I don’t know what I was expecting. Superheroes maybe, but what I got was something entirely different. I finally read a graphic novel, and I LOVED it! History of Her Future, by Ron Falzone and illustrated by Julian Grant, is a dark, heart-rending graphic novel and a fictionalized account of Lizzie Borden’s life after acquittal.
As the quirky title may suggest, Falzone writes the story in reverse chronological order from Lizzie’s death backwards in time to the murder of her father and stepmother. It’s a challenging way to tell a story and still keep the tension high and the reader interested, but Falzone succeeds.
The townsfolk, the press, even Lizzie’s immediate neighbors turn a “not guilty” woman into a notorious celebrity. Greedy businesspeople take advantage of her. Church members gossip. Lizzie tries and fails to reinvent herself. By the end of the graphic novel you want to shield Lizzie from the public, whisk her out of town, anything to save her from the limelight. And yet, there’s a twist that makes you question everything you thought you knew about the Bordens. Just ask the cat.
As for Grant’s artwork, the characters have a hip, stop-motion look. They come across as three-dimensional on the two-dimensional page, especially with the deep shadows that emphasize the characters’ expressions. The backgrounds look hand-articulated with smudged skies and dark brickwork, appropriate to both the tone of the book and the sooty era in which Lizzie lived.
Also, the characters’ costumes from the children to the nosy neighbor are delightfully detailed, right down to the intricate lace on sister Emma Borden’s veil.
For a majority of Grant’s illustrations, he uses an eerie perspective like the creepy camera angle in an Alfred Hitchcock movie just before the murderer lunges. In addition, the depth of the images from the character in the foreground to the fence or building in the background, together with the shadowing and the black-and-white coloring, give the reader the impression of an old-time newspaper article. In fact, the story is narrated by Emma to a newspaper reporter, a very clever marriage of narration and visuals.
Some of the panels have snipped corners and shadowed edges. These panels make it seem like you’re looking at vintage photographs mounted by the corners in an antique photo album.
There is nudity in the book. Rather than being prurient, the scene humanizes the nude character. Well-done.
I thought and searched and dug around through the pages, but I seriously have no gripes, nitpicks, or any negatives about this graphic novel.
I was sad for Lizzie. I was angry. (And yet, that twist . . . !) I am grateful for this new and different look at Lizzie Borden. Fantastic work by Falzone and Grant!
Here’s a link to the magazine-sized paperback which will be released September 1, 2020: History of Her Future. Go buy one. Buy two because it’d make a great gift for a history buff, horror fan, or graphic novel aficionado.
Today’s feature image is the infamous Lizzie Borden herself as depicted by Julian Grant in History of Her Future.