Posts in the ‘Reviews’ Category

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews August 2015 week four

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015

Featuring Jason, Joan Cornella, David Lapham, Emma Rios, Will Kirby, Simon Roy, Brandon Graham, Grant Morrison, Frazer Irving, Ludroe, Ethan Young, Andre Sirangelo, Gabriel Iumazark and Hiroya Oku, the creator of GANTZ

Island #2 (£5-99, Image) by Brandon Graham, Emma Rios, Will Kirkby, Simon Roy, Ludroe, Robin Bougie.

Big, thick anthology edited by Brandom Graham and Emma Rios which, improbably, is monthly.

ISLAND #1 reviewed by our J45 is back in stock after multiple reorders. I’ve never known an anthology to be this popular but the proof is in the pudding and the chefs are all top-tier talents bringing their very best to the table.

Because it’s a monthly some strips are serialised every four issues or so and honesty dictates that I concede there’s just the one page of Brandon Graham this time round but Emma Rios is back with this glorious cover and the second instalment of her silky, salmon pink series ‘I.D.’ about three individuals so uncomfortable with their bodies that they’re prepared to undergo a radical and somewhat controversial new medical procedure not all recover from: they’re going to have their brains transplanted into a donor’s body. Here they attend the clinic and learn exactly how the process works and what the risks involved are, after which we fast-forward and ooohhh…

The art is sublime with feathery hair and deliciously sinuous finger forms. The aerial shots above  them sleeping are exquisitely lit, but then there are the leaves of the trees under which our pioneer patients meet up and if I could find that particular park I’d probably never leave.

It’s been meticulously researched with the help of Miguel Alberte Woodward MD who provides the prose this issue which further considers the implications and practicalities of the potential processes.

Will Kirby’s vast purple pages of wordless, fantastical cityscapes, mythical birds and a giant, fire-eyed wolf are nothing short of gobsmacking.

No less detailed are Simon Roy’s futuristic yet at the same time ancient-civilisation-based full-page masterpieces for part one of ‘Habitat’ and if you’re missing Moebius and / or adore PROPHET then I’d call this absolutely essential reading. I was entranced from start to finish and stared at the perspective of one shot in particular for half an hour. I have no idea whatsoever how one first sees that in one’s head let alone commit it so successfully to paper.

Love the colouring on the lichen-covered or moss-strewn stone.

Epic.

Oh look, Jonathan’s reviewed this too! That’s how much we love it…

SLH

Buy Island #2 and read the Page 45 review here

Island #2 (£5-99, Image) by Brandon Graham, Emma Rios, Simon Roy, Ludroe, Will Kirkby, others…

“Forward. If you take what is printed, boy… there is no turning back.
“(Where’s that damned punch-card. Ah!)
“By accepting the blade, you swear an oath.
“To forsake your family for the Brotherhood of the Habsec (…which-button-uh-“3D PRINT”…)
“To kill the few so that the many might live; to obey and enforce the emergency measures; even if it means your death.
“And most of importantly: to put the needs of the Habitat above all else.”

Well, the thing I was most waiting for in this second issue of this Brandon Graham-curated anthology was the concluding part of Emma Rios’ I.D. But as brilliant as that was, and it was, I was blown away by the opening part of this three-part sci-fi caper by Simon Roy, set aboard an orbiting habitat where society has long since degenerated into little more than a tribal fight for survival amongst the overgrown ruins of mostly abandoned or partially functional technology.

 

One of the few pieces of technology that does remain operational, if not remotely understood, is a 3D-printer, activated by a punchcard which has a set template on it. The Brotherhood of Habsec only has one punchcard template which prints out a sword, presented to each new trooper as part of their initiation rites. And what are the main functions of a trooper? To hunt down members of other tribes as food. Yep, cannibalism is rife, and there are some stomach-churning scenes as bodies are processed and the merits of eating spinal columns discussed. This yarn is very much like the first volume of PROPHET, which Roy contributed to art-wise, where one clone of John Prophet is engaged in a struggle for survival on an inhospitable world, as here we follow the exploits of neophyte trooper Cho and his Habsec brothers on the hunt for food. Trooper Cho, however, finds a little more than bargained for, which is all well and good until his curiosity gets the better of him…

Meanwhile, following the pattern of ISLAND #1 we have six beautiful, wordless pages of art as a pre-index opener, which is actually a comic as well this time from Will Kirkby. I would seriously love to see Will do a full strip in this style, it is magnificent stuff. Then a very humorous one-page telephone discussion between Brandon himself and God, who has the temerity to point out that issue two is due and gets very short shrift in return.

There are another couple of essays, one from a neurologist immediately following the concluding part of Rios’s I.D. discussing the scientific aspects of her strip and also the feasibilities of actually undertaking brain transplants. Then there’s an excellent short essay all about a real-life person once again, but rather than a much missed friend, this time it’s about a skyjacker who almost became a spaghetti western star! Fleshing out this second issue of the archipelago is the concluding part of Ludroe’s undead skate-punk shenanigans.

JR

Buy Island #2 and read the Page 45 review here

If You Steal (£22-50, Fantagraphics) by Jason.

Ooh, but the colours are lovely! They’re classy and quiet – the sort of palette Chris Ware employs.

From the king – nay, knave – of anthropomorphic absurdity come eleven new short stories to give you much pause for thought.

Indeed the finale, ‘Nothing’ will stop you dead in your tracks. Nothing will prepare you for ‘Nothing’, especially not Jason’s customarily clever nonsense. In it an old lady in a retirement home sees wizened vultures steal a fork from her hand, her bed from her bedroom and a painting of a tree which you will by then be familiar with from the wall… just as Alzheimer’s Disease has stolen all the labels for these objects from her brain. That one cut me to pieces and the final panel is [redacted]. “Redacted” says it all, I’m afraid.

The storytelling throughout is as deadpan and laconic as ever (this is the man responsible for ALMOST SILENT, after all) which works equal wonders whether the scenes are wistful, leaving you to think, or ludicrous, leading you to laugh.

There’s plenty that’s ludicrous here, like ‘Karma Chameleon’ in which a 50-foot-long incarnation of the googly-eyed lizard manages so improbably to escape being spotted in a small dessert town with very few features, picking off punters one by one with its giant, whiplash tongue (acceleration 500 metres per second), bobbing up and down behind those sent to investigate in scenes reminiscent of a pantomime when your instinct is to scream “It’s behind you!”

There’s such a lot going on with its punchline focussed on the onanism-obsessed professor that it may initially baffle but that’s the thing to beware of with Jason: there’s no hand-holding attendant and you will need to think. Much is implied but still more is left for you to infer. Or in some instances there may not even be concrete answers. Rationalism is overrated, I say, and when I wrote ‘absurdist’ I meant it in its theatrical sense.

On the subject of absurdism there’s ‘Waiting For Bardot’, a riff on Samuel Beckett’s ‘Waiting For Godot’ in which the traditional two men meet up in the middle of nowhere and wonder where on earth the woman they’re waiting for has got to. Shopping for shoes or painting her nails? Women are an enigma to them. They’re as baffled as Laurel and Hardy. They’re dressed like Laurel and Hardy. Women are almost entirely absent from the script of ‘Waiting For Godot’.

At a particular juncture in one story I will not name it gradually becomes clear that the visual narrative has bifurcated from the literary language – that was is being said is not what’s being drawn. Haha! It happened waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay before then.

Two more of the eleven and then I leave it to you.

‘Ask Not’ begins in Stonehenge Britain in 2583 BC where a druid experiences an epiphany. Fast-forward to Salon De Provence, 1554 AD, and Nostradamus has a more specific vision of the same shooting in Dallas during 1963. He writes it all down only for the scripture to be stolen. That which follows throughout time will lead you right up the wrong garden paths, I promise you. What’s key and clever is this: most of the increasingly brief bursts of “history” begin on the final panel of a page and end on the first of a new one and often the next one. What does this do? It undercuts your oh-so-encouraged expectations, answering them with a rebuff or rejoinder, my favourite being September 11 in 2001. Easter Island was downright hilarious. Marilyn Monroe did not die in 1975.

Lastly, ‘If You Steal’ manages to be both absurdist and surrealist at the same time. The clues are in the cues which are all René Magritte, Jason doing riffs on ‘Empire of Light’, ‘Golconda’, ‘La Grande Famille’ and I think the tree which you’ll see not just in front of the safe may be a reference to ‘The Human Condition’. Magritte was an iconoclast, provoking people into rethinking what they are witnessing when viewing an image, his most famous painting perhaps being ‘The Treachery Of Images’ (“Ceci n’est pas une pipe”). Jason doesn’t go in for a great deal of this but there is the scale of the gun being carried.

Told in four-panel, single-page bursts which go backwards and forwards in time, you’re left to join the dots and fill in the blanks for yourself. Again, it’s all implication with more room than ever for inference but one of those bursts goes much further back than the others when the protagonist as a child visits an art gallery with his dad, and I’m sure you can guess whose work he becomes fixated upon.

Unlike ‘Ask Not’ the episodes aren’t dated so you can decide for yourself if you want a happy ending, but I’d suggest that if you steal you won’t have one.

So I guess it’s existentialist as well.

SLH

Buy If You Steal and read the Page 45 review here

Stray Bullets vol 3: Other People (£14-99, Image) by David Lapham.

“Learn a lesson. The risk is so much higher than the reward… Treat your wife a little better.
“You never know what you’re gonna bring home.”

Amen.

STRAY BULLETS is the best crime series by several prison blocks outside of Brubaker and Phillips’ CRIMINAL and THE FADE OUT. Each of those books has been reviewed extensively so I’m going to keep this one relatively brief.

In this particular car crash of self-contained but cunningly linked short stories set in Los Angeles moving backwards and forwards in time, it’s all about adults having affairs except ‘While Ricky Fish Was Sleeping’ in which you fear an affair is about to be thrust on a woman unwillingly.

It is absolutely terrifying.

Our homes are our castles where we’re supposed to feel safest, but when Ricky Fish collapses drunk as a skunk outside his, Kathy makes the mistake of opening the door to drag her husband inside, only to find another man’s got his foot in it. Roger forces his way in, claiming Ricky owes him big bucks which they need in order to go out dancing, and brings with him another barely conscious inebriate, Puncher, and a girl who’s all over the dozer. Roger careers from seemingly reasonable and complimentary to volcanically furious, bellowing and bullying and, more worryingly still, Kathy spots a gun under his jacket. He claims to be a policeman but that’s far from reassuring. It’s as tense as hell, but you wait until it’s reprised in ‘Little Love Tragedy’ during which some of the cast have moved on.

If “the real secret of being a writer is learning to be a convincing liar” as Nicholas Hardiman posits in Posy Simmonds’ TAMARA DREWE then David Lapham is the most convincing liar I’ve ever read. He will mess with your mind something rotten there and yet you will love him for it. You’ll see!

In ‘Two Week Vacation’ hen-packed Hank, a middle-aged mouse of a man, stupidly steps into the road between cars without looking left or right and is almost knocked down. He then makes the mistake of “retaliating” for his own carelessness by throwing a broken bottle through the car’s rear window and the driver gets out.

“Man, that was the worst thing you ever done.”

 

 

Like letting Roger in through that door, those opening pages are the ultimate in regret, that terrible feeling of “If only I hadn’t done that”. How this fits in with affairs I don’t want to spoil for you but that tale too is reprised (everything is connected in STRAY BULLETS), this time in ‘Live Nude Girls’ where we meet Amanda, a serial marriage-wrecker. She’s a textbook case of jealousy, insecurity and self-delusion right to the end.

This volume also features the very finest Amy Racecar episode, and if you marvel as I do at how intricately Lapham links everything up in this series (it’s a chronological cat’s cradle on its 250th twist) you will be staggered further still at this private-eye spoof in which Amy is hired to spy on a wife by her husband. Simple enough you might think, but nothing – absolutely nothing – is what it seems as one reveal leads to another then another, each successively bigger reveal upending the previous pair until the dozen or so characters have back-stabbed the others too many times to be true.

Well of course it’s not true, but that’s the whole point of the Amy Racecar interludes. Have you guessed why yet?

SLH

Buy Stray Bullets vol 3: Other People and read the Page 45 review here

The Last Broadcast (£22-50, Archaia) by Andre Sirangelo & Gabriel Iumazark

Dominique spotted this one.

I think the art said BEDLAM to her and she loves her Bedlam, does Dee. There’s a bit of Ben Templesmith going on too, only more angular. Ashley Wood – those sorts of comparisons.

There’s a cracking full-page shot of urban-exploring 100 feet below San Francisco, looking up from ankle level at gas-masked Niko and Harumi, the two on the cover.

“Look at that crazy door. I think the map is legit after all.”
“If the map is accurate, crazy door is just the beginning.”

It is indeed. Cogs whirr and the metal hatch – the sort of thing you’d find on a submarine – opens, and there’s quite the room inside. The sequence puts me in mind of Riven or Myst. Not stylistically, but in its overall effect of haunting strangeness and thrilling discovery.

What’s uncovered is not unconnected to Ivan The Intrepid, a young escapologist with confidence issues. He’s about to bugger up an audition during which he relates the doomed career of Blachall The Incredible, “a master of shock and awe” who hit it big in 1925 at the Paris World’s Fair. Then he bit the bullet in London, 1934, after a staged game of Russian Roulette went wonky.

This too is about to go wonky but with less catastrophic consequences… so far. Ivan doesn’t lose his life; he loses Alex, his business partner whom Ivan treats as his assistant. It’s partly because of that and partly because Alex has stopped taking his meds. They were making him sluggish, which is bad news for an escapologist. I anticipate further bad news nonetheless: he’s been off them for 48 hours.

With his income teetering on the non-existent Ivan begs magazine publisher Dmitri for work, but Dmitri has lost his last sponsor. What he gains is something altogether unexpected.

In precisely which ways this all fits together remains a mystery, but in any case all this takes place 8 weeks before the explosion at a funfair in San Francisco…

Thus read Stephen’s review of #1. What follows in the next six issues is a magical multiple misdirection of urban exploration, double cross, illusion, hallucinogens, secret societies, mind control, triple cross, voices from beyond the grave and mayhem. Lots of mayhem. Dominique and I stuck with this right through the single monthly issues and we both loved it.

It’s a real rollercoaster ride where the true intentions of most of the protagonists, including the long deceased (or is he?) Blachall, are hidden behind a veritable grand concert hall of mirrors the size of Sydney Opera House and enough smoke to rival a forest fire half the size of California. If you’re in the mood for a modern mystery with its roots in the past, would like to be mesmerised and bemused by the plot before the final grand reveal, I would highly recommend it. Just check underneath your seat before you sit down to read in case you’ve been marked out to be pulled up on-stage to assist in the act!

SLH & JR

Buy The Last Broadcast and read the Page 45 review here

Inuyashiki vol 1 (£9-99, Kodansha) by Hiroya Oku…

“Any damage?”
“Nothing here. However… we did destroy two of the planet’s intelligent life forms…”
“Can we rebuild them?”
“I’m afraid not…”
“Then at least recreate their outer appearances as quickly as you can.”
“Convincing enough that they don’t realise we tampered with them.”
“But we only have weapons grade units in stock.”
“Wait, no! They’ll destroy the entire planet!!”
“That’s not our problem! We need to disengage at once!!

Poor old Ichiro. He’s 58 going on 78. He looks like an OAP and even his daughter pretends he’s her granddad to avoid embarrassment in social situations. Starved of affection and emotionally cut-off from his family, absolutely the last thing he needs is to be told is that he has inoperable stomach cancer which is going to kill him in a matter of weeks.

Which is unfortunate, because after being called in by his doctor that’s precisely the news he receives. Unable even to tell his family, mainly because they won’t pay attention to him long enough for him to get the words out, choked up as he is, he turns to the family pet, a recently purchased Shiba Inu (almost as cute as these ones on the greetings cards drawn by our Jodie wearing a fez, a crown, a top hat and a feathered cap respectively!) called Hana-Ko for solace and comfort. At least he can rely on his canine chum for some consoling licks and wags of the tail!

During a late-night walk through the park, he and a stranger stop to look at a brilliant bright light in the sky, which promptly turns out to be a crashing spaceship that kills them. Much to his surprise Ichiro wakes up in the park the next morning with precisely zero recollection of the events of the previous night. Very quickly, though, he starts to realise something has changed, and before long begins to understand that he is now, to all intents and purposes, a consciousness in a robotic body. A highly weaponised robotic body that whilst it looks exactly like the 58-year-old geriatric Ichiro is anything but. And, of course, he’s no longer dying from cancer.

Unable to turn to his family for support during this rather puzzling yet exhilarating experience he finds himself becoming ever more withdrawn and solitary, taking more late-night walks, as he tries to understand what on earth (ho ho) has happened to him. Which is how he happens to be just in the right place at the right time to save a homeless man from being beaten to death by a gang of teenage kids. It seems as though he might now be able to be the sort of man he always wanted to be. He needs answers, though, clearly. So what of the other person who was in the park that night? Ichiro begins to wonder if they too have been changed in the same way?

Intriguing and hilarious opener from the creator of GANTZ (of which there is a great little in-joke towards the end of this volume, as we finally see what happened to the other person in the park that night). So far so good, this novel twist on the classic bodysnatching theme has the potential to be a great story, much like the sadly out of print 7 BILLION NEEDLES. And, as with GANTZ, there’s a lot of ridiculous humour to off-set the hard sci-fi element.

I love the main protagonist Ichiro, he’s such a downtrodden fellow you can’t help but take to him instantly, and I’m looking forward to seeing what crazy situations I’m certain the creator, Hiroya Oku, is going to put him through, and precisely how his family reacts to their new dad, though I’m quite sure he’s going to keep them in the dark about his robotic makeover. I’m certain we haven’t seen the last of those aliens, either. I wonder precisely why they were in such a rush to depart the scene so quickly…?

JR

Buy Inuyashiki vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Nanjing The Burning City (£18-99, Dark Horse) by Ethan Young…

“Captain, do you really think we can win this war?”
“Is there any reason to think we’re going to lose?”
“This isn’t the first time we’ve fought the Japs. And now they’ve only gotten stronger. Better tanks, better guns, better plans. I fear… I fear that the next generation of Chinese children will grow up speaking Japanese.”
“They are not going to win. China will prevail. Our nation has been here for thousands of years. Japan might have stronger guns and stronger tanks, but we have a stronger spirit. That is what counts in the end.”

Most people believe that WW2 began in 1939. From a purely western perspective that’s correct, I suppose, but then they may not be aware that Japan and China had been involved in full-blown conflict for nearly two full years preceding that, with all-out hostilities commencing in July of 1937. Indeed, Japan had been occupying parts of north-east China since 1931, a situation which the nationalist Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek was reluctantly forced to accept due to a lack of resources and military might to reverse the situation. But no one in the region was in any doubt that the intended Japanese Imperial expansionism was considerably wider in scope than that.

So, by the end of 1937 Beijing, Shanghai and Nanjing, which was then the capital, had fallen to the Japanese. Chiang Kai-shek had no choice but to retreat and reconsolidate in the west of China, whilst his erstwhile political rival in the nationalist party, Wang Jingwei, was installed as a puppet leader in Nanjing. Before that happened, though, there was a six-week period of unprecedented brutality which is widely regarded as the single worst atrocity of the World War II era.

Starting on December 13th 1937, the day Nanjing fell, Japanese soldiers ran amok killing and raping seemingly without restraint. The Rape of Nanjing, as it’s become known, remains a contentious political issue and stumbling block in Sino-Japanese relations to this day. This work barely scratches even the surface of what happened during that period and so on at level at least has to be regarded as a complete failure in my eyes, even though I think it’s an excellent work in other ways.

I’ve read quite a few articles over the last few weeks, around the 70th anniversary of the deployment of the two atomic bombs on Hirosoma and Nagasakai, all decrying their use from our modern ‘civilised’ perspective, and the complete bewilderment to this day by survivors that such an ‘atrocity’ was even necessary. I would consider myself extremely well read about World War II compared to most (China’s War with Japan, 1937-1945: The Struggle for Survival by Rana Mitter being one of the works you really need to read to understand what went on in this particular theatre of war) and whilst I wouldn’t dispute that America would have taken the Japanese islands eventually by conventional means, the two atomic bombs did undoubtedly greatly shorten the war, probably by some considerable length of time, months if not years.

The difficulties the Americans had had earlier that year in simply taking the isolated Pacific island of Iwo Jima against a mere twenty thousand Japanese soldiers I’m sure factored into their decision to deploy the atomic bombs. Along with two other important factors. Firstly, given the Japanese decision to attack Pearl Habour without warning, there was little public or military sentiment in the US for treating the Japanese ‘fairly’. But secondly – and this is where we come back to what took place in Nanjing – the American military was well aware of the Japanese military code of honour that meant surrender was cowardice, unthinkable to the point of being completely and totally unacceptable.

Thus Chinese military prisoners of war, and by extension the Chinese population, given the Japanese penchant for believing themselves to be the superior Oriental race on the peninsula, were regarded as not worthy of honour and less than human. I just do not personally believe the Japanese military would have ever surrendered without the atomic bombs dropping on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as tragic as those events were, and the prospect of the total atomic annihilation of their homeland if they did not do so. I suspect, given what we have seen of asymmetric guerrilla warfare and insurgency since WW2 in Vietnam then more recently in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria etc., the war might have been a rather more protracted affair. Instead, you have a nation who some seventy years on, are still, for the overwhelming majority, happily to be constitutionally bound that their military will be not be involved in an overseas offensive combat role. Just an opinion.

I’m not going to get into precisely what did happen during those six weeks in Nanjing, it’s well documented in extremely upsetting detail elsewhere, unless you are one of the people who much like the Holocaust deniers choose to believe it didn’t happen at all, or at least not on that scale, but I can’t see how you can do a graphic novel based during that period and barely touch upon it. The story, of two Chinese soldiers trying to escape the city already occupied by the Japanese, doesn’t remotely convey the magnitude of the suffering and vile atrocities that were committed.

Instead we have a cat and mouse chase story that briefly touches upon rape and starvation, with some Confucian proverbs regarding steadfastness in the face of adversity thrown in for good measure. It just feels like a massive opportunity missed. There is an extremely brief one-page afterword that mentions the barest facts but I just can’t see anyone being minded to pick up something like ‘China’s War with Japan, 1937-1945: The Struggle for Survival’ by Rana Mitter after reading this. The foreword from the creator states it is for the forgotten ones, the people who died, yet surely telling the story from the perspective of an ordinary family would have had far more impact?

I just feel the author had a chance to do something that could have stood alongside PALESTINE, PERSEPOLIS, MAUS and yes BAREFOOT GEN (currently out of print), amongst many others as a testament to man’s inhumanity to man, helping to ensure events that mustn’t be forgotten are remembered correctly by future generations and not erased from the popular narrative of history.

From a perspective of pre-, during and post-war Japan, particularly to help get inside the peculiar fascistic nationalistic psyche that prevailed before and during the era of conflict, I would strongly suggest, from a graphic novel perspective, reading Shigeru Mizuki’s exceptional SHOWA treatise:

SHOWA 1926-1939: A HISTORY OF JAPAN, SHOWA 1926-1939: A HISTORY OF JAPAN and SHOWA 1926-1939: A HISTORY OF JAPAN (and the shortly to be published final volume SHOWA 1953-1989). Plus his fictionalised autobiographical material about time served in the Pacific during WW2, which again, perfectly captures the ‘no surrender’ mentality of the Japanese military high command ONWARD TOWARDS OUR NOBLE DEATHS.

The irony is, for all that I have said above, I think this is a great read. If it were to be set against another backdrop, I would regard it as an excellent war story, precisely comparable with Garth Ennis’ WAR STORIES material in terms of tone and content. Plus art-wise, I thought it was extremely accomplished. Some of the action scenes minded me of DONG XOAI by Joe Kubert, though that is pure rough pencils, and this is considerably more polished. If you just want a good war yarn, this is well worth reading. If you want to learn something of what really happened in Nanjing during those horrific six weeks, I would look elsewhere.

JR

Buy Nanjing The Burning City and read the Page 45 review here

Annihilator h/c (£18-99, Legendary) by Grant Morrison & Frazer Irving…

“I know who you think you are. Max Nomax is a character.
“He’s the lead in my screenplay.
“That can only mean one thing… this is bullshit… or I’ve gone mad.
“So? Have I gone mad?”

Once again Grant Morrison returns to his favourite device of metafiction to craft a weird, warped, time-shifting, modern gothic tale that will amuse as much as amaze. He’s still got it, I have to say, and I do think Frazer Irving is the perfect foil for this dysphasian tale, following on from their collaboration on the Klarion sections of THE SEVEN SOLIDERS OF VICTORY which were the artistic stand-out sections on that equally head-spinning title for me. By the end of this yarn, you’ll be wondering if Grant Morrison has a brain injury or just induced one in yourself, in addition to the equally implausibly named screenwriter (and creator of Max Nomax) Ray Spass’ inoperable brain tumour. And somewhere along the way, the Universe will be saved, of course.

Its classic Morrison, weaving a tortuous tale from a jumble of parts and somehow making it semi-coherent, entertaining nonsense, sometimes even with a few salient philosophical, perhaps even spiritual points to make along the way. I’m thinking FLEX MENTALLO in particular there. This isn’t quite on that level in terms of storytelling, I don’t actually think it’s trying to be, but it’s an extremely enjoyable romp, and Fraser’s particular art style and palette perfectly engenders an almost cinematic rendering of two men and their intertwined melodramas.

So… Max Nomax has been sentenced to life, indeed solitary confinement, in a rather gloomy space station called Dis, which I am presuming is a Dante’s Inferno reference to the city which encompassed the sixth down to the ninth circles of hell; the ninth being rather chilly, much like the vacuum of outer space. And, just for dramatic effect, the space station is orbiting the Great Annihilator, the colloquial name for the supermassive black hole which sits at the centre of our galaxy.

Max’s crime? Breaking the heart of Olympia – the daughter of the ruler of the Universe, Vada – who’s gone and put herself in an irreversible, self-induced coma simply because Max told her “I never loved you”. He was lying, of course, for reasons which become moderately less unclear later on, but just to make his punishment that bit more sanity-bending, they’ve left the comatose Olympia on the station with him to ensure in his quiet moments of contemplation he won’t forget just what a naughty boy he’s been.

Max has no intention of forgetting what he’s done. In fact he vows to reverse the natural order of creation and find a cure for death by bringing Olympia back to life. Errr… it does just occur to me here as I type, and I might possibly be being slightly pedantic, but Olympia is in a coma, not dead, so it’s not actually quite as complicated as he’s making it for himself, but then Max does like his grand, self-important pronouncements. Well, you do tend to, don’t you, when you’re the lead in a film?

Which brings us neatly back to Ray Spass. He doesn’t know he has an inoperable brain tumour yet. He just thinks he’s suffering from acute writer’s block and desperately needs a follow-up to his last smash hit before the studio drops him for that next hot young writer. So he decides a house move – always one of the least stressful things you can do to yourself when you’re in the midst of a drug-assisted nervous breakdown – to a Hollywood mansion with a supernatural history might do the job…

“So what’s it about? Your new movie?”
“It’s for a big studio. I can’t say a thing about the plot… but imagine a haunted house story. The ultimate haunted house story. In space.”
“Aw-kay. Very exciting. Now I understand why you’d to live in this place…”
“See, it’s all making sense.

It really isn’t. But it will before Grant has finished as, much to Ray’s surprise, Max Nomax appears in his living room one night, apparently having travelled from his dimension to ours by means as yet unknown; in fact, as of yet unwritten since he’s demanding that Ray finishes his story. Not that Max seems entirely clueless as to what is going on. In fact, I’m not entirely sure he needs Ray at all, other than as a comedic foil for his leading man routine.

That the FBI who soon come-a-calling seem to know of the existence of Max Nomax is another part of the puzzle and hints that this Möbius Strip entanglement of writer and fictional character – of Ray and Max, of dimensions overlapping and interpenetrating – might not be so implausible as it first seems. But then Ray does have an inoperable brain tumour in his head… Max, meanwhile, claims it’s a data bullet with his own history he’s fired through dimensions direct into Ray’s head to help him complete his story…

Also… we really mustn’t forget this is a haunted house story after all…

JR

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

Mox Nox (£10-99, Fantagraphics) by Joan Cornella.

Looking for happiness is all the wrong places, these six-panel, single-page, full colour comic strips make CYANIDE & HAPPINESS look like good, clean fun.

Innocence is such an anathema to Joan Cornella that I can only compare her to Ivan Brunetti whose HO! we keep bagged at all times.

Clothed in the brightest, most child-friendly colours, truly this is transgressive, crossing all boundaries of common decency and good taste, and if there aren’t multiple mutilations on any given page it’s only because something even more awful is happening.

There’s a man with a Colgate, rictus grin, handing out leaflets on a lovely, sunny day. He gives one to a young man with red hair and a broad smile. “Jesus Loves You” says the flier. The third panel focussed on the pamphleteer’s shirt breast pocket is the punchline (clipped to the pocket is his name badge, “Jesus”), the next three acting as its elliptical dots.

A lot of the strips involve this sort of lingering worry, like the one with the dog fucking a chicken from behind. It’s not really a dog, it’s a man in a dog suit. He takes off his dog head with a chirpy smile. The chicken does not. The man stops smiling. We close in on the chicken’s fixed, blank eyes stare unblinkingly into his…

There’s a cautionary tale about answering your mobile phone while driving, and indeed surfing. Don’t do that.

My favourite involving an engagement ring and an erection isn’t reprinted in the book, but there are plenty of other body parts – a lot of them where they shouldn’t be. Some strips present the wonkiest of solutions to problematic situations and most make those situations a great deal worse. Extreme Problem Solving, you could call it.

Many of them involve skewed priorities and play on what is considered customary behaviour, upending it, and the unacceptable is accepted with all those gleeful grins.

The book is quarter bound but perversely – and so appropriately – the spine and its adjacent half inch is that of a softcover book, to which two boards have been attached.

That’s not the actual cover by the way. I think there may have been a wise change of heart pre-publication!

SLH

Buy Mox Nox 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.

Space Dumplins (£10-99, Scholastic) by Craig Thompson

Hip Hop Family Tree vol 3 (£19-99, Fantagraphics) by Ed Piskor

Little Robot (£11-99, FirstSecond) by Ben Hatke

Snowden (£12-99, Seven Stories) by Ted Rall

Sunny Side Up (£9-99, Scholastic) by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm

Walking Dead vol 24: Life And Death (£10-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard

Sunstone vol 3 s/c (£10-99, Image) by Stejpan Sejic

IXth Generation vol 1 s/c (£10-99, Image) by Matt Hawkins & Stjepan Sejic

Wayward vol 2: Ties That Bind (£12-99, Image) by Jim Zub & Steven Cummings

C.O.W.L. vol 2: The Greater Good s/c (£10-99, Image) by Kyle Higgins, Alec Siegel & Rod Reis

Amazing Spider-Man vol 4: Graveyard Shift s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott, Christos Gage & Humberto Ramos

Inhumans s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Paul Jenkins & Jae Lee

Nextwave: Agents Of H.A.T.E. Complete Collection s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Warren Ellis & Stuart Immonen

Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service Omnibus Edition Book 1 (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Eiji Otsuka & Housui Yamazaki

One Piece vol 75 (£6-99, Viz) by Eiichiro Oda

Resident Evil: The Marhawa Desire vol 5 (£8-99, Viz) by Naoki Serizawa

Tokyo Ghoul vol 2 (£8-99, Viz) by Sui Ishida

Usagi Yojimbo Saga vol 4 (£18-99, Dark Horse) by Stan Sakai

News!

 

ITEM! Interview with Seth, soon to appear at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival. We made Seth’s GEORGE SPROTT a Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month. Pop him into our search engine! His work’s immediately recognisable!

ITEM! We’re constantly asked for cyberpunk graphic novels so here’s one on Kickstarter that looks lush: METAL MADE FLESH: BLOOD AND OIL.

 

 

ITEM! Interview with Jillian Tamaki, co-creator of THIS ONE SUMMER (another Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month) and SKIM on her radically different and screamingly funny SUPERMUTANT MAGIC ACADEMY.

 

 

ITEM! I leave you with a reminder of Page 45’s 21st Birthday Party on Saturday 3rd October with an all-evening bar brawl (there will be a bar; I doubt we will brawl) preceded by a signing with FLUFFY’s Simone Lia and ADAMTINE’s Hannah Berry.

 

 

Here’s Fluffy having toilet issues. Awww….

This is going to be our last public party in a very long time so I hope that you’ll come. It’s open to all and we’re not above bribing you with free booze! Please click on the link above.

Thank yooooooooo!

 

 - Stephen

Page 45 Reviews written by Stephen & Jonathan then edited by…

Do you even read these jokes at the bottom?!?! x

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews August 2015 week three

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015

ANNOUNCING: PAGE 45 21st BIRTHDAY PARTY: Evening Booze Bash on Saturday 3rd October plus Afternoon Signing & Sketching with FLUFFY’s Simone Lia & ADAMTINE’s Hannah Berry! Please come & celebrate with us! Free drinks, prize draws, sentimental speeches & guaranteed buffoonery!

Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #1 (£2-99, Image) by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie with Matthew Wilson.

“I always wanted to be self-destructive. But I never really had a life to destroy.
“So thank you, other me. Thank you so much.”

I’m chuckling to myself, but I will not explain.

It sounds pretty ominous, right?

From the mischief merchants irresponsible for THE WICKED + THE DIVINE comes more music magic or in this case music as magic as I explained in PHONOGRAM: THE SINGLES CLUB. Music has the power to alter your brain chemistry – to kick-start your memory and control your mood – and so change reality as you perceive it. I recommend you start either here or there (both in full colour) but PHONOGRAM: RUE BRITANNIA was their first book which I’ve often described as HELLBLAZER at Ladyfest because I’m incredibly shallow.

Speaking of superficial: music videos, eh? In the 80s I was obsessed.

Paul Morley denounced Duran Duran as the worst culprits, sneering at their videos’ style and self-indulgence while lamenting all the money they cost while so many working-class people suffered under the austerity of Thatcher’s Britain. What the highly literate, very clever and culturally well versed but fractious, judgemental and supercilious critic omitted from consideration in his verdict is that so many including the working class enjoy style, dream of creating such para-personalities and crave escapism especially when starved of the basics. Even Oliver Twist wanted “more”.

I can assure you that Kieron Gillen has incorporated every single aspect of those last two paragraphs into this comic with comedy, including just how opinionated, competitive and combative critics can be. Ooh, and territorial. Territory is a big thing here. Have you never wanted to hate a band just because someone you despise adores it or vice-versa? We should all rise above that, shouldn’t we? Yup: Gillen has gone there too. This is attitude on a stick.

As for McKelvie, how perfect to homage Patrick Nagel’s Duran Duran ‘Rio’ album cover (Morley’s bête noire was Duran’s ‘Rio’ video) whilst creating a composition entirely new with exquisite finger arrangement and done Patrick proud. Even the intervention of diagonal red lines is apposite for Nagel incorporated those too. Here, however, they’re more resonant of futuristic, prison-cell, razor-red laser beams, trapping the protagonist helplessly where she may well be left to rot.

The first issue takes place in front of the TV screen in South London during 1980s; in a sparse function / club room for the kick-off of a coven in Brighton, 2001; in an equally unadorned office in London, 2009; and somewhere else entirely.

Don’t expect the same pyrotechnics you may be used to in THE WICKED + THE DIVINE but McKelvie delivers on the hair and the fashion front and his expressions are as priceless as ever. I love Kohl’s slightly bulging belly after the passage of time but for once I’m not going to give you plot points – I’ve implied quite enough already. For clues I honestly recommend you listen to David Bowie’s ‘Changes’ and ‘Time’. Oh, most especially ‘Time’, regardless of whether you want this comic or not.

