Legendary French artist Jacques Tardi’s obsession with World War I is drenched in the blood and horror that is visited upon the common soldier. In Putain de Guerre! (‘Fucking War!’), he describes one lone soldier’s tour of duty from the beginning of the war to its end, in one long horrific monologue.
The cycle that started with C’était la Guerre des Tranchées (It Was the War of the Trenches 1914-1918) finally reaches its conclusion with Putain de Guerre (published in English by Fantagraphics as Goddamn This War 1914-1919).
Originally published as serial chapters (one for each year of the war) in a newspaper-size tabloid format, the work sees Tardi once more stir up his demons about WWI. This obsession goes back to his grandfather, who fought in the war, and the horrific stories his grandmother used to recount to a young Tardi about his experience, since the man himself was too shell-shocked to relive those experiences orally. Historian Jean-Pierre Verney once more collaborates with Tardi to ensure historical accuracy, and the OGN that ensued is one of a horrific beauty.
Drawn in his trademark style but with a looser line, this is Tardi at his roughest and most beautiful. The figurework is deceptively cartoony, with figures parading around in quite loose but still realistic renderings of backgrounds, military vehicles and armory and uniforms.
This approach gives a solid footing to the horrific proceedings the graphic novel chronicles. The bright coloring uses a sort of washed-out look and utilises more and more graytones the longer the war goes on, with occasional bright splashes of red when the horror of warfare strikes.
I prefer Tardi’s art in black and white though, and was not as taken with the coloring to be honest; it comes off as artificial, especially on the bright paper on which the book is printed.
Putain de Guerre! looks to be Tardi’s final word on WWI. Told from the point of view of a lone soldier parading through an endless array of horrific theatres of war, the artist’s straightforward narrative monologue and intuitive linework capture the essence of the senselessness and horror that was bestowed upon the common soldier. And for once you are in luck: Fantagraphics have published this OGN in English, so run to the shop now to read this masterpiece of historical fiction.
Putain de guerre! 1914-1919 (Goddamn This War! 1914-1919) by Jacques Tardi is published in French by Casterman. It is a full-colour hardcover counting 134 pages and retails for €16. The English edition by Fantagraphics retails for $24.99. This review was based on the Dutch edition, published by Ballon Media.
Preview: ‘Jheronimus Bosch’ by Marcel Ruyters
In other exciting news, famous Dutch underground artist Marcel Ruyters has completed his biography of Dutch artist Jheronimus Bosch (1450-1516), whose nightmarish depictions of demons, intricate hellish worlds and religious concepts still serve as an inspiration to contemporary artists worldwide. This graphic novel will be published in English by Knockabout Comics and has already been featured as a book to watch by Paul Gravett!
Marcel Ruyters has been published in a number of languages and has exhibited his art in galleries all over the world. He has outspoken opinions and his own eclectic views on art, so a biography of Bosch by Ruyters is truly something to look forward to!
Ruyters has sent me preview pages to share with readers of Crossing Borders, so enjoy this special preview of Jheronimus Bosch by Marcel Ruyters. You can also follow the artist on Facebook and on his blog.
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