I love Peter Tomasi. I'm just going to put that out there to start. I love his DC superhero comics, I absolutely adore his supernatural WWII book the Light Brigade, and I'm pretty much always down for any project he does. I picked this up a while ago though and it sat in my mountain of 'to-be-read' books, like everything else over the past few years. So here we go finally, better late than never I guess?
Tomasi has a definite passion for the material as he constructs a generational story that follows the Roebling family and how their lives were interconnected with the bridge. I see some online reviews complaining that readers were disappointed and that they thought it would be more 'bridge heavy', perhaps focusing on a more technical (and dryer) approach to detailing the construction. I appreciate thoroughly Tomasi's approach though as it not only creates an engaging focal point that buffers the technical material but infuses the story with an emotional element and sense of charm. What we get in turn is a story that explores themes of family, pride, and perseverance in the face of adversity.
The main character arc follows Washington Roebling as the first quarter of the book starts out with him working and learning under his father, his time at school, his experiences and service during the Civil War, and more.
One of Tomasi's strengths has always been in his pacing skills. He's used to the twenty-two(ish) page limits of superhero comics and needing to establish strong characters and emotional connections quickly. Washington's relationship with his father and the development of his work ethics are succinctly brought to the forefront within the first quarter of the book, all while also establishing other important people in Washington's life that would echo throughout the book. Once those elements are established then the story of the bridge itself dominates the story.
Everything dealing with the contracting of the bridge job, its early stages of development, and the grueling work and accidents involved with its construction are well explored but also tightly condensed. We're talking fourteen years of history being packed into a 201 page story, while making room for the drama of the Roebling family and their own various struggles. So if you're more interested in the nitty gritty of the construction details you'll probably want to check out the selected media list in the back of the book.
This was Teo DuVall's (the book credited them as Sara upon publication but Abrams has properly changed the credits on their website) debut graphic novel and it's an impressive undertaking. Their clean and simple lines capture a lot of emotive storytelling that compliments Tomasi's scripts perfectly. I highly recommend checking out more of their works as they've been putting out some great art since this debut. Plus, it doesn't hurt to support a queer, non-binary Latinx artist that's also Seattle based, and I'd love to see them pick up more projects.
If you're into checking out more Non-fiction and would like a great introduction to this particular history then I highly recommend this book. And if you're a fan of Tomasi's writing then definitely make it a point to check this out as it's an interesting departure from his usual work.