Baby’s in Black Review

Baby’s in Black is the new graphic novel by Arne Bellstorf. It tells the story of Astrid Kircherr and the fifth Beatle, Stuart Sutcliffe, chronicling The Beatles early days when Stuart was still the bassist as he falls in love with Astrid.

Bellstorf expertly shows the love that builds between Stuart and Astrid. For example, early on in the book, he has both Stuart and Astrid having longing looks at each other. Further, the fight scene in the Kaiserkeller illustrates their pure desire and love for each other. As the battle commences, through it all, we see Stuart and Astrid sharing their first kiss showing us that love conquers all. It feels so perfect, so real. Bellstorf has captured the purity of first love as you feel like a fly on the wall watching a true love affair unfold. The intimacy between the two characters is so well done that it almost feels fairy tale like.

Bellstorf is a master of the comic art in the making. He cleverly uses full panels of Hamburg with no dialogue to show that time has either past or that a change of setting has occurred. This is a very effective method that a lesser creator may not have used. Further, he shows Astird’s iconic picture that she took of the band. Yet only certain frames are shown in the panels, showing different parts of the scene, never showing us all the picture. This makes you even more intrigued about the picture and its influence on the band. He uses Beatles lyrics to show differing emotions, feelings and the passing of time. He uses Elvis’s song (Love Me Tender) to show the feelings between Stuart and Astrid. This is repeated many times through the book showing the magical ride of finding the one you love to the anguish of loosing them.

For someone that is not English, Bellstorf has managed to grasp the way Liverpudlians speak making the dialogue feel very natural. Knowing what happens to Stuart makes the final half of this book even more heartbreaking. Again to Bellstorf’s credit, the elegance of the final pages is a stroke of genius. Using little dialogue, allowing the artwork to do the talking, this is the kind of book that new fans of the medium and budding writers and artists should be shown.

Baby’s in Black is an adorable, tragic story about two lovers who are cruelly torn apart. A must read for anyone who is a fan of the comic medium, the sixties and The Beatles. A great starting point for any newcomer.

Luke Halsall

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