Page 45 Review by Stephen
Someone's not happy.
"She was nineteen."
"That's funny. I said that with a different tone as a defence."
Oh, how I wish I could quote you the three preceding sentences in that exchange, but we don't use those words around here!
As the first issue's cover may suggested ("I'm Paul." "I'm Nate." "I'm drunk.") this is all very Warren Ellis (think INJECTION), and it was indeed a tremendously funny first issue from the writer of THE WALKING DEAD comic, the showrunner of 'The Walking Dead' TV series Seasons 4 to 8 who left to co-write this, and the artist on Grant Morrison's NAMELESS.
It was also a massive surprise because it arrived on our shelves free of charge and entirely unannounced, without us having even ordered it because it was never solicited in PREVIEWS!
The idea behind that - which I wholeheartedly applaud, along with its successfully clandestine execution - was to make visiting comic shops exciting again. As Kirkman has written, there is so much information on the internet now that a comic series can be announced up to a year before its publication and that's a long time to sustain any interest. Instead, here you go - BOOM!
We begin in Shrewsbury at the greyhound races, with an elderly man dropping his betting ticket. A younger, pretty bloke picks it up off the floor, handing it back to grateful gentlemen. Only, it isn't the one which the pensioner dropped. It's just as well, because he'd have lost his bet, having backed the wrong horse.
Instead he's won, big-time.
Believe it or not, that's merely one nudge in a ridiculously elaborate ruse formulated by the woman at the bottom of the cover, a US Senator, to completely ruin then murder a British Member of Parliament and Cabinet Minister without drawing too much attention to it. The murder, I mean. She wants him well ruined first, and in public, for he's a paedophile. She's snorting cocaine at midnight after what must have been a most excellent night of sex if the pert pair of bare buttocks on her sofa is anything to go by, and, as she does so, she reveals in the intricacies of her plan in minute, carefully calculated detail, including the permutations which wouldn't quite work and so were shelved. A key element was that the old codger at the race track, no relation to the MP whatsoever, needed to become exceedingly wealthy.
The Senator, you see, is running an organisation within the United States government which is as covert as the operation required to get the DIE! DIE! DIE! periodicals so secretly onto our shelves.
Unfortunately her plan begins to unravel in the Shropshire countryside on the very second page as the pretty young man speeds through the rural idyll on a motorbike, only to be pursued by a Landrover whose driver displays all the Highway Code courtesy of a BMW tail-gater.
The breezy self-confidence and acrobatic, pugilistic prowess of our secret agent is such that you know full well how that's going to pan out, but the writers are no more slacking throughout than the line and colour artist. They deliver a dry-stone English B-road to die for / beside, and some crotch-ripping high kicks to make you thank goodness for stretchable fabrics.
There followed a cracking final-page cliffhanger, craftily set up well in advance as to provide an immaculate three-beat punchline.
So what does the rest of the series have in store...?
For a start, three identical brothers who will be using their indistinguishable features to bamboozle all and sundry including each other, their wives, their employees and you, the readers. Don't think the cover's seriously wonky nose job is going to deter them, either. Lengths, they will be gone to.
Oh, and there's a great many feuds and a good deal of bloodletting, obviously.
We've racked this at the back of the shop with THE WALKING DEAD, right above the horror section and next to the superheroes. That should give you some idea as to who I'm targeting and how I'm marketing this. Could have gone with the comedy next to Hamish Steele's PANTHEON, I guess.