3 out of 5
This W. Maxwell Prince cat is an interesting writer, and The Electric Sublime is an interesting read. …I’m just not sure what to make of it, because I’m not sure it accomplished what it set out to do, which, according to an issue 1 post-script from the author, is to – on some level – explore how the world of art affects us and how we affect others through it. Sublime certainly does that on a humorously literal level – the characters use paintings to kill; travel through paintings to “see” the world – but the narrative into which these details are set feels a little wishy-washy. I thoroughly enjoyed Prince’s ‘One Week In the Library,’ but that had its whimsy built in; ES proposes an actual forward trajectory with its plot, as mentioned killings are linked to a terrorist group which our lead character, Bureau of Artistic Integrity Director Breslin, is trying to halt from their increasingly dastardly plans. And though this is “resolved” and is central to how we’re introduced to Artie Brut and his trans-painting-dimensional dream-painting methods, like in ‘Library,’ Prince seems more concerned with exploring the creative method than developing his plot – which is fine, which is fun, and interesting to read and look at with Quitely-esque art from Martín Morazzo (fitting, given the clear Morrison influence on Prince’s surreal style) and wonderfully precise colors from Mat Lopes, but that means these explorations somehow never feel like they quite link up to the going-ons that trigger them, and thus when focus does shift over to moving the story forward, it’s unclear what tone things are meant to take: is there any danger for the characters? Are we supposed to be thinking about things or just entertained?
The fact that I’m brought to ask these questions means I’m not unhappy at all to have plunked down the cash to read Electric Sublime. Though I can’t say I got invested in the content, I was absolutely interested by it, and Prince has a lovely way of promoting his interests without it coming across as highfalutin at all, but also without trying to be dismissive about it. He loves this stuff, and he’s okay with it. However, while that joy energized One Week In the Library, if Prince is going to try to wend this passion into more linear narratives, he might need to filter some of that same passion into the nitty gritty of the story that supports it.
Electric Sublime has a very cool idea that it pursues with gusto, but it gets distracted looking at the pretty pictures along the way. Definitely still a writer to keep tabs on.