“Arrête, cést icî L’empire de La Mort”
By Simon Hanselmann
Space Face Books, Nov. 2012
Correct me if I’m wrong but I believe that I read somewhere that Simon Hanselmann is relatively new to cartooning. If that is the case then he has taken to the vocation like a fish to water. This is a beautiful comic. Clean character design, expressive storytelling and smooth panel-to-panel transitions: nothing is awkward about reading this story. The drawings are relatively pared down but are so instantly readable and the panels’ relationships to one another are so effortless that the reading experience feels fully immersive and engaging. Slick cartooning.
As a narrative, I don’t quite understand the comic. I know Hanselmann’s characters Megg, Mogg and Owl from the strips that he has posted on his website. But the actual plot events of this particular story are mysterious to me. I’m not complaining. I’ve read more than my share of abstract minicomics in my day–and I’ve made them too. But Hanselmann doesn’t feel to me as though he is trying to go over our heads; even though his work is richly coded in a language of his own symbols. I just feel as though I’m missing a step somewhere in this story.
A lot of Hanselmann’s Arrête, cést icî L’empire de La Mort reads essentially like stream of consciousness psychedelia. The storyline is very much about drugs and possible psychological problems, which both effect people’s perceptions and coping abilities. These combine with the general setting and characters which are all a fantastic in composition and in nature. Talking animals who shift between humanoid and beast mode. Alien spaceships. A television actor. All just sort of appear and can be accepted as nothing strange.
This sort of storytelling convention is quite common in the world of artcomics and minicomics. The story takes place externally but it feels internal, like somebody’s dream. Part of me feels that externalizing psychological and emotional strife is an excellent use of visual storytelling.
It is interesting that Hanselmann uses no captions or narration. Everything happens by action or by characters talking. This furthers the feeling that I get as a reader that the author himself is in a process of discovery and exploration as much as his characters. I’m happy to follow him along and learn whatever he discovers.