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ABRAHAM LINCOLN by Lewis Helfand


Birth of a New Freedom

From the Graphic Novel Heroes series

by Lewis Helfand ; illustrated by Manikandan

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2013
ISBN: 978-93-80741-21-5
Publisher: Campfire

Lincoln’s life gets a graphic treatment, but the prose reads like a school report, and even the battle scenes look staged.

The book takes the form of an autobiographical lecture to his son Tad that highlights his intense opposition to slavery. Lincoln carries his story from early days (“On February 12, 1809, in Hardin County in Kentucky, I was born in a small, one-room log cabin”) to his departure for Ford’s Theatre. At this point, an omniscient narrator takes over to cover the assassination and the later ratification of the 13th Amendment. Though Helfand slips in short flights of eloquence from Lincoln’s oratory, his own writing runs to lines like “Nor could he accept that the future of his nation should be resigned to slavery and injustice” and “This new guy, Abraham, is going down.” The illustrator tries to add pace and energy by slanting and overlaying his squared-off panels and adding discreetly sized sound effects (slave catchers’ dogs: “Woof! Woof!”). Despite this, neither the occasional cleanly drawn battlefields nor the many scenes of men in suits exchanging political views are the stuff of compelling visuals.

Reasonably accurate—but the historical territory is already thoroughly surveyed elsewhere, and the unusual format doesn’t compensate for the routine content.

(appendix) (Graphic nonfiction. 11-13)