cover image Ms Davis: A Graphic Biography

Ms Davis: A Graphic Biography

Sybille Titeux de la Croix and Amazing Améziane, trans. from the French by Jenna Allen. Fantagraphics, $24.99 (188p) ISBN 978-1-68396-569-5

Titeux de la Croix and Améziane (Muhammad Ali) collaborate once again in this oddly paced graphic biography of scholar and revolutionary activist Angela Davis. In an opening thick with cinematic flair, police officers attack the Black Panther Party’s headquarters in 1969. Davis rushes to intercede as gunfire and tenets from the BPP’s Ten-Point Program erupt across the panels. Momentum grinds to a halt, though, as Linda, a fictional composite friend, frames Davis’s childhood during Jim Crow segregation in mythic overtones. Davis later studies French literature at the Sorbonne then returns to the U.S. to join the Black Panthers. An interjected if useful explainer on COINTELPRO is drawn with Charles Schulz–ian simplicity. Dense narration muddies the script, which ends up spending as much time on the men surrounding Davis—the Soledad Brothers, Huey P. Newton—as the accomplished woman herself. The climax is Davis’s trial for murder, kidnapping, and conspiracy related to the 1970 Marin County Courthouse shooting. Dynamic art and vivid coloring inject much-needed energy—a black-and-white American flag serves as bars to Davis’s prison cell, and trial scenes unfold in colored penciled courtroom sketches. While uneven as a graphic biography, the superheroine/folkloric overtones may encourage amateur historians to go deeper with Davis’s own 1974 autobiography. (Mar.)