Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews November 2016 week two

November 9th, 2016

Cerebus: Cover Art Treasury h/c (£67-99, IDW & Aardvark-Vanaheim) by Dave Sim, Gerhard.

If the 300-issue, cerebus-cover-art-treasury-cover6,000-page magnum opus that is CEREBUS remains one of the most inventive comics this medium has ever produced, with narrative innovations cascading from its pages at such an astonishing rate as to make Niagara Falls look like a domestic, dripping tap – and it does – then its covers were no less ingenious, iconic and iconoclastic, all at the same time.

What makes this luxurious, full-colour treasury even more of a thirstily devoured “Yes, please!” is that so many of these illustrations don’t just set the tone but actively inform the story within, which most modern readers have had access to only in the form of those whopping, black and white CEREBUS phonebook collections. They never reprinted the colour covers to keep their costs down, but some seen in sequence form comicbook narratives in their own right (#153 & #154) and they are bursting with clues.

The diversity of their approaches and angles – geometric or otherwise – was jaw-dropping, especially when one considers the relative, relentless homogeneity of the corporations’ covers competing for space on retailers’ shelves back then, and even more so to this day.

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You never knew what you’d be startled by next: stark silhouettes, spot-lit close-ups, balletic action shots, quiet reveries, dream-sequence deliria, architecture only, lunar photography, William Morris wallpaper either hung with framed portraits or used to frame pithy, telling snap-shots; typography only (ever so brave and oh so effective), images rotated sideways to reflect what lay within, woodland landscapes, a funereal flower arrangement, glistening bottles of booze placed in the foreground of drunken misdemeanours, film-poster parodies, cosmic chess matches….

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…, or Dave / David Sim drawing the divine Mick / Michael Jagger in precisely the same pose as Michelangelo once sculpted David.

No, I wasn’t perceptive enough to spot that little joke – and, trust me, I studied these long and hard as I acquired each treasured gem.

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The good news is that, thanks to the conversational back-and-forth between Dave Sim and Gerhard’s annotations on almost every page, you’ll be privy to even more process notes and private self-indulgences. Take the cover to #77. Here’s Gerhard:

“Dream covers are always fun. When I was drawing the water pouring from the statue, I thought it might be fun to have the water fill the letters M and T… as in ‘MT is full’. Say it fast, and you’ll get the joke… or not.”

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Dave was joined by landscape artist Gerhard in CEREBUS #65, though not on its cover which was the typography-only effort bearing the truism (which has stuck with me ever since), that “Anything done for the first time unleashes a demon”. There were some very, very fine titles: some portentous, some ripping the piss – out of themselves, readers’ expectations or Marvel’s melodrama – some simply playful yet salient, like “Sane As It Ever Was”.

From #65 onwards Dave continued to write and draw all the characters while Gerhard would render the backgrounds in meticulous detail, providing both textures and colour. The cover to #66 is a ripped-open version of #65, exposing Gerhard’s first cover and colour contribution.

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“It was interesting watching Gerhard tearing art paper carefully so it LOOKED like torn art paper.”

That’s what I mean by meticulous.

“It took me years to figure out that Gerhard LIKED doing precise measurements / vanishing point stuff: that it was his favourite part,” observes Dave of the phenomenal window on #68.

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Of #162’s extraordinary spectacle: “Vanishing point and applied geometry. It was there in front of me the whole time.” And once again of #164’s delicious, crystal-clear, blue-sky winter panorama with its single shattered skylight because we’d been there before.

Neither of the artists is here merely to pat themselves or each on the back, though. They’re both commendably candid about their mistakes, shortcomings and where things didn’t work out the way they had planned. But it was a monthly comic which only once fell behind schedule (towards the end of CHURCH & STATE) so at the end of the day, a) they had to go to print and simply strive to do better next time b) you simply don’t know what it will look like until the printed article appears right in front of you.

Sometimes I found myself shaking my head, bewildered by what one or the other considers a failure. The library cover to #151 with its tumbling book and exceptional sense of space has always struck me as one of the ten best covers ever to grace a comic, but Gerhard was so frustated by its colours that when he hung it on its clip on completion, he did so facing the wall.

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“In these situations,” writes Dave, “you take the hint and just hope it’s still on its hook, face to the wall, when you come in tomorrow. It’s HIS cover.”

Hilariously, however, Dave confesses that during much earlier days – the beginning to HIGH SOCIETY – he tried his hand at watercolours for the covers without comprehending that you were supposed to dilute them. You know, add water. So he used them as you would oil and acrylics, virtually smearing them onto the board. Such is the way of the self-taught artist. I actually liked those covers, but you can’t un-see something once you’ve been shown.

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Successful experimentations are equally well documented, like Gerhard’s discovery that using a toothbrush to flick white or red ink onto the boards was far more effective for snow, stars and blood than an airbrush. There are lots and lots of different space and star effects in evidence. Also, in one instance, a book bearing bloody finger prints. They’re Gerhard’s, if that ever proves forensically relevant.

You may have noticed by now that the covers are presented in different ways. The majority are shot from the originals before some or all of the lettering and extra effects have been added which, with attendant notes, gives extra insight into the process behind them. I find it fascinating to peer behind the curtains to see bits pasted on here and there, and what was entrusted to the printers instead.

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Others are reproductions of the covers as we encountered them complete with the ever-evolving CEREBUS logo and other typography. I learned a new word: “majuscule”. Sim has long been hailed as one of the medium’s all-time greatest letterers, sliding sentences up and down, giving them an extra lilt or cadence (when Thatcher is speaking, for example), and deploying the visual equivalent of onomatopoeia in places. At least one is the result of Sim and Gerhard revisiting a cover, recreating it for a commission.

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They’re reproductions or recreations because some of the originals have been sold, and so many more have been stolen. I’ll leave the introduction to fill you in on that aspect.

So yes, there are practical and commercial considerations as well as artistic ones assessed. From time to time, Dave’s Inner Business Manager retrospectively smacks himself upside the head to much comedic effect when either carelessly or wilfully making design decisions which ran the risk of thwarting his own sales.

When getting it right on #52 he writes: “Cerebus breaking a chair over the head of a barbarian. Yes, Dave, BRANDING. What is it you’re not ‘getting’ about what you’re trying to sell here?” In addition both Cerebus and the logo are found at the top, so easily seen even in shops with semi-tiered shelves which obscure some comics’ bottom halves. Everything is a learning curve including copyright infringement, though Dave did get away with it on satirical grounds.

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“The three ‘Wolveroach’ covers which I really just did to show Frank Miller and Joe Rubenstein how the WOLVERINE mini-series covers SHOULD have been done – more like Neal Adams. Thus overshooting the ‘Branding’ runway and smashing through Marvel’s intellectual property fence and leaving this mixed metaphor jackknifed into their swimming pool with its tail in the air.”

Of the second in the series, #55: “Now that you mention it, it DID look sort of familiar”.

From the ridiculous to the sublime, we finish where Dave Sim and Gerhard concluded, with the final ten issues sub-titled CEREBUS: THE LAST DAY. For this Gerhard supplied a detailed 360-degree view of the room divided into nine covers which conjoin seamlessly with each other and at each end.

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This in itself constitutes sequential art when considering that time passes ever so slowly inside, but the pan is paused with #298 for a halting juxtaposition.

That’s what I meant when I wrote at the start that the exterior art informs what lies within and – at times – creates a narrative all of its own.

This is a gallery we never thought we’d see because of those aforementioned colour costs which would have jeopardised the self-publisher’s finances, so bravo to IDW for enabling this miracle.

I’d only add that to close this book immediately after the final cover is to feel almost as bereft as Mark and I did after reading the very last panel on the final page of CEREBUS itself twelve years ago.

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Although: lo and behold, here comes the brand-new CEREBUS IN HELL? #0, on Page 45’s shelves this very week!

SLH

Buy Cerebus: Cover Art Treasury h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Cormorance (£18-99, Jonathan Cape) by Nick Hayes.

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“This summer I went swimming,
“This summer I might have drowned,
“But I held my breath, and I kicked my feet,
“And I moved my arms around,
“I moved my arms around.”

– ‘Swimming Song’ by Loudon Wainwright III

It’s Nick Hayes himself who chose that epigraph to this otherwise wordless graphic novel, and it could not be more appropriate. It speaks to the heart of the struggle inside the story, both figuratively and otherwise.

I say “wordless” but it’s far from silent. It is bursting with the guttural calls of the cormorants, and on one of its many spectacular double-page spreads the late-night “toowheet” of an owl observing all gives way to the “chip chip” “peep peep” of an early dawn chorus. Framed by foliage, to the left a crescent moon shines over the city and its suburbs, soothing what was a heart-rending, glass-shattering day, while to the right the sun rises over the still of a disused reservoir in the process of being reclaimed by nature, one’s eyes drawn there following the flight path of ever-present cormorants.

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It is a book of staggering beauty told in aquatic shades of blue and green adorned here at there with spots of warm orange, all printed on rich, creamy paper. Maximum use is made of form and textures of wood-grain and water, wings and feathers, or the skeletal shapes of tree trunks and branches beneath so many different leaves. The old-fashioned diving arch of the indoor and outdoor municipal swimming pools looms large in the second section, before the third act wherein the first two conjoin lets loose an orgy of free-flowing nature at its most energetic.

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That whirlwind and flood of movement is heralded by a thrilling format surprise which opens up an oasis within the industrial and a moment of calm in the turbulence – with nature buzzing, nature calling – immediately followed by a plunge whose depth is delivered in a burst of air bubbles and concentric ripples. Then the cormorant dives too.

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Nick Hayes’ THE RIME OF THE MODERN MARINER was an early Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month and a ridiculous clever reprise of Coleridge’s ancient original to mourn man’s mismanagement of nature. Here nature’s healing power both over one’s heart and itself is celebrated instead, as long as we take the trouble to connect with it.

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I can’t say much more even of its structure for fear of spoiling your own experience, but it begins with a boy then it begins with a girl. Commemorative photographs taken of the family on each of his birthdays are dear to the boy; soon he will be eight. Badges awarded to the girl on achieving new swimming lengths are lovingly sewn onto her swimsuit by her mother; she’s aiming for 100 metres next. The boy’s mum sends him to school with fresh packed lunches with a heart and kisses drawn on slips of paper each day which he keeps inside his school desk. The girl’s mum teaches her swimming which they both adore; but the boy’s not terribly good at it.

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Each will have reason to break into the disused reservoir surrounded by wooden fencing and wire mesh fencing, and their journeys are not that dissimilar.

SLH

Buy Cormorance and read the Page 45 review here

Saving Grace (£17-99, Jonathan Cape) by Grace Wilson…

You’re here? You better have come to fix the house or you can leave.”
“My girls! You are all so feisty! I love it! RAAARR!
“Well, my darlings… Grace, exuberant Vicky, elegant Jessica and punky rebel Maxine, you’re right, the house is in disrepair, and something needs to be done.
“SO I’M RENOVATING THE ENTIRE HOUSE!
“And then, I shall sell it.
“But, I’m an organised man, so you have four weeks’ notice.
“But hey, if you come across £1,000,000 then call me.
“I’ll see myself out…”

Well, Mr Zanetti, the landlord of Grace and her chums is just the most delightful chap, isn’t he? He drops his little bombshell just after telling Grace the best cure for her spots, which apparently even Anthea Roddick of Body Shop fame swears by, is male semen… Grace is mid-swig of her cuppa and ends up exhaling tea through her nose halfway across the table. Which is when exuberant Vicky, elegant Jessica and punky rebel Maxine arrive to save the day and here we are…

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House hunting seems a rather tedious prospect for our ladies, so when a deluge of rain floods the basement and forces them out of Mr Zanetti’s slimy clutches even sooner than anticipated, a £99 package holiday to sunnier climes seems the most elegant and entertaining solution to their immediate accommodation anxieties.

What it actually does is end up exacerbating tensions between our quartet and pretty soon Grace finds herself hunting for a room in a shared house by herself… It’s even more of a humbling experience than looking for a job… She’s currently working on a zero-hours contract in an art supplies shop, dealing with customers who think asking for a 12” hog hair is a prime opportunity for some unwelcome innuendo…

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Ah, good old London town. Not that I personally think there is anything remotely good about it, and this highly entertaining graphic novel only serves to reinforce my prejudices against the Big Smoke. I just can’t understand how young people can possibly manage to survive, never mind thrive, in such a ludicrously expensive environment, whilst earning so relatively little. It’s like student life forever with a fraction of the fun to me. Simultaneously, meanwhile, there are artisan bakeries and other hipster joints springing up everywhere charging ever higher prices for what are, in essence, the basic essentials revamped and all tarted up. No, give me the marginally lower priced pleasures of the provincial life every time. Well, Nottingham anyway!

Grace, like most young Londoners going nowhere rapidly, doesn’t consider leaving the city an option, and so instead we are able to enjoy her mis-adventures at a mildly smug (on my part at least) remove. Well, unless you are someone in exactly her position I suppose! In which case you will no doubt be nodding sagely and wincing in sympathy in equal measure. Presumably this work draws upon the creator’s own experiences, and for a first graphic novel it is excellent. The slightly untidy art style might not be to everyone’s taste, but it neatly captures the down at heel lifestyle Grace and her friends are living!

JR

Buy Saving Grace and read the Page 45 review here

Motor Girl #1 (£2-99, Abstract Studio) by Terry Moore.

“Samantha?motor-girl-1-cover
“Are you okay?”

So you think you know what to expect from this comic.

It’s a burlesque starring a hyperactive desert-based, junkyard mechanic who’s tied at the hip to an anthropomorphic wry, dry mountain gorilla who sasses and back-chats, right? You may even have seen Terry Moore’s new avatar on Twitter – of a diminutive, comedy, green alien, so you’re in for those too?

Hmmm. No, that’s okay, you’re not wrong: they’re all here, present and correct, along with Terry’s persistent, consistent campaign against cretins who use cell phones whilst driving. Which is deadly as well as ever so slightly illegal.

But is that all you’d expect from the creator of RACHEL RISING, STRANGERS IN PARADISE and ECHO (and HOW TO DRAW)? Oh ye of little faith!

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All it takes is a single, un-signposted panel (if you’re alert enough to spot it) to suggest that you’re in for a lot more than you first bargained for – either as well or instead.

So yes, new shorter-form series before Terry returns to STRANGERS IN PARADISE – hooray! – starring a hyperactive, desert-based, junkyard mechanic, a highly sardonic anthropomorphic mountain gorilla, diminutive, comedy, green aliens, a sympathetic landlord and a lot less sympathetic, land-grabbing mystery man.

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Fab, flapping hair once flying about on a quad bike, superb use of grey tones at night, and – oh dear, Libby, I’d really get off that cell phone if you want to outlast this series.

That’s it. That’s all I’ve got for you this time.

Hey, after the RACHEL RISING OMNIBUS s/c (just £49-99, half the price of its component parts!), I think I’m allowed a succinct Mr. Moore review!

SLH

Buy Motor Girl #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Muhammad Ali h/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Sybille Titeux & Amazing Ameziane…

“And then muhammad-ali-coveryou meet Malcom X…
“All of Harlem is ready to follow him, but you are the one he chooses.
“You like him as much as he likes you, and he knows how to put your thoughts into words. You never leave his side, you are like soulmates finding each other in a sentimental movie.”

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from this biography. If you’ve read a few comic biographies you’ll know that much like prose ones, often they can feel rather dry and not really present a fully-formed picture of the individual in question. Perhaps that is even more true with comic biographies actually, given the much more concise amount of time and space the creators have to present their take on an individual.

I’m happy to report to I did really enjoy this work.  It wisely picks some interesting scenes and episodes from Ali’s life that it wants to focus on and then presents those in very detailed fashion, often with quotes from a fixed cast of talking heads. Again, the cast is chosen carefully, a narrow selection of his opponents, (including Henry Cooper who so very nearly beat Ali, then Cassius Clay at Wembley Stadium in June 1968), his inner circle of boxing coaches and people like Malcom X and Elijah Muhammad.

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A relatively small portion is given over to his boxing bouts, just the most famous ones like the bout with Cooper, his two match-ups with Sonny Liston, the Rumble In The Jungle with George Forman and the Thriller In Manila with Joe Frazier, which I think is probably the right choice. And even these are seen mainly from the perspective of his opponents or coaches looking back, which provides an informed, relatively objective viewpoint, rather than Ali’s bombast.

The majority of the book actually focuses on his socio-political awakening and subsequent cultural influence. For some of my generation and younger, especially an ocean away, who only ever knew Ali the hero, it’ll perhaps be surprising to learn how reviled and feared he was by the white American populace at large at the time once he converted to Islam, Malcom X by his side as he rejected Cassius Clay as his slave name, and joined the Nation Of Islam, led by Elijah Muhammad. He was already regarded as an obnoxious braggadocio by a lot of people, perhaps not unreasonably so given some of the more unpleasant trash-talking antics he submitted his opponents too.

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But once he embraced Islam it was open season on him, which ultimately culminated with his imprisonment at his refusal to fight in Vietnam. His impassioned speech on that topic, encompassing the inequalities still faced by blacks at the time, was an immensely powerful oration, and it is portrayed superbly across a double-page spread. It also earned him a prison sentence of 5 years, a fine of $10,000 and a ban from boxing of 3 years. He managed to avoid prison whilst the case was appealed, but his boxing licence wasn’t returned for nearly 4 years.

Given the FBI’s then covert COINTELPRO program to engage in covert surveillance against black leaders and groups, with the justification that they were infiltrated by communists, to “increase factionalism, cause disruption” that definitely contributed (at the very least…) to the assassinations of Malcom X and Martin Luther King Jr. it is perhaps surprising that Ali himself wasn’t the subject of an assassination attempt.

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The work also shows the one act he truly regretted for the rest of his life, turning his back, figuratively and literally on Malcom X. Malcom had already split from the Nation Of Islam, perceiving Elijah Muhummad as someone who wasn’t a true Muslim in heart or practice, and choosing to whole-heartedly embrace traditional Islam, including a pilgrimage to Mecca. Ali, meanwhile, was touring various African countries at the behest of the Nation Of Islam when a chance meeting outside a hotel occurred in Ghana (not Nigeria, as the creators incorrectly suggest here). Malcom called out to Ali, delighted to see him, and Ali simply turned and walked away for the entire world to see. Within a year, Malcom X was dead, and Ali always deeply regretted both the snub itself, and then not ever making amends with his friend.

Ali’s early life and latter post-boxing days bookend the meat of the story, told in sped-up fashion so as to encapsulate his whole life. I thought overall this was a very well presented work. I did struggle slightly with some of the narration at times, purely because much of it is worded in the second person as though it is spoken to Ali himself. It’s a distracting conceit I personally didn’t particularly care for though after a while you do stop noticing it. The art is excellent, with lots of interesting page and panel composition devices, and some nice period touches. In summary, it might not be the greatest biography but it is a very good biography of The Greatest.

JR

Buy Muhammad Ali h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Aleister & Adolf h/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Douglas Rushkoff & Michael Avon Oeming…

“Your pathetic sex aleister-adolf-coverrituals don’t stand a chance against the power of the swastika.”
“The symbol isn’t yours, Rudolf.”
“The blood of thousands will make the swastika a Nazi sigil forever. The Jews, they will power it with their lives.”
“Their deaths, you mean. God will forsake you! I will bring such horrors down upon you!”
“We are creating horrors you cannot even imagine. Filling our sigil with the deaths of millions. Death is more powerful than sex.”

So that would be Aleister Crowley interrogating Rudolph Hess with the aid of massive amounts of mind-bending chemicals whilst being observed by (Bond creator) Ian Fleming! This is a fantastically nonsensical, sex-filled, drug-addled black and white romp where we are requested to believe that her Majesty’s government have enlisted the Beast (as Crowley liked to be known) to defeat Adolf Hitler through the power of Magick.

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This is one of those classic take a pinch of truth (Hitler’s obsession with the occult and astrology) and spin a yarn only fractionally more unbelievable than some of the strange secret missions that did actually take place during WW2. Our story is told through the eyes of a young agent called Roberts, entrusted to keep an eye on proceedings and report in to his superiors. He quickly falls under Crowley’s influence, however, becoming an acolyte of the Beast, though he likes to try and convince himself he is merely operating undercover.

We actually first meet Roberts in 1995, dying of cancer in New York City, when a young web designer, utterly baffled by the fact that he can’t prevent the logos on a new webpage for his corporate client from moving around, is sent to speak with him for some arcane reason. I was actually enjoying the ‘40s period part of the story so much I had forgotten about the modern opening by the conclusion! Rest assured, though, the story does come very neatly full chalk drawn magical circle.

Excellent art as ever from Oeming, perfectly capturing the noir tone of Rushkoff’s writing. Nice to read something that is as disturbing as it is amusing. Though I think what perturbed me most is how Aleister Crowley looks more than a little like Brian Michael Bendis!! It only occurred to me due to Oeming’s long collaboration with Bendis but once I had thought the thought, the similarity could not be unseen!

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I do also in fact wonder whether it might not be a little conceit on Oeming’s part, much like Moebius making Jodorowsky the likeness of Professor Alan Mangel in MADWOMEN OF THE SACRED HEART. Not least because there is also a very specific sexy synchronicity between those two works involving three-way action. I would love to believe so, but actually, I think Bendis just does happen to have a remarkable resemblance to the Beast! Still, some would say Bendis is quite the magician in his own right… Marvel certainly would!

JR

Buy Aleister & Adolf h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Northlanders Book vol 2: The Icelandic Saga s/c (£26-99, Vertigo) by Brian Wood & Davide Gianfelice, Becky Cloonan, Paul Azaceta, Declan Shalvey, various, Massimo Carnevale.

“Nothing comes free or easy. northlanders-book-2The good life always requires a turn through the shit from time to time.”

Ain’t that the truth? Some turns are shittier than other, and the good life is not guaranteed.

Each one of these self-contained Viking sagas is as exceptional as it is varied: you never know what you’ll find dug up from its history and hammered into narrative next. Here Brian Wood conjures ten generations of Icelandic family feuding beginning in 871 A.D. when its earliest settlers – a family of three – heaved their scant possessions salvaged from Norway onto its far from fecund soil. Life was hard but at least they were free. Within a year, however, they were followed by others driven out by the land-grabs back home, fleeing the rule of hated King Harald. These were larger families bringing strength in numbers backed up by the weight of their swords.

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So it is that Ulf Hauksson’s merchant father takes it upon himself to toughen his son up in the most brutal of fashions, thereby creating a monster.

“Neither of them could look at me for weeks.
“This was valuable time for me. It allowed me the chance to detail and catalogue my hatred, to fully articulate, in my mind, who deserved what and why.
“That morning my parents had a son. By that evening, as a result of my father’s efforts to teach me cruelty and violence, they had something very different on their hands.”

What follows is that afternoon’s legacy: two centuries of ever-escalating struggles for power as the population expands and sustainable self-governance crumbles under the weight of numbers, the influence of those still in thrall to Norway and corruption in the form of Christianity and its Holy Men with their insidious schemes to divide, conquer and then reap the spoils in the form of hegemony and wealth.

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Marriage plays no small part in this. Indeed it’s all about family and two fathers are going to find out precisely how sharp the serpent’s tooth is before their lives are done.

Structurally, ‘The Icelandic Trilogy’ is stunning. Three chapters each devoted to three separate snapshots spanning two hundred years. The first barely boasts a population to speak of, but by 999 A.D. a port has been established and the Haukssons have built a heavily fortified compound.

It isn’t, however, impervious. Here is a daughter:

“I was taught to keep books when I was six years old. I am literate where Mar is not. The Hauksson men fight, the women administrate.
“And together we dominate. The society of Iceland is balanced on our stacks of silver and gold, our sword at its throat.
“Which makes the attempt on my life unthinkable.”

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The family’s gained ground through guile and good judgement, but it’s not immune to being goaded – and it’s about to meet its match. As for 1260 A.D., it is to despair but then so it goes, eh?

NORTHLANDERS has played host to a magnificently strong set of artists and Azaceta is on glorious form in his tale of innocence bludgeoned to death, while Zezelj’s jagged plains of ice and snow and treacherous, shadow-strewn ravines are freezing. You wouldn’t cross them without a thick pair of boots.

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His hair and beards are as matted as you can imagine and probably crawling with lice. There’s one page which starts out with a lamb so startlingly lovely you wonder what it’s doing there – it’s quite the contrast to what’s gone before. By the time you reach you bottom, though, you’ll be thinking, “Oh, well, that makes sense!”

This volume also includes ‘The Girl In The Ice’ illustrated by Becky Cloonan, Brian Wood’s cohort on DEMO, ‘The Sea Road’ and ‘Sven The Immortal’. There are more of these thicker “books” repackaging the slimmer “volumes” to come, but in the meantime Brian (personal favourite graphic novel being LOCAL with Ryan Kelly) has returned to this era on very fine form with BLACK ROAD illustrated by Garry Brown, whose first collection is out now and reviewed by our Jonathan.

SLH

Buy Northlanders Book vol 2: The Icelandic Saga s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Intercorstal 683 (£4-00, self-published) by Gareth A Hopkins.

I don’t know, is the answer. I don’t know what’s going on except that it’s quite the experience.

Anything this abstract is open to interpretation, and I have no crib sheet to copy from. I never do and never will and I truly wouldn’t want one.

I love experiencing new art for myself. That’s something I touched upon sarcastically in my review of ANCESTOR wherein technology has evolved to render everyone all-informed. That too will give you much pause for thought.

I found this thrilling. In spite of the chaos of the full-colour cover, this black and white orgy of interlocking forms strikes me as highly disciplined. It doesn’t look random at all.

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It’s like a carefully choreographed ballet as performed by crisply delineated yet thoroughly malleable, constantly morphing techno-organic entities whose forms appear to coil round each other, perhaps merge then separate.

None of the images I have for you here are consecutive and, with hindsight, that might have been an error on my part for it’s all about sequence. Nor is each dance brief, so the result is a rightfully indulgent, extended eye-bath and I promise you that seeing is believing: you really do need to pick up a physical copy from our shelves for yourselves and decide what you make of it.

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Are those individuals in space-suit armour crouching in a simian fashion, awaiting orders from the taller one to the left?

I simply don’t know.

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Just over halfway through there appears to be a blinding light eroding these forms during which Hopkins demonstrates a superb sense of negative space before a robed, monocular individual rises and strides, best foot forward into the foreground (possibly).

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After which darkness descends and the formerly stark art is splashed with swathes of sweeping black ink and – to me – a lone survivor emerges to sit on a large cushion tapping into its laptop.

This has no words.

I have no words.

If I was any more egomaniacal than I already am, I would swear blind that this was created purely to make monkeys out of reviewers, Gareth A. Hopkins chortling in private at our flailing public attempts to do justice to what was for me a so-far unique experience. I suspect I have just taken a Rorschach Test.

It’s very beautiful. Let’s leave it at that.

SLH

Buy The Intercorstal 683 and read the Page 45 review here

Mulp: Sceptre Of The Sun #3 of 5 (£4-99, Improper Books) by Matt Gibbs & Sara Dunkerton.

Thrilling foreshortening on this best cover yet, for which I am reliably informed Sara built a model from steel wire and live bees.

It’s possible I may have misheard that last bit.

We’ve so far seen little other than rodents in this all-ages, anthropomorphic, transglobal adventure: lizards for transport and beetles for heavy lifting at the Egyptian archaeological dig, and now bees for the Antarctic sledge race to track down the legendary Sceptre Of The Sun before a less benevolent faction gets its purloining paws on it.

It was the startling discovery of an ancient stone in MULP #1 which catalysed this quest. On it were two remarkably similar accounts of an apocalyptic event in both Egyptian and Greek, albeit seen from their respective mythological perspectives. Most intriguing, however, were the Mesoamerican drawings in between the other two records on that self-same tablet, the most prominent of which is an image reminiscent of Viracocha, creator of the sun, the moon, and the stars, holding two sceptres and surrounded by ferocious, fanged beasts. This Incan myth backs up at least one of the other two in implying that the apocalyptic event may have been, furthermore, an extinction-level event for at least one species of giant. And, hey, for the mice to have evolved now to the level of human Victorians, their natural predators must have surely died out too.

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The legend ends with the creation of a second race divided into groups and taught divergent customs, languages and songs. To guide them Viracocha gave his most favoured son, Manco Capac, one of the two golden sceptres, the Tapac-Yauri.

The search for this led our intrepid band of explorers to Peru, all the way up to Manchu Picchu where, sequestered deep beneath the ruins of a solar observatory, they discovered an engraving which seemed to confirm the links between the three civilisations and imply both beneficial and fiercely destructive uses for that sceptre, all centred on the sun. So now things are really heating up, because if our own mouse mates don’t find the fabled sceptre first then the less altruistic expedition – which was already proved itself ruthless – won’t be using it to light candles or nurture crops.

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For now we’re on ice, as our furry friends attempt to weather the freezing conditions they find themselves in. But will it all end in fire?

I love how so many visual clues have been embedded in the various mythical accounts, along with extra allusions to the likes of Prometheus. It all ties together so satisfyingly.

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Some startling, starry skies and other lovely low-light colouring from Dunkerton, even by day, but otherwise for this third instalment I’m going to leave you to expect the unexpected, especially at night, and to hunt down my own hidden clues.

SLH

Buy Mulp: Sceptre Of The Sun #3 of 5 and read the Page 45 review here

Good Dog, Bad Dog: Double Identity (£8-99, David Fickling Books) by Dave Shelton.

“Oh, can we give you a ride back to town, Mr. Wiener? Only it’s awfully draughty in here… now.”

Now that you’ve shot a hole in his roof, McBoo.

“Umm, after we’ve got our car out of the ditch, that is.
“And some of the ditch out of our car.”

That one wasn’t McBoo’s fault, surprisingly. The ditching was down to fellow detective Kirk Bergman’s malfunctioning map-reading skills in the pouring rain, but whatever the weather this dysfunctional duo are a car crash waiting to happen.

If they’re going to solve any case it’s going to be by accident. Fortunately, at those they are specialists.

Here they are summoned to Weiner Bros Studios by a certain Sam Weiner on account of death threats received by Dunstan Bassett, an aging film star whose career has gone to the dogs. Alas, award-winning Sam Weiner seems otherwise engaged; it’s his brusquer brother Jack who greets them just in time for Dunstan’s stunt double to get blown up on set, leaving nothing behind but his boots.

For rapacious Jack this is far from inconvenient: releasing that footage will be a money-making goldmine. But for Bergman and McBoo it’s a sure sign that the danger in Dunstan’s death threats is all too real so they swiftly set about piecing together clues. It’s only when those pieces fall off that the pieces, the clues, and the clue in the glue start sticking together to make sense.

We have only just begun, for what they should be investigating is staring them right in the face. It’s a shame, then, that McBoo’s attention span is shorter than a squirrel’s.

“McBoo, I don’t know what you’re doing… but I really hope you’ll have stopped by the time I turn around.”

From the writer of two of our very few books of illustrated prose, which are commended to you with all my heart – THIRTEEN CHAIRS and A BOY AND A BEAR IN A BOAT – I present you with all-ages pun-tastic, slapstick comicbook crime from The Phoenix for which I can find flip-all usable interior art online. Again.

PUBLISHERS, THIS IS A VISUAL MEDIUM.

Please see Pager 45’s Phoenix Comic Book section for more from this stable.

SLH

Buy Good Dog, Bad Dog: Double Identity 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

Good grief, there are normally 30-odd here!

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Sandman Overture s/c (£17-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & J. H. Williams III

The Return Of The Honey Buzzard (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by Aimee De Jongh

Where Do I Belong? (£9-99, www.silentarmy.org) by various, edited by M.P. Fikaris

Instruction Manual For Lonely Mountains (£14-99, www.silentarmy.org) by Nicola Gunn & M.P. Fikaris

DC Comics / Dark Horse Comics Crossovers: Justice League vol 1 s/c (£22-99, DC / Dark Horse) by various

Deadpool V Gambit: The “V” Is For “Vs.” s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Ben Acker, Ben Blacker & Danillo Beyruth

Rocket Raccoon And Groot vol 2: Civil War II s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Nick Kocher & Michael Walsh

The Ghost And The Lady Book 1 (£15-99, Kodansha) by Kazuhiro Fujita

Psycho Pass: Inspector Shinya Kogami vol 1 (£10-99, Dark Horse) by Midori Gotou & Natsuo Sai

News

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ITEM! LOST TALES by Adam Murphy wins Young Readers British Comics Award as voted for by Leeds school children. Such a beautiful, witty collection of short stories from around the world – pop it on your Christmas lists!

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ITEM! Matthew Dooley wins this year’s Observer/Cape/Comica Graphic Short Story Prize 2016 with this fabulous piece!

Interview with Matthew Dooley here.

At the time of typing Page 45 still has a limited number of copies of Matthew Dooley’s sold-out MEANDERING in stock and reviewed. Oh, whoops, we sold out overnight. Still, you can read the review!

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ITEM! Watch Jamie Smart a spectacular BUNNY VERSUS MONKEY panel right before your eyes!

You’ll find Jamie Smart’s all-ages books in Page 45’s Phoenix Comics Book section.

