Page 45 Review by Stephen
The writer of SAGA, PAPER GIRLS, EX MACHINA, Y - THE LAST MAN, THE PRIVATE EYE and THE ESCAPISTS needs no introduction, so I was going to write that you can consider this a re-introduction, then I looked back and realised that politics play a substantial role in almost all of those, while PRIDE OF BAGHDAD is overtly critical of the American military's conduct and indeed very presence in Iraq.
Here, in a century's time, America invades Canada in retaliation for what it perceives to be - or claims to perceive to be - its drone strike on The Whitehouse. Talk about Fake News! We don't even know if it was Canada that was responsible. It seems pretty unlikely, doesn't it? But Canada does have a lot of lovely clean water much wanted over the border so there's convenient, eh?
Disproportionate response is nothing new when it comes to the US military - nor a deliberate mis-identification of any clear and present danger - so I think you can consider Ottawa obliterated in the first few pages of chapter one. During this almost instantaneous assault without any evidence of investigation Tommy and Amber's parent's limbs are blown off in front of them, their dad's dying words being...
"Tommy... you listen to me... you... look after... your baby sister... whatever happens... you never... leave her side..."
Twelve years later, on the very next page, Tommy has left Amber's side.
She's all alone in the Canadian, snow-swept wilds, armed with a crossbow, hunting for her supper, but she's about to have company, not necessarily any of it good.
I was uncertain about Steve Skroce's art to begin with. I certainly found no fault with his sense of scale: the American military's four-legged All-Terrain Tanks towering above the tallest of the trees in the Northwest Territories are monumental, terrifying, their armour so evidently impregnable. But there's something inescapably toy-doll about the figures, their arrangements on the page and how they sit within their environment.
What won me over was the second issue's invasion of the cosy, well-appointed home of a couple of pensioners quietly sitting on their suburban settee. The clarity verging on the clinical elevates the incongruity of what you're witnessing, and that's the genius of the series itself.
Somehow (somehow) it's one thing for American soldiers to bust down so many domestic doors in Baghdad and brutally manhandle their occupants without any hope of being reasoned with, but setting this in Canada where the tree-lined avenues look so similar to our own and, of course, America's... It brings the horror all home, hopefully.
So what happened to Amber's brother, Tommy? Well, we do know he was captured by the Americans and presumably taken to one of their camps. Probably to what is ominously being termed "the basement".
What you'll find there will be unflinchingly brutal, and will come with complete deniability, zero qualms and no hesitation whatsoever.