Review Index


By TOM NEELY (I Will Destroy You; 2011)

From Los Angeles based artist Tom Neely, a most unique and fascinating “painted novel” that operates on the same level as a David Lynch movie. This is to say that depending on one’s point of view THE WOLF may seem like a profound rumination on the human condition or puddle-deep nonsense. Completely lacking in dialogue or narration, it’s a highly surreal rendering of sex, transformation and regeneration.

     It features a man who awakens one night and, while his wife sleeps, stares into his bathroom mirror. To the guy’s shock, his mirror image develops a wolf’s head. In this guise the guy burns down his house and vomits up a skull-headed demon; this dangerous critter, rendered as an all-pink nightmare of sinewy muscle fiber, promptly reproduces and pursues the wolf man through a dark forest.

     The wolf man emerges from the forest at a mansion where he meets a woman (the mansion may well be the guy’s own house and the woman his wife, although it’s difficult to tell). There’s an immediate attraction, and the two commence a torrid affair, only to be interrupted by the skull-demon and its minions. This precipitates another chase into the wilderness, where a new character enters the mix, and things take a highly mystical turn involving blood drinking and tree branches sprouting from peoples’ heads.

     What truly makes THE WOLF a worthy acquisition is the stunningly dense and colorful artwork. Surreal distortion is evident in even the most “realistic” depictions (all the people here are freakishly skinny and have extremely long necks), with backgrounds rendered in hazy and indistinct fashion; at one point the visuals are overtaken by a protracted delirium, rendered as a series of indistinct lines and shapes. Yet the narrative is always easy to follow regardless of how weird the imagery becomes.

     One feature that will surely upset many of you is the X-rated nature of the artwork, which grows quite carnal at times. So no, this book definitely isn’t for children, nor adults put off by extreme weirdness.