Page 45 Review by Jonathan
"In June 2017, the Grenfell fire killed 72 people in a 24-storey tower block in West London. 24 PANELS is an anthology comic to support the PTSD needs of the survivors. Curated by Kieron Gillen (THE WICKED + THE DIVINE), it features 24 stories, each no longer than 24 panels. Half drawn from professional creators who volunteered their time and half drawn from open submissions, 24 PANELS is about community, hope, and (most of all) raising as much money as possible."
It was the local council skimping in its fire protection by using cheap cladding what dunnit.
As Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie note within, this saved but "a piddling thirty thousand pounds", which looks like a pretty (and petty) false fucking economy right now, doesn't it?
That comes in 'If Einstein's right...' which is indeed a celebration of community and hope within the first four panels of its first three pages which evoke the sort of time-caught-in-amber Eternalism that Moore discussed in depth in A DISEASE OF LANGUAGE with its artist Eddie Campbell. Succinctly put, time has already happened - all of it - and is continually happening all at the same time, therefore nothing, and no one is truly lost.
'If Einstein's right..." begins thus:
"Don't fret. If Einstein's right then time is wrong,
"A shadow that our minds cast as they pass
"Through solid spacetime's changeless 4D glass,
"Where every moment's an eternal song
"And nothing dies, and nothing goes away.
"Each life's held sage amidst the centuries,
"An archived film with every frame on freeze
"In which our legends endlessly replay."
Then, as I say, Moore and Gebbie go on to celebrate those individual lives within a community in all its colour before a final, horizontal black and white panel on each of the first three pages outlines the guilty as ghosts, like Boris bloody Johnson.
"But that same year a Bullingdon Club clown
"Swears that he'll leave fire services alone,
"Then, three years late, cuts them to the bone,
"Says "get stuffed" as ten stations as closed down
"And twenty-seven engines fade from view.
"He also shall endure forevermore,
"His treacheries caught in time's amber, for
"Disgrace and shame are both eternal too."
Pertinently enough, he also touched on Eternalism in Alan Moore's 2017 interview conducted by the Daily Grail, right under the paragraphs in which he lamented "the move from companionable terraced streets to ugly and alienating high-rise blocks, a move made for entirely commercial reasons to maximise the value of a plot of land by building high". In that context too £30,000 is a pittance.
Accentuating the positive, however, the final full-page flourish is a modest tower of building blocks bursting with colour and diversity united in harmony.
'Silhouette Titans' by Ram V (GRAFITY'S WALL) and Pablo Clark doubles as a history lesson in all things high-rise from a pillar in India circa 200BC to the very first tower blocks in Chicago in 1885 (after most of the city burned down in 1871), supposedly inspired by the architect's wife piling a stack of heavy books on a bird cage. Hmmm... There's one particularly startling fact in that from the highest occupied floor of the world's tallest building you can't even see people on the ground anymore.
Anyway, that tale being told to a youngster comes with quite the surprise
Sticking with buildings and communities (I can't cover all of these 24 stories, so I set myself a theme) my favourite was possibly 'They Say' by Alex de Campi (BAD GIRLS etc) and Ro Stein, Ted Brandt. You could consider it in so many ways an adult-orientated companion to Sarah McIntyre's all-ages THE NEW NEIGHBOURS. Both feature a block of flats, a journey down through them, and the rebuttal of rumours wherein scurrilous gossip is exposed as not merely idle but also erroneous.
Here we are told what "They say" about half a dozen of its inhabitants, and what They say isn't very nice at all. For example, "They say Mrs Abdullah just came here for the benefits. She doesn't even speak English", and "They say Kell is on drugs. She hardly comes out of her flat, and when she does, she's pale and shaking".
We are, of course, looking from outside (not even in from the outside) - as a family cat makes its escape from our main protagonists' top-floor flat via the flat roof then leaps down the terraced verandas - from which vantage point you cannot possibly have any information relevant to judging someone's history, motivation, pastime pleasures or character. Then in a matching double-page spread in cross-section, as the cat saunters back in through a window then makes its way up the interior stairwell, we are entrusted with the truth behind the outsiders' prejudices by peering into each panel / flat and, oh look:
"Mrs Abdullah fled her country after her husband and parents were killed. She works two jobs, ones They don't want to do, and speaks enough English to know what They call her."
That final clause was the line that impressed me the most, but you mark my words, there are plenty more revelations in store before our framing family brings kindness and community firmly back into a more balanced equation.
At 100+ pages I think you can imagine that I too have merely skimmed the surface here.