Monday, September 16, 2013

Blood Song by Eric Drooker

Fabulous art, disappointing story
Blood Song is a wordless novel by Eric Drooker, first published in 2002. The book is composed of illustrations created using a combination of scratchboard and watercolor media. The pictures are composed almost entirely in black, white, and shades of bluish gray, with the exception of occasional touches of color added for emphasis—a yellow butterfly, a green bird, a red drop of blood. The art in this book is absolutely beautiful! Each panel is suitable for framing. In this book Drooker displays a more mature, refined, and fluid style than the jagged, raw imagery of his 1992 graphic novel Flood! That’s not to say that either style is better; both books stand as contemporary masterpieces of graphic art.

Unfortunately the storytelling of Blood Song doesn’t meet the same standard as the art. The beginning of the book is strikingly similar to Laurence Hyde’s excellent wordless novel of 1951, Southern Cross. Drooker depicts a rural village in what appears to be southeast Asia. Here a young woman lives out an idyllic existence with her family and her faithful dog. While out fetching water one day, her paradise is invaded by a military force that looks an awful lot like Americans. The girl and her dog flee, embarking on a journey that will take them far away from their homeland. About nine out of ten images in the book depict the girl on her way to some place. Only about one in ten show what happens when she actually gets somewhere. The result is a book loaded with beautiful images but possessing little literary content. While Flood! contained some ambiguity in its narrative, allowing for varied interpretations, Blood Song is a very linear and straightforward story. Drooker seems to be striving for the allegorical feel of a modern-day fairy tale, but even fairy tales require more depth than one finds here. It doesn’t help that the heroine here is a literal babe-in-the-woods innocent, creating a good vs. evil dichotomy that is as absolute as black and white. Drooker’s apparent assertion that all cops, all soldiers, all figures of authority are evil comes across as immature. In Flood! Drooker handled his characters and plot with much more subtletly and nuance. Blood Song, though stunning to look at, leaves the reader wanting more.

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