TRENCHES

Scott Mills, Author, Scott A. Mills, Illustrator . Top Shelf $15.95 (176p) ISBN 978-1-891830-28-0

Mills (Big Clay Pot) generally uses his whimsical style to tell fairly simple stories. But his new Ignatz Award–winning work takes on the dark complexities of WWI. The story opens in 1914, as two English brothers offer different reactions to the prospect of going off to war. Lloyd Allenby is the typical loyal soldier, tenderly bidding his wife farewell. Meanwhile, his brother Davey is enjoying his version of a hero's farewell, in bed with two sisters. Readers also meet Jonathan Hemingway ("It'll be over by Christmas," he tells his wife), an older man who will be the Allenbys' commanding officer through the trials that follow. Mills follows the trio (and Hemingway's dog) as they squat in trenches and witness their first intense action at Amiens. They survive gas attacks and the battle of Ypres, leading up to the horrific battle of the Somme. Between the gruesome battles, the story flashes back to the two brothers' childhood, where readers learn of Davey's irresponsible past—pulling mean tricks and missing Lloyd's wedding—as well as Hemingway's relationship to the men. This is all prelude to the ghastly battle at Somme, where Davey and Lloyd share a moment of truth. Although clichéd in spots, Mills's story is sweet and humane, presenting immensely likable characters trapped in a grim situation. But his sketchy, minimalist drawings are a problem. This style of whimsical illustration is simply not up to the task of portraying the brutal violence and psychological devastation of war. (Dec.)

Reviewed on: 11/25/2002
Release date: 06/01/2002
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