Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Wednesday Comics: The Chuckling Whatsit

Richard Sala's The Chuckling Whatsit is an oft-kilter, occasional absurdist noir mystery, like maybe something Tim Burton might do at his most serious or the Coen Brothers being a little Gothic. Of course. It's the story of an outsider artist, a doomed couple of escaped mental patients, a serial killer who may have started up again after more than a decade and is killing newspaper astrologers, mysterious assassins--and a hack reporter caught in the middle.

The dingus (to use Sam Spade's term for a particular MacGuffin) in this case is a missing manuscript, but the more iconic Maltese Falcon analog is the titular Chuckling Whatsit, a strange doll that laughs when shaken, and is either the creation of the deceased recluse Emile Jarnac--or something far older and more sinister, depending on which of the unreliable and eccentric informants you believe.

Sala deftly untangles what appears to be one incomprehensible knot of mystery into several throughlines that have only appeared to be the same thread by Chandler-esque serendity, then collapses them all for a climax that is satisfying, but still enigmatic. It's potrayed in Sala's cartoony but gloomy style, reminiscent of Edward Gorey or Charles Addams.

If you've never read any Sala, this is a good, meaty one to start with.

1 comment:

Ben L. said...

I enjoy Sala quite a lot