Art is a powerful medium. It has the ability to affect our emotions, act as a means of conversation and can even transcend perception. It is no wonder why comic books can have so many different styles of art, albeit shackled into the framework of a story be writers. The Electric Sublime, from IDW, takes this idea a little further; what if art could have an almost palpable affect on real life?
The book starts with the Mona Lisa, somehow being changed. From there, pretty much all hell breaks loose. Also in play are a rash of killings and suicides across the world, all seemingly disparate with the exception of the an odd line drawing of a face with a winking eye. The director of Bureau of Artistic Integrity Margot Breslin is called in to investigate with really only plea, “We’re going to need Art Brut.” Arthur Brut is something of a recluse, if you call being holed up in a psychiatric ward on meds reclusive. As the story unfolds we see the reasons for the seclusion for Art and his sidekick Manny.
W. Maxwell Prince, a writer from New York, takes the idea of art and practically explodes it. The set up is a murder mystery with elements of, I am tempted to say pretension but I feel that is too harsh. Prince looks at art and through his creation, Art Brut, takes the reader on a journey of semi magic and different perspectives. The idea of an alternative world hidden in paintings is used effectively, even if at it simplest form, I am reminded of the Flash Rogue, Mirror Master. The characters in the book at first glance fall into grumpy cop and crazy genius; it’s Manny that provides the bridge. The dialogue in the book is engaging, drawing you into to Breslin’s reality before the swipe of a paint brush changes the texture and composition.
For a book like this, the artwork needs to be top-notch. Up to the plate steps Martin Morazzo who delivers a great looking book, with a style that is reminiscent of the great Barry Windsor Smith and more recently Alberto Ponticelli in AfterShock’s Second Sight. Morazzo’s starts the book with a mix of traditional art and photo manipulations to show the art in the Louvre. From there, its more traditional stylings, which has mature feel to it. With the tone of the book changing throughout the book, Morazzo does well to keep the characters grounded. You can’t look a this book without tipping your hat to colourist Mat Lopes, who may have the hardest job in translating Prince’s story onto the page through the variety of colors against the backdrop of mundane world.
This isn’t my normal type of book. Still, I am glad that I have read it. The story could be seen as a “where does an artist get his or her ideas from?” The mix between Breslin, who thinks she knows everything and Brut, who does actually know everything is well-defined. It will be interesting to see how the series plays out as we move further into Brut’s world.
Writing – 4 Stars
Art 4 Stars
Colors – 5 Stars
W. Maxwell Prince (w) • Martin Morazzo (a & c)