“Disorder” 1/3 is a raw, gristle-filled rumination on the yearning to transmute, remake and reshape the body – and possibly escape it. Warning: spoilers ahead.
“Disorder” demonstrates a deep understanding of sickness, loathing (both self and otherwise) and dismal humanity. Each chapter, numbered one to five, is a distinct visual transformation on the page. One section features two seated figures facing each other that slowly explode outward in a series of hands, tendrils and gristly arms, reaching for each other across a gap of black but never quite connecting. They react to each other, transform together, but the gulf is impassable. Another section uses the motif of moth wings, each panel an inset look at mouths, eyes, insect legs, viscera. The background of these insects becomes a cloak for a figure that gestates a larva scrabbling frantically to escape, only to become a final page of fractured, screaming pain. Another chapter features a figure breaking off spikes from its head to pierce its body over and over again, to make something new. This endless reaching, grasping and tearing open the flesh to reveal a new creature like a tortured matryoshka doll is a journey Price riffs on in every section, the culmination of each a gut punch of isolation, raw terror, destruction and birth.
Price’s work succeeds so dramatically because Price possesses a keen understanding of what a horror comic needs to do to affect its readers. The violence and grit alone are not enough. Shock value can be effective, true, but how many vivisected corpses can we see before we become numb to the effect? Price strips the voyeurism away and centers us in the tortured body, without apology. Price employs claustrophobia, thwarted effort, looping transformations and wordless screams in intricate layouts to guide us through the muck – or give us something to claw against in the dark.
Perhaps most compelling in its structure as well as its imagery is Disorder 5, in which a saint-like figure surfaces from the tangled sea of screaming, grinning bodies to ascend for a brief moment, only to be dragged down into the throng once more. The ending is a perfect example of Price’s deep understanding of symmetry and its power in storytelling. The final page consists of four strips of three panels each in a mirror of the first page, but this time it’s one composite image. The sea of weary, lined bodies grasps at the central figure, lined in heavier black in the middle panel of the second strip. The mob is at once soothing in its visual order and terrifying in its single-minded need to grasp, to consume. This page recalls the overwhelming imaginative detail and, yes, absurdity of Medieval apocryphal painting. But, where we can peruse those blasted hellscapes for hours and marvel at the creative ways humans are brutalized by demonic forces, Price’s work allows for no such distance. The miasma becomes a wood-cut, detailed nightmare as the toothy figures grasp their reclaimed prize, its own mouth open in a silent scream and a receiving, of sorts. The eye, featured in concentric radiating circles, beckons as much as it beams, but to what? More of the internal peeling away, or something else? It’s an ambiguous ending made powerful by the exhaustive detail, scale and repeated phrase “To destroy, to rebuild.”
Price’s art is so detailed, so meticulous and so impactful that the silent piece in the middle of the book is in some ways its most powerful. Price demonstrates the same flourish, consideration and creativity employed in a careful line in the lettering, but the poetic jangle of the words sometimes clashes with the visual experience. There’s something to be said for the authorship, of course – presenting a silent comic like this might ease the way too much for an outsider, and these pieces were created as a sort of personal reflection. We are to take them whole cloth and respect the creator’s voice. It is worth noting that the visual content is so good, however, that it could stand entirely on its own without a bit of text to help or guide us along.
“Disorder” succeeds because it’s so honest. It’s not obsessed with its own imagery, but uses motifs to try to push through, into something. There’s not a whiff of coolness or wry self-appreciation to sniff out of the darkness. It’s the high-quality work of a deeply talented artist, and should be required reading for anyone looking to school themselves in experimental horror.
The Verdict: 9/10 – “Disorder” pulls no punches but offers an intricate and sophisticated journey through a vivid, meaty hellscape.