by Kazuki Ebine
published by Penguin Books; $15 US
This flat retelling of the life of a modern saint will be of interest only to younger and/or reluctant readers who think a comic is easier to finish than non-illustrated prose.
Don’t get me wrong — I learned a lot about the early life and career of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. It’s just that the images were the most static and generic possible, mostly talking heads. They contributed little to my understanding of the events that shaped him. The only significantly visual sequence that stuck with me was Gandhi’s transition from Indian clothing to British wear when he pursued legal studies in England.
Incidents, meanwhile, followed a regrettably predictable pattern. Gandhi experienced or viewed a terrible example of discrimination, often standing up to the bullies to his own detriment. His quiet determination sees him through, regardless of personal cost. He doesn’t seem to have any flaws, other than a couple of childhood examples of being shy when it comes to speaking in public. (That’s not presented as a humanizing problem as much as another challenge he overcame.) He’s not relatable as a person to me.
Often, the breaks in phrasing between word balloons are awkward, splitting key thoughts artificially. I’m assuming that this is because this was translated from another language, and the balloon pacing was structured for that. I also found it off-putting that sentences only had ending punctuation if they needed a ? or ! The periods were missing.
Gandhi’s messages of non-violence, non-attachment, and peaceful resistance are inspiring and well worth remembering, but contrary to the author’s desire to humanize Gandhi (as stated in an ending editorial note), this portrayal doesn’t live up to his aims. (The publisher provided a review copy.)