by Beth C.
I. N. J. Culbard is an author, artist, and animator with a variety of award-winning projects under his belt. Most recently, he has done graphic novel adaptations of H.P. Lovecraft stories for SelfMadeHero. Celeste, also published by SelfMadeHero, is Culbard’s first full-length original graphic novel.
Celeste has a little bit of everything: sci-fi, fantasy, thrills, romance, even horror. It’s a unique and compelling reading experience. The story follows three people in three different geographic locations: Ray in Los Angles, Lilly in London, and a man (named Yoshi in the publisher’s synopsis, but he remains unnamed in the book) in Japan. The story alternates every handful of pages following each character in turn. This storytelling method often leads to surprises, gasp-inducing events, and mini-cliffhangers. At times, there are two-page spreads featuring the panels for all three characters at once with the earth and the moon in the background. This arrangement not only looks spectacular, but it also reinforces the circumstance that all three people are in eerily empty environments devoid of life.
Culbard’s work is a true pager turner, as you really have no idea what is going to happen next. But despite all the unknowns, at no point did I feel confused. On a couple of occasions, I literally had to close the book and catch my breath — I was caught up in the anticipation of what was going to happen next, and I needed time to process a suddenly freaky and surprising turn of events! And even though, admittedly, I do not fully grasp (or partially grasp) the symbolic meaning behind the pink flower petal, Culbard still presents an exceptional story with darn fine illustrations.
Celeste does have a smidgen of violence, profanity, nudity, and suggestive sexual content, so this book is definitely for ages 18 and up. Normally, I shy away from this type of content, but the narrative and art completely won me over, and I was hooked from the beginning.
Like another SelfMadeHero title that was published late last year, Aama, Volume 1: The Smell of Warm Dust, Culbard’s is another one of those stories that you can only give a vague-ish, yet glowing, review of — anything more would spoil the story. Celeste is outstanding, and there is a lot to think about while you are reading and after you have turned the last page. Mind=blown.
Get your copy of Celeste, as well as other SelfMadeHero books: