Catel and Bocquet's massive graphic novel biography Kiki de Montparnasse has a lot going for it. It's comprehensive, to begin with, covering the life of Alice Prin (the early 20th century model and artist better known as Kiki) from her first breath to her last. The art is lovely, stylish without being mannered or fussy. Kiki's main draw is its subject: Kiki herself was a fascinating woman, and Catel and Bocquet do well by her.
As well-executed as Kiki de Montparnasse is, however (and it is well executed, don't get me wrong), it's still a problematic work, and serves to illustrate the potential – and the peril – of biography.
You're probably familiar with Kiki herself, though you may not know it. The French model, artist and muse inserted herself directly into the center of Paris' extraordinary arts culture in the early decades of the twentieth century, most famously as Man Ray's on-again, off-again lover and inspiration while he was experimenting with photography. Kiki is an appealing subject; she was wild and uninhibited and aggressive in her interests and spun madly at the center of a maelstrom of sex and drugs and the avante garde. Her appetites caught up with her in the end, but she lived her life to the fullest at a time when women were beginning to chafe at the boundaries society imposed upon their gender.