Writer Nury (Atar Gull, 2019, etc.), illustrator Vallée (Katanga, 2019, etc.) and translator Hahnenberger (The Jungle, 2019, etc.) deliver a twisty historical-epic crime saga that follows a Jewish scrap-metal salesman’s relentless dedication to staying alive—and getting ahead—before, during, and after the Nazi occupation of France.
As a child, Joseph Joanovici meets his future wife, Eva, as they hide out from a czarist pogrom in 1905 Romania. They eventually immigrate to Clichy, France, to stay with Eva’s uncle, and Joseph demonstrates an uncanny skill in sorting metal, proving himself valuable in the uncle’s scrap-metal shop. Though illiterate, the unconventionally ingenious Joseph devises a crude bookkeeping system that allows him to manage the shop’s finances—and skim off the top to support his growing family. The extra cash enables Joseph to turn a sticky predicament for his uncle into a massive business opportunity for himself, and this ability to turn danger to his advantage raises Joseph’s fortunes and reputation, bringing stability to his family even as the Nazis come to power, with reluctant—if profitable—material support from the Jewish ironmonger. The consummate opportunist, Joseph plays all sides, soon finding himself in league with Nazis, criminals, police, politicians, gamblers, businessmen, and the French Resistance, each move and alliance calculated to keep him and his loved ones alive even if it costs his soul and alienates those he protects. A vicious personal attack against an investigator earns Joseph an enemy who lingers long after the war. Nury’s story is gripping, brutal, and morally complex, dramatizing the fleeting nature of power. The first chapter spills out a jumbled chronology, presenting this complicated man as an overturned jigsaw puzzle, and the pages that follow fill in the blanks and tighten like a noose. Vallée’s art has the cartoonish realism and cinematic verve of Steve Dillon's.
Thrilling, haunting, superb.