Page 45 Review by Jonathan
Yet another "small-hands" edition. Yay!
"Lottie, put that yogurt away."
"Street yogurt's the best Shauna, well nang."
"You're not even using a spoon? You're using the lid?"
Hahahaha, I read that page very shortly after a quick lunch on the hoof in Market Square, where upon discovering I hadn't picked up a disposable spoon for my coconut milk yogurt, I was forced to fashion a makeshift one from the foil lid... It was, indeed, well nang! Not sure what it says about me that the BAD MACHINERY character I seem to have most in common with is Charlotte Grote, though!
So, the tween detectives of Griswalds Grammar School return with more musings on life, love and lessons, whilst attempting to crack another confounding case. This time around Sonny is besotted with a mysterious new girl who has just arrived at school, and possibly on land... Mildred, meanwhile, is falling for the charms of bad boy Lee Chaplin, though there's the slight problem of a not-quite-yet-ex who is ready to fight Mildred to the death for her man! Good job Grandpa Joe is on hand to dispense some pearls of hard-won pensioner wisdom on the subject of romance and ill-advised beachcombing...
"Mildred, if the first thing a lad tells you is a lie, you've no reason to ever trust him."
"But he's so handsome and strong."
"Lies are like a flower, the truth's like a brick."
"What about you Sonny?"
"I saw a girl swimming in the sea one day. I couldn't stop dreaming about her. Think she... I think she... turned up at school and sat next to me."
"You've flummoxed him. "Girls who come out of the sea are like... are like a... like...""
"Sonny, listen to me carefully. Did you take anything from the beach?"
"An... unshakeable sense of melancholy?"
"That wasn't what I was thinking of."
This is British farce at its finest. John sets up verbal punchline after punchline, page after page. I think possibly the episodic nature of BAD MACHINERY's initial release in webcomic form, one page at a time, has finely honed John's ability to be able to deliver pugilistic punctuation to world heavyweight championship standards. Not sure if that makes him the Rocky Balboa of British humour comics, but I do know that there are at least three more rounds of BAD MACHINERY material already out there on t'interweb for Oni to collect. Knockout!
What really makes BAD MACHINERY (and John's university-based GIANT DAYS) such a gleeful pleasure to read, though, over and above the bonkers Scooby Doo-style sleuthery, is it will transport you back in time, to when all you really had to worry about was the sheer terror of working out just how to talk to the object of your erupting adolescent desires, avoiding flailing fisticuffs and torment at the hands of psychotic bullies who are probably now practising corporate law, and coming up with ever more imaginative excuses as to precisely why your homework seemed to have mysteriously not accompanied you to your seat of learning once again...
John must have an eidetic memory of his formative years, though, because there's so much I had forgotten about that comes flooding back every time I read BAD MACHINERY. Truly was life ever once so simple but simultaneously so fantastically complicated in such an emotionally jumbled up, hormone-infused manner? Indeed it was and what a pleasure it is to vicariously read all about it without actually having to go through it all again!
In terms of his art, I continue to marvel at how deceptively simple it looks. He's refined it to an amazing degree now, it's so smooth on the eye, yet packed with expression and detail, plus random hilarious visual background gags. (I truly want to believe there is an arcade game called King Beaver in which it is possible to enter Beavergeddon Mode!) It would be fair to say his style has attracted more than a few imitators in recent years, yet they are mere contenders compared to John. Whereas his art feels seamlessly put together, the wannabes are going to need to put in a lot more hours in the illustrative ring before they're ready to take him on. Cue training montage. Or not.