Sunday, July 17, 2005



‘2 Sisters’ offers
dramatic heft

There are people who can draw like angels, every detail perfect and breathtaking. Matt Kindt isn't one of them. His stuff is sketchy, spare, a spattering of clots and deep spotting blacks.

"2 Sisters: A Super-Spy Graphic Novel"

By Mark Kindt

(Top Shelf Productions, $19.95)

And there are people who can spellbind with storytelling, and Kindt isn't one of those, either. His style is oblique, referential, cool jazz and long silences.

But Kindt is a master graphic artist/storyteller, that rare breed for whom art and story are inseparable. He's best known amongst indie comics fans for his work with writer Jason Hall on the "Pistolwhip" series, described as "a jazz-age crime noir drama of bellhops, expatriates, orphans and circus sideshow freaks" and published by the fine independent press, Top Shelf Productions.

Kindt's latest, also published by Top Shelf, is a 336-page epic that seems to be about World War II, pirates, ancient artifacts and swashbuckling spies but is really about the wounds of isolation, told in an emotional rush that nonetheless embraces the humanity of the players.

Chief among them is Elle, a rather mysterious, sad and plain woman who volunteers as an ambulance driver in England during the war. She meets a wounded engineer named Alan who takes a shine to her and treats her with dignity and love. She responds so fervently that when it appears Alan has been killed, she steps into his shoes as a spy.

Elle is an enigma that is slowly revealed through action, something at the heart of all good graphic novels. Don't tell, do.


There's also the tale of a double-headed Roman cup, an object of great beauty that is passed from hand to hand over the centuries but is never appreciated for its special qualities, instead being lost or buried or hidden most of the time. And there's the story of a woman forced to pass as a man to survive being captured by pirates. And there's the story of Elle's sister, a fragile being who carries a terrible emotional burden.

Kindt slides effortlessly from one story to another, creating dramatic literary links by sheer juxtaposition. Kindt did it all, writing and drawing and designing, and the story seems massive and novel-like because, well, it does have the dramatic heft of a good novel.

Kindt is also a master at letting pictures tell the story. There is remarkably little dialogue in here, and not a word is wasted. He also constructs the book like a jigsaw puzzle or a mystery, and there are clues scattered throughout.

Another word about black -- it's Kindt's favorite color. His world here is nightmarish and surreal, and the backgrounds are inky depths. The faces of his characters swim to the surface, gleam and sink back down. The chiaroscuro effect is very satisfying, particularly coupled with his feverish drawings. Some might be put off by the sketchy quality of the art, but "2 Sisters" is storytelling of the highest order.

Top Shelf Productions

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