January 8, 2009

Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography by Chester Brown



Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography by Chester Brown


Pages: 241 + Notes & Index
First Published: 2003 (was previously published as comic books between 1999/2003)
Genre: graphic novel, biography
Rating: 3/5
Awards: Harvey Award


First sentence:

Do you mind if we go over it again? I just want to make sure that my notes are in order.


Comments: Louis Riel is an infamous Canadian personage. His story is very controversial and the story of what happened back then and what is politically correct to say happened can cause heated debate. In brief, Louis Riel tried to form a provisional government and negotiate with the Canadian government even though Canada had bought the land in which he and the Metis (half white/half Indian) lived. He captured English prisoners and executed one causing a furor in English Canada. Riel was eventually hung as a traitor.

This book is very biased to the Louis Riel, hero, side of the story. There are many things that I'm sure the author took license with and made up conversations between the Prime Minister and others to promote the big, bad, conservative, English government view point. However, even though the book is unabashedly pro-Riel, the author did manage to show the opposite viewpoint of him by showing Riel to be the man who thought God had talked to him and told him he would be resurrected three days after his execution. Whether he was a hero of the Metis people or a madman fanatic my person view is that either way he was a traitor to the country of Canada. This is what *I* was taught in school but a more revisionist point of view is taken nowadays to be politically correct.

While I laughed at many parts of the book that I think were supposed to be serious, I did enjoy reading the book. It was fun to read and the Canadian history aspect was great to see in a graphic novel. I'd love to see more in the same vein! If you are already familiar with the story of Louis Riel, I think you'd enjoy reading this. But don't start here if you know nothing of the history. Here's a website with a brief intro and a little video that was part of series shown here on Canadian television.
http://www.histori.ca/minutes/minute.do?id=10646

2 comments:

Laza said...

This one sounds really interesting. As I'm not from Canada, I'm not familiar with Riel, but this seems like an interesting subject for a graphic novel. Sometimes it is really cool to see a subject treated so differently than they way you were taught. A little unabashed bias now and again can be so refreshing, even if you don't agree. Thanks for the review!

John C. Baker said...

Funny, no sooner do I check this book out of the library after wanting to read it since 2004 (I'm probably one of the few non-Canadian self-taught students of Canadian history in California) and decide to blog a review than I find out something like three other bloggers have done so in the last three weeks!

I found the story ambitious and generally well-executed. I taught it was an even-handed biography (Riel was looking out for the Metis, but was indecisive and more than a little mad), but thought John A. Macdonald really got the shaft in the book.