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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Five Wounds: Review from The Age, 15 May 2010

Review of Five Wounds from The Age, 15 May 2010, by Owen Richardson.

The template suggests an old-fashioned children's classic: handsome proportions, elegant print, fancy chapter headings, centre plates on shiny paper. But a virus has gotten in there: the illustrations are nightmarish and hermetic, calling on the Tarot, Escher, psychotic heraldry, and the text here and there is scribbled through, the nice fonts mocked by scrawled block capitals. And the story likewise takes the blackness that underpins traditional fairytales and brings it front and centre.

The last book writer Jonathan Walker and illustrator Dan Hallett collaborated on was Pistols! Treason! Murder!, a "
punk history" about the life of a 17th-century Venetian spy and rogue. This book breathes something of that atmosphere, while taking the properties into a fantastical realm.

In an imaginary city-state five outsiders, each with their wounds and powers, become involved in an obscure conspiracy, five cards being played by unseen hands. There's eclecticism in the writing as well as the illustrations: the X-Men and the Bible are both here, Heart of Darkness, Calvino, and although the book is too text-based to be a graphic novel, it's in the vein of comics that happily steal from all over. This makes for instability, and the writing has its flat spots, but the book takes you places, and the illustrations are wonderful.

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