Book: Mixtape #1
Author: Manta Ray
On the cover of Mixtape #1 is a hand holding a red heart. Usually used sarcastically, the singer Sting used the phrase very earnestly in a song in 1985, which probably helped make it more popular. There’s a section in Sting’s song “Be Still My Beating Heart” that goes like this:
“I’ve been to every single book I know
To soothe the thoughts that plague me so
Stop before you start
Be still my beating heart.”
Those familiar with the song may find themselves humming it while reading Mixtape #1. Reading seems to be an odd word to describe the experience of going through a graphic novel, particularly when it rests as much on imagery as the stories in Mixtape #1 do. However, Manta Ray has a skill for picking storytellers who can fill silences with drama. They hinted at this talent with Hush, a graphic novel about child sexual abuse, and they’ve proved it with Mixtape #1, in which the most moving of the stories are told without a single word.
Mixtape #1 is a compilation of four graphic shorts (the kid brother of the graphic novel). They’re beautifully illustrated, particularly “Rather Lovely Thing” and “The Silver Spider”. “The Silver Spider” (story by Praveen K Nair and art by Devaki Neogi) is strikingly cinematic in the way it shows different perspectives and initially seems to be an Indian Spiderman. A boy goes out for a walk in a grassy area and a spider bites his foot. But the boy doesn’t end up filling out a latex bodysuit. It’s darker, more silvery and contains many, many more spiders than most readers would expect. In the heart-rending “Rather Lovely Thing” (story by Pratheek Thomas and art by Archana Sreenivasan), about a woman buries a part of herself at the root of a tree, is the only one that uses a dash of colour. The almost-cartoonish drawing styles of these two stories contrast sharply with the themes of the stories. This incongruity serves to highlight the ominous quality of “The Silvery Spider” and the quiet sadness of “Rather Lovely Thing.”
The other two stories have artwork that is far more realistic and they move almost like a film’s storyboard. “Voyeur” (story by Pratheek Thomas and art by Sachin Somasundaran) is about a man who watches his neighbours make love and it hovers between black humour and flat-out creepiness. Fittingly, the artwork uses a wide palette of greys. “My Beloved” (story by Tina Thomas and art by Jasjyot Singh Hans) is a love triangle between two women and a man. Ultimately, it’s difficult to tell who is the real victim among the three.
Compared to the eeriness and subtlety of the first three stories, “My Beloved” is perhaps the simplest and also the least satisfying. It’s a neat little vignette and is the most grounded in reality, both in terms of story as well as its artwork. It’s also the wordiest of the four. However, there’s little tantalising about it. While the other three stories leave you wondering what happened next, there’s no intrigue at the end of “My Beloved.”
Spend Rs55 and buy yourself a copy of Mixtape #1. It comes with a bonus: once you’re done “reading” it, at least “The Silver Spider”, “Rather Lovely Thing” and the cover can double up as art for your walls.
See mantaraycomics.tumblr.com for details.