From the glossary (you get a glossary):

Take On Me: A-ha song with a pretty memorable video based on a girl in the real world falling into a comicbook. Someone should homage it in a comicbook. That’d be really clever and definitely not twee as fuck.”

Now what do you suppose happens here, hmm?

Oh, it’s cleverer than that. Because in this comic it’s the video someone’s sucked into via the television that played them all over and over again. And – being an ‘80s kid who used to tape hours and hours of pop and alternative MTV shows then edited them down into, ooh, two dozen 3-hour videotapes? – I know exactly how that feels.

The problem with music videos is this: they can enhance, illuminate or elevate what you already loved about the music itself (I love Anton Corbijn as a director for David Sylvian and Depeche Mode) but overwhelmingly they can ruin your own vision of what the music and lyrics mean to you by being so specific and potentially contradictory in their own visual and narrative message. Is that really worth the risk?

I think not.

Which is almost, I think, where we came in. With a certain degree of departure.

SLH

Buy Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Little Nemo’s Big New Dreams (£12-99, Toon Graphics) by Winsor McCay, Art Spiegelman, Francoise Mouly, Gerhard, Charles Vess, Craig Thompson, Jim Rugg, Box Brown, Carla Speed NcNeil, Mark Buckingham, various.

“The only thing better than dreams…
“Is making them come true.”

Awesome, in its truest sense, this will make you grin your head off.

Françoise Mouly has carefully selected thirty-one of the one hundred and eighteen tributes by some of comics’ most creative minds in the gigantic, 16” by 21” LITTLE NEMO: DREAM ANOTHER DREAM H/C for a much more affordable (and portable!) edition.

Mouly and husband Art Spiegelman also provide forewords putting Winsor McCay’s original 16” by 21” weekly comic strips for the New York Herald from 1905-1914 into context creatively, historically, practically in their printing, and personally when it comes to Art and Françoise’s family and careers. Art eloquently identifies so many of the innovative elements which make a prime Winsor wonder so spectacular – so many storytelling inventions only the very best can pull off properly – and there are four full pages to drop your jaw before moving on to see what the modern masters have made from them.

For those unfamiliar with the originals (recent reproductions are very expensive whereas I lucked into my 400-page Taschen h/c at a ludicrous £14-99), young Nemo is a lad in a long white nightgown or red-striped white jim-jams who travels to Slumberland where he experiences the giddiest, most eye-popping dreams imaginable before waking in the bottom, right-hand panel in one panic or another, only to be reprimanded by an often off-stage parent for causing a ruckus, getting up late or eating the wrong thing before bedtime! There are forty such variations on this theme reproduced on the inside front cover and endpaper and, taken together, one can’t help but giggle and the consistent lack of compassion or consolation poor Little Nemo receives after such imaginary trauma!

The architecture in the page and of the page is spectacular. As I say, Art will give you a brief guided tour.

To pay proper tribute to McCay you need to incorporate at least some of the various structural elements that made up his comics and Yuko Shimizu’s panel-free piece still contains multiple Nemos swimming through or buoyed back up by the water in a satisfying arrangement echoing McCay’s own sinuous choreography which leads the eye both to the central bed-ridden figure at the bottom and away from it, up to the right, in a way that emulates the physical effect of a body of water on any body!!

Cliff Chiang also nails this as – in three distinct, middle-tier panels which join seamlessly together through dint of them being a single landscape shot from above – his characters snake through a house, up its stairs and then round the L-shaped landing before ascending towards the attic. It’s so cleverly constructed that I laughed out loud. But wait – it gets better and meta! Along the way they stop to peer through a bedroom door from which hangs a sign saying “Robert”.

“Huh! That kid looks just like you, Neo!”
“He’s sleeping so peacefully.”
“Someone’s in the attic.”

Indeed they are, and they’ve fallen asleep at the drawing board. Robert is, of course, the name of Winsor McCay’s son and model for Nemo. Guess who wakes up this time?

There’s a lovely lilt to the script from FINDER’s Carla Speed McNeil which sounds just like Nemo, and she’s paced the action perfectly, each of her four tiers dedicated to a different ‘floor’ as a giant cat picks Nero up by the scruff of his neck, hoisting him from the safety of his crib upstairs and depositing him in a much rowdier one outside. Animals played a significant role in LITTLE NEMO and CEREBUS’ Gerhard on the back cover won’t let you down, through in this instance the LITTLE NEMO: DREAM ANOTHER DREAM H/C is by far the better option because there’s so much going on. As in Carla’s contribution the animals would often be larger than life, so large in fact that it’s scary. One of Winsor’s pages reproduced here there’s an elaborately adorned the elephant which is squeezed between such tight but tall panels that it threatens to burst through and trample the reader to death.

Zander Canon nails this sense of scale, as does James Harvey with his monumental architecture – again in both senses. Harvey has created a vast, arched, stained glass window / advent calendar, its panels numbered as McCay often did to guide you round their intricate arrangement and satisfyingly circuitous path.

MOUSE GUARD’s David Petersen’s comparative simplicity of constructions works wonders for him. Unsurprisingly he brings the requisite animals with him, they are indeed larger than life, one does threaten a trampling, plus there’s the pageantry to boot. J.G. Jones gets the rough-and-tumble just right, leaping through the panel borders, while Brandon Graham fans will love what Andrea Tsurumi has in store both visually and in terms of the wordplay as Nemo’s convinced to go bra shopping! Bra shopping!

“Look! Zebra print! Leopard print! Newspaper print!”

Too funny. The punchline is exquisitely cute.

Arch-satirist Marc Hempel confronts poor Little Nemo with even more adult concerns as an off-panel papa tells a 2015 Nemo that he’s been dreaming for one hundred years and needs to wake up and grow up.

“No more ostentatious, art nouveau splendour for you! Time to get a job! Deal with it! Your new life of complacency and vapidity awaits!”

“Vapidity! Oh! I’m scared, Papa! Maybe I’m dreaming! I wish Flip was here! He’s know what to do! Huh! Oh!”

Love the way Hempel maintains the cadence of Nemo’s speech patterns even as his awakening gets ruder and ruder in the bubble-bursting sense:

“Every horrifically burdensome moment of adulthood is rife with the potential for crushing failure! You’ll hate it, but then you’ll get used to it!”

Bishakh Kumar Som breaks with tradition in a different way by making his dreamer an adult. Long since graduated in architecture, she is left to wend her way through her own overwrought thesis, worried that she might have to take exams again. Familiar, much? The thesis is, of course, a design for a building and Bishakh has drawn this as a single, three-dimensional floor plan, so where this is completely in keeping is a) in its use of architecture, b) the winding road and c) the ‘map’ provided for following the protagonist’s route – in this case the woman’s speech balloons are all joined to each other by a clear, unbroken thread.

Finally, Jim Rugg’s send-off is a scream. and could not be more apposite, messing mischievously with LITTLE NEMO’s one golden rule that the diminutive dreamer will end up safely in or tumbled out of his bed. All I’ll say is watch out for that bed sheet and then the pillow!

SLH

Buy Little Nemo’s Big New Dreams and read the Page 45 review here

The Diary Of A Teenage Girl new ed. (£13-99, North Atlantic Books) by Phoebe Gloeckner -

“Who’s Trish? She’s one of your grown-up friends, I guess.”
“On come on… I have to act normal with her… she’s just a friend… Christ, I’m glad she didn’t see you!”
“Why?”
“What d’ya think? She’d wonder what the hell I’m doing with a teenager.”
“You hate me! You’re just embarrassed by me!!”
“You’re just a kid, and you don’t understand. We gotta lay low! I got some Asti Spumante for special occasions. Oh… and the burritos!”

I’ve read bad ‘slice-of-life’ stories that seem forced, projecting the artist’s best or worst side depending on the image they want to create. This book, a mixture of prose diary entries, accompanying illustrations and multiple page comic sections, isn’t that way – from what I can tell, in as much as one person can judge the truthfulness of another’s art, this book is unbelievably honest, and as such it really gets inside your head. To what degree it is actually autobiographical is apparently not important to Gloeckner, nor should it be to the reader, as she makes clear in her foreword. Undoubtedly though, one of the things that makes it so effective and affecting is the art. There’s no doubt that Gloeckner is an extremely technically proficient illustrator.

This skill, particularly in the comic sections, makes them rather menacing and horrifically life-like. I’m in awe of artists who can draw pictures which actually tell you what is going on in the subject’s mind – Gloeckner does this on every page, explaining and revealing, drawing you into these situations, these nightmare places, face to face with these terrible fucking people.

But each event in turn seems to add up to an understanding, or at least some sort of progress. It reminds me a little of Penny Arcade’s stuff, (the spoken word/performance artist, not the webcomic) except that Gloeckner seems to have come out the other side intact and able to get on and tell her, and Minnie’s stories. Part of me finds it insane that anyone would be this honest and this public, but mostly I’m just in awe of the strength, the force of will and the emotional maturity it must have taken to live this life and make an quasi-autobiographical comic book out of it.

Sadly, but perhaps naturally, the reaction to a book like this – and to the current film – is often outrage or scorn. Rather than deal with the reality, we’d like to imagine the whole thing was artistic license, the ravings of a loony, a publicity stunt to sell more whatever. Or perhaps we’re hostile – we ask, why waste your talent drawing such nasty stuff? Gross, thanks a lot, what makes you think we needed to see that? (Or as a friend said to me of the book Prozac Nation; “So she has depression. What makes her think her life is worthy of a book?”)

Despite what I’ve said above, please don’t imagine that this is a self-pitying work, full of whiney angst. Somehow, incredibly, Gloeckner has peppered this story with wry humour, laughing affectionately at the naivety of her young protagonists. It’s a testament to her own skills that she manages to mix humour and subtlety into such a bold and shocking story. I definitely recommend this book. You may want to read it in small bits, you may only want to read it once and then put it away, but once you have read it, it will certainly stay with you for a long while.

DK

Buy The Diary Of A Teenage Girl and read the Page 45 review here

Beauty #1 (£2-75, Image) by Jason A. Hurley & Jeremy Haun…

“Two years ago, a new sexually transmitted disease took the world by storm.
“This S.T.D. was unlike any other that had come before.
“This was a disease that people actually wanted.
“Victims of this epidemic were physically changed by the virus.
“Fat melted away, thinning hair returned, skin blemishes faded, and their facial features slimmed.
“It became known as The Beauty.
“The Beauty quickly became a fad.
“Suddenly, perfect skin, flawless features, and a gorgeous body were only one sexual encounter away.
“The only downside appeared to be a slight constant fever, but that didn’t seem to slow people down.
“Now, over half the country’s population has The Beauty, and the other half of the country hates them for it.”

Which is where our story begins, shortly followed by the apparent spontaneous combustion from the inside out of someone rather pretty on the subway. Perhaps giving an indication to us, the readers, that there might just be at least one more teensy-weensy downside to The Beauty than everyone thinks! Consequently, the cops are dispatched to investigate, including the dashing and debonair, virus-free Detective Foster. Sure he has a few grey hairs and some laughter lines, but he’s ruggedly handsome, and completely devoted to his equally naturally lovely wife.

His professional partner, meanwhile, Kara Vaughn, has been virally enhanced to statuesque, goddess-level looks, but she’s actually one of the few people who managed to contract the virus unwittingly, and would rather she hadn’t. Particularly once the forensics expert has given them the run down on what she thinks killed their subject, before agents from the Centre for Disease Control swoop in and quarantine the scene. It’s enough for Foster to draw his own conclusions…

“It was The Beauty. The Beauty killed her, and they know it.”

 

Still, the why and the how, that remains unexplained, and so our cops do what they do best, and start running down leads on anti-Beauty terror cells. The type of people who might have the inclination to want to induce some temperature-based terror in the more glamorous half of the population. One such lead results in a shoot out with a suspect, requiring some prompt and messy, but ultimately unsuccessful, medical assistance from Detective Foster. After another yet late night on the job, and another missed dinner date with his doting wife, he’s more than happy to hit the sack, but his wife wants to share a tender moment or three before they fall asleep. So imagine his surprise when he wakes up in the morning, feeling twenty years younger. He looks it too. Oh dear. I guess The Beauty might suddenly not just be sexually transmitted… Maybe…

Intriguing opener from Messrs. Hurley and Haun. I like the premise, I’m intrigued to see where they are going to go with it. Our leads are well written, I can certainly see some potential for sidebar drama with this set-up issue too. Is Detective Foster’s wife really going to believe the excuse for his, and presumably by extension her own, unexpected midnight makeover? Especially with that hot partner who’s prone to calling him up at all hours of the day and night. I think he might well have to earn his detective corn just to save his marriage, never mind half the population! Still, at least he’s got a real hot incentive now, what with being a ticking time(sex)bomb himself as well! Great art too from Jeremy Haun, including a fabulous cover. I can see strong hints of Michael LAZARUS Lark in there, though obviously with softer colours here.

JR

Buy Beauty #1 and read the Page 45 review here

War Stories vol 1 (£18-99, Avatar) by Garth Ennis & Chris Weston, Gary Erskine, John Higgins, Dave Gibbons, David Lloyd.

From the writer of PREACHER, BATTLEFIELDS (more war) and THE BOYS etc.

Four personal and powerful stories set in the thick of World War II, each with an edge of injustice to it.

They’re fiction, of course, but delivered with an authority derived from historical fact. Plus it’s always useful to be reminded that in any war vast numbers of unfeasibly brave men are commanded to perform the impossible, and often succeed.

It’s also useful to be reminded that you enemy combatants are human beings too – individuals with lives, families and friends of their own; aspirations for after the war and many a moral quandary during it.

It’s ‘Nightingale’ which I normally make a song and dance about, with V FOR VENDETTA’s David Lloyd’s raw, haunting art providing chilling company for a tale told by a dead man, which verges on the poetic.

It’s set initially in the Arctic where a supply convoy is being provided with limited protection by escort vessels including H.M.S. Nightingale. Planes and u-boats they could attempt to hold off, but German battleships like the Tripitz were another matter entirely. In those difficult waters harsh decisions were made; decisions which proved almost impossible to live with for those who did not make them.

The one I chose to read again for the review was the first, and Garth goes for a refreshingly unusual perspective: that of a German Tiger tank commander leading his four men in retreat from Russia via the Ukraine and Poland all the way back to the German forests in order to surrender to the Americans. Besieged by Russian armour divisions pressing ahead with their advance, they also have to avoid the German field police who will hang them for desertion if caught. To Johann, his comrades’ safety is paramount – they’ve been through hell together. He only wants to live long enough to ensure their survival. As far as Johann is concerned – for the acts he has inflicted on others – he has forfeited the right to live.

There’s some fine storytelling involved here, and you know that expression being thrown around a lot, “These Ain’t Your Dad’s Comics”…? Well, these certainly aren’t your Dad’s War Comics.

For those, please see CHARLEY’S WAR, all of which is now in print.

SLH

Buy War Stories vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Black Panther: Complete Christopher Priest Collection vol 1 s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Christopher Priest & Joe Quesada, Mark Texeira, various.

Christopher Priest is a very funny man.

“With an election a little more than a year away, it was good politics to do something nice for the African-American community. And, had I been in charge of the guest list and not the White House, I might have actually invited some of them. Outside of the king and his entourage, there wasn’t another black person at the ball who wasn’t carrying a tray.”

Fifteen years ago there weren’t too many superhero series that sent you scuttling for the nearest dictionary. But just as Jenkins & Jae Lee’s INHUMANS graphic novel had been and remains a surprisingly thoughtful and visually stunning Gaiman-like outing for a group of Marvel characters previously displaying all the colour and charisma of a bridge-full of cardboard Star Trek standees left out in the rain and then dumped in a St. Annes communal waste tip, this 2001 BLACK PANTHER book comes in way beyond expectations as a sharply constructed (and visually stunning) action-romp/satire, merrily ripping the piss out of racial stereotyping, tokenism, Marvel icons, the FBI and inveterate ramblers – as in people who go off at a tangent, not those who go out in cagoules.

Like the con-man/crime series THIEF OF THIEVES, it’s told to grin-cracking effect in nothing remotely resembling chronological order with a staccato series of ludicrous subheadings, some applying to one panel only, as government agent Everett K. Ross lamely attempts to justify his catastrophic series of diplomatic cock-ups to his girlfriend / boss, all of which begin when he’s assigned to watch over the comings and goings on U.S. soil of T’Challa, king of the high-tech African nation Wakanda.

Not such an easy task given the client’s devious nature and his propensity for slipping into coal-coloured rubber then jumping out of the nearest window.

Hold on, I’ve just said ‘rubber’. As in spandex, right? Mmmmm. No. No, no, no. Well, yes.

T’Challa is the star of the book only in that he has his name on the title and acts as catalyst for all the misfortunes of fall-guy Everett K. Ross (Chandler from Friends provides the bumbling victim ingredient, James Fox in Spin City gives you a fair example of his status and looks). T’Challa does occasionally perform acts of extraordinary prowess and aggression (but then so would you if you’d been lured from your kingdom in the middle of some severe social upheaval to find the murderer of your personally funded U.S. children’s charity poster-girl), but the star is most definitely Everett who struggles to keep up, pick up the pieces and avert several international ‘incidents’.

Here’s one of Ross and Nikki’s attempts to get the story clear. She summarises thus:

“Giant rats. Teenage Amazons. The client tossing drug dealers.”
“And Satan. You left out Satan. That’s important.”
“And then you lost your pants.”
“Wrong. First we went out for Chinese take-out. Then I lost my pants.”

Satan is supplied in the form of Marvel’s Mephisto long before Kieron Gillen employed him to comedic effect in JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY (highly recommended).

Interspersed between this nonsense are some enlightening thoughts on African politics, international subterfuge and social mores.

Mark Texeira had long established himself as a top-tier Marvel action artist with his neo-classical figure work and heavy modelling but, as directed by Priest, he here displays a hitherto undisclosed brilliance at dead-pan comedy with po-faced expressions and just the right number to beats between dialogue in the form of silent panels.

The longer the series progresses (this repackaging contains the first seventeen issues), the less Texeira there is, but I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Also recommended by the Reggie Hudlin & John Romita Jr, the later series: BLACK PANTHER: WHO IS THE BLACK PANTHER?

SLH

Buy Black Panther: Complete Christoper Priest Collection vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Green Arrow: The Archer’s Quest Deluxe Edition h/c (£18-99, DC) by Brad Meltzer & Phil Hester.

If you were given a second chance at life, would you be curious about who had attended your funeral? What would be worse: surprise absences, or worryingly unexpected guests?

Oliver Queen, the Green Arrow, wasn’t the first of his brightly dressed friends to die, so he made contingency plans for when the inevitable happened to him. But now that he’s back he finds that those plans weren’t followed to the letter, and his old friends discover exactly whom he entrusted them to.

Brad wrote IDENTITY CRISIS, and if you’re one of the many who’ve enjoyed that then you’re more than likely to feel at home here since once more it deals with the importance of privacy and the comfort of friends. There’s plenty of mischief on hand when the rest of the DC crew put in cameos and, now that I think about it, the patter and a lot of the layouts combined with more animated-cartoon art style are as much reminiscent of Bendis’ POWERS as anything else.

 

Oracle is DC’s ultimate networker, the crippled daughter of Commissioner Gordon, holed up in a high-tech surveillance tower, from which she works closely with Dinah, the Black Canary. Ollie also works closely with Dinah, but in a different way. Here GA and Orcale are communicating via the Canary’s earring:

“What are you doing on Dinah’s line?”
“She left her earrings on my… uh… kitchen table.”
“Don’t lie, Oliver. That microphone was switched on all night. I heard everything. Everything. Trick arrows, my rear end.”
“You serious?”
“Jeez, Ollie, Clark was right — you have gotten gullible in your old age.”
“Listen, you gonna help me or not?”
“Just tell me what you need.”
“I’m looking for a positive I.D. on a guy in a photo.”
“Now you’re singing my song.  Just hold it up to the window – And don’t block it with your fingers. I’ll have one of my satellites scan it from space.”
“You can do that?”
“Oh, Ollie– Such a sucker.”

SLH

Buy Green Arrow: The Archer’s Quest Deluxe Edition h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Hellboy And The B.P.R.D. (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi & Alex Maleev…

“That burned body in Buenos Aires is Robert Amsel. Still no word on the man who was seen with him.”
“I suppose that’s it, then.”
“Actually there’s something else, Professor. A witness took a photo at the scene. A rather… strange photo.”

Ha, that’s a great punchline when you see what or rather who – well, probably ‘what’ is more accurate actually – is waving cheerily directly at the camera. Fans of Hellboy, the BPRD and in particular the previous historical arcs detailing various exploits of Professor Trevor Bruttenholm and the young Hellboy, 1946 (which is out of print in single volume form currently),  1947 and 1948 will I’m sure enjoy the joke.

This time around, Hellboy has grown up into a strapping teenager and his adoptive father, the Professor, is finally ready to let him out into the field on his first mission, as he realises he can’t protect him forever. What follows is standard HELLBOY / BPRD fare, rather tame a bit by-the-numbers compared to the extended current BPRD: HELL ON EARTH arc. It very much feels like classic early Hellboy with supernatural monsters and megalomaniacal Nazis trashing a remote Brazilian village complete with spooky castle. So nothing new is what I’m saying, but it is slickly done.

 

Alex Maleev takes an excellent turn with the pencils, his first for a Mignola creation if I’m not mistaken, coloured in inimitable house style for this title as ever by Dave Stewart. Well, at least this keeps our appetites whetted whilst we wait for the next arc of HELLBOY IN HELL to start.

JR

Buy Hellboy And The B.P.R.D. 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.

Stray Bullets vol 3: Other People (£14-99, Image) by David Lapham

The Last Broadcast (£22-50, Archaia) by Andre Sirangelo & Gabriel Iumazark

The Last Ones h/c (£17-99, Humanoids) by David Munoz & Manuel Garcia

If You Steal (£22-50, Fantagraphics) by Jason

Adventure Time vol 6 (£8-99, Titan) by Ryan North & various

Annihilator h/c (£18-99, Legendary) by Grant Morrison & Frazer Irving

Bravest Warriors vol 5 (£10-99, Kaboom) by Jason Johnson, Breehn Burns & Mike Holmes

Empowered vol 9 (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Adam Warren

Gunnerkrigg Court vol 5: Refine h/c (£19-99, Archaia) by Thomas Siddell

Judge Dredd Casefiles 25 (£19-99, Rebellion) by John Wagner, Robbie Morrison, Marc Wigmore, Paul Neal & Carlos Ezquerra, Henry Flint, Greg Staples, various

Mox Nox (£10-99, Fantagraphics) by Joan Cornella

Nanjing The Burning City (£18-99, Dark Horse) by Ethan Young

Princess Ugg vol 2 s/c (£11-99, Oni) by Ted Naifeh

Constantine vol 4: The Apocalypse Road s/c (£10-99, DC) by Ray Fawkes & Jeremy Haun

Fairest vol 5: The Clamor For Glamour (£10-99, DC) by Mark Buckingham, Bill Willingham & Russell Braun, Meghan Hetrick, Andrew Pepoy

Gotham By Midnight vol 1: We Do Not Sleep s/c (£10-99, DC) by Ray Fawkes & Ben Templesmith

Injustice Year Two vol 2 h/c (£16-99, DC) by Tom Taylor, Marguerite Bennett & various

Avengers World vol 4: Before Time Runs Out s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Sam Humphries, Frank Barbiere & Bengal, Marco Checchetto

Captain Marvel vol 3: Alis Volat Propriis s/c (£9-99, Marvel) by Kelly Sue DeConnick & David Lopez

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl vol 1: Squirrel Power s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Ryan North & Erica Henderson

Attack On Titan vol 16 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hajime Isayama

Attack On Titan: Before The Fall vol 5 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Ryo Suzukaze & Satoshi Shiki

Fairy Tail Blue Mistral vol 1 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima & Rui Watanabe

Inuyashiki vol 1 (£9-99, Kodansha) by Hiroya Oku

The World’s Greatest First Love vol 2 (£8-99, Viz) by Maki Minami

News!

ITEM! Have you booked Saturday 3rd October 2015 in your diary? Page 45 21st Birthday Party All-Evening Booze Bash and Afternoon Signing & Sketching with ADAMTINE’s Hannah Berry & FLUFFY’s Simone Lia! FREE DRINKS FOR ALL!

ADAMTINE is one of the creepiest graphic novel’s I’ve ever read in my life, while FLUFFY almost certainly is the most beautiful. Details including times,  links to their other books, their websites and the evening’s venue for alcohol-sodden celebration are on the blog I’ve linked to above.

Please spread the word and come if you can!

ITEM! From the Creative Review: the sorry state of affairs of creative education. As in, the teaching of art, design etc. All very familiar from what I’ve been hearing from educators in other university disciplines and it’s pretty depressing.

ITEM! New contemporary manga exhibition at the British Museum.

 - Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews August 2015 week two

Wednesday, August 12th, 2015

Featuring signed copies of SMALL TALES & FAIRY FAILS by Paul Duffield! BUNNY VS MONKEY II by Jamie Smart! New book by Leslie Stein! WE STAND ON GUARD #2 by Brian K. Vaughan & Steve Skroce and more!

PHONOGRAM: THE IMMATERIAL GIRL #1 by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson is out today! We ship worldwide! Details in the News below!

Hound vol 1: Protector h/c Sketched-in, Signed and Numbered Edition (£20-00, Cuchulainn Entertainment) by Barry Devlin & Paul Bolger…

Yes, all our copies have been sketched in by Paul Bolger for free!

“The time of peace will soon see its end.
“I need a strong right hand.
“An unbreakable force none can withstand.
“I have heard his cries in the night. Like a wolf. Howling.
“He does not know it yet… but he is about to become my Dark Blade.”

Based on the stories of Cú Chulainn, a mythical warrior of ancient Erin (Ireland), this Kickstarter project has produced a graphic novel of outstanding artistic merit and wonderful production values. It’s also a gripping action story that would very much appeal to fans of SLAINE and indeed the much lamented and out of print NORTHLANDERS.

Fortunately for us, the creators had a few left over after fulfilling their Kickstarter pledges and, via Dublin’s Big Bang Comics, have kindly offered some of them to us. All our copies are sketched in by co-writer and artist Paul Bolger so will be even more exquisite items!

For those not familiar with the base mythology, all you really need to know is that a boy, Setanta, of slightly disputable parentage but regarded by King Connor as his orphaned nephew, is chosen by the Morrigan, a witch who follows the old ways of the Great Mother Danú, to be her weapon in the times of war to come.

Everyone knows the boy is… different, and as he develops into a man, his reputation as a lone wolf and trouble-causer becomes well known locally. An incident where he slays the huge hound of Cullen the swordsmith in self-defence, and then offers to take its place protecting the swordsmith’s family, only serves to give him his new name, Cú Cullen, literally the hound of Cullen. From there his ability to get himself into trouble, nearly as adeptly as extricate himself from it, only ensures that his legend continues to grow.

After being exiled from the Kingdom to the Isle of Skye for a time for an… unfortunate misunderstanding involving the King’s bride to be, he begins to realise that escaping the confines of Erin, and therefore the clutches of Morrigan who is tied to Erin, might be for the best and so heads across the Giant’s Causeway to Alba (Scotland) seeking further tutelage in the art of combat from the warrior woman named Skye who rules that isle. If he survives the journey getting there, that is.

This is the first of three planned volumes chronicling the adventures of Setanta / Cú Cullen and I think they are going to prove enormously popular. There’s a surprising sense of fun that springs from this character that is quite literally a force of nature, made more than man by the powers of the witch Morrigan, to go along with much head-splitting action. A lot of people who read SLAINE in 2000AD, probably don’t realise he is basically Cú Chulainn rewritten by Pat Mills, even down to his warp spasms, which are taken from Cú Chulainn’s ability to ‘ríastrad (which was directly translated as ‘warp spasm’ by the Irish poet and translator Thomas Kinsella, so Pat Mills even appropriated that term!) where he is able to channel the power of the earth due to his devotion to the Great Mother Danú. We haven’t got to warp spasms etc. yet in this retelling, but I don’t doubt it’s coming in a subsequent volume.

This is definitely a very measured, romantic almost, re-telling of the material, which I think is highly appropriate. Yes, there are moments of utter brutality, and there will be many more in the next two volumes, but ultimately this is the saga of one man and his evolution from a mere boy into a potent symbol of a culture. It’s appropriate therefore that the art is as delicately composed as the story-telling, in black and white with the odd dash of red, usually due to the spilling of blood or supernatural, glowing eyes. Sometimes there are heavily full or near-full silhouetted sections with black backgrounds where the characters are rendered in white, which neatly counterpoint the more typical illustrations of black on white.

The illustration style is quite delicate. Paul Bolger’s faces and anatomy do remind me of Jeff Smith at times (humans à la RASL and TUKI, rather than the family BONE obviously!), yet there’s also the odd dash of Paul Pope’s extravagance and flourishes in the capes and backgrounds as well. It’s a lovely clean style and palette which is in complete contrast to, say, Clint Langley’s painted SLAINE, which is great and perfect for gorefest action, but this sympathetic art style really adds to the story-telling element.

A triumph. I really hope this does well for Paul and co-writer Barry. An incredibly accomplished debut graphic novel. I would not be at all surprised if the rights to this and the next two volumes get picked up by a publisher. I hope so because material as good as this deserves the widest possible audience.

JR

Buy Hound vol 1: Protector h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Small Tales & Fairy Fails signed copies (£9-99, self-published) by Paul Duffield with Morag Lewis.

“Oh Princess, I will show you the world! Full of wonder and splendour!”
“Do stairs mean anything to you?!”

Haha! Of course they don’t!

He’s a Knight in Shining Armour rappelling down the tower with his Rapunzel in hand. That’s how he climbed in; that’s how they’ll get out: through the sky-high window. It’s a Tradition!

I don’t think he looked for a door. It probably wasn’t locked. His “Princess” didn’t even want rescuing, she was happily absorbed playing –

“Sorcery!! Princess! Stand back! That magical chord binds your soul to that evil machinery!”

And some chords do need to be cut, I understand that. I’m umbilically attached most evenings too, so he probably has a point about his Princess being possessed but, boy, did the next panel make me wince!

This is the most mischievous, middle of five stories originally published in THE PHOENIX WEEKLY STORY COMIC (so perfect for all ages, young ones and adults alike) and now bound into a beautifully crafted, signed and self-published artefact with a spot-varnished cover whose design has me mesmerised.

‘The Magic Tower’ plays artfully with ones expectations of a chivalrous tale, undercutting the ancient with the modern including a knowing, to-camera, Colgate toothpaste ting! Its punchline is perfect, as is that of ‘Battle Quest’ which once more appears to be Medieval in nature, a raging battle between The Darkness and The Light as two raving warriors tempestuously clash swords, cleaving the very heavens with their ire.

I did grin my head off but in a completely different, more magical way during the reveal which warmed my sorry soul. Don’t expect the same jokes twice!

Don’t expect the same tone, actual genre, line style or even colouring twice, either. The visual versatility on display is astonishing, each time in strict service to the story being told. There’s a science fiction short about the first young girl to be born in space (I don’t think we’ve done that in real life, have we?) whose lines are clean-cut but not clinical and comes with a burst of special effects which imply infinite time and infinite space.

There also a there’s a haunted house riff called ‘Scaredy Cat’. I have stared at its introductory cover with its summer-sunset colours for ages. Its sky is a shepherd’s delight, but it’s the shadows – not cast but on the trees and house which cast them – that had me entranced: they absorb more light than seems possible without being black. Lovely glints on the broken-glass windows too.

I want to talk about one instance of the masterful sequential-art storytelling without giving a particular story away. The only opportunity I can come up with is here. It’s a page on which, as the reader is pulled back, the descent of the inset panels which perfectly play their part is buoyed aloft by the rooftops below and their horizon beyond which speaks of a potential future long thought lost. We can discuss that in person once you’ve bought this, if you like.

Lastly there is the triple-sized ‘Heart Tree’ which must have been serialised in three four-page instalments, but I can’t see the join. It’s the most moving and profound of the lot. Apart from a russet red for hair, gem, robes and tunic details (and an even richer red for one other element I will not disclose) the colours are much paler combination of washed greens and blue as the energy is leeched out of a kingdom when its kindly king succumbs to a nasty play for power in the guise of peace. He is presented by another realm’s ambassador with a coronet which, it is immediately revealed, will kill him if the king ever takes it off.

There are legends to be sure, but he has only the Machiavellian interloper’s word for it. Will it? Would you? Would you risk it?

But those aren’t even the most important questions. Seen through the inquisitive eyes of one of the court’s scullery boys who adores his king, who wants so desperately to see him live and defends his regent’s honour at every opportunity, the final page is a truth and revelation for all.

From the creator of THE FIRELIGHT ISLE whose inventive compositions will blow your mind and which you can read online here: https://www.paulduffield.co.uk/firelightisle

SLH

Buy Small Tales & Fairy Fails signed copies and read the Page 45 review here

Bunny Vs Monkey Book Two (£7-99, David Fickling Books) by Jamie Smart.

“Stop being so stupid.”
“I don’t know how!”

He really doesn’t. None of them do!

“Pig, how would you… uh… what are you doing?”
“I’m trying to catch jelly on my head!” *SPLAT* “Did it!”
“Can I ask why?”
“I, um… Oh. I forgot.”
“Pig, how would you like a life of adventure, danger and excitement?”
“Will it hurt?”
“YES! But it will also be very funny.”

From the pages of BUNNY VS MONKEY BOOK ONE and the creator of FISH HEAD STEVE, the certifiable delinquents are back: Bunny, Monkey, Weenie, Skunky, Pig, Le Fox, Metal Steve and Action Beaver – the idiots to entertain you!

Ogle the pink Octo-Blivion! Learn about artist lie-sense! Then forget about it immediately thanks to Skunky’s mind-wiping Memory Ray.

“Last I remember, I was on the toilet.
“Hang on a minute. Monkey’s don’t use toilets.”

Normally at this point I’d go off on one, bellowing like Brian Blessed about how they all “Eeek!” “Ptoomph!” “Fwooosh!” “Shriek!” “Screech!” “Splat! “Bosh!” “Pschh!” “Crunch! And “P-tingg!” their way through these pugilism-packed pages, for this comic is louder than TV’s Tom & Jerry but infinitely more inventive.

 

Please don’t mistake the lack of a volume control for an absence of sophistication. Anarchy like this needs to be strictly controlled, especially when you’ve only two or three pages to play with. But not only is the choreography as tight as you like – often with multiple reactive expressions and gesticulations to make you giggle with glee – Smart also still manages to pack in spectacle after spectacle and even finds room for running gags within the same stories, my favourite being the “outside variables” (“Eeek! Variables!”) which will put paid to each individual’s carelessly laid plans and culminate in a “lemony waft”.

Then, just when you thought Smart couldn’t work that one further, the events are reprised quite unexpectedly in a ridiculously clever climax called ‘The Small Matter Of The End Of The World’ which involves brain-twisting time travel and the return of that mind-wiping Memory Ray as inventor Skunky from the future meets himself in the past over and again in order to avert disaster he caused in the first place.

“Have I invented the Memory Ray yet?”
“What, this?”
“ Yes! Give it to me! I must remove all knowledge of the Doomsday Device from your brain!”
ZZZAP!
“Yoink!”
“Oh, hang on. If I remove it from your brain, then I’ll forget it too.”
“Hello, have we met? Are you me from the future?”
“I suppose so. But I can’t remember why I came here.”
“Let me have a go in your time machine. I wonder how it works?”
“Me too. Let me know if you find out.”

All of which is impressive enough, but wait until you come to the final two episodes, the Christmas and New Year specials, which introduce a brand-new element to the series which could change everything and hint at a subplot which may – seriously – send a shiver down your spine.

