Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

Home > CR Reviews

The Golem's Mighty Swing
posted August 1, 2017

imageCreator: James Sturm (Gene Yang Introduction)
Publishing Information: Drawn And Quarterly, softcover, 110 pages, May 2017, $16.95
Ordering Numbers: 9781770462830 (ISBN13)

This is a new paperback version of James Sturm's stand-alone story from his America series, conceivably a way to keep that work alive through another reading generation without people having to buy in across the board. If nothing else, it's hard to get people to order collections for a class. I'm glad for the attention smaller publishers pay such books. That strategy has been key to comics growing an audience for literary comics: seriously-intended, well-crafted works driven by authorial intent that work as both beautiful objects and inquiries into the human condition. Their maximized audience isn't buying on a first Wednesday and the work must stay in print or return to print enough times so that everyone possible can buy in. Mighty Swing originally came during the great rush of graphic novels that came out right at the turn of the century, the mass that pushed the concept over the top.

It's nice to see the work again. Sturm labors at the art portions of his craft, but to fine effect. The figure drawing is distinctive and the pacing from baseball manga that was a part of the original work's roll-out still makes for effective comics. What stands out for me on a re-read several years later is Sturm's thematic restraint. By being as specific as he can with the baseball story, and there are some lovely moments that stand out against some of the broader elements, Sturm invites the readers to pull at threads that may indicate a treatise on the American character, or the nature of sport vs. entertainment, the way that smaller towns participate in an American racism that their populations may not facilitate, the way that stories pull us along. It's not a grandly dramatic work but a sober one, one that places the act of building meaning at its core.