Daily Graphic Novel Recommendation 144

Berlin

by Jason Lutes
Genre notes: history, politics, art, the human condition
3 vols
ISBN: 1896597297 (Amazon)

Every now and again, a comic comes out that assures me that the medium can tell certain kinds of stories in a way that no other medium can touch. Every now and again, a comic comes out that despite its natural humility asserts itself as a model to which the medium should aspire. Every now and again, a comic comes out that just flat-out knocks me off my feet and makes me think that everything is going to be alright after all.

It’s not that Berlin presents such a rosie view of the panoply of human history. It doesn’t. It’s not that Berlin offers a solution to the din of political strife that will always wrack the tired bones of human society. It doesn’t. And it’s not even that Berlin allows true love to conquer even the dankest moments of our human despair. It can’t.

What Lutes’ book does, however, is demonstrate that creative geniuses still stalk the earth. His storytelling is virtuosic. And in addition to his mastery of the comic medium, Lutes proves himself an excellent student of the human state, capturing intricately the poisons that infects us all. Sure he depicts flawlessly the poor, huddled masses as they struggle to stave off starvation and fight for a political hope that will surely disappoint (as political hopes are wont to do), but further, he delivers too on the poisons that infect even human joy and celebration. We are given witness to ecstasy and abandon, but simultaneously, we also are allowed to see the darkness that threatens from the horizon, that in some sense has already crept into the lives of the happy.

And Lutes does this in such a way that he doesn’t come off as depressing so much as he does real. There is a veracity to his work that I cannot help but admire. As far as story direction, I didn’t like some of his choices for some of his characters. But they were always real choices. And I respect the story for it. And they set up well the story to come.

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