Back to the beginning, however, and Skunky has invented the Wish Cannon which fires whatever you want: cakes, kittens, ham and sauerkraut… It even fires fire and I’m afraid Monkey’s got his mitts on it.

“BOW DOWN, WOODLAND IDIOTS! YOUR NEW LEADER MONKEY HOLDS ALL THE POWER NOW!”
“I’ll swamp you that thing for this cake.”
“Ooh, I do like cake.”

For more Jamie Smart, please see the News section below! Thank yoooooooooo!

SLH

Buy Bunny Vs Monkey Book Two and read the Page 45 review here

Bright Eyed At Midnight h/c (£16-99, Fantagraphics) by Leslie Stein.

Serving behind the bar…

“Oh yeah? How long are you guys on tour for? Three sold-out shows at the Ballroom?! Wow! Tomorrow? You’ll put me on the list? Totally! I’ll be there!”

Back home, completely immersed in making comics, Leslie looks up at the clock.

“Oh shit.”

There’s a moment’s pause for self-reflection.

“I am what I am…”

Stein is an artist driven by the need to succeed and to hone her craft at every opportunity – every non-working hour – and over the course of a year and these very pages, you can watch her doing so, aged 32. I was enamoured from the very first page, but you can see the style and ideas coalesce with confidence. The lines are delicate and as soft as well conditioned hair, of which there is plenty on display: Stein’s faces are formed from hair, eyes and mouth only, the contours largely left well alone. The washes are light with lots of cream-coloured space between them and between the lineless, free-floating panels, except during the occasional frenzy of form, thought and colour. Oh, and three portraits of a turtle including a close-up of its beak and eye which are completely at odds with everything else on account of being virtually photorealistic!

The lettering’s rendered in multi-coloured pencils for emphasis and aesthetics. It works particularly neatly in terms of the mood of what is being said. During a piece when she’s told at a comicbook convention, “Hey Leslie! I really like the new style you’re doing!” she replies “Hey! Thanks so much, man!” and the lettering is as ebullient as she is. “Can I ask what inspired it?” “Despair.”

There are doubts in evidence but she usually finds within herself the courage to cope with them, recognising that “life is non-linear” and “you can’t depend on anyone else for your feelings of happiness and self-worth”. “Life is messy,” she writes, “But life is supposed to messy.” A bit like her home!

“Listen, man… lemme lay it out for you… It doesn’t really matter. I’m the only one here.”

Thanks, Leslie. I feel a lot better about my bedroom now.

On the other hand, this:

“I still look into people’s windows… I can’t help it. Mostly, I wonder, “Are they happy?” Is it possible?”

The biggest obstacle Stein has to race herself through is chronic insomnia, no doubt exacerbated by bar shifts which can play havoc with your body clock. It seems a minor miracle when she’s awake during the day and asleep at night, and she’s constantly dozing off when and where she shouldn’t.

“I have to fall asleep in my bed tonight…”

Hey, it’s an aspiration! Once more we are kindred spirits.

Overwhelmingly, though, this is fun, fun, fun and there’s a lovely regular originally from Ethiopia who props up the bar and likes to sing, “I am very happy”. One day he asks Leslie if he can borrow “one penny” for a lottery scratch ticket, promising her a 50/50 split if he wins. While scratching away while she washes up, her back turned, his head disappears into a green ball of frenzied squiggles before he knocks over his pint and re-emerges all radiant.

“$100!! $50 for you! $50 for me!”
“Aw! That was nice of you… You could have pocketed it all… I never would have known!”
“Les-lee…” he says, patting his heart sincerely. “I do not want that feeling!”

She hands him a replacement pint, and he breaks back into song.

There are childhood reminiscences of summer camp, her first guitar lesson, Christmases, painting on bedroom walls, the unlikeliest Halloween costumes, and a trauma aged 5 which will strike home with fans of Liz Prince’s TOMBOY. In the present day there’s a comics festival in France, setting up for gigs, bar shifts and booze, and a day during which she is set upon by a dog.

“I wouldn’t let you hump me so you bite me?! I’ve met your kind before and I’m not dealing with that shit!!”

Lastly, there’s a day of triumph when Stein arrives back in town, she’s met her deadlines, chucked in her bar job and has an entire week free to draw as much as she wants. “Solid gold!”

Which is obviously the exact moment she catches flu.

Sitting at her laptop, completely cocooned head to toe in a pink duvet with a bobble hat on top of it, she looks just like Philippa Rice in SOPPY.

SLH

Buy Bright Eyed At Midnight h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Everything Is Teeth (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Evie Wyld & Joe Sumner.

The family has caught a boat full of Bull Sharks and towed a seven-footer to shore, leaving it to thrash itself out and die.

“She is fat with young, and when she’s cut open they lie in dead rows. They look like puppies, soft and smooth and slippery. I get one to hold and watch as my uncle cuts out the mother’s mouth, then saws off her fins and rolls the trunk back into the river.”

Visually those of two of the best pages, the shark and her dozen pups nigh-on photorealistic, a tide of blood flooding out of the mother’s womb and belly, down the beach and right across the second, right-hand page under the grim panels above. Another cracking pair depict a seventeen-foot White Pointer  in a tank which is barely much bigger, “suspended in a liquid the colour of tobacco teeth”, its nose, back, fin and tail horribly hooked-through with cables, as if in a torture chamber.

Wyld and I share a childhood obsession with sharks. I had nightmares about them at least once a week and would regularly check the shadows of indoor swimming pools just in case. This extended to a morbid fascination with photos of their massive carcasses hauled upside down, their mawling jaws of death dropped open to reveal bloody-gummed rows of razor-sharp teeth. I’m not proud of that and both scenes here are suitably repugnant.

Where we differ is that Wyld would holiday in Australia where sharks did swim in the same waters as young Evie and her family. There are some fairly terrifying pages to come.

With the sole exception of the excerpts from ‘Jaws’, Sumner depicts the sharks in the same pencilled (or pencil-effect) photorealism throughout. Everything else even within the same panels is in a very basic cartoon style including the waters in which the sharks – real or imagined – glide through. Sometimes the contrast works to spine-shivering effect, even when following Evie home from school or gliding past her living-room window at night.

Certainly it wouldn’t have worked at all had the sharks been drawn with the same uneven and inconsistent, blunt, big-nosed, cartoon line. The only element I can rescue from that is the depiction of Wyld herself as having the same pitch-black eyes as the sharks. The rest is a mess.

For a start, I initially thought the writer’s mother was a man. Even after I’d identified her as the mother, I continued to misidentify her as a man each time I saw her.

Secondly, the lettering in places is as awkwardly and amateurishly laid out as a nine-year-old novice’s. “Oh, that sentence doesn’t quite fit in here; we’ll just add another few words in an extra bit of the box up above.” Not a separate box or a whole extra layer, but an ugly stump akin to castellation. I cannot over-emphasise how ugly this is.

Thirdly, there are way too few actual gutters; the panels often divided by nothing more than a line. I’m sure that can be made to work although I cannot think where I’ve ever seen it successfully done – these aren’t inset panels I’m talking about – and all you have to do is glance at the difference between those with and without gutters here to recognise immediately that those without are a massive mistake.

Fourthly – and this is the belter – there’s an early double-page spread at a party whose middle tier either is or has the illusion of being a single panel. A basic rule of the comics medium is that you read horizontally, only dropping down a tier once you’ve done so. Pop a widescreen middle-tier panel across the whole of a double-page spread as Katriona Chapman did so spectacularly in her self-published KATZINE ISSUE TWO (such a great comic!) and every reader knows that you read every panel above it on both pages before those underneath. Not here, nope. You’re expected to read the panels on the left-hand side below the panorama before those above it on the right.

I cannot believe that whoever edited this at Jonathan Cape / Random House, home to some of the greatest British graphic novels of modern times (ALICE IN SUNDERLAND, BUILDING STORIES, THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF EARLY EARTH and FLUFFY), didn’t immediately reject those pages – the gutterless, the castellated, and those breaking that fundamental rule of sequential-art storytelling – as simply not good enough. If I were this hypothetical editor at Cape I’d have sent this straight back with a copy of Will Eisner’s COMICS & SEQUENTIAL ART and Scott McCloud’s MAKING COMICS, so I can only suspect that there’s no editorial shepherding on offer for creators at all.

And that’s fine if you’ve commissioned veteran comicbook creators like Bryan Talbot who know their craft inside out. But it’s a poor state of affairs when you risk your reputation by publishing people with zero experience or evidently comprehension of comics purely because they’ve garnered potentially well deserved success in other media, and then fail to supervise them.

A prose writer does not necessarily understand the distinct medium of comics; a fine artist or cartoonist does not necessarily comprehend sequential-art storytelling. This is exactly the mistake which reputable prose publishers made twenty-five years ago and it did very real damage to the public’s perception of the medium at the time, setting it back in the US and UK by over a decade.

I have other issues, I’m afraid.  I don’t want to give too much away, but the end asserts that something that else is going on other than a fascination with sharks, but it isn’t presaged within the body itself, simply lobbed on. Then there’s the sequence about Wyld’s brother being bullied and beaten up back home, but that’s never resolved. Its inclusion appears to be merited purely because he was told shark stories to calm him down. Right, sharks were involved in some spurious capacity. But not relevant: it should have been edited out.

You’d be amazed at how many novels and great graphic novels there are which we all adore whose original incarnations before prudent, pre-publication pruning are not what you’ve finally read. Their creators I know of are all very grateful.

I want to reiterate that some of the pages are powerful. This had so much potential but it desperately needed a steward.

The best thing about this is the title. Sorry.

SLH, winning no friends today.

Buy Everything Is Teeth and read the Page 45 review here

Meat Cake rare restock (£16-99, Fantagraphics) by Dame Darcy.

Macabre and mysterious neo-Victorian fantasy with speech balloons that glide and slide surreally round the panels, this is like Emily Carroll’s THROUGH THE WOODS in spidery black and white.

Truly there are few creators as magnificently individualistic as Dame Darcy. Think Donna Barr in a secret passage full of cobwebs and bats! Kate Bush or Danielle Dax lost alone in the woods!

In 2003 Mark previewed this collection in hardcover form thus:

“I love people who draw and write as if no one matters but themselves. Selfish storytelling, done for their own obsessions and somehow leaked out into the world for the occasional sympathetic eye to wander over. If Edward Gorey had a sickly daughter who refused to live in – and was possibly allergic to – the 20th Century, she would look and draw like the singular Dame Darcy. Willowy, kohl-eyed waifs summoning up the energy to pine for a similarly insubstantial beau, identical twins, ghost girls, animal-headed ne’er-do-wells all live here in the woods.

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

Speaking of Cobweb, here’s a one-page rhyme which is equally louche when you see the gorgeous tease of the final panel with its protagonist wagging her finger at you:

“Shocking, shocking, shocking!
A mouse ran up my stocking!
When it got to my knee, oh what did it see?!
Shocking, shocking, shocking!”

MAS/ SLH

Buy Meat Cake and read the Page 45 review here

We Stand On Guard #2 (£2-25, Image) by Brian K. Vaughan & Steve Skroce.

In which I’m won over.

The writer of SAGA, EX MACHINA, PRIDE OF BAGHDAD, Y – THE LAST MAN and THE ESCAPISTS needs no introduction, so I was going to write that you can consider this a re-introduction, then I looked back and realised that politics and military might play a substantial role in almost all of those, while PRIDE OF BAGHDAD is overtly critical of the American military’s conduct (and indeed very presence) in Iraq.

Here, in a century’s time, America invades Canada in retaliation for what it perceives to be – or claims to perceive to be – its drone strike on The Whitehouse. We don’t even know if it was Canada that was responsible. It seems pretty unlikely, doesn’t it? But Canada does have a lot of lovely water much wanted over the border.

Disproportionate response is nothing new when it comes to the US military and I think you can consider Ottawa obliterated in the first few pages of WE STAND ON GUARD #1 reviewed by our Jonathan. During this almost instantaneous assault without any evidence of investigation Tommy and Amber’s parent’s limbs blown are off in front of them, their dad’s dying words being…

“tommy… you listen to me… you… look after… your baby sister… whatever happens… you never… leave her side…”

Twelve years later, on the very next page, Tommy has left Amber’s side. She’s all alone in the Canadian snow-swept wilds, armed with a crossbow, hunting for her supper.

But she’s about to have company and not necessarily any of it good.

I was uncertain about Steve Skroce’s art to begin with. I certainly found no fault with his sense of scale: the American military’s four-legged All-Terrain Tanks towering above the tallest of the trees in the Northwest Territories are monumental, terrifying, their armour so evidently impregnable. But what won me over completely was the second issue’s invasion of the cosy, well-appointed home of a couple of pensioners quietly sitting on their suburban settee. The clarity verging on the clinical elevates the incongruity of what you’re witnessing, and that’s the genius of the series itself.

Somehow (somehow) it’s one thing for American soldiers to bust down so many domestic doors in Baghdad and brutally manhandle their occupants without any hope of being reasoned with, but setting this in Canada where the tree-lined avenues look so similar to our own and, of course, America’s…

Well, it brings the horror all home, hopefully.

So what happened to Amber’s brother, Tommy? Well, we do know he was captured by the Americans and presumably taken to one of their camps. Probably to what is ominously being termed “the basement”.

Unflinchingly brutal.

SLH

Buy We Stand On Guard #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.

The Art Of Mouse Guard 2005 – 2015 h/c (£45-00, Archaia) by David Petersen

Black Science vol 3: Vanishing Point (£10-99, Image) by Rick Remender & Matteo Scalera

Hellblazer vol 11: Last Man Standing (£18-99, Vertigo) by Paul Jenkins & Sean Phillips, Charlie Adlard, Warren Pleece

Hellboy And The BPRD – 1952 (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi & Alex Maleev

Little Nemo’s Big New Dreams (£12-99, Toon Graphics) by Windsor McCay, Art Spiegelman, Francoise Mouly, Gerhard, Charles Vess, Craig Thompson, Jim Rugg, Box Brown, Carla Speed NcNeil, Mark Buckingham, various

Pugs From The Frozen North (£8-99, Oxford) by Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre

Shutter vol 1: Wanderlost (£7-50, Image) by Joe Keatinge & Leila Del Duca

Shutter vol 2: Way Of The World (£10-99, Image) by Joe Keatinge & Leila Del Duca

Swamp Thing by Brian K. Vaughan vol 2 s/c (£14-99, Vertigo) by Brian K. Vaughan & Giuseppe Camuncoli, Mark Hempel, Cameron Stewart, John Totleben, various

War Stories vol 1 (£18-99, Avatar) by Garth Ennis & Chris Weston, Gary Erskine, John Higgins, Dave Gibbons, David Lloyd

Green Arrow: The Archer’s Quest Deluxe Edition h/c (£18-99, DC) by Brad Meltzer & Phil Hester

Black Panther: Complete Christoper Priest Collection vol 1 s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Christopher Priest & Joe Quesada, Mark Texeira, various

Deadpool vol 3: X Marks The Spot s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Daniel Way & Paco Medina, Shawn Crystal

Captain Ken vol 2 (£10-50, DMP) by Osamu Tezuka

Gantz vol 36 (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Hiroya Oku

News!

ITEM! From the creators of THE WICKED + THE DIVINE PHONOGRAM: THE IMMATERIAL GIRL #1 by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson is out today! We have a metric tonne of ‘em and we ship worldwide!

Also in stock and reviewed: PHONOGRAM: RUE BRITANNIA and PHONOGRAM: THE SINGLES CLUB!

Available to pre-order: PHONOGRAM: THE IMMATERIAL GIRL #2 and PHONOGRAM: THE IMMATERIAL GIRL #3!

ITEM! Families! More MOOSE KID COMICS created / curated by Jamie Smart of BUNNY VS MONKEY (reviewed above) up online for free! So many fabulous creators have contributed: Sarah McIntyre, Gary Northfield, Neill Cameron, Abby Ryder, Roger Langridge,.. Click on ‘Our Artists’ for details!

ITEM! Joe Decie’s drawing some more hilarious home comics on his Tumblr that will tick all your recognition boxes including the most British holiday activity ever! Pop Joe Decie in our search engine if you enjoy those, but let him back out later or his family will miss him terribly.

ITEM! Neil Gaiman interviewed on his MIRACLEMAN run finally nearing completion after over two decades. Reprints of Gaiman & Buckingham’s MIRACLEMAN can be pre-ordred here- they begin any day now – while the whole of Alan Moore’s run is now out in collected editions beginning with MIRACLEMAN VOL 1.

ITEM! My favourite comics podcasts ever are Dan Berry’s Make It Ten Tell Everybody interviews with the likes of Liz Prince, Scott McCloud, Hope Larson, Jason Shiga, Woodrow Phoenix, Jess Fink, Jillian Tamaki, Paul Duffield, Emily Carrol, Jeffrey Brown, Gary Northfield, Lizz Lunney, Philippa Rice, Luke Pearson, umm, Page 45. Everyone, basically! Listen to as many as you like for free! A lot of time and travelling’s involved so please support Make It Then Tell Everybody here. Then stick Dan Berry in our search engine because his comics are the bestest too.

ITEM! It was Eddie Campbell’s 60th Birthday on Monday. Why don’t you pop him in our search engine as well? It’s getting awfully cosy in there! I’ll start you off with ALEC and BACCHUS and FROM HELL, but we’ve so much more!

John Parker wrote an exceptionally fine tribute and introduction to Eddie Campbell’s work for Comics Alliance.

I’m raising my glass in celebration. Cheers!

 - Stephen

Page 45 Reviews written by Stephen & Jonathan then edited by a short-sighted sea anemone with Attention Deficit Disorder

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews August 2015 week one

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015

Return of THE REALIST’s Asaf Hanuka with Tomer Hanuka in THE DIVINE!

Also:, two wordless comics (Shaun Tan fans will love LEAF), Katriona Chapman’s exquisite zines, HAWKEYE VOL 4, new Leah Hayes, a book about doubt and more, more, more!

Leaf (£18-99, Fantagraphics) by Daishu Ma.

A magical wordless narrative in soft pencil lit with bursts of blue and yellow, this will draw parallels with Shaun Tan’s THE ARRIVAL for its form, its style, its fantastical nature and its social metaphor.

Daishu Ma is a Chinese creator, and the smog-inducing industrialisation which China has undergone so swiftly over the last few decades informs everything here from the message itself to the depiction of workers boxed into endless rows of cubicles crammed with unknowable levers, lights, buttons and gauges, all dwarfed below giant power-grid screens. This is the futurism not of now but of the early-to-mid 20th Century – of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis et al.

But it begins in the rolling countryside overlooking the city with the last leaves falling from the trees and a bird taking flight from its otherwise empty nest. Those out strolling brush through carpets of leaves as crisp and clean as if they had been freeze-dried then strewn by species into specific plots. A young man with a thick woollen scarf wrapped round his neck spies something glowing beneath the grey debris and pulls out a single perfect leaf glowing blue with bright white spots.

Slowly he walks back into town, its concrete suburb walls cluttered with steam pipes and valves and funnels and gauges and clocks. He passes through residential areas then those selling goods from small stalls or warming their hands over an open fire. But everything – even the fire – is tinged with the coldest of blues. Once home he opens the shutters to let in the light – the electric blue light of a bulb-lined leafless tree – then nods off beneath the window. Briefly, ever so briefly, he has a vision of the bulbs replaced by leaves back on the branches radiating a warm, golden glow.

This isn’t as obvious or as black and white as I supposed on my first read through. Initially I thought those were the last leaves of winter – that the senescence was seasonal. I’m not so sure now. Also, that leaf isn’t necessarily glowing blue. Colour here seems to denote temperature, yes, but also mood and – for want of a better word – health or lack thereof. Furthermore there is a glorious double-page spread of an enormous tree in the city’s circular square, strewn with big, bright, domestic-sized bulbs which has the admirers gathered round it enraptured. There are many forms of beauty which we do delight in – even if there’s a price to be paid.

That price is made abundantly clear a dozen or so pages on, after our young man has shown his new prized possession to an elderly man in glasses and been introduced to the first of the city’s secrets which he will pursue later on. It’s a full-page depiction of that same barren tree at the bottom, the circle of houses surrounding it reflected towards the top in a stark silhouette of the vast factory complex sitting on the skyline, its chimneys belching smoke like a volcano fed from below… or like a similarly circular verruca whose roots suck the life out whatever its grown on.

Context – and a decidedly thrilling contrast – to all this is provided when our protagonist stumbles upon his first waking glimpse of a golden glow, emanating from a house above whose door hangs a leaf in semi-relief, carved into wood. The context comes in the form of multi-year memory of the home’s occupant, of her father first building a simple wooded shack from which he used to sell fertile potted plants, then its gradual evolution, Will Eisner-style, into its modern bricks-and-mortar incarnation. The final panels’ flurry of falling leaves come as little surprise, but they aren’t the first to go. Take a close look when browsing because what happens in panel six is very telling.

As to the contrast, it’s the burst of organic warmth inside the home where a woman sits studiously at a candle-lit table surrounded by shelves thick, bound books and far more exotic leaves that we’ve encountered previously – and which presumably no longer grow – pressed onto paper or displayed in glass cases, bottles and jars. Suspended from the ceiling are even more elaborate specimens reduced to their skeletal, dried-out midribs and veins.

Where his curiosity will take the young man – and what will catalyse his final decision – I’ll leave you to learn. Unlike THE ARRIVAL the reason this is wordless has nothing to do with any language barrier. It’s more about encouraging readers’ interpretation and a shared journey in uncovering the graphic novel’s mysteries.

There are several stand-out sequences for me like the nine-panel grid of ever-ascending steps and ladders in a monumental factory, arranged so that the stairs match up from left to right, drawing your eye diagonally upwards and emphasising the illusion of climbing even though the topmost ledge is at the bottommost panel! That’s clever enough, but the composite effect is that the walls look like a circuit board.

The storytelling is as gently paced as any perambulation, which is what this essentially is. In fact it’s only when the chap speeds up that he runs into trouble.

I think you’ll love lingering anyway because, oh, the colours!

SLH

Buy Leaf and read the Page 45 review here

The Divine (£14-99, FirstSecond) by Boaz Lavie & Asaf Hanuka, Tomer Hanuka…

“All right, ladies. I’m only going to brief you once.
“We will descend approximately fifty feet into the lava tube.
“It’s gonna be very dark in there.
“So we are gonna have to trust each other.
“Two men will monitor the entrance. Four will follow me inside.
“When it’s all done we just need to make sure the receiver is fully exposed.
“So when the helicopter comes, they can remote detonate.
“And the place blows sky high.
“If anything goes wrong, at this point in the mission… my buddy here is an ex-con with four murder convictions. He’ll make you regret the day you were born.”
“What the hell, Jason?”
“Better to be feared than loved.”

Well, there certainly isn’t anyone who is going to love Jason, not now, not ever. He’s somehow managed to bully and cajole his friend Mark into accompanying him on a CIA black ops mission to the Southeast Asian country of Quanlom, a country America officially has no diplomatic relations with. They both work for the CIA, but whilst Mark is a sensitive family man with a child well on the way, who just also happens to be a consulting civilian explosives expert, his  old army ‘buddy’ Jason is a jacked-up jarhead who lives for the mission, preferably jungle-based ones which are as hazardous as possible.

On the face of it, this is a simple military mining contract, blowing up a mountain, but there is far more going on in Quanlom besides a civil war between the army and the guerrillas. As Jason and Mark’s mission begins to unravel, they start to discover the legends of Leh, a spirit inhabiting and protecting the uplands, might not be quite so mythical after all.

Hot on the heels of THE REALIST, Asaf Hanuka and his brother Tomer (with whom he collaborated a long time ago on the short lived BIPOLAR series) combine to create a visually stunning collision of mythology and military might. Penned by Boaz Lavie, this story is very loosely inspired by Johnny and Luther Htoo, two twelve-year-old twins who led a splinter guerrilla group in Myanmar in the late 1990s, and who according to their foes where reputed to have magical powers. The children running the guerrilla group in this story, nine-year-old twins, are known locally as The Divine, one of whom really does have some magical and perhaps even telekinetic abilities. In any event they are most certainly a formidable fighting force.

As Mark becomes increasingly uneasy over the mission objectives, and Jason’s gung ho behaviour, he finds himself in a moral quandary. He makes his decision, but by then the decisive conflict between the world of the physical and that of the supernatural is utterly unavoidable. The climactic battle is an artistic delight, as huge colourful spirit demons assault the military camp, defended by desperate defenders armed with RPGs and machine guns.

There were elements of this work that minded me a little of AKIRA from an artistic perspective. I am thinking particularly of a sequence where the powered twin is levitating and almost in a warped berserker state.

There will certainly be people who pick this up purely for the art, but it’s also an excellent clash of cultures, and morals, story. I can see why this garnered much critical acclaim when released in France earlier this year. My only minor complaint is I would have liked it to be two or three times as long!

JR

Buy The Divine and read the Page 45 review here

Katzine Issue One (£5-50, self-published) by Katriona Chapman.

Production values ahoy!

Not only does the cover come in that thick, grained watercolour paper stock with glowing, organic-fruit hues, but the interior pages are equally classy allowing Chapman’s rich graphite shading to shine in all its soft, polished beauty. The art is so warm that it’s like being nuzzled up to by a faun’s felt-covered antlers. Katriona doesn’t just invite you into her life, she makes you feel as comfortable in it as if you were sitting beside her on the sofa, sharing a glass of wine.

This is unmistakeably about Katriona but it’s not for one second egomaniacal. She’s not declaring; she’s sharing. I believe you two will get along smashingly.

In the opening two-page salvo winningly entitled ‘Hello’, Chapman presents quiet, brief bursts of some of the elements which form her profound passions while dictating her daily routine – a routine which we will see disrupted with surprisingly stoical equanimity in KATZINE ISSUE TWO. (Clue: London Transport at night. No thanks!)

They’re not necessarily the passions you’d normally associate with a 36-year-old woman, which she owns almost immediately and increasingly endearingly. Family-run hardware shops for a start! Katriona tells of a childhood trip to B&Q when she became transfixed by racks and racks of wooden, decorative moulding. The illustration accompanying that recollection – its harmonious arrangement of cross sectional shapes and three-dimensional shading with an almost Escher-like, hypnotic harm – will convert you to her point of view, I promise.

Chapman is that winning combination of accessible and exotic and above all eclectic in taste. She has the confidence to create, print and distribute a high-end ‘zine of comics and lavishly illustrated prose yet suffers from social anxiety. I think you’ll be enamoured with her regular, admirably balanced feature of ‘Fear’ and ‘Love’ on opposite pages. The ‘Love’ in this instance springs from her job as an usher at a theatre during moments when she takes advantage of her introversion. You’ll see – such positive thinking!

The extended feature this issue is ‘All Summer Long’, musing over her family holidays in Canada, the friends she made and – now that she’s on the point of return – wondering whether it will be weird going back as an adult.

However, it was upon reading the two-page illustrated article on the International Space Station – I had no idea one suffered such tissue loss working in zero gravity but it does make sense when you’re not really using your muscles – that I realised how I would most accurately described this gorgeous artefact: it’s like the most artisan school project you’ve ever read!

It’s all so loving put together with attention to detail, like the inside front and back covers which not only glide effortlessly into the endpapers but – were you to remove that cover – form a panoramic star chart of their own.

SLH

Buy Katzine Issue One and read the Page 45 review here

Katzine Issue Two (£5-50, self-published) by Katriona Chapman.

A second swoonaway cover!

I love how the ripple-free, smooth and flat blue shapes of the river and the lakes its feeds into cut into the ruggedly and vertically textured geological giants. So subtle, but clever!

‘Local Businesses’ returns from KATZINE ISSUE ONE with affectionate amusement at misspelled signage and it’s this interest in language which will form the ‘Love’ half of this outing’s ‘Fear’ and ‘Love’ duo (secret: I share exactly the same fear!).

This issue eleven whole pages are dedicated to Katriona’s travels, this time in the jungles of Costa Rica during 2005 – offset by the context of where she has lived a more sedentary life – and it benefits enormously from the space as well as her exceptional talent for flora and fauna. The monkeys and lizards are lovingly drawn but the horses and horse heads, shown at almost every conceivable angle, are immaculate.

It’s a geographical and spiritual journey deep into the wilderness kicked off with the following thought:

“I think the banana skin was when things started to shift.”

With an intro like that how could you not read the rest?

As you can tell from the cover, Chapman is also adept at embedding her figures firmly within their surroundings. And as you may gather from their regular features, she’s a plant lover too, which stands her in very good stead for a super-dense jungle and its flamboyant leaves lit up in the foreground then left to be swallowed by darkness beyond.

Her pièce de resistance comes at the climax reprising the cover – albeit at a very different locale – which could not be a more striking contrast: a single, middle-tier, double-page panorama panning 360 degrees high atop ancient ruins overlooking the canopy of trees, encompassing four separate shots of Katriona herself rotated at 90 degrees.

You really do need to see this for yourself. And now you can!

SLH

Buy Katzine Issue Two and read the Page 45 review here

Haunter (£10-99, Study Group Comics) by Sam Alden.

Here’s pretty, then.

A wordless – at times breathless! – comic, this is so colour-driven that I instinctively thought of Dash Shaw circa NEW SCHOOL. It’s far more traditional storytelling on a four-panel grid, with the sharper lines laid down first, but the initial four double-page spreads which you won’t find online only confirmed the association for me.

There the solitary human outline is minimal and far off in the background, leaving the lambent landscapes to dominate, daubed in very wet watercolours without any lines at all. The sun-kissed sides of the heavily knotted trees twisting up the grassy hillside in carmine or snaking in and out of the stream in green are left entirely white. But so artfully is the paint applied that their forms aren’t eroded by the light: you can almost feel how thick and gnarled the bark is.

 

The colours continue to dominate as the crisp line-work kicks in and a hunter emerges from the forest in search of prey. His pursuit of a narrowly missed boar (I think you can’t guess which expletive the giant red ‘X’ denotes!) takes him into most unexpected early Tombraider territory including anachronistic upgrades found in a statue’s secret stash. Two of the three objects made me laugh. Do you think the hunter will become the hunted? I think he may. Things tend to come alive in Tombraider, which you touch things, don’t they?

 

Although the application of colour is completely different to that of Lara’s subterranean shenanigans, that is exactly the experience on offer here – presuming that you’re watching someone else play. That’s why the quote on the back baffles, no, infuriates me. It bigs this book up undeservedly at the expense of videogames, raising expectations unrealistically and thereby doing both a disservice. Few of the videogames I play frustrate me aesthetically – I can only imagine that someone needs to broaden their game-playing experience.

BONE, TUKI and RASL’s Jeff Smith, on the other hand, is bang on the money on the back when he writes, “It’s impossible to start the thing and not keep reading.”

SLH

Buy Haunter and read the Page 45 review here

Not Funny Ha Ha (£12-99, Fantagraphics) by Leah Hayes.

There’s little worse than going through something difficult and upsetting alone. What is most certainly worse is going through something which is difficult, upsetting and unknown alone.

Sub-titled “A Handbook For Something Hard”, creator Leah Hayes is here to hold your hand and rub it gently while explaining what you can expect to experience emotionally, physically and practically if you find yourself pregnant and decide that you need an abortion.

She is at great pains to disentangle the process form other issues like sex and contraception, to be clear, honest and entirely non-prescriptive: whatever you decide is your decision and your decision alone.

But it’s always best, isn’t it, to talk to others and have someone with you if you can? If you can’t, here’s Leah.

Although she stresses that you must talk to your G.P. (“This is a book, not a doctor!!”), Hayes addresses everything from the timing of your decision and the timing of your treatment to what that implies for your options: where to have an abortion (at a clinic or at home) and how (surgically or medically). We’re then introduced to expect from each of the procedures, and from ourselves while experiencing them and how long we can expect the processes and their after-effects to last. I always find that hugely reassuring: knowing if something is normal or not. Sadly in America it is normal at a clinic to be searched by a security guard.

Another thing I find difficult except professionally is picking up the phone in the first place. Leah understands that but emphasises that, although you shouldn’t be afraid of the clock, in this case time really is of the essence.

I found this book to be enormously kind, gentle and informative. It looks longer than it is thanks to the big hand-lettering and illustrations, and it isn’t a graphic novel because without the images I would have understood absolutely everything written. But I appreciate the advantage of this being illustrated prose rather than a clinical leaflet. It’s not that the illustrations serve to break the information up into easily digestible pieces – though they do – it’s that they humanise it all. The paper is predominantly a warm yellow, the two women’s cheeks warmer still. They’re sympathetically drawn and easy to relate to.

Here’s Ellen Forney:

“Reading this book is like sitting down with your cool older sister and having her assuringly and frankly explain a really tough situation you’re facing, and then convince you that you’re going to get through it and be okay.”

Yep, that is precisely what this is like.

SLH

Buy Not Funny Ha Ha and read the Page 45 review here

A Quick Dip Into Deep Thinking: The Growing Of Dreams (£6-50) by Dori Kirchmair.

“Doubt is really a big one for me…
“All the time it keeps me from doing what makes my heart sing…
“But then, not only do I talk myself out of my own dreams. On top of that is what everyone else has to say…
“Not to mention how the world is supposed to work.”

There Kirchmair slumps at her desk, as crushed and crumpled as a discarded drawing, weighed down by the dictates of others. “You must…” ”You should…” etcetera.

I feel there will be a lot of empathy for this succinct little storybook. There’s a neat little one-page comic within called ‘The growing of dreams” in which Kirchmair’s ideas and ambitions grow from a potted sapling into a vast, verdant tree. The biggest panel is reserved for the pinnacle of the process when all seems about to bear a fruition which she finds “fascinating”… only for those wretched doubts to creep in once again, telling her that it’s “all a bit unreal” and she chops the tree down in fright.

You might suppose that this is the work of a young lady embarking on a newfound enthusiasm for creativity. It is not. I’ve met Dori and she’s my age. Our doubts don’t just disappear.

But nor does Dori’s determination. Throughout the watercolours on a delicate black pen line are bright and healthy and in natural tones of grass-green, aquamarine, sky-blue and earthen or tree-trunk brown. She has suffered set-backs but she won’t be bowed into submission for…

“Somewhere deep down I know it’s not right to throw away your dreams.
“It’s not ’environmentally friendly’, either.”

Ha! Unlike the single-page comic which is perfectly poised, I own that the text and illustration of the main body are not ideally integrated – the timing’s a bit dislocated in places – but there is a great deal of white space so a whole lot of light, and for once I didn’t mind the typed script.

What I did object to was its original cover and I told Kirchmair so, thereby becoming yet another of those didactic pests. *slaps own wrists* But it looked like a type-led cover to a particularly bland catalogue for lord knows what and Page 45 deals in a visual medium. No one would have looked past its cover here.

So we come to what I mean by Dori’s determination and her practising what she preaches – because I promise you this has a thoroughly uplifting end and a cracking punchline which harks wittily and unexpectedly back to its title. Although the creator had a finished product to sell me with multiple copies… she printed a fresh batch with a new, image-led cover and a burst of much more organic lettering which broke up the blandness and emphasised that she has something to say which is probably worth reading. In a humble way. Dori was determined to get this booklet onto our shelves even if she had to go to extra expense.

Oh look, she’s succeeded. Respect.

SLH

Buy A Quick Dip Into Deep Thinking: The Growing Of Dreams and read the Page 45 review here

Hawkeye vol 4: Rio Bravo s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Matt Fraction & David Aja, Chris Eliopoulos, Francesco Francavilla…

“I pulled the records of that strip club you busted up.”
“How did you know about that?”
“Clint…”
“Okay, okay, I’m sorry. I wasn’t there for the girls I was there for the guys. No, wait…”

Ha ha, the gags are still coming thick and fast in this final volume of Fraction, Aja et al’s career-redefining highlight. Clint Barton’s, that is! This volume collects #12-13, #15, #17, #19 & #21-22 as the monthly title bobbed backwards and forward from East Coast to West Coast between Clint and Kate’s stories. Her final volume was collected in HAWKEYE VOL 3: L.A. WOMAN, though of course Kate does turn up here in just the nick of time to save Clint’s behind one more time too!

