Review by C.J. Bunce
This month sees the bicentenary of acclaimed American author Herman Melville′s birthday, August 1, 1819. If you were an artist and asked to draw a defining interpretation of the author’s creations, what would you draw? Ahab, Ishmael, Queequeg, the Pequod, the whale, or some other inspiration from Moby-Dick, right? So the fascination for many of a new book of artwork interpreting and saluting the 19th century American author will be searching out how the 1851 classic novel Moby-Dick; or The Whale is interpreted, and what other creative ideas found their way to paper recalling his other, lesser-known works. This Wednesday comic book publisher A Wave Blue World/AWBW will be releasing such an assemblage, From Hell’s Heart, a full-color, hardcover volume featuring the works of 57 artists.
Most readers today will look at the title and first recall Ricardo Montalban uttering the title as the villain Khan in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, part of his many monologues pulled by screenwriter Nicholas Meyer from the likes of Melville and Shakespeare. But you might also recall from grade school days the short story of Bartleby, the Scrivener, a character study of the early poster boy for the modern office’s work-averse workforce. Artist Nacho Yunis provides a superb mock retro-style comic cover for his entry honoring that story, and Fernando Blanco’s contribution is perhaps the most evocative snippet in the book from the mind of Melville. The artists stepped up to create imagery more interesting than the Melville excerpts you were have likely to been force fed-in junior high American literature class. Surprisingly, most of the artists conjured images taking on the feel of H.P. Lovecraft in their haunting beauty, including the image of psychological horror on the cover by the artist known as Well-Bee.
Comic book readers will find renderings from some familiar artists in these pages, including Andrea Mutti, Maxim Simic, Ryan Sook, Denis Medri, and Brandon Graham. As expected, the bulk of the artwork is devoted to the great whale. Bjarne Hensen provides a strikingly colored street scene from Moby-Dick. Victoria Maderna and Federico Piatti contributed a fantasy image that begs for an entire reprint of the novel with their artwork peppered throughout. Steve Baker opted for fun, depicting the whale as a dog and kids playing Moby-Dick as they might play Cowboys and Indians. Cosimo Miorelli gets the mood in his image just right.
Other artists brought to life far lesser-known works. Xabier Sagasta’s image is eerie and creepy in its detail for The Confidence Man. Evan Cagle looks to a letter about Melville from Nathaniel Hawthorne for his incredible woodcut-style piece. Murad Abu-Rayyan looked to Melville’s Pierre; or the Ambiguities for his inspiration.
Here is a book trailer courtesy of the publisher:
Fans of art books featuring interpretations of single subjects by several artists will appreciate this volume, books like The Thing Artbook (reviewed here at borg), the Mike Wieringo Tellos tribute, and the various Hero Initiative collections featuring subjects like Wonder Woman and Adventure Time.