Let's get this out of the way first: CAGES is a milestone, a masterpiece, a dot in time representing exactly how high comics can climb. It's also an impossible book to summarize without the benefit of a few thousand words. It's about creation, love, god, religion, magic, reincarnation, transformation, music, the gaps and lines between people and the smallness of the world. It's also a gigantic art book, a series of poems, a philosophical meandering and possibly a treatise. I'm not sure on that last one as I suspect I'm not versed enough to fully comprehend everything Dave McKean is talking about here.
But, let's be honest, everyone is going to come for the art. After his cover work and collaborations, McKean has flexed the kind of talent so good that people tend to take it for granted. CAGES has photo collages, paintings, mixed media and linework that runs the gamut from hasty scratches to snapshot-perfect sketches, all of it oversized on 496 thick glossy pages. It would look as appropriate on a shelf full of Taschen books as it would on a coffee table or pinioned next to its punier brethren on a rack.
CAGES is spun out as a folk tale born from ancient myth, that just so happens to intersect with life, love and loss in the real world. Following artist Leo Sabarsky as he moves into the Hotel Meru, CAGES creeps up and down the secret hallways, in and out of rooms, tracking lovelorn old women, Salman Rushdie-esque writers in hiding and musicians who make stones sing.
This is the biggest secret of CAGES: McKean's ability to make his writing as engaging as the story, to make everything come together in the service of... well, I'm not exactly sure what. CAGES is a rewrite of Genesis. CAGES is a love story. CAGES is about men living in quiet rooms, in frustrated failure, in cats. CAGES is about the birth of ideas, people, and entire worlds. Somewhere between where the infinite black of the universe turned to light and right now, that's where CAGES resides, throwing up miles of scaffolding to try and contain it all inside, never apologizing for drawing you into the process and trapping you there.
Christopher Sebela lives, works and sleeps in Kansas City, MO. When not laying out newspaper pages or writing quasi-subversive headlines for a tiny upstart company within a huge publishing syndicate, he pimps his muse as a freelance writer or labors in vain crudely editing reams of footage. He has no idea why he has a website, but he does: thoughtpeach.com.