The Battle of the Bulge: A Graphic History of Allied Victory in the Ardennes, 1944-1945
Minneapolis, MN: Zenith Press
104 pp. $19.99/Paperback
To some, history is a mundane, stagnant discipline. While we know that to be false, there are still those who think that history is just about dates and names. If you are like me, you still have those important – but probably dusty – history tomes on your shelves which dryly contain facts and figures along with names and dates. They hold vital information but, at the same time, reiterate the long held notion of history as dry and boring. Wayne Vansant’s The Battle of the Bulge symbolizes what history really is – a multifaceted subject that continues to share stories in new and exciting ways.
Graphic novels are very popular. As a librarian, I have seen firsthand how in-demand they are as well as the extensive subject matters covered. Graphic novels have pushed away from only dealing with superheros and comic book characters and into serious topics. For example, graphic novels have discussed such as social issues like race and class in the justice system, bullying, and politics. There is even a graphic novel biography on noted physicist Richard Feynman. Additionally, there is a wide assortment of graphic novels covering a large number of history topics. Vansant, specifically, has penned a handful of other graphic novels on the various American wars.
The Battle of the Bulge
The Battle of the Bulge is a visual thrill. With impressive illustrations that captures the struggle over the Hurtgen Forest, the horrifying Malmedy Massacre, and the desperation brought on by wintry conditions, brutal fighting, and low supplies, the book tackles the Battle of the Bulge in an riveting format. The graphics were well done and convey the differing emotions by all involved. The battle scenes were also compelling. Vansant does not shy away from depicting blood but does so tastefully – as tastefully as bloodshed can be – in the form of red dot clusters.
One thing in particular I really enjoyed was the interesting related notes throughout the story. For example, after discussing the struggle to capture the Hurtgen Forest, Vansant mentioned that many of those troops were able to take R&R south of the fighting line. It was in those little towns that J.D. Salinger worked on his famous book, The Catcher in the Rye. Besides these tidbits, I also came across certain events I had not heard of before, such as the Wereth 11 Massacre. After reading The Battle of the Bulge, I have taken away new information about this brutal battle. This, in my opinion and taking the entire piece into consideration, is a successful historic graphic novel.
Book Structure & Content
The book is a shorter book (as many graphic novels are), it comes in a little over a hundred pages. The Battle of the Bulge is separated by chapters, which easily transports the reader to all the different parts and key players of the battle. The chapters are the following, Watch on the Rhine, Opening Moves, Breakthrough, Battle Group Peiper, The Race for Bastogne, The Fog of War, The Fight for St. Vith, Siege Bastogne, Points of Resistance, High-Water Mark, and Death Rattle.
Additionally, there are a few appendices at the end of the book that offer the readers more insight. One list the various Allied and Axis divisions discussed throughout the graphic novel. This is especially helpful as there were many different divisions involved in the Battle of the Bulge. I really enjoyed looking over the appendices about the various U.S. and German tanks. Knowing very little about tanks, this addition is a nice inclusion. Besides just illustrating the variety of tanks, Vansant also notes how many crew members a particular tank holds, its weight, and the main gun used by the tank. At the very end, the author also includes selected books for further reading on the overall topic.
The Battle of the Bulge: The Graphic History of Allied Victory in the Ardennes, 1944-1945 is an imaginative and engaging graphic novel that recounts this historic event in an exciting way. I would recommend this book to just about anyone. It is a good way to interest youth or non-history readers into trying something new. Additionally, history and World War II buffs would also find it engrossing and insightful.