Review: The Sculptor

The Sculptor


The flat I live in is the smallest place I've ever lived. It's because 10 years ago I moved to London. To claw back space I had to get rid of – literally – thousands of DVDs (I now own two) and hundreds of books. I remember subsequently going through my Amazon history and realising everything from 2002 to 2005 was now in a charity shop.

My bookshelves remain at capacity, which means every time I make a new purchase I have to run this equation: Am I willing to either remove an item to make room for it, or pass this one along when I'm done?

I've just finished reading The Sculptor by Scott McCloud and I've already secured it a new home. For me, it's not a keeper.

You'll have heard of the publication, it arrives much feted. It tells the story of David Smith, a self-obsessed artist whose life has been marred by tragedy, but tragedy that has been used in the past to market his work. Now he's lost momentum, and belief. He strikes a deal with Death – who takes on the form of his late great uncle – to magically mould the world around him, but in exchange for the fact he'll only have 200 days to live.

Then he falls in love.

As one would expect from McCloud – who remains one of the most engaging and brilliant communicators in the comics world – the book (which weighs in at 500 pages, thereby demanding a lot of shelf real estate) is quite superbly put together; 'camera-angles' smartly judged, perspective is flawless, and his use of tone is terrific, drawing your eye keenly to the point of each panel. As a storyteller, he's unsurpassed. But as a writer, he's lacking.

The characters throughout all speak in the same voice, an exclamatory manner, with feelings constantly verbalised. When David and Meg fall in love, we know because they tell us so… constantly. It's a strange tone throughout, almost adolescent.

By the end of the thing – which is an easy read, no question – I felt rather empty. Big questions about the value of art and immortality had certainly been posited, but then thoroughly chewed out by all the characters they touched. The Sculptor left the reader (or at least this reader) with nothing to do.

And yet I'm calling this a three-star book, that never-fancied, but still 'above average' score. That's entirely due to McCloud's technical brilliance. Do read The Sculptor, there's a lot to absorb – but only in the telling, rather than what is told.