by Michael Gill
In the way that a spoon full of sugar can help the medicine go down, it seems a slew of publishers are using the visual sweetness of the graphic novel to help the information go down. A pile of graphic nonfiction books have arrived on Scene’s desk lately, and so we might as well dig in.
Rick Geary’s Trotsky: A Graphic Biography (Hill and Wang2009, 104 pp., hardcover, $16.95) is a great subject for the format. Trotsky lurks in the background of so much coffeehouse talk about the Revolution, but most of the talkers are long on his image as a thinker and writer, but short on specifics.
Geary—whose prior graphic nonfiction works include a bio of J. Edgar Hoover and a couple of true crime graphic series—offers a highly distilled, blow-by-blow account of his life events, beginning with his birth in 1879 as Lev Davidovich Bronstein. It’s told with elegant line art in the style of simple engravings.
If the book has a shortcoming, it’s trying to pack so many events into such little space. He communicates plenty of information, but the book suffers some from a lack of cultural context or nuance among the characters.
It does, however, effectively lay out a chronology of his life’s events without passing judgment, and that should serve readers’ next conversation about the revolution well.