Bryan Lee O’Malley signing, sketching at Page 45

June 23rd, 2014

Page 45 loudly and proudly presents

Bryan Lee O’Malley signing SECONDS

5pm to 8pm
Monday 18th August 2014
which is the exact

10th Anniversary of SCOTT PILGRIM!

You are allowed a little squeal.

“Advise me to pre-order SECONDS, Stephen!”

Hey, SECONDS is on sale NOW! Not only that but it is already out of print!

SECONDS was released early in the UK by SelfMadeHero and there will be no new printing in time for the signing. Copies are now scare, so please order in advance of the signing!

You can order SECONDS from Page 45 (and everything else that you fancy) and select “collect in store” then it will be ready and waiting for you on the day itself – or immediately, if you fancy. All orders placed now are guaranteed. We will not sell your copy to anyone else!

 

“What if I can’t make it on the day in the end?”

We will get your copy signed and mail it on if necessary. But only if you order now, before our online sign says we’ve sold out!

“What if I know I can’t make it and select mail order?”

We will get your copy signed if you ask and mail it on accordingly. But only if you order before our online sign says we’ve sold out!

I’d basically order now. Click this sentence to order SECONDS!

Your card is never charged here until your pre-order arrives.  In any case, this is no longer a pre-order: we have SECONDS in stock, right now!

We Also Have:

LOST AT SEA 10th-Anniversary H/C
SCOTT PILGRIM
HOPELESS SAVAGES

Page 45’s World Exclusive 2012 Signing print

On The Day:

Entry is free, no tickets required.

Please turn up early, buy stuff, buy more stuff, join the queue outside the door (the queue starts outside the door but not in the actual doorway, please), then wave one of us down if you need anything at all. We won’t leave you hanging there!

Traditionally we start with any one book sketched in and whatever you fancy signed.

What happens later depends on the length of the queue which is usually cut an hour before the end. Please, please get here early to avoid disappointment.

Keep Up To Date:

Bryan Lee O’Malley’s tumblr
Bryan Lee O’Malley’s twitter @radiomaru

SelfMadeHero’s website news
SelfMadeHero’s twitter @selfmadehero

Page 45’s website news
Page 45’s twitter @pagefortyfive

If you have any questions now or on the day, please phone 0115 9508045. After all, we’re already on your speed-dial, aren’t we?

Brilliant!

- Stephen

Reviews June 2014 week three

June 18th, 2014

Alison phones her mother in the desperate but vain hope of finally hearing some words of approbation, and then her mother talks at her about her own current focus of interest while Alison just sits there, recording and acting as little more than punctuation marks in her mother’s self-absorbed discourse.

 - Stephen on Alison Bechdel’s Are You My Mother? finally in stock as a s/c.

Not unrelated: we finally review Neil Gaiman’s Ocean At The End Of The Lane.

The Summer Of Blake Sinclair vol 1 (£12-55, Zetabella) by Sarah Burgess.

 

Perfect in pale peach and lemon yellows, the pages here glow like a summer sunrise or a glass of Bellini with the early evening light pouring through it. They are as tangy as a citrus fool with bits of lemon peel left in.

A fool of the love-rat variety is what Blake Sinclair first appears to be.

He’s up bright and early and cheerful as anything, prising open the bedroom window to soak up the sunshine and leap barefoot into the day. He’s young and dashing in a gangly, tousled-hair kind of a way and, oh, how he loves the ladies. Unfortunately he has just left one behind back in said bedroom whose window he’s now clambering back through. Daisy is just waking up, punctuating her sweet-smiling words with love hearts.

 

It’s a brilliant Blake and Burgess moment of which there will be many more. Blake isn’t in love with himself and doesn’t have a malicious bone in his body but he is completely open and honest, by which I mean blunt and careless and more than a little inconsiderate. You don’t go on and on about how fab your ex is in front of the girl with a big crush on you. (That isn’t Daisy, by the way; that’s Janey and Ruthie, respectively.) Especially not when your ex is heading back into town and you’re virtually hyperventilating with glee. It’s really not at all fair on Ruthie.

Oh, but is that what’s really happening? We shall see, we shall see… I promised more brilliant Blake and Burgess moments, and I swear Sarah won’t let you down.

Each chapter title falls in with the theme like ‘bright light summer days’ and there is so much space – more space perhaps than in any comic I have ever read. The forms are all as lithe as you like, the clothes and bed sheets hanging off them with a perfectly judged weight depending on texture, while quite often the panels are free-floating and borderless. Every single page is composed with perfect balance and there is a visual Unity to this graphic novel that is positively Greek.

There will be drama and laughter and maybe a few tears; hellos and good-byes and the occasion awkward introduction. There will be shared enthusiasm and gossip as well, and I love how the gaggle of friends venting their “tut-tuts” on the very first morning are only partly overheard – partly because half of their sentences are lost outside the word balloons. It’s clever like that.

SLH

Buy The Summer Of Blake Sinclair vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Cat Person (£13-99, Koyama Press) by Seo Kim.

Recognition Factor Fifty!

Short, observational comedies can be so hit and miss, but this one ticks every single box.

First comes the cat with the never-ending Territorial Armchair Wars between the feline and the feckless (but what can you do?); those incessant “I’m being starved to death” yowls when the biscuit bowl is full, you add three more biscuits and – whooomf – instant munch mania until they’re all gone; that bizarre, talking-to-itself, speaking-in-tongues “mraaoowwwaaaoohl” coming from the other room only to discover it’s OD-ed on catnip and you’ve got a seriously monged-up moggie on your hands.

Don’t own a cat? Bet you own a mobile phone and “Oh my god I’ve left it at home there’ll be so many missed calls most of them vital and people will think that I’m dead or I’m rude or I hate them and — ” Oh.

E-mail procrastination? I’m probably worse: sometimes I daren’t even look, let alone reply.

Then there’s true tragedy: the loss of that tasty treat you’ve been longing for to ten minutes’ terminal distraction and the malicious, capricious God Of All Things Burnt Beyond Recognition. Oh, the walk of shame as I open the kitchen door with my diseased dinner and dump it in the bin. Sometimes at 2am.

There are also precise, scientific studies here akin to Professor Lizz Lunney’s in which Science Officer Seo compares humans to cats and comes to a startling conclusion which could change all that we know about nature. The final panel of ‘Humans And Cats Are The Same’ basically is LizzLizz through and through. Infer from that what you will.

The majority of this is in full colour, by the way, and I love the cartooning which is energetic, wide-eyed, rosy-cheeked and fun, fun, fun. The body language is brilliant, the tears all too real, the sheer I-probably-shouldn’t-do-this triumph of desire over moderation and all common sense is both familiar and messy. She even tries to have words with herself which turns into an argument and finally a fist-flying punch-up.

Time management is possibly the most recurrent confession here: specifically Seo Kim’s complete failure to go to bed and so salvage the following day which is inevitably lost to a late start, early dithering, then more social media than strictly necessary until “Oh my god it’s five to five already and I have written bugger all!”

I have absolutely no idea what she means.

SLH

Buy Cat Person and read the Page 45 review here

The Ocean At The End Of The Lane s/c (£10-99, Harper Collins) by Neil Gaiman.

“Oh, sweety-weety-pudding-and-pie, you are in so much trouble.”

There was an ocean at the end of the lane.

Or, to be more precise, there was a pond behind a farm at the end of the lane which eleven-year-old Lettie Hempstock declared was an ocean but it looked just like a pond, to be honest. And Lettie Hempstock looked just like an eleven-year-old.

It’s funny what you forget until something jogs your memory: even Important Stuff can grow cloudy, opaque, or vanish from sight altogether. Sometimes it takes a smell or a sound – and especially a song – but in this case it takes a subconscious detour during a drive that leads the adult narrator to the ocean at the farm at the end of the lane of the house which he grew up in.

This was when he was seven; after the kitten he was given as a birthday present was run over during the arrival of the family’s new lodger a mere month later; after their car was discovered at the end of that lane with something deeply unpleasant inside it.

That was when the narrator first met the Hempstocks: young Lettie, Mrs Hempstock, and Old Mrs Hempstock who lived on the farm, milked the cows and made tasty and traditional meals like porridge and shepherd’s pie and spotted dick with the creamiest custard. For breakfast his father burned toast.

But there was something odd about the pond, something other about Hempstocks,and soon there was something very wrong within the young lad’s family.

It’s funny what you forget. Now it’s all come flooding back.

I’m a very slow reader; I never learned how to speed-read nor would I care to, and when the hardcover appeared there were so many graphic novels coming out which demanded and deserved our attention that I couldn’t find time to read prose. My loss: this is magical.

The novel is set both when and indeed where I grew up: during the late sixties, at a farm at the end of a lane with my mother and grandparents. I used to love mucking out the shippens. I had a child’s fascination with cowpats, their textures etc. A midden is where the slurry ends up and my uncle fell in once, eww.

It’s all here: the early morning milking, creaming off the top, the silver-gleaming milk churns hoisted onto a raised platform at the right height to be collected later by lorries.

There’s much more besides if you didn’t grow up on a farm: pre-decimalisation calculation (always with reference to how many sweet chews you could buy); successfully picking out verrucas with the point of a metal compass when all modern medicine had failed; being scared of eating meals outside your own home in case you didn’t like and yet had to eat them; secret ways in and out of your garden which adults wouldn’t even know about; failing to be the sporty son your father actually wanted; younger siblings who got to watch the telly they wanted (or didn’t even, particularly) at your expense.

I’m just picking out the bits I recognised while subconsciously, I’m sure, ignoring that which I didn’t. You’ll have a different list of your own: night terrors, car smells, comics brought home by your Dad.

All these familiar elements are either set out as standard or woven into a new context as Gaiman gradually glides the everyday into the other whilst retaining the recognisable characteristics of a child’s cognitive process: what would seem odd and what wouldn’t.

I have given far less away than the dustjacket, but then I’ve only just read the dustjacket sleeve. I went in knowing nothing and I recommend you do the same. It’s not as if Neil needs prove himself now: you either trust him or you don’t.

The one thing I would say is this: your home is or should be your castle. Even if you’re not the queen or king of your castle as an adult aspires to be, it is still where you feel safest. It is your home territory, both familiar and comforting, and there can never be anywhere you should feel more secure than in the loving arms of your mother or father.

So imagine if it wasn’t.

SLH

Buy The Ocean At The End Of The Lane s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The United States Of Murder Inc #2 (£2-99, Icon/Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Avon Oeming.

Years ago:

“Right on time.”
“Jimmy, you really gonna act like this ain’t no big deal?”
“It ain’t. What they hell’s the matter with you? We’ve done this shit fifty times.”
“You really don’t think this is any different?”
“No. It is what it is. One guy fucked up. Another guy pays us to take care of said fuckup. The end.”

The beginning.

You wait until you see who you’re looking at through the rifle sights.

Rarely does Page 45 review second issues of comics let alone the 373rd. We know your time is precious so we wait until the book comes out. But this cannot wait. This new series is so cracking and – in a crammed and competitive market – we believe more of you would love to know.

From the creative team who brought you POWERS comes something equally dark but completely free from capes. In a power struggle between some very dangerous men it is so, so tense. I recommend it to readers of CRIMINAL as well.

The mafia were never subdued in America. Instead a considerable portion of the country was conceded to them to rule semi-surreptitiously and with impunity.

In THE UNITED STATES OF MURDER INC #1 Valentine was sworn in as a made man long before his years of service would generally merit it. But his father – and his father’s father before him – was of such stock that he was effectively fast-tracked. And Valentine is equally committed to the family.

His first duty was to deliver a message to a Senator in Washington DC. The message was in the form of a briefcase and, however cryptic to others, would speak for itself. Valentine asked for his cousin to accompany him. Reluctantly that was agreed. He didn’t ask for Jagger Rose to accompany him but she was persuasive, effective, so reluctantly he agreed.

The message was delivered. Another was sent in its place: the detonation of a bomb. Nobody knows what it means. Or at least, no one will admit to knowing or being its messenger.

Now, at the most critical moment possible, someone has delivered yet another message to Valentine, pulling the rug from under his feet, in the form of a revelation so shocking it threatens everyone and every thing in a series which has only just begun.

The hunt for the truth behind the bomb blast is on and it’s a race against time because Valentine and Jagger Rose – although caught in its path – are the most obvious prime suspects.

Who do you trust? I don’t have a clue.

This is the sort of thing that terrifies me: straying too close to the struggles for power within the likes of the Mafia or the IRA or even the CIA. People with power and way beyond accountability who can use you and abuse you and demand your submission.

Oeming and Soma have delivered something dark, stark, brooding and sweaty: claustrophobic and unsettlingly lit. The colours are occasionally venomous – I’m thinking the intrusion of Valentine’s Ma on her son and Jagger Rose – while the first page’s flashback was just a wee bit Gilbert or Jaime Hernandez. Lots and lots of silhouettes. Quite a lot of crimson.

SLH

Buy The United States Of Murder Inc #2 and read the Page 45 review here

New Lone Wolf & Cub vol 1 (£10-50, Dark Horse) by Kazuo Koike & Hideki Mori.

“This was Daigoro, the son of the Wolf, with countless slaughters burned into his eyes, he who had led numberless warriors to call him the child with shishogan – the eyes of life and death.
“Who could possibly raise such a child?”

The classic samurai series set in feudal Japan, LONE WOLF & CUB originally ran for 142 chapters from 1970-1976. It had a startling beginning and a dramatic, most emphatic end. Moreover with the death of its original artist, Goseki Kojima, in 2000 we never dared imagine the story would continue.

You’ll find the first LONE WOLF & CUB omnibus reviewed in detail (and examined at the back of this book), but in summary: Ogami Itto, the titular Lone Wolf and the shogunate’s official executioner, is betrayed by the leader of the shogunate’s political assassins, Yagyu Retsudo, in a bid to consolidate his own power base; not only is false evidence planted that Itto was set to betray the regime but his pregnant wife is murdered during labour, his newborn son Daigoro found by Ogami lying by her side, umbilical cord still uncut.

What follows is a long, arduous and meandering road to revenge, Ogami carting his son around the countryside and building his war chest by taking on assignments between the twin distractions of hypocrisy and injustice he encounters along the way and fending of further attacks by those sent by Yagyu Retsudo to silence him.

I now present you with a single paragraph of SPOILERS if you would prefer to read the original series. It climaxed in a final duel between the two adversaries after which only young Daigoro was left standing, above his father’s dead body. And it is here that the series is rejoined with time taken to evoke and respect the boy’s perspective and acknowledge the implications of anything that now happens to either of those two corpses. I would expect no less of Koike – this was ever the thoughtful series – but I can assure you that slicing and dicing will follow.

In the back Koike – ever a man of honour – goes to great lengths to pay proper tribute to his friend, original artist and co-creator of LONE WOLF & CUB, Goseki Kojima, before recalling the incredulity with which he first laid eyes upon art from Hideki Mori which suggested to Kojima that the story could be continued worthily.

Soaking in these new pages, you could almost imagine that this was Kojima himself, honing his craft further still, so well has Mori studied him. Some of the finer and more precise landscape detail may have been sacrificed, but the sun blasting through clouds that resemble billowing, black smoke is monumentally effective and the waves close to shore are thrilling. Certainly at this size a thicker line is a lot kinder on the eye, while some of the silhouettes and facial close-ups with their moulding strike more embellished notes of Ikegami or even CONAN and HULK artist Ernie Chan. Which has just aged me.

SLH

Buy New Lone Wolf & Cub vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama s/c (£11-99, Mariner) by Alison Bechdel.

Softcover edition! Obviously the hardcover adorned the top of our blog when originally released but I worried that you might have stopped reading if you’d heard this before.

“I told the clerk at the bookstore my daughter has a book coming out. She asked what it was about, and I said, “Me!” She said she could get me into a witness protection programme.”

Bechdel’s last book, FUN HOME, was my favourite graphic novel of 2006. It’s a literary, autobiographical work about an early Obsessive Compulsive Disorder regarding the truth in Bechdel’s childhood diaries, her deceased father’s predisposition towards artifice, and her relationship with her father who was secretly gay. Not the best idea, having secrets when your daughter is compelled towards truth. Her mother – still very much alive and with some justification – took exception to the private being made public: the exposure of their family life to her friends and neighbours. They didn’t have a tempestuous falling out, but the disapproval was there and was voiced.

So, um, guess what this one’s about?

Yup, in her quest to get to heart of all matters – and matters of the heart – Bechdel pursues the truth about her relationship with her mother, the underlying causes behind it and the effect it’s had upon Alison’s self-esteem and love life, this time with the aid of psychoanalysts’ therapy. Extraordinarily, she does so in the full knowledge of her mum who is given access to Bechdel’s script in time to comment on it. On that level, at least, I think Ma Bechdel is as forgiving as a saint.

Dr. Mary Talbot, expert in Critical Discourse Analysis and author of DOTTER OF HER FATHER’S EYES (about two daughters’ relationships with their fathers) and now SALLY HEATHCOTE, SUFFRAGETTE, had plenty to say but summed one aspect of the book up beautifully with the word “reflexive”. It really is, and all the more fascinating for it. That it was ever completed at all, given its method of construction, let alone organised with such clarity and precision is a major miracle of creative instinct and discipline.

“Of course, the point at which I began to write the story is not the same as the point at which the story begins.” At the very least!

Visually it’s far more exhilarating than FUN HOME, for Bechdel’s loosened up on the layouts and lines, replacing the swimming-pool blues and greens with a rich, warmer plum, kicking off each chapter with a single image which bleeds right to the edge opposite a full page of said pleasurable plum, and concluding with a double-page spread with a thick frame of black. And, speaking of discipline, I cannot convey in strong enough terms my respect and appreciation for the trouble Alison has taken to reproduce by hand every map, photo, newspaper clipping and prose quotation rather than throw lazy, incongruous and therefore distracting photocopies at us which would have obliterated my immersion in the work.

Those opening sequences, by the way, are each one of them dreams which Alison and her analyst then proceed to interpret as part of their investigative process which also incorporates childhood, teenage and more recent memories and Bechdel’s own research into the infant-based, analytical works of Donald Winnicott and co. And this, I suspect, is where most British critics’ heckles will rise so uncontrollably that they’ll mistarget their ire, disappointment or disdain. As a stiff-lipped nation we have a low tolerance for psychotherapy, dream analysis and the numerology claptrap so enamoured or even obsessed over by our transatlantic cousins. I know I do. But I wince with worry that readers will take exception to the book, which is brilliant, purely because they have issues with Alison’s issues. If I shook my head at some of the conclusions drawn from, say, Alison’s third eye in one dream being hit by a stick, there were other instances, like the anxiety nightmare of a timorous growth on her cheek, which struck home; plus I still found the surrounding jigsaw puzzle pieced together over the course of the book to be both fascinating and valid, never mind the wider issues of parenting and childhood.

Both Bechdels are fiercely intelligent and culturally versed women, passionate about books and art. However, instead of sharing their opinions in a conversation mutually appreciative of each others’ learning, Bechdel’s mother is instead given to pronounce while Alison’s predisposition is to rankle. It’s produced a certain degree of rivalry which also rears its head as professional jealousy whenever Bechdel hears of the success of others who make a successful career out of being a feminist – and more specifically lesbian – writer or artist. For, let us be clear, Alison Bechdel is very much a ‘lesbian’ comicbook creator. I’d never define someone by their sexuality but Alison does, as is her right, so there you have it.

For someone who complains about a lack of communication with her mother, you might think it odd that they’re on the phone to each other virtually every day. But what actually happens is that Alison phones her mother in the desperate but vain hope of finally hearing some words of approbation, and then her mother talks at her about her own current focus of interest while Alison just sits there, recording and acting as little more than punctuation marks in her mother’s self-absorbed discourse.

In keeping with making the private public, then, I can relate to that. On the rare instances my father would venture out of his Cheshire-based comfort zone to the sub-cultured city of Nottingham (once every other year for an hour and never staying over), he would bring with him an envelope; and on the back of that envelope would be detailed notes on the topics he wished to pontificate upon without pause to minimise the risk of discovering anything about my own life. He was a frightened (and so very angry) man, but that particular prospect terrified him, and so I fear it is with Alison and her mother who is far from homophobic but just wishes it wasn’t such a public part of Alison’s private life – i.e. in her comics.

“You’re not going to use your real name, are you? Couldn’t you use one of your funny names?”
“That would defeat the purpose!”
“I would love to see your name on a book. But not on a book of lesbian cartoons.”

None of those books, by the way, now collected as ESSENTIAL DYKES TO WATCH OUT FOR would have likely seen the light of day without Ma Bechdel’s unconditional patronage in the form of cheques amounting to $5,200 to support her daughter’s creativity in a field she disapproved of. That, folks, is maternal altruism. Doubly unfortunate, then, that Alison’s moved into a second field her mother disapproves of: memoir, full of “inaccuracy, exhibitionism, narcissism”.

“The self has no place in good writing,” declares mother Bechdel. Or has her reaction to the genre been coloured by her inclusion within it? I certainly don’t believe it was an act of belligerence on Alison’s part as any reading of FUN HOME would make clear, and in any case inaccuracy is an anathema to her.

And so we come to the five A4 pages of notes I wrote while reading the proof copy, not one of which have I used here! “True Self”, “False Self”, and quotations like, “Patterns are my existence. Everything has significance. Everything must fit. It’s enough to drive you crazy.” But do you know what? They’re not for me to transcribe – let alone remember which pages they came from! – they’re for you to make for yourselves, or else why buy and enjoy the book for yourselves?

For the record, I like Ma Bechdel. She had a difficult life you’ll discover for yourself, and she has a genuine passion of her own for truth and discovery, even if some of those discoveries are at odds with what she believed:

“Wait, I just read something interesting about memoir, hang on. Are you there?”
“Uh huh.”
“It’s by Dorothy Gallagher. “The writer’s business is to find the shape in unruly life and to serve her story. Not, you may note, to serve her family, or to serve the truth, but to serve the story.””
“Wow.”
“I know! Family be damned!”
“Ha!”
“The story must be served!”

The story, I promise you, is very well served.

FUN HOME’s featured writer was Scott Fitzgerald; this one’s is Virginia Woolf. Excellent!

SLH

Buy Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Catwoman: When In Rome s/c (£10-99, DC) by Jeph Loeb & Tim Sale…

Can’t quite believe I have never read this before, because it is excellent, every bit as good as this pairing’s classic Bat-works LONG HALLOWEEN, DARK VICTORY and HAUNTED KNIGHT. And actually, ties in perfectly with events in the weekly BATMAN: ENTERNAL title. Catwoman has taken flight, along with Edward Nigma a.k.a. The Riddler, but merely to Rome for a holiday. Well, it’s not quite all pleasure as our curious feline is after information pertaining to Carmine ‘The Roman’ Falcone. I am reluctant to give too much more away, but suffice to say whilst Selina’s preferred profession might be the pilfering and purloining of valuable trinkets, she’s not exactly a slouch in the detective department, either.

 

 

It was the act of taking a very precious item without the Roman’s permission which has set her on her current collision course of enquiry, and there are interested parties who seem most determined to ensure her investigation does not come to a successful conclusion, just a terminal one. Rather than Catwoman, this focuses more on Selina Kyle-related action, just like the equally artistically appealing and well constructed Brubaker and Cooke CATWOMAN VOL 1: TRAIL OF THE CATWOMAN – which is personally how I prefer it. She even finds time for a holiday romance too, not provided by The Riddler despite his multiple, odious, amorous attempts but a blond Mafia hitman who is seemingly unable to resist her feline wiles. It’ll end in tears – and blood, obviously – for she is a heartbreaker, our Miss Kyle, but will she find the answers she is looking for? And if she does, will they be the ones she wants?

JR

Buy Catwoman: When In Rome s/c and read the Page 45 review here

X-Men: Phoenix – Endsong / Warsong s/c (£22-50, Marvel) by Greg Pak & Greg Land, Tyler Kirkham.

[Spurious “review” with in-joke apologies, this was originally written during the 2006 season of Big Brother and Grant Morrison’s run on NEW X-MEN when Magneto infiltrated the X-Men as new teacher Xorn. I can’t even recall who Big Brother’s Richard even was anymore. Sorry! – ed.]

First time if was ENDSONG, now it’s WARSONG; next time I anticipate LAPSONG SOUCHANG. It might go something like this, with Cyclops and Wolverine strolling down the hall and Professor Jean Luc Picard calling from afar…

[Off camera] “To me, my X-Men!”
“Did you hear something…?”
“Eh, you know how these corridors echo.”
“Well, I’m just going to take a look. It’s been months since the funeral, and not a word from Jean.”
“Dude, it was Jean’s funeral.”
“Your point…?”
[Off camera] “To me, my X-MEN!!!”
“There we go; he’s on the crazy paving again.”
“Professor!  Are the grounds breached?”
“Has your blanket slipped?”
“Are we under attack?”
“Do you need changing?”
“Scott, I’d dropped my saucer! My tea was getting cold.”
“You can’t drink tea from your cup?”
“Yes, but I like to pour it — into my sauce-er.”
“But, Professor, that’s what makes it go cold…”
“And listen, Chuck, can’t you just ask nicely? All this, “To me, my X-Men!” It’s a little –”
“Shakespearian…? Melodramatic…? Morrison-esque…?”
“Rude!”
“Yes, Logan, I see, I see… How about “X-Men, I’ve dropped my saucer! Do come and see that it’s righted!””
“Haven’t we forgotten a little something…?”
“’… Do come and see that it’s righted right now!’”
“…”
“’… Do come and see that’s it’s righted, my dears…?’”

[Strolling away]

“By the way, who’s that guy in the purple cape and helmet, with his gloved mitts in the mansion’s Milk Tray?”
“One of the new teachers, I think.”

[The Diary Room]

“Hello, Eric, this is Big Brother. How are you feeling today?”
“Vain, supercilious and monomaniacal.”
“Oh I’m sorry, Richard, I thought you were somebody else.”

SLH

Buy X-Men: Phoenix – Endsong / Warsong s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

 

Velvet vol 1: Before The Living End (£7-50, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Steve Epting

Escapo h/c (£18-99, Z2 Comics) by Paul Pope

Metabarons Genesis: Castaka h/c (£29-99, Humanoids) by Alejandro Jodorowsky & Das Pastoras

Moomin Complete Lars Jansson Comic Strip vol 9 h/c (£14-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Lars Jansson

Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer Complete Edition s/c (£18-99, Top Shelf) by Van Jensen & Dustin Higgins

Preacher Book vol 4 (£14-99, Vertigo) by Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon

Before Watchmen – Nite Owl / Dr Manhattan s/c (£14-99, DC) by J. Michael Straczynski & Adam Hughes, Adam Kubert, Joe Kubert, Eduardo Risso, Bill Sienkiewicz

Before Watchmen – The Comedian / Rorschach s/c (£14-99, DC) by Brian Azzarello & Lee Bermejo, J. G. Jones

Green Lantern: Lights Out h/c (£18-99, DC) by Robert Venditti, others & various

Amazing X-Men vol 1: The Quest For Nightcrawler s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Ed McGuinness

Avengers World vol 1: A.I.M.PIRE s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman, Nick Spencer & Stefano Caselli, John Cassaday

Superior Spider-Man vol 6: Goblin Nation s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Dan Slott, Christos N. Gage & Giuseppe Camuncoli, others

Fairy Tail vol 39 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Full Metal Alchemist Omnibus vols 1-3 (£9-99, Viz) by Hiromu Arakawa

NGE: The Shinji Ikari Raising Project vol 14 (£7-50, Dark Horse) by Osamu Takahashi

 

ITEM! The cuddliest comic of all time AND the finest comics reportage ever! Forget Joe Sacco, Lizz Lunney investigates Berlin! Serious “Awwwwww… Factor!

ITEM! Loved this image from Luchie: subtle and ethereal, I stared at it for ages. Here’s Luchie’s blog.

