Welcome back to another of my graphic novel reviews. I am really excited about writing this review because it combines two of my greatest loves: history and pop culture. Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton is a series of little cartoons which not only tell their own individual stories, but combine history and literature with different pop culture events. This book creates a great series of little vignettes which are sure to make anybody laugh, regardless of their mood.
While the book doesn’t really have a central plot, it’s still completely enjoyable reading all of the individual vignettes. The vignettes make the book a quick and easy read. Before realizing it you’ve finished half of the book. You just keep telling yourself “just one more vignette and then I’ll go to bed”, but then you can’t put the book down. I really enjoyed seeing how Beaton integrated pop culture into some of our favorite books and historical moments. One excellent example is the cartoon called “Suffragettes and the City”, a play on Sex and the City. It was so interesting to see how they combined Susan B. Anthony and Carrie Bradshaw and made it make sense. Both of them are examples of independent and strong-willed women, but seeing them as one thought brought tears to my eyes from laughing.
My favorite vignettes were definitely the last groupings, which were all sitcoms set in Victorian times. There were four different stereotypical situations of special sitcoms throughout the years, such as a “a very special episode” and “rating slumps” that were perfect fits for the Victorian time period parody. The inclusion of Victorian dialogue was an excellent touch. The “rating slumps” solution was to add a baby, which is a classic solution that sitcoms (especially in the 80’s) did to get higher ratings. However, the father in this sitcom mentions that infant mortality rates are especially high and that maybe they should come up with a better solution. I know dead babies aren’t something to laugh about, but it was really funny to see the smart way Beaton included this historical fact. It really made me laugh. Another one of my favorites (for obvious reasons) was a parody of Les Miserables. In this particular one, the little details put into it was really good and made it hysterical. For example, Beaton had Inspector Javert work for the Bread Task Force (Javert arrests Valjean for stealing a loaf of bread). It not only showed that Beaton was creative, but also showed that all of the humor wasn’t in your face; a lot of the humor was subtle and you had to pay attention to the dialogue and pictures.
All in all, I loved this book and think it would be a great coffee table book that anyone from 13 to 130 would love. You can actually learn a lot and laugh at the same time. There is also a website where you can see some of the cartoons and not have to buy the book. Even if you only read the website I can guarantee that you’ll love it so much you’ll want to buy the book.
5 out of 5 Stars
Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton
Drawn and Quarterly (2011)
Hardcover 160 pages