Booklist Reviews Brown's Louis Riel

“Booklist Review - Louis Riel” / Booklist / Gordon Flagg / February 1, 2004

Brown, better known for such outre projects as his scatologically surreal Ed the Happy Clown (1989), now tells the story of a controversial nineteenth-century Canadian political figure in comics. A charismatic leader who championed the cause of the half-French, half-Native Canadian metis community in their rebellion against the English Canadian government, Riel was hounded into religious fanaticism and madness before being hanged for treason. For his nonsensationalistic treatment of this momentous life, Brown adopts an intentionally flat drawing style reminiscent of 1930s comics (Harold Gray's Little Orphan Annie was a key visual influence) and a straightforward storytelling approach based on six square panels per page. These prove perfectly suited to his heavily researched, extensively footnoted subject matter. Although a folk hero in Canada, Riel is largely unknown by Americans, many of whom will be fascinated to learn that their northern neighbor country also cheated and exploited native peoples. Comics artists have tackled history before (see Larry Gonick's Cartoon History series) but seldom as artfully and intelligently as Brown does here. 

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