5 star rating
Above the Dreamless Dead: World War I in Poetry and Comics
By Chris Duffy (Editor)
ISBN# 9781626720657)
Author website – http://comicbooksareinteresting.blogspot.com/

Brought to you by OBS reviewer Kayt


As the Great War dragged on and its catastrophic death toll mounted, a new artistic movement found its feet in the United Kingdom. The Trench Poets, as they came to be called, were soldier-poets dispatching their verse from the front lines. Known for its rejection of war as a romantic or noble enterprise, and its plainspoken condemnation of the senseless bloodshed of war, Trench Poetry soon became one of the most significant literary moments of its decade.

The marriage of poetry and comics is a deeply fruitful combination, as evidenced by this collection. In stark black and white, the words of the Trench Poets find dramatic expression and reinterpretation through the minds and pens of some of the greatest cartoonists working today.

With New York Times bestselling editor Chris Duffy (Nursery Rhyme ComicsFairy Tale Comics) at the helm, Above the Dreamless Dead is a moving and illuminating tribute to those who fought and died in World War I. Twenty poems are interpreted in comics form by twenty of today’s leading cartoonists, including Eddie Campbell, Kevin Huizenga, George Pratt, and many others.


I, like so many, I believe, know very little about World War I. While information about the wars following it are greatly discussed and written about and is a part of our lives, this war seems to be a bit hidden, dark and not as note worthy for some reason. This book combines poetry from the trenches and cartoons depicting the feelings they express. I did not know about the Trench Poets, about the famous authors and not so known fellows from Great Britain that portrayed in prose and poems the daily life of the soldier in the trench.

I did not know that most of  The Great War was fought in those dreadful trenches. That most of the soldiers of that time spent over half of their military life in those deadly holes. This book gives the reader an inside view of what those young Britains felt, thought and dealt with daily. It weaves their words into cartoons, some funny, most dark and heartfelt. The pictures lead us through the poetry of these men. From The Coward by famous Rudyard Kipling a one sentence prose that says so much –

“I could not look on death, which being known, men lead me to him, blindfolded and alone”. 

We go from The Call to War in the first chapter, then on to In The Trenches in the second and end with Aftermath. The startling death and destruction are dealt with in humor and in stark openness that open our eyes and touch our hearts. In The General by Siegfried Sasson we see the angst of the soldier forced to follow his leaders into wherever, whatever he does and says:

“Cockneys grinning from the sepia shores of Hades do not survive the bitterness that war begets: the century of carnage since  your slaughter made us cynics out of very nearly all. So no. And not the peace delivered at such dreadful cost. Mishandled just as surely as the war, it did no more than offer up a battle that your sons would have to finish”.

And after all the powerful poetry and images, there are small vignettes of these Trench Poets. Some suffered from “shell shock” as it was called then. Some were unemployable, others found some fame. This book is a powerful one. I sometimes have trouble reading poetry, not sure why, but that is just a fact. With the cartoons that illustrate these important words, the poetry is readable, understandable and formidable.

I would recommend this book to any adult. Those that enjoy history or want to know more about it with a first person voice will enjoy it. Anyone that has known a soldier or was a soldier will get so much out of this quick and short book. The way it is put together and handled is so enjoyable while so thought provoking. Chris Duffy edited this book and did a masterful job.

*OBS would like to thank the publisher for supplying a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review*