Shelves: graphic-novels , fantasy , recommended-by-friends , speechless-upon-finishing Wow. Dave McKean, you need to do more solo work, because this was spectacular. As an artist, McKean has a keen no pun intended eye for composition and a skilled hand for form; every page is beautifully crafted and stylistically evocative, seamlessly blending a number of techniques, materials, and moods to tell an intricate visual story. His linework strikes a difficult and haunting balance between fine weightlessness and heavy schizophrenic uncertainty, while his broader brush strokes serve Wow.
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But McKean is also a fantastic writer in his own right, and Cages is a sterling example of that fact. Cages opens with an array of short prose pieces, each a variation on the idea of a creation story. This is one of several motifs that McKean revisits over the course of the book—both the creation of the cosmos and the making of art.
Leo Sabarsky, the central character of Cages, moves into a new apartment and finds that several of his neighbors are also involved in artistic disciplines, including Jonathan, a novelist, and Angel, a musician and poet. Leo struggles with being artistically blocked, wanders through the city, and begins to make connections with some of his fellow residents. Over time, the narrative evokes both the mundane work of attempting to find inspiration alongside surreal moments, including the appearance of a preternaturally intelligent cat and a group of sinister men who seem to have wandered in from a more Kafka-esque narrative.
A parrot residing in a cage factors heavily in one of the sequences. And, more broadly, McKean frequently uses a nine- or sixteen-panel grid, which also imposes a cage-like design on the page. Cages Interior Art by Dave McKean McKean structures the story as a showcase for his array of artistic styles: while most of the narrative is told in a boldly black-and-white manner, with impressive linework and spots of color, he occasionally veers into a more lush style to evoke a story being told, or veers into abstraction to document a strong emotional reaction.
McKean is equally at home working within a rigid page layout as he is veering into a much more abstract system.