If David Lynch is your inspiration, and Jean Giraud does your blurb, you’ve pretty much arrived. Rightfully so in the case of Frederik Peeters. The Swiss graphic novelist of Blue Pills fame, has outdone himself with Pachyderme. Like his muse, Peeters plays with a blurry line between reality and surreality, and for the reader, the experience is more like negotiating a tightrope, just a precarious misstep away from some perhaps perilous but definitely peculiar fate.
In a far from linear, more synaptic and dreamlike manner, the story follows Carice as she searches a bizarro world hospital for her husband who has been hit by a drunk driver. As we follow her down a rabbit hole of disturbances and detours and into the furthest recesses of the hospital, the allegorical equivalent of her own psyche, more of the story unfolds, elusively so, and we learn that this marriage is complicated. This is a mystery, but not in the traditional sense. Suspense builds, but it’s more that forgotten, but lingering on the tip of the tongue kind of feeling. Like a nearness to a truth that remains unattainable, protected by something impossibly delicate. Like skin. Pay attention to skin. It might just be the center of this story.
Peeters is a solo artist, handling all of the writing and artwork himself. This is quite a feat, even in the simplest of works, and this book is anything but. Color can quickly become too brash or busy, but in this case, Peeters’ expertise and restraint are apparent. Rich matte warmth in a limited palette makes for a coziness that complements the interiority of the story, starkly contrasting, and thereby enhancing the underlying and uneasy tension. If you’re a fan a David Lynch, or if you felt like you had to watch Donnie Darko again, immediately, upon your first viewing, pick up Pachyderme. Now excuse me while I go re-read it.