Page 45 Review by Stephen
"What was that?" Tamsin asks herself, staring out to sea.
"They're called Undines. Kind of ocean nymphs, basically. Greedy little buggers. Most people can't see 'em, or just mistake 'em for gulls."
"Huh. How come I could see it?"
"Well, that's really the question, isn't it?"
Tamsin turns round.
"AAAH! TALKING BLACKBIRD!"
Fabulous double-take, there, with ice cream all over the place!
From the PHOENIX COMIC WEEKLY, written by the creator of HOW TO MAKE AWESOME COMICS and drawn then coloured by the creator of FISH + CHOCOLATE (emphatically not for Younger Readers!) comes a family comic set in coastal Cornwall which is funny, thrilling and at times terrifying!
Neill and Kate prove a consummate double-act with so many crafty devices. That scene, for example, is set up to perfection, bright white seagulls wheeling up above in the soft blue sky so that when the pesky little sprite - with its feathered wings and webbed feet - does snatch the cone from Tamsin's hands it could indeed be so easily mistaken for a gull.
Even the lettering's a joy, for Tamsin's speech bubble coveting her ice cream ("Alone at last") comes in the shape of a love heart. In other places a winking censorship of exclamatory dialogue covers the regular lettering with a splat of black and a new, less blue word replacing whatever exasperation may have lurked underneath. "What the actual [FLIP]?"
And oh, will you look at that logo!
During the flashback to Tamsin Thomas' ancestors the panel borders are ragged and torn like ancient parchment, their contents coloured to reflect the same.
But perhaps best of all there's a sign slapped defiantly across her old brother's bedroom door. It's a poster-sized version of a sticker we know far too well:
So very witty!
The trouble starts almost immediately with Tamsin (aged 10) abandoned on the beach by her brother Morgan (13) who had promised to teach her to bodyboard but is enjoying the surf instead with his mates. She's abandoned but not marooned so sets out to teach herself, swimming out to find the perfect breaker. And she does. But it's bigger than she thought and Tamsin's swept down with its crashing current, arms reaching out from what looks like long, green weed to grab her calf. She looks down to see another face glowing back at her from the deep, its eyes a carmine red...
Eventually the sea washes her up on the shore, but it's much, much further down the coast. A bus driver takes no pity for, although her ankle is torn, in her wetsuit she is dripping and has no fare so, supported by a knotted staff of driftwood which washed up with her, she hobbles the many miles home.
In another piece of masterful storytelling you know something's up when she walks through the door. The clue lies in how Kate's drawn Morgan. Maybe you'll half-spot it too.
What follows is a story of ancient covenants, creepy white hands, family tragedy and magic in which Morgan has a far bigger role to play than he suspects. But I promised you thrilling, didn't I? There are two specific moments of exceptional acceleration. In the first Tamsin's face is a picture of pure unbridled fury and determination; in the second she's flying forward so fast that her eyes water.
As to the subaquatic sequences, Brown's pulled out all the stops on the colouring, the murky green seas bursting with bubbles and - oh! - the fury of her storms is phenomenal!
Cameron too is on top form. I adored this excerpt from Tamsin's diary early on and I'd remind you that Tamsin is ten:
"It has been a really weird week.
"So apparently I sank when I was bodyboarding and everyone thought I was drowned and I wasn't but when I came back [SPOILERS]
"The police came, and there was a lady who was a counsellor.
"Or a councillor?
"One of those."
He also nails the interplay between younger sister and older brother, the latter continually dismissing Tamsin as "weird", a "weirdo" and eventually, "You unbelievable weirdo"!
Well, there are going to be some pretty rum doings!
"Word of advice, matey.
"Just 'cause something's a fairy story, don't mean it ain't true."