Back from its annual summer break, Crossing Borders immediately tackles one of the bigger releases in Europe in recent months. It’s been a while since we last saw Gianni Pacinotti – aka Gipi – but time has clearly not eroded the man’s ability to draw. On the contrary, he’s still pushing the envelope with his unique style, experimenting with both story and visuals in his latest OGN Unastoria (One-Story).
Life comes crashing down on famous writer Silvano Landi; obsessed with letters from his great-grandfather Mauro Landi, who served in the trenches of the First World War, he finds himself in a psychiatric asylum. Silvano’s failed marriage and subsequent psychotic breakdown start to intersect and interweave with his great-grandfather’s story until both seem to come to a parallel climax.
Unastoria is definitely a testament to Gipi’s superb use of storytelling and art skills. Switching seamlessly between black-and-white line work, painted panels with watercolors and regular pages with computer coloring like there’s no tomorrow, the storyteller uses all these techniques to full effect. He knows when to let a story breathe, and the silent pages are often the ones where I stopped the most to just gaze at the stunning ways Gipi portrays light, whether it’s in the trenches of WWI or a brightly lit gas station in the present.
The beautiful pages cover up some of the stilted storytelling, though. The art elevates the narrative and manages to capture the emotional moments more accurately than the heavy prose or wannabe psychological insights.
It is obvious that in Gipi’s mind there was meant to be more of a convergence of the two stories, but the reading experience never quite gels with his intentions. The unifying image of the dead tree that both Silvano and Mauro circle again and again, appearing like a monumental axis in both their lives, is not enough to bring them together.
The two stories that are meant to clash drift more or less on their separate paths and never completely join, straying from their parallel paths more than once, accompanied by some overly heavy prose. The mash-up seems artificial, though both stories seem worthy of the telling (maybe in different albums?)
An overly heavy exercise in storytelling but a superb showcase of his visual talent, Unastoria by Gipi shows that this 50-year-old veteran still continues to grow as an artist.
Unastoria by Gipi is published in Italian by Coconino Press. It is a full-color softcover counting 128 pages and retails for €18. This review was based on the Dutch edition (entitled Eenverhaal), published by Oog & Blik.
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