrown a protective Cordon Sanitaire around what’s left. A Cordon Sanitaire, yes, keeping the plague contained through military means, for infection rates range from 60% to 80% and WHO has acquired combat-ready status, armed as it is to the teeth right now with weapons from multiple states. It was also been infected with a religious fervour turning its leadership into a cowled cabal of those who call themselves Magi.

But perhaps this is understandable given the nature of the plague.

Early stages show twin shoulder blade growth, bone pushing itself to the surface. As to the terminal stage of Seraphim, it is a hideously emaciated, ossified corpse with sunken cheeks, protruding hip bone and wings like an angel’s – except scruffy and scrawny with far too few feathers.

It bears a harrowing resemblance to the Jewish prisoners in WWII concentration camps.

The comparison doesn’t stop there for there are both ad hoc ghettos of victims and medical facilities sanctioned to use eugenics in search of an explanation or cure. You should see the cages of the Angel Hunters, hounds of the Holy Inquisition who rule a lightless and otherwise lawless Shanghai.

Cages feature heavily here: there’s another designed to keep humans protected from the birds outside, which is a turn-up for the books.

It is at this key stage that The Magi dispatch Three Wise Men into the Cordon Sanitaire with a silent young girl called Sera. The first is Professor Erasmus, rechristened Balthazar, a former Magi who resigned; the second called Melchior was originally named Yacob and known as the Killer of Countries; the third is a basset hound called Caspar.

As to Sera, only Professor Erasmus knows who the legendary Silent Girl is and why she is known also as Time Stopped. Only Professor Erasmus knows their true mission to unstop time. And only Yacob knows why he is injecting himself.

This is strong stuff. Fans of AKIRA will be disappointed neither by the politics nor the art by OPUS and TROPIC OF THE SEA’s Satoshi Kon who was heavily influenced by Otomo, and worked with him on the ‘Memories’ anime film. While not as far down the photo-realistic road as Ikegami, his characters are as sturdy as Otomo’s and Taniguchi’s while his skyscrapers and gigantic, walled fortress compounds are as detailed and precise as an architect’s projections.

It is also quite grim stuff as you’d expect from totalitarianism, eugenics and the cauterisation of entire populations to purify and conserve resources.

I’ve already alluded to the terminal stage of Seraphim itself which Satoshi Kon presents starkly with the same sort of thin-lined hatch which Moebius used in THE EYES OF THE CAT, but if you thought it comical that the third of the three was men was a basset hound, you wait until you see it gets its teeth stuck in.

Satoshi is best known for his anime, of course, like Perfect Blue, just as Mamoru Oshii is better known for his. Indeed he was adapting Shirow’s GHOST IN THE SHELL and injecting its cutesy heroine with a little more grit at the same time as writing this. It was originally serialised in Animage Magazine until, abruptly it wasn’t. Yes, like Satoshi Kon’s OPUS, this was never finished and there is much speculation in the (substantial!) afterward as to why. I’m actually all for the cover treatment element but also the increasing strain of two such formidably creative minds attempting to keep a mutually cooperative peace without busting out into fisticuffs, verbal or otherwise. A similar schism occurred between Claremont and Byrne resulting in the material collected in X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST being the last they ever worked on together. (I am emphatically not ranking them up there with Kon and Oshii but that X-MEN run was a tremendous run and it was immediately clear how much Byrne contributed to its direction the very second he left.)

I swear to goodness, however, that even without a conclusion (I’d say they were halfway in at the most) the journey in this instance is as rewarding as any destination could prove and in some cases conclusions really do fail to live up to their promise, don’t they?

Oh yes, the title: divide 266613336 by the number of wings worn (2, traditionally) and you have a very specific group of angels.

SLH

Buy Seraphim 266613336 Wings and read the Page 45 review here

Hinges Book 1: Clockwork City (£11-99, Image) by Meredith McClaren.

When I first clapped eyes on this ethereal beauty I was immediately transported back to Joshua Middleton’s SKY BETWEEN BRANCHES prelude. Sadly, that came to nothing, but here, have this instead.

The colours are cool, calm and as easy on the eye as Optrex: far from primary, there are never too many at one. Image-driven, the pages are predominantly silent because so is our heroine throughout. One’s not entirely sure to begin with how much of what’s going on around her she fully comprehends. She needs to… acclimatise.

We first find her kneeling on the bare-boarded floor of a town hall with the most gigantic clock up above her. There will be another laid into the stone square outside. And then there’s her pocket watch which will attract some her attention, inscribed with what assumes is her name, Orio.

She’s also found by Senior Orderly Margo who wears a nurse’s uniform, is held up by strings and makes the same assumption. She speaks in white boxes which appear worn or overexposed like very old film strips. To me this suggests ancient radio / recording crackling as in the video game Bioshock.

 

She sends Orio downstairs to select her Odd. There are shelves and shelves of odds: animals plushes and figurines. The one that stands out – because it helped her choose a jacket upstairs and now saunters across the floor with a sorry-I’m-late shrug – is Bauble.

Bauble is beautifully designed: the sort of thing LENORE’s Roman Dirge might come up with if working in porcelain. It’s a smooth, bipedal, cat-like creature with a satin sheen and an extra carapace segment forming its forehead, nose and upper jaw so that it appears to have little, fanged mandibles. Its eyes are the most enormous orbs except when its cross when they narrow under the weight of a furrowed brow, and the inky spots around each eye morph according to mood.

When it skritches and scratches at a door it leaves little ghost-outlines of itself behind. I’m telling you, the art throughout is exquisite.

Bauble appears to come with a reputation for trouble which precedes her / him / it. I’m afraid it turns out to be very well earned.

Out on the Eastern European country-town street Orio and Bauble are met by Alluet and Bristle, Bristle being a blue bird made out of felt – Alluet’s Odd.

“As your adjustment liaison I’ll be your tour guide, temporary roommate, friend, confidante, career advisor, cook, counsellor, and all around handler until we’ve settle you here in Cobble.
“Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?
“It does, doesn’t it?”

It does.

“So then. Shall we go?”

It’s only then, when Alluet offers out her hand, that you finally notice her hinged wrists.

I like that there is no info on the back cover. None whatsoever. You’ll need to discover this for yourself, just like Orio. It depends on how much time you’re prepared to put in, whether you’ll spot things like the big fluffy beast curled up by the bread oven, basking in its heat. It has a centre seam running up its back.

Everyone Orio’s introduced to seems friendly enough – until Bauble grows bored and buggers things up over and over again. And this first act is, as much as anything else, about Bauble learning to trust and appreciate Orio rather than make things messy for her, lead her on a goose chase or into danger.

 

Because late at night something in Cobble is stirring. There are CRICKS and there are CRACKS and there are shadows on the move. There is a silhouette of a feral skull in profile with the most enormous jaws and thick, thick fangs. Then it moves out of the shadows and into the daylight between deserted market stalls. I’d probably run.

SLH

Buy Hinges Book vol 1: Clockwork City and read the Page 45 review here

Suiciders #1 (£2-99, Vertigo/DC) by Lee Bermejo.

Okay, you know the drill:

1. Natural or Nuclear Disaster (check!)
2. Government cuts city loose (check!)
3. City builds a quarantine wall (check!)
4. Everything’s a bit paramilitary (check!)
5. Wives are all cheaters ‘n’ liars (check!)

It’s at this point that some ultra-violent variation on an already brutal entertainment like boxing or roller derby or Come Dine With Me is televised to a TV-crack-craving audience (check!) while someone attempts to break in or out of the quarantined zone (check checkity-check!).

I could not find a single original element or angle within, although the city wall was indeed Chinese in scale.

From the artist on Brian Azzarello’s THE JOKER, then, I give you muscles on muscles, a combatant with an uncanny resemblance to The Midnighter, and arena whose deathraps are so lo-fi they resemble those last seen on clunky combat boff-o-thon Robot Wars, though sadly not used on Craig Charles.

SLH

Buy Suiciders #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Black Panther: Who Is The Black Panther? s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Reginald Hudlin & John Romita Jr.

Very different from Christopher Priest’s socio-political approach, this is more geo-political but just as sassy and sharp.

Quality art from John Romita Jr. depicts one specific instance from the history of Wakanda – the African nation ruled by the Black Panther – oh so elegantly illustrating why it was the only such country that has never been invaded by another.

As Reginald Hudlin has written elsewhere, it has been firmly established that African humans were far more advanced far earlier than their European counterparts, so it stands to reason that if one nation had continued to develop unimpeded then they would have the technology to defend themselves against European imperialism without even breaking a sweat.

There’s an immensely satisfying sequence in which one such arrogant, nineteenth-century would-be conqueror, devoid of any humanity whatsoever, is humiliated then dispatched. The Wakandan chief is the epitome of fearlessness and strength: a warrior of few words which, when delivered, are no idle threats.

Cut to the present and Wakanda has reacted to America’s current, Iraq-invading neo-imperialism by declaring a no-fly zone over their country.

So, how do you like them apples?

“There is no way a bunch of waffle-makers are going to play us out of position in Wakanda! We need to send in support troops to aid our Wakandan allies right away!”
“And where are those troops coming from? Our troops are spread too thin already. We just don’t have enough bodies.”
“Oh, that’s the one thing we have plenty of.”

Ouch!

“We’ve got more than enough bodies to inva — I mean, assist Wakanda!”

Standing in front of row upon row of coffins, each laid out under the Stars & Stripes flag on a U.S. Aircraft Carrier off the African Coast:

“I think it’s time you found out what kind of special cargo we’ve got on this ship. These brave men and women died for their country. All that training and manpower wasted. The military hates waste.”

The dead rise, cybernetically enhanced.

“We’ve found a solution to our manpower problem. They’re tougher, stronger, fearless, take orders exactly and don’t write sad letters back home.”

This contains the first story arc of the last politically pointed series before it all went unnecessarily tits-up during a crowbarred in crossover with The X-Men and readers fled faster than stoats from a boat that’s been set on fire.

Boats are infested with stoats. It’s a modern epidemic.

SLH

Buy Black Panther: Who Is The Black Panther? s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Rocket Raccoon vol 1: A Chasing Tale (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Skottie Young & Scottie Young, Jake Wyatt.

“Ok, well, it looks like you’re wanted for murder.”
“What? That’s crazy!”
“Is it really? Are you murdering someone right now?”
“What? Maybe. That’s not the point!”

*GURGLE!*

Quick-fire stupidity and hyperactivity done well. To begin with.

Rocket Racoon is the anthropomorphic ladies’-man member of Marvel’s GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, although let us not forget Groot, its walking, talking tree-trunk. Groot indeed guest-stars in a wrestling match to which Rocket Racoon has taken his this-minute’s lady-love on a date. He so romantic!

The epitome of the sort of careless and callous, self-centred male about whom so many of my lady-friends used to complain until they wised up and found someone infinitely more sensitive and so suitable instead (ah, youth! ah, maturity!), our resident raccoon even attempts to secure future dates while on a date in front of his date. Brilliant!

He’s also in trouble. One gleaming, fang-faced smile into one too many cameras and his status as a wanted man is flagged planet-wide. Now who could possibly want him?

Everything I’ve typed up so far links up by the first chapter’s punchline and makes perfect sense. Also, the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY sub-plot about a second sentient raccoon (when Rocket supposes he’s the last of his race) is reignited. Ooooh!

The cartooning is gleeful with big, broad grins with flashing canines, showing the show-off to maximum advantage whilst keeping you all screaming “Yay!”

Obviously some episodes are more successful than others. The chapter book-ended round a cub-scout camp fire at story time sees Rocket Racoon refusing to tell them The One With The Map. You’ll see why if you buy this book, for Groot has no such reservations. Unfortunately the root of Groot’s humour lies in the running joke that, regardless of what key information he seeks to impart, all he comes out with is “I am Groot!” It’s not easy to keep that gag going successfully, though Bendis has done improbably well so far.

Here, however, the entire story, whilst told visually, is punctuated over and over and over again with “I am Groot!” no matter who is saying what because of course it is Groot telling the story. A whimsical idea on the surface but, oh my god, talk about a point belaboured…

Never mind, all is forgiven for a prison cell scene opening with:

“Nope.”
“I’m good.”
“I’ll pass.”

Very wise.

SLH

Buy Rocket Raccoon vol 1: A Chasing Tale (UK Edition) s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Scooby Doo Team-Up vol 1 s/c (£9-99, DC) by Sholly Fisch & Dario Brizuela.

Aimed at younger readers with its animation-style Batman, Robin, Wonder Woman and Teen Titans, this teams those evergreen meddling kids with DC superheroes to decloak monks, defrock vicars and pull the masks of phantoms and werewolves alike.*

There’s one scream of a scene here where they go through the traditional process of pulling off masks only for more masks to be revealed underneath. And then more, like Russian nesting dolls. When there are superheroes involved that really works.

It was a cause of constant disappointment to me that Shaggy, Scooby, Velma, Daphne and whatever that bland blonde jock was called never discovered anything supernatural: that everything was explained by trap-doors and lever mechanics. I don’t know why that was important to me, but it was.

Also, I blame American obesity on the not-so-subliminal Scooby Snack craving. Learned behaviour!

* Please note: actual scenarios may vary but thou gettest the picture.

SLH

Buy Scooby Doo Team-Up vol 1 s/c  and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Chester Brown: Conversations (£22-50, University Press Of Mississippi) by Dominick Grace, Eric Hoffman

George Romero’s Empire Of The Dead Act Two s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by George A. Romero & Dalibor Talajic

Julius Zebra – Rumble With The Romans h/c (£8-99, Walker Books) by Gary Northfield

Menu – 100 Postcards Box Set (£16-99, Scholastic) by James Jean

Nemo: River Of Ghosts h/c (£9-99, Knockabout) by Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill

Shame vol 3: Redemption (£7-50, Renegade) by Lovern Kindzierski & John Bolton

The Shaolin Cowboy: Shemp Buffet h/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Geof Darrow

Tales Of Telguuth: A Tribute To Steve Moore (£18-99, Rebellion) by Steve Moore & Simon Davis, Clint Langley, various

Through The Woods s/c (£11-99, McElderry Books) by Emily Carroll

Y – The Last Man Book vol 2 (£14-99, Vertigo) by Brian K. Vaughan & Pia Guerra, Paul Chadwick, Goran Parlov

Assassination Classroom vol 2 (£6-99, Viz) by Yusei Matsui

Hawkeye Vs. Deadpool s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Gerry Duggan & Matteo Lolli, Jacopo Camagni

Gantz vol 34 (£10-50, Dark Horse) by Hiroya Oku

New Lone Wolf And Cub vol 4 (£10-50, Dark Horse) by Kazuo Koike & Hideki Mori

Whispered Words vol 3 (£12-99, One Peace Books) by Takashi Ikeda

News!

ITEM! WICKED + THE DIVINE T-SHIRTS available to pre-order in multiple bodyforms! Yes, we cater to shape-shifters, and dispatch internationally! Here’s THE WICKED + THE DIVINE VOL 1 reviewed.

ITEM! Kieron Gillen talks WATCHMEN. And he’s filmed doing so!

ITEM! Income tax. Illustrated by cats. Off topic, but I chortled until I choked.

ITEM! More guests announced for The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2015 October 16th-18th.

ITEM! Transcript of actor Michael’s speech at St David’s Day march to celebrate the NHS and its founder, Aneurin Bevan, on Sunday March 1st. The last paragraph is a belter.

ITEM! Both funny and literary, here’s Andi Watson interviewed following the release of PRINCESS DECOMPOSIA AND COUNT SPATULA.

ITEM! Final reminder that Scott McCloud will be signing at Page 45 on Sunday 8th March 2015 from 2pm to 4pm. Details there including a link to my review of Scott’s THE SCULPTOR which was in any case just linked to there! If you can’t make it but still want a copy signed then details are also at that first link.

Cheers,

- Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews February 2015 week four

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

Latest graphic memoir from Lucy Knisley, Jim Henson’s DARK CRYSTAL, UMBRAL VOL 2 by Antony Johnston & Christopher Mitten, CRIMINAL VOL 2 by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips, Young Adult Graphic Novels from Andi Watson and Raina Telgemeier, several self-published comics and Jodorowsky’s FINAL INCAL from Humanoids Press.

