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Book Reviews

Louis Riel: A Comic-strip Biography

by Chester Brown

Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography is yet another landmark work by Chester Brown, an artist considered to be one of the greatest cartoonists living today. This is not hyperbole: each of his major works – Ed the Happy Clown, I Never Liked You, and The Playboy – have broken new artistic ground in their different ways. His work has not only upped the high-water mark for fellow comics artists, but has served as a portal for the medium into mainstream culture.

Brown’s sympathetic biography of Métis leader Louis Riel is no different. Riel is an honourable but flawed leader whose intentions to protect his community from a corrupt, alien government are distorted by his megalomania and religious fanaticism. Brown has created a consistent narrative for this 240-page comic-strip‚ along with 27 pages of endnotes that detail his artistic liberties with the facts, the myriad reference sources he employed, and, as he writes in the foreword, “other stuff that I think may be of interest.” Using Harold Gray’s beautiful design work from Little Orphan Annie as his inspiration, Brown’s black and white art is vibrant and striking – you feel the artist’s hand on the page. Not overly intellectualized yet dense with detail, the book is a wonderful combination of factual resources and powerful art and storytelling.