Cinema Panopticum by Thomas Ott
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
From the framing story of The Girl wandering the carnival to the vignettes she discovers in the Cinema Panopticum, this wordless graphic novel is a complete "artifact" with no loose ends. The stories are surreal and horrific with a touch of dark humor. Cinema Panopticum reminds me, in many ways, of my favorite TV show of all time, The Twilight Zone. This work might be considered the flip side to the cute, surreal Ojingogo, with one side of the coin (Panopticum) having a drop of humor in a bucket of surreal horror, and the other (Ojingogo) having a drop of darkness to its bucket of lighthearted, surreal humor. But readers need not compare Cinema Panopticum to other works in order to see the work's brilliance. It stands quite well on its own as a book in which the weight of the artwork is commensurate with the gravity of the stories it portrays. The scratchboard technique used throughout is, by its very nature, a little rough-edged, though this grittiness is foiled by the elegance of expression that Ott imparts to his characters. His faces exude the underlying thoughts and feelings of each character: curiosity, laughter, disgust, and, most of all, terror; all in a wonderfully clever and even moving series of wordless stories that one will not soon forget.
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