The new graphic novel from Chisholm tells the story of a frustrated musician’s attempts to snatch fame and glory with the help of a mysterious trumpet.
Why play music? For trumpeter Tom Snyder, the answer is for his talents to be recognized. For the other members of his quintet—who generally content themselves playing to tiny or nonexistent audiences—the motivation is more experiential, playing for the joy and camaraderie of it. Philosophical discourse peppers the story, whether wrestling with this central question or moving further afield to ponder the value of studying jazz in school, the origin of creative inspiration, and whether knowledge is an end in and of itself. These headier elements are grounded by a pulpy plot where Tom—despondent in his obscurity—receives a special trumpet that exponentially elevates his playing and finally brings him the notoriety he craves. But each spectacular performance takes a toll, both on Tom and those around him—and perhaps even on the world itself. While the subject matter (struggling artist granted exceptional skill at a terrible cost) and pontification bring to mind Scott McCloud’s The Sculptor, Chisholm enticingly injects his story with occult themes, tying Tom’s trumpet to the frequency of creation itself and the historical/mythological power of musical instruments (such as the biblical account of a horn knocking down Jericho’s walls). Chisholm’s sumptuous art has the fluidity and chiaroscuro of Paul Pope’s work, though with a more cartoonish tinge. Strategically ambitious paneling underscores otherworldly elements. The compelling threads don’t quite weave together into a classic (the epic gets shortchanged for the personal, and the abundance of conversation topics creates a scattershot feel), but the book nevertheless offers striking visuals and a provocative tableau. (Includes music download by musician Chisholm.)
Strong illustrations and intriguing story elements in need of more harmony.