Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews November 2015 week four

November 25th, 2015

Please see below New Arrivals for massive influx of new books  from John Porcelino’s Spit & A Half Distribution in America!

Giant Days vol 1 (£7-50, Boom! Box) by John Allison & Lissa Treiman.

“Making love is a beautiful way for two people to share their bodies. That’s what my Granny says.”
“It’s difficult to imagine the exact moment when she’d say that.”

Dear, dear Daisy! So sweet, so innocent, so much hair! Her hands are constantly clasped together or round someone she loves. This is her idea of a dirty secret:

“I was watching napkin-folding videos. They make me… feel nice.”

Aww. She’s just made best friends with Esther and Susan, the three of them thrown together at university during Fresher’s Week. They’re a month in and colds from all over the country have come together for a massive flu-fest, spread by snogging and whatnot. Gothstress Esther De Groot is pallid at the best of times, but now she’s looking like a cocooned corpse, wrapped head to toe in a duvet.

“I can’t tell if I’m hot or cold.”
“You live for compliments, don’t you? You’re hot! You’re very hot.”

That’s Susan Ptolemy, the more motherly of the trio, doing her best to look after the ditzy (Daisy) and the drama-magnet (Esther). Unfortunately she’s currently torn between a sore throat and her craving to smoke.

“Nic-O-Teen. Why are you treating me like this? You cost me a fortune! I demand loyalty!”

And nicotine patches are even more expensive.

“It’s a con! It’s a carnie game! The whole nicotine business is a scam!”
“Congratulations, Ptolemy. You worked it out.”

The man with the moustache clapping away is McGraw. Susan and McGraw have a childhood past. Now that McGraw has transferred in from another university, they’re about to have a somewhat problematic present. Throw in little Ed Gemmel with his shyly guarded pash on Esther, and that’s your basic set-up. It works like a dream, each chapter throwing up college-driven catastrophes-in-waiting with a sub-plot or two simmering underneath.

Written by John Allison, the creator of BAD MACHINERY and EXPECTING TO FLY, the discipline he’s learned from publishing individual pages episodically online – each one demanding narrative movement – means that there’s no filler whatsoever. Instead there’s panel after panel of wild declarations and pithy retorts as the women discover themselves, their new surroundings and each other.

We adore Allison’s art as well, but both his substitutes so far have been golden and I hate to say it but you won’t miss John for one second. Here it’s Lissa Treiman whose energy explodes on the page, matching that of its cast. Her eye for contemporary casual wear is right up with Allison’s and Jamie McKelvie’s, while Esther’s exotic new boots are monstrously fab, even if they’ve cost her a night’s clubbing.

“I apparently spent all my money on these boots. They spoke to me.”
“They said, “You’re not going to have any money any more”?”
“I wish I spoke Boot.”

Chapter three’s final-panel teaser was deliciously drawn by Treiman as Daisy walks away whistling, having dropped enough of a bombshell for Susan and Esther to stare at each other, wide-eyed, over the top of Daisy’s retreating bush of hair, both uttering a wavy, “oooooooooooh!”

That in itself is a joyfully satisfying composition but, brilliantly, Susan and Esther’s expressions are opposites: Susan’s more of a convex, upturned gasp, hair flying, while Esther’s mouth is a great big grin which is reflected in the concave curve of her ski-slope nose, black tresses cascading down.

What are they so intrigued by? Daisy’s new friendship with the gorgeous Nadia, she of the blue-streaked, asymmetrical haircut.

It’s Daisy’s 18th birthday soon. She’s never been clubbing before.

“I don’t… know… if this is the sort of music I like, Nadia.”
“You’ll get into it. You might just need a bit of assistance.”

Haha! It’s amazing what you’ll dance to under the right conditions.

I’m afraid Daisy’s just popped all the pills!


Buy Giant Days vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

King-Cat Comics And Stories #75 (£4-99) by John Porcellino…

“Excuse me young man, are you alright? Would you like a tissue?”

So… I settled down on the tram to read the latest missive from the maestro of US mini-comics and before long the waterworks were flowing. Yes, the pull quote above isn’t from this issue, but a concerned pensioner offering me assistance to wipe away the tears. On the bloody tram…  again!!

Following the saline stimulating powers of DAYTRIPPER and PLUTO VOL 1 whilst enduring the confines of public transport, I have been awaiting the next instalment of Crying Rigby with some trepidation. I knew it would happen, I just didn’t expect it to be a comic about a cat! I don’t even particularly like cats!

But then John P has always written from the heart, so honestly and openly about his life, perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised at his ability to tug on one’s tear ducts. For this is the life story of Maisie, from the moment John first encountered her at his friend Donal’s apartment in Denver, Colorado in March 1992 as a four month old kitten, to her final moments, in John’s arms, over fifteen years later.

For Maisie soon became his cat, or perhaps more precisely John became her human, and for that period of time they had together on this earth, she was John’s one constant, a comforting, loving presence through traumatic personal illnesses (see THE HOSPITAL SUITE), mental health issues, family losses and two failed marriages (see MAP OF MY HEART: THE BEST OF KING-CAT COMICS & STORIES: 1996-2002). Throughout, Maisie provided John with the unconditional love we all thrive on.

Even now, as I type, I can feel myself welling up thinking about Maisie’s final days. Read this, and you will be in no doubt of the depth of love John had, has, for her. Following hot on the heels of a concluding photograph of Maisie in her pomp, the haiku below, the sole content on the back cover, perfectly capturing the moment John recently had an involuntary Maisie flashback some eight years after her passing, was the final slashing katana blow to my emotional composure…

“Even now
opening up a book
to find a Maisie hair”


Buy King-Cat Comics And Stories #75 and read the Page 45 review here

Doodle A Day (£9-99, Macmillan) by Chris Riddell.

Creativity is cool!

But sometimes we all need a little spark, a little nudge and a little inspiration to get our minds whirring and the artistic juices flowing.

That’s precisely what this is, a book designed to make industry leisure and crafting a pleasure while giving you the structure of a brief, daily routine to ensure you don’t just dawdle but doodle each day.

From Chris Riddell, the current Children’s Laureate and co-creator of Neil Gaiman’s THE SLEEPER AND THE SPINDLE and FORTUNATELY, THE MILK (UK edition), comes a pocketbook of illustrated pages each with a blank space for you to add your personal flourishes to. They can be visual or they could be verbal. Some might involve a rebellious retort!

There are ‘Story Starters’, ‘How To’ guides, colouring challenges and blind dates with drawing during which you have to close your eyes and hope for the best.

Please don’t remind me.

Here are some examples:

“Draw some cubs for Sniffy the battle-cat.”
“What has been left all over the floor?”
“Write or draw what happens next…”
“What’s on the end of this stick?”
“Illustrate or decorate this word: DELICATE”

Being contrary, I’m inclined to paste on a more delicate, hand-drawn “delicate” and then leave a white space before slashing in bombastic, crazed chaos all around, so emphasising that unbattered calm left within.

“Write this postcard without lifting your pen off the page.”
“Draw all the square things you can find.”
“Try a modern abstract portrait of someone you know.”
“Listen to some instrumental music and draw what it makes you think of.”
“Look at the front and back of a book you haven’t read, then draw a scene you think might be in it.”

You might prefer to write that instead, for I fully believe that rules must be flaunted. In any case – every so often – anarchy is unleashed:

“Here’s a space to draw whatever you like!”

I’m buying one of these as Christmas presents for almost everyone I know – including my Aunties and Uncles! Creativity isn’t just for the young, it’s for the young at heart too, and thanks to this kindness so many of us can be entry-level students once again, no matter how many decades we’ve let pass since we last picked up a quill.



Buy Doodle A Day and read the Page 45 review here

Our Expanding Universe (£14-99, Top Shelf) by Alex Robinson.

“Trust me, a year from now you’ll be one of those dads telling me that my life isn’t complete until I’ve seen my child look at me and smile because he just shit his drawers again.”

Let’s hope so.

There’s a lot to digest here for this is an improbably well balanced discussion on – and examination of – friendship and parenthood with that bit in between: being part of a couple. But mostly it’s about bringing new life into the world and how that impacts on your relationship and your friendships, your freedom and your future.

Billy, being reassured above by his single mate Brownie, has just learned that his wife is pregnant. It shouldn’t be so much of a shock to Billy since he and his wife Marcy have been trying for a while. There may have been a little pressure from Marcy’s parents since Marcy’s sister Missy already has a kid; and there may have been a little encouragement from Billy’s other mate Scotty since he already has one child with wife Ritu and another on the way. And they seem happy.

But suddenly, to Billy, it is real.

As his single, divorcee mate Brownie says with sympathy, it’s like when you’ve embarked on a rollercoaster ride and the safety bar goes down. At any point before that you could have turned back. But when the safety bar goes down you are locked in to the rollercoaster ride which in the case of parenthood will last for a good two decades and beyond.

And Billy doesn’t believe he is ready.

He is on the precipice of regret.

How do you tell your wife that?

OUR EXPANDING UNIVERSE explores the dynamics over time between three male friends, Brownie, Billy and Scottie. It also explores the relationships between Scotty and his wife Ritu, Billy and his missus Marcy, and Ritu and Marcy’s close friendship. Then there’s Brownie, a single divorcee, who feels increasingly excluded by his friends’ forward momentum even though he was the very first to get married. Opinionated and with no internal editor, he does love to pontificate way too much about everything including children which he doesn’t have, and that drives Scotty, father of one – no wait, two – at times to venomous distraction. On the other hand, Brownie has a certain wisdom which comes from being well informed, and is surprisingly principled as you’ll eventually see. Maybe Scotty isn’t as happy as he seems. Maybe he should have come out with this long ago for Billy’s sake:

“Anyone who tells you parenthood is all hugs and ‘Little House on The Prairie’ and soccer games is a filthy fucking liar. You’re going to be stressed, you’re going to worry, you and Marcy are going to get into fights about who left the stuffed frog at the playground. You just hang on, cuz you’re someone’s dad now, and that’s what dads are supposed to do.”

I couldn’t imagine Billy and Marcy fighting. They’re the kindest of all the cast.

There is so much going on which will eventually come out but this isn’t the place.

Please don’t believe this is entirely male-centric, either. For one, there is the central scene published like a play. In it Ritu and Marcy host an evening for their fellow ‘Sirens of Brooklyn’, Julie, Nicole, Kim, Dani and Gina. They’re in various sorts and stages of relationships, some with children, but only one of them have we heard much about: Gina. Gina seems destined to be single forever. She’s had a seemingly endless string of catastrophic dates which she tends to offload to her friends who are in equal parts amused and sympathetic because they do love her dearly. They were united in relief when Gina finally extricated herself from her one longer relationship, which was abusive. Very abusive.

The evening meanders along pleasantly enough with different parties exchanging news, compliments and the occasional slightly overbearing advice. There’s only one awkward moment as Marcy side-steps Ritu’s rash declaration that Marcy might have something to announce, until the evening comes crashing down and we’re given a completely different take on the whole single versus couple scenario which had hitherto been left unvoiced. But it’s not over, for when Ritu and Marcy are left alone to clear up, Robinson pulls out the finest panel in the book as the play gives way to a moment of comics which is worthy of Will Eisner.

Robinson’s storytelling is faultless. There’s an earlier gathering of Marcy’s family, Billy suffering a little ridicule for his chosen profession, and I loved how the pages split vertically as the chatter split into one-on-one offshoots, before merging again as conversations converged, and so on. He’s particularly adept at presenting middle-age and something subtle much later on happens to Billy’s hair.

I wasn’t entirely sure what the astronomy interludes added even after the Planetarium show: I’m not sure they did put “things in perspective” because the point surely is that the dilemmas within are very real to each individual and so of the utmost importance. Although I did learn that there are “rogue” planets which don’t revolve around a star but roam the galaxy in darkness, forever alone.

So: singles, couples, commitment and the conscious decision or to pressures to reproduce. Oh, and one other element I’ve studiously avoided here.

A lot of my friends have got married and had children; a lot of my friends have got married but not had children; a lot of my friends have had children but not got married. They all seem blissfully happy in their unions albeit there are going to be stresses and strains because that is life and that is inevitably strife too once there’s a new, demanding element in the mix. I’ve seen how chicks squawk when they’re hungry!

To dive in regardless is to many a perfectly natural – even biological – imperative and a joy! To forgo that pleasure in favour of a fulfilling relationship free from such distractions is an equally understandable decision. I didn’t even know there was a ridiculous stigma attached to the obviously valid choice not to have children until I read Julian Hanshaw’s great graphic novel TIM GINGER. To remain single is far from the end of the world, but to some it seems so and I sympathise there as well. Every iteration and argument is explored, I promise you, in OUR EXPANDING UNIVERSE by the creator of TRICKED and TOO COOL TO BE FORGOTTEN and, originally, BOX OFFICE POISON.

It’s just a shame there have to be arguments, isn’t it? We do love to judge, and there will plenty of that going on here – just not by Alex Robinson.


Buy Our Expanding Universe and read the Page 45 review here

Hitler (£18-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Shigeru Mizuki…

“You can have Austria. Sorry about that misunderstanding.”
“Don’t give it a second thought.”

Adolf Hitler was undoubtedly one of the twentieth century’s most fascinating, flawed characters. Countless experts have attempted to unravel the man, his rise to power and ultimate self-destruction, and here Shigeru Mizuki, one of comics finest documentarians of both historical geo-politics SHOWA: A HISTORY OF JAPAN 1926-1939, 1939-1944, 1944-1953, 1953-1989 and the up close and personal experience of war ONWARD TOWARDS OUR NOBLE DEATHS, provides his own irreverent take on the demagogue who had it all, briefly, before his insatiable desire for immortality in the form of total global domination and a thousand year Reich caused it all to turn to dust before his very eyes.

Mizuki wisely steers away from trying to understand what made Hitler tick, instead providing a fascinating précis of some of the known facts thus allowing the rich material to speak for itself, along with an occasional ridiculous punchline provided knowingly to camera by the man himself, such as when having a kiss and make up session with Il Duce Benito Mussolini over their little misunderstanding as to the future ownership of Austria, as in the opening pull quote. Surely a comedic turn only matched in odiousness by the late, not-so-great Bernard Manning!

Mizuki treats his subject, in the pre-political days at least, with a surprising degree of almost affection, playing up the buffoonery of the down and out failed artist in Vienna. Then Hitler’s action-packed military career as a runner in World War 1, including capturing fifteen French soldiers single-handedly, winning him the Iron Cross, First Class, something almost never awarded to a lowly rank-and-file solider.  Followed by his post-war infiltration of the tiny DAP political group, a mere six people, working as an intelligence agent for the German government, before deciding that a future role as a radical politician was the most logical career progression!

Hmm. The only illustrations I can find are in French. I promise you this is in English!

From there, this follows his ascent to real influence over people and the transformation of the DAP into the National Socialists, the early political then military successes as Chancellor of Germany. Before the megalomania, given free rein at last, consumed him completely, causing the rapid implosion of both the Third Reich and Hitler’s grip on sanity and ultimately power as the Allies were finally provoked into launching an armed response which soon bloomed into World War 2. Even then, the ever-escalating conflict only played to Hitler’s sense of grandiose self-destiny, before it became finally clear to him, long after the rest of the German high command, that all was lost.

Inevitably, covering such a vast complex period, Mizuki can only cover the basics, but he does so, particularly where Hitler is involved with a real sense of mischief that has become his trademark. This is mixed in with illustrations partially or fully from photographic reference when narrating factual battlefield events or matters such as death camps which clearly brook no attempts at abrogation through comedy. As a whole though, skewering material like this with a subtle comedic thread serves to capture the imagination and retain the attention of the casual reader. It’s not HIPSTER HITLER, clearly, but it’s just as cleverly done.


Buy Hitler and read the Page 45 review here

Low vol 2: Before The Dawn Burns Us (£10-99, Image) by Rick Remender & Greg Tocchini.

Riveting and wrenching subaquatic sci-fi about maintaining hope in the wake of barely conceivable adversity. The adversity is natural then compounded by man. We just cannot help ourselves, can we?

“The pamphlets contain a very potent breed of premeditative creativity. They have become… quite contagious.”

The disease these pamphleteers are spreading with their beautiful art and stories is this pernicious, seditious hope. In this society art has been outlawed and optimism is illegal, a crime punishable by death.

The law is enforced by Ministers Of Thought, one of whom lives with a girlfriend who loves to paint. The Minister is petrified of what will happen to her loved one if she’s caught with a canvas, and we’re given plenty of brutal if balletic evidence of what to expect in that nightmare scenario when the lights go out at a printers pre-publication.

That, however, is as nothing to both the love and terror so vividly rendered by both Remender and Tocchini during the final pages of the first chapter when the game back home is presumed to be up and the Minister of Thought knows only too well what is coming. You’ll have to wait a little while to discover exactly who that Minister is, for we then break to rejoin Stel’s quest to get to the surface.

For a far more extensive introduction and art overview, please see our review of LOW VOL 1: THE DELIRIUM OF HOPE, but briefly it has come to this:

In the future our sun will expand then go supernova, at which point the Earth itself as well as its inhabitants will need more than Factor 500. We will be engulfed. Obliterated. And that will be the end of our story. This isn’t speculative, it is a scientific certainty.

Long before then the radiation levels on the Earth’s surface will have exceeded intolerable, so if we haven’t already escaped this solar system we’ll have needed to move underground or deep, deep, deep underwater.

In LOW humanity hasn’t yet found an alternative, habitable planet but Stel – devoted wife and mother of three – is almost unique in remaining optimistic and focussed even though the enormity of the challenge is mind-boggling. Probes were first sent out in search of habitable planets over 13,000 years ago. 13,000 years without success, 13,000 years of failure! Can you imagine maintaining hope in that terrible knowledge? Few others have and, now that less than a year’s supply of air remains for Stel’s deep-sea colony, its leaders have caved in to drug-fuelled, let’s-take-what-we-can-get hedonism. They won’t assist or in any way enable Stel’s action, even when she believes she’s successfully retrieved a probe at least to the Earth’s toxic surface.

That’s where she’s headed now with a new group of allies so there really is hope. But there’s also adversity.

Did I mention what’s become of Stel’s husband, her son and two daughters?


Buy Low vol 2: Before The Dawn Burns Us and read the Page 45 review here

The Goddamned #1 (£2-99, Image) by Jason Aaron & r.m Guéra.

Well, this is all jolly European: the lines, the light, and the full-frontal nudity.

It’s male, by the way, and he’s blonde if that makes any difference to you.

It’s all very male here – not a woman in sight – perhaps reflecting the patriarchal nature of the Old Testament. Or maybe the women have all seen the brutal, bloody violence ahead and quite wisely eschewed an appearance in favour of something more sedate like a rugby match.

It’s all very western too, with a lone stranger wandering the wide-open landscapes – albeit muddy, faecal-flooded landscapes littered with carcasses being torn into by rabid wolves. He wandered into town last night, got set upon and sliced open by the Bone Boys. After lying face-down in excrement for hours, he seems much better this morning. Not a scar on his body. He’s going to mosey back into town now, and there will be much tohewen and toshrede.

It’s 1600 years after Eden and, my, how man has fallen! Or been pushed. These are those damned by God ever since our protagonist got a little angry and invented murder. Can you guess who it is yet?

“My brother was an asshole. The first two children born into the world and we couldn’t fucking stand each other. That alone ought to tell you how fucked we all are.”

That’s the least sweary passage I could find, FYI. Since then our man with a mission (I think it’s to die) has been cursing God for making him live in a Jim Foetus song:

“I’m watching my life swirl down the drain
And I feel about as Abel as Cain
But I guess that that’s the price of fame
When you’re destined to live in this Street Of Shame.”

Destined to live there forever, by the looks of things. Still, at least they’ve invented alcohol.

The art’s reminiscent of Brent Anderson on KA-ZAR with a little Barry Windsor-Smith modelling. No jungles, but many more cleaved skulls and fire-eyed dinosaurs guaranteed.

From the creative team behind SCALPED.  Ooh, look, here comes another Biblical figure. That explains the series’ sub-title.


Buy The Goddamned #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Red Thorn #1 (£2-99, Vertigo) by David Baillie & Meghan Hetrick.

“It rains in Glasgow like nowhere else in the world. It’s hard and cold, and it hits you in the face like a thousand tiny knives made of bone.”

Rarely do I quote a writer’s opening gambit. She or he will have put days of thought into the first few sentences of a brand-new series, so to steal that hard work for your own initial impact seems to me a little lazy. On the other hand, what a golden gift horse!

We’re in Glaswegian graveyard, by the way, with a magnificent mausoleum on its summit.

“The perfect place for a temper tantrum – or a valiant gesture. But whichever of those options this actually was, it was never going to stop the events already set in motion.”

The valiant but doomed gesture comes in the form of pages of a sketchbook being torn out by red-head Isla Mackintosh. They flap and flutter like autumnal leaves up into the stormy sky only to be battered by the positively Bratislavan downpour over the headstones towards us. The first and foremost depicts a wretched figure slumped forward, its wrists and ankles manacled in chains.

The panel beneath that depicts someone or something in a similar predicament, with a long, flame-coloured mane, flopped over her / his face. It is, however, emphatically not a sketch.

There’ll be plenty more of Glasgow, you mark my words, for Isla Mackintosh’s older sister Lauren studied architecture there. Indeed Lauren was much enamoured with the city’s most famous architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh, of the recently burned-down art school. Then one weekend she took off inexplicably for the Borders and was never seen again. Isla was born twelve months later. “Classic replacement kid syndrome,” as she concedes, hence the 25-year gap between them. She’s American, by the way, though her grandparents were from Glasgow and, after trying to trace some fresh clues as to her sister’s disappearance and failing, that’s where Lauren’s landed up: at a gig played by Strathclyde’s premier Nirvana tribute act and talking to a young bloke with a beard sitting alone at the bar and reading Camus.

“I couldn’t have met a boy more perfect if I’d drawn him myself.”

I liked his t-shirt (he teases).

So what’s the problem? I have no problem with the comic at all or else why spend this time reviewing it? I loved Hetrick’s spirit of place and her invitingly soft figures and forms. I enjoyed Baillie’s mini-tour of Glasgow and his lovely Scottish lilt which was neither overly broad nor unnatural. There’s a moment of superb foreshadowing involving bridges plus I found his voice-over refreshingly direct and almost hilariously matter-of-fact, especially when it came to the real problem here, for that’s Lauren’s:

“In High School I’d spend most of my time doodling the cool, fun friends I really wanted. Then one day one of my drawings came to life and attended my school for a whole semester.”

I do beg your pardon?

That didn’t end well, but it did end abruptly, since when she’s vowed off sketching people for ten whole years. You’ll know exactly why when you get there.

Then she got drunk with that Camus kid and now something’s knocking on the door.

On the final page artist Meghan Hetrick reprises the first page’s promise but with a marked makeover, for she makes good – oh so very good – on the writer’s own promise when he was recently asked:

“What can we expect from RED THORN tonally?”
“Abs,” he replied. “Lots of abs.”

At which point David Baillie basically won interviews.


Buy Red Thorn #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Batman Deathblow: After The Fire s/c (£10-99, DC) by Brian Azzarello & Lee Bermejo.

Brian Azzarello wrote 100 BULLETS, a dark and compelling epic of conspiracy, deception and manipulation where no one is necessarily who or what they seem. It’s a civil war, waged in secret between powerful parties in order to protect their vested interests. And so is this.

As such I aim it straight at the Milligan HUMAN TARGET fans rather than the Batboys, because it contains just as many twists.

Two sequences, a decade apart, form a puzzle of identity and loyalties revolving around Scott Floyd who, ten years ago, was a black-ops International Operations agent; The Falcon, a terrorist of Gamorran extraction who hasn’t been seen since; and Max Kai, a pyrokinetic firestarter, suited and booted – and highly volatile. All three were once involved on one side or another in a botched hit on The Falcon by the I.O. soldier codenamed Deathblow, as was the enigmatic Agent Fante of the C.I.A..

Now all five have converged once more, it seems, on Gotham where Floyd is a close friend of Bruce Wayne. When the former is burnt to a crisp in a restaurant mere minutes after Bruce Wayne has left the table, it becomes personal. The only lead so far is a charred, severed hand clutching the trademark death card of a man who is himself supposed to be dead: Deathblow.

Who is really working for whom?  What is Agent Fante’s agenda?  Where is The Falcon?  And are I.O. and The C.I.A. really on the same side?  It’s a book of covert licenses, granted by institutions who will use whomever they want to get whatever they want done, and it rings pertinently true (post-Afghanistan, post-Iraq) when you consider America trained the Taliban for their own anti-Soviet ends, and were happy to accept Saddam Hussein when Iran was seen as the greater evil.

Superb pencils (early versions of which are displayed in the back) are inked and coloured by some very talented individuals (including Tim Bradstreet), to form an impressively individual and atmospheric Gotham, replete with sun-blocking stone edifices and a dense smog belching from its industrial chimneys.


Buy Batman Deathblow: After The Fire s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Star Wars: Journey To Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Shattered Empire (£12-99, Marvel) by Greg Rucka & Marco Checchetto, Angel Unzueta, Emilio Laiso…

“You are verified. My message is for you, from the Emperor himself.”
“I serve at the Emperor’s pleasure.”
“Hear and obey.”
“Captain Duvet. You, and a handful and others unknown to you, have been selected for a particular honour. Resistance. Rebellion. Defiance. These are concepts that cannot be allowed to persist, Captain. Operation Cinder is to begin at once. Heed my messenger. He shall relay you to your target.”

“Lieutenant Gulin!”
“The message was from the Emperor himself, Lieutenant.”
“But… but the Emperor is dead, sir.”
“Repeating Rebel propaganda is an act of treason, Lieutenant. We have our orders. Prepare to set a new course.”

After the platoon of titles set post Star Wars IV A New Hope with the original characters in the first flush of youth – STAR WARS, DARTH VADER, PRINCESS LEIA, LANDO, CHEWBACCA – comes this official lead-in to the much anticipated new film. This is actually set immediately after Star Wars VI Return Of The Jedi, so presumably a few decades before the new film, but what it does is immediately establish the Empire are far from defeated.

Quite how it sets up the forthcoming film beyond that simple fact, I’ve absolutely no idea, but I’ll refrain from giving any further plot details just in case there are spoilers regarding the film. Often this type of lead-in tie-ins do enrich the plot of the films, sometimes on specific conceits or devices, so perhaps there are some tantalising clues in there… However, I genuinely can’t conceive the Emperor himself might have survived the climatic events of Star Wars VI Return Of The Jedi, but the powers of the Dark Side are strong indeed, so who knows?!

Essential for those of you who need their Jabba-esque, salivating appetites whetted further, aren’t quite already at Death Star planet melting laser fever pitch temperature, buy this to tease / torment yourself whilst continuing to count down the days until Han and the gang are back on the big screen. Stay on target!


Buy Star Wars: Journey To Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Shattered Empire and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

A Glance Backwards (£14-99, Magnetic Press) by Pierre Paquet & Tony Sandoval

Blue Bottle Mystery – An Asperger Adventure (£12-99, Jessica Kingsley Adventure) by Kathy Hoopman, Mike Medaglia & Rachael Smith

Frankenstein Underground (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola & Ben Stenbeck

Hopeless Savages: Break (£13-50, Oni) by Jen Van Meter & Meredith McClaren, Christine Norrie

Kabuki Library vol 2 h/c (£29-99, Dark Horse) by David Mack

Take It As A Compliment (£14-99, Singing Dragon) by Maria Stoian

The Flash By Geoff Johns vol 1 s/c (£18-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Angel Unzueta, Scott Kolins, Ethan Van Sciver

Jessica Jones: Alias vol 3 s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Gaydos

A Silent Voice vol 4 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Yoshitoki Oima

Inuyashiki vol 2 (£9-99, Kodansha) by Hiroya Oku

UQ Holder vol 6 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Ken Akamatsu

Usagi Yojimbo Saga vol 5 (£18-99, Dark Horse) by Stan Sakai

Uzumaki Naruto: Illustrations (£12-99, Viz) by Masashi Kishimoto

From America’s Spit & A Half (limited distribution & quantities)

A Body Beneath (£9-99, Koyama Press) by Michael DeForge

Afrodisiac (£12-99, Adhouse Books) by Brian Maruca & Jim Rugg

Barrel of Monkeys (£16-99, Rebus Books) by Florent Ruppert, Jerome Mulot

Bear, Bird And Stag Were Arguing In The Forest (£4-99, Retrofit / Big Planet) by Madeleine Flores

The Body of Work (£3-99) by Kevin Huizenga

Do Not Disturb My Waking Dream (£3-99, Uncivilised Books) by Laura Park

Double+ Chapter One: For Seeking Heat (£4-99, Study Group Comics) by Ben Sears

Facility Integrity (£8-50, Pigeon Press) by Nick Maandag

The Frantastic Four (£4-99, Kilgore) by Sam Spina

Ghoulanoids (£4-99, Drippy Bone Books) by Stephen McClurg & Derek Ballard

How Art Can Save The Universe From Total Destruction (£4-99, Drippy Bone Books) by Mark Mulroney

Immovable Objects (£4-99, One Percent Press) by James Hindle

Island of Memory (£9-99, Wild Man vol 1: Island Of Memory) by Floating World Comics

Joey (£3-99) by Melissa Mendes

Limp Wrist (£3-99, Paper Rocket Minicomics) by Scout Wolfcave & Penina Gal

Lydian (£9-99, Space Face Books) by Sam Alden

Megahex (£21-99, Fantagraphics) by Simon Hanselmann

Mimi and the Wolves Act 1: The Dream (£9-99, Alabaster Comix) by Alabaster


Mimi and the Wolves Act 2: The Den (£9-99, Alabaster Comix) by Alabaster

My Hot Date (£5-99, Kilgore) by Noah Van Sciver

Number 1 (£4-99, Retrofit / Big Planet) by Box Brown

Number 2 (£4-99, Retrofit / Big Planet) by Box Brown

The Oaf (£5-99, Pigeon Press) by Nick Maandag

Safari Honeymoon (£12-99, Koyama Press) by Jesse Jacobs

Sea Urchin (£5-99, Retrofit / Big Planet) by Laura Knetzger

The Second Book of Hope (£16-99, Bries) by Tommi Musturi

Understanding Monster 1 (£18-50, Secret Acres) by Theo Ellsworth

Understanding Monster 2 (£18-50, Secret Acres) by Theo Ellsworth

Understanding Monster 3 (£18-50, Secret Acres) by Theo Ellsworth

Ticket Stub (£12-50, Yam Books) by Tim Hensley

Turtie Needs Work (£3-25, Koyama Press) by Steve Wolfhard

Vampire Cousins (£18-99, Pow Pow Press) by Alexandre Fontaine Rousseau & Cathon

Very Casual (£9-99, Koyama Press) by Michael DeForge

Wet Cough (£4-99, Koyama Press) by Michael DeForge


ITEM! It upsets me no end when I see any shop close, but this eloquent article about product knowledge, curation and customers service – in this instance now all lost – moved me profoundly:  ‘I Worked In A Video Store For 25 Years. Here’s What I Learned As My Industry Died’ by Dennis Perkins.

ITEM! Sage, practical and vital advice from Andy Oliver for self-publishers about get press and retail coverage for your comics. I’m sure we’ve run this before but we’re never been so inundated by requests to stock comics so lessons learned from Andy are more important than ever.

ITEM! From the King of British self-publishers, Dan Berry, yet another new comic for you to read, free, online: ROUGH MAP. Pop Dan Berry in our search engine. Everything we have by Dan is sketched-in for free.

ITEM!Whoosh” Amazing short animation piece with incredible movement by Julien Grande.

ITEM! There is no logic whatsoever in using “genre” as a derogatory term. The subject matter of any comic, prose book or painting cannot possibly have any bearing on its quality. You might as well judge a book by its publisher. It’s the creators who actually count. ‘Literature Vs Genre Is A Battle Where Both Sides Lose’ by Damien Walter.

– Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews November 2015 week three

November 18th, 2015

Includes a brand-new review of PORCELAIN BONE CHINA (Exclusive Page 45 Signed Bookplate Edition) by Ben Read & Chris Wildgoose!

ALPHA… Directions h/c (£29-99, Knockabout) by Jens Harder…

“At first only a germ exists, the singularity.
“From this infinitely hot and dense original state, no bigger than a football, the Universe expands.
“An inflation commences. The beginning of Space-time.
“In a split second, the Plasma inflates to a tremendous volume.”

Wow. Really, just wow. The first line of the blurb on the back of this 360-page tome reads “Fourteen billion years between two covers” and that is exactly what it is! This first volume of an intended three (!) takes us from the moment of the Big Bang right up to the beginning of the Anthropocene era, when the ‘human’ age began. Volume two, therefore, BETA… CIVILISATIONS will cover a five million year period from when the hominids first appeared up to the present day, before Jens will allow himself a little speculation (and trust me, he will have earned this indulgence by then) with GAMMA… VISIONS, where he will attempt to visualise various possible futures. As I said, wow.

Before I try to encapsulate the enormity of this undertaking, I’d like to start with the last two pages, which are mostly blank aside from four notes to four very distinct groups of thinkers: the scientist, the faithful believer in God, the purist and errr… the manga lover. Yes, Jens has thought of everything, including a polite little note for those so inclined…

“Should you, out of habit, have opened Alpha from this page you are hereby invited to continue your reading in the direction most familiar to you. You could well examine all the processes and developments illustrated in this book in a completely new way in a visually retrograde motion. It should also be noted that the pages can be considered not only from right to left but consequently, also from bottom to top.”

Haha and they say the Germans haven’t got a sense of humour! Though actually it was a sentence within the note to the purist that really caught my eye, having completed reading the entire work in the more conventional direction, where Jens states he came up with nothing in this book, “neither factually nor in the drawings.”

He has in fact drawn every single panel, but what he means is he has redrawn everything from “Neolithic cave-paintings to Greek mosaics, medieval altar paintings to modern daguerreotypes and advanced space telescope photography to computer-generated 3D images.” And a lot more besides. Plus he’s eloquently explained the first fourteen billion years of universal history in a manner so clear, so matter of fact, sometimes quite poetic in its simplicity, you’ll be entranced from cover to cover. I can’t even conceive of how much time has gone into researching this, let alone the illustration. If I had fourteen billion years to do it I don’t think it would be enough.

The overall effect of using all these different reference sources, and the continually shuffled order he utilises them in, sometimes putting a medieval altar painting immediately after some space telescope photography, for example, is spectacular. It feels like a gigantic, epic Bayeaux Tapestry assembled by Dadaists (the original monteurs of photomontage). For whilst this is not a collage in the sense of an individual panel, it is in the sense of the work as a whole. There’s something rather clever about using pretty much every type of pictorial representation in history to assemble a Universal story of history. But it is the fact he has redrawn everything into a singular style in relatively muted black and white plus one additional (albeit occasionally changing each epoch) colour tone, that renders it so readily comprehensible and digestible to the human eye and brain.

Jens, I applaud you, for you are a comics genius. Yet another example of the astonishing power of our beloved medium to inform and educate so succinctly in comparison to traditional teaching materials. Really, this is a graphic novel that ought to be made available to every single school pupil, because they could learn more in a single sitting reading this than an entire school year of history lessons.


Buy ALPHA… Directions h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Porcelain: Bone China (Exclusive Page 45 Bookplate Edition) (£14-99, Improper Books) by Ben Read & Chris Wildgoose.

“Love leaves but yet is present.
“Love takes your hoard and doubles it.
”Love holds you close and lives forever. Love lives.”

There are few graphic novels which customers are as fond of at Page 45 as PORCELAIN.

We sold out of our original 100 signed bookplate editions in 10 days, since when sales snowballed and anticipation over the intervening two years has been unprecedented. PORCELAIN BONE CHINA was finally released last Wednesday 11th October 2015 and on Saturday sales were so swift that I was too busy to Tweet. It felt like Christmas.

Better news still: however enamoured you may be of PORCELAIN book one, PORCELAIN BONE CHINA, the middle of this trilogy, is bigger, much meatier, more breathtakingly beautiful and – in terms of trauma and complexity – on another level entirely.

Thanks to writer Ben Read you can look forward to feeling your heart swell with all the love in the world. But prepare to have it ripped right from your rib cage then not dashed but smashed to smithereens by a writer and artist you presumed far too kind to care so little for your comfort.

I’m afraid it’s time to grow up.

PORCELAIN book one starred a pugnacious guttersnipe called Child who found herself welcomed into the world and so home of her unexpected benefactor and thence adoptive parent, the enigmatic and reclusive Porcelain Maker. He had grown rich on his inventions: semi-sentient automatons fashioned from china but bound by a secret. She discovered his secret, but at a cost to them both.

Ten years on, and that Child is now wealthy Lady, having inherited the Porcelain Maker’s estate and learned his craft involving the painting of runes. She’s refining his designs and creating new Porcelain, but she’s also desperately trying to undo the damage she’s done. She has complicated things beyond your imagining.

She has, however, lost none of her fight or bite. So when the military comes calling, she is less than impressed with the General’s rank and regalia and reverts to the urchin-speak which Mariem, her chaperone, has been at pains to rid her off.

“I find that the more ridiculous the hat, the more awkward they feel when they have to deal with a ranting guttersnipe. Proper wrong foots them, it does.”

The military are engaged in a war and suffering heavy casualties. This being an era equivalent to Tennyson’s they are in dire need of cavalry replenishment and Lady has agreed to sell them her animated porcelain horses… but emphatically not the artificial soldiers they’re after as well. The general is enraged, but her more conciliatory Captain fares no better in pleading their cause and – as he’ll soon discover – his General isn’t the only one with a short fuse.

All of which begs the question as to what has become of the Porcelain Maker himself in the intervening years and those of you who’ve already relished PORCELAIN book one may believe you know the answer. I wouldn’t be so sure. The refrain exchanged throughout the four chapters is heart-rending. Also, if you think that Lady’s refusal to supply the army with unstoppable soldiers – which won’t eat into scarce supplies but which learn how to shed blood all too swiftly and effectively – is born of mere pacifism, I can assure you that it’s much more complex than that. Our Lady is adamant; the General is persistent; and the military is known not just for its might.

Immediately striking, of course, is the cover both in its own right and in its stylistic cohesion with PORCELAIN book one: much the same frame in ceramic white and a similarly restrained palette switching here from twilight blue to the most verdant of greens from André May.


There are other echoes like the opening pages entering the mansion then sat in front of a roaring fire, but the one that made me grin comes a little later when the Captain is caught clambering over the estate wall and attempting to descend the self-same tree which Child formerly danced down as if on a helter-skelter. Captain is a lot less graceful and his reception by Lady is a lot less gracious than Child’s once was by the Porcelain Maker. That woman has built an even taller wall round herself than the one defending the grounds.

Wildgoose has put a great deal of time and thought into the new designs for the city, the newly evolved Porcelain, the army and specifically the General and Captain’s uniforms and civvies (though don’t think the General dresses down). You’ll find the preparatory work in the back along with a secret involving the runes which will have you flicking back through the book in a flash.


