Maxwell Prince wrote One Week in the Library and Judas: The Last Days.
Martin Morazzo has drawn for Snowfall, Great Pacific, Marvel’s Nighthawk, and Network (Arcana)
Mat Lopes has worked on Vampirella, Marvel’s Civil War II, X-Files: Year Zero, Black Bat, Orphan Black, Daredevil, Wonder Woman, and many more.
This is the third of four issues, and the penultimate issue of a miniseries or story arc always bears a heavy burden. It has to wrap up the exposition without giving everything away. It has to foreshadow the ending without giving that away either. The penultimate issue has to set up the awesomeness of the final issue without being anything less than awesome itself.
Heavy lies the crown on the creative team of Prince, Morazzo, and Lopes. Fortunately, these three gentlemen ooze awesomeness.
The basic premise is that the world inside pieces of art is connected to our “real” world. A bipolar art detective is the key to a series of increasingly bizarre crimes that threaten both worlds.
The BAI, an FBI for art-related crimes, calls on institutionalized formed art detective Art Brut to investigate these crimes, aided by the director of the BAI and his six-inch drawing mannequin, Art enters the world inside paintings, a realm he calls the Electric Sublime.
Meanwhile, Margot the director investigates the most recent attack, a mass self-mutilation at an art class.
A shadowy villain with an Andy Warhol fixation seeks to use mentally ill children with artistic talents similar to Brut’s to allow him access to the Sublime. Art and Manny see the child inside a painting, and while inside of Edward Munch’s The Scream, a horrific crime takes place.
Prince’s writing is deep and highly literate. It is a simultaneous meditation on art, mental illness, and semiotics. At the same time, it is a fascinating mystery with a truly unique detective. He manages to move the plot along at a solid pace, while giving huge amounts of exposition. Prince manages to challenge readers without losing them.
Morazzo’s artwork is courageous. He takes tremendous risks, mixing not only panel structures and layouts, but also perspectives and even styles, sometimes within a single panel. Some of his pages have standard organization, some feature partial of full page splashes, but some have blurred and undefined borders, in keeping with the plot of the story. At one point, he mixes abstract impressionism with hyper-realism in a single panel to devastating effect.
Lopes work as a colorist is very impressive. He has to move and shift palettes from the real world to different aspects of the Sublime. Each requires a different touch. Some differences are subtle, while others carry powerful impact. Keeping up with Morazzo, as different elements fuse and merge, Lopes does likewise with his colors.
Readers need to go back and get the first two issues in order to understand this third issue. The plot is far too complex to simply “jump in” at this point.
This third issue of a four-issue miniseries is truly amazing in how it brings story and art together in a story about art, life, and madness. The writing is highly literate, and unafraid to play to be so. Too many comics refuse to challenge readers to think beyond the page. This is not one. The artwork and colors are daring, unafraid to take wild risks and making them work out spectacularly.
While this creative team’s work can be called bold or even iconoclastic, the best word to describe The Electric Sublime is brilliant.
Written by: W. Maxwell Prince
Illustrated by: Martin Morazzo