With a baby on the way, Robert Johnson, or RJ, feels his life escaping him. He’s trying to settle down and live the life of a farmer like his brother and be a good provider, but something is calling him, beckoning to him. Night after night visiting the blues bar, the music beckons him like a siren, but every time he lifts a guitar to play, he evokes the cry of the banshee.
His talent is nowhere to be found, until one late night he stands at the crossroads and invokes the devil to make him a musician. He readily offers up his soul, and soon enough, he can play better than the most famous of local artists. But any deal with the devil is bound to have its costs, and RJ quickly comes to understand that, as he discovers six months of his life have disappeared, so has his family, and his hand has grown a number of extra fingers. After leaving his home, he sets off on the road to play the role of wandering musician, but fate or the devil chases after him with zeal. Adventure ensues; before long, RJ finds himself riding shotgun to the infamous Clyde Barrow, who has taken a liking to him and decided to bring him along for the ride. Life is changing quickly for RJ, and while he can wield the guitar like a master swordsman, his grasp on life is not nearly as sturdy.
Based on the real musician, Me and the Devil Blues: The Unreal Life of Robert Johnson veers off into a fantastic yet somber tale of soul-searching (and soul-selling, for that matter). The story thus far in its sweeping energetic art will compel and amaze readers. Chockfull of complex issues and ideas, Me and the Devil Blues leaves an impression that should gain great attention.
What makes this graphic novel such a precious read is the art. Hiramoto does an astounding job of electrifying the music scenes, imbuing the panels and sequences with a variety of elements to drive home the power and expression of the instruments and their effects on the people in the story. One does not need to know anything about music to appreciate the intensity Hiramoto injects into these scenes. At over five hundred pages and only the first volume in the series, Hiramoto takes his time fleshing out the story and has more opportunity to work with subtle changes and shifts in the book, which are done just as magnificently as the music scenes.
Dealing with issues of personal success, minority life in a stratified society and loyalty, Hiramoto sets the standard high with both his story and art. While it remains to be seen if he can maintain it, with such a powerful first book, readers will certainly look forward to future releases.