Method of Dyeing is the fourth book in the atmospheric and subtle Ismyre series of comics from Nottingham-based creator B Mure, published by Avery Hill.
Set in the world of ‘Ismyre’, a strange and, at first glance at least, gentle world of talking animals and magic, the new volume deals with the aftermath of the poisoning of an esteemed botanist and master dyer, Professor Detlef, as he speaks at the city’s University.
We follow a mysterious detective, sent from the Professor’s native land, to investigate the death, using strange indecipherable papers to take over the investigation from the local police force.
The gentle pace, other-worldly dialogue, and the use of visual cliches from the golden age of crime fiction raises an expectation that we are viewing a standard mystery story. As we read, we see that the book somehow manages to both adopt and ignore those cliches and turns into something different, something unique.
Our hero, or more accurately, heroine, is depicted in the clothing of a gentleman sleuth, as she questions maids and pathologists, police chiefs and university administrators as she works to reveal the truth behind the death of Profession Detlef. What emerges is a gently paced, but ultimately satisfying story that somehow manages to reveal much about the world of ‘Ismyre’, while deepening the overall mystery that has developed through the series.
As with the previous books, the underlying plot seems slightly at odds with the style of the artwork. Illustrative line drawings, that would not be out of place in a children’s storybook, are complemented by a rich and strong palate of pastel watercolours that my wife, flicking through the book, described as like looking at the rainbow patterns of oil on water. A much more effective image than my rather clumsy description of Rupert the Bear on acid.
The dialogue is subtly simple, and works with the art to bring a certain, deceptive calmness to the whole book. Given that practically all violence and ‘action’ occurs off-stage, this is a world where acts of oppression and vengeance are taking place behind a façade of polite conversation and civilised normality.
Method of Dyeing is not a mystery, it’s a slow series of revelations. Revelations about the world it is set in, the characters who inhabit it and, ultimately, about the world we live in.
This is a book filled with contradictions that set up a creative tension that adds to the atmosphere of ‘otherness’ that is the real mark of the whole series. Like earlier books, it looks like a children’s story, but deals with violent and serious issues in the world of Ismyre in the gentlest way possible. By using the form of a classic detective story, we are deceived, once again, as to what sort of story follows.
Together with the previous books, Ismyre, Terrible Means and the Tower in the Sea, Methods of Dyeing is building a picture of a well-realised and complex world. It’s doing so by gradually revealing the secrets of that world, in engaging and deceptively simple stories. Rather like peeling back the layers of an onion to reveal a central mystery.
B. Mure’s creation is a beautiful book, produced with care and attention to detail by Avery Hill. It’s also one of the most inventive and attractive comics to come from the British industry this, or any year.
I, for one, can’t wait for the next installment in this wonderful series.
• Methods of Dyeing by B Mure will be published on 11th November 2021 (UK) 16th November 2021 (US) | Paperback, 88 pages full colour | Available for pre-order now from the Avery Hill webpage, and the previous three volumes are available for £20 (plus p&p)
• To celebrate the upcoming release of Methods of Dyeing, Avery Hill are re-posting the special series of Ismyre micro-fiction that he wrote last year. Follow along on Instagram
• B Mure is online at bmuredraws.com| Follow B Mure on Twitter @beemure
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