Dear Reader. My heartfelt apologies. I’ve been remiss in posting details for my virtual reading group for Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda’s Monstress graphic novels. I’ve been absolutely dying to find someone to discuss the novels with + I wanted to do a re-read before reading the latest installment because these novels aren’t easy-reads. Not only is the content at times emotionally burdening/scarring, each text is densely packed with visual and verbal information with regards to both the story arcs and world-building. It’s a lot to take in and I want to – need to – talk about! So we’ll be looking at one volume roughly each month and you can confirm your availability for the first meeting here (note: please confirm availability by this Wednesday as I’ll set the date/time of the group on Thursday based on the responses). There are 6 issues in each volume and if you don’t have the time to read all 6, come along anyways as we’ll be discussing each issue in order so there should hopefully be no spoilers.
My invitation also comes with a warning – one that I really should have thought to make sooner. As I started reading issue 1 in preparation for the reading group, I remembered just how graphic Liu and Takeda’s graphic novel could be. Courtesy of Storygraphs (where readers can select from a lengthy list of labels as part of their review) these are the content warnings for Volume 1 Awakening : violence, gore, child death, death, slavery, body horror, blood, torture, child abuse, murder, cannibalism, animal death, physical abuse, trafficking, confinement, cursing, kidnapping, war, religious bigotry, animal cruelty, emotional abuse, genocide, fire/fire injury, gun violence, injury/injury detail, racism, rape, sexual violence, suicidal thoughts, suicide, xenophobia, grief, death of parent, ableism, hate crime, self harm, sexual assault, sexual content, medical content, sexual harassment, colonization, classism, toxic relationship, and abandonment. …. I told you it wasn’t an easy read. As might be obvious from the very first page of the novel this is definitely an R-rated book but not obscenely so.
What is also probably clear from the first page is that the novel is GORGEOUS. Every illustration with its combo of text and typography is a labour of love. But this beauty poses an odd juxtaposition with the content warnings. If this your first time reading it, don’t be surprised if you’re caught between “can’t look away” and “don’t want to look too closely.”
The series is an investment as a result, which is another reason why I wanted to start a reading group for the series; I’m hoping having people to talk with will help me digest the material better. Not to make it sounds like a support group for graphic novel addicts, but hopefully a chance to make friends based off a common passion for the love of a good book. Potentially we might meet up when later issues are released so join the discord server (here) to keep up-to-date with event details along with some pre-and-post-meet-up chats. But before we get too ahead of ourselves, don’t forget to confirm your availability for the first meeting (link here to save you from scrolling up). Hope to see you there!
A couple months ago I contemplated the possibility of putting together a CFP for an edited companion on Ursula K Le Guin. My first thought: given that it’s an author-specific collection, I wanted to do a symposium on it first. My second thought: I’ll definitely want to read or re-read her major works before the symposium. But I need to buddy-read to keep me on track.
And the more I thought about it, the more I considered how much I want to change our conception of academic conferences and symposiums. I already got a good start with Fantastika’s LGBTQIA graphic symposium last year. The papers were delivered as podcasts that we uploaded a week before the symposium with the symposium itself functioning as a series of round table discussions. The podcast format (IMHO) worked great. It gave people the opportunity to listen to presentations at their own pace and in their preferred environment. (If you missed out, you can still access the podcasts here). The podcast format also gave people time to absorb the info. Q&A at conferences can be aggravating as it’s hard to think of a question mere minutes after a presentation. The Fantastika symposium in contrast was buzzing, with chat streaming in via both the chat box in the video call as well as on discord.
I considered replicating that format for an Ursula Le Guin Symposium and then it hit me. I sure I’m not the only one who’d want to read/re-read Le Guin’s books before a symposium. I can’t be the only one who needs a buddy to keep them on track. So why not combine the two, a Read Along and Symposium?
So here’s the deal, starting in April in the 2nd week of each month, I’ll be organizing a meet to discuss one of Le Guin’s books. You’re not required to attend each month if you don’t have the time. You’re not even required to read the whole book. In each meet-up, we’ll discuss the book in 4 quarters. So if you only managed to read half the book, or 3 quarters of the book, or even just the first 25%, you can stay in the meeting up until the point you’ve read up to, and then decide if you want to stick around to discuss further or gracefully bail so you won’t hear spoilers. I’ll mark out the chapter divides in advance so you have a clear idea of “meeting agenda”.
