Page 45 Review by Stephen
Only once or twice in ten years does a graphic novel materialise which Im moved to recommend with all my heart to any and every adult human being who walks through our doors, regardless of their personal predilections.
Will MPhails IN is the wittiest, most deliciously drawn and startling profound graphic novel which Ive relished and cherished since Glyn Dillons THE NAO OF BROWN in 2012 and NELSON by Rob Davis and Woodrow Phoenix et al back in 2011. Predominantly sketched in supple black ink and grey wash, its oh so very funny with startling moments of quite unexpected full-colour satori that will totally take your breath away.
Along with its protagonists hes been evading it for years.
Amid the chaos of the chlorinated teen soup that is a water park, The Bowl was a brief moment of blissful, easy solitude where it was just me again.
For a few seconds I didnt have to perform.
I dont think Ive ever been as happy as I was inside that Bowl.
Did that strike any chords within your teenaged memories?
Bliss indeed, but as an adult Nick cannot stop himself from performing: its the easiest way to evade any truly meaningful contact. Please make no mistake, Nicks not remotely remote nor cut up about being cut off. Instead our handsome chap is bright, breezy and effortlessly entertaining company. Even when pretending to be a sad man in a sad bar in order to emulate a sad phenomenon as an experiment, Nick enjoys the results far too much to stay in character.
You see what I mean about performance? It smoothes out the wrinkles and takes the edge off potentially awkward encounters, but its slickness slides you forever away from what might perhaps lie within. Nicks far too self-aware not to recognise the gnawing suspicion that he might be missing out, but every time that he teeters tantalisingly on the brink of an opportunity arisen... Its time for more self-effacing comedy, and for a plumber to fix his toilet.
Would you like a coffee?
A sure fire way to feel less ashamed of your practical impotence, Ive found. Im a baby that absolutely would have drowned here in my apartment if it werent for you but hey, if I make us both a coffee, that means were the same! Chest bump?
How do you take it?
Black, no sugar, please.
I like my coffee to taste like Im being breastfed by The Honey Monster.
Nicks lovingly drawn with a slight frame, ridiculously expressive shoulders and the gangly legs of a recently born faun. Hes innocence and naivety all the way: he wouldnt hurt a fly. But then he probably wouldnt touch one, either.
With the deft discipline of an artistically acclaimed, award-winning single-panel cartoonist (the New Yorker etc), McPhail fills almost every page with all the contemporary cultural satire that you could hope for and behavioural comedy which youll recognise.
Vacuous coffee houses with pretentious names and awful-sounding ingredients which smell even worse than the whiffs of desperation which fight through their aspirational slogans to be worn both on their figurative sleeves and literal signage. The free-form and free-fall chaos of strictly scheduled but only vaguely pre-planned creative conference calls on Zoom wherein any actual agenda and quantifiable creativity along with the creator in question (taking valuable time out from a hectic schedule of intense prevarication) is all but instantly ditched in favour of nebulous, feel-good but ultimately wasteful waffle or simply catching up with your colleagues before times up and are you still there...? Also, did you clear all that clutter and crap from your walls or at least choose the least god-awful spot in your entire flat for that invasive camera to be pointing at?
And if thats all which was on offer here, then I would still rate this comedic tour de force as highly as my very highest benchmark of behavioural satire / quality jollity with the most exquisitely rendered portraits of undiluted humanity which is Kyle Bakers much missed WHY I HATE SATURN (1990).
And let me tell you, I never expected to type that specific sentence in my life.
But then theres the moment.
Then theres the moment of awe.
And yet it is as nothing to that which comes later...