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From the Sunday Tribune, 4 October 2009
Comics - Blood Upon the Rose: Easter 1916Edit
It's Easter 1916, but not as you've ever seen it before
Blood Upon the Rose: Easter 1916 brings the events of Easter Monday to life in comic form
When it comes to art forms, comics have always been the red-headed stepchild. Make an image move and the masses will flock to see it in the cineplex; hang it in a gallery and art lovers will stroke their chins approvingly; but insert a speech bubble and the shutters come down. It's a shame, as for all the ink spilled over the events of Easter Monday 1916 few other publications have brought the Rising to life as viscerally as Gerry Hunt's Blood Upon the Rose.
Because our mental images of that day tend to be derived from grainy photographs, it's a slight shock to the system to see Hunt's depiction of Dublin being turned into a war zone. The disconnect created in our minds by time can make you forget that the people in those fuzzy black and white images spilled forth very real and very red blood. Hunt has successfully bridged that gap, and you could easily imagine this comic acting as a type of gateway book, firing up a latent love of Irish history in young or old readers.
There are problems however, one of which you don't usually associate with history books – it's too short. The storytelling is often elliptical and the brevity means that the obvious set pieces don't have space to breathe. For example, if and when someone gets around to making a movie version of the Rising you'd imagine that the massacre of North King Street would be a lengthy scene filled with tension and heartache; here it's dealt with in less than two pages.
Of course, extending that scene would necessitate the taking of some artistic licence, which Hunt (admirably) tries to avoid, and thereby runs into the hoary old problem concerning historical tales – they're unfocused and rarely tied up in nice narrative bows. For all that though, this remains an interesting and fresh take on a tale that most people would assume they knew by rote.
Blood Upon the Rose: Easter 1916 By Gerry Hunt, O'Brien Press, 48 pps, €12.99