cover image Pompeii


Frank Santoro. PictureBox (D.A.P., dist.), $19.95 (144p) ISBN 978-1-939-79910-4

As the geometric delineations surrounding a trio of Greco-Roman busts on the cover suggest, Santoro’s latest is composed with an attentiveness toward structure, both narrative and aesthetic. The story centers on Marcus, a young painter’s apprentice in Pompeii, who must abet his master’s lascivious endeavors while dealing with his own personal frustrations, all just days before the historic eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. Working off a basic three-tiered layout, Santoro employs subtle visual symmetry and careful composition in each spread to move the reader along what is a fairly mundane and (because of its inevitable conclusion) inconsequential plot. However, like the art, which forgoes technical polish for rough spontaneity, the story finds its strength in form rather than content. Such formal juxtapositions include two overlapping love triangles, master-vs.-servant/old-vs.-young dichotomies, and the eternal vs. the ephemeral. Awareness of said infrastructure not only enhances the reading experience, but also provides an illuminating blueprint to sequential art in general. (Sept.)