Review: The Sculptor

It is easy to tell that The Sculptor was created by Scott McCloud.  Even if you somehow failed to identify his clean, distinctive art style, the writing displays all his predilections in both content and style. I’m a pretty big fan of those predilections, so I enjoyed The Sculptor quite a bit.

Most of McCloud’s work comments on art and the struggle to create it, and this is the central theme of The Sculptor. McCloud centers his narrative on a gifted and driven sculptor who makes a nearly literal deal with the Devil to improve his chances of making his creative mark. This is the kind of character that McCloud does well.  Several of his Zot! villains are cut from this cloth as well as some of his heroes. McCloud’s own drive, coupled with his obsessive study and theorizing about art seem to make his driven artist archetypes particularly believable.  His sculptor is no different.

Within that setup, McCloud wears his heart on his sleeve.  His characters all make their wants and needs and hopes and dreams very clear to us as readers, and we’re invited to root for them unabashedly.  There’s not much wondering about anyone’s motives or purity of heart.  Even the central love story is carried out as much through declaration as through any innuendo.  Everyone is very direct; when he resorts to symbolism to drive a point home, it’s of the most direct sort.

In some hands, that could feel very simplistic. And Sculptor is simple in many ways, but McCloud’s winning sincerity makes the directness feel like clarity when it could feel like laziness.  The story is a bg sincere puppy, and such animals are tough to dislike.

It’s also surprising that McCloud can keep narrative tension without any real villains in the story.  Each character seems to represent a different attitude about making art in addition to having a personality and perspective.  While there are clearly differences in how much sympathy McCloud has in their perspectives, none is portrayed as being irretrievably wrong or without some merit. This reflects his inclusive bent toward other artists, but the occasional bad guy to hiss at does help focus attention.  Even his deal with the Devil is diluted into a deal with Death, who has the sculptor’s interests in mind to an extent; the real enemy is the rules of the deal rather than a malevolent supernatural force.

Overall there’s a lot to like about The Sculptor, but I can understand some people being more bored than inspired.


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