Saturday, December 3, 2011

Persepolis 2

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return (Pantheon, 2005).

The second of three Satrapi books that I have read this year, Persepolis 2 was originally published in France as two separate 92-page albums and a dividing line between the two couldn't be more clearly shown without a big flagging caption reading "CONTINUED NEXT ISH!!" underneath the climactic splash page of teenage Marjane donning her veil again, her four years in Europe coming to an ignoble end and preparing to return home.

I'm not sure why I had trouble relating to the material in the first collection, but I really enjoyed this a good deal more. I like Satrapi's artwork a lot, and I like the occasional off-model breakdown into completely wonky anatomy to indicate anger or frustration, such as at the bottom of page 78. I like how she occasionally uses solid black panels, with faces pasted in and outlines of bodies drawn with white-out. As a frustrated, deeply mediocre artist myself, I see in Satrapi the same solutions to artistic problems that I had tried, only with greater success here, and I'm pleased to see that in my own failed comic-world past, I was on the right avenue.

The first half of the book follows Marjane's European misadventure, starting out with high hopes but ending up homeless and spending all day riding trams and getting incredibly sick. She grows up a lot in Austria - addressing a comment left in my article on the previous book, I don't believe that her nihilist punk friend Momo turns into a jerk so much as Marjane, maturing, becomes able to see through his crap.

It all ends in tears, but even back in Iran, Marjane still has a lot of growing up to do. I enjoyed this segment, and the look at how women's lives in public were nothing like the lives they led away from the prying eyes of their police "brothers" who enforced public dress and conduct. An incident where Marjane, needing a distraction, fingers some innocent dude to get away with some lipstick, and initially finds it hilarious, thanks to some enabling by her boyfriend, is really horrifying, considering what that poor guy probably suffered at the hands of armed thugs. The stark black and white silhouettes of a later section with simple shapes of guards chasing students from rooftop to rooftop is over in a flash, but it packs a punch.

Her story comes to an end that's every bit as inevitable as her time in Vienna, and I was caught up the whole time. It's a very good story, and one told well. Recommended.

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