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Smoke Smoke Smoke

Smoke back

Gregory Benton


Page 45 Review by Stephen

Whoa! What a playful, magical, visual thrill!

There's no skimping on big, bold forms and elemental colours: lots of fire, water, earth and sky here.

There are also some spectacular vantage points like the floor of an open warehouse looking up at its rafters which are being hung with bushels of produce, presumably to dry out.

I love silent, surreal and slightly secretive stories requiring active interpretation, but I don't recall many that have messed around with the structure of the narrative to quite such clever effect.

Let me see what I can do to intrigue without giving the game away.

Locals are being bussed to a harvest. It's not a community harvest, it's very much paid, outside employment. One of two brothers enterprisingly brings a cool box full of bottles which he sells before being encouraged to join in the hot, sticky work.

A billboard and a factory billowing smoke behind the plantation would suggest it's tobacco, although the consistency of what's sliced through is more like a cactus and the runny gloop dripping down seems psychotropic to some.

Suddenly the two brothers are not in Kansas anymore and that's one hell of a skull-faced Toto looming over them. And she or he really does - loom, almost out of the page! But you'll notice its tail is wagging.

Okay, so the narrative has now split into two threads (which I would suggest are deliberately out of synch) for the brothers are both still very much still back on planet Earth where certain events will be anticipated in the dreamscape long before they break out in the warehouse.

I really can't say any more except that there's an early clue built on quite quickly as to whether this will wander in the form of something else by the roadside right on page one which is now tattered and torn but still there.

Two tiny details: I loved the pools of water in the black dog's eye sockets, lapping over one edge like a tear. Then I adored its massive, muscular form friskily shaking its coat dry. It's such a happy image with bright summer-green grass, thick foliage behind and cold blue water flying everywhere!

Now turn the page!

Impeccable storytelling, far from obvious yet perfectly composed.