Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Indestructible Universe Quarterly #6 & #7
Morgan Pielli specializes in elegantly designed minicomics that feature unusual genre stories. Indestructible Universe Quarterly continues to be his grab-bag for anthology work, webcomics and other ephemera. Issues #6 and #7 finish up the first chapter of the forest-horror story "Driftwood", a classic nature vs man story that features logs attacking people and turning them into leaves. There's something wonderfully absurd about the image of someone being reduced to a pile of leaves surrounded by clothes. Along the way, Pielli interjects a myth about a cruel and clever bird and how the forest rose up against it, with the dawning realization that the bird was a stand-in for man. The final reveal of who is likely responsible for the forest uprising here is clever and surprising while being instantly recognizable. Along the way, I like the way Pielli explores horror-movie tropes. There's a touch of the grotesque in his character design, aided by his thick brush work.
The rest of the contents of #6 mostly consisted of material I had seen earlier, including two stories from his "Lightsmith" characters: werewolves and other shape changers engaging in training and troubleshooting of some sort. The ideas here are solid but the execution is sloppy, both in terms of the art (I had trouble making out some of the action on some of the pages) and overall execution (sloppy lettering and a significant number of spelling errors). Both stories simply feel rushed, as though Pielli was trying to beat a deadline for inclusion in the anthologies these stories first appeared in. The other story in the issue, "The God Snare", dips into the Jack Kirby playbook for the design of the giant, armored god figures he introduces. The contrast between these hulking, mysterious figures and the understated myth-telling of the narrative makes it all the more effective.
Issue #7 is perhaps the strongest of the whole series. With three four-page stories and a ten-page story, Pielli keeps his stories brief and crisp, giving us premise and conclusion for these EC comics-flavored stories of malice and horror. "Gold, Silver, Death" starts as a work procedural and ends with an intended victim of the a crime being one step ahead of the person who was going to harm him. "Picker" is about the process of becoming an archetype: the sort of person you see on a subway and think of in a particular way. In this case, perception is reality, as becoming an archetype strips one of individual thought and action. "Living Room" was a touch on the melodramatic side, beginning with the classic set-up of a man in a dark room who doesn't know which way to go and revealing he's a prisoner of a particularly inspired trap. It's less a story than a premise spelled out with some character details added on the back end.
Finally, "The Twisting Kiss" is probably the best story I've read from Pielli. It's a bit of body horror that begins with an interesting premise: a venereal disease much like herpes that twists one's lips into a number. No one knows how or why it started or what it means, until the climax of the story, which involves a grotesque transformation that turns intimacy into something altogether else. The final scene, where the protagonist's friend sees him jump into the ocean, is a chilling one, especially when he is reminded of a potential romantic hook-up awaiting him. The story is a clever way to blow up the terror of sexually transmitted diseases and fear of intimacy to an absurd but still horrifying extreme, recalling the work of Charles Burns a bit. There's a simplicity and groundedness in the way he portrays the friendship of the lead characters that adds a bit of emotional weight to the proceedings as well. Pielli could successfully fill up a book that leaned more toward the psychological and emotional aspects of horror; it's what he's best at right now.