Welcome back to the silent era. The dark, underground, sometimes violent, sometimes beautiful, make-you-think-long-and-hard silent era. Marcel Ruijters’ Troglodytes is a strange and exotic foray into the sans-dialogue world of a race of creatures that exists solely underground. Diverged long ago from the main arc of humanity, the stories of these Troglodytes are as unique and different from most graphic novel stories as the Troglodytes themselves are different from humanity. Falling deeply into parable and metaphor, Troglodytes is a refreshing, imaginative work likely to be overlooked by the mainstream, but destined to become an underground success. At least, that’s my humble prediction.
Marcel Ruijters does a one-man-band routine with Troglodytes, working as both writer and artist. The benefit of his endeavor is that the work exhibits a greater cohesion in regard to both narrative and visual art. Troglodytes is broken into seven small stories, some of which exhibit the tendencies of parable and, at times, fable. Others serve as metaphor for many of society’s social and even political problems. Ruijters obviously has a clear-cut vision of the world of his Troglodytes and conveys his messages with a staunch clarity…most of the time. When it’s firing on all cylinders, the writing of Troglodytes is, if you’ll pardon the pun, top shelf. But there are other times when the alien nature of Troglodytes runs counterintuitive to the messages of the narratives which are, obviously, intended to have a reverberation of familiarity.
Artistically Troglodytes is, for the majority of the time, a wonderful, rich, complex treat for the eyes. Ruijters’ textures are so well-defined, so alive, that the Troglodytes take on a weight and radiance hardly seen in sequential art. While the odd body structures of the Troglodytes can take a few pages to get used to, it soon becomes beautiful—in the strange way that melted glass is beautiful. However, when the artwork isn’t taking your breath away it’s busy being muddled and overactive and the details wash out into the darkness of the Troglodytes surroundings and one can’t help but feel they’ve been slighted just a little. To Ruijters’ credit, these times are rare.
Overall: 4 out of 5.
Cult classic in the making.