Page 45 Review by Jonathan
"And this is where my story begins.
"The pain was beyond anything you could imagine, a fucking cannon hole in the chest.
"I couldn't move for what seemed like hours, like I was stuck in drying concrete. Probably just a trick by my DNA to keep me from bashing my brains in.
"The fact is, I didn't want to kill myself. My memories were all that was left of her. I couldn't bear to snuff those out too.
"And even though this event had demonstrated the total absence of order in the universe, I couldn't stand to think of some inhuman demon walking free while the cops pinned the whole thing on me.
"But I'll be fucked if that isn't exactly what happened."
It would be fair to say that 2012 wasn't a good year for Jack Barlow. I mean, coming home and finding your pregnant wife murdered will do that to you.
When the cops seem more interested in trying to pin it on him rather than conducting a serious investigation into the titular Patience's death, Jack decides he'll need to try and find the culprit himself. However, fast forward to 2029 and no matter how many spurious tips he's run down and flimsy leads he's followed up...
"... That one fizzled out like all the rest. More pointless bullshit. And so, here we are."
Indeed. Here we are. At least for now...
Meanwhile the fact that the more time passes it becomes ever less likely Jack will be able to find his wife's killer is not lost on him. In fact, it's all he can think about, so obsessed and all-consumed is Jack with what has been taken from him. Not just his wife, but the potential of a being a father, a future of being all together as one happy family. That Jack is utterly convinced the killer is someone from Patience's shadowy past only adds to his agony.
So when a prostitute Jack saves from a beating lets slip that she has a client who mentioned something about trying to invent a time machine, he's desperate enough to track the guy down. He knows it's going to be just one more kick in the teeth, but when it turns out to be true, he's headed straight back to 2006 to try and learn the identity of Patience's killer and alter the course of history by stopping her murder.
Of course, Daniel Clowes isn't going to let it be that simple for Jack, now, is he?! No, what follows as Jack is put through the emotional and temporal wringer, quite literally time after time, is as darkly comedic as it is disturbing. Jack is determined to be the discreet unseen observer, yet completely unable to stop himself from intervening as he sees his wife getting into various horrific scrapes she's only ever alluded to with various local scroatbags and ends up changing events in ways he could never have envisaged. He's convinced he can correct matters and still save the day of course, but as events start to spiral further out of his control, and the effects of repeated time hops starts to play havoc with his body and his mind, who knows where, or indeed when, it will all end up.
As ever a note-perfect construction story-wise across the decades, blending complex brooding story-telling with farcical comedy to superb effect once more, just as he did with WILSON. It takes real skill to make a reader want to laugh and cry at the same time, with a fair amount of wincing thrown in for good measure. I frequently found myself shaking my head at Jack's latest catastrophic transgression whilst simultaneously egging him on.
Art-wise, Clowes is on top form as ever. I particularly loved the grey-haired older version of Jack who looks every inch the bad ass, in complete contrast to the sweet, innocent 2016 version. It's also quite amusing and revealing when he goes to visit the younger version of his own mother (yet another line he wasn't going to cross...) and we find she bares more than a passing resemblance to Patience. No idea whether Mrs. Clowes looks like his mother did, but I wouldn't be surprised to find it was so! Plus there are some great surreal timestream sequences near the end as things start to get very messy indeed. Finally, the absolute last double-page spread, after the story has finished, I could stare at for hours. Purely as a piece of modern art in its own right I think it is one of the most enticing / intriguing / strangely comforting images I've ever seen.