From skyscraper to subway, fat cats to the homeless, here’s the Big Apple envisioned by one of America’s top graphic-novelists—a town without pity but teeming with terrific tales.
Melodramatic chiaroscuro, head-spinning zooms from distance to extreme close-up, Gumby-like body language and muscle-twisting grimaces—the entire slam-bang-boom stock-in-trade of comic-book art is on display in this collection. By now, such eye candy is a bit clichéd, but Eisner (1917–2005) was one of its prime confectioners. The Brooklyn-born artist (The Plot, 2005, etc.) honed his draughtsmanship over a four-decade career beginning in the ’40s, and indeed, his way with a line was exceptional—his architecture impresses, his expressiveness rivals Daumier’s. As a storyteller, his keynote was pathos. In “The Building,” Monroe Mensh never gets over his failure to save a child from the city’s mean streets; the beauteous Gilda Green marries a dentist but carries a torch for a poet all her life. In “The Power,” Morris is gifted with miraculous, healing fingers, but can’t cure his own son. In “Sanctum,” Pincus Pleatnik, a dry-cleaning presser who “understood that being unnoticed is a major skill in urban survival” is mistakenly reported dead in the obituaries. Eisner’s narratives are Chaplinesque in their heart-tugging mix of laughter and tears; even more instantly appealing are his vignettes. Largely shorn of dialogue, they’re comic-strip silent movies: a great series on the smells of the metropolis, another on how its harried citizens handle time, another on New York City walls, which alternately serve as bulletin boards, mazes, backdrops and frontiers. Mainly what’s marvelous is how much of New York Eisner managed to cram into his hyperactive panels.
Incredible sights and bite-sized sagas of the city that never sleeps.