I’ve always been an admirer of graphic novels — but, I must confess, mostly in concept. I’ve read some shorter pieces, like the ones published in the New York Times Magazine on Sundays, but never an entire book. Until last weekend, when I got hold of A Thousand Ships, the first volume in Eric Shanower’s projected seven volume Age of Bronze, a history of the Trojan War.
I’m on a historical fiction kick anyway, because that’s the theme of the upcoming Key West Literary Seminar, and the latest in this series, the third volume, got a boffo review on Salon, one of my favorite sources for new titles. So I tracked down the first volume through interlibrary loan and it really is that good.
Reading this way is, naturally enough, different from reading a text-only narrative and there are some conventions from the comic books that seem kind of funny or cheesy. But it’s also an intense experience in a couple ways: one is that you have a visual image for the characters, place and action provided and that helps bring them to life. Another is that it reconnects you to some of your earliest reading experiences, the illustrated books and comics of childhood.
Now maybe I’ll finally get around to reading the other well-regarded graphic novels that are sitting on the shelf at home, including Persepolis, which has been adapted into a film now showing at the Tropic.