HINGES – BOOK 1: CLOCKWORK CITY

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COMIC BOOK REVIEW: HINGES – BOOK 1: CLOCKWORK CITY / AUTHOR: MEREDITH MCCLAREN / ARTIST: MEREDITH MCCLAREN / PUBLISHER: IMAGE / RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 25TH

Orio is a pretty and fragile-looking doll-girl who we first meet lying wide-eyed on the floorboards of some kind of rundown theatre/backstage storage area, clutching what looks like an old-fashioned pocket watch with her name engraved on the casing. It’s clear she has only just been brought to life and has no idea who or where she is. Luckily this is when Margo appears, dressed like a hospital matron but attached to strings like a marionette, and introduces herself as the senior orderly. She sends a disoriented Orio downstairs to choose an Odd from the selection crammed onto the dusty shelves. An Odd is a bit like a living toy, a floppy familiar that will join Orio on her adventures, and the Odd she chooses – called Bauble – is going to get Orio into a lot of trouble, especially after Orio meets her ‘adjustment liaison’ Alluet and they head out into the streets of Cobble to find Orio a job. By the end of this story Orio and Bauble will have already started to buck authority and turn the way things are run here upside down.

Quite simply, Hinges is beautiful. Writer/artist Meredith McClaren has accomplished something extraordinary here in that she manages to invoke a deceptively complex and original fairytale world peopled with some fascinating and immediately-engaging characters (Orio and Bauble are wonderful) while keeping the text to a minimum and cutting exposition out completely. When the story starts we are as confused as Orio about what is going on, and even a hundred pages later we still have very little idea about what just happened or what might come next. Far from being a frustrating experience, the journey through this exquisitely drawn and coloured volume ends far too soon; you want to keep reading, you want to know more and dig deeper into the mystery, and as soon as you finish you’ll want to start from the beginning again, closely examining all those gorgeous illustrations to be surprised by details you missed the first time round.

As far as style is concerned, there is undoubtedly a wide-eyed pointy-chinned manga quality in the way Orio and her companions have been realised - and Bauble did remind us of a sinister Pikachu with eyes like car headlights - but McClaren’s execution is so skilful that none of that is bothersome. In tone, the story is somewhere between Neil Gaiman (especially Coraline) crossed with Jan Svankmajer’s Alice, together with a certain grown-up Wizard of Oz vibe that suggests there’s a lot of darkness to come. And Bauble, with his weird jumpy crick-cracking, has already got us on edge.
 

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