ITEM! And this a detail (and what detail!) from a panel by Simon Gane of a graphic novel he couldn’t name yet.

ITEM! Exceptionally fine and thoughtful interview with Brian Michael Bendis on Marvel’s rise from bankruptcy to diversity and the perfect answer to “What’s the superhero comics industry’s biggest challenge?” Triple A+++ points to Abraham Riesman for taking the trouble to include the word “superhero” in that question when most others would fail to even think about it. It doesn’t affect the wider world of comics.

Clue: the biggest problem is some superhero readers’ abysmal failure to act like their heroes. “You know what Captain America would never do? Go online anonymously and shit on a girl for having an opinion”. There’s more, and it’s spot-on.

ITEM! From the creators of THE NEW DEADWARDIANS comes Dan Abnett & Ian Culbard’s WILD’S END mini-series – interview! Here’s Abnett  & Culbard’s DARK AGES comic referred to.

ITEM! Teacher includes Pokemon reference in maths test to perk up kids’ interest. One kid is smarter!

ITEM! Yet another fab Tom Gauld cartoon for the Guardian. Have you tried YOU’RE ALL JUST JEALOUS OF MY JETPACK yet? Includes the funniest three-panel strip I’ve ever read, reproduced there.

- Stephen

Reviews June 2014 week two

June 11th, 2014

I love the way the colour of the crayon mutates to frame the picture it’s written round or to pick out certain elements within it. The drawings themselves are suitably wan in spite of the colours which are far from naturalistic. Hair might be bright red or – in the doctor’s case – in strands of green, yellow and a purple which matches and so complements his loose, short-sleeved smock.

 - Stephen on Everywhere Antennas by Julie Delporte

Petty Theft (£14-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Pascal Girard…

“She chose my book. Of all the books she could have stolen, she chose mine. It’s flattering.”

Ah, Pascal… what are we going to do with you? Not sure who is less of a Lothario between Pascal and Joe THE POOR BASTARD Matt, but one thing is for sure, no matter how shy they are with the ladies, neither of them shies away from bearing their tortured souls and romantic disasters for our salacious amusement. Yes, whilst I bet writing autobiographical material can be cathartic, I feel it takes a certain… special… type of person to let us into their innermost thoughts and intimate emotions.

In Pascal’s case, between coming off the back of a failed relationship, considering quitting comics for construction, staying with a friend and his family, well, he’s not in a good place, frankly. All the wiser, therefore, not to pursue a young lady who frequents his favourite bookshop but seems to be rather averse to paying for her reading pleasures.

However, her selection of one of his books for her latest freebie, observed by him though not of course the proprietor, is enough to convince our hapless hero they could be star-crossed lovers who are destined to be together. That he’s prepared to go great lengths to see this happens, straying into territory most of us would consider stalking, convincing himself it’s under the auspices of getting the bookshop their books back, well, that’s Pascal for you.

Anyone who enjoyed former Comicbook Of The Month and guide par excellence of how best to embarrass yourself at a school REUNION, or the car crash relationship melodrama that is FANNY & ROMEO in conjunction with Yves Pelletier, will know exactly what they are in for. As with REUNION, though, Pascal has an almost Frank Spencer like ability to pull a happy ending of sorts out of the metaphorical bag, whilst nearly managing to suffocate himself with it in the process…

Great fun!

JR

Buy Petty Theft and read the Page 45 review here

Von Doogan And The Curse Of The Golden Monkey (£6-99, DFC) by Lorenzo Etherington.

Alert! Alert! Alert!

For expert-level, decrytological, bright-as-a-kite minds only, this is terrific!

This is both a thrilling, exotic, interactive Young Readers adventure comic (I know it doesn’t look like one inside but it most emphatically is!), and also a truly testing, multi-layered puzzle book which will require a little lateral thinking and an instinct for picking the single first thread which will then unravel the tapestry of each devious dilemma.

I am not kidding you. I was flummoxed for a while on several occasions then came away grinning my head off at Lorenzo’s wit and ingenuity.

There are no pedestrian mazes, no join-the-dots and no simple “Where’s Wally?” spot-athons; instead you will discover a sequence of site-specific conundra which you’ll need to solve in order to bluff your way out of trouble, escape incarceration, win a very cool card game you’ve never even heard of before and follow your informant from the first clue-clogged package he sends you to an island protected by so many ancient safeguards that even Dame Lara Croft might turn back from it in tears.

First you need to figure out this in order for find that which – only if you are quick-witted and eagle-eyed – will help you slip undiscovered onto the right boat, inspect snapshots of the crew then discern the captain through a process of keenly judged elimination before bumping into the first mate who, let me tell you, can spot a liar and a thief a mile away but has the memory of a prodigiously challenged piece of plankton.

And it’s comics!

It’s comics because it is a story told through a sequence of art which is absolutely essential to the narrative. That so much of said art is a metaphorical crossword so cryptic that arch-dunderhead I was occasionally fooled by it is irrelevant.

Plus the whole family can join in (if you let them) because multiple skill sets are invaluable.

All you will require in addition to this book is a pen or pencil, some scrap paper, a mirror and a pair of scissors. Don’t worry, you won’t need to cut up the book itself: you can download Doogan’s Danger Kit from the website address provided. Solutions are provided at the back (teachers and parents, rip ‘em up now!) as well as the logic by which they’re arrived at.

Plus the puzzles could well generate interest in further activity: want to try your hands at a dozen different rope knots which only sailors and scouts have ever mastered? They’re here!

Right, I’m off to tackle the Nine Vine Incline and I get vertigo on the bathroom scales.

SLH

Buy Von Doogan And The Curse Of The Golden Monkey and read the Page 45 review here

Hellblazer vol 8: Rake At The Gates Of Hell (£14-99, DC) by Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon with William Simpson, Peter Snejbjerg.

“What was dying like?”
“Could’ve done it in me sleep.”
“You did.”

Completing the outstanding Garth Ennis run which was as much about friendships as anything else, not only does this reprint HELLBLAZER #72-83 but also the HEARTLAND one-shot set in Belfast which catches up with John’s ex-girlfriend Kit, reveals her family’s harsh history which has had a lingering effect, and takes a look at a city whose streets were habitually patrolled by armed British soldiers from the point of view of a complete outsider as well as a long-standing residents like Kit herself. As always with Ennis the troubles are given careful and level consideration and the dialogue comes with a light Irish lilt which is beautiful.

Almost all of this book is illustrated by Garth’s collaborator on PREACHER, Steve Dillon, and there are few artists who can make a casual conversation – or even a loaded one – as attractive to read as Steve Dillon. His characters are vulnerable and their expressions are not simple but subtle – so many eyes averted or looking down – so when anger or violence explodes his art by contrast is truly shocking.

There are a lot of talking heads in HELLBLAZER: the power of the word can be the most endearing magic or devastating. But there is also a lot of violence.

HELLBLAZER at its best always combines the occult with very real horrors like domestic abuse, bigotry, political and police power misused at the expense of those whom they’re supposed to serve, illness, homelessness and helplessness. The finale partly takes place in the thick of London’s Tower Hamlets during the rise of the right including the B.N.P. and a police force not just systemically racist but overtly so. Crucially John is distracted by that throughout and by an ex-girlfriend he discovers so hooked up on drugs that she is barely coherent and in thrall to a very vicious pimp. He is distracted because he actually cares in spite of his culpable history when it comes to close friends.

Girlfriends are driven away by the shit he cannot resist either embroiling himself in or igniting, and we are reminded well in advance of both romantic and mortal casualties. The moment you even shake hands with John Constantine you are living on borrowed time. Of the friends Garth Ennis introduced us to only Kit, left-leaning urban psychic Nige, ex-army Header and Rick the vicar remain alive as this climax kicks off.

It all harks back to Ennis’s opening salvo, HELLBLAZER VOL 5: DANGEROUS HABITS, in which he gave John Constantine terminal lung cancer with but a few weeks to live. Get out of that one, John! He did, not through hocus pocus but by manipulation. He manoeuvred Satan, the First of the Fallen, and the Second and Third of the Fallen into a stalemate which kept him alive. Ever since then he has screwed over other entities like Archangel Gabriel in such a manner that they might be of use during the retribution he knows is inevitable while continuing to goad Satan himself. Among his many fatal failings, John Constantine simply cannot let it lie. Nor can the King of Hell.

John has always got by on his quick wits and knowledge but now he is neither as sharp as he used to be and – as I say – he is distracted. He has failed to keep track of his pawns.

At which point young Astra, condemned to Hell these sixteen years thanks to John the Con’s arrogance, comes before Satan’s presence with a song. It’s a song Satan’s never heard before: the true history of the Fallen. Let the casualties begin…

Every familiar face you can imagine making a reappearance does so, and a fair few you will never see coming. It is an impeccable climax on every level I’ll refrain from signposting here.

But just in case you think it’s all plot, it is not. Just as Ennis gives voice to life on the streets of Belfast, there is a key conversation between Constantine and the First of the Fallen which reveals what may originally have been Satan’s real role in the God’s Grand Scheme Of Things which is both startling and makes so much sense.

SLH

Buy Hellblazer vol 8: Rake At The Gates Of Hell and read the Page 45 review here

Everywhere Antennas (£14-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Julie Delporte.

I’m ambivalent about this one.

An evocation of misery and despair in brightly coloured crayon, it follows a young woman’s rapid decline as she begins to experience crippling headaches brought on, she is convinced, by the radiowaves emitted from what are now ubiquitous antennae and household devices from computers to mobile phones.

She is, in essence, allergic to modern living.

France, for example, has few if any “white zones” left free from radiowaves, and the only country to recognise the illness is Sweden. Reading is next to impossible.

“I manage a paragraph or two but I can’t concentrate. I keep at it, I start over… I feel like everything is a huge waster of time… And I feel like crying.”

What worries her most isn’t the imminent exam she would be doomed to fail, but her future which she feels certain she’ll fail too. All of it. “Could I even teach in this state?” The doctor is typically useless, prescribing antidepressants.

“It makes no sense to me. I don’t have headaches because I’m depressed – I’m depressed because I have headaches.”

Rather than give in, however, she tries a complete change of location and lifestyle in the country but although the headaches ease off, her obsessive worries have by now taken root, and her self-confidence has given way to self-loathing.

I suspect Delporte has just successfully given voice to thousands of misunderstood sufferers whose illness has gone unrecognised and therefore untreated. You can’t make sure massive, relatively sudden and unnatural changes to one’s natural habitat in and to which the human body has gradually evolved and expect there to be no repercussions.

It isn’t comics, it’s illustrated prose: take away the images and little is lost except eye candy. But I do love the way the colour of the crayon mutates to frame the picture it’s written round or to pick out certain elements within it. The drawings themselves are suitably wan in spite of the colours which are far from naturalistic. Hair might be bright red or – in the doctor’s case – in strands of green, yellow and a purple which matches and so complements his loose, short-sleeved smock.

I don’t know if this a complete red herring, but a few of the bits stuck on intrigue me.

“Would I have blown off the exam if my father had been around more? I don’t know.”

The word “know” covers another. Was it simply a spelling error or badly written, or does it replace another word or phrase like “care” or “think so”? “Obsessive” is merely crossed out.

There’s a bizarre choice of countries to move to later on given what we already know about radiowaves, and a curious anthropomorphic, black and white digression in the middle. The contents are perfectly relevant but I can’t fathom the relevance of the anthropomorphism. As to the image sitting aside an anecdote about a young Buddhist monk, I am completely baffled.

Ambivalent, as I say, but I’m pretty sure that the plural of “antenna” is “antennae”.

SLH

Buy Everywhere Antennas and read the Page 45 review here

Jonathan Starlight (£2-99, self-published) by Ethan Wilderspin…

“I’ve not been sleeping lately. Maybe it’s because I’m unhappy.
“Am I happy?”

Ah, now that’s a big question to start every day with. Fortunately for Jonathan Starlight, a teenager who bears more than a passing resemblance to an alien with a Santa Claus hat-like bobble quiff, he seems to have his head screwed on and priorities straight. Faced with the endless billboards on the way to school that suggest happiness is a mere purchase away, he knows being suckered in by mindless consumerism won’t make him happy. Until he sees the advert for the Zombie Slayer 2 game, that is. But, even then, it seems as though mindless video game violence doesn’t quite fill the angst-shaped hole in his heart. I wonder what might?

 

This 16-pager is Ethan’s first comic and it’s a hoot. I was greatly amused by the not-so-subliminal advertising messages pushing society’s various distractions, and those alone show a wonderful sense of comedy. The punchline and cure for Jonathan Starlight’s insomnia when it comes, made me chuckle too. Hand-bound with green yarn in simpatico with the cover just for good measure, you can see Ethan has a care for his craft which I am sure will take him places. Having heard some of his and his cohort James’ plans for future output I don’t doubt that is the case. Prison being one of them possibly…

Watch this space!

JR

Buy Jonathan Starlight and read the Page 45 review here

Afterlife With Archie vol 1: Escape From Riverdale (£13-50, Archie Comics) by Roberto Aguirre Sacasa & Francesco Francavilla…

“Sorry to disturb you, sir. But, Mr. Lodge, I’ve been trying to sneak into your daughter’s room for as long as I can remember, and I know what a fortress this place is…
“If humanity is going to be making its last stand in Riverdale, it’s gotta be here, at Lodge Manor.”

Okay, first up, you don’t need to have read any all-ages Archie comics to enjoy this work, which arguably manages to simultaneously be a parody and pastiche of its ultra-innocent self, given that it both mocks and celebrates one of America’s longest running comics which began way back in 1941. All you really need to know is that Archie and Jughead are best friends, the latter usually rescuing his somewhat headstrong mate from yet another scrape of his own creation, and that Archie seemingly has the hots for every attractive girl in town. Two of them form his main, if not by any means exclusive, love interests: the ever-attentive girl next door Betty and the well-to-do arch-manipulator Veronica, resulting in an endless love triangle that has produced more mystery and mayhem over the years than even the Bermuda one.

We did for many years have a mysterious Beeston Triangle in Nottingham that afflicted young Tom’s attempts to get into work from said suburb by bus, breathtakingly described to me as “passing the QMC”. Which itself could take a good hour.

Moving more swiftly on, following the outbreak of a zombie apocalypse everyone is safely sequestered inside the relative safety of the formidable residence of Riverdale’s richest man, awaiting rescue by the authorities. Now what could possibly go wrong?

“One last thing, are all the children safe? And accounted for?”
“Yes, sir. Err… well… that is… except for one…”
“… Andrews.”

Yes… Archie Andrews, the bane of Hiram (father of Veronica) Lodge’s life. Having got all the kids who were at the High School dance to Lodge Manor, Archie has slipped out through the secret passage he was more used to using for nocturnal trysts with Veronica, this time to try and rescue his parents. I’m quite sure Hiram Lodge is hoping Archie doesn’t make it back intact, as it would be fair to say that he doesn’t have the highest of opinions regarding Riverdale’s resident heartbreaker extraordinaire. Events after this point really don’t go to plan for Archie, or indeed anyone else, and I have to say I was genuinely surprised by how moved I was by what happens.

I have no idea who came up with the genius stroke of deciding to do what is effectively an Archie / WALKING DEAD mash-up, but they deserve a medal, because this manages to be both hilarious and genuinely affecting at the same time. All the various characters foibles are dialled up to preposterous levels for maximum comedic effect, whilst the horror, when it begins in earnest, is played completely straight. It’s actually a very clever manipulative trick to put such typically comedic characters through the horror wringer, because subconsciously I just wasn’t expecting it to get as heart-wrenchingly dark as it very quickly does.

Suitably spooky art from Francesco Francavilla, most definitely designed to evoke the style of the classic CREEPY COMICS and EERIE COMICS, this just proves that even when you think that a comic’s title as old as time has surely run its course, done everything it can possibly do, there’s still some life in it yet… until a zombie sinks its teeth in.

JR

Buy Afterlife With Archie vol 1: Escape From Riverdale and read the Page 45 review here

Attack On Titan Colossal Edition vol 1 (£42-99, Kodansha) by Hajime Isayama –

Whopping great new edition of the £8-50 softcover (still in stock) reflecting the scale of the problem at hand! It’s album-sized, reprinting the first five books (oh yes!) and contains (some) colour pages which weren’t even in the original Japanese editions!

We now return you to our Dominique:

ATTACK ON TITAN is set in a world which has been all but overrun by giant humanoid beasts many metres tall. No one knows where they came from or what they are; the only thing they seem to want to do is eat human beings whole. And so, over 100 years after the beasts emerged humanity has been pushed back into one little corner of the planet. A few small cities (well, more like large towns, really) exist inside a series of walls which are constantly guarded in case the behemoths should attack again. But it has been a century since the wall was last breached so everyone is probably safe right? Yeah…

When we meet the group of youngsters we are going to follow through the story we see some familiar themes. A headstrong young man who wonders about the world outside the walls. He dreams of joining the Survey Corps who undertake the dangerous mission of going out into the world to try to make sense of everything. His group of peers, some of whom share his dream while others thinking he is barmy and his sister, who never leaves his side, muttering something about her duty to protect him after she was brought back from the dead. She never seems particularly happy, sad or anything else. Just resigned and, occasionally, worried. We never see her without a scarf around her neck.

Though we begin with a perfectly normal day things, of course, soon go to pot. One minute our guy is having dinner with his family, his father (slightly incongruously) promising to finally show him the big secret in the basement. Then the alarm sounds and chaos descends as a colossus appears and begins destroying the wall. In fact you can see him *over* the wall, at 50 metres tall he is many times the size of a Titan. 100 years of preparing for an attack evaporate in a heartbeat as the outer wall is devoured by this new monster. A desperate evacuation follows but many lives are lost.

A year later we find our group (those who survived, anyway) about to graduate from their training and humanity holed up inside an even tighter boundary, the lands behind the first wall lost to the Titan invasion. The colossus is still out there, the Titans are still out there and it feels for all the world like humanity is just waiting, maybe even hoping for the coup de grace. What can our heroes do in the face of such (literally) massive opposition?

So this manga has a bunch of classic elements: wilful protagonists, family tragedy and a foe so hideous it seems like a case of when, not if humanity will be destroyed. There are a few touches and elements which set it apart from run of the mill, though, which is probably why the manga has proved so popular in Japan. There are flashes of repressed memory which get you thinking that all may not be as it seems inside the walled enclave. It seems like there are lots of secrets and undercurrents to be explored. And there is a very detailed and ingenious combat system involving lines and winches which allows the tiny humans to actually go into combat with the giant enemy, though always at great personal risk. There are no punches pulled when it comes to that combat: death isn’t by a tidy death ray or an annihilating stomp. It’s all bitey and disgusting and in places really quite disturbing, which actually brings the characters closer to your heart because, bless them, they don’t have it easy.

Most striking for me was the sheer ickyness of the Titans. They are so close to being human and yet so obviously inhuman, all teeth and unsheathed tendons. They seem mindless, except for their determination to devour their prey and their lack of obvious reason or communication skills leaves any negotiation or bargaining out of the question. They give me the same visceral heebie-jeebies as the album cover to News of The World by Queen used to as a kid, or the sleeve art to the Jeff Wayne’s War Of The Worlds. Just… *shiver*. I can see why this series is so popular in Japan and I can’t wait to read more.

DK

Buy Attack On Titan Colossal Edition vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Toshiro s/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Jai Nitz & Janusz Pawlak…

Long-gestated project which at last gets a publisher that, as one of the creators’ comments in the afterword, will finally outlive the character. It’s a steam-punk / samurai / zombie / Lovecraftian mash-up as the titular character, a steam-powered robot samurai, fights for the forces of good alongside a mysterious American adventurer in Victorian England.

I did quite enjoy it. There are some interesting plot devices and amusing dialogue, though I found the art a trifle confusing at times. If you like steam-punk material generally, or some of the period B.P.R.D. spin-offs like ABE SAPIEN VOL 1, or maybe even samurai shenanigans like USAGI YOJIMBO at a stretch, I think it will have some appeal. It’s certainly no NEW DEADWARDIANS in terms of horror with a twist, though it is written well enough.

JR

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

Guardians Of The Galaxy / All New X-Men: The Trial Of Jean Grey h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen, Sara Pichelli.

Kitty Pryde: “I hate space. I’ve had very bad luck in space.”

Yes, you have.

Third book of the current GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY series and the fifth book of ALL NEW X-MEN both written by Bendis with a great deal of mischief and charm. Moreover Pichelli and Immonen are such a perfect match that you won’t see the join.

They’re thrilling and yet subtle artists with complete command of body language and interaction which is vital when you’re working with Bendis because interaction is all. Also, I see so many teenage superheroes bulging with muscles whereas here the young X-Men are as lithe as you like.

In MARVEL MASTERWORKS: UNCANNY X-MEN VOL 5 an adult Jean Grey lost control of the Phoenix Force and gobbled up a sun, effectively committing genocide as its orbiting planets’ populations went with it. The Shi’Ar put her on trial, not least because she turned rather tetchily on them as well. They basically made sure she was dead.

Now a much younger Jean Grey has been whisked from the past to the present along with her team-mates, the Shi’Ar have found out, want to put her on trial and basically make sure that she’s dead. The point is put to the Shi’Ar’s Gladiator over and over again that this Jean Grey has not yet committed the crimes she’s being charged with and possibly never will. Gladiator really doesn’t care. He’s not interested in justice, he’s out for blood. He basically wants to make sure that she’s… yup.

Guardians and X-Men to the rescue.

It’s some of Bendis’ best writing recently, with Shi’Ar telepath Oracle acting as counsel for Jean Grey so effectively stuck in the middle. There’s plenty of playful dialogue between both sets of friends, like Star-Lord to Gamora:

“What is a Canada?”
“It’s cold and distant. You’ll love it.”

Rocket Racoon has christened Gamora and Angela the Murder Girls. They are effective, Angela believing in decapitate first, ask questions never. Sending her into battle as your advance party is good strategy.

“Gentlemen… It’s time to move to the second part of the plan. But I have to warn you… it’s a little messy in here.”
“Angela, will you marry me?”
“You’re too short, Rocket.”
“This is Gamora..”
“Oh. Then I’ll think about it.”

One of Bendis’ many endearing trademarks is the complete lack of defensiveness he imbues his characters with when it comes to gender and sexuality. Here’s the delightfully juvenile Bobby Drake (Iceman), given to squealing “Yike-a-hooty!” when attacked and who, as drawn by both artists, continues to be an absolute sweetie.

“I just like talking to the talking raccoon. It makes me feel like a Disney princess.”

“We’re here because… princess?”
“What? I’d make a better princess than you.”

Amazingly the Guardians’ sentient, bipedal tree’s singular declaration “I am Groot!” has yet to wear thin. His name is indeed Groot, but he’s not necessarily introducing himself. “I am Groot” could mean any number of things from, “I don’t like line dancing at the best of times but you’re treading on my toe” to “If you think I’m wearing mauve, you are very much mistaken”.

Dale Keown and Jason Keith’s cover to ALL NEW X-MEN #23, published in the back, plays with this beautifully.

SLH

Buy Guardians Of The Galaxy / All New X-Men: The Trial Of Jean Grey h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Stormwatch vol 2 s/c (£14-99, DC) by Warren Ellis & Tom Raney, Bryan Hitch, various.

“Think for yourself and question authority.”

That is the single best piece of advice that was ever given to me, by a maths master when I was twelve. Actually, he instructed, “Always ask why”.

Stormwatch are the UN-sanctioned international, satellite-stationed, superhuman taskforce orbiting the world in order to keep an eye on it and, using that eye, keep it in order. Its leader is called The Weatherman and its current Weatherman is Henry Bendix. Henry Bendix is pathologically insane.

In this second half Ellis’ run on STORMWATCH which runs smoothly into THE AUTHORITY VOL 1 by Ellis & Hitch (you will hear much mention of the word “authority” right from the get-go), Stormwatch finds itself stymied again and again by an America with vested geopolitical interests. They will also find themselves stifled, for Henry Bendix has vested interests of his own.

First they encounter The High who has been contemplating the human condition for decades. An anti-establishment superman who loathed those who preyed on the poor, he once engaged in liberating tenants from corrupt landlords etc. Indeed he once dallied with Stormwatch Black’s Jenny Sparks, now almost a century old but looking a little under thirty (the bitch!). But he left to meditate, to cogitate on what more he could do than to save but a few. Now he has gathered cohorts around him and the man has a plan as broadcast to the globe thus:

“Fighting crime is no good unless you look past crime, to its root. Saving the world is no good if we leave it the way we found it. It is our intent to hand you a saved world, to offer you tools that will make you great. And then – you will never see us again.
“When we are done, you will be able to provide for yourselves, for free. You will want for nothing. All of your society’s structures will be removed. No laws, no authoritarian structures, no crime, no war. In a few hours it will begin.”

He offer us a Utopia, and the freedom which comes with it. It’s the ultimate in altruism and The High genuinely means it. He seeks no control, only to assist. Here’s what’s on offer:

“The Engineer will seed nanotechnological oases across the planet, and inform you of their use. These will be your horns of plenty.”

Oh dear, he’s anti-capitalist.

“The Doctor will initiate a program of education about the natural resources of this world, its plants and magic. He’ll show you the door to a whole new world just sideways to this one.”

Uh-oh, he’s pro-personal-enlightenment.

“And I’ll talk to you. We’ll share ideas I’ve had. Use, them, ignore them, whatever. During the coming days you may see some of my friends in your cities, towns and villages. They’ll speak your language. Talk to them.”

Now he’s about breaking down borders and instilling worldwide cooperation.

“One final message. There are those of you who will seek to stop us. Don’t. Please.”

They do.

Under Ellis STORMWATCH began changing the landscape of superhero comics: its potential, political emphases, its wit, its sexual mischief and its periodical instalments’ structure. He even found novel ways of explication without insulting the intelligence. With THE AUTHORITY VOL 1 Warren Ellis terraformed it, so paving the way for Millar & Hitch’s THE ULTIMATES, the very pinnacle of the superhero science-fiction subgenre including – I kid you not – WATCHMEN. But the changes, they begin here and it is fascinating to watch.

It is a series packed full of political intrigue, international espionage, strategy, subterfuge and personal betrayal. In The High, Henry Bendix has met his match in terms of second-guessing, precautionary measures and indeed ruthlessness. Without Bendix I confess that the series does falter, not least because Rayner is replaced by an artist so insipid we cannot even be arsed to name him.

But wait! THE AUTHORITY’s Bryan Hitch is on the horizon and he brings with him Apollo and Midnighter, first seen post-coitally pulling their clothes back on even though no one spotted that at the time. No one! It’s not just Hitch’s neo-classical figure work which will wow, either: his storytelling transforms the series, injecting a kinetic awe, and you wait until you see his dazzling cityscapes at sunrise as enhanced by Laura DePuy.

Appropriately this book begins and ends with blonde Brit iconoclast Jenny Sparks whose middle name is so evidently Attitude. Along the way you will pick up hints of what is to come: an Engineer (male), a Doctor (black), Apollo and Midnighter in the buff (I may have mentioned that), plus Swift and Jack Hawksmoor because I can promise you that – other than them – there is no one left alive at the end of this series.

An asteroid threatens to enter Earth’s orbit, so a team of two shuttles is dispatched to land and lay explosives so sending its trajectory into the sun. Two problems: a) it isn’t just an asteroid, there’s a spaceship within; b) one of the shuttles successfully makes it back home…

There is an episode missing from this, yes. There’s not much that even DC owned by Time Warner can do about that. Lord knows what price they paid for publishing the periodical in the first place. Still, at least Jenny Sparks and co. thereby discover the transdimensional Bleed.

Leads straight into Ellis & Hitch’s THE AUTHORITY VOL 1.

“There has to be someone left to save the world.”

