Book Review: Celeste by I.N.J. Culbard
Staff Writer By: Ricky Grove (gToon)
I.N.J. Culbard is a veteran illustrator with a strong background in animation as well. Celeste is the first graphic novel where he also wrote the story as well as the illustrations. Culbard has always been considered a creative and original artists. His adaptation of Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness won him a British Fantasy award in 2011 for Best graphic novel adaptation. One can see the influence of Lovecraft in Celeste as a writer since Celeste sets up a world where the main characters have little control over forces that are far stronger (and stranger) than they can even imagine.
Essentially, Celeste tells the story of three different people located in three separate geographic locations on earth. Suddenly, everyone else around them disappears and they are left with an impossible situation while at the same time trying to understand and discover what is happening to them. Ray in Los Angeles, Lily in England and Yoshi in Japan, all react differently to their weird predicament.
Culbard alternates the stories of each of his characters in a slow, deliberate fashion while emphasizing visual storytelling over dialogue or description. And while he uses many tropes of the weird tale and science fiction, his use of them is original and surprising. He creates such a sense of the uncanny that you cannot predict what will happen next. He uses the traditional panels in comics/graphic novels in such a unique way that scenes and images linger long after you've finished reading.
Culbard's ability to depict landscape and location is remarkable. You get the feeling that the world he has created exists off of the page as well. Visual themes appear throughout Celeste that support and emphasize the theme of human connections and loss. You get the sense that he's trying to strip his characters down to what is essential about them by putting them in an impossible situation. "What is really important to us as human beings?", he asks.
Celeste is a work of an artist fully in control of his medium. His masterful use of color and image creates a rhythm on the page that transports the viewer and creates feelings of horror, surprise and excitement. There really is nothing quite like it. And what I find particularly enjoyable is that the story could only have been told using the graphic novel format.
If anyone ever asks you if a graphic novel could be art just loan them a copy of Celeste. This masterpiece rewards repeated readings and the imagery will stay with you much like scenes from a Lovecraft novel, an author he so obviously is influenced by. What is amazing, however, is that Culbard manages to improve and expand on that influence.
Celeste is a graphic novel masterpiece and should be read by any artists who wants to discover how to tell a visual story with characters that transcends its genre.
About I.N.J. Culbard
Culbard is an acclaimed animation director with considerable experience in directing commercials, developing projects for television, and producing and directing short films. His collaborator at SelfMadeHero is writer Ian Edginton
Celeste by I.N.J. Culbard