Best known for their European gangster comics, the team of Mezzo and Pirus aim to take readers into the depths of suburban nightmare in King of the Flies: Hallorave, the first volume of an intended trilogy of graphic novels. This hardcover features a series of short stories which at first seem completely unrelated but eventually begin to tie together to reveal a larger picture of depravity, lust, drug abuse and other sinister events taking place in a town that is utterly surreal and terrifyingly familiar. This whole thing could be taking place in your neighborhood. The promotional tagline for this book is “This is what a comic would read like if David Lynch were involved” – a statement so true, I am jealous that I didn’t think of it first. I even considered stealing it for my own review, but I figure Fantagraphics would’ve busted me so… well, honestly is the best policy, right?
There are several protagonists in this book but for the most part, the world seems to revolve around Eric, a pill-popping rebel with no need for a cause. We follow him through several parties, attempts at finding a job, picking up medication for his mother (and then stealing it) and cycling through a couple of different girlfriends. In-between, several background characters become the star and we see their mundane day-to-day events play out through several different sets of eyes. What makes this story really work is when it peels back that first layer of the onion and we get to see what’s underneath. Normal, everyday stuff takes place on the surface, but as we get deeper into the rabbit hole, a larger tapestry of creepiness and unsettling behavior is woven.
While there is not even a hint of the supernatural or otherworldly in this book and there are no sexually transmitted diseases or deformities, for some reason it brought to mind Charles Burns’ Black Hole. Maybe that’s because I’m not as well-read as I’d like to be and I don’t have anything else to compare it to, or maybe it’s because tonally, they seemed to have a few similarities: emotionally evocative artwork full of symbolism, a seemingly ordinary world with a rather creepy subtext and the use of teenage or young adults as protagonists.
King of the Flies, while quite dark, is nowhere near as disturbing as something like Black Hole. And despite all the goings-on, this book has a bit of dark humor that occasionally surfaces… or maybe I just have a sick sense of humor. At any rate, it might not be fair to put the two side by side, but I think that fans of one would be interested in the other.
Hallorave is listed as being the first in a trilogy of graphic novels. I’m not sure if this means we’ll see the same characters popping up again this summer when The Beginning of All Things is released or if this will be a trilogy that is connected more in terms of the spirit rather than the narrative. Either way: sign me up for the sequel… and for that matter, I think it’s time to hit up a few book stores and find other work by these two creators.