Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews September 2015 week three

September 16th, 2015

Comedy legend Kate Beaton rides again with STEP ASIDE, POPS! Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples return with SAGA VOL 5 . Plus: Alan Moore, Becky Cloonan, Maggie Thrash, Mark Millar, Sean Murphy, Jeff Lemire, Dustin Nguyen, Gabriel Ba, Vasilis Lolos, Fabio Moon, Ryan Heshka and a cracking adaptation of an Anthony Trollope novel.

Step Aside, Pops – A Hark! A Vagrant Collection (£12-99, Jonathan Cape) by Kate Beaton.

Inspired, iconoclastic and infused with a lot of lateral thinking, I rate Kate Beaton right up there with Tom Gauld (YOU’RE ALL JUST JEALOUS OF MY JETPACK) for culturally informed comedy.

Her first collection, HARK! A VAGRANT, had the funniest Jane Austen jokes ever whereas here it’s Bronte time with Cathy and Heathcliffe brooding up the rooms at Blithering Heights so badly that they desperately need to open the windows. There’s a panel where they’re pawing each other’s faces obsessively and another strip in which they’re discovered at night and caught in lamplight, wide-eyed Heathcliffe looking both livid and feral:

“It’s a lovely young lady…. And a large, angry squirrel.”

Beaton manages to distil the much-loved novel to her own ridiculous core, reducing it to a comedic soup of unrestrained melodrama rendered in wilder, more ragged lines than usual.

The titles are often as funny as the strips themselves, as are the annotations. She takes highly regarded, even venerated figures from history and High Culture then pops any associated pomposity with a pin by making them behave not necessarily out of character (for there’s often a key element of truth) but certainly… badly. You don’t even need to know anything about the individuals beforehand. Kate sets up her own rules or references and takes it from there.

The opening rivalry between Chopin and Liszt is a perfect example, Beaton quickly establishing the difference in their music then translates it into their characters while uniting them in unbridled egomania.

Liszt’s intensity and hair has him coming off like a cross between Michaels Heseltine and Foot. In ‘The Later Years’ Liszt mourns Chopin’s passing and decides to pay tribute to his dearly beloved friend with a biography whose title ‘Life of Chopin’ is dwarfed by his own credit on the cover. And in ‘For King And Country’ after they initially concede each other’s musical territory / sovereignty, Liszt simply can’t help himself from adding a final jibe of sexual one-upmanship, bending down behind Chopin’s piano and cupping his hand to one side of his mouth to mutter with naughty, knowing eyes, “I have also slept with a lot of Polish women though, just throwing that in there”.

That’s another element which characterises Beaton’s comedy: the incongruous, the anachronistic, putting modern idioms like “Unrelated” and “Asking for a friend” in the mouths of historical figures like Julius Caesar or an English, sixteen-year-old soldier fighting the Hundred Years War:

“Those French guys were like, WHOAAAA. And my army was like EAT IT. Ka chow!!”

Zeus will appear later on putting his legendary, master-of-disguise, mad dating skillz into practice, there’s an extended Janet Jackson ‘Nasty’ video joke, Spider-Man doesn’t just exhibit the proportional powers of a spider but also its innate proclivities (“Ooh – a crevice!”) while Louis Lane’s traditional, fawning and far from feminist role is turned on its oh so wrong head. Instead of being portrayed as obsessed with a Superman she’s too dim-witted to identify behind the spectacles of the reporter she works with every week day, she’s infuriated by the egomaniacal lunatic’s stalking which threatens to ruin her career.

I should have found you one of those strips, but instead here’s a femme fatale who refuses to be pigeon-holed. See right if you’re reading this in the product page, below if in our weekly reviews blog.


Buy Step Aside, Pops – A Hark! A Vagrant Collection and read the Page 45 review here

Dispossession: A Novel Of Few Words (£17-99, Jonathan Cape) by Simon Grennan…

“See that woman in a straw hat?”
“I have seen her every day. I have been watching her for half an hour.”
“She is very attentive to her sewing.”
“She is watching now. You have spoken to her?”
“A word or two yesterday. She is going out to earn her bread; but when I asked how, she wouldn’t tell me.”
“Her name is Mrs. Smith. I hear she went on the stage, married an actor who treated her cruelly and then died of drink.”
“She told me that we three ought not to be here. We ought to be gentlemen and she a lady.”
“She struck me as talking better than her gown.”
“We are gentlemen. Mrs. Smith is a mystery. I shall go to work to unravel her.”

John Caldigate is many things: a foolish son and heir, a caddish womaniser, an incompetent gambler who may well be a gentleman by birth, but certainly not by his actions or comportment. No, a blithering idiot who has managed to waste the good fortune of being born into the landed gentry to the extent he finds himself disinherited by his despairing father would be a better description. Now, seemingly convinced that all he has to do to become a successful gold prospector is merely set foot in Australia, where he is currently voyaging to with his loyal and steadfast best friend Ned on their latest hare-brained scheme, he’s caught the eye of a lady of scandalous background and potentially rather dubious virtue. Had the term ‘carriage crash’ been coined in Edwardian times to indicate a catastrophic penchant for devising ever more elaborate ways to get yourself into socially scandalous trouble, it would almost certainly have been used in describing John Caldigate.

This is a wonderful adaptation of the Anthony Trollope novel, John Caldigate. I’ve no idea why renowned academic, and talented artist, Dr. Simon Grennan chose to amend the name of the work, but his choice of title has a very appropriate and I’m sure quite deliberate polysemy to it.

In a historical sense dispossession refers to depriving people of the possession or occupancy of land and property, something which the British did rather expertly to the aborigines in Australia laying claim to the territory using the blatantly inappropriate concept of terra nullius, meaning quite literally “nobody’s land”, which shows you precisely what the good gentlemen of the Empire thought of the locals. It also quite adroitly sums up John Caldigate’s perpetually recurring life experience, always at his own hands, even though he doesn’t ever quite see the root cause of all his difficulties.

Even when, seemingly against all the odds, he makes his fortune in Australia and returns home triumphant to marry the sweet and trusting Hester Bolton, who has waited patiently for him, it’s his previous dalliances with the distracting Mrs. Smith that are going to cause him no end of trouble, as he finds himself accused of bigamy.

This is a great example of how a true classic can be kept alive and find a whole new audience. I can’t imagine Trollope is high on many people’s reading lists these days, and yet his works, underpinned with witty commentary and satire, particularly on the greed and corruption found within the upper echelons of the class structure, have never been more relevant than they are today.

This work was commissioned for Trollope’s bicentennial by a Belgian university (there being a familial connection between Trollope and Belgium), and Dr. Grennan has done a sterling job in producing a graphic novel that neatly captures the farcical elements of the main character, which is the essential core of the prose novel. His chosen faux-woodcut style of  illustration, albeit coloured, really does remind me of the delightfully ludicrous WONDERMARK series, the deliberate choice not to have any close ups, with every panel capturing a scene, only adds weight to the conceit.

I do hope this spurs a few more quirky, clever adaptations of classics like this. I think the great thing about comic readers as a whole is that we are open minded enough to give something different like this a try, purely based on how intriguing it looks, curiosity perhaps being piqued further by a glimpse inside, even if we would probably never pick up the original. And thus discovering something wonderful we might never have otherwise found. I’ve certainly chanced across some brilliant graphic novels like that.


Buy Dispossession: A Novel Of Few Words and read the Page 45 review here

Descender vol 1: Tin Stars (£7-50, Image) by Jeff Lemire & Dustin Nguyen.

Perfectly paced, action-spliced science fiction in the vein not of the Moebius-inspired PROPHET but of SAGA or OCEAN or TREES.

There’s such beautiful, bright light and a vast sense of space that I’m immediately reminded of Jon J. Muth’s MOONSHADOW. The watercolours here are equally lush and loose, and in half a dozen paragraphs it will become clear that Dustin Nguyen’s command of scale is vital.

The opening shot looking out and over one of the nine Embassy Cities of the planet Niyrata with its fume-free traffic criss-crossing on multiple tiers is an almost electrical thrill, while the cars themselves are the sleekest and juiciest that Matchbox never made.

This is the cultural and technological hub of the nine Core Planets where resides its United Galactic Council.

It all seems pretty idyllic and I can quite clearly see how culture could thrive even if not everyone is relaxed.  There’s one director or delegate striding through a crowd bellowing about her right to exploit resources in spite of the Gnishes’ complaints. Her baby’s begun crying in spite of its android-nanny’s best efforts but big business comes first, does it not?

And then there’s young, lean and clean Dr. Quon’s oh-so chic bedroom with glass floors, glass doors, glass open-air balcony and big glass tanks full of bright little flecks that are fish! Love the cherry blossom floating in from outside.

Dr. Quon is held in very high esteem. After all, the prodigy practically invented modern robotics. He single-handedly created the little Tim line, indistinguishable from ordinary boys and programmed to be family companions.

Unfortunately everyone’s in for an almost immediate and very rude awakening when Dr Quon is summoned by General Nagoki into orbit for something’s appeared in the heavens above them and everything changes forever.

Unimaginably vast, it appears to be a celestial machine, humanoid in shape and roughly the same size as the planet itself. One has materialised beside each of the eight other planets and when their blank eyes flare red it looks as though they are about to communicate. They are not.

10 years later and young Tim-21 wakes up on the mining moon colony of Dirishu-6. Everyone is dead.

Bodies litter both the sealed lunar walkway and the gangways below that. He can’t find the family he was assigned to – Andy and Andy’s Mum – but he does find the Communications Hub and manages to access its database. It looks like a lot has happened in the last ten long years, none of it good.

The gigantic Harvesters (as they came to be called) didn’t communicate anything other than their wrath. They opened fire on all the nine planets, obliterating life forms and their precarious harmony, sparing only the androids. Then they disappeared. Subsequent suspicions catalysed a robot cull verging on genocide, the militant, tusked Gnishes at its forefront. They’re still on the warpath and – now that Tim-21’s woken up and logged into the multi-worldwide-web – a Scrapper Elite Squad is heading his way.

Also heading Tim’s way is an expedition led by Captain Telsa, daughter of General Nagoki. She’s drafted a down-and-out Dr. Quon who’s no longer so highly regarded nor half as handsome but unshaven, paunchy and consigned to a lowly bunk bed at home. His reputation was shot during the robotic backlash and now it’s in tatters because it has just been discovered that the impossibly advanced Harvesters had precisely the same, complex codex as his Tim-21’s. Whom Dr. Quon created.

Two things: the science is a convincing as it is penetrable. You can understand it. Think of the robotic codex as our DNA with its nucleotide sequences. Prior to the Harvesters, the most complex robotic codex invented had an eight-pronged digital lattice. Now we’re looking at fifty-six.

Secondly, you wouldn’t even care were Tim’s past not so tenderly evoked both by Lemire and Nguyen in a series of flashbacks which make clear that young Andy and his mother doted on the boy and how much he too loved his new family. There’s also a lovely moment in the present when Tim first finds his robot dog whose bark has gone wonky and backwards. He’s been active all this time.

“You must have been so lonely. It’s okay… I’m here now.”

In the back there’s a brief breakdown of each of the nine planets so you can learn what each species has been up to over the last game-changing decade and what they may be planning now. Jeff’s left you plenty to puzzle on, and if his name rings a bell then think SWEET TOOTH, ESSEX COUNTY and TRILLIUM etc.

What still hasn’t been explained is what happened to Tim when a Scrapper blasted a circular hole in his chest, causing him to – well – die. As far as the eye could see the Harvested stretched before him in greeting – all the robots who had been discarded and destroyed. They asked him to join them, then, just as Doctor Quon repaired and rebooted Tim and effectively withdrew him from that dream, they begged him to find them.

“But you know robots can’t dream. Tim-21. That’s impossible.”
“But if it wasn’t a dream – then – where was I?”

Where indeed? Also, what exactly is the Hardwire movement? I infer we’ll find out very swiftly in volume two.

The final chapter’s a flashback to a few years before the opening sequence when Jin Quon is only on the verge of obtaining his doctorate. He and his tutor make a discovery. This – and what Jin Quon does with it – will change everything you thought you knew.

You now have around seven months to join the dots for yourselves and discover if you’ve drawn an accurate picture.


Buy Descender vol 1: Tin Stars and read the Page 45 review here

Crossed + 100 vol 1 (£14-99, Avatar) by Alan Moore & Gabriel Andrade.

Whatever your preconceptions of CROSSED, this is, I promise you, as clever as you’d expect from Alan Moore. I unequivocally understand if the subject matter is too repugnant for many of you to risk opening the cover but Moore has not only thought these hundred years through, he’s laced this six issues with cunning clues to an increasingly worrying mystery which only reveals its true horror right at the end. Also, you need not have read a single sentence of this series to launch straight in now.

One hundred years have passed since The Surprise.

And it was quite a surprise, let me tell you. You’d be quite surprised if you found yourself in Nottingham city centre and it was suddenly writhing in howling, bellowing, jabbering hoards of half-clad cretins, urinating in doorways and leering lasciviously at anyone who passed by.

Outside of a Saturday night, anyway.

