“Awrt doesn’t really imitate life, postcards do…”
The Grey Museum
by Lorenz Peter
review by BK Munn
The Grey Museum is a wonderfully weird comic book. Lorenz Peter made his mark with 2005’s Dark Adaptation, a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age graphic memoir about cancer and generational conflict on the prairies that signaled a radical change in tone and subject matter from much of his previous work. But real life is boring and there are bigger fish to fry! Peter’s new book is a heady, funky melange of concepts and cliches that seem at first glance to be working against each other in an awkward, counter-intuitive mess. The characters for the most part are all quirky “types,” introduced at the beginning of the book in one- or two-line capsule descriptions (acid case, factory worker), but through the course of the narrative and through unexpected transformations many of them come to feel slightly more substantial. Quite the trick, since, although it starts out as apocalyptic science fiction, the book quickly transforms into one big artistic environmental allegory, with the characters more-or-less intended as pawns in a larger game between alien races, abstract concepts of time and cosmic harmony, and ancient unnamed deities resembling Gaia and Hades (if Hades was a chaos-loving, shades-wearing, afro-sporting 70s pick-up artist who clothes his unwilling human mates in dresses made of encrusted serpent semen). Peter’s conceit here is that civilization ended in 1999 and Earth has become a gigantic museum of horrible conceptual art created by an alien race of coffee-swilling, spa-loving “Greys,” identical, clone-like suits who worship art historian Sister Wendy, and whose ultimate weapon is a ray that turns entire planets into postcards. The barren planet is populated by robots and the reanimated corpses of corporate shills (notably an entrepreneur who sells the skins of endangered species and a pair of naked newsanchors doomed to read the non-news to nobody for centuries). Enter our little rag-tag group, human occupants of an interstellar space ark, rescued from deep space by a pair of squabbling galactic collectors enamoured of all of Earth’s junk culture (Billy Ocean vinyl records, Ikea). The return of humans to Earth sets off a complicated series of events, including a journey though the underworld, that eventually kickstarts the mystical life process. Rendered in chaotically-controlled pen and ink (and of course, an all-suffusing grey wash), The Grey Museum is a goofy romp, its sometimes horrific scenes and cartoon violence made palatable by Peter’s fluid story-drawing, cute-creepy lithe figures, and odd juxtapositions.