Frank Candiloro may be the most prolific self-publishing comic creator around. In the interim since I last reviewed two is Australian work ethic (if there is such a thing), maybe it's the epic number of stories he has flying around in his head that urge him to get them all down while there's still time, maybe he doesn't need to spend any of his time on such mundane things as eating or sleeping or watching reruns of Home and Away.
Anyway, one of his three new books is Beyond The Moon. This comic begins with a quote from Georges Melies, the director of the famous 1902 film A Trip to the Moon (Le Voyage dans la Lune), "My friends, I address you all tonight as you truly are; wizards, mermaids, travelers, adventurers, magicians... Come and dream with me." Though these words may start this story, they are the last words seen, as the rest of this is a silent comic – a story told all in pictures. As an homage to silent movies, this makes sense as an artistic choice. It also provides an opportunity for Candiloro to experiment with the storytelling possibilities of his unique cartooning.
Unfortunately, it is an experiment that fails. While beautiful to look at, its narrative is difficult to follow. There are panels and pages in Beyond The Moon that showcase some of Candiloro's most intricate and exquisite work to date. The introduction of color in parts of this book adds new depth to his linework and whimsy where it is needed. There is even a two page spread towards the end of this book that I want a framed copy of to hang in a prominent place in my house.
This is art. Candiloro is an artist.
But as a storyteller? In Beyond The Moon Candiloro stumbles to the detriment of the entire piece. I had a hell of a time figuring out what exactly is going on in this comic. I got lost time and time again in a narrative that fluctuates between a bleak present, flashbacks to the past, and a colorful fantasy world. The main characters each suffer from an affliction: one is blind, the other deaf, but at times they become indistinguishable from each other which further complicates what is already an inscrutable tale. Added to this are faceless people, odd angled structures, and this propensity to render an emotion on faces that could either be joy, fear, or sadness, I just couldn't tell. Here, the straight lines are reserved for the art, not the narration, and for the life of me, even after four readings now, I am still lost.
Perhaps this may be the point. Perhaps Candiloro wants this text to read us as much as we read it. Perhaps he has carefully structured this book so that his readers have to bring themselves to the story in order to understand. I just don't have that much to give. I need better signposts along my journey in order not to run astray. As a sense making being, I get resentful when I can't make sense of things.
Still, this is a beautiful book to look at. The art alone makes it something to consider putting on your shelf. For an creator as prolific as Frank Candiloro, one can expect a misstep now and again. Beyond the Moon is just that.