Bella at the Bar: Book One
Writer: Jenny McDade
Artist: John Armstrong
Bella Barlow is an orphan with a dream. She wants to escape her life as a window washer working for her cruel aunt and uncle so that she can learn to be a gymnast and compete on the national team. The road is long, hard, and filled with challenges she could not imagine while balancing on her uncle’s ladder with a rag and a bucket.
Bella and the Beam originally appeared as a serialized comic in the girl’s comic magazine Tammy and June in 1974 and 1975. It follows a precocious and driven young girl named Bella Barlow as she turns a chance encounter in an opportunity that leads her into the world of gymnastics.
Jenny McDade’s writing for the series fits the format, and while it does feel a bit dated to modern ears, it fits the serialized format and she ratchets up the drama with a series of trials that challenge Bella every step along the way. She keeps the orphan girl plugging along with all the poise and determination of an epic hero.
The art of John Armstrong is my favorite part of this book. His athletic drawings bring Bella and the competitions alive on the page. I’ve always enjoyed watching the gymnastics in the Olympics and his art portrays a deep understanding of movement and athleticism that must have taken countless hours of study to understand and even more practice to convey with such incredible clarity. While the style would not fit well in most modern books, the pure genius of it still commands a place in the artform.
While this particular genre of comic is not my normal choice, I found it a delightful read with incredible artwork and give it a solid four out of five stars.
You can find more on this comic at 2000ADONLINE.COM.