cover image Bad Island

Bad Island

Stanley Donwood. Norton, $18 (144p) ISBN 978-1-324-00185-0

Donwood (There Will Be No Quiet), resident artist for the band Radiohead, unfurls a wordless parable that contrasts the relentless power of nature with the violence of humankind. Donwood opens cinematically, with a slow tracking shot that roams through a roiling sea, represented by swirling horizontal lines, to an island with smoldering volcanoes. Life on the island slowly reveals itself as it transforms: various flora and prehistoric creatures are supplanted by humans. Images of hunted animals and toppled trees give way to houses and buildings. Perhaps inevitably, vapors from the volcanoes merge with fumes billowing from factory smokestacks, which are then accompanied by skyscrapers and other symbols of modern civilization. Only a few marginal human figures are visible, dwarfed by their surroundings. Finally, missiles fill the skies and lead to annihilation. With this microcosm of evolution, Donwood presents humankind as a force driven to sow destruction of the natural world—an ages-old theme enlivened considerably with Donwood’s striking imagery­—rendered in bold black-and-white woodcut-like visuals, mixed with rhythmic op art patterns—including one standout sequence that juxtaposes patterns of raindrops, bare tree branches, and churning waves. The result is a hypnotic, trenchant allegory that is both beautiful to look at and hard to look away from. (Oct.)