REVIEW

Traces of the Great War

An anthology of short comics that personalise the impact of World War I, with stories about how it shaped the lives and landscapes of what was left behind

German infantry montage in Traces of the Great War

Featuring 18 short comics, created by a handful of interesting comics creators (mostly from France and the UK, but a few from elsewhere around the world), this anthology marks the centenary of World War I.

Death looms large over the battlefields of WW1 in Traces of the Great War

It’s a broad spread of stories but most channel the title of the anthology and focus on what’s left behind: memories; written accounts; scarred landscapes; and the relatives of the dead, struggling to come to terms with the sacrifices made by their ancestors.

There are flashes of genius here and none of the creators take the subject lightly. Instead we’re treated to grave, tragic pieces, where even the flippancy of youth and ignorance is weighed down by the shadows of the past. The ghosts of soldiers haunt fractured towns and landscapes; skeletons emerge from and return to the soil of forgotten battlefields; and in one particularly poignant piece, Europe’s wars echo through time, reminding us that comparatively short periods of peace like the one we’re currently enjoying shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Few war stories fully embrace war but this book pushes hard against it, acknowledging the tragic loss of life and embracing the spirit of remembrance, but critiquing the politics and the build-up. In our modern times, with wars on our doorstep and diplomatic uncertainty with our neighbours, this is a stark reminder of how we’re never far enough away from the brink of another global disaster.

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