Review: The Trial of Roger Casement

Review by David Ferguson

Created by Fionnuala Doran

I have found comics about historical events can be somewhat wooden at times as the creator (or creators) become slaves to either the narrative or capturing the likeness of the figures involved. I suppose that is why I found this book to be such a breath of fresh air. It is so beautifully drawn with the art that is used to express the mood and emotion of the story. This is particularly evident in the first few pages of the book that sweep you up in the moment and immediately draw you into the emotion of the story. Roger Casement’s state of mind is captured with cleverly created facial expressions here (and throughout the book). It immediately captures the feeling of a character doomed from the beginning by starting with his discovery by the authorities. Casement’s fate is inescapable as he heads towards the equally doomed 1916 Rising.

I was not hugely familiar with Casement’s story before reading this (it is why I like the time line at the end which is a nice summary of the facts if you aren’t that familiar with the history behind the story) but it feels like you are only getting the history that is necessary to get you to Casement’s final days without any needless slavery to well-known facts. The big story moments are there, with cameos by some big names behind the Rising, but they are there to help you see how Casement ended up on trial for his life. Casement’s final days are mixed with flashbacks which serve to provide insight into his personal life and state of mind. For me, I think this is going to be a jumping on point for looking into the life of Roger Casement who has only been a footnote in the history books I studied at school. There are historical reasons for this and the book goes into that too. I find it refreshing that it questions the narrative that is out there and challenges the reader to question it too. This book is a how-to on creating a historical graphic novel. A must read for fans of Irish history but equally for fans of a beautifully crafted story. I hope a lot of people pick it up. It is a story that should be read.