Critical Survey of Graphic Novels: History, Theme, and Technique

Grey House 2d ed. ed. Feb. 2019. 400p. ed. by ed. by Bart H. Beaty & Stephen Weiner. photos. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781682179116. $243.75; ebk. ISBN 9781682179598. REF
With this second edition, editors Beaty (English, Univ. of Calgary; Fredric Wertham and the Critique of Mass Culture) and Weiner (director, Maynard P.L., MA; Faster Than a Speeding Bullet) provide a comprehensive survey. The book takes an American perspective, although parts about ancient and very recent history address origins and influence from overseas, and the editors manage to be inclusive within this scope. Topics are broad, from straightforward narrative history to discussions of the term graphic novel. Although the work is divided into the three sections of the title, history remains a constant throughout, and the development of techniques, production methods, themes, and genres is depicted as constantly changing, not static. Though most entries remain largely unmodified from the earlier edition, some take into consideration changes in technology, and some entries in the “themes” section mention newer works. A new chapter in the “history” section covers the 2010s, and the awards listings have been updated.
VERDICT A thorough, conscientious look at the topic, given the space provided. If the writing is sometimes dry, that’s an acceptable trade off: even though comics and graphic novels have risen in general and academic esteem, most writing on them mirrors the author’s enthusiasms, rather than going for general coverage. This volume is a solid corrective.
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