Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews September 2019 week one

September 4th, 2019

Featuring Lewis Trondheim, Hubert Chevillard, Keum Suk Gendry-Kim, Alexis Leriger De La Plante, Natasha Tara Petrovic, Rob Williams, Henry Flint, Jonathan Hickman, Neil Edwards, Barry Kitson, Steve Epting, Nick Dragotta, Mark Brooks

Stay h/c (£17-99, Lion Forge) by Lewis Trondheim & Hubert Chevillard…

“Hello!”
“Hello.”
“May I sit? Not with you, at the table besides you.
“I’m not trying to flirt with you.
“I was in a car accident as a child. I have no more penis.

“But I can pee in a bottle!”

Which is the point I personally would start running and not look back, but not Fabienne as antique shop owner Paco introduces himself in somewhat madcap fashion. No, instead she decides to stay and have her second croissant. I’d be keeping a hand over the top of my drink at all times though…

I should at this point probably explain that this particular decision to stay put is not the reason for the title of this work. No, but it is very typical of the redoubtable, unflappable Fabien’s new-found approach to life. I will let the publisher elucidate matters for you further whilst Fabio in no way continues to flirt with the charmingly bemused Fabienne…

“Roland has planned the perfect vacation for Fabienne to discuss their future. But when unimaginable tragedy strikes, Fabienne is left alone to process this immediate and unexpected change in her life. While most people would abandon the trip out of grief, she decides to stay…”

It probably isn’t that much of a spoiler given it happens on the fourth page, to explain that Roland gets decapitated by a flying metal sign due to a particularly strong coastal breeze.

 

 

From that point on, whilst most would crumble faster than a dehydrated sandcastle in face of such an impromptu grotesque guillotining of their beloved, Fabienne instead decides to stick to the itinerary that Roland had meticulously planned for their seaside mini-break. Though that didn’t, of course, include meeting wildcard Paco.

 

 

So, for the second time in recent months (following on from the brilliant MAGGY GARRISSON involving a wannabe private investigator illustrated by Stephane Oiry) Lewis Trondheim produces a masterclass in gently comedic writing. Here this story of what could have been a crippling emotional hammer blow instead becomes a curiously cheering tale of unexpected, liberating freedom from what would have been a very carefully mapped out life.

Appropriately enough, it all really doesn’t go or end up quite where you would expect, despite Fabienne’s close attention to the detail of Roland’s precisely plotted schedule. Warmly illustrated by Hubert Chevillard in gloriously Mediterranean tones this is one to réchauffe les coques de ton coeur or whatever the appropriate French idiom might be…

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

JR

Grass (£22-50, Drawn & Quarterly) by Keum Suk Gendry-Kim~

“Mama, can I go to school, too?”
“You’re whining about school when we’ve got nothing to eat?”
“But big brother gets to go.”
“Don’t give me that hogwash! You think you two are the same?”

The year is 1934 and we’re in Busan, South Korea. Lee Ok-sun is a young girl with one simple dream: to go to school like her mischievous brothers. Instead, with younger sibling tied to her back, she helps her mother at the market in hopes of scraping together enough to be able to feed the family that evening.

Lee Ok-sun learned from an early age that this wasn’t a woman’s world. But never in her worst nightmares did she imagine the horrors that her life would hold…

For an idea of the contents of this important yet harrowing biography, here’s what the publisher has to say…

“Grass is a powerful anti-war graphic novel, offering up firsthand the life story of a Korean girl named Lee Ok-sun who was forced into sexual slavery for the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II, a disputed chapter in 20th century Asian history.

 

 

Keum Suk Gendry-Kim emphasizes Lee’s strength in overcoming the many forms of adversity she experienced. Grass is a landmark graphic novel that makes personal the desperate cost of war and the importance of peace.”

As heartbreaking and heavy a topic as this is, Gendry-Kim has delivered Granny Ok-sun’s story with the sensitivity and tenderness that this valiant, elderly lady deserves. Simplified imagery and softened characters focus on the humanity, not the brutality of the situation.

 

 

But that doesn’t mean this book is any less powerful. Much like Granny Ok-sun herself, it has a quiet strength, one that gets under your skin and then completely takes hold of you.

“We will keep fighting until the end.”

Buy Grass and read the Page 45 review here

JP

Ophiuchus s/c (£14-99, Image) by Alexis Leriger De La Plante, Natasha Tara Petrovic

“Let me ask you something, serpent-bearer.
“You’ve come all this way, and why?
“A defunct guard, protecting nothing and her hapless servant, who breaks when they should build?”
“They’ve told you so little. What about my side of it?
“I only ever offered these machines salvation.”

“I know you’re a liar.”

Do you like the Steven Universe cartoon? If you do (you must also check out STEVEN UNIVERSE: THE ANSWER by the way if you haven’t already…) then this collection of the highly regarded and exquisitely pink, purple and pastel blue webcomic is most definitely for you.

Aside from the fact it is beautifully illustrated with characters comprised of curvaceously cornered yet pleasingly angular polygons the story is bursting with as much action as it is heart. A most fabulous fusion…

Here is the publisher to tell you a little more just in case you aren’t convinced already, before I bombard you with lots of intensely sensual interior art almost exclusively warping into your optic nerves on wibbly-wobbly wavelengths between 380 and 500 nanometers…

 

 

“Ophiuchus is the story of the lone sentry of an ancient, inactive gate. One day, a strange being breaks through and infects her with a virus. And shortly after, she is approached by two machines, who implore her to follow them to the centre of the universe to put an end to that virus – a malevolent being which rots all worlds.”

Just some fabulous science-fiction that makes a half-hearted attempt to be semi-serious but is too busy having fun!

 

 

Buy Ophiuchus and read the Page 45 review here

JR

Judge Dredd: Small House s/c (£9-99, Rebellion) by Rob Williams & Henry Flint…

“Don’t do small talk, do you? Drive with me.”

Haha, that alone cracked me up, Dredd telling someone else they’re not the chatty type!! Right, as we were…

“Witness said he was sure he saw Judges. Just for an instant. Two reaching for Benn. Then there was nothing. ‘Ghost Judges.’”
“Do you believe that?”
“I’ve seen the supernatural. I’ve put my fist through the supernatural.
“That’s not what this is. There are other cases, though nothing proven.
“A stealth group, operating outside the remit of the Chief Judge. Operating for someone else.”

Indeed… and there is nothing like someone thinking they are above the Law to get right up Joe Dredd’s nose…

Here’s the bullet laden bulletin from the publisher to give pretty much everything away…

“The critically-acclaimed and fan-lauded latest Judge Dredd tale which sent shockwaves through the universe and Mark Millar called ‘one of the best runs ever!’ Everything is at stake and no-one is safe, as Judge Dredd and his team of hand-picked allies finally takes on the nefarious Judge Smiley, Mega-City One’s behind-the-scenes manipulator!

 

 

But who will be left standing at the end?”

Errr… well, I know who I would guess!

I would have to heartily concur, though, with the plaudits for this series. I was absolutely riveted as it came out week by week in 2000AD. Featuring some of my favourite characters like the Wally Squad’s Dirty Frank, who featured prominently in the fabulous JUDGE DREDD: TRIFECTA and former SJS Judge Gerhart, it builds on recent stories such as Williams and Flint’s own excellent JUDGE DREDD: TITAN, but also shines a new, disturbingly revealing light on events as far back as Block Mania and the Apocalypse War as it builds and builds to a crunching crescendo.

 

 

Dredd’s going to win obviously. It’s what he does. But at what cost? How many colleagues will be acceptable collateral damage along the way this time? And just how high up does this conspiracy go? I mean, is it really conceivable that Chief Judge Hersey is completely unaware of the secret cabal armed with cloaking technology performing covert assassinations made to look like accidents, both locally and globally, that all serve to benefit Mega-City One politically…?

 

 

I sincerely hope Rob Williams is going to be involved with the writing of the forthcoming Dredd TV show which is being produced by Rebellion themselves, as he’s been responsible for much of the best Dredd material of recent years and this tale is just pure thrill power. Even Tharg needed a lie down after reading it…

 

 

Ooops, wrong alien!

So for those lovers of a bit of casual future fascism who might have been wondering whether old Stoney Face has still got it, the answer is a resounding yes. In fact that’s five years for even doubting him creep. Head directly to the cubes and do not pass the counter without collecting this book.

Buy Judge Dredd: Small House and read the Page 45 review here

JR

Fantastic Four By Jonathan Hickman The Complete Collection vol 2 s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Neil Edwards, Barry Kitson, Steve Epting with Nick Dragotta, Mark Brooks.

Second bumper book of brilliance from one of the best runs ever on this sporadically functional family containing volumes 3 and 4 plus the first volume of companion title FF (Future Foundation). I’ve hardly had to change a word since my original reviews at the start of the decade, just find you the appropriate pretty pictures. Strap yourselves in and slap on the cosmic sunscreen…

Fantastic Four vol 3 by Jonathan Hickman & Neil Edwards.

“It’s not the scientific method that got us here… it’s apostasy.”
“Take this, Mr. Whitman.”
“What’s this?”
“Providence.”

God, but this is some damn fine writing and you will need your dictionary which is a very fine thing indeed. So yes, providence provided by Reed Richards to his former rival, the Wizard, now being cared for in a metahuman psychiatric facility. He’s singularly interested in the creation of life, specifically through mitosis. There’s a lot of that this volume from some unexpected sources:

“And now for knowledge. The coming days are going to be dark… Dark and full of loss. It will feel like everything is going to break apart… that it will shatter and everything will end. Only you can hold us together. Can you be strong, mother? Stronger than you’ve ever been before? There will be a moment when you’re going to want to give up. You’re going to want to let go….
“When you reach that point, look into the sky. Look up… and remember the price that was paid.”

Looks like I was on the money and all of the previous volumes’ little chapters are converging – the past and the future – in an ominous way as evidenced by the super-evolved Molemen now in residence at the Baxter Building. They’ve just taught themselves to read, and swiftly moved onto the computer system:

“Did you know that a curved axis runs from the Forever City, through a place called Old Atlantis, to an Inhuman city-ship on the moon? The radius of that axis happens to mirror the frequency at which a portal to the Negative Zone opens.”

Oh dear.

Reed Richards has seen the light as well as the possible darkness ahead, and it’s expanded his ambition considerably.

 

 

He’s here to educate, to provide the planet with a limitlessly positive future, and he won’t accept apathy, resignation or second-best. Quite right too. Class is now in session – but what’s the previously primitive Dragon Man doing at the back?! He’s been rewired by Reed’s daughter Valeria and together Reed’s new students have already thought well outside the box:

“So can I assume you have a new way of attacking a problem that I’ve personally failed to solve over the years?”
“Uh-huh. It deals with rejecting a binary endgame. The on/off nature of the problem that’s tripped you up in the past… I think we can win and lose at the same time, sir.”

The problem they’ve solved is Ben Grimm.

In addition Neil Edwards has now flowered into a worthy substitute for Bryan Hitch, particularly when it comes to the children’s faces, there’s a delightful trip out to a decidedly different toy store and Franklin’s learning judo!

Hickman’s work in this is completely accessible to newcomers yet conversely it’s also steeped in Marvel history and will reward any long-term fan with a modicum of intelligence by moving that history on substantially: by embracing it, extrapolating from it, and upgrading it in such a fashion that you’d think that Hickman was actually Warren Ellis. He might be, actually, only there’s no filthy swearing just a great deal of fun.

SLH

 

Fantastic Four vol 4 by Jonathan Hickman & Steve Epting with Nick Dragotta, Mark Brooks.

“Since the birth of everything, all life writhes in anguish… The suffering of billions of years of prolonged decay – the scars sit deep within us. You know this is true, because the pain resonates… We all share that core dread… that small, still voice coming from the older, primal place in our minds… We are all dying.”

Well, he’s a glass-half-full kinda guy!

This final book in the first phase of Jonathan Hickman’s FANTASTIC FOUR ends in catastrophe for the family with the loss of one of their members. Knowing that as you read this makes for quite the poignant experience.

So many threads set up not just by Hickman but by Mark Millar in his own excellent run (WORLD’S GREATEST and THE MASTER OF DOOM) come back to haunt them whilst one remains far from resolved and is only now becoming clear in the start of the second phase under the title FF (Future Foundation). Steve Epting has long been one of my favourite Marvel pencillers and his kids in particular are a just-so joy, though perhaps the finest panel is Sue Storm’s eyes rolling to the heavens under Namor’s admiration only after she shouts him down in public. He’s thrilling, subtle and his expressions carry weight. Quite why the final silent issue, the denouement, is given to someone else, I cannot comprehend.

Without giving too much away, Sue’s role as emissary between the old and new Atlantean factions takes a substantial turn for the unexpected, Galactus’ dead body which Reed Richards decided to bury is finally discovered, Ben swallows the serum Valeria and co. concocted to give him one week a year in his old human body… and that bloody Negative Zone portal never did anyone any good, did it?

 

 

Hickman, however, is master of the unexpected… like young prodigy Valeria casually teleporting into the throne room of Victor Von Doom who sits brooding about what he has lost.

“What’s up?”
“Young lady… Showing up unannounced is rash, unsuitable behaviour… even for a child. Does your father know where you are, Valeria?”
“Actually, he’s why I’m here.”
“And what has he done now?”
“Daddy went and built a very bad machine and forgot to tell anyone… Guess who just found it.”

Includes the script to silent issue #588.

SLH

 

FF vol 1 by Jonathan Hickman & Steve Epting, Barry Kitson.

“And then I began to wonder why exactly all those villains are in my house. What would scare them as much as it would scare us…? What have you been hiding from me?”
“Oh Susan…”
“What’s happened, Reed?”
“I’ve done something terrible.”

So many secrets. So much left half-said!

The curtain rises for a fresh start, but in so many ways it’s merely the second act of a carefully orchestrated piece of theatre whose first four books were bursting with dramatic irony which now plays itself out as each family member finally comes clean, but only when they’re finally found out! By that time, of course, it’s a little too late to mend as four familiar forces have been unleashed upon this world and set about acquiring the resources they need to leave it – not in one piece, either.

The Fantastic Four are no more. The family is one man down, and some of them are coping better than others. Wracked with guilt, Ben Grimm has shut himself inside his room, cradling Johnny Storm’s nephew and niece against his orange-rocked hide. But as the famous ‘4’ emblem is taken solemnly from their wall, Reed Richards takes Johnny’s holographic Last Will & Testament to heart and asks Spider-Man to join their endless quest to build a better world.

 

 

It’s Johnny’s sister Sue who beckons Peter inside and shows him around. Things have changed. For a start they’re now called The Future Foundation with an extended family of waifs and strays, some more clever than others, studying under Reed Richards and brainstorming to solve problems with their fresh new perspectives. For that Peter’s perfect, and Reed’s child-prodigy daughter Valeria has a knack of not only finding solutions but identifying the problems in the first place. And then she just causes some more. She’s discovered what her bad Dad’s been up to and promptly exacerbated his mistake and so made a deal with the devil, Victor von D himself. Doom can’t resist either her singular challenge (once more, the irony!) nor her offer of assistance for he has lost a part of his mind. Fortunately his brain is at least structurally sound, so what they need is a backup.

I can’t tell you how cleverly that’s played – Valeria and ‘Uncle’ Doom are an exquisite double-act; she fearless, he constantly surprised – because it requires Steve Epting’s superb, deadpan comedic timing. His art is a considered joy. The enormous gargoyle Dragon Man cross-legged on a comfy sofa and studying a book, spectacles perched on his purple beak looking like Sage The Owl, is an absolute hoot.

Also, the costumes have changed and change further still, third-generation unstable molecules creating variations on a black and white theme of three honeycomb hexagons or, in Peter’s case, a spider. He’s very much a guest. He’s not the only guest, either. Richards’ father has resurfaced from the timestream thereby altering the family dynamic further still, and then there are those invited by Reed to Doctor Doom’s unprecedented symposium in the Baxter building. Each attendee has been psychologically enhanced by Hickman, one for example with a born-again fervour and another, the Mad Thinker, finally living up to his name. Here he is doing Spider-Man’s nut in:

“An invitation. An invitation! It’s the opening move of the greatest of games – Ask yourself, who’s the opponent, what does he want? Is this his first move, or simply an orchestration to reveal who his opponents are… Oh, so very tricky. An invitation… what could it possibly mean?”
“I think it means you’re invited.”
“Mmmmmaahhhh! No. No. No. No! Foolish pawn. Foolish pawn that doesn’t even know that he’s a piece… Oh, oh… Or maybe you’re something more. Maybe so. Yes, maybe I can use this. You’re probably not even aware of how much he’s given away by sending you… So, reveal all. Tell me – and don’t try and think it over, as I need an untainted, primary response – tell me, what should I do?”
“Oh… I would prefer that you stay at home. Maybe take a bath… Maybe brush your teeth.”
“That’s it! That’s it – I accept the invitation!!”
“… Of course you do.”

Now it’s your turn.

Buy Fantastic Four by Hickman Complete Collection vol 2 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

SLH

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Hellboy And The BPRD – 1956 (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, Chris Roberson & Mike Norton, Yishan Li, Michael Avon Oeming, Paul Grist

Infinite Dark vol 2 s/c (£14-99, Image) by Ryan Cady & Andrea Mutti

Little Mama s/c (£17-99, Magnetic) by Halim Mahmouidi

Outcast vol 7: The Darkness Comes s/c (£14-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Paul Azaceta

Sandman: Dream Hunters (30th Anniversary Prose Ed’n) (£14-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & Yoshitaka Amano

Batman: Damned h/c (£24-99, DC) by Brian Azzarello & Lee Bermejo

Joker: His Greatest Jokes s/c (£16-99, DC) by various

Immortal Hulk vol 4: Abomination s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Al Ewing & Joe Bennett

Venom Unleashed vol 1 s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Donny Cates, Ryan Stegman, Cullen Bunn & Juanan Ramirez, various

Tokyo Ghoul re: vol 12 (£8-99, Viz) by Sui Ishida

Final Fantasy Lost Stranger vol 2 (£9-99, Yen Press) by Hazuki Minase & Itsuki Kameya

Final Fantasy Lost Stranger vol 3

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews August 2019 week four

August 28th, 2019

Featuring Sarah McIntyre, Philip Reeve, Luke Pearson, Chino Moya, Tal Brosh, Darryl Cunningham, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby

Hilda And The Mountain King (vol 6) h/c (£12-95, Flying Eye / Nobrow) by Luke Pearson.

Never threaten a mother’s child; or a child’s mother, for that matter.

It’s a bond that should never be broken.

Welcome back to the wild, rock-strewn countryside of HILDA outside the tall city walls of Trolberg, defended against its indigenous inhabitants with enormous bells, the clanging of which repels those Trolls almost as forcefully as sunlight deters them. Sunlight quite literally petrifies them.

But those same Trolls have been appearing outside their dank, cavernous mountain home in larger numbers of late – in their hundreds, perhaps thousands – and roaming farther afield. Specifically they seem to be drawn, by some compelling inner instinct which they do not understand, to that very city whose human inhabitants, already nervous, are growing increasingly alarmed.

 

 

Well!!!

HILDA AND THE STONE FOREST certainly culminated in quite the unexpected climax, didn’t it?

We’ve never known HILDA end on a cliffhanger before! As a result, insatiably inquisitive explorer Hilda and her more cautious Mum have found themselves in much altered circumstances, utterly bewildered and terribly separated with very little hope – it seems – of reversing their plight.

I’m going to be as elusive as possible about the exact nature of this strange transformation in their lives, but what I can tell you is that Hilda herself is enjoying an enforced holiday in that subterranean stone forest, while Mum and furry-faced family friend Tontu have a rampaging new house guest on their hands.

 

 

Neither party knows for sure what’s become of the other, but both are going to go to the greatest lengths possible to find each other and be reunited using natural curiosity, making what they hope are new friends and learning whatever they can about the Trolls’ history and customs. The Trolls, for example, collect stuff. It’s a recycling of sorts – certainly a more positive pastime than fly-tipping.

“What are all these piles of junk?”
“We gather it from the city outskirts. Things the humans have dumped or don’t seem to need any more.”
“You know vegetables aren’t buried in the ground because people don’t need them, right?”
“Well it’s a funny place to leave them.”

With the mystery and emergency already established at the end of the last volume (and recapped in a handy-dandy, two-page “Previously…”), Pearson makes maximum use of the increased page count this affords to weave in additional dangers and suspicions – on both sides and from multiple directions – and build on what we’ve already established as the Trolls’ nature while subtly but repeatedly emphasising the acute anxiety of separation: the separation of parent and child.

 

 

Everyone I know has an embedded memory or three of being separated from their parents, be it lost briefly in a crowd or a far more protracted affair, and far too many parents I know have experienced the same terror from their own perspective. The vividness of the childhood memories after perhaps decades is a testament to the extent of the trauma. It’s going to resonate with readers, is what I’m saying, and create quite the incentive for families to fly through these pages – they’re gripping!

Hilda and her mother can, if not hear, then at least sense each other calling throughout, but the distance between them is emphasised by the marked contrast in colours. The warm glow of earthy, autumnal colours both within the sanctuary of home and on the pages following the mother’s daylight efforts on the hillside to establish Hilda’s whereabouts are matched once Hilda manages to venture outside the mountain, albeit temporarily at night, for the starlit skies glow a golden brown; but while trapped underground inside the Trolls’ mountain, the colours are cold and empty in greys, green and pale aquamarine, stark white or echoing black.

 

 

Having successfully avoided the biggest spoilers for HILDA AND THE STONE FOREST, then, I leave you with a last illustration, Hilda’s dream-like vision in threatening scarlet, catalysed by the glowing orb which forms her third and final quest to reverse her predicament…

 

 

Whatever can it mean? And will any of them figure it out before the humans scramble up the mountain to attack with their new secret weapon, or the Trolls descend en masse to Trolberg and wreak havoc on the city’s rush-hour traffic and much cherished civic floral displays?

SLH

Buy Hilda And The Mountain King (vol 6) h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Reminder: Luke Pearson Signing & Sketching in Hilda at Page 45 Saturday September 7th 2019, 12-2pm

Kevin’s Great Escape: A Roly-Poly Flying Pony Adventure h/c (£8-99, Oxford Press) by Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre.

Break out the biscuits! Kevin the roly-poly flying pony is back!

“There was a big silver door knocker in the shape of a snake eating its tail. “Stupid snake!” said Kevin. You’d never catch a flying pony doing something as stupid as eating his own tail, he thought. Then he wondered what his tail tasted like and turned round to have a nibble.”

And he’s as peckish as ever.

““Biscuits?” said Kevin, who had just realized that it was the end of Chapter Two already and he hadn’t had any custard creams yet.”

As those who’ve previously perused Page 45’s Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre Section and enjoyed its literary spoils (like Kevin’s last loop-the-loop), both these collaborative creators fire on full thrusters to entertain your young ones by employing everything at their disposal: mystery, mythology, a great many biscuits and cakes, illustrations fully integrated into the text, popular culture, pugs, cumulatively funny linguistic reprises and irreverent attention to chapter breaks.

“…And this is Nobbly Nora, a friendly tortoise. (She doesn’t have anything to do with this story at all, she just wanted to be in a book.)”

 

 

Here both mythology and popular culture are brought to the fore as we encounter more legendary beings from Kevin’s natural home on the wild wet hills of the Outermost West and a spectacularly successful goth popstress called Misty Twiglet whose music videos like ‘Trapped (In A Haunted Wardrobe)’ prominently feature her being trapped. (In a haunted wardrobe.)

Kevin’s comfy straw nest currently sits far from the wild wet hills of the Outermost West atop the flat-roof floor of Max and Daisy’s top-floor flat.

(You try saying that with your fat face stuffed full of Bourbons!)

That top-floor flat has just been flooded with a scream, because Maisy is Misty’s biggest fan, and Misty – it’s just been announced on the TV – is about to move to the home town of Bumbleford! Or rather, just outside it, in the vast gated mansion called Gloomsbury Grange. Will she be seen shopping (spookily) in Bumbleford or getting her hair cut (gelled and sprayed) in Maz and Maisy’s Mum’s hair salon? (Unlikely – it’s also flooded but with water; mermaids are her chief customers.)

 

 

The family’s frenzied debate about whether pop goddesses get their minions to do their shopping or send servants to get their hair cut for them is suddenly, startlingly interrupted downstairs by the arrival in his shiny sports car of Misty Twiglet’s chief minion, Mr Baz Gumption, Superstar Talent Management, with his “shiny jacket and shiny dark glasses, and once he had got over the shock of having a roly-pony flying pony land beside him, he smiled a shiny smile…”

He only wants to buy Kevin for Gloomsbury Grange!

 

 

“How much do you want for him?”
““Nothing!” said Max. “I mean…”
““Kevin’s not for sale!” said Mum.
““He’s our friend,” said Daisy.
“Oh, sure,” said Baz Gumption. “But your friend would be way better off living in Misty Twiglet’s garden than up on your roof.””

Baz Gumption does his best to persuade them with all the amenities on offer, but the family are resolute, defiant, and Baz isn’t accustomed to defiance.

“Baz Gumption scowled while trying to keep smiling, which was an interesting look.”

I love the lightness of Reeve’s quiet critiques, but you won’t like the heaviness of Baz’s response when refused. All it’ll take is a little luring of Max’s star-struck sister then a typically roguish, nay ruthless sleight-of-hand when Maisy and Misty [totally redacted] and Kevin may find his flight quite encumbered!

 

 

La McIntyre’s art is as thrilling and inventive as ever, with lots of sneaky background jokes I’m not going to sign-post for you for fear of spoiling your fun (hint, however: you’re not the only one reading here!), and, as usual, there will be a few familiar faces of former friends, even if one is carefully hidden amongst Misty’s household ornaments.

