Page 45 Review by Stephen
Darkity dark, dark, dark.
Neil Gaiman and Lorenzo Mattotti recently reminded us how Grimm those brothers were with their stark rendition of HANSEL & GRETEL. Now it's Metaphrog's turn to do much the same for Hans Christian Andersen but with much kinder colours.
Rich, rusty browns are set against eerie green architecture, gravestones and woodland and, now that I come to think about it, there's something of the Richard Sala to the entire proceedings. Period wallpaper and carpet textures are integrated seamlessly into the line art, and the light looks positively subaquatic when young Karen spies the dancer whose skin, shoes and balletic grace she falls in awe with. Rays of sunlight filter from on high much as they might through crystal clear waters and bubbles bounce from the theatre steps as the ballerina tip-toes up them before waltzing through the doorway and vanishing from sight.
"Oh, how I wish to be like her!" muses Karen, mesmerised. From which point onwards she's caught in a dream state, a fugue. And it won't end well, I can promise you.
Her earlier years were far less fanciful. Living alone with her mother they were so poor that in summer Karen went barefoot, but at least she could feel the grass beneath her naked feet, and she would dance! In winter she wore wooden shoes which chaffed her ankles, rubbing them raw. But when her mother died a neighbour gave her a pair of soft slippers cobbled together from strips of red cloth. How much kinder on her feet were they!
Alas, her rich, Great Aunt Anna upon taking Karen in deemed the handcrafted handmade and scruffy, even "hideous", certainly not worthy of her niece. So she took her shopping to a posh part of town which is where Karen comes across the ballerina and then, in a shop window, a pair of patent leather red shoes with straps to secure them fast.
I think we'll leave it there, shall we? There will be a great deal of dancing, much of it involuntary, as Karen is tossed like a rag doll, a broken marionette, gesticulating wildly, awkwardly, attempting grace even as she falls from it.
Bravo, basically. By the end you too will yearn for the feel of succulent grass beneath your feet. Hindsight is a cruel, cruel thing.
The main event is followed by two further tales: 'The Glass Case' and 'The Little Match Girl', both of them dealing with oppression (through parenting or poverty) and the consolation prize of escape.
I hope I've intrigued you and done this little book some sort of justice. It was an enormous honour to help launch it at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2015 with Metaphrog's Sandra and John. They've poured their substantial hearts into this and it shows. Mary and Bryan Talbot snapped one up each, which is a greater testimony to its quality that I could presume to offer.
Perfect for Christmas when we resolve even harder to appreciate what we've got.