ICv2 Stars: 3 (out of 5)
Posted by Nick Smith on April 17, 2019 @ 5:40 pm CT
Publisher: Naval Institute Press (Dead Reckoning imprint)
Release Date: June 2019
Creator(s): Based on the novel by Eric Maria Remarque, adapted by Wayne Vansant
Format: 176 pgs., Full-Color, Trade Paperback
Age Rating: N/A
ICv2 Rating: 3 Stars out of 5
The original novel is considered a masterpiece of literature, an anti-war novel told from the inside, from the viewpoint of a World War I German soldier, and describing the lives of his companions in wartime.
Wayne Vansant is an excellent and experienced artist in the field of war comics, having done graphic works based on various wars of various centuries.
The combination of the two created a book that is, while technically excellent, a difficult read and will probably be a difficult book to convince people to pick up. One reason is that the translated prose of the text is often so dry that it forces a mindset that is odd. In both the novel and this adaptation, much of the opening is about whether a cook will hand over the food he has prepared to the company of men awaiting it, since they are so reduced in numbers by battle that he has cooked more food than they "should" get. In prose, this is the kind of setup that tells you things about the men involved. In graphic form, it’s just an awkward argument about beans, and an odd variety of them, at that, since the translator used a term for them that makes their use in German rations a little strange.
The advantage of the graphic form is that some of the scenes are actually better told visually. Physical viewpoint can shift, as the reader can look down on a shell-torn field of battle, or see the rats stampede through a bunkhouse setting. That is the real strength of this version, and Vansant did an excellent job of making use of that. The slow parts, though, are very slow in this form. This is not a story of battles, it’s a story of a slow, grinding war.
There is quite a bit of graphic violence in the book, but that is to be expected. This isn’t a Classics Illustrated version of the story, it’s a very adult, brutal retelling. There’s bravery and cowardice, hope and fear, life and death all through the story.
This book will have its place in libraries and in places where graphic adaptations of classic literature are popular, but it’s unlikely to fly off the shelves.
For adults, due to graphic violence and partial nudity.
--Nick Smith: Library Technician, Community Services, for the Pasadena Public Library in California.