But that’s nothing compared to the finished flourishes which this much longer instalment provides room for. There’s a double-page spread, for example, of Lady’s recent acquisition based on the Chinese war ship sailed by Admiral Zheng He during the Ming Dynasty. Its scooped white sails are echoed in the shapes of the panels below it, while their arrangement across the page reflects the forward-thrusting profile of the boat up above them. Except it’s not a boat, is it?

“It’s actually a ship.”
“Pfff, I paid for it so I can call it what I like.”
“I don’t think that’s how it works.”

It amused me no end that the same argument was made in Antony Johnston’s CODENAME BABOUSHKA #2 which arrived on the very same day. Antony and Ben Read went to school together.

I could pour praise on Chris Wildgoose for several more paragraphs – for his fruit-rich orchard avenue; the municipal majesty; the seasonal chapter designs incorporating apposite elements of the story to come; and Gog and Magog now lither than ever – but we have to end something to let you begin.

Following but a day after Neil Gaiman & J.H. Williams III’s SANDMAN: OVERTURE h/c, our second-biggest release of the year, PORCELAIN: BONE CHINA is by far our biggest at double the number of books we ordered in and so far we’ve sold thrice as many.

Both are true blockbusters but it just goes to show that publishing status is irrelevant, for the former is published by Time Warner’s DC while the latter is from the UK’s independent Improper Books. Quality is what counts at the end of the day, and you’ll find quality in abundance in both.


Buy Porcelain Bone China (Exclusive Page 45 Bookplate Edition) and read the Page 45 review here

Suite Francaise: Storm In June (£15-99, Arsenal Pulp Press) by Irene Nemirovsky, David Homel & Emmanuel Moynot…

“We’ll sleep in the car. One night won’t hurt us!
“That’s a French plane I think.”

It’s not… It is the Luftwaffe, but that’s the least of Gabriel Corte’s problems as he tries to flee Paris with his mistress for the safety of, well, anywhere the Germans aren’t. Unfortunately practically every other Parisian in June 1940 has had the same very sensible idea and taken to the roads and rail network causing travel chaos akin to a British Bank Holiday Monday! Amidst this turmoil and mass movement of people we follow the varied misfortunes of several families and individuals of rather diverse social standing seeking refuge en route to apparent safety. As you might expect, there are those whom think they can simply buy or bribe their way out of the situation, and those who are just going to have to rely on their wits, good manners and the charity of others. Oh and of course we will be certain to encounter a few ne’er do wells all the way…

The source material for this adaptation has a fascinating history all of its own. Originally planned as a series of five novels, the author Irène Némirovsky was arrested by French Vichy policemen, ironically enough shortly after having fled Paris for being a ‘stateless person of Jewish descent’ and she died in Auschwitz of typhus just a month later. Her red suitcase containing the two novels she had written was kept by her two daughters but not opened until 1998 as they were afraid it contained their mother’s personal diary. The novels were subsequently published in a single volume entitled Suite Française in 2004 to widespread acclaim and a film part funded by the BBC was released earlier this year.

What captivated me about this adaptation was the real sense of turbulence, indeed absolute utter chaos, brought to people’s lives overnight by the enforced Parisian exodus, and the very different reactions of the protagonists’ responses. The upper crust, you can tell, believe it a mere temporary inconvenience, and you can certainly see how there were those who were only too willing to collaborate with the Germans for a quiet life and return to normality.

I wouldn’t go quite so far as to say they merely, naively, saw it as little more than an enforced change of government, but they were clearly blissfully unaware of what was going to follow over the next few years. The working class, however, were fairly immediately subject to uncertainty, deprivation and hardship, though again, a mere taste of what they had to expect during the war once it got started properly on the western front.

Reading this certainly left me an urge to try the novels themselves (our Dee is a big fan) as the only downside, probably due to the large cast of characters, was I felt I was getting barely more than a snapshot of each of their stories. I suspect the adaptation must by necessity have been substantially abridged. In terms of the art, had I not known it was a different artist, I would have completely believed you if you told me it was Jacques Tardi, in ADELE BLANC-SEC form, even down to the lettering. In fact I note this artist, Emmanuel Moynot, continued the hugely popular (in France) NESTOR BURMA series of graphic novels after Tardi had done the first five, so I’m possibly not the only one to notice the similarity in style!


Buy Suite Francaise: Storm In June and read the Page 45 review here

Wolf vol 1: Blood And Magic (£7-50, Image) by Ales Kot & Matt Taylor.

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

Ooof. Where have you heard that before?

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

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

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

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

So; eloquent anti-authoritarian occultist detective who relishes playing verbal sabres, has a history with Hell, sticks up for the vulnerable, despises injustice and is haunted by dead friends – in his case fellow former soldiers deployed in Iraq. Have you ever read Alan Moore’s SWAMP THING? As a revitalised John Constantine with a radically different regional dialect, Antoine Wolfe is a joy to spend time with. If Ellis & Shalvey’s INJECTION is comparable to Jamie Delano’s HELLBLAZER then this is akin to Garth Ennis’ run including all sorts of people-playing, a great deal of betrayal and something I slipped in earlier.

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

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

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

This is the most accessible thing I’ve read that Kot’s written, yet it retains the eloquence and intelligence. It’s far from linear with multiple strands I’ve barely alluded to and some that I haven’t even touched yet. But I think we should, for everyone here is connected. I drew a topological map of the plot and it was almost as tight and densely packed as CRIMINAL VOLUME 3’s.

For a start, I think you’ll like Antoine’s mate, Freddy Chtonic, unwanted son of the elder demi-god, whose face isn’t particularly well appointed for drinking coffee without a straw. His landlord’s a vampire.

“And literally.”

He’s bleeding Freddy financially dry, so Antoine takes it upon himself to pay him a rent-related visit and hears screams coming from the washroom. Now, if you think you’ve met every possible iteration of immortality in vampires – if you believe you’ve seen it all when it comes to the best and worst times in the world to be bitten like that poor bloke in LIFE SUCKS who as a consequence is stuck at the age of sixteen, doomed for eternity to be carded at club doors and off-licences – then please think again.

Negotiations will lead Antoine further up the food chain to orgy-loving Frederick Azimuth, but in the meantime a thirteen-year-old girl covered in blood turns up at Wolfe’s door seeking sanctuary. Her mum and step-dad were about to sacrifice her but something intervened at the last minute. She too has company, even when alone, and her name is Anita Christ.

All this at first seems tangential because there was a reason beyond racism why multimillionaire Sterling Gibson had Antoine Wolfe flamed. He was indeed examining his stock to judge its otherworldliness before offering Antoine employment. He needs Antoine to deal with a woman; a woman whom Gibson murdered some time ago. What in the world would possess Antoine to work for a bastard like that?

“Do you believe in Natural Selection?”
“The law of the fittest, that kinda thing? I don’t concern myself with it. Prefer live and let live.”
“Yet “the word on the street” is you are a man who wants to die.”
“The word on the street changes every day. It swallows itself.”
“Exactly. And then the word is reborn anew! A Phoenix, out of the ashes! Ecosystems function like this, and the ecosystems of the word, the story, the myth, are built on the same principle. The strongest story survives. Some would say – the one with the most teeth.”

From the writer of THE SURFACE and MATERIAL plus all the ZERO tpbs and CHANGE, Ales Kot knows all about building stronger stories from evolution.

There’s a whiff of the Apocalypse in the over-arid air.


Buy Wolf vol 1: Blood And Magic and read the Page 45 review here

Fatale: The Deluxe Edition vol 2 (vols 3-5) h/c (£37-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips, Elizabeth Breitweiser.

“And so it went on for several years. Until it didn’t.”

From the creators of CRIMINAL and THE FADE OUT etc, the last two pages set on a shore still make me both well up and smile. It’s a pretty neat trick, possible to pull off only if the writer, line artist and colour artist are working as one and all at the top of their games.

I don’t think that constitutes a spoiler, more of a promise that this won’t let you down. They’re the last two pages of the series, so they’re the last two pages of this book.

Or rather, they would be had you elected to read FATALE in softcover.

Sean never skimps on his deluxe editions’ designs or back-matter and here he introduces the covers freed from their frames which is almost a shame, I grant you. FATALE boasted the best consistent cover design which I’ve ever seen in comics, which is why some of us bought the individual comics to read then decorate our halls with. But reproduced unfettered in a format which is almost A4 they take on a new life in all their grey-tone-wash glory, each with a single extra flourish of colour. And, of course, he explains why.

These are followed by extra finished art and process pieces (I love seeing how an artist develops his ideas from start to finish) while, in between, come the landscape paintings Phillips adorned the periodical’s essays with (again, type-face-free) and just one of those essays, on Lovecraft.

For FATALE is crime with a Lovecraftian twist.

It is, as Brubaker explains in the brand-new afterword, about taking the cliché of the single-minded femme fatale and turning her into an individual human being cursed by the very dint of her persuasive powers which she cannot shut off to become, in its truest sense, tragic.

This hefty volume begins, quite unexpectedly, in 1936 before sweeping even further back to [redacted], thence to Seattle in 1995 before returning us to the present as events reach the climactic head which they have always threatened to.

The series itself begins in a graveyard.

Nicolas Lash is burying his godfather, one Dominic H. Raines who published a string of bestselling detective novels beginning in 1960 before dying alone, bitter and broken. He was also an avowed atheist, so when Nicolas spots three sigils on Dominic’s gravestone, he is ever so slightly perplexed. At which point Jo, the most beautiful woman Nicolas has ever beheld, appears as if out of nowhere:

“My grandmother had them on her grave too…
“She and Mr Raines were in love once. I think that symbol was something private between them…
“Some piece of the past they couldn’t let go of.”

And immediately, like a kid in a school yard, Nicolas is irretrievably smitten.

Later that night he goes through his godfather’s effects and discovers an unpublished manuscript dated 1957 called ‘The Losing Side Of Eternity’.

At which point all hell breaks loose before we flash all the way back to San Francisco, 1956, when Dominic Raines was a happily married man with a kid on the way. He’s not yet a writer, but a reporter determined to expose police corruption and in particular one Walt Booker who happens to be dating… oh, hello! She looks familiar!

Then there are tentacles and some heads explode.

For more, please see FATALE DELUXE HARDCOVER VOL 1 or indeed any of the five softcovers. They’re each one reviewed because I loved them so much.


Buy Fatale: The Deluxe Edition vol 2 (vols 3-5) h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Unfollow #1 (£2-99, Vertigo) by Rob Williams & Michael Dowling…

“It’s okay Rees, I removed your name from the 140.”
“Okay! You got me! You caught me, all right! I added myself to the 140 list… But you need me, Rubenstein. I programmed the app. You need me… You… Oh Christ… You’re going to do it, aren’t you?”
“One hundred forty characters. Now it can begin.”

Larry Ferrel is rich. Very rich, to the tune of 17 billion dollars, made through building social media platforms. He is also dying of pancreatic cancer. Which is why he has decided to donate his money. All of it. To 140 lucky people. That’s 120 million dollars each… I should probably add for the benefit of those of you unfamiliar with Twitter, 140 is the number of characters that a single tweet can contain, presumably explaining the conceit of the title.


But, clearly, given this issue starts off with the murder of one of Larry’s loyal – well, not-so-loyal, actually – employees by his right-hand man Rubenstein wearing an Aztec priest’s mask, the 120 million dollars might come with a few strings attached. Such as possibly not living long enough to spend it…

Plus there’s various other weirdness going on, such as the ominous appearance of a talking black ghost-dog to one of the about-to-be-winners, which convinces me think this title is going to get a lot stranger yet. By the end of this first issue we’ve only met four of the 140 and I can see no pattern whatsoever though I’m sure there’ll be one. I’m certainly intrigued enough to keep reading. Art-wise, I can see some hints of Frank Quitely in Michael Dowling’s work, but the person I am mostly strongly minded of is Arthur MAZEWORLD (and sadly currently out of print BUTTONMAN) Ranson. It’s the black linework, particularly the faces.


Buy Unfollow #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Monstress #1 (£3-99, Image) by Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda…

“Be smart. Be obedient. That might keep you alive… but nothing will keep you whole. Not in that place.”

No, not a new Page 45 recruit receiving last-minute instructions before entering the mail order salt mines on the upper floors, but advice offered to Maika as she arrives, bound in chains, at the palatial headquarters of the Cumea, an order of human witch-nuns who seem to like nothing more than vivisecting the Arcanics, magical creatures who are part-human, part-animal, and of which Maika is one.

Once upon a time humans and Arcanics co-existed peacefully, but that was before a bitter war erupted resulting in the deaths of one hundred and forty six thousand Arcanics at the decisive battle of Constantine. Since then the remaining Arcanics have been in hiding, gradually being hunted down and handed over to the Cumea for their vile experiments, but perhaps it’s not too late… Maika certainly thinks so, which is why she has arranged for her own capture. She thinks it is the only way to get behind the formidable defences of the Cumea headquarters, for she believes there is something the Cumea are looking for and have no idea it is hidden right under their noses.



Well, this was an unexpectedly dark blend of fantasy and horror. It’s certainly aimed at a mature audience, not kids. Exceptionally well written, but I suppose we should expect no less from a published fantasy author, Majorie Liu, and just as beautifully illustrated by Sana Takeda. They have worked together before these two, on an eminently forgettable few issues of X-23 for Marvel, but they’re clearly both operating well in their respective comfort zones here. This is outstanding work for its particular genre.

As I say, it’s certainly not one for the squeamish, but both the writing and the exquisitely clean art have the feel of a Humanoids publication, rather than a typical monthly single issue. If you liked say THE SWORDS OF GLASS, therefore, I think this would very much appeal.


Buy Monstress #1 and read the Page 45 review here

MULP: Sceptre Of The Sun #2 (£4-99, Improper Books) by Matt Gibbs & Sara Dunkerton…

Matt & Sara’s very own Rodentia Of The Lost Ark continues as our bewhiskered adventurers Jack and Vicky head from their revelatory dig site in Egypt, where they uncovered a mysterious stone tablet setting them off on the quest (see MULP #1), over the oceans to the heady heights of Machu Picchu in Peru! They won’t encounter any marmalade-crazed bears whilst in the Andes, but there’ll certainly be danger and tight squeaks aplenty for our daring duo and their chums Cornelius, Elizabeth and Professor Harvest-Scott, as once again they are beset by the villainous Moreau and the other expedition racing to find the perhaps not so mythical sceptre of the sun.

If you have a liking for fast-paced, period, anthropomorphic adventure amidst beautiful scenery then do take a look. Matt’s spinning an epic tale with more protagonist peril for the little blighters than ten back-to-back episodes of Tom and Jerry, whilst Sara’s illustrations yet again convey the exotic locales to perfection. It really did take me back to my own breathless ascent of Machu Picchu and also my encounter with those most mysterious markings in the desert, the Nazca Lines. The only question is where in the world will our furry friends up end heading next…? I suspect we might well end up spanning the entire globe before this series is concluded!




Buy MULP: Sceptre Of The Sun #2 and read the Page 45 review here

The Man Of Glass (£3-95, Accent UK) by Martin Flink.

The layout is clear, the segues spot-on, the colouring warm and sympathetic.

From the creator of last month’s THE TROLL which was such a stunning evocation of space and place that we’ve restocked this treasure from five years ago.

Like Jordan Crane’s tiny masterpiece LAST LONELY SATURDAY, there must by necessity be little I can tell you, but it’s an equally poignant piece ,free from maudlin melodrama, about a young boxer who has it all: genuine friendships, a loving relationship full of tactile tenderness and a beautiful boy as a consequence.

What, then, is his connection to the broken old man who drinks cheap beer in the park and carries his belongings in two plastic carrier bags?

It’s like a small holding of ESSEX COUNTY, highly recommended, with an improbably dignified ending.


Buy the Man Of Glass and read the Page 45 review here

Trashed (£11-99, Abrams Comicarts) by Derf Backderf…

“In six months I’ve gone from a college student to being taught the finer points of sweeping crap off the road like I’m a drooling moron. Yes, there’s little doubt I’ve hit rock bottom.”

The man whose childhood mate turned out to be serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer (MY FRIEND DAHMER) is back and this time it’s a load of rubbish. The subject matter, that is, the graphic novel itself is hilarious, being a fictionalised reworking of his time on the bins in small town America in 1979 and 1980.

In fact, his first version of working this rich source of fertiliser – I mean material – into comics form, as an autobiographical mini in 2002, earned him an Eisner nomination. He returned to it a couple of times before polishing it up into this version you see today. Now, I always thought they said you can’t polish a turd but Derf Backderf has clearly proven otherwise with a bit of elbow grease and done a sterling job recycling his experiences into comedy gold.

Anyone who has had a shit job, temporary or otherwise, will attest to the soul-crushing repetitive horror it can reduce your day-to-day 9-to-5 life to. And yet, and yet, if you are the sort of person who can find humour in adversity, and friends in the unlikeliest of places (well, second unlikeliest after a psychopathic serial killer, perhaps…) you can still find innumerate childish ways to wile the painful hours away and have a laugh or two. Granted, it’s a nihilistic sort of pleasure which if you were staring at the possibility of it extending through the rest of your working career it well might send you round the bend, but if it’s for a year or two, who knows what valuable life lessons you might pick up. Along with the trash, in Derf’s case…

I do like Derf’s dark sense of humour, I must say. He’s a keen social conscience, though, partly honed from his work on his long running syndicated cartoon strip The City that appeared in over 140 publications. And here, alongside the, as he puts it, “ode to the crap job of all crap jobs”, he takes the time to regale us with more than a few shocking statistics regarding the ever-growing problem of just what happens to everything we casually throw out of our houses ever week with barely a second thought. I don’t know what the answers to mankind’s wasteful ways ultimately are, neither does he, but in the meanwhile my plan is to just keep reading comics as funny as TRASHED and try to ignore it…


Buy Trashed and read the Page 45 review here

Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu (£8-50, Kodansha Comics) by Junji Ito.

“What even…?” you may be asking.

And after you’ve read this, you may well be asking yet again.

From the manga master of horror as nasty as it is compelling – the queasy, curdling and claustrophobic UZUMAKI and GYO – we are now presented with a cute, autobiographical cat book.

Or are we? Take a closer look at that cover!

On the right sits Mu, a Norwegian forest cat which I concede is quite cute: long fur, attractive markings, dark, glossy eyes. Awww. But if you don’t pick up intimations of stormy seas from the screw-you eyes of Yon to the left, then you are no Doctor Dolittle. Ito’s exuberant fiancée we will address later on, but Ito below is hardly looking a picture of relaxed mental health, is he? They do say that pets can be perfect for reducing blood pressure, but Junji’s is about to go right through the roof.

He does it to himself, you know, imagining all sorts of nightmares where there are none – which is an occupational hazard of horror, I guess – but he positively invites it all on himself.

Page one, and all is idyllic. Ito has bought himself a brand-new home with “fresh white wallpaper, sparkling clean floors, the pleasant scent of new construction…” and then his beloved fiancée appears. She does nothing worse than ask him the simple question of whether he considers himself a cat person or a dog person, but he manages to work himself up into such a frenzy of second-guessing what he’s supposed to stay that by the bottom of page two his eyes are two sore, stressed out balls of burst blood vessels.

Imagine his reaction, then, when this highly strung dog person is presented with not one but two cats. After which he is persuaded by fiancée A-Ko into lining all the nice new walls and wooden banisters with protective plastic sheets. He doesn’t like it.


A sane reaction, to be sure: what could possibly induce you to live in a plastic, padded cell?  Insanely, however, he acquiesces.

What follows is one long meltdown of overreaction, competition for affection, hallucination and practical jokes gone awry.

You’ve seldom seen such sweat-soaked foreheads and floods of tears. In addition, Ito’s beloved fiancée is presented throughout as a creepily demonic succubus with blank, white eyeballs – no irises or pupils at all. I can see where that’s coming from: it’s Ito admitting that the stress is all self-induced, figments of his overactive imagination.

All of which work beautifully in Ito’s horror stories but here I’m left cold because although the stories start off well enough, they almost immediately meander into the mundane before simply stopping. They commit the cardinal sin of being dull.

Jeffrey Brown manages more meaningful, recognisable and so affecting presentations of feline behaviour on almost every single page of both CAT GETTING OUT OF A BAG AND OTHER OBSERVATIONS and CATS ARE WEIRD AND MORE OBSERVATIONS than this misconceived project does during the entire book.

We all have our strengths and weaknesses. I would be rubbish reviewing the latest biological or technological discoveries in New Scientist; I’m afraid that Ito is equally inept at autobiography which is trickier than you think, requiring a great deal of carefully considered structural discipline and an internal editor to prune the excesses to show off the successes.

No, Junji’s forte is horror, at which he is virtually unparalleled in Japanese comics. Although please do try Inio Asano’s NIJIGAHARA HOLOGRAPH because brrrrr…


Buy Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu and read the Page 45 review here

Star Wars: Princess Leia (£12-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Terry Dodson…

The sassiest royal of them all is ready to rumble once more! Yes, Princess Leia Organa, scourge of the Empire is back with her own mini-series that once again reminds us that femininity need not be in inverse proportion with one’s ability to cause fatalities… In these days where strong female heroes are commonplace, it is easy to forget there was a time when that wasn’t always so, perhaps not even a long, long time ago… (Sorry, couldn’t resist at least one Star Wars pun). And that Leia was one of the first.

You can understand why Marvel are doing all these character mini-series, to re-introduce all the original characters, possibly to people who might be meeting them for the first time. I can only say as a five year old that Princess Leia made a very striking impression on me though I wasn’t exactly sure why at the time! I can categorically state that Terry Dodson has captured the vital essence of the youthful Leia. The artwork, inked to perfection by wife Rachel, really took me back in time nearly thirty years.


The story by Mark Waid is relatively standard fare. Our headstrong royal is once again rushing headfirst into trouble before kicking and blasting her way out of it. Who needs Han Solo to save the day, not her! I think Waid neatly suggests Leia’s somewhat suicidal approach to her missions is due to survivor’s guilt, after the dramatic destruction of Alderaan by Darth and his Death Star. Probably so, two billion deaths is rather a lot to have on your conscience, it’d certainly keep me up at night, and provide more than adequate motivation to ensure the evil Empire gets totally eradicated. This mini-series, like the others and the ongoing STAR WARS title, is set directly after the events of Star Wars IV: A New Hope.


Buy Star Wars: Princess Leia and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Giant Days vol 1  (£7-50, Boom! Box) by John Allison & Lissa Treiman

Junction True (£22-50, Top Shelf) by Ray Fawkes & Vince Locke

Our Expanding Universe (£14-99, Top Shelf) by Alex Robinson

Swamp Thing: Darker Genesis s/c (£14-99, Vertigo) by Mark Millar & Phil Hester, Chris Weston, John Totleben, Jill Thompson, more

Mouse Guard vol 1: Autumn 1152 s/c (US Edition) (£14-99, Villard) by David Petersen

Star Wars: Journey To Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Shattered Empire (£12-99, Marvel) by Greg Rucka & Marco Checchetto, Angel Unzueta, Emilio Laiso

Dungeon Fun (Sketched In) (£12-00, DoGooder Comics) by Colin Bell & Neil Slorance

Puma Blues Complete Saga h/c (£22-50, Dover) by Stephen Murphy & Michael Zulli

Hitler (£18-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Shigeru Mizuki

Batman Adventures vol 2 s/c (£14-99, DC) by Kelley Puckett

Batman Deathblow: After The Fire s/c (£10-99, DC) by Brian Azzarello & Lee Bermejo

Batman And Robin vol 6: The Hunt For Robin s/c (£12-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi & Andy Kubert, various

Superman: Earth One vol 3 s/c (£10-99, DC) by J. Michael Straczynski & Ardian Syaf

A-Force vol 0: Warzones! s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by C. Willow Wilson, Marguerite Bennett & Jorge Molina

Captain Marvel & Carol Corps: Warzones! s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Kelly Thompson & David Lopez, Laura Braga, Paolo Pantalena

Guardians Of Knowhere: Warzones! s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Mike Deodato

Korvac Saga: Warzones! s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Dan Abnett & Otto Schmidt, Nico Leon

Marvel Zombies: Battleworld s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Simon Spurrier & Sean Phillips

Ms. Marvel vol 4: Last Days s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by C. Willow Wilson, Dan Slott & Adrian Alphona, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Kris Anka

X-Men: The Age Of Apocalypse vol 1 – Alpha s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Various including Scott Lobdell, John Francis Moore, Warren Ellis, Mark Waid, Larry Hama, Fabian Nicieza, Jeph Loeb & Andy Kubert, Adam Kubert, Ian Churchill, Chris Bachalo, Steve Epting, others

X-Men: The Age Of Apocalypse vol 2 – Reign s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Various including Scott Lobdell, John Francis Moore, Warren Ellis, Larry Hama, Fabian Nicieza, & Andy Kubert, Adam Kubert, Ian Churchill, Chris Bachalo, Steve Epting, Terry Dodson, others

Bleach vol 65 (£6-99, Viz) by Tite Kubo

Gantz vol 37 (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Hiroya Oku

One Piece vol 76 (£6-99, Viz) by Eiichiro Oda

One-Punch Man vol 3 (£6-99, Viz) by One & Yusuke Murata


ITEM! Angoulême 2016 poster by AKIRA’s Otomo! Read all about it there! Lovely to see Moebius’ Arzach flying high! Lots of other details abound, hidden away in the detail.

ITEM! FISH HEAD STEVE’s Jamie Smart on creating comicbook collectives of artists in multiple media for maximum, mutually beneficial cross-pollination.

ITEM! The British Comics Awards 2015 winners announced! Page 45 could not be happier with the results!

Page 45’s Review of Rob Davis’ THE MOTHERLESS OVEN, Winner of the BCA Best Graphic Novel 2015!

Page 45’s Review of Tim Bird’s GREY AREA: FROM THE CITY TO THE SEA, Winner of the BCA Best Comic 2015!

Page 45’s Review of James Turner’s STAR CAT, Winner of the BCA Young People’s Comics Awards 2015!

Congratulations to – and website of – Rachael Stott, Winner of the BCA Emerging Talent 2015!

What a weekend!

– Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews November 2015 week two

November 11th, 2015

Sandman: Overture Deluxe Edition h/c (£18-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & J.H. Williams III.

“Everyone kills, little brother.
“They even kill their dreams.
“And you have waited too long.”

Everything is ending: life and afterlife, birth and rebirth. Eternity will be extinguished because Morpheus made a mistake born of compassion. When he failed to cauterise the chaos in time the universe itself went mad.

He has one last Hope and an unexpected ally. But then what greater driving force is there than the will to live?

Neil Gaiman returns to SANDMAN with a prequel which is integral and reminiscent in so many ways of Alan Moore’s PROMETHEA whose metaphysical musings on the nature, power and achievements of the human imagination weren’t just illustrated but illuminated by one of comics’ most inventive artists, J.H. Williams III. Once more Williams brings his very best to bear on a script which would have overwhelmed many others and sheds the most spectacular light on some pretty dark matter.

SANDMAN Synopsis: Morpheus is the Lord of Dreams, his family are The Endless. Each of them is older than you can comprehend, though some are older than others. They are as gods to mortals, though they can surely die, and they change as we change for they are aspects of our everyday existence. Drawing on so many elements of prior mythologies, this was one of the 20th Century’s very best comics and Neil Gaiman’s prose readers will love it.

In a story which leads straight into the original book, SANDMAN VOL 1: PRELUDES AND NOCTURNES, long-time devotees will discover so many answers to questions they may not have realised existed. For example, if Destiny holds in his hands the book of everything that was, is, and ever will be, then who gave that legacy to him? Who gave birth to the Endless? You will finally meet Morpheus’ mother and you will meet his father. So will Morpheus after such a long time. Their last encounters didn’t necessarily end too well. Parents and their children, eh?

You’ll meet Delirium when she was once known as Delight. Indeed, you’ll meet all of The Endless once again but before you first did so. Including the one they don’t speak of who went away.

I promise you a complete and satisfying pay-off during the fourth, fifth and sixth chapters regarding the siblings, their relationships with each other, themselves (“Despair is now another aspect of herself”) and with those who gave them birth. Their parents have very specific names and very specific roles and they both make so much sense.

But perhaps most satisfying is the further exploration of Morpheus. Both of his nature as Dream itself…

“It is the nature of Dreams, and only Dreams, to define Reality.”

… and as an individual, and how that impacts, has impacted and will impact on his role both here and hereafter.

“Am I always like this?”
“Like what?”
“Self-satisfied. Irritating. Self-possessed, and unwilling to concede centre stage to anyone but myself.”
“I believe so, yes. In my experience.”

And he of all people should know.

I’d love to about talk responsibility – which is key both here and throughout SANDMAN – and specifically about someone whom Dream deems his self-serving opposite in that respect. I’d like to talk about promises too which are not unconnected, but I made you a promise and I keep them.

As for this comic’s exquisite beauty, I remind you of the most inspired choice of artists imaginable in J.H. Williams III.

Like Will Eisner, Jim Steranko and Dave Sim, Williams truly experiments when constructing individual pages or sequences of pages from the most unusual, often organic panel compositions which are additionally apposite to the proceedings. As in, you’ll be presented with a defiant predator on the prowl through panels constructed from teeth when teeth are both that protagonist’s signature aspect and the enamelled elements between which he literally perceives what surrounds him. You’ll see!

Then, like David Mazzucchelli, within and beyond that backbone Williams also ensures that as many constituent components of comics storytelling as possible serve the story itself.

Please don’t think that colour artist Dave Stewart of lettering legend Todd Klein have been slacking, either.

You’ll relish being astonished by Williams’, Stewart’s and Klein’s contributions while immersing yourself in this book. That’s all you could really want. But when you turn to this edition’s considerable back-matter material including interviews with the artistic orchestra and composer Neil himself, you will surely need to reacquaint yourself with that misplaced mandible currently residing on your carpet.

Such are the elaborate lengths they all went to achieve specific effects for individual sequences as a team that you will wonder no longer why this series took so long to materialise before you as one of the pinnacles of comics’ construction.

As I always say on the shop floor when a project’s delayed, quality is worth the wait.

No one wants to read something cobbled together without caring for the sake of a corporate cash-cow. No one wants their treasured dreams diluted by the shoved-out second-best when what we desire above all is a comic which lives up what we once loved.

Prepare to have your expectations exceeded.

You will travel through time and you will travel will space, as will Morpheus himself. If not of his own volition.

That’s how this begins and that’s how it ends, which is where it all began in the first place.

“And I am pulled halfway across the universe in one fraction of forever, with a pain that feels like birth…”

Don’t miss the epilogue. *shivers*


Buy Sandman Overture Deluxe Edition h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Universal War One: Collected Edition h/c (£25-99, Titan) by Denis Bajram.

Deeply satisfying sci-fi originally published in France in which the Purgatory Squadron encounters The Wall and gets quite the education, whether they need none nor not.

The Purgatory Squadron is an eminently expendable group of space soldiers each awaiting Court Martial for a list of offences whose specifics are kept secret from each other. You really don’t know who you’re bunking up with or why. Unnerving, much…? They’re led by Lt. Colonel Edward Kalish, a genius who was formerly the head of the United Earth Forces’ Space Physics Research Division.

The Wall, on the other hand, is an immense and seemingly impenetrable black barrier defying analysis which has suddenly appeared in the middle of our solar system cutting off access to any planet beyond Saturn. Three billion kilometres in diameter and filling a third of the night sky, its centre appears to be Oberon, a moon of Uranus.

Given the existing tensions between the governing United Earth Forces and the Colonization Industrial Companies which control the various off-Earth outposts and colonies, the UEF suspects the CIC of testing some top-secret weapon from their research facility orbiting Oberon, and accuses the CIC of wanting to secede thus raising the spectre of a potentially catastrophic civil war.

But when our Purgatory Squad figures out the physics and learn that it’s a form of inverted worm-hole, Earth’s military encounters a fleet of space ships within, which they should be able to take on quite easily but can’t.

Why? The enemy fleet appears to be uncannily fast and uncannily accurate whenever they fire. And there’s a very good reason why: it’s just a question of time…

It was at that point I really started to enjoy myself when I read this on holiday six years ago – so much so that my notes came to an abrupt end.

But it becomes a philosophical debate on cause and effect, and a complex murder mystery for quite early on one of the squadron, Balti, emerges from The Wall a mere minute after he went rogue and flew in there. But he does so in a brand new ship, different clothes and a great big hole in his chest.

Written, pencilled and inked by Denis Bajarm this was the best straight science / speculative fiction graphic novel which our Jonathan had read for some considerable time. If you’re a lover of prose sci-fi you’ll greatly appreciate Bajarm’s detailed and intricate plot and his extensive characterisation of the Purgatory Squadron members and the UEF and CIC big-wigs. His art too is epic and exquisitely detailed and, without giving too much away plot-wise, the sequences inside the barrier are genuinely unnerving in the sense that you really feel people are messing around with potentially galactic-shattering forces that aren’t even remotely under their control.

This hefty edition collects both previous volumes published by Marvel’s abandoned Soleil imprint, while this review is complete mash-up of our previous efforts back in 2009 to the extent that single sentences have been spliced together and I’m currently experiencing an entirely apposite identity crisis.


Buy Universal War One: Collected Edition h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Surface (£10-99, Image) by Ales Kot & Langdon Foss…

The children turned off their lifelogs.

“…our war against the hackers and digital pirates… the true heirs to the damaged brand of terrorism perpetrated by the likes of Al Qaeda and ISIS… has reached its final stage..”

People don’t usually do that these days. Turn off the lifelogs, I mean.

“… it is true that most of their leaders are locked up… but new, even more cunning, cold-blooded worshipers of terror stand in their place…”

The popularity of lifelogging exploded fast. Wear a few tiny unobtrusive camera chips and microphones at all time. Log your life.

“… as we know, most of these hacker terrorists are… known spies…”

The ‘share’ buttons became the ‘no-share’ buttons. Privacy as an opt-in. Sharing as default.

“…I refuse to give them but an inch of our civilisation… our land, our data, our capital…”

Embrace interconnectivity. Have a memory you can access any time, a complete account of your life, and more than that.

The opening issue of THE SURFACE was the best bit of cyberpunk I’d read for a while, combining as it does cutting-edge technology and a chaotic society either on the brink of dystopian collapse, or evolving apace in ever more unpredictable ways, depending on how you look at it. And all the while the great and good try and cling on to their power and wealth through whatever nefarious quasi-legal means are at their disposal.

Unfortunately readers in the wider world did not apparently agree resulting in this title being curtailed and wrapped up in a mere four issues. Wrapped up might not be the right term, actually, for the concluding fourth issue was one of the strangest individual issues I’ve read in some time, as Ales goes all meta and gets very up close and personal with both us and himself to provide a suitably surreal, yet utterly crystal clear, ending. To see reality as it truly is, all you need to do is sit and relax. And maybe read a few of Ales’ comics…

Anyway, I think we can all agree that the premise of lifelogging is almost certainly going to come to pass en masse in some form or other in the not-too-distant future. It’s not that far a remove from how some people seem to use Facebook right now, frankly. In THE SURFACE, the people in charge would have you believe it’s only a boon, after all, how you can you ever be accused of a crime you didn’t commit if your entire life is documented for all to see? Or looking at the flipside, how can you ever get away with doing anything at all they don’t like? Particularly something that might upset the status quo.

Which is where our main characters Gomez, Nasa and Mark come in. Mark, by the way, is the disowned son of the President of the Three State Union, that chap who was spinning bile about hackers and pirates above on television, whilst Mark provided the counterpoint narrative. Mark has some rather interesting ideas about the nature of reality itself – dangerous ideas, some like his dad might argue – and he’s decided it’s time to test his theory. Believing that the universe is a holographic  projection which we inhabit, he’s posited a VERY BIG question. If that theory is correct, then precisely where is it projected from?

“A surface separates inside from out and belongs no less to one than the other.” That’s from Don Delillo, an American author who has himself been referred to as the ‘chief shaman of the paranoid school of American fiction’ and where the title of this comic comes from presumably…. But as Delillo also said, not quoted here… ‘Writers must oppose systems. It’s important to write against power, corporations, the state, and the whole system of consumption and of debilitating entertainments… I think writers, by nature, must oppose things, oppose whatever power tries to impose on us’. He’s got a point. I think it’s a school of thought Ales subscribes to.

Much like Ales’ previous works (WILD CHILDREN, CHANGE, ZERO) this is chock full of current scientific theories and ideas, designed to make you stop and think. Plus there’s a lot going on even on top of the incredibly rich plot itself, from the infovercial complete with barely visible seditious lines of tiny yellow type, the mysterious prologue, fake adverts, the odd page of scientific concept presented in essay form, and a three-part interview with the ‘elusive writer’ which may or may not be a real interview with Ales himself.

Whilst this is no way the same sort of story as TRANSMETROPOLITAN, it does have the archetypical idiotic corrupt politicians, which combined with the technological shenanigans did bring it to mind. Also, there is great a little nod to Spider Jerusalem in the background of a panel which made me chuckle. I can well imagine fans of that title might get a kick out of this.

Nice art from Langdon Foss, which reminds me of Brandon Graham, particularly KING CITY (and I think it is probably the speculative fiction context driving that connection), which combined with the lurid colours employed by Jordie Bellaire (whom Ales has worked with before to great effect on ZERO) serve to create a real sense of a future permeated with data feeds and flows, bursting to capacity, headed somewhere, probably not the right direction, at breakneck speed.


Buy The Surface and read the Page 45 review here

Casanova: Acedia vol 1 (£7-50, Image) by Matt Fraction & Fabio Moon, Michael Chabon, Gabriel Ba…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Mouse Guard: Legends Of The Guard vol 3 h/c (£14-99, Archaia) by David Petersen, Mark Buckingham, Becky Cloonan, Hannah Christenson, Ryan Lang, Skottie Young, Dustin Nguyen, more.

If you’re looking for a MOUSE GUARD entry point, we recommend MOUSE GUARD: BLACK AXE which takes place before the first two and features some sequences worthy of Arthur Rackham himself, along with his colour palette. The series is set in a feudal society of anthropomorphic mice governed by a matriarch. Interestingly, most of the other animals have no human traits and are mostly feral predators.

Here for the third time creator David Petersen provides the linking sequences as patrons of the June Alley Inn are invited by its proprietor to sing for their supper – or, in this case, tell stories in a bid to have their tabs cleared in full.

They are, of course, actually told by guest writers and / or artists in a variety of styles from Skottie Young’s exuberant cartoon line work (see ROCKET RACCOON) to Ryan Lang’s hyper-real, computer-generated 3-D modelling. Normally the latter doesn’t do it for me, but ‘The Watcher’s Stone’ is a lambently lit tale of bravery and resourcefulness turning one ill against another to save a small, embattled town struck down by sickness and starved while under siege by a formidable foe.

My favourite, however, came from Hannah Christenson whose mice are so lean and tufted that you can almost feel their silky fur as well as the hard skulls underneath.

‘The Armor Maker’ stars a blacksmith who dreams of battle and, so inspired, takes enormous pride in his commissions, creating elaborately engraved, gold and gleaming armour which at one point positively dances across the page along with its attendant weaponry, while the tools of his trade hang as if suspended in air. There’s another composition as organic as J.H. Williams III is wont to work with.

