Graphic Library is Capstone Publishing’s imprint for various nonfiction series produced in graphic format. They include science, sports, history, and other popular subjects. Their general audience is ages 8-12, although some are more challenging reads and others may appeal to younger readers.

Vikings presents a very stereotypical, dramatized vision of Viking warriors. Dramatic pictures show a few sketches of Viking life, although only men are pictured, and one of the first bloody raids on English lands on the island of Lindisfarne. Further incursions into Europe, the settling of Greenland, and exploration of Newfoundland, including the attacks on Iniut peoples, are shown. The book ends with the last major Viking attack, Harald’s failed invasion in 1066. The last page, against a background of sword-wielding warriors, notes the contributions of exploration, language, and culture to modern Western society.

Samurai is divided into four chapters, each focusing on a famous warrior. The first is built around Miyamoto Musashi and the training of a samurai.  Other chapters include the triumph of the samurai in defending their land against the Mongols and Kublai Khan, the transformation of the samurai from lone warrior the war general in the story of Kusunoki Masashige, and the unification of Japan and end of the samurai as the feudal society became defunct.

The art of Vikings is somewhat detailed, with constant action and movement in the backgrounds: fleeing monks; battle scenes; Vikings swinging swords and yelling their dialogue. The color schemes are red-tinged brown, showing the bloody nature of the history presented, and then shift to blues and greens in the exploration of new lands. The style of Samurai is much darker, with few, if any, faces clear enough to identify. The art is earth tones, with heavily shadowed figures, most of them obscured by armor, or only arms and legs shown.

Both titles are brief and depend heavily on stereotypes, both in general and in the stilted dialogue. No women are shown in either title and the Vikings are one-dimensional, interested only in killing and looting while the samurai are focused on honor and loyalty, and later political power. They are mostly faceless, making this volume an historical story without modern relevance or interest. Both titles are choppy, without transitions between the different periods and narrative arcs.

These two volumes are part of a four volume series of historical warriors. Each is 32-pages long, includes some brief additional facts, a glossary, questions, a few additional titles for further reading, a short index, and a link to Capstone’s online resources. While these volumes could act as supplementary resources (and kids who prefer only graphic sources are sure to pick them up), the stereotyped depiction of an entire historical period, lack of representation, and uninspired art make them an additional purchase at best.

Graphic History: Warriors
Vikings

By Nel Yomtov
Art by Silvio DB
ISBN: 9781543555066
Samurai
By Blake Hoena
Art by Janos Orban
ISBN: 9781543555042
Capstone Graphic Library, 2019
Publisher Age Rating: middle grade
Series Reading Order

  • Jennifer

    | She/Her Youth Services Librarian, Matheson Memorial Library

    Reviewer

    Jennifer Wharton is the Youth Services Librarian at Matheson Memorial Library in Elkhorn, Wisconsin where she maintains the juvenile and young adult graphic novel collections and was responsible for creating the library’s adult graphic novel collection. She is constantly looking for great new comics for kids and teens and new ways to incorporate graphic storytelling in programming. Jennifer blogs for preschool through middle grade at JeanLittleLibrary and has an MLS from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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