Critical Insights: The Graphic Novel Review

“This book is an excellent general introduction to the field of graphic novels for someone who is relatively new to them. The three introductory chapters look at the history of graphic novels with three different emphases: crime; super-heroes; and horror. We are therefore given summaries of the 1950s with Fredric Wertham and the introduction of the Comics Code Authority, and a walk through the golden and silver ages of comics, leading up to the rebranding of comics as graphic novels in the 1980s on the back of Miller, Moore and Spiegelman. It is actually a nice volume with a variety of authors giving their own opinions. In particular, I found Cathy Leogrande’s essay on V for Vendetta and Adam Capitanio’s essay on Persepolis to be enjoyable. It would be a worth addition to any library’s reference shelves.”
-Reference Reviews

“Crediting comics legend Will Eisner for coining the phrase “graphic novel” more than 30 years ago, this well-organized collection of essays looks at the prehistory of the genre as well as the contemporary scene. The volume begins with lengthy essays on four different subgenres: the superhero narrative, the horror narrative, the crime narrative, and the reality/fantasy narrative. Separately authored, these treatments offer a historical evolution of the genre and typical characteristics of each. The crime narrative, for example, covers the debut of the Dick Tracy comic strip in 1931, which may have been influenced by real-life prohibition gangsters Al Capone and Charles Luciano, whereas newer works are explained as being a blend of crime, horror, and noir, as in The Road to Perdition. The next section critiques 10 graphic novels, including Maus: A Survivor’s Tale, Watchmen, Batman, Persepolis, Sandman, The Walking Dead, and more. Each contributor devotes 10 or more pages to each essay, and only a few are divided into accessible sub-sections for themes, criticism, awards, or summary. In general, the discussion focuses on literary elements, such as themes, characterization, allusion, symbolism, and archetypes of comic book superheroes, but the work is sophisticated enough to render it most appropriate for advanced secondary students and undergraduates. All entries are followed by a list of works cited, and a larger bibliography of resources in the various genres is appended. A general index will guide users to characters, titles, and many other comic references, and the title comes with ebook permission.”
-School Library Journal

“Hoppenstand (Michigan State University) brings significant expertise in genre fiction to this compilation of chapters by popular culture and literature experts. Each word, from the foreword through the critical readings, gives greater understanding of this medium for popular fiction. The foreword gives a brief history of graphic novels, and the first section places the graphic novel in the context of other literature forms, covering “The Superhero and the Graphic Novel,” “The Horror Narrative and the Graphic Novel,” “The Crime Narrative and the Graphic Novel,” and “The Reality Fantasy Narrative and the Graphic Novel.” The second part has chapters on significant works, including “A Contract with God,” “Maus: A Survivor’s Tale,” “Batman,” “Watchmen,” “V for Vendetta,” “Sandman,” “Sin City,” “Road to Perdition,” “Persepolis,” and “The Walking Dead.” Although Superman is not included in these chapter titles, the place of this title is well covered in the first section. The volume ends with a list of additional graphic novels by genre, an additional bibliography (each chapter includes its own sources), information about the editor and contributors, and a general index. An activation code in the volume allows online access to the content. Written for undergraduates, this work should have a place in the circulating collection of every academic and public library supporting literature studies. This work is highly recommended.”
-American Reference Book Annual

“This volume in the Critical Insights series provides a historically based introduction to the contemporary graphic novel as a piece of literature. Specific attention is given to the narrative genre in four types (or subgenres) of graphic novels: the superhero graphic novel, the horror graphic novel, the crime graphic novel, and the reality/fantasy graphic novel. The narrative in each section covers the history and the current state of the subgenre and looks at its evolution from a novel-length story with captioned art panels to the current comic-book medium. The remainder of this volume presents 10 essays that examine a variety of titles in great detail, including Will Eisner’s A Contract with God (1978), Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns (1986), Max Collins’ Road to Perdition (2002), and Marjane Satrapi’s Perseopolis (2003). An extensive resources section includes additional graphic novels, a bibliography, and contributor biographies. The purchase price includes online access through Salem’s online platform Salem Literature. This literary criticism is an excellent resource for high-school, college, and most public libraries.”