From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. First presented as a Web comic, this subtle, mature book details Ila Gardner's life in a France first threatened, then occupied by Nazi Germany. Employed as a museum curator and in charge of primarily minor works, Ila uses what little power she has to protect France's art from the rapacious Nazis by sending works into the safety of storage down in the museum's poorly documented basement. Aloof and seemingly indifferent to the events around her, in reality Ila is consumed with a genuine but ineffectual outrage over the course of history in Europe. Stuart Immonen's art is simple and starkly contrasted, at times as difficult to read as Ila herself. The face of the occupiers is the curiously sympathetic Rolf Hauptmann, the man who is by turns Ila's opponent, lover, protector, and interrogator. The true nature of what the Nazis are up to is not explicit, only implied by passing comments in the discussions between Ila and those around her. Avoiding the melodramatic trap many well-meaning graphic novels set around the horrors of WWII fall into, the Immonens keep the story spare and focused to allow the ambiguity of survival itself to become the drama.
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*Starred Review* This elegant and evocative historical graphic novel explores the personal relationships involved in protecting internationally recognized works of fine art during the Nazi occupation of Paris. Although the title plays on the narrative’s format and the story’s theme, the storytelling and the characters are as sober as the crisp, heavy black-and-white of its images. Concisely packed into the plot is a thread concerning how some in Paris could make themselves disappear, while others were discovered in processes they hoped to keep hidden. Another thread weaves out the failed and enervated romance between a German “doing his job” and a young subcurator forced to wonder whether her ideals can earn safety for the artworks she treasures. Deftly told, the whole story resonates long after its appropriately ambiguous final pages. Stuart Immonen has done art for Superman and Spider-Man heretofore, but this novel is fully realistic, independent, and has a very different tone. Text and image are both concise and share the edge of anger the protector of art in a crass world must feel. An excellent choice for dedicated comics readers and those venturing out beyond traditional fiction. --Francisca Goldsmith