Sunday, April 11, 2010


The name is Booth. John Wilkes Booth. While there are no moments where he takes a martini shaken not stirred, Booth is a complicated character. It would be mind-boggling today to have a successful actor from a prominent family with his star on the rise to suddenly become an infamous assassin who kills the president. Yet this mind-boggling scenario happened toward the end of the US Civil War when Booth became involved in a conspiratorial plot of Confederate sympathizers.

An avid lover and quoter of Shakespeare, Booth is charming, debonair, and also passionate about the Southern cause. His fall from grace from a popular, well-regarded actor in his day to being the villainous killer of Abraham Lincoln, one of the most well-regarded US presidents, is a compelling and amazing tale, tinged with pathos and hubris. Granted, the story here is told in a more even-handed way, as the historical context is shown as a period of greater ambivalence created by the war and debates over abolition and states' rights. These debates are embodied by how the Booth family is divided during this conflict.

Booth was written and drawn by experts from different fields. C.C. Colbert is a pen name for Catherine Clinton, a respected historian who holds a chair at Queens University Belfast. She has written a number of books, most notably of late a biography of Mary Todd Lincoln. She is also a frequent contributor to the History Channel. Tanitoc is a bande dessinée artist. He is an active artist, writer, and lecturer who was a founder of the International Bande Dessinee Society.

Whereas Tanitoc is an experienced artist doing sequential art, Colbert is a novice in the medium. Reviews, while relatively positive, do point out some uneven features of the book. Kent Worcester thought the art tells a crisp story though in some sections footnotes could help the dense exposition. Tom Spurgeon opines that they do a better job with setting and mood than they do with characterization and motivation. Jared Gardner says that the story is fascinating yet told in a simplistic manner.

For folks interested in learning more about how the book was created, here is an informative article by Shaun Manning at Comic Book Resources.

A preview is available from the publisher First Second.

Big thanks to Gina Gagliano for the review copy!

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