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it was amazing
Jacques Tardi vs. Otto Dix, & The Horrors of The War that Should Have Ended All Wars
This is Tardi working at the absolute peak of his creative powers. The passion & righteous hatred he derives from the subject matter:
01. The sheer waste, futility, and soul-crushing injustices of war, never more devastatingly demonstrated than during the protracted 4-year nightmare of trench warfare.
02. The arrogance and ignorance of the senior officers responsible for ordering hundreds of thousands of
it was amazing
According to Art Spiegelman, Jacques Tardi’s It Was the War of the Trenches “is one hell of a book,” and that description hits the nail right on the head. With a merciless eye for detail, it explores the depths of human depravity… and made me sick to my stomach. The tone throughout is one of existential despair: bleak, demoralized, absurd, macabre, dehumanized. The images of World War I feel both authentic and nightmarish, both historically accurate and timeless: “It’s not so much a matter of
Essential reading, the All Quiet on the Western Front of comics.
This war comic—absolutely a war comic, which is to say a profoundly antiwar comic—is an awful masterwork of aggrieved and wounded humanity. Hovering between blunted affect, righteous fury, and pitch-black, absurdist humor, it is one of a very few comics to, and I mean this literally, give me the shakes. Tardi’s barrage of fictional (though obsessively researched) soldiers’ vignettes about the first World War goes off like a bomb in slow motion, the precise, pitiless unraveling of each anecdote l
The book’s total effect strikes me as paradoxical. On the one hand it deemphasizes specific human “drama” through the very interchangeableness of the hapless soldiers: the whole book reads as a just that, a whole, each new vignette simply continuing the mood of the previous. The book gives off the air of helplessness before vast forces that I associate with literary naturalism at its bleakest. On the other hand, each tale is keenly, piercingly, specific; each is personalized and particularized with exquisite care, down to the varied likenesses of each and every doomed man. The result is stunningly powerful.
Tardi combines a searching moral imagination with ice-cold unsentimentality and an animating rage that he has sublimated into art. That the book succeeds in being a narrative about war rather than merely an obvious diatribe against it does not in any way lessen its angry, heartsore quality, its fury at the nightmarish self-destructive pointlessness of mass human slaughter. What makes all this work is the slight emotional remove of Tardi’s narration (which alternates between third and first person but never gives in to mere sympathizing).
Above all, the book rests on Tardi’s cool, measured formalism and the extraordinary vividness of his compositions: there are some staggering drawings and pages here. These make It Was the War of the Trenches a relentless black masterpiece.
Unquestionably an essential volume for any serious comics library, and one that is now embedded in my mind.