Baby’s in Black by Arne Bellstorf

29 Jun

Baby's in Black: Astrid Kirchherr, Stuart Sutcliffe, and The Beatles in HamburgPremise: When Klaus Voormann wakes Astrid Kirchherr in the middle of the night, it is because he has just heard something incredible. The band that he hears that night pulls them back night after night to listen to them in spite of the grungy dive they play in. From the moment Astrid sees the bass player, Stuart Sutcliffe, she is intrigued, and the music of The Beatles changes their lives forever.

As The Beatles try to hit it big, Stu and Astrid draw closer together. They encourage each other to create art, Stu with his paintings and Astrid with her photographs. Astrid encourages Stu to pursue his passion to push the limits of his painting, even if it means leaving the band in order to take classes and sell his art instead.

In this true love story between Astrid Kirchherr and the “fifth Beatle”, Stuart Sutcliffe, we get a glimpse of the early career of The Beatles. But more than anything, we get to see two people fall in love, all the way to its tragic ending.

Themes: Baby’s in Black is a love story. The romance between Astrid and Stu takes center stage as The Beatles perform in bars and jazz clubs. From the very first moment they see each other the sparks are flying.

There is quite a bit of introspection in Baby’s in Black, and not just for Stuart as he chooses his life direction with the band or with his art, but also for Astrid, Klaus, and The Beatles. The Beatles make choices for breaking contracts, finding gigs, changing band members, and traveling the world. Klaus follows The Beatles fervently, but also discovers a penchant for playing the bass. Astrid has the most introspection of all in her relationship with Stu and the discovery of self that comes with the loss of love, and it is expressed most poignantly through brief dream sequences.

Pros: The understated looks between Astrid and Stu say so much more in a few panels than any dialogue could over several pages. There is a sense of hopefulness in the face of tragedy at the conclusion, with Astrid coming full circle in her dreams but being better off having known Stu. The Beatles are supporting characters, and yet they don’t overshadow the focus of the story.

Cons: A few of the characters are drawn very similarly, and it took some time to pick up the subtle distinctions between them. There is a definite lack of exciting action because of the minimalist style of the drawings and dialogue. More dialogue might have helped invite readers less inclined to read a story where The Beatles play only a supporting role.

Recommendations: Baby’s in Black is as bohemian as the main characters the story is about. The minimal dialogue and dream sequences highlight the subtleties of the expressive faces of every person, especially the looks between Astrid and Stuart. The black and white drawings bring to mind seeing footage of The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show, and this beautiful love story ending in tragedy will leave you hopeful about life, for the art that was created, and that which is to come. Baby’s in Black is lovely and artsy, and encourages the reader to enjoy every minute of life we are given. Though perhaps not entirely an engaging story for everyone, this is a must read for Beatles fans.

Arne Bellstorf’s website
Baby’s in Black on Goodreads
Buy Baby’s in Black from Amazon
I received a copy from the publisher to write this honest review.

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Posted by on June 29, 2012 in Graphic Novel, Nonfiction


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