The Moon Moth – Jack Vance (w) Humayoun Ibrahim (a)
First Second, $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-59643-367-0
So, it is with great intrigue that First Second present an adaptation of one of Vance’s most acclaimed novellas, by debut artist Humayoun Ibrahim. The Moon Moth is as much a mystery as it is an sf genre piece. Edwer Thissell is sent to the planet Sirene as an ambassador, but finds it difficult to intregrate with the culture, where status is shown by the masks its inhabitants wear and proprietary is held in the highest regard. Thissell soon finds himself searching for a murderer, a task made all the more difficult by the customary masks and the fact that no-one is necessarily who they appear to be.
It’s an ambitious undertaking for any artist to adapt the work of a respected author, but this is especially so with Vance, as so much of his appeal lies not in his plots, but his beautifully florid prose. Irbrahim manages to capture some of this lyricism in his illustrations. His style is clear, but embellished with rich details that give a storied aspect to each of the characters. The intricacies of the textures and the expressiveness of his line matches the baroqueness of Vance’s writing. For instance, Cornely Welibus wears a mask that Vance describes as consisting of “…a blue disk inlaid with cabochons of lapis lazuli, surrounded by an aureole of shimmering snakeskin,” which Ibrahim renders thus:
It’s to his advantage that this is one of Vance’s more dialogue-heavy pieces — and all the dialogue remains here intact — but when new concepts or neologisms are introduced, they’re rendered with flair and imagination. One of the quirks of The Moon Moth is that the alien characters sing to one another, or play instruments, to communicate. This is rendered in the adaptation through ornamented speech balloons and evocative uses of colour.
As a whole, the quirky, yet low key plot coupled with the vivid, stylish art makes The Moon Moth feel very much in the vein of the New Fantasy that has taken hold in comics recently — exemplified by works like Powr Mastrs, The Mourning Star, and Artichoke Tales. Whether intentional or not, this manages to place Vance as the progenitor of the tradition and highlight just how powerfully resonant his work can be.
-- Gavin Lees