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Good Read Column for September 1, 2000

No Pasaran!

By Vittorio Giardino
64 pages, NBM, $13.95

4 ½ smileys(of a possible five)


I'm a bit angry with Vittorio Giardino for working on this instead of the conclusion of "A Jew in Communist Prague," which we've been waiting for almost two years now. But I can't be too mad at him when he continues to give us such marvelous gifts as this book.

"No Pasaran!" takes its name from the battle cry of the Republicans and the International Brigades supporting them during the Spanish Civil War: "They won't get through!" But of course, the book is tinged from the beginning with an ironic melancholy, because as the Prologue spells out to anyone uneducated enough not to know, they did get through. The fascists took over. The bad guys won.

Yes, I know that that is too simplistic, and Giardino does, too. He has no love for the communist apparatchiks who controlled the military forces of the "good guys." Indeed, he hints that the Stalinist bureaucrats may have brought about the downfall of the left by valuing party loyalty above good sense and other truly worthwhile virtues.

Historical fiction seems such an obvious genre for comics one is surprised to realize how few creators work in it. Like fantasy and science fiction, an important part of historical fiction is the depiction of a world that is, at least to some extent, alien to the reader, a world that illustrations can help convey, giving visual storytelling an obvious advantage over ordinary prose.

Giardino's exquisite pictures are quite realistic -- so much so that he dares mix his own black-and-white illustrations in with photographs of the period in his prologue. It's not that one might confuse the two. The drawings are clearly drawings, the photos clearly photos. But while made up of simple, clean lines, the drawings are not at all cartoony, and the level of detail he manages to convey with a few simple lines is impressive.

Giardino is one of the masters of visual storytelling, and the release of a new work by him is always cause for celebration.

But I'm still waiting for Volume 4 of "A Jew in Communist Prague."

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This page was last updated: 09/17/2000

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