Review by Woodrow Phoenix
Iceland, the setting for another exploratory ramble by Yuichi Yokoyama, has nothing to do with the far-northern country of the same name. This is an inhospitable landscape made entirely of material frozen into strange shapes and complex assemblies; literally a land of ice. Moving through this environment are three men, dressed in the same bizarrely distorted masks and odd outfits as protagonists who originally appeared in World Map Room, an earlier book by Yokoyama. This time, these three have a mission which involves finding a fourth member of the team who is somewhere ahead of them. They wave his photo around when they encounter a second group of men, the first of which is a fisherman.
Unlike the sprawling, expansive terrain of other books, Iceland is a small book and covers a very small area. Much of the action takes place inside one building. But this building is its own territory, its walls covered with massive flat screens which display an ever-evolving array of challenging imagery. Yokoyama’s drawing style requires readers to pay close attention to discern background from foreground and understand how his abstracted shapes relate to his people. This is not the easiest task when everything is in constant movement. The images are covered in a layer of sound effects, jagged and intense, disrupting the frames and keeping the graphic intensity high, but although the combination of screaming sound effects and distorted angular shapes creates a feeling of nerve-jangling violence and hyper-aggressive action, there is actually very little activity. It’s like the imagery is pulling in one direction while the information contained in it is saying something completely different. The characters in these environments quietly and calmly deflate the intensity of the visuals with their clipped, ironic dialogue, and it’s up to us to decide if what they say reflects what’s actually happening.
Iceland is a compact episode and the ending comes quickly. It might feel as if this is a small detour in a much longer narrative, but given how hard Yokoyama makes his readers work, with so much occluded or hinted at both visually and texturally, it’s probably quite long enough. Yokoyama writes an author’s afterword that gives just a tiny bit of contextual information and lets us know he isn’t finished with this series yet. His previously announced working titles for the next three parts to follow World Map Room were Flower Garden, Frozen Sea Port and Overtake. The story will continue with Flower Garden.