Page 45 Review by Stephen
Fourteen full-colour, smile-inducing short stories including 'Colin Turnbull - A Tall Story' which won Dooley the Observer/Cape/Comica Graphic Short Story Prize 2016.
It's predicated on the notion that height might be of innate value in bringing your best to each daily doorstop delivery, and that winning the award for Lancashire's Tallest Milkman could be the greatest honour imaginable. "Imaginable" is the key word there. Also, that one could actually prep for such a contest!
Otherwise, there's much of the Tom Gauld in evidence here, both in tone (deadpan) and format (outside of the six- and nine-panel grids).
'Eight Potential Existing Threats For You To Consider' will certainly put your next deadline into context while, opposite, 'Eight Methods For Distracting Yourself From Possible Existential Catastrophes' doesn't include meeting or beating any such deadline, mentally dealing with any such existential threats nor taking counter-action.
The possibility of civil breakdown is reprised later on. This is evidently the threat which Dooley deems darkest but he's in silver-lining mode, for there are upsides to everything if you inspect enough angles: "affordable London property", "new management opportunities" and "the easing of health and safety regulation". The genius of that strip is its double-flip: first the absurd optimism of the posited silver linings, then the illustrations which accompany each, none darker than "the forging of close community spirit'.
'Uniforms 1988-2015' begins at school and if you're lucky that will be both your "first great inconvenience" and your last. However, should you find "gainful" employment at some more corporate institutions, you're going to have to endure some howlingly horrible and humiliating ensembles and here some big brands take a bashing for their questionable customer service. This is all beautifully set up for a brilliantly oblique punchline coming right out of leftfield and knocking the ball out of Parliament Square.
Dooley's punchlines are all far from obvious. In one instance - the final one - it comes two panels earlier than you'd expect, demonstrating remarkable judgement in perfect keeping with what indeed are 'The Practical Implications Of Immortality'. On another occasion the whole tradition of the message in a bottle is reversed - in that they're normally sent out by those craving company rather than received by those seeking solace - before being totally trounced in the final tier / tear.
Other strips explore the gravity of a good night's sleep, the tyranny of the bathroom scales (and the lengths some go to minimise their measurement), and a jeering birds-eye view of St Helena's most famous former resident, standing on the shore and looking out to sea as if he were getting away from it all - "it all" being what was some not inconsiderable hustle and bustle.
As well as Tom Gauld, there's more than a little Chris Ware going on in the crispness of lines, some of the colour palettes, the sombre restraint and supposed reflection, plus the wider cartooning particularly when Matthew himself appears. It's an especially successful self-caricature, immediately identifiable as Dooley while accentuating the ginger beard for all its worth, beneath which his mouth completely disappears.
There are several tales I've not even touched on, but we'll finish with 'A Series Of Things That I Spent My Childhood Thinking About That Have Barely Featured In My Adult Life' purely because it is surprisingly spot-on - it's a big Yes from me to all of them - and so that, between reading this review and picking up your own copy of the comic, you can anticipate the experience by making your own list of nine and then see if they match Matthew's or - if they don't - whether Matthew's list reflects your childhood experience more accurately than your own recollection of it!