Page 45 Review by Stephen
"If you liked classic crime comics like CRIMINAL and 100 BULLETS we apologize in advance for letting you down."
Having read over 100,000 solicitation summaries over the past 25 years - most rammed full of po-faced hyperbole - it's refreshing to read something that redirects a mug of tea right through your nostrils.
It also sets the tone perfectly for this is far closer to the mischief-riddled THIEF OF THIEVES, except that these contemporary criminals here have zero finesse, cannot conceive of pre-planning and couldn't even spell 'fiscal prudence'. Thanks to Steve Lieber there's even some fine visual slapstick as the buffoons who pass for our heroes only just get away to steal another day.
Let me be perfectly clear: if I were a betting man I wouldn't bet on these two.
They do, however, have an ace up their sleeve. It's delivered in the form of a very specific car radio halfway through the first chapter after the dysfunctional duo's old people's home heist, during which they are gentle, respectful and far more considerate than their absentee orderlies and supervisor. That car radio changes everything you thought you were about to read, but then that's what this comic does: confound your expectations at every comedic corner over and over again.
Sometimes it's no bad idea to return to the scene of a crime; sometimes you simply have no choice. In this instance Roy and Mac have no choice at all because they are the crime's investigating officers. I'm sorry...? That's right, they may be criminals, but they're not career criminals. They are career cops.
There's some wicked humour to be gleaned here from artfully juxtaposed panels, fast-forward shenanigans and flashbacks to boot. There's even more wicked humour every time sex-obsessed film producer Donovan shows up. Those are sequences you're least likely to feel comfortable discussing with your parents (probably). Donovan may have a one-track mind, but displays lots of leeway when it comes to how he's prepared to drive.
Roy and Mac's much bigger problem, however, is that not only are they strapped for cash, but they're heavily in debt. The good news is that they're in debt to Josh and Josh is a gentle, easy-going gourmet cook who loves his dogs very much. The bad news is that the dogs are rescue pit bull terriers, and I was lying about the "gentle" and "easy-going".
Lieber's ability to wring maximum comedy from nuanced expressions - and indeed not-so-nuanced expressions when things go spectacularly shit-creek in a split second - is exceptional. Both creators know that it's all in the timing, and here it is fiercely fine timing. Speaking of shit-creek, half the humour lies in waiting for you know that it's almost inevitable.
"I wish we could chalk this up to being a learning experience...
"But that would require learning something."
What they have learned is that modern crime is virtual. The only people who carry cold, hard cash are old age pensioners, hence the heist, and it's true. It is not unusual for someone to pay by credit card for a two-quid Lizz Lunney comic at Page 45 after they've asked for a Student Discount.
What you will learn is the lack of wisdom in sticking someone up with a shotgun while wearing a distinctive floral shirt... then interviewing the victim without changing first. And at this point I would like to thank all the shoplifters who've taken the trouble to identify themselves in advance with very specific, stand-out tattoos.
Typically, Roy cannot resist pushing things as far as he can. Here he is with Mac by his side, covered in roses, trying to see if they'll come out smelling of them against all odds. By his second salvo he's actually pointing at Mac!
"Never mind that. How about how tall they were?"
"I dunno - I didn't really get the best look at them. The one with the gun in my back was a little taller than the other guy - "
"Like, how tall? About my partner's height, or taller?"
"Ehh - probably about right."
"Mm, and build? Again, compared to my partner here."
"Yeah, 'bout the same, I guess, I dunno?"
"Sure, sure. It can be difficult to recall these things, I understand - but what about their clothing? Their shorts maybe. Any distinctive colours, or patterns..."
I swear on the Bible, that's only the beginning of Roy's brazen bravado as he takes every opportunity to really relish committing almost every crime conceivable then flaunting the flimsiest of cover-ups.
Don't worry: by the end of almost each chapter our champ chumps have their grins wiped right off their gormless faces. Sometimes it doesn't even take that long.