A Lovely Graphic Novel About the Search for Truth in Art
The creators of Grace, a graphic novel based on Jeff Buckley’s life, have vividly illustrated the story in black and white, with shades of aqua blue. We see our protagonist shadowed by unrealized potential, the ghost of his father Tim Buckley’s music and neglect, and his quest for finding truth in art. A melancholy, though lovely, literary and visual experience results. It reminds us that life is short, and that death might find you before you reach the holy grail.
Writer Tiffanie DeBartolo and artists Dizin and Reist make great choices with their narrative, especially by letting water act as a tremendous and paradoxical force. In the beginning, blue water splashes Henry’s mind to heaven as he experiences his first dizzying dose of Radiohead. In the end, the Mississippi River takes Jeff’s life, but we also see him go out singing about love and finally touching the stars. We all know how Jeff Buckley passed, but there’s always been a leering lore and speculation over the why. I enjoy that the author doesn’t over focus on this, neither insisting his death was suicide, drugs, nor accident. After we watch Buckley burn bridges, miss opportunities, and live close to the edge, we can interpret his watery end as the fulfillment of an unconscious death wish, or read the river as a respite from a troubled life.
Debartolo’s inclusion of the Henry Fischer character was her most interesting choice. Buckley’s young contemporary also struggles to find his path as an artist. Jeff nicknames him the Fischer King. It’s fun to think of them both as the mythical character, each injured and guarding the grail with a more wounded father figure in the background.
In this telling, they both seek and guard the Grail of musical expression without ego or trepidation. The Fischer King can only reveal the grail to the chosen one who is on the correct quest. Jeff Buckley, with his angelic singing voice, his big questions, and his use of prophetic lyrics, has come to get the Grail at last. Henry is also asking these questions, and it’s moving to to see Jeff listen to Henry, and help him generously along his path. It deepens his legend to experience Jeff’s humanity once more before we lose him. Posthumously we learn that Buckley sent Henry’s demo to Columbia Records, attaining both “Grace” and the Grail at the end of his too-short path.