Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Trailer Park Tuesday: The Great War by Joe Sacco

Welcome to Trailer Park Tuesday, a showcase of new book trailers and, in a few cases, previews of book-related movies.

"My name is Joe Sacco and I'm a cartoonist."  That's a strong candidate for Understatement of the Year because Sacco is much more than a "cartoonist."  As anyone who's read his masterpiece of wordless narrative The Great War knows, Sacco is a storyteller, a moralist, a historian, an artist of the highest order who has done much more than give us a 24-foot "cartoon" of combat.  The Great War is an unforgettable visual experience which will churn up a roil of emotions as you slowly move your eyes from left to right across its great length, unfolding the panels which reveal the horror and humanity of World War One's trench warfare.  In one continuous scroll of action, Sacco takes the reader through the events of a single day: July 1, 1916--the first day of the Battle of the Somme.  It was a day which "overall, turned out to be a disaster for the British," Sacco says in the book's trailer.  Ten thousand British soldiers were killed in the first hour alone.  Go back and read that sentence again: the first hour.  It didn't get much better after that, as Sacco so poignantly tells us without uttering a single word.  The Great War is printed on heavyweight accordion-fold paper and demands that you read it slowly, trying to absorb all the little details Sacco includes.  He says he wants readers to view it "as if you're looking at the world from above, somehow removed, and you're just observing what's going on without being told what's going on...and you begin to think what an amazing human endeavor war is, and you begin to think about how that's where humanity really puts its efforts."  War is something which most of us continuously fool ourselves into thinking happens to someone else Over There.  Sacco forces us to confront the consequences of what happens when we send those "someones" to war.  He raises important questions in the course of just 24 beautifully-illustrated feet of this tapestry of combat and reminds us that on July 1, 1916, some of the British soldiers didn't even make it 24 feet beyond the lip of their trench as they tried to rush the German forces on the other side of "No Man's Land."  The Great War is a graphic novel in all senses of the word; but in its grisly depictions of torn-apart men flying up from the blast of an artillery shell, the book is a sad, honest account of the cost of combat.  We cannot look away.  We should not look away.

No comments:

Post a Comment