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ITEM! Dan Berry (SENT / NOT SENT and COELIFER ATLAS etc – pop him in our search engine!) drew me as a bird, from life, right in front of me. He even drew my eyebrow ring. I’m so totally plucked.

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ITEM! First page from the most recent HELLBLAZER #3 (this isn’t a wind-up. It’s like the old scathing, anti-authoritian HELLBLAZER). Too, too funny:

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ITEM! Primary school in Scotland scraps homework in favour of reading books and comics instead.

  1. Yes, they recommended comics!
  2. Both pupils and parents were balloted and they voted in favour
  3. The whole endeavour was reported by the Daily Mirror factually, with a balanced, level head and not one single sound-effect or careless semi-caustic remark.
  4. Progress!

– Stephen

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Tony Cliff’s Delilah Dirk & The Turkish Lieutenant. You should be able to click on this image to read our review.

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews November week one

November 2nd, 2016

Featuring John Allison’s Bobbins, new Grey Area by Tim Bird, John Martz, Chuck Palahniuk & Duncan Fegredo, Simon Roy, Moebius, Matt Sheean, Malachi Ward, Michel Rabagliati, Neil Gaiman, Adam Kubert!

Bobbins vol 1: 2016 (Signed) (£5-00) by John Allison.

Who calls their own comic BOBBINS?

Well, John Allison, obviously.

Of course, it might not be self-deprecation: a man with such intimate knowledge of the Singer Sewing Machine might well be referencing the weaving of threads – the intertwining of lives, as they move in and out of each other’s orbits. It’s something he’s spectacularly good at.

And here’s a hidden art you don’t see too often: between each of these perfectly timed, interconnected, vertical, four-panel gag strips with their own sublime beats and conversational cadence, there lies an extra beat. Some follow swiftly on from each other, to be sure, but not every conversation has to be heard. Instead it’s not just the strips themselves which move the narrative so swiftly on, but the judicious gaps in between.

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I like that the left-hand strip on each printed page is raised a little above the right. That too carries its own momentum – a musical ebb and flow rather than the comparatively regimented monotony of next, next, next. These are the details that matter.

From the creator of sundry other BAD MACHINERY bobbins like GIANT DAYS and EXPECTING TO FLY (Page 45’s biggest-selling comic last year) comes a self-contained, signed and limited edition comic both written and drawn by John Allison which focuses on the employees of a British local newspaper called City Limit.

I love that the paper’s called City Limit, singular. It only has one. And it’s not even a city, it’s the town called Tackleford.

The cast includes familiar faces from EXPECTING TO FLY including Shelley Endeavour Winters who’s starry-eyed with enthusiasm at the prospect of her first shared accommodation yet worried about the potential finality of leaving home. Once fully fledged, will she still have a room there to go back to? It’s a familiar inner conflict, but the joy lies in the unexpected, even extreme ways it’s expressed.

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Then there is this: John Allison’s characters have an inner life in which their minds are ticking and whirring internally and independently of each other so that when one responds or interjects, the other is often still ruminating on their own train of thought, as if the other hadn’t even spoken.

“Shelley. I don’t think writing a sex column means you have to go out there and rut furiously. You have to be more of an anthropologist.”
“A priapic David Attenborough? So I’d use a night vision camera.”
“I reckon you’re looking for anecdotal evidence, not a prison sentence.”
“Do you think work will pay for one?”

Shelley’s still thinking optimistically of the night-vision camera, not the prison sentence. Same thing happens here:

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Similarly there’s a photo-shoot sequence to publicise this local paper’s sex column – which Shelley’s really not sure that she’s up to, but she did go and blurt out the idea in a brainstorming session – from which Amy physically ejects the inept, gangly-limbed Rich with much visual mangling and invites Shelly to devour the camera “As if you don’t bone it soon, a volcano will spontaneously erupt”.

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Immediately you see Shelley’s grateful adoration for the intervention, but not The Look. For that you’re made to wait for its delayed effect at the bottom of the subsequent strip, for once Shelley’s mastered this empowering advice, she cannot let go. The satori and success of it is still buzzing in her head.

“Shelley, the photo shoot is over. Stop doing The Face.”

How often in any medium do you see this oh-so-astutely observed human trait of a lingering daydream or train of thought?

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“Wow, That’s a good trick, Amy.”
“I know. You look like a five alarm fire at a fuck factory.”

And that’s what I mean about cadence.

It’s all so exquisitely well drawn. The range of expressive emotions each character undergoes within a mere four panels is riveting. Each character is animated – as in not just brought to life, but to vivid movement as when Amy presses her palms together and Shelley sashays away into the foreground at the bottom of the page and into the next instalment, one forearm in front of her slinking, sliding hips.

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Let’s talk fashion sense, and the crisp triangles of white shirt jutting out from under Shelley’s jumper. They don’t hang, they jut.

Let’s talk background details like the Tetris poster hanging from Shelley’s home bedroom wall, a nod to Allison’s EXPECTING TO FLY earlier in Shelley’s life in which Tetris was used as a metaphor for coping with life. Or the punchline to one particular page of brainstorming which doesn’t come in the dialogue, but on Len’s flipchart assessment of the finance-free idea of inviting a catalysed citizenship to contribute to the paper instead of his already ill-paid minions:

“Unworkable Utopian Options.”

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There is so much lurking beneath the surface, so many skills which don’t trumpet themselves and shouldn’t. As Edward Albee (‘Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf’) once wrote “I don’t like symbolism that hits you over the head. A symbol should not be a cymbal.” You shouldn’t hear it clash. Similarly you shouldn’t read something as if it’s being written in front of you – almost hear the keyboard being punched – or see it being drawn. To enjoy a comic we shouldn’t necessarily perceive all the meticulous work that goes into making it so wickedly witty and enjoyable. I just thought it was about time I did that for John Allison, because this is the very best of British comedy in any medium, with far more depth than that epithet implies.

I’m probably going to witter on about the hair next time. There’s some great hair here.

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Every one of our copies is signed!

Also available from John himself this coming weekend at Thoughtbubble, where I’m sure he can be prevailed upon to sketch too!

SLH

Buy Bobbins vol 1: 2016 (Signed) and read the Page 45 review here

Burt’s Way Home (£14-99, Koyama Press) by John Martz.

A perfectly formed,burts-way-home-cover poignant little book, this is set amongst snowflakes, staring out at the stars.

It’s very kind and very quiet, told in black, white and eggshell blues.

Two alternating perspectives are presented to us: Lydia’s and young Burt’s.

Lydia is a mouse of a certain age, homely in a long, pleated skirt, cardigan and glasses. She has many family portraits on her walls. Burt is a young, blue bird.

“Burt and I live at the edge of town, in the small apartment building at the bottom of Mount Maple,” we are told.

Burt then shares his private thoughts in two pages of comics:

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Oh.

Well, clearly Lydia isn’t Burt’s biological mother, for she is a mouse, and he is a bird.

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Lydia walks in to their living room, bearing comforting milk and cookies, and sees Burt perched on a chair, staring silently out of the window at the infinite evening sky.

“I hope he’s happy here.”

This sets the timing and tone perfectly for what is to come, Lydia watching over her charge – as he sets about repurposing some household appliances then holding the resultant jumble ever higher in the sky – if not with a complete understanding, then at least loving patience, wondering what’s going on in his head and only wishing he’d wear a hat.

“I can’t even begin to imagine what he’s been through,” she thinks.

“I know it will take some time before he settles in.”

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Everything here is so meticulously balanced and judiciously chosen – the alternate exchanges, the anthropomorphic tradition, the tenderness of expressions, Burt’s specific behaviour and the absence of any direct communication between the two until the very end – not only for maintaining the ambiguity of Burt’s true origins, but also the truth that, in all the most important ways, it really doesn’t matter.

John Martz has kindly signed and sketched in all our copies.

SLH

Buy Burt’s Way Home and read the Page 45 review here

Grey Area – Our Town (£7-00, Avery Hill) by Tim Bird…

“There wasgrey-area-our-town-cover a gap in the fence.
“I still think about it sometimes.
“I wonder if it’s still there.
“Maybe the fence has been repaired.
“Maybe the land was sold to developers.
“There could be a housing estate there now.
“Or a supermarket.
“Maybe it’s not how I remembered it.
“Was there a gate?
“Did we climb the fence?
“It isn’t marked on the map.”

Goodness me, if he hasn’t gone and done it again! Tim Bird is a master of making you stop and think. Which is a tad ironic because his comics are all about the fluidity of never-ending motion through time and space, with the emotions such journeys can invoke. Except in Tim’s universe you don’t need a TARDIS to experience the miraculous or the momentous. No. It’s right there in front of you all along, a world of never ending wonderment, if you simply open your mind as well as your eyes and look…

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After his (now out of print) treatise to the mighty motorway in GREY AREA: THE OLD STRAIGHT TRACK and his paean to a passage from capital to coast in GREY AREA: FROM THE CITY TO THE SEA (which won the 2015 award for Best British Comic), this GREY AREA sees Tim integrate the lives of two people in a most remarkable manner, utilising the power of well placed origami, set against the backdrop of their mutually shared locale. I’ll let Tim use his characters to explain in a far more imaginative manner than I ever could…

“Our paths crossed.”
“Our maps overlayed.”
“Time and place aligned.”
“Our boundaries broadened.”

I’ve said it before, but the man is a poet.

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Years later, having also moved on geographically, our characters return, just passing through on the train and deciding on a whim, triggered by a very poignant motif, to revisit those old haunts imbued with their shared love. The final dramatic full page spread, I’m not ashamed to say, made my heart swell and occasioned a solitary tear to roll down my cheek…

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JR

Buy Grey Area – Our Town and read the Page 45 review here

Paul Up North (£15-99, Conundrum) by Michel Rabagliati…

“So, when’re you gonna buy that bike?”
“I need to save up another hundred bucks. But I think I’ll get a moped instead… it’s less expensive, and I won’t need a permit or anything…”
“Smart move! Mopeds are fun. You can go anywhere, and they’re cheap on gas…!”

Sixteen-year-old Paul, of course, buys the moped, despite one last longing look at the far sexier motorcycle whilst in the shop. It’s barely more than a hairdryer, mind, and attracts the amused piss-taking attentions of the elder biker brother of the lovely young lady he’s trying to woo. He succeeds, eventually, despite his awkward, excruciating attempts at romance, and promptly falls madly, deeply in love with her. Which quite pleases the young lady in question. To start with at least anyway…

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Yes, Michel Rabagliati’s thinly veiled autobiographical creation returns with his hormones a-raging and his engine a-racing. Well, puttering along at least, much like his adolescent love life. It’ll end in tears, I suspect you all know that already, for Paul has ever been a boy to wear his heart on his sleeve, but to see the train wreck of first love hitting the buffers so damn hard, well, it’s enough to make you want to lock yourself in your bedroom and mope for a week in solidarity with our sensitive soul. His mum and dad are sympathetic, but even they lose patience eventually!

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For all of Paul’s tears though, this is a wonderfully sentimental and nostalgic look at the fun and frolics of teenage years, before the strictures of adulthood fully kick in. Life was simpler then, at that age, though it certainly didn’t feel like it at the time! Michel Rabagliati plays out the seemingly insurmountable trials and tribulations of the waning of adolescence and reaching the cusp of adulthood note perfectly.

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This comic is in English, we promise. These pages from French Canadian edition.

JR

Buy Paul Up North and read the Page 45 review here

Habitat (£8-99, Image) by Simon Roy.

Evolution and devolution: habitat-coverthere isn’t one single trajectory.

Please don’t judge this book by its cover: there is nothing half so opaque inside.

Clear-lined and lambent, the interior art will take your breath away with its contours, perspectives, phenomenal sense of scale, the sheer wonder of what has come out of Simon Roy’s mind, then the extraordinary skill with which he has transferred his imagination onto the printed page.

Cho is a young man who’s just been sworn into the Brotherhood of the Habsec, He is now no longer a civilian, but an elite warrior of the Habitat Security who on his very first hunt has impressed his superiors enormously with his initiative, speed and prowess.

But what they’ve been hunting are humans – for their meat.

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This doesn’t disgust Cho, for there are no more animals left alive other than the Carrion Gulls in this closed environment, and we do not appear to have become vegetarians. Unfortunately cannibalism comes with a price, as anyone who lived through Britain’s BSE (Mad Cow Disease) crisis will recall after we decided it was a jolly good idea to turn our herbivore cattle into carnivores by feeding them each other in the form of meat and bone meal derived from cows including their nervous-system-rich spinal cords. Aren’t we a bunch of lovelies?

Human spinal cords are exactly what Cho’s younger family are gathering now from the communal midden:

“Mia, no! It’s the one part you’re not supposed to eat!”
“Mom says it’s okay. It’s just for soup.”
“Mom and Grandma have the shakes because they eat spines from the midden!”

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No, what our young Cho objects to is the gratuitous cruelty with which the Habsec bring home their prey. For that he is boisterously pushed around, which leads to an accidental, clay-breaking find.

“Boy! Where did that come from?”
“The civvie’s amulet, sir.”
“Speak up, trooper!”
“The civvie I caught today, sir. There was a punch card, inside the clay amulet he wore.”
“You have this punch card?”
“Yes.”
“Give it to me.”

Young trooper Cho does not hand it over.

Instead – somehow sensing the importance of what he has discovered – he once more seizes the initiative with speed and prowess, catalysing everything that is to come.

We will return to the plot soon enough – including that key metal punch card – but what Simon Roy has so aptly done for a regressive society is fused the futuristic with both the recent and ancient historical past.

Set on a vast, once thriving cylindrical space station barely maintained by the scant surviving, highly reclusive engineer teams – recycled oxygen and rotational gravity being two of the few still functional technologies – the resultant environment and stone architecture now overgrown with bamboo and trees is resonant both of Babylon 5, Aztec / Mayan culture and the Brutalist movement which spawned in Britain concrete monstrosities most famous perhaps in their high-rise, city-centre, public-parking incarnations, but also – to my mind – some of the most magical urban community housing like the mid-70s’ tiered, balconied Alexandra Road flats in Camden Town designed by Neave Brown. I’ve not lived there, so I don’t even know, but it always looked to me like something progressive, overwhelmingly sci-fi and gobsmackingly beautiful.

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They’re presented here with their ultra-clear, broad, bisecting walkways and waterways creating eye-popping vistas which then sweep upwards as their cylindrical world curves upwards around a central light-giving, heat-radiating sphere.

The channels are roamed by similarly styled and equally overgrown monuments on stilts, known to the Habsec at least as Engineering Platforms but which the civvies – presumably never having seen more than one at a time – revere as The Great Builder.

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But even the Habsec have limited understanding of what little technology is left to them. Mostly they fight with bows and arrows, staves, and a sword which is presented to each upon initiation. This is fashioned using a 3-D printer into which the only known metal punch card is ceremonially inserted, generating one solitary option: the sword.

That is why the unexpected discovery of a second punch card is of such staggering importance. What will it render when activated?

Well, that would depend on which of the four templates you choose.

In the balance of power between the civvies, the Habsecs and the Engineers, this could be a game-changer.

Like Emma Rios’ I.D. and Matt Sheean and Malachi Ward’s ANCESTOR, this was originally serialised in the periodical anthology, ISLAND, home and haven to much creative innovation.

The colours – in the outer habitat at least – are gentle and earthy and often washed in a mossy green, so that when blood is spilled it stands out a mile, as does the Engineers’ direct communications with their machines in bright red and yellow code.

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It also means that the mostly bare-limbed occupants seem very much at one with their environment, although they are dwarfed by it and their vulnerable, fleshly forms are not half so resilient.

So what happened to the space station so long ago that its marvels of technology have largely been lost and the lives of its inhabitants have been reduced to mere tribal survival?

SLH

Buy Habitat and read the Page 45 review here

The World Of Edena h/c (£44-99, Dark Horse) by Moebius…

“Father, Iworld-of-edena am afraid to approach the Paternum…”
“Silence, my child! You are weak and unenlightened, but the Paternum cares equally for all his offspring.”
“The communication has begun, Father, but we continue to experience the same interference problem.”
“No matter. Continue transcription. Please form a circle around the matrix, sirs. Then remain totally silent.”
“Father! Look! The screen is filled with the interference again. I… I am losing the signal! It is as if there is a more powerful force which…”
“This is impossible! Nothing can block the communication between our Father-Mother-God and us, his children!”
“I will try broadening the spectrum…”

You do that, son. Because if there is one thing I have learnt reading Moebius over the years, both his own stories (pretty much all currently out of print like THE AIRTIGHT GARAGE which is verrrrry frustrating) and those penned with the likes of Alejandro Jodorowsky (THE INCAL / MADWOMAN OF THE SACRED HEART) it is that, to paraphrase the late Douglas Adams, Moebius can do six impossible things before his morning café et croissant

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It has a fascinating genus, this material, beginning life as an exclusive promotional work for Citroën, simply entitled THE STAR about two seemingly genderless interstellar castaways, Stel and Atan, who drive around on their rather barren new home in an old Citroën. Eventually they find a pyramid which transports them to a veritable Garden of Eden elsewhere in the Universe.

It was a bit of a lightweight throwaway story, frankly, but it clearly stuck with Moebius, who decided to embark upon a sequel. Once he started he felt extremely inspired and quickly plotted out an epic storyline, which he realised was going to have be an extended series of books to do it justice. Hence this gargantuan tome which collects all six (well, five and a bit parts) together in English for the very first time.

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If you like the quasi-mystical malarkey going on in THE INCAL, you will love this, as it is undoubtedly the most philosophically inquisitive Moebius ever got in his own stories, covering pretty much all aspects of humanity, the structures of society, set against the backdrop of a so-called advanced civilisations and of course, the ever-enduring battle between omnipresent forces of good and evil.

Interestingly for all that, the stories themselves don’t feel remotely heavy-going, quite the opposite actually, as the more complex elements merely sit in the background of the extremely entertaining, and perilous, adventures of Stel and Atan. That is certainly due to the art style as well, which is as stripped down and pure ligne claire as Moebius ever got, with relatively sparse backgrounds devoid of the bonkers embellishments that populate the INCAL material. To my mind this is an exquisite triumph which serves proves Moebius is an equally talented writer as he is artist.

JR

Buy The World Of Edena h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Ancestor (£13-99, Image) by Matt Sheean & Malachi Ward.

There plentyancestor-cover to give you much pertinent pause for thought here.

Do you ever grow a little anxious? Do you ever feel a bit down?

Perhaps you have a routine for that or a pick-me-up: some songs that will get you grinning or at least sooth away the stress. Maybe, if it’s more than a mood shift, then you have medication.

Now imagine there’s an app for that. Imagine there’s an app that will remember what buoyed you up in the past and present options for doing so again.

Now imagine that app was biologically hardwired into your brain so went with you everywhere and could even adjust your metabolism.

Welcome to The Service! It’s not just an app but the entire internet, social media and your personal profile combined. Everyone has it and it’s turned on permanently, whirring away inside your head, offering you information on sights and sounds, and even evaluating art objects so you know exactly what you should think about them. Individual insight is so overrated.

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Maybe you’d like to impress someone with skills you do not possess. You could run this exchange inside your mind:

“Run BarTndr.p”
“WELCOME TO BarTndr! WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO MAKE?”
“Two Black Widows’”
“CEDE PARTIAL MOTOR CONTROL TO BarTndr?”
“Sure…”

Suddenly you’re Tom Cruise in ‘Cocktail’. Might spike your serotonin levels, but that can be monitored and modulated too.

Wait: we’ve only just begun. I’ll try not to load this one way or the other, but do you take pleasure in the slow process of getting to know someone gradually, or would you feel more at ease without the initial small-talk, which in certain circumstances can prove quite awkward?

Our main protagonist Peter Chardin has just made use of the calming programme sent to him by Tom Matheson and it has worked wonders. Now Matheson introduces him in a bar to Anne Northrup, chic but in sunglasses so you can’t see her eyes. What Peter does have access to about Anne is any other number of the sort stats you might find on Bookface if you could trawl through someone’s history in an instant: personal history, friends and relatives, favourite music, favourite films, favourite books, favourite comics, sundry likes and dislikes and travel experience complete with photographs, ratings and perhaps even a list of subjects not up for discussion.

Presumably these are personalised with default settings for ‘public’ and ‘private’ which can then be adjusted for individuals; but what is “allowed” is there for immediate exchange.

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The brilliance of Sheean and Ward is that they utilise the comicbook medium to maximum effect here, showing us all this in a single panel – The Service’s manifold interactive options floating round each user’s head at eye-level in little yellow globules – reproducing as closely as possible the experience of that first instantaneous interaction. It’s dazzling to us, but it’s extraordinary what we can all become accustomed to.

And how lost we then feel when what we now take for granted is suddenly denied us. It’s bad enough leaving your mobile at home by mistake – suddenly you feel unconnected when you wouldn’t have thought twice about it two decades ago – and that’s just a phone! Now imagine you lost The Service.

That is precisely what happens when Matheson now drives Peter and Anne and a desultory, sceptical Jim to a last-minute party held at his estate by Patrick Whiteside. Peter, Anne and Jim have just enough time to search The Service to learn of the prospective host’s prior history:

“PATRICK WHITESIDE WAS PART OF THE R&D TEAM FOR THE SERVICE. HE DID KEY RESEARCH ON MATTER TRANSFERENCE AND SUB ATOMIC RECORDING.”

Matheson is already familiar:

“He’s not just a lab-coat, either. He’s transformed philosophy of the mind with his unique approach to intentionality.”

But he does have his critics, and a certain documented history. Oh, and a Suppression Field around his estate. The Service goes down just as Whiteside’s homestead comes into view, high upon rocks above the trees. It is… imposing… and it is guarded.

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Inside it is palatial, like a vast, luxuriously appointed personal exhibition hall and art gallery. And Peter does feel liberated by the lack of Service, allowing him to focus on and experience the paintings and sculptures personally, uninformed by the distractions and dictations of ‘expert’ outside information and accreditation. For someone who was on the research and development of The Service, Patrick Whiteside seems vehemently, vociferously keen on the benefits of not being dictated to.

At which point I would proffer Jonathan Hickman’s opening comicbook salvo from way back when, THE NIGHTLY NEWS.

I like that we’ve lost most of the vowels in the likes of BarTndr, like Tumblr, and I like that Peter Chardin’s are the only protagonist’s thoughts we are privy to throughout and – as opposed to the apps’ and exchanges’ capitals – that they’re all in a smaller lower case, giving them a vulnerable fragility, and him an isolation.

The printed page is about the matt-est I’ve ever encountered, and the work which was originally serialised in ISLAND (like Emma Rios’ I.D. and Simon Roy’s HABITAT) appears to be an organic, collaborative construct in both writing and art by Sheean and Ward. There is some gorgeous design work in elements I can’t even hint at for fear of giving the evolutionary game away, and the body language in chapter two was nuanced and telling – as was the walk from Patrick Whiteside’s public gallery into his private one.

Above all, however, it made me think a great deal about interaction: where we were once, where we are now and where we might go.

As to where we might go, this flew a great deal further than I was expecting.

SLH

Buy Ancestor and read the Page 45 review here

The DC Universe By Neil Gaiman Deluxe Edition h/c (£26-99, DC) by Neil Gaiman, Alan Grant, Mark Verheiden & Adam Kubert, Arthur Adams, Michael Alred, Simon Bisley, Sam Keith, Mark Buckingham, Matt Wagner, John Totleben, Eddie Campbell, others.

In which we concentrate on the question “Whatever Happened To The Caped Crusader?”

I’ll tell you what happens when you finish a great story by Neil Gaiman: you go Very Quiet and Very Still. Nothing else happens except in your mind, and perhaps not even there for a few seconds. It needs time to process, to percolate. Shhh…

From the literary magician who can transform a motorcycle manual into something that not only sounds but is profound, comes another story about telling stories and indeed about stories told. Or, as Alan Moore might put it with particular application here, “All stories are true”.

After Lord knows how many fingers tapping on Lord knows how many keys, and so many wrists rendering different shades of pencil, there are so very many tales told about Batman in so many different ways that not all of them join up. How could they? Why even should they? Does it actually matter? The only important thing is that The Batman never gives up: “There’s always something you can do.” He’ll live, he’ll die and he’ll live again in animation on the television, in live action on the silver screen and on the page in prose and in comicbook form: revised, re-envisioned, reinvented.

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This is Gaiman and Kubert’s answer to the question of discontinuity, embracing it all in word, in form and in deed. And celebrating it by paying tribute. Kubert’s pencils are glorious, and his ability to mimic Mazzucchelli, Lee, Kane, Adams, McKean et al is stupendous. In addition, can I confess that I guffawed at Two Face’s car?

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As the story opens, Batman lies dead in a casket. His friends and adversaries from across the last several decades gather round in the back of the Dew Drop Inn (and you should, you really should) tended by the man who killed Bruce’s parents in Crime Alley.

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Each stands up to tell a different story of his demise or recall what the driven dark knight said about life. As they do so, the man they are mourning listens to them closely and watches unseen, unsure of what he is witnessing. Is Bruce dead? And if so, who is his female fellow shade?

“This is Crime Alley.”
“Yes. Very good.”
“But it hasn’t looked like this for sixty years or more. This is crazy… Why are we here?”
“Why? Bruce, you never left.”

The finest pages are most certainly the last, but my secular self very much enjoyed this exchange edited to safeguard your own discovery, summing up exactly why I just don’t care whether or not there is an afterlife. It’s one of the best explanations of and exhortations to altruism that occurs to me right now:

“Are you ready to let it go now? To move on?”
“To go to my final reward? I told you, I don’t believe in –”
“You don’t get Heaven, or Hell. Do you know the only reward you get from being Batman? You get to be Batman.”

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Contains WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE CAPED CRUSADER plus SECRET ORIGINS #36, SECRET ORIGINS SPECIAL #1, WEDNESDAY COMICS #1-12, BATMAN #686, DETECTIVE COMICS #853 and GREEN LANTERN/SUPERMAN: LEGEND OF THE GREEN FLAME #1.

SLH

Buy The DC Universe By Neil Gaiman Deluxe Edition h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Bait: Off-Colour Stories h/c (£19-99, Dark Horse) by Chuck Palahniuk & Lee Bermejo, Kirbi Fagan, Duncan Fegredo, Tony Puryear, Alise Gluskova, Marc Scheff, Steve Morris, Joelle Jones.

A bit of a coupbait-cover for Dark Horse, this is a brand-new collection of prose short stories written by Chuck Palahniuk, author of Fight Club and indeed the writer of FIGHT CLUB II which was an original comic, not an adaptation, and not merely plotted by Palahniuk then farmed out to another.

Just like the recently arrived A WALK IN EDEN by Anders Nilsen, it’s illustrated throughout in clear-lined black and white so that you can embellish it with your own chosen palette of colours, either keeping carefully within its contours or going full-on Bettie Breitweiser if you honestly feel you’re that talented. It is however, most emphatically an adult colouring book in its truest sense, for Chuck is rarely, if ever, child-friendly. A decade on, I am still shuddering from ‘Guts’, that short story from ‘Haunted’ involving the pleasures of a swimming pool filtration system.

The one from BAIT that I’ve read so far is ‘Let’s See What Happens’ illustrated by Ducan Fegredo (ENIGMA, KID ETERNITY and HELLBOY: MIDNIGHT CIRCUS etc) is a scream, though thankfully not in the same way as ‘Guts’.

It’s a family affair, at the beginning of which young daughter Heather has the temerity to come home from school, innocently and adoringly hugging a brightly coloured pamphlet whose cover is adorned with lots of equally excited kids surrounded by exotic wild animals (and, umm, a stegosaurus) gathered under a rainbow which invites all and sundry to “JOIN US!”

On the back is stamped the address of a local church.

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By the time her Mum and Dad have read the leaflet promising the love of a quite different family, Heather is already infatuated, converted, and convinced she’s going to meet a stegosaurus. She wants to go to church.

“Not that Heather’s parents were idiots. In their experience it was crucial to expose a child to religion, in particular to religious services so boring, in a setting so stifling, in clothing so uncomfortable, in the presence of self-righteous, bullying, bad-smelling old people, that the child in question would be scarred for life. If a kid hated church it made the God issue all the easier. A bad church memory, scarred deep in their psyche, did the trick better than a lifetime of rational arguments explaining why Mommy and Daddy and all the really smart humanists were atheists.”

Do you sense a certain degree of hubris?

Heather’s parents are going to give her that scarring experience.

No, they really are.

Let’s see what so self-righteously happens.

SLH

Buy Bait: Off-Colour Stories h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

23 Skidoo One-Shot (£2-99, Angina Studios) by Al Columbia

Aleister & Adolf h/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Douglas Rushkoff & Michael Avon Oeming

Cages (25th Anniversary Edition) (£26-99, Dark Horse) by Dave McKean

Rachel Rising Omnibus s/c (£49-99, Abstract Studios) by Terry Moore

Saving Grace (£17-99, Jonathan Cape) by Grace Wilson

Cerebus: Cover Art Treasury h/c (£67-99, IDW & Aardvark-Vanaheim) by Dave Sim, Gerhard

Derek The Sheep (£8-99, Bog Eyed Books) by Gary Northfield

Good Dog, Bad Dog: Double Identity (£8-99, David Fickling Books) by Dave Shelton

Northlanders Book vol 2: The Icelandic Saga s/c (£26-99, Vertigo) by Brian Wood & Davide Gianfelice, Becky Cloonan, Paul Azaceta, Declan Shalvey, various, Massimo Carnevale

Jim Henson’s Labyrinth: Artist Tribute h/c (£22-99, Archaia) by various

Kabuki Library vol 4 h/c (£35-99, Dark Horse) by David Mack

Muhammad Ali h/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Sybille Titeux & Amazing Ameziane

MULP: Sceptre Of The Sun #3 (£4-99, Improper Books) by Matt Gibbs & Sarah Dunkerton

DC Super Hero Girls vol 2: Hits And Myths s/c (£8-99, DC) by Shea Fontana & Yancey Labat

Gotham Academy vol 3: Yearbook s/c (£14-99, DC) by Brendan Fletcher & Adam Archer, Sandra Hope

Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Christos Gage & Travel Foreman

Invincible Iron Man vol 2: The War Machine (UK Edition) s/c (£13-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Mike Deodato

His Favourite (£8-99, Sublime) by Suzuki Tanaka

News

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Duncan Fegredo Page 45 Bookplate, sold out yonks ago, obv!

ITEM! Video of Sean Phillips interviewing Duncan Fegredo about his craft and past while Duncan draws live at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016!

These two friends always bring out the wittiest in each other and you will learn so much about their early years together in the British comicbook industry, and that industry itself.

Sean had done bugger-all preparation, wings it to perfection and causes much mischief, while poor Duncan does ten things at once.

Buy swoonaway Duncan Fegredo Hellboy prints like this from his website!

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ITEM! Duncan Fegredo’s preparation for the event. See, someone’s a professional!

Watch Duncan Fegredo draw Hellboy from scratch, close-up!

For more Fegredo, please see BAIT reviewed above.

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ITEM! Mary Talbot’s exceptional, photo-filled overview of The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016.

She caught the relaxed atmosphere to perfection.

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ITEM! In case you missed it… Page 45’s own photo-filled, record-breaking blog of The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016!

See your favourite creators like Tillie Walden, Tom Gauld, Isabel Greenberg, Dave McKean, Katriona Chapman and Bryan Lee O’Malley. Learn what they actually look like!

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– Stephen

I honestly promise to talk about something else next week.

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Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews October 2016 week four

October 26th, 2016

Yes, that is new Craig Thompson, directly below! News under reviews.

Coelifer Atlas (£5-00) by Alex Paknadel, Dan Watters & Charlie Adlard, Dan Berry, Nick Brokenshire, Joe Decie, Mike Medaglia, Bruce Mutard, Ken Niimura, Jake Phillips, Bryan Talbot, Craig Thompson, Petteri Tikkanen, Emma Vieceli.

“You sure these seats are ours? Check the tickets.”
“Jess…it’s me.”
“Point.”

Rarely have I experienced a comic whose final two pages changed everything I’d thought I’d read: everything.

Suddenly each element of the story – what I had seen, what had been said, and the sheer enormity of it all – reconfigured in my head from chaotic, spinning molecules to form the stillest and clearest of crystals.

And it really was an “experience” – a transformative one – which impressed upon me the agonising reality of living with OCD in a most surreal way. It’s very clever stuff, and not without comedy value, either. My educated guess is that your own second read-through will prove as much of a revelation as my own.

“Look, we gave ourselves some wiggle room so you could do your… so you could do you. But time’s up. Train’s due in five minutes, mate.”

Neil doing Neil can be painful to watch. Steps must be taken; steps must be counted, and if things don’t add up, they must be taken and counted again. He’s certainly not going to take the wrong seat on a train. But his sister has known him all his life, and knows that listening to Neil talk himself through it works wonders.

It’s just that today of all days it is vital that Neil and Jess get where they’re going, and that’s only going to heap on added pressure.

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“Atlas never carried the world on his shoulders.”
“No?”
“Popular misconception. He holds the Celestial Sphere – the heavens.”

Regardless, it was still very heavy.

Neil knows stuff, especially about order and especially about time. You’ll learn why it was that railways exposed the disorder in sundials. Well, think about it: “The sun sets eleven minutes after London in Carnforth”.

