Review by Frank Plowright
Imagine Charles Burns illustrating a set of David Lynch short stories circa Blue Velvet. That’s what we have in King of the Flies. The title comes from the opening story in which Eric, a purposeless slacker, his mate and his mate’s girlfriend Sal make halloween costumes for a rave. The narrator’s is a giant papier mache fly head. They pop some pills on arrival, and while Eric screws Sal across the road Damien is killed by a car, after being chased by a bunch of guys, one of whom he beat up earlier.
That plot is typical of Michel Pirus’ carefully crafted sordid and brutal, yet universal, suburban mileu, over the following nine short tales. It’s occupied by the narrators of these monologues as they pass their days hoping against hope that there’s something better waiting for them, but making do with what they have. Some, more innocent, dream of idealised versions of others as around half a dozen characters interact, intruding into each other’s lives, some knowingly, others anonymously. Their crossing paths eventually coalesce into a single plot with multiple narrators.
A deliberate hallucinogenic quality is cultivated, reflecting the copious drug intake of some cast members, another achieving the state via drink. Their ingestion distorts the world around them in disturbing fashion, but in the end offers no more comfort than reality. Many have their avatars, either substance induced, or imaginary, but always masking their insecurities, presenting a confident, assured and attractive version of themselves, even if they have to procure someone else’s identity.
Artist Mezzo (Pascal Mesemberg) employs a thick black inking line to encase the cast in the manner of Burns, but doesn’t quite match his finesse. Burns, though, is a good touchpoint for what’s offered here. Some will immediately be sucked into this dark and barren world, while others will equally be repelled by the sleazy structure. It’s graphic urban horror and for those who accept the invitation it’s compelling.
Hallorave is the first volume of a trilogy. The Origin of the World rapidly followed, also in an appealingly designed hardback, but the conclusion, published in France in early 2013, hasn’t yet been made available in English.