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Notes for a War Story    by Gipi order for
Notes for a War Story
by Gipi
Order:  USA  Can
First Second, 2007 (2007)
* * *   Reviewed by Lance Victor Eaton

The war-torn landscape of a nameless Balkan country serves as the setting for this troubled tale of three boys seeking sustenance and purpose. Guiliano, Christian, and Little Killer roam aimlessly seeking out supplies to trade and sell in a place where law and order no longer exist. Their struggle is relieved when they fall into league with Felix, a thug with plans for his own little fiefdom. The three teens become Felix's gophers, fetching owed goods and services from locals of a nearby town.

But in a place where one is defined by the gang he hangs with, Guiliano finds no comfort but rather further alienation from his friends as they become entangled with Felix. As Christian and Little Killer bask in the prestige, relish in the violence, and enjoy the luxuries, Guiliano doesn't know if he can continue, yet he's not sure he can escape. Gipi spins a coming of age tale against a backdrop of violence, devastation, and depravity - something that sadly exists all over the world today. Gipi also explores issues of class and identity amongst these youths. The gritty reality of this fictional story rings disharmonic chords of desperation. The compelling narrative pulls readers in and leaves them with a deep sadness by the end.

The art provides a thunderstorm of emotion and turmoil that is as gray and cloudy as the grayscale watercolors filling the pages. The sharp angular features of Gipi's character faces hint at the hard-edged lives of these individuals while the drab, dull colors speak to the harsh and cold environment enveloping the youths. Despite the violence all around though, Gipi shies away from illustrating it. Of course, this only heightens the tension and dark mood present throughout the story. The hints and implications of violence wear far more upon the characters and the reader than actually showing it. Alexis Siegel provides an Afterword that is both reflective and insightful into Gipi's work.

The deep truth that lies at the heart of Gipi's tale is not belittled by the fictional story nor the presentation in this medium. Gipi's deft and subtle art adds a canvas of emotion that words simply could not convey. Each panel stands like a captured moment, frozen in time, preserving the cheerless ambience. There is little funny about Notes for a War Story, but there is plenty that readers will find provocative.

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