Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Louis - Night Salad by Metaphrog (Metaphrog Publishing)

It's definitely our week for dancing on the surreal side of life this week, and what better way to do so than in the company of Metaphrog. The mysterious comic publishing alt-beast is the genius hive mind behind "Louis", a shiny headed character who looks a little bit like me but that (I'm glad to say) is where the comparison ends.

In "Night Salad" you have a comic that really is a bit too 'old' for Charlotte's age group (not that any of the content is particularly iffy, it's just that it's a fairly hard comic to get into coming to it completely cold).

Yet, like other works that dabble in the surreal, "Night Salad" is soon picked up and run with. Louis' birdy friend F.C is involved in an awful accident while Louis is tending to his day to day job of growing pineapples (I'm seriously giving you the loosest interpretation of events here as it's really between you and the mighty Metaphrog where you go with this). Poor FC ends up lying listlessly in his (rather cool and hoopy) cage as Louis tries to obtain help, endlessly working under the gaze of a rather creepy and sinister boss (now that bit sounds familiar).

At one point we were reading this and I turned to Charlotte and said "Are you getting this?" and she rolled her eyes at me (in that worldly way 5 year olds do) and said "Yes Daddy, just get on with reading it!"

If you struggle to read comics aloud to your children, you will really struggle with Louis - because at times the text feels like the crazed insecticide-laced "Naked Lunch" style ramblings of William S. Burroughs crossed with nursery-rhyme style moral lessons. We persevered, and "Night Salad" revealed its rewards as a series of touching, almost painfully emotional set pieces between Louis and the other characters in the story. When it clicks, it clicks hard and grips you with a grip of cast iron. There will be a point where you, as an adult, will sneak off to read "Louis: Night Salad" on your own because you'll want to make sure that the grains of truth and the harshest realities woven into its seemingly child-like facade are about what you think they're about (you name it, this covers it - everything from the loss of loved ones to the harsh wage-slave life that some if not all of us lead or have lead at one time or another).

It's quite unlike any other child-friendly comic I've ever seen. It's brainy stuff, it's wholly involving and I imagine you will NOT be allowed to put this down once you've started reading it with and to your child.

Charlotte's best bit: She was taken with, and quite upset by FC's accident and illness. Poor FC!

Daddy's favourite bit: The whole interplay with the boss. I have had bosses like that. If you've ever wondered whether a comic for kids can show you the evil of psychological bullying and manipulation, wonder no more. It's in here and a lot more besides.

(Kindly sent to us for review by the mighty Metaphrog!)