Graphic Novel Review 246/365: Hostage

Please keep up with all of my old Graphic Novel Reviews here as I quest for 365 in 365 days! Or search #365GN on Twitter.

Hey, all! I have some cool things coming your way in March, so make sure that you are checking back every day. I appreciate you for reading.

Today, a powerful, true tale of survival and uncertainty.

Title: Hostage

Author(s): Guy Delisle

Publisher: Drawn and Quarterly (2017)

Age Rating: 13+

Don’t buy or read this book digitally.  It’s weight (over 400 pages) is something that you should carry around with you as Guy Delisle tells us the true tale of Christophe Andre’s survival as a hostage, taken from his humanitarian efforts in the Caucasus and forced to live chained to a wall for over three months.

The bulk of this book puts us right in the middle of whatever room Andre is chained at the time.

Six-panel page after six-panel page creates, for the reader, the monotony of Andre’s situation, yet, this book is far from monotonous.  Delisle is a master of pacing and capturing the proper emotions to keep readers engaged from page one.  Andre’s story is one of amazement; however, let’s not discount how difficult it must be to keep a 400+ page graphic novel about a guy, in an empty room, handcuffed to a radiator, engaging.

Delisle does this by slightly breaking up the panel structure from time to time; showing us the inner-workings of Andre’s imagination; and struggling with Andre as he talks himself from slipping into emotionally dangerous places.  His inner-dialogue is fascinating and comes from the actual interviews of Andre.

The art is typical of Delisle’s style: simple yet detailed with impressive use of perspective to control visual engagement.  There is very little color in this book, using a flat-pale green in the sea of tans and black lines.

I moderated a star-studded panel at ALA last year for the French Comics Association, and Delisle was on the panel, actually sitting next to me.  He was great, the other panelists were great.  I’d like to believe we had a successful panel.  But looking back, I wish I had read this book before I had met him.  I was given a digital copy that I could not open, and it was not until today that I was able to finish the book…months later.  I would have liked to ask him about his process.  How he decided to map this epic tale.  How difficult it was for Andre to tell his story.  I had an opportunity to speak with a master, and I did not even know it.  We exchanged pleasantries.  I missed a comics teacher opportunity.

But my work in the field is far from over.  I’m hoping I’ll cross paths with Delisle again.  And whenever I get frustrated with a sub-par run of books that I’m reading to review, I need to remember that there are people out there like Delisle, making important works that prove what the medium can do.  And I need to keep telling you about them.

Happy reading!


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