Flesh and Bone
I’m not sure what the author has produced before, if anything, but this was the first time I had seen Julia Gfrörer’s work, I want more.
Basically this is a cross horror/love story revolving around a three way, love daisy-chain – boy loves girl, she dies, boy continues to love girl, goes to witch for help, witch falls in love with boy – strangely they all end happy (in a very macabre sort of way). Along the way to this dénouement we have the devil being fellated, masturbation on a dead lovers grave, a child being drawn and quartered, another having her eyes taken out, a hanging and more masturbation, this time with a root vegetable.
You might think that sounds close to unreadable – but strangely it’s far from it. You genuinely do feel the protagonist is driven by an insatiable passion, you feel the loneliness of the amoral witch – this is a storytellers world where the characters exist as more than cypher’s – even in the brief 40 pages that the story is told over. It also dares to go to places that most commercial comics wouldn’t, being something of a treatise on what might seem, to some, strangely abberant sexuality. However, I doubt there are many of us, were we to face the mirror of truth, who haven’t experienced masturbating over a past lover or perhaps imagining the lover we are with was another. We just don’t talk about these things as they are deeply submerged in our own day to day lives and our sexuality subjugated to social norms. That’s not the case for Gfrörer characters who are released from taboo in order to answer their deepest passions.
Julia’s art style has a slightly unfinished look to much of it but it also has the potential to be much more if she has the mind to give it the time and application it deserves. The cover for instance is rather beautiful in a less skilled Charles Vess type way. It does the job well enough and promises much to come. If she can become something like Charles Vess in the art department, her story is so well told I can imagine her becoming a storyteller in the Neil Gaiman mould.
This won’t be to everyones taste but I thought it was a compelling comic, easily one of the best i’ve read this year. Highly recommended.
Flesh and Bone is published by Sparkplug comics which means it may not be in your local comics store – go ask them to stock it and the many other excellent SP books. Dylan Williams, the owner of Sparkplug, is doing a great job of bringing unusual, mostly narrative material to market. The company isn’t spending a lot of money on the finish of the books – this is colour cover, stapled with b&w interiors but they are printing some great stuff – I’m also a big fan of Reich and have enjoyed many of their other books also. If your local retailer won’t stock them you can always buy them direct from Dylan. Supporting small publishers like Sparkplug makes comics a better place.