Page 45 Review by Stephen
"Know you are loved."
This is going to surprise you.
Longharvest Lane, London: 1890, 1940, 2014 and 2050.
Four different artists for four distinct time periods. In each of them a naked male corpse is discovered in the same position, in the same location, with the same vicious mutilations and the same stark symbol slashed upon its wrists.
This brand begins to crop up everywhere and every when: on the finger prints of the corpse itself; on a Spiritualist & Pharmacist shop front window and door; at the Whitechapel Masonic Lodge, on the parachute of a doll in a dream; within the Pulsewave Generator's holographic schematics in the future; as a mark left in place of one of the corpses which goes AWOL; and on the ancient painting titled "So Begins The Long Harvest".
Whole thoughts and phrases echo throughout time, like "Who are you and what do you remember?" and "This is brutality".
So this brutality begins during four eras which saw or will see extreme hatred and violence.
2014 sees D.S. Shahara Hasan, a Muslim East-Ender, in police riot gear leading the charge against an aggressively racist anti-Muslim demonstration rallied by England's Glory. She is philosophical about the thugs and amused by her subordinate's sense of humour:
"Tell me again why I'm the one in the armour and you're swanning about in Hugo Boss?"
"Because your people are on a ruthless Jihad to set up an Islamofascist annex of Mecca on the Mile End Road?"
"And don't you forget it. Your head'll be first to roll as soon as my scimitar arrives from Taliban Central."
She's about to have that smile wiped off her face.
In 1890, during Jack The Ripper's murderous rampage, Inspector Edmond Hillinghead strays on a top-hatted toff receiving oral relief down a dark alley from a woman with stubble before he trips in flight over a hacked and slashed corpse.
"Someone really didn't like him."
"Or really liked doing this to him."
Dutiful and diligent, Hillinghead will do his best for the victim using fledging forensics in spite of his superior's less than enlightened attitudes towards homosexuality. These too are dark times.
In 2050. armed with a bow and arrow, Maplewood discovers her own incarnation of the body in the scantily populated, broken capitol, along with a brightly coloured ball and a conspicuously coherent girl called Bounce. Fro like someone with Alzheimer's and everyone else around her, Maplewood struggles with labels, scrabbles for the right words and barely remembers her own name. The Pulsewave saw to that many moons ago. But who saw to the Pulsewave?
During an air raid in 1940's East End - while across The Channel The Holocaust is occurring - we find one Inspector Weissman hiding his Jewish heritage with an anglicised name which no one will use. He has unorthodox methods of policing his turf, using the long rain of Blitz bombs to harvest a fortune in theft.
"The blackouts and the raids mask a multitude of crimes. Most of them mine."
But not all of them, apparently, are his.
All four artists - Meghan Hetrick, Dean Ormston, Tula Lotay and Phil Winslade - bring distinct atmospheres to their eras: smooth and clean, suppressed grotesque, elusive and ethereal, and a Butch Guice brand of photorealism, respectively.
Dean Ormston's lines are a tightly controlled cross between Richard Corben (SPIRITS OF THE DEAD and HAUNT OF HORROR) and HELLBOY's Mike Mignola when it comes to the shadows and period feel. Lee Loughbridge adjusts his colour palette for each era and with Ormston restricts himself largely to black, white and a glowing spot-red for spectacles, sigils and blood. When complementing Tula Lotay's dreamlike sequences he's far softer, far brighter and in places quite close to Paul Pope's HEAVY LIQUID. Those sequences are almost like a mirage.
The eight chapters are split into six pages for each time period, which is a discipline in itself, but their order rotates as required. You're encouraged - nay, compelled - to cross-reference densely packed clues. These range from the more obvious iterations of Longharvest Lane (by 2050 the cracked and dilapidated street sign is missing several letters) and Longharvest Arms, Green and indeed Infirmary. And, deliciously, the time periods will bleed into each other with both cause and effect.
But I promised you surprises, didn't I? The biggest is this: it's no mere whodunit. Like Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell's comicbook masterpiece FROM HELL, this is a whydunit, and the self-sacrificial "Why?" is infinitely more important.
For, at its great big heart, this is a wake-up call, combating wave after wave of human prejudice and its sick and sorry attendant violence.
It's precisely the sort of thing Will Eisner spoke of so wisely in DROPSIE AVENUE, THE NAME OF THE GAME and TO THE HEART OF THE STORM etc. The clue's on the very first page.
It's not without humour either, and I'd quote you to death except that none of the sequences I'd tagged and tethered for inclusion would fit in with this review.
It really does at its core boil down to this:
"Know you are loved."