Page 45 Review by Stephen
"Oh, baby. I know it's embarrassing. But the hospital said we need to get used to it. You can't just have baths when your dad's around."
The Mark Millar project I was most worried about turns out to be one of his finest. Like MARVEL 1985 it has so much heart, and Millar has a knack for writing young boys: how they perceive the real world around them. It's also dazzlingly drawn in breath-taking detail, whether it be a quiet afternoon secluded under the fiery canopy of the woods in autumn or during the epic scenes of colossal devastation. Yu can be tender and intimate as during the mother-and-son bath scene above, yet impressively bold. Some of his forms and compositions reminded me of Travis Charest.
Set in a world where superheroes are mere fiction, the province of comics and films, twelve-year-old Simon Pooni and his best pal Chris have just been to see Tad Scott star in the latest Superior movie. The special effects are stunning, but in all honesty the franchise is tired. And now they've been ambushed by the all-too-familiar school bullies who always kick hardest when someone is down.
"Hey, homos. You have a nice time making out in the back row?"
"Just ignore him, Chris. I hear the basketball team's really missing you these days, Pooni. Still, the way these guys play, they might as well have a cripple up front."
"You're an asshole, Sharpie, and you've always been an asshole. If I wasn't in this chair, I'd kick your ass all over the mall."
"Yeah, well. I got news for you, Simon... you kinda are in that chair."
Yeah, Simon kinda is in that chair.
Multiple Sclerosis snuck on him with particular aggression; he's even lost the sight of one eye and on bad days he can barely talk. There are days of remission, weeks even, but nothing permanent. Once a basketball player of promise, sometimes Simon's on sticks but mostly confined to a wheel chair so his muscles have gradually atrophied through lack of use. It's unlikely to get any better. Until, late one night
"Simon? Wake up, Simon. There's something I need to talk to you about."
"I'm here to make a serious proposition."
"HOLY SHIT! Mom! Dad! There's a monkey in the room!"
There really is a monkey in his room; a monkey in a spacesuit who has selected Simon as the "most appropriate" out of six billion candidates to be turned into the adult, post-human powerhouse Superior: the fictional character as played by Tad Scott. Now that would take some explaining to his mother.
Now, I don't really want to tell you what happens next, I just want to reassure you that is far from obvious, right up to the end. My one worry was that this, Millar's riff on Superman / Shazam, ran the risk of insulting the plight of those who can't call "Kimota!" and transform into perfect superhuman specimens but have indeed lost the use of one side of their body or their peripheral vision, rendering them unable to scan more than one word at a time. (Parenthetically, comics - with few words per line - are far more accessible to those without peripheral vision. I'm told by dyslexics that they're a much easier read too.) My best friend had Multiple Sclerosis and - by far the finest dancer I've ever had the pleasure of filling the floor with - that's exactly what happened to her. I would have been livid.
But Millar doesn't fall into that trap for this is far less straightforward than it initially appears, being more a Faustian pact with some serious twists, some serious bait, and some seriously hard decisions ahead. Not just for Simon, either, but for the Lois Lane counterpart. And that really is where we have to leave it with just one observational note that a talking monkey at the bottom of your bed is hardly conducive to an easy night's sleep.
"You gonna tell [your Mom] about the space monkey?"
"Sure. Especially now I've figured out who he really is."
"What are you talking about?"
"Well, I prayed every night that my Multiple Sclerosis would go away and Mom was always praying that America would get fixed again too. So what if that magic wish was the answer to both our prayers? What if Ormon was an angel? Did he turn me into a superhero because America really needed one right now?"
"I dunno, man. I'm twelve years old. I struggle with friggin' long division."
The scene pulls back to a rooftop opposite where Ormon, the cute little spacemonkey sits, wide-eyed, staring at them from a distance.
"An angel? That's hilarious."
The monkey bears his teeth: two rows of sharp enamel spikes like a dental mantrap.
"I'm afraid I'm actually quite the opposite."