Becky Cloonan’s contribution is customarily spooky and all the original covers are reproduced as double-page spreads in the back, along with cast and creator note and two cut-away, three-dimensional floor plans for the June Alley Inn’s ground floor and dormitories above.

Yes, don’t imagine Petersen’s on holiday: his patrons are dressed to reflect their individuality and even the simplest stairwell is transformed under his eye for detail into a grained wooden structure which could conceivably creak.


Buy Mouse Guard: Legends Of The Guard vol 3 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Butterfly h/c (£18-99, Archaia) by Arash Amel, Marguerite Bennett & Antonio Fuso, Stefano Simeone.

Somalia 1993:

“We were meant to bring peace to the region. Clean water. Safe schools. Instead, we were rooting out militants opposed to an oil pipeline – a pipeline that did not appear on any known record for the Department of Defence or the CIA.
“Once the militants were extinguished, I believed the pipeline would be sold to whichever corporate interest Project Delta chose.
“They were going to kill my wife, and they were going to kill my daughter, Rebecca.”

David Faulkner was ex-CIA, poached for Project Delta. Now he is simply ex, having died in the Somali desert, gagging on his own blood.

Norway today, and David’s daughter Rebecca Faulkner has followed in her dead father’s footsteps. Ex-CIA, she too now works for Project Delta. Codenamed Butterfly, she is one of Project Delta’s deep cover agents sent on a retrieval mission, but at the precise moment she bends down to pick a package from the pocket of a Russian oligarch, he collapses, choking, and dies.



Now she needs to escape – and fast – but the cell numbers she needs for extraction are dead. Refusing to believe Project Delta would abandon her, she follows a trail from an abandoned shipyard to Le Papilllon Rose Vineyard freezing in France.

““Nightingale”, the message said. But Nightingale is a myth to trainees at the Project. A burned operative, a bogeyman, a cautionary tale.”

No, Nightingale was Rebecca’s father who faked his own death in the belief that he needed to protect his wife and child from Project Delta itself. And she’s just led them straight to his door.


Or has she? Flashing backwards and forwards in time, there are multiple trust issues here, not least between father and daughter, but I’m not sure whether this is complex or convoluted, and the bottle of Beaujolais left in the shipyard container still makes no sense to me if any of the suspected parties (and there are many) didn’t know where Nightingale was. Maybe I’m missing something.

Certainly there seem to me many things missing here – it can be very abrupt – but what isn’t absent is a moment of startling betrayal based on conviction, followed so swiftly by a reversal of fortune that you may end up needing a neck brace.

It’ll keep you guessing right until the end – or maybe afterwards.

I’m led to believe Channel 4 have picked this up, presumably based on its skeleton because this is going to need a lot of fleshing out. You’re not given enough time, for example, to care what happens to Angelique and Martin, David’s new family.

The interior art I’ve supplied is an unbroken sequence by Antonio Fuso depicting the moment the retrieval goes wrong and beyond. Neatly done, I thought, and of the two contributing artists (Stefano Simeone takes over halfway through), he’s easier on the eye.


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

100 Bullets Book 3 (£18-99, Vertigo) by Brian Azzarello & Eduardo Risso.

“There’s a war coming.”

Crime so hardboiled you could wrap it in plastic and sell it by the quarter-pound.

For “Previously in 100 BULLETS…” please see Books 1 and 2 which each collect almost three of the previously slimmer Volumes.

This brutal and brilliant conspiracy thriller thunders on with more hearts of darkness. Now we’ve been introduced to all the major players, they start moving each other into position: last-minute adjustments plus lots of hard looks, harsh words and a dash of tough luck.

After the superbly choreographed ‘Ambition’s Audition’ starring Benito, Shepherd, Mr. Medici and a game of dominoes, we’re locked in a US penitentiary which is way too comfortable a description to convey the hot, sweaty, razor-edge tensions of this dark and brutal hellhole. This is Eduardo – and indeed Brian – in masterful mode, and it’s as nasty as anything I believe you’ll have seen on TV’s Oz. If it isn’t, I do not want to see Oz.

Expect intimidatingly massive body builds, worryingly unpredictable shower scenes, and a lot of very vicious violence. Because it’s part of 100 BULLETS you can also expect hidden agendas, brinksmanship, twists, and the most beat-perfect prison patter you’ll probably need an inmate to decipher in places:

“Wassup Erie?”
“Same ‘ole same oh, Loop. Heard on the wire they was lettin’ your toad ass out the hole… Figure I’d stop by, see who you was hol’in up.”
“Wha? You miss me?”
“Fuck that. You ain’t pussy, dawg. Potential investment, s’what you are. Whole lotta book bein’ made… on yo’ onion. As in how long Nine Train’s gonna wait to peel it. You ain’t thinkin’ ’bout’, are you?”
“Wha? Kick it with the chomos, rapists an’ retards in Protective Custody? You trippin’?”
“Jus’ checkin’, ain’t frontin'”
“Why? You got my back?”
“Dawg, you know if I could –”
“You wood?”
“Goddamn, Loop. You an’ that muthafuckin’ sideways shit. Never give it a rest.”
“Arrest is what got me locked up wit’ yo’ Nazi ass.”

Lastly Agent Graves sends Wylie Times on a journey to a sultry New Orleans that will change the battle lines of his private war for good. No, really, it will. He’s given Wylie the briefcase containing that gun, those 100 rounds of untraceable ammunition, and a target for revenge: Shepherd. But Shepherd’s got Dizzy with him, and looks aren’t the only things than can kill: so can words.

Knock-out shadows and silhouettes are Risso’s forté, enhanced by menacing eyes and pouting lips, while Patricia Mulvihill’s colours radiate so much heat you’ll be mopping your brow.


Buy 100 Bullets Book 3 and read the Page 45 review here

Luthor s/c (£10-99, DC) by Brian Azzarello & Lee Bermejo.

From the writer of 100 BULLETS, this comes highly recommended to those who demand more from animosity than pugilism.

Lex Luthor stares into space and broods about humanity being subject to the whims of a potentially untrustworthy alien being, whilst those around him – from employees in the form of construction workers to a cherished servant in the form of his own artificially created, female metahuman – find out what it’s like to be subject to the bitterness of a decidedly untrustworthy human being.

Far more interesting for me than Azzarello’s team-up with Jim Lee (SUPERMAN FOR TOMORROW), there are some credibly vocalised motivations, an ingeniously manipulated climax designed to discredit Superman through his own benevolent nature, and a tense stand-off through a plate glass window as Luthor stands way above the streets in his skyscraper tower, and Superman, floating outside, stares back. Hard.

This was the second time Azzarello and Bermejo had worked together on one of DC’s top properties, the first being BATMAN/DEATHBLOW wherein Bermejo rendered a Gotham in almost permanent, smog-shrouded twilight, the third being JOKER which will have you wincing on the edge of your seat throughout.

Here we join Lex Luthor as the sun sets over a futuristic Metropolis, sharpening its edifices’ corners and reflecting off the glass of the vast monuments to man’s imagination, aspiration and ingenuity. At the end of another long day Lex sits and chats with Stan the cleaner, as they gaze out across the skyline at the Metropolis Science Spire, the billionaire’s latest project whose grand opening is due shortly.

Bermejo’s expressions are quiet and subtle, Lex all delightful smiles, his brow only furrowing with concern when he learns that that Stan’s son, though bright, is cutting classes. It’s then that you see Luthor as a human being whereas Superman throughout the first chapter is depicted as volcanic, his eyes burning with the fire of a thousand foundries. Here’s the beautiful Mona:

“The Von Raunch Academy’s Benefit Ball is tonight. I’m going to present your very generous donation, and tell them that though you would have loved to be there, some matters came up and –”
“Hmm. That’s that exclusive school, isn’t it?”
“Well, if you mean by exclusive it hand-picks only twelve students for acceptance each year, then yes. It’s exclusive.”
“Right… an employee of ours has a son who I think merits inclusion in that twelve. Joey’s a bright boy. Tell the Head Master I’d consider it a personal favour.”
“I will, but next semester’s class has already been selected. One of those children would have to be –”
“A personal favour, and I would be very grateful. Have a good time, Mona. Give everyone my best.”

See, he’s not all bad.

That scene is played to perfection – just like the reader.


Buy Luthor and read the Page 45 review here

Hawkeye vol 5: All New Hawkeye s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Jeff Lemire & Ramon K. Perez…

“We’re really sorry, sir. It was my idea.”
“I don’t care whose damn it was! I want the damn grass cut!”
“Then why don’t you cut it yourself you lazy #$%#…”


“That the best you can do, old man?”
“You mouthy little #%$!”


“Get your bike!”
“We gotta go now, Clint!”
“Where we gonna go, Barn?”
“I don’t know. Just keep biking.”

Well now, this was an unexpected delight. I mean, I probably shouldn’t have been remotely surprised given how highly I rate Jeff Lemire, but let me tell you, if you were perhaps also worried this title was going to take a dip following the departure of Messrs. Fraction and Aja (and let us also not forget Pulido and Wu on HAWKEYE VOL 3 art duties) I can most emphatically assure you that will not be the case based on the evidence of this first volume.

Okay, so what’s different and what’s the same? Well, we still have some elements of the dual narrative structure, but not just through the eyes of current-day Clint and Kate, wise-cracking and one-upping back and forth whilst bulls-eyeing bad guys, but also a young Clint as the issue switches between a typical high-octane all-not-exactly-going-to-plan Hawkeye-Hawkeye team-up taking down a Hydra cell, and new, fleshed-out flashbacks to Clint and Barney Barton’s childhood together. Also, I may just have broken my own record for most hyphens in a sentence there.

The two time periods are rendered with dramatically different art styles but by the same artist, Ramon Perez. In fact for the modern Hawkeye Sr.&  Jr. double-act he’s gone for a style not entirely dissimilar to David Aja’s, so much so in fact that I had to check it wasn’t him! I can only presume this is to (subliminally) reassure readers that whilst much will be different about this title going forward, the panel-by-panel fun and frolics element is going to remain largely unchanged, visually at least. I think this is an entirely wise decision on Lemire’s and Perez’s parts, given Lemire’s own comments in his afterword of the first issue about the humongous size of the scarlet booties they were filling.

What is radically different, though, are the dreamy sequences featuring a young Clint and brother Barney finding themselves unwelcome at yet another foster home, largely due to their own inability to conform, behave and obey like good little boys, it must be said. Well, perhaps also Barney smashing their new foster father over the head with a baseball bat this time… These are produced in a water colour style, with a palette entirely composed of myriad hues of purple, minus any panels or gutters whatsoever, giving the effect of recalling long-forgotten memories of a misspent youth.

I suspect it’s this era’s portrayal which is going to provide the real heart and emotional depth of Lemire’s run, given how much poignancy he manages to encapsulate in barely a handful of pages right from the get go. But I also doubt – especially given how the two time periods’ stories and art styles begin to intercut and interact and eventually collide before culminating in two emotionally polar opposite but equally dramatic finales for the first chapter – that events in the modern era are going to be mere spurious fun, either. No, I don’t think they are going to be light and frothy throwaway frippery at all…


Buy Hawkeye vol 5: All New Hawkeye s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Mouse Guard: Roleplaying Game Boxed Set (£52-99, Archaia) by Luke Crane & David Petersen.

Plus boxed set containing:

320-page softcover rule book
48-page supplementary rule book
Four sets of weapon and armour cards
Four sets of condition cards
20 custom mice – sorry, dice
A gamesmaster screen
Pad of character sheets
Pad of gamesmaster record sheets
Map of the territories

The 320-page softcover is illustrated throughout with some lovely scenes of pastoral tranquillity and danger. The box sits beautifully by the till right next to the lush-as-you-like ART OF MOUSE GUARD 2005-2015 oversized hardcover.

Here’s Petersen:

“Luke Crane was masterfully able to take the things about MOUSE GUARD that are important at its core, and mould his Burning Wheel roleplaying system around them. His fresh techniques cast off the idea of characters driven by statistics and lucky rolls of the dice, and focus on true character building.”

The dice aren’t gone, though – Lord, but that way lies anarchy!

I have absolutely no idea what to tell you about this because I haven’t a clue about role playing unless it’s playing the role of a rapacious retailer but it really does look brilliant. The ‘Denizens of the Territories’ chapter was fascinating. Mystifying, but fascinating. There are Apiarists (“SKILLS: Apiarist 5, Loremouse 3, Queen-Bee-wise 4” – what does that even mean?!), Archivists (“TRAITS: Nocturnal 1”), Beetle Wranglers (“CIRCLES: 4” – are circles good?) Brewers (I’m sticking with them), Charlatans (I think I am one of them!), Muscles (I don’t have many of them), Politicians (I’m seriously considering it) and what I’d have thought was all your standard fare clearly defined in tables of stats.

Then there are the Weasels and other wild animals like Bullfrogs, Crabs, Crows, Great Horned Owls, Newts, Snakes (various), Porcupines and, err, Wolverines. Maybe that was inevitable. Anyway, they all have their own traits and I imagine you’ll stumble on them from time to time in your micely manoeuvres. The book itself is exactly the same size as the MOUSE GUARD graphic novels and printed on quality cream paper that’s been given an aged effect with some exceptional design work completely absent from books like the MARVEL ENCYCLOPAEDIA.

Sorry if I haven’t done a very good job of selling this to you. If one of you buys a copy (from us, remember, or you’ll probably end up eaten by newts in the first few throws) feel free to send us a more informed review – and a couple of paragraphs on one of your adventures. We’ll stick it up on the website and everything!


Buy Mouse Guard: Roleplaying Game Boxed Set and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Porcelain vol 2: Bone China (Exclusive Page 45 signed bookplate edition)  (£14-99, Improper Books) by Ben Read & Chris Wildgoose

Bookplates strictly limited to 200 copies. One day in? We’ve already sold 50. Bless you to bits!


Wolf vol 1 (£7-50, Image) by Ales Kot & Matt Taylor

Low vol 2: Before The Dawn Burns Us (£10-99, Image) by Rick Remender & Greg Tocchini

Fatale: The Deluxe Edition vol 2 (vols 3-5) h/c (£37-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips, Elizabeth Breitweiser

Doodle A Day (£9-99, Macmillan) by Chris Riddell

ALPHA… Directions h/c (£29-99, Knockabout) by Jens Harder

American Vampire vol 7 s/c (£10-99, Vertigo) by Scott Snyder & Rafael Albuquerque

Cyanide & Happiness vol 4: Stab Factory s/c (£10-99, Boom) by Kris, Rob, Dave

Double D vol 1 (£7-50, Image) by Eddie Argos & Steven Horry

Love And Rockets: New Stories #7 (£10-99, Fantagraphics) by Gilbert Hernandez, Jaime Hernandez

The Man Of Glass (£3-95, Accent UK) by Martin Flink

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

MULP: Sceptre Of The Sun #2 (£4-99, Improper Books) by Matt Gibbs & Sara Dunkerton

Prison Island (£11-99, Zest Books) by Colleen Frakes

Suite Francaise: Storm In June (£15-99, Arsenal Pulp Press) by Irene Nemirovsky, David Homel & Emmanuel Moynot

Trashed (£11-99, Abrams Comicarts) by Derf Backderf

Green Arrow vol 7: Kingdom s/c (£10-99, DC) by Andrew Kreisberg, Ben Sokolowski & Daniel Sampere

Scooby Doo Team-Up vol 2 s/c (£9-99, DC) by Sholly Fisch & Dario Brizuela, Scott Jerralds

Superman Adventures vol 1 s/c (£14-99, DC) by Paul Dini, Scott McCloud & Rick Burchett, Bert Blevins, Mike Manley

Age Of Ultron Vs Marvel Zombies: Battleworld s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by James Robinson, Brian Michael Bendis & Steve Pugh, Bryan Hitch

Spider-Island: Warzones! s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Christos Gage & Paco Diaz

Fairy Girls vol 1 (£8-50, Kodansha Comics) by Hiro Mashima

Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu  (£8-50, Kodansha Comics) by Junji Ito

Monster Perfect Edition vol 6 (£12-99, Viz) by Naoki Urasawa

Merry Christmas Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

Wrapped Up Good Wrapping Paper Set (£6-00, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson


ITEM! Poignant article on Charles Schulz’s introduction of Franklin to PEANUTS. Schulz proves to be careful, considered then not one to back down. You’re a good man, Charles M Schulz.

ITEM! SALLY HEATHCOTE SUFFRAGETTE is voted best graphic novel in Spain!

Newsflash: SALLY HEATHCOTE SUFFRAGETTE by Mary Talbot & Kate Charlesworth, Bryan Talbot was one of the best graphic novels in Britain too, as I hope Page 45’s review makes clear.

ITEM! Duncan Fegredo sketching HELLBOY on YouTube!

ITEM! A very short comic which had me howling with laughter. “If you like I could explain it to you.” Yes, man’splain it, do! ‘Depressingly Earnest Indie Comic Punchface’ by Ned Hartley. (You can follow @NedHartley on Twitter)

I once had a late-teen tell me on the shop floor in no uncertain terms that “PERSEPOLIS is not a comic; it is autobiography!” I gently suggested that they were confusing the medium with the genre. Such indignation: “I am a student!”

Good luck with your study, buddy. Don’t take no notice of till-monkey me!

ITEM! Yet another well reasoned blog on why comicbook creators should shy away from the myriad demands – from even corporate chancers – to work for free, this one by the great Greg Ruth.

Greg Ruth’s LOST BOY reviewed.

ITEM! Would you like to buy a comic starring Page 45’s Stephen L. Holland as a “minor celestial bureaucrat”? Of course you would, and you can do so there! It’s so obviously my calling. Dave Crane, creator of VOICES OF THE OTHER DAY is interviewed on his comicbook craft.

– Stephen

Still working on those opposable thumbs.

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews November 2015 week one

November 4th, 2015

Two Brothers (£18-99, Dark Horse) by Gabriel Ba & Fabio Moon.

“Yaqub, come… give your brother a hug.”
“From now on, life will be better. Everything improves after the end of a war.”

But which war is Omar and Yaqub’s father referring to? I see no peace treaties let alone offerings in this tense household. The two brothers, after five years apart, stare quietly into each other’s eyes, their expressions impossible to read.

As intense as any book I’ve read for some years, for all the Brazilian sunshine outside it is the brooding atmosphere within the luxurious homestead which dominates this doomed, generational saga. It is rank with resentment and forever threatened by possessive jealousy, while exploding all too often with a callous, hedonistic disregard on Omar’s part so long as he gets what he wants.

It is rendered with all the confidence in the world in the warmest black and white possible. At first I thought of 100 BULLETS’ Eduardo Risso but, when you study the ornate textures of the furniture thrown into shadow and the curved, heavy silhouettes which loom large, there is far more of the Mike Mignola and – in some of the expressions and the stylised buildings, the trees and their trunks – the perfectly judged shorthand of Marc Hempel.

The ageing process is particularly well handled, and I don’t just mean that the characters acquire lines, grey hairs or whiskers. It’s in how actions and time take their toll on their bodies, their postures, their energies and what their instantly recognisable but transmuted expressions then project. Zana maintains her glamour to old age. Her earrings and collar go unchanged for decades after settling in at an attractively fashionable middle age and she resolutely refuses to let her coiffeur subside. Her blouse moves up with dignity to cover her chest and her arched, pencilled eyebrows are as high on her forehead as ever, but her hooded eyes droop down with exhaustion, disappointment and scorn.

It begins near the end with the matriarch Zana having to leave everything behind including her household now empty and echoing with the ghosts of her father, husband and sons. Everything she had ever wanted, everything she had fought for, spied for, connived for is gone.

But seriously, what did the mother expect would happen? And why did the father never act?

The twins’ father Halim never wanted children. He wanted sex. His passion for Zana was sincere, his loyalty unwavering to a fault. He warned of what would happen if his wife continued to treat the boys as she did, but he always caved in to her wishes. He never knew his own father so perhaps he never knew how to be one. He observed the results of overindulging Omar’s pleasure-seeking but failed to discipline him until it was too late.

Zana’s sudden declaration that she desired children came on the death of her father. Although Halim knew they would rob him of his private pleasures, he complied, and two years later the twins were born, followed by a daughter called Rânia. Beforehand, however, a nun had offered them an orphan called Domingas whom they adopted as a servant, and it is she who observes most of what follows, passed down in turn to her son.

It was to Domingas’ care that the elder twin Yaqub was fobbed off while Zana lavished all her love and attention on Omar – often ill during the early months – to an excessive, bewildering degree.

Initially the boys’ behaviour wasn’t markedly different – they both loved to climb, fish and run around with glee – even if Omar sometimes left Yaqub trailing in his dust. But then, aged thirteen, there were two fateful nights, the first at a Carnival ball at the Benemous’ mansion. Yaqub had eyes for a beautiful girl called Livia but was told by his mother to take his young sister home. On his return he was shocked to discover that his brother had taken his place in the young girl’s arms.

That, however, was as nothing compared to an evening soon afterwards during the projection of a film in a blacked out room after Livia joined Yaqub on a seat he’d saved for her at the front. At the back, Omar seethed. Until an opportunity presented itself…

And you know what I said about the feckless father? No, there was no recrimination to speak of and no discipline at all. Instead the twins were subsequently separated, Yaqub sent to the Lebanon to learn other languages leaving Zana to spoil Omar further.

Five years later Yaqub returned, which is where we came in.

“Yaqub, come… give your brother a hug.”
“From now on, life will be better. Everything improves after the end of a war.”

The war has only just begun.

From the creators of DAYTRIPPER and DE:TALES, it’s another graphic novel that may make you sit and think.

The story is laid out in layers, temporal strata which the narrator digs up – not necessarily in the order in which the events originally occurred – in an effort to get to the bottom of what continued to go so very wrong, and why. The sons come and go and, as you’d expect by now, one of those sons’ absence being tolerated, indeed welcomed more than the other’s. It is the story of a mother who will not let go, a father who becomes bitter and resentful, and two brothers who prove a perfect case study in nature and nurture.

The narrator, I would remind you, is the son of the family’s servant Domingas. He has no idea who his father is, but he has his suspicions.


Buy Two Brothers and read the Page 45 review here

Becoming Unbecoming (£14-99, Myriad) by Una…

“Women and girls are not just sexual victims. They have their own sexuality, needs, desires…
“But if professionals in the justice system aren’t able to work out the issue of consent…
“I repeatedly encountered a complete lack of interest in my consent, and total uninterest in my pleasure. What a strange thing this is to overlook.
“Whether I said yes or whether I said no, the end result was the same.
“The problem seems to be… a climate of confusion, collusion and self-delusion.
“The solution? Sexual partners have to make sure consent is free and full. With a partner who is able to consent.”

Una, the creator of this brilliant part-autobiographical work, part-analysis of the disparity in levels of sexual violence experienced by women and men, part-biography of the Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe, and his victims, grew up in West Yorkshire only a few miles away from me, as it happens. She’s a little bit older than myself, being twelve years old to my five in 1977, so her memories of the reign of terror that Peter Sutcliffe engendered in the female population of the region are somewhat more grounded in genuine feelings of fear, rather than the slightly confused ideas of a child trying to get to grips with the concept of the existence of a real-life Bogeyman apparently right on his doorstep.

Obviously as I got a little bit older, by the time Sutcliffe was finally caught in January 1981, I had begun to realise the full horror of his crimes, and the nationwide consternation he had caused during that period. Even as a child I do remember my mother being extremely concerned on the occasions she had to drive over to Harrogate and back on some Friday evenings on business, particularly because she drove right through Chapeltown, where the Ripper was known to prowl.

So, the Ripper and his activities – and the exploration of some of the lives of his victims in more detail – help to set the seventies scene and allow Una to explore the rather more primitive cultural attitudes towards women generally at the time. Her teenage years were certainly ruined by unwanted sexual interactions, and the social difficulties this consequently caused her – with both sexes, distressingly enough. I’m reluctant to go into more details because I think Una does a wonderful job in explaining the particular circumstances involved. Suffice to say that consent certainly wasn’t something which was asked for or wholly given. She then provides an in-depth illustrated statistical overview of sexual violence toward women, both historical and current.

It’s an uneasy read (particularly for the father of a young girl) which amply demonstrates that whilst the antics of the Ripper and his ilk might grab all the headlines, the reality is that everyday casual sexual misconduct of all degrees towards women is still considerably more widespread and pernicious than the typical man might realise. Yes, times have changed to some extent, but even so Una was able to educate me with some rather alarming fact and figures. She then goes on to explore and debunk some of the various theories as to why we as a so-called civilised society still find ourselves in such a predicament. I found her analysis fascinating and extremely well thought through, I must say.

Consequently as a piece of graphic journalism I found it as compelling and technically well constructed a read as Darryl Cunningham’s SUPERCRASH. It’s that good. What makes this work so emotionally compelling, though – and heartbreaking, actually – is her older self’s attempts to understand and explain what her younger self was going through, both emotionally internally, and externally at the hands, physically as well as metaphorically, of her contemporaries. Then the long hard road as an adult gradually coming to terms with what had happened to her, not attempting to forget or bury it, but trying to deal with it and move past it.

I can’t say for sure whether producing this work has formed part of that healing process for her, but certainly her resolute bravery in laying her story so publically bare can only be commended, as it adds a deeply powerful emotional connection to the wider topic she is trying to draw our attention to. Plus in addition to being a genuinely moving autobiographical work, this is also a fascinating time capsule into the wider social mores of the time, riven as they were then with considerably more casual social misogyny than today.

Surprisingly then, for a work dealing with such darkness, there is a tremendous amount of humour to be found, often from the illustrations Una employs to underscore a point, particularly when highlighting some of the now frankly ridiculous attitudes of the times. I can imagine she would make a great satirical cartoonist, actually, if she ever needs a sideline.

The work then concludes with a sequence of thirteen full-page portraits that I have to say brought a tear to my eye. I will leave it for yourselves to discover precisely who they portray and how… But it’s a very appropriate and moving finale to such an emotionally charged work.


Buy Becoming Unbecoming and read the Page 45 review here

Love vol 2: The Fox h/c (£13-50, Magnetic Press) by Frédéric Brrémaud & Federico Bertolucci.

Please don’t judge this book by its cover.

Glowing and graceful, frantic and thrilling, this explosive, Arctic, fight-for-your-life from the creators of LOVE VOL 1: THE TIGER features a far wider cast of land and sea creatures than you might initially suspect.

“Don’t judge a book by its cover” is obviously a metaphorical aphorism / admonition / exhortation advising you against judging an entity’s innate worth by its outward appearance. But it’s based on the literal, literary observation that an illustration doesn’t necessarily reflect the quality nor nature of the written word within.

It was coined long before the invention of graphic novels which, given that comics is a visual medium, I believe you should be able to judge to some substantial degree by their covers. Unless, you know, some corporation sticks a completely different artist on the front, which I consider false advertising.

It won’t tell you anything by the artist’s ability to tell a story in a sequence of panels, but it should at least reflect the quality of the art within. This one doesn’t. It’s okay, but every single image inside is infinitely more impressive.

Bertolucci’s criss-cross relay race of predators and prey is flawlessly choreographed like an aerial, mountain-bound and subaquatic ballet as the hunters soar, swoop, dip and dive, some rediscovering a little too late that they’re not where they thought on the food chain. Timing is everything when you’re hunting for food and Bertolucci’s timing is sharper on one occasion than that of the sea lion which has its eyes on a prize but not on the sea’s centre-forwards.

A whale and its calf are harried by Orcas seeking to dislodge the vulnerable one from its poor mother’s back; Northern Gannets plunge from the skies en masse for fish; a Kodiak encounters a Polar Bear as, all the while, our titular fox – very much aware of its limitations – ducks and dives and cowers as required in order to survive not just the weightier, more ferocious beasts but also the island itself.

An avalanche is one thing, but Brrémaud has added an extra element of urgency which sets the clock ticking and it will take all the energy and agility of the fox to avoid traps – like the pitfall a porcupine succumbs to – in order to get where she needs in time.

The landscapes are as majestic as LOVE VOL 1: THE TIGER’s with fiery autumn leaves, hard ice and soft snow, while below the ocean’s surface it’s truly chilling. One false step and anything could end up in there, where the glossy, inky-blue-black of Killer Whales’ skin and those terrifying white patches behind their eyes may the last thing an animal ever sees.


Buy Love vol 2: The Fox h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Perfume Of Lilacs (£15-99, Soaring Penguin Press) by Samuel Leblanc…

“You haven’t forgotten your toothbrush?”
“It’s nice what you’re doing for your Aunt Rose. She’s really delighted, you know. Besides, you’ll spend the summer in the countryside, near a lake. Out of the city will do you the most good.”

It’s 1997 and Nicolas has been volunteered by his parents to spend the summer with his mourning Aunt, ostensibly to help her keep on top of the large garden, but primarily for some company. Despite her status as a ‘sweet aunt’ who spoiled him rotten with Ninja Turtle toys as an eight year old, he’s got pretty much about the same enthusiasm any weed-smoking older teenager would have for such an onerous task: none.

But… there will be some surprising compensations for his soon-to-be summer of splendid isolation, in the feminine forms of local teen Jessica and Rose’s rather more mature neighbour Laurence. They’ll provide a heady combination of seductive and sensual scents that will prove rather more alluring than any floral perfumery to be found in his Aunt’s garden…


This is a rather sweet little coming of age story which draws elements from the sublime THIS ONE SUMMER and the ridiculously hilarious DAYS OF THE BAGNOLD SUMMER, which are probably as disparate works on school summer holidays as it’s possible to imagine. As the creator’s first published book, it’s unfair to compare it to either of those but suffice to say both Samuel’s writing and illustration show immense promise. I found the character of Nicolas and his sexual escapades completely believable and fun to read. I may have even been shifting uncomfortably in my seat at Nicolas’ somewhat typically teenage boy callous-ish behaviour towards the lovestruck Jessica…

The sketchy thick black line art style, with some additional small amounts of grey tone shading, is rather good, particularly where there’s any degree of additional background. Occasionally I found the odd isolated head shot felt rather exposed, like it could do with some more shading and some background, and there are a few attacks of mild boz-eyes which are a touch unfortunate, but these are very minor gripes. You can definitely make comparisons to early Jeff Lemire in some senses I feel. Overall, an excellent first book, I must say. Well done to Soaring Penguin Press for publishing it.


Buy Perfume Of Lilacs and read the Page 45 review here

Debbie’s Inferno (£4-50, Retrofit) by Anne Emond…

“We have to get out of here.”
“You can talk? I knew it.”
“I am only talking because this is an emergency. Come on, let’s go!”
“Nah, I’d rather just lie here and watch cartoons. This isn’t even water. What is it?”
“It’s what happens when you wallow for too long. Well that’s enough. I’m going to get you out of here whether you like it or not.”

Sat on your sofa bed drinking pop and shovelling crisps in your face whilst you watch endless cartoons, probably the last thing you’d expect is your cat to start talking to you. Or perhaps it is the room rapidly filling up with a strange liquid! Either would be strange… but both? Well, something rum and uncanny is obviously afoot, that’s for sure. Fortunately for Debbie, her cat is about to rescue her! Not that it’ll feel much like a rescue as she’s dragged through various troubled states of mind in her own loose recreation of Dante’s Inferno. THE CLOUDS ABOVE by Jordan Crane, this is not…

Poor old Debbie, she’s absolutely no idea why she’s subconsciously, spontaneously decided to have an existential crisis, but it’s going to be a tour de farce as her moggie first drags her to the land of cold fish, then through the world of icy hearts, rapidly followed by the desert of burnt-out passion, the cave of self-loathing, the jungle of jealousy, the land of crowds, the plain of broken hearts and the mountains of no atmosphere before it’s all over!! Still, it could have been worse: she managed to avoid the land of people who have their heads stuck up their asses!

It’s traumatic yet titterworthy stuff as Debbie is forced to confront her inner neuroses time and time again, running the gauntlet of a gamut of emotional agonies before making it back the safety of full consciousness. The question is when she does is she going to reach for another packet of crisps or finally for the off button on the TV remote…


Buy Debbie’s Inferno and read the Page 45 review here


Peter Pan (£12-99, BC) by J M Barrie & Stref, Fin Cramb.

“Wendy, you are wrong about mothers.
“Long ago, I thought like you that my mother would always keep the window open for me, so I stayed away for moons and moons and moons, and then flew back; but the window was barred, for my Mother had forgotten about me… and there was another little boy sleeping in my bed.”


But then it’s harsh both ways for think of the grief of the mother while Peter was playing away. Nor is he above forgetting people and appointments himself, and the final word of the prose and this graphic novel wasn’t lobbed in there by accident.

If you’d forgotten how unexpectedly dark J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan was in places – a quality he’d often whiplash back from with a clause of carefree comedy as during Tinkerbell’s expulsion – this will remind you. There’s jealousy, betrayal, banishment and one particularly terrible temptation plus the threat of a cat o’nine tails. And although Peter’s petulance and unbridled egomania were played for comedy early in the story (“I can’t help crowing when I am pleased with myself”), there’s also the scene later on when Wendy wants to return home to her parents taking both her brothers and the Lost Boys with her, whereas Peter obstinately refuses lest he become an adult and be robbed of his freedom and fantasy.

“If she did not mind the parting, then he was going to show her, was Peter, that neither did he. But of course he cared very much; and was so full of wrath against the grown-ups, who, as usual, were spoiling everything, that he breathed intentionally quick short breaths at the rate of about five a second.”

Wait for it.

“He did this because there is a saying in the Neverland that, every time you breathe, a grown-up dies; and Peter was killing them off vindictively as fast as possible.”

There’s much to break any heart in the last few pages, but much to make one’s imagination sore long before we’re left there and Stef and Cramb have let their own really rip. The panel layouts and compositions within the early bedroom scenes are full of such fresh colour, space and light I was put in mind of Tony Millionaire’s SOCK MONKEY: GLASS DOORKNOB.

I loved how Stref divided a single exchange into three vertical panels so that as the children flew overhead the landscapes below showed them crossing to the coast in a flash. As for our first sight of Neverland itself, it rises out of the crystal clear ocean like an early amphibian, its conch shell head rearing towards the sun gleaming on the horizon, while its tail twists down into the sea.

In conjunction with such a pristine line, period costumes, the initial bedroom setting and the quaint formality of exchange one cannot help thinking smilingly of Winsor McCay (see LITTLE NEMO’S BIG NEW DREAMS and its gargantuan ‘parent’ LITTLE NEMO: DREAM ANOTHER DREAM) which is a perfect comparison point to aim for in so many ways. Phrases like John’s “Hallo, I am up!” don’t hurt, either (even if John’s still in bed, whereas in the prose at least he’d been unceremoniously punted out by Peter).

Oh and before I forget, just like Metaphrog’s recent RED SHOES, there are carpet and wallpaper prints seamlessly integrated into the Darlings’ interior decor, the underground retreat and its artful entrances could not be more imaginatively illustrated and holy heck is the Captain / crocodile climax done eye-bursting justice by both Stref and colour artist Cramb. Gorgeous, gorgeous greens!

What is missing necessarily from the prose at least (I’ve not seen the original play which is the source of this adaptation) is much of the early mischief. ‘Thimble’ still becomes a verb meaning ‘to kiss’ after Wendy’s substitution, but once you’ve relished this glorious graphic novel I wholeheartedly beseech you to pick up the prose (preferably illustrated by Jan Ormerod if those editions still exist) for diversions like these:

“Mrs Darling first heard of Peter when she was tidying her children’s minds.”

The idea is expanded upon beautifully but also, while we remain in the children’s minds…

“Of course the Neverlands vary a good deal. John’s for instance, had a lagoon with flamingos flying over it at which John was shooting, while Michael, who was very small, had a flamingo with lagoons flying over it.”

If you’ve never encountered the story in any of its iterations, a very brief summary.

Wendy, John and Michael – the children of doting Mrs Darling and the fiscally minded and far from team-player Mr Darling – are lured from their home by Peter Pan who knows how to flatter a girl and appeal to her maternal instincts. They fly to Neverland where no one has a mother – not even the pirates – and so someone to tell them stories. There Captain Hook of the Jolly Roger (“cannibal of the seas”) has sworn revenge on Peter Pan for the loss of one hand subsequently swallowed by a crocodile (along with a clock) which now has a taste for his blood.

Wendy’s younger brothers begin to forget their parents but when Wendy tells their own story they begin to worry about the mother they’ve abandoned. And that’s when some difficult choices begin.

There’s a lot of astutely observed interaction and role playing between the children, and I leave you on a cheery note with this.

“The difference between Peter and the other boys at such a time was that they knew it was make-believe, while to him make-believe and true were exactly the same thing. This sometimes troubled them, as when they had to make-believe that they had had their dinners.”


Buy Peter Pan and read the Page 45 review here

Jessica Jones: Alias vol 2 s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Gaydos with David Mack, Mark Bagley.

Highly recommended to everyone over 16. Except your grandparents.

Featuring some of the finest dialogue in any genre of comics – full of the staccato start-stop and rewind of any real-life conversation – I couldn’t imagine anyone except Gaydos delineating its largely deadpan delivery. His sequential storytelling is full of incremental eye movements and the sort of small, languid gestures we might idly make while avoiding eye contact during an awkward exchange or on a first date. We will get to the first date anon.

Michael is joined here, however, by David Mack whose expertise in collage is put to appropriate use for a missing girl’s scrap book (reprinted in even greater glory in the back) and the tell tale clues it might hold for the young woman’s whereabouts. Also, briefly, Bagley comes aboard with strikingly brighter panels flashing back to Jessica’s earlier years when her life seemed so full of prospects.

On the whole, however, it is Gaydos who keeps it real in small-town America, sitting at a street-side cafe or outside a beleaguered lawyer’s office (see interior art) for there are sly ties to Bendis & Maleev’s equally eloquent DAREDEVIL as Jessica Jones and Luke Cage are hired as bodyguards now that Matt Murdock has been outed as the superhero he once defended in a courtroom thereby committing perjury. There Luke rebukes Jessica for her resentful behaviour following their night of consensual steamy sex in JESSICA JONES: ALIAS VOL 1 which she can probably barely remember, and does so in explicit detail. This before they both realise that if Matt Murdock is Daredevil (and they both know he is) his acute hearing which compensates for blindness has ensured that he has heard every single word they said.

Quick recap, then on with the show.

This isn’t superheroes at all. It’s the messed-up life of a woman who cares and who gives as good as she gets. She could have given and gotten a great deal more except that something so harrowing happened to her years ago when she was once a cape that it’s set her down a self-perpetuating spiral of self-loathing.

Night after night Jessica wanders around from bar to bar drinking whatever she can and sleeping with whoever will have her. She wakes up in the morning and hates what she did, so she wanders around from bar to bar, drinking as much as she can and sleeping with whoever will have her.

Set at the peripheral, adult side of the Marvel universe where ladies do lunch and individuals actually swear, have sex and suffer from chronic period pains, it’s a journey during which Jessica Jones finally comes to terms with the fact that she’s been not a failure but a victim of one wretched bastard’s callous and cruel objectification and – anyway, you’ll have to wait for book four, but the hints begin here. It does have a happy ending whose seeds are sown early on, but it’s a tortuous path till we get there.

