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
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?
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?
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.
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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