Page 45 Review by Stephen
Each copy comes signed and sketched-in, with unique song lyrics.
Come, rifle through, pick those that amuse you greatly!
It's the return of that cheeky Joe Decie, the pint-sized prankster for whom truth is of paramount importance.
Part of the art of Joe Decie is perfectly exemplified on the cover itself: a portrait of the promenade seen from sea, either of Brighton or his home town of Hove. If you open it up, you'll discover it's a wraparound landscape cover. "Observations from home and around town," it promises, and it does not disappoint. Within you'll find single-page four-panel comics in black, white and delicate grey washes, about Joe, his family and his surroundings, all astutely observed, endearingly individualistic and effortlessly funny.
But the clue lies in what flies to the left of that promise, which I am not about to show you.
Joe is ever so adept at finding common ground: for example, the escalation of special school days demanding a ready supply of costumes and kits, and the knack of being an experienced seamstress with the ability to work to a tight deadline at the drop of an historical hat.
"Mummy, Victorian Week starts tomorrow."
"I'm on it."
"Dada! We're late for school! Today's Nocturnal Animal Day. Knit me a fox onesie?"
How do you spend your nights?
"At about 4am I like to wake up and have a worry."
What follows is true, each and every word, ticking so many of my recognition boxes, but I love the deft twist: the wry / rueful lie that we "like" to wake up as if it were a matter of choice and indeed personal preference.
"I'll worry about a leak in the roof or the price of print cartridges.
"And maybe about something embarrassing I said at a party seven years ago.
"Then I'll worry that I worry too much. Or that I'll be awake all night.
"Then, minutes before my alarm is due to go off, I'll drift into a lovely deep sleep..."
Yes, minutes before, I achieve peaceful bliss.
"Daddy! We're late for school!"
I don't think the Decies are the best time-keepers in Morningshire.
Here's another incontrovertible truth, that "There's nothing more British than fish and chips on the beach". Except that there's one, as Decie concedes, and it's one of my own family's favourite shared memories. It'd be ever so surprised if it's not one of yours.
There's a heart-warming sense of pride in Joe's family observations, most of it misplaced, and a delightful whimsy to what he records as emerging local trends, like the increasing lengths people now go to when smuggling alcohol into festivals, and the specialist shop Just Dice, "my 'go to' dice shop, really amazing selection. Not to be confused with 'Just Ice', the ice shop next door (which isn't that great)." Then there's the ultimate irony for a new tattoo trend which he confidently predicts will be in the style of children's temporary transfers.
What should not be overlooked while soaking in Joe's unassailable wisdom and admiring his strict adherence to verisimilitude, is his draftsmanship and some of the most attractive lettering in the business. I've met the man many times, and every self-portrait is spot-on: he nails the manner in which his glasses perpetually hang halfway down his nose. The way in which he draws arms is particularly satisfying, every subtle curve just-so in single, fluid lines leaving the washes to do all the depth-work. Same goes for his cracked, broken plant-pots, to be honest.
From the creator of the similarly autobiographical POCKET FULL OF COFFEE, THE LISTENING AGENCY, THERE'S NO BATH IN THIS BATHROOM and I BLAME GRANDMA, then, I give you the prospect of the perfect stocking filler in this small book of big wonders and maximum mirth.
The biggest wonder of all, however, is that Joe can keep a straight face.