SLH

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

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

 

Hoax Psychosis Blues h/c (£19-99, Ziggy’s Wish) by Ravi Thornton & Hannah Berry, Karrie Fransman, Leonardo M. Giron, Julian Hanshaw, Rozi Hathaway, Rian Hughes, Rhiana Jade, Ian Jones, Mark Stafford, Bryan Talbot

New Lone Wolf & Cub vol 1 (£10-50, Dark Horse) by Kazuo Koike & Hideki Mori

Baltimore vol 4: Chapel Of Bones h/c (£18-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden & Ben Stenbeck

Cat Person (£13-99, Koyama Press) by Seo Kim

Doctor Who: The Cruel Sea (£14-99, Panini) by various

Showa 1939-1944: A History Of Japan vol 2 (£18-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Shigeru Mizuki

The Ocean At The End Of The Lane s/c (£10-99, Harper Collins) by Neil Gaiman

Catwoman: When In Rome s/c (£10-99, DC) by Jeph Loeb & Tim Sale

JLA: The Deluxe Edition vol 5 s/c (£18-99, DC) by Mark Waid & Bryan Hitch, Paul Neary

Red Hood And The Outlaws vol 4 s/c (£12-99, DC) by James Tynion IV & Julius Gopez various

Deadpool: Night Of Living Deadpool s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Cullen Bunn & Ramon Rosanas

Wolverine: Worst Day Ever h/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Barry Lyga & various

X-Men: Phoenix – Endsong / Warsong s/c (£22-50, Marvel) by Greg Pak & Greg Land, Tyler Kirkham

Gangsta vol 2 (£8-99, Viz) by Kohske

Ranma 1/2 2-in-1 vols 3 & 4 (£9-99, Viz) by Rumiko Takahashi

 

ITEM! Haha! They so cute! Jonathan Edwards & Felt Mistress’ mascots for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival in a boardroom meeting. If I owned that photo I’d turn it into a caption competition.

ITEM! Luke Pearson on his five new Charlie Mortdecai Penguin Book covers – and the covers! Delicious colour scheme.

ITEM! Stewart Lee interviewing Alan Moore on BBC Radio 4 in 2009.

ITEM! Marc Ellerby draws a new CHLOE NOONAN comic about his comics to help fund his… comics. Brilliant!

ITEM! Lots of lovely original festival sketches via Jock.

ITEM! Massive tidal wave by Marc Laming. Phenomenal sense of weight, power and tension.

ITEM! Two poignantly contrasting Chris Ware covers for the New Yorker.

ITEM! Time lapse vimeo of Oliver East painting his giant murals for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival.

ITEM! Dave Sim on CEREBUS past, present a future plus new work. Best interview with Dave I’ve seen in a long, long time.

ITEM! Goodness! CALVIN & HOBBES creator Bill Waterson really has returned to comics – in secret – and here’s how. Funny!

REMINDER! This is your last chance to vote for Page 45 as your favourite Nottingham Independent Business 2014. Only the ten most popular businesses will get through to be secretly shopped and assessed by the judges! Please take a moment to vote!

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They’re on the counter next to the big batch of free newspapers on page three of which you’ll find that fame-addled idiot Stephen L. Holland extolling the virtues of Independent Retail.

- Stephen’s Mum

Reviews June 2014 week one

June 4th, 2014

Please vote for Page 45 as your Nottingham Independent Business 2014 via Facebook, Twitter or email! Details at the bottom of the blog! Thank you!

 - Stephen

Umbral vol 1: Out Of The Shadows s/c (£7-50, Image) by Antony Johnston & Christopher Mitten.

Oh, this positively glows – it glows red and purple!

It’s a formidable artist who can slash out choking-smoke nightmares that are both amorphous and fully formed: to be as intangible as a shadow yet as vicious as jagged rows of sharp sharks’ teeth, their eyes and mouths blazing with fire as if furnaces fuel their pitch-black souls.

Basically, I’d run.

But where do you run to when you’re trapped in the Umbral? The only apertures in this other dimension are riddled with skeletal spikes like a giant lamprey’s mouth and risk snapping shut like a Venus Flytrap. The ground could give way any minute. And Rascal is not alone in there.

Fans of PORCELAIN are going to lap this up.

A solar eclipse approaches the kingdom of Fendin. On such an occasion the day dawns twice and then, the songs say, “Shall the dark shadows fall”. The crowds are gathering to see King Petor and Queen Inna wave from the balcony to reassure them that all is well. More specifically they want to see the Mordent – a staff that has survived three rebellions, two wars and dozens of King Petor’s ancestors – grasped by King Petor, safe and sound. Petor is fretting; the more confident, no-nonsense Inna is irritated at the absence of their son.

Their son is Prince Arthir and he… has a date. A date with young orphan Rascal, raised by smugglers and trained by thieves. Oh, it’s not that sort of date, though they are more than a little fond of each other. Rascal is a member of the Thieves’ Guild and she has acquired a vial of the Mist. That will help them steal through the trophy room’s cage and acquire the sacred Oculus, a purple orb whose true purpose has been “lost to time and myth”. But whatever it was that spell-caster Prince Arthur intended to do with the Oculus is rendered irrelevant, for the Oculus is missing and high Redguard Borus lies slaughtered in his own congealing blood. Worse still, the trail of blood looks like it leads to the throne room…

As for what follows, the nimble, quick-thinking and ever resourceful Rascal is in for some mind-melting shocks and a run for her bloody life. She runs full-pelt throughout most of this book through caverns and taverns, trusting few who come near. The Umbral are shape-shifters, you see, and they’ve been here before. Some of them never left.

This is dark fantasy and world-building at its best: power struggles are already in play by the time it kicks off, some of them going back centuries if not millennia. You will learn why magic and religion are illegal, which wars are still raging and the origin of the Umbral themselves; but crucially you are going to have to wait a full six chapters to do so. A series seeking to prove its own cleverness by bludgeoning you with everything immediately and all at once only bogs itself down and can bore early readers to bits. Instead this thunders along at a furious pace giving Rascal little time to take stock. You learn as she learns, and I hope she learns fast because some of those she once trusted are not as they seem.

Old man Dalone has me most intrigued but it’s the one-eyed smuggler called Shayim who makes me laugh, flashing her blade at everyone and everything:

“I will open you up from mouth to moon.”

Ouch. She has a colourful way with words.

John Rauch, Jordan Boyd and Thomas Mauer provide the colours and lettering and the whole package is exquisitely designed. I’m completely in love with the symbol language of spell casting which manifests itself as crimson, purple and yellow speech orbs. Also, wait until you discover the subterranean Mistwalker merged with the rock to guard its treasures. It’s like something out of early Tombraider: you can tell Johnston also writes games.

He’s also a dab hand at dialogue which is both effortlessly entertaining and deliciously free from the sort of portentous claptrap and mystical mumbo jumbo other occult-orientated series bore me with. The Umbral swear like nobody’s business.

Johnston & Mitten are the creative team behind the fast-closing, post-apocalyptic WASTELAND about which Warren Ellis declared, “Mysteries within mysteries and an original mythology to become immersed in”. Antony is also the manipulative mastermind behind spy thriller THE COLDEST CITY whose 50 exclusive Page 45 bookplate editions we sold out of very, very quickly and £7-50 for six issues is an absolute steal.

SLH

Buy Umbral vol 1: Out Of The Shadows s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Bunny vs. Monkey Book One: Year One January – June (£6-99, DFB) by Jamie Smart.

“What are these things? Can I eat them?” CHOMP!
“They’re hedgehogs.”
“Argh!”
“And no, you can’t.”

Haha! Immaculate comedy timing as ever!

From the creator of FISH HEAD STEVE and abducted from the pages of the weekly PHOENIX comic for kids, watch bewildered beasts Bunny, Monkey, Weenie, Skunky, Pig, Metal Steve, Le Fox and Action Beaver “Eeek!”, “Shriek!”, “Screeeam!”, “Ftung!” and “Whoosh!” their way through two-page parcels of manic mentalism.

Monkey will not tolerate anything vaguely lovely. Woodland bluebells? I don’t think so.

“SHRIEK! Monkey, what are you doing?”
“What does it look like I’m doing? I’m lawnmowing these things into oblivion!”
“But they’re beautiful!”
“They’re a virus! They make me feel awkward!”

The sun?

“Nope, it won’t do. This place is becoming disgusting and pretty, and I find it offensive. I’m taking these hedgehogs and I’m going to prang everyone’s bottom with them.”

Like a sugar-stuffed blackcurrant cordial, this is chaos concentrate distilled for mass destruction and maximum disaster with Monkey enlisting Skunky to build ever more insane inventions like Caterpillarzilla consuming every last trace of nature with its nitro-chomp! Action Beaver’s vocabulary consists of solely of sound effects while Weenie the squirrel and Pig the pig have the collective memory of a goldfish.

None of which would work were the cartooning anything short of the most carefully controlled and cleverly conducted insanity. Each element within a panel is just-so: the sound effects are arranged like scores on a sheet of music.

“It was a quiet morning, until…
“AUGH!”
CRASH!
“TAA-DAAAA!!”

Even the volume levels are precisely regulated. It’s not as easy as it looks. On the surface it’s a bunch of hyperactive delinquents making Bunny’s love of a quiet life a loud and bombastic nightmare.

Okay, at its heart it’s also a bunch of hyperactive delinquents making Bunny’s love of a quiet life a loud and bombastic nightmare. But chaos needs order to work so well, and bonkers needs logic to thrive.

“It’s lucky I lost the map, or this might be the wrong way!”

Stick that in your sat nav and steer it.

“Oh, I blocked your toilet by the way.”

SLH

Buy Bunny vs. Monkey Book One: Year One January – June and read the Page 45 review here

Trees #1 (£2-25, Image) by Warren Ellis & Jason Howard…

“I was there ten years ago when they landed, Del.
“I remember the panic. ‘We’re being invaded by alien spaceships!’
“I remember the fighter jets. I was there for the first flooding when the leg went through downtown.
“I remember days going by before we even found out it’d happened anywhere else.
“Weeks before we found out nukes and biochem inactivate when they go near a tree.
“Months going by, and nobody ever coming out of one or communicating from one.
“I remember years later, when all the Trees became normal. Just things that stand on us.
“You know what I remember best?
“No cop lifting a finger. Fending for ourselves. Building our own infrastructure from debris.”

Somewhat perturbing that this particular speech-maker wants to be mayor of New York, but then why should post-apocalyptic politicians be any less corrupt or criminal minded than their predecessors? Not that we are in a full scale post-apocalyptic scenario, for aliens do indeed seem to have landed, but then done absolutely nothing else. Consequently whilst everything has changed in an instance, people are just getting on with their lives, doing exactly what they were doing before. Humans are a pretty adaptable species, after all. Transplant us from one place to another, either as individuals or en masse and we will start to thrive, working our way into the local ecosystem. Much like plants…

 

 

 

What we have therefore established is a backdrop against which Warren begins to introduce some of the various characters which I presume are going to feature heavily in this series: politicians, scientists, artists, and of course everyday folk. And be assured this invasion, if that really is what it is, is on a global scale. No one knows exactly how many trees there are world-wide, at least that hasn’t been revealed yet, but they are literally everywhere from the Antarctic to the equator, standing solitary in the remotest regions and also piercing the centres of bustling metropolises.

I am quite sure however they aren’t going to stay so passive forever… Just a hunch that, but we do know how Warren likes to build the tension up first, before letting all hell break loose! Very nice art from Jason Howard, not someone I am familiar with, but I would wager he is a fan of Guy Davis.

JR

Buy Trees #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Brass Sun #1 (of 6) (£2-99, Rebellion) by Ian Edginton & I. N. J. Culbard…

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a brilliant opening issue. I’m hooked, and if Rebellion are planning on further titles that can match this quality, because frankly both the writing and the art are brilliant, the two Ians have truly done a sterling job here, then we could be looking at an excellent new monthly publishing imprint for this type of material. It is apparent publishers like Rebellion, Titan and Dark Horse have looked at the success of Image over the last few years and are beginning to try and emulate it. Rebellion are off to a great start with this mini-series.

JR

Buy Brass Sun #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Ordinary #1 of 3 (£2-99, Titan) by Rob Williams & D’Israeli.

“You let people down. It’s… who you are.”

Drawn with such energy and coloured to sunshine perfection, I came away laughing, “What the serious fuck?!”

Truly, we are on the road to random. Utterly bananas.

Michael is a muppet. A divorced plumber with a son in school… somewhere… he is perpetually late, increasingly broke, in debt to some thugs and in spite of a widow’s peak of raggedy, receding hair he dreams of his chances with actress Scarlett Johansson.

Today he is late assisting his mate with an octogenarian’s crapper. The assistance in question is taking on the old biddy’s verbal incontinence while Brian finally gets down to the plunging. On his way he encounters said thugs and in the middle of “negotiations” a plane breaks down. Well, its engine goes boom. Then everything starts to change.

Well, every one. I don’t want to spoil the surprises but even the taxi driver appears to have experienced an epiphany of sorts – calmness, satori, enlightenment. If he was in London, he might even drive south of the Thames.

Everyone except Michael, that is, who is freaking the fuck out and I seriously can’t blame him.

I have absolutely no idea where this is going, but I suspect it will be another waterslide ride like Grant Morrison & Richard Case’s DOOM PATROL: totally mental but you cannot stop and sure can’t get off so you might as well sit back and adore the insane trajectory.

D’Israeli delivers on the sweaty, weeping desperation department swiftly followed by the stooped head and sunken shoulders of a broken man.

Also: lovely, subtle foreshadowing of strange things to come in the form of a kid’s golden aeroplane.

Here, have an interview: http://scifipulse.net/2014/06/comics-writer-rob-williams-chats-about-ordinary-doctor-who-and-more/

SLH

Buy Ordinary #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Moomin And The Golden Tail (£6-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Tove Jansson.

“It’s been worrying me for days. Yes! It is getting thinner! What will Snork Maiden say if it goes bald?”

He’s taking about his tail.

It is a worry, isn’t it, male pattern baldness? Some find it so stressful that their hair falls out.

Moomintroll’s so embarrassed and upset that he’s taken to bed and is cowering under the blankets. Hilarious cartooning! Still, the family physician is at hand with a stethoscope.

“Breathe! Stop breathing!”
“But there’s nothing wrong with my tummy… It’s my tail.”
“Oh that… that’s only symptomatic.”
“Good heavens, don’t let my tail go symptomatic…”

Moomintroll’s prodded and poked and X-Rayed and “observed” until Moominmamma’s had enough. She’s really quite cross.

“Now I’m getting tired of all these cryptic specialists. I’ll cure the boy myself. Ah! Here it is! Grandma’s recipe for a magic potion…”
“Mamma, where are you going?
“Back to the Middle Ages.”

Against all expectations the spell works like a dream, hence the title. The repercussions, however, are enormous.

Tove Jansson was ahead of her time on so many issues like ecological disaster so MOOMIN hasn’t dated one jot, and this in particular is as pertinent as ever. In for some merry mockery over 50 full-colour pages are: fame, hair loss tonics, quacks of all kinds, tabloid journalism and its lies, lies, lies; fan mail, flattery and the follies of fashion; opportunistic merchandising, tyrannical management and interminable, deliberately protracted lawsuits than make only the lawyers any money. Worst of all – oh dear God – the most excruciating endurance tests ever conceived… the dreaded cocktail party!

SLH

Buy Moomin And The Golden Tail and read the Page 45 review here

Glacial Period h/c (£16-99, NBM) by Nicolas De Crécy.

The first and finest of the Comics Lit / Louvre collaborations returns in a much classier, album-size hardcover on matt cream paper which really shows off the winter colours. There’s a constant chill in the air and some of the skies are phenomenal.

Highly edifying as well as hilarious, the book follows an expedition consisting of one woman, some talking dogs and several men rife with rivalries as they explore the frozen wastes of the future before a giant structure which used to be the Louvre in Paris erupts through the ice and draws them down into its long-lost corridors.

Struggling to make sense of their discoveries, they get it all wrong. It seems we’ve lost more than our history – we’ve hit another dark age of art:

“How is it done? It’s flat, yet you sense the depths. It’s an avalanche. You can imagine its breath.”
“It’s a coded message, or a simple representation of their lives.”
“Yes, it’s a message meant for us. They knew they were doomed, hemmed in by the cold, and, since they didn’t know how to write, they drew like children.”

Yeah, well that particular painting was Louis Hersent’s “The Monks of Saint Gothard” so nul points for accuracy there.

Other blunders include mistaking the ecumenical for the erotic, the pagan for the pornographic, and a mythical satyr for a real-life genetic anomaly. In fact they mistake all these individual exhibits for a single historical narrative – a graphic novel, if you will. Brilliant!

SLH

Buy Glacial Period h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Black Science vol 1: How To Fall Forever s/c (£7-50, Image) by Rick Remender & Matteo Scalera, Dean White…

“Sequestered in my lab… there was a beauty in the self-imposed loneliness.
“And when it was too much there was Rebecca.
“Wedding vows… more rules I wouldn’t follow.
“Built my anarchist league of scientists on reason and empiricism.
“No tolerance for blind obedience, financial motivation, ego, or politicking for station.
“Built on one rule… there is no authority but yourself.
“After a lifetime of powerlessness and insecurity, opposition to authority forced me to have faith in myself.
“To trust my own judgement… to prove, motivated solely by the fire within… a self-educated main could master the laws of the universe.
“To prove that there is only one type of person capable of breaking down such barriers…
“…an anarchist.”

Rick ‘The Mindbender’ Remender unleashes the unfettered power of his weird imagination upon us in this surrealist science fiction adventure. I do like Rick’s work, really enjoyed his sci-fi-esque take on UNCANNY X-FORCE and semi-quasi sequel UNCANNY AVENGERS, which, I think, is on the verge of concluding. He takes no prisoners when it comes to comprehension – you of him, that is – which has possibly reduced his readership numbers on the Marvel front, vol 2 onwards of UNCANNY AVENGERS (when it really gets going properly) being too self-referentially complex and convoluted for some, for example, but it has certainly bolstered his core fanbase who like the cut of his jib. The man can write a damn good yarn.

Now, on Image, casting the capes and tights aside in exchange for spacesuits and blasters, he’s commenced what instantly has the feel of a pulp classic of the genre. Drama, humour, mortal peril and crazy technology, it’s a nice blend of ridiculous which blasts into life right from the first page. Grant McKay, leader of the Anarchistic League of Scientists, who let’s be honest, sound like a complete bunch of nutters straightaway, has had a slight, if unsurprising, accident with his bleeding edge Black Science technology. Cast adrift in the endless realms of the Eververse, amidst alien worlds so weird it makes your head hurt – giant toads, that’s all I’m saying – can he lead his team home? This title feels like it is in part inspired by the classic Weird Science and Weird Fantasy comics, whether they are something Rick has an affection for, I have absolutely no idea. I am pretty sure he is having great fun writing this, though, that is gleefully apparent.

With Matteo Scalera on art duties, a man who rivals Sean Murphy for drawing the most pointed proboscises in all of comicdom, there are myriad panels I would swear Murphy had drawn if I didn’t know otherwise, and a cerise and cyan-tinged colour palette which will seem not entirely unfamiliar to UNCANNY X-FORCE and UNCANNY AVENGERS readers – something I am starting to wonder if Remender has some serious input on, actually – this helps give the book a gritty, stylish retro-modern look.

JR

Buy Black Science vol 1: How To Fall Forever s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Sledgehammer 44 vol 1 (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi & Jason Latour, Laurence Campbell, Mike Mignola…

“Jeez, was this trip necessary? I mean, what’s so damn important in that armoury, anyway? And where’s our air support?”
“For Pete’s sake, Redding! Weren’t you even listening at the briefing? Tonight we’re the support!”

Indeed they are, not that the titular Sledgehammer needs support or even a warm up act. Well, maybe he does, actually… The grunts on the ground think Sledgehammer is a man encased in armour, which in a sense he is, but in other very important ways he most certainly is not. There are supernatural forces at work, precisely as we would expect in a story set in the HELLBOY universe penned by Mignola. I mainly read this to see whether it was required material for HELLBOY / BPRD readers, or whether it was a spin-off.

It is the latter, but it is excellent. It does feature Professor Trevor Bruttenholm and Doctor Gallaragas, whom I presume is Professor Gallaragas’ daughter, inventor of the V.E.S. (Vril Energy Suit) as seen in LOBSTER JOHNSON VOL 1: THE IRON PROMETHEUS. Time and technology has moved on since then, so I am sure you can join the dots for yourself as to what power source the allies might be using for Sledgehammer.

As I say, you don’t have to read this as it doesn’t tie-in in any way with current events in HELLBOY IN HELL VOL 1 or BPRD: HELL ON EARTH, but if you like all the various character spin-offs such as the LOBSTER JOHNSON material or, like me, in particular the BPRD: 1946, 1947 and 1948 arcs featuring Professor Bruttenholm, I think you will really enjoy it. Also, the supernatural Super-Nazi with the highest and hottest hairdo on the battlefield, the Black Flame, returns… Art from occasional BPRD contributors, so in keeping with that title’s typical rough and ready style.

JR

Buy Sledgehammer 44 vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Miracleman Book vol 1: A Dream Of Flying h/c (£22-50, Marvel) by Alan Moore, Mich Anglo & Gary Leach, Alan Davis, Don Lawrence, Steve Dillon, Paul Neary…

“I’m Miracleman… I’m back!!”

Indeed. I really can’t be bothered to get into the whole ‘original writer’ shtick. It’s Uncle Alan Moore, for the one person in all of comicdom who doesn’t know. The first part was originally published in March 1982, in the very same issue of Warrior as the first part of V FOR VENDETTA, so Moore was already into his full creative flow and this was around the time he also was doing a fair few futureshocks for 2000AD (prior to THE BALLAD OF HALO JONES in 1984) and also some pretty seminal, and frankly pretty out there for the time, CAPTAIN BRITAIN stuff for Marvel UK with Alan Davis.

Re-reading this material for the first time in a good few years, as indeed whenever I re-read V FOR VENDETTA, you can easily forget what an expansive yet eloquent writer Alan was at the time. I’m not saying he isn’t now, but it’s hard to get away with being so verbose, so wordily dense, in comics, yet here, as with much of his SWAMP THING run, he carries it off easily. It’s almost comics with an overtone of narrative prose in places. Perfect for setting the scene, or unsettling the reader… for whilst your eyes are telling you one thing with the artwork, Alan is in fact implanting something into your subconscious that is slightly different, a little deeper, and also darker with the narration.

In fact, this material does indeed have a mild flavour of horror to it, but that may also be with me knowing where the story is eventually going… Yes, it’s superheroes, but there’s an definite edge to it which is just as equally apparent as compared to the more overtly political V FOR VENDETTA. I do remember, though, when I first read the whole run, including the subsequent Neil Gaiman material, wondering if Alan had a clear idea of precisely what, if anything, he wanted to achieve in a wider sense with MIRACLEMAN when he started. Maybe he did have something in mind, though maybe he had more than enough going on in that respect with V FOR VENDETTA. I’m intrigued to see if I have that same sense this time around. Lovely art from Garry Leach too. Not sure why he didn’t go on to do a lot, lot more in comics. I have a strange recollection he did at least draw one issue of GLOBAL FREQUENCY.

Do you need to read this? Should you read this? The answer for me is definitely so. It is a seminal work in many ways, which clearly influenced much of what was to shortly follow in the rapidly darkening superhero genre (remember, Miller’s THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS and DAREDEVIL: BORN AGAIN weren’t until 1986) but also in a wider comics sense. Superhero comics have often been, are, at their most interesting with heroes who are fundamentally flawed, riddled with doubts and insecurities and, most of all, that unforgiveable cardinal sin in the superhero credo, vulnerable instead of just plain, well, invulnerable. Yes, there were comics before this one that did that, but this work in my eyes does represent something of a turning point, however small, for the genre in and of itself. Anyway, read it for yourself and make up your own mind.

Contains the first four recent reprints and a wealth of extra back-up material including scans of original art, preliminary roughs, WARRIOR covers, house ads, more.

JR

Buy Miracleman Book vol 1: A Dream Of Flying h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Marvel Boy s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Grant Morrison & J. G. Jones.

Matrix action half-baked with INVISIBLES meta-language to produce the ultimate in contra mundum, as a young alien with a ferocious line in diplomacy finds himself shot out of the skies by a technology thief calling himself Midas.

The assault kills all Noh-varr’s colleagues, leaving him alone to escape torture and dish out the global reprisals, carving “FUCK YOU” in sky-scraper-sized letters and then take on Hex, a living corporation, all of which he performs in his cycling shorts.

Here comes the language:

“He’s seething with submicrotech! His body fluids are nanoactive! Xenohazard alert!”

With slick and sexy balletic art from J. G. Jones of Mark Millar’s WANTED etc., this completely self-contained series was the very first appearance of YOUNG AVENGERS’ Noh-Varr.

SLH

Buy Marvel Boy s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Cataclysm Ultimates Last Stand h/c (£37-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Mark Bagley, various.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SLH

Buy Cataclysm Ultimates Last Stand h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy

Reviews already online if they’re new formats of previous books. Otherwise the most interesting will come under the microscope next week, while the rest will remain with their Diamond previews acting in lieu of reviews.

 

Hellblazer vol 8: Rake At The Gates Of Hell (£14-99, DC) by Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon, William Simpson, Peter Snejbjerg

Von Doogan And The Curse Of The Golden Monkey (£6-99, DFC) by Lorenzo Etherington

Adventure Time Eye Candy vol 1 h/c (£14-99, Titan Comics) by various

Adventure Time vol 3 Mathematical Edition h/c (£14-99, Titan Comics) by various

Afterlife With Archie vol 1: Escape From Riverdale (£13-50, Archie Comics) by Roberto Aguirre Sacasa & Francesco Francavilla

Jonathan Starlight (£2-99, ) by Ethan Wilderspin

Morning Glories vol 7 (£9-99, Image) by Nick Spencer & Joe Eisma

Star Wars Ongoing vol 2: From The Ruins Of Alderaan (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Brian Wood & Ryan Kelly, Alex Ross

Mass Effect: Foundation vol 2 s/c (£12-99, Dark Horse) by Mac Walters & various

Toshiro s/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Jai Nitz & Janusz Pawlak

Batman And Robin vol 3: Death Of The Family s/c (£10-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi, Scott Snyder & Patrick Gleason, Ardian Syaf, Gerg Capullo

Batman And Robin vol 4: Requiem For Damian h/c (£18-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason

Before Watchmen – Minutemen / Silk Spectre s/c (£14-99, DC) by Darwyn Cooke, Amanda Conner

Stormwatch vol 2 s/c (£14-99, DC) by Warren Ellis & Tom Raney, Bryan Hitch, various

Swamp Thing vol 4: Seeder s/c (£12-99, DC) by Charles Soule & Kano, Jesus Saiz, Alvaro Lopez, David Lapham

Uncanny Avengers vol 3 (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Rick Remender & Steve McNiven, Daniel Acuna

Attack On Titan Colossal Edition vol 1 (£42-99, Kodansha) by Hajime Isayama

 

Nottingham Independent Business Award

Voting has begun in the first stage of the Nottingham Independent Business Award 2014 and only the ten most popular businesses will get through to be secretly shopped and assessed by the judges!

Thanks to your votes not only did Page 45 get through in 2012 and 2013 but we won both years! Yippee! Here on page 3 is silly old me, Stephen L. Holland extolling the virtues of Independent Retail in the Nottingham Independent Newspaper June 2014.

Please, please vote! You don’t have to be local – that’s half the point – a Nottingham business that generates tourism!


Here’s how:

1. Tweet @itsinnottingham with “I vote for Page 45” or something similar.

2. Comment “I vote for Page 45” on the It’s In Nottingham Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/itsinnottingham I’m sure you can elaborate if you want to!

3. Fill in voting cards at Page 45 itself by Thursday 19th June.

4. Email info@nottinghambid.com with (you’ll never guess) “I vote for Page 45”!

This may sound greedy, but I very much want the hat-trick on the year of our 20th Anniversary after which I promise to leave you in relative peace.

