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  • Cages
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on 10 December 1998
I came to cages with little knowledge of Dave McKean other than "The Guy Who Does The Sandman Comic Covers". Sure, Neil Gaiman is listed among the credits and Cages has a smattering of the strange, weird and magical, but, in case you're wondering, it is not a Gaiman-esque gothic, dream-based fantasy.
One character muses, "Like a spiral it [creation] repeats but it also comments on itself". Here, in a nutshell, Mckean summarises what Cages does and is about.
A Chinese box - boxes within boxes - of a novel, weaving between the residents of a contemporary apartment block, McKean provides an enchanting yet fragmented commentary on the nature of creativity (its pitfalls, effects, demands. . . - a theme perhaps given all the more poignancy and "depth" as the author is also an artist) through allegories, fairy tales, anecdotes, encounters and dreams - peppered throughout with dry humour.
Artistically, although much of the illustration is sketchy and two-tone - more like the pictures from a film story board than most graphic novels (and lacking the rich detail of, say McKean's work in "Arkham Asylum") each picture compliments the action perfectly, provides masterful scene changes and those moments when McKean lets his formidable artistic talent carry the narrative alone, provide some of the most original and breathtaking sequences of the piece.
You could argue that McKean fails to deliver what his prologue suggests. You could feel that the characters remain - however beautifully rendered - a little too skeletal and lacking. For me, however this in itself is (sort of) a compliment and probably owes more to the fact that McKean communicates what he does with such skill and wit, and suggests so much more than he presents, that it can't fail but to leave you wanting more.
I read Cages straight through in one LONG sitting. It had me gripped from the start and deserves to reach a far wider audience than simply graphic novel fans. If you're someone who regards graphic novels as immature kids stuff, think again. Cages is unlike - and far surpasses - any other work of this genre that I know of. It is, more or less, a masterpiece.
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on 27 February 2011
I read this book a couple of years ago, and reread it a few weeks ago. I have never come across a story like this, in particular a story TOLD like this. With an incredibly impressive array of visual/narrative techniques, McKean presents an allegory (if that's what it is; the book can be ambiguous concerning certain developments) of creativity as well as despair, abandonment, frustration, and above all, the realization that things are actually pretty wonderful, if we can manage to alter our self-imposed perspectives.
This is one of the crowning achievements of the graphic medium, and a landmark in literature.
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on 6 June 2002
When I burst open the cellophane surrounding McKean's opus I was unsure what to expect. He generally supplies the images for other author's texts. Could he deliver on a story of his own doing?
Quite simply he could, and then some.
This is the greatest graphic novel ever written, equally useful as a lush coffee table book or bedtime reading.
McKean mixes drawing styles, photgraphic collage, paint and much much more to create a kaleidoscope of abstract and profound images.
If you only ever buy one graphic novel, buy cages.
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on 8 November 2002
Since A-Level art I dreamed of becoming an Illustrator like Dave Mckean, his work always excited me, moved me and pushed the boundaries of what can be acheived in comic art. Now a few years on,as an Illustrator I believe Cages to be a masterpeice and a huge inspiration to anyone who reads it. Very clever and sometimes heart breaking, he portrays people in a sensitive and compelling light... beautiful beautiful beautiful... i cant describe it to do it justice... there's too much in this large hardback volume for a start! Something to treasure... so if you can find a copy get your greedy mitts on it fast!
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on 19 January 2014
I've always loved Dave McKeans art work, especially on the Sandman covers, but it wasn't until recently that I found out about his writing. Cages is the first McKean graphic novel I bought, picked it up to read it tonight and could not put it down until it was done.

It is startling, hypnotic, distressing, thought provoking and beautiful. At certain points I had to stop, just to bask in the story and let melancolia wash over me and at other points I gasped out loud (drawing strange looks from my husband).

I would definately recommend this, a beautiful beautiful book, only wish I'd bought it in hardback now.
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on 14 November 2011
among mckean's books, this one is simply essential.
his first major solo work - and an immediate masterpiece!
he presents all his skills at different techniques. but never to show off, never for the sterile sake of it.
there is always a means to an end in his work. the sotires contained in this book are alive, because they feel real.
it's like everyone's daily life, rendered in a style that glorifies it.
hats off!!
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on 11 November 1998
Let's imagine that Cages is not a comic because as such it exists in a desert. Only Maus ever mattered both inside and out of the idiosyncratic and stifling world of comics. Alan Moore crossed over, true, but even the glorious Watchmen was steeped in the trappings of caped derring do. To talk of Cages within that world is to judge a whale in a bucket full of minnows. No competition.
Cages wins as a tone poem that meanders in a fevered, non-linear way through the lives and dream lives of an artist and his neighbours. Salman Rushdie lives upstairs in all but name. Pigeons talk of Ratatouille. Windows look on the future. A singer with an obelisk in his flat gets up to who really knows what?
It's certainly an enchanting mixture of forms whose function is to celebrate and explore the business of creating. It implies more than it explains but it has direction, momentum and colour. It's a kaleidoscope with dialogue and the reader must make sense of the jumble alone. In terms of story, the bones of what's here stretches no further than a short. But then the same is often true of good films. There is a richness here that once again reminds the reader of comics' potential and sets us to wonder what possibilities for expression lie unexploited here, merely because of a few decades worth of bad PR, dodgy tights and biceps.
It's a work with much to recommend it. Attractive, enjoyable and thought provoking. Buy it soon.
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on 2 September 2014
Amazing ideas and illustration.
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on 11 January 2011
I bought this book as a present, what mattered to me was that it arrived on time and it did. The person it was for seemed pleased with it.
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