Monday, July 1, 2013

Review: Black Paths, by David B.

David B. is one of my favorite cartoonists: His lush drawings brim over with bold design work, mythological references, and symbolic energy. Epileptic, his account of growing up with a brother who suffered from grand mal seizures and his family's attempts to cope with the situation, remains one of the finest non-fiction graphic novels I've ever read. My French is very poor, but back when I had access to French-language comics I would buy anything with his name on it, just to luxuriate in his imagery, even when my understanding of his verbal nuances was lacking.

Black Paths is a fictionalized account of the Free State of Fiume after the First World War, told mostly through the eyes of Lauriano, a young writer who suffers from his experiences in WWI, and Mina, a French cabaret singer. The book is utterly beautiful: B.'s artwork sings with the addition of color (most of his earlier work I'd encountered was in black and white only), and--as usual for him but unusually for most cartoonists--there are many passages where impressionistic images and non-standard design and layout create beautifully dream-like moments.

However, the ins and outs of political intrigue have never held much appeal to me, and such matters are the meat of this book. Perhaps I simply wasn't in the right mood when I read it, but I could never seem to connect with the narrative in a meaningful way. I am convinced that the fault lies with me, not with the cartoonist, though. One day I'll give this book another chance, which it deserves. It's a bravura exercise in cartooning, but on a subject matter I couldn't seem to relate to. This time.

Black Paths
by David B.
Self Made Hero, 2011
ISBN-10: 190683833X
ISBN-13: 978-1906838331
128 pages, $24.95