Writer/artist Bob Turner’s remarkable silent tale DTHRTL (that’s “Death Rattle” for those of us who like to use vowels) draws to a close with Book 3. DTHRTL follows our eyeball-headed hero (remember, the comic is silent so there are no character or location names) who has escaped the clutches of Death by winning at Rock-Paper-Scissors and who is now on a quest to find the hidden Death Rattle.
The previous issue concludes with Death, annoyed at losing yet another game of Rock-Paper-Scissors, opening one of his purple portals directly under our hero’s feet which takes him to yet another location in his continuing search. Across swamps, through caves, across chasms he goes with Death keeping a close eye on him until quite literally the planets line up and he has a chance to retrieve the Death Rattle itself. But if he can retrieve it, can he use it to convince Death to free him of the necessity to join the Danse Macabre?
The strength of DTHRTL is not so much in the plot itself, which for the most part is a simple quest storyline, but rather in how Bob maintains the interest in that quest without the help of any words and the mini-adventures within the main storyline that he introduces for our hero to negotiate. Given the silent nature of the three part story, which even extends to a lack of synopsis or promotional description on the issue’s rear cover or on the title’s website, everything depends on the artwork to progress the story in a clear manner. Bob’s artwork is heavily stylised, drawing on early video games with their inherent side view of a player progressing left to right on the screen, and rather than trying to detail the story here it would perhaps be better to focus instead on a couple of incidents.
Bob plays with the comics format of left to right, top to bottom in an impressive two page spread in which our hero must negotiate a cave system, lit by hanging braziers, that takes him down into the flooded lowest level before climbing up again being chased by the creature that he has disturbed there. The second page of this is told almost completely the wrong way round from a normal comics pages yet remains eminently understandable.
This is rapidly followed by another spread in which our hero survives the crossing of a gorge when the rope bridge he is on is cut. Told in longshot, the pages neatly show the passing of time with the sun slowly setting in the sky and the stars coming out. Here the location of the tiny figure of our hero is highlighted by a mountain goat looking up from his grazing and watching him climb up the remnants of the bridge until he safely reaches the top whereupon the hungry goat returns to his meal. The goat is a neat little addition that is not required by the plot but which allows the reader’s eye to go directly to our hero in each of the panels.
I have been impressed by the visually striking DTHRTL from the start and that continues here with the eventual conclusion of the story not being a convenient cop-out. I said in my review of the first issue that this is a series that I could see being snapped up and published as a book by one of the bespoke graphic novel publishers and I stick by that. I would love to see that happen because with DTHRTL Bob Turner has produced a little gem.
There are more details of DTHRTL on the Castle Rock Comics blog and Bob Turner’s Twitter feed while copies of DTHRTL 3 as well as 1 and 2 and other comics by Bob will be available to buy from the Castle Rock Comics e-shop.