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‘Paul Is Dead: When the Beatles Lost McCartney’ (review)

Written by Paolo Baron
Art by Ernesto Carbonetti
Published by Image Comics


I’ve read quite a number of Beatles-related comics and graphic novels in recent years. You’d be amazed how many of them there are, all created, no doubt, out of love for the music, and yet so many of them terrible. This one, Paul is Dead: When the Beatles Lost McCartney, manages to hit the middle ground solidly.

The indicia on this Image book says, quote, “All names, characters, events, and locales in this publication are entirely fictional. Any resemblance to actual persons (living or dead), events, or places, without satiric intent, is coincidental.”

Although placed there, no doubt, for legal reasons, it is, of course, a flat out lie.

First of all, the book is not a satire and, in fact, nearly every single name, character, and visual in this painted graphic novel is meant to be a real person, from the Beatles and their entourage to a cameo by Pink Floyd with Syd Barrett.

“Speculative fiction,” and “historical fiction,” are the terms used on the back cover but really it’s just a rather tasteless “what if?” tale in which we see how Ringo, George, and especially John might have reacted if Paul McCartney really HAD been killed at the height of the group’s success and fame.

Producer George Martin, Engineer Geoff Emerick, and Manager Brian Epstein all get a special introduction up front, but appear only briefly within.

In fact, not much happens at all until a fairly predictable twist at the end. Although clocking in at 132 pages, the actual story takes up just a little over 100 of those.

Originally published in Europe, “Lyrics” are by Paolo Baron with “Music” by Ernesto Carbonetti. Translation is credited to Adrian Nathan West. Unfortunately, at no point do I “hear” the familiar voices of the Fab Four in the translated dialogue, even when characters speak in not yet written song lyrics.

The stunning artwork is the book’s redeeming factor—colorful, gorgeous, artsy, slick, and stylized. I stared at every single page for long minutes. Everyone’s way too thin but that adds to the modernized ‘60s illustrative look. The back of the book offers some background on the art.

In the end, though, what was it all for? A pointless, almost non-story, featuring familiar characters out of character. Doesn’t matter how striking its visuals are—and they really are—I can’t bring myself to recommend Paul is Dead: When the Beatles Lost McCartney.

Think I’ll go put on Revolver instead. Where’s my headphones?

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