When someone uses the word feast to describe something they experienced that’s not food related it typically means there was a lot to take in. Either there was a large variety, an abundance of content or at the very least it made you think on the ideas it conjured up in your mind.
I can safely say the Cochlea & Eustachia graphic novel is a visual feast in more way than one. Sometimes looks alone aren’t enough, though. Is it good?
Cochlea & Eustachia (Fantagraphics Publishing)
Recently published on December 2014 and created by Hans Rickheit this visually haunting story is at once the stuff of nightmares and yet captures the splendor of an adventurous dream. In fact I couldn’t knock the feeling some of, if not all of the imagery in this work comes from Rickheit’s dreams. While the book contains a rather simple narrative there are odd accoutrements littered in the protagonists’ paths which give even the most innocent of scenes a resounding weirdness. But I’m getting ahead of myself, partly because the imagery is so vividly weird I can’t get it out of my head — which makes one wonder if the power of the imagery is enough to consider this a masterwork. I think yes.
I imagine the soundtrack to this setting would be creepy as hell.
The imagery is without fail incredibly detailed and well put together. Even the most odd thing, like a giant stuffed moose with a drawer coming out where its face should be, is believable due to Rickheit’s art. Marry this very realistic imagery with odd never before seen technology that is plausibly real yet completely made up and you have yourself a book that takes you somewhere new. Like a dream.
Similar to dreams too some of the images are oddly sexual or of a sexualized nature. Littered throughout the setting are organic looking objects, creatures and other bizarre things that are adjoined to/growing from the hard wood and metal of the structure. Amongst those are statues that remind one of vegetation under glass boxes with… vaginal openings — just to give you an idea of what you’ll come across in this graphic novel. At one point an odd featherless bird creature attacks our protagonists; emblazoned with a star sack shirt and tiny angel like wings he also sports a mental pincer where its penis would be. Sure, it’s not technically a penis, but its placement can’t be denied in terms of sexual implication. As he chases the nighty clad heroes one wonders if Richeit is going for something subliminal in nature. Does this bird symbolically represent the chase of sex, the overbearing nature of males on women, or does it mean nothing at all? Similar questioning, wondering and thinking will hit you throughout your reading of this oddly charming book.
The story focuses on Cochlea and Eustachia who appear to be sisters, but that is never explained and heck they may not even be human. They both don black domino masks that cast their eyes white and wear green nighties that are too small for them. We consistently see their bums as they transverse the labyrinthine home that’s more like a factory with its exposed beams and impossible physics. They are curious characters that wander the building and its many weird wonders. I wouldn’t say they are overly sexualized, but their bare butts seem to be shown off at times to at least symbolize an innocent sexuality. The girls wander together until they see their enemy of sorts who is an odd wheelchair clad creature with a anteater nose and furry black head. This kicks off the story as they run into another version of themselves who are up to mischief, which eventually gets Cochlea and Eustachia into big trouble.
She is literally buried in skulls. Cool!
So to recap, the world is odd, the characters are odd and never given a complete fleshing out and their actions lead to ever weirder and odd situations. Mix that with the vivid art and it all blends into a very compelling read. Much of the pages are without writing, but it’s these symbolic and thought provoking panels that make one wish to discover their meaning. Of course this all could be meaningless and more about Rickheit’s own imagination, but everything that does happen does has its own logic which makes uncovering and understanding things possible. If nothing though it’s a fun experience to experience his weird world.
Of course with all this weirdness described I’m sure there are many folks who will not find this compelling. If you don’t see yourself entering a museum or enjoying something that’s confusing steer clear — this just isn’t for you. It’s a challenge in some respects because the inner logic of the world needs to be at first discovered, appreciated and then thought about. I also wonder how some folks would take the sexual imagery throughout the book; it’s done in such a way that could be invisible to those who aren’t interested though as it’s not completely in your face.
While the first half of the book is adventurous and compelling the second half turns a bit darker as Cochlea and Eustachia get into dangerous situations. Things get much more disturbing and one of the weirdest sequences involves unlocking a safe inside Cochlea’s womb. I don’t want to ruin this wonderfully gross yet captivating sequence, but it’s safe to say it’s one of the more mind blowing scenes in more ways than one. Things get so dark it’s a bit depressing which makes this vividly realistic twisted world hard to swallow, but you won’t be able to deny its trappings and will want to experience more no matter what.
Odd she has a shrimp thing listening to the radio inside her body, eh?
Is It Good?
This is a fantastic work, at once a vivid, visual feast, darkly disturbing and an adventurous story. Once you enter you’ll never want to leave because there’s nothing else quite like it.