It’s hard to try and describe Gaylord Phoenix, Edie Fake’s collection of mini-comics of the same name. Mythological journey? Beat poetry in a visual format? Stream of consciousness? Explosion of sexuality? It’s all and none of those, and while it’s not a book that is the easiest to read (or accessible to all), for those willing to try and decipher its puzzle I think there’s a reward to be had. The plot, if one could call it that, involves a being named Gaylord Phoenix who falls in love with a man (and vice versa); the two have sex, Gaylord Phoenix comes down with “crystal bloodlust” and kills his lover, and then things get strange. Oh, and we’re only 35 pages into a 256 book at this point. From this point on the book gets less conventional in terms of plotting, and it becomes an experimental series of images, scenes, and set pieces.
The thing is, Gaylord Phoenix is by no means an aimless book. From start to finish, I always felt like Fake knew exactly what he was doing and where the story was headed. So as Gaylord Phoenix’s lover is resurrected, taken away by an Egyptian crocodile god, and transformed into the lower phoenix kept flashing to stories like Orpheus and Eurydice in Greek mythology, or Inanna’s descent into the underworld in Sumerian myths. And of course, the name Gaylord Phoenix is not lightly chosen, with a death-and-rebirth cycle built into the characters here. It’s a mostly wordless journey, which helps you to interpret its events as you choose.
The key to Gaylord Phoenix, though, is Fake’s art. Full of intricate patterns and shapes, Fake’s art at times seems to blossom on the page in front of the reader, ever growing and expanding into new elaborate creations. Free of panels or conventional comic book formats, at times it made me feel like I was looking at tribal art passed down from the generations, a series of hieroglyphics and mazes to try and puzzle through yourself. Drawn over the course of many years, it’s hard to deny that Fake’s art starts out a little rough, but by the halfway point it’s transformed (much like the characters involved) into something much more fantastic and amazing.
Gaylord Phoenix is not a book for everyone. It’s extremely experimental, and if you’re looking for a standard story progression or basic plotting you’re going to be sorely disappointed. To be honest, the first time I picked up the book I realized in a matter of pages that I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to sort through its puzzles, and put it aside for later. Is it crazy and out there? Absolutely. That’s not a bad thing, though. Gaylord Phoenix rewards its readers, with a modern-day myth that unfolds before their eyes. I’m glad I took the time to give it a proper chance, and I’ll be curious to see whatever Fake does next. ( By readaboutcomics.com )