cover image The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation

The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation

Jonathan Hennessey, . . Hill & Wang, $16.95 (149pp) ISBN 978-0-8090-9470-7

Writer Hennessey and artist McConnell undertake the imposing task of going through the entire U. S. Constitution, article by article, amendment by amendment, explaining their meaning and implications—in comics format. Avoiding the didactic, the book succeeds in being both consistently entertaining and illuminating. The illustrations are sometimes predictable: as the text describes King George III wrestling with the rebellion, the art shows him arm wrestling a colonist. More often, in the editorial cartoon tradition, McConnell's art ranges inventively through different styles and devices, from realistic depictions of historic personages to symbolic figures (the president as a man with the White House as his head) and even talking birds and parodic superheroes. Hennessey is particularly good at exploring the historical context in which various elements of the Constitution originated, such as the excesses of European monarchies. He also chronicles the dark side of constitutional history, notably how long it allowed slavery to remain legal. While the book depicts the framers of the Constitution as practical men, readers will also be impressed by the framers' vision in devising a system that has endured for two centuries, and it's a fine introduction to U.S. legal history. (Oct.)