Wrtiten by Chris Ryall (adapted from Clive Barker)
Art by Gabriel Rodriguez
Published by IDW Publishing
Clive Barker has a philosopher’s heart. You can see it in the numerous ways he expresses his own unique vision of beauty, terror, and the macabre in all the artistic mediums he touches. Whether it be a painting or a novel, he uses a brushstroke that is unlike any other human touch. His visions have the ability to both mesmerize and horrify at the same time.
The Great and Secret Show is Barker’s first book in a trilogy of stories concerning a dark dimension called Quiddity, a realm that can be reached only through the manipulation of a force called the Art. I do not know how many times I tried to read the book only to find out that ,while Barker’s style is unique, the story itself was long and drawn out, forcing me to plow through it in arduous sittings where I was wishing a bit more would be going on. I am not trying to detract from the epic brilliance that the book attains, but it does seem like it is a much longer hike to reach the summit than it truly is.
Now IDW is releasing the first in a series of comics based on this grand opus. The first issue of The Great And Secret Show begins easily with a quote about the nature of the Art itself. Clean clear skies pull out from the frames below this, and we are thrown into the mundane world of Jaffe. A postal clerk who is about to be sentenced to the drudgery of the dead letters office, Jaffe seems to be a meager mouse of a human. The look given to him by artist Gabriel Rodriguez is sullen, almost Gollum-esqe; a person that if forgotten about in the bowels of a basement, he would not mind or be missed. This is most clearly seen in the eyes.
The story goes into full swing as Jaffe takes a liking to the job, getting hooked on the work ahead of him. He becomes obsessed with it as he begins to see a picture forming out of all the gibberish in the lost letters. The ramblings of the insane that fill the letters and packages around him culminate in the discovery of a medallion, a piece of concrete evidence that gives Jaffe all he needs to take action on discovering this lost Art, the lost way of things that allow us to visit other places.
The story here is broken down cleanly. Writer Chris Ryall takes all the fluff from Barker’s novel and trims it in educated and precise ways. We are taken on a whirlwind tour of the book, but one that does not ignore the metaphysical heart of the adventure. The Great and Secret is a talky show, one that concerns people discussing ideas that are both titillating and exasperating for extended periods of time. As much as this can work on the literary page, it may fall flat in comic form.
Here it does not. I was enthralled in revisiting the Show in this medium. I dare say the tale lends itself to adaptation quite well. Peculiarities or visions I may have imagined differently are things I cannot hold against the translation that Ryall and Rodriguez have laid down. I only hope the rest of the series can keep this up and that they are planning a trip to Imagica next.
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