09 January, 2009

Review: Peculia

Will Peculia ever find the frightful diversion her heart desires?

I love the bargain bins and sale shelves of bookshops. In this hyper-marketed age, any opportunity for randomness and chance is worth taking and the second hand shop is abounds with both.

Among the remaindered, crease-covered and unwanted I have found many rare treasures: Sin City: The Hard Goodbye, The Land of Nod Rock-a-Bye Book, tomes about Japanese Crests and digital illustration.

So it is fitting that a recent sifting turned up Richard Sala’s Peculia, which itself is a kind of reverie on serendipity. Sala is a comics artist and an illustrator who has specialised in what I would describe as a kind of gothic surrealism. He has published several graphic novels and worked on the Lemony Snicket film a couple of years ago.

Peculia concerns the eponymous heroine's barefoot, nocturnal meanderings in the lands around her gothic mansion. Although she meets the hideous, perverse and ghoulish during her adventures and missteps, they offer no trouble beyond her capable manservant.

Peculia's adventures have the same strange dream logic as Jim Woodring's Frank stories. The stories are elliptical and allegorical in style, without being clearly about anything. Whether menacing or erotic in tone, they firmly emphasise the atmospheric, stylised artwork.

Sala's style has become fairly recognisable in recent years (although Sala was clearly ahead of the trend); it has traces of German Expressionism and woodcuts, it is illustrative and expressive, rather than graphic, with a soft, hand-drawn feel. However, Sala is also a really excellent draughtsman, whose style and content are inseperable.