Displacement (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Lucy Knisley…

“Help! Why am I here taking care of my grandparents by myself!? Maybe I’ll get novovirus and they’ll airlift us out!”

That is a very good question. Why is Lucy looking after Alzheimic, nonagenarian grandparents on – of all the potentially hazardous places – a cruise ship around the Caribbean by herself?

Leaving aside the answer to that question for a moment, what I do know is that this scenario makes for great comics! This is definitely my favourite Lucy Knisley work so far, it really did make me chuckle and shake my head in disbelief throughout. You might not think escorting elderly relatives on holiday has much potential for drama but, believe you me, you’d be very wrong.

It does slightly beggar belief that her family have let her take sole charge of what everyone believes will be Phyllis & Allen’s last holiday. And you do definitely get the impression everyone is absolutely delighted they haven’t got the responsibility of making sure said holiday isn’t the actual reason for their demise. Phyllis’ Alzheimer’s  is by any standards pretty severe indeed, with her barely being able to remember where she is from one moment to the next, and whilst Allen is more compus mentis, his frequent bouts of incontinence, and his lack of concern regarding them, present their own challenges. Indeed, you might think a member of the family would have voiced the opinion that a holiday destination with the immediate and ever-present danger of falling overboard and drowning might not be the best choice…

 

It certainly means Lucy is kept on her toes and that continuous sense of stress she has to endure provides the perfect backdrop for some rather touching and tender moments of connection with her grandparents, plus her reminiscences regarding her grandparents’ younger days and their place in her own childhood. That sense of love shining through the drudgery of duty certainly comes through strongly, and it’s clear that whilst Lucy doesn’t exactly get to enjoy her vacation, she does appreciate the chance to spend some genuine extended quality time alone with her grandparents, probably for the last time.

Nice to see that this work is in full colour, too, as we only had flashes of it in her last work, AGE OF LICENCE. She has a lovely, delicate, precise art style that looks really clean and simple, but I am sure is rather difficult to execute with such panache. I think the truism of less is more certainly applies with illustration, as you have absolutely nowhere to hide if your drawing abilities are not of the highest standard. I also loved how each chapter heading, one for each day of the holiday, is just a full page of waves, different every time, mind you. It seems highly appropriate for what I am sure felt like an endless perpetual motion endurance test of a vacation at times. Happily, it’s much more fun for us to read.

JR

Buy Displacement and read the Page 45 review here

Umbral vol 2: The Dark Path s/c (£10-99, Image) by Antony Johnston & Christopher Mitten.

“The war is over, Rascal. The world is ours.
“You have the power to avoid all the bloodshed that is to come. Just give me the Oculus.”

Everyone’s after the Oculus. It’s the magic equivalent of the 40-inch flatscreen on last year’s Black Friday.

“Oh. My. God.
“Anyone else want to remind me I’m just a stupid little girl?”

At which point I’d remind you that Rascal is far from being a stupid little girl, and when you get to the last five pages, do remember I said that.

Rascal is a resourceful young thief who stumbled upon the Umbral – pitch-black, metamorphic nightmare creatures with slashed-out, razor-tooth grins – just as they slaughtered the royal family, stole the throne and acquired some serious real estate.

In return Rascal stole the Oculus just as they were about to use it, and now they want it back. Since they are shape-shifters impersonating those at the highest levels of power and therefore in charge of the entire kingdom, UMBRAL VOL 1: OUT OF THE SHADOWS was one long, frantic chase through Strakhelm’s secret caverns and its less cooperative taverns, but this second volume has quite a different angle and pace.

Rascal is now riding towards Sunrise with the foul-mouthed bastard smuggler called Shayim, a one-eyed woman who effectively brought Rascal up; also green-skinned lard-bucket and daytime drunkard, Profoss Munty, former soldier turned academic; and Dalone, a grey-bearded man who claims to be a 500-year-old wizard who fought in the war by Strakan’s side and maintained the Orbis, the shield over the Pit to prevent the Umbral escaping. There are a few problems with that. Firstly, he appears to be singularly useless at magic. Can’t cast a spell. Not one. Although he is trying to teach Rascal. Secondly, there is no mention of Dalone or the Orbis in any history books.

“It’s as if someone rewrote history.”

Or he’s lying. The Umbral say he is lying. Oh yes, our gang of four may have escaped Strakhelm but every time Rascal falls asleep she returns to their nightmare realm to be goaded about her parents and past. And most of what is said makes sense.

Thirdly – and this is a problem for our entire gang of four – the Umbral are shapeshifters, right? Who is to say that any of our gang is who they seem?

Johnston has smuggled all you need know into this book and hidden every piece in plain sight. But he has hidden it so well that on a first reading you don’t have a clue what you’re looking at. Either you don’t trust it or it doesn’t sink in. It’s only on a second reading – after the Phoenix-like finale where the anger will out – that you start chuckling to yourself every half-dozen pages.

We’re also welcomed to Tolgleam, a sylvan city sequestered in The Bulaswode forest, spiralling up the cliff-face behind it, we’re introduced to The Kin Of The Whispered Blade (if one of them asks for a word in your ear, run like crazy, run like hell) and we’re kept appraised of movements at the subterranean Mist Mountain where developments occur with a certain degree of detachment far from shared by the Umbral. Funny! I like funny, foul-mouthed villains.

All of which is rendered deliciously by Mssrs. Mitten, Boyd and Mauer predominantly in purples and greens. I go on at greater language about the magic language etc in UMBRAL VOL 1: OUT OF THE SHADOWS but here your first sight of Tolgleam rising from canopy to canopy and lit by a drizzling of mist will send you scrambling for superlatives while the second of three big reveals concerning our gang of four at the end of chapter eleven will have you turning the page back and forth, wondering if the words have been wrongly assigned. They have not! Hahahahahaha! Makes you think, eh?

Lastly, can I heap and extra dollop of praise on Team Umbral for the Umbral’s calling cards: those slashed-out, razor-toothed snarls, lit from within as if by a furnace and which make just as much sense when they (wildly) exceed the sides of their faces as when they don’t. No easy trick to pull off. If they didn’t work half so well – if as recurring images they hadn’t embedded themselves so emphatically in your brain – well, yeah…

UMBRAL VOL 1 was possibly our most popular Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month of all time. The feedback was deafening. See you back here for round three! It does seem that anything could happen.

SLH

Buy Umbral vol 2: The Dark Path and read the Page 45 review here

Criminal vol 2: Lawless s/c (£10-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips.

“Before it was over Tracy did get the answers he wanted, and a few he didn’t. But it seemed to him that was just the nature of answers.”

Is family a trap? Tracy Lawless might come to believe so.

A soldier court-martialled, confined and now released after some “episodes” in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq, he returns to his home city to solve the riddle of his younger brother’s death nearly a year earlier. It’s a long game involving patience, surveillance, and infiltration after building a reputation, for Ricky had fallen into his father’s life of crime and become involved with a particular group of heisters and more than involved with the woman in their midst.

So does Tracy.

Wracked with guilt about what he sees as abandoning his brother, he recalls their different relationships with their father, and the separate courses which those relationships and their difference in age set them on.

“If only you’d been a couple years older… If only your legs were long enough to reach the gas pedal.”

Phillips gets slicker and slicker, his twilight faces effortlessly expressive, and I know it’s a little thing, but I love the shapes of the speech balloons, slightly more ragged than most: it helps integrate them into the artwork.

Brubaker as always knows his stuff, like what makes the ideal model for a getaway car. Once again he builds a compelling narrative around a couple of “jobs” which themselves are bursting with tension, but it’s about what makes people tick underneath, how they got where they are, and whether they understand that before it’s too late.

We keep the other volumes in stock as well, but all six volumes of CRIMINAL are structured so that you can pick up each one separately if, for example, you prefer this scenario to the last. As with the new edition of CRIMINAL VOL 1, the original landscape covers are now included in their ISBN-free glory.

SLH

Buy Criminal vol 2: Lawless s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Princess Decomposia & Count Spatula (£10-99, FirstSecond) by Andi Watson.

Young B’Adult Literature At Its Best!

What can I even mean?!?

Poor Princess Dee is so very industrious.

Well, she has to be: there’s mail to be minded, state papers to be signed, laws to be licensed and delegations she’s been delegated to attend! The Underworld doesn’t run itself, you know!

This should all fall to her father, the king. Alas, he is utterly exhausted from so many hours devoted to bed, attending assiduously to each of his own ailments and really putting his back into putting everybody out – especially his daughter and chef. He’s so addicted to Wellbeing Weekly and each of its dull-as-dishwater fads that he’s demoralised his last royal chef into seeking alternative employment where the food is more nourishing and tasty: Dismal Vista Prison!

And that’s what I mean by B’Adult:

The king is a bad adult – an emotionally manipulative and selfish shirker, evading every exertion and exigence. He relies instead on the limitless patience of his doting daughter who takes his responsibilities very seriously indeed.

 

“Just when I think I’ve cleared my desk, CLUNK, down comes another pile of papers.”
“You need a holiday.”
“Then I’d never be able to catch up.”

I hear you, hon! I hear you!

Into this limp and unleavened mix comes Count Spatula, master pâtissier with a shaved head, slightly pointy ears and twin gaps in his teeth where some would sport fangs! Oooh!

But young Count Spatula has a rare sense of perspective, a heart of gold and a recipe for the most unconventional lemon-drizzle cake you can imagine! Umbrella required! He picks our Dee up when she’s at her most down and even attempts to bring a zing of zest to the dining table of the old king himself. Unfortunately that may get him noticed…

From the creator of Young Adult soaraway successes GUM GIRL and GLISTER, plus British adult classics which we cannot sell you for shame that they are out of print (BREAKFAST AFTER NOON and LITTLE STAR, our first-ever Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month), comes the sort of kids’ comic I crave: one which, as ever with Andi Watson, neither underestimates nor talks down to its audience with linguistically or visually infantile clichés.

PRINCESS DECOMPOSIA AND COUNT SPATULA, for example, owes everything in its inking to silent cinema creep-fests ‘Nosferatu’ and ‘The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari’, hence the misty mid-day focus when Dee and Cee are out and about in the Overworld summer-sunshine, and all the speckled, flecked and flickering, scratched-black-celluloid effects at night!

So much of this art is to die for. I love Princess Decomposia’s minimal, pointy nose, often appearing so far to the right that it’s merely representative. I love the shiny adoration in her eyes at the climax of her six-page plea for reason and reaction – for responsibility – from her father. I love the black, bat-winged buns of her hair! I love her father’s face, a wizened black-hole of wrinkled skin being sucked into itself through sheer lassitude. And I laughed out loud at the Lycanthrope delegation’s debonair dismay when offered a biscuit in the form of a Winalot Shape.

Give the dog a bone!

SLH

Buy Princess Decomposia & Count Spatula and read the Page 45 review here

Drama s/c (£8-99, Scolastic) by Raina Telgemeier.

Everything about this book begged me to hate it.

I’ve read neither SMILE nor SISTERS so had no preconceptions, but I’m allergic to the melodramatic strain of cartooning wherein every character in every panel gesticulates wildly with their mouths wide open as if they are shouting even when they have nothing whatsoever to say.

I also harbour an extreme aversion to this sort of “Gosh!” and “Wow!” over-zealous glee which makes me shudder as much as the threat of a group hug. And then there’s that other ‘Glee’ factor for this is indeed focussed on the build-up to a theatrical performance during which you just know that people will “discover themselves”.

Ugh! It’s all so wholesome that I soon felt the need to cull kittens.

Except. The twins won me over. Let’s back up, shall we?

Callie has a crush on Greg and stuck-up, self-centred Bonnie has finally ditched him, hurrah! Shy Callie then makes the move she’s been dying to make for ages but, umm, Greg just doesn’t see her that way and it all grows a bit awkward. Thankfully there’s the distraction of ‘Moon Over Mississippi’, this year’s Spring musical production, and Callie just loves the theatre. She has no aspirations as an actor, mind, but she loves set designs and has loads of ambition.

And that’s when the twins appear – Justin and Jesse – as Callie’s pinning the auditions notice to the board in the corridor.

Equally ‘theatrical’ (read: camp as tits), it’s Justin who’s most outgoing and stage-struck and (of course) gay of the two, while Jesse is perfectly happy to sit back, admire and support his brother. Callie may have a crush on him. Jesse may have a crush on Callie.

Anyway, the pages that got me hooked against all odds (because musicals too make me vomit) involve Callie, Justin and Jesse buzzed up after a trip to an independent book store, Jesse and Callie stepping in and out of a giant book on set design. Jesse suggests Justin sing Callie the part he’s gunning for in ‘Moon Over Mississippi’ which is the romantic lead. Obediently Justin hops over to the car park palm tree and begins to act his socks off and sing his heart out. Then comes the pregnant pause in which the lady-love-interest is supposed to respond. Jesse smiles shyly at Callie, blushing, before clip-clopping over to his brother, staring into his eyes adoringly:

“I’d no plans for a man from a northerly land, till I first saw your face. But I knew, yes I knew, though my daddy hated you, we’d meet again… in a special place.”
“That’s the part where they kiss,” says Justin with a big, broad grin, Jesse smiling ever-bashfully.

“Obviously!!!” shouts Callie, traumatised.

Infer what you will. Structurally it’s all rather clever with that moment reprised to perfection and, no, this is emphatically not about Callie getting a boyf. Being single is a perfectly viable option, you know.

SLH

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

She Always Looked Good In Hats (Signed & Numbered) (£7-00) by Matthew Melis…

“You’re my hero! If a theatre was closing and I had the money…”
“But that’s the point, Donnie. Jodhpurs doesn’t have the money.”
“I thought this was just a summer job, not a dream thing.”
“Does it have to be a dream? Can’t it just be an opportunity?”
“It’s an expensive bit of serendipity to chase after.”

She may have looked good in ribbons too, but Matthew Melis’ self-published work concentrates wholly on the magnificence of millinery, and the desire of Alice, a.k.a. Jodhpurs, to carve out a meaningful and enjoyable career for herself, rather than just slavishly follow a pre-programmed path of wage slavery. A summer job selling hats at a store run in a quiet part of town by the elderly Ollie proves to be a revelation, and when his landlord decides not to let him renew his lease, it seems like it might be time for him to call it a day, close the shop and retire gracefully.

For Alice, though, Ollie’s stock represents a possibility, to pursue something that she’s become truly excited about, by setting up a shop of her own. She knows she’ll need a far more prominent location to make it work, though, and they don’t come cheap. Cue some serious soul-searching and discussions with family members and friends concerned she might be about to make an extremely expensive mistake.

What a wonderfully well written passion piece about the joys of independent retailing and hats both! Matthew captures Alice’s character and dilemma so well: this is first and foremost a character study of an individual who yearns for fulfilment, and how pursuing your dreams should be something that’s given the utmost consideration, rather than just dismissed as a flight of fancy. Just imagine if twenty years ago our Stephen and Mark had decided that starting a comic shop was just too much of a risk – it doesn’t bear thinking about!

I greatly enjoyed Matthew’s art too. He clearly likes his portraits, as many of the panels revolve around talking heads, which helps to really drive this work forward and pack in an enormous amount of storytelling into the also ample 43 pages, but he does like his curvy ladies too, hence Alice’s nickname. When you hear about thighs that could crack a walnut, well, Alice certainly possesses such a pair.

I also love a work where I find out a great useless fact I was previously unaware of. In this instance that Harold Lloyd, yes the silent movie star of ‘a pair of glasses and a smile’ fame and indeed an ever-present straw boater, was partly the clumsy, buffoonish inspiration for the secret identity of Clark Kent. I never knew that, and yet it makes perfect sense. But, like Harold after another round of chaotic upheaval, will Alice end up with a smile on her face, and perhaps even a hat at a suitable jaunty angle…?

JR

Buy She Always Looked Good In Hats (Signed & Numbered) and read the Page 45 review here

Dangeritis (£7-99, Great Beast) by Robert M Ball, Warwick Johnson Cadwell.

Ridiculous.

Like the award-winning NELSON, this is a comicbook relay race although – come to think of it – relay races you practise. This has been entirely extemporised in the vein of a game of comicbook consequences perpetrated by reprobates Robert and Warwick AND I THOUGHT THEY KNEW BETTER.

