Bowie: An Illustrated Life

María Hesse and Fran Ruiz, trans. from the Spanish by Ned Sublette. Univ. of Texas, $21.95 (168p) ISBN 978-1-4773-1887-4
This odd illustrated tribute to David Bowie is written in the first person, imagining the pop star narrating his life from the moment he “decided to come into the world” to his soul leaving his body at death. In Hesse’s mildly fanciful telling, Bowie gets his famous mismatched eye not from a fistfight but from a meteor. Much space is dedicated to name-dropping famous friends and collaborators, such as John Lennon, Freddie Mercury, Yoko Ono, and Iggy Pop. More insightful passages touch on Bowie’s rocky relationship with his mentally ill brother, Terry; but otherwise the treatment is unsatisfyingly glib about the complex and mutable artist, speaking frankly about his drug problems while glossing over issues such as child abuse accusations and his flirtation with Nazi imagery. Analysis of Bowie’s work doesn’t go much deeper than pointing out that, for example, “Aladdin Sane” sounds like “A Lad Insane.” The book’s saving grace is the fabulous ink and watercolor portraits that borrow elements of religious iconography to portray Bowie with heart and nerves exposed, wrapped in rainbows, or sprouting plant life. The art reflects a man consumed with himself as an evolving art project, at once self-absorbed and self-sacrificing, coolly aesthetic and curiously, lovably human. But, alas, the dreamlike visuals and mundane text just don’t mesh. (Sept.)
Reviewed on : 09/05/2019
Release date: 11/01/2019
Genre: Comics
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