You know, when you look at it out of context, a bunch of firefighters and EMTs standing around after a building fire chilling and joking while dead bodies get shipped off from the scene of the fire to the morgue probably looks like a jerk thing to do. People just died in a fire and these guys are all giggling about things, what's wrong with these people? Really, though, it's about all they can do to stave off the fatigue and stay sane. That lightheartedness is how you keep yourself from tearing your hair out and getting a stroke. It's how you deal with death. We like to say that being in those kinds of jobs makes you tougher and more immune to difficult things, but the thing about death is that all it takes is the right one to send you over the edge. Whether you're a civilian or a Navy SEAL, all that matters is the death you weren't prepared for. Then you go nuts.
Something Animal is like that. It's a story, mostly wordless, about a young man's descent into madness after seeing his sister brutally murdered after a movie. It's engrossing and dark, and I think you'll like it.
Since speech bubbles are few and far between here, it's up to the pictures to tell the story. I like how real it is; we see Jack deal with the grief of loss in somewhat-real-time. The story here is all about how Jack copes, and he doesn't do it well. When he goes nuts his sight is filled with visions of the murder to the point where reality starts to blur together with memories of the attack. This is about the closest you'll ever get to being a PTSD victim (which is a good thing of course), and while I don't have the expertise to say whether this is an accurate representation of what it's like, I'd say it's damn close based on what other people have told me about being one.
Overall it's a very basic plot. The writing isn't nearly as important as the art, though, which is really good.
I'm going to sound like an absolute art snob about this, which is really tragic since I barely know anything about high art, but this stuff reminded me of Picasso and I Wikipedia'd that chump to see how well it compared. I mean, it's not cubist or any of that weird stuff, but it has the kind of linework and coloring that reminded me of Guernica so I thought I'd look up the guy lots of art students have to study to see if there's a connection.
I'm probably giving you the wrong impression though. This art style is characterized by grungy, angry work. Thick dark lines everywhere, where characters' anatomies are just a little bit off to give it some of that surreal imperfection. What little I learned from skimming Picasso's Wiki gives me the impression that his Blue Period is probably the inspiration for this color scheme--you have blues and browns taking up whatever space the black doesn't, with a little white, all to give it this dirty subway feel. I also thought of the videogame Condemned, and how it has the same look to it, where everything is covered in grime and shadows. Blood is the only bright color to show up here, and when it does it will either stand out from the rest of the scenery or it will fade into it and become part of it. Proportions and perspective are all messed up too. Combine it with the gory skull imagery and it gives just the right horror feeling to an everyday tragedy.
That's just a really long-winded way of saying I think the art is awesome.
These kinds of stories are great in that they're a departure from the normal. Nine times out of ten you get comic book stories about dudes trying to save the world from guys who have some kind of superweapon that can win a battle faster than the Anglo-Zanzibar War (it lasted 38 minutes). This graphic novel plays with its narrative by making it more like a stream of consciousness given visual form, about a regular kid forced to confront something we all hope we never have to. For those reasons, I think it's a quality title. It might not be for everybody, but then, that's why you come to Spandexless--to find comics that aren't for everybody.
TL;DR: Something Animal is a quick read, but the art is awesome and the subject is macabre, so if you like that kind of stuff, go for it.
Something Animal is written by Sam Rhodes and Bryant Dillon, illustrated by Robert Burrows and published by Fanboy Comics. You can visit the site of the graphic novel here, the publishers here and buy it here.
A review copy of Something Animal was graciously provided to Spandexless by the publisher.