There’s a lot of disorder today.

I’ve carefully chosen two pages of interior art – by Bryan Talbot then Emma Vieceli – which don’t give too much away. But you’ll notice the serpentine coils in place of passengers and seats filling the carriage as Neil desperately dives for the washroom, implying danger, disorientation and even perhaps the avoidance of those standing, while the clear path between indicates an emergency exit and only one goal. The serpent will be reprised by Medaglia.

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Also on Vieceli’s pages, rarely have I seen blood diluted by water so well coloured, and the loving concern on Jess’ furrowed face in the third panel is pitch-perfect.

As for Talbot’s final, slightly startling panel on comic’s first two pages, you will understand later how exceptionally well judged that is too. I can assure you that is but a hint of the chaos to come, Nick Brokenshire upping the ante – deadpan and in exquisite detail – to great comedic effect.

On your first time round, I suspect that the abrupt and extreme switch in styles between the likes of Jake Phillips’ fine lines, deep shadows, sand-paper-brown, grained photo-collage and Dan Berry’s cartoon fluidity and flood will make you wonder, but this choice and turbulence is far from uncalculated. The contrast if not conflict in the baton-changes between artists (who drew two pages each in under two hours) is deliberately dramatic and disorientating because those shoes, they do need to be walked in. The handover between Berry and Adlard, on the other hand, could not be better timed in its wake-up call.

I cannot say much more for fear of spoiling your own surprises, except that Craig Thompson’s final two pages are arresting and worthy of Will Eisner, the last one carrying such enormous emotional weight on its shoulders.

“We award points for effort under THIS roof, my ducks.”

What an incredible effort.

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All five pounds of every single sale goes to OCD Action via LICAF.

For another exceptional work involving OCD, please see my favourite piece of comicbook fiction, Glyn Dillon’s THE NAO OF BROWN. For another exceptional comicbook relay race between artists, I recommend the brilliant piece of British social history which is the fictional NELSON.

SLH

Buy Coelifer Atlas and read the Page 45 review here

The Lottery (£14-50, Hill & Wang) by Shirley Jackson & Miles Hyman.

“The childrenlottery-cover assembled first, of course.”

A virtually silent adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s prose short story, its few words are chosen carefully for maximum, ominous impact.

It was a very short story if its only words are reproduced here.

From the very first page I was unsettled, but then came the faces as furrowed as the fields in this small and remote country hamlet, the knowing looks, the date so evidently important, and the portrait of the woman in its austere cameo frame which looks stern, strict and perhaps disapproving of anything so fancy as a newfangled camera.

It’s as if the locals are isolated in time as well as geographically. Every one of them frowns. They seem to share a knowledge you are not privy to.

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On the night of June 26, the evening before the annual lottery, Mr Joe Summers lets Mr. Harry Graves into the Summers Coal store front. They greet each other solemnly, then retire to a backroom, lit by a single overhead bulb, wherein waits an old wooden box high on top of the shelves. They lift it down together, as if observing some sacred ritual, and proceed to check the empty rectangles of white paper, folded in two to form simple squares, to ensure that they are all blank.

One by one these folded slips are posted through the dark hole waiting in the top of the box.

Without a word, Mr Harry Graves takes a pencil and on the inside of a single one of those slips of paper he proceeds to draw a circle, then fills it with graphite from the outside in until it is indelibly black. He hands it Mr Joe Summers who drops it through the hole in the lottery box where it waits with the others until tomorrow morning.

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“The morning of June 27 was clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth a full-summer day.
“The flowers were blossoming profusely and the grass was richly green.”

Yes, it is a bright day indeed, and the village is verdant. The soil is quite evidently fertile, for the fields are rich in ripening corn.

The white chapel shines in the sun, as does the crisp, fresh laundry flapping on lines in a welcome breeze. Everything seems right, everything seems ordinary. But today is June 27, the day of The Lottery.

“In some towns there were so many people that The Lottery took two days and had to be started on June 26.
“But in this village, where there were only about three hundred people, the whole lottery took less than two hours.
“It could begin at ten o’clock in the morning and still be through in time to allow the villagers to get home for noon dinner.”

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The art is neat. It is neat and tidy like the village folk themselves. It is also laden. Otherwise ordinary images – I’ll say it again – unsettle you. Heavy, agricultural machines and implements loom large and take on a threatening nature.

Ancestors are invoked. Tradition is respected around these parts. And The Lottery is part of that tradition.

On time, the villagers dutifully drop what they are doing and gather round. They congregate.

But by noon – after all is said and all is done – they will be back in their family houses, in time for luncheon.

I should emphasise that this is not a supernatural story. It would be far more reassuring if it were.

SLH

Buy The Lottery and read the Page 45 review here

The Marionette Unit (£12-99, TMU Workshop) by Azhur Saleem, James Boyle & Warwick Johnson-Cadwell…

“Have you got any steampunk?”

… Is a fairly oft-heard refrain within the four mind-bending and wallet-emptying walls of Page 45, but frankly, there is somewhat of a dearth of material on said topic which we can heartily recommend. Bryan Talbot’s LUTHER ARKWRIGHT and Matt Fraction’s FIVE FISTS OF SCIENCE are usually mentioned, along with Warren Ellis’ AETHERIC MECHANICS and CAPTAIN SWING AND THE ELECTRIC PIRATES OF CINDERY ISLAND. Also Bryan Talbot’s GRANDVILLE, plus Alan Moore’s early LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN if you’re pushing the definition (trust me: true steampunk pedants, sorry, aficionados, will disagree). Oh, and most definitely DOCTOR GRORDBORT PRESENTS ONSLAUGHT for comedy value, but there’s not a great deal else, surprisingly.

This, happily, will now become my de facto recommendation for it is premier amongst hoodlums of the condensation-producing variety! With its plethora of pipework and variety of valves on the cover background, as quilled by Warwick DANGERITIS / 21st CENTURY TANK GIRL / NELSON Johnson-Cadwell, no one could be in any doubt as to its temperature-titillating temptations.

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Actually, it’s an extremely clever cover beyond that because the sinister foreground profile of the top-hatted toff, with his tailcoat of twisted tentacles reaching down to plug into our heroine’s back, perfectly encapsulates what disturbing dystopian ductwork, of both the figurative and literal type, you will find within. For Beatrice, searching for her lost sister, is forced to enter the disturbing Saint Mary Abbot’s workhouse, owned by the evil Dubré, whose peculiar idea of social mobility is, shall we say, rather different to the accepted definition… I think I shall allow him to explain his dastardly scheme to exploit the hoi polloi of the social strata.

“My name is Dubré and I am the foreman and engineer of all that you will see here.
“Years I have been perfecting the tools that you will use… and that will be plugged into you.
“You are in safe hands… hands that will serve a working class of and for the future.
“I expect total cooperation. You will see that none complain here, and for good reason.”

Yes… because if they do, they get clubbed and thrown in the back of a horse-drawn carriage, never to be seen again. Sorry, couldn’t help interrupting his maniacal monologuing there…

“There are two things I believe in here… a strong work ethic… and a resilient nature.
“You will work many hours, but you will not tire. I assure you, this is like no other workhouse.
“I bid you a warm welcome, dear workers of the future!”

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Which all sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Except of course, the workers are no more than another, ultimately disposable, cog in Dubré’s empire of capitalist output. Indeed, very precisely so, as the plugged-in workers suddenly find their bodies are no longer their own to control, merely obeying Dubré’s industrial instruction…

Work them ‘til they drop, then, and when they are of no more use, get rid of them… In this era of zero-hours contracts, it’s a cutting reminder that whilst we might like to believe that workers’ rights and protections have evolved beyond Victorian values, for many, they simply haven’t, as Mike Ashley is only too happy to attest. Well, once he was finally forced in front of the MPs Select Committee, that is…

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So it’s a scything piece of social satire from writer Azhur Saleem, then, as well as a steampunk-powered adventure romp, conceived with co-creator James Boyle. Excellent! Whilst this is their first foray into the world of comics they’ve a long background in film-making and the media and design industries and clearly understand how to craft an engaging story. I think fans of PORCELAIN would very much enjoy this, actually. An impressive debut! I look forward to the next instalment. Yes, for this work is merely the opening chapter in Beatrice’s quest to track down her sister.

JR

Buy The Marionette Unit and read the Page 45 review here

Demon Vol 1 (£17-99, FirstSecond) by Jason Shiga.

Wickedly crafty, demon-coverthe extent of Shiga’s ingenuity will only begin to become clear during chapter four, and then it will blow your brains out. Which is apposite enough.

Up until then, you’re going to have trust him.

Fortunately I do, for the inventive mathematician of comicbook creators responsible for EMPIRE STATE and MEANWHILE is meticulous with detail, known neither for imprecision nor for being random. He is a logic-driven puzzle-maker and a puzzle-solver, and here he invites you to solve the following puzzle before his protagonist does.

I too will be methodical in removing one word and adding another from the situation so as to retain the sequence of events as I originally perceived it.

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Jimmy Yee is in a modest motel room. With much consideration, he writes a suicide note and hangs himself.

He wakes up in bed, perplexed. Some time has passed but not much. The suicide note on the motel stationery is gone, as is the rope he hung himself from. He’s been given a second chance, but is determined to kill himself. So he writes another suicide note, draws a bath and slits his wrists with a razor blade.

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Jimmy Yee wakes up in bed. Yup, that painting above it is still there but the room’s a little messier. Some time has passed but not much. He’s been given a third chance, but he is still determined to kill himself. Fortunately a gun has now materialised beside the obligatory Bible in his bedside drawer. He writes another note, repairs to the bathroom, wraps the gun in a towel, sits on the bath which is free from blood and water, and shoots himself in the mouth. His skull explodes.

This time Jimmy Yee wakes up in the bath and there have been repercussions. The tiles have been shattered by the gunshot and the bullet is lodged there at the fracture’s epicentre. He necks a bottle of pills and passes out on the bathroom floor.

“Enough already!” he screams when he wakes up in bed. He hastily scribbles another note and goes to the bathroom whose tiles remain fractured but this time there’s his corpse in the middle of the floor. There’s only one thing for it: he throws himself directly into the path of an oncoming juggernaut.

Lucky to wake up at all, he does so next – understandably – in hospital. He has a concussion but little else. He receives a visit from his daughter, but it totally confounds for him three precise reasons I will not explain. He acts with a degree of suspicious hostility which we, the reader, do not comprehend.

We have only just begun.

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Once Jimmy Yee finally works out what’s been happening to him, he begins to calculate the potential his predicament provides, how to make the most use of it and how to successfully access its means of execution.

Unfortunately he’s not the only one who knows what he’s doing. The Office of Strategic Services is on his case.

The subtle body language best exemplified in EMPIRE STATE is back in full evidence. Love the defensive hunched shoulders. But what Shiga has done with the visuals here – once the proverbial penny has dropped – will have you in even more awe.

This is my best poker face, yes.

Please note: although the majority of FirstSecond books these days seems aimed squarely at the Young Reader or Young Adult market, this, emphatically, is not, and there will be some very awkward conversations around the kitchen table should you mistakenly buy DEMON for young ones you dote on.

SLH

Buy Demon Vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Tetris – The Games People Play (£12-99, SelfMadeHero) by Box Brown…

“Haha! Why?! What’s with these puzzles and games, Alexey? Aren’t we here to study psychology, behaviour, that stuff?”
“Hear me out here: games aren’t just an escape, not there just to keep us busy during idle hours.
“Puzzles and games reveal a lot about psychological behaviour! They imitate the mind! They inform life!!”

Indeed they do. And Alexey Pajitnov, computer scientist at Moscow Academy of Science in 1984, was just about to have to his own mind blown as to how much impact his musings about the development of human consciousness and subsequent meddling with computer coding were going to have.

Tetris, it’s a funny old game, as renowned addict Jimmy Greaves might have been heard to articulate… I actually didn’t pay it a great deal of attention as a callow teenager, fixated as I was on what I perceived to be far more sophisticated games: the likes of Elite, Jet Set Willy and err… Daley Thompson’s Decathlon.

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As a more mature gamer, with infinitely less time these days, and probably somewhat more sluggish reflexes (I doubt I would get anywhere near my personal best of 41.12 seconds for the 400metres on Daley’s, a feat that required two of my friends to physically hold my computer desk down with their full weights to prevent it tipping over whilst my digits dashed across the sexy rubber keys of my ZX Spectrum 48K…) I have recently come to appreciate the merits of puzzle games, in my all-too-brief twenty-minute tram commute gaming slots. And their addictiveness…

I think, actually, that will be one of the true lasting legacies of Tetris, that it was a game which transcended the then traditionally rather narrow demographic of computer gamers, almost entirely young male teenagers at that time, appealing to absolutely everyone, right up to pensioners, on a level that ignited the avarice of games manufacturers on a hitherto unimaginable degree. In that sense, looking at the demographics of gamers today, Tetris truly was years ahead of its time.

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Box Brown provides us with a fascinating insight into both the genial genius of Alexey Pajitnov, who truly could have had no way of knowing what RSI-inducing monster of a time-thief he was about to unleash on an unsuspecting world, and the greedy, grubby shenanigans of big business, including one Robert Maxwell, who engaged in a frantic scramble for the various rights for different territories and platforms, with varying degrees of success.

The fact that they were all dealing with the inscrutable, hard-nosed Soviet party apparatchiks rather than a naïve game designer, thus being played off against each other beautifully, makes it all the more chaotically delicious a read. It would be fair to say there were more than a few shady stunts pulled and noses put out of joint on the capitalist side of the equation. Box details them all for our delectation.

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Plus we get to see Robert Maxwell sink into the drink, quite literally, one more time, as his vast empire began to unravel and crumble around his ears. I remember very well all the kerfuffle at the time, the suspicions that he’d faked his own death (still wouldn’t surprise me to find he was living in the lap of luxury somewhere), the rumours of suicide which would have invalidated his vast life policy, quite delighting his insurance company I’m sure. Anyway, that alone brought a fair few memories back, I must say.

We also get a brief history of the rise and rise of the likes of Nintendo, then just a card trading company, as they made the bold decision to diversify their gaming offering. I think we can say it was a wise decision! Even Alexey eventually gets paid, even if he only manages to get a mere slice of the vast pie of riches his creation plundered from the pockets of gamers, old and young alike. But money was never the point for Alexey. He just wanted to see if he could make a game that people – everyone – wanted to play. I think it’s safe to say he succeeded in his aim. Another brilliantly constructed chunk of late twentieth-century cultural history from the man who also brought us ANDRE THE GIANT.

For a comic which uses Tetris as a metaphor for coping with life, please see John Allison’s EXPECTING TO FLY #1 and #2!

JR

Buy Tetris – The Games People Play and read the Page 45 review here

Giant Days vol 3 (£13-99, Boom) by John Allison & Max Sarin.

“’Dangles and makes noise’ or just ‘dangles’? I can’t choose.”

Does that chime with you? Trying to find the perfect present for friends? Daisy’s trying to find one for Susan’ birthday.

“A delicately embroidered pashmina?”
“She’d just wipe up a spill with it.”

I love John Allison’s vocabulary. It’s full of pinafores and broaches and Singer Sewing Machines: feminine things of the past which he picked up from his Mum. Being in John’s company is like being sprinkled by pixie dust. He’s not quite of this world, and I love it.

But whereas BAD MACHINERY is magic realism, GIANT DAYS is essentially grounded in astonishingly well remembered real life at university. Clearly he drank a lot less than I did. It stars Susan, Esther, Daisy, young Ed who’s infatuated with Esther and older McGraw who once dated Susan and may now be doing so again. McGraw’s seniority is denoted by his surname. John’s very precise with his words. The cadence of each sentence is judged just-so.

“Why are you being nice to me, Susan? I know it takes a lot out of you.”

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Specifically recalled here is the exhausted delirium of staying up two nights on the trot feverishly writing an entire dissertation at the very last minute which you had a whole month to hand in on time. By which point you become a nocturnal, a creature of the night, and Magic surrealism sure creeps in then, full-blown in Max Sarin’s giddy art. Her timing is every bit as funny and thrilling as Allison’s.

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It’s a dangerous existence if you linger too long, its more committed, permanent residents lurking like vampiric vultures.

“They’re sun-deniers. They think ‘daytime’ is government propaganda.”

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In order to rescue Susan, Esther – already attuned to the night and armed with gothic knowledge –  embarks on three essays back-to-back including 3,000 words on Ibsen’s ‘Hedda Gabler’ overseen by a framed photo of a certain cinema critic looking ever so erudite.

“That’s right, Dr. Kermode, stare the learning into me.”

She flies through those 3,000 words at a furious pace (on a notepad, in pencil!) and some of them might be in the right order until —

“...The End! Wait, do you write ‘The End’ at the end of an essay?
“I wish I’d actually read ‘Hedda Gabler’.”

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Max Sarin’s also on top, manic form in a flashback after McGraw’s given Ed Gemmell’s sexual secret away to Susan.

“I had to tell Susan. You don’t understand, Ed, she’s cruel.”

The next three panels show Susan extracting that secret with a barrage of “Tell me tell me tell me tell me. Tellllllll meeeeee…” as she attacks McGraw with a skeleton’s claw, right in the face.

There’s an equally expressive sequence during a sonic obliteration at a Black Metal gig, the audience’s hair blasted back as if in a deafening wind tunnel. Her eyes watering, visiting hell-raiser Big Lindsay concedes defeat by scrawling in eyeliner on the palm of her hand, “CAN WE GO BOWLING?”

For far, far more, please see GIANT DAYS VOL 1, GIANT DAYS VOL 2 and the GIANT DAYS PACK of self-published comics which precedes them both.

SLH

Buy Giant Days vol 3 and read the Page 45 review here

Goodnight Punpun vol 3 (£16-99, Viz) by Inio Asano.

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Few are more stupid than Punpun Onodera, Mama Onodera and Uncle Yuichi Onodera. Each of the family is a complete fuck-up in their own increasingly alarming, dark, dark way.

Ironically it was Punpun’s father who was ex-communicated for domestic malfeasance in volume one, but you’re in for such a jaw-dropping revelation about that episode here that I had to reread it three times to make sure I hadn’t misunderstood. I hadn’t.

Punpun is now a teenager, sporting the sort of long, lank hair that put me in mind of Harry Enfield’s Kevin until he discovers hair gel to hilarious effect. It wouldn’t be so funny if the Onoderas weren’t all presented as minimal, cartoon birds with stick arms and legs in a world in which is photo-realistic.

After obsessing with another girl in his younger years, he now finally embarks on his first-ever date.

He is embarrassingly awful at it.

Also: during it, most especially towards the end.

It is cringe-worthily comical. Until it isn’t.

It’s all so masterfully done, Asano presenting you with a cripplingly internalised lead character who over-thinks everything, yet who is at heart utterly shallow.

Although you may feel for Punpun when he experiences the art gallery exhibition. Briefly.

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We have a whole section on our website dedicated to Inio Asano, so please click on any of the covers for far more extensive reviews, including two considerable and – I hope – considered assessments of this specific series, each volume racking in at nearly 450 haunting pages car-crash people and densely detailed art. I’m not normally so brief especially on any of my three favourite Japanese creators, Inio Asano, Jiro Taniguchi and Taiyo Matsumoto (SUNNY etc).

Strictly adults only, just like A GIRL ON THE SHORE.

SLH

Buy Goodnight Punpun vol 3 and read the Page 45 review here

Black Road vol 1: The Holy North (£8-99, Image) by Brian Wood & Garry Brown…

“Fuck off. I’m eating.”
“Take it easy. This is business. You are Magnus, yes?”
“I only arrived in town this morning. No one should know me.”
“Perhaps your reputation precedes you?”
“Reputations kill. I prefer to be alone and unknown.”
“How much privacy, Magnus, would this buy you?”
“What’s that for? You want someone killed?”
“Not at all! Good heavens. I’m not talking about murder. I’m talking about an escort job. Taking a church official up the Northern Road to Hammaruskk Coast.”
“The Northern Road. We call it the Black Road, and had you spent more than two fucking minutes in this land, you’d have known that. And a voyage up the Black Road most likely is a murder trip.”

Finally! For those of us who have been waiting patiently since the flaming longboat burial afforded to Brian Wood’s NORTHLANDERS saga on the Vertigo imprint, our patience has been rewarded, and how! Magnus the Black is a man with much on his mind. He’s had the emotional bedrock of his life shattered with the loss of his wife and seen the presumed sovereignty of Odin and the old gods smashed by the one true God of Christianity.

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It’s the latter which probably causes him to take the escort job, at four times the original price, of course, because it gives Magnus the chance to ask the Cardinal some burning questions. About how a man born a heathen can get into Heaven, for example… He’s hoping the answers will give some structure to the rest of his life, one way or the other. Not that he believes a life of piety and forgiveness will be required in either eventuality…

“… I wanted to be closer to the Christians. They talk in riddles. They preach peace and love in the midst of performing incredible violence.
“There’s a structure, a purpose to what they do that is beyond my ken. They’re changing Norskk, changing it with words and with iron and with blood. I need to understand them better.
“I have yet to determine if I will go to war for the Christians, or against them.”

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It won’t surprise you to learn that the trip up North isn’t without its challenges. Of the head meets hammer variety, that is… The Cardinal’s not worried, though, he says he’s got a guardian angel. Which is where the mystery really begins…

What a wonderfully dark opener! It’s like NORTHLANDERS never went away (please note, the rest of the re-collected bigger editions of NORTHLANDERS will be out shortly). And whilst Garry Brown never worked with Brian Wood on that title, fans of THE MASSIVE will be more than familiar with his work. It’s a gritty, flinty style that’s perfect for this title and as with NORTHLANDERS, the colours, provided here by Dave McCaig are suitably understated and restrained.

JR

Buy Black Road vol 1: The Holy North and read the Page 45 review here

New Editions!

The End Of Summer (£11-99, Avery Hill) by Tillie Walden.

Album-sized re-issue of Tillie Walden’s first work following the two Ignatz Awards and the spectacular success of I LOVE THIS PART (a Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month) and A CITY INSIDE.

This is my original review, untouched, before I knew what further treasures lay ahead.

Well, would you just look at this architecture!

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

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

Winsor McCay, anyone?

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

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

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

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

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SLH

Buy The End Of Summer and read the Page 45 review here

The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story s/c (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Vivek J. Tiwary & Andrew Robinson, Kyle Baker.

“…So what’llfifth-beatle-cover it be for you? What is it that you want..?”
“Well, I suppose I want what everyone else wants… Peace, love, and belonging… that perhaps it’s belonging that’s most elusive.”

On the surface this is pure effervescent swinging sixties fun with a dapper yet cheeky biopic feel, portraying the charismatic guiding hand behind the Beatles’ rise to stardom. But when the cheers die down, the after party is over, the champagne bubbles have gone flat, what can you do if what you really feel is completely and utterly alone? Brian Epstein made making the Beatles his life’s work and tragically it probably greatly curtailed his, with his untimely death at the age of 32. As the Beatles themselves began to indulge in less legal pharmacological pursuits, Epstein became first addicted to amphetamines, and then sleeping tablets to try and help with his acute insomnia. Ultimately, it was an overdose of barbiturates which caused his premature passing.

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It’s inevitable that any work like this will be only a potted history of events, even in a career as short as Epstein’s, but it features all the notable highs and lows, and of course bizarre anecdotes you would expect. Epstein had his personal demons, primarily due to having to hide his sexuality at a time when despite the Sixties sexual revolution, male homosexuality was still illegal in England and Wales, ironically enough only being decriminalised about a month after his passing. And whilst this work doesn’t shy away from looking at the deep sadness Epstein clearly felt about being unable to openly look for romantic love, which he clearly felt could be the one thing that might save him from his workaholic and destructive tendencies, there is also much fun and frivolity about the magical journey he and the Beatles were on. The absolute highlight for me though is his lunch meeting with Colonel Parker, manager of Elvis and a man with a notorious appetite for money…

“You take fifty percent of everything Elvis earns?!”
“No. Elvis takes fifty percent of everything I earn.”

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As Parker launches into tirade after tirade about Jews in the entertainment industry then just for dessert indulging some casual homophobia, Epstein begins to see the Colonel almost metamorphosising into some devilish version of Mammon in front of his very eyes. It’s a timely reminder that whilst Epstein himself was on a staggering 25% gross (not including expenses) of The Beatles’ income, he never had anything but their own best interests at heart. Indeed, just three years after Epstein’s death in August 1967 and with the breakup of Beatles then complete, John Lennon noted in a Rolling Stone interview that upon hearing of Epstein’s death: “I knew that we were in trouble then… I thought, ‘We’ve fuckin’ had it now'”.

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The beautiful artwork, from Andrew C. Robinson and Kyle Baker, elegantly captures the wild rollercoaster ride that was Epstein’s life from the moment he laid eyes on the proto Fab Four in the Cavern to the moment he was finally laid to rest, complementing Vivek J. Tiwary’s excellent script.

JR

Buy The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story 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.

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Cormorance (£18-99, Jonathan Cape) by Nick Hayes

A Walk In Eden (£14-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Anders Nilsen

The World Of Edena h/c (£44-99, Dark Horse) by Moebius

Burt’s Way Home (£14-99, Koyama Press) by John Martz

Bait: Off-Colour Stories h/c (£19-99, Dark Horse) by Chuck Palahniuk & Lee Bermejo, Kirbi Fagan, Duncan Fegredo, Tony Puryear, Alise Gluskova, Marc Scheff, Steve Morris, Joelle Jones

BPRD Hell On Earth vol 14 – The Exorcist (£16-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, Cameron Stewart & Chris Roberson, Mike Norton

East Of West vol 6 (£13-99, Image) by Jonathan Hickman & Nick Dragotta

Habitat (£8-99, Image) by Simon Roy

The Intercorstal 683 (£4-00, ) by Gareth A Hopkins

Johnny The Homicidal Maniac h/c (£35-99, SLG) by Jhonen Vasquez

Midnight Days s/c (£14-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman, Matt Wagner & various inc. Dave McKean, Mike Mignola, Steve Bissette, John Totleben, Sergio Aragones

Prince Of Cats h/c (£22-99, Image) by Ronald Wimberly

The Flash By Geoff Johns vol 3 s/c (£22-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Scott Kolins, various

Black Widow vol 1: S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Most Wanted s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Chris Samnee

Captain America White s/c (£22-99, Marvel) by Jeph Loeb & Tim Sale

Deadpool: World’s Greatest vol 4: Temporary Insanitation s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Gerry Duggan, Charles Soule, David Walker & various

Doctor Strange: What Is It That Disturbs You, Stephen? s/c (£26-99, Marvel) by various including P. Craig Russell

Inuyashiki vol 5 (£9-99, Viz) by Hiroya Oku

News

 

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ITEM! “Page 45 Shatters Sales Record At Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016!” And I mean, obliterates!

Blog with lots and lots of photos of fabulous creators having fun, like Tom Gauld and Emma Vieceli!

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Beautiful comics, beautiful comics!

In that blog you’ll find Tillie Walden, Bryan Lee O’Malley, Sean Phillips, Jake Phillips, Hannah Berry, Craig Thompson, Isabel Greenberg, Ben Haggarty, Adam Brockbank, Darryl Cunningham… Eugene… and so many more!

 

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Original art and sketches to swoon over, too. It’s all there!

Ooh, look, here’s Dave McKean in our room!

 

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ITEM! Speaking of Mr McKean, if you enjoyed his BLACK DOG: THE DREAMS OF PAUL NASH, you’ve still some time to see this BBC programme on Paul Nash: The Ghosts of War.

 

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ITEM! And speaking of the Beeb, The BBC’s Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 Blog.

Really captures the spirit of it all! Take a great gawp at what happens outside our room!

Also: here, have a tree! That was in Kendal too.

 

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ITEM! Aaaaaand, speaking of The Lakes Fest, here’s the winner of LICAF’s 2016 Beatrix Potter Re-Imagined Competition. Exquisite.

 

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ITEM! Terry Moore to bring back STRANGERS IN PARADISE – as a comic!

Hooray! From the creator of RACHEL RISING, there are few series I’m fonder of than the epic that is STRANGERS IN PARADISE, and there are few creators I am fonder of than the adorable Terry Moore!

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ITEM I wish it wasn’t.

I’m afraid that on Sunday Steve Dillon died.

Staggered, all I could manage on Twitter @pagefortyfive was:

“Steve Dillon’s gone. Ridiculous.”

“Steve Dillon’s faces were so nuanced he could make a 200-page conversation in a bar absolutely riveting.”

“I’d only add that Steve Dillon’s art was all the more eloquent for being understated: it drew you in, rather than pounced on you.”

Garth Ennis pays tribute to his friend and PREACHER partner Steve Dillon.

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– Stephen

Page 45 Shatters Sales Record At Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016!

October 21st, 2016

But first: Bryan Lee O’Malley (SECONDS etc) kicks of his Page 45 LICAF Sunday signing by sketching on a guitar. Of course he does! See later for the results!

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“What Do You Mean By Shattered, Stephen?”

I mean obliterated.

In 2014 at LICAF Page 45 broke its all-time weekend sales record by taking £5,000.
In 2015 at LICAF Page 45 broke that weekend sales record by taking £5,500.

Now at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 Page 45 has smashed its own weekend sales record to smithereens by taking over £10,000!

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That’s double two years ago and with just 1% of the range of our stock: it’s all we can fit into the van.

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Also: that’s just one room in Kendal’s Comics Clock Tower where there are vast halls for others who pack in to exhibit.

Over £2,000 of Page 45’s takings this year go directly to LICAF to fund its following Festivals.

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“Why Is This Happening?”

Well, our graphic novels are very beautiful books, and perhaps there are too few shops stocking them at all or promoting them properly.

Of equal importance: At The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 ENTRY IS FREE so the Kendal Clock Tower draws in the crowds!

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It’s especially attractive to those new to comics, who wander in out of curiosity then love what they see. That’s always been Page 45’s primary mission: to bring the widest variety of quality comics and graphic novels into contact with as a many new people as possible in an honest, informed and eloquent manner.

This is the Festival’s fourth year. The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2017 will run from 13th to 15th October. Potential visitors and prospective exhibitors, please pop those dates in your diary.

We’ve only just begun.

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Page 45 Upstairs In Kendal Clock Tower’s Georgian Room

Every year Page 45 is entrusted this entire room to ourselves, curating it as we see fit, and cluttering it up with creators whom we adore. Click on any photo to enlarge and pop creators or titles in our website search engine!

Look, here’s Emma Vieceli!

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Tillie Walden and Katriona Chapman with AveryHill Publishing, centre-stage, where they belong!

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This year we launched Dave McKean’s Dark Horse edition of BLACK DOG: THE DREAMS OF PAUL NASH.

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Dave even took the trouble to bring enormous, framed original paintings for all and sundry to gawp at. (They did.)

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Tom Gauld defaced MOONCOP and our very own Tote Bags!

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Sean Phillips drew Prince right in front of us!

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Isabel Greenberg sketched on Saturday.

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Hannah Berry rolled up on Sunday after being made full use of right through the festival!

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Jonathan Edwards and Felt Mistress were with us all weekend, with Eugune manically minding their stall overnight.

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John Martz made his first-ever UK appearance! With us! Hooray!

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Where’s Dan Berry and Paul Thomas? I forgot to take photos, so sorry!

Ben Haggarty and Adam Brockbank!

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Craig Thompson popped in unannounced three times to sign and sketch in his books!

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That head is an original sketch, yes.

Darryl Cunningham sketched in all his graphic novels – and he wasn’t officially with us, either!

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Riff Reb’s even sat down to draw in LICAF’s edition of CARROT TO THE STARS, letting Jonathan and myself get a glimpse at his original artwork.

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Jake Phillips showed off his pages of COELIFER ATLAS, this year’s 24-Hour Comicbook Relay Race Marathon (£5-00 each) written by Alex Paknadel, Dan Watters and drawn by Dan Berry (editor), Craig Thompson, Charlie Adlard, Emma Vieceli, Petteri Tikannen, Bruce Mutard, Nick Brokenshire, Bryan Talbot, Ken Niimura, Joe Decie, Mike Medaglia and that there Jake Phillips.

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Finally, during his signing Bryan Lee O’Malley created two entire pages of original comics right in front of us!

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Possibly.

Oh, and here’s Bryan with that guitar again.

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Luring In Punters, Crippling Credit Cards And Whipping Wallets

At The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 ENTRY IS FREE, so many walk in from the street or travel from afar to discover comics for the very first time! How cool is that? So Page 45 brings a fresh supply of gorgeous graphic novels to LICAF every year… but they don’t half take some getting there!

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40 gigantic boxes brought down from the office. To get from the till to our Vertigo section with its Neil Gaiman throne, I had to take a detour of 3.75 miles! Or climb.

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Two rows in and with twice as many boxes to cram into the van, this is where we find out if Jonathan is better at Tetris than me.

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Here are those boxes, lugged up to our Georgian Room, and that Georgian Room before we begin.

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Now I have to magic the two together. Comics is a visual medium, so it’s vital they’re displayed at their best. It takes me four $£%* hours!

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Please click on PHOENIX COMICS for our dedicated webpage then on each cover for reviews!

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That is, however, the easy bit. None of this would be remotely possible without our Lord, Master and logistical, technological genius, Jonathan.

