By Ben Kooyman
As reality itself dissolves in the tears of the Sect Of the Bleeding Eye, Mr Unpronounceable sets off on a multiverse-spanning quest to retrieve the Sacred Godstone from its shrine on a distant planetoid. Meanwhile, The Synthetic Sorcerer has designs of his own, shadowing our hapless hero’s delirious journey across an increasingly warped spacetime continuum. Join Mr Unpronounceable, wandering Necromancer, in this third volume of his insane adventures from cult author, Tim Molloy.
If Mr Unpronounceable and the Infinity of Nightmares was a six page short comic or an industry standard 22 pages, I’d call it a cute little bit of weirdness. However, at 190 pages, it represents a formidable marriage of delightfully cracked imagination, resolute commitment to dream logic, and tremendous work ethic on the part of creator Tim Molloy. As it’s also the third volume in a series – following Mr Unpronounceable Adventures and Mr Unpronounceable and the Sect of the Bleeding Eye – constituting a grand total of 568 pages, I’d say we’re dealing with a staggering saga of high surrealism: think Tintin as essayed by Alejandro Jodorowsky.
The plot unfolds in short vignettes following the exploits of the titular Mr Unpronounceable, as he goes about his business in the City of the Ever Open Eye encountering various scenarios, creatures and critters that would feel at home in tales by William S. Burroughs and H.P. Lovecraft. Over the course of the book the character is melted, burned, shot in the head and chest, stabbed to death, and subjected to all manner of indignity, body horror and surrealism as he contends with, to quote the text, “increasing synchronicity chains that threaten to turn the multiverse into an ever deafening echo chamber of infinitely resonating causally linked nightmares”. There are seemingly infinite timelines and selves, and the neat boundaries between vignettes, and between the narrative on the page and the medium itself, constantly collapse and reconstitute themselves. It’s worth noting here that I have not read Molloy’s earlier Mr Unpronounceable books, which have netted both Ledger and Aurealis Awards. I really, really want to now, although I’m not sure this would have aided in deciphering this book. Sometimes, you’ve just got to roll up your sleeves and drink the Kool-Aid. And what magnificent Kool-Aid…
Over the past year I’ve had the good fortune of sampling a number of horror and creature-themed works from Australia’s comic book creators, and have been impressed with the variety on offer. The Karen Beilharz-edited collection Monsters and Jase Harper’s Awkwood both mine monsters for metaphorical meaning, using them to explore themes of fear and self-empowerment; Jason Franks’ Left Hand Path and Christian Read’s Karnak, both reviewed here, are more traditional horror fare, the former graphic and ghoulish and the latter a chilly haunted house story; and Franks’ The Sixsmiths presents a sitcom/soap opera version of Satanism. In contrast, Mr Unpronounceable and the Infinity of Nightmares delves into more existential and cosmic horror terrain, all the while delivering a steady flow of gags, tentacle and orifice-heavy critters, and perplexing narrative incident.
As indicated above, the book carries strong whiffs of Burroughs and Lovecraft, as well as Eraserhead and the dream logic of David Lynch, the body horror of David Cronenberg, and the random segues, slapstick and non-sequiturs of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. At the core of this heady concoction is the titular Mr Unpronounceable himself, a great creation who wanders from episode to episode lamenting in obsolescent phraseology at a hysterical pitch. Imagine if Woody Allen or John Cleese’s Basil Fawlty subbed for Bruce Campbell in the Evil Dead films, and you’ll get some sense of this bespectacled, manic, verbose human punching bag.
While I cite these literary and cinematic works and characters as points of comparison and possible influence, let me emphasise that Molloy’s work is its very own, very cracked, and very comic bookish thing. Indeed, in its depiction of its world as an echo chamber populated by multiple selves and timelines, one could surmise not only a dramatisation/lampoon of humankind’s existential ennui, but also a dig at the mainstream superhero comics of DC and Marvel, with their infinite earths, multiverses, ultimate alternate realities and tail-eating chronologies and continuities.
Aesthetically, Molloy’s black and white sequential art is clean and impeccable. In addition, his rendering of nightmarish critters, body horror gags, and the title character’s mania, melancholy, and exasperation is exquisite and, where needed, appropriately goofy. On top of that, there’s delightfully heightened and archaic dialogue and plotting that would make Steven Moffat jealous. I can’t say enough good things about Mr Unpronounceable and the Infinity of Nightmares. Read it: it’s the real deal.
Mr Unpronounceable and the Infinity of Nightmares is out now from Milk Shadow Books.
Writer/Artist: Tim Molloy
Format: B/W Softcover