Monday, November 5, 2012

Salem Brownstone: All Along the Watchtowers

Salem Brownstone: All Along the WatchtowersSalem Brownstone: All Along the Watchtowers by John Harris Dunning
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If it was possible to divorce the art of this graphic novel from its underlying story, I would be writing a five star review. Nikhil Singh's artwork is stunning - the sort of thing that would be seen by Aubrey Beardsley and Franz Kafka if the two were to share an acid blotter. It truly is gorgeous and intricate work in the grim vein of Edward Gorey, but with greater detail and an expressionistic streak that contorts (I use the word deliberately) the art noveau baseline.

The story, however, is hackneyed and feels like it stutters throughout. I was never really drawn in by the plot, though the title character is, if not believable, at least distinct from the rest of the characters in the book (most of which I felt were carbon copies of each other or different aspects of a single Gothotype). Dunning distributes deus ex-machina like cheap peppermint candy canes being handed out by a department store Santa, and his lead-the-reader-by-the-nose method of explaining what should organically percolate out of dialogue, staging, etc, is off-putting.

It's really a shame that such a poor plotline could spoil such wonderful artwork. Yet another graphic novel that should have no words, but half-again the art, which could have been used to great effect to tell the story without telling the story.

One star for plot, five stars for art - we meet in the middle, unfortunately, at three stars.

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