9.02.2008

Graphic Novel Of The Month

Mesmo Delivery (AdHouse Books): As one of the creators showcased in the Eisner Award winning 5 along with Fabio Moon, Gabriel Ba, Becky Cloonan, and Vasilis Lolos, Rafael Grampa has now burst onto the scene as part of the unofficial “Brazilian Invasion.” For me, a comparison to Paul Pope is inevitable, with the thick and inky lines which conspire to fill a dirty and inhabited world. Maybe it’s all the work both creators have done for Diesel clothiers, but their aesthetic leans hard on what feels real, how clothes hang from a person, and facial expressions that perfectly capture a complex emotion, moment in time, or meaning fueled story beat. What starts as a straight low level crime story around the MacGuffin of a mysterious shipment, builds to hint at a much larger story and world that many future tales, and let’s hope future books, could be told from. I really enjoyed the first-person perspective of the boss that organizes the delivery. This character, who we never actually get a full visual on, actually calls to mind images of Lawrence Tierney’s character Joe Cabot in Reservoir Dogs or Peter Falk’s character Max in Favreau’s film Made. That’s really a testament to the power of Grampa’s pencils and homage to genre fiction that he’s capable of infusing his work with. The crimson palette gives a dangerous, yet understated swagger to all of the characters, most evident in the knife wielding companion to the driver. We’re simply waiting for this odd character to leap forth in a frenetic fury of violence, his actions telegraphed from quirky dialogue and fun character building – and Grampa doesn’t disappoint. The quick advertisement interludes help achieve a gritty and dusty reality that could use Bruce Springsteen’s 1982 album Nebraska (one song told from the POV of a serial killer on the run, ala Terrence Malick’s Badlands… Terrence Malick? The Thin Red Line? Anyone? Bueller... Bueller...) as its bleak soundtrack. It would be easy to dismiss the off-putting grindhouse cinema style of violence as just sensationalism (albeit well done), but you can’t overlook the ethereal and fantastical that’s bound so seamlessly to the work. There’s the interesting imagery of raven colored crows that bookend the piece, and the grinning devil waiting patiently as he wrings his hands in anticipation below the surface of this plane of existence. These elements suggest a deeper level of meaning is at play and forces the audience to consider the abstract nature inherent in such an overt and intense display of the visceral testament to the madness of men. Perhaps the best compliment to pay is that I now want more of Rafael Grampa and I don’t care what the content is. Whether it’s something wholly original or specifically this world fleshed out with another adventure, he’s now a buy on sight creator. Grade A.

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