2010 has so far been a year filled with hotly anticipated titles, but for me, Oni’s Mondo Urbano may have been the one that excited me the most. Created by one of my favorite artists in Rafael Albuquerque along with his collaborators and countrymen Mateus Santolouco and Eduardo Medeiros, this book fancied itself a “sex, drugs and rock’n’roll story.” A vague conceit, but I was still intrigued by the building hype and the talent of the creators involved.
I finally picked it up the same week as I grabbed Oni’s other hot title (a little book called Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour), and I found myself compelled to read through it multiple times on my first sitting. It’s a damn good book, but also one of surprising depth. Find out more after the jump.
At its core, this story is about Van Hudson, or more specifically the perhaps enchanted guitar that turned him into the biggest rock star on the planet. When Hudson dies, dominoes begin falling in every direction from that event, as the trio of creators spin a yarn that isn’t just about sex, drugs and rock’n’roll, but also about the interconnectivity of life and how expectations are created to be defeated.
There are numerous different stories progressing from different perspectives and times within this story. Whether its a crumbling relationship hidden in an exciting night at a rock concert with your friends, hidden animosities amongst the best of buds, the horrible power of love, or the basic idea of being in the right place at the right time, this movie comes to life with a sense of reality posited in a place that maybe (just maybe) you could become a rock god by exchanging your soul to the devil.
That’s really the key point of this book: life. It’s about youth and all of the complications that come from that period in your life, about how the spark of impulse can ruin one’s life faster than anything.
Plus, it’s very entertaining, often quite funny, and surprisingly touching.
From a story standpoint, this book definitely stands out, but from an artistic standpoint is where my troubles with the title live. You wouldn’t think that given the fact that this book comes from three people whose natural trade is art, but such is life. I obviously adore Albuquerque’s work, and he is the standout of the trio. Every time his art is up, the books springs to life to an even greater level.
However, when juxtaposed with Santolouco and Medeiros more cartoony and less tightened style, the book seems a little disconnected even with its deep interconnection.
Their art works very well sometimes, such as the section where Napa and Naomi (a couple going through some serious troubles) are fighting and Naomi tells Napa she’ll leave if he can say she doesn’t love her anymore. the way the artist (I’m unsure which is which here) handles the sequence of four Napa faces fading out of reality works as a brilliant storytelling tool, and it made me want to love the rest of the art all the more.
Even with art that doesn’t blend easily for me, this is still a very worthwhile and quality read. What the Brazilian power trio has accomplished with this is a beautiful story about life that is perhaps a bit mitigated by its lack of a true artistic identity. Still, I highly recommend picking it up if you’re a fan of stories about life, love, and everything in between (even the occasional deal with the devil).