The Masque of the Red Death (Fine Art Edition) by Edgar Allan Poe and Steven Archer
Raw Dog Screaming Press (January 13, 2021)
72 pages; $26.95 paperback; $9.99 e-book
Reviewed by Anton Cancre
I know what you are thinking: we can all get this story for free. At the very least, we can get it in a collection with plenty of other stories and poems by Edgar Allan Poe. Why would anyone want to pay $27?
The answer is simple, friends: this is an art book just as much as it is a story. It isn’t just illustrated, but reinterpreted by the artist. It is a new form of this old tale, brought to the present by an understanding of our current concerns. And it is friggin’ beautiful, my friends.
Steven Archer’s rough, aggressive art style compliments the flow and imagery of the original story, as well as adding in its own layers of meaning and impact. The edges aren’t sharp; they bleed over into one another, just as the disease erases the firm lines we draw between each other. Archer also chooses to focus on the parasitic nature of the American ruling class and the arrogance that comes with it. If I am not incorrect, there is a specific nod in the images to our dear Prince Prospero that made me quite happy.
No, this book isn’t for everyone. It’s visceral and angry and full of the artist’s own feelings related to the original work. But if you, like me, are particularly drawn to how art of the past affects the present, or how different art forms and pieces can inform and build on each other to create something new, then you will dig the crap out of this.