Saturday, November 9, 2013

Three days of reviews part 2: "I'm gonna eat this one and see what it does to my head."

Disclosure: Riley Rossmo is an old friend of mine.

Drumhellar#1 begins a new project by Riley Rossmo at Image, this time joined by scripter Alex Link. Considering how Riley's previous projects have delved into weirdness (Proof, Cowboy Ninja Viking, Green Wake), I will not astonish you by declaring Drumhellar is a weird comic book. However, you might be astonished by just how weird this one is.

How best to explain Drumhellar? Perhaps I could recap the first four pages: Drum Hellar is on a golf course in a lady's bedrobe when he's struck by lightning. This causes him to witness a bloody peacock rising out of a pool of water. The peacock leaves behind an egg, which Hellar picks up; this causes him to peer into some kind of vision. Reeling from this, he converses with a creature living inside his golf bag and declares they need to consult with someone named Padma.

A terribly weird opening, yes? Naturally, some of this is explained as the story progresses - we learn what's inside the golf bag (Drum's "imaginary friend" Harold) and we learn who Padma is (Drum's ex-girlfriend and naturopath doctor). But is there a plot? Not exactly... some weird things happen, which leads to some banter. Then more weird things happen, followed by banter. There may be a plot behind this (Hellar behaves as though he's carrying some important information), but it's not in these pages.

Typical of the book is this conversation:

Padma: "How would you recognize that flower anyway?"

Drum Hellar: "I was a paleobotanist for a while."

Padma: "Of course you were."

It's not that the reader has formed any expectations of Hellar's fields of expertise (or if, indeed, he has any expertise), but Padma surely has. The reader is very much thrown into the middle of a quite strange world and no everyman to guide him (unlike Proof). Hellar himself is some sort of recreational drug user exploring the world of the paranormal, rendering him quite outside the everyday. The characters banter about how strange the world they inhabit is, but what we might call weird, they call typical. It's rather like a Terry Gilliam picture - the characters inhabit a strange world and we in the audience have to pay attention and make no assumptions about what the rules this world operates under might be.

As I see it, Drum Hellar has two great strengths - Rossmo's continually-expanding art (gorgeous colouring included) and the very "lived in" feel of the universe he's created here, one where a man mentions repeatedly he was bitten by a werewolf and receives virtually no reaction from his audience.

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