July 5, 2009

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Mosquito

Written by Dan James
Illustrated by Dan James
Top Shelf

Before I get to anything else, I just have to say that I love the idea of referring to a wordless story as "omnilingual." That's so clever it made me want to grab this one regardless of the internal contents.

I think, in fact, I shall now refer to all further wordless stories as omnilingual. Someone remind me of this if I forget.

Mosquito the story is a creepy tale of vampiric terror, told in a one-dimensional wood block style that allows James to play with recurring images over and over again, such as a triangle shape for trees, mountains, and even wallpaper, making it hard for the protagonist of the story (and sometimes, unfortunately, the reader) to tell what is going on. This works particularly well when he is trying to find the nefarious vampire's lair.

It's also done entirely in red and white, instead of the traditional black and while that a story of this nature would normally be published in. Given the theme is vampires and blood-sucking, the red shapes lend themselves to the artist's vision.

The story opens with our writer showing his influences, starting with Dr. Seuss at his mother's knee to Tin Tin comics to more mature masters of imagination, such as H.P. Lovecraft, Kafka, and Shelly. This leads to a drawing board where we open the tale with a mysterious letter. Soon
a quest begins for a man with nifty moustache to find the fiend and save the day.

Well, good luck with that, Mr. Hero, because James finds it far more fun to torture you with creepy dogs, mysterious towns where girls eat bugs, and a familiar smile reoccurs over and over again. After a series of increasingly creepy images that all flow from the angular shapes created by the blocky art style, the protagonist comes face to face with a great big evil, right out of a pulp story from Howard.

And that's where the true horror begins....

This is a very ambitious and experimental work that shows what an artist can do with imagry and a desire to tell a weird story and doesn't worry about it all making sense. As I mentioned, there were a few times where I couldn't quite tell what was going on due to the art style, but really, I didn't care because I kept looking at how cool it was that each image blended into the next, how shadows from one page formed shapes in the other, how mountains could be made of triangle trees, and how even a broken flashlight could merge into the same imagery.

If you're reading this one just for the story, you're going to miss out. Take the time to linger over the art style, the page design, and think about James doing an adaptation story for Dark Horse. Oh, the possibilities!

This is a story designed to call to mind the old pulp fiction of the 1930s, and long-time readers of my reviews know that's a period of literature I really enjoy. Those who like a good old-school horror story will definitely find a lot to like here. I'd definitely like to read more of James's work in the future.