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Thursday 7th
posted by Morning Star in Arts

Nick Cave: Mercy on Me by Reinhard Kleist (SelfMadeHero, £14.99)

COUNTLESS biographies, official and unofficial, have been penned on the life and works of Nick Cave, one of the greatest — and darkest — songwriters of our time.

In creating the very first graphic biography of Cave, his latest by illustrator and comic-book artist Reinhard Kleist offers a very different approach.

It’s been fully endorsed by the great man himself, who’s even gone so far as to state that it’s “closer to the truth than any biography, that’s for sure.”

Berlin-based Kleist is by no means a stranger to producing biographical comic books either, making his international breakthrough with 2006’s Johnny Cash: I See A Darkness. He’s gone on to do the same for Holocaust survivor and champion boxer Harry Haft, Somalian athlete Samia Yusuf Omar and Fidel Castro.

The most fascinating aspect of Mercy on Me is the dreamlike, surreal way in which Kleist approaches Cave’s history, from the claustrophobia of growing up in small town Australia to first making a name for himself in coldest London.

There, the grass wasn’t necessarily greener but Cave performed gigs that became the stuff of legend as the frontman of The Birthday Party.

And, of course, there’s homage paid to his time in an even colder Berlin with The Bad Seeds, the group his fans know and love him for.

Kleist’s choice of narrative is perfectly Cave-esque, transforming him into the very characters of his songs. So, in the chapter Where the Wild Roses Grow — the title of his hit duet with Kylie Minogue from the album Murder Ballads — Cave becomes the killer of young beauty Elisa Day.

“All beauty must die,” he states, as he clobbers her with a stone.

Later, various Cave characters, including the mute Euchrid from Cave’s first novel And the Ass Saw the Angel, come back to haunt and challenge him as to why he’s given them such a grim end.

“Every story needs an ending,” Cave replies as he tells the protagonist of song The Mercy Seat, who dies in the electric chair. “If I’d let you live, your story wouldn’t have been complete.”

Mercy on Me may rely on the assumed knowledge of the reader but, for Cave fans, that won’t be a problem.

A brilliantly constructed work of art.