My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Shortlisted for Best Graphic Novel 2012 by the Aurealis Awards, Salsa Invertebraxa is a storybook unlike any other, an Alice in Wonderland for insects, set in an imaginary world as two tiny companions set out on an odyssey of discovery. With one antenna listening out for vast armies competing for dominance on the forest floor, the two friends encounter strange new species of insect among surreal gardens of terrestrial delights. At nightfall, their mischief takes on a mysterious and foreboding turn as they attempt to steal eggs from monstrous super-predators, disturbing the fragile tranquillity of this bizarre Eden. (Images from the book at http://www.behance.net/gallery/Salsa-Invertebraxa-(A-Graphic-Novel)/2349816).
After an incubation of 15 years, Mozchops has exquisitely crafted over 200 paintings to tell this story of a beautiful and dangerous world..
Salsa Invertebraxa is currently only available from the publisher’s website. Go to http://www.pecksniffpress.com/ordering.html for details.
I am not a big fan of graphic novels. I wasn’t a big comic reader as a child. I feel I need to make these confessions up-front in this review.
Thus it was when I realised that I had won Salsa Invertabraxa in the Goodreads First Reads competition, I wasn’t particularly excited, rather a little curious and a tad guilty that I might not properly appreciate it.
When the book arrived, all the way from Hong Kong, expertly packaged in a box rather than an envelope, I sneaked a quick peak before I got home. The cover artwork only hints at the treasures within.
I read the whole book after dinner that night: twice. Salsa Invertabraxa is a fantastic object: a work of art; a primer in ecological systems; a treatise on the cycle of life; and the story of a pair of friends with the outlook on life of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. I have nothing but admiration for Mozchops. This is patently the result of a labour of love.
Each page is 290 mm by 240 mm in size and every square millimetre is superbly illustrated. There are various frames and insets used throughout the book to bring different parts of the forest into sharper focus or juxtaposition with the main scene. I found the repeated motif of the ants and other forest floor dwellers quite apposite and somewhat disturbing. The detail in the drawings is astonishing – the amount of thought that has gone into the planning and preparation and the technical skill of execution blend perfectly. The artwork really is amazing; beautifully detailed and excellently imagined and executed.
The images are close enough to real life to be recognisable, yet different enough to be magical. The story is simple in outline, but amazingly detailed and complex in execution – just like life.
I found that I treated the book with a reverence, not wanting to crease the pages or get smudgy fingerprints across the pictures. It is a thing of beauty and wonder, all the more so to me for my lack of expectations. I am truly delighted to have received this gift.
There are few words in Salsa Invertabraxa – haven’t counted them, but I would not be surprised to find I have written more in this review. Those that do appear, serve to guide the reader’s thoughts and perceptions gently towards the tale in each picture. What I particularly liked was that Mozchops did not confine the words to a particular place on the page, nor within boundaries or bubbles. The size, font and colour of the words changed to suit the scene, as did the position; the positioning helped determine how much of the scene I looked at before reading the words.
Salsa Invertabraxa is not an action story, rather it is the story of life
writ drawn large. It is a work to be savoured, upon which to reflect and to which to return.
I would recommend this book to anyone who likes to think. I feel that its pages could be used, mandala-like, to lead one into meditation. The illustrations contain beauty, symmetry and colour; speak of life and death, of nature red in tooth and claw, of the exuberance of youth, and the daring of friends working together.
I am so pleased that I won Salsa Invertabraxa and I thank Mozchops (and the Goodreads pixies) for the chance to enjoy his work. It has a treasured place in my collection and I shall read it again, soon.
I’m claiming this book as No. 55/150 in the Goodreads 2012 Reading Challenge.
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