The Contract with God Trilogy: Life on Dropsie Avenue by Will Eisner
Cover concept by Lorenzo Princi, 13th October 2013

The Contract with God Trilogy: Life on Dropsie Avenue

Author: Will Eisner
Artist: Will Eisner

Reviewed by Lorenzo Princi

A sweeping panoramic epic which spans many generations of immigrants living on Dropsie Ave. Travelling through time from early settlement in the late 1800s to the 1970s in a non linear fashion. The three parts focus mainly on Jewish characters and how their fortunes are intertwined with each other as they seek belonging, security and survival. The harsh reality of depression era New York, specifically life in a Bronx Tenement gives the whole saga a sad undertone. Violence, disillusionment and ethnic diversity lead to frustration - demonstrating a life where true happiness is just out of reach and love is a luxury that will have to wait for better times.

The disconnect between old and new is constant, with conflict between lifestyle expectations, religious traditions and cultural values. The old, revising memories of better times before the new arrivals as they reflect on their own sacrifices and regrets. While the young pursue their impulsive dreams.

Eisner creates a poetic flow to his narration with the stylistic choice of blending the narrative text into the art, avoiding the static box approach. This concept gives the reading experience a unique feeling, like there is a spirit flowing through the streets, taking us from one story to the next. It is important to note, that his black and white, almost simplistic approach is effective in presenting a realism to the action with border-less panels and dynamic movement. The invisible elements come to live as much as the seen. You can feel the wind and rain, hear the ambiance and smell the streets and emotions are conveyed through brilliant expression and body language.

Considered the first "graphic novel" and a classic of the comic medium, A Contract with God and the subsequent two books, A Life Force (my personal favourite) and Dropsie Avenue flow so seamlessly into one another, it would feel incomplete to read them individually at this point. Tragic, insightful, philosophical and heartbreaking, The Contract with God Trilogy still demonstrates hopefulness through faith, love and strength despite it's harsh realism and serious themes.