Sunday, February 24, 2013

Kubert's Fax From Sarajevo displays the full scope, power of the graphic novel

Book  20: Fax From Sarajevo by Joe Kubert

Published in 1996 by Dark Horse Comics, Fax From Sarajevo, written and illustrated by the great comic artist Joe Kubert, demonstrates the full scope and power of the graphic novel.

Not a novel at all, but a combination of history and biography, Fax From Sarajevo tells a complex story in a simple, linear narrative that makes the complicated comprehensible, while Kubert's artwork -- honed in drawing thousands of war comics for DC -- elevates the humble to the heroic. 

Fax From Sarajevo is the story of Ervin Rustemagic, his wife and two children who find themselves trapped in Sarajevo when war breaks out. The Rustemagic's story is terrible in and of itself, but it is made all the more horrific as it takes place among the Serbs systematic genocide of their Croatian neighbors.

Kubert, both a client and friend of Rustemagic, learned of the family's plight through a series of faxes. Those faxes ultimately became the foundation for an enduring and important graphic novel. And Kubert, who illustrated Our Men At War, featuring Sgt. Rock and Easy Company, G.I. Combat and Enemy Ace, cements his reputation as one of the all-time great comic artist.

Book 24: 38 Nooses Lincoln, Little Crow and the Beginning of the Frontier’s End by Scott W. Berg

38 Nooses is the account of an outbreak of war among a group of Dakota warriors against settlers on the Minnesota frontier in the 1860s.

In the hands of another author, 38 Nooses might have been a compelling history, but that's not the case with Berg. He's a jittery, awkward writer who never gains control of the narrative and who seems determined to expand the book by filling it with extraneous material.

Perhaps Berg would have had more success with a magazine article because with 38 Nooses, in book form, Berg's reach has exceeded his grasp. 

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