The Fifth Beatle is a graphic novel of the life of Beatles' manager Brian Epstein from roughly the time he meets the boys until his tragic death just a few short years later. At just over a hundred pages, it is lushly illustrated in a style that evokes the time period with its colors and likenesses, and yet it is more than that. It's both a celebration and a unencumbered documentary on the life of a troubled genius.
The novel takes us down the path of Brian's obsession with the boys, his driving ambition to see them become successful, and his tirelessness in bringing them to the world at a time when the world most needed them. It doesn't, however, shy away from the darker stuff, all of which contributed to Brian's demise: His necessarily closeted homosexuality, his addiction to drugs, and his not always sharp business acumen. More than that, the book is colored with Brian's insecurities and his overwhelming need for love in whatever form it was available. With sequences that chronicle actual events (this Beatles' fan recognized actual well-known conversations) interspersed with whimsical episodes, the story moves through the successes and disappointments, staying true to the facts and the people of the time.
The actual artwork is breathtaking and vivid, with characters' countenances reminiscent of their real life counterparts. It took me a bit to get the idea of Moxie, the girl who seems to be Brian's assistant; I didn't recall anyone so named in his real life, but after I *got* it, I have to admit, she's a good addition that helps us see another side to Brian's personality. When I finished the story, I was left with a sense of waste and disappointment for Brian Epstein, and yet the story is told so well in both pictures and text, it's a must for any Beatles' fan. Well worth the price for daring to examine and illuminate this tortured genius.