Tag Archives: World War I

Movie Sketchnote Review: ‘1917’

A story told in the trenches.

1917 is a movie that brings World War I to life, a story told in the trenches and meant to be sobering. Early scenes in the film are looking down into the trenches. The humble title sets the tone for a narrative that focuses the viewer on a specific time, place, and protagonist. This is a journey that one soldier must take in order to save a battalion of 1,600 men. The battalion is being ordered to stand down in order to avoid an enemy trap and two soldiers have been tasked as couriers to send that message.

Crouching toward the goal.

Lance Corporal Schofield (George MacKay) never expected such a dangerous, and pivotal, assignment but there he is, paired with another soldier (Dean-Charles Chapman) who he doesn’t really care for. But any callow sentiment is quickly wiped away once the race is on. As the two move above ground, they can’t help but remain low, crouching toward their goal. It’s not long before Schofield loses his teammate and the focus tightens upon the determination of one man.

Schofield’s silhouette often holds together the composition of scenes.

Designed to play out in the form of a single, extended, endlessly mobile shot, 1917 is visually stunning, bringing The Great War into brilliant 21st century relevance. No, we are not at all that different from our early 20th century ancestors, even with our technological superiority and cultural awakening. Bravery is the overriding theme. Schofield is the unlikely hero who is but a little cog in a system. It has been foisted upon him to do the right thing and that will only happen if he follows his conscience and precisely follows orders. Now, the camera moves closer on Schofield and his silhouette often holds together the composition of scenes.

Schofield retains the grace of the understated hero.

Director Sam Mendes pays tribute to his grandfather’s exploits in this epic film. Both Mendes and co-writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns were guided by family war stories. The narrative is, by all measures, epic in the extreme. Influenced by the lore found in some of the best in cinema, literature, and even video games, this is a movie packed to the gills with intensity, a veritable roller coaster of highs and lows. Sandwiched between two heart-wrenching scenes of mortal combat, there’s even a quiet moment when Schofield stumbles upon a mother and child quietly surviving in the shadows. This tender scene inspires Schofield to sing a few lines from Edward Lear: “On a winter’s morn, on a stormy day, In a Sieve they went to sea!” Not long after that, Schofield himself is fighting the mighty life-threatening river currents. No doubt, this is a movie that can get caught up in its own grandiloquence. And yet, through it all, Schofield remains the stalwart understated hero and preserves for this epic film the irresistible charm of a fable. For all its grandeur, 1917 manages to retain a great sense of humility. Among its many influences is the classic novel, All Quiet on the Western Front, a story that is decidedly humble. Within this big epic film resides a modest human heart.

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Filed under Movie Reviews, Sketchnotes, Storyboards, Visual Storytelling, World War I

Review: ‘Bombing Nazi Germany’ by Wayne Vansant

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“Bombing Nazi Germany: The Graphic History of The Allied Air Campaign That Defeated Hitler in World War II” is a fact-filled and lively account of how aerial bombing came of age. It is not a slanted account but a thoughtful and honest look at how this military strategy began and what it has wrought. This is part of a series of educational comics by Wayne Vansant, pubished by Zenith Press.

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Filed under Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, History, Military, War, World War II

Book Review: MOUNTHAVEN By B.P. Chamberlain, Jr.

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“Mounthaven” is the story of a man on a journey of self-discovery stymied by his own personal set of blinders. Those blinders prove to be a costly problem for him. He seems to be aware of them. He wants them off. He is certain he can see the blinders others wear. That alone is the stuff of novels. This is also the stuff of life which makes this biography, thinly veiled as fiction, all the more remarkable. Throughout the book, there is a narrator leading you through a family history intertwined with the family estate, Mounthaven. By the last third of the novel, it is revealed that the narrator is the main character. And the main character happens to be my father. If that’s not remarkable, at least in my world of reading, I don’t know what is. In fact, out in the world at large, this book should find many interested readers.

