Page 45 Review by Stephen
"The lines we draw.
"The lines we walk.
"The lines we repeat.
"The lines we hold."
There's one more line, and I love it.
From 'The Lines' by Owen D. Pomery of BETWEEN THE BILLBOARDS etc.
Top-notch A5 anthology published by Broken Frontier whose website, ringleader Andy Oliver and his equally eloquent cohorts continue to scout out and promote to the heavens the very best emerging British talent, nurturing it as they do so. Truly they are custodians.
Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the flexible theme is breaking frontiers, be they physical, metaphorical or even metaphysical boundaries. Lord knows but we love to escape, and some are in more need than others.
Others, of course, delight in imposing strictures and Jess Milton's 'The Young Marquis De Sade' finds the rebellious young man's family attempting to put the fear of God into him through the firm hand of a Christian education. He does learn his lesson but it isn't the one they intended!
Delightfully stylish lines, faces and palette which put me in mind of Jess Fink's CHESTER 5000 XYV which is not remotely inapposite, and I loved the way in which the strict and sedentary composition in class yields upon awakening to something much more turbulent and so thrilling. Not just for the reader, either...
Sticking to the subject of all things edifying, anyone who's read Gareth Brookes' THE BLACK PROJECT already knows how naughty he is, wrestling humour into the most macabre and head-shakingly embarrassing constructs then sewing it up so seamlessly you cannot help but laugh, wide-eyed and as quietly as possible lest someone - particularly a Higher Authority - overhear you.
So it is with 'Dead Things', the first dead thing being a brother and sister's grandmother. Their mother impresses upon them the benefits of a Christian burial, after which they take the lesson learned into their garden.
"When we went outside to play we found some dead animals.
"A bee, an ant, and a worm and we gave them Christian funeral.
"But after a while we ran out of dead things."
That last line and the silent panels on either side of it constitute perfect sequential-art storytelling, the penultimate paragraph is the sort of the thing that will make you sneeze whatever you're drinking through your nose, and the story ends with an ellipsis so innocent yet ominous that I couldn't help but cackle.
BUTTERTUBS' Donya Todd was never going to behave, but if you thought she might (because her art is every so pretty and... yeah) then this early exchange between a couple is a delicious reminder of why we all love her:
"I like your dog."
"I like your skull."
She's not carrying one.
Refusing to conform too - or being told what she can't do - is Adam Vian's fortune teller who demands a window on her world so that she can at least see what lies beyond. The Mapmaker refuses, declares it impossible - that she can't change a world with drawing or pen. Well, we all know you can - my world's been changed by both. Before she makes her exit, however, she has this exchange with a customer following her previous prediction:
""You'll meet a beautiful maiden across the ocean." Wow. Generous. So... you crossed the ocean already?"
"Don't be silly. Of course not."
You can't just sit on your arse waiting for your future to come to you.
Two other escapees are Rozi Hathaway's young protagonist in 'Afloat' and Alice Urbino's 'Teenage Dirtbag', but what they are escaping is very different: abject poverty and loneliness; the sensory overload of society's non-stop judgementalism. The former is a deeply melancholic affair of isolation, neglect, broken windows and threadbare socks until a vision floods onto the page in oceanic colours which are fresher, more healthy and hopeful. What actually happens is open to interpretation but if there's a whiff of mortality is still as wondrous and magical as a Studio Ghibli or Tillie Walden affair, with the child's own origami taking on a life it its own and attracting company to boot.
There's such a lot more to explore including an oh so satisfying page from THE BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO BEING OUTSIDE's Gill Hatcher whose nest of bunched-up baby birds debate the pros and cons of flying the coop as full-fledged independent individuals. The colourful birds, the black and white nest and the eaves it's built under form their own free-floating panels from which speech balloons emanate in perfect union.
Lastly, for now, the collection is closed by Rebecca Bagley's 'Catch' in deep, rich and pale violets blazing with golden dreams of far more fecund fishing trips than those a child's father manages to secure in order to feed his family. The landscapes looked down on at night from a three-quarter angle are things of wonder, lit by stars, a full moon, its light caught by clouds and a glow from the home on the hill's windows.