For my money, there are few creators working today (or at any time in comics) who have more talent and pure voice than Gabriel Bá, Fabio Moon, and Becky Cloonan. Ever since I first picked up Umbrella Academy, Daytripper, and Cloonan’s self-published trilogy (seriously, go read Demeter right fucking now), I’ve been trying to track down more of their work. And here appears Pixu: The Mark of Evil, readymade and finally back in print, with the added bonus of Vasilis Lolos, who is a cartoonist I was not familiar with, and whose work in this book is stunning. Pixu is about the tenants in a small apartment building, and their building sense of unease and horror at themselves, each other, and their surroundings. The book relies heavily on its stark black and whites in place (mostly Lolos and Cloonan’s segments), but the twins use quite a bit of grey. Each tenant’s story is told by one artist, with Cloonan telling the story of Claire and her boyfriend Omar, Lolos telling the story of Josh Kalos who is obsessed with cleanliness, and the twins telling the story of a professor who has lost his wife and finds refuge in disgusting habits as well as dropping in on Mr. Cafard, the mysterious witchy man who lives in the building with his granddaughter (who is not really his granddaughter). (Also, sadly, I have never been someone who can pick out the differences between Bá and Moon’s styles unless I know for sure which is which and I can compare).
The plot is both simple and complex; I could tell you it’s about an evil presence in a house running roughshod over its occupants, some of whom deserve it more than others, but that doesn’t nearly get across the nuance of this book. This is a book whose horror permeates every page, every panel, in ways that you don’t even notice until your eyes have drifted over them and taken them in, almost unconsciously. It’s almost like that nightmare house from Saw II, if that movie was more about deft handling and subtlety and not about throwing people in pits of hypodermic needles. The pace gets a little frenetic at times, shuttling back and forth between different creators’ segments, but they all do a great job tying each other in, aside from Kalos, whose story is entirely about the creeping death of loneliness.
Reviewing this book is almost doing a disservice to the kind of massive undertaking this speaks to. Four artists, who were busy working and hustling when this book first came out (the twins and Cloonan have risen especially meteorically, even since 2009), managed to get their schedules together and come up with one cohesive story told from four viewpoints that weaves in and out of each other moving part in the house as it goes on, and never lets up. The ending of the book is an inescapable conclusion from the beginning, but watching these creators get there is the true draw of the book.
If I had to nitpick anything about this book, I would say that for a short work (it’s about 120 pages), it is dense--but how could I complain about that? The re-readability factor here is astronomical--whether you’re tracking family dynamics between the professor and Katerina, or revelling in the old-world-style magicks of the tenants, stealing each others’ hair, feeding fingernails, digging up obscure roots, or whether you’re just reading it for the story, there will be something new for you every time you come back to this miserable building.
Reading Pixu is like digging up old films by your favorite directors; like watching the first couple movies Coppola or Kubrick made, back before they were Coppola® and Kubrick®, if that makes sense. The artists in Pixu aren’t quite at the top of their game, but their project is stunning, and their art is amazing--it’s easy to see where the greatness comes from. Definitely pick this one up, but only if you’ve got a nightlight handy.
Pixu: The Mark of Evil Writers/Artists: Gabriel Bá, Becky Cloonan, Vasilis Lolos, Fabio Moon Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $17.99 Release Date: 9/9/15 Format: TPB/Hardcover; Print/Digital