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Home > Bart Beaty's Conversational Euro-Comics

La Trilogie de Monsieur Ahi, Franco Mattichio
posted September 7, 2006
 

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I don't know much about Franco Matticchio. He's had two books published in French, both of which I've liked. He's worked for a number of Italian comics magazines, and is better known as an illustrator than as a cartoonist. I've never met him, and it is difficult to get a read on him from his work.

Take, for example, La Trilogie de Monsieur Ahi (L'Association). Published last year by Edizioni Nuages in Italian, and now available in French, it is a brief (54-page) cycle of dream-like imagery. The story, such as it is, tells of the birth, disappearance and rebirth of Mr. Ahi, a man with an eyeball for a head. If the image makes you think of the late-1970s conceptual band The Residents, you are not alone. Indeed, The Residents (or "the residents") make a brief cameo in the book's third chapter, and the allusion is central to the meaning of the book. I just can't fathom what that meaning is.

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What I liked about this book is the quiet, poetic pace. Nothing much happens here, and the story is told in an almost glacial fashion. Working with a single image per page, the book has an Edward Gorey-esque tone to it, minus the rhymes. The visual connection to Gorey is actually quite pronounced, with Matticchio utilizing a lot of thin cross-hatched lines that provide a sense of nearly overwhelming dull grayness. Visually, it is a lovely book. The images are carefully composed, particularly in the middle chapter, and each works well as a single illustration, as well as part of a larger narrative.

That larger narrative is, however, exceptionally slight. As with Max' recent Bardin collection, L'Association is championing an artist mining a surrealist vein, though Max' effort uses a quick wit to make its points, while Matticchio relies more on quiet introspection.

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Like last year's Emmanuel Guibert book, Va & Vient, La Trilogie de Monsieur Ahi is beautifully designed and produced. A small hardcover with embossed cloth covers, the production elevates what might be a minor work into a thing with greater gravitas, but for many readers this will likely come across as pretentious. Penny-pinching comics connoisseurs will probably want to walk right past this one, despite its obvious visual appeal.

In all honesty, I'm not sure that I "get" this book, but it's a lovely thing to have nonetheless.