Still trapped within the windowless maze of the Control Corps psychiatric facility, Kabuki fights her inner demons and learns to resist the hospital’s insidious attempts to control her. We get to meet some of Kabuki’s fellow inmates as this episode unfolds: MC Square, a math genius who is convinced that she’s found the secret to time travel; an ex-psychologist driven insane by a former patient; and Buddha reincarnated in the body of a psychic ex-government agent. Metamorphosis unfolds around a detailed portrait of Kabuki’s mysterious new friend Akemi, a creative thinker obsessed by paper, words, and sculpture. As these variously insane women work together to free Kabuki from her nightmarish captivity Kabuki herself is forced to come to terms with her own image of herself. Through paintings, Rorschach tests, secret communications, dreams, and hallucinations Kabuki is beginning to piece together a new identity for herself, casting off her association with the Noh and her quest for revenge.
For me, the Kabuki series just gets better from one volume to the next, reaching a graphic and textual pinnacle with Metamorphosis. It is fascinating to chart Mack’s development as a writer and an artist from the elegantly simple style and elliptical plot of Circle of Blood to the poetic revelations and layered imagery of Volumes 4 and 5. Technical elements such as pacing and continuity are handled more skillfully by now as well, making Metamorphosis a satisfying and intriguing read. It is hard to avoid hyperbole when describing the artwork in this volume: Mack’s command of his many mediums is awe-inspiring. Commentaries by Bill Sienkiewicz and John Sayles act as bookends for the story, providing the best analysis yet of Mack’s work.