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This manga biography of Che Guevara demonstrates Cuba's unique ability to serve as a political litmus test. You can infer a good deal about folks who see Castro as a cartoonish supervillain and about people who just can't think of a single critical thing to say about his regime. Konno falls into the latter camp, as his discussion of Che is essentially propaganda. Che's much romanticized youth as a motorcycle-driving vagabond is set as the catalyst for a profound intellectual awakening. Everything Che does, from abandoning a wife and child to leading bloody campaigns throughout Latin America and the Congo, is for the sake of justice. Konno has no time for piddling discussions of Che's penchant for summary executions, his questionable skill at guerrilla warfare, or his incompetence as a national economic manager. Similarly, the book takes for granted communism's rightness. In spite of this, it's a powerfully drawn comic, and the writing is at its most effective in its scathing critique of American cold war foreign policy. Che's adventures, as they are captured here, make for exciting fiction. Look elsewhere for a more balanced story. (Oct.)
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Chie Shimano and Kiyoshi Konno both live in Japan.