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It’s Jonathan who sources all our extra stock, organises its delivery and transport, populates our second till with products, designs our signs and banners, beats the credit card terminal’s wonky reception into reluctant submission and makes sure we have packed everything we need from carrier bags and Sharpies to such extreme amounts of change that it took the two of us to lug it down the hill into Kendal from our snow-capped, mountain-side hotel.

And that’s just LICAF.

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LICAF Comics & Merchandise

CARROT TO THE STARS is reviewed and available worldwide from Page 45!

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COELIFER ATLAS, this year’s 24-Hour Comicbook Relay Race Marathon (£5-00, now reviewed!) is also available worldwide from Page 45 with every single penny going to OCD Action.

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You can order the following merchandise – which is exclusive to LICAF and was on sale in our room, with 20% of the proceeds going to OCD Action, the rest to help fund LICAF itself by emailing julie@kendalartsinternational.com

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Prints at £25 each:

Charlie Adlard Beatrix Potter
Luke McGarry Beatrix Potter
Duncan Fegredo Beatrix Potter
Dave McKean Black Dog signed
Gilbert Shelton festival giclee
Jordi Bernet festival giclee
Ken Niimura festival giclee

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Festival lapel badges £2.50 each

Sets of 4 Beatrix Potter Re-Imagined postcards featuring Hannah Berry, Charlie Adlard, Luke McGarry and Duncan Fegredo £2 each

And, wait for it…

Sean Phillips Kill or Be Killed signed screenprint (50×70) festival variant £50 each

For more of those images, please see page 43 of The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 Programme.

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Panel To Empower New and Prospective Creators

We thought this important.

Every week I’m asked at the counter, “What’s the best way to get my comic published?”, “How do I maximise my exposure?” or “How do I get my self-published comic onto your shelves?” On Sunday we answered their barrier-breaking questions.

Our Team Supreme from multiple disciplines:

Ricky Miller (Director, Avery Hill Publishing)
Katriona Chapman (self-publisher of KATZINE, freelance for larger publishers and in addition part of Avery Hill)
Andy Oliver (Editor-in-Chief of pioneering review website Broken Frontier, and brand-new self-publisher)
Stephen L. Holland (Festival patron, Page 45 retailer and prize buffoon)

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I’ve seldom received such phenomenally positive and grateful feedback – nascent creators who said they felt far more confident now that they finally understood how the comics industry works.

There was plenty of laughter, each of us contributing equally, and we talked over each other not once. That’s rarer than you might think. Let’s do it again!

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Multiple Thank Yous and A Big Fat Teaser:

Thank you to all our creator guests for agreeing to sign with us so enthusiastically, for regaling their loyal fans and brand-new readers with mirth-making stories and gossip, and making our room so much more attractive with their wit, wares and camaraderie.

Thank you to everyone who dropped in, swanned round and snapped up graphic novels so we didn’t have to carry them back home.

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We came up a day early to explore! Near Ambleside.

EXTREME thank you to the LICAF #redshirtbrigade volunteers, one and all, for making our lives so much easier by solving last-minute hitches, marshalling our queues and caring to cater for us throughout the day.

Thank you to our Dee and Jodie for their immaculate organisational skills in preparation for the Festival and running Page 45 HQ all extended weekend long while we doubled our presence in Kendal.

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High above Keswick where lurks the Castlerigg Stone Circle.

Thank you to John Freeman of Down The Tubes for his LICAF promotional activities and excpetional generosity.

Thank you to LICAF Patron and comics creator Sean Phillips for all his personal support throughout the year and his truly tireless promotion of the Lakes Festival and all its endeavours, without which it wouldn’t attract so much attention.

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Those Castlerigg Stones. Am I successfully selling you the weekend experience that is LICAF?

Thank you to Sharon Tait for welcoming us into the Clock Tower on our very first day back in 2014.

Thank you to Carole Tait for her logistical genius without which the Lakes International Comic Art Festival would be utter chaos.

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Magically, Castlerigg Stone Circle, lit up for 15 minutes before we left.

Thank you above all to LICAF director Julie Tait for entrusting us with the Georgian Room in the first place back in 2014, welcoming Page 45 firmly into the fold as fully-fledged, pro-active Patrons in 2015, and for providing the sort of leadership which sweeps you up alongside her in its enthusiastic wake. Without Julie Tait there would be no Lakes International Comic Art Festival to attend: no Festival, no guests, and no banners all over town proudly proclaiming our shared love of comics.

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Reminder: The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2017 will run from Friday 13th October to Sunday 15th October with the Kendal Clock Tower open for exhibitors on the Saturday and Sunday.

Page 45 Credentials

Page 45 is a proud Patron of The Lakes International Comic Art Festival.
Page 45 won the first ever 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 before links began.

Stephen was on the judging panel of the British Comics Awards in 2012, 2013 and 2015.

Why are we listing our credentials? Hahahaha! There is a reason.

We’ve one more massive Page 45 / LICAF surprise for you shortly!

Oh, and here’s your reward for scrolling this far: Bryan Lee O’Malley interviewed live on camera at LICAF – From Scott (Pilgrim) to Snot (Girl).

– Stephen

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Church in Kendal at night. So you’re all coming next year, right? 🙂

 

 

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews October 2016 week three

October 19th, 2016

Includes new Jon Klassen, the Charles Burns trilogy, and News underneath with teasers of far more to come!

Parade: An Artist’s Odyssey (£25-00, Abrams) by Si Lewen.

Hooray for parades!parade-cover

Hooray for their trumpet-blowing procession of pageantry!

Hooray for the streets pullulating with crowds swept up in celebration, whooping with joy and waving their colourful flags!

The multitudes mill, a dog dashes by to give chase. Quick, quick, you mustn’t miss it!

How lucky to be local enough to live up above, for the terraced-housing windows supply the best vantage points for the ebullient reception below! Although some of their occupants aren’t quite so sure.

Oh, it may be a little eerie in brass-rubbing black and white with its grainy textures and spectral, almost skeletal throngs, but surely it is impossible not to be caught up in the euphoria, the almost ecstatic energy of shouts and screams and the regimented, hypnotic, rattle-gun roll of military drums?

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Personally those drums terrifies me even during peace-time, civic parades.

But yes, that’s what the likes of Adolf Hitler have always relied on: the euphoria and the ecstasy and the sheep mentality. You’ve seen the old film footage of the Nazi war machine in human, jack-booted, foot-soldier form, goose-stepping through German cities on their way to restore national honour. The multitude of onlookers jostle for position and go wild. They go wild!

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Here the military first appear relatively small on the page both in number at stature on the left-hand side of an otherwise open and empty page, not threatening at all. But swiftly they swell, uniform in uniform, a relentless, implacable black tide of terrifyingly angular forms, jagged bayonets jutting out into the sky from the barrels of their brandished rifles.

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We close in further still, all else obliterated by the intimidating density.

Heels on bitumen, heels on bitumen; unending heels on unyielding bitumen: this is a deafening, crushing and crusading cacophony in “das ist richtig“ visual form.

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It gets worse.

Children used to play at parades. I clearly recall E. H. Shepard illustrating an A. A. Milne procession that included Christopher Robin, though I’m not sure it was in ‘Winnie The Pooh’ itself. Nothing could be more innocent.

So it is here under bright summer sunshine, two birds soaring effortless in the distance, as three small youths imitate their elders, grinning under their paper hats, one toot-tooting a toy trumpet.

But we all know what happens to innocence in war.

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It gets worse.

I’m not going to take you any further, but it gets much worse.

Originally published in 1957 and now edited and introduced by Art Spiegelman, this slipcased hardcover reproduces Si Lewen’s ostensibly silent comic in accordion form, which is perfect for any procession of pedestrians or atrocities. You will be witness to both.

Some images recall Picasso’s Guernica from 1937, but without the comfort of colour. It is spiked throughout by thousands of back-slung bayonets in stark silhouette like razor wire atop an impenetrable, ever-advancing wall. The grainy textures are those of the grave – of hundreds of thousands of shrouds – and there is a certain fearful symmetry as to how this begins and how it will end, and ever and forever, I fear.

Highly recommended to those who admire the likes of Drooker (THE FLOOD) and a perfect companion to Joe Sacco’s THE GREAT WAR, the flip-side presents a full-colour, illustrated guide to Si Lewen’s wider career as a “serial painter”. I don’t use that term randomly, either. He was very keen on seeing his works hung close together so that they would inform one another.

And so am I.

SLH

Buy Parade: An Artist’s Odyssey and read the Page 45 review here

Meanderings (£4-00, Throwaway Press) by Matthew Dooley.

Seventeen stories of disillusion and disappointment.

If disappointment is something you crave, you’re in for a famine or feast, depending on how you look at it.

Prime Minister Salisbury stands proudly on his pedestal.

“Ah… to be commemorated in stone is truly to live for eternity!”

He may be dead, but he has centuries of veneration ahead of him. Or is that pigeon droppings? The final panel is perfect.

Two more sculptures – more abstract in aspect – anticipate their own grand urban unveilings.

“Where I’m going I’ll be affecting real change in people’s lives.”
“Mmm…”
“Really! Helping to inspire and lift people out of poverty.”

Alas, not all poverty is pecuniary.

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Matthew Dooley is even disappointed in himself. I don’t know why: there are plaques commemorating Matthew’s accomplishments all over the country.

Birth:

“Noted dawdler finally emerged here 24th May
“1984”

School:

“Wimpy know it all annoyed many here
“1988-1995”

Sixth Form:

“Obdurate muso made little impact here
“2000-2002.”

University:

“Argumentative pseudo coasted here
“2002-2005.”

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It’s at this point in typing my free-form, off-the-cuff review (heavily edited and reorganised over the weekend) that I realise that commemoration is another key theme. That, and the passage of time. There are five more English Heritage memorials as Dooley attempts to climb the ladder of heady accomplishment only to find all the rungs missing.

The problem is that, on page after page, Matthew Dooley totally fails to disappoint.

I love his fine line and neat, unargumentative lettering.

The colours are soft and sweet in sage, cold blues and pink with a rusty red reserved for Dooley’s own beard and bonce. The eyes are very Chris Ware, don’t you think? As are the moribund musings.

In summary, if you’re someone who’s looking forward to the end of the world – as the occupants of the first entry within – then this is the comic for you.

The cover could not be more bereft.

SLH

Buy Meanderings and read the Page 45 review here

Last Look s/c (£18-99, Jonathan Cape) by Charles Burns.

“N-no!! There’s got to be a way out!”

And then you wake up.

This is the sort of work that terrifies me.

It’s the nightmare scenario of things being beyond your control: wandering around in your pyjamas, no money to pay for a meal you’ve just eaten, not knowing where you are or where to go and being alone in the company of deeply unsettling strangers.

And that’s just the nightmare – the images, thoughts and scenarios which Doug can’t shut out in spite of the number of pills that he’s necked – of embryos in eggs, putrescent meat riddled with giant, outraged maggots plucked then gobbled down by a cowled figure whose nose appears eaten with syphilis; terrified creatures clinging to driftwood as they’re carried helplessly downstream by the rapids.

Yes, that’s just the nightmare. But it seems Doug’s real life took a turn for the worse as well.

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The book begins with Doug, his features simplified to a TINTIN cartoon with two crossed plasters stuck to his temple, waking up in bed not knowing where he is. There’s a hole in the far brick wall which his black cat climbs through, into the darkness beyond.

He’s sure his cat is supposed to be dead. Doug dons a dressing gown and follows…

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When Doug actually wakes up in bed, you’ll notice he’s no longer so simply drawn. That’s your cue to discerning what’s real from what’s not, though those lines are so often blurred, are they not?

His temples have been shaved, and a bandage is taped to one side of his skull, but he still hasn’t a clue where he is.

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Evidence lies on the covers: a basic cassette tape recorder, a graphic novel, a photograph of a girl holding a giant heart to her naked breasts. There’s a flick-knife embedded in the heart. The sound of the door buzzer terrifies him. Why?

Some of the answers to this series of puzzles – why he perceives himself to look like Tintin in his dream, who the girl in the photograph is, where the hole in the wall came from and why that buzzer might terrify him – are slowly revealed by Doug’s returning memory. But not where the bandage came from, not yet, though one can easily infer.

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The production values are beautiful, unusually for Burns it’s in colour, and although he’s breaking new personal ground, readers of BLACK HOLE will still be in familiar territory. There are disaffected teens indulging in drugs, alcohol and extreme art projects involving the body; violence threatens to break in from outside, and raging hormones may well prove the source of much trouble. Oh yes, holes. There are lots and lots of holes.

“What didn’t I tell her?
“What parts of the story did I leave out?
“I wanted to tell her everything. I wanted to tell her the truth.
“…And I tried… I really did.”

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If the first chapter freaked me out – preying on fears that feature frequently in my own dreams: food you really shouldn’t eat, holes that shouldn’t be there, getting hopelessly and helplessly lost only to be misled further by strangers (I don’t know what happened to the missing stairs, filthy latrines and my teeth all chewed out on the floor) – then the second proved equally unsettling.

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There’s more of that when he delivers romance comics on a metal trolley to bedridden female patients, pushing the cart down endless, roughly hewn tunnels in a semi-industrial warren prone to unseen accidents that render certain off-limit areas toxic. Apparently there was screaming in the late hours last night. It came from Cindy’s cubicle, and it went on for hours… until it stopped.

Meanwhile, in his waking world, Doug is recalling his courtship with raven-haired Sarah: a stroll in windswept, autumn-leafed park where they picked up sixties’ romance comics from an old man at the flea market. Sarah was delighted at the find. Doug bought her the lot, and it bought him a kiss.

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“You know what? That was really sweet of you. I know you think these are stupid, but… but wait.. here’s where you stop and kiss me… just like they do in the comics.”

“My kiss was awkward and clumsy,” recalls Doug. “But she made up for it… She made it perfect.”

The evening too seemed perfect, a simple dinner together back at Sarah and Nicky’s. Nicky was out, at band practice but Sarah… Sarah is a little more fragile than she looks.

There’s more about the buzzer and the threatening voice behind it, as well as Doug’s stage performances behind a Tintin mask. Oh yes, and those photographs.

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But it’s the romance comics that particularly fascinated me this time: the search for missing issues, and speculation on what must have happened in the gap. For those of us reading comics before the birth of the collected edition that’s got to ring bells, as well as dreams in which you finally fill your gaps at a second-hand stall – gaps that in real life might never have existed. The comics are in Japanese so it’s even more difficult to fathom what happened, and they’re drawn unmistakably by Marvel Comics veteran John Romita Sr. whom Burns nails both in the composition and the man’s brush strokes. The hair is quite perfect.

There’s a telling scene during which Doug attempts to win a tortuously circuitous argument by shrugging off his own role in its potential resolution, knowing he’s doing so and so only looking Sarah’s way – more than a little sheepishly, to see if it’s working – once her back is turned. It’s a precisely judged expression.

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A little later there’s a rare glimpse at Burns’ talent for exquisite photorealism – on the television screen at his father’s which is where Doug retreats to.

“I wanted a safe, dark place to hide.”

Hmmm…. Is that really any way out?

This collects the hardcover Charles Burns trilogy of X’ED OUT, THE HIVE and SUGAR SKULL.

SLH

Buy Last Look and read the Page 45 review here

We Found A Hat h/c (£12-99, Walker Books) by Jon Klassen.

“We found a hat.
“We found it together.
“But there is only one hat.
“And there are two of us.”

So the dilemma begins!

“It looks good on both of us.
“But it would be right if one of us had a hat and the other did not.”

Awww! Kind and considerate, brotherly love!

They’ll just have to leave it where they found it, in the middle of the desert, right? Hmmm…

This is the third and final instalment of Klassen’s hat-trick trilogy which began with I WANT MY HAT BACK followed by THIS IS NOT MY HAT. I can only assume that Klassen suffered some sort of hat-related trauma during his formative years, for in each of first two an item of headgear is stolen. Neither ends well for the thief, and quite right too!

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Deliciously, what looked on the surface like straightforward illustrated prose was, in fact, comics; for without the images all would have been lost. The pictures began in perfect accordance with the written word, but swiftly started shedding controversial or even contradictory light on what was being said. Howls of laughter from me and every youngster I’ve seen being shown the books on our shop floor.

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The simplicity of what’s said is of equal importance – there is an identifiable Klassen cadence – for when the rhythm is first broken in I WANT MY HAT BACK, that’s when you suspect that something is up.

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Here we are presented with a three-act play, and although I promise you that Klassen will not prove predictable, there will of course be an equally mischievous break between overt claim and covert curiosity, with its attendant hiccup in the otherwise rhythmic beat.

SLH

Buy We Found A Hat h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Low vol 3: Shore Of The Dying Light (£13-99, Image) by Rick Remender & Greg Tocchini.

Deliciously drawn sub-aquatic sci-fi, this is about the vital importance of maintaining hope, when there is no hope to speak of.

I, for example – against all evidence to the contrary – am still desperately praying that someone will stop us Brexiting Europe and so breaking this country.

In this instance, the entire world is burnt out and its leaders are broken. Newsflash:

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

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

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In LOW humanity hasn’t yet found an alternative, habitable planet, so it has sunk itself into our oceanic depths in several separated colonies. Probes have indeed been dispatched in search of alternative astronomical accommodation… but that was over 13,000 years ago. None have returned.

13,000 years without success; 13,000 years of failure!

Can you imagine maintaining hope in that terrible knowledge? Few others have and now less than a year’s supply of air remains for Stel’s deep-sea colony.

Yes, LOW as a title works both ways.

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In the wake of almost insurmountable adversity – including the dispersal and dire straits of her family – one woman has so far held it together. But how long will that last?

Please see our reviews of LOW volumes one and two for much, much more.

SLH

Buy Low vol 3: Shore Of The Dying Light and read the Page 45 review here

Shame – Collected Trilogy h/c (£26-99, Renegade) by Lovern Kindzierski & John Bolton.

Shame is a young girl, the result of an immaculate conception brought on by a silent prayer: one moment of weakness in an otherwise exemplary life of selfless benefaction on the part of Mother Virtue. Every day she has hobbled into town from her countryside cottage to ruffle the hair of small children and administer herbal remedies to the sick, the needy and the poor. She loves and is much loved for that, but one evening’s idle contemplation of a flower given in thanks unearths a deep-seated desire in Mother Virtue and, albeit briefly, she wishes for a child of her own.

“Sadly, as is so often the case, Mother Virtue’s selfish wish echoed like a dinner bell in the Heart of Darkness… where, waiting for such an opportunity, lay a dark, dark evil.”

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I think “selfish” is a bit harsh, but all things are relative. It’s as if after twenty-five years of promoting beautiful comics by brilliant people I suddenly succumbed to the woeful desire that a comic of my own see print. I can assure you I have not, for the result would be an equal abomination: a true horror unleashed upon a world that deserves no such thing. Also because I am far from wanting the devil to pop down my chimney and poke me in the bottom.

That’s what happens here, more or less, only without the bottom-poking: Mother Virtue, in spite of her advanced years, finds herself pregnant and in fireside conversation with a demon called Slur:

“Oh yes, dear Mother Virtue! A black seed grows in your barren womb. Planted by your wish and quickened by my magick, for God would never hear such selfish words! Forget all thought of sweeping this off the hearth with your white meddling. The child’s soul is fixed and there is naught you can do about it. She even knows her name. It is Shame!”

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Now, Mother Virtue could have risked exploring the possibilities of nature versus nurture but instead makes her mind up immediately. She lures dryads and nymphs to her rustic cottage and, binding them there to play nursemaid and nanny to her daughter, hoofs it lickety-split, sealing them all behind her in the Cradle she calls home. It is perhaps her very absence that confirms Shame’s fate because – thanks to a casual cruelty so prevalent in play and a chink opened in the spell by errant village children and their shadows – Slur manages to get his minions and message across and it all goes horribly wrong.

John Bolton you may know from HARELQUIN VALENTINE written by Neil Gaiman or, more recently, Peter Straub’s THE GREEN WOMAN. Here his palette is far, far brighter, his dryads and nymphs glowing in the sun, and even when that’s eclipsed there remains a lot more light. Slur’s shadow servants are horrible, spindly creatures vaguely reminiscent of Richard Case’s Mr. Nobody from Grant Morrison’s DOOM PATROL, nor is his Mother Virtue a sweet old lady, more closely resembling Leatherface from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

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It’s a book that’s sexually charged so I warn you of that right now: there be boobage and satanic shenanigans for Shame grows up and finds a novel and highly elaborate way of having her revenge on Mother Virtue. It’s certainly the strangest mother/daughter relationship I’ve come across. Or is it a daughter/mother/daughter relationship? The begets do beggar belief, but that’s witchcraft for you.

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You can tell Shame is evil because she has black hair. She doesn’t half ramble on – to herself, her minions and the darke daemon Slur.

Oh, she shall sully all and sundry! Once she has conquered, cursed and corrupted the whole wide world, there will be no free school milk, no more bedtime stories and every Kinder Egg will come with quite the salutary surprise. Worse still, every chocolate in every box will henceforth be Turkish Delight. She will whip down One Direction’s kecks on live TV (actually, this gets my vote) and curdle your clotted cream teas. There will, in short, be suffering the likes of which has barely been endured outside of a modern British Post Office.

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But wait! Do we have a vessel of vengeance, perchance? A young, simple man whose father is smitten before his eyes, now determined to follow his mother’s verbal breadcrumb trail to who knows what end?

Meanwhile Slur hovers at Shame’s sybaritic side, addressing her as “my shapely talon”, “my septic blossom”, “dear putrescence”, and “my mephitic marchpane”. (New words: “mephitic” meaning “foul-smelling” and “marchpane” meaning “marzipan”.)

Which witch will prevail?

SLH

Buy Shame – Collected Trilogy h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Punisher Max Complete Collection vol 3 s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by Garth Ennis & Goran Parlov, Leandro Fernandez, Lan Medina.

Highly punisher-max-vol-3-coverrecommended, PUNISHER MAX (each one reviewed) is by far the finest run on Frank Castle to date, finally given a socio-political bite by Ennis’ decision to swerve the Punisher’s targeted sights from superheroes to real-world pricks worth punishing like international sex-slave traffickers.

It’s a very different beast to PREACHER team Ennis and Dillon’s PUNISHER: WELCOME BACK, FRANK which was a burlesque played more for laughs.

There’s certainly not a lot of high camp ‘Widowmaker’, although the mismatch of the titular widows does have its moments, and Garth can’t resist giving one of them a lisp. Instead Ennis takes a look at what it might mean being “married to the mob”: knowing what their men do, how they earn their money, and who pays the price, yet sticking around to enjoy that wealth by keeping their guys sweet, even if it means sacrificing their little sisters by matchmaking them to monsters.

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Over the years Frank Castle has set his sights on one thing only: killing those who hurt innocents. Not out of revenge for the death of his family, nor to seek solace in self-justified violence, but quite simply to prevent them from hurting, maiming, torturing or slaughtering again. His verdict is final, and his sentences always end with a full stop.

High on his hit list has always been the mafia, but what of the widows he’s made in his wake? Some of them are tougher than others, and these five are out for vengeance, gathering round their finest china to take down the man who killed their husbands, and using one of their own as bait. They do it quite cleverly too, but what they haven’t figured into the mix is that there’s another widow close to home for whom The Punisher proved a saviour; a liberator from a life of constant marital torture and violence. She’s also out for revenge, but not on Frank Castle – on them.

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Ennis’ stories are invariably self-contained, wisely ignoring the idea of an extended saga that won’t let new readers in, so you can pick up his best without the rest. There’s an uncommon variety in his tones and approaches as well, keeping it fresh for those who do follow the series as a whole.

Lan Medina delivers in every aspect as well. He’s the sort of artist who, like the venerable John Buscema, never seems to make the headlines, but thoroughly deserves to when you take a closer look and realise just how solid and engaging it all is. It’s not “look at me” art; it’s “look at them” art, which is what great storytelling is all about.

Before all that we have Leandro Fernandez illustrating ‘Man Of Stone’ and Gorlan Parlov on ‘Barracuda’ which will provide some of the comedy you may crave.

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If you thought British Gas was underhand, try this group of corporate energy fraudsters, prepared to do anything to hike up their profits. One raped man’s squeal leads the Punisher on a trail of blood, most of it in the water and swimming away from the mouths of sharks. Equally primal is the Barracuda himself, reinvented by Ennis as a gold-toothed mutha with an almost contagious zeal for black humour and slaughter, and who – in true Ennis fashion – is relieved of several body parts along the way.

He’s cackling to the end, though.

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SLH

Buy Punisher Max Complete Collection vol 3 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.

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Bobbins vol 1: 2016 (Signed) (£5-00) by John Allison

The End Of Summer (£11-99, Avery Hill) by Tillie Walden

Demon (£17-99, FirstSecond) by Jason Shiga

Ancestor (£13-99, Image) by Matt Sheean & Malachi Ward

Cowboys And Insects One Shot (£3-99, Floating World Comics) by David Hine & Shaky Kane

Grey Area – Our Town (£7-00, Avery Hill) by Tim Bird

Ghost Stories Of An Antiquary vol 1 (£9-99, SelfMadeHero) by M.R. James & Leah Moore & John Reppion

I Thought You Hated Me (£7-50, Retrofit) by Marinaomi

Insexts vol 1: Chrysalis s/c (£17-99, Aftershock) by Marguerite Bennett & Ariela Kristantina

Jim Henson’s Dark Crystal vol 3: Creation Myths s/c (£13-99, Archaia) by Matthew Dow Smith & Alex Sheikman, Brian Froud

Miss U.S. Of Heya (£10-50, Retrofit) by Menorah Horwitz

Predator: Life And Death s/c (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Dan Abnett & Brian Thies

Rick And Morty vol 3 (£17-99, Oni) by Tom Fowler, Pamela Ribon & CJ Cannon, Marc Ellerby

The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story s/c (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Vivek J. Tiwary & Andrew Robinson, Kevin Baker

The Lottery (£14-50, Hill & Wang) by Shirley Jackson & Miles Hyman

Grayson vol 4: A Ghost In The Tomb s/c (£14-99, DC) by Tim Seeley, Tom King & Mikel Janin, various

Green Arrow vol 9: Outbreak s/c (£15-99, DC) by Ben Percy & Patrick Zircher, Szymon Kudranski

Midnighter vol 2: Hard s/c (£13-99, DC) by Steve Orlando, Brian K. Vaughan, Christos Gage, Peter Milligan & various

Supergirl By Peter David vol 1 (£22-99, DC) by Peter David & Gary Frank

All New Wolverine vol 2: Civil War II s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Tom Taylor & Marcio Takara

Captain Marvel – Earth’s Mightiest Hero vol 2 s/c (£26-99, Marvel) by various

Daredevil / Punisher: Seventh Circle s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Charles Soule & Szymon Kudranski, Reilly Brown

Doctor Strange vol 2: The Last Days Of Magic (UK Edition) s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Chris Bachalo

Doctor Strange: The Flight Of Bones s/c (£22-99, Marvel) by various

Assassination Classroom vol 12 (£6-99, Viz) by Yusei Matsui

Platinum End vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata

Tokyo Ghoul vol 9 (£8-99, Viz) by Sui Ishida

News

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ITEM! Awful.

Apparently it is over for History of Art ‘A’ Levels thanks to Gove’s Thatcherite blinkers when it comes to anything remotely cultural in education.

Seriously, there will be no more History of Art ‘A’ Levels in England.

I use what I learned about Art History in A Level and Degree every single week, professionally, in business.

And think on this: not only does History of Art teach you about human perspectives on beauty throughout the ages, but about literature, historical socio-politics and even urban planning. See Rome / Paris etc.

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ITEM! THE WALKING DEAD‘s Charlie Adlard is declared the new Comics Laureate at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016! Both the Guardian and BBC picked up on this immediately, then we made page 3 on the Independent. Selected by the Patrons of LICAF, including my silly self, Charlie will be phenomenal!

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True Fact: Not only did I go to school with THE WALKING DEAD’s Charlie Adlard, but we shared the same art class. Oh yes, I’ve seen Adlard originals the world will never see!

Now, guess which one of us is the international best-selling comicbook creator, and which one’s the comic shop till monkey?

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ITEM! We will have staggering sales news about Page 45 at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 in a dedicated blog with loads of photos any day now.

And I do mean staggering!

– Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews October 2016 week two

October 12th, 2016

The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 is upon us! Perhaps you are there? Exciting! Scroll down to our News section for all You Need To Know!

The Fade Out: Complete Deluxe Edition h/c (£44-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips with Elizabeth Breitweiser.

“All he’dfade-out-hc-cover been thinking about the past few weeks is who could’ve murdered Val…
“He’d forgotten to ask why.”

In which I begin to understand what an exceptional character actor Sean Phillips truly is.

Oh, I’ve written thousands of words about specific, expressive elements of Sean Phillips’ craft in reviews for CRIMINAL, FATALE, KILL OR BE KILLED, THE FADE OUT softcovers and THE ART OF SEAN PHILLIPS etc, but here we are in Hollywoodland so it strikes me as apposite that I finally speak about the acting involved on the part of our favourite artists.

Give me love! Give me lust! Give me conflicted ambivalence and emotional exhaustion! Now give me terrified out of my bloody mind.  Sean Phillips delivers on every single page.

It’s Los Angeles, 1948.

Cinema screenwriter Charlie wakes up in the bath of a bungalow in Studio City, built to keep stars close to the set. The night before is an alcohol-induced mystery to him, but there’s a lipstick kiss on the bathroom mirror that reminds him of a smile, the smile leads to a face, and that face belongs to the woman lying dead on the living room floor.

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It’s Valeria Sommers, young starlet of the film Charlie’s working on. She’s been strangled while Charlie was sleeping. Slowly, assiduously, Charlie begins to remove all trace of his and anyone else’s presence. But that’s nothing compared to the cover-up the studio’s about to embark on. They’re going to make out it was suicide, smearing the poor girl’s name, and it’s going to make Charlie, now complicit, sick to the stomach.

“Studios had been covering up murder and rape and everything in between since at least the Roaring Twenties. That’s what men like Brodsky were there for… to prevent scandals.
“And he’d helped them this time. He’d helped them.”

As for Gil, it’s going to make Charlie’s old friend, mentor and covert co-writer very angry indeed. It’s going to make him drunk and dangerous – especially to himself.

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Period crime from the creators of CRIMINAL, FATALE and KILL OR BE KILLED, this homes in on Hollywoodland, famous for its writing and acting and myth-spinning slights of hand. They’re lying professionally before they’ve begun to be truly mendacious.

Acting itself is a form of lying – creating the semblance of someone else – but so often stars extend this dissemblance off-screen as well, aided and abetted by elaborate campaigns to make actors more attractive to their idolatrous fans. Take the profile of dreamboat actor Tyler Graves, concocted by bright publicity girl Dotty Quinn, playing up his years as a manly ranch-hand in Texas.

“Dotty, you’re a riot… I’ve never ridden a horse in my life.”
“I know, I still prefer the first one we came up with…”
“Oh right. I was a mechanic Selznick discovered when he broke down in Palm Springs.”
“It was your own little Cinderella story.”

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There’s a telling line in Posy Simmond’s British classic TAMARA DREWE from the horse’s mouth of successful crime novelist, Nicholas Hardiman: “I think the real secret of being a writer is learning to be a convincing liar… I mean, that’s what we are: story tellers… liars…”

He should know: he’s a serial philanderer.

This complete twelve-chapter graphic novel gives room for Brubaker to examine relationships in detail. Gil and Charlie’s co-dependent career ties them inextricably together. Gil has been blacklisted while Charlie’s lost his literary spark so the former dictates to the latter. This should make them allies for they both seek the same thing, albeit searching in different directions. But since both abuse booze for different reasons – Charlie for oblivion, belligerent Gil for release – they’re set on a collision course instead. What one does will inevitably impact upon the other but, as I say, they’re not working together: Charlie doesn’t trust Gil to act rationally, with restraint; Gil doesn’t trust Charlie to act at all.

“They were two broken-down writers, running on desperation and booze….
“And they’d written their story wrong.”

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Actual plot points I’m steering well clear of. We don’t do spoilers around here. But, boy, there are some pretty brutal (if strategically brilliant) scenes of intimidation and one huge misstep when intimidation gives way to condescension.

The recasting of Valeria Sommers with the similarly styled Maya Silver – and the subsequent reshooting of the film – allows Brubaker to examine the worst of Hollywood and its interminable, often last-minute rewrites ruining what was originally inspired. It’s cleverly done with the film’s eloquent and affecting first shoot recalled, immediately juxtaposed by the second lacklustre effort.

As to Phillips, an early morning beach scene gives him a rare opportunity to show what he can do in full sunlight rather than the twilight or midnight he normally resides in.

 

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Here the lines unfettered from their shadows are unusually crisp, smooth and delicate. Lit more lambently still by Breitweiser with a palette of sand, green and aquamarine, and the sea becomes virtually irresistible. Both their endeavours enhance what is a similarly rare stretch of innocent play free from subterfuge. Of course, that would also be the perfect time to lob in an equally innocent question and a guileless answer which will nonetheless send your mind spinning right back to the beginning.

