New Irish publisher Moccu Press has entered the market with a series of Irish historical graphic novel adaptations. Their first publication is Dermot Poyntz and Lee Grace’s treatment of Oliver Cromwell’s siege of Clonmel in 1650.
Adaptations such as these are often problematic. How much historical detail is sacrificed for streamlined storytelling? Can the book present a dramatic and emotionally satisfying plot without reducing the historical figures or the events to caricatures or mere summaries? Moccu Press’s solution is to come down firmly on the educational side of things: stick to the facts but give over a little space to speculative drama to engage the younger reader. As a result, the book reads like a high-altitude overview of the events, and one that is brought vividly to life by Lee Grace’s cartoony, lively and energetic illustrations.
Curse of Cromwell: The Siege does not play to the inherent strengths of comic book storytelling to be an altogether successful graphic novel in its own right. No doubt necessitated by the page count, there are some pacing issues that do jar – sometimes whole weeks or months will pass between panels, regardless of where they appear on the page – and, aside from a few particularly good sequences, it reads more like a heavily illustrated history book than a graphic novel.
Overall though, as a primer and a way of engaging young and reluctant readers with Cromwell’s part in Irish history, this is excellent material and a commendable venture.