Magritte: This is Not a Biography TP (Art Masters)
Publisher: SelfMadeHero
Release Date: November 8, 2017
Price: $14.99
Creator: Vincent Zabus (writer), Thomas Campi (artist)
Format: 72 pgs., Full-Color, Trade Paperback
ISBN: 978-1-9105-9337-0
Age Rating: Teen+
ICv2 Rating: 4 Stars out of 5

This really is not a biography, which is both a strength and a weakness.  Unlike the other books in this series from Self-Made Hero, this book provides very little information about the life of the artist, to the point that it becomes mildly frustrating. Instead, this is a fictional walk through some of the concepts in Magritte’s work.  Anyone who wants to learn about his life or what made him the artist he became will have to look elsewhere.

As a piece of entertainment, this is very good, and the imagery based on Magritte’s art is fascinating enough that it may lead readers to want to learn more from other sources, or at least to look at his art more closely.  Some readers, however, will be misled, and have wandered into this story in search of Magritte.  That’s him, not quite over there, which will be a problem for those readers.  Storytelling in surrealist style may not be universally appealing, but fans of Magritte and of art in general will be entertained.

Magritte’s style was often jarring in terms of presenting the viewer with images that were almost real, but just enough off-center to make it seem like the Twilight Zone was just around the corner.  Dali might have melted a watch, but Magritte could melt the nose on a face, and have it not quite be horrific.

Just as Magritte’s painting of a pipe famously declared “This is not a pipe,” the reader is faced with the fact that a graphic story about an artist and his art is neither the original art nor the original artist.  Thus, this is not a biography.

There is just enough nudity, sexuality and language to make this for older teens and adults, but it’s hard to envision younger readers being all that interested in the complex surrealism of Magritte anyway.

--Nick Smith: Library Technician, Community Services, for the Pasadena Public Library in California.