07th Aug2020

‘Tiananmen 1989: Our Shattered Hopes’ Graphic Novel Review (IDW)

by Chris Cummings

Written by Lun Zhang, Adrien Gombeaud | Art by Ameziane | Published by IDW Publishing

Released by IDW Publishing, Tiananmen 1989 is written by Lun Zhang and Adrien Gombeaud and drawn by Ameziane and details the movement behind the famous 1989 image of a single protestor standing in opposition tanks in the street. This is a book packed with information, information that is both hugely important and coldly factual, giving not-so-much an emotional and moving portrait of fighting for democracy, but rather a gripping page-turner that delves into how the protests worked and how hope and desire can often by met with violence and refusal. The chinese governments attempt to erase this from its history is a worryingly real fact, so the fact that Zhang and Gombeaud approach this as a way to tell a first-hand account of the protests before the ensuing massacre is something that should be treated with a mass of respect.

We’re given an outline of events that happened as the demonstrations approached, as writer Zhang, who was a sociology teacher at the time, a part of what happened, a voice behind the entire story, leads us along the road, introducing various characters who are relevant to the events. With Chairman Mao and the Cultural Revolution of 1966, there began a dark road in China, with Deng Xiaoping as prime minister and an emphasis on the elite, there began a rising underneath, with citizens protesting what was occurring. The protests, led by intellectual students, have become something of an iconography to protesting oppression and attempting to fight back against the pampered elitists who stamp their feet atop their citizens.

The book, which only see’s an element of fiction in its necessary changing of character names, is a chronological reciting of circumstances that took place during the occupation of Tiananmen. We focus on a few select characters for the most-part, with wonderful and grittily-real art work from Ameziane, as this struggle for freedom and for a voice to be heard happens, with these students braving the proven lack of empathy and willingness of violent response, in order to seek democracy for the Chinese people. This is one of those accounts that, if you are unaware, will disgust and shock you with its dark and saddening reality. But it’s very important that this story is told and not erased from the books.

If you’re looking for a single-character study with emotive personal elements to pull you in to a comfortable narrative, then you won’t find that here. This book plays the part, moreso, of a documentary film, running us through what occurred and the students and politicians that were involved. In this way I struggled at times to emotionally connect to many pages, merely because I was reading and even, I suppose, researching the happenings, rather than falling into a woven tale of sadness through human eyes. It’s powerful, and brutally honest as it should be, and one of those experiences that caused me to seek further material and read more about what happened here.

If you have interest in the desire for democratic rule and the absolute need for history to be kept alive, then this fact-based almost-memoir of a graphic novel will be something you should read. With horrifying but beautiful illustrative work and very concise writing that keeps you on track in an intelligent way, Tiananmen 1989 is now a fully fledged form of information surrounding what happened 31 years ago. Read it, learn about it, and be another reason that this story isn’t erased from human history.

**** 4/5

Tiananmen 1989: Our Shattered Hopes is available now from IDW Publishing.


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