Page 45 Review by Stephen
From the creator of STRAY BULLETS - right up there with Brubaker and Phillips' CRIMINAL as the finest comicbook crime of all time - comes a white-knuckle ride through mid-twentieth-century noir.
There's a cracking opening shot from within the ceiling, staring down at the police, forensic photographer and a decidedly impassive Steven Russell as he gazes up at his wife, hung by her neck from the fan.
One of Eve's high-healed shoes has fallen off. She's quite dead.
Apart from Barbara (Steven's sister-in-law with whom he is having an affair), most believe Eve was driven to suicide by Steven's serial philandering and late-night drinking in the restaurant he has now inherited which Eve ran front-of-house and where Steven just played piano.
Eve's wealthy, resentful and pursed-mouthed mother believes Steven actually killed her, and is determined to bring him down by hook or by crook.
Did he? The extensive, hand-written suicide note is explicitly damning of his neglect, but maybe that's a bluff. He's certainly far from cut up about it. Now there's a very nasty private investigator on his tail and the press on his back, exposing his multiple affairs. It's probably not the best time to initiate another, but that's exactly what Steven does.
The press blitz has brought an irritating loudmouth called Tony out of the woodwork after a fifteen-year absence. With Steven unwelcome at his own bar, they hit the town to recall High-School times when they were happier, when Steven had the most almighty crush on Tara Torres. Too timid back then, what he didn't know until now is that it was reciprocated. Unable to get Tara out of his head he begins stalking her until she appears at his car window with a shotgun.
It's an odd way to start a love affair, I grant you, but once Tara realises who Steven is the flames are rekindled immediately. Odder still, when Tony finds out that they're sleeping together he warns Steven off Tara: after her husband died of cancer she became addicted to the morphine sulphate he was treated with and is now heavily in debt to a bad man called Johnny The Pill. But when Steven pays off Johnny a neurotically on-edge Tara, attacked in her home, warns Steven off Tony.
What is it with Tony? What is it with Tara? What was she doing with that shotgun? What's with the second suicide note in Steven's typewriter?!
This is a very different beast to STRAY BULLETS. For a start there are no children; the fuck-ups here are all adults with plenty of baggage bogging them down. The four-tier storytelling is denser until the final flashback when it blooms beautifully into two-panel pages and all is finally revealed. Until then it's also a linear timeline following these damaged goods, doomed by their nature, to their inevitable, terrible conclusions. With ten full chapters the travelling is twisted and they take plenty of time getting there.
Lapham strikes me as a fearless artist. There is nothing he cannot draw with equal dexterity, whether it's sun-kissed pool sides, late-night car crashes, densely populated piano bars or the most vicious, protracted, hand-to-hand, hair-pulling scraps. There's the same physicality which Jeff Smith would employ later in RASL including some similar body-forms. He's particularly fine at all-out terror, madness and wide-eyed, tearful, screaming rage.
There's plenty of that here.
"It's you an' me, baby,
"Always an' forever
"Till death do us part!"
Trust no one.