Before that there’s time for a family reunion as Barney Barton turns up to continue the Barton Brothers’ trademark love-hate sibling rivalry. In reality though, they’ve always had each other’s backs, and Clint is going to need all the help he can get as the Tracksuit Draculas perform their very own climatic remake of Assault On Precinct 13 on Clint’s apartment building. But who better to take on the not-so-dapper mafia bros than the Barton Bros? It’s an enduring double act with its own special magic that’s all about the timing…

 

“Surrounded, Bro. Van, Bro.”
“C’mon, c’mon… one trick, one time. You guys might be my last audience ever, right? Come on. Just say the magic word.”
“…Is…is…”Abra Cadabra”?”
“”Barney.””
“What you say, Bro?”
“”Barney,” say “Barney.””
“”Barney?””
“No, no, come on, it’s a magic trick and I got my pants down. You all gotta shout it.”
“BARNEY!”
“Thanks, Bro.”

Enter Barney Barton stage left armed only with a dustbin lid for some Bro head-cracking activity…

JR

Buy Hawkeye vol 4: Rio Bravo s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Steven Universe vol 1 (£10-99, Kaboom) by Jeremy Sorese & Coleman Engle…

“Hmm… this strange crystal is definitely a test! Maybe a puzzle? To see if I can harness the power of super special gem!! I will discover all your secrets!!”
“Gasp!! Steven, what happened?!”
“Uuuuughm… I couldn’t discover the secrets… I tried everything but I couldn’t figure out the secrets of this special gem, I understand why you can’t take me on missions.”
“Ha ha ha!! Steven, it’s not a gem.”
“Huh?!”
“It’s a disco ball.”
CLICK!
“This is more amazing than I could ever have imagined.”

Sadly it really isn’t. How disappointing. I love Steven Universe the TV show but this isn’t a patch on it. Surprisingly for a show with such clean animation, they have decided to employ an artist with a far looser style. Actually, it looks a little bit like Jen IN REAL LIFE Wang if I am being overly kind, but that’s by the by. All the characters are recognisable but it just doesn’t feel like the show.

Then, there is the fact that each single issue was a different short, well two actually, a colour one then a very short black and white one, which disrupts the reading process even further. To me, this title was begging for four- or six-issue story arcs, being illustrated exactly like the show. So it would then have been a perfect continuation of it.  Instead it just feels like a cheap throwaway cash-in. Others may disagree.

I felt exactly the same about REGULAR SHOW, a programme I adore, but I can’t even bring myself to look at the comics for precisely the same reasons. Incredibly short throwaway stories, little more than gag strips, which look nothing like the show. Having just checked, yep, that’s the same artist as here, Coleman Engle. I feel harsh criticising someone who is clearly a very good artist. But they are just not the right fit for either of these titles. And if I wanted gag strips, I would read PEANUTS. Actually I wouldn’t, I would read HYPERBOLE AND A HALF or CYANIDE AND HAPPINESS but hey ho, you get my point.

JR

Buy Steven Universe 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.

Small Tales & Fairy Fails (£9-99) by Paul Duffield

Bright Eyed At Midnight h/c (£16-99, Fantagraphics) by Leslie Stein

Corpse Talk Season 2 (£7-99, DFC Books) by Adam Murphy

Everything Is Teeth (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Evie Wyld & Joe Sumner

Chew vol 10 Blood Puddin’ (£10-99, Image) by John Layman & Rob Guillory

Superman vol 6: The Men Of Tomorrow h/c (£18-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & John Romita

All New X-Men vol 7: The Utopians (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Del Mundo, Mahmud Asrar, Andrea Sorrentino

Black Butler vol 20 (£9-99, Yen) by Yana Toboso

Naruto vol 71 (£6-99, Viz) by Masashi Kishimoto

A Silent Voice vol 2 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Yoshitoki Oima

News!

ITEM! Ladybird Books Modern Makeover! Genius covers, there!

I was raised at infant school on Ladybird’s ‘Peter & Jane’ books which starred a sickeningly wholesome family, so revenge on Saturday night on Twitter was s-weet. I can’t reprint it all here (dear lord,no! If you’re curious, I’m @pagefortyfive) but basically this: I realised they were all on temazepam including the children. The father was a serial philanderer, the mother a serial killer. I wrote a little poem:

Jane likes to get squiffy
Peter likes to get rat-arsed
Dad prefers glue if he’s truthful to you
Mother screams at night

ITEM! An online version of Sam Alden’s THE HAUNTER, reviewed above. The lighting as lambent as anything, but it doesn’t include the four double-page spreads I swooned over which are only available in the printed version.

ITEM! From the creator of FLUFFY and PLEASE GOD FIND ME A HUSBAND

Simone Lia’s weekly comic strip for the Guardian / Observer on ‘To Do’ lists is oh so woefully familiar.

I have an extensive ‘To Don’t’ list. And still do them anyway.

 - Stephen

Page 45 Reviews written by Stephen & Jonathan then edited by…. Oh, wait – still on my ‘To Do’ list.

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews July 2015 week five

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015

“If you dehumanise others then you dehumanise yourself.”

 - Stephen on NOUGHTS & CROSSES by Malorie Blackman, Ian Edginton & John Aggs, below.

Noughts & Crosses: The Graphic Novel (£12-99, Doubleday) by Malorie Blackman, Ian Edginton & John Aggs.

Young Adult literature at its most intelligent, pertinent and affecting, this graphic novel adaptation of award-winning prose comes highly recommended.

“This is growing up, isn’t it?”
“I think it is.”

It’s not going to be easy.

We make things so difficult for ourselves, don’t we? Racial prejudice is as ridiculous and unreasoned as it is vile and unnecessary, yet we’ve polluted our history and corrupted our children with it for millennia. It’s also the biggest source of rank hypocrisy outside of organised religions battling each other for authenticity and superiority whilst spreading lies and hatred about “the other”. It’s an insult to our God-given intelligence.

With a single, simple, straightforward if comprehensive inversion Malorie Blackman eloquently exposes how we complicate everything from friendship to family and every aspect of society just because of the colour of our skins. How utterly superficial of us.

Enhanced by John Aggs with the most tender art imaginable which breaks into stark brutality, the key success is in making you care: by making it personal. And despite the best intentions and the very real love of the two lead protagonists, Sephy and Callum, no one is perfect: everyone will make mistakes which will make you physically wince.

Persephone Hadley and Callum McGregor have been friends since early childhood. Callum’s mother Meggie worked for Mrs Hadley as Sephy’s nanny and on sunny summer days she was allowed to bring Callum along to play. On the surface it seemed idyllic. But when Meggie failed to produce an alibi for Mrs Hadley for an evening’s affair while Mr Hadley was away, she was summarily sacked after fourteen years of faithful service.

Flash forward a few years and it hasn’t stopped Sephy and Callum from meeting up on the beach, their romance tentatively blossoming. The future still looks as bright as can be. But back home their families are showing fractures – massive ones at the McGregors’ – and it’s going to grow very dark indeed.

So what’s the big schism? It’s race and racism, I’m afraid.

The comprehensive inversion…? In this world of white Noughts and black Crosses, the Noughts never created empires through military and economic conquest. It’s the Crosses who have always called the shots. They do to this day, whose social conditions approximate America’s in the early 1960s as recollected by Congressman John Lewis in MARCH Book 2.

Seph is a Cross who comes from one of the most privileged families of all: her father is a ruthless, top-tier, two-faced politician who only reluctantly agreed to a few Noughts entering Cross schools under the presumption that so few would qualify academically that the difference would be negligible. Because Noughts are all thick, aren’t they?

Callum, a Nought, has just qualified.

The McGregors’ reaction to this news is far more complicated than would be obvious, but then this is a complex book full of complicated and conflicted individuals. Yes, individuals! In spite of the very real domestic hardship – and personal affront – that her dismissal by Mrs Hadley caused the McGregors, Callum’s mother Meggie won’t abide use of racial slur ‘dagger’. But the two more vocal members of the family – his father and older brother – have grown increasingly resentful. Dare I even use the term “militant”? As to Callum’s sister, Lynny, she seems withdrawn and confused about her own racial identity. Oh, just you wait, but again – not as obvious as you may think. She has some wise words to counter Callum’s optimism about being allowed access into a Cross school, then, potentially, university:

“Just remember, Callum. When you’re floating up in your bubble, they have a habit of bursting. The higher you climb, the further you have to fall.”

Are they wise words, or a defeatist attitude to making a difference? Whatever you believe, reality has a horrible habit of slapping sleepy dreams wide awake. We are, if you remember, in the realms of Congressman John Lewis’ very real MARCH Book 2 when the decree for the desegregation of schools was met with mendacity and obstruction by local government and law enforcement.

“Noughts are treated the same way here as they would be outside…” says the feckless headmaster.
“And that’s the problem!” argues a teacher who typically cares.

Callum’s reception will not prove pretty, but it is Seph whom I felt for the most. Time and again, in spite of Callum’s self-sacrificial advice to stay away from him at school, she tries to intervene against the rife racial prejudice, putting her neck on the line by joining him at lunch – a brave display of public support – then reaping the wrath of her friends. Did I mention that the racial slur for white Noughts was ‘blanker’? Seph’s called a “blanker-lover” (just as I was, aged 14, once called a dagger-lover*) and is physically struck in the face.

“Stick with your own kind! I don’t care who your Dad is! Sit with blankers again, we’ll treat you like one! You need to wake up and check which side you are on!”

Ugh. One of us. One of them. One of your own kind. Blackman recalls the divisive, dismissive language so accurately. It was vital that she came up with fictional racist language so that no one had to repeatedly read the real atrocity yet could still experience its vicious and sickening impact. And how cleverly did Malorie coin the denigratory term ‘blanker’?

Blank by name, blank by nature.
“Blank white faces, no colour in them. Blank minds, empty and stupid. Blank, blank, blank.
“That’s why they serve us and not the other way around.”

Jeepers, but John Aggs excels here.

The young ladies aren’t demons or demonised. They’re perfectly approachable, pretty and chic and exactly the age they’re supposed to be. They look loving and reasonable until the moment they’re neither. You wouldn’t see their ire coming, either.

Aggs’ Callum with his blonde, floppy hair and English-Rose air will have you grinning with affection and wishing that Callum was in a completely different graphic novel if only for his own sake. Sephy and her older sister Minerva you instinctively recognise as siblings, each in their own way influenced by their mother’s fashion sense but with entirely natural departures. I love an artist who thinks of these things!

It was our Jonathan who spotted the similarity in style to THE DROWNERS’ Nabiel Kanan whose equally school-centred, teen-centric but out-of-print EXIT – to which this is closer – was sublime. It’s there in the crisp lines, tree textures and shadows cast too! It’s so obvious now that I see it. There’s a particular panel I don’t have for you here in which, after a moment of misunderstanding resolved, Sephy reaches up to Callum’s chest with the most delicate hand gesture, their eyes meeting.

“I’m sorry.”
“So am I.”

And you just know that they’re going to be okay.

You know that, don’t you?

One of the smartest adaptations I’ve ever read, this feels neither overly abridged nor cluttered – both a real risk when transforming prose into comics, but Ian Edginton has judged it to perfection.

In terms of the ingenious reversal and what we all take for granted, one moment that particularly stuck in my mind was this, when Sephy – worriedly and with genuine concern – asks a pale-skinned Nought girl how she’s faring after being bashed about with a brick:

“How’s your head?”
“It’s okay. Thanks for asking.”
“That plaster’s a bit noticeable.”
“They don’t sell pink plasters. Only brown ones.”

I’ll let that sink in, if I may.

I could go on for pages – another real risk when this is not printed on paper – but you need to discover this for yourselves. I’m hugely indebted to its artist John Aggs for taking the time and trouble to send me interior art which I couldn’t find anywhere online.

*Sadly the word used was not ‘dagger’. But you get the gist.

If you dehumanise others then you dehumanise yourself.

SLH

Buy Noughts & Crosses: The Graphic Novel and read the Page 45 review here

Sunny vol 5 h/c (£16-99, Viz) by Taiyo Matsumoto.

SUNNY’s a series we love so much we’ve reviewed every volume.

It has the capacity to win your heart and then break it over and over again.

Episodic in nature, with six self-contained chapters in each book with a beginning, middle and end, it’s centred round a communal Japanese foster home and focuses on the children taken into its care… often by their parents. Who leave them there. Permanently.

Here, for example, we finally find out how imaginative, excitable and rebellious, ash-haired Haruo was introduced to the rest of his life:

“Haruo thought he was being taken to an amusement park or something. He was so confused. What a mess… A lot of the kids get told stuff like that when they come. They start freaking out, hanging onto their parents. I guess they can feel something bad’s coming.”

Yeah. Like being left there, permanently. His parents stayed overnight but by morning were gone, leaving Haruo to run around screaming all day in search of them. Maybe twice a year he receives a visit from his mother. Haruo associates her with the smell of Nivea and to this day he carries a tin of it everywhere in his pocket, bringing it out from time to time to sniff.

Smell is something snot-nosed Junsuke also associates with his mother. In his case the smell is of hospitals, for Junsuke’s mother is so ill that she’s been lying in one for what seems like forever. When Junsuke catches a cold this volume – a real stinker – he’s taken to a much closer hospital against his fervently expressed wishes… but then relaxes once he’s there because with that smell in the air he can imagine his mother being right by his side.

(Quick note: this manga reads from right to left. Would you look at that downpour? I’m drenched!)

What impresses one above all, then, is the resilience of these young individuals, and the kindness of the carers like Miss Mitsuko, Makio and his grand-father who modestly suffixes all his life lessons with the qualifier “That’s what I think.” Miss Mitsuko takes the trouble to get Junsuke’s bed-ridden mother on the phone, if only for a few moments, to reward his mental resourcefulness.

Ah, resourcefulness too! Quiet, studious and bespectacled Sei’s had enough, waiting for the proverbial train that never comes: not a single visit. So he copies out the transit timetables he finds in the home and makes meticulous notes on his own plan of action which you will only discover afterwards, and his honour may make you cry. Can you imagine what it’s like to be told this: first that your mother has disappeared, asked not be traced, then…

“Your dad changed jobs, so he had to move. So no one’s even in the apartment you used to live in.”

In a perfect piece of storytelling the panels close in from Sei and Makio’s granddad on opposite sides of a low Japanese coffee table to Sei silently absorbing the news, to Sei with his eyes shut, and then darkness.

 

Equally poignant is the visit from Megumu’s Auntie and Uncle. Rumour is rife round the home that they plan to adopt her. As we’ve learned from SUNNY VOL 3, Megumu’s mother is quite dead and they are the last hope she has. What a wonderful couple they are, both tireless in a patience which you may consider sorely tried if it wasn’t for their unconditional love. Still, it proves quite the weekend and you do know that I’m prone to misdirection, don’t you?

As I’ve written before the presentation of the children in SUNNY is far more raw than you might expect if all you know of Japanese comics is the sugar-buzz adrenaline rush of the shouty-shouty, wide- and glossy-eyed brigade. This scruffy lot are infinitely more human, the art more humane so you can’t help but care. There is both a fragility and a fractiousness here both in the art and in the heart of its antagonists. Take Haruna, not from the orphanage, but caught as if by a fishing fly in less than salubrious circumstances.

“Everything I do goes wrong.
“It really sucks.”

Haruna does try, sometimes, she really does. But she’s not exactly her own best friend; she can be belligerent to the point when a teacher sighs…

“You’ll have to warn me next time you decide to attend. I’m not dressed for foul weather.”

SLH

Buy Sunny vol 5 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Tim Ginger (£14-99, Top Shelf) by Julian Hanshaw…

“So your book. I have to be honest, I didn’t know you could do that with comics. I guess I’m a bit old fashioned. Thinking of the strips I used to read in the base newspapers.”
“It’s a brave new world out there, Tim.”

Indeed it is!

Well, well, well, hasn’t Julian Hanshaw come a long way since the crowd-splitting THE ART OF PHO? This is one of the best written pieces of graphic novel fiction I have read this year, and the art is rather good too.

Tim Ginger is passing his twilight days living in a trailer in a deserted caravan park in the middle of the desert in New Mexico. A former test pilot, replete with eye patch, his only hobby these days is his cricket played with a group of ex-pats at a nearby field they lovingly set up for matches. His beloved wife Susan passed away a long time ago, and he seems content to see out his days sitting drinking a few beers outside his trailer during the day, and gazing at the near-infinite number of stars in the clear desert sky at night.

The only thing that might tempt him to break his regime is his publisher Mike, who is always trying to get him on the lucrative sci-fi and comic convention circuit. For you see, during Tim’s last tragic flight to the edge of space, something happened. Something strange and inexplicable, that he wrote a book about, which was hugely successful with UFOlogists and conspiracy theory nuts.

Unfortunately for Tim, given his position that there are certain matters he isn’t at liberty to speak about due to his military background, there are those who still believe he knows much more than he revealed. So when he agrees to do some conventions, one such nut, Karl, begins to hound him and chastise him for his part in perpetuating the ‘big cover-up’.  He’s particularly enraged when Tim reveals he’s working on a follow-up book… about cricket. There’s a wonderful scene, that neatly conveys how cleverly written this work is, where Karl is sat in the audience at a panel Tim is speaking on and takes his opportunity to cross-examine Tim in public. Tim’s reply blows Karl’s mind…

“Do you really want to know the truth, Karl?
“About the universe.
“And still be stuck in supermarket queues.
“Or waiting on the end of a phone to some call center on the other side of the world?
“Or. Why not just kill yourself?
“Hurry up the moment of enlightenment.
“Fast-track it.
“Or perhaps that’s a leap of faith too far?
“And you know what, Karl?
“The real kicker?
“The government are no smarter than you.
“Trust me.
“They can’t believe society manages to tick over as it does. And there isn’t rioting in the streets.
“They do their four years.
“Fill their pockets.
“Get on some quasi non-governmental body.
“And pray it doesn’t all go tits up.
“On their watch.
“We worry too much.
“I still worry too much.
“There is already too much information out there.
“Live the life you love, Karl.
“Choose a God you trust.
“And don’t take it all so seriously.”

The scene then cuts to Karl, still sat in a deserted auditorium, immobile, eyes staring into the distance, hours later, as the light is eventually turned off.

So where does the opening quote about comics come into it then? Well, whilst on the convention circuit, Tim runs into Anna, a member of his ground crew who used to prep his planes for his flights. She’s written a book too, a graphic novel as it happens, the true stories of various people who have chosen not to have children and why. People like her and her ex-husband Chuck, and indeed Tim and Susan, who were the only ones of their wide circle of friends on the military base who made that choice. Which firmly cemented their mutual friendship as the rest of their friends got embroiled in the day to day minutiae of kids.

Anna separated from Chuck a long time ago, and truth be told, Tim and Anna always had an unspoken, unacted-upon, mutual attraction. Anna would be interested in rekindling those romantic feelings, but Tim isn’t over the loss of Susan, whom he dearly loved, and nor is he fully over what happened on the edge of the atmosphere that day. For something quite remarkable did happen. Something that he only ever shared with Susan.

Ahh, what a fabulous story this is! I was absolutely gripped from start to finish. I was so intrigued by Tim’s story, what exactly did happen to him up there, and were he and Anna going to get their happy ending? There are some wonderful twists and reveals Julian throws in mid-way, (the eye patch has two of its own!!) which only add to the poignancy of Tim’s tragically reclusive lifestyle choice. The art is really excellent too, entirely in keeping with the tone of the work. Julian reminds me of Michael DeForge quite a bit, though without the surrealism. I love the gentleness and subtlety of people’s expressions he captures. This is going to end up on my top five books of the year list for sure.

JR

Buy Tim Ginger and read the Page 45 review here

Poetry Is Useless h/c (£22-50, Drawn & Quarterly) by Anders Nilsen.

“Everything I needed to know about life I learned from opening other people’s mail.”

That sets the tone perfectly. Also:

“Why can’t we just get along
“Stick and beat each other senseless?”

Additionally:

“A bird in the hand is better than a horse in the mouth.”

It’s not necessarily the most profound proverb, but it’s clearly inarguable.

These are Anders Nilsen’s notebooks full of cartoons and comics bursting with mirth and wholly intentional bathos.

“The entirely of world history, yes, including Napoleon and the Black Plague, has led to this moment, in the grocery store, where you’re choosing what kind of cereal to buy.
“Don’t fuck it up.”

God and Satan are very much in evidence, God petulantly flicking his cigarette butt into Satan’s back yard. It’s silly to start a fight. The repercussions can be of quite Biblical proportions.

I think the process may be something like this: Anders reads, hears, sees or remembers something and amuses himself enormously by questioning it, often at length and in such ridiculous details that it is rendered absurd. He pokes things until they puncture, even admirable things like imagination and empathy. He can be pithy as well:

“Dear empty, lifeless void…
“Thank you for nothing.”

It’s easy to forget that the creator responsible for the haltingly moving eulogy DON’T GO WHERE I CAN’T FOLLOW and its epilogue, THE END, plus the raw, vulnerable and dreamlike DOGS AND WATER is an effortless comedian. I don’t know why: BIG QUESTIONS is one of the funniest graphic novels I’ve ever read, and his piece in the equally enormous door-stop treasure chest that is DRAWN AND QUARTELY: 25 YEARS OF CONTEMPORARY CARTOONING, COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS had me roaring with laughter. RAGE OF POSEIDON is riddled with wit.

A lot of the comics involve you being addressed by a black silhouette, which may sound a little simplistic but nothing more is required for it’s all in the timing of the speech balloons, their contents, and this is the man’s notebooks, remember? They weren’t intended for publication, but if they hadn’t been we’d be missing one of the funniest books on our shelves which fans of Tom Gauld’s YOU’RE ALL JUST JEALOUS OF MY JEPACK will adore.

There are pages of portraits accompanied by pronouncements – snippets of stupid things his oblivious models are saying – and sometimes he gets caught and adds that to the memento as well.

Graph paper appears to provoke Anders into producing patterns and shapes, usually bleeding out from the centre of his sketchbook like a techno-organic virus.

One of the funniest slices is a retort to a critic’s snotty response to BIG QUESTIONS:

“Apparently, about my last book, the philosophy one with the little birds, some comics critic said my philosophical “reach” exceeded my “grasp”.
“In answer to this criticism, I would cite the conversation Heidegger and Kirkegaard had in the Sorbonne as the first guns were erupting at the start of the First World War.
“Kirkegaard: “Is someone gonna go on a beer run?”
“Heidegger: “Where’s my pants?”
“Kirkegaard: “Cuz I have five bucks but I’m not drinking any more fucking Miller High Life.”

Coming in for a right satirical slapping are institutions like the Food And Drug Administration and poetry, obviously, which is useless.

Apart from Byron, apparently, for Anders and Lord (I think that was his first name) do agree on the whole Sorrow being Knowledge fandango – you know, “Those that know the most must mourn the deepest” etc.

“They say the unexamined life is not worth living.
“They don’t mention that the examined life can be kind of like getting dragged through the desert at the end of a rope, too.”

Amen. Excuse me, but it’s wine o’clock and oblivion calls.

SLH

Buy Poetry Is Useless h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Nearlymades: A Smattering Of Found Stories And Kipple Narratives (£9-00, Boing Graphics) by Simon Russell…

We get asked about abstract comics on a not infrequent basis and since the excellent ABSTRACT COMICS hardcover anthology went out of print, seemingly into the great abstract void of fuzzy-black-never-to-be-reprintedness without even the merest hint of brilliant-shining-tunnel-of-light back-from-the-dead softcover reprint, we have nothing to show people. Until now…

Simon Russell first came on my personal radar when he sent us his ROY (Reclaiming Lichtenstein For Comics), a lovely barbed dig at the titular plagiarist who considered ‘comics to be non-art’. My opinion, not necessarily Simon’s. We didn’t stock that, simply because it was a very mini-mini, but it showed real talent, I thought. This though, is a very different beast. Creating abstract comics is a real art form. Go too abstract and well, it becomes so subjective as to be practically meaningless.

A perfect example of a brilliant and very meaningful abstract comic would be Anders Nilsen’s ‘Event’, which only appeared in a MOME collection. It was a series of ever-increasing, coloured small rectangles, accompanied by statements like “eight events you have sent on course” and “sixteen things that would have happened but now will not”. Actually, I have a totally unique version of that work as I asked Anders to add an additional page on the blank page that followed it in my copy of MOME. He was rather tickled by that!

This collection contains 29 individual works, many one- or two-pagers, plus a few longer ones. I personally preferred the longer ones, simply because the narrative felt stronger. Some of the shorter ones tend more towards abstract art in my opinion; nothing wrong with that. I personally need a few more sequential panels to get my juices flowing with this type of material, but I definitely respect the craft that’s gone into each work, even the shorter ones. What they all are, without exception, are thought-provoking. Which is of course essential with this type of material otherwise it is pointless. The titles often provide a clue as to the theme, as does the minimal amount of text accompanying or submerged within the panels.

My favourite, a longer one, ‘Interview With Medusa’, commences and concludes with a sequence of Photoshopped coloured images of bare planks of wood, the lines of the circles through the wood running horizontally, as of course happens when you plane planks from a tree trunk. Most of each plank is a deep blue, with a single huge orange circle overlaid, each of these circles containing a knot of wood of deeper orange still. The effect is clearly meant to be of the planet Jupiter and it’s never ending, always moving, Great Red Spot dust storm. The fact that the horizontal lines are in a different position and with a different knot, as it is a separate plank each time, only adds to the illusion of the movement of the Great Red Spot and the passage of time. This collection is chock full of clever devices like that and you’ll find yourself marvelling at the construction.

So yes, next time someone asks if we have any abstract comics, we will have something to show them.

JR

Buy Nearlymades: A Smattering Of Found Stories And Kipple Narratives and read the Page 45 review here

Fante Bukowski (£9-99, Fantagraphics) by Noah Van Sciver…

“Someone told me you were trying to make it as a writer now?”
“Yeah.”
“Good luck! Me? I’m still at the firm. Actually your father just gave me a big promotion! Hey, you take care! Boy, oh, boy! What a life, huh?”
“When I’m famous I’ll crush you.”

I could very easily simply say that if you loved Dan Clowes’ portrayal of the self-proclaimed ‘people person’ WILSON you would get a real kick out of this, though stylistically the art is much closer to a tidied-up Jeffrey Brown. Fante Bukowski – real name Kelly Perkins, he changed it to make himself cooler – is absolutely desperate to be a writer. The work of his favourite writer of all time, unsurprisingly being Charles Bukowski, is seemingly his idea of how a real scribe should live too.

Consequently, he’s given up his job at a top law firm where his unimpressed father is a partner and is now living out of a cheap motel, drinking cheap booze, singularly failing to impress women, or indeed literary agents, and generally agonising about not coming up with any good ideas to write about. In other words, comedy gold in the hands of Noah SAINT COLE Van Sciver who likes his humour dark and his protagonists as flawed as a roll of cheap lino.

It reads a lot like WILSON too in the sense that each page, or sometimes two pages, is a gag strip in and of itself, always with Fante as the punchline. And so gradually we build up this unflattering portrait of a man flailing helplessly, perhaps haplessly might be a better adverb actually, against the tides of life, the ever-present fear of remaining in obscurity forever crippling his will and motivation to knuckle down to some actual writing! The occasional quote from a literary giant perched atop the next page merely compounding our opinion that Fante isn’t going to break his losing streak any time soon…

‘Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.’ – Stephen King.

But! Inspiration does strike like a bolt from the blue in the middle of the night and somehow Fante comes up with an idea, starts writing, manages to get a girl, and then even persuades an agent to take a look at his book. Surely things aren’t about to change for our hopeless hero… No, that’s right, of course they’re not! But I guarantee you that his misery is our mirth as everything falls apart once again and Fante decides a Kerouac-esque road trip is the only solution to his blues. No, that’s right, of course it’s not! But I guarantee you…

Well, you get where I’m going with this… Fante, meanwhile, is going nowhere fast.

JR

Buy Fante Bukowski and read the Page 45 review here

Island #1 (£5-99, Image) by Brandon Graham, Marian Churchland, Emma Rios, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Ludroe.

“No man is an island…” John Donne c.1623

Indeed. I have no idea whether the classic work by the metaphysical poet and cleric inspired the title for this eclectic anthology series. Be nice to think so, but who knows?! Anyway, this issue opens with a couple of double-page abstract paintings from Marian BEAST Churchland, closely followed by the first instalment of a great sci-fi ménage à trois bodyswapping yarn set against the backdrop of an unstable society beset by anarchistic riots and domestic terror outrages, simply entitled ‘I.D.’, from Emma PRETTY DEADLY Rios.

‘I.D.’ was probably my pick of the bunch from this first issue, as the three protagonists meet for a drink to begin discuss their own particular reasons for wanting to engage in this most unusual of transitions. Illustrated in a rather unusual palette of red and white, the unique feathery penmanship will be immediately familiar to anyone who has seen any of Emma’s previous work, but let me tell you, she’s an incredible writer too. I will be reading the next issue of ISLAND just to see how this story continues.

Then, an interlude of a prose memoir essay about a dear departed friend by Kelly Sue BITCH PLANET DeConnick. This thoughtful, touching reminiscence is very sweet, we’ve all had someone in our lives who have had that sort of gentle but powerful impact, and I respect the fact Brandon Graham has allowed DeConnick to eulogise about someone comics readers will never have heard of in this issue. I hope this type of piece might become a regular feature actually, I would like that.

Then, it’s straight back to sequential art based antics as we have a full thirty pages of new MULTIPLE WARHEADS madness from the man himself, before this inaugural tip of the archipelago  culminates with forty-five glorious pages of all-action vigilante undead skate punk nonsense called ‘Dagger Proof Mummy’ from someone called Ludroe. Who apparently comes from Ludlow, which is of course well known for its undead skate punk culture… Neither half of that last sentence may be entirely factually accurate.

Fans of MULTIPLE WARHEADS will be delighted, for this is Brandon right on top nonsensical form here, with all the usual visual and verbal play on word gags coming thick and fast alongside the preposterous story itself. It’s not a direct analogy by any means, but the wandering story, surrealist narrative and illustrative elements plus the colour palette made me think of Moebius’ AIRTIGHT GARAGE.

Hmm… after the recent impact the first few issues of MEANWHILE, the anthology carrying Gary Spencer Millidge’s much anticipated conclusion to STRANGEHAVEN, and now this exciting mix of tricks, it seems the periodical anthology might not be quite so dead and buried post-MOME as we had originally thought.

JR

Buy Island #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Wolf #1 (£3-99, Image) by Ales Kot & Matt Taylor.

“How do you feel about myths, Antoine?”
“I love myths.”
“You are one. And I apologise for not believing you. I hope you understand – the measures we had to take were simply business. Examining the stock, so to say.”

Ooof. Where have you heard that before?

Meet Sterling Gibson, “a well-known supporter of occasionally having black people set on fire”.

Meet Antoine Wolfe, a black person Sterling Gibson saw occasion last night to set on fire.

To be precise, he tied him into a straight-jacket and set him on fire on top of the hills overlooking Los Angeles. It took him quite some time to get as far as Mulholland and throw himself into a white celebrity’s swimming pool. Naturally Antoine is arrested. He’s black. He’s probably not as crispy as he should be, though.

 

No one who’s read Matt Taylor’s THE GREAT SALT LAKE will be remotely surprised to learn that this is beautiful to behold. The eyes particularly have it. This is important given that there’s a great deal of one-on-one confrontation going on. Antoine Woolfe has a clear head and quick wit. But so do those he’s antagonising, and I like that. He particularly enjoys antagonising those with power over others, be they lowlife thieves using mind-control to rob old ladies on buses, both literally vampiric landlords (“cuisine sucks”) or multi-millionaire businessmen who support occasionally having black people set on fire. Did I mention Antoine was barely singed?

So. Eloquent anti-authoritarian occultist detective who relishes playing verbal sabres, sticks up for the vulnerable, despises injustice and is haunted by dead friends – in his case fellow former soldiers. Did you read Alan Moore’s SWAMP THING and HELLBLAZER? As a revitalised John Constantine with a radically different accent and vocabulary, Antoine Wolfe is a joy to spend time with.

The only thing missing is the requisite spirit of place. Except it’s not missing:

“You see this city? This city is a blend. It’s desert and it’s woods and it’s ocean and it’s cheap junk and it’s expensive junk and it’s ugly and it’s beautiful and it’s fiction and it’s real.”

Once more Matt Taylor, lit by Lee Loughbridge, excels. This could not be anywhere other than Los Angeles, a city I know intimately from so many visits… err, playing Grand Theft Auto. I even enjoyed the treated photography which jarred not a jot: beautifully coloured to denote time of day with just the right degree of detail retained.

This is a big, thick issue full of big, intelligent ideas and a great deal of fun – the most accessible thing I’ve read that Kot’s written. It’s far from linear with multiple strands I’ve barely alluded to and some that I haven’t even touched. I think you’ll like his mate, Freddy Chtonic, whose face isn’t particularly well appointed for drinking coffee without a straw. Whether anyone will like the teenage girl found covered in blood between her mauled parents, I’m not sure yet. She sees very open and innocent but has a rather disturbing name and so, potentially, heritage. I think much may depend on how she is treated.

“You got kids?”
“No, sir.”
“Sometimes the only procedure that matters is empathy.”

In stock by Kot: complete runs so far on THE SURFACE and MATERIAL plus all the ZERO tpbs and CHANGE.

SLH

Buy Wolf #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Starve #1 (£2-75) by Brian Wood & Danijel Zezelj…

“Gavin Cruikshank is a name that can attract unwanted attention. It’s also a name I gave up years ago. These two things are closely related.”

With very good reason. Gavin Cruikshank was once upon a time a feted celebrity chef, with a moderately popular TV show called Starve. But personal problems – including an extremely bitter divorce with his ex-wife who was a teensy-weensy bit shocked and upset at learning the love of her life and father of her child was suddenly ready to come out of the closet – meant that just disappearing seemed like a good option, even if abandoning his daughter broke his heart.

Plus he had begun to fall out of love with cooking as well, spending increasingly less time in the kitchen and more and more in front of the cameras promoting the Cruikshank brand. To his surprise, in a world where global warming and an increased sea level has wreaked havoc upon major conurbations almost entirely at the expense of the have-nots, vanishing amongst the hoi-polloi in distant south-east Asia was far easier than he expected. Suspiciously easy, perhaps.

Except, except… in this brave new world where most of the population are struggling to find anything decent to eat, the rich have elevated the consumption of excess and fancy to obscene new levels. And thus, during his absence of several years, and quite unbeknownst to him due to his off-the-grid lifestyle, Starve has become the number one rated television programme on the planet.

It’s not the programme he left behind, though. It’s become something far more disgustingly voyeuristic than that. As those with all the money flaunt their boorish opulence with increasing abandon, Starve has practically become a culinary gladiatorial arena. These stellar ratings however, must be maintained at all costs, and so someone came up with the idea to bring back Gavin Cruikshank, to see if he could hack it in this new cut-throat competition.

