The Graphic Graphic Novel

It’s interesting to see so many people express dislike or disinterest for Nat Turner. It is a heavy subject on all fronts, and I think the graphic novel is a great medium to get this across. Most of the comments I am reading say how the images were so graphic and violent. However, unless you have the talent for linguistics like Truman Capote, I think this medium of the graphic novel is appropriate and necessary.

I was disturbed by many of the visual images going on, more so than the calm and collected retelling of Nat Turner’s confession. The images only amped up my awareness of how complicated and violent the turn of events were. If I have any criticism, it’s that there was almost unequal weight of violence, and I think that more of the horror could have been shown in the “Home” section. It seems most of the graphically violent parts like decapitation and the murder of children were in the images of the murders during the insurrection. I think a whole discussion could be had in analyzing this book based on why this part is shown as the most violent, when really it is a reaction to being dehumanized.

I am intrigued that the beginning tells so much of a story without any words. Although I must admit some parts were confusing because you really have to focus and provide your own context for what is going on in the images, I must say re-reading or rather re-looking at the images helped work out certain areas of confusion. For example, on pages 52-53, it took me awhile to realize what was happening. Initially I thought the white captors were throwing the baby overboard to the sharks, but I soon realized it was the captured (perhaps the parent of the child), who made this decision. In realizing this, so much is said about the conditions of what was happening that a parent would want to kill their own child instead of putting them through this experience.

This certainly is not an easy going read because it’s not an easy going subject, but I think to show the truth of it; including the sick sentiment of the “white family” happily picnicking at Nat Turner’s lynching, says a lot about a disgusting time in our country’s history. I think if you are deeply disturbed by this graphic novel, then it has done the best job in serving its purpose.