Ignatz Ongoing

Interiorae #1-2

(this review first appeared in The Comics Journal #287, Jan. 2008; as usual, I fooled around with it before posting here)

Here we have a series that draws the vast majority of its impact from the immediacy of its symbols, and the flowing rhythms of its ambling narrative attention.

The creation of Gabriella Giandelli, Interiorae follows the observations of a certain white rabbit, a mostly invisible phantom cartoon figure that stretches and squishes itself as it passes through the walls of an nondescript apartment building, observing the lives of its inhabitants. Some of the stories bump into one another, while others perhaps can’t - the rabbit speaks with a dog, witnesses the affairs of ghosts, and reports everything to the Great Dark One downstairs, a fuzzy, talking blob of inky jelly that feeds on everyone’s dreams as a type of embodiment of the building’s collective unconscious.

There’s some potent iconography at work here, and Giandelli shows a keen aptitude for intermixing the goings of her people with a lived-in sense of the unreal. Her human character art belies an often disarmingly effective awkwardness among folks trying without success to peacefully inhabit their own skins, while the rabbit molds himself into an intuitive observer, tiny to match small moments and bigger when it suits him. We all know what white rabbits represent, but Giandelli reverses the typical meanings, leaving her rabbit the wanderer in the bizarre landscape of human drama - and even her most stolid building exteriors seem soaked in potential energies of wonder and anxiety.

The series is less effective, however, within its own brief depictions of human life. Chock-full of cheating hearts and seething self-loathing and frustrated ambitions and hidden tears, Giandelli’s human tapestry is more a soap opera struck with a sledgehammer, sending shards of melodrama scattering to and fro. Granted, the abbreviated nature of the white rabbit’s stay with each denizen of the building is probably for the best - a certain impact does eventually rise from the story’s beat-by-beat portrayals of drama, as soggy as the individual vignettes might be.

Yet all of it seems primed toward predictable ends, as the Great Dark One takes special interest in an old woman who once lived in the mountains and fields (divorced from the retarding fog of industrial progress, you see), and can maybe delve deeper into her dreams. The rest is all ennui, all tired, aimless modern energy. An old whiff of old themes, though the artist’s execution is still rightfully demanding of some attention.