Land of the Sons Is Almost Unbearable to Read (in a Good Way)

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<i>Land of the Sons</i> Is Almost Unbearable to Read (in a Good Way)

LandoftheSunsCover.jpg Writer/Artist: Gipi
Translator: Jamie Richards
Publisher: Fantagraphics 
Release Date: May 22, 2018

If you have children, life is constant failure. Even if you try to temper your expectations, your offspring manage not to live up to them. They appreciate nothing, and they behave like feral creatures a lot of the time. The miracle is that we love them anyway, desperately so, even when they scratch us and spit on us. Land of the Sons, the new book from Italian cartoonist Gipi (Gianni Pacinotti), pretends that it is about apocalypse, but really it is about the world we already live in. With its title loosely drawn in black within a debossed circle of white on the cover (Is it a moon? Or is it the world viewed from the bottom of a well? I suspect the latter), Land of the Sons establishes itself as interested in paradoxes. Are children monsters or do we love them? Well, both. Is our world irredeemably fallen or can we find hope in one another? Yup. Both. Do men grow up or not? Is it better to lie or to tell the truth? The answer is always complicated.

That’s a lot to get into a book, even a fairly hefty one (it’s not paginated—perhaps a choice intended to keep us in the moment rather than constantly evaluating where we are—but runs 280 pages). Gipi has focused on the tangled mess that is masculinity for years now, especially on adolescence, when personalities are still being forged and feelings run closer to the surface. Land of the Sons takes those concerns and inflates them, stretching the surface ever thinner and creating greater tension as a result. Some sort of disease has ravaged the land (or has it?). A father and his two sons live virtually alone, scavenging for food; pretty much everyone else is dead (or are they?). Literacy no longer exists, but the idea of it still does, causing the brothers to become enraged that they can’t read a book their father is writing. That’s the kick that sets the story in motion, like an angry wolverine rolling down a hill. At times, Land of the Sons is almost unbearable to read. It made my heart race. It made me feel like I was beyond wanting to cry because my intestines were too tight. It made me wonder if I shouldn’t have had children. Does that sound like fun? It’s not, but it’s a great example of the fact that not all good art has to be fun.

It’s hard to separate the writing and the drawing in Land of the Sons. There’s not a lot of dialogue, but the words take up a lot of space. If a character says three words, sometimes each one of them gets its own speech bubble, with plenty of white space around it. Those bubbles crowd the panels, and the result is an impression that language is both impoverished and tremendously weighty. Gipi’s individual lines are light and fine, but clustered together they don’t feel spidery or faint. Instead, they work together to convey deep emotion, even in the landscape, with large blocks of negative space lending them more power. Spend some time looking at these drawings. They are magic. How does he create a 10-page, 60-panel chunk in the middle of the book that is nothing but illegible writing and some water stains and make you feel something as you read it? I have no explanation, but it’s a wonder to behold.

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Land of the Sons Interior Art by Gipi

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Land of the Sons Interior Art by Gipi

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Land of the Sons Interior Art by Gipi

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