Dreamlike. Visceral. Thought provoking. These are just a few adjectives that crossed my mind when reading The Ark by writer and artist Stephane Levallois. Stephane’s worked on storyboards for films like X-Men: Days of Future Past and Harry Potter, so you can understand why his ability to capture wonderment as he does in this book is highly regarded.
The story is far from literal, at least I think so, which makes for a read that will challenge you. That type of book doesn’t come everyday but so often stories like this can be boring or much too confusing. Is this a bit of both?
The Ark (Humanoids)
The book opens with a lone figure in a diving suit dragging a wooden ark through the desert. Like that scene in Pirates of the Caribbean with Johnny Depp, only far more curious but about as weird. As he drags this giant ship carving a path with its hull he encounters peculiar characters and situations. In between these moments are poems which further create a dreamlike experience.
Why does this book matter?
Humanoids consistently puts out intriguing comic stories never before released in America, translating tales from across the pond. These stories have a different feel and flair that allow for stories that are incredibly fresh.
Where are you going?
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
In some ways this book reminds me of the film The Fall or the same director’s previous film The Cell. The visuals are very gripping and surreal, but also incredibly meaningful and symbolic. When you’re reading this book you’re soaking in the imagery and can fall into it like a warm bath. It engulfs you as the characters begin to understand what they are seeing or when moments take place that are awe inspiring.
Take for instance a scene where a boy discovers an ark being built. He’s truly taken aback in amazement of the sheer size of the thing. Or later when a zeppelin comes upon a series of towers with cages, each with a woman inside. The soldiers zipline down to investigate and are quickly met with a killer surprise. The worn out husks of their bodies is shocking and unreal.
It’s important that these images are so striking and stick with you because aside from the poems that separate each chapter there isn’t any dialogue or narration. These poems are quite strong in matching the story they go along with and tend to read like great proclamations or the writings of historians. Take for instance this page:
The great horns had been torn off.
The straight pipes that once held them up assumed
Obscene angles, like the blackened, twisted
Limbs of a dog burnt alive.
These “Mouths of the Wind,” the whole outer body
Of the organ collapsed into a heap.
The central trunk composed of enormous pipes
Burst open in a corolla of jagged metal,
Almost every conduit had exploded from within,
As if the instrument as a whole had been unable
To contain the vibrations and song that it produced.
Sometimes, its ravaged throat would still emit
A vague and muted groan…
What a sad sight it was to see this giant of steel
Vanquished by the desert.
As you can see the text isn’t long—this is everything on an entire page, but this allows the it to breathe and feel more important and grandiose.
So what’s it all about? That’s up to you to decide as this is a very allegorical type of tale. It certainly pushes the boundaries of what comic books can do given the silent nature of the tale. Ultimately there are aspects of war, death and desire all played into here. The man pulling the ark appears to be going about his business with all these chaotic and awful things going on seeming to suggest humanity is anything but perfect. Ultimately though the meaning will be what you find in it.
It can’t be perfect can it?
Obviously a story like this one isn’t for everyone which is fine. The art and dramatic moments in scenes reminded me of AEon Flux at times, but in others panels could get quite messy and rough. Ultimately though the watercolor black and white look suits the story and—if you’re open to it—you should find this book incredibly meaningful.
Great sense of space and energy!
Is It Good?
This is an incredibly meaningful and symbolic allegorical fable. You’ll soak in the imagery and fall into it like a warm bath. Recommended for those willing to go on a thought provoking journey.
You can find this book on Feb 24, 2016 wherever books are sold or buy it digitally here.
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