Dead Memory

By Marc-Antoine Mathieu
64 pages, black and white
Published by Dark Horse

Have you ever read something and was convinced it was written by a completely different author? That’s what kept happening with me when I read the graphic novel Dead Memory. The cover said it was by Marc-Antoine Mathieu. Mathieu’s biography said nothing about a pen name. But if I didn’t know better, I’d have thought this was a new Cities of the Fantastic volume by comics superstars Benoit Peeters and Francois Schuiten.

In a world where everyone lives in an infinite city and has their lives governed by small black boxes that talk to them, the greatest issue is wondering if the shape of infinity is square or circular. Then a mysterious wall appears in the middle of the city, and is rapidly joined by more and more of these constructions. It’s only when blockades begin to appear in people’s minds that the serious nature of this situation is revealed—but is it too late to do anything about it?

Mathieu’s story in Dead Memory is the sort that sneaks up on you when you’re not paying attention. As each chapter progresses, you start getting a better understanding of what life in the City is like, in how it is both similar and unlike our own world. The real menace of the walls is cleverly disguised as a result; it just seems like another strange phenomenon of this world of infinite streets and buildings, with other, more important things to focus on. It’s a clever degeneration of life for the characters of Dead Memory, with an ending that both answers and raises more questions at the same time. With its examination of a city as a mirror for the life around it, it’s easy to see comparisons to Peeters and Schuiten’s works, but Dead Memory remains its own unique story.

The art in Dead Memory reminds me a bit of Argentinean artist Eduardo Risso, with Mathieu’s usage of heavy inks to carve out his images. His characters have wonderfully cartoonish faces, with comical mustaches and overly-wide eyes with which to register surprise. His hapless-looking characters are a wonderful fit to the story, in a society where people seem to just bumble along at the whims of others. It’s a really handsome looking book, though, don’t get me wrong. The stark black and white look of Dead Memory is gorgeous, with the shadowy buildings looming over people or the grid patterns of the computer at the center of its universe, every page has something beautiful to behold.

Dead Memory is a remarkably clever book; it’s the sort of title where you’re planning on just reading a chapter or two, and before you know it you’ve devoured the entire story. Presented in an attractive oversized hardcover edition, Dark Horse has given this creation the sharp-looking package it deserves. This may be the first book by Mathieu I’ve read, but hopefully it won’t be the last.

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