This graphic novel was originally serialised in a German newspaper. The idea of having a book published from serialised parts is nothing new. Conan Doyle and of course Charles Dickens both used that format to good effect as does this 116 page novella.
Writer Jorge Zentner takes on the mantle of a Kafka or Murakami using a journey, as the story is, to illustrate a multitude of phobias - mainly fear - in all its debilitating subtleties. Such a device is nothing new but under this writers hands the story does not come across as careworn or clichéd. Zentner is also a practising psychotherapist so no surprises there. He uses his knowledge to great advantage fleshing out tiny bits of experience gained into the themes of the tale..The story is strong but simple. It allows a framework from which both writer and artist can work from.
Lorenzo Mattotti is a name known amongst lovers of comic books but also Rock fans for he worked with Lou Reed when the pair produced Edgar Allan Poe's 'The Raven.' He is also on the Fantagraphics roster, the comic publishers famed for producing 'Love and Rockets.' Here his art is exquisite. It works in conjunction with the plot adding texture to the bare bones of the story. It also stands alone in many cases as being individual works of art, the sort that could conceivably be seen in a gallery.
There is a looser feel to the process though than say on one of Alan Moore's rigid plots or even those of Gilberto Hernandez. Of course the later writes and illustrates his own work which enable art and story to merge seamlessly. Here there feels like an exchange of the central idea that would be, were it music, counterpoint. This enables the reader to gain perspective as the art, often filled with rich imagery, can take flight whilst the text remains grounded.
The subject matter is that of fear and how to deal with that such irrationality. The images flash and pin with metaphorical dexterity but all as a sharp tool and not a blunt instrument. The life of the central protagonist reveals a man crippled by his particular phobia. The journey he has to go on takes him to some unpleasant paces as it brings him into direct conflict with the things he fears the most.
Samuel Darko is given, not so much an ultimatum but more a desperate request, a plea, from his lover. She wants a baby. The thought of such a responsibility throws Darko into a schizophrenic panic attack. His obvious dislike of the idea makes his girlfriend leave him. Itt is from this point the story begins
The 'journey' is depicted in both light and dark tones. Sometimes the art feels claustrophobic, at others like a dazzling flash of sunlight. Darko meets an array of characters on the way and at one time is blinded. His recovery is swift but part of the overall process which leads him on to both meet up with his ex but also to re-engage with his ailing father.
It is a good book, with some beautiful artwork, and well worth reading.
Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.