REVIEW: Stonewall in the Shenandoah (2018)

A Comic by Wayne Vansant, a reprint of a comic from 1996(?)

In my recent interview with Antonio Gil, he had mentioned that one of his influences was Wayne Vansant, I was unfamiliar, so a trip to Amazon brought up something that definitely interested me. Wayne Vansant is a celebrated historical comic author/artist and he has done everything from WWII to the American Civil War. With the latter being part of a huge kick I’m currently on, I eagerly downloaded one of his shorter works to see how I felt. I’m glad I did as it’s pretty awesome! The book chronicles “Stonewall” Jackson’s 1862 Shenandoah Valley Campaign, a campaign considered to be one of the more brilliant in the entirety of the American Civil War. Usually outnumbered, and often taking on multiple fronts at the same time, Jackson proved to be a fearsome warrior that clinched many battles in the early parts of the war.

“During the American Civil War, The Shenandoah Valley Campaign of Confederate Maj. Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson is considered one of the great military campaigns in American history. Jackson’s success turned him into a legendary figure on both sides of the conflict. Now noted historical author and comic book artist, Wayne Vansant (Days of Darkness, Knights of the Skull, Days of Wrath) gives his comprehensive look at Stonewall Jackson and the great campaign that saved the South for a few more years during this bloody time in United States history.”

Publisher’s description

The art in this book is pretty “old-school” and almost feels like something from the Silver Age. I know this digital comic is a reprint of an older comic, but I’m not certain if the 1996 date I looked up is correct or if it’s older than that – so it makes sense. Either way, you don’t see many comics like this anymore and I appreciate the older style. You can tell it was drawn with pens and either inked or painted afterwards. The text is hand-lettered, and borders are all by hand. The somewhat “uncomplete” look of doing it this way vs a computer finishing everything to a minute detail gives a sense of nostalgia I cannot explain, but makes me happy.

You can tell that this is designed to be an alternative to a history book for young adults or possibly older kids – even Amazon lists it as “ages 12-18”. I say this because rather than go through a narrative from one person’s point of view, it gives a general overview of the entire Shenandoah Valley Campaign touching on important battles and giving context. To me, this is an ingenious delivery method for a history book as not everyone can retain dry words on paper – having the art on the page will help many retain the information better. Honestly if I had access to stuff like this in school I would have been overjoyed. Perhaps my only issue with this book is that there is a clear-cut hero, Stonewall Jackson, and most Union soldiers seem either cowardly or inept at times. I’m not saying that the author had a bias or anything, but it’s there a bit.

I loved this book, and despite the relatively short length, it is fairly dense with information. I see Mr. Vansant has a couple other Civil War books in his portfolio that I will likely read before I dip into his other works. When the historical comic market seems to be primarily full of World War II books, I am glad to see this, and perhaps this is the tip of an iceberg I didn’t even know existed.

If you would like your own copy of this title, CLICK HERE

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