Violent Cases Paperback – Jan 13 2004
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Both Gaiman's precise and nostalgic writing and McKean's lavishly painted art will challenge your ideas of what a comic book is. A narrator remembers his childhood encounters with an old osteopath who claims to have treated Al Capone. Gradually, 1960s England and 1920s Chicago begin to merge into a tale of memory and evil. This is the first published work of the acclaimed writer of The Sandman series; fans of that series should not miss this. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Enter the dimly lit, vague world of a man (who looks amazingly like Gaiman himself) remembering incidents from his childhood: a world of odd dentists, stupid birthday parties, evil magicians, and violent cases (violin cases). Our hero (for all of Gaiman's children are heroes) goes through his coming of age, in a frightening yet curious way, by peeking behind the curtain, while Gaiman's words and McKean's art take us along for the ride, peeking behind the curtain of memory.
Gaiman readers will definitely see similarities in style between this story and _Mr. Punch_, which, in my mind, stands as a companion piece to this book. Memory and its tricks, traps, twists and turns serve as the vehicle for both, and it's the uncertain but unquestioning way that we go through the memories that make these books so brilliant.
We all have memories. And if we look at them very closely, we begin to realize how scary some of those memories can be. As Gaiman shows us time and time again, the world is a threatening one to children: too big, too confusing, where children are constantly lied to and hushed even in moments of brilliance. Yet somehow we made it. Let Gaiman and McKean remind you how.
"Violent Cases" explores the gauzy environs of childhood memory. As he would later attempt with much more poignant effect in "The Tragical Comedy of Mr. Punch," Gaiman here examines a grown man's efforts to make sense out of violence in his dimly-remembered past, in this case revolving around a man who may have been Al Capone's osteopath.
The tale, while simple, is masterfully plotted, allowing the reader to make connections the narrator himself may not make. While the telling is a bit ham-handed in spots (you can almost see Gaiman grinning smugly at certain points; not a good thing), one must reflect that this was written quite early in the author's career, and marked quite a departure from comic book conventions. Even Art Spiegelman felt it necessary to use some of the art's cliches in his groundbreaking "Maus"; Gaiman chooses to ignore them quite audaciously.
The artwork by Dave McKean shows a strong Sienkiewicz influence almost wholly alien to his later work, yet still quite appealing.
I highly recommend "Violent Cases" to anyone with a more mature taste in comic books and to fans of Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean's body of work. Although an early effort, "Violent Cases" clearly presages the glory to come for this most successful comic book collaboration.
The story is a memory: an adult's recollection of a childhood encounter with a man who claimed to be Al Capone's osteopath. The memory combines fragments of a genteel children's party and a 1920's mob massacre; the child's fears of the present intertwine with the doctor's tales of horror from the past.
Interjections from the adult narrator fit perfectly as a framework to the stunning story. The story opens with the unnerving words, "I would not want you to think I was a battered child..." and, at later points in the book, the narrator's recollection of the osteopath's appearance shifts dramatically. The visuals flow along perfectly with the unstable thoughts, which adds to the atmosphere of memory.
Gaiman and McKean are sharing a wavelength. Although Mister Punch is their masterpiece, Violent Cases is also powerful in story, structure, and design. Not flawless, but still a worthy work of art.
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As usual, Neil provides his fans with another must have item.Published on Oct. 2 2001 by AquaFeathers