ICv2 Stars: 4 (out of 5)
Posted by Brigid Alverson on January 25, 2018 @ 7:37 pm CT
Publisher: Abrams ComicArts
Release Date: April 17, 2018
Creator(s): Peter Tomasi (writer), Sara DuVall (artist)
Format: 208 pgs., Full-Color, Hardcover
Age Rating: All Ages
ICv2 Rating: 4 Stars out of 5
The Bridge is the story of the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, told mostly from the point of view of the chief engineer on the project, Washington Roebling. It’s a factual account that stresses the heroic efforts that were necessary, and the obstacles that had to be overcome, to span the East River for the first time.
Much of the book focuses on the task of excavation. Roebling designed caissons, bottomless underwater chambers, which sat on the riverbed. The caissons were filled with pressurized air, so the workers inside could safely dig away the ground beneath their feet. The caissons were not for the faint of heart, or the claustrophobic. In fact, Roebling ruined his health by spending too much time underwater and was bedridden for the last part of the project. During that time his wife, Emily, served as a courier, bringing plans and notes to the work area and perhaps contributing in other ways as well.
Roebling is presented as down-to-earth and a genuinely good, kind of geeky, guy: He treats his workers well and earns their loyalty, but he also does crazy experiments out of sheer curiosity. The book explains some of the basic engineering concepts involved in creating the bridge, spending a lot of time on the caissons, the underwater chambers where workers excavated the riverbed. DuVall’s smooth, linear style keeps the book from being overwhelming, although a bit more detail would have been welcome in the explanation of the caissons. The creators also show Roebling’s human side, depicting him arguing with his martinet father, building bridges during the Civil War, and courting Emily. The picture that emerges is of a well-rounded man, although perhaps a bit too good to be true.
Although the book is rated "all ages," it’s best suited for middle grades and up, because of the fairly technical subject matter and the way the story is told—in a series of vignettes that skip forward in time. Tomasi and DuVall present the construction of the bridge as both a feat of engineering and a very human story, and the result is a graphic novel that is as entertaining as it is educational.