Ultimately this will culminate in an open CFP for an edited companion (and maybe even a “proper” official symposium depending on my university affiliation status). But to start I just want to have fun and read one of my favourite authors with people who love Le Guin too. I’m not posting this on the usual CFP bulletin boards as I want to focus on fun and casual. Just getting together virtually for a coffee or a drink and chat about some of our favourite stuff.
Since I have so many international friends and colleagues, the meet won’t be on the same day or time each meeting. I’ll post a poll link each month so that you can confirm your availability and then will pick date and time based on attendance numbers. So please be aware and conscious of differing time zones and consider if you can or are willing to meet up outside of your working hours.
After *careful consideration*, I’ve decided to do both the Hamish Cycle and Earthsea Cycle in publication order. But I’m also open to adding a non-series text, a short-story or poetry collection, or a non-fiction essay or collection if someone argues passionately for each case.
We’ll be using Google Meets as I believe it’s a free platform (although I’m open to a more accessible app if you have recommendations).
Our first book will be Rocannon’s World in the 2nd week of April. As there are 9 chapters plus prologue and epilogue, I’m calling the chapter divides (“meeting agenda”) accordingly (note that I edited the breaks on March 1 after realizing the prologue can function as it’s own separate short story):
1st part: prologue and chapter 1
2nd part: chapters 2-4
3rd part: chapters 5-7
Last part: chapter 8, 9, and epilogue
It’s a short read, just over 100 pages. But as it’s Le Guin’s first published novel, there may be some teething issues and no one’s going to blame you if you decide to bail. But come along anyway and tell us about why you bailed.
To join, tell me your availability here. Be aware that the meeting might extend past 60 min (I.e I aim to open the chat 10 min early to allow people to sort out any tech issues and hope to extend at close for a social chat). Edited to add Discord invite here. Please do share the links or this post with anyone who might be interested! TIA
There are two general versions and they are in oppositions to each other. One is extremely feminist, centering on a parthenogenetic birth (a birth without requiring male interaction) and a matriarchal society spreading the message of peace and enlightenment. The other not only requires male interaction for Wonder Woman to be created but also changes the Amazonian society to make them more aggressive, and more often than not, a group of man-haters. This view is the opposite side of the feminist spectrum, a view presented by male authors who completely misunderstand feminism itself. LGBTQIA+ phobias also get mixed in here (with the idea that a woman would only want to be with another woman because they both hate men). It’s a disturbing and complicated history as each reboot clearly reveals the author’s own views on feminism.
That being said, I still have no idea where to start. Which comic runs should I focus on? The 1940s’ golden age? The 1950s’ silver age? The 1960s’ bronze age? The 1980s’ Crisis on Infinite Earth series which plays with parallel universes? The 1987 reboot which follows it? The 2005/6 reboots? The 2011 one? 2016? The 2017/2020 film adaptations?
I suddenly remember why I’ve avoided looking at Marvel or DC characters for so long. But the longer I put it off, the more “catching up” I’ll have to do. And I thought being an epic fantasy scholar resulted in too heavy a reading list.
Continuing my re-read of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman which I started here, as I’m focusing on portraits I’m skipping most of Volume 3 Dream Country and heading straight to the last issue, issue 20: Façade. “Façade” is fascinating from the portrait perspective and I believe the cover art for volume 3 is a representation of this issue.
“Façade” features Urania “Rania” Blackwell, DC Universe’s Elemental Girl and her inability to cope with living in her post-superhuman existence. Following her retirement, Rania is completely isolated, her only point of contact are phone calls to the agency to inquire the status of her disability cheque.
Rania has the ability to transmutate into anything… except transmutating flesh is difficult. She gained these powers through contact with “the orb of Ra”, a process that leaves her looking alien and monstrous. As a result, each time Rania enters the public sphere she must create a version of her face, to cover her disfigurement. Unable to transmutate flesh (the smell of rotting meat lasts for weeks), Rania creates silicon faces instead. These silicon faces harden and fall off in a day, but Rania keeps them. Throughout the issue we see blurred images of masks hung around Rania’s apartment. From this perspective, they look like Greek theatre masks.
While there is one photograph of Rania before she gains super powers, the masks themselves operate as a series of self-portraits. If portraits are meant to convey the essence of a person, presenting them as a mask subverts that objective, as a mask is meant to hide the true identity, transform a person, and allow them to play a role. And yet, as Rania notes herself, the masks are a part of her identity as well, telling the figure Death that: “I couldn’t throw them away. They’re part of me.”