In her new career as a private investigator, Jessica is hired by a mother and her sister in small-town and small-minded America to discover the fate of a missing teenage daughter called Rebecca. Both seem oblivious to their error of judgement upon alerting the local media to Jessica’s presence even when it’s spelled out to them that such publicity gives any miscreant the heads-up and so opportunity to hide any evidence of their crime. Certainly the mother admits she isn’t particularly close to her daughter – she can’t even remember the last time she saw her – and is convinced her estranged, drunken husband’s to blame. The father is fractious but seems genuinely concerned about his kid even if his ire at his wife overcomes him. The sheriff is positively lackadaisical. The local priest is a bigot and a half. His venomous sermons preach hatred towards so-called abominations like gays and mutants, for which he is much loved by the community except local reporter Patrice.

The mutant thing is very much an issue for word has got around that the missing girl had proclaimed herself one. She hadn’t. Perhaps out of solidarity, she simply hadn’t denied it. Here’s one of her High School peers:

“You know it’s true, because, like, why wouldn’t she deny it? Liz flat out asked her and she just – I mean – being a mutant is like being gay or Jewish – You don’t want to pretend you are if you’re not, right? Right?”

The town is not without a history of children being beaten within an inch of their lives for being different. So what really happened?

I promise you that plays out brilliantly and unexpectedly enough. Although, as expected, Jessica makes more drunken mistakes.

But I promised you a first date, didn’t I? So I now return you to the appallingly bad habit which I ditched when this website went up half a dozen years ago: that of quoting dialogue at excruciating length. But it’s relevant in that – apart from being evidence of Bendis’ ear for such things – it’s the first time that our Jessica is stood up to on the alcohol front.

“Hi, I’m Julie. I’ll be your waitress for the night.”
“Hi Julie. I’ll have a double vodka on the rocks and –”
“Um –”
“How about you don’t?”
“…I’m sorry?”
“I was hoping we could not drink tonight.”
“If that’s okay.”
“I’ll have a coke.”
“…. I’ll — uh — I’ll have a sprite — I guess. But don’t go too far.”
“I’m sorry. I just — Carol told me you have a tendency to drink and then be mad at yourself about it afterwards… And I thought this being our first date, and a blind date, and life being too short and all that maybe we could — uh — not drink, and have a nice, real, genuine conversation.”
“You’re mad.”
“No, I’m stunned. This is stunned.”
“If you want a drink, have a drink. I — clearly overstepped my –”
“No, we can do it this way.”
“Carol wasn’t talking behind your back.”
“Ooooh, yes she was.”

First dates. Aren’t they fun? Someone remind me.

No, don’t.


Buy Jessica Jones: Alias vol 2 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Black Magick #1 (£2-99, Image) by Greg Rucka & Nicola Scott.

“There’s something off with this guy.”
“I think taking hostages was the first clue.”

No, there’s something very seriously off with this guy, and the second clue was kerosene.

Detective Rowan Black, could you please just listen?

The sad, sweating man may have a death wish involving self-immolation, but perhaps he has a target, and that target is you. Kerosene, Rowan, kerosene. Don’t let your guard down when there’s so much at stake.

Not every protagonist is as wise as you’d wish.

From the writer of LAZARUS but, had I not known, then I would never have guessed it. I don’t mean to impugn the quality here, I mean to commend a writer’s refreshing versatility. I can perceive little connection between the two in style or content, only in the research involved.

For fans of RACHEL RISING we are once more in the realms of witches. Witches which, historically, have not been received well, and there is a prose piece in the back which I won’t elaborate on for fear of giving a game away. It’s very well written. It involves a sense of perspective. It adds a sense of adversity. Which may well go on to inform the present.

This deliberately, specifically, seeks to juxtapose the contemporary, the clinical, the procedural and the professional with the personal, the spiritual and the historical which may seem completely at odds or, if not merely at odds then worse: culpably misaligned. But accusations of the heretical thrive on the hysterical, the ignorant and so thence doom the damned.

So let’s see what everyone’s made of, shall we?

Detective Rowan Black is an American cop.

Detective Rowan Black is a practising Wiccan.

Detective Rowan Black has a heritage which unknown entities take very seriously. And now these worlds will collide.

Oh, you may think on first reading that Nicola Scott’s painted art with its deep motorcycle tyre treads and perfect pelvises is monochromatic, but look again! It’s subtle to be sure – so subtle you might miss it – but look again. Hinted at early on, the colours of the flames are reprised during a single, incandescent sentence and –

The lights go out.

“It’s starting again.”


Buy Black Magick #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Art Ops #1 (£2-99, Vertigo) by Shaun Simon & Michael Allred.

Let’s play a game of “Can you tell what is yet?”

It’s a heist, but a very specific heist and it’s happening in The Louvre. I’m sure you’ll spot the clues.

“Ms. Del Giocondo, my name is Regina Jones and along with my associates here, we are the Art Ops. I know this may a shock to you, but –“
“Please. You think this is my first time out of frame?”
“Someone’s stealing and destroying famous works of art. You need to come with us. You’ll be safe. I’ve got more experience than you’ve had forgeries.”
“And that homely looking thing is the best you could do as my stand-in? She’ll never pass.”
“Ugly isn’t easy.”
“I heard that.”

Ms Del Giocondo is Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. The Art Ops have just extracted her live and bickering from that famous – nay, iconic but teeny-tiny – painting and placed a carefully made-up model in her place.

Someone is indeed stealing and destroying famous works of art. Someone is about to steal the entire Art Ops organisation including Regina herself, winking it out of reality. Fortunately Regina has a son called Reggie. Unfortunately Reggie considers her a worthless mother.

Oh, and then there was that accident when graffiti came to life and ripped off Reggie’s arm but it’s been ‘surgically’ replaced with animated tubes of vibrantly coloured paint. Time to make a splash.

Bonkers is a word almost synonymous with MADMAN’s Michael Allred and Shaun Simon has provided him with a virtually perfect platform. Vertigo as an imprint has long since fallen from its previously dizzy heights, but this is right up there with Gilbert Hernandez and Darwyn Cooke’s TWILIGHT CHILDREN #1, also on sale right now.


Buy Art Ops#1 and read the Page 45 review here

New And Improved:

Adamtine Signed Page 45 21st Birthday Bookplate Edition (£14-99, Jonathan Cape) by Hannah Berry.

Now with an Exclusive Signed Page 45 21st Birthday Bookplate!

“Right, then. Let’s go and talk to the driver. Staying here is frankly more tedious than I’m prepared to tolerate. And I’ve been to Basingstoke.”

They’re not going to find a driver.

Two years ago a man called Rodney Moon was acquitted of abducting strangers. At the trial, however, he admitted to the judge and jury that he had passed on notes to each and every one of them: cold, clinical letters that were found in their stead, detailing moments of misjudgement. He claimed they were given to him by the real kidnapper – a monster, he said – but no one believed him. Certainly not the victims’ families, or their friends, or the newspapers.

Still, he got off. Though no one is quite sure what happened next.

Now four passengers who took the last train home are stranded in their carriage in the middle of the night. The train hasn’t moved for two hours. Presumably there are leaves on the line. Their cell phones are dead and the intercom is just a fuzz of static punctuated by brief bursts of strangely familiar words. Outside all is black, though there may have been a man outside…

Hannah Berry is back and on rollicking form. The painted art with its pallid palette save for one rich red jacket is perfect for this eerie echo of a book. The panels are framed in an endless inky black for the present and stark white for the past. The huge noses put me in mind of Beryl Cook.

There are some absolutely cracking exchanges, but the creator of the singularly British BRITTEN AND BRULIGHTLY is far from having a laugh. This is a chilling read, as disorientating at first as it is for the four seeming strangers; but their secrets do give themselves up, eventually.

Ridiculously clever once the connections are made, you’ll want it read it once, twice, thrice like I did, and then possibly never again. It really is that disturbing. Just leave a little note in its place, but don’t ever take the last train home.


Buy Adamtine and read the Page 45 review here

Britten & Brulightly Signed Page 45 21st Birthday Bookplate Edition (£12-99, Jonathan Cape) by Hannah Berry.

Now with a Page 45 Exclusive, Signed 21st Birthday Bookplate!

“I’m sorry.”
“… Yes, people are, aren’t they?”

From the creator of ADAMTINE which will send shivers down your spine comes curious crime fiction as sly as it is dry. Welcome to the rain-soaked world of Fernández Britten, a man whose shoulders sag under the weight of it.

“As it did every morning with spiteful inevitability, the sun rose.”

He is not an optimist.

“Ten years ago I began a private investigation agency with the glorious aim of serving humanity and righting wrongs. In all these years the only wrongs righted have been on my tax returns.”

“The people who burst righteously through my door are either jealous lovers seeking justification for their jealousy, or vengeful lovers seeking dirt on jealous lovers. Most of them already knew what they paid me to tell them, and those that didn’t would have worked it out on their own. None of them liked what I had to say.
“I had made something of a name for myself in the field. That name was ‘The Heartbreaker’.
“My partner in the agency, Stewart Brülightly, suggested we be more discriminating in the work we accept. No more lovers, either jealous or vengeful. Nowadays I don’t get out of bed for less than a murder. I don’t get out of bed much.”

His partner, by the way, is a recalcitrant tea bag whom Britten carries around in his top pocket just in case he can shed light on the proceedings. It’s not the only thing he sheds.

“Listen, Fern… when you jumped into that ditch… I think I… uh… Look, I’m sorry. I infused in your waistcoat.”

This is as deft as deft can be. On almost every page Hannah Berry takes sentences out to play, toying with their structure to deliver droll declarations as dismal as the weather. For the rain it poureth down, and whether it’s a cityscape from above, the sodden clots on the furrowed fields Britten finds himself traipsing across, or the overgrown undergrowth surrounding a potential stake-out, Hannah Berry has mastered her nation’s default weather-setting. She’s British. It’s wet.

She’s also thought long and hard about portraying her protagonists as well: Britten, for example, is one huge dollop of a nose with eye-bags so sunken-grey they could be dark holes in the porcelain mask of his face. He is lived-in, but in spite of his reputation for being The Heartbreaker which he will confirm once again here, he may just be able to make one last difference in a case that is so cleverly crafted I had to read it twice.

I failed to unravel its weave before the final revelation for there are so many other conclusions to jump to, but nothing here is extraneous and everything is detectable if you just look hard enough.

“If you’re six feet underground, a little more digging makes no difference.”

Don’t you believe it.


Buy Britten & Brulightly and read the Page 45 review here

Back On Our System:

Tales From The Clerks (£24-99, Titan) by Kevin Smith &Jim Mahfood, Matt Wagner, Michael Oeming, various.

All three books (CLERKS, CHASING DOGMA, BLUNTMAN & CHRONIC) in one package.

Can’t believe the CHASING DOGMA series was back in 1998.

Beware: as well as being very funny and far more loose and inventive than Smith’s comparatively lacklustre superhero work, it was very naughty indeed, with Jay ending up fluffing a male porn star!

Fegredo (MPH, HELLBOY: MIDNIGHT CIRCUS etc) was a gift from the gods: with a Silent Bob you need all the comedic skills you can muster from timing to expression, and few artists can load a single gesture or lip-curl with such nuance, whilst the wilder buffoonery – with the orang-utan or Jay’s impassioned railing against being thrown from a bus – leaps off the page.

I’d forgotten how good that particular four-parter was.


Buy Tales From The Clerks and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

100 Bullets Book 3 (£18-99, Vertigo) by Brian Azzarello & Eduardo Risso

Butterfly h/c (£18-99, Archaia) by Arash Amel, Marguerite Bennett & Antonio Fuso, Stefano Simeone

Mouse Guard: Legends Of The Guard vol 3 h/c (£14-99, Archaia) by David Petersen & various

Mouse Guard: Roleplaying Game Boxed Set (£52-99, Archaia) by Luke Crane & David Petersen

Crossed vol 14 s/c (£14-99, Avatar) by Kieron Gillen & Rafa Ortiz

Fables: The Wolf Among Us vol 1 (£14-99, Vertigo) by Dave Justus, Matthew Sturges & Steve Sadowski, Shawn McManus, Travis Moore, Eric Nguyen, Christopher Mitten, Andrew Pepoy

Star Wars: Kanan vol 1 – The Last Padawan (£14-99, Marvel) by Greg Weisman & Pepe Larraz, Mark Brooks

Star Wars: Princess Leia (£12-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid  & Terry Dodson

Sandman: Annotated Sandman vol 4 h/c (£37-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & Leslie S. Klinger

The Surface (£10-99, Image) by Ales Kot & Langdon Foss

Universal War One: Collected Edition h/c (£25-99, Titan) by Denis Bajram

Luthor s/c (£10-99, DC) by Brian Azzarello & Lee Bermejo

Age Of Apocalypse: Warzones! s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Fabian Nicieza & Gerardo Sandoval, Iban Coello

Hawkeye vol 5: All New Hawkeye s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Jeff Lemire & Ramon K. Perez


ITEM! Reminder: the British Comics Awards 2015 nominees. I’ve got just one week left to hand in my contribution to this year’s judging process. I’m on my third reading of some of these and ‘Best Comic’ in particular is proving impossible. Also, the Best Newcomers could not be more different to each other. And we have to rank each one, you know, it’s not just a question of selecting first place.

ITEM! Kate Beaton interviewed by Laura Sneddon!

“You don’t want to make fun of people who were genuine heroes, whose life was hard, who struggled against injustice … so you construct a punchline that skewers the society that failed them. But for a while I left those types of figures out because I didn’t want to be seen to be making fun … but then you’re only making comics about the powerful white guys and that’s just another example of leaving out stories. I didn’t want that either.”

Best Beaton interview I’ve read this season. Learned loads. Pop Kate Beaton into our search engine: all six books in stock right now!

ITEM! UMBRAL / THE FUSE’s Antony Johnston interview on writing comics you want to write and letting the reader decide if she or he wants to read them.

ITEM! The Lakes International Comic Art Festival was, without a doubt, the most enjoyable festival I have ever been to. LICAF mixed the “high” and “low” together and blended it in with the general public in a way we can’t quite pull off in the States.”

Frank Santoro totally gets the Lakes International Comic Art Festival and writes about the cultural experience as a whole.

ITEM! Now that’s what I call a campaign! From conception to execution, “Climbing The Mt Everest of Comics… AGAIN!” puts CEREBUS squarely back on the map! Brilliant!

Page 45 has reviewed every single CEREBUS book. 6,000 pages in total. Not the reviews, thankfully.

– Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews October 2015 week four

October 28th, 2015

Includes top tips for Christmas presents, return of our News under reviews and books of all shapes and sizes. We’re the comicbook equivalent of Revels!

The Troll (£3-00, Accent UK) by Martin Flink.

Whoa, what an unexpected silent pleasure and treasure!

I’m thrilled by a comic that lets me look around.

This one positively begs you to.

Towering above and tunnelling under the coniferous trees, every single panel of this full-colour feast invites the eyes left, right, deep down and up, up, up into a cerulean sky which finally breaks into a majestic double-page spread of billowing cloud formations swept across the infinite heavens as far as the eye can see.

Unlike almost every other page with crisp, white borders, the colours bleed right off the edges – enhancing the vastness of bright blue space – just as any open sky does beyond the periphery of your vision. This is the glee which I glean from nature; this is what I adore about such carefully crafted comics.



The spirit of place begins on the very first page as a family car pulls up in a clearing outside a cabin which is the same rich, rusty colour as the car. A young boy leaps out to look up at the windows between the wooden slats, and their glass reflects the top tips of the trees behind him.

Immediately he sets off to explore and – once more – a judiciously placed focal point of misty, ethereal light in the distance lures your eyes, just like his own, through what would otherwise have been an impenetrably dense and dark forest. It promises at least one potentially safe path through the pines and how could one possibly resist?

The boy climbs and he clambers up an impossibly steep, green, grassy hill and there spies a stone. And what would you do? You’d throw it!

And that, as they say, is what wakes the giant up.

What follows next put me in mind of Shadow Of The Colossus, the sequel to the glorious game Ico – superb sense of scale – and also, in terms of graphic novels, Keaton Henson’s GLOAMING.

Big love to Martin Flink for that one, tense moment teased out by virtue of it being on the right-hand page involving a finger as gigantic and powerful yet as tender as a Mountain Gorilla’s.


Buy The Troll and read the Page 45 review here

Bad Machinery vol 4: The Case Of The Lonely One (£14-99, Oni) by John Allison.


“Is he your boyfriend now? Because pet food isn’t the only aisle in the supermarket.”

Some comedies are cleverer than others, and there are few out there who can spring from one sentence to another with such nimble dexterity as Britain’s John Allison who eschews the obvious cheap barb in favour of an unexpected epigram for life.

Allison is ever so good at observing and understanding the unspoken rules of school and young-teenage codes of practice over the last couple of decades. Then he’s ever so clever at translating them. When newcomer Lem arrives the girls hold back from tainting him with their company for fear he’d be rejected by the boys, just as a chick might be rejected by its mother if handled too closely by humans.

“He’s wandering off.”
“He seeks the company of his own kind.”
“Are you sure we shouldn’t have spoken to him?”
“No! We’d have put the stink of girls on him. The boys would have rejected him. Pecked him to bits.”

He’s also very good at remembering our priorities, like Little Claire’s horror at the school-wide 1-ply toilet tissue travesty! We had small square sheaves of waxy toilet paper which was ewww.

On top of all that John gives voice to our wider silliness at any age when sizing someone up at a glance. Parents are particularly funny, aren’t they?

“He was very polite on the phone. Sounded very handsome.”

It’s a brand-new school year at Griswalds Grammar in the town of Tackleford and our six young sleuths are in gleeful form. Together Shauna, Lottie, Mildred, Jack, Linton and Sonny are a force to be reckoned with, but almost immediately the most exhuberant of them all, Lottie, is separated from the group.

First, she simply doodled over the memo she was supposed to sign to join the others in Latin class and so finds herself sitting instead next to Little Claire whose “lithp” makes her sound like a bothersome wasp.*  Secondly she’s the first to fall for the charms of that peculiar new boy Lem who doesn’t appear to others to have any charm: he eats onions and only onions all day! Yet one by one the mystery-fixated group come to the improbable conclusion that “He’s a right laugh once you get to know him”. Then their breath starts to smell weird.

“I’ve blown up like a dead sheep in a river, Shauna.”
“I told you! Onions are a sometimes food!”

Effectively ostracised from her friends as they start being led by Lem to his onion farm and some very odd games there, Shauna finds herself alone and in need of new, unlikely allies like Corky, Blossom and Tuan of the role playing club. Desperate times call for desperate measures and Shauna may have bitten off more than she can chew, but at least she’s not gnashing down on onions. Yet.

As ever the body language on offer is exquisite, like Tuan gesticulating wildly over Corky, casting a “Break enchantment” spell, or one of the brand-new pages (there are always new pages upon printed publication) depicting team captain Linton on the soccer pitch in his pristine white kit, hands on hips as he wiggles the football beneath one boot. Judging by the various other stances, though, I’m not sure it’s going to be the most coordinated of matches.

Blossom has a face like thunder throughout (“I never really thought of Blossom as a girl. More of an unhappy cloud.”), Lem’s nose is as raw as the onions he’s eating and when someone shelters under an umbrella one gets a very real sense of huddling and what’s still getting wet.

The comic kicks off late at night and halfway in, as Shauna clack-clacks and huffs-huffs her way hurriedly down an eerie, empty school corridor which echoes like an indoor swimming pool. She turns to face her enemy. And betrayal from within…

Allison’s comics and comedy are ever so British and each one is self-contained so you can start anywhere you like. BAD MACHINERY VOL 3 which we made Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month is drenched in our national, default meteorological condition (the drains “GLUG GLUG GLUG” in the background here), while his two-part EXPECTING TO FLY #1 and EXPECTING TO FLY #2 could not be set anywhere other than England or any when else other than 1996. With an appeal so broad that they exceeded even our own enthusiastic expectations, both those comics have outsold all of their corporate counterparts at Page 45 including Marvel’s annual blockbuster, SECRET WARS #1!

EXPECTING TO FLY #1 and EXPECTING TO FLY #2: oh yeah, we have your annual stocking fillers right there, permanently in stock.


*What’s up with the word ‘lisp’, eh? Why would you invent a word which those who suffer from it find impossible to pronounce?


Buy Bad Machinery vol 4: The Case Of The Lonely One and read the Page 45 review here

Briar vol 1 (£8-99, Improper Books) by Benjamin Reed & Chris Wildgoose.

I’ve just had to remove “Exclusive Page 45 Signed Bookplate Edition” because we sold all 50 within a week, before I could even contemplate a review.*

Were you among the hundreds (yes, hundreds) who relished Ben and Christian’s PORCELAIN VOL 1? Because PORCELAIN VOL 2 (previewed) debuts next month with another Exclusive Page 45 Signed Bookplate Edition so I would probably pre-order now! Thanks etc.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a princess in possession of a good fortune but hidden behind an impenetrable hundred-foot hedge of wild, red, rambling rose must be in want of a noble knight to rescue her.

Sure enough dozens of valiant would-be suitors have attempted entry but lost their lives and souls to the living briar whose thorns have shredded their shining armour and stripped the flesh behind it, leaving them caught in its coils to echo the entreaties of their equally doomed successors.

The Knight Of The Twisted Oak, however, will not be deterred. He too has heard the calling but holds a certain something up his sleeve which may give him the edge. Even so, he’s in for a rude awakening for the curse is more complex than it seems.

The star of the show under Chris Wildgoose is the titular briar. According to Ben the script for page four ran little further than “The knight encounters the most monumental hedge”. Something similar, anyway. It took him all of ten seconds to type. Now imagine you’re the artist. Have you started crying yet?

The semi-sentient cadavers within are truly harrowing. There’s something fundamentally frightening about one’s orifices being invaded like that.

Tradition after tradition is thrown at you then out of the window, and my educated guess is that as soon as you’ve finished your first read through you’ll want to begin again to see if the illusion cast by the clever script holds. It does.

*Ooooh, actually there are four left At The Time Of Typing! Behold, the bookplate:


Buy Briar vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

The Red Shoes And Other Tales (£9-00, Papercut) by Metaphrog.

Darkity dark, dark, dark.

Neil Gaiman and Lorenzo Mattotti recently reminded us how Grimm those brothers were with their stark rendition of HANSEL & GRETEL. Now it’s Metaphrog’s turn to do much the same for Hans Christian Andersen but with much kinder colours.

Rich, rusty browns are set against eerie green architecture, gravestones and woodland and, now that I come to think about it, there’s something of the Richard Sala to the entire proceedings. Period wallpaper and carpet textures are integrated seamlessly into the line art, and the light looks positively subaquatic when young Karen spies the dancer whose skin, shoes and balletic grace she falls in awe with. Rays of sunlight filter from on high much as they might through crystal clear waters and bubbles bounce from the theatre steps as the ballerina tip-toes up them before waltzing through the doorway and vanishing from sight.

“Oh, how I wish to be like her!” muses Karen, mesmerised. From which point onwards she’s caught in a dream state, a fugue. And it won’t end well, I can promise you.

Her earlier years were far less fanciful. Living alone with her mother they were so poor that in summer Karen went barefoot, but at least she could feel the grass beneath her naked feet, and she would dance! In winter she wore wooden shoes which chaffed her ankles, rubbing them raw. But when her mother died a neighbour gave her a pair of soft slippers cobbled together from strips of red cloth. How much kinder on her feet were they!

Alas, her rich, Great Aunt Anna upon taking Karen in deemed the handcrafted handmade and scruffy, even “hideous”, certainly not worthy of her niece. So she took her shopping to a posh part of town which is where Karen comes across the ballerina and then, in a shop window, a pair of patent leather red shoes with straps to secure them fast.

I think we’ll leave it there, shall we? There will be a great deal of dancing, much of it involuntary, as Karen is tossed like a rag doll, a broken marionette, gesticulating wildly, awkwardly, attempting grace even as she falls from it.

Bravo, basically. By the end you too will yearn for the feel of succulent grass beneath your feet. Hindsight is a cruel, cruel thing.

The main event is followed by two further tales: ‘The Glass Case’ and ‘The Little Match Girl’, both of them dealing with oppression (through parenting or poverty) and the consolation prize of escape.

I hope I’ve intrigued you and done this little book some sort of justice. It was an enormous honour to help launch it at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2015 with Metaphrog’s Sandra and John. They’ve poured their substantial hearts into this and it shows. Mary and Bryan Talbot snapped one up each, which is a greater testimony to its quality that I could presume to offer.

Perfect for Christmas when we resolve even harder to appreciate what we’ve got.


Buy The Red Shoes And Other Tales and read the Page 45 review here

Tribes Of Kai (£18-99, Flesk) by Lance Haunrogue & Darren Bader.

“The Stance is a test of many attributes, but a true Lord of Kai must display honour, bravery, compassion, strategy and wisdom.”

Spread over a page, those five qualities are given a painted panel each, depicting one of the five leaders of the Mantakai tribes supposedly united under their current ruler, the lion-like Lord Fauqua.

But not all strategies, however brave, are honourable, compassionate or wise.

That tableau’s worth studying for we join these individuals at a critical juncture. The balance of nature is delicate, agreed hunting grounds are being exceeded, the food chain is in flux, and ambitions are on the rise.

Change is imminent. The Stance is a ceremony of succession.

After many years successfully ensuring survival through maintaining order and unity, Lord Fauqua is stepping down. He consults his potential successors and pays due deference to tradition and to their ancestors while wondering if every decision he made was right. This is a humility the others can only aspire to. Beware of those who burn with a “passionate intensity” for those who know they are right are almost always horrifically wrong.

Brother will betray brother and so let the enemy in. That is perhaps the cleverest sequence as the reader is whiplashed through strike, counter-strike and trap, counter-trap with opportunities so rashly seized and reactive instinct disembowelling all hope for the future.

The first words I jotted down on opening this up at random were “fire in the night”. Regardless of the images I’ve chosen you’ll see what I mean when you read it. Those who love visions, signs and portents will not be disappointed. Oh no, it’s not SANDMAN but for those who consistently ask for something akin to Dungeons & Dragons or even Game Of Thrones I think we may have found something for you. Albeit starring the feline equivalent of centaurs.

This is undeniably art-driven but the art is a tour de force. Did you love Bertolucci’s LOVE: TIGER and his newly arrived LOVE: FOX? I’m confident that Darren Bader will not disappoint.

With muscle-majestic, neoclassical art to rival that even of its best modern proponent Paul Reid (AKA @Minotaur_Man on Twitter), I know exactly who to sell this to.

The opening. predatory shot looking out from the jungle shadows over a lush river valley ripe for the pickings is even more halting than the version I supply here. There are no words. Instead the tiger-like Niatan rears up on hind legs from a thick, gnarled tree trunk high in the sky, so ancient that it’s been overgrown with green grass and fronds. His left fist grasps a knotted, woody vine worthy of SWAMP THING’s Stephen Bissette & John Totleben. In the far distance, above eye-line, peaks an ice-encrusted mountain piercing the sun-lit clouds; below him – yes, below him – a flock of white birds take flight. Don’t you just love it when you’re looking down on birds in flight?

His and our focal point is a specific stretch of river, centre-right, which gleams a tangy, lemon-mousse yellow with a dry-brush spray under which you can just about perceive the grain of the canvas. Above it billow tree tops highlighted in freshly cut, lime-peel green.

The framing is perfect.

If I’ve failed to sell this to you so far (I really haven’t, though, have I?) I offer you lead-heavy, armour-plated dinosaurs as well as the most agile, crocodilian reptiles you’ve ever seen.

As well as a fight for your life.


Buy Tribes Of Kai and read the Page 45 review here

Wild’s End vol 1: First Light (£14-99, Boom) by Dan Abnett & I.N.J. Culbard.

Includes diary entries, a guide to countryside walks, a newspaper reported seized and censored by the military and newspaper pages in which the locals are alarmed at a proposed speed increase on the roads from 10 miles per hour to a positively reckless 15 mph.

Surely there must be someone out there as dim as me who didn’t cotton onto the titular pun in Abnett and Culbard’s THE NEW DEADWARDIANS (“The Nude Edwardians”)?

Culbard had to tell me himself.

Which was embarrassing.

Abnett & Culbard seem to have a thing for alien invasion at the moment. In DARK AGES, now collected into a tpb, a cadre of 14th Century mercenaries wish for war and get what they want. Whoops.

Its alien invasion aside, this couldn’t be more different. The leafy, tranquil and idyllic English country village of Lower Crowchurch is planning its annual fête over a few pints down the King’s Arms.

Judging by the open-topped motor cars parked up outside, we’re looking at the early or mid-1930s. The wobbly-necked solicitor Gilbert Arrant is a shoe-in for the committee chair again. A natural leader, he’s confident, encouraging, forward-thinking and assertive without being overbearing. His good friend Peter Minks, a journalist for the local paper with his hat permanently set at a jaunty old angle, will be in charge of the tombola.

“That’s right, so bring along all your donations to me. Nice prizes, please. Not a lucky horseshoe again, Frank.”
“It were a lucky horseshoe!”
“Not for the winner it wasn’t.”

Monacled Squire Umbleton will be demonstrating his revolutionary new agricultural engine which runs on diesel combustion, and of course there will be all the traditional competitions for cakes, jams, vegetables, flower arrangements, arts and crafts and possibly farm animals.

Joining them this year is retired old seadog Mr Clive Slipaway who has just moved in to Journey’s End thatched country cottage and is giving its door and windows a fresh lick of nautical blue paint. He appears reserved, even wary, reluctant to engage – and certainly tight-lipped about the action he saw overseas in the navy – but reluctantly agrees to provide target practice with straw bales, tin targets and pellet guns. Nothing too dangerous, anyway…

Unfortunately for everyone danger is heading their way, regardless. I suspect you’ll have taken note of the cover. War Of The ‘Wolds?

The night before notorious poacher Fawkes and his chum Bodie saw a falling star crash to earth on the other side of Hightop. He gate-crashes the committee meeting to warn his fellow villages, claiming it killed Bodie, burned up in a fierce flash of light. Unfortunately Fawkes is a fox who’s cried wolf way too often whilst under the influence of alcohol, and only Clive gives credence to his cry for help.

“I’ve — I’ve seen enough young men gripped in terror to know what genuine fear looks like.”

As Gilbert, Peter and Clive set off to investigate, something on six legs stirs at Shortmile End and scuttles towards Mrs. Swagger’s cottage where she works in the kitchen, all alone…

It’s all very Doctor Who. I’m thinking specifically of Spearhead From Space, John Pertwee’s first story, with an element of Christopher Eccleston’s second. Except, of course, this is anthropomorphics – I haven’t mentioned that yet, have I?

It is, however, quite different from any anthropomorphic comic I’ve seen before. Compared to the likes of GRANDVILLE and BLACKSAD this looks far more like a children’s story book with bright colours, bold, clean lines and shapes, and maps throughout which have aged at their edges. It has that magical, fairy-tale aspect of Alice In Wonderland, the protagonists looking like actors who’ve donned oversized animal heads as they might for a pantomime. Whereas most anthropomorphic characters come with bright, shiny eyes, here – Fawkesie aside, wide-eyed in terror – the old ‘uns eyes are almost closed under the glare of the summer sunshine, giving them a terrific sense of age. When Gilbert’s do open a little indoors they have a fantastical sense of otherness.

Gilbert’s body language is exquisite, delicate, his hands afloat, fingers crossed or gently caressing his chin. Peter’s more of a cheeky chappy while Clive is doleful, heavy and tired with saggy jowls. The one time in the first chapter that he becomes animated enough to exert his undoubted physical strength and authority, you can just about see his lower teeth bared to intimidate. It’s masterfully drawn.

Abnett, meanwhile, relishes the formality and propriety of the strangers’ interactions, especially once they’re joined by contemporary fiction writer Susan Peardew whose eyes too widen at what she encounters: living, concrete proof that her ex-husband’s successful “scientific romances” – which she edited and essentially rewrote – weren’t such fantastical imaginings as they both assumed.

Unfortunately the smaller, spidery scouts which proved lethal enough on their own are soon joined by far more formidable, lantern-topped enemies and our heroes find themselves in a desperate quandary: outgunned, they are being hunted and their only hope lies in greater numbers; but if they run for a village they’ll only lead their pursuers there and so doom its inhabitants.

Continued right now in WILD’S END: ENEMY WITHIN #1. [Don’t read that review, just buy because SPOILERS, obviously!]


Buy Wild’s End vol 1: First Light and read the Page 45 review here

Karnak #1 (£2-99, Marvel) by Warren Ellis & Gerardo Zaffino.

Let me introduce you to the green-cowled Karnak, now Magister of the Tower Of Wisdom, a rigidly austere and imposingly tall “temple” built of heavy grey stone blocks, sequestered on a plateau high in the misty mountains of what I infer are the Andes – or somewhere of that ilk.

A member of its royal family, he once enjoyed the company of his fellow Inhumans. Now his life is solitary, monastic and focussed on silent contemplation, broken only when one of his acolytes announces:

“Magister. The Infernal Device is calling.”

Hidden behind doors so thick that it takes four to heave them open – and even so, they budge only grudgingly – the Infernal Device is an old-skool, two-way radio supplied by S.H.I.E.L.D., the international espionage agency which now summons him from seclusion to an old substation in Svalbard on the Arctic Ocean where they are experiencing security breaches.

“Ah, Attilan, the seat of Inhumanity, was once located in the North Atlantic. It was a little like this. Bleak. Isolated. Cold.
“It is pleasing to me.”

Karnak is being called upon because a couple’s son – recently traumatised and transmogrified by the Inhuman’s Terrigen Mist into one of their own – has been abducted by terrorists. S.H.I.E.L.D.S.’s investigations have been hampered by legal restrictions and by infiltration whose source Karnak spots instantly.

“My curse is that I see the flaw in all things. Systems. Philosophies. Structures. People. Everything.
“The bullet you fired at me was flawed simply by the act of being fired.
“You were flawed by being born.”

His insight allows him to target these weaknesses and so shatter structures, be they bones, walls or even illusions: comforting thoughts that get us through each day. He does so ruthlessly and remorselessly. Never a party person, Karnak is no longer a people person and far from eager to please. Small talk is an anathema to him; smiling is an insult.

Yet he may be the best Marvel-Comic company you can hope to keep right now outside our good Stephen Strange.

Always reliable for reinvention, Warren Ellis – whose creator-owned comics like INJECTION I hope need no introduction – has stayed true to the character’s focussed nature and distilled it into raw single-mindedness. He’s delivered a much more fractious take on a character about whom you need know nothing prior to this just like the other stand-out, post-SECRET WARS relaunch DOCTOR STRANGE #1 by Jason Aaron & Chris Bachalo (reviewed and back in stock At The Time Of Typing).

The austerity’s enhanced by Gerardo Zaffino’s gruff, grainy textures and superb command of half-light and midnight when confronted with Karnak’s eye-piercing, soul-searing gaze. The entire comic experience is led by colour artist Dan Brown’s rich olive green. But coming back to Karnak in action, Zaffino stops time virtually dead its tracks as that bullet is fired, the space ahead of its trajectory ruptured as any wound would be while what’s left in its wake flares brilliantly behind.

You will have plenty Matt Fraction & David Aja  IRON FIST kung-fu fighting, with the cliffhanger promising much more to come.

Before SECRET WARS my corporate superhero intake had diminished to virtually zero. If you are of the superheroic persuasion I can wholeheartedly now recommend this and DOCTOR STRANGE #1, plus UNCANNY INHUMANS #1 grabbed me far beyond expectations and INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #1  (reviewed) and INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #2 did not disappoint at all.

You are always, always encouraged – whoever you are – to buy Paul Jenkins & Jae Lee’s self-contained, exceptionally literate, deliciously delineated and lambently coloured INHUMANS collection (think Neil Gaiman, I did you not), but you certainly don’t need it for this.


Buy Karnak #1 and read the Page 45 review here

You Are A Kitten! Pick A Plot Book 3 (£14-99, Conundrum) by Sherwin Tija.

Haha! Once again I issue the dire warning:


Oh, it looks as though it should be since it is indeed an interactive Choose Your Own Adventure story and stars yourself as a cute kitten.

I explain all and at great length in my review of YOU ARE A CAT! PICK A PLOT BOOK 1 which is still in print and in stock at the time of typing. You can view this as its prequel if you like, though in order to do so you’re going to have to survive this experience and you may find the odds stacked against you.

Remember: there are terrible people in this world! You are about to encounter some.

Just like your childhood favourites, this is illustrated prose. But there is a comicbook equivalent in the form of Jason Shiga’s ingenious MEANWHILE which is suitable for all ages. Its panels are linked together in a Spaghetti Junction of tubes which take you back and forth throughout the book using the tabs that stick out from its laminated pages leading almost inevitably towards Doomsday. “3,856 story possibilities” declares the front cover, but only one road leads to happiness. Which is a poor reflection on life and not something you should tell small children.

This kicks off with an evocation of your first bleary-eyed experiences of the world, the initial sensations of your siblings huddled together and being licked in turn by your mother’s tongue. Accompanied by an illustration seen from your own blurred point of view, it’s beautifully written, placing you firmly in your new, soft-padded, fluffy paws.

“You cry out again. Your voice is a dull, inchoate noise mingling with the low-level buzz.
“After a while it’s not so cold anymore. Something large and warm is close by, radiating heat, and you move towards it. You are aware of other bodies, also warm, also moving around you. You follow a deeply satisfying smell toward her.
“Under her fur, the soothing lub-dub of her heart pulsing against your face. The rhythm is a faint echo of the same beat that used to surround you, that was your whole world. It feels so far off now.”

It’s going to feel a lot further off very shortly.

Not all kittens in a litter are wanted, and not all couples owning cats should do so.

I can’t bear to break your hearts by continuing so instead I turn to Tija’s feature in the back: a guide to creating your own interactive adventure which is a great deal more complicated than it looks. The good news is that Sherwin has already written three so he’s encountered the logistical nightmare which is assigning page numbers etc and solved it.

Equally as important is remembering that these interactive adventures at their best are “empathy machines”: you’re placed in someone else’s shoes – those who may face difficult choices – and some may really make you think. Thinking about those choices when creating them is vital: offer obvious ones, advises Tija, and their opposites. “Then offer the offbeat and the outlandish.” Sherwin is a master of subverting expectations as you may have gathered by now!  “Try to offer choices that would appeal to different personality types.”

Too many strands will leave you with an unwieldy 3,000-page epic, so “funnelling is your friend”. Astutely he compares the mapping to capillaries in your body rather than the almost infinite branching of trees, for capillaries leave its arteries, divide further as they supply your muscles etc with oxygen and nutrients (possibly – it’s over three decades since I studied Biology A Level) then regroup and rejoin the main flow as veins.

Also advised are options to jump from one strand of the story to another at intervals; cautioned against to avoid reader frustration is the “try and die” experience. What I’d never thought about are orphan pages: the mischievous incorporation of excerpts which no roads lead to at all!

At eight pages in relatively small print, the guide is far more detailed than I’ve room to go into here and could lead to some exceptionally fun school projects. Just not the main body of work. Oh my days, no!


