Saturday, August 11, 2018

Nanjing: The Burning City

by Ethan Young

I have always loved war comics.  Unlike war movies, they often allow space to understand characters, and while many of them are steeped in easy cliché, there are a lot more that try to dig into the strength of character it takes to survive military conflict.

Ethan Young's Nanjing: The Burning City, is a very effective war comic.  It focuses on two Chinese men, a Captain and one of his men, who have somehow managed to survive Japan's taking of their city, and after their command structure fled, find themselves stuck in a ruined and occupied city.

They have some difficult choices to make.  Lu wants to make for the Safety Zone, a space reserved for refugees and watched over by Germans who are working with the Japanese Army (this happened in 1937, during the 2nd Sino-Japanese War, before the madness of WWII absorbed this conflict).  The Captain does not think they should do this, and instead wants to try to make his way out of the walled city through a particular gate.

The two men have to continue to make difficult choices as they make their way through the ruins.  They hear some soldiers attack a mother and her daughter, but have to deal with the fact that they can't do a thing to help.  Likewise, they have to turn down an old man's request for help, knowing that to leave him is to kill him.

Young, with his large panels, quiet scenes, and excellent facial expressions, makes this story tense and kind of horrible.  The Captain is a typically stoic military man who is doing all he can to hold it together, although when the pair meets a young family, they have to change their plans.

I really enjoyed this book, which helps to bring this story to a larger audience in North America, where the Nanjing story is not really taught or discussed often.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Violent Love Vol. 1: Stay Dangerous

Written by Frank J. Barbiere
Art by Victor Santos

I will admit that I hadn't been very impressed with the work of Frank J. Barbiere up to this point.  It's not that I thought he was a bad writer, it's just that nothing that I'd read by him had really clicked for me, and I was pretty indifferent to seeing his name on a project.  I do like Victor Santos's art though, so when I saw that their Violent Love began with a $10 trade, I felt that it would be a good idea to get it.

The book begins with a framing sequence that has a retired US marshal watching a young girl for her mother.  The girl shows interest in one particular case of the marshal's, that of Daisy Jane and Rock Bradley, a kind of Mickey and Mallory of the early 1970s.  The girl gets the man to tell the story, and it's at this point that Barbiere started to play with my expectations.

I think I expected a pretty straightforward romance and crime story, and found it interesting when the male part of this pairing barely appears in the first half of this trade, and doesn't really show much character until the very end of it.  Daisy is the real star of this book, and we learn what has led her to a life of using crime to fund a mission of vengeance.  She is with another man when she first meets Rock, while she hunts for the guy who ruined her life.

This mission leads to a bloody conflict with La Jauria, a cartel that employs some very colourful assassins.  Santos is great at both character work and at portraying some pretty mayhem-filled violent scenes.  I never really grew to like Daisy all that much, and found the revelation that closed off the book to be a little predictable (if probably difficult to explain), but I was completely drawn in by the plot, and now want to get the rest of this series so I can see how it all ends.