Where to even begin with the absorbing and often deeply disquieting brilliance of Theo Ellsworth’s An Exorcism? The third and latest book in Latvian publisher kuš!’s mono series of artist showcases is a nightmarish descent into a dream reality that isn’t so much a narrative as a terrifying stream-of-(un)consciousness.
The only time we hear the protagonist of An Exorcism talk is in the publicity blurb on the back of the book where he ominously states “When I reach the blue surface, my exorcism treatment will begin. I don’t feel ready for this, but there’s no turning back. This is going to be a harsh experience; that’s all that I know.” Other than that this digest-sized creepfest is an entirely silent affair.
An Exorcism begins with a trapped man awaking from his slumber to discover himself being carried off by his sentient and monstrously misshapen bed. Household objects conspire in this metaphysical kidnapping as the unfortunate fellow is cast by his bedroom furniture into an horrific abyss that leads him to a dream-like world of twisting subterranean caverns, self-referential metaphor and claustrophobic passages. Throughout he is pursued by twisted creatures from the darkest recesses of the imagination.
A psychedelic nocturnal horror story, An Exorcism blends the utterly surreal and the relatably recognisable (there are visual echoes of childhood scattered throughout) to disturbing effect. There’s an atmosphere of the inescapable to these pages; an inevitability and a sense that we are never in control of our own destiny as our hapless central character is constantly swept away by the whims of others.
The exorcism of the title takes the form of this ever transitioning trek through his own fractured mindscape as realities and states of consciousness both metamorphosise and merge with the protagonist’s own psyche, seeming to paradoxically become the very environment he is fleeing from. Ellsworth fills this world with his standard busy panels full of entrancing organic detail, making full use of the digest format to present one and two-panel pages that ensure a brisk reading pace that furthers the feeling of frenetic panic that the book embraces.
Astonishingly inventive and ever captivating in its relentless insanity, An Exorcism is a grotesquely deranged Where the Wild Things Are. Another recently published book that you simply need to get your hands on from the kuš! table at ELCAF this weekend.
For more on kuš! visit their site here and follow them on Twitter here. You can buy An Exorcism from their online store here. Co-publisher Sanita Muižniece will be a guest on the Broken Frontier Panel on ‘‘Comics and the Micropublishing Revolution‘ at ELCAF on Saturday June 17th at 5.30pm.
kuš! comics will be at Table 23 at ELCAF on Friday-Sunday.