TIME.com reviews Baru’s Road to America

A Punchy But Winning Boxing Comix

TIME Magazine    |    TIME.comix    |    May 21, 2002

A sports comic with themes of race and identity, set at a time reminiscent to current events, "Road to America" goes for the knockout, but wins instead by decision.

It tells the story of a Saïd Boudiaf, a gifted Algerian boxer whose career peaks during the late 1950s in Paris. Still a colony of France at the time, Algeria's National Liberation Front (FLN) had begun a series of bombings to oust the occupiers. Upon arriving at the Paris train station Boudiaf gets immediately harassed by gendarmes who suspect any Arab of being a terrorist. Desperately trying to stay neutral in an atmosphere that insists on polarization, he declares, "I'm on the side of boxing." But when he defeats the French champion the stadium erupts in a riot. As he rises to be European champ, things get hotter, especially when his brother joins the resistance and his girlfriend turns out to be an agent as well.

What "Road to America" excels at is atmosphere. Gorgeously printed in full color on large, nearly nine by twelve, heavy, off-white paper, it looks fantastic. Layers of translucent watercolor seem to have soaked into the paper, achieving one of the most varied and spectacular of palates I've seen in a comicbook. Typical of European comic-making Baru puts his stylized characters into carefully-detailed, realistic settings. While its setting becomes nostalgic, its sense of danger does not. Filled with paranoia, prejudice and terrorism, the time and place have a particular resonance now.

Like a quick three-rounder between a pair of pretty boys, Baru's "Road to America" is a little too short and a little too obvious, but it's still beautiful to look at.

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