Ghosts Etc. (Avery Hill Publishing

This new offering from Avery Hill is a collection of three stories from American illustrator and artist, George Wylesole and is one of those books which is hard to sum up and eloquently describe, as the constituent elements are so weird and bizarre that describing them in isolation doesn’t really do them justice. However when they’re combined into this 90+ page volume, Ghosts Etc. becomes another tour de force from one of the UK scene’s most exciting publishers.

Publisher: Avery Hill Publishing
Writer: George Wylesol
Artist: George Wylesol
Price: TBC from Avery Hill’s Store

The opener, Ghosts, is perhaps the most immediate of the three stories, and is a first person narrative about a janitor working in a hospital at night who wanders the lonely corridors, fantasising about lives in other cities, and is distracted when he finds what he thinks might be a ghost that is represented by a sort of sheet like presence (not like a cheesy ghost Halloween costume sheet, an actual sheet!) By focusing on the minutiae of the night shift, from tangled cables to long corridors,  George manages to capture that feeling of loneliness and isolation that comes with working at night and combines it with the rigid process of shift work to create a surreal and meticulous tale. This is heightened by the the fact you don’t see a protagonist (except in his fantasies), which makes for a really intimate perspective for the story and means that the whole thing feels very dream-like and fantastical, almost a bit hallucinatory, like the ramblings of someone deprived of sleep and company, which is part of it’s charm.

Each story has it’s own unique visuals, with Ghosts featuring a very strict. geometric style with pages having small tight panels that feel more like infographics or instructional diagrams than traditional comic pages (that compliment the medical/service industry theme). Throughout, the pages feel distressed, as if printed on an old fashioned press and left to languish in a cupboard somewhere. While the lettering is haphazard and rendered in a simple San serif font, and the colours off set, which again makes it feel more like an instruction manual than a comic.

The second story is called The Rabbit and is about a blob like creature who wears a wooden mask and reminisces about a summer spent with his buddy, who is a kind of horned deer like creature with wooden legs. Again, it’s very weird and not as immediately accessible as Ghosts, and reminded us a bit of last years Untitled Ape’s Epic Adventure (also from Avery Hill), but much much odder. Like Untitled Ape it has this surreal heart to it, based around an unconventional friendship, that means that even though it doesn’t make a lot of sense, it makes it strangely readable.

Which brings us to the final chapter which is just mental! Entitled Worthless the whole thing is told in a hyper stylised geometric style that feels like a weird mix of futurist Russian propaganda posters and art school end of year project. It’s so stylised it is hard to get a fix on what actually happens. We think it features some bad kids getting taken on an existential journey through the afterlife by a voice from a drainpipe, and features visions of heaven and hell, ornate geometric temples with eyeballs and breasts all over them, and psychedelic visions of men in small pants – plus all manner of other weirdness. If you thought the previous tales sounded odd, then they have nothing on this. However this is not meant to be us dismissing it as throwaway. Because despite this inherent oddness it is so fascinating and stylish that you can’t help but be drawn into it as the elements intertwine to create patterns and structures that flow around the page like pipes in boiler room. The detail is incredible and the construction of the pages are utterly unique that you find yourself studying the content and searching for meaning rather than having it spoon fed to you.

Ghosts etc. is not an easy read, and is probably one of those books that can be read differently by each person who picks it up. For some it will be super stylish, exciting and avant grade. While for others it may just be a load of weird nonsense. But that’s part of what makes it so interesting. After a fairly safe and orthodox year in 2016, with books like Artificial Flowers, Reads and The City Inside, Avery Hill seem to be really pushing the boat out in 2017 with releases like this, Deep Space Canine and the upcoming Goatherded. By aiming to release books which are both thought provoking and very unconventional they avoid becoming just another indie/small press publisher.  So if you want to take a risk and fancy something a bit challenging, then you really should give Ghosts Etc a try. as it’s surreal and highly stylised look at the world is definitely one of those books which defies description, and stays with you long after you have finished it.