Review: The Many Not The Few (Myriad Editions/New Internationalist)

Part of Myriad Editions’ collection of graphic novels looking at the history of working class protest in the UK, The Many Not The Few looks at key events from the peasants revolt, through the Chartists and suffragettes up to the miners strikes of the 80s and even on to brexit.

Publisher: Myriad Editions/ New Internationalist
Writer: Sean Michael Wilson
Artist: Robert Brown
Price: £9.99 from Amazon

Told in anecdotal fashion between a grandfather and his 20-something granddaughter The Many Not The Few is a fantastic approach for a popular history book that makes it feel more like the Princess Bride than a left wing polemic. It certainly makes the story much more readable than Myriad’s other recent release, Peterloo which relied on historical quotes to tell the story and ended up feeling quite dry and lacking in contrast as a result.

Instead The Many Not The Few is a bright and breezy look at these key events, that have shaped the modern labour movement. The tone feels like you are sat in the room listening to two people chat away and although the bonhomie feels a tad forced in places, it makes for a much more memorable and accessible way to read about stories which could easily have just sounded like the ramblings of an old leftie in a pub!

The artwork from Robert Brown also gives the book a lightness of touch. He is able to balances the gravity of key historical moments with the simple moments of two characters speaking by altereing this styles subtly to create a really interesting mix. The historical scenes feel like they could be from a painting or an etching, and contrast well with the more cartoonish contemporary characters.

While there is an obvious left wing bias to the story, this only really becomes a problem in the final third when discussion of Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn s Labour shows the writers hand a bit too obviously. However, by the time you get to that point in the story it has earned the readers good will and unless you are a fervent anti-Corbynite then you will merely roll your eyes at this. (And in actual fact it helps give an alternative perspective on the current situation.)

While the political leanings of The Many Not The Few may put some readers off, then they are the ones missing out. Whatever your political viewpoint, this is a fantastic slice of contemporary history, told in a really enjoyable and approachable manner. As well as a fantastic lesson in British working class history, this is also a great lesson in how to produce an enjoyable, politically informative graphic novel that appeals to all.