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  REGISTRY OF DEATH
By MATT COYLE, PETER LAMB (Kitchen Sink Press; 1996)

Some seriously freaky shit, this, an oddly repellant and disturbing graphic novel. In truth the content isnít unusually gross or explicit (at least compared to some of the stuff Iíve read) but in form and style itís quite unique, and has a profound impact.

     The ďRegistryĒ is a fascist state existing in some alternate timeline. Said Registry has an execution squad made up of rebels and misfits who are dispatched to exterminate individuals deemed undesirable by the Registry, with the bodies subsequently disposed of in a slaughterhouse.

     The protagonist is a young Registry appointed executioner who unexpectedly finds himself on the hit list. Knowing just how the Registry works and the people it employs, he becomes determined to fight back. Heís got nothing left to lose, as this guy has just eliminated his own mother, a long-wanted enemy of the Registry--which with her out of the way is now looking to tie up loose ends. What follows is an all-out slaughter fest as the protagonist uses his skills as an executioner to fight off and brutally eliminate his onetime colleagues.

     Itís a simple enough story related with admirable fire and anger, but what really makes this project the winsome nightmare it happens to be is the extraordinary art by Matt Coyle (whose first published work this was). Each page contains a short block of text at its bottom, with the rest of the space taken up with minutely detailed, collage-like black-and-white imagery. The art is deliberately two-dimensional and lacking in perspective, with surreal distortion a constant. Also constant are the images of violence and death, which arenít excessive in any way but pack quite a punch in their bluntness and ferocity.

     Poppy Z. Brite provides an introduction thatís actually a ďtiny taleĒ inspired by REGISTRY OF DEATH. Titled ďIn Vermis Veritas,Ē itís told from the point of view of a maggot in a slaughterhouse, wriggling around in the brain of ďa young man who died for no particular reason, after a protracted and honorable huntĒ--presumably the hero of this tale. 

     

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