Review: The Sculptor by Scott McCloud

Monday, February 16, 2015
Title: The Sculptor
Author: Scott McCloud
Genre: graphic novel, supernatural
Series: N/A
Pages: 496
Source: publishers for review
Published: February 3 2015
Rating: 4.25/5

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.

The Sculptor was my first graphic novel ever -- at age 27, no less. And, having raced through this tome in just over a day desperate to see how it all plays out, I don't know if I can continue exploring within this medium. I have no idea how anything that comes after will match my experience reading The Sculptor -- in terms of plot, character, emotions, everything. I was definitely not expecting to be carried away as much as I was, but with David and Meg and Ollie, Scott McCloud has created something pretty damn wonderful. It's heartwrenching and funny and sometimes just fun, but also full of honest emotion and human struggle. It's not always pretty but it holds a lot of meaning.

The myriad emotions at the heart of The Sculptor shape the story in so many small but meaningful ways. David's frustrated passion and stubbornness, Meg's giving heart and depression, Ollie's yearning for love and misguided attempts... all spoke to me so much and carried each on their own individual paths. These are imperfect people trying their best -- and though David's story seems to be ending with the deal he makes in the first section of the novel, he learns a lot and changes authentically throughout the nearly 500 page course of the novel. And while David is the main character and the focus of the novel, he nearly loses all attention to Meg, his love interest and so much more. Meg is complicated and messy and imperfect; ferociously, amazingly opinionated and at the same time fragile.

What I loved about these characters is that they aren't mere caricatures. Meg isn't the trope she seems at first, and neither is David. Meg so nearly was a MPDG but McCloud gives her plenty of depth and a magnetic personality all her own. David seems to fit the bill of "obsessed failing artist" pretty closely but McCloud doesn't let his main character stagnate. Watching David try and fail, try and fail before figuring ~things~ out is cathartic and relateable -- and also totally believable for all the special abilities he is granted. He has talent, but like Meg, he is imperfect and makes mistakes along the way while trying so so hard to fill his definition of success. They grow as people and they grow together; I defy you not to get major feels as their relationship matures and deepens.

The Sculptor is heartfelt and heart-wrenching and nearly perfect. It's good in so many ways it became almost painful to leave the characters behind after the ending. The urge is to race through and absorb as much as possible but with Scott McCloud's art, it's really worth it to take your time and really pay attention and truly get to know Meg and David and their version of NYC. The visual medium worked so well for me here that I can't be anything but impressed with this novel as a whole. Some parts were a taaaad predictable (the eventual relationship, the inevitable regret, etc.) but I was also completely surprised by a turn late laaate into the story.

Scott McCloud was a a great author to introduce me to graphic novels as a medium for stories. The Sculptor may veer a tad close to a few established fictional tropes but his deft authorial touch saves what could sound rote on paper into something truly unique and lovely.

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