Review: Che Guevara: A Manga Biography by Chie Shimano & Kiyoshi Konno


Title: Che Guevara: A Manga Biography

Author: Kiyoshi Konno & Chie Shimano

Publisher: Penguin

ISBN: 978-0143118169


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

An extraordinary illustrated graphic novel about the legendary political figure Che Guevara.

His name is equated with rebellion, revolution, and socialism. His face is on tee-shirts all over the world. Che Guevara’s life has been explored and portrayed in numerous books and films, including The Motorcycle Diaries, and he continues to captivate the public imagination more than forty years after his death. Guevara became politically active in his native Argentina, but gained notoriety after he met Fidel Castro and became instrumental in Castro’s efforts in Cuba. Guevara then went on to Bolivia, where he was captured and killed by the Bolivian army while trying to incite revolution. This illustrated biography tells the riveting story of Che’s life and death through the popular Japanese art form manga.

I didn’t know anything about Che Guevara before I read this book, and I once again despair at our public education system, which whitewashes and censors what bright-eyed and bushy tailed students are allowed to learn.  The legacy of colonialism is not a pretty thing, but pretending that the injustices and inequities didn’t happen doesn’t make them go away.

Like Penguin’s other manga biography that I have read and reviewed (The 14th Dalai Lama), I found this depiction of Che Guevara’s life to be an interesting read.  It’s always fun to learn new things while enjoying your hobby.  Highlights from Guevara’s life are presented with dramatic detail, following his illness plagued childhood,  his friendship with the Castros, and his death in Bolivia.  As a young man he was troubled by the exploitation of the masses by foreign corporations, and he vowed to fight the crippling poverty that brought so much suffering to so many. 

The events flow at a steady clip, focusing on the big moments in Guevara’s life.  The art is serviceable, but I didn’t really care for it.  It was very uneven and not consistent throughout.  While it gets the job done, the visuals don’t stand out or enhance the reading experience.

There were many typos and the translation felt very awkward to me, which is the main reason for the grade given to the book.  The dialog seemed very clunky, and I had to reread several passages to make sense of them.  The localization left me disappointed.

Che Guevara: A Manga Biography offers an interesting starting point for further reading about Guevara, Castro, and the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Guevara’s idealism and undying resolve to end poverty and human suffering are admirable, though his methods were often troubling.

Grade:  B-

Review copy provided by publisher