Will Eisner’s Contract With God trilogy, reprinted in one volume, is the foundation of the modern graphic novel. First published nearly thirty years ago, the three books have been celebrated for their literary ambition and autobiographical sincerity: John Updike is a fan, as was Kurt Vonnegut, and with good reason. While Eisner’s artwork betrays its origins in the square-jawed realm of Saturday serial heroics, his narratives are imbued with a broad and satisfying moral vision. His focus is upon the immigrant communities living along the fictional Dropsie Avenue, a world of Dickensian squalor and violent upheaval. With verve Eisner relates the fortunes of the various communities, tragedy and romance coming and going as often as the endless waves of tenants.
Whilst the first two volumes (A Contract with God, A Life Force) suffer, as all progenitors do, from teething pains and experimental failures, it is with the last volume – simply titled Dropsie Avenue – that Eisner really hits his stride. Starting from the very first cultivation of his avenue