cover image The Lions of Leningrad

The Lions of Leningrad

Jean-Claude van Rijckeghem and Thomas Du Caju, trans. from the French by Joseph Laredo. Dead Reckoning, $19.95 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-1-68247-792-2

The WWII-era Soviet Union provides a treacherous setting for this well-crafted military thriller. While on a child transport, four Soviet teenagers escape a Nazi air attack, only to be stranded behind enemy lines. They make it to safety and kill some Nazis along the way, becoming heroes celebrated as the “Lions of Leningrad.” As the war stretches on, the friends continue to fight on the home front, but poverty, desperation, and disillusionment threaten to destroy their friendships and their lives. Not even their heroic history protects them after the government erases it from the official record. “Comrade Stalin has yet to ban friendship,” they quip, yet gradually they betray one another. Dense and wordy, the comic sometimes feels slow despite plenty of action scenes. The precise but emotionally stiff art, meanwhile, is better at period architecture (with elegant shots of wartime Russia in winter) and military vehicles than human expressions. This throwback to classic European war comics (though originally French, it recalls gritty British boys’ comics like Charley’s War) should satisfy military buffs, and promises teen crossover appeal. (Mar.)