Page 45 Review by Jonathan
"Why are you doing this?"
"I think you know."
"But nobody's even watching."
"Well... I started to get a kick out of it, with or without an audience..."
We eventually find out the real reason why Joe is getting mercilessly and remorselessly bullied by Jason. He has two mothers, which in such a small parochial town is obviously sufficiently outré as to be different enough from the supposed 'norm' to get picked on. Jason is clearly getting sadistic thrills out of his treatment of Joe, possibly even sexually so, given a certain turn of events towards the end of the book. So you suspect that if it hadn't been Joe's atypical family setup, then there would have some other equally inconsequential reason found for Jason's victimisation of him.
It's the sheer relentless, inescapability of the bullying which will break your heart, no matter how Joe tries to avoid his tormentor by wandering through waist-deep snow-filled fields and woods, for example, which is where we learn of his affinity for nature and we also see the titular moose. All this so as to avoid catching the schoolbus, Jason having 'reserved' the seat directly in front of him for Joe, to allow the maximum torture potential...
Joe's trapped, of course, by the code of silence, that unspoken childhood rule that you shouldn't tell the teachers on someone, not even if they're kicking you up the arse with a compass (the pointy circle drawing kind, not the directional aid). His only ally is the school nurse, a young girl who knows exactly what is going on and is thus the only adult-ish individual Joe can confide in. And so you begin to wonder if, when, Joe will snap.
After all, people can only take so much, even those with the strongest of wills. But when people snap it can go two ways, depending on just how scared of their bully they are. They can lash out in desperation, or look to hurt themselves in despair. I was getting fearful for Joe, I really was, wondering which way he'd go when he finally cracked and then... the story takes an altogether unexpected turn, and Joe is presented with a very tough moral dilemma indeed...
Wonderful storytelling from Max De Radigues, who is definitely a talented artist too. You'll be minded of several different creators, I think. I could see the likes of Kevin Huizenga, Liz Prince, Sammy Harkham, Ethan Reilly, even a bit of Jeffrey Brown actually. His characters have a real sensitivity to them, he portrays their emotions very well, even the odious Jason whom, when he revealed one particularly snide smile, I was absolutely willing Joe to batter. Very Gandhi-esque of me, I know! I will definitely be looking for more from Max in the future. He is Belgian and apparently has produced a few other works, so hopefully if this is successful enough then they will get translated.