Buy You Are A Kitten! Pick A Plot Book 3 and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Love vol 2: The Fox h/c (£13-50, Magnetic Press) by Frederic Brremaud & Federico Bertolucci

Owners Manual To Terrible Parenting (£9-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Guy Delisle

Battling Boy: The Fall Of The House Of West vol 2 (£7-99, First Second) by Paul Pope & JT Petty, David Rubin

Peter Pan (£12-99, BC) by J M Barrie & Stref, Fin Cramb

Never Learn Anything From History (£14-99, Self Published) by Kate Beaton

The Princess And The Pony – signed (£6-99, Walker Books) by Kate Beaton

Pope Hats #3 (£4-99, Adhouse Books) by Ethan Rilly

Pope Hats #4 (£5-99, Adhouse Books) by Ethan Rilly

Casanova vol 1: Aciedia (£7-50, Image) by Matt Fraction & Fabio Moon, Michael Chabon, Gabriel Ba

Tales From The Clerks (£24-99, Titan) by Kevin Smith &Jim Mahfood, Matt Wagner, Michael Oeming, various

Sherlock Holmes and the Necronomicon (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Sylvain Cordurie & Laci

Injustice Gods Among Us Year Two vol 2 s/c (£12-99, DC) by Tom Taylor & Bruno Redondo, Thomas Derenick, various

Injustice Year Three vol 1 h/c (£16-99, DC) by Tom Taylor & Bruno Redondo, Mike Miller, various

Guardians Team-Up vol 1: Guardians Assemble s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Sam Humphries, John Layman, various

Avengers Ultron Forever s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Al Ewing & Alan Davis

Batman Wargames vol 1 s/c (£25-99, DC) by Anderson Gabrych

Batman Adventures vol 3 s/c (£12-99, DC ) by Bruce Timm & Paul Dini, Kelley Puckett, Mike Pardbeck

Evil Emperor Penguin (£7-99, David  Fickling Books) by Laura Ellen Anderson

Adventure Time vol 7 (UK Edition) s/c (£8-99, Titan) by Ryan North &Shelli Paroline, Braden Lamb, various

Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor vol 2: Serve You (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, IDW) by Al Ewing, Rob Williams & Simon Fraser, Boo Cook, various

Naruto vol 72 (£6-99, Viz) by Masashi Kishimoto

Psyren vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Toshiaki Iwashiro

Assassination Classroom vol 5 (£6-99, Viz) by Yusei Matsui


ITEM! Philip Pullman and Fred Fordham’s comic for THE PHOENIX WEEKLY begins this week in #200. Yes, THE Philip Pullman whose NORTHERN LIGHTS VOL 1 graphic novel illustrated by Oubrerie is in stock right here, right now and reviewed!

ITEM! John Allison is serialising his 24 Hour Comic, HUMAN SOUP, online! BAD MACHINERY VOL 4 reviewed above!

ITEM! One of ever so many Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2015 reports with photos.

ITEM! Metaphrog’s adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s THE RED SHOES launch at LICAF. Again, photos!

ITEM! Tom Humberstone illustrates ‘Racist One Night Stand’.

ITEM! Interview with Kate Beaton!

Kate Beaton’s STEP ASIDE, POPS! is Page 45’s Comicbook Of The Month!

– Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews October 2015 week three

October 21st, 2015

Adrian Tomine! Matt Madden! Terry Moore! Jeremy Bastien! Mardou! Luke Pearson! Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Chris Wildgoose! Doug TenNapel! Fred Van Lente & Ryan Dunlavey. Mark Millar, Wilfredo Torres, Davide Gianfelice. So ever so slightly packed, yes!

Drawn Onward (£3-99, Retrofit / Big Planet) by Matt Madden.

Well, isn’t this a great little piece of comicbook genius?

I’m not wafting that accolade in front of you arbitrarily, either.

For me it would have been enough had it been but a very clever exercise in storytelling structure – though I can think of few others who would have conceived of it in the first place – but in Matt Madden’s hands it has blossomed into an extremely poignant life-lesson in not fucking around with other people’s feelings lest they fuck around with yours in revenge.

The thrill of the chase is a courtship conceit so many worry about: that the person pursuing you is after one thing and one thing only so once you put out they’ll be gone – right out that door! It doesn’t have to be full-blown sex, it can be a kiss or the mere acknowledgement that you fancy them too. Conquest achieved! Next!

But this delves even deeper than that and you’ll want to read it forwards, backwards then forwards again. Maybe then approach it from the middle and read outwards, comparing the pages like I did, and from each end heading inwards as well.

It revolves around a pivotal moment right where the staples scream “symmetry”! Before and after those central staples lie mirror images with ever such clever departures. I’ve studied it for hours and will be using it in every future comics class that I teach.

I never doubted it for five seconds: Matt Madden’s 99 WAYS TO TELL A STORY is one of the most witty explorations of comicbook storytelling and along with Jessica Abel (LA PERDIDA and LIFE SUCKS), Madden produced two of the best books on creating comics, DRAWING WORDS AND WRITING PICTURES then MASTERING COMICS.

But to break beyond mere exercise into something which will affect you profoundly – to use that very structural innovation to comment so astutely and so poignantly on the way we may treat each other so carelessly or callously – is when you comprehend that you have a comicbook creator in front of you who is a thinker akin to Eddie Campbell or Scott McCloud.

Even the endpapers will have you grinning.

No clues in the images here!


Buy Drawn Onward and read the Page 45 review here

Optic Nerve: Killing And Dying (£16-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Adrian Tomine.

Includes free, fold-out poster while initial stocks last!

From one of comics’ most astute observers of human behaviour – quite often rifts in relationships – this reprints OPTIC NERVE #12, 13, 14 (OPTIC NERVE #14 still in stock) and a substantially revised version of Tomine’s contribution to KRAMER’S ERGOT #7. Other OPTIC NERVE books in stock.

Let the foibles begin!

Optic Nerve #12

“What is it?”
“This is just a proto-type. But it’s a sculpture that I made, with a live plant growing through it.
“In this case, sweet Myrtle, it’s a synthesis of nature and craft, a marriage of the wild and the man-made; a living breathing objet d’art.
“It’s my life’s calling.”

What it really is, I’m afraid, is a rather bad idea which Harold the gardener has chanced upon whilst reading about Japanese horticulture in the bath. It’s an idea so bad in conception that everyone else except poor Harold can see it straight away. But with the type of deluded confidence in his invention you regularly see in the comedy round-up sequence of ridiculous ideas on Dragons’ Den, he presses ahead into fiscal oblivion. The story is told primarily as continuous, four-panel black and white shorts, two per page, with the occasional full-page colour short story, which works well given that it’s spread over a number of years in an episodic manner. The art is as wonderful as you’d expect from Adrian, though it looks far more like Sammy Harkham’s style in this particular tale.

The second story is called ‘Amber Sweet’ and here the full-colour art is more typically Tomine, though the colour palette and odd side-profile facial expression can also make you think momentarily of Chris Ware. Our nameless female lead bares a rather uncanny resemblance to adult entertainment actress Amber Sweet, and it’s making her college experience rather unpleasant to say the least, as everyone seems pretty convinced they’re one and the same person and Amber Sweet is merely her stage name.

This is a great little short story, which if the theory that everyone really does have a doppelgänger out there is true and that encountering them will only bring you misfortune, then having them be a porn actress certainly isn’t going to help matters! In the end, our Jane Doe feels the only way she can ever get closure is to take a road trip and confront Ms. Sweet.


Optic Nerve #13

“Opportunity is… what? Something we create, not something that happens. Right? And there’s always going to be hurdles, but what do we do when He hands us a challenge?”
Utilize, don’t analyze!”
“That’s right.”

Our protagonist walks out at that point, and I can’t say I blame her. It’s not actually a prayer meeting, though: it’s Alcoholics Anonymous. She’s a young-ish woman, more than a little worn by what life has thrown at her. At the moment it’s housing problems.

The woman is pursued by another attendee who looks older than he says he is. He has a certain self-confidence – some would say the gift of the gab – though I would have punched him two pages in. But he offers to buy her coffee, and then puts her up at his gaffe. He probably shouldn’t have snapped at her in bed, but he apologises. He’s very contrite and as good as his word.

“Your key, Madame.”
“I told you… this is just until I get everything squared away.”
“Yeah, yeah. Just… go ahead!”

She opens the front door and there’s a vase of fresh flowers on the coffee table, and a banner saying “Welcome Home”. She stands, stunned, in the doorway.

“Sorry, I’m… trying not to cry.”

The OPTIC NERVE graphic novels are amongst Page 45’s biggest sellers. It was fascinating watching Adrian’s style develop so swiftly during his teens in 32 STORIES (such a beautiful package, at the moment: facsimile editions of all the original mini-comics with extras) then, as he refined his line, he settled in for a recognisable Tomine style, similar to mid-Dan Clowes. OPTIC NERVE #12, however, proved to be a marked departure, and so is the lead story here wherein we witness colour-coded snapshots of a relationship as it develops from consolation and practical assistance into something else entirely. What is the word so often used about addiction? Oh, yes, “dependency”.

I promise you this: a degree of hilarity, a great many lies and one massive surprise. It will also keep you on the edge of your seat.

The brief snapshot effect works beautifully, throwing you through their story, and Tomine’s famous observational skills are once more in full evidence. For all that chapter’s shenanigans, I found it no less true to life (I am afraid) than Adrian’s previous, gentler work.

I can see some Beto in the woman’s expressions and some Chris Ware in our other, paunchy protagonist, softened by a less regimented line – particularly when the man high-tails it across the park.

The second story is in full, flat colour as a woman narrates her return to California from Japan to her child. She leaves her parents who do not approve of her decision to fly to San Francisco. She is met at the airport by her estranged husband who has secured them a tiny apartment. It is quiet, measured, profoundly moving and ends on an enigmatic ellipsis.


Optic Nerve #14

‘Killing And Dying’ covers the budding but excruciating comedy career of Jesse, a rather introverted young lady with a debilitating stutter. Her parents – having seen many a new obsession come and go with perturbingly repetitive frequency – fall into their habitual roles and cycle of enthusiasm / pessimism / argument, before letting nature run its ever-turbulent course where their daughter is concerned.

What follows is another shot of Tomine’s classic blend of wince-worthy humour. I was practically peeking through my fingers when I got to Jesse’s first stand-up gig as her parents sit in the audience waiting in a state of hyper-tension for the inevitable car crash to occur. It doesn’t, for reasons I won’t elaborate on for fear of a spoil a great joke, but, rest assured, it’s a merely the metaphorical mother of all multiple-car pile-ups deferred…

The second story, told in a somewhat looser art style with lots of black shading and a single, secondary, light olive tone, tells the story of a divorced military veteran, living out of cheap motels, who unexpectedly bumps into a girl who house-sat an apartment he and his wife were renting when they were on vacation. Having recently cleaned out her car, she finds a set of keys she’d forgotten to give back to them. Pulled perhaps in equal part by memories past, the curiosity of who had replaced them as tenants, and the thrill of doing something illicit, he stakes out the apartment, making note of the comings and goings of the occupant, and when he finally feels safe he lets himself in.

It might be breaking and entering more on a scale of adult hedge-hopping, no maliciousness intended, but obviously it’s not going to end well. That’s the thrill with Tomine: bracing yourself for the moments the characters well and truly splash down in the fire, often before even realising they’ve been daft enough to leap from the comparative safety of the proverbial frying pan. As always, one comes away from an issue of OPTIC NERVE feeling a strange mixture of sadness and relief, the latter being purely for not having such a sad life as a Tomine character!


Buy Optic Nerve: Killing And Dying and read the Page 45 review here

Rachel Rising vol 6: Secrets Kept (£12-99, Abstract Studio) by Terry Moore.

How black do you like your humour?

Aunt Johnny is the resident mortician in the town of Manson. She’s just pulled up at the scene of a traffic accident to be greeted by two cops in the rain.

“Some girl lost her head and drove into a truck.”
“Other way round.”
“What’s that?”
“Other way round, I’d say.”

Ouch. As it transpires, they’re both right.

RACHEL RISING is the only horror comic currently on the stands to surpass THE WALKING DEAD. Let’s see if I can persuade you of that.

It began early one morning in a sequestered glade as an austere and impassive young woman waited patiently above a dried-up river bed until a leaf spontaneously combusted and another women, Rachel Beck, clawed herself slowly and painfully from her grave, then stumbled falteringly through the trees to make her way back home.

I can assure you of two things. The first is that Rachel’s no zombie: she’s perfectly sentient; she just can’t remember who killed her. The second is this: she’s most definitely dead.

Along with her best friend Jet, beloved Aunt Johnny and a girl called Zoe whose tender years and delinquent behaviour belie her true age and an enthusiastic tendency towards psychopathic violence, Rachel’s been trying to piece together what happened to her, and it all harks back to a witch hunt in Manson and thence to the first woman in the world called Lilith.

Lilith failed in her first attempt to wreak revenge upon Manson for its genocidal past, but now she’s back and she’s going to attempt a more charming approach for which she will need the help of her sister. Any guesses who that is?

With five prior volumes I believe you’ve some catching up to do.

Given that this is from Terry Moore – the creator of ECHO and the epic STRANGERS IN PARADISE which managed to juxtapose tragedy, romance, comedy and crime so successfully that there are few series our customers are more fond of – I can promise you that you are in for a harrowing but hilarious and humanity-filled treat. Terry’s books always focus on real women full of attitude but also failings and foibles and kindness rather than two-dimensional bravado, and that’s reflected in his art for he draws fulsome curves where they are, rather than where our modern plastic, photo-shop surgeons dictate they should be.

Terry’s is the sort of art where you can feel the soil when it grits beneath your finger nails.

This volume contains what is for me probably the most terrifying single suicide in comics, again in the rain and high above the unforgiving, rock-hard destination below. What makes it terrifying is not just its slippery surface but also its motivation whose agonising details we learn via Rachel. For Rachel – with one foot in the grave and another in some sort of earth-bound afterlife – has a bond both with the quick and the dead. She has the unenviable ability upon touch to divine what’s gone before and then see what will come next. So be careful which questions you ask her.

It also contains one of the most blindingly beautiful moments in comics, right near the end, involving a single pair of eyes previously hidden from us for all five volumes. Not by deceit but by pragmatism, and because no one had ever bothered to look before.

So cleverly withheld from us by a visual device I will not divulge, it is a moment of perfect, spiritual satori and in its single, simple panel it moved me like few other comics this year.

“Why is your touch the other only thing I can feel anymore?”
“Because love is stronger than death.”

You’ll know it when you see it.


Buy Rachel Rising vol 6: Secrets Kept and read the Page 45 review here

Phonogram: Immaterial Girl #3 (£2-99, Image) by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie with Chris Wildgoose.

If you adore the music and magic of THE WICKED + THE DIVINE I give you music as magic in the form of Gillen and McKelvie’s original break-through project, PHONOGRAM.

And if you grinned yourself senseless at what McKelvie did with the panel gutters during Loki & Wickan’s somewhat innovative and unorthodox escape from limbo in YOUNG AVENGERS, just you wait until you see Emily attempting to escape from music-video hell, jumping up, down, around and through vinyl record covers! Oh, so very clever.

Don’t think her (literal) other half Claire is going to make it easy for her!

But the reason I’m slipping in a highly unusual review of a title’s third issue is to remind you that the back-up stories in each periodical will not be reprinted in the collected edition and in this instance that means you will miss out on PORCELAIN artist Chris Wildgoose’s 5-page tour de force here forever and ever and ever. And you wouldn’t want that, would you?

Handily we have both previous PHONOGRAM books permanently in stock (reviewed) or, I promise, you can launch straight in with PHONOGRAM: IMMATERIAL GIRL #1 (also reviewed) and PHONOGRAM: IMMATERIAL GIRL #2 which we’re keeping on our shelves for as long as we can!

That was a public service announcement on behalf of your cultural – if not financial – wealth.

Interior art shown here by Chris Wildgoose. Ben Read and Chris Wildgoose’s BRIAR VOL 1 (Page 45 Exclusive Signed Bookplate Edition) on sale now.

WICKED + DIVINE Pantheon t-shirts are also on sale, as it happens. While stocks last. We ship worldwide. Etcetera.


Buy Phonogram Immaterial Girl #3 and read the Page 45 review here

Cursed Pirate Girl 2015 Annual #1 (£7-50, Archaia) by Jeremy Bastien.

Were this not set deep below the salty seas but in some land-locked, fresh water reservoir the detail alone would buoy you to the surface. It is ridiculous! I cannot imagine how large the original art must be.

There’s a fantastical, fold-out, triple-page spread of The Sea King’s Palace, as organic as any coral reef, whose intricate textures will have any bleary eyeballs bathed back to health as you soak them for the half hour it will take to absorb it all in.

It may not be printed on deckled paper like the original CURSED PIRATE GIRL h/c instalment (reviewed: reprint soon!) but the thick, cream-coloured stock more than makes up for the absence.

And this is where I must come clean, I’m afraid, for this is very much the next episode, nor is it the finale, but there’s a comprehensive catch-up page which will tell you all you need to know before embarking upon the next leg of our Cursed Pirate Girl’s quest to find her father, a pirate Captain of the mythical Omerta Seas.

If you love long, flowing tresses and Buccaneer fashion, this one’s for you!


Buy Cursed Pirate Girl 2015 Annual #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Sky In Stereo (£13-50, Revival House Press) by Mardou…

“I watch little cells like bricks, spire up over the city I live in.
“And cartoon spinning planets draw closer than our moon.
“This is heaven. I know it. This is more than just a drug. It must be.
“I must be good inside. Righteous, even.
“Otherwise this is not the sky I’d see, right?
“My low self-esteem ends tonight.”

Acid. Lysergic acid diethylamide if we’re being formal. To a certain generation, those coming of age in the early nineties, it was the maximum-intensity drug of choice before Ecstasy and the rave culture really took over, I suppose. I dare say there’s a fair few people out there whose perceptions were altered forever by their casual social consumption of this mind-bending chemical, and various others.

If so, you’ll probably find yourself intimately familiar with the situation young Iris finds herself in: using pints down the pub combined with illicit use of readily available recreational drugs like weed and acid to offset an otherwise rather dreary existence, skiving off college and flipping burgers for pocket money in 1990s Manchester. I note Sacha Mardou was born in Macclesfield in 1975, so I’m mildly suspicious there might be some autobiographical notes contained within this work!

I think perhaps this is one of those works which will either resonate with you, for whatever reason, or simply won’t. It certainly did with me. Iris is stuck in that peculiar limbo of late teenagehood: too young to be fully liberated of the irksome shackles of parents and education, but not nearly old enough to have to face the responsibilities of the world for herself. Not, of course, that as teenagers we realise just how onerous and time-consuming all those myriad responsibilities can be!

So, like most of her college friends and work colleagues at the burger joint, like teenagers the world over, Iris moans about her lot whilst wondering just where the hell she fits in. Her friend Glen, however, despite also working at the burger joint, seems glamorous, alluring, and possibly a little bit dangerous. Iris would certainly like to be more than friends with him, but every time she feels like she’s inching closer towards that possibility, the very next moment it then suddenly feels like he’s moving further out of reach.

Glen seems to be the one person who Iris is genuinely inspired by, even if it’s merely in her desire to try new drugs. After her moment of acid-induced satori leaning out of her bedroom window, as the ego barriers between her and the rest of the Universe temporarily dissolve, she feels a lightness of being she’s never known before. Iris knows she needs to tell Glen all about it, now that they’re equals, because he’ll understand completely. So a couple of days later, setting off from her house, she decides to follow the signs that will take her to him, even though she has no idea where he actually lives…

Glen, meanwhile, has been dabbling with the dark side, trying some heroin. Fortunately for him, it’s merely a passing two- or three-time fancy which doesn’t develop into a habit, maybe because of how chronically nauseous it made him feel. Again, that was another point of reference which seemed all too acutely, personally relevant. Growing up in a perfectly normal suburb of Leeds, I was certainly aware of some of my wider circle of friends who – in addition to being exposed to the usual sundry pharmacopeia which it was practically impossible to avoid – had the misfortune to be exposed to heroin.

No different from myself, no less capable or otherwise at such a tender age of weighing up the true pros and cons of such experimentation, but it certainly wrecked a fair few of their lives: two premature deaths, one person still serving a very long sentence for subsequent, large-scale heroin dealing, others still grappling with heroin and methadone addiction nearly three decades later. Obviously there were those who were like Glen too, who tried it and had the good fortune to not have a particularly pleasant experience or two and never did it again, who’ve gone on to be perfectly normal members of society. I’m just glad I never had the chance to try it because I can’t honestly say whether I would or wouldn’t have been daft enough to do it at the time.

I’ll throw in one more personal observation I had forgotten all about which this work brought back. I actually applied for a job as a teenager as a burger-flipper in a certain well known chain but got turned down. The lady interviewing me saw I went to a private school and asked in a tone dripping with ire whether I felt she should be giving a job to someone like me, or to someone who actually deserved it. It took me a few seconds to understand what she actually meant, not actually having had any experience of any sort of discrimination as a white, heterosexual male. “You know, middle class,” she then added, just in case I was some sort of dim-witted demi-toff who was missing the point! In retrospect I wish I’d politely replied that my mother worked on Leeds’ outdoor market and my father was a sales rep, and that they were scrimping and saving extremely hard because they wanted to give me a decent education which they hadn’t had themselves. However, I just stood there mute like some sort of dim-witted, aspirational, lower middle class teenager with loving parents who had yet to learn the skills of cutting down bosses with my as then unhoned rapier wit… I did at least take my extremely infrequent business from that day to this to the other large well known burger chain…

So this was a fascinating trip, if you’ll pardon the pun, down memory lane for me. A perfectly observed time capsule of being a certain age in that particular era. But I think if you had any sort of… wasted… teenage moments yourselves, irrespective of your age, you’ll certainly smile wryly in more than a few places. This is volume one, so I’m intrigued to see precisely where Iris’ story is going to go, and under the influence of what. I suspect, though, given the circles Iris moves in, that Ebeneezer Goode may well indeed be making an appearance before too long… As a great philosopher once wrote… naughty naughty, very naughty…


Buy Sky In Stereo and read the Page 45 review here

Hilda And The Troll s/c (£7-99, Flying Eye Books) by Luke Pearson.

Album-sized softcover of the comic formerly known as HILDAFOLK, this is the first story in Luke Pearson’s ever-expanding, award-winning HILDA graphic novel series (each one reviewed!) with a map featuring both destinations and denizens, a double-page spread showcasing Hilda’s delightfully cluttered workstation which made me beam with joy and those critical notes on ‘Trolls & Bells’.

Oh, the difference a dash of spot-varnish makes! Adult and tiny eyes alike will shine like marbles when they see the sheen. We love attention to detail.

Here we find young Hilda following in her mother’s artistic footsteps by taking her sketchbook out into the grassy, rock-strewn hillside to draw. She sketches her pet Twig perched on a tiny island in the rippling plunge pool below a cascading waterfall, she spies a lost Sea Spirit that must have drifted down the fjord; and then finally, excitedly, she discovers a true Troll Rock!

She’d been reading up on trolls the previous day, but then the prospect of camping out under rain had distracted her, as did yet another visit by that strange, silent wood man who keeps walking through their front door completely uninvited (thank you very much indeed!) to lie quietly down by the fireside. What is that guy’s problem?

Anyway, Hilda gives Twig a bell to perch on the Troll Rock’s big, long nose to warn them in case it in transforms (as they’re said to at night!) and starts moving. She then sets about sketching it from every conceivable angle: from afar, from behind and from below – even from on top of its schnozzle! Oh, but it’s tiring work, and soon our pioneer and portrait artist starts to fall asleep, only to be woken up during the bright orange sunset in the middle of a blizzard… by the jingle-jangle of bells!!!

Oh so exciting and full of surprises, this will warm the cockles of the coldest of hearts: the cosiness of camping out at night, and the sound of rain on canvas; a giant lost above the tree-tops, confounded by their conformity; the mystery of the wood man, the wonder of the world Luke Pearson has created, at once familiar yet populated by exotic and fantastical new fauna. I’m not quite sure what Twig is! A blue-grey fox-cat with a bright white belly and antlers? In fact as a colourist alone Luke Pearson deserves to win every award going, and his attention to detail is right up there with Chris Ware. The inside front and back covers would make the best Christmas wrapping paper ever! Indeed Nobrow probably have some, and their paper stock is of the highest possible quality.

An awe-inspiring adventure, then, with two important lessons in hospitality and research. Because you remember that bell…?

“One should always read the whole book. They’re not for dipping into.”


Buy Hilda And The Troll s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Ghostopolis (£9-99, Scholastic) by Doug TenNapel…

“So, I was in my bedroom, and suddenly this skeleton horse leaps over me… Next thing I know, I’m in the afterlife!”
“Wow, I had to get here the old fashioned way. But if you’re still alive, then you don’t belong here!”
“I was gonna die anyway. I’ve got an incurable disease.”
“Still, your mother must be worried about you. And even if you only have a short time left on Earth, we should get you back to enjoy that short time!”
“Fine. So how do I get back to Earth?”
“There’s a couple’a ways. Ghosts find their way back by sneaking through cracks, breaking rules, an’ cheating the system. But I have a different idea. Do you know how this whole place came to be?”
“It was all built by one man… a mysterious Tuskagee airman named Joe. He made every mountain you see, laying one chunk of sand at a time. He stacked every brick in Ghostopolis so that ghosts would have a place to live.”

He does like his dark setups, our Doug. He’s not afraid of killing off a parent (CARDBOARD), marooning an entire family on a murderous isle (BAD ISLAND), and here he gives the main character, young Garth Hale, an incurable disease. In fact, Garth hasn’t got that long left to live. Now that’s just plain harsh.

Which is why Garth’s attitude when accidentally sucked into the afterlife – during an accident caused by washed up ghostbuster Frank Gallows, who was in fact chasing after the equine apparition in question – is quite understandably a little defeatist. I should probably state right now – just in case you’re considering buying this for your kids, having enjoyed the likes of Doug’s TOMMYSAURUS REX previously – that please be assured there is a happy ending, a very happy ending.

I think you have to admire the incorporation of difficult topics like mortality into what are essentially children’s stories. I remember as a young kid feeling emotionally stretched by the death of Aslan in ‘The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe’ when I first read it. Obviously there’s a happy end, via a resurrection there, but still, I think if concepts of dying and death can be worked into the odd children’s work, in a background or secondary way, it’s no bad thing. For example, when recommending the majestic AMULET series to people, we always caution that volume one does start with the death of a parent, just in case there might be particular reasons why people would not want the intended recipient reading that even brief nugget of woe.

Before the happy ending though, Garth, and Frank who’s decided to mount a rescue expedition to retrieve Garth from the spooky world of Ghostopolis, are going to have a rather hair-raising adventure. Along the way, they’ll enlist the help of Cecil, Garth’s deceased Grandfather, to do battle with Master Vaugner, the evil spirit who has taken control of Ghostopolis and made it a place of misery. As if being dead weren’t sad enough?!

It’s a rollercoaster adventure very much in the mould of AMULET, where ever more perilous danger lurks at seemingly every turn and allies are found in the nick of time in the unlikeliest of places, just when all hope seems lost. Oh, and that mysterious Tuskagee Joe, the long-vanished creator of Ghostopolis, might even make an appearance too before the end…

Lovely, dark, comedic fantasy that’s neither too complex nor too disturbing for relatively young ones. I would say this work, like most of Doug’s, is probably aimed at 7 or 8 years old upwards. The all-action style keeps the pace relentlessly breakneck which ensures the fun factor always outweighs any maudlin moments.


Buy Ghostopolis and read the Page 45 review here

Jupiter’s Circle vol 1 s/c (£7-50, Image) by Mark Millar & Wilfredo Torres, Davide Gianfelice.

“Don’t worry, Mom. You’ve still got us.
“Dad’ll get what’s coming to him.”

If looks could kill…

The prequel to JUPITER’S LEGACY is a book about relationships set in a time when the superhero genre looked at them barely at all. Certainly no hero left his wife and children for a star-struck teenager then attempted to recommend her as a new superheroine to his teammates.

What Fitz fails to see is that they’re like a family themselves who’ve grown up together.

“We’ve all known Joyce since we were back in college and we’re not going to let you humiliate her like this.”

The thing is Fitz, The Flare, has enough self-awareness to know he’s doing wrong because his old man walked out of them when he was nine years old, and he doesn’t want to inflict that same pain and disillusionment on his own kids. He even says, “That’s the thing when you become a parent. The kids come first.”

So self-knowledge yes; self-guidance no. Do you fear it will go horribly wrong? The first image here is barely the beginning.

His Fitz’s team-mate Richard finds himself with a very different sexual dilemma. Here he is, enjoying a post-coital cigarette, in bed with an ex-marine he’s only just met.

“How do you know Danny?”
“We used to be in the marines together. He’s hooked me up with a few tricks before, but none of them were as handsome as you. Did you know he hooks up all the movie stars at that gas station? I saw Tyrone Stars out there and Walter Pigeon gave me twenty bucks just to give him a hand-job.”
“Oh yeah?”
“So what line of work are you in?”

The look on Richard’s face, wondering what would happen if the public – or even his peers – found out that one of America’s greatest heroes was into men…

This is 1959 and cinema’s greatest heroes were all in the closet – because, umm, public opinion and box office…? But also: illegal. Yes, it was illegal to love if you were a bloke and your loved one happened to shave too.

Imagine the power that gave others over you – employers, employees, complete strangers and, oh, I don’t know, the American secret service? If they found out it could be immediate arrest, trial, public humiliation, ostracism, disgrace then prison or blackmail for life. There are movies about it: 1961’s ‘Victim’ starring Dirk Bogarde for a start.

Speaking of cinema, here’s Kathryn Hepburn giving Richard her take at a very private party:

“I have to say I find the whole thing ridiculous, Richard… Sure, half of Hollywood’s in lavender marriages, but at least we’re handsomely paid to be hypocrites. You’re out there saving lives every day. Why should you have to lie about who you’re snuggling up with every night?”

“It’s like politicians and preachers, Katie. The public just hold us to a higher standard. People want their superheroes to be whiter than white.”

Quite literally, back then.

“Well, I’m just worried what it does to your health, darling. I’ve seen what living a lie can do. We’re a queer town selling the world a heterosexual ideal. Haven’t you ever wondered why we’re all on pills and booze? A double life is a terrible strain and you’re living a triple life. The stress must be unbearable.”

Torres can capture a perfect likeness, which will come in very handy when it comes to FBI director and notorious muck-merchant J. Edgar Hoover. The art is deliciously innocent, clean-lined and evokes this particular sub-genre’s period perfectly. There are a lot of cheesy smiles and big, broad grins until the considerable repercussions kick but I promise you this: so many of the cast will surprise you.

So yes, from the writer of SECRET SERVICE: KINGSMAN KICK-ASS, CHRONONAUTS, SUPERIOR, NEMESIS, MPH, Marvel’s CIVIL WAR. WOLVERINE: OLD MAN LOGAN – all of them highly recommended – comes the prequel to JUPITER’S LEGACY. It is a very different beast, but equally deserves your attention because reading one informs your understanding and so appreciation of the other.

In JUPITER’S LEGACY, following the Wall Street Crash, Sheldon Sampson set about giving America something to believe in, people to give them hope: superheroes. What happens there is disastrous but so far here they’ve done their job admirably and are much respected by the public while being despised  as uncontrollable by the FBI.

Sheldon’s brother Walter thinks they should make the role more official by allying themselves with the FBI who’ve reached out with an offer while making contingency plans if rejected. Sheldon’s dead against it on principal’s sake – they need to remain above politics, autonomous. It’s George Hutchence who elaborates:

“Hoover’s an asshole. Don’t you get it? He’s got dirt on everyone from coast to coast and now he’s trying to get you too. He can’t control us and it’s driving him crazy. He’d bug these headquarters given half a chance.”

As I say, contingency plans.

Bravo for Mark Millar and the post-coital cigarette scene: if you’re going to do this, do it properly with no shying away nor emasculation.


Buy Jupiter’s Circle vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Comic Book History Of Comics (£16-50, IDW) by Fred Van Lente & Ryan Dunlavey.

“Stan Lee found himself assigned to the army’s training film division, where he served with such luminaries as director Frank Capra and great New Yorker cartoonist, Charles Addams. Lee wrote short films, posters and pamphlets on such topics as army finance and venereal disease.”

Venereal disease! It’s amazing what you can pick up here.

Did you know that Terry Gilliam preceded Robert Crumb as assistant editor of Harvey Kurtzman’s HELP, and that John Cleese modelled for one of its photo comics?

Yes, I’ll tell you right now what I love about this: its breadth and above all sense of context, be it personal, historical, social, economic and even international. Tom Spurgeon wrote the introduction, and he’ll not put his name to any old tripe.

It’s also very, very funny in places. At first it rankled with me that this was comics and not prose, especially since Dunlavey’s style of cartooning isn’t my natural comfort zone. UNDERSTANDING COMICS was perfect because as a graphic novel it was self-demonstrative, and the two CARTOON GUIDE TO ECONOMICS books (yes, there was a second on MACROECONIMICS!) worked well because the images made the abstract comprehensibly concrete. Here I wondered at first why we couldn’t just have photographs of the people and reproductions of the covers – until the jokes kicked in, and I realised that Dunlavey was drawing in short-hand what Van Lente would have had to labour over in prose. A bit like I’m about to here!

“Though through our allegedly more “enlightened” modern eyes, romance comics may be seen as simply reinscribing the more patriarchal aspects of American society (as 99.9% of them were written and drawn by men)…
“Oh, John… I’m so happy you allowed me to drop my career to pop out babies for you until you throw me aside for you secretary in two decades!”
“Me too, sugar plum! Now shut your yap and go fix me a sandwich!”

… they almost always encouraged marrying for love rather than any other consideration, and tried to steer heroines away from the wrong kind of man, the template for whom remains basically the same in our day.

Mr. Right: working-class Joe
Mr. Wrong: Well-heeled sharpie
Mr. Right: Wants 2.5 kids
Mr Wrong: Wants in your pants
Mr. Right: 1-beer-a-day guy
Mr. Wrong: drunk right now.”

Every genre and movement is dealt with in detail as well as they’re unexpected impacts on each other, and never have I seen the whole Wertham / Bill Gaines / Senate hearing / Comics Code Authority debacle dealt with in such great depth yet so swiftly. Actually I’ve never seen anyone trying to salvage Wertham’s reputation before, and Van Lente points out precisely why. You’ll be surprised at what good he did do. The connections between comics and the two big animation studios gave me some nuggets on Disney I had no idea about – like the fact that Bambi was a bust and they were only saved by the Pentagon. And speaking of WWII poor Jack Kirby is as down on his luck as ever!

“So you can draw?”
“Yes sir, of course I can draw.”
“I was thinking, ‘Great, some officer wants me to draw his portrait’,” Kirby remembered.

Instead he was sent ahead into live combat zones as a scout to draw maps and pictures.

I learned that Archie Comics’ Archie Andrews was based on the “mercilessly wholesome screen persona of Mickey Rooney”, 50 US States tried to regulate crime comics and Canada managed to ban them. Why does everyone consider Canada so liberal? You try crossing their border with a suitcase full of yaoi! The whole of EC Comics’ horror line makes far more sense when you learn about Bill Gaines’ unresolved parental issues, and there are statistics here to make you weep:

“Industry studies showed that in 1947, a stunning 95% of American boys and 91% of girls between the ages of 6 and 11 were habitual comics readers… along with 87% of teenaged men and 81% of teen women; and a still-impressive 41% of men aged 18-30 and – before romance comics – 28% of women the same age read comics regularly.”

In case you don’t know, today 1% of both genders combined would be an over-optimistic estimate.


Buy The Comic Book History Of Comics and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Wild’s End vol 1: First Light (£14-99, Boom) by Dan Abnett & I.N.J. Culbard

Don’t Get Eaten By Anything (£17-99, Conundrum) by Dakota McFadzean

You Are A Kitten! Pick A Plot Book 3 (£14-99, Conundrum) by Sherwin Tija

Tribes Of Kai (£18-99, Flesk) by Lance Haunrogue & Darren Bader

Bad Machinery vol 4: The Case Of The Lonely One (£14-99, Oni) by John Allison

The Red Shoes And Other Tales (£9-00, Papercut) by Metaphrog

Debbie’s Inferno (£4-50, Retrofit) by Anne Emond

Perfume Of Lilacs (£15-99, Soaring Penguin Press) by Samuel Leblanc

Teen Titans: Earth One vol 1 s/c (£10-99, DC) by Jeff Lemire & Terry Dodson

Guardians Of The Galaxy vol 5: Through The Looking Glass (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Valerio Schiti

Jessica Jones: Alias vol 2 s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Gaydos, Mark Bagley, Rodney Ramos

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

Claymore vol 27 (£6-99, Viz) by Norihiro Yagi

Master Keaton vol 4 (£12-99, Viz) by Naoki Urasawa

Tokyo Ghoul vol 3 (£8-99, Viz) by Sui Ishida


ITEM! Simone Lia’s short comic on the art of bluffing! Hahaha! Plenty of that going on last weekend!

ITEM! Congratulations to the Holy ‘Tait’ Trinity – Julie, Sharon & Carol – on The Lakes International Comic Art Festival (#LICAF) 2015! What a weekend! So much love! So much kindness!

Last year Page 45 broke its best ever sales weekend – including Christmas! – at LICAF 2014!

This year? We trounced that record by another 10%!!! Jeepz! I’d probably exhibit there, yes!



Thanks to everyone who contributed including the top-tier creator who spend £14-99 on the Friday afternoon before we’d even arranged half the books for sale on Saturday morning. I cannot name him for fear his missus’d kill him.

Thanks to every comic creator who signed in our LICAF Clock Tower Georgian Room and made us laugh all weekend long. Their 24 Hour Comic Marathon was a triumph!

Thanks to every single LICAF Volunteer, including Lou and Chris. For me they are the festival’s greatest asset and treasure.

I’d also like to thank our Jonathan as ever for bolstering my confidence while emphasising to you all that without Jonathan’s logistical, technological and problem-solving skills Page 45 wouldn’t even be at LICAF – I couldn’t do it – whilst Dominique’s immaculate organisational skills made sure the right books actually went with us in exactly the right quantities, safely secured for zero damages.

Jonathan also designed our Page 45 signage which was beautiful to behold.


LICAF 2016: we have even more ideas including a way to make it possible for you to buy any of our 7,000 different graphic novels in Kendal at LICAF 2016! Oh yes!

Oh, and LICAF’s already secured a very, very special international guest for 2016!

Not. Even. Kidding You. Announcement in January when I’ll probably post all our photos.

LICAF 2016: Friday October 14th to Sunday October 16th 2016.

Oh,my kitty-kins, colour-code those dates in your diary right now!

– Stephen

Page 45: Proud Patrons of The Lakes International Comic Art Festival

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews October 2015 week two

October 14th, 2015

This week we surely have something for everyone! Fifteen reviews!

The Story Of My Tits (£22-50, Top Shelf) by Jennifer Hayden.

