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It Was the War of the Trenches Hardcover – April 20, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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.)
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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. (Booklist)

Tardi’s aesthetic is tailor made for this kind of violence, and his inky impressionism carries chilling tactility without peer. There are, simply put, few people who can render bodies with as much physical weight as the deceptively-cartoonish Tardi, and there are few stories worthy of applying that skill as this one. (Shea Hennum - Paste)

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. (Michael C. Lorah - Newsarama)

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. (Rick Klaw - The SF Site: Nexus Graphica)

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. (Joe Gordon - The Forbidden Planet International Blog Log)

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. (Holly Scudero - Sacramento Book Review)

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. (Kristian Williams - The Comics Journal)

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 Sacco, author of Palestine)

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]. (Sean T. Collins - Attentiondeficitdisorderly)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 120 pages
  • Publisher: Fantagraphics; First Edition edition (April 20, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1606993534
  • ISBN-13: 978-1606993538
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 0.7 x 10.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #163,453 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By !^!(akaRyanHoffman) on July 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
seriously, this might be one of the best comics I've ever read. One of the most complete experiences on why war is hell and how ethics are mistreated and twisted for the sake of some misguided nationalism I've ever read in this medium. This is up there with Maus, folks. This is up there with Paths of Glory and Grave of the Fireflies. You're doing yourself a misservice by NOT reading it.

EASILY a five out five.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Bartok Kinski on April 9, 2010
Format: Hardcover
A graphic novel masterpiece, "It Was the War of the Trenches" is the archetypal "anti-war" cartoon, retaining its emotional power. Many of the battle and trench sequences are impressive, even by graphic novel standards.

This graphic novel hit the nail on the head in that the only ones that want war are the elite leaders, and political and war manufacturers.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Philip Lebow on June 9, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This graphic (quite graphic) novel about the 'War of the Trenches' brings the horror
and misery of ground war to the printed page.
What humor exists is the black humor of men facing fear and death.
My maternal grandfather served in WWI and told me stories about the trenches.
This graphic novel made those stories more real, and more affecting.

You can't look away from this strong anti-war statement. It's the fascination of
watching a great disaster unfold.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Bartok Kinski on October 31, 2013
Format: Hardcover
A graphic novel masterpiece, "It Was the War of the Trenches" is the archetypal "anti-war" cartoon, retaining all its emotional power. Many of the battle and trench sequences are impressive, even by graphic novel standards.

This graphic novel hit the nail on the head in that the only ones that want war are the elite leaders, and political and war manufacturers.

Makes a great companion piece along with "Journey to the End of the Night" by Louis-Ferdinand Celine, which Jacques Tardi illustrated, in "Voyage au bout de la nuit" (Futuropolis, 1988).
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on July 25, 2011
Format: Hardcover
In case you missed the memo, World War I was a nightmare of pointless suffering for millions upon millions of people. This beautifully produced (and translated) reprint of a 1993 French graphic collection takes you there via a loose collection of personal stories from the French trenches. There's no protagonist, no plot, no narrative, just, as the author writes in his foreword: "Nothing but a gigantic, anonymous scream of agony." Each of these "screams of agony" is the story of a French soldier and the madness he encounters at the front lines. There are about 8-10 stories, ranging from 2-15 pages each, and they march across the mind with relentless horror. Tardi drew heavily upon archival photos and research in drafting these stories, and it certainly shows both in the detail and emotional truth of the images. In another part of the preface the author wrote, "The only thing that interests me is man and his suffering, and it fills me with rage." and that rage comes across very directly. This is not a book to be read for fun, but to be studied in conjunction with other seminal works on World War I such as Good-Bye to All That, Paths of Glory, and many many more books and films (which are listed in the excellent bibliography in the rear of the book). The book occupies the uneasy but vital space between pure documentary footage, memoir, and fiction, and could be an excellent teaching tool for the classroom.
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Format: Hardcover
This graphic novel depicts the brutal conditions that the men on the Western Front in the First World War endured. The mud, smells, terror and longing for the end are depicted in graphic detail. It is hard to grasp an environment where human bodies and remains are an integral part of the landscape. Human bones are used as hanging hooks and you cannot walk anywhere without stepping in mud with rotting human flesh mixed in.
The area between the opposing trenches was the most ghastly region on the planet. Composed of barbed wire, corpses, shell holes and many other disgusting leftovers of years of stalemated fighting and dying, men were ordered to venture out into that region in another pointless attempt to win it from the enemy.
The tone is much that that of the classic "All Quiet on the Western Front" by Erich Maria Remarque. The battle conditions are described in the naturally perverted tone of those that experience it, for to them the death and gore is their new normal. This is a difficult book to read, largely due to the fact that it is historically accurate.
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Format: Hardcover
It Was the War of the Trenches is comprised of a series of vignettes, looking at different character during the full course of World War One, from it's first days to its last minutes. I'm not usually a reader of graphic novels, and usually I find myself flipping pages fast. I found myself probably reading this one more slowly than if it had been the same vignettes told in text, because Tardi has definitely done a huge amount of research and so for someone interested in the period there's a huge amount of detail to look for in each panel.

Unfortunately, the writing is, by intention I think, very much one note, and the story suffers as a result. Tardi writes in his introduction, "There are no 'heroes,' there is no 'protagonist' in this awful collective 'adventure' that is war. Nothing but a gigantic anonymous scream of agony."

You can write an engaging story in which there is no "hero" in the sense of a good and admirable character, but it's very hard to write a story in which there are no protagonists, no characters about whom we care. And this is the problem here. Tardi provides one gigantic scream of agony, but the result is a portrayal so fragmented, so partial that we no longer see the participants as people, only as sufferers. They are suffering because stupid and unseen commanders send them into hopeless attacks, they are suffering because those around them are stupid, they are suffering because the anonymous Germans on the other side relentlessly kill characters in order to express the futility of it all.

Tardi says in his introduction that he is only writing about French characters because he knows France, he has not intention to seem nationalist.
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