Yet that’s what has happened in CROSSED, kicked off by Garth Ennis a dozen or so volumes ago: a worldwide pandemic of sexually insatiable savages in which no one – no matter how old or young or how closely related – was safe. “This is what the worst of humanity looks like uninhibited by law” is what Garth seemed to say; and you look at some geographical regimes and cannot help but agree.

I enjoyed the first book, if “enjoyed” is the right word. I was actually vicariously terrified, peering through my fingers as I tentatively turned the pages – which isn’t easy using only your elbows. I initially promoted the series thus:

“Whatever your most terrifying nightmare, this is infinitely worse.

After that, I’m afraid it lost me. The genuine, stomach-churning tension which made me invest emotionally in each individual or shudder at their complete callousness and disregard for their fellow fugitive was replaced by such grotesquery that it repelled me with its not-necessary nastiness and so from what was occurring. Jonathan assured me that its spin-off series CROSSED: WISH YOU WERE HERE by Si Spurrier was a huge return to form but I hadn’t been sufficiently intrigued until the words “Alan” and “Moore” lured me back, and look: he’s brought a rather fine artist with him.

The textures on this detritus-strewn landscape are as rich as its detail: there’s so much to look at surrounding the more obvious focal points of the plot: the libraries, churches and the rusted stream train carrying this cast of archivists across a thinly populated wilderness where you can almost hear the silence.

There is, surprisingly, even beauty to behold in the form of brightly coloured butterflies and parakeets taking flight above the debris. Buddleias have rampaged across the ruins – a buddleia can take route in even the smallest concrete crevice, I warn you – and a rusted iron steamer has it charms.

The Crossed are so called because of the cross of red blisters which erupts across their faces upon infection like some pustular St George’s flag. The disease which turns its victims into such single-mindedly savage and sexually insatiable beasts that they are barely cognizant any longer is as contagious as the worst we know of that isn’t airborne, the transformation is almost instantaneous. It first broke out on July 27th 2008 when the world’s population had reached 700 thousand million. Within a decade the uninfected human population was down to 2 million with 100 million infected on the loose.

But this trend has since reversed itself, largely because The Crossed eat their own children before they’re old enough to breed.

With far fewer nests it’s become relatively (relatively) safe to venture from the heavily fortified stockades to see what can be gleaned from what’s left of the relics of their past – video recordings, non-fiction, manuals, journals – in order to better understand both what happened and what used to be considered their culture. Although even the most intrepid rarely stray far from their armoured bus and everyone goes armed with a shotgun.

Just as well, because one such expedition of archivists is startled to be set upon by a second nest of nudists in two days, covered in blood and faeces, the men as priapic as ever. Then there’s a third attack inside a Memphis mansion (broken signs will make you smile throughout with a recognition no longer shared by the archivists) and the narrator, Future Taylor, begins to suspect something’s up. But what truly confounds her are the shrines she starts finding with lit candles, one with a framed portrait of a man with a goatee that isn’t quite a photograph but close. On the back are broken bits of sentences, some of which you may well puzzle out long before Future does. But The Crossed have no religion – they’re not organised enough for it – so what’s up?

This is far more culturally orientated than before, Moore extrapolating from the Ennis scenario and musing on what might have happened one hundred years on. For a start, the ozone layer has repaired itself. Well, all our smoke-billowing industries have shut down. So it’s not all bad. It’s still pretty bad and I very much appreciated the safety of my study and my steady supply of Sauvignon Blanc.

In particular Moore is considering what may have happened to language and its slang in a world where there are isolated packs of human beings rather than an instantly accessible global information hub. There are neologisms aplenty, many of which made me smile, but rather too many too soon. Language should enrich a story, not obfuscate it, and I wince typing this for Alan Moore is one thousand times the writer that I will ever be but the number rendered the narrative just a little too opaque until I finally adjusted three chapters in.

I liked that the teenagers had adopted a stylised version of The Crossed’s red disfigurements as a tribal fashion statement like punks’ Mohicans or goths’ heavy eyeliner.

But what I loved above all was the plot itself – the mystery whose clues lie in corners you’ll never suspect at first, hidden as they are in plain sight.

What I must, however, do before closing is remind you that this is top-shelf material with scenes so horrific that FROM HELL looks like fun.


Buy Crossed + 100 vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Chrononauts (£7-50, Image) by Mark Millar & Sean Murphy…

“How old did you say this was?”
“The temple? It predates Stongehenge by six thousand years. The oldest place of worship anywhere on the planet.
“But that’s not the interesting part. It’s what the megaliths have been built around that’s causing all the excitement.
“You have to remember this predates metal tools, Doctor Quinn. This was before man even had pottery…
“I told you it was worth the trip.”

As prologues go this one packs quite the punchline delivered by Sean Murphy to eye-stopping effect.

For what were those megaliths were built around, perched atop ornate columns inside that temple is a fully armed F-14 Tomcat: a fourth-generation, supersonic, twinjet, two-seat, variable-sweep wing fighter aircraft first introduced in 1974. And, funnily enough, one of those did go missing back in the 1970s.

How did it end up in South-East Turkey six thousand years before Stonehenge was built?

That mystery – along with the fleet of sports cars found under Mayan temples and other strange temporal anomalies – convinces Doctor Corbin that he’s on the right track, that time-travel is possible, which is just as well because his prototype satellite equipped with a television camera is about to be bent through a time-stream tunnel to transmit 1863 AD live to a frankly astonished worldwide audience.

It’s quite the success.

Do you think it would have your attention?


Good, because Corbin Quinn and Danny Reilly are planning their first manned mission in eighteen months time with their hi-tech – and indeed high-fashion – time suits. No point in travelling through time if you can’t look suave whilst doing it.

That our intrepid duo intend to take man’s bold first steps backwards through time, becoming the world’s first chrononauts in the process, all whilst televised absolutely live to the watching billions, possibly suggests an element of foolhardiness that doesn’t bode well for their smooth passage. Inevitably therefore, like in every good time travel yarn, something immediately goes awry, and with Corbin Quinn seemingly lost in time, there is of course only one man up to the task of trying to retrieve him…

Given that Danny Reilly seems like an egomaniacal jack-ass of the first order, again whilst raising our amusement value considerably, well, it doesn’t suggest his rescue mission is going to be remotely straightforward. Indeed, a spectacular double-page spread leaves us absolutely no doubt as to where Danny immediately finds himself. Deep in the proverbial temporal doo-doo, that’s where! The when is the siege of Kabul in Samarkand, 1504. Right slap bang in the absolute middle of it…

Once the extratemporal extrication of Quinn is achieved, the only question that remains is where, or indeed when, our chronally challenged chums are going to go next. You don’t seriously think these two grandstanding galoots are just going to head straight home in time safely for tea do you?!! No, of course not, and once timeline tweaking temptation gets the better of them, the fun really starts in what is basically a wickedly daft buddy caper.

Superb art from Sean THE WAKE / PUNK ROCK JESUS Murphy as Millar continues his own personal Pokemon quest to collect all the best artists in the comic industry for his Millarworld imprint before he expires. Fair play to him in that respect for it’d be very easy to stick with a winning formula, but I think given every yarn he writes is pretty distinct, they actually benefit from having very different artwork styles. That’s my theory anyway.


Buy Chrononauts and read the Page 45 review here

Saga vol 5 s/c (£10-99, Image) by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples.


Are you seriously not reading SAGA? Let’s see what I can do about that.

At its heart SAGA is a visually sexy, wickedly inventive, highly irreverent and astutely observed comedy about love, war and human behaviour. Oh, and parenthood, for it’s narrated from adulthood by Alana and Marko’s daughter Hazel, the first of her hybrid kind who’s currently just above knee-height.

“Ask a child’s guardians what it takes to be good at their jobs, and most will answer with a single word… SACRIFICE.
“Parents give up so much: time, sleep, freedom, money, intimacy…
“Pretty much everything except complaining about how much they sacrifice.”

Regular readers will be dismayed but far from surprised to learn that there is even more sacrifice in this book than any of the others.

It stars two lovers from separate species, their daughter (don’t little ones say the darnedest things?), their daughter’s grandmother, an ex-lover, an assassin’s similarly skilled sister, a robot prince with television for a head and a giant, turquoise Lying Cat, which is basically a cat compelled to growl “LYING” whenever you’ve popped out a porky pie. These are some of my favourite panels for Vaughan has managed to wring from the conceit both comedic and quite unexpectedly moving moments too.

I’ve reviewed all four previous books but the SAGA DELUXE EDITION VOL 1 is possibly my best overview even if you end up buying its three constituent softcovers instead. In each Fiona and Brian – who seem such lovely people – manage to startle at least once with something of a sexual nature so laugh-out-loud explicit and wrong that you can’t actually believe they’ve committed it to print. It’s usually then that you remember you’ve just leant a copy to your mother-in-law.

Here it involves a male dragon. You have no idea.

Fiona’s dragons are sleek, salamander-like beasts. Her designs are as thrilling as her storytelling skills, key amongst them being heart-melting expressions, even on a cat. There’s a flashback to Marko’s childhood when he was protecting his dog from a neighbour’s delinquent daughter who was practising fire spells on the poor creature with no care or consideration for the poor pet’s pain. I defy to swear you wouldn’t use violence yourself to protect your pet from such cruelty. Marko lashes out. You’re not shown that scene but you are shown Marko’s father’s reaction. When little Marko realises what’s possibly in store his deer-like ears droop down and doe-eyes look up quizzically, a little pleadingly, and it is the very essence of vulnerability.

Bringing you up to speed will only serve up spoilers and we don’t do that here. As I say, try some of those other reviews. Instead I can reveal that it does involve captivity, being separated from your loved one, protecting your child, an all-consuming desire for revenge, violence and compassion and – oh dear – sacrifice.


Buy Saga vol 5 and read the Page 45 review here

Honor Girl (£14-99, Candlewick Press) by Maggie Thrash.

“What was I doing before? Was I just… floating along? Maybe I was better off that way. Because what’s ironic is that being in love doesn’t actually make you happy. It makes it impossible to be happy. You’re carrying this desire now. Maybe if you knew where it came from, you could put it back. But you don’t.”

Maggie is only fifteen and she’s just fallen in love for the first time. With a woman. With a summer camp counsellor.

Maggie’s stomach is churning and she hasn’t the first clue what to do about any of it.  She can’t get Erin or her feelings towards her out of her head and she’s stuck there for the summer. What if any of any of her friends find out? What if any of the counsellors find out? What if Erin finds out? What on earth is she supposed to do with all this?

Oh, the space and the light!

I knew this was graphic memoir was going to be a pleasure to read as soon as I opened it and the colours flooded out. But, being set in a remote, American summer camp for girls, I had no idea it would tick so many recognition boxes.

I’d praise Thrash’s memory – her ability to put herself back in her head aged fifteen – but my own memory’s appalling yet I remember every little bit of falling in love for the first time when my nascent self-awareness was too new to comprehend or cope. It’s not something you forget.

Still, there were a lot of surprises and this may not come with the conclusion you expect.

Thrash goes to great pains to emphasise right from the beginning how traditional this particular summer camp was. Unchanged since 1922, “There were mandatory Civil War re-enactments every morning. It was literally the blues screaming “blue” and the greys screaming “grey” for twenty minutes.” Grim. There’s also flag-raising and flag-lowering at morning and night, and singing lots of lovely Christian songs to each other.

Being a good little girl, Maggie had a pillow with all her merit patches sewn on; being a somnambulist, she also had Somnambu-leash she was supposed to attach to her ankle every evening. I don’t think it counts as a spoiler to tell you she doesn’t – not every evening – and it’s worth bearing that in mind later on.

There were uniforms for uniformity (“I was used to environments where it was important for everyone to be the same”) and zero diversity bar one blonde Jewish girl so seemed to set each year’s fashion trends. Oh, and then there was the whole Honor Girl system.

“On the first night, we always serenaded the Honor Girl, a 16-year-old camper appointed the previous summer… Everyone would light a candle, and at the end of the song, we’d each touch our flame to hers. It was meant to be symbolic – the Honor Girl imbuing us with her perfect spirit.”

Are you getting a sense that this might be one of the least hospitable environments for anyone suddenly stumbling upon the notion that they might be gay? Add in a mass of insecure teenage peers and being trapped there with them morning, noon and indeed overnight… There were a couple of girls the previous year about whom rumours swirled and they were ostracised all season long.

As I say, I think this is going to surprise you, and it’s got 270 pages in which to do so.

I’ve seen this sort of stripped-down style done so badly, so blandly – most recently in a reasonably high profile Young Adult graphic novel I decided didn’t merit a review – but this is full of nuance and character and great body language. It’s amazing what you can do with a few simple lines as long as they’re placed just-so. The expressions often contradict what’s expressed like tells at a poker game. It falls under the umbrella of minimum fuss for maximum empathy, and the colours ensure it’s certainly no mope-fest.

There are great many giggles to boot. I loved the old camp commandant – sorry, director – popping out on the odd occasion to wave a canoe paddle furiously and bellow prohibitions before collapsing, pooped out on the deck.

