Graphic Novel Review: Baby’s in Black

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Graphic Novel Review: Baby’s in BlackBaby's in Black: Astrid Kirchherr, Stuart Sutcliffe, and The Beatles by Arne Bellstorf
Published by First Second on May 8, 2012
Genres: Biography, History
Pages: 208
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley

A fascinating, exhilarating portrait of the Beatles in their early years.

Meet the Beatles . . . right at the beginning of their careers. This gorgeous, high-energy graphic novel is an intimate peek into the early years of the world’s greatest rock band.

The heart of Baby’s In Black is a love story. The “fifth Beatle,” Stuart Sutcliffe, falls in love with the beautiful Astrid Kirchherr when she recruits the Beatles for a sensational (and famous) photography session during their time in Hamburg. When the band returns to the UK, Sutcliffe quits, becomes engaged to Kirchherr, and stays in Hamburg. A year later, his meteoric career as a modern artist is cut short when he dies unexpectedly.

The book ends as it begins, with Astrid, alone and adrift; but with a note of hope: her life is incomparably richer and more directed thanks to her friendship with the Beatles and her love affair with Sutcliffe. This tender story is rendered in lush, romantic black-and-white artwork.

Baby’s In Black is based on a true story.

You can probably tell that I am a huge music fan. Well, what you may not know is that I grew up a child of the 60s/70s so far as musical taste goes. Until sixth grade, I didn’t really have a conception of ‘modern music,’ because I listened to what my parents listened to: oldies CDs and the oldies radio station, which tragically went out of business some time in high school. Although my tastes have diversified, I will always have a soft spot for music of that time period, and some of it will always be a favorite. Primary among my favorite bands, oldies or not, are The Beatles. Thus, upon spying this graphic novel about The Beatles in NetGalley, I just had to have it, and First Second was kind enough to approve me.

The cover is a bit misleading, though. The marketing makes this appear to be more about The Beatles than it actually is. The real story that the graphic novel is telling is that of the romance between Stuart Sutcliffe, bassist for The Beatles during the time when they were playing in Germany, and Astrid Kirchherr, a photographer. Reading real life love stories is always so charming, although they are not as neat and happy as fictional ones.

Now, I know I said that this isn’t ABOUT The Beatles, but there is still so much to be learned about their early days in here. As a fan who doesn’t research music history much, I found those details fascinating. The Beatles were implicated in a fire in Hamburg! Weird, right? One thing I learned, which I should have known, was that The Beatles smoked constantly. I mean, obviously I knew that, but, in my mind, no one smokes, so that reminded me why I would not want to go back in time and hang with The Beatles.

The one thing that I did not, personally care for was the artwork. It’s very crude and simplistic, and just did not jive with me at all. However, I do imagine that Kirchherr would approve. Art is a very personal taste, so you should really take a look for yourself. It’s just like what you see on the cover.

I wanted to know more and to test the accuracy, so I consulted my good friend Google and found this awesome article from the Daily Record, which pretty much sums up this period in the history of The Beatles, who thankfully changed their name from The Quarrymen. So cool! Also, I would recommend doing a search for Astrid and The Beatles, because you can see a bunch of pictures of her and pictures she took, which is just amazing.

A graphic novel weighing in at just 200 pages, this is a really easy read. Beatles fans, you should definitely check this out!

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