Page 45 Review by Stephen
"Good morning. I trust you slept well?"
"Don't talk to him before he's had some tea, it's cruel."
This is the truth!
This is also a woefully late review on Page 45's part for a graphic novel which was successfully nominated for the British Comics Awards' Young People's Comic 2013 as judged by school children. Now that I've read it, I cannot comprehend why I resisted because it is fabulous!
It may have been the cover's underpants-on-the-head, but I understand that now: Bonifacius the bear doesn't wear a mask to hide a secret identity, but because "It makes me feel better". Just like when I slip on some gloves or a new pair of cowboy boots: it feels like a full set of armour. I basically level-up!
This is full-on and frantic as three learned sheep attempt to rescue small children from their nocturnal nightmares, making quick-snap decisions on the hoof. I can already hear your first question: "Why are none of those sheep on the cover?" Patience, dear reader, patience!
Instead we have Bonno the bear clutching Buddy the dog, leaping into stellar-strewn action with Amali the sock monkey riding his back and Sophia the nib-nosed crow flying close behind. Sophia's beak really is a functioning fountain-pen nib: she communicates with scrawls on the walls - which are difficult to read when it's dark.
Buddy's been there for a while but the other three are new recruits to the travelling Safe House who are dreamed into being and fashioned from inanimate objects. Our fine flock of three then try to teach them all that they know about tackling the terrors in time for yet another young cry for help. Necessity is the mother of invention and, boy, do they have to improvise because dreams have a habit of flying off in surreal and unexpected directions, don't they? Viviane has that down to a tee.
Schwarz's cartooning is an expressive joy, ebullient in action but also as tender and moving as early Disney feature film during the quiet moments of loss. Oh, Buddy's face when he breaks it to Bonno about the truth behind the white, one-way door!
"I thought you said only you can go through that door?"
"Only I can come back."
The glow-in-the-dark episode was particularly thrilling - positively electrifying - and there are breaks in the story for a quick cup of tea (there is always time for tea!) and a bit of cookery or craft, just like Jill Thompson's glorious SCARY GODMOTHER.
My only problem was the prevalence of "No problem!" over and over again.
I dislike that response to someone thanking you for your help. It should be "My pleasure!" because helping people is indeed a great pleasure, whereas "No problem" implies that it could have been a problem and that possibly it was a problem but you put yourself out anyway. It effectively doubles the indebtedness instead of relieving it.
Emphasising the indebtedness could not be further from these sheep's minds, however. They are entirely altruistic and that was one of the many elements I adored in this book. There is neither maudlin mawkishness in evidence nor reluctance in their hearts when they come to pay the price for helping others. It's "Oh, well, we have to go!" and where they have to go is through that white, one-way door.
Most welcome mats say "Welcome". This one reads "Good-bye".
"Everyone has to wake up sometime."