Review: Mikel (SelfMadeHero)

Mikel is the story of Mark Bellido’s foray into the world of being a bodyguard. Bellido was a bodyguard for potential targets of the Basque separatist movement ETA in the Basque Country for four years.

Publisher: SelfMadeHero
Writer: Mark Bellido
Artist: Judith Vanistendael
Price: £24.99 from Amazon

Originally from Seville, Bellido upped sticks and moved north from his small provincial home to Pamplona where he took on the task of being a bodyguard for a local mayor.

We begin getting to know Mikel through his work. Prior to becoming a txakurra (dog, pejoratively speaking, in Basque) he was a wannabee writer and confectionary salesman.

Despite his ambitions of being a writer, Mikel always finds a distraction or simply suffers from writers block. After watching a news bulletin about an ETA attack on Badajoz airport Mikel finally finds the source of his brilliant idea for a book.

Bellido’s intriguing and emotional story is beautifully illustrated by Belgian comics author and artist, Judith Vanistendael.

Her previous successes, also published by SelfMadeHero, include When David Lost His Voice (Eisner Award nomination) and Dance by the Light of the Moon, which was nominated for the Angoulême Grand Prize twice.

To Mikel she brings a mixture of drawing techniques and fantastic colour schemes. She captures the sights and landscapes of the Basque Country magnificently.

The dream pages, which frequently feature, were compiled using a risograpgh with the assistance of Axel Claes. Vanistendael mixes huge double page spreads with standard panel schemas and the story flows nicely thanks to the thoughtful lay out.

Mikel doesn’t take you to the heart of the Basque conflict, nor does it give an in depth look at its history and contemporary situation. However, it does give you a window into part of it through an accidental participant.

These windows are somewhat underrated and Mark Bellido’s personal experience is a fascinating drama that keeps you guessing until the end.