Chris (The Genre Fiend)'s Reviews > The Cage

The Cage by Martin Vaughn-James
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really liked it

This review is courtesy of an Advance Review Copy through the good folks at NetGalley (for the re-released edition).

"Unfortunately no-one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself." - Morpheus, The Matrix

That epigraph may be trite, but is nonetheless apt. I could sit here and tell you all about The Cage, its history as a graphic novel before that was a thing, whether it's worth reading, what it means to me, all the usuals. But the thing is, I reckon The Cage will mean markedly different things to its individual readers - and thus, any insight I could offer as a reviewer is inextricably tied to the subjective. This also means it's difficult for me to recommend, simply because what I think works for it might be so far outside what another reader would be willing to accommodate.

Short version: I loved it. A lot.

There's not plot per se, rather an exploration of several esoteric and abstract visual tableaus that become slowly decayed or transformed as the book progresses. A running narration, captioning each page, provides extra verbal imagery to the literal component, offering views of a world laid low by time, erosion and human folly, depending on your individual reading of the piece.

The visuals, while dated and occasionally looking rather like illustrations I found in my primary school math textbooks, are gorgeous and evocative. The scripting under every panel only adds to that, giving a haunting tone to the book's content that is only emphasised by having no physical characters in the traditional sense (unless you count the titular Cage as one). There's enough obscure and overt symbolism on page and in its words that almost any meaning can be gleaned from it; I personally took it as a piece about the banal, the Cage being a metaphor for the entrapment of the modern world and the strictures imposed on ourselves by ourselves. That's a very literal definition of the text's content, though, and if I were so inclined I could spend hours plumbing the meanings and extracting more signifiers from the rich tapestry the text provides.

As I said above, your experience with The Cage will be highly subjective to taste. Some may find it as engrossing and enigmatically ensnaring as I did, and some may be turned off by the pretentious scripting and (by today's standards) basic artwork. It's very much a "love it or hate it" scenario, and highly dependent on how deeply you're willing to explore the text.

At its absolute bare bones, The Cage is unlike any other graphic novel I've read. I would recommend seasoned readers experience it at least once - I'd certainly be hesitant to offer it to a neophyte, becoming familiar with the medium - and draw your own conclusions. I found the experience engaging, even inspiring, so there you go. Maybe this proves just how much my English degree and four years of reviewing have altered me into the snooty critic I sometimes pretend to be.
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Reading Progress

January 29, 2014 – Shelved
January 29, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
January 30, 2014 – Started Reading
February 3, 2014 – Finished Reading

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