cover image Above the Dreamless Dead: World War I in Poetry and Comics

Above the Dreamless Dead: World War I in Poetry and Comics

Edited by Chris Duffy. Roaring Brook/First Second, $24.99 (144p) ISBN 978-1-62672-065-7

If any poetry cries out for adaptation as sequential art, it is that of the Great War, and this anthology is an exemplary testament to this. Various artists adapt the works of some of the most famous WWI poets, including Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, and Isaac Rosenberg. The talented cartoonists, including Hunt Emerson, Sarah Glidden, and Stuart Immomen, use different approaches to illuminate poems known for its bitter irony and brutal honesty. The collection is divided into three sections—“A Call To War,” “In the Trenches,” and “Aftermath”—and the adapted poems capture the horror of the Western front. For example, Kevin Huizenga’s adaptation of the Charles Sorley poem, “All the Hills and Vales Along” does an excellent job of incorporating Sorley’s sardonic take on the themes of duty and the glory of war, which characterized much pre-war poetry. Stephen R. Bissette’s adaptation of Kipling’s “The Coward” uses a unique textual arrangement to magnify the brutally laconic epitaph. The real strength of the anthology comes both from the poems selected for it and the variety of visual approaches—ranging from the cartoonish to the phantasmagoric— that prevents it from relying simply on the visual carnage of the “war to end all wars.” (July)