cover image Poison Flowers & Pandemonium

Poison Flowers & Pandemonium

Richard Sala. Fantagraphics, $29.99 (308p) ISBN 978-1-68396-274-8

The final collection from Sala (Phantoms in the Attic), published posthumously after his 2020 death, is a fitting capstone to the prolific, idiosyncratic artist’s career: a collection of graphic novellas and illustrated stories showcasing his passion for feverish pulp fiction, self-aware dark humor, and cryptic visual symbolism. In the longest piece, “The Bloody Cardinal 2: House of the Blue Dwarf,” plucky psychic Phillipa Nicely faces off against a rogues’ gallery of schemers and a bird-headed arch-criminal. “Cave Girls of the Lost World” plays out a cheesecake adventure fantasy in “a land forgotten not only by time, but by science and sanity as well!” and gives Sala the chance to draw topless women fighting dinosaurs (as observers in a frame story comment salaciously and sardonically). “Fantomella” features an archetypical Sala antiheroine, a sultry thief in a domino mask, but her caper plot turns self-referential as her nemesis questions her character development. Sala’s instantly recognizable watercolor art is equal parts charming and ominous, mixing influences from Edward Gorey to Famous Monsters of Filmland to old paperback covers. His comics take place in a campy alternate world of Nancy Drew intrigue and midnight-movie twists, oneiric symbols and psychic powers, mysterious temples and creaky old mansions. Readers won’t want to miss this last visit to Sala’s peculiar world. (May)