Royal Nonesuch writes a review of the new Original Graphic Novel published by Vertigo!
Credits & Solicit Info:
Written by INVERNA LOCKPEZ • Art by DEAN HASPIEL • Cover by DEAN HASPIEL
From the moment Fidel Castro captures Havana in 1959, 17-year-old Sonya believes in the promise of the Cuban Revolution. A medical student who dreams of becoming a painter, she joins the militia and finds herself caught between idealism and ideology. As a volunteer medic at the Bay of Pigs, she's imprisoned and tortured by her own comrades. Physically and emotionally scarred upon returning home, Sonya searches for fulfillment in art. But when she realizes that none of her efforts, by gun or brush, fall in line with Castro's regime, Sonya must make agonizing choices between her family, her lover and her beloved country.
This graphic novel is inspired by the true experiences of first-time author and Havana-born artist Inverna Lockpez, with stunning art by the Eisner-nominated Dean Haspiel (THE ALCOHOLIC, THE QUITTER, AMERICAN SPLENDOR) in a lush red-and-black palette created by colorist José Villarrubia.
Vertigo 144pg. Color Hardcover $24.99 US Mature Readers
On Sale September 9, 2010
On New Year's Day, 1959, the 26th of July movement led by Fidel Castro violently deposed the Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista after over half a decade of aggression. The new regime brought about a massive shift in culture, society and international relations that still exists today.
Cuban-born New York-based artist Inverna Lockpez covers all this and more in her graphic novel debut CUBA: MY REVOLUTION. The semi-autobiographical OGN published by Vertigo tells the story of Sonya, a seventeen-year old girl with big dreams and big ideals who is out dancing on New Year's Eve while the war drums are beating in Havana. Sonya is beyond excited for the new regime. Young and naive, Sonya feels that Castro's government represents a glorious destiny for Cuba, and she can't wait to serve. She puts her artistic aspirations on hold while she attends medical school and enlists in the volunteer national militia, figuring that Cuba needs surgeons more than it does artists at this point in time. Sonya is wide-eyed and excited early on, and willing to defend the government for years, even when the sheen is coming off for everyone around her. Sonya swears blind loyalty regardless of every miserable circumstance she encounters, including one particularly harrowing experience. It's what makes Sonya both sympathetic and completely frustrating. On the one hand, one can understand the desire for a new way of life with the advent of a new government, and we all tend to cling to our heroes a little too long. On the other hand, there is a point where commitment crosses the line into outright stubbornness, and it's difficult to relate to someone in that situation. It's a very real, human construction of the lead character.
Considering how much happens in the story of CUBA: MY REVOLUTION, it's hard to believe that it takes place over the course of only five years. Sonya goes through a lot in that time, and every last bit of that time and experience appears on her face. Penciller Dean Haspiel takes us through these five years with a fully-realized sense of outward human emotion and anatomy. Sonya starts off as a fresh-faced young girl who thinks she understands the world better than she really does, and at the end of the book she is an experienced, mature woman who's seen the best and worst of humanity, and is ready to trade a new life for an old one for the second time. Haspiel's line work is angular and expressive, and he incorporates the aesthetics and symbolism of propaganda posters and collage into his sequential storytelling (he seems to even take a few cues from Lockpez' own work). He has a lot of narrative tricks that convey a lot of action and events in an intimate way, putting the reader right into the story. José Villarrubia uses a palette consisting entirely of harsh greys and various shades of red to ground the story in a historical texture as well in bits of memory and visually demonstrated pathos.
The first parallel that comes to mind while reading CUBA is Marjane Satrapi's graphic memoir Persepolis, which was about the writer/artist's time living in Iran in the wake of the Islamic Revolution Both stories focus on young girls living through a political and cultural revolution that traded pro-West/US regimes for one opposed to the interests of those powers. They are both stories about the way grander changes affect the individual. They are both stories that show how memories are told as much from the heart as they are from the mind. And they both show us a glimpse of circumstances in the world in an engaging way. As Lockpez writes in her dedication, "testimony is important to the ideals and the endurance of the human spirit, as well as my own." It's hard to know exactly how much of the events of this OGN are based on Lockpez' own, since she up to this point she hasn't spoken much publically about her life in Cuba, but this story is clearly very much her own. CUBA: MY REVOLUTION is an artful examination of the not-too-distant past, as well as an important work of memoir that should be read by anyone interested in the way humanity deals with the adversity that is out of our control.
Review by: Royal Nonesuch