Monday, September 22, 2008

Manga Monday: Me and the Devil Blues

Me and the Devil Blues (Volume 1)
Akira Hiramoto
Me and the Devil Blues is a fictionalized biography of mysterious blues guitarist Robert Johnston. Little is known about the true life of the man, save the myth that he sold his soul to the devil for his level of craft. Akira Hiramoto's imagination has Johnston sprouting ten fingers on one hand and working alongside Clyde of the infamous bandits Bonnie and Clyde. A bit much. But there's a lot of good historical stuff in here, especially when it comes to the tense segregation between whites and blacks. But I think the most effective aspect of the book is its tone. Hiramoto has an uncanny ability of painting a scene with intense mood. From the shady culture of a blues bar at midnight, to the bright, stifling hot doorsteps of a building at mid-day on Main Street, Hiramoto takes his impressive drawing skills to a level all its own. And there are small touches of conflict through the paranormal and inner dialogue that make even the lazy, drawn-out scenes compulsively readable. I think I even prefer those smaller, quieter scenes of Johnston with his pregnant girlfriend or in the car with Clyde, to the more in-your-face action and horror of Johnston beaten down by the sheriff of a rogue town, as his ten fingers are discovered by a man who has consumed alcohol where prohibition is carried out to the point of executing non-conformers. Me and the Devil Blues is a moody, atmospheric book that is both literary and a devil of a good time.

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