By Ilan Stavans & Steve Sheinkin
Basic Books, $24.99, 200 pages
Books that depend on historical events need to remember to cater to the present. El Iluminado: A Graphic Novel explores the history of the Crypto-Jews, those members of the Jewish community that were lost in history due to persecution. Professor Ilan Stavans is clued in to the existence of a major link to those Jews when he decides to talk to a woman stalking him, who needs his help finding out what her brother was hiding. Together they end up uncovering a chain of evidence of what happened to the Jews.
Although the art tends to the simplistic and exaggerated, it does ensure that characters will not be confused. The story is told mostly through exposition, with the characters in the past coming to life; early on it’s easy to care more for the characters in the past rather than the present ones. It doesn’t help that the characters lack depth, and that the present tale feels more like a framing story rather than a story on its own. As a historical tale it works rather well, but the present-day story needs a little more oomph. Otherwise it’s a fine book for those interested in a little family secret.
Reviewed by Jamais Jochim