November 06, 2014

Review of 7 Generations: Stone

Stone (7 Generations)Stone introduces Edwin, a young man who must discover his family’s past if he is to have any future. Edwin learns of his ancestor Stone, a young Plains Cree man, who came of age in the early 19th century. Following a vision quest, Stone aspires to be like his older brother, Bear, a member of the Warrior Society. But when Bear is tragically killed during a Blackfoot raid, Stone, the best shot and rider in his encampment, must overcome his grief and avenge his brother’s death. Only then can he begin a new life with his bride, Nahoway. It is Stone’s story that drives Edwin to embark on his own quest. Stone is the first book in the graphic novel series, 7 Generations. Forthcoming books in this series are Book 2: Scars, the story of the orphan White Cloud, set against the smallpox epidemic of 1870-1871. Book 3: Ends/Begins, the story of Edwin’s father, and the residential school saga. Book 4: The Pact, a story of redemption, as father and his son reconcile their past and begin a new journey.

“The graphic novel Stone offers a powerful message through image and word, and will engage readers in an historical and insightful story that illuminates the conflict that challenged Canada's very core, and continues to concern us as a Nation today.” David Booth, Author/Educator, OISE/Univ. of Toronto

“…a masterpiece of traditional knowledge; a powerful gift to share!” Betty Ross, elder, Cross Lake First Nation

“The gifted talents of author David A. Robertson and illustrator Scott Henderson make the reading of Stone comparable to watching a fascinating ‘mini-movie.’… It captures us emotionally and immediately. This is our story. Healing lies in knowing our past, not just of our lives, but also the distant past of our ancestors. The interweaving movements from present to past and past to present are like waves of cleansing waters washing in to the present, and back out to that distant past. It’s mesmerizing.” Beatrice Mosionier, author, April Raintree

“David Robertson is making an important contribution through his writing. He delves into delicate subject matter, making painful stories and accounts accessible.” Tina Keeper
Rob's review

Alas, I didn't like 7 Generations: Stone nearly as much as the commenters above, who are quoted on the back of the book.

It's good that the summary notes that Stone is Plains Cree. Because the story barely mentions it. You have to read carefully or you'll miss the designation. Stone comes across as a generic Plains Indian--the kind we've seen many, many times before.

The story opens with Edwin trying to commit suicide. In the hospital, his mother tells him stories about his past, hoping to inspire him to live.

*spoiler alert*

We begin the tale of Edwin's ancestors with two brothers, Stone and Bear, somewhere in pre-contact America. They're the usual half-naked warriors with buckskins, horses, and tipis seen in the vast majority of Native stories.

Stone goes on a vision quest. He trips on a stone, but it's shaped like an eagle, so his totem animal becomes an eagle. Again, that's the case in the vast majority of Native stories. The hero is linked to an eagle, or sometimes a wolf. It's the standard trope for showing how brave and noble the protagonist is.

Stone marries a beautiful Indian maiden.

Stone competes with his brother Bear to prove he's a man.

Bear is killed in a battle with the Blackfoot.

Stone wants revenge but is told it's not the right time.

Stone learns to hunt buffalo.

Stone undergoes a Thirst Dance, which means fasting, followed by "The Making of the Brave," which means a Sun Dance.

Stone is now a brave who can and does avenge his brother.

And...that's it. There are no hidden depths or nuances here. That's basically the whole story.

The inevitable eagle

Naturally an eagle appears during the climatic ceremony and moment of vengeance. Because Stone is driven by the power of the eagle. We know this because he says so: "Creator give me the power of the eagle."

About the only thing that isn't standard here is the sequence of events. Usually the marriage and the brother's death would happen later in the story. And there wouldn't be a big gap between the brother's death and Stone's revenge.

There are only a couple of details that aren't completely generic in Stone: The maiden's name, Nahoway. The Blackfoot enemy. A hoop game. The Thirst Dance. Other than these, Stone could describe any Plains tribe across thousands of miles and centuries of time. It's that non-specific.

Scott Henderson's black-and-white art is solid and sometimes impressive. David Robertson's writing is less so. For instance, the mother's message to her son Edwin goes like this:I told you this story for a reason, my son.

We all have someone to fight for.

And this gives us hope.

Drives us.

Even when sometimes it's hard to keep going.

But in taking this journey...

...maybe you will know that someone is fighting for you, too.
Sorry, but I'd say that dialogue is more appropriate for a greeting card that a comic book. I doubt it would inspire or even interest a young man contemplating suicide. It's what a sentimental adult thinks a youngster should hear, not what a youngster actually wants to hear.

For fans of Native-oriented comics books, 7 Generations: Stone may be worth checking out. Perhaps the subsequent volumes will be less generic and more involving. But if you're someone who isn't interested in Native subjects, I doubt Stone will interest you. It doesn't show us anything we haven't seen before.

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