There isn’t a single narrative. Rather, the book is divided into mostly self-contained chapters, each on a different subject. There are chapters dedicated to Elvis’ musical influences, his stylistic influences, important events from his life, his various trademarks, and more.
In each of those chapters, we’re given the facts of that particular subject: this is what Elvis did; this is what he’s quoted as saying; this was how the people around him reacted; this was the result. It’s a bit like reading a school report. We get all the facts, but no real flavor. There are a few interesting anecdotes, but we don’t really get the story. It comes off a bit dry at times.
The drawings, likewise, don’t have much detail to them. An account early on of Elvis singing in a quartet with Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins is followed on the next page by a drawing of four heads, helpfully labelled with each of the four quartet members’ names. We get similar drawings of Col. Parker, Ed Sullivan, Frank Sinatra, the Beatles, and other important figures in Elvis’ life, as they’re discussed in the book. It’s difficult at times to tell what these drawings actually add to the book. I suppose they help add a bit of context to the chapters, and maybe even provide some of the flavor that the text itself is missing.
There is one chapter that’s actually presented in comic form: the account of Elvis’ famous meeting at the White House with Richard Nixon. This two-page comic provides a step-by-step recounting of how this meeting came to pass. It’s full of details about what Elvis was thinking and doing at the time, but, honestly, it raises more questions than it answers. It inserts random details into the narrative, like, “On the plane to D.C., Elvis gives $500 to a soldier who’s on his way home for Christmas,” and “On the way to the White House, Elvis eats chocolates,” with no further explanation or context.
There are a number of places throughout the book where we’re given random details without context. Most notable is a chapter called, “49 Women (And One Man) Who Dated Elvis.” This chapter is literally just a list of 50 names, with no elaboration beyond the word, “Rumor,” next to some of them in parentheses. One of them is a man’s name. If you want to know who the man is or what his relationship to Elvis was, you’ll have to look it up yourself, as his name on the list is the only mention he gets in the book.
That said, there’s still plenty of really interesting info on Elvis in this book. It manages to provide a pretty decent account of his journey to the top and his ultimate fall from grace. We get to hear about the people and events that made Elvis what he was, for better and for worse. We also get full lists of his albums, his singles, and his films, quotes from him and about him, and even a recipe for his famous fried peanut butter and banana sandwich. I learned quite a bit about Elvis from this book. In the end, my main criticism is that I wanted to learn even more.
I’m not sure who the target audience is for this book. The structure and format make it seem like it’s aimed at kids; however, it includes some rather frank accounts of things that aren’t exactly child friendly, including the use of drugs and firearms, womanizing, and even a crude reference to Elvis’ penis. So, maybe keep it away from your children unless they’re able to handle the subject matter maturely.
For everyone else, what this book provides is a good jumping-off point. It gives the reader an introduction to who Elvis was and what he was all about. If you want a broad picture of the King’s life, career, and music, you can start here. But be prepared to move on to a more substantial biography if you really want to know the details.
Creative Team: Steven Brower (text), Seymour Chwast (art and design)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
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