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Song without Words by Lynd Ward
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Song without Words

by Lynd Ward (Author/Illustrator)

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Ward's woodcuts are unexpectedly precise and sophisticated. A blurb from Will Eisner claims Ward's Vertigo as "the forerunner of the modern graphic novel" -- and his woodcuts look familiar precisely because unacquainted readers easily could assume they're drawn. But Ward didn't rely entirely on technical craft. His stories are innovative in depicting scenes, and they had to be: his novels have no speech balloons, no captions or other narrative boxes, no sound effects, no words at all excepting as part of the scene (for instance a billboard or newspaper held by a character). Like the very best graphic novels I've read, not everything in Vertigo is evident from a single reading.

The three novels here (two shorter novels precede Vertigo) are supplemented with essays by Ward on each novel, his publishing collective Equinox, and the art of woodblocks. Art Spiegelman contributes an introduction, which mentions the three novels of Volume I. I was pleasantly surprised to read Ward was inspired specifically by Masereel's woodcuts and by German Expressionism generally, as my interest in each prompted me to read Ward.

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This LOA edition, the second of two volumes, is a handsome book: orange cloth binding paired with an orange & white jacket (not the typical LOA design), and the endpapers adapted from Ward's board design for the Equinox edition of Prelude to a Million Years. Unlike most LOA books, this edition includes both a jacket and a choice of slipcase (for subscribers) or a custom orange box.

All but a small handful of the woodcuts are sharp and glossy black; these very few are slightly washed out, uncertain why that is (all are from Vertigo). ( )
  elenchus | Apr 23, 2016 |
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