The Fifth Beatle Graphic Novel Review

The Fifth Beatle is a rich, colorful look at the life of Brian Epstein, the manager of the Beatles. Going into the book, I really didn’t know what to expect. Did I need a Beatles history lesson or would the book lead me without a vast knowledge of Beatles lore? I am happy to say I was fine without much backstory and if questions arose, research proved the book to be extremely accurate. As a casual fan of the Beatles, I was excited to have the opportunity to review this book. With limited knowledge of the group’s backstory, The Fifth Beatle fills gaps pertaining to the early years of the Fab Four. From Brian Epstein discovering the boys (a term of endearment given to the band by Epstein) to the band discovering the Maharishi in Bangor, the thrill of being one of the Beatles’ inner circle is ever present. As such, I feel the book provides an amazing history lesson, not only for those with interest in the Beatles, but also for anyone with a desire to uncover the roots of rock music.

The graphic novel begins with Brian Epstein approaching a club in Liverpool. Making eye contact with a sailor, Epstein smiles at the man. Thus begins an overtone used throughout the book dealing with Epstein’s homosexuality and the abuse he took. The man assaults Epstein, causing various injuries and foreshadows a future meeting with a similar individual. Epstein’s family history is briefly explored, with the story then shifting to catching a show with the band and Epstein convincing the teens to allow him to manage them. As the book speeds along, characters from the Beatles’ history appear, such as Ed Sullivan and Colonel Tom Parker, the manager of Elvis Presley. Both are represented in interesting ways, possible as an allegory of how the band viewed them. The finale of the book sums up the feelings Epstein had toward the band and those who were close to him. I found the ending to be heartwarming and very well done, as in the end, each character was given a proper sendoff, with one receiving a surprising twist.

I found the story to be well-written and a tremendous history lesson. The use of metaphors and flashbacks abound, providing insight into the mind of the lead character. The writer obviously conducted years of research, as the book includes slight details only the most meticulous scribe would include. The art drives home the story, giving life to each character while changing in portions to reflect the psyche of the character discussed. I enjoyed the small touches given to each character, from the period clothing to the details on the chair of a certain character. (Read the book to find out who!)

There were a few areas I felt the book lacked. In the beginning, the Beatles essentially had the same personality, many times saying the same phrases together. This reminded me of the Animaniacs cartoon characters, in that they typically were being mischievous while the majority of the time speaking in a pun-like manner. As the book goes on, each member’s persona is fleshed out and is richly detailed; I did find the early going to be a bit jarring. The art is amazing, although some may be taken aback at changes mid-book. These changes almost resemble that of a completely different artist and can be difficult to absorb at first. Finally, I felt the character of Epstein was almost one-track throughout the book. Even while arguing with others he maintained the same modulation of speech and still sounded happy. The character never changed throughout, though he had many demons at his door.

While the Fifth Beatle is not perfect, I would highly recommend this colorful look into the life of the manager of one of the most influential bands of all time. Writer Vivek Tiwary shows a passion for the subject, crafting a classic story of the tribulations and rewards of putting a lifetime into one’s dreams. From the brutal introduction to the tear-inducing finale, the Fifth Beatle is an amazing tale of hard work and the trials presented by attempting to make the impossible possible.

Rating- 8.5 out of 10