THE GRAND DUKE – graphic novel review

Yann & Hugault

As a kid I loved comic books about World War Two, Sgt Rock and Joe Kubert got me through many a Saturday afternoon. Into my adulthood I still love good war comics and have been reading some fine ones by Garth Ennis. I saw the cover of THE GRAND DUKE and knew I had to drop everything and dig in.

On the first read I was so enthralled by the art I stopped reading and was just turning page after page staring at the art with my mouth hanging open. Romain Hugault is unbelievable. As it turns out he has been flying since he was seventeen and specializes in aviation drawing. His ability to draw the planes and other hardware of war is so realistic I expected the drawings to start moving. Add to this that he can convey an entire seen with just the eyes and facial expressions, well, he’s the whole package. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, well, in this book the art raises storytelling to a whole new level. I can safely say I would buy anything with his art in it.

The writer is simply known as Yann and he is a gifted weaver of tales. Combining political views with heroism and an offbeat love story he transports the reader to another world. The characters are full and believable and I kind of wonder if they aren’t based on real people. He obviously did his research and I finished this book with a whole new area of interest in World War Two.

The story is told from 2 angles, first a German pilot named Wulf in the Luftwaffe who doesn’t buy into the Nazism that has overrun his country, but he is an honorable man who is flying for his country and because it keeps his family safe. On the other side we have Lilya who is part of a Russian group of women pilots known as the Red Witches. She comes off as angry and tired and seems to have nothing left for her but flying. The two characters keep running across each other both in the air and out of it. As we progress what we see is two people tired of fighting, tired of the hypocrisy and bullshit of the people leading them and all they seem to have left is their own sense of honor. As I neared the end of the book I got rather melancholy, in part because of the story, but also because I was running out of book. The last page put a big grin on my face and I actually said out loud “Hell Yes!”

I loved every page and every frame of art in this book along with every single word. I would recommend that everyone who loves great story telling, great art or just great books pick this up. Book slike this remind me why I love to read and that I can still be surprised.

Jon Jordan

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