“Four Score and seven years ago” is a phrase that most Americans can recognize and name almost instantly. This is the opening line to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. We hear it repeatedly in grade school and some of us (including me) memorized it and recited it for speaking competitions.
You are most probably wondering why I am even talking about The Gettysburg Address here on Ideology of Madness? It is this boring piece of history that you assume has been done to death. There is nothing here worth geeking out about, especially when the focus is on comics.
This is where I’m going to say you are wrong. History, like any other topic, is something worth geeking out about. In particular, The Gettysburg Address has been given a graphic adaptation that is both unique and entertaining.
This book is written by Jonathan Hennessey with art done by Aaron McConnell. The story opens up with scenes from Gettysburg. We get to see civilians hiding out from the shelling and then trying to get back to their homes. There are pictures of the carnage that was the scene of the battle and the terrible aftermath with limbs piled up from all the amputations that had to be done. We are shown the troubles of the slaves that hid out and those of both the triumphant Union forces and the fleeing Confederates. Yes, there was victor of this battle but the price was so incredibly high.
Hennessey primes the pump with these images of the horror that was Gettysburg. He then takes a step back to address the importance of this document. He places it right next to the Declaration of Independence and The Constitution as defining America. He sets the stage for us to what America was like in this time period. He provides little insights that you aren’t told in High School that throw the whole speech into a different light. In particular, He mentions that during this time Presidents rarely made public appearances so as not to sully the reputation of the office. I hadn’t even thought of this before and it adds even much more weight to the speech than the words themselves carry.
He then takes the address and uses it as a lense to view the times that gave birth to it and the man who wrote it. Each section of the speech tying into both the history of the country and Lincoln’s views. He points out how the opening line refers to what Lincoln viewed as the birth of our nation, 1776. This as the date of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Hennessey uses these words to illustrate both the underlying principle that the power of government derived from the people not some higher power and how this ideal was what Lincoln was referring to in this line. It is with this vision that the book continues to discuss the Gettysburg Address.
McConnell’s art does an excellent job of capturing the feel of the eras that are depicted upon the page. Despite being about this speech, we are shown The United States throughout history. His style is consistent throughout but he does and excellent job of differentiating between time periods both in subject matter and stylistically. I really appreciated this.
I started reading this with low expectations. I didn’t know how one would take such a short speech fill up a 221 page graphic novel. Hennessey takes a unique view point to both draw you into the narrative and then provides interesting bits of information and combines them with a more focused perspective on the Civil War. McConnell’s art takes these powerful words and brings them into striking life. I took a speech that I thought I knew and showed that there is so much more depth to it than I had ever imagined.
If you are a history buff or a fan of comics, I recommend picking up this book. Not only will you be entertained, you will learn something new as well. I did.