In a Stathis Tsemberlidis comic, narrative is almost secondary to the pure immersive visual experience the reader finds themselves engulfed by. Hisashi, his latest offering under the Decadence banner, is no exception. This wordless, A4 format sci-fi thriller combines familiar Tsemberlidis-style body horror with intense action and hints of experimental manipulation. It’s another breathtaking entry in this quite singular artist’s oeuvre.
Across an eerie, forbidding terrain a lone biosuited gunman faces down a small army of constantly replenishing, fungal, zombie-type creatures. Fighting his way through this hostile landscape to the destination that is his uktimate goal he finds the environment throwing up ever more terrifying obstacles and opponents in his path. But there are hidden layers to what is occurring here and when the truth is revealed it is partnered with a most unforgiving sense of poetic justice…
The bio-horror of Hisashi is, of course, embodied in Tsemberlidis’s gritty, grainy and heavily detailed art. But it’s also there in his juxtaposition of both the organic and the geometrical, with a latter contrast emphasising the unrelenting terror of the main sequence that precedes it. It’s the manner in which the recognisable transitions into the grotesque and the threatening but still retains something identifiably human in these pages that makes Hisashi so utterly unnerving in delivery. Tsemberlidis, of course, has an unsettlingly vivid imagination and the sense of entropy and decay between these covers almost threatens to seep out of its pages and infect the reader in places.
It’s too easy, though, to focus on simply the overt visual spectacle in Hisashi and overlook the nuanced aspects of Tsemberlidis’s comics – the panel-to-panel flow, the dramatically effective shifts in perspective, the symbolism and the pacing are all integral parts of this disturbing thriller. But it’s his ability to connect with the reader without words that stands out. Not simply for the skill that takes but also because, so efficient is his storytelling, that any added exposition or dialogue would be entirely superfluous, and would actually detract from our relationship with the page.
A sophisticated take on the Future Shock structure, Hisashi will be available at this weekend’s Catford Comic and Zine Fair.
Review by Andy Oliver