Publisher Milk Shadow Books drag together five years' worth of Tim Molloy cartoons in an attempt to perhaps provide a Rosetta stone to help decipher the always elusive nature of what Molloy has to say. When it comes to mixing it up no one does it better than this Writer/Artist of the bizarre. The book is broken up into ten story arcs that sort of tie together by the final page in one of the strangest explorations of the surreal I've come across in five years of reviewing. Not terribly sure that I can make sense of this, but let's rock on and see if anything emerges in the harsh light of day.
There's certainly any number of themes appearing in Molloy's body of work that should give the "reader", term used loosely in this review, pause when trying to put the pieces together. Religious belief comes under the microscope, yet it isn't Judeo-Christian ethos being scrapped at. Molloy focuses more on the "belief" in higher powers than in the actual trappings of any of the modern main stream religions. You get the feeling that the Writer is trying to convey something more from a "cargo cult" viewpoint than a fundamentalist one. Molloy does get across however that religious dogma of any sort can be wrong and possibly hides the actual truth from the populace in the form of mythology and mistaken belief. Its heady stuff and I'm quite possibly missing some very salient points, learn to live with it, buy the book, and make up your own mind.
Throughout the tome under review Molloy has various characters writing about their experiences in journals, with the journals invariable being thrown through a portal into another world where they end up discarded in large piles of clearly unread material. It's quite a striking image for mine, and while it may not be the Author's intent, I picked up on quite a savage attack on the creeping horror of ideas like Facebook. While everyone is madly online scribbling away on Facebook pages, it simply descends into something approaching high farce. So much communication that is of very little relevance that goes by and largely unread, possibly a sad indictment of the current state of humanity for mine. Be an individual yo, delete your Facebook page today, no one is interested, no one is reading, Molloy pulls the carpet out from underneath that particular edifice. Actually Molloy is hitting one of the current seams in Japanese horror; increased communications brings increased isolation and anxiety, worth chewing over folks.
Anyways Molloy has some strong vibes going down in It Shines and doesn't simply throw down a few pretty pictures for the masses, he has something to say. I've probably missed a whole bunch of themes, but then this is a review site, hit one of the critic sites for more in depth exploration if that's your thing.
Which I guess brings us to the whole notion of "the silent comics". Molloy does include some speech and narration in a few of his stripes, but unfortunately not only are the words in a foreign language, but they appear to be in an alien foreign language. I didn't bother trying to decipher what they might be saying, figuring the pictures tell a thousand words, which might be Molloy's point in including the completely incomprehensible prose. So yes you have a book in your hands that doesn't require any sort of reading skills, hey you can say you only opened It Shines for the pictures. Not everything requires pouring words on the page, sometimes the art is strong enough in itself to get the idea across.
Art wise and I guess given the lack of wordage this is of paramount importance, Molloy throws some interesting styles onto the table. There's almost an Andy Warhol feeling to the straight black and white panels, and I'm saying that in a good way, with the Reader drawn into what appears on the surface to be a simplistic approach to the medium. Molloy is however delivering solidly on the atmosphere and getting his message happening, with the black and white perfecting suited to his at times abstract take on what constitutes a plot line. It's an excellent approach that will have you glued to the page while you try and work out exactly what's going down. You can keep throwing this sort of thing at me week in, week out, Molloy rocks the house down.
When Tim Molloy decides to go with a more grey on grey approach, particularly in the Impy stripes, you get the feeling he's having a lot more fun with the content and perhaps getting somewhat more toward mainstream easy to understand content. You are still going to have to think about what you are experiencing, there are some dark and disturbing undercurrents, but that's half the fun with a Molloy piece. I'm pretty much calling this avante-garde material right here right now, you are going to have to dial into the book to get your groove on.
I'm not even too sure who I would compare Tim Molloy to, beyond the Warhol influences mentioned above. Just buy the damn book and make up your own mind.
It Shines landed on my desk demanding to be reviewed but biting the hand that writes. While I definitely enjoyed the book I'm not entirely sure I managed to work out exactly what was going down or catch all the nuances sent my way. For sure Tim Molloy operates in a sort of darker Leunig fashion, you are going to have to think over what's going down on the page, but the messages are somewhat more cryptic and hard to grasp. If you are after something intelligent to read for a change then full recommendation, see what you think about the book. I certainly enjoyed myself but am left wondering if someone shouldn't write a Tim Molloy companion book so we can get the full benefit of Molloy's often time's warped brilliance. Just a thought y'all, we don't have that many around these here parts.
It Shines and Shakes and Laughs is available from the good folk at Milk Shadow Books. Check out their online presence right about here. The book will set you back $14.99 in Australia, or $12.99 for the U.S version. Considering we're talking 108 pages that's a pretty cool price. So go buy the book, read it, and send in your thoughts on what's it all about Alfie.