Classic Comic Rereads – The Birthday Riots
This is the latest in a recurring feature recommending classic comics that you should probably reread now you’ve got some time on your hands. The last one was Amazing Spider-Man #121 and #122. Next up: The Birthday Riots.
Self-published series Exit by Nabiel Kanan was perhaps my first experience of a self-published comic.
Written and drawn by Nabiel Kanan, Exit was a smart funny and dramatic 6-issue series that followed the lives and loves of a group of friends finishing school in the ’80s, worrying over war, exams and a mysterious classmate that disappeared, but returns shaking things up for the cast of characters.
The series was a hidden gem that spawned a sequel that would be published by Calibre comics and received the UK’s 1993 Comics Creators Guild Award.
Kanan went on to do a few other projects, including the graphic novel The Birthday Riots.
This hardback book published by NBM Publishing in New York has all of the hallmarks of a Kanan book. The black and white artwork is crisp and tight, each panel conveying exactly what it has to do to keep the story moving forward. His artwork has moved on from the more later days of Exit, where he provided us with a masterclass in negative space, and has a more downbeat feel. The black and white is imbued with shades and tones, just like the story itself, and Kanan is able to lead you through the plot simply, despite the many layers that you peel back on further reads.
Published in 2001, the book is still relevant, particularly today, and the story of Max Collins, a campaign advisor to London Mayoral Candidate Thom Conran, veers between the political ramifications of a country in a state of civil unrest, and a mystical dreamlike landscape of standing stones and mythical villages. As his daughter becomes embroiled in the proceedings, events escalate and he becomes torn between his political leanings and his radical past.
Kanan is nothing short of a master of the graphic novel. This initially simple tale has more depth and plot than a lot of Netflix TV series, the dense plot and characters simply scream to be optioned for a show, but like a lot of Kanan’s work, it seems to have gone unnoticed.
Kanan has an ear for dialogue, and his grasp of how people communicate, both verbally and non verbally, is astonishing to see.
Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of work out there from this talented creator. You should look for Exit, The Birthday Riots, Lost Girl, and The Drowners. All of them, in my opinion, are stunning examples of the comic book medium, and if there were any sharp cookies out there, they would be buying the rights to these stories and filming them as a series.
If you are lucky you will be able to grab a copy of The Birthday Riots on Amazon or eBay, and if you do I would love to hear your thoughts.
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