A Contract With God, the first book in the trilogy collected in this edition, was the first publicly acclaimed graphic novel. My husband picked it up to read while we were camping several years ago. Since it was around, I read it as well. Eisner is a legend in the comic world (the awards given out to American comics are named after him), and I hadn’t read anything by him, so this book was a chance to remedy that hole in my reading list.
Includes: A Contract With God, A Life Force, and Dropsie Avenue: A Neighborhood
Published: 2005 for the collected trilogy; the individual volumes in 1978, 1983, and 1995, respectively.
Genre: realistic graphic novel
Length: 528 pages
Setting: Dropsie Avenue, Brooklyn, NY, from late 1800s to the near present
Summary: A Contract With God features four shorts. The first follows Frimme Hersh, a devout Jew, whose daughter dies. So, he turns his back on God and becomes the slumlord of 55 Dropsie Ave. The second follows a street singer who’s going to be a star, except he forgets the address of his new patron. The third starts out with a nasty super and his mean dog, who are taken down by a 10-year old girl. The final story is all about people vacationing from Dropsie Avenue in the Catskill Mountains. A Life Force follows a series of people living in 55 Dropsie Avenue during the Depression as people try to find jobs and a meaning to life. We see the rise of Communism and Nazism and how intertwined everyone’s life is. Dropsie Avenue follows the development and degradation of the neighborhood from the late 1800s to the near present. It was settled by the English first, and then we see successive waves of immigrants replace them, including the Irish, Italians, Jews, Hispanics, African-Americans, and drug addicts. Each new group is seen as “bringing down the neighborhood” and the building become more run-down. Eventually, everything is bulldozed or burnt and a new development begins.
Final thoughts: An interesting social commentary that is just enhanced by having pictures. The art is very minimal, but descriptive. It makes me glad we live in a time when there isn’t quite as much vote-rigging, mob rule, and slum lords as there were back 100 years ago.
Title comes from: The first story of the first graphic novel, since Hersh actually makes a contract with God.
Reading challenges fulfilled: none since this is a review of a book I read in a previous year
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