Review: ‘The Picture Of Everything’ #3 Reveals Basil Hallward’s Backstory And Master Plan
by Olly MacNamee
In Dan Watters and Kishore Mohen’s ‘The Picture of Everything’ #3 we learn more about Basil’s mature plan as well as delve into his recent history and exactly how he manages to still be living after the events of ‘A Picture of Dorian Gray‘. A fascinating mix of gothicism and art history with the boundaries between real life and fiction blurring even further.
The strange tale of Basil Hallward, holed up in Paris when he should really be dead, continues apace in The Picture of Everything #3 from writer Dan Watters and artist Kishore Mohan.
Like the gothic novel it is inspired by, the dialogue and reactions of the characters is all rather strait-laced and proper. Very high society. Marcel, Basil and Alphonse – Marcel’s friend and Basil’s apprentice – all talk about murder and attempted murder like they would the politics of the day around the dining room table. Etiquette, it would seem, is still the order of the day, even when discussing the most foul of crimes.
Meanwhile, we should not forget that in many ways this is also a book informed by the art of the era. An exciting time to be an artist in Paris, most definitely. As such, this interest in art is reflected in Mohan’s own artwork, as much as it is in the supernatural actions of Hallward. While Hallward transforms Paris with his paintbrush, Mohan incorporates this interest in the arts – that this series is also fascinated with – in the varied styles he brings into play. In this issue alone he is clearly mixing his media with not just the appliance of water colours, but also the use of charcoal too. And in doing so, apes the actions of Hallward to transform his surroundings through art. It’s all very meta if you ask me.
As this issue progresses, and the polite conversations continue as they stroll through Paris, and we get a reminder that this book is also intrigued by the city itself, with Watters adding his own tourist guide’s patter to events through the words of his cast, specifically Hallward. A man, who I might add again, should by all recognition be dead already. Although, we do finally get an answer to that particular riddle in this issue in a scene illustrated in the charcoal I mentioned earlier. An art style and technique that works really welling employing a suitably gothic tone to this infamous scene from The Picture of Dorian Gray, rewritten by Watters here. As secret origins go, it’s not the most dynamic you’ll have read, but it certainly offers up a totally believable backstory for Basil’s reappearance in Paris. And that’s good enough for me. Especially when presented in this particular way.
Furthermore, art begins to imitate real life too, but you’ll have to pick up this issue to know what particular real-life events Hallward comments on in particular. Events not too far removed from Basil’s own fortunes.
By the time we return to the blood-red skies over Notre Dame, it’s like turning on a light after some while in dark room. And all awhile what we were really witnessing was one more mad megalomaniac slowly informing the would-be hero of their diabolical plans. Plans that are grandiose in scale and should leave the reader’s jaw well and truly on the floor.
The slow build up of tension and slowly revealed gothic horror is in keeping with the gothic genre as it developed in literature. This is a very different style of horror to that of the silver screen. And ti that told in Home Sick Pilots, also written by Watters. The medium really is the message here and comics, like books, don’t really do sudden shock that makes you jump out of your seat very easily. And so it makes sense of this series to follow in the literary footsteps of the past. And this issue is a great example of the same narrative pace and tension you will find in a number of classic gothic novels.
The plot, and paint, thickens, and the stakes have been raised. So, how can a lowly art critic hope to overcome a growingly unstable Basil Hallward? I doubt a bad review is going to do it, do you?
The Picture of Everything #3 is out now from Vault Comics