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Old 01-10-2012, 02:22 PM   #11982
ATDrake
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First graphic novel and also first library book finished of the year. Also first Canadian interest book. Though I'd need to read another to get myself to the CRTC-mandated 30% CanCon minimum.

Scott Chantler's Two Generals is a memoir of his grandfather Law Chantler's time during WWII, when as a young man he signed up and shipped out with the Highland Light Infantry of Canada, which apparently comes with its own battle-bagpipers, which is the most awesome thing I have heard about any branch of the Canadian military.

Chantler grandpère would eventually see action during the Invasion of Normandy, and would be part of the crucial series of assaults on the way to Caen, which helped tie up German forces enough to allow Normandy to be taken.

Based on the diaries of Law Chantler and letters from his best friend Jack Chrysler, who accompanied him all the way to the front, as well as official records of the HLI, this was a fairly standard young-man-prepares-to-go-to-war-and-finds-out-it's-not-at-all-like-he-expected sort of story, with moments of insight and humour and friendship and folly amidst the inevitable tragedy.

But it's distinguished by being told both simply and poignantly with beautiful art, done very ligne claire in that cartoony almost-iconically stylized human figures combined with lushly detailed settings which the Tintin albums popularized and refined.

The colouring of these is done with elegant minimalism: the black and white outlines filled and toned by gradations of army fatigue drab, splashes of red not unlike drying blood, and shades of grey. These are used nearly monochromatically, with the separate colours usually confined to illuminating just one section, and in the scenes where they are finally combined, the juxtaposition carries a sudden, shocking effect.

Seriously, this is gorgeous work, and you can see a few pages of it yourself over at Canadian publisher McClelland & Stewart's webpage for the book using the Browse & Search feature (or perhaps try Amazon's Look Inside, which will probably have more pages available).

Highly recommended for graphic novel and/or WWII historical/personal experience buffs. It's got interesting anecdotes about life in training in England as well as the Normandy stuff and gives a good sense of what it was like for some of the men who went over there.

I really liked this one (but then I was inclined to like it anyway, since Chantler is one of my favourite GN creators and his Hudson's Bay Company fur trading war-with-the-French-over-Rupert's-Land historical fictional GN Northwest Passage is also highly recommended, especially in the excellent deluxe annotated edition) and hope Chantler does more like it in the future.
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