Page 45 Review by Stephen
"I am tripping my face off."
And it all looks so innocent and straightforward on the cover.
I'm not sure chain-smoking's a particularly wise idea for a 16-year-old - or at any age, trust me - but then MacKenzie's going to be displaying a distinct lack of wisdom, 1980s-style, throughout. It wasn't a particularly compassionate time, was it? I think you can trust the writer of EX MACHINA and SAGA to make that matter. Retrospect is a funny old thing. "The past is a foreign place" etc.
Before we begin, I like what Matt Wilson - colourist on THE WICKED + THE DIVINE etc - has done with the faces within. The mouths, eyes and brows have retained Cliff Chiang's black lines while the more subtle shadows round the lips, nose and furrows are gentle, darker tones of the flesh itself.
Apart from the winged apparition of Challenger astronaut Christa McAuliffe in full space helmet; and shaggy old Beelzebub torturing Erin's young sister in her school classroom. Dreams, eh?
"We warned you... Never eat from the Tree Of Knowledge."
Of course it's an apple. There will be a lot of apple for you to discover / decipher / decrypt along with a secret language - I'm not even joking. Decoding that by substituting letters of the alphabet for the symbols will yield many more lines of dialogue. There's even an apple phone - which is ahead of its time.
November 1st 1988 and Erin awakes from her nightmare at 4-40am to prepare for her paper round. She's got a big stash of cash in her bedroom's desk drawer next to the keys and elastic-band ball so she's obviously not doing badly, but this morning she'll have to contend with the teenage detritus of last night's Halloween. Thank goodness for MacKenzie, KJ and Tiffany, then - three more paper girls who've banded together for mutual protection precisely in case of dweebs like these. Erin is slightly in awe of MacKenzie, the first local paperboy who wasn't actually a boy.
"Hey, I was the altar girl long before Mac took over her brother's route."
"Yeah, Tiffany's like the Amelia Earhart of crap that doesn't matter."
They're going to need it too because umm, that thing in the basement. Extra constellations in the sky. Extra creatures in the sky. Three skulking figures wrapped in black linen with far from humanoid pupils. You won't like what they find underneath. Thank goodness one of the young ladies had saved up enough paper-round money for a set of walkie-talkies. You remember them...! Oh god, you're only eighteen, aren't you?
I love how the kids attempt to rationalise all the strangeness their lives have just become in terms they can comprehend without completely freaking out. People keep blinking in and out of existence as if they're not really there. Or weren't there. Or won't be.
Take MacKenzie's mom who is well past freaking out and reduced to glugging bourbon straight from the bottle. She introduces herself to Mac's friends, but...
"Actually Alice is my stepmother. She met my dad in A.A."
"Which part of anonymous don't you understand?"
"I don't know, which part of not drinking don't you understand?"
There's an excellent execution of environment with Cliff Chiang providing scowls, late '80s early teen fashion, exquisite figure work, pavement-level perspectives and a sprawling, early morning suburbia with enough trees to make it somewhere you wouldn't actively hate too much to live - unless, like MacKenzie, you have the local cops on your case. Once this essential grounding's been done in dullsville, the odd giant flying reptile tends to mark more of an impact
Best sequence so far: Tiffany's life flashing before her eyes. All of it.
"...Why didn't I stop when I was stuck at Level 28..."