Scott McCloud’s The Sculptor is a weighty read. And I don’t just mean the actual physical weight of the book (though it is a thick, heavy book). I’m talking about the story, it’s implications and how it’s stuck with me even though I finished the last page months ago.
David Smith is a struggling artist. He’s visited by the ghost of his dead uncle and given a choice — give up art and live a long life with marriage, children, etc. or live two hundred more days and be able to create as much art as he wants. David chooses the shorter life and art, but he finds, as with all choices, there are pros and cons to it. A pro is he can create art faster and more effectively than ever before. A con is that his friends and agent find it hard to believe he’s creating this much art so rapidly.
Another con is that just as David’s life has an expiration date, he meets a girl and falls in love. At first it appears a one-sided love (she’s dating someone else) but soon the two are falling in love.
The interesting thing about The Sculptor is that the love affair is rich, complicated, wonderful and messy — sometimes all within a few panels of each other. Meg has her issues and isn’t the “perfect” love interest. But she’s a great fit for David — at least for most of the run of this story. Where McCloud takes our characters and this story is profoundly moving — going from the great excitement of the early days of a relationship to the hard work that comes in keeping the relationship going. McCloud doesn’t shy away from some of the harder issues facing our couple nor does he come up with any easy answers for them.
All this might be enough but what elevates the story is the art work by McCloud. It would be easy to rush through the story, only glancing at the artwork but to do so is to sell The Sculptor very, very short. I found myself pausing many times to just marvel at the artwork and the world that McCloud had created here.
I also liked the fact that McCloud has created chapters to this story. As I said before, it’s a long, thick, heavy book and one that I don’t think necessarily benefits from being read in one sitting. I read it in several sittings and each chapter felt long enough to be satisfying. It also helps you to have a natural break so you can slow down, appreciate the art and maybe go back to revisit a few favorite panels or pages.
The Sculptor is a magnificent, well told, moving story. Highly recommended.