January 17, 2016

Review: The Sculptor

The Sculptor The Sculptor by Scott McCloud
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm just starting to dip my toe into the graphic-novel waters, and this is a helluva rock to trip over. I checked it out because I've seen it recommended by, among others, George RR Martin.

Well, they're right. This is just amazing.

This is a story about art, and life, and how much of the latter one is willing to sacrifice for the former. In the case of David Smith, the price he will pay is his life: he makes a deal with Death to be able to sculpt anything and everything he envisions. It's sort of a superhero power, to work stone, iron and any other medium with his bare hands like wet sand--but he has to use that power within 200 days, before he dies.

Just because he can now create these amazing sculptures doesn't mean he's suddenly famous. In fact, this becomes one of the many weighty questions tackled by this story: just what is fame, what does it mean, what is "celebrity" and is it worth it, and how does art tie with with fame and life and celebrity and love.

David can't outwit his fate. He agreed to this bargain, and he follows it through to the bitter end. Even more so, because during that 200 days he falls in love. If there's one knock against this book, it's how the author treats the character of Meg--for crying out loud, he didn't need to kill her off just as David's time was drawing to an end. That felt cheap and unnecessary. There was quite enough power and emotional resonance to the basic setup without resorting to the refrigerator.

The art was rather odd for a graphic novel. Others I've seen have had full-color panels; these are blue and black. Yet the art grew on me, to the point where I didn't miss the other colors. McCloud does wonderfully well with his limited palette, especially in the last few pages of the book when David's life flashes before his eyes. This is a powerful, poignant story, and it should be up for awards--and will be, if I have anything to say about it.

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