from graphic novel guest blogger, Francisca Goldsmith:
Ben McCool and Mario Guevara have respected creative reputations in the superhero comics world. Turning now to a legendary hero—remembered for his humanity as an essential aspect of his heroism—this newly teamed pair also brings their experiences with film to a complex project:
- Retain an historically accurate sensibility for Alexander Nevsky’s 13th century
- Present his legend as told by Sergei Eisenstein, a Stalin-era filmmaker
- Make the parallels between two highly charged political periods in Russia’s history accessible to a 21st century audience likely to be unfamiliar with Russian folk heroes or their presentations to Russian audiences
Packaged here with introductions to the film and to Alexander Nevsky, along with an appendixed interview with Russian film critic and historian Naum Kleiman, this is one of the most complete experiences of a legend one might hope to find on any graphic novel reading shelf. Guevara’s cinematic panels and definitively 21st century hues show both Eisenstein’s cinematic imagination and Nevsky’s heroic acts. McCool’s script is clear but without didacticism or internal over-explaining for the reading audience. The storytelling is so sharp that one could come to the graphic novel without historical background but it is the richly combined histories of legend and epic film that make this story’s political traction compelling.
Most important, and in contradistinction from superheroes and black-and-white politics, the legendary Nevsky is realized here as both human and humane, victorious because of his strategizing as well as his raw bravery. An unexpected and delicious aspect, too, is that the women in this legend’s current telling rise far above pinup dolls or even too bland to be true heroines alongside Nevsky.
Adult/High School–Alexander Nevsky is a legendary figure informing Russian identity, holding a role not dissimilar from that of Robert the Bruce for the Scots or Hercules for the ancient Greeks. When Soviet Russian film writer and director Sergei Eisenstein created his 1938 masterpiece Ilya Muromets, based on this 13th-century hero, he used the epic cinematography then in vogue to display artfully and artistically foreshadowing of the rise of the Third Reich without letting the modern encroachment of the Germans compromise the sanctity of a legend of Nevsky as Russia’s saving warrior. McCool and Guevara have united in this retelling to capture a coherent and exciting narrative of Nevsky’s triumph against the invaders with beautifully colored and richly detailed spreads that echo Eisenstein’s cinematography. Character development–including that of a Russian queen, a Teutonic spy, and a brave peasant girl warrior, as well as Nevsky, of course–is rendered quickly and solidly. All manner of political realities can be identified in the tale, from those of the 13th and 20th centuries to the role a true hero could take as a model today. Much added matter in the volume makes this a viable text for students interested in aspects of European history, military science, and legends as ripe for presentation through a variety of media, including film and comics.– Francisca Goldsmith, Infopeople Project, CA