Annuit Coeptis: Southern Cross is the first volume of a series of graphic novels entitled CSA: Confederate States of America.
What happens when a Frenchman with a degree in the study of history and a fascination with the American Civil War (Dorvall) and an American from South Dakota (Renne) collaborate to create an alternative history of the Civil War in graphic novel form? They produce a fascinating if sometimes hard to follow, (at least is this first volume), look at what might have happened if one battle had turned out differently and the South had won the war.
Dorvall skillfully mixes real and fictional characters in his plot and succeeds very well in expressing the mixed feelings towards black people and slavery in both the North and the South as he begins his tale. While I may have some serious doubts about some of the action in the book, particularly on the Southern side, certainly the story is dramatic and thought-provoking. I particularly appreciate the mention of the difference in the strong abolitionist leanings among many Northerners as compared to the treatment of factory workers who worked in unsafe and nearly unbearable conditions and included even children.
According to the press release, later volumes will also consider the difference between the concern for the rights of slaves versus the rampant lack of concern for the Native Americans. While I feel that Southern soldiers under Nathan Forrest taking free black citizens to send back to the South is highly unlikely for practical reasons, certainly he was morally capable of doing so. He is countered to some degree by the fictional Confederate officer, Erwin, who is against slavery but loves his Southern homeland.
The art in this novel is beautiful, done not in comic book style but in the realistic painterly style of the 19th Century. The paper is very fine; the colors are dense; and for each of the four main characters, there are themed borders that reflect qualities of that character on the pages that feature each one. The book is worth owning for the art alone.
Certainly, the novel succeeds in engaging the reader completely and bringing forward many issues of the times that may be considered in a fresh way in the alternative history format. Was slavery inevitable in the South, if the South had won? Were there clearly defined good guys and bad guys in the war? Is war ever a simple proposition?
The second volume of this series is due for release in July 2014. This first novel certainly leaves this reviewer with high hopes for the rest of the series. Those with an interest in alternate history or in Civil War history should find this novel both compelling and amazing to view.[amazon template=iframe image&chan=default&asin=0989606309]