The Raven

Lorenzo Mattotti & Lou Reed, based on the work of Edgar Allen Poe
Debuting at TCAF 2011
Hardcover, 9″ x 9″, 188 pages. Price: $22.99 US
ISBN-13: 978-1-60699-444-3
Reviewed by Salgood Sam

For Lou Reed the project started as a suggestion from a stage manager. The forward tells the story of how he wrote a play around the writings of Edgar Allan Poe before and after shows while on tour. Put on the play with Robert Wilson, and released an album.

Seeking to publish an illustrated book, Art Spiegelman suggested he look at the work of Lorenzo Mattotti. The result is a beautiful set of illustrations and somewhat narrative, expressive poetry.

Mattotti’s work is fairly unique in the comics world, there are not many like him. He only has one of his many feet in Sequential Art. He is also a renowned painter and fashion designer. An illustrator with an architect’s training and eye for structure. His diverse interests and background probably in part lends itself in his comics work to his distinctive ability to break with convention while still rendering stories as coherent as they are unconventional and lovely.
But Raven is not a comic. Sequential Art perhaps but more a story book then.
The text is mostly given a separate space from the images, Mattotti’s work plays off and interprets Reed’s re-imagined Poe. There is some narrative here but it does not feel like the point of it to me reading the PDF review copy. I’d like to see how it plays out in print but i think you could easily flip back and forth through this book to read it as a sampling of, two–three?–accomplished artists works. The arrow of time is not intensely felt here.
Reed’s take on Poe is interesting. I’m not exactly an expert in poetry but I’ve read a fair bit, and this was of the better but not ground breaking. An ode to Poe it reads to me as the back story to it’s creation suggests.

”I wrote before after and during our rehearsals. It was inspiring and having the genius template of Poe made this a verbal emotive joy”

So I take it as a labour of love and pleasure, by an artist who was having fun more than pushing boundaries [the core complaint about the album incarnation of the project leveled by Brian James at pitchfork].
For fans of Lou, two of his songs also show up in the mix along with his re-imagined Poe, including one of my favorites “Perfect Day“.
Mattotti’s art I think is the more adventurous aspect of the book, but it also well reflects the comfortable, dark and playful note of the writing. This is a very beautiful book, and poignant, unsurprisingly given the source material much preoccupied by death and mortality.
While it’s not dealt with in a trivial way I also don’t think it says anything new about the subject. But it does what it does with considerable skill and facility, and a fair bit of raw honesty. Some like Brian James might not like the occasional frank reference to one’s balls shriveling up, not find it poetic. But having recently dodged testicular cancer I can relate there.
I’m not sure if anything else was intended by it, if they set out to be avant-garde in anyway by intention. I don’t really think so. Being a fan of Mattotti’s narrative work I was hoping for more of a narrative beast. But I enjoyed this work and look forward to getting my hands on a copy of the printed edition when it’s presented at TCAF.


Order the book from
Preview: There’s a nice sized chunk of the book you can preview on Issuu ici.
Listen: Lorenzo Mattotti had a great long interview about this project and his work in general on the Vancouver comics show Inkstuds at the start of the month.
Find: Lou Reed; Lorenzo Mattotti.