Page 45 Review by Stephen
...but what you don't see represented on the cover, right, is the gaping hole of glistening spot-varnish which is the yawning, pitch black chasm of the warehouse entrance. It draws the eye, just as it's already drawn others physically inside...
Hello! How you doing? Had any decent nightmares recently?
Excellent! Here, have some more!
Just to give you a sense of perspective, I relished Garth Ennis' socio-political run on HELLBLAZER (volumes 5 to 8) and heartily chuckled my way through PREACHER; I admired his eloquence and unusual, highly personal perspectives in WAR STORIES, I believe his run on PUNISHER MAX - which also included war stories - is unlikely to be surpassed down that particular dark alley, and I roared my head off at his PUNISHER: WELCOME BACK FRANK in no small part due to Steve Dillon's deadpan. But none of Ennis' horror since has really done muchfor me, until now.
Special Agents Shaw and McGregor have been dispatched to a Long Beach warehouse where two fellow agents, Hunzikker and Goss, have gone missing. They ventured inside several hours ago, but haven't been heard from since.
Shaw and McGregor are greeted by a local police Lieutenant who's been hovering by its entrance while his SWAT team sit cowering inside their armoured vehicle. They too went inside the warehouse - for all of 30 seconds.
Exasperated, mid-career Shaw leads the much fresher McGregor to see what's happening inside. Nothing good, I can promise you that.
Now, the reason I'm back on board doesn't really have anything to do with that. The meat of this first instalment lies in Shaw's last case, and the lengths she went to secure a result. As the two agents attempt to keep each other sane in the wake of what they are witness to, their recollections make it increasingly clear that their current plight is not unconnected to their previous frustrations in dealing with the abduction of children.
You're not going to like the fur-trimmed coat hanging on the bird box. You're not going to like that at all.
There's plenty of discussion about the current Presidency, the normalisation of hate-speech and hate-crime through Trump's endorsement of the KKK and its radicalisation of the young into a wider white-supremacist right, plus the dissemination of their message on social media.
Where Suduka succeeds is in a normalisation of his own, anchoring this firmly in the real world; in the wearied expressions and sagging body language (at rest) of Shaw contrasted with the forward-leaning earnestness and energy of McGregor, and especially in the blank-faced comportment of their prior prime suspect during interview. I doubt it's easy to give nuance to neutrality, to impassivity, but Suduka manages to do precisely that.
Only towards the end does Ennis reveal how that case finally panned out.
A WALK THROUGH HELL: THE CATHEDRAL begins with #6, running a little late but due any day now.