Page 45 Review by Stephen
"What's that song, that one where you start off singing way up high, Johnny?"
"The Road From Ballycrovane."
"Oh yes, yes, that's it. I like how you start way up high, then Brian comes in lower, then you go down lower still... the way you go down on each other, it's marvellous."
Which is made all the more amusing given that Johnny and Brian are indeed lovers, for a time at least, and the panel in question is hilariously illustrated as Johnny is having to physically stifle Brian's laughter with a hand over his mouth as Johnny's unsuspecting landlady heads into the kitchen to fetch them their dinner. GONE TO AMERIKAY is an exceptional work, both in terms of the storytelling (well, that should be stories plural, I suppose, given that we have three interrelated tales all set in New York told from differing time periods of 1870, 1960 and 2010), but also in terms of the art which may well be the finest I've seen from Colleen Doran to date.
The overall story - part-historical fiction, part-detective story, and indeed even a little bit of spooky stuff thrown in for good measure - is gently unravelled for us using the conceit of Lewis Healy, an Irish billionaire who wants to find out more about the music that so enchanted him as a child. And thus we find out more about the life of one Johnny McCormack, a Galway lad who arrives in the Big Apple in 1960 dreaming of bright lights and a singing career. He's well versed in Irish folk songs and one in particular tells the story of a Ciara O'Dwyer, an Irish immigrant who arrived in the slums of 1870's New York with her young child, expecting her husband to follow after her shortly. But when her husband never arrives Ciara is forced to face the harsh realities of her new life alone.
I'm loath to give anything more away about the stories, actually, as there is a real joy in following the complex thread of the narrative and finding out more about the lives and circumstances of our various protagonists and sundry secondary but equally important characters. Derek McCullough manages to give this work such intimate depth and real emotional content that many supposedly worthy prose works struggle to achieve, and the weaving backwards and forwards in time to seamlessly tease out each plotline, making the connections between the three time periods gradually more apparent is so, so deftly done. Plus, as you can tell from the quote above, there's certainly plenty of bawdy humour too. And then in perfect harmony - much like Brian and Johnny! - with the writing, is the art. The beautifully clean lines perfectly capture the privations and misery of 1870's slum life whilst simultaneously dramatising the up-and-coming bohemian bustle of the Greenwich Village social scene of 1960. This is a fabulous work and I do just hope it doesn't fall flat like some other Vertigo attempts to present their readers with something completely different have done before. That would be a real shame, as this is a mini-masterpiece.