Page 45 Review by Stephen
"This is where the forgotten spirits wait, hoping that someone finds an old photo and lights a candle for them.
"They smell like the rain. No, like a flood."
No one has truly died until they're forgotten.
Their spirits survive in our recollections of how they affected our lives.
Throughout Mexico, families gather to celebrate and remember their immediate loved ones and older ancestors during the Day of the Innocents and the Day of the Dead, so keeping their legacies alive in their hearts and minds.
But some stories slip through the cracks - along with unfinished business - for not everyone leaves a living relative behind to keep that flame alive. Those spirits are restless, those spirits are pained.
Some of us cannot bear to be forgotten.
Emotional investment: do you know what 'Nenetl' means?
My second review of our Greentea Publishing comics imported direct from Vera herself is of this complete four-part fantasy which is immaculately structured and ever so satisfying once the true nature of Nena becomes clear, and her remaining ties to this world are disentangled, revealed, both to us and to the tight tale's young cast. I wasn't expecting anything quite so clever, but one should never underestimate Vera Greentea.
We first meet Nena in a bustling market square bathed in late-afternoon shadows - already decked out with street-straddling flags and sugar skulls galore - bumped into by tiny Jonah who's sporting some short-legged, bright orange dungarees. I don't think I've ever typed the word "dungarees" before. There are a lot more collisions to come, and I don't mean that merely metaphorically. Laura Muller loves drawing multiple "strobe shots" of figures in flight across a single environment, thrusting them forward with a much greater sense of momentum than had they been split between panels. Almost always they are then brought to an abrupt halt, either by themselves on coming to the edge of a rooftop, or by being thumped into by someone else in a hurry. During the first issue alone that happens three times, and it's very effectively done.
So what's Jonah carrying? You'll have to wait for part three. Why's he in such a rush? Again, see part three! Why is Nena waiting there and where did she come from? I'd suggest patience until the middle of part two - that which takes place several hours earlier. I did promise you clever structure, didn't I?
So exactly who is our Nena? Ah-hah! The secrets will all eventually out, for now you'll only learn where she's heading: an assignation with older Bastian, friend of Jonah, thence an ancestral vault which leads to a catacomb of skulls.
However, have you studied the cover to part one properly? There Nena dances, arms perfectly poised mid-air for balance, her lower leg striding daintily out from under her dress, revealing... Oh.
It's another of those classic rhombus compositions like Caravaggio's 'David With The Head Of Goliath' (Villa Borghese version), this time using the line of the leg rather than a sword to complete the circuit between hands, arms, head and foot.
And don't you just love the luminous quality of Nena's red dress? Material like that shifts in colour depending on the quality of light falling across it; material like that shifts in colour depending on what lights shines through it, as Nena drops down from the rooftop, her dress fanning out, all seen from below with the sun up above, not transparent but translucent. Then there's the forward / sideways roll upon landing and, yup, carmine joins the crimson.
Muller will later show you what she can do with blue hues too, both in the candle-lit catacombs and in the graveyard where confident, ambitious Violetta (sister of Eli, all part of the same set of friends as Jonah and Bastian, as tutored by Father Eduardo) makes a terrible mistake in a ceremony whose consequences she doesn't fully understand.
"The spirits are waiting..."
Oh yes! That, they are!
As with WRAITH, Greentea generously allows her visual storyteller, Muller, to do so much of the immediately obvious fancy work. A less judicious or self-confident author might be tempted to clog up the shape- and colour-driven pages with extraneous dialogue and hideous exposition simply to show that they're working. Some people get paid by the paragraph, you see. However, when you're self-publishing and you've had the good fortune to secure an artist like Muller on your comic, then it would a crime to clutter it up.
I can assure you that, instead, Vera has set all the tale's hidden vertebrae into interlocking perfection.