Page 45 Review by Stephen
There is a monster on the hill.
There was a monster on almost every hill overlooking the quiet townships of mid-nineteenth century England. It's one of the first things you learn in this country at school. They used to come down into town and rampage through the streets destroying property and upsetting daily commerce no end. And folks loved it!
It was a tourist attraction: visitors would travel from far and wide to get scared senseless by each other's monsters, then collect trading-card, poster and model souvenirs. Tentaculor was a particular source of pride for Billingwood. He was big, green, with two enormous fangs and suckered, octopoid tentacles.
As to Stoker-on-Avon, well, there is a monster on their hill too. He's just
not very good at it.
Rayburn appears to have what it takes - scarlet skin, horns and a ferociously sharp, pointed beak - but he's suffering a crisis of confidence. He just lies in bed, staring at the ceiling. I think he's depressed. His wings don't even work.
"Extra!! Extra! Stoker-on-Avon monster still a no-show! Town at wit's end!" cries street urchin Timothy.
In desperation the town elders summon eccentric Doctor Charles Wilkie, struck off for
well, malpractice might be a bit strong. Misguided enthusiasm? Unorthodox methods? Being bananas
? Anyway, they charge him with changing their fortunes.
"Extra! Extra! Disgraced Doc to fix town monster!" declares Timothy, five minutes later. The headline now reads: "Will He Be Eaten? Or Worse?"
"How did you do that?"
"The news never sleeps. Can I come along?"
"Come along where?"
"To see the monster. Duh."
"Now that is a truly horrible idea."
"Extra! Extra! Doctor rejects poor urchin child!"
It's time to pay Rayburn a visit. Give him a pep talk, perhaps. Unfortunately Rayburn's malaise is decidedly deep-seated. Then it starts to rain. And Rayburn may be a dragon, but he isn't without manners so he invites Timothy and the doctor into his lair.
"Ya ain't gonna eat us, are ya?"
"I was thinking more along the lines of a pot of tea."
It's all quite delightful. Both BONE's Jeff Smith and SANDMAN's Neil Gaiman (OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE in stock!) provide enthusiastic endorsements. The monster designs are funny (I liked Kongor the best) and Rayburn's hooded-eye expressions are worth the price of admission alone.
What follows is a road trip to seek out encouragement and inspiration, calling in on the gargantuan Tentaculor himself - or, as Rayburn's known him since school, "Noodles".
But the action heats up, along with a sense of urgency, when it becomes clear that, with Rayburn absent from Stoker-on-Avon, the town is under threat from a genuine attack by the hideous, fur-matted Murk.