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The Structure Is Rotten, Comrade
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The Structure Is Rotten, Comrade

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  75 ratings  ·  34 reviews
In this graphic novel, more in love with the alluring properties of cement than he is with his girlfriend, Frunz’s overriding ambition is to become the next legendary architect. If only life was that simple. His father, known as Mr. Cement, is a builder in bed with the autocrats who run Yerevan, the capital of post-Soviet Armenia. As father and son team up to transform the ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published May 21st 2019 by Fantagraphics
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Average rating 4.03  · 
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 ·  75 ratings  ·  34 reviews

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David Schaafsma
Sep 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
The University of Illinois at Chicago campus, where I work, was designed by architect Walter Netsch in the sixties and won some international architecture awards. He did the work in the style of urban brutalism, and it looks like it sounds: Austere, unfriendly, mostly ungarnished concrete, somebody’s idea of the city as brutal and nasty and harsh. And in the last four or five decades, the university has spent millions of dollars trying to un-uglify that campus. Here’s a look at the way it ...more
Ziv Koslowsky
Jul 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Highly recommended by Ryan C. This a powerful tour de force with an unforgettable, and conflicted, character: "Don’t let the sheer physical size of writer Viken Berberian and artist Yann Kebbi’s "The Structure Is Rotten, Comrade" intimidate you — much. Yeah, it’s a hefty hardcover tome that Fantagraphics has published here, clocking in at 320 pages, but it reads reasonably quickly. Much of the real work comes later, when one mentally unpacks everything that’s been absorbed at breakneck speed.

Lara Sanders
Jul 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An absorbing and very funny read. I loved it and highly recommend. At first, I had issues too with the way one of the female students is depicted. Yes, she possesses well endowed breasts. But she is also very smart. Frunz's mom is critical of his dad for appropriating her architectural work: "Behind every successful man is a surprised woman." So Kim's "feminist" critique is unfounded. The other issue is one of depicting reality. If society in this post-Soviet space is home to sexism, such ...more
Jul 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of the best comics of 2019 so far. I loved The Structure is Rotten, Comrade from this list the most mostly because it made me laugh out loud. Smart and wild in equal measure.
Miranda Halpin
Jun 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This will be a gem in underground comics. I am an avid reader of comics, manga, and graphic novels from Archie to Nancy, Satrapi, Sattouf, Spiegelman, Katchor, and Sacco. This work resonated with me mainly because the illustrations are beautiful; the dialogue is very very funny; and the characters stay with you. The story also raises important social and political questions about growing income inequality, gentrification, and the rise of tyranny in our world. A wonderful read from an unexpected ...more
Stephie Kramer
Jul 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This gripping story depicts the rising and falling fortunes of Professor Frunz. He's an architect whose passion for Brutalist design obliterates any other meaningful relationship. Yann Kebbi renders the book's eccentric characters in outlandish and beautiful, raw colored-pencil art. His wrecking balls sail through the air and almost hit you as a reader. As a visual representation of Berberian’s sardonic voice and carefully told story, it’s a perfect match. Sure to tickle your intellectual funny ...more
Heidi Rothmyer
Aug 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An original and important book today, and thank god it's not autobiographical! If you're looking for Herge's lines, this is not for you, maybe. Still, in some respects a politically more powerful and relevant work about gentrification, bad design, and the growing income gap in our societies.
Jun 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Will blow your socks off! I learned a lot about this beautifully inventive land in the shape of an Armenia under siege, and was reminded at times of Borat - though the tone of this book is, while hilariously funny, much more serious and consequential.

Viken Berberian’s humor finds synergistic manifestation in Yann Kebbi’s art, filled with frantic scrawls of riotous colored pencils and markers. Revolts – against subjugation, occupation, blind entitlement, utter greed – burst forth with force, a
Aug 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
I keep looking for the perfect graphic novel. This is not quite it, more of a comic than a novel as it is rather short and simple. But an interesting plot involving architects, cement and Yerevan. (Eastern Europe generates so many interesting plots!) And the color (pastel or pencil) graphics truly fly. They're engaging and dynamic in a way that makes ink look leaden.
Sarah Longchamp
Jul 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Not only a fantastic, engrossing read, but also the funniest comic this year. I loved how this duo challenge so many of the entrenched codes of comics.
Hilda Solis
Oct 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Exquisitely written, if a little hastily illustrated. The story is straight forward, realist at times, and anchors the more exaggerated sketches by Kebbi. This story is much more realistic, and funnier, than the reviews I have read. For all the bad wrap that brutalist architecture seems to be getting, I find the cement units of Habitat by Moshe Safdie to be a masterpiece.

