The basic premise of Safari Honeymoon may sound like something from a 2000 AD Future Shock – newlywed couple embark on a hunting trip to a bizarre alien landscape only to discover their environment is far more in control of them than they are of it – but Jesse Jacobs’ latest offering from dependably diverse Canadian micropublisher Koyama Press is no standard sci-fi twist-in-the-tale offering. The work of an ingenious and fertile imagination this is a book where visual execution is unashamedly at the forefront of narrative drive in immersing the reader in a most intricately constructed realm of weirdness.
A pompous businessman, his apologetic wife and an experienced guide are superficially the main characters of Safari Honeymoon but the perceptive reader will be quick to note that the true protagonist of this graphic novel is the eerie environs of the jungle itself. An ostentatiously extravagant post-nuptials vacation marks the beginning of a trip through a mysterious terrain and the odd lifeforms that inhabit it. Hostile parasites (one species of which lives in the guide’s mouth having replaced his tongue on a previous trip), pockets of temporal distortion where the group accidentally encounter themselves, a breathable aquatic wonderland, and a whole host of fantastic predatory fauna are just some of the perils the trio must navigate in their explorations. The only denizens of this world who appear to have benign intentions are the unearthly “forest monkeys” who will play a crucial role in bringing together both interlopers and biosphere…
Safari Honeymoon acts as both ecological parable and stunning showcase for the delightfully disturbed mindscape of writer/artist Jesse Jacobs. The ecosystem he creates in these pages is that rarest of things in the world of comics sci-fi – a truly alien setting, and one that manages to be simultaneously hallucinogenic, organic and strangely geometrical in realisation. At its core the book is a perhaps standard object lesson on our relationship with the environment and a return to nature, as the surroundings the characters are traversing gradually encroach on and, eventually, engulf them. In that regard the juxtaposition of the “civilised” with the untamed, and the blurring of the lines between the two, is ground well trod in genre fiction but Safari Honeymoon’s triumph is in the illustrated splendour of this sometimes magical, often sinister, but always elaborately crafted locale.
In a way the central narrative becomes almost incidental to the journey of discovery that Jacobs invites the reader to take with him. Marvelling with awe at the peculiar life cycles of the jungle’s inhabitants – with occasional accompanying expository commentary from the safari guide – every page becomes an adventure in itself; individual visual essays that you will find yourself staring at for inordinately long periods of time long after you have absorbed their importance to the overarching storyline, looking for each and every heretofore unnoticed detail. The sense of panel-to-panel motion and the playful full-page depictions represent a sublime sense of invention that underlines and heightens the notion of an unfathomable otherness to the realm of Safari Honeymoon.
Over the last couple of years Koyama Press have been instrumental in introducing me to a number of creators producing work that is often challenging and experimental, and always eager to exploit the full potential inherent in the comics page. Safari Honeymoon epitomises their eclectic and inspired publishing philosophy; a spellbinding use of the form that will have any reader new to Koyama’s output, and the work of Jacobs, eagerly searching out both parties’ back catalogues.
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