Written and illustrated by Chris Kent
I distinctly recall wandering about the indie creator stalls at a Birmingham comic convention several years back and being taken back by how much Scottish artist Chris Kent’s Medusa stood out of the crowd of sci-fi, superhero, horror and similar genre works. Now reprinted with 20 additional pages, this serpentine tale of a troubled soldier who returns home from Iraq to find that his daughter has gone missing is still a surreal, uncomfortable experience that doesn’t fit into a convenient niche.
To say any more of Corporal Elliot Ford’s inward journey, which is also plagued by memories of an incident with a young woman in Iraq and a coin bearing the image of the titular mythical creature, would be to spoil it. With its untamed art and loose attitude towards narrative structure, Medusa evokes the adult graphic novels of the 80s, in particular the collaborations from Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean. When the notion of a mature comic market was no longer a novelty and artists/writers were more concerned with pushing the medium than developing glossy Hollywood treatments.
Kent’s art, a mix of collages, photos and paintings, is incoherent yet utterly absorbing. Sometimes the black and white imagery is murky to the point that it’s nearly indecipherable; in another book that may prove an issue, yet here it only makes Corporal Ford’s spiralling sanity all the more haunting. In the past I’ve written about the idea of some books telling emotions rather than stories, and Medusa‘s emotionally taut atmosphere more than compensates for its script; you’ll likely see the twist coming long before the end (I daren’t mention either the short story or film that this book bears similarities to).
While Medusa isn’t a horror in the strictest sense, much like the work of David Lynch or Gaiman’s The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr. Punch it is disturbing in a creeping, insidious manner. Chris Kent’s distraught debut is a book that gets under your skin and definitely warrants a second reading at the very least. And in a digital era brimming with more content than any mortal could possibly find the time to absorb, that’s perhaps the highest praise one could ask for.
To find out more about Medusa, visit www.graphitefiction.com.