As a reviewer and avid reader of comic books, I’m regularly inundated by titles by American publishers. I’ll throw in a manga every once in a while, but for the most part, I’m surrounded by Made-in-the-USA comic books. There are times though when I wonder what comics are like in other countries. Lucky for me, there’s Europe Comics. This conglomeration of thirteen publishers is dedicated to bringing the best European comic books and graphic novels to readers in America.
In one of their newest releases, Europe Comics is printing SoulScape in English for the first time. This collection of thirty-two short comics by Bahadir Baruter was originally published in 2008, under the title Ruhalti. Baruter is a Turkish caricaturist who pushes the limits of conventional sequential art. The publisher describes this graphic novel as an exploration of the depths of the psyche. In the case of this book, that psyche belongs to a caricaturist. Readers of SoulScape get a glimpse into how Baruter sees the world. I’m here to tell you, he sees the world much differently than you or me. This graphic novel’s interior cover page will instantly signal to a reader whether or not this book is for them.
Looking at Baruter’s artwork in SoulScape makes your brain hurt, but in the best way possible. It’s like trying to solve a word puzzle. You stare at it for a few seconds, trying to wrap your mind around what you’re seeing. Then, just a like finding the solution to the puzzle, your brain kicks into gear, the intricacy of Baruter’s art becomes clear, and a rewarding feeling sweeps through your body.
As distinctive as the art is, I was repeatedly struck by the same thought as I read through this graphic novel. Namely, caricature is not the best medium for graphic storytelling. The endearing part about a caricature is seeing the contrast between the original subject and the artistic exaggeration. In SoulScape readers don’t get to see the original subject, only the caricatures. Although each panel looks amazing, with each subsequent comic, the reader has to reorient themselves to what exactly they are seeing. This makes it very hard to follow whatever is happening in each of the comics in this graphic novel.
In addition, the short comics collected in SoulScape don’t seem to have much plot. They’re absurdist tales in which Baruter gets to show off his talents in drawing with pen and ink. There were many moments that I found humorous, but it was hard to say exactly why I found them funny. Something about the cartoons tickled my funny bone, but that something definitely wasn’t the writing. Between the lack of linear storytelling, the complexity of the artwork, and the high volume of detail in each panel, each of the thirty-two short stories in this graphic novel are very hard to follow. One silver lining, the pages look amazing, so readers have something special to look at as they try to figure out what they are seeing.
If I’m being honest, I’d struggle to point out Turkey on a map. Luckily, SoulScape puts a little slice of Turkey right into my hands. Baruter’s illustrations are some of the most unique I have ever seen. Every panel is so jam-packed with detail that this graphic novel begs to be read multiple times. With each reading, new details will be revealed that were previously missed. This graphic novel definitely isn’t for everyone. For those who are ready to challenge their eyes and brains, SoulScape is available for purchase from Europe Comics and elsewhere.
Script: Bahadir Baruter Art: Bahadir Baruter
Story: 3.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 5.0 Recommendation: Read
Europe Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review