It’s a daft, day-glo cross between Jackie Chan and Hong Kong Phooey starring a dude with shoulder-length ginger hair and an equally dubious ‘tache. As the petrol station cashier sits idling texting and tweeting, our Derek is set upon by ninjas. There: that’s the protagonist and plot in all its intricate detail. There’s a pie gag that takes 2 minutes and 10 pages to bring to the boil in a microwave while Robert and Warwick take turns on the left and right respectively before clashing like the titans they are on the same explosive page.

Seriously, though, when was the last time you saw a ninja knocked out by a “Get Well Soon” card?

My favourite page is an angular cross between Jack Kirby and Jim Steranko – a splash-page that isn’t, with panels slotted into the spaces left over by the centre-piece assailant – which is immediately answered by Derek legging it Steranko-stylee with such a severe degree of foreshortening that it could give you the bends.

Ideally I should be analysing the far from complementary art styles in depth, dropping names like Rian Hughes on the left and Mike McMahon on the right but such an endeavour would be entirely at odds with the proceedings which the pun-prone might call criminal.

We ordered copies of this from Mr Ball three years ago and finally they have arrived. I will not be putting him in charge of emergency evacuation procedures any time soon.

SLH

Buy Dangeritis and read the Page 45 review here

Hepatic Portal (£5-00) by Emix Regulus.

Reading this for review I had to open my dictionary and my Biology A Level notes a total of thirteen times. (I got an ‘A’, since you ask.)

It’s a visually delicate affair with a thin but far from frail line whether in black and white or coloured in pale pinks, mauve, flesh, green, blue, browns and… no idea what that colour is.

‘The Allotment’ stars a potato plant whose subterranean tubers are alarmed by the metamorphosis of one of their own from common or garden spud to the sort of giant gem which John Pertwee wielded in his final Doctor Who story ‘Planet Of The Spiders’. Thence it disappears. As a helpful, peanut-shaped gourd explains:

“As soon as his subtle body became denser than his physical one, he simply ceased to manifest in this dimension. Indeed! He still exists, just in a different, more advanced dimension to ours!”

Let us just say that the potatoes are far from impressed and resistant to change / ambition.

 

‘Professional Phagocyte’ is a one-page rap and indeed wrap as a bunch of white blood cells chow down on bacteria, parasites and your own dead cell debris before the resultant pus combo erupts as volcanic acne on your post-pubescent cheek. Pop music indeed!

Paging Planet Asia…

“Can’t escape – you’re white and celly”
“Get digested in your belly”
“Livin’ in the immunity melee”
“Microcopically merciless like Machievelli.”

Your hepatic portal vein, by the way, is the vessel conducting blood from your gastrointestinal tract and spleen to your liver. The vein can therefore rich in nutrients depending on whether or not you live off Haribo Tangfastics like me.

The title’s relevance becomes clearer during ‘The Ark’ whose opening joke takes smart-arse too far and it was at this point that the crystals began to irritate me. There are more crystals in this comic than can be easily absorb – you could almost say it was saturated.*

‘WhyBalls’ is a welcome warning, presenting the latest human upgrade in a pair of eyeballs which provides the viewer with way too much information. Worse still, avoid True Eyes at all costs unless you think telepathy would be a blessing. (It wouldn’t.)

‘Dream No 4,096’ is, I suspect, a stab at LITTLE NEMO but it’s only a flesh wound with no comprehension of the mechanics of Winsor McCay’s panel dynamics, but then all is redeemed by the final four-pager involving a sonic purge for bile. Mostly the journey is more important than the destination unless you’re in dire need of a toilet, but here it is the punchline after such a density of information which proves itself laugh-out-loud funny.

* He wrote, taking smart-arse too far.

SLH

Buy Hepatic Portal and read the Page 45 review here

Final Incal h/c (£22-99, Humanoids) by Alejandro Jodorowsky & Ladronn…

“Got him! He’s falling towards the great acid lake!”

Which, as devotees of the original THE INCAL material will know, is precisely where we left class R detective John DiFool, and indeed also where we first met him, due to the cyclical nature of said work.

Now, given how perfectly and magnificently complete THE INCAL is, with its expansive metaphysical themes, you might think I would have reflected before now, why did Jodorowsky ever feel the need to write this sequel? I didn’t, simply because I was incredibly excited to read it, this material never having been translated from the French before. I’m sure you can guess where this is going…

So, I am now left wondering if the real reason Moebius quit the project was his heart just wasn’t in it. Yes, he did complete about half of it, originally released as one album-sized book entitled AFTER THE INCAL in French, but then the project languished until Jodorowsky brought Ladronn on board, and decided to completely rework the story, and so Ladronn drew the whole thing starting from scratch.

If THE INCAL did not exist, I would be extolling the virtues of FINAL INCAL to high heaven, for it is intelligently and hilariously written, and is certainly an absolute visual feast, this material being just as beautiful in its own right as anything else produced within the INCAL / METABARONS / TECHNOPRIESTS milieu. But – and it is a big but – it feels like such an unnecessary, watered-down sequel when compared to the magnificence of the original that I just couldn’t help feeling disappointed upon completing it. It has little of the philosophical sophistication or multi-layered elegance of the original. Yes, Jodorowsky throws a couple of very minor devices of that ilk in, but overall it just feels like an incredibly slick and beautiful speculative action comedy adventure.

Is it wrong for me to feel disappointed by a work of such an incredibly high standard? If it is, it’s only because Jodorowsky pushed the bar so impossibly high for himself with THE INCAL. I do get the impression from what I have read about him that he doesn’t like to leave any idea unused, and I just wonder whether this isn’t a case of a sequel simply for the sake of it, entirely to satisfy himself. Also, the foreword is provided by Kayne West…? But given how much of an egomaniac Jodorowsky allegedly is, Yeezus himself is possibly the most apposite choice!

JR

Buy Final Incal h/c and read the Page 45 review here

In God We Trust h/c (£17-99, Knockabout) by Winshluss…

“Don’t the find that the world has gone crazy?! Those once sacred values corrupted… Murder, corruption, pornography… I tell you truly, the end is nigh!!! And why you ask? Well because people have forgotten all the marvellous teaching contained in the Bible!

Hmm. My sarcasm-sense is tingling. Note: anyone considering this as a present for a Christian friend, I’d advise you to give it a miss as Winshluss’ epic reimagining of biblical events sways back and forth, from the ribald to the cruel, from hilarious to blasphemous, more often than a trappist monk who’s over-wet his whistle with the monastery ale. Probably safer to go for GOD IS DISAPPOINTED IN YOU instead…

I wonder whether Winschluss was inspired in part by Crumb’s THE BOOK OF GENESIS ILLUSTRATED? But whereas the genius of that work is the story is presented completely straight, the events themselves thus providing humour in abundance, this is very much gag-strip laffs of the more puerile kind. It does make some fairly salient points regarding the problems of past and current-day establishment Christianity, and pokes fun at the ridiculousness of taking some of the events of the Bible as verbatim fact, but it’s done in a somewhat schoolboy fashion and comes off as entirely mean-spirited, which doesn’t really work for me humour-wise on  this particular topic.

I fully get that the Christian churches deserve this lambasting of their conduct and canon to an extent, and it is well done for what it is, but there’s nothing remotely new here comics-wise, and it just feels like someone taking repeated potshots at an easy target. With God portrayed as a fag-smoking, curly-haired, childish reprobate it actually all comes off a bit FURRY FREAK BROTHERS. (I’ve just remembered I felt exactly the same about Alan Grant’s TALES OF THE BUDDHA BEFORE HE WAS ENLIGHTENED.) So this will therefore undoubtedly have great appeal for some, but certainly none for others.

JR

Buy In God We Trust and read the Page 45 review here

Jim Henson’s Dark Crystal vol 1: Creation Myths s/c (£10-99, Archaia) by Brian Holguin, Brian Froud & Alex Sheikman, Lizzy John.

“… But as I drew and designed, I seemed to discover creatures and places from a civilization that had been long lost. It was more like archaeology than art, yet art it was.”

 – Brian Froud, from his introduction.

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 of 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.

 

The first in a trilogy of books (of course!) explaining the legend of how Thra came from nothing, gave life to the ancient witch Aughra and how her wisdom cost her an eye, the loyalty of her son and the eventual genocide of her beloved Gelflings. This is a gorgeous object, as you would expect from the company that brought you MOUSE GUARD [and Toppi’s THE COLLECTOR], and Alex and Lizzy’s art is indistinguishable from Froud’s timeless designs.

[Editor’s note: one of my nicknames at university was Gelfling. I too was beloved once.]

TR

Buy Jim Henson’s Dark Crystal vol 1: Creation Myths s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Resident Evil: The Marhawa Desire vol 2 (£8-99, Viz) by Naoki Serizawa

Can I just apologise to any customers I served with a croaky throat recently? Every time I said “Thank you” I sounded like the cowled arms dealer from Resident Evil 4. I hope you went away with suitable upgrades and not some enormous floppy fish. Where you stash your missile launcher and medicinal ‘erbs is entirely up to you.

Has anyone reading this played Resi 5 or 6? I’d be genuinely grateful for feedback if your considered 4 the height of the property so far. I adored every element of it from packing and stacking my suitcase (it started out as a briefcase but by the time I finished filling it wheels were required) to its geographical twists, turns and reprises, the most satisfying shotgun action of all time and especially wetting the sofa when surrounded in that two-story shack in the middle of nowhere. Some games take a while to warm up. Cut scenes aside, R4 threw you straight in. Oh, and shooting crows: best sport ever!

Anyway, this work which I’ve not read at all is apparently a lead-in to Resident Evil 6… which I’ve not played.

I do all my own research. I am methodical!

SLH

Buy Resident Evil: The Marhawa Desire vol 2 and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Criminal Special Edition #1 (£3-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips

Chew vol 9: Chicken Tenders (£10-99, Image) by John Layman & Rob Guillory

Hinges Book vol 1: Clockwork City (£11-99, Image) by Meredith Mcclaren

Justice League Dark vol 5: Paradise Lost s/c (£10-99, DC) by J. M. DeMatteis & various

Love vol 1: The Tiger h/c (£13-50, Magnetic Press) by Frédéric Brrémaud & Federico Bertolucci

Scooby Doo Team-Up vol 1 s/c (£9-99, DC) by Sholly Fisch & Dario Brizuela

Seraphim 266613336 Wings (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Mamoru Oshii & Satoshi Kon

Sex Criminals vol 2: Two Worlds, One Cop (£10-99, Image) by Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky

The Fade Out vol 1 (£10-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips

The Manara Library vol 6 h/c (£45-00, Dark Horse) by Alejandro Jodorowsky & Milo Manara

When The Wind Blows (£8-99, Penguin) by Raymond Briggs

Zero vol 3: Tenderness Of Wolves s/c (£10-99, Image) by Ales Kot & various

Avengers: Time Runs Out vol 2 h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Stefano Caselli, Mike Deodato, Kev Walker, Szymon Kudranski

Black Panther: Who Is The Black Panther? s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Reginald Hudlin & John Romita Jr.

New Avengers vol 3: Other Worlds s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Simone Bianchi, Rags Morales

Rocket Racoon vol 1: A Chasing Tale (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Skottie Young, Jake Wyatt

Uncanny X-Men vol 3: The Good, The Bad And The Inhuman (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Chris Bachalo, Kris Anka

News!

ITEM! Page 45 Pronounced Patron of The Lakes International Comic Art Festival! Well, I am, anyway. It amounts to the same thing except that I’m the one who’s going to be teaching in Lake District schools while Jonathan languishes in his lakeside Italian villa knocking back bottle after bottle of  Prosecco and then TEXTING ME PHOTOS OF HIM DOING SO.

Given that the other patrons are comicbook creators Sean Phillips, Bryan Talbot, Mary Talbot, Emma Vieceli and now Boulet, I cannot believe this is happening. They may have confused me for Gregg Wallace.

On the subject of which:

ITEM! “Nobody Really Knows What They Are Doing.” So true! You can buy it as a Lizz Lunney art print art print here: http://society6.com/product/nobody-really-knows-what-they-are-doing_print#1=45 Also, I do believe it’s on t-shirts as well.

ITEM! Canadian comicbook creator Seth is a Man Out Of Time. He really is. See GEORGE SPROTT, WIMBLEDON GREEN etc. Click on that first link for a film of you showing him round his house, which is almost exactly as you’d expect it to be.

ITEM! The Art Of Christian Bravery – what a website! Beautiful, fantastical paintings.

ITEM! Returning to The Lakes International Comic Art Festival – which we will on Friday 16th October 2015 – here’s the original announcement in full about me an’ Boulet and Boulet’s beautiful, beautiful poster for LICAF 2015!

Yes, Poblin is back and I couldn’t be happier! Reminder that he starred in his own comic called DESTINATION KENDAL.

- Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews February 1015 week three

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

Smart art by Luke Ramsey; serious science-fiction from Mark Millar & Goran Parlov, Warren Ellis & Jason Howard, Garth Ennis & Facundo Percio; signed, unicorn comic from Kate Brown; Young Adult dinosaur adventure from THE PHOENIX COMIC; DARTH VADER by Gillen & Larroca and lots of Philippa Rice & Luke Pearson photos from our SOPPY signing underneath.

Trees vol 1 s/c (£10-99, Image) by Warren Ellis & Jason Howard.

“Nothing good grows in the shadow of a Tree.”

What an exquisitely beautiful and delicately beautiful book!

I don’t tend to associate science fiction with “delicately beautiful”. Beautiful, certainly, as Warren Ellis’ PLANETARY was from start to finish, but not “delicately” or “tenderly” and this, in places, is both.

The light outside Tian Chenglei’s bedroom, framed by the tall windows and heavy-hanging drape, is blinding, casting young Tian into silhouette as he sketches and leaving the carpet a half-lit puce. I love the rich gold and midday blue as Professor Luca Bongiorno sits outside a cafe in Cefalu under a Mediterranean sky. He too is sketching Trees. The nearest rises ever upwards, off the top of the page; the one farther off is so tall it fades into heavens.

Over and over Jason Howard nails the necessary sense of scale. These Trees are forever fading out at the top, often at the bottom as well, for they are that vast.

They landed ten years ago without warning, without contact, without anything at all other than their evident existence. Some appeared in remote regions like the Arctic; others appeared in cities as established as New York: that was pretty bad news for anyone underneath. Obviously world leaders reacted but nuclear and biochemical weapons ‘inactivated’.

And that was it. On the whole, for the moment, nothing has changed except their existence. Okay, there have been those floods of highly corrosive, green waste, discharged from giant, circular symbols in their ‘bark’.

But there’s certainly been no contact. As President Caleb Rahim of Somalia says of the behemoth straddling his own country and Puntland:

“If there is anything inside that Tree, it has proven over an entire decade that it doesn’t care what we do upon it.”

Its landing, however, did alter the natural water channels, and not in Somalia’s favour. Now Rahim intends to take back the advantage by using the Tree’s evident oblivion and one particular property which makes it unique: it is the only known Tree low enough to be accessible by helicopter. You can land on it. And if you can land on it…

Ellis presents us with four intercut perspectives: from Mogadishu, Somalia; from Cefalu, Sicily, where that Professor spies fire in the heart of a young local woman dissatisfied with her lover and his connections to a gang of local fascists; from the City Of Shu, Special Cultural Zone, to which young artist Tian Chenglei journeys and discovers a thrill and a freedom he’d never known in his rural village, and answers to sexuality he never thought he’d find; and then there are the latest developments by the Blindhail Station, North West Spitzbergen, on the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard.

This is where you’ll get most of the verbal fencing you relish from Ellis, between the station’s scientists old and new. Whereas most members would love to leg it back home, veteran Marsh refuses to leave and now he’s found a very good reason to stay. The ice has become littered with tiny black flowers. Black flowers should not be growing up there.

“Maybe lichen. Not blooms. And even Arctic poppies turn to face the sun.”

These haven’t. And when inspected under a microscope. Hmmm… familiar…

“Those are wires, Sarah.”
“Bullshit.”
“Okay then. Metal filaments…  These petals have micrometer wires. They’re growing a mineral structure on a biological substrate.”

