Written and illustrated by Rob Davis
“Though I am certain of the pain in my ear, and how it locates me in my body, I remain uncertain of where I am.”
SelfMadeHero publishes niche graphic novels. In cinematic terms, they would be carefully crafted art films, unlikely to enjoy the mainstream appeal of a summer blockbuster but intriguing for those open to a more stimulating watch. Half the pleasure in watching an art film is derived from discussing it afterwards and the same is true of The Book of Forks, the latest offering from SelfMadeHero.
The third in a critically acclaimed trilogy, The Book of Forks explores themes such as isolation, totalitarian society and man’s relationship with fiction.
The book’s initial setting is almost Kafkaesque. It opens with Castro, a member of the book’s adolescent trio, incarcerated in an institution called the Power Station. Unable to understand his fellow inmates (or possibly, schoolmates), Castro finds himself trapped in a series of daily activities without understanding the meaning behind them. He is unsure of whether or not he is a patient, student or prisoner. Seeking solace in the written word, he tries to better explain his world.
The graphic novel takes place in a strange fictionverse, a place in which children build their own parents, gods inhabit household items and knives rain from the sky. While reading the first two graphic novels in the series does give this world context, one can still enjoy The Book of Forks on its own.
Despite the surreal aspects, there’s an underlying structure and one has to admire Rob Davis’ discipline in maintaining this structure throughout. The artwork is clean and minimalistic; it has a simplicity that serves the story while never detracting from it. Since the story and themes are quite challenging, the art’s spareness acts as a form of respite for the reader.
Despite multiple re-readings, The Book of Forks remains a hard book to classify. It’s best labelled as abstract. Rob Davis understands the structure behind a graphic novel; he then chooses to dismantle this structure and reassemble it, creating something startling and beautiful in its eccentricity.