The storytelling is crystal clear with plenty of variety – another of the problems I had with that YA graphic novel was it was as so repetitious, so deathly dull, like someone telling you a story with “And then he did this and then she did that and then he did this and we didn’t” – opening up at exactly the right moments with landscapes to let you linger and ponder like Maggie herself.

As the memoir kicks off and concludes she’s had two years to do precisely that.


Buy Honor Girl and read the Page 45 review here

Pixu – The Mark Of Evil s/c (£10-99, Dark Horse) by Gabriel Ba, Becky Cloonan, Vasilis Lolos, Fabio Moon.

Not a sequel, but a softcover.

“It’s too soon. For now, I wait.”

Clammy, sweaty and thoroughly unnerving, sometimes horror is at its most frightening when it’s most nebulous. If you can confront it - if you can shoot it or stick a stake in its heart or at least run screaming – then there’s hope. I foresaw little hope here.

Six denizens of a house divided into four separate apartments find themselves caught in the cross-fire of each other’s making, the sinister tendrils creeping up the walls but a catalyst for the conflagration to come. For none of them seems stable from the start. There’s a man who sits and waits by the telephone, OCD his only companion. A woman on the edge of her nerves rejects her boyfriend who declares that he will never come back – and really, he shouldn’t. Meanwhile a middle-aged man mourns a woman who left him from reasons unknown. He’s visited in his bedroom by a prepubescent girl whose guardian (grandfather? no, not necessarily) has a strange hold over her and keeps a neat dresser of formaldehyde jars for protection. One of them has been broken.

Ah, that’s my interpretation – or half of it – but you decide for yourself.



Buy Pixu – The Mark Of Evil s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Mean Girls Club (£6-50, Nobrow) by Ryan Heshka.

Lurid, burlesque, groovy and grotesque!

Pretty gritty in pink, this one’s for Scarlett Daggers of Nottingham’s Dr. Sketchy’s fabulously welcoming, all-inclusive “not up its arse art-class” which Page 45 is very proud to sponsor with free graphic novels as prizes.

Meet the vamps of the Mean Girls Club: Wanda, Wendy, Pinkie, Blackie, Sweets and McQualude! You’ll only do it once.

These sisters are most emphatically doing it for themselves: self-medication, self-examination, auto-operations, on-the-spot diagnoses and even instant “euthanasia” if you define euthanasia as putting someone out of your misery.

This is a pill-popping, binge-drinking, hallucinogenic adrenaline rush with snakes, rats, bats and Venus flytraps everywhere. Innocence is upended, boutiques are broken into and lingerie scattered all over the road. Guns, clubs, hypodermic needles and, err, dress-up paper dolls.

Imagine Bettie Page in a rage and you’re pretty much there.


Buy Mean Girls Club and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

The Fade Out vol 2 (£10-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips

Fires Over Hyperion (£10-99, NBM) by Patrick Atangan

Heart In A Box (£10-99, Dark Horse) by Kelly Thompson & Meredith McClaren

How To Pass As Human: A Guide To Assimilation For Future Androids by Android 0 h/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Kelman Nic & Pericles Junior, Rick DeLucco

No Mercy vol 1 (with bookplate signed by Alex & Carla!) (£7-50, Image) by Alex De Campi & Carla Speed McNeil

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

Ruins h/c (£19-99, SelfMadeHero) by Peter Kuper

Tommysaurus Rex (£8-50, Scholastic) by Doug TenNapel

War Stories vol 2 (£18-99, Avatar) by Garth Ennis & David Lloyd, Cam Kennedy, Carlos Ezquerra, Gary Erskine

When Anxiety Attacks (£7-99, Jessica Kingsley Publishers) by Terian Koscik

William Shakespeare’s Tragedy Of The Sith’s Revenge h/c (£10-99, Quirk) by Ian Doescher

Batman vol 7: Endgame h/c (£18-99, DC) by Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo

Flash: Season Zero s/c (£14-99, DC) by various

Uncanny Avengers vol 1: Counter-Evolutionary (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Rick Remender, Gerry Dugan & Daniel Acuna

Astro Boy Omnibus vol 1 (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Osamu Tezuka


ITEM! Sublime! See Babouche adding watercolours to the above, ending up with what’s below. It’s a fascinating lesson it wet watercolour technique.

ITEM! See PLUTO’s Urusawa drawing fluidly in pencil.

ITEM! Read why ‘Jealousy Is Creative Poison’. It’s actually poison full stop, but most of us have been guilty of it from time to time.

ITEM! Fab, in-depth article on PHONOGRAM by Elana Brooklyn. It’s so in-depth there are inevitably SPOILERS but if you’re not reading Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie’s PHONGRAM at all perhaps it will tempt you, or start with the new PHONOGRAM IMMATERIAL GIRL #1 reviewed right here.

ITEM! In time for his new comic, Warren Ellis’ thoughts on James Bond – the novels. Pre-order Warren Ellis’ new James Bond comic here.

- Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews September 2015 week two

September 9th, 2015

Includes the finest series ever published by Marvel – by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Gaydos – which I’ve reread and reviewed from scratch!

(In A Sense) Lost & Found (£12-99, Nobrow) by Roman Muradov.

“Go back to your room and remain prudent.”

Absolutely exquisite.

I love all the curls and swirls representing both form and movement. I love the geometrical intersections complemenedt by contrasting colours and of course I love all the leaves.

This is the surrealist stuff of dreams, a journey through an exotic, old-fashioned city of steep steps, odd angles and looming shadows; of vast edifices towering over water, some of their facades scooped out; of sequestered gardens, secret passageways and subterranean shops selling stolen goods – like Miss F. Premise’s innocence!

It’s populated by a right old crowd of high-fashioned humans and the sort of eccentrics you’d have expected to find in Paris’ St Germaine way back when, along with anthropomorphic chickens, foxes and free-floating fish, and the eyes – oh, how they stare!

At times it’s as overpowering as Picasso’s ‘Guernica’, especially to Miss F. Premise who’d had the audacity to venture outside without the aid of her innocence. So immodest!

Miss F. Premise wakes one morning in her dowdy, spinsterish gown to find that her innocence has gone. She’d worn it for donkey’s years as bow round her neck and it was certainly there when she went to bed. Now only the ghostly reflection of it remains in the mirror.

In its place, however, she finds a newfound willingness to rebel for when her bullying beast of a father (quite what sort of a beast, I don’t know) demands she leaves the breakfast table, retire to her room and, of course, “remain prudent”, she hops out of the window instead.

And that’s how F. Premise’s journey begins.

It’s not without its set-backs and her father isn’t the only source of repression. Even the kindly if pessimistic bookshop owner who takes her in suggests she give up.

“The only way to get through the days without losing your mind is to accept.”
“That’s a defeatist attitude.”
“On the contrary, it takes courage to give up, to greet the bleak prospects with quiet resignation.”

But after a few similarly dreary and deflating bons mots, Miss Premise declares, “I’m sorry, I can’t take this anymore,” and sets off again.

It’s a journey of discovery both for the newly inquisitive and determined protagonist and for the reader. What you get from this art-driven adventure depends on what you put in – how long you linger on each sensational page and its panels which, I concede, could have done with being a little less opaque. If the online images are anything to go by, my ill-educated guess is that the publisher never intended the printed publication to be quite so dark. It’s certainly a peeve I’ve heard voiced privately from many an artist when they first see their work on the physical page in the shop.

No matter! Read in full sunshine or steer your Anglepoise lamp directly on top for this is a miniature masterpiece which luxuriates in its word play:

“Mapologies, jung lady.”

There’s an air of Lewis Carroll or Edward Gorey to the literary proceedings, while the following smacked to me of a cryptic crossword clue:

“Stop shovelling bland whimsy, bathtime fowleries are all the rage now.”

There’s even an element of Eric Drooker’s THE FLOOD in its noisy, secret-city journey and the dancers discovered within, though the emphasis here is much more on the magical and the natural than the oppressive and inhumane.

Lastly, given how many of our customers have voiced fantasies of kipping down at Page 45 overnight, I smiled at this line when the elderly bookshop owner takes Miss F. Premise in and sets her up in a bed on a couch before leaving her to it.

“Good night then.
“And do try to feel at home.
“As much as one can feel at home in a shop.”

We really should rent out hammocks.


One Year Wiser: 365 Illustrated Meditations (£12-99, SelfMadeHero) by Mike Medaglia…

“Love one another and you will be happy. It is as simple and difficult as that.” Michael Leunig.

The creator of this exquisitely illustrated treasure trove of wise sayings, Mike Medaglia, and I have something in common. Both of us are practising Zen Buddhists. I would love to say that we also share a talent for drawing, but sadly that would be a complete and utter lie. For whilst he has mastered the art of… well… art, I am currently in danger of being surpassed by my four-year-old daughter in terms of illustrative abilities…

When Mike told me that he was planning to create this work I was delighted, and mentioned that it sounded like a book I had read when first beginning to meditate over twenty years ago, called Glimpse After Glimpse: Daily Reflections on Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche. Which contains ‘365 thought-provoking meditations on life, death, doubt, mindfulness, compassion, wisdom, work, and more!’ He mentioned that book was indeed also a favourite of his. This work, also containing 365 meditations, is like that book with one superlative difference: every single daily espresso shot of enlightenment is accompanied by equally powerful art.


The pearls of wisdom you’ll find within the covers of this book are not contained to any one faith, or indeed purely religious in nature. Some do come from Buddhist masters and teachers of other faiths, but also philosophers, poets, artists,  musicians, gurus, playwrights, scientists, politicians, ku fu masters, even comicbook creators and retailers. Okay, well maybe not retailers, but Mike has included a wonderful Osama Tezuka quote that is accompanied by Astro Boy gently holding a snowflake on his outstretched hand.

“What is one man’s life compared to the eternity of time and space? No more than a snowflake that glitters in the sun before melting into the flow of time.”

Actually, the word “accompanied” does Mike a total disservice, for here the art empowers and invigorates the prose words, bringing them vividly to life using many different artistic devices which convey additional interpretation, emphasis and depth to the phrase in question. Indeed often the words themselves form part of the fabric of the design of the artwork. People who have read his moving, and very touching, SEASONS will know just how clever this approach can be. This work is in fact some of the finest iconography I have ever seen. There were several pages that moved me deeply, caused pause for thought, and generated a deep swell of emotion within me. Exactly as it should be when taking in such powerful packets of wisdom.


This really is the perfect gift for a loved one who you think might benefit from some beautiful moments of serene reflection. In fact I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t benefit from the sage words of wisdom contained within and feel spiritually uplifted by the emotive artwork. And you should include yourselves in that. For whilst Sogyal Rinpoche commented in his best known work, The Tibetan Book Of Living And Dying, that “The gift of learning to meditate is the greatest gift you can give yourself in this life”, and that is undoubtedly true, I think Sogyal himself might concur that picking up a copy of Mike’s book would be a close second…


Buy One Year Wiser: 365 Illustrated Meditations and read the Page 45 review here

Sacred Heart (£18-99, Fantagraphics) by Liz Suburbia…

“So how’d you get out?”
“Don’t really remember that part… no one’s seen Mark since, though.”
“Wait, that’s bullshit! Everyone knows Mark drowned in the river last summer!”
“You sure about that?”

Nope. I really don’t believe that for a second, such is the catalogue of murders, apparent suicides (definitely murders) and other apparently random attacks (they’re not) that seem to be happening with disturbing frequency to the teen population of Alexandria.

This work has been compared favourably to LOVE AND ROCKETS and I can see why. I would specifically make the comparison with the Blood Of Palomar storyline which is found in LOVE AND ROCKETS: HUMAN DIASTOPHISM. For there, like here, a serial killer is stalking the mean streets, whilst social cohesion seems to be terminally on the wane between the residents. There is also a very dramatic ending, which in turn reveals all. Well, not all, but certainly things make a lot more sense afterwards. In the meanwhile, the teenagers just carry on as normal. Messing about, going to parties, getting drunk and high, falling out, fighting, getting off with each other, all seemingly without a care in world. Well, aside from the usual crippling teenage angst and insecurities, that is… (Ah, those were the days! I think!)

There was also a certain suspicion that gradually began to occur to me, initially gleaned from some of the conversations between characters, before it was definitively confirmed for me towards the conclusion. Actually, I’ve just realised I wouldn’t spoil anything by mentioning it, as it asks this very question in the blurb on the back cover…

“Also: where are all the parents?”

Where indeed…? I wonder… There’s also one another reason why this work reminded me of the Blood Of Palomar, and whilst I will say it doesn’t involve monkeys, I will keep that to myself!

Very, very accomplished debut work from Liz Suburbia, she certainly can write. I’m struggling to come up with an exact comparison for her black and white art style, but if you were to put 50% Gilbert Hernandez and 50% Bryan Lee O’ Malley in a blender and whisk ‘em up, I think her illustrative style well be the result.


Buy Sacred Heart and read the Page 45 review here

Jerusalem: Chronicles From The Holy City s/c (£14-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Guy Delisle…

“I got news about your coordination request for Gaza…”
“They refused.”
“No way… damn it…”
“How come? What was their excuse?”
“They said , ‘The guy who draws comics? Forget it.’”

