Later on in life, a man reflects about his time meeting the former osteopath of Al Capone when he broke his arm. Due to the length of time passed and the age he was then, he cannot clearly remember the look of the osteopath but is quite sure of his own experiences with him, including the tales of the famous gangster that the doctor regaled him with. A lot of the story is told in flashbacks, primarily to the man’s time as a boy and how he felt about his experiences, but also, at times, when the osteopath thinks back to his time in old Chicago. There are points when the man stops and rethinks his memories of the events and changes how he perceives the osteopath to be in his recollections, which does create a bit of a disconnect from the events, but not so much. In the end, the memory of the osteopath being greeted by three thug-like individuals and a big, scary illusionist sticks in his head throughout the years.
As I stated before, I really hoped that this would blow me away, since it was Gaiman’s work, even if a bit older. The main problem that I had was that it jumped around a lot, and that it was told entirely in flashbacks—and flashbacks within flashbacks—at which point it became more about the osteopath than the narrator’s life. The truly spectacular aspect to the comic isn’t even Gaiman’s contribution, but the artwork styles of Dave McKean. He paints a drab, dark world feel to go along with the darkened story being told, and the visual aspects match up quite well with the mood that Gaiman depicts. Given the fact that this was originally done in the 1980s, and that I take great exception to the skills of artwork and storytelling in that era, the abilities of McKean to portray this visually dark England city are astounding to me.
I’m sad to say that it didn’t really grab me the way I wanted it to, regardless of McKean’s stunning artwork. If it weren’t for the changes made mid-comic about the appearance of the osteopath, it might have been better, but since it was a recollection as it was going, I can understand the change, even if it didn’t convey better in the visual medium. I did enjoy the information that it provided in reference to one of the most notorious mobsters in American history, and from the standpoint of someone who was not an American or even a transplant, but it didn’t really hit home for me. A lot of the narrator’s obsession with his own personal life didn’t mesh well with the imagery associated with old Chicago, and so it really felt as though two stories were being told that would have worked better if they had been separated from each other. I’d certainly recommend it for anyone who enjoys McKean’s work, but as for flowing from subject to subject easily, it becomes so muddled that it is like a dense London fog.