In Review: Coelifer Atlas

Coelifer Atlas - Cover

Written by Alex Paknadel, Dan Watters

Art by Charlie Adlard, Dan Berry, Nick Brokenshire, Joe Decie, Mike Medaglia, Bruce Mutard, Ken Niimura, Jake Phillips, Bryan Talbot, Craig Thompson, Petteri Tikkanen and Emma Vieceli

Published by the Lakes International Comic Art Festival

Out: Now. Buy it from from Page 45 here

“You sure these seats are ours? Check the tickets.”
“Jess… it’s me.”
“Point.”

Rarely have I experienced a comic whose final two pages changed everything I’d thought I’d read: everything.

Suddenly each element of the story – what I had seen, what had been said, and the sheer enormity of it all – reconfigured in my head from chaotic, spinning molecules to form the stillest and clearest of crystals.

And it really was an “experience” – a transformative one – which impressed upon me the agonising reality of living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD),  in a most surreal way. It’s very clever stuff, and not without comedy value, either. My educated guess is that your own second read-through will prove as much of a revelation as my own.

“Look, we gave ourselves some wiggle room so you could do your… so you could do you. But time’s up. Train’s due in five minutes, mate.”

Neil doing Neil can be painful to watch. Steps must be taken; steps must be counted, and if things don’t add up, they must be taken and counted again. He’s certainly not going to take the wrong seat on a train. But his sister has known him all his life, and knows that listening to Neil talk himself through it works wonders.

It’s just that today of all days it is vital that Neil and Jess get where they’re going, and that’s only going to heap on added pressure.

 

The opening spread of "Coelifer Atlas", art by Bryan Talbot
The opening spread of “Coelifer Atlas”, art by Bryan Talbot

“Atlas never carried the world on his shoulders.”
“No?”
“Popular misconception. He holds the Celestial Sphere – the heavens.”

Regardless, it was still very heavy.

Neil knows stuff, especially about order and especially about time. You’ll learn why it was that railways exposed the disorder in sundials. Well, think about it: “The sun sets eleven minutes after London in Carnforth”.

There’s a lot of disorder today.

I’ve carefully chosen two pages of interior art – by Bryan Talbot, then Emma Vieceli – which don’t give too much away. But you’ll notice the serpentine coils in place of passengers and seats filling the carriage as Neil desperately dives for the washroom, implying danger, disorientation and even perhaps the avoidance of those standing, while the clear path between indicates an emergency exit and only one goal. The serpent will be reprised by Mike Medaglia.

 

Art from Coelifer Atlas by Emma Vieceli
Art from Coelifer Atlas by Emma Vieceli

Also on Vieceli’s pages, rarely have I seen blood diluted by water so well coloured, and the loving concern on Jess’ furrowed face in the third panel is pitch-perfect.

As for Talbot’s final, slightly startling panel on comic’s first two pages, you will understand later how exceptionally well judged that is too. I can assure you that is but a hint of the chaos to come, Nick Brokenshire upping the ante – deadpan and in exquisite detail – to great comedic effect.

On your first time round, I suspect that the abrupt and extreme switch in styles between the likes of Jake Phillips’ fine lines, deep shadows, sand-paper-brown, grained photo-collage and Dan Berry’s cartoon fluidity and flood will make you wonder, but this choice and turbulence is far from uncalculated. The contrast if not conflict in the baton-changes between artists (who drew two pages each in under two hours) is deliberately dramatic and disorientating because those shoes, they do need to be walked in. The handover between Berry and Adlard, on the other hand, could not be better timed in its wake-up call.

I cannot say much more for fear of spoiling your own surprises, except that Craig Thompson’s final two pages are arresting and worthy of Will Eisner, the last one carrying such enormous emotional weight on its shoulders.

“We award points for effort under THIS roof, my ducks.”

What an incredible effort.

 

All five pounds of every single sale of Coelifer Atlas goes to OCD Action via publishers the Lakes International Comic Art Festival.

For another exceptional work involving OCD, please see my favourite piece of comicbook fiction, Glyn Dillon’s The Nao of Brown. For another exceptional comicbook relay race between artists, I recommend the brilliant piece of British social history which is the fictional Nelson.

Review by Stephen L. Holland, Festival patron and proprietor of Page 45 – re-published with full permission of the author

• Buy Coelifer Atlas from Page 45 here

• Also available now from LICAF: Carrot to the Stars by Regis Lejonc, Thierry Murat & Riff Reb’s – also on sale from Page 45 

• The Dark Horse edition of the LICAF-sponsored Black Dog: The Dreams of Paul Nash by Dave McKean is also available from Page 45 here This LICAF-supported book is available from other book and comic shops 

John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John describes himself as is a "freelance comics operative", working as a freelance editor, as Creative Consultant on the new Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. John has worked in British comics publishing for over 30 years. His credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine at Marvel UK and Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine at Titan Magazines. He also edited STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics, including Team M.O.B.I.L.E. and The Beatles Story. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.

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