Collecting three reviews of war in all its various appearances, Crossing Borders tackles comics from the Netherlands, France and the UK.
Missions: 10 Veterans, 10 Stories
Tasked by the Foundation of Dutch Veterans’ Day to create an anthology that reflected the experiences of generations of Dutch veterans, Strip2000 – mostly known for its humorous comics but now venturing into other areas – has created a surprisingly touching book that is filled with a remarkable cast of alternative creators.
Ranging from the second world war to recent troubles with pirates in the Somalian gulf, all 10 stories highlight small moments as recounted by veterans to their artist, who then set about transmogrifying the story into a comic.
Don’t expect to see tearjerkers in Missions, though. What you will get is small moments of a job that may look glamorous but is more about keeping a cool head and trying to avoid confrontations. The five-page limit does show its restrictions and makes some stories fall flat, but overall it’s a nice effort.
Outstanding efforts are provided by Erik Kriek, whose looser style is much appreciated; Robert van Raffe, whose highly graphic style fits the documentary storytelling style superbly; Wilbert van der Steen, who was recently spotlighted in Crossing Borders and turns in a nice quiet story with laid-back visuals; and Anne Staal, whose anarchic coloring and line work fit the story well. Artists also present include Jeroen Funke, Eric Heuvel, Aimee De Jongh, Jan Cleijne and Michiel Van de Pol.
Ranging from Korea and Lebanon to Somalia and Afghanistan, Missions is now used in an educational program where guest speakers talk about their experiences – a nice testimony to the power of storytelling and comics. Mission accomplished, I’d say.
The War of the Lulus vol. 2: Hans
On the less serious side, but still with more than their share of pathos, are the continuing adventures of the Lulus – a bunch of orphans stranded in a forest behind enemy lines during the first world war.
This time out the kids meet a honest-to-goodness real-life German soldier – a deserter on the run, unable to deal with the horrors of warfare, who is pining for his family. The Lulus (Lucien, Lucas, Luigi, Ludwig and Lucy) overcome their initial distrust and a friendship rises between them that will culminate in tragedy when a French fighter plane crashes in their vicinity and reality intrudes upon the Lulus and their friend once more.
French writer Régis Hautiére has found an original premise to explore the war, and uses a survivors’ tale to have the horror intrude upon the reader. Artist Hardoc’s cartoony figures and expressions capture the kid-adventurers feel of the book as well as the dismay of isolation and the war that is always around at the edges.
This is a book for kids but has real pathos and engaging characters and doesn’t look down at its audience. Highly recommended.
Featuring a war on a totally different front, the dangerous streets of the contemporary urban UK, Revenger is a self-published (ongoing?) comic by British artist Warwick Fraser-Coombe, who is mostly known for his truly outstanding pin-up and cover art.
After having his share of traumatic experiences with both the military and authority, Roger comes home not to marital bliss but to… his wife shagging the brains out of his best friend. When his father subsequently dies and leaves him an honest-to-goodness armory of Nazi war memorabilia, there’s just one thing left to do: take the fight to the pushers, corrupt officials, child abusers, bankers etc. Dress up and blow them all up just to fill the emptiness you feel inside – although, as the main character claims, “It’s not a nervous breakdown”. A subtle comic this is not.
It reads like a mix between an eighties action movie – of the better, Charles Bronson variety – and a Mark Millar scripted über-violent series like Kick-Ass. However, Revenger stays solidly embedded in the real world.
I’m having a hard time figuring out where Fraser-Coombe wants to go with this series. It lacks the satire of Kick-Ass and does not really tackle contemporary social issues in the way Bronson movies tended to do (however superficial that might have been).
For now, it reads a bit too acidic for my liking – a sort of venom-spitting, generally induced paranoid raging against ‘society’ type of feel. It could be part of the protagonist’s arc, coupled with the artist’s inexperience as a writer. Since this is a first issue, we’ll have to wait and see.
It is, however, immaculately drawn with great organic renderings, mixing digital with analog. The visuals just pop off the page. When Revenger figures out what type of comic it wants to be, it will be easier to judge its merits.
Missions: 10 Veterans, 10 Stories, by various creators, is published by Strip 2000 in Dutch. It is a full-color softcover counting 56 pages and retails for €9.95.
The War of the Lulus vol. 2: Hans (La Guerre des Lulus) by Hardoc and Régis Hautière is published by Casterman in French. It is a full-color softcover counting 56 pages and retails for €9.50. This review was based on the Dutch edition, published by Ballon Media.
Revenger, by Warwick Fraser-Coombe, is a self-published full-color comic counting 26 pages and can be ordered online by contacting the artist via through his website. The cover price is £3.50 excluding shipping.
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