By Tardi. Published by Fantagraphics.
Hardcover, 64 pages, B&W, 2022 (originally published in the 1970's)
Mad geniuses, Jules Verne-style deliriums, dinosaurs, sex, bloodshed, and the madness of World War I — two strange and surreal early works by a master of the comics form.
Fantagraphics presents two experimental, early works by the French cartooning legend Tardi. These comics, created in the mid-'70s, provide a fascinating preview of the masterworks of his prolific career. While they are not narratively linked, an eerie sense of foreboding suffuses stories in this collection: they both depict sex and brutal violence and condemn the horrors of war.
The True Story of the Unknown Soldier follows a pulp novelist turned soldier who, driven to delirium amidst the trenches of WWI, becomes tormented by visions of his own seedy creations. This stream-of-consciousness tale visualizes the tortured psyche of its protagonist through dazzling dreamscapes and surreal scenarios. In The National Razor, a soldier returns from war a shattered man. Drowning himself in drink, he wanders the streets of Paris without purpose; in this numb stupor, he finds himself caught up in strange situations, lashes out in unexpectedly violent ways, and ultimately meets with a bloody end. At once a visceral depiction of the trauma wrought by war and a powerful denunciation of the death penalty and France's iconic guillotine.