Book Review: The Sculptor – Scott McCloud

sculptor-scott-mccloudTitle: The Sculptor
Author: Scott McCloud
ISBN: 9781596435735
Pages: 496
Release Date: February 3, 2015
Publisher: First Second
Genre: Comics, Contemporary Fiction
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary:

David Smith is a sculptor, but he hasn’t been able to catch a break and he feels like his chance is slipping away. He makes a deal with Death: He will have the chance to acquire all the fame and fortune he’s ever desired, to be remembered forever, but he only has 200 days to do it. After that, he dies. What David doesn’t realize is that the eternal fame might not be what he truly wants out of life.

Review:

The Sculptor is a graphic novel that comics fans have been waiting for for a very long time, and it absolutely lives up to all the hopes, dreams, and expectations everyone had for it. Scott McCloud is a giant of the comics world, and this book is an excellent example of all of his promise.

McCloud manages to capture David in all his misery in The Sculptor, showing the reader just how down on his luck that David is. The reader can understand his depression, though it seems self-indulgent at times. David isn’t the most mature person, as evidenced by the deal he makes with Death. He’s ready and willing to trade his future for the glory of the moment. He can’t imagine doing anything else besides his art; it’s his soul and his reason for being. What David doesn’t expect is, that, in his 200 remaining days, he might find something to live for besides his art. It’s a heartbreaking turn of events that David faces. He forgets that there’s more to life than just fame and fortune. It’s the little moments of joy and happiness that make life worth living.

What’s remarkable about The Sculptor is that this is a story that couldn’t have been told any other way. Through his panels, McCloud really captures David’s anguish, his frustration, his total lack of self-awareness. We see his misery, and his immaturity; we feel his pain. David is a truly flawed character, and McCloud flaunts those on every panel. He doesn’t try to hide them, and they somehow make David more endearing. The reader wants David to find a reason to live other than his art, to make a human connection, but at the same time, is it too late for David? I can’t describe how the art tells the story; its moody colors set the emotional tone and McCloud’s genius is spread across each and every page.

I don’t want to give away too much of The Sculptor‘s story because the joy and gut-wrenching heartbreak of the book lie within its unfolding story. Learning about the journey that David is on and seeing him grow and change are so rewarding, and yet there’s always the fear that it’s already too late for David. This novel is incredibly well done; if you’re someone new to comics and looking to dive in, don’t let the length of this novel stop you. You’ll find yourself so immersed in it that the pages fly by as you are intent on discovering the ending to David’s story.

Other books by Scott McCloud:

Understanding Comics

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Book Review: Understanding Comics – Scott McCloud

understanding comics coverTitle: Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art
Author: Scott McCloud
ISBN: 9780060976255
Pages: 224
Release Date: April 27, 1994
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: Nonfiction, Comics
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary:

In this book, Scott McCloud helps the reader understand how comics tell a story and how they function as a medium for delivering a narrative.

Snapshot Review:

Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art is an incredible resource if you’re searching for a vocabulary to discuss comics and want to understand how the different elements of comics work together to tell a story.

Full Review:

When you are used to reviewing in a certain medium, it can often be hard to jump directly into reviewing a different kind. For me, that’s (clearly) books; I feel confident that I know how to deconstruct a book and that I have the knowledge to really analyze and understand its different components. But when I started reading and reviewing more comics and graphic novels, I realized I was out of my depth. I didn’t know how to talk about comics; the art was always an afterthought in my reviews and I didn’t understand how everything came together in order to tell the story; I tended to just focus on the words. So when a friend recommended Understanding Comics as a way for me to find a vocabulary to talk about them, I knew this was definitely a book I needed to read.

I’ve been reading more and more comics lately (I’ll be writing for the site Panels when it debuts), but I didn’t quite understand how they affected me or how to really talk about them. Understanding Comics breaks things down to the most basic level, building them up with each page. And it’s so fascinating how McCloud uses art to do this; this book is itself a comic, and it’s not a book that really could have been written in narrative prose form. That, in and of itself, conveyed to me how effective comics are at telling a story, and how sometimes they can be more effective than a book-book (clearly I don’t have all the vocabulary yet).

There are many aspects of Understanding Comics that are valuable, but perhaps the most is the detail that McCloud goes into. As I mentioned, he breaks things down into their most basic elements, and then puts them back together. Readers can see how comics are constructed and brought together, and that makes a huge difference in comprehending how they function. Most of all, I began to understand how the layout of a page, the size of a panel, the shades of coloring (or lack thereof), and even the straightness of the lines the art is drawn with change the way I interpret the story. Rather than an afterthought I mention at the end of a review, the artwork is central to the narrative, just as important (or even more so?) than the words.

If you’re a casual explorer of comics and don’t really care to know the ins and outs of it, then Understanding Comics may be a bit much for you. But if, like me, you feel the need to understand things, especially if you’re a reviewer searching for the vocabulary to discuss comics, then this is an absolutely invaluable read. I originally got this book from the library but ended up purchasing it after I saw just how valuable of a resource it was.

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Buy this book from your local Indiebound bookstore

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