By Oliver Gerlach
The Ghost Butterfly is the latest project from Rick Quinn, the writer of the beautiful and highly enjoyable Saltwater. This is a completely different project, but one with a lot of the same strengths and weaknesses as Saltwater; Quinn seems to have a very well-defined style, and whether or not it works is up to the reader.
I very much enjoyed Saltwater and was intrigued to see what Quinn (and Obera) did next. The Ghost Butterfly is with a different artistic collaborator, however: Martyn Lorbiecki, who is equally impressive. I had a moment of uncertainty at the start over whether or not the two books had the same artist, and had to double-check names. It is now clear that Lorbiecki and Obera have quite different styles of linework, but the beautifully sketchy watercolors give a similar tone and help the two books feel related (even if there isn’t anything that indicates a genuine connection in the story).
Lorbiecki masterfully creates a sense of a dying, autumnal, postapocalyptic world with a haunting colour palette of purples, reds, and browns, with flashbacks clearly disambiguated by cleaner, brighter colours. There are some striking large panels of postapocalyptic vistas that have a certain unearthly beauty in their devastation, and the sense of place is powerful and impressive.
The strength of Quinn’s writing and production lies in his use of artistic collaborators. Once again, he has chosen a massively impressive artist and written a piece that enables the art to really shine. It’s a valuable and unusual talent, and one that makes a huge difference when the art is this distinctive. Much like Saltwater, this is written in a sparse, dialogue-light style with a lot of silent scenes that let the atmosphere build up unimpeded and the art do the heavy lifting.
Unlike Saltwater, however, this feels lightweight and disposable. That’s not entirely a bad thing, though. Yes, very little happens, and it doesn’t really feel like a satisfying unit of story, but I’m happy to admit that this is entirely due to my expectations from comics. This is more like a short story or an artistic sketch; it’s 24 pages of atmosphere and sense of place with a light dusting of story on top. Whether or not that works for you is entirely up to your personal preference, but it does what it does very effectively. Discussing the plot would be redundant; better to discover it for yourself, but go in for the atmosphere rather than an exciting plot.
While I would be very interested to see Quinn tackle something a bit longer and meatier, his art-first writing style lends itself to sketchy short stories like this. This is a strong piece of work, and I’d love to see more like this collected in some sort of anthology. Martyn Lorbiecki is also well worth keeping an eye on; his work here is beautiful, and I have high hopes for seeing him work on more things (assuming other writers are able to give him the room to breathe that Quinn manages so effectively). This is a team that works very well together, and what they’ve produced here is a very effective little piece of art.
The Ghost Butterfly
Writer: Rick Quinn
Artist: Martyn Lorbiecki
Letterer: Rick Quinn