October 18, 2013 7:04 pm

The Great War, by Joe Sacco

The Great War, by Joe Sacco, Jonathan Cape RRP£20, 56 pages

 

Joe Sacco made his name with comic book-style works of journalism that rendered in intricate detail the complex Israeli-Palestinian relations (Palestine, 1996) and the Bosnian war (Safe Area Gorazde, 2000). Now he turns his attention to the first world war with this epic illustration of July 1 1916 – the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

Matteo Pericoli’s Manhattan Unfurled provides an obvious template for the book’s concertina-form, its pages opening out into a 24ft-long panorama. It is, however, the Bayeux Tapestry that provides the inspiration for Sacco’s wordless evocation of the day’s narrative as it shifts from order to bloody chaos.

In his introduction, Sacco describes the teeming multitude of soldiers as “a single organism made up of hundreds of thousands of mostly enthusiastic men”. In creating this stunning work, all Sacco could do, he writes, “was show what happened between the general and the grave, and hope that even after a hundred years the bad taste has not been washed from our mouths”.

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