Page 45 Review by Stephen
"Imagine you could never make another sound. Not for the rest of your life.
"Not a sigh. Not a yawn. Not a single word. Ever.
"Then, imagine you were given one chance to speak. What would you say?"
So begins what was the single most intelligent and engrossing work published by Marvel some fifteen years ago, and the closest you would have found there in tone to Neil Gaiman; although now you'll find Neil himself there with MARVEL 1602.
Black Bolt, Medusa, Triton, Gorgon, Karnak and Crystal are the Royal Family of the Inhumans, a race of beings so diverse that each individual is a sub-species of one. In Attilan, a city isolated from humanity with deliberate intent, diversity is admired and prized above all else: to be different is to prove invaluable. So at an age when we hit puberty, the ostensibly ordinary children enter the Terrigen Mists in a daunting ceremony which resembles confirmation or graduation and they emerge, their genetic codes catalysed, as strange and wonderful creatures, as ugly to our eyes as they are beautiful to their parents. If they're lucky. Because, you see, in this perfect society ruled by an ideal regent, there is an unpleasant secret, a tacit agreement to something tantamount to slavery. And - in the defences which keep these powerful Inhumans remote and safe from our toxic society - there is a flaw. One which is about to be expoited...
Within this sweeping catastrophe Jenkins delivers a series of considered, poignant and contrasting perspectives, sometimes with a quiet irony, but always with a tenderness and compassion greatly enhanced by Jae Lee's perfectly posed and gently poised figures. Each group or single panel is a triumph of chiaroscuro. Silent panels add weight and timing to a deceptively simple but remarkably clever script. And of course Dave Kemp and Avalon Studios deserve as much attention as anyone else for their rich, lambent colouring, which keeps the whole thing alive.
The interlude featuring the Inhumans' giant, teleporting hound, Lockjaw, is worth the price of admission alone. He cannot comprehend the scale of the disaster desperately being staved off by alll those around him and why he isn't being played with or fed; but he takes instant delight in rediscovering a plastic doll of Ben Grimm, the Thing.
"Toy! Oh toy! Toy! Toy! Toy!"
It's funny, but also deeply affecting.
In addition the role of male regent and indeed masculinity are explored using the very epitome of the strong-but-necessarily-silent-type for if the Inhumans' king Black Bolt speaks, mountains are levelled in his wake.
I never expected to see such an astonishingly moving work from what used to be such a predictably crass company. I suspect its tainted provenance may prove fatally repulsive to so many who would, with an act of faith, adore it. Had this been it's first edition I would almost certainly have made it Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month, and I'm not even ruling that out. So thanks to all of you who trusted me enough to buy it in its earlier incarnations, and thanks for your overwhelmingly positive feedback. I hope newcomers enjoy it as much as I am on my fourth reading.
This expansive edition comes with preliminary sketch designs, process pieces wherein you can see individual pages evolve for pencils to inks, an interview, and the script to the complete first chapter. £25-99 may sound like a lot but it's twelve chapters long with exquisite reproduction values. That's less expensive than buying the individual issues separately.