It’s not often that I start a review of a comic with a dictionary definition, after all I’m no High School Freshman writing a tortured essay about Atticus Finch’s eroticism in To Kill A Mockingbird, but in order to write about Fugue,Matt Sheean’s 21 page black and white comic, it seems apt. So here it goes…
According to those pig-faced drunken bastards at Merriam-Webster, the word “fugue” means: “a musical composition in which one or two themes are repeated or imitated by successively entering voices and contrapuntally developed in a continuous interweaving of the voice parts.” It has a second definition as well as: “a disturbed state of consciousness in which the one affected seems to perform acts in full awareness but upon recovery cannot recollect the acts performed.”
These definitions are important. They provide both access to understanding and a structural jumping off point from which to consider what Sheean is attempting with this book.
What are the repeated themes here? Are there acts that the perpetrator cannot recall? Or is there some other thing going on?
On the surface, the story concerns what Sheean describes as “A lonely music priest loses his way, and finds it again, and then loses something else.” Obscure? Certainly, but once again, access. Sheean points to the musicality of his book here, as well as the repetition of loss. But there is more going on, and that disturbed state of consciousness thing may by the key master.
In Fugue, a small woodland fairy creature talks to our errant music priest. The creature talks about Nall, the ancient god she serves, and how “(h)e is chained in the world below, by law – that jealous art that repudiates imagination, that sets traps for lovers and turns justice into an equation.”
Finally, further access, definition through negation: the fugue state that can also be called the creative moment. Artists in touch with their muse often report losing touch with the world around them. They step back and look upon what they have wrought with awe and/or fear.
Creativity is the opposite of the staid and the safe. It is a monster who destroys to create and creates to destroy. It is the Dionysian beast. And it stands in the way of order, of predictability, of the Apollonian need to cage and classify and anticipate. Nall is the god of procreant urge and he stomps on the terra hard.
When set free from the chains, Nall rampages and feeds and destroys. Nall rewards his followers with brief gifts and access to power. But his rule is the rule of chaos and as stifling as the imposition of order is, it must assert itself if social systems are to function.
Artists will throttle each other in the end. Laws keep our hands off each others throats. We know this, though every time we have to shoot down another creative eruption, what more do we lose of our potential?
What causes the solider to weep at the end of this book?
Matt Sheean’s Fugue explores all this with humor and a light touch. His art is open, imponderous, and sylphlike belying his declarations which need to be pieced out as they are pieced together.
Get this book. It’s good.
You can purchase Fugue from Matt Sheean’s Etsy page here.