For those of you who equate Humanoids Publishing with the glorious depravity of Alexandro Jodorowsky or the decadent nihilism of Enki Bilal, you'll probably be as surprised as I was to find their latest graphic novel offering, LIKE A RIVER, by the Swiss cartoonist, Pierre Wazem.
Ostensibly, LIKE A RIVER is about a broken old man from the rural Russian countryside who loses his boots in a stormy river, which serves as an analogy for the tumultuous state of his life, as well as the catalyst for punching his own lights out with a shotgun. With said gun barrel in his mouth and his arms reaching for the trigger, the old man is rudely interrupted... by a son that he abandoned to social services years ago when his wife died, and who is now returning from Moscow University to visit his father for the first time. Surprise!
Wazem employs a very concise, minimalist style that is more in the vein of the French cartoonist, Phillipe Dupuy, or our own Andi Watson, than the typically detailed art found in other Humanoids volumes. His brush strokes are very concise and affecting, capable of conveying subtle irony one moment and tugging at the heartstrings the next. And, while the narrative takes its sweet time to unfold, I still found myself deeply moved by the payoff, something I'll readily admit doesn't happen enough in comics.
LIKE A RIVER is one of the more touching new books I've read this year and is a very welcome step in Humanoids' mission to diversify their English language content line to include some of the more literary works they've been providing to the French comics market for awhile. Perhaps they think there's some hope for us yet!
Peter Aaron Rose is a writer, producer and technologist who lives and works in San Francisco, CA. Under the pseudonym "Peter Siegel", he recently authored Killing Demons, a graphic novel available from Engine Press and Platinum Studios.