Garage Band (:01 First Second Books)

garagebandheaderItalian artist Gipi's rough linework and delicate watercolors combine in this gorgeously illustrated tale of 4 boys trying to break into the music biz.



128 pgs. FC; $16.95

(W / A: Gipi)


In a little over a year, :01 First Second Books have already firmly established themselves as a home for literate, artistically challenging graphic novels that span across genre and artistic boundaries. One of First Second's latest additions is Gipi, an Italian artist best known as an illustrator for the Rome-based left-wing newspaper La Repubblica. Garage Band marks Gipi's first full-length work published in English; his second, Notes for a War Story, will be published by First Second this fall.


The cover to Garage Band by Gipi. Click thumbnail for a larger image.The story begins with two young men, good-natured Giuliano and his sour-tongued friend Stefano, cracking the lock on an old, unused garage deep out in the boondocks. The garage is a gift from Giuliano's father: as long as the boys behave themselves, they can use the garage as practice space for their band. The guitarist and singer (respectively) are joined by Alberto, the bassist whose outlook on life permanently changed after his father's recent brush with death, and Alex, the madman drummer with a Nazi obsession that doesn't necessarily bother his bandmates ("He's just an idiot," Giuliano jokes to his girlfriend Nina, "but better an idiot than a Nazi, don't you think?"). When Stefano's dad has a chance meeting with an A&R agent, the foursome are convinced that a killer demo tape will kick open the doors to music stardom, but when Alberto's amp blows, the foursome have to decide just how far they'll go to keep opportunity from passing them by.


The story, for what it's worth, isn't much to write home about, but for a book like this that's completely beside the point. Garage Band is a character study, a look at the relationships each boy has with their family and how their family life colors their personality and their interactions with each other, both as friends and as a band. By the book's end, you haven't witnessed a defining moment in the lives of these four boys so much as gotten a glimpse of their lives and where they may be headed.


An interior page from Garage Band by Gipi. Click for a larger view, and see below for a link to a 12 page preview!It's a bold artistic gambit that could have failed miserably if it weren't for Gipi's striking artwork. The book jacket describes Gipi's linework as "nervy," and it's hard to come up with a better description than that: the characters are highly stylized and highly stylish, drawn with loose, thin lines that frequently end in sharp, jagged points, yet maintain a soft edge. Some may describe the linework as sketchy, even sloppy, but it forms a foundation for Gipi's stunning watercolors that bathe the entire book in a warm glow. Gipi happily lets the books characters drift off panel to let his painting do the talking. Whether it's a single splash page establishing shot or two pages of a model airplane slowly cruising through the evening sky, the results are equally gorgeous.


Nowhere is Garage Band more alive than the music scenes. Gipi gives no indication of the boys' ages, the time period of the story, the style of music they play, or the words Stefano sings. Over the rough-edged, energy-packed artwork, Giuliano pensively explains what the songs mean to those that are playing them, letting the readers fill in the rest of the blanks for themselves. It's there that the lives of these boys, and the life of this remarkable graphic novel, are truly laid bare. | Jason Green


Click here for a 12-page preview, courtesy of :01 First Second Books!

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