cover image Twists of Fate

Twists of Fate

Paco Roca, trans. from the Spanish by Erica Mena. Fantagraphics, $39.99 (328p) ISBN 978-1-68396-125-3

This exquisitely dramatic and poignant graphic novel springs from a little-known wrinkle of history: some of the Spanish Republicans driven out by Franco in 1939 kept up the antifascist fight against dark odds. The sweeping, densely researched narrative follows, with some fictional embellishments, how Republican volunteer Miguel Campos was swept from Franco’s frying pan into the Vichy fire. After years in a brutal Saharan labor camp, Campos joined the motley crew of foreigners in the Free French Army to follow de Gaulle—“that skinny awkward man [who] was our only hope”—into Nazi-held Europe. Instead of presenting a straight march to victory, Roca (Wrinkles) emphasizes the Spanish Republicans’ worldwide diaspora and combat as a long trail of sadness and terror (“the infantry isn’t a good place to grow old”). Even the triumphant race to Paris and an inevitable drinking session with Hemingway are darkened by the likelihood that Spain will remain under Franco’s control even after Hitler’s defeat. At times, readers will be distracted by Roca’s device of alternating flashbacks with the aged but still furious Campos, depicted in bright color and slashing action, with his present-day interrogation by a nosy graphic novelist, rendered in flatter monochrome artwork. Nevertheless, this remains a spikily relevant and inspiring portrait of relentless dedication to the fight for freedom. (Nov.)