Page 45 Review by Stephen
It's my favourite part.
"Can we ever tell anybody?"
Simple, subtle, sublime.
Two girls share experiences, confide in each other and reassure each other gently.
They explore landscapes together, looking out, over or nestling within them. This is the sweet languor of youth when you still have time to rest supine and stare at the sky up above you.
There's an intimacy right from the start in the way they inhabit those landscapes, absorbing a song, one ear-bud each, or crouched under a duvet in front of a laptop with a night-time cityscape rising behind them, its tiny, square, skyscraper windows brightly lit while their monumental silhouettes stand out, crisp and bold, against white and purple-tinged clouds.
"I got an ipod Shuffle once for Hanukkah and it really stressed me out that I never knew what song was next."
That made me smile. It's true, isn't it, that we enjoy the segue from one song to another on an album we love, subconsciously anticipating what we know will come next as the final chords on the current one fade or when it concludes in a blistering crescendo? It's the same with any mix-tape you've made.
So here's the thing: the story is told in single-panel pages and if the landscapes are so often majestic - mountains, canyons, valleys - then the two girls are equally epic and so completely at one with them.
Their positioning is perfect and the sense of scale is breathtaking. Tillie Walden already demonstrated an adoration of Windsor McCay's LITTLE NEMO in THE END OF SUMMER; here she takes that influence and makes of it something uniquely her own. Winsor thought like this, but he never did this. There's also that dreamlike comfort to it. Or at least there is to begin with.
Initially each full-page panel features both girls in synch, either side by side or opposite each other, but then there's a brief falling-out over a photo uploaded onto social media without the expressed consent of the other. It's still gentle and the kindness - the reassurance - remains. But there follows a telling page in which they're no longer completely as one but staring in different directions and, oh, the art is exquisite as one girl's swimsuit hugs tight while the other's dress billows carefree in a breeze.
Gradually there encroach pages in which only one or neither girl features, silence falls and texting begins instead.
Never forever, I promise you, for this is far from linear but it's in marked contrast to what went before when their relationship morphs as they tentatively explores new territories, not necessarily successfully.
Aaaaaand we're still only a fraction of a way in.
The comic's not long but it's still substantial, begging you to linger and rewarding you if you do.
It's fiercely well observed with incredible understanding and empathy but without demanding you recognise that, for so much is left to be said by the silences. I'm in awe of that confidence. And if it isn't confidence then it's one massive leap of faith in an approach which is an unequivocal success.
I could type ten more paragraphs precisely proving in which ways Walden has achieved that - I honestly could - but I'm here to intrigue you to discover the rest for yourselves rather present evidence for my assertions once again for the university examining board.
That's part-relief, part-frustration but if I'm invited back onto the panel of judges for the British Comics Awards 2016 then they'll get that dissertation, in full, later this year.
I love that part.