Poor Kevin’s new straw nest isn’t going to be situated in anything like the idyllic surroundings Baz Gumption promised and McIntyre’s decidedly dismal holding pen looks more like a ramshackle early-to-mid 20th Century zoo enclosure, as inappropriate and inhospitable as the cramped concrete monstrosity I once witnessed polar bears gloomily mourning in. Notice how his water trough is actually a human domestic bath complete with tap appliances!

 

 

I did promise you more mythology too, didn’t I? Reeve and McIntyre have assembled quite the collection of fellow captives, like the Gorgon called Zola who wisely wears sunglasses (more for your protection than hers), a Centaur who I later spotted wearing Cyclops-style shades (nice!) and a cardigan-loving faun called Cardigan Faun. There Reeve excels himself:

“His eyes were the colour of sunlight in autumn woods.”

It’s an evocative enough description for anyone’s irises – but for a sylvan Satyr’s, it’s perfect!

 

 

The title of course is KEVIN’S GREAT ESCAPE, but how can this possibly be facilitated when the mansion is walled, gated and guarded by more than Baz Gumption, and Max and Daisy’s only flying ally finds himself knotted up in netting?! It won’t be easy!!

Especially since Kevin’s priorities are as spot-on as ever:

“I can’t go without my friends.”

Transportation for one will prove problematic (I haven’t mentioned them yet, but you’ll see!).

Some of my favourite art also contains story spoilers, so I’ve reluctantly withheld it, but you wait until you see our roly-poly flying pony soaring above Bumbleford’s country churchyard complete with lychgate from an aerial point of view! Spectacular!

I leave you instead with one of Sarah’s awesome blogs which always come with extra activities (https://jabberworks.livejournal.com/836398.html – there have been will be many more related to Kevin) and this book’s introductory endpapers which are absolutely typical of Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre.

 

 

I’m surprised any decent home ever let’s them through its front door.

Maybe they get in another way?

SLH

Buy Kevin’s Great Escape: A Roly-Poly Flying Pony Adventure h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Legend of Kevin: A Roly-Poly Flying Pony Adventure s/c (£6-99, Oxford Press) by Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre.

Also still available as THE LEGEND OF KEVIN h/c!

Welcome to Stephen’s New All-Ages Taste Test in which I declare that if you can imagine a book being read aloud by Alan Bennett, with his dry yet full-mouthed, fruit-jam-flavoured, deadpan delivery, then you are onto a winner!

So it is here, with the most perfect preamble that I can recall, setting you in very good stead for all that will follow.

“Kevin lives in the wild, wet hills of the Outermost West, where he has built a large, untidy nest for himself in the branches of an old oak tree.”

Kevin – if you hadn’t gathered from the so-spangly cover – is a Roly-Poly Flying Pony. As David Attenborough once noted, their nests can be famously dishevelled.

 

 

Kevin comes from the “wild, wet hills of the Outermost West”. Not Plymouth, nor Basingstoke, nor even the Dartmoor plains; but somewhere wilder, wetter and even more westerly. This is Important, as you shall see.

“His favourite things to eat are:
“1. Grass
“2. Apples
“3. Biscuits
“… only not in that order.”

Why, Philip, why?

 

 

“Grass is quite easy to come by, because it grows all over the wild, wet hills of the Outermost West. Apples are grown on the trees in the orchards, and Kevin often flies down to eat them. (You can imagine how delighted the farmers are when they see him coming.) Biscuits are a bit harder to get hold of, but sometimes Kevin makes friends with a hiker, and if he’s lucky they share their biscuits with him. So if you ever visit the wild, wet hills of the Outermost West, be sure to take plenty of biscuits. Kevin’s favourites are:

“1. Pink wafers
“2. Bourbons
“3. Custard creams
“… only not in that order.”

Reeve is a master of playful repetition and the cumulatively funny joke, and that won’t be the last of his winking, tongue-in-cheek, parenthetical asides, either.

You are now fully prepped for the latest deliciously mischievous all-ages, illustrated and fully integrated prose from the award-winning creators of PUGS OF THE FROZEN NORTH, OLIVER AND THE SEAWIGS, CAKES IN SPACE, JINKS AND O’HARE FUNFAIR REPAIR and the creation inspiration that is the PUG-A-DOODLE-DOO BUMPER BOOK OF FUN. Never have I read a funnier kids’ activity book in my astonishingly long life.

It was there that I first acquired the sneaking suspicion that Philip and Sarah were building a subtly shared universe in which – at any unexpected moment! – you might meet much beloved, long-lost friends from previous adventures as guest stars in brand-new ones. Oh, my lovelies, that moment is now! Perhaps Kevin is not alone in living around the nebulous “wild, wet hills of the Outermost West” with its Outermost Coast and Outermost Sea. Who do you think you might become reacquainted with here?!

Clue: please bring shampoo! They’re all stinky and eww!

 

 

The blustery, rain-soaked action begins immediately as a preternaturally turbulent storm blows in from the Outermost Sea, scooping poor corpulent Kevin up out of his messy nest, and sweeping him far, far away to the towns and cities where ordinary people live until he bumps into the side of a very tall building. “Doof”! It’s a good job there’s a balcony.

Inside that building, in its topmost flat, live Max, his dad, his mum and his older sister Daisy who would prefer you call her Elivira, please, because she’s going through her gothic period (don’t we all).

Now, Max had always wanted a pet – a dog or a cat, or a bird-eating spider (guess who suggested that one) – but the flat was always deemed too cramped and tiny, without so much as a garden for even a small dog to do its ‘doings’ in. It’s the perfect size of a roly-poly flying pony, though, right?!

Of course, to begin with Max doesn’t know that it’s a roly-poly flying pony that’s landed like a hefty haggis outside his bedroom window. For a moment he’s fearful that it might be a fearsome polar bear.

“Don’t be silly, he told himself, how could a fearsome polar bear have got all the way up here?”

Or a pony, to be fair.

 

 

McIntyre’s startled, bright white, limp-winged, shivering and sopping-wet Kevin – eyes wide and clueless while caught in the flashlight – is a dripping masterpiece of lost and lonely forlorn fauna and I defy any of you with your melted hearts not to invite the poor creature indoors immediately, towel him down then wrap him in your duvet.

You might want to find him some biscuits.

“Quiet as a mouse, he opened the cupboard, opened the biscuit tin, and took out a custard cream. Then he took another one, because he thought a flying pony as far as Kevin might be able to manage two biscuits. Then he took a third, because he thought maybe he should have one himself to keep Kevin company. (Max was very thoughtful like that.)”

Of course Max’s torch battery is “going” – as in, dying – that’s what torch batteries do. Reeve nails this sort of everyday family life, like the biscuit tin (I’d forgotten we had one of those), Max’s “Swimming Things bag”, and that fact that parents have been saying “Yes dear” while paying no attention whatsoever to what you’ve been saying ever since Gerald Durrell’s mum. I love the animism in Reeve’s weather as well: the way the wind “leaned” against a window, or, later the sunlight coming down in “silvery fingers through the wave tops and tickled the shop signs” (italics, mine).

Ah, yes, the wave tops. I did mention, didn’t I, that this was a preternaturally turbulent storm?

 

 

Well, it was, for it blew in from the wild, wet Outermost Ocean flooding the city from its sewers to its shops, its bike lanes and its bus stops, almost to the rooftops, and sweeping in all sorts of strange sea creatures.

From very first page McIntyre effortlessly integrates her illustrations with the type-set prose so that it is not just a balanced, harmonious whole but a narrative fusion, seamlessly incorporating both into a single fluid stream. Here, however, she instinctively and strategically leaves areas of space in her illuminations, so that the words artfully framed by the sides of the skyscraper, forming what actually looks like substructure to the building!

 

 

Elsewhere she uses colour to consolidate an image so that it has no need for a line-drawn frame, but melds the individual components into a single, unified coherent whole, as if the Sea Monkeys were caught in a mousse mould then plonked out on the page, set in a gelatinous or at least aqueous blue mass.

 

 

Haha yes! The bickering Sea Monkeys are back! Those chittering, chattering, smelly little mentalists from OLIVER AND THE SEAWIGS have returned to pull faces, blow underwater raspberries and throw whiteboard rubbers at Mr. Mould, Max’s headmaster, now stranded on the school roof. Personally I’d leave him to it, but Max isn’t that sort of a lad, so it’s action stations, rescue elevations once the winged wonder’s got his old strength back. Because, honestly, if Mr. Mould thought that the little human monkeys he was used to teaching were loud and ill-disciplined, then this lot are totally bananas.

“The monkeys threw a few pencil sharpeners and things after him, just to make themselves feel better. Then they went back underwater and started writing rude words on the school walls, and they didn’t even spell them properly or bother to use capital letters and full stops; it was an absolute disgrace.”

 

 

Quite a lot of this takes place underwater as Max attempts to rescue some resuscitating custard creams from the supermarket biscuit aisle, encountering a granny down there in an aqualung, I kid you not. It’s underwater that I first spied our old mate Colin the Crab, who is renowned for getting around, admiring himself in a circular compact’s mirror. Page 67 – perhaps you can spot him earlier?

This is a carnival of cooped up, flood-fleeing neighbours, a romp and a riot, and a minor misadventure for Beyoncé and Neville, two guinea pigs caught in a tide of their own. It’s also a book about newly found friendship – about looking after each other and pulling together whatever the weather, for that’s what Max and Kevin do!

And it’s a little bit about belonging too.

 

 

Kevin, you see, comes from “wild, wet hills of the Outermost West”. Not Plymouth, nor Basingstoke, nor even the Dartmoor plains.

But somewhere wilder, wetter and even more westerly. Somewhere that’s way, way beyond.

He doesn’t belong in a city. Not really.

It’s here that Reeve and McIntyre’s early decision to set limits on Kevin’s anthropomorphic qualities pays true dividends. To begin with, it’s comical hearing Kevin do little more than repeat “Biscuits!” or “Custard Creams!” oh so covetously. Oh what a funny fella! But that’s just about the extent of his ability to communicate verbally, and I’m afraid that when you first find the poor pony pining near the flat-roof railing – staring out at the sunset, tail still, ears drooping, without the first clue as to where he actually came from, a full fifteen pages from the end – you’ll know instinctively where his silent animal instincts are taking him, and you might remember that Reeve and McIntyre did this to you once before, in PUGS OF THE FROZEN NORTH.

The teary, heart-break stuff, I mean.

 

 

For many more reviews, pleases see Page 45’s Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre section, especially THE NEW NEIGHBOURS hardcover and THE NEW NEIGHBOURS softcover for which we still have a few signed editions of a completely different bookplate also drawn by Sarah.

SLH

Buy The Legend of Kevin: A Roly-Poly Flying Pony Adventure s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Flat Filters (£6-00, self-published) by Chino Moya & Tal Brosh.

One of the best evocations of limbo I’ve ever read.

Not a void, certainly not an apocalypse, but a monotony, an inertia instead.  Yes, if there’s one word which distils the world this young man wakes up to, and the lines and colour with which it’s described, it’s supremely, superbly “inert”.

Here’s how we begin:

“It was too bright already.
“Strange.
“He used to wake up naturally when it was still dark.
“Fuck!
“He’d overslept.”

So far, so familiar – too familiar, perhaps! But the young man isn’t panicking.  He doesn’t appear to have a job. In fact, he doesn’t appear to have a future – he doesn’t reference it once – just a past.

I’m a little creeped out by that already.

 

 

“There was nothing out there.”

There really isn’t. Just one flat tone for sky, and a pale yellow ochre for not-sky.

“The buildings were gone. And the streets.
“The world wasn’t there anymore. Just a vast and empty plain.
“A big flat thing.”

The two colours could not have been better picked, and the wording below is perfect:

“It was made out of artificial sand or soil or something like it.
“The sky looked different too. It was like one specific blue pantone, no shades, one colour that probably had a name made out of letters and numbers.
“Only one colour.”

 

 

His flat – as he left it, falling asleep the night before – is the only thing left. The other apartments are all empty of objects and people and, as I say, there’s no future. Sure, he can squeeze out the single orange that’s left in his fridge, but when he turns on the taps, there’s nothing forthcoming.

Finally, there’s the sound. And, after reading this, it will come as no surprise that Spanish-born Chino Moya is a film-maker.

“And the silence. His flat wasn’t noisy anymore.
“No cars. No trains running right below the window.
“There was no sound at all.
“When there was silence in a film, there was still some sound. A room tone. That was what he’d learnt in film school. Now there was no tone.”

Once more, limbo and inertia.

 

 

Slowly, the young man begins to explore what’s left of his surroundings, assess his situation and reflect on his past.

Past and present, his expression barely changes.

SLH

Buy Flat Filters and read the Page 45 review here

Science Tales s/c (£16-99, Myriad) by Darryl Cunningham

New revised edition including an extended chapter on fracking, which for those not familiar with the term is slang for a relatively new gas and oil extraction technique, which has revitalised the fossil fuel industry in recent years. It’s clear this is a topic Darryl is especially passionate about exploring as he goes into great detail eloquently explaining the technique for the lay person, weighing up the technical pros and cons, before getting into his real concerns on the matter. The fact that, despite the genuine possibilities of us now being able to extract vast natural resources which were previously unviable in financial terms, there are some very serious safety concerns, with the potential for causing huge irreparable damage to the heath of a huge section of the population. That these concerns are being blithely swept under the carpet and ignored, indeed actively suppressed.

 

 

And precisely who is doing this, both in the UK and US, which are of course leading the way in fracking? Well, the titans of the gas and oil industry whose very deep pockets have, through campaign donations, other lobbying mechanisms and general old-school-tie chumminess, managed to ensure their chosen politicians of every stripe are steering the debate and more importantly legislation, in their desired direction.

For example, did you know that Lord Howell, an energy adviser at the Foreign Office is also president of the British Institute of Energy Economics, which is sponsored by Shell and BP? He’s also George Osborne’s father-in-law, a man who in 2012 cut wind energy subsidies by 10% whilst giving a 500 million pound a year tax break to offshore drilling. Perhaps more shocking is the case of Lord John Browne, 30% owner of the UK fracking company Cuadrilla, who is an unelected member of the Cabinet Office, with powers to appoint non-executive directors to government departments, including the Treasury and the Departments of Energy and Climate Change plus the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, as he sees fit. Conflict of interest, or just business as usual, you decide.

It’s an exposé which, whilst not remotely surprising to me, does sicken me even further that despite the appearance of us living in a democracy where we have control over the executive who make decisions on our behalf, supposedly for our benefit, it is a sham that ensures the same old snouts stay in the trough and damn the consequences. And let’s not fool ourselves into thinking there are any political alternatives available to us under the current voting system which would make a difference, because there are not. The mainstream political parties are all in bed with big business to a degree which is beyond disturbing, but until we start seriously dealing with the culture of corruption that pervades Westminster, that will never change.

So, are we all going to have to deal with the possible consequences to our health and the environment that Darryl outlines, which the fat cats keep lining their pockets? Probably, but as Darryl points out, the truth does eventually out, as the tobacco industry, another group that was extremely adept at manipulating the political landscape, eventually found out to their cost. Hopefully it’ll be somewhat quicker this time. And on a personal note, equally hopefully, Nuclear Fusion projects like the ITER test reactor, scheduled to be complete sometime around 2020, which will produce around 500 megawatts of output power for 50 megawatts of input power, i.e. ten times the amount of energy, will finally ensure the true clean energy boom begins in earnest, and fossil fuels can at last be consigned to history. Here’s hoping.

What follows below is my review of the previous edition without the fracking chapter.

This time around we find Darryl in full-on debunking mode, as he takes on the scientific lies, hoaxes and scams that annoy him the most, those being: electroconvulsive therapy, homeopathy…

 

 

… the moon landing, climate change, evolution…

 

 

… chiropractic…

 

 

… the MMR jab debacle and the general denial of irrefutable scientific evidence. I personally would have included shampoo adverts with their pseudo-science, made up chemical names and definitive surveys based on massive sample groups of errr…100 people, but that’s my own personal bugbear!

It’s well researched by Darryl as in each case he goes to great length to not only show how preposterous the various claims are, but also how just unreliable the particular people making those assertions are themselves, and in the case of climate change the infinitely more sinister aspect of just who it is that’s funding the idiots. But this is no diatribe, instead it’s a meticulous picking apart of the ridiculous web of half-baked facts and fiction that’s often woven around one or two grains of truth, usually completely taken and distorted totally out of context, to prove his case. Anyone who enjoyed Darryl’s previous work, PSYCHIATRIC TALES, which was a Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month, will definitely enjoy this. Darryl also employs the same understated clinical yet also slightly comical art style this time around, once again inserting himself as a talking head from time to time for additional narrational emphasis.

Please pop Darryl Cunningham into our search engine for subsequent works, reviewed.

JR

Buy Science Tales s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Fantastic Four: Epic Collection vol 4 – The Mystery Of The Black Panther (£35-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby.

A gloriously structured cover heralds the first-ever appearance of the BLACK PANTHER.

Other classic tales include Dr. Victor Von Doom Esq. relieving the Silver Surfer of his Power Cosmic.

“I’ll just borrow this, if you don’t mind.
“I swear to God, I’ll bring it back on Sunday after church.”

The thing is, Dr. Victor Von Doom Esq. doesn’t even go to church on Sundays. He has a lazy old lie-in, eating crumpets and jam.

For somewhat more in-depth analysis of early Marvel adventures and a sizzle of saucy satire, please see the previous three FANTASTIC FOUR EPIC COLLECTIONS, AVENGERS EPIC COLLECTIONS and the AMAZING SPIDER-MAN EPIC COLLECTIONS. If only they’d keep them in print.

Collects FANTASTIC FOUR (1961) #52-67 and ANNUAL #4-5, and material from NOT BRAND ECHH #1 and #5

SLH

Buy Fantastic Four: Epic Collection vol 4 – The Mystery Of The Black Panther and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Grass (£22-50, Drawn & Quarterly) by Keum Suk Gendry-Kim

Heathen vol 2 (£13-99, Vault Comics) by Natasha Alterici

The Collected Toppi vol 2: North America h/c (£22-99, Magnetic Press) by Sergio Toppi

Americana (£16-99, Nobrow) by Luke Healy

Judge Dredd: Small House s/c (£9-99, Rebellion) by Rob Williams & Henry Flint

Bloodborne vol 3: Song Of Crows s/c (£13-99, Titan) by Alex Kot & Piotr Kowalski

Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor s/c (£13-99, Titan) by Jody Houser & Rachael Stott, various

Jim Henson’s Beneath The Dark Crystal vol 2 h/c (£18-99, Archaia) by Adam Smith & Alexandria Huntington

Batman: Batman Who Laughs h/c (£24-99, DC) by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV &  Jock

Captain Marvel vol 1: Re-Entry s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Kelly Thompson & Carmen Nunez Carnero, Annapaola Martello

Fantastic Four By Hickman Complete Collection vol 2 s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Neil Edwards, various

Star Wars: Vader – Dark Visions s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Dennis Hallum & Paolo Villanelli

War Of Realms: Journey Into Mystery s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Clint McElroy & Andre Araujo

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews August 2019 week three

August 21st, 2019

Featuring Monster, Master, Omnibus & Colour Collections from Kurt Busiek, Alex Ross, Garth Ennis, Darick Robertson, Tsutomu Nihei, Bryan Lee O’ Malley.

Marvels (Monster-Sized) h/c (£67-99, Marvel) by Kurt Busiek & Alex Ross.

 

 

To coincide with the release of the all-new MARVELS EPILOGUE (£4-25) which honestly is the most delightful reprise, revisiting the events in UNCANNY X-MEN #98 (see X-MEN EPIC COLLECTION: SECOND GENESIS) surrounding a snow-blown Rockerfeller Plaza just before Christmas from a bystander’s point of view, comes this staggering new edition of the original MARVELS 4-parter plus prologue measuring a full 21 x 14 inches to showcase the gloriously lambent painted art by Alex Ross.

I suspect editorial chose this particular cover to draw the eye upwards, so emphasising its height. I took a photo of it against the regular American-comic-sized MARVELS EPILOGUE so you can see the scale for yourselves.

 

 

A thoughtful and poignant history of the innocent age of the Marvel Universe which would be any newcomer’s perfect introduction to that company’s catalogue, this tells the tale of America at large and a photojournalist in particular witnessing the arrival in their midst of gods, aliens, metahumans, Inhumans, mutants, hybrids and a brave young man in a black-ribbed, red and blue suit who was destined to see the love of his life die after being thrown from a bridge by a sociopathic multimillionaire, her neck snapped by the poor, unfortunate suitor’s very own web line.

At which point the innocence is over.

 

 

Long before Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee’s exceptionally touching and eloquent INHUMANS, this was one of the very first comics which Marvel released with an impressive degree of literacy, other than projects published on its Epic label, Jim Starlin’s WARLOCK and THE DEATH OF CAPTAIN MARVEL.

In addition, it saw painter Alex Ross’s rise to critical acclaim, and justly so. Unlike many painters who’ve brought their brush to this medium, Alex Ross has a deft, luminous touch which allows your eye to drift across even his most intricate pages as sequential art is supposed to.

 

 

Do please check out Ross’s work in KINGDOM COME and JUSTICE (that one over Dougie Braithwaite’s pencils) – cracking stories, both – and the JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE WORLD’S GREATEST SUPERHEROES collection of short stories about whose content I’m a bit more ambivalent.

Along with ASTRO CITY and SUPERMAN: SECRET IDENTITY this has also been Kurt Busiek’s finest hour to date, as he observed the plight of individuals from ground-level, looking upwards into the sky, a perspective Ross was at great pains to duplicate, as the extensive interviews in the back of MARVELS EPILOGUE makes abundantly clear.

It’s a beautiful book which manages, extraordinarily, to recapture the absolute, slack-jawed awe one felt as a four-year-old on first beholding a superhero splashed across a comicbook cover, wondering what on earth these colourful creatures were, and where they came from.

 

 

Which is precisely what an equally gobsmacked and understandably tremulous public does throughout this surprisingly pensive series…

Meanwhile, yeah, this particular edition is absolutely massive.

SLH

Buy Marvels (Monster-Sized) h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Boys Omnibus vol 1 (£26-99, Dynamite) by Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson.

Back in print in time for the prime-time TV series…

“Unadulterated carnage”

Yeah, that pretty much sums it up, cheers.

From the writer of PREACHER, PUNISHER MAX and WAR STORIES and the artist on Warren Ellis’s TRANSMETROPOLITAN comes THE BOYS, a darkly satirical series of adults-only books from the POV of a Machiavellian British bruiser who is exceedingly angry at everything regarding the nature of above-the-law superheroes, their suffocating male hegemony, and their history of publication along with the genre’s real-life, attendant, corporate propaganda.

Writer and comedian Simon Pegg provides the introduction in which he offers the experience that, as an actor, you rarely switch on the TV to find yourself starring in a series you hadn’t performed for. Errrmmm… will he, now that this has been commissioned for that very medium? He could probably name his price.

I mention all this because Simon Pegg – or rather a character with his exact likeness – is the star of this particular sequential-art show in which his love-life (or the love of his life) is quite literally torn apart by a couple of squabbling super-freaks in the first few pages.

Great timing, that panel, but I’ll leave you to see its exceptional execution for yourselves.

 

 

 

This makes him easy pickings for Billy Butcher, a man with a mission to bring down the high-and-mighty but secretly down-and-dirty super-thugs and super-sluts who enjoy the adulation of millions along with the support of the authorities, yet whose team leaders like The Homelander emotionally and sexually abuse their fresher female and indeed male cohorts.

Together with The Frenchman, Mother’s Milk, The Female and Wee Hughie (the naive Pegg-alike), Billy Butcher embarks on his first new mission to covertly film a team of teens in the all-together, doing the unmentionable.

Billy Butcher’s not going to expose them, though. Not in the way that they expose themselves. He’s going to blackmail them into self-destructing in mass-media public. It’s about making these nasty, hypocritical, conceited celebrities with their polished media profiles squirm and turn on each other.

So it’s still rather topical, I would have thought.

 

 

 

Little is left to the imagination as both Garth and Ennis trawl through an A-to-Z of what Wertham worried about, and which Marvel and DC have never allowed to be shown in superhero comics. It’s little surprise, therefore, that DC – originally slated to publish THE BOYS – dropped this title. The only astonishing thing is that it took them so long.

It’s crude, it’s lewd, but the lascivious relish is infectious, and you wait to see what happens when The Boys start climbing the ladder to take on the equivalent of the Justice League of America.

Now they won’t go down so easily – except on each other.

Collects #1-#15.

SLH

Buy The Boys Omnibus vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Knights Of Sidonia vol 1 (Master Edition) (£29-99, Vertical) by Tsutomu Nihei…

“A cluster ship has appeared in threat range.

“The Gaunas once again threaten us.

“There is no chance for dialogue.

“There is no chance they will let us by, either.

“The one means of mankind’s survival is the stern use of force.”

Fans of the frenzied, over-drive, sci-fi-meets-zombies experience, replete with big motorcycles, even bigger guns (and a talking bear) that was BIOMEGA, fall to your knees and rejoice, because here comes another sci-fi / horror mash-up from creator Tsutomu ABARA / APOSIMZ / BLAME! Nihei that’s pretty much guaranteed to please you.

Firstly, I have no idea why there is the titular and phonetically inaccurate reference to the 2006 Muse track Knights Of Cydonia, given the Muse reference was to the area on Mars where the so-called face of Mars was observed, but still, perhaps Nihei is a modern prog rock fan? And perhaps the translator was unaware of the reference?!

Sidonia is, though, the name of the lone seed ship carrying the future of humanity, floating through the space between galaxies since the destruction of our solar system by weird alien life forms called Gaunas, who bear more than a passing resemblance to the amorphous evil guys from BIOMEGA just in space.

