I managed to snag the last one of these from the Rebus Books table, although I think I’m going to have to buy another one from Amazon, since I want to keep one in pristine condition!
See, to “read” this book, you have to peel away perforated panels, exposing the book underneath. I have always kind of hated books that have be destroyed to be read, although there is a long tradition of this in France. It used to be common to print pages 4-up, folding the parent sheets in half long-ways and then again before being bound, meaning that, to read the book, you have to cut the top of the page edges. Of course, this destroys the value of the book, dichotomizing a book of value and a book that exists to be read. (This probably happened in places besides France, but I don’t have any experience with it.)
So, it isn’t unprecedented to create a book that needs to be manipulated (even defaced) in order to be read. The genius here, however, is that the story is about an autopsy, which is then represented physically in the book itself as the reader pulls the panels apart. On a theoretical level, there’s a lot to explore in the relation between text and image in comics, but expanding it into a third dimension is pretty novel. It’s been done with things like Chris Ware’s Building Stories model, although that, as a model, is more sterile. This book, on the other hand, doesn’t build anything physically permanent, in that it can be closed, opened, and repeated. Rather than building a structure, the reader assists in rendering the physicality of the plot of the book.
Seriously, these guys are operating on a level above everyone else working in comics. I’m more interested to see what they do next than pretty much everyone else. Don’t forget that last year they illustrated a genre story with babes and guns (and it was one of the best books of the year).