Chiaroscuro: Patchwork, Book One introduces readers to Steven Patch, an out of work artist who can’t seem to paint anything on the blank canvas in his awful apartment. He spends his days mooching off of his friends at a coffee shop, staring at said canvas, and avoiding paying rent. In the midst of his creative crisis and his drinking binges, Patch is mistaken for someone else and his inability to paint suddenly becomes the least of his problems.
I’ve heard this graphic novel described as strangely compelling and I would have to agree. Patch is a pretty pathetic art school graduate – unable to paint, jealous of his successful and pretentious classmates, and jobless. He drinks and smokes constantly, while whining about his “unlimited potential.” I simultaneously sympathized with his problems and wanted to kick the chair out from under him to get him doing anything with his life. Patch manages to be charming all the same. His witty, sarcastic comments and the little hints at the confusion and mystery to come kept me going through the whole thing.
The book is drawn in black and white with lots of dark shadows and sharp lines. The variation from page to page makes it an interesting read. Some pages are very traditionally comic book, with clear panels and movement progression, while others are made up of images with long side columns of text. It is a fun way to show his phone calls, with images of his expressions as the call goes on and a side panel of dialogue.
The way the book wrapped up, however, was disappointing. It kept presenting things interesting to the plot with big flashing arrows, saying “this is important! Pay attention!”, and then dropping those points almost immediately. There was promise that all the odd things in Patch’s life would to come together and make sense in a fascinating mystery, but the ending was abrupt and disorganized. It is rumored that two more volumes are coming, but nothing appears to be in the works, so this volume may be it, which is frustrating, as I need some questions answered.
This story has a lot of potential, but did not grasp me the way I expected it to. It left me wanting more and not in a good way. I kept thinking I had finally stumbled on to the main storyline, only to have a subplot pop up and sidetrack me. I can only hope there is more to come to clear up a few things.