Goddamn This War! is the graphic novel follow-up from Jacques Tardi to his award-winning It was the War of the Trenches, published fifteen years earlier. Published in 2013, Goddamn This War! serves as another example of the extraordinary power that graphic novels can truly be when focusing on serious historical issues rather than on leotard-clad superheroes. The structure of the narrative allows this not-quite-sequel to become an immersive experience for both readers utterly unfamiliar with the previous work as well as those wanting to create seamlessly integrated experience.
Tardi chose to endow Goddman This War! with a distinctly chronological structure. Each of the six chapters represents one year of the global conflict known variously as The Great War, the War to End all Wars, and—when the latter conception proved tragically untrue—World War I. Aesthetic choices reflect the thematic concern with the ravages of war as the story begins with vivid coloring representing an almost comic effect; the palette gradually becomes drained of its brighter hues so that eventually when color is used, the effect is all the more shocking by virtue of the way it contrasts with the monochromatic representation of the loss of hope.
The story told in Goddamn This War! suits the somewhat dark humor of its title. In this graphic novel, war is truly hell and the only way to survive hell is keep one’s sense of humor even as that sense grows as dark as the peril around one. Without the blackness of its humor, the story told here would devolve into darkness of despair, inexorably driving readers away from completion.
Tardi’s collaborator, historian Jean-Pierre Verney, assists in maintaining and enhancing the invaluable historical veracity of what still amounts to a comic book narrative with comprehensive research material, sources, photos, and documents. Such resources serve to underscore the human sacrifice that ultimately must be credited with stimulating this breathtaking assault on modern sensibilities through postmodern aesthetic effects.
Although familiarity with It Was the War of the Trenches is in no way necessary to fully enjoy and commit to the experience of reading Goddamn This War! it must be admitted that such familiarity does lend the experience a greater emotional depth and intellectual engagement.