Lorenzo Mattotti certainly knows how to handle conflict through illustration - his most famous work, the out of print Fires tackled the struggle between nature and civilisation no less. But integral to his work is inner turmoil as the protagonists struggle to reconcile themselves within the confines of their environment and their relationships. In last years Stigmata (see here) Mattotti cut loose with some ferocious black and white illustrations to capture the torment of a hopeless drunk who develops the stigmata. His latest work is The Crackle of the Frost (Fantagraphics) co-written with Jorge Zentner again deals with familiar themes of love and internal conflict as the protagonist tries to come to terms with his fear of commitment by going on a journey to find his lost love.
However, in contrast to his previous work The Crackle... is an incredibly sensual book. His remarkable use of colour and flowing line-work cast a spell over me that left me enthralled and utterly enamoured. In fact it's almost too much of a feast. If you read the recent comments I posted from Shaun Tan (see here) about the struggle between words and pictures in comic form, you'll appreciate the issue is heightened in this case. When turning a page it's difficult to know where to look despite the uniform layout - my eyes wanted to read the writing but they could barely tear themselves away from the lush illustrations, particularly as the focus of the book isn't so much on sequential art but powerfully expressive images to illuminate the words. But I'm being pedantic - if only I could criticise more books for being too beautiful. What we have is simple story about a complicated journey for one man as told by a master. Extraordinary.