Maus – A Comic Review

Posted on November 13, 2007. Filed under: Reviews |

Maus – A Comic Review

Some Wars Never End

There are few comics that I feel are respected enough to bring up in any comics conversation: Watchmen, Sandman, Crisis on Infinite Earths, etc. They’re comics that are great in every respect; you could even call them ground-breaking. Maus is one book that will absolutely be added to that list. When a comic book wins a Pulitzer Prize (1992) you know it’s just simply that good. Written by Art Spiegelman, (In the Shadow of No Towers) Maus is a recounting of Vladek’s (Art’s father) tale of survival in Poland during the Nazi occupation and holocaust.

Vladek begins his tale as a young Jewish man in Czestochowa, Poland. His adulthood begins well enough. He is successful in business and he is starting a new family with young Anja Zylberberg. But, as we all know, the story begins to make a turn for the worse. Poland is invaded by Russia on one side and Germany on the other. The rest is history. We watch as neighbors and friends begin disappearing, then family too. Honest hard working people are forced into a life of black-market dealings and crime just to survive. Friends that had been trusted for years now must be greedy just to live another day.

It’s chilling to watch the transformation from bad to worse. Sometimes we tend to forget that the transition from owning your own business to ending up in Auschwitz fighting for your life did not happen overnight. Spiegelman does a fantastic job of drawing out the time, letting us experience with Vladek each loss as it happens. And with each loss, come new lessons and techniques of survival that Vladek must become adept at so he can make it from one day to the next.

Art Spiegelman’s writing is superb. He masterfully draws you in by laying bare all of his father’s war wounds and laying them bare for us to see how they are continue to make him “limp”. From Vladek’s broken English to his neurotic penny-pinching ways, Art’s father is a character for the ages. Spiegelman also did all of the artwork for Maus. His creativity and imagination are shown in his characterization of the different nationalities and ethnicities involved in the story. All Jews are mice (hence the name of the comic), of course all Germans are cats, Swedes are reindeer, the French are Frogs, etc. The metaphors for each species are so deep you could mine them for days.

As Vladek’s story unfolds, we see the damage that was done in the past creep all the way through to the present. Because of the horrible things that Vladek and Anja both experience during the war, their lives are drastically changed forever. Anja is always living with the pain and the hurt that the destruction of the war has brought to her doorstep. Vladek can’t seem to ever relax as some of the old lessons he picked up during his time in hell continue to spill over into his present life. All of this has an enormous impact on those that love them and have to watch as the pain persists.

The damage that this terrifying atrocity has done shows us that once the damage is done, it just keeps giving. The hurt is transferred down through the generation as the suffering echoes through all time. This is why sin is such a horrible thing. When one man sins against another, it is not just one person they are offending. This transgression ripples through time affecting all in its path unless something is done to rectify it. The horrible things that were done in the concentration and death camps left a gaping wound in the side of humanity (not to mention the tyrannies of other societies and madmen all throughout the ages.) It’s as if Abel’s blood still cries for justice from the ground it was spilled on.

Vladek is our primary source for the damage that sin can do. He gives us a unique perspective in which we can see the transgression in action then see its consequences down through the years. If we examine our own lives and the lives of those around us, we too can see the affect that separate evils have had on all of us and how our existence has changed as we try to cope. When we sin, we are not only sinning against God but our fellow man, our brothers and sisters, our wives and children, our parents. Everybody is touched by our actions. Paying it forward works both ways. We can be thankful for people like Vladek and Anja, people who helped us to wake up from the haze we had found ourselves in as a people. They can help us examine our own lives and see where our own hurts lie and where we have done damage to others. Hopefully we can start to rebuild and repair ourselves and those we are called to love.


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3 Responses to “Maus – A Comic Review”

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[…] book nerd ever since I fell in love with Obelix aged eight, I love everything from Preacher to Maus to Robert Crumb, and have been reading more graphic novels than ever since I started blogging. […]

I’ll look into reading it!:)

the book sucked ass.

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