When the people in this graphic novel get into a fight, they go “ACK!” and “POW” and “G-R-R-R-R,” yet the book makes for surprisingly credible history.
A prose prologue sets up the graphic novel that follows, providing background on slavery, Westward expansion and states’ rights before delivering a précis on the Civil War up to 1862, just before the Battle of Fredericksburg. The people in this book, introduced in a visual dramatis personae, feel more like movie characters than historical figures, which is appropriate to the form. Sam is a slave who’s memorized Shakespeare and can navigate most of Virginia by heart. Annabelle, the plantation owner’s daughter, can hit any target the instant she picks up a rifle. The slaveholders are so cruel they nearly twirl their mustaches. But like the best movie characters, they have narrow escapes and sensational battles that readers will want to follow to the last scene. Every chapter is based in fact, even if the heroes are invented (Lincoln makes a cameo). Every section has methodical, gripping historical notes. The drawing style is loose and imprecise, the word balloons are sometimes lopsided, and every character is 10 feet tall, but these are stars, and many readers will stay with them through the next volume.
A graphic-novel series that aims to draw in reluctant historians; it looks like it may well achieve its goal. (Historical graphic novel. 10-14)