Native American Classics
by various authors & artists (Graphic Classics, 2013)

In this 24th volume of Graphic Classics, we get an anthology of Native American folklore, poems and prayers, along with the occasional short story. Each entry is drawn by a different artist -- some of the represented artists include Robert McMurtry, Roy Boney Jr., Jay Odjick, Timothy Truman and Marty Two Bulls Sr. -- and each is written by a different author, including such well-known writers of Native American lore as Charles Eastman and Joseph Bruchac.

Because each story is done in a different textual and visual style, it's a pleasure to browse through the pages. Afua Richardson, for example, brings a classical, color-rich style to "Anoska Wiminina." The colors -- ranging from a rich black-and-gold night to a blood-red sky during a fight scene to a beautiful pastel purple background -- tell the story by themselves, although Richardson's fascinating faces add additional depth.

By contrast, Terry Luban's work for "The Middle Man" would be at home in an Archie comic. For "How the White Man Came to America," Roy Boney Jr. creates a motif of yellow and aqua that is both eye-catching and serves the story well.

So the art is very good, but how about the stories?

They are also good. The tales catch the nature of the First Americans' experience. Here, for example, is a poem written in 1893 by Simon Pokagon, "The Red Man's Rebuke":

Alas for us! Our day is o'er,
our fires are out from shore to shore;
no more for us the wild deer bounds--
the plow is on our hunting grounds.
The pale-man's sail skims o'er the floods;
our pleasant springs are dry;
our children look, by power oppressed,
beyond the mountains of the west--
our children go -- to die.

To illustrate the poem, Murv Jacob has painted a small group of Indians, headed west in a blizzard. It's a powerful page in a book filled with powerful pages. Native American Classics catches all of the humor and tragedy of the First American experience in this country. It is a story that should be remembered and retold, and these tales, poems and prayers will help ensure that it is.

review by
Michael Scott Cain

25 May 2013

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