Thursday, November 5, 2009

Review - Graphic Storytelling

Graphic Storytelling
by Will Eisner
1997 Eisner Winner for Best Comic Related Book

I went around a few times on how to review Graphic Storytelling. The fact is that I don't have an awful lot to say about it. I considered pairing it up with the next item in my reviewing stack and in the end I decided to just let it go and not be very long winded.

Graphic Storytelling is as a primer on narrative in comics. It's short, simple, and to the point and that point is exactly what it says in the title: understanding the narrative structure of comics. Remember your high school English class as you picked apart old novels? That's what you have here though instead of old novels it's typically short vignettes by Eisner to illustrate the point. He starts with the very basics of storytelling and talks about how comics interact with the reader. It's far from definitive; the book covers the basic outline of how comics as a medium interacts with storytelling and not must further than that.

Eisner has taught classes in on the comics medium and where Graphic Storytelling works well is when he is providing instruction. For example, he has a brief section on pacing comics like prose novels versus pacing them like film and provides a miniature tableau to demonstrate the difference. Most of the second half the book is like this. The flip side is when he attempts to catalog stories; Eisner spends a lot of time on the most primitive understanding of storytelling.

Graphic Storytelling is a thoughtful look at sequential art as a storytelling medium but not a deep one. Any major comic book nerd who has looked at the techniques in depth is probably going to find the book a bit too simple for them. On the other hand if you're interested in the narrative form of sequential art I can't think of a better introduction.