Publisher: Dark Horse
Creators Gabriel Bá, Becky Cloonan, Vasilis Lolos, Fábio Moon
Review by: Thomas Braaksma
The genre of horror can be a difficult task for a writer and artist to tackle. The major obstacle is how the artist presents what the writer is trying to bring to the audience through just panels, pictures and dialogue. In movies, the director has sound and the element of surprise to use in his manipulation of the audience, but the artist has just his pictures and the writer’s words to haunt his audience. This obstacle, which sometimes can be triumphantly overcome (The Walking Dead), seems too great of a task for this Eisner Award-winning team of writers and artists with their new graphic novel Pixu: The Mark of Evil.
Pixu is a book about an apartment complex, the five tenants of the complex and what happens to them after a strange mark starts appearing in different locations throughout the building. Right from the start, before the book even begins, a definition for the word Pixu is given. It states that Pixu is the mark of evil which imminently forecasts death, and a second meaning from traditional Chinese medicine dealing with the spleen, not meaning an organ but a group of physiological functions. With this is a good idea of what the Pixu will be about.
The black-and-white art starts with an introduction of the tenants and their peculiar stories. The reader is introduced to the obsessive compulsive man, the quarreling young couple, the superstitious grandfather and his granddaughter, the lonely widower and the spineless landlord. [SPOILER ALERT] Each story leads to a vicious and tragic end to all the tenants (obviously since Pixu is the mark that imminently forecasts death).
To elaborate, the obsessive compulsive man is taken over by his disease and kills the spineless landlord who has just been trying to collect the rent that is late from all the tenants. The young girl of the couple kills her significant other after seeing the mark and supposedly being possessed by it. And it continues on to the lonely man who dies by the granddaughter he apparently once had a relationship with. And there are some other really obvious, extremely cliché story arcs that readers have seen a hundred times over.
Sparse dialogue stretches thin throughout the 115 pages of the book. The creative team tries to rely on shocking the audience by unveiling sadistic acts like pedophiliac behavior and children cutting their own necks to scare and inspire belief in the stories. It is a quick yet tedious read.
The art works well within the context of the book. The roughness portrays the violent and sadistic material the writers want perfectly. Blood is black in the book, intertwining it with the mark of evil (which is rough paint brushes on the page) and also giving a sense of connection to the violence of the mark and blood from a slit throat or other violent act. The art fits the material but might not fit the taste of readers who prefer a more subtle presentation. This can be seen though in Gabriel Ba’s sections of the book. Though there is no index for the creators, but Gabriel’s contributions to the book are easy to spot. The quality of his pages is on a different level than the other artists. It appears more controlled than the other artists. Pixu is represented with traditional comic book panels, yet overuses full page panels to show the effects of the mark of evil.
Pixu: The Mark of Evil is a graphic novel that horror enthusiasts and fans of morose titles will probably find common ground with and enjoy. The person more affixed to titles with straightforward stories or heroes and villains will see Pixu as a waste of their time. Though the methods and presentation of the art are all correctly executed within the book’s context, the story never connects to the reader and never flows coherently.
For more info, www.darkhorse.com
Pads & Panels received a copy of the book courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.