- Paperback: 280 pages
- Publisher: Drawn and Quarterly; 1st edition (August 22, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1894937899
- ISBN-13: 978-1894937894
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 8.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 33 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #874,324 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography Paperback – August 8, 2006
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“If you love to read a gripping story, if you are awed by the talent of an artist, then look no further: Chester Brown's Louis Riel is comix history in the making, and with it, history never looked so good.” ―The Globe and Mail Book Review
“The starkly told story . . . of a crucial figure in Canada's history--yet one whom most Americans have probably never heard of. It's a credit to Brown's plainspoken artistry and flair for narrative that it's a page-turner till the end.” ―The Boston Phoenix
“This is an ingenious comic and a major achievement.” ―Publishers Weekly, starred review
About the Author
CHESTER BROWN is the author of I Never Liked You, The Little Man, The Playboy, and Yummy Fur. He lives in Toronto; he is an illustrator for The New York Times Magazine and The New Yorker.
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In 1885, Ottawa confronted a serious uprising by Metis (“half-breeds” in French, not polite) and other Catholic, French-speaking settlers in what’s now southern Manitoba, on the Red River (the boundary between Minnesota and North Dakota, further south). At the time there were no provinces west of Ontario, but Ottawa had big plans and - according to Chester Brown's interpretation - sparked a crooked land rush to attract English-speaking settlers out west to screw the Metis out of their excellent farmland.
The Metis rebelled under the banner of a crazy visionary named Louis Riel, who received direct instructions from God.
This was a long way from Ottawa, and “the English” had no way of projecting their power that far west to crush the rebellion and keep the Metis from seceding and forming a little Ukraine for themselves in the middle of the Wheat Belt. So the money guys in the East realized that this was their chance to get federal backing for what would become the Canadian Pacific Railroad. They persuaded Ottawa that if the tracks could be laid quickly, they could get redcoats out there in force. And lo, it happened.
The brilliant Chester Brown renders this conflict with restraint. Too much restraint. Is it a slam to mention that Brown is Canadian? Everything happens in six panels to a page. It is minimalist and beautiful, but we sometimes wish he'd blow out a battle scene or another highly emotional moment to at least a half page. It seems as though he's striving for a journalistic sort of objectivity in the scenic depiction, while the larger narrative is completely tilted towards the Metis and against the federals.
But that is a quibble. Like a fine sonneteer, Brown embraces the restrictions and still succeeds. There is something eerie and convincing about a long-distance gun battle in the snowy woods where the sounds aren't BANG! and KAPOW! but PK .. PK .. PK.
Brown's graphic style is both sparse and visually interesting and he uses it to tell a good story in this book. Riel was apparently mentally ill for at least part of his life which may account for the sometimes inexplicable decisions he makes in the course of this narrative. Brown is a dispassionate narrator throughout the book and, for the most part, there are no clear villains or heroes. There are some amusing sections as well in this generally tragic tale.
He meticulously researched the history of Manitoba and Canada in order to write the story of Louis Reil, who was either a patriot or rebel villain, depending upon your point of view.
The art work is decent & sparse (Chester's style), but the story is just fantastic.
I wish for two things here:
(1) that more writers produced histories in comic form -- it's a fantastic way to tell a story and I think that it is a wonderful education tool
(2) that Chester Brown would get more recognition.
A few mentioned the artwork but not enough. Brown's work is astounding. In the introduction to Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography, Brown mentions the influence of Herge's Tintin and Harold Grey's Little Orphan Annie on his work and his wondrous black and white, six panel pages are truly an homage those great comics he cites.
For both story and artwork, five stars are too little for Brown's beautiful comic-strip biography. This book belongs on the shelf of anyone interested in either history or graphic novels/comic strips.
The book was just as described and received promptly. I'd purchase from this seller again.