Page 45 Review by Stephen
Six self-contained stories which readers of LOCAL will love.
For a start, the strangest of dating games with the boy breaking in to leave Polaroids for Megan is reprised here as a young woman, driven to write herself post-it notes for each and every aspect of her life all round house and outdoors, suddenly discovers a note that isn't hers. "Who are you?" and "Can we talk like this?" Initially perturbed, she misses a bus which breaks her routine and triggers a panic. But there on the bus shelter is stuck another note:
"I love that this is who you are."
She smiles, a tear welling up. "...Really?"
That's a beautiful panel. Cloonan's thought long and hard about body language, in particular the posture of hands. It's all so tenderly done, with a superb sense of light.
It's also a story driven creatively on Brian's part largely through the post-it notes themselves, for what follows is a playful coming together of minds ("It's like your own private world all out in the open.") followed by a breadcrumb trail of messages which finally lead to a café; but we never do see brings her coffee, only that she's charmed.
The advantage of a long-form narrative as opposed to short stories is that you only need one knock-out punchline, yet here a good five of the six are electric (confession: I wasn't too keen on the first chapter myself), whilst the stories themselves are dazzlingly imaginative, with Cloonan adapting her style for each. In addition to light, her ability to convey the sweaty claustrophobia of being caught on a gridlocked highway choked with exhaust fumes during a heat wave in 'Waterbreather' is matched only with the blessed relief of diving into a river below. After a flashback to the man's unusual childhood sub-aquatic experiences, the resolution is surprisingly serene given where it leads him.
However, you're going to need a much stronger stomach than the protagonist's in 'Pangs' for which 'unsettling' is merely a starting point. Here Cloonan's art is as bleak as a derelict bathhouse as a young, nail-biting loner rations himself on carefully parcelled frozen food then tries one last time to reconnect himself with those around him by dating a girl at a restaurant. It doesn't go well so he returns home alone and resorts to measures so drastic they will make you wince. There's also a tale about a couple who repel each other like inverted magnets yet can't stay apart because it destroys their physical health - the ultimate in "Can't live with 'em; can't live without 'em" but working both ways. There's also a self-fulfilling prophecy and finally a time-travelling story which addresses the eternal question of what you would say to yourself in your early teens, and whether in fact you would listen.
"That's me. That's dinner every night. That's my Mom, pretending my Dad isn't calling me, his daughter, every filthy and demeaning name under the sun.
"How do you explain away something like that?
"How do you survive something like that? I should have an answer, but I don't. Honestly, it's a blur. But it's an acutely painful blur. I can feel her pain, the embarrassment, the panic. I can hear her heart pounding from here."
Whatever Elisabeth planned to say to herself, in whatever way she hoped her life would be changed, it's when she bumps into her best friend waiting loyally outside for that dinner to be over, hiding behind the car, that she recognises the one fatal error she made.
We still have some of the individual issues in stock if you missed any; please feel free to email. They're always backed with essays and artwork, whereas this collection is backed with a gallery of the covers reproduced in black, white and sensual grey tones.