More loopy, goopy modern mythologizing from German fabulist Moers (The City of Dreaming Books, 2007, etc.).
Moers’s newest confection hinges on a set of illustrations by the renowned French engraver Gustave Doré, scattered across texts from the Bible to the Divine Comedy and “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”. Moers responds less to provenance than to what he presumes is going on in the paintings, much in the way some Dadaists translated poetry from other languages in words suggested by the original. So it is that young protagonist Gustave Doré, transmuted to a sailor on the high seas, and sidekick Dante, “his trusty, one-eyed boatswain,” happen upon Death on a dark and stormy night atop the waves. Death is not alone; a crazy woman with wild blonde hair kneels before him, casting dice on the battered deck. “Say hello, Dementia,” says Death, and Dementia obliges with some nice gobbledygook that ends with Death’s setting six tasks on Gustave, from saving a damsel in distress to guessing the names of giants to undertaking a goal that he will learn only on visiting Death’s domain on the moon (“It’s the only place left where you can get away from people”). Said tasks are done with a maximum of punning and wordplay and requisite magic, from soaring through the air dressed in armor to puzzling out anagrams that only the crossword-challenged will miss, for Moers’s verbal games are on a fairly unchallenging plane. So, too, are most of the episodes, but then most of the figures within them seem an uncomplicated lot, from dragons who chain their damsel victims to rocks instead of gobbling them up, to the space-faring and possibly dyslexic Pancho Sanza, to Death himself, who, after all, doesn’t smite the little pest Gustave at the start, when he had the chance.
For the stout of heart or the low of blood sugar only. Nice illustrations, though.