Ravi Thornton and Andy Hixon’s debut graphic work, The Tale of Brin & Bent & Minno Marylebone, is a dark and surprising visual oddity that manages to combine an air of Samuel Beckett’s Murphy with the kind of Goth affectation you normally glimpse in a Paramore video.
Brin and Bent reside in The House, a sort of abstract mental institution of sorts, filled with crowds of identical residents known as Those Committed. ‘The grounds are wide and long,’ we are informed, surrounded by wasteland on one side and an incomplete estate on the other, only a gate – without a wall – separating the world from what’s inside. What solace is available to the residents comes from an ornate building of iron and glass called the Rehabilitation Pool, wherein they are forced to swim and bob in over-chlorinated water under the watchful gaze of Brin and Bent, an intense, destructive couple who find the world a difficult place apart but, together, find ‘fires start inside their heads’. Brin and Bent see themselves, the face of one reflected in the eye of another, and before you know it, they are biting and sticking pins in each other, ‘rabid with energy’. Watching the residents through holes drilled in walls, they ‘make notes, plans, perversions… they celebrate disgust.’
Much of the action of The Tale of Brin & Bent & Minno Marylebone occurs within the Rehabilitation Pool – a palace of white tiles and ‘clinical gleam’ – but this story is in no way similar to Bastien Vives’ A Taste of Chlorine. The narrative revolves around the intrusion of a stranger, a child, Minno Marylebone, who travels across the aforementioned incomplete estate to swim in the pool at night after everyone has left, a place in which, floating still, she glimpses ‘layers of infinity’, she herself ‘detached, celestial.’ Of course nothing can last forever or remain unseen and eventually Brin and Bent cotton on to the intruder in their midst and a climactic act of redemption, a struggle for comfort, a bloody, transcendent breaching occurs. Nothing remains as it was before the three of them came together.
Forged from what appears to be a mixture of artwork and clay, The Tale of Brin &Bent & Minno Marylebone is the kind of book that won’t possibly appeal to all graphic novel sorts – but it will without a doubt appeal to fans of Dave McKean. Visually it’s a stunning piece of work, a bizarre and fantastical arrangement of glass that snags your eye at every turn. The visuals could absolutely stand alone, which couldn’t really be said for the prose – which unravels at times in that stunted, stichomythic poetic preserve. The tone suits the visuals, though, bolstering the sense of a world to come, a world held in abeyance, a world populated by characters who have been taken out and away from.
Any Cop?: Although not quite a graphic novel that warrants repeated readings, The Tale of Brin & Bent & Minno Marylebone is certainly a graphic novel that at least invites one astounded enticing look-through – with a mental note made that here is a double act worth keeping our eye on.