Advance Review: this book will be released July 21, 2015
Steve Jobs’ story has been told over and over. He’s undoubtedly the most discussed Silicon Valley icon. Period. So it’s no surprise that his story has been told through many mediums. Some of them have worked well, but others, like this book, have not. To put it bluntly, insanely great is not really great at all.
When I receive books to review the first thing I do is fan the pages across my thumb, peering into the artwork. Plenty of times the artwork is nondescript; polished artwork has become commonplace in mainstream comics, and I’ve learned to welcome departures from that norm. Other times the artwork pops off the page as something truly unique; artists like Francis Manapul, J.H. Williams III, and Declan Shalvey come to mind. And then there’s this book, where after fanning through the pages I was immediately appalled. Hartland’s artistic style is one of scratchy and crude pencil work, lanky boneless human figures, busy scenery, and no discernible reason for any of it in the context of this story.
Upon a full read, there is a certain amount of whimsical charm that comes from the artwork, and the target audience is certainly children and pre-teens, but when the subject of the book is such a prominent advocate of bauhaus design it does beg the question of whether or not this is the right style for the book. Which further begs the question, ‘Why do we need a Steve Jobs biography for children?’ All signs from this book, including the inscription, point to the purpose being indoctrination into and preservation of the cult of Mac (which feels nearly blasphemous for me to write, as I am considered the Apple fanboy by many of my friends).
As for analyzing the life of Steve Jobs for any real substance, this definitely isn’t the book’s intent. The two parts of his life that are generally seen as the most risqué (his heavy use of hallucinogens and abandoning his daughter Lisa when she was born) were both glossed over to preserve the playful tone of the book. Given the audience this is certainly understandable, but it takes a lot of the depth away from the more ironic and hypocritical parts of Steve Jobs life, choosing instead to preserve the ideals of perfection of craftsmanship.
The story is broken up with two page spreads showing the various technology of each decade. These interjections have a bit of a “back in my day” feel, rather than actually diving into what it meant in terms of accessibility of information and ease of communication. Regardless, since the target audience is younger it was probably a wise choice to include these glances into the past, just to give a bit of context if nothing else.
Honestly, as much as I personally enjoy the story of Steve Jobs life there’s nothing new or interesting that this story has to add. There’s nothing in here that the Walter Isaacson biography didn’t cover far better several years ago. The lens of a graphic novel might have provided some interesting drama in the right hands, but really there’s no need for a Steve Jobs graphic biography to exist, especially one that disgraces the clean aesthetics that Jobs was so enamored with in his lifetime.