Page 45 Review by Stephen
"In this doom only children come and go listening to illegal radios."
This is akin to a nightmare Never Never Land, a dystopian future in which only the children remain.
Those few who survive long enough to come of age are picked off, one by one, then absorbed by the suit-and-tied Shadowsmen. It's how they reproduce.
The wastelands go on forever. The entire world is one great big landfill of garbage and trash, scavenged by feral gangs under constant assault from zombies, vermin, rabid dogs and the Night Creepers. If you slash off their heads, be sure to stamp on the swarms of green-sputum-spitting flies which loiter within bearing messages implying that The Wrenchies are next.
The very air is toxic and corrosive to body and mind, sapping hope, debilitating will and swarming with that which is rotten and putrescent. Entropy increases, things fall apart, and all that is left is dour determination and youthful grit. A catapult in hand and a voice calling out on the radio.
The Wrenchies are one such gang of girls and boys, holed up in their pretty neat bunker and subsisting as best they can. Boy, can they scrap! Armed with rocks, knives, catapults and baseball bats, they and their blue wolf Murmur fearlessly defend their territory from the ever-encroaching hoards. They took their name from a comicbook written and drawn by one Sherwood Presley Breadcoat featuring adult adventurers in equally dire straits. And, advised by the solemn and ancient grey giant known as The Scientist, before long their own quest begins to read like a comicbook written like a daydream of children at play.
Back in an urban world more familiar to us with comics and Sunday school and bullies on every street corner, Hollis - a paunchy boy with a penchant for dressing up as a crimson superhero - struggles with what he worries is bad behaviour displeasing to God and obsesses about the safety of his soul. He fantasies about having friends but makes do with a silent ghost only he can see which seems to spend an awful lot of time in the open-plan apartment opposite Hollis' where Sherwood Presley Breadcoat resides, drawing comics.
When he was ten Sherwood Presley Breadcoat and his younger brother Orson entered what they considered a cave. It was actually a vast industrial pipeline as big as a boy. At its entrance crows - the majority of them dead as doornails, flat on their backs, claws reaching from the skies they should never have flown down from - stalked about the detritus, disinclined to scatter as the two boys approached.
"The cave changed us. Made us. The cave cost us.
"I tried, but couldn't close my eyes.
"We weren't supposed to go in there. We never should have entered the shadows.
"Something left a back door open."
As I say, crikey. We haven't even touched on adult Sherwood's drunken self-loathing.
"Jesus, I really have no idea what I'm doing. Nobody does. Some of us are just better at faking it."
This dense, 300-page graphic novel with its complex, intertwined threads sewn together then spooling out madly, took me ages to absorb. You could write a dissertation on it, but I don't have time and neither do you.
The detail is staggering, from the contemporary tenemenents with their iron fire escapes to the sprawling, apocalyptic trash heap of the future. There are elaborate cross-sections of those apartments, of The Wrenchies' HQ and Olweyez's "Hole" of silos and ducts and The Scientist's Lair is a subterranean warren of wonder including a big but botched attempt at horticulture.
The colours are earthern and blood-caked and angry as anything at the drug-addled nightclub, with enough snot-green to make you feel queasy: if you have an aversion to flies you'll find it amplified exponentially here.
The Wrenchies' behaviour as a gang - their levels of respect and appreciation for talent - is as acutely observed as Taiyo Matsumoto's SUNNY and TEKKON KINKREET, and I loved how Olweyez began to bore them with babbling until flashing in front of them a drawing dashed out before their eyes. Altogether:
Everyone loves an artist, right?