Required Reading is DoomRocket’s love chest, where each week one of our contributors goes crazy over a book they just can’t seem to get enough of. Want to find something new? Seeking validation for your secret passions? Required Reading gets you.
By Brandy Dykhuizen. As long as the moon casts her silvery net over choppy waves, the sea will continue to captivate us with sagas of the derring-do and downfalls of brave and foolish men. Melville’s Moby Dick is, of course, the seminal tale of oceanic roving, inspiring its own slew of re-tellings through story, song, or the silver screen. Christophe Chabouté seized this yarn and inked out a fantastically detailed and true-to-form interpretation of literature’s greatest hunt.
This is not a particularly abridged version, and rightfully so. To overly condense Moby Dick would be to miss the point entirely. Ahab’s adventure needs time to breathe and pulsate, in order to properly feel the heartbeat of a madman sync up with the rolling waves. Chabouté often takes us into the wave itself, giving us a split screen perspective of bird’s and man’s frenzy above, and the oily darkness contained below the surface. The delicate details of the Pequod’s rigging contrast sharply with the whale’s splashes and crashes, reminding us that all the preparation and forced order in the world cannot prepare humans for the plans nature has in store.
Gulls are depicted as distant paint spatters swarming above the waves or as swirling boomerangs pestering the whalers as they brace themselves to fight Captain Ahab’s battles. Chabouté shows the crew’s individual awakenings as they finally puzzle out that they are no longer whalers chasing oil, but pawns pandering to an egomaniac’s fantasy. Starbuck’s cynicism and Queequeg’s impressive mind over matter light up the black and white pages, but are ultimately no match for the existential crisis simmering underneath. Wide eyes, furrowed brows and seemingly electrified mutton chops dance across the pages, giving light to the tides of realization. However hard whalers must work to survive on a good day, the efforts must be quadrupled in order to cling to life under Ahab’s cruel command.
Dramatic skies and seascapes may look fantastic in briny watercolors, but Chabouté’s black and white sets the focus on the psychological tailspin at hand and really brings the drama. Especially in panels depicting the Pequod in silhouette, all alone on the horizon, one feels both the single-minded isolation and focus it takes for a man to journey into the heart of darkness – a desertion that’s somehow only possible amidst a crowd of onlookers.
While the plot centers around an epic chase, so much of the prose has us lolling about idly, eyes cast simultaneously towards the horizon and within. What better metaphor for niggling discontent than a ship far out to sea, in slow pursuit of an invisible foe?
For some, Moby Dick is a way-too-long antique on a middle school reading list, eliciting about as much excitement as War and Peace or Crime and Punishment. If diving into any of these classics fills you with a minor sense of dread, consider starting with Chabouté’s Moby Dick. It’s an accessible adventure turned slightly on its head, stunningly rendered and poetically paced. There’s a lot to love in these 200+ pages if you let yourself be enveloped in their stormy splendor.
Dark Horse Comics/$24.99
Written by Herman Melville, Christophe Chabouté.
Art by Christophe Chabouté.
Foreword by John Arcudi.