Your votes won’t guarantee Page 45 wins by any stretch of the imagination – after that it’s up to us to provide the level of personal customer service you’re used to and dazzle the judges with our effortless wit and charm (ruh-roh!).

Big love to Diane, Judi et al at Gemini PR & Marketing for all their kindnesses over the last two years. Splashes like that lovely page 3 are invaluable in helping us reach a wider public and introduce it to the comics and graphic novels we all adore!

Cheers,

- Stephen x

Your regular ITEM!s will return next week. Linking some up as we speak!

Reviews May 2014 week four

May 28th, 2014

If you want some of the most impassioned and eloquent writing in comic check out the dialogue below on the US Death Penalty.

 - Stephen on Ex Machina Book 2 by SAGA’s Brian K. Vaughan & Tony Harris

The Boxer: The True Story Of Holocaust Survivor Harry Haft (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by Reinhard Kleist…

“The man hadn’t volunteered. Now I knew what was meant by… ‘when one of you can’t fight any longer.’ I was sure they’d shoot me if I refused.”

I am pretty sure he was right, given that is precisely what ended up happening to the losers shortly after Harry Haft – or Hertzko to use his birth name – had knocked them out. The fights in question took place in concentration camps, purely for the purpose of entertaining the German guards and their guests.

I could write a whole essay, several actually, on the barbarism and inhumanity to man which took place during the Second World War, but given what else took place in the concentration camps themselves, it is not remotely surprising that Harry did what was necessary to survive in any given moment. There comes a point beyond which, if you want to survive, if you have a strong enough reason to endure such unimaginable horror and suffering, it inevitably becomes every man for himself. Win and survive, lose and die, Harry fought 76 fights, effectively to the death, in the Jaworzno concentration camp…

In Harry’s case, it was the thought of a woman called Leah he was about to marry. The thought of being reunited with her drove him to fight to stay alive. And those fighting instincts carried him through his internment, and subsequently ensured he took his chance to immigrate in somewhat quasi-legal circumstances to America. Even once there, in the relative comfort of Brooklyn, he never forgot Leah, in fact he was convinced she also had made it to the promised land of America, he decided to re-enter the boxing ring. Unable to track her down, assuming she had entered the country under a false name like he had, he figured if he could make a name for himself as a boxer, she would get to hear about him and know he was alive.

Whilst Harry did indeed achieve some measure of success, winning his first twelve straight pro fights, proudly sporting a Star of David, yellow in ironic appreciation of the Nazis’ badge of shame for the Jews during the war, eventually he came up against the unstoppable force that was Rocky Marciano, a fight which brought the curtain down on his career. There were subsequent claims of Mafia threats to throw the fight, never proven, but the loss was devastating enough to make Haft realise he had taken his personal journey into the realms of the sweet science as far as he possibly could. Opening a corner store, taking a wife and having three kids, he moved on whilst never quite forgetting his first love. Which brings us neatly to the road trip an older Harry and his son Alan took whilst they were on holiday as a family in Miami, 1963. The unscheduled excursion neatly bookends this traumatic tale of one man’s determination to achieve his heart’s desire, and proves that sometimes all you have to do is have the iron will to see it through.

Some of you may be familiar with the creator Reinhard Kleist from his excellent biography of CASTRO. There is something about Reinhard’s gritty black and white art style which lends itself perfectly to such pieces. I can see various influences and comparisons, not least the great Will Eisner. This is a brilliantly told work of one man’s story which, like so many others from that time, should, indeed must not be forgotten.

JR

Buy The Boxer: The True Story Of Holocaust Survivor Harry Haft and read the Page 45 review here

MPH #1 of 5 (£2-25, Image) by Mark Millar & Duncan Fegredo.

It’s a joy to see Duncan Fegredo back in the real world again – well, something more approximating it than HELLBOY: MIDNIGHT CIRCUS. That was an ethereal beauty and Fegredo was perfect for a series starring a big red guy with enormous hands. The hands!

However, it’s the cool and contemporary I love most about him – the arched expressions and Rodin-like wrists, often at angles in TALES FROM THE CLERKS, for example. There’s a gloriously subtle sequence kicked off when Chevy looks away from a bearded, bald biker dude just as that dude takes an interest in him. It’s a perfect panel, all the important elements including their stares composed along the lines radiating from its vanishing point, far right. Story page nine, panel two once you’ve bought this. I won’t tell you where it’s set: this review’s spoiler-free, I promise.

In 1986 the first and only sighting of a superhuman occurred late at night after he “ran out of juice” in Missouri. Rocketing uncontrollably at such an impossible speed across multiple speeds that he left a tornado-level trail of destruction in his wake, ploughing up compacted earth and asphalt, busting through buildings and shattering glass, Mr Springfield staggered to a halt and was promptly arrested, drugged and locked away in solitary confinement by the United States Army.

 

That was it for superhumans for nearly thirty years. Now it’s 2014 and young, ambitious, forward-thinking Roscoe, a courier in bankrupt Detroit, is in for a shattering experience of his own. That’s long before he experiences his own MPH.

Anything more than that would constitute spoilers and I made you a promise. Besides, I have many more questions than I have answers – especially after the final page – and that’s just as it should be for any opening salvo.

Coming back to Fegredo, however, and I told you he was a dab hand at contemporary, so I leave you with the cover to MPH #2.

Now that’s how you stand out on shelves.

SLH

Buy MPH #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Polina h/c (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Bastien Vives…

“Hello Mrs. Litovsky, I would like to talk about Polina.”
“Tell me, Mr. Bojinsky.”
“I would like her to dance in a performance, and I’ve come to consult you about when I could borrow her for rehearsals. With your permission of course.”
“Absolutely not, Mr. Bojinsky. There’s the end of year assessment. And Polina needs to work hard to reach the right level; if she fails she won’t be able to move up to the next year.
“On top of that, for your information, I’m having a hard time correcting all the horrors you put into the heads of your former pupils!
“So I find you extremely impertinent coming here asking me something like this.
“As you well know, I don’t share your conception of dance one bit!”
“I must confess, I do try to train my pupils for work beyond musical comedies and folk entertainment.”
“You repellent man! I would rather leave than listen to this kind of nonsense. Goodbye, Mr. Bojinsky.”
“Goobye Mrs. Litovsky!”
“Polina… tell me, can I count on you? We’ll find a solution for the rehearsals.”
“I’d be delighted, Mr. Bojinsky.”

Wonderful absorbing character study from the man who brought us A TASTE OF CHLORINE. (By the way, if there is anyone out there who knows what the woman says to the boy underwater in the conclusion of that work, please, please tell me, because I would dearly love to know!) Polina wants to be a dancer, and she has natural talent and aptitude. But more than that, she has the attitude and single-minded determination to succeed. Whilst the other girls eventually succumb to the distractions and socialising down the pub and the temptations of boys, Polina’s focus remains firmly on being a dancer.

 

In that respect she is aided, indeed directed in her early years, by the somewhat stentorian Mr. Bojinksky. Not in the vocal sense, but he has the manner of someone who simply brooks no dissent. If you are not interested in doing it his very exacting way, well, you will be shown the door. He isn’t mean or cruel, but he rarely shows approbation either. Not that this is a stereotypical story of the early years of someone destined for stardom, moulded by a rigid disciplinary, though. The time soon comes when Polina begins to question where she is headed, both artistically and as a person, and decides to strike out on her own. But, undoubtedly, Mr. Bojinsky remains the primary influence upon her, even subconsciously. So, when she finds herself at a cross-roads in her career and personal life, it’s perhaps not surprising she turns back toward to the bedrock of stability whom she has always been able to rely on.

As with A TASTE OF CHLORINE, much here is about what is not said, both what doesn’t need to be, and what people are incapable of expressing. He understands the subtleties of human emotion, does Mr. Vives, and, better yet, is capable of illustrating it so delicately in this form. And as with that previous work, there are turning points upon which the story hinges, where your heart will either melt or break. One of the most powerful moments in this work for me comes when Mr. Bojinsky removes his glasses: there’s a transformation which takes place, on many different levels, that is as revealing as it is remarkable. It’s such a subtle nuance, but then the glasses are replaced and, whilst everything is seemingly exactly as it was, it has undoubtedly changed forever.

Art-wise, whilst there are some similarities of style, it is a different approach from A TASTE OF CHLORINE. Understated yet expressive. Graceful and poised, like a ballerina, it shows what a truly accomplished talent Bastien Vives is.

JR

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

The Last Broadcast #1 of 7 (£2-99, Archaia) by André 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.

SLH

Buy The Last Broadcast #1 and read the Page 45 review here

The Graphic Novel Man DVD: The Comics of Bryan Talbot (£15-99) co-created by Russell Wall and James Guy with substantial contributions by Neil Gaiman, Warren Ellis, Joe Sacco, Ian Rankin, Michael Moorcock, David Lloyd, Dougie Braithwaite, Dr. Mary Talbot, Hunt Emerson, D’Israeli, Pat Mills, John Wagner, Al Davison, Andy Diggle, Paul Gravett, Dr. Mel Gibson, Charlie Adlard, Dez Skinn and more!

Fascinating, thrilling and completely accessible, this is a well deserved and worthy tribute to one of the world’s greatest comicbook creators, truly a “Renaissance Man.”

Seeing whole pages or even the tiniest details blown up in such crystal-clear definition is a joy.

Watching Bryan draw is magical.

Listening to him enthuse about his influences is infectious.

If you love comics but haven’t yet read a word Bryan has written or seen a page that he’s drawn you will still love this three-programme documentary, be fascinated by Bryan’s craft, then be galvanised into seeking out whichever of his diverse graphic novels appeals to your personal predilections: ALICE IN SUNDERLAND, THE TALE OF ONE BAD RAT, DOTTER OF HER FATHER’S EYES, GRANDVILLE… Oh, pop him in our search engine!

You might want to take another look at his SANDMAN contributions too once both Gaiman and Talbot have explained the creative decisions each made for ‘August’: verticals, horizontals, diagonals and so much white! And yes, you might not notice it but the shadows do shift from west to east according to the time of day!

I didn’t know what some of these comicbook creators lining up to heap praise on Talbot actually looked like until. Who knew Andy Diggle was so young? Joe Sacco looks far more svelte and handsome than he draws himself, while Warren Ellis is a million miles away from the cranky cadaver he pretends to be, positively beaming with affection for Bryan’s craft. I haven’t seen Charlie Adlard for decades – wouldn’t recognise him.

The first programme covers the creator’s life and career with plenty of old film footage of him acting his socks off in horror films he made as a teenager. As you’d imagine, Dr. Mary Talbot is on hand to elaborate on the scenes from DOTTER OF HER FATHER’S EYES in which they met and married, and Bryan was introduced to Mary’s domineering father. Bryan recounts how he took a Foundation Course taught by three abstract artists who forbade figurative work completely! So that doesn’t go well. It’s all put into comicbook context so you’ll find potted histories of genres from underground comics to steampunk.

The second feature deals with Bryan’s approach to creating comics from extensive research, note-taking and photography (“obsessing”, basically, and often for years), then meticulously mapping out the structure of each book on enormous sheets of paper stuck together and arrows going every which way so that events can be foreshadowed and bits of dialogue dropped in… to finally cracking into the pages themselves. Once more his creative peers are on hand to extol the artist’s virtues and point out bits and pieces we may have all missed.

In the third episode you actually get to watch the man at work on GRANDVILLE. Whoa!

Each instalment is so seamlessly edited, deftly cutting to form one long, fluid narrative – an entertainment, in fact.

I have only one criticism in the vein of “Never judge a book by its cover”: don’t be put off by the cover’s woefully out-of-date design, its hideous type-face on the front and back, and the initial, endless repetition before each programme of Digital Story Engine’s logo and website address. Push past them! The films themselves are as slick as can be.

One small warning too: this DVD contains a great deal of me, popping my head up above the comics counter and mouthing off just when you least expect it. Sorry.

Also: THAT IS NOT MY LIVING ROOM; IT IS UNDECORATED PAGE 45 STORAGE UPSTAIRS!

SLH

Buy The Graphic Novel Man DVD: The Comics of Bryan Talbot and read the Page 45 review here

Moomin’s Desert Island (£6-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Tove Jansson.

“Help!”
“Pirates!”
“Are they after us?”
“I hope so!”

Everyone loves to be chased.

Thirty-five pages of full-colour whimsy from one of the black and white MOOMIN hardcovers in which our flailing family of unceasing optimists finds themselves marooned on a dessert island. They don’t mind: in MOOMIN VOL 7 they actively set out to shipwreck themselves, and found it surprisingly difficult!

Moominmamma’s immediate priority is to go foraging for food, carrying her handbag – as you do – and hunting a wild boar with her compact. I’m not even kidding you. She blows make-up powder up its nose and into its eyes, seasons it with salt (it’s a well equipped handbag) and sets fire to the poor brute, shaggy coat and all.

However, Moominmamma isn’t the only Moominmummy on the island. Plus Moomintroll discovers a message from The Mymble bobbing in a bottle on the sea.

“Help! I am the beautiful prisoner of the pirates on board the black shark!”

Beautiful? Uh-oh. Well, it wouldn’t be MOOMIN if Snork Maiden didn’t sulk. It’s so like Tove Jansson to be that random: Moominpappa, Moominmamma, Moomintroll and … Snork Maiden. Maybe Moomin’s the name of the family, not the species – that’s only just dawned on me!

The laugh-out-loud sequences involve the Professor who boarded the helicopter against his better judgement having forecasted a storm. A death-obsessed doom merchant, his umbrella was up before the first drop of rain and remains firmly aloft on each and every page until the, err, accident. It’s an exquisite piece of timing when, after a dozen or so gloomy projections, the imminent disaster is left hanging in the air on the last panel of a page, just like the agent of destruction above the poor Professor’s head. I don’t think that umbrella will help much.

SLH

Buy Moomin’s Desert Island and read the Page 45 review here

Operation Paperclip (£7-99) by Patrick Goddard…

“Can you even be guilty? For something you haven’t done? For a potential?”

Good question. If you have the potential for not picking up your standing order, I would say so. But, for our put-upon protagonist, it’s a rather more all encompassing problem. Already unpopular at school, just because he isn’t one of the popular kids pretty much, it certainly has the potential to get much, much worse. He’s just received a letter from Julian Assange informing him that in one week’s time, Wikileaks will be leaking US government documents which categorically prove he is a clone of Hitler. For a teenager who was adopted by a Jewish family but who can’t be considered as Jewish due to no one knowing if his birth mother was Jewish, but still expected to act like one and thus unsurprisingly already struggling with identity issues, it’s a bombshell he could have done without.

The title of this work comes from the factual US appropriation of various Nazi scientists following WW2, including several whom could be said to have worked in the field of… medical science. For example, it’s well known that various rocket scientists like Wernher von Braun were assimilated into the US space program, but it’s far less well known that characters like Dr Hubertus Strughold, responsible for experimentation on humans at Dachau, were employed in high ranking medical positions in the US establishment. Their new paperwork and IDs, erasing their past mis-deeds, were all neatly and simply held together with a paperclip.

Our by now somewhat paranoid hero has always had an interest in Nazi conspiracy theories, a fact which only serves to convince him this stunning revelation must be true. By the time he’s finished espousing these theories for the benefit of his bemused friend, you might well be convinced too. But in reality, this is a work about consequences. Actions most assuredly have consequences, you can call it karma if you wish, and there is a rather amusing little ramble about that: the consequences of our actions do not always fall upon our own shoulders, but sometimes the actions of others do, with devastating effect. I think we can certainly say this is a black comedy. I chuckled throughout because, let’s be honest, we can all laugh at the misfortune of others, especially when it is so comedically portrayed. But maybe we’re just being set up for the punchline and the joke will turn out to be on us…

I loved this work! Self-published, self-bound even (I know because Patrick told me!), this story shows a creator with rich storytelling potential who understands how to unsettle and jangle the emotions of the reader whilst simultaneously extracting a laugh or two. The art style reminded me of Gareth Brookes (THE BLACK PROJECT) in places and actually Gary Spencer Millidge (STRANGEHAVEN) too, particularly in terms of the somewhat haunted faces.

JR

Buy Operation Paperclip and read the Page 45 review here

Saga #19 (£2-25, Image) by Brian K. Vaughn & Fiona Staples…

“I will never stop cringing.”
“You encouraged us… just a second… you encouraged us to respond to the audience more.”
“No, I told you to be aware of the fourth wall, not to punch a glory hole through it. You’re fired.”

Aha, possibly the most dysfunctional family in comics is back!!! So if you don’t want to wait another eight or so months for the next collected trade, it’s time to jump aboard the crazy comics ride that is SAGA in single-issue form. Now living undercover, trying to keep a low profile, whilst Alana quite literally broadcasts herself across the universe in the guise of a farcical soap opera-esque improvisational troupe member, our collective bunch of oddballs bicker near-continuously and attempt to out-profane one other, whilst they all go gradually ever more stir crazy.

Also, the first page of this issue finally manages to out-do the very first page of SAGA VOL 1 for utterly insane, weird grossness. Once again, childbirth is involved, but nearly a week later, I simply cannot unsee the image that has been seared into my brain. Vaughn, Staples, you are bad people…

JR

Buy Saga #19 and read the Page 45 review here

Ex Machina Book 2 (£14-99, Vertigo) by Brian K. Vaughan & Tony Harris, Chris Sprouse.

From the writer of SAGA.

If you want some of the most impassioned and eloquent writing in comics check out the dialogue below on the US Death Penalty.

Plus Tony Harris: the writing’s so good I rarely mention Tony, do I? Just the right level of anchoring photo-realism – the saggy jowls and all – for a political thriller.

EX MACHINA stars the mayor of New York who can communicate with machines (and do so imaginatively as the courtroom highjack will amply demonstrate) and who reads WONDER WOMAN but has to hire a detective to buy the back issues for him because, like, if it ever got out that the mayor of New York City read the funny papers they’d think he was ripe for the funny farm. The press’d be all over that one.

Terrorism returns to New York, bringing with it personal tragedy for Mayor Hundred and ugly reprisals on the street. Skinheads indiscriminately target Sikhs as well as innocent Muslims, police officers shoot the wrong person on the underground (hmmm…?), and no one’s looking in the right direction. Meanwhile, Hundred gets sick of being stitched up on air, and decides to do something about it:

“Dre, you asked me to come on your program so we could discuss extending Rent Regulations, not –”
“It’s a simple question, sir. Do you or do you not support Capital Punishment?”
“<sigh> The Death Penalty is arbitrary and capricious, an anachronistic throwback that’s looked upon with disgust by nearly every other democracy in the world. Practically, it’s way more expensive than life without parole, and morally, it’s applied in a manner that’s totally unfair to anyone who can’t afford my lawyers. And I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that those convicted of killing Whites are significantly more likely to be executed than those convicted of killing Blacks.”
“But you’d agree that it’s an effective deterrent against future crimes?”
“No, I wouldn’t. Murder rates often go up immediately following executions. We’re sending a message to Americans that killing is the correct way to solve problems. Look, I realise we live in a culture where a story isn’t satisfying unless the bad guy dies at the end, but unlike the movies, death really is permanent. How can we implement a decision that can’t be overturned when we know how fallible our justice system — how fallible we — can be?”
“And Osama Bin Laden? If he were captured tomorrow, you’d argue to the families of his victims that he should live?”
“… Motherfucker.”
“Dump out! Dump out! Don’t let that go over on the air! What in God’s name is wrong with you? You can’t say stuff like that on a public broadcast!”
“Yeah, well, now you know how it feels like to be sabotaged. Enjoy the rest of your show, Dre.”

|Outside|:

“What was that all about, boss?”
“Doesn’t matter, Bradbury. Come on, sneak me out of here before my Press Secretary shows up to scream at me.”
“But I didn’t hear your answer to whether or not you’d ice Osama.”
“And neither did anyone else. It’s a “Have you stopped beating your wife?” trap. If I say I’d kill him, I look like a hypocrite. If I say I wouldn’t, I sound weak on security. Sometimes it’s best to let your record speak for itself, you know?”

This new edition takes you right up to end of the fourth original volume, so you can carry straight on with EX MACHINA VOL 5

SLH

Buy Ex Machina Book 2 and read the Page 45 review here

The Cigar That Fell In Love With A Pipe (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by David Camus & Nick Abadzis.

The final flourish of fourteen pages – as an increasingly confident comet of living white light rises through the multiple strata of clouds cast in a golden light, and bursts across the stormier masses before making a mad dash towards the heart of a shimmering sun – are breathtakingly beautiful.

The multiple marines and citrus yellows are as exquisite as the execution is thrilling and, however achieved, the effect is of pastel or dry brush on coarsely textured watercolour paper thick with paint. The creamy lemon then white-hot sun radiating over the sea comes close to a religious experience.

I wish to God that the rest of the book had been rendered like that. Nick Abadzis, the creator of LAIKA, is an award-winning artist whom we adore and whenever Conchita Marquez – Cuba’s most celebrated cigar roller – appears on the page he brings her alive in all her big, hot, pungent beauty and the dream sequences are divine.

His Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth, however, are as stiff, awkward and artificial as the writing which I found mundane, clunky, irritating and even embarrassing in places.

It was only during the injustices heaped on Conchita – so in love with tobacco and so dedicated to her craft – that my interest picked up. I wanted to learn all about this woman but the details were scant. Instead the focus began and then strayed back to Welles puffing on multiple cigars, Rita being cranky, and a cheesy supernatural conceit which left me completely cold.

Astonished.

SLH

Buy The Cigar That Fell In Love With A Pipe and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy

Reviews already online if they’re new formats of previous books. Otherwise the most interesting will come under the microscope next week, while the rest will remain with their Diamond previews acting in lieu of reviews.

 

Umbral vol 1: Out Of The Shadows s/c (£7-50, Image) by Antony Johnston & Christopher Mitten

Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama s/c (£11-99, Mariner) by Alison Bechdel

Black Science vol 1: How To Fall Forever s/c (£7-50, Image) by Rick Remender & Matteo Scalera, Dean White

Bunny vs. Monkey Book One: Year One January – June (£6-99, DFB) by Jamie Smart

Everywhere Antennas (£14-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Julie Delporte

Glacial Period h/c (£16-99, NBM) by Nicolas De Crecy

Petty Theft (£14-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Pascal Girard

Phantoms Of The Louvre h/c (£22-50, NBM) by Enki Bilal

Savage vol 2: The Guv’nor (£14-99, Rebellion ) by Pat Mills & Patrick Goddard

Sledgehammer 44 vol 1 (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi & Jason Latour, Laurence Campbell, Mike Mignola

The Girl Who Played With Fire h/c (£22-50, Vertigo) by Denise Mina &Andrea Mutti, Antonio Fuso, Leonardo Manco

Catwoman vol 4: Gotham Underground s/c (£13-50, DC) by Ann Nocenti & Rafael Sandoval

Fairest vol 3: Return Of The Maharaja (£10-99, DC) by Sean Williams & Stephen Sadowski, Phil Jimenez, Adam Hughes, others

Red Lanterns vol 4: Blood Brothers s/c (£12-99, DC) by Charles Soule, Robert Veniditti & Alessandro Vitti, various

Shazam s/c (£12-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Gary Frank

All New X-Men vol 4: All Different (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen, Brandon Peterson

Avengers Assemble: Forgeries Of Jealousy s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Kelly Sue Deconnick, Warren Ellis & Matteo Buffagni

Cataclysm Ultimates Last Stand h/c (£37-99, Marvel) by Joshua Hale Fialkov, Brian Michael Bendis & Mark Bagley,various

Guardians Of The Galaxy / All New X-Men: The Trial Of Jean Grey h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen, Sara Pichelli

Iron Man vol 4: Iron Metropolitan (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Joe Bennett

Marvel Boy s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Grant Morrison & J. G. Jones

Marvel Masterworks: Iron Man vol 3 (£18-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee, Al Hartley, Roy Thomas & Don Heck, Gene Colan, Jack Kirby

Miracleman Book vol 1: A Dream Of Flying h/c (£22-50, Marvel) by Alan Moore, Mich Anglo & Gary Leach, Alan Davis, Don Lawrence, Steve Dillon, Paul Neary

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

Revolutionary War s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Andy Lanning, Kieron Gillen, others & various

Battle Angel Alita Last Order Omnibus vol 3 (£14-99, Kodansha) by Yukito Kishiro

Claymore vol 24 (£6-99, Viz) by Norihiro Yagi

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

Soul Eater vol 20 (£9-99, Yen) by Atsushi Ohkubo

Vampire Knight vol 18 (£6-99, Viz) by Matsuri Hino

 

ITEM! One of Tom Gauld’s best-ever cartoons: “My Library”! Too, too funny! Here’s our review of Tom Gauld’s YOU’RE JUST JEALOUS OF MY JETPACK with his absolute best-ever cartoon to click on!

ITEM! Preview of THE WICKED + THE DIVINE by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie

ITEM! I love Marc Laming’s hair – and the way he draws it! Marc Laming’s indescribably beautiful hair.

ITEM! Michael Eaton & Eddie Campbell reprise Charlie Peace in comic form in DAWN OF THE UNREAD #3 There’s a neat little surprise halfway through, and finishes with a redefinition of the term “page-turner”. Are you sitting at your computer as well right now? Hmmm.

ITEM! Culture has climaxed! Neill Cameron’s Lego Panda Battlesuit.

ITEM! Jade Sarson wins Myriad Books’ First Graphic Novel Competion 2014 with the gloriously titled FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, MARIE! Jade Sarson’s website.

ITEM! Ulli Lust’s acceptance speech for her LA Times Best Graphic Novel award in comic form! Genius! She won it for TODAY IS THE  LAST DAY OF THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.

ITEM! I want hugs! These folks are some of the glorious 3-D mascots for The Lakes International Comics Art Festival designed by Jonathan Edwards and made by fabulous Felt Mistress! Felt Mistress’ CREATURE COUTURE is in stock at Page 45!

ITEM! Lastly, this may look utterly self-serving but, from the New York Times: the latest tactics from Amazon are horrifying. If you want discounted prose and DVDs there is an alternative to Amazon called HIVE which you can use via Page 45 and even collect in-store if you want, so saving you postage!

ITEM! No, wait! Big blog about all the comicbook creators in The Clock Tower at The Lakes International Comic Arts Festival 2014 in October! Includes bits on Page 45!

Cheers,

- Stephen

Reviews May 2014 week three

May 21st, 2014

I’ve seen this sort of thing done very, very badly by those who think comics is anyone’s game. It’s not. It’s a medium which requires specific talents, discipline and very careful judgement.

- Stephen on Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast. She has all three in abundance.

Remember, you can click on our interior art to enlarge it!

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? h/c (£20-99, Bloomsbury) by Roz Chast.

“I wish that, at the end of life, when things were truly “done”, there was something to look forward to. Something more pleasure-orientated. Perhaps opium, or heroin.”

Yep, that’s been on my To-Do list for a very long time. It’s far from sustainable in the long term – especially if you have any actual plans – but if the time’s drawing near then I want some gear. Some serious gear. Call it a pleasure deferred.

Roz Chast has achieved the virtually impossible: she has written and drawn a graphic novel about the single most painful subject most of us have buried along with our heads in the sand… and, through the skill of her cartooning and selective wisdom, made it a page-turner rather than something I would desperately prefer to look away from. The short-burst presentation helps too.

The subject isn’t one’s own mortality nor even our parents’ mortality, but the possibility of prolonged and ever-increasing frailty before death.

As the book opens Roz Chast’s parents are living in a god-awful rented flat in Brooklyn which Roz escaped as soon as she could aged 16. You’ll see why. Her mother and father are, however, content with their habitat – however rough, ready, cold and grimy – and as independent as they are co-dependent. They are inseparable and self-supporting. It’s all perfectly viable for the moment, but they too have their heads in the sand, hence the title. It’s roughly 50% optimism, 50% denial, equalling 100% oblivion.

