A bicyclist on a glass road has trouble not dissolving into a series of cubes. A woman finds an upside-down world beneath the world she lives in. While looking for her, her best friend visits a world of men who live according to an unbreakable law of symmetry. The narrative threads of the various SF stories collected here aren’t always easy to follow, but there’s no doubt the authors have some mad ideas worthy of Alan Moore or Grant Morrison at their trippiest, combined with an emphasis on the sexual practices of these worlds that will remind some of Barbarella. While the writing (or maybe the translation) isn’t always up to conveying the more outrageous concepts that the Schuiten brothers have dreamed up, fortunately the art is. François’s lines and colors are always clear, even when depicting surreal concepts like "sculptraces" (sculptures that look like rotoscoped motion), or the disintegration of some characters into their component geometric shapes. The coloring is a little muddy, seemingly a result of reducing the original album-sized works to trade paperback size for the American market, but it does not affect the clarity of the storytelling at all. Most importantly, this work gives the sense of an alien but fully realized and internally consistent world, offering dazzling and original visuals, even if the interest in bare-breasted young women occasionally overwhelms the SF concepts.
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In the 1980s, Francois Schuiten collaborated with his brother, Luc, who had introduced him to comics in his childhood, on a graphic-novel trilogy set on hollow planets that contain different societies on concentric outer surfaces. Upper- and lower-level societies interact only accidentally, as when an upper-level inhabitant breaks through her world's floor and the lower level's ceiling in part two, "Zara," although winged humanoids, separate from all wingless societies, travel between planets as well as levels, at least in part one, "Carapace." The six stories of "Carapace" and the single stories "Zara" and "Nogegon" are all concerned with sexual desire, because Francois draws slender young women so beautifully as well as because there is strict sexual segregation on some planets. Francois' delight in architecture, perspective, and flight is also highly evident. While the long stories are in Francois' technically impeccably drawn comics style, those of "Carapace" show him experimenting with softer delineation and painterly color effects. If Dali had done comics, they may have looked like this. Exquisite. Ray Olson
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