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Chimera
posted January 16, 2006
 

Creator: Lorenzo Mattotti
Publishing Information: Fantagraphics/Coconino, 32 pages, $7.95
Ordering Numbers: 1560977639 (ISBN)

imageNorth American readers have seen hints of Chimera before, most notably a section in the first issue of the aborted, later-period Kitchen Sink anthology Mona. It's pretty easy to find random panels on-line, and some aggressive consumers may have even picked up a foreign edition, seeing as the work is silent except for an opening, introductory paragraph:
I heard tell of a thinker who lay beneath a tree, whence he observed the sky and sometimes, the stones as well. Those who passed by saw the light in his eyes and they concluded that he had a secret. The Thinker passed on and people would go lie under the true as he had, trying to discern his secret. But they would always leave disappointed. Driven by curiosity, I tried my luck as well. I saw the sky, i saw the stones and I fell asleep.

What follows may be what the author saw in his dream-like state, as the astounding array of visuals could certainly indicate a playful series of subconscious imagery. To put it more bluntly, the bulk of the book consists of sublime drawing, images of gods, monsters and nature, spiraling downward from exquisite thin line work into heavy and heavier panels until the entire page is awash in black ink. Lorenzo Mattotti is one of the great comics artists of the modern age, and it's interesting to see him free of the evocative yet child-like utterances to be found in works like Fires and Murmur -- even Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde featured a mostly conventional script interacting with Mattotti's luminous art. Chimera likewise shimmers. I would pay twice the price to to enjoy the surface qualities of the work and feel like it was money well spent. And yet I like the story, too, an almost Saul Steinberg-like meditation on the ink-line as the will of God, collapsing inward before becoming smeared across the canvas. The last panel haunts because it's so comparably plain, that rattle of consciousness that makes sense only as you stumble out of a fever dream.