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©2018 by Matt Ligeti the Comic Book Yeti. 

  • Matt Ligeti

INSTRUMENTAL


Cartoonist: Dave Chisholm

Publisher: Z2 Comics


WHAT IS IT?

A multi-platform experience, the story of a man and a cursed object, accompanied by a jazzy, themed soundtrack.

The cursed object story is kind of like Palahniuk's Lullaby or Netflix's Velvet Buzzsaw, but there aren't many comics with their own official soundtracks, or that mess with the mediumm as much as this one does.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT?

(Minor Spoilers)

Tom is...well, he plays the trumpet. Not great. But hey, not terribly!

He plays with his bandmates at the place down the street. Been doing it for years. They haven't really had talent agents breaking down their doors (or much attention at all), but his bandmates seem like they don't need that, anyway. For them, it's about the experience.

Not for Tom. Tom wants to get better. To do more than just jam. but he can't do that with his current bandmates or skill level.

But, when a mysterious stranger gives him an old trumpet, he begins to play like he's never played before. But it doesn't come without consequences. Losing hours of his night. Strangers chasing him down. People within earshot of his music dying suddenly.

But none of that bothers him. As Tom descends deeper into the madness of sleep deprivation and obsession with the feeling of creation, he may become instrumental in something much more serious than he knows.

WHAT WORKS?

  • Dave Chisholm is one talented cartoonist

  • Not only did he write, illustrate, and letter this comic, he was also the composer of the soundtrack, and played the trumpet & synth, as well as lended his voice and some clapping to the mix

  • Beyond his roles, Chisholm created a mind-bending comic that uses the medium in a way you simply can't for any other medium, like TV or film (see below for an example)

  • His discussion of creativity and whether striving to be the "best" is the right way to approach it was a good and interesting theme to touch on

  • You may or may not see a 290-panel splash inside

  • Also, I personally loved his comparison of band members and their roles to that of a flower arrangement

  • Though there is no color, Chisholm did well to use traditional and untraditional techniques in a way that really would only have made color a bonus, anyway

  • Outside of the obvious (i.e. the medium-bending pages and panels), his dark and detailed rain scenes and the chiaroscuro in the final chapter were the best examples of this

  • The lettering work was well done, in an unobtrusive sort of way

  • While it usually didn't do anything out of the ordinary, it also didn't take you out of the story, which is good

  • There is one scene, toward the end, where the lettering becomes a part of the art, and it leads the reader through an elaborate page layout that I would call the most impressive example of Chisholm's lettering

  • The soundtrack to the comic is a novel experience, and adds a depth and life to the comic

  • It's atmospheric, and has loads of personality and flair without demanding too much attention, allowing you to read and listen at the same time

  • Though I don't know much about music, especially with regards to trumpets and their challenges of playing them, the trumpet in the soundtrack was lively and seemed like it was played well and at a high level

  • Speaking of the trumpet, I thought it was a good point that it was accompanied by other instruments, and that a trumpet alone couldn't carry the entire album, and how that's a metaphor for Tom and his bandmates

  • Also want to note that in most chapters, the reading of the comic and the length of the songs lines up pretty well

  • If you read more slowly, consider playing each song on repeat for the length of the chapter

  • If you're easily distracted, I'd maybe listen to each song before reading the corresponding chapter, just to set the tone

  • Dave's note from the author also goes into this a little and gives credit to his bandmates

  • This album will definitely become part of my personal writing soundtrack!

  • Instrumental plays the long game, and we see the attrition Tom's sleep deprivation plays getting worse and worse in his body language and the bags under his eyes

  • Even more impressive is the foreshadowing to future events in the peripherals of Tom's social media (hints he pays no attention to because he's too self-obsessed)

WHAT DOESN'T WORK?

  • While the story and overall experience was phenomenal, and the color absolutely wasn't necessary, I do think a moody, well-defined color palette could propel this comic well into the stratosphere

  • Tom isn't a sympathetic character but, for creatives types, you may see some of yourself in his desire to be better by any means necessary

  • Scenes of death may mean this isn't a great book for kids

  • It's currently priced at $16.99, which is on the expensive end for an indie/small press comic

  • I'd still say it's worth it, however


WHY SHOULD I READ IT?

This jazzy multimedia experience is more than a comic book. It's a music-themed, apocalyptic psychological thriller that uses the comic book medium in ways very few other creators do. And it's all from the mind of a single cartoonist. A truly impressive comic and a must-read.

WHAT DO I READ NEXT?

If you like the writing:

  • Let's Go to Utah by Dave Chisholm

  • Phonogram by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie

  • Secret Path by Jeff Lemire & Gord Downie

If you like the art:

ABOUT THE CREATORS

Dave Chisholm – Cartoonist, Composer, Trumpet, Synth, Voice, Claps

  • Multitalented: Wrote, illustrated, and lettered this entire graphic novel as well as composed its soundtrack and played other instruments

  • Music Lover: Has a doctorate in jazz trumpet

  • Award Winner: His music has received many awards and accolades, and I have a feeling his comics will, too

HOW DO I BUY IT?

Click one of these:

The image(s) used in this article are from a comic strip, webcomic or the cover or interior of a comic book. The copyright for this image(s) is likely owned by either the publisher of the comic, the writer(s) and/or artist(s) who produced the comic. It is believed that the use of this image(s) qualifies as fair use under the United States copyright law. The image is used in a limited fashion in an educational manner in order to illustrate the points of the author and not for the purpose of entertainment or substituting the original work. It is believed the use of this image has had no impact on the market value of the original work.

All Z2 Comics characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are trademarks of and copyright Z2 Comics or their respective owners. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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