- Posted by Johanna on March 8, 2008 at 10:29 pm
- Category: Graphic Novel Reviews
- PUBLISHER: Metropolitan Books; $18 US
I should be smack in the middle of the target audience for this book. I love graphic novels, including non-fiction ones, and popular history, plus I have grave misgivings about the choices made by the current government of this country in the name of security.
Thus, I was stunned to discover that I couldn’t force myself past the second chapter. It’s much too hectoring and didactic, even to those already inclined to be interested in reading a “greatest hits of America’s sins”. The only group I can see welcoming this book would be students who think that the comic format is much preferable to reading prose history texts.
It’s not even good comics — there are too many talking heads and photocopied photos, as one runs the risk of with a project like this. It takes skill with the medium to keep journalism-style comics interesting, and while I don’t know, based on the non-specific credits, exactly who did what, none of them seem to have it. The credited names are Howard Zinn, writer of A People’s History of the United States, on which this is based; cartoonist Mike Konopacki; and university lecturer and author Paul Buhle.
The prologue is all about how angry America’s response to 9-11 made a cartoon character I think is supposed to be Zinn. That rant on the futility of “violence met with violence in an unending cycle of stupidity” continues for several pages before the chapters, each covering terrible times in American history, start up. It made my head hurt with its sledgehammer sermons on murder and racism and class warfare.
I don’t like using the term “cartoonish” as a pejorative, but that’s what this is, in the worst sense. If I didn’t know better, I’d suspect that this was created by the right-wing goon squad as a satire of the kind of “liberal anti-American brainwashing” they fear in schools. Tom Spurgeon felt similarly. (A complimentary advance copy for this review was provided by the publisher.)