One of the first bands I can remember really gravitating towards as a little kid was The Beatles. They helped guide me in my musical taste and opinions. That said, I never really delved deeper into their history outside the band that much. Sure, I knew who Pete Best was and I had heard of George Martin and Brian Epstein, but hadn’t ever known anything about them. Luckily, The Fifth Beatle gives a fantastic look into Brian Epstein’s life and his impact on The Beatles. Casual fans of the Fab Four are probably thinking “who cares about some guy who wasn’t in the band?” Well, Paul McCartney himself said “If anyone was the Fifth Beatle, it was Brian.” Even the fact that the band takes a backseat to Brian Epstein’s life isn’t an issue but rather necessary in the overall storytelling process. Epstein’s life was a perfect example of the ups and downs in life: He started out working at his family business, NEMS (North End Music Stores). He ended up discovering and managing the likes of Cilla Black, Gerry & the Peacemakers, and obviously most notably The Beatles.
But his life wasn’t all luxury as the graphic novel depicts in great detail. His pill addiction and homosexuality in a country where it was illegal were both great downfalls in his life. Brian himself was a very tragic character in the sense that he was just looking for love in all the wrong places. Although he had a ton of people around him that cared for him and managed a band that practically preached love, he was incessantly lonely. He seemed like a very fascinating person and this comic portrays that with expertise. In fact, after I finished the comic I was interested in reading his autobiography just to find out more about him.
The world that both the artist and writer creates in the book is both very stylized and a bit cartoony but very believable. It feels like you’re right alongside Brian in that small, dingy club in Liverpool discovering the band before anyone else. It’s also genuinely enjoyable to see the friendship grow between the band and Epstein.
Other than their records and the movie Help, this is my favorite Beatles-related medium I’ve ever experienced. This is one of those occurrences where you could turn someone who’s never picked up a comic before to being a fan of them.
Writer: Vivek J.Tiwary Artist: Andrew C. Robinson with Kyle Baker Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $49.99 Release Date: 11/20/13