Graphic novelist Rehr offers a fictionalized biography of Gavrilo Princip, who killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand and started World War I.
Whether it actively intends to or not, this book might end up reducing violence in the world, because it makes the life of a terrorist seem incredibly dull. As imagined in this book, revolutionaries spend their time lecturing one another on politics and arguing about strategy. Sample dialogue: “Courage as such doesn’t exist. It’s all a matter of pressures and rewards.” Pages are filled with black-and-white illustrations that have the look of scratchboard, many spreads entirely wordless. This often has the effect of slowing the action down and drawing out an already-sluggish script. But the final scenes are surprisingly powerful. Rehr shows the entire war in a series of strange, fragmentary images: a sky filled with biplanes, an armless Jesus suspended against the cross in the ruins of a church, a crowd raising its hats into the air. In these moments, the stark illustrations become appropriately frightening. Elsewhere, the book is too dry and matter-of-fact for its own good, but maybe that’s the point. Late in the book, Princip says, “No one person causes the wheel of history to turn. The war would’ve come anyway. Me…I just pulled the trigger!”
Princip, in this contemplative version of history, isn’t evil, and he isn’t heroic. He’s just a hapless man who fired a gun. (Graphic historical fiction. 12-18)