Because Charlie remains haunted by Valeria there are also some scenes depicting both actresses. Maya was cast partly on account of her striking similarity to Val, but thanks to Phillips you couldn’t mistake one for the other for a second, either on the beach or on set. Maya is beautiful, talented, intelligent and caring; so was Val, but her deportment is instantly recognisable as far more experienced, confident and – there’s no other word for it – classier.

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As I say, it’s a period piece, the period being rife with tight-knit nepotism, closed-doors studios and overtly voiced bigotry. Wisely Brubaker has refrained from redacting that. Some people are shits – they just are – and there is such a thing as the non-authorial voice. So much here is tied to the Congressional Hearings just before McCarthyism really hit its stride including a role for Ronald Reagan. Thankfully Sean Phillips is a dab hand at likenesses for Reagan is joined in this fiction by the likes of Clark Gable.

Phillips’ eye for period detail is exceptional, whether it’s the way skirts hang or fly at an angle during a dance, the home furnishings or a buffet banquet. It’s perhaps there that Breitweiser’s decision to avoid local colour shines best, refusing to let your eye settle but dazzling you instead. I can’t imagine how dull and lifeless the spread of food would have looked had it been lit literally instead. Instead it’s both impressionist and expressionist, concerned with the colour and quality of light not as it actually falls or what it falls on but as it might dance on the brain. It’s rendered in free-form, panes of light and slabs of colour with scant regard for the line on the page and every regard for your eye and emotional impact.

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As to Brubaker, as ever he excels at making you want to linger as long as possible in each of his characters’ heads. I challenge anyone to foresee what’s coming. Certainly Charlie doesn’t. He hasn’t been able to for ages. It’s no coincidence that for the entire book Charlie’s been looking through cracked glasses which Phillips has turned into yet another of his fortes. There have been bits of Charlie missing, both as a man and as a writer, ever since he saw combat, and this is the brilliance of Brubaker, tying the two together:

“In that moment, he saw why things always went wrong for him now.
“He understood his problem.
“It was that he’d lost the ability to imagine what happened next.”

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This complete collection of THE FADE OUT three softcovers contains an exceptional wealth of extra back-matter as do all this team’s deluxe hardcovers. Sean Phillips introduces his cover gallery – fully painted portraits of each of the protagonists – with an exploration of how he came up with their linking logo / motif. Ed Brubaker’s on hand with an explanation of why he teases each of his series with a fully-fledged trailer rather than a random splattering of preview pages, and it makes so much narrative sense. And yes, you get that trailer too.

There are some of the essays and which only appeared in the twelve monthly periodicals, along with all their illustrations; Brubaker presents his research; then Phillips and Breitweiser each introduce then demonstrate so much of their process from thumbnails to finished colour pages.

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Page 45 will be bringing this beauty to the Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 where Sean Phillips will be signing with us, upstairs in the Kendal Clock Tower, FOR FREE from 2pm to 3pm this Sunday 16th October.

SLH

Buy The Fade Out: Complete Deluxe Edition h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Black Dog: The Dreams Of Paul Nash (£22-99 s/v; £71-99 Ltd Ed oversized h/c, Dark Horse) by Dave McKean.

“Art black-dog-coveris an empathy machine. Art allows one to look through a fellow human’s eyes.”

Art – when derived from studious and subtle observation – can not only allow one to look through another individual’s eyes but to communicate what you see there, to pass on those perspectives.

In that endeavour as in so many more, BLACK DOG is a clever, profound and eloquent beast.

With sympathetic skill Dave McKean has succeeded not only in communicating to a new audience and a new generation Paul Nash’s vision and visions but, in doing so, furthered Nash’s goal to “bring back words and bitter truths” to remind us of the horrors and insanities of war which show no sign of stopping, and to counter those who would perpetuate them.

“I hope my ochres and umbers and oxides will burn their bitter souls.”

Good luck with that one, the pair of you. But they can instil in the rest of us, prone to forgetfulness, a renewed revulsion in order to speak out against these repugnant warmongers and their godawful obliteration of lives, of individuals, they leave in their wake.

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That was the vocation discovered by Paul Nash, and the whole raison d’être of the commission by 14-18 NOW, the Lakes International Comic Art Festival and On a Marché sur la Bulle: to blast back into our consciousness the very real, specific horrors of World War I during its centenary years.

Dave McKean has delivered on every front, but he has done so in ways that are far from obvious. For a start, it is not just through the queasy deployment of “ochres and umbers and oxides”, much in evidence during the gruelling sequence setting sail from Southampton Docks along with its sea-slick of blood…

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… but in contrasting them with the most spectacular colour: with that which is other and bright and beautiful; with that which is natural and which should be instead.

One of the most vivid chapters is Nash’s dream, whilst convalescing, of a viciously sharp, scarlet-thorned briar which impedes his progress towards the shimmering blue light of a kingfisher, thence its elusive clutch of tiny, fragile, life-giving eggs.

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“How can this delicate perfection exist in the same world as a 14-ton howitzer firing 1,000 kg shells that propel hot metal shrapnel into soft human tissue, into minds protected by perfectly proportioned, frangible shells?”

Three shells, then: the brain’s, the bird’s and the bombs’. It is in gently compelling us to compare this absurd contrast in our own minds that the truth seeps out: the first’s content is creative, the second’s procreative, while the third’s sole goal is destruction and death.

It is the power of the mind – as well as its vulnerability, to be sure – which is evoked as much as anything during this intense graphic novel. Nash sees colour in the unexpected green shoots amidst trenches when few could see through their desolate, limb-numbing, mind-flattening, seemingly never-ending nightmare to any form of future at all. I wouldn’t be able to without McKeans’ help here.

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But once again, it proves part of what Nash wanted for the future: a tsunami, a revolution of thought “breaking over our ossified society, tabula rasa, wiping the cant and lies from English life.” Sure enough, following the juxtaposition of life-giving green and bleak brown trenches bursting with a spray of white butterflies, there rises an almighty tidal wave that is thunderous.

There will be more time spent in the trenches – with Nash’s brother, just once, when they discuss the distraction and abstraction of the artistic process which may go some way to explain Nash’s later, problematic detachment – but this narrative stretches far further thematically, both backwards and forwards, to what else might have made this man, including the “sadistic discipline” of a school “which was ideal training for an infantryman’s life in the trenches.” He continues:

“It taught me nothing worth speaking of, it answered none of my questions, it required only a kind of desperate obedience, and a stoic acceptance of the constant threat of sudden and terrible violence.”

The grotesque, gap-toothed giant of a martinet towers over young Nash, barking out garbled, mathematical commands as nonsensical as those which would follow, and as impossible to answer with any sane response.

The person who does teach him something worth learning is his grandfather who is by contrast “a man of infinite calm and discretion”, nurturing Nash’s love of art. It’s a scene played out against a chessboard, another battle arena around which Nash and his perpetually distant father keep their distance from each other like any pawn and opposing king lest their contact prove fatal.

“The kings checks his position
“As the pawn moves towards promotion
“Hoping not to be seen
“And neither of them comment on the absence of the queen.”

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The first page consists of four square panels; the second of nine; the third expands into that fully fledged chessboard of similarly black and white squares. Across this are drawn multiple, fractured images of Nash’s distressed mother, oscillating between the darkness and light, representing her turbulent, chequered present. Something extraordinary occurs.

“The dog didn’t return to my dreams
“For a very long time.”

Up until this point we’ve said nothing of the titular black dog, as I think is right. But its shadow has haunted him from the beginning and it will hound the painter almost until the end in a very telling sequence. At times it is ferocious, at others a bounding spirit he pursues. But its presence is pervasive and it goes by another name which is just as revealing.

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You need know nothing of Nash before embarking upon this, but his paintings are referenced throughout both in the language and images (‘We Are Making a New World’,”The Shore (at Dymchurch)’, and I see ‘Wood on the Dawn’ in the boy’s early trees). Often I find engaging in a work like this without prior knowledge a boon. It will surely prompt a wave of its audience to embark on research afterwards and subsequent readings will then spark satisfying flashes of recognition.

Visually the storytelling displays a complete command of dream logic and that “hypnagogic” or indeed hypnopompic state wherein you’re not quite sure what is real and what is imagined. It is in constant flux, morphing from one medium to the next, from light to dark, with subtle sheens, bleeds or explosions of colour. “The fog of war” which drifts over St. Martin-in-the-Fields church to overshadow Nash’s wedding day is terrible to behold, casting a pall over the proceedings: “A confetti of embers and ash approaching the church ahead of the leviathan.” And wait until you see that coelacanth monstrosity.

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But it’s this lyrical deftness I came away admiring the most. McKean manages to find exactly the right word, time after time again, to pair one thought with another, to throw a startling new light on our expectations or twist the natural order of things, as when Nash is advised to “fight to live another day”.

For it’s not just the battles with bayonets and barbed wire and bombs that one fights on the field, but also hunger and disease and madness and memory, both then and thereafter. Nash sought to evoke this in his art and so McKean too seeks to peel back the layers, to get beneath the skin and comprehend the complexities which lie beneath. To examine not just a life but what is ‘lived’ – which is something altogether different.

These are the U.S. Dark Horse editions which Page 45 will be launching with a signing by Dave McKean at 10.30am Saturday 15th October at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 upstairs in the Kendal Clock Tower.

SLH

Buy Black Dog: The Dreams Of Paul Nash s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Black Dog: The Dreams Of Paul Nash Limited Edition Hardcover and read the Page 45 review here

Notes On A Thesis (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Tiphaine Rivière.

Placard held aloft during a Parisian university protest rally:

“We’re losing our faculties!”

Coming as it does towards the end of this sanity-sapping spiral, it made me roar with laughter. I don’t think it’s their departments they’re referring to.

Caveat: do not read this wry and ever so well observed graphic novel if you have just this second committed yourself to a three-year PhD.  The rest of us lucky pups who left academia behind decades ago – or never moored there in the first place – will have a whale of a time, but you will probably cry.

Perhaps you’re thrilled to be embarking on your brand-new endeavour, just like cheerful, fresh-faced Jeanne Dargan who is so relieved to be relieved of her hyperactive Year-Nine students that she’s ecstatically ditched full-time, inner-city teaching in favour of research which she must fund herself. She’s bursting with enthusiasm, especially since Kafka expert Karpov has agreed to supervise her thesis on ‘The Labyrinthine Motif in the Parable of the Law in Kafka’s The Trial’. Exciting!

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Honestly, this is in English.

Brigitte Claude, secretary for the Doctoral School since 1987, does her best to dissuade Jeanne with ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos of similarly perky pupils now rendered lank, limp and weary after 3-7 years of critical endeavour, but Jeanne will not be bowed. The city basks in sunshine and once she’s met the great Karpov herself, not even a little rain dims the bright autumnal colours as she strides purposefully and proud along the banks of the Seine.

“Don’t worry,” she joyously reassures her boyf, “I’m going to get it done in 3 years. 3 years and not a day more…”

Were this early Gerald Durrell autobiography, the next sentence would have read “4 years later…”

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No, really, this is in English. It’s a translation, mes amis!

But no, Jeanne has a plan. She draws up a detailed, three-year timetable involving research, reading and note-taking; a finished PhD plan; writing part 1; writing part 2; writing part 3; revisions and finishing touches; submission. Unfortunately this immediately follows her even more detailed, weekly time-management-table, by the hour, in which Jeanne will juggle her studies with the full-time job she needs to take in order to make ends meet. It’s in Brigitte Claude’s office! Hooray!

“I’m going to join the Events Team at the university! I’ll be the one organising all the literature conferences at the Sorbonne! I’ll be right in the nerve-centre, at the heart of Parisian literary life.”

Just one glance at that timetable would tell anyone less in denial that it’s completely and utterly untenable.

This is crammed full of satirical detail, from posters promoting events like “Laughter in Nineteenth-Century German Philosophy” (Schopenhauer!) to a conference day’s agenda over-optimistically entitled ‘Hope In Kafka’ and a new PhD student gleefully declaring, “I have a feeling I’m going to make some serious waves in the world of Renaissance punctuation!”

Brigitte Claude herself is a masterful visual invention, jealously guarding her administrative office like a triple-chinned, fiery-eyed bullfrog, hands buried beneath her bosom, slinking down her desk to answer the phone with enormous reluctance, and only in defiance of someone entering her secretarial arena in need of information. Her jowls are a joy.

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Delivering speeches is portrayed as a swimming race, accepting questions from the floor akin to opening yourself up to an oncoming battle charge. The exhaustion and despair of the older post-graduates drips from their word balloons and (in a move similar to Mazzuccheilli’s ASTERIOS POLYP wherein Asterios literally talks over the love of his life, his word balloons obliterating hers) one speaker’s conversation-stealing monomania is conveyed firstly by the sheer number – the barrage – of her balloons, then by her swallowing Jeanne’s single, tiny, plaintive speech whole, before blowing an enormous one of her own back out, like bubblegum.

“I’m my own boss!” comes back to haunt Jeanne, as does Jeanne’s visualisation of her thesis as the most splendid, ornate, meticulously crafted piece of neo-classical architecture. I cannot tell you how funny the eventual reprise is. Can you imagine the nightmare of finally composing a 500-page thesis from notes you’ve taken on books you’ve read – and long forgotten – two years ago?

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Sympathy for all you will find in abundance, but students, lecturers and indeed administrators will be pertinently yet playfully poked in the ribs. Poor Karpov, for example, endures such excruciating presumption and neediness from his overly entitled students that one of them is shown offloading from a psychiatrist’s couch; on the other hand, I do believe students should be entitled to some sort of supervision rather than a six-month wait for an eventually evasive reply from their ever-absent professor while he’s swanning about Rome engaging in fully-paid personal research.

Egos will be exposed, intentions will be questioned and both mental and critical faculties be sorely tested.

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Moreover, by the end of the book you may well re-examine your initial infuriation / exasperation with the Year-Nine children let loose on The Louvre in search of The Mona Lisa. There’s a very, very funny background joke on that sequence’s final panel and at the end of the day you should never mock energy, lest you lose it yourself.

Enthusiasm is all!

SLH

Buy Notes On A Thesis and read the Page 45 review here

Light (£17-99, Magnetic Press) by Rob Cham…

What light-coverwould you do if you lived in a world without colour, a boring black and white existence with nary a hint of any chromaticity at all to get your spectral-deficient synapses firing and brighten up your day? Well you’d probably grab a friend and go on an epic adventure to find five magical crystals and see what happens when you put them all together. Along the way you’d probably have to battle multiple monsters and deal with other assorted oddballs and weirdoes intent on hindering your quest.

Which is basically what this is! But whereas you or I would probably make a lot of noise doing it, this is a wordless graphic novel. And because every page is a single-panel illustration without borders, drawn mostly to the exact same scale from an identical perspective set on a black background, it very much has the feel of a gorgeous silent animation.

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There is, however, a lot of colour, of all the major hues. Great, whopping, eye-popping explosions of it left, right and centre! In fact, the number of pure black and white pages is but a tiny handful, forming a stark introduction to the boring world our main character inhabits, before the vibrant splashes of primary and secondary colours start.

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He’s a curious fellow, our redoubtable dungeoneer, that’s for sure. He looks like the hybrid offspring of Fone Bone and Morph. Actually, the black and white pages very strongly reminded me of the original BONE comics – still available in one meaty collected BONE tome – before the coloured individual BONE volumes came along. A fun and very pretty all-ages read that takes a different approach to the silent graphic novel and succeeds with aplomb.

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JR

Buy Light and read the Page 45 review here

Nicolas (£9-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Pascal Girard.

Brave, bold, Brown (Jeffrey); or brief, basic, banal.

That’s your basic reception spectrum right there and, as in all matters, I am 100% to the left.

This is, I think, going to polarise people. Lazy people who think it’s clever to start each word with a ‘b’.

The good news for the likes of Porcellino and Penfold is that it’ll take the heat off them when the less enlightened superhero readers want to cite autobiographical comicbook creators who, according to their ill-informed prejudices, “can’t even draw”. Fuck you, by the way!

From the creator of REUNION (a Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month), PETTY THEFT and the co-creator of FANNY & ROMEO, this new edition is accompanied by 25 new pages of Pascal Girard in the present which explain so much about Girard’s anxiety in REUNION that I’m tempted to tweak my review. I won’t, but I’m tempted.

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This crippling anxiety – with attendant superstitious rituals recalling (as in “calling back”) his little brother – he directly attributes in no small part to his complete inability to process his sibling’s death when Pascal was barely more than seven years old himself.

The first and last three pages of the original confessional show them joyfully, exuberantly play-acting together as Ghostbusters; by the fourth page Pascal is sitting outside on the pavement, on his own.

How do you react to such an abrupt, gaping and irreversible hole both in your home and in your heart – at the very centre of your world?

You react inconsistently. And, as E.M. Forster suggested in ‘Angels Fear To Tread’, we must not be afraid to be inconsistent.

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For a start, a child’s desires are innocently self-centred, so games and Christmas presents bring as much joy as ever, and Pascal is put out by his parents’ grief during these early anniversaries which spoils all his fun. It’s only as he grows older that he begins to understand what happened and by that point self-awareness comes with the additional price-tag of guilt.

I’d wager it will speak volumes to those who’ve been bereaved at any age: there’s a gnawing gut-level guilt that perhaps you weren’t devastated enough at the time and therefore didn’t care, and a suspicion (or even determination) that you shouldn’t be enjoying yourself now.

Girard makes no such clumsy evaluations on the printed page, electing instead to offer up the simplest of fragments of what he recalls: moments when he’s struck by his brother’s death or even benefits from it through sympathy. That’s why I call this a “confessional”. Judge him if you want, but it’s just human nature.

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Brave and bold for me, then, and very Jeffrey Brown.

Oh, and you know the old adage that it’s only when you lose something that you appreciate what you’ve got? Sometimes you don’t. For Pascal Girard has another younger brother who survived…

SLH

Buy Nicolas and read the Page 45 review here

The Wicked + Divine vol 4: Rising Action s/c (£13-99, Image) by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie with Matt Wilson.

Pop stars on their pedestals. You know how the likes of Bowie and Kylie are referred to as pop gods and goddesses? Turns out some of them really are.

“You are of the Pantheon.
“You will be loved.
“You will be hated.
“You will be brilliant.
“Within two years you will be dead.”

Every 90 years a Pantheon of a dozen gods is born anew, activated by ancient Ananke who finds them in young individuals previously oblivious to their fate. She helps them shine brightly for their brief two years. If they are lucky.

Because some of those lights have been snuffed out already.

It’s a brilliant conceit, executed immaculately. Of course the role assumed by these gods in this modern age would be as those most worshipped today, and Gillen takes the opportunity to examine journalism, fame, fandom, aspiration, envy, competitive back-biting, fear, mortality and manipulation, for some are putting ideas into the others’ heads.

They have been played.

You have been played.

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Kieron Gillen has been ever so naughty: he left key moments out to mess with your mind.

Now you’re going to get an unexpurgated replay in chapter three. You will like what you see, but it will make your heads explode.

I cannot tell you anything more for it would all be spoilers – even a single page of volume four’s interior art. Instead I recommend you read our previous, extensive reviews of THE WICKED + THE DIVINE, and leave with you with the book’s sly teaser-trailer.

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SLH

Buy The Wicked + Divine vol 4: Rising Action s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Trees vol 2 s/c (£11-99, Image) by Warren Ellis & Jason Howard.

In the run-up to The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 Page 45 is scrambling for time, but consider this at least a signpost to the knowledge that more TREES have arrived!

They are big trees.

These trees are so big that a mere axe wouldn’t cut it – nor even your average, hand-held chainsaw.

They are so vast that if they had canopies, they would be lost from view in the stratosphere. Their girth would exceed the radius of your average town or village, and not just its Green. These trees don’t have leaves, but do they have an agenda?

They have planted themselves implacably on our planet and have so far shown few signs of their nature, nurture nor broader intention, except to sick-up their occasional toxic vom.

They may be staring at you, or they may not. They simply sit there, rooted to the spot, giving nothing away. One thing’s for certain, however: you cannot miss them; you can see them sitting silently from a shoreline away.

What happens now?

Look, I’m basically asking you to refer to our review of TREES VOL 1.

From the writer of  INJECTION VOLUME 1, INJECTION VOLUME 2 and TRANSMETROPOLITAN etc. Pop Warren Ellis into our search engine and see how long he lasts without access to his beard-trimmer *, cigarettes and whiskey.

* He doesn’t have one.

SLH

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

An Unreliable History Of Tattoos (£14-99, Nobrow) by Paul Thomas.

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Paul Thomas will be signing with us at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 from 1-15pm on Saturday 15th October!

Landscape prose hardcover lavishly illustrated on every page with full-colour cartoons, the ink in question is predominantly blue – as are the jokes!

Those I can’t quote, but Thomas’ art here is to dream up new (and old) contexts for current colloquialisms or conceits, juxtaposing the contemporary with the historical, the irreverent with the revered, and putting frivolous phrases into the mouths of famously po-faced public figures for maximum iconoclastic impact and LOLZ.

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This isn’t merely “unreliable”; it’s full of absolute whoppers, like the most startling set of knuckles to ever be adorned with that ‘LOVE’ / ‘HATE’ legend: the Sphinx’s.

“In 1066, King Harold II famously had his wife Edith’s name tattooed on his chest. The Anglo Saxon Chronicle reported the design to be ‘beautifulle to beholde, beynge of qualyte and reallye cool’, The decoration surrounding it was, however, said to looke ‘a bitte shitte on hyse man boobes.’”

Adding an ‘e’ doesn’t hurt while in those parts of the past that deployed them, but it’s the lateral thinking I admire the most.

“In 1483, Richard III’s first act as king was to convert the Tower of London into a ‘worlde class childcare facilite’.”

I know of two princely playmates who might have claimed otherwise.

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My favourite piece of lateral thinking combined a) the art of tattoo and b) the printed paper bills we have to pay. Or, in this case, the additional surcharge attached to being married to a certain misogynistic monarch. Anne Boleyn is shown paraded in front of the public for beheadification, her executioner behind  her and a line of dashes – – – – – – – – – – –  inked round her neck with the legend “coupez ici” underneath.

I liked the old-fashioned flourish on the ‘z’. I also smiled at Charles Dickens being deemed “celebrated poverty ogler”, which wasn’t quite his humanist mission.

It works best the further back in time you go, perhaps because we’ve almost exhausted the satirical wet sponges that can be thrown at more recent regents and reprobates.

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And while I remind you that I have explicitly alluded to some of the more ribald humour (so don’t run cumming to me), I did chortle childishly at two mutual male admirers in a prison shower being told by the guard to “Get a cell!”” One has a male hen tattooed on his chest, the other twin ’R’s on his buttocks. “I like your Rs”, says one. The other says something else.

SLH

Buy An Unreliable History Of Tattoos and read the Page 45 review here

Shade The Changing Girl #1 (£2-99. DC’s Young Animals) by Cecil Castellucci & Marley Zarcone.

Kelly Fitzpatrick’s colours brighten this beautiful beast up no end.

It’s from the same Young Animals stable as Gerard Way & Nick Derington’s DOOM PATROL #1 which we singularly failed to review. Given Way’s profile we doubted it needed any extra publicity from us, but it was utterly mental and required no prior knowledge of Grant Morrison & Richard Case’s DOOM PATROL. In fact, My Chemical Romance’s Gerard Way took cheeky delight in confounding previous readers’ expectations at every turn.

This too requires no prior knowledge for we’ve a brand-new cast with bags of potential to alarm all and sundry, especially those who thought young, blonde-haired Megan was gone from their lives for good. This includes not just her friends, but also her parents who were assured that their comatose Megan was so without hope that they’d signed all the papers to pull the plug.

She’s just woken up, and the hospital would be exceedingly grateful if her mother and father would kindly collect her, please.

“She’s upsetting the other patients.”

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She seems very cheerful, though. Almost as if she’s a completely different person.

Now, you’d think that her friends would be thrilled and her parents ecstatic at this modern medical miracle. But if you knew Megan like I’m beginning to know Megan, then you might have more cause for concern.

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It’s the old Megan I’m referring to. But the old Megan is quite, quite gone; her body now inhabited by an alien who’s travelled all the way from Meta by way of Shade’s ever-shifting, technicolour dream coat. Therein lies all the dramatic irony we could wish for.

So, umm, you might by now be wondering what put this girlfriend in a coma to begin with.

Haha! SPOILERS!

From the writer of Young Readers’ ODD DUCK (with Sara Varon art – oh, yeah!) and Young Adults’ THE YEAR OF THE BEASTS, THE PLANE JANES (one of our earliest Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month) and its immediate sequel JANES IN LOVE (all excellent, all reviewed), this is suitable for neither of those demographics, the Young Animals imprint being very much a modern cousin to DC’s Mature-Readers’ Vertigo.

SLH

Buy Shade The Changing Girl #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.

 The Fade Out Complete Deluxe Edition h/c (£44-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips, Elizabeth Breitweiser

Goodnight Punpun vol 3 (£16-99, Viz) by Inio Asano

I Am A Hero Omnibus vol 2 (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Kengo Hanazawa

Hellboy In Hell vol 2: The Death Card (£15-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola

The Metabaron Book 1: The Techo-Admiral & The Anti-Baron h/c (£20-99, Humanoids) by Alexandro Jodorowsky & Jerry Frissen, Valentin Secher

Parade: An Artist’s Odyssey (£25-00, Abrams) by Si Lewen

She Changed Comics (£13-99, Image) by various edited by Betsy Gomez

Tokyo Ghost vol 2: Come Join Us (£13-99, Image) by Rick Remender & Sean Murphy

Batman By Ed Brubaker vol 2 s/c (£17-99, DC) by Ed Brubaker, Geoff Johns & Scott McDaniel, Andy Owens, Sean Phillips, various

The DC Universe By Neil Gaiman Deluxe Edition h/c (£26-99, DC) by Neil Gaiman, Alan Grant, Mark Verheiden & Arthur Adams, Michael Alred, Simon Bisley, Sam Keith, Mark Buckingham, Matt Wagner, John Totleben, Eddie Campbell, others

Catwoman vol 8: Run Like Hell s/c (£13-99, DC) by Frank Tieri & various

Convergence s/c (£22-99, DC) by Jeff King, Scott Lobdell, Dan Jurgens & Ethan Van Sciver, Andy Kubert

Superman: American Alien h/c (£22-99, DC) by Max Landis & various

All New X-Men: Inevitable vol 2: Apocalypse Wars s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Dennis Hopeless & Mark Bagley

Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows: Warzones! (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott & Adam Kubert, Scott Hanna

Extraordinary X-Men vol 2: Apocalypse Wars s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Jeff Lemire & Victor Ibanez, Humberto Ramos

Punisher Max Complete Collection vol 3 s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by Garth Ennis & Goran Parlov, Leandro Fernandez, Lan Medina

Wolverine: Old Man Logan vol 2: Bordertown s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Jeff Lemire & Andrea Sorrentino

X-Men: Gambit & Rogue s/c (£22-99, Marvel) by Howard Mackie & Lee Weeks, Mike Wieringo

The Rise And Fall Of Axiom s/c (£17-99, Legendary) by Mark Waid & Ed Benes

Fairy Tail vol 56 (£8-99, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Groo Vs. Conan (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Sergio Aragones, Mark Evanier & Sergio Aragones, Thomas Yeates

X-Force / Cable: Messiah War s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost, Duane Swierczynski & Jamie McKelvie, Ariel Olivetti, various

News

ITEM! Here we go! It is upon us!

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At the time of typing, The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 is mere days away (October 14-16) and we’ve published the Page 45 blog starring comicbook creators signing with us FOR FREE!

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Ben Haggarty,
Bryan Lee O’Malley,
Dan Berry,
Dave McKean,
Emma Vieceli,
Felt Mistress,
Hannah Berry,
Isabel Greenberg,
John Martz,
Jonathan Edwards,
Katriona Chapman,
Paul Thomas,
Sean Phillips,
Tillie Walden,
Tom Gauld

We are also joined in our graphic-novel-stuffed Georgian Room, upstairs in the Kendal Clock Tower, by the magnificent Avery Hill Publishing!

You’ll find details of everyone’s signing times on that Page 45 LICAF 2016 blog, plus so much more, including all the links you could want to the Festival itself.

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ITEM! I promise you we don’t normally keep repeating ourselves in our News Section like this, but The Lakes International Comic Art Festival is Page 45’s biggest event of each year, and we are so proud to be a part of it.

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ITEM! We’ve created a Panel at LICAF to help empower new and aspiring comicbook creators.

Sunday October 16th, 1pm to 2pm in the Clock Tower Council Chamber

You Ask, We Tell! Helping Creators Pitch To Publishers, The Press and to Comic Shops.

Although everything else we do is free, this bit will cost you £8 plus a £1-50 booking fee, I’m afraid (see link), but consider it an excellent investment in your creative and commercial future! Here’s why:

Independent publishing and self-publishing isn’t just a means to critical acclaim but to concrete, commercial success.

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Page 45’s biggest-selling graphic novel of 2015 was PORCELAIN: BONE CHINA, independently published by Improper Books and beating everything from DC, owned by multi-millionaire mega-corps Time Warner.

Page 45’s biggest-selling comic was EXPECTING TO FLY, self-published by John Allison and beating everything from Marvel, owned by multi-billionaire Disney.

With independent publishers you can retain creative control, ownership and be nurtured like nowhere else, fostering long-lasting, personal relationships with retailers and review sites like Broken Frontier which will prove invaluable throughout your career. We’ll show you how.

On that experienced, hand-picked panel:

Ricky Miller (Director, Avery Hill Publishing)
Katriona Chapman (self-publisher of KATZINE, freelance for larger publishers and part of Avery Hill)
Andy Oliver (Editor-in-Chief of pioneering review website Broken Frontier, and brand-new self-publisher)
Stephen L. Holland (Festival patron, award-winning retailer at Page 45 and prize buffoon.)

Every week I’m asked at the counter, “What’s the best way to get my comic published?”, “How do I get myself covered by Broken Frontier?” and “How do I get my self-published comic onto your shelves?”

We’re about to answer your questions.

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ITEM! This is the first year that the legendary Sarah McIntrye has been unable to appear with Page 45 in our Georgian Room. Last year Sarah was even joined by co-creator Philip Reeve to sign their PUGS OF THE FROZEN NORTH, OLIVER AND THE SEAWIGS and CAKES IN SPACE!

1 Seawigs sketched

Sarah and I could not bear to disappoint the loyal following of families she’s built up at the Festival so Page 45 will be bringing the brand-new JINKS & O’HARE FUNFAIR REPAIR… and Sarah in spirit! How…? Sarah has very generously drawn four original sketches which we will give out FREE OF CHARGE to the first families to buy a copy or twelve of JINKS & O’HARE FUNFAIR REPAIR during the weekend and who then declare:

“I read your blog, and I’ve got a sprog!”

Terms & Conditions: Adults must be accompanied by a child (which is a nice twist, don’t you think? This is such a family-friendly festival!). Also, the rhyme above is mandatory.

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ITEM! Under Page 45 Reviews (September 2016 week four) we detailed all the LICAF merchandise that would be on sale in our room alongside our own glorious graphic novels including exclusive prints by Hannah Berry, Sean Phillips, Charlie Adlard and Duncan Fegredo et al.

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ITEM! We’ll also be launching LICAF’s all-ages CARROT TO THE STARS graphic novel (reviewed).

Poignant and pertinent, every school library should have one.

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ITEM! Also, also, we will be selling the brand-new 24-Hour Comic Relay Race comic directed by Dan Berry, which will be created in the 24 hours leading up to LICAF by the likes of Dan Berry, Craig Thompson, Charlie Adlard, Emma Vieceli, Joe Decie, Mike Medaglia and Bryan Talbot. Here’s 2014’s anthology, 24 x 7:

ITEM! We would remind you that Page 45 accepts both cash and credit cards at LICAF, and we’ve made upgrades to our till this year to make the process swifter for you and safer for us.

For us: a till drawer which shuts.

For you: we’ve a second scanner so we can whip whichever dozen graphic novels you’ve selected from our mounds of magnificence through that till before you can scream “Second Mortgage!”

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ITEM! LICAF is brought to you by Julie Tait and Carole Tait without whom none of this would happen. Without Sharon Tait, the loveliest light in the world, I would still a quivering mess in the Kendal Clock Tower foyer, 2014.

Together they are the Holy Tait Trinity.

A round of applause for the Holy Tait Trinity all weekend long, please!

– Stephen xxx

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews October 2016 week one

October 5th, 2016

Families! Win free original Sarah McIntryre sketches! More BREAKING NEWS about The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 below our reviews!

A Distant Neighbourhood h/c (£19-99, Fanfare / Ponent Mon) by Jiro Taniguchi.

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If it were at all possible, would you go back in time with your current critical faculties and relive your life from the age of fourteen?

If so, what would you change – if anything at all – and what would you learn that eluded your former fourteen-year-old mind?

This is a graphic novel which may make you reflect upon your past, on your present, and perhaps on your future. With crystal clear lines of breath-taking beauty and grey-tone shadows which denote so much sunlight, it’s my favourite work so far from the creator of GUARDIANS OF THE LOUVRE, collecting the two former softcovers, the first of which we made Page 45’s Comicbook Of The Month.

