Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Squirrel Machine

Hans Rickheit
This is a quirky, beautiful, sometimes frightening graphic novel. The Squirrel Machine is definitely not for everyone, but I really had a great experience reading it. The book is about two shunned brothers living in a small town and the grotesque art that they create that the townsfolk don't understand. The book has a really eerie vibe all throughout, with some disturbing images that could have easily stumbled right out of a David Lynch film, culminating in some pretty shocking scenes. But the story is oddly sort of touching, despite the overt oddness of the brothers. There are some panels of the book that I'm still not sure what to make of, or how I feel about them, like one of my favorites of one of the brothers dressed in nothing but a boar's head covering his own, and some sort of a musical device with a crank covering his privates, with a proper young woman reaching out to touch it. It feels wrong, but is still very striking, and the whole book raises a range of emotions in me that often contradict one another. But one thing can very easily be said about this graphic novel, and that is that Rickheit's art is phenomenal. From the arrangement of panels, to the elaborate designs of the brothers' creations and the secret rooms of the mansion they live in, to the execution of the characters as they move through environments full of atmosphere and often, a certain amount of tension. Overall, The Squirrel Machine is a haunting story that won't soon leave readers, with many images left burned in this reader's mind.

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