“Maybe they got me mixed up with Joe Sacco?”

Ha ha, very funny! In fact, as ever, there’s a lot to smile wryly at in Guy Delisle’s latest travelogue, this time to the Holy Land. Once again he’s playing house husband looking after their two kids as his wife’s latest year placement with Médecins Sans Frontières takes the family to Jerusalem, where almost instantly his romanticised preconceptions of the place are utterly dashed and so his usual explorations and excavations of the absurdities of everyday life for the locals can begin in earnest.

One of the many great things about Guy’s work, having been to one of the places he’s written about (see BURMA CHRONICLES), is that he does completely capture exactly what life is like, down to its frequently confused minutiae, for those who have to live there, and this time is no exception as he shows the cramped and convoluted living arrangements that currently passes for Palestinian society, compressed and literally incarcerated in Gaza and the West Bank as they are by the Israelis. Guy being Guy though, he does try, and admirably manages it, to show the story from both sides without particularly taking either.

Though with that said, when he goes on a tour with a group of Israeli settlers (at the request of the Palestinian tour guide whose tour he’d been on a week previously, again to be fair and to see things from the other perspective) he simply reproduces the settler tour guide’s own words verbatim and lets the man damn himself. And when he’s not finding out about local political intrigue or getting into trouble with the police for picking yet another inappropriate sketching spot, he’s hunting out little oases of calm like the zoo or playgrounds to keep the pesky children entertained and give himself a much needed breather.

Jerusalem is probably his finest work yet, possibly because there’s just so much packed into one year compared to anywhere else he’s been and Jerusalem is such a fascinating place with all its contradictions and contrasts, but also artistically too, as whilst he adopts his usual laconic style there’s subtle additions such as extra background detailing or occasional splashes of colour onto his duotone, single-colour-per-panel palette which add a certain little something.

This would actually be an ideal work for anyone who is interested in finding about the day to day politics of the city and its inhabitants, and the history of the city itself, but isn’t ever going to have the time or perhaps the inclination to visit for themselves. It’s certainly one of the most confusing places you could ever go by the sounds of it, in every respect, but Guy almost always manages to find someone who can talk some sense about any given situation…

“It’s always surprising who you meet at these expat evenings. There are basically three categories: journalists, aid workers and diplomats. I meet a Scotsman who works for the Middle East Quartet. Since 2007 Tony Blair has been its official envoy. So here’s a guy who’s high up on the political and diplomatic ladder. This is my one chance to get some firsthand information.
“What your work like on a daily basis?… Are there optimistic moments once in a while, or do things look pretty bad most of the time?”
“Things look pretty bad most of the time.”
“Ah… and how’s Tony?””


Buy Jerusalem: Chronicles From The Holy City s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Democracy (£18-99, Bloomsbury) by Abraham Kawa & Alecos Papadatos…

“There’s something monstrous about crowds, you know.
“Solon saw it in the disenfranchised, the poor masses not benefitted even by his laws.
“In horror, he saw that to control, he’d have to become a tyrant.
“So, when his time as magistrate was up, he stepped down.
“Pesistratus came to power because of Solon’s reluctance to act.
“And even the Tyrant didn’t slay the monster. He manipulated it, controlled it.
“And now that he’s gone, it’s about to wake up.”

Good to see that historical political leaders had about as much respect for the masses as current day politicians.

There is a well known quote from Churchill from 1947, some two years after winning the war yet promptly being defeated in a general election some two months later (July 1945) that perfectly sums up my own feelings about the current state of parliamentary (and indeed Presidential)-led democracy. It goes along the lines of “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.”

But at least we have the right to choose between our politicians, if not much else. For as Churchill also commented, upon hearing that he’d lost the election, whilst taking a bath, “They have a perfect right to kick me out. That is democracy”. Quite so.

Neither of those quotes feature in this epic study of our most seemingly civilised arrangement of the structures of power and those who wield it. On our behalf and at our behest, obviously. If not always for our benefit… Because this work focuses squarely on the where and when the creators perceive that democracy itself was painfully birthed: 490BC in Athens.

Obviously a concept as grand as democracy itself can’t really be pinpointed to any specific time or place as such, but the creators make a compelling case for supposing this region was sufficient a nexus of influential people and their conflicting, competing and occasionally even overlapping and even mutually beneficial interests, as to be the melting pot from which a cohesive elected structure that hadn’t been previously seen on such a large scale, to emerge and take the reins and responsibilities, and of course, rewards, of power. All is told through the fictional eyes of Leander, an idealistic young man whose eyes are dramatically opened to the power struggles of the not-so-great or good with the death of his father in a riot.

I can’t help feeling a shade disappointed by this work. In comparison to the magnificent LOGICOMIX where I was utterly engaged by the story they were telling, I found my attention waning slightly as I read through this. It is undoubtedly a very well researched exploration of events at that time, but it just didn’t captivate me in the same manner. I note with interest it is the same Greek artist as LOGICOMIX but he’s written this himself, in conjunction with a Greek ‘cultural studies theorist’ writers, so I wonder if that was the difference for me. In some ways I think I would have preferred a look at the ‘development’ of democracy through the ages to our modern day, but I quite understand that would have been a gargantuan undertaking.

Anyway, what is painfully apparent from reading this is that no one back then was involved for purely altruistic reasons. Manipulation, spin-doctoring, blackmail, rigging of elections, intimidation, murder, all were prevalent, perhaps even tacitly accepted as merely part of the process by those involved. In a word, politics, of the dirtiest possible kind, is what was practised at the time. You can make a case for saying that nothing much has changed over the years, even in our civilised Western democratic societies. Just perhaps the scale of these malpractices has been ratcheted down, replaced by an ever more devious sophistication and accomplished concealment.


Buy Democracy and read the Page 45 review here

8House #3: Kiem (£2-25, Image) by Brandon Graham & Xurxo G. Penalta…

“Suddenly the world seems quieter.
“My treasure is still here.
“Treasures I’ve found since coming to the crèche.
“They were going to be for my brother…
“My twin.
“Before I knew where he was.”

Sometimes comics really do send your brain moving in the strangest directions. It has to be many a year since I thought of Victor Kiam, the man who ‘liked his razor so much he bought the company’, before launching into an ill-advised attempt to solve a non-existent problem, but apparently vital to him, possibly due to the outrageous number of mohair jumpers his vast, face-scraping fortune had allowed him to buy, with the Remington Fuzz-Away…

Anyway, I mention this purely because your mind will undoubtedly be bent into a similarly distorted state by this next issue of 8HOUSE featuring the titular Kiem. Who whilst she might not have anything to with the removal of facial, or indeed garment-based, hair, is rather good at eliminating aliens. By mind control, utilising the body of her long dead twin who is orbiting a strange object far, far away, along with a whole army of such desiccated puppet warriors…

“We are monozygotic twins.
“Sharing a chromosome profile.
“I stayed in the crèche while he was sent ahead in a skillsuit to this once cognisant transpacial mass…
“I try not to think about brother.
“How it felt, how he died.
“Our twins make it possible to travel this far.”

I was once a cognisant transpacial mass, I think…

Anyway, I am intrigued to see precisely how the whole 8HOUSE universe fits together eventually. If there really is some master design that Brandon and the other writers have to make it all one coherent time-spanning, space-stretching story. Surely not, it has to be a simple conceit to allow the telling of diverse stories with beautiful art by Brandon and his chums. And yet… I wouldn’t put it past him or them…

So after the first two ethereal and magically mediaeval-flavoured issues, 8HOUSE #1: ARCLIGHT and 8HOUSE #2: ARCLIGHT, both also penned by Brandon but drawn by Marian BEAST Churchland, this is straight-up hardcore PROPHET-esque sci-fi with more than a nod, practically a head-butt, to Moebius and THE INCAL in the art. In fact, I’m pretty sure the artist, the exotically dangerous-sounding Xurxo G. Penalta, must have a mild fetish for Deepo, ingestor of the THE INCAL and dispenser of deep wisdom, who also happens to be a seagull, as there are a fair few flocks floating around the vast, desert cityscape. Including two I have just noticed on the cover nesting atop the inverse, eight-shaped stone duolith our hero is passing through!

Most odd. I have just had an incredibly strong sense déjà vu of typing that last sentence before. Ha ha, how appropriately surreal. Anyway, Brandon pens a great teasing opener of an issue here before, I note, he will pass on writing duties to other people, and fresh artists once again. Issues #4 and #5 are both titled Yorris, written and drawn by a team I must be totally honest I’m not remotely familiar with, but I have absolute faith in Brandon’s choices, before Emma Rios launches into a four-parter sub-titled Mirror with issue #6.

I really hope we do return to the Arclight and Kiem stories before too long, they are both too good not to be continued. But as I say again, how it all fits together, if it does, goodness only knows?!


Buy 8House #3: Kiem and read the Page 45 review here

Jessica Jones: Alias vol 1 s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Gaydos with Bill Sienkiewicz.

“I don’t know what to do.”

Over and over you’ll hear that phrase. Does it seem quite familiar to you?

The finest series ever published by Marvel, 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. Just to feel something different.

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. It does have a happy ending whose seeds are sown so early on here, but it’s a tortuous path till we get there.

Don’t get me wrong: this is very, very funny with such smooth, silky and wink-ridden dialogue full of the false starts, stuttering and back-tracking which reflect our own real-life interactions that you will be utterly immersed in up to sixty consecutive panels of talking heads without blinking once before coming up for air. Then you’ll be craving the next.

It’s riddled if not with misogyny then at least balls-out chauvinism as Jessica attempts to earn a living through private investigation while encountering walls of lawyers, corporate cover-ups, political intrigue and street-level lies and deceit. Men and women hire her to find their spouses or find them out. One guy is cheating on his missus not with a woman but with multiple men whom he meets online and if you think these chat-room exchanges have been edited into something more acceptable to the average, American and easily outraged male Marvel reader, please think again!

My rule number one is “Never ask questions you don’t want to know the answers to”. This goes double for employing P.I.s. You may not like what you find.

Like HAWKEYE it’s completely accessible to newcomers with no knowledge at all of the Marvel universe because this was Jessica Jones’ first-ever appearance. It guest-stars Luke Cage, Carol Danvers and Matt Murdock. Indeed there’s a certain degree of cross-over with Bendis’ concurrent DAREDEVIL series which was similarly street-level and out-shone even Frank Miller’s.

Michael Gaydos employs the same repeated panels Miller utilised there but to different effect as Jones listens to her clients witter on. Their expressions change: hers don’t. She’s listening. She’s assessing the veracity of their stories. She doesn’t always trust her own instincts or get it right.

In the first major episode of several here Jessica is employed to find a sister who’s gone missing – a woman who’s gone to great lengths not to be tracked or found. She finds the sister safe and well but visited at night by a broad-shouldered blonde bloke whose pager receives a call-out at 2am. Is he a doctor? Pfft. No. He doesn’t even leave by the front door. Why would the sister not want to be found if she’s happy and beginning a brand-new relationship?

The answer makes so much sense but it’s the question which you should concentrate on. As should Jessica. Because she’s being set up by those several tiers above and it’s how she handles that which will make all the difference in the world to what follows.

Superheroes don’t just have secret identities. They have private lives. Or at least they do here and they’re… complicated.

Complicated by sex. Here’s Jessica out to lunch at a street-side cafe with Carol Danvers. They’re rekindling their friendship after letting it lapse. It’s amazing how much you can do for a friendship if you’re prepared to reach out. See above for first two pages, then…



I don’t post that sequence at random, either. Cage will be playing a very significant role, effectively reintroducing him to the Marvel universe in far more contemporary manner, eventually leading into Bendis’ NEW AVENGERS VOL 1: BREAK OUT.

This is a series about accepting your limitations without being bullied by them, recognising your real strengths, looking forward not back, and going with the risk of letting new people in. Actually, it’s about relearning how to love yourself in the way that you should.


Buy Jessica Jones: Alias vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Plutona #1 (£2-25, Image) by Jeff Lemire & Emi Lenox…

“What do you want, Ray?”
“Nothing. What are you doing out here, Tugger? “Dr. Bion… possible sighting over Twayne Tower, October.” What the hell is this, Tugger?”
“None of your business!”
“Okay, okay. Sorry. What is it? Seriously Teddy, I really want to know.”
“I’m capespotting.”
“What the fuck is capespotting?”
“I watch and catalogue the skies over Metro City and then catalogue any hero sightings on my blog. I’m part of the Northwest Capespotting Society. We all cross-reference and correlate our findings online.”

Poor old Tugger, I mean Teddy. You can well imagine why his tormentor Ray has given him that nickname.  Still, when Teddy points out that at least he has friends and why doesn’t Ray just go home, he is surprised by just how aggressively Ray reacts to that suggestion. Maybe Ray didn’t get that black eye in a fight with a ninth grader whose ass he kicked (as he boasted) after all?

Meanwhile, Mie and her best friend Diane have a seemingly slightly unequal relationship too. Initially you get the sense that Diane is the one who’s too cool for school with her studded leather jacket Mie is keen to borrow, but quickly it becomes apparent Mie is taking her friend for granted, and in fact it’s Diane who is just a tad too keen to retain Mie’s friendship. Unfortunately for them, they’ve been asked to look after Mie’s little brother Mike whilst they go for an evening walk, which is just the most ridiculously inconvenient and socially onerous thing her mother could ever have asked Mie to do, obviously.

