Friday, June 22, 2018

In the Offing: "Trench Dogs" and "The 'Stan"

The 'Stan  

By David Axe, Blue Delliquanti, & Kevin Knodell (Annapolis, Dead Reckoning, 2018)

Trench Dogs

By Ian Densford (Annapolis, Dead Reckoning, 2018)

Reviewed by Joseph Miechle
Hampton Roads Naval Museum Educator

While the Hampton Roads Naval Museum is no stranger to reviewing books about U.S. Navy topics, we recently received some advance copies of graphic novels from Dead Reckoning, an imprint of the Naval Institute Press. The press has attempted to broaden the community they engage with these non-traditional offerings that will certainly appeal to a different market. That stated, we present you a review on two of their new graphic novels. 

The first item we reviewed was The ‘Stan. The ‘Stan is a graphic novel by Kevin Knodell, David Axe, and illustrated by Blue Delliquanti. It contains brief vignettes captured by Knodell and Axe from veterans of the war in Afghanistan.  Axe identifies himself as “a political liberal and self-avowed pacifist” and it is reflected in the segments presented to the reader in this book. The stories the authors have chosen mostly reflect a defeatist or non-consequential attitude towards the War in Afghanistan. If their attempt was to impress upon the reader a feeling of futility and despair, then they would seem to have succeeded.

The only content that makes this book interesting at all is that it utilizes stories from soldiers and civilians on both sides of the conflict. This would normally be of great interest to a reader of historical literature but as the book is a graphic novel it actually contains very little content worth remembering. The artwork in the book is unremarkable and reminds this reader of old “PS Magazines” provided to him during his time in the Army. The ‘Stan could best be summed up as blasé at best.

The second item reviewed is Trench Dogs by Ian Densford. The book is a relatively easy read because it has no written narrative. It is a graphic presentation of actual World War One events using anthropomorphic animals to represent the various player nations in the war. It is amusingly illustrated and quite graphic in nature. The watercolor images of disembodied horses and headless combatants are not softened because they are animals as opposed to humans. The real horrors of battlefield amputations and disfigurement are also included for maximum “shock” appeal. The objective of the author to illustrate the “bloody details” of the Great War were certainly accomplished.
Trench Dogs could be to a casual reader nothing more than a strangely illustrated book depicting violence for the sake of violence, yet it faithfully depicts very real events in World War One. The Battle of Jutland, unrestricted submarine warfare, gas attacks, the sinking of RMS Lusitania, and the systemic racism experienced by the Harlem Hellfighters upon their return to the United States are all present in the book. The book itself doesn’t really add anything to the historiography of World War I, yet it would surely invoke questions from a young adult audience. Mr. Densford has included a brief bibliography at the end of his graphic novel to point those who wish to know more in the right direction.

Keep your eyes open for further graphic novel offerings from Dead Reckoning of the Naval Institute Press.

Joseph Miechle is an educator with the Hampton Roads Naval Museum.

Editor's Note: A quote from David Axe was misattributed to Kevin Knodell in the original post dated Friday, June 22.  The post has since been corrected. 

This review is the sole opinion of the author and does not reflect an official view of the Hampton Roads Naval Museum, Naval History and Heritage Command, the United States Navy, or the Department of Defense.

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