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posted January 11, 2011
Lorenzo Mattotti, Claudio Piersanti
Fantagraphics, hardcover, 192 pages, 2011, $19.99
It's unlikely I'm telling anyone reading this anything new by suggesting that Lorenzo Mattotti draws like Caruso sang, and that reading this latest work with screenwriter Claudio Piersanti is at times an assault of exquisite visual pleasure of the kind that makes your whole face sting. The swirling line work that suggests a world about to unravel at any moment isn't even my favorite of the Mattotti styles, but for a meditation on meaning, both the kind that are placed upon us and the kind we decide to embrace, it's appropriate and telling. After a lucid dream, our low-life hero develops stigmata, wounds on the hands like those of Christ. The book follows his efforts to find some level of reconciliation with this unwanted gift, mostly strategies to pulverize himself right out of existence and away from it. He finds a modicum of control and happiness with a traveling carnival and a woman he marries there. Those pages call something special out of Mattotti, as if daring him to transcend with the skill of his artwork alone the clichés put upon his plate. He does so, to my eye with aplomb. I can't imagine letting go of a scene where the newlyweds ride on a seated swing ride anytime soon, or the crushing way in which the situation all falls apart.
Our lead eventually finds his way by retreating into almost primal human programming, aiding in the care of the dead as they move from this world to the next one. He stumbles back to speech, healing and even teaching, albeit in humble, reduced circumstances. It's a fine enough story, but the comic certainly seems to exist more as a showcase for Mattotti's art than as a finely-realized narrative. Stigmata
proves more consistently moving than past works with Jerry Kramsky, although it'd be nice to see Mattotti take his Olympian skill-set to something less arch and primal, a story more modern and nuanced, if only for the novelty of it. That's Mattotti's talent coming to bear again, though, that it instills a greed in its fans that we can look past such an impressive work to an ideal one that through the power of his art we believe is out there waiting for us.