 

 

Enter our hero Nagate, who has spent his entire childhood in the depths of the huge vessel, never seeing another living soul except for his now-deceased relative.

 

 

Forced to the upper levels whilst desperately scavenging for food, he encounters an entire civilisation he was previously completely unaware of. A civilisation fighting for its very existence against the vast alien gooey blob things.

Fortunately for everyone all Nagate had to mis-spend his youth on was a simulator of one of the Sidonia’s transformer-like fighters. Obviously having logged a fair few hours in there, it’s fair to say his giant fighty robot technique is pretty slick. Time for the real thing…

Just great fun, written at a (slightly) slower pace than BIOMEGA, which allows for some character development and intriguing side-plot building.

 

 

The art is pretty much identical to BIOMEGA and there are definitely some amusing little nods to that work, including amongst other things, a talking bear.

 

 

Collects the first two and a half smaller volumes because why not?!

JR

Buy Knights Of Sidonia vol 1 (Master Edition) and read the Page 45 review here

Scott Pilgrim Colour Collection vol 3 s/c (£26-99, Oni) by Bryan Lee O’ Malley.

Contains the final two SCOTT PILGRIM colour hardcovers

Scott Pilgrim vol 5 h/c:

“Hey Ramona… have you ever dated anyone that wasn’t evil?”

“Once, this guy Doug. He was kind of a dick, though.”

Yes, he’s back! World class slacker and most oblivious hero of all time, Scott Pilgrim is in for some double trouble!

This volume kicks off with Scott’s birthday and him solemnly vowing to be the best 24-year-old ever, before going straight into evil overdrive with the entrance of Ramona’s — [redacted – ed.]

But will his martial skills be enough to save his relationship with Ramona? Are they even destined to be together after she confesses to an aghast Scott she doesn’t even like his band Sex Bob-omb?

 

 

Is she really the clean-cut heroine she seems to be? Why does her head sometimes start glowing?!! Will Scott ever realise Kim Pine, his oldest and dearest friend, is still in love with him!?!?! Dare they tell Ramona about Scott’s innocent sleep-over as he forgets his key for Ramona’s apartment yet again?!!!

 

 

Will Steven ‘The Talent’ Stills finally finish mixing the Sex Bob-omb album? Just who is Wallace’s mysterious new boyfriend? Can Knives Chau ever get over Scott and stop being so goddamn annoying and clingy? And will Young Neil ever find someone who’ll actually just go out with him?

 

 

Ahhhh, so many different plot strands tangling, weaving and inter-twining this time around as Bryan Lee O’Malley skilfully mixes things up yet again to mangle Scott’s heart-strings as well as our own and leave us wondering exactly what happy ending it is we all want to see.

JR

Scott Pilgrim vol 6 h/c:

From the creator of SECONDS, LOST AT SEA comes the blistering finale!

Flashbacks can come in the form of (highly unreliable!) Memory Cam stills and I think O’Malley invented the lobbed-in labels, the character summary or status boxes which so many other writers have emulated since:

“Julie P (the original and best)”

“Sandra (not the original)”

“Monique (not the best)”

Scott is in love with Ramona and he’s defeated six of her seven evil exes in combat – thereby turning them into a shower of shiny gold coins – with only Gideon to go.

 

 

But for the moment Ramona’s gone missing and it’s left him in a zombie fugue state, dribbling away on a handheld video game.

 

 

Now it’s time for Scott’s own exes to sort the silly boy out in time for Scott, Gideon Graves, Envy Adams and Romona Flowers to have a final showdown while gay ex-flatmate Wallace sits boozed up and rolling his eyes sardonically on the sidelines. There may be casualties: Wallace’s tongue is very sharp.

As for the audience, where would they be without their mobile phones?

“Is that chick a dude?”

“I’m googling her as we speak.”

Fight!

“Is that chick dead?”

“I’m updating her Wikipedia page as we speak.”

Will Scott win through?

He’s almost learned how to tie his own shoelaces…

Plus, he’s finally levelled up, earning the Power Of Love which comes with a flaming sword: +5 for slashiness.

That may help.

SLH

Buy Scott Pilgrim Colour Collection vol 3 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Ophiuchus s/c (£14-99, Image) by Alexis Leriger De La Plante, Natasha Tara Petrovic

The Cleaner: Man Of Destiny #1 (£2-99) by Fraser Geesin

The Cleaner: Man Of Destiny #2 (£2-99) by Fraser Geesin

The Cleaner: Man Of Destiny #3 (£2-99) by Fraser Geesin

The Cleaner: Man Of Destiny #4 (£2-99) by Fraser Geesin

Debian Perl Digital Detective Book 1: Memory Thief (£11-99, Lion Forge) by Melanie Hillario, Lauren Davis & Kathryn Longua

Flat Filters (£6-00) by Chino Moya & Tal Brosh

Grimoire Noir s/c (£13-99, FirstSecond) by Vera Greentea & Yana Bogatch

Kevin’s Great Escape: A Roly-Poly Flying Pony Adventure h/c (£8-99, Oxford Press) by Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre

The Legend of Kevin: A Roly-Poly Flying Pony Adventure s/c (£6-99, Oxford Press) by Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre

The Night h/c (£21-99, Titan) by Philippe Druillet

No Ivy League s/c (£13-99, Lion Forge) by Hazel Reed Newlevant

Rust Belt s/c (£16-99, Secret Acres) by Sean Knickerbocker

Science Tales s/c (£16-99, Myriad) by Darryl Cunningham

Snow, Glass, Apples h/c (£14-99, Headline) by Neil Gaiman & Colleen Doran

Star Wars vol 11: Scourging Of Shu-Torun (£15-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Andrea Broccardo, Angel Unzueta

Stay h/c (£17-99, Lion Forge) by Lewis Trondheim & Hubert Chevillard

Vivisectionary: A Convocation Of Biological Art h/c (£21-99, Fantagraphics) by Kate Lacour

Fantastic Four: Epic Collection vol 4 – The Mystery Of The Black Panther (£35-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

My Hero Academia Smash!! vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Hirofumi Neda

My Hero Academia vol 20 (£6-99, Viz) by Kohei Horikoshi

One Piece vol 91 (£6-99, Viz) by Eiichiro Oda

One-Punch Man vol 17 (£6-99, Viz) by One & Yusuke Murata

 

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews August 2019 week two

August 14th, 2019

Featuring Jiro Taniguchi, Ana Galvan, Tommi Musturi, Bryan Lee O’ Malley.

Sky Hawk s/c (£18-99, Fanfare Ponent Mon) by Jiro Taniguchi…

“When I was thirteen… I heard the call of Wakan Tanka, the Great Spirit.
“For three days and three nights, with no sleep or food, I prayed on Paha Sapa, the sacred Black Hills.
“Through deep meditation I communed with a holy power… and was able to have a divine vision.
“It was a message which showed me the path which was to lead my life.
“A vision of the future.
“In my dream I saw a figure which was half man, half horse.
“The creature approached and spoke to me.
“Listen well. You must not paint your face when you enter into battle.
“And, at the end of the battle, you must not take any war trophies from the defeated.
“When you follow this path… enemy arrows and bullets… will only graze you.
“When you lead Oglala warriors into battle, no storm will defeat you.
“And then, in the distant sky where the spirit departed… I saw a pair of shooting stars.
“I could never understand… what that meant for all these years.
“But now, at long last… I am able to understand them.
“Hiko. Manzo. They were you two.”

Jiro SUMMIT OF THE GODS / A DISTANT NEIGHBOURHOOD / A ZOO IN WINTER / FURARI / GUARDIANS OF THE LOUVRE Taniguichi had wanted to draw a Western for over twenty years, but seemingly it was felt by publishers that there would be little interest from his domestic audience. Until he hit on the idea of incorporating Japanese central characters. Having discovered the first Japanese migrants to the US included some of the formerly powerful Aizu clan he excitedly began to formulate his story. Here’s the Edict from the publisher to educate us further…

“Defeated samurai Hikosaburo and Manzo are exiled from Japan during the Boshin War in 1868 as the new Meiji government took hold of power in the country. They travel to North America and settle in the mountains of Crow territory.

One day Hikosaburo encounters a young native woman who has just given birth hidden in the scrub. Called Running Deer, she tells of how she escaped from two white traders who had ‘bought’ her, and they soon come looking for their possession.

Taniguchi’s well-researched detail and meticulous artwork reveal an accurate portrayal of the ‘Indian Wars’ of the period, including the infamous Little Big Horn encounter, and present a fascinating view of the daily lives and relationships of the Oglalas, and how the code of honour compares to that of the Samurai.”

 

 

It makes such perfect sense, I’m slightly surprised no one had thought of this particular idea before. Though you could argue it is a riff on the 1988 novella Dances With Wolves which spawned the hit film about an American soldier who goes full Native.

As you might expect, Taniguichi executes this story, both in terms of plot and artistically, with the precision of a swooshing katana cleanly removing an opponent’s head from atop their shoulders. Our two rōnin find themselves adrift both culturally and spiritually in this strange new land until their deeply held Bushidō moral code changes the course of their lives forever during a chance encounter. Taken in by the Oglala tribe and finding much in common with their new hosts, Hiko and Manzo are eventually reborn as the warriors Winds Wolf and Sky Hawk.

Unfortunately for them, the American army forces led by one cocky George Armstrong Custer, ostensibly protecting the ever-advancing railroad workforce teams, are about to completely shatter their new found sense of peace.

 

 

Before too long, it begins to dawn on our displaced duo that perhaps they have ended up in another fight which they can’t possibly win…

 

 

“Many warriors are dead. But… we still can’t drive the whites out of the Black Hills.
“From time to time… I no longer understand just what it is I’m fighting against.
“Actually… I think their numbers are increasing.
“It might be that it’s us that are being driven into a corner.
“I can no longer clearly see the shape of the enemy we’re meant to constantly be striking at.
“Maybe because it’s just too massive?
“I can’t help but feel like we’re going to be swept up in a maelstrom of black clouds.
“Right now… it’s like it was back in the past.
“It feels like the battle of Aizu in the Boshin Civil War…
“When we were forced into a siege… and brought to bay.”

“Are you saying this will be a losing battle too?”

“That… I don’t know. But… no more running away.”
“Of course. I’m resolved to that. My bones will be buried here as an Oglala warrior.”

Near note perfect writing as always from Taniguichi, your heart will bleed for the repeated injustices dispensed to the indigenous population in the name of ‘progress’. Still, despite the inevitable conclusion, he demonstrates their stoic resolute heroism and that of Hiko and Manzo as their comrades-in-arms, in the face of the increasingly insurmountable odds. As a way of life at one with nature and practised for generations was summarily destroyed by the hegemonising newcomers with barely an afterthought.

Still, Custer eventually got what he deserved and the Battle of The Little Bighorn as depicted here will have you practically swinging every tomahawk and katana alongside the real good guys as it gradually begins to dawn upon Custer that his enormous ego might just have got the better of him.

 

 

Indeed, his deep-seated arrogance in underestimating the brave warriors deliciously turned out to be the very cause of his not-so-sad demise. It was of course to no avail in the long run, but I’m pretty sure it felt rather good to those involved massacring him and every last man in his command at the time of his fabled last stand. I enjoyed reading this obviously fictionalised take on it immensely too!

JR

Buy Sky Hawk and read the Page 45 review here

Press Enter To Continue h/c (£17-99, Fantagraphics) by Ana Galvan…

“I think it’s an organisation devoted to planting images in human minds.
“They create distinct masters and project into individuals the image that best fits their memories and obsessions.
“Through a visually transmitted computer virus, based on brain-sensitive algorithms, they continue to insert these made-up memories into the minds of certain people.”
“Well, why are they doing this? Why me?”
“Their viruses only manage to alter the minds of people with deterioration in the left hippocampus, which is where memory and delusion meet. This deterioration is usually caused by an injury or a traumatic experience.
“With this they want to make them go crazy and commit suicide.”
“What?”
“My theory is that they want us to disappear a third of the planet’s population without us noticing. No traces or suspicions.
“For the overpopulation problem, you know…?
“And the most incredible part? The government might be behind everything…”
“But that’s madness.”

 

 

Is it though really…? I mean, if the planet was in serious danger of being overpopulated, I am pretty sure certain governments *might* have some crackpot scheme for dealing with it… On that note, here is the publisher to present their theory as to why it is perfectly plausible to believe Ana Galvan’s theory that the powers that be are out to off a third of us. Though as long that third doesn’t include any discerning comics readers we should be okay…

“Like a candy-coloured Black Mirror episode, Spanish cartoonist Ana Galvan’s English language debut utilizes florescent colours to create a series of short stories that intertwine and explore the dehumanizing effects of contemporary society.

 

 

Galvan’s characters navigate a world where government departments brutalize the people, information is mined like gold and suicide is a tool to manage overpopulation. Galvan’s future is a logical extension of the present, where the malice of large corporations manifests itself in everyday ways.”

 

 

I think the Black Mirror analogy is spot on actually as Galvan just gently stretches the bounds of believability with a kaleidoscopic finger probe to the brain of the reader. And I do mean gently. For this is subtle psychic sinkhole suck-you-in surreal which lures you down the conspiracy theory rabbit hole before you realise what’s happening.

 

 

Artistically this is like a fine blend of Roman VANISHING ACT Muradov, Oliver PARALLEL LIVES Schrauwen and George GHOSTS, ETC. Wylesol. The strict geometry, absence of character facial features and the glorious glowing colours and textures make a very strong impression upon the synapses. Almost as though Galvan is trying to brainwash us readers with her imagery… 

JR

Buy Press Enter To Continue h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Anthology Of Mind (£22-99, Fantagraphics) by Tommi Musturi…

“The blood of Christ is dripping through my ears.”
“Sit on my face and tell me that you love me.”

“Chess players’ expanded brains are working at top speed.”

Haha, the two pages of ‘Italo Sports’ two panel gag strips had me spluttering my coffee out. Before we go any further, here’s the publisher’s explanation for this bulging bag of mad from one of the most mental minds working in comics today…

“This anthology of short stories looks like the work of many cartoonists but is actually that of Finnish cartoonist Tommi Musturi. The Anthology of Mind is a tour de force of stylistic exploration and a window into the brain of one of the most creatively fearless cartoonists working today.

‘Style is a form of fear – fear of change, fear of loss, and fear of being different,’ according to the author.

In The Anthology of Mind, Musturi confronts this fear head-on with one of the most vital and visually stunning collections of short comics in recent memory.”

I first came across Tommi Musturi thanks to John Porcellino, who was stocking one of the component parts of what would go on to be collected as the superb THE BOOK OF HOPE. I loved his dry wit, absurdist humour, and indeed his artistic style. So much so, then when he subsequently released SIMPLY SAMUEL, I was a little nonplussed by how different it was, both in art and storytelling terms. I guess I had wanted, and expected, more of the same.

So this collection of material spectacularly highlights I genuinely didn’t have a clue just how diverse Tommi’s output is. His quote above clearly demonstrates the reasoning behind why in 38 stories over nearly 120 pages there is barely a single concrete repetition of artistic style. Yes, there are some variations on a theme artistically, but aside from Bryan Talbot, I am hard pushed to think of such a comprehensively chameleonic creator.

 

 

In terms of storytelling, Tommi clearly has a penchant for the surreal and the absurd and definitely excels in combining the two. I wouldn’t necessarily clarify a lot of this material as an easy read but if you are a fan of the experimental, with heavy emphasis on the mental, I think you will find this anthology highly amusing and wryly entertaining.

JR

Buy The Anthology Of Mind and read the Page 45 review here

Scott Pilgrim Colour Collection vol 2 s/c (£26-99, Oni) by Bryan Lee O’ Malley.

Scott Pilgrim lives with his gay housemate, Wallace, for whom dry, sly mockery is a default setting.

Also: taking his pants off.

“Why are your pants off?! Stop taking your pants off all the time!!”
“It’s hot! Also? I’m hot, so enjoy it while you can.”
“Mumble, mumble… scarred for life…”

British readers: ‘pants’ means something different in North America.

SCOTT PILGRIM was the coolest comic on Earth since its very first venture, and if you’ve never tried it, then you need Scott Pilgrim in your life.

There are no exceptions. This means that you’re not one of them.

They don’t exist; you do!

So that’ll be £26-99, please.

Scott is clueless, unemployed and potentially unemployable. For one, his girlfriend’s evil exes are constantly threatening to do Nintendo-style battle with him which can be pretty disruptive to most work schedules.

 

 

Although he’s dated Ramona for three books already, he’s yet to use the “L” word on her.

 

 

Here’s his trouser-less room-mate Wallace again, asking if he’s used it:

“The L-word? You mean… lesbian?”
“Uh… no. The other L-word.”
“…?”
“Okay, uh, it’s “love”. I wasn’t trying to trick you or anything.”
“What? Have I said it? To her? Sort of. Almost. No. Is it important?”
“I don’t know, guy, but your Mom says it to me all the time.”

Wallace takes a big, long slurp from his drink.

 

 

These books have a logic all of their own, for when I say Scott has to battle Ramona’s evil exes in between band practices, he does: using drinks for Level-Ups, gaining Experience Points from work and – if Scott manages to get it together in time – even a flaming sword when he learns The Power Of Love. He’s going to need it as well, as the ominous Gideon sub-plot grows thicker…

O’Malley hasn’t even begun to run out of ideas: Scott’s head poking out from the zip of a small, subspace handbag? Genius! The best book yet, with a joyous and inventive cartooning that gets slicker and slicker.

 

 

Even if Scott doesn’t.

“Where’s Julie tonight?”
“I dunno. She hates me. Where’s Ramona?”
“She’s at home tonight and she likes me very much.”
“Have you said the L-word yet?”
“Why is everyone obsessed with lesbians?!”

Contains SCOTT PILGRIM colour hardcovers 3 & 4.

SLH

Buy Scott Pilgrim Colour Collection vol 2 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Fence vol 3 (£10-99, Boom!) by C.S. Pacat & Johanna the Mad

H.P. Lovecraft’s The Hound And Other Stories (£10-99, Dark Horse) by Gou Tanabe

Lightstep s/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Mirko Topalski & Milos Slavkovic

The Boys Omnibus vol 1 (£26-99, Dynamite) by Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson

The Boys Omnibus vol 2 (£26-99, Dynamite) by Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson, John Higgins

The Boys Omnibus vol 3 (£26-99, Dynamite) by Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson

Batman / Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II s/c (£14-99, DC) by James Tynion IV, Ryan Ferrier & Freddie Williams II

Amazing Spider-Man vol 4: Hunted s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Nick Spencer & Ryan Ottley, various

Guardians Of The Galaxy vol 1: The Final Gauntlet s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Donny Cates & Geoff Shaw

The War Of The Realms s/c (£26-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Russell Dauterman

Attack On Titan vol 28 (£6-99, Viz) by Hajime Isayama

Knights Of Sidonia vol 1 (Master Edition) (£29-99, Vertical) by Tsutomu Nihei

Vampire Knight: Memories vol 3 (£6-99, Viz) by Matsuri Hino

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews August 2019 week one

August 7th, 2019

Featuring Kate Charlesworth, John Allison, Bryan Lee O’Malley, Mark Millar, Rafael Albuquerque, Chip Zdarsky, Carlos Magno, Butch Guice

Sensible Footwear, A Girl’s Guide (£17-99, Myriad) by Kate Charlesworth.

“FEMINISM IS THE RADICAL IDEA THAT WOMEN ARE PEOPLE”

What a superbly structured, brilliant but biting history and vital entertainment this is!

Shoes! Shoes! Sensible shoes!

You are hereby ever so warmly invited to walk a mile or twenty-six in somebody else’s – Kate Charlesworth’s and the growing LGBT+ community’s – in a personal insight, education and entertainment spanning 70 years from the 1950s onwards!

All education should be an entertainment and this one comes vibrant in colour, comedy and variety without a po face in sight:

Yes, Cinders!” it proudly proclaims on its title page, “You shall go to the Rugmunchers’ Ball!”

It is laugh! It’s a riot! It is a genuine milestone.

 

 

It is a declaration of unequivocal and inalienable pride and ownership, as well as an acknowledgement of childhood innocence and naivety which is overwhelmingly inclusive because, hey, weren’t we all – gay or straight – utterly baffled and confused aged 5, 7, 9 or 11 either by what others have got going on down there or by increasingly wild, schoolyard hearsay when it came to matters of love and sexual congress? Of course we were!

 

 

You’ll be privy to Kate’s own mystification then awkward, uh-oh education; the disinformation then elucidation; timidity, discovery, further confusion and gradually figuring it out. It’s never a straight learning curve, is it? Now imagine all that… before the age of internet information! Before the love that dared not speak its name spoke its name! Before you might know where to go, or whom you could confide in, ever so carefully even those closest to you!

Because ostracism is a bitch, and its prospect’s pretty daunting; potentially even more so when they’re your friends.

 

 

But this is mischievous, it’s irreverent and I did promise you “variety”. I meant it in both senses for as well as a personal reflection – shared between four fast friends in the present day – of growing up gay in sequences artfully differentiated in both line-style and colour, this is a pageant of past performers who paved our way in one way or another (Divine, Dusty Springfield, David Bowie, Josephine Baker, Tom Robinson, Gay Sweatshop, Rhona Cameron, April Ashley, Dana International, The Pet Shop Boys, Sandi Toksvig, Nancy Spain and so many more) and if you’re a Gilbert & Sullivan fan then Charlesworth pays tribute with her own Three-Act gala performance of several “lost” compositions based on extant tunes which could not be more witty in their word-play, delivery, or in the way that they repurpose each musical play for their larger-than-life stroll down the local dykes’ bar of yore with all its behavioural idiosyncrasies and points or order, characters, customs and politics.

They could take some finding back in the bad old days – and they could be rough!

 

 

Let us be clear, however: there is so much that’s sobering to be learned or recalled about the shit which we’ve been subjected to over these specific decades plus the courageous and enterprising inroads against social adversity and legal persecution / prosecution which pioneering souls far braver than I have turned from vindictiveness, ingratitude or invisibility into official recognition in terms of equality, individuality and outright acclaim.

Take shy Alan Turing, the mathematician who historians now estimate was “personally responsible for shortening the Second World War by two years” with his breaking of the Germans’ Enigma Machine messages. How many millions of lives did he save? Arrested then trawled through the courts simply because he was gay – for being caught having a consensual affair with a 19-year-old man who then robbed him – Turing was sentenced to chemical castration “which made him fat, impotent and, worse, affected his ability to think and concentrate”.

His inability to think and concentrate…

He committed suicide.

“Prime Minister Gordon Brown officially apologised for Turing’s treatment in 2009, and in 2013 he was granted a Royal Pardon. In 2017 this posthumous pardon was extended to thousands of gay men.”

Trenchantly, one of the Charlesworth’s best friends there interjects: “’Forgiving’ us? We did nothing wrong!”

And I adore all this solidarity: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex, and asexual or allied, plus, plus, plus we are all in this together.

Alan Turing is about to appear on the next generation of £50 notes.

But if the last 50 years has taught me anything, it’s that progress towards that which is even bog-standard enlightenment can never be taken for granted – just look at today’s news – so we still need to stand up and be counted and embrace diversity in all the joy which it grants us otherwise the bullies on the high street, down the back streets, in the media and in legislature win, and we are all reduced to a powerless, unquestioning, homogenous hole.

 

 

Badges! Don’t you love badges?

I do love badges, and Kate Charlesworth reminds us of so many I’d forgotten by scattering them across the nuggets of history interspersed between the autobiographical narrative (where chronologically or thematically appropriate) in single or double-page info-burst collages, mostly line-drawn from photos so as to maintain the mood.

One of my all-time favourites is “FEMINISM IS THE RADICAL IDEA THAT WOMEN ARE PEOPLE”. It’s not a big ask, is it?

My best friend Anita wore a badge proposing that “9 out of 10 men are bisexual”, knowing full well that so many post-punk lads wouldn’t be able to resist declaring they weren’t. “Ah,” she’d smile quietly, delightedly, “Then you must be one of the ONE in 10”.

Also books, plays and films: you’ll have quite the reading list when you finish this, should you want seminal works to watch out for!

 

 

And so to the story of Kate Charlesworth herself, co-creator with Mary and Bryan Talbot of SALLY HEATHCOTE SUFFRAGETTE and full creator of Aunty Studs, jacket-studded star of the strips which she sold to City Limits then later The Pink Paper, and from which she derives her Twitter handle.

She was born in Barnsley, Easter Sunday 1950, when the nurse was said to say:

“’The child that is born on the Sabbath Day is bonny and blithe, good and gay!’”

Sometime in the 1980s, and her Mum’s leafing somewhat unhappy through the family photo album:

“Oh, well. At least you were good.”

They probably need to have that conversation. Or perhaps it’ll be best if they didn’t.

 

 

Kate’s early years are narrated in soft, grey, pencil-and-wash focus with delicate colours picking out details as she brandishes wooden swords, rakes saws across lawns, admires military parades or bangs nails into planks to fashion a carpentry reproduction of the HMS Birmingham. Mum (Joan) isn’t impressed but Dad (Harold) is much more relaxed.

“Nay, she’ll be reyt!” is his cheerful refrain.

Then there’s the secret stuff you do with in the shed, tent or some other sort of den. You didn’t?! I did! Kate makes Colin scream. “I was always hands-on.”

School years with their inevitable, attendant humiliations are rendered as a girls’ comic complete with their telling Ben-Day dots, her teen wardrobe playfully parodied as a paper-doll page. Gradually, as Charlesworth grows older, the pencils become sharper then delineated in ink, the memories perhaps more permanent, clearer and less fragmented.

