Review by: Lauren
Out: May 8, 2012
Copy from: First Second Publishing, All Opinions are My Own
Official Summary: 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.
Review: I really enjoyed this graphic biography. I'd known about Stuart Sutcliffe being in The Beatles, but I was not aware of his love for Astrid, who he met in Germany when the band was just starting to get more notice. I didn't even realize that he died, which was a sad ending to the book...but this story is mainly about Astrid and how she relates to the band and to Stuart himself.
Bellstorf gives a nice look into how Astrid was just a normal girl, working in photography, whose friend begged her to go to a bar in order to see a band play. This happened to be The Beatles. Both Astrid and her friend, Klaus, got to know the band on a more personal level. Astrid was immediately attracted to Stuart, as was Stuart to Astrid.
This book is perfect for fans of The Beatles and wanting to get a deeper look into the "fifth" member, but it's not just for them. It is, after all, a love story. Astrid and Stuart fell madly in love, got engaged, and Stuart even moved in with Astrid and her mother. He focused more of his time on his paintings, getting into an art school in Germany, and living the life he really wanted...as being in the band was really more of a favor to John Lennon, a good friend.
As stated in the summary, this book is done entirely in black and white drawings. I thought it worked really well though. The simple drawings and lack of colors draws your attention to what's happening within the story. You have to pay attention and feel the love and pain that Astrid and Stuart must go through. One of my only complaints about the style, though, is that it's often hard to distinguish the men from one another. You have Stuart, Klaus, and the rest of the band...and it took me awhile to realize how the drawings varied and be able to pinpoint who was who. It's not a huge annoyance though, and I still think the black/white works better for this type of story than color.
Thank you to First Second for allowing me the chance to read this novel. I would highly recommend it! It was great to get an insider's look into the lost Beatle and his great love...and don't worry, Astrid gave the author a lot of input, which I think is fantastic and makes the book even better!
Make it a Gift
All of the characters in Baby's In Black smoke...a lot. I'm not telling you to go out and buy a pack with the book, but you can get some candy cigarettes and make it a gift!! Old Time Candy sells 24 packs of these for only $5.99. I believe you can order less if you want though.
Normally with a book review, I'd have either a song pick or a make it a gift option. However, I have both for this book! My song pick is actually "Baby's in Black" by The Beatles. I looked it up and apparently the song is actually about Astrid after Stuart died, co-written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney (who were, of course, both in the band when Stuart and Astrid met and fell in love). At any rate, the book even mentions how black is Astrid's favorite color...so it's fitting for a few reasons!