by Aimee Levitt
Kevin Huizenga, part of the brain trust behind Amazing Facts & Beyond, which runs weekly in the Riverfront Times (the archives are online, though it looks better in print), has a new book out called The Wild Kingdom and if you have any interest in comics at all -- or philosophy, for that matter -- you should really check it out.
Like Huizenga's previous book Curses (sadly out of print), The Wild Kingdom is a collection of linked short stories featuring Huizenga's everyman character Glenn Ganges. This time Ganges is exploring the "wild kingdom" of his suburban neighborhood, which includes "dead house plants; a recipe for grey squirrel brain; and pigeons eating discarded french fries in the parking lot of a fast food joint." (A preview is available here.)
Ganges' explorations rapidly become a philosophical inquiry into how little we really understand the world that surrounds us, told via increasingly-complex pictures and diagrams and encyclopedia entries -- though that sounds awfully dull and Huizenga's work isn't at all.
As NPR describes it:
Narratively tidy it is not. Neither, for all its humor, could The Wild Kingdom be considered a light read. Instead, what Huizenga has created is a collection of spiky, intellectually adventurous stories that fit together at odd angles. The result: a mordantly funny field guide to a very specific and modern species of dread.
The New York Times wrote last weekend,
- Kevin Huizenga
- A panel from The Animal Kingdom.
Every few pages, there's a hilariously inventive piece of cartooning, like a series of drawings of "fancy pigeons" that start out looking almost convincing and end as horrifying abstractions of feathers and eyes, or a set of deadpan explanatory diagrams that dissolve into gibberish on examination (a caption for a drawing of a beetle: "Dangerous. Unite to form Devastator. There is no you").