THE SEATTLE-BASED comics artist Jim Woodring draws surreal, hallucinatory comics about imagined creatures in alien landscapes. His best-known series is called Frank—it follows the titular character, a buck-toothed, bipedal cat-thing, through the "Unifactor", a universe populated by card-playing chickens, moon-headed demigods, and more.
Woodring's first full-length graphic novel is set in the world of the Frank comics. Regular, rectangular panels are the only thing conventional about Weathercraft, which follows the metaphysical mishaps of Manhog, a blank-eyed, snout-nosed creature who wanders naked through Woodring's pages, on a journey of self-realization disguised as a vivid, botanically inventive acid trip.
Parsing Weathercraft's wordless universe requires complete commitment on the part of the reader—Manhog follows a traceable character arc from depravity to redemption, but nothing else here is remotely familiar. A cat lifts a leg and births a procession of puppies and elephants; Manhog climbs through a wall and emerges from the mouth of a fish. But while the creatures and scenarios in Woodring's world are fantastical, they're drawn with the precision of a woodcarving, black-and-white space shaded with ever-present wavy lines. This precision is crucial, with no words to guide the story—as an exercise in purely visual storytelling, Weathercraft is both challenge and reward.