“The clown awoke before dawn, he put his floppy shoes on”
Paolo Baron and Ernesto Carbonetti are in the midst of a “dead rock star who’s not really dead trilogy” (the third one has to be Elvis, right?), with Jim Lives their second one (the one last year was about McCartney), so let’s take a look at it. This comes to us from the fine folk at Image Comics!
In their first book, it was about Paul McCartney actually dying (or did he?!?!?), and now we get the opposite of that, as an American journalist goes to Italy to look into a rumor that Jim Morrison lives there. The town, Acciaroli, actually exists, and it’s somewhat famous for the high number of centenarians who live there, so Jackson, the journalist, is ostensibly there to do a story on that, but along the way he thinks he’s found Morrison. He texts his dad, a big Doors fan, about it, then disappears. So his father, Mark, heads off to Italy to find him and maybe unravel the mystery of Morrison. That’s about it.
It’s an interesting book, much like their first one together, because it doesn’t go the way you think it might. This book isn’t really about Morrison, it’s about two men finding a purpose in life after the woman who united them – Mark’s wife, Jackson’s mother – died. Whenever someone close dies, people start thinking about their own mortality, and Jackson goes to Italy because of the long-lived people in the town, as he wants to discover their secret. When his guide tells him about Morrison, he can’t help himself, as it’s clear he grew up in a house where the Doors were played a lot, and the idea of a rock star faking his or her death because they’re tired of fame or they believe they reach their creative peak is endlessly fascinating. Jackson uncovers a bit too much about what’s going on with Morrison, and it causes him some distress. Meanwhile, Mark is trying to follow the same clues he did, but someone has been covering up. It doesn’t really matter whether Morrison is alive or dead in this book, because both Jackson and Mark can come to terms with a more important death in their lives simply by asking whether he is alive or not.
There’s also the idea of obsession, and it’s interesting that Baron puts Mark on the trail of his creative hero but doesn’t really seem to be on his side. If Morrison faked his own death and is living in Italy, what would he have to say? What would the point of meeting him be? Mark thinks that finding this “Morrison” will help him find his son, but there’s also an element of egotism to it, that Mark will be the one who found a rock icon and exposed him to the world. To what end? Baron doesn’t harp on it too much, but the dark side of fandom comes through a bit, and Mark’s action show why Morrison might find faking his death and disappearing attractive. Mark isn’t a bad guy, he’s just a fan, but his relentlessness, which stems from caring about his son, sure, but doesn’t seem 100% that, could easily bother or scare someone. As I noted, Baron doesn’t get into this too much, but it’s interesting that it’s there, a bit under the surface.
Carbonetti has an interesting style – it’s clearly digital, and while it appears he draws everything himself (I assume he uses models, but as models for his drawing, not by stealing images off the internet), it also appears that he draws individual images and then moves them into backgrounds or to interact with other images, which may or may not be true but lends his art a slightly disjointed feel. It’s striking and interesting, but still a bit disjointed. He does a very nice job creating a book with “realistic” images – the faces of the famous people in the book are well done, for instance – and his town is beautifully done, lazily sunning itself as life unspools around it, but the way he lays out a page adds a nice touch of unusual charm to the book. He uses silhouette very well, he repeats panels to show a slowed-down passage of time, he poses figures over somewhat incongruous backgrounds to blend two scenes – none of this is revolutionary, of course, but Carbonetti does it quite well. He uses nice splashes of “paint,” to create a bit of chaos around the edges of the pages, which helps imply more motion than his somewhat stiff figure work does. His colors are superb, too – they’re basically complementary oranges and blues, but because those colors pop so well against each other, the sea looks deeper and the land looks warmer than otherwise. It’s a nice choice, even if it is a somewhat obvious one.
This is an interesting comic, better than the McCartney one, which I guess bodes well for the third one? Baron isn’t just interested in the obvious ideas about celebrities faking their own deaths, and by not focusing on Morrison in this one, but rather Jackson and Mark, he can get into the weirdness of celebrity worship and the pitfalls of fame a bit better. If “Morrison” was the point of view character, it would come off as whiny, but because Baron flips it and gives us two protagonists who are just regular folk, he can get into some darker areas without making the celebrities unsympathetic. It’s an oddly beautiful book, too, which is nice. I’ve never been a fan of Morrison or the Doors, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t dig this comic!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