I find art books in the comic world to be even more hit or miss than in the normal, coffee table book art world. Art is almost always in the eye of the beholder, and weird, underground comix-like experiences are not for everyone.
Still, the medium allows a great deal of freedom, and there’s something very compelling in even the strangest of these comic tales. The artist can extend their creative freedom as far as they want, disposing of narrative, plot, physics, anything, and just putting pen to paper.
Simply Samuel by Finnish artist Tommi Musturi is surreal, odd, beautifully drawn, and a very strange experience. It’s one that I found very off-putting at times, as I imagine the artist intended, but I did finish the book, and found it to be a very interesting journey.
Simply Samuel (Fantagraphics)
As near as I can tell, Samuel is both alive and dead. His travels take him from the depths of a human body, to splattering into pieces on concrete, to cuddling with an ape’s nipple, and to aging in reverse and climbing back inside his mother’s womb.
I was very much in the “what the fuck” category when I opened this up, but the art, subject matter aside, is stunning. Full color and multiple layers just pop out at you, and one sequence in the middle of the book is so densely covered with drawings and layouts that it could take hours to truly unpack the entire image (or weeks if you’re really high).
Overall, this was not my cup of tea. Call me old fashioned, but some layer of a true narrative is what I’m looking for in sequential art, and the lack of one makes this feel like an art project. Beautiful, but not for me.