You should drop everything you’re reading and pick up The Desert Places by Amber Sparks and Robert Kloss and illustrated by Matt Kish. Brian K. Vaughan described his new graphic novel Saga as “Star Wars for perverts.” The Desert Places is the history of the world, not necessarily for perverts, but those who want to shed the artifice of detached objectivity and dive through the gory narrative of humanity and the violent poetry of blood and guts. I once called Amber Sparks the “fairy godmother of rebirth” that “transmogrifies the ordinary.” In this combined narrative, the Biblical intonations have a more ominous etiology and the ordinary becomes savagely truculent in a deconstructed tale of mankind. The Job-like inquiry that is at the center of one of the greatest Cosmic questions ever posed is flipped. “Did you build the shape of man into the rocks to know the joy of murdering him? Did you ferment the first soil with the bones and bodies of your construction? Did you stack the lands with death even before the first life? And in the hours until the first victim staggered forth from the seas, did you wander the crimson lands, peer into the halls of death and mourn the vacant corridors?”
Heroes and villains are absent even though the textual provocations are epic. The prose is lyrically bestial, crimes of harmonic diction by Sparks and Kloss channeled into elegiac carnage. Matt Kish’s illustrations are the disturbingly visceral guts that bind the book together, a chaotic nightmare of floating organs, deathly spheres, and skinless personas haunted by the skeletal visage of cruelty. They’re not for the meek of heart, but serve as a stark reminder of the butchery people have been inflicting on each other since, well, forever.
“And then there were no gods and there were no monsters. Then the worlds we have known together, worlds a thousand, thousand years ago, fell to ruin. Ever they stain my dreams. Ever they rise up before me, ever they will. Even now… those hands drip with bison blood, with berry juice, stirring something old in my bones and my blood, drawing the old lust and rage in me like a black storm.”
There is an interlude that involves an exchange between the Alpha and the Omega and despite the dark theme of much of the book, there is also satire and hope in the humor, albeit a morbid one. Both authors deftly handle religion, myth, and philosophy, juggling them, then ripping apart the old layers, constructing new cities on the corpses of dead ones. Unfortunately, the future holds little hope:
“When the humans headed for the skies, we were briefly abandoned… And then we showed the humans what our new bodies could do, how fear could find them even in the galaxies beyond their own…We were careful butchers in space.”
The book is short but powerful and will force you to wander the deserts of your own mind. It’ll force you from the Oasis you thought would provide succor, only to realize it was all an illusion. Read The Desert Places by Amber Sparks and Robert Kloss right now because the illusion can’t last forever.