Comics Features

REVIEW: Agatha

Written by Fred McNamara

Agatha Christie‘s absorbing life is held up for investigation in this light, breezy graphic biography. Anne Martinetti, Guillaume Lebeau and Alexandre Franc do a splendorous job in capturing the highs and lows of Christie’s career and personal life with such a light-hearted skip. Content-wise, the back-cover of Agatha simply lists eight things she did in her life – Novelist, wife, nurse, tourist, mother, archaeologist, playwright, and dame. That brief summary of her achievements matches the easily digestible nature of this graphic novel to great effect. Despite this, Agatha may be too light for its own good in certain aspects.

We glide feather like from Agatha’s childhood to her death in just over 100 pages, skipping merrily from infamous disappearance to holiday destinations which inspire some of her most famous novels, but perhaps most riveting is her pre-author existence. Christie was brought up by a mother who surprisingly discouraged her from reading. Her father is depicted as being more playful, yet he remains elusive. Christie’s time spent as a nurse during the First World War and her marriage to Archibald Christie are also cemented here.

Moment such as these, coupled with the occasional visitation from Poirot herself in Christie’s more private, contemplative moments, lend strength to a book that almost falls asleep in its mellow encapsulation of Christie’s life. As an overall capture of Agatha’s life, it’s an absorbing read, but it is occasionally dull in its narrative. What is a constant pleasure of Agatha is Franc’s bold yet bare artwork. He lends a caricature quality to the characters that suits the cheeky nature of this graphic novel down to the ground.

Agatha‘s biggest charm is its lack of pomposity, but with that lack comes a loose clutch on the novel’s narrative grip. Despite its brief length, a stronger hold on the flow of the novel’s narrative could be beneficial, and stop the novel from drifting off into a slumber. Even so, Agatha is still a rewarding read. In the world of comics, so many different elements must fuse together to create a successful whole. Here, artwork, story, panelling and pace compliment each other as best they can. Where the pace becomes admittedly languid, the artwork never fails.

When reading Agatha, one wonders if the novel may have been a more engaging and original read if we trimmed down on her life as an author. Obviously, that would hardly make this as a cohesive picture of her life as it currently stands. When reading every moment where Christie isn’t in the author stage of her life, that’s where I found Agatha to be most compelling. We see a life of repressed womanhood, of uncertainty and mystery, all lovingly encased in graphic novel format. Still, it’s a testament to the novel’s ability to quash such first-world quibbles that it keeps one hooked until the end.

Agatha isn’t here to shed new light on the celebrated murder-mystery author’s life. It’s simply a pleasant ramble through her life. Throughout the novel, the author herself is painted as a down-to-earth individual, unhampered by the stardom that came along with her career. Agatha matches this warm, rootsy feel to the author, and the end result is a snug, lovely little read.

Have you read Agatha? What did you make of it? Let us know in the comments section or send us a Tweet!

About the author

Fred McNamara