By Don Hertzfeldt
December, 2013; $22.00 HB
Reviewed by K. H. Vaughan
Award-winning animator and illustrator Don Hertzfeldt has released a new graphic novel, the strange, beautiful, and surreal volume The End of the World. He describes the work as a collection of odd stories, fragments, and ideas accumulated over the course of ten years and finally given shape in a loose narrative form. He describes it as the “strangest creative exercise” he has ever been involved in, a quote that should inspire fans of his work to dangerous levels of giddy anticipation.
The End of the World features Hertzfeldt’s signature minimalist stick-figure characters wandering an incomprehensible apocalyptic landscape. The illustrations are rendered in rich and subtle sepia-tones accented with hints of color. The characters have profoundly expressive facial features for being drawn with a few careful lines. That atmosphere is dreamlike: at once horrifyingly dark and maddeningly funny. The humor is implacably black, but the work is in turns touching and deeply existential as well. The story is just linear enough to give the reader a sense that they could almost understand it all if only a missing piece of the puzzle were to fall into place, but, in the end, it is impossible to know for certain what is happening: what is dream, what is real, or the why of it all. It is a wonderful experience.
People who know Hertzfeldt’s work primarily from his animated shorts such as the Academy Award-nominated Rejected will want to rush to grab a copy of this work. People who don’t know his work should correct that oversight, and grab a copy as well. Hertzfeldt does not embrace conventional commercial strategies and the book is not available from everyone’s favorite monolithic online book retailer. It can be purchased exclusively through Antibookclub, accessible on the web or linked through the author’s page http://www.bitterfilms.com/.