Page 45 Review by Stephen
Junior jollity and top-notch action, we've had the most monumental success with Page 45's Phoenix Comic Collection Section comprised of some 24 graphic novels culled from the kids' weekly comic, plus Neill Cameron's galvanising, practical entertainment HOW TO MAKE AWESOME COMICS,
Now the publisher is trying something a little different akin to an old-school anthology annual with multiple creators offering up their diverse series for you to get a feel for the overall breadth of The Phoenix Comic Weekly or as springboard for you to try more of their collected wares.
If you already own the likes of LOOSHKIN, I do advise you that you'll already have all of Jamie Smart's material here, and the BUNNY VS MONKEY pages were recently reprinted in BVsM VOL 5, but I don't think any of the EVIL EMPEROR PENGUIN stories are in either of those collections.
Moreover, this anthology format has afforded the publisher to present some creative gems which wouldn't have filled more than a very slim pamphlet of their own.
Topmost for me are Joe List's absurdist, wavy-armed, bendy-legged single-page stories starring 'Doug Slugman P.I.' which - entertaining enough in their own right - benefit substantially from being gathered together so that you can revel in the diverse permutations of Slugman's increasingly insane then mundane (and quite contradictory) Marvel-style origin / introductions. I shall attempt to explain. Spider-Man comics open with something like:
"Accidentally bitten by a radioactive spider, Peter Parker gained the proportional powers of a spider, learned that with great power comes great responsibility, and now fights crime as the AMAZING SPIDER-MAN." I'm not looking it up.
"A normal garden slug found his way into a mystic shoe that gave him crime-solving powers... DOUG SLUGMAN P.I." Or:
"After an enchanted detective novel was dropped on a slug, it gave him the mystical powers of detection. DOUG SLUGMAN P.I." Or even:
"After accidentally finding and returning a lost kitten, a slug decided to dedicate his life to detection. DOUG SLUGMAN P.I."
Hilariously, within these nine stories there is not one single act of detection and no crimes are solved.
Woes are witnessed, conundrums encountered and in one instance a couple hiking round the hills asks Doug the slug simply to take a picture of them enjoying the pastoral beauty. In each instance the solutions Doug deploys are over-elaborate and, by any stretch of the imagination, bonkers. But please do remember that a) a book was once dropped on his small squidgy, shell-free head, and b) he is just a mollusc, however "enhanced" by eating nothing but peanut butter sandwiches for two weeks.
As to "wavy-armed" and "bendy-legged", gastropods are not renowned for having too many of those.
My favourite experience of the surreal was one which began by being ever so cleverly anchored in logic which is absurdist humour's antithesis. A magician finds himself floundering in water, his cards all soaking wet. How will he now perform his magic tricks?
"I can fix that!" declares Doug, unexpectedly surfacing above water. "What you need is a waterproof alternative..."
Yes, laminate those suckers!
Which is a fabulous absurdist echo in and of itself.
They're all the same size, and blue. What's he to do for his next trick? Haha! You'll see!
Each episode ends in "Case closed!" and "Next..." Some of the cases are closed, but "Next" never happens.
Look, he's a detective, not a psychic.