The Cage

(text & illus.). Coach House. 2013. 192p. ISBN 9781552452875. pap. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9781770563674. F
England-born Vaughn-James (1943–2009) first published this work in 1975. The comic has no clear narrative or characters but is a sequence of detailed, page-sized images, connected by an oblique, ellipses-filled narration. There are no humans, but the images are mostly of human-made objects, such as a pyramid, city exteriors, bedrooms, chain-link fences, and barbwire. However, this isn't a travelog of a post-human world but an answerless puzzle—headphones and binoculars are arranged in semianthropomorphic ways; metal poles and enormous knitting needles appear in strange locations; large, macaroni-shaped objects and big splurts of black liquid that may or may not be alive. With an introduction by Seth (Palookaville) and a preface by Vaughn-James.
VERDICT Unlike both mainstream comics and the work of alternative cartoonists like Art Spiegelman (Maus), R. Crumb (Zap Comix), or Seth himself, The Cage is less like a graphic novel than a documentary film about a strange world, with narration by poet T.S. Eliot. It will appeal to fans of art cinema and surreal poetry, but for most readers of graphic novels (regardless of genre), it's not recommended.
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