 

 

Subtly, this helps differentiate between the time periods as an intriguing, wider, substantial, troubled and at times troubling family history unfurls, going all the way back to Kate’s maternal Grandma, thence forward once more to her Mum. Memories of Dianna Rigg in ‘The Avengers’ catalyse another, much later on, during a visit to see her perform in a musical:

“Love, loss, vaudeville. Pain, angst, tears.”
“Why d’you always have to say something miserable, Kathryn?”
“It’s Stephen Sondheim, Ma! It’s the law! Besides, I’ve already seen it three times.”

During these many mother-and-daughter outings in all kinds of environments, mother Joan can flip swiftly from disapproval to animated enjoyment, depending on what’s distracting her. Of Diana Rigg, strutting her high-heeled, split-dress stuff, she cannot help but declare,  “Well! She’s certainly managed to keep her legs!”

And it seems a puzzle because Joan’s reactions are unpredictable, all over the place, basking in company you’d suspect she’d flinch from, yet at other times growing distant, walling herself off….

Anyway, eventually it’s off to art college in Manchester during the late ‘60s and it’s time for family to take a temporary back seat while fresh friends are made, digs are dug or not dug (and so swiftly swapped), and all the metropolis has to offer is explored along with Kate’s tentatively emerging thoughts and feelings.

 

 

That we begin the graphic novel in Teneriffe, 2016, with Kate hooked up not with Ness but Dianne (and, along with friend Wren, all basking joyfully in the brightest of rainbow-coloured combos) cleverly adds a level of eager anticipation on our parts, as well as the certain knowledge that there is a whole lot yet for Kate to enjoy and endure. Most of life comes with mixed feelings. And yeah, it’s pretty eventful!

 

 

There’s a whole career to come involving design, animation, comic strips… romances and relationships to be cautiously explored in all their up-and-down diversity… movements to emerge including CND, anti-apartheid and gay liberation in all its multiple facets from Stonewall and Sappho magazine (run by the ever-inventive Jackie Forster) to the first times that the love which dare not speak its name nor certainly appear on national television without being cushioned in camp finally did so in the form of soap-opera kisses and Gaytime TV, “a queer take on daytime programming”… and inevitably, unfortunately, the most horrific adversity to be challenged.

Although I’m not at all sure that “adversity” is adequate to describe the detonation of the then-fatal ‘80s AIDS epidemic which ripped through our individual lives and the gay community, robbing so many individuals of dozens of friends. It ignited and renewed an even more vicious, physically violent homophobia whose flames were fanned by opportunist politicians and Christian clergy in collusion with the media, were institutionalised by the likes of Manchester Police Chief James Anderton, and were then legislatively endorsed and enforced by the Tory government of the day in the form of Clause 28 which became Section 28, with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher declaring:

“Children who need to be taught traditional moral values are being taught that they have the inalienable right to be gay!”

Which I do, thanks very much.

It’s all documented here, with real headline quotes – so many duplicitous – that will make your skin crawl.

 

 

But you know what? We did stand up and were counted, including the comics community: Alan Moore, Debbie Delano and Phyllis Moore invited all their top-tier comicbook-creator pals to contribute to their Artists Against Rampant Government Homophobia anthology. More vitally, the Terrence Higgins Trust was born to educate the public, confidentially test and treat those diagnosed as HIV-positive, the Red Ribbon Project gave everyone the opportunity to show public solidarity against a prejudice so severe that many lost their jobs and – no small act, this – Chief Anderton’s daughter was so ashamed of her father that she outed herself in the News Of The World.

Its headline was not censorious but relieved, even celebratory, iconoclastically co-opting the language of organised religion’s venomous hatred to declare:

“HALLELUJAH! Anderton’s daughter is a dyke” 

That’s surprisingly supportive, isn’t it?

There’s so much more besides inside to surprise!

Most especially this, oh so much this: SENSIBLE FOOTWEAR carries one heck of a personal punchline which – unexpectedly, startlingly – resolves so much of what’s said before. Families can we well-funny things, can’t they?

Posy Simmonds MBE, creator of graphic novels TAMARA DREWE, CASSANDRA DARKE et al declares:

“A stunning achievement – as a graphic study of LGBT history, and as a memoir of growing up gay from the 1950s onwards. Kate’s fluid and tellingly detailed drawing reveals not only the frustrations of and traumas of lesbian life, but also the laughter and camaraderie… and a glorious cavalcade of gay icons.”

For further reading, please see Page 45’s LGBT+ non-fiction and Page 45’s LGBT+ fiction

SLH

Buy Sensible Footwear, A Girl’s Guide and read the Page 45 review here

Bad Machinery vol 8: The Case Of The Modern Men (Pocket Edition) (£11-99, Oni Press) by John Allison…

 

 

“Heh! What a mess! They’re great, these Chinese bikes, until you finally decide to ride them.”
“Can you fix it?”
“Mods, coming around again! Takes me back to my days working at the Kaufman in ’61.
“I’d been a teddy boy, most teds hated mods. But I didn’t care.
“The girls! Pointy bras, hair lacquered just right, paradise for a lad.
“The lads were the purists and snobs, but at least they had manners.
“We’d have all the villains in there too.
“The Wessex Brothers. Bonnie Prince Gordon. Tony Crow and his mother!
“Never any trouble, or if there was, it took place out the back.
“They all loved jazz, see?”
“But can you fix it?

“Grandpa’s in his anecdotage. Stories only stop for toilet breaks.”

Haha! I feel that is how John Allison must work sometimes to put out the amount of material he does. Right around the clock only stopping for the call of nature… And I bet even then he’s plotting whilst plopping… Still, this particularly webbery material is from 2014 I think, and I make it there are still three more collected case volumes to come, I think, so we needn’t panic just yet. Huzzah!

Anyway, the kids are back and so is mod. Yes, all crazes come around again eventually and our gang of sleuths just carry on aging disgracefully, now firmly in the grip of adolescent hormones. Well, all the boys at least, who are now finally starting to display some fashion sense and even a sharp haircut or two in a feeble attempt to attract the attention of the ladies. Just in time for the sophisticated female French exchange students to arrive and turn everyone’s world upside down…

 

 

There’s not so much of the supernatural testing Tackleford in this case, aside from the haunted scooter responsible for decapitating multiple King Mods from the sixties onwards, that is…

 

 

No, causing most of the consternation this time around is sassy Camille Duplass, staying with little Claire of the lisp…

 

 

… who harbours a possibly spurious long time grudge against Mimi…

 

 

… residing with Charlotte Grote, who is of course, more than happy to help, errr insist… that Mimi tries to settle the score with the wannabe upstart Queen who also wants to reine (sic) over the English Mods. Which of course only succeeds in enraging Camille even further…

 

 

As ever, I find myself marvelling at the near continuous stream of wittiness that flows from John’s mind. Every page, nay panel, well in fact pretty much every single speech bubble in BAD MACHINERY is packed with the trademark gently surreal humour that makes this series just such a merrily mirthful delight to read.

 

 

We know the main cast so well by now John is able to get fully freewheelin’ with the dialogue, the in-jokes, frequently going on the most delightful round the back of the bike shed diversions before always bringing it back to a chuckle inducing climax with the pithy punchlines that punctuate practically the end of every page.

He is a comedy genius. Perhaps the very finest in comics. I would happily argue his case there. I will be so, so sad when all this material is finally collected and the series complete. The same as with GIANT DAYS… sob… which is rapidly heading to a conclusion.

But fret ye not, fans of John’s brilliant brand of surreal British farce, because there is a new series entitled STEEPLE about to begin! It is only slated to be a five issue mini-series, mind, but we will take what we can get!

JR

Buy Bad Machinery vol 8: The Case Of The Modern Men (Pocket Edition) and read the Page 45 review here

Prodigy s/c (£17-99, Image) by Mark Millar & Rafael Albuquerque…

“Would you be offended if I said this is the most ridiculous stunt you’ve pulled in all the time I’ve worked here, sir?”
“Too late, Candice. I’m afraid the words have already left your lips.”
“Should I run through today’s main requests?”
“Please do.”
“First is from the Australian government, and they want you to investigate a series of weird materialisations they’ve been having.
“Second is from La Folle Journee in Nantes, asking if could compose a new classical overture for their festival in July.
“Third is a brand-new stunt challenge where you drive a car off the roof of our Berlin office, and land on a specific floor on the building opposite. Blindfolded, if you’re feeling brave enough.”
“Is this from that same kid again?”
“I’m afraid so.”
“Well, tell him it’s a yes and the others too. I haven’t slept in over a month, and I need something to exercise my brain cells a little.
“I’ve written three plays, designed a new telecommunications system and invented a polymer that keeps food fresh for a century. I also grew the company thirty percent last night, but I’ll slit my wrists if I have to look at another spreadsheet.
“These materialisations sounds interesting. Tell Australia we’re firing up the jet.”

The only thing more annoying than a cocky know-it-all, is a really, really cocky know-it-all. And yet, despite being an immense show-off of the very highest order Edison Crane is actually quite the likeable character. He might even be capable of running a comic shop…

Fortunately for Edison, his primary concern is merely an imminent extra-dimensional invasion aided and abetted by a secret cabal who have been preparing for this very moment for thousands of years. Well, there is also that extinction level asteroid which is going to plough into the Earth that he’s promised to devise a solution for, but that’s seventeen years away so he can just let his subconscious mind keep working on that minor problemette in the meanwhile…

Well, following on from the exceptional MAGIC ORDER, that most relentless of comics writers Mark Millar is back yet again, and once more he has penned a self-contained piece of action comedy gold. You will find Edison Crane as annoying as he is enchanting certainly, he’s like Stephen Hawking crossed with James Bond, as he flits around the globe from glamorous but deadly location to location in search of clues as to how to save the day.

 

 

With panache obviously! Just saving the day in a humdrum run-of-the-mill fashion wouldn’t do at all now would it?!

 

 

Along the way there’ll be idiots who think they can outwit him, of course, for the cabal is well aware that Edison Crane is the only person who could possibly stand any hope of stopping them. He might even let them think they have outwitted him in true cocky know-it-all fashion…

Much like James Bond, certainly circa Roger Moore era, the plot is delightfully preposterous, the stunts truly over-the-top ridiculous, and the one-liners wincingly hilarious. If you enjoyed THE SECRET SERVICE: KINGSMAN you’ll definitely get a spinning, twirling flying head kick out of this.

Rafael AMERICAN VAMPIRE Albuquerque, who has worked with Millar before on the Forrest Gump-esque superhero parody HUCK, provides equally non-stop kinetic, action-packed art.

 

 

I’ve always thought he does a great snidey bad guy face too and here is no exception as Edison Crane’s private school bête noire turns out to be the loony tune in question.

 

 

Albuquerque also does a great snidey bad guy who’s just realised his plans of world domination have been totally thwarted by a cocky know it all face too. With panache…

JR

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

Scott Pilgrim Colour Collection vol 1 s/c (£26-99, Oni) by Bryan Lee O’Malley.

Scott is a clot. He really is. He’s a total dumpling, and in terms of a Chinese take-away, dim doesn’t even begin to sum the lad up.

He is kinda cute, though, and as the series kicks off, Scott is living with gay housemate Wallace for whom sly, dry mockery is a default setting. They’re so poor that they even share the same bed. But Scott sleeps soundly until this girl called Ramona comes skating through his dreams. She’s a delivery girl and as you well know the quickest way from A to B is to skate through someone else’s dreams, right…? Then Scott meets Ramona in his waking life, falls head over heels in whatever the hell that thing is (he may figure it out eventually) but is casually informed that if he wants her as a girlfriend he’ll have to defeat her seven evil exes in combat!

 

 

Truly a unique series with a heart of gold, and a wit and a Nintendo logic all of its own, there is not a single comicbook reader who could fail to fall in love with Scott, Wallace, Ramona or Bryan himself. O’Malley’s visual gags, unique to the medium, keep tumbling onto the page.

Unlike the six SCOTT PILGRIM colour hardcovers, these three 2-in-1 editions boast no behind–the-scenes extras, just ALL the comics, their comedy genius, plus an innovative, thick-book spine mechanic which we’ve never encountered before.

Of Scott Pilgrim vol 2 h/c I wrote:

Seminal series about the most sensitive, caring, sharing boy in Christendom.

“Um, listen… I think we should break up or whatever.”

WHAT?! No level-up points you, young Scott!

Nathan Fairbairn has done the impossible: taken Page 45’s all-time favourite black and white series and enhanced it with colour. Oh, the blasphemy of it all! But it looks so good and it feels so right. Witness that rain-soaked night with the puddles on the pavement: you can almost hear the downpour and smell its wet-dog fur! And then there’s the subtle reflection of Ramona’s fuscia leggings!

 

 

Anyway: Kim Pine. She was beautifully portrayed in the film – I don’t think you could have cast a better Miss Mardy glowering over the drum kit – but woefully cut in terms of screen time. Well, it wouldn’t all have gotten too complicated…

 

 

Here: IT GETS COMPLICATED!

Kim Pine, you see, was always a major player in the comicbook series and now you’ll be privy to her full story.

Previously in SCOTT PILGRIM:

To continue dating Ramona, Scott must defeat her seven evil exes in combat, leveling-up Nintendo-stylee as he does so. BUT: Ramona isn’t the only one who’s had a complicated love life, and – Knives Chau aside – they all seem to end up in bands! Plus: is Scott finally going to ditch Knives Chau? And if he does so, did he actually pay attention to her name?

 

 

In fact does Scott pay attention to anyone or anything ever?!

Scott…?!

Oh, good grief. Too busy fussing about his hair, I expect.

SLH

Buy Scott Pilgrim Colour Collection vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Elektra: Assassin s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Frank Miller & Bill Sienkiewicz –

Deadly but beautiful ninja action from 1987. Bill’s art begins to approach the wild invention of STRAY TOASTERS with lashings to photocopies, splayed paint, collage, stickers and time-saving short cuts.  Frank’s splintered storyline uses multiple voices to give a sense of confusion in both the narrative and their own minds.

We begin with Elektra escaping from the asylum, controlling her memories and trying to keep the ninja training at the forefront. Throughout the book, this discipline is responsible for many great plot twists – mind-swapping, lightning-quick reflexes, mind-control, everyday objects used as weapons. There is a great beast looking to bring the destruction of the world by controlling the mind of the next president of the United States and Elektra must stop him. Although this was published by Epic, it references Miller’s earlier DAREDEVIL storyline but the only Marvel bleed-through we get to see is a big-gun-obsessed Nick Fury along with several disposable S.H.I.E.L.D operatives.

MAS

Buy Elektra: Assassin s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Invaders vol 1: War Ghosts s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Chip Zdarsky & Carlos Magno, Butch Guice…

“But my power is even greater than that. My reach, farther.
“Don’t believe me? Well, listen closely…
“… Because the sea has secrets.
“I’ve lived a long time, Karris.
“I’ve experienced great losses… great victories…
“But I’ve learned from them.
“And now, finally, I have a plan.
“Nobody needs die in battle ever again.
“For why would there be battles if we no longer have enemies?
“Yes, the sea has secrets. And I am the sea…”

Hmm… well, there is a certain way you could take Namor’s monologue. I did, and I was wrong!

Chip Zdarsky, currently one volume in to a so far excellent and pleasingly thoughtful run on Daredevil (DAREDEVIL VOL 1: KNOW FEAR S/C) turns his pen to the heroes that battled and battered the original goosesteppers back in the day.

 

 

With a story told in two time periods, both in the midst of their World War Two comradeship-in-arms and now firmly set against each other in modern day, well, stroppy pants Namor versus everyone else, it is all about the ghosts of the past haunting the present. And Namor losing the plot, again…

 

 

However, like he says, he’s not just throwing his toys out of the pram and blaming it on a bad migraine as per usual, he does have a plan, and surprisingly dastardly it is too. Actually, I say two time periods, it is in fact three, because what does a young Professor X, cropping up before he’d even assembled any X-Men at all, have to do with Namor’s mental maladies…? Lovely bit of Marvel Universe retconning going on there.

Nice, easily distinguishable appropriate art from Butch Guice handling the period material and Carlos Magno handling the modern day matter.

 

 

The latter is decent enough, but Butch Guice as ever is superb. He did some of Ed Brubaker’s DEATH OF CAPTAIN AMERICA run, along with Steve Epting, and it was actually Brubaker and Epting’s very enjoyable MARVELS PROJECT that Guice’s work here made me think of, for reasons of period and tone.

 

 

I’m sure it wouldn’t sell, but on the basis of this I’d love to see Zdarsky and Guice tackle an entirely period Invaders run, or at least a mini-series.

 

 

Or better yet, have a go at something a bit more inventive and imaginative like the MARVELS PROJECT. On that point, the shortly to be offered as a collection SPIDER-MAN: LIFE STORY telling the story of a Peter Parker who actually ages through the decades penned by Zdarsky is really rather good.

JR

Buy The Invaders vol 1: War Ghosts s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Me, Mikko And Annikki (£22-99, North Atlantic Books) by Tiitu Takalo

Press Enter To Continue h/c (£17-99, Fantagraphics) by Ana Galvan

The Anthology Of Mind (£22-99, Fantagraphics) by Tommi Musturi

Thief Of Thieves vol 7: Closure (£14-99, Image) by Brett Lewis & Shawn Martinbrough

Walking Dead vol 32: Rest In Peace (£14-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard

Aliens Resistance s/c (£15-99, Dark Horse) by Brian Wood & Robert Carey, Dan Jackson, Roberto De La Torre

The Complete Future Shocks vol 2 (£19-99, Rebellion) by Alan Moore, Alan Grant, John Wagner, more & Dave Gibbons, John Higgins, more

Aquaman vol 1: Unspoken Water h/c (£22-99, DC) by Kelly Sue DeConnick & Robson Rocha

Wonder Woman By Greg Rucka vol 2 s/c (£24-99, DC) by Greg Rucka & Cliff Richards, various

Marvels (Monster-Sized) h/c (£67-99, Marvel) by Kurt Busiek & Alex Ross

Old Man Quill vol1: Nobody’s Fault But Mine s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Ethan Sacks &Robert Gill, Ibraim Roberson

Dead Dead Demon’s Dededede Destruction vol 6 (£9-99, Viz) by Inio Asano

Legend Of Zelda vol 15: Twilight Princess vol 5 (£6-99, Viz) by Akira Himekawa

Luke Pearson signing HILDA at Page 45 on Saturday September 7th 2019, 12 to 2pm!

August 5th, 2019

September 1st 2019 sees the publication of HILDA AND THE MOUNTAIN KING, the sixth all-ages HILDA graphic novel from Nobrow Press.

We Are Excited!

To celebrate, the creator Luke Pearson has kindly and enthusiastically agreed to entertain families (and pensionable devotees like myself) by joining Page 45 for a two-hour weekend signing and sketching session for FREE!

You’ll have to pay for the books, though, obviously.

The time: 12 to 2pm
The date: Saturday September 7th
The place: Page 45, 9 Market Street, Nottingham NG1 6HY
Admission: Free!

No tickets, no fee, just turn up, all agog, and be charmed.

Thanks to Flying Eye / Nobrow Press we also have new HILDA postcards and bookmarks to give away on the day, along with the publisher’s poster-brochures and much more besides!

“Can We Reserve Copies, Stephen?”

Yes, you can and you probably should!

 

 

Demand may exceed supply, but you can guarantee your copies of HILDA AND THE MOUNTAIN KING on the day by clicking on that link, ordering in advance and selecting “Collect In Store” with no postage fee then find it ready and waiting for you on the day!

Equally, you can reserve copies of all five of the previous HILDA graphic novels by clicking on THAT link, selecting the relevant books (each of which we’ve reviewed!) and pre-ordering in exactly the same way so they’re there on the day! Hooray!

“I so want stuff signed but I live in the Sudan!”

Hot, hot, hot!

The good news is that We Ship Worldwide!

Order any of those books at the links above before September 3rd 2019 (so we can order more in if necessary) and add “PLEASE GET THIS SIGNED BEFORE SHIPPING” in the comments box and it shall be done! Similarly if you select “collect in store” with “THIS IS FOR THE LUKE PEARSON SIGNING” then we will add that to the signing stash too.

No sketches, I’m afraid: for sketches you need to turn up to the signing itself!

 

Luke Pearson (with Philippa Rice). Photo by Stephen circa 2011

 

For all queries please phone Page 45 on (0115) 9508045.

Cheers,

Stephen

You are so welcome!

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews July 2019 week five

July 31st, 2019

Featuring Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, Jacob Phillips, George Takei, Harmony Becker, William Gibson, Johnnie Christmas, Tamra, Jim Ottaviani, Leland Myrick, David Lapham, Maria Lapham, Sang Miao, Andy Diggle, Mike Carey, Leonardo Manco, Danijel Zezelj, Jason Aaron, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Stefano Landini, Sean Murphy

Bad Weekend (A Criminal h/c) (£14-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips with Jacob Phillips.

“So what were those pages you were looking for?”
“Some stuff I drew back when I was working for Archie Lewis… Don’t worry about it… It’s just a mistake I made. One of many, right? But I wanted to keep this one to myself…”

There is a crime committed here. Well, several if you include the odd counterfeit, entry by deception and a felony assault.

But unlike most of CRIMINAL, this self-contained mystery from the creators of KILL OR BE KILLED, THE FADE OUT, FATALE and published in the same format as MY HEROES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN JUNKIES focuses far more on criminal behaviour, as in shoddy, as in unethical, as in treacherous.

Over the years, the American comics industry has witnessed more than its fair share of corporate malfeasance and personal betrayals – sometimes in the same swoop. Now you’ll be privy to some of those too.

July 1997, and the American comicbook industry is purported to be dying.

“Publishers going bankrupt, distributors imploding, shops closing all over the country.”

But at least the conventions still focussed on comics, and due deference was paid to its veterans.

 

 

One such legend is Hal Crane, who cut his professional teeth inking backgrounds on Archie Lewis’s STAR KING newspaper strips before carving out his own career with deadlines so tight he too needed junior assistants. Oh, and then there was his gig as lead design and storyboard artist for Danny Dagger And The Fantasticals, an animated cartoon which became a cultural sensation for a whole generation back in the ‘70s with a lot of licensed merchandise which Hal saw not a penny from. But Crane had become a chain-smoking, hard-drinking bitter man long before feeling ripped off by that, and his explosive temper was as legendary as his undeniable talent.

“The kind of guy who could ink with a toothbrush or a broken stick and the page would still come out perfect.”

Jacob knows, because straight after high school Jacob became one of Hal’s art assistants, learning from the best while witnessing the worst. He lasted longer than most but it didn’t end well. “Hal ended most of his relationships badly.” They haven’t spoken since.

So Jacob’s more than a little startled when Mindy from the imminent annual Comicfest phones late at night with an urgent request.

“Apparently, Hal Crane was flying in to be given a Lifetime Achievement Award and they needed someone to… uh… basically be his minder for a few days. Make sure he got to the ceremony and his other appearances.”

 

 

That’s minder rather than P.A., Steering Hal clear of the bars is going to be no easy task, but Hal Crane has asked specifically for Jacob. What Jacob isn’t aware of yet is that keeping Crane at the exhibition hall itself is going to be as arduous as smoothing over his bad behaviour, because Hal’s on a mission to recover missing pages of original art that very few others even know exist.

Unusually, I haven’t given you all the information you need to comprehend the exact nature of the mystery yet – I honestly haven’t – because they’re deliberately dropped in the narrative as casually as conversation and the final three pages will be doozies. Which is not a word I’ve ever typed before.

Brubaker builds the relationship between Jacob and Hal in recollections scattered throughout at relevant junctures so that you understand why the former would accept the request of a difficult man who didn’t treat him too well, and why Hal would have the temerity to ask: he’s pretty much oblivious to his past. Well, that part of it, anyway. He certainly doesn’t own it.

“You threw in the towel… really?”
“You’re the one who said I wouldn’t make it.”
“I never said that… And why the hell would you listen to me, anyway?”
“Uh… because I was your assistant?”
“No. You can’t let anyone tell you what you can be or not. I was probably trying to toughen you up… If I said that.”

 

 

Brubaker also demarcates the generational gap between Hal and almost everyone he encounters with aplomb. He doesn’t understand the world he’s re-entering after a long retirement at all. I think you’re going to enjoy the convention itself, and the eight extra pages which there were no room for in the issues of the CRIMINAL which this reprints flesh out the contrasting expectations of a faded and jaded star and the far cruder reality.

The art’s another star turn by Phillips and Phillips (solicitors at large), particularly Hal Crane’s slightly hunched, old-man posture and initially twinkling eyes which are soon clouded then shrouded over as he enters affrays of his own making. Still, there’s nothing like a speedy, cop-avoiding car dash about town to get the adrenaline pumping, and Hal’s eyes perk up again, rather proud of his own naughtiness.

“He’s not calling the cops… I’m his “mentor”, remember?
“Trust me, he’ll be dining out on this story for years.”

 

 

There’s a terrific upwards angle through the windscreen there, conveying the urgency and speed, while the colours are slashed across the panels in delicious tangerine and lemon mousse rippled through with blackcurrant. There’ll be much more cramped interior car shots later on, back-lit by sheets of a very specific red and blue as alternating lights flash outside before we approach those final three pages once the very bad weekend is almost over and Jacob returns home alone.

“Someone once referred to Hal Crane as “a master without a masterpiece” but that wasn’t actually true. There was a masterpiece, it’s just that only a handful of people had ever seen it…
“And only on Hal’s most drunken nights. That’s when he got confessional
“When he told you his secrets.
“Like the real story of Archie Lewis’s death.”

As for my opening quotation, it came with one hell of a haunted eye.

 

 

Post Script:

“Publishers going bankrupt, distributors imploding, shops closing all over the country.”

I didn’t want to bog you down unnecessarily too early on, but in advertising this graphic novel much was made of what looked like comics’ “death spiral” at the time, and I thought you might be curious.

