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I read Cages, which is written and illustred by Dave McKean, right after Signal to Noise, one of his many collaborations with Neil Gaiman. Cages is McKean on his own, and it shows, in new and pleasant ways, but also in some slightly tiresome ways. I like it; I think it’s very well done, and the characterization is strong. Other people think it’s good as well: it won the Alph-Art, Pantera, and Harvey Awards for best Graphic Novel, according to the HarperCollins blurb on Coraline.

I especially like the multiple foci, a story for each tenant of the boarding house. I’m not as much a fan of his more out-there visual experimentation, because it distracted me from the story at times. You can tell your story through words or pictures, but the story is king. Whenever your experimentation is visible, it defeats itself. His other experimentation was brilliant, however, and gave the story extra layers of depth and beauty.

I liked the sense of ambiguity. A cat is a man is a shape-shifting cat is the crazy lady’s husband. Everything is interwoven. He answers enough questions to satisfy, but leaves enough open that, in the end, you’re left wondering about the how. The romance between the painter and the botanist is believable and beautiful; it seems fragile but well paced, and worked especially well when juxtaposed with the writer’s tense, ragged marriage.

McKean is a jazz pianist, and as he talks broadly about creativity, and the act of creation–first through the creation myths he includes in the beginning, and then later when a blocked painter can’t paint–but he also delves a bit into jazz. A musician named Angel said many things I found to be a bit indecipherable, because I don’t understand jazz, but McKean’s love of the genre prompted me to get a book from the library about jazz, in hopes of being able to better enjoy it. Still haven’t read the book, of course, but I’m looking forward to it.

All in all, a good comic, and worthwhile.

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