So the Network tracked him down, keen to keep up the juggernaut momentum of their entertainment behemoth, politely pointing out he was legally obliged to do eight more episodes from his existing contract, then not so politely pointing out if he didn’t they would ruin his life, and oh, he wasn’t likely to see a penny of income from selling his soul once more, because his ex-wife now owned all his rights to Starve…

There are all sorts of little games at play here. I’m not sure I entirely believe the Network’s execs, his one-time colleague and rival Roman Algiers who is the current host of Starve, or Gavin’s cunning and still very bitter ex-wife, as to what is going on, and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t either. It clearly isn’t going to be as simple as that. But he decides to take up their challenge, partly to find out what is going on, also because he wants to rekindle his relationship with his now grown-up daughter, and most definitely due to the healthy pinch of egomania that every top chef needs. He wants to take them all on at their own games and beat them. He trusts his daughter implicitly, though, and I do have to wonder if that isn’t going to be his Achilles heel…

Ah, he does come up with some good concepts for stories, Brian Wood, I must say. There are all sorts of sub-pots, sorry, plots, bubbling away in the background here, but basically this is going to be a character-driven story. You can see the look and personality of Gavin has been part-inspired by the original British enfant terrible of cuisine, Marco Pierre White, and then just given that little bit of a cocktail sexuality shake up before being served with a twist on the crushed ice of a collapsing, polarised society. Sounds tasty!

I really enjoyed Danijel Zezelj’s art here. It’s mean and moody, thickly lined and darkly coloured, with Gavin Cruikshank in particular looking like a brooding serial killer who’d be as likely to carve you up as fillet a fish, and who definitely prefers his steak dripping with blood. As I say, just like Marco Pierre White then! Intriguing palette cleanser of an opening issue… now bring on the main!

JR

Buy Starve #1 and read the Page 45 review here

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

“… So all I’m saying, Robert, is that we need to get the next phase of your career sorted out. A new image, keeping up with the times. All this rave stuff’s had its day. The minute I heard that record where the fellow sings ‘Raving, I’m Raving,’ I knew it was the finish.”
“I don’t need an image, Eddie. I’m a household name. And anyway, the last time we talked about this you said punk was coming back.”
“Did I? No, it’ll not be punk, it’ll be a revival of all that gender-bender nonsense. Boy George and Marilyn , remember? You wait and see, once that RuPaul fellow starts getting records in the charts, they’ll all be swapping their trousers for tights.”
“Why don’t you just say it, Eddie: you want to see me in a bra, don’t you? You have for years you daft old tart.”

Funny how you can have a completely different perception of certain material when you re-read it. I distinctly remember this being my least favourite ‘Phase’ by some distance upon initial reading nearly twenty years ago. After the all-out superhuman war epic of ZENITH: PHASE THREE, this just felt like a massive anti-climax with a cop-out deus ex machina ending, and even the art seemed inferior in comparison.

In fact, upon reading it once again, I was struck by how fitting a conclusion it brings to the whole Zenith story, as well as being a great arc in its own right. And I appreciated the ending much more this time, more precisely a deos universi, for its cleverness (along with a certain other revelation regarding the true nature of the superhumans), especially when you realise Morrison certainly wasn’t trying to suddenly wrap things up neatly because he had no idea how to finish the story. He almost certainly had this in mind right from the very beginning.

On the art front, I do still think Steve Yeowell looks better uncoloured. I loved the stark nature of his black and white art in PHASES TWO and THREE, and most of PHASE ONE. It just seemed more angular, precise. I think some of the beauty of his illustration is lost during the colouring process employed through this volume, but I fully appreciate that others may disagree.

Anyway, following the events of PHASE THREE, the surviving superhuman community has experienced a schism. The vast majority, under the banner of the Horus Programme, led by three of the original members of Cloud 9: Lux, Spook and Voltage, are openly proposing superhumans simply take charge of the planet for their own ends, humans being an out-evolved irrelevance. On the other side, wanting to maintain the status quo and trying to help humanity is their former colleague Peter St. John, a.k.a. Mandala, now the British Prime Minister, who is backed only by Zenith and Archie the robot.

Events escalate and rapidly start to spiral out of control following a failed decapitation strike on the Horus group by mildly psychic-powered human US government agents, then the revelation I alluded to changes everything, and the reason why the main story is interspersed with the memoirs of a de-aging Dr. Michael Peyne, told from a future where the Lloigor rule a devastated earth dimly illuminated by a huge black sun, becomes all too clear…

Then there’s that ending… which as I said, is a brilliant conclusion to an early Morrison epic, which is as good as anything he’s done since, I believe, but then I did always have a soft spot for this material, it being such a radical departure for a 2000AD strip at the time. Meanwhile, in amongst all the action, you get pearls of genius comedy poking fun at the popular music nonsense of the eighties and nineties like the opening conversation between Zenith and his manager Eddie, above. In terms of blending action and comedy, it’s pitch-perfect. Unlike Zenith’s singing.

JR

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

Fables vol 22: Farewell (£13-50, Vertigo) by Bill Willingham & Mark Buckingham, various.

AKA FABLES #150.

Yes, this is the final periodical issue as well as the final trade paperback – confusing no one! I don’t envy retailers who sell it on their shelves as a monthly. Fortunately we’ve just popped it in all its lovely supporters who have a Standing Order with us!

Whether you regard FABLES as a hit or a myth, you cannot deny its longevity!

Twenty-two collected editions, two or three original graphic novels, one prose novel and several spin-off series, all of which you can find on our FABLES web page or on our shelves with the rest of the Vertigo books, just past the till on the left! We even have those Diamond has long considered out of print!

That was a Public Service Announcement on behalf of our ravenous till.

Thank you.

SLH

Buy Fables vol 22: Farewell and read the Page 45 review here

The Motorcycle Samurai vol 1: A Fiery Demise s/c (£14-99, Top Shelf) by Chris Sheridan.

“I’m not boring, fool!
“I’m a bloody riot.”

No, you’re boring.

Shockingly repetitive and life-suckingly slow, I suspect half the problem lies in its original incarnation as a digital comic: no one worked out the cost of all the paper they’d be wasting.

“Roy, it’s not every jubilation some strangers rolls into town with the fugitive brother of the town’s criminal boss in tow.”

Yet it is every ten pages on which someone will tell us so.

“Just to be clear, in case you didn’t know, you’re standing before the boss of this town, Frankie Parker. That was my brother you dumped at the sheriff’s feet.”

It was pretty clear, don’t you worry. What isn’t clear is why this page needs to exist:

“Come on. Just don’t let this turn out like that time in Chino.”
“With that old fool of a sword swallower?”
“”That was nothing like this, Chuck.”
“Exactly.”

I don’t understand.

SLH

Buy The Motorcycle Samurai vol 1: A Fiery Demise 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.

The Divine (£14-99, FirstSecond) by Boaz Lavie & Asaf Hanuka, Tomer Hanuka

Katzine Issue One (£5-50, self-published ) by Katriona Chapman

Katzine Issue Two (£5-50, self-published) by Katriona Chapman

Nearlymades: A Smattering Of Found Stories And Kipple Narratives (£9-00, self-published) by Simon Russell

Haunter (£10-99, Study Group Comics) by Sam Alden

Leaf (£18-99, Fantagraphics) by Daishu Ma

Not Funny Ha Ha (£12-99, Fantagraphics) by Leah Hayes

Sshhhh! (£12-99, Fantagraphics) by Jason

Steven Universe vol 1 (£10-99, Kaboom) by Jeremy Sorese & Coleman Engle

The Diary Of Teenage Girl (£13-99, Random House / Vertical) by Phoebe Gloeckner

Meat Cake (£16-99, Fantagraphics) by Dame Darcy

Wasteland vol 11: Floodland (£14-99, Oni) by Antony Johnston & Christopher Mitten

Zero vol 4: Who By Fire s/c (£10-99, Image) by Ales Kot & Ian Bertram, Stathis Tsemberlidis, Robert Sammelin, Tula Lotay

Batgirl vol 5: Deadline s/c (£13-50, DC) by Gail Simone, Marguerite Bennett & Fernando Pasarin, various

Hawkeye vol 4: Rio Bravo s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Matt Fraction & David Aja, Chris Eliopoulos, Francesco Francavilla

Inhuman vol 3: Lineage s/c (£9-99, Marvel) by Charles Soule & Ryan Stegman, Andre Araujo

Rocket Raccoon vol 2: Storyteller (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Skottie Young & Filipe Andrade, Jake Parker

Spider-Man 2099 vol 2: Spider-Verse (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Peter David & Will Sliney

Bleach vol 64 (£6-99, Viz) by Tite Kubo

Master Keaton vol 3 (£12-99, Viz) by Naoki Urasawa

Monster Perfect Edition vol 5 (£12-99, Viz) by Naoki Urasawa

Fairy Tail vol 49 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor vol 1: Revolutions Of Terror (£10-99, Titan) by Nick Abadzis

News!

ITEM! Rare, hilarious CEREBUS treasures by Dave Sim have been animated, appropriately enough, online!

Dave Sim’s Animated Cerebus Portfolio: A Well Equipped Bar

Dave Sim’s Animated Cerebus Portfolio: Add One Mummified Bat

Dave Sim’s Animated Cerebus Portfolio: His First Sword

ITEM! Creator of the British Comic Awards-winning, Young Readers HILDA graphic novels, that Luke Pearson has a glorious revamped website. Oh yes! Read Luke Pearson’s entire ADVENTURE TIME comic here!

ITEM! From the creator of online comicbook marvel THE FIRELIGHT ISLE (get your gawping gear around that!), Paul Duffield writes a second clear and considered essay on ‘Comics And The Value Of Language’. Ever wondered what happened when a sequence in a comic seemed not quite right? Or even the entire thing? Paul explores the ways in which things can go wrong and the root causes of why. Clue: this is a visual medium!!!

We’ve something rather special coming from Paul any day now.

ITEM! Comicbook creators Sean Phillips, Dave Gibbons, Bryan Talbot, Jonathan Edwards, Sarah McIntyre with Philip Reeve and more re-create the Lakes District for The Lakes International Comic Art Festival in October in “Wish You Were Here – Postcards from the Edge of Reality”. Click on that link to see the full collection!

Each is naturally very different in tone and style, but the below unmistakeably belongs to Poblin-creator Jonti Edwards, doesn’t it!

 - Stephen

 Page 45 Reviews written by Stephen & Jonathan then edited by a clapped-out cassowary on ketamine

 

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews July 2015 week four

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015

Racism, crime and commandeering! Vast Baroque architecture, mountaineering, life in the Lebanon, a stroll through the woods! Moomins, Martians, dragons, giant space robots and the best ADVENTURE TIME comic ever!

News underneath: substantial previews of new comics by Hannah Berry, Marian Churchland, Jennifer Hayden & more!

High Crimes h/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Christopher Sebela & Ibrahim Moustafa.

“The key is to commit: no matter how dumb or doomed it seems.”

Alternatively:

“Please don’t be dead, Sully. I still want to pull your secrets out, one tooth at a time.”

Either of those should give you idea of the flavour of the climb ahead of you. At 200 full-colour pages saturated with former Olympic snowboard medallist’s Suzanne Jensen’s internal monologue recalling her fall from grace during her ascent of Everest while fleeing one fuck-load of armed and highly trained trouble, it is a dense and intense read well worth your fifteen quid.

Almost all of this takes place during that painful, laborious and desperate crawl during which it is most emphatically impressed upon you how many and severe are the dangers even if you don’t have an American black ops faction fixing to fix you once and for all. The more impatient element in me wanted Zan and the story to get a bloody move on but anything swifter would have been doing a disservice to the experience: climbing a mountain like Everest is punishingly and perilously arduous and is going to take page after page after page.

“Perilously arduous”? Just look at all the bodies! I hadn’t thought of that: it has never occurred to me how many bodies litter the snowscape, unclaimed, because although climbing a peak that high above sea level is so close to impossible that so few have done it, getting down alive, once exhausted, is much harder still. Carrying down the deceased? Forget it!

This is HIGH CRIMES’ premise, its pivotal plot point and – before I forget to allude to it later – will prove a vital resource.

Like LAZARUS’ Greg Rucka (steaming with professional jealously during his introduction) I’m in awe with how much already extant knowledge then further research Sebela has not just packed into but utilised to full effect during the uphill struggle of this gruelling graphic novel. Speaking of packed, how many meanings do you imagine a title can hold? Just take a look at those three covers I’ve selected out of so many more.

 

 

Not only does each tell an extensive story in its own right (as do all the others) but they are immaculately composed by artist Ibrahim Moustafa and all reproduced within along with additional promotional design work carefully coordinated with and instigated by Sebela himself. My point is this: if “the key is to commit” then these two have unlocked the motherload. There are no half-measures here.

So:

Haskell Price is a vulture. While in the guise of a guide aiding wealthy explorers to reach summits, he loots the well preserved corpses of those long left behind in the snow. He carefully bags a few items of interest, then severs a hand. Once back in Nepal’s Kathmandu he pays a bent police officer to identify the hands’ owners by way of finger prints. Price then contacts the deceased’s nearest and dearest to demand a fee for retrieving the body itself. It’s quite a very steep fee but then it’s a very steep climb. And I know from personal experience directly related to Kathmandu that you would pay almost anything to have your loved one’s actual body back to bury. Closure, etcetera.

Suzanne Jensen is the business partner Price took under his wing when she fled the fall out of her blood tests. An Olympic snowboarding champion who won multiple medals, she failed a blood test for drugs. Not just performance-enhancing drugs, either. The media went ape-shit, the authorities closed in and demanded her medals back. She ran. Suzanne left it all behind – everything except herself, the drugs, her self-loathing and her addiction. Everything, in essence, that could continue to haunt her: Suzanne left nothing behind. She’s a wreck.

Haskell Price scavenges the body of a man called Sullivan Mars. It’s just another body, yet another corpse he will identify by its finger prints which will be known only to him and his corrupt cop. Except that if you want to identify finger prints then you have to go online and access a worldwide database. Does “American surveillance” ring any bells with you?

“Remember, Mars went rogue to protect the future from people like us. Let’s show him how badly he failed.”

His body’s still up there and only Price and Jensen knows where it is. Or what is on it. Or what one of them already has: Sullivan Mars’ journal.

The one thing I would warn you about is that – unlike many corporate comics’ collected editions wherein the story ends so much earlier than you were expecting because of the padding they’ve played the book out with – HIGH CRIMES is a book of false summits: you’ll think you’re nearing its apex, its end, only to discover that yet another steep climb lies ahead of you.

SLH

Buy High Crimes h/c and read the Page 45 review here

An Entity Observes All Things (£8-99, Retrofit) by Box Brown…

“The alien entered me.
“The lizard-man and I became one entity.
“Together. We. Destroyed. My ego.
“Viewing my memories without any sense of attachment.
“The lizard reduced my existence to nil.
“And then we rebuilt.
“I was moulded into my most perfect form.
“The negative ideas that once impeded me destroyed.
“My body had been remodelled.
“My chronic conditions gone.
“The lizard fixed me…
“The lizard fixed me.
“The lizard then showed me the depths of the universe.
“I say “then” as if it happened in sequence.
“But you have to understand this was all happening simultaneously.”

Of course, Box, I understand completely…! The above is about a third of a monologue from a story called The Lizard in this mind-bending collection of nine short stories, all of which definitely swing well towards the more fantastical end of the science fiction spectrum. Each one takes some bizarre conceit such as revisiting past memories as a form of therapy, a cult leader attracting followers through music and the power of social media, someone taking an abandoned giant war robot for a spin through space, or indeed being probed by an alien lizard-man flying a gigantic pyramid.

But, there’s always a devious or deviant twist in every story whether it be choosing to ignore the doctor’s implicit instructions to repeat the memory exactly, being poisoned by a weird drug, giant space robot copulation, or becoming ultra-successful and wealthy post-abduction. None of the stories without exception goes where you would expect, which I think is the primary appeal of these works. They have a real primal feel to them and pack an extremely powerful punch, which is all you can ask for from a short story.

I love the art too, usually black and white with one additional colour. He does like his black dot hatching too, our Box. Some elements of the illustration are clearly freehand in a loose style quite reminiscent of Johnny Ryan, yet these are combined in practically equal measure with figures and heads composed of perfectly straight lines, corners and circles that look like they could be Chris Ware’s warm-up material.

Also, there are some incredibly elaborate buildings and detailed structures that defy all architectural logic. Somehow, it all comes together perfectly to produce a style as fascinating as it is unique in its totality. In comparison to his far more controlled and composed ANDRE THE GIANT, this compilation looks more like he’s emptied out of the contents of his mental sketchbook and then decided to compose stories ad hoc from the various components. I like it lot! Also, each title page comes with a drawing of a different giant robot, every single one of which looks like it could batter all the Transformers and the Decepticons put together!

JR

Buy An Entity Observes All Things and read the Page 45 review here

The End Of Summer (Signed & Sketched In) (£9-99, Avery Hill) by Tillie Walden.

Well, would you just look at this architecture!

Vast arches, vaulted ceilings and windows several storeys high; classical statues set inside concave bays; halls which conclude with the opulence of a Roman cathedral’s chapel. Could you get more Baroque than this?

Then there’s the ethereal air, nightgowns and all that time spent in bed; an indoor lake on which the children go sailing; and a giant cat called Nemo.

Winsor McCay, anyone?

This is a family home! Also a haven from a three-year winter during which the doors must remain firmly closed, but for a sanctuary it doesn’t seem very safe. It’s cold and it’s hard and there will be conflicts and confinements. I don’t think this family is very healthy at all.

Quite apart from the fact that young Lars is dying. I’m not sure of what but he seems rather sickly, consumptive. He appears to be fading away. His closest relationship is with his sister, Maja, but that’s also going to run into trouble. As I say, not the healthiest of families.

He’s comforted by that giant cat which – when it’s not carrying Lars on its back – is constantly curled up like a gigantic, fluffy, white pillow which is what Lars uses it as.

To be honest I wasn’t sure what was happening towards the end. It’s all very rarefied and the family far from distinctive. But it’s very beautiful with the crispest of architecture which boasts the most enormous sense of space and attendant frigidity. You can almost hear the echoes.

Our current copies have the most swoonaway sketches of snoozing cats inside.

SLH

Buy The End Of Summer (Signed & Sketched In) and read the Page 45 review here

Moomin And The Martians (£6-99, Enfant) by Tove Jansson.

“But how can there be room for a Martian in a flying saucer?” asks Moominmamma.

She eyes her dirty dishes at the sink, incredulously.

Are you traumatised by new technology? Does nano-bling and digital do-da baffle you to the point where they might as well be magic, their means of operation a heart-sinking, hair-tearing mystery? Welcome to my world! That I can actually format these reviews in WordPress and populate them with size-adjusted interior art is a minor miracle, true testament to the teaching prowess (and patience) of Jonathan and Dee.

Family Moomin is about to experience extreme bewilderment, for the Martians have landed! Well, one of them has. He’s a funny little fellow the colour of coal with a head so fuzzy he looks as if he’s stuck his fingers into an electricity socket. He appears to be wearing a glass gas lamp globe. Twin springs dangle down on either side or sit up straight in be-startlement.

He’s a classic piece of Jansson design (which you can admire aplenty in the back of the MOOMIN DELUXE SPLIPCASED EDITION) with big, expressive eyes, at once mysterious and ridiculous and entirely at odds with clichés of the day, as Moomintroll discovers when he roots out his old science fiction book as reference.

Anyway, the little chappy’s innocuous enough: it’s the box of wires and cogs and bulbs and buttons the Moomins find in his spaceship that cause all the mayhem. They don’t come with instructions so learning how it works will have to a question of trial and error. Well, mostly error. Mrs. Fillyjonk’s cow will never be the same.

If Tove has anything social to say this time round, it’s pretty brief and right at the beginning when Moomintroll is given a hand-me-down transistor radio which doesn’t work to begin with but he doesn’t really mind: he just admires its complicated looking inner gubbins. I had precisely that experience myself way back then.

“If you hadn’t hidden my Superstrofonic Box in the baking oven I would have learned English a week ago.”

If Moominmamma had hidden the Martian’s Superstrofonic Box in the baking oven the second she found it, this entire fiasco could have been averted. The laws of physics are in for a right battering. I’m not sure having a luminous police force is an entirely positive development.

SLH

Buy Moomin And The Martians and read the Page 45 review here

Moomin Complete Lars Jansson Comic Strip vol 10 h/c (£14-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Lars Jansson.

“I would never watch TV. Strictly a plebeian pastime!”
“Oh, we don’t watch it, either.”
“What do you do with it, then?”
“We bought it for a sideboard.”
“Between vulgarity and snobbishness there’s really little to choose.”

Ha! Typically of the Jansson siblings there is much mirthful social commentary here on what was then a boom in square-eyed covetousness and obsession, but equally typically of the Moomin family they fall into it quite by accident when Moominpappa is persuaded to buy a television set as the latest thing to put ornaments on! Initially they’re oblivious to its true function and wonder why there’s no room inside to store crockery inside. Like so much they encounter it is an enigma to them.

Once Moominpappa does tune in, however, he’s swiftly turned on and completely drops out of regular family activity and interaction, so desperate is he not to miss out on a single minute or new development. He snubs the spectacle of cranes flocking outside in favour of a TV programme on birdwatching and misses a meteorological marvel outside because there are waves on the gogglebox instead. Does any of this seem familiar, much? Snorkmaiden starts judging her beloved Moomintroll by soap opera standards, conflicting advertisements for competing washing powder brands cause chaos in the household as they try to keep up with the paid-to-praise Joneses, and Lars Jansson essentially invents TiVo decades before its time.

The biggest recognition box I ticked, however, was everyone and everything cordially inviting themselves round to watch TV and in doing so displacing the Moomins, and then when Moominmamma offers them coffee they hiss:

“Ssh! Must you talk?”

Black, white and brilliant. Also in for a skewering: Beatniks. Their dance one of the funniest things Lars has ever drawn!

SLH

Buy Moomin Complete Lars Jansson Comic Strip vol 10 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Strange Fruit #1 (£2-99, Boom!) by Mark Waid & J.G.Jones.

In which I get to haul out one of my two favourite words, “serendipity” (the other being “parenthetically”), for although this comic was written and drawn many months ago it is right now that the confederate flag is hitting the news big-time as a public display of racism.

In light of which, the full-page punchline will have you grinning from ear to ear with glee. Best use of a confederate flag ever, and it could not possible be better placed!

“It’s 1927 in the town of Chatterlee, Mississippi, drowned by heavy rains. The Mississippi River is rising, threatening to break open not only the levees, but also the racial and social divisions of this former plantation town.”

So many prejudices are given a fetid airing here, balanced by acts of bravery and if you thought you already loved WANTED’s J.G. Jones art, you will weep in adoration at the glory within.

 

 

The first few pages I have for you here are meticulously painted and ever so lambent they are too, but even they are completely outclassed by the thrilling compositions of the final nine pages and their raw, physical beauty. On top of the impeccable, muscular neo-classical physique, the weight of a hefty tree trunk, the folds in the robes of the Ku Klux Klan and a purple stormy sky crackling with lightning, there are two perspectives of phenomenal power shot from below then a double-page spread split into radial panels worthy of Neal Adams (except these actually work better – *cough*) to present a monumental sense of movement.

Think I’m laying it on a bit thick? I really am not.

What you might infer from the above is a distinct change of pace and perhaps even genre within, for this wasn’t what I was expecting. I was expecting straight historical fiction, and I’m trying to imply that there’s more than one reason why fans of Mark Waid and Alex Ross’ KINGDOM COME will love this.

My first clue was the comet streaking across the sky.

La la la… leaving it there

SLH

Buy Strange Fruit #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Four Eyes vol 1: Forged In Flames s/c (£7-50, Image) by Joe Kelly & Max Fiumara.

Dragons are a draw.

If we harbour so much love for creatures long lost – the giant lizards of yore whose haunting, hollow, excavated skeletons loom so impressively over our heads in natural history museums, catalysing the human imagination and a deep-seated regret – how much more romantic is our notion of the winged beasties which never existed?

Freed from the confines of both biology and physics, these dazzlingly hued, fire-breathing, multiformed majesties have taken wing in our hearts and minds since mythologies began. However ferocious their threat, they’ve often been imbued with a certain nobility – hence perhaps the designated rank and heroic calibre of their various nemeses, and their pride of place on the Welsh national flag. There’s also an aspect of tragedy involved, perfectly evoked here.

 

There aren’t enough decent dragon comics. Fewer still are those that do something different with them, like this, and it’s full of heart right to the very last page.

Speaking of “different”, I applaud the aesthetic decision to bleach this book of its former colour which throws focus onto its intricate line work and the gigantic forms which fill so many pages with their tough and rough hide. It’s certainly not a commercial decision. Some customers are so averse to black and white graphic novels that I have to sell them with a set of coloured pencils. The grey tone is gorgeously warm, as is the bronze effect reserved for two specific elements: the young lad’s thick leather handling gloves… and the dragon he handles.

It’s set firmly in New York of the 1930s during The Great Depression when on both sides of the Atlantic the economies fell apart, welfare was slashed, unemployment rocketed and what employment there was could often be described as slave labour given the wage cuts and individuals’ desperation for any way to pay for their next meal. FOUR EYES manages to reflect its social setting with power and compassion.

Ten-year-old Enrico is enjoying a rare day on the beach with both his parents. If you could find work you certainly didn’t shirk it, so for his dad to be there, towering above his sandcastles, that means the world to him.

“We have had a good year. I know because Mama has stopped crying so much. Papa found new work. Steady work. With real pay. “The Lord provides,” he says, always with a smile, like he’s telling a joke. I don’t know what his work is. When I ask, he always says “Taking care of you and Mama is my job.” Then he tickles me and we laugh. Mama doesn’t laugh with us.”

That’s because she knows what her husband’s work is, and who he works for. Enrico is about to find out too, and then his job will be looking after Mama because he makes a terrible mistake he couldn’t possibly recognise as the mistake that it is, and his world comes crashing down around him.

I liked Enrico, and I understood where he was coming from: his burning desire to provide for a mother who is far too beholden to others for comfort. Also, his fear of the enormous beasts, nesting in their subterranean lairs – they’re terrifying to behold and Joe Kelly does a cracking job of building your trepidation in advance through their handler’s stern warnings of what to do and what not to do if you start to smell methane.

But there’s a newspaper page in the back of the book which is worth reading quite early on, convincingly explaining the relationship between the human population and the rarely spotted, rarely threatening but brutally treated dragons, used and abused in the same we as we do other animals, by making them fight for sport and gambling. Enrico has a lot of learning to do, and the final issue here was the clincher for me. There better be more.

SLH

Buy Four Eyes vol 1: Forged In Flames s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Through The Woods (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Faber & Faber) by Emily Carroll.

Long out of print, this review would obviously be higher up if we hadn’t already published it for the hardcover. Here we go, then…

Emily Carroll has a thing for teeth. I wish she didn’t. It’s very upsetting.

And I don’t mean just jagged teeth, but teeth where there ought not to be, doing things which they shouldn’t. Wobbling teeth are most worrisome of all: imagine what lies behind.

Also present and most incorrect: woods, caves, families and intruders – infesting your house, inhabiting your body and eating away at your soul.

It’s the not-quite-right taking a turn for the oh-my-god-no!

Eerie and chilling, this Victorian brand of horror owes less to the likes of RACHEL RISING or FATALE and much, much more both in tone and style to THE HIDDEN’s Richard Sala and especially MEATCAKE’s Dame Darcy. The protagonists are called Janna, Yvonne, Mary and Mabel, and they all have pert, pointy noses and long, slender fingers. There is the same sense that anything can happen on the page: the countryside may suddenly loom at a tilted angle, the path snaking through it becoming representational (of both space and the time taken to travel it); colouring may bleed outside its boundaries; the wail of a tortured soul may curl across the glossy paper forming the very gutter between its pitch-black panels haunted by past deeds in bright white and electric blue. As with Dame Darcy, lettering plays an integral part in the art and storytelling.

In ‘A Lady’s Hands Are Cold’ the not-quite-right is signalled early on by the intense flush on a young girl’s face as she sits in nervous trepidation at the other end of a vast, opulently laid dining table to the man her father has told her to marry. He, we never see but for the back of his head and a mouth into which he slides slabs of rare, juice-dribbling meat he has stabbed and cut with a two-pronged fork and carving knife. The oh-my-god-no is not far behind.

Another features a brother taking credit where far from due. Jealousy often goes unnoticed.

Then there are three sisters left to fend for themselves when their father goes hunting. In the woods, of course, but for what is uncertain. He says he’ll be gone for three days but warns them to leave the house and seek their neighbour’s if he fails to return on schedule. He fails to return on schedule. Things fall apart.

A Victorian parlour prank becomes more successful than anyone ever wanted it to. Two life-long friends find themselves at odds, and one starts seeing the most terrifying spectre I have ever laid eyes on because of what I laid eyes on. This one’s not as transparent as most.

A stylish soon-to-be-sister-in-law plays host to… No, there we will not go.

Nor will we go through the woods now that we are safely back home.

“Oh, but you must travel through those woods again and again,” said a shadow at the window.
“And you must be lucky to avoid the wolf every time…
“But the wolf… the wolf only needs enough luck to find you once.

SLH

Buy Through The Woods (UK Edition) s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Baddawi (£14-99, Just World Books) by Leila Abdelrazaq…

No, not a biography of the ground-breaking television and radio journalist Zeinab Badawi, but a coming of age biography about a Palestinian boy called Ahmad raised in a refugee camp in northern Lebanon. This work has been compared to the likes of PERSEPOLIS, MUNNU: A BOY FROM KASHMIR and FORGET SORROW: AN ANCESTRAL TALE. It’s good, but I certainly wouldn’t put it on a par with those works.

Much like FORGET SORROW: AN ANCESTRAL TALE, this story is recounted by the protagonist’s daughter, young Ahmad being creator Leila Abdelrazaq’s father. His story, of life growing up effectively in exile in Lebanon, displaced from Palestine and unable to return, is undoubtedly one of hardship, certainly. But also of the adaptability and ingenuity of children forced to grow up fast under those tough conditions. Ahmad and his school chums still managed to have fun, despite the deprivation. Part one spans 1959-1969 and covers his time in the camps.

In part two from 1970-1975, the family moved to Beirut as Ahmad’s father got a job managing an apartment building, and this period of Ahmad’s life was, by and large, relatively content and comfortable, despite the rising political tensions that would eventually break out into a brutal fifteen-year civil war in 1975. The third part of the book covers the first five years of the war as Ahmad gradually came to the conclusion that to create any sort of future for himself he needed to get out of Lebanon and go and study overseas. The ever-present danger of bombings and shootings punctuated these times, as friends and family were lost to the escalating sectarian conflict.

Where this work does succeed is in raising awareness of the human cost of this period to a very put-upon community, the Palestinians, something which obviously continues to this day. But I have to say, I didn’t feel anywhere as engaged as with PERSEPOLIS, MUNNU: A BOY FROM KASHMIR and FORGET SORROW: AN ANCESTRAL TALE. It might be because it felt a little disjointed at times, in comparison to some of those other works. In places it felt more like a collection of anecdotes than a seamless narrative, though I appreciate it is extremely difficult when compiling a biographical work, also referencing historical events, of what to put in and what to leave out. Similarly the art is nice enough, if relatively basic. The closest comparison that springs to mind is it looks a little bit like David B, though not as good.

I’m glad Leila Abdelrazaq has taken the time to create this memoir, because I do personally believe that anything which help maintains general public awareness of what the Palestinian diaspora has been, and is going through, is a very good thing. But I don’t believe this work will achieve the widespread acclaim of PERSEPOLIS.

JR

Buy Baddawi and read the Page 45 review here

Adventure Time: Graybles Schmaybles s/c (£7-99, Titan) by Danielle Corsetto & Bridget Underwood…

“I’ll bet you schmaybles would like to know the theme of today’s graybles! Since it’s your first time, let’s review some hints. Are you ready?”

Ha, I was wondering if Cuber was going to turn up! This is by far the closest any ADVENTURE TIME comics material has come to feeling exactly like an episode of the cartoon phenomenon of a generation. If you’re a fan of the show, you’ll exactly know what a grayble is, why there are always five of them, and how indeed there is always a connecting theme. I didn’t guess what the theme was either, until Cuber revealed all, which made me smile. It’s a tricky one!

For those of you who have absolutely no idea what I’m going on about, a grayble is a short story. There have been several episodes of Adventure Time presented by Cuber (who is from the future) where he pulls out a holo-pyramid, presents five stories from ‘days of old’, and breaks the fourth wall by inviting us, the audience, to try and guess the theme.

Why Cuber calls stories graybles, your guess is as good as mine, but much like the graybles TV episodes, this OGN was great fun featuring most of our usual favourites: Finn, Jake, Ice King, BMO, LSP, Tree Trunks, and also a rare appearance from a personal fave, Party God, who is a huge floating Alsatian head wearing a baseball cap perched at a jaunty angle and howls about partying hard a lot. It all makes no sense, it really doesn’t, but that doesn’t matter one iota.

I wonder how long Adventure Time can continue to feel fresh and fun, I just know after six seasons of the show I’m still utterly hooked, and if the comics material continues to be of this high standard, which is entirely down to employing the writers who work on the show to do the comics – always a good idea – then I’ll keep reading them too!

JR

Buy Adventure Time: Graybles Schmaybles 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.

Fante Bukowski (£9-99, Fantagraphics) by Noah Van Sciver

Sunny vol 5 h/c (£16-99, Viz) by Taiyo Matsumoto

The Motorcycle Samurai vol 1: A Fiery Demise s/c (£14-99, Top Shelf) by Chris Sheridan

Tim Ginger (£14-99, Top Shelf) by Julian Hanshaw

A Quick Dip Into Deep Thinking: The Growing Of Dreams (£6-50) by Dori Kirchmair

Fables vol 22: Farewell (£13-50, Vertigo) by Bill Willingham & Mark Buckingham, various

William Shakespeare’s The Clone Army Attacketh h/c (£11-99, Quirk) by Ian Doescher

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

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest h/c (£22-50, Vertigo) by Stieg Larsson, Denise Mina & Andrea Mutti, Antonio Fuso

Batman: Arkham Manor vol 1 s/c (£10-99, DC) by Gerry Duggan & Shawn Crystal

Batwoman vol 6: The Unknowns s/c (£12-99, DC) by Marc Andreyko & Georges Jeanty, various

Daredevil vol 3: The Daredevil You Know s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Chris Samnee

Deadpool Classic vol 12 s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by various

Guardians Of The Galaxy vol 3: Guardians Disassembled s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis, various & Nick Bradshaw, various

Thor vol 2: Who Holds The Hammer? (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Noelle Stevenson, Don Glut, C.M. Punk & various

News!

ITEM! 8HOUSE ARCLIGHT’s Marian Churchland is interviewed with co-writer Claire Gibson and artist Sloane Leong about their new comic FROM UNDER MOUNTAINS. Interior art there too. What a cover!

You can pre-order FROM UNDER MOUNTAINS #1 from Page 45 here!

ITEM! From the creator of shiver-fest ADAMTIME (you will never take the last train home again – never!) and oh-so-British comedy BRITTEN AND BRULIGHTLY, Hannah Berry presents a substantial preview of her next graphic novel, LIVESTOCK!

ITEM! Substantial preview of Jennifer Hayden’s graphic memoir about breast cancer, gamely titled THE STORY OF MY TITS. Simone Lia agrees with me that, under these circumstances, this is possibly the best title ever.

ITEM! Illustrated interview with Tom Devlin about the exceptional 750+ page DRAWN AND QUARTELY: 25 YEARS OF CONTEMPORARY CARTOONING, COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS anthology.

My review: DRAWN AND QUARTELY: 25 YEARS OF CONTEMPORARY CARTOONING, COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS

ITEM! Preview of Rick Remender & Sean Murphy’s TOKYO GHOST.

You can pre-order TOKYO GHOST #1 from Page 45 here.

 - Stephen

Page 45 Reviews written by Stephen & Jonathan then edited by a cock-eyed chameleon which is probably a tautology, I know.

