UPDATE: New edition now available
A classic example of how comics can treat more serious subjects, To the Heart of the Storm is an autobiographical work, telling the story of a young Jewish boy, growing up in New York between the two world wars.
The memories are pictured flooding back to Eisner as he sits on a train. He is on his way to boot camp having been drafted to fight in World War Two. A silent, contemplative Eisner is seen in a thoughtful mood, gazing out of the window, twisting the buildings and people he passes into scenes from his past.
Eisner’s black and white style makes good value of the dream-like nature of his recollections, with no rigid frames to keep the sequences in check and drifting, smoky effects to take us from one memory to the next. He draws people in a caricaturised style, often exaggerating and deforming expressions to get the effects he requires. His bodies, however, maintain natural poses with realistic slouches and contemporary clothing, balancing the characters’ faces with a realistic edge.
The script feels less natural, giving the impression that Eisner is recalling the gist of what might have been said, restricting himself to major personality traits. This makes some of the characters feel a little two dimensional, though it could be argued that the viewpoint of an adolescent Eisner might well see his surrounding cast of characters in this way, or at least use this basic analysis as a foundation around which to build his understanding of the world.
To the Heart of the Storm is a fascinating insight into the formative years of the author, especially from his viewpoint of a Jew in an era when racial tolerances were at such a low. We found the way in which the author’s train-travelling alter ego remembers his past to be a little too chaotic though, especially interspersed as it is with further dramatised recollections built from the memories of his parents. This is probably one best left to those with a particular interest in the era or the circumstances in which Eisner grew up, as it left us feeling like we wanted more, that too few conclusions had been drawn. Or perhaps that’s just the way life is.
Read more Will Eisner reviews:
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