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It Was the War of the Trenches

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Tardi’s World War I masterpiece finally in English!
World War I, that awful, gaping wound in the history of Europe, has long been an obsession of Jacques Tardi’s. (His very first—rejected—comics story dealt with the subject, as does his most recent work, the two-volume Putain de Guerre.) But It Was the War of the Trenches is Tardi’s defining, masterful statement on the subject, a graphic novel that can stand shoulder to shoulder with Erich ...

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Overview

Tardi’s World War I masterpiece finally in English!
World War I, that awful, gaping wound in the history of Europe, has long been an obsession of Jacques Tardi’s. (His very first—rejected—comics story dealt with the subject, as does his most recent work, the two-volume Putain de Guerre.) But It Was the War of the Trenches is Tardi’s defining, masterful statement on the subject, a graphic novel that can stand shoulder to shoulder with Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front and Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms.
Tardi is not interested in the national politics, the strategies, or the battles. Like Remarque, he focuses on the day to day of the grunts in the trenches, and, with icy, controlled fury and disgust, with sardonic yet deeply sympathetic narration, he brings that existence alive as no one has before or since. Yet he also delves deeply into the underlying causes of the war, the madness, the cynical political exploitation of patriotism. And in a final, heartbreaking coda, Tardi grimly itemizes the ghastly human cost of the war, and lays out the future 20th century conflicts, all of which seem to spring from this global burst of insanity.Trenches features some of Tardi’s most stunning artwork. Rendered in an inhabitually lush illustrative style, inspired both by abundant photographic documentation and classic American war comics, augmented by a sophisticated, gorgeous use of Craftint tones, trenches is somehow simultaneously atypical and a perfect encapsulation of Tardi’s mature style. It is the indisputable centerpiece of Tardi’s oeuvre.It Was the War of the Trenches has been an object of fascination for North American publishers: RAW published a chapter in the early 1980s, and Drawn and Quarterly magazine serialized a few more in the 1990s. But only a small fraction of Trenches has ever been made available to the English speaking public (in now out of print publications); the Fantagraphics edition, the third in an ongoing collection of the works of this great master, finally remedies this situation.

Winner of the 2011 Eisner Award for:
Best Reality-Based Work
Best U.S. Edition of International Material

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Redressing a sad literary situation—the prior unavailability of this full masterpiece in English—Fantagraphics finally brings Tardi’s wrenching tales of trench warfare during WWI to American audiences. Tardi, whose French grandfather would often recount his experiences on the front lines, has tackled the subject several times over the decades, and this unremittingly bleak collection of vignettes represents the artistic culmination of his obsession. Portions of this collection were first published in Art Spiegelman’s groundbreaking RAW comics anthology in the early 1980s, and Tardi didn’t complete the work until nearly a decade later. Yet neither the long gestation period nor the lack of a central narrative prevents it from standing as a singular, cohesive work of art. From the living hell of combat to the ghostlike calm of bombed-out villages, each panel radiates with the fear and hopelessness of hapless conscripts who strive only to retain their limbs and their sanity. Calling the war “a gigantic, anonymous scream of agony,” Tardi skewers the concept of nationalism and drives home the banality of death. Dark, densely packed backgrounds and heavy wedges of solid black recall the dramatic shading effects of European expressionism, as do the characters’ black, fearful eyes. Nearly a century after the fact, Tardi’s outrage and compassion make the First World War sting like a fresh wound. (Apr.)
Booklist
“Starred Review. While the visuals, which draw upon battlefield photographs, are thoroughly convincing, the soldiers’ harrowing experiences, fictionalized by Tardi, register as even more powerfully authentic. The potency of the soldiers’ tragic stories is enhanced by the elegance of Tardi’s lucid drawing and keen compositions that are accentuated by the use of three horizontal panels per page throughout. This masterful condemnation of the cruelty and stupidity of war, created over the course of a decade, from 1982 to 1993, is a cri de coeur that stands out even amid Tardi’s impressive body of work.”
Peter Richardson - Cloud 109
“Tardi's work which is distinguished by an unstinting attention to locale and detail, captures the true horror of war in a way that no other artist has been quite able to achieve. ... This is the story of man against the system, with the system as the ultimate winner. This is a story for our times.”
Michael C. Lorah - Newsarama
“Ink-soaked and gory, Tardi’s detailed renderings drive home the grotesquery of the war and the ordeal of the young men fighting in it. ...It Was the War of the Trenches creates an aura of loss, regret and terror.”
Mark Frauenfelder - Boing Boing
“Without a trace of sentimentality, Tardi's richly detailed and grimly rendered vignettes depict the horror, illness, cruel manipulations, and stupidity of this giant black spot in human history.”
Sandy Bilus - I Love Rob Liefeld
“It's an impressive work of art that floods the reader with a feeling of hopelessness. How Tardi managed this feat without having participated in the first world war is really quite amazing. It is worth reading.”
Kristian Williams - The Comics Journal
“In terms of its writing and its art, Trenches is a masterful work. … But the book’s true victory is a moral one. For it shows us, clearly and terribly, the thorough destruction of values inherent in modern war.”
Holly Scudero - Sacramento Book Review
“Many books have been written about World War I, but few can truly worm their way into your head like Jacques Tardi’s It Was the War of the Trenches. … The tales here are devastating and heartbreaking, and often disturbing, but readers will nonetheless have a hard time putting it down.”
Sean T. Collins - Attentiondeficitdisorderly
“Tardi is bringing very specific and very effective weapons to bear in his chillingly successful effort to convey [the] particular horror [of World War I].”
Rick Klaw - The SF Site: Nexus Graphica
“This extraordinary collection of World War I tales offers perhaps the finest work from the lauded Tardi. ... Visceral, powerful, and effective, the flawless It Was The War of the Trenches blazes a new standard for the war comic.”
Matthew J. Brady - Warren Peace Sings the Blues
“Tardi completely dispels any sense that war is heroic, or even a worthwhile endeavor. It's a harsh, ugly look at the depths to which man can sink, with little in the way of redemption throughout. It's persuasive enough that it renders most any other argument against war unnecessary.”
Joe Sacco
“Tardi’s depiction of the First World
War is so impassioned and visceral that it can be compared to the work of the artists who actually served in the trenches.”
Joe Gordon - The Forbidden Planet International Blog Log
“It’s a hugely powerful work, both moving and horrific and filled with anger for the suffering and injustices one group of ‘civilized’ humans can visit upon another... [W]orks like this are needed to remind us of the monstrous acts we can be capable of.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781606993538
  • Publisher: Fantagraphics Books
  • Publication date: 4/20/2010
  • Pages: 120
  • Product dimensions: 8.20 (w) x 10.50 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

With over 30 graphic novels under his belt (a half-dozen of which have been translated into English), Jacques Tardi is considered the leading European cartoonist of the generation that came of age in the 1970s. His books published in America by Fantagraphics include West Coast Blues, You are There, It Was the War of the Trenches, and The Arctic Marauder. He lives in Paris with his wife, the singer Dominique Grange, and their cats.

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