So it’s somewhat unfortunate that when they chance upon Teddy and Ray, who is finally actually being nice to Teddy (until an audience turns up, of course), in the distraction of Ray outing Tugger as a capespotter to the girls, that’s when Mike promptly decides to wander off into the dark and spooky woods by himself. Our gang do find him eventually, stood shocked and distraught over the beaten up dead body of a superheroine bearing the Plutona symbol on her costume.

Cue a five pager ‘back-up’ story to finish that is presented as #126 of the Plutona comic featuring a young single mum – looking remarkably like the prone figure in the woods – trying to juggle superheroing, working in a diner and raising a family. Hmm…

Great opener from Jeff as he sets up what are presumably most of the main characters, their typical teenage social dynamics, and also builds the intrigue to fever pitch by the finale. Whereas the five pager ‘back-up’ is illustrated in a traditional looser Lemire style, akin to his SWEET TOOTH work, the art for the main story by Emi Lenox bears a much simpler, cleaner line with troubled, haunted or angry eyes.

I really have no idea where he is going to with this, so much so I just had a peak at the Diamond solicitation information for issues #2 and #3, which gave absolutely nothing away!!! Consider me hooked!


Buy Plutona #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Mad Max: Fury Road s/c (£10-99, Vertigo) by George Miller, Mark Sexton & Riccardo Burchielli…

“Suffice to say, I’d never seen anything like it. I was hooked.”

Ha, the above quote comes from an excellent foreword by Mark Sexton, long-time collaborator with George Miller and co-scribe of these tie-in comics. He’s referring to Mad Max 2, which he saw as a twelve year old. I have to say I retain a similar affection for the first Mad Max film, which I saw at a similar age. It remains a very firm favourite of mine to this day for relatively inexplicable reasons. The combination of hokey acting and ridiculous characters shouldn’t work, but somehow it all just comes together in a full-throttle collision of action and insane nonsense that imprinted itself on my mind to such an extent I could probably quote much of the dialogue verbatim today.

Anyway… when I heard the long-gestating Mad Max Fury Road was finally going to hit the screens, (I mean what, this sequel had been talked about for practically thirty years?) I was excited enough that I simply had to make a rare cinematic outing myself. Even so, it had practically gone off by the time I managed to see it, and in the interim I had heard nothing but near-universal, indeed breathless, praise. My expectations were high. I loved it, yet I can’t say I felt as deeply affected as I did as a young lad, eyes wide, watching the first adventures of Max Rockatansky. I’m not sure I can be that affected anymore by an action film frankly, but still, I can understand why it utterly blew people away. As action films go, it was rather good.

So, these comics are basically prequel material showing how the main supporting characters – Furiosa, Immortan Joe and Nux – rise to prominence and how Max eventually happens to cross their paths. There have been a few comics in recent years actually that have apparently enhanced the cinematic experience. Two, STAR TREK: COUNTDOWN and PREDATORS, even managed to achieve the neat trick of being both prequel and sequel simultaneously, and in the former’s case, also explaining a plot device that had baffled me completely in the film. So, tie-in comic material can work well, if done properly. These are fun enough, I most enjoyed the Immortan Joe and Nux tales, actually, I felt they genuinely added something to the milieu, though the Max and Furiosa ones felt a tad spurious.

Overall, if you loved the film, and seemingly everyone who saw it did, and you need a bit more Max in your life whilst we all await the next sequel, which I sincerely hope will be sooner than thirty years, although given the box office success of this caper, I’m sure it’s well into pre-production already, it is well worth giving these a read.


Buy Mad Max: Fury Road 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.

Saga vol 5 s/c (£10-99, Image) by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

Step Aside, Pops – A Hark! A Vagrant Collection (£12-99, Jonathan Cape) by Kate Beaton

Chrononauts (£7-50, Image) by Mark Millar & Sean Murphy

Crossed + 100 vol 1 (£14-99, Avatar) by Alan Moore & Gabriel Andrade

Descender vol 1: Tin Stars (£7-50, Image) by Jeff Lemire & Dustin Nguyen

The Dharma Punks (£18-99, Conundrum) by Ant Sang

Dispossession: A Novel Of Few Words (£17-99, Jonathan Cape) by Simon Grennan

Honor Girl (£14-99, Candlewick Press) by Maggie Thrash

Pixu – The Mark Of Evil s/c (£10-99, Dark Horse) by Gabriel Ba, Becky Cloonan, Vasilis Lolos, Fabio Moon

Virgil (£7-50, Image) by Steve Orlando & J. D. Faith

Batman Beyond 2.0 vol 3: Mark Of The Phantasm s/c (£12-99, DC) by Kyle Higgins, Alec Siegel & Phil Hester, Thony Silas, various

Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 10 vol 3: Love Dares You (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Christos N. Gage, Nicholas Brendon & Rebekah Isaacs, Megan Levens


ITEM! Page 45 at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2015! Win £100’s worth of Festival Tickets to see comicbook creators Dave McKean, Stuart Immonen, Darwyn Cook, Mary Talbot, Bryan Talbot, Ian McQue and Jock for free!

Also on that blog, Page 45’s own Special Comicbook creator guests: Jon Allison, Dan Berry, Jonathan Edwards, Sarah McIntyre, Felt Mistress, Philip Reeve, Jade Sarson, Richard Short, Emma Vieceli signing and sketching for free!

Oh yeah, you do know that entry to LICAF is overwhelmingly free, right? It’s only the ticketed talks that cost money. And, if you win our prize competition, they don’t!

ITEM! Studio Ghibli’s Hayao Miyazaki to build chrildren’s nature retreat on a Japanese island!

ITEM! Sarah McIntyre’s illustrated blog on creating art for PUGS OF THE FROZEN NORTH

ITEM! UMBRAL’s Antony Johnston on his new series BABOUSHKA

ITEM! Update on all things Brubaker & Phillips including news on the length of THE FADE OUT

ITEM! BROKEN TELEPHONE crime comic seen from six perspectives. Includes Will Kirkby art!

ITEM! I once dreamed that Page 45 had relocated to a cathedral, its pews our comic shelves. Now I discover there is actually a bookshop in a church in the Netherlands. Heavenly!

- Stephen

Page 45 At The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2015

September 7th, 2015

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


Competition! Win Free Tickets To 9 LICAF Events

See Dave McKean, Stuart Immonen, Darwyn Cook, Mary Talbot, Bryan Talbot, Ian McQue and Jock for free! Normal cost nearly £100. Please see below!

Page 45 Brings Beautiful Graphic Novels to Kendal


On Saturday 17th & Sunday 18th October Page 45 will have multiple tables stacked high with gorgeous graphic novels, quality kids comics and special creator guests in The Georgian Room upstairs in the Comics Clock Tower. The entire room is ours and entry is free!

Ask for recommendations tailored to YOUR specific tastes!
We’ll help find your friends presents too!
We’ll be providing show-and-tells on any book you fancy all weekend long!

Important: Page 45 will be accepting cash AND credit cards!

Sarah McIntyre & Philip Reeve Signing & Sketching for free!



Thrill to the fabulous Sarah McIntyre & Philip Reeve signing & sketching in their all-ages books! Do bring a camera: I promise you a spectacle!

The venue: Georgian Room upstairs in Comics Clock Tower
The date: Saturday 17th October 2015
The time: 2.30pm for as long as we can keep them!

Entry is free, no tickets required but please turn up on time to avoid disappointment.

Books on sale (reviewed with interior art):

24 BY 7

& more!

Page 45’s Creator Special Guests

Also selling their wares in our room throughout the weekend, signing & sketching for free, the heroes of the Lakes 24-Hour Comics Marathon 2015:



Jon Allison
Dan Berry
Jonathan Edwards
Jade Sarson
Richard Short
Emma Vieceli

With even more ‘special’ guest, Felt Mistress.  She’s the co-creator of DESTINATION KENDAL!

Warning: she may not actually look like this.



Warning: she actually does.

Follow us on Twitter @pagefortyfive as other creators pop in to draw free, impromptu sketches like last year!

Page 45’s review of 24 BY 7, the collected edition of the Lakes 24-Hour Comics Marathon 2014

Page 45’s photo-filled review of The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014! Oooh, graphic novels!


Win Free Tickets To 9 LICAF Events!

Thanks to the kindness of customer Craig Dawson we have a set of the following fab events normally costing nearly £100 with for you to attend for free! Craig has effectively curated your stay! Each event has been linked to so you can see exactly how lucky you’ll be.



DAVE MCKEAN presents LUNA (15) on Friday, 8-15pm-10-30pm, Brewery Arts Centre Screen 2

A VISION OF UTOPIA: MARY TALBOT on Saturday, 10am to 11am, Comic Clock Tower

THE ART OF JOCK on Saturday, 11-45am to 12-45pm, Brewery Arts Centre Theatre

NEW FRONTIERS: THE ART OF DARWYN COOKE on Saturday, 2-30pm to 3-30pm, Shakespeare Centre

CHAMELEON: THE ART OF STUART IMMONEN on Saturday, 4pm-5-30pm, The Shakespeare Centre

DAVE MCKEAN PERFORMS: 9 LIVES on Saturday, 8-15pm to 9-45pm, Brewery Arts Centre Theatre

THE ART OF DAVE MCKEAN on Sunday, 11am to midday, Brewery Arts Centre Theatre

ARKWRIGHT: WHERE BRITISH GRAPHIC NOVELS BEGAN on Sunday 12:00 to 1pm, Brewery Arts Centre Screen 2

THE BIG COMIC DRAW on Sunday, 1pm to 2-30pm, Brewery Arts Centre Theatre

The Immonens are amazing! See our review of RUSSIAN OLIVE TO RED KING



To enter: simply email with “I’m Coming To Kendal Competition!” in the subject header and your name and address (and Twitter handle if you have one) in the body and we’ll get a random customer to draw one lucky winner in a fortnight’s time and send you the physical tickets! You don’t even have to answer a question!

Buy other tickets:

Lakes Festival Saturday Events in full!
Lakes Festival Sunday Events in full!


Keep up to date with the free, open-door Festival:

Twitter: @comicartfest
Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2015 Website
Full Festival Programme 2015
Festival Family Zone
Accommodation And Travel

Page 45 credentials

Page 45 is a proud Patron of the Lakes International Comic Art Festival.
Page 45 is the executive sponsor of the British Comics Awards.
Stephen was a judge of the British Comics Awards in 2012 & 2013.

Page 45 won the first award for Best Independent Retailer in Nottingham 2012.
Page 45 won the Best Independent Business in Nottingham 2013.
Page 45 was shortlisted for the Bookseller’s Independent Bookshop Of The Year 2014.
Page 45 won the only ever Diamond Comics Award for Best Retailer in the UK in 2004. That was pretty sweet. Thank you!

Kids Comics Are Cool!

And we will be bringing so very many of these!


Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews September 2015 week one

September 2nd, 2015

Ted Rall explores American surveillance and whistleblower Edward Snowden, there are top-notch superheroes too, but we open with a wealth of All-Ages brilliance including new Craig Thompson, Adam Murphy and the latest Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntryre triumph, PUGS OF THE FROZEN NORTH!

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

“I’m so happy to see you!”
“Isn’t it the BEST THING that our dismal old school was eaten?!”
“Wait… where’s your uniform?
“You didn’t get accepted to Station School, Violet.”

You have to admire Craig Thompson for, much like Bryan Talbot, he is a man who’s not remotely afraid to tackle something completely different for each project rather than ploughing the same, albeit highly successful award-winning furrows. It’s difficult to think of five more disparate works from the same creator than GOODBYE CHUNKY RICE, BLANKETS, CARNET DE VOYAGE, HABIBI and now SPACE DUMPLINS. One could easily imagine that if he told his agents his next work was going to be a gore-filled slasher horror they’d probably just say, “Okay Craig, sounds great, same terms, alright?”

This is a perfect example of how to do a gripping all-ages read. Whilst on one level, for the younger kids, it’s the madcap adventures of plucky Violet Marlocke, searching the galaxy for her missing father who’s been swallowed by a planet-eating whale, on other levels there is much social commentary and satire about the ills of modern society for adults to digest.

Particularly the snobbery of those, adults and kids alike, who think they are a cut above Violet and her hard-working parents, who despite their best efforts are constantly struggling financially and battling against a system that seems determined to keep them in their place. Which is on a battered old space ship moored up in the equivalent of a trailer park. Well away from the gleaming space stations with all the luxury mod cons which the hoi polloi can’t even board without a work permit, and even then only allows them day visitor status. But also environmentally, as the colloidal collection of space stations and asteroids, inhabited by more kinds of aliens than you’d see in an entire series of Star Trek, are coming under attack from space-whale diarrhoea which has already flooded eighty percent of the asteroid belts, destroying the homes of many poor species and rendering the areas uninhabitable…

Happily for Violet, her dad is proving far less digestible to the blubbery behemoth in question so a happy ending is assured, but not before Violet and her collection of odd-ball cohorts, all social outcasts in their own ways, have several perilous escapades en route to rescuing him! It’s not often you come across something, for kids, all ages or adults alone where the secondary and even tertiary characters and their machinations and motivations are so well fleshed out. I lauded THE UNSINKABLE WALKER BEAN for just such depth of characterisation and this is exactly the same. The rich, vibrant storytelling is a delight to immerse yourself in. And this is before we’ve even got onto the art!

