The King of the Flies. A dispossessed punk with a papier-mâché fly head for a costume; infesting a town shrouded in permanent twilight where the only places of worship are cathedral-like malls.

(1) His name is “a reference to some book” his mother once read, a name which he self-consciously alters even as he sits astride his plush throne.

In appearance, a bellicose mutate of David Hedison in The Fly,

…at other times a pope dispensing indulgences and corruption.

The demon god of Ekron presiding over the festivities and bloody communion of a Halloween Rave party, …

…looking wistfully at a pair of friends (Sal and Eric) he means to separate, his blood and spittle raining like confetti over their nuptial bliss. His vengeance is enacted only a few pages hence. The forest where he fucks Sal is a microscopic view of his soul from whence he watches dispassionately as his rival is flattened under the tires of a car.

The likening of Mezzo and Pirus’ work to those of David Lynch have to do with the story’s suburban depravity, the comparisons to Charles Burns and Tim Lane everything to do with the young protagonists and the nature of the delivery: the thick impasto of darkness; the suffocating grey and neon hues; the claustrophobic grid; and the album format which recalls Tintin and Hergé .

It’s never as slick as with either of those artists, never that strange tension between deformity and perfection of line you find in Burns. The unease which Mezzo brings to King of the Flies is ever present in the twisted shapes of his men and women, the oversized drops of an acrid drizzle…

…the fur like scrub which seem like the myriad hairs of a fly’s appendage; …

…a modern day dance of death…

….choked with the dregs of modern life; the strange underbelly of free will and capitalism — sex, drugs and alcohol; death, lust and tainted beauty; the unsettling horror of kitsch;

…the nauseating mingling of youth, disease and dementia.

(2) Each chapter of this book melds into the next through mechanics both subtle and obvious. The deranged internal ramblings of the soused out father in the second chapter (“Me and Jiminy”) prove strangely prescient, his paranoia ultimately insightful: the man digging chips from between his daughter’s (Marie’s) legs is later shown to be a drug dealing low life with only one thing on his mind; ….

….the plane caught like “a fly in amber” in his whiskey bottle in the closing moments of his tale is a premonition of the air crash that occurs in the chapter following.

The inebriated loser imagines a plane “full of happy passengers who [have him] to thank for this perfect Sunday.” A moment of delusion before the whisky and his ever present companion and personal deity (J.C.) kick in. The image in the penultimate panel belie his words and he proceeds to drown everything in his purulent gut. A corpse greets him at the shallow end of his bottle; his cigar and a puff of smoke grazing the bottom edge of the panel like a downed aircraft.

(3) The rigidity of the panel work in King of the Flies lends itself to a kind of symmetrical foreboding, the captions and dialog becoming interchangeable in certain close juxtapositions:

[Bottom tier, Pg 18 - Reality]

[Bottom tier, Pg 19 -  Fantasy]

Thus the laundry money which changes hands on one page is transformed into a sexual transaction on the next. The girl’s reminder with regards her employer’s washing (“But your laundry.”) becomes a cry of protest directed at his unclothing; his curt demand that they should get rolling (“Let’s go!”) becomes a demand for penetration; the descent of his organ two pages later an echo of disaster, injury and death.

[Page 21; see first and last panels]

(4) The terrain is suffused with voyeurism and barely restrained sexuality; the unease we feel due as much to this as the inherent self-reflexivity:  a gynecologist gazes intently at Sal’s vagina; she strips insolently in front of us and her friend, Marie, in a cafeteria locker room; …

…the Simpsons look on disapprovingly from the pillow sheets (a gift from Marie) as Sal fucks her new squeeze.

The same faces look blithely back at Marie as she fantasizes about the King of the Flies who is scraping snow off her driveway (at the behest of her father) in the chapter that follows.

The King is a scopophiliac himself of course, intruding on the lives of his customers and videotaping their congress.

Now he has his eye on younger game, and the doll which once looked on agreeably as a sullen youth dug chips from Marie’s crotch…

…cheerfully waves her on as she loses her virginity to him.

(5) It’s a fine balance and the authors occasionally get lost in the elliptical connections, overarching metaphors and impossible situations; substituting the more effective quiet and morbidity with an unambiguous violence. The final chapter of this first book in the series appears a bit too pat and is presented as the reconstitution of a jigsaw. The channel selector which appears on the first page of the chapter quietly signals this intention…

…before the structure is made know even more explicitly.

The fabric of Marie’s dress is a reiteration of the cloth sheathing the King’s sun-drenched throne; …

 

…her limbs enfold him like the arms of that seat.

Every piece of the puzzle provides a moment of epiphany: a long desired conquest; …

…a worn place of pilgrimage; …

…a freshly divined apocalypse.

As in the first chapter, the violence is inevitable and mixed with lust. The King is a knight trameling and dismembering monsters before getting the girl…

…then enjoying his just desserts…

…never to escape from this endless circle of hell.


Notes:

King of the Flies (Part 1 of 3):  Hallorave. Written by Michel Pirus, Drawn by Mezzo (Pascal Mesenburg). Translated from the French by Helge Dascher and John Kadlecek.

Various short reviews and synopses at Fangoria, Fantagraphics, ManiaNewsrama, , Pop Matters and Shazhmmm. Background information by publisher Kim Thompson at Comics Comics and FLOG!

King of the Flies (Part 2 of 3): The Origin of the World due to be released January 2011

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