Page 45 Review by Stephen
"Making love is a beautiful way for two people to share their bodies. That's what my Granny says."
"It's difficult to imagine the exact moment when she'd say that."
Dear, dear Daisy! So sweet, so innocent, so much hair! Her hands are constantly clasped together or round someone she loves. This is her idea of a dirty secret:
"I was watching napkin-folding videos. They make me... feel nice."
Aww. She's just made best friends with Esther and Susan, the three of them thrown together at university during Fresher's Week. They're a month in and colds from all over the country have come together for a massive flu-fest, spread by snogging and whatnot. Gothstress Esther De Groot is pallid at the best of times, but now she's looking like a cocooned corpse, wrapped head to toe in a duvet.
"I can't tell if I'm hot or cold."
"You live for compliments, don't you? You're hot! You're very hot."
That's Susan Ptolemy, the more motherly of the trio, doing her best to look after the ditzy (Daisy) and the drama-magnet (Esther). Unfortunately she's currently torn between a sore throat and her craving to smoke.
"Nic-O-Teen. Why are you treating me like this? You cost me a fortune! I demand loyalty!"
And nicotine patches are even more expensive.
"It's a con! It's a carnie game! The whole nicotine business is a scam!"
"Congratulations, Ptolemy. You worked it out."
The man with the moustache clapping away is McGraw. Susan and McGraw have a childhood past. Now that McGraw has transferred in from another university, they're about to have a somewhat problematic present. Throw in little Ed Gemmel with his shyly guarded pash on Esther, and that's your basic set-up. It works like a dream, each chapter throwing up college-driven catastrophes-in-waiting with a sub-plot or two simmering underneath.
Written by John Allison, the creator of BAD MACHINERY and EXPECTING TO FLY, the discipline he's learned from publishing individual pages episodically online - each one demanding narrative movement - means that there's no filler whatsoever. Instead there's panel after panel of wild declarations and pithy retorts as the women discover themselves, their new surroundings and each other.
We adore Allison's art as well, but both his substitutes so far have been golden and I hate to say it but you won't miss John for one second. Here it's Lissa Treiman whose energy explodes on the page, matching that of its cast. Her eye for contemporary casual wear is right up with Allison's and Jamie McKelvie's, while Esther's exotic new boots are monstrously fab, even if they've cost her a night's clubbing.
"I apparently spent all my money on these boots. They spoke to me."
"They said, "You're not going to have any money any more"?"
"I wish I spoke Boot."
Chapter three's final-panel teaser was deliciously drawn by Treiman as Daisy walks away whistling, having dropped enough of a bombshell for Susan and Esther to stare at each other, wide-eyed, over the top of Daisy's retreating bush of hair, both uttering a wavy, "oooooooooooh!"
That in itself is a joyfully satisfying composition but, brilliantly, Susan and Esther's expressions are opposites: Susan's more of a convex, upturned gasp, hair flying, while Esther's mouth is a great big grin which is reflected in the concave curve of her ski-slope nose, black tresses cascading down.
What are they so intrigued by? Daisy's new friendship with the gorgeous Nadia, she of the blue-streaked, asymmetrical haircut. It's Daisy's 18th birthday soon. She's never been clubbing before.
"I don't... know... if this is the sort of music I like, Nadia."
"You'll get into it. You might just need a bit of assistance."
Haha! It's amazing what you'll dance to under the right conditions.
I'm afraid Daisy's just popped all the pills!