Book of the Month
What did the
Artist: Greg Scott
Size: 128 pages
The following review is completely biased. I need you to know that going in. But from where I sit, that’s a dumb reason not to talk about a book, as long as my admiration is sincere. So why not be up front about it all?
Charles Soule? I know the guy. I’ve known him since before 27 came out from Image a number of years back. I loved the concept, and we got to talking somewhere, and we kind of never stopped. He’s like a big deal now, writing a whole bunch of regular series from Marvel and DC, and many readers are getting to know him for the first time. This is good. It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy, or one more committed to putting out quality comics. If these are reasons to disregard a review, then peace be unto you, and thanks for coming.
I have a very strange relationship with New York City. It’s definitely a love/hate thing. I lived there for about six years (In Queens, but still…), and by the time I left, let’s just say I never want to live there again. However, there was a reason I wanted to live there, and there’s a reason I’m proud to have done so, and there’s still something magical about the place that makes it the focus of so many stories, songs, poems, paintings, pictures, stories, and legends. There is nothing else like it on earth, and there’s a distinct difference in media about the city that really understands it, and those that don’t. Charles Soule loves New York City. I didn’t know what kind of story this was going to be, but when I got to the end, it was immediately apparent that this is a love letter to a place that is more than just a place.
That concept, that the city is anything but just a spot on a map, is the germ for Strange Attractors. Like the city itself, the book is both very complex and very simple at the same time. Imagine all the people in the city, and all the complicated machinery of the city that sustains and supports that strange urban organism. Now imagine that all of it can be mapped mathematically. Can’t imagine it? Read the book. It’s what the whole thing is about.
Artist Greg Scott turns out to be the perfect partner for Soule. The first thing I noticed is that he has a real knack for drawing people. Should be an obvious skill for a comic book artist, but he wasn’t granted the shortcut of costumes and uniforms to identify people. He just gets a bunch of regular looking people. Some are male, some female, some old, and some younger, but mostly they’re just folks. But they look like real folks, and they’re always discernible in the same way they would be if they were standing in a room with you. The art almost looks photorealistic, but doesn’t suffer from the odd stiffness of traced linework. At the same time, the biggest character in the book might be the city itself, which is what really impressed me. It might be safe to say that New York City is the most often drawn geographic location in comic book history. But the city that Scott portrays here is the real one, as opposed to the post card version. Because it takes place on the ground, as opposed to “in the skyline”, you get a real sense of place, because I have stood in those places he is drawing, and I have lived in the places he is showing me. It is a thankless task to feel of a place that is so familiar, but also so hard to pin down the feeling of. Every single exterior shot is jam packed with the ephemera of the city world, which is always full, always moving, all the time. This guy has been there. This guy knows what he’s portraying, and this guy is putting every slightly grimy bit directly on the page, in wonderful, brushy ink. It might be my favorite thing about the book.
I don’t have to love New York City in the same way as Charles Soule to appreciate the intensity of his affection coming through on every page. It’s so easy to be cynical and look at the worst part of the thing that is that city, but the writer doesn’t let that happen. In the end, we see its best face. It’s a story of hope and optimism, and it might even ring a little bit schmaltzy, but it doesn’t matter, because idealism, when mixed with sincerity is a winning combination. I finished the book, and I smiled, and I thought, “Yes! I am so glad there are people who feel like this about that place, because it would fall down if not for them.” I don’t know if that was the point of the story, but it damn well ought to be. Strange Attractors is intelligent, exciting, and sincere. It makes me want to go back and just walk through some city neighborhood I’ve never been in, and breathe it in. It made me, who drove out of the city faster than was safe in a moving truck that size, want to be there, and find what it is that the creators captured in this book. It made me want to walk some neighborhood I’ve never been in (in spring or fall, never summer), and drink in the sounds and sights of a place that is more than a place.
I will admit to some small affection for the place. Small.