Sean Ferrell

Taken out of a timeline each tragedy seems epic, because without a wider context they are the entirety of the context.


Publisher: First Second Books
ISBN: 1-59643-095-8
Price: 12.95
Writer: Lewis Trondheim
Length: 96
Formats: Trade Paperback
US publication date: 2006-04

A.L.I.E.E.E.N. by Lewis Trondheim is a children's book I would never show my children; I'm too interested in keeping it for myself. This comic, which Trondheim claims he found while on a walk through the woods, is the first extra-terrestrial comic published on Earth. Whether Trondheim found it or made it is inconsequential. I am willing to argue that it is, in fact, extra terrestrial in nature because nothing in it is expected or easily deciphered. It is simple, symbolic, literal and figurative.

This is a book of symbols, analogies, and impacting images which make quick connections and resonate. While originally published in France the translation must have taken about 2 seconds because all the dialog is written in an alien alphabet -- symbols which have no clear meaning or key. What is said is clear -- it's easy enough to decipher what might be meant by any given balloon -- and unimportant. A hiker comforts a friend who is hurt, he finds a doctor, he questions the doctor's practices. All of these moments could be understood by anyone, of nearly any age. What makes them evocative and mature is that the hiker is a yellow alien bird, his friend has gouged out his eyes, and the doctor's attempts to help involves a closeted freak that tongue's the victim's eye sockets.

Don't get me wrong, this is all very funny. All of the characters are cute, even the scary ones. It's like a children's book turned to questions of deceit, social anarchy, witchcraft and medical malpractice.

And like a children's book, A.L.I.E.E.E.N is powerfully emotive. You feel bad for our blinded blue dog-like creature, and his helpful yellow bird. You long for the tall fellow, and hope he'll help the victims of the shit flood. What's more, you know why he won't. We've all been stung by hope, by loneliness. We recognize its form if not the language which presents it. It's the universal in the stories that is amazing. Given to ten people from ten cultures, would they find the same story? I don't know, but certainly there would be powerful commonalities between their readings.

What is ultimately so engaging is that these tales are loosely interconnected stories that loop around themselves. They invite rereading. A timeline could probably be created, a map showing the order in which all the strange events take place, but it's as unnecessary as deciphering the language. What more will you gain? Is it important to know when your heart was broken, before or after the flood? When you lost your sight? When your friends deserted you, or worse, beat you to fit in with bullies? Before or after lunch? Who cares. What matters is the events, in themselves, and the impact they have. Taken out of a timeline each tragedy seems epic, because without a wider context they are the entirety of the context. The shit flood reaches to the horizon. It will never end. In A.L.I.E.E.E.N or in our world. Ultimately, this book stays with you.





The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.


The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.


Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.


'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.


'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"


Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.


The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".


GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".


Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".


Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.


Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.


The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".


Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.


Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.