For this to my mind is just as much of an artistic masterpiece as HABIBI. There is not a millimetre of space wasted. For example, the backgrounds on space station are filled with gantries, walkways, airlocks, random aliens of every shape and size! In terms of panel composition and some of the crazy tricks he pulls, it is just as sophisticated as HABIBI, but then why should we expect anything less just because it’s a comedy / fantasy all-ages graphic novel? What comes across so strongly is just how much Craig must love drawing, because the sense of fun and glee apparent in practically every panel is, again, a pleasure to observe. You could not put as much effort into your illustrations as this if you weren’t having a blast drawing them. If all kids’ graphic novels were as brilliant as SPACE DUMPLINS, the term “reluctant reader” wouldn’t even exist.


Buy Space Dumplins and read the Page 45 review here

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

“Shackleton Jones laughed. ‘The Kraken? You don’t believe in that old story, do you? It’s just a legend of the sea, like the Bermuda Triangle, or the Night of the Seawigs.’
’Idiot,’ muttered Sika.”

Idiot indeed!

Young Sika knows the Night of the Seawigs is real because she’s almost certainly read this Team Supreme’s award-winning OLIVER AND THE SEAWIGS, that Richard Attenborough-style natural history documentary on the migratory lives of the Rambling Isles and the Night of the Seawigs itself. You couldn’t make it up – though they have.

Effortlessly inventive – like Reeve’s and McIntyre’s CAKES IN SPACE – it has a lovely lilt to its language fully integrated into sweeping landscapes of sneaky Sea Monkeys, sarcastic seaweed and semi-sentient islands with a penchant for beautifying their barnets with shipwrecks and submarines then entering annual competitions to see who brings the best bling.

The competition is equally fierce here and the imagination brought to bear on the book no less thrilling. For if you thought that the Arctic was a vast expanse of featureless, flat ice, oh no! This is a True Winter in which waves flash-freeze in a second and Sarah had created the most luminous icescapes out of giant, white, jagged and crystalline shards juxtaposed against backdrops of majestic, sweeping curves and aquamarines which manage to be both warm and sub-zero at once. It’s like the most modern, outdoor cathedral!

Likewise I swear you have seen nothing like this particular Icicle Palace which lies at the heart of the book and competition, but I’m not about to spoil the surprise. If you’re imagining traditionally pointed spires or castellated walls or really walls or any sort at all, you are going to be out-invented. This is the land of the Northern Lights, remember, so light plays a significant part in its aspect. And in any case truly magical monuments don’t conform to mundane laws of physics.

We’ll encounter the Yetis later on (as will Shen and Sika!) but McIntyre’s monsters are always amazing, and when her Kraken awakes chaos is unleashed. Its eyes glare up from beneath the frigid depths as tentacles thrash across the page, tossing the yip-yapping sixty-six pugs this way and that as they gamely chomp down on its octopoid extremities.

I think I need to pull back.

Cabin-boy Shen is abandoned in the Arctic by his captain when his ship, Lucky Star, proves unequal to its name by becoming frozen in the North. He’s left on the ice with its cargo of sixty-six pugs and a package of pullovers whose sleeves Shen snips off to slip over the excitable pooches like body muffs.

Without food or shelter their prospects look ever so bleak, but somehow they make it to the ‘Po Of Ice’ outpost whose sign is missing an ‘s’ next to a ‘t’ then an ‘f’. It is a very convenient store, just like all our own used to be. (Ooh, countryside politics!)

There he finds Sika living with her Mum and her ancient, bed-ridden Grandpa who once knew a True Winter just like this. They only come round once in a lifetime and when they do they catalyse a now legendary race to the North Pole where materialises a magical Icicle Palace with its kindly Snowfather granting the contest’s winner their heart’s desire.

Sika’s grandfather took part in the last one and came back with a treasure trove of stories, but unfortunately he didn’t come first and he’s not fit to ride again. So now it’s up to Sika and Shen, her grandfather’s whalebone sledge and their sixty-six yip-yipping pugs. If Sika wins she would wish her Grandpa another lifetime. Shen’s not sure what he wants because he’s never had anything to call his own – not even a family. He was discovered, lost at sea, in an upturned umbrella. It could only have been worse if it had been a handbag, buoyancy factor zero.

So what of their competition? It’s high-tech, low-tech and downright dastardly, but some are more kindly than others.

Take Helga Hammerfest with her two pet polar bears, Snowdrop and Slushpuppy. That’s some serious, indigenous pulling power for you! She’s grown a beard just to keep warm and that’s seems admirably practical to me. Our tongue-poking pugs will be grateful now and then. Awwww!

You’ve already met Professor Shackleton Jones whose faithful assistant and robot SNOBOT are pulled in his slick, sleek, scientifically sourced sledge by a crew of equally inorganic Woof-O-Tron 2000s. Then there’s Mitzi Von Primm with her pack of four pink-dyed poodles who reminded me of Penelope Pitstop. Those poor poodles are so embarrassed!

There are many more besides, but the Arctic is a land so freezing that if you twirl your Machiavellian moustache it’s likely to snap off in your fingers. That’s precisely what happens to wicked Sir Basil Sprout-Dumpling, so determined to win this Wackiest of Races that he comes off like Dick Dastardly. How low will he go? So low!

Reeve as ever brings his natural, lateral thinking to bear for it’s not just Sir Basil Sprout-Dumpling’s moustache that feels the polar pinch:

“The night grew so cold that pieces of the Northern Lights froze and fell out of the sky. They lay strewn about on the ice, glowing gently.”

Of course they did! And you know how they say that Inuits have 52 different words for snow and ice? (They don’t.) Here Sika and Shen discover 50 different sorts of snow!

“They crossed patches of blindsnow and patches of echosnow. They plunged through warbling drifts of songsnow and screaming mounds of screechsnow. They crossed a broad, rolling plain of slumbersnow, which snored and mumbled and farted like someone asleep under a huge white eiderdown.”

Brilliant! Why not make your own snow up? I vote for nosnow in which a consonant is swapped and instead of turning up for work on time I lie peacefully home in bed.

There’ll be werensnow, smelly stinksnow and THERE WILL BE YETIS!

Yetis play a big, big, big, big part in this book! I don’t want to give too much away but once again McIntyre excels herself by ensuring that each Yeti is an individual with different  hair styles, banded beards, headgear and waistcoats. There may be a good reason why!

Reeve’s even written them a song for you to sing along to, and I’ve already composed my own tune and rhythm. This is a book that demands to be read aloud at night to children – there are so many different voices to do!

Oh, but this has a big heart of gold and a finale that’s far from obvious which draws on much that has been so subtly introduced along the way. I leave you with this; infer what you will.

“All old things die in the end, but not stories. Stories go on and on, and new ones are always being born.”

P.S. This year Sarah McIntyre has been campaigning for illustrators to receive their rightful credits within the books and on their covers, but also in databases which retailers use to gauge potential sales when ordering etc.. Shamefully so often only the writer is credited. On Twitter Sarah (@jabberworks) has been using the hashtage #PicturesMeanBusiness. In PUGS OF THE FROZEN NORTH Reeve and McIntyre have come up with the perfect template for others to adopt which shows their mutual respect and reflects their equal contribution. I thought it worth reproducing here.

There’s much more from Sarah in the News section below!


Buy Pugs Of The Frozen North and read the Page 45 review here

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

“It’s a flower. It’s alive too.”

Two panels later, it isn’t.

From the creator of the ZITA THE SPACEGIRL trilogy, a book of newfound friendship for a slightly younger audience which touches briefly on identity and belonging and comes with one moment of quite unexpected, jealous betrayal which is echoed towards the end with a much more sanguine outcome.

Both worked for me. I think the possessive jealously will be widely recognised and we’re none of us above making mistakes. I foresee this as a graphic novel being read together and wondered at by families, perhaps discussing what’s happening for the first twenty pages are silent and quite a lot too later on.

There’s some spectacular lighting for both midday and night and one double-page spread at sunset seen across a small, leaf-lined lake which lets so much light through that it’s surely executed either in coloured inks or very wet watercolours indeed. We’ll come back to the cracking design work for the robots in a bit. Oh, our titular Little Robot is far from alone, I promise you!

It begins late one crescent-mooned night with traffic speeding across a bridge for a city. A lorry loses a box which tumbles out of its back and into the river below. It’s discovered way downstream the next morning by a young girl who’s cautious but ever so curious and a dab hand with her back-slung tool kit. That will come in very handy indeed later on!

In it is she finds a metal object which at first resembles a giant silver yoyo, but on a press of a button on top of its bonce expands into a wobbly-legged, cylindrical, two-eyed, bipedal robot. Initially frightened, the young girl can see that it’s struggling, floundering on its back with its legs in the air like a beetle. Instinctively she breaks cover to help.

“That’s it,” she says supporting new friend like a crutch. “One step at a time.”

Interlude: meanwhile back at a factory so automated it might even have conceivably been built by robots – there’s not a human in sight – an alarm goes off.

“Missing Unit 00012. Locate and recover.”

The robot dispatched looks a lot less human and a lot less friendly.

Although a bright, clean yellow it has an angrily red Cyclops eye over which frowns a black triangle pointing down; it scuttles slowly out on six, segmented, scorpion-like legs, boasts two sharp, pincered claws, a weaponised bum and a big, broad, flat mouth you could easily fit a little robot into.

“ZOM!” it will say, and that’s not a sound to make you feel safe, is it? Sensors running, it picks up speed in search of its prey…

Oh, it’s all been very well thought through, including other elements which immediately flash danger signs like a chain-link fence which you’ve always been told you’re not supposed to go past or through trampled into the ground, its boundary breached.

There are many more robots to come, huge battle action, rain, lightning and learning curves.


Buy Little Robot and read the Page 45 review here

Corpse Talk Season 2 (£7-99, David Fickling Books) by Adam Murphy.

“This week, one of history’s feistiest fighting females! It’s the Tudor Tigress, the lean, mean Virgin Queen, Elizabeth I!
“Elizabeth, you might be the world record holder for the most insane family drama of all time!”

Our cadaver-questioning host then catalogues what is probably the most insane family drama of all time by hailing two Marys (sister and cousin) a furious father bent on beheading (Henry VIII – amongst those on the chopping block, Liz’s own mum), family fights over the throne, further bumpings-off and finally Philip II of Spain, former husband to her dead sister, asking for Betty’s hand in marriage and not taking rejection too well. Most young men would have slunk off sheepishly and ordered in pizza. Philip II ordered out the Spanish bloody Armada!

“First we blasted them with cannons! Then we sailed shops of fire into them! Then God got in on the action, and stormed them to death! Don’t mess with The Bess – she gon’ open up a can of whoop-ass!”
“Aw yeah!”

Was history ever this energetic?! I love how Adam Murphy introduces his victims (well, they’re all dead) like Kermit The Frog or potential pugilists in a boxing ring. He does give some of them what-for, mocking Guy Fawkes’ chronic incompetence like nobody’s business.

I wasn’t going to review this purely because with the best will in the world I can’t review multiple volumes and every single series and sales of CORPSE TALK SEASON 1 have been so spectacular here that this will be snapped off our shelves as fast as we can stock them. Then I made the mistake of reading at random the headstone-like headlines of a couple of these corpses and couldn’t put it down.

There’s an annotated poster postscript to Queen Elizabeth I’s interview which is equally riotous, revealing the domino effect which began with smallpox and was escalated by her decision to cover up the scars with her trademark, trowelled-on white slap which contained poisonous lead which robbed her of her hair and possibly even her life. Who knew that she wore a dress embroidered with fantastical sea monsters to declare that she ruled the waves? (Those sea monsters are worthy of fellow PHOENIX funster Gary Northfield, by the way.) There’s also a fab Fire Of London double-page spread.

Please see my review of CORPSE TALK SEASON 1 for a more detailed exhumation of this grave old world, but let me remind you of this: like Simon Schama, Adam Murphy – with arms admittedly more flailing; oh dear me, but the exuberant cartooning is exquisite  – proves that history isn’t inherently dull. It’s only tarnished by those already worn out themselves.

Don’t think it’s dumbed-down, either. Entertainment and accuracy aren’t incompatible, and high scores are always achieved by getting straight to the points. The amount of information Murphy can cram into two comicbook pages with unerring coherence (not just eloquence, but by joining up the thematic dots) is masterful and provides a vivid snapshot of at least one aspect of these celebrities who have long ceased to be.

