Thomas Ott creates picture books for grown-ups. Twisted, visually compelling, sometimes-nightmarish picture books. His stories are articulated solely through image, without dialogue or exposition. Ott’s beautifully textured art stands out from many other comics, as he uses black and white marks to carve out figures and spaces rather than describe them with line. The results are alternately luminous and ominous, with an obsessive quality due to the density of marks. Expressive faces and gestures, along with striking compositions, propel the viewer quickly through the pages, but they also invite second and third examinations.
The Number 73304-23-4153-6-96-8 is a longer, stand-alone piece which likewise deals in dark and gory themes. Twist endings, play with scale and perspective, and ghoulish humor are among the visual and narrative hallmarks of Ott’s work. In Cinema Panopticum, a girl finds a machine inside a fairground tent which serves as the entry point for four morbid, ironic stories.
In The Number 73304-23-4153-6-96-8 the narrative is structured through cyclic events, as randomness and significance become tangled, along with causal questions of will and determinism. To be sure, many of the tropes and themes here have been done before and with more nuance. But Ott’s skill in visual storytelling gives weight to the work, and yielding to the flow of beautiful illustrations brings plenty of enjoyment. Anyone whose tastes run to the eccentric and devilish will appreciate these volumes.