Once more Jason Howard makes it all monumentally beautiful and beautifully monumental. The flowers remind me of those newly discovered in Dash Shaw’s BODYWORLD, of which Ellis was a huge fan, which turned out to have properties beyond the psychotropic. I think you’ll find these will too.

They’re certainly pretty hardy!

Also, plenty has changed since the Trees’ landing. How could it not? The environment is one thing, human perspective and reaction’s another. The Professor will lecture later on.

SLH

Buy Trees vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

The Unicorn And the Woodsman (£5-99, self-published) by Kate Brown.

All our copies signed by Kate Brown with love. Thank you, Kate!

This is a gorgeous comic with glorious production values: its pages are thicker than most cardstock covers and its cover is then thicker still.

Press your lips to its surface and it’s like kissing a cold cat’s thin ear – so silky smooth!

And that cover is divine on the surface, isn’t it? Its composition is majestic, immaculate, but pray look a little closer! No, it’s not what you think: I swear on the King James Bible that the Woodsman does not go all Chaucerian ‘Knights Tale’ on your ass: the unicorn will not be “tohewen and toshrede”d by a tree-felling maniac on malmsey.

But I’m afraid that FISH + CHOCOLATE’s Kate Brown has a habit of doing this: presenting her readers with what is seemingly bright, unsullied and pure then punching them in the guts with what truly lies in the hearts of men. Or women. Humans, basically.

 

There can be little more pure than a unicorn, living its traditionally tranquil, virgin and solitary life beneath a canopy of leaves through which low sunbeams shine, sylvan-softened, by the side of serpentine stream. And I do love the angles of light. Angles are important here.

But there is little less pure than the sub-human scum who hunt rhinos and elephants to extinction not for their life-sustaining meat which is left rotting by the wayside but for that toenail-dead, relatively small slice of horn erroneously deemed good for getting it up by Chinese quacks some several centuries ago. For the second time in my career I type the words “tiger cock” and it makes me very angry indeed.

So. Our unicorn is hunted for its singular, splendid horn and seeks shelter from a woodsman, begging his protection. That page is beat-perfect in its wide-eyed, submission-based composition, its ribbon-plea petition matching the mytho-steed’s stoop before being nailed down and tethered by an outstretched hoof.

“The woodsman,
of course,
knew just
what to do.”

Now, what I can promise you is this: different readers will react very differently indeed to the final three pages.

Let us discuss after class.

SLH

Buy The Unicorn And the Woodsman signed and read the Page 45 review here

Starlight: The Return Of Duke McQueen s/c (£10-99, Millarworld) by Mark Millar & Goran Parlov…

“They say a funeral is for those who are left behind, but I don’t really take much comfort from all this.
“I’ve lost my best friend, the mother of my boys, and my soulmate…
“Joanne is here in a wooden box and everyone is acting like it’s so damn normal.
“The preacher says she’s happier now and living up there in a better place. But how could it be better?
“We didn’t spend one night apart in thirty-eight years of marriage.
“How can it be paradise if she and I aren’t together anymore?”

I really did not believe that it was possible for Millar to produce a comic with more pathos than SUPERIOR, but I think he might have managed it, you know. There are so many heart strings getting tugged in the opening thirty or so pages, it’s practically a full violin concerto of melodrama! I don’t mind admitting there were a couple of moments when I had to wipe a discrete tear from the corner of my cynical old eye.

Our main character Duke McQueen (think a pension-age Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers, basically, and if this gets made into a film I would dearly love Sam Jones to play the lead) safely retired from derring-do in his silver-haired dotage, mourning the recent loss of the love of his life, being gradually ever-more sidelined by his two busy adult sons, is feeling lost. Human beings are social creatures, and denied the contact with those we love, through time and distance, or mortality, it can be a rather lonely existence.

Duke seems to be coping well enough. After all you’d expect no less from such a renowned space hero, right? Except, except, his youthful exploits took place somewhere far, far away, and no one on the planet Earth ever believed a single word of it, aside from his late wife. Even two generations on, his notoriety and public shaming hasn’t been forgotten and has become something even young kids like to tease a crazy old man about…

“Uh, are you the guy that thinks he flew his plane to another planet?”
“What?”
“The guys were saying you got sucked through a wormhole and came home telling everyone you’d met real aliens. Is that true or are they just messing with me?”
“Yeah, I’m not sure if it was a wormhole, but yeah… I ended up somewhere else for a while and saw some crazy stuff. I just don’t like talking about it.”
“Is it true they put a probe in Uranus?”
“Get the hell outta my sight!”
“Sorry, Duke.”
“Relax buddy, I’m used to it.”

These days, he’s playing out his third and final act almost as if in a dream, for all he has are his memories. Those of his dear departed wife… and those of his time riding dragons and duelling space dictators.

When his two sons and their families aren’t able to come and visit him on the anniversary of their mother’s passing, inadvertently ruining the special meal which they have no idea Duke has spent days planning and preparing, it seems like he can’t feel any more alone in the world, or should that be universe? So when Duke’s house begins to shake as if a huge earthquake is starting, he’s as shocked as anyone when a spaceship decloaks and a young alien steps out pleading for his help. Yes, it’s time for Duke McQueen to saddle up and save the day once again! And keep your hankie handy for this is schmaltz at its finest!

This is superb work from Millar. I was gripped from the first page, not least because of Goran Parlov’s opening sequence set on an alien world which is pure Moebius, and that top-notch standard of art is continued throughout even once we’re (briefly) back on more mundane Earth, in Goran’s own inimitable style. But also because instantly you care about Duke and you desperately want something, anything, good or better yet exciting, to happen for this care-worn, gentle giant of a man. Better buckle up! A

JR

Buy Starlight: The Return Of Duke McQueen s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Intelligent Sentient h/c (£16-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Luke Ramsey.

Art or silent story book? You decide.

There’s certainly plenty of evolution across the landscape pages along with an AKIRA-like black, spherical set-back. Objects like pyramids are picked up and played with, signals are sent and received.

Life. This book is teeming with life.

From a primordial, scab-scarlet soup, through the earliest of sea critters with all that cartilage going on, past the woolly mammoths and equally hairy humans to futuristic, circuit-board cities and a veritable alien invasion.

 

The penultimate page follows a final evolution of sorts, from the physical form to the free-roaming spirit.

There are patterns within patterns and most of those patterns are snakes. Or eels. Or lampreys. Or lungfish. I don’t really know which but evidently Luke loves that shape. Some of them are hidden, while some of them are staring you right in the face. Three of those faces belong to anthropomorphic snakes – one vaguely Egyptian, another perhaps Mayan, while the middle one has all kinds of fascist / Germanic shit going on – and these in turn are made up of a multitude of snakes in the same way Medusa’s hair had hissy fits. I know those are snakes: they have tongues.

Later on there are some actual landscapes in radically different styles and brush or nib thicknesses, sharing a sand, pink, cream, caramel and chocolate colour scheme. I don’t mean dairy milk chocolate, I mean that limp-ass cooking chocolate you used to get 35 years ago, surely now banned by international law. Think American only worse. I don’t know what the point to fit was: stopping step-sons from pilfering it from the pantry overnight? It worked!

Anyway, one of those landscapes is a network of Escher-like walkways I can easily see being a platform game, probably involving a precariously balanced silver sphere. So that’s my evening’s dream booked.

SLH

Buy Intelligent Sentient and read the Page 45 review here

The Pirates Of Pangaea Book 1 (£8-99, David Fickling Books) by Daniel Hartwell & Neill Cameron.

So that’s how you spell Pangaea: with three ‘a’s!

1717, and Miss Sophie Delacourt is on a tall ship sailing the Caribbean seas, bound for the fabled continent of Pangaea. Which, to be fair, is a pretty small continent about the size of an English county but with much less cricket and far more riding. It’s what’s being ridden that’s startling.

She’s to be delivered to the island’s governor, her guardian now that her parents are dead and you’d think once they’d reached port that they would be safe from pirates, but then you haven’t taken into account the dreaded Sea Of Green. This is no ordinary inland waterway but a vast plain covered in grass tall enough to hide any human. Or reptile. Think raptors. Think bigger.

 

Navigating the Sea Of Green, therefore, requires protection and after the very same ship they sailed in secures its sails it is hoisted – lock, stock and barrel – aboard the back of a cream and green, long-necked leviathan, a beast called Bessie, several times the size of the tall ship. She’s kept under control by Snuffman John, so-called because of the pouch of snuff that keeps the diplodocus docile.

High above the grasslands infested by so many predators they should surely be safe – but you wait until you catch a glimpse of Bessie’s opposite, obsidian number! You’ve never seen a dinosaur like it!

These vast panoramas occupying the top half a page at least once per chapter are the stars of the show, although Hartwell always keeps something in reserve for Cameron to capitalise on later. A mere three pages after the black beauty with its white Jolly Roger tats looms, snorting into view (look how the page lists under its weight and momentum!) you will see why narrow valleys aren’t always the best escape route!

It’s fast and it’s furious – it has to be when published weekly in little more than four-page instalments – and there’s far more to come like the secret of Raptor Rock and the quest for the Golden Skull hidden in a temple atop the Forbidden Isle. There’s much shivering of timbers (I think they’d be ejected from the Pirates Guild otherwise and given that it’s another Young Adult album from the pages of THE PHOENIX weekly – that hallmark of quality whence STAR CAT, GARY’S GARDEN, CORPSE TALK, LONG GONE DON, BUNNY VS MONKEY and the artist’s own HOW TO DRAW AWESOME COMICS – you’re guaranteed a good read.

So please do look under the cover which isn’t all that it could be. Normally I’m a big a fan of a matt finish as anyone, but here the bruised-peach and purple palette looks stodgy compared to the more sympathetically matched and much brighter, lighter colours sitting on a stock whose sheen adds enormously to  the sense of space and fresh air.

SLH

Buy the Pirates Of Pangaea Book 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Hellblazer vol 10: In The Line Of Fire (£14-99, Vertigo) by Paul Jenkins & Sean Phillips with Al Davison.

“It’s a funny old game.”

Soccer, that is. Also, the one John Constantine cannot resist playing at almost every opportunity: poker. Not with cards, necessarily, but John the con is all about getting the measure of his opponent then bluffing or taunting his way to manipulative, slight-of-hand victory.

I mention the soccer because Al Davison draws that one; the rest is FATALE and CRIMINAL’s Sean Phillips walking the high wire without a safety net and wobbling not once. By which I mean he drew straight into inks, no pencils at all and the result is raw, fresh and thrilling. Yes, there are demons but most of the real horror in HELLBLAZER is human: what we do to each other for political gain, personal pleasure or from careless, callous expediency. This results in more interior monologue and casual conversation than almost any other comic, so you bet watching John wince under sunlight or slip in and out of the shadows had better be thrilling.

But you don’t need a review of a tenth HELLBLAZER volume, do you? You‘re either reading this avidly by now or, if you’re about to begin, you‘ll do so with HELLBLAZER VOL 1: ORIGINAL SINS where I’ve provided everything you need to know to get you hooked, line and sinker.

Reprints #97 to #107.

Gratuitous plug for THE ART OF SEAN PHILLIPS because I’m contractually obliged.

I’m really not.

Here’s a link direct to Sean’s site for the process involved in this cover. Ta-da! http://theartofseanphillips.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/hellblazer.html

SLH

Buy Hellblazer vol 10: In The Line of Fire and read the Page 45 review here

Caliban s/c (£14-99, Avatar) by Garth Ennis & Facundo Percio.

Love the cover which positively glows and informs you immediately that you’re in OCEAN and ‘Alien’ territory. In space no one can hear you seriously lose your shit. Which is what is about to happen.

The Caliban is a mining ship navigating warpspace with a small, somewhat fractious crew of fully conscious officers.

“The miners sleep down below along with the cargo. That’s so they don’t spend too long gazing at infinity that they step outside to get a better look at it.”

There’s an officious, unresponsive navigator called Karien who looks a lot like Hitler minus the Charlie Chaplin moustache; a man named McCartney who doesn’t respond well to officiousness; a timid and doting young man called Canny; sharp-tongued San, the woman who can (and they’ll be bloody grateful for that later on), and finally our Nomi the note-maker.

“One hundred nineteen planets and moons, and not one habitable. Suits of rebreathers, every time. Life: forget it. An orange mould they found on an asteroid. Some kind of mollusc on somebody’s moon, that lives inside its own excrement.
“So it’s stations, ships, recycled air. Fake light. Suns too bright to look at. Your body adapting in ways you don’t dwell on. Stillborn things that go straight in the trash.
“But all those dead rocks have yielded up a ton of treasure. Ore and oil and gas and water. The megatonnage is immense: you see the figures on a screen and the zeroes just go on forever.
“And because almost no one wants to live out here, everything goes back to feed the industries on earth. Which, last time I saw it, looked like a tumour breathing through a smokestack.”

Oh wait, I forgot the Captain. We haven’t seen him. He’s been too busy “banging the shit out of his executive officer”. We haven’t met the executive officer, either, who could be a bloke for all we know. One doesn’t like to presume.

Suddenly – right out of nowhere and whilst still in warpspace where they should be intangible – the Caliban fuses with a much bigger and much, much older vessel. Imagine a forest suddenly trying to occupy the same space as your living room, tree trunks growing out of your fireplace, twigs threading through your lightshade and fusing with the ceiling… Someone’s going to get splinters at the very least.

So it is aboard the Caliban: some of the alien craft’s floors, walls and ceilings have attempted to occupy the same space as the Caliban’s crew – and succeeded. It’s pretty messy.

 

The Caliban’s lost its miners, vented into the void, and it’s also lost its engines. Since the alien vessel held no oxygen before impact, every time they open a hatch into an alien section the Caliban is losing its own. And speaking of losing it, you would too if you found what the remaining officers have on the other side of those airlocks. Yet venture they must for their emergency signal will take a month to reach their nearest point of civilisation and the only chance they have of restoring power to the Caliban is to link up with the aliens’ engines and pray that their systems are compatible enough that they can get their computers talking to each other.

They’d stand a much better chance if they had our Jonathan and Dominique on board

Now, what happened to the alien vessel’s crew, do you think…?

I can promise you grim and grizzly. Although Facundo Percio (ANNA MERCURY, FASHION BEAST) is very much an artist representative of the Avatar style, he does have an eye for the grotesque including body parts which bend in places they shouldn’t. Because someone or something has bent them. In places they shouldn’t. Repeatedly. Out of curiosity.

See, that’s the big difference between this and ‘Alien’ in which all the creature craved was to thrive: to kill to grow to survive. And then kill some more, because yum. The entity in question here is much more interested in gathering information and is prepared to borrow whatever it needs to do so, including the ship’s crew.

I never liked Karien anyway.

SLH

Buy Caliban and read the Page 45 review here

Darth Vader #1 (£3-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Salvador Larroca…

“The Darth to the Vader
Flip over the crossfader
I’ll serenade you with a bag of space raiders
Or Walkers or Smiths or maybe even quavers.”

You Knows I Love You Baby – Goldie Lookin Chain

I have always seriously wanted to believe that the various buttons and LEDs on Darth Vader’s chest activated breakbeat samples and some different vocoder options, perhaps a Cornish accent, rather than just being some ridiculously vulnerable life support system. I have my suspicions he would be a bit of a dad dancer, mind you, though you never know, he might well be able to moonwalk across the road, always looking both ways first, of course, obeying the Green Cross Code. If anyone is going to unveil the mysteries of Darth’s lighter side, it’s going to be Kieron Gillen, I feel.

Some of my favourite sequences in the seventies Star Wars run of comics featured the original man in black throwing his telekinetic weight around and administering virtual Chinese burns to the throats of his cowering lackeys. Even as five-year-olds playing Star Wars in the playground for months afterwards, no one minded being Darth, simply because he was as cool as fuck. Even my little three-year-old nutjob spotted the cover of this issue at home and commented, “Who’s that? He’s not a goodie, is he? I like his mask, though.”

