Synopsis – ‘Hush’ is the story of a school-girl who is tormented by someone close to her, and has to take swift action one day. The whole story is told only through pictures, no speech, something that the publishers are calling Quiet Stories. This is the debut offering from Manta Ray Comics.
Thank heavens for small mercies – this book has no speech. That’s so much clemency on the part of the creators of Hush that I almost feel bad that I think so poorly of their book.
You see, the story of Hush is so facile that it comes off as barely more than the first thought that popped into a person’s head who wanted a story that appeared – bold, no-holds-barred, tragic, and blatantly shocking! What you have is a story that is more like a dramatic reading of a newspaper report. The subject is very grave, but the depiction here comes off as frivolous.
Maybe if there were more than 17 pages to the whole story, as a reader I might have been able to get into the story and care about it at all. But it isn’t, and I don’t.
Oh hush up.
That’s 17 pages of actual comic story in a 40-page book, including front and back covers, excluding 2 artwork posters. That makes it one of the most expensive rates per page I have ever paid for any book. And I wasn’t even happy about it.
This is the first book by a new comics publishing house Manta Ray. It is always good to have new sponsors in the creative arts, because people have to put in money based just on the belief of a value. It is not a safe investment, and each team that decides to put their hard-earned money into representing talent, is worth lauding for that act of humanity. But it makes me sad to see that such a poor story made it across the bar of acceptability for Manta Ray. Maybe this can be treated as a faltering first step, but only if we get to see a strong second one.
But, having ripped apart the story let me praise the real hero of this book – Rajiv Eipe, the artist. Single-handedly he has managed to keep this ship from sinking and has managed to impress by his beautiful artwork. He says that he works in the animation industry, but I hope that someday the comics industry will be able to afford him full-time. The story is told, as I said, without words, and this is the opportunity that every artist probably waits for, complete attention. And under that attention every panel literally blossoms with astute flicks of emotive expressions. Past and present times are indicated by black and white backgrounds, words can be lip-read, time pauses and resumes, all without words. Outstanding!
Sample this panel of the protagonist and fill in the story yourself, you can tell what it is all about even on first glimpse.
I’ll tell you what you noticed – the defiant eyes, the determination in the forehead, the grim mouth sealed tightly, even the steady shoulders as she walks. This is when the artist becomes master of the story, taking back-seat to no one.
Eipe uses monochrome with dexterity and versatility, pulling out different drawing styles to colour his scenes.
From sharp lines and a water-colour effect to depict present time, he switches to a more rough sketchy effect, upping the contrast by using darker lead, all when time rolls back. I would guess he switches from pen and brush to pencil here, but I’m no artist.
I’ll also mention what I had said in an earlier post, that the ways in which a panel can be used are as dynamic as the illustrations that it contains. A sharp present-time panel gives way to a blurry one that is drawn out of past-memory. Doesn’t it just fit?
So I applaud the drawings, and the sagacity of leaving them unhindered. The words in this book come before and after the story, in the introduction and profiles. Most of what is said there is so wishy-washy that the silent story is a treat. The vision statement by the publishers states that “Our aim is to bring out comics and graphic novels that will surprise you. That will delight or disturb you. Coax you onto serene floating clouds or throw you against the wall. Books that will do something” (emphasis theirs). See what I mean? The last lines are prescient: “… we believe that a good story is all that matters. Everything else is just noise.”
|Story||3/10||Underdeveloped and clichéd|
|Illustrations||8/10||Great, manages extremely well without words|
|Production Quality||8/10||Large format, good binding and paper|
|Overall||5/10||Too expensive for such a short read, only for collectors and commentators|
Pratheek Thomas (writer)
Rajiv Eipe (artist)
Published by Manta Ray Comics, 2010