Publisher: DC Vertigo
Writer(s): Kevin Maurer, Robert Venditti
Artwork: Andrea Mutti
Colours: Lee Loughridge
Lettering: Clayton Cowles
Release Date: 14th May 2019
As we approach the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings, DC Vertigo are getting set to release a graphic novel which takes a closer look at one of the more overlooked battles in the historic campaign.
Back in June of 1944, 182 members of the U.S. 82nd Airborne found themselves mistakenly parachuting into the heart of enemy territory, a full 18 miles from their intended target. Forced to seek refuge in the small village of Graignes, the paratroopers and French citizens found themselves coming together in solidarity as a German militia drew closer and the reality of an all-out battle became more and more inevitable.
The execution is solid throughout, with writers Kevin Maurer and Robert Venditti providing an impressive feeling of authenticity to the proceedings. With a historical account, there’s always the risk of veering into sensationalism in order to ‘spice things up’, but the compelling true story of the Battle of Graignes basically tells itself here, leaving the writers to focus on the personal details that really help to underscore both the hope and horror of the situation. And they really don’t come more personal than this story, with Venditti’s uncle Tommy, a man who actually fought in the Battle of Graignes, appearing as a key character in the book.
The early chapters are relatively restrained, showing the American soldiers gradually integrating themselves into the surprisingly welcoming village. And while there are a few villagers who are a little wary, perhaps the most powerful part of this story is how wholeheartedly they accept the American paratroopers into their midst, knowing full well the consequences should their alliance be discovered by the encroaching German forces. Strong bonds are forged in spite of the language barrier, and there’s a real sense of unity that quickly develops as both nations find themselves united against a common foe. That said, there’s also a disquieting sense of apprehension during these scenes, with the looming spectre of the Nazi war machine offering an outcome that could only realistically go one way.
Andrea Mutti is definitely a safe pair of hands when it comes to gritty, realistic artwork, as anyone already familiar with his stellar body of work will readily attest to. Everything is well rendered here, with expressive characters and a grounded approach that never sensationalises the violence or the drama. Colourist Lee Loughridge breathes some extra life into Mutti’s aesthetic, switching from the murky French countryside to the bright, airy feel of the village seamlessly
Unfortunately, as anyone familiar with the history of the battle will know, this isn’t a story which has what you would necessarily describe as a happy ending. But in the tragedy, there’s a moving snapshot of the heroism, determination and acceptance that would ultimately lead to Germany’s unconditional surrender less than a year later. It’s powerful stuff, and the humanity on display in these quiet, personal moments is exactly the stuff that great stories – whether they be real or fictional – are made of.
A powerful and oft-overlooked chapter in one of the most historic campaigns in modern warfare. By turns uplifting, heroic and tragic, the story of The Battle of Graignes is one that deserves to be told, and in the hands of these respectful and passionate creators, DC Vertigo have done a truly impressive job of bringing it to life here.