As far as it goes, the above quotation stands true. In the mid-1990s short-sighted retailers had over-ordered insane quantities of superhero comics based on the corporations’ hype in collusion with Wizard Magazine’s self-serving forecasts in the hope of selling them later on at prices much higher than those on their covers. Rather than stack their shelves to sell through as soon as possible, they’d filled their basements with comics which they laid down like wine if not to mature then to appreciate in value.

It’s called speculation. Collectors did it too. They still do. They treat comics not like an entertainment medium, but like the Stock Exchange.

 

 

Amateurs all, what these retailers had failed to understand is that cashflow is key, critical to any business’s day-to-day survival. So when the buyers’ bubble inevitably burst (not least because corporations like Image and Valiant then failed to deliver the over-ordered comics in time before their status as “hot” had evaporated), retailers found themselves with nothing but dead stock and debts. They went bankrupt in droves.

At the same time the two major comics corporations instigated the Distribution Wars, either effectively self-distributing in Marvel’s case or naming Diamond as their exclusive conduit in DC’s. Can you spell “Monopoly”? Without the surviving (and already strapped) retailers’ cash coming in for these dominant publishers’ products, every other distributor in the US imploded, taking with them the orders from independent publishers which they had proactively supported, so guess what happened to those poor publishers? Entirely deliberate on the publishers’ part: wipe out the competition.

 

 

It’s a longer story but that’s the skinny which I witnessed first-hand, having joined the industry circa 1990, working for a chain of comic shops called Fantastic Store. Racked, stacked and packed with comics, those basements were bursting; their owner’s bank account, not so much.

SLH

Buy Bad Weekend (A Criminal h/c) and read the Page 45 review here

They Called Us Enemy s/c (£17-99, Top Shelf) by George Takei, various & Harmony Becker…

“My father, Takemura Norman Takei, was born in Yamanashi, Japan. He came to America as a teenager and was educated in the Bay area. He later pursued a lucrative dry cleaning business in Los Angeles’ Wilshire corridor.
“My mother, Fumiko Emily Nakamura, was born in Florin, California, but was raised traditionally Japanese. Her father had sent to her to Japan to avoid school segregation in Sacramento.”
“I am the grandson of immigrants from Japan who went to America.
“Boldly going to a strange, new world, seeking new opportunities.

Like many before them and since. But for the burgeoning Japanese American community, the events of Pearl Habour were about to turn their happy lives in the ‘land of the free’ into a living nightmare.

 

 

Here’s the publisher to tell us more about this divisive episode in US history as experienced by the living legend himself. 

“George Takei has captured hearts and minds worldwide with his captivating stage presence and outspoken commitment to equal rights. But long before he braved new frontiers in Star Trek, he woke up as a four-year-old boy to find his own birth country at war with his father’s and their entire family forced from their home into an uncertain future.

In a stunning graphic memoir, Takei revisits his haunting childhood in American concentration camps, as one of over 100,000 Japanese Americans imprisoned by the U.S. government during World War II.

Experience the forces that shaped an American icon – and America itself – in this gripping tale of courage, country, loyalty, and love.”

I actually learnt about the American internment of its own citizens through comics coincidentally enough. Specifically INVADERS #27 (released in 1978) penned by Roy Thomas where Captain America, the Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner fly to the location Bucky was last seen (he’s been kidnapped by Agent Axis along with Toro) and are appalled by what they witness at just such an internment camp. It struck a chord with me as a six year old and that page was very much burnt into my mind forevermore.

Anyway, I digress for this is George Takei’s story and very well told it is too, as you might expect. His childhood seems to have been an extremely typical one until everything changed overnight. Effectively stripped of everything they’d ever worked so hard for, his family was shipped off to Rohwer Relocation Centre in Arkansas, thousands of miles away from California.

 

 

I think about the only fortunate thing you can possibly say about the situation is that these were not the concentration camps of Nazi Germany, far from it, but still, people were persecuted and effectively criminalised for nothing other than simply being of Japanese ancestry.

 

 

The historical record is extremely well laid out and explained, alongside the story of George and his family and their time in the camps and then afterwards trying to rebuild their lives once war was over.

 

 

As ever, it’s incredibly worrying to observe how easily the propaganda that politicians spew out and spin to prejudice people allowing them to proceed with their plans is utterly believed by the general populace. 

Extremely clear black and white art from Harmony Becker captures all the emotional lows and occasional highs experienced by the Takeis in a remarkably non-sensationalist matter-of-fact manner. As a snapshot into a fascinating piece of WW2 history that’s all too often overlooked it’s a wonderful piece of documentary. For more about lifetime during WW2 and its aftermath from the perspective of the average person in Japan itself, I highly recommend SHOWA 1939-1944 and SHOWA 1944-1953.

JR

Buy They Called Us Enemy s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Hawking h/c (£22-99, FirstSecond) by Jim Ottaviani & Leland Myrick…

“Not long after, we all went to a talk Hoyle gave at the Royal Society about their results. There was much excitement.”

“…The big bang has all the elegance and dignity of a party girl jumping out of a birthday cake.
“What I meant is it has none. As the BBC listeners among you know, I liken our previous position to that of mountain climbers attempting a summit via multiple routes.
“We found out that all of them peter out on hopeless precipices.
“So, many years ago, I proposed a new hypothesis… that matter is created continuously.”

“He went on, presenting his newest ideas and the results he and Jayant had worked on. Results that had not been reviewed by anyone by Jay… and me.”

“…QED. Are there any questions?”

“The conclusion of his talk caused a bit of a stir.”

“Yes, you there.”
“The… the influence of matter in a steady-state universe would… the quantities you’re talking about would diverge.”
“Of course they don’t diverge.”
“Er, yes. The masses would be infinite, which is…”
“Nonsense. Why do think you this?”
“I worked it out. I calculated it.”

“Some people thought I’d done so on the spot.
“I hadn’t, of course. I’d seen the calculations Jayant was working on and had become interested in them myself.
“Regardless, this didn’t hurt my reputation.”

Quite. Just in case you haven’t heard of the most famous scientist of the second half of the 20th century, here’s the presentation from the publisher…

“From his early days at Oxford, Stephen Hawking’s brilliance and good humour were obvious to everyone he met. At twenty-one he was diagnosed with Motor neurone disease, a disease that limited his ability to move and speak, though it did nothing to limit his mind.

He went on to do groundbreaking work in cosmology and theoretical physics for decades after being told he had only a few years to live. Through his 1988 bestseller, A Brief History of Time, and his appearances on shows like Star Trek and The Big Bang Theory, Hawking became a household name and a pop-culture icon.”

That he did. From the graphic biographers behind the brilliant FEYNMAN comes the life story of a truly remarkable man who would not allow his own physical limitations to curtail his insatiable determination to increase our understanding of the universe.

 

 

From his early life and quintessentially British and slightly eccentric upbringing, he was a man with a deep desire to know more, about everything.

 

 

Initially, that thirst for knowledge was unfocused and untrained, perhaps in part because nothing seemed beyond him, but little seemed to retain his interest.

 

 

But once at University, he began to discover scientific questions which would fascinate and motivate him until his dying day. Which was considerably further in the future than any doctor, and probably he himself, could have ever expected when first diagnosed with his condition.

This is an exceptional biography. What I had anticipated was that it would go into considerable detail regarding his life, which it certainly does, with great warmth and humour, reflecting the sprit with which he faced the ever-increasing difficulties arising from his condition.

What I hadn’t appreciated, was just how much I would learn concerning the specific details and minutiae of his work and theories. I possibly should have, actually, because that was a feature of FEYNMAN, but here we get into the physics in much, much more depth.

 

 

 

Consequently, this work is as much as opportunity to learn about his theories and discoveries as it is the man. I am extremely impressed with how Ottoviani and Myrick present all this complex information so clearly.

JR

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

The Immortal Jellyfish h/c (£11-99, Flying Eye Books) by Sang Miao ~

“What about us? Are we immortal?” The boy enquired.
“Not in that way,” replied Grandpa. “But there are other ways of living for ever.”

In THE IMMORTAL JELLYFISH, Sang Miao tells the poignant story of a young boy’s first experience of death. When his beloved grandpa passes away he is left sad and confused that he will no longer be able to see his Grandpa anymore. But that is just the beginning of the tale. When he takes to his bed and succumbs to slumber, he is visited by his Grandpa and taken on a beautiful journey to a magical land filled with all kinds of fantastic creatures, all of whom has recently left the world as we know it and are now getting to experience a new life entirely.

Through a mystical and dreamlike tale, Miao has been able to explain the complex concept of death and mortality to little minds in a way that is magical and embracing. With poetic elegance they explain that our loved ones will always be with us, but now we get to spend time with them in a different way: through memories, imagination and, most wonderfully and tangibly, in our dreams.

 

 

Lashings of watercolour blend and pool, while layers of crayon bring a soft, textured detail to this ethereal world. This is reflected in the design of the book itself, with spot glossed illustrations on a matt, textured cover in warm, comforting blue. As a book that could play a very important part in a young person’s life, the clever tactility of this book acts with embracing familiarity.

It is a book to be cherished and revisited, as a gentle reminder that those we have lost are never really gone, and in their own way will always live on, just like the immortal jellyfish.

JP

Buy The Immortal Jellyfish h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Lodger s/c (£15-99, IDW) by Maria Lapham, David Lapham…

“… Shows you. I almost half believed you.
“I don’t need psychos in my life…
“… thank you very much.”

Said the psycho to the person he has just forcibly overdosed on heroin and murdered…

There is a safe way to have psychos in your life, though… Read material like this from the Laphams who I am sure are completely lovely in real life and appear not remotely psychotic at all. Though I guess they have to be a little bit psycho to produce material like this, but, you know, just inside their heads…

Sure, perhaps if they weren’t producing comics they’d be out roaming around America offing people for kicks (makes note to investigate disappearances versus their appearances at comic conventions…) but happily for us, and them, it’s easier to write and draw about it instead. Clever psychos, you see…

 

 

Here’s the rap sheet from the publisher to tell you why you shouldn’t be remotely concerned associating yourself with two of the nicest people in comics who love to entertain us with deranged psychopaths and almost certainly really aren’t ones themselves. Promise. Now comics retailers on the other hand…

“Guns and revenge. As American as the wicked west. Ricky Toledo is going to find the man that killed her mother, and revenge is going to be sweet. Ricky was 15 when she fell hard for a handsome drifter who rented a room in her family home. Then he killed her mother and got her father sent to prison for it.

 

 

It’s three years later, and Ricky will stop at nothing to get revenge. A broken young woman and her trusty companion – a gold Smith and Wesson 45 named Golddigger – track a serial killer hiding in plain sight as a travel blogger.

It’s a dark, grimy game of cat and mouse through a tangled American landscape. And, like all the best crime noir, it’s a twisted love story.”

It is! There’s definitely a hint of Mickey and Mallory from Quentin Tarantino’s Natural Born Killers about Ricky and master of disguise Dante, though there’s considerably more hate to go with the lust, which is mostly of the murderous kind, anyway. Still, there’s pure primal obsession at play here that is for sure.

 

 

Fans of STRAY BULLETS will know precisely what to expect from this self-contained piece of sociopathy. Even with its tight anxiety-inducing five-issue confines it manages to take the reader on a wild ride of jumping backwards and forwards in time, deliberately presenting key events in misleading fashion, confusing readers and characters alike with wilful, nay gleeful, obscurification.

 

 

 

And disguises… Lots of disguises…

JR

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

Hellblazer vol 20: Systems Of Control s/c (£22-99, Vertigo / DC) by Andy Diggle, Mike Carey & Leonardo Manco, Danijel Zezelj.

Collects Hellblazer: All His Engines original graphic novel by Mike Carey & Leonardo Manco

and #230-238 wherein Andy Diggle kicked off his own blistering run.

Fortunately I wrote a bit about both.

 All His Engines

 Neil Gaiman offers the headline quote, “Mike Carey has written the quintessential Constantine story,” which I was almost positive represented a favour to a friend, until I hit the first dozen pages. What does Gaiman mean by “quintessential”? I can’t tell you that, but I can suggest what I would have meant: British, political, involving what’s left of John’s mates and played like a game of poker. Although there’s merely a smidgeon of politics, excepting those of hell and death, there’s plenty of the rest here even though the majority of the metaphorical car crash takes places in Los Angeles, for it brings Britain with it:

“Fucking hell, Chas! They drive on the right! The right!”
“Don’t panic, John. It’s a learning curve.”
“Yeah, well, I don’t wanna be here when it flattens out!”

 

 

Chas is one of John’s longest-standing and longest-suffering friends, and he’s been chauffeuring the trickster around for years (“See, it’s a cabbie’s license. Means I can drive and give marriage guidance counselling.”). Usually wherever John wants to be is where Chas doesn’t, but when his niece falls into a coma out of the blue, and when it appears she is part of an epidemic with no trace of a viral strain, Chas calls in all his many favours and calls up John Constantine. One more dead acquaintance and a plane flight later, it’s immediately clear to Constantine that things aren’t quite right.

“Something’s dead wrong. A taste in the air, like hot iron. A fingernails-on-blackboard noise, too high even for dogs. Or maybe it’s just that it’s six in the evening on the Santa Monica freeway. And we haven’t had to slow down once.”

Carey is on the toppest form I’ve known of him. I’m no fan of his current run on the main title, and when you go in with such heavy prejudices based on perceived past performance that you don’t even want to pick the book up, it’s only a remarkable composition that changes your mind. The script felt like Ennis, the art like a moodier, more solid John Ridgeway (so that’s the first two eras in one blood-soaked package), and Constantine has to summon up all his powers of baiting and bluff – as well as a prideful Aztec God – to do a better job of saving Chas’ niece than he did with the girl back in Newcastle.

“You forget yourself. I am no upstarting demon, scrabbling in the dirt of the human soul. I am Mictlantecuhtli. I am a God.”
“Great stuff.  I’m John — and I’m a bastard.”

 

 

 Joyride

Scathing and witty, I’ve not relished this series so much since Garth Ennis’s run, and if you’ve never tried it then Andy Diggle’s run would be a very fine place to start. Both the book and John Constantine are back on top, socio-political form after a cathartic return visit to Ravenscar Asylum where Constantine spent much time following that ill-advised outing in Newcastle, whilst Andy brings back the humanity at its heart and reunites the bite with the bark:

“Two years they had me locked up here, off and on. Back before Thatcher sold it off to the private sector and Blair turned it into a super-casino. After all why treat the mentally ill when you can fleece ’em for every penny they’ve got?”

It’s back to being pertinent with property redevelopment and youth gun crime, impertinent with the well-earned laceration of the establishment’s bullying of and cash-ins on the disadvantaged, and genuinely frightening with its painful pincer movement of supernatural horror and physical danger. It kicks off with Constantine being slowly drowned.

 

 

Most of all, it will make you very, very angry, and that’s what this book under Jamie Delano originally set out to do and managed so magnificently.

Comics as political agitation: always of vital importance.

Oh, and the joyriding…? Not just of cars, but of people.

What on earth could possess you to do that?

Continued then wrapped up in HELLBLAZER VOL 21.

SLH

Buy Hellblazer vol 20: Systems Of Control s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Hellblazer vol 21: The Laughing Magician (£22-99, Vertigo) by Andy Diggle, Jason Aaron & Leonardo Manco, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Stefano Landini, Sean Murphy.

Contains HELLBLAZER #239-249, and LADY CONSTANTINE #1-4.

As such it contains both the conclusion to Andy Diggle’s wit-ridden run which began in HELLBLAZER VOL 20 (reviewed) and ‘Newcastle Calling’ (#245,246) by Jason Aaron & Sean Murphy from which all the interior art here is taken.

The Roots Of Coincidence

“I’m driving the wrong way up the Synchronicity Highway… And someone’s trying to make damn sure I don’t make it to the other end.”

The finale to Andy Diggle’s masterful performance on John Constantine and – with the aid of Leonardo Manco’s furiously scratched yet classically proportioned art – I hereby declare it the cleverest, truest take on the character since Alan Moore first created him, combining the very best of Ennis and Delano both in style and substance. There are a lot of familiar faces here!

 

 

Previously in Joyride:

Scathing and witty, I’ve not relished this series so much since Garth Ennis’s run, and if you’ve never tried it, this’d be a very fine place to start. Both the book and John Constantine are back on top, socio-political form after a return, cathartic visit to Ravenscar Asylum, whilst Andy brings back the humanity at its heart and reunites the bite with the bark:

“Two years they had me locked up here, off and on. Back before Thatcher sold it off to the private sector and Blair turned it into a super-casino. After all why treat the mentally ill when you can fleece ’em for every penny they’ve got?”

Then in Laughing Magician:

“In the blood-soaked sands of Darfur, a murderous mage called Mako is drawing power from genocide and cannibalism, eating magicians alive to gain their hard-earned powers. His ultimate target: an eternal presence that maintains the world’s mystical balance – the so-called Laughing Magician.”

He’s after John Constantine.

 

 

Now in Roots Of Coincidence:

The trickster is back! Deep in the heart of the Vatican there’s a room set apart from the world by Papal Decree, so whatever takes place in there comes without Judgement. “Nothing is forbidden, everything is permitted.” There is no sin. Only two problems: the decree came from Roderic Llancol de Borgia; and if the room is no longer in this world… it means it’s uncomfortably closer to another. With uncharacteristic altruism, Constantine offers to help a priest with his self-inflicted problem, but it’s one giant sleight-of-hand for John’s after something else entirely: The Lost Gospel Of Constantine.

But it’s only when he returns to England where Lord Burman and Mako are patiently waiting that all the threads come to one eminently satisfying head, especially the panels in which John realises exactly who The Laughing Magician really is and the extent of his scheming, for he may never be able to look himself in the mirror again.

Reflection or deflection? I will not say, but there are some cracking one-liners as when John rolls a seasonal card and snorts up his nose the ground, powdered bones of Lycia’s Saint Nicholas, also known as Santa Claus:

“Looks like it’s going to be a White Christmas after all.”

Newcastle Calling

“Impressive member you’ve got there, old boy.
“But you’re forgetting one thing…
“Mine’s bigger.
“Shall we measure?”

He’s talking to a thirty-foot, bipedal wolf.

It’s an awful thing.

 

 

This gruesome two-parter’ by Jason Aaron (SCALPED, SOUTHERN BASTARDS, THE GODDAMED etc) and Sean Murphy (PUNK ROCK JESUS   JOE THE BARBARIAN, THE WAKE etc) bears all the trappings of a perfect HELLBLAZER shudder-thon: British culture in the form of punk rock, a prime piece of Constantine history reprised (the clue’s in the title; see HELLBLAZER VOL 2), and a fractious gang of video journalists over-confident in their crusade to discover the truth behind Constantine’s past which, as we all know, is best left buried.

Instead they break into the dark and derelict Casanova Club where John’s Mucous Membranes angrily snarled out ‘The Venus Of The Hard Sell’. It was also where an over-confident Constantine made the most serious of his five thousand, six-hundred and fifty-eight terrible miscalculations, landing him in the legendary mental asylum called Ravenscar. Now they have woken that which they shouldn’t and what they wind up doing to themselves – and to dead dogs – will make your toes crawl and their bunions bleed.

Sean Murphy shows you just enough to make you wonder what God was thinking when he invented eyes.

 

 

All of this before our John joins us on the first chapter’s final two pages having got wind on the ectoplasmic plains of what the fuck is up, pulling him back so very, very reluctantly to Newcastle.

“Just this once, how grand would it be if this whole dammed mess didn’t somehow turn out to be entirely my bleedin’ fault.”

That would be super.

“Fat fuckin’ chance of that though, aye?”

SLH

Buy Hellblazer vol 21: The Laughing Magician and read the Page 45 review here

William Gibson’s Alien 3 h/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by William Gibson & Johnnie Christmas…

“You caused thefailure, Fox. Deliberately routed the Sulaco through the U.P.P. sector and brought her into Anchorpoint.”
“We’re with Military Sciences.”
“I know that.”
“We’re with Weapons Division.”
“The presence of Weapons Division personnel on Anchorpoint is specifically forbidden by our strategic arms reduction treaty with the United Progressive People. This isn’t a military station.”
“We appreciate your concern.”
“You’re violating treaties that exist to prevent nuclear war! You’ve deliberately caused an armed spacecraft to penetrate their border zone. If they can prove it…”
“They know. Proving it is something else.”
“They boarded Sulaco, We logged a security breach and internal damage. We can certainly prove that if we have to.”
“If that’s true, I think you’re crazy. Someone is crazy…”
“A calculated risk. And believe me, Colonel, the decision was made at the top.”
“The top of what?”
“Sulaco was returning to Gateway with specimens of weapons-related material. The company’s quantum detectors were monitoring data from the ship’s hyper sleep vault. It became evident that the material in question had… become active.”

 


“The decision was made to reroute Sulaco here, to Anchorpoint. Other factors outweighed the risk of entering U.P.P. territory.”
“Status report on the biohazard sweep we requested?”
“We have a crew assembling in docking bay 8… You’ll be going aboard yourselves?”
“We’re in charge.”
“We wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Ahhh… there’s nothing like some hubris on behalf of the ‘bad guys’ to really antagonise the viewer / reader into wanting them to get their just desserts. Or in this case, just be dessert. Yeah, I’m pretty sure you can guess how it is going to end for the two Weapons Division suits… even if you’ve never read William Gibson’s legendary never-made screenplay which has been floating around the electronic ether for those of a curious mind.

I hadn’t read it as it happens, but I do remember very well the truly immense disappointment and intense bemusement I experienced upon watching the Alien 3 film which did eventually appear at the cinema in 1992. As did most people… How had this travesty been made? Who could possibly have written such a downbeat movie that starts with two completely pointless off-screen deaths and only gets more dour from there? (Spoiler alert… Hicks and Newt are alive! For now…)

 

 

With hindsight Alien 3 is actually a pretty decent movie, which is more in keeping with the claustrophobic tone of the original Alien film than the all-action sequel. But I think I am on fairly safe ground to state Aliens (1986) is as near perfect an action horror movie as has ever been made and certainly rightly matched the original in terms of acclaim. Anticipation was thus very high about the follow up with the expected trajectory of yet more insane action. When news broke that William Gibson had been tasked to write the screenplay that only made everyone even more excited. Could the man who invented cyperpunk possibly take the franchise to another level altogether?

From Gibson’s foreword, it’s clear he was a massive Alien / Aliens fanboy and set about writing something he felt would be the next logical step in building the trilogy, both in terms of plotline and tone. Reading this adaptation, he clearly succeeded in every respect, producing something completely in keeping with what had gone before in both films but also potentially allowing the franchise to expand in a new logical direction.

 

 

Which then begs the question… why didn’t it get made?

As I’ve commented before, it is a complete mystery to me why so many films that actually do get made have ever been greenlit at all. We are back to the hubris of bad guys aren’t we? Just movie execs this time…

Anyway, the opening quote above is enough of a ‘trailer’ to give you fair warning of the mind (and stomach) rending horror that is to follow.

 

 

Johnny Christmas’ art is clean and crisp yet sufficiently visceral and bloody to convey the terror and carnage that is about to be unleashed on the inhabitants of the unsuspecting space station.

JR

Buy William Gibson’s Alien 3 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

 

 

Bad Machinery vol 8: The Case Of The Modern Men (Pocket Edition)  (£11-99, Other A-Z) by John Allison

Deadly Class vol 8: Never Go Back s/c (£14-99, Image) by Rick Remender & Wes Craig

Handmaids Tale h/c (£20-99, Doubleday) by Margaret Atwood & Renee Nault

Lumberjanes vol 12: Jackalope Springs Eternal (£10-99, Boom!) by Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh

Over The Garden Wall: Hollow Town s/c (£12-99, Kaboom!) by Celia Lowenthal & Jorge Monlongo

Prodigy s/c (£17-99, Image) by Mark Millar & Rafael Albuquerque

Sandman vol 10: The Wake (30th Anniversary Ed’n) (£14-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & Michael Zulli, Jon J. Muth, Charles Vess

Scott Pilgrim Colour Collection vol 1 s/c (£26-99, Oni) by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Sky Hawk s/c (£18-99, Fanfare Ponent Mon) by Jiro Taniguchi

Stig & Tilde: Vanisher’s Island s/c (£9-99, Nobrow) by Max De Radigues

The Adventure Zone vol 2: Murder On The Rockport Limited! s/c (£17-99, FirstSecond) by Clint McElroy, Griffin McElroy, Justin McElroy, Travis McElroy & Carey Pietsch

Dear Justice League s/c (£8-99, DC Zoom) by Michael Northrop & Gustavo Durate

Daredevil vol 1: Know Fear s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Chip Zdarsky & Marco Checchetto

Elektra: Assassin s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Frank Miller & Bill Sienkiewicz

Savage Sword Of Conan vol 1: The Cult Of Koga Thun s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Gerry Duggan & Ron Garney

The Invaders vol 1: War Ghosts s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Chip Zdarsky & Carlos Magno, Butch Guice

The Superior Spider-Man vol 1: Full Otto s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Christos Gage & Mike Hawthorne

Wolverine: Long Night s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Ben Percy & Marcio Takara

My Hero Academia: Vigilantes vol 5 (£6-99, Viz) by Hideyuki Furuhashi & Betten Court

 

 

 

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews July 2019 week four

July 24th, 2019

Featuring… well, this lot for a start…

Kramers Ergot vol 10 s/c (£26-99, Fantagraphics) by Sammy Harkham, Robert Crumb, Dash Shaw, David Collier, Anouk Ricard, C.F., Jason Murphy, Blutch, Shary Flenniken, Johnny Ryan, John Pham, Ron Regé Jr., Simon Hanselmann, Anna Haifisch, Naoh Van Sciver, Ivan Brunetti, David Amram, Helge Reumann, Frank King, Steve Weissman, Aisha Franz, Leon Sadler, Adam Buttrick, Archer Prewitt, Connor Willumsen, Bendik Kaltenborn, Will Sweeney, Rick Altergott, Kim Deitch, Marc Bell…

“You skipped school again?! Get out of bed! We’re under attack!”
“What? I don’t hear anything?”
“Stay inside!”
“What are you talking about, Mom?”
“Turn on the news!”