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews July 2015 week three

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015

In the news section below: Page 45 is proud to sponsor The British Comics Awards!

Bacchus Volume One Omnibus Edition s/c (£29-99, Top Shelf) by Eddie Campbell.

“Hey, deadface!”
“Are you talking to me?”
“Yeh, you, old man. What are you in for?”
“Drunk and disorderly.”
“Ha ha. You look old enough to know better.”
“Is 4000 years old enough?”

In the very first panel on the very first page “Are you talking to me?” is seen from behind bars.

I’m loving the cover over which someone’s spilled a great big bottle of burgundy. “Cheers!” salutes the sozzled old storyteller.

Fifteen years ago I wrote: “A mature, full-bodied comic with a musky, oaken flavour, which is heart-warming in the winter, but equally refreshing on a summer’s day picnic.”

“Full-bodied”?! This first half comes in at a whopping 550-pages! It’s almost as hefty as Eddie’s 640-page autobiographical ALEC OMNIBUS which I’ve long declared the single finest body of work in comics anywhere in the world to date. Fiercely literate and a phenomenally astute philosopher, he’s comics’ finest raconteur both in person and in print. He had us all howling with laughter when he performed the secret history of THE FATE OF THE ARTIST using customer Vis Pather’s young son as an impromptu prop.

 

As Neil Gaiman puts it:

“Eddie Campbell is the unsung King of comic books. The man’s a genius and that’s an end to it.”

Last year saw the release of Gaiman and Campbell’s THE TRUTH IS A CAVE IN THE BLACK MOUNTAINS as a book after being performed live by Gaiman at the Sydney Opera House with projections painted by Campbell. When Neil signed at Page 45 the first thing he did was ask for the latest instalment of BACCHUS which was being serialised for the second time as a monthly. That’s Gaiman’s idea of a rider, so he’s not making that up for the back cover.

Campbell has been recounting tales of his weather-worn demigod for decades now. Sub-titled “Immortality Isn’t Forever”, it finds the Greek god of revelry washed up 4,000 years later on strangely sympathetic modern shores in far from fine physical fettle but with his spirits still riding high. He boasts a lot of lived-in laughter lines and his turns of phrase seem to tumble effortless out of his mouth:

“I’m Bacchus. I’m a god. I’m living testimony to the fact that it’s a dying profession…
“I’m the god of wine. Once I was the bouquet promising great things. Now I’m the gritty bits at the bottom on the glass.”

And it’s as much about the stories Bacchus has to tell – of his and other gods’ escapades – as it is about Bacchus himself, who now wanders across the globe from bar to bar or beach to beach in a battered old coat and a fisherman’s cap which hides his wizened brow and his twin, stubby horns.  Wherever he roams he finds ancient friends and quite ridiculous foes, along with new devotees eager to imbibe his wisdom.

In ‘Doing The Islands With Bacchus” he encounters three naturists on holiday, corrects them on the earliest means of modesty (they weren’t fig leaves for the most part but vine leaves, of course) then embarks on a discourse about the history of fashion.

“Now the Spartans were a great mob. They were the first to appear naked at the Olympic Games…. The willy was regarded with awe.”

Two of them point to the other’s little willy.

“Awww.”
“Awww.”

Half the hilarity comes from the juxtaposition of the modern and mythological, Bacchus using contemporary vernacular like “natty dressers” and “the big cheese”. For example, while Bacchus and his acolytes are down a dockside “taverna” overlooked by an industrial crane, glugging down jugs of wine and scoffing wild mushrooms (“Amanita muscaria… that sacred mushroom: ambrosia nectar… food of the gods!”),  Joe Theseus is opening a can of coke and a packaged sandwich in an airport. Joe Theseus! Just sticking “Joe” in front of Theseus makes me laugh.

To begin with it has all those trappings of a comedy crime caper, then lobs in the most ludicrous fight scenes involving The Eyeball Kid, overly endowed with ten pairs of eyes perched on top of one another. If ever you were in doubt about the relationship between ancient gods and modern superheroes, this thrusts it right in your face. There’s even an early full-page take-down with a much burlier Bacchus than you’d suspect once the coat comes off launching himself at his assailant which could be – and was almost certainly directly inspired by – Jack Kirby inked by Vince Colletta on THOR.

 

“I wanted to mock the improbability of a big sprawling adventure while still having one,” writes Campbell in the introduction. It’s something he’d return to much later on in THE AMAZING REMARKABLE MONSIEUR LEOTARD.

Another early flourish finds Bacchus striding through sheets of rain at night. As the grizzled god looks up into the downpour in close-up it’s impossible not to flash forward in time to similar scenes in Frank Miller’s SIN CITY VOLUME 1, only this is much less clinical and infinitely wetter. Which is what rain should be, really.

Basically, this: if you think you know all there is to know about Eddie Campbell as an artist from the ALEC OMNIBUS, FROM HELL, THE FROM HELL COMPANION, THE FATE OF THE ARTIST, THE LOVELY HORRIBLE STUFF, THE PLAYWRIGHT etc., you’re in for some startling surprises. Yes, you’ll recognise his fine line and particular style of portraiture but here you’ll find a far, far wider range of renderings, organic textures and experimental special effects than in any other of his works even – given how big this book is – on a whittled-down page-per-page ratio.

This is the material with which Mark first introduced me to Campbell’s craft twenty-five years ago (admittedly there wasn’t much more to choose from back then other than early ALEC and In The Days Of The Ace Rock’n’Roll Club) because I shared the same passion for wine, Greek mythology and have been obsessed by Bacchus, Pan et al since the age of fourteen. I fell head over heels in love immediately with this mind-bogglingly novel approach which manages the neat trick of being both wholly irreverent and completely faithful. Its greatest fidelity, perhaps, is to the Greeks’ art of storytelling and their reverence of it.

Collects Immortality Isn’t Forever, The Gods of Business, Doing The Islands With Bacchus, The Eyeball Kid: One Man Show and Earth, Water, Air & Fire, with new introductions to each. Additional writing by Wes Kublick, substantial art contribution by Ed Hillyer, with bits by Pete Mullins and – haha! – I thought I saw SWAMP THING’s Steve Bissette in some of those roots and monsters. Page 325 was my biggest clue when you get there. If I’m wrong then the yolk’s on me.

SLH

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

Moose (£12-99, Conundrum International) by Max De Radigues…

“Why are you doing this?”
“I think you know.”
“But nobody’s even watching.”
“Well… I started to get a kick out of it, with or without an audience…”

We eventually find out the real reason why Joe is getting mercilessly and remorselessly bullied by Jason. He has two mothers, which in such a small parochial town is obviously sufficiently outré as to be different enough from the supposed ‘norm’ to get picked on. Jason is clearly getting sadistic thrills out of his treatment of Joe, possibly even sexually so, given a certain turn of events towards the end of the book. So you suspect that if it hadn’t been Joe’s atypical family setup, then there would have some other equally inconsequential reason found for Jason’s victimisation of him.

It’s the sheer relentless, inescapability of the bullying which will break your heart, no matter how Joe tries to avoid his tormentor by wandering through waist-deep snow-filled fields and woods, for example, which is where we learn of his affinity for nature and we also see the titular moose. All this so as to avoid catching the schoolbus, Jason having ‘reserved’ the seat directly in front of him for Joe, to allow the maximum torture potential…

Joe’s trapped, of course, by the code of silence, that unspoken childhood rule that you shouldn’t tell the teachers on someone, not even if they’re kicking you up the arse with a compass (the pointy circle drawing kind, not the directional aid). His only ally is the school nurse, a young girl who knows exactly what is going on and is thus the only adult-ish individual Joe can confide in. And so you begin to wonder if, when, Joe will snap.

After all, people can only take so much, even those with the strongest of wills. But when people snap it can go two ways, depending on just how scared of their bully they are. They can lash out in desperation, or look to hurt themselves in despair. I was getting fearful for Joe, I really was, wondering which way he’d go when he finally cracked and then… the story takes an altogether unexpected turn, and Joe is presented with a very tough moral dilemma indeed…

Wonderful storytelling from Max De Radigues, who is definitely a talented artist too. You’ll be minded of several different creators, I think. I could see the likes of Kevin Huizenga, Liz Prince, Sammy Harkham, Ethan Reilly, even a bit of Jeffrey Brown actually. His characters have a real sensitivity to them, he portrays their emotions very well, even the odious Jason whom, when he revealed one particularly snide smile, I was absolutely willing Joe to batter. Very Gandhi-esque of me, I know! I will definitely be looking for more from Max in the future. He is Belgian and apparently has produced a few other works, so hopefully if this is successful enough then they will get translated.

JR

Buy Moose and read the Page 45 review here

Cakes In Space (£6-99, Oxford) by Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre.

In zero gravity, no one can hear you butter-cream scream.

Ah, the perils of being peckish!

This stars the most ferocious fruit cakes you could ever imagine. The most belligerent and bellicose Battenbergs ever! There’s a green Fondant Fancy which I really don’t fancy and that cupcake’s a killer for sure! Hundreds & Thousands should be the icing on your cake, not the number of them desperate to do you dietary damage. Abandon ship!

From the creators of UKLA Award-winning OLIVER AND THE SEAWIGS, one of the most thrilling and funny illustrated prose books I’ve ever read (I rate it right up there with Dave Shelton’s exquisitely well observed and equally award-winning A BOY AND A BEAR IN A BOAT), comes a tale so tall it’s told way up there in outer space.

Imagine this: one hundred and ninety-nine years until your next breakfast!

Astra’s family is all set to travel to Nova Mundi, such a faraway planet that it will take yonks to get there.

“Yonks” is a specific, space-science unit precisely calibrating time taken between planets. I thought you already knew that.

Mum, Dad and Astra will all settle down in cryogenic suspension pods and so go to sleep for the duration. But Astra’s not quite sure what the duration really means. One hundred and ninety-nine years sounds a long time to go before her next breaker so she asks the all-knowing Nom-O-Tron for a quick snack which won’t ruin her appetite between meals. Guess what? It ruins her appetite between meals!

“Please state the exact type of cake you require,” said the Nom-O-Tron.

She is a bit vague. And a bit too specific.

“Oh, just make me the most amazing, super-fantastic cake ever!” she said. “I want something brilliant! I want something so delicious it’s scary! I want the ultimate cake!”

At which point Astra is whisked away by her parents and settled down to sleep. And, while she sleeps, Nom-O-Tron clicks and ticks away, working on her instructions, interpreting them as accurately as it can – “brilliant”, “delicious”, “ultimate”… I’m sure there was another adjective there – until the results cause a systems-wide wibble which wakes Astra up when the spaceship’s journey is only halfway complete!

No one else wakes up, only Astra. So tentatively, ever so tentatively, she explores the corridors to discover that Nom-O-Tron has delivered the goods and come up with the confectionary: it’s made the ultimate cake. It’s made a bazillion if not squillion of them. They may well be so delicious it’s scary but – with big, bulging eyes and the most fearsome of fangs – it is they are who are scary and Astra who seems quite delicious. And she’s out there, all alone, in the night…

Well, until the googly-eyed Poglites pop up to plunder the spaceship’s spoons. These aliens have developed warp-drive, hyper-drive and even parking-when-permitted-at-night. But they have never managed to master spoon technology! It’s too advanced. They threaten to zap Astra with their Arkle-splifflicator.

“The first alien’s suit might not have been able to find a translation for ‘Arkle-Splifflicator’, but Astra still felt pretty sure that she didn’t want her arkles splifflicated: the last thing she needed right now, she felt, were splifflicated arkles.”

Yep, there’s that same love of language I found in OLIVER AND THE SEAWIGS: “the spilled-salt glitter of the stars” and a clinical, dark dining area “where clean white surfaces shone coldly in the dim light, like icebergs on an Arctic night.” Cake has been turned into a verb and this definitely one book in which you do not want to be “caked”!

The prose once more has been fully integrated into the illustrations, or is that vice-versa? Either way, it is as one. I adored the far from obvious coronas of McIntyre’s stars, representing their radiating luminosity. Which sounds awfully highbrow so let me add that I also loved her maniacal, man-eating mega-sponges which are worthy of Jim Henderson, bibbling with bobbly cream. Astra is wide-eyed with wonder throughout – check every single page! – while the Poglites could not look more loopy and gormless.

So who will win out, do you think, between the mutant meringues and the dim-witted Poglites, tentacled to the teeth with stolen spoons?

“So you’ve escaped, have you?” growled the Poglite captain. “You still think you can scare us with your cakes? We are Poglites! We eat cakes for breakfast! Well, not really for breakfast – that would be weird – but we eat them for afternoon tea…”

SLH

Buy Cakes In Space and read the Page 45 review here

ODY-C vol 1: Off To Far Ithicaa s/c (£7-50, Image) by Matt Fraction & Christian Ward…

“It’s vulgar, Mother-Father, finding bloodsport in torturing great women like Odyssia, warrior or not.”
“And yet the little apes are so very good at it.”
“There will be more. There will be blood yet to come.”
“There should be recompense. There should come thunderous punishment from we Olympians for their insolence and hubris.”

The finest rip-up-the-rule-book reinterpretation of Homer’s Odyssey since the classic animation Ulysses 31! That merely updated the Greek mythological epic to the 31st Century. ODY-C takes that same future science-fiction starting point and then throws in a gender flip too, reversing the sex of most of the characters.

Story-wise Fraction takes what is classic material, in all senses, and refashions it, scintillatingly relevant and exciting for even our over-indulged, battle-weary modern tastes.

It helps, obviously, that the original plot is brilliantly captivating, a ten-year struggle against impossible odds and overwhelming obstacles simply to get back home to loved ones and the throne. The gender flip freshens the material up further, allowing Fraction to put significantly different emphases and affectations on both the characters and plot. It’s a conceit which in a lesser writer’s hands could have turned into a right old chariot crash, but definitely makes this unique version of the Odyssey well worth reading.

 

However, what really turns this into a shining triumph is Christian Ward’s psychedelic art and colouring. I don’t know if he used every single hue and tint of his virtual palette, but I rather suspect he didn’t leave very many out. Rich and vibrant are oft-used terms but this is as expansive use of a truly vast array of colours, successfully I should add, as you are ever likely to see in a comic.

Fans of Ward’s work on Nick Spencer’s equally mind-bending INFINITE VACATION will already know of his ability to combine said colouring with surprisingly fine and intricate line work. He has a particular stylistic element to his line work, employing innumerate, endless flowing curves and waves going in all directions, with barely a straight line in sight that I absolutely love. The overall effect is one of such depth and complexity, he’s undoubtedly the perfect artist for this futuristic space opera.

About the only negative comment I can make about this first volume is that it doesn’t include the ultra-widescreen, multiple-page fold out splash-entrance that the first issue commenced with! They’ve included all the pages, and it does still work because they are beautiful, but they don’t have that same incredibly dramatic impact.

JR

Buy ODY-C vol 1: Off To Far Ithicaa s/c and read the Page 45 review here

They’re Not Like Us vol 1: Black Holes For The Young s/c (£7-50, Image) by Eric Stephenson & Simon Gane.

“I didn’t ask for any of this.”
“None of us did, but here we are. And I know you don’t trust me, but I promise you, when you know the whole story, you will feel better about being here.”

She won’t.

Hurrah, my leap of faith has been vindicated!

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’s paler echoes behind and beyond. Gane’s 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, do you suppose?

Atop the Saint Francis Memorial Hospital, San Francisco, a young woman called Syd 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 Syd down and fails. Syd’s 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 has a seemingly sympathetic soul able to explain her condition and ease her mind. By controlling it.

Now 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.

Under Gane and Bellaire the mansion becomes a character and star in its own right. The bedspreads, picture frames, carpets, chairs and stairs are so opulent!

It was, however, at this point that I originally ran into difficulties, but suspected that the big reveal was almost a distraction from a very important sentence which – combined with an extreme sense of entitlement expressed by The Voice – did not bode well for any of them. The big reveal came in the form of ten other occupants who were 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 wrote. “I don’t think everyone’s showing their true colours.”

Sure enough it becomes increasingly clear to Syd that this group of young men and women squatting in a house which is not theirs, preying on whomever they fancy and taking whatever they please has been persuaded that this is their right. That because they’ve been mistreated because they are different, they are entitled to do the same. Because The Voice says so. Syd’s essentially fallen in with a cult, and a very dangerous one at that.

Stephenson balances the indoctrination brilliantly. It’s impossible to feel sorry for at least one of their targets when out on the streets and the self-justification comes thick and fast. But such extreme misfits living in such close proximity, almost under house arrest for so much of the time is going to cause increasingly worrying behaviour, you mark my words…

SLH

Buy They’re Not Like Us vol 1: Black Holes For The Young s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Supreme: Blue Rose s/c (£10-99, Image) by Warren Ellis & Tula Lotay.

Diana Dane, meet Darius Dax. You’ll find him in equal parts lucrative and infuriating.

“You seem to know a lot of people, who want others to know they know you, but who don’t want anyone to know about you. So I was curious enough to take the meeting.”
“That is as it should be. I imagine it was quite frustrating for you, though, important investigative reporter and all.”
“I don’t know if I’d agree with “important”.”
“I was being polite. I meant “unemployed”.”

Diana Dane is indeed unemployed. She won an award then was laid off the week after.

“That’s the universe telling you something.”

Now it’s Darius Dax who’s telling her something: that it wasn’t a plane that came down on Littlehaven a few months ago. It was something altogether more unusual and included the vast arch of gold now suspended above Dax’s desk declaring wherever it came from “Supreme”.

This is of interest to Dax for Dax too is an acquirer of knowledge which few will ever have access to. He specialises in Blue Rose cases – “Blue roses do not occur in nature” – “rare truths” he sells on to very wealthy entities, and he will pay Diana Dane $300,000 to start gathering information on whoever might have connections to the artefact and $700,000 if she succeeds in bringing him something concrete.

Elsewhere and elsewhen, outside of time and space, someone else was telling her many things – about reality and revision; about how the universe occasionally reboots itself. But above she was told this:

“Don’t trust Darius Dax.”

Warren Ellis seemed back on top linguistic form to begin with, and certainly found an artist to match the daydream, elusive, other-dimensional aspect of the book. There is a quiet and soft vulnerability to Lotay’s forms and colours over which pale blue lines swirl like a chilly wind, giving them a sense of the ethereal; as if who and what you’re looking at might not even be there. Or you might not even be there. As if you’re looking at it all remotely, through a window, a viewscreen or a tank of liquid, especially in Darius Dax’s National Praxinoscope Company where there are additional, geometrical overlays.

There are sonic cathedrals and ghostly gazelles radiating light and colour like noboby’s business and when they cross the bridge which “is, of course, a quarter of a million miles long” they pass under monumental, neoclassical, triumphal arches of white stone held aloft by twin Supreme statues after gliding by what appears to be a curved, seaside scene of boarding houses basking in a Northern-Lights green.

As a colourist alone, Tula Lotay excels: she is inspired, dazzling, delirious. I promise you these pages are like nothing you’ve ever seen, though there’s something of the Michael Allred in the faces.

The art is something new for something both borrowed and blue, for this yet another remix of a funny old brand called SUPREME. And I’m afraid to say it, but this is akin one of those noodling 12-inch ‘80s vinyls which is so full of filler and goes nowhere. Like Darius Dax, it is deliberately obtuse and infuriating, full of long, clever words where much simpler ones would do. It really is this simple:

Twenty years ago a former Marvel artist called Rob Liefeld created a superhero called Supreme for what was then an illiterate brand relying solely on what was perceived to be the strength of its Image. Supreme was a dumb rip-off of the most obvious aspects of Superman. Then along came Alan Moore who rebooted the character and, with a winking glint in his eye, used the very nature of its rip-off to have enormously clever fun with all the more interesting and really very silly but endearing aspects of Superman in its own multiple, multiversal incarnations.

So now here we have Warren Ellis doing a new reboot in which the reboot’s gone wrong and former aspects of its previous versions have filtered through into the new. It’s all very meta but not rocket science, yet it’s been cloaked in terminology which makes it seem so. What am I missing?

Very, very, very beautiful.

Try Ellis’ INJECTION. It’s deliciously British, taking in legend and lore, reminiscent of Jamie Delano’s early HELLBLAZER and has the most swoonaway sweeps of leaves by Declan Shalvey.

SLH

Buy Supreme: Blue Rose s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Amazing World Of Gumball vol 1 (£10-99, Kaboom) by Frank Gibson & Tyson Hesse…

“WHAT THE WHAT?”

I discovered The Amazing World Of Gumball TV show last year. We had gone on the annual Rigby summer jaunt to bella Italia. The country, that is, not the dreadful chain restaurant that has about as much in common with Italian cuisine as a McCain’s oven pizza.

Actually, digressive and non-digestible true story, there used to be an Italian restaurant called [REDACTED] very near where I live and the food was absolutely appalling. Just the worst, and it was so renowned for it that the wife and I actually felt compelled to try it, believing it couldn’t possibly be that bad.

So, the one and only time I ate there I ordered a pizza and the wife a lasagne. We then watched the ‘chef’ wander out the door to the Spar convenience store next door and shuffle back in not particularly surreptitiously with a frozen pizza and lasagne in his hands. I wondered out loud whether he seriously could have got those for us, surely not, but yes indeed, he shortly proudly brought out the obviously microwaved, offending articles. Unsurprisingly he closed not too long after that, though not before turning into a fish and chip shop for two whole weeks…

Anyway… back to bella Italia… the Whackjob (my 4-year-old daughter) and I had worked our way through every episode of ADVENTURE TIME, BRAVEST WARRIORS and REGULAR SHOW in the preceding months and I was conscious that it would be useful to find something else to entertain her whilst the wife and I attempted to enjoy our long, prosecco-soaked lunches without having pasta and pizza twirled round our ears. Someone recommended Gumball so I acquired the first season. Much like ADVENTURE TIME, BRAVEST WARRIORS and REGULAR SHOW, I quickly realised I was going to enjoy it just as much myself as Whackers! (This year’s luncheon lifesaver, by the way, was the first season of Steven Universe!)

It’s quite impossible to describe exactly what Gumball is all about, mind you. Basically loveable idiot Gumball and his eclectic multi-coloured bunch of friends and enemies – which include fish, dinosaurs, giants, flying eyes, monkeys, ghosts, even a talking balloon – have the most absurd adventures, often simply revolving around their street or school, but frequently involving danger levels of cosmic, world-shattering proportions. It is all utter nonsense, I can’t honestly ever recall what any episode was about ten minutes after I have watched it, but it’s relentlessly entertaining without pausing for breath as every good cartoon should be.

The animation is a mixture of standard illustration and overlaid photo inserts of some of the characters, like the T-Rex, which only adds to the fast-paced surrealism of it all. Gumball does only seem to have one volume and pitch of talking though, shouting in a monotone basically, which can get a little wearisome if you have to watch, or indeed by serenaded by, ten-plus episodes in a row whilst you’re mentally willing the waiter to hurry up with your tiramisu before the littlest tourist gets too restless in the restaurant…

Anyway, as I have commented on before, I do think that is extremely difficult for comics to achieve the same level of engrossment as truly brilliant cartoons, and much like longer form television dramas, I do think we are in a new golden age of cartoons also. But, if you are a fan of Gumball, you will get great enjoyment from this comic adaptation, as it is wittily written, perfectly capturing the hurricane-strength blow-you-along wind tunnel appeal of the show, plus they’ve done an excellent job of emulating the style of illustration.

JR

Buy The Amazing World Of Gumball vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

The Cat With A Really Big Head h/c (£13-99, Titan) by Roman Dirge.

Oh dear, Titan miss a trick as the original title for the £2-20 pamphlet was its best joke:

‘The Cat With A Really Big Head (And One Other Story That Isn’t As Good)’.

Channelling Tim Burton (THE MELANCHOLY DEATH OF OYSTER BOY AND OTHER STORIES – you can consider employing far less flattering verbs if you like), it’s now been turned into a colour picture book full of blood and bones.

The story revolves around a cat with a really big head, so it’s far from false advertising. The fun is in watching the poor little mite trying to do all the things normal cats do – imagine it negotiating the cat flap, if you will – if that’s your idea of fun.

Please be warned that it’s a very quick read and, this being Roman LENORE Dirge, we don’t see a lot of sympathy for the moggy.

If you laugh at things like Vasquez’s FILLER BUNNY, you’ll like this one.

I’ve done my duty.

SLH

Buy The Cat With A Really Big Head and read the Page 45 review here

Civil War #1 (£3-99, Marvel) by Charles Soule & Leinil Francis Yu.

Genuinely bleak and nasty, this is another of those satellite series to Marvel’s current SECRET WARS. But, unlike the few others I’ve dipped into, it doesn’t appear to reference that series at all – for the moment, anyway.

I rate the original CIVIL WAR by Mark Millar & Steve McNiven very highly. It had something genuinely interesting to say about privacy and power, and it speaks volumes about our distrust of recent governments – with what they do with our information, how they glean it and what they are most likely to do with superior military might – that everyone I know instinctively sided with Captain America’s refusal to register with the American authorities and submit to their potential deployment (even though he’s a former soldier used to obeying the chain of command) rather than Iron Man who recognised that those with superpowers are potentially lethal loose cannons, as witnessed when a bunch of relatively inexperienced, attention-seeking teens took on a bunch of supervillains they were woefully ill-equipped to handle, resulting in the death of six hundred souls. It’s interesting because those same individuals who sided with Captain America, like almost everyone else in Britain, are adamantly in favour of American gun control which is what Iron Man was effectively advocating.

In case you’re intrigued enough to take a punt on the collected edition, I won’t tell you how it ended except that it was abrupt, unexpected and yet entirely in keeping with character.

In this alternative scenario – by the writer of DEATH OF WOLVERINE and the artist on Mark Millar’s NEMESIS – hostilities between the two sides of superheroes didn’t cease. They escalated. They escalated because things went horrifically wrong while the two factions were locked in battle in Iron Man’s prison hidden in a pocket dimension.

The Black Panther hacks into its security systems which sets off a fail-safe self-destruct sequence he attributes to Iron Man. I am choosing my words carefully, yes. Iron Man is informed by Commander Maria Hill of S.H.I.E.L.D. that the Black Panther set off the self-destruct sequence deliberately under direct orders from Captain America. I am still choosing my words very carefully. Both sides are incredulous about the other’s callousness. Then the bomb goes off. The bomb goes off just as Cloak is teleporting as many as possible from both warring parties, en masse, back to New York City. Some make it out, some don’t. What does make it out, is the blast.

The bomb-blast destroys New York and takes fifteen million people with it.

Whose side are you on now?

I ask that because in spite of my original analysis and the ante that’s now been upped I still instinctively sided with Captain America, and what follows, six years on, only goes on to entrench that alignment… because both scenarios are very carefully written.

Six years on and — haha, no! You wouldn’t thank me. You’ll want to read this comic for yourselves.

I’m a big fan of Yu who is solid, sure and exciting, and studies expressions well. They change only incrementally between panels as our own do between seconds unless something does actually take us by surprise. If every character reacts to everything and every word with melodrama as happens woefully often in superhero comics (and the sugar-buzz mainline of manga) then how do you discern the mellow from the genuinely dramatic? Inked by Gerry Alanguilan and coloured by Sunny Gho, there is a light, bright modelling going on.

But by “carefully written” I mean who do you think is backing whom? Which of Marvel Comics’ most cherished couples finds itself on opposing sides of the argument, in different camps which are not speaking to each other and so cannot meet in an America which has quite literally, geographically and geologically been divided in two? Can you spell “chasm”? There is one, right in the heart of the dessert.

Peace talks are proposed and, against all odds, a single woman persuades Captain America and Iron Man to meet in a building in the middle of the bridge which straddles that cavern.

Even before it goes horribly wrong it is patently obvious that they are both so set in their ways, so locked in their mindsets, so trapped in their past and so bitter about what they believe the other has done that recriminations are all they can offer each other.

Then it goes horribly wrong, and there is no hope to speak of.

SLH

Buy Civil War #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.

Poetry Is Useless h/c (£22-50, Drawn & Quarterly) by Anders Nilsen

An Entity Observes All Things (£8-99, Retrofit) by Box Brown

Baddawi (£14-99, Just World Books) by Leila Abdelrazaq

Four Eyes vol 1: Forged In Flames s/c (£7-50, Image) by Joe Kelly & Max Fiumara

Moomin And The Martians (£6-99, Enfant) by Tove Jansson

Moomin Complete Lars Jansson Comic Strip vol 10 h/c (£14-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Lars Jansson

Adventure Time: Banana Guard Academy s/c (£9-99, Titan) by Kent Osborne, Dylan Haggerty & Madeline Rupert

Adventure Time: Graybles Schmaybles s/c (£7-99, Titan) by Danielle Corsetto & Bridget Underwood

Predator: Fire & Stone s/c (£10-99, Dark Horse) by Joshua Williamson & Chris Mooneyham, John Lucas, Lucas Graciano

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles / Ghostbusters (£13-50, IDW) by Erik Burnham, Tom Waltz & Dan Schoening

Batman: Arkham Knight vol 1 h/c (£14-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi & Viktor Bogdanovic, various

Batman: Harley Quinn s/c (£14-99, DC) by Paul Dini, various & various

New Suicide Squad vol 1: Pure Insanity s/c (£12-99, DC) by Sean Ryan & Jeremy Roberts, Tom Derenick, various

Sinestro vol 2: Sacrifice s/c (£12-99, DC) by Cullen Bunn & Dale Eaglesham, various

The New 52: Futures End vol 2 s/c (£22-50, DC) by Brian Azzarello, Jeff Lemire, Dan Jurgens, Keith Giffen & Georges Jeanty, Patrick Zircher, various

Miracleman Book vol 3: Olympus (UK Edition) h/c (£19-99, Marvel) by Alan Moore, Grant Morrsson, Peter Milligan & John Totleben, Joe Quesada, Mike Allred

Spider-Man 2099 vol 2: Spider-Verse s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Peter David & Will Sliney

Thor God Of Thunder vol 4: The Last Days Of Midgard s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Esad Ribic, R.M. Guera, Simon Bisley

Dogs – Bullets & Carnage vol 10 (£9-99, Viz) by Shirow Miwa

News!


ITEM! Page 45 is proud to promote The British Comics Awards! Yes, Page 45 is the BCA’s official Executive Sponsor! Scroll down to read all about it then please get your nominations in! Voting is open to all!

It seemed such a natural partnership to us. The winners of the @BritComicAwards best graphic novels – NELSON then THE NAO OF BROWN and THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF EARLY EARTH – were my favourite books each successive year, and it’s by far the best award institution British Comics has ever known. I may have to blog about it later.

ITEM! Time-lapse vimeo of Jonathan Edwards painting a waterfall – three minutes of your life in exchange for hours of awe and adoration as you daydream about it forever. You can buy Jonathan Edwards’ prints here!

ITEM! STAR CAT’s James Turner’s hilarious comic on the perils of procrastination. Creators may well relate!

ITEM! New interview with Asaf Hanuka and Tomer Hanuka about THE DIVINE.

ITEM! Brilliant blog by Sarah McIntyre, the co-creator of, JAMPIRESOLIVER AND THE SEAWIGS (which just won the UK Literacy Assocation Award for 7- to-11-year-olds), and CAKES IN SPACE which I reviewed above:

“Pictures Mean Business: Why Do So Many People Keep Forgetting To Credit Illustrators?”

Why indeed! It’s absolutely crazy as every comic lover knows, but this carelessness is prevalent amongst publishers of illustrated prose and picture books. Take a gander, it’s great, and if tweeting about it, please use the hashtag #picturesmeanbusiness.

 - Stephen

Page 45 Reviews written by Stephen & Jonathan then edited by an elephant that’s as blind as a bat.

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews July 2015 week two

Wednesday, July 8th, 2015

Announcing THE WICKED + THE DIVINE Patheon t-shirts! Oh yes! News below our reviews includes details for pre-ordering!

The Wicked + The Divine vol 2: Fandemonium s/c (£10-99, Image) by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie with Matthew Wilson.

“You are of the Pantheon.
“You will be loved.
“You will be hated.
“You will be brilliant.
“Within two years you will be dead.”

In which we learn why – as the Pantheon dies only to be reincarnated every ninety years in a new body, a new aspect – ancient Ananke stays behind to find them and activate them; to guide and nurture them through their new, short life spans and, if necessary, even keep the peace. If she didn’t stay behind, all former knowledge would be lost.

Ananke’s finally found the twelfth god. I’m afraid it isn’t Laura.

In THE WICKED + THE DIVINE VOL 1: THE FAUST ACT we witnessed the latest, highly inclusive Recurrence of gods and goddesses casting themselves in a highly exclusive role – that of pop stars whom we place on pedestals in order to worship from afar.

The most wicked and divine of them, Lucifer, was targeted for assassination by a couple of gunmen. They failed: Luci blew their brains out with a click of her finger. Luci was put on trial but someone blew the judge’s brains out. Then someone blew [SPOILERS] brains out.

This will blow your brains out.

Determined to disprove the existence of any Pantheon – to expose the mythology as a music marketing scam – is sceptical journalist Cassandra Igarashi. Determined to expose the killer is seventeen-year-old Laura, a fangirl who found herself on the inside, taken under louche Lucifer’s ever-so-saucy wings and now granted access to the others.

Once she clicked her fingers and they lit a cigarette just like Lucifer. She’s been trying to recreate the miracle ever since. Nothing’s happened. Brockley, South London, on her way home, clicking her fingers disappointedly:

“I’m not a god.
“I was delusional to think I was. I was delusional to think I could be.
“Fuck you, Laura Wilson. Quitter. All I get is calluses? They’ll be the best calluses in the world.
“I won’t give up on Lucifer. I don’t understand what happened. I will.
“I won’t give up on any of them. They’re all fucked up, all doomed. If all I can do is help them, I’ll help them. No one gets a happy ending. So I’ll make sure they get the least terrible one possible.”

Unfortunately a lot of people are banking on the Prometheus gambit: kill a god to steal their powers. It doesn’t work. But what if a god were to slay another god? Maybe they’d get their oh-so-limited lifespan? Two years is, after all, a very short time to shine…

From the creators of YOUNG AVENGERS and the two music-as-magic PHONOGRAM collections (PHONOGRAM III: THE IMMATERIAL GIRL #1  – please pre-order!), this is chic, sharp and thoroughly contemporary. And, as I say, highly inclusive. It’s so inclusive that straight white males are scarce on the ground. If I were to detail exactly how inclusive it is then I would be giving for too much away, but it’s typical of Gillen and McKelvie that, during a burst of black and white satori, a wheelchair user is amongst the crowd of silhouetted gig-goers on the receiving end. That shouldn’t be remarkable, but it is.

In THE WICKED + THE DIVINE VOL 1: THE FAUST ACT I made much of Jamie McKelvie’s line and Matthew Wilson’s colour art and here in the back there are process pieces which will have you bewildered by just how much thought and work has gone into a double-page spread, for example, overlooking the Ragnock music festival.

Behind all the elaborate, sleek and sexy eye make-up designs and the spectacular Pantheon threads which have inspired so much cosplay (you will love Inanna’s Prince regalia), there is an interest and understanding few other comic artists display of civilian fashion sense: what the best dressed are wearing today as well as the moms who are waiting up late for their errant offspring to get back from gigs.

McKelvie’s Paul Smith-inspired line has long been this crisp but grows increasingly smooth and soft. Even Ananke’s wizened wrinkles give the actual folded flesh a much moisturised feel.

As to Gillen, there are so many fundamentally thought-through observations about the human condition: our aspirations and our most superficial and deep-seated fears. Urdr’s blinding flash of mass enlightenment is entirely consistent in its contradictions! Oh, and he knows the story a seventeen-year-old’s bedroom tells.

