The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation by Jonathan Hennessey and Aaron McConnell

Posted: January 17, 2010 in Uncategorized
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I was very interested to read this graphic novel; it seemed like a great idea because it could bring visual drama/excitement to the US Constitution. Sadly, I was disappointed with the end result.

Every page was busy. It seemed that something was out of balance on every page. There was either too much text, too many colors, the drawings were too busy, or D) a combination of all of the above. Pages 84 & 85 are a good example of too much text. I turned the page and immediately felt overwhelmed. Instead of following each caption and image I focused on the two pages from a distance. My first reaction was to simply close the book or skip these pages, but I soldiered through the text. It wasn’t until page 138 that I felt at ease with the layout. This page (and half of page 139) used a fair amount of white space as a backdrop rather than small gutters or white space within frames.

On many pages there were no borders, the frames extended all the way to the edge and into the center binding. This effect added to the overwhelming effect of the visual and textual imagery. On page 90 the text box is not only cut off at the page edge, but so is the text. This may have been a printer error, or it may have been designed purposefully, but it was distracting. Maybe the purpose of creating such busy pages, so full of text, color and imagery was simply to show the immensity of the US constitution and amendments?

Text was often difficult to read. On some pages the text was very small, it would be a pastel on a dark background, the text would even be directly laid over imagery, or the text would be in cursive. At first I squinted to read some text, but after a while I simply skipped over text that was difficult to read–it was too much work and it irritated me. After a while I began to just wish the book was finished, not because I didn’t like the material, but because I didn’t like the way the book was put together.

That being said, there were a few things I also liked about the graphic novel. I enjoyed the historical introduction to the inception of the constitution. I especially enjoyed pages 4-5 (We People) and the fact that the author took the time to create a diverse body of ethnicities (which I didn’t see much of during the rest of the book). There were a few images that I thought were nice adaptions of modern society into the ideas of the constitution: one was on page 22 with the “do it yourself kit” to build America. Additionally I thought that the depiction of the evolution of law using the fish–>ape–>human comical. Later, on page 55 I enjoyed the design of the election process pictured as the cogs of a wheel. Each of these exemplify a good command of symbols to portray ideas.

My takeaway thought: be gently on the eye. Too much complexity, IMO, takes away from the power of the image and textual juxtaposition.


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