I have long said that I would read anything Neil Gaiman publishes. Sandman is the series that first ushered me into the world of comics outside of Richie Rich, Archie Comics, and Batman. I haven’t read any of the three issues of Sandman: Overture yet, because I can’t bear the thought of the wait for the next issue. I’d pronounce his grocery lists as small masterpieces.
I haven’t read Violent Cases – Gaiman’s first collaboration with Dave McKean – in years. First published in 1987 by Escape, it was reissued by Titan Books in 1991, and again in 2003 by Dark Horse. This latest release includes the Alan Moore’s original introduction to the 1987 edition, Neil Gaiman’s introduction from the ’91 re-release, and a Neil Gaiman afterword from the 2003 reissue.
The story endures. Like much of Gaiman’s work, it deals with the murky concept of memory, seen through the eyes of a man looking back on his childhood. After an injury (inflicted by his father), the boy’s father brings him to an osteopath, who happens to have treated Al Capone. As the boy recalls the stories the osteopath told him, we also learn about the relationship between the boy and his father, and while we’re never quite given concrete answers, we readers get the distinct impression that there was more than one violent incident in the boy’s home. The two stories intertwine, obscured by the veil of memory and perhaps, the desire to forget.
Gaiman loves to play with memory – from Sandman to The Ocean at the End of the Lane, we see him play with dreams and memory, and the lines they cross. Where does one end and the other begin? Having a grown man look back on his childhood – as he does in both Violent Cases and The Ocean at the End of the Lane – adds to the murkiness of memory; time, as well as the surrealism of the memory, distorts facts over the years. It’s such an effective storytelling technique because we can understand it. Childhood can be scary as hell. The desire to reclaim it – to have power over that which you previously were powerless – competes with the drive to forget.
The art is gorgeous. It’s classic Dave McKean, and you can easily see why he and Neil Gaiman were perfection from the beginning. His moody, dark artwork is like a blurred memory in itself; collaged images and shadowy faces bring to mind that feeling of trying to grasp a remembrance from years ago, and having it constantly just out of reach.
I love this story. If you enjoy Gaiman, if you love McKean’s artwork, or if you just enjoy a well-written, beautifully illustrated story that tackles the concepts of memory and childhood, this is a book for you.
Violent Cases was released in late 2013, but you can still buy a copy online or ask your favorite local comic shop to order it for you. You won’t be sorry!
5 (million) out 0f 5!