Eurocomics Spotlight : “Einstein, Eddington And The Eclipse”

There are interesting comics, unique comics, unconventional comics, innovative comics — and then there’s this, something truly singular in, dare I say, the history of the medium.

The “this” in question in 2019’s Einstein, Eddington And The Eclipse (or, in its native Portuguese, Einstein Eddington E O Eclipse), subtitled Travel Impressions (or Impressoes De Viagem), a lavish publication that consists of both a thoughtful, scholarly, long-form essay by Ana Simoes and an equally long-form, but decidedly impressionistic, comic by Ana Matilde Sousa that together provide a holistic and multi-dimensional view of the expeditions to Principe Island undertaken by A.S. (colloquially Arthur) Eddington to observe the total solar eclipse of 1919 and thereby confirm Einstein’s then-controversial theory of relativity. So yeah — when I say this is a singular work, I don’t exaggerate in the least.

It’s also, frankly, a challenging one, but that’s not such a huge surprise when one considers that it was published by Chili Com Carne, one of the most forward-thinking and daring comics publishers around and an outfit for whom the term “radical” is far too confining. As with their later Mishima : Manifesto De Laminas by Tiago Manuel (previously reviewed on this very blog), this project also began life as an exhibition — but at a museum, not a gallery, specifically Portugal’s Museu Nacional de Historia Natural e da Cienca. Don’t take that, however, to mean that there’s anything especially tedious or dry about it, even if you absolutely despise learning (shame on you!) — on the contrary, by the time one has made it through all 248 (!) pages, the word that will probably come to mind more than any other if one is reaching for a descriptive for the book is poetic.

Granted, in the early going that doesn’t seem like the most probable outcome — however, while I confess to having been previously unfamiliar with respected academic Simoes, her essay is a thoroughly absorbing one that goes well beyond establishing particulars and takes readers on a journey that explores the “who” every bit as much as the “how” and the “why.” Rote recitation of fact only takes you so far, after all, and Simoes takes it upon herself to take us a lot further than that — so if you’re prepared to put in the time to read this, expect to be rewarded for that investment. Still, lest we forget, this is a comics blog —

Sousa’s name may not be a terribly familiar one to many readers here, by the nom de plume she frequently works under, Hetamoe, likely is (or at least should be), and her portion of the book, consisting of a rich array of downright sensuous digitally-rendered images thoughtfully and intuitively assembled, laid out, and printed (it’s gotta be said the printing here is absolutely wondrous to behold), and juxtaposed with portions of Eddington’s correspondence with his mother, his sister, and the Lisbon Observatory represents a veritable feast of sensory delights. Yes, it fits the definition of a “travelogue” in both the broadest and strictest sense — but it’s so much more than that, as well, taking in the sights, sounds, feelings and textures of his journey to create a kaleidoscopic whirlwind that explores the very act of exploration itself, as well as its sub rosa “ripple effect” ramifications on people, places, animals, and even inanimate objects. If I said I’d experienced anything quite like it before I’d be lying, and I say that as someone who reads a hell of a lot of comics.

Stated plainly, then, I can’t recommend this book strongly enough — and even that might be selling it short. If I’d been aware of it when it first came out (my bad!), it would have most certainly landed a spot on my “best-of” list for that year — instead, it’ll have to settle for a spot on my “best-of” list of all time. I hope that will serve as some small compensation for my tardiness.

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Einstein, Eddington And The Eclipse is available for 15 Euros directly from Chili Com Carne’s website at https://www.chilicomcarne.com/index.php/shop/lowcccost-61/not-dead-yet-2011-2018-131-detail

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, films, 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 pleased indeed if you’d take a moment to give it a look by directing your kind attention to https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

Mini Kus! Catch-Up : “Violent Delights” By Hetamoe (Mini Kus! #87)

I’ve reviewed some pretty “far out” comics in my time — and some of the most “far out” have been part of the Mini Kus! line from Latvian publisher Kus! — but Portuguese cartoonist Hetamoe’s Violent Delights (which was just released last month as Mini Kus! #87) probably takes the cake as the most experimental, borderline-indescribable work I’ve ever tried to wrap my head around in full view of my readership. I won’t do you the disservice of saying that I’ve completely figured this one out yet, and to be honest I’m not sure that I ever will, but maybe that’s not even the point here. This is complex, challenging, at times even taxing stuff — and where it takes you, as well as how it gets you there, is going to vary a great deal from reader to reader. I’ll even go so far as to say that I’m not yet at the point where I can fairly determine whether I “like” this book or not — and frankly the question itself seems entirely irrelevant.

So why read it at all, then? That’s a natural enough question, and by way of answering, I’ll state for the record that Hetamoe does offer a central thesis worth exploring — I’m just undecided as to whether or not using Shakespeare’s Romeo And Juliet as a springboard for examining society’s propensity for inflicting violence on a mass scale is necessarily all that effective. There’s an anime-style opening sequence that keeps the violence interpersonal, and that registered with me quite strongly, but when we get to the midpoint of the comic and we’re seeing deliberately-obfuscated verses from The Bard juxtaposed with deliberately-obfuscated climate change statistics, we go right from first gear to third, right from “why are we so mean to each other?” to “we’re absolutely fucked” — and one can be forgiven for feeling a fair amount of whiplash.

That being said, Hetamoe does nothing if not keep you absolutely engaged in the proceedings. From esoteric symbolism to slap-dash “rough” cartooning to pixellated computer imagery to scientific graphs to Gothic script, there’s a frenetic energy to all of this, a sense that anything really does go — even if it’s utilized in service of a premise that posits that eveyrthing is already as good as gone. Which brings us to nihilism, I suppose, but I think that’s either too reductive or, even worse, just a cop-out.

I’m not entirely comfortable saying that Hetamoe advances the notion that creativity is the way out of our death spiral, so don’t hold me to that as a hard-and-fast opinion, but it certainly seems like that might be the message here. Or one of the messages, at any rate.  It’s not stated clearly enough to rise above some of the visual “noise” in this comic on a first pass through it, but that’s immaterial; you know before you’re finished reading this that you’re going to have no choice but to go though it multiple times before you can even begin the process of forming something like a coherent reaction to it. And trust me when I say that’s not likely to be a terribly straightforward process, either. Nothing here is.

No harm in that, of course — quite the reverse. Comics that make you think — hell, comics that make you work — are kind of our bread and butter around these parts. But in this case, be prepared for that work day not to end. If that sounds exciting to you, then you’re really going to dig this book, but if some kind of resolution is important to you — even if it’s only a tentative one, and one largely arrived at under your own steam — then this may be that metaphorical “bridge too far” that all your years of exposure to “avant-garde” art have been leading toward.

Like I said, I’m not totally sure where I stand with it for my own damn self yet — but I’m in no way ready to walk away from this work and call it a day, either. I keep feeling like that major revelatory moment is just around the corner — and even if it turns out that it’s not, the search for it feels worth the effort. In that respect, then, Hetamoe has created one of the most genuinely immersive comics I’ve ever come across. And isn’t that preferable to merely being “good” or “bad,” anyway?

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Violent Delights is available for $7.00 from the Kus! webshop at https://kushkomikss.ecrater.com/p/36507448/violent-delights-by-hetamo

Review wrist check – I said my Raven “Solitude” gray dial model was one of my favorite everyday “beater” watches, and I wasn’t kidding — this thing gets a lot of wrist time. Here it is again, showing off its versatility by riding a Zodiac caoutchouc rubber NATO-style strap in burnt orange for a perfect casual summer look.