“Bricks are built from history
And history is built in blood.
That’s all that families are – blood that endures for a little while.”
Dark. Very dark.
And very, very good.
Like Kieron Gillen says: “A nasty cackle of a book I recommend you order.”
I’ve talked of both Noble and Azzopardi before, reviewed comics by both of them, including their first collaboration Sightings Of Wallace Sendek. Which was frankly brilliant, a complicated mystery, there for the reader to unpick, but still, once the work was done, mysterious, it’s meanings and secrets unsure.
Built Of Blood And Bricks is similarly mysterious, just as I’ve come to expect from anything Noble puts his pen to. Occasionally they fail me, occasionally I’ll finish one and be confused, maybe even nonplussed, the mystery too tightly packed, my understanding of it just not good enough to satisfy. But when it’s right, when they work, oh, they’re just incredibly good.
Azzopardi’s artwork is equally impressive. He shifts around, never really settling on a style for too long, testing, reaching, for both himself and his readers. The development I’ve seen him show, just in the few years I’ve been looking at his books is really impressive.
(The opening page of Built Of Blood And Bricks. It sets the scene so well, and a simple retelling of a childhood accident becomes immediately creepy.)
And then together, Noble and Azzopardi seem to just gel. Built Of Blood And Bricks is a near perfect atmospheric piece of suburban horror, although there’s really not that much horror explicit in it, not when you really think about what you’ve just read. So much of the perceived horror comes from Azzopardi’s art, and specifically that chilling, nightmarish face.
And as you read through, the imagery works it’s way into you, and Noble’s atmospheric dialogue evokes a horror, a darkness, the deeper meanings you read into the narrator’s words, the pieces of the puzzle – everything just fits perfectly. Noble’s words build and build into something truly chilling, as the symbiosis of words and imagery takes root in your mind and you start looking for the meaning, for the horror that’s never explicitly expressed.
There’s little I really want to tell you of the actual plot of Built Of Blood And Bricks. It’s something I’d rather you discovered for yourself. Lets just say it’s a first person recounting of family history, as we’re introduced on that first page to the solitary occupant of the familial home, a man who hasn’t “gone more than fourteen feet from the front door in twenty years“.
He tells us of many things; his mother, his father, his Uncle, the accident on his sixth birthday, the possible cause, the possible reasons…. so many possibles in here, and Noble and Azzopardi build them up, creating a tense, nervous monologue where the uncertainty is delicious, and the darkness that both Noble and Azzopardi build into the work is pitch perfect.
(Put most of that page into one of Azzopardi’s sketchbook comics and you have a peaceful meditation on suburban surroundings, lyrical, poetic. Then Noble adds in that final panel of the narrator’s nightmarish face and it’s twisted completely.)
Just the art accompanying this review should tell you enough of the story, and give you some idea of the range of methods and styles Azzopardi is utilising in here. There’s so much going on, so many different techniques – straight pencil lines all the way through to collage and photo manipulation. But there’s never a feeling of too much, everything fits quite perfectly in context.
You may know this already, having read the piece Douglas and Sean contributed to the blog, but just in case you missed it, the comic is a remix project – with Azzopardi sending over images to Noble from old sketchbooks, and Noble remixing, reordering and then creating a narrative for them. Or, as Sean puts it in the piece; ‘ Here you are Douglas, 20 images and make us a comic.’
That sounds so simple, but in tying it all together Noble uses Azzopardi’s art, and the narrative implicit within the artwork, to create a great comic.
Built Of Blood And Bricks is available from Douglas Noble’s Strip For Me website and there’s a chat with Noble and Azzopardi here on the FPI blog.