Tuesday, November 20, 2012

30 in 30: A Family Matter by Will Eisner

#13: A Family Matter
Storytellers: Will Eisner
Publisher: Kitchen Sink Press
Year Of Publication: 1998
Page Count (can be approximate or in # of issues format): 68 pages

Eisner opens this book by introducing each of the main characters in short 2-3 page scenes, and with every one – with the exception of the final main character – he starts the scene with a full-page image of a building important to each character (a nice suburban house, the retail store where one characer works, the law office where another works), which also manages to convey pertinent information about the character.  It’s a clever use of the comics’ synthesis of words and pictures, and it is something I would like to use someday.
Eisner’s visual storytelling is wonderful, and I am continually amazed at the fact that he rarely uses panel borders.  Many of his pages are done in a 6-panel grid, and despite the lack of borders, I never find the visuals to be confusing or cluttered.  His mastery of the visual lexicon of comics is amazing.
I also liked how he used thought balloons – instead of filling them with text, Eisner drew the flashbacks each character was thinking of while talking with their father or arguing with their siblings, and these flashbacks always added upon the conversation being had in the present, which really worked well.

To celebrate their father’s 90th birthday, all of his offspring come home to show their love – each of them trying to put on the best face about their lives in order to hopefully benefit from the estate of their father, who – having suffered a stroke – is not long for this world.  Through the course of the contentious and chaotic family gathering, we learn about the secrets harbored by all of the members through their visualized thoughts.  And, in the end, the truth about their mother’s death comes out, even as their father, who was wheeled into an adjoining room, dies in a similar fashion as his wife did.  It’s Eisner and he wrings as much drama from his characters as he can.  Not groundbreaking, but it’s Eisner, and it’s good.

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