Page 45 Review by Stephen
Out in the vast, open desert a storm is brewing: a storm of sand, and a storm of confrontation and conflict.
Hopelessly through one and haplessly into the other staggers young, wounded Abbie with her beautiful feathered steed, a giant, speckle-breasted moa.
Exhausted, the moa doesn't make it, but thanks to the determined and instinctive intervention of Jaime and his grandfather, Iman, Abbie is carefully carried back to the sheltered safety of their family house in their remote town, all alone in the desiccating dunes. As they do so, a blue-and-black-furred jackal-like rakuna watches carefully, cautiously, yet knowingly.
"They're the servants of Raku," explains Jaime's Aunt Nifrain, "Deva of long journeys. And difficult times."
She's seen a rakuna once before, many years ago, and she will see another shortly.
Abbie's journey has already been long and she has far further to go in these difficult times, for she seeks to carry her dead mother's ashes in a fragile urn up to the mountain range called the Potter's Spine, there to scatter them and mourn in private.
For the moment, however, haunted by dreams of her dearly departed, she must take time to recuperate in the company of Jaime, Iman and Nefrain.
There'll be no peace and quiet, but recover she will, for Auntie Nifrain is a doctor with a fiery temper and a very sharp knife, determined that her patients will be healed whether they like it or not! Nurse Nefrain will not brook a bad patient, and even fiercely independent Abbie will have to do as she's told - for now...
Nor is the wider town life any less loud, for it is constantly beset by roaming, opportunistic Parasai demanding tributes from the poor population. These Parasai look like anyone else, but have tremendous strength and psychokinetic powers which they once used to aid those in need but now take from them instead. One comes off like an anti-Desperate-Dan, even juggling a cow for good measure. But basically they have sunk to the low level of bullies and the town's mayor does nothing but appease.
"We're a humble people here. We know our place in the world, and we have no trouble with paying what's due to those who are better."
Such low self-esteem
"All we ask is to live our lives in peace."
The trouble is that they cannot and are not living their lives in peace while these public raids continue, but his arguments are more complex than that.
"Treasures can be remade. Lives cannot. You'd do well to teach your grandson, Iman."
But what, do you think, has any of this to do with Abbie?
More all-ages excellence which will thrill, chill and get you right riled up, but which will also take you in unexpected directions and make you laugh as it does so. There is some exquisite, slapstick visual comedy, a running gag about badly made pigeon soup and one page that had me howling with its pitch-perfect timing involving an unattended window, four steaming-hot potato buns and an unfortunate cat.
I so do wish I could find that and perhaps I will before we go to publication but in case we can't it'll give you something to really look forward to!
The same thing goes for an air-punching moment of cactus catharsis, but I'm saying nothing.
Nilah Magruder isn't afraid to mix up the art with a plethora of clever comedic devices, one utilising both form and colour for a frozen, statuesque moment of mortified horror during an accident accentuated with the beauty which precedes it in the form of an intricate, delicately blown, marigold-coloured glass figurine. Again, though: there will be surprises!
On a more serious note, this album-sized graphic novel also deals sensitively with subjects like loss, loneliness, isolation and independence, along with family matters, and does so partly with ever so expressive eyes.
Abbie, for example, isn't the only individual left without parents. Jaime's mother had an incurable, innate wanderlust, so she left him when young to be looked after by her father and sister Nifrain. They've never considered Jaime a burden, but that doesn't mean that Jaime has thought the same way.
I don't know either way, but I do wonder if the jackal-like rakuna draws on the same mythology as the apparition in Leila Del Duca & Kit Seaton's AFAR? Either way, I would watch out for that as you watch out for each other - a concept very much at the heart of this journey.
I don't think that it's over.
What a tremendously bright, profoundly moving and highly intriguing punchline!