Writer/artist Scott McCloud, of Understanding Comics fame, turns in an ambitious and thoughtful new work.
David Smith is a twenty-something sculptor already abused and washed out of a cruel system, the modern art world. He lives by his own code; one of whose tenets is never accept charity. That’s tough to do in New York City, as his free apartment's lease is expiring and he’s down to his last dollar. When he meets Death on the street (in a familiar guise), he gets an offer: he can live for only 200 more days but be able to sculpt anything he can imagine. Depressed and half-suicidal anyway, David takes the deal. Of course that’s when he meets Meg, who turns out to be the love of his life. Now that David has this amazing ability, how does he use it? Sculpting up a storm of new pieces, he tries his former art outlet with less than desired results. Then he hits on a brilliant new canvas for his work; the city of New York.
The ideas and concepts of The Sculptor are universal. Although David himself is not a likable character, the supporting cast has their moments. Most of them are portrayed as real and relatable human beings. Meg has issues with depression, his best friend is a selfish and lonely gay man who does not have his best interests at heart. Death stays in touch throughout the book, reminding David how many days he has left and urging him to accomplish great things. There are some curves in the end leading to a bittersweet but satisfying conclusion. And McCloud’s renditions of David’s sculptures are brilliant and wondrous to behold.
While well paced and plotted, some of the relationships in the book, especially David and Meg, fail to connect emotionally to the reader. But that is a somewhat minor quibble overall. Clocking in at 500 pages, The Sculptor features some weighty themes resulting in a substantial, rewarding read.
Rating: **** out of 5 stars