|A Family Matter by Will Eisner|
|Category: Graphic Novels|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A visually splendid tale of a fractured family, but the details of the story left a slightly sour taste. Not this artist's best.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 80||Date: September 2009|
|Publisher: W W Norton and Co|
Some sons, some daughters, even a shy, semi-abandoned great nephew, are all gathering in the home of a ninety year old stroke victim for what may be his last birthday celebration. It seems like they are all licking their lips at the thought of a future inheritance. We've heard before of a nuclear family, is this one about to get too radioactive?
Eisner's skill as an artist is perfectly evident from very early on here. Full-page splash pages show us the kind of cityscape and building several of the family members are departing from on their trip back to the paternal home. All characters are introduced to us in lightning quick fashion, and with the most clarity such few black inkstrokes can offer. The layout is mostly a regular 2x3 grid, imposed upon some kind of painted wash background, but there is more in this too. Flashbacks and interior thoughts are heralded by wispy, forested lines encircling them, and wavy lettering. Every frame is Eisner, unmistakably - and the reasons for me saying that are all positive.
It's just a shame then that the story held less appeal to me. The unsavoury family members include some going over the top in their nastiness - the catty, pride-raddled one most of all. The sexy, vampish one seems to be putting memories of sexual abuse to one side in order to cuddle up to the old man and try and get/remain in his good books to the end. The younger members are too gnomic in their attitude to what makes a family, and what is good or bad about theirs.
There is also too much introduced to us here. The story touches on euthanasia, the inheritance of family traits as well as money and estate, the failure of too many people to consider what their family is doing for them until they have upped sticks and left. While generally a lot of in-depth detail would be a positive thing, and I appreciate the way the rich content - including swings from comedy to most serious - are included in so few pages, here too much for me was too crass, too blunt, and far too cartoonishly broad. Clearly, then, not fitting the genius of the images.
I must thank W W Norton for my review copy.
I have written before about how unique Eisner's skills were, and it is unfortunate this is not the best evidence of these. For more background, and a better introduction, click to The Dreamer. For a graphic novel with a very serious, non-fiction look at another ballistic family, we recommend Dragonslippers by Rosalind Penfold.
You can read more book reviews or buy A Family Matter by Will Eisner at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy A Family Matter by Will Eisner at Amazon.com.
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