Page 45 Review by Stephen
"ANYA'S GHOST is a masterpiece, of Y.A. and of comics." - Neil Gaiman
"You're no saint, Anya. You're just like me."
"I'm not! I would never hurt anyone."
"You just haven't had the chance."
Anya's like any other schoolgirl or boy: unhappy with her appearance, too concerned about whom she is seen with, and worried about what people think of her. She's had to compromise in order to fit in, and she's pretty much succeeded though she's still fretting that she hasn't. Gym class is a nightmare - one long prosepect of ritual humiliation - and her best efforts to evade the school tests she fears most rarely succeeed. On top of it all her best friend with whom she smokes to look cool teases her, not unkindly, but Anya takes it to heart. We take so much to heart at that age, don't we? And let's face it, even though we hated being teased or ostracised by some, most of us did the same thing to others just to consider ourselves one-up in the constantly scurrying rat race that is school life.
Anya is no worse yet no better than any of us even though she has a doting mother and a relatively bareable kid brother. The older boy she harbours an unrealistic crush on doesn't look down on her disdainfully nor is his girlfriend suspciously jealous of her - which is odd. Things really aren't as bad as they seem
until Anya takes a dive down a hole in a remote piece of parkland and finds herself next to a skeleton: the skeleton and the ghost of a girl who fell down that very same whole ninety years previously.
What happens next is far from predictable in spite of appearances - because you know what they say about appearances - as Anya finds a way to free both herself and the ghost from their trap by accidentally brushing one of its tiniest bones into her satchel. Voila, she has a brand new friend with useful abilities! But even a ghost has desires of its own and Anya is in for an education.
This is refreshingly far from the sanitised or anodyne fare that would alienate anyone of a similar age. Take the smoking, for example. Like Hope Larson's CHIGGERS, which I cannot recommend strongly enough, there is so much well observed behaviour here which will resonate with those who are either still at school, or mercifully released from it long since.
Moreover it is astonishingly beautiful, with grey tones so warm they are purple, and again my nearest point of reference would be Hope Larson. The wide-eyed wonder, scowls and glares light up the page and the body language is supple, subtle, expressive and spot-on.
It's also funny. There's a scene which made me laugh out loud on the bus as Anya daydreams about her prospective beau dancing with his pretty blonde girlfriend like so...
"Oh girlfriend... you're so hot and nice and good-looking. But I need something more. You do not complete me. I need someone more... negative.
"Hark! Who is that stone cold fox before me! I could lose myself forever in that dark hair and those sweet love handles. Oh Anya, let's have an intense spiritual relationship for no believable reason!"
Hope Larson recognises this for the smart and snappy writing it is, while Scott McCloud of UNDERSTANDING COMICS, the book so brilliant we named our shop after its 45th page, writes:
"More than a year and a half ago, I wrote about four upcoming books and promised to post updates as each became available. Those books were David Small's STITCHES, David Mazzucchelli's ASTERIOS POLYP, Hope Larson's MERCURY and Vera Brosgol's then-untitled graphic novel for First Second. Well, the first three came out to well-deserved acclaim, and now at last that fourth one-quite possibly my favorite of the whole bunch-is finally available for pre-order. And it has a name: ANYA'S GHOST."