When people say that comics are a medium, not a genre, they are usually speaking to someone who thinks that comics are all about men in tights and masks with plenty of campy sound effects thrown in for a dash of excitement. When pressed for details or descriptions about what a comic could be about, usually the aforementioned person will talk about mysteries or science fiction. Possibly there could be a mention about a romance or slice of life comic. More often than not, the other person just smiles, nods their head, and then changes the subject because those are not terribly surprising. they seem like likely candidates for “something different” in comics.
Now there is something truly different in comics – Dylan Meconis’ Family Man.
Europe is clattering into a new age. The Age of Faith and the Age of Beauty have both run their course, and now it’s Reason’s turn to try to explain the human condition. Suddenly everybody thinks the answers will be revealed by the next microscope slide, wild manuscript, or enlightened political upheaval.
Everybody, that is, except for a young scholar by the name of Luther Levy, who has an increasing stock of Questions and a diminishing supply of Answers. Caught between a rock and his own hard head, Luther has returned home from University short one doctorate in Theology and (possibly) one belief in God. Luther does his best to find comfort in his eclectic family (and a healthy dose of self pity). Self-pity won’t pay the rent, though, and Luther has become desperate for employment, which isn’t easy to come by when your only marketable skill is scriptural exegesis.
When an acquaintance unexpectedly arrives in town with a risky job proposition, Luther finds himself even less certain than usual.
That’s right ladies and gentlemen, a comic about the European Enlightenment with plenty of discussion about the political and social powers of the church (or should that be Church?) and the role of religion in daily life. If you are not up to date on your history (or theology), fear not. Meconis provides informative and entertaining notes in the back of the book that expand and clarify the contents and context of the book. While it was relatively simple enough to follow the story without the notes, I found myself turning back and forth between the notes and the story so I could understand the subtleties of the humor or the context of a quote.
Far from dull or dry, Family Man is surprisingly light and entertaining. Luther Levy is a charming character who longs for more than his lot in life. However, instead of moaning and whining about it (as his young sister ie wont to do), he tackles his problems head-on with a senso of humor and an eye for the ironic. Meconis is a skilled story-teller with a great sense of timing. Since there is so little action (not exactly a swash-buckling era), Meconis works with dialogue and a flair for the dramatic to keep the story moving and engaging. Meconis has created a truly vibrant word where the characters and the setting feel contemporary and relatable despite the fact that they are almost 300 years in the past.
Initially I was a little put off by the character design of Levy (as well as his twin brother and their father). He sports a nose that would make Cyrano de Bergerac blush. It was so dominating a feature that I had a difficult time getting past it. However I soon realized the Meconis was doing this on purpose. Levy sticks out in a crowd both literally and figuratively because of his combined Jewish and Christian heritage. No matter where he goes, he does not fit in. By making his nose be so large and so distracting, Meconis creates a visual shorthand for Levy’s predicament.
Book 1 ends with a scene that seems out of place for the rest of the story. while everything in the book is grounded and realistic, this scene appears to have a bit of a supernatural flare to it. Instead of being off-putting, it made me crave more. I want to know how this seemingly incongruent scene fits in to this orderly world. Like Levy’s nose, I know it is there for a reason, I just haven’t figure it out yet!
Pick up a copy of Family Man at your LCS today. If they are lame and do not have a copy, you can order it directly from Meconis. Or, if you cannot wait for the book to show up (or, like me you are desperate to find out what happens next!), you can read Family Man for free on Meconis’ website.