Page 45 Review by Jonathan
Its a crisp Autumnal day in Dockwood where, as the sun slowly rises, turning the few stray clouds in the sky a vivid red, and the birds commence their dawn chorus, the early risers of this quiet towns residents have already begun their day. Enter our first lead character, Mark, a kitchen assistant at the local nursing home whos got the days meals to prepare. As he begins to peel the spuds listening to Bon Jovi on Daydream FM, the chefs already hard at work preparing the sausage casserole. Then its on with his rounds, seeing which of the elderly residents fancies a cuppa. Mr Dunn in room 9 would like one whilst he watches a choir singing a resounding chorus of Jerusalem on some breakfast TV show. Perhaps if those pesky starlings outside his window would shut up for a moment he could actually relax and enjoy it.
Then its on to Jake, just out of school for the day, and keen to get his paper round done so he can get home and play the latest shoot em up that his mate has lent him. He wanders round the streets popping the Dockwood evening news through various letterboxes whilst the waning of the day takes its inevitable course. The sky becomes blood red again, before it darkens completely and the stars begin to come out, twinkling brightly in the now crystal clear sky. Theres the odd animal, wild and domesticated alike, foraging for food here and there, scampering off to hide or making their presences known, as per their attendant common sense or bravado. Its a relaxing stroll round a typical neighbourhood, really, and Jake even finds time to have a quick leaf through the paper himself, whilst munching a chocolate bar a kindly pensioner has given him as a tip.
But when he gets home and boots up his Playstation 3 were fully immersed in an alien world as the gun-toting good guy is teleported out to the deserts of Hyperion to locate the Captain up on Sunset Ridge. Once the legions of bug-faced aliens have been dispensed with headshots galore theres only the final objective to be achieved, to follow the Captain to his ship and blast off for the next level of all-out destruction. Its a strange moment therefore for Jake / our gun-toting hero to take a pause and drink in the alien sunset, with what seems to be a flock of starlings swooping and swooshing high up in the sky. In fact as they come closely we realise theyre a flock of vicious-looking pterodactyl-like creatures, resulting in a quick scurry to the safety of the shuttle, before the Captain initiates the launch sequence.
All of which does precisely nothing to explain what an astonishingly and uniquely beautiful book this is. If youre familiar with any of Jons previous work, PEBBLE ISLAND, BIRCHFIELD CLOSE or indeed his contribution to NELSON, you will immediately understand exactly what I mean. If you are so far unaware of Jon, or havent yet seen any of his work, have a look at the accompanying interior art, and you will instantly see precisely what I mean.
This is a work about transitions, clearly, but also about the small moments that whilst individually might not seem significant, come together to make up each and every day. Its just that in Jons hands, every single moment is artistic heaven, yet it is the combined totality, the flow of images, that serve to produce a story which is just so visually compelling. Theres genuine punctuation provided by the art too, usually when one of the characters actually has the time to pause and take in the beauty around them, or often when they are utterly oblivious to it, being immersed or distracted by the task at hand. I remember well when I first saw Jons first published work by Nobrow, PEBBLE ISLAND, that moment of thinking, no, I really havent seen it all, here is someone who has managed to do something completely different, distinct and wonderfully individual, and do it so triumphantly. Its not often you get that feeling, but its wonderful when it does happen.
On that note, its probably worth me finishing by sharing a quote from Chris Ware I came across whilst looking for interior art, which I hope serves to underscore precisely why Jon is going to become a very big name in the comics world in time...
There are few younger comics artists with whom I feel a genuine aesthetic kinship, but the radiant and glowing DOCKWOOD is Jon McNaughts loveliest argument yet for the beauty of just being alive. Its a gem.
Well put sir, well put.