The “Ignatz” line of comics from Fantagraphics Books and Coconino Press are a set of gorgeously reproduced, large format comic novellas from all around the world. This line has produced some eight volumes so far, including Kevin Huizenga’s amazing Ganges. This volume presents a story from Italian cartoonist Gipi, but language doesn’t get in the way of this terrific story at all. Gipi delivers a powerhouse story that feels like it could have come from a Hollywood film noir movie.
In the middle of the night, a phone rings and words are spoken that change the lives of four characters forever: “they found the car.” Three men are confronted with the decisions they made in their pasts, decisions that they thought were long buried, but which are suddenly rising to the surface again. In the end, nothing good could come from this mystery, and like a caustic acid, the actions of their past lead to a searing conclusion.
This is an interesting and moving sort of comics noir story. It’s a grim and brutal world that these characters live in, a world where past and inclination are destiny, and in which the past can only stay secret for so long. Like the best noir stories, this one has a stunning conclusion that seems to turn the story on its ear, suggesting that nothing in real life can be tied off in a neat little bow. Kim Thompson’s excellent translation makes the story feel like it could happen anywhere, removing any trace of content that makes the story specific to Italy or any other country.
Gipi’s artwork is starkly impressionistic and beautiful. Depicted in black and white and very moody gray, the artwork intensifies and deepens the story. The skies in this story are always either filled with rain or clouds, while the woods that contain the story’s climax seem to be suffused with danger. Most interestingly, characters’ faces seem as much masks that hide their true thoughts but still contain subtle emotion. Faces are understated rather than overstated as with many U.S. comics; characters seem more subtle, but their true emotions still do come out in the end.
This is a stunning comic, and at $8, is a terrific bargain for the quality of content that it contains.