Cuba: My Revolution (DC/Vertigo)

The Cuban Revolution comes to life in this historical fiction graphic novel, and when the story starts to falter, Dean Haspiel’s art is there to pick up the slack.

144 pgs. color; $24.99
(W: Inverna Lockpez; A: Dean Haspiel; C: José Villarrubia)
When this book came up for review, I jumped on it. I studied history and political science and I was eager to read a comic about the Cuban Revolution—a part of history that’s not often well-taught in schools. When it arrived in my mailbox, I saw that it was fiction (but based on a true story) and put it aside. I tend to not like historical fiction. I hoped I could go long enough without reading this book for my editor to forget I had it. [Fat chance, Gabe!–JG] But then I started feeling guilty, and I decided to do my job and read the book. Then I waited a few weeks and—after a friendly reminder from the boss—got to writing.
This book is good. I was expecting melodrama, but I didn’t get it. It’s not clear how much of the story is true, and while some scenes seem a bit over the top, it’s impossible to say they’re overly-embellished. This is a book about the dark side of a revolution told by someone who fled that revolution. To those who don’t know much about the history, there aren’t many hard facts in the book to elucidate Castro’s rise to power. Instead, there are emotions, which are adroitly turned to scenes and plot and story.
Things start slow, ploddingly so at times. But the book improves as it progresses. And at the times when the writing is at its weakest, the art stays strong. Dean Haspiel (The Alcoholic, The Quitter, HBO’s Bored to Death) does great work. He breaks the occasional monotony of the text with well-designed pages, and his willingness to experiment with panels and gutters speeds up the storytelling when the story itself drags.
Haspiel’s art is accented by creative use of color. And by color, I mean red. Aside from black, white, and shades of gray, red is the only color present. But it’s not used in the heavy-handed style of selectively-colored movie sequences. Colorist José Villarrubia does it properly most of the time, subtly highlighting the themes and feelings of the book. Above all, it makes the pages look good.
This isn’t an easy book to pick up, and it’s not an easy story to read. But it’s worth trying. | Gabe Bullard
Click here for a preview of Cuba: My Revolution, courtesy of The Huffington Post.

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