Tripwire continues its 100 Graphic Novels You Should Read While Stuck Inside with its ninety-fourth choice, Yossel by Joe Kubert and reviewed by Tripwire’s editor-in-chief Joel Meadows…
Yossel Writer/ Artist: Joe Kubert Letterer: Pete Carlsson DC
Today’s choice is our fourth Joe Kubert book in our list of 100 books. Towards the end of his career, Kubert moved towards more hard-hitting material and away from his superheroes and adventure tales. Yossel is a 120 page original graphic novel about a young boy, the eponymous Yossel, who finds himself in the Warsaw Ghetto after losing his parents in the death camps. He has survived simply because of his ability to draw, something that the Nazis find eerily charming and so Kubert offers us this haunting tale of a boy who is witness to some of the most horrendous acts in modern history. In fact, he shows that art can sometimes be a conduit for survival and escape even in the most hopeless situations. In his introduction, he mentions that being a comic artist has always been something that he has been lucky to have as a major facet of his life.
Kubert explains his visual approach here in his introduction. Yossel is created purely in pencils rather than pen and inks and this offers a greater immediacy for the reader.
Kubert varies the viewpoint a little here with the town’s rebbe recounting his time in the death camp as a Sondercommando, one of the Jews who worked with the Nazis, and how he escaped from there.
Yossel possesses a harrowing simplicity in its imagery and despite the fact that Kubert escaped with his family to America when he was little, so this isn’t an autobiographical tale, there is such empathy here evoked by Kubert that the reader can’t help but be drawn into his compelling narrative. Also the visual research here depicting places like the death camp feel like Kubert definitely did his homework and there is a sense of desperation and hopelessness all the way through here although there are positive notes too in the bleakness.
This also has a quote from master graphic novelist Will Eisner on its cover and this work is easily the equal of any of Eisner’s books too.
Joe Kubert was a writer, an editor and a fantastic artist. Here with Yossel he showcases his versatility as a creator, illustrating that his work was always about nuance, emotion and subtlety. Yossel is obviously a very hard read but it’s one of the most ambitious works of the career of a true comics genius and it should be far better known than it actually is. Haunting and heartfelt, it points to the power of comics.