Sunday Review: Will Eisner’s New York: Life in The Big City

Much like the book I reviewed last week, The Contract With God Trilogy, Will Eisner gives us his version of gotham city in all its gritty glory. This time around, New York Life In The Big City is somewhat more upbeat and comedic, but can be at times violent, raw and uncensored. It’s split into four chapter (or their own graphic novels) and the sum of the parts is greater then the whole, but Eisner has a way of doing that. Looking back at his Spirit work, it’s not just a story here or a story there, but the entire run that makes Denny Colt & Co. so special. Let’s look at the book now:

New York: The Big City (1986)
Simply put these are short story vignettes. A slice of life, if you will, under a certain topic. For example what people see, or choose not to see while sitting on their brownstone steps or what a sidewalk trash can means to people regardless of caste. Day or night, sumer or winter, and even life and death – this is what city living is all about. Eisner takes the snapshot of mundane everyday living and adds meaning and reality. You’ll never look at city streets the same way ever again.

The Building (1987)
Speaking of death, Eisner introduces us to four ghosts all who haunt one particular building in one way or another. All of whom, in their previous lives, had an attachment to a tall, beaten, brick and mortar dwelling before fate got the best of them. Here we learn their stories. Sad and painful as it is toowatch, the three men and one woman are all redeemed in the end for the work they do to save another. Of the four chapters in the book this one had the biggest impact on me. I felt really sorry for these people but was glad to see that, in some way, things worked out in the end.

City People Notebook (1989)
Eisner must have loved his work on chapter one’s New York, that he decided to do a squeal. Very similar and style, but sohrter in some respects and a bit more comedy ensues. I especially liked to see what happens underneath a clock at different hours of the day – funny and frightening depending on day or night, just like a big city should be.

Invisible People (1993)
The title says it all. The lonely forgotten ones in a giant big city. Struggling to get by, to be noticed and most of all in need of help. The last chapter is a hard one to get through and not very uplifting at all, but life lessons abound. Above all be good and live a good life. Be charitable and be well to others, for we are not alone. The theme of all of Eisner’s work is that we are all interconnected. We make up the community – big or small. This story is a painful reminder.

I hope other deluxe editions of Will Eisner’s work will be published but if not, I can always get them individually. His work and so much more can be found at Please take time and rediscover his master of comics, art and graphic novels.

As far as extras go, there is a fair amount. Neil Gaiman gives us the wonderful introduction and Denis Kitchen has an Editor’s Note of this deluxe edition. As with The Contract With God Trilogy, there are seven new illustrations for this book and three unused outtakes. Will Eisner, himself, gives us intros to the first three chapters and each of the three parts to Invisible People.

New York: Life In The Big City
By Will Eisner
$29.95, 448, W.W. Norton, 2006
Collects New York, The Building, City People Notebook, and Invisible People

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