In 1945, we told the world, Never again. In 1992, the promise was broken into bloody shards. That was the year the war broke out in Sarajevo, Bosnia, the year that genocide revisited the planet. It was the year that Ervin Rustemagic -- an international businessman whose clients included author Joe Kubert -- found himself and his family trapped in a city under siege. Ervin`s only means of communication to the outside world was via his fax machine. As Joe began to receive these messages from Ervin, he did what he had done for years -- he put the story to paper.
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In March 1992 Ervin Rustemagic, a well-regarded European comics agent, faxed a message from his Dutch office to the New Jersey home of his American friend and client, distinguished comics artist Kubert (Sgt. Rock; The Green Berets), detailing his plans to return to his home in the Sarajevo suburb of Dobrinja. Once back, relentless Serb bombardment trapped Rustemagic and his family, destroying their home and possessions. The family took shelter in a ruined building. For the next two and a half years Rustemagic communicated with Kubert and supporters in Europe via sporadically functioning fax machines, recounting the city's destruction, the Serb brutality inadequate multinational peacekeeping force and the physical and spiritual deprivations of life in a war zone. Kubert has used Rustemagic's faxed messages to recreate the family's experiences?a heartstopping nighttime dash across Sarajevo airport under fire; the deadly gauntlet of Serb snipers on the route between Dobrinja and Sarajevo?in a black-and-white, book-length comics work that brilliantly documents a family's wartime survival and escape against unbelievable odds. Kubert's mainstream comics narrative style can at times be heavyhanded, but his signature graphic style?brisk, precisely rendered, emotionally charged linework in dramatically composed panels?marks him as one of mainstream comics' most talented and celebrated interpreters of the horrors of war.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Too few mainstream comics artists have taken advantage of the adult comics revolution to explore new subject matter. Kubert, best known for war comics, takes the plunge with this graphic novel recounting the struggles of a Bosnian friend, Ervin, to escape with his family. Trapped in Sarajevo as the city underwent Serbian bombardment, Ervin was able to contact the outside world only by fax. Kubert's highly effective work of agitprop is based on those faxes. His style is not exactly understated, and his occasionally ungainly dialogue demonstrates that he is an artist first, a writer second. His outrage shows on every page, and he makes genuine drama out of this story of war's effects on civilians, in which the briefest outdoor excursion is dangerous. Although lacking the complexity and nuances of Sacco's Palestine (Kubert's depiction of Serbian attackers is uncomfortably reminiscent of the hackneyed Nazis in his earlier war comics), Kubert's work, like Sacco's, renders political conflict understandable and with plenty of personal impact. Gordon Flagg
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