Graphic Novel Review: Nick Cave: Mercy on Me by Reinhard Kleist
PUBLISHED: 09:59 22 September 2017 | UPDATED: 09:59 22 September 2017
“Take a little walk to the edge of town and go across the tracks where the viaduct looms, like a bird of doom...”
The storyteller becomes the story, myth merges with mundanity, and life truly imitates art in this pseudo-biographical journey through the life of Nick Cave.
Quite where fact is distinguished from fiction is often uncertain, as Kleist paints a winding account of Cave’s determined struggle for self-expression, from his roots in Australia through his drug-fuelled punk years in London and Berlin as part of Boys Next Door and The Birthday Party, only to finally achieve a sense of personal satisfaction with the Bad Seeds.
Characters from Nick’s writing are given life, including the likes of Eliza Day from Where the Wild Roses Grow, the Death Row convict in The Mercy Seat, the mute Euchrid Eucrow from his novel And the Ass Saw the Angel, and the dark protagonist of Red Right Hand. Their interaction with Cave, and influence over his decisions, brings a metafictional element to what is already a fascinating narrative, as their imaginary worlds bleed into his reality.
As you might expect from an artist of Cave’s repertoire, there’s an inherent darkness throughout this piece, with the only humour coming black and thick, and that is reflected in Kleist’s shadowy pages, which often feel oppressive and haunted. He also admirably captures his subject’s quirky features, something which is essential in any decent graphic novel biog, as so much of the narrative is carried by the inclusion of identifiable characters.
There are many assumptions here about the reader’s prior knowledge of Cave’s life and works, but then this was always going to be a niche product aimed at his fanbase, rather than the mainstream, and it’s refreshing to encounter an author who refuses to patronise his audience. Highly recommended.