Review: The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story – The Man Behind the Band

thefifthbeatle2

We had a preview of the first pages of The Fifth Beatle a couple weeks ago; it’s now out for you to read!

Many people have been called a fifth Beatle in the press and by members of the band themselves, but both George Martin and Paul McCartney are on record as saying that if anyone was the fifth Beatle, it was Brian. If you’re familiar with The Beatles, a lot of what’s in the novel is common knowledge – Brian discovered them playing in The Cavern Club, saw their potential, and became their manager. He’s responsible for the iconic haircuts, the suits, and their (initial) clean-cut image. You’ll find out more about what he did for the band as you progress through the story. Everything in The Fifth Beatle was meticulously researched by writer Vivek J. Tiwary, and he was able to speak to many people in Brian’s life. Some liberties are taken with the timeline, but it is historically accurate.

What many people may not be familiar with, even if you’re a big Beatles fan, is Brian’s personal life and struggles. He was gay in a time when this was a jailable offense, and he was subject to prejudice as a Jewish man. The novel explores his relationships with his parents, his assistant, and a lover in addition to the Beatles, and I felt like I got more insight into Brian’s life than I had before.

I really enjoyed the art in The Fifth Beatle. Before Brian sees The Beatles, the artwork is very cold and blue. During the first concert, the stage is lit with yellow, and from that point on, color is brought to his world. I thought it was a nice visual metaphor for the infusion of life The Beatles seemed to give him. Everyone is realistically portrayed, but not photorealistically; there’s definitely an element of caricature in the art style. The Beatles and other famous people are easily recognizable. There is one major change in art style about halfway through which seemed jarring at first, but in the context of the overall story, it makes sense. There are a few full-page spreads throughout, and all are beautifully composed.

The only complaint I have about the novel is that it doesn’t go into quite enough depth. I understand that it isn’t covering many years, but I found myself wanting more at the end. I also think it could have benefited from a final scene that offered more closure. That being said, it’s a wonderful portrayal of the early days of The Beatles, and I would recommend it to any Beatles fan, and especially anyone who’s interested in learning more about the man behind the band and how he engineered their rise to international fame.

Score: A-

Writer: Vivek J. Tiwary
Penciller: Andrew C. Robinson, Kyle Baker
Inker: Andrew C. Robinson, Kyle Baker
Letterer: Steve Dutro
Colorist: Andrew C. Robinson, Kyle Baker
Cover Artist: Andrew C. Robinson

It’s full-color, hardcover, 144 pages. List price is $19.99 for the standard edition, $39.99 for the Collector’s Edition, and $79.99 for the Limited Edition. Buy The Fifth Beatle at Dark Horse Comics, Things from Another World, and Amazon.

[Disclaimer: A review copy was provided for me to review this comic.]

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