Berlin: City of Smoke

Created by: Jason Lutes

ISBN: 1897299532 (Amazon)

Pages: 200

Berlin: City of Smoke

As far as middle chapters go, City of Smoke runs pretty much better than expected. Second acts generally fend off some of the energy and presence of the first in order to properly explode into the final act. While maintaining his virtuosity over the form, Lutes does calm things down a bit after the May Day massacre that concluded the first volume.

Berlin: City of Smoke by Jason Lutes

City of Smoke largely explores two themes: the robust nightlife that ruled Berlin’s hidden quarters and the growing political strife between factions of the citizenry. And the two societies seem largely oblivious to each other. The night society drowns reality in celebration and excess, while the workaday masses are drowned by concerns for a faulty government, a crashing market, and the evidence of a revolution at hand.

Berlin: City of Smoke by Jason Lutes

As in the first, journalist Kurt Severing is our guide and it is largely from his perspective that we are probably meant to absorb the story (though not entirely—as his appalling disdain for sweet, sweet jazz marks him as unreliable). It is through Severing, who supports Marxist ideology but refuses to participate in anything more demonstrative than the occasional article, that we initially discovered Berlin in the first book, City of Stones; and it is again Severing who provides teetering balance to the ruckus between the night and the day societies.

Berlin: City of Smoke by Jason Lutes

Lutes, in addition to his mastery of the comic medium, proves himself an excellent student of the human state, capturing intricately the poison that infects us all. Of course 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 the poison that inflames even human joy and celebration. We are given witness to ecstasy and abandon, but realistically, we also are allowed to see the darkness that threatens from the horizon, that in some sense has already leapt 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 the reader 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.

Berlin: City of Smoke by Jason Lutes

As a minor complaint, there were small moments when I felt the usual creator’s care diminish. A page here with shaky art. A panel there with a name plainly omitted from the text balloon. On the whole these things did not harm the book for me. But I did notice them.


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I am Seth T. Hahne and these are my reviews.

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