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Book Review < Back

Greetings From Hellville

Credits: Written and Illustrated by Thomas Ott
Publisher: Fantagraphics Books


Everything by Thomas Ott is covered in hair. Millions of white lines swarming over black, making every panel come alive as if it's constantly moving. Psychologically, everything squirms. Ignoring the horror genre's easy morality and condescending smirk of curve-ball endings, Ott's work is patient and anxious, abrupt and subtle, ugly and beautiful.

GREETINGS FROM HELLVILLE is Ott's first stateside collection, culled from his work in Germany and France, reproduced on large, shiny pages. It's Charles Burns with OCD, William Gaines without the wink, Edward Gorey piggybacking the Grimms - all driven by a frantic kind of artistic autism that compels Ott to perseverate with a small knife, carving white lines in black slabs of scratchboard.

Ott's method immediately casts his stuff with the stink of gloom, but the content drags any joy screaming over the edge. The book wallows in the gutters and tenements of everyday life. Hung up on the marginalia of losers - watching as they trudge through jobs and suicides - Ott revels in charting out downward spirals, from the moment they start to the terrible inevitable (with barely restrained giddiness). Putting paid to any doubts; HELLVILLE contains not a single word of dialogue or narration. These stories all have a brand of cruel logic to them, each one determined to outdo the next with how far around the bend they can go, how much darker they can get.

The horror genre is a collection of usable myths to draw on, and the only successful entries are those that take the accepted and make them brand new and compulsive as a car-wreck. Ott's creep-filled workaday nightmares swim around the mundane and fantastic and come out covered in something queer and new and fuzzy.

-- Christopher Sebela

Christopher Sebela lives, works and sleeps in Kansas City, MO. When not laying out newspaper pages or writing quasi-subversive headlines for a tiny upstart company within a huge publishing syndicate, he pimps his muse as a freelance writer or labors in vain crudely editing reams of footage. He has no idea why he has a website, but he does: thoughtpeach.com.


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