Having recently had a revelatory conversation with said nutjob regarding the Maleficent film, how it was possible for someone to start off being nice but end up a baddie due to unfortunate things happening to them, I therefore explained that this was the same scenario. “But is he good again in the end, like Maleficent?” was the next question, which I knew full well was coming. When I said that indeed, there was a happy ending and Darth helps save the day, all was well in the nutjob’s world.

We can perhaps leave the irredeemable villains of the universe like Ming the Merciless for a little while yet, I think, and thus we moved on to the merits of a lightsabre versus a regular sword… “I bet it’s easier to cut someone’s head off with a lightsabre than a sword, isn’t it daddy?” Truly, I feel the moment of sitting down and watching Star Wars IV together is edging ever nearer…

Anyway, I really enjoyed this first issue: Kieron does an excellent job of showing Darth does have his own mind and isn’t just the Emperor’s preferred implement of inducing blunt Force trauma. In fact, it’s what the Emperor is getting up to behind his back which is intriguing our Lord of Sith, believing as he did that he was the Emperor’s most trusted and valuable lieutenant. Given the dressing down and demotion he’s just received, being instructed to start taking orders from Baron Tagge (excellent – he was one of my favourite characters in the original run), he decides he needs to chalk up something in the win column, and soon. Cue a little friendly lightsabre-twirling, telekinetic throat-tickling chat with Jabba The Hut to engage the services of a certain green-helmeted bounty hunter whom he tasks with tracking down the naughty young master Skywalker. That should set the chest lights flashing, I reckon.

Great opener with nice art from Salvador Larroca which I enjoyed rather more than the first couple of issues of the main STAR WARS title itself.

JR

Buy Darth Vader #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

    

Umbral vol 2: The Dark Path s/c (£10-99, Image) by Antony Johnston & Christopher Mitten

Hepatic Portal (£5-00) by Emix Regulus

Dangeritis (£7-99) by Robert Ball

Drama (£8-99, Scolastic) by Raina Telgemeier

Criminal vol 2: Lawless s/c (£10-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips

Jim Henson’s Dark Crystal vol 1: Creation Myths s/c (£10-99, Archaia) by Brian Holguin, Brian Froud & Alex Sheikman, Lizzy John

Princess Decomposia & Count Spatula (£10-99, FirstSecond) by Andi Watson

Sam Zabel And The Magic Pen (£14-99, Knockabout) by Dylan Horrocks

Uber vol 3 s/c (£14-99, Avatar) by Kieron Gillen & Daniel Gete, Gabriel Andrade

Constantine vol 3: The Voice In The Fire s/c (£10-99, DC) by Ray Fawkes & various

Damian: Son Of Batman s/c (£12-99, DC) by Grant Morrison & Andy Kubert

Amazing Spider-Man: Who Am I? h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Joshua Hale Fialkov & Juan Bobillo

Axis: Carnage And Hobgoblin s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Kevin Shinick, Rick Spears & Javier Rodriguez, German Peralta

Civil War Prelude: New Warriors s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Zeb Wells & Skottie Young

Daredevil vol 2 West Case Scenario s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Javier Rodriguez, Chris Samnee

Spider-Man 2099 vol 1: Out Of Time (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Peter David & Will Sliney

The Emerald City Of Oz s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Eric Shanower & Skottie Young

Uncanny X-Men vol 3: The Good, The Bad And The Inhuman s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Chris Bachalo, Kris Anka

Barakamon vol 1 (£10-99, Yen Press) by Satsuki Yoshino

Resident Evil: The Marhawa Desire vol 2 (£8-99, Viz) by Naoki Serizawa

News!

ITEM! The Lakes International Comic Art Festival (LICAF) announces first of many, many international guests for 2015: Darywn Cooke I’ve seen LICAF’s Canadian line-up and that alone will have you squealing. Hint: try Googling “Canadian Cartoonist”. Recommend following @comicartfest on Twitter right now because THIS WEEK. Because THIS week!

ITEM! I count 50 UK Comicbook Conventions for 2015 listed on this website! Well, 49 conventions and a festival – LICAF – which is a very different beast altogether. Still, that is waaaaaay too many to be remotely sustainable (can you spell “diluted attendance”?) and I would creators, publishers, retailers and readers to be highly selective as to which they attend. We don’t even have anything to do with that Nottingham effort – Page 45 is all the Nottingham-based comicbook convention you need! – for we are exclusive to The Lakes International Comic Art Festival this and every year instead.

ITEM! John O’Farrell welcomes Newzoids, ITV’s newly announced puppet-based, socio-political satire while recalling – and warning off comparisons to – Spitting Image. I’m in!

ITEM! Marian Churchland writes about getting yourself back into the artistic saddle after some time away, often following bouts of depression. Marian was responsible for the graphic novel BEAST which was almost patronage and female vulnerability amongst many other things, and reminded one how bloody difficult it was for women during the Italian Renaissance to find materials let alone tutorials and patronage. Fun fact: the film rights were optioned a few years ago by someone who shopped with us and I was on the steering committee for its artistic development. Shame that never came off.

ITEM! Page 45 Shop Floor on Saturday 14th February. Young chancer to me:

“Can you do this graphic novel for £10?”
“Depends. What does the price say?”
“£14-99.”
“Nope.”
“What can you do it for?”
“Take a wild fucking guess.”

ITEM! Speaking of Valentine’s Day, more Jodie Paterson cards like these on our website went down a treat and you may still find a few copies on sale in the shop. Jodie hasn’t said as much, but I suspect they were all inspired directly by me.

 

ITEM! Love to all who came to our SOPPY signing with Philippa Rice and Luke Pearson! Philippa’s Mum came – to her first-ever signing! – and we had so many freebies to give away thanks to Lisa Gooding at Square Peg and Emma O’Donovan at Flying Eye.

Make sure you’re here for Scott McCloud’s signing at Page 45 on Sunday March 8th, 2pm to 4pm!

At the time of typing we have copies of both SOPPY and HILDA sketched in but not many, so please enquire!

 

Here, have some photos! Awww!

 

 

 

 

-       Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews February 2015 week two

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

Featuring OUTCAST VOL 1 by THE WALKING DEAD‘s Robert Kirkman, Jacques Tardi’s RUN LIKE CRAZY, RUN LIKE HELL, Urasawa’s MASTER KEATON, a MMORPG-centric manga SWORD ART ONLINE, several new series from Image Comics and PLUMDOG by Emma Chichester Clark…

Single Black Glove (£3-50) by Kate Hazell…

“The lonely wave
Of a five fingered shadow,
Crashing silently on the city’s cinder block shore.

The imprint of a handshake,
A fossilised high five,
Down low, too slow.

They have nothing to hold
On to but memory,
So the future reaches out to the…

Single Black Glove.”

Aww, how sweet. You’ll find that poem and twelve photographs of single gloves, lost and lonely on the mean streets, on the final two pages of this tribute to the power of love as the titular digit warmer meanders along, blown by the wind to various locations through the city, pondering the wonder of relationships. Yes, there are things like skiing, skateboarding, playing heavy metal guitar that you can do all by yourself, but is it as nourishing for the soul as a walk together in the rain, sharing control of a steering wheel, or even cupping close together to stop a football and save a certain goal?!

Then… a falling leaf provokes a revelation of Newtonian proportions! The idea is shared with the other glove, thumbs interlock making the shape of a bird familiar to everyone, because it’s the one animal shadow everyone knows how to cast with their hands! But then the gloves take flight and… well, the end is as cute as the rest of this story, but it does have a gently serious point to make regarding relationships. It’s not just about being a couple, there is a wider world out there and whether we like it or not, we are all connected.

Finally, apropos nothing of any importance whatsoever, when I saw the panel of the single black glove skiing (don’t start counting digits, by the way, or you’ll observe some strange polydactylism going on), I had the strongest sense of nostalgia for the cover of one of the first ZX Spectrum computer games called Horace Goes Skiing. So much so I had to google it and make the comparison. It’s clearly a coincidence, but in doing so I did also find this online emulator.

Were computer games really this shit once upon a time? It’s hard to believe, frankly. Also, I had completely forgotten the incredibly irritating Frogger rip-off bit where Horace has to run across the road to get his skis before he even manages to get on the slopes, incurring fiscal penalties if he gets knocked down, presumably due to lack of travel insurance. I suggest reading comics instead: far less hazardous, the odd paper cut aside.

JR

Buy Single Black Glove and read the Page 45 review here

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

After the gamut of cat-related comics we have been inundated with over the last few years (STAR CAT, CAT ISLAND, CAT GETTING OUT OF A BAG…, CATS ARE WEIRD…, HOW TO TELL IF YOUR CAT IS PLOTTING TO KILL YOU, HOMICIDAL JUNGLE CAT, I WAS THE CAT, YOU ARE A CAT, CAT PERSON, CAT ORGY NOTEBOOK, FAT FREDDY’S CAT and KING-CAT… okay well maybe not that last one..), it seems that we are well overdue for something dog-related… Yes, we’ve had LOST DOGS, DOGS – BULLETS & CARNAGE, LIKE A DOG, DOGS & WATER, STARGAZING DOG and even STRONTRIUM DOG, but they haven’t really been about our canine chums, have they? Happily this is about a dog and her owner and absolutely nothing but.

In fact, this is autobiographical material because Emma Chichester Clark has recorded the adventures of her whoosell Plum (a whoosell being a Jack Russell poodle cross), in diary form, all from Plum’s perspective. It’s wonderfully illustrated in a manner not dissimilar to Posy Simmonds’ MRS WEBER’S OMNIBUS and like that tome it’s full of gentle, observational humour. Actually, it would make a great newspaper strip but I guess Fred Bassett got there first so it’s just as well Emma has been, and still is, publishing this material on her blog… Here’s a typical entry…

Sunday 20th October

“My daddy gets terrible sneezing fits.
“He doesn’t just sneeze once or twice – he sneezes again and again and AGAIN – about 25 times until he is nearly DEAD!
“I get so WORRIED. I get so ALARMED. It is AWFUL. Luckily I’m there to give him the kiss of life and I’ve managed to save him every time so far.”

Because of course what you’re really need when you’re having a sneezing fit is your dog frantically licking your face to reassure you…

 

It really is a sequence of one-a-day gag strips, I suppose, given there’s always a punchline to Plum’s daily activities, but you do get a real sense of Emma and Plum’s life through their various activities and holidays, and it seems like Plum is a very contented dog indeed. I do hope stardom won’t go to his head though, he’s already made his first foray into moving pictures with this trailer for the book

JR

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

Master Keaton vol 1 (£12-99, Viz) by Naoki Urasawa.

Ooooh, I love me some spot varnish!

Spread across the front and back jacket with its fold-out French flaps is an old-school atlas indicating that the titular MASTER KEATON does like to travel. And indeed he has done so for many years in a capacity few would suspect.

Yes, gold foil aside, that’s a singularly mundane title for manga, isn’t it? You’ll find that quite apposite.

Everywhere he goes Master Keaton is underestimated: he does have the jejeune air of a dopey dilettante, an eccentric in a world of his own and possibly out of his depth. When he arrives at the archaeological dig in the Taklamakan desert he is dismissed as a dandy, dressed to impress but quite impractically in a suit, tie and somewhat ‘special’ stockings. But the boffins know nothing. It is the local Sheikh’s soldier-son who sees through to the truth and with very good reason…

From the creator of Japanese sci-fi PLUTO, 20TH CENTURY BOYS and recently repacking horror MONSTER comes a comic about an insurance investigator. Seriously.

The son of an English aristocrat and Japanese zoologist, Master Keaton – divorced like his dad, with a daughter he dotes on – specialises in high-end archaeological claims. It’s the subject he studied at Oxford University. Fiercely observant, little gets past our Keaton, however well hidden, and you can imagine how much is hidden when it comes to insurance claims.

He has another key skill set which comes in surprisingly useful wherever he roams: those of a soldier for Master Keaton was once a member of the British SAS. He is quite the Renaissance Man!

You yourself will learn keen survival skills I pray will never be required as well as top tips for orienteering and unexpected cultural history lessons.

The art is an odd one.

The opening colour landscapes in Greece are quite, quite gorgeous. The pinks on the ancient white stone, crumbling with age or worn smooth with wear and tear, are far from obvious, throwing up the greens in the grass reclaiming its ground and the beautiful blue of a Mediterranean sky. The sense of space is enough to make you cry, looking first through one arch to a middle-stance courtyard before a second arch beyond and what lies below what is quite evidently a hill.

The neatly dressed forms are perfectly reminiscent of THE WALKING MAN’s Jiro Taniguchi, but the faces are not. Master Keaton’s nose, for example, is so bulbous it resembles at time that of a proboscis monkey, whilst some minor members of cast like fellow lecturers who find fault with his daughter early on are drawn as ugly, boss-eyed caricatures – which is surprisingly blunt for a comic so sharp.

SLH

Buy Master Keaton vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

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

“In the past half hour, Thompson’s stomach cramps had become thoroughly unbearable. The cramps had doubled him over.
The killer decided he had to give up his trade. Soon. Each time, it got worse.
For the last ten hours or so, he had been unable to take in any food. Now that he had killed, hunger was gnawing at him in the most appalling way.
At the Perrache station buffet, he ordered a helping of sauerkraut and devoured it. He felt better.
He ordered another helping and savoured it. His stomach calmed down. So did his mind.
Thompson had just earned a tidy sum of money.”

Hitman par excellence, Thompson definitely has a most unusual eating disorder. It hasn’t got really out of control by this point, but it will, oh yes. Not that he lets it interfere with taking care of business as we find out on the very first page of this third Manchette and Tardi outing. As with WEST COAST BLUES and LIKE A SNIPER LINING UP HIS SHOT before, this is a dark crime caper where none of the cast is remotely likeable, all of them deranged / demented / disturbed to a greater or lesser degree.

Our heroine, Julie, fresh out of a mental asylum, has been handpicked to be a nanny for a wealthy orphaned child called Peter. She’s been recruited by his uncle, who is also Peter’s guardian, and looks after the child’s trust fund. She has precisely zero experience in this field, which would make her rather a strange choice, you’d think, but then Peter’s uncle has a long history of employing only people with mental issues or physical disabilities. A very caring chap on the face of it…

So, it’s a tough first day on the job, therefore, when Julie finds herself and Peter abducted by a criminal gang, including Mr. Thompson, and forced to write a ransom note implicating her as the kidnapper. As she’s a former mental patient, the police are obviously going to believe Peter’s uncle has at last become a victim of his misplaced altruism when, in fact, events have transpired precisely as he planned. All he needs to do now is get Thompson to eliminate Peter, hang Julie, thereby making it look like a suicide, and he can inherit the rather sizeable estate. The one thing he hadn’t planned on, however, is that his intended patsy is rather a feisty young lady, and so Julie manages to escape from the gang’s remote hideout, partly due to their own incompetence it must be said, and goes on the run, Peter in tow, with an irate and increasingly intestinally aggravated Thompson in hot pursuit. As the chase becomes more protracted and problematic, so does Thompson’s peritonitis.

As with their previous works, you get the sense that events are building towards an explosive and deadly climax, and that does indeed prove to be the case once more. Even so, I do love how Manchette manages to engender a complete sense of believability into such utterly absurd scenarios with his writing. I think the use of everyman characters plays a significant part in that, though there’s usually at least one person having an existential crisis of some sort just for good measure. Combined with Tardi’s gritty, ground-out artwork (no one looks pretty in his world), everyone seems like they belong in a police line-up and it’s quite easy to believe these events could really happen.

I note with great interest a film adaptation of one of Manchette’s prose works, The Prone Gunman, is coming out next month. The fact that it’s starring Sean Penn gives me hope for something really decent after the absolute debacles adapting of two of my favourite crime comics in BULLET TO THE HEAD and PARKER, so I am definitely going to give it a watch. I really can’t understand how you can mess up so badly making a film when you have such great source material, though both did suffer from strange casting, I must say.

JR

Buy Run Like Crazy, Run Like Hell h/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

“Joshua… what are you eating?! It’s almost bedtime.”
“So… hungry…”

Thus begins what Robert Kirkman promises will be a proper horror, after some witty opening repartee which softens you up nicely for the initial shocker accompanying the quotation above. From the chap who pens arguably the most famous horror comic of all time, THE WALKING DEAD, that’s a chilling statement. In fact what he really means, as he explains in the afterword he included after the first issue but sadly not reprinted here, is that whilst the possibility of a zombie apocalypse ever occurring is precisely zero – and, let’s be honest, we all hope he’s got it right on that score – there are other terrors which are all the more horrifying because they actually exist.

