by Matt Kindt
Top Shelf Productions
BW, 336 pgs
$19.95 US / Higher in Canada
Matt Kindt’s 2 Sisters is 336 pages filled with a lot of the things I like: spies, pirates, mysterious characters, gadgets, adventure, tragedy, history and a multilayered plot. These are also many of Kindt’s most favourite things, and as you read this graphic novel, his love and respect for these elements is evident in the care and grace with which he treats his story.
2 Sisters is, in fact, three tales woven together. The main story is that of Elle, a sad woman who volunteers for the WWII war effort as an ambulance driver. She meets a mysterious yet loving man named Alan, and through his connection to him, she finds herself becoming a spy. Though coerced to do so, Elle eventually becomes very good at her new profession, becoming embroiled in a plot that comprises the majority of this graphic novel. The second story is that of a Grecian cup, which we follow through history as it finds its way onto a pirate ship and into the hands of a nobleman who is forced to join the pirates that are raiding her ship. The last story is the one that forms the backbone of 2 Sisters, providing the biggest mystery while providing the physical and emotional history upon which the character Elle is built. This is the tale of Elle and her sister Anna, who grew up in a troubled household.
Kindt weaves these three stories together with what seems to be tremendous ease. There’s no doubt that making a graphic novel of this size, however, is anything but an easy task. Taking more than a year to complete, 2 Sisters was written, illustrated and designed by Kindt himself, a massive undertaking, but one that is certainly as rewarding to its creator as it is to its reader.
Kindt employs many of the same style choices used in the Pistolwhip books, which were a collaboration between he and Jason Hall. There are no captions in 2 Sisters. Kindt relies instead on his images to tell the reader what is occurring. For a 336 page book, there isn’t a lot of text, but there is still a lot of reading to do. One must read Kindt’s images as you would read a page of written text, soaking in the details with your eyes to unlock all that is being told. There are clues to the mysteries in these panels, but even more so there is information that defines the characters in regards to their history and present personality. It is amazing to think how much information Kindt is able to share with his readers through images alone.
Elle is one of those characters that I truly love. An enigma when we first meet her, a sad woman alone in the world, her personality and history are slowly revealed through her actions in the present and the details of her past. We come to understand what lies at the heart of her sadness, and as she finds Alan, we feel comforted to know she has found someone with whom she can share a tender moment. The world is at war, making moments of love and peace all that much more important, but both Alan and Elle’s lives are not meant to be filled with such calm. The same can be said for the noble-cum-pirate woman with whom we travel the ancient seas, and of Anna, Elle’s sister who so desperately wants the life she sees through the windows of a nearby family home. Even though 2 Sisters features an espionage plot, it’s the emotional core that gives this tale its resonance.
2 Sisters is a remarkable achievement for Matt Kindt but also the comic industry as a whole. It is one of those comics that should blow the doors wide open between the mainstream and the small press industry. It has action and intrigue to please even the most jaded four colour fan, and has art and writing strong enough to entrance readers looking for a challenging and thoughtful journey. At 336 pages, it feels weighty in your hands, almost like a novel, a joy to look at from both covers and everything in between. We always knew Matt Kindt could draw. Now we know he is as good at writing. When he combines both his talents as he does here in 2 Sisters, the output is some of the most well conceived and executed comics you’re likely to find. (Chad Boudreau)