Page 45 Review by Stephen
From the creator of ESSEX COUNTY, THE UNDERWATER WELDER and SWEET TOOTH comes a deliriously coloured piece of science fiction whose twin narratives dovetail beautifully when they meet at the middle during the first episode's conclusion.
Now, that may sound like a gimmick - albeit a clever one - but it is integral to this transtemporal and reality-reconfiguring piece where perception and perspective are all.
1921, and William is determined to find the fabled Lost Temple Of The Incas deep in the Peruvian jungle even though Sir Terrance Morgan's old escapades ended very badly indeed. His older brother is sceptical, but find it they do, along with the bodies tied to stakes which they assume are from the previous, doomed expedition. Perhaps they should have inspected the clothing more carefully.
In 3797 on a remote human settlement in space, Nika has found the Lost Temple Of The Incas and its blue-skinned, Atabithian inhabitants. What she desperately needs is some of the Trillium flowers within to cure a sentient and singularly virulent virus which could wipe out all mankind. Beyond her own only one other colony remains. Unfortunately Nika is running out of time and her commanding officer may have to resort to less verbal methods of negotiation. Her space suit's artificial intelligence is scrambling desperately to translate the Atabithians' language but manages mere snippets. But then Nika ingests one of the flowers and the result is a perfect comicbook moment!
After the first chapter a more regular approach to the two time frames sets in until a dramatic shift in the protagonists' circumstances creates a wobble in reality and each two-tiered page is played like a face card (Jack, Queen, King), one reflecting the other. Oh yeah! You wait until you get to the real confluences!
Best of all is the colouring: old school washes bleeding beautifully and - as required - eerily. The corpses as recalled by William on the battlefield, drowning in muddy water, are horrific. Lemire's spindly art really takes off in the space-set sequences, with a gloriously detailed, flower-strewn inner temple which, in chapter seven, grows even more epic once Nika discovers its real secret and so finds herself dwarfed under The Mouth Of God.
I should probably spare you my one consternation because it's difficult to unlearn things without the aid of copious amounts of alcohol and you might not have spotted it yourself. But in the interests of honesty the Peruvian jungle looked far from jungular, and when one of the expedition members declared, "Dear Lord, I didn't think the underbrush could get any thicker!" I looked around and all I could see was a perfectly accessible, knee-level grassland, three or four trees per hectare and a couple of random vines.
Bonus in the back: Jeff Lemire and letter artist Chris Ross divulge the secret of the fictional Atabithian language which is nothing of the sort (it's not Klingon) but a code substituting our own letters of the alphabet with symbols cleverly constructed around the concept of a three-fingered race. However, because it isn't a fully formed language it does mean that you can go back and decipher the extensive exchanges which Nika couldn't comprehend without the aid of a GCSE in Atabithian.
Someone send this lazybones a transcript, please. Thank yooooooo!