& Review: The Sculptor by Scott McCloud

The Sculptor by Scott McCloud. Graphic Novel. Publisher: First Second.

The Sculptor by Scott McCloud. Graphic Novel. Publisher: First Second.

The Book Itself: Eye-catching (I find most graphic novel covers to be that way, especially if I like the artist’s work). The title “sculpted” into a brick wall, the girl coming out of the brick work…very cool.

My Review: David Smith is giving his life for his art—literally. Thanks to a deal with Death, the young sculptor gets his childhood wish: to sculpt anything he can imagine with his bare hands. But now that he only has 200 days to live, deciding  what  to create is harder than he thought, and discovering the love of his life at the 11th hour isn’t making it any easier! 

This is a story of desire taken to the edge of reason and beyond; of the frantic, clumsy dance steps of young love; and a gorgeous, street-level portrait of the world’s greatest city. It’s about the small, warm, human moments of everyday life…and the great surging forces that lie just under the surface. Scott McCloud wrote the book on how comics work; now he vaults into great fiction with a breathtaking, funny, and unforgettable new work.

This book caught my eye as it sat on a feature table at my work. Scott McCloud, I thought. Where have I heard that name before? A quick Goodreads detour revealed that he is responsible for such famous books on comics as Understanding Comics, Making Comics, and Reinventing Comics. His name sounded so familiar because I have a very talented artist friend who loves the comic art form. When she’s had to send me things in the mail, she’s decorated the envelopes with sketches of things like woodland creatures baking cookies. A caricature that she drew of me was my Facebook profile picture for a couple of weeks.

But enough about my friend Hannah (Hey, Hannah!!). The Sculptor is delightful. You can definitely see that McCloud knows his stuff. The artistic style is really on point. The character’s expressions, and the inventive way McCloud utilizes speech bubbles (so skillfully that you forget it’s a comic, that it’s a speech bubble spouting from someone’s head), are impressive, to say the least. And the way plot twists are laid out really gets you turning pages.

You really start to feel for the characters, and you ache a little when the story ends. The premise alone sets you up for some heartbreak: this guy is going to die in 200 days, and partway through that, he meets and falls in love with someone (who just happens to be a little damaged too – character flaws are well-rendered here too). But the journey to this deal’s end is a long and tangled one. David’s success doesn’t come as easy as he would hope. In fact, his first exhibition kind of flops. He’s crazy awkward around women, he makes misstep after misstep when it comes to his lady love, and he’s moody and depressing and somehow, still brilliant.

The book had a lot to say about art and commercialism and living in the big NYC. I liked that it was a gritty graphic novel. It dealt with real, complex issues in a way that was visually beautiful.

The ending felt a tad clumsy…without spoiling the whole thing, you have to pause at the end to suss out what’s real, and how the book really…ended. For such a solid book, it was an ambiguous ending, and I felt the story deserved more (and the sunshine and rainbows half of me wanted it of course to end happily for everyone!)

Great art, that has a lot to say about art itself. The ending brought the work down a little, but it’s a story that makes you think about it long after you’ve turned the last page.

My Grade: B

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