Page 45 Review by Jonathan
To paraphrase the Beastie Boys from their mid-career classic Sureshot, I do like Dan Berry, he's very.
And then you can basically insert any suitable superlative you like. I think today I will go with consistently brilliant, but I could equally have employed prodigious, hilarious, enigmatic, and indeed, when the mood takes him, insouciant. But enough of the man, what about his comics, I hear you cry?! Well, they're bloody good too and this is no exception.
Fashioned from absolute nothingness more empty than the vacuum of interstellar space in the span of a mere 24 hours for the 2015 Lakes International Comics Art Festival 24 Hour Comics Marathon - in addition to running the whole shebang - Dan only went and produced what might actually be my favourite comic of his full stop! (The 2014 LICAF 24 Hour Comics Marathon collected edition 24 BY 7 was nominated for a 2016 Eisner award recently by the way).
This is a visual masterpiece and I'm utterly delighted for this commercial release he's gone for an enlarged A4 size which only highlights the bravura of his penmanship performance on the day... and the night... and a bit of day again... A mere pamphlet-sized A5 pocket book does not sufficiently display the wonders you will find within. Though being perfectly honest, it did actually look brilliant at that smaller size at the festival, it's just that this is even more impressive. A grower as well as a shower then, if you will.
For there are no less than eight glorious full page spreads amongst the 34 pages, featuring gargantuan craggy cliffs, tumultuous cascading waterfalls, desperately flapping fish and one very, very annoyed bear which benefit from this dramatic upscaling in size from the version that made its dramatic entrance at the festival. I can't remember if there were medals awarded last year to the hardy Nychthemeronauts who scaled the peaks of mild hysteria and ploughed the troughs of caffeine-crutched tiredness to produce such excellence, but they all deserved them regardless, such was the collective quality of the output.
I seem to recall that Dan even had time to endure a heart-fibrillating printing disaster upon realising one of the said full-page spreads had been missed from the file that got sent to the printer. Such is the cool, calm collectedness of the man that he merely strode purposefully to the nearest water closet, had but a mere minor emotional breakdown, then marched straight back out and dealt with it like the consummate comics professional he is.
So! Young Ben and his older sister Amy are riding the rippling rapids for a few days whilst at summer camp. Ben's taken along a little light reading material inspired by events that took place on that very river entitled... The Lost Expedition Of Bear Canyon. Ah... But nothing seems too much amiss, to begin with at least, as our intrepid explorers float along down the frothy foam without a care in the world. Well, other than the fact that whilst boastful junior counsellor Connor has one eye on the rocks ahead the other is very firmly fastened onto Amy...
When Ben, more than a touch spooked from a creepy story round the evening camp fire, disturbs our budding new romantics and receives his marching orders, he storms off in tears. It's then as much a surprise to him as to us that he finds himself being consoled by a fast-talking beaver, backed up by a glowering bear, who announces that Ben has been selected to be the River Champion! And that's where the ride starts to get a little more, quite literally, hairy... and wet. As Ben continues to narrate the lost expedition's descent into madness from his book, the bear suddenly appears to menace our travellers... and the motor-mouthed beaver demands a sacrifice for the river...
Poor young Ben is about to find his mettle well and truly tested and be given a very difficult decision to make. Will the Lost Expedition of Bear Canyon require a sequel?!! Or can our motley crew possibly escape the capsizing clutches of the greedy gulch unscathed and without the need for a bathyscaphe?!
Note! As he always does, Dan has very kindly sketched and signed in all of our copies, as he has with his Man vs Machine computer catastrophe SENT / NOT SENT, reviewed last week by Stephen.