Comic review: Animal by Colo
Animal (Part 1), Story and Art by Colo
Animal certainly has an interesting premise, one that sets it out as a graphic novel of ideas and philosophical consideration of a fundamental question about what it means to be human. As something also of a character study, that might not immediately suggest a suitable subject for a graphic novel, and indeed there are more pages of talking heads than there are of any real action, not that there is much in the way of conventional 'action' as such, but the artwork and character detail provided make this a surprisingly more visual story than you might imagine.
Since it's trailed for a most of Part 1 before it gives you any real indication of the extraordinary action that one man takes, it might be considered a spoiler, but since it's given up front in the synopsis for the book provided on the back cover, what is at the centre of Animal is a man's determination to renounce his status as a human being. Since that revelation eventually comes close to the end of what is only the first part of the story, and since his neighbours and friends all express shock at where this desire leads, we clearly haven't had the whole story yet, so it's definitely intriguing to wonder just what is ahead in Part 2. You could probably assume that it's not called Animal for nothing.
In fact, the hints may already be there in the 48 page Part 1, in some of the exchanges that the man has with with those around him, exchanges mostly wordless or of few words - particularly one where he observes how a neighbour in his apartment block looks after her pet dog much better than some people and perhaps society as a whole look after human beings. For some people, would they not be treated better as an animal than a human?
That's the simplistic observation about one of the exchanges here, but there are other more complex motivations and behaviours noted about the man (he isn't given a name) by his friends, family, neighbours and associates who testify to the change in mood and personality, to the strange comments he makes as he starts to consider his extreme course of action. These are, as I've mentioned earlier, each made interview-style in a couple of pages of talking heads interspersed along the way.
Despite the artwork and even the talking head panels having a sketchy feel to them, with uneven and sometimes thick washes of colour applied, Spanish writer and artist Colo's artwork is surprisingly expressive and nuanced. The appearance, gestures and expressions of the characters are just as revealing as the words they speak. These are brilliantly observed in how they look and act, what they say enhanced by how they say it, very much justifying the graphic novel format. And ironically, in a book about someone wanting to no longer be seen as human, these talking heads inserts show - for better or worse in the context of the book - a very human side.
That aspect and the contrast it provides perhaps even go some way to show everything the man doesn't want to be, something that is undoubtedly essential to the purpose of Animal. The man himself gives very little away. He doesn't appear very sympathetic, he's sullen and bitter, permanently wearing a scowl, not really telling us anything about why he is so fed up with the world that he no longer wants to be part of it. Is he anti-establishment or just anti-social? Those are the kind of reductionist views that might otherwise be made about the man's actions, but the truth is probably a little more involved than that, and it's not insignificant that he is an artist. Where that ultimately takes him in his quest to no longer be human remains to be seen, but it's going to be very interesting and no doubt shocking to find out.