Death response to this assessment of human identity is striking, as she offers her own:
You people always hold onto old identities, old faces and masks, long after they’ve served their purpose.
But you’ve got to learn to throw things away eventually.
Gaiman, The Sandman “Façade”
Is Death right? Do we dwell on the portraits of our past too much? Do we dream of days gone by, or dwell on our past miseries? I can’t help but think of pop psychology. How often do we locate the source and meaning of our current actions from events that happened in our past. How often do we react in a way because of a past identity, a past hurt or trauma? Can we ever move past it to form a new persona, or is it always built off layers of shattered masks, a series of silicon portraits continously created and discarded but never completely thrown away?
Too many deep questions for a Thursday afternoon. I’m off to take a nap. Until next time, take care!
Continuing my Sandman re-read which I started here, as I’m focusing on themes of portraits, I’m skipping right to the end of Volume 2 The Doll’s House. The volume is bracketed at the beginning (following the prologue) and the end with depictions of the same portraits, but rendered with both subtle and obvious differences.
As I described for the start of the volume, we see a portrait of Desire in statue form followed by a depiction of Desire’s Gallery. At the end of the volume, this order is reversed as we see first Dream’s Gallery and then Desire’s statue on the final page.
The Gallery is a space in each of the Endless’s Realm. When one of the Endless wish to communicate with a sibling, they stand in their Gallery in front of the appropriate portrait with their sigil or symbol in hand to evoke and summon the sibling. The Gallery then also operates as a portal space, where Endless can cross into each other’s realms by invitation. Dream’s Gallery is made up of the same framed portraits as Desire’s but the frame has changed; Each symbol is framed with a highly ornamental golden frame. As well, although the colour tones are similar to Desire’s Gallery, small changes make the space slightly less alien, as the pictures are clearly arranged as framed pieces on the wall instead of a disturbing doubling effect where they also appear to be comic panels.
The portrait of Desire is also slightly less alien. There’s no mistaking it for a portrait of a human – the eyes are whited out, with no pupils or irises. But the colour pallet and setting has changed. In the first, the setting is immediately recognizable as a realm of the Endless with a background grid of emptiness stretching into the horizon, an image that would not occur in the natural world. Here, Desire’s portrait is set on a clear sky blue with a rolling tan landscape. Likewise, while the first depiction of the statue is done in cold colours, hinting at a metallic or marble hard and enduring medium, the depiction here hints of yellows and tans, a dusty, sandy substance that seems it will crumble away. It matches the final messages of the volume as Dream tells Desire:
We of the endless are the servants of the living–we are NOT their masters. WE exist because they know, deep in their hearts, that we exist. When the last living thing has left the universe, then our task will be done. We do not manipulate them. If anything, they manipulate us. We are their toys. Their dolls, if you will.
Neil Gaiman, The Doll House
Rather than being supreme and mighty beings, the Endless living at the whimsy and service of of the humans. In this light, the Endless Realms are just another “doll house”; tucked away in a decorative shell until their service is required. Desire demonstrates this with their flippery, pondering their existence in one moment, and in the next moment “smiles and forgets, for Desire is a creature of the moment.” Desire’s whimsy reinforces the idea that they are a doll themselves, a creature unable to maintain sustained thought when not being “played with”. In this light, we can re-examine the sculpture of Desire. While the dimensions of the first suggested an immense and powerful being, the sculpture of Desire here is a blank, empty doll.
Dear writers, if you’re going to write a 700+ page novel, please have more than one central point-of-view character – especially if you’re writing a portal quest Fantasy which spends 1/3 of the book inside the POV’s home city and/or the POV is an adolescent. Listen. No matter how interesting your character is, no one wants to live in one teenager’s head for 700 pages. Our teenage years were hard enough. Don’t make us relive that angst.
I suppose I should mention the title of the book I’m ranting about. Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory’s Obsidian trilogy is actually half decent – once it starts going. Although the first book, The Outstretched Shadow (2003) is a slow crawl, by the second book, To Light a Candle (2004), Lackey and Mallory seem to have learned their lessons and we see the perspectives of a number of protagonists. In the first book we meet Kellen, son of the Arch-Mage (Head of the High Council which rules the city). We are also introduced to the city of Armethalieh, ruled by a totalitarian system of mages (the High Council). Within the first few pages, we are given a description of how magick effects every single facet of the city: “There was virtually no aspect of life that could not be enhanced by magick” (p. 5). This statement is bracketed by detailed examples, establishing just how integral and integrated magic is in the city. Once this is confirmed, we move swiftly into seeing the extent of the High Council’s authoritarian rule: “They, and not the merchants, determined what could be sold in the marketplace” (p. 8), right down to the patterns and colours allowed in ribbons for decorating clothing. As these details are established within the first 10 pages, it seems a bit… overkill to spend the next 150 pages reinforcing this message.
