Review: Robert Moses

Nobrow prove once again that educational books can be entertaining with their latest graphic biography Robert Moses: The Master Builder of New York City.

The graphic novel tells Moses’ story as his dream of reinventing the New York skyline becomes a reality. A story of literally epic proportions, it sheds light on what moulded Robert Moses into the determined and incredibly successful individual he became.

From the subway to the skyscraper, from Manhattan’s Financial District to the Long Island suburbs, every inch of New York tells the story of one man’s mind: Robert Moses.

The format chosen to tell this brilliant story is particularly important. Not only does the the beautiful imagery which is contained within the book add instant intrigue, but the addition of a clear narrative drives the book forward and makes you desperate to see what happens next.

And the books evolution around Moses reinforces the point that it is the story of just one man, emphasising just how incredible an achievement it is to have become such a prominent figure in the creation as infamous a city as New York.

Pierre Christin and Olivier Balez, the creatives behind this graphic novel, are both very well established in the fields of comic book writing and illustration. Pierre Christin was born in Saint-Mandé in 1938 and has had several other comic book successes including The City That Didn’t Exist, The Black Order Brigade and The Hunting Party. He has collaborated with comic book illustrators including Enki Bilal, Jacques Tardi, Annie Goetzinger and Daniel Ceppi. Comic artist and children’s book illustrator, Olivier Balez is also no stranger to collaboration having worked with Florence DeCamp, Eric Corbeyran and Pascale Fonteneau. Together Christin and Balez have turned an incredible life story into an enthralling tale with a unique aesthetic.

This aesthetic is another huge draw to this novel. The colour scheme, a mix of pastel shades, golden browns and burgundies, along with a strong use of inky lines gives a certain vintage charm, perfect for its period setting. Red, blue, gold and white are all prominent throughout, especially on the cover, a gesture towards its american background. Also prominent on the cover is the use of harsh, contrasting shadows which give an almost cinematic feel, fitting for the dramatic story of the evolution of one of the most famous cities in the world.

Pierre Christin and Olivier Balez, with the help of their boundary-pushing publishers Nobrow Press, have turned educating into an art form and created a beautifully crafted object which would be welcome on the bookshelf of any fan of comic art, history or architecture. 


Posted on Feb 15th, 15 by

Greg McIndoe - also known as Headless Greg - is an illustrator and design writer based in Glasgow, Scotland. He regularly writes for design magazines and online platforms, interviewing fellow illustrators and leading creatives.

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