Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Pachyderme by Frederik Peeters

If we could enter our subconscious, would we? Where would we begin our journey? Would we even know how to navigate our subconscious? And if we're able to know where and how, would we? What emotions and secrets would be brought up? Would we come through the other side the same or drastically different? And it's with these questions that Peeters tackles with his comic, Pachyderme.

It's 1951 and we see a woman whose a bit overly dressed walking through heavy traffic. Traffic that's located in some remote country side and which has been jammed by a collapsed elephant on the road. Weird? Well... Within a few panels, we find out the woman is trying to find the hospital her husband was sent to. She finds out she's not that far away but she has to walk through a forest to get there. And within the forest we see a blind man with a squealing pigs and a dead baby. Amazingly, she's not freaked out about the blind man with pigs or the dead baby. You think all that would freak her out? Nope. It seems like nothing fazes her. Actually, within those moments, we sense there's something wrong with our protagonist and the world. There's a sense of uneasiness and apathy throught the air and within our protagonist. Luckily, she finds her way out of the forest and finds the hospital. 
It is within those five pages that Peeters is setting up our journey and what to expect from it. He isn't about to pull the rug right under us right away, no. He's allowing us a chance to get our bearings in this new world we're about explore. Letting us know or at least sneak peak at the rules and logic that govern this world. Once we get past those pages, when we get some type of bearing it's then that Peeters starts to pull the rug under our feet. We see a spy whose nose looks like a dick, more dead babies, dead bodies talking and knowing deep secrets about our protagonist and a vaginal wall made from flowers. As we keep reading, we realize there's some sort of dream or subconscious logic that's ruling this place.
One worries that it's easy for the story to get lost in a jumbled, unreadable mess due to it's nature, but that never happens. Even at moments where things go absolutely bonkers, you don't get lost or overwhelmed or confused. Well, you do get those feelings when reading but they're part of the story. I'm talking about when an creator doesn't have a handle off things and you can tell or feel that he's lost control of the story and he's just flailing around. Luckily, Peeters never lets that happen.

When you read Pachyderme, you get a sense that everything builds off each other and what we're going through logical motions of the story, and that's due to the tight control Peeters has over the story. Peeters has an understanding that when you're trying to communicate things that are vague or inexplicable, you need to be able to do so with exact precision. For a story to get loose and abstract and surreal a creator needs to know how to use his tools and know how to execute them with precision. Peeters pulls it off marvelously. He knows when let go and when to release. He has tight control over the pacing and plot, never letting go out of control. And that tight control is seen and felt through the way he sets and arranges his panels; there's a natural beat ot them. When you eyes are going through panel, you get a sense of rhythm and more improtantly, you don't get lost when things start to pick up.

Pachyderme is packed with surreal and hallucinogenic moments but there are also a lot of beautiful moments. This might surprise the reader due to Pachyderme's nature and the heavy issues it deals with. But some of the best parts of Pachyderme are the quiet meditative parts. Parts where nothing much is happening, we're given space to breath and quietly exploring the emotions and thoughts of the characters.
One of my favorite pages is also Moebius's favorite page. Great minds think alike. :P
I haven't talked much about Peeter's art and his color scheme. Just as his storytelling and pacing is tight, so is his art. He draws everything with amazing clarity, even the most surreal moments are brought to life with amazing precision. Peeters has an uncanny ability to convey a range of expressions, both facial and bodily, are a beaut to see. His characters are breathing individuals that pop out of the page. His artwork demands to be taken in and digested; you can't fast read through this comic like you can with others. 
As good as Peeter's art is, his color scheme is even better. When I read comics, I get a feeling that color is the last thing on the creators mind. They don't fully utilize the power of color and how it can drastically change or add to a story. It's always refreshing to see a comic that is color conscious and knows how to use it to add a new depth or dimension. Peeters is very conscious about what colors to use, how to pair them and how to blend them together. Peeter uses color to express his character's inner-workings of our characters whenever words of expression can't do it justice. The color also plays with the environments and how we perceive them. Peeters uses them to add a level of claustrophobia or madness or to calm us down and mediate on what we're seeing; it's a beautiful thing to see. 

Pachyderme is an emotional roller-coaster that will leave you guessing until the end. You don't know why you're in the ride, how the ride will go, or where the ride will take you. But there's a feeling that when the ride ends, you'll be changed and maybe, that change won't be just a bad thing.

Pachyderme is published by SelfMadeHero | $19.95 | ISBN: 9781906838607

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