Review: Kyle Baker’s graphic adaptation of Confessions Nat Turner

Kyle Baker’s graphic adaptation of The Confessions of Nat Turner is drawn with incredible attention to emotion. Baker captures the brutality and teeth-grinding sense of justified vengance that is mixed up in the whole ordeal and you feel it.

There are many panels with no captions or speech bubbles at all, but the illustration tells the story possibly more potently than if he had written prosaic captions. Some of the drawings are works of are on their own that I was tempted to rip out of the book, frame, and hang it up at the gallery down the street.  It is a visual treat… no, more than a treat; it’s more like a visual wedding cake with a chocolate fountain on the side. The art draws you in, like good art is supposed to, and you’ll find yourself looking and re-examining many of the frames.

Often good comix are remarked for their balance of word and picture.  I have to say that Nat Turner tips heavily towards picture, but not for lack of plot. There are whole sequences of aspect shots and action shots that tell the story with more nuance than a caption might have afforded. This focus on the visual and the attention Baker puts into the emotional expressions of the characters’ faces is particularly fitting for the story, which is a moral compass mind-f*** of bloodshed, human evil, and human suffering. Baker’s art lashes the reader in face-to-face with the thick of it.

I love this graphic novel, and I love Kyle Baker, and though my copy has long had a well worn spine, I recently gifted a copy to a friend and decided that more people should know about this gem.  The gist:  Just like the story of Nat Turner’s insurrection, Baker’s work here is beautiful and brutal.

Rank on an Arbitrary Rating System:

I think I’m gonna stick with 5 wedding cakes with 5 chocolate fountains on the sides… um, out of 5.

About Kyle Baker:

American writer, artist, cartoonist, illustrator from Queens, NY. He’s done a lot of work with DC comics and Marvel. Some of his other graphic novels include Birth of a Nation: A Comic Novel, Why I Hate Saturn, and an adaptation of Dick Tracy. Oh yeah, and he’s won himself eight or so Eisner Awards. Ya know, in his spare time.


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