By Andrew A. Smith
Scripps Howard News Service
I enjoyed the graphic novel Some New Kind of Slaughter – or – Lost in the Flood (and How We Found Home Again): Diluvian Myths from Around the World.
But the book (and, obviously, the title) nearly wore me out.
(Archaia, $19.95) is by A. David Lewis and mpMann, who worked together on The Lone and Level Sands
, a graphic novel retelling the Israelite exodus. With this book they once again tell an ancient story – many of them, in fact – by combining flood myths from around the world.
Lewis uses as his framework the oldest such story, from a tablet fragment dated to 17th century BC Sumeria. As this tale goes, Ziusudra, king of Shuruppak, is warned by the god Enki to build an ark, because the gods have become annoyed with the clamor of men and are sending a flood to wipe them out. Ziusudra does so, saving humanity.
Obviously, this has similarities to the most familiar flood story, that of Noah from the Book of Genesis. Which is also included, as are many, many more. Lewis achieves this by showing Ziusudra having visions and hallucinations on the deck of his boat on the long voyage of the other flood tales. In this manner, all the flood stories are in some way true, and all are in some way related. Interpretation is left to the reader.
But keeping up with all this channel-switching made my brain hurt, and the creators explain why in the introduction: “Despite a few recurring motifs such as giants, snakes and turtles, the stories vary so much as to … not come together in a single coherent story. But they do echo each other in their themes and leitmotifs, and they can be strung together and play off each other.”
So I had to read Slaughter
twice (and take notes the second time) to keep it straight enough to understand it. I kept confusing this myth with that legend, this group of aborigines with that group of natives, this dream with that vision. Because there are a lot of them!
Here are some I was able to Google: Manu and Matsya, the fish incarnation of Vishnu (India); Yurlanggur and the Wawalik sisters (Australia); Tamendonare and Ariconte (Brazil); the goddess Nuwa patching a hole in the sky, and Gun battling Gong-Gong (two myths combined as a story within a story, China); a flea weeping, eventually leading to a spring overflowing (Germany); Anatiua harassing the Carayas (Brazil again); the origin of the Nile (Egypt); the old man who saves his family after the amphibian that supports the world shrugs, and Kezer-Tshingis-Kaira-Khan re-creating everything (Mongolia); Manabus battling the Ana maqkiu (Menominee tribe near Wisconsin-Michigan border); and Kuamachi punishing the Star People (Venezuela).
And there are more, including a fictional storyline about a modern woman, “Dr. Boatwright,” in search of her family during “Hurricane Carla,” which seems loosely based on News Orleans and Hurricane Katrina. As the introduction admits, “we researched myths, songs, jokes and even resorted to pure invention.”
If there’s a criticism to be made, it might be that Slaughter
is too complicated and too ambitious for the average reader. But this virtuoso turn by Lewis and Mann should be included in academic courses on graphic novels, and those who just like a challenge – like your humble narrator – will enjoy it as well.
* People I respect keep telling me how great artist Jesse Marsh was drawing Tarzan
for Dell and Gold Key from 1947 to 1965, but so far I don’t see it. Dark Horse is reprinting Marsh’s work, which is now up to volume four, with rave forewords by Richard Corben and all three Hernandez brothers. But, as I said, even with Tarzan: The Jesse Marsh Years
Vol. 4 under my belt, the art still seems pretty pedestrian to me.
Oh well – we’re only up to 1951. He’ll surely improve in the next 14 years!
* We all know zombies are popular these days, but do we really need a book about zombies fighting Sherlock Holmes?
After reading Victorian Undead
#1 (WildStorm/DC), I have to admit … it’s a capital idea! Good show! Pip pip! And other such cliches.
I’ve only read the first issue, but writer Ian Edginton and artist David Fabbri have created a remarkably plausible and entertaining scenario. Looking forward to the next issue, when – the game’s afoot! And hungry for brains!
Contact Andrew A. Smith of the Memphis Commercial Appeal at firstname.lastname@example.org.