“On the last day I had tits on this Earth, I painted them yellow, with orange nipples.
“I painted them orange, with green nipples.
“I painted them red, with yellow nipples.
“Then I rinsed off, the tears becoming the water I swam in, red paint ribboning away from me like blood.”

That’s about as eloquent as anything I’ve ever read.

I hope it’s not too stark for this astute, 350-page, autobiographical epic is riddled with wit, mischief, self-deprecation, joy, exasperation, love, learning, empathy and the sort of profound understanding of what is and isn’t important that can only come with hindsight and experience after a whole load of mistakes. It’s a graphic novel that makes you appreciate what you’ve got and who you’re surrounded by. I practically fell in love with Jennifer’s husband, Jim, and Jim’s mother Alice, both bottomless wells of kindness.

The cartooning is rich and playful with parenthetical asides that will have you grinning, and fantastical embellishments that speak volumes in shorthand, especially on recurrence. It’s dense with detail and luxurious textures which convey unmistakable senses of both time and place, but kept clean and clear by spacious gutters between each four-panel page.

I love the pointy noses, and as for the eyes it’s minimum fuss for maximum empathy. Hayden can convey so much in two circles, two dots and a couple of perfectly placed eyebrows. There are lots of clever devices like diagrams and charts and you may end up missing those curly whirly telephone chords which are now almost extinct. Communication is a big theme here. Some people are better at it than others.

Jennifer’s practical mother would rather not, even after a mastectomy.

“You’ve been through something really big, Mom. Don’t you want to talk about it?”
“Well, I certainly don’t think we need to dwell on it.”

Which is admirable in a way, but Jennifer’s own instinct had always been to express and even explode on occasion.

“My revenge was never to stop talking about emotions – mine and everyone else’s.”

She depicts herself like Charles Schultz’s Lucy behind a lemonade booth marked ‘Unlicensed Pyschologist. 5 cents. Free Beer. (The Doctor Is In)’. An unwitting patient’s popped by.

“Holy shit! So how did you feel when you step-mother’s lesbian lover came at you with the chainsaw?”

I did promise you mischief.

Jennifer’s father also avoids communication even when her Mum is diagnosed early in the graphic novel with breast cancer. Jen’s infuriated by his lack of support – he seems almost suspiciously equanimous to it all – but then her parents know something she doesn’t, and when that secret comes out Jennifer will find, not for the last time, that she can remain culpably silent too.

This, then, this is the story of one woman’s breasts from their frustrating late blossoming to their loss forever. It won’t be the only loss, either, for some of Jennifer’s loved ones won’t last the years and I found several passages here to be devastating. But its scope is far wider for how else could you understand that loss? It encompasses more than one family, more than one generation and Hayden herself will grow over the years from a somewhat prickly aspiring writer (who, she says, sucked) and a woman who couldn’t stop judging the success of her own life by the developments in others’ – including marriage and children – into an artist, lover and mother who knows exactly what to communicate, when to communicate and how.

Hayden’s finest moment is possibly when she judges it best to safeguard her children from what she’s going through (breast examinations, biopsies etc) then when to tell them and in what way.

As she endures those examinations and diagnoses and she processes her own options and what they imply for her future it is gruelling and harrowing and, yes, she breaks down, terrified of what lies ahead. She’d been living with the prospect for years ever since her mum was first diagnosed and who amongst us here is superhuman, after all? But at every turn Jim is her enduring rock (they met way back at college!) and if he were ever to read this (I cannot think why) I’d just like to say, you’re a star.

Jennifer, by the way, opts for a bilateral mastectomy – the removal of both breasts when only one was cancerous – and her reasons are arrived at with clarity. It’s a brave thing to do to bear all, but this will undoubtedly shed light and provide hope or – if there is or turned out to be no hope in the end – the sympathy of a shared journey.

There’s a whole lot of love to be had along the way.


Buy The Story Of My Tits and read the Page 45 review here

Bitch Planet vol 1: Extraordinary Machine s/c (£7-50, Image) by Kelly Sue DeConnick & Valentine De Landro with Robert Wilson IV.

“Shame them – maim them – try to contain them – stand back – she’s gonna BLOW!”

Wittily conceived, perfectly targeted and mercilessly executed, this is a two-pronged attack on the sort of chauvinism we’ve kind of convinced ourselves died out with the Victorians. It hasn’t. It’s alive and unwell in the form of day-to-day condescension like man’splaining, force-fed through media manipulations on female beauty and rears its ugliest head on the internet in the form of outright misogyny towards comics and games journalists.

One of those two prongs – “Hey Kids, Patriarchy!” – is the funniest and most lacerating series of faux advertisements I’ve ever seen. Take the wonders of weight loss:

“We guarantee you will lose
“Your balance!
“Your energy!
“Your joie de vivre!
“Your will to live!”

“Advice For Ladies” in that lovely, frilly, feminine type-face includes an advertisement for Agreenex pills:

“What’s Wrong With You?
“Be the you he likes. Good to be around, any time, any day. Agreenex helps. It doesn’t change your circumstances, but it keeps you from caring. Because without thoughts, feelings or inconvenient opinions, you’re more fun to be around. So use Agreenex. Isn’t he worth it? (And if he kicks you out, where will you live? Do you really think someone would give you a job? Look at you.)
“Agreenex: because he’s sick of your shit!”

From the writer of PRETTY DEADLY, this is a different beast altogether, and I warn you right now that it’s not safe for work.

Female compliancy is paramount both in the eyes of the advertisers and in the body of the storyline itself.

Half of it is set on the so-called Bitch Planet, an off-world, all-female penitentiary run by the earth-bound Bureau of Compliancy and Corrections staffed by men. Some of the inmates are murderers, but others are in for “seduction and disappointment; emotional manipulation” and “disrespect”, while one Marian Collins’ crime was to be in the way of her husband having an affair. There’s a beautiful sequence of misdirection so successfully set up by both DeConnick and De Landro – as Marian’s husband desperately pleads with the BCC’s Off-world Overseer Roberto Solanza for the return of his wife – that I had to flick back and read it once more to see if it was watertight. It was!

There are plenty of subplots to keep you guessing but the main thrust that currently propels BITCH PLANET is Father Josephson’s search not just for the TV ratings he deems meaningless but for engagement. “Engagement is the measure that matters.” To that end he enlists Roberto Solanza, proposing that a team be created on his Bitch Planet for Josephson’s best broadcast, the contact sport called Duemila or Megaton which makes American Football look like a game of tiddlywinks. To make this happen the one inmate they have to secure is the athlete amongst them, Kamau Kogo. She’s far from convinced:

“Megaton? You want a bunch of girls to get their asses beat to pay for the system that locks them up. The fuck outta here.”

But the system has leverage – doesn’t it always? – and some of Kogo’s fellow prisoners have very persuasive agendas of their own. Not only that, but Kogo herself is very resourceful as you’ll discover when she encounters a peeping tom through a hole in the shower walls. That balletic sequence is gloriously drawn and coloured by main artist De Landro who nails Kogo’s gymnastic prowess and the muscles required to accomplish such feats. All of De Landro’s body forms are highly individualistic as displayed in “The Obligatory Shower Scene” but, unlike most such shower scenes, it is empowering rather than objectifying. Also, much is made earlier of how cold and uncomfortable the women are when naked en masse – it’s far from erotic, but awkward viewing instead.

My favourite chapter is the middle one focussing on Penelope Rolle, a woman of considerable girth drawn by Robert Wilson IV in a style that makes the most of her physique. The assaults on Penny’s presentation throughout her past are relentless. Indeed amongst the crimes she is charged with are “Aesthetic offences and wanton obesity”. Conformity and compliance are all, remember? They’re actually assaults on her happiness.

Back on Bitch Planet the authorities’ greatest threat in order to ensure her compliance is to dig deep into Penelope’s psyche to reveal Penny’s own ideal self: to confront her with how she wishes she looked and so shame her with the reality.

“Visualization is the key to achieving our objectives. We are trying to help you.”

They’re not, but they do!

Finally, Father Josephson himself is a right piece of work. He’s the sort of casual power-player who answers the phone with “Yyyello?” and redirects conversations with “Anyhoo” – both of which actually do deserve immediate incarceration.


Buy Bitch Planet vol 1: Extraordinary Machine s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Injection vol 1 (£7-50, Image) by Warren Ellis & Declan Shalvey.

Professor Maria Kilbride was once an optimist: a fresh-faced, enthusiastic explorer of hidden science. She was given funding by the FPI and four similarly specialised experts to cross-pollinate with. They were to put their minds together, think outside the box and do stuff.

They did stuff: they poisoned the 21st Century.

They did it with an Injection and now they discover that they and this planet are far from immune.

Professor Maria Kilbride now resides at Sawlung Hospital which, translated from old English, means “giving up the ghost”. Nominally a patient, she but is anything but. She is worn out, fractious, unkempt and implicitly under investigation by the FPI’s own inner Cursus which demands she cleans up her mess. Ever since Maria and her cohorts dissolved their Cultural Cross-Contamination Unit in the wake of their Injection, incidents have occurred. Walls of science and nature have come crashing down or are opening up. The world is evolving. The breaches are pretty spectacular.

So Professor Maria Kilbride is being dragged out once again to stop what she has started and she will try the best that she can. But she is tired, malnourished and would very much like a fucking sandwich.

From the writer of GLOBAL FREQUENCY and PLANETARY, this boasts elements of both: weird science, history, ghostly echoes, specialised experts and catastrophic incidents. It’s also highly reminiscent of Jamie Delano’s early HELLBLAZER with secret, string-pulling organisations and references to stone circles, ley lines, cursuses, cunning folk and the Ridgeway. In other words very British indeed, quaint villages included.

Shalvey and Bellaire have done a tremendous job of separating the past from the present: it couldn’t be clearer. Both the body language and colours command that you consider the contrast. They’ve also executed the most furious and thrilling cyclone of leaves I ever thought possible, while the action sequences later on come with balletic grace and a clipped, military precision.

In places I get whiffs of THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN’s Kevin O’Neill. I may be down-wind.

It’s also typical Ellis in that it demands you go Google-ing specialised terms and then – if you’re anything like me – pretend you knew exactly what they all meant in the first place. You think I knew what a cursus was? Oh, how you overestimate me!

But if you’re also anything like me then you love to learn, you hate being hand-held and you relish a comic with intelligence, wit, and so much hard research and forethought behind it that you embrace the brand-new even when it harks so geo-specifically back to the past.

I am old, I am tired. Can someone please make me a fucking sandwich? Something with mushrooms, tuna and cheese would be ideal; melted even better.

Because like Professor Maria Kilbride I have seen what’s behind this closed door and it shouldn’t even be possible.



Buy Injection vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Bouncer (£29-99, Humanoids) by Alexandro Jodorowsky & Francois Boucq…

“Well, my chickadee, who gives a damn about all this water when we have enough gold to open a casino in San Francisco!”
“You’re even stupider than I thought.”
“We’re rich. We can start a life far from this miserable shit town.”
“No! You are without doubt the world champion of idiocy. You’ve just managed to transform my land into a desert, and now you expect me to fall into your arms and run off with you?!”

No idea why Humanoids have decided to stop releasing the English translations of BOUNCER in the format of two French album-sized works collected together (often the stories are two-parters) after the first four, but this is the first seven albums, created between 2001 and 2010.

It’s even more puzzling because there have actually been two more French albums since, the two-handed ‘To Hell’ / ‘And Back’ from 2012 and 2013 respectively, but those aren’t collected here. I can only presume it’s a) a financial decision, and b) there are going to be more volumes coming out in the future. Anyway, this chunky tombstone of a tome certainly represents excellent value for money. Unless, perhaps, you already own the first four sevenths of it…

Anyway… this is probably Jodorowsky’s finest work in comics outside of MADWOMAN OF THE SACRED HEART and THE INCAL for me. And yet, possibly because it’s not illustrated by Moebius or part of the wider INCAL mythos like the METABARONS or TECHNOPRIESTS material, it doesn’t receive anywhere near the same sort of acclaim. It’s certainly not metaphysical, psychological or even psychedelic in nature like those works, or indeed his surreal and highly acclaimed cowboy film El Topo, but BOUNCER is definitely one of the finest Western genre stories in comic form.

I think the best Westerns – primarily cinematic, I think we can agree; Brian Azarello’s self-contained EL DIABLO and sadly truncated LOVELESS being two of the few brilliant period examples in comics – certainly have a touch of Shakespearean melodrama about them, and Bouncer definitely has that in abundance. Tragic heroes, comedic fools, oft one and the same, both Machiavellian and moronic villains, plus damsels in distress and femme fatales, you’ll find them all within these pages, scrapping for status or simply survival in these very baddest of lands.

Rather like the HBO show Deadwood in style, then, full of ornery characters and insalubrious saloons, BOUNCER retells the classic cowboy story of a man of mysterious origins, standing apart from his fellow citizens, both by his choice and theirs. A man of few friends, but no shortage of enemies. A man of a certain moral compass, despite living a debauched whisky-drenched life, that’s inevitably bound to point him firmly in the direction of trouble, sooner or later. More often than not.

BOUNCER has all the required elements for the perfect Western story: of greed and wrongs to be righted, innocent victims suffering horrifically at the hands of swinish brutes, and above all, one man prepared to do whatever it takes, no matter the personal cost, to make sure evil doesn’t prevail. And as mentioned, whilst the art isn’t by Moebius, don’t be put off from taking a peak through these swinging saloon doors, because Francois Boucq’s ligne claire is equally as beautiful and lustily, dustily coloured too in an appropriately vibrant sun-drenched manner.

I realise Westerns are regarded as somewhat passé in comics these days, despite modern takes on the genre like Jason Aaron’s and R.M. Guera SCALPED. But I hope this type of material can keep interest alive in the genre, because a great Western at its best is nothing more nor less than a fascinating character study of the true nature of man. Usually some poor unfortunate trying not to buckle under the most intense pressures from every angle. A bit like getting the Page 45 mail order out, then…


Buy Bouncer and read the Page 45 review here

Klaxxon (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by Si Spencer & DIX.

Queasy, disorientating horror of hopelessness and helplessness from the writer of HELLBLAZER: CITY OF DEMONS and BODIES, this is set in a suburbia that has been bleached of all colour.

What remains are various hues of mud, from clay to grey to khaki.

The life had been sucked from the area by a parasitic landlord who grins like a lunatic while enfeebling his son.

Two “friends” squat on a Carlisle’s grimy sofa, high on cavity wall insulation which they pick in tiny pieces from a hole behind them. Going out is an anathema to them. They personify inertia.

A young woman called Carole moves in next door with her voluminous mother. There’s something not right. Instead of taking the milk in from the doorstep in the morning, Carole puts it out. There seems to be a surplus.

Against his friends’ explicit wishes and advice Carlisle goes round to greet his new neighbour to see if he can help.

And in the bleak playground across the road, four identical, lank young ladies drop down from the impossibly high swings to crouch on the asphalt like broken-boned gymnasts or ghoulish gibbons.

Then there’s the banging. Then there’s the klaxon…

Okay, so that’s not a review; it’s more of an evocation. It’s a pretty accurate indication of what you’re in for.

Unsettling, to say the least.


Buy Klaxxon and read the Page 45 review here

Fables Comics h/c (£14-99, FirstSecond) by Simone Lia, Tom Gauld, Eleanor Davis, Jaime Hernandez, James Kochalka, George O’Connor, Vera Brosgol, Graham Annable, Roger Langridge, R. Sikoryak, Jennifer L. Meyer, Gregory Benton and more.

Fables: short stories, typically starring anthropomorphic animals, conveying a moral message. Well, if not a moral message then at least useful instructions to guide you through potential pitfalls in life. Aesop’s generally your go-to guy but there are so many more.

The worst are strictly prohibitive affairs: don’t do this or life will spank you, possibly in the nuts. The best encourage you to rethink the immediate or the obvious in favour of a more canny approach and so a positive outcome.

Honesty is the best policy.
Necessity is the mother of invention.
Those in glass houses should grow more greens.
A stitch in time is a temporal anomaly.
He who laughs last is a dimwit.

If you think I’m being irreverent then so is this, while remaining absolutely faithful to its original sources. I think that’s why it works so well: children get to learn their valuable life-lessons while their parents are amused by the detours and departures.

From the stable that brought you the mischief-ridden FAIRY TALE COMICS and NURSERY RHYME COMICS – both reviewed and both best-sellers in our Young Readers’ section – comes an equally naughty new comics anthology from some of our most cherished adult-orientated creators.

Tom Gauld is up early with ‘The Town Mouse And The Country Mouse’ and I love what he’s done with the marginal panels to reflect each environment.

‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf’ by Jaime Hernandez is possibly the most traditional retelling but its message is one of the best: “There is no believing a liar, even when he speaks the truth”. It’s something comics corporations should have learned long ago.


‘The Crow And The Pitcher’ by Simone Lia reminds you that sharing is caring before revealing a top tip in water displacement which might save your life if you’re ever caught in the desert with a well whose water you cannot reach and have a steady supply of rocks handy. You know, on the off-chance.

R. Sikoryak adopts a full-blown George Herriman KRAZY & IGNATZ approach for ‘Lion + Mouse’, right down to the language, while George O’Connor handles three mythical duties with a Hermes that put me in mind of Eddie Campbell. You can always rely on Eleanor Davis for juicy colours and here she presents a wake-up call in the form of ‘The Old Man And Death’.

Jennifer L. Meyer’s ‘Fox And Crow’ couldn’t look more different with its intricate, detailed pencils, its soft and delicate pink, purple and sage green washes and the most dashing fox dressed up in tails.

I count twenty-eight offerings in total from this individualistic bunch which proves, on top of everything else, that variety is the spice of life.


Buy Fables Comics h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Bad Island (£9-99, Scholastic) by Doug TenNapel.

“I’m kind of worried. What are we supposed to do out here in the middle of nowhere?”
“Same as we always do for the kids… pretend like we know what we’re doing.”

Ha, the punchline to that particular parental to and fro is the dad then being completely and utterly unable to light a fire for his family and having to be rescued with a book of matches from mum, much to his chagrin. So, here we have a rather typical nuclear family of dad Lyle, mum Karen, teenage boy Reese and his younger sister Janie. By which I mean they’re only ever one careless word away from it all exploding! Ah, happy families…

Dad Lyle is convinced that what they really need is some quality family time together, it’s just he’s the only one who seems to think taking a boat trip is a good idea. One tropical storm later and our not-so-fantastic foursome find themselves washed up on a most peculiar island. How so? Well, I would say freakish monsters, zombies, skeletons, aliens, giant robots, plus a dash of magic would qualify as peculiar, wouldn’t you? It’s the sort of scenario you might concoct if you mashed about eight different episodes of Scooby Doo up together, and it’s certainly more than enough to keep our reluctant castaways in a permanent state of consternation.

Gradually, though, they start to put the pieces together of what on Earth, and from Outer Space, is happening. By the end they’ve discovered that essential quality for pulling together as a family: gritted teeth! No, sorry, I meant teamwork, of course! But before then there more bizarre island-based escapades to endure than you’ll find in the entire five seasons of Lost before the vacation is over.

Ha, if any budding creators want to understand precisely how you can throw even the proverbial kitchen sink at a story and still pull it all together plot-wise, they could do a lot worse than study this. It’s the fraught family dynamics that really make this work shine though, particularly the relationship between Dad Lyle and young teenager Reese, who is desperate to show his father that he can be trusted and is well on the way to being a grown up. Dad Lyle, perhaps understandably, is so busy trying to make sure his family survives through to the end of each tropically terror packed day, that he’s unable to see how much his son needs his father to just let go a little bit, and trust him…

There’s a little musing for real life thrown in right there, plus given Doug TenNapel has four children himself, I suspect he knows more than a little about how combustible a pastime parenting can be, for all concerned. Another excellent all-ages read to add to the ever burgeoning kids corner of Page 45! We’re going to need to annex half the manga section soon for our cornucopia of teenagers and young reader material, I think!


Buy Bad Island and read the Page 45 review here

Ei8ht vol 1: Outcast s/c (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Rafael Albuquerque, Mike Johnson & Rafael Albuquerque.

If your first impression upon opening a graphic novel is, “Ooooh, look at those colours!” then you’re off to a good start.

Unless it’s in black and white, in which case it’s high time you rethought your LSD intake.

Tones of turquoise form the consistent base on black and white. Throw in butterscotch, bloody red splatters, then lime-green or purple or blue and I was primarily more than impressed, until I realised it wasn’t just a pretty face I was looking at. They’re actually chronological colour codes: the past is in green, the present is purple, the future is blue, whereas the butterscotch Meld “is something else entirely”.

And it is.

It’s a pocket dimension in time into which things fall from the past, the present or the future, often by accident as if caught in some sort of Bermuda Triangle but occasionally by design. Joshua’s been sent quite deliberately from the future into the Meld in order to assassinate The Spear. He’s volunteered in exchange for the scientist’s help curing his comatose wife. Unfortunately he’s lost the majority of his memory and when he tries to communicate with the future using the frequency of 8 he’d drawn on his wrist, he hears instead a woman’s voice urging him to follow the dinosaur: that little critter which has just appeared to his right.

He follows the lizard only to encounter a woman called Nila whose voice is identical to the one he’d just heard, but she’s never seen him before in her life. She’s certainly never spoken to him.

Meanwhile, Doctor Hamm in the present has chartered a plane to fly into a storm he believes will take his team to the Meld. It doesn’t. It takes him waaaaaay back in time and into a period of the past populated by sabretooth lions.

How much more should I tell you? The Spear too has a time capsule which he doesn’t know how to operate and now leads The Tyrant’s soldiers in search of the rebels amongst whom is Nila. Nila’s younger brother has a monkey dressed in a NASA spacesuit, while Nila herself bears an uncanny resemblance to Joshua’s wife from the future.

Will everything connect? Oh yes, with much more to come, including that marking of ‘8’ Or infinity.

It’s not quite as breath-taking as the ridiculous clever and compact time-travel chapter in Warren Ellis’ SECRET AVENGERS VOL 3 or the first season finale of Matt Smith’s Doctor Who, but it’s plenty satisfying, I promise you.

The figure work throughout is rough-hewn but gorgeous, Albuquerque’s animals are thoroughly thrilling, while the elaborately helmed Tyrant looks like he’s drawn by Sir Barry Windsor-Smith – especially his nose, jaw and mouth. Which was unexpected.


Buy Ei8ht vol 1: Outcast s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Codename Baboushka: Conclave Of Death #1 (£2-99, Image) by Antony Johnston & Shari Chankhamma.

“You might think she’s a hero.
“That would be a mistake.”

Doesn’t the cover scream James Bond title sequence at you? We’ll return to that in a minute.

From the writer of UMBRAL, WASTELAND, THE FUSE and its colourist on full art duties here, this a marked departure from Johnston’s other espionage outings like THE COLDEST CITY. As Antony mentions in the back, THE COLDEST CITY’s star “pulls a gun precisely three times, only shoots once, and doesn’t hit a thing”. Baboushka will be shooting, hitting, poisoning and blowing many, many things – and by ‘things’ I mean people.

“I promise you, these earrings are dynamite.”

She’ll be doing so swiftly, methodically and effectively without the art once losing its femininity.

Chankhamma’s faces put me in mind of Kate Brown (FISH + CHOCOLATE, NELSON etc) and she luxuriates in the Contessa’s scarlet high heels, tiered pearl necklace and flesh-coloured dress then throws everything she’s got – just like the security guards – at Baboushka in the field.

What might take a moment to drop like the proverbial penny is that this 80-mile-an-hour action sequence isn’t the main event – it isn’t the titular Conclave of Death which Contessa Annika Malikova is being blackmailed to infiltrate by the American government. The clue lies in the instructions issued by her man-handlers from EON (Extrajudicial Operations Network): do not kill the retiring ex-CIA gun-runner called Felton, but persuade him to sell her his secrets. These are very much on the table for the highest bidder but Felton would never sell to the Americans. He might, however, sell them to the notorious mafiya boss Baboushka if she came out of retirement. Guess which guise Contessa Annika Malikova used to go by back in Russia?

So no, this is not the main event. This is emphatically but a prologue precisely like those James Bond opening action-fests leading straight into the films’ title sequences as Codename Baboushka comes out of retirement in spectacular fashion.

I’m pretty sure it’s going to attract Felton’s attention.


Buy Codename Baboushka: Conclave Of Death #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Paper Girls #1 (£2-25, Image) by Brian K. Vaughan & Cliff Chiang.

I like what Matt Wilson – colourist on THE WICKED + THE DIVINE etc – has done with the faces. The mouths, eyes and brows have retained Cliff Chiang’s black lines while the more subtle shadows round the lips, nose and furrows are gentle, darker tones of the flesh itself.

Apart from the winged apparition of Challenger astronaut Christa McAuliffe in full space helmet and shaggy old Beelzebub torturing Erin’s young sister in her school classroom.

“We warned you… Never eat from the Tree Of Knowledge.”

Dreams, eh?

November 1st 1988 and Erin awakes at 4-40am to prepare for her paper round. She’s got a big stash of cash in her bedroom’s desk drawer next to the keys and elastic-band ball so she’s obviously not doing badly (?) but this morning she’ll have to contend with the teenage detritus of last night’s Halloween so thank goodness for MacKenzie, KJ and Tiffany, three more paper girls who’ve banded together for mutual protection precisely in case of dweebs like these.

They’re going to need it too because, umm, that thing in the basement. Extra constellations in the sky. And three skulking figures wrapped in black linen with far from humanoid pupils. You won’t like what they find underneath. Thank goodness one of the young ladies had saved up enough paper-round money for a pair of walkie-talkies. You remember them…? Oh god, you’re eighteen, aren’t you?

Excellent execution of environment with Cliff Chiang providing scowls, late ‘80s early teen fashion, exquisite figure work, pavement-level perspectives and a sprawling, early morning suburbia with enough trees to make it somewhere you wouldn’t actively hate to live – unless, like MacKenzie, you have the local cops on your case.

Brian K. Vaughan wisely leaves Chiang to deliver most of the explication in the form of evidence around Erin’s bedroom.

Otherwise…? I have absolutely no idea.


Buy Paper Girls #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Doctor Strange #1 (£3-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Chris Bachalo with Kevin Nowlan.

Best single issue of DOCTOR STRANGE I’ve ever read in my life, and the most beautiful. How could it be otherwise from the artist of Neil Gaiman’s DEATH?

Like Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee’s self-contained INHUMANS graphic novel, this has an appeal well beyond its Marvel Comics confines and you need know nothing before its Sanctum Sanctorum. But since we are in the business of beginnings here, let me help you.

Doctor Stephen Strange was once a surgeon.

In a way he still is. It’s just that the cancers he cuts out from infested individuals are now more mystical in nature and often come with a great deal of grumpy attitude, several sets of serrated teeth and breath that stinks of sulphur. But I believe we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

As a highly skilled and sought-after medical doctor Stephen had an ego like nobody’s business until an accident crippled the nerves in his hands. He searched the furthest and most inaccessible corners of the globe for a miracle cure – which is an odd thing to do for a man of science or even basic geometry – and found instead The Ancient One, after which he earned his place as Master Of The Mystic Arts and the Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme.

“The nerve damage never healed properly. My hands still ache and tremble most of the time. Which is why my handwriting is beyond atrocious, even for a doctor.”

Hold on, which Stephen is this? Out-of-control ego…? Atrocious handwriting…?

Anyway, instead of an ego he now has a libido, even when confronted by an insectoid laydee sucking away at the soul of a comatose boy. What does our Stephen Strange do?

“Quietly casting a spell of romantic divination to confirm my suspicions. I think she’s into me.”

Hmmm. I think the ego’s intact.

He cures this poor lad but on his way to a regular meet-up with Doctor Voodoo, Shaman and the Scarlet Witch in a most irregular, sequestered magicians’ bar he is set upon by a gigantic, transdimensional lamprey. Easily dispatched. Easily, but messily.

“Sorry, guys. My last appointment rang a bit long.”
“Sure it did. What was her name this time?”
“Well, as it happens, there was a woman involved, but I don’t think it’s liable to work out between us.”
“Of course it won’t, Stephen. Because you’re a dog. And I say that as a dear friend.”
“Actually, it’s because she’s a soul-eater from the sixth dimension.”

So there’s the soul eaters, the leech and – after a pint down that pub – a woman appears on Strange’s doorstep with irate eyes and a ravenous mouth growing out of her scalp.

“It started a few weeks ago. I thought it was just a rash. Then it grew teeth and bit my hairbrush. I went to the emergency room, but they screamed and threw bed-pans at me.”

Then it explodes in his face.

“When all the birds fly away in a hurry, get ready for a storm.
“So if these are still just the birds…. what the hell is that storm going to look like?”


From the writer of SCALPED and SOUTHERN BASTARDS, I commend this Marvel Comic to you mightily. Chris Bachalo brings you late-summer leaves and trees and a mansion you might malinger outside as well. Within you’ll find exquisite, leather-bound books and I adore what he’s done with the photo-shopped textures for teddybears.

Aaron has learned his HAWKEYE lessons well: if you want to make superhero comics more mainstream with a much wider appeal then sever them from extraneous continuity no one can keep up with, make them fun, full of foibles and a humanity we can all comprehend.


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

Invincible Iron Man #1 (£2-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & David Marquez.

So yes, even though SECRET WARS is far from finished, Marvel have elected to relaunch their brand-new universe on time with –

Oh, of course it’s not brand-new! It’s barely tweaked so its fans will still feel at home, yet everything can be marketed with big “#1”s on the covers.

The good news is this: so far, so good. I’ll be stunned if anything manages to match the knock-out quality of DOCTOR STRANGE #1, but you can rely on Bendis to be brilliant even if he doesn’t appear to have brought anything particularly new to the table yet other than a woman Tony Stark will almost certainly find worth waiting for. She’s not feisty, she’s thoughtful, and I like her already.

She also has a secret which she’s handling very well – with admirable integrity – but hasn’t thought completely through. I don’t think Bendis has done with the X-Men yet.

Marquez is equally magnificent during the quiet, tender moments high above New York City at night – his fashion sense is impeccable – and thrilling at the high-octane action sequences starring someone both Stark and Bendis are well acquainted with.

The cliffhanger implies that SECRET WARS may well have at least one radical ramification. It works very well not as a spoiler but as a “How did that happen?” which should instead intrigue.

Also launched: AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1. This too comes with one change, the return to a much earlier supervillain subplot, plus an excellent joke about Kraven’s nipples.

Also: AVENGERS #0 which sets the stage for half a dozen new titles. A bit messily, to be honest.


Buy Invincible Iron Man #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Walking Dead Compendium vol 3 (£45-00, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard…

There’s probably only one word I need to utter to sum up this entire third compendium of over a thousand pages collecting issues #97 to #144 of THE WALKING DEAD, which is… Negan.

He might be an utterly evil bastard, but he’s undoubtedly the wittiest, smoothest evil bastard to grace the pages of this comic, and practically every other. From the moment he first crosses the path of Rick’s merry band, making quite the… impact (regular readers of the title will know exactly what I am referring to) he’s quickly become the man we love to hate, but also hate to admit we love. He alone took my already considerable enjoyment for this title to such new levels, I ended up reviewing three successive smaller graphic novel arcs, practically unheard of for a title that’s been going this long, which is thirteen years to date! Having reread them, I might as well just reproduce them in full as they sum up the mayhem contained within this brick of a compilation perfectly. Here’s hoping the series continues long enough that there’s sufficient of these compendiums to construct a zombie proof dwelling with…

Walking Dead Volume 18: What Comes After

“Can I say something? I don’t quite understand the hostility in that look. No fucking sir.
“I’m a special kind of person. I don’t fucking rattle.
“You even made me drop Lucille. You have any fucking clue how much she hates being on the ground? She’s like an American flag that way. You just don’t let it happen… it’s disrespectful.
“Still… here I am, friendly as a fuckless fuck on free fuck day.”

In which everyone’s least favourite pinch-hitter Negan continues his reign of terror, enforced only by his sheer force of will, and of course dear old Lucille, his barbed-wire-decorated baseball bat. Scarcely have I ever wanted a fictional villain to get it so, so badly!! The last time was probably The Governor, actually, which all goes to show Kirkman’s horror epic doesn’t show any signs of running out of steam any time soon. What next? A man with a tiger for a pet? Enter King Ezekiel… a man who really has got a tiger for a pet… and who might just be Rick’s best chance at taking out Negan. Somehow though, I can’t quite imagine it’s going to be as simple and straightforward as that.

Walking Dead Volume 19: March To War

“We’re the big swinging dick of this world… have been for a long fucking time… but it seems people are forgetting that.
“So now our big swinging dick is going to swing harder… and faster, until we take off like a motherfucking helicopter and blow all these motherfuckers away.

“SIGH. We’re going to war.”

Ha ha I really can’t see that little speech ever making it into the TV show!! I am so pleased Robert Kirkman didn’t kill off the megalomaniacal Negan almost immediately as originally intended, because he really has been absolute comedy gold. The pained look on his face after his troops just don’t get his motivational message and he has to break it down for them had me giggling on and off for a good hour afterwards. I do love the TV show but the comic is just brilliant right now.

Walking Dead vol 20: All Out War Part 1

“So… today’s the day?”
“How do you feel?”
“Overwhelmed… this is big… bigger than anything we’ve ever done. This is war.”

“You can’t have a war without… casualties.”

Poor old Rick, he always seems to have the weight of the remaining world on his shoulders. Yes, never a series to shy away from killing beloved characters, Mr. Kirkman has decided to up the ante and go all-in for the next twelve issues, six of which are contained within this volume. Well, technically all-out according to the title, but that didn’t work with my poker metaphor.

What next? Rick and Negan doing the all-in, all-out Hokey Cokey mano-a-mano to decide the winner of their private war? I think I saw that in a Kevin Costner film once… More likely, though, is simply the highest body count yet, as both sides conclude peace in their time is starting to look about as likely as a zombie Michael Jackson suddenly appearing to lead the walking dead in a rendition of Thriller. Though, technically, if you think about it, that is possible: he has to be shambling around somewhere…

Pretty surprised Kirkman hasn’t played the celebrity zombie card yet… in fact, maybe like Rick’s weird technocolour alien dream sequence in issue #75, Kirkman’s saving a celeb cameo for the 200th issue… How about a zombie Stan Lee…? Also, remember the tiger? Yes, that tiger which spawned the “Ezekiel has got a tiger” merchandise t-shirts? Not sure if it’s too late to get a refund, but…


Buy Walking Dead Compendium vol 3 and read the Page 45 review here

Star Wars vol 1: Skywalker Strikes (£14-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & John Cassaday…

“Threepio, you worthless rust bucket, you better not have damaged my ship.”
“For once, sir, the Millennium Falcon appears to be in good working order.
“As we hoped, Chewbacca was able to pilot us undetected through the moon’s orbital field.
“At present, the Falcon and I are safely hidden amongst the extensive refuse fields that surround the factory.
“If I may say so, Captain Solo, I do find it rather disconcerting that your vessel continues to be so easily mistaken for garbage.”
“You’ll be garbage if you mess this up, Goldenrod!”

Judging by the myriad reprints required for the issues contained in this first trade since Marvel re-took control, it would seem the appetite for all things Star Wars remains undiminished. It remains to be seen whether such faith is justified on the film front, but I think we can now conclude this run of comics is indeed a worthy addition to the canon. I remember all too well going to see the first of the second trilogy of films and coming away from the cinema probably more disappointed than on any other occasion. Actually, if we’re being honest, Return Of The Jedi wasn’t that great, either. I mean, could they really not have come up with a different plot than another Death Star needing destroying? And Ewoks, sigh, really not that much better than Jar Jar Binks, frankly. And yet, still off I trotted to watch them all…

Anyway… comic readers of a certain age will remember a UK title called STAR WARS WEEKLY, which ran for a considerable period of time immediately after the first film and featured the further adventures of Luke, Han, Leia, Chewie, C3PO, R2D2 et al in various adventures, pursued all the whilst by Darth Vader. It was actually rather good, featuring decent writing by, amongst others, Roy Thomas and great art from the likes of Howard Chaykin. Also, being published as it was by Marvel, it had great back-up strips reprinting classic material such as Adam Warlock, Guardians of the Galaxy, Deathlok and Micronauts. For those of us thirsting for more lightsabre-wielding, blaster-frapping, outer-space wise-cracking antics, it was perfect.

This title is basically yet another extension of that original franchise and cast. Obviously Dark Horse started doing exactly the same thing a couple of years ago with the STAR WARS material penned by Brian Wood. I have no idea whether that now will be considered canon or not. Or any of the other Dark Horse material covering several time periods spanning thousands of years in Star Wars history. Or indeed the original STAR WARS WEEKLY material. Does it even matter, really?

This tale is set almost immediately after the end of the first film. Our chums have a mission to fulfil which naturally involves ridiculous personal and collective peril, implausible hokey plot twists and of course much lightsabre-swishing, blaster-waving and never-ending threats of personal violence directed at C3PO from Han Solo, sick and tired of Threepio’s verbal diarrhoea. They haven’t even waited five minutes to break out the big bad guns either as Vader is back by the end of this first issue, though the clue is in the background of the cover, I suppose, which does indeed make me think it will be much like the STAR WARS WEEKLY run with the continual cat-and-mouse chase of our pals trying to stay one step ahead of Vader, whilst getting neck deep in whatever various near fatal shenanigans the current plot arc throws up.

The humorous dialogue is certainly on point, and after the first somewhat flimsy issue plot-wise, which is basically a throwaway adventure simply allowing every character to be wheeled out to say hello, things start to build up nicely in terms of storytelling. The art, well, for the second time in recent years Cassaday seems a bit stilted and flat, frankly, following on from his three issues opening Rick Remender’s UNCANNY AVENGERS before he left that title. I dunno, maybe it’s just not floating his artistic boat, but it all seems a far, far cry from his PLANETARY days. Strange. I note Stuart Immonen has now picked up the pencils (as with #8) and it is a vast improvement.

Will I continue reading this title? Probably. Will I be daft enough to go see the new film. Certainly.


Buy Star Wars vol 1: Skywalker Strikes and read the Page 45 review here

Darth Vader vol 1: Vader (£14-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Salvador Larocca…

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

‘You Knows I Love You Baby’ – Goldie Lookin Chain

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

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

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

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

Anyway, I really enjoyed this first volume: Kieron does an excellent job of showing Darth does have his own mind and isn’t just the Emperor’s preferred implement of inducing blunt Force trauma. In fact, it’s what the Emperor is getting up to behind his back which is intriguing our Lord of Sith, believing as he did that he was the Emperor’s most trusted and valuable lieutenant. Given the dressing down and demotion he’s just received, being instructed to start taking orders from Baron Tagge (excellent – he was one of my favourite characters in the original run), he decides he needs to chalk up something in the win column, and soon.

Cue a little friendly lightsabre-twirling, telekinetic throat-tickling chat with Jabba The Hut to engage the services of a certain green-helmeted bounty hunter whom he tasks with tracking down the naughty young master Skywalker. That should set the chest lights flashing, I reckon. Great opener with lovely art from Salvador Larroca, you can practically hear the asthmatic wheezing when Darth is glowering at all and sundry.


