Berlin – The Seven Dwarves
An abandoned airfield in 1993: Two women exchange a 50-year-old letter. The year 1943: The crew of the Lancaster S-Snowwhite is dropping bombs on Germany. Seven men, so young and yet so old before their time. Seven dwarves for old Snow White, and their story of the war. The terror of night missions, the flak, the enemy fighters, the mid-air collisions… Death that strikes anywhere, any time, and the love you seek and latch on to desperately to feel alive while you can…
Without malice, without being insulting, this is simply every World War II Royal Air Force bomber movie you’ve ever seen. Specifically it’s very much Memphis Belle. Like I say, I don’t necessarily mean that as a detrimental, nasty thing, merely a comment, a view on it.
But I challenge you, watch one, read the other. You’ll see the similarities. Or rather, the similarities will jump out and smack you in the mouth.
However, despite the clichés despite the corn that those clichés throw up most of the way through this is solid, intelligent, well done work. And dear lord, there’s some great flying sequences in here…
So yes, it’s full of brave young men, doing the things they’ve always done in war, they’re square of jaw, quick of wit, scared shitless of their almost daily flirtations with death, knowing some of them wont make it home tonight, knowing most of them wont see it through to the end of their tour of operations.
And it’s full of the other thing brave young men were want to do in wartime (and any other time as well if we’re honest), as one of the young airmen gets involved with one of the W.A.A.F. girls…
So, we have a storyline taking two very distinct paths; the little love story at its core, and the story of what happens to the young men flying bombing raid after bombing raid, almost knowing that one of these will be their last. And against it all, we have Marvano delivering some deliciously dark themes, both in his art and his tale.
There’s a strange mix at times in the book; as Marvano could be accused at times of fetishising the war, and playing up to all the stereotypes we’ve seen in just the couple of examples I’ve shown you thus far.
But then he also manages to paint such a vivid picture of the daily life of these people, of the intensity of their lives and loves, and the brutal reality of the war they’re part of. So the clichés butt up against each other at times; going one way and then the other, but Marvano actually handles it well, balancing his story, making it eminently readable.
I ended up enjoying this a damn sight more than I thought I was going to. Marvano’s skill here isn’t delivering innovative or original, but it’s all about taking the familiar and making it work, using the familiar to tell a comfortable little story, and do it very well. Sometimes familiar is just nice. And it helps to have an artist as good as Marvano to deliver something so familiar but do so with the occasional really powerful visual. And I’ll leave you with one of those, a really strong page that stopped me in my tracks… just the menace he invokes on the page is so impressive….