“The Elvis Road is some kind of… all this stuff that gets into your eyes and ears and then into your brain and then you spit it out into Elvis Road.”

Elvis Road

This is the latest book release from Buenaventura Press. It’s not quite available from Diamond yet, but (much like with Drawn & Quarterly) your shop might have a copy anyway if they’ve been dealing directly with the publisher. Or, you can just order a copy straight from the publisher yourself. It’s $24.95 for a 12.5” x 9” b&w hardcover, at 23 pages. Technically.

I’m being equivocal, because Elvis Road can be taken in more than one way. Yes, from the way it’s folded into its hardcover, it’s 23 pages. But there aren’t really any pages in this comic - it’s actually a single, extremely long panel, nine inches high and approximately twenty-four feet long, that’s been accordion-folded into something that can be smushed into a hardcover. The far right end of it is attached to the hardcover itself, but the rest of it can stand quite freely, if you feel like unfurling it.

One gets the feeling that’s the most natural way to enjoy this book, created by Helge Reumann and Xavier Robel, working under the auspices of Elvis Studio - the Swiss duo are comics artists, graphic designers, commercial illustrators, and custom toymakers, who’ve appeared in volumes 5 and 6 of Kramers Ergo and had a cover story devoted to them in issue #7 of the late, lamented arts magazine The Drama (from where most of the background info and my title quote comes from). I do believe this is their first ‘solo’ release in English-speaking environs, although it’s not a new work - Elvis Road was actually created over the course of one year, with Reumnn and Robel taking time out of each day to draw on a giant roll of paper, allowing the full picture to develop in an improvisatory manner, the final length of the work only dependant upon how much paper was in the roll.

Upon viewing the final work, the reader will no doubt get the impression that the act of creation had an exorcising effect on the artists’ daily anxieties. Equally reminiscent of Gary Panter and Richard Scarry, nearly every corner of Elvis Road is packed tight with drawing (samples from the book here, samples of different work in the same general style here), but virtually all of it aggressive, violent and ominous. People and creatures of all shapes and sizes rush across the landscape, zipping around in vehicles or hustling on foot. All the world is an awful, industrial strip mall on Elvis Road, large buildings looming across the top of the page, bearing names like Satan Gasthof and Ultra Hardcore Tearoom (located right next to the Super Porno House), windows packed tight with sweating and grimacing souls.

Something terrible is always happening - neo-Nazi gangs parade around while a gargantuan cowboy is wheeled through the streets, a flaming meteor smashes into a population center, hundreds of corpses rise from the ground in a typhonic swirl of flesh, only compact into a dripping wet dump truck. Little stories play out over the inches, although there is no dialogue, no words save for the screaming titles of businesses and organizations, a total loss of humanity.

The work is fascinating in the way it builds and relaxes in visual motifs from left to right. You can vividly sense the rhythm that Reumann and Robel built up for their act of creation - like movements in a musical composition, Elvis Road stretches into distinct areas of commerce-gone-wild, politics-gone-wild, religion-gone-wild, sex-gone-wild, and so on, culminating in no less than the rise of Jesus Christ himself, grown to gigantic proportions and left to confront the only thing that could possibly wait at the end of this seething, living paean to unrestrained capitalism and thoughtless, destructive indulgence (no, I’m not telling).

But the people on Elvis Road so often look oddly happy, content with their plight. Eager to get on to the next thing, or at least get by in their lives, merely reacting to the horrors swirling everywhere. There’s a rich comedic element to this book, discernible in this way, that makes it all a little more bearable - this easily could have been an unrelenting work indeed, but a smile will be raised on the reader's face upon finding Nancy and Sluggo tucked away, or appreciating the broad, caricatured faces on so many of this world's residents.

It's the kind of book you can easily spend an hour pouring over, only to return to it the next day and find many new things waiting along the road. As I mentioned above, maybe the best way to enjoy the book would be to unfold the entire thing, carefully utilizing the folds to dodge around chairs or sleeping pets, then follow Elvis Road along from start to finish, oblivious to the reaction of your significant other/children/parents/non-sleeping pets, just to drink in the full impact of Elvis Studio's long, twisted world. Of course, I'm not sure the paper is quite sturdy enough to stand up like that, and my apartment is too small and crowded to even try. Sorry!