Frank Santoro, writer/artist
48 pages, hardcover
As dense and rough-hewn as his more recent comics are spacious and delicate, yet some how retaining an easy, breezy, open feel, Storeyville is an object lesson in how to create and maintain an immersive atmosphere in comics. On giant pages stamped with a gutterless 3-by-5 15-panel grid and colored with admirable restraint by the extremely effective Katie Glicksberg, Santoro traces the progress of his protagonist Will through shantytowns, railways, and harbors as he searches for his old friend and mentor Reverend Rudy in order to make amends for some mysterious past transgression. Nearly every panel-sized vista we receive into Will’s journey is a deep-focus wonder, perspective leading us down roads, over fields, through cities, onboard ships, the characters frequently popping against the background like figures in some sort of altcomix View-Master. Realism and impressionism engage in a constant back-and-forth, leading to subtle shifts in your visual and emotional focus during any particular scene as well as reflecting, one assumes, similar shifts for Will himself. The nearest point of visual comparison is Ben Katchor, but while Katchor’s surround-sound POVs and time-faded inkwashes are used in the service of a surrealist magnification of vanished urbanity in which a slightly deranged objectivity is constantly maintained, Santoro’s subjective use of some of the same tools paradoxically gives Storeyville a WYSIWYG tone to it, as though he’s telling it like it is. The reason for this becomes clear when Will and the Reverend finally meet up, and both Will’s supposed crime against his pal and his ensuing need to atone are shrugged off. Consumed with both guilt and a hope that the act of alleviating it will open up a new path for his future, Will couldn’t possibly be an objective observer of his surroundings; his view of himself really did determine his view of the world and his possible place in it. Highly recommended.