Guy Delisle’s deadpan graphic memoir of his time working in North Korea is as gentle a reflection on the horrors of totalitarianism as can be imagined. An animator and cartoonist, Delisle is sent by his French employer to oversee cheap fill-in production at a firm in Pyongyang. Most of his time is spent working out ways to alleviate the crushing boredom of life in the panopticon–foreign workers in North Korea are constantly accompanied by guides and translators carefully selected for their party loyalty and overall blandness, exploration beyond obviously and hilariously scripted propaganda events is forbidden and the radio only gets one station. The art sits solidly in the journalistic/memoir comic fashion, blandly approachable in the style of Marjane Satrapi or Joe Sacco. Detail is sparse but movement and characterization are handled quite well, which helps when depicting a country where too many ill-considered dialogue bubbles could land one in a gulag. The narrator’s interior monologue echoes Art Spiegelman’s wry detachment to a level that can feel almost insensitive when dealing with the forced representatives of the most oppressive regime on the planet. That aside, Pyongyang provides an amusing perspective on a fascinating topic.
- Adam Parker, Learning Technologies Developer