Lorenzo Mattotti at TCAF! Review of STIGMATA

Lorenzo Mattotti is coming to TCAF! He will not be back in Toronto any time soon, so this is a rare opportunity to meet this famous and enormously talented European creator. Mattotti will be participating in interviews, panels, discussions and signings at TCAF and this is your chance to really get to know his work.

To celebrate Mattotti’s appearance at TCAF, we are running reviews of his English language books all week. First up, Stigmata!

Title: Stigmata
Writer: Claudio Piersanti
Artist: Lorenzo Mattotti
Published: 2011
Publisher: Fantagraphics

Review by John Anderson

What is it about?
A good-for-nothing drunkard wakes up one day with wounds in his palms that won’t stop bleeding. Because of his mysterious stigmata, his friends and neighbours think he’s either a miracle-worker or a freak. After he loses his job at a restaurant because his palms won’t stop bleeding, he moves to another town and finds happiness for a time with a new family, and gets a job using his stigmata to scam the gullible. His refusal to accept this miracle for what it is leads to pain, violence and despair, but in the end he finds redemption.

Why is it good?
Screenwriter and novelist Claudio Piersanti’s dark tale of a man driven to the depths of despair is beautifully captured in Mattotti’s astonishing art. No artist is better suited to capturing all the intense violence, anger and despair this character suffers through. Our nameless protagonist’s face is always somewhat dark and indistinct, and his suspicious and misanthropic nature is captured by a close-up of his eye looking over his shoulder. At the happiest point of the story there is still an undercurrent of danger. His new wife Lorena’s face is clear and beautiful, but his face is still in shadow. It is only at the end of the book, after he has been redeemed, that we see his eyes clearly.

And at the darkest points in the story, such as when the protagonist has lost everything and collapses in the river, the art becomes a chaos of expressionistic lines. And in the final chapter, after he has lost everything and has withdrawn completely from the world, he experiences a redemptive vision where his wordless pain and despair is illustrated so graphically it’s heartbreaking. This chapter is a dreamlike flow of images that is reminiscent of Chimera, another one of Mattotti’s amazing black and white books.

Even the simplest scenes are intense. I love how Mattotti draws water: swirls of lines that are so energetic that I can really feel the force of water from a tap, or the strength of a raging river.

Stigmata was first published in Europe over ten years ago. Two years ago, it was adapted into a film, Estigmas, by the Spanish director Adán Aliaga. It’s been a long time coming to English, but it is worth it. Piersanti’s story would make a powerful film, but it also makes an intense, emotionally powerful comic.

You can find Stigmata in store at The Beguiling, or you can buy it online at beguiling.com.