KENT STATE: FOUR DEAD IN OHIO Review
By Derf Backderf
- Original Graphic Novel
- Publisher : Abrams Comicarts
- Release : 9/8/2020
- Hardcover : 288 pages
- Dimensions : 7.75″ x 10.7″
- Reading Age : 13+ years
- MSRP : $24.99
A spectacularly conceived story that casts light on a timely and relevant part of American history.
My parents were college students in Ohio at the time of the Kent State shootings in 1970. There were protests around the country after President Richard Nixon announced on April 30 that the United States was invading Cambodia. The announcement caused widespread outrage from a nation that had been assured a forthcoming withdrawal from Vietnam and led to a nationwide student strike, with many colleges and universities shutting down in protest. After four days of protests and what can only be described as a multitude of ill-conceived blunders, the Ohio national guard would unleash nearly eighty rounds on an unarmed student body wounding nine and killing four. The Kent State tragedy is widely considered to be a turning point in the anti-Vietnam War movement that impacted the entire culture.
Author Derf Backderf was ten years old at the time of the incident and lived a mere twenty miles away. The event left a dramatic impression on him and the book opens with him narrating. Backderf recounted the event in a recent 2020 interview by two Kent State University professors for the Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics:
Backderf has been successful in the space with award-winning projects like “My Friend Dahmer” in 2012 and “Trashed” in 2015. Even though his cartoonist art-style doesn’t really appeal to me, it serves the story well as detailed storyboards for his cinematic vision. “Kent State” went on to win a host of awards and make every notable “best of” list for 2021. Its a hefty read at nearly 300 pages and took several sittings. As I write this review, the hardcover is on sale 50% of on Amazon (see the link above). I was also able to find this at my local library. I found this book very interesting but would enjoy seeing it on screen if it was handled similarly to 2004’s Crash or 2020’s The Trial of the Chicago 7. The graphic novel won the Eisner for “Best Reality Based Work”, the Ringo Award for Best Non-Fiction Comic Work”, and the prestigious Alex Award given to books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18 by the American Library Association. 9.5/10
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