I spied Ant Colony from about fifty feet away and knew that I had to at least give it a try. Regardless of what its pages contained, I knew there was something special about a book with such a bizarre cover. Bright colors meld with violently jagged edges over an inconspicuous ant hill, hinting at a darkness lurking beneath. I was not wrong.
Michael DeForge has made not so much a story but rather a sprawling anarchic tribute to universal feelings of insignificance. How better to show the sense of fear and dread amidst a dangerous, uncaring world than through the eyes of insects? Despite the lack of cheer, DeForge's art is gorgeously vivid—and slightly hallucinogenic.
"Why does everything have to be so tiny?" complains one ant, but when his partner asks him to explain what's upsetting him, he cannot. We meet an unusual array of characters. From ant cops to a young child who has eaten a sinister earthworm, leading to a strange symbiosis. Other ants gobble up what they think is sugar but turns out to be poisonous Sweet 'n' Low. The results are downright nightmarish.
There are more than just ants. Spiders look like vicious wolves' heads on stilts. Centipedes resemble giant SUV limosines. One almost runs down a couple ants before proudly remarking to itself, "Life rules."
The book culminates with a war between black ants and red ants and, throughout the way, comments on race, class, sex, and other facets of our society. Readers expecting something similar to the movies Antz or A Bug's Life are in for a rude awakening. This book is for adults. Even then, it is not for many adults, but some will resonate with its powerful imagery. If you admire the thematic darkness of comics such as Black Hole or Jimmy Corrigan, then this is worth your time.
Ant Colony is frightening, beautiful, and thought-provoking—daring your mind to comprehend our purpose in life...or lack thereof.