Yes, demonic possession is on the very cusp of fact versus fiction as he readily acknowledges, and he certainly doesn’t want to get into any sort of religious debate about it, either. Ultimately he just wants to write an entertaining horror comic, disturbingly credible, with a genuinely creepy undertone to it, and this is the subject matter he has chosen.

I was initially sceptical that this premise could be spun into something with the same long-term potential as THE WALKING DEAD but, having read the first volume, one can see already Kirkman’s got something epic in mind for us. The main character, Kyle – a man who as a boy saw his mother and then, years later, his wife succumb to demonic possession – is clearly a man with some story to tell, if only someone would believe him. Shunned by his now-ex-wife, and pretty much everyone else he previously knew with the exception of his sister for reasons which are all too painfully clear by the end of this opener, he’s become a complete recluse.

When the local Reverend, intimately aware of his past, tries to enlist Kyle’s help with an exorcism, he initially refuses. But… when you’ve seen the things he’s seen, suffered in the manner he has suffered, well, he knows he can’t in all good conscience refuse to help another soul in torment. And that is why his problems are going to start all over again. And it’s the why he has really got the problem with, the question that has bothered him all this time. Why him? Why is he the outcast? I can think of an answer, but I can’t believe it’s going to be that obvious, I sense some potential misdirection afoot.

Spectacularly pensive and brooding art from Paul Azaceta, ably augmented by the exceptional colourist Bettie VELVET Breitweiser, which keeps us permanently balanced right on that knife edge of lurking horror and pants-wetting fright. There is a real sense of building foreboding in this opening volume, as we believe we are gradually beginning to get at least some small measure of precisely what malice is tormenting the vulnerable fringes of the town. Then… the conclusion is a real, genuine shocker, as one of our main characters gets an absolutely terrifying visit that will leave a devastating lasting impression upon him… Ouch.

JR

Buy Outcast vol 1: A Darkness Surrounds Him s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Nameless #1 (£2-25, Image) by Grant Morrison & Chris Burnham.

“From Earth to the Moon.
“Malkuth to Yesod.
“Shit rains down.
“Nothing is real.”

I don’t think I’ve every typed the words “Morrison”, “predictable” and “pedestrian” in the same sentence before.

I remember “passionate”, “compassionate”, “fiercely intelligent”, “parapersonality” and “transtemporal, pansexual, mulltidimensional fight for the future’s freedom”. You wouldn’t really forget that one, would you?

Also, drugs: I remember a great many drugs and extreme vacillations between “Comics are ephemera, bound only for bins” and “Comics are the last medium unsullied by compromise with corporations just like the one that publishes most of my comics” depending on which horse du jour he felt like backing that day.

Artist Chris Burnham you may remember from Grant’s BATMAN INCORPORATED VOL 1 where he did a fine impression of Frank Quitely. Here he comes over all Corben which is perfect for horror. But before we begin, may I take a personal moment to say how fondly I recognised and remembered Glasgow’s Botanical Garden Gates, having lingered there long-time, but not all those plump, floppy fish here seen skewered on its weathervane?

“Hebrew letter “mun” means “fish”. “Fish” and “Death”. And death is daath.”

Fair enough. I suppose all that has something to do with The Veiled Lady’s henchmen wearing deep-sea anglerfish head masks when they kidnap our titular protagonist who apparently will remain nameless and dump him in a supermarket shopping trolley. He tumbles out tellingly because our man and his trolley parted ways way back in 2001 since when, we learn later, he’s been on the run from the police.

Maybe he tried to steal the fuzz’s Dream-Key to their Empty Box in a Tombraider-like dream-space? That’s what our nameless one’s done to The Veiled Lady, which is why she is ever so slightly brittle.

 

Or maybe they want him for pretension since he quite evidently got a Christmas-cracker crash-course on the Kabbalah lodged in his throat.

An asteroid 14 miles in length and 6 miles wide is on a collision course with Earth. It’s called Xibalba, otherwise known as the Mayan underworld, the “Place Of Fear”, because whichever astronomer was on duty that night was feeling portentous as fuck. In 33 days there will be an Extinction Level Impact somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, but long before that there will be planetary-wide panic. Of course there will! Have you read Dan Berry’s THE END? So psychologically astute!

The thing is, the asteroid bears a symbol carved into its surface. The sigil is 3 miles tall and half a mile wide. It’s the glyph denoting the door to the Anti-verse!

The Anti-verse! Is there a single element there than cannot be traced back to a previous Grant Morrison mag?

For an infinitely more imaginative take on the Kabbalah, please see Alan Moore & JH Williams III’s PROMETHEA.

SLH

Buy Nameless #1 and read the Page 45 review here

The Dying And The Dead #1 (£3-50, Image) by Jonathan Hickman & Ryan Bodenheim…

“I’m sorry, Colonel. There is nothing we can do.
“We can try to make her comfortable…
“Manage her pain…
“But she’s beyond our abilities now.
“Clair was a wonderful woman… but it’s time to start thinking about letting go.”

One of those five lines will turn out to be the whole crux of a conundrum presented to Colonel James Canning by a mysterious individual known as The Courier. For whilst it may be beyond the abilities of mortal doctors to cure his wife of her terminal cancer, there are… others… who have that power. The power over life and death itself. Furthermore, Colonel Canning is one of a very few mortals who are even aware of these others, having previously encountered them in circumstances which I suspect may well in time become clearer.

Time… yes, that is also something which seems in flux for some of the participants in this first issue. For there is a mysterious, hidden underground paradise of extraordinary architectural beauty called The City whose Second (that is her title or rank) is tasked with guiding Colonel Canning from the surface to his meeting with The Bishop, the leader of these others. The Second seems completely unaware of Colonel Canning. Having been The Second since 1948, this puzzles her greatly, as do the Colonel’s comments regarding a great fire in The City because it’s an event of which she has no memory at all…

The Bishop on the other hand, well, he seemingly knows much, possibly all there is to know, and during his conversation with the Colonel many deep, philosophical matters are touched upon, such as the fact that there is a tree of life in The City. Not the Tree of Life, note, but a, which in turn suggests much. And that his kind bestowed religion of all shades upon humanity. Now, you might wonder why such beings, and I have my own personal theory about precisely what they are at this point, would wish to even deign to converse with a human. It turns out they need a proxy, to whom they are prepared to make a mutually beneficial proposal. If James Canning is prepared to undertake a task in our world for them, they will restore his wife to perfect health.

The task? Well, the impressive opening sequence to this issue – involving an amphibious assault on a wedding party on a Greek island by what appears to be a covert terrorist organisation, consisting entirely of an army of clones called The Children, all of just one male and one female, headed by an older dictatorial figure wearing a uniform with a modified infinity symbol, purely for the purposes of stealing an artefact called the Bah al’Sharur – is another huge tease in and of itself. All the Colonel has to do is recover the artefact. Now why I do suspect it isn’t going to be that easy…?

What an opener! This is Hickman at his best here, constructing an intricate puzzle to intrigue us, scattering some enticing pieces on the table to pique our curiosity, and then the game begins in earnest. I can already see I am going to love this series. Fans of the speculative fiction joint EAST OF WEST certainly will too, and also those who enjoyed SECRET, the previous espionage flavoured project which he also undertook with artist Ryan Bodenheim. He does like his detail, Mr. Bodenheim, and I can see elements of Geof Darrow and Simone Bianchi in there. The sequences as the Colonel descends deeper into The City are particularly spectacular.

Also, as with SECRET, there is a colour palette of merely one additional colour per panel used by colourist Michael Garland, in a maximum of two tones, which is very striking and really adds emphasis to the art itself. The only exception I can see to this ‘rule’ is the cover, which actually was my least favourite bit of art in the whole issue. No idea whether this is intended to be a mini-series or a more extended yarn at this point, but I’m hoping for the latter.

JR

Buy The Dying And The Dead #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Casanova: Acedia #1 (£2-99, Image) by Matt Fraction, Michael Chabon & Fabio Moon, Gabriel Ba…

“Put a pebble in a shell.
“Put the shell in a box.
“Put the box in a bag.
“Put the bag in a trunk.
“Then throw the fucking thing in a cave and blow the opening shut with dynamite.
“THAT’S what it’s like trying to pin down ‘Amiel Boutique.’
“On paper he’s a labyrinth with no exit.”

Then the grey men attack and Casanova Quinn, our debonair gentleman criminal and occasional spy is forced to disrupt his research on his enigmatic employer and dispense some fatal lessons in library etiquette. Or, as he so eloquently puts it…

“What, you think because we’re in a library I won’t fuck you up and get a little LOUD? COME ON!”

The strange thing is not that Casanova Quinn has been attacked by mask-wearing persons mumbling strange symbolic languages intent on doing him serious harm. That’s par for the course for an individual whose father, Cornelius, runs the global spy organization E.M.P.I.R.E. which doesn’t even come close to describing the everyday weirdness of his existence. Indeed, it’s even the second assassination attempt he’s survived in this issue! The first being at the hands of a naked and nubile young lady who has enticed him onto the diving board of a swimming pool, long after a party at his boss’ Hollywood Hills mansion has wound down and all the other guests safely departed.

No, the really curious part is that his attempts to decipher the mysterious past of his employer, the ultra-rich Amiel Boutique, are entirely at Mr. Boutique’s request. For Amiel Boutique’s history is so shadowy, so secretive, that even he can’t remember it beyond a certain point, which unsurprisingly troubles him greatly. And in return, Mr. Boutique has told Casanova Quinn, currently living under the name of Quentin Cassidy, that he will do the same for him.

For Casanova too, is suffering from an amnesia of sorts, (long-time readers will know precisely why, new readers, just jump aboard then go back and read CASANOVA LUXURIA, GULA and AVARITIA to explain all), which means he has no idea of his true identity, merely that is he skilled in the various dark arts of subterfuge, self-defence and myriad other chicanery. Thus, a job as a majordomo for a man who asked no questions seemed like the ideal employment. Now that other factions are starting to move against him and Ariel both, well, it seems like a good idea to try and find some answers. What the right questions to ask are, though, and to whom, is a whole different matter.

Magnificently stylish. Not just Fraction’s writing, of a story that continually manages to serially and surreally reinvent itself and its main protagonist, seemingly effortlessly, but also for Fabio Moon’s gloriously retro chic art. Casanova Quinn looks like a cross between a ‘60s footballer and James Bond, and knows how to act the part too, subconsciously that is, for the moment. The overall feel is something of Barbarella meets Austin Powers. Given how utterly out-there the previous three volumes have been, I can’t imagine for one moment this isn’t going to go all sideways, very shortly, well into yet another universe or timeline at least…

Beautiful artwork from one half of the team responsible for DAYTRIPPER. The other half, brother Gabriel Ba, gets a chance to contribute to the fun once more in a chortle-tastic back-up strip penned by Michael Chabon, author of the prose Pulitzer-Prize-winning Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, which, if you haven’t read it, I highly recommend. I say back-up strip, but I suspect it will turn out to be highly significant in some way before the end of the arc. Also, a rare mention for a letterer, Dustin Harbin, who I think may well be the best in the business right now. He also did the letters for a book called SECONDS by a certain Bryan Lee O’ Malley, which you may have heard of…

Finally, just in case you are wondering, the subtitles for each arc are the Latin versions of each of the seven deadly sins, acedia between sloth. So there will apparently be seven volumes of CASANOVA in total, one for each sin. I have at this point no real understanding of how that motif underpins or even pertains to the work, but I am sure it will at some point become clear. Maybe.

JR

Buy Casanova: Acedia #1 and read the Page 45 review here

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

“How can anything matter when every possible thing happens?”

I can’t help but feel this is the sixties television show Lost In Space, with a dash of Quantum Leap thrown for good measure, re-imagined in as twisted fashion as possible by someone who has taken the entire run of classic pulp titles WEIRD SCIENCE and WEIRD FANTASTY, performed some Dadaist cut-up of every plot device ever contained within said titles, and then randomly deployed them upon his characters, and indeed readership, at his deranged will. This is good.

Once again, I am left to ponder if Matteo Scalera and Sean Murphy are indeed one and the same person. Or maybe Grant McKay, the now missing leader of the Anarchistic League of Scientists, has used his Black Science technology to kidnap Sean Murphy from an alternate reality, brainwash him into believing he is an Italian called Matteo Scalera, and left him here. This too is good.

Expect to be confused and bemused. This is rip-roaring, utter science fiction nonsense which is as joyfully ridiculous as Hickman’s MANHATTAN PROJECTS. The lost in space Anarchist League Of Scientists ‘Dimensionauts’ are right up to their mutually loathing, proverbial necks in it, fighting amongst themselves as telepathic millipedes and hairless simians vie for the right to eat them. Only some strange, laser-welding long-haired aboriginal human types stand between them and a certain date with dinner.

 

Meanwhile, where is Grant McKay? Why, busy fending off a doppelganger that’s just appeared and wants to steal his children, though fortunately not to eat them! Kidnapping is probably preferable to consumption, mind you. Also, just to really up the confusion factor, it seems alien races from other universes have also been experimenting with Black Science reality-skipping technologies, and that the uncontrollable randomness of our team’s jumps might not be so chaotic after all. There’s patterns emerging, in every dimension apparently, according to the man himself, and if anyone knows what to do, it’s Grant McKay. Everyone else, meanwhile, myself included, hasn’t got a clue what’s going on! There’s only one thing for it, as Grant McKay himself says…

“We have to go to the centre of the onion…”

JR

Buy Black Science vol 2: Welcome Nowhere s/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

About once a year I have a dream where I’m about to head into an exam room at the Trent Building on the Nottingham University campus to take my second year organic chemistry exam. I’m panicking somewhat because this is the absolute nadir of my time as a student, the moment it finally occurs to me I am actually going to have to seriously scale back on the video games and do some work in my final year, if I somehow can just get through this exam*. When I wake up, it takes me a good minute or so before I calm down and remember that in fact I am now 42 and don’t ever have to think about nucleophilic aliphatic substitutions or 1,2-rearrangements or any such nonsense ever again.

Yuuki Asuna is having the opposite problem. A top student who loved nothing more than to spend her days and nights cramming for exams, she borrowed her brother’s virtual reality console and now finds herself trapped inside the MMORPG Sword Art Online, along with ten thousand other players, all of whom are somewhat surprised at this unexpected turn of events. Given most of them are gamers, however, it’s like all their dreams come true at once, but all Yuuki is worried about, rather than trying to level up, is how much of a failure she’s going to seem in the eyes of her peers and parents when she fails her exams, assuming she ever gets back to the real world, that is. And they are actually just her mocks, not even real exams!

Simultaneously satirising MMORPG culture and also the Japanese obsession with academic achievement as it does, this is well written stuff, makes excellent use of an interesting conceit, and the development of the character Yuuki as she starts to apply her innate intelligence in such unfamiliar circumstances offers endless opportunities for where the story can go, so I can see why this title has been massive in Japan. On that point there are two other SWORD ART ONLINE titles: SWORD ART ONLINE: FAIRY DANCE and SWORD ART ONLINE: AINCRAID. I have precisely no idea how they all fit together, though I presume much like ATTACK ON TITAN, once a manga publisher has a real hit on their hands these days, it’s just get the add-on titles out as fast as possible.

