Page 45 Review by Stephen
Ever such a clever conceit and cool social-media experiment engaging fully with an interactive audience, this has been executed with much to-and-fro mischief and visual panache.
The experiment was, if you like, a democratic version of the pick-a-plot books like Sherwin Tija's YOU ARE A KITTEN and, in comics, Jason Shiga's highly inventive MEANWHILE wherein you get to dictate what happens next.
But democracy has its dangers as the comic's protagonist - Bacon the Adventure Dog - would have been worriedly aware of had he been able to peer behind the creative curtain and see what was happening behind the scenes. We will get to that in a second.
Ostensibly, Bacon wakes up one morning, fully refreshed with 3 red-heart lives glowing as they would in a video game, and decides to go on a Poll Quest. He "poot-poot"s himself out of bed, digs his battle-scarred sword out of a treasure chest, taps an app on his mobile which has charged overnight, selects the Haunted Arcade option and defenestrates himself from the top of his tower. I like that fact that it has come under attack on some previous occasion from arrows. I love the fact that he goes splat on his face, immediately losing a life which recovers. He won't necessarily be so lucky in the future.
What Bacon doesn't know is that he has no self-determination.
He's been saved that particular existentialist crisis.
What we know that Bacon doesn't is that his entire course of action has been driven by said democracy thus:
Luke Hyde tweets his Twitter followers with a poll which they can then vote on. You know the sort of thing:
"Do you believe #Brexit will be:
"A. Apocalyptic For Our Economy
"B. Bad For Britain
"C. Catastrophic For All Concerned"
Anyone on Twitter can press one of those options and the poll provider will then know what percentage of idiots believe that Brexit will be brilliant for anyone other than the far right like Farage.
In this instance Luke first asked his followers whether Bacon should "Leap out of bed screaming (8%)", "Roll out of bed farting (46%)", "Check phone for quests (15%)" or "Sleep another hour (31%)". Even the poor dog's flatulence is dictated from on high - which is no viable excuse if you let one off in our shop.
There were four further polls on that very first page and, vitally, these insights are printed on the left, opposite the ensuing, directly consequent action. Oh, how differently our own lives could have all gone, if we only had responsible adults dictating our decisions behind the scenes. And, oh, how differently our danger-dog's adventure could have gone if only he too had responsible adults dictating his decisions.
He doesn't: he has Luke Hyde's followers instead.
After much Lara-Croft leapin' about betwixt pillars under peer, dodging the choppy cold waves down below, Bacon back-flips onto a ladder which will take him in into the Haunted Arcade.
"Climbing up, you meet a large door. Do you...
"Open it slooooooooowly.
"Blast through with a fist
"Open it butt first
"Jump in shoutin' ghost pun"
Now, I ask you, which would you have selected? The arcade is haunted. We don't yet know by what (although we will most assuredly find out), but I was already willing to bet my entire wine cellar that it wasn't by Randall's mate Hopkirk (deceased). Slowly seems prudent, a fist might prove pre-emptive and a ghost pun at least empowering / cathartic. But no, Hyde's good and wise may or may not lead quiet lives, but they whatever they do, they do it butt-first.
"Butt!!!! Every time the butt!" live-comments Joe Latham, creator of DIGBY and THE FOX and THE WOLF and THE WOODSMAN. And I will remember that, Joe.
Hyde is such an expressive cartoonist that anyone resurrecting Ren & Stimpy, for example, should knock on his door right away. The frantic action has a pull all of its own and so worth the price of arcade-admission.
But there are so many laugh-out-loud instances of such wrong-headed ratiocination on the left-hand page - with poor Luke doing his best to protect the interests of his protagonist against the wilful whimsies of his followers' wanton irresponsibility - that, as I say, the format of this publication's reproduction is its forte. Plus, Luke himself is a very funny guy. Battered and bruised and (in short) worse for wear, Bacon is given no option by the social-media sadists but to enter a new arena: the sea.
"You dive in... as you fall you contemplate the words 'salt water'; and 'deep lacerations."