The first time I encountered Joe Sacco was in his brilliant book Palestine, a work of “comics journalism” (his term, and an accurate one) about his experience reporting from the West Bank and Gaza during the First Intifada. Sacco has also produced books about his reporting in the Balkans and around the world (that last gathers pieces he produced as real-time reporting, including his series on the Iraq War originally published in the Guardian).
So like, all of this is to say, if you don’t know who Joe Sacco is, get on that shit.
But to the topic at hand. The day Joe Sacco’s The Great War arrived in the bookstore, I squeed the biggest squee anyone has ever squeed about trench warfare.
Inspired by the Bayeux Tapestry, The Great War is 24-foot-long image of the first day of the Battle of the Somme. It comes in a slipcase (we’re going to get very familiar with slipcases this month) and folds out like an accordion. You can flip the pages like a book in order to focus on the details of the drawing
or you can unfold the whole thing for a sense of the scale of that day.
You’ll probably need a second (or third) pair of hands if you go that route.
I just think everything about this is perfect: the way the size and shape of the book capture the size and shape of the battle, the drawing’s roots in art history, the human details (which is always my favorite thing about Sacco’s work). The main act is definitely the drawing, but the book comes with annotations to the image by Sacco and an essay on the Battle of the Somme by Adam Hochschild, author of To End All Wars.
Also! The drawing was installed as mural in the Montparnasse station of the Paris Metro last July. So if you’re in France, you can go see it and its size can oppress you even further.