Fear Of The Unknown: Indestructible Universe Quarterly

Posted by on September 20th, 2010 at 5:02 AM

Rob reviews the fourth and fifth issues of Indestructible Universe Quarterly, by Morgan Pielli.

Morgan Pielli’s Indestructible Universe Quarterly (henceforth IUQ) minicomics series is a one-man anthology featuring new stories, reprints and a print serialization of a webcomic.  Pielli’s comics are about tension above all else, dipping their toe into conceptual horror.  There’s little in the way of gore in these stories, but there’s a grim relentlessness in each one, an inevitable bad end that nonetheless draws the reader along for the ride.  What I like best about his comics is the way he quickly thrusts the reader into the dark heart of his stories and then stops (without further explanation) after delivering a shock.

For example, “The Drill” starts off with some children at a school performing an odd drill involving laying down camouflage and closing gates.  Turning the book to page three of the story reveals a gigantic, hideous insectoid creature ravaging the school as everyone involved desperately tries to stay alive.  The final image, of a young boy holding on to the bloody stump of a hand of a friend after she was pulled away by the monster, is both horrific and slightly comedic.  Pielli doesn’t need to explain what’s going on, why it’s happening or what happens next; he just wants the reader to think about these images presented in just five pages.

“Orion Star” is similar in that the reason why terrorist/zombies suddenly appear is not explained or important.  What is crucial is that the government might be behind their origin.  This story doesn’t work quite as well as the first, if only because it was a bit more predictable.  Being a young artist, Pielli is still trying variations on his style.  That’s evident in “The Iron Shoes”, a story where Pielli abandoned his clear-line style for a denser, darker line that still had a lively scratchiness.  It was a bit of a cross between Robert Crumb and Jules Feiffer.  The story was typically dark, as a cruel emperor is given his comeuppance when a dancer whom he forced to dance to the death in hot coal-laden iron shoes.  The story is less interesting than the visuals, which are hauntingly stark.

The bulk of these issues is taken up by new chapters of Pielli’s “Driftwood” serial, which is a classic monster-in-the-forest story.  In this case, the monster is the forest.  Pielli shifts the reader’s expectations by downplaying the visuals of the threat; they seem to be harmless logs, but one turns their victims into a pile of leaves.  It’s a darkly humorous image, but Pielli otherwise plays it straight, especially when he starts to get into the panicked interpersonal dynamics of the surviving characters.  Pielli is in no hurry to explain how or why this is happening, preferring to concentrate on building a constant sense of dread, one no less awful if the actual threat seems to be absurd.  Pielli seems to be finding his strengths as an artist, using a thin line but exaggerated character designs in a naturalistic setting.  It all serves to keep the reader off-balanced and focused on story’s tension, even if not a lot of action takes place.  Once “Driftwood” is collected, this oddity could cause a bit of a stir.

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