January 29, 2008
Book Review: A Bit of Madness by Emmanuel Civiello and Thomas Mosdi
* Genre: Fantasy, Graphic Novel
* ISBN: 0975380893
* ISBN-13: 9780975380895
* Format: Paperback, 200pp
* Publisher: Checker Book Publishing Group, LLC
* Pub. Date: June 2005
Although visually stunning, Thomas Mosdi and Emmanuel Civiello’s A Bit of Madness is a difficult work to understand, at least initially. Ostensibly, the story is an adventure tale about a denizen of fairyland named Igguk. Summoned by the queen of fairies to attend her, Igguk arrives (after a few side adventures) only to find her dying. But the death of the queen of fairies will cause darkness to reign over the land, and Igguk must find an artifact, the “bit of madness” of the title to restore Faerie to its rightful state.
This epic fantasy tale, originally serialized in Heavy Metal is rather a difficult one to follow. Frenchman Civiello has created a visually stunning work, each panel in the graphic novel an art masterpiece in the Pre-Raphaelite tradition. But as stunning as each panel is, it is often hard to identify what action is taking place, as the perspectives often make it difficult to see the primary action referenced by the text. There are also very few narrative boxes, so the reader will have to rely entirely on the dialogue to understand what is going on. This is especially difficult because the dialogue is often vague or simply is reactions to an action you cannot identify in the artwork.
If you persevere through its faults, you will find that this story is about the world-realms of humanity and faerie and the consequences of their interaction. Drawing on Shakespeare and Celtic mythology, Mosdi and Civiello have created a great game between Merlin the magician and the Lucifer-like Oberon, the King of Faerie. This comic is a lament on the death of faerie, something destroyed with the advent of Christianity.
It is an interesting concept, and as I said, the artwork is stupendous. The narrative weaves together some of the icons of various mythologies (Merlin, the ravens of Norse Myth, the fomorians of Celtic myth and even giants) to create a story about the end of magic. However, although by the end of the novel the reader will know that is the intent, I found that the narrative wandered all over the place (perhaps a result of its serialization), and that I would have been better off knowing the ending before entering the story. I actually suggest you read the last page before you begin, so that you will better understand the broader context.
Civiello has done a masterful job in creating amazing artwork. This comic is wonderful to read just for the pictures. I thought the narrative sloppy and unconnected, but I cannot deny that I was drawn into each panel by the imagery. I recommend you pick up this oversize (23 x 32 centimeters), coffee table comic to enjoy the artwork for itself.
It is a very complex comic that will make you dizzy trying to figure it out (making the title descriptive of both its content and the reader's reaction to it). Your best bet is to let the story unfold, and remember that it is echoing the sometimes not so succinct myths of an earlier time. If you choose to read this, be aware that it will be difficult to read, but that each full-color page is wonderful to look at. Take your time and enjoy the colors and artistry of A Bit of Madness.