(Words and art by David Mack, Published by Image)
I regret not having picked this up a lot sooner, because now I'm fairly confused. Back issues of this go for silly amounts of money, so I've been sticking with the reprints. The trouble is, because of the circular narrative, which repeats incidents from different angles (both visually and verbally), I'm not quite sure where I was supposed to have started. On the other hand, it doesn't seem to matter because the same circular narrative means that images and words are repeated. Like I said, I'm not sure if this confuses the story or helps to clarify it.
However, none of that matters when faced with the artwork. This is gorgeous stuff, rendered in various styles. The stark black-and-white used in Kabuki Classics 3 is as stylish as a varnished japonica box, and the use of watercolour and collage in Classics 1 and 2 is interesting and unusual in today's comics art market. The various styles combine remarkably well considering their disparity and how awful it could have looked.
Kabuki herself is an interesting character, forced to wear a mask of the Noh after a brutal attack left her face permanently scarred. The Noh are a top secret organisation whose remit is to keep an eye on organised crime. Somehow Kabuki has ended up in an institution with other Noh agents, but she's not there of her own free will, and she does plan to escape. The problem is discovering who's on her side and who's an agent of the Noh sent to kill her.
Mack's writing tends to be ponderous and philosophical, but not in an unreadable way. The writing becomes part of the artwork itself, with the lettering cleverly rendered in pencil and crayon, forcing the reader to turn pages upside down to follow the narrative. This makes Kabuki an unusual and interesting read, inviting the reader to unravel the maze of the story. Maybe one day I will unravel the mystery myself, but even if I have been reading these in the wrong order, I'm having fun doing so, and so will you.
http://www.wfcomics.com/kabuki/ David Mack's Kabuki site.
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