I’m back from the comic shop this week and I got no new comics. Nothing at all. Nadda. Zilch. talk about a slow week.

And now for a review of something I’ve read recently.

  • “It Was The War of the Trenches” by Jacques Tardi
  • This is a French comic book. It’s one of the few French comic books I’ve read since not a lot of them make it over to our shores. I remember reading a couple of chapters of it, years ago, when part of it was serialized over here. I didn’t remember much of it besides that I liked it.

    “It Was The War of the Trenches” is, of course, about World War One. It’s not a linear story or historical fiction, like England’s “Charlie’s Tale”, instead it’s a collection of short stories that highlight the madness and inhumanity of war in general and WWI in particular.

    WWI seems to be the least glorified war, in terms of fiction, that I can think of. Trench warfare was especially dehumanizing and it took the generals years to come up with a strategy that didn’t rely on using their men as canon fire or charging them into machine guns. Some argue that all the strategies the generals came up with was inhuman.

    This book was mainly about French soldiers but their experience was universal. Tardi is unrelenting in his stance that human beings ordering this madness to happen and other human beings following those orders is to blame for war. He isn’t interested in the culpability of any individual country in any individual war.

    The stories are very well done and sometimes a little tough to read because Tardi does such a good job of putting you in their shoes. I know I emphasized with the soldiers. And I never realized how many soldiers feared gangrene because often they couldn’t tell mud from blood and guts and so when they took cover ended up sticking their hands into human remains. And getting gangrene and dying from that. Just one of the fun facts from WW1.

    Tardi is also gives us small glimpses of madness that otherwise have nothing to do with the main narrative of an individual soldier’s tale. I especially remember the executions mentioned. When things went wrong sometimes the higher ups had to make examples of soldiers. Soldiers would end up being executed for things they had no control over. One soldier, who didn’t even speak French, was court marshaled and shot for something he didn’t do all the while him having no idea what was going on. And that was just a couple panel diversion from the main narrative.

    So if you’re in the mood for a masterfully done collection of stories from the special hell that was World War One then check out this book.