In an alternate universe where superheroes are prevalent, a special test is used to determine whether a child will obtain unique abilities.
British journalist James Stanley interviews a multitude of superheroes to prepare himself for whether his pregnant wife is having a Super-S child. While traveling throughout the world--mostly in the US and UK--Stanley discovers a government organization named XoDOS that has a strong interest in people with Super-S abilities.
Some of Stanley's interviewees give thanks to XoDOS for providing them with money and support. However, others feel the organization has a sinister agenda. Stanley seeks to obtain as much information as he can in order to publish a book based on his interviews.
45 is appropriately titled, since there are forty-five interviews that James Stanley conducts, and these interviews are clever and distinct from one another. Writer Andi Ewington achieves this effect by using different vantage points within the book. Instead of limiting his questions to only superheroes, Ewington has Stanley speak with several Normans (normal people). Through this approach, readers are able to empathize and connect with the characters.
For instance, the twenty-second interview involves a thirty-seven year old Super-S (someone with super abilities) named Grace Cassidy who is also known as Material Girl. She is struggling to please her Norman son, Rocky. She has the ability to assume any physical property by touch (she can touch steel and make her body become hard, et cetera), and her son believes he’ll become a Super-S, too. The pressure of crushing her son’s dreams presents a conflict for Material Girl.
Another key element in Ewington’s writing includes a knack for quickly establishing a scene through dialogue. There are forty-five different interviews and the intent is to spend only one page on each. Fortunately, Ewington successfully steps up to the challenge. A firm example includes the thirty-sixth interview, which takes place at three o’clock in the morning at a parking lot in Hamilton, Ontario.
As Stanley sits behind the wheel of a car, he becomes startled when a mysterious man opens the rear door and takes a seat. The stranger advises the journalist to not turn around or he may blow both of their brains out. He provides the journalist with extensive information on XoDOS, yet warns him to beware of the organization.
Although 45 maintains an overall serious tone, this graphic novel isn’t without its share of humor. For instance, the first interview reveals a story about a flying baby in a delivery room. After the umbilical cord is cut, the father describes how his son began to soar and poop all over the room.
While the story is written by one person, Ewington, there are 45 illustrators with each assigned to just one page. Notable contributors include Sean Philips, John Higgins, and Liam Sharp. Readers will quickly notice a variety of styles that range from anime to digital graphics.
Additionally, the traditional format of using panels and word balloons is nearly absent. Dialogue is located to the right of the page, and art is located to the left. In fact, there are only two interviews (#11 and #20) in which text and artwork overlap and mirror a typical comic book page. Yet, this breaking of conventtions shouldn’t dissuade readers from enjoying fine visuals from a gang of professionals.
Despite the strengths of this book, one problematic question remains unanswered. How is James Stanley able to afford his expensive voyage in which he interviews forty-five different people throughout the world?
This problem doesn’t severely hurt the book, yet I believe its important to know how Stanley’s able to support his adventure--and I don’t recall his wife working either.
Ultimately, 45 is a satisfying experience that takes the reader through an array of short stories.
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