Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Reader's Diary #1087: Steve Niles (writer), Dave Wachter (illustrator): Breath of Bones

Breath of Bones was quite difficult for me to get my hands on a physical copy. I ended up buying it from the Kobo store, which gave me a lot of reservations. My only prior experience with trying to read a comic on my eReader before was with Sharon McKay's War Brothers, and it did not go well. Losing all the colour and unable to zoom or scroll almost ruined the book  (fortunately the story salvaged it). This time, however, I decided to read it right on my laptop and it worked out better. For one, most is in black and white anyway (and the cover, which technically is coloured, does not exactly take advantage of the full rainbow), and for another it was larger and not as difficult to see.

Breath of Bones is set in World War II and tells the story of a small European village, as of yet unscathed by the war. That changes, however, when an Allied plane crashes nearby. The Nazis will now come to investigate. Much to the disbelief of most townsfolk, an old man decides to create a golem, a mud monster, to protect them. The story most revolves around Noah, the old man's grandson.

When I found out it was about a golem, I was very interested in reading further. I didn't know a lot about golems of Jewish mythology (the first time I heard about them was through a Simpsons Halloween episode) and so I was curious. I also enjoyed the artwork, which reminded me at time of Will Eisner's work, especially in the characters and the tendency to drop the panel boxes from time to time (though the golem itself reminded me a little of The Thing, from the Fantastic Four).

With the lack of colour I found myself at times wondering about the violence and if it was made less alarming, therefore more child-friendly, with the grayscale approach. There was one scene in particular where the golem takes a Nazi and crushes him in its hand. "Skronch" it says, which was a surprisingly evocative word to describe a wet, popping say of a skull. Violent in itself, but imagine if there was red squirting out at the same time. Would that have been too intense? Likewise had all of the shooting and fires been colourized. Black and white tends to compliment historic settings, but I'm not always sure that the death and violence of war should be downplayed.

And then it just seemed to end. I wasn't sure why the golem disappeared ("he was gone in an instant—void of life, drained as mysteriously as it had come. He had done what he was created for"). The war wasn't over, couldn't he help others? Plus, I felt the moralistic message at the end about finding good within ourselves was tacked on and disingenuous considering that earlier in the story the grandfather says, "sometimes it takes monsters to stop monsters."

I had been enjoying the book until the end. I wished it felt longer than a single breath.

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