Page 45 Review by Stephen
New, small-hands edition! Yup, BAD MACHINERY is perfectly suitable for all ages!
"Is he your boyfriend now? Because pet food isn't the only aisle in the supermarket."
Some comedies are cleverer than others, and there are few out there who can spring from one sentence to another with such nimble dexterity as the UK's John Allison who eschews the obvious cheap barb in favour of an unexpected epigram for life.
Allison is ever so good at observing and understanding the unspoken rules of school and young-teenage codes of practice over the last couple of decades. Then he's ever so clever at transplanting them.
When new boy Lem arrives at the school gates, the girls hold back from tainting him with their company for fear that he'd be rejected by the boys, just as a fledgling bird might be rejected by its mother if handled too closely by humans.
"He's wandering off."
"He seeks the company of his own kind."
"Are you sure we shouldn't have spoken to him?"
"No! We'd have put the stink of girls on him. The boys would have rejected him. Pecked him to bits."
He's also very good at remembering our priorities, like Little Claire's horror at the school-wide one-ply toilet-tissue travesty!
On top of all that John gives voice to our wider silliness at any age when sizing someone up at a glance. Parents are particularly funny, aren't they?
"He was very polite on the phone. Sounded very handsome."
It's a brand-new school year at Griswalds Grammar in the town of Tackleford and our six young sleuths are in gleeful form. Together Shauna, Lottie, Mildred, Jack, Linton and Sonny are a force to be reckoned with, but almost immediately the most exuberant of them all, Lottie, is separated from the group.
First, she simply doodled over the memo she was supposed to sign to join the others in Latin class and so finds herself sitting instead next to Little Claire whose "lithp" makes her sound like a bothersome wasp.
Secondly, she's the first to fall for the charms of that peculiar new boy Lem who doesn't appear to others to have any charm at all: he eats onions and only onions all day! Yet one by one the mystery-fixated group comes to the improbable conclusion that "He's a right laugh once you get to know him". Then their breath starts to smell weird.
"I've blown up like a dead sheep in a river, Shauna."
"I told you! Onions are a sometimes food!"
Effectively ostracised from her friends as they start being led by Lem to some very odd games at his onion farm, Shauna finds herself alone and in need of new, unlikely allies like Corky, Blossom and Tuan of the role playing club. Desperate times call for Desperate Measures and Shauna may have bitten off more than she can chew. But at least she's not gnashing down on onions. Yet.
As ever, the body language on offer is exquisite, like Tuan gesticulating wildly over Corky, casting a
"Break Enchantment" spell, or one of the brand-new pages (there are always new pages upon printed publication) depicting team captain Linton on the soccer pitch in his pristine white kit, hands on hips as he wiggles the football beneath one boot. Judging by the various other stances, though, I'm not sure that it's going to be the most coordinated of matches.
Blossom has a face like thunder throughout ("I never really thought of Blossom as a girl. More of an unhappy cloud."), Lem's nose is as raw as the onions he's eating, and when someone shelters under an umbrella one gets a very real sense of huddling and what's still getting wet.
The comic kicks off late at night and halfway in, as Shauna clack-clacks and huffs-huffs her way hurriedly down an eerie, empty school corridor which echoes like an indoor swimming pool. She turns to face her enemy... and betrayal from within!
Allison's comics and comedy are ever so British and each one is self-contained so you can start anywhere you like. BAD MACHINERY VOL 3 which we made Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month is drenched in our national, default meteorological condition (the drains "GLUG GLUG GLUG" in the background here), while his self-published BOBBINS one-shot (another Page 45 CBOTM) was our biggest-selling comic of its year.
Lastly: What's up with the word 'lisp', eh? Why would you invent a word which those who suffer from it find impossible to pronounce? You are monsters, all of you.