“Fucked up shit.”

One should never really giggle when the 9/11 attacks are involved I suppose, but the sight of a baffled  young Noah Van Sciver looking out of his bedroom window after answering the phone half-asleep to the sound of his panicking mum, did occasion me to chuckle as I read his one-page contribution on the inside front cover.

There’s a fair amount of what one could describe as fucked up shit in this amazing anthology. I would personally describe it as comics of the highest order, but I respect the maxim to each their own. The material within this latest Kramer’s collection as ever ranges from the ribald to the ridiculous, from the straightlaced to the stoopid, from the marvellously mundane to the truly out there. And beyond. It’s certainly not going to be for everyone, far from it, but it hit the spot for me.

As ever, it is curated by the remarkable Sammy CRICKETS Harkham, who also pulls off the neat trick of providing my favourite contribution in the form of an extended Blood Of The Virgin period story covering as ever the slightly seedier side of American B-movie making.

 

 

There’s such a variety of material contained within these gorgeously garishly covered (Lale Westvind) French flaps it is a formidable task to assimilate it in one sitting. For you, though, dear readers, I did just that. There were a lot of highlights. In terms of personal pure hit-rate, for such relatively esoteric material, it was considerably more than I could have genuinely expected, with barely a miss. Which either means that Sammy Harkham has been reading my mind, or just really has his finger on the pulse of cutting edge comicdom. I’m going with the latter.

Dash Shaw’s Policewoman…

 

 

Anouk Ricard’s recurring Ducky Coco one-pagers…

 

 

C.F.’s Liquid On Neutral…

 

 

Ivan Brunetti’s Stay Gold…

 

 

John Pham’s J&K…

 

 

… and Marc Bell’s Slogan Schnauzerpg…

 

 

…were probably my stand out favourites. C.F.’s Liquid On Neutral in particular, about someone planning a script rewrite and then promptly falling down a manhole before undergoing, well, I honestly don’t know what, some sort of reality-warping experience, is definitely a contender for the most surreal contribution. It had me returning to it repeatedly just to marvel at the artistry.

 

 

There is also a surprisingly large amount of well-executed, it must be said, low-brow filth. All humorously done and frequently completely over the top like Johnny Ryan’s Run. Would you expect anything less from Johnny Ryan?

All in all this is as well rounded an avant garde and absurdist anthology as you imagine could be put together. I therefore once again take a Kramer’s Ergot vol 7 sized hat off…

 

 

…to Mr Harkham for his continued commitment towards showcasing the very best of the most wilfully self-indulgent material out there. Happily volume 10 is a ‘normal’ oversize.

Anyway, these are creators who are all making precisely the sort of comics they want to make, damn the consequences and in most cases, lack of sales. These folks would rather have the devout love of a few than compromise their creativity to reach the masses and more power to them for it.

JR

Buy Kramers Ergot vol 10 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Books Of Magic vol 1: Moveable Type s/c (£14-99, DC) by Kat Howard & Tom Fowler…

“Hey, Ellie! Do you want to see some magic?”
“Like a trick?”
“Real magic, of course. I would never trick you.”
“Okay.”
“I hold in my hands nothing but coloured paper. But once I say the magic word, they will become flowers! ABRACADABRA! Er…”
“That was… um. Good try!”

Which probably neatly sums up how I feel about this opener, really…

Part of the recent Sandman Universe material also featuring THE DREAMING VOL 1: PATHWAYS AND EMANATIONS, LUCIFER VOL 1: THE INFERNAL COMEDY and THE HOUSE OF WHISPERS VOL 1: POWERS DIVIDED, I really, really wanted this particular title to be brilliant because I hold the original THE BOOKS OF MAGIC material in the very highest regard. Always difficult to follow absolute perfection though I guess!

So, young Tim is back at school, real school not magical school, but it appears he has seemingly forgotten much of what he has already learnt of the mystic curriculum. Fortunately help is on hand in the form of his teacher Dr. Rose, who is of course half of Dr. Occult along with Richard. Well, technically she was bonded to his soul when he died at some distant point in DC past if memory serves, but you get my drift.

Tim hasn’t forgotten he is seemingly destined to the greatest magician of his age, for good or evil – again see: THE BOOKS OF MAGIC – nor indeed the tumultuous events which occurred in that epic adventure leading him to this point.

 

 

Which is why I am utterly perplexed that he doesn’t seem to recognise Rose when he first sees her. Not sure that is a mystery which is going to get solved, or maybe it will.

 

 

Anyway, he also definitely hasn’t forgotten his mum. His dead mum. Or merely his missing mum, depending on your perspective… That semantic difference is going to ensure Tim gets himself into his first round of fresh trouble, though of course there are darker forces determined to steer Timothy in their direction, or just remove him from play completely.

We also see the return of some other familiar SANDMAN / BOOKS OF MAGIC mythos characters, such as Tim’s perennially glued-to-the-TV deadpan dad, plus a firm favourite of mine, the fabulously bonkers Mad Hettie, who as ever is most definitely not quite so completely hatstand as she appears. Just mostly!

Tom DOOM PATROL Fowler’s vibrant art is considerably different and less gritty than the other three Sandman Universe titles, but actually works well in capturing the restless nature of the somewhat mercurial teenage wizard complete with all his surging hormones and teenage angst.

 

 

I think were it not for the exceptional original material, I would have been sufficiently entertained by this in its own right anyway. Even so, I have persisted with it in single issue form and it is pulling enough rabbits out of the proverbial hat for me to keep reading it. Plus, no spoilers, but there have already been more guest appearances from familiar characters and I am sure that trend will continue.

Particularly given the recent announcement regarding the return of one John Constantine esquire in a forthcoming one-shot and then new ongoing HELLBLAZER series penned by Si Spurrier, which is all apparently going to tie-in directly and follow on from the original BOOKS OF MAGIC

JR

Buy Books Of Magic vol 1: Moveable Type s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Magicians: Alice’s Story h/c (£20-99, Archaia) by Lev Grossman, Lilah Sturges & Pius Bak…

“And with that, Quentin is being rescued from being pinned to the wall by Professor March.
“Everything he does, he by the skin of his teeth. Part of me wants to dislike him so much.
“But another part… a very insistent part… tells me that there’s more to him than I’m seeing.
That part is getting traction. But it’s annoying getting all the other parts in the process.
“And then…
“… Reality slips a gear and starts idling in neutral.
“I can’t move. Nothing moves.
“Out of nowhere he appears.
“No fanfare. One moment not there. The next moment there.
“Hi is in no rush. Time passes.
“How much time I can’t say. I will learn later that it’s hours.
“Whatever he is, he’s not human.
“Or, perhaps, not human anymore.
“Amanda’s voice. Mangling her Cretan Mycenaean dialect. But it gets the job done.
“More time passes. But how to count time when your gaze doesn’t change?
“And just like that… (just like what, Alice? If anything is sui generis, it’s this.)
“… He’s gone.”

And just like that, with that, Alice’s fellow pupil Amanda at the hidden Breakbills University for magicians has been eviscerated and poor Professor March appears to be lying in a puddle of his own piss…

 

 

Where’s young Harry Potter, I mean Timothy Hunter, to save the day when you need him? Well, Potter was last spotted treading the boards and Hunter’s got more than enough of his own academic problems…

Fortunately we don’t need them because we have Alice and Quentin, little more than occult aspirants at this point, but soon about to get involved in some very serious wiz-biz along with their frenemy Penny.

 

 

Actually, whilst there might be a nod to a certain young mage or two with the hidden school, this whole work is an amusing and clever meta-warping twist and very deliberate nod to several fantasy works, not least The Chronicles Of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.

In fact, the work itself has also undergone a neat little sleight of hand during adaptation by Lilah LUMBERJANES: INFERNAL COMPASS Sturges from the original prose novel by Lev Grossman. For the original (trilogy, this merely being the first book) tells the story from the viewpoint of Quentin Coldwater, whereas this graphic novel adaptation recounts events as experienced by the other main character Alice Quinn.

 

 

I guess for fans of the hugely popular original material, and indeed TV show adaptation which is now in its fifth series, it is a lovely bit of legerdemain. For people utterly unaware of the source material, or the TV show, like myself, all one can do is judge it on its own mystical merits, and I really rather enjoyed it.

Here’s the publisher to cast a spell on you with their mystical mumblings…

“Alice Quinn is manifestly brilliant, and she has always known that magic is real. During her years at Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy, she rises to the top of her class, falls in love with Quentin Coldwater, and witnesses a horrifically magical creature invade their dimension.

It’s not soon after graduation when Alice, Quentin, and their friends set their sights on the idyllic setting of Fillory: a place thought to only live in the pages of their favourite children’s books. A land where magic flows like rivers… but in this magical realm nothing is what it seems to be, and something darker lies behind the spellbinding facade.

It is in the darkness where Alice will discover her true calling and her life, and those friends, forever changed.”

This is well crafted fantasy which pays homage to and plays gleefully with its inspirations. I thought Pius Bak was very good too artistically. It wouldn’t look out of place in a Sandman Universe title and there are hints of Peter HIGHEST HOUSE Gross and P. Craig GRAVEYARD BOOK Russell going on in there stylistically and in terms of the colour palette.

JR

Buy The Magicians: Alice’s Story h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Bags (Or A Story Thereof) s/c (£9-99, Archaia) by Pat McHale & Gavin Fullerton…

John walked to the policeman’s house.
The policeman lived in a house down the street. John had seen him being there sometimes, but other times he didn’t.

DING DONG

“Oh hello, John.”
“He’s working, John. He’s at the police station. Did something happen?”

John looked at the policeman’s wife for a moment and thought about how anyone could have taken Beth.

“It’s okay, sweetie. You can trust me.”
“Noooo… nothing has happened.”

Why wasn’t the policeman home? What was he doing? Was he really at the station? Was his wife lying? John was very suspicious now. Finding Beth was going to be much more convoluted than he thought.

 

 

Yep, it really was! I’m pretty sure you have some questions of your own now… So here’s the publisher to provide you with a few answers without giving away pretty much anything whatsoever at all…

“This is the tale of John Motts. He is a man who had a dog, but now that dog is gone. John searches his house, his street, and his town, but the dog is nowhere to be found.

 

 

John soon realizes that he must travel further, past the road and into the trees if he’s ever to find out the truth of what happened to his dog.

Bags (or a story thereof) is a journey of love and suspense as John Motts searches through the world he knows, and a world he doesn’t, weaved together beautifully by Pat McHale, creator of the Over The Garden Wall cartoon series and Gavin Fullerton.”

If you seen the beautifully serene and sedately surreal Over The Garden Wall cartoon, or indeed read the subsequent OVER THE GARDEN WALL graphic novels, then you will immediately know what sort of subtle tone, and journey, to expect. The unexpected basically.

 

 

Don’t try and guess where John will end up, you won’t, or indeed if he will ever find his dog. He might. He might not. Just marvel at John’s redoubtable determination and resilience to find Beth in the face of ever-increasing odds and oddity and despite all his obvious shyness and uncertainties.

 

 

The art is equally unusual, with a deliberate four colour-esque letratone period feel. It all adds to the uncertain ambience. Even the John Motts character himself, with his huge potato shaped head and couple of tufts of hair is like some sort of curious hybrid, both visually and somewhat in terms of personality, of a little JIMMY CORRIGAN and more so Charlie Brown from PEANUTS. He’s the sort of character you’ll find yourself rooting for but also shaking your head slightly at.

JR

Buy Bags (Or A Story Thereof) s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Murder Falcon s/c (£17-99, Image) by Daniel Warren Johnson & Daniel Warren Johnson, Mike Spicer…

“You… you’re recruiting me to this craziness? To defeat monsters with… MUSIC???
“Me, helping to save the world? No. No. I couldn’t even keep my own band together… after I lost everything!
“I pushed everyone out to protect myself! How can I go back to playing now? For stakes this high?
“I’m worthless to you.”
“Jake… where I come from… there are many like me. Linked to instruments like the one you hold in your hands.
“My coming here was not by accident.
“I chose you, Jake
“You are talented, kind, resilient. There is a spark inside you, even though you try and hide it. And it is that spark, through that guitar, that helps me to…”
“Fight evil?”
“And save the world.”
“This is insane. And what kind of name is Murder Falcon anyways? It’s kind of… intense.”
“Don’t worry, Jake… I only murder monsters.”

Channelling, indeed revelling, in the sheer epic nonsensicalness of the likes of Bill And Ted, the Comic Strip’s ridiculous Bad News spoof plus pretty much everything Tenacious D have ever written, comes a epic story of one very unlikely heavy metal musician stuck in the wrong sort of funk. He’s going to have to fight off an invasion of monsters that even Godzilla in his pomp would have had problems dealing with. Fortunately, he’s not going to have to do it alone…

 

 

Just occasionally, something is so wrong it is right. If you throw shredding guitar into the ear-rending mix I’m talking DETROIT METAL CITY levels of lunacy here. There is just such a gloriously insane sense of fun at work right from the opening notes that suspension of disbelief gets thrown clean out of the window like a smashed TV out of a deranged rocker’s hotel window.

The fight scenes have a touch of the kinetically chaotic precision of Geof Darrow’s SHAOLIN COWBOY though in truth Daniel Warren Johnson’s art style minded me of a slightly more jagged James ALIENS: DEAD ORBIT Stokoe.

But this is no all-out action comedy fest! No, what carries this behemoth careening along in ever more gargantuan fashion like an exploding fireball from the depths of hell gathering everything up before it in a crap music video style is its drum-thumping heart. For Jake is a man badly in need of redemption and rediscovering his musical mojo. What better than the threat of total global annihilation at the hands, well, claws of Magnum Khaos, who is intent on enslaving humanity, to force Jake to pick up his err… pick and start plucking!

 

 

Every time you think Johnson can’t up the proverbial decibel level ante he manages it!

 

 

I did seriously wonder if he was going to be able to pull off the ending, but he manages something appropriately spectacular to bring matters to a pounding conclusion. Then there is the matter of the power ballad encore epilogue… I don’t want to spoil the set list, but suffice to say, the final number brings the house down and draws matters to a very moving conclusion indeed.

There’s no comeback tours planned as far as I am aware. This is a one hit wonder for Jake, Murder Falcon and the rest of the band. But sometimes that’s the way it should be!

JR

Buy Murder Falcon s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Die! Die! Die! vol 1 (£17-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman, Scott M. Gimple & Chris Burnham.

Someone’s not happy.

“She was nineteen.”
“That’s funny. I said that with a different tone as a defence.”

Oh, how I wish I could quote you the three preceding sentences in that exchange, but we don’t use those words around here!

As the first issue’s cover may suggested (“I’m Paul.” “I’m Nate.” “I’m drunk.”) this is all very Warren Ellis (think INJECTION), and  it was indeed a tremendously funny first issue from the writer of THE WALKING DEAD comic, the showrunner of ‘The Walking Dead’ TV series Seasons 4 to 8 who left to co-write this, and the artist on Grant Morrison’s NAMELESS.

It was also a massive surprise because it arrived on our shelves free of charge and entirely unannounced, without us having even ordered it because it was never solicited in PREVIEWS!

 

 

The idea behind that – which I wholeheartedly applaud, along with its successfully clandestine execution – was to make visiting comic shops exciting again. As Kirkman has written, there is so much information on the internet now that a comic series can be announced up to a year before its publication and that’s a long time to sustain any interest. Instead, here you go – BOOM!

We begin in Shrewsbury at the greyhound races, with an elderly man dropping his betting ticket. A younger, pretty bloke picks it up off the floor, handing it back to grateful gentlemen. Only, it isn’t the one which the pensioner dropped. It’s just as well, because he’d have lost his bet, having backed the wrong horse.

Instead he’s won, big-time.

 

 

Believe it or not, that’s merely one nudge in a ridiculously elaborate ruse formulated by the woman at the bottom of the cover, a US Senator, to completely ruin then murder a British Member of Parliament and Cabinet Minister without drawing too much attention to it. The murder, I mean. She wants him well ruined first, and in public, for he’s a paedophile. She’s snorting cocaine at midnight after what must have been a most excellent night of sex if the pert pair of bare buttocks on her sofa is anything to go by, and, as she does so, she reveals in the intricacies of her plan in minute, carefully calculated detail, including the permutations which wouldn’t quite work and so were shelved. A key element was that the old codger at the race track, no relation to the MP whatsoever, needed to become exceedingly wealthy.

The Senator, you see, is running an organisation within the United States government which is as covert as the operation required to get the DIE! DIE! DIE! periodicals so secretly onto our shelves.

Unfortunately her plan begins to unravel in the Shropshire countryside on the very second page as the pretty young man speeds through the rural idyll on a motorbike, only to be pursued by a Landrover whose driver displays all the Highway Code courtesy of a BMW tail-gater.

 

 

The breezy self-confidence and acrobatic, pugilistic prowess of our secret agent is such that you know full well how that’s going to pan out, but the writers are no more slacking throughout than the line and colour artist. They deliver a dry-stone English B-road to die for / beside, and some crotch-ripping high kicks to make you thank goodness for stretchable fabrics.

 

 

There followed a cracking final-page cliffhanger, craftily set up well in advance as to provide an immaculate three-beat punchline.

So what does the rest of the series have in store…?

For a start, three identical brothers who will be using their indistinguishable features to bamboozle all and sundry including each other, their wives, their employees and you, the readers. Don’t think the cover’s seriously wonky nose job is going to deter them, either. Lengths, they will be gone to.

Oh, and there’s a great many feuds and a good deal of bloodletting, obviously.

We’ve racked this at the back of the shop with THE WALKING DEAD, right above the horror section and next to the superheroes. That should give you some idea as to who I’m targeting and how I’m marketing this. Could have gone with the comedy next to Hamish Steele’s PANTHEON, I guess.

16+

SLH

Buy Die! Die! Die! vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Havok And Wolverine: Meltdown s/c (£22-99, Marvel) by Walter Simonson, Louise Simonson & Jon J. Muth, Kent Williams, Jon J. Muth.

“The atom, General Meltdown, is the heart of the matter.
“Once, it was thought to be indestructible, immutable, eternal.
“We know better now.
“Or worse, depending on your point of view.”

Well, quite.

The above is one Dr. Neutron patiently explaining nuclear physics and, later, fission to a decidedly impatient General Meltdown. It might not just be his temper that’s lost here.

The latter is such inspired nomenclature that I could spend paragraphs riffing off it, but make up your own jokes, why don’t you? But yes, there will be a General Meltdown as well as a very specific one to challenge the regenerative extent of our hirsute mutant’s healing factor.

Thirty years old, this mini-series! Unless I have my maths wrong, that means that as a fully-painted superhero comic it precedes ARKHAM ASYLUM so I’m not sure what precedes this in that category. Jim Starlin’s DREADSTAR was more science fiction, wasn’t it? Not a lot, anyway. There was a while to be waited until Alex Ross turned up to emphasise the awe in “awesome” with MARVELS, KINGDOM COME, JUSTICE (over Doug Braithwaite’s breath-taking pencils) and JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE WORLD’S GREATEST SUPERHEROES.

 

 

Naturally I lapped this up, especially since the painting in question was performed by two of my favourite artists, Jon J. Muth (MOONSHADOW, now back in print) and Kent Williams (BLOOD, SANDMAN: DESTINY etc). I even forked out for Graphitti Design’s hardcover collection, limited to 2000 copies and signed by all four creators, so although I’ve not read it recently that’s an endorsement from past-me at least.

In the back of that edition from 1990, the Simonsons recall that it was the artists themselves who catalysed the project, pitching to the husband-and-wife team their fervour to illustrate, specifically and individually, Havok and Wolverine, so the series was ritten both to satisfying their interest and play to their respective strengths. What they don’t mention is surely the most unusual aspect of this cooperative creation: that Jon J. Muth paints every single appearance of his preferred protagonist Havok (romantically rendering him a lambent James Dean), and that Kent Williams goes expressionistically wild with every growl of a decidedly more feral Wolverine than we’d previously been used to.

Not just on the same page, but often within the same panel!

 

 

The effect is, of course, far more cosmetic than Sean Phillips and John Bolton’s collaboration during Devin Grayson’s USER which utilises the artists’ seeming pass-the-parcel juxtapositions to startlingly successful, structurally wicked effect*, but it’s still really something to behold. I’m looking back through those co-created panels right now and the joins are seamless even though Muth and Williams favoured different colours and densities, textures. Williams went for ruddy cheeks and more wrought musculature, while Muth was all about clean, gleaming white highlights with a crisper delineation but much wetter brush.

God, but I do go on.

Instead, here’s Marvel’s hype-monkey to melodrama you to death:

“Two friends. Two mutants. Two X-Men!”

Dun-dun duuuuuuuuh!

“Havok, gifted with the ability to project devastating plasma bursts. Wolverine, a feral warrior with an uncanny healing factor, an unbreakable Adamantium skeleton and razor-sharp claws. Ambushed by Russian terrorists while on leave in Mexico, the two find themselves caught in a deadly web of international intrigue and betrayal! Can Alex Summers and Logan thwart a plot to bring the Western world to its knees? “Beautifully painted artwork combines with fast-paced prose to create a milestone among graphic albums as Havok and Wolverine star in a landmark X-Men story like no other!”

Imagine if those same hype-monkeys actually cared to clue you in to its craft.

* It wasn’t pass-the-parcel: Sean Phillips doesn’t recall having seen any of Bolton’s contribution until publication – the pages were instead painted concurrently as the script was delivered – which makes the resultant illusions even more improbably outstanding. Go on! Read my review of USER! Thanks!

SLH

Buy Havok And Wolverine: Meltdown s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Bad Gateway h/c (£25-99, Fantagraphics) by Simon Hanselmann

Hawking h/c (£22-99, FirstSecond) by Jim Ottavani & Leland Myrick

Hellblazer vol 21: The Laughing Magician (£22-99, Vertigo) by Andy Diggle, Jason Aaron & Leonardo Manco, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Stefano Landini, Sean Murphy

House Of Whispers vol 1: The Powers Divided s/c (£14-99, Vertigo) by Nalo Hopkinson & Dominike Domo Stanton

The Immortal Jellyfish h/c (£11-99, Flying Eye Books) by Sang Miao

Lodger s/c (£15-99, IDW) by Maria Lapham, David Lapham

The Nao Of Brown h/c (£24-99, SelfMadeHero) by Glyn Dillon

Red Panda & Moon Bear (£13-99, Top Shelf) by Jarod Rosello

Return To Belzagor h/c (£18-99, Humanoids) by Robert Silverberg, Philippe Thirault & Laura Zuccheri

Scott Pilgrim Colour Collection vol 2 s/c (£26-99, Oni) by Bryan Lee O’ Malley

Scott Pilgrim Colour Collection vol 3 s/c (£26-99, Oni) by Bryan Lee O’ Malley

Tonta h/c (£17-99, Fantagraphics) by Jaime Hernandez

Why My Cat Is More Impressive Than Your Baby (£9-99, Andrews McMeel Publishing) by The Oatmeal

William Gibson’s Alien 3 h/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by William Gibson, Johnnie Christmas & Tamra Bonvillain

Hulk: World War Hulk s/c (£22-99, Marvel) by Greg Pak & John Romita Jr

20th Century Boys Perfect Edition vol 4 (£12-99, Viz) by Naoki Urasawa

Mob Psycho 100 vol 3 (£10-99, Dark Horse) by One

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews July 2019 week three

July 17th, 2019

Featuring Navie, Carole Maurel, Matt Kindt, Tyler Jenkins, Kristyna Baczynski , Dave Sim, Gerhard, Nathaniel Lachenmeyer, Simini Blocker, Brian Azzarello & Lee Bermejo, Grant Morrison, Liam Sharp, Jason Aaron, Mahmud Asrar, Gerardo Zaffino

Horizontal Collaboration h/c (£16-99, Korero Press) by Navie & Carole Maurel…

“Mark… we can’t be friends. It’s too dangerous, too serious. Can’t you see what it would mean?”
“That I’m going to have to marry you? Kidnap you… willingly?”
“…”
“I’m too afraid, Mark.”
“You needn’t be afraid.”
“How?”
“We aren’t friends, Rose.”
“…”

And then Mark kissed Rose passionately on a busy Paris street…

Which would be fine, were it not for the fact that this is occupied Paris, 1942, and whilst Rose is a Parisian through and through, Mark is not. No, Mark is an officer in the German army, specifically tasked with locating Jews hiding amongst the populace…

Unfortunately for both of them they’ve fallen in love at first sight when Mark came to check on an anonymous tip-off regarding Jews hiding in Rose’s block of apartments.

 

 

Rose isn’t Jewish, but one of her dear neighbours is, and whilst she’s strong enough to protect them, it seems she isn’t quite tough enough to save herself from Mark’s ardent advances. Not that she wants to stop them, but given her situation, as a young mother with an unloved husband away at war, she might have been wise to.

Their affair starts off as the clandestine type, of course, just one secret of many amongst our extended cast of Rose’s family, friends and neighbours in wartime Paris, but it doesn’t stay hidden forever. Certainly not with Mark’s carefree public displays of affection.

 

 

But when the tide of the conflict begins to turn and the Allies begin to advance, the reality of their relationship bites hard.

This is a very moving war-torn romance indeed from writer Navie, though Rose and Mark’s tryst is just one of several stories woven into the hardship of daily existence under an oppressive regime.

