Friday, 26 September 2014

Jesse Jabobs Young Safari Guide: Humanity, Nature, even the Stars are a Mess

Young Safari Guide is a thing of wonder. In this prequel to Safari Honeymoon (one of my favourite comics of 2014 so far), Jesse Jacobs introduces us to a nightmarish and dangerous jungle. The titular young safari guide shoots a pregnant creature while hunting. It's offspring emerge and attack him before turning on each other. Jacobs creates a violent environment for his protagonist, one he will explore further in Safari Honeymoon. I picked up these two books at TCAF 2014 and will review the other book shortly. 

This jungle is a thing of wonder. The cover of this comic introduces us to the fauna. Creepy crawling or walking monsters with razor-sharp teeth. Impossible insects and weird vagina dentata monster (a recurring motif). The inside cover shows us the flora. It's impossible leaves and bulbous plants are fantastic and innovative. The inside back cover mixes fauna and flora with the young safari guide, not quite at the center of it.

Jacobs` style favours detail and imagination over consistency. I cannot tell which animals/creatures are in the same category. Is this a canine, a feline or what is it? Yet this works to the book`s advantage. The young safari guide is surrounded by a menacing environment, which the reader cannot fully comprehend. We are at the mercy of this violent environment where every new discovery can be deadly. Jacobs` creatures are so foreign and creepy and the amount of detail in his drawing reinforces this foreignness. Each page is a mesmerizing miasma of mouths, tentacles and eyeballs. I also see a ridiculous amount of vagina-shaped monsters, most of which have teeth. Draw your own conclusion.

This book also contains the best depiction of yearning and depression I have ever seen. 
Yearning and Depression

The main theme of this book seems to touch on man's place amongst nature. Not just what position he occupies in the world, but also how he got there. After the offspring attack, the young safari guide contemplates the violent spectacle that ensues. The monsters attack each other, leading the guide to wonder: "How had such a miserable species survived so long in this harsh wilderness?" How do these beasts manage to thrive, and what role does mankind play in an environment like this? "There was no goddamn order to any of it. Even the stars are a mess. Had I had my rifle,  I would have shot down every one of those goddamned stars." Mankind is just as brutal and violent as anything else in nature. We just articulate our violence better, either through guns or simple act of aggression. When the guide kills the birds, we glimpse the barbarity that is inherently part of all nature, including mankind. Nature, mankind and the stars are a mess after all.

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