Sparks: An Urban Fairytale

Created by: Lawrence Marvit

ISBN: 0943151627 (Amazon)

Pages: 424

Sparks: An Urban Fairytale

For all the reliable producers of artistic wonder, there are those few who channel themselves into a lone notable work and seem, at least so far as proliferation is concerned, content to allow that singular gesture suffice. While Kurt Vonnegut generated piles of good (or at least provocative and worthwhile) novels, Harper Lee limited herself to To Kill a Mockingbird. While the Beatles churned out enough musical brilliance to fill their own edition of Rockband, Soft Cell is known alone for “Tainted Love.” While Akira Kurosawa spawned a career of influential films and still influences the cinematic world, Yoshifumi Kondô was only ever able to produce Whisper of the Heart. And so far as comics are concerned, Alan Moore (whether you enjoy his work or not) has produced a thought-propelling and innovative oeuvre. On the other hand, Lawrence Marvit seems unfortunately destined to produce the one lone and lovely comic, Sparks: An Urban Fairytale.

While Marvit, according to his website, seems to be duly occupied and keeping his artistic hand productive, Sparks seems to be the only graphic novel he will have produced. And really, due to the beautiful, lyrical quality of his work, this is a remarkable shame. Marvit, while displaying a very DIY kind of sensibility in Sparks' production, manages to create something that was very nearly (I’m hedging here) Best of Show in 2002. The creator shows an ability to put a heartfelt and worthwhile story together using clichés and thoroughly used tropes. Most story ideas are recycled over and again but the best authors recycle in ways that help they readers not mind the retread. In Sparks, Lawrence Marvit introduces himself as one of those authors.

Sparks by Lawrence Marvit

This is, if anything, a book about sex and love—and interestingly, through entirely different narrative means, takes a similar route to Craig Thompson’s Habibi. Early in the story, we are introduced to Jo, a girl whose frame and set of interests (cars, primarily) gets her frequently mistaken for a boy. Even when she does dress the part of the damsel, she cuts suitors down left and right, pouring hot oil over them as they seek to scale her castle’s walls. (I speak figuratively.) Jo, while wanting deeply the companionship and care of a man, isn’t willing to pursue that via the route her few girlfriends recommend—i.e. performing the role of a slab of pork fitted with a penis-sized hole. She is routinely ostracized by her friends and suitors alike for her inability to blithely take part in the sexual objectification that has been normalized in her culture.

Sparks by Lawrence Marvit

Jo eventually tires of constantly being short-ended by men and retreats to her sanctuary, the autoshop where she works on cars day in and out. While there, one thing leads to another and she creates a man of hot chrome and steel who accidentally comes to life. What follows is the expected question of whether this knight in shiny shininess, this robot, can be a better man to her than the real men in her life. Can love come at the cost of sex? Is sex really just part of the problem? Or is the problem really just Jo and her unwillingness to compromise? Marvit does a good job exploring a faerytale moral through a dark, urban story.

Sparks by Lawrence Marvit

I mentioned earlier that Sparks has a bit of Do-It-Yourself feel to it. There are a couple of typos in the dialogue, which are always jarring, but the biggest hurdle for readers will probably be the art production. I don’t know whether Marvit initially created the book digitally or with pen and ink, but the reproduction in the paperback exhibits poor resolution. Maybe it was scanned poorly—I don’t know. Whatever the case, individual pixels are discernable to the naked eye and that’s just too bad. Still, readers should take these things for what they’re worth and not let a small thing like print quality get in the way of enjoying a thoughtful story.



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I am Seth T. Hahne and these are my reviews.

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