Page 45 Review by Stephen
Well, wouldn't you know it: a week after I review MANN'S BEST FRIEND I'm handed another dog-centric story, and this time it's an autobiography.
It's breathtakingly beautiful: an expressive, visual treat from Jes?s Alonso thrown together with constant, vivacious, bounding movement, coloured in the countryside with such refreshing, bright-skied joy, but blue as you like at night.
That's Pierre at the top of the cover looking a bit blank, harrowed, lost, lonely and ashamed, surrounded by the ghosts / empty shells of the lovers he never loved even when he was adored. You'll meet a fair few of them inside. One was perfect; Pierre was not.
And look! That's Sonny at the bottom, sitting obediently, patiently and trustingly, looking up adoringly into Pierre's eyes, waiting for a signal, any sign that it's time to play! Whatever Pierre has endured over all these years as a lover, publisher and private individual - with careless friends and the occasional outrageous duplicity - Sonny has been his one loyal constant, his confidant, all fluffy and energetic and bursting with unconditional, wholehearted love.
But Pierre is charging through the city
"Where are you going?"
Interjected between these 250 album-sized pages of green and golden light there is a staccato series of midnight pages - say, a dozen in total - in the centre of each of which lies a single, landscape, cityscape panel as Pierre tears across town at top speed. His loose, French-striped sweatshirt rides up at his back, bearing his sharply defined, taut spine.
"You look like you're in a hurry..."
He's carrying a black bin liner which we first spy resting silently by his bathroom door in Pierre's otherwise empty flat before Pierre enters, strips, looks in the mirror and bursts into tears.
"Wait for me!"
It swings lightly in one hand as he races desperately down the middle of the main road, the only traffic parked and unattended at the curb...
Pierre Paquet is a publisher.
He specialises in comicbook creators whom he believes in: those who aren't receiving, for example, the Casterman treatment which almost guarantees sales and recognition. At Page 45 we empathise unreservedly. For Pierre it has often proved a thankless task of long hours, hard work and few rewards, as you will see. Perhaps you'd like to travel with him to the French festival at Angoulême and see how that goes?
"I'm faster than you!"
He's not immune to being led astray or over-reaching himself, but the one thing he's never lacked is ambition, zeal, optimism and the sort of bravado that results in eagerly and courageously sticking his neck out. As in publishing, so it has been in dating.
Wow, but this guy knows how to travel! I'm not quite sure how all this was afforded. Evidently we live in very different worlds. Still, it makes for a very rich and surprising tapestry.
"Stop! Talk to me!"
He wasn't always so great with dogs when younger.
Earlier on he tries to adopt Lucy against his mother's better judgement. There's an exquisitely drawn scene in which Lucy, who is straight out of kennels and bursting with gratitude plus an eagerness to please, cocks her head to one side then another as she listens to their dispute with varying degrees of bafflement, startled alarm, uncertainty yet hope, then an ear-twitching ouch as her elder years are argued as but a short-term and so practical engagement.
But at last there are the cuddles of commitment. Awwww...!
It doesn't end well.
"I have a new game we can play!"
Sonny is a different proposition altogether. Now older, wiser, far more capable and flexible, Paquet adopts puppy Sonny born of a Great Pyrenees mum who loved him but an Afghan hound that rejected him in the same shared, restricted space which resulted in their original owners shutting Sonny up alone in a closet for months until neighbours thankfully reported the execrable excuses for human beings..
On the pages that follow Alonso once again rises to the challenge of depicting a too-timid Sonny who understandably takes over a year of reassuring love before he finally stops cowering in public at even the most tentative overture of kindness. When you've been rejected for so long, trust cannot not come easily.
You'll notice that I'm concentrating on the dog here. There's so much more, I promise you, from childhood friends grown larger and more dominating, to lawsuits and lovers and an exceptionally curious visit to the "studio" of a very well known artist within the comicbook community that I still cannot quite believe was the real deal. Oh yeah, Paquet's life is not uneventful.
"But... what's going on?"
I once lost my dog Leela for half an hour while she chased after her own tail up Peckforton Hills, a mere fifteen minutes from where I used to live in Cheshire. She was way too stupid to hunt, track or trail anything real, which is one of the many reasons that I loved her so much. In that one half an hour, during which I could not recall her (however loudly) into my sight, my heart took up residence in my mouth, paid sixteen months rent and threatened to sign a legally binding lease. At one point Paquet loses Sonny in the middle of nowhere he knew for a full night and day. I cannot even imagine...
However, did I mention that Alonso consistently conveys every nuance of emotion within to note-perfect perfection throughout? My own tautologies aside, you will be able to imagine exactly what Pierre was going through.
Alonso does lip-biting, eye-watering, toe-curling (literal, orgasmic toe-curling during sex), dazed, doting, head-over-heels, blistering fury, blessed relief and gastric fever like no one's business.
"I'm... hey, are you crying...?"
Lastly, if you're still wondering where my only quotes are coming from, they're reproductions of those big black, midnight pages I mentioned earlier in which Paquet is careening single-mindedly down whichever central avenue it is, hand clenched over the throat of that plastic bin-liner which his eyes so studiously avoided and for so long back at the flat.
Sonny is chasing after him, lolloping as lovingly as he ever did with boundless, infinite enthusiasm, but completely unable to comprehend why Pierre won't listen or cannot even hear him any longer.
Figure it out for yourself: I can't even see this screen for tears.