cover image To the Heart of the Storm

To the Heart of the Storm

Will Eisner, William Eisner. Kitchen Sink Press, $14.95 (208pp) ISBN 978-0-87816-133-1

Structured around the induction of a young man much like himself into the army in 1942, Eisner's ( A Life Force ) autobiographical graphic novel examines the lives of Jewish immigrants and their children in pre-WW II Europe and America. As young Willie's troop train heads south, his window is transformed into a view of his family's past, full of the suffering and blunt anti-Semitism that characterized the times. Willie relives the death of his mother's father, who had immigrated to America in 1880, and the dispersal of her family among relatives and strangers. Willie's father--an aspiring artist in old Vienna--comes to the U.S. after the outbreak of the first world war to become a small-time businessman. Eisner's story is appealing but marred by schmaltzy confrontations and melodramatic graphics. He excels at recreating the family's daily struggle to survive, yet his characters and situations incline toward stereotype and his depictions of emotions--tearful eyes raised to heaven in joy or archly furrowed brows at the delivery of bad news--border on cliche. A vivid but flawed work from an acknowledged master of the comics medium. (May)