Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Kenk: A Graphic Portrait

Kenk: A Graphic Portrait
By Richard Poplak
Published by Pop Sandbox
Reviewed by Martha Beach

Kenk is a journalistic graphic novel that details the life of Igor Kenk, who is now known as the world's most prolific bike thief.

In the summer of 2008, Kenk was arrested in Toronto when almost 3,000 bicycles were seized from him. They were all assumed to be stolen, although only a couple hundred were able to be legitimately claimed by Torontonians. It was one of the biggest news stories of the year.

The illustrations in the novel are taken from never-before-seen documentary footage of Kenk that was filmed during the year leading up to his arrest.  They are raw images of a man who was both loved and hated.

Kenk is an amusing and thought-provoking graphic portrait of a bigger-than-life character living in a changing city, both affected by the forces of economic crisis and gentrification. The Queen West neighbourhood changed drastically in the decade that Kenk lived there, but Kenk didn't change with it.

In Kenk, we see a changing Toronto through the eyes of someone who has a lot of good ideas and good intentions, but has gone about it in the worst way. After reading Kenk: A Graphic Portrait, you may understand why Igor Kenk did what he did, you may understand that he wanted to help people and benefit his city, but he simply went about it in the completely wrong way.

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