cover image Discipline


Dash Shaw. New York Review Comics, $27.95 trade paper (312p) ISBN 978-1-68137-569-4

Shaw (Doctors) crafts a harrowing but nuanced Civil War epic framed around the letters sent between a Quaker soldier and his sister. Seventeen-year-old Charles goes against the wishes of his family in Indiana to secretly join the Union army, feeling that the evil of slavery could only be eliminated through force. He experiences firsthand the capricious savagery of war and finds its honorifics to be hollow, though he values the camaraderie with his fellow soldiers. His sister Fanny, meanwhile, has to cope with his absence, a family tragedy, and faith-testing temptations of her own. The theme of discipline threads through both the military rigor Charles trains in as well as the concept of Quaker discipline; in the leaderless Quaker meetings, there are nonetheless admonitions to resist the sinful behavior of outsiders. Shaw resists easy categorization as a comics formalist, and his black and white drawings flow into each other without a grid, mimicking a scrapbook, employing cursive for the Cox siblings’ letters as another art element. The blend of mournful and contemplative musings from Charles and Fanny, along with the raw, ugly, details of life during wartime, combine into a searingly grim yet insightful study. Shaw artfully captures the timeless crisis of idealism meeting painful reality. Agent: Duvall Osteen, Aragi Inc. (Oct.)