Full of interesting information and insight, but nongamers may bog down in the details.

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THE COMIC BOOK STORY OF VIDEO GAMES

THE INCREDIBLE HISTORY OF THE ELECTRONIC GAMING REVOLUTION

The popular progression of video games as rendered in graphic narrative.

The subject would seem to be a natural for the comic-book treatment, which can show as well as tell, but the contextual expanse here and the narrative tone result in a work that is less breezy and playful than one might anticipate. Hennessey (The Comic Book Story of Beer: The World's Favorite Beverage from 7000 B.C. to Today's Craft Brewing Revolution, 2015, etc.) and McGowan introduce readers to Japanese history and culture, which, along with World War II (and its emerging technology), the Cold War, the space race, science fiction, and the emergence of the home computer and the internet, they view as essential to their story. The result is a very ambitious history, more than most in this format, which doesn’t even reach Pong until it is almost halfway through and in which Nintendo doesn’t emerge until nearly the end. Hennessey’s previous work includes graphic treatments of The United States Constitution (2008), The Gettysburg Address (2013), and Alexander Hamilton (2017), and his method includes spotlight chapters on major figures in the development of gaming, most unknown outside the video game industry. The author and illustrator show how video games developed from their pre-computer incarnations through their popularity in arcades through advancements in special effects and portability. They explain how hackers pushed the technology of gaming forward, how devices developed for war craft found their way into game craft, and how rivalries among and within corporations have turned competitively vicious. The book ends with speculation about how virtual reality technology and corporate data collection might continue to inform not only the world of gaming, but the world at large.

Full of interesting information and insight, but nongamers may bog down in the details.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-57890-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Ten Speed Press

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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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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