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Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography Paperback – October 1, 2013
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“[Louis Riel] has the thoroughness of a history book yet reads with the personalized vision of a novel.” ―Time
“A gripping story . . . Louis Riel is comix history in the making, and with it, history never looked so good.” ―The Globe and Mail
“Brown has invented a biographical form unique to his medium.” ―The Village Voice
About the Author
Chester Brown is the cartoonist behind the acclaimed Yummy Fur comic book series, and the author of several graphic novels and memoirs, including Paying for It, Louis Riel, and Ed the Happy Clown. His work has been published around the world. He lives in Toronto, Canada, where he ran for Parliament in the general election as a member of the Libertarian Party of Canada.
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This "graphic novel" (though its non-fiction) does a good job in filling in the blanks. It is simple and straightforward. What nuance there is needs to be interpreted through the graphic choices the Chester Brown makes in his artwork--which too is pretty simple and straightforward. The dialogue is a combination between statements in the historical record and breezy informality (e.g., a military man being given his orders by a superior officer and his response being, "Okay," not "Yes, sir.")
Riel was obviously a very complicated man. He sought justice for his people, but he is depicted as not being a firebrand, Indeed, he's willing to back off from confrontation more than once. He seems uncertain many times. He is a devout Catholic who after a vision is willing to call the Pope a phony. But what's the hardest to glean from this graphic-novel presentation is the charisma he evidently had in order to gain so many followers.
An afterword by a Ph.D. candidate who knows his comics is helpful. In essence, he says the medium is the message. Riel being such a complex and controversial figure, this analyst concludes that the narrative is purposely ambiguous to allow readers to make up their own minds. So while "Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography" was helpful to me in giving me the outlines of Riel's story, I wonder if I had more foundational knowledge about Riel going in--as I assume most Canadians do--it would have helped me to draw my conclusions.