Barrel of Monkeys

Florent Ruppert and Jérôme Mulot. Rebus Books (rebusbooks.net), $19.95 trade paper (112p) ISBN 978-0-615-62235-4
Imagine Funny Games with an artistic twist, compounded by inextricable graphic dissections, and you have this award-winning French import. A few of the stories (the last, in particular) in this collection veer to the acutely unpalatable, though in France the word for that is a “provocation.” The two protagonists in Barrel of Monkeys are portraitists who ply their trade around S-M parties, seeing-eye dog agility competitions, and a “masquerade ball for the maimed and disfigured.” In one of the tamer episodes, two peace activists kill an arms dealer as he is posing to have his portrait taken, then foil their own escape by getting into a fight with each other. The police arrive and beat them to a pulp, as the two photographers gaze on appreciatively and snap a portrait. Voyeurism in its most radical, extreme form is the basic theme of this work. But the tranquil observer who gazes on with a kind of cool objectivity is a mythical idea, and all the mayhem becomes participatory soon enough. Ruppert and Mulot’s work is imaginative and extremely well put together. Full of kaleidoscopic techniques and visual trickery, the graphic novel genre doesn’t get any smarter, or more evil, than this. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 01/28/2013
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