Sunday, March 2, 2014

Graphic Novels - CSA: Confederate States of America

CSA: Confederate States of America is an oversized, original hardcover graphic novel. It is the first in a projected set of seven or eight books originally published in France. The by now familiar premise portrays the South winning the Civil War, as it happened. The divergence starts at Gettysburg. Lee changes his battle plan at the last minute and wins the battle. The Union starts to lose heart and Union wills and strongholds fall like dominoes from there. Grant remains in a corner and McClellan declares the Union cause lost and stages a military coup, arresting Lincoln and seizing control of government (something McClellan would never have had the guts or energy to do). The book leaves off (to be continued) as Lincoln struggles to find support under house arrest and the Union cause is falling to pieces.

This is an interesting piece of speculative fiction, but the book has some problems. Most of the art is from photo reference, and the painted pages come off as stiff and inert. The printing is excessively murky and black and it is difficult to make out what is happening in some panels, especially if the action takes place at night. This is absolute poison in a graphic novel. Readers must be able to follow the story, even without dialog. There are too many word balloons, same for general exposition. The author is trying to communicate a lot of information in small boxes and balloons and it comes off as too crowded on the page. The writer shows some knowledge of U.S. history and what could have gone so very wrong for the Union, and successfully exploits those points. However, the story and dialog could have been smoother and more streamlined. Lincoln is portrayed as much weaker and McClellan much more powerful than they actually were. I’m not sure if that is for story purposes or a French misunderstanding of American history.

CSA has some great ideas, but lacking a bit in the execution. I’m not sure if I will follow up on future volumes.
Rating: *** Out of 5 stars

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