Her mother is assertive, confident, uncompromising, obstinate, bossy. She had quite a temper on her, manifesting itself in what she proudly described as a “Blast from Chast”! Her father is happy to be hen-pecked for he adores Elizabeth. He is meek and sensitive – what you might call a worrier. Unfortunately, with the onset of senility, it deteriorates into such outright paranoia that he cannot be left on his own and when her mother’s overconfidence drives her to use one step-ladder too many, it is the beginning of a very protracted end.

“I had had no idea that my father was so far gone. When he was living with my take-charge mother in familiar, never-changing surroundings, his symptoms of senility had seemed pretty low-key. Certainly not this level of confusion.
“One of the worst parts of senility must be that you have to get terrible news over and over again.
“On the other hand, maybe in between the times of knowing the bad news, you get to forget it and live as if everything is hunky-dory.”

Alison Bechdel’s a big fan, calling it a “grim, side-splitting memoir” and that’s a neat little trick, juggling the horror with the humour. The horror her father feels each time he’s told the news he keeps forgetting – that his wife and soul mate is in hospital – is in fact hilarious.

“Speaking of which, where’s Mom?”
“Mom is in the hospital.”
“OH MY GOD!!! WHAT HAPPENED?!?!?”

Each and every time. It’s a cumulatively funny joke based on repetition.

It doesn’t hurt that Chast is Edvard Munch’s comedic second-cousin. Rarely has eye-popping, wits’-end, freak-the-fuck-out been so explosively expressed by a pen on the page. Exasperation too. We’re talking Roberta Gregory (NAUGHTY BITS) amplified by Gary Northfield (TEENYTINSAURS).

 

She’s also a dab hand at wobbly-lined fragility, and I’m afraid you’ll be witness to an increasing amount of that as her parents’ conditions deteriorate, excruciatingly so.

As Chast herself surmises, what may have helped her examine the stark proceedings with both candour and sanity is a certain detachment to her mother’s condition born of that bad temper which Roz was so often subjected to when a child; along with the blunt bons môts, “I’m not your friend. I’m your mother”.

There’s a photo of Roz Chast aged 11 in which she looks 30. There are heartbreaking photos of her parents’ effects taken when the cartoonist clears out their flat. There are photos of approximately two hundred pencils found in different draws. There are photos of clutter – the debris of a life left behind. There’s also a very curious photo of the inside of their fridge.

“The tins are from Meals On Wheels. The turquoise bin with all the tape on it is one of my mother’s inventions and has been since the mid-1960s. It’s called the “cheese-tainer” and held – obviously – cheese. Don’t know about the empty Styrofoam egg cartons.”

Twenty-four hours after reading this I began my own clear-out back home. Try it! Start filling the first bin! It’s very therapeutic.

I’ve seen this sort of thing done very, very badly by those who think comics is anyone’s game. It’s not. It’s a medium which requires specific talents, discipline and very careful judgement. Roz Chast has a long career as a highly acclaimed professional cartoonist under her belt and it shows on every page.

I leave you with some figures to frighten the fuck out of you and your wallet: when Chast’s parents were relatively able-bodied (all things become relative), The Place which she finally persuaded them was inevitable accommodation cost $7,400 a month before extras. Extras soon rose to $1,200 a month. Eventually the total for her mother alone rose to $14,000 a month.

What kind of salary are you on?

SLH

Buy Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Courtney Crumrin vol 5: The Witch Next Door h/c (£18-99, Oni) by Ted Naifeh.

“How did you know you could trust me with witchcraft?”
“I didn’t. And I was right, as I recall.”
“What if I used it against you?”
“Why would you do that?”
“I don’t know. But if I did…”
“Maybe I’m a fool, but I think every young witch should have the freedom to make mistakes. Good judgement comes from dealing with the consequences of bad judgement. Besides, there are ways to take magic away if need be…. Just be careful I never need to use them on you.”

Brrrr… That’s Uncle Aloysius to our young Courtney, and by the end of this penultimate volume of COURTNEY CRUMRIN things will have come to a head.

“Good judgement comes from dealing with the consequences of bad judgement.”

Courtney will have to exercise some seriously swift judgement here following some catastrophically bad judgement in teaching Holly Hart, the new girl in town, witchcraft. Oh, Courtney once made the same initial mistakes that Holly does with spells to make herself popular, but Courtney recognised those for the mistakes they were. The only thing Holly realises is that Courtney may rescind her privileges: Courtney has been a liability, a threat – one best dealt with swiftly.

Ingeniously Ted mirrors the whole of the first book in the second chapter here, right down to the Goblin market, and then in the third chapter you’re witness to Holly’s point of view. In the first chapter you’ll learn far more of the history of warlocks in Hillsborough than has previously been revealed, and in particular an early assault on Uncle Aloysius’ authority via his heart.

Naifeh really let’s rip with the actions and fireworks later on. I think we can safely say that Courtney has “levelled up”. There’s always been a steeliness in her eyes, but now she doesn’t even flinch. There’s also the reintroduction of many a familiar face most unexpectedly, so for maximum satisfaction I’d make sure you’ve read the previous instalments of COURTNEY CRUMRIN, reviewed quite extensively, first.

“How do you live with knowing what evil you’ve done? Knowing you’ll do more?”
“I feel like a jerk. But then I get on with my life, and try not to screw up so bad the next time. We’re not faeries, Templeton. We don’t have forever.”

No indeed. Now time is running out.

SLH

Buy Courtney Crumrin vol 5: The Witch Next Door h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Samurai Executioner Omnibus vol 1 (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Kazuo Koike & Goseki Kojima.

More brutal, feudal Japan, from the world of LONE WOLF AND CUB (extensive review), this time focussing on its Decapitator Asaemon. His job entailed testing swords, looking stern, and chopping people’s heads off.

Most of the tales involve dilemmas for the executioner to sort out all Solomon-style based on codes of conduct slightly more obscure than which way one should pass the port, but in the end it’s usually resolved in a manner which makes “cut the baby in two” look positively restrained.

SLH

Buy Samurai Executioner Omnibus vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

United States Of Murder Inc #1 (£2-99, Icon) by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Avon Oeming…

“In my day this ceremony went a little differently. It was done in a backroom. Away from the world. And you had to earn it with a lifetime of service. You had to be more than just blood.
“You had to prove your worth and loyalty.
“But your father, and his father before him… they were truly honourable men. In many ways they were the backbone of this organisation, this family…
“I would make an exception for you, Valentine, even if our ways had never changed. Take the knife.
“Who we are is who you are. Do you agree?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Show us.”
“You honour your father and your father’s father with this blood oath to the family.
“If you betray your family… your flesh will burn like this saint.
“And that’s that. Let’s eat!!”

Wise guys… surely up there on the all-time most contrary oxymorons list, in addition to the most wanted? There is a reason why the particular type of ceremony the padrino is referring to is no longer required to take place behind closed doors, and that is because in this world, the mob has managed to carve a legitimate territory out for itself being, I think, Baltimore, though it may well turn out to be elsewhere too.

 

The how and the why, those have yet not been revealed, but I am pretty sure it involved a combination of blackmail and briefcases stuffed full of money, aimed in the direction of suitably malleable politicos. Talking of blackmail and briefcases stuffed full of money, Valentine’s first mission as a made man is to take a present, and of course a message, to a politician in Washington. The message is received, the present is accepted, but [redacted].

So that’s going to give Valentine something to chew over.

Then, just when you think you’ve got a handle on what is going on, precisely where the knife has been stuck in, Bendis gives it an almighty twist. Oh yeah, I did not see that coming.

This title contains everything you would expect from Bendis, with the snappy patter and witty dialogue, and, as with POWERS / POWERS BUREAU, Oeming’s solid, angular, shadow heavy art compliments it perfectly. Great start to what has the potential to be a really top-notch crime comic, which lest we forget is the genre in which Bendis cut his teeth long before flossing with capes. I fully intend to keep to reading this one myself.

JR

Buy United States Of Murder Inc #1 and read the Page 45 review here

The True Lives Of Fabulous Killjoys s/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Gerard Way, Shaun Simon & Becky Cloonan…

Hmm, the first non-UMBRELLA ACADEMY material from Gerard Curds n’ Way and I can’t decide if I think it is merely good, or great. In fairness, Gerard and I have previous form in this respect, because I felt exactly the same about the first volume of UMBRELLA ACADEMY, whereas when I read the second I loved it. And, upon re-reading the first volume, I did subsequently ‘get’ it and found it much more enjoyable. I guess therefore what I can say is THE TRUE LIVES OF THE FABULOUS KILLJOYS is to sci-fi what UMBRELLA ACADEMY is to superheroes. Rather bonkers, bordering on daft in places.

The KILLJOYS is also very pretty – huge kudos to Becky Cloonan on art duties – so what we end up with is a tasty piece of candy floss speculative fiction that has a few interesting-ish things it is trying to say. It succeeds, to an extent, simply because it is slickly done without dwelling on the deep and meaningful for too long before zapping onto the next scene. Overall it feels rather like an artfully directed expensive music video, actually, probably exactly what Way was going for consciously or otherwise. I did find some of the future-speak soundbite dialogue a touch grating, but on another day that might have just washed over me. Still, decent enough to guarantee a place on Top Of The Pops…

 

JR

Buy The True Lives Of Fabulous Killjoys s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Hellboy In Hell vol 1: The Descent (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola…

“I promise you, you have nothing to fear in this place.”
“Because we’re invisible?”
“No.”
“Really? I thought for sure we’d be invisible.”
“No need… there’s no one here to see us.”
“You sure about that?”
“At the news of your coming, your death, and your descent into hell, they all went in a rush to hide themselves in their own far countries.”
“They?”
“All the Princes and ministers of Hell… all the Dukes, Marquis, Earls, and Knights… all fled, along with their legions of demons.”
“Not that I’m sorry to have missed them but why?”
“This way… the citadel of the fly, once the seat of… the beating heart of pandemonium… but no more. They are all gone now… save one.”
“You better not mean me, because I’ve been through all this crap before.”
“No. Not you. You’ve made your position very clear.”

Ah… easily the best HELLBOY arc I have read in the last few years. As ole Red’s saga eventually draws to a conclusion, it suddenly feels like it is right back on form. Even including the action-packed previous volume HELLBOY VOL 12: THE STORM AND THE FURY, whose cataclysmic events have resulted in Hellboy’s potentially one-way ticket home being issued, it felt like things were treading water slightly for the last three volumes or so. I have a sneaking suspicion regarding precisely why that may have been, all to do with the epic events ongoing over in BPRD: HELL ON EARTH, that perhaps Mignola was getting things… aligned… for the grand finale, as there is still rather a lot of story to be told in that particular title, but possibly not.

Anyway, this first part of the ‘Hellboy In Hell’ arc, storyline has many of the touches of truly classic HELLBOY material from over the years, with brooding mystery and arcane mythology expounded in elaborate detail, as Hellboy whips out the wisecracks all the while. Also, it’s nice to see Mignola on the art again. Whilst I have enjoyed everyone else’s work on this title over the years, especially Duncan Fegredo and excepting Richard Corben (purely a personal preference, I know many of you love his rubber faced antics), it is great to see Mignola returning to finish his labour of love off personally. Not so much a jumping on point then, as a long kiss goodbye…

JR

Buy Hellboy In Hell vol 1: The Descent and read the Page 45 review here

The Authority vol 1 s/c (£14-99, DC) by Warren Ellis & Bryan Hitch.

“We are The Authority. Behave.”

THE AUTHORITY was one of the first superhero series I ever endorsed, back in 1999. It hit the tarmac running and punched you in the socio-political face.

With its clipped, military precision, it reset the standard once monopolised by WATCHMEN. It consciously or subconsciously inspired Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch’s four ULTIMATES books, and I’m here to tell you that it withstands the test of time. If you want testosterone, it will give you testosterone, but with a great deal more cranial activity to boot.

Guess who’s got the most of both? Jenny Sparks, pragmatic blonde Brit and the sharpest female lead in superhero comics. Naturally she doesn’t wear spandex, she wears an exquisitely tailored, loose cotton suit over a Union Jack t-shirt, but she has more attitude than her entire team together, even if she doesn’t once throw a physical punch.

That job goes to Jack Hawksmoor, at one with Earth’s cities, and boyfriends Apollo and The Midnighter who – contrary to the despicable gay cliché – are neither maladjusted nor lightweights. Neither in the closet nor in your face, no one gives a shit, thank fuck. “Get a room, you two,” is about as much signposting as you’re going to get under Ellis. Apollo smiles with a boyish optimism and he shines as bright as the sun. The Midnighter does not.

“I’ve already planned this fight in my head, a million times, from each and every angle. You think your Kaizen Gamorra’s pretty damn good, I know. But my talents were built in by Henry Bendix, the biggest bastard on Earth, and trained by five years living rough and fighting on the streets of America.
“I won this fight before you even turned up.”

So where does the cranial come in? For a start in the form of The Carrier. Fifty miles long, thirty-five miles high and powered by a caged baby universe, it tacks into The Bleed between alternate universes, “sailing the outer oceans of ideaspace during the spawning season, keeping pace with a school of Obsession Fish”.

Also the new recruits: The Engineer and the Doctor. I can’t tell you how they solve problems, it’ll spoil all the surprises, but the Doctor’s final solution for an alternate-Earth Italy was … imaginative.

Also it’s the quiet moments, most harmoniously explored in the third chapter of this complete Ellis and Hitch run, as when Angie The Engineer marvels at being in outer space with her view of the moon and laments man’s all too-brief encounter with our lunar sister or relishes her view of The Bleed.

All of which – the quiet wonder and sheer, visceral thrill of seeing spinal chords ripped from their fleshy housing – would be far less effective and affecting were it not for Bryan Hitch, the neo-classical artist behind ULTIMATES and the rejuvenated, resigned Doctor Who TV series a decade or so ago. Damn, that man can do scale!

Pity his poor final-inks artist Paul Neary each and every time Bryan Hitch sent him a city-scape or double-page spread of The Carrier so vast and detailed that any normal human being would have simply cried then gone back to bed. There is another double-page spread of a sadistic shoal of cloned, superhuman, black-clothed assassins speeding towards you out of a point of perspective which will fry your fevered brain. All lit, I might add, to sunrise perfection by colour artist Laura DePuy. There’s also plenty in the backgrounds to amuse if you look closely enough: the multiple pizza-deliveries discarded in Angie’s New York flat or the pantheon of prior shamen who called themselves The Doctor.

So. Under Jenny Sparks, The Authority intend to make the world a better place, whether we like it or not. They will not tolerate an extra-terrestrial invasion, a despotic Eastern assault or a trans-dimensional incursion by a Sliding Albion hell-bent on turning the entire planet into one giant rape-camp.

“Bad things happened when I run teams. And bad things happen when I don’t run teams. This is a hellish gamble for me, Apollo.
“But there had to be someone left to save the world.
“And someone left to change it.”

Jenny Sparks stopped aging at twenty but has protected this planet for nearly one hundred years, for she is the spirit of the 20th Century.

It is now 1999. I repeat, it is now 1999.

“Game on.”

SLH

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

The Twelve: The Complete Series s/c (£22-50, Marvel) by J. Michael Straczynski & Chris Weston.

Occasionally, just occasionally, you find a Marvel comic that transcends its trappings and truly surprises you. THE INHUMANS by Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee was one of the first, as quiet and eloquent as Neil Gaiman with every panel an essay in chiaroscuro.

Twelve heroes lost to cryogenic suspension during World War II find themselves revived in the 21st Century and a world they find baffling.

It’s not just the technological marvels, it’s the way society has moved on in their wake. For most it is progress, but not for all. And sixty-odd years in suspended animation give you no free passes for past deeds. Not when we can now match DNA; not when some contracts are open-ended through their signatories’ immortality; not when you’ve alienated your now dying family with your shame about its true heritage. If the world has moved on then these individuals haven’t: they awaken with desires still aflame, words yet unspoken, and businesses far from finished.

Adapting to modern life proves hard for some and impossible for others, with consequences that are decidedly worrying. One superficial show-off makes an utter TV tosser of himself, one has his heart-broken by the realities of life for kids in some urban schools, whilst another sultry sexpot conjoins vamp and ire to redecorative effect on her late-night assignations outside of the lesbian goth circuit she is wont to frequent.

At the centre of it all is a modern mystery: a whodunnit, a whydunnit, as a gay bar in New York City is trashed, its pool-playing revellers torn apart, stamped on, stamped out. It’s not as obvious as you might think and its mechanics will keep you guessing until the moment the truth is exposed for all the world to see. Come back and read this review in hindsight, for I have chosen my words with care.

Straczynski has taken the old sort of superheroes created in innocence and transposed them, golden-age-tinted glasses and all, into the liberal/decadent/permissive (delete as appropriate to your world-view) 21st Century where they have as much to say about the there and then as the here and now.

“I was supposed to be… I was meant to be… the perfect man. The man of tomorrow. The man of the future. That’s what they always called me. The press. The public. Even my father. I was supposed to protect the world so it could become the perfect future, and once that happened, I would fit in. I would be home. But I don’t… I can’t understand this future. This world. It’s not what it was supposed to be. Clean. Pure. Perfect. There were supposed to be flying cars, and jet packs, and no more poverty, and buildings five miles high, and lunar colonies, and —

” — And instead it’s a place of even more despicable crime, more depraved behaviour, people crawling on the devoured rind of the earth. I stay in the air because I can’t stand the stink of it. I keep moving because that way I don’t have to think, is this the world we fought so hard to save? A world I don’t understand?”

That’s the so-called Dynamic Man for whom “depraved behaviour” includes mixed-race marriages. Everyone is beneath him, whether he’s flying or not.

Chris Weston’s depiction of this Aryan uber-man is harrowing: his snarling sneers and body-builder poses ripped from mid-1900s German magazines, as repellently grotesque as he is physically fit.

Indeed, Weston has done a stunning job of capturing both time periods. So many remarkable little details like Captain Wonder’s exposed, hairy legs making his antiquated costume even more dated. Best of all I relished Master Mind Excello’s sour, pursed-lipped profile. More than that, however, it’s comicbook storytelling at its finest on every single page: flawless choreography rich in detail and fierce in expression.

Weston’s one of those troopers like DAN DARE‘s Gary Erskine and indeed Bryan Talbot who marry British (and other) comics’ past and present to perfection. See Ellis & Weston’s MINISTRY OF SPACE once it’s back in print.

SLH

Buy The Twelve: The Complete Series s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Walking Dead #127: A New Beginning (£2-25, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard…

“I want you to know, I really do appreciate our little talks. It… really breaks up my days. Helps me… mark time. I think they’re good for you, too, having someone to talk to.”
“Sure. I’ll try and come back tomorrow.”
“Wait… before you go…”
“Yeah?”
“After all this time… all these talks… the things we’ve shared. Do you still want to kill me?”
“Yes… you know I do.”

I have deliberately left out whom is talking to whom there for the benefit of those who are not completely up to date, but what I will clarify is time. Two years have passed since the events of ALL OUT WAR, and much has changed. It would seem there has been little in the way of confrontation since then, indeed the communities Rick is now fully in charge of are prospering, despite the ever-present threat of zombies. Often the device of shifting forward in time is done when a writer is running low on ideas, but here it is used to great effect to instantly set up several interesting new potential plot threads, and allow the mass introduction of several new characters, plus radical new haircuts and facial topiary on existing ones…

I am sure there will be some retrospective references that will allow us to fill in the blanks about what happened in the aftermath of the war, but after wondering how on earth Kirkman was going to follow that epic arc, and wondering if it was all going to go a bit flat for a while, I’m now reassured it will be quite the contrary. Also, it does provide an excellent starting point for new readers in terms of the single issues. Alternatively, just start at the very beginning with WALKING DEAD VOL 1 or why not WALKING DEAD COMPENDIUM VOL 1 if you’re feeling flush / want to have something really heavy to hand just in case the zombie apocalypse begins…

JR

Buy Walking Dead #127: A New Beginning and read the Page 45 review here

God Is Dead vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Avatar) by Jonathan Hickman, Mike Costa & Di Amorim.

“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”

- WB Yeats, The Second Coming

May 2015, and over the course of two or three days Greece, Norway, Egypt, the Yucatan and India are all visited by disasters so catastrophic they cannot possibly be natural. Two weeks later the Vatican in Rome, Italy, is visited by a man in sandals and a big white beard. He gazes scornfully up at the Sistine Chapel ceiling, at God bequeathing life unto Adam.

“I see. Ridiculous.”

It’s Zeus. The Gods have returned – and not just one pantheon: Odin, Thor, Loki; Horus, Anubis, Bast; Quetzalcoatl, Huitzilopochtli, Tezcatlipoca; Vishnu, Shiva, Brahma; Zeus, Ares, Aphrodite.

The world goes wild – mass hysteria on a global scale. Human sacrifices are reinstated, governments are toppled, voices of reason experience conversion and the President of the United States of America sits shaking and crying. Meanwhile, down in the sewers, an underground Collective of atheists has assembled, some of whom you may find familiar. As it is below, so it is above: a conclave of all five pantheons gathered in Valhalla with a map of the world spread out before them. I think we can consider this war.

Funnily, I thought I was reading another creator-owned Image comic. If you’ve picked up the regular cover (and why would you not, with its Jonathan Hickman trademark design?), you probably thought so too. When I discovered the Avatar adverts in the back it all made perfect sense.

The interior art is stiff on the figure and face front, but Zeus on the Vatican throne is reasonably impressive, as are the worldwide snapshots both early on and as Odin sends forth his obsidian messengers to various tombs and temples. The colours are best there too – subtle yet glossy.

Initially I thought, “There’s no padding here”. It’s immediate, direct and concise: a succession of gongs banging like Big Ben chimes, and I think you’ll find the American army’s reaction hilariously predictable.

“Cut the hardline, son – we’re going off the reservation. Time to show everyone why even God should fear the United States military. Now go over there and fish me out the launch codes.”

Eventuality I concluded it was simply a lack of consideration and depth.

SLH

Buy God Is Dead vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy

Reviews already online if they’re new formats of previous books. Otherwise the most interesting will come under the microscope next week, while the rest will remain with their Diamond previews acting in lieu of reviews.

 

The Graphic Novel Man DVD: The Comics of Bryan Talbot (£15-99)

Ex Machina Book 2 (£14-99, Vertigo) by Brian K. Vaughan & Tony Harris, Chris Sprouse

The Boxer: The True Story Of Holocaust Survivor Harry Haft (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by Reinhard Kleist

The Cigar That Fell In Love With A Pipe (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by David Camus & Nick Abadzis

Moomin And The Golden Tail (£6-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Tove Jansson

Moomin’s Desert Island (£6-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Tove Jansson

The Manhattan Projects vol 4 (£10-99, Image) by Jonathan Hickman & Nick Pitarra

Slaine vol 9: Lord Of The Beasts (£17-99, Rebellion) by Paul Mills, Debbie Gallagher & various

A.B.C. Warriors: The Mek Files vol 1 h/c (£25-00, Rebellion) by Pat Mills & Dave Gibbons, Simon Bisley, Brendan McCarthy, Kevin O’Neill, others

Adventure Time: Seeing Red s/c (£7-99, Titan) by Kate Leth & Zachary Sterling

Batgirl vol 3: Death Of The Family s/c (£12-99, DC) by Gail Simone, Ray Fawkes & Daniel Sampere, Ed Benes

Batgirl vol 4: Wanted h/c (£18-99, DC) by Gail Simone & Daniel Sampere, Fernando Pasarin, Jonathan Glapion

Deadpool vol 4: Deadpool vs. Shield s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Gerry Duggan, Brian Posehn & Scott Koblish, Mike Hawthorne

The Immortal Iron Fist: Complete Collection vol 2 s/c (£29-99, Marvel) by Duane Swierczynski, Jason Aaron, David Lapham, various & various

 

ITEM! We have announced the final details of the Page 45 20th Anniversary at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival in October including Scott McCloud and Glyn Dillon signings, 3 free themed Show & Tells, and The Art Of Selling Comics, my ticketed talk for the show which you will need to book in advance.

ITEM! We’vee kicked off our Page 45 2014 campaign for Young Adult graphic novels with a blog for our School Libraries Association Show & Tell in June. Every book listed is linked to its review! Literacy is important and kids’ comics are cool!

Looking at our stats, it’s already proved the most popular blog I’ve ever written. If you like it, I would be enormously grateful if you could spread the word to teachers, school librarians, families or the even the worldwide Twittersphere. I’m @pagefortyfive – thank you!

- Stephen

Page 45 Graphic Novels For Schools 2014 update

May 15th, 2014

Young adults, families, teachers and school librarians!

I am passionate about reading, obsessed with art and completely committed to comics.

Page 45 has been invited by the School Libraries Association in Staffordshire to bring 60 glorious graphic novels to its AGM in June to provide a new, up-to-date, interactive Show and Tell demonstrating the quality and diversity of contemporary comics for all ages.

Right now I am kicking off a campaign to get THIS ONE SUMMER by Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki taught in schools as an officially set text. As I wrote in my review:

So many mistakes in childhood are made through lack of information, lack of empathy and in the realm of a deafening silence. Communication is all, and I can think of a dozen subjects raised by key moments here which would make for ideal classroom discussions.

Why are there still no graphic novels on the national curriculum? It’s bonkers!

The Books

Each title below has been linked to our site so you can read its review which is always honest. Over 25% of our sales come from personal recommendations built on trust, so I take our responsibilities very seriously. If a series of books appears, please click on any individual cover to read the review.

If you want specific recommendations for a specific Young Adult please ask for a shop-floor Show And Tell. If you’re not local, then you can use our Want A Recommendation facility online.

Action / Fantasy

Amulet
Avatar: The Last Airbender
Battling Boy
Beanworld
Bone
Coraline
Courtney Crumrin
Grandville
Hawkeye
Hilda
Mouse Guard
Porcelain
Robot Dreams
The Arrival
The Happy Prince
The Lost Boy
The Lost Thing
The Recruit
The Sleepwalkers
The Unsinkable Walker Bean
Zita The Spacegirl

Contemporary

Anya’s Ghost
Chiggers
Friends With Boys
Jane, The Fox & Me
This One Summer

Comedy

Bad Machinery
Fish Head Steve
Gum Girl
Life Sucks
Scott Pilgrim
St. Colin And The Dragon
The Suitcase
The Terrible Tales Of The Teenytinysaurs!

Educational

99 Ways To Tell A Story
Boxers & Saints boxed set
Ethel & Ernest
Evolution: The Story Of Life On Earth
Judenhass
Making Comics
Persepolis
Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea
Sally Heathcote, Suffragette
Science Tales
The Rabbits
Understanding Comics

Manga

A Distant Neighbourhood
Bleach
Dragonball
Legend Of Zelda
Naruto
Nausicaa Of The Valley Of Wind
One Piece
Pluto
Sunny
Vampire Knight
Yotsuba

Younger Readers

Glister
I Want My Hat Back
Magic Trixie
The Day I Swapped My Dad For Two Goldfish
The Shark King h/c
This Is Not My Hat
Vern and Lettuce
Wolves In The Wall

The Strategy

The key to a successful manga and graphic novel section in any school library is three-fold: quality, diversity, contemporary. Unlike larger distributors, we know exactly which titles young adults are choosing to spend their own money on and there’s no more telling sign than that.

Young male literacy especially is down, but the good news is this: we’ve had a headmaster phoning us up mere days after a delivery and delightedly reporting his male pupils were fighting – fighting over the graphic novels! I’d call that a win. Well, he did.

The recognition factor should not be overlooked: if they already know about a title from animation, television, cinema, prose or – in the case of ZELDA – games, then that’s a lure which often proves irresistible.

It is just a launch pad, though, and the books I’ll bring with me will take both you and your pupils further.