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It is executed with all the dignity, quiet calm and accomplished craftsmanship that made THE WALKING MAN such a transporting experience, and sees a forty-something businessman, tired and hung-over, boarding the wrong train by mistake. It takes him back to the town he grew up in. Rather than fret, he takes advantage of the happenstance to stroll through the streets of his childhood. They’ve changed so considerably that they’re barely recognisable now, but when he reaches the graveyard under the verdant hillside where his mother lies buried, he stops to meditate by her headstone:

“What were my mother’s thoughts when she passed away?
“My father suddenly went missing when I was in eighth grade. I have no clear idea why my father decided to leave. Even now, whereabouts still unknown, I don’t know what’s happened to him… I don’t even know if he’s alive or dead! I don’t know the pain she might have felt inside, but Mom passed away without ever saying a hateful word about my father.
“I asked my mother once again. ‘Were you happy?'”

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There’s a shift in his shadow as the sun shines down from above, and a shift in his weight so that he loses his balance. A butterfly flits by. He’s wearing his old school uniform.

Hiroshi Nakahara is fourteen years old again. His mother’s alive, and his father’s still there with no sign at all of significant strife. So why did his father suddenly disappear, and can Nakahara do anything to prevent it?

Originally published in Japan in 1998, the time taken to translate it gave Alex Robinson’s similarly themed TOO COOL TO BE FORGOTTEN the chance to emerge onto our shelves first. Whatever their similarities, stylistically they’re very different beasts: Taniguchi has an exceptionally fine, precise yet surprisingly soft and sympathetic line whereby even interiors are spacious and full of window light, whilst his landscapes are a loving tribute to the beauty of nature, the grass dappled in sunshine and shadow, the leaves painstaking rendered in gentle folds above.

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One can’t help but fall in love with so many of his cast, either. Whether wide-eyed in wonder or deep in reflection, harbouring a melancholy kept to himself, Nakahara is drawn by Taniguchi in perfect sympathy with his inner monologue. For although he delights in a confidence around girls he never had as a child, although he rejoices in a rejuvenated athleticism and overindulges in an alcohol binge his younger body can’t cope with, there are school friends whose funerals he’s already attended who are chatting to him now without a care in the world, and he can’t help but look at his mother and father with a different eye to a child’s.

For he knows his father will leave his mother soon, just as his own family in the present are wondering what’s happened to their husband and father…

It’s a work that can’t help but catalyse self-reflection. How would you cope in the same situation? Who would believe you if you told them the truth? How soon would one simple act cause a domino effect leading you down a completely different road to that trodden before? And how come you can’t just take a boy or a girl out to dinner any longer?!

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Taniguchi’s best works are more about contemplation and a search for truth or at least peace of mind than anything else, and usually in the middle of the most beautifully lit countryside you will ever encounter. There’s also an emphasis on respect and gratitude – the touching and impressive Japanese courtesy of not wanting to put anyone else out (it is not about manners; it is all about genuine good will) – and it’s evoked well here as Hiroshi’s grandmother continues to explain his father’s particular circumstances following his experience in World War II, and his mother struggles with her understanding of the debt she owes her second husband, her knowledge of what he has sacrificed for her, yet her need for his presence.

Meanwhile Hiroshi takes the girl he’d never have had to courage to talk to the first time round to the seaside where he relishes the freedom and sensations of being fourteen again, but without the same insecurities.

SLH

Buy A Distant Neighbourhood h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Carthago h/c (£23-99, Humanoids) by Christopher Bec & Eric Henninot, Milan Jovanovic.

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Welcome to a whopping, album-sized, 275-page graphic novel of exceptional light and beauty – and the most enormous, razor-sharp teeth.

Specifically, the most enormous, razor-sharp teeth embedded in a mouth big enough to engulf a bathysphere as if it were a bonbon. That mouth belongs to an eighty-foot long Megalodon, a species of shark which didn’t have the decency to die out 2.6 million years ago as we were all promised. Since it didn’t die out, you can assume with some certainty that it’s not alone. It’ll have to have some honeys to breed with.

How has it survived? That proved quite clever. Not everything here passes the credulity test quite so creditably: like Major Bertrand’s decision to dive back into the water once a diving cage has been crushed / mangled / mauled beyond recognition, just to see what enormous subaquatic creature could have done that. It proves a pivotal plot point – on account of what else he spies lurking below which he vows never to impart to anyone – but you really wouldn’t do that, would you? “All you can eat” must surely be the default menu of any Megalodon on the move.

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I thought it cruel, being made to read and review this, for I am terrified of sharks. Mesmerised, but terrified. I don’t really want any species to die out, but the very idea of diving in a cage surrounded by Great White Sharks – or even a solitary soul out for a leisurely, late-afternoon swim-stroll – is insane.

I used to have shark dreams once a week between the ages of eight and thirty-five. They rarely ended well.  I would see shadows of sharks even within in-door swimming pools, for which I blame James Bond. Strangely, those dreams ceased once I came face to face with a barracuda while snorkelling in Barbados. It swam, fast as lightning, to within two feet of my nose. Thankfully it executed an equally abrupt about-turn, but not before I was gifted with a true appreciation of how phenomenally hideous its ugly mug was.

All things are relative.

It’s about to get uglier.

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Carthago is the name of the international corporation which trades in both gas and oil, drilling out to sea for both. In 1993 one of their drills penetrated a deep-sea cavern and all four divers disappeared. They couldn’t resist investigating this new, exotic environment, and this new, exotic environment couldn’t resist investigating them. Nom-nom, etc.

I cannot begin to convey to you how tense and claustrophobic Henninot renders their initial, tentative, reconnoitre, so much hidden in the impenetrable, inky black which their tiny, inadequate flares and torches barely manage to illuminate. Thanks to the two-page prologue 73 years ago, we are anticipating a certain sort of… reception… but it’s ever so subtly introduced on the final, small panel of a right-hand page by a free-floating hand and attendant rivulet of blood.

Mr. Snyder, Carthago’s chairman of the board who sports a fetching black balaclava, is well aware of what went on way back then. He’s had video footage since day one. Now he shares it with his suit-and-tie board members, but with strict instructions that it must never be leaked lest they be hit with multiple law suits, not least for negligence. Further fears include the plug being pulled on further drilling, and their already precarious profits ($90 billion from one rig alone) will go into free-fall.

Unfortunately for Carthago, its chairman is not the only one in possession of that film. A radical environmentalist sub-cell within Greenpeace has copies too and shows one to Dr Kim Melville, fresh from discovering three-foot-long crayfish below the Sarrans Dam in France. Parenthetically her daughter, Lou, has discovered pike three times her size in the freezing waters, 150 feet down without the aid of any breathing apparatus or indeed any facial protection whatsoever.

“Lou’s not like other little girls…”

No, indeed, as you will see.

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We’re still on the first two-dozen pages, but what follows is an ultra-competitive race between multiple factions to a) capture proof of a Megalodon’s existence b) expose Carthago’s less than ethical cover-up and collusion, then  c) get to the very bottom of the sea’s hidden depths and secrets sustained over the centuries – improbably so since photography was invented.

Drop in the ocean? I should say so! I’ve not even touched on the prime mover, one elderly Mr Feiersinger confined to a futuristic wheelchair / life-support system. An unimaginably wealthy, ruthless and obsessive collector of the rarest artefacts imaginable, he resides in Eagle’s Eyrie atop the Carpathian Mountains of Romania in a vast, Gothic castle whose cathedral-like hallway resembles the central nave of the British Museum. He has in his indebted thrall the graphic novel’s action hero, London Donovan. You will learn of this debt and of the expedition which led to Mr Feiersinger’s current condition anon, but not here.

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All these paths and many more will cross, criss-cross and re-cross again in an increasingly convoluted, full-blown sci-fi experience involving maritime survivors, monomaniacal malfeasance, more monsters than I’m willing to give away here, hereditary hiccups, ancient civilisations and, yes, the most enormous, razor-sharp teeth.

The planet is changing: it’s realigning. Ice floes are shifting. Whales and dolphins are beaching themselves in what appears to be a coordinated mass suicide or desperate flight. Forces – both familiar and familial – are coming into play, and if you believe that “the blood-dimmed tide” is already loosed then I swear that you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

This is spectacular. It truly is spectacular.

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Delphine Rieu’s colours in particular complement Eric Henninot’s crisp, clean lines to perfection. Her whites and blues are bright and pure, while Henninot’s faces are a little like P. Craig Russell’s. His sense of scale is as thrilling, particularly when looking up at the dam or Eagle’s Eyrie’s interior, so rich in vertical detail. Moreover, his sharks are ferocious and, as I’ve intimated, they are not the only challenge present.

His successor halfway through, Milan Jovanovic, isn’t quite all that but only because you’ve been spoiled rotten beforehand. The tidal waves are still terrifying, the underwater menaces still petrifying and there’s one page featuring the most misjudged practical joke of all time which will leave one young lad speechless for years.

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However, honestly dictates I concede that two-thirds of the way in it threatens to collapse under the weight of increasingly ridiculous coincidences, along with improbable decisions and observational failures on the part of the cast. It doesn’t, but it threatens to, especially when those cast members haven’t proved so dim in the past. (Apart from Dr Kim Melville, perhaps: “Take your daughter to the seaside!” you will be screaming at her for the hundred odd pages it takes her to do so.)

As to Mr Feiersinger’s younger brother… forty years younger? Okay, if he’s revealed later on to be a covert catamite instead, I will whoop with penitent joy and enormous respect for the lack of hand-holding clues early on. Otherwise pfft!

SLH

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

Carrot To The Stars (£6-00, Lakes International Comics Art Festival) by Regis Lejonc, Thierry Murat & Riff Reb’s.

“Some dream of love
“While dancing in the moonlight.”

A cautionary, all-ages fable, this has an elegant and eloquent simplicity, and a fearful symmetry whose missing element will haunt me for decades. Except that, as drawn by Riff, it isn’t entirely missing, and therein lies the power of its punch.

I cannot be more specific than that, but you will know what I mean when you see it.

The cautionary aspect is emphatically not about dreaming – how tragic would that be? – nor about invention or industriousness. This isn’t some sort of awful, prohibitive, Daedalus and Icarus yarn which William Blake shot down so succinctly in ‘The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell’ thus:

“No bird soars too high, if he soars with his own wings”.

Aspiration should be encouraged. Not even the sky is your limit.

Instead, the cautionary note lies in entrusting your dreams to those with less beneficent interests than your own. It is about the perversion of dreams, and it boasts a specific, all too awful pertinence to our wider world today, and indeed throughout the ages with one particular instance in mind.

So.

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“Some dream of love
“While dancing in the moonlight.”

How romantic is that? And how beautiful is that opening page with its innocent, Dr Seuss-like revelry shared under the inspiring light of a benign, beaming moon? Our inventive rabbit “dreams of something dazzling” and is inspired to build something beautiful in order to give others pleasure. He labours night and day, and his endeavours are rewarded with success.

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“The carrot shoots straight up in the air, as if sucked up by the sky.”

Great line!

“Everyone wakes and wonders and marvels.
“No one can believe their eyes.
“It’s marvellous!
“Who has created this wondrous thing?”

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Ah yes, his endeavours are rewarded with success: more success – and a different sort of success – than he bargained for.

Once more, let me be clear: it doesn’t go to his head. Nothing the rabbit does (except maybe the initial, slightly toxic process which may leave organic carrot farmers frothing at the mouth!) is an indictment of his invention, his intentions or his honour throughout. Indeed his sense of duty is commendable. Just remember whom your sense of duty and loyalty lies with, or is given to.

Corporations have only their own self-interests at heart.

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The art is smooth, bold and beautiful, making maximum use of spotlights, striking shadows and stark silhouettes, leaving the colours to glow in the darkness.

Copies go on sale at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 on Saturday 15th October in Page 45’s Georgian Room upstairs in the Kendal Clock Tower. Thereafter you can happily purchase from here and elsewhere for worldwide shipping and even pre-order right now. I’d mention LICAF’s partners in this except that it would give the contents’ game away, but those lucky enough to have secured LICAF’s earlier exclusive this year after a certain multimedia performance or via Page 45’s own website may infer what they will.

Translation by LICAF’s own Carole Tait.

SLH

Buy Carrot To The Stars and read the Page 45 review here

Odd And The Frost Giants h/c (£14-99, Bloomsbury) by Neil Gaiman & Chris Riddell.

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“The wise man knows when to keep silent. Only the fool tells all he knows.”

Reviewers, take note: you’re supposed to intrigue, not give the entire game away.

A wise and wonderful tale reprising known Norse mythology in a new guise, and another of those all-ages books which will overwhelmingly be picked up and relished here by adults. Like many of Gaiman’s stories, it is in part about the power of words and the determination to succeed – but also the secret of smiles.

Originally published in 2008, this new die-cut hardcover edition is generously illustrated on every page by Chris Riddell (see THE SLEEPER AND THE SPINDLE and FORTUNATELY, THE MILK… also by Gaiman), each black and white portrait adorned with lavish, silver-ink frames. The bear is gigantic, his eagle is imperious and that fox is as lithe as you like.

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Odd is the son of a Scottish mother who loves to sing – of “fine lords riding out on their horses, their noble falcons on their wrists, a brave hound always padding by their side… freeing the oppressed from tyranny” – and a Viking father who stole her away during a particularly fine day’s pillaging.

However, because his father would not even touch her until he had taught her enough of their language to clearly state his honourable intention of making her his wife, they ended up loving each other very much indeed.

Unfortunately he died at sea.

When told the news, Odd didn’t cry, he didn’t say anything. He merely shrugged.

“Nobody knew what Odd was feeling on the inside. Nobody knew what he thought. And, in a village on the banks of a fjord, where everybody knew everybody’s business, that was infuriating.”

That, and his bright smile, unnerved his settlement.

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Now, his father had been a woodsman, a true master of the axe, invaluable to a community where wood was used to make everything – “wooden nails joined wooded boards to build wooden dwellings or wooden boats” – and, determined to make himself useful, Odd took up his father’s axe, so heavy he could barely lift it, and set about felling a tree. And he did. But it fell on his foot and it fell on his leg and it crushed those bones completely. Still, he used to axe to dig himself free, cut a branch for a crutch and hauled his father’s heavy axe home, for metal was scarce and could not be left out to rust.

Two years later, Odd’s mother remarried. Fat Elfred already had seven children and did not care for a crippled step-son, especially when drunk. In winter the men drank more and, confined to the Great Hall, tempers would fray and fights would break out, and that year spring never came. The ice refused to melt and the snow refused to soften. “The games got nasty. The jokes became mean. Fights were to hurt.” So Odd decided he’d sever his few ties completely and retreat to his father’s log cabin deep in the heart of the forest.

And it’s there that he meets a flame-coloured fox, a voracious bear and an eagle with only one eye.

Strangely, he discovers, they can speak…

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Deliberately, I have taken you no further than what effectively is the prologue, but every element I’ve introduced is vital for the journey that follows: determination, resourcefulness, that knowing smile, and keeping it under your hat.

Readers of Gaiman’s graphic novel series SANDMAN and his American Gods prose will relish Neil’s return to three of his favourite characters. I particularly enjoyed the eagle with its one-word screeches, the bear being a bit stupid and the fox being extremely embarrassed about once being a mare. You’ll see, as their history with the Frost Giants unfolds.

All I will only add is that I’ve long admired Gaiman’s ability to put you in other people’s shoes, and then have you walk a mile in them:

“Odd pushed himself to keep walking, one step at a time, remembering when he had walked with ease and never thought twice about the miracle of putting one foot in front of the other and pushing the world towards you.”

The things we take for granted…

SLH

Buy Odd And The Frost Giants h/c and read the Page 45 review here

From Under Mountains s/c (£13-99, Image) by Claire Gibson, Marian Churchland & Sloane Leong.

Brotherfrom-under-mountains-collected-cover Marcellus to his sister Elena about their father, Lord Crowe, from astride his snorting steed:

“Have you asked him about your trip yet?”
“I’m putting it off so I can pretend he might say yes.”
“I’ve been to Menkha a dozen times. I don’t see why you can’t.”
“Don’t you?”
“He might let you come along with me in the spring. I’ll bring it up when I get back.”

Marcellus charges out into the sunlit desert beyond the thick-stoned keep.

“Close the gates.”

Conceived by the creator of BEAST, it’s no surprise that this too deals in part with the dismissal of women in a patriarchal society. Here we have one that’s feudal, and the fact that Elena springs from nobility empowers her not one jot, her father seeing no more in her future than a strategically advantageous marriage. After reading the opening chapter, you might wonder if the House of Karsgate has much of a future.

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Its Volan neighbours are encroaching increasingly on Karsgate territory, the goblin race which holds the balance of power appears to be reneging on their treaty, while the keep itself will be infiltrated tonight by an intrepid thief Tova; and although she thought she’d be alone in that, she won’t be. Something else has been set free by a summoning which takes place well beyond those walls.

Born of fire and a frenzy of hands under a low red moon, it is both ethereal yet as weighty as the words which have bound it, and “the rune that breaks the steel of men”. It is luminous in blue and purple and is given a ceremonial knife…

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Claire Gibson’s script is indeed well weighted and nothing whatsoever is extraneous.

“Every decision you make must have your full attention, no matter how small,” cautions Marcellus’ father, Lord Crowe. The same could be said of every word Gibson’s written, and Lord Crowe would do to heed them himself, for throughout this book he will fail to appreciate that he has a daughter at all. This will lead him to make fatal mistakes, just as he made a fateful one through pride and arrogance a long time ago.

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As Elena attempts to confront her father on her lack of opportunity to learn through travel, birds flap about the sky, not coincidentally, mostly off-panel. There’s quite a lot of Paul Pope in Leong’s faces, while her warm, glowing colours are rich and redolent of the East. A lot of attention has been given from the get-go by Marian herself to the various classes’ costume designs reprinted in the back along with landscape double-page spreads by MULTIPLE WARHEADS’ and KING CITY’ Brandon Graham, while you’ve a map you help navigate by at the front.

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Plenty more politics to come – gender, domestic and state – including pragmatic but empowering words of advice from Elena’s aunt, Lady Ure, and a Council which may not be sending the help Lord Crowe thinks he’s received to negotiate with the goblin Mausgol.

SLH

Buy From Under Mountains s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Becoming Andy Warhol (£15-99, Abrams Comic Arts) by Nick Bertozzi & Pierce Hargan.

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That’s a perfectly judged cover, the relevance of its silver ink becoming clear within the graphic novel itself. Meanwhile, it’s silver screen time.

“So what do I do, Andy? Read a script?”
“Just do anything. Or nothing… Just try to look fantastic.”

You could consider this lack of structure to be a liberating flexibility, Andy trusting his actor / models to be fabulous: a freeform study. Alternatively you could view it as hollow, lazy, clueless and superficial – a bit like Andy’s attitude to friendships. There’s nothing quite like nailing your colours to the wall early on in a review, is there?

“Hi, John…
“We’re in Nebraska or New Mexico or something.
“We decided to drive to LA.
“I guess I forgot to tell you.”

They’re sleeping together.

Throughout Warhol is depicted as careless and callous – and by “careless” I mean he simply doesn’t care. His attitude to almost everything is one long, shrug. I’d be almost surprised if he hadn’t invented “Whatever”.

“Oh, hi, John.”
“We were supposed to meet for dinner tonight!”
“Oh, right. Well, I got busy with this meeting.”

The meeting he’s currently in with Henry Geldzahler, seen earlier coaching Warhol’s contrary interview technique. It’s an honest explanation, but that’s all it is. There’s no apology, no of hint of contrition. That would require a teaspoon of empathy. Warhol dismissed people once he grew bored with them. Actually that would require some effort. Instead he lets them walk away, humiliated.

And, as we’ll see, Warhol was very easily bored.

“This is Billy. The young man who helped Andy set up the show.”
“Actually, I set up the show.”
“Of course. But along Warhol’s guidelines.”
“Not really. He just said put them up in rows.”

It’s good to delegate.

“Andy, you wanna check over the colours?”
“Gosh, you’re all doing such a great job. Choose whichever one.”

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As the book opens in 1962 Warhol is bored of drawing shoes. He’s bored of the whole illustration process, farming it out to his original assistant Nathan.

“Okay, so, Andy. Just prime the colours for the illo, then?”
“Sure, but maybe just do the whole thing, Nathan. You’re so good at getting my style. Make it ‘Warhol’.”

No one lasts long in Warhol’s bitchy circle during these two years which lead to 1964’s World’s Fair and architect Philip Johnson’s commission of a 20 x 20 foot mural to be hung on the New York State Pavilion. It’s a high profile gig. Warhol initially comprehends its magnitude – its importance to his career – and makes some effort to appear grateful. But, true to character, he lets his end of the bargain slide until the last minute before coming up with two successive ideas which infuriate Johnson, the first without any thought to the context of the commission or even its completion, the second wilfully antagonistic. Then there’s the third and final solution…

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Please don’t take my antipathy towards Warhol the vain, affected, work-shy, fame-craving, disloyal, emotional vacuum of a man for a dismissal of his work as an originator of ideas. I certainly rate his pop-art creativity inexpressibly more than I do Roy Lichtenstein’s parasitic pap. Although ideas plural might be stretching it, there is at least a consistency between repeating identical images or variations on that theme in a single exhibition then repeating that process for subsequent exhibitions. And indeed a consistency in repeatedly throwing away whomever he grew bored of like Kleenex.

Consistency is one of this graphic novel’s greatest virtues. Never once does Bertozzi’s Warhol speak out of carefully studied character. His dialogue – on occasions artfully drawn from filmed interviews – is such an accurate evocation of Andy’s vapid mumbling that I could hear his inertia in my head.

Hargan had me convinced I was watching him, too. Every single individual within each frame is immediately identifiable, especially Taylor Mead and Warhol himself, fey and pallid, with his equally inarticulate, immutably inexpressive mask complete with sunglasses even after dark.

In addition, there’s something appropriately boyish about Hargan’s expressions and figures (especially during the one temper tantrum Warhol can muster) which I strongly suspect must stem from a love of THIEVES & KINGS’ Mark Oakley, who I’ve always felt would make yet another perfect illustrator for Peter Pan.

Together they convey so successfully the art of giving nothing away that you can comprehend its widespread allure. But what Bertozzi intended above all is to give you a glimpse behind those sunglasses, behind the reputation, to the heart and soul of the man. Mission accomplished: he had neither.

For more Andy Warhol in comics – and it really is a pitch-perfection impression – please see Neil Gaiman & Mark Buckingham’s MIRACLEMAN: THE GOLDEN AGE.

SLH

Buy Becoming Andy Warhol and read the Page 45 review here

Picnoleptic Inertia (£12-99, Breakdown Press) by Tsemberlidis…

Wow. picno-coverTo make any sense of what is easily the most ‘out there’ comic I have read this year, you probably need to have some understanding of the title.  Picnolepsy would be a state where the mind and body could be said to be not functioning as a whole. For example, a simple daydream, or perhaps a medical episode such as an epilepsy seizure, or indeed even absolute, all-consuming  concentration on a task, such as texting on your smartphone whilst meandering down a busy street, oblivious to the rest of the irritated world around you…

In other words, temporary mental absence or disconnection from one’s physical self. Often, particularly with daydreams, the picnoleptic event is clearly extremely transitory. I suspect the inertia part of the title is referring to the fact that this intensely, psychologically perturbing sequence of short stories should be viewed as one extended picnoleptic episode. Given the cyclical nature of the entire work, it makes sense, though it’s about the only thing that does!

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It feels like Tsemberlidis, off his head on salvia divinorum, has climbed inside your mind’s eye armed only with a black biro and a trembling hand, and is perched precariously atop your pineal gland, frantically stabbing out join-the-dots scenes on the spongy canvas of your recoiling brain. This is one of the most surreal metaphysical trips I’ve been taken on for some time. It’s as disturbing as it is enlightening, particularly the ending… I have literally just realised what the dramatic conclusion probably actually means whilst typing this review and whilst it’s offset the extremely strange feeling I was left with, slightly, I feel… well, yes, disturbed.

Can you tell I loved it?

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On the same publishing imprint as GARDENS OF GLASS by Lando, which is as equally bizarre as this work, in a not-altogether dissimilar black and white, ultra-minimal style. There is so much going on here visually, astonishing given the minimalism, that it does indeed feel like you are being squeezed through a pinhole camera obscura into some other distorted, compressed, concentrated hyper-reality. It is psychedelic enough without any need whatsoever for colours. I think colouring would detract from the power of it, actually.

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It is, also, I think, chock full of great little nods to popular culture. There’s definitely a knowing wink to THE INCAL, I believe also the beginning of the truly insane HEAVY METAL 1981 film (which, thinking about it, does contain certain picnoleptic elements), plus Alan Moore’s PROMETHEA, and I am pretty sure I even spotted a wireframe space station from the classic 1980s video game Elite in one space scene! It’s just too distinct a shape for it not to be that. I am sure there are many more such nods, I certainly felt a few twitching at the corners of my consciousness which I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

At this point, you’re either thinking, I have to buy this immediately, or more likely, about to break free from the daydream, or should I say, PICNOLEPTIC INERTIA, you’ve slipped into whilst I’ve been rambling on, and move on to the undoubtedly more coherent next review…

JR

Buy Picnoleptic Inertia and read the Page 45 review here

Blame! Vol 1 (Master Edition) (£26-99, Viz) by Tsutomu Nihei…

You know blame-vol-1-coverwhat I was saying about a more coherent review…

Before the hyper-kinetic BIOMEGA and the supra-chlorophyllic space odyssey KNIGHTS OF SIDONIA there was BLAME! Actually, it’s apparently pronounced Blam, as in gunfire, which has to make you wonder why they didn’t just call it that. Plus surely it would have been a moderately onomatopoeic title, rather than a bizarrely irrelevant one? Though my phonetic pedantry might be slightly coloured by the fact I have spent many a moment recently explaining to a bemused 5 year old why the phonetic sounds she has been learning for all the alphabet don’t actually translate perfectly to how words sound… But then Tsutomu Nihei’s works don’t tend to make complete sense either, he’s more of an action man, whom I suspect might be prone to screaming “BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!” in the ear of his inking assistant whilst they’re working on a particularly frenetic scene just to help them get into the mood…

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Yes, as part of the current generation of denshoushas of Japanese cyber-punk manga, on a par with Hiroya GANTZ / INUYASHIKI Oku in my mind, following in the blazing trail left by Katsuhiro AKIRA / DOMU Otomo and Masamune Shirow, Tsutomu Nihei takes no prisoners whatsoever when it comes to helping his readers understand what the hell is going on in his works. I can’t help but admire that almost autistic blinkered approach. You wouldn’t want it all the time, but it’s a refreshing change occasionally, particularly in the speculative fiction genre. He did do a similarly austere Wolverine mini-series for Marvel where Logan gets flung forward to 2038 a few years back (that’s now long out of print) which Stan Lee was probably twitching uncontrollably to add some dialogue to.

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Nihei just loves hi-tech weaponry, especially big guns, has a definite penchant for villains that have been infected by weird mutating techno-organic viruses, and utilises vast chaotic super-structures for his story settings. As a student of architecture, he clearly likes to make good use of what precise draughtsmanship he’s learnt in that respect for his backgrounds, which are always in complete juxtaposition to the utterly chaotic full-on mayhem going on in the foreground.

Fans of Nihei will clearly see the huge influence this series has on BIOMEGA and KNIGHTS OF SIDONIA. The foreground art isn’t quite as polished at this point in his career, but it’s still extremely impressive. It has as barebones a plot and dialogue as BIOMEGA, but again, that’s not really why people buy his stuff. Personally, I prefer KNIGHTS OF SIDONIA as it is a more sophisticated story, but this is absolutely cyber-punk manga at its most direct and forceful.

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I suppose I should give you a little plot summary to finish as BLAME! is most definitely a great manga in its own right, where lone wolf Killy wanders “The City”, a huge, randomly expanding super-structure that began on Earth and may well now be bigger than the size of a Dyson Sphere, but certainly extending past Jupiter. Armed with his trusty Gravitational Beam Emitter (a VERY big gun basically), he’s looking for any surviving humans with a particular genetic marker that will allow them to access the “Netsphere”, to take back control of the computer network of The City. Along the way he’ll repeatedly encounter the techno-organic mutated Safeguard, who view any humans without the Net Terminal Gene – which is most of them – as a threat to be extinguished on sight. With that now said, it’s time to lock and load and away we go!

JR

Buy Blame! Vol 1 (Master Edition)and read the Page 45 review here

Wonder Woman: The True Amazon h/c (£20-99, DC) by Jill Thompson…

“Diana grew from adorable baby to lovely girl as if overnight.
“The tears of the Gods had enchanted this girl and she possessed beauty, intelligence, strength and wondrous powers.
“Handsome and graceful with thick flowing hair, she mesmerised all who met her.
“Weavers spun ethereal threads and tailors stitched night and day to design her the most delicate of robes.
“Clever thinkers invented machines to amuse her.
“Sweet delights were served to her on golden platters at every meal.
“Musicians composed melodies to serenade her as she played or slept.
“Gardeners grew the flowers that were most pleasing to her nose.
“Theatrical performances were created in her honour…
“… and no one ever told her “no.””

Oh dear.

“So the beautiful princess who was so doted upon not only was striking and elegant, but also conceited and arrogant, as well.”

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Yes, before the Amazonian Wonder Woman who – as Jill so eloquently puts it towards the conclusion of this exquisitely beautiful exploration of Diana’s early years – ‘wanders the world, defending the weak, righting wrongs and fighting evil’, there was a right over-indulged spoilt little madam. Which in a small child is perhaps mildly amusing, at times at least (especially if they’re not your own), but not in a full-grown woman.

No, such character traits, if unchecked or unameliorated by adulthood, are obviously going to lead to the tears of many a person, not just the brat themselves when their every whim isn’t catered for instantly.  And so it proves here with disastrous consequences for the delightful denizens of the hidden isle of Themyscira, as there are some very valuable life lessons which are belatedly going to have to be learnt the hard way…

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But first Jill recounts just how the Queen Hippolyta and her Amazons came to sequester themselves away from mankind, Hippolyta’s poignant longing for a child, and the Gods’ answer to that fervent clarion call of desire. It’s a version that will satisfy the comic purists and the scholars of classics alike, told as it is with an elegance and grace to match Jill’s glorious watercolour painted artwork, particularly the Mediterranean palette of olive, terracota and aquamarine divinely invoking the heady sensations of an endless summer in paradise. Why would anyone leave such a veritable heaven on earth to brave the base outside world with all its sins and suffering…?

Fans of Jill’s SCARY GODMOTHER and BEAST OF BURDEN material, and also her take another comics classic, the Sandman and his family, with the hilarious THE LITTLE ENDLESS STORYBOOK and DELIRIUM’S PARTY, will know precisely what to expect. But for people, perhaps Wonder Woman fans, new to Jill’s majestic touch with the brushes and indeed lyrical weaving of words, I think it will be quite the revelation. There’s a fantastic few extra pages of process (I would have loved more!) at the end where she takes us through from pencils to finished colours on a few pages, and it’s quite the visual feast.

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JR

Buy Wonder Woman: The True Amazon h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Black Dog: The Dreams Of Paul Nash Limited Edition Hardcover (£71-99, Dark Horse) by Dave McKean

Black Dog: The Dreams Of Paul Nash s/c (£22-99, Dark Horse) by Dave McKean

Giant Days vol 3 (£13-99, Boom) by John Allison & Max Sarin

Trees vol 2 s/c (£11-99, Image) by Warren Ellis & Jason Howard

Troll Bridge (£12-99, Headline) by Neil Gaiman & Colleen Doran

The Wicked + Divine vol 4: Rising Action s/c (£13-99, Image) by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie

We Found A Hat h/c (£12-99, Walker Books) by Jon Klassen

Black Road vol 1: The Holy North (£8-99, Image) by Brian Wood & Garry Brown

Garden Of Flesh (£8-99, Fantagraphics) by Gilbert Hernandez

Head Lopper vol 1: Island Or A Plague Of Beasts (£14-99, Image) by Andrew Maclean

Last Look (£18-99, Jonathan Cape) by Charles Burns

Low vol 3: Shore Of The Dying Light (£13-99, Image) by Rick Remender & Greg Tocchini

The Marionette Unit (£12-99, TMU Workshop) by Azhur Saleem & Warwick Johnson-Cadwell

Meanderings (£4-00, Throwaway Press) by Matthew Dooley

Notes On A Thesis (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Tiphaine Riviere

Paul Up North (£15-99, Conundrum) by Michel Rabagliati

The Secret Loves Of Geek Girls (£13-99, Dark Horse) by various including Mariko Tamaki, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Marjorie Liu, Margaret Atwood, Jen Vaughn

Shame – Collected Trilogy h/c (£26-99, Renegade) by Lovern Kindzierski & John Bolton

Tetris – The Games People Play (£12-99, SelfMadeHero) by Box Brown

Thought Bubble Anthology Collection – 10 Years Of Comics (£8-99, Image) by various including Warren Ellis, Rick Remender, Fabio Moon, Gabriel Ba, Duncan Fegredo, Becky Cloonan, Sean Phillips, Charlie Adlard, Emma Rios

Trayaurus and the Enchanted Crystal (£14-99, Trapeze) by DanTDM

Wolf vol 2: Apocalypse Soon (£13-99, Image) by Ales Kot & Ricardo Lopez Ortiz

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up Marvel Universe h/c (£22-99, Marvel) by Ryan North & Erica Henderson

Vote Loki s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Christopher Hastings & Langdon Foss, Paul McCaffrey

Fruits Basket Collector’s Edition vol 5 (£14-99, Yen Press) by Natsuki Takaya

News

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ITEM! Tillie Walden, recent recipient of two Ignatz Awards and creator of A CITY INSIDE and I LOVE THIS PART, has just launched her new web comic ON A SUNBEAM for free online!