* I got 14% for organic chemistry, averaging a staggering 27% across all my second year exams, but fortunately my labs pulled me up to 41% overall, thus scraping past the required pass mark for the year of 40%. I did, however, complete Super Mario World, Mario Kart, Star Fox and Super Soccer on the Nintendo SNES, so the year wasn’t a total waste…

JR

Buy Sword Art Online: Progressive vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

She Always Looked Good In Hats (Signed & Numbered) (£7-00, ) by Matthew Melis

The Unicorn And The Woodsman signed (£5-99, ) by Kate Brown

Caliban s/c (£14-99, Avatar) by Garth Ennis & Facundo Percio

Intelligent Sentient h/c (£16-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Luke Ramsey

Displacement (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Lucy Knisley

Final Incal h/c (£22-99, Humanoids) by Alejandro Jodorowsky & Ladronn

Starlight vol 1 s/c (£10-99, Image) by Mark Millar & Goran Parlov

Ten Grand vol 2 s/c (£10-99, Image) by J. Michael Straczynski & C. P. Smith, Ben Templesmith

Trees vol 1 s/c (£10-99, Image) by Warren Ellis & Jason Howard

In God We Trust h/c (£17-99, Knockabout) by Winshluss

Dexter s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jeff Lindsay & Dalibor Talajic

Judge Dredd Casefiles 24 (£19-99, Rebellion) by John Wagner, Pat Mills, Mark Millar, Dan Abnett, various & Steve Yeowell, Carlos Ezquerra, Simon Davis, various

Slaine: The Brutania Chronicles Book One: A Simple Killing h/c (£16-99, Rebellion) by Pat Mills & Simon Davis

Hellblazer vol 10: In The Line Of Fire (£14-99, Vertigo) by Paul Jenkins & Sean Phillips, Al Davison

Batman: The Dark Knight vol 4 – Clay s/c (£12-99, DC) by Gregg Hurwitz & Alex Maleev, Ethan Van Sciver

Secret Origins vol 1 s/c (£10-99, DC) by various

Sword Art Online: Fairy Dance vol 2 (£9-99, Yen) by Reki Kawahara & Tsubasa Haduki

News!

   

ITEM! Scott McCloud to sign THE SCULPTOR at Page 45 on Sunday March 8th from 2pm to 4pm! Yay!

ITEM! Philippa Rice & Luke Pearson co-signing SOPPY and sketching at Page 45 on Valentine’s Day, Saturday February 14th from 4pm to 6pm!

This will be so cute we may need to cull kittens in order to maintain the cosmic balance!

    

So many freebies to give away on the day: postcards, wrapping paper, posters!

    

-       Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews February 1015 week one

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

Including Scott McCloud’s THE SCULPTOR, Tove Jansson’s MOOMIN SLIPCASED EDITION,  Noah Van Sciver’s SAINT COLE, Brubaker & Phillips’ CRIMINAL with covers, Gilbert Hernandez’s LOVE AND ROCKETS: OFELIA, and free online Boulet comic underneath!

The Sculptor h/c (£18-99, SelfMadeHero) by Scott McCloud.

“I’m not afraid to die, Harry.”
“Give it time.”

David Smith is a sculptor feeling sorry for himself.

Once he was a prodigy and protégé taken under the wings of a rich and highly influential investor while still at college. He was publicly celebrated for six months: it looked like David’s future would be stellar. But then, in the full flood of that media spotlight which was serving him so well, David was summarily dropped.

In the Art world where a single critic can influence an entire room of sheep-like journalists and investors with a single turn of phrase, this is proving difficult to recover from. On a personal level it has destroyed David’s self-confidence and all hope for glory.

His dad, mum and sister are all dead. David is the last of his family and he’s feeling lost, lonely, left behind and forgotten. It’s made him bitter and resentful and prone to lashing out except towards his childhood friend, Ollie, who works in a gallery and is doing his very best on David’s behalf. That doesn’t stop David taking it out on Ollie’s new boyfriend and fellow sculptor, Finn.

Then on his 26th birthday while David is sitting alone in a diner, contemplating an empty plate and an equally empty future after being fired from his job flipping burgers, his Great Uncle Harry drops by. It’s time for a kindly pep talk.

“Gotta be some way to get you back in the saddle.”
“I don’t see how, with no money, no resources, so one to care, and no time before they kick me out… Still… Every night, I see them… these monstrous, beautiful things I could make… so real I could almost reach out and touch them. My dreams keep growing, Harry, even while my options keep shrinking. It’s like they’re demanding that I make them, demanding to be seen, demanding to exist… And now I’m scared I’ll never finish a single one.”

Then comes the moment of revelation, and it is masterfully done, as David struggles to recall when they last met.

“Man, the last time I saw you, you were…”

Four silent beats alternate between Uncle Harry’s soft but impassive gaze and David’s dawning realisation, closing in slowly, then…

“… Dead.”

“Life doesn’t always turn out the way we plan, David.”

As David struggles to absorb the truth, ‘Uncle Harry’ presents him with an alternative route to happiness: of a wife, kids, a labrador and a life teaching while working on his art in the basement, but for David this simply isn’t enough: his art is his everything, his art must be seen.

“What would you give for your art, David?”
“I’d give my life.”

So, with some sadness, Uncle Harry offers him a bargain: 200 days to create art with his bare hands from any physical object. But 200 days only, after which David will die. And it’s at this point – as the clock starts ticking inexorably on – that David falls in love…

What follows is a further 450 pages of extraordinary black and blue beauty and a far from straightforward trajectory as David discovers what he can do with this gift, what his art really means to him, what his heart really desires and the price to be paid for all of them.

David is hardly his own best friend. A gift doesn’t change who you are and David is impulsive, compulsive, driven and self-absorbed with neck-breaking mood swings and no sense of moderation. Succinctly…?

“You think too much.”

Given to grudges and paranoia, he also talks too much without the benefit of an internal editor which would prevent him from burning so many bridges. Some things are better left unsaid or at least expressed in a more kindly and considerate fashion. David could do with reading Jane Austen’s ‘Sense And Sensibility’.

The girl he falls for, Meg, is in so many ways his opposite: trusting, compassionate, nurturing and overwhelmingly positive and confident except when it comes to her trade. She’s an actress who’d hoped to be up on Broadway by now but has to be encouraged by her friends to even attend some auditions. She picks David up and takes him in when he’s at his lowest ebb, for David has far, far further to fall. He thinks she’s an angel – which is far from surprising when you discover how they first meet – but no one is that straightforward, are they?

Throughout there are discussions about Art, Art criticism and absolutes – about history, objectivity and subjectivity – and what really matters at the end of the day. There are also the practicalities of commerce and marketing strategies to consider, which David doesn’t.

“I thought if I just gave it everything I had…”

These set pieces are surprisingly succinct for such a vast graphic novel, but then the book would be bloated and there isn’t an ounce of fat on it.

Instead Scott McCloud, the creator of UNDERSTANDING COMICS, REINVENTING COMICS, MAKING COMICS, ZOT!, leaves room for some of the most intimate, delicate and touching moments I’ve read in any medium, plus one great big heart-stopper on a rooftop which will have your heart racing and send you reeling from one reaction to the next faster than a Ferrari with its pedal to the metal. Its multiple climaxes – far more wide-ranging than you can possibly suspect – will take your breath away. Oh, the reprises!

It’s also in places laugh-out-loud funny as when it dawns on David whom amongst Meg’s friends and flatmates she’s slept with, Marcos’ eyes bugging out behind him as David puts his foot in it. I’m sorry to make this comparison but those eyes, combined with the no-no shaking of the head, shot me straight back to WIZARD’S TWISTED TOYFARE THEATRE. Credibility is overrated and I’m running pretty low on that anyway.

This too made me smile after David loses yet another game of chess with boney-fingered ‘Uncle Harry’:

“Figures… You always beat me as a kid.”
“Y’get distracted too easily.”
“Come to think of it, you always let me play white too.”
“Hey, I get the last move… you might as well get the first.

As to the sheer beauty which Scott McCloud has brought to the printed page, the light is thrilling whether when lying together on the grass, wandering alone in the cemetery, overlooking Manhattan with a palpable sense space between buildings or as the door opens up and Ollie first surveys what David’s been up to in his rented loft.

There are similar gasp-inducing moments early one morning on a bridge and the first two times he spies Meg, the second taking place across a crowded club, everyone else fading to an ethereal blue as David focuses in on her black hair and skirt and pursues.

Later on, just before David’s days grow painfully few and time accelerates rapidly, the narrative pauses for a page worthy of Will Eisner, depicting a tiny David, hands in his pockets, navigating a pavement made out of calendar dates ending on April 9th after which lies the monumental stone chasm of death. Of course, he can die ahead of his time at any time and the beginnings and ends of each month, which would be blank on a printed calendar, are here similarly treacherous, bottomless pits. Throw in its overheard perspective and a thrillingly acute vanishing point and you have a visual interpretation of Time quite emphatically waiting for no man.

Regular readers will know I love rain and almost anything (other than comics covers) eroded by light. The final page of the penultimate chapter ends with David alone in a borrowed apartment he’s babysitting, looking out of the window at a Manhattan skyline on the other side of Central Park surrounded by shrubbery. Every element of that soft, pale, blue-grey panel streaked by torrential rain is sublime, but it’s the fluid squiggles at the base of the bushes which really made it for me.

Finally for now, one of the key visual moments which McCloud had to nail was always going to be when our sculptor first puts his mind to the task of deploying his gift on his material of choice: a precious block of cold, hard stone which takes months to chip away at with chisels and mallets. As the low morning sunlight floods into his stark, wooden-floored loft, David pauses in front of the “stubborn old bastard”, throws away his tools and feels his way around the block. He then raises his hands and…

What a wallop! The most spectacular, liquid explosion of unyielding granite!

So welcome to the Art world and – to a certain extent – welcome to it, you are!

But as much as anything else THE SCULPTOR is a book like DAYTRIPPER about perspectives and priorities. About what actually makes you happy and how you can bring happiness to others or not. About life while you’re still living it: paying attention to what is in front of you, who is in front of you, soaking it all in and making that count. And, like DAYTRIPPER, it prompted a great deal of self-reflection.

“Look to Heaven!” screams an old man protesting about a protest which he considers blasphemous outside a cathedral.

“Silly people…” says Meg. “It’s all down here.”

SLH

Buy The Sculptor and read the Page 45 review here

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

Oh joy, joy, joy-joy, joy- joy, joy!

Which is more difficult to type than you’d imagine.

This slipcased whopper collects all five of Tove Jansson’s MOOMIN volumes before her brother Lars took over, each of which you’ll find reviewed by myself, Jonathan or Tom, although my more lengthy musings can be found in the landscape colour editions which you’ll also find here in their original black and white.

You’ll also be blessed with a gorgeous A2 fold-out poster of the cover and nearly thirty pages of immaculate character designs both used and unused in Tove’s assured, silky black line on what appears to be aged, tea-stained baking paper: they have that enchanting translucency.

I first discovered MOOMIN aged four or five while sleeping over at my cousin’s house, tucked up in bed one Boxing Day evening. The safe and soft sounds of our mums and our dads boozing away merrily below drifted comfortingly up the stairs. It was dark outside and it was snowing. Can you imagine the magic of that?

It was, of course, in the form of illustrated prose paperbacks, whereas this is the comics.

The Moomins themselves were enchanting: a tight but welcoming and insatiably curious family unit forever inviting waifs and strays into their home, then promptly wishing that they hadn’t.

Either that or they’d set out on wild adventures, propelled by Moominpappa’s incurable wanderlust. Moominmamma always managed to pack more essentials and potted geraniums into her capacious handbag than is remotely feasible, but then she was forever having to provide.

“Good thing we have such a lot of bed-sheets and table-cloths for the sails.”
“Yes, dear. Does the hemstitching matter much?”

Essentially none of them could say “no” or at least take “no” for an answer even with a daintily appended “dear”. Young Moomintroll would usually manage to put his foot in it and upset Snorkmaiden, his singularly sensitive belle; and, oh, the weird and wonderful creatures they’d encounter!

Ahead of her times, Jansson depicted floods of quite Biblical proportions and at least one drought, plus she was perfectly aware that the press were not to be trusted.

Everything would be back to a reassuring normality by the end but Tove Jansson’s first MOOMIN outing – the illustrated prose that is THE MOOMINS AND THE GREAT FLOOD – was a very different beast. The sepia paintings are as eerie as you like!

Anyway, fifty quid is an utter bargain when you add up the cost of the first five hardcovers and with these newly unearthed extras in the back it’s a steal.

Irrelevant aside: Tove Jansson is actually pronounced “Two-va Yon-son”, though obviously we won’t be doing that because no one would have a clue who we’re talking about. Also, it’d be like those pretentious old aristos who, in the 1930s, pronounced “champagne” “shom-pan-yer” or a French newsreader suddenly breaking off from her his mellifluous French accent to pronounce “Scunthorpe” in its thickest, bluntest, British best.

SLH

Buy Moomin: The Deluxe Slipcase Edition and read the Page 45 review here

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

First of the six CRIMINAL graphic novels to be blessed with a new trade dress plus the landscape covers which adorned the original issues. From the creators of FATALE, SLEEPER and INCOGNITO, we rate this right up there with David Lapham’s STRAY BULLETS.

Each of us has our own set of rules: roads you promise yourself you won’t travel down, things you will never do. But how many of us manage to abide by them without failure? For most of us the occasional slip-up may cause complications, but it hopefully won’t be the end of the world.

For Leo, in his line of work, it could prove fatal – for him and for those left around him – which is why he’s always stuck by them. For example, if the job doesn’t need guns, you don’t carry them (“Prisons are full of assholes who valued their own lives only slightly more than other people’s”), and when embarking on any heist, any score, any job at all, you do your homework thoroughly and you always have more than one exit strategy planned. Only once did his father break his own rules, and it cost his freedom and ultimately his life.

That’s not going to happen to Leo, so when ex-colleague Seymour approaches him with another bent cop with insider knowledge of the perfect heist – five million in diamonds in a police evidence van on its way to court – he’s more than a little wary. Unfortunately Seymour knows Leo’s weakest spot – the fact that he actually cares – which blinds him when he should have been paying the most attention, and when the whole thing falls apart mid-heist, it’s all Leo can do to escape.

That’s Leo’s key skill: whether a heist is successful or whether it fails, Leo will get away. That’s what people hire him for. What Leo doesn’t know is that this time he’s been hired to get away, yes… after failing. Why on earth would anyone do that? So clever!

 

This is a seamless pairing of writer and artist, so utterly absorbing that it does what the best art in any medium does: it makes you forget its creation. Yet it’s so well conceived from every intricate angle from the get-up-and-go to the set-up-and-scram, and it isn’t even about the heist itself, it’s about trying to play out a very bad hand when the game has been rigged from the start, what happens when you start to hope for a little bit more.

Brubaker’s always been strong with the internal monologue, but Leo is entirely real to me, as is Greta and indeed lecherous, panty-pilfering old Ivan sinking inexorably into dementia, to whom Leo is devoted. But as much of this if not more is down to Phillips. In this back-alley world of murky morality, half-truths and hidden agendas, the characters’ faces are in constant shadow, laden with the scepticism of past experience or masking deceit. I wouldn’t trust anyone drawn by Sean Phillips.

But that’s just a fraction of what he brings to the table. Phillips is by no means a photo-realistic artist, and thank Christ for that – you can’t help but relish his instinctive, expressive lines, whether on faces or the curling, swirling smoke – and yet there’s something so confident and consistent in his style, in his handling of the cast very much in their environment, in how much to draw and what to leave out, how to light it and how to compose each page, that you are mesmerised into seeing it all play out as if in front of you.

SLH

Buy Criminal vol 1: Coward s/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

Time and again I’m asked where to start on Los Bros Hernandez.

“Anywhere!” is the answer for they’re both consummate storytellers and the most convivial of hosts, introducing you to their cast as they come to each party and you’ll get along fine, I swear.

Luba is reading in bed when first her son then her three daughters climb on.

“The kids at school call me Sissy Boots.”
“Well, climbing into bed with me isn’t going to make you look exactly macho, sweetheart.”
“Just because I hate playing sports and I’d rather play dress up with girls!”
“They call me Tarzan at school just because I like to wrestle with boys instead of play hopscotch!”
“They call me Conan.”
“Some pack I’m raising. Come in then. I don’t need to hear any more. Climb into the Fortress Of Love.”
“Yay! Nobody’s mean to us in the Fortress Of Love!”

Isn’t that cute?

“I don’t need to hear any more” is actually the telling line, though.

Gilbert and Jaime are renowned for their down-to-earth portraits of Mexican and Mexican-immigrant life: a Latino soap opera with a sprawling cast who have aged on the page, loved and lost and now spanned generations. Both brothers portray age so well, from skinny-legged, hyperactive five-year-olds to the coarsely lined evidence of having weathered so many storms.

