Case Number 11103: Small Claims Court

THE ALCHEMY OF ART: DAVID MACK

Hero Video Productions // 2007 // 107 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Mac McEntire // March 29th, 2007

The Charge

"Sometimes your ideas and your instincts are smarter than you are. You just have to realize that."
-- David Mack

The Case

In near-future Japan, a woman, codenamed Kabuki, is a member of a group of assassins called the Masks of the Noh. She rejects their ways, though, and later finds herself inside the Control Corps, a strange facility where agents are reprogrammed. As her adventures continue, Kabuki explores her past and her identity and wonders about her future, while being hunted by her former Noh partners, who are now out to kill her.

This is the tale from Kabuki, a creator-owned comic book written and illustrated by David Mack, who has also written and drawn a successful run of Daredevil for Marvel Comics. Mack's unique, experimental artwork caught comic fans by surprise, combining various styles and elements, making them unlike anything else on the shelves. Add to that storylines with a deep, emotional center, and you have one of today's most notable comic creators.

In The Alchemy of Art: David Mack, director Greg Jurls (Terry Moore: Paradise Found) puts his camera on Mack, who discusses his art, his personal history, and his overall philosophy of life. Mack's family, fans, and fellow creators are interviewed as well, offering their thoughts on Mack and his work.

I get the sense that David Mack is a bit of a chatterbox. He seems to have an opinion on everything, and he's willing to share it with anyone in earshot. Whether it's his art or his childhood or his favorite comics, he has a lot to say. The guy comes across in this documentary as a walking whirlwind of energy. Whether he's painting, meeting fans at a convention, or just sitting and chatting, he's always "on," and his constant enthusiasm is apparent on screen.

Fortunately, Mack's non-stop outpouring of creative energy never fully overwhelms viewers, because a lot of what he has to say is genuinely interesting. He says that growing up without a television stirred him and his brother to be more creative; to think up their own "culture" rather than relying on the TV to do it for them. Because he never saw toy commercials as a kid, Mack says he was content to build his own toys, rather than shop for them. Later, he discusses how he uses physical elements on his comic pages, such as photographs and torn pieces of paper, to enhance the feeling of atmosphere in the story. A great cartoonist once said, "It's only lines on paper, people," but David Mack puts that to the test with his intuitive, collage-like approach to the medium. The documentary concludes with Mack's thoughts about his fans, and about what he feels his work means to them; as expected, he has plenty to say about this as well.

When I reviewed Jurls' Terry Moore documentary, I criticized it for being nothing but 75 minutes of just one camera angle. I'm happy to say that Jurls has improved considerably as a director and editor. This time, we see Mack in a variety of environments in his interview segments; these segments are enhanced with glimpses of his artwork throughout. We also get well-timed breaks to hear from Mack's brother, and fans and colleagues interviewed at a comic book convention. All this variety keeps the documentary moving nicely, never once feeling dull.

Although non-anamorphic, the picture quality here is nice, especially when Mack's art fills the screen. There's very little music or sound effects for the 2.0 sound to show off, but all the dialogue comes through excellently. The big extra here is a commentary on an entire issue of Kabuki, with Mack going over the issue, page-by-page and panel-by-panel. This highly detailed look at the comic will be a true delight for Mack's fans. From there, Mack reads from his new children's picture book, The Shy Creatures, while showing original black and white art from that book. The final extra is a look at Mack's volunteer work with Visionaries and Voices, an art program for individuals with disabilities.

Overall, an interesting and entertaining documentary that will be of interest to fans of comic book art, or art in general. Not guilty.

Review content copyright © 2007 Mac McEntire; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 88

Perp Profile
Studio: Hero Video Productions
Video Formats:
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* PCM 2.0 Stereo (English)

Subtitles:
* None

Running Time: 107 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Commentary on a Complete Issue of Kabuki
* Never Before Seen Early Art
* "The Shy Creatures"
* "Visionaries and Voices"

Accomplices
* IMDb
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0938282/combined

* Official Site
http://www.herovideoproductions.com/

* David Mack's Official Site
http://www.davidmack.com/

* David Mack Fan Site
http://www.davidmackguide.com/

* Visionaries and Voices Official Site
http://www.visionariesandvoices.com/