Mikel

Mark Bellido and Judith Vanistendael, trans. from the Spanish by Erica Mena. Selfmadehero, $34.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-910593-70-7
Former bodyguard Bellido and cartoonist Vanistendael chart an idealistic family man’s descent into chaos in this haunting story of the Basque conflict. In 2007, Miguel, a small-town candy seller with literary ambitions, uproots his family to Pamploma to work as a bodyguard for politicians targeted by the ETA, a Basque separatist group. His expectations of financial security and writerly inspiration are soon dashed, however, when he finds the job consists largely of checking garbage bins for bombs, missing his children’s milestones, and answering to the Basque “Mikel” in order to blend in. As the pillars of his life erode, he is forced to confront the man in the mirror: a killer dedicating his time to his clients and losing it with his loved ones. Vanistendael’s visuals are as capable in portraying charming Spanish villages as they are in depicting Miguel’s surreal, violent dreams—mountain vistas and street-shaking explosions alike unfold in vibrant scrawls of color. This artistic exuberance makes up for more rote moments in the script, such as when Miguel is drawn to a mysterious woman affiliated with the ETA, a liaison which feels clichéd in an otherwise trope-averse approach. These missteps, however, are few and far between, and Vanistendael’s uninhibited work outshines them. Miguel might be a hired gun, but his story finds the heart behind the hardware. (Oct.)
Reviewed on : 09/19/2019
Release date: 10/01/2019
Genre: Comics
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