A remarkable achievement both as a work of history and visual literature, providing a broad overview of the complex circumstances that gave rise to the bloodiest conflict in American history, while simultaneously making those deaths meaningful by capturing fleeting moments amid the slaughter in panels so beautifully wrought as to beggar description.” Scott Eric Kaufman, Salon
“Academic history at its finest . . . a remarkableand beautifulbook . . . Battle Lines should be required reading in graduate historiography and teaching courses. It is a tribute to Fetter-Vorm and Kelman that I want copies of the book displayed on my academic bookshelf, in my classroom, and on my coffee table.” David Schieffler, The Civil War Monitor
“[A] really beautiful, gorgeous graphic novel about the Civil War . . . Lovely, evocative and harrowing . . . I would recommend this book highly.” Gene Demby, NPR’s “Pop Culture Happy Hour” podcast
“An amazing piece of work.” Virginia Prescott, New Hampshire Public Radio, “Word of Mouth”
“A graphic rendering of epic destruction and intimate despair, as the authors make Civil War scholarship come alive for readers young and old. The artistry of Fetter-Vorm powerfully captures the devastation that the war wreaked on the country, extending well past the armistice, while the historical context by Bancroft Prize winner Kelman provides the contextual depth . . . . In this gripping graphic narrative, the complexities of history achieve clarity, and the depth of the tragedy has a visceral impact.” Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“In 15 harrowing chapters, Fetter-Vorm and Ari Kelman's graphic take on the Civil War brings home the shattering costs of America's epochal conflict like almost no other single-volume history . . . Poignant and heartbreaking.” Publishers Weekly
“Battle Lines is not the first graphic novel about the Civil War, but it is one of the most ambitious. Rather than following a single wartime plot, Battle Lines spans from Congress's 1808 ban on the importation of slaves to the end of Reconstruction in 1876. Readers get concise and useful overviews of seminal moments in the war via newspaper pages that precede each chapter. But the authors smartly forgo comprehensiveness by grounding this bold historical spread in episodic chapters . . . This framework helps balance a useful breadth with striking depth” Kenyon Gradert, Los Angeles Review of Books
“Powerful and evocative . . . This book belongs in every school library in the country and on the shelf of anyone interested in good art, excellent storytelling, and careful scholarship.” Matthew Helmke
“A fascinating look at one of the biggest events in United States history . . .The gut-punches started and they simply didn't end until the conclusion of the book . . . I'd highly recommend it.” Janelle Asselin, Comics Alliance
“Battle Lines brings us the Civil War as we've never seen it before. An inspired blend of images and words, this fresh, vivid history is the perfect primer for students and devotees of America's greatest conflict.” Tony Horwitz, author of Confederates in the Attic and Midnight Rising
“Battle Lines is the best film about the Civil War that has never been made. It is a penetrating account of the war's deepest dramas, told in the fewest words imaginable. It is history as poetry.” Stephen Kantrowitz, Professor of History, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and author of More Than Freedom
“Featuring inspired storytelling and haunting images, Battle Lines is the best graphic novel ever produced about the Civil War.” Josh Neufeld, author of A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge
“Battle Lines is thoughtful, sophisticated, and beautifully wrought. Jonathan Fetter-Vorm and Ari Kelman offer further proof that the graphic novel is a powerful medium for exploring the nuances of history.” Gene Luen Yang, author of American Born Chinese, finalist for the National Book Award
More Americans were killed in the Civil War than in all other wars combined, and these 15 stories reveal death through the eyes of its unprepared victims and their fellow citizens—women, men, soldiers, farmers, and slaves. Award-winning historian Kelman and Fetter-Vorm (Trinity) introduce each vignette with a concise page of text that over the course of the book lays out the progress of the war. The effect is to reveal the intimate despair behind the statistics. "The Bug" shows soldiers, civilians, and an army doctor at the siege of Vicksburg, unknowingly up against mosquitoes as malaria's carriers. Throughout the artfully dingy watercolors, one mosquito flies from panel to panel to bite the husband of a malaria-stricken woman needing quinine. In other segments, horse carcasses lie rotting, limbs are amputated, dying men keep diaries. The subtle coloring minimizes distinction between Union and Confederate, showing compassion for all. VERDICT This series of narrative snapshots set into context enhances understanding of the human side of war underneath official policies and battle tactics. Very helpful for teens and adults for learning about conflict at the microlevel.—M.C.
A graphic rendering of epic destruction and intimate despair, as the authors make Civil War scholarship come alive for readers young and old.The artistry of Fetter-Vorm (Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb, 2013) powerfully captures the devastation that the war wreaked on the country, extending well past the armistice, while the historical context by Bancroft Prize winner Kelman (American Civil War Era History/Penn State Univ.; A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling Over the Memory of Sand Creek, 2013, etc.) provides the contextual depth. In the preface, the authors ask, "what hope could there be for a country so deeply divided against itself, a country so thoroughly drenched in the blood of its own people?" The chapters that follow humanize that history from various perspectives: the black man freed into another kind of servitude, Irish immigrants rebelling against conscription, women left behind without provisions for survival after their husbands and sons went to war. But the most arresting images throughout are panoramas, two-page spreads, where text is minimal or nonexistent and the chaos and carnage speak for themselves. The power of the art puts the "graphic" in graphic narrative, with limbs amputated by saws, corpses that could no longer be identified as belonging to one side or another, and battlefields turned to slaughter. Interspersed with these large-scale depictions are vignettes of those touched in various ways by the war, from the well-known poet Walt Whitman to soldiers only known by the journals they left behind. Without the illustrations, the text seems aimed at a young-adult or even younger readership, but the artistic impact extends far beyond. In this gripping graphic narrative, the complexities of history achieve clarity, and the depth of the tragedy has a visceral impact.