Graphic Novel Review: ‘Persepolis 2’ by Marjane Satrapi

Persepolis 2: The Story of a ReturnPersepolis 2: The Story of a Return by Marjane Satrapi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this a while ago and didn’t remember the details at all, so this totally counts as a new thing.

One of the interesting things about this series (and Embroideries which is hilarious and dirty; lots more grandma!) is that Satrapi violates so many of the standard conventions for a good comic. I think it’s accurate to call this one, more so than usual, a ‘graphic novel.’ There are frequently a lot of panels per page, and a very high word to image ratio, mainly because the story is told with a lot of narration rather than the more customary in-panel dialogue.

However, it completely works. And the few panels that do end up being all about the imagery instead of the story (with the images supplementing the words) are amazing. My particular favorite, for its sheer effectiveness, was when she gets into returning to Iran and considering the amount of people who died while she was getting into trouble in Austria. There’s this half-page (maybe more) that is stylized skulls filling out a large black square (the ground) with negative space, and it’s totally brilliant and conveys the horror of what has been going on in Iran.

Anyway, now that I’m done mooning over the art—make no mistake, this is one of a series. You should read ’em in order, more because the ending feels super incomplete than the beginning makes no sense. (It’s been a while since I read Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, which is silly because I own a copy. Oh well. She gives enough backstory in here to not make it totally confusing.)

Even though this is a memoir and I’m not generally into them, there is no denying the thematic richness here. Not just dealing with the cultural revolution/war in Iran as both someone living there and an expatriate, but the broader themes of rebellion, wanting to escape from the outside and the inside, fitting in, etc. As befitting her age through this story (14-24), the themes are more adult. It’s not just about what’s happening outside and going with it or whatever others say; for the first time, Satrapi is making her own decisions, and she doesn’t always make the right ones. But they are her decisions to make.

If you’ve read the first and liked it you will like this too; if you haven’t read the first, what are you waiting for?

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