My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I can't think of a time in my forty odd years that I wasn't a graphic novel fan. Even so I mostly go for the superheroes or fantasy ones and this just plays at the edge of urban fantasy. Still, I was excited to win this from a Goodreads Giveaway (which does not influence my opinion of the book). I didn't know what to expect, of course, and one of those unexpected things (mostly because I always forget to look) is the sheer size of this tome. It's one meaty graphic novel.
It opens with David Smith, a down and out sculptor. He's drunk and more or less down to his last dollar. His only friend, Ollie, who seems to be an art impresario and even Ollie can't help David's career. David has managed to piss off his benefactor a while back and the man crushed David's career in return. It's here at the lowest ebb enters Death (I'll leave it for you to discover the neat way this is accomplished).
Death offers David a Faustian deal. He'll be able to create art by just willing it and in return David will die in 200 days. David's career is already dead; his family is completely gone; he's about to lose his apartment; he has no love in his life. It sounds great. Yes he'll die young but what does he have to live for? And this way he'll be remembered forever as a great artist.
What David didn't consider is Death never promised his art would be a success and every door seems closed to David. Just then a woman enters his life, Meg and that's when everything changes. She takes him in when he has nothing. Things seem possible. However there are complications with Ollie and the art world and things just aren't going the way David is desperate to make them go.
I loved this. There's a tag on the cover by Neil Gaiman saying this is the best graphic novel he's read in years. It is definitely one of the best, I agree. Other than the shaping materials by hand, this is almost contemporary fiction and I'm not one for that so to be this caught up in this story says something about it. I'm not promising a happy ending here and to be honest, David's a bit of a jackass. He's hard to like but his flaws are very real. They resonate. Who doesn't want to be remembered. Meg has a passage that strikes at the heart of this story and into our lives 'Everyone is forgotten. It's like dying. It just takes longer.' We all want to be remembered. As I pass through mid-life with no kids (nor has my only sibling) I think about this often. Who will remember me? I really can see this story making some people ugly-cry. The art is very nice, in black and white with a blue-grey wash to it. Note: This isn't for kids. It's adult subject matter and there is some nudity.
I do have one spoiler so you might want to stop reading here if you don't want to see it.
just giving you space to look away.
Death says something that's not really addressed by David. It might go over his head. Death is tied to a family member of David's and in that form feels emotions. He feels every death as he replays their life for them. He can't fade until the last of David's family is gone. That puts a very dark spin on the whole thing (and I figured out the one last tragedy David would suffer as a result).
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