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Filed under American Civil War, Book Reviews, Books, History

Graphic Novel Review: BLACK PATHS by David B., published by SelfMadeHero

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Sometimes a man needs the right kind of motivation. “Lauriano made a myth out of his two days in no-man’s-land.” That is what they say about our main character in David B.’s latest graphic novel, “Black Paths,” published by SelfMadeHero. He is thought to be posturing. But, then again, his friends are quick not to judge too harshly. Everything is in flux. The First World War tore into nations and souls. It did what it did to Laurinao. And it did what it did to the accidental city-state of Fiume. They know that all too well. “Ha! Life is good in the free city of Fiume. We’re going to die of cold and hunger.” Lauriano chooses to make sense of things by being the hero. It may prove a way to cope but it can also be a very lonely place.

Some say that certain things, like the silent movie era, are lost to us, just too far away for us to relate to. But I don’t believe them. Charlie Chaplin. Mary Pickford. We can still look into their eyes and they’re still alive. Everything is relatable. It depends on who is telling the story. What David B. does with “Black Paths” is give us a sense of the chaotic state that Europe was left in after the First World War and part of the stage that was being set for another global war. He does this by focusing on the little mouse that roared, Fiume, the city without a country. Italy is not terribly interested in absorbing it. Croatia is not ready. To make matters worse, a usurper, the Italian poet Gabriele D’Annunzio, takes command. This leaves a void that is filled by various corrupt forces. Fiume is not the harsh no-man’s-land of the trenches but it definitely rates the tile of “No-Where,” that Lauriano has given it.

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In truth, the details are numerous and complicated about the actual Fiume of history. To David B.’s great credit, he turns this troubled land into a wonderful gateway for further reading in history by including fantasy and romance into the mix. Lauriano is a dreamy young man who easily floats among all walks of life as if he were a ghost. But, after finding himself in the middle of a brawl over stolen loot, he stumbles upon Mina, a sexy cabaret singer. After they hide themselves on the roof overlooking the mayhem, they quickly fall under each other’s spell. They can’t get enough of each other or so it would seem. Mina, for all her charms, soon learns that she must compete with ghosts, poetry, and all manner of daydreaming.

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David B.’s beautifully fluid style graces each page. His unique use of patterning gives the story a lift and emphasis where needed. David B. can create patterns from just about anything and will, whether it be from skulls, crowds, or vibrations of light. And his characters tend to have a world-weary look to them with sleepy eyes and languid expressions. We don’t see people go into a rage as much as we see them get exasperated. It’s the anger, mixed with melancholy, that you usually see Charlie Chaplin engage in. It is a jaded resistance, just the right temperament for this fable set in Fiume.

“Black Paths” is a 128-page hardcover, published by SelfMadeHero.

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Filed under Comics, David B., Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, History, SelfMadeHero

Stumptown Comics Fest 2013: ELLEN LINDNER

Ellen Lindner is an accomplished illustrator and cartoonist. She is a cheerful, passionate, and whipsmart person with talent to spare. It was very nice to get to meet her and her friend, Robin Ha, an excellent artist in her own right. You’ll definitely want to check out the work of both of these ladies.

In the above interview, we focus on Ellen’s work on the anthology series she co-edits, THE STRUMPET, which showcases women cartoonists. To do justice to this project, I’ve written a separate review that you can scroll down and find or you can read it here.

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Ellen’s work has a bold and joyful way about it and a keen sense of humor. Ellen has an intriguing webcomic you’ll want to check out, THE BLACK FEATHER FALLS, on ACT-I-VATE Comics. It is set in the aftermath of World War I. It revolves around, Tina Swift, a woman who is caught in a web of intrigue surrounding a murder in 1920s London. You’ll want to jump in on a read if you haven’t already. You’ll be hooked.

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You can follow THE BLACK FEATHER FALLS HERE. The series will be collected by Soaring Penguin Press. And you can visit Ellen’s website HERE.

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Filed under Alternative Comics, Comics, Comix, Ellen Lindner, Independent Comics, Portland, Stumptown Comics Fest, The Strumpet, Webcomics