 

 

 

Thus whilst they may have the main billing there are other tragic heroes, certainly some quite despicable villains, plus one character whose morally ambiguous actions, whilst certainly well-intentioned, are catastrophic to say the least. There is also a particularly painful irony at play there too which makes it even more devastating…

This work concludes with two letters, one of which is actually a separate loose sheaf of folded paper, barely stuck down to the inside rear cover, which could very easily slip out and be lost… One letter may very well confirm your suspicions regarding a certain individual, the other, well, the other might just break your heart completely.

Told in retrospect in modern day, by an elder Rose to her lovestruck granddaughter Virginie, this haunting look back in time is beautifully and tenderly illustrated by Carole Maurel.

 

 

Our leading duo simply cannot contain their love, evident from the expressions on their faces, even whilst apart, and wartime Paris still feels like a vibrant, buzzing city, albeit populated by people aware their every move is being watched and controlled. Still, our cast of characters do mostly try and keep their secrets, some much more successfully than others. Even so, life and love goes on. Until they don’t.

JR

Buy Horizontal Collaboration h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Cerebus vol 5: Jaka’s Story (Remastered Edition) (£35-99, Aadvark Vanaheim Inc.) by Dave Sim & Gerhard.

Re-shot and printed on much crisper paper.

A little like this review.

Almost all of our CEREBUS reviews were written from memory in a single sweep, immediately prior to the launch of Page 45’s website in 2010, because the collections had come out long before we’d been writing reviews but I wasn’t going to let such an innovative (albeit occasionally problematic) body of work like this (300 issues plus attendant extras) sit there in a void. But the “single sweep” is important because – even though I’ve embellished this for 2019 – each review relied to some extent for context upon what I’d written of the series so far, while omitting certain elements to avoid repetition.

You might, therefore, want to start reading the reviews from the very first book, but this volume is where I’d recommend you start buying unless you’d prefer something more sensationally satirical in the vein of Black Adder or Yes, Prime Minister, in which case you can hop all the way back to the second book, HIGH SOCIETY.

A complete change of place after the social, political, religious and even cosmic cataclysm of CEREBUS: CHURCH & STATE, and a completely self-contained read recommended as anyone’s starting point so long as it’s not your first-ever comic. By now Sim is experimenting in so many ways with storytelling in this particular medium that novices may find the devices disorientating. But it’s where I started to read CEREBUS, I was hooked in the space of two or three pages, and for the next twenty years until the arrival of ASTERIOS POLYP, THE NAO OF BROWN and the ALEC OMNIBUS et al, I considered the series to be the finest work in comics.

Half the book focuses on the tensions of quiet domesticity, the dancer Jaka living with her new husband Rick halfway up a mountain next to a few other domiciles and a tavern. The other half is about freedom of artistic expression and a woman’s right to choose. But it’s not as straightforward as you might think.

 

 

Cerebus has been away.

As an anthropomorphic aardvark in a pre-industrial world otherwise populated by humans Cerebus is the ultimate outsider, but his seemingly unique physiology (on top of the odd prophecy) has also made him a source of speculation and a magnet for power. He’s already been Prime Minister and Pope.

But in his male papal absence he’s been dethroned, and the matriarchal Cirinists have taken over. Their religious belief in motherhood is absolute, but don’t imagine they’re feminists. A woman only has the right to choose so long as her choice is to become a mother. Dancing, for example, is illegal. Men are regarded as second-class citizens and Cerebus as the former religious leader of men is very much on the run.

 

 

Having materialised by ‘coincidence’ on Rick and Jaka’s doorstep, Cerebus is offered sanctuary there, but given that Cerebus was, is, or perceives himself to be in love with Jaka, it’s hilariously awkward.

In the meantime Oscar Wilde turns up. He’s writing a story – the story within this story about Jaka’s childhood. He’s also eyeing up Rick, but he’s open and honest about it, even if Rick’s too dim to understand those tentative advances.

Far, far more ominous are the constantly revised conversations which tavern owner Pud is having with Jaka in his head. Dancing is illegal and his patrons are few, yet in spite of his poor remuneration Pud still pays her to dance in very revealing outfits. One of the ways I sell JAKA’S STORY on the shop floor goes like this: do you ever try to anticipate conversations in advance? You know, if I say this, they may come back to me with that, so I’ll counter with… Hmmm. But what if I said that instead, how would it steer things? Throughout JAKA’S STORY Pud is secretly and silently obsessing over Jaka, stopping and restarting his premeditated, seemingly innocent overtures, but each new strand of calculated conversation in Pud’s head grows increasingly worrying…

Three-quarters of the way through the rug is pulled out from under everyone’s feet and the rest is even darker. How could it not be? Margaret Thatcher materialises. Her speech is reproduced phonetically, its rhythm and cadence as perfectly rendered as the words are chilling.

 

 

Before even commencing this story, landscape artist Gerhard built a three-dimensional model of Jaka’s house so that he could envisage exactly how each character moved through it, how to ‘shoot’ exterior sequences with consistency, and then how to represent each time of day’s subsequent shadows. Some superhero artists can’t even spell the word ‘background’ let alone draw it. They replace it instead with nominal silhouettes or speed lines: it’s not an artistic decision like Kojima’s in some sequences of LONE WOLF & CUB, but sheer laziness instead. Conversely, the very concept of laziness is an anathema to Gerhard, and his intricate, cross-hatched textures I rate right up there with Gustav Dore.

Our product pages can’t reproduce accents, sorry.

2019’s Stephen Says: Hello! Were I reading then writing about this today then you’d receive a relative epic. But I can’t. I just can’t. There are so many new books every week which demand our full concentration. And with that, I redact twenty-two more imaginary paragraphs of unequivocal praise, but also a couple of qualms involving authorial intention versus actual execution and so readers’ reception, very much in the vein of Evelyn Waugh’s ‘Brideshead Revisited’ which was supposed to represent Catholicism in a positive light but which [snip, for which we’re all very grateful – ed.]

SLH

Buy Cerebus vol 5: Jaka’s Story (Remastered Edition) and read the Page 45 review here

Grass Kings vol 1 s/c (£13-50, Boom! Studios) by Matt Kindt & Tyler Jenkins.

“Ain’t no law says I can’t be here.”
“There’s written laws, and then there’s the other kind.”

The artist from SNOW BLIND does not disappoint, as you shall see. He’s taken the opportunity to open up with much larger, more focussed panels and their beauty benefits enormously from the paper this is printed on.

I’m generally quite sceptical about publishers’ comparison points in their solicitation blurb: selling their new series in advance to retailers and readers alike by referencing other critically acclaimed comics. But this time SCALPED looks like being on the money, and not just because the land was once more freely roamed by Native Americans before being stolen from them (see Ethan Hawke and Greg Ruth’s jaw-dropping INDEH). You will, however, have to infer what you will, for I’ve already tried to tell you exactly what I mean in three different ways, each one explaining far too much for a comic which plays so well with your preconceptions.

 

 

It begins in the Spring of 1450 A.D. by the shores of a vast lake which will prove pivotal throughout.

“The lake holds the whole history of the place.
“Entire generations…
“The lake’s the only witness to all that’s come and gone.
“It cost me a niece… and a sister-in law.”

Clearly the narrator is far more contemporary, but how contemporary and who is it?

“The land… the water…? It sets the toll and takes what it will.”

 

 

 

What we are witnessing at this point back in 1450 A.D., by the sparse, lakeside settlement of animal-skin tipis, is murder for a mate. Not an open, honest, if brutal joust between stags in a thunderous display of virility, but a covert ambush of one man by another with intent to steal. Steal he does, claiming his terrified prize at night as she coddles her baby, pulling open the tipi’s flap and staking his claim.

“This land has been fought for.
“This patch on earth has been earned.
“And lost… over and over again.”

We witness that happening throughout the centuries which follow  until a rudimentary township is established with the arrival of wagons, a small community blossoms  and a church is erected, then more utilitarian, agrarian buildings make their mark along with motorised vehicles which already look a little dilapidated by 1950 A.D..

“And those that paid for it with blood and sweat and tears?
“They ain’t about to give it up.”

 

 

Now, this morning, in that self-same settlement, a young man in a backwards baseball cap is being bundled unceremoniously into a police car by a man in his mid-forties wearing a policeman’s uniform. Apparently the boy isn’t welcome on their land. But apparently the arresting officer isn’t legally a lawman. The boy bullishly protests that – according to the Sheriff in Cargill – they’re all squatters. But all the man called Bruce will concede is that they are a closed community, self-sustained, running off the grid, and that he and his two brothers will protect its borders.

Which is where, I believe, we came in.

“Shelly! How goes it?”
“S’all good. Shot me a couple weasels this morning. Looks like you caught one yerself.”

 

 

We may well return to assumptions and presumptions anon, but let’s first talk about Tyler Jenkins.

There’s such attention to detail throughout and most especially on the evolution of the hamlet, emerging from scratch like Will Eisner’s DROPSIE AVENUE which you’ll also find within Eisner’s A CONTRACT WITH GOD TRILOGY. As the population of Eisner’s town (and then city) swells, so do its domiciles and I loved the coming and going and repurposing, refashioning of buildings to suit shifting needs.

The Grass Kingdom is far more tightly controlled for it remains rustic with grain silos, water towers, a light aircraft hangar, jetties for mooring small fishing boats and a view of the lake which is to die for.

All of this Tyler Jenkins delivers with a double-page flourish of wet washes which had me gasping out loud. It’s akin to an aerial photograph snapped out of a helicopter, and you can identify individual landmarks seen on previous pages and those you’ll encounter as Bruce drives their unwanted intruder way off their land.

 

 

It’s phenomenally well structured too: there’s a horizontal horizon of low-lying, misty blue mountains, but the sandy township itself is held within parallel, diagonal bands of much darker green – trees to the north, the lake to the south – while your eyes are further driven in to its centre from the top, right and bottom-left by the grey asphalt which of course radiates outwards as well. Quite swiftly, in our obdurate young friend’s experience.

Much is made in that car-bound conversation of Robert, Bruce’s older brother, who seems to reign over this closed community like a king – one with a temper and a propensity towards drink. It’s made very clear to the youth that he’s lucky to have been caught by Bruce and not Robert. But all that we see is a tight-lipped man, tired and haggard beyond his years, sat brooding on his porch and staring out to the lake. There follow two free-form pages of quick-fire recollection before three long, comparatively static panels as ochre afternoon becomes a crimson sunset then night.

Then he sees something else.

 

 

I mentioned attention to detail, didn’t I? The distant past and present danger will converge most unexpectedly, at which point you may want to rethink.

For a completely different but equally unexpected take on autonomous communities living off the grid, please see Brian Wood and Mack Chater’s woefully underexposed BRIGGS LAND.

SLH

Buy Grass Kings vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Singing Rock & Other Brand-New Fairy Tales h/c (£13-99, FirstSecond) by Nathaniel Lachenmeyer & Simini Blocker…

“You have released me from the magic lamp. As a reward, I will grant you three wishes.
“Not four or five or six. THREE.
“Those are the rules.
“What is your first wish?”

HOP HOP HOP HOP HOP

“Would you like a treasure chest filled with gold?
“That’s a popular wish.”

In fact, we have been granted four fabulous fairy tales, rather than three or indeed four, five or six wishes. Not that the bemused frog in the opening ‘Hop Hop Wish’ would probably know what to do with those either… Although, he does quickly catch on and come up with an ingenious idea for dealing with the pesky genie.

 

 

In addition to our ambivalent amphibian we also have our titular crooning pebble, a pair of squabbling sorcerers and also a very perturbed portrait artist.

 

 

Each story, scribed by Nathaniel Lachenmeyer is full of joy and snarky humour, as foolish follies are committed aplenty by all and sundry before happy endings finally ensue.

Simini Blocker’s colourful art is equally full of life and frivolity. There’s a real gentle glee and exuberance and most definitely an air of ever-present mischief which contributes to the fun.

I think my favourite story was probably the wiz-biz battle of wits involving the quiet, studious Athesius and the king’s lazy sorcerer Warthius, who being a pretty talentless magician, hatches a nefarious if fairly transparent scheme to steal Athesius’ spells by gifting him a parrot.

Athesius of course, is not remotely fooled as Warthius gamely blunders on…

“What is it?”
“It’s called a parrot.”
“Isn’t that the tropical bird that can repeat everything that people say?”
“Did I say parrot? It’s… an ostrich.”
“I thought ostriches were supposed to be enormous.”
“It’s a pygmy ostrich.”
“A pygmy ostrich? They must be very rare.”
“They are.”

 

 

I think you can probably guess where this tail is going to go and what the moral of the story might be!

JR

Buy The Singing Rock & Other Brand-New Fairy Tales h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Read All About It! (£12-99, King) by Kristyna Baczynski ~

Krystyna Baczynski, the queen of zines, is here to drop some knowledge and ignite imaginations with a gloriously engaging activity book.

With pull out pages and easy to follow instructions, this book is ready and raring to go! Whether you’re out adventuring in the sunshine or stuck on the sofa during a typically British rainy day, all you need is a pen and a bucket load of creativity! Though if we want to get really into it, some scissors and glue would go a long way to making your zines super extra special.

With ten zines on different themes, there is bound to be something to tickle your fancy and spark some imagination. Ranging from a week in the life, to a dream journal, to a magnificently made-up menagerie of monsters.  But as everyday as some of the themes may be at first glance, they really are a fantastic base to have some fun with. Who says the food zine should be about how to make marshmallow topped rice crispy squares? Why shouldn’t it be a how-to of your best recipe for purple flavoured grumwumple cake, filled with Inkleberry Jam and topped with a mountain of chocolate sprinkles so high that you would need a Sherpa to help you scale to the top! Suitable for both the realist and the fantasist, everyone is bound to get a kick out of these colourful zines.

Speaking of colour, Krystyna has gone full on-trend with the contrasting, highlighter colour aesthetics of risograph printing. Combo that with a lavish use of pop-retro stylings, eye-popping patterns and, of course, her charming illustrations and characters, you’re in for playful feast for the eyes so enticingly delicious that you won’t be able to stop those creative juices from flowing.

Off-white, soft textured paper not only adds to the home-made, design-trend look, it’s also particularly great for pencils and crayons! And pretty much everything else, though I maybe wouldn’t go too heavy on the markers.

As a kid, I know that this book would have been an absolute favourite of mine. Packed full of tutorials from lettering (dotty lettering was always a staple), to character creating from old magazines and newspapers (pro-tip, give old birthday cards a try too!), this book is bound to keep any creative entertained for hours, even days on end! And what is great is that this is only a starting point. Once you’re equip with the know-how, you’re encouraged to keep on making, drawing, cutting and sticking, to make the best zines you can think of! And what’s more there’s an option to get collaborative. So for all you parents itching to join in on the fun, you can! Get stuck in! Get the friends involved and really get fun going.

As an adult (lol), I’m gonna get stuck in anyway! Now, if only I can remember where I kept my best jumbo Crayolas…

JP

Buy Read All About It! and read the Page 45 review here

Joker s/c (£13-99, DC) by Brian Azzarello & Lee Bermejo.

Crikey! This originally appeared as a hardcover in 2008. There’s never been a softcover until now. With a few additional, very necessary updates, this was written back then….

“When I was a kid, my scumbag stepfather once — only once — took us camping. I’d never been out in the woods before, and I haven’t been there since, really. But the time with my stepfather I caught a toad, and I took him home in a box. I fed him bugs that I’d catch… roaches mostly, since that’s what we had, mostly.
“After it rained, I’d take him up on the roof of our building too. Seein’ it was outside, I figured he’d like to hop around up there, and I think he really did. I like to think that. But this one time… there were older kids up there, and they saw what I had… And they said they were going to throw my toad off the roof. And I knew they were, I knew it. And also knew I could let them do that. To me.
“So I did it myself.”

And that’s not even The Joker. That’s Johnny Frost, the Joker’s chauffeur and right-hand man. Nice chap, Johnny. Bit of a clot for taking the job, mind: never trust a psychopath.

 

 

 

We have a new top tier Bat-book, ladies and gentlemen, something approaching KILLING JOKE, GOTHAM CENTRAL, RULES OF ENGAGEMENT, DARK KNIGHT RETURNS and DARK KNIGHT STRIKES AGAIN, Except you’ll only see half a dozen pages with Batman in them. This is squarely and fairly about Johnny and the Joker. They’ve dropped the cartoon features in favour of mouth-slit-with-razor-blade, entirely appropriate for this take on The Joker who doesn’t even attempt to pun his way into your black, black hearts (only ever successfully achieved by Moore in KILLING JOKE and Tom King’s Rebirth run on BATMAN) but keeps everyone perpetually off balance and thoroughly unnerved with his verbal u-turns, intense, unpredictable mood swings and complete disregard for the sanctity of anything including himself.

Under a veneer of charm, he is menace personified, your very worst nightmare and he’s just discharged himself from Arkham Asylum: that’s bad news for you if you carved up his territory and took it for your own in his absence.

 

 

It’s like no other take so far, though I imagine its imitators are waiting in the wings, and the same goes for Killer Croc, Harley Quinn (wisely and thankfully silent entirely throughout), The Riddler and up to a certain extent The Penguin and Two-Face.

Bermejo has excelled himself, as has Mick Gray on inks. They take Joker’s jagged mouth and extend it to everyone else on the page, their features half-shadowed and crinkle-cut like THE INHUMANS and FANTASTIC FOUR 1234’s Jae Lee on a pneumatic drill. What is slightly odd is that Bermejo’s elected to ink himself on his favourite pages, although you may not notice it until the final scene on the bridge where the far softer treatment on alternate pages doesn’t exactly jar but seems unnecessary. His Joker is alternately wild and hooded-eyed, chipped toothed and a mess of scar tissue.

So are some of his victims once he’s finished with them.

 

 

 

Evidently he feels the Injury To Eye Motif is just too limiting… and the Joker’s never been good at self-restraint.

SLH

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

Green Lantern vol 1: Intergalactic Lawman h/c (£22-99, DC) by Grant Morrison & Liam Sharp.

Original 2000AD run through with Douglas Adams – that’s how I’d characterise so much of this.

It’s highly inventive and very, very funny. Even mid-mass-arrest, there are so many stop-for-a-moment-to-laughs.

“Ye’ll never catch us now, copper!” boasts an 8-legged fiend.
“I won’t have to. My partner, Green Lantern Floozle Flem, is a super-intelligent all-purpose virus. Replicating in your bloodstream as we speak. Floozle Flem doesn’t catch you… You catch Floozle Flem.”

The police-patrol Green Lantern Corps’ pro-diversity recruitment drive knows no blinkers. You can’t expect to patrol then control the full range of a cosmos’s criminal manifestations if you don’t have an equally unorthodox armoury of agents. So yes, one Green Lantern is a virulent, sentient flu germ; another is a walking, talking, bi-pedal volcano.

No more a superhero series than Hickman and Aja’s HAWKEYE – which was instead a slickly designed, contemporary comedy of manners, therefore infinitely more accessible to a far broader audience – this is cosmic cop-crime whose precinct and jurisdiction are both set in space.

 

 

You can tell by its structure, which begins with a disciplined demand for a sit-rep update from HQ (a great big green-lantern-shaped space station) while at ground-level (somewhere similarly suspended but less lime-coloured) all is barely contained chaos. A spider’s just bitten a Green Lantern’s ring off.

“That was my favourite finger, you savage!
“Arachno-Sapiens! So bitey all the time!”

 

 

So yes, bursting with playful mischief to be sure, but if fingers can be cropped then so can entire individuals as – this being crime an’ all – it also comes with abrupt, contrasting (and so much more arresting) casualties.

You need know nothing of this title’s past to enjoy the opener to this first season (because that is what I sense this is, very much mapped out like a television show), for I’ve read fewer than dozen GREEN LANTERN issues in my life; only enough to recognise this as hilariously faithful yet totally fresh, with Liam Sharp art that is ridiculously detailed and full of authority.

 

 

To tell you more, plot-wise, would be to spoil the surprise, while the same goes for its structure which isn’t above slipping in memories like a meandering and meditative road journey.

Liam Sharp has brought his all – which is considerable – and I do hope he’s on double time for all the detail. The following need mean nothing to you, it is merely an observational self-indulgence based on my own historical comics-history bias:

On different pages yet sometimes in the same panels, I sensed serious amounts of neo-classical Neal Adams in the figure work, forearms and faces, enough Alan Davis to keep me amused in the background Glaswegian gamblers betting on a battle’s outcome, HR Giger – appropriately enough – in the mechanics during the discovery of a crashed spaceship, Jim Starlin rendering attending Hal’s ribcage and stomach muscles, bites of early Sir Bazza Windsor-Smythe in the biceps, Herb Trimpe female faces and forearms, a sizzle of Bill Sienkiewicz during an arm-spread lift-off, and Jim Steranko during what I’d call “assembly”, reciting the customary bright / night / sight / might / light riff.

 

 

I’d only add that if you like your heroes not necessarily anti- but perhaps more ambivalent, then Hal Jordan will prove as pragmatic as he is dogmatic and determined in his Green Lantern role, unintimidated when going up against an entity bearing a suspicious resemblance to the Biblical God (and all cops are inherently suspicious – it’s part of their job description and arsenal), not above some judicious deception of his own, and never comes close to dropping his guard by turning the other cheek.

“Nurse, I’d call a doctor if I were you.
“But tell them this man killed 2.5 billion people.
“Tell them there’s no need to hurry.”

Also, since I did mention 2000AD in my first paragraph, does this ambition and audacity remind you of Judge Dredd?

“Planet Earth – you are gamma-intoxicated and clearly no longer in control of your decisions or actions.
“I’m placing all of you under arrest until you come to your senses.”

Are we all allowed one phone call each?

 

 

SLH

Buy Green Lantern vol 1: Intergalactic Lawman h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Conan The Barbarian vol 1: The Life And Death Of Conan Book One s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Mahmud Asrar, Gerardo Zaffino…

“The mine closed for the day so everyone in Red Tree Hill could be there to watch the Cimmerian die.
“People even came from other towns. Families picnicked on the mountain. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky.
“Until they brought him out.
“Then things got dark.”

Good old Conan, always getting himself into a right old pickle before promptly slashing his way out of it. Though if there ever were a character basically entirely responsible for every single bit of trouble he gets himself into…

Anyway, this time he is about to be hung for stealing gold. Well, he was going to be hung, but slight problem, he pulled down and pulverised the tree that the villagers had been hanging people from for decades during their first attempt to kill him. So after a brief reprieve they’ve decided to chain him to the fallen trunk and chop him into little pieces with an axe. Because, you know, that’s bound to work.

Here is the publisher soothsayer to sing us the tale of precisely what Conan is up to now he’s rejoined the Merry Marvel Marching Society…

“The greatest sword-and-sorcery hero of all returns… From an age undreamed… hither came Conan the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandaled feet.

Conan’s travels have brought him to the far reaches of the unknown, from his birthplace in Cimmeria to the kingdom of Aquilonia and all in between. But as his fighting prowess lets him carve his way through life, so too does it attract the forces of death! And few are more deadly than the Crimson Witch.

 

 

Robert E. Howard’s legendary barbarian stars in an all-new ages-spanning saga as the destiny of Conan – and King Conan – are forever changed!”

‘Nuff said? Okay, maybe I do need to add a few thoughts of my own…

Firstly, the Conan comics material that emanated from Marvel first time around set a very high benchmark that wasn’t, to my mind, bettered or even really approached in quality by what followed during his many subsequent Dark Horse wanderings.

The original series ran for 275 issues starting in 1970 through to 1993. Roy Thomas, then Marvel’s associate editor, was the one who was really keen for Marvel to licence the character, seeing the potential unlike Stan Lee, and ended up writing the first 115 issues himself before returning for the final 36.

Thomas ended up offering the Howard estate the princely sum of $200 per issue, rather than the $150 he had been told to budget for it, which meant he then couldn’t justify getting John Buscema on board initially as artist (though Buscema did end up pencilling most of #25-190) thus allowing Barry Windsor-Smith to forge his own legend on the opening 24 issues.

I mention all that because, for me, I hold that material in as high regard and with as much affection as I do much of Marvel’s classic superhero output. So I was sceptical that they could manage to reignite such interest and induce such acclaim in the character’s exploits this time around.

But so far, so bloody good. Jason Aaron, currently still in the midst of his own epoch-length run with the THOR character(s) –  the current volume being THOR VOL 1: GOD OF THUNDER REBORN S/C and they are now recollecting his run in chunkier volumes right from the start with THOR: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION BY JASON AARON VOL 1  – clearly has a strong handle on the somewhat psychotic psyche of the ever-bored barbarous man-child.

 

 

Strong, bold sword-swinging, curse-screaming art from Mahmud Asrar and Gerard Zaffino, who clearly both understand the character too.

 

 

The overarching story in this first volume moves around in time, strung through with the bloody thread of the Crimson Witch, so Asrar handles the first three issues which each tell a different adventure from Conan’s more excitable younger days, before Zaffino tackles a weary King Conan still struggling to make sense of his place in the world once his throne has been claimed.

 

 

It is of course, far too early to say if this run can match the heady errr… head-chopping heights of the original. It is certainly off to a cracking and bone-crunching start though.

 

 

Marvel, being Marvel of course, can’t leave it there. So there is also a companion SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN title, the first volume of which penned by Gerry DEADPOOL Duggan will be out very shortly. Having flicked through the issues for that, I have to say it does look just as intensely brutally carved chaos out as well.

Now Marvel, being Marvel of course, really, really just couldn’t leave it there, could they? So Conan was actually reintroduced into the Marvel Universe with the surprisingly entertaining AVENGERS: NO ROAD HOME by Al Ewing (which was a because-you-didn’t-demand-it follow-up to the utterly insipid (to me) AVENGERS: NO SURRENDER event).

