The Great War--July 1, 1916: The First Day of the Battle of the Somme HC
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Release Date: October 2013
Price: $35.00
Creators: Joe Sacco, artwork and annotations; essay by Adam Hochschild
Format: 54 pgs., 11.4" x 8.6", Boxed, HC
ISBN: 978-0-3930-8880-9
Age Rating: N/A
ICv2 Rating: 5 Stars out of 5
The Great War is not a traditional graphic novel.  It is sequential storytelling, in the form of a long panoramic series, a continuous drawing covering one day at the rate of one foot of artwork per hour.  There is a booklet of annotations, along with an essay.
For those of you who are not World War I buffs, the Battle of the Somme was a horrific failure of leadership by the Allies, as they sent thousands of men into a meat-grinder of machine gun fire.  The basic idea was that the British artillery would soften up the German positions, and the infantry would break through.  That failed at every level, and the terrible casualties.  The assault of July 1, 1916, cost the British over 57,000 in dead, wounded and missing, mostly in the first hour or two of the attack.  Many wounded men died due to insufficient medical facilities, or to being left on the battlefield un-rescued.  This panorama depicts all that, from the morning stroll by the British commander on the day before the assault to the first burials of the dead, as the casualties mounted.  Horses, aircraft, artillery pieces, ambulances, preparations and failures to prepare, all are here.
This could have been a grim and brutal piece, but Joe Sacco's artwork softens the horror slightly, without taking away its meaning.  You can see the details in the military gear, but many of the faces are softened and not quite real.  Otherwise, no one could get through the piece without crying.
Written for adults, but older teens with an interest in history could enjoy it.
--Nick Smith: Librarian Technician, Community Services, for the Pasadena Public Library in California.