Both brothers also suffuse their rich, contemporary fiction with the fantastical. Not just local legends, though there are plenty of those. So many of the segments that make up this organic and unusual narrative are decidedly surreal. And it is comprised of segments: short sketches from here and there, now and then, that between them build up to form a much larger picture and although so much is said, so much is left unsaid to simmer in silence.

Like Greek tragedies it’s also full of formalities, of non-naturalistic elements and devices. I mean, does Luba really carry that hammer around with her everywhere? Around the house? Even to work? Well yes, probably, but it’s more a reminder of what she’s endured, and the manner in which she’s endured it!!

Also, consider the effect of Hector dating her knock-out, body-building sister, Petra. The panels are packed with thought bubbles riddled with Hector’s self-doubting insecurities – internal monologues as his mind whirls around in an incessant self-torture of lust and guilt while she, seemingly sublime, gives nothing away. Petra’s not weighed down by a single thought bubble, she just gets on and swims or dances. It keeps you worried that good-hearted Hector is going to balls it up by not paying her any verbal attention, by failing to actively engage and enjoy his time with her.

And then there’s Books, as unrealistic a figure as you can imagine, squat and sour and melodramatic. She’s not really a person, more of a narrative device, passing judgement on the proceedings:

“Patterns repeat themselves, little to no change in their actions, no lessons learned.”

That’s part of the point of this book: that some people simply don’t grow except in their waistline. But it does make the final twist all the more surprising, as one person finally makes a decision to break with the habits of a lifetime, whilst the predominantly ambling pace gives the dark dénouement a stunning punch to the guts.

I’d better give you an idea of what the book’s actually about, hadn’t I?

For a start: sex.  Everyone’s at it, or trying to get at it. It’s a veritable cat’s cradle of relationships! One of Luba’s sisters, Fritz, is dating both handsome soccer champion, Sergio, and his mother, Pipo! Luba herself personifies this (not the sapphic part – she’s actually censoriously homophobic, especially concerning her children). She doesn’t get much herself here but she is a force of nature, unfeasibly well endowed, with a raw sexuality which few are immune to.

What Luba does get comes from Fortunato, an enigmatic, Adonis-like figure from the sea who appears at key moments to seduce or fulfil the sexual needs of the female cast, always with a Reeves-and-Mortimer “Fortunato!” dub over his head!

The odd thing is, he might not even exist except in their heads – in their memories and in their dreams. And what’s the difference between dreams and memories? Neither necessarily represents an accurate recording of the past. They’re both elusive and subject to perception, and within both key elements may disappear with time only to re-emerge, sometimes inconveniently.

All of which brings us pertinently to Ofelia herself, Luba’s elder cousin. Oh, Ofelia has plenty of memories which she threatens to transcribe into a book, yet she doesn’t appear much except at the beginning and the end. Instead we gradually discover that she’s lived her stifled life almost entirely vicariously whilst nurturing both Luba then two generations of Luba’s offspring and it’s left Ofelia resentful.

But Ofelia she has one unspoken memory, shared by several, and that in itself may be the key as to why she chose to stay at home in the first place…

Tip of the hat to the chapter title, ‘Spot Marks The Ex.”

For more of Pipo and Fritz, please see HIGH SOFT LISP.

SLH

Buy Love And Rockets (vol 10): Ofelia and read the Page 45 review here

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

“How did I let things get so out of hand?
“Within days I have destroyed everything.
“Why did all this happen to me?”

Not, you’ll note, “Why did I do all this?”

By the very last page Joe has indeed destroyed everything – more than you could possibly suspect, even though there’s a clue halfway through! – and it takes less than a week.

If you really are after an answer, though, Joe, it’s because you have no self-control, no sense of responsibility and ignore what little better judgement you have, so giving swiftly in to every ill-advised temptation that comes your way.

Noah Van Sciver’s Joe is one big car crash and there he is on the third page, weak, wet and bedraggled, staring into the abyss you’ll only find out about right at the end. The only things left are Joe’s constant sneer lines on each side of his nose.

I love Sciver’s heads, often sitting wonkily on shoulders like the protagonists’ necks are broken, and Joe’s mother-in-law is the most brilliantly repulsive, lager-swigging, pot-smoking, baggy and saggy waste of space – space that used to belong to Joe, Nicole and their baby. No more.

With thick, curling lines emanating from Joe and swirling round the innocent, oblivious customers, Noah’s also a dab hand at the sweaty delirium of drunk, which is what Joe is during most shifts at the pizza place where he works as much overtime as he can get in order to feed his missus and kid.

So you’ve got to give him that: he does work long hours in order to provide but with all sixteen fingers on the self-destruct button. Also, get a load of this:

“I’m 28 years old, working everyday to take care of my girlfriend – who will not get a job – and our child, who was unplanned and is more expensive than we thought.”

Nicole is the mother of your newborn babv, Joe! How is Nicole supposed to get a job? And “more expensive than we thought”..? Slightly more time consuming as well, I expect.

Joe doesn’t really do reality, as you will see. Nor forethought. He does boorish, belligerent, bad-tempered and “what could possibly go wrong?” The answer is “everything”.

Expect: sheets and puddles of dirty wet rain, clouds of sickly-sweet smoke and a punch in the face or two. I know I would, and I haven’t hit anyone in my life, I don’t think.

SLH

Buy Saint Cole and read the Page 45 review here

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

Once more with the gorgeous calligraphy, here in a subtle purple, surrounded by silver stars!

I love the final ‘S’ and its gradation of depth and colour.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside from our expanding range of Jodie Paterson Cards was equally beautiful.

I’m not quite sure where the moon has got to. Come to think of it, I’m not sure what its inclusion means. The moon has long been a reference to madness, as in “lunar” / “lunatic”. Is giving this breath-taking beauty on Valentine’s Day akin to saying “I love you profoundly even though you’re off your fucking trolley”?

It probably is. And I have just quadrupled our sales.

SLH

Buy Moon And Stars Card and read the Page 45 review here

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

D’awww! This is so sweet!

Like all Jodie Paterson Cards this is printed on a classy watercolour stock with an equally rich envelope.

It depicts… well, you can see what it depicts: two bears, one with rosy cheeks and long lashes so signifying that one is a big, buff male bear and the other is a laydee bear – or that the other has recently watched Cabaret.

Watching Cabaret was a highly formative experience when I was fifteen. [That will be quite enough of that – ed.]

Our Mark was a bear, you know. A bear is a gay guy of a certain girth with a great big beard and a heart of gold. An otter is a gay guy of slightly more marginal girth or maybe a beard that could do with some fertiliser.

A sea lion is a cute but singularly stupid animal that claps its flippers together and balances a ball on its nose, even in the wild. Scientific FACT!

I could educate you on the subject of gay, back-pocket handkerchiefs and what each colour code means, if you like? I educated Ian Culbard on just that subject which he then slyly incorporated into his great graphic novel CELESTE which has the most swoon-worthy sense of space. Do you have a copy yet? Check out the handkerchief, I am not even kidding you!

Regardless, it’s still pretty chilly so this couple of bear-faced beauties are surrounded by shrubbery and probably in hibernation. Given half a chance I would join them.

For similarly calamitous reviews, please check out the rest of our Jodie Paterson Cards for I have sullied each and every one with highly inappropriate verbiage and yet we have still had to restock two times in just as many months!

SLH

Buy Bear Hug Card and read the Page 45 review here

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

Some sources said this was to be the death knell of Marvel’s Ultimate Universe. I wasn’t sure whether I should be pinching salt or tickling its ribs, but it was far from improbable given that interest in the various series outside of Miles Morales’ had plummeted.

And in some ways it was its death knell because – once more outside the subsequent Miles Morales relaunch which came with quite the cliffhanger – there is now zero interest in any of the abominable titles that lamentably limped from this wreckage.

Following events during the AGE OF ULTRON, a hole has been torn in the time-space thingummybob and globe-gobbling Galactus has found his way through to a brand-new dinner table: the Ultimate Universe. It is woefully unprepared, and not just in the crockery department.

This invulnerable grim reaper, so vast he makes Manhattan look like Legoland, has made it to Earth and trampled the whole of New Jersey to dust. Nothing the Ultimates have found to throw at it has even raised its eyebrow. In the regular Marvel Universe only Reed Richards successfully managed to stave off the ravenous appetite of this world-eater, but the Reed Richards of the Ultimate Universe has chosen the distinctly different career path of monomaniacal would-be world-tyrant.

“What’s to do?” as Victoria Wood might say.

Bagley’s interior art delivered the sense of scale which this cover does not while Bendis fell relatively silent for the initial onslaught, letting the action rip across the page right from the start, but since this includes every single mini-series which attended and even preceded the event (like HUNGER), the rest is a very mixed bag.

Among the 20 issues here is the prologue which smoothly and succinctly explained everything you needed to know about the situation as it stood, regardless of whether you’d picked up AGE OF ULTRON or indeed a single Ultimate comic before, whilst delivery an affecting tale of love understood just in time to be too late.

SLH

Buy Cataclysm: The Ultimates Last Stand and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

The Pirates Of Pangaea Book 1 (£8-99, David Fickling Books) by Daniel Hartwell & Neill Cameron

Batman: The Dark Knight vol 3 – Mad s/c (£12-99, DC) by Gregg Hurtz & Ethan Van Sciver, Szymon Kudranski

Superman: Earth One vol 3 h/c (£16-99, DC) by J. Michael Straczynski & Ardian Syaf

Teen Titans vol 5: The Trial Of Kid Flash s/c (£13-50, DC) by Scott Lobdell & various

Inhumanity s/c (£29-99, Marvel) by Mat Fraction, Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Waid, Kieron Gillen, Al Ewing, Kelly See DeConnick, Jonathan Hickman, Christos Gage, Matt Kindt, Sam Humphries, Warren Ellis & various

Monster Perfect Edition vol 3 (£12-99, Viz) by Naoki Urasawa

Master Keaton vol 1 (£12-99, Viz) by Naoki Urasawa

Sword Art Online: Fairy Dance vol 1 (£9-99, Yen) by Reki Kawahara & Tsubasa Haduki

News!

ITEM! Boulet’s short comic, THE GAENEVIAD online for free!

ITEM! UNDERSTANDING COMICS and THE SCULPTOR’s Scott McCloud examines seven graphic novels which deal with artistic frustration.

ITEM! AKIRA, sci-fi, manga and comics fans in general Paul Gravette presents a riveting and meticulous article on AKIRA’s creator Katsuhiro Otomo, putting his work into context and revealing so much which we in the west have yet to see.

ITEM! A week ago I foolishly declared that Page 45 was so close to its January sales record – which had stood stubbornly strong since 2004 – that only a blizzard could stop us. Next day…?

Still, doesn’t our shop glow in snow?

Oh, and we trounced the record anyway, by over 10%. Thank yooooooo!

ITEM! “ Is it time we agreed on a gender-neutral singular pronoun?” hand-wrings the Grauniad. Been using “they” – even as a singular – for thirty-five years now and it’s always worked for me!

ITEM! Paul Duffield demonstrates the beauty of spot-varnish covers in his SMALL TALES & FAIR FAILS update.

ITEM! An Oxford-based Comic Club where kids can learn to make awesome comics with Neill Cameron on Saturdays. Yay!

ITEM! The Lakes International Comic Arts Festival 2015! Whopping announcements begin this very month, so I would seriously bookmark that link and follow @comicartfest on Twitter!

Creator, publisher and retailer bookings for the LICAF Comics Tower where Page 45 took a record amount of money in 2014 are open until February 27th 2015! You bet your bottom dollar we’ll be there once again, with some very special guests!

- Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews January 2015 week four

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

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

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

“I’ll end up where I need to be.”

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

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

And there is so much blood.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mendacity was rife.

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

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

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

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

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

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

As I said: mendacity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Youth Sunday.

SLH

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

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

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

Well, will you look at that cover!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SLH

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

JR

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

JR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SLH

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

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

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

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

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

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

JR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No. No, I would not.

SLH

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

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

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

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

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

All the while I have been accompanied by my Clopsy.

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

Unfortunately it was a dragon.

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

Perched upon your portico, dragons can be intimidating.

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

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

SLH

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

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

News!


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

ITEM! New submarine comics by Kate Beaton. Funny!

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

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

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

- Stephen

 

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews January 2015 week three

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

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

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

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

The next two panels made me burst into tears.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On a personal note:

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

Includes exploding rodents.

SLH

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

JR

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

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

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

Well, that had me thinking….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SLH

Buy Henshin and read the Page 45 review here

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

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

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

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

This is all relevant, trust me.

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

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

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

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

It begins well after the fact with a single sentence:

“I’ve been told I need to open up.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dedicated to Mark Simpson (1968-2005).

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

SLH

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hhn nhnn hu-huh hurts… It… hurts…?”

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

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

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

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

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

Black and white unpublished pages in the back.

SLH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JR

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

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

News!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please click on that link for the deetz!

Cheers,

- Stephen

Page 45 Reviews January 2015 week two

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

JR

Buy Bark! and read the Page 45 review here

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

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

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

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

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

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

JR

Buy Second Avenue Caper and read the Page 45 review here

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

“Names are in short supply in this telling.”

They are indeed, they are indeed.

Why do you imagine this would be so?

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

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

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

Did I mention that this is illustrated prose?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SLH

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

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

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

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

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

John Tallow is in deep, deep shit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SLH

Buy Gun Machine and read the Page 45 review here

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

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

Uh-oh.

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

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

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

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

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

Both involve a woman covered in blood.

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

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

“How much can a guy drink, anyway?”

You have no idea.

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

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

SLH

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

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

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

There you go, that’s your clue.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Word gets out.

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

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

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

SLH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh my god, knob gags!

SLH

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

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

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

To break the silence.

It works.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SLH

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

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

News!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s called PHONOGRAM!

- Stephen

 

 

Page 45 Reviews January 2015 week one

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

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

 - Stephen on They’re Not Like Us #1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SLH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JR

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

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

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

I love Simon Gane.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*smiles*

SLH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discuss.

SLH

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

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

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

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

It really is!

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

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

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

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

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

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

The word balloon drips ice.

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

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

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

It would indeed!

SLH

Buy SHIELD #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Preview

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

Available 2015, but we know not when.

“I do not walk alone at night.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Page 45: above all, we’re professional.

SLH

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

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

News!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Woman: That’s not what –

“Dudes: SO MEAN”

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

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

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

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

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

ITEM! Lastly… drumroll…

Simone Lia’s FLUFFY’S COMING BACK!

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

Happy New Year!

- Stephen

Page 45 Reviews December 2014 week four

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

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

 - Stephen on his Food & Drink interview underneath the reviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Boy, I’m being mean tease today!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SLH

Buy Saga vol 4 and read the Page 45 review here

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

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

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

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

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

SLH

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

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

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

Here’s Putin being threatening with sanctions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SLH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SLH

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

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

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

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

Memories! Metaphysics!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stall.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SLH

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

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

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

Now that is a very good question.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You just pissed off the wrong faggot.”

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

“You just pissed off the wrong faggot.”

But, limply…

“You boys just pissed off the wrong bastard.”

It really isn’t the same.

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

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

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

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

Never, ever trust a fucking corporation.

SLH

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

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

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

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

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

Nope, I can’t do it.

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

This is bananas.

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

How will they ever succeed?!

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

KILL ME NOW!

SLH

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

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

News

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

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

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

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

Funny, though, right?

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

2014: Page 45 Celebrated Its 20th Anniversary.

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

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

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

Behold, the surreal!

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

Can you introduce yourself, please?

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

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

Favourite restaurant in Notts and why?

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

Best for a romantic meal (in Notts)?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best for children (in Notts)?

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

Best pub grub in Notts?

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

Favourite takeaway food?

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

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

Live to eat or eat to live?

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

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

Maltesers.

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

Most memorable meal (anywhere) and why?

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

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

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

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

Fondest childhood memory of food?

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

 

And the worst?

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

What do you enjoy cooking at home?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7) Devour!

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

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

Favourite celebrity chef and why?

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

The food I would never touch is….

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

The best comfort food

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

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

Remembering that I am fortunate enough to have some.

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

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

My last meal would be….

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

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

- Stephen