Joe Kubert, best known as the classic DC artist behind the likes of Sgt. Rock, Enemy Ace and Tor, delivers in YOSSEL: APRIL 19, 1943 what is undoubtedly the most personal book in his storied career, while at the same time cementing his legacy as both a writer and an artist. What his previous graphic novel, Fax From Sarajevo, may have lacked in energy and intensity, YOSSEL greatly surpasses in leaps and bounds through its purely visceral storytelling.
What Kubert does here is interesting. He's recreating the events surrounding the Warsaw Ghetto uprising of 1943 in Poland during the Second World War, but interjecting himself into the story at the age he would have been at that time in his life. Kubert's essentially putting forward a "What If?" scenario based on his own history, wondering what would have happened had his Jewish family not migrated to America from Poland in the 1920's and had remained in Europe. Yossel is the boy Kubert, a fictional persona projected into the meticulously recreated non-fictional events of 1943. And that last part is really key -- YOSSEL could very easily have been a historical "comics documentary", but I have a feeling that if he did so, the rage and honesty that comes through so vividly in these pages would have been tragically lost.
Kubert also makes another interesting decision. He chooses to publish his rough pencils, completely un-inked and unfinished, a choice that would doom most other artists that I can think of offhand. It almost looks like a sketchbook when you rapidly flip through these pages, but it's a truly perfect companion to the raw and often graphic story he's telling here. YOSSEL is the accomplished artist in the twilight of his career mustering his powers one more time to give us his most sincere achievement. A work of unflinching vision and purity.
Peter Aaron Rose is a writer, producer and technologist who lives and works in San Francisco, CA. Under the pseudonym "Peter Siegel", he recently authored Killing Demons, a graphic novel available from Engine Press and Platinum Studios.