by Cameron Stewart
When I think of Cameron Stewart, I think of books like Seaguy, Catwoman, and now Batgirl. He's someone I equate with more cartoony, fun comics. He's not someone that I would immediately think of as the person to create so surreal and compelling a book as Sin Titulo, his webseries that Dark Horse published in a single, beautiful, volume.
Alex Mackay is an underachieving fact checker for a magazine company who falls down a particularly strange rabbit hole. He makes a visit to his grandfather's rest home, only to discover that his grandfather had passed a month before. When picking up his effects, he finds a photo of the old guy with a beautiful young woman he's never seen before. When he asks about the woman's identity, the staff behaves strangely, and make off with the picture. While waiting for answers, he stumbles across the sadistic and abusive behaviour of one of the orderlies.
From here, things just keep getting stranger for Alex. He follows the orderly when he gets off work, and that leads him to an odd building, where he bluffs his way past the front desk to find himself in a room with a desk and a video phone, and the woman from the photo looking back at him. As things continue to get weirder, Alex becomes more obsessed with things, losing his job and his girl over his behaviour (not to mention his car).
Throughout the book, Alex experiences dreams about a tree on a beach, sometimes with a person sitting under it (hence the cover). It's difficult to explain this part without giving away some pretty big stuff, but the book really becomes interesting once Alex meets a painter who has been having the same dream, and painting the same image over and over again.
Stewart captures perfectly the Kafkaesque quality of this story, as Alex never quite questions his sanity, despite the fact that everyone around him is treating him like a crazy person (and he's wanted for killing two police officers). The internal logic of this story keeps things moving quite well, and Stewart really takes the time to flesh out Alex's character, showing us scenes from his childhood and from an office party that help to colour who he really is, even though they aren't completely necessary to the story.
The story is told in pages of eight panels, which fit quite tightly on these sideways pages. That helps add to the claustrophobic feeling of the story, until a key page towards the end when Stewart uses the whole page to stunning effect. The book ends with a fight scene that could only be done in comics, the logistics of which must have been very difficult to plan.
In all, this is a very satisfying read. It's given me reason to look at Stewart's other work from a different perspective, and I hope to see him doing something so psychological again soon.