Thursday, March 6, 2014

Rembrandt - Typex

As we open Rembrandt we are welcomed with a single splash page of an elephant inside of a ship's cargo. It's weary, beaten, alone and in complete darkness. Typex portrays this in a way that's reminiscent of woodblock carving.  
This choice intensifies the feelings of the reader towards the elephant and of the elephant's loneliness and complete alienation from its environment. And serves as a foreshadowing of Rembrandt's journey: a man who was at the peak of popularity, now a shadow of himself. 

In the next couple pages, the elephant is rudely awakened and is viciously hauled out of the cargo.
Through this action we are rudely introduced into Rembrandt's world, Amsterdam 1642, but also introduced to Rembrandt himself; a man who knows how great he is and how great his skills are.

Typex does this all within nine pages; nine silent pages. There's no word bubbles, no thought bubbles, no narration boxes, just the images. It's a testament to Typex' skills as a cartoonist. And these nine pages are a great introduction to Rembrandt, in which Typex will flesh out and texturize throughout the comic.

After those nine pages, Typex begins the autobiography of Rembrandt and he tells the biography through vignettes. Rembrandt is not told linearly, but instead Typex hones in at special moments in Rembrandt's life. This is a smart move because it doesn't bore the reader in a linear path of this happens and then this happens and then this happens and so on. It also allows Typex a level of flexibility to move his narrative pieces around and have a tighter control of pacing. Because the story shifts around from the past to present to future a lot, it gives the story a level of mystery within the character motivations and actions. What may befuddle a reader at the beginning will get explained later on, giving the story a feeling that you're slowly peeling its skin.  

Throughout the story Typex portrays the world and an artist that's at odds with itself; Typex doesn't hold back and isn't afraid to show the ugly side of Rembrandt and the world he occupies. A world and artist that is full of life and wonder and beauty, but isn't afraid to destroy that beauty and wonder and not think twice of it. These stark contrasts between the two serves as a way to ground the reader, but also fill us with a sense of awe and wonder.

Typex also has an eye for composition: every panel is filled with the beautiful composition. You get a feeling that Typex meticulously placed every character and word bubbles within his panels. The eye for compositions gives the reader a sense of beauty and it also helps guide the reader to where Typex wants them to look at.
Throughout reading Rembrandt I was absolutely gobsmacked by Typex' ability to portray facial and bodily expressions. If you've read some of my past reviews, I love when cartoonists are able to use their character's face and body to express their inner thoughts and feelings. Typex does this perfectly; from the exaggerated to the nuanced to everything in-between, Typex shows he can do it all.

Another thing that caught my eye was Typex' ability to draw and color skin; I was really taken by it. Typex is able to draw skin as skin, but give it a little extra sense of flexibility, flabbiness, and softness that's not present in real life. When I see his characters' skin I feel that I can stick my hand through the comic and play around with it; there's a malleability to it. I'm finding it hard to articulate how much I love Typex' skin. The only other cartoonist who can give me this feeling of skin is Nicolas De Crécy.
Rembrandt is a modern masterpiece created by a cartoonist at the peak of his power. Typex is able to conjure its atmosphere and mood of Rembrandt, the 1600s and the world at that time. This is a comic that deserves more than one read, not to fully grasp what's going on, but because you'll want to re-experience that sense of awe you got when you first opened it.

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