Useful Information

Page 45’s dedicated Library page including discount levels, free delivery, invoicing, and how we can help you with our hands-on experience.
About Page 45.
Contacting Page 45.
Browsing Page 45’s website

But basically this: we’re here to help. Email, phone or pop in yourselves. Don’t feel you need to make appointments – our regular customers don’t, so why should you?

Proof Of The Pudding Post-Script

Confession: I was a reluctant reader. My Mum couldn’t get me to read at all until she bought comics. But they worked, I lapped them up voraciously and – many more moons ago than I care to confess – I grabbed myself a B.A. Hons in English Literature and the History Of Art.

They’ll work for your schools too.

Don’t misunderstand me: graphic novels have never been a poor man’s substitute for prose. This medium is magnificent, firing up adult imaginations all round the globe which is why I’m still here and loving it!

– Stephen

 

BOXERS & SAINTS

THIS ONE SUMMER

BATTLING BOY

SALLY HEATHCOTE, SUFFRAGETTE

Reviews May 2014 week two

May 14th, 2014

I’d like to see this taught in schools. So many mistakes in childhood are made through lack of information, lack of empathy and in the realm of a deafening silence. Communication is all, and I can think of a dozen subjects raised by key moments here which would make for ideal classroom discussions.

 - Stephen on This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki

By Chance Or By Providence h/c (£14-99, Lounak Books) by Becky Cloonan.

Was there ever an artist so in love with an era? I think not.

The three stories are mesmerising in and of themselves but this strictly limited hardcover, printed to pre-order and not distributed through regular channels, also boasts the best selection of back-matter sketches and associated finished art I can recall: page after page of lush, sensual, sexually charged portraits of men and women at one with their natural environment.

There are trees, there are leaves, and aquatic fronds reflected in the reptilian skin of those hiding behind them. There are tresses! Now, “tresses” is a word that evokes not necessarily a singular style of hair but a particular period in which it was worn, bound for courtly consumption. As to the guys, you can almost smell the male musk and taste the built-up grease by the way the thick strands fall heavy and thick over their eyes which glare up through their parted curtains in anger or seduction.

 

No expense has been spare on the production values. Don’t you just love a dust jacket whose tentative removal reveals secret treasures?

There will be no restocks. There cannot be: Becky Cloonan has printed this to pre-order. It’s now or never. Reprints the three self-published A5 comics WOLVES and THE MIRE reviewed by myself and DEMETER reviewed by our Dominique, all available separately from Page 45 at this time of typing.

WOLVES

A haunting tale of blood and lust that gives up its secrets slowly.

There is a naked man gone feral in the forest. A skilled hunter, he can down birds with a single stone then feast on them raw. But he is cursed – cursed by his king, cursed by what he has done, and cursed by its memory which won’t go away.

It’s all in the eyes.

THE MIRE

“Please remember, this letter means the difference between life and death.”

On the eve of battle, Sir Owain dispatches his young squire on an urgent errand. He is to deliver to Castle Ironwood a letter which is sealed with wax and stamped with the knight’s Signet Ring. The squire protests, for he swore an oath to fight at his master’s side, but when Sir Owain insists that this is a most noble and vital task, the squire promises to be back before the fighting is done.

However, the swiftest route is via the Withering Swamp, a stagnant mire rumoured to be haunted. What will our squire encounter during this treacherous endeavour?

“We all have ghosts that haunt us.”

This is Cloonan at her finest, crafting a tale so clever that you will want to re-read the second you are done, for hindsight is a funny old thing. It’s also beautifully written: I love how Cloonan maintains the metaphor between these two sentences:

“The trees stood guard like a row of immovable sentinels. Any light that managed to break their lines felt old and mouldy.”

She’s also employed a neat little trick which David Mazzucchelli utilised in CITY OF GLASS whereby speech bubbles drifting directly out of the mouth imply that the words aren’t spoken – no lips are moving – so emanate from somewhere much deeper and darker and colder within.

“So I kept moving. You should keep moving too.”

DEMETER

We have three self-published beauties by Becky Cloonan in at the moment: WOLVES, THE MIRE and her newest one, DEMETER. I say beauties because they really are – rich, striking covers on the outside and inside Cloonan’s sharp, dynamic art, toned with grey and very easy on the eye. Like the previous two comics DEMETER is a short story which seems at first to be simple but which you know from the outset will have a twist. It’s not so much the surprise of the twist which grabs you, it’s the inevitability. As with a fable you know the lesson is coming and dues must be paid; the hook lies in watching the protagonist as the moment approaches. Will they go peacefully or will they refuse to accept what has come calling for them? Are they the victim or did they bring this on themselves? And if so, can their weakness be forgiven; is their eventual sacrifice enough to settle the bill?

In proper Gothic Fiction tradition Cloonan’s setting here is Olde Worlde; a beautiful, pregnant young woman tends house by the sea while she waits for her husband’s boat to return. What should be simple and charming is overlaid from the outset with a tinge of dread; even in her husband’s arms our lady seems tense, watchful, on the edge of panic. She is asking him to recall the time they first met but he can’t seem to remember. He’s lost some of his memories, it’s like there’s a boundary in his mind beyond which he can’t move, some trauma that has disconnected him from his past. Is something about to come home to roost?

I love these comics from Becky Cloonan, I hope she always finds time amongst all her other work to turn them out because they are just so gorgeous and satisfying! Her art is clean and line-perfect, her stories punchy and paced just right. Really handsome slices of comicbook goodness.

SLH & DK

Buy By Chance Or By Providence h/c and read the Page 45 review here

This One Summer (£12-99, First Second) by Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki.

Bathed in bilberry blues so beautiful that you could swim in them all summer, this is exquisitely drawn!

Rose is lithe and light, standing up straight, at the crossroads between girl and young adult. Her friend-since-five Windy is still enjoying a little puppy fat but has even more energy, dancing out beats across her living room floor – you could say she likes to parade. Windy subconsciously makes as much body contact as possible, although she is never clingy. Rose’s mum shares her shape but you can tell that she’s a little worn down: she’s wan, removing her glasses and rubbing her eyes. Windy’s mum looks nothing like her – it’s no secret that Windy’s adopted.

From the creators of SKIM, this is another of those heartfelt graphic novels perfect for Young Adults which will be relished and revered by those of us for whom family holidays are but a distant memory or seen from the other side of that vital generation gap. I’m reminded very much of LOST GIRL by Nabiel Kanan who illustrated our website, though this is much gentler for Rose is a little younger. It is not, however, without its tensions.

Awago is a remote coastal village so tiny it has only one store. Its beach isn’t what you’d call crowded. Rose’s outgoing dad drives them to Awago every year, waving embarrassingly to its youth as they arrive, while Windy’s stooped grandmother hires a similar cottage for the three of them just down the road. It’s perfect to have a playmate for summer.

 

The store is manned by a local lad around eighteen-years old. He’s lanky, quite kindly (he called our Rose “blondie” and she liked it!) but distracted by his friends who have a tendency to hang out there too. Sarah’s his girlfriend, it seems. One’s a bit boisterous and crude. He called his girlfriend a slut as a joke.

“Oh my god those girls are sooo loud. I bet you they were drunk. They’re, like, drunks. They’re all like, WHOOAA!”

… says Windy, acting out a big doolally wobble in front of Rose.

“And like, EEEEEEE! Noo!”
“They love screaming.”
“They’re sluts!”
“ROSE!”

It’s at this point that their mums arrive back at the cottage and Rose is instantly mortified and ashamed to have been overheard regurgitating that word. But that’s what you do when you’re young and impressionable, and an age group you don’t yet understand acts up like that. It’s a perfect piece of writing.

“Who’s a slut?”
“No one!”
“Bit strange calling someone you don’t even know a slut,” says Windy’s mum, eyebrows raised.
“Oh, well, these guys who knew these girls were calling them sluts,” says Windy, tentatively, before reaching out to hug her mum for reconciliation.
“Well, how is that okay?”

Brilliant.

It’s a process Rose mimics on their way back home, clinging on to her Mum’s elbow but she’s rebuffed.

“Rose! Don’t hang!”

Yes, there’s definitely something raw bothering Rose’s mum. Her dad can’t seem to shift it.

That sequence is indicative not only of the quality of creativity shared by the Tamaki sisters who function fully as one, but also of the areas being explored: comprehension, communication, bodies and behaviour. More than once it feels a little dangerous. Also, our friends aren’t immune to falling out. Windy has a habit of teasing her friend then attempting to negate it: “Just kidding!”

It doesn’t negate it; it simply abandons responsibility for it. Conversely Rose, a little older, manages to embarrass Windy for “krunking” without inhibitions by laughing. Their friendship is resilient, though. They’re quick to move on.

There are some glorious woodland and subaquatic landscapes as the girls explore a slightly seedy abandoned camp site – by which I mean a nocturnal fire and local drinking spot – and revel in their play. This is a book you can certainly judge by its cover.

What it won’t prepare you for is the central tension between Rose’s parents which threatens what was evidently a hitherto idyllic annual experience. It’s quite specific and will be reflected in what happens around them this year.

I’d like to see this taught in schools. So many mistakes in childhood are made through lack of information, lack of empathy and in the realm of a deafening silence. Communication is all, and I can think of a dozen subjects raised by key moments here which would make for ideal classroom discussions.

Let me be clear: I would like to see this graphic novel used as an officially set text. How even is it that no graphic novel has been used in a national curriculum to this date? All education should be entertainment and this graphic novel will have young adults absorbed, meaning that they will engage more thoroughly with the subjects at hand but also with the key literary and visual skills used to furnish us with a graphic novel that should win every award under the sun.

SLH

Buy This One Summer and read the Page 45 review here

Breaks Prologue (Signed & Sketched) (£3-99, self-published) by Malin Ryden & Emma Vieceli.

“My name is Ian Tanner. And in a year and a half’s time I will kill a man.”

Ooh, another A5 beauty, signed and sketched by Emma Vieceli in silver ink on the back of its cardstock cover. The paper throughout is light olive with darker tones while the front cover’s characters are enhanced with spot-varnish and subtle stripes of red.

There’s another warning flash of red inside but I don’t think it’s going to stop anyone, least of all hot-headed Cortland who has evidently thrown himself into trouble at least once before and supposed to be keeping his head down. Have a précis:

“Everyone wears a mask. And, in Cortland Hunt’s case, what he’s hiding may be more than Ian Tanner is prepared for. BREAKS is the story of two young adults coming to terms with who they were, who they are, and who they’ll become. It’s a love story… but a little broken.”

Yes, killing a man is going to do that. But, as Ian says, “We’re getting ahead of ourselves”.

The prologue takes place two months before the prediction/pronouncement at one of those not-at-all-awkward affairs, a school dance or ‘disco’. Everyone’s in their overpriced finest except Cortland: he’s in his older brother’s overpriced finest and hates it, even though he’s the dapperest dude of the lot. (New word: dapperest.)

I cannot believe I am eight admittedly short paragraphs in to an Emma Vieceli review without mentioning the hair, but Courtland definitely has the best hair there. It is tousled! Tousled to perfection, with sweeping strands hanging just-so over the fiery eyes set to explode any second.

Vieceli is all about the eyes and the hair as the cover to DRAGON HEIR makes clear (see also: YOUNG AVENGERS VOL 3, AVALON CHRONICLES VOL 1 and VOL 2 and VAMPIRE ACADEMY – three books so far) but here she excels herself with the finest of lines further softened by artfully placed tones, not one of which overpowers any given page.

Everything is in harmony; unlike the cast I’d call combatants. Oh, that’s what a school dance is like: one big territorial stand-off usually fought with verbal sabres, a whole armoury of which is supplied by co-author Malin Ryden better known for her Swedish same-sex and horror prose. This is one great big bitch-fest whose simmering tensions may erupt into all-out war.

The protagonists have history but if you want to discover their future you will need to do that online. This is a one-off collectors’ edition you will never see again.

SLH

Buy Breaks Prologue and read the Page 45 review here

Return Of Zita The Spacegirl (£8-99, First Second) by Ben Hatke.

“Eye-spy with my little socket something… brownish-grey.”
“Is it the walls?”
“I hate you.”

Oh no! Zita The Spacegirl has been put on trial for crimes she never committed! Err… yeah, she did. But she saved the planet Lumponia in the process!

Artfully rechristened Zita The Crime Girl by the judge who’s the jury and prosecutor, our impetuous young lady has been sentenced to six gazillion games of I Spy in a featureless dungeon shared with a sentient piece of mouldy old blanket called Ragpile and his cynical cell-mate, Femur. Femur is a walking talking skeleton, only without the walking bit. He’s propped up in the corner unable to move.

Fortunately while Femur’s clackety skull does all the talking his fingers can do the walking if Zita snaps one off. Now that’s what I call a skeleton key! Femur and Ragpile are a joy and there is a moment of sheer brilliance I never saw coming which is all Jack Spratt and his platter.

ZITA THE SPACEGIRL and LEGENDS OF ZITA THE SPACEGIRL have been the most enormous all-ages hits here, and this blistering finale sees the return of all of your favourites: Pizzicato, One, Piper, Madrigal, Strong Strong and oh my days are you in for a shocker!

Anything and everything can be alive – just look for the eyes! – and if you’ve never seen a cape chomping down on gloop in a pet food bowl, now is your chance! With so many visual gags, the cartooning is a fight-for-your-life joy. Think Mark Crilley with dashes of M’Oak.

Moreover, the stakes are raised now because the planet in peril this time is –

“So… why we gotta guard dis rat again?”
“Because you are hired thugs. It is your lot.”
“See, you say “hired” but I don’t remember gettin’ paid.”
“Your people have been promised one of Earth’s continents.”
“Sigh… I just want a sammich.”

SLH

Buy Return Of Zita The Spacegirl and read the Page 45 review here

Saga Of The Swamp Thing vol 6 s/c (£14-99, Vertigo) by Alan Moore with Stephen Bissette, Rick Veitch & Rick Veitch, Stephen Bissette, John Totleben.

“Shurlo the flesh-artist glides through an adoring forest of her admirers, halfheartedly answering questions, acknowledging compliments. A stout conifer wearing an expensive feather face asks her to explain an arrangement of dyed meats.

“Shurlo tells her that it represents social interaction and the conifer seems satisfied. Merciful O, how they bore her. She wonders if this is the price exacted for critical acclaim: to be always surrounded by this fatuous, well-meaning thicket, crowded until she feels rootbound?”

In which Alan Moore shifts his emphasis from horror to science fiction, and it proves the perfect platform for him to explore fresh perspectives and themes like forced separation and reproduction. The lateral thinking employed combined with Moore’s passionate love of language is little short of staggering.

Ripped from Earth in SWAMP THING VOL 5, the Swamp Thing is presumed dead and Abby is mourning. In truth a shift in his bio-electrical pattern has left the Plant Elemental incompatible with our planet, so his essence is shot into space where it seeks alternative corporeal forms using whatever plant material he can find.

Following a nuclear disaster, the planet and people of Rann are suffering from increasing world-wide sterility. It is becoming a dessert. There the Swamp Thing assumes the form of a bi-pedal brown cactus and discovers a rucksack made in Seattle. It is a cruel, false note of hope because it belongs to one Adam Strange, another human separated from his home planet but willingly so, racing desperately towards each new site of a Zeta Beam incursion on Earth which will carry him back to Rann and his beloved wife Alanna. He knows each event is temporary: that the effect will wear off and he will simply melt away, potentially in his lover’s arms.

I particularly loved what looks like a fantastical domestic fountain whose jets dance into what would be physically impossible shapes if it were indeed a fountain. It transpires that it’s actually a highly empathic, metamorphic liquid animal and a most effective guard dog.

The Swamp Thing too is a metamorph and you can expect some manifestations to be altogether more alien, especially when John Totleben returns for one issue as artist having – I can only assume – enjoyed a great deal of recreational self-medication. It is a phenomenal, multimedia sequence which Moore matches with a linguistic tour de force when the Swamp Thing’s bio-electrical field encounters a complex, conscious cybernetic structure which has endured an eternity of loneliness while lying in wait for a mate: something to fuse and reproduce with. If the words “lying in wait” don’t worry you, they should. “Forced reproduction” is rape.

The most satisfying of all chapters is the one I opened with, ‘All Flesh Is Grass’. When the Swamp Thing learns of a planet whose dominant species are all sentient flora – very much like himself – he is understandably drawn to it as a haven and its people as possible aids to his incompatibility. Unfortunately he hasn’t thought it through; Alan Moore has, and the results are horrific.

There’s one page there in which Veitch combines Will Eisner’s playful page construction with Neal Adams’ trademark story-within-a-headshot. Indeed there are no slackers in the art department. Totleben returns to cover duties for Moore’s farewell issue with a silhouette-at-sunset whose colours are far from obvious except in retrospect.

Moreover, Tom Yeates returns for the framing interior sequence while the great Stephen Bissette whose name is synonymous with SWAMP THING provides its heart in every sense you can conceive of. The word “organic” may not have been invented for Bissette but it was left lying in wait for when the artist agreed we would all be bloody lucky if he decided to draw roots, fruits, vines and alligators and, here, another exquisite union of flesh and mind.

Bissette also contributes one of the chapter’s scripts and if you thought horror had been abandoned altogether, Bissette brings it back to the fore. Not just in the Hell scenes featuring Anton Arcane, but the very real horror of those nursing homes in which our elderly are vulnerable to their carers’ unchallenged abuse.

Oh, and if you think the injustices of SWAMP THING VOL 5 have yet to be addressed, some gits in Gotham are in for a very rude awakening. You reap what you sow? You are what you eat.

Intrigued? Start at the beginning with Jonathan’s all-encompassing overview of the series when he reviewed SWAMP THING VOL 1.

SLH

Buy Saga Of The Swamp Thing vol 6 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Eltingville Club #1 of 2 (£2-99, Dark Horse) by Evan Dorkin.

“Holy shit. I made it. I have died on gone to Heaven.”

Welcome to Comic Shop Hell.

With the rise to internet prominence of the over-obsessed with their over-entitlement, the whining, in-fighting pack of brats called The Eltingville Comicbook Science-Fiction, Fantasy, Horror And Role-Playing Club last seen in HOUSE OF FUN is horrifically more relevant than ever.

Worse still, one of them gets a job at a comic shop. That specific sort of comic shop. You’ve heard about it, you’ve maybe endured it, and all its malpractices are spurted out by its owner to his new employee as retailer wisdom and foresight.

*shudders*

It is absolutely horrific, delivered with no punch-pulling by the creator of MILK & CHEESE.

Kicking the doors straight in with a virtuoso parody of Jack Kirby’s classic rainy-night splash-page, “THIS MAN… THIS MONSTER” (see MARVEL MASTERWORKS: FANTASTIC FOUR VOL 6), Dorkin delivers “THIS FAN… THIS MONSTER” and it will make your skin crawl. Every exchange between the monomaniacal misanthropist and his acolyte comes with a cringe-inducing superhero reference: they cannot communicate without these nerd-boasts.

And when the rest of the club descends… well, with great power comes *shoots himself*

This was originally conceived of as a one-shot, but there will be an ELTINGVILLE CLUB #2 sequel. You poor, poor bastards.

SLH

Buy The Eltingville Club #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Alice In Comicland h/c (£22-50, IDW) by Walt Kelly, Charles Schultz, Alex Toth, Harvey Kurtzman, many more.

“One afternoon, just after the king had finished his breakfast of fresh speeches and cream, he heard a long 48-inch knock, loudly banging on the castle door, in a very soft voice.”

Of all the examples here, that unpublished page from one of the several iterations of George Carlson’s ALEC IN FUMBLELAND comes the closest to Lewis Carroll in spirit and wit without borrowing once from his cast. The version which does borrow from its cast, printed in 1946 is much its inferior, and so it generally goes.

However, Jack Davis proved he could do a mean Sir John Tenniel in 1954, fusing Tenniel’s original drawings with his own over Harvey Kurtzman’s digressions to form grin-inducing parodies of both Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass in which Newton’s cause and effect reasserts its reins on Carroll’s warped physics to hilarious effect (MAD #18).

There’s also a cracking example of Charles Schultz’s genius from 1977 in which all that’s left of Snoopy is a faltering grin. Here’s Lucy!

“What’s going on here?”
“We’re having a little “re-entry” problem! Snoopy was showing off his “Cheshire Beagle” trick, and now he can’t back…”

Lucy’s solution is the same as mine: if things aren’t working properly, give them a smack. Works on employees too!*

You may be startled to learn that of the many examples of comics co-opting Carroll here, Jerry Siegel and Sam Citron’s take in SUPERMAN #41 back in 1946 was far from obvious. In it a poor country gal called Alice inherits a million dollars and arrives in Metropolis to declare it “a wonderland”. Naturally Lois and Clarke are there to greet her, grab the quote and splash it all over the Daily Planet’s front page, treating Alice like a Lottery Ticket winner.

“I’ll show you all the sights and keep away any wolves after your million dollars! In return, you allow me to write the exclusive story of your stay here!”

Lois Lane, arch-negotiator! Sure enough the headline reads, “Beginning Tomorrow: The Adventures Of a Modern Alice In Wonderland.” Yes, the stage is set – but for what? It’s both far, far clever and infinitely more stupid than you can imagine.

Unless I missed it, Bryan Talbot’s magnificent and extensive ALICE IN SUNDERLAND isn’t mentioned once, although you will find a 3-page biography attributed to Charles M Quinn from 1946 perpetuating the propaganda which Talbot exposed there.

Some of this stuff is twee beyond my ability to communicate, but Dan DeCarlo’s ARCHIE riff isn’t one of those nor are the two examples by Walt Kelly: an unpublished piece straightforwardly adapting a Humpty Dumpty sequence with panache (again, previously unpublished) and a “sterling performints” of Jabberwocky from POGO POSSUM #10 in 1952.

Of all comicbook creators it is Walt Kelly whom the President of The Lewis Carroll Society of North America considers most in synch with Lewis Carroll, describing POGO thus:

“Behold a work of art, written and illustrated by the same person, a product of acknowledged genius aimed somewhere between the child and the child within, an Aesopian fairy tale set in a magical realm where a youth wanders amidst animals that can talk. Here the illustrations and the text are intentionally and inextricably intertwined; simple enough for a child to read, yet capable of great profundities and subversive paradigms; innocent and fragile-looking, but canny, deep, and enormously popular. Mixing images and dialogue with flights of fancy, verse and commentary on the foibles of the human condition, rejoicing in the multilayered meanings of words, and delighting the eye with sumptuous illustrations that replace or greatly enhance the narrative and descriptions of the text, the medium itself is often looked down upon by the soi-distant intelligensia, yet is guaranteed to outlast their effete ramblings by many millennia.”

The comparison is compelling.

Die-cut cover.

* IT REALLY DOESN’T!

SLH

Buy Alice In Comicland h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Original Sin #1 of 8 (£3-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Mike Deodato.

From the writer of SCALPED.

For eons The Watcher has overseen Earth’s most seismic schisms.

His presence is a prescience born of pure instinct.

Whenever a crossroads has manifested itself requiring soul-searching and due diligence rather than desperate, knee-jerk reactions, Uatu has appeared. He is there not to counsel but to observe, for Uatu is forbidden to interfere. But his very materialisation has proved a welcome warning for all to think very carefully before the wrong road is taken in haste.

Can you imagine what The Watcher has seen, what his eyes have beheld? Such knowledge would be a most coveted prize.

But how do you ambush a being who sees what will be? Well. Ambushing a being like Uatu would be seismic schism in itself. He would surely, ineluctably, be drawn there.

Not sure that’s what happened but that would be my merry Marvel No-Prize entry in case it needs be explained!

Instead what is concentrated on is the firepower needed to take the bald boy down for that is what’s happened: The Watcher is dead, shot point-blank in the head. Few know Uatu exists; fewer still have the wherewithal and weaponry to execute him. Most of them are on the side of the angels so if stones are upturned will it be a superhero seen scrambling from underneath?

Nick Fury is recalled from self-sequestration.

Some unlikely allegiances are formed amongst the superhero community (exemplary clue: Dr Strange and the Punisher?!).

And Mike Deodato is rendering it all in his exceptional, neo-classical demi-darkness.

SLH

Buy Original Sin #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Iron Man: Fatal Frontier h/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen, Al Ewing & Lan Medina, Neil Edwards, others.

Dude, don’t date your biographer!

“Shooting star! Want to make a wish?”
“Magical thinking. I don’t believe in it.”
“Aw, c’mon, Tony. I swear this isn’t going in the book.”
“Okay, okay. I wish…”
<TONY?>
“… That my A.I. wouldn’t choose the most inappropriate moments to bother me.”
“And this would be the A.I. you based on your ex-girlfriend?”
“My “It’s complicated”, yes –“
“Yeah. That is going in the book.”

An original graphic novel in that it was never serialised as a printed periodical, this material was originally commissioned for another of Marvel’s fancy-dancy online experiments restructured here for the printed page. I don’t know what it originally looked like but it proves problematic. It’s an inch or two taller than the average Marvel book but even so the layouts seem cluttered – arduous to endure. In truth it’s all a bit of a slog, sorry.

The sequence which did make me grin was the heist. Indeed what makes me grin most about Gillen’s current run on IRON MAN is its battle of wits. Oh, Stark has technology coming out of his wazzoo, but it’s all been about how and when he’s employed or even ditched it. His Dad proved no slacker, either, with a great big heist and a bluff.

The heist here is peeled back then played back layer by intersected layer: layers you weren’t expecting to exist even though Stark gives you ample warning, the suave and smug little toe rag:

“Heist movies are twisty, turny things. That’s why I love them. They’re brain food. At least the good ones are. Little mysteries. Howdunnits.
“See, you’re watching the heist play out… and all the time there are things happening in the background you don’t know about. Little things that come together at the end. That mean everything played out differently from how you thought it did.
“And, sure. Maybe you get a clue or two to start you off. But all the time, the only thin you know for sure… is that you’re being lied to.”

The wittiest example of what Gillen describes there is THIEF OF THIEVES but this will have you shaking your head at the subterfuge too.

In the early 1970s a Russian scientist siphoned off military funds to construct Uradnik, a robot with early emotional programming and two faces for two modes or personalities: soldier (hammer) and sickle (worker). He sent it to the moon to prove to Brezhnev that the space race would never be over, and Uradnik waited there for the Americans’ return.

“That day was December 14th, 1972. The Americans never returned. Nobody ever returned.”

So Uradnik has worked out a way guaranteed to lure everyone back. In the guise of an attack to gain the globe’s attention it has in fact let it know that on and beneath the lunar surface lies a new moon-mercury capable of solving Earth’s energy problems. The ruse works: a new gold rush ensues. Stark is made sheriff of this new frontier with Uradnik his deputy. But the problem with any sort of mercury is that it’s poisonous. This one causes monumental egomania.

Only Tony knows that. So what is he going to do about it?

“Tony knows best.”

Tip of the hat to Marcos Marz, for this also includes IRON MAN ANNUAL #1 (the most recent one, anyway) with related short stories and Pepper Potts’ romance with and subsequent engagement to Marc. The inset framing devices below the top tiers are beautiful and by the time they reach Scotland at night you are looking at something nothing short of early Charles Vess.

Includes a digital coupon so that you can read this material in its original form.

SLH

Buy Iron Man: Fatal Frontier h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy

Reviews already online if they’re new formats of previous books. Otherwise the most interesting will come under the microscope next week, while the rest will remain with their Diamond previews acting in lieu of reviews.

