War isn’t a new subject in comic books and really it’s one of the oldest themes for the medium. Katusha takes a look at the Ukrainian and Russian side of World War II. Maybe it’s because of what’s going on in the Ukraine and Russia’s presence/interference over there, but I found Katusha very interesting. It’s not quite history repeating itself, but it does illustrate the long-standing differences between the two countries/cultures. The story begins by showing us a bit of the future in which our main character Ekaterina Tymoshenko or Katusha as she’s called emerges from a fierce tank battle as the lone standing tank. The German’s even refer to her tank as “The Devil” as the tank runs over soldiers and busts through brick walls.
After this introduction we jump to the past in which Katusha and her adopted sister Milla have just graduated from school. The town is celebrating the graduations and we learn about the setting of the story and the social landscape of Ukraine at the time. They’re under Russia’s communist rule and live in fear of the Russian secret police. It’s interesting because at first there’s very little difference between the Russians and the Germans.
The story continues as we follow Katusha’s family and how they’re affected by the war. Her uncle Taras escapes from prison just as the Russians are killing everyone off and abandoning it due to the advancing Germans. Taras ends up playing a large role in the story and shaping the future of Katusha and Milla’s lives.
The narrative is interesting. At times it’s very mature and handles and presents the atrocities of war in the way they should be. Then at times it reminds us of how young our main character is when she starts to wonder about the other things in life. She has awkward moments with a Russian soldier that she meets later and they continue to flirt back and forth.
Katusha narrates the story, but clearly she’s narrating it from the future because she presents facts from the different years of the story in full detail. It works because it gives the reader better insight into what’s happening and where the story will likely go. The dialogue does end up pretty stiff as the story is only progressed via the narration. While the dialogue does serve to grow the characters and show their personalities, it’s still always second to Katusha’s narration.
What the story does exceptionally well is present the story from the Ukrainian. Now this ends up including some of the Russian side, but it’s important to note the difference. I don’t know if I’ve ever read or heard of a war story taking place from their side of things during World War II and so it held my interest in that regard.
The artwork is wonderful and captures the artist style of the area. The images are almost storybook esq if they weren’t dealing with war. While war is the subject matter the art is never too grotesque or violent. At time it seems to shy away from showing the heavy stuff and that’s fine since the story isn’t trying to capture the sheer amount of lives lost. I don’t know if I would necessarily say that the art is sequential as it jumps around quite a bit and will show scenes from history as it explains the landscape, but the art is the right fit and choices for the story.
Both volume one and two are available now, but the story hasn’t ended yet. Where the second volume ends doesn’t match up with where the first volume began.
If you’re into war stores, especially WWII, then this story is not one to miss. Its biographical nature is sure to hook history buffs as well. If you don’t fall into those two categories then you might still find the story interesting for the same reasons I did with the current conflict and disagreements between the two countries.
Writer/Artist: Wayne Vansant Publisher: Grand Design Publishing Price: $19.99 each Website