Word Nerd Review: Renegade
by Trisha Quezada
*Graphic novel provided for review by Plough Publishing House
Normally my reviews are on books that I’m reading already and you’re stuck with the genres and topics that I already know I like. This one’s a treat because it’s something I probably wouldn’t have picked up on my own. Renegade is a graphic novel, but it’s also a biography. Not historical fiction. A Biography. And it absolutely succeeds in capturing the gritty reality of the 16th century.
The art is very direct and includes graphic images of some of the atrocities, like witch burning, that occurred during those times. The image styles vary from photorealistic to watercolor with hard edges and the results are very impactful. I don’t want to call them beautiful, because they’re not necessarily, but that’s clearly intentional as it is impact, not beauty, that’s obviously the goal for the illustrations.
The writing style jumps between two different styles. It attempts to give Martin Luther and some of his companions a bit of personality in the main blocks of the graphic novel, but when it’s not the characters speaking in their own voices it reads like a history textbook. I feel like the necessarily fact-heavy sections could have a more narrative feel.
The transitional blocks of text, while important for the wealth of information they provide, truly read like a high school textbook. I found the transitions jarring as they popped up just when I felt like I was really getting immersed into the narrative of the story. For instance: “For most people, it was a dark age. Many believed that the end of the world was near…Poverty and hunger are widespread. The majority of the poor live from alms. There is political unrest. Mass epidemics break out and quickly spread.” In fact, I think that’s my main criticism.
Frankly, I learned a lot while reading this and enjoyed it at the same time. While I was familiar with some of the history of the Protestant Reformation, I definitely didn’t have a good grasp of the political impact and ramifications, or the later-in-life associations and alliances that Martin Luther had. This graphic biography acts as a good starting point for further reading and the illustrations bring the story to life.