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the Complete Review
the complete review - comic

Chaos in Kinshasa

Barly Baruti and Thierry Bellefroid

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To purchase Chaos in Kinshasa

Title: Chaos in Kinshasa
Author: Barly Baruti and Thierry Bellefroid
Genre: Graphic novel
Written: 2016 (Eng. 2024)
Length: 107 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Chaos in Kinshasa - US
Chaos in Kinshasa - UK
Chaos in Kinshasa - Canada
Chaos debout à Kinshasa - Canada
Chaos debout à Kinshasa - France
from: Bookshop.org (US)
  • French title: Chaos debout à Kinshasa
  • Art and coloring by Barly Baruti
  • Text by Thierry Bellefroid
  • Translated by Ivanka Hahnenberger
  • With a Preface by Colette Braeckman

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Our Assessment:

B- : great material, but doesn't spin it out nearly enough

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       Chaos in Kinshasa is set in 1974, and builds to the 'Rumble in the Jungle', in which Muhammad Ali beat George Foreman to reclaim the world heavyweight boxing title. Ali, and the lead-up to the fight, figure quite prominently in the story, but Baruti and Bellefroid expand it considerably beyond that.
       Another significant narrative thread follows the American Ernest, a small-time criminal ("I'm the best salesman of fell-off-a-truck goods in Harlem"); Ernest wins a radio contest where the prize is an all-expenses paid trip to see the boxing match -- something he eagerly accepts, though more because he needs to get out of New York than his interest in Africa or boxing. Nevertheless, he then revels in the experience of being in this different environment: "Isn't life beautiful ? A country full of nothing but blacks. Mama, if you could only see me now ...".
       There is also the larger political situation, with Belgian government official Edmond on a (covert) 'diplomatic mission' in the country and Mobutu Sese Seko, the 'Citizen Founding President' of -- as he had renamed the country -- Zaïre, as concerned with the situation in neighboring Angola as he is with the success of the big fight that he has invested so much of his country's money in, determined that: "the F.N.L.A must, you hear me, must win this war of independence". (The April 1974 Carnation Revolution in Portugal, overthrowing the totalitarian government, led to its colonies accelerating their bids for independence; in Angola, the FNLA -- as footnoted here: "the Angola Libération Mouvement backed by the United States and South Africa, run by Roberto Holden" [in fact: Holden Roberto] -- was one of the three main liberation-parties that then maneuvered for power, supported militarily and otherwise by Mobuto.)
       The main reason Ernest is eager to get out of New York is because he managed to lose a kilo of cocaine: as someone tells him: "That's not losing, that's suicide". A rather happy-go-lucky kind of guy, he then goes with the newfound flow in Kinshasa -- attracting some attention as a foreigner in a city where many of the foreign elements are involved in the local and regional political maneuverings and hence suspect. Unsurprisingly, he eventually finds himself in quite over his head.
       The title fight makes for a solid backdrop to the story, but it's the chaos -- Mobuto's ruthlessness in holding onto power; the maneuverings of foreign actors, including the CIA; and the attempts to influence what happens in Angola -- that are the heart of the story. With many different actors -- including a woman whose brother has been jailed by the regime whom she desperately wants to free -- the story is a bit of a chaotic jumble. The artwork, with effective shifts in coloring, depending on the mood and setting, is good, but the narrative is too thin -- too-brief bursts, generally with too little follow-through, and jumping about as the story shifts between the different foci. There are connections, but with so much involving secretive and deceptive actions these also blur some; the action gets heaped together, and remains something of a tangle. There's great material here, but most of it is handled in much too much of a shorthand-rush.
       Touching upon an interesting slice of history -- specifically Mobuto's meddling in Angola, and the CIA and Belgian meddling with Mobuto -- with plenty of international intrigue, Chaos in Kinshasa doesn't go nearly far enough with it -- and the Ali-storyline remains more of a sideshow than anything else.

- M.A.Orthofer, 12 June 2024

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Chaos in Kinshasa: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Congolese artist Barly Baruti was born in 1959.

       Belgian writer Thierry Bellefroid was born in 1966.

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© 2024 the complete review

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