Friday, June 10, 2022

Caravaggio: A Light Before The Darkness

To say that the pandemic has affected my life, work, and productivity is an understatement. This graphic novel I have been meaning to read and review for about a year, and I am happily and thankfully (and finally!) glad to post it today.

Caravaggio: A Light Before The Darkness is set in the late 16th/early 17th century, and this book took me back (not to the 17th century, I am not THAT old) to my undergraduate days when I took an art history class and attended a lecture about the art of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. He was an important figure of the Baroque style, and he lived a tumultuous and eventful life, all of which are conveyed effectively in this book. He is known for his sense of drama and lighting in his work, with a masterful use of chiaroscuro that influenced many painters afterward. In apt fashion, the artwork in this book employs his painterly style in its depictions.

Just as dramatic as his artwork was his personal life, which was characterized by sex scandals (with men and women), duels, and multiple brawls. Ultimately the fallout from this violence caused him to live in exile, and he died under controversial circumstances. This book delineates all these events in spirited and cinematic fashion, which is fitting as the script for this book came from an unproduced screenplay. I think it works well as a graphic novel, capturing the flare and intrigue of Caravaggio's life as well as the spirit of his artistic achievements.

This book is a collaboration between author and screenwriter Ken Mora and artist Cyrus Mesarcia. Mora is best known for a number of animation projects from his company Bella Fe Media. Mesarcia has drawn the comic book series Carson of Venus and a number of horror comics. Mora speaks about his work on this book in this interview.

All of the reviews I was able to locate of this book have been positive. Publishers Weekly called it "a spirited introduction to Caravaggio’s life and times that should appeal to readers of classic graphic illustrated style comics." Jean M. Roberts wrote, "I enjoyed this graphic novel and highly recommend it to readers of historical fiction who enjoy adult graphic novels and a unique reading experience." As of this review, it has a 4.43 (out of 5) star rating on Goodreads.

Caravaggio: A Light Before The Darkness was published by Markosia Enterprises Ltd. It was originally published as a six individual issues, partially funded by a Kickstarter campaign.  It is also available as webcomic on WEBTOON.

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