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The Crackle Of The Frost
posted September 6, 2012
: Lorenzo Mattotti, Jorge Zentner
Fantagraphics, hardcover, 120 pages, September 2012, $19.99
I'm quite taken with the art in this book, a 2001 newspaper effort from Lorenzo Mattotti and Jorge Zentner that in this current, reformatted state has seen life as a book in a couple of different markets. That's not exactly the insight of the year when it comes to something by Mattotti, one of the greatest-ever makers of comics visuals. Unlike some of the Italian artist's work, though, Crackle Of The Frost
finds an elegant balance between abstraction and more traditional cartoon rendering. I love the image of the face at the top of this post because it's warm and human and in its design exudes the slightly offbeat bearing and imperfect construction of an actual attractive person's face. There are several moments like that one. Mattotti tells his story in a exhausting run of medium-range shots, like a camera person just one step too close to their subject matter to fully contextualize what they're seeing. It's not a bad reflection of how life can be lived, our orientation in question in a way the world itself really isn't. It's a middle path that eludes our narrator, a man seeking absolution in moments he's not really earned and ignoring any and all epiphanies that may reveal themselves in periods of distraction.
Save for a to-die-for conceit of a (sort-of) couple that enjoys looking at one another as their primary form of intimacy, this work's best moments thrum from a place of delicate tension and resolute balance to which the lead eventually accommodates himself: words and pictures, reds and blues, figures and backgrounds, past and present, patient and doctor, father and son. A less challenging story might have the protagonist push past certain obstacles, or destroy them outright. One has to wonder how much of the sensibility concerning man and his environment on display derives from the writer, Jorge Zettner, with his practitioner's knowledge of psychotherapy. Very little about the experience feels clinical. One thing that Mattotti fans of my acquaintance discuss is whether or not we'll ever see that one acknowledged masterwork, the point and nod book around which all the others act as satellites. I don't think The Crackle Of The Frost
is that work, either, but it's fully realized, and satisfying, and occasionally beautiful.