cover image The Sculptor

The Sculptor

Scott McCloud. Roaring Brook/First Second, $29.99 (496p) ISBN 978-1-59643-573-5

After previously explaining the art of making, reading, and understanding comics in his trilogy of essential guides to the medium, McCloud, in this gloriously romantic graphic novel, doesn't just define a genre%E2%80%94he exemplifies it. David Smith is a morbid, prickly New York sculptor tortured by the one-by-one deaths of his family members and his inability to make art, when he runs into his Uncle Harry, who just happens to be dead. Harry's Faustian offer is all the better for being delivered deadpan ("Trust me, it'll all make sense at sunrise"). In exchange for gaining the ability to mold any material into any shape he wants, sans tools, David is given just 200 days to live and achieve his dreams of greatness. But having this skill doesn't allow David to escape from his grumpy, rules-bound personality. Success and happiness don't come easily, even after a beautiful actress with a surplus of personality and baggage flies (literally) into his arms. The fractious love story and operatic swoons of despair play out against the harsh reality of a cutthroat art market and deftly handled flights of fantasy. Drawn in sharp, sure-handed lines that jump from intimate blocks of wry but poignant interactions with other characters to dramatically realized city scenery, McCloud's epic generates magic and makes an early play for graphic novel of the year. (Feb.)