Heroes & Villains: “Ballad for Sophie” is a Perfect Balance of Story and Art

It’s the end of September which means this is the last Heroes & Villains column I have before I have to switch gears and get my shit together for BBP’s 31 Days of Horror. Since this will be my fifth (!!!) go around with 31 days I think it’s safe to assume I can start recycling content and no one will be the wiser. (Editor’s Note: WRONG)

Here’s some comics talk for you…recently I’ve been jonesing to fill out my bookshelves a little more but buying collected editions (either hard or soft cover) is an expensive proportion. To that end, I’ve taken to my local used bookstores and wholesale outlet stores with excellent results, particularly with the latter option. I’ve come home with some fairly recent DC trades for around $5.99 per book, not too shabby considering the list price is $25. The only caveat is that they’re not always the best titles but I’ve still managed to find some gems like Grant Morrison’s supremely weird Marvel Boy and a couple of phonebook-sized Batman trade paperbacks.

Advance Alert!

Ballad for Sophie
Filipe Melo (W)
Juan Cavia (A)
Top Shelf Productions

Since I mentioned above that Halloween is right around the corner, that got me to thinking about the all-to-brief breather period that is November before I’ll have to start coming up with ideas for the Holiday Gift Guide. More than likely, this year I’ll be going back and cherry-picking some of my favorite books I’ve read this year and repurposing them as Gift Guide entries.

Ballad for Sophie, due out at the end of October, is without a doubt a book I’ll include on my list. Here’s the blurb:

Ballad for Sophie is a sweeping tale about what happens when a young journalist prompts a reclusive musical superstar to finally break his silence. Starring child prodigies, bitter old men, beautiful dancers, demonic managers, Nazi commandants, compassionate nuns and lifesaving animals, Ballad for Sophie is a stunning graphic symphony exploring a lifetime of ambition, betrayal, compassion anguish, long-buried secrets and flying pianos.

An achingly beautiful tale by Filipe Melo and Juan Cavia, I was engulfed by Ballad for Sophie and burned through the book in a single sitting. An added bonus, I was able to listen to Balada para Sophie as I prepared dinner tonight. It’s one thing to produce a graphic novel and tell a story in that medium, but producing an astounding piece of music to accompany it (and include the sheet music in the book) takes Ballad for Sophie to another level entirely.

One thing that stuck with me about Ballad for Sophie was how completely human the characters were. To expand upon that, the motivations of the protagonists seemed completely inline with how normal, everyday people would act, never once did a character seem to act in a way that was just for the sake of advancing the plot.

Of course, there are some fantastical elements of the story, some of which can be attributed to conflations of memory on the part of the reclusive narrator…or can they?

Ballad for Sophie was the perfect balance of story and art that is a rare find indeed. At just over 300 pages, the book is about the length (page-wise) as your average prose novel but between Melo’s words and the depth of emotion conveyed by Cavia’s art there’s enough story present for a prose novel twice its length. I’m already looking forward to Ballad for Sophie’s release date so I can secure a copy for my bookshelf and experience reading it all over again.

Leave a Reply