Nut Ink. Mini reviews of texts old and new. No fuss. No plot spoilers. No adverts. Occasional competency.

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Sandman Presents: Petrefax (2000)

Author: Mike Carey  |  Illustrator: Steve Leialoha  |  Page Count: 88 (22 x 4)

"I had fallen in love with a dead woman.
I asked myself if this was irony or merely an occupational hazard..."

A four issue miniseries that follows Petrefax, the apprentice undertaker from the necropolis Litharge, who first appeared in The Sandman: Vol VIII: Worlds' End (1994).  He's now a journeyman, seeking life experience in the wider, weirder world.  His travels take him to the bustling Malegrise, a place that brings to mind England of centuries gone by; the biggest difference being that 18th Century England wasn't home to sorcerers and demons (as far as we know).

I'm glad it was Carey that was given the job of writing the miniseries.  It suits his talents perfectly.  He was sole author of the ongoing Lucifer series at the same time Petrefax was published, but there's no evidence that he was stretching himself too thin.  In fact, the reverse seems to be the case.  He must've been on a creative high, because both works are excellent.

It's not just the undertaker's tale.  It's also the story of the people he meets, among them a spirited, overconfident, beautiful woman and a vulgar, powerful Lord.  Each one adds something unique to an adventure filled with death, love, jealousy, problem-solving, stupidity, surreptitious behaviour and much more.

Text boxes take the form of an ongoing letter penned by Petrefax and addressed to his master, Klaproth, the man, you may remember, to whom he was apprenticed in Litharge.  It’s both a commentary on events from the journeyman’s own point of view and an insight into his thought process.  As such, it's safe to assume one of two things: that for Petrefax the story has already ended and we’re reading about it afterwards, or that the meeting of present happenings (image) and future reflection (words) passed onto the reader is simply a literary device giving us a fuller picture with the added benefit of hindsight, something that was denied the protagonists at the time.

4 funerary arts out of 5

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