Seldom do I put a book down and say, “Wow,” but I said “Wow!” tonight after finishing this one. Many call the veterans of the Great War forgotten, but in this anthology of trench poetry, their sacrifice will live forever.
In Above the Dreamless Dead, poems written by great figures such as Thomas Hardy and Rudyard Kipling have been gathered together and adapted into short vignettes by cartoonists including Katherine and Stuart Immonen, Phil Winslade, and Garth Ennis. What is most notable is the reverence with which each piece has been treated by each artist—the realistic horrors of trench warfare become startlingly apparently in the realistic drawings of David Hitchcock in the chapter “Dead Man’s Dump.” In another chapter, “Repression of War Experience,” the agony of what was then called “shell-shock” (now known as PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) resonates through the jagged artwork and deliberately scattered text; the narrator’s disjointed thoughts replay memories long past, memories slowly driving him out of his mind.
The artwork is incredibly well-executed and each chapter is a unique work fully capable of standing on its own. It is evident that the artists, inkers, writers, and everyone involved in the creation of this anthology cared deeply for the work they were putting forward. Of special note is the extended biographical information included on each of the poets, as well as further readings on the history of the Great War, at the end of the book.
Above the Dreamless Dead is a brilliant literary and artistic endeavor that could be incorporated into any high school history curriculum or enjoyed by even an armchair historian.
Above the Dreamless Dead: World War I in Poetry and Comics
Chris Duffy (editor)
Art by Hannah Berry, Stephen R. Bissette, Eddie Campbell, Lilli Carré, Liesbeth De Stercke, Hunt Emerson, Garth Ennis, Simon Gane, Sarah Glidden, Isabel Greenberg, Sammy Harkham, David Hitchcock, Kevin Huizenga, Kathryn Immonen, Stuart Immonen, Peter Kuper, James Lloyd, Pat Mills, Anders Nilsen, Danica Novgorodoff, Luke Pearson, George Pratt, Carol Tyler, Phil Winslade
First Second, 2014
Publisher Age Rating: YA to adult