The idea of the The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression is ambitious and inspired; re-create a 2007 non-fiction book, which tells the history of the American Great Depression. The conflict: how to include the archival information and varied points of view into a linear story with original illustrations?
The attempt is noble. Author Amity Shales and Illustrator Paul Riuoche have produced some moments of excitement and fluidity but these moments, unfortunately get sticky and come to complete stops at points as characters become confused and readers are pulled into different parallel story points. The illustrations by Riuoche are spot on as a tribute to the illustration style of the first American hero comics.
Because this is told in the cartoon format the author and illustrator made the choice to tell the history as a superhero comic. In this case the hero is Wendell Willkie, a utilities executive. His heroine is friend and literary editor, Irita Van Doren. They are the propellers of the story and in sections it can get a bit twisted for the reader which peripheral plot points we should be focusing on. The story ranges from 1927-1940 and the cast of characters includes: Franklin Roosevelt, David Lilienthal, Andrew Mellon, Calvin Coolidge, Father Divine, Betty Glan, Joseph Stalin and Ayn Rand just to name a few.
History buffs will enjoy this as it shows another angle of the history, students may be able to garner some insight into life in America during this era but the book does not succeed fully at being a stand alone graphic novel. Although it includes a timeline and Cast of Characters at the end the reader must have a developed understanding of these things before reading this book, it does not stand alone.
My Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Publication Date: May 2014
Page Count: 320 pages
Publisher: Harper Perennial
*I was given an Uncorrected Proof in exchange for my honest review.