“Robert and Kevin have crafted a gripping, disturbing, and challenging take on society’s obsession with celebrity and violence — I couldn’t put the book down. Check it out, but be ready to be up till the wee hours of the morning — and to be thinking about it days later.”
-Mark Powers (Drafted, This Haunted World, G.I. Joe)
“With its stunning photo-artwork and startling divinatory layouts, Serial Artist is what books about serial killers should be, but rarely are. So powerfully written I found it hard to get through … but read it until the end and then think about the truly horrific implications. Amazing work.”
-Steve Moore (Hercules, Somnium)
“Randle and Storm have crafted a grisly, thought provoking piece of work. The kind of book that stays with you for weeks after finishing it. Do not wait. Read it now. With the lights ON. “
– Joshua Hale Fialkov (I, Vampire, Echoes, Tumor)
“Serial Artist features great writing from Robert Randle that would make CSI and Dexter fans feel right at home and Kevin Storm’s visceral artwork will bring back memories of McKean’s work on “Arkham Asylum”. Highly Recommended!”
–Peter Simeti (Publisher, Alterna Comics)
Serial Artist is more than a standard graphic novel, it is thunderous, explosive noise on paper—thoughtful, literate, cacophonous, irksome, beauty as disease, squalls of feedback as the opening into Jean Genie by Bowie noise.
With layered, complicated art that shimmers with beauty and hidden delights, Serial Artist is a brutal but still very delicate take on modern media, the artist, the audience, and the powers that hide in proper daylight.
An artist has gone viral with paintings and drawings that feature the body (or body parts) of victims that he may or may not have murdered himself. As he lives in isolated comfort from the profit that his website creates for him, as well as the astronomical prices paid for the actual paintings, the Serial Artist mines the attention for all it is worth.
The 24-hour news channels go wild for his antics. Those who are convinced that he actually murdered a loved one picket his apartment in the sky. Religious groups attack what he says and stands for. Old friends doubt his sincerity, claiming they know that he is engaging in a deliberate ruse while sycophants and fans line up to be abused, or even worse, his next possible victim. The gallery that the Serial Artist sells through rakes in record setting prices for his work. All of this happens while the FBI works around the clock to put the Serial Artist behind bars.
What keeps our attention throughout it all is that Mr. Randle anchors the narrative, one not far removed from the possible in today’s world, to a template of conventional storytelling. As much as the art propels us in a somewhat unconventional direction, he keeps us engaged with the recognizable.
There is a reporter sucked into the exhibitionistic world of the artist. The FBI agent on his case becomes obsessed and moves into his own world of belief. The roommate and once best friend of the Artist is recruited to possibly become the Judas.
We know these people. We have seen them in the skimpiest of outlines and clichés on TV procedural crime shows. Where those shows work from the shorthand of stereotype and the familiar, Mr. Randle moves the reader into a much deeper place, one filled with philosophy, debate, greed, exploitation, and real consequences. His time line, jumping from one era to another and sometimes doubling back while jumping into a third, never loses its cohesiveness. He trusts us to follow and as we do, the challenges make the rewards that much richer.
The art by Mr. Storm is, like the subject matter of the Serial Artist, alternately thrilling, uncomfortable and frighteningly beautiful. The convention of the traditional allows him and Mr. Randle the room to experiment grandly.
Where a traditional graphic novel moves through hand-drawn panels, Serial Artist utilizes altered photographs featuring actors. Working with Photoshop as his palette, Mr. Storm gives us a movie in frame by frame. Among other advantages this allows him to layer a single page on top of another page of images, each level reinforcing the meaning of the other while also opening up the story on both a metaphorical as well as a physical level.
At one point the Serial Artist fears being shot in public. He outlines how his attacker will be a killer that can’t be traced back to those who really want him dead. Underneath the story are the slightly out of focus images of Oswald being shot by Ruby. The idea of a patsy as executioner for the powerful becomes more powerful and real.
One of the most striking images comes early in the tale. The Artist’s companion stands stubbornly in the snow while he sits inside a car begging for her to return. As with many memories, the scene occurs through the slight fog of both selfish rationalization and the distance of time. The details in the panel aren’t sharp, but the effect of the image is chilling as well as deeply touching, especially for anyone who has been disappointed in love or had to distance him- or herself from someone once beloved. We have all been either inside the car or standing outside of it. Mr. Randle and Mr. Storm help us to feel such empathetic moments frame by frame. This ability to touch the reader is one of the main reasons everything holds together so easily.
Some will find the story’s occasional dip into the grotesque hard to handle. The depictions of S&M, the cuttings, the exhibitionism, the verbal assaults, the diatribes that alternate between being insightful and being sophomoric ramblings of the deluded—this is all integral to the story. Nothing portrayed is done for shock; it is all part of life.
Many of these things are part of the world around us that many choose to never see much less acknowledge. The amazing thing is that for all the tough imagery and tough-man dialog, the violence and the hurt, the story is about the most basic thing in life, love. It is about being lost in the noise of the world around us.
