Teaching a variety of Social Sciences and coaching Debate gets me to explore a wide variety of concepts which may be outside of my academic comfort zones, but sometimes I find some of the most interesting things to study, especially when I can pique the curiosity of my students. One concept which constantly fascinates me is the debate over proliferation of different types of weapons. There are two different types of proliferation, horizontal and vertical.
Horizontal proliferation is what we think of, when we hear of new nations trying to acquire things like nuclear weapons. (If the number of people with a technology goes up, it's horizontal). Vertical proliferation is when an entity attempts to increase the amount of technology it has (when a country raises the size of its weapons stockpiles...its vertical).
This is now the point in this post where you are wondering how in the hell I'm going to make it relevant to a comic or graphic novel......Today's book in a roundabout way teaches us about proliferation, vengeance and justice.
Lords of Invention
Written and Digitally Painted by Trenor Rapkins
Rapkins offers the following synopsis of his work:
The Lords of Invention is a digitally-painted graphic novel that tells the story of two inventors that takes place just after turn-of-the-previous-century New York. It is a tale of success and failure, achievement and envy, love and death.
The protagonist of this tale is a man named Augustus Scott. He is the inventor of such contraptions as the automentium machine, the electromagtronicon, and the steam-powered automaton.The antagonist is an aspiring inventor named Levi Pickett. Pickett lives in a basement and works a manual-labor job to pay for his menial existence. Unable to sell his ideas and find any other way out of his predicament, he devises a plan to steal Augustus Scott's next great invention. What happens next is not only a battle of strength but a battle of minds.
Who Should Buy This Book?
Before I answer this question, I will note that this is the first book Rapkins has created, and if this is his first offering, I cannot wait to see what he offers in the future! But back to the task at hand.
If you like stories set in the phases of the industrial revolution, this book is for you! If you like stories about technological innovation, again you'll be a fan. However if you like tales of unknown rivalries and revenge, again, you should definitely pick this book up!
What drew me into this book was the antagonist. Pickett is intriguing to me, because he is an inventor who does not have the flash or fame of Scott. As a struggling manual laborer by day, and inventor by night, Rapkins does a great job making us understand the bitterness Pickett has towards his nemesis. It is reminiscent of Salieri vs Mozart or Tesla vs Edison...but instead of passive battles for prominence, Pickett comes out of the shadows and strikes Scott where it hurts the most when he's overseas.
When a devastated Scott returns to New York and visits his smoldering home and begins grieving over the loss of his wife and daughter, you now see his plotting and scheming to take Pickett down. When justice seems to fail (damn patents) only vengeance can help clear the conscience and the soul. But back to proliferation...
What really drew me in throughout the book are the varying levels of inventions both men were creating to actively take the other one out, we are seeing vertical proliferation at its height. Each man is finding ways to create a device more secretive or more destructive device to destroy their enemy. Will one be victorious? Will the threat of mutual destruction serve as a deterrent to their course of action? Or will they both be willing to do whatever it takes to preserve and/or protect everything they love.
The only thing which was odd to me in the book is the art. It's not a slight to Rapkins at all, but its just not an artistic style I see all that often (but after doing some research its similar to what you see in a lot of webtoons/comics). After I made it about 10 pages in, I became acclimated to its style, and I could begin to appreciate both the art and the story. Once we got into the final 30 pages as we see plans work their way out, the action sequences had a new form of intensity that I had not experienced before (and I think a new-to-me art style heightened the payoff).
I definitely think this book is worth checking out if you want an excellent self contained story that we can all find ways to relate to!