Early in Michael DeForge’s Ant Colony (Drawn And Quarterly), an ant discovers a sugar crystal, a wondrous gift from the heavens that could feed the ant, his boyfriend, and other members of their colony for days. Another ant passing by senses the sugar and rushes to it like a junkie, immediately attaching his mouth to the sweet boulder and sucking down the poison that causes him to bleed profusely from his eyes and mouth. The sugar is actually Sweet’N Low, deadly to ants and one of the myriad dangers that proliferate the tiny world of DeForge’s graphic novel, originally published online under the title Ant Comic.
With an unusual style that is equal parts adorable, grotesque, psychedelic, and earthy, DeForge tells an epic story about the fall of an insect society through the deeply personal lens of a few surviving ants, including the aforementioned gay couple, a young prophet with microscopic earthworms coursing through his veins, a police officer, and an infertile female. Their stories are told through interconnected vignettes, exploring a broad spectrum of human emotions through these bugs’ efforts to survive, while also showcasing the creator’s pitch-black sense of humor.
Over the course of this story, the reader is exposed to the horror of war, the confusion of growing up, the disenchanted boredom of being an adult stuck in a routine, and the disconnect that can develop between lovers as their relationship ages, all presented through DeForge’s idiosyncratic style that makes the environment even more bizarre and alien. This NSFW sequence, which introduces the colony’s queen, is indicative of the disturbingly gorgeous, mind-bending visuals that spring from DeForge’s mind, and the hallucinatory imagery works wonderfully with the emotional honestly of the writing to make Ant Colony an outstanding spectacle with personality and depth.