cover image Parallel


Matthias Lehmann, trans. from the German by Ivanka Hahnenberger. Oni, $39.99 trade paper (464p) ISBN 978-1-63715-100-6

Lehmann packs emotional wallops into a nuanced graphic novel debut about a closeted German man whose sexual liasons have left him isolated from his family in the aftermath of WWII. Karl Kling feels adrift after retiring in 1980s West Germany and decides to reach out to his estranged daughter, Hella. Through flashbacks, he reveals the secrets she sensed he was hiding. Soon after returning from the frontlines of WWII, Karl is outed as gay (he makes an unwanted pass at a man at a bar, then later is caught with another man) and gets run out of town by his father-in-law. Forced to abandon his first wife and son, Karl moves in with the family of a friend in Leipzig, where he starts another straight relationship with a woman named Liselotte. They marry when Liselotte gets pregnant with Hella, but Karl resorts to cruising for men. When he’s arrested for having sex in a public bathroom, Liselotte takes Hella to the west and gives Karl an ultimatum. After dithering, and with the border between East and West Germany soon to close, Karl follows his family—but eventually invites Helmut, a male prostitute, to rent their spare room, which leads to explosive consequences. Lehmann’s black-and-white drawings have a soft, almost unfinished quality. While the tropes can feel well-worn, the stylish art and empathetic characterizations carry through a tragic tale of the pains and traumas of repression. Though it falls short of revelatory, this has depth. (June)