Page 45 Review by Jonathan
This work is something which I think most people will need and want to read twice, at least, because if youre anything like me, the first time through youll become immersed in admiring the incredible artwork, and probably also thinking of all the different artists it reminds you of, for a whole host of different reasons, primarily of technique. Dave McKean for some of the PARTICLE TAROT: MAJOR ARCANA, PARTICLE TAROT: MINOR ARCANA (and Sandman covers) mix of photographic snippets and other media, plus some sequences which very much reminded me of MR. PUNCH and PICTURES THAT TICK; Kent Williams for the effortlessly deconstructed and oblique painting style, particularly of people seen, amongst many other places, in THE FOUNTAIN. Youll possibly see things that may also make you think of David (KABUKI) Mack, including a couple of uses of his trademark triangular motif panel bordering, which must surely be an outright nod to him or Bill Sienkiewicz or maybe even Barron Storey from whom Mack appropriated much himself. I was also thinking that certain other visual elements strongly reminded me of Sam Keiths MY INNER BIMBO, and then I remembered that Josh Hagler himself had actually contributed significantly to that work!
All of which goes to make it sounds as though Im suggesting Hagler is some sort of stylistic copycat whereas I dont believe that at all. In fact I think hes very much his own man, but just of the same school or perhaps more precisely mindset as to how art can be used as a medium for communicating ideas to the reader, as those luminaries Ive mentioned above. Moving into discussing the actual narrative elements of this work, I think thats where I made the mental connection with MY INNER BIMBO, because and Im searching for the right word here really, abstract seeming too strong theres a definite attempt at a most assuredly unconventional construction of the narrative. Which is certainly the case with MY INNER BIMBO too.
Yes, when you break down most individual pages, there is relatively straightforward information being communicated to us, mostly through conversation after conversation taking place between all the various protagonists or, upon occasion (particularly in Nestors case) internal monologues, but most if not all of the emotional content is conveyed entirely through the ever-morphing, chameleonic, subliminal and also in places outrageously overt illustrative techniques, including the multiple lettering styles, plus the endlessly vivid colour palette, which are then built up to produce each multi-faceted panel, page and sequence, and by extension the whole work. The overall effect is something therefore which is quite admirably breathtaking.
There are a million clever touches small and large to admire here and there which just make the whole work a continuous bustle of vibrancy. Picking just one for an example, when the titular boy, Nestor, is baptised in a river towards the end of the work, whilst hes upside down immersed in the water, the pages are printed upside down. And were that not enough then during this immersion whilst Nestor is having a flashback regarding his absent father, and indeed about his mother, the epiphanistic moment is portrayed in a panel where Nestors words in the particular speech bubble are reversed. Its extraordinarily clever because if, like me, you think I cant be bothered working out what this says the hard way, Im going to find a mirror, those several seconds pause before you then see precisely what it is that Nestor has thought of, really do give you a sense of his personal build up to a truly momentous flash of realisation. Im almost certain Hagler intended the reader to do it this way rather than puzzling it slowly out, word by word, because it provides such a striking note to proceedings.
So, the second time around I read this work I was fully able to marvel at the story itself, which is as equally as clever a construct as the art. There are certain works you come across in comics, which you know quite simply could not be done justice in any other medium, and this is one of those. Together this story and art produce something that is simply comics at its most envelope pushing and limit stretching. This is only volume one as well, though when Hagler says hes not sure how long its going to take him to produce volume two, I can quite understand. Its okay though, Im more than happy to wait however long it takes. And, as I conclude this review I realise I havent provided any synopsis of the actual plot at all.
So, in a few brief sentences then... A boy called Nestor falls into a river, comes out completely deaf but also experiencing the world in an entirely different way. Some people in his small town come to believe he has a gift to make others be more empathetic to each other. Local pastor obviously gets rather excited and tried to get in on the act claiming its a gift from God. Nestors mother is rather more dubious about the whole thing, and in any event isnt a particularly pleasant individual. Nestors father disappeared long ago, and for the moment we have absolutely no idea why, and neither does Nestor.