...a must-read comic ... Alagbé plays with expressive lines, with race, with the hint of love and sex, and the way that love and sex and race intersect in France ... What appears on its face to be a story about the experience of African migrants trying to subsist in ’90s Paris quickly becomes about the mores surrounding interracial romance in France, race and class in France, France’s colonial history in Algeria, and the tensions that these forces exert on the individual. Illustrated in a style that oscillates between intensely worked-over figuration, where the hairs and skin textures of characters is visible, and simple, expressive sketches of urban life, Alagbé offers readers something poetic and moving. The story is messy and uncomfortable, but it is striking and moving in equal measure.
The stories in this graphic novel are about the truths — subtle, sad and surreal — that statistics can never capture ... This story, like the others in the book, is drawn in thick strokes of uncompromising black on white. Alagbé's ink feels more like paste — dense and chunky — and though his characters are sometimes poised in webs of painstaking lines, more often his scenes seem to burst onto the white page in a discordant frenzy that disturbs the eye ... Alagbé uses his sparse palette to deliver a potent message about how race is portrayed in Western comics.
Yellow Negroes and Other Imaginary Creatures is not an easy book. Its harsh chiaroscuro inks, fractured storytelling, and defiant politics reshape the reader’s brain in real time ... absolutely necessary. Race, color, class, gender, and violence are all ruthlessly dissected ... one of the most arresting comics works to hit stands in a good long while.
Alagbé has no use for cheap sentiment. His characters struggle, they love, they find themselves inadequate vessels for the expression of the agony they bear ... Yellow Negroes takes us beneath the beaches to which migrants flee, down to the concrete of their irreducible, multivalent (which is to say messy, sometimes ugly, sometimes euphoric) lives. It is an extraordinarily gripping book, an urgent mirror through which to examine our moment—in its terror and violence, to be sure, but also in the otherwise possibility produced by such shadows.
...few comics capture the politics of the body and race as poignantly as Yvan Alagbé’s Yellow Negroes ... Alagbé captures the discomforting reality of the body, as it is simultaneously comforting and painful, familiar and alienating. As immigrants, black men and women, and refugees are persecuted and killed, Alagbé assumes the personal responsibility of not only remembering them but giving them a voice to accompany the body that allows them to live but evokes such hate.
Yvan moves from an abstract minimal space to a highly detailed and textured one all on the same page. At times this may bring discomfort, but that’s the point. Yvan’s ink brush strokes do the labor of invoking emotion equal to the text ... Take the time out on your day off and join Yvan for a journey through the lives of those displaced.
Alagbé illustrates a disturbingly human portrayal of being an immigrant, the non-person who tries to live in a culture where the social and political structure of the new country doesn't offer the ritual passing from 'immigrant' to 'citizen' ... Unlike a lot of academic discourse that counters or challenges postcolonial rhetoric from the national or cultural level, Yellow Negroes and Other Imaginary Creatures teases out the contradictions through scenes of interpersonal communication. Its citizens embody the frayed myths of the past and migrants' struggles, because no one can see their humanity through the delusions of civility.
Though written across many years now past, Alagbé’s stories about the difficulties faced by migrants in Europe hold special relevance now, as that subject has spiked from one social issue among many to a full-blown crisis ... With its stories originally spread out over nearly 20 years, it is a real-time chronicle of how immigrants and their treatment have evolved. The global migrant crisis will only get worse as climate change sets in, and so we would do well to heed Alagbé’s fevered attempts to humanize immigrants.
This collection is not interested in conventional comic forms. It chooses instead to rely on expressive brushstrokes in black ink, the simplicity of which is instead more focused on drawing out the complexity of physical features and emotive gestures ... Above all, this collection is urgent and timely—it handles the impossible situations of its characters with tender care, exposing the absurdity of racism.