Sunday, July 5, 2015

Moving Pictures

Moving Pictures is an apt title for this book for two reasons, neither of which has to do with movies. It is about the effort of French museum workers to hide and protect great works of art (some are "moving pictures") from the Nazi occupation during World War II. This book follows the exploits of the curator Ila Gardner, a Canadian woman who decided to stay in Paris, where she is in charge of "third rate" works at the Louvre.

The main narrative involves her being interrogated by Rolf Hauptman, a Nazi officer in charge of tracking down and cataloging great works of art. To say that their discussions are politically charged is an understatement, but matters are further complicated because they also have some version of a romantic relationship. Ila has many methods to stand up for herself and also defend an important part of civilization against an overpowering enemy, and over the course of the book she proves quite resourceful. However, Hauptmann is not a two-dimensional villain nor a pushover himself, and the study of these two characters as they joust is fascinating.
As you can see, the art is relatively clean and simple yet complex. There is an excellent interplay between lights and darks that obscure people's faces at times but also set great atmosphere. Also, characters and settings are defined through negative space, which further abstracts the events of the book in a way that adds import and layers of meaning. The reader's job is to fill in those spaces, a task which is aided by copious flashbacks to various scenes from Ila's life. This book is intelligent, complex, non-chronological, and deals with some very serious subject matter. I found it very rewarding to read and re-read, but I feel because of its subject matter and presentation, it is best suited for mature, capable readers.
Moving Pictures is a collaboration between Kathryn and Stuart Immonen, a wife and husband who have worked on many comics over the years. Kathryn has also written multiple series for Marvel Comics, most notably Patsy Walker: Hellcat and Journey into Mystery. The Joe Shuster Award winning Stuart has drawn multiple series for both major comics companies and is the artist for the latest batch of Star Wars comic books. They speak more extensively about their work on Moving Pictures in this interview and also this one.

This book has received its share of praise and was nominated for the Stumptown and the Doug Wright Awards. Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review and wrote that "the Immonens keep the story spare and focused to allow the ambiguity of survival itself to become the drama." Rich Johnston wrote that there is "an energy on the page making the pictures work just as hard as the words." Seth T. Hahne called it "a fantastic little book."

Moving Pictures was published by Top Shelf Productions, and they have a preview and much more information about the book here.

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