There is a good amount of humor rippling throughout the story. The pretensions of the art world are only made more ludicrous by the hypocrisy of so many of its participants. Those same qualities are also true of the general media. Each and every side stands revealed as fools—fools with grand intentions, but fools nonetheless.
A crawl through the wreckage of modern society and life, Serial Artist fascinates, repels, and moves the reader with each panel.
–Mark Squirek, NY Journal of Books
This is the thing I like about Markosia, they are willing to take some serious risks when putting together a comic book, and I tend to generally really like their stuff. I have been reading them for a very long time, but this time Markosia has really pushed the envelope in terms of what kinds of stories they do. This is a pretty standard mixed media presentation much like comic books that have come before. The art though is gritty and rough and believable with the overtones and painting that goes along with the manipulation of the photographs to put a real dark mood on this one that is beyond what I have seen with other photographic comic books.
Markosia also decided to just call it, and push it out as a graphic novel, and if you want you can purchase the four serials that make up the whole story, or just go buy the whole story right off the bat. This change has been happening a lot in the graphic novel industry, the patience for serials is over with, and people just want to see the whole story. Markosia seems to be playing this one right in terms of delivery.
Honestly this is hard gritty comic book that is hard to define into any typical genre, which makes it a nice cross over here, there is something for everyone. Serial Artist is a cold story of a fine arts gallery painter who has declared to the world that the subjects of his paintings are his murder victims and that all the clues necessary to solve his crimes are hidden in his works of art. And that is what works across the whole process of Horror and Mystery. There are sections of this that would do a good B Horror movie proud; there are some interesting puzzles with the paintings and how the book has been put together. From the press release:
It’s one part fast-paced murder mystery, one part mind-bending meditation on the decay of Western Civilization, and one part tour through the roiling psychosis of a disturbed young painter. Mix in the guiding hand of the I Ching, render the illustrations using Adobe Photoshop, and you get Serial Artist, a four-part, underground graphic novel that strikes uncomfortably close to home.
And that home is America: a capitalistic, parasitic, self-indulgent totem of rampant materialism, whose once-world renowned value system has spun off its axis and now breeds a race of slouching, mindless dependents. Here in the long shadow of the leviathan, the basest impulses govern existence, and the wanton pursuit of excess has sown the seeds for the empire’s own eventual reckoning. From the churning bile of this mire emerges a once-in-a-generation figure, a firebrand visionary whose métier is the deification of murder and whose rabid fan base brings new meaning to the term “cult following.”
From here things get weirder, and in all honestly this one has us going back and re-reading pages to make sure we got it. I’m actually going to rate this one five of five stars because there is so much happening in here. The story line is dense, the art work is pretty decent, and surprisingly this is one tough comic book to push out, and get it right, but Markosia did it. Always fun, this one is worth getting just for the art work.
When Alan Moore said that “The Watchmen” was unfilmable, it was because his method of storytelling was intrinsically tied to the graphic novel medium: the use of panels on the page, the insertion of book excerpts, and other narrative devices meant that the medium was an integral part of the story.
Robert Randle and Kevin Storm pull off a similar feat by telling their tale in a way that could only be done in the graphic novel format. Serial Artist is the story of a painter claiming to be a serial killer who puts clues to his crimes in the portraits of his victims…all while leaving no evidence with which to prosecute his crimes. The cult of personality that surrounds this provocative artist, and official efforts to secure his arrest, propel the story through its twists and turns. It is a dark and cynical exploration of the nature of art and celebrity in our modern culture.
Most fascinating to me is that the layout of each page–whether a 2×3 grid, a 1×3 grid, or a combination of the two–follows the progression of yin and yang lines through all 64 hexagrams of the I Ching. Each page has three lines (a trigram), so each pair of pages forms a unique hexagram. The story itself is 128 pages long. The events, color choices, and other details on each pair of pages reflect the hexagram that they represent. In “Serial Artist,” as with “Watchmen,” the story is inseparable from the medium.
Even though the narrative in “Serial Artist” doesn’t actually concern the I Ching, this is a brilliant device for framing and telling a story. Rather than having an open-ended format, they have imposed very strict constraints within which to tell their story. The result is poetic, artful, creative, and inspiring.
–Richard Kaczynski (Perdurabo, Forgotten Templars)
Cómic Review: Serial Artist
Tengo por costumbre bajarme torrents con cosas que hayan salido en bundle. Onda, “Image Week”, “DC Week”, o a veces colecciones indie con -3 seeders, y autores que no conoce ni la mamá, como Markosia.
Éste lo encontré en esos.
Serial Artist, de Robert Randle y Kevin Storm, nos presenta a un artista plástico que asegura que sus modelos son las victimas de homicidios que él mismo cometió, y las pruebas a esos crímenes están escondidas en la misma obra; testeando al mundo a que lo descifre. Si ésto no es suficiente para captar tu atención, bueno… Sos un público horrible y merecés morir.