Look, I can just keep on typing until this review falls off the edge of the virtual page but I risk running out of misdirections and actually giving stuff away. You know, like the climax. If I told you that I would sell an extra two hundred copies before you’ve finished reading this week’s other reviews. Instead:

Ragnarok for our demi-gods and goddesses approaches. Ragnarock 2014 in Hyde Park, to be precise. 500,000 tickets sold for the five-day festival.

Kieron does love his puns, doesn’t he? The thing is, they’re never throwaway.

“You feel like you’ve got a raw deal.”
“There is no one in this story who has not got a “raw deal”.” says Ananke.

Still, I’m sure it’s going to be okay.

SLH

Buy The Wicked + The Divine vol 2: Fandemonium s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Criminal vol 6: The Last Of The Innocent s/c (£10-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips.

From the creators of FATALE and THE FADE OUT, these are the best crime comics in the business, right up there with the recently revived STRAY BULLETS.

CRIMINAL is a series of completely self-contained stories you can read in any order you like, and for me this is its finest outing yet.

Summoned home by his father’s sudden illness then death, Riley Richards has briefly escaped the city of his sins which have begun to cost him dearly, and travelled back to the town of his youth.

It was a sunlit life immersed in the relatively innocent pleasures of crime comics bought by his Dad and meeting down the diner where his best friend, Freakout. With the monumental munchies of being stoned, they would regularly break records for scoffing ice cream.

Then there was sweet Lizzie Gordon, the girl who lived literally next door; the girl whom everyone assumed he would marry. If only he had.

But his life changed course dramatically on the arrival of rich bitch Felicity Doolittle, bringing with her the alluring, honey-pot cocktail of novelty, sophistication, self-confidence and sexual availability. They argued, they split, they got back together, but eventually Riley made a fatal mistake: he married her.

Now he’s a man who witnesses the world around him at a remove, as if it’s not his own life at all. He’s become so detached that he doesn’t know how to feel at his father’s funeral, he just calculates what’s expected of him. He’s become so resigned that when he caught his wife shagging Teddy, the man he loathes most, he concluded that it simply made sense. He’s almost immune to his father-in-law’s long-voiced contempt, and he had all but ignored the slurred cries for help Freakout would leave on his answer phone before finally seeking help and sobering up for good. But returning home now – seeing Lizzie as kind and beautiful as ever and Freakout still funny when dry – has reminded Riley of how promising it once looked before the empty marriage and the crushing gambling debts in the city which he’s grown to hate. He had been a key crossroads in his life and, in marrying Felicity, taken the worst turn possible.

But gradually it occurs to Riley that there may well be a way to reverse all his misfortunes in one fell swoop.

He’s going to kill his wife.

Nothing Brubaker drops in early on is accidental; everything is reprised. Riley’s machinations are fiendishly clever. There is nothing and no one he won’t use to achieve his goal, but that’s all it is to him: an objective. You’ll be shaking your head at the calculated lows he will sink to and yet – an incredible testament to the seductive strength of creative team here – you’ll still find yourself rooting for the rat, fearful in case he fucks up.

For any successful first-person narrative it’s crucial that reader wants to spend time in protagonist’s self-absorbed head, and that’s where Brubaker excels. That the intricate plot mechanics are so devious and the delivery so adroit is what makes each read so enormously satisfying. What makes them so attractive is the art of Sean Phillips, by far the finest draughtsman in this most twilight of genres. His faces stay cast and masked in a permanent semi-shadow – I never trust anyone drawn by Sean Phillips – and some of them are positively threatening.

Allowed for once to play in the suburban sunlight as well as the metropolitan grime, Phillips appears to have had great fun not only in capturing a much younger, less tainted crowd, but also in drawing the flashback sequences: snapshots of memory rendered here in Archie-Comics innocence, even when the style beautifully belies the content under Felicity’s prom-night gown.

All the original periodical’s landscape covers are reproduced within and now all six volumes of CRIMINAL have iconic new covers. Together they look like the most lambent but lethal stained glass window or an elaborate set of traffic lights sending mixed signals to stop, get set (up) and go.

Or, in this case, swim like crazy or sink forever.

SLH

Buy Criminal vol 6: The Last Of The Innocent s/c and read the Page 45 review here

8house #1 Arclight (£2-25, Image) by Brandon Graham & Marian Churchland.

“The borders must be near.”
“Closer than you think.”
A border creature: a living edge of the bloody lands.
*hek*
“It’s dying. We need it alive.”

There are so many strains of fantasy but the most infectious by far are those that are ethereal and otherworldly, not just in aspect but in custom and cadence and the in which way their creators communicate them to us. 8HOUSE ARCLIGHT excels at all four.

Mysteries should not be delivered to you, hand-held, but laid before you in such a way that you are required to tease them apart yourselves. There’s a difference between oblique and obscure.

The above is the script to the third early page reproduced here. All three come, like the graphic novel ZAYA, with a restrained Arthur Rackham palette in an ancient woodland setting which Rackham admirers would feel quite at home in and populated by two figures they would be equally comfortable keeping company with. The light at the root-tunnel entrance is very subtle.

 

 

The one with the aquamarine cloak could easily be from Faerie nobility, far from incongruous in A Midsummer Night’s dream and there is much of the Elizabethan about everything here from the courtly intrigues to its couture.

The other is more “other” still. Are those matted tresses blowing in the breeze or, as seems more likely, soft roots or tendrils blowing in the breeze? If a comic causes you to ask questions this early in then it’s doing its job properly. She has arcane knowledge and an instinct in touch with both the natural and unnatural world. Like the three witches in Macbeth, we’re still not straying from Shakespeare in that respect nor in the creature she prizes. Like the turquoise cloth, its fire-red skin stands out a mile from the olive-browns surrounding it.

I’m not going to give you much more.

Given that this is written by the creator of MULTIPLE WARHEADS and KING CITY and both drawn and coloured by the creator of the equally allusive, elusive BEAST, you would be so surprised if this repeated old tropes without infusing them with something so new to comics. I imagine Charles Vess of SANDMAN, STARDUST and DRAWING DOWN THE MOON would swoon over this, but equally so Monsieur Moebius, for the double-page landscapes are epic.

But this is an alchemical fusion which transmutes those and any other influences into an entirely new element of Churchland’s own crafting. I’m speculating on Rackham, Vess and Moebius but I know for a fact that Churchland incorporated Yoshitaka Amano’s fashion sense into the mix.

And so we come to the androgyny and it’s not your Natassja Kinski ‘Cat People’, girl-with-a-boy’s-bob thing going on. Cut to the court, and it’s ostensibly a much more sybaritic affair but also, above and beneath that, a genuine, heartfelt and complete relaxation of stereotypes to form new norms. Well, new to comics. Thankfully it’s being going on around us in real life for years.

Post-script for pedants:

Yes, yes, officially it’s called 8HOUSE ARCLIGHT #1 but by its third issue it’s officially called 8HOUSE #3 KIEM and by its fourth issue 8HOUSE #4 YORRIS so we’re nipping any confusion in the bud early on – just like you would an Azalea’s flowers once over – in order to promote better growth. Pop yourself down on a Page 45 Standing Order by mail or for collection in store and we’ll insure you get the lot regardless of subtitle.

SLH

Buy 8house #1 Arclight and read the Page 45 review here

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

“Pain does not exist in this dojo, does it?”
“NO SENSEI!!”

Sensei John Kreese and his demented dojo dwellers from The Karate Kid on how to deal with pain…

Of course, whilst the members of the Cobra Kai might have a slightly different approach to overly stimulating skin pressure to you and I, it shouldn’t be doubted that there is definitely a subjective element to the sensation of pain. After all, taken to extremes, one man’s pain is another’s pleasure; however this excellent 36-page work doesn’t get into those realms, instead concentrating on the current critical scientific thinking on the nature of pain and our physiological, psychological and indeed emotional experiences of it. Plus how, perhaps, with the right approach from both patients and doctors alike, we can alter the perception of pain to make it far more manageable, without having to resort to the usual pharmacopoeia of medicinal delights.

Probably the major argument the author and long-time healthcare professional Steve Haines puts forward is that to understand an individual’s pain, you first need to understand the individual, because the experience of chronic pain is an incredibly complex phenomenon arising from a large number of interconnected and interrelated systems, both of body and mind. Thus two people could have exactly the same ‘injury’ but experience extremely different levels of pain.

Which all sounds like a very heavy read, however this work is beautifully illustrated by Sophie Standing in a manner that conveys the more complex concepts and theories of neurophysiology put forward by Steve, just as clearly as the witty look at brain chemistry that is NEUROCOMIC, or even the headscratching theorems of quantum physics in FEYNMAN.

As Nick Sousanis explained in his recent expansive graphic novel PhD submission UNFLATTENING, images can convey meaning and thus understanding far more simply and eloquently than words alone can do. And that is abundantly true here as Steve examines the process of how pain arises right through to how our very different individual subjective experiences of it occur.

Plus it is very impressive production qualities too from Singing Dragon, akin to a Nobrow release, all neatly sutured, sorry saddle-stitched, with inviting French flaps that always add a touch of gravitas to a smaller sized release.

This is an intriguing and informative look at a subject which we all have first-hand, personal experience of, typically the myriad acute comedy to catastrophic variations on the theme, but is utterly devastating for many chronic sufferers. I have to say I personally agree with his thinking, that the experience of pain can be, to a degree at least, ameliorated by changing the sufferer’s mental approach to it. But I’ve never seen the whole process of how one might practically go about doing just that explained so simply. This is a work which actually ought to be handed out to all GPs and is another very worthy addition to the rapidly burgeoning genre of graphic medicine.

JR

Buy Pain Is Really Strange and read the Page 45 review here

We Stand On Guard #1 (£2-25, Image) by Brian K. Vaughn & Steve Skroce…

“What if it was us?”
“Don’t even joke about that. I could lose my security clearance if people heard you spouting that kind of nonsense.”
“But I’m serious. We burned down the White House before once, right?”
“We did?”
“Like, three hundred years ago.”
“That’s just a myth, Tommy. Canada wasn’t even a country back then. It was the British who torched Washington.”
“Yeah, for trying to steal this land.”
“Why would the U.S. try to steal our…”
“The hell? What happened to my feed?”

A lot of exceedingly heavy ordnance, that’s what, as Ottawa is practically flattened during the initial thunderous start to the 2112 US invasion of Canada. Yeah, you read that right: Canada…

Unfortunately for young Amber cuddling her fluffy white teddy bear – I’m guessing she is maybe six – and her slightly older brother Tommy, this blitzkrieg rain of missiles instantly wipes out their parents, leaving the terrified siblings to fend for themselves. Fast forward ten years and Amber is now part of the resistance movement fighting the tyrannous occupiers.

Hmm… is it really over thirty years since siblings Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen, plus the rest of their ragtag teen-band of ‘Wolverines’ took on the might of the invading Soviet forces in the classic bratpack film Red Dawn? Hegemonous, brutal bad guys versus the righteous protectors of their beloved homeland…

Ah well, plus ça change as they would say in ‘free’ Quebec! However, you have to say in the intervening three decades since Ronald Regan was the Cold War warrior President protecting the Free World from the belligerent Ruskies, while we all fervently hoped Sting was right and the Russians did love their children too, the Americans have rather managed to besmirch their own reputation over those years, haven’t they? We can argue the merits or otherwise of their various military invasions and interventions in the interim ad infinitum, but you would seriously hope that Canada might be not be in President Clinton’s – Hilary that is – crosshairs come her probable election next year. Mexico on the other hand…

Anyway, you can immediately see where Vaughn is going with this. Much like Brian Wood’s DMZ – one huge what if the Iraq civil war was actually happening in American with Manhattan being the epicentre – this tale of what, in theory, would never happen, is going to presumably allow him to make some serious points about the state of current American foreign policy under the cover of a ripping adventure yarn. Much like he did to superlative effect on various hot social political topics in EX MACHINA. And let’s be totally frank, it’s not really that much of a stretch to see the American military as out-and-out bad guys. There are plenty of people in the world who have that viewpoint already.

Nice enough clean art from Steve Skroce who hasn’t really done much in comics for years, mainly doing concept art story boards for cinema instead for people like the Wachowskis. I think that possibly shows a little bit in places, some of the panels feel a little bit flat, primarily because there’s virtually nothing going on in the background of the panels that are mainly conversation between characters; whereas, in contrast, some of the more action-based panels have plenty going on. Having a look at some of the concept art pencils included at the end; I thought that material was considerably more impressive actually. But whilst it’s not Fiona SAGA Staples or Tony EX MACHINA Harris, it’s certainly a style well suited to the story.

This first issue is primarily a set up, about some of the various characters who are presumably going to form the backbone of the series, though without giving too much away at all beyond that. The big question, why America launched the invasion, has yet to be explained. I am looking forward to that nugget! Also, the current whereabouts of Tommy, Amber’s brother…

There’s certainly potential for a decent series here, particularly in as skilled a writer’s hands as Vaughn. Based on this opener I do suspect it will be quite similar in flavour to EX MACHINA, and that’s fine by me!

JR

Buy We Stand On Guard #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Gun Machine s/c new edition (£7-99, 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, waiting to be filled in fill. They’ve all been used, these guns. 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 then 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 likes of whom you’ve never encountered before, and I hope you never will. There’s probably one out there waiting, though.

SLH

Buy Gun Machine s/c and read the Page 45 review here

S.H.I.E.L.D. vol 1: Perfect Bullets s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Carlos Pacheco, Humberto Ramos, Alan Davis, Christ Sprouse, more.

Alert! Angry English Dad on the phone! Wall of words on its way!

“Good lord! Your mother and I are staggeringly disappointed by the mediocre path in life you seem to have chosen since you moved to the States! Party planner? A woman with your education? For God’s sake, you were brilliant at university, which cost us a fortune, by the way – No, you’re not grateful. Your brother and sister appreciated it! Maybe you should talk to them! What’s that? I can’t hear – Don’t you dare hang up on me! I’ll call you at “work” if I want to call you at “work”! You told me you blow up balloons and pitch canopies for a living! What urgent task can you not pull yourself away from?”

Poor Jemma! I’ve received several similar calls over the years, but I wasn’t an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the middle of the mother of all firefights. That’s the problem with cell phones.

Much comedy’s been made over the years about the hidden life of spies, so secret that not even their spouses know what they’re doing. I rather enjoyed James Cameron’s ‘True Lies’.

Lying to your loved ones is a common dilemma facing many a superhero too, as a young Ms Marvel is currently discovering in the family-centric, heart-of-gold escapades of MS MARVEL, a comic which we adore.

S.H.I.E.L.D. technician Jemma Simmons empathises and has a quiet word. Her history’s familiar for spies, which is why I found Waid’s diatribe above so well written. I found the following rather touching.

“S.H.I.E.L.D. recruited me when I was still at university. Due to the classified nature of my work, though – well – my dad and mum think I’m a corporate party planner. Explains all the travel, but doesn’t make them proud, exactly.”
“How long have you managed to – “
“Keep the secret? Years. It can be done, But before you file that away as good news, I’m afraid I fell compelled to add this: I love my parents. And I miss the days when they knew their daughter.”

The central star of the series – as in the TV show – is Agent Coulson. He’d rather Ms Marvel hadn’t gotten involved in that episode because she’s far too young, but he can’t help but admire her encyclopaedic knowledge of supervillain paraphernalia gleaned from writing meticulously researched superhero fan-fic. She is, dare I say it, a nerd; by which I mean someone who has what is widely regarded as a disproportionately obsessive interest in things so arcane and esoteric that no one in their supposedly right minds should give a chuff about. Please note: that does not include comics. Comics are for everyone!

Parenthetically it was just such knowledge which saved the day in Mark Millar & Tommy Lee Edwards’ delightful MARVEL 1985, a surprisingly tender graphic novel for Mark Millar about a young boy which is emphatically not set in the Marvel Universe. That’s its whole point. I recommend you take a quick gander.

Agent Coulson approves, however reluctantly, because he sees himself in her. His was a similar enthusiasm which he’s since honed into his field’s special skill. So shall we begin?

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

It really is!

There Mark Waid speaks for himself, for S.H.I.E.L.D. Special Agent Phil Coulson and for me too. The key, once it’s your job, is to stop treating it as your hobby and to apply 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. His knowledge of superhero comics is virtually unparalleled and it all dovetails beautifully here.

In the opening flashbacks Agent Coulson is seen gathering superhero intel from almanacs then transcribing it onto index cards from the tender age of nine; seen aged nineteen analysing the information from television news coverage; updating it as a junior agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. at 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 superhero power sets to call in as required for each specific threat. He’s basically Miranda Zero from Warren Ellis’ highly recommended none-superhero action-thriller GLOBAL FREQUENCY. He will have to improvise depending on who’s already preoccupied with other repeat offenders or merely reroute those already in the field with a crafty slight-of-hand.

That is precisely what Coulson does in the opening scenario and the pay-off is so satisfying that you may squeal.

Let us be clear: this is a fully fledged superhero comic at the heart of the Marvel Universe not – as has been the case before – a satellite spy thriller or a time-travelling mind-melt. As such the first chapter comes with thrills-aplenty Carlos 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.

In chapter two Humberto Ramos does a mean, lean and lanky Ms Marvel; chapter three sees the great Alan Davis on Spider-Man, roped in to act as a canary in a coalmine when Dr. Strange’s mansion is made skew-whiff with magic; and Chris Sprouse is on hand for when Sue Storm receives a summons to a sale on at a department store and shown into a changing room which is anything but. Nice nod there to the old sequestered S.H.I.E.L.D. entrance via a barber’s shop chair which used to descend through the floor. See? I know this stuff too!

Coming back to the strategic planning, Agent Coulson could do none of that in this comic if veteran writer Mark Waid 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.

Please see Waid & Ross’ exquisitely painted KINGDOM COME set in the future of the DC Universe when it’s already gone horribly wrong and about to grow much, much worse.

SLH

Buy S.H.I.E.L.D. vol 1: Perfect Bullets 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.

Bacchus Volume One Omnibus Edition s/c (£29-99, Top Shelf) by Eddie Campbell

The End Of Summer (Signed & Sketched In) (£9-99, Avery Hill) by Tillie Walden

Bunny vs. Monkey Book Two (£7-99, David Fickling Books) by Jamie Smart

The Cat With A Really Big Head h/c (£13-99, Titan) by Roman Dirge

Cheer Up (£3-99, Hic & Hoc) by Noah Van Sciver

Crickets #4 (£5-99) by Sammy Harkham

Crossed vol 13 s/c (£14-99, Avatar) by David Hine, Justin Jordan & Nahuel Lopez, Fernando Heinz

Baltimore (Novel): Or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier & The Vampire (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola & Christopher Golden

Godzilla: Half Century War h/c (£25-99, IDW) by James Stokoe

High Crimes h/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Christopher Sebela & Ibrahim Moustafa

Jack Of Fables vol 4: Americana (£10-99, Vertigo) by Bill Willingham, Matthew Sturges & Russ Braun, Tony Akins

Kabuki Library vol 1 h/c (£29-99, Dark Horse) by David Mack

Moose (£12-99, Conundrum) by Max De Radigues

They’re Not Like Us vol 1: Black Holes For The Young s/c (£7-50, Image) by Eric Stephenson & Simon Gane

Through The Woods (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Faber & Faber) by Emily Carroll

Batman Eternal vol 2 s/c (£29-99, DC) by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV & various

Justice League vol 6: Injustice League h/c (£18-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Ivan Reis, various

Amazing Spider-Man vol 3: Spider-Verse s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott & Olivier Coipel, Giuseppe Camuncoli

Guardians Of The Galaxy / All New X-Men: The Black Vortex  (UK Edition) s/c (£16-99, Marvel) by Sam Humphries, Brian Michael Bendis, various & various

UQ Holder vol 5 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Ken Akamatsu

The Amazing World Of Gumball vol 1 s/c (£10-99, Kaboom) by Frank Gibson & Tyson Hesse

News!

ITEM! THE WICKED + THE DIVINE Pantheon t-shirts are available to pre-order! PAGE 45  SHIPS WORLDWIDE! The price of postage will be indicated towards the end of your order. All Page 45 postage is at cost, based on weight. If you don’t like the cost you can cancel and walk away!

Please pre-order by July 20th because Page 45 has to pre-order by July 22nd! Any orders placed later cannot be guaranteed. When we offered THE WICKED + THE DIVINE “Lucifer Died For Our Sins” t-shirts 100 people pre-ordered and every single order was filled. Then dozens of people tried to reorder after publication and burst into tears.

They will be crying forever.

ITEM! Warren Ellis writes the new JAMES BOND comic!

ITEM! SCOTT PILGRIM, SECONDS and LOST AT SEA‘s Bryan Lee O’Malley & Leslie Hung have a new monthly comic heading your way soon: SNOTGIRL. I’m not even kidding you! Sounds thoroughly infectious.

 - Stephen

Page 45 Reviews written by Stephen & Jonathan then edited by a clapped out cockatoo with cataracts

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews July 2015 week one

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015

Featuring Scott Snyder & Jock; Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre; Kathryn Immonen & Stuart Immonen; Jason Little; Alex Grecian & Riley Rossmo; John Arcudi & James Harren; Peter David & George Perez, Dale Keown; Nick Spencer & Ramon Rosanas; Lee Bermejo & Rob Haynes, Jorge Corona.

News underneath!

Russian Olive To Red King h/c (£18-99, Adhouse Books) by Kathryn Immonen & Stuart Immonen.

“Just let me know when you’re coming home.”
“I will. I will always come home.”
“I’m counting on it.”

He’s a tough, muscular guy with a square jaw, chiselled features and cropped white hair. But Red really is counting on it.

He likes being left behind far less that he’s letting on.

Why will only become clear during the substantial coda which Red writes for Olive in prose illustrated by photographs of windows smashed in by stones.

And it all seems to start so idyllically, early on the morning before Olive leaves. Light streams into the bedroom in lemon yellow as Olive’s Border Collie, Pasha, pads in and considers carefully before bounding onto the bed anyway. What dog could resist?

 

Jet-haired Olive is the first to surface from underneath the sheets, tentatively at first. It’s a quiet, tender scene, beautifully choreographed with body language that says so much, Red reaching out to here with his hand: he really, really doesn’t want her to go. He won’t say as much, of course, but he’s frowning slightly even after Olive’s reassuring smiles and enveloping touch.

He promises to walk Olive’s dog, but is far from keen.

He’s really not as stoical as he seems.

 

If you were in any doubt after the opening remarks that Olive isn’t coming home, there’s her flippant reply to this, quoting Chekov.

“Why do you always wear black?”
“Because I’m mourning my life. Duh.”
”Okay, Masha. But I don’t think Chekov wrote “Duh”.”

After that you’re just waiting, and as Red walks Pasha down the tranquil, tree-lined, Brownstone avenue, Olive flies away through a cloudless azure sky in a rust-red seaplane piloted by an old man with heartburn.

“Sixty is miles away from fifty-nine, I tell ya.”

The scenes are intercut and played out against each other beautifully, two commercial jets streaking the sea-green sky up above Red and Pasha while opposite the silent seaplane banks at a disastrously steep angle. Extraordinarily it is still all so quiet. But then Red remarks, “The light’s changing”.

 

Boy, Stuart can control colour and light, and ever so abruptly in places. In places it works on an audible level. The skies are absolutely majestic. He’s so versatile, too, adapting his entire style for each project. This really couldn’t be much further from SECRET IDENTITY or – at another end of the spectrum – NEXTWAVE. There’s a huge sense of heaviness in what follows. Inertia too, as the darkness closes in.

Kathryn completely eschews the obvious far before the stark and startling coda. There’s no melodrama. Instead it’s all very elliptical, especially the phone conversations.

I’ll be interested to hear what you make of the final page of chapter six.

But yes, I think it’s safe to say that Red has abandonment issues.

“It’s hard to tell when you’re blinded by despair.”

SLH

Buy Russian Olive To Red King h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Oliver And The Seawigs (£6-99, Oxford) by Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre.

Hold on to your hats, your toupees, your seawigs, this is going to prove… exploratory!

Oliver Crisp may be only ten years old but he’s already seen so much because his parents are Famous Explorers. They even met on top of Mount Everest!

Since Oliver was born they’ve taken him right round the world. They’ve pushed his pram across rope bridges dangling precariously above alligator-infested rivers; they’ve balanced him in their backpacks as polar bears roared so loudly that ice cliffs have cracked; they took him into a musty old tomb where his mum met a mummy. (Oliver didn’t scream “Mummy!” Probably.)

Now that they believe they’ve peered into every nook and cranny and discovered all there is to discover the family’s going home to Deepwater Bay, to the house they’ve barely set foot in. Believe it or not, Oliver’s delighted to lay down some roots for a change. But when they get there they discover that there is more to discover: the bay is full of steep, craggy, grass-tufted islands that weren’t there before. The Crisps of course love exploring mysterious islands, but now they’re going to encounter mysterious islands which love to explore! These are the Rambling Isles whose dark caves are mouths and they’re about to set off for The Hallowed Shallows for the Night Of The Seawigs contest – taking Oliver’s mum and dad with them!

This illustrated prose for Young Readers is such deliriously great fun that I bought a copy myself! Both creators constantly surprise.

At their first sight of Deepwater Bay Oliver goes “Wow!” and his parents go “Wow!” and I defy you not to go “Wow!” as well. The headland they’re driving down from curves up in a cliff of line-free grey tone leaving room for its black nesting birds to stand out a mile; the gabled house below is all curves too, reflecting the Crisps’ quirky nature – it’s quite wonky-woo! – while the sea blooms below it, more curved lines reflecting the white-on-black stems of the bushes up above.

On page after page Philip Reeve lobs out such loopy ideas so often that I swore even Sarah McIntyre – comics’ own exuberant human hat-stand of JAMPIRES and VERN AND LETTUCE fame – couldn’t possibly illustrate them, yet she does. In fact she illuminates them, matching Reeve’s zeal with her own wild imagination to create gibbering, chittering, chattering sea monkeys which grin with gormless glee no matter what chaos is coming up behind them! There are googly eyes everywhere – blinking within shipwrecks, lurking in the murk of tunnels or poking up from behind flapping fern fronds – while Colin the crab pops up all over the place.

But, oh my days, you wait until you see all the Seawigs!

What is a seawig, you ask? They’re wigs worn by the Rambling Isles fashioned from all sorts of found things. Everyone loves a little bounce to their bonce, so imagine you’re an island with a lighthouse on top of you. That’s flashy all right! But what if you were a sentient isle that could dip down underwater then come up for air (they don’t really need air) with a narwhal on your noggin, a train in your tresses or even a radio telescope? Somehow one does. Ridiculous!

They’re all so elaborate they almost match McIntyre’s own crazed and colourful headpieces, and they’ll have to if they want to win the Seawig competition.

That might be Neil Gaiman on the right of Sarah, yes!

 

Now let’s catch up with Oliver in pursuit of his parents on top of another Rambling Isle called Cliff. He’s also made friends with a short-sighted mermaid called Iris (of course she’s called Iris!) and Mr. Culpeper, a grumpy old Albatross. When Oliver leaves Iris a handwritten note she has to squint hard to read it.

“What does it say?” she wondered.
“How would I know?” said Mr. Culpeper. “I’m an albatross.”

Quite.

I love the way Reeve tweaks one single word to create hours of caustic commentary thus:

“We must be in the Sargasso Sea!” [Oliver] said excitedly. “Sailors fear it because their ships get becalmed here, and the weed tangles round them and traps them.”
“No, this is a completely different place,” said Iris. “It’s called the Sarcastic Sea, and sailors fear it because the weed keeps making horrid, hurtful comments about them.”

Oooh, dangerous!

Once more McIntyre delivers on the eye front, the seaweed bladders we all love to pop peering with withering disdain.

Eventually they will find the Rambling Isle that ran off with Oliver’s mum and dad. It’s called the Thurlstone and it’s not very nice at all.

“Octopuses writhed their tentacles among its eyebrows, and a shark fell out of its nose like a fierce bogey.”

It has a most elaborate seawig already including a stone temple, knotted trees, a rusty battleship and a mean-spirited bully called Stacey de Lacey in command of the pesky sea monkeys. He overcompensates appalling for having a girl’s name. The language here is delicious.

“He was older than Oliver: a tall teenager, balancing precariously on beansprout legs and about to tumble clumsily into adulthood.”

Sometimes the text is integrated within the illustrations. When Oliver crawls through the cave which is the Thurlstone’s craggy throat, so does the writing. When the sea monkeys grow so boisterous at play that they threaten to smother Oliver out at sea, Sarah comes up with a double-page spread which is as close as you can imagine to the suffocating sensation of drowning, the monkeys’ faces looming over him, wide-eyed and grinning, squeezing the text between them and the air out of Oliver.

Stacey de Lacey and the Thurlstone are going to give Oliver, Iris, Cliff and that Culpeper a terrible time. So are the sea monkeys.

You, on the other time, are going to have a riot. Err… so are the sea monkeys. “Eep!”

SLH

Buy Oliver And The Seawigs and read the Page 45 review here

Wytches vol 1 s/c (£7-50, Image) by Scott Snyder & Jock…

“Pledged is pledged.”
“… Yes, it is.”

Brrrr… this is one of the creepiest, nay horrifying, comics I have read in some considerable time.

The Rook family – Dad, Mom and daughter Sailor – have moved to the sleepy town of Litchfield to begin again after a life-shattering event. What they find hiding beneath the friendly veneer of this sleepy backwater is beyond even their worst nightmares. For lurking in the woods around the town are dark forces that have a taste for human flesh… preferably young human flesh. And they are old, very old. But perhaps even worse is the fact that these Wytches couldn’t operate unseen without the assistance of their mortal acolytes…

 

The unease that builds throughout this volume before exploding in spectacularly violent fashion had me squirming in my seat. There was a grindhouse film classic from 1975 starring Peter Fonda and Loretta Swift called Race With The Devil (check out the official trailer HERE) that I was vividly reminded of after reading this. Basically in the film the four main protagonists who are travelling around relatively rural America in a camper van stumble across a midnight black mass and then are relentlessly pursued by the coven.

There is growing paranoia then full-blown hysteria as our heroes gradually realise to their ever-increasing horror that the coven is far larger and more influential than they could possibly have feared, and they are being watched at absolutely every turn, before the pursuit truly begins. There is no escape, no happy end either. The film concludes with them being burned alive in their camper van, surrounded by chanting, cowled figures. It certainly made a powerful impact on me, watching as a child of far too tender years, shocked that the heroes hadn’t once again triumphed despite overwhelming odds…

I’m not entirely convinced there is going to be a happy ending for the Rooks either. Some of them, possibly. All of them…?  I very much doubt it, as the forces of darkness begin their inexorable circling in towards their intended prey. Their pledged prey… Of course, it does take someone to pledge you to them…

So if you are in the mood for some grisly chills, look no further, albeit through half-closed eyes from behind the settee. Brutally captivating art from Jock (who did one of the finest Batman covers ever in my humble opinion, during Scott Snyder and his’ BLACK MIRROR arc – The Joker’s face nearly entirely composed of bats – see it HERE), he really nails the practicably unbearable tension in some of the pursuit sequences.

The Wytches, when we finally see them are so horrifically gruesome, contorted perversions of a barely human shape, practically faceless aside from chittering, exposed teeth, you can really understand the stark terror experienced by the Rooks. I’m reluctant to give too much more away in terms of the plot, specifically because there are a number of shock reveals and twists that serve to increase reader discomfort even further up to those full-on seat-squirming levels, but suffice to say this is already up right there with OUTCAST and RACHEL RISING for me in terms of horror rating!

JR

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

Borb (£14-99, Uncivilised Books) by Jason Little.

“Beggar
Bum
Derelict
Drifter…
Tramp
Transient
Vagrant
Wino”

This is true horror.

It will have you wincing or even retching depending on your tolerance threshold. Unlike some critics the one thing it never did was made me laugh, even grimly. It’s painful.

Obviously it’s not as painful to watch as it is painful for Borb to endure: a catalogue of extractions, infections, infestations and more than one compound fracture leaving bearded Borb with his tibia or fibula split in two and jutting out of his lower leg. The fracture is further compounded even after medical assistance by inflammation then a transmogrification worthy of FRANK’s Jim Woodring. Alas, there is nothing fantastical about it or what follows, which is worse.

Glimmers of hope turn out to be temporary or even illusory. Even on a vaguely upward curve, always he goes back to the spirits, and every time he does so it destroys the scant help given to him. But guess what? Borb passed the point of alcoholic a lifetime ago. It’s a chronic addiction. A new set of dentures doesn’t come with a concurrent cure for addiction.

Nevertheless Dean Haspiel speaks true when he writes:

“Jason Little’s empathy-challenging BORB is the antidote to Frank Capra’s It’s Wonderful Life. You will beg for Borb to bite the dust while stuffing your face with chocolate and watching hours of puppy and cat videos to wash away the elegant horror that is Borb’s trains-wreck on a life.”

“Empathy-challenging” is right and intentionally so. Jason Little has in no way romanticised the plight of the terminally transient which is, as I say, true horror. What appears on the page is revolting. Again, intentionally so, and I did beg for Borb to bite the dust, so help me God.

This hasn’t been written or drawn to tug at your heartstrings, though he may do during and post-illusion: if Borb was a Horseman Of The Apocalypse he would be Pestilence.

It’s delivered in the form and style of an unrelenting series of newspaper strips “[paying] homage to the Depression-era imagery of Harold Gray (LITTLE ORPHAN ANNIE) and Frank King (GASOLINE ALLEY), and the long tradition of the comic strip slapstick vagabond archetype” which it surgically undercuts. You’ll see what the publisher means during the pratfalls and split seams and their ramifications.

“Oops.”

Oops of all things.

SLH

Buy Borb and read the Page 45 review here

Rumble vol 1: What Colour Of Darkness s/c (£7-50, Image) by John Arcudi & James Harren.

Next time you wish for more excitement in your life, think twice.

“If your life were a movie it would be over in an hour and a half.”

So says Cogan, an old man propping up the bar. And he should know: he’s even older than he looks and not really a man at all.

He’s talking to Bobby the barman, who is exactly who he seems. Already unlucky in love, he’ll be lucky if his life lasts longer than a minor movie’s credits!

He wasn’t expecting closing time to be called by a sword-wielding scarecrow slashing his way through the door and Cogan’s right arm. What on earth is their beef? Why has it lasted for thousands of years? Why is there no blood and no Cogan when the cops are called? Just a whole mess of straw and that ancient blade Bobby decided to hold onto.

He might want to rethink that: there’s a whole menagerie of monsters on their way to lay claim to it.

Labelled an “urban fantasy / horror” on the back, I’d call this more of a caper.

Bobby’s mate Dell declares, “Be-Bop, c’mon! You always do this! Stop overthinkin’ it! Let’s just have fun!”

A perfect description. It’s a vast variety of creepy critters slicing and dicing each other to bite-size pieces, a short-tempered fire god who’s not so hot when he’s been put out (funny visual gag, that) and a quest to get the scarecrow chap his ancient body back (real name: Rathraq), all interspersed by an old lady’s kittycat Mr. Bildad making a mess while gorging himself into something increasingly gargantuan.

Those were my favourite bits – James Harren nails cute-gone-wrong. There’s also a great deal of gurning going on for this is very much an up-and-at-‘em action comic – with icky stuff.

SLH

Buy Rumble vol 1: What Colour Of Darkness s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Rasputin vol 1: The Road To The Winter Palace s/c (£10-99, Image) by Alex Grecian & Riley Rossmo…

To people of a certain age, mention one Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin, and they will almost certainly think of this… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OBXRJgSd-aU . However long before Boney M re-popularised the exploits of Russia’s greatest love machine, he was widely lionised and lambasted in equal measure, depending on your politics, by the chattering classes of turn-of-the-twentieth century Europe.

