Page 45 Review by Stephen
The ones who are remembered are the ones who leave something behind.
An arrestingly beautiful book which Dominique and I pored over for ages, thrusting our favourite splashes of colour and double-page spreads under each others marble-like eyes. The epic landscapes are dazzling tributes to the breathtaking beauty of nature and Indian architecture. The pre-historically gargantuan elephants, guarding the gates of Hastinapur while red flags flap between them and white water-birds take flight, are two of the most magnificent beasts I have ever beheld.
Then as the sun reluctantly rises on the dawn of battle, those same, sharp flags flying horizontally converge like opposing landmasses below a yawning sky the colour of which I cannot describe. The overall effect there, however, is Klimt. It really is. Meanwhile both the incredibly flexed body curves and some of the cartooning itself right down to the light put us both in mind of Kyle Baker during his KING DAVID / YOU ARE HERE period.
This, then, is the life and death of Krishna, as narrated by Krishna himself, focusing on but a few key moments of joy, companionship and conflict whilst meditating about the wider implications of the journey itself and the world one travels through. There are animals everywhere, patrolling the Indian undergrowth and ascending into mythology, mostly living in harmony until predators come along.
The forces of life coexist
internally and externally in a
muses Krishna, and the panel depicting that delicate balance is a sublimely composed piece of nature, a bird flying right with a strand of water plant it in its beak, as a fish below swims through more to the left. At its centre stands a couple of rocks reflected in on the ponds surface, while the curling sweep of a larger green frond suggests the shape of a yin-and-yang symbol.
On the other hand (if its all about balance!) my one niggle with this books composition is the chopping of so many sentences into too tiny fragments dispersed between panels and then often pages which sometimes jars disjointedly. Also, some proclamations are more profound than others.
A war is not about who is right
but who is left.
Thats a brilliant play on words. Im just not sure its entirely true. What does ring true is the senseless central conflict, so easily averted were it not just for mans greed but also for what is so often his woeful lack of altruism: I will do that to you because I can; I will not do that for you because I do not have to, nor do you have the power to make me.
Amidst this all-too familiar ethical squalor and chaos and danger, Krishna shines like a beacon of hope and optimism, spreading both wisdom and serenity wherever he can, then standing up to be counted when he cant. The extended death scene is powerful and poignant yet improbably tranquil for, whilst taking nothing for granted (oh, that is the very last thing Krishna does in this profound appreciation of life), he is, as I say, an optimist.
I entered into this graphic novel with very little knowledge of its subject matter and certainly no axes of my own to grind. This is not the place to set out ones own stalls and debate the existence or nature of any afterlife. Thats when organised religion usually goes wrong. Instead I enjoyed the heck of out this thoroughly immersive experience and appreciated how much talent and dedication went into its sincere construction.
Also, for the first time in my life I know what the chant Om means, and why it is deployed. Theres a very handy glossary in the back.