The beautiful, carefully compiled Eldorado showcases Tobias Schalken’s diverse and original work in all its glory. Surprising surreal paintings provide moments of calm between short stories that are so different they could have been written by several authors. Eldorado is a clear testament to Schalken’s unique imagination and craftsmanship.
Content-wise, this collection digs deeper than the experimental comics that first brought Schalken international recognition. These stories leave a lasting impression as the artist translates the theme of adolescent alienation into captivating literary comics. In Thirteen, for example, the images show only the settings of various teen hangouts, while the text describes their actions and feelings. The Lights of Home and the title story, Eldorado, are about girls who feel uncomfortable in their own families, both told in a style similar to that of Daniel Clowes or Adrian Tomine.
Schalken still poses compositional challenges for himself, but never without reason. In That Bright Land, a man is walking with his dog down deserted streets and across empty landscapes as if he is the last soul on earth. The wordless narrative reinforces the character’s loneliness. Another textless story, The Final Frontier, playfully illustrates the fundamental inaccessibility of the other in the form of a loving embrace in the void.
In the collection’s more mysterious comics, there is little to be drawn from the illustrations, and the imaginative text plays a more dominant role. From teenage angst to poetry, from artistic slapstick to bitter jokes about human naivety, Eldorado has it all.