I Killed Adolf Hitler (Fantagraphics)

ikah-header.jpgNorwegian artist Jason uses anthropomorphic animals to tell the story of a time-travelling assassin on the hunt for history’s greatest monster.

 

 

48 pgs. FC; $12.95

(W / A: Jason)

 

I Killed Adolf Hitler is the sweetest love story about time travel, Nazis, and hired killers I’ve ever read even though it’s not really a love story about Nazis, hit-men, and time travelers. It does contain elements of romance, sci-fi and historical fiction, but it also stars anthropomorphic animals. It’s a bit confusing, but the best description is probably that it combines elements of many genres without ever becoming any particular one of them.

 

Here’s a spoiler-free synopsis to drive that point home: a killer-for-hire in modern times is sent back in time to kill Hitler. He fails, and Hitler steals his time machine, returning to present day. The killer, trapped in the past, hunts the Führer until present day, when he teams up with his ex-girlfriend, still young, to continue his quest.

 

It’s simply brilliant how Jason, the Norwegian artist who won a 2007 Eisner Award for his similarly spare The Left Bank Gang, crams all this story into fewer than 50 pages. The story never seems rushed—in fact, there’s little urgency at all in the art. The characters are tall, stiff and show little emotion. Cartoonish reactions and style remain. Combined with the simple color, this book comes off looking like Looney Tunes as done by Hergé.

 

To add to the subtlety, all of the panels are the same size. Each page is laid out two panels wide and four panels high so, even when there is action happening, nothing leaps out at the reader. This could be seen as pretentious. Some could say Jason is holding back just to be different, or that he’s placing his book above others because he doesn’t need to beat readers over the head with action. Some could say that, but they’d be ignoring how the style builds a clean, consistent, easy-flowing story reminiscent of great film noir.

 

For all of its artistic calmness, Hitler is still a tense book. Jason builds suspense in not saying—or showing—things. Silent panels are a hard comics tool to master, but Jason acts like he invented them, bending wordless boxes to his sick will.

 

It’d be a shame not to mention the dry, dark humor in this book because basically, underneath everything, that’s what this is. It’s not obvious on the first read—the humor is pretty subtle, so subtle sometimes that it’s not even really there. The situation is funny and the art is cute, so it’s worth laughing at, even though it’s not a "joke."

 

Humor combined with history, sci-fi, action, adventure and intrigue: there’s a lot to like about this book. Just watch for comedy and don’t confuse restraint with pretension. | Gabe Bullard

 

Click here to check out other comics by Jason from the fine folks at Fantagraphics, and click here to read an exclusive preview in New York Magazine.

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