The New Adventures of Abraham Lincoln
by Scott McCloud (Homage, 1998)

The New Adventures of Abraham Lincoln tries to be many things.

First, it attempts to blend computer-generated and hand-drawn art into something stylistically interesting. It fails. The characters in the foreground are roughly sketched in over rendered computer graphics for a package that looks like someone got hold of a new copy of PhotoShop and just couldn't resist playing. The art, frankly, is boring.

Second, it attempts to make insightful commentary into the mindset of the American people, particularly when they are willing to accept a glossy facade rather than depth of meaning. The focal point of the story is a pair of Abe Lincolns, one of whom is the front for an alien invasion, the other of which is a time-traveling incarnation who wants to save America from itself. Can Americans discriminate between style and substance? Of course not.

There's more, but much of the humor falls flat and the plot device involving teachers who try to deny their students actual facts about history quickly becomes absurd. The alien stuff is just plain silly, hardly worth being called a plot at all.

The interesting thing here is that the book is in many ways more relevant now, in 2009, than it was when it was first published in 1998. The discussion of constitutional rights, the disappearance of civil liberties and the ease with which a leader can hoodwink his followers all make one suspect that writer Scott McCloud somehow knew the 2000-2008 administration years were coming.

Even so, it's just not a very good book. Particularly given the horrible art, I just can't recommend it.

review by
Tom Knapp

30 May 2009

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