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Autostrade

Autostrade: Mixed Bag From First Edition Comic Book

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reviewed by
Heba El-Sherif
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Autostrade: Mixed Bag From First Edition Comic Book

Young
publishing houses in Egypt have been steadily rolling out for the past few
years, decorating Cairo’s bookshelves with local talents suited up in a variety
of paperbacks. However, the
quality of what they present remains debatable.

While some
are gifted, heartfelt ventures that shed promise, the bigger bulk follows a
poorly written memoir-like account; young and undeveloped in its content. The first issue of Autostrade, a collaborative comic book by the newborn Division
Publishing, strikes somewhere in between.

Autostrade is a compilation of a series of episodes that
toy around with tired comic notions such as crime and fantasy-driven
superheroes. The narrative is single-layered
and frequently sluggish, leaving the readers unattached and uncertain that they
will come back for a second issue. 

The English
section of the book opens up with Short
Circuit
, a shaky, underdeveloped narrative of a break-in; the combined
effort of Mohamed Mazloum, Salma Soliman and Gehad El Sheikh.

Truthful Madness tells the simplest of stories: a man trying to
grab a woman’s attention. Joe’s hidden
powers surface as he proves to Seiko that he can stand up for what he believes
in and find comfort in his own skin. The
dialogue is littered with rhyming couplets, giving this trite story a sweet
resonance.

College Jam, written and illustrated by Ahmed Shaltout, is
a feeble account of a college student’s fear of exams, overlapping between
reality and fantasy. While Shaltout’s characters stand out as both cunning and
engaging, the ill-matched narrative casts a shadow over what is arguably the
best illustration in Autostrade. 

The section
wraps up with Sara Abdel Azim’s dear fascination with her cat; a short, delightful
read set against solid illustrations. 

Marwan
Imam’s work, one of the founders of Division Publishing, appears in the Arabic
section under the title Phases of Life. Imam chronicles a couple seemingly going
through a break-up in parallel. The
reader meets a snappy Yara grumbling to her mother about proper marriage
decorum in contemporary Egypt as she tries to squeeze into an evening gown. With
Fathy, the male character, Imam brushes over the issue of unemployment
grappling young Egyptians, a leaky attempt at a deep
narrative.

The most
innovative storyline is Magdy El Shafei’s Enchanted
Castle
, a meaty spin-off on the modern Egyptian novel by the same
name. Renowned writers Taha Hussein and
Tawfik Al Hakim follow the immortal, mesmeric Persian storyteller Scheherazade
into a castle after a brief encounter in a hotel room in the French Alps; it’s
a skilful narrative where literature is celebrated and legendary authors appear
flirtatious.

Autostrade’s first issue reflects little of the everyday
Egyptian issues. while this is not the
only recipe for success, and one must bear in mind that this is Autostrade’s debut issue, its creators could
go a lot further artistically to appease to an audience evidently hungry for a
good comic book.

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Author Bio

Autostrade is a collaborative effort by artists and writers Mohamed Reda, Mohamed Mazloum, Gehad El Sheikh, Salma Soliman, Adham El Khorazaty, Hatem Mamdouh, Aamina Tolba, Nermeen Shaltout, Ahmed Shaltout, Sara Abdel Azim, Tarek Abdel Kawy, Tarek Abou Omar, Mostafa El Horr, Mohamed Hamed, Marwan Imam, Mohamed Khaled, Magdy El Shafie, Yara Soliman, Ahmed El Mojadidi and Mohamed Ehab Wafi.

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