Page 45 Review by Jonathan
"Be smart. Be obedient. That might keep you alive... but nothing will keep you whole. Not in that place."
No, not a new Page 45 recruit receiving last-minute instructions before entering the mail order salt mines on the upper floors, but advice offered to Maika as she arrives, bound in chains, at the palatial headquarters of the Cumea, an order of human witch-nuns who seem to like nothing more than vivisecting the Arcanics, magical creatures who are part-human, part-animal, and of which Maika is one.
Once upon a time humans and Arcanics co-existed peacefully, but that was before a bitter war erupted resulting in the deaths of one hundred and forty six thousand Arcanics at the decisive battle of Constantine. Since then the remaining Arcanics have been in hiding, gradually being hunted down and handed over to the Cumea for their vile experiments, but perhaps it's not too late... Maika certainly thinks so, which is why she has arranged for her own capture.
Shes convinced it is the only way to get behind the formidable defences of the Cumea headquarters, for she believes there is a mystical artifact the Cumea are looking for and have no idea it is hidden right under their very noses. When she acquires said artifact, though, and goes on the run, well, thats when her problems really begin bifurcating off in all sorts of unexpected directions. But then, what precisely did she want the artifact for anyway
Well, this was an unexpectedly dark blend of fantasy and horror. Let me make absolutely clear: its certainly aimed at a mature audience, not kids. Exceptionally well written, including an intriguing sub-plot about Maikas late mother, with an extremely broad cast of varied and fantastical characters, but I suppose we should expect no less from a published fantasy author, Majorie Liu, and just as beautifully illustrated by Sana Takeda. They have worked together before these two, on an eminently forgettable few issues of X-23 for Marvel, but they're clearly both operating well in their respective comfort zones here. This is outstanding work for its particular genre.
As I say, it's certainly not one for the squeamish, but both the writing and the exquisitely clean art have the feel of a Humanoids publication. If you liked say THE SWORDS OF GLASS, therefore, I think this would very much appeal.