Page 45 Review by Stephen
My favourite series of the last three years lavishly packaged in a cloth-bound hardcover embossed with that all-important silver key.
As unpredictable as its chief protagonist, it asks more questions - of those she encounters and those she leaves behind - than it answers. Megan McKeenan, you see, can't stay still. For twelve meandering years she strives to make a life for herself, struggling to fit in with people and places only to falter or fail - sometimes spectacularly - and pack up her bags and go. Portland, Chicago, Toronto, Halifax, Brooklyn; she even tries snow-swept Missoula. Nothing, nowhere and no one seems right. But then she's got a lot of growing up to do, and although it seems that way to her, she's not alone. At least, no more than anyone else.
The ambition of this work is only surpassed by its execution, and just like Megan herself, Ryan Kelly develops throughout these pages. "The second issue boasts an extraordinarily rendered apartment interior, so vivid you'd think you were sitting in it," I wrote at the time. Of a later issue in which Megan is swapping identities even more swiftly than usual, digging herself an increasingly deep hole: "Ryan Kelly is ridiculously hard on himself in the back of the book, providing a few secrets of his own that you'd never guess from the thoroughly sumptuous visuals. He's one of several Paul Pope-inspired artists around at the moment (most of whom seem to know Brian Wood!), but he's made it his own for each issue comes fully mapped out in its own breathing location. The waterfront landscape in this issue, for example, glows under the evening lights..." His sweeping autumn leaves were particularly impressive, and I'm delighted to find them once more on the cover in magnificent silver. In short, for a book that's almost as much about location as it is about its inhabitants, he captures each spirit of place beautifully.
What struck me most of all, however, in reading through this again this afternoon is that the scope is far broader than I remembered. It's not just about Megan. Halfway through you see her cousin's self-destruction, stuck in a rut of his own making even as she sends him postcards from afar. In the issue immediately following Megan's account of her relationship with her mother who goes to great pains to provide as much freedom for her as possible, you're given her brother's perspective which couldn't be more different, but both of these go a very long way to suggesting why they are where they are now - and not just in terms of location. Another chapter is devoted to a band who left for Europe, changed direction, made it big then split up only to return home - all at the same time - each experiencing that return very differently. In each case, everyone has to find their own way, make their own mistakes, experience their own setbacks and either break bad cycles or not. Then as the series starts to wrap up Wood introduces us to "The Younger Generation" in the form of art student Nancy Bai, a thieving magpie who assembles Megan's life into a creation that confronts her full in the face.
I can't recall a series of such diverse individuals so fully fleshed out in a short space of time. They're constantly surprising, delighting and disappointing, Megan most of all. Highly recommended, then, to readers of STRAY BULLETS or OPTIC NERVE.