Easy to follow, replete with expressive faces, snappy transitions, close-ups, cutaways and countless variations on the standard nine-panel grid,
The Sculptor reflects McCloud's decades of interest in how to design and draw sequential art. McCloud's fansand I'm oneshould read it for those reasons… The Sculptor…stands up as allegory, and as a demonstration of comics art. Nobody considers McCloud a titan of figure drawing, but he has thought encyclopedically about how inks, pencils and panels can shape plot and character. That kind of thought makes page after page a pleasure, whether the characters are just exchanging glances, or whether, instead, David's tearing a building apart. One two-page, 13-panel spread includes maps, mirrors, indirect lighting, asymmetrical layout and scraps of a diary, along with cuddling on the couch: easy to analyze, if you're inclined; compelling storytelling, if not.
The New York Times Book Review - Stephen Burt
After previously explaining the art of making, reading, and understanding comics in his trilogy of essential guides to the medium, McCloud, in this gloriously romantic graphic novel, doesn't just define a genre—he exemplifies it. David Smith is a morbid, prickly New York sculptor tortured by the one-by-one deaths of his family members and his inability to make art, when he runs into his Uncle Harry, who just happens to be dead. Harry's Faustian offer is all the better for being delivered deadpan ("Trust me, it'll all make sense at sunrise"). In exchange for gaining the ability to mold any material into any shape he wants, sans tools, David is given just 200 days to live and achieve his dreams of greatness. But having this skill doesn't allow David to escape from his grumpy, rules-bound personality. Success and happiness don't come easily, even after a beautiful actress with a surplus of personality and baggage flies (literally) into his arms. The fractious love story and operatic swoons of despair play out against the harsh reality of a cutthroat art market and deftly handled flights of fantasy. Drawn in sharp, sure-handed lines that jump from intimate blocks of wry but poignant interactions with other characters to dramatically realized city scenery, McCloud's epic generates magic and makes an early play for graphic novel of the year. (Feb.)
*The fluidity of McCloud's visual narrative carries us along with a sweep impossible to duplicate in prose, and, through it its climax, the story's commitment to its harsh, inevitable, but ultimately sublime outcome qualifies this as a work of stunning, timeless graphic literature.”
Booklist, STARRED REVIEW “Scott McCloud's The Sculptor is the best graphic novel I've read in years. It's about art and love and why we keep on trying. It will break your heart.” Neil Gaiman
After spending more than a decade, in the brilliant Understanding Comics and its two sequels, explaining what comics do and how they do it, McCloud faces an immense challenge here; proving that he can walk the walk in fiction as well as he talks the talk in nonfiction. Of course, he can. David Smith's once-promising artistic career as a sculptor has hit rock bottom, and he's desperate. Then Death grants David a power far beyond those of normal sculptors, but the gift comes with a price. David will have only 200 days to use it, and then he'll die. David agrees—and then he falls in love. McCloud's mastery shows everywhere here, in myriad expert artistic touches, mostly unostentatious but rich in meaning. Beyond that, however, he deals with existential questions—the meanings of art, and life—and death in ways that are consistently surprising, riveting, deep, and messily, gloriously human. VERDICT An outstanding achievement, extraordinarily moving and memorable. With nudity and sex, the story isn't for kids, but it's highly, urgently recommended to absolutely everyone else. This is a work to stand with the greats.—S.R.
Comics writer/illustrator and theorist McCloud (Making Comics, 2006, etc.) presents an artist's struggle to make a name for himself and the complications love brings to the Faustian deal he's made to gain total control of his craft. David Smith once had a promising career as a sculptor, but his abrasive personality burned too many bridges, and now he can't even hold down a job flipping burgers. Stewing in self-pity and booze, he receives an uncanny visitor who offers him a choice between the long, slow burn of the compromised life or the firework pop of the superstar. Without hesitation, David chooses to be a martyr for his art, and soon he has the ability to mold any material simply by touch—and 200 days to live. He launches into an ecstasy of self-expression, fantastically shaping slab after slab of granite like it was so much potter's clay, but his first showing of the new work only sends him spiraling further into despondency—until beautiful, free-spirited Meg swoops in on angel wings. Her joie de vivre eases David's tortured mind, and a daffy friendship eventually blossoms into mad passion. But even as David refines his manipulation of matter and his sense of life's worth, his ultimate deadline looms. At nearly 500 pages, the tale still manages a brisk pace, with crosscut scenes or subtle but telling differences between nearly identical frames propelling the gaze through uncluttered text and crisp, clear lines, while the reader's mind winds agreeably around the steadily twisting plot. McCloud can sacrifice logic in favor of function, though, and sometimes reactions feel outsized, emotions overwrought and dialogue pat, functioning more as punctuation in a sequence of panels than as the actions of nuanced characters, especially when the work nakedly addresses such grandiose issues as artistic integrity, the glories and agonies of love, and the desperate beauty of life. Masterfully paneled and attractively illustrated but populated by archetypes.