W.A. Stanley's Reviews > The Sunderland Volume 1: Schism

The Sunderland Volume 1 by Jon Renzella
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really liked it

I received an advance reader copy of The Sunderland Volume 1: Schism for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

Jon Renzella's art within Schism, purely black and white with no grey, and crafted entirely from woodcuts is a sifht to be hold. Unlike most graphic novels, very few panels make up the pages; they often run together to paint a bigger picture, often double-page spreads. The effect is off-kilter, yet otherworldly.

Yet, while this is a graphic novel, Renzeller and his co-writer, Eric Weiss, pack a fair amount of words into the book, creating something denser that you usually find within the medium. However, given the sparsity of the its 450 pages, if these were condensed into a more standard graphic novel, this would equate to closer to 200 pages.

Schism tells the story of a society's collapse, thanks to corporate greed destroying the environment, military overreach, religious cults, and a media pushing its own propaganda. If that sounds familiar, it should; this is a sharp allegory for our society.

That isn't to say that Schism takes itself too seriously. A large part of the book's success is its satire and sense of humour throughout. Some of this is on the nose, but it largely comes together nicely.

The narrative, however, is less successful. Told through a series of vignettes, it bounces around all the aforementioned groups. These vignettes present the groups' ideologies, and while they work well in isolation, Schism throws them at the reader, leaving them to parse the plot from all this. This results in a book that is certainly engrossing, but lacks cohesion. This is helped, somewhat, by the chapters (and interludes) breaking the book up.

As the first volume in the Sunderland Trilogy, this is not a book that stands alone. If you want the entire story, you will need to read all three. I haven't found an exact release date for The Sunderland Volume 2: Solitude, however, as it has recently been released for review and this was initially released back in 2015, you could be waiting a while for its conclusion.

In lieu of a narratively driven story, Schism is an experience. While the vignettes lack a narrative cohesion binding them together, it's satire will keep you thinking. If you're a fan of graphic novels and appreciate different art styles, you will be amazed by this. This is an affecting book; I just wish it had a slightly stronger throughline.

My full review will be available on my website from 4 April 2022. For my full thoughts about it (as well as its sequel, and a slew of other books), click here.
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Reading Progress

March 27, 2022 – Shelved
March 28, 2022 – Started Reading
March 28, 2022 – Finished Reading

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