"A.L.I.E.E.E.N.: Archives of Lost Issues and Earthly Editions of Extraterrestrial Novelties"
Written and illustrated by Louis Trondheim
(First Second Books, 2006)
Wow, what a creepy, clever book. This quick, wordless graphic novel poses as a genial hoax -- the author claims it is a comic book from outer space that he found while backpacking in the hills. If it is from outer space, the culture it comes from is quite sinister and remorselessly violent. The art style is cutesy and cartoonish, sort of like Pokemon placed in a George Herriman landscape, but the story is nothing short of horrific: one minute characters are skipping playfully in the forest, the next second one winds up impaled on a thorny tree, its eyes gouged out and bloody. The creature's friend, a cute Tweety Bird-like character, leads its blinded companion to a doctor (a multi-eyeballed worm) but the doctor proceeds to violate the hapless patient in a variety of ways (and is later seen hideously torturing another "patient") In the following chapters we are brought into a dark, frightening world where smaller creatures are mercilessly pursued, tricked and killed by larger creatures, cartoon brutes who are quite cheerful about their "games." Several of the more innocent-looking critters dodge their aggressors in a variety of ways, and their lives briefly intersect until finally the saga comes to a grimy, disgusting, apocalyptic end.
Sounds awful, I know, but even though the content is disturbing, the book itself is both entertaining and intellectually provocative. On a surface level, the story of a violent culture finally swept away by its own sewage is an apt metaphor for our own world, minus the cute animals and the eyeball monsters. This is a book that is certainly worth reading, and which may haunt you for a while after you're done with it... It is not, however, recommended for very young readers. This is the stuff of screaming and nightmares. (Joe Sixpack, ReadThatAgain book reviews)