Stalingrad: Letters from the Volga

Antonio Gil and Daniel Ortega, trans. from the Spanish by Jeff Whitman. Dead Reckoning, $19.95 (120p) ISBN 978-1-68247-393-1
WWII’s largest and bloodiest battle gets recounted in this gory and densely researched work of graphic nonfiction. In 1942, the German army’s initially successful assault into Russia grinds to a halt. As winter approaches, Soviet and Nazi armies face off around the city of Stalingrad, where over two million souls will endure a freezing crucible. Gil and Ortega ostensibly structure their narrative around a band of beleaguered German soldiers trying to snuff out the stubborn “Ivans.” But with the exception of back-home letters mixing grandiloquent phrasing (“fire-tongued assassins rip through the sky”) with plaintive hopelessness (“beaten in a sea of ruins, the Red Army does not surrender”), they opt for historical details over personalization. Many famous aspects of the battle are highlighted, from the Soviet snipers to the “night witches” flying stealthily overhead in their biplanes, and the underground horror of the Rattenkrieg (war of rats). The narrative frequently pulls back from the punishingly savage combat in Stalingrad’s frozen hell for a bird’s-eye view of the wider battle ripping across the Eastern Front. The art emphasizes action over storytelling, leaving it mostly to the overheated yet accurate text to describe the battle’s epic horrors. This relentless account provides a devastatingly grim vision of a pivotal WWII battle. (May)
Reviewed on : 03/29/2019
Release date: 05/01/2019
Genre: Comics
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