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CARAVAGGIO: A LIGHT BEFORE THE DARKNESS

Writer: Ken Mora

Artist: Cyrus Mesarcia

Colorists: Lancelot "Lance" Catan, Bhakta Ranjan Behera, & Ken Mora

Letterer: Ken Mora

Publisher: Bella Fe Media

Caravaggio, Cover by Jaime Carrillo, Bella Fe Media

WHAT IS IT?

It's a dramatized retelling of the turbulent life of artist Michelangelo Caravaggio, told in a gritty, quippy, and modern style.


It reminds me a bit of the 1991 movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves


WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

(Minor Spoilers)


During the Reformation, Caravaggio seeks to raise his status to become one of the wealthiest and well-respected painters in the world. He is talented and fast, but his fiery temper, sharp tongue, and quick sword oft lead him to terrible consequences for his actions, which his honor will not allow him to avoid.


Meanwhile, the brightest part of his life, the shared love of his partner Mario, helps him grow as a person but puts those ambitions at risk. Due to the puritanical state of Europe and particularly Spain, his love and his fury are at odds with his ambitions and life. He just can't have it all...but what will he choose?

WHAT WORKS?

  • Jaime Carrillo's painted covers are beautiful, exciting, and complement the interior art well. They are nearly three-dimensional, but still match the interior art to an impressive degree.

  • Cyrus Mesarcia's art captures the comic's swashbuckling heights as well as depths of its despair, reminiscent of Prince Valiant in the best possible way. It has a realistic vibe, but not slavishly so, and plays well with darkness and lighting.

  • Ken Mora's story moves along at a breakneck pace, leaving no wasted panels, but still allows sustained and earned character growth. Michelangelo feels like a very different character by the end of the book, but it is clear how he got there.

  • Mora's letters are, at times, inspired, directly interacting with the flashing swordplay, such as getting run through or sliced in half by blades.

  • This title also had numerous colorists but they all worked together seamlessly, by staying absolutely lock-step in maintaining the color palette that add an almost painterly flavor to the art, playing with light that is assuredly an homage to Michelangelo himself.


WHAT DOESN’T WORK?

  • There are times I wished the story would slow down a bit to add depth to the character relationships. As I mentioned above, the story moves at a breakneck pace, but I just wish we would see more of the quiet moments when Michelangelo is with Mario Minniti and that they would stretch longer. It does feel like there is real love there – it should be given more room to shine.

  • While the lettering can be innovative, it is clear Mora is still honing his craft. Unfortunately, early on in the book and at some points later, the letters can draw the eye away from the art due to the balloons being a bit rough around the edges and the connecting tails not tapering.

  • Mild spoilers on the life of a late 16th to 17th painter: Caravaggio's life was at times fraught and did not end happily. While some people may enjoy this, it might upset others. So, if you are looking for a gay romance with a happy ending, this might not be the book for you.


Carvaggio, Interior art by Cyrus Mesarcia, Belle Fe Media

WHY SHOULD I READ IT?

If you like sword fights as brassy and exciting as the Three Musketeers, this is right up your alley. If you're into royal intrigue and betrayals, you’ll love this. If you love a good tragic romance, this will rip your heart out. And if you want to learn a bit about a historical figure whose artistic influence carries to the modern-day and whose real life was nearly as exciting as any fiction you'll find on the shelves, I can't recommend this excellent title enough.


HOW DO I BUY IT?

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


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©2021 by Matt Ligeti the Comic Book Yeti.