Also this volume: Laurel & Hardy, Sir Christopher Wren, Pocahontas, Billy Shakespeare, Vlad The Impaler, Henri Matisse, Oliver Cromwell and Maria Sibylla Merian. Who? Well, that’s part of the point. Let’s keep these living legends alive! Umm…


Buy Corpse Talk Season 2 and read the Page 45 review here

Nimona s/c (£9-99, Harper Collins) by Noelle Stevenson…

“Video games are a waste of time.”
“And board games aren’t? Why do you even have these? No one lives here but you!”
“I used to have some henchmen. Game night was a big hit.”
“Henchmen? What happened to them?”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”

Available again at last! The first edition disappeared out of print practically before it had even hit the shelves back in May, such was the advance buzz surrounding this work by the co-creator of the LUMBERJANES. In the interim whilst we’ve been waiting for the second printing, it’s been announced that 20th Century Fox are going to make an animated version. Which doesn’t surprise me at all because when I read it, I was immediately struck by how wonderfully daft it was, in the exact same vein of bonkers as the ADVENTURE TIME cartoon.

The titular character Nimona is a brash young shapeshifter who’s desperately trying to impress – and thus become the sidekick of – the not-so-dastardly Lord Ballister Blackheart. He’s the boo-hiss villain of the piece, seemingly at irreconcilable odds with his one-time best friend turned arch-nemesis, Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin of the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics. But is anything or anyone what it seems in this crazy, mediaeval town?! No, in a word.

The Institution would have everyone believe that Ballister is evil personified, but actually he seems a rather misunderstood knight turned mad scientist, with a soft spot for his young wannabe charge. He’s not convinced he needs or even wants a teen henchperson, but gradually Nimone’s infectious personality and prodigious polymorphic powers, handy for implementing many a mischievous masterplan and performing those vital in-the-nick-of-time rescues, begin to win him round. By the time he learns the sad secret behind Nimona’s abilities and those dark, dirty secrets of the Institution he’s already three-quarters of the way down the road to knightly redemption!

This is possibly one of the best comedy fantasy graphic novels I have ever read, the intricate, witty storytelling is just wonderful. It is real heart-warming stuff too, as we quickly work out Lord Ballister’s been framed and cast in the role of public enemy number one by the devious Institution for their own nefarious spin-doctoring ends. Don’t fret, though, they’ll get their justly come-uppance in a truly riotous finale.

Great artwork too from Noelle, who’s clearly as talented an artist as she is a writer. She’s like a neat and tidy Kate Beaton, if that makes any sense!


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

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

“In [George Orwell’s] 1984 the telescreen could never be turned off. The NSA brought that dystopia to life. The agency can use your smartphone to track your movements and listen to conversations in your home, even if your phone is powered down to ‘off’. Program name: Captivated Audience.”

Just digest that fact for a moment. You can be monitored inside your own house, in fact anywhere, by the security services using your own phone, even whilst it is completely turned off…

But surely, they aren’t doing this to everyone, right? So it doesn’t matter, it’s just an extremely useful tool in the war on terror.

“A program called ‘Mystic’ records 100% of the audio content of phone calls in some countries. Some say it captures 80% of U.S. calls as well. NSA programs called ‘Blarney’, ‘Fairview’, ‘Oakstar’, ‘Lithium’ and ‘Stormbrew’ can intercept and store 75% of all internet traffic in the US: e-mail, text messages, web browsing, app activity, voice over internet phone calls, online banking, video.” In fact the NSA also “intercepts and stores 99% of the metadata (number called from, number called to, duration of call, location of caller, and recipient) of Americans’ phone calls.”

Hmm… you can begin to see why people might be mildly perturbed by this information, the NSA being authorised by its charter to spy on people only overseas, but not domestically. That is in fact illegal without the expressed permission of a judge. And yet it is still happening. And let us not kid ourselves that this isn’t going on in the UK, to the same extent, by our security services too. Of course it is.

So, why did Edward Snowden choose to whistleblow (or betray his country, depending on your perspective)? He had from the outside a fairly idyllic life living in Hawaii with an extremely well paid job, an attractive girlfriend. Why did he decide that he needed to inform the people of what the US government was doing?

This is an excellent, insightful piece of graphic journalism, piecing together the Edward Snowden story from the beginning and simply presenting the facts, much like Darryl Cunningham’s SUPERCRASH did with the global financial crisis. It opens with a few pages recounting the fictional totalitarian world that George Orwell created in 1984, the degree of surveillance that population was subject to, and then invites us to draw the comparison with what the US security services are up to now. It’s extremely unsettling that the fiction Orwell created can now be held up as a near perfect allegory to what is occurring today.

Ted Rall (SILK ROAD TO RUIN) forensically examines the early life and upbringing of Edward Snowden searching for the clues as to what made him different from virtually every other employee or contractor of the US security services. Why was he prepared to throw away his perfect life when all the others were content to simply carry on being cogs in the machine? Especially knowing as he did that whistleblowing and working within the system to achieve change wasn’t a serious option, because those who had tried to do so in recent US political history were inevitably destroyed by the system.

So, if he was really determined to reveal the truth, it would then leave him no option but to go on the run and spend the rest of his life as an outcast. Even now, his asylum status in Russia is anything but certain and could be revoked at any moment. If he ever does end up back in the US, lifelong imprisonment with little chance of parole would be extremely likely. So why do it? What in his makeup or upbringing made Edward Snowden take such a momentous, life-changing decision?

Ted Rall does an extremely good job of trying to answer that question, painting a portrait of a good and honest man tormented by what he has learned. I find myself wondering whether I would have had his courage were I in the same position. It is undoubtedly true that the world needs people like Edward Snowden, who are prepared to stand up and be counted, and make those impossible decisions. How much difference his sacrifice will ultimately make is debatable. The cynic in me suspects none at all, but still, I’m glad he did what he did.

I think we do have a right to know what our governments are doing. I do accept there are specific facts that need to be kept secret, but not the means and mechanisms and reach of their surveillance capabilities, not when it affects us so directly. Undoubtedly every government’s response to that would be, “Well if you’re not doing anything wrong, what’s the problem?” I think I’ll leave the last word to Ted on that, who towards the conclusion of the book posits an extremely interesting observation that shows just how radically different people’s perception of Edward Snowden and – to some degree, by extension – the United States government, both from an international and domestic perspective, can be…

“Where you stand on Snowden tends to be linked to how much you trust the government. If you see the U.S. Government as a flawed institution that employs patriotic people trying to do their best to keep the country safe and strong, you’re likely to take politicians at their word when they say they don’t abuse their power, that their surveillance targets are all terrorists.
“If on the other hand, you see the United States as a militaristic empire out to conquer most of the world and dominate the rest, defined by a long history of genocide, systemic racism, and ruthless suppression of dissent, then you probably think that the government can’t be trusted.”


Buy Snowden and read the Page 45 review here

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

“Trust. The foundation of any long-lasting relationship.”

Just remember as you read this that Geoffrey Warner said that.

Every time I think I’m done with superheroes along comes something genuinely fresh and thrilling like JUPITER’S LEGACY and, yes, I rank this right alongside Mark Millar.

Usually it has to involve politics for me, like Brian K. Vaughan & Tony Harris’ EX MACHINA but whereas that’s as contemporary as it’s possible to be, this, set in the 1960s, has a deliciously period feel complete with wallpaper designs, carpets, dining-room decor and those Eero Aarnio-designed Ball Chairs. Even the lipsticks are pale.

In C.O.W.L. VOL 1 I made much of the Bill Sienkiewizc-inspired art with its pale palette. I love the way Rod Reis uses circles to denote points of pain like a sprained or broken ankle but here he does something I’ve never seen done before except as a brief break-the-fourth-wall gag.

There’s a nasty, contemptuous masked man called Doppler whose preternatural ability is to manipulate sound: to divert, rework and amplify it. This is represented on the page as the curve of someone’s scream being redirected so that the sound effect clobbers someone upside the head. Or, on another page, when a hostage shouts “Oh thank GOD!” Doppler grabs the giant ‘D’ out of the speech balloon and whacks his assailant across the face with it. Purely representational because it’s actually the sonic boom that’s done that, but it’s all the cleverer for it.

As to the politics, they’re city-hall, Mayor-level and if you want a comparison point it’s very much TV’s ‘The Wire’. In fact, if you’re bored with the corporate-superhero machinations of Marvel and DC, well, this is about the machinations of a superhero corporation called C.O.W.L.. Only it’s not a publisher; it’s a private, professional, for-profit law enforcement agency run by a master manipulator Geoffrey Warner whose unpowered detectives and powered patrolmen and women don’t even own their code names. They’re very much employees just as C.O.W.L. itself is employed by the city of Chicago.

Or rather, it was. As the second volume opens, C.O.W.L.’s contact is up for renewal but the Mayor’s playing hardball because there are no more super-powered villains to protect Chicago from: by one means or another C.O.W.L. has contained them all, effectively succeeding itself out of a job.

As the negotiations stall C.O.W.L. goes on strike. But the problem with striking is that the public has got to miss you. People have to notice that their lives are worse off without you. For Geoffrey Warner losing that contract is not an option. So he’s gone and done the unthinkable.

This wouldn’t work if the C.O.W.L. employees weren’t individuals first and foremost, some with families, all with different perspectives on what’s right and wrong. Some are more complicit than others. Unpowered detective John Pierce of its Investigations Division has already been murdered leaving a wife behind, and a behind-the-scenes cover-up and misdirection is already in full swing.

Some are prepared to break the picket line in order do the job they’re on the verge of losing which only weakens Warner’s hand and so potentially work themselves even further out of a job.

It’s so well observed, Higgins and Siegel having paid very close attention to when teachers and particularly firemen go on strike. It is riddled with complex manoeuvres and just when you think Geoffrey Warner’s run out of options, oh but he’s a devious, quick-witted devil.

Whether or not there’s more on the way you can consider these two volumes, taken together, as a complete and singularly satisfying story with a beginning, a tense and unpredictable middle, and an end.


Buy C.O.W.L. vol 2: The Greater Good s/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

“You think Cap’s dead?”
“He’s a guy. How would you be able to tell?”

The second NEXTWAVE book was called ‘I Kick Your Face’, officially the finest title to any book in the world. This contains both.

Highly recommended to readers of Fraction and Aja’s HAWKEYE, this is cartoon comedy violence in which Ellis gets to indulge his love of fine timing without having to bother with anything like a serious attempt at characterisation. You couldn’t get more two-dimensional character traits, yet once Ellis sets up those two dimensions they’re all he needs to wring line after line from them, whilst Stuart Immonen – one of comics’ finest chameleons – pulls off the visual gags with relish and apolmb. The result is a monkey house of anarchic, pugilistic pageantry, as a bunch of C-list superheroes make things ‘splode.

It hardly matters why.

Here they take on the giant, green, purple-panted dragon called Fin Fang Foom:

“FIN FANG FOOM!  Mommy was a slut-lizard that did the bad thing with suggestively-shaped piles of nuclear waste, and nine months later –
“FIN FANG FOOM!  Has been burning with the need to mate since 1956!
“FIN FANG FOOM!  Has absolutely no genitals whatsoever!
“FIN FANG FOOM!  Oh, you cannot imagine how annoyed he is.”

It’s basically Warren Ellis cackling to himself and it reaches its apogee of insanity in six outrageous double-page spreads as the team silently smack their way across the page and down the corridor through waves of ludicrous foes from gladiatorial wheelchairs, through apes dressed as Wolverine, to spitfire-flying serpents, each accompanied by single-sentence proclamations like:

“NEXT WAVE are in your room and touching your stuff.”
“NEXT WAVE should only be taken in 100 mg doses and never through your urethra.”
“NEXT WAVE blatantly wasting your money since 2006.”

Blatantly. And all in blazing Kaleidoscopicolour.



Buy Nextwave: Agents Of H.A.T.E. Complete Collection s/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

“Imagine you could never make another sound. Not for the rest of your life.
“Not a sigh. Not a yawn. Not a single word. Ever.
“Then, imagine you were given one chance to speak. What would you say?”

So begins what was the single most intelligent and engrossing work published by Marvel some fifteen years ago, and the closest you would have found there in tone to Neil Gaiman; although now you’ll find Neil himself there with MARVEL 1602.

Black Bolt, Medusa, Triton, Gorgon, Karnak and Crystal are the Royal Family of the Inhumans, a race of beings so diverse that each individual is a sub-species of one. In Attilan, a city isolated from humanity with deliberate intent, diversity is admired and prized above all else: to be different is to prove invaluable. So at an age when we hit puberty, the ostensibly ordinary children enter the Terrigen Mists in a daunting ceremony which resembles confirmation or graduation and they emerge, their genetic codes catalysed, as strange and wonderful creatures, as ugly to our eyes as they are beautiful to their parents.

If they’re lucky. Because, you see, in this perfect society ruled by an ideal regent, there is an unpleasant secret, a tacit agreement to something tantamount to slavery. And – in the defences which keep these powerful Inhumans remote and safe from our toxic society – there is a flaw. One which is about to be expoited…

Within this sweeping catastrophe Jenkins delivers a series of considered, poignant and contrasting perspectives, sometimes with a quiet irony, but always with a tenderness and compassion greatly enhanced by Jae Lee’s perfectly posed and gently poised figures. Each group or single panel is a triumph of chiaroscuro.