Needless to say, it is beautiful!

Tillie will be signing in Page 45’s Georgian Room at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 on both Saturday 15th and Sunday 16th October.

For there follows another great big plug….

ITEM! NOW INCLUDES JOHN MARTZ!                          

The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 is little more than a week away (October 14-16) and we’ve published the Page 45 blog starring creators signing with Page 45 there FOR FREE:

Adam Brockbank,Fade Out vol 2 3
Ben Haggarty,
Bryan Lee O’Malley,
Dan Berry,
Dave McKean,
Emma Vieceli,
Felt Mistress,
Hannah Berry,
Isabel Greenberg,
John Martz,
Jonathan Edwards,
Katriona Chapman,
Paul Thomas,
Sean Phillips,
Tillie Walden,
Tom Gauld

… and the magnificent Avery Hill Publishing!

You’ll find details of their signing times on that Page 45 LICAF 2016 blog, and so much more, including all the links you could want to the Festival itself.

ITEM! Under last week’s Page 45 Reviews (September 2016 week four) we detailed all the LICAF merchandise that would be on sale alongside our own glorious graphic novels including exclusive prints by Hannah Berry, Sean Phillips, Charlie Adlard and Duncan Fegredo.

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We’ll also be launching LICAF’s all-ages CARROT TO THE STARS graphic novel, reviewed above and pictured above.

We would remind you that Page 45 accepts both cash and credit cards at LICAF, and we’ve made upgrades to our till this year to make the process swifter for you and safer for us. Like a till drawer which shuts.

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ITEM! This is the first year that the legendary Sarah McIntrye has been unable to appear with Page 45 in our Georgian Room. Last year Sarah was even joined by co-creator Philip Reeve to sign their PUGS OF THE FROZEN NORTH, OLIVER AND THE SEAWIGS and CAKES IN SPACE!

1 Seawigs sketched

Sarah and I could not bear to disappoint the loyal following of families she’s built up at the Festival so Page 45 will be bringing the brand-new JINKS & O’HARE FUNFAIR REPAIR… and Sarah in spirit! How…? Sarah has very generously drawn four original sketches which we will give out FREE OF CHARGE to the first families to buy a copy or twelve of JINKS & O’HARE FUNFAIR REPAIR during the weekend and who then declare:

“I read your blog, and I’ve got a sprog!”

Terms & Conditions: Adults must be accompanied by a child (which is a nice twist, don’t you think? This is such a family-friendly festival!). Also, the rhyme above is mandatory.

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ITEM! You’ve just one week left to order whichever graphic novels you fancy for free collection in Kendal at LICAF. We’ll be bringing along our own selections, obviously, but you can order any of our 7,000 different graphic novels right now, so you don’t have hope that we’re mind-readers.

I don’t know if that’s a democratic upgrade or a capitalist expansion.

Either way, details (surprising no one) are on that Page 45 LICAF 2016 blog.

Pick Up In Kendal

– Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews September 2016 week four

September 28th, 2016

More Lakes International Comic Art Festival news beneath reviews and New Books list! Limited edition prints exclusive to LICAF and more!

Mooncop h/c (£12-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Tom Gauld…

“Living on the moon . . . Whatever were we thinking? . . . It seems so silly now.”

I think that may well be about 5% of the entire text in this most laconic of pithy odes to a future that’s been and gone, much like practically all the lunar population! To be honest, it never really happened.

Britain’s doyen of deadpan comic humour returns with this existential examination of the isolation of a lonely lunar plod, patrolling his meteor-pitted manor in the vain hope of finding anything remotely amiss.

It’s a rather solitary existence, punctuated primarily by his daily trip to the doughnut and coffee dispenser. A lost robo-dog provides a brief burst of, well, excitement would probably be taking it too far, but at least it provides the chance for some momentary interaction with the rapidly dwindling inhabitants. For those that still remain are rapidly upping sticks and heading back to the hustle and bustle of mother Earth.

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Our trusty bobby would love to join them, but his request for a transfer is denied, on the grounds of his impressive, 100% successful crime solution rate! Given that no crimes are ever committed in the rarefied confines up there, it’s looking somewhat unlikely it’s ever going to dip far enough to warrant his own collar being felt and get recalled back home for poor performance. Oh dear.

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This is a wonderfully wistful, melancholic musing on how the future might not bring us quite what we want or expect, particularly if technology is involved somehow. It’s good to see computers haven’t got any more reliable years from now! It’s very low-key, meditative stuff from Tom this work, especially given some of the satirical bite he’s more famous for in his strips, of which there is a fantastical selection of online at the Guardian HERE, and in the excellent print collection YOU’RE ALL JUST JEALOUS OF MY JETPACK.

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Like Gauld’s GOLIATH, there is a tremendously impressive sense of space here, enhanced and extended by the overwhelming silence. There are very few landmarks. It’s mostly just blue, blue vacuum although, hilariously, there is the odd, single palm tree isolated in its own bell jar.

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JR

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

Snow White: A Graphic Novel h/c (£17-99, Candlewick Press) by Matt Phelan.

“I, uh… I’m not feeling up to snuff. You go on without me.”
“I shall.”

Ominous, much? If looks could kill…

Camille Rose Garcia’s rendition of SNOW WHITE has proved a monumentally popular book here, its traditional prose illustrated with real relish.

The marked departure of Matt Phelan’s new graphic novel is immediately apparent for it opens with Snow White lying “in state” in the winter wonderland window display of a major New York department store circa 1930.

What Phelan has so cleverly done is use the past as a fantasy world of its own. And it is, when you think about it, for much is not as we now know it.

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Here the seven dwarves are still small but are street urchins, almost Dickensian in aspect, self-reliant, thick as thieves and initially not half so welcoming as their progenitors of this seemingly affluent heiress. But although this iteration’s wicked step-mother is, as ever, raging with jealousy at her step-daughter’s beauty, it’s her inheritance she truly covets after doing away with her Dad.

This is the Great Depression, and it is all about money.

The widowed father is the King of Wall Street, one of the few whose wealth has successfully survived the market crash through studious attention and wise investment. Once an anonymous chorus girl, she is now Queen of Broadway, glamour personified, and her stage entrance atop a multi-tiered crystalline marvel is spellbinding.

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The old man is awe-struck, dumb-struck, smitten, bewitched. Her own painted face is pure, chic and serene… until she opens her eyes. Her mouth twitches at the corner and her eyebrows arch in the very picture of predatory guile.

It is the book’s greatest flourish and it is faultless.

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There are pages, I own, where more contrast in light would have made elements clearer, but the predominantly washed-out aspects enhance the ethereal atmosphere and so fantastical element. The greys and sepias reflect the photography of the time and in that way our sense of it, colour being reserved for… well, you know the key components of the story yourself. Some things never change.

As to the step-mother’s chosen assassin, this is a world without huntsmen so where could he possibly come from? That’s cleverly calculated in the context of this setting, as is his motivation for betraying his Mistress – in a single foreshadowing panel. That’s a moment which would stick long in the craw of any woman or man.

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The story is told in the form of short scenes, sparse in dialogue, picture-driven instead. That lends emphasis both to what little is said and to the only extended conversations – between those who are honest with each other.

Throughout, of course and almost inevitably, the step-mother remains the star. Her eventual fate is once again entirely apposite both in this relatively modern setting and her own source of vanity, but before we get there her eyes, full of seething hatred, will burn deep into your own just as they did in Walt Disney’s animation classic.

”Snow will fall,” pronounced the youtube trailer. And she does.

SLH

Buy Snow White: A Graphic Novel h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Cat Rackham h/c (£17-99, Koyama Press) by Steve Wolfhard.

Poor Cat Rackham!

Sometimes he’s Too Sad To Sleep. He lies on his side, tears streaming down his face, matting his fur, until a gentle duck soothes him with a “Shhhh…”

“Shhhh…” she or he sings, patting Cat Rackham’s poor, tired head. Then the duck sits on his face – nests on his noggin – and Cat Rackham falls sound asleep.

Eight panels, simple but affecting, and thoroughly cute.

In a three-page episode Cat Rackham Tosses And Turns late into the night by a camp fire and pulls off his jumper. A spider descends, disappearing into its folds. Gradually the fire burns low, then out and it grows very cold. Cat Rackham reaches for his jumper. The final, single, daylight morning panel is hilarious. Superb timing.

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The strip I have for you here is Cat Rackham Gets Depression. Initially enchanted by the fluttering-by of a bright, white butterfly, once all alone he is seized by inertia. His body lists, leans over until he lies on the ground, open-eyed, motionless, quite, quite paralysed by depression. Night falls. Morning breaks. Spring arrives, autumn falls, then winter comes too, as time accelerates in ROBOT DREAMS fashion and Cat Rackham is buried under a thick blanket of snow.

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When the snow melts Cat Rackham awakens to the tiny sound of two love bugs making out.

This pleases Cat Rackham enormously.

Now, everything so far is ever so gentle and cute. He even has his ear licked by a deer.

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But if you read the interview with Steve Wolfhard conducted by his wife, it will colour each one of those strips ever so slightly and perhaps make them even more affecting for you.

And the colours are delightful. Fresh as a daisy.

None of this, however, prepared me for the central, extended story when Cat Rackham is sent in search of coffee by exuberant Jeremy The Squirrel and finds himself adopted by a little old lady. Except she’s not very little. Her dressing gown bulges as if under pressure from tumours. They are not tumours. And suddenly we’re in transgressive, Fantagraphics territory.

Enjoy!

SLH

Buy Cat Rackham h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Velvet vol 3: The Man Who Stole The World s/c (£13-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Steve Epting with Elizabeth Breitweiser.

“I didn’t believe that Frank Lancaster had killed X-14…
“So I looked into it… and my entire life fell apart.”

In which the period-perfect espionage thriller concludes its first story arc, and it will finally be revealed exactly who has been using whom, and why. Just not here.

What I’ve never done is tell you how I sell this series on our shop floor, with aid of Epting and Breitweiser’s exceptionally sleek and thrilling interior art. So let’s do that thing.

1973. There is an international espionage agency called ARC-7 so secret that most other ops don’t even know it exists. Its agents are so effective that the chances of any of them being taken out in the field are minimal. As VELVET opens, one of their very finest is taken out in the field.

Immediately an inside job is suspected and all fingers point to Frank Lancaster. But Velveteen Templeton, the Director’s secretary, has doubts. A former field agent herself, she suspects it’s a set-up.

It is. But what Templeton doesn’t realise is that she’s being set up to believe it’s a set-up and so get set up herself.

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On the run from her own agency, Templeton has been desperately retracing assassinated Agent X-14’s steps and contacts across Eastern Europe while cross-referencing what she discovers with her own substantial and at times painful history in order to work out why X-14 was murdered from within. What had he stumbled upon in America that made him such a threat? Was it the same thing that her husband discovered? Because he too was set up and Templeton took the fall so far for it that she almost didn’t recover.

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With only one lead left alive to follow, Templeton believes she has no choice but to take the fight back to America, even though she knows that the second she sets foot on its shores alarm bells will start ringing. She’s counting on it.

“Every move I make from now on has to be two moves.”

Sometimes you won’t see the second move coming; often you won’t have seen the first move being made.

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I can’t take you any further with the story, so let’s talk about the art.

Firstly, I love that Velvet shows her age. It’s not just the thick, white streak of maturity in her sable hair, it’s in the eyes that have seen too much and the suggestion of extra flesh around her mouth which put me in mind of Terry Moore’s RACHEL RISING. There was an American TV company desperate to sign the series… if Brubaker would just agree to Templeton being in her mid-20s, thereby missing both the point and the plot.

In addition, her body language changes when undercover as a temp in Paris, her hair dyed grey to fade into the background. She holds a file modestly and meekly to her chest. When she brings a tray of tea to the investment manager’s desk, she’s slightly hunched in high heels.

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As to “period perfect”, it’s not just in the fashion of fabrics, though the black bathing suit in VELVET VOL 1 during the flashback to 1950s Bermuda was a masterpiece, its white stripe anticipating the streak which will appear in Velveteen’s hair. It’s also evident in the hotel room furnishings, the bar tops, aircraft interiors, office spaces, shop windows, fly-posters and the cars with their polished chrome.

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From the writer of THE FADE OUT, CRIMINAL, KILL OR BE KILLED and FATALE, this is just as smart and satisfying.

SLH

Buy Velvet vol 3: The Man Who Stole The World s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Arab Of The Future vol 2: 1984-1985 (£18-99, Two Roads) by Riad Sattouf.

I promise you, this is an English translation; I’ve only been able to find French language interior art!

“Christians? Pfft. What’s the point in being Christian in a Muslim country? It’s just a provocation… When you live in a Muslim country, you should do as the Muslims do… It’s not complicated. Just convert to Islam and you’ll be fine…”
“Hmmm…”

One of my favourite pronouncements from Riad’s Dad in THE ARAB OF THE FUTURE VOL 1, it’s typical of the man’s engagingly ridiculous reductions of complex situations to simplistic solutions in search of an easy life.

Most of the comparisons I see bandied about by the likes of the Observer / Guardian are to Spiegelman, Satrapi and Sacco, but Sattouf’s recollections are far closer in tone to Guy Delisle’s equally entertaining PYONGYANG, SHENZHEN, BURMA CHRONICLES and JERUSALEM, in that they’re more observations of individual human quirks and habits or societal customs and behaviour, all seen through the eye of a wide-eyed six-year-old growing up in Syria, but with the added reflection of a more experienced adult.

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It’s by no means big bundle of laughs from start to finish. Even within his father’s extended Syrian family there will be some pretty grim encounters and if you thought your first few days at school were a nightmare, Riad’s trepidation proves completely justified. But it is overwhelmingly an entertainment, as signalled by the art with its curvaceous cartoon forms, gesticulations and expressions.

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It’s those very skills which flip that first term at school from horrific to mesmerising for the book’s audience, lucky as we are to be viewing from afar, not just in the playground but in class itself, for the teacher is visually riveting. A woman of imposing stature, her face is as soft as her voice, full of love and devotion towards her country and country… until it isn’t, and the entire panel flames red. In addition her garb is a curious combination of modesty and flesh, wearing a hijab above and a very tight, very short shirt exposing her thick, muscular legs and huge, bulging calves atop pencil-thin high heels. She commands the attention of the reader as much as she undoubtedly would have the pupils. Woe betide any for whom that wasn’t the case.

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Riad is shown paralysed, utterly subjugated by his situation.

There’s so much more to learn alongside the lad, for he’s new to both the world and to the country, his outsider status compounded by his startling blonde hair inherited from his French mother which is taken by one of his cousins in particular as a sure sign that Riad is Jewish. This is far from good news if you’re growing up in Syria.

As the memoir progresses we’re introduced to more affluent areas of the country, but although his father is comparatively well off, having secured a position at Damascus University, he chooses – to his credit – to set up home in the desperately impoverished village of Ter Maaleh close to the barely more affluent town of Homs in order to be close to his family. Not all of whom feel or act close to him. Both his mother and elderly half-sister whom we meet later adore him, but the men are another matter completely.

Construction is not the country’s forte: you’ll find cracks everywhere, even throughout the more lavish villas. Against all evidence, Riad’s forever daydreaming Dad enjoys the delusion that his villa will be built with superior craftsmanship – if it’s ever built at all. That would require both action and expenditure, neither of which is in his nature.

During the family’s first ever holiday by the sea, he doesn’t want to stray further than their balcony.

“Given how much it costs we should make the most of our room.”

Then there are the rare words of wisdom he issues after a gang of holiday makers rise up from a swimming pool to ransack a stall selling overpriced inflatable rings in its vendor’s absence. Riad wants one too and suggests that they must be free if everyone’s making off with them.

“We’re not thieves. And just because everyone does something, that doesn’t mean you should do it, too.”

Tellingly, however, this constitutes a dissuasive instruction, not one designed to galvanise his son into action. Confronted with stark inequalities or even serious injustices, his mantra remains “That’s life…”

It’s only after a year or so of moving to Syria and their starkly under-furnished home (with its attendant cracks, of course), that he reluctantly shells out for a washing machine and a stove, after Riad’s surprisingly stoical Mum has had to make do with cooking on a camping stove set on the floor. Paying the price for French food is an annual luxury, and when buying his son’s school uniform he opts not for one made of actual cloth with a belt, but the cheap, plastic version whose fake belt is painted on!

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This he justifies with the seemingly sage observation that uniforms are a great equaliser, and in others I’d suspect the sacrifice of pride in order to appear as poor as other parents would be honest and noble. But he buys Riad a book bag with pockets which Sattouf renders in lurid green, setting him exceptionally apart from his classmates who carry their pencils around in thin carrier bags.

It’s a fascinating upbringing, full of so much which may seem alien, odd and sometimes outright awful, but we’ve all of us been children and, even if the contexts are different, you’ll find far more in common with this than you might at first imagine. Perhaps I should presume. I certainly found far more in common with these experiences that I first imagine: dreading my first days at three different schools; being proved right twice; humiliating inability to summon any coordination or sports skills (I was briefly nicknamed Sebastian un-Coe); terrifying encounters with kids outside my social experience; bewildering, wrong-headed, paternal epithets; the thrill of early holidays; leaning to draw, and a love of new languages, partly through TINTIN.

SLH

Buy The Arab Of The Future vol 2: 1984-1985 and read the Page 45 review here

Jerusalem h/c and Jerusalem s/c (3 volume Slipcase Edition) (£25-00 each, Knockabout) by Alan Moore.

Alan Moore’s VOICE OF THE FIRE was one of the most imaginative prose books I’ve ever read, with a real love of language, exposing the temporal strata of a single geographical location (Northampton) and mapping their interconnections through a series of first-person narratives with vastly different perspectives.

This too is prose, set in Northampton and deals with time.

Quite how I won’t know for some weeks or months for this is nearly 1,200 pages long and I am an excruciatingly slow reader.

We will have a review for you eventually but, in lieu of that for the moment, we’ve three interviews for you, the first of which is by David Marchese discussing JERUSALEM, the working class, Donald Trump, Brexit and Athenian Democracy.

It begins, hilariously, with this.

“You’ve said in the past that an artist’s job is to give audiences what they need, not what they want. What audience need is being filled by a thousand-plus-page modernist novel built on the idea that all time is happening at the same time?”
“That’s easy. One of the needs it’s filling is for an alternative way of looking at life and death. I have a lot of very dear rationalist, atheist friends who accept that having a higher belief system is good for you — you probably live longer if you have one. You’re probably happier. So I wanted to come up with a secular theory of the afterlife. As far as I can see, and as far as Einstein could see, what I describe in the book looks like a fairly safe option in terms of its actual possibility.”

“Which is that everything that can happen has already happened?”
“Yes.”

“So we’ve already had this conversation?”
“It’s probably more accurate to say we’re always having this conversation. We relive it over and over again, and it’s always the same.”

“Then let me retroactively and pre-emptively apologize for that.”
“It does feel like the conversation’s gone on a bit, doesn’t it?”

Both editions appearing to be selling in equal quantities at the moment here, but I personally am plumping for the slipcased softcover set on account of the portability of its component parts and their swoonaway covers as seen above.

The rest of that interview, you’ll find here: http://www.vulture.com/2016/09/alan-moore-jerusalem-comics-writer.html

Then there’s this: http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/alan-moore-v-was-for-vendetta-now-e-is-for-epic-1.2799782

And this: https://londonhollywood.wordpress.com/2016/09/22/if-you-read-only-one-alan-moore-jerusalem-interview-make-it-this-one/

Cheerio!

SLH

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

Buy Jerusalem s/c (3 volume Slipcase Edition) and read the Page 45 review here

Power Man And Iron Fist vol 1: The Boys Are Back In Town s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by David Walker & Sanford Greene, Flaviano…

“Are you and him back together again?”
“No, baby. We are not back together. Just gotta take care of this thing.”
“A thing? Okay. Just remember… you’re the one who keeps saying you don’t want to get the band back together.”
“And I don’t. This is just me and him doing what we gotta do.”
“Then go do it. I just don’t want to see any tiara pics. I love you.”
“Love you, too, baby.”

Some people are just destined to end up together, for better or for worse. No matter how times they break up, they are inexorably end up drawn back into each other’s orbit. No, not Luke Cage and Jessica Jones, even though they’ve had their fair share of ups and downs amidst the hustle and bustle of capes, tights and nappies, but Power Man and Iron Fist! Yes, Luke and Danny are back doing their ‘thing’ once more, and that thing is busting heads and wisecracks at the same time. Oh, and trying to retrieve their former Heroes For Hire secretary’s family heirloom. Which just so happens to have ended up in the possession of irascible, rock-hard supervillain Tombstone…

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Even though Luke keeps trying to reassure himself this is a one-time ‘thing’, both he and Danny, and indeed a mildly exasperated yet most definitely amused Jessica, know full well the dysfunctional duo ride again once more. At least until poor sales ensure the inevitable cancellation…

Which would be a shame because this is a very funny comic. As funny, dare I say it, as HAWKEYE. It’s the relentless dialogue between the boys, Jessica, and the various bad guys getting a four-handed beatdown that makes it.

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Pretty sure I haven’t read anything else this particular writer has done, but so far, the witty repartee wouldn’t look out of place in a Bendis-penned comic. In particular, there is an extremely funny running joke regarding Luke not swearing in front of his and Jessica’s baby where he has to substitute various words instead of cursing. Only to make it stick, he’s doing it all the time, much to Danny’s immense glee…

“Wow, Jessica keeps you on a short leash.”
“We’re not talking ‘bout my relationship with my wife. We’re talking ‘bout the fiddle-faddle favour you committed us to doing.”
“Bet you can’t say fiddle-faddle favour five times fast.”
“Could you stop annoying the fiddle-faddle out of me? Could you do that? Can’t believe we’re doing this.”
“You already said that. Jennie is family.”
“And you said that. Just let me do all the talking. Okay? This guy is a bad knick-knack-paddy-whack.”

Ha, indeed he is. But even the villains like Tombstone get some great lines…

“S’up, Luke. Been a minute. Didn’t know you was back together with Iron Man.”
“Fist. Iron Fist. And we ain’t back together, per se. Just two friends kickin’ it. Good to see you , Lonnie. I like that suit.”

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Jump on board the fun train and enjoy the runaway ride before it hits the leaf-encrusted buffers. Very nice art from Sanford Greene too, who I suspect has to be a massive Paul Pope fan.

JR

Buy Power Man And Iron Fist vol 1: The Boys Are Back In Town 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.

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A Distant Neighbourhood h/c (£19-99, Fanfare / Ponent Mon) by Jiro Taniguchi

From Under Mountains s/c (£13-99, Image) by Claire Gibson, Marian Churchland & Sloane Leong

Light (£17-99, Magnetic Press) by Rob Cham

Becoming Andy Warhol (£15-99, Abrams Comic Arts) by Nick Bertozzi & Pierce Hargan

Dali (£12-99, SelfMadeHero) by Baudoin

An Unreliable History Of Tattoos (£14-99, Nobrow) by Paul Thomas

Blame! Vol 1 (Master Edition) (£26-99, Biz) by Tsutomu Nihei

Odd And The Frost Giants h/c (£14-99, Bloomsbury) by Neil Gaiman & Chris Riddell

Picnoleptic Inertia (£12-99, Breakdown Press) by Tsemberlidis

Nicolas (£9-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Pascal Girard

Batman Beyond vol 2: City Of Yesterday s/c (£13-99, DC) by Dan Jurgens & Bernard Chang

Superman vol 1: Before Truth s/c (£14-99, DC) by Gene Luen Yang & John Romita, Klaus Janson

Wonder Woman: The True Amazon h/c (£20-99, DC) by Jill Thompson

All New, All Different Avengers vol 2: Family Business s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Adam Kubert, Alan Davis, Mahmud Asrar

Captain America: Sam Wilson vol 2: Standoff s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Nick Spencer & various

Silver Surfer  vol 4: Citizen Of Earth s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott & Mike Allred

Spider-Man: The Complete Clone Saga Show vol 1 s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by various

Dragon Ball 3-in-1 Edition vols 40-42 (£9-99, Viz) by Akira Toriyama

Happiness vol 1 (£9-99, Kodansha) by Shuzo Oshimi

Seraph Of The End, Vampire Reign vol 10 (£6-99, Viz) by Takaya Kagami & Yamato Yamamoto

2000AD Prog 2000 Chris Burnham cover (£3-99, Rebellion) by Earthlets

2000AD Prog 2000 Glenn Fabry cover (£3-99, Rebellion) by the same Perps.

News

ITEM! The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 is imminent (October 14-16) and we’ve published the Page 45 blog starring:

Adam Brockbank,I Love This Part 1
Ben Haggarty,
Bryan Lee O’Malley,
Dan Berry,
Dave McKean,
Emma Vieceli,
Felt Mistress,
Hannah Berry,
Isabel Greenberg,
Jonathan Edwards,
Katriona Chapman,
Paul Thomas,
Sean Phillips,
Tillie Walden,
Tom Gauld

and the magnificent Avery Hill Publishing…

… ALL OF WHOM ARE SIGNING WITH US FOR FREE!

ITEM! In additional news, however, the following limited merchandise exclusive to LICAF will be on sale in Page 45’s Georgian Room upstairs in the Kendal Clock Tower, with 20% of the proceeds going to OCD Action, the rest to help fund LICAF itself.

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Prints at £25 each:

30 x Charlie Adlard Beatrix Potter
30 x Luke McGarry Beatrix Potter
30 x Duncan Fegredo Beatrix Potter
20 x Dave McKean Black Dog signed
20 x Gilbert Shelton festival giclee
20 x Jordi Bernet festival giclee
20 x Ken Niimura festival giclee

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Festival lapel badges £2.50 each

Sets of 4 Beatrix Potter Re-Imagined postcards featuring Hannah Berry, Charlie Adlard, Luke McGarry and Duncan Fegredo £2 each

And, wait for it…

25 x Sean Phillips Kill or Be Killed screenprint (50×70) festival variant £50 each

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For more of those images, please see page 43 of The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 Programme.

We’ll have another surprise – a graphic novel – for you next week!

–  Stephen

Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews September 2016 week three

September 21st, 2016

The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016: link to our comic creator-crammed blog in the News section below!

Audubon – On The Wings Of The World (£15-99, Nobrow) by Fabien Grolleau & Jérémie Royer.

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Every single page inside is bursting with beauty, with the feathered miracles of nature which so obsessed Jean-Jacques Audubon that he abandoned his wife with her blessing to travel throughout the perilous wilds of early 19th-Century North America and draw them in all their vivid glory. Truly the man was driven, and that drive proves infectious here.

435 truly enormous aquatint prints of gobsmacking colour and beauty were the result, collected over an eleven-year period into the ‘Birds Of America’, a gigantic tome of 200 editions, few of which sadly remain intact. In December 2010 one complete collection sold of £7.3 million at Sotherby’s.

Our Jodie Paterson, an exceptional artist in her own right, recalled, “All the birds are life-size: eagles only just fit on the page, while hummingbirds swarm or else would seem lost.” Jodie also noted that there are some nice nods to these paintings throughout this book, not just when we see him in his studio but also, without signposting, as organic parts of the visual narrative, like the passenger pigeons.

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The original compositions are startling: so startling that Jean-Jacques Audubon (or John James Audubon, or simply Laforêt) only found favour once he’d travelled to Britain where the art establishment revelled in what to them were extraordinary exotica, the museums of America having roundly rejected the paintings as unscientific.

“What am I to make of this fluttering feather, or the blood on the beak of the Peregrine Falcon?”
“Life, Alexander, is what I aim to represent.”
“As far as I’m concerned, it’s inappropriate for sentimentality to take precedence over the object. But here it’s the other way round. It looks as if it’s going to leap from the page! It’s too ‘romantic’.”
“For goodness’ sake, Wilson! A bird is a living entity, not just lifeless matter!”

Although to be fair, Jean-Jacques, it wasn’t quite so living after you shot it clean out of the sky.

“Yes, I represent my falcon screeching, squawking, pecking at the still-warm entrails of a duck! Devouring its flesh, his beak bloodied Yes! Yes! Yes! Precisely because that is life!”

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Audubon made a lot of his drawings from life in situ, but he saw absolutely no conflict between wide-eyed adoration of his living subjects and harvesting them for further, angularly-posed inspection later on. He enjoyed hunting very much. It’s almost comical at times.

“I often say that if I shoot less than 100 birds a day, they must be rare…”

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This, it should be remembered, was before Darwin’s time, and there’s an early, eerie sequence back in his adopted home of Louisville, Kentucky, in 1812, when Audubon discovers a colony of swallows – some nine thousand, he calculates – nesting at night in an ancient hollow Sycamore he hacks into by day. He lies in wait for the flock’s return then clambers up amongst them, bagging one hundred specimens for later examination. It’s their seasonal departure en masse by the end of August that confounds him, along with their return to the exact same spot come Spring.

“Such an astonishing mystery…
“It seems that these swallows leave the woods for winter – but where do they go?
“Before winter, I’ll try to mark a few.”

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However, it’s his travels which we follow throughout most of the book. With but a guide, an apprentice and his art supplies, he navigates the Mississippi encountering all manner of dangers from the elements to the inhabitants; but he barely notices, for always it is the birds that take precedence, mesmerised as he is by each single sighting, or by the clouds of migrating passenger pigeons, so dense that they almost blot out the sky. Three days, they take to pass – such are their numbers!

The awe with which Audubon regarded the mysteries and majesty of nature would be lost or left weightless were the art in this book anything less than spectacular. On every single instance Jérémie Royer captures that majesty.

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There are the flapping, multicoloured flocks in an almost Biblical scene as the three adventurers return to the raft they’d abandoned overnight in the wake of a raging storm to seek sanctuary in a cave… where, naturally, Aubudon seized the opportunity to sketch owls.

There’s that raging storm itself, creeping ominously across the sky as we stare into the sun on the very first, blindingly beautiful page…

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… then breaking instantly on the second, the pale light on the horizon all but obliterated by unimaginably vast, rich brown clouds.

Each chapter opens with a full-page panorama: river or sea shots of jaw-dropping splendour and intensity from Missouri to New Orleans. The quality of light is exquisite. It radiates from the heavens, glows through the clouds and it shimmers on the water’s surface, while shafts of it penetrate canopies of leaves to illuminate forest floors and fauna.

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Much of this is based on Audubon’s writings, though artistic liberties are documented in the back along with a few reproductions of Audubon’s own art prints pertaining to the graphic novel itself, including the Great-Footed Hawks and the eye-popping (and quite frankly mad) composition of the Carolina Parrots, both of which showcase Audubon’s ability to animate with wings braced for fight or flight.

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SLH

Buy Audubon – On The Wings Of The World and read the Page 45 review here

Mirror vol 1: The Mountain s/c (£13-99, Image) by Emma Rios & Hwei Lim; Hwei Lim & Emma Rios.

“Nothing is entitled to anything.
“Only humans dream they are.”

This is a story which will give you much pause for thought and, perhaps, hit you hard in your heart.

But it’s also an inspiring tale, an elevating one, during which individuals learn and grow – change or are changed – and adapt. It’s a book of perspectives, as we shall shortly see, partly about man’s proprietorial nature, and humanity’s ability to empathise, think it does, or fails to. It is especially astute and eloquent about how we regard and treat animals – even our environment. Colonists are no more than visitors, after all…

A bright and beautiful comic full of fresh colours and organic designs, to read this is like being given glimpses through an ornate window.

There’s no hand-holding, no unwieldy exposition, just key conversations overheard about dominion, control, captivity, desire to be free, the need to be free and to be both recognised and understood as an individual. You may wish to rewind multiple times, as the narrative does itself, in order to discern precisely what’s at stake. I found reading chapters in reverse order the second time round to be most illuminating and ever so satisfying. Then I went forward again.

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The window aspect is emphasised by the arched panel frames on the very first page, then Emma Rios’ illuminations of Hwei Lim’s script for the first of the parallel back-up features called ‘The Hand That Holds The Leash’. It is daubed in purple-blossom washes along with a landscape overlooking the cathedral-like Esagila compound at the heart of the young Irzah Colony. From a distance it looks as though it could have been fashioned from glass.

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Come to think about it, Kazbek the scientist too is painted by Rios to resemble shards of glass, reflecting the sky’s lilac colours as he sits calm and relaxed in the open-air gazebo or porch surrounded by the greenery of a substantial garden. Set around page four of the first chapter, Kazbek is being instructed by Elena, chancellor of the Irzah colony, to get rid of “the dog” once it’s recaptured. It’s a dispassionate match of verbal sabres:

“She is much more than a dog.”
“Why do you say so?”
“She truly loves the boy.”
“Heh… nothing knows true love better than a dog…”
“If you think so highly of dogs, why would you have me get rid of her?”
“If you think so highly of dogs, why do you try so hard to make them human?”

