Sticks and Stones
Release date: 09/01/2004
Correction: Due to an editing error, the title of Brewster Milton Robertson's previous book was listed incorrectly (Forecasts, Aug. 9). It is The Grail Mystique .
Kuper is one of the masters of wordless comics, and his earlier works, from Metamorphosis to his recent reinvention of the Spy vs. Spy series in MAD , has showcased his fierce political wit and lushly textured, stencil-based, woodcut-inspired design sense. This allegory about the vanities of empire is both a story for children and a political commentary for their parents. A stone giant is born from a volcano and demands the fealty of the people around him. He makes them build him a stone castle; then he discovers a nearby peaceful village made entirely of wood and sets about conquering it and plundering its resources. Meanwhile, a small resistance front develops, led by a woman from the stone tribe and a boy from the wood tribe, and eventually the stone empire and its despot meet a grim fate. Kuper's narrative is beautifully constructed, from its grand sweep to its minute details. It's hard to give characters distinct personalities in a silent allegory, especially with such stylized drawing, but Kuper pulls it off by giving everyone ingeniously exaggerated body language. Almost every page is a joy to look at: even the landscape echoes the story's mood, and the spray speckles of Kuper's stencil technique become the grain of the tale's rocks and sky. (Oct. 5)