A work that ranks with the best journalism and the finest graphic artistry.

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THE UKRAINIAN AND RUSSIAN NOTEBOOKS

LIFE AND DEATH UNDER SOVIET RULE

A masterful mix of journalistic reporting and graphic art.

The plainspoken title offers little hint of the devastation within, as the Italian artist Igort (5 is the Perfect Number, 2003, etc.) focuses his considerable talents on 20th-century atrocities that bled into the 21st, as Russian totalitarianism and seemingly ceaseless war have made a mockery of human rights. The first notebook is more of an oral history, as the interviews recorded by the artist testify to the horrors of famine in the Ukraine—sanctioned by Josef Stalin—and human resilience in the face of hunger, disease, deportation, and exile. “What emerged was a programmatic plan that, by military might, crushed the Ukraine, obliterated its independence movements, destroyed its identity,” writes Igort, followed by the communist edict: “Ukrainian culture doesn’t exist! In order to carry out cultural and physical genocide they had to follow a plan defined down to the last detail.” The second notebook works more like a piece of investigative reporting. “I spent five years in Ukraine, Russia, and Siberia, trying to understand, to document,” writes the author. “What was the Soviet Union? What was it like to have lived through this experience that had lasted over seventy years?” He also tells the stories of other journalists who had tried to document the atrocities and who had paid with their lives. He illuminates the life and work of Anna Politkovskaya, a writer who saw herself as a truth-teller in the lineage of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky and whose writing put her in grave danger. “Her empathy, her ability to listen and share, took her beyond the limits of her own method,” writes Igort. “She had shed the journalist’s distance and was left simply a human being. And that was her death sentence.” As well reported and written as these notebooks are, the visual artistry reinforces the impact, with a richness and evocation of emotional detail that transcend words.

A work that ranks with the best journalism and the finest graphic artistry.

Pub Date: April 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4516-7887-1

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

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A sugarcoated but undiluted vehicle for schooling American readers about their rights and responsibilities.

THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION

A GRAPHIC ADAPTATION

A searching interpretation of that sonorous document the Constitution, with cartoons.

Why have a Constitution to begin with? Because, remarks film and TV writer Hennessey—who, even if his prose is bound by balloons, turns out to be quite the Constitutional scholar—the founding fathers were keenly aware that civil rights were never formally written down in Britain, “and that deeply troubled the framers.” That’s as much of an establishing conflict as is needed for a superhero piece, and Hennessey, paired with artist McConnell, does a fine job of turning the making of the document, despite all the dull stretches in the Constitutional Convention that James Madison recorded in his diary, into a drama. Happily, Hennessey is aware of the truly radical origins of the Constitution, even as he notes its conservative strains. For example, he remarks that the system of checks and balances is a remarkable innovation, even if it sometimes seems that presidential actions—as with military intervention in Vietnam and elsewhere—go unchecked. In addition, laws are difficult to make in this country for very good reason: “Otherwise we might get too many of them.” Combining words and appropriate images, sometimes comic and sometimes earnest, the narrative visits such matters as the three-fifths law of determining apportionment, the writ of habeas corpus, eminent domain and conceptions of property and freedom of assembly and movement (for instance, the Articles of Federation forbade “vagabonds and paupers” from crossing state lines). Also covered are the many guarantees Americans take for granted—not least the Ninth Amendment, which states that certain rights not enumerated (“The right to scratch a dog behind the ears?”) shall not be denied.

A sugarcoated but undiluted vehicle for schooling American readers about their rights and responsibilities.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-8090-9487-5

Page Count: 142

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2008

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Playfully drawn and provocatively written, the memoir reinforces Bell's standing among the first rank of the genre’s artists.

THE VOYEURS

“Graphic memoir” only hints at the artistry of a complex, literary-minded author who resists the bare-all confessionalism so common to the genre and blurs the distinction between fiction and factual introspection.

Who are “The Voyeurs?” In the short, opening title piece, they are a mixed-gender group standing on an urban rooftop, watching a couple have sex through a window in a nearby building. They tend to find the experience “uncomfortable,” even “creepy,” though those who remain raptly silent may well be more interested, even titillated. Bell (Lucky, 2006, etc.) is also a voyeur of sorts, chronicling the lives of others in significant detail while contemplating her own. As she admits before addressing an arts class in frigid Minneapolis, where she knows the major interest will be on how she has been able to turn her comics into a career, “I feel I need to disclaim this ‘story.’ I set myself the task of reporting my trip, though there’s not much to it, and I can’t back out now. It’s my compulsion to do this, it’s my way, I suppose, of fighting against the meaninglessness constantly crowding in.” The memoir encompasses travels that take her from Brooklyn to Los Angeles and from Japan to France, while addressing the challenges of long-distance relationships, panic attacks, contemporary feminism, Internet obsessiveness, the temptation to manipulate life to provide material for her work, and the ultimate realization, in the concluding “How I Make My Comics,” of her creative process: “Then I want to blame everyone I’ve known ever for all the failures and frustrations of my life, and I want to call someone up and beg them to please help me out of this misery somehow, and when I realize how futile both these things are I feel the cold, sharp sting of the reality that I’m totally and utterly alone in the world. Then I slap on a punchline and bam, I’m done.”

Playfully drawn and provocatively written, the memoir reinforces Bell's standing among the first rank of the genre’s artists.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-9846814-0-2

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Uncivilized Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

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