Elena concludes with a flourish:

“Yes, I’m being selfish. I’d rather be human and selfish than the noblest of dogs. The hand that holds the leash, not the neck wearing the collar. What about you?”

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Our first encounter is a mere five years after the colony’s formation. This prologue is called ‘The Boy And His Dog’. And you would be forgiven for imagining that Sena was a dog to begin with, for young Ivan’s at cheerful play with her. But we’re already fast-forwarding through time between panels as the towering Kazbek interrupts school class, stick clasped behind his back.

“My apologies. I’m in need of Ivan’s assistance again.”

As Kazbek approaches outside, Sena’s delighted bark turns to a growl.

“Come. It is time.”
“Do we have to? She’s not fully recovered yet… “

Notice the cages and lab coats on the very first tier, above.

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The Irzah colony was built around the Esagila compound which itself is a spaceship long since vertically anchored, having flown not once since it landed. Why Elena and Kazbek came there, and it what state, I will not say, but I will tell you that Irzah’s an asteroid, although that wasn’t always the case.

They released some animals into the terraformed wild and something strange happened: they became sentient, self-aware, clairvoyant; they became Guardians – but of what? Now Kazbek seeks to replicate this evolution by creating animal-human hybrids, and he’s had some success in Sena and Phinx, while former lab rat Zun is partly the result of Ivan’s own prowess as a mage. The origins of Aldebaran, the imposing but gentle albino Minotaur, classically cloaked in red, are far more startling and something else altogether.

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I’m reluctant to give you much more than that, except that as the story opens, Lesnik the bear, thought to be one of the original Guardians, lies dying in human captivity following yet another of Sena’s attempts to stop the experimentation and liberate the hybrids. When you see the laboratories you will understand why. But, as I’ve intimated, everyone has a distance to travel over the course of this book, having come rather a long way already.

Lim’s colours for the main event are less impressionistic than Rios’ but equally lambent. Both artists employ a great many arches and curves in the exquisite architecture, and even rat-monkey Zun’s descent to Ivan’s room is choreographed like a helter-skelter ride.

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Lim’s landscapes are magical, exotic, with some far-east influences in some of boughs, branches and blossoms, while her Frozen Forest where the Guardians reside is both of this world and other.

You can tell how much time has been spent and how much fun has been had by both artists coming up with designs for this society’s fashions. Each one of their creatures is as alive with humanity and individuality, with superb, sinuous body language. The lettering is species-specific too, which is rather telling, don’t you think?

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SLH

Buy Mirror vol 1: The Mountain s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Libby’s Dad (£6-00, Retrofit / Big Planet) by Eleanor Davis…

“Do you really not know what happened?”
“Don’t tell her, she’s too young.”
“I am not.”
“Libby’s Mom told everyone that Libby’s Dad said he was gonna shoot her. With his gun.”
“WHAT? SHOOT LIBBY?”
“SHHH! No, shoot Libby’s Mom.”
“Oh my God!”

It’s pool party time for the girls at the recently divorced titular dad’s new house. He’s even bought them all KFC, so he can’t be that much of a nutter, right? Except Taylor’s Mom clearly thinks he might be, because she’s not let Taylor come, much to the other girls’ dismay and disgust. Fun and frolics are being had by all, and Libby is enjoying hosting her friends, with nary a parental Armageddon in sight.

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Later on in the day, though, when the girls are all settled down in their PJs enjoying a good old bedtime gossip, there’s an unfortunate accident involving a bottle of nail polish and a pristine carpet. Ah… Suddenly, no one is too keen to tell Libby’s Dad… But, what’s there to worry about? He couldn’t really be a headcase who might shoot someone just for ruining his brand new deep pile, could he…?

Ha ha, this took me straight back to a forgotten memory when, aged six, I accidently smashed my mother’s favourite garden ornament – some grotesque, huge, fake Greek urn – with a badly placed football rocket shot (my five-a-side cohorts will tell you I haven’t got much more accurate in the intervening four decades, either). I felt so distraught I sent all my mates home before slinking inside to confess. No idea why I was so worried, she was perfectly alright about it. My dad, meanwhile, was well chuffed as he’d always hated it! Libby’s Dad, though…

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Fantastic little bit of absurdity illustrated in a kaleidoscopic manner akin to the maestro of farce himself, Brecht THE MAKING OF Evens. Though where Brecht puts watercolours of every hue straight down without the need for pencils, Eleanor here uses nothing but. Pencils, that is. Though the only time she breaks out the regular, grey, boring type is for the speech bubbles and lettering!

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I was particularly intrigued by the fact that she seems to have done most of the shading with a rough surface underneath, which due to the mild brass rubbing-esque effect, has given a subtle sense of additional texture and thus depth. I very much applaud the fact she seems to come up with a different style for practically every story she does as very neatly evidenced in her excellent HOW TO BE HAPPY collection, which featured one of Stephen’s favourite covers of 2014!

JR

Buy Libby’s Dad and read the Page 45 review here

The Fix vol 1: Where Beagles Dare s/c (£8-99, Image) by Nick Spencer & Steve Lieber.

“If you liked classic crime comics like CRIMINAL and 100 BULLETS we apologize in advance for letting you down.”

Having read over 100,000 solicitation summaries over the past 25 years – most rammed full of po-faced hyperbole – it’s refreshing to read something that redirects a mug of tea right through your nostrils.

It also sets the tone perfectly for this is far closer to the mischief-riddled THIEF OF THIEVES, except that these contemporary criminals here have zero finesse, cannot conceive of pre-planning and couldn’t even spell ‘fiscal prudence’. Thanks to Steve Lieber there’s even some fine visual slapstick as the buffoons who pass for our heroes only just get away to steal another day.

Let me be perfectly clear: if I were a betting man I wouldn’t bet on these two.

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They do, however, have an ace up their sleeve. It’s delivered in the form of a very specific car radio halfway through the first chapter after the dysfunctional duo’s old people’s home heist, during which they are gentle, respectful and far more considerate than their absentee orderlies and supervisor. That car radio changes everything you thought you were about to read, but then that’s what this comic does: confound your expectations at every comedic corner over and over again.

Sometimes it’s no bad idea to return to the scene of a crime; sometimes you simply have no choice. In this instance Roy and Mac have no choice at all because they are the crime’s investigating officers. I’m sorry…? That’s right, they may be criminals, but they’re not career criminals. They are career cops.

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There’s some wicked humour to be gleaned here from artfully juxtaposed panels, fast-forward shenanigans and flashbacks to boot. There’s even more wicked humour every time sex-obsessed film producer Donovan shows up. Those are sequences you’re least likely to feel comfortable discussing with your parents (probably). Donovan may have a one-track mind, but displays lots of leeway when it comes to how he’s prepared to drive.

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Roy and Mac’s much bigger problem, however, is that not only are they strapped for cash, but they’re heavily in debt. The good news is that they’re in debt to Josh and Josh is a gentle, easy-going gourmet cook who loves his dogs very much. The bad news is that the dogs are rescue pit bull terriers, and I was lying about the “gentle” and “easy-going”.

Lieber’s ability to wring maximum comedy from nuanced expressions – and indeed not-so-nuanced expressions when things go spectacularly shit-creek in a split second – is exceptional. Both creators know that it’s all in the timing, and here it is fiercely fine timing. Speaking of shit-creek, half the humour lies in waiting for you know that it’s almost inevitable.

“I wish we could chalk this up to being a learning experience…
“But that would require learning something.”

What they have learned is that modern crime is virtual. The only people who carry cold, hard cash are old age pensioners, hence the heist, and it’s true. It is not unusual for someone to pay by credit card for a two-quid Lizz Lunney comic at Page 45 after they’ve asked for a Student Discount.

What you will learn is the lack of wisdom in sticking someone up with a shotgun while wearing a distinctive floral shirt… then interviewing the victim without changing first. And at this point I would like to thank all the shoplifters who’ve taken the trouble to identify themselves in advance with very specific, stand-out tattoos.

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Typically, Roy cannot resist pushing things as far as he can. Here he is with Mac by his side, covered in roses, trying to see if they’ll come out smelling of them against all odds. By his second salvo he’s actually pointing at Mac!

“Never mind that. How about how tall they were?”
“I dunno – I didn’t really get the best look at them. The one with the gun in my back was a little taller than the other guy – ”

“Like, how tall? About my partner’s height, or taller?”
“Ehh – probably about right.”
“Mm, and build? Again, compared to my partner here.”
“Yeah, ‘bout the same, I guess, I dunno?”
“Sure, sure. It can be difficult to recall these things, I understand – but what about their clothing? Their shorts maybe. Any distinctive colours, or patterns…”

I swear on the Bible, that’s only the beginning of Roy’s brazen bravado as he takes every opportunity to really relish committing almost every crime conceivable then flaunting the flimsiest of cover-ups.

Don’t worry: by the end of almost each chapter our champ chumps have their grins wiped right off their gormless faces. Sometimes it doesn’t even take that long.

SLH

Buy The Fix vol 1: Where Beagles Dare s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Wormgler (£2-00, self-published) by David Frankum.

A neat little number with a cardstock cover, slipped inside a CD sleeve and signed with good cheer by David.

I’m a sucker for packaging, but not form over content.

Fortunately the form is very much a reflection of that content, and these eight invigorating pages of intrigue will take you much further than you can imagine.

Framed in black and told in a strict 3 x 3, nine-panel grid with a regular beat, I like the subtle shading at the corners, off-setting the regimented gutters. It’s also reminiscent of old-school cine-camera film-footage, as if the whole thing is an ancient recording left for posterity which you’ve been lucky enough to stumble upon. Will its mystery – its message – be of some import? I should say so.

We begin with a man in black suit and tie bearing a briefcase, the bowler hat suggesting a man on a mission. Either that, or he works for Homepride.

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Is that the horizon we spy behind him or something else? The briefcase is set on the floor, its combination lock opened, and out fly a flock of origami early birds. They catch worms and dutifully drop them, with improbable accuracy, into the briefcase. Step one.

Delighted with his haul, our man on a mission snaps his case shut and walks towards a tall tower on the horizon. You know, if that’s the horizon. He presses its exterior elevator button and obviously he’s going up.

Wrong! Step two.

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There I will leave it. I’ve taken it as far as the interior art which I’ve photographed for you – against two different backgrounds, on a whim, in case you’d like to see if they have different emotional resonations for you – and leave you to burrow solo on a far from random but certainly surreal journey.

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I’ll only add that – because it gives nothing away – I loved the fresh growth, as if like leaves on a rejuvenated, blooming spring tree.

There have been clues.

SLH

Buy The Wormgler and read the Page 45 review here

Our Mother (£7-00, Retrofit / Big Planet) by Luke Howard…

“I am the wood car that mom made…
“I will come back at the end of the story.
“I am made with great love and care…
“My body is of sturdy cherry that has been sanded.
“I am a gift handed down from a parent to child.
“I will bring great comfort to those in need.
“But I will also bring back bad memories.
“I’m a very complicated car.”

Quite so. It’s also a little fibber because I’m pretty sure, unless I’ve missed something, that it does not return. However, I was so delightfully bamboozled as to what the hell was going on by the time I’d finished, I’d forgotten all about the car until I returned back to the beginning for a second approach. Having just re-read this pink, white and brown trick or treat, I’m still no wiser as to whether this is one contiguous story or in fact several very, very different vignettes of completely different genres that continually reprise throughout. I think it’s the former, but it’s still got me puzzling over it!

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After our one-page automobile themed introduction, the strips come thick and fast in two- and four-page spurts. Between mental breakdowns, imposter moms, malfunctioning robotic sentries from the future, dungeoneering kids fighting mud monsters, mad scientists trying to communicate with intelligent simians, one-way time-travelling portals, a random guilt-tripping photo-story and errr… a farting, talking hotdog bringing this exercise in insanity to a conclusion, you’ll be just as entertained and confused in equal measure as me, I suspect.

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It’s either one of the most esoteric themed concept anthologies you’re ever likely to come across, on the topic of mater familias, or something even cleverer than that. I still think there is a tenuously, tautologically twisted thread running riot right through this. I really am going to have to go back for a third read to try and work it out. Brilliant stuff! Fans of Michael BIG KIDS DeForge, Box AN ENTITY OBSERVES ALL THINGS Brown and Malachi FROM NOW ON Ward this one is for you, trust me.

JR

Buy Our Mother and read the Page 45 review here

Mighty Jack (£10-99, FirstSecond) by Ben Hatke…

“Maddy? Wh… where… Maddy! There you are! What were you doing? What if…?”
“She’s fine, Jack. Trust me.”
“Who… how did you know my name?”
“Easy. Your sister told me.”
“Nice try. Maddie doesn’t talk.”
“As you say.”

Jack’s not a fan of the summer holidays. You’d think any kid would be, but for Jack the prospect of looking after his autistic younger sister Maddy every day, whilst his single mother works all hours just to pay the bills, is not his idea of fun. But during a trip to the local flea market, Maddy mysteriously breaks her silence to persuade Jack to swap his mother’s car for a packet of seeds.

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As you can imagine, his mother is not best impressed, but when Jack and Maddy plant the seeds in the back yard, resulting in a most unusual and not entirely hazard-free garden overnight, well, the summer suddenly seems to come alive with the prospect of adventure. Plus giant, pink pumpkins with huge teeth, mud-flinging plant hands, onion babies running amok, chillies that make you leap a hundred feet in the air, and last but certainly not least, a dragon…

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Extremely entertaining take on the classic Jack and the Beanstalk yarn from the creator of the excellent series of ZITA THE SPACEGIRL books. Despite the lack of a volume number, MIGHTY JACK is most definitely going to be a series of books too, rather than a one-off. In fact I don’t want to use the words cliff hanger, but oh dear, I just did, didn’t I? Probably should be stalk hanger but you get my drift…

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Fans of Ben’s previous works will definitely enjoy this, and with two strong female characters in the form of sister Maddy and neighbour Lilly, it’s clearly aimed at both boys and girls. There’s a surprising amount of emotional darkness, peril and mildly sinister activity going on too. Not perhaps Doug GHOSTOPOLIS, BAD ISLAND, CARDBOARD TenNapel levels, but not far off. Perfect for living up an otherwise dull summer holiday, in other words!

JR

Buy Mighty Jack and read the Page 45 review here

Ghosts (£9-99, Scholastic) by Raina Telgemeier…

“Carlos, are we gonna meet any ghosts today?”
“Oh! Well… they usually can’t be seen this early in the year, but as we get closer to autumn, you’ll notice them more.”
“Told you he was lying…”
“I’m not lying. Ghosts really do hang out there.”
“No, that’s…”
“OKAY. PROVE IT!”
“MAYAAAA!”
“I have to talk to a ghost, Catrina!”
“What do you want to ask it about?”
“I want to know what happens when you die.”
“Uh-huh, and I want to fly. But it’s not like that’s ever going to happen.”
“Dying isn’t pretend, Cat. It’s real.”

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So Raina Telgemeier returns with her fourth original graphic novel following on from SMILE, SISTERS and DRAMA. She clearly likes her one-word titles, and obviously prefers to make it abundantly clear what you’re going to get! And you will get ghosts here, lots and lots of them. In that respect, though, it’s a little bit of a departure from Raina, or perhaps more precisely a broadening of the fictional brushstrokes, from entirely contemporary matters which she does so well, to include some more supernatural, fantastical elements. With that said, the true heart of the story still revolves about the relationships between the three main young characters: Carlos, the local boy familiar with the ectoplasmic entertainers of the area, and sisters Catrina and Maya, who’ve recently moved to wet and windy Bahia de la Luna due to Maya’s cystic fibrosis.

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Carlos likes Catrina, who definitely fancies Carlos but is too shy to show it and thus maintains an aloof and arrogant facade. Catrina and Maya do get on in typically rollercoaster sibling fashion, but not surprisingly Catrina, despite having much compassion for her sister’s condition, takes the restrictions it places on her own life with a typical touch of excess teenage angst at times. Maya, meanwhile, thinks Carlos is wonderful and wants him to introduce her to the ghosts, which he does with some unexpected consequences… Despite the unsettling and upsetting emotional element to the story with Maya’s life-shortening illness, it still has plenty of the mischief that Vera Brosgol produced by combining schoolgirls and spooky apparitions so very well in ANYA’S GHOST.

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It’s definitely a step on in the sophistication of Raina’s story-telling, which has been developing nicely since SMILE, and indeed, whilst her art style hasn’t changed dramatically, it is becoming ever more polished. For what on the surface appears to be a relatively simplistic, colourful, cartoony style, akin to the likes of the animation on the likes of the STEVEN UNIVERSE show, there’s frequently a lot of detailed work in there.

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There are a couple of other interesting factoids probably worth mentioning about Raina, who is considerably more well known in her native continent than over here, and her output. In 2015, her previous books accounted for a staggering 11 million dollars worth of sales… beaten only by a certain Robert Kirkman with his zombie army of WALKING DEAD trades. SMILE, SISTERS and DRAMA all being New York Times #1 bestsellers. Which probably all explains why the first print run for GHOSTS was a staggering 500,000 copies, a record for an original graphic novel. Irrespective of whether her material is to your particular taste or not, I think it’s absolutely brilliant that all-ages material is selling so well.

JR

Buy Ghosts and read the Page 45 review here

Princess Princess Ever After h/c (£11-99, Oni) by Katie O’Neill…

“You heard what she said… and she means it. I thought the tower was the only place for me. But then you came. Somehow, seeing how excited you were made me want to escape. But now…”
“I’ll protect you, Sadie! I have a sword, a unicorn, and kick-butt hair!”
“It’s true, your hair is kick-butt. And I trust you.”

Who better to rescue a princess in distress than a princess not in a dress? Katie O’Neill’s very sweet take on how a princess can be just as capable and daring-do when it comes to staging a rescue and helping another princess overthrow her villainous sibling, finding true love with each other in the process, certainly has its heart in the right place, but I couldn’t get completely past the thin storyline and stilted dialogue. Nice, clean, colourful art though, again a very cartoony style that’s obviously influenced by many a current TV show.

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If the aim of this is purely in helping educate teeny-tinies about sexuality, then I think it hits the mark perfectly, job done. As the delightful John Allison has insightfully written on the back cover (not on each one obviously, that would take forever) “… a big-hearted fable where the boxes we’re expected to fit into are simply dragons to be slain.”

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Beyond that, whilst it is lovely, and fun, it’s basically a very simple story and that dialogue is so badly in need of loosening up. It’s all a bit Emma Watson’s enunciation in the first Harry Potter film…

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JR

Buy Princess Princess Ever After h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

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

Jerusalem h/c (£25-00, Knockabout) by Alan Moore

Jerusalem s/c (3 volume Slipcase Edition) (£25-00, Knockabout) by Alan Moore

Mooncop h/c (£12-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Tom Gauld

Snow White: A Graphic Novel h/c (£17-99, Candlewick Press) by Matt Phelan

Velvet vol 3: The Man Who Stole The World s/c (£13-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Steve Epting

The Arab Of The Future vol 2: 1984-1985 (£18-99, Two Roads) by Riad Sattouf

Carthago h/c (£23-99, Humanoids) by Christopher Bec & Eric Henninot, Milan Jovanovic

The Cowboy Wally Show (£9-99, Quality Jollity) by Kyle Baker

I Die At Midnight (£13-99, Quality Jollity) by Kyle Baker

Jim Henson’s Labyrinth Tales h/c (£14-99, Archaia) by Cory Godbey

Lumberjanes vol 4: Out Of Time s/c (£13-99, Boom! Box) by Noelle Stevenson & Shannon Watters

Grizzly Shark vol 1 s/c (£11-99, Image) by Ryan Ottley

Adventures Of Supergirl s/c (£14-99, DC) by Sterling Gates & Bengal, various

Constantine The Hellblazer vol 2: The Art Of The Deal s/c (£14-99, DC) by Ming Doyle, James Tynion IV & Riley Rossmo, various

Justice League vol 7: Darkseid War Part 1 s/c (£14-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Jason Fabok, various

Justice League vol 8: Darkseid War Part 2 h/c (£22-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Francis Manapul

Astonishing Ant-Man vol 2: Small-Time Criminal s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Nick Spencer & Ramon Rosanas, Annapaola Martello, Brent Schoonover

Doctor Strange Omnibus vol 1 h/c (£67-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & Steve Dikto

Power Man And Iron Fist vol 1: The Boys Are Back In Town s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by David Walker & Sanford Greene, Flaviano

Rocket Raccoon & Groot vol 0: Bite And Bark s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by Skottie Young, others

One-Punch Man vol 8 (£6-99, Viz) by One & Yusuke Murata

News!

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ITEM! The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 is almost upon us (October 14-16) and we’ve published the Page 45 blog starring:

Adam Brockbank,seconds
Ben Haggarty,
Bryan Lee O’Malley,
Dan Berry,
Dave McKean,
Emma Vieceli,
Felt Mistress,
Hannah Berry,
Isabel Greenberg,
Jonathan Edwards,
Katriona Chapman,
Paul Thomas,
Sean Phillips,
Tillie Walden,
Tom Gauld

and the magnificent AveryHill Publishing…

… ALL OF WHOM ARE SIGNING WITH US FOR FREE!

You’ll find times and other details there, but so much more besides!

There’s the Sarah McIntyre surprise!

Discover how you can receive one of these beauuuuuuuuuuutiful original sketches Sarah has so generously drawn just for you in Kendal.

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Page 45’s new service to collect comics in Kendal for FREE!

Every year we hear, “I was so hoping you’d bring [insert graphic novel title]. Now you don’t have to hope; you can ensure that we do just for you. Order online on this here website and select “Collect in Kendal for FREE!” (Or whatever it says.) Still don’t understand? There’s an illustration in the blog.

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Panel featuring Broken Frontier’s Andy Oliver, AveryHill’s Ricky Miller, Katriona Chapman and silly old me…

To help new, prospective or current comics creators get noticed, reviewed, racked and even independently published.

Plus all the #LICAF links you could possibly need to enjoy this festival to the max!

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– Stephen

Page 45 Announces Free Signings at Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016

September 14th, 2016

We bring glorious graphic novels and very own special creator guests:

Adam Brockbank, Ben Haggarty, Bryan Lee O’Malley, Dan Berry, Dave McKean, Emma Vieceli, Felt Mistress, Hannah Berry, Isabel Greenberg, John Martz, Jonathan Edwards, Katriona Chapman, Paul Thomas, Sean Phillips, Tillie Walden, Tom Gauld and the magnificent AveryHill Publishing!

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Oh, How We Adore The Lakes Festival!

Kendal is kindness personified, and Page 45 is back in our very own Georgian Room upstairs in the Clock Tower on Saturday & Sunday October 15th & 16th 2016 with swoonaway comics and comic stars.

Entry is Free!
All-Access by Lift!
I’m on a Panel for creators on how to get stocked, promoted & even published!

New Service: pre-order any graphic novel for collection, postage-free!
Details below, you’ll see!

Page 45’s Creator Guests

Everything below occurs in our Georgian Room upstairs in the Kendal Clock Tower and is it FREE!

Dave McKean: signing Saturday 10-30am

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Page 45 is proud to launch the Dark Horse editions of BLACK DOG: THE DREAMS OF PAUL NASH which will be published that very week. Please click on those covers at thank link for reviews.

We’ll have copies on the day, but to guarantee your copies in case they sell out (especially the limited edition oversized hardcover!) please order at either link now then select “Collect in Kendal”. No charge for postage. All you have to do is ask for your copy on the day.

 

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You can also have any other Dave McKean graphic novels waiting on the day by popping him into our search engine, ordering, then selecting “Collect in Kendal”. Postage-free but ASAP, please! I’m a particular fan of PICTURES THAT TICK VOL 2.

Isabel Greenberg: signing Saturday 5pm to 6pm

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THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF EARLY EARTH was my fav graphic novel of that year!
THE ONE HUNDRED NIGHTS OF HERO (already reviewed!) may well be my next!

We will also have:

DISCOVER THE ANCIENT EGYPTIANS
DISCOVER THE ROMAN EMPIRE

But only a few so pre-order, please, then select “Collect in Kendal”.

Tom Gauld: signing Sunday 10am to 12am

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We’ll be giving FREE preview copies of MOONCOP away all weekend long! Suggest you pick up on Saturday, absorb overnight, then high-tail back to us on Sunday for the signing!

We’ll have the MOONCOP graphic novel itself available all weekend too, but to guarantee your copy in case they sell out, please pre-order then select “Collect in Kendal”.

We will also have limited quantities of:

GOLIATH
YOU’RE ALL JUST JEALOUS OF MY JETPACK

But I suspect by now that you know what to do if you want your copies guaranteed on the day.

Sean Phillips: signing Sunday 2pm to 3pm

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That would be one of the Lakes Festival founding Patrons. Ever so slightly stoked.

We will have on the day:

CRIMINAL
THE FADE OUT
FATALE

More, including DESTINATION: KENDAL by Jonathan Edwards & Feltmistress – also in our room so get it signed by them too! – and photographed by Sean, with a cameo appearance himself! But to guarantee your copy of anything Sean-centric, please pop him in our search engine, pre-order and… yeah, you’ve got it.

Bryan Lee O’Malley: signing Sunday 3pm to 5pm

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LICAF is Bryan’s only UK appearance this year! See Festival Guide below for his multiple contributions, then pop back here for our farewell signing! We will have many things including:

SECONDS
SCOTT PILGRIM colour editions
LOST AT SEA
SECONDS HELPING co-starring Mr O’Malley himself.
SNOTGIRL depending on whether we have any stock left back at Page 45 HQ. Sales have been phenomenal, especially since it was our last Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month!

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For the last Page 45 / Bryan Lee O’Malley Print (Worldwide Exclusive!), you MUST pre-order for collection in Kendal, please.

Fun fact: Page 45 is the only comic shop which Bryan has kindly signed with on every UK visit.

Page 45’s Creator Residents

Selling, signing and sketching in our Georgian Room upstairs in the Kendal Clock Tower for FREE! Names linked to their websites!

Tillie Walden and Katriona Chapman with Avery Hill Publishing almost ALL weekend long!

Avery Hill

 

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They will be bringing:

KATZINES by Katriona
A CITY INSIDE by Tillie
I LOVE THIS PART by Tillie
THE END OF SUMMER (new deluxe edition launch!)

And dozens of the exceptional comics and graphic novels for which Avery Hill is renowned.

Dan Berry signing Sunday am

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Dan will be orchestrating a brand-new 24-Hour Comics Relay Race which we will be selling on Sunday, hot-off-the-press, including brand-new stories by Craig Thompson, Charlie Adlard, Emma Vieceli, Joe Decie, Mike Medaglia Bryan Talbot and more! He will also have some of these for sale – and much more besides – depending on what’s still in print:

24 BY 7
CARRY ME
SENT / NOT SENT
THROW YOU KEYS AWAY
THE END

Hannah Berry signing Sunday pm

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We will be bringing:

ADAMTINE
BRITTEN AND BRULIGHTLY

Who knows what besides Hannah will bring? Mischief and quick-fire wit, guaranteed! Chuffed to be reunited a year after our 21st Birthday party.

Emma Vieceli signing Saturday pm

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Another LICAF Patron! We will be bringing:

ALEX RIDER: SCORPIA
BREAKS PROLOGUE
DOCTOR WHO: THE EIGHTH DOCTOR
VAMPIRE ACADEMY VOL 1
VAMPIRE ACADEMY VOL 2
VAMPIRE ACADEMY VOL 3

And more, including – we hope – a sly surprise for Emma.

Jonathan Edwards & Felt Mistress As their events allow

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They will be bringing: all kinds of crazy.

Plus McFelty’s new book on making your own creatures and Jonathan’s swoonaway landscape prints.

We will be bringing:

DESTINATION: KENDAL, remember, which you can get signed by Sean Phillips as well from 2pm to 3pm on Sunday!

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Last Minute Additions:

John Martz who will be bringing BURT’S WAY HOME and signing Saturday all morning!

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Paul Thomas of AN UNRELIABLE HISTORY OF TATTOOS signing Saturday 1.15pm

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Ben Haggarty and Adam Brockbank of MEZOLITH VOL 1 and MEZOLITH VOL 2 (we will have stock) signing Saturday 3pm

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“But Where, Oh Where, Is La McIntyre?”

 Do not doubt us, my darlings!

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 This is the first year that the legendary Sarah McIntrye has been unable to appear with Page 45 in our Georgian Room. Last year Sarah was even joined by co-creator Philip Reeve to sign their PUGS OF THE FROZEN NORTH etc!

Sarah and I could not bear to disappoint the loyal following of families she’s built up at the Festival so Page 45 will be bringing the brand-new JINKS & O’HARE FUNFAIR REPAIR… and Sarah in spirit! How…?

Sarah has very generously drawn four original sketches which we will give out FREE OF CHARGE to the first families to buy a copy or twelve of JINKS & O’HARE FUNFAIR REPAIR during the weekend and who then declare:

“I read your blog, and I’ve got a sprog!”

Terms & Conditions: Adults must be accompanied by a child (which is a nice twist, don’t you think? This is such a family-friendly festival!). Also, the rhyme above is mandatory.

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Yes, this is one of those actual sketches! That’s how much La McIntyre loves you!

Page 45 Panel To Help & Encourage Emerging Creators!

Sunday October 16th, 1pm to 2pm in the Clock Tower Council Chamber

You Ask, We Tell! Helping Creators Pitch To Publishers, The Press and to Comic Shops.

This bit will cost you £8 plus a £1-50 booking fee, I’m afraid (see link), but consider it an excellent investment in your creative and commercial future! Here’s why:

Independent publishing and self-publishing isn’t just a means to critical acclaim but to concrete, commercial success.

 

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Collage created by Down The Tubes’ most excellent John Freeman

 

Page 45’s biggest-selling graphic novel of 2015 was PORCELAIN: BONE CHINA, independently published by Improper Books and beating everything from DC, owned by multi-millionaire mega-corps Time Warner.

Page 45’s biggest-selling comic was EXPECTING TO FLY, self-published by John Allison and beating everything from Marvel, owned by multi-billionaire Disney.

With independent publishers you can retain creative control, ownership and be nurtured like nowhere else, fostering long-lasting, personal relationships with retailers and review sites like Broken Frontier which will prove invaluable throughout your career. We’ll show you how.

Porecelain Expecting To Fly

On that experienced, hand-picked panel:

Ricky Miller (Director, Avery Hill Publishing)
Katriona Chapman (self-publisher of KATZINE, freelance for larger publishers and part of Avery Hill)
Andy Oliver (Editor-in-Chief of pioneering review website Broken Frontier, and brand-new self-publisher)
Stephen L. Holland (Festival patron, award-winning retailer at Page 45 and prize buffoon.)

Every week I’m asked at the counter, “What’s the best way to get my comic published?”, “How do I get myself covered by Broken Frontier?” and “How do I get my self-published comic onto your shelves?”

We’re about to answer your questions.

Page 45 Brings Glorious Graphic Novels to Kendal

Graphic Novels 1

N.B. A previous year’s spread. What will we be bringing this year?

Newcomers to comics and seasoned veterans:

Ask for recommendations tailored to your specific tastes!
We’ll be providing show-and-tells on any book you fancy all weekend long!
We’ll help find your friends presents too!
And yes, of course we’ll have all-ages beauties!

Graphic Novels 5

Another previous year’s spread, though many will return!

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

New Service: Pre-order For Collection in Kendal, postage-free:

As ever we’ll be selecting the very best current crop of graphic novels to bring, but now you can choose which graphic novels we bring for you! Simply select any of our 6,000 different graphic novels at the Page 45 Website and instead the postage options please select “Collect In Kendal” for free!

Pick Up In Kendal

Offer closes Tuesday 11th October. We’ll be all packed up by then and ready to roll.

More Lakes Festival Information

Twitter: @comicartfest
The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 Programme online now!
The Lakes International Comic Art Festival website
Buy Tickets for the Ticketed Events
Plan Your Visit!
Includes Accomodation & Travel Information, Family Zone etc

Follow Page 45 on Twitter @pagefortyfive as other creators pop in to draw free, impromptu sketches like last year!

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

Kendal Brewery Arts Centre 1

Page 45 credentials

Page 45 is a proud Patron of the Lakes International Comic Art Festival.
Stephen was on the judging panel of the British Comics Awards in 2012, 2013 and 2015.
Page 45 won the first ever 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 before links began.

 

Trophies

 

Lakes Festival Director Julie Tait, said:

“Stephen, your eloquence, enthusiasm and encouragement inspires me!”
Also: “I think three bottles of Sauvignon Blanc is enough for this morning, don’t you?”

Lakes Festival Patron and Page 45’s Stephen L. Holland said:

“I’m writing this blog; why are you quoting me?”

Remember, Entrance to all our events and the Kendal Clock Tower with so many other creators is FREE!

1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 habibi

And all the above is just what’s happening in our room alone! OMG there is so much more on offer: HABIBI‘s Craig Thompson for starters!

But if you want to attend creator talks or our very own panel, there is a nominal fee.

Buy Tickets for the Ticketed Events

Please book in advance and as soon as possible and – oh look! – here’s our Jonti Edwards and Poblin again:

1 LICAF tickets

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