We finally get to our first exciting incident at the quarter mark, as Kellen is expelled from the city. And the sense of urgency and suspense is handled-well, showing us that the authors are equipped to write exciting scenes. But once Kellen finds safety, the pace slows to a crawl again, as Kellen begins to gather information and evaluate his pre-conceived notions. Although there are a number of interesting events to keep the plot moving – as Kellen encounters a number of fantastical creatures that are outlawed from the city – the emphasis is on his reactions to these encounters which, unfortunately, take the form of introspection, a lot of quiet solitude ambles as Kellen ponders the nature of good and evil (seriously).
I should note that throughout the trilogy, we also see the perspectives of a handful of antagonists, a device I deplore except when handled in prologues like in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time. If your readers don’t like living in the head of a 17-year-old, they’re also unlikely to like seeing the perspectives of an evil – no nuances, wholly dark – character. It’s boring. And uncomfortable. So your character enjoys torturing people and doing other nasty unspeakable activities. Yuck. Do you really need to hammer out that detail over and over again? We don’t need continued reminders of why we should be rooting for the good guys. And, if you ARE going to keep reminding the reader, then we don’t need to have nearly 2/3rds of the book dedicated to introspection with the hero worrying that he’ll turn evil. I assume the contrast was supposed to establish a sense of horror if the hero gives into “temptation” and turns dark. But if you’re having such an all out black and white binary, it seems extremely unlikely that this good-hearted, conscientious person is going to turn so evil that he’ll sacrifice others for profit or pleasure.
In Story Engineering (2011) Larry Brooks describes the ideal structure of a novel. I’ll highlight the key points here:
Set-Up – first 20-25% – introduces character backstory, backstory, foreshadows antagonist
First Plot Point – everything changes for the hero
The Response – hero’s reaction (analysing, responding to)
The Attack – hero becomes proactive and tries to fix things
The Resolution – wrap things up (I.e. no new information introduced. The hero has everything they need to handle conflict)
Let’s apply this outline to The Outstretched Shadow. As I said above, the first 25% of the book gives us background information. While the first few pages describes the totalitarian government, we then spend the next 150 discovering just how extremely authoritative the government is. At 25%, right on cue (according to Brooks’ structure) Kellen is summoned to appear in front of the High Council and is then banished. So we have our first plot point, where everything changes for the hero. From there for the next 350 pages, the story is in “Response” mode. But, as I said above, this response mostly takes the form of deep introspection each time new information is revealed. 350 pages… in Response mode is… a snoozefest. Luckily Kellen is introduced to a number of interesting things that makes the reader preservere on and push past the tedious introspection bit. But you really don’t want your readers to “push past” any point of a book. At page 510 we get to “Attack” – except, significantly, the plan to attack does not come from Kellen himself. HE is not proactive. Instead, he is made to follow strict instructions, and, to top it off, he is given very little accompanying information about the whys. Kellen is sent out as a champion without being told even the smallest tiny detail about the antagonist. Heck, he’s not even told there even IS an antagonist. The language is all very vague and obscure and it’s only at page 592 that Kellen learns that he’s been sent off to face Demons. Let that sink in. Page 592. It’s at this point that we can really see the narration move into “Attack” mode, where the hero is given enough information to make a decision. But – even here – Kellen is in a position where he’s reacting and responding to the information. He’s already well into his journey that he doesn’t have a chance to make many active choices.
At about the 630 page mark we are introduced to a new character – one that is absolutely fundamental in helping to resolve the first novel (and ultimately the trilogy as a whole). From there, I would like to say that the final 80 pages go quickly. They don’t. The resolution itself is another series of introspection as Kellen faces temptations and internal conflict. It follows a fairly Cambellian and Jungian trajectory where the Shadow / Antagonist that the hero must face is himself. Which is absolutely fine, as a central goal of a journey. But not when you have nearly 710 pages dedicated to the deliberations of a single 17-year-old man-child. If you’re a writer and want to go down that route, then my advice is take a page from Jordan’s Wheel of Time and add enough characters that the introspections and self/shadow themes are varied and interesting. (Despite this rant, though, I’d like to add that I thoroughly enjoyed the next book in the series. So I still recommend it to read, but perhaps not if it’s your first introduction to Fantasy Fiction).
