The London Free Press Recommends ANT COLONY

“Brown: Graphic novel ups the ante for Canuck publisher” / The London Free Press / Dan Brown / January 14, 2014

Did you love the way Gary Larson made animals say and do weird things in his Far Side newspaper strip?

If you said yes, then I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that you’ll probably dig Ant Colony.

The story is an epic tale about how the rise and fall of a civilization — the colony of the title — affects a handful of individual ants. Although these ants talk like human beings, they never quite transcend their “ant-ness,” which leads to some bizarre situations. Never have I learned so much about the sex lives of insects.

At its heart, Ant Colony calls into question the roles assigned to each of us by society. You may be an office worker, but isn’t that really just the equivalent of being a drone, Toronto’s DeForge seems to ask.

At the risk of wandering into existential territory, let’s just say his characters are faced with a situation which requires them to find new roles once they are freed from the rigid dictates of the colony. What does it say about some of the ants that all they want to do is establish a new colony in the image of the old one? That they fear change and would rather trade freedom for security. Sounds like some people I know.

In terms of Canadian precedents, this graphic novel calls to mind Lorenz Peter’s The Grey Museum. Like that Conundrum Press volume, Ant Colony is a thought-provoking book that will stay with you.

Ant Colony is published by Drawn and Quarterly, which continues to push the boundaries of the graphic-novel format. If you aren’t reading any Drawn and Quarterly titles, you should be.

And if this is how the Montreal publishing house starts off the New Year, I can’t wait to see what else they have in store for the rest of 2014. It’s going to be a twisted one.

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