Bix

Scott Chantler. Gallery 13, $29.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-5011-9078-0
Chantler’s bracing look at the life of jazz musician Leon “Bix” Beiderbecke (1903–1931) frames musical genius as both gift and burden. Born in Iowa and distinguished as a child prodigy with a piano, Bix grows up to be an absolute failure at everything except jazz. Chantler’s page layouts mimic the genre’s irregularity: in miserable periods, regular panels march across the middle of the page in a repetitive line, but when Bix discovers the family piano and later the cornet, meets the woman he loves, and thrills in musical collaboration, panels joyfully pepper the page. The narrative keeps a tight focus on Bix’s perspective, questionably eliding some reported scandals, and is nearly wordless (only a few conversations are recorded in text). The crisp, monochrome visuals are reminiscent of midcentury newspaper comics, as well as Seth’s Clyde Fans. Throughout, Chantler returns to mine the fault lines of Bix’s character, such as a tendency to quit on promises and relationships—everything except the alcoholism that killed the musician at age 28. Flasks, bottles, and glasses undergird the story as regularly as a drumbeat, their final toll exacted in a melancholic, gorgeously orchestrated ending sequence. This graphic biography of an artistic innovator mimics the music he loved: chaotic, creative, and open to interpretation. (Apr.)
Reviewed on : 02/20/2020
Release date: 04/01/2020
Genre: Comics
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