The Birthday Riots
by Nabiel Kanan
(NBM, 2001)

Disillusionment can be an ugly and destructive parasite or a life-affirming epiphany. Either way, it is not a common theme in comic books, which is one of the reasons The Birthday Riots, is an uncommon comic book.

Max Collins is a middle-aged, disillusioned campaign adviser for a London political race. As gypsies demonstrate in the streets over a law they oppose, and trespass on his property, Collins advises his candidate to set mass transportation, not human rights, as his primary campaign issue. Collins is forced to face his own demons, however, when his teenaged daughter succors a gypsy boy in school, and then disappears.

Nabile Kanan, the man who wrote and drew this graphic novel, explores themes as grounded in reality as his excellent dialogue and characterizations. It is not uncommon for adults like Kanan's protagonist to reevaluate their early ideas about life, their relationships, job and reasons for living. It is, however, unusual to draw Collins' tragic conclusions.

It is also not unusual for a cartoonist to choose a minimalist style that caricatures reality instead of exactly reproducing it.

Cartoony or cartoonish bear the negative connotation of entertainment for children, and are both inadequate to describe Kanan's style. Although his art is not particularly distinctive in this approach to art, his thin line is more than adequate for a story focusing on people instead of settings. The Birthday Riots is visually well told.

This is not a happy book, but it is an insightful look into the events of one man who reviews his beliefs, actions and history, and finds all three lacking a foundation that gives meaning to his life.

Riots reads more like an excellent short story, not a graphic (or prose) novel, and is recommended for adults. Nudity, subject and adult situations make this title inappropriate for kids.

[ by Michael Vance ]
Rambles: 28 September 2002

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