 

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? h/c (£20-99, Bloomsbury) by Roz Chast

Courtney Crumrin vol 5: The Witch Next Door h/c (£18-99, Oni) by Ted Naifeh

God Is Dead vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Avatar) by Jonathan Hickman, Mike Costa & Di Amorim

Hellboy In Hell vol 1: The Descent (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola

Operation Paperclip (£7-99, ) by Patrick Goddard

Samurai Executioner Omnibus vol 1 (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Kazuo Koike & Goseki Kojima

Polina h/c (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Bastien Vives

Aquaman vol 3: The Throne Of Atlantis s/c (£12-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, various

The Authority vol 1 s/c (£14-99, DC) by Warren Ellis & Bryan Hitch

Iron Man vol 4: Iron Metropolitan h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Joe Bennett

The Twelve: The Complete Series s/c (£22-50, Marvel) by J. Michael Straczynski & Chris Weston

Blade Of The Immortal vol 29: Beyond Good & Evil (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Hiroaki Samura

Crimson Spell vol 3 (£8-99, Sublime) by Ayano Yamane

Deadman Wonderland vol 2 (£6-99, Viz) by Jinsei Kataoka & Kazuma Kondou

Fairy Tail vol 38 (£7-99, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Monster Soul vol 1 (£7-99, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

The Seven Deadly Sins vol 2 (£7-99, Kodansha) by Nakaba Suzuki

 

ITEM! Ingenious and spot-on! Gerard Way’s short comic on Twitter abuse.

ITEM! The Jonathan Cape comic prize 2014 is up and running! Go on, enter! Creativity is cool! Previous winners include Isabel Greenberg with a version of the first few pages of my favourite graphic novel on 2013, THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF EARLY EARTH.

ITEM! IDP: 2043 is the new comic project for Mary Talbot & Kate Charlesworth, two of the creators of SALLY HEATHCOTE, SUFFRAGETTE, and it could not be more different!

ITEM! New Luke Pearson interview. Watch the man kiggle on camera! Kiggle: to fidget, leg-wise. I am awful at it. Now read Luke’s HILDA graphic novels to understand why we adore him!

ITEM! How To Tell If You’re Reading A Gothic Novel infograph. It did make me laugh!

Someone should do the same for superhero comics:
“Joyful summer picnics in the park: few.”
“Joyful summer picnics in the park that don’t end in the death of the protagonist’s family: none.”

- Stephen

Reviews May 2014 week one

May 7th, 2014

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

 - Jet in Terry Moore’s Rachel Rising #25

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

 - Stephen in the Nottingham Post Food & Drink interview at the bottom

Pretty Deadly vol 1 s/c (£7-50, Image) by Kelly Sue DeConnick & Emma Rios.

“Her father was violence and her mother was grief and she was meant to live and know love…”

Oh, the cadence of this comic is perfect!

I can hear every sentence spoken, and ‘The Song Of Deathface Ginny, And How She Come To Be’ has all the quick, slick beats of one of those baritone western drawls, and is so well worded it could almost be a Nick Cave gallop like The Ballad Of Betty Coltrane.

‘The Song Of Deathface Ginny, And How She Came To Be’ is told by an odd-eyed girl in the vulture cloak whom her companion blind Fox calls Sissy. Professional, travelling storytellers, they stand before the townsfolk on a gallows’ platform, Fox hoisting an illustrative cloth banner above the crowd on a cross.

 

“It all began when the Mason man took beauty for his bride
He quick turned a fool and made her a jewel
In the crown of his glittering pride

“He’d loved that gal since they were kids, a beauty for more than her skin
But he crushed that joy, when he made her a toy
To tease before covetous men.

“Overcome with the fear that he’d lose her, he built her a prison of stone.
She said, “I’ll die for despair if you put me in there!”
… If only he’d listened, if only he’d known.”

It reveals how the bride begged for Death to come and take her only for Death to be smitten as well. Deathface Ginny was their child, raised to be a Reaper of Vengeance, a hunter of men who have sinned.

“If you done been wronged, say her name, sing this song,
Ginny rides for you on the wind, my child…
Death rides on the wind.”

There is many a truth behind legend and lore, and you can expect that song to be sung. What rides in on that wind will blow holes in closely kept secrets, for there is far more to Fox and to Sissy than one of them knows.

Bargains have been made and bargains have been broken; the truth has yet to be extracted and vengeance to be exacted. And if you think I’m being elusive (allusive?) you ain’t read nothing yet.

As you may have guessed this is far from a straight-forward Western. It’s full of the same careful wordplay you’ll find in 100 BULLETS with protagonists sizing each other up, taking each other’s measure before potentially taking a life. But in other ways it’s closer to SANDMAN, though in which ways (and which volume precisely), I will not say.

PRETTY DEADLY is infused with all the fog-shrouded, haunting power of ghost-ship legends. Pirate Jenny springs to mind.

Moreover Emma Rios – along with colour artist Jordie Bellaire – has knocked this out of the park. Both scream Paul Pope as loud as the battered crows caw and, oh, those black feathers! Some of the page structures are complex and clever, with inlaid panels revealing some secrets only with a careful scrutiny while the surrounding narrative thunders on. Other scenes seem to dissolve into each other, but such is the nature of dreams.

There will be swarms of butterflies, rivers of squirming maggots and strange allegiances struck. I can promise you clashes of swords, hails of bullets and quick-fire choreography. I can also promise you answers. They won’t come immediately, you will have to be patient, but everything’s here for a reason.

I can also promise you truths.

“Poke at a bison often enough, you gonna get gored.”

SLH

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

The Love Bunglers h/c (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Jaime Hernandez.

Poor, poor, wonderful Maggie…

“You should know by now that if you’ve spent one fleeting moment with her, it can last with you forever.”

I think Maggie may be the most thoroughly realised character in comics. So much has happened to her over the years, yet Jaime appears to have no trouble in unearthing more history still while moving her gracefully endured, arduous journey forward.

Moreover she remains a very beautiful woman in what I imagine to be her mid-to-late forties. It’s a soft, vulnerable and everyday beauty. Her hair is more conservative now, and there is a slight bulge under the chin, but she carries it off far more effortlessly than she imagines she does. I love her comfortable party shirt which Hernandez cheques without any account as to its folds, just like Mark used to.

She has no shortage of suitors – here Reno and Ray – but it never quite works out for her. Indeed she is oblivious to Reno’s repeated references to his very first kiss which came from Maggie and which has stayed blazed into his brain forever.

The opening dream sequence is a perfect piece of psychology. In it Maggie finds herself lying face up and naked on a waxy leaf as broad as her outstretched boy, exposed to the sun thousands of feet above an endless ocean. Initially her expression is blissful until she becomes conscious of her precarious situation and vertigo kicks in. She tries to hug the leaf with her back, too fearful at first to risk a fall by finding the better purchase which being on her front would afford her. Gradually she gains enough courage to ease herself onto her stomach and that’s all she can manage for a while.

“Then I figure I must have had the courage to get myself up there, so I should be able to get down. Slowly, I move my way backwards to the stem. At least on the stem I feel like I have something to hold onto.”

She wraps her legs as well as her arms round the stem.

“The stem feels spongy, yet sturdy so I start to feel more confident as I inch my way down. Even if it takes a lifetime to reach bottom, at least I won’t fall to my death.”

Of course, the further she slides down, the broader the stem, until its radius is wider than her outstretched arms…

So, The Love Bunglers itself takes place in the present with Maggie making a play to get back into the mechanics business and Ray wondering if he wants to get back into the Maggie business while Reno watches protectively over her. Unsettlingly there is also a stranger whose interest in Maggie borders on stalking.

Within the main body, however, lie two gut-punching flashbacks to a period in Maggie’s childhood when her difficult mother moved the family from Hoppers to Cadezza be nearer to Maggie’s father whom they were only seeing one weekend a fortnight. Cadezza is where her Dad works. Maggie imparts her gloom at his upheaval by letter to Letty, the friend she left back in Hoppers.

We don’t actually see Letty, though we will in the second flashback seen from Letty’s point of view entitled ‘Return For Me’ when Maggie has indeed returned to Hoppers, becomes a mechanics prodigy, and Letty is trying to rekindle their friendship – an effort frustrated by Maggie’s mother. It ends with an unfinished sentence and one of the most arresting final panels in comics which rendered me speechless for hours.

This is as nothing however, to what happened in Cadezza; specifically events which Maggie remains ignorant of even to this day. When reviewing that sequence which originally appeared in LOVE AND ROCKETS: NEW STORIES #3 our Tom very wisely eschewed giving you any details at all.

“Suffice to say, “ he wrote, “that once you have got to the end, you’ll go back looking for – and finding – the subtle connections Jaime weaves into the panels. It’s in the body language of the characters, and in their facial expressions… You just need to look at how he has his characters interacting, how he subtly directs the reader’s eye using the direction the characters are looking in.”

Also, I would suggest, what one is wearing and how he is wearing it.

“Any aspiring comic creator would do well just to study his panel composition [and] how he foreshadows events without hitting the reader over the head with it. There’s a great example with Maggie’s little brother Calvin watching a marching band with the baton-twirling leader, then a full seven pages later playing on his own at being the baton-twirler before a fairly significant event happens; and the baton still has a leading role to play.”

Wow. I spot a scrying pool of prescience and at least two major understatements there.

I leave you with the assurance that this is as good an introduction to LOVE AND ROCKETS as anything else because you must be hearing of Los Bros Hernandez every five seconds or you’re not keeping the right comicbook company. Considering a body of work this vast daunting is entirely understandable. Entirely! But this is as accessible and completely self-contained as, say, Gilbert Hernandez’s MARBLE SEASON which – I would remind extant LOVE AND ROCKETS fans – was an original graphic novel rather than a reprint.

SLH

Buy The Love Bunglers h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Rachel Rising #25 (£2-99, Abstract Studios) by Terry Moore.

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

Generally I choose my pull quotes for their key significance to each comic’s core. Not so this time: it’s just something I plan on doing myself. I once new a dad so concerned for his children’s safety that he switched on his headlights in broad daylight. Didn’t stop him answering his cell phone while negotiating a roundabout.

Anyhoo… RACHEL RISING #1-24 represent the first major story arc of this mischief-ridden, heartfelt horror from the creator of STRANGERS IN PARADISE and ECHO and they can be found in the first four collected editions out now. What I am imparting to you is that you need not wait another nine months or so for volume five, you can kick straight in here regardless of whether you’ve even read those four books. Everything will be explained without an ounce of onerous exposition, just a great deal of comedy and some pretty grim crematorial proceedings.

For those who have been following the series, here’s a little thing between you and me: weren’t the first four books brilliant?! And wasn’t the shocking climax and cliffhanger to RACHEL RISING VOL 3 absolutely jaw-dropping? But at the same time a little bit “But – but – but – !” …?

Oh, me and ye of little faith! Rachel has a revelation for what’s left of our clan and if you go back and look again it is all so blindingly obvious. Terry must have been grinning his head off for months.

My favourite issue of the series so far. Includes exploding rodents.

SLH

Buy Rachel Rising #25 and read the Page 45 review here

Secret vol 1: Never Get Caught s/c (£12-99, Image) by Jonathan Hickman & Ryan Bodenheim.

Brutal, industrial, back-door espionage that begins with a break-in and thence an extraction.

This leads to extortion resulting in an altogether different extraction to facilitate further intrusion.

Extortion, extraction, it’s just a distraction: that’s one way to drum up trade.

This is a thriller with teeth.

Unfortunately some of those teeth have cavities: aching gaps in the plot and the way it’s played out. Given how ridiculously slick and clever the first chapter is because of how sly the protagonists all are, it’s bewildering how stupid a couple of decisions are later on.

I read it through twice just to make sure and because it is a gripping read coloured with expressionistic flair by Michael Garland. The reds tinged with rusted iron tend to indicate blood-letting, actual or imminent, for example, and throughout the complementary pairing of burned gold with browns or bright gold with blues is beautiful to behold. In addition Ryan Bodenheim delivers one hell of a Geoff Darrow moment which will have you ducking for cover.

 

SLH

Buy Secret vol 1: Never Get Caught s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Doctor Grordbort Present Triumph (£14-99, Random House / Vertical) by Greg Broadmore.

I say, young man, do get a grip!

And fillies, please look away!

This is the roast beef of comics: old school, cocksure Colonialism gone steampunk in space!

“Unnecessarily violent tales of science adventure for the simple and unfortunate,” it stars Lord Cockswain – “the man, the myth and the muttonchops” – in two explosive, expletive-ridden episodes of comicbook triumphalism immolating google-eyed aliens, be they semi-sentient like Johnny Foreigner or fit for the trophy room.

Not only do these cartoonographs aid the barely literate with their pretty pictures, but they are printed in laminated paper so thick that you could consider them card. The wizard wheeze of this is that it makes the whole thing look a lot longer, but we are aware of your cretinously fleeting attention span.

Lord Cockswain will not be tricked into getting “in touch” with his feelings either by lackey or the rudest aliens ever encountered throughout the whole of Christendom. Do you think that their goading jibes are the result of nature or nurture? The answer is sure to astound!

Betwixt these incendiary outings designed to offend vegetarians, people of peace and other defects of nature there will be found film and beverage posters sure to strengthen your bow, put the kiss in your curl or just make their corporate originators a piss-load of lolly.

Additionally we present honest advertisements for ray guns of a ‘retro’ persuasion like The Deal Breaker and The Saboteur during which the copywriter “paid a pittance to write this tosh” may stray into sassing the prospective purchaser with an elaborate string of Yo Mama jokes. Unorthodox!

Lastly, Dr. Grordbort’s Industries offers you a one-time deal to avail yourselves of the rocketship Endangerer III as crashed by Lord Cockswain on multiple occasions and on civilisations to boot! Beware their “facilities”, however, and be sure to “go” before you set out.

“A fully functional lavatory flushes directly into the void, which bears a warning note – more than one space traveller has felt the cold tug of the vacuum on their down-belows and it is neither pleasant nor conduce to ‘being alive’.”

I may not know my pile-plagued arse from my lawn-tennis elbow, but I can assure you of this: Baron von Broadmore can paint! What he paints is not pretty but it is lovely to look at. Does that make any sense to you? Nor does this. Utter balderdash!

I’ll take two, please, young lady!

Do you have a brown paper bag?

SLH

Buy Doctor Grordbort Present Triumph and read the Page 45 review here

All New X-Men vol 4: All Different h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen, Brandon Peterson.

Everything’s changed!

In the wake of a big rift in X-MEN BATTLE OF THE ATOM, Professor Kitty Pryde has swept up the original teenage X-Men who’ve travelled through time and brought them to Cyclops’ splinter-cell school which he’s housed in Canada’s abandoned Weapon X facility. “Facility” being a clinical euphemism for the mutant torture chamber which gave Wolverine the most comprehensive dental filling in world history.

Here’s young Eva Bell introducing Bobbie Drake AKA Iceman to his room.

“This is yours.”
“It looks like a renovated prison cell.”
“That’s just because it is a renovated prison cell. But, some flowers, some posters…”
“It’ll look like I’m a prisoner with connections.”
“Exactly.”

This is what Bendis does best: dead-pan exchanges as witty as you could want. It’s always been his quiet conversations that have done it for me, and Bobbie Drake is his speak-before-you-think foil – like Brian’s Peter Parker but with minimal self-awareness. Drawn by Stuart Immonen, he is a cute as cute can be.

No offence to anyone else, but I miss Stuart when he’s gone. He’s an artist of many styles, and for this title he’s chosen clean yet supple, smooth and warm. The five look like teenagers – okay, twenty-one-year-olds who work out – and his variation-on-a-theme new costume designs are colourful, contemporary and chic but also functionally padded for combat like Bryan Hitch’s for the original four ULTIMATES books. His women have great hair stylists and again look their age but first and foremost they are women like Terry Moore’s (STRANGERS IN PARADISE, ECHO, RACHEL RISING): attractive individuals rather than colourfully clad sex objects.

The cover is attributed to Brandon Peterson but quite clearly it’s Stuart and it’s a mighty composition: a right-angle triangle with its feet firmly on the ground bottom-left. I also wonder about four later pages which hark back to GOD LOVES, MAN KILLS: surely those too are by Brent Anderson? No credit.

Anyway, as I say, the original X-Men have been whisked away from Wolverine and his Jean Grey School For Dictatorial Growling And Grudges and are now settling in with those who were once on the other side of the mutant fence. Well, “settling in” might be putting it a little strongly. Hugs will prove problematic. Here’s young, science-prodigy Hank McCoy and…

“Magneto!”
“I put together the communication system, Henry. If you have any questions…”
“It’s – it’s nice.”
“It’s a clean signal. It can’t be traced here.”
“Circular coded? Nice. So… Do you mind if I –?”
“Be my guest.”
“I mean, it’s not like you didn’t do a good job.”
“Please.”
“It’s – it’s cute.”
“Cute?”
“Nice. Nice and cute.”
“…”
“…”
“The thing is, Magneto, it was not so long ago you were trying to kill me/us in a murderous rage…”
“Yes.”
“So it’s very strange to be standing here talking to you like this.”
“I understood the unspoken subtext of the conversation.”

What you could really do with now is a screaming emergency.

Cue emergency: saved by the yell.

SLH

Buy All New X-Men vol 4: All Different h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy

Reviews already online if they’re new formats of previous books. Otherwise the most interesting will come under the microscope next week, while the rest will remain with their Diamond previews acting in lieu of reviews.

 

By Chance Or By Providence h/c (£14-99, Lounak Books) by Becky Cloonan

Breaks Prologue (£3-99, UK Comics Collective) by Malin Ryden & Emma Vieceli

Adventure Time vol 4 s/c (£8-99, Titan) by Ryan North & Shelli Paroline, Braden Lamb

Return Of Zita The Spacegirl (£8-99, First Second) by Ben Hatke

Saga Of The Swamp Thing vol 6 s/c (£14-99, Vertigo) by Alan Moore & Rick Veitch, Stephen Bissette, John Totleben, John Totleben

The True Lives Of Fabulous Killjoys s/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Gerard Way, Shaun Simon & Becky Cloonan

This One Summer (£13-50, First Second) by Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki

Batman vol 3: Death Of The Family s/c (£12-99, DC) by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV & Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion

Batman vol 4: Zero Year – Secret City h/c (£18-99, DC) by Scott Snyder,  James Tynion IV & Greg Capullo, Rafael Albuquerque, Greg Capullo, Danny Miki

Age Of Ultron s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Bryan Hitch, Brandon Peterson, Alex Maleev

Iron Man: Fatal Frontier h/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen, Al Ewing & Lan Medina, Neil Edwards, others

Superior Spider-Man vol 5: Superior Venom (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott, Christos N. Gage & Humberto Ramos

Uncanny X-Men vol 3: The Good, The Bad And The Inhuman h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Chris Bachalo, Kris Anka

Bleach vol 60 (£6-99, Viz) by Tite Kubo

Bunny Drop vol 10 (£9-99, Yen) by Yumi Unita

Dragon Ball Full Colour Saiyan Arc vol 2 (£14-99, Viz) by Akira Toriyama

Naruto vol 65 (£6-99, Viz) by Masashi Kishimoto

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic vol 4 s/c (£13-50, IDW) by Heather Nuhfer & Brenda Hickey, Amy Mebberson

 

ITEM! ‘The Enchanted Blade’ – Tom Gauld’s cartoon on maps versus apps. Too funny!

ITEM! Eddie Campbell will be appearing at The Lakes International Comics Arts Festival in October That’s the man responsible for the single greatest body of work in comics, Eddie Campbell’s ALEC OMNIBUS. The greatest story teller in the medium both on paper and in person, the bumbling reprobate’s appearances there will be hilarious, guaranteed!

ITEM! Several pages of CEREBUS never reprinted in the collected editions: CEREBUS: The Applicant by Dave Sim, Gerhard and Colleen Doran. FYI Dave Sim used to pencil and ink all the figures, Gerhard the backgrounds. Here Colleen drew the woman. Another of the greatest bodies of work in comics, Page 45 reviewed every CEREBUS book here.

ITEM! Cute-as-cute-can-be vimeo of Luke Pearson drawing and talking about HILDA on camera! One of the classiest, eye-widening wonders of Young Adult comics, HILDA sells more copies to adults for adults than children here, which says everything about its appeal and quality. Click on those covers for reviews!

ITEM! Nottingham launches bid to become a City of Literature. Yes, please! We’re kinda keen on the stuff what makes you more literate, like.

ITEM! The comics exhibition at the British Museum is open right now! Although the creators listed are rather obvious, I can assure you it is all-encompassing and thoroughly contemporary. Coverage has been largely literate, but lest we forget How Not To Write Comics Criticism – a blog which will have you groaning in recognition!

ITEM! SALLY HEATHCOTE, SUFFRAGETTE by Mary Talbot & Bryan Talbot, Kate Charlesworth is the Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month for May 2014. Here’s an interview on Creating SALLY HEATHCOTE, SUFFRAGETTE

ITEM! Free Comic Day is over for another year. For the first time ever I have explained in public why Page 45 sincerely believes At Cost Comicbook Month is a more productive approach. A huge success yet again, I see no reason to change our stance so long as we are allowed to continue, and I am enormously grateful to Women Writing About Comics (@WomenOnComics on Twitter) for inviting me to be an honorary women for a day and then backing me up to the hilt.

And now, because you demanded, because I still can’t believe I was asked and because I couldn’t find it online….

Behold, the surreal!

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

Can you introduce yourself, please?

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

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

Favourite restaurant in Notts and why?

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

Best for a romantic meal (in Notts)?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best for children (in Notts)?

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

Best pub grub in Notts?

The Malt Cross. Scrumptious! Our own Jodie Paterson used to work there and exhibits there frequently too in its upstairs gallery. You should so check her art out! http://jodiepaterson.co.uk/

Favourite takeaway food?

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

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

Live to eat or eat to live?

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

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

Maltesers.

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

Most memorable meal (anywhere) and why?

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

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

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

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

Fondest childhood memory of food?

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

And the worst?

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

What do you enjoy cooking at home?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7) Devour!

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

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

Favourite celebrity chef and why?

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

The food I would never touch is….

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

The best comfort food

Moules marinières with a fresh baguette or fries.

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

Remembering that I am fortunate enough to have some.

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

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

My last meal would be….

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

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

- Stephen

Reviews April 2014 week five

April 30th, 2014

What this proves as much as anything is that there are more than two aspects to every argument just as there are more than two sides to a coin: there are three, if your balance is up to it.

My advice is this: if ever you go into conflict to defend people’s safety from whatever threat, remember: that’s why you did it. Do not become that threat.

 - Stephen on Boxers & Saints.

Celeste h/c (£15-99, Self Made Hero) by I.N.J. Culbard…

“We’re not supposed to be alone. That’s why we see faces in things. It’s nature making sure we seek each other out.”

I’ll return to that line…

Ah, I do like Ian’s intro sequences and this is his most expansive yet, featuring us approaching first the Milky Way, then our solar system, passing by the various planets and asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars before eventually arriving, via a sumptuous satellite-graced double-page spread, on Earth. Upon reaching the surface of our planet we find what appears to be a pink blossom petal, drifting serenely past Mount Fuji, before settling at the foot of a Japanese man sat at the open window of his bedroom. Then we see a second petal on a bedside table by a ringing phone, its owner in the shower. The fact the petal then migrates to the floor is the first hint something strange is going on, though perhaps the now-whirring hairdryer was responsible for that. Perhaps. Then finally we see a man asleep in his car in the desert, a blossom petal drifting in through his open window and into his slightly agape mouth, causing a near choking fit that reminded me of a very scary childhood incident I once had with a moth…

Having revisited this opening sequence a fair few times, purely to marvel at it, I’ve found myself wondering what the appropriate accompanying music score would be, were this the opening scene of a film. Something slow and mysterious I think, though in retrospect arguably Planet Earth by Duran Duran would be very appropriate… “Look now, look all around, there’s no sign of life, voices, another sound, can you hear me now?” … because shortly thereafter virtually the entire population of the Earth just vanishes. I presume this may be where the title of the book comes from, an allusion to the not-so-jolly ship Marie Celeste.

As to the how and the why, well, don’t expect the explanation to be made clear for you. There are some possible interpretations that spring to mind, but I am very sure Ian intended this to be a thought-provoking piece of speculative fiction. What we have are three very mysterious and very different stories. None of our three characters is completely alone, mind you, which I will leave you to reflect upon, and I am choosing my words carefully there.

There are several lines of dialogue which seem particularly weighted with hidden meaning for the observant reader to pick up upon, such as the quote above. Taken in the context of what is happening, it provides some very subtle hints as to what may really be going on. But it’s not until the final page almost, when those petal blossoms return, that provide the biggest clue. That particular closing sequence put me in mind of a little sequence in the film version of 2010 actually, which is something I must quiz Ian about. Intrigued? Curious? Perturbed? Good, then my work here is done, much like the petal blossoms…

JR

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

Weapons Of Mass Diplomacy h/c (£16-99, SelfMadeHero) by Abel Lanzac (Antonin Baudry) & Christophe Blain.

“This job is such bullshit.”

So declares Alexandre Taillard De Vorms, the French Foreign Minister, who is full of it.

Don’t get me wrong, his heart is largely in the right place but his mind forgets to listen to it, racing faster than a supersonic Concorde from premature retirement. A pin-up posher for Attention Deficit Disorder, De Vorms can’t even spell “consistent”, moving his goal posts so fast that he pulls the rug from under his advisors’ and speechwriter’s feet.

“We must address Lebanon.”
“It’s on page 8, Minister.”
“We must address it. I told you: structure! Legitimacy, Lucidity, Efficacy!”
“You said “Responsibility, Unity, Efficacy.””

It’s at this point that his maddeningly calm and so-dry-he’s-droll Chief of Staff, Claude Maupas, murmurs in:

“Yes, well, Alexandre, that’s sort of what we did. If you look at page 1 – there’s legitimacy. Pages 5 and 6 are unity. And the end really addresses efficacy, you see.”
“Yes! I mean no! It needs hammering in! With this Khemed crisis, ever Head of State will be there. Blockheads of State. I have to drive our points through their thick skulls! These people are morons. They don’t have time to think.
“Legitimacy. RAT-A-TAT-A-TAT
“Unity. RAT-A-TAT-A-TAT
“Efficacy. KABOOM KABOOM KABOOM”

His priority is peace.

This is post-9/11, you see, and De Vorms knows he may be drowned out by the bellowing battle cry of America, but is determined that France will have its say too. To that effect he hires our beleaguered protagonist, Arthur Vlaminck, whether he likes it or not, and finishes with a fanatical flourish.

“I’m entrusting you with the most important part. The word.”

Yes, words are very important to Alexandre Taillard De Vorms. Well, his own words. The windbag doesn’t listen to anyone else’s apart from the banal, pseudo-cerebral bollocks he spouts from 6th-Century-B.C. philosopher Heraclitus. He wants a speech for every occasion. He even demands Arthur write him something to say to his luncheon guest, Nobel Prize winning author Molly Hutchinson who hears as Arthur hands over his notes.

“Oh, so you have words for me.”
“Why no, not at all! Those aren’t words! I don’t need words! I hate words. I’m a great admirer of poetry.”

I rest my case.

To compound Arthur’s problem each speech he is tasked with is subject not only to the pretentious abstractions of De Vorms himself, but to the unsolicited input of half a dozen advisors including self-serving poets who want to be quoted as “great”. As one colleague observes, “This isn’t a speech anymore, it’s a Frankenstein’s Monster”.

WEAPONS OF MASS DIPLOMACY won the Best Graphic Novel at Angoulême in 2013 and I can see why it would be much loved there. For a start it is written by Antonin Baudry under the pseudonym of Abel Lanzac, and Antonin was an actual advisor to the French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin in the run up to the illegal invasion of Iraq.

It’s like BBC’s Yes, Minister on methedrine because, after all, there was a deadline to be averted and, bless them, the French did their best just Blaire in Britain did his worst. But the satire here is wider than that. There is the Anchovy War with Spain (think our own Fishing War with Iceland but anchovies are funnier) and every time an international incident flares up, the crises are met neither with resolute actions nor even coherent rhetoric but territorial grandstanding and credit-hugging within the government itself.

