World War I has long been an obsession of Jacques Tardi's. (His very first (rejected) comics story dealt with the subject, as does his most recent work, the two-volume Putain de Guerre.) But It Was the War of the Trenches is Tardi's defining, masterful statement on the subject. Tardi is not interested in the national politics, the strategies, or the battles: he focuses on the day to day of the grunts in the trenches, and, with icy, controlled fury and disgust, with sardonic yet deeply sympathetic narration, he brings that existence alive as no one has before or since. Yet he also delves deeply into the underlying causes of the war, the madness, the cynical political exploitation of patriotism. And in a final, heartbreaking coda, Tardi grimly itemizes the ghastly human cost of the war, and lays out the future 20th century conflicts, all of which seem to spring from this global burst of insanity. Trenches features some of Tardi's most stunning artwork.
Rendered in a lush illustrative style, inspired both by abundant photographic documentation and classic American war comics, augmented by a sophisticated, gorgeous use of Craftint tones, Trenches is somehow simultaneously atypical for the artist and a perfect encapsulation of Tardi's mature style. It is the indisputable centerpiece of Tardi's oeuvre.
Jacques Tardi is a pioneering European cartoonist. His Adele Blanc-Sec series was adapted into a feature by Luc Besson, and he was behind the recent animated film April and the Extraordinary World. His comics are award winning (including the U.S.'s Eisners). He lives in Paris with his wife, the singer Dominique Grange, and their cats.