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Old 04-27-2014, 04:35 PM   #1
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The Mighty Reviews 04/27/14

I'd love to bring back The Mighty Reviews. My writing partners and I had so much fun writing these; however, life continues to intrude and yet these archives still exist.

Sundown tonight marks Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day. Given this, I wanted to represent these trade reviews, including stories from the X-Men's past and Joe Kubert's Sgt. Rock.

Wktf’s Trade Reviews

Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day (see http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/...omhashoah.html for further information), is this past Monday, April 28th. And, so, it seems appropriate to return to some of the brilliant works about The Holocaust in this medium we all love.

Maus: A Survivor’s Tale
Written and Drawn by: Art Spiegelman
Pantheon Books

How many original graphic novels, trades, or any other publication in this medium that you’ve read have won the Pulitzer Prize? Fear not, this is just a rhetorical question. As far as I know, there are only two possible answers to this question. The first is “none.” The second, if you’ve read Maus, is “one.”

My family does not claim any Holocaust survivors but we have had victims. My grandmother on my mother’s side fled Poland, already rife with anti-Semitism and with Hitler’s invasion only scarce months away, with her two daughters (these would become my two aunts as my mother had not yet been born) leaving her husband, who refused to abandon his successful architecture business, behind. He quickly followed her to the United States. Shortly thereafter the Germans invaded Poland on September 1, 1939 and soon all of my grandparents’ relatives would be murdered in Poland’s various concentration and death camps. Maus may well include those murdered family members’ stories as well.

Maus explores realms of horror and human depravity to which other graphic novels who can claim the same, such as DC/Vertigo’s Preacher series, simply cannot compare. Art Spiegelman, underground comics legend, co-founder and editor of Raw magazine and a contributing editor and artist for The New Yorker, gives us not only a story of actual Holocaust events but of real people and their experiences during one of humankind’s most ghastly and grisly periods. This is the story of Vladek Spiegelman, Art’s father, as told directly to Art and recorded for the purposes of this work. The tale within this tale is the author’s unsparing recounting of his own tortured relationship with his aging and ill father amidst a series of tense and unhappy visits. Their painful relationship is a brutal backdrop to Vladek’s story. The brilliant conceit of this work is that Spiegelman transforms the Polish Jews into mice, the Germans become cats, the non-Jewish Poles are pigs, the Swedes are elk (or deer), the French are frogs, and the Americans are dogs (with the relationship of dogs to cats and cats to mice, this anthropomorphic technique makes frightening sense…depicting the anti-Semitic non-Jewish poles as pigs requires almost no explanation). Thus he, at first, takes Vladek’s tale and makes it more accessible to readers. But any comfort the reader may feel quickly disappears as the tale continues, as Spiegelman mixes photos of his murdered brother and his father in prison stripes with his cartoons, and the cast of characters move through experiences, also unsparingly detailed by Spiegelman, that defy a sane man’s imaginings to their inevitable conclusions.

A comic’s primary objective is to entertain its readers. Every so often we are given a work that also enlightens and instructs us. With this work we are given a riveting story that makes us want to turn away but compels us to read on, that’s drawn sparsely but with frightening simplicity, that pulls no punches in drawing us into the lives of these complex characters and educating us about their lives and experiences, and that should be required reading in high school and colleges as well as for comics lovers.

For Maus, Spiegelman was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1992, a Guggenheim fellowship, and nominations for the National Book critics Circle Award. Comics Shop News issue #933 listed it as #9 among their Top 10 Non-Superhero Graphic Novels. Jerry Weist, who gave us the 100 Greatest Comic Books coffee table book, listed Maus as #69/100. He concludes his write-up of Maus thusly: “Much has been written about the visual genius of choosing mice for Jews and cats for Germans, and much more has been written about the intellectual implications of Maus, but of all the 100 greatest comic books within this volume, if you only go out and seek one to read, it should be Maus.”

Sgt. Rock: The Prophecy
DC Comics
Written by: Joe Kubert
Drawn by: Joe Kubert

Sgt. Rock first appeared in G.I Combat #68 in 1959 and, though he’s always lived outside the mainstream DC Universe, he’s also always been one of comics’ greatest characters, probably because he’s always felt like the truest of the comic book war heroes, for more so than Marvel’s more popular Sgt. Fury and The Howling Commandoes. The Howlers gave us some of Marvel’s best Silver Age stories, some of my favorites, but reading Sgt. Rock really forced the reader to feel the pain and anguish of war. Rock and his unit, Easy Company were the creations of writer/editor Robert Kanigher, but it was Joe Kubert who gave Rock his persona, his personality and his pathos. And who made the horrors of war real to the reader. No small wonder that it’s the incredibly talented Kubert who, even today in the wake of his passing, is most closely associated with the iconic war character,

