Portrait of a Drunk features the type of pirate only alluded to in the more sanitized Disney version of the profession. Guy, the book’s main figure of exploration, is a violent drunk, prone to defecating in public and offending even the more accepting countrymen in this 18th century backdrop. He is scarcely a figure of reverence but definitely one of interest, as the allegorical tales told in the book take the reader between the colorful high adventures of the sea to the miserable (yet comical) existential reflections on his depravity.
For those who read independent comics from Europe, the creative forces behind Portrait of a Drunk will not be new names. Belguim’s Olivier Schrauwen (Parallel Lives, Arsene Schrauwen) and France’s Ruppert and Mulot (The Perineum Technique) are some of the most accomplished and creative forces in the world of independent comics working today. This book brings their strengths together in a way that celebrates and sharpens each other’s gifts. This is experimentation done right, with the tone and gradience often shifting panel to panel to successfully explore the mind and world of Guy. Schrauwen, Rupert and Mulot will swing between minimalist inked sketches to vibrant tapestries of color; it is truly an awe-inspiring use of the comic medium.
As Guy’s victims watch him spend their money and go on his merry way while watching from purgatory, his victims eventually get fitting revenge on the pirate. It’s dark, reflective yet humorous; there is a principled significance here accompanied aptly by burlesque viciousness.
Portrait of a Drunk is an excellent introduction to some of the paramount living independent comics and won’t disappoint those looking for the visual experimentation this medium can provide coupled with sharp storytelling.
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