There are a lot of great graphic novels. Whether it is Superman or Watchmen it is safe to say that the talents artists who bring to life our fantastic dreams are gaining more acceptance in mainstream creative endeavors. This is why Art Speieglman’s Maus is so well-liked: it not only combines the allure of ‘comic books’ with the luster of history, but weaves an emotional tale of one man’s attempt to understand his father.
The story is nuanced. On the surface it is about a struggling artist trying to capture the experiences of his father’s time in a World War two concentration camp. Below the surface, however, the tribulations of his conflict over the publication of such a tumult turn his heart into a conflicted mess; incorporating himself into his own graphic novel, Art expresses his desire to see his father’s tale published and promoted without turning the horrors of the Holocaust into a bastardized Disney version of actuality.
The story is told in two parts, both of which are included in the “Complete” edition. The first part deals primary with Art’s father’s life leading up to his imprisonment in various German camps, with a parallel story of Art capturing his father’s tale for publication. The second part, meanwhile, tells of the actual experiences within the camp and of Art’s confusion on his hand in promoting his father’s trials. Each part compliments each other and to read on without the other is practically criminal. Drawn in wondrous black and white creativity and interspaced with thought-provoking artistic construction, one is immediately reminded of the comic book greats and the subsequent themes borrowed from them in this original creation.
The layout of the graphic novel is unique with some squares composing an entire image in their own right if only glanced at from a certain angle. Likewise, there is the periodical style break which introduces concepts of a radically different nature while subliminally advancing the story through those small artistic renditions only comic/graphic novel readers appreciate. I think it is none to hyperbolic to say that any fan of Watchman will enjoy this award winning collection if only given the chance.