Page 45 Review by Stephen and Jonathan
Dominique spotted this one.
I think the art said BEDLAM to her and she loves her Bedlam, does Dee. There's a bit of Ben Templesmith going on too, only more angular. Ashley Wood - those sorts of comparisons.
There's a cracking full-page shot of urban-exploring 100 feet below San Francisco, looking up from ankle level at gas-masked Niko and Harumi, the two on the cover.
"Look at that crazy door. I think the map is legit after all."
"If the map is accurate, crazy door is just the beginning."
It is indeed. Cogs whirr and the metal hatch - the sort of thing you'd find on a submarine - opens, and there's quite the room inside. The sequence puts me in mind of Riven or Myst. Not stylistically, but in its overall effect of haunting strangeness and thrilling discovery.
What's uncovered is not unconnected to Ivan The Intrepid, a young escapologist with confidence issues. He's about to bugger up an audition during which he relates the doomed career of Blachall The Incredible, "a master of shock and awe" who hit it big in 1925 at the Paris World's Fair. Then he bit the bullet in London, 1934, after a staged game of Russian Roulette went wonky.
This too is about to go wonky but with less catastrophic consequences
so far. Ivan doesn't lose his life; he loses Alex, his business partner whom Ivan treats as his assistant. It's partly because of that and partly because Alex has stopped taking his meds. They were making him sluggish, which is bad news for an escapologist. I anticipate further bad news nonetheless: he's been off them for 48 hours.
With his income teetering on the non-existent Ivan begs magazine publisher Dmitri for work, but Dmitri has lost his last sponsor. What he gains is something altogether unexpected.
In precisely which ways this all fits together remains a mystery, but in any case all this takes place 8 weeks before the explosion at a funfair in San Francisco...
Thus read Stephen's review of #1. What follows in the next six issues is a magical multiple misdirection of urban exploration, double cross, illusion, hallucinogens, secret societies, mind control, triple cross, voices from beyond the grave and mayhem. Lots of mayhem. Dominique and I stuck with this right through the single monthly issues and we both loved it.
It's a real rollercoaster ride where the true intentions of most of the protagonists, including the long deceased (or is he?) Blachall, are hidden behind a veritable grand concert hall of mirrors the size of Sydney Opera House and enough smoke to rival a forest fire half the size of California. If you're in the mood for a modern mystery with its roots in the past, would like to be mesmerised and bemused by the plot before the final grand reveal, I would highly recommend it. Just check underneath your seat before you sit down to read in case you've been marked out to be pulled up on-stage to assist in the act!