In the comic books industry biographies and memoirs do not get much of the lime light, and therefore little to no one talks about or even brings anything up about them. I decided to take a chance and pick up one and start reading. With literally hundreds to choose from such as David Small’s Stitches or Alison Bechdel’s Are You My Mother? which looks promising compared to Bluewater Productions’ Fame series (which even at first glance looks just awfully gaudy). 2007’s Burma Chronicles, luckily, is the former of the two.
Released by Drawn and Quarterly Burma Chronicles is Guy Delisle’s third auto biographical travelogue comic which he does the story and art for. He has three more just like this Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea, Shenzhen: A Travelogue from China, and the newest one Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City.
Burma Chronicles is about a trip that Guy Delisle, his wife Nadège, and their son Louis took in 2005 to Burma. Nadège works for the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), a humanitarian organization that provides aid to a number of countries, mostly those who are still developing or torn by war. Burma Chronicles is broken up into sections. This gives you clues as to what is going to transpire later, with the accounts of day to day life and what exactly Delisle finds the most interesting to share. At one point in the story he finds a Buddhist temple and decides to stay there since they offer that kind of service to willing participants. With nothing more than a simple mat and the clothes on his back Delisle ends up staying there for a whole week. He is on a daily routine of the same things each day; eating, sleeping, mainly meditating and praying mostly. Readers will be graced with tidbits about Myanmar such as history and culture as well as certain laws; including political information in certain sections of the country.
Burma Chronicles reads like any Sunday morning funny you would find in your local news paper or online. It seems like it could be an ongoing series with a little bit being revealed each week; but lucky for the reader it is all neatly packaged together in a trade. Delisle has worked in his unique humor and insight into Burma Chronicles which is the main appeal in his works. The comments he gives, witty remarks, and observations connect with the reader, as if he is saying what we are all thinking.
The art is at points and more detailed than others but that never clashes with each other. For example taking a look at how Delisle draws people one can see that it is simplistic, on the flip side of that is some of the background art. Panning views of areas or close ups of certain objects will yield more detail.
Pros: Burma Chronicles is a fun and easy pick up and put down story that almost anyone can enjoy. It offers a unique view on a not so well known region that will entice the reader to research more about and even travel to Burma. Since the art style is not hyper realistic it does not impose itself upon anyone glancing at it and therefore is approachable.
Cons: The only problem I really have is that it is too short and I wanted to hear more details about Guy’s trip and the people he met. At points where I wanted this to happen he seems to switch to something else or the chapter ends, but on the subsection of his website for Burma Chronicles he explains certain aspects and even offers photos of panel in the comic.
Drawn and Quarterly’s Burma Chronicles is an enjoyable read that I liked a lot; with unique insight and funny dialog from Delisle about the country makes me want to learn more and even travel there. The art is enjoyable which draws you in; it has a light hearted nature and feel that you will finding yourself relaxing while also learning. This is something that everyone should check out for a good read.
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