Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj
By SH Lim
Author: E Yu
Time Out rating: 3/5
Following last year’s publication of ‘Mahathir Mohamad: An Illustrated Biography’, E Yu has produced yet another graphical retelling of the life of not just another prominent politician but also a beloved one, ‘Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj’ from 1903 through to the independence of Malaya. This volume is more ambitious, weighing in at 239 pages, twice the length of the former, and the reason stems from the detailing of the political twists and turns along the road to Merdeka.
Like the earlier publication, this one is targeted at a younger generation that is encountering the first Prime Minister for the first time outside of the Education Department-sanctioned Sejarah textbooks. The details about Tunku’s days before he left for England to further his education show a teenager like many others whose animal energy and love for football – he was quite proficient at the sport – saw him ‘outside the palace enclosure’ playing with commoners, and his ‘nurses were unable to control him’. Yet, it was a time when ‘cholera and malaria were very common all over Kedah and at least two of Tunku’s brothers and an elder sister died from cholera’. The Tunku himself suffered from malaria on many occasions, including the time he first travelled to England in 1920.
Perhaps it’s the subject matter which doesn’t travel a straight line. (Tunku’s to-and-fro journey to England to acquire a law degree and admission to the bar, are standalone stories in themselves, not counting the political intrigue to gain independence.) Perhaps it’s the artist’s desire to pack every frame with a lot of information.
But this illustrated biography and history requires more effort and concentration to grasp. While the story unfolds with reasonable clarity if attention is paid only to the narrative text at the bottom of the frame, the story becomes cluttered when every speech bubble is read. Where less might be more, the artist has distracted with supposedly comic commentaries from birds, squirrels, cattle and nameless, unrecognizable characters. If a picture is worth a thousand words, there’s little need to add much more.