Yellow Cab

Writer / Artist
Yellow Cab
The Yellow Cab graphic novel review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: IDW - 978-1-68405-892-1
  • Release date: 2021
  • English language release date: 2022
  • Format: Black and white
  • UPC: 9781684058921
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: yes

The cover notes The Yellow Cab as based on a novel by Benoit Cohen, which is true in the strictest sense, but it’s a novelisation of Frenchman Cohen’s real life experiences after moving to New York. At 44, and after twenty years as a maker of film and TV dramas he yearns for a job where creativity isn’t a constant necessity, yet considering more ordinary jobs he instantly transforms each into dramatic terms. Finally, he settles on being a taxi driver to immerse himself more thoroughly in New York culture.

Cohen is unusually driven, perhaps a signpost as to his creative success, and has the persistence to follow through firstly with an idea that most would discard as a passing fancy, and secondly to fight his way through the morass of administrative requirements. In that way he’s echoing Robert De Niro prior to filming Taxi Driver.

Christophe Chabouté’s adaptation is richly illustrated in precise black and white linework, every page something to appreciate. His presumably photo referenced scenes of Manhattan are the classic skyscraper and elevated rail vision of every European, yet constructed with an eye for detail that also brings less desirable neighbourhoods to life. There’s a necessity for realism that extends to showing the panels in an admin building are scratched. It’s more gloriously applied to people. Chabouté doesn’t glamourise, and every person seems ordinary. Actual taxi drivers look worn and tired as they teach classes passing on the necessities of their trade, and the sample art provides a brilliant encapsulation of the confusion generated by driving around Manhattan. His street scenes in general are wonderful, the composition startling.

In a different way Cohen is as compulsive as Chabouté, analysing every situation to figure out whether it will fit what he’s decided will be a female taxi driver’s story, and how she’ll react to an almost exclusively male environment. He constructs little scenes as he works through the learning requirements and as that’s the case it’s an easy assumption that he takes a dramatist’s approach to his driving experiences, conflating the bad ones early for impact.

Meticulous drawing and sharp observation combine for a graphic novel that has a plot, but isn’t greatly dependent on it, perhaps extrapolated from Cohen’s comment that absolutely anyone with any situation could get into his cab. Those who do are sometimes extraordinarily indiscreet, and their brief dramas marvellously observed. Cohen maximises the difference between expectation and reality, down to the expectations customers have of him, one dumbfounded at his recommendation of a Chekov play being performed in Brooklyn.

Eventually the crux becomes how long it will be before Cohen discards his driving job, if at all. It’s been an enlightening, door-opening experience, and you’ll think differently about the person driving next time you take a cab.