cover image Joe Death and the Graven Image

Joe Death and the Graven Image

Benjamin Schipper. Dark Horse, $24.99 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-5067-1707-4

While many of the elements in Schipper’s fantastical adventure debut may at first feel familiar, they are knitted together with a wholly original and baroque sensibility. Joe Bones, a gloomy yet reluctantly heroic paladin-undertaker, roams a landscape filled with awe-inspiring vistas and scenes of savage violence. After the massacre of a village, Joe is convinced to put aside his usual tasks (“following the birds, burying the bones”) so he can hunt down the perpetrators and rescue a kidnapped child who is destined for sacrifice. The road to justice is convoluted and discursive, as Joe banters with Bloo, his adorably tiny, big-eyed, and bookish Jiminy Cricket–like sidekick. The plot often goes murky and can be difficult to parse, but the depth of lore hinted at and the greater themes of servitude and rebellion suggest a potential franchise of grand design in the making. While Schipper’s dramatically pop gothic style is a clear homage to the high-drama gloom of Mike Mignola, the occasionally inscrutable quest narrative and ornately oracular language (“I hear the chains of evil coiling again”) feels closer to the work of Alejandro Jodorowsky. This is a work of crepuscular beauty with a narrative whose opacity only adds to the enchantment. (Mar.)