14th May2019

‘Six Days’ Graphic Novel Review (DC/Vertigo)

by Dean Fuller

Written by Robert Venditti, Kevin Maurer | Art by Andrea Mutti | Colours by Lee Loughridge | Published by DC/Vertigo | Format: Hardback, 148pp

six-days-cover

I’d imagine the average comic book reader is like me, they read comic books as they enjoy the escapism and the larger than life heroics. Although there has always been a healthy indie comics sector, and long may that continue, comic books in general have been the funny books for a reason. It’s easy to forget that this medium that we love is capable of so much more. Although a medium born in the telling of fiction, there is no reason fiction should be the main focus of comics, or graphic art. Comic art is as effective at telling a story as any other visual medium, including film or television. This book, Six Days, is a case in point. Although the story Robert Venditti and Kevin Maurer tell would be effective in prose, the art in the story really gives it its emotion, its heart, and engages us, the reader, far more than just words can.

Operation Overlord, June 6th 1944. We all know it as D-Day, the day the Allies decided to push back and start to liberate Europe from Nazi control. We all know the broad strokes of this, the story of the commanders and the big battles, the politicians and the ebb and flow of the war. What we know less about are the smaller stories, of which there must be many. This particular book tells the story of the Battle of Graignes. Never heard of it? Me neither. Writer Robert Venditti had heard of it, as he is the nephew of one of the American soldiers who fought in it. You can tell he cares by how well written, how well constructed the characters are, and he cares as much as we do at their ultimate fate. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The 82nd Airborne Division, U.S Army, had bad luck from the very start, when they were parachuted in 15 miles away from their intended drop point. That was bad enough, but the German Army stood in between the village of Graignes, where they landed, and the intended meet up point. The decision was taken to dig in and try and defend the town with what they had, until help could arrive. The French inhabitants of the small town had a choice; help the Americans, or ask them to leave. The German Army was known for its brutality, and they risked a lot by throwing in with a small American force of soldiers, 182 in total once all the stragglers had made it. The villagers bravely decided to help, and knew the risk they were taking, men and women all.

This is the real focus of Six Days, the people. The fact that people from different places and different backgrounds, France and the United States in this case, worked together at great personal risk to do what was right. The American soldiers to defend the town, the French villagers to feed and help the American soldiers. The common thread of religion is used well by the writers, especially a sequence where we witness two church services going on simultaneously, one in the village with the soldiers and villagers together, and one taking place with the relatives of the soldiers serving overseas. It is also symbolically the last moment of peace, as the German guns start sounding during the service and the fighting has to begin.

In the pages that follow we get a lot of very visual fighting, true to life rather than comic book Sgt Rock heroics. War in real life isn’t pretty, and artist Andrea Mutti doesn’t shy away from depicting the death and destruction. It’s brutal, but it has to be, to show what price true courage and bravery can cost. When the dust has settled, 182 American soldiers, with the villagers, had managed, for quite some time, to hold off a 2000 soldier German mechanized armour division. Part of the reason they lost was they ran out of ammunition, and the few survivors were given orders to evacuate where and when they could. The German response was savage. They executed and murdered wounded soldiers who were unable to leave and killed 44 villagers, of all ages, male and female, for collaboration. They then set fire to the village. As someone once said, the good guys don’t always win.

Or don’t they? At first glance this seems a noble, but unsuccessful attempt to beat the Germans. In fact, it ended up being deeply significant. By the soldiers and villagers holding the Germans at Graignes for two days, they delayed them enough that the 101st Airborne Division had time to reach the battle at Carentan before they did, and late German reinforcements were a factor in them losing the battle. The Allies of course went on to drive the Germans back all across Europe, so in a way we all owe the villagers of Graignes a debt of thanks, as well as the soldiers themselves.

Six Days is a beautifully written and drawn book. The writing isn’t melodramatic or creating false dramatic beats where none are needed, it just tells the story of these people simply and effectively. The events going on are the backdrop to the very human story we see with the characters. I certainly cared about them all when the fighting started. The art, by Andrea Mutti, is beautifully drawn, with perfect layouts that always fit the tone of the story. Large panels for the fighting, smaller, more intimate close up panels for those moments of emotion. Some great double page spreads too. A master class in matching the art to the script. The muted, washed out colours by Lee Loughridge are also spot on. A shout out as well to the Editors, as the design of the book itself is gorgeous. A very worthy project given the treatment it deserves.

How this story has not been made into a film, or television series, is incredible. Come on Spielberg or Netflix, option this immediately! We always need uplifting stories of people in the face of overwhelming odds teaming up to do the right thing, of people from different backgrounds putting that aside and uniting. In that respect, the village of Graignes was a perfect microcosm of the war itself, and those values and aspirations we need today more than ever. Always stronger together, right? The 82nd Airborne and villagers of Graignes certainly thought so. And so do I.

I can’t recommend this book enough, I thought it superb from start to finish.

***** 5/5

Siz Days is out today from DC/Vertigo. Order your copy on Amazon now.

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