Graphic Novel Friday: "King of the Flies"

As the first volume in a planned trilogy, King of the Flies: Hallorave takes place in a dark suburban town--a negative Mayfield, where wholesome values have given way to base instincts and urges. It might as well take place in the pit of a stomach, for all the dread and unease its oversized 64 pages induce. The ten stories within begin to swirl into a bleak whole, where small moments soon take on larger proportions in the scheme.

The book opens on Halloween, and focal character Eric dons a giant, terrifying fly head as his costume. Eric is one of several characters who shuffles through the lives of others, quietly devastating those unfortunate enough to be drawn into his orbit. It’d be easy to cast these characters as empty, but French writer Michel Pirus and artist Pascal (Mezzo) Mesenburg take readers deep into the minds of their subjects, revealing people full of misanthropy and deception.

Characters turn within the span of a panel, dissecting one another with economical precision and malaise. In “The Miracle of Life” chapter, Sal, the object of most of Eric’s affection, relates to her coworker Marie in typical Hallorave fashion:

“...But then after I’d put my clothes on she burst out laughing because we were dressed almost identically. We looked like sisters. I wanted to kill her.”
I read this volume over two nights, and it spoiled both evenings in the best way. It is grotesque and nihilistic, punctuated by moments of thrashing violence. While reading the “Me and Jiminy” story, in which a father nonchalantly recounts his drunken, primal outbursts spurred by a Hawaiian-shirt wearing alter ego/hallucination, my stomach tensed whenever the character interacted with anyone—his wife, daughter, her dope-dealing boyfriend, a mistress. The mounting horror seemed limitless.

Attempts at humor are only steeped in gallows. A gynecologist asks Sal if she has babies on her mind. “Sure--baby flies,” she responds. “Just kidding.” This is about as funny as it gets. Even the pompadour-sporting, walking punchline Big Ringo, a character obsessed with bowling and his boss, leaves the funny business by the wayside when he kidnaps Eric and then pumps him for advice on how to seek revenge on his superior. During the interrogation, reality drifts for Ringo:

"He can tell I’m getting into his skull and he locks me out. For a second, two goldfish swirl around in his pupils.”

There is a pulse drumming in Hallorave. By the time the second volume arrives in November (just in time for the holidays, kids!), it might very well morph into a low buzzing.



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