Goddamn This War! (2013)

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Goddamn This War! is not a traditional graphic novel. Instead, Jacques Tardi uses it as an illustrated novella, recounting a French World War I veteran’s experiences chronologically. Sometimes there are little stories–most of the pages have three wide panels top to bottom (with occasional exceptions)–and sometimes there’s carryover between them, but more often not. Sometimes the carryover is how Tardi juxtaposes panels on facing pages. This book is really well thought out.

Most of War is relentless. From the first page, since the narrator is speaking from after the war, there’s no humor. Tardi doesn’t even allow for sarcastic wit, though there are occasional jabs at the generals and the church. Tardi makes sure to recount how the church encouraged the war, which horrifies in special ways.

The protagonist does have a German counterpart, or at least imagines one. A soldier he keeps running across in peaceful situations. They don’t have a confrontation until the end, just before the protagonist returns home. It’s actually not as much a running subplot as some other things (Tardi always reminds about the soldier).

But he doesn’t stop with the end of the war. First are two pages of images of “survivors” of the war and all the damage done to them. Those pages are the book’s roughest.

Then, in epilogue, he uses second person to go through all sorts of people involved in World War I–soldiers from all sides, doctors and so on.

It’s devastating and always hard to read.

CREDITS

Writer, artist, colorist and letterer, Jacques Tardi; publisher, Casterman.

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Battling Boy (2013)

Battling boy cover

Battling Boy appears to be Paul Pope’s answer to all the young adult Joseph Campbell stuff coming out in the last ten years. Only, of course, since it’s Paul Pope, it’s so much better.

The big thing Pope plays with in Boy, right from the start, is the fear of the unknown. He’s not dealing with these frightening monsters in prose, where he can hint at their hideousness; he’s drawing them, he’s visualizing them for the reader, but still has to make them terrifying in the imagination. The book opens with the Ghoul Gang, who are half dressed as mummies, have with these face covering rag cloaks. They kidnap kids.

Why?

Pope doesn’t go into it. Better left unsaid, especially in a book targeted for the youth market. It also allows Pope to play the monsters for laughs sometimes. There’s a monster bar where they all hang out and it’s a glorious mix of disgusting and hilarious.

The titular Battling Boy is a kid from another universe, sent to Earth to save the world from monsters… kind of like high school. When these kids hit puberty, off they go to some world or another.

There’s a lot of action, a little bit of character development (mostly on a female supporting cast member) and just wonderful artwork. Pope’s so strong, his full page panels showing simple events are still awesome. Boy is another fantastic Pope pairing of storytelling and artwork. They drive one another beautifully.

I’m already impatient for the sequel.

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Paul Pope; colorist, Hilary Sycamore; publisher, First Second.

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