cover image River of Ink

River of Ink

Etienne Appert, trans. from the French by Ben Croze. Life Drawn, $22.99 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-1-64337-561-8

Appert’s myth-spinning meditation on creativity weaves family history with the tale of Saurias, a young soldier, and Saminia, the lover who draws his shadow to remember him while he’s at war. The ambitious effort opens with a child asking “Why do you draw?” In the pages that follow, the narrator and the child row “a river of ink, back through all of human history,” with Maurice, the boyhood version of the narrator’s grandfather, whose own soldier father sent him sketches of his outpost during WWI. Appert incorporates interviews with artists François Boucq and Edmond Baudoin, who observes, for example, that lashes that connect or abuse are similar to drawn lines. An interview with American cartoonist Scott McCloud accompanies the English translation, adding another layer to the “why draw?” question, as an escape from fixed reality: “art as an antidote to life.” Appert plays with panel structure and populates his dreamscape with a range of styles, from a child’s doodles to surreal backgrounds full of hidden bodies, skulls, or glyphs. Though statements like “Art reaches a dimension that speaks to all mankind” can veer so broad as to lose focus, Appert makes his point otherwise through fluid art and story. When Saurias dies, Saminia draws him again to immortalize him and, in the process, herself. Appert’s themes will resonate with both artists and their appreciators. [em](July) [/em]