When Scott McCloud announced he would be releasing his first new graphic novel in nine years, I knew I would be first in line to read it. McCloud is an outstanding writer and artist, best known for his books on comics Understanding Comics, Reinventing Comics, and Making Comics.
I also knew his work from Zot!, the superhero series he did in the '80s and early '90s and from the various webcomics he did on his website. (I would recommend reading all of his Morning Improv - most of them are hilarious.) Zot! explored a lot of themes that mainstream comics wouldn't touch for years, including frank discussions of sex and sexuality and his webcomics used a lot of experimental techniques to tell various stories.
So today I sat down and read his new graphic novel, The Sculptor, from cover to cover.
And holy shit, he's still got it.
The Sculptor is the tale of David Smith, a down on his luck sculptor, when one day he meets Death. And Death offers him a deal: David will be able to sculpt anything with his bare hands, but in exchange, he will die in 200 days. David says yes.
On the face of it, this is a simple story. It's a modern urban fairy tale, straight out of the Faustian "Deal with the Devil" trope. Except Death isn't really malevolent. And David knows the consequences. He just doesn't care. He will give anything — even his life — for his art. He takes his 200 days and starts his work.
There are, of course, complications. The first one is the fact that David is flat broke and his landlord is just waiting to kick him out. The second one is the fact that David tended to burn his bridges in the art world, so it's hard to get back in even with his new ability.
And the third one is Meg. Meg is an actress David meets during a street performance called "The Sad Man." David is the "Sad Man" and Meg dressed as an angel and told him "Everything will be all right."
David is falling in love with Meg.
But David is going to die.
McCloud's artwork is simply amazing. He uses panel length and frequency in an impressive way. Everything has a dreamlike flow to it. The story itself sometimes take sideways twists, but you can always see how it was headed there.
If you enjoy non-superhero graphic novels (like Jeff Lemire's The Underwater Welder), I would recommend picking this up. It's just incredible. You won't regret it.