5. Louis Riel

Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography by Chester Brown

Pages: 241 + Notes & Index
Finished: Jan. 7, 2009
First Published: 2003 (was previously published as comic books between 1999/2003)
Genre: graphic novel, biography
Rating: 3/5
Awards: Harvey Award
Reason for Reading: I saw Kailana's review and was very interested in reading a Canadian graphic book.

First sentence:

Do you mind if we go over it again? I just want to make sure that my notes are in order.

Comments: Louis Riel is an infamous Canadian personage. His story is very controversial and the story of what happened back then and what is politically correct to say happened can cause heated debate. In brief, Louis Riel tried to form a provisional government and negotiate with the Canadian government even though Canada had bought the land in which he and the Metis (half white/half Indian) lived. He captured English prisoners and executed one causing a furor in English Canada. Riel was eventually hung as a traitor.

This book is very biased to the Louis Riel, hero, side of the story. There are many things that I'm sure the author took license with and made up conversations between the Prime Minister and others to promote the big, bad, conservative, English government view point. However, even though the book is unabashedly pro-Riel, the author did manage to show the opposite viewpoint of him by showing Riel to be the man who thought God had talked to him and told him he would be resurrected three days after his execution. Whether he was a hero of the Metis people or a madman fanatic my person view is that either way he was a traitor to the country of Canada. This is what *I* was taught in school but a more revisionist point of view is taken nowadays to be politically correct.

While I laughed at many parts of the book that I think were supposed to be serious, I did enjoy reading the book. It was fun to read and the Canadian history aspect was great to see in a graphic novel. I'd love to see more in the same vein! If you are already familiar with the story of Louis Riel, I think you'd enjoy reading this. But don't start here if you know nothing of the history. Here's a website with a brief intro and a little video that was part of series shown here on Canadian television.


  1. I wasn't sure what to think about this book. He does a really job of making Riel look a little crazy, but at the same time he is a hero. I felt like the author didn't really know which side he was trying to be on. I still wish they would make this a series, though.

  2. I mostly felt that the author added the crazy aspect so he wouldn't appear too biased. I came to my opinion based on his portrayal of the English/Canadian. I mean John A. was even drawn like a buffoon (compared to the other characters) with that huge honker! But, yeah, more Canadian biography or history in graphic format by *good* authors would be wonderful.

  3. Without having read it, I don't know if portraying him as a hero whilst crazy at the same time means Brown didn't know what side to be on. A crazy hero is quite possible.

    I really want to read this one. Unfortunately our local library had other Chester Brown books, but not this one. Likewise they had the sequels to Persepolis and Maus, but not the originals. Very frustrating.


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