Mr. Mendoza’s Paintbrush

Luis Alberto Urrea and Christopher Cardinale, Cinco Punto (www.cincopuntos.com), $17.95 paper (64p) ISBN 978-1-933693-23-1
This lovely comics adaptation of a short story by major Latino writer Urrea may have found the ideal way to present magical realism graphically. As a boy growing up in the little town of Rosario, the narrator observes things in the natural world around him wonderfully ripening, but he also catches glimpses of marvelous forces that intrude into mundane life. Mr. Mendoza, meanwhile, is offended by the small-minded pomp and hypocrisy of the townspeople and posts his observations in sometimes scathing, sometimes enigmatic graffiti written on objects, animals, and people. Cardinale presents this in a mixture of crosshatching and scratchboard style that makes each panel resemble a static woodcut—but one that interacts dynamically with surrounding action. The scenes look only temporarily solid, an especially appropriate condition for the story’s conclusion, when Mendoza abandons the town by climbing steps he draws in the air. A different level of “realism” in the art wouldn’t have maintained the ambiguity that makes the tale’s magic so hauntingly effective. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/03/2010
Release date: 06/01/2010
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