Incidents in the Night

I’ve finally read David B.’s Incidents in The Night, volume 1. And it’s simply a joy to read. I think that a lot of the tropes used could sound tired to a reader of postmodernist fiction, tropes such as searching for an extremely rare and obscure book or using the author as the protagonist of a highly fictionalized narrative, a lot of metafiction, exploiting the occult, the mixing of genres from fairy tales, to historic war drama to contemporary crime fiction, but you really have to trust me that B. is making it all sound fresh and the product of a truly fecund imagination.

Or at least, he has such skill in telling a compelling story, in creating powerful, engulfing images that it doesn’t matter all that much if you might have heard this story before(or parts of this story), even in something as mainstream as a Neil Gaiman comic or a Charlie Kaufman movie.

I feel that alternative European cartoonists are doing this thing where the writing is almost a coda to the art, where the text and graphics are strongly segregated and B. is close to Mattotti in how much he does it. But it’s a lot less the case here as it’s in Epileptic or in the stories from The Armed Garden. There is sequentiality, there is playful typography. It couldn’t be otherwise since text, type, is the flesh of this book.

The style he works in, that woodblock engraving, with simple, expressionistic figures, harsh blacks really contributes the sometimes dreamlike narrative and sells as credible and mundane even the most outlandish events. Doing so, he never turns the story itself into a cartoon.

Even when he has characters leaping from letter to letter in the pages of an impossible book, he is willing to speak frankly, without turning to reality simply as a source of shock, about life, about the atrocities of war and religious zealotry.

Originally published at