cover image Tiananmen 1989: Our Shattered Hopes

Tiananmen 1989: Our Shattered Hopes

Lu Zhang, Adrien Gombeaud, and Améziane. IDW, $19.99 (112p) ISBN 978-1-68405-699-6

While “Tiananmen” calls up the famous image of a single citizen facing down a tank, Zhang’s information-dense graphic memoir, cowritten with journalist Gombeaud, details the larger student-led movement for political reform behind the protest that culminated in the Chinese military killing hundreds, perhaps thousands, at Tiananmen Square. A young professor at the time, Zhang describes how earnest young leaders formulated demands to further the cause of democracy in China, heady with readings from the French Enlightenment. Their idealism collides with the gritty realities of hunger strikes, the privations of living outdoors, and chaos from internal disagreements. The overambitious scope keeps the narrative from hitting a stride, and its dual purpose as educational and personal history chafes against the slim page count, overstuffing the comics format. Zhang is often depicted on a stage delivering large blocks of dialogue, and the scene of the bloody climax of the protest is given over to the words of a BBC reporter, while text boxes overlay tantalizing glimpses of the exuberance and exhaustion of the protesters, who seem to beg to be the focus of the story. While the effort gives due context to the protest, readers looking for emotional resonance may be left disappointed. [em](June) [/em]