By Dan James
Published by Top Shelf Productions; $12.95

A note at the end of this small graphic novel tells us author "Dan James broke his hand in the winter of 2001. During this time he was inspired with the story of 'Mosquito' and drew it left-handed." Oh, boy.

I'm sorry Mr. James broke his hand, truly I am. And I am more than willing to concede that I just don't get this one. Told silently and in what look like woodcut drawings, something happens involving a mosquito. Apparently there are allusions to vampires, and a quote from Bram Stoker's Dracula graces the back cover. That quote was the only thing about the book that I could really even begin to understand. Some of individual images are striking, reminscent of the bold, graphic approach of Peter Kuper, but as a sequential story, I found myself utterly unable to navigate Mosquito's red, red pages. Red and white are the only colours in the book, and it's more than a little distracting and distancing, as if every page is screaming at the reader, but the message is distorted and unintelligible.

The Top Shelf website says the book follows "in the inspiration of H.P. Lovecraft, Mary Shelly and Bram Stoker," with James presenting his "vision of horror." Perhaps, as I say, I just don't get Mosquito. But after trying to read it three times, I gave up. Each time I got bored and confused within a handful of pages, and could not tell how one panel is supposed to relate to any other one. I am quite sure that this book would be no more unreadable to me if the pages were remixed in random order, and perhaps even upside down.

I didn't hate Mosquito, because I don't understand enough of what it is trying to accomplish to feel any particular way about it, other than confused and perhaps disappointed that there's been a failure of communication, either on my part or on the part of the artist.

The Top Shelf site, again, says "This silent South American folktale is an elegant and strikingly stylistic, wordless Vampire story, presented completely in Red Ink. Intriguing and clever, it follows the adventure of a man who receives a curious letter containing polariods of vampire victims and a map to the small town where the vampire lives. He gathers his stakes, says goodbye to his children, and walks straight into the mouth of evil." I could see where that could be interesting. I wish I could see that clear a story in Mosquito. But I just don't get this one. Grade: 2/5

-- Alan David Doane

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