In 2006, Kubert brought Rock back to readers with his mini-series, “Sgt. Rock: The Prophecy.” Parachuting into Nazi occupied Lithuania, Rock and Easy Company find themselves on a mission at the onset of the brutal winter that helped Russia defeat the Nazis. Their mission? Retrieve an individual, a young rabbi named David, whom his sect actually believes is the messiah. Supposedly, David has a prophecy to share with the free world that will help unite the world’s nations and end the war. Prophetic or not, David’s real power is his ability to share the horrors and atrocities of the Holocaust with a world he hopes will be so horrified as to take action against Germany. Trapped between the warring Nazis and the Russians Rock's unit confronts German troops, marauding Russian soldiers and anti-Semitic Estonian villagers. The combat is brutally realistic and, shockingly, not all of Easy Company survive it. But even more shocking is Easy’s discovery of the concentration camps, and the camps’ victims, all or which is depicted in explicit and horrendous detail.

This book is not for the faint-hearted. “The Prophecy” seems to be a particularly personal tale for Kubert, and he appears to be working hard to make a statement here. The hanging corpses and the stacks of emaciated, skeletal bodies immediately reminded me of when I was a kid and watching the BBC series The World at War with my parents. One episode, covering the Holocaust, showed film footage of hundreds of impossibly thin Jewish bodies tumbling over each other as they were being plowed by a Nazi steam shovel into a great mass burial pit. Remembering my disbelief at what I was seeing on the screen, I could relate to Easy’s first exposure to these horrors and their disbelief at what they were seeing. And it’s not an exaggeration to say my eyes were burning a bit as the men of Easy were coming to grips with what their minds simply refused to believe. Rock’s mission is to navigate David through warring terrain and get him to safety. Does he accomplish his mission? In terms of the experience of reading this book, I’d say that the story itself of “Sgt. Rock: The Prophecy” is not nearly as important as the telling of it, and Kubert’s always expressive line work make for an extremely powerful telling. Admittedly, “The Prophecy” is a different kind of trade paperback and, probably, not for everyone. But it is one that should stay with you long after you finish it.

X-Men Magneto: Testament HC
Marvel Comics
Written by: Greg Pak
Drawn by: Carmine Di Giandomenico
Original covers by: Marko Djurdjevic

This HC, collecting the story originally released as a Marvel Knights mini-series, presents the definitive origin of Magneto. Of course, Magneto was born with his powers, so this isn’t the origin of how he developed his abilities as opposed to the creation of his character. What event can so mark a young man and set him on an inexorable path in pursuit of a destiny that would change his life forever? For Simon Wiesenthal, Elie Wiesel and Max Eisenhardt that event was The Holocaust, which turned them into a famed Nazi hunter, a Nobel Peace Prize winning author, and one of Marvel’s most iconic, complex and dangerous villains, respectively. And, if you think I’m confusing fantasy with reality by referring to a fictional comic book villain in the same sentence as two real life crusaders of justice, well, there’s a reason for that.

Greg Pak spent three years painstakingly researching both Magneto’s history and the history of The Holocaust to present a tale that is as accurate as possible to the often conflicting accounts of Magneto’s youth but, most importantly, in his own words, “in an age where Holocaust deniers still spread their lies, we’ve done our best to ensure that the real-world history we explore in the series is entirely accurate and that we deal with this unfathomably harrowing material in a way that’s honest, unflinching, human, and humane.” And so, the nine year old boy who would become Magneto along with his family are brutally integrated into the lives of German Jews as the Nuremburg Laws become enacted, Kristallnact signals the coming wave of hate and death and, finally, the crematoria of Auschwitz-Birkenau make that wave a real and crushing blow to Europe’s Jews.

This tale, named Best Mini-Series of 2008 by IGN, shows the origin of hate. We see how a young school boy is thrust into such unimaginable horror as to totally reshape his psyche, where the person who was that boy died and someone or something else rose in his place. With only the subtlest hints of his powers to come, Pak and Di Giandomenico barely show us anything of the elemental mutant villain but instead choose to focus on the terrible human experience of this poor boy. Text, dialogue and art have rarely come together as well as they do here. Matt Hollingsworth’s colors, with his washes of black and grays and hints of colors set the moods of pain, despair and rage so important to this story. Collecting all five issues of the Marvel Knights mini-series, along with in-depth endnotes, a comprehensive teacher’s guide (yes, this book could serve as a school text book), reference sources and related websites, this beautifully crafted, stunning and shocking hardcover is well worth the original $24.99 cover price and nearly any price it takes today to include this in your library.
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And The Monster of Frankenstein? In Hand!!
Next? Will we ever see Werewolf by Night?!
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Old 04-28-2014, 10:34 PM   #2
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Bump as today is Holocaust Remembrance Day.
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Old 04-17-2015, 02:12 PM   #3
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Bump, for Holocaust Remenbrance Day 2015, yesterday.
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Old 04-25-2017, 07:56 PM   #4
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Bump, for Holocaust Remembrance Day 2017, though a day late.

https://www.google.com/amp/www.foxne...event.amp.html
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