cover image Dropsie Avenue: The Neighborhood

Dropsie Avenue: The Neighborhood

Will Eisner, William Eisner. Kitchen Sink Press, $15.95 (170pp) ISBN 978-0-87816-348-9

An acknowledged master of the comics medium who has been instrumental in its creative and business development since the early 1930s, Eisner (Contract With God, To the Heart of the Storm) virtually invented the serious American book-length comics narrative. But his fiction has problems. Dropsie Avenue is an ambitious story of the life, death and incipient rebirth of a South Bronx neighborhood, much like the one Eisner grew up in, over the span of a 120 years. While the work details the Dutch, Irish and English settlers, the once-rural borough's urban transformation and the waves of immigrants and social trauma that followed, it is terribly flawed by a cloying sentimentality and a hollow, stereotypic rendering of the ethnic experience. Even his virtuoso draughtsmanship and composition appear to have ossified into self-imitation and pictorial cliche. Despite his obvious affection for urban life, Eisner reduces decades of social patterns to unsatisfying, symbolic characterizations that awkwardly represent an era, rather than embodying genuinely wrought, particularized human interaction. Drawings are in b&w. (June)