Si estás esperando una novela convencional policial con muchos tonos grises, y tradicionalismos, ésto no es para vos. Si estás esperando un entintador, y un colorista… Tampoco. Si estás esperando un guionista que va por lugares comunes, menos. Críticas a la cultura de masas, el artista, el arte en sí mismo, el narcisismo y hedonismo, hasta el onanismo que confiere el fanatismo, la cultura virtual, comprimido en un thriller atrapante, con un intrincado y específico arte compuesto de formas que no vi antes, al menos no así presentadas. Parece, por momentos, más como una cinemática de un Silent Hill, que un cómic. Y todo ejecutado de forma brillante.
Es honesto, es brutal, pero sin ser burdo. Es inteligente y complejo, y te obliga a sentarte frente a lo que estás leyendo y hacer sinapsis.
Como dije antes, la historia nos presenta a un artista plástico que se vuelve viral por crear obras de gente que mató, o eso dice. Con gente que le cree, y gente que no, se vuelve una sensación instantánea. Canales de noticias, portales web, no hay nadie que no esté hablando de él. Naturalmente, los precios de sus obras escalan a niveles astronómicos; mientras el FBI trata de rastrearlo y ponerlo tras las rejas.
Es interesante el tratamiento que tiene, por que si bien el arte no se parece a nada que lo preceda, los personajes que nos plantea la obra, son hasta cuasi Shakespereanos. Son clásicos, casi cliché, y sin embargo, no. Está el agente del FBI que se obsesiona, el amigo traidor… Todo eso que ya vimos en La Ley y el Orden, o en cualquiera similar, se entrecruza con una posición y un desarrollo increiblemente sutil, que nos presenta conceptos filosóficos y sociológicos que hablan de la psyche del autor; mechados en una timeline complicada que presenta hasta 3 planos temporales por momentos, sin perder coherencia en ningún momento.
Donde cualquier otra novela gráfica tiene paneles dibujados, Storm nos da actores y photoshop, que ejecutan la historia como si fuese una película cuadro por cuadro, pero con saltos dinámicos y con fotogramas preciosos, al mismo tiempo en que hasta resultan incómodos y descolocan al verlos. El uso del photoshop es re interesante, por que permite crear capas con las imágenes. Presten atención cuando lo miran, atrás del cuadro, pasan cosas, que refuerzan la idea y la sensación particular de cada idea de página.
La combinación de ambas partes, guión y arte, crean una empatía y un compromiso con quien lee que es fascinante. Crean un aura en la que no sólo te cuentan una historia, sino que te vuelven parte de la historia.
Más allá de que incluye gente muerta y FBI, hay aspectos dentro de la narrativa que podrían ser hasta chabacanos (como cuestiones muy gráficas presentando BDSM o exhibicionismo, and so forth), pero están planteados de manera que, no sólo son integrales a la trama, sino que además, no se ven como un shock factor, son parte del universo en el que estamos viviendo en ese momento.
A pesar de todo ésto, es una historia con un tema que se trato millones de veces en la humanidad: es una historia sobre el amor.
Deliciosamente inteligente, dinámica, intrigante, divertida incluso. Serial Artist lo tiene todo: por favor, paguenle a éstos tipos. Realmente merecen los 4usd en comiXology, o los 14 usd que vale el tpb. Banquemos un poco más al indie, tiene mucho para ofrecer.
Amazon Top Customer Reviews
By Dave Bowen on March 28, 2016
I was a beta reader for this powerful and unsettling graphic novel. My first reading was in PDF form about five years ago, and I’m still haunted by many of the images and story sequences. I’ve since concluded that almost nothing about the story is exactly what it seems. It’s written on multiple levels and laden with symbolism that crystallizes over time and with subsequent readings. The main character, the Serial Artist performs a macabre parade up the hill to fame and fortune. The world (and the readers) watch on in horror with each escalation, each new revelation. It seems so obvious the character is playing both the media and the public that you’re lulled into a feeling of understanding the narrative fully. This is, I believe, a deliberate feint on the part of Randle, a subtle bit of misdirection to keep you from guessing the truth behind all the lies. Despite the adult subject matter (dealt with in an adult manner) and the horror of the string of grisly murders, the spookiest thing about this story is…you’ll never be quite certain you’ve plumbed the depths. In that sense it echoes two of my favorite movies, “Memento” and “Inception.” Both films – and this masterful and underrated book – leave you with the same disturbing feeling, that of an unending ending, to be reinterpreted and revised, but, like the itch of a phantom limb – never truly scratched.
By VanyaK on May 8, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have to admit that I went into reading this with an inaccurate idea of what it was about. As I read, I can’t help but think it was by design. Readers can expect to find a half dozen people that they will hate and by the end, find themselves cheering for a few.
The artwork is gritty and captivating and lends itself well to the view of the world being portrayed. A must read!