Leviathan

By Jens Harder
144 pages, two-color
Published by éditions de l’An 2, distributed in North America by NBM

Every now and then, something ends up in my hands with which I’m completely entranced. The reason for being entranced can be one of many—a neat cover, a flip through the interior revealing something “wow” worthy, or even a good title. Sometimes the book ends up exceeding my expectations, other times it can’t come even close. So when I ended up with Jens Harder’s Leviathan, the immediate question was, “Which will it be?”

A “silent” (or wordless) graphic novel, Harder’s Leviathan is a surreal journey following the path of one of the kings of the deep, a whale. From giant squids and Vikings to the Titanic and strange creatures you’ve never seen before, anything and everything seems to make an appearance sooner or later in Leviathan.

I wish I could tell you more about the plot of Leviathan but I can’t. I consider myself a pretty smart guy but this book is nonsensical. For every sequence that makes sense, like a whale fighting a giant squid (I’m going to temporarily ignore what looks to me like some sort of energy or sonic blast coming out of the whale’s forehead to destroy the squid because maybe there’s something I never learned about whales in school), it’s promptly followed up by strange mer-creatures and mythological beasts coming out of the mouths of other animals. Writing a silent comic is a delicate process because you’ve got to make sure that people can comprehend just what you’re doing from one page to the next. Harder doesn’t seem to worry about that, just throwing in random events (both real and fiction) one after another. The destruction of the Pequod from Moby Dick? Well, at least that had a whale in it and makes more sense than the sinking of the Titanic. If there’s a logical story behind the events of Leviathan that someone is able to figure out on their own, I’m very impressed, because I’m pretty convinced there isn’t one.

On the other hand, Harder’s art is what kept me from hurling Leviathan across the room by the halfway point. His depictions of ocean life are breathtaking, from schools of manta rays to the titular whale itself, all moving gracefully through the waters. The heavy lines he uses on his page help give a sense of motion, easing the eye across the page. This is my first experience with Harder’s art, but I’m absolutely captivated by it in a way that his writing certainly didn’t work. Really, you’re just better off looking at what Harder draws and forgetting the story entirely, because that’s clearly the selling point here.

Imported by NBM from Europe, this is a very specialized book that I don’t think is going to grab a lot of people. Like I said before, this is something that’s ultimately all about the art. If you’re someone fascinated by marine life, or a strong European style of linework drawn handsomely in two colors, Leviathan is for you. If the complete and utter lack of a coherent plot’s going to drive you crazy, though, there are better bets available.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com

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