Page 45 Review by Jonathan
"Honestly, Dr. Texier, can you figure out what's wrong with her?"
"Hmm... Part of it could be a put-on, it's possible. Your daughter has always been a character..."
Mary has a condition, a very strange one indeed.
Ever since a ride on a most peculiar rollercoaster during a visit to a large World's Fair-esque Exposition, she has leant at an angle of about twenty degrees. It is as if gravity, for her, were acting in an entirely different direction to everyone else. Despite the best attempts of doctors to establish the real or imagined cause of her malady, no one really has any clue whatsoever as to why she leans. It is a real condition, that much is apparent to us, but what connection does it have to the strange group of astronomers and physicists sequestered doing secretive research in a mountain-top observatory? And then what possible connection does any of it have to the photo-based chapter interludes featuring a lonely artist struggling to make sense of his life?
There is a foreword from Benoit Peeters which starts with a comment that he and his friend Francois Schuiten created this world purely for the purposes of exploring it. Now, that might mean they basically had no idea what story they were going to write when they started and just made it up as they went along, because I did get a slight sense of that, but even so, they have created something rather unusual which has genuine artistic merit. I'm not sure it works completely, but if you approach this from the sense that you are observing two undoubtedly talented creators undertaking a highly involved experiment, you will enjoy it.
Peeters then details in his foreword how during the long gestation of this work they received much correspondence from someone claiming to be the real Mary, so much so that they received a compiled book of it whilst at Angoulême. He states that most people presumed they were behind the correspondence, particularly because they also openly produced two pseudo-documentaries to publicise this work, but he claims this was not the case, and they are as baffled as anyone else as to the identity of the letter-writing 'Mary'. Having read the whole of the work, but not wishing to give anything anyway, I would suspect that is complete and utter hogwash, and it was indeed them, and the correspondence is a device which mirrors an element of the plot revealed towards the end. Anyway...
What did really work for me was the art. Beautiful black and white ligne claire with seriously detailed line shading. Gorgeous city-scapes and vivid characters illustrated to a standard not far off Bernie Wrightson's FRANKENSTEIN (which they really do need to get on with reprinting). I was also, oddly enough, minded of CEREBUS in places. The photo-story sections really didn't work for me, they just seemed too jarring until I finished the work, understood the reason behind the conceit, and then I could readily accept them as part of the experimental whole. Overall, I can't honestly see this work appealing to a wide audience, but certainly there will be those that think it is an exceptional piece.