Silent panels add weight and timing to a deceptively simple but remarkably clever script. And of course Dave Kemp and Avalon Studios deserve as much attention as anyone else for their rich, lambent colouring, which keeps the whole thing alive.

The interlude featuring the Inhumans’ giant, teleporting hound, Lockjaw, is worth the price of admission alone. He cannot comprehend the scale of the disaster desperately being staved off by alll those around him and why he isn’t being played with or fed; but he takes instant delight in rediscovering a plastic doll of Ben Grimm, the Thing.

“Toy! Oh toy! Toy! Toy! Toy!”

It’s funny, but also deeply affecting.

In addition the role of male regent and indeed masculinity are explored using the very epitome of the strong-but-necessarily-silent-type for if the Inhumans’ king Black Bolt speaks, mountains are levelled in his wake.

I never expected to see such an astonishingly moving work from what used to be such a predictably crass company. I suspect its tainted provenance may prove fatally repulsive to so many who would, with an act of faith, adore it. Had this been it’s first edition I would almost certainly have made it Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month, and I’m not even ruling that out. So thanks to all of you who trusted me enough to buy it in its earlier incarnations, and thanks for your overwhelmingly positive feedback. I hope newcomers enjoy it as much as I am on my fourth reading.

This expansive edition comes with preliminary sketch designs, process pieces wherein you can see individual pages evolve for pencils to inks, an interview, and the script to the complete first chapter. £25-99 may sound like a lot but it’s twelve chapters long with exquisite reproduction values. That’s less expensive than buying the individual issues separately.


Buy Inhumans 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.

(In A Sense) Lost & Found (£12-99, Nobrow) by Roman Muradov

aama vol 4: You Will Be Glorious, My Daughter h/c (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by Frederik Peeters

Democracy (£18-99, Bloomsbury) by Abraham Kawa & Alecos Papadatos

Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor vol 1: After Life (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Titan) by Al Ewing, Rob Williams & Simon Fraser, Boo Cook

Gigant h/c (£10-99, AdHouse Books) by Rune Ryberg

It Will All Hurt #1 (£5-99, Study Group Comics) by Farel Dalrymple

Jerusalem: Chronicles From The Holy City s/c (£14-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Guy Delisle

Lady Killer vol 1 (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Joëlle Jones, Jamie S. Rich

Mad Max: Fury Road s/c (£10-99, Vertigo) by George Miller, Mark Sexton & Riccardo Burchielli

Mean Girls Club (£6-50, Nobrow) by Ryan Heshka

One Year Wiser: 365 Illustrated Meditations (£12-99, SelfMadeHero) by Mike Medaglia

Sacred Heart (£18-99, Fantagraphics) by Jaime Hernandez

Flash vol 5: History Lessons s/c (£10-99, DC) by Brian Buccellato, Christos N. Gage, Nicole Dubuc & Patrick Zircher, various

The New 52: Futures End vol 3 s/c (£22-50, DC) by Brian Azzarello, Jeff Lemire, Dan Jurgens, Keith Giffen & various

Wonder Woman vol 6: Bones s/c (£10-99, DC) by Brian Azzarello & Cliff Chiang

Jessica Jones: Alias vol 1 s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Gaydos, Bill Sienkiewicz



ITEM! Page 45’s 21st Birthday Party is on Saturday October 3rd 2015! Everyone’s welcome!

Please click on that link for details! Our Jodie Paterson’s created the most beautiful poster for the shop! (Art by Simone Lia.)



ITEM! Squeal! Flying ponies! ‘The Dartmoor Pegasus’ a short story online by Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre whose PUGS OF THE FROZEN NORTH is reviewed above!

ITEM! Also, Sarah McIntyre blogs about creating SCRIBBLE, her 24-Hour Comic for The Lakes International Comic Art Festival and publishes the whole thing online!

All seven 24-Hour Comics are collected into the most the excellent anthology 24 BY 7, reviewed and in stock at Page 45.



ITEM! A little off-topic, but Neil Gaiman reveals the ending his dear friend Terry Pratchett wanted for ‘The Shepherd’s Crown’. It would have been so appropriate! Gaiman & Buckingham’s MIRACLEMAN #1 is out today, by the way. We’re still in reprint territory, but they’ll be finishing their story soon, I promise you.



ITEM! I liked this a lot! It’s addressed to those who look at abstract art and say “I could do that!” Neither dismissive nor patronising, the presenter / curator is thoughtful, eloquent and enthusiastic. But yes, you probably couldn’t – and you certainly didn’t!



ITEM! Did you enjoy Page 45’s Comicbook Of The Month, THE BLACK PROJECT? It was about a young lad with little understanding of the world around him creating his own girlfriend from scraps. It will make you laugh and wince all at the same time, so get ready to gurn!

Its creator Gareth Brookes is interviewed about his own creativity, crayons, the English suburbs, landing a job he loathed…. and how dogs might see themselves in a human world.



ITEM! From the creator of TRICKED and TOO COOL TO BE FORGOTTEN, here’s an 8-page preview of Alex Robinson’s OUR EXPANDING UNIVERSE graphic novel on parenthood.

 - Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews August 2015 week four

August 26th, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Buy Island #2 and read the Page 45 review here

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

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

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


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

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

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


Buy Island #2 and read the Page 45 review here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So I guess it’s existentialist as well.


Buy If You Steal and read the Page 45 review here

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

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


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

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

It is absolutely terrifying.

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

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

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

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



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

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

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


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

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

Dominique spotted this one.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Buy The Last Broadcast and read the Page 45 review here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Buy Inuyashiki vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Buy Mox Nox and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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



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



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



Here’s Fluffy having toilet issues. Awww….

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

Thank yooooooooo!


 - Stephen

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

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

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews August 2015 week three

August 19th, 2015

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

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

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

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

It sounds pretty ominous, right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the glossary (you get a glossary):

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

Now what do you suppose happens here, hmm?

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

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

I think not.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Too funny. The punchline is exquisitely cute.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


Buy Beauty #1 and read the Page 45 review here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Christopher Priest is a very funny man.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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


Buy Hellboy And The B.P.R.D. and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Please spread the word and come if you can!

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

ITEM! New contemporary manga exhibition at the British Museum.

 - Stephen

Page 45’s 21st Birthday Party! Simone Lia & Hannah Berry signing plus evening Booze Bash!

August 19th, 2015

There will be prizes! There will be sketches!
I will be speechless! You will be there!


“OMG! What Will Be Happening?!”

Laughter! There will be lots and lots of laughter.

Also: hugs & kisses (optional) and a great deal of alcohol (mandatory).

Yes, Page 45 will be celebrating its 21st Birthday on Saturday October 3rd 2015 with a comicbook treasure trail beginning in the afternoon with FLUFFY’s Simone Lia and ADAMTINE’s Hannah Berry signing & sketching for free at the shop, then a right-old knees up at the Canalhouse in Nottingham which is open to all!

Whether you’re past, present or future customers – in store or mail order – Jonathan, Dee, Jodie and me would be delirious if you could join us!

There will even be free drinks if you begin at the beginning.

This is the beginning:

Simone Lia & Hannah Berry signing & sketching at Page 45 for FREE!

The time: 4pm to 5-30pm
The date: Saturday 3rd October 2015
The place: Page 45, 9 Market Street, Nottingham NG1 6HY

Stick around! We may open things up around 5pm with a public Q&A like we did with Scott McCloud. They are great friends and very funny ladies!

Although Hannah Berry’s ADAMTINE is one of the scariest books I’ve ever read. Brrr…

We Have:

FLUFFY by Simone Lia.
ADAMTINE by Hannah Berry

NELSON with pages by Simone Lia
ABOVE THE DREAMLESS DEAD with pages by Hannah Berry
Pack Of 8 Fluffy Postcards by Simone Lia
Fluffy Visits Page 45 Postcard by Simone Lia


Free Prize And Drinks Tickets For Party!

Everyone attending the signing will receive:

1) Free impossible-to-forge drinks ticket which, when signed by Simone Lia and Hannah Berry, can be handed in at The Canalhouse bar for (you’ll never guess) a free drink!

2) Free raffle tickets for each comic or graphic novel by Hannah and Simone which you bring or buy on the day for the evening’s multiple prize draws!

Win pieces of Page 45 history dear to our hearts!

Complete 14-issue set of rare original EXIT issues by our website artist Nabiel Kanan!
Bryan Talbot GRANDVILLE Le Brock badger print bigger than you are!
Framed print signed to the shop by Bryan Lee O’Malley & Hope Larson!
ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY standee with its original pockets constructed by Mark!
We have so many treasures upstairs including original art! Also:
More prints! Graphic novels! Items of Interest! A pen chewed by Stephen!

Raffle tickets can only be gathered at the afternoon’s signing; the prize draws will be held in the evening!

Page 45 Party at the Canalhouse in Nottingham from 7pm

The time: 7pm until we collapse
The date: Saturday 3rd October 2015
The place: Canalhouse, 48-52 Canal Street, Nottingham, NG1 7EH
Tel: 0115 9555060 Scroll down for map

Access For All: We’re upstairs in the function room (far exterior door) but there is access via a lift. Please phone the bar on 0115 9555060 when you reach the courtyard and they will open the door and escort you up! We think of these things. Hurrah!

Hannah, Simone, I.N.J. Culbard and Team Page 45 will be with you between 7-30pm & 8-00pm to greet you with glee.

Jonathan will be juggling!*
Simone and Stephen will be dancing the flamenco!**
Hannah will be judging for posture! ***

There will be speeches around 8pm!
There will be all those prize draws a little later!
And you’ll have those free drinks tickets from the signing, won’t you? You will!

“Do we have to come to the signing first?!”

Of course you don’t, though we hope that you will! Simone and Hannah are two of our all-time favourite comicbook creators and if they’re not already two yours, they will be after you’ve read their gorgeous graphic novels!

ITEM! Simone Lia’s website: prints, shop, blog, weekly comic strips for the Guardian / Observer & news about FLUFFY BOOK TWO!


ITEM! Hannah Berry’s website: shop, blog, preview of next graphic novel LIVESTOCK and free preview of ADAMTINE. Though if you’re planning to take the last train home on Saturday 3rd, I’d probably avoid that. Brrrrrr….

Follow Hannah Berry @streakofpith
Follow Simone Lia @simoneliadraws
Follow Fluffy himself @FluffyPulcino  (I’m not actually kidding you)
Follow Page 45 @PageFortyFive (I’m afraid that it’s Stephen; sorry etc.)

* Hopefully untrue
** Decidely untrue
*** Almost certainly true

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews August 2015 week two

August 12th, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Haha! Of course they don’t!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the creator of THE FIRELIGHT ISLE whose inventive compositions will blow your mind and which you can read online here:


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

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

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

He really doesn’t. None of them do!

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

“I’ll swamp you that thing for this cake.”
“Ooh, I do like cake.”

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


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

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

Serving behind the bar…

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

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

“Oh shit.”

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

“I am what I am…”

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

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

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

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

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

On the other hand, this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which is obviously the exact moment she catches flu.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best thing about this is the title. Sorry.

SLH, winning no friends today.

Buy Everything Is Teeth and read the Page 45 review here

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

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

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

In 2003 Mark previewed this collection in hardcover form thus:

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

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

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

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


Buy Meat Cake and read the Page 45 review here

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

In which I’m won over.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, it brings the horror all home, hopefully.

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

Unflinchingly brutal.


Buy We Stand On Guard #2 and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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



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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m raising my glass in celebration. Cheers!

 - Stephen

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

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews August 2015 week one

August 5th, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Buy Leaf and read the Page 45 review here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Buy The Divine and read the Page 45 review here

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

Production values ahoy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Buy Katzine Issue One and read the Page 45 review here

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

A second swoonaway cover!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Buy Katzine Issue Two and read the Page 45 review here

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

Here’s pretty, then.

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

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


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


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

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


Buy Haunter and read the Page 45 review here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s Ellen Forney:

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

Yep, that is precisely what this is like.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh look, she’s succeeded. Respect.


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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


Buy Steven Universe vol 1  and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

 - Stephen

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

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews July 2015 week five

July 29th, 2015

“If you dehumanise others then you dehumanise yourself.”

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

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

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

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

It’s not going to be easy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Callum, a Nought, has just qualified.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jeepers, but John Aggs excels here.

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

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

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

“I’m sorry.”
“So am I.”

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

You know that, don’t you?

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

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

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

I’ll let that sink in, if I may.

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

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

If you dehumanise others then you dehumanise yourself.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Indeed it is!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Buy Tim Ginger and read the Page 45 review here

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

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

That sets the tone perfectly. Also:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Buy Fante Bukowski and read the Page 45 review here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Buy Island #1 and read the Page 45 review here

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

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

Ooof. Where have you heard that before?

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Buy Wolf #1 and read the Page 45 review here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Buy Starve #1 and read the Page 45 review here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

Thank you.


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

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

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

No, you’re boring.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I don’t understand.


Buy The Motorcycle Samurai vol 1: A Fiery Demise s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Dave Sim’s Animated Cerebus Portfolio: His First Sword

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

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

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

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

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

 - Stephen

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