Thursday, June 02, 2011
Illustration: Kent Williams
First Published: 1987
Sometimes I get given tips about books or films I might want to check out and I will sincerely try to. Halek left a comment recently in which he recommended this graphic novel, which is due to be turned into a film, and said of it “So surreal it make La Belle Captive seem like straightforward storytelling. Images in the book reference Bocklin's Isle of the Dead, Schiele's The Family, and others.”
La Belle Captive was a marvellously surreal piece of cinema and Böcklin’s painting was inspiration for my personal favourite vampire movie – also called Isle of the Dead, so I had to check it out.
The story is a fairy-tale, yet a fairy-tale as they are meant to be, wild and feral. Indeed DeMatteis has described the book as a fever dream, rather than a fairy-tale. But at their most primitively shamanic level aren’t fairy tales meant to be fever dreams, despite Disney telling us otherwise?
Within the bounds of a story being told it describes the finding of a baby, cocooned and in the river like Taliesin or Moses. It shows his nurture by woman both mother and crone, his education by patriarchal religion, his path alone. He is Blood and he is vampire. On one level vampirism represents yearning. Neither Blood or the Woman, his mate, are like the primitive vampires he first meets. Vampirism is the nurturing he receives, suckling at the breast of his feminine side.
The story weaves in and out of realities and forms a circular path as we explore the life of a man.
What I can’t do is say any more as it needs to be explored. I read through the tale twice before sitting to write this review and I will read through again as there is so much to explore within the story.
The artwork is a startlingly beautiful series of watercolours – in the main. This is not an easy read and if the planned film lives up to the novel, I am sure it will be loved and hated in equal measures as, I am sure, the graphic novel itself is. I loved it. 8 out of 10.