5.0 out of 5 stars A Powerful Story, Well Told
Louis Riel's story is one of the quintessential products of the colonial expansionist logic which forcefully established Canada as we know it today. It is essential to understand his and the Northwest Rebellion's struggle for representation to develop a balanced understanding of Canadian history. Don't Buy it here though, get it somewhere Canadian.
Published 5 months ago by Clayton A Lent
2.0 out of 5 stars Boring
I decided to read this book after reading the amazing reviews it had received. I found the story to be boring and lacked any depth. The illustrations were by far the strongest part of the book, and the only reason I rated the book two stars instead of just one.
Published 21 months ago by Rachel
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Powerful Story, Well Told,
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4.0 out of 5 stars An Immediacy of History,
This review is from: Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography (Hardcover)I read this graphic novel some time ago and there were two or three things that really stuck out for me.
The first thing that attracted me to this Comic-Strip Biography was its style of illustration: that deceptively simplistic and elemental style of basic shapes that make up all of Chester Brown's characters in this book. It is an excellent example of "the cartoon" as Scott McCloud explains it: a simplified image that you can relate to on an intuitive level. When I first saw this style that Chester Brown utilizes, it reminded me of wood-cut panels that you would find from the late 19th century and before it. It definitely has a presence to it.
Another element that really attracted me to this story is the details of politics, philosophy and spirituality that it sometimes delved into with regards to the historical events and individual actions occurring in the narrative. I know that from Grade school all the way to Secondary school, I heard the story of Louis Riel and basic facts about the Canadian government and its handling of him at that time. To be honest, I had never really paid it much mind. But this book fleshed out the characters and made them seem alive: as though they exist even now and are doing everything they think is right ... or expedient.
Where this book may fail as factual history -- and Chester Brown even admits in his Introduction and his Footnotes that he glossed over and changed certain historical details for the narrative's sake -- to me it succeeds in capturing the spirit of that time and what was happening. It is all in the little details: from the way that the dialogue carries through its characters' ideologies and the plot through six easy to follow panel page arrangements to even the <> brackets signifying the characters speaking in a language other than English but still allowing us to follow it and also the very casual way that government and civilian officials bandied around words like 'Half-Breed' with regards to the Metis.
All of this makes you realize that all of this actually happened here in Canada. It makes the reader realize how different Canada was in the beginning as opposed to where it is now, even with its current challenges. As well, Chester Brown makes you think. He makes you consider what he did in adapting Riel's and Canada's early history with his perspective onto paneled pages of images and text. He admits that he took liberties with historical details, but it is no different than how history has been adapted into films, literature and even other 'official' historical texts themselves. Just where can one draw the line?
As for other comments with regards to the plot being dialogue and caption-driven and boring, this entire story is less about physical violence and action than it is about the ideologies and motivations behind it all. If anything, it humanizes historical figures and makes this subject matter all the more fascinating. Certainly, I wish this text existed and was in use when we were being taught Canadian history in high school: which was otherwise a very boring and tedious affair. I do agree with other reviewers, however, when I say that this is a text that should be supplemental to other historical material when taught. I do, however, think that this is a text that can be read by all ages with various concerns and questions already inherent in it.
In the end, I believe that Chester Brown's Louis Riel is a fascinating work that straddles a few places and makes you realize just how immediate that past with its people really is.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Witty and Informative,
To be clear, Brown's version of events is biased by his own admission and certainly some elements were invented to fit the comic-strip. An example of this is the conversation between Lord Granville and Sir John A. MacDonald about sending troops to apprehend Riel. Brown admits that such a conversation never actually took place but certainly MacDonald did have to obtain permission from mother Britain.
Another interesting event to me was the meeting between Riel and then US President Ulysses S. Grant in 1875 to discuss plans to invade Manitoba. There were certainly some sympathies from some Americans such as in Minnesota who were pro-annexation but as Brown correctly points out Grant was in no position at the time to risk war, especially since the country was still amidst the reconstruction following the costly civil war.
Perhaps most controversial is Brown's characterization of MacDonald. The father of confederation, Brown portrays MacDonald as a ruthless conniving egomaniac hell-bent on expanding the railway (with kickbacks), ethnic cleansing of the Metis, and making an example out of Riel. Based on the sources that we have now, I would have to agree with Brown. MacDonald was a brilliant politician, he out-witted all his opponents including the British, the Americans and the natives. MacDonald was a master manipulator of which there has been no match since.
I've read a few comic-strip novels and I think that in certain situations they work extremely well. In this case, I would have to agree, the illustrations along with Brown's wit and choice of dialogue make this both an accurate historical representation and enjoyable reading.
2.0 out of 5 stars Boring,
4.0 out of 5 stars Great words and pictures!,
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This review is from: Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography (Hardcover)A wonderful read and innovative comic work.
5.0 out of 5 stars An ideal biography,
This review is from: Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography (Hardcover)For many years I had little interest in the story of Riel. It seemed obscure, irrelevant, and uninteresting.
Reading this excellent comic book changed all this. Brown's book makes Riel's story come alive in a very clear, and easy to understand way. Prior to reading this, all I knew about Riel were some vague facts about him being a Metis leader who staged a rebellion of some sort. I know know him to be the modern founder of the province of Manitoba, a foe of Sir John A. MacDonald, and savvy political leader with democratic ideas ahead of his time.
Brown makes Riel's story fast-paced, interesting, and even contemporarily relevant. Unlike many other Canadian historians, Brown is not a snob to his audience. You don't need to know much about Riel before reading this book, the author goes out of his way to give all relevant information whenever nessisary.
This book is an excellent educational material for anyone interested in this key period of Canadian history. It is a perfect example of the diverse medium of comics, and proves the art from is suitable for a wide variety of story-telling, even the very serious.
I would love to see more comic book history books of this style. I hope Brown writes another someday.
4.0 out of 5 stars The story of a Canadian rebellion,
This review is from: Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography (Hardcover)Chester Brown spent the better part of five years on this comic book biography. It was worth the effort. Louis Riel was a religious leader of an uprising in Canada in 1885. Brown describes the events leading to the uprising, he shows how it played out, and then he wraps up the story with Riel's final fate. Along the way he touches lightly on issues of religion, political conspiracy, and insanity. For those readers who want additional information --- or who want to double-check Brown's accuracy --- there is a bibliography and extensive footnotes.
What sets this book apart is the fact that it's a big comic book. Brown tells the story using silent pictures whenever possible. Characters are drawn in a flat but beautiful way. No one is depicted as a cartoon, but the tone never matches a straight history book, either. Brown goes further by using the footnotes in a surprising way: He tells you that he got things wrong. Then he says he isn't sure why. At first, these tiny confessions seem strange, but then you realize he's just being honest.
If you're looking for a great graphic novel, this is the book to buy. Chester Brown has taken the story of a historical figure very few Americans have heard of and presented it in a unique way. Although it was written for adults, Louis Riel is a perfect gift for a young reader --- it's a comic book, but a very sophisticated one.
5.0 out of 5 stars More Please!!,
This review is from: Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography (Hardcover)We NEED more Canadian stories told this way. What a great way to turn young people on to the stories of our country!
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Biased But a Fun Read,
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.
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Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography by Chester Brown (Hardcover - Oct 15 2003)
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