The volcanic script is delirious and its lettering forms part of the comedy. Christophe presents De Vorms as a human, cyclonic whirlwind, whooshing about the page with stop-and-start ferocity while seeing nothing that lies under his considerable nose. He sits down only to steam and flashes daggers of lightning at anyone interjecting or embarrassing him in public. He slaps piles of documents down on a desk so hard that dust erupts. He is passionate, fervent, loquacious and contagious – so much so that Vlaminck is infected immediately, his initial diffidence swept away by the storm as he glares, fired up, into his bathroom mirror at the end of chapter one. Let’s see how he’s doing by the end of chapter six, shall we?

There are way more than six chapters for this is a book of considerable length as well as density. It’s peppered with references to music and film and comics. Darth Vader’s appearance I can understand: I think we can consider him iconic. What baffled me was the inclusion of a minor Marvel character lost laid to rust called Rom the Space Knight. Is he an especially big thing in France? Because he’s not cropped up in any conversation I’ve had in two and half decades, and I work in comics!

SLH

Buy Weapons Of Mass Diplomacy h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Today Is The Last Day Of The Rest Of Your Life (£25-99, Fantagraphics) by Ulli Lust…

Okay, so now I know exactly what to give my daughter when she wants to start backpacking around Europe as a teenager to hopefully dissuade her from doing so. Unless of course my plan to ensure she is a master of multiple martial arts has come to fruition by then. This brick of an autobiographical work is a brutally honest, endearing, cringe-worthy, joyful, upsetting account of Ulli’s travels with new best friend Edi to Sicily from Vienna back in 1984.

Ulli is a punk, in a society which at best tolerates her, and at worst, tries pretty hard to oppress her. It’s easy to forget that Austria in the early ‘80s wasn’t all Falco rocking Amadeus (or being rocked by him), but in fact a rather conservative, east-leaning country, that wasn’t yet part of the European Union.

So, Ulli and Edi’s first task is to get across the Austrian-Italian border without any papers, which involves a rather circuitous and somewhat painful route. Not so much joyful alpine hike as cross-country assault course. Once in Italy, the girls set out on their voyage of discovery with rather different agendas. Edi just wants to shag her way to Sicily, whereas Ulli would actually like to take in some scenery and sights along the way. It’s a cocktail for conflict and it’s surprising it takes as long to eventually come to a head as it does. Before that, though, we have precisely what you would expect when two teenage girls without papers or cash try and beg, borrow and occasionally steal their way down the full length of Italy. Carnage and chaos, but a whole heap of fun.

Having done a bit of travelling around myself, albeit with the aid of identification and currency to bolster my fortunes, this certainly is an accurate observation of the less romantic side of backpacking. It’s bloody hard work at times, but it is liberating and enjoyable. However… as the girls head further south, the typical Italian <ahem > gentleman’s ever aware appreciation of the female form starts to become more than a little irritating to Ulli, whereas Edi is simply in her element.

Southern Italy in the ‘80s was a strange place awash with cheap, uncut heroin and the Cosa Nostra was in near-complete control. It’s not quite Joseph Conrad’s Heart Of Darkness territory but as the girls arrive in Sicily, ostensibly for the winter, events start to take a more sinister turn as they start to fall into the orbit of some particularly dubious characters.

This is a wonderfully well documented travelogue. Ulli really captures the sense of time and place through the people they encounter, though she does a pretty mean background too, particularly when the girls are spending the summer in the rather more tourist-orientated environment of Rome. It’s the character studies that drive the book forward, from encounter to encounter with fellow travellers, street dwellers, pimps, pushers and criminals, plus a few well meaning good Samaritans too. I am also impressed at how honest Ulli has been portraying herself in this work; I would be very interested in having a conversation with her about precisely what she thinks now about the seventeen-year-old Ulli.

JR

Buy Today Is The Last Day Of The Rest Of Your Life and read the Page 45 review here

Boxers & Saints Boxed Set (£24-99, First Second) by Gene Luen Yen.

“Right then, I understood. What I wanted all along had finally happened. I’d earned an invitation to become a full-fledged devil.”

Actually Four-Girl has just been invited to join the Christian church. The SAINTS half of this boxed set is riddled with such ironies but it’s all about context and we will get to that in a bit.

What this twin-book boxed set proves as much as anything is that there are more than two aspects to every argument just as there are more than two sides to a coin: there are three, if your balance is up to it.

So well constructed and affecting is this that, if you read either BOXERS or SAINTS outside of each other’s parallel context, you can’t help but fall passionately on their respective protagonists’ sides even though one is in direct opposition to the other. The stories both take place in the Chinese countryside towards the end of the 19th Century and criss-cross at key moments. The former’s chapters are marked by date, the latter’s by Four-Girl’s age, implying that the first is a history, the second an autobiography. Both are, of course, mytholigically infused fictions played out against very real historical events.

BOXERS follows Little Bao from wide-eyed childhood to young rebel leader as part of The Boxer Revolution against the “foreign devils” who have all but invaded China, asserting imperial control and bringing with them missionaries to convert the Chinese to Christianity. SAINTS follows Four-Girl from a childhood of rejection to a life with the only people kind enough to care about her: a Chinese couple converted to Christianity (“secondary devils”) and the (“foreign devil”) priest who converted them.

Both boast attractively restrained palettes – BOXERS plays with the pale colours of nature, of the earth, air and water; SAINTS has a more muted antler and sandy grey as befits her morose nature – until their dazzling saviours make their appearance, Joan of Arc glowing in her golden armour. The clear-line cartooning is expressive, often comically so like Lu Pai’s wonky and wrinkled three strands of hair and Four-Girl’s early face-pulling.

I read BOXERS first in which a very young Bao sits entranced in front of the annual operas before which a china statuette of Tu Di Gong, the local earth god, is brought out from the modest temple to overlook the festivities from his seat of honour. So enthralled is Bao that the characters then follow him round in his head for a full season:

“Sun Wu-Kong, the Monkey King, comes with me to fetch water.
“Guan Yu, the God of War, tends crops with me.
“And the Lady in the Moon sings me lullabies as I drift off to sleep.”

But the following year Bao’s father steps in when a visiting bully beats on Grandma Crooked and defends her. Two weeks later the bully returns with armed back-up wearing crosses and a bearded, foreign priest. He extracts compensation from Bao’s dad and smashes Tu Di Gong to bits in front of the villagers.

“Worship only one God! One God only! This is Good News of Jesus Christ!”

 

So powerfully is this portrayed by Yang – so well has he set up Bao’s adulation of his father and local customs – that I was vicariously apoplectic with horror and rage. If there’s one thing worse than foreign forces imposing themselves on sovereign land, then it’s when they impose their religion on it too at the expense of the local population’s long cherished customs and beliefs. But such is the stranglehold that the pale westerners already have on the country with the complicity of the Chinese authorities that there is no hope of recompense, no hope of fighting back… until a mysterious but seemingly ordinary man calling himself Red Lantern appears. Asking for nothing in return, he proves to be a healer first, then a martial arts instructor and finally a provider. Gradually he is building a small coalition of similarly put-upon villagers to defend each other in crisis and although Bao is told he is too young to train, he does so covertly, copying their martial arts moves from afar.

When finally they move out Red Lantern refuses to allow Bao to accompany them, but he does leave him a map through fields of corner, between a cleaved stone, past a small volcanic outlet to a cloud-shrouded mountain beyond. What Bao discovers there changes everything.

A newly enabled Bao thenceforth gathers a growing army of acolytes and a woman he falls in love with. As they travel, they struggle to live up to their commendably compassionate Edicts while Bao is troubled by more militant commands from the first Emperor of China in his dreams. What have I left out? Oh, everything!

 

The beauty of this is that Yang takes you on your own journey of sympathy and allegiance. In wars and rebellions involving territory, sovereignty and religion a lot of innocent people get caught in the middle. This comes to quite a head. However, Gene Luen Yang has hardly begun.

SAINTS will show these events from the other side of the suffering and this half doesn’t end well, either. But to begin with – believe it or not – it’s a comedy.

“I am my mother’s fourth daughter, born on the fourth day of the fourth month and the only one of her children to survive past a year. When my mother approached her father-in-law for my name, he refused. Four, after all, is a homonym of “death” and Grandfather had had enough of death. Eventually, the family took to calling me by my birth order. Four-Girl. Death-Girl.”

Dismissed by her mother as continuously dilly-dallying, our narrator attempts to win the family’s affections with feats of prowess to equal her male cousins’ – like wood-chopping. What follows had me howling with laughter, and it too involves an unfortunate fate for Tu Di Gong right above Grandfather’s head. Had Tu Di Gong’s fate not been foreshadowed in BOXERS I doubt I would have found it half so funny.

Unfortunately it provokes the final, pivotal act of what was already tragically bad nurturing which really rubs off on our eight-year-old: her grandfather declares her a devil and she embraces that role, first with the face-pulling referred to earlier then with a hex. Have I mentioned the talking racoon yet? Top tip: if a racoon starts talking to you then try not to listen.

All of which in a roundabout way lands her in the hands of a kindly acupuncturist who is also a Chinese Christian or “secondary devil”. And devils are now an attractive proposition for Four-Girl. She wants to learn more about Jesus who died on the cross with a tragically hands-on knowledge of acupuncture.

Actually she’s much more interested in the cookies which accompany the acupuncturist’s sermons; it becomes a recurring joke. This in turn brings her into contact with the foreign-devil priest who smashed Little Bao’s beloved statue of Tu Di Gong (I told you these tales criss-crossed) and beautifully brings us back to where we came in: she is invited to join the church.

Already rejected repeatedly by her non-Christian family this proves to be the ultimate schism and it sets her on a similar course to Little Bao’s but on the other side of the theological and increasingly blood-thirsty divide.

With nearly five hundred pages spinning out of this (trust me) very brief set-up synopsis, you can expect much to make you think. Friendships are tested; values are too. Caring for others is conflict’s only redeeming feature and both sides desperately want to do that. Gene Luen Yang invites you to play the blame-game then makes you ponder whether the conclusions you have jumped to have overstepped the instinctively hop-scotched mark.

The two covers, once set aside each other, have been designed to reflect both the parallel nature of the twin stories but also their divide. Although now that I come to do precisely that, I wonder if one is more emotively weighted against the other: one more militant aggressor, the other more pacifistic victim. The irony, of course, is that just as Joan of Arc’s vocation was to repel foreign intrusion so as to restore the Dauphine’s sovereignty for France… so it Little Bao’s for his Empress in China.

My advice is this: if ever you go into conflict to defend people’s safety from whatever threat, remember: that’s why you did it. Do not become that threat.

SLH

Buy Boxers & Saints Boxed Set and read the Page 45 review here

Over Easy h/c (£18-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Mimi Pond…

“Tell me a joke. Or a dream. If I like it, I hire you. That’s the way it works. That’s our policy.”
“He’s not kidding.”
“Um…”

Propriety probably dictates I shouldn’t repeat the joke itself, but suffice to say Mimi gets hired to work as a dishwasher at the Imperial Cafe by the implausibly named Lazlo Meringue. What follows – and indeed precedes – this particular scene is a humorous, fictionalised memoir of life at the lower-income end of the scale as art student Madge struggles to adjust to the realities of the working world, not to mention the peculiarities and peccadilloes of her new colleagues.

After serving her time in the greasy kitchen – there is one particularly horrific scene when she’s cleaning up after her first shift which nearly turned my stomach – and working her way up to the stellar front of house position of waitress, the fun really begins as Mimi starts to reinvent herself in a period of late ‘70s social upheaval, as the hippy dream finally came to an end and the wake up clarion call of punk began. She’s all at sea at first under the ever watchful eyes of the regular customers, but soon finds her groove.

 

Great fun, intelligently observed and nicely illustrated, it’s a cheeky peek through one person’s eyes to a time and place when there was as much pogoing as public poetry readings happening and no one was really sure where it was all going to end. Highly appropriate set and setting for what is, basically, a coming of age story.

JR

Buy Over Easy h/c and read the Page 45 review here

May Contain Sharks (£4-99, self-published) by Jess Bradley.

”If we couldn’t afford a hat, we used a crab.”

Obviously.

Back in the Olden Days times were tough, the smooth was rough, and everything was in black and white. I know: I’ve seen photographic evidence!

Here too Jess amassed photographic evidence for this painstakingly researched  investigation into history, mother nature and scientific endeavour containing “32% Stoopid, 27% Colours, 24% Fibre, 3% Sharks and 0% Fleas”. She then jettisoned the lot and drew brightly coloured cartoons instead. Which is just as well because dressing a dog up in the gear of the ‘80s complete with a Flock Of Seagulls quiff would be cruel. Funny, though. And spot-on here.

Yes, it’s the triumphant return of the blindingly bonkers in the shiniest A5 comic alive including angry pandas, random clams and a beetle on its back. Poor beetle! Also: watch what happens when you give The Smartest Bear In The World the most complex quadratic equation ever created and a crayon!

The only way this comic could have been better is if the back cover to this laminated lovely was made out of stickers.

SLH

Buy May Contain Sharks and read the Page 45 review here

Abandoned Cars (£13-99, Fantagraphics) by Tim Lane…

“I don’t know the metamorphosis that’s taking place. Nor do I know the danger I am in. That too comes later.
“Right now, I’m flying low and fast over the midnight whitecapped waves of the Atlantic. I’m flying invisibly, I’ve been here for centuries.
“I am the dark romantic, is the voice that surfaces from deep within my subconscious. It boils up through me, from the churning belly of a deep vat of diabolical acid… a tortured voice; not yet quite dead, but not living either.
“To the cars waiting at the railroad crossings, to the little homes partly defined by light, to the moon that isn’t there… to God, to everything…
“… I say with simmering elation… I AM THE DARK ROMANTIC!”

Like Charles Burns channelling Kerouac, with more than a dash of early Burrows, Tim Lane transports us to a brooding time, of a man on a journey, both external and internal, possibly spiritual, certainly a touch existential. He’s jumping freight trains, travelling through small town America, searching for something ineffable, though possibly he doesn’t realise that yet. It’s October 1994, and that man is Tim Lane.

 

 

I loved this autobiographical work, bookended and interspersed as it is with grim fictional vignettes. I think there may well be some elements of fact even in those, actually, given the bold legend that the book contains ’168 pages of “not exactly” all-true adventurous stories about the Great American Mythological Drama!’ I can see precisely where he is coming from with that assertion though, having spent some time in the seedy underbelly of small town America myself, it is a funny old place.

If you are in the mood for something a little downbeat, mildly surreal at times, akin in flavour to say, BLACK HOLE, this is for you. You’ll certainly come away feeling slightly more angst-ridden by osmosis than before you started, but possibly less depressed about your own life! A second volume THE LONESOME GO, also published by Fantagraphics, is due in July.

JR

Buy Abandoned Cars and read the Page 45 review here

Gantz vol 31 (£10-50, Dark Horse) by Hiroya Oku…

Once upon a time there was a manga that simply began with two Japanese teenagers getting mown down by a subway train while trying to save someone on the tracks… Then promptly being resurrected in a unfamiliar room by a strange black sphere called Gantz that tooled them up them with futuristic weapons and armour, then told them to shoot hidden aliens for points… Points making prizes, of course, which could be better weapons: the power to resurrect someone else, or the choice to leave the game completely with any memories of it wiped from your mind. It was fun, daft fun, and a lot of it. Then it started getting very serious indeed…

Fast forward another thirty volumes and the world has virtually come to an end thanks to an all-out alien invasion by huge ten-metre-high humanoids, also armed to the hilt, flying spaceships the size of cities, and generally being complete and utter bastards. They’re happily harvesting humans for food, keeping a few as pets in goldfish bowls, intent on colonising the planet, and all that stands in their way is a rag tag collection of hardened Gantz survivors from around the globe intent on saving humanity and taking back the planet. It’s almost as though they were being trained for just such a scenario all along…

Where the Gantz team of vampires, one of whom is apparently related to one of the main characters, fits in by this point I have no idea, as they seem to have vanished completely. Yes, you read that right, vampires. Anyway, the assault on the alien motherships has begun and there’s just one additional tiny problem to ramp up the sheer impossibility of the odds the Gantz warriors are facing to near infinite levels, their resurrection facility has stopped working… Oh dear.

Yes, this is arguably a battle manga, but it is so, so much more than that, though the fact that it is published by Dark Horse and spawned two hugely popular Japanese live action films should be a clue. Slick science fiction, a zany, eclectic cast characters, plus more twists and turns than Chubby Checker. If you want something relentlessly filled with action, packed with humour, and well, just plain mental, do give it a try! There are only a handful of volumes left to come out, and this is one of the very few ongoing manga I read as soon as a new volume is available. It will go down as a classic of the genre, trust me.

JR

Buy Gantz  vol 31and read the Page 45 review here

24 #1 (£2-99, IDW) by Ed Brisson & Michael Gaydos.

I once watched an entire season of 24 in 23 hours thanks to my mate editing out all the adverts. It would have been 22 hours but for toilet brakes and fridge-bound, fresh-wine field trips. My point is that I am an expert and this is what you need for a successful series of 24:

1) Jack Bauer. And by Jack Bauer I mean Kiefer Sutherland. No one else has that perpetually squinting Clint Eastwood look and cute little overbite which is such a killer combo when he’s killing colleagues. Or when they’re killing him.

2) Colleagues to kill. Colleagues to kill him. Colleagues to be killed then come back from the dead.

3) Chloe. This is the last specific character / actor. Chloe stole my heart with her sour-faced, miserabilist pouting. She has all the scowls. Looking both suspicious and suspect for every second on screen, Chloe actually has a heart of gold, albeit of the three-carat “crap” variety once sold at Ratner’s. She will go out of her way to help you so long as you don’t ask. Ask for a favour and Three Little Pigs will go homeless.* Look, she’s busy. Busy being officious. Ask Chloe to choose between following a recipe and free-styling for famine, the only thing likely to get cooked is your books.

4) We’re still in CTU HQ here. We need an anti-authoritarian. Someone brilliant (in their own mind) who puts the super into supercilious and likes to get everything off of a chest whose t-shirt bears the slogan “I never said a word!”

5) An authoritarian. A careerist authoritarian who never listens, especially not to Jack because Jack’s been right on every previous occasion.

6) An American President to love or to loathe. In either instance publicly disowning Jack Bauer – or even activity sabotaging his one-man attempts to save an ungrateful America from Armageddon – is essential. If your name is Charles Logan you now throw a double and go up that snake rather down it. Throw your wife to the wolves for good measure! That her name wasn’t Sue Ellen astounded me.

7) A potential Armageddon. Start off small-time by assassinating married members of CTU or an American President by the end of episode one, then make sure you have at least three slights-of-hand up your sleeve and a member of Jack’s family in your campervan before revealing your final goal, which is to make this last 24 hours.

8. Infiltration.

9) Misdirection.

10) Wayward family members in every conceivable camp.

11) A ticking clock.

12) The weekly recap. If the following didn’t take place between time A and time B, it is not 24.

So, how does this measure up?

It doesn’t. None of the above is incorporated here. We haven’t even got Kiefer Sutherland except on the cover because it turns out that the brilliant Michael Gaydos whose work I adore cannot do Kiefer’s likeness.

The dialogue doesn’t resemble Bauer’s in any way, shape or form and all the bad guys initially want is a little bit of lolly. They go from loan sharks to terrorists just like that.

There’s a new series coming up and I am excited. Just not by this.

*huffing and puffing joke

SLH

Buy 24: Underground #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Justice League United #0 (£2-99, DC) by Jeff Lemire & Mike McKone…

In which the Justice League enter a team into the Blue Square North football conference and gradually work their way up into the heady environs of the Premier League. See them squabble over who has to wash the kit this week! See them engage in training ground bust-ups over who has to wear the luminous bibs resulting in a fine of two weeks wages! See them… <sigh>… it’s no use, I can’t keep this up, but then I never was very good at keepie-uppies…

I am willing to give this title a chance given it is written by Jeff THE COMPLETE ESSEX COUNTY, SWEET TOOTH, THE UNDERWATER WELDER Lemire, but the problem whenever they try and do any Justice League International reboot, under whatever name they come up with this time, is that Keith Giffen and J. M. DeMatteis set the bar very high at times, as Dan Jurgens found out with the dreadful JLI title that was one of the initial DC New 52s.

Thus I was somewhat underwhelmed by this opener, I have to say, to the point where I actually thought I had finished it… until I picked it up again to do this review and realised I hadn’t read the last six or so pages. JUSTICE LEAGUE 3000, though, which absolutely no one is reading, is the perfect example of how you can do something witty, clever, completely different and thus a very interesting read, if you think outside the box a bit. The writers on that title? A certain Keith Giffen and J. M. DeMatteis…

Next month, relegation from the New 52 looms unless JL Utd can secure all three points at a tricky away trip to Accrington Stanley…

JR

Buy Justice League United #0 and read the Page 45 review here

Brilliant vol 1 h/c (£18-99, Icon/Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Mark Bagley.

In which the age-old question is asked: how would the real world really react to super-powers?

I recommend Kurt Busiek’s and Stuart Immonen’s SECRET IDENTITY. It was quiet and thoughtful and beauuuuuutifully drawn. Actually I recommend Kurt Busiek’s and Alex Ross’ MARVELS. I also recommend Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson’s ASTRO CITY seen, like MARVELS, from human individuals’ perspectives trapped at ground-level.

All three books or series are quiet and considered and answer that question. Shared key component: Kurt Busiek.

This one is more like SECRET IDENTITY in that it’s the authorities’ reaction to the first emergence of superpowers, and the investigative authorities react with utter incredulity. You would, wouldn’t you? Even when such freaks were caught on camera – and especially in this day and age – you would assume it was special effects even when verified by your collar-shirted colleagues and even when your colleagues had collaborative eye-witnesses. That is so very well evoked here.

Most of this, however, is seen from the perspective of the culprits: the college kids who have somehow solved the mystery of superpowers. Using magnets an’ shit. Brain electricity. Whatever.

Albert has returned to a university he’d spurned in favour of love. That didn’t work out. Once back on campus he learns what his peers have been up to and is horrified when they confess that Amadeus, the most charismatic of the crew, has already experimented on himself. And then come into a great deal of money. He’s been arrogant, reckless and caught on camera committing a crime. He seems to believe he’s untouchable. As his friends try to persuade Albert to help fix the glitches the FBI start to close in…

There’d be lots of surprises ahead if they were actually surprising. I’m afraid to report I could predict every one. Well, apart from the reaction of Albert’s mother. I’m also way past board of repetition being passed of as realism, as when the kids are interviewed: page after page of repetition in lieu of moving the story forward. The larger Marvel Universe titles are equally guilty of this now and their comics aren’t cheap. I really think it’s time value for money was considered.

Bagley is fab at representing innocence – even innocence lost or trounced upon – and his work with Bendis on ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN was a joy. So here, his college kids are great and Albert’s exasperation on the phone to his mother was made crushingly clear as the camera pulls back. There are also big moments of boom. It’s just… when you’re asking a question like “What if super-powers actually existed in the real world, you need something closer to photorealism representing that real world. It’s no coincidence that of his many styles Stuart Immonen chose photorealism for SECRET IDENTITY.

*winces apologetically* Sorry!

SLH

Buy Brilliant vol 1 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy

Reviews already online if they’re new formats of previous books. Otherwise the most interesting will come under the microscope next week, while the rest will remain with their Diamond previews acting in lieu of reviews.

 

Alabaster vol 2: Grimmer Tales h/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Caitlin R. Kiernan & Steve Lieber

Alice In Comicland h/c (£22-50, IDW) by Walt Kelly, Charles Schultz, Alex Toth, Harvey Kurtzman, many more

Doctor Grordbort Present Triumph (£14-99, Random House / Vertical) by Greg Broadmore

Flex Mentallo, Man Of Muscle Mystery s/c (£10-99, Vertigo) by Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely

Hate: Buddy Buys A Dump (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Peter Bagge

The Love Bunglers h/c (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Jaime Hernandez

Pretty Deadly vol 1 s/c (£7-50, Image) by Kelly Sue DeConnick & Emma Rios

Secret vol 1: Never Get Caught s/c (£12-99, Image) by Jonathan Hickman & Ryan Bodenheim

Unlovable vol 3 h/c (£22-50, Fantagraphics) by Esther Pearl Watson

Batman Superman vol 1: Cross World h/c (£16-99, DC) by Greg Pak & Jae Lee

Suicide Squad vol 4: Discipline And Punish s/c (£10-99, DC) by Ales Kot, Matt Kindt & Patrick Zircher, others

All New X-Men vol 4: All Different h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen, Brandon Peterson

Deadpool: Complete Collection vol 3 s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Daniel Way & various

Marvel Masterworks: Captain America vol 3 (£18-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby, Jim Steranko

X-Men vol 2: Muertas s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Brian Wood & Terry Dodson, Kris Anka

Attack On Titan vol 12 (£7-99, Kodansha) by Hajime Isayama

Vinland Saga Book 3 h/c (£14-99, Kodansha) by Makato Yukimura

ITEM! Brilliant news for all comicbook retailers! ComiXology has eliminated the frictionless digital consumption of comics so you have to visit a ComiXology store front each time you want to buy digital. Even better news for Page 45 is that we have a ComiXology store front so it’s just as easy to buy from us, no more expensive yet we make a cut. Here: http://www.page45.com/world/digitalcomics/

ITEM! New comic by Audrey Niffenegger & Eddie Campbell online: THURSDAYS, SIX TO EIGHT P.M. Although I am getting REALLY sick of this “Novelists do comics” crap. Comicbook creators have been writing them just fine of a century, and novelists and artists who didn’t understand the medium ballsed it up something chronic for us all twenty years ago. Also, Audrey is a long-standing comicbook creator as well as a prose novelist. Anyway.

ITEM! It may look so simple, but this thumbnail by THE RINSE’s Marc Laming shows a perfect understanding of pivotal mechanics much overlooked by many. Seriously: study the distribution of weight there! Algebra? Fine! Geometry? Hit me! But mechanics is what finally did my maths in.

ITEM! Comics’ Lizz Lunney has a monkey. You will now wish you’d one too. You can buy her TAKE AWAY instead!

ITEM! The Comics Grid reviews The Guardian Comics Weekend Special with links to its online features and the exhibition at the British Museum.

ITEM! Wonderful to see University Of Nottingham Research covering comics and spreading the word to students following Kieron Gillen’s visit there discussing the research involved in classics-driven THREE set in Sparta. Oooh, Page 45 receives big love on the blog too! Bless you, Tara!

ITEM! Andy Oliver writes an exceptionally useful column on self-publishers selling their comics to retailers. Well, the few of us who treasure them. He’s covered almost every aspect I would have – including no, we don’t want self-published superhero comics: there are way too many superhero comics already, cheers! – and several I’d have overlooked. I would only add they we love to see hardcopies because it is vital for us to see the printed format and production values, which are two reasons we sell so many of Dan Berry’s CAT ISLAND etc.

ITEM! Speaking of selling comics, here I am!

The Art Of Selling Comics by Stephen L Holland at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival

It’s a ticketed talk which means you should book ASAP, please as there are limited places!

ITEM! Here’s the overall Programme for The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014 – go on, click! It is massive this year! All very clearly laid out with colour-coding and everything!

Have a shortcut to the other ticketed talks, panels and workshops for The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014 including Scott McCloud, Glyn Dillon, Jeff Smith, Sean Phillips, Rian Hughes, Becky Cloonan, Bryan Talbot, Felt Mistress, Fumio Obata, Neill Cameron, Gary Northfield, Mark Buckingham, Dave Gibbons, Jock, Emma Vieceli Nick Abadzis, Gary Erskine, Joe List, Darryl Cunningham, Page 45 and so many more!

ITEM! Finally, lest we forget, your guide to Page 45 at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival. We will be updating with more info soon and a great big surprise. I was surprised! Hurrah!

- Stephen

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