Not all brutalist buildings are equal. An engaging and misunderstood classic.
Oct 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: humor, fiction
A gripping read that came to my attention from a Soviet scholar in Boston. Here I'm sharing a September 2019 review from Harvard/MIT prof. Clemens. I didn't know they too read comics:
Stephan Rezza
Sep 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is staggering in its beauty and it got me to reflect about failed ambition and our dismal urban politics. (I too confess to being a two-star in real life just like the protagonist, Frunz, and am proud of it.) I read it and laughed, nervously, and then its tragic weight hit me like a wrecking ball (there are a lot of them). You don't need to be keenly interested in post Soviet politics, or underground comics, to love it. It's fiction and not biographical, though very real at times. Just ...more
Jul 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Super! This book is packed with terrific storytelling and gorgeous artwork, the horrors of tyranny and the plights of modernization in a fictionalized Armenia. I loved the multiple uses of the Alvar Aalto stool! Great work.
Olivia Jenkins
Jul 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Reads like visual music, a cross between Bach or Arvo Part (the dialogue) and punk (the edgy illustrations). It's a joy to 'listen' to this book. Masterful, unexpected, funny and absorbing.
Peggy Vowell
Jul 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Gorgeous. One of the funniest books I've read. Zany zingers and much to reflect upon.
Oct 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is why I read graphic novels. The story reminded me of Howard Roark and Borat played by Ali G. The writing is what drew me in - the zingers, and the seamless crossing of borders (Moscow, Yerevan and Paris). The story feels real - autobiographical? - and what gives shape and thought to the transformative, at times inconsistent, imagery, but it comes together in the end. In that sense the writing is more mainstream Underground Comics than experimental; a memorable modern tale against tyranny, ...more
Mayilis Hartford
Oct 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Funniest comics of the year and a punch in the face of autocrats around the world:
Sean Kottke
Jul 06, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2019, graphic-novel
Behaviorists, Soviets, and Christof in The Truman Show believe(d) in the infinite malleability of human nature. Whatever you want people to think, do, or be can be conditioned through careful curation of the reality with which they are presented. The protagonist in this shaggy graphic novel subscribes to such notions in his strivings to become a reknowned architect. The irony is that in his attempt to remake the city of Yerevan, Armenia and throw off the shackles of memories of Soviet oppression ...more
Jun 20, 2019 rated it did not like it
The online samples looked interesting. Not exactly convincing, but I told myself to keep an open mind. The book is nicely produced, but both the writing and the artwork are seve... eh, rubbish. 300 pages of ugly, mechanistical doodles, unappealingly put on page (senselessly overmagnified to achieve the page count), with a rudimentary "story" that is vaguely about brutalist architecture. And ex-Soviet people – all of them owners of Alvar Aalto stools, because gratuitous name-dropping is so ...more
Sandrine Mandrell
Aug 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Basharat Kumar
Jul 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Ever wanted a unique graphic novel with explosive illustrations, funny dialogue and memorable characters. And beneath the humor you will find a ton of pathos. A wonderful read.
Magnus Jensen
Oct 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The title of this deliciously written graphic novel refers to the corrupt oligarchs that are increasingly to be found everywhere. Prescient storytelling with plenty of word play that will tickle your funny bones. Three stars for the writing and two for the illustrations. Take note, the comparison by Walter Clemens, the Soviet scholar at Harvard to Satrapi, does not hold in this review: This is actually not an autobiographical book like Persepolis. It's ...more
Matthew Noe
Oct 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Frantically illustrated with an important message - but I could've done without the cartoonish breasts repeated throughout the first 100 or so pages (the point could've been made in a shorter burst or in a different way).
Jeanne Sorel
Oct 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Lovely work. The humor is expansive, contagious.
Jun 28, 2019 rated it liked it
I love the artistry of this work, the pencilling implying motion, uncertainty, memory, and conscience. The storyline I was less compelled by: was this story depicting the failure of ideology metaphoric, historical, or what? That it is wrong to displace onto the streets thousands, whose housing has been taken from them and destroyed in the name of an un-yet realized better future? Is there something else I'm missing? I agree with those messages (assuming my interpretation is correct), but it ...more
Jul 06, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: europe
really? in 2019? that depiction of woman? i wished its only a first few pages but i skimmed and the sexist depiction continued
Dakota Morgan
Sep 05, 2019 rated it did not like it
Far, far, far too strange for me. I think it's a satirical biography of a Soviet architect? The first twenty pages are mostly about concrete and a woman with comically large breasts. The art is amateurish, even for an underground comic. Hard to look at, confusing to read, generally unappetizing. Did not finish.
Marek Pokorný
Jul 21, 2019 rated it it was ok
Such wild stimulating visuals! Seems like Yann Kebbi is able to channel his inner child with ease. Sadly the same child like approach doesn't work so well when applied to storytelling. Felt like killing time for me.
Tanvir Muntasim
Nov 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: graphic-novels
Addresses some very important contemporary topics (especially how historical landmarks are sacrificed in the name of development, and how the poor lose out due to inexorable gentrification), but I just couldn't get used to the artwork. It's easier for me to admire than to actually like/love it, but I am sure more discerning readers will find a lot to satisfy what they are looking for.
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Viken Berberian is a novelist and author of The Cyclist and Das Kapital: a novel of love & money markets.
His writings have appeared in The New York Times, the Financial Times, the International Herald Tribune, Le Monde Diplomatique, the Los Angeles Times and Inculte, a French literary and philosophical quarterly.
Berberian was awarded a Bourse de Creation from the Centre National du Livre of