One thing I have learned so far during this Comic-A-Week project is that reviewing comics and graphic novels is hard. What is the most important element of the story? Is it the illustration? Is it the story? Of course, it’s both. It’s the way the dialog and story interact with each other, it’s the way the art adds to the words and vice versa.
After being a Spanish major for so long, it takes a lot to impress me with magical realism. I’ve read the best, so if you’re going to add to the genre, you better do a damn fine job. Fortunately Urrea and Cardinale’s Mr. Mendoza’s Paintbrush did impress me and, thankfully, it is an excellent example of the way in which art can perfectly compliment a story.
Urrea and Cardinale are pulling on a lot of traditions here, but they manage to create a story that is not only charming, but original. Like any myth, Mr. Mendoza’s Paintbrush takes a physical object and a real person, plus the fantastic elements, to represent something bigger, though I don’t want to give away what that is. The magical realism in Mr. Mendoza’s Paintbrush is playful and, well, magical.
The art is absolutely gorgeous. Christopher Cardinale also paints murals, so it’s difficult not to think immediately of Diego Rivera, husband of Frida Kahlo. Even though his art clearly evoked elements of Rivera’s style, Cardinale is very much his own artist. I loved his use of expressive, large faces and the color work is gorgeous. I often prefer black and white comics, but I probably wouldn’t if every comic were as beautifully colored as Mr. Mendoza’s Paintbrush.
I’ve almost been avoiding Urrea’s work because I have never been sure how I would like it. Now that I have read Mr. Mendoza’s Paintbrush, I fully expect to pick the rest of his work in the future.
So go read this!: now | tomorrow | next week | next month | next year | when you’ve exhausted your TBR pile