Thursday, October 24, 2013

Sin Titulo by Cameron Stewart

“It’s like my whole life was pulled out from under my feet, but instead of hitting the ground, I just keep falling. I don’t know where the bottom is.”, Alex Mackay relates to a friend, “But I’m fuckin’ scared of what’s waiting for me when I get there.” This quote does not only sum up the story, but also accurately describes the feeling I had when reading Cameron Stewart’s graphic novel page turner Sin Titulo.

The book begins when the protagonist finds a photo of his recently deceased grandfather with the arms of an attractive but unknown woman around him. A day later Alex finds himself beaten up, drugged and with his car gone after having followed an orderly who seems to know the woman in question. From there on things spiral out of control.

Memories of a violent past, dreams and the present blend, while it becomes more and more difficult for Alex to tell what is real – or in fact what reality is in general. Who is “D”, the mysterious woman? Why does Alex have this recurring dream about an old tree? And what does an old Czech naturalist painter have to do with all of this?

Past, present and dreams merging
Cameron Stewart (Batman & Robin, B.P.R.D.) has written and drawn an exceptional mystery thriller. The closest that comes to mind when looking for a comparison is David Mazzucchelli’s masterful adaptation of Paul Auster’s City of Glass. What begins as a noir thriller soon becomes a treatise on existentialism a la Camus. Questions of the relationship between man, dreams and reality are brought into play that surpass the noir genre; but all this without losing sight of it being a crime story at heart.

Not only the story is reminiscent of City of Glass (though make no mistake: Sin Titulo is completely its own beast), but in part also the role of Stewart’s tuned down black and white artwork – in contrast to the former broken up by the use of a brownish tone for coloring parts of the artwork. The almost minimalist artistic approach serves the book well, in that it does not distract from the actual story. But at the same time it gives the reader a false sense of simplicity, which counteracts the increasing narrative complexity.

Sin Titulo was originally published as a webcomic in 2009 and as such has already won an Eisner and a Shuster award. Now, Dark Horse have taken it upon themselves to finally publish it in print form, so that Stewart’s work will hopefully gain the wider recognition it so rightfully deserves.

Cameron Stewart proves with Sin Titulo that he is not only a great and varied artist, but also an author to look out for.

Sin Titulo is published by Dark Horse Books/$19.99 US/ISBN 13: 978-1-61655-248-0

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