I’m going to do something I don’t usually do and start my review at the end. Customarily I like to end with my opinions on the look and feel of a graphic, but not today…today SUMO, the first solo project by Thien Pham (Level Up), has got me feeling a little frisky.
Scott is a washed-up football player who never made it, and whose girlfriend abandoned him along with his dreams of playing pro football. But things have a way of working out, in this sweet, poetic tale–and a new chapter in Scott’s life begins as the old one ends. Offered a position in a Japanese sumo training “stable,” Scott abandons his old life, his old name, and even his old hair color, and becomes an aspiring sumo wrestler. And in so doing, he begins to find some kind of center in himself…a center that had seemed lost for good.
Sumo puts a whole new spin on “feeling a certain color”, Scott’s last days in California and his eventual arrival in Japan are emphasized with the use of blues, orange and green hues. Think about the gold colors in Zack Snyder‘s 300 or the blues in any James Cameron film and you immediately get a sense of what I’m saying, tone wise. This is what I believe was Thien Pham’s approach to Sumo, to section off Scott’s life in colorful highs and lows. I’m not a football player and have never been in a situation like the one our hero faces, but the road less traveled is one that I bet more athletes, than we like to think, have taken. Forsaking their supposed calling for a supposed greener pasture, where hopefully they may bask in the cheers of the crowd. We can all relate to wanting to run away from it all, but seldom do we find what we are looking for. Thien leaves Scott’s resolve super ambiguous, leaving us to wonder whether Scott ever finds peace with himself, but I will say there’s a ton of poetry that rest on each panel. You want to see Scott succeed so bad you begin filling in the quiet spaces between scenes with Scott’s contemplations. That’s an example of clever use of pace, dialog and art! Towards the end of the book I almost heard a crescendo of strings. You don’t need a whole lot of words when you have a character who faces decisions everybody has had to face at one point or another. The characters act a bit like toys in Winnie The Pooh…there for the soul reason of helping Scott (Christopher Robin) reach that next level and nudging him ever so slightly…perhaps this was the poetry the Sumo synopsis is referring to. I wonder how this book would translate to film. Sumo is an excellent start for Thien, it takes effort to hold back and he did so with great skill, allowing his art to motivate the dialog. Sumo is a meditation before anything else and one that would do you some good to read, especially those of you at the crossroads.