Sep 9, 2007

Graphic Novel - Sentences by Percy Carey

SENTENCES: The Life of M.F. Grimm
Percy Carey
Vertigo/DC Comics

Percy Carey (aka MF Grimm, aka Jet Jaguar) begins the story of his life in the middle of its most intense moment: the day a bullet left him paralyzed from the waist down. It's a scene of incredible violence and chaos that leaves our narrator lying on the snow, bleeding out. And from there we naturally cut to... Sesame Street, where young Percy has an
acting gig.

The jump from bloody murder to such innocent surroundings creates a nice bit of cognitive dissonance that sets the tone for the rest of the book. Throughout the rest of Carey's childhood, we see him constantly pulled between "good kid" and
"bad kid". It seems like he could fall either way at any time, and he often does.

It's here I should mention the art by Ronald Wimberly. The stark black/white/grey color scheme perfectly highlights Wimberly's fluid drawings. His people are full of life, whether sitting having a conversation or in the middle of a fist fight.

At the same time we see him growing up, Carey provides snapshots of the growth of hip-hop. One of the finest bits of writing comes when he describes the genre's early days, evoking a sense of time and place where something new and wild was being born.

But he also acknowledges the serpent in the garden, the seed of violence which would become entwined with hip-hop culture. And there are occasional flashes of sadness over that. The fact that something that had started out devoted to unity, celebration and joyous human expression had become so dark.

And other times, he revels in it. He's not always a nice person, or even a sympathetic character. But there's also the part that wants to see a better world. It's the hope that ends up resonating most strongly, tempered by the knowledge
that anyone can do the wrong thing.

Carey ends the book on a cautionary note, but the most powerful moment comes when he uses his fictional counterpart to do something he can't in real life. It's at that point where it changes from "this is what I've been through" to "this is what I've been through, AND I'M STILL HERE!"

Neal Bohl for Crimespree Magazine

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