Saturday, 7 November 2015

Pixu: The Mark of Evil Review (Gabriel Ba, Becky Cloonan)

Four great artists – the Brazilian twin brothers Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon, Becky Cloonan and Vasilis Lolos – tell four interlocking stories of tenants in a haunted house whose lives simultaneously fall apart. Pixu: The Mark of Evil should be awesome given the talent involved but it’s a comic that is instead frighteningly tricky to understand and enjoy! 

One guy goes through an obsessive cleanliness routine each day and then waits by the phone for someone to ring. A woman breaks up with her boyfriend, finds something in the basement and undergoes a radical personality shift. A man is depressed after losing his wife and kid. An old man dabbling in black magic lives with his sad granddaughter. Is the house haunted? There are dark stains (“the mark of evil”!) everywhere and images of screaming skulls appear every so often. 

I wonder if the four artists plotted this out together beforehand or whether they just agreed upon a vague outline - haunted house, each does a tenant’s story? Or was it even looser than that with each succeeding chapter being influenced by what came before it? Either way, Pixu is inscrutable! 

The guy with the cleanliness routine is probably the most confusing. Why is he waiting by the phone – who is he expecting to call and why? Why is cleanliness important? How does he suddenly lose two fingers when shaving?! We never find out. And that’s his whole story. 

The guy who lost his wife and kid – did they die or just leave him? Why is he friends with the old man’s granddaughter? That’s kinda inappropriate given he’s in his 30s/40s and she’s 10 or so. And he’s always drinking in his underwear. Hmm… But that’s his whole story. The woman goes crazy, the old man makes potions and spells or whatever, stains appear around the place, skulls and scribbles appear randomly, and then it ends. 

I like all four artists and their work in Pixu is fine but not their best. Which isn’t to say their work in Pixu isn’t good – it’s certainly unsettling, especially Cloonan’s pages, and far better than the writing – but it’s not a reason in itself to pick up the book. Also, discounting Lolos whose work I’m unfamiliar with, the other three artists can write really well too – Ba and Moon’s Daytripper and Cloonan’s By Chance or Providence trilogy are both amazing – so it’s a shame Pixu has such a vague non-story and sloppy narrative structuring. 

I like comics that are unusual and leaves things up to the reader’s interpretation but I didn’t like Pixu much; there’s artful impressionistic/ambiguous storytelling and then there’s no effort on the author/s part to make any of it comprehensible, and Pixu is definitely in the latter. The reader can only passively and coldly watch the randomness unfold until it’s over. Maybe that’s just the nature of their collaborative project, maybe they never intended for there to be a coherent story, but it makes for a horror comic that’s a bit too abstract to be even remotely affecting.

Pixu: The Mark of Evil

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