Friday, October 18, 2013
Pompeii by Frank Santoro
I was excited to see a comic talking about Pompeii. I've never read a comic Santoro-- though I have read his comic analysis essays (which I recommend y'all read, got to tcj.com)--so I didn't know what to expect from him or what type of stories he likes to cartoon.
This was a blind buy on my part but I love to buy blind and this is one buy that didn't disappoint.
Pompeii takes place days before the eruption, and a bit during the eruption. It tells the story of a young man (Marcus) who is a artist assistant to a well-regard painter in Pompeii, Flavius. Not only is he an artists assistant but is burdened with Flavius's secret: Flavius has another love interest and which Flavius trying to hide from his wife.
Through Marcus, we meet a handful of characters who are important to him and to the story. Though we only have a small cast, they are highly layered and nuanced. It's amazing to see Santoro give such deep characterizations within seconds. The way Santoro draws a character, the way they speak and move and look tells us a lot about them. It's a joy to read and know that these aren't just there to gets us from point A to point B but make us feel like they have lives outside the page/panel and aspirations.
At times it's so minimal, characters and emotions are shown through abstract lines. And it's never jolting or comes out-of-nowhere, everything seems meticulous throughout and Santoro guides us through a range of emotions.
Santoro's art and storytelling are stripped to their minimum, only what's essential to the story is shown, and it works really well. It's amazing how Santoro is able to capture a range of emotions with just very minimal lines. Those emotions come out perfectly through the characters facial expressions (which is the highlight of the comic, they're wonderfully done) and their body motions. At times it's so minimal that characters, expressions and emotions are shown through very abstract lines. Though these abstractions are never jolting or coming out-of-nowhere; everything seems meticulous throughout and Santoro guides us skillfully into them.
There were times where I just stopped a page or panel so I can soak in the emotions and be amazed by how expressive Santoro's characters or how skilled of a drawer Santoro is.
His panels are very minimal as well, one tier three panels is the structure mostly used in the comic and it works perfectly; it's very formalist. And when he's not using panels in that order, Santoro uses huge expansive panels to show a bursts of emotions or landscapes or characters that are ruling the story at that point. They are used to grab us, make us want to delve into them and explore them.
This is one comic you cannot pass up this year. Read it and be immersed into Marcus's life and those who pass through it.