My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Whilst there’s no doubt that The Rough Guide to Graphic Novels is well researched and covers certain angles of the comic book industry in great depth, I found it distinctly less exciting than I’d hoped.
There’s something awkward about reviewing a primarily visual medium in text. Whilst I understand that, what with copyright issues and budgetary constraints, it’s unlikely to have much in the way of illustrative examples, I felt that the absence of them negated the impact of the actually kind of interesting reviews.
I also had a bit of an issue (no pun intended) with the book focusing primarily on independent creator / writers / artists. Academic interest to this area is well overdue and I reacted well to that. However a “Rough Guide” by nature suggests a comprehensive approach, and to near wholly disregard the superhero genre created an awkward absence in the book. Whatever your feelings may be about this canon of comic book literature, you can’t deny that superhero comics redefined and continue to define ‘comics’ to a great section of the world and not including biographies on Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Stan Lee et al in the “Icon” section felt like a missed opportunity.
And do be warned, due to the lack of illustrative content, there’s a whole host of adjectives thrown in to try and pep up a relatively dry text. Fingeroth works hard to describe a comic book well but there’s only so much “brilliant” and “striking” a reader can take.
This book could have been very very good. It has the bones of something brilliant (see, it’s catching). It’s just not there yet. If you’re new to the world of comics and want to learn more about the medium, I’d suggest Scott McCloud’s seminal Understanding Comics and also a trip to the art section of your local bookstore instead of this.