Motörhead: The Rise of the Loudest Band in the World (Graphic Novel Review)

Comic book biographies are not something new. Some have even reached iconic status, like Maus by Art Spiegelman or Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. But there has been a rise in the bio-graphic novel genre in the past few years. The likes of Einstein, Zora Neale Hurston and Vincent Van Gogh have had their life stories drawn and written in comic form. Now another group of artists on par with those legends is getting their story drawn: Lemmy Kilmister and Motörhead.

Okay, maybe that is a bit much. But Motörhead are Heavy Metal icons, as emblematic of the genre as Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, and they have their own wild stories to tell. Thus, Fantoons (Zappa Coloring Book 2019, Billie Holiday: The Graphic Novel 2021) steps up to the plate.

They had previously covered the band with a Where’s Waldo-style book (Motörhead: Where is Lemmy? 2019). Now they are telling their story in Motörhead: The Rise of the Loudest Band in the World. It covers the band from Lemmy working in the British countryside to their early-1980s superstardom.

Mark Irwin and David Calcano (Neil Peart: Illustrated Quotes, Fantoons 2021) did the writing, while Juan Riera, Alberto Belandria and Jorge Manilla drew the pictures under the art direction of Calcano and Ittai Manero (Midnight, Planeta Cómica 2014). The 144-page graphic novel arrived on September 7, 2021 in bookstores both physical and digital thanks to Fantoons. But is it worth picking up?

After the foreword from Judas Priest’s Rob Halford, the novel follows Lemmy himself. The book sources do include people who are not Lemmy, like Lucas Fox and Kim MacAuliffe of Girlschool. But each incident is arranged chronologically and narrated from Lemmy’s POV. Rather straightforward stuff. Lemmy narrating stories he heard from his bandmates can be a jumble, but it does not make it hard to follow.

Though it does mean the novel is less Maus and more like a standard biography. There are no fancy allegories or attempts to delve into Motörhead’s heads. It just presents the events that led Lemmy from Stoke-on-Trent to Hawkwind, then to Motörhead and eventually to Ace of Spades. It is told quite frankly though, not shying away from the sex and drugs and money troubles.

Still, that does mean it feels less engaging to read by comparison to the big graphic novel biographies. Since it is just a chronology of events leading up to their peak, the novel can feel like an illustrated essay. It helps that Lemmy and Motörhead had some wild stories to tell, filled with burning caravans, deportations, and leering truck drivers, which are quite entertaining.

The colors, done by Manero and Samuel Blanco, are limited to blacks, whites, blues, and the differing shades in between. It looks quite nice, and even works in some dynamic angles and imaginative illustrations. For example, the bands producer quitting mid-recording to work with Led Zeppelin goes with a daydream motif instead of some guy toddling off in a car while Lemmy looks sad at a microphone.

Likewise, the aforementioned sex uses creative layouts and drawings to get the point across (“I didn’t get a guitar for the chicks…well, maybe 60% for girls, 40% for Rock-n-Roll”). It is more R-rated than R18, while still looking creative and cool. Maybe a little too cool in places. Perhaps the palette was chosen to show this was way in the past, but it can mute some scenes and make them look a little drab. Like 1970s Europe just had a permanent winter that even made flaming car wrecks look cold.

Still, that does not mean Motörhead: The Rise of the Loudest Band in the World is not worth anyone’s time. It tells an interesting story that really brings the events to life thanks to the creative art choices and straightforward presentation. The novel does not feel too sanitized either, if not exactly warts & all. However, due to the event -by-event approach, it does make for the driest wild ride. No peaks or valleys, just a plateau of Rock. Thus, for these Cryptic Rock gives this book 3 out of 5 stars.

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