Category Archives: Comics and Graphic Novels

The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story Expanded Edition by Vivek J. Tiwary, Andrew C. Robinson with Kyle Baker

The Fifth Beatle Title: The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story Expanded Edition
Author: Vivek J. Tiwary
Illustrated by: Andrew C. Robinson with Kyle Baker
Publisher:M Press; Expanded edition
ISBN: 978-1616558352
Genre: Graphic Novel, Graphic Memoirs
Pages: 176
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

Not much is known about people behind the scenes in any profession. It is always people who hog the limelight, get spoken of or written about. Which is how the world works. The ones who are in the shadows rarely get any credit. Not to say that it happens to all. Maybe to some. Maybe not to some. And we all know of The Beatles – almost about all four of them, even some additions, but very few know of Brian Epstein, on which this graphic novel is based.

Brian Epstein was The Beatles’ manager. Actually, I think he was more than just their manager. He was their friend, philosopher and guide in the true sense of the phrase. “The Fifth Beatle” (as he was known after his death by Paul McCartney many years later) is the story of Brian. Not just because he discovered The Beatles and gave the world the joy of listening to them but also because people need to know the man behind this band and what he stood for to believe in four unknown musicians and make them the darlings of the pop music scene in a very short time.

Vivek J. Tiwary’s research is meticulous and the writing is spot-on. From speaking of Brian’s personal life (being gay and Jewish wasn’t easy on the man) to his professional life (despite having a soft corner for George, he never let that come in the way of furthering the career of The Beatles), Tiwary covers everything with just the right amount of content. It doesn’t feel too much, nor does it feel too little. Plus, the illustrations of Andre C. Robinson and Kyle Baker are so spectacular that you just go back and fix your gaze on so many panels.

Brian Epstein’s life comes to life in the true sense of the word through this graphic memoir and it doesn’t take a lot to read this one. If anything, I reread it because you can never get enough of a good graphic memoir and more so given I didn’t know anything about him or had heard of him at all before buying this one on a whim.

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My Brother’s Husband, Volume 1 by Gengoroh Tagame . Translated by Anne Ishii

51rq4hPobXL Title: My Brother’s Husband, Volume 1
Author: Gengoroh Tagame
Translated from the Japanese by
Publisher: Pantheon Graphic Novels
ISBN: 978-1101871515
Genre: Graphic Novels
Pages: 352
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

“My Brother’s Husband” is a graceful manga by Gengoroh Tagame. It handles homosexuality, homophobia and xenophobia (to some extent) very tenderly and not once did I feel berated being a gay man or an insider looking out while reading this manga. Tagame tells the story of parents and in turn of children and how important it is for children to learn, believe and accept alternate sexualities. At the same time, this manga doesn’t get preachy at all. It doesn’t sermonize or ask you to change yourself. It provides different perspectives and that’s that to it.

Yaichi – a single Japanese dad is forced to confront his painful past when an affable Canadian named Mike Flanagan shows up at his door, declaring himself to be the widower of Yaichi’s estranged gay twin Ryoji. Mike wants to explore Ryoji’s past, his family and his growing-up years. Yaichi takes him in reluctantly and thus begins a relationship of understanding, apprehension and fear not only between Mike and Yaichi but also between Mike and Yaichi’s young daughter, Kana. It is how Kana begins to question and understands Mike and at the same time Yaichi’s overcoming of homophobia is what the manga is all about.

Japan as a country is quite conservative when it comes to the question of homosexuals. It isn’t easy to talk about it in the open – more so in traditional societies of Japan. Maybe that is why this manga is needed now more than ever. Tagame explores each aspect – alienation, small incidents of homophobia, questions about the relationship that wasn’t mainstream and the differences of perception between the East and the West tenderly and with much insight.

There are multiple viewpoints, which is great because he then doesn’t give only one point of view and leave it at that. It also talks of how relationships can alter feelings and how life as it goes along, gives you the opportunity to keep embracing the new, no matter how different it might be. The story is beautiful and the characters are so well-rounded.

This book is definitely for those who want to understand what the LGBT people face, no matter how basic it seems in the book. This could however be the perfect guide and also not just for adults but children as well. “My Brother’s Husband” embraces differences and talks of cultural clashes at the same time. I cannot wait to read the second volume soon.

Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

ghosts-by-raina-telgemeier Title: Ghosts
Author: Raina Telgemeier
Publisher: Scholastic
ISBN: 978-0545540629
Genre: Graphic novel
Pages: 256
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

Another graphic read of the month. A tear-jerker of sorts, well not really, but it did choke me up for sure. Raina Telgemeier’s graphic novels hit home. They are not just graphic novels, but the ones with a lot of heart and soul. Whether it is “Sisters” or even “Drama” for that matter, and the same goes for her latest release “Ghosts”. It is the kind of book that will make you laugh, perhaps even make you identify the sibling behavior you shared with your brother or sister and most of all, it will make you want move to a ghost town for sure. At least, it did that to me.

Catrina and her family are moving to the coast of Northern California because her sister Maya is sick. Maya has cystic fibrosis and the air that comes in from the sea will do her good. Cat hates leaving her friends and the town she was used to, but Bahia de la Luna will be good for her sister and Cat loves her sister way too much to make this change. The new home and new town come with one caveat though: There are ghosts in the new place and Cat wants nothing to do with them but Maya loves the idea of interacting with them and Cat would have to look at doing one more thing for her sister.

The book is simple. It has a simple plot and it doesn’t reek of the usual graphic novel smartness which some people have come to expect. There is cheer, sadness, courage, fear and love in this book for children and teens like no other graphic novel I’ve read in the last couple of months. It is a heartwarming book and that’s that to it. I would urge you to read it, smile and give it to someone else who could use a smile or two.

The Book of Memory Gaps by Cecilia Ruiz

The Book of Memory Gaps by Cecilia Ruiz Title: The Book of Memory Gaps
Author: Cecilia Ruiz
Publisher: Blue Rider Press
ISBN: 978-0399171932
Genre: Comic Strips, Graphic,
Pages: 64
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

The fourth book read this month and let me tell you, that while it may be a short book, it certainly will linger in your memory for a while. Funny how I used memory there when the book is about memory gaps. It is a tribute to Jorge Luis Borges and his meditations on memory and time.

Ruiz tells tales of individuals whose memories have failed them. These individuals’ tales are short – a few lines and the rest of the talking is done by the illustrations accompanying them. These stories have to do with false memories, memories that keep getting renewed each day and getting nowhere, memories that are not wanted and memories that keep going in circles. The instances of not remembering are also witty sometimes – also heartbreaking to a large extent.

Some characters suffer from dementia. Some are just lost. Some are searching endlessly. It is almost like the collection of these small tales represents one emotion: Melancholy. The illustrations also go so well with the text – they are dusky and have this dreamlike quality attached to them. The book resonated with me long after. It is the kind of book that stays with you. I am still reeling from its effect.

Trees: Volume 1: In Shadow by Warren Ellis and Jason Howard

Trees - Volume 1 - In Shadow by Warren Ellis and Jason Howard Title: Trees: Volume 1: In Shadow
Writer: Warren Ellis
Illustrator: Jason Howard
Publisher: Image Comics
ISBN: 978-1632152701
Genre: Comics/Graphic Novels
Pages: 160
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

This graphic novel or rather comic had been laying around for a while on my shelf gathering dust. I don’t know what prompted me to pick it up. This came in mail I think two years ago (if memory serves me right) and I read it now. But then again, better late than never.

“Trees: Volume 1: In Shadow” – written by Warren Ellis and illustrated by Jason Howard is a science-fiction comic set in the near-future. Before I move on, I must let you know, I absolutely adore such comics. They bring out the best in me and I cannot help but turn the pages till it’s done. Warren Ellis is the doyen when it comes to comics – whether they are about superheroes (mostly they are about superheroes) or sci-fi, he dons the hat, like no other.

So what is “Trees” all about?

It is about a bunch of aliens who have landed on Earth, in the form of what looks like vertical objects – hence they are known as trees. They are spread wide and far and are hundreds of feet tall. No one knows anything about them and they have never moved. They are just there.

Till one day things start changing (which of course I am not telling you) and people in various parts of the world, with different agendas can sense the change. There is Tian, a young painter from a small village who has moved to a “special cultural zone” of an Asian city and he is unsure of his place in the world and what he wants to do.

Cut to Eligia in Italy, whose boyfriend Tito runs a gang and keeps the town of Cefalu under him, till Eligia meets an old man who teaches her how to take care of herself.

Last but not the least is an Arctic research station where Marsh discovers small plants growing next to a tree and this is where is all begins – well almost.

Ellis’s storytelling skills are something else. The plot unravels itself but not all that much. There is always something hidden (after all a series has to be based around it) and something so beautiful to tell. Howard’s illustrations match the story-line to the tee and that’s how a comic should be – the joint effort of the writer and the illustrator. “Trees” is something different altogether that I have read in a while. Thank God, I finally got to it! I cannot wait to start the second volume. From what I hear, even the third one is out!

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Trees: Volume 1