‘Cages: Second Edition’ - Trade Paperback Review

A reverie through Dave McKean’s mind - that’s what Cages is: a perfectly undiluted vision plucked from both his conscious and subconscious mind. This massive volume from Dark Horse marks its 25th anniversary, and I have only just discovered it. To think on the same shelves as the superhero comics I read in my youth this living, breathing examination of that place where fiction, music, art, memory, dreams, love, loneliness, and hope all intersect was screaming at me to read it, and I only just heard its call. Cages isn’t so much a comic book as it is a sincere work of art, never finished, because it will change as we change.

The setting is a high rise of lofts lost in the midst of a city and also a few other local stops like a smoke-filled jazz club and an after-hours art museum; there is a certain romantic vie to it all. As a reader, you too become lost in the lives of a handful of the tenants: their stories, their passions, their nightmares. On the surface, an artist looking for inspiration, a writer looking for escape, a woman waiting for her husband to return, even a black cat spying on them all and more, but digging beneath that surface we see how they are all tied together. You don’t so much read Cages as it cascades at you, a cacophony of ideas and situations that with ease recalibrate between many different, dynamic artistic styles to that always heightens the substance. This is a conversation McKean has invited you to be a part of, a conversation that - like with Tolstoy’s War and Peace or Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue - I will probably continue having until I die.

Cages is philosophical, political, and personal. It’s grand in scope, yet every panel captures an emotional intimacy with the subject that leaves your head swirling with thoughts and your heart tangled with emotions.

Recently, I reviewed another of McKean’s works, Black Dog: the Dreams of Paul Nash, and I said at the time it was my favorite of his works. Now that I have experienced Cages, I don’t want to say one is better than the other, but that it’s not often you run into two pieces of work that rest on equal footing from the same artist in the way these creations do.

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