The Picture of Everything Else is a de facto sequel to Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray that retains its own subtle philosophical bent while expanding on the original’s concept. It’s a premise that’s fascinating to revisit in our current age of social media even if the story is set in Paris during the late 1890s.
As the 20th century dawns, art promises to change the world…and steep it in blood. A rash of impossible killings sweep through Paris, tearing the rich and beautiful apart in their beds. When two art thieves stumble upon the portraits of the victims damaged in the exact same manner they died, it appears the man who once painted the immortal portrait of Dorian Gray has returned-with darker plans for future works.
The Picture of Everything Else #1 opens with a criticism about art, or is it an observation?
The setting is Paris in 1897 and the art in question — a giant, framed photograph hung over a fireplace mantle — has its critics bemoaning the death of painted portraiture at the hands of a new medium: photography.
It’s a subtle cheekiness considering the main conceit of the source material that inspired The Picture of Everything Else, Oscar Wilde’s 1890 work The Picture of Dorian Gray, is one where a painted portrait paid the subject’s wages of sins. A Faustian bargain signed with a brushstroke.
Writer Dan Watters brings up an intriguing idea here: if a person can link their immortal soul to a painting, ala Gray, is there anything to the old saying that the camera steals your soul as well? That’s a fascinating idea especially in our current age of living digitally.
In that opening scene of The Picture of Everything Else, a character states that he paints to paint what the subject “is” while photography only captures things as they look.
Whether this is Watters’ commentary on our photography-saturated world remains to be seen. For the most part, The Picture of Everything Else acts as a de facto sequel to Wilde’s original story, expanding its concept while retaining a subtle philosophical bent.
In the first issue, the main characters Alphonse and Marcel are sophisticated free-spirited young men with a penchant for mischief and curiosity. This leads them to the residence of a mysterious artist only referred to as the “Englishman” with the intention of sneaking in and stealing some of his paintings. Meanwhile, there’s a Jack the Ripper-type serial killer roaming the streets of Paris…
Kishore Mohan’s art and waterbrushed coloring-style often evokes the Impressionist art of the era. It’s sometimes hazy, soft and flowing, especially during moments of intimacy or of spectacular violence.
The story is told through dialogue and if you’re not paying attention it’s very easy to miss a potentially relevant piece of information. This is especially true in the last few pages where the narration changes to two years later and we see the future and present (and so also the past) running simultaneously. This is a title that demands attention and rewards it.
A fair knowledge of Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray and its characters is recommended but not necessary since a major character of that story is revealed halfway through The Picture of Everything Else.
In both tales, it’s the vain that pay the price for their vanity. So have we, for that matter, in our current age of over-permeating social media. Mainly with our privacy, anxiety and attention-spans.
If anything, it seems like the tables have turned. Now it’s our pictures that stay ageless while the rest of us get older and bear the spiritual and psychological brunt of living. All the while, we represent ourselves to the world with as many disposable portraits as we want. The pictures have had their revenge and they won.
It’s a fascinating time to revisit this premise and I’m curious to see where Watters and Mohan go from here.
The Picture of Everything Else #1, by Vault Comics, released 23 December, 2020; Written by Dan Watters, art by Kishore Mohan, letters by Aditya Bidikar