Buy Darth Vader vol 1: Vader and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Two Brothers (£18-99, Dark Horse) by Gabriel Ba & Fabio Moon

Killing And Dying (£16-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Adrian Tomine

Briar (£8-99, Improper Books) by Benjamin Reed & Chris Wildgoose

Cursed Pirate Girl 2015 Annual #1 (£7-50, Archaia) by Jeremy Bastien

Angel & Faith Season 10 vol 3: United (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Victor Gischler & Will Conrad, Cliff Richards

Death Vigil vol 1 s/c (£18-99, Image) by Stjepan Sejic

Kiss Him, Not Me! vol 1 (£7-99, Kodansha) by Junko

Lone Wolf And Cub Omnibus vol 10 (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Kazuo Koike & Goseki Kojima

Multiversity Deluxe Edition h/c (£37-99, DC) by Grant Morrison & Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Chris Sprouse, Karl Story, Walden Wong, Ben Oliver, Frank Quitely, Cameron Stewart, Marcus To, Paulo Siqueira, Jim Lee, Scott Williams, Sandra Hope, Mark Irwin, Jonathan Glapion, Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy, Keith Champagne, Jaime Mendoza, Eber Ferreira


Page 45 is off to the Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2015 this weekend! Friday 16th October to Sunday 18th. We’ll have creator special guests and graphic novels to make you squeal.

Please come and join us! It’s enormous fun!

– Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews October 2015 week one

October 7th, 2015

Includes Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights Graphic Novel vol 1 adapted by Stephanie Melchior & Clément Oubrerie. New Gregory Bention and Michael DeForge.

Page 45 21st Birthday Party photos below!

Also new this week: The Wicked + The Divine Pantheon t-shirts! We ship worldwide!

From Under Mountains #1 (£2-99, Image) by Marian Churchland, Claire Gibson & Sloane Leong.

Brother Marcellus to his sister Elena about their father from astride his snorting steed:

“Have you asked him about your trip yet?”
“I’m putting it off so I can pretend he might say yes.”
“I’ve been to Menka a dozen times. I don’t see why you can’t.”
“Don’t you?”
“He might let you come along with me in the spring. I’ll bring it up when I get back.”

Marcellus charges out into the sunlit desert beyond the thick-stoned keep.

“Close the gates.”

Conceived by the creator of BEAST (and more recently the artist of 8HOUSE #1) it’s no surprise that this too deals in part with the dismissal of women in a patriarchal society. Here we have one that’s feudal too and that Elena springs from nobility empowers her not one jot, her father seeing no more than a strategically advantages marriage in her future. Judging by this first issue, I’m not sure that the house of Karsgate has much of a future. Their Volan neighbours are encroaching increasingly on Karsgate territory, while the keep itself will be infiltrated tonight by an intrepid young Tova and although she thought she’d be alone in that, she won’t be.

Something else has been set free by a summoning well beyond those walls.

Born of fire and a frenzy of hands under a low red moon, it is both ethereal yet as weighty as the words which have bound it. It is luminous in blue and purple and is given a ceremonial knife…

Claire Gibson’s script is indeed well weighted and nothing whatsoever appears extraneous.

“Every decision you make must have your full attention, no matter how small,” cautions Marcellus’ father and the same could be said of every word Gibson’s written for Churchland’s new series.

As Elena attempts to confront her father on her lack of opportunity to learn through travel, birds flap about the sky, mostly off-panel. There’s quite a lot of Paul Pope in Leong’s faces, while her colours are rich and redolent of the east. A lot of attention has been given from the get-go by Marian herself to the various classes’ costume designs reprinted in the back along with early thumbnail sketches, a great big map and a landscape double-page spread by Brandon Graham.

Plenty more politics to come as the last four pages introduce a new player who’s seen better days but about to be offered a second chance by a council I fear is about to go covert. But to what end?


Buy From Under Mountains #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Smoke (£10-99, Alternative) by Gregory Benton.

Whoa! What a playful, magical, visual thrill!

There’s no skimping on big, bold forms and elemental colours: lots of fire, water, earth and sky here.

There are also some spectacular vantage points like the floor of an open warehouse looking up at its rafters which are being hung with bushels of produce, presumably to dry out.

I love silent, surreal and slightly secretive stories requiring active interpretation, but I don’t recall many that have messed around with the structure of the narrative to quite such clever effect.

Let me see what I can do to intrigue without giving the game away.

Locals are being bussed to a harvest. It’s not a community harvest, it’s very much paid, outside employment. One of two brothers enterprisingly brings a cool box full of bottles which he sells before being encouraged to join in the hot, sticky work.

A billboard and a factory billowing smoke behind the plantation would suggest it’s tobacco, although the consistency of what’s sliced through is more like a cactus and the runny gloop dripping down seems psychotropic to some.

Suddenly the two brothers are not in Kansas anymore and that’s one hell of a skull-faced Toto looming over them. And she or he really does – loom, almost out of the page! But you’ll notice its tail is wagging.

Okay, so the narrative has now split into two threads (which I would suggest are deliberately out of synch) for the brothers are both still very much still back on planet Earth where certain events will be “anticipated” in the dreamscape long before they break out in the warehouse.

I really can’t say any more except that there’s an early clue built on quite quickly as to whether this will wander in the form of something else by the roadside right on page one which is now tattered and torn but still there.

Two tiny details: I loved the pools of water in the black dog’s eye sockets, lapping over one edge like a tear. Then I adored its massive, muscular form friskily shaking its coat dry. It’s such a happy image with bright summer-green grass, thick foliage behind and cold blue water flying everywhere!

Now turn the page!

Impeccable storytelling, far from obvious yet perfectly composed.


Buy Smoke and read the Page 45 review here

Palefire (£8-99, Secret Acres) by M.K. Reed & Farel Dalrymple…

“God, mom, he’s not an arsonist.”
“Sigh. Alison, what will it take to convince you that you are wrong here?”
“How do you know I am wrong? Maybe I’m right and you’re wrong.”
“Oh, you’re starting a new trend.”
“Yes, I’m a cruel bitch for wanting to err on the side of you not being burned alive.”
“I NEVER get to have fun.”
“Yeah, well stop picking things that make me think you’re going to be maimed or killed or sent to jail as fun and that would be a change.”
“You’re totally paranoid.”
“Did he or did he not blow off his brother’s hand?”
“I don’t know, I’m not his biographer.”

Darren did, for the record. Blow his brother’s hand off, that is. With a string of bangers. Now, whether it was deliberate or not is a subject of intense debate amongst the local highschoolers and their understandably concerned parents. Particularly Alison’s mother, who is obviously beside herself at the prospect of local headcase Darren taking her daughter out for a ‘hot’ date…

Actually there is a pretty good chance that frying flesh, total immolation, or a trip to the clink is one of the evening’s outcomes for Alison, for Darren is indeed a firebug. But Alison feels that even despite that, Darren is the pick of the local young suitors keen to take her out. Compared to some of the other weirdoes who will also be at the party they’re heading to – Casey the pot-head space cadet, boring Tim with his jug ears, and dull-as-dishwater, judgemental Paul – she might even have a point!

But once Darren’s explosive temper gets the better of him at the social gathering and the twosome leave for a drive in the woods, you know it’s only a matter of time before the sparks begin to fly…

I am on record several times as stating my long-time love for Faryl Dalrymple art, which all started with a recommendation from Mark to look at the sadly out of print OMEGA THE UNKNOWN, so it was no surprise to me I loved this work. It was a slight surprise to see it uncoloured, as I haven’t seen anything from Faryl au natural before, but it doesn’t need it and it just gave me chance to appreciate the illustrations even more.

Faryl really is a master of subtle facial emotions, which perfectly counterpoint the witty dialogue. The vast majority of this work is based around conversations between different sets of two people, so to have the subtext conveyed so exquisitely is a joy. There is also a great little moment involving eyes, which is an inspired tiny additional conceit, that finally convinces you – because prior to this point I was continually thinking, well, is he or isn’t he? – that Darren is indeed a raging pyromaniac.

I also had a sneaking suspicion it was going to be brilliantly written too, given how much I loved M.K. Reed’s AMERICUS and THE CUTE GIRL NETWORK, and so it proved. The characters – even tropes as some of them inevitably are, given the extremely short amount of time they are in panel – are completely believable. An acutely and painfully well observed selection of teenage life, therefore. My only gripe is this is a novella rather than a full-length novel. I could quite cheerfully have burned through several more chapters of these particular characters! I think M.K. Reed and Faryl definitely should do something else together.


Buy Palefire and read the Page 45 review here

Dressing (£14-99, Koyama Press) by Michael DeForge…

“Can I join you?”
“What are you doing?”
“Waiting for a flirting fish.”
“What’s that?”
“Just a type of fish. They’re a thing here.”

Ha, do you know, I think Michael DeForge might be the uncrowned king of surreal comics, I really do. Yes, Hans COCHLEA & EUSTACHIA Rickheit is right out there ploughing his own dark furrow of oddness, and Jim FRAN Woodring is always able to upset your mental equilibrium, but Michael can seemingly do every genre of fiction, from contemporary, romantic, speculative, fantasy, you name it. All the whilst maintaining the surrealistic flavour with a nonchalance and breezy ease that makes flirting fish, miniature opticians living inside your eyes, transforming into a Martian lifeform, jumping over one billion miles, and a mermaid dating site seem like mere everyday occurrences.

Much like Box Brown’s brilliant recent AN ENTITY OBSERVES ALL THINGS, Michael presents us with a eclectic selection of shorts pulled together from various mini-comics, zines, anthology contributions, each taking a single rum and uncanny conceit as its central premise and just running zig-zag, eyes closed, with it to see where the hell it goes and what walls he bounces off along the way. I’m pretty sure he has absolutely no idea where a story will end up when he starts each one, but boy does it work.

Often the characters are just trying their darndest to live normal lives amidst the maelstrom of mad that Michael is testing their (and our) mental mettle with, but what always amazes me about his work is how much poignancy he manages to weave in. Now, you would think with a story involving flirting fish, it’s not got much potential to tug on your heartstrings, but you would be completely wrong. It doesn’t end well, not for the piscine playa, and certainly not for the unlucky lady.

A quick mention also for Koyama Press who are based in Toronto. In the eight or so years since they started, they have done a fantastic job championing and publishing the works of both emerging and more established creators. Unfortunately we can only manage to get hold of a relatively small selection of their wider output, usually via John Porcellino’s excellent Spit And A Half distribution channel, as only the more well known creators’ works like Michael’s are distributed by Diamond.


Buy Dressing and read the Page 45 review here

Lose #7 (£7-50, Koyama) by Michael DeForge…

Two bites of DeForge-based barmy in a week! The Lose series has always been Michael’s sandbox of insanity where he really lets himself go and experiments to the max. Ironically, this issue, the first of the Lose series in full colour, contains one of his most straightforward stories. For Michael, that is… It’s entitled ‘Movie Star’, an epic 35-pager which is sandwiched between two much shorter, and considerably more surreal stories, that start and finish the issue.

The two shorts are both great, but it’s ‘Movie Star’ which had me utterly captivated. Kim and relatively decrepit Dad, Louis, live a very mundane life in their tiny flat, the highlight being their movie nights when they’ll watch endless action films. Kim is utterly obsessed with her Dad’s likeness, as a young man in old photographs, to the current-day huge movie star, Gregory Tan. Louis doesn’t want to hear anything about it, for reasons he won’t explain to her, but one day whilst Kim is out shopping, he makes a phone call that will change their lives forever…


Which is where matters start to get weird, of course! Kim arrives home to find Gregory Tan sat in her living room drinking beers with her dad, chatting away merrily, just like it was the most normal thing in the world. They are indeed long-lost brothers and the process of familial reconnection begins. But Michael being Michael, it’s not your usual sort of catching up. Kim might just end up wishing she hadn’t kept bugging her dad about Uncle Gregory, not that any of us, let alone Kim, could possibly guess what is going to happen next…


Buy Lose #7 and read the Page 45 review here

Wizards N Stuff (£2-99) by Stanley Miller.

Stanley Miller is 12 years old.

Stanley Miller is a huge Lizz Lunney fan.

Stanley Miller is a mini-comic genius.

Specifically he has harnessed the hilarity of the completely unexpected: of rug-pulling, ninety-degree turns.

“You know the feeling when you wake up and feel good about yourself, it’s a nice day, the sun is shining?
“Now imagine that feeling but from the perspective of an elastic band.”

There is a four-panel gag here whose punchline made me laugh louder than any other in comics, in which a parent coaxes her or his baby to open wide for the next spoon of goo. Oh, you know how it’s done! “Open wide!” etc. Please clear your own orifice of any food or drink before reading.

If I reproduced that strip which I’ve found online you would all buy this mini-comic in an instant, but it’s very much the highlight, so no.

Being a Lizz Lunney fan I think you’ll know the sort of stripped-down simplicity you can expect from the art with wibbly-wobbly arms and the most basic of shapes – something Miller mirthfully, knowingly plays with in ‘What Are They?’ Your guess is as good as mine and almost as good as Stanleys.

‘And Now To The BBC’s News Teams Where You Are’, on the other hand, is a cut out + keep collection of TV journalists from Huw Edwards to Nick Robinson, each of whom is immediately recognisable.

It’s completely nonsensical, obviously. All of this is. Though I will be play much closer attention from now on to teeny-tiny fairies just in case they’re carrying a great big bazooka.

Each cover is hand-coloured in felt-tip pen so colours will vary.


Buy Wizards N Stuff and read the Page 45 review here

Material vol 1 (£7-50, Image) by Ales Kott & Will Tempst.

A tired and disillusioned professor questions the merits of modern life – how we’re spending so much time with machines that we’re becoming like them. A student objects and his daughter – via Skype – tells him she’s pregnant. At which point his computer begins to engage with him too.

A visionary director reaches out to a washed up, self-sedated actress for his next, largely improvised film. The studio seeks more commercially viable and quantifiable slants than ten sheets of blank script but the director is determined that the film will be both about and by the actress. Surprisingly it turns out she does have a mind of her own.

A fifteen-year-old boy standing passively at a protest march carrying the hand-written placard declaring “I cannot breath” is arrested, detained and questioned. On release, while babysitting, he discovers a pamphlet about The New Black Panther Party.

Seven months after being liberated from Guantanamo detention centre an innocent man finds he can no longer relate to his family or even touch his doting dog whom he played with as a puppy. They used dogs on him in the prison camp. Waterboarding too. He never hurt anyone, nor planned to hurt anyone. But the only thing which arouses him now is being held down and hurt.

As with Kot’s ZERO, CHANGE, WILD CHILDREN and THE SURFACE, this is so unapologetically intelligent that it takes more than a single read to take in, and I’m still not entirely sure how these four scenarios except that lives are being changed. Rebellion seems to be on the cards.

Each is given two colour-coded pages at a time on a nine-panel grid, lending it a clarity I’m enormously grateful for. The art is direct, thin-lined and brittle. That bit about the dog really got me.

A synopsis is not a review, it’s true, so consider this a story about a story or a sales pitch. I bought it.


Buy Material vol 1 and read the Page 45  review here

Northern Lights: The Graphic Novel vol 1 (£12-99, Doubleday) by Philip Pullman, Stephanie Melchior & Clément Oubrerie.

I am the most enormous fan of Clément Oubrerie and the humanity he brought to AYA: LIFE IN YOP CITY and AYA: LOVE IN YOP CITY, those two sparkling comedies of family antics set in Africa you could comfortably log under Behavioural Studies, and the more recent biographical PABLO (Picasso).

I’m also the most enormous fan of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy which I found commendably iconoclastic.

This is the first third of the first book in which we find young Lyra growing up as the only child within the traditional, rarefied, patriarchal confines of Jordan College, Oxford. A wild spirit who refuses to be contained by class or gender, Lyra’s best friend is kitchen boy Roger and they’re emphatically not above spending time with the gyptians – nomadic families often persecuted by the authorities who roam Britain’s waterways – even though she fears that feisty Ma Costa hates her. Feisty Ma Costa has bigger things on her mind: her son Billy’s gone missing, presumed abducted by the Gobblers. No one has seen these so-called Gobblers because no one’s seen an abduction, but there are an awful lot of children missing now and someone close to home will be next.

Lord Asriel, Lyra’s uncle, visits Jordan College with a discovery from the frozen north: chemically treated, photographic slides which he claims proves the existence of a substance called Dust, news which is greeted as heresy. Then there’s another side showing something more spectacular than the Aurora Borealis itself: an ornate classical city with vast spires glowing blue… from another dimension.

Having survived an assassination attempt within the college cloisters, Lord Asriel heads north again and whereupon chic Mrs Coulter inserts herself slyly into Lyra’s life. It is agreed by her guardians at Jordan College that Lyra needs female company and should be educated from here on by Mrs Coulter, in London where she is fêted by the very highest echelons of society as a great explorer. Lured by the prospect of adventure and initially enthralled by the novelty of Mrs Coulter’s seemingly anti-establishment, educational, inspirational, liberating and empowering ways, Lyra soon wishes she’d listened to her dæmon’s instincts for all, as they say, is not what it seems.

The scope of the trilogy is enormous and will embrace many more perspectives than you’ll expect. Seeing it from the other side is an extraordinary experience.

The above’s but a slither and this is where we hit the problems, I’m afraid, for this loses a lot in translation.

The adaptation is so truncated that huge leaps are made and at times it stops making sense. If I hadn’t read the original I would be wondering, for example, why Lyra was in such mental and physical anguish when Mrs Coulter’s pet monkey grabs Lyra’s pet polecat and Lyra grabs her own throat as if staving off being strangled.

Nowhere has it been explained that these aren’t just talking pets: that these are familiars, shape-shifting dæmons, that every human grows up with one and that a strong symbiotic link which must never be severed is shared between human and dæmon. That will prove ever so slightly important later on.

The dialogue was never one of the trilogy’s multiple fortes yet that’s all that’s left: gone is the immersion in Lyra’s mind she desperately tries to interpret the world around her; you are no longer sharing her journey but watching it from the outside.

Where it succeeds is in Oubrerie’s external and internal architecture evoking an Oxford and London very familiar yet ever so slightly removed.

Also, you’re left to spot Mrs Coulter’s golden monkey making a much earlier appearance than you might at first expect.

And if this adaptation lures in reluctant readers and proves sufficiently intriguing for them to venture towards the original novels, then I think they’ll be instant, lifelong converts to prose.


Buy Northern Lights: The Graphic Novel vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Cardboard (£9-99, Scholastic) by Doug TenNapel…

“I have the best, most amazing, and utterly stupendous gift in the history of the universe… but I’m saving it for a really good kid.”
“My son is a pretty good person, Mr. Gideon. He takes after his mother.”
“Then you must give him what every son wants from his dad…”
“Gideon, this is an empty box.”
“Empty? It’s full! Full of ideas… projects… adventure!”
“He does like to make things.”
“Now you’re getting it! Make a submarine, a monster, a train! It sure beats the heck out of some dumb ol’ hundred-dollar, remote-controlled car! To the naked eye, it appears to be just a plain old cardboard vessel! But this is actually a father-and-son project in disguise! Slay the giant! Kill the Nazis! Hunt for buried treasure! It’s up to you! No, this is not just a box! It’s everything mankind ever needed to accomplish pressed into a cube of corrugated pulp!”
“Okay, okay! How much?”
“The price is right there on the lid.”
“Seventy-eight cents! That’s the exact amount of change I happened to pull out of the pocket!”
“Huh. What a coincidence.”
“Wait! There are rules!”

Cam’s dad, Mike, recently unemployed and still grieving the loss of his wife, can’t afford to get Cam a decent birthday present. Well, any sort of present, actually. When he stops at a roadside stall he finds himself being talked into buying a cardboard box as a gift by the manic Mr. Gideon. He’d make a good comics retailer I suspect, Mr. Gideon! But Mike is going to wish he’d paid more attention to the rules, though, oh yes. Even though there are only two rules… One, he has to return every scrap he doesn’t use. Two, he can’t ask Mr. Gideon for more cardboard.

Cam really is a lovely kid, and totally appreciates his dad just hasn’t got any money to buy him a present. Marcus, the neighbourhood jerk, however, whose parents just spoil him completely, spotting Mike bringing home the box and putting two and two together, thinks it’s absolutely hilarious.

But Cam and Mike, determined to make the best of it, spend the night having great fun constructing and painting a cardboard boxer, with only a few scraps left over afterwards. They’re more than a little surprised though, when they wake up in the morning to find the cardboard man has come alive! So is Marcus and, suddenly more than a little jealous of Cam’s gift, he gleefully soaks the paper pugilist with water causing him to start to disintegrate. Told you he was a jerk!

What follow are some frantic attempts to patch the boxer up with the insufficient leftovers, plus a frantic but futile plea to Mr. Gideon who reminds Mike of the rules. Yes, those pesky rules. But suddenly Mike has a brainwave! What if they built a magic cardboard-making machine with the few remaining scraps?!! It’s crazy, sure, but any more crazy than a cardboard man coming alive in the first place?! Cue one prize-fighter beating the count, back on his feet, and Marcus is more consumed with envy than ever! After Marcus then manages to steal the magic cardboard-making machine and lock himself away in his bedroom to begin the process of industrialising cardboard, and therefore magic cardboard monster production before anyone can stop him, well, you know it’s all going to get very seriously out of hand…

Ha, ha, I loved this work from Doug TOMMYSAURUS REX TenNapel. It’s a great take on the hypothetical nightmare apocalyptic ‘grey goo’ scenario which more than a few scientists are seriously worried about should we ever build self-replicating robots. It has that necessary heart and charm though, that the most preposterous of stories require to carry them right through to the end as the bonkers level escalates! For whilst you start off thinking this is Cam’s story, he really is just the straight man which everything bounces off.

In fact it turns out to be his dad’s and also nemesis Marcus’ stories that will tug on your heartstrings. Can Mike finally move on from mourning his wife and find happiness in the arms of the beautiful next door neighbour who is absolutely crazy about him, and just as frustrated with him? And can confused and lonely Marcus finally stop being such a jerk and find redemption, forgiveness and perhaps even friendship? Assuming the world isn’t completely consumed by a near-infinite rampaging horde of cardboard monsters that is… But then there’s a certain boxer who just doesn’t know when he’s beaten who might have something to say about that!


Buy Cardboard and read the Page 45 review here

Mouse Guard Roleplaying Game h/c (£25-99, Archaia) by Luke Crane & David Petersen.

It’s ba-aaaaack!

320-page hardcover, illustrated throughout with some lovely scenes of pastoral tranquillity and danger, which sits beautifully by the till right next to the lush-as-you-like ART OF MOUSE GUARD 2005-2015 oversized hardcover.

Here’s Petersen:

“Luke Crane was masterfully able to take the things about MOUSE GUARD that are important at its core, and mould his Burning Wheel roleplaying system around them. His fresh techniques cast off the idea of characters driven by statistics and lucky rolls of the dice, and focus on true character building.”

The dice aren’t gone, though – Lord, but that way lies anarchy! Self-determination! Arguments! – for you’ll need, says Crane, about 10 six-sided dice, two to six people, some pencils, paper and a copy of this book bought from Page 45 (apparently no other copies will work half as well).
I have absolutely no idea what to tell you about this because I haven’t a clue about role playing unless it’s playing the role of a rapacious retailer but it really does look brilliant. The ‘Denizens of the Territories’ chapter was fascinating. Mystifying, but fascinating. There are Apiarists (“SKILLS: Apiarist 5, Loremouse 3, Queen-Bee-wise 4” – what does that even mean?!), Archivists (“TRAITS: Nocturnal 1”), Beetle Wranglers (“CIRCLES: 4” – are circles good?) Brewers (I’m sticking with them), Charlatans (I think I am one of them!), Muscles (I don’t have many of them), Politicians (I’m seriously considering it) and what I’d have thought was all your standard fare clearly defined in tables of stats.

Then there are the Weasels and other wild animals like Bullfrogs, Crabs, Crows, Great Horned Owls, Newts, Snakes (various), Porcupines and, err, Wolverines. Maybe that was inevitable. Anyway, they all have their own traits and I imagine you’ll stumble on them from time to time in your micely manoeuvres. It’s exactly the same size as the MOUSE GUARD volumes and printed on quality cream paper that’s been given an aged effect with some exceptional design work completely absent from books like the MARVEL ENCYCLOPAEDIA.

Sorry if I haven’t done a very good job of selling this to you. If one of you buys a copy (from us, remember, or you’ll probably end up eaten by newts in the first few throws) feel free to send us a more informed review – and a couple of paragraphs on one of your adventures. We’ll stick it up on the website and everything!


Buy Mouse Guard Roleplaying Game h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Bitch Planet vol 1: Extraordinary Machine s/c (£7-50, Image) by Kelly Sue DeConnick & Valentine De Landro

Bouncer (£29-99, Humanoids) by Alexandro Jodorowsky & Francois Boucq

Cindy And Biscuit vol 1: We Love Trouble (£10-00, Milk The Cat Comics) by Dan White

Darth Vader vol 1: Vader (£14-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Salvador Larocca

Deadly Class vol 3: The Snake Pit (£10-99, Image) by Rick Remender & Wesley Craig

Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor vol 2: The Weeping Angel Of Mons (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Titan) by Robbie Morrison & Daniel Indro, Elenora Carlini

Drawn Onward (£3-99, Retrofit / Big Planet) by Matt Madden

Ei8ht vol 1: Outcast s/c (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Mike Johnson & Rafael Albuquerque

Fables Comics h/c (£14-99, FirstSecond) by various

Ghost Cat’s Pedigree Chums (£5-00, Ripe Digital) by Craig Conlan

Hilda And The Troll s/c (£7-99, Flying Eye Books) by Luke Pearson

Injection vol 1 (£7-50, Image) by Warren Ellis & Declan Shalvey

Jim Henson’s Dark Crystal Creation Myths vol 3 h/c (£18-99, Archaia) by Matthew Dow Smith & Alex Sheikman, Brian Froud

Jupiter’s Circle vol 1 s/c (£7-50, Image) by Mark Millar & Wilfredo Torres, Davide Gianfelice

Klaxxon (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by Si Spencer & DIX

Lumberjanes vol 2: Friendship To The Max (£10-99, Boom Box) by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis & Brooke A. Allen

Meanwhile #4 (£4-95, Soaring Penguin Press) by Gary Spencer Millidge, Darryl Cunningham, David Hine, Mark Stafford, Yuko Rabbit

Outcast vol 2: A Vast And Unending Run s/c (£10-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Paul Azaceta

Silent Hill Omnibus vol 2 (£18-99, IDW) by Tom Waltz & Steph Stamb, menton3, Tristan Jones

Sky In Stereo (£13-50, Revival House Press) by Mardou

Star Wars vol 1: Skywalker Strikes (£14-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & John Cassaday

The Comic Book History Of Comics (£16-50, IDW) by Fred Van Lente & Ryan Dunlavey

The Story Of My Tits (£22-50, Top Shelf) by Jennifer Hayden

Uber vol 5 s/c (£14-99, Avatar) by Kieron Gillen & Daniel Gete, Canaan White

Upside Down Book 2: A Hat Full Of Spells (£10-99, Top Shelf) by Jess Smart Smiley

Walking Dead Compendium vol 3 (£45-00, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard

Astro City: Private Lives s/c (£12-99, Vertigo) by Kurt Busiek & Brent Eric Anderson

Batman Eternal vol 3 s/c (£29-99, DC) by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV & various

Batman: Road To No Man’s Land vol 1 s/c (£22-50, DC) by various

Convergence h/c (£22-50, DC) by Jeff King, Scott Lobdell, Dan Jurgens & Ethan Van Sciver, various

Brian Froud’s Goblins h/c (£16-99, Abrams) by Brian Froud

Dragon Ball 3-in-1 Edition vols 28-30 (£9-99, Viz) by Akira Toriyama

Final Fantasy Type 0 vol 1 (£9-99, Yen) by Tetsuya Nomura, Hiroki Chiba & Takatoshi Shiozawa

Hideyuki Kikuchi’s Vampire Hunter D vol 7 (£10-50, DMP) by Saiko Takaki

Spice & Wolf vol 11 (£9-99, Yen) by Isuna Hasekura & Keito Koume

Sword Art Online: Progressive vol 3 (£9-99, Yen) by Reki Kawahara & Kiseki Himura


Page 45 celebrated its 21st Birthday with a great big signing last Saturday starring Simone Lia (FLUFFY, PLEASE GOD FIND ME A HUSBAND) and Hannah Berry (BRITTEN AND BRULIGHTLY, ADAMTINE).

To all those who came, thank you very much!

I know it looked like I’d taken them to a pre-signing soccer match but actually we were strolling into town via the river and the canal, the crowd caught up with us and we just… went native!

So then we had an all-night booze bash with a prize raffle draw hosted by our Jonathan,  I ventured into half an hour of stand-up comedy recounting bits of Page 45 history we’ve never revealed before…

… and rather than go for a conventional birthday photo, we opted for a Charlie’s Angels approach.

Left to right: Dee, Jodie, Emily (back for the party after seven years away) and Jess. Below: myself and J45.

Lastly, look at this lovely: an original Simone Lia painting given to me after the party! I am a very, very lucky boy!

– Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews September 2015 week five

September 30th, 2015

In which an ancient Neil Gaiman project is resurrected for the first time in over 21 years. Also: SANDMAN: OVERTURE #6 is out this week!

Wild’s End: The Enemy Within #1 (£2-99, Boom) by Dan Abnett & Ian Culbard…

“Mr. Cornfelt, I have little liking for the current trends in the genre. I am a man of science. Everything I write is based upon rigorous speculation as to what might be conceivable in terms of scientific fact.”
“Well, indeed, but…”
“I believe the extrapolation of science is the cornerstone of science fiction. Informed speculation, sir. Your prose is very fine, sir, but it is your content…”
“My, uh, content?”
““Scientific romance” is a poor cousin of the genre, and sadly seems to appeal to the masses. To call it science fiction tarnishes the credibility of proper science fiction.”
““Proper science fiction? ” Sir, I take offense… ”
“Then take it, Mr. Cornfelt. What you peddle is fanciful juvenilia.”

Ha ha, I suspect Lewis Cornfelt and the somewhat acerbic Herbert Runciman, both very successful in their <ahem> respective fields, are going to be my two favourites in this second series of the anthropomorphic homage to the War of the Worlds. The first series, very shortly to be collected, WILD’S END VOL 1: FIRST LIGHT, was already chock full of colourful characters, most of which survived the aliens’ failed attempt at establishing a beachhead on Earth, and they also make their return as our two literary giants arrive at the village of Lower Crowchurch.

They believe they’ve been invited to be speakers at a literary conference, but in fact the army, who have quarantined the area and managed to prevent word getting out to the world at large, are quietly trying to assemble people who might have some ideas, any ideas, however outlandish, regarding alien life, which means the most pre-eminent minds on the subject are, of course, science fiction writers…

The army has also quarantined our heroes from the first series: the doughty Mr. Slipaway, grumpy recluse Susan Peardew, Alphred the piglet who saw his mother so spectacularly turned into pork scratching in the first series, Mr. Minks and sly old Fawkes the Fox. Mr Minks has a theory that the army are worried the aliens could be shapeshifters, which makes all of them suspects. Contrary to the military opinion, though, our heroes believe that the world needs to know about the first invasion as soon as possible, forewarned being forearmed. Simply because the army would have zero chance of preventing a full-scale assault from the technologically advanced aliens. And so our heroes decide to mount an escape which is where shifty Mr. Fawkes is going to come into his own…

What a brilliant opening issue! Sometimes you don’t realise just how much you’ve missed something until it’s back again. Just like death-dealing invading aliens, obviously! The new major characters including the otherwise severe sci-fi fangirl Warrant Officer Upton are all hilarious additions. The bumptious Brigadier (a deer obviously) Winterbottom in particular has some excellent scene-stealing one liners and putdowns. So far, however, the aliens are very conspicuous by their absence… Which, whilst I initially thought Mr. Minks’ theories were a tad paranoid, has now set me wondering…

Lovely art as before from Ian. It’s the facial mannerisms of the various characters that crack me up. He definitely seems to be adopting a slightly finer line these days. Also, it amused me greatly that Mr. Runciman and Mr. Cornfelt are a cat and dog respectively. No wonder they don’t get on! I’m expecting more fur to fly between these two as the series continues!


Buy Wild’s End: The Enemy Within #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Tommysaurus Rex (£8-50, Scholastic) by Doug TenNapel.

What an unexpectedly moving little book with the most gigantic co-star!

I am, I concede, quite easy to reduce if not to tears… then at least to swallowing hard in a bid to stave off such embarrassing soppiness when it comes to films, TV shows and graphic novels. However, pets are going to hit me where it hurts, particularly if the pet gets hurt, and sure enough within the first few pages young Ely’s beloved dog lies six feet under.

To try to mitigate his son’s distress, Dad sends Ely to stay on his grandfather’s farm.

“I thought you said I was too young to go work for Grandpa!”
“When a boy loses his dog he gets a lot older,” replies Dad with perception.

There Ely stumbles first upon a bully and then upon a living, breathing and improbably cute T-Rex, drawn in beautiful Bill Watterson fashion (see CALVIN & HOBBES). The beast is loyal, playful and stupid but also, unexpectedly, petrified of fire. Why? Well, there’s a great sequence later on involving real or genetic memory (depending on where you think the T-Rex came from), in which fire sends our Tommysaurus Rex into another blind frenzy as the reader sees what the dinosaur sees in its mind’s eye: flaming meteors and lava.



It’s an all-ages coming of age story in which Ely learns the painful extent to which a pet may prove both tenacious and loyal (those last dozen pages really put me through the wringer – I’m such a big boy’s blouse!), plus the nature, power and true value of forgiveness.

The bully’s well evoked and his portrayal well judged: he really pisses you off, then you begin to understand why he does what he does… and then he pisses you off even further. As bullies do.

There’s a cameo by Ray Harryhausen (he of stop-motion film fame) and those final forest-fire scenes are nothing short of blistering, particularly the light playing on the big lizard’s form.

Doug’s cartooning is an expressive joy throughout, his T-Rex top notch, and I’d surmise from the greatly improved reproduction that every page has been reshot. The blacks are now black rather than a grainy grey so that the inverse silhouettes are crisp and clean greatly enhanced by the new colours which are rich and warm and thrilling. It’s like the whole thing’s been reborn.



Jeff Smith, creator of BONE and RASL gave this a big thumbs-up, as did Guillermo del Toro.

P.S. Sorry the interior art is a bit wonky. I could only find two early images in colour online, so had to photograph these myself, holding the book open and at the only angle which would minimise a reflective shine on the paper. Worth it, though. Aren’t the colours fabulous?


Buy Tommysaurus Rex and read the Page 45 review here

Fires Above Hyperion (£10-99, NBM) by Patrick Atangan…

Now, both Stephen and myself were sufficiently intrigued by the strapline amongst the publisher blurb which read, “Imagine if Sex And The City were written by a gay Charlie Brown” to get this in. Having read it, I have come to the conclusion the most apt Peanuts analogy is when Lucy keeps offering to hold the American football upright for Charlie Brown to kick, despite his protestations that he knows she is going to whisk it away, which, sure enough she does every time, sending him flat on his back.

That rather appears to be the theme of this work, in which the author seemingly contrives to find himself involved with, or trying to be involved with, people who just are not marrying material. There has to come a point when you would think – and  as the creator comments, “One day I woke up and realised I had been dating for twenty years. Twenty years…” – that you’re simply going about it all the wrong way.

Which ought therefore to be the source of some darkly rich comedic material, and it is, to a degree, but I did find it a touch “o, woe is me” in places. Much like Sex And The City, thinking about it. There is a definite distinction between self-deprecation and touting for sympathy, and I do think this strays into the latter, albeit fractionally.

Anyway, what is fantastic about this work is the art. It very, very strongly minded me of Shag, whom we used to have the odd art book of, and if you want to see his work to make the comparison you can do so at his website, This has a very similar style of illustration and warm palette, and it does create a very cosy feel to the proceedings. Disturbed only by Patrick’s awkward attempts at social couplings!

Something else that work extremely well in this instance, which I’m not normally a fan of, is the complete absence of speech bubbles. Instead the text is simply placed at the top of each panel. It works, probably because 99% of it is narration rather than conversation, with the odd bit of reported speech. It really lets the poster-style art stand out and shine through. The pedant in me feels compelled to inform you I spotted not one, not two, but three spelling errors. So a minor slap on the wrist to the editor for proof reading with their spellchecker turned off… Possibly a disgruntled ex- of Patrick’s getting the final misspelt word in…


Buy Fires Above Hyperion and read the Page 45 review here

Free Country: A Tale Of The Children’s Crusade h/c (£18-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman, Jamie Delano, Toby Litt, Alisa Kwitney & Peter Gross, Peter Snejbjerg, Al Davison, Chris Bachalo…

“Mostly grown-ups don’t notice you.
“Mostly grown-ups don’t notice other people’s children anyway. I mean they see us, but they don’t see us. We walk in their blind spots.
“When you’re dead it’s just more so.”

My memory of this material from the first time around in 1993-1994, (when I was buying comics from Stephen and Mark in their pre-Page 45 days!) is that it was a rather discombulated affair; that whilst all the individual parts were rather enjoyable, it just seemed a somewhat… uneven read. The introduction from Neil Gaiman, therefore, explaining how this most unlikely crossover came about and how it all subsequently came together, of a fashion, was a most illuminating explanation. In short, pretty much all of the creators involved felt the same way about the finished whole. Thus it was never collected into one book, until now.

What I didn’t realise, until again Neil enlightened me, was that this edition has been substantially reworked by Peter THE UNWRITTEN & LUCIFER Gross and Toby Litt, to create a whole new bridging middle section and open out the final third. The result is something wonderful: a real testament to energy, enthusiasm and talent of the creators who helped to build that wonderful Vertigo imprint without any sort of road map in those early days. So what we now have is a complete, flowing narrative with a very defined structure that works perfectly as one book.

As Neil says, he’s still not entirely convinced that Vertigo all those years ago was the right time and place for a crossover. I think he is right, it does still feel like the various characters of the Black Orchid siblings, Tefe (the offspring of Swamp Thing), Maxine (Animal Man’s daughter) and Timothy Hunter have been somewhat shoehorned in, but you don’t mind because it is always lovely to see appearances by them, and they do provide some fun and frivolity in what is actually a very dark tale about the disappearance of an entire village of children.

So you can’t compare this, say, to Neil’s seamless epic Vertigo- (and DC)-spanning THE BOOKS OF MAGIC. You can definitely still see the joins here but, if you are prepared to overlook those and appreciate the endeavour, it is well worth it for there are some wonderful moments in here. The Dead Boy Detectives, Charles Rowland and Edward Paine, hired to investigate the disappearances by a distraught sibling, are the stars of the show. Their naive otherworldliness, born of a different time, made me chuckle on several occasions. In many ways, this reads like one of the more esoteric arcs of SANDMAN, or THE UNWRITTEN, you can definitely see both Neil’s and Peter’s hands in here, plus also a dash or three of dark Delano. I would be intrigued to know whether certain lines of dialogue or narrative were penned by Jamie. I have a sneaking suspicion I can pick some of them right out.

