Review: Silent parable The Ark is science fiction as sacred text

TheArk

This silent, black and white work from French artist Stephane Levallois, and the publisher Humanoids, best known for his storyboard work on films like Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows and others, is like reading a cryptic, visual sacred text revealing a lost history that can only be understood on a allegorical level. Divided into chapters begin with poetry relating some clues as to the action that unfolds, Levallois challenges the reader to decipher this message within the framework that each brings to the work, though guided by its central, mysterious philosophy.

As The Ark begins, there is a desert world, and we encounter it through the actions of a person in bulky diving suit, trudging through the sand and dragging a giant doppelgänger for Noah’s mythic art. Each step makes a mark in the sand, which is erased by the huge canal the ark is creating in the sand.

In the preceding poetry, the desert is compared to paper, the lines in the sand compared to ink work, and in context of the book itself, with Levallois’ imagery as the central communication, this can be read as humankind making its mark. A simple beginning, certainly, but what follows features a flurry of other examples of human marks being scribed in the horizon — a city, a zeppelin, and other object and people.  There is also a row of mysterious cages on top of towers that marks a nexus point that attracts all human interaction, and the fierce complications that ensue, as overseen by  the sinister, supernatural women who are prisoners of the cages and function as some kind of vampiric version the Fates as they cypher off energy and swoop down to disrupt the humans who are about to bring their technology into a collision.

The book describes itself as an allegory of man versus nature, and this is as good as guidance you’re going to get, aside from the poetic texts that demand study. This is a challenging work, and it’s not made any easier to absorb by Levallois’ stark, scratchy artwork giving a raw and desolate quality to the action. Imagine Mad Max as related through the Book of Revelations and you have a slight idea of what to expect from Levallois’ apocalyptic work that seems to scream “DOOM!” at you louder with each reading.

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