REVIEW: SMILING AT THE SKY.
SMILING AT THE SKY. Written by Peter Loftus. Art by Ian Pettitt. Reviewed by Gar Shanley
Conventional storytelling has the tale kicking off with a problem or puzzle of some sort and then sets about solving it, hopefully to the satisfaction of the audience. Just think, you open a JLA comic and The Flash calls Green Lantern a bollocks. How could this be??? After overcoming a series of ordeals and what not, the rest of the gang discover The Flash was replaced by an evil android. Longstone comics’ Smiling At The Sky kicks off by doing something similar, presenting us with the puzzle of a blind orphan who can take beautiful photographs, but then, like many fine examples of unconventional storytelling, the tale takes us somewhere else entirely. The puzzle is merely a hook for a story that is more concerned with the frustrations of creative ambition as well as its sacrifices and joys.
Middle-aged Gregor, the comic’s protagonist, once thought he had a bright future in photography but now finds himself working in an orphanage. One of the orphans, Alex, pinches Gregor’s camera and uses it to take a series of incredible photographs that astonish Gregor after he retrieves the camera and develops the film inside it. Gregor attempts to bring the boy’s talent to the attention of an old contact in the photography world but then discovers that Alex’s gift has attracted attentions of a more sinister sort. A dilemma presents itself, Gregor realises that helping the boy will jeopardise the boy’s future and so a decision must be made.
This well-crafted story unfolds simply and clearly. Peter Loftus’ prose and dialogue are neat, concise and beautifully unpurple. The writing works perfectly with the art which, like the tale itself, is nicely unconventional. I can’t think of another cartoonist like Ian Pettitt. His painterly compositions are uncluttered and free of extraneous distractions. The visual information in the panels is allowed much elbow room yet still there is much atmosphere. I particularly enjoyed Alex’s retreat behind the orphanage, a leafy spot with birds standing on the branches. Indeed, leaves are all over this comic and even seem to have taken over the cover, which is fine by me because it’s lovely. Besides being an impressive illustrative storyteller, Ian Pettitt gives good leaf.
Despite its seeming minimalism, Smiling At The Sky has a surreal vibe. On the surface the text and images seem understated, but all the while they are coaxing you into Alex’s perception of the world around him. A world of “energies” and “forces” that paint “silver bows on the black canvass of his mind”, as Peter Loftus puts it so well. We know what is at stake here, beauty and art, and we are shown what they are worth.
Smiling At The Sky is an original comic book that attempts to do something evocative and engaging. It succeeds in that attempt.
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