Surviving the Safari Honeymoon

“Everything in this damn jungle is either trying to eat us or crawl up our asses!”

In the deep, exotic jungle… where predation lurks around very corner… in which every last plant is poisonous, and every damned creature wants you dead, lays… the perfect honeymoon getaway!

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Published by the stellar Koyama Press, and surely unlike anything you’ve ever read, Safari Honeymoon is an original graphic novel from Ontario-based comic creator, Jesse Jacobs. Intensely detailed and beautifully constructed, Honeymoon is psychedelic on such a level that each copy of the book might as well come with a complimentary tab of LSD (hey, might not be a bad marketing plan). However, for those of us who didn’t get the acid in the mail, Jacobs’ bonkers artistic style and batshit imagination is conduit enough. Intelligent yet straightforward, and executed in a completely bizarre fashion, Safari Honeymoon is Summer 2014’s sleeper hit of acid.

The free-form plot follows a newlywed couple on their dangerously exotic honeymoon, in which they hunt, feast, frolic, and run for their lives in the depths of a hellish, alien jungle. The characters: a snooty, western-minded husband with a penchant for hunting foreign fare (“This is a safari, not a god-damned scuba expedition!”), a fearless wife (“All this excitement has stirred inside of me a powerful hunger!”), the Safari Guide (“Have you folks been wearing your butt plugs?”), and the squiggly baby-monster, Winston. But who are the ethereal, ghost-like “forest monkeys” who follow them?! Why are they always meditating? And what’s with those antennae?!

Drawn and colored primarily with various shades of green and white, the end result is a disorienting smorgasbord of alien fare. It’s not the plot that makes the book so enamoring, but the experience of attempting to process it all.

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Although Safari Honeymoon might challenge readers to defamiliarize their comic-reading experience, creator Jesse Jacobs is no stranger to these woods. His impressive slew of self-published work hasn’t gone unnoticed, as his major publishing debut occurred via AdHouse Books in 2011 with the chilly, blue sublimity of “Even The Giants.” In 2012, Koyama Press published his mind-blowing epic about space gods, the celestial and purple “By This Shall You Know Him.” You might also recognize his work from “The Best American Comics” 2012 (for which he did the marvelous interior cover artwork) and 2013 editions, or the endlessly enthralling Baltic Comics Magazine, “š!”

Some critics tend to lump Jacobs in the same camp as fellow Canadian bizarro artist Michael DeForge, an act which is understandable on the surface, albeit a little unfair. Although Koyama Press (a publication that has been hitting the note lately with a slew of great titles) has published work by Jacobs and DeForge, and both cartoonists have oddly worked for the Cartoon Network program, “Adventure Time,” the comparisons pretty much stop there.

Jacobs style is distinctly focused, as he consistently proves himself to be a completely unconventional graphic storyteller. Safari Honeymoon is a testament to this. For example, a close call with a muscular starfish monster will be followed by a page of 24 panels showcasing the exotic poisonous plants, strange deadly creatures, or luxurious breakfasts created by the helpful Safari Guide. The end result is a strangely wonderful book that is part adventure story, safari guide, sketchbook, and philosophical tome.

Indeed, within the pages of the volume are philosophical trees with either nuggets of wisdom or acid epiphanies. Serving as segues, with suggestions to defamiliarize oneself with the world, these sentiments perhaps also serve as artistic statements, or possible methods of interpreting the story: “Predetermined patterns of thinking are inadequate. Your thoughts are nothing more than meaningless clouds passing across an endlessly blue sky.”

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The human characters are deliberately realized yet simply rendered. In design, they are not dissimilar from characters drawn by the likes of Belgian artist Hergé, with legs large enough to make R. Crumb get all hot and bothered. This ain’t your momma’s “TinTin” though. With slithering leeches that enter through your ass and infect your brain, gargantuan spider-like creatures with a hunger for human flesh, and screaming trees that uproot themselves and chase you down, this is truly a psychedelic horror story disguised as a children’s fable. TinTin and Snowy would surely be fucked.

Aside from the occasional wrinkly-gross close-up, the relative simplicity of the human characters is a huge contrast to almost everything else in the book: the flora and fauna are disturbingly detailed with careful attention, the abundance of creatures and landscapes Jacobs creates are fascinatingly original.

The “temporal disruptions” which occur are some of the cleverest ways we’ve seen a comic play with time since Alan Moore’s Arctic horror adventure, “Nemo: Heart of Ice.” However, whereas Moore’s book was Lovecraftian in a straightforward sense,
Safari Honeymoon is Lovecraftian in a “I-just-gave-my-4-year-old-some-bad-acid-and-read-him ‘At the Mountains of Madness’ before-bedtime” sense. Which is to say, the book is truly a nightmare.

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In spite of the disturbing nature of this deadly environment, the book oscillates between bizarre horror and silly hijinks. Through the horrific vistas and awe-striking jungle wonders, the tone remains surprisingly consistent. This is an impressive feat for an artist whose work is so off the wall that even butt plugs won’t save you. The book is always curious, exhaustively so, and never fails to be interesting. As the newlyweds navigate this strange new world, the reader gets to explore it as well.

The book itself looks like it could be from another planet. Indeed, the finished product is something between a comic book and a piece of art you could hang on your wall. I mean god dammit, even the back cover of the book is gorgeous (just look at that barcode!). Frolic for your lives, and book your Safari Honeymoon right away.

 

Be sure to keep up with Jacobs on his amazingly beautiful and possibly even trippier blog, the superbly-titled “One Million Mouths.” http://onemillionmouths.blogspot.com/

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