What is undoubtedly true about Rasputin is that he had an enormous impact and influence upon Russian political and regal life, by dint of sheer force of personality, to such a degree that eventually, certain people decide he needed to be done away with… Though achieving that wasn’t quite so straightforward. Rasputin managed to surviving multiple assassination attempts, a fact which only added to his considerable mystique with the public.

Rather than being a straight biographical work, though, this is most definitely a fantasy yarn, appropriating the mad monk as its central character and building a heavily fictionalised story about and around him. It’s very entertaining, actually, with the transformation of Rasputin from a callow youth with a reputation for healing powers into a full-blown beardy magician, courtesy of the spirits ruling the snowy plains of Siberia.

So, in this first volume we see his early years, his initial development as a mage, and the burgeoning cost to his soul of using even his healing powers. Simultaneously Rasputin himself narrates the story of his demise, the final successful assassination attempt, perpetrated this time by his friends and travelling companions. He knows it is coming, foreknowledge of his own life, and consequently his death, being another of his acquired magical powers, yet gives no warning to his friends that he is aware of their impending treachery.

Why he seems happy to go along with his own murder I have no idea, but I suspect we will find out in volume two, presumably along with the answer to a most puzzling and not entirely unrelated mystery that transpires in the final pages of this volume resulting in an intriguing temporal cliffhanger.

I think people who enjoyed the likes of UMBRAL and PORCELAIN may well enjoy this. It’s basically a dark fantasy revolving around a character that you really shouldn’t be rooting for, but much like the Romanovs, you may well find yourself charmed and lured in by his charismatic ways.

Art is supplied by Riley Rossmo who I was not previously familiar with, but he does a mean angular face with piercing eyes, a touch Sean Murphy-esque, plus it’s always nice these days to see someone break out the coarse dot-stippling effect in the background, very retro. He throws in the occasional dramatically splendid full page too, usually when Rasputin is filling the air with eldritch cracklings, or when the spirits of the plains are making their considerable supernatural presence felt.

JR

Buy Rasputin vol 1: The Road To The Winter Palace s/c and read the Page 45 review here

We Are Robin #1 (£2-99, DC) by Lee Bermejo & Rob Haynes, Jorge Corona.

What a contemporary cover – all very inclusive and le parkour!

It’s drawn by the writer, Lee Bermejo, artistic collaborator of Brian Azzarello on that nasty little number THE JOKER, and I mean that in a good way – brrr…

The interior art is by Jorge Corona over Rob Haynes’ breakdowns and it’s as lithe as you like as our principal protagonist for the moment, Duke Thomas, fends off attacks – by which I mean beatings with baseball bats – at school. He does so very successfully. Too successfully for his adoptive family and social worker who now needs him to move on to another.

It’s a lose / lose situation and you feel for his plight. Duke has no stability, no castle that he can call his own and that’s what you need from a home: stability and safety. He doesn’t even know if his parents are dead or alive. They were victims of THE JOKER: DEATH OF THE FAMILY but they’ve never been found. They may be dead or left to wander the sewers of Gotham with amnesia, and that makes Duke restless: if there is a chance at all that they’re there, he must do his best to find them.

Obviously given the title and cover there is something much bigger brewing about taking back the streets but on top of the acrobatics there’s easily enough here in this first instalment to make you care and that’s what counts. Corona has no powers, just hours and hours of wondering where his life is heading without structure, a safety net or – let’s cut to the quick – love.

“Who here does not  belong?” snarls an underground rabble-rouser once Duke’s been detected.

I believe that’s very much on Duke’s mind.

SLH

Buy We Are Robin #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Hulk: Future Imperfect s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Peter David & George Perez, Dale Keown.

Back in time for its SECRET WARS satellite sequel FUTURE IMPERFECT #1 which is on our shelves now!

Future stories of your favourite Marvel characters have met with varying degrees of acclaim and indifference. Quite how the 2099 line lasted as long as it did 18 years or so ago is beyond me.

On the other hand Byrne and Claremont’s X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST which capped their collaboration – and in which most mutants have finally fallen victim to man’s love affair with genocide and concentration camps – is single-handedly responsible for so many homages and follow-ups that it’s easy to forget what a neat little self-contained number it originally was. We’ve seen the Punisher take on (and out) the Marvel Universe, we’ve seen the final days of the Avengers. There are so many variations that nothing is definitive – indeed they’ll only have aged another year or so by 2099 anyway, so putting a date on them seems somewhat foolish.

SPIDER-MAN: REIGN was a belter with more than a whiff to it of DARK KNIGHT RETURNS (a book so ancient that at the time of typing we don’t even have a review of it) but by far my favourite – which took us all by surprise at Page 45 – was Mark Millar’s WOLVERINE: OLD MAN LOGAN. In it we discover that something so atrocious has befallen the crested Canadian that he’s sworn to the cause of pacifism no matter the provocation. And it’s quite provoking having the inbred, redneck offspring of the Incredible Hulk as your landlords. Actually they’re just collecting the rent because Daddy dearest is very much alive and well and so many people have evidently made him so very angry over the years that nobody likes him at all anymore.

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

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

Originally written with a specific but unidentified European artist in mind, you could not have found a more apposite replacement back then than George Perez, an American master of ligne claire, so distinctly European-looking it remains. That trophy room (“Needs a giant penny. Pretty complete otherwise”) is full of tiny details – even at the back of a bookcase you can make out the Serpent Crown – some of which may prove useful or even fatal later on.

SLH

Buy Hulk: Future Imperfect s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Ant-Man vol 1: Second-Chance Man s/c (£11-99, 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 as Ant-Man was drawn by Byrne and now reprinted in ANT-MAN: SCOTT LANG along with his subsequent team-ups with Iron Man against the Hulk and Hawkeye, Spider-Man and The Avengers en masse against the Taskmaster, all of which will be revisited in this much more modern incarnation.

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

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 (highly recommended).

He’s a failed thief so 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 understandably less than enthusiastic ex-wife – so that there are as many “Awww” moments as there are in Grant Morrison and Chas Truog’s family-centric ANIMAL MAN which itself comes highly commended and in three volumes. See also G. Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona’s current run on MS MARVEL.

Scott’s also an ex-corpse, and 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 does get the chance to hack Stark’s security alongside the likes of Prodigy. He fails that too. 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, that really is a knob gag!

Don’t worry, it’ll all go over the heads of your young ones, but if any doubt at all we’ve the MARVEL UNIVERSE ANT-MAN DIGEST for your youngest.

What follows is a move to Miami to maintain contact with Scott’s daughter Cassie and a decidedly dippy attempt to start up a small business by selling his skills as a thief on a giant billboard:

“Ant-Man Security Solutions: Who knows how to not get your stuff stolen better than the guy who used to steal your stuff?”

Inset is a thumbs-up portrait of Iron Man, declaring: “I’d hire him”.

“And no, for the record,” Scott says, “I don’t think Iron Man will mind. Regardless of what happened, us superheroes gotta stick together!”

Iron Man’s alter ego Tony Stark sits still, fingers pressed together, in front of a laptop snapshot of the billboard held aloft by his lawyer: “Sue.”

SLH

Buy Ant-Man vol 1: Second-Chance Man 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.

Noughts & Crosses: The Graphic Novel (£12-99, Doubleday) by Malorie Blackman, Ian Edginton & John Aggs

Supreme: Blue Rose s/c (£10-99, Image) by Warren Ellis & Tula Lotay

The Wicked + The Divine vol 2: Fandemonium s/c (£10-99, Image) by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie

Criminal vol 6: The Last Of The Innocent s/c (£10-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips

Devlin Waugh: Red Tide (£18-99, Rebellion) by John Smith & Colin MacNeil, John Burns, Peter Doherty, Sean Phillips

Gun Machine s/c new edition (£7-99, Mulholland Books) by Warren Ellis

Hound vol 1: Protector h/c (£20-00, Cuchulainn Entertainment) by Barry Devlin & Paul Bolger

Magic Trixie vol 1 (£6-99, Harper Collins) by Jill Thompson

Nimona s/c (£9-99, Harper Collins) by Noelle Stevenson

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

The Autumnlands vol 1: Tooth & Claw s/c (£7-50, Image) by Kurt Busiek & Ben Dewey

Bob’s Burgers vol 1 (£13-50, Dynamite) by various

The Classic Comic Colouring Book (£9-99, Michael O’Mara Books) by various

Star Wars: Jedi Academy vol 3: The Phantom Bully h/c (£9-99, Scholastic) by Jeffrey Brown

Batman: Arkham Origins s/c (£10-99, DC) by various

Runaways: Complete Collection vol 4 s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Terry Moore, various & Phil Noto, Emma Rios, Sara Pichelli, Humberto Ramos, various

S.H.I.E.L.D. vol 1: Perfect Bullets s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Mark Waid & various

Assassination Classroom vol 4 (£6-99, Viz) by Yusei Matsui

Blue Exorcist vol 13 (£6-99, Viz) by Kazue Kato

Dragon Ball 3-in-1 Edition vols 25-27 (£9-99, Viz) by Akira Toriyama

Lone Wolf And Cub Omnibus vol 9 (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Kazuo Koike & Goseki Kojima

News!

ITEM! Out this week: 8HOUSE #1 by MULTIPLE WARHEAD’S Brandon Graham & BEAST’s Marian Churchland Have an illustrated 8HOUSE interview with Marian Churchland!

ITEM! Adorable flick-animation effect going on at Richard Swan’s panel-per-day UNTITLED COMIC.

ITEM! From the creator of comicbook creepiness THROUGH THE WOODS, Emily Carroll illustrates Neko Case’s ‘Wild Creatures’ for Songs Illustrated.

ITEM! Check out Tom Gauld’s ‘Endless Journey’ a “myriorama” for the Laurence Sterne-based Shandy Hall Museum! “Twelve picture-cards which can be arranged to form 479,001,600 different landscapes.” Ha!

 - Stephen

Page 45 Reviews written by Stephen & Jonathan then edited by a clapped out cockatoo with cataracts

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews June 2015 week four

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

Joe Decie’s THERE’S NO BATH IN THIS BATHROOM, two Young Readers’ graphic novels, TOKYO GHOUL manga, Malik Sajad’s MUNNU and more!

Munnu: A Boy From Kashmir h/c (£16-99, 4th Estate) by Malik Sajad.

“A young boy fell in the street like a loose overcoat from a hanger.”

He’s just caught a stray bullet.

Occupied Kashmir during the 1990s and Sajad dubbed Munnu (“the youngest”) is seven years old. Echoing Malik Sajad’s own childhood, this is a dense, intense and arresting read that will tear your heart apart and have you sweating with vicarious fear.

Those who already relished Marjane Satrapi’s PERSEPOLIS, Belle Yang’s FORGET SORROW or  Kunwu & Otie’s A CHINESE LIFE are going to love this. I’m thinking particularly PERSEPOLIS, for this too centres on the strength, resilience and resourcefulness of a family in the wake of oppression.

That’s one heck of a cover with its title in gold relief, but immediately striking inside is the way the images resemble prints made from woodcuts, in keeping with the artisan trade of Munnu’s Papa. On the very first page there’s a topographical map of the city, each landmark raised on contoured hills in a medieval manner.

This effect’s emphasised further in the white lines, as if scooped out, between the angular forms of the Kashmiri people represented by a black, stylised version of their national animal, the Hangul deer, with whose beautiful, white, diamond-shaped eye-markings Sajad succeeds in imbuing an enormous range and depth of emotion using surprisingly subtle, simple strokes.

National symbolism aside, it’s also an astute choice of animal, deer (ideally) being free-roaming herbivores associated with nobility, strength and grace. Under Indian occupation, of course, the Kashmiris’ days of free-roaming have here been substantially curtailed with a bludgeoningly repetitive and brutal enforcement but they certainly maintain their grace on the page.

There’s something far more affecting to me about seeing the face of a faun nuzzling the neck of a maternally protective deer than there would have been had it been a drawing of a human mother and child. Perhaps it’s the residual effect of having bawled my eyes out during Bambi at the pictures aged four or five. Indeed when humans do rear their ugly heads as soldiers, there are grotesque scenes of them molesting a sister visiting her brother in prison under the excuse of frisking her for weapons as those detained watch helplessly in the dark from behind iron bars.

It’s juxtaposed on either side by a peaceful gathering of prayer and song in a former cricket ground now given over to the gravestones of martyrs as far as the eye can see. There the Kashmiri people / deer raise their hands towards the heavens, their arms like the bifurcating branches of the trees up above them.

Another early scene shows them swarming round a sacred mulberry tree in grief as two bodies in “snow-white shrouds” are returned after being shot by soldiers during one of the all-too regular crackdowns when houses are wrecked as they’re searched for all men over a certain height who are then paraded in front of an informant to be identified as militants. The rolling mass, rippling with those white demarcation lines between so many individuals, looks like a swollen river engorged with grief. It is beautiful yet terrible to behold.

Another wise decision to win over readers is making the heart of this book Munnu’s family. His beloved, touchingly affectionate older brother Bilal boasts the antlers of a healthy young buck implying he’s in his late teens, whereas Munnu and his two other brothers have small budding stubs: Munnu is seven, his other male siblings no more than a couple of years older than him. His sister Shahnaz is closer in age to Bilal. His father sports a pair of geometrically elaborate glasses which come over like a Perspex visor and that made me smile. His perpetually worried mother in her shawl and headdress looks a little like she’s an example of origami.

The tight-knit family is everything, and they’re keenly aware that theirs is lucky to be intact: so many of Bilal’s teenage contemporaries have snuck across the border to the Pakistani-controlled portion of Kashmir to received armed training before returning and to become some of those all-too-young martyrs in that repurposed cricket ground. Also, there are those crackdowns I mentioned and each time the tension is taut as the mother waits in agony at home for her husband and Bilal’s safe return, tearfully praying within each of the three segments of a slowly ticking clock between the second, minute and hour hands.

Growing up under these intrusive conditions which have had a severely deleterious effect upon Papa’s trade (once thriving tourism is now all but extinct) is no ideal childhood and Munnu’s nightmares after a family friend is shot during an identification parade are prolonged and horrific. Sure, there are regular childhood games to be played – like fantasy cricket using the page numbers of an Urdu / English dictionary to score – but it’s hardly normal for a seven-year-old when practising his art to be copying disfigured bodies and AK-47s from newspaper photos. When we carved ink-stamps from erasers (and we did) we made the shapes of horned devil heads not machine guns. There’s something far more sinister about a machine gun ink-stamp mass-reproduced on children’s exercise books than individual drawings – or indeed horned devil heads.

Religion plays a large part inside and outside his regularly disrupted schooling as principals are arrested when linked to militants and some teachers are more kindly than others. One respected elder perceptively remarks, “The heat of the pulpit can either make one divine or a devil”. But however brutal you rate the punishments at school (and I rather think you will), it’s as nothing compared to dragging bodies through a street behind a military van until all the skin on their faces is scraped off to instil fear in the population. Now that is medieval.

Together we follow Munnu through his first published political cartoon aged 13 – then regular employment as a daily visual satirist at the Greater Kashmir newspaper during his early teens – to his first introduction to comics in the form of Joe Sacco graphic novels of extended reportage. Whence this graphic novel. After everything he witnesses he’s not short of passion in denouncing the Indian army’s occupation – chronicled here is atrocity after casual and callous atrocity; the army will even vandalise the ambulance due to take Munnu’s mother to hospital later on – but is candid about his lack of historical knowledge to keep his cartoons fresh, partly because of the jumble of languages the population is forced to speak, read and write in, emphatically excluding Kashmiri.

So the reader is not made to feel relatively ignorant. It’s only halfway through MUNNU that we’re given a history lesson ourselves and – wouldn’t you know it? – good old empire-building Britain plays its woefully traditional, substantial part in fucking things up for Kashmir, catalysing bloodbath after bloodbath before the current conflict kicks off during October 1947 and Kashmir is carved up by the United Nations between the two nuclear powers of India and Pakistan without any consultation whatsoever about what the Kashmiri people want.

It’s a recurring response – of lack thereof. The fervent desire of the Kashmiri population for independence is completely ignored.

Whenever Munnu (increasingly referred to as Sajad as his reputation as an artist expands) is received by outsiders during a Kathmandu summit or when visited by E.U delegates he is patronised to death by well meaning westerners as being ignorant and simplistic in spite of the fact that he’s lived the life that they only hear of from afar.

“I might not know where the bullet came from but I could tell her who the bullet hit.”

But if you think that Malik white-washes the Kashmiri factions’ own roles in massacres (the statistics of which lie in the eyes of the various different statisticians), you’re very much mistaken because if the Indian Army’s atrocities weren’t bad enough, organised religion is used by some Muslim Kashmiri to decry the minority Pandit Kashmiri whose homes are mob-attacked with stones in order to drive them out. Hands up who’s even remotely surprised?

“Infidels, infidels, get out of Kashmir but leave your women here!”

The Pandit population does get out, en masse, but wisely take their women with them. But then there’s an internal free-for-all just to settle personal or religious scores on every side and there’s lovely, isn’t it?

The last fifty-plus pages are terrifying on so many levels. If this had been a mere history lesson it wouldn’t have been half so effective or affecting. But no, this is a highly personal account cleverly constructed so that you care.

At any given point any one member of the family could succumb to a bullet or an illness whose cure could have been readily available were there not an occupying army sabotaging access to treatments or even decent nutrition. I lost count of the times that Munnu or one of his family were detained, restrained, searched and beaten until they could prove they were who claimed to be.

So when a young American woman whom Sajad falls for loses his mobile phone while visiting a highly restricted area… well, she simply doesn’t understand the consequences of it being discovered there with his SIM card intact by the Indian Army.

There’s so much about life in Kashmir which I didn’t understand. Since the terrifying nuclear brinksmanship in 1999 which I remember so well, it’s rather fallen from our news cycles, hasn’t it?

This great graphic novel, I am convinced, will bring it back to the forefront of our attention. To those of us who read great graphic novels, at least. Good luck in waiting for the oh-so-trusted mass media to report.

SLH

Buy Munnu: A Boy From Kashmir h/c and read the Page 45 review here

There’s No Bath In This Bathroom (Sketched In) (£5-00) by Joe Decie.

How To Sell Comics: a textbook example.

Look at that cover! Such gorgeous greens!

Laugh at that title! How daft is our language?

It’s so full of contradictions and hilariously vestigial nomenclature once history’s moved on.

When America imported its language from England to receive a right royal twatting it was just waiting for a comic like this. North Americans call toilets “bathrooms”. Long have their bathrooms been without baths. But then, so have ours: I have two bathrooms at home and one of them has but a shower.

As ever with Joe Decie (I BLAME GRANDMA, THE LISTENING AGENT etc) this is slyly suspect autobiography with a mischievous punchline delivered deadpan.

In this case it concerns a night on the town during Canada’s Toronto Comic Arts Festival with fellow comicbook creators like Dan Berry, spent in an open-all-hours cheap pizza establishment rumoured to be run by gangsters. It would have been a much more relaxed meal for Joe if he hadn’t needed the loo. Or at least if the loo had been a little more sanitary. You will not believe what’s in there. Or who.

There’s usually something magical about a Joe Decie tale whether it’s tall or not. For I don’t mean magical / fantastical (though that’s not out of bounds), I mean odd encounters or flights of thought, and this is no exception. How Joe reacts to them is always worth a smile.

I BLAME GRANDMA was created within 24 hours so the drawings were necessarily less embellished than the positively lush washes here. It verges on photorealistic. He’s a magnificent portrait artist too. Unlike many autobiographical cartoonists you can recognise Joe Decie immediately from his art – though he’s about half a foot shorter than I imagined – and his Dan Berry’s so lifelike, it’s eerie!

There are some fabulous gesticulations and comical expressions, my favourite being the bluff as Decie nods earnestly in agreement to something he couldn’t even comprehend.

Love the background winks to fellow creators Joe List, Liz Lunney and John Porcellino.

SLH

Buy There’s No Bath In This Bathroom (Sketched In) and read the Page 45 review here

Monkey Nuts vol 1: The Diamond Egg Of Wonders (£9-99, DFB Library) by the Etherington Brothers.

“And so LordMonkey Nuts Terra sent his terrible signal pulsing upwards through the earth. He really is very naughty.”

Oh, he’s so very naughty indeed!

From the creators of LONG GONE DON, BAGGAGE and the ingenious action-adventure puzzle book VON DOOGAN comes even more cracking comicbook chaos for Young Readers.

They will thrill, chill – and maybe dribble a little bit – at the sheer spectacle of it all! Is there anyone working in children’s comics today who can pack more colour and fine-lined detail into each and every page? I don’t think so! There are always extra background jokes in the form of signage but I positively wet myself during the cacophonous climax when the landscapes took on a life of their own! And upon Isla De Monstrea they’re as exotic as early Tombraider’s only with 25 gazillion times sharper definition!

Aarrgh! What is happening?! In order to distract all other contenders in his hunt for the Diamond Egg Of Wonders, Lord Terra has sent out a sonic signal which makes monsters drawn to the island like moths to his flame.

In their rampaging way stand but three idiotic individuals just like The Magnificent Seven, only fewer and far less magnificent:

Sid the tap-dancing monkey is addicted to lunching, munching and brunching on bananas! Rivet, the walking, talking, robotic, hot-beverage dispenser, is bananas! Police Chief Tuft is not bananas but he is as crazy as a coconut! Umm. Largely because he is one.

Are these three fully prepped for policing? Do they have take-down, truss-‘em-up tactics and tricks up their sleeves? Do they have their combined wits about them in order to conquer the chaos that erupts upon their delinquent doorsteps? They do not

They are about as witless as the most nit-witted numbskulls you can possibly imagine! I guess they’ll just have to wing it then.

Duck and cover!

Wave after wave of monsters hit Monster Island from tentacled terrors and petulant, primate-hating pyramids to a colossal, fire-headed fury in a very foul mood because he’s managed to get an alarm clock lodged up his bottom. Lodged up his bottom!

I once got an alarm clock lodged up my bottom and, let me tell you, when the alarm went off it was most discombobulating!

SLH

Buy Monkey Nuts vol 1: The Diamond Egg Of Wonders and read the Page 45 review here

Tales Of Fayt: The Mystery Of The Crooked Imp (£7-99, DFB) by Conrad Mason & David Wyatt.

Welcome to Port Fayt, so-called jewel of The Middle Islands which lie on The Ebony Ocean!

I say “so-called” because hook-handed buccaneer Crafty Crocklewick takes the time and trouble to deliver dire warnings about what lies ashore in the form of an annotated map upon which you will discover The Rusty Anchor and The Pickled Dragon amongst several insalubrious saloons!

The Rusty Anchor is described as “the safest lodging house in town, so long as you sleep with one eye open” while of The Pickled Dragon it’s suggested, “Try their gutspiller grog for a night you’ll never remember”. Given that the target audience probably averages around ten years old, they probably won’t remember that by the time they come to risk not remembering, but still. I love good map, me!

Bursting out from the pages of THE PHOENIX weekly story comic for kids, I can only compare the level of eye-popping detail to LONG GONE DON, BAGGAGE, MONKEY NUTS and the ingenious action-adventure puzzle book VON DOOGAN by stablemates The Etherington Brothers. The colouring style is softer and more painterly but behind that lie lines quite as crisp and just as much action.

Wyatt draws a mean, mist-shrouded pirate ship that’s run aground on the rocks beneath a silvery full moon and the Rattigan’s family mansion is rich with intricately carved woodwork even if, on closer inspection, you can spot some wallpaper peeling off its walls. I rather think the family has seen wealthier days.

Far worse, the Rattigans have learned that last night their horse-and-coach driver Whelk was set upon and their baby son Clarence abducted from the carriage so they have summoned The Demon’s Watch, a band of thinkers and fighters far more effective than Fayt’s official Dockside Militia, the Blackcoats.

Led by Captain Newton, a human-ogre hybrid, they are: ancient elf, Old Jon; green-skinned troll twins, The Bootle Brothers; wand-waving magician Hal; and young tomboy Tabitha with bright blue hair, determined to make her mark and so her membership official.

Immediately something seems off about the case but it’ll grow even more tangled before the day is done and the battle’s been won. Oh yeah, you can expect plennnnnnnnty of action involving fairies, a mysterious, red cowled mastermind, that pirate ship, an old-school Elizabethan theatre and its grandstanding lead Actor who is quite the troll, green beneath his grease paint.

He really is a complete and utter ham, and unfortunately writes his own lines. I guess for him it’s a theatrical release.

SLH

Buy Tales Of Fayt: The Mystery Of The Crooked Imp and read the Page 45 review here

Tokyo Ghoul vol 1 (£8-99, Viz) by Sui Ishida…

“Boy eats girl… da da da, dara da da, da da da dara da da…”

With sincere apologies to Haircut 100.

So… we finally got in the manga title seemingly everyone’s been desperate for and I thought I better give it a read. Set in a modern-day Tokyo haunted by ‘ghouls’ with a taste for human flesh, it’s a horror with comedic undertones for reasons I will elaborate on shortly.

No one has ever caught a ghoul, but people suspect that they are walking amongst the population hiding in human form. Then, occasionally, the half eaten remains of some poor unfortunate will be found on the pavement in the morning. These attacks aren’t frequent enough to cause mass panic, or indeed apparently to stop people walking the streets alone at night, but obviously people are concerned.

When our shy central protagonist, bookworm Ken Kaneki, is invited out for a dinner date by the glamorous Rize, it all seems too good to be true. It is, obviously, as she is a ghoul who’s decided Ken is going to be her Special Of The Day. Fortunately for him whilst she is in the middle of pouncing on him and his kidneys (after he’s chivalrously offered to walk her home) some scaffolding collapses, killing her instantly. Unfortunately for Ken, after her late-night snack, he’s in need of an organ donor. Now where you suppose they might find somebody, without any bothersome next of kin to say no to such a worthy request?

You got it, poor old Ken ends up as the recipient of various ghoulish innards – instead of ending up as the contents of them – and that’s where his problems really start. Unable to turn to anyone human including best friend Hike for help, in case he decides to turn them into a sandwich, he’s forced to seek succour from his new-found half-brothers and half-sisters. And their social skills leave a lot to be desired…

Hmm. I can’t honestly say I was as instantly gripped this as I was by say, ATTACK ON TITAN. It’s an interesting enough premise, but I think it is going to be far too much battle manga-esque for me. Which is a surprise given it is on Viz’ signature Ikki imprint. But then again so was MARCH STORY and I thought exactly the same about that. So: upmarket battle manga with a decent premise, then.

JR

Buy Tokyo Ghoul vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Gotham Academy vol 1: Welcome To Gotham Academy s/c (£10-99, DC) by Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher & Karl Kerschl…

Can I get away with describing this as a BATMAN / COURTNEY CRUMRIN-esque mash-up? I think I possibly can, just about… Along with BATGIRL OF BURNSIDE s/c and a slew of titles DC are just releasing such as BLACK CANARY #1 (both written by Brendan Fletcher) this definitely represents a welcome partial shift in their traditional ‘superhero’ output.

So… our hero Olive is attending the prestigious Gotham Academy. She’s a little bit of a social malcontent right now, having split up with her boyfriend and managing to alienate most of her friends over the summer. She also had a run in with Batman… which had quite an impact on her.

Initially struggling to settle in, including being bullied because her mum is in Arkham Asylum, she decides to turn teen sleuth when some masked figures are spotted on campus. Like any good, ridiculously posh American school, they are of course merely members of a secret society, but they are definitely up to some serious no good, that’s for sure. Can Olive uncover their dastardly scheme whilst avoiding demerits and detentions?

 

This is great fun with a slightly spooky edge, which I suspect might be both Brendan Fletcher and Becky Cloonan’s respective contributions neatly balancing out. Much like BATGIRL OF BURNSIDE s/c , the art, this time from Karl Kerschl, is relatively cartoonish but excellent nonetheless, and totally in keeping stylistically with the content and tone of the story. And whilst it is obviously intended to be relatively lightweight fare (DETECTIVE COMICS this is not, though arguably there is considerably more sleuthery going on here), it does handle the darker side of schooling, the bullying and social pecking order skulduggery that goes on everywhere, rather well.

I’ve seen enough of Brendan Fletcher’s work recently to realise he is actually a pretty good writer, certainly in terms of current DC output. I’d quite like to see him tackle completely non-caped contemporary fiction at some point.

JR

Buy Gotham Academy vol 1: Welcome To Gotham Academy s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Black Canary #1 (£2-25, DC) by Brenden Fletcher & Annie Wu.

“From the moment the lights went up, the Wizard’s Wand show in Detroit was a performance to remember. Paloma Terrific debuted her new custom gear in the rig. D.D. was finally playing to the crowd. Lord Byron sat perfectly in the pocket playing to the crowd. And silent wunderkind Ditto pulled sounds out of her semi-acoustic so otherworldly that Leon Theremin would’ve been dumbstruck.”

- From some music magazine or other.

Artist Annie Wu a great many of you will already know from the deliciously drawn HAWKEYE VOL 3, given which you will be far from surprised that this is not your average superhero comic.

It’s not even your average superheroine comic because although Black Canary still sports fishnet stockings, this isn’t about the long legs, thigh shots and deep, forward-thrusting cleavage otherwise known as “tits’n’ass” comics which are a total disgrace to the medium.

Here the fishnets are torn in punk and post-punk fashion and that’s a studded leather jacket on top of the bodice which reveals nothing at all except a new wave fashion sense as our trouble magnet, now lead singer of the rock band Black Canary, lets it rip into the mic.

Wu’s lines are all whoosh-whoosh on the page, hair flying everywhere or lolloping over the forehead when the cast is feeling more sedate. It keeps the story sweeping along beautifully and the story right now seems to centre on Black Canary’s mute guitarist Ditto, for although it looked as though D.D. was attracting all the violence spilling onto their set so cutting the gigs short and ruining their reputation, she was merely defending their territory.

Really they were after the silent and secretive Ditto – she of the ethereal strings – and their assailants were merely the vanguard. What’s coming next (and I do mean what, not who) I can only compare to the Umbral in UMBRAL. Lee Loughbridge’s colours do something clever there: they take over everything on the page – all the linework and shadow which would ordinarily be black – except for the creatures themselves.

The effect is to render the inky ones alien, otherworldly and the centre of your eyes’ attention. They’ve got the bands too. Thank goodness D.D. used to be in the Justice League. For five seconds.

So what’s her story, then?

SLH

Buy Black Canary #1 and read the Page 45 review here

 

Thors #1 (£2-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Chris Sprouse.

“Names, Throg. I need an I.D. on the victims. So far Ray and I have nothing to go on.”
“What can I tell ya? They’re not in the database.”
“None of them? How is that possible.”
“You’re talking to a frog that carries a hammer, pal. Any damn thing is possible.”

It is now!

In SECRET WARS #1 the regular Marvel Universe and its Ultimate counterpart collided, obliterating both. Now all that’s left is Battleworld, consisting of concurrent cross-overs and major events from Marvel’s past playing themselves out further than they did before or in different ways. Each takes place in a different domain between which travelling is strictly forbidden by decree of Battleworld’s deity Doctor Victor Von Doom. He is the law; order is maintained by the Thors.

This, therefore, is now a police-procedure crime comic, and it’s cracking!

For a start the art is by TOM STRONG’s Chris Sprouse so it’s big and it’s bold with smooth and attractive figure work without being over-busy or brutal.

Its stars every Thor throughout history – well, Marvel’s history – and there have been many: Stormborn (the X-Men’s Ororo), Thorlief (the Ultimate Universe’s Thor) Beta Ray Bill (he has the head of a skinned horse!) and Throg (he’s a frog). There are in fact hundreds of the hammer-hefting hearties.

The primaries on this investigation are Thorlief and Beta Ray Bill and the pressure is on for it’s just been designated an “Allthing” by Odin. This means all hands on deck because the case needs to be closed quickly before Doom himself gets wind of it and demotes the two primaries which would involve losing a great deal more than their police pensions.

So what’s got them all baffled? Five dead bodies have appeared in five different domains but what isn’t different is their identities: they’re all the same woman. Five versions of the same woman have been murdered. Who is the woman? Clue: she’s ever so slightly central to the Marvel THOR mythos.

What I love about the best of these SECRET WARS satellite series (and there are hundreds of those too; amongst those reviewed so far and still / back in stock, OLD MAN LOGAN #1 and PLANET HULK #1) is that they each contain a different piece of the jig-saw puzzle which is Battleworld and the secrets that lie behind it. Beta Ray’s informant, living on the street out of a cardboard box, knows stuff:

“I can tell you what I’ve learned in the shadows, Stormbreaker. I can tell you why people are dying. Your good friend Loki can tell you about the greatest lie of all. But I don’t believe you’re gonna want to hear it.”

A lie that’s bigger than Loki’s? Blimmin’ ‘eck!

SLH

Buy Thors #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.

Wytches vol 1 s/c (£7-50, Image) by Scott Snyder & Jock

Rumble vol 1: What Colour Of Darkness s/c (£7-50, Image) by John Arcudi & James Harren

Russian Olive To Red King h/c (£18-99, Adhouse Books) by Kathryn Immonen & Stuart Immonen

Borb (£14-99, Uncivilised Books) by Jason Little

Invincible vol 21: Modern Family (£12-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Ryan Ottley

Massive vol 5: Ragnarok s/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Brian Wood & Garry Brown

Oliver And The Seawigs (£6-99, Oxford) by Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre

Cakes In Space (£6-99, Oxford) by Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre

Rasputin vol 1: The Road To The Winter Palace s/c (£10-99, Image) by Alex Grecian & Riley Rossmo

Strangers In Paradise vol 5 Pocket Edition (£13-50, Abstract Studio) by Terry Moore

Strangers In Paradise vol 6 Pocket Edition (£13-50, Abstract Studio) by Terry Moore

Adventure Time Sugary Shorts vol 2 h/c (£16-99, Titan) by various inc. Roger Langridge, Noelle Stevenson, Frazer Irving

Batman And Robin vol 5: The Big Burn s/c (£12-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, various

Batman And Robin vol 6: The Hunt For Robin h/c (£18-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi & Andy Kubert, Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray, various

Supergirl vol 1: Last Daughter Of Krypton s/c (£10-99, DC) by Michael Green, Mike Johnson & Mahmud Asrar

Supergirl vol 2: Girl In The World s/c (£10-99, DC) by Michael Green, Mike Johnson & Mahmud Asrar, George Perez

Supergirl vol 3: Sanctuary s/c (£12-99, DC) by Mike Johnson & Mahmud Asrar

Supergirl vol 4: Out Of The Past s/c (£10-99, DC) by Michael Alan Nelson, Scott Lobdell, Justin Jordan & various

Supergirl vol 5: Red Daughter Of Krypton s/c (£13-50, DC) by Tony Bedard & various

Ant-Man vol 1: Second-Chance Man s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Nick Spencer & Ramon Rosanas

Hulk: Future Imperfect s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Peter David & George Perez, Dale Keown

Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service vol 14 (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Eiji Otsuka & Housui Yamazaki

Mobile Suit Gundam Origin vol 10: Solomon (£22-50, Random House / Vertical) by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko

News!

ITEM! Artist Daren Bader interviewed about TRIBES OF KAI graphic novel which looks ferociously fine – and feline!

ITEM! Interview with Kate Beaton about her next comic collection, STEP ASIDE, POPS! Kate Beaton’s HARK, A VAGRANT! always in stock at Page 45!

ITEM! Craig Thompson’s new graphic novel – for Young Adults – is on the horizon! Pre-order Craigh Thompson’s SPACE DUMPLINS from Page 45! There’s so many Craig Thompson SPACE DUMPLINS process pieces online on his blog! Duck under the bridge and scroll down!

- Stephen

Page 45 Reviews written by Stephen & Jonathan then edited by an Aye-Aye with no eye for errors.