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the Complete Review
the complete review - comic book


Magdy El Shafee

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To purchase Metro

Title: Metro
Author: Magdy El Shafee
Genre: Comics
Written: 2007 (Eng. 2012)
Length: 91 pages
Original in: Arabic
Availability: Metro - US
Metro - UK
Metro - Canada
Metro - India
Metro - Kairo Underground - Deutschland
Metro - Italia
  • A Story of Cairo
  • Arabic title: مترو
  • Translated by Chip Rossetti

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Our Assessment:

B- : decent visuals, the story itself -- as presented -- rather thin

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       Metro begins promisingly enough: the first words are: "Today, I decided to rob a bank". Within four pages, however, readers are shuttled back to 'Two weeks earlier ...', so that author El Shafee can present what led up the dramatic decision.
       The two who eventually plan to rob the bank are friends Mustafa and Shehab. As the opening scene shows, Shehab is a software whiz but despite his great computing skills his software company has gone nowhere, and he now owes a great deal of money to a fair-weather partner who has shown much better business sense in his rise from poverty, and the bank is about to foreclose on them too.
       This Cairo of the late Mubarak years is one of the connected and the rest, where jail is only for the poor and where the wealthy can get away with anything. Repeatedly Shehab speaks of 'the cage' in which they find themselves stuck; here, finally, they see no other possible escape but robbery (though of course the bankers themselves are corrupt, too, so it arguably isn't quite such a bad thing ...).
       Others take more violent action: Shehab's girlfriend, Dina, is followed and barely rescued from thugs, while a neighbor who is a contractor is murdered in front of their eyes (and the wrong man is later accused of the crime). Just how corrupt this world is also nicely shown in how the bank robbery works itself out.
       Dina, already a devoted protester in these years before the 'Arab Spring', is the only prominent character with much integrity. Shehab's obnoxious phone-ringing-tricks may seem like playful fun, but as his willingness to rob the bank shows, he's no paragon of virtue; neither, it turns out, is Mustafa -- but then in this rotten world virtue is hard to hold onto.
       Despite a decent -- if rather obvious -- closing scene -- two of the characters have just missed the train (in Cairo's metro-system, which is much-used in the story) and one says to the other, "Let's get out of this tunnel ..." (and then two more frames have them just standing there) -- Metro is rather thin on exposition and depth. Scenes and exchanges reveal a corrupt society, but at a pretty superficial -- well, comic book ... -- level. The story itself is too busy and too often flies off on brief tangents. The hectic is nicely reflected in the way the artwork is presented -- frames of all different shapes and sizes, the images in a wide variety of perspectives, and several different (drawing-)styles -- while the repeated motif of the Cairo metro map is a welcome anchoring feature, but the story and most of its strands simply fizzle out.
       The artwork is decent, though perhaps occasionally a bit too frenzied -- making the story (or stories ...) difficult to follow. Visually more interesting than narratively, Metro does at least suggest Egyptian conditions shortly before the 'Arab Spring', and what led to those events; too bad the story isn't more fully fleshed-out.

- M.A.Orthofer, 5 March 2013

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Metro: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Egyptian cartoonist Magdy El Shafee (مجدي الشافعي) was bortn in 1961.

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