Now, the thing about Marvel is… that they are convinced you just can’t have too much of a good thing, so clearly, they needed to create another Avengers title, just so they could semi-permanently shoehorn Conan into modern day. Thus we have the SAVAGE AVENGERS with Wolverine, Venom, Elektra, Punisher and Doctor Druid… sigh… I have no idea if he is going to stay there…

JR

Buy Conan The Barbarian vol 1: The Life And Death Of Conan Book One s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

 Kramers Ergot vol 10 s/c (£26-99, Fantagraphics) by Sammy Harkham, Robert Crumb, Dash Shaw, David Collier, Anouk Ricard, C.F., Jason Murphy, Blutch, Shary Flenniken, Johnny Ryan, John Pham, Ron Regé Jr., Simon Hanselmann, Anna Haifisch, Ivan Brunetti, David Amram, Helge Reumann, Frank King, Steve Weissman, Aisha Franz, Leon Sadler, Adam Buttrick, Archer Prewitt, Connor Willumsen, Bendik Kaltenborn, Will Sweeney, Rick Altergott, Kim Deitch, Marc Bell

 That’s honestly added this time!

They Called Us Enemy s/c (£17-99, Top Shelf) by George Takei, various & Harmony Becker

Bags Or A Story Thereof s/c (£9-99, Archaia) by Pat McHale & Gavin Fullerton

BPRD Devil You Know vol 3 – Ragna Rok (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, Scott Allie & Laurence Campbell, Christopher Mitten, Dave Stewart

By Night vol 2 s/c (£10-99, Boom!) by John Allison & Christine Larson

Die! Die! Die! vol 1 (£17-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman, Scott M. Gimple & Chris Burnham

Our Super Adventure vol 2: Video Games And Pizza Parties h/c (£17-99, Oni) by Sarah Graley, Stef Purenins

Justice League vol 3: Hawkworld s/c (£15-99, DC) by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV & Jim Cheung, various

Havok And Wolverine: Meltdown s/c (£22-99, Marvel) by Walter Simonson, Louise Simonson & Jon J. Muth, Kent Williams, Jon J. Muth

Miles Morales vol 1: Straight Out Of Brooklyn s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Saladin Ahmed & Javi Garron

Candy Color Paradox vol 2 (£8-99, Sublime) by Isaku Natsume

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews July 2019 week two

July 10th, 2019

All-Ages Special featuring Oscar Wilde, P. Craig Russell, Chitra Soundar, Poonam Mistry, Larry Marder, Ted Naifeh, plus we’ve found stock of  Kristyna Baczynski, Dan Berry, Joe Decie, Warwick Johnson-Cadwell, Sarah McIntyre, Fumio Obata and Jack Teagle’s 24 By 7 for which I’ve shot fresh photographs!

You’re Snug With Me h/c (£11-99, Lantana Publishing) by Chitra Soundar & Poonam Mistry.

Well, would you look at this wonder!

Although painstakingly hand-drawn and coloured on a flat surface, it comes with all the qualities of intricately embroidered cloth.

Like the most magnificent woolly jumper which you could ever imagine, there are distinct rhythms of lines, dots, spots and triangles arranged with an intuitive understanding of the forms that they delineate. Pulling out further, there are shapes within much bolder shapes like those whole animals which you’d so satisfyingly slot in between smaller, interlocking background pieces in a wooden Early Learning jigsaw puzzle.

 

 

Over and again, the geometric is rendered organic while the colours keep it all cosy.

The mother bear’s den is a perfect example, the opening image of the cubs nestled snugly head-to-toe inside her womb. She hugs herself calmly, contentedly, assuredly, while outside we see nature taking its uninterrupted seasonal course. All is as it should be, and all will be well.

So long as we maintain the balance.

Just as the colours inside Mama Bear are overwhelmingly clay-warm and cream-bright but balanced by cooler purples and white, so without the descending, sharp icy blues are complemented, being cushioned by softer masses and sweeping contours below, while the bulrush shapes glimpsed outside offer the hope of something less shivery to come.

 

 

Then, when those cubs are born, there’s a warm welcome tongue too, as the cubs laze, forelegs first, over their rotund mum’s tum. It’s all pretty idyllic…

So long as we respect the balance.

“As winter turned colder, the cubs explored their frozen den. “Mama, what lies beyond here?” they asked.
“Above us is a land of ice and snow,” said Mama Bear.
The cubs shivered.
“Don’t be afraid,” said Mama Bear. “The drifts bring us hard snow, so we can safely walk this land.”

And ordinarily that would be true.

“Can we wander where we please?” asked the cubs.
“Only where the land will let us walk,” Mama Bear replied. “But hush now, you’re snug with me.””

 

 

A poignant picture book that is so desperately timely, this by Chitra Soundar & Poonam Mistry forms a perfect twin to the same creators’ Indian-bound YOU’RE SAFE WITH ME. It boasts the same striking visual emphasis on patterns within shapes but a more sparkly, radiant colour scheme as befits the snow-bound Arctic. It also comes with the same structure of inquisitive youngsters’ fearful questions about their wider surroundings being reassured, but here a new note of caution is introduced by way of the qualifiers.

“As long as the ice stays frozen, we will never go hungry.”
“Will the ice melt?” asked the cubs.
“Only if we don’t take care of it,” Mama Bear replied.

Only on the opposite side of the double-page spread does she repeat her lullaby refrain which goes “But hush now, you’re snug with me.”

Narrative context aside, these caveats are aimed not at the cubs, obviously, but at ourselves. I don’t think we can in all good conscience accuse the Polar Bear community of compromising their Arctic environment, nor rely on them to fix that which we have so royally… endangered.

 

 

Like Tove Jansson’s THE MOOMINS AND THE GREAT FLOOD and Francesca Sanna’s THE JOURNEY, both Soundar and Mistry books pay profound tribute to the sometimes self-sacrificial role of the ideal mother in reassuring her children when perhaps not so sure herself, and they do so with the same lovely lilting refrain which came with M.H. Clark & Isabelle Arsenault’s YOU BELONG HERE (with me).

In summary: we’re never alone but it is not all ours and we should only take what we need.

I’ll only add that if you want to pluck one more all-ages picture book with a heart of gold from our carefully curated stock, then I’d recommend Sarah McIntyre’s THE NEW NEIGHBOURS for its warm welcoming of strangers.

SLH

Buy You’re Snug With Me h/c and read the Page 45 review here

You’re Safe With Me h/c (£11-99, Lantana Publishing) by Chitra Soundar & Poonam Mistry.

“When the moon rose high and the stars twinkled, it was bedtime for baby animals. But that night, when the skies turned dark and the night grew stormy, the little ones couldn’t sleep.”

Well, they can’t sometimes, can they, with gales howling outside or torrential rain hammering on the roof or tree tops? Not without some soothing reassurance.

This offers up all the reassurance and love in the world.

“Mama Elephant was passing by. “Hush,” she whispered, gently rocking the baby animals in her trunk. “You’re safe with me.””

 

 

YOU’RE SAFE WITH ME is a Young Readers picture-book so eye-poppingly opulent that I suspect it will be swept up in equal numbers by adults for adults.

It’s a perfect twin to Chitra Soundar and Poonam Mistry’s YOU’RE SNUG WITH ME, created with the same emphasis on maternal solace when responding to fearful youngsters’ questions about the more frightening aspects of their environment. It boasts equally striking patterns and shapes within shapes, but a much warmer, darker and earthier colour palette perfect for Indian climes.

Here the patterns are perhaps more like those you might find on painted clay, stone, or even an elephant adorned for religious festivals. There’s one such within!

 

 

Tiny dots in white, cream and rich red are arranged in organic circles, joined by their radial counterparts to fashion whole floral blooms which you’ll find forming the thighs of the tiny loris or tiger cub.

 

 

Foliage abounds! There the dots are configured so as to demark the curved margins and midribs of leaves, while they are thrown out far straighter in tubular veins for extra support.

Wide-eyed whiskered fish with coppery scales float in the river below, its midnight blue surface punctured by monsoon-large raindrops whose ripples echo not out in concentric circles but in spirals instead to denote outward movement, emphasised by triangular teeth in between.

“CRACK-TRACK!
 The sky lit up.
 FLASH-SNAP!
 The night flickered.
 The little animals gasped.”

 

 

Like indigenous masks, the warm-blooded youngsters gaze out of their protective, comparatively cool-coloured undergrowth in awe and wonder and fear. The next double-page spread of the sky splinters in a jagged cacophony of lightning strikes, scattering Mama Elephant’s explanation into a staccato of barely heard words.

Rarely have I seen such clever interaction in a Picture Book of sight, sound, cause and empathic effect!

I’ll also address one more element of that which impressed me the most: sometimes specific fears need allaying as well…

“SWISH-SWISH!
 The trees moved.
 OOH-OOH!
 The wind moaned.
 The little animals woke up and whimpered.”

Here they are responded to not just with a temporary, placatory cure-all balm…

“Don’t worry about the wind,“ whispered Mama Elephant. “He’s an old friend of the forest. He brings us seeds from faraway lands.”

But they are answered instead with a flip-side focussing firmly on the future, the wider balance of nature when understood, and the overwhelmingly positive compensation to any temporary tremors of the head or heart.

We’d all do well to listen to that wisdom, instead of attempting to “best” nature by barricading ourselves up against it and so destroying our oldest friend.

SLH

Buy You’re Safe With Me h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Fairy Tales Of Oscar Wilde vol 5: The Happy Prince s/c (£7-99, NBM) by Oscar Wilde & P. Craig Russell.

One of the most affecting short stories of all time brought to poignantly pencilled life by one of the true masters of comics: P. Craig Russell who successfully, transcendently adapted Wagner’s opera cycle THE RING OF THE NIBELUNG, Lois Lowry’s THE GIVER and Neil Gaiman’s MURDER MYSTERIES, SANDMAN: DREAM HUNTERS and so much more. I first read the prose in my late teens and it’s stayed in my heart ever since. Here P. Craig Russell has done wonders with the work, his fine, clean line lit with lambent colours. I even love what he’s done with the speech bubbles linked to their square-boxed, qualifying commentary. More than anything, though, his art here is the ultimate essay in tenderness.

 

 

A gilded statue of The Happy Prince stands much admired, a large ruby gleaming on his sword-hilt; his two eyes are clear, bright sapphires. Alive, he enjoyed a life of privileged pleasure and opulence in a rarefied, snowglobe existence entirely detached from the wider world outside the sequestered court. He was indeed very happy. But now as a statue raised high above the city, he can finally see the misery endured by the sick and the impoverished, the industrious yet ill-rewarded, while the rich who have so much think so little of those who serve them. It makes him weep, and his tears fall like pure drops of rain onto a tiny swallow below.

The swallow should have migrated to Africa with his friends many moons ago, but the prince begs him to tarry a while longer and act as his courier. For there are those in dire need – a seamstress with a sick child, a playwright struggling to stay warm and meet his deadline, a matchgirl whose matches have fallen into drain water and will be beaten by her father – and the prince has much of himself to give.

 

 

It’s a story of iniquity and inequality, self-sacrifice and true love, no matter the consequences. It’s about countries and councils who throw so much of their wealth into useless, vainglorious monuments and enterprises, while failing to meet the most basic needs of those they would govern.

Almost every panel has something satirical to say about people’s priorities in life or their position and disposition in society. Even the swallow’s fanciful dalliance with a slender reed says so much when thrown into contrast with its fateful falling in love with The Happy Prince.

This is the same Oscar Wilde of The Importance Of Being Earnest, but here his boisterous wit is quietly contained, concentrated and considered; the tone no less passionate, but the passion – along with his supreme command of the English language – is harnessed to a quiet, dignified indictment of the superficial few who squander so much, a celebration of the redistribution of wealth, and a relevant reminder that as far as poverty goes there is always much more to be done.

It’s also a tribute to true, selfless love and, once again, it made me cry.

 

 

We finally have all of THE FAIRY TALES OF OSCAR WILDE in softcover now, each one reviewed. I’d stick to those: some of the hardcovers are out of print.

SLH

Buy The Fairy Tales Of Oscar Wilde vol 5: The Happy Prince s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Beanworld Omnibus vol 2 s/c (£22-99, Dark Horse) by Larry Marder.

“’Now’ has turned into ‘then’.”

Pure comics magic which has for over 30 years ignited the imaginations of all and sundry, including wide-eyed infants prepared to spend their own pocket money on its mind-blowing invention. The covers are key, for their spectacle promises a brand-new, otherworldly experience, and the contents will not disappoint.

For a full introduction, please see BEANWORLD OMNIBUS VOL 1 for which Jonathan, Mark (posthumously) and I joined forces in a composite celebration of Larry Marder’s unique vision.

Alternatively, let’s throw you in at the deep end…

A second volume embracing creation, communication, cooperation, discovery and sustainable resources: one man’s junk is another’s treasure if you manage to unravel its mysteries.

 

 

 

There are plenty of mysteries here, like where Beanish goes when he makes his midday “jump” (he’s keeping that a secret) and why the youngest creatures here, the Cuties, start a-snoozin’ whenever they’re left to their own devices. They just don’t talk to each other, and that’s a big worry if they’re going to grow up to become Chow Sol’jers because teamwork for them is a top priority. Without fresh chow for the Chowdown Pool there’ll be no vitamins, nutrients and trace minerals to absorb, so it’s time to think of the future and look to a little learning through the eyes of a child who really just wants to play.

Both the dilemma and the solution were brilliant, with obvious implications for our own educational system.

Over and again, Larry Marder proves he is one of the wisest man in comics, connecting his unique and seemingly outlandish, self-sufficient ecosystem with the very real world around us. Oh, and he practises what he preaches, providing education through entertainment shot all the way through with exuberant joy.

 

 

The language is fabulous, as witnessed here when the Boom’rs first voice their concerns:

“We stumbledunkled into a somethingness we can’t quiff riff into twined idealios!”
“What sort of fact did you discover that doesn’t make sense?”
“The Pod’l’Pool Cuties neversonever do the yaketyklak between themselves.”

And the designs are simply thrilling. Mark made so many models of these for our windows, and he would have loved the giant amoeba with its cytoplasmic contents coming over all Native American / Jim Woodring. It’s flanked with flagella and primed with an angry red eye, assaulting the Beans as they float in their chow. And that makes Mr. Spook angry!

 

 

Not sufficiently mind-frazzled yet? Of the first half Jonathan wrote:

“There are new discoveries aplenty from Professor Garbonzo, such as combining the mystery pods with twinks to produce the mysterious float factor, which the ever-practical Mr. Spook is hoping to use to protect the Beans from aerial invaders – should any ever appear. Mind you, there’s a certain large fish that might be planning to pay a visit. Whereas Beanish is rather hoping Mr. Spook won’t get too interested in what’s happening in the sky as that’s where he goes for his daily meetings with his beautiful and mysterious friend and muse Dreamishness, who promises the ‘secret path of something more’ may reveal itself if he can only bring her a love song. To that end he tries to enlist the help of Boomr Band, Beanworld’s trio of mad musicians, but poor old Beanish is struggling to find his rhythm.”

 

 

It is, as it says, “A Most Peculiar Comic Experience” and it will stay with you for a lifetime.

“Search for the rhythms.
 Reach deep inside.
 Feel the surging pulse.
 Summon the BLISS!”

It is here.

SLH

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

Courtney Crumrin vol 5 s/c (£11-99, Oni Press) 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 certain 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.

Time is now running out.

SLH

Buy Courtney Crumrin vol 5 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

We Found New Stock (No Easy Feat, Folks)!

24 by 7 h/c (£14-99, Fanfare / Ponent Mon) by Kristyna Baczynski, Dan Berry, Joe Decie, Warwick Johnson-Cadwell, Sarah McIntyre, Fumio Obata, Jack Teagle

“Seven comics as diverse as they are witty as they are beautiful to behold, each created within the same 24 hours. An extraordinary accomplishment.”

 – Stephen L. Holland, Page 45

Whoever the hell he is.

What a stellar line-up! What fertile imaginations! What a variety of styles!

What a bunch of cheats.

Or at least that’s what contributor, editor and all-round director Dan Berry would have you believe in his introduction. He’s so funny! All seven comics were indeed created within the same 24 hours then printed within another to go straight on sale in Page 45’s Georgian Room in Kendal’s Clock Tower at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014. Magnificent! Ridiculous! Miraculous!

So they had a little prep time! I made notes for this review. These reviews may all look so randomly free-form with a word lobbed in here and a paragraph casually cauterising one half of a sentence from the next for no very good

Reason. But at least no one is standing over me with a stopwatch.

 

 

Let’s begin our mad dash with Sarah McIntyre ’s ‘Scribble’ in which only the scribble is scribbled and even that scribble is accomplished. It really is! It’s a dab hand at mimicry, posing as a grass stain on one day, a smashed fly on another, a bogey, a spider, then What Will Happen To My Sister If She Doesn’t Give Back My Book. That particular scribble is awfully succinct. I’m not sure which day it attempted to represent Chaos as a two-dimensional piece of graphite gurning but that was pretty existential. Almost certainly a Saturday, don’t you think?

Anyway, Jamie (the scribble’s name is Jamie) began life on a young girl’s napkin, got thrown in the bin then escaped and let out a roar: instant teeth. It began to cry – for which you need eyes. Then
Jamie ran around, ever-so-excited and found itself with legs. Legs! Suddenly it’s darting about like a mad-eyed monster from Michael Bentine’s Potty Time. Next stop: social media frenzy and huge artistic acclaim!

 

 

The cartooning is so exquisite that I will forgive its two pages of mid-70s’ wallpaper because that’s what inevitably happens when you begin to wield orange. Sarah McIntyre has all the best scribbles and if you think Jamie’s a dude then wait until you bump into his best boyf, Bob. Bob is besotted and has flap-flap wings and a wide-eyed innocence and adoration which are beyond adorable.

Here be wit, here be glee. It’s not easy trying to represent philosophy, France or a full English breakfast in scribbles.

 

 

Fumio Obata’s ‘Anywhere Road’ couldn’t be more different in style, in tone, in genre, in subject matter. Fumio created the graphic novel JUST SO HAPPENS in gentle watercolours. Here he brings his familiarly soft and gentle line to a tale of truancy as a woman walking her dog on the beach discovers a young boy in a sleeping bag. She takes him to a seaside cafe to buy him breakfast but the lad is reluctant to open up or own up to having run away from home. At first he tries to run away from his good Samaritan as well but there’s something about the woman that intrigues him and it’s not just her kindness or persistence. Obata had me holding my breath for the entire duration.

 

 

Jack Teagle’s terracotta ‘Witch Cat’ finds a crowd-shy country cat forced to fly into town after running out of ingredients for a potion. Her worst fears are realised when she runs afoul of some particularly bad apples. No really, they’re very bad apples – one has a worm wriggling its way out of his head! Fortunately our anxious feline is befriended by Bananasaurus, a fruit magician and – yeah, crazy indeed and one to read with your young ‘uns at bed time!

So we come to Dan Berry (THE THREE ROOMS IN VALERIE’S HEAD etc) and Joe Decie (COLLECTING STICKS etc).

I love everything about Joe: his mischief, his timing, his otherwise mundane household objects… even his handwriting. Yes, his handwriting! It’s one of the most attractive in comics: capital letters, far from rigid, that dance up and down while remaining as crystal clear as the layout here.

I Blame Grandma’ (also on sale separately tells how his gran invented the paper clip, fashioning it from fuse wire while working as a clerk in Sir Gerald Patten’s War Office around 1940. So that’s several household objects on the very first page. Our Joe draws a perfect pair of pliers, you know.

 

 

Joe’s grandma felt the need to file faster and keep what she filed better organised. The paperclip quickly catches on and before you know it she’s given her own office in the reappropriated Malvern Road Tube Station. She even had access to the station down below where she said she used to eat her sandwiches in the dark.

Fast-forward to the present day and there are repercussions for Decie himself. Well, you have to think of the patent and all that implies. You couldn’t make this up.

I will just add that his gran was given a St Hubbins Cross medal and – typically – kept it in an empty tin of boot polish. Joe draws a mean tin of boot polish too.

In lovely, loose, full-colour washes project director Dan Berry delivers a haunting tale of love, longing and lament.

 

 

In a small village by a vast lake ‘Nicholas and Edith’ are in love. Their parents disapprove of their relationship for no better reason than a petty family feud. To be together they must therefore find sanctuary away from the spying eyes and tattling tongues of the idle-minded villagers. And there is an island, you see, an island on the lake.

It is an object of local superstition involving some so-called spectre of doom but you know what close-knit communities are like. You know how local legends endure. You know how parents keep their children in check: with a little elaboration and fear. But when you’re in love you can see right through these things, so one evening when the waters are calm Nicholas rows Edith to the island. They find a clearing in the trees overshone by the serene, silver light of the moon.

“I love you.
“I want you.
“I need you.”

I will say little more except think Becky Cloonan – BY CHANCE OR BY PROVICENCE in particular. When you’ve read this through once you will want to start again from the beginning immediately. Entreaties are reprised word-for-word like echoes. Reproachful echoes, you could argue.

Visually, interesting things are done with Edith’s hair. Oh, how how I wish I could say what they were!

 

 

We’re all at sea with Warwick Johnson Cadwell’s ‘Tom Hand’ too. Like any good sailor’s yarn it’s set in a tavern where all the tallest of tales are told. There three sea dogs take it turns to show off their tattoos, each dedicated to the old Tom Hand and his watery demise. Each differs in what finally did him in, but the barmaid’s tale trumps them all. She has a tattoo too, you see, but it’s not necessarily where you’d expect to find it.

The forms are big, bold and as burly as the barflies’, the monsters are terrifying and the deep blues are rendered as energetically as the stormy seas themselves. You’ll almost certainly end up soaking wet.

Finally, RETROGRADE ORBIT’s Kristyna Baczynski tells a wordless, anthropomorphic, semi-cyclical tale spanning millions of years which made me smile with enormous satisfaction throughout. Her leaf and timber textures – as well as the bone and stone – are perfectly balanced, never once bogging the page down or cluttering it up but letting the light shine through, while the brightest of sage greens prove to be perfectly placed tones.

 

 

‘Hand Me Down’ begins slightly upsettingly when a three-eyed prehistoric lovely hatches from an egg, grows up, falls for a female, curls up in cave with his beloved then before you know it Junior is hatched. All very idyllic but before you know it (once again), he ages, is exhausted and dies.

Eons pass before the creature’s bones are discovered, his horn is detached and that’s when the repurposing begins as the horn is handed down through history as one ornament then another, whittled away each time through wear and tear and outright vandalism. Where and when it ends up I will not say but there’s a Tom Gauld moment towards the end that had me roaring with laughter.

If you stop to consider for a moment that these 170-odd pages of comicbook magic were all created in the same room within the same 24 hours, I defy you not to shake your head slightly and smile.

This creativity was captured in a collection of colour photographs published at the back of the book which give you a very real sense of the energy involved and the exhaustion staved off by espresso coffees and galvanising visits by Jeff Smith, Mary Talbot, Bryan Talbot and the original instigator of the 24 Hour Comic challenge, THE SCULPTOR’s Scott McCloud himself.

 

 

There the creators all stand round their printed pamphlets on sale in the Kendal Clock Tower’s Georgian Room on October 19th 2014, beaming with pride and accomplishment and quite right too. Bravo!

SLH

Buy 24 by 7 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

 

 

Bad Weekend (A Criminal h/c) (£14-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips with Jacob Phillips

Herakles Book 3 h/c (£17-99, Lion Forge) by Edouard Cour

Sensible Footwear, A Girl’s Guide (£17-99, Myriad) by Kate Charleworth

The Phoenix Colossal Collection vol 2 (£9-99, David Fickling) by Jamie Smart, Neill Cameron, James Turner, Jess Bradley, Faz Choudhury, Benedict Tomczyk-Bowen, Dominika Tomczyk-Bowen

Grass Kings vol 1 s/c (£13-50, Boom! Studios) by Matt Kindt & Tyler Jenkins

The Magicians: Alice’s Story h/c (£20-99, Archaia) by Lev Grossman, Lilah Sturges & Pius Bak

Murder Falcon s/c (£17-99, Image) by Daniel Warren Johnson & Daniel Warren Johnson, Mike Spicer

Books Of Magic vol 1: Moveable Type s/c (£14-99, DC) by Kat Howard with Neil Gaiman, Simon Spurrier, Dan Watters, Nalo Hopkinson & Tom Fowler with Bilquis Evely, Max Fiumara, Sebastian Fiumara, Dominike “DOMO” Stanton

Kramers Ergot vol 10 s/c (26-99, Fantagraphics) by Sammy Harkham, Robert Crumb, Dash Shaw, David Collier, Anouk Ricard, C.F., Jason Murphy, Blutch, Shary Flenniken, Johnny Ryan, John Pham, Ron Regé Jr., Simon Hanselmann, Anna Haifisch, Ivan Brunetti, David Amram, Helge Reumann, Frank King, Steve Weissman, Aisha Franz, Leon Sadler, Adam Buttrick, Archer Prewitt, Connor Willumsen, Bendik Kaltenborn, Will Sweeney, Rick Altergott, Kim Deitch, Marc Bell

Sandman vol 9: The Kindly Ones (30th Anniversary Ed’n) (£14-99, DC) by Neil Gaiman & Marc Hempel, Glyn Dillon, Charles Vess, D’Israeli, Teddy Kristiansen, Dean Ormston, Kevin Nowlan

Green Lantern vol 1: Intergalactic Lawman h/c (£22-99, DC) by Grant Morrison & Liam Sharp

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man vol 1: Secrets And Rumor s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Tom Taylor & Juann Cabal, Yildiray Cinar, Marcelo Ferreira

Incredible Hulk: Epic Collection – The Leader Lives s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee, Gary Friederich with Roy Thomas, Bill Everett, Archie Goodwin & Marie Severin, Herb Trimpe with Frank Giacoia

Today’s Menu For The Emiya Family vol 2 (£11-99, Denpa) by  Type-Moon &  TAa

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