Monday, August 24, 2015

Review: Snowden by Ted Rall

By Reboot

Today I'm reviewing the new graphic novel from Seven Stories PressSnowden, by Ted Rall. As you may suspect (or hey, maybe not. It has been a while.), this is about THAT Snowden. Edward Snowden. Before we go into this graphic novel specifically, I'd like to take a little time to tell you about who Ted Rall is.

For those of you who don't know, Ted Rall is an award winning syndicated political cartoonist who has been making contributions in that field for decades. However, his career is not without controversy. Over the years he's angered people with more than a couple of his cartoons. He was both incredibly critical of the American public for re-electing George W. Bush in 2004 and also called for President Obama's resignation. And in the field of comics specifically, he made remarks about Art Spiegelman that caused Ted Rall a great deal of grief shortly after. Even as recently as this past July, he caused controversy when a story he's shared in regards to an altercation with the LAPD back in 2001 was allegedly misrepresented, leading to him being dropped by the Los Angeles Times.

Now that you have some background on Ted Rall, let's dive into Snowden. The approach of this book is fairly 101. It goes over much of the basics of the story in an easy to follow, mostly linear narrative. In this narrative, we're usually given a series of facts, followed by Ted Rall's analysis of the data. Some of the analysis makes perfect sense and shows Ted Rall's experience as a seasoned political observer. 

A few of his observations, unfortunately in this review, really made me scratch my head. Ted Rall discusses how Edward Snowden was in the Boy Scouts and harps on it to the point of near obsession for a time, and tries to draw some sort of connection between what he was taught as a Boy Scout and how that may have some how directly led to what he has done. Moments like that sucked me out of the book and made me question the integrity of the piece. That's not the kind of reaction you want for your biographical graphic novel.

The art throughout the book is a mixture of both his own art, photographs, and screen captions. Ted Rall's style is fits well with a syndicated newspaper strip. It's rough, most of the characters drawn look similar, and lacks expressiveness.  Nearly every character has the same facial expression, but the art is just a tool to tell his story. Like how someone would drive a beat up used car with the idea of it is just meant to get you from point A to point B.

If you have a vague interest in politics, and have heard of Edward Snowden, but don't really know much about him, Snowden is a good book for you and I would recommend it. If you're a casual bio/autobio graphic novel reader with an interest in politics, I'd also suggest that you give it a peek. But if you are more into high art/experimental art in graphic novels, or are looking for deep cuts into Edward Snowden's life, you're not going to find it here.

Snowden is available in the US on August 25th.

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