Page 45 Review by Stephen
This is the sort of comic in which the line "Ok, back to reality" will have you snorting at its delusion. It's fresh, full of fun, and has more jokes per page than anything other than an Evan Dorkin or John Allison comic.
Meet Lottie Person, who seems so serene on the surface.
"I'm fresh. I'm fun. It's just who I am."
A fashion blogger with glossy green hair and a high hit rate, her life is pretty much perfect.
Her fans are devoted (she knows).
Her blogs are the best (she believes).
And that goes without saying (she blasés).
"Except my friends are all horrible people.
"And my boyfriend decided we're on a break.
"And oh yeah -"
"I have allergies."
She has such severe allergies that they rule her life. Under the carefully controlled camera conditions of fashion photography, she radiates, she glistens, she sheens. Leslie Hung and colour artist Mickey Quinn have her emanating girly-girl, cartoon sparkles and her hair bathed in wavy light as if seen through some sort sub-aquatic prism. But a surge in pollen or one moment of stress can render her centre asunder.
That's the sort of knowledge that you carry with you wherever you go. Here's her new doctor, offering her a brand new medication drug trial:
"So much pain in your eyes. You're a flower afraid of the sun. Lottie... haven't you suffered enough?"
"Yes, Dr. Dick," she wells up to herself, "I have suffered enough. I'm a beautiful flower and I deserve to be extremely happy!"
Hmmm. Catch Lottie alone at night - free from prying eyes - with her laptop, her allergies, her issues and her tissues, and you'll discover she is one angry, competitive, social-media mess with raging jealousies. Lottie has locked herself in to a life and a style that can't handle criticism or blemishes of any other kind. She reduces her so-called friends, peers and even complete strangers to one-word labels, defining them by a single trait: Cutegirl, Trashboy, Normgirl.
"You gotta stop calling her that! It's messed up. Even if it is dead-on."
"Esther, you know I love my friends! They're very dear to me! I just don't think I'd be able to tell them apart without nicknames."
Lottie doesn't appear to like anyone except herself. Oh wait - she doesn't like Lottie, either. As Marc Almond once sang, "Is it me who's feeling insecure?"
Then she meets fluster-free, uninhibited, self-assured Caroline, a start-up blogger of extraordinary natural beauty whom she's so taken by that she immediately christens her Coolgirl and agrees to meet at a bar. Lottie doesn't go to bars, but...
"People can change! This selfie proves it!"
She takes a lot of selfies.
Nothing that happens next will you in any way see coming. Nothing! No, it's not same-sex pash time. No, it's not brand-new boyf-arama, either. But I have told you everything that you need to know. I do hope that no one else has spoiled this for you. Pick this up quick, before someone does! There is far more going on amongst all the comedy that I've so far intimated. For a start, it's also a mystery.
The creator of SECONDS, SCOTT PILGRIM and LOST AT SEA has proved himself over and over again to be a shrewd observer of personal foibles and contemporary interaction. Here each page is packed with both, often combined in single sentences, like #selfcare hashtags or emoji-ridden texts sent through a cafe window instead of any meaningful one-to-one communication which could be achieved simply by stepping through its door!
"My life is pretty much perfect" is immediately followed by her cell phone display:
"0 new messages from your friends" in red
"75341 notifications from strangers" in green
This self-congratulation crowd's priorities lie not in achieving success - that would imply actually doing something - but in achieving popularity. If you fall from grace, expect it rubbed in your face. It's not just Lottie who's the colossally callous, superficial, egomaniacal, vain, deluded imbecile here!
Leslie Hung's sense of fashion is obviously vital to the success of this comic: she has an eye for the chic and the absolutely absurd. I particularly relished the ridiculous, large lime and orange segment pockets on Cutegirl's white, billowing dress, reprised in reverse round her ankles. This is L.A. - or at least its veneer - so everything sparkles, from the front-cover titles to the welcoming sign over the Los Angeles Police Department's Downtown Precinct. Inside you'll find Detective John Cho, who is about to unleash not his peerless procedural prowess, but his long-honed love of fashion. I mean, obviously.
Why might he need to start digging? That I won't tell you, but it's the perfect excuse for me to type up my favourite line which could only have been written by Bryan Lee O'Malley:
"Being a fugitive from justice is honestly so boring. I highly non-recommend it."
Hung and colourist Quinn have female flesh - specifically hands and forearms - down to a tee. It's smooth and it's soft, with just enough give and that's more important than you might think here. Caroline uses physical contact more than once to attract and distract, to steer things in a specific direction - her way - and you can feel her fingers making contact. I'd watch out for that one. I mean, who manages to secure a private phone number from a fashion blogger mere moments after having met them - and who manages to do that by getting the blogger to write it on their arm in felt pen? Caroline is a well of hypnotic self-confidence.
"There she goes.
"She forgot her phone and she's living her life anyway?
"Who does that?
"She's so cool."
I love how everything opens up (from the comparatively confined space) in the two pages where Lottie and Caroline have a meeting of minds over one ridiculously specific coffee. Later in the hot, dark, windowless bar the claustrophobia returns, the pressure ramps up, and you can almost feel yourself sweating and spinning thanks to Quinn's Bourbon colours. They're ever so good at watering eyes and green, dripping mucus.
"Shut up, brain. Stop thinking.
"Thinking only gets you into trouble."
I don't think you need worry about Lottie using her brain much. Trouble, on the other hand... she'll find plenty of that.
I don't know if anyone else has pointed this out, but there are only four men in this entire collected edition, and one of them is only a brief, tangential appearance. That's one of the things I mean by "refreshing".