Hypnotic, mesmerizing ‘The Memory Collectors’ isn’t read – it’s experienced

(IDW Publishing)

The effect of looking at one of the characters in Menton3‘s The Memory Collectors  is to have her stare back at you.

It is a startling effect that is uncommon in the comic world, and IDW’s release of the collected hardcover edition of this title gives you another opportunity to buy this remarkable work and test out this effect I’m talking about.

There are many works of shifting perceptual pieces of art that affect a viewer like this, and Menton3‘s characters are crafted with the same quality that one would find in a painted portrait. However, they lack the lifeless, frozen aspect of a still painting. The art is simply…striking, and I find myself mesmerized by it, even overlooking the script at times to simply stare at the frames.

The Memory Collectors is a night-creature/hunter trope, with the hunters, supernatural in their own right, hunting for their own sport. The creatures they stalk are hardly your typical bloodsuckers; instead of simply taking blood from their prey, they drain their victims of dreams, hopes and collect the memories of a happy existence, hence, the title. This is the only way these creatures can sustain their own missing souls: by taking the essence of others from them. The only defense against these predators is the Swan Maidens: Beatrice, Magdalena and Edith – the last two sisters being the newest and the origin point of the story.

In a response to a letter from a fan, Menton3 (aka Menton J. Matthews III, painter, illustrator and multi-instrumentalist musician) says that one of his early influences was Bill Sienkiewicz and his run on Marvel Comics’ The New Mutants. Personally, I was never a big fan of Sienkiewicz’s work. Though there is no doubting his extensive influence in the world of comics, I found his art lacked clarity. The reader had to struggle to decode his visualizations, and, for me, that detracted from the story.

However, The Memory Collectors doesn’t suffer from this detraction. Though Menton3’s work possesses a similar quality of etherealness to Seinkiewicz’s; the action is straightforward and uncomplicated in its execution. When Edith attacks – she flies at her victim in clear, well-defined brush-strokes, like a portrait of a swooping bird of prey in motion.

Menton3 keeps his images simple – his colors are minimal and the backgrounds, unlike Seinkiewicz’s, are clutter-free and contain only relevant detail in appropriate amounts. There is a stark quality to them that matches the barren, emotional nature of the soul-eaters the Swan Maidens hunt.

(IDW Publishing)

The dialogue is likewise Spartan. The Swan Maidens say very little to each other or to their prey. Most of the story is communicated via Edith through internal monologue or exposition. Magdalena is a self-willed mute, her psyche scarred by her first encounter with the Memory Collectors. Beatrice is the senior of the three and, taking direction from a superior figure known as “Mother” in Geneva, Switzerland, acts as a field commander of sorts. It is Beatrice who rescued the other two from the Memory Collectors and taught them how to fight.

This is a comic that one does not read so much as experience. A vivid cache of sensory information that appeals to the reader on specific fronts is contained in each frame. For example, it is raining when the sisters first encounter a Memory Collector. The rain not only forms the background of the scene, it bounces off the characters, ricochets off their weapons and melts into mist when it comes into contact with the ambient body heat of the characters. You cannot help but stop and pay attention to the rain. It is a simple thing to conceive, but amazingly complex when perceived.

Likewise, the kinesthetics of the characters is also communicated through the careful application of black and white visualization. Though the details of the characters are obscured, the very shapes of the characters in motion forces the reader to observe their stances and actions. It is a very effective technique. This minimalist approach is powerfully suggestive and demands the full attention of the reader. The overall effect is, in short, a spectacle.

The Memory Collectors is a work of superior quality that demands a reader’s full attention. You can go back and re-read this comic over and over again to gain the full effect of the various selected sensory experiences. The hypnotic appeal of the art is this comic’s greatest strength and, in those moments when you are contemplating its various effects, don’t be surprised if you experience the effect of being contemplated yourself.

About Captain John K. Kirk

Captain John K. Kirk
John Kirk is an English and History teacher and librarian in Toronto, Canada. In addition to the traditional curriculum, John tries to teach his students to make sense of geek culture. And with the name "J. Kirk," it's hard for him to not inject "Star Trek" into his lessons. Comics, RPGs and the usual fanboy gear make up his classroom resources.

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