Two hundred pages of complete bloody lunacy. I think of it as a Japanese take on the classic Fifties American horror comic. It's not got the big-eyed superdeformed characters that is typically associated with Japanese comics, nor the overblown melodrama. This is presented as the first in a series, but the individual stories that make up this volume are all pretty much self-contained, all riffing off the central theme.
With restrained, delicate, shadowy cartooning, Junji Ito manages to attain a genuine creepiness unseen in horror comics for a while, and unseen in horror film for longer. These tales, told around the fogbanked town of Kurozu-cho on the Japanese coast, have a Lovecraftian touch. The town is cursed by a thing, a concept, in Lovecraftian style something numinous and other; uzumaki, the spiral. The secret shape of the world, that hints at what is beyond. The longer we stay in Kurozu-cho, the more spirals we see. From the ferns twisting in wind, to the whirlpools in water and the whorls of shells... and the more they in Kurozu-cho see, the stranger things become, and they regard the spiral patterns of their own fingerprints in horror, and scars begins to spin in flesh, and listen, you can hear bones crunching as they begin to twist...
From a simple, almost funny idea, UZUMAKI achieves moments that are seriously disturbing. Tell me the last time any book disturbed you. When you give up, buy UZUMAKI.
Warren Ellis has written around thirty graphic novels, comics, prose fiction, journalism, videogames and screenplays. Sometimes he take photographs. He also creates and co-creates websites, including this one. He has awards and stuff, he's been in big magazines and newspapers, and he's been published in Nature, which he always mentions because it makes him laugh. He's on the web at warrenellis.com and diepunyhumans.com.