I love issue 13 of The Sandman. In “Men of Good Fortune” we take a break from the main narrative of volume 2 Doll’s House; a much needed reprieve before the rollercoaster of horror we’ll face in issue 14. Instead we see snippets of a White Horse tavern in England where every hundred years Dream meets with Robert Gadling, a man who simply refuses to die. Each time we are treated to a change in scenery as, even though it’s the same tavern, over the course of some 600 years, the tavern changes with the time, along with its customers, their fashions and aesthetics. The background dialogue from the tavern customers also tell of us the continued political strifes and struggles that the everyman has to face – the latest being “Thatcher’s bloody poll tax”. So while my re-reading of Sandman has focused on portraits, the issue operates as a series of portraits in itself.
That being said, there IS one illustrated portrait within the issue: a miniature painting of Robert Gadling’s wife and new born son, which Robert shows to Dream with evident pride stating, “this is what I always dreamed heaven would be like, way back. It’s safe to walk the streets, enough food, and good wine. Life is so rich.”
When next we see Robert a 100 years later, nearly thrown out of the tavern for looking like a homeless drunkard, it’s clear life hasn’t treated him so well. His wife died in childbirth, his son in a tavern brawl, and Robert was set upon by angry villagers suspicious of his immortality and charging him of witchcraft. Robert pawned the portraiture of his family 40 years ago for food, and tells Dream, “I hated every second of the last eighty years. Every bloody second.” But when Dream asks if he wishes to die, Robert responds, “Are you crazy? […] I got so much to live for.” It’s an odd but striking sentiment. Homeless, with a dead wife and son. What can he possibly have to live for? Although the fact that he pawned their portrait might indicate that he didn’t value their lives too highly. But I wonder… I wonder if he pawned their portraits so he WOULDN’T dwell on their memories. So that he could move on and keep living, instead of being haunted by their pictures. How else would a man keep living 600+ years through sheer will alone?
And it also makes me wonder, who would have that drive, to keep living, keep surviving, despite all else? Robert’s been through so many ups and downs and he doesn’t seem to resent a second of living. I doubt I would have the same stamina.
Continuing the Sandman re-read that I started here, since I’m focusing only on portraits there’s only a small one to talk about issue 11, so we’ll keep it short today. (And, to be honest, I am having a tough day. So apologies in advance if this piece doesn’t have my usual energy.)
In issue 11 we see Rose (who we met in the last issue) who has newly arrived in Florida looking for her younger brother who she hasn’t seen in 7 years, since he was 5 years old. Her investigation – or rather, her private eye’s investigation – has come back with a news clippings of her father’s death and am image of her grandfather and Jed from 4 years ago. Rose has never met her grandfather but adds (in a letter to her mum): “wish I’d met him: he sounds like a nice old guy. Looked like Santa Claus in oilskins”. The accompanying picture is of grandfather and grandson standing together in front of a lighthouse. Grandfather has his hand on Jed’s shoulder and they’re both grinning, clearly happy. A small but loving family. I suspect the happy picture is what leads to Rose to later make an incredibly naive deduction. The P.I. finally find Jed, living with the father’s cousin on a farm: “These farmers are claiming $800 a month for him, from the state. So at least they’ll be taking good care of him.” Oh Rose. The readers, having seen several pages from Jed’s point-of-view, knows exactly the standard of care that the $800/month is getting him: a cold floor in a dank and dark basement with a single blanket and a corner of the wall to pee in.
Meanwhile, Dream has his spy Matthew steal a picture of Jed as he needs to “see him to find him.” Once he does, he realizes that Jed has been severed from the Dreaming, unable to enter the Dream World as a human. This act is against Dream’s laws and he is ANGRY. Stay tuned to find out if Jed’s caretakers get meted out the justice they so rightly deserve when Dream deals with his own law breakers.
Click here if you want to see my next post in the Sandman read-along.
