Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Best of the Bins 3

Brooklyn Dreams
Written by J.M. DeMatteis
Illustrated by Glenn Barr
(DC Comics/Paradox Press)

Brooklyn Dreams is one of the few books that I habitually go back to the way some people I know read Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy. If I don't do it at least once a year, something doesn't feel right.

The book was initially released as a four digest-sized issue mini-series from DC's then new fiction imprint, Paradox Press. It is the story of Vincent Carl Santini, a Brooklyn native born to a Jewish mother and an Italian father. Santini is also a 'seeker' - a typical protagonist in a DeMatteis story - who, as a young boy, and then man, searches for the greater meaning of the universe, the ultimate truth and, of course, God.

DeMatteis writes what I am convinced is a semi-autobiographical story as the adult Santini looks back on his life and relates significant events that occured to him throughout his childhood and High School years in Brooklyn. The story is presented as a somewhat conversational and non-linear narrative, with the lead character covering all aspets of his life and relating them to a greater narrative. DeMatteis manages to juggle Santini's family, their quirks, being torn between two cultures, his relationships, his fears, being young, being an outsider, faith, knowledge, sex, God and the universe. Not too bad for 300 or so pages.

Granted, even with the page count, there is still much that the author leaves out of the story - leaving things open for a possible sequel, I'm sure. Even Santini himself admits in the end that there is far more to tell, but the bits DeMatteis gives to us, and how he presents them to the reader and weaves them into a greater narrative is exemplary. Brooklyn Dreams is the product of a great writer at the top of his game.

The artwork by Glenn Barr is a perfect compliment to DeMatteis' words. He brings this otherwise conversational piece to life, switching from realism to caricature at the drop of a hat. There is nothing in this story that Barr can't draw - and believe me, it takes skill to show so little action and make it interesting. Everything from the quiet pauses that Santini takes to reflect, to the exaggerations of the storyteller at peak moments, Barr does them all.

Brooklyn Dreams is quiet, it's long but it is a worthwhile read for people who are seekers themselves, or just looking for a well crafted, well executed story.


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