This anthology of stories tells the lesser known tales of Washington, D.C., keeping everything rooted in real histories and memories of the U.S. capital city. Since this is a compilation, the stories have different authors and illustrators with very different styles and points of view. Some stories give alternative perspectives to big events, while others recount tales that would only be known to D.C. locals.
The book feels very personal, almost like a love letter to the city that represents the heart of the United States. The intimate stories, told by people who are passionate about the city and/or its people, seem like a glimpse into someone’s scrapbook. Some romanticize the past while others shed light on some of the murkier events in the District’s history. However, a few of the stories have a bit of a rambling pointless feel to them, as if you’re hearing someone else’s grandfather tell his memories of his family. Since he’s describing real events, the stories might not have a clear beginning, middle, and wrapped-up end. That’s not bad in small doses, but your eyes might glaze over if he tells yet another tale about someone you don’t know. That said, even small-time stories can feel big when told by a good storyteller, so some of the vignettes stand out, even if they feature someone or something that’s unknown outside of D.C. circles.
The unique art styles bring great eye catching variety to the book. Even stories that seem mundane or unfinished have their own visual appeal and the constant change in styles makes each seem fresh. Some of the art is more successful than the rest with a couple stand out pieces. I particularly enjoyed “Karat,” which is narrated by a pair of secret agents’ x-rayed skeletons as they discuss the persecution of a man falsely accused as a Russian mole. The bizarre, cartoony style fits the eerie story of a man haunted by baseless theories. Other stylistic choices don’t match up quite as well, but none of them are bad.
With specialized subject matter, it might be difficult to find what appeals to the average Joe, except that Washington D.C. holds a special place in the hearts and minds of Americans. Still, a history buff or District native would get a great deal more out of this volume than someone just looking for a good graphic read. However, with so many different stories, timeframes, and perspectives, everyone should find something to like.
District Comics: An Unconventional History of Washington, DC
by Edited by Matt Dembicki