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Dropsie Avenue: The Neighborhood
Written and drawn by Will Eisner
Published by DC Comics; $14.95 USD

Dropsie Avenue can best be described as the life and death of a New York neighborhood. Its story spans over 120 years of social, political, religious, financial, and structural change on one street, and how that change affects everyone on that street.

The characters in the book work much like the structure of a building. Each one has his, or her, own place; the strong ones supporting and influencing everything that comes after them, the weak ones stumbling, causing the structure to fall, only to be rebuilt, and not always for the better.

Will Eisner has an amazing way of weaving the stories in and out of each other without ever making it seem forced or hackneyed, or even predictable for that matter. There are times when certain characters feel as if they've been introduced to illustrate a point, or to imply the social on-goings of the age, and then they disappear, only to reappear years later, reintegrated into the fabric of the tale without missing a beat.

The story itself comes from a combination of things. Eisnerís childhood, growing up in Brooklyn, NY tenements, the son of Jewish immigrants, is probably the largest contributing factor. But, as detailed in his all-too-brief opening, his concern about the decline of the south Bronx neighborhood in New York, as well as a Times piece on its re-birth led to the general idea behind the graphic novel.

While the argument could be made that 170 pages is far too short a book to cover over 120 years of history, the tale never feels rushed. Eisner takes just the right amount of time to introduce each character and plotline, and nothing in the book overstays its welcome. If anything, itís all too brief and leaves you wanting more.

Aside from its short length, the only other possible negative about the book is its lack of a specific timeframe. Rather than come right out and tell you what part of the story takes place in what year, Eisner lets the changes in dress and social climate do it for him. It works for the most part, but later in the book it gets harder to tell exactly when the story is happening and how much time has passed. However, it also works to the books advantage, giving it a timeless appeal. While certain parts obviously should feel dated, some of the ďpastĒ events feel as relevant today as they were in their era.

The bookís end also has a unique feel to it. On one hand it feels very modern, and could reasonably be happening at this very moment, but after spending so much time on the downtrodden street of Dropsie Avenue it almost seems like the future. As if we've peeked into some sort of crystal ball and learned that everything just might turn out okay after all.

At first glance the book may seem like a pretty straightforward tale of city life, but if you're inclined to dig deeper you'll find that itís that and more. The rise, fall, and re-birth of Dropsie Avenue are a metaphor for life and everything in it. It has its good days and its bad ones; there are times when our prejudices threaten to get the better of us, and times when we feel as if we're an empty shell, pointless in the scheme of things. Even the happy endings have their downside, but sometimes itís the hope of better things to come that keeps us going. And no one knew that better than Will Eisner. Grade: 5/5

-- Logan Polk



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