Page 45 Review by Stephen
'Chapter 5: The Shipshape Shop'
"The Captain did not choose the name of his shop because he liked to keep things tidy. The shop was almost as messy as Ruby's bedroom. No, the real reason was that The Shipshape Shop was a shop shaped exactly like a ship. Which is hard to believe, but even harder to say."
A shop shaped like a ship! What could be cooler than that? If it sold comics, of course, and it does!
Two of its most popular titles are the titular FREAKY and FEARLESS - printed throughout this book in their EC-style, blood-dripping logos - much beloved by storyteller Simon and his ace-cartoonist mate Whippet. The book opens with the first three pages of the latest issue of FEARLESS and, my, how prophetic they'll prove to be! Indeed, it gradually dawns on Simon that so much of what happens today will have been presaged by stuff that popped into his head - almost if he made it come true!
Illustrated prose perfect for those of my own mental age (if not reading ability!) written by one half of the Etherington Brothers, the mirth-merchants responsible for kids comics LONG GONE DON and MONKEY NUTS, instead of FREAKY & FEARLESS this could have been equally aptly entitled, 'Smelly & smellier' for it includes a chapter called 'The Toilet That Trolls Built and it pongs like nobody's business.
It clops along at a cracking pace and it is - as you'd expect - both thrilling and hilarious but it also boasts an arresting turn of phrase of two for, then it comes to said toilet...
"Darkness looked as if it had been painted across every inch of the rotten, two-storey shack, and painted with a brush made from pure misery."
Simon had never seen the shack before because it was hidden under the archway of Turnaway Bridge whose foreboding nature had always instilled in Simon so much fear that he'd never been able to face it. Jan Bielecki's illustration for the page on which he finally does so positively looms over the boy, the black left-hand page with its white words sucking all warmth as well as light from the scene.
Does this all sound too scary? It isn't! It's eerie, to be sure, and exciting, I swear, but at the same time it's mostly played for adrenalin and laughs as Simon, Whippet and the dual-crossbow wielding, no-nonsense, nine-year-old death-machine known as Lucy Shufflebottom pursue a shadowy creature which has escaped from Castle Fearless, pursued Simon at a distance then snatched his baby sister Ruby. Why?!
Have you ever played 'Simon Says'?
I have so much I could shout about here, from the clever way Robin drops Simon's age into the proceedings by pronouncing that his eleven-year-old arms weren't up to a task (how much better than the dismally dull "Simon was eleven years old") to chapter titles like 'Seven Seconds In Which The Worst Happened' during which the worst happens during seven bullet-pointed seconds arranged down a no-pause-for-breath time-line... and Simon spinning one of his fanciful yarns about The True Pre-History Of Garden Gnomes And The Slightly More Migratory, Predatory Dinosaurs.
"The word 'massacre' isn't quite big enough, so let's say that by the time the dinosaurs were finished, there were very few gnomes left in one piece. Those that did survive did so by hiding. Standing still didn't work. The dinosaurs called the gnomes who tried to hide by standing still 'ready meals'. The ones who tried to run were known as 'fast food'."
Look, we don't stock that much prose here. With 7,000 different graphic novels we've no room for prose if it ain't absolute genius like Neil Gaiman, Warren Ellis, Dave Shelton, Gary Northfield, Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre, Patrick Ness & Jim Kay. I'm struggling to think of much more, making it less than 0.25% of our stock. I'm having this because I bloody loved it and any of our younger readers who enjoy our more ridiculous graphic novels in THE PHOENIX weekly comic range by Northfield, Smart, Murphy and Turner will laugh their snot-ridden heads off.
Oh, and do you remember The Shipshape Shop that sells comics?
"One final thought: you two can believe what you like, but Captain Armstrong really is a pirate. I've seen him in action. The real question to ask is why would a famous pirate sell comics for a living?"