Safari Honeymoon by Jesse Jacobs
If anyone ever asks you what’s so great about comics - and, you know, they’re asking it with a pissy or smarmy attitude, the kind of thing that would most likely accompany that question anyhow - Safari Honeymoon might be the best Exhibit A in the argument you are bound to make. Jesse Jacobs’ work here accentuates everything that comics are great at, and serves as a perfect example of what the comics medium can really achieve that no other medium can in quite the same way.
For instance, cliches, formulas, familiar chestnuts, stereotypes, whatever you want to call them. Comics have a way of riffing off established familiarity better than any other medium. These can actually be a strength in comics. In Safari Honeymoon, the type is the ugly rich American going on a safari and expecting the finer things in life while supposedly roughing it in nature. He paid good money to rough it, he want’s a top-quality experience, and he’s going to complain to the guide about to make sure he gets one.
That whisks in the next type - the suffering and apologetic wife - who interacts with the third character types - the sympathetic hired person who begins to appear as some sort of competition with the husband for the wife’s approval.
These familiar relationships are the ground you can keep your feet firmly planted on, though. They are necessary to Safari Honeymoon’s success, because what surrounds these have absolutely nothing familiar about it.
Jacobs’ story doesn’t just unfold as a standard safari with personal reckoning,. It takes place in a wonderland of imagination and alien graphic design. No lions or elephants, but wrinkly, squirmy lumps with tentacels and sharp choppers, No quicksand, but temporal displacement pockets. And even the natural parasites of the wild take an absurdist bent, as with one creature who enters into and replaces the human tongue in a symbiotic releationship.
With the ingredients allowing the work to unfold with sharp humor and the kind of strangeness that draws you into something that might typically operate at an arm’s length, Safari Honeymoon is drenched in alienness that actually seems alien, if reminiscent of Basil Wolverton in a delightful way. Jacobs packs the pages with weird plant growths and creepy crawlies that sometimes frame the humans like a wall of aliens in various shades of green, immersive and impossible to make sense of, both for the reader and the characters.
And that’s what comics can do better than anything else - mix design with setting, where not only are the immediate landscapes in the comics actual characters of equal measure with any humans or aliens or whatever - the layout, the color choices, all of it becomes a living, breathing presence. Specifically, a living, breathing presence that is as mysterious and confusing to the reader as to the characters. Jacobs’ people are trapped in an alien world, but they’re also trapped in an alien realization of their own story. It’s levels upon levels that sucks the reader into a parallel experience, culminating in the kind of inevitable pscyhedelia that comes from a mind not being able to process its situation.
It’s a beautiful kind of disorientation, really.