Continuing the Sandman re-read that I began here, today we get our first glimpse of the gallery; a personal, private gallery, housed in each of the Endless’s Fortresses. We’ll later learn that there are 7 Endless “siblings.” We were introduced to two of them in volume 1: Dream, of course, along with his older sister Death. Issue 10 opens with another Endless sibling, Desire, introduced by means of a visual portrait on the first page of the issue. As I discussed last time, the portrait is cold, alienlike. Portraits, of course, show us the artist’s representation of the qualities of the person. I’ve been musing on Desire’s portrait for the last 24 hours. The concept of desire, for me, evokes ideas of heat and passion, fire and colour and energy. But Desire here is cold, detached. It is perhaps a more appropriate depiction of Desire than the image in my head. Desire does not equate to passion. Passion seems to suggest a depth of feeling brought about by connection. One fuels the flames of passion by constantly feeding it, nurturing it, sustaining it. Desire here seems to indicate an intense longing for something without doing the work to achieve it. It suggests a fickle feeling that passes once one’s attention is diverted.
Given this assessment, the design of Desire’s gallery is suitable with their person. The gallery of the Endless is a personal space in each of their fortresses. But instead of being lined with famous artwork, the gallery contains “portraits” of each of the Endless siblings. When one of the Endless wish to communicate with a sibling, they stand in their gallery in front of the appropriate portrait with their sigil or symbol in hand to evoke and summon the sibling. The gallery then also operates as a portal space, where Endless can cross into each other’s realms by invitation. Desire’s gallery is.. cold. Reminiscent of a real world art gallery, in some ways… wide open spaces, large art pieces dominating the room with little context or curation. But the room is dark, threatening. Splashes of red add small marks of colour. The gallery pieces are placed in a uniform line on a nearly black wall.
The image is cleverly depicted like the squares of a panel in a comic or graphic novel. But in fact this is the way the gallery is exhibited: simple but powerful images on a canvas of white hanging on black. The simplicity is stark and cutting, much like Desire themselves. This is not a space that invites its viewers to linger.
That feeling of uneasiness increases as Desire summons their sibling, their twin, Despair, and the two discuss Desire’s plots against their elder brother Dream. Given that Dream has firmly been established as the protagonist of the series at this point combined with the memories of the events of the last volume, the reader is left with a quiet foreboding that a trap has been set for Dream, one that might be just as horrifying as his last set of challenges. Hopefully he will emerge from this next trial will less collateral damages.
Click here if you want to see the next post on my Sandman read-along.
Since I’m focusing on portraits for my Sandman re-read, we’re skipping past the rest of volume 1 (which I started here) and heading straight to issue 10. Volume 2 The Doll’s House is where the motif of portraits become interesting, especially in just the first few pages. We’ll talk about the first one today: a full page portrait of Desire on the first page of the issue:
How do you read a graphic novel? With full page spreads like these I take more time to examine the illustration before reading the text, let it sink into me like I’m in an art gallery. (With panels I need to read the text first for direction before I fully appreciate the image.) This image puts us into the realm of the Endless right away: the background grid of emptiness stretching into the horizon; white teeth gleaming, an uncomfortable oddity to the rest of the face and torso which is in shadows; gleaming red eyes; and a nebula of red not-stars around a planet-like heart.
The narration tells us that there is only one thing in the realm of Desire: this fortress, shaped in a giant “statue of Desire him-, her-, it-self”. An immense statue towering alone on a blanket of emptiness. The narration also identies the statue as a portrait “complete in all the details, built from the fancy of Desire out of blood, and flesh, and bone, and skin.” There is something cold about the statue, the dark blue tones echoing of cold marble or slate. The notion that it’s made of blood and flesh and bones and skins is slightly alarming. … did Desire dream it up? Is that what the text means with “fancy”? Or did Desire somehow acquire these materials to craft their self-portrait? … given the events of the last volume, perhaps it’s best not to ask.
The fortress/ self-portrait is called The Threshold. “Desire has always lived on the edge.” The text pairs nicely with the image as again we’re drawn to examine it; the background gives us a sense of that edge, an empty vastness marked off neatly with borders. The next page continues this theme as the fortress has “empty, echoing veins, like tunnels. You will walk them until you grow old and die without once retracing your steps.” Finally we’re drawn to the centre of the image, the heart itself, which seems almost to pulse. “There was only one place in the cathedral of its body to make its home. Desire lives in the heart.” While in most cases, the phrase “Desire lives in the heart” might be written off as sentimental muck appropriate for a greeting card, here the image is sublime again: something grand and terrifying. This affect is supported with the reference to a Cathedral, another large, echoing cavern which makes its audience feel humbled and awed in the face of something part divine, part alien. The first installation of volume 2 (following the prologue) thus begins with a firm reminder that the Endless are not human nor gods, but something else inexplicable. Something frightening.
Click here to see the second part of the Issue 10 read-along.