Thursday, January 5, 2012

Trotsky: A Graphic Biography

Before he famously died at the hands of an icepick-wielding assassin, Leon Trotsky became synonymous with communism,the rise of the Soviet Union, and the escalation of the Cold War. This graphic biography details his work as a propagandist, writer, revolutionary, and leader of the Red Army. It also chronicles Trotsky's often rocky relationship with Lenin and the long and bumpy road that led to the establishment and government of the Soviet Union. In the end, his presence offended and threatened Stalin, leading to his doom.

Trotsky is the creation of Rick Geary, a prolific, well regarded, and long working comics artist who has produced a good number of historical graphic novels, including a number of books about Victorian era murders. Considered a master by his peers, he received the 1980 Inkpot Award from the San Diego Comic Convention and the 1994 Book and Magazine Illustration Award from the National Cartoonists Society. Geary provides a level of historical and artistic accuracy that sets him apart from other graphic novelists.

Unlike the contentious figure Trotsky cut, most reviewers agree on the worth of this graphic biography. In the course of a longer review of literature on Trotsky, the International Socialist Review's Paul Le Blanc called this book "simple, slender, remarkable." Boing Boing's Cory Doctorow commented that although it cannot cover everything and it suffers from a lack of Trotsky's own writing, this book does his story and thinking "great justice." John Hogan wrote that it "works wonderfully" as an introduction to Trotsky, adding that Geary "stays mostly impartial, presenting just the facts of Trotsky’s life along with his layered artwork." The Comics Journal's Marc Sobel was more critical, noting that those looking for a quick read or great artwork would be well served, "but for readers interested in delving deeper and getting to know what kind of man Trotsky was, this graphic biography has little to offer."

Trotsky was published by Hill and Wang. I could not locate any excerpt online, but there are a couple of representative panels from the book in this review by Elizabeth Hewitt.

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