HAUNTED reviewed by Comic Book Bin

“Philippe Dupuy's Haunted” / Comic Book Bin / Leroy Douresseaux / June 9, 2008

SNAIL: You can't put yourself in his skin.
MAMMAL: I understand his pain. I really do. It's as if it was my own... And I wouldn't have gone there.
SNAIL: Sure. But it's his pain. So trust him. (p. 156)

RUNNER: Sooner or later, you've got to know when to stop. (p. 202)

When a person looks inward there is an opportunity for that person to gain his bearings or to find out where he is in his exterior life. This is the variation on the theme of self-examination through dreams and imagination found in Philippe Dupuy's Haunted.

Dupuy is best known for his work with Charles Berberian. As the duo Dupuy & Barbarian, this French cartooning pair has been working together since the mid-1980's, with their Monsieur Jones novels being their signature work. However, each man has produced solo work, including Dupuy's 2005 graphic novel, Hante, which Canadian publisher Drawn & Quarterly released earlier this year in this English edition entitled, Haunted.

Featuring dream-like and hallucinatory personal battles with fear of failure, self-doubt, solitude, and shortcomings, Haunted is a sketchbook, a cartoon journal, dream diary, and a graphic narrative. While Dupuy uses a rough style here, he draws with such spontaneity that it seems as if these cartoons are meant only for a private sketchbook, but the thoughtful, deliberate way in which Dupuy presents his ideas as images is actually elegant and refined.

These are Dupuy's reflections, musings, and ruminations, so we have to trust him if we are to understand (as much as we can) what he has to say. Now, that's asking a lot of readers to just open themselves to an artist with which they are not familiar (although Dupuy is better known in Europe). Thankfully, this work is so approachable. Or in order to enjoy and appreciate Dupuy's work here, one has to pay attention to the snail's lines, "But it's his pain. So trust him."

By using the visual scheme of depicting himself as a cartoon runner, Dupuy eases his reader inside as the central character jogs through a landscape and dreamscape of an interior life. Through the use of an eclectic band of misfits and many endearing characters: a Left Bank artist, an art-collecting duck, the anthropomorphic "Forest Friends," and his mother, among others, Dupuy offers an engaging look at loneliness and midlife crisis. That this is not boring and the fact that Haunted will have the reader turning pages as if this were a summer potboiler is a testament to what a comics visionary Philippe Dupuy is.

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