The first volume in a longer graphic novel, Giardino's tale of Communist oppression in Prague after the war recalls the best fictional and nonfictional accounts of life under Stalinism in Eastern Europe--the Kafkaesque bureaucracies, the betrayal of friendships, the constant presence of Big Brother, the unofficial anti-Semitism. Giardino captures all this in a style American readers will recognize from the pages of Metal Hurlant (Heavy Metal), in which such draftsmanship usually serves soft-core porn and tales of the fantastic. Giardino's realism features some lovely evocations of Prague, but the story never develops a style uniquely suited to its subject (which was the marvel of Spiegelman's Maus). Some of his silent panels best capture the terror of one family as it struggles to survive while the father is lost in the labyrinthine penal system. Still, this is a project worth watching if yet another fine comic artist proves that a medium long associated with kids can handle the most serious of topics.