Disclaimer: Bio-Whale was reviewed using a digital review copy provided by PEOW! Studio.
The first thing Bio-Whale hits you with is color. Vibrant pinks and blues are splashed over the pages, a spectrum of carnival cotton candy. It’s the sort of book that seems like it would feel good in your hands, a little raw around the edges maybe, indulgent with inks. The physical copy of the comic is 100 pages, printed in two books joined with a wraparound cover, and I’m sure the colors pop better in hand than on screen. Ville Kallio’s linework is blue, with no blacks to break up the splotchy paints.
The city is experiencing a heatwave, and that linework gets hazy with it, focusing in and out as our POV characters shift. The story has four sections, each somewhat simultaneous tales of nameless people who are drawn to the Bio-Whale, which is a dream, a drone, and a sad trick. There’s very little dialogue, but the book is bustling with movement. The pace is hard to pin down; like a dream, the timing ebbs and flows. Sometimes single movements will take up a few panels, like a long reach for a coffee cup, and some moments take a whole page. But these never seem too drawn out, the silence of the book meaning you can savor it so slide past it however quickly you’d like.
The comic starts with a dream. The Bio-Whale reoccurs in dreams, but what is a Bio-Whale? There are forums devoted to it online, and our second POV character reads them without empathy for the posters who think the Bio-Whales are more than drones, that they think and feel, too. He’s interested in hunting one.
Then it starts to gets really trippy. The art gets almost jarringly cartoony as the story progresses, but it fits the psychedelia of the colors and the story line. It also adds an element of intrigue—what parts of the story are meant to be literal, what parts aren’t. Maybe you’ll decide it doesn’t matter as much as just experiencing the book. I initially had a little bit of trouble realizing we’d switched protagonists at first, due to the simplicity of the characters’ features, but the sections each have a title page alerting you to the character you’ll follow around, so that helped clear it up. The simplicity, however, even in the faces, doesn’t diminish the way Bio-Whale is full of quiet, detailed moments, and unsettled feelings. That uncertainty is highlighted each time the paint hovers around the inks, just off-set or bleeding out. It’s less concerned about motivations then making sure you are swept up in the minutia of what is happening. It’s fitting, then, that the most talkative character is a fly, who zooms past each character in each section. She tells you her feelings, a little voice of anxiety or relief to go along with the scenes laid out in florescent highlighter blue and pink.
This is the type of book that might be best read with a mellow buzz and some time to do a reread—you’ll want to loop right around and page through it a second time. You can order Bio-Whale on the PEOW! Studio site now.