It’s possibly one for completists, this, or just those with very fond memories of the early days of Vertigo. It certainly made me reminisce and wish that that they hadn’t let the imprint go to seed in recent years. It’s a decision that looks stranger and stranger with every decent new Image title that comes out.


Buy Free Country: A Tale Of The Children’s Crusade h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Y – The Last Man Book vol 3 (£14-99, Vertigo) by Brian K. Vaughan & Pia Guerra.

Gripping premise in which everyone on the planet in possession of a Y chromosome haemorrhaged in an instant. Now every male on the planet is dead except escape artist Yorick and his pet monkey, Ampersand. What happened and why?

I love a premise you can précis so succinctly.

From the writer of SAGA, EX MACHINA, PRIDE OF BAGHDAD etc come a series whose ramifications have been so well thought through as I explained in our review of Y – THE LAST MAN BOOK 1 so if this is new to you I suggest you start there.

Y – THE LAST MAN originally ran for ten shorter volumes now being repacking as thicker books so if you want the thicker editions look for “book” on our site rather than “vol”.  This collects vols 5 and 6.

Here’s Dr. Mann who can explain things in much longer words than I:

“For the last few months, I’ve been looking for an external source that allowed both you and your pet to escape whatever killed all the other males. Environmental exposures, your nutritional intake, shared fucking belongings, whatever… I’ve been insanely careful to study your biological samples independently, in order to isolate whatever the x-factor might be. But then it hit me, what if one of you is the x-factor? What if an internal variable somehow shielded both of you.”
“So… you think I’m what kept Ampersand alive?”
“No, I think he’s what kept you alive.”
“Oh. Wait. Huh?”
“I finally started combining different samples from you two, and observing the reactions with immune electron miscroscopy. At first there was nothing, but then I used purification immune adherence hemagglutination, and ran those results through microtiter solid-phase -”
“Doc, when I tried to build one of those baking soda volcanoes for the second-grade science fair, I nearly blew off my own testicle. Is there any chance we can dumb down the technobabble about a thousand percent?”
“It’s a bit like the trivalent antitoxin I doped you up with to protect you from any further exposure to botulism…but on a much different scale. When I compared your altered cells to my male embryonic specimens that were destroyed during the genderside, I founds yours synthesized proteins differently than -”
“Something inside of Ampersand masked you to the effects of the plague.”
“Inside? Then… how did it get inside me? ‘Cause if you’re accusing me of blowing this thing…”

She’s not. So what did save Yorick and how did it get inside him? It’s got a great punchline. And rather a pungent smell.

So. Having trecked across an America populated by militant, self-styled “Amazons” (amongst whose number is Yorick’s own sister), communities of escaped prisoners, warring intelligence agencies, rogue factions and a thespian outfit, Dr. Mann thinks she’s found the answer and therein a potential longshot of a solution: Ampersand himself – or at least the bits he likes to fling across the room.

But the monkey’s manky biological by-products have gone missing along with Ampersand himself, so Yorick, Agent 355 and Dr. Mann have to follow the trail of his abduction across the Pacific to Japan where they find themselves in a war between smugglers and a trigger-happy Australian navy. Plus, those are very small cabins, so who knows what will happen?

Also: Yorick’s sister’s back, she’s armed to the teeth, and she has Agent 355 in her sights. She’s not the only one.

The strengths of this series lie in Vaughan constantly thinking up new ramifications of the gender fallout, and Yorick’s vulnerability which he masks under a veneer of banter. Being a much earlier work than SAGA and EX MACHINA that banter’s not as polished, I concede, but it begins to really hit its stride. The twists are all here, though. *zips mouth tightly shut*

Pia Guerra’s art is sympathetically soft and gentle, her characterisation ensuring a sense of the ordinary so grounding these individuals within the extraordinary that envelopes them. Even Agent 355 – she’s very much an individual human being who once learned to knit. There’s plenty of downtime spent lounging on beds in jim-jams.

Don’t think this means there aren’t sequences so harsh you won’t wince, but when one of our posse picks up a great big sword, for example, they don’t transform into the ultimate warrior unless they already are. They’re shown to be precisely who they are: someone unused to wielding a sword in self-defence.

Finally, for the moment, and this is a thing: people’s hair grows. It gets messed up. It gets tied back or otherwise tidied up. It gets cut. Honestly, look around you: this happens, and so it does here.


Buy Y – The Last Man Book vol 3 and read the Page 45 review here

Something At The Window Is Scratching h/c (£13-99, Titan) by Roman Dirge.

Richly coloured version of a 15-year-old tweeny-goth black and white classic from what was then a hugely popular sub-genre which Page 45 christened “Cute But Dead”.

It will come as no surprise to anyone that LENORE Roman Dirge is an enormous Tim Burton fan and, just like Burton’s THE MELANCHOLY DEATH OF OYSTER BOY, this a collection of illustrated nonsense rhymes in the vein of Edward Gorey’s earlier AMPHIGOREY antics which I adore.

On each left-hand page you’re given a brief burst of verse; on the facing page, a cuddly moment of mock-macabre art which is undeniably lovely.

You can call it ”inspired” by Burton if you like… or you can be a little less charitable because titles like ‘The Guy With A Thing On His Head’ and ‘Pear Head Man And Bread Boy’ are so similar to Burton’s own silliness that they verge on copyright infringement.

‘Pear Head Man And Bread Boy’:

“Nature did not have a plan
when it created
the Pear Head Man.
He had one friend
who was made of bread,
but the birdies ate him.
Now he’s dead.”

Oh, I don’t know. Maybe the transparency’s a virtue.


Buy Something At The Window Is Scratching h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Orphan Black (£14-99, IDW) by John Fawcett, Graeme Manson, Jody Houser & Szymon Kudranski, Alan Quah, Cat Staggs…

“I don’t think the study…”
“No, you don’t think. You leave it up to the people who actually know how. Like it or not, you’re a tiny cog in a machine, the importance of which you can’t even begin to comprehend.”

Now, I will confess at this point, I haven’t seen the titular TV show. I know our Dominique is a huge fan, as are several customers whose televisual tastes I do trust quite implicitly. So I have therefore been trying to work out exactly how this material fits in with the show. As far as I can see, it isn’t new material per se, more a slightly expanded retelling of certain major characters’ stories and the main plot points from, I think, the first season.

I suspect therefore this work is intended as a primer to get new people, comics fans, into watching the show, rather than a companion or continuation work like, say, the excellent SERENITY graphic novels. I do question precisely how wide an appeal this gives it, I would have personally thought brand new material aimed at people who love the show would have been a better approach.

It is, however, excellent speculative fiction penned by the creators of the show and, having read this, I am now determined to watch the show! The basic premise is that a group of scientists calling themselves Neolutionists, operating out of the Dyad Institute, undertook an illegal human cloning programme some thirty years ago which proved very successful indeed. The resultant clones, all of one woman, are being now covertly monitored by people strategically inserted into their very different lives. There is a wider next phase of the plan hinted at, hence the monitoring.

Some, however, have worked out that they are clones and begun to communicate with each other. One, a con artist called Sarah, has taken on the identity of another, a policewoman called Beth who committed suicide in front of her. There is also a cult-like religious organisation called the Proletheans who somehow know of the clones and, viewing them as aberrations, are determined to eliminate them all. That their chief assassin is one of the clones is merely a further level of intrigue.

From what I can gather, it seems like the show features a different clone week by week, with the story of recurring important characters and groups also being developed, and this comic series follows the same premise with each of the five issues being titled after a different clone. It is extremely well written and the art is competent enough, but nothing to get excited about.

[Editor’s note: I respectfully disagree. I’ve only seen these two pages but – middle tier below aside, and I liked that too – I think they’re pretty decent stabs at Tony Harris circa Brian K. Vaughan’s magnificent EX MACHINA.]

The show and comics do also raise some genuinely interesting questions surrounding the moral implications of human cloning. Because let’s not kid ourselves if we seriously think that various nations around the globe aren’t undertaking precisely such research in direct contravention of the global treaty banning it. I think only an idiot would seriously believe the various superpowers and their militaries aren’t conducting human cloning experiments on the quiet. So perhaps this isn’t quite as speculative a premise as one would initially think…


Buy Orphan Black and read the Page 45 review here

Flash: Season Zero s/c (£14-99, DC) by various.

Comic I’ve not read tied into a TV series I’ve never seen, but I thought it worth mentioning that this is, improbably, collects all twelve issues.

All twelve issues coming in at little more than a quid each! And only a couple of weeks after the release of the last one.

FAQ: I have no idea how publishers price their collected editions. There seems to be little rhyme or reason to it other than, at times, what they think they can get away with. Certainly there’s no consistency in terms of page count.

I do love that almost every first volume published by Image is just £7-50, though: that’s a very attractive entry point and shows confidence in their material – confidence that you’ll enjoy the first book enough to come back for the second.

There, I think I’ve typed enough paragraphs to fit the cover art in.


Buy Flash: Season Zero s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Wizards N Stuff (£2-99) by Stanley Miller

Bad Island (£9-99, Scholastic) by Doug TenNapel

Becoming Unbecoming (£14-99, Myriad) by Una

Cardboard (£9-99, Scholastic) by Doug TenNapel

Dressing (£14-99, Koyama Press) by Michael DeForge

Ghostopolis (£9-99, Scholastic) by Doug TenNapel

It Will All Hurt #2 (£5-99, Study Group Comics) by Farel Dalrymple

Lose #7 (£7-50, Koyama Press) by Michael DeForge

MAD’s “Original Idiots” Complete Collection Slipcase Edition (£33-99, Mad Books) by Wally Wood, Jack Davis, Will Elder

Material vol 1 (£7-50, Image) by Ales Kot & Will Tempest

Mouse Guard Roleplaying Game h/c (£25-99, Archaia) by Luke Crane & David Petersen

Northern Lights: The Graphic Novel vol 1 (£12-99, Doubleday) by Philip Pullman, Stephanie Melchior & Clement Oubrerie

Palefire (£8-99, Secret Acres) by M. K. Reed & Farel Dalrymple

Rachel Rising vol 6: Secrets Kept (£12-99, Abstract Studio) by Terry Moore

Showa 1953 – 1989: A History Of Japan vol 4 (£18-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Shigeru Mizuki

Smoke (£10-99, Alternative) by Gregory Benton

Arrow Season 2.5 s/c (£14-99, DC) by Marc Guggenheim, Keto Shimizu & various

Batman vol 6: Graveyard Shift s/c (£12-99, DC) by Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo

Moon Knight vol 3: In The Night s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Cullen Bunn & Ron Ackins, German Peralta

A Silent Voice vol 3 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Yoshitoki Oima

Fairy Tail vol 50 (£7-99, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Vinland Saga Book 6 h/c (£16-99, Kodansha) by Makato Yukimura


Will return next week, hopefully.

Here’s a preview: I’ll have been teaching comics in Kendal and you will have missed Page 45’s 21st Birthday Party on Saturday 3rd October including our all-night booze bash after the magnificent Simone Lia & Hannah Berry had been Signing & Sketching for free!

You won’t really, though, will you? You’ll have been here with us all day long!

You are so loved!

– Stephen x

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews September 2015 week four

September 23rd, 2015

Includes signed bookplate ed of NO MERCY VOL 1 by Alex De Campi & Carla Speed McNeil with Jenn Manley Lee! Just £7-50!

News section below features Simone Lia, Tom Gauld, Jon Klassen, Dave Sim, Page 45 history, banned books, creator survey and family fun at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2015! Oh yes, and Page 45 21st Birthday Party Reminder with Simone Lia & Hannah Berry signing!

The Fade Out vol 2 (£10-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips with Elizabeth Breitweiser.

Period prime crime from the creators of CRIMINAL and FATALE, set in the city of secrets and lies.

“Charlie doesn’t notice. He’s already being pulled back under the waves.
“He’s written a dozen murder pictures, or parts of them, at least…
“But all he’d been thinking about the past few weeks is who could’ve murdered Val…
“He’d forgotten to ask why.”

He’d forgotten to ask why.

Poor Charlie – he’s so driven he’s distracted. Clues are now surfacing in the most casual of conversations and Charlie’s finally beginning to piece some of them together with earlier hints he’d previously missed that Hollywood has been far from healthy. We’ve all heard of the casting couch but some abuses of power are even worse than others. Yet not every secret, however vile, is a motive for murder and I myself am beginning to look in another direction as well…

In Page 45’s review of THE FADE OUT VOL 1 I write extensively about the fantasy and lies of Hollywoodland – of the writing and the acting and the myth-spinning slights of hand.

They’re lying professionally before they’ve begun to be truly mendacious, but at Victory Street Pictures they’re all of them at it, even screenwriter Charlie. For that and the set-up please see THE FADE OUT VOL 1 but basically this:

It’s Los Angeles, 1948.

Charlie woke up in a bungalow in Studio City built to keep stars close to the set. The night before is an alcohol-induced mystery to him, but there’s a lipstick kiss on the bathroom mirror that reminds him of a smile, the smile leads to a face, and that face belongs to the woman lying dead on the living room floor.

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

As for Gil, it’s going to make Charlie’s old friend, mentor and covert co-writer very angry.

Unlike the CRIMINAL books which are all self-contained, this extended series allows room for Brubaker to examine relationships in richer detail. Gil and Charlie’s co-dependent career ties them inextricably together. Gil has been blacklisted while Charlie’s lost his literary spark so the former dictates to the latter. This could make them allies for they both seek the same thing, albeit searching in different directions. But since both abuse booze for different reasons – Charlie for oblivion, belligerent Gil for release – they’re set on a collision course instead. What one does will inevitably impact upon the other but, as I say, they’re not working together: Charlie doesn’t trust Gil to act rationally, with restraint; Gil doesn’t trust Charlie to act at all.

Actual plot points I’m steering well clear of. We don’t do spoilers around here. But, boy, there are some pretty brutal (if strategically brilliant) scenes of intimidation and one huge misstep when intimidation gives way to condescension.

The recasting of Valeria Sommers with the similarly styled Maya Silver – and the subsequent reshooting of the film – allows Brubaker to examine the worst of Hollywood and its interminable, often last minute rewrites ruining what was originally inspired. It’s cleverly done with the film’s eloquent and affecting first shoot recalled, immediately juxtaposed by the second lacklustre effort.

As to Phillips, an early morning beach scene gives him a rare opportunity to show what he can do in full sunlight rather than the twilight or midnight he normally resides in. Here the lines unfettered from their shadows are unusually crisp, smooth and delicate. Lit more lambently still by Breitweiser with a palette of sand, green and aquamarine and the sea becomes almost irresistible.


Both their endeavours enhance what is a similarly rare stretch of innocent play free from subterfuge. Of course, that would also be the perfect time to lob in an equally innocent question and a guileless answer which will nonetheless send your mind spinning back to THE FADE OUT VOL 1 then right through volume two again.

Because Charlie remains haunted by Valeria there are also some scenes depicting both actresses. Maya was cast partly on account of her striking similarity to Val but thanks to Phillips you couldn’t mistake one for the other for a second, either on the beach or on set. Maya is beautiful, talented, intelligent and caring; so was Val but her deportment is instantly recognisable as far more experienced, confident and – there’s no other word for it – classier.

For further history and its emotional complications between Charlie and Gil you’ll have to wait for THE FADE OUT VOL 3. Or not, for THE FADE OUT #9 which follows straight on from this very volume is on sale right now.


Buy The Fade Out vol 2 and read the Page 45 review here

Ruins (£19-99, SelfMadeHero) by Peter Kuper…

“Look, Sam, I understand why you’re upset… I know you want a child, and my resistance is a huge disappointment.
“My logical mind just tells me this crowded world doesn’t need another soul.
“Maybe it’s the margarita, but I’m tired of being logical… so let’s get back to the room!”

“Oh Sam!”
“Oh George!”
“OH NO.”
“What? What’s wrong??”

Oh George indeed. I think while our unhappily married couple are, ahem, in flagrante delicto might be one of the very few times we see Sam smile. There might be a couple of other occasions, but certainly not in George’s company. I think perhaps for Sam the phrase ‘marry in haste, repent in leisure’ is highly appropriate, having picked solid, dependable entomologist and aspiring artist George whilst on the rebound from a then pretty traumatic period in her life.

I won’t state precisely what occurred to Sam as that is gradually revealed to us over the course of her story, which she narrates to us through the book she is working on, but suffice to say she feels that bringing new life into the world is the only thing that will ever make her feel whole again. George, meanwhile, having lost his job cataloguing insects at the Museum of Natural History in New York isn’t remotely keen on starting a family, and is simply now drifting along somewhat morosely. He seems uncaring about his wife’s precarious emotional state, though to give him the benefit of the doubt he’s perhaps not aware of the extent of her sadness. But he’s quite determined that having a child is not the answer. To his problems, at least…

Their extended holiday to Oaxaca, Mexico, whether they’ve verbalised it or not, is very much perceived by both as a make or break trip. Even once they arrive though, they’re like ships that pass in the night, fluent Spanish speaking Sam keen to explore, interact with the locals and experience the culture, whilst working on her novel. Whereas the rather more reticent and monolingual George is seemingly just content to do some bug spotting with his camera and browse the local book shop run by an expat, whilst getting freaked out by barking dogs, speeding cars, well, pretty much everything.

Thus they both find themselves developing friendships with rather different characters, the vacation that was supposed to bring them back together only serving to give them more reasons to grow even further apart. Sam is befriended by a charismatic local artist who’s keen to show her his… artwork, and George by a bitter, alcoholic, former photojournalist who is as at much of a crossroads in his life as George is. His solution to everything, which he exhorts George to try, is Mezcal.

As the building social unrest in Oaxaca finally comes to a head, much like the tension in George and Samantha’s marriage, with striking teachers being tear-gassed and baton charged and indeed shot at by the local police, our duo find themselves dramatically thrown back together in the heat of an extreme, bloody and traumatic protest march.

But the question remains whether too much damage has already been done to their relationship for it ever to be truly repaired. A trip out to the ruins of Mitla then a butterfly sanctuary, where our duo are unwittingly reunited with a butterfly that has migrated all the way from their own starting destination (and I was surprised by a most unexpected three-page fold-out), to escape the deaths and devastation wrought by the protest, are almost certainly their last chance to make it work together.

Ah, Mr. Kuper, I have been waiting for this graphic novel for almost exactly twenty years since Mark recommended STRIPPED to me, which I absolutely loved. He has done some other bits and pieces which have been published since, but I have always felt he had a piece of really spectacular long form mainstream fiction in him, and finally it is here. Peter does state in the afterword that much of this graphic novel is inspired by the two years he spent living in Oaxaca with his wife and daughter between 2006 and 2008. I’m suspecting (and hoping) he means the authentic look and feel of the backdrop and characters, rather than marital strife! Knowing his talent for autobiographical material it doesn’t surprise me that he’s leaned heavily on his own experiences to create such a rich, vibrant setting for this work.

The dynamic between the two main characters, seemingly almost unrelated passengers in the same narrative only tenuously connected by dint of their matrimony, creates all the tension required to generate a compelling story, particularly when set against the social strife in the otherwise sleepy town. I was very satisfied indeed by the ending – or I should perhaps say endings – which is as complex as the duo’s relationship, but makes perfect sense for all concerned.

The metaphor of the butterfly, as we also follow the tagged one on its own long journey from New York to the sanctuary of Mexico, serving as short chapter breaks between Samantha and George’s story, is an entirely appropriate one. For there is indeed a metamorphosis occurring. And much like the caterpillar transforming into a hard, rigid chrysalis, what then emerges, unfettered and free, is completely different from what it was before, despite it being the same creature.

When we talk about creators’ works over long periods of time, we often talk about their art developing. Actually stylistically, Peter’s has stayed much the same, but that’s a wonderful thing. I can see the way he has drawn certain characters, holding a cigarette or taking a drink, and it’s exactly how I remember it from STRIPPED. It’s a quite distinctive style. In the black and white form, as most of STRIPPED was, it will almost certainly make you think of woodcuts. (Actually, I remember him illustrating a book called WORDLESS BOOKS: THE ORIGINAL GRAPHIC NOVELS by David A. Berona that was all about the woodcut novels of the early twentieth century.)

Coloured, it loses that association completely, partly because he has pencilled differently, with a considerably thinner line, but the style of illustration is still very apparent. His palette, and I actually mean this as a compliment, seems to be composed entirely of the few strong, distinct colours you’d find in a kid’s crayon set. It’s probably perfect for the bright light of the Mexican climate, and you can practically feel the sunshine splashing off the markings on the butterflies’ wings. I really hope this work is a huge success for him, and it spurs him on to get a follow up out sooner rather than later.


Buy Ruins and read the Page 45 review here

No Mercy vol 1 (with bookplate signed by Alex, Carla & Jenn!) (£7-50, Image) by Alex De Campi & Carla Speed McNeil.

Straight fiction so contemporary it will cut you.

From the creator of FINDER and the writer of SMOKE / ASHES, something completely different lobbed lovingly onto our shelves.

I now provide you with several paragraphs of complete misdirection but only in the spirit of the first chapter itself which comes with a jaw-dropping, whiplash moment hinted at on the cover which will change everything for those who survive it. And for those who don’t.

The sun is up, the sky is blue, it’s beautiful and so are you!

Princeton University sent out a call to its eager, hyper-achieving new students for a pre-freshmen trip to build much needed schools in Central America. After four years struggling to be model Ivy League applicants they were practically preconditioned to accept. Now they have landed, it is a bright and sunny, aqueous-blue day and they are texting, tweeting and grinning away like nobody’s bright-and –bushy-tailed business!

“So here we are, all present and accounted for. (Though Tiffani hasn’t been totally present anywhere since she got her first iPhone.) … Tiffani?”
“Squeeee! Nun!!!”

Consider the Nun pic.twitter’d.

The nun greeting and shepherding the kids, however, is far more concerned with practicalities and her reaction to the unexpected arrival of a tenuous relative intent on boarding their hired bus is ever so slightly ominous.

Oh, this is so well set up! Alex De Campi nails late-teenage interaction and its naivety when it comes to the presumption of safety and recourse abroad purely based on American or British citizenship. Some of them may have issues with one other – particularly the twins – but on the whole it is seems on the surface to be big, broad grins with Carla Speed McNeil lighting up their eyes as these young strangers get to know and enjoy each other’s company.

Truly this is an adventure and the prospect of a trip meandering high above this undiscovered countryside – although painfully long and without toilet facilities – is just another part of that thrill. One amongst them, Travis, is a seasoned traveller in India. He’s so impressively worldly-wise, eco-friendly and resourceful when it comes to being freegan that it’s sickening.

But even Travis is going to find what comes next almost impossible to grasp and those smiles will be wiped off their jejune faces in a catastrophic instant which is agonisingly teased out across five tortuously tense pages as time expands, the bus almost collides… and they’re all sent careening over the precipice.

Now they’re in trouble: more trouble than they can conceive of.

Half of them are dead and most of the rest are mentally fractured. Some have broken bones – specifically broken leg bones – and so cannot move. They are 20 miles from the nearest minor town. Their gleefully worshipped and overworked, high-tech mobile phones have no signal. Their one source of local knowledge, Sister Innes, is so damaged that she’s drifting in and out of consciousness.

“This is – This is – not good territory. We have, we have to leave here at once.”

As night falls, it’s not just the coyotes she’s talking about, and everyone is about to behave very, very badly. Some will be rash, some will be brash and although some will be kinder and more resourceful than others (especially deaf Antony), some will be downright nasty. I’d watch out for those twins.

Alex De Campi has thought this all through: what the young people would pack, how they’d react (short-term self-indulgence rather than long-term survival is rife) and then there are toilet issues for those who can’t stand. There’s quite the cliffhanger too.

(That wasn’t it. It would have worked for me, though! Such a clever composition, the punchline both bottom right and out of sight.)

What an exquisite and witty free bookplate, designed by Jenn Manley Lee and signed by all three! Bless you to bits, Jenn, Carla and most emphatically Alex for sending us enough to keep our customers lucky for the book’s first month at least.


Buy No Mercy vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Tokyo Ghost #1 (£2-99, Image) by Rick Remender & Sean Murphy…

“Davey Trauma.
“A psychopathic narcissist and millennial nostalgist who got his mind trapped in the net.
“As soon as we grab one o’ his geeks, Davey shuts them down.
“The world’s a video game to Davey. He can control anyone with a nanopac in’em.
“Meanin’ everyone.
“Everyone except me. Straight edge perks.”

Rick Remender seems to be on a one-man mission to demonstrate the many possible flavours of speculative and science fiction these days. After his turns doing comedic / weird:  BLACK SCIENCE, post-apocalyptic / aquatic: LOW, plus super-heroic: UNCANNY X-FORCE, UNCANNY AVENGERS, and even his CAPTAIN AMERICA: CAST AWAY IN DIMENSION Z involved Steve Rogers being castaway into a dimension where time travelled at a far faster rate to our own (possibly meant metaphorically as well as literally as he did adopt a child whilst there. I feel like I have spent considerable time in Dimension Z, wearing out and aging rapidly, over the last four years since Whackers was born…), he’s now crafted something that is straight-up cyberpunk.

The year is 2089, the location the Isles of Los Angeles. Society has most definitely polarised even further between the haves and have-nots, to the degree that the streets are basically one big floating cesspool of humanity, tranquilised on cerebral implants pumping out endless entertainment programmes directly into their vision, and nano-tech continuously adjusting and maintaining their emotional states, and even their physical appearances. All at a punitive financial cost, of course.

That vicious cycle of consumption, addiction and consequent fiscal slavery is not the worst of the population’s problems right now though, at least for the duration of this issue. No, that would be Davey Trauma. When Constable Debbie Decay says the world’s a video game to him, she’s not kidding. To Davey, the Isles Of Los Angeles right now is like his own personal Grand Theft Auto as he goes crashing, smashing and spree-murdering his way to fame and high score glory. Davey has his own twisted gaming rules though, such as not taking control of Debbie’s police partner, and lover Led, who is practically catatonic  in real-world terms, being utterly addicted to, and permanently immersed in the virtual world, plus superjacked up on steroids, bone growth stimulators, adrenaline and various other physical enhancers. He’s not above taunting her about the fact he could, though, or with his theories about why she’s involved with Led. Ouch.

You can see this series is going to be as much about Debbie and Led’s peculiar relationship as the central conceit of technology warping the behavioural mores of the individual and wider society. In fact our bipolar duo are just about to be given a mission that will take them to the last straight edge country on the planet: The Garden Nation of Tokyo. For Debbie that’s her idea of heaven. As for how on earth Led will cope getting back to basics and living the good life like Felicity Kendal, well, I guess we’ll find out in issue #2!

I have commented before that Rick’s artist cohort on BLACK SCIENCE, Matteo Scalera has a style very similar to Sean Murphy. I do wonder if the choice of Sean for this title is based entirely on Rick’s personal artistic preferences? Plus I’m sure he saw the speculative fiction gold Sean wrought with his own PUNK ROCK JESUS. Combined with the choice of Greg Tocchini for his aquatic artistic endeavours on LOW, messers. Jerome Opena and Daniel Acuna on the Uncanny X&A material, plus Romita Jr. doing a damn fine and trademark distinctive Cap’n A., I can see Greg really seems to appreciate an artist that stands out from the crowd.

Here Sean’s typically dense use of ultra fine myriad parallel black lines and complex detailing is perfect for rendering the frenetic hyperspeed streets and angular lunatics of the not so Angelic Isles. Intrigued to see what his take on the hopefully more tranquil and presumably a tad more salubrious well swept streets of the Garden Nation of Tokyo will be like!


Buy Tokyo Ghost #1 and read the Page 45 review here

The Dharma Punks (£18-99, Conundrum) by Ant Sang…

“Did you know that Buddhists believe that after we die, we’re reborn again?
“That this could be you or me next time around.
“I dunno… maybe it’s a comforting thought that we never truly die…
“That if we really screw up, at least we get another chance.”

What I loved about this angsty coming of age story set in New Zealand, 1994, is that it is completely and utterly believable. A group of teenage punks are simultaneously perilously close to being sucked into some seriously hardcore ‘social activism’ that’s far more… explosive than they realise and getting battered by the local chapter of ‘White Front’ skinheads. Set over one long night it has the feel of a screenplay written for a low budget, independent film. The characters and the story, therefore, have the punch and power of, say, a Romper Stomper and there are some incredibly violent moments, racially motivated, which are as uncomfortable and disturbing to read as anything in that particular film.

Happily, though, this is a story revolving primarily around a group of decent kids, who whilst they might be struggling to come to terms with the world and their place in it, indeed whether they can even cope with being in it, aren’t advocating kicking people’s heads in and hurting them. In particular there’s Chopstick, a rather sensitive soul who, unsurprisingly given his self-appointed nickname, is of Asian descent. He’s become deeply interested in Buddhism, studying the Dharma (Buddhist teachings) and practising meditation over the course of the last year. All since a founder member of their group of friends left extremely abruptly, an event which greatly unsettled him because, like most teenagers do, they all thought their little world was going to last forever.

No wonder these troubled teens are easy recruiting fodder for Jugga, an intimidating Maori running a local crew of anarchists with plans to disrupt the opening of a local branch of a national fast-food chain restaurant. The kids have been given the task of planting a small homemade firebomb made from weedkiller which will destroy the premises during the grand opening without hurting anyone. Well, that’s what they’ve been told by Jugga. The truth is rather different.

Fortunately for Chopstick, at the time he’s meant to be planting the bomb, he’s off gallivanting with a mute girl, whom Chopstick thinks he’s rescued from jumping from a local bridge and well known suicide spot. Unfortunately for Chopstick, and unbeknownst to him, the White Front are hard on his heels armed with an assortment of weaponry to avenge a slight he’s perpetuated on a member. If he somehow escapes that little lot, then he still has the psychotic Jugga to deal with!

It’s a testament to the writing that the violence and action, when it arrives in short staccato punctuating bursts, is very much secondary to the real story, that of Chopstick’s fraught journey from tender youth to fully fledged dharma punk, free to finally make his own decisions, not hamstrung by the events of the past or fear of the future. There’s a saying in Buddhism that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Often the teacher is not who you would expect, and so it is here.

The art contributes enormously to the appeal of this work for me too, with a powerful, heavy black and white illustration style. There are a lot of close-up talking head shots, which are clearly a strength of the creator. Again, consciously or otherwise, they certainly add to that art house film feel. Even the appearance of the ghost of Kurt Cobain, which as a device is incorporated extremely well into the work, and I think put into the context that this work is set in 1994 and Chopstick’s own musical predilections, which do earn him some scorn from his more hardcore friends, is rather appropriate.

I do have a minor gripe with the mixed message given out by one of the characters that Buddhism is akin or close to nihilism. Admittedly when you reflect upon the particular character that is making these assertions – once you know the whole of their story – it is explicable, probably even a deliberate conceit. I’ve just seen too many real-world essays by those wishing to denounce Buddhism for their own ends, stating that it is a nihilistic faith purporting that life is meaningless, when in fact the exact opposite is true.

So it always concerns me slightly when I perceive there is a potential for dissemination of misinformation in that direction. I’m quite certain Ant Sang wouldn’t want this, either. I’ve no idea whether or not Ant is a practising Buddhist, but I suspect so, given the appropriate quotations that form each chapter heading, so I think I’m just going to have to accept this is a personal issue and let it go! Whether Chopstick can let all of his issues go, plus avoid the cross-section of nutters gunning for him, and get his enlightened happy ending, is an entirely different matter…


Buy The Dharma Punks and read the Page 45 review here

When Anxiety Attacks (£7-99, Singing Dragon) by Tieran Koscik…

“Hi, I’m Tieran.
“I live in Portland, Oregon with my best friend.
“I’m a software engineer.
“I make comics.
“I also regularly visit a therapist to talk about anxiety.
“But it wasn’t an easy decision to start going.”

From the publishers of the excellent PAIN IS REALLY STRANGE comes another medical missive, again on a subject we can I’m sure all relate to. For whilst not all of us might have been gripped by anxious thoughts and feelings to the degree that we are unable to function normally, whatever that is, being crippled by doubts and insecurities we simply cannot shake, we’ve all undoubtedly had the odd moment where our blood pressure shoots up and tension grips us in a vice-like state. I certainly observe the symptoms in Stephen every month as the PREVIEWS deadline approaches with all the inevitability of the tide rolling in towards a man stranded on the beach wearing only a pair of concrete wellingtons…

So, I thought this might be an exploration of what causes anxiety and which techniques can be applied to ameliorate or even extinguish the symptoms entirely. And it is to a degree. But whereas PAIN IS REALLY STRANGE is presented from an objective, entirely empirical perspective of cause and effect, this is most definitely Terian’s subjective experience of both anxiety and her attempts to obtain relief from it through therapy. So a personal memoir then, rather than a scientific analysis. With a topic as amorphous as anxiety though, talking about one’s own experiences anecdotally is probably as an empirical based approach as it gets.

Terian’s art style is definitely inspired by Scott McCloud in his UNDERSTANDING COMICS mode, albeit somewhat looser, adopting that talking head, breaking the fourth wall style which Darryl Cunningham uses to such great effect in his PSYCHIATRIC TALES (and also SCIENCE TALES and SUPERCRASH).

This is an extremely well intentioned comic, in which Tieran wants to impress upon people that engaging in therapy really doesn’t have to be something to be so… anxious about. And whilst sufferers might always experience relapses and recurrences and crushing cul-de-sacs of doubt and despair, there is almost certainly no such thing as being ‘fixed’. In fact, thinking of mental matters in those terms is probably not particularly helpful.

I don’t see this comic breaking any new ground in the presentation and exploration of mental wellbeing, or the lack of it, but it’s always nice to have positive affirming stories for those going through the maelstrom to understand that they are most definitely not alone.


Buy When Anxiety Attacks and read the Page 45 review here

Heart In A Box (£10-99, Dark Horse) by Kelly Thompson & Meredith McClaren.

In which a young woman called Emma gets her heart-broken by a two-timing cad, retires to bed potentially for life but is coaxed out again by her best friend, Xan.

On her first evening out on the town, however, it’s still all too much and she wishes she didn’t even have a heart to feel all this pain. One consultation later with a mysterious stranger and Emma has no heart – it has been dispersed. Blessed relief!

“I’m glad for you Emma,” says the enigmatical ‘Bob’. “Here’s my card, in case you should need anything.”
“You have a mobile phone?”
“I’m not a savage, Emma.”

Of course Emma swiftly realises that feeling nothing at all is even worse than the rollercoaster ride that is the gnawing, gut-grinding feeling of rejection and betrayal tempered by the kindness of friendship. So she summons ‘Bob’ only to discover that all but a slither of her heart has been redistributed to six more souls in need of it. If she wants to feel whole again she’ll need to steal them all back by stealth or more… lethal means. And she’s given a box to put them all in.

Artist Meredith McClaren you may know from HINGES which she both wrote and drew and indeed coloured to perfection: fabulous sense of cool, clean light which I described as Optrex for the eye. The folds in the clothes and clumps of hair are equally sensual here but I’m afraid it’s far more cluttered and the clarity’s impeded by chaotic colouring which often erodes rather than enhances the forms.

But that’s not my chief problem with the book. Although the dialogue dances gaily enough in places, the rules and logic and execution of her quest – who actually has her pieces of heart, why they would need them, when they acquired them and what she must do to retrieve them – don’t make sense. On top of that Emma herself is so inconsistently compassionate and dispassionate and outright vicious that she’s neither credible nor likeable, and you wouldn’t have a best friend like Xan if you were prepared to beat your ex’s new girlfriend to a pulp.


Buy Heart In A Box and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Free Country – A Tale Of The Childrens Crusade h/c (£18-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman, Jamie Delano, Toby Litt, Alisa Kwitney & Peter Gross, Peter Snejbjerg, Al Davison, Chris Bachalo

Y – The Last Man Book vol 3 (£14-99, Vertigo) by Brian K. Vaughan & Pia Guerra

Avatar Last Airbender vol 10: Smoke And Shadow Part 1 (£8-50, Dark Horse) by Gene Luen Yang & Gurihiru

BPRD Hell On Earth vol 11 – Flesh And Stone (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi & James Harren

Orphan Black (£14-99, IDW) by John Fawcett, Graeme Manson, Jody Houser & Szymon Kudranski, Alan Quah, Cat Staggs

Something At The Window Is Scratching h/c (£13-99, Titan) by Roman Dirge

The Hellboy 100 Project s/c (£9-99, Dark Horse) by 100 amazing artists

Amazing Spider-Man: vol 5 Spiral s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Gerry Conway & Carlo Barberi

Black Widow vol 3: Last Days s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Nathan Edmondson & Phil Noto

Loki Agent Of Asgard vol 3: Last Days s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Al Ewing & Lee Garbett

The Punisher vol 3: Last Days s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Nathan Edmondson & Mitch Gerads, Moritat, Brent Schoonover

Judge vol 5 (£8-99, Yen) by Yoshiki Tonogai

Judge vol 6 (£8-99, Yen) by Yoshiki Tonogai

Mobile Suit Gundam Origin vol 11: Cosmic Glow (£22-50, Random House / Vertical) by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko

One-Punch Man vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by One & Yusuke Murata

One-Punch Man vol 2 (£6-99, Viz) by One & Yusuke Murata

Skip Beat vol 35 (£7-50, Viz) by Yoshiki Nakamura


ITEM! Interview with Simone Lia on the creation of FLUFFY and so much more! Stuff even I didn’t know there!

REMEMBER! Simone Lia & Hannah Berry will be signing and sketching for free at Page 45’s 10th Anniversary Booze Bash on Saturday October 3rd!

ITEM! From the creator of GOLIATH and YOU’RE ALL JUST JEALOUS OF MY JETPACK (includes the below), Tom Gauld’s Tumblr features page after page of satirical strips and culturally informed cartoons

ITEM! Important Guardian survey if you work in the arts, culture or creative industries. Comicbook creators, have your voiced heard.

ITEM! Bristol comic & zine fair on Saturday October 3rd But you’ll be in Nottingham for our 21st Birthday Party, won’t you?

ITEM! From the creators of SAM & DAVE DIG A HOLE, this (in text): Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen in conversation about the creation of SAM & DAVE DIG A HOLE.

ITEM! You won’t believe which books are banned and challenged in the USA. Or why. BONE! MAUS! PERSEPOLIS! Prehistoric! Let’s not learn anything!

ITEM! Retailers! The UK’s Avery Hill Publishing and the USA’s Retrofit Comics announce a transatlantic deal so that each publishers’ comics are readily available in the other’s country!

ITEM! A Moment Of Cerebus archives Page 45’s Dave Sim interview about GLAMOURPUSS, my article on JUDENHASS and Dave’s tribute to our beardly beloved Mark. Left to right at the top: Gerhard, Dave Sim, Mark. Underneath? That’s me in the corner…

ITEM! So many family-friendly events and workshops creation cool comics at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th October!

REMEMBER: Page 45 is at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th October 2015 with gorgeous graphic novels for sale and Page 45 Guests Signing & Sketching For Free (linked to their websites):

Jon Allison, Dan Berry, Jonathan Edwards, Sarah McIntyre, Felt Mistress, Philip Reeve, Jade Sarson, Richard Short, Emma Vieceli


– Stephen