Last week I read 100 Bullets: The Deluxe Edition Book 1 which was an outstanding crime noir with incredible art. It was great fun but far too ordinary for the purposes of this column. I’d forgotten that this was the Best Book You Didn’t Read…, not best book lots of people besides me have read. So, this week I made sure to pick a book that I was fairly confident I was the only person who read it. This week I read The Crackle of the Frost written by Lorenzo Mattotti and Jorge Zentner, illustrated by Lorenzo Mattotti, published by Fantagraphics.
Crackle is about Samuel and his fears. You see, Sam’s girlfriend decided that she wanted to have a baby with him. His fears overcome him and he leaves the relationship.a A year later, he receives a letter from her announcing she is expecting a baby. Sam is sure the letter is a call to him. Is it or is it Sam realizing that he made a mistake and that he’s chasing after a dream? You can see a 10-page preview here.
This is an absolutely incredible book. It took me awhile to get into it because every time I looked at it, I wondered if I really wanted to read it. There are two panels per page and there isn’t any dialogue in any of the panels: it’s a block of text and an image. When you pick the book up, all you see are the pictures with text above it, which is something you aren’t used to. But once you start reading, it’s impossible to put the book down.
The story itself is amazing. It’s a story about loneliness, loss, and, most of all, fear. It starts with the fear of commitment, fear of people, fear of being hurt, which eventually becomes the fear of everything. Sam is such a damaged person and his pain oozes off the page. The text boxes are Sam’s thoughts where all his angst and fear is laid bare. The pictures give those thoughts form and substance.
Mattotti’s images are almost beyond description. It’s a single panel with a singular image: sometimes it’s an exact replica of Sam’s thought; sometimes it’s an abstract impression of Sam’s fear; sometimes it’s from the past and sometimes from the future. But no matter when or what it is… it’s beautiful and it fits the scene. I don’t know how, but it enhances the text box by providing color and imagery to abstract concepts.
Crackle of the Frost is an amazing book. It’s a rare feat in which the words, although separate from the picture, are in perfect synch with it. It’s a story that deals in abstract feelings given form in swirls of red and yellow. Most of all, it’s a moving story about a person who is very, very lost and very, very much alone, and trying to discover whether he is really alive or not. This is a complex book that will leave you speechless. If you are looking for a book that truly pushes the comics medium, then this is the book for you.