A Whole New World : Pia-Melissa Laroche’s “Musical Pretext For Gestural Adventure” (Entropy Editions 05)

It’s not necessarily the easiest thing in the world to know where, or perhaps even how, to begin discussing French cartoonist Pia-Melissa Laroche’s Musical Pretext For Gestural Adventure — the fifth release in editor/publisher Justin Skarhus’ formally-inventive Entropy Editions series (or, as the back cover would have it, Entropy Editions 05), but it strikes me that’s rather the point : Laroche isn’t interested in showing us a world that can be described so much as one that can be sensed and felt.

It’s a tall order, after all, to craft a silent story that revolves around the transformative power of music, and to populate said wordless (and, crucially, tuneless) narrative with anthropomorphic forms that, in a pinch, most closely resemble trees, but for all that the through-line here is fairly easily discernible : events progress toward a conclusion that, depending on one’s reading and/or mood, is either every bit as whimsical as most of that which has preceded it, or decidedly less so, and therefore the comic retains its essential interpretive quality from first page to last. Trust me, however, when I say that it only sounds pretentious.

Okay, fair enough, I’m the one who’s sounding pretentious here. Don’t, however, let that — or the analytical nature of the comic itself — put you off from exploring it in depth. In point of fact, Laroche has crafted something as eminently accessible as it is abstract and innovative here, and as such it both stands on its own quite nicely and fits comfortably within the overall ethos of Skarhus’ line. It resists easy categorization beyond that, though, and again it’s safe to infer that’s by design : this is a comic that’s easy enough to both appreciate and enjoy, considerably more difficult to pigeonhole.

Which, I flatter myself, makes it precisely the sort of thing this blog exists to analyze and discuss. Laroche certainly has an aesthetic sensibility all her own, one arguably more rooted in pure design than it is in illustration per se, and it’s highly effective insofar as the specific task it’s called upon to discharge here goes. At the margins, perhaps, it reminds me just a bit of Brian Blomerth, but that’s more to give you a point of reference than it is a point of comparison : after all, where Blomerth’s panels are packed to the gills with visual information, Laroche makes intuitive and highly inventive use of negative space, essentially conveying spatial “overflow” via imagery that is, at first glance, deceptively open and expansive. What we’re seeing becomes far more recognizable as the story moves along, it’s true, but that’s every bit as much due to the fact that most will find they quickly adapt to Laroche’s methodology as it is to the increasingly relatable nature of events themselves. In other words, you really can’t help but go with her flow.

And, truthfully, why would you want to do anything else, anyway? This is deliciously, deliriously inviting cartooning — a siren call that takes you places you haven’t been before showing you things you recognize in a way that you’ve never seen before. Laroche goes “all in” on bringing readers in, and the end result is akin to be swallowed whole within a vortex of pure visual and conceptual delight — complete with the occasional frisson of the disturbing that immersing oneself in something new usually entails. A stereotypical “hero’s journey” this most assuredly is not, but there’s something quietly heroic all the same in its utterly unique realization.

And now I’m afraid that I’ve bypassed pretentious and gone straight to pompous, so I’d best stop while I’m ahead — or at least before I fall any further behind. You’ve got better things to do with your time than reading my blathering, anyway — like, for instance, reading this unassumingly magnificent little comic.

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Musical Pretext For Gestural Adventure is available for $8.00 from the Entropy Editions Bigcartel site at https://entropyeditions.bigcartel.com/product/musical-pretext-for-gestural-adventure

Also, this review — and all others around these parts — is “brought to you” by my Patreon site, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, film, television, literature, and politics for as little as a dollar a month. Subscribing is the best way to support my continuing work, so I’d be very appreciative indeed if you’d take a moment to give it a look by directing your kind attention to https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

One thought on “